The Monsters in White

It spends it’s time on pinterest.
Shows make them look like witches.
White monsters with long tails and veils.
Keeping you up to date with blogs and mass emails.
Stomping down aisles and taking over churches
Forcing you to make a registry purchase.
Leaving trails of glitter and birdseed.
The last member of a stampede.
Who is this beast really?
Why she is a bride to be.

I think it’s funny how daytime tv makes brides look. No worries. I am just playing with words. That’s all :P

Trembling at Calvary

This is a very good Friday post for the upcoming holiday season. My apologies. But today I got to listen to a testimony. Part of the testimony was them reading about the crucifixion and torture of Christ. A graphic medical account of what happened to Him finally drove home for him that Christ REALLY loved him. As a Lutheran I was baptized into my faith as an infant. I later owned this faith. I was made a Lutheran that day. I have always believed what I was taught. I have never not considered myself a Christian. God created the world, we messed it up, Christ came and died and rose again… He died.

Easter services were hard for me. Staring at our churches large crosses displayed covered in Easter lilies.  One black Friday we were encouraged to write our sins on a rock and carry it around all day. At the end of the day we were supposed to put it at the foot of the cross. I refused. I kept it hidden in my pocket. I loved Christ for who He was. I didn’t need or even want anything from Him. I didn’t ask Him to die for me. I would have gone to hell to have saved Him. I understood what I had done, I understood what He had done and I didn’t accept it. I didn’t want my sin removed. I wanted to accept punishment. The guilt of Him… the perfect white lamb being slain for me… was crushing!

I knew that I could do nothing to have changed what happened 2000 year ago. It sucked. It felt like everything I did was against God. All the life I had was at Jesus’ expense. Each breath I drew in was one I wish Jesus had had instead of me. I wept at the sight of a cross. Communion killed me “His blood shed for you..” The pastor may have well have said “Jesus Christ slain and tortured for you.” I don’t know if I was saved. I loved Christ, I didn’t accept His love for me back. My life was not a fair trade for His. It wasn’t right. I wanted to grow up to be a martyr. Somehow in my imagination being crucified upside down, being eaten by lions or imprisonment would make it okay and say “Okay Jesus, maybe… maybe it is okay for me to let you die for me now.” If I died for Him we would be square.

If you know me at all you know the self hate I suffered with this. I wanted to know I was loved. I only saw bullies, a mom asleep and a dad at work. I didn’t hear I love you or I am proud of you. I heard  “You have Major Depression” “You have Seasonal Depression,” “You have ADHD” and “You have Trichatillamania.” They may as well have said you are broken, you are unloveable and you need fixed.  I hated myself and there were names for the reasons why. Not only was my existence a sin, I was a terrible human being. One who was bad at school, couldn’t clean her room and whose parents largely ignored her when they got home from work. Or at least that is how it felt. Now that I am older I understand how hard it is to give love in a way that people will receive it. I know that they were trying. But I wasn’t getting that. I was mad. I didn’t want life. Not eternal life, not human life. I wasn’t worthy of human love and I certainly wasn’t worthy of perfect love.

I didn’t understand. No one pulled me aside and explained that what Jesus did on the cross made me a new person. One is has incredible worth. I wasn’t defined by my ratted hair, skinned knees, bad grades or control issues. I was free. I was who God made me to be. I was in Christ and there was no sin or condemnation in me. I was in Christ and there are no defects in Christ. I was free. I guess memorizing John 3:16 won’t always give you that. I got that He loved us. I got that. I also got that we killed Him. But Jesus doesn’t see me as his murderer. Even when I was angry at Him. Even when I prayed every night that a loving God wouldn’t wake me up. Ever. He would let me stop existing.

I didn’t want to go to school. At school my understanding of who I was seeped into all my relationships. I was convinced to serve Christ I had to be the least. This wasn’t hard. I felt like the least. In my family, at home, in the whole world even. So it was easy to put others first. I was nothing. Maybe if I served and gave all I had (like a martyr) I would at least do some good with my worthless life. I said yes to things I should have said no to. Just because what others wanted was always greater than my happiness. I am so thankful that I didn’t get into worse trouble than I did. God is good. Always. But treating myself like dirt in efforts to make others happier didn’t make me hate myself any less. It felt worse.

I don’t remember how I started cutting. I think I might have gotten the idea from Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. I stole razors from my dad’s shop and borrowed exacto knives from the art room. I took wire from binders in my notebook to skin and borrowed steak knives when those are not an option. I used erasers to give myself burns on youth trips. I felt better… sorta. Short term at least.  I felt something. Pain is something. I think I also felt a relief that I was getting what I felt I deserved. That is was fitting. I controlled the pain. The empty feeling after. I had relief. I had an outlet for all my anger and self hate.  I was guilty. What love I was capable of seeing from my friends and family I didn’t want.

I think I accepted love from my family and my heavenly father when no one was even talking about Him. I wasn’t in church, I wasn’t reading about Him and I wasn’t being told by a friend. I felt a new pain… it was called compassion. I didn’t understand compassion. I always imagined Jesus’s blood dripping down Golgotha and spelling “Your Fault.” Jesus loved me. He was happy to do what pained Him. Like my parents were more than willing to drive hours every day to see me and put thier lives on hold. When I looked at my parents crying in my mental ward I felt compassion. I was hurting them and they thought I was worth it anyways. I understood their sacrifices for me and I didn’t see their faults. When we focus on our shortcomings that is often how we see other people. I got it. Jesus thought I was worth it. Yes He suffered, but He was glad to. God was glad to bless me. He wanted to. Just like my parents wanted to bless me with a full life so did Jesus. At any cost.

I thought my parents looked at me the same way I thought Christ looked at me. I saw Christ on the cross, thorn crown and tortured doing the things he did because He had to. It was against His nature or something not to die for us. Never had I imagined that my parents might have thought that I amounted to anything. Never had I thought that maybe Jesus saw something worthwhile. Maybe I was more than what I thought of myself. Maybe I was more than a flunkie, self-harming, self-hating, awkward, depressed, friendless, loser. Maybe… maybe there was something new and exciting in me waiting to be embraced and known by me.

I am worth it. I don’t believe God make mistakes. I don’t believe He can be wrong. I don’t know how long it took to seep in after my first feel of compassion. It was no mistake that He died for me. If His plan is that I am worth it than I am. Period. I am still learning. I still sometimes can’t see my new identity. I still sometimes focus on the sin I used to be defined by. Jesus opens my eyes to sin to free me. It was Satan who made my focus on my old self in a way that just made me sit in my dead parts. Satan uses self reflection to lead us to despair and hopelessness. Satan wants to convince me I am a sinner. A loser. A nobody. Jesus wants me to see that I am a saint, someone worth dying for and as His child. When I look to Calvary and the malice, horror and violence that Christ endured I still tremble. I likely always will. Lutheran’s love focusing on the crucifixion and I always will. I hate people to skip to the joy of the resurrection and never feel that genuine grief for what our Lord endured. I cry because of the gravity of what He did. He didn’t have to. But He did. I weep because my Lord felt extreme pain, that He had to feel rejection, that He had to suffer so. I now pair it with the joy and love Christ also showed on that day and my new identity.

I know love. I accept it. I haven’t always. I only understood it once.

I still think the confession in the small Catechism Martin Luther wrote that appeared in the Catechism five years after his death is true. This is the 1986 translation.

We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look upon our sins, nor deny such petitions on account of them; for we are worthy of none of the things for which we pray, neither have we deserved them; but that He would grant them all to us by grace; for we daily sin much, and indeed deserve nothing but punishment. So will we verily, on our part, also heartily forgive and also readily do good to those who sin against us.

I think that passage used to sum up my entire understanding of God. I doubt I ever encountered this exact passage in my Catechism. I do know that I learned that from what I was taught. I later learned more about who I am “In Christ” in college and a bit in my later high school life. Jesus loves me for who I am. Not because He had to. He died for me because I am His friend. Just like I would lay down my life for my friends. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

The old me is real. She exist. But she is a temporary shadow, an imaginary stain on who I am. I didn’t deserve what Christ did. But I am worth it.. because I am His and my story is of the redemption I have in Him. As a saint I lament, I repent and I tremble at Calvary. I do not resent what Christ accomplished in me.

Am I a Corinth Woman?

I ran into a conversation where I realized that I took a view on a passage with a lot of implications in my life with very little research. It is one of those passages about women that  always get people worked up. If these passages make you worry, it could be the Holy Spirit convicting you of something. Maybe Jesus does want you to spend less time on your appearance or put less importance on your outward image. I know I have reexamined how much I care about my appearance against how much I care about a quiet Spirit and being like Christ.

In the first century women spent hours on their hair to parade their hair around. Read this quote:

Talk about high maintenance! During the late first century, the Flavian style of Julia, daughter of Titus fashioned the court with curls arranged on crescent-shaped wire frames. The back hair was divided into sections, braided, then curled. Sometimes the hair was coiled without braiding (see Roman…, 2002).

Now, if you know me, I wear no make up, very little jewelry and almost refuse to buy anything at full price. That being said, I am semi-informed of current trends and enjoy new items in my wardrobe. Now, does 1 Timothy 2:9 talk about something spiritual or physical?  Weigh the following passages in as well:

…in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works (1 Timothy 2:9-10).

Do not let your adornment be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:3-4).

I see physical and spiritual implications whenever the epistles talk about how a woman should adorn herself. We see that Paul finds our beauty should be focused on the hidden person inside and adorned in good works. And not in the physical things he list like braided hair or expensive gems.  This seems like a command,”not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.” Seems straight forward. And yet it doesn’t. No Christian I know thinks long before wearing gold or braiding their hair. Is the church overlooking something huge? Are we all practicing disobedience without second thought?

Not sure. Maybe we should worry more as Christian women about how much the Bible determines to wear and how much culture determines what we wear. We need to find a balance and we need to remember the Bible is above culture. We need to remember that maybe shorts to our finger tips might just be toeing the line and not inside the lines of modesty. Maybe it is inside. It’s so hard to tell. How can I judge what is modest? I have had a few times the Spirit has convicted me to change. It might be okay for the rest of the world to wear leggings as pants, I can’t.  I change. I can often walk out my door feeling confidently covered with no rebuttal from the Spirit in me and still find that it caused problems. For some men nothing is modest enough. In some parts Africa you shouldn’t show leg, but breast are fine. It’s the opposite here. God cares about what is modest, not what is fashionable. Is it time to rethink our wardrobes, haircuts and accessories? Most likely not, but you should answer that question and pray about it.

Do I, do you, care more about our gold and hairstyles or more about kosmioi. Kosmioi is the word for modesty in the Bible. It means to be appropriate and respectable. It comes from the word Kosmos, meaning the universe (1). A universe has order and self control. It’s a word that means not getting attention through being flashy or showing flesh. Are we being flashy ladies? I don’t know. I don’t know how you can know. I just know if you pursue Christ your desires will align with his and that includes how you dress.  Think of the most Godly woman you know and ask her what her standards are. Ask the question, are they different from me? Why? But do not worry, you will hear plenty of speeches on modesty. I doubt you will encounter one on carrying a $100 purse while there are members of your church living in poverty. Plenty of rants on lust to scare you into modesty. We all agree on modesty (even if we don’t agree on what is modest) we never talk about if it’s okay to wear pricey clothes and follow the latest trends. For a man maybe this would be driving a flashy car or putting in to many hours at the gym. It’s wanting the wrong type of attention. Modesty is cultural. I can’t see how I can remove the Corinth culture from this. In some places topless swimming is nothing to blink at and in some places a one suit is a scandal. I don’t think Paul gave us a Universal dress code. I can show my knees and have no conviction. Sorry Asia.

Paul wants our hearts, motives and obedience, not just our gold ladies. You will likely never see me wear a million dollar silver necklace and claim it’s okay because it isn’t gold. I don’t think anyone who wears something like that is very concerned with good deeds and an upright character being their beauty. I think they want to glorify themselves.

My conclusion is that I am not sinning when I braid my hair or put on gold. It is sinning when I steal attention from the Lord with my appearance. I will adorn myself with Christ and I will not concern myself with outward beauty and I will not neglect myself. He is the most beautiful thing a girl can have. I will not be a Corinth woman. I will not turn worship time into “Look at my nails” time. I will not MERELY be pretty on the outside. Abraham gave Rebekah jewelry.  Oh well. It’s something you should look into yourself.  You don’t have to agree with me. It isn’t a salvation thing. It is a maturity thing.

I think the biggest thing I learned from college is a quote Dr. Ramsey said. “A mature Christian doesn’t ask what is permissible. He asks what is beneficial.” Are we clothing ourselves permissively or beneficially?

Alright, ladies. Here are some devotion starting questions.

——————————-

Am I A Corinthian Woman?

Is my beauty primarily external?

Do I adorn myself in a quiet spirit and with good deeds?

For what purposes do I choose to look as I look?

——————————————————

 

(1) http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1210

(2) http://qideas.org/articles/modesty-i-dont-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means/

Short Story Reboot: The Atoma

In College I wrote a 25 page ‘short’ story called The Atoma. In the end this one chapter was a whole book. So I decided someday I should break each paragraph into a chapter. The idea of this story is that you don’t know what is going on for awhile and it is a post apocalypse story that I will likely write into a plot hole to bury forever. However, I believe in writing for the sake of writing and this is all I can think to do.

Chapter 1: What’s in a name?
Year 2123

“I think Aimee is waking up” A man’s voice said. I could hear his excitement warm the room. Aimee? That is an awesome and noble name… for a girl. Who is Aimee? I opened one eye. It was dark, I might have seen the flicker of a candle. I closed my eye again. What Fresh Hell is this? 

A female’s voice answered the mans “That is a girl’s tag, it isn’t his. Don’t call him that, he is a male of his species. How would you like to be called a girls name?”  Was that a child or a woman speaking? Ugh, how long had I been out? “He’s waking up, he might hear you” he was shushed. I ached. I ached everywhere. I could feel open wounds on my left arm, neck and torso. The sting was helping me come around. What went down? Am I dead? 

Another male’s voice chipped in “People have given him nicknames. I call him stiff for being unconscious and some call him lucky because he lived. I like skunk, because he needed a shower when we found him.” That was a rude comment. Who had taken care of me? Why am I wet with water and not sweat?

 I think I had been a solider, I bit back tears. I was filled with unresolved emotions. Had I killed someone? Would that all come back? There was a tight feeling in my stomach. Am I safe? Are they safe? Who are they?  Fear if I recall, lots of fear.  I just vividly remember the grief, sadness and overall darkness the first few days after I awoke. I remember hoping it was all a dream.  I hadn’t remembered what I lost and I  felt that was worse than knowing loss. I would soon test that idea. I hope I am not giving too much away by telling you that someone is going to die in a story about war and monsters. I trembled until I went numb. Then I opened my eyes and kept them that way.

The group fell silent as I sat up and groaned feeling as if I had been mauled. This was likely because I had been mauled. Mauled by breathless, but I didn’t know that yet. I should be thankful it was not an Odious that mauled me. Don’t worry, I will fill you in. The three people and the one with the girl’s voice watched me blink a few times and then wash the gunk out of my eyes. I had been out for a week. I wanted to pee, brush my teeth and changed my clothes more than I wanted to know where I was. Who cares where you are if you don’t know who you are or where you have been?

“So the man must be AB type, he has woken from the breathless bite. Lucky duck” the woman spoke. “Well Vyra, as always why don’t you do the honors. Fill the new man in.” The first man spoke. He was over by the small rooms door with his arms crossed across his chest. He was friendly looking despite his size.

It was hard to pay attention to him with Vyra in the room. She was perplexing and striking in appearance. She stuck out. What is wrong with her? The three others in the room were all sporting buzz cuts, tight clothes and guns. They were compact. They had the precise movements of a soldier. Their gaze was familiar. I had peered into countless expressions like those. I could tell inside they questioned the orders they followed and their morals. They wondered if the violence and gore was worth it and they would never ever ask if anyone else felt the same because it was too late to go back. They were uniformed, cautious and aggressive looking. Had I looked that way?

Vyra’s on the other hand had long hair. It came to her hips in a light blonde. It jumped from underneath the hood of a light purple cloak. “Fuchsia?” I tried to recall what that color was called.

She smiled, “No! Is that really your first question? Is that fuchsia? Fuchsia is more pink. I would call this a Lilac or a Lavender maybe.” I head a snicker in the room. I didn’t take my eyes off of her to see who. The longer I looked at her the more I got a feeling something was wrong with her. An angel? Am I dead? “Fine Gidget, I will fill him in on all the shades of purple and everything else he lost.” She waved her painted fingers at them. “Take Paulie and Jason to the commons and send in two more that should be on a work shift.”

Gidget nodded and smiled at me and gestured to the gun on his other hand as he left. Was it a threat? I reached for my holster and found it empty. Of course, I was a stranger there. They had no way of knowing the kind of man I was. Neither did I. I suppose that was the day I choose who I would be from that point on. I was still concerned with Vyra. She seemed inhuman, but why? I was fixated on it. She sat at the edge of my cot by my legs. “Is your pain manageable?”

“What? Yeah.” What kind of man says where it hurts? There really was only one answer and I didn’t want to be drugged. I felt out of it enough already.

I nodded. I was sore, I was covered in scratches and bites, my flesh was sore in some places and my joints ached. I may have had bed sores. My sheets had blood. I didn’t have time to choose what to ask. How did I get here? Who am I? Who are those people? Who are you? What’s going on? Vyra was already explaining. I shut up my thoughts and listened.

“Well soldier I think I myself will call you Lucky” she took my wrist feeling my heartbeat “Good and strong. We found you because we heard you fire your weapon as we raided a grocery store for supplies. By the time we got to you Lucky, you were being mobbed by breathless. Yoau were alone” I blinked. I didn’t remember any of that. It felt true. Not in my heart, in my sore spots. Can I trust her? What was I doing alone?

“Breathless?” I asked, this being the first time I heard my own voice that I could recall. I naturally reached up and touched my throat. That was what I sounded like? It was a normal voice but it surprised me that it didn’t sound familiar. I guess with the three intimidating people in the room I hadn’t noticed how odd my own hands looked and how unfamiliar my own voice sounded. The word breathless gave me chills. It made me want to scream and cry..and get a gun. I knew it was a terrible word. I just needed refreshed. I examined the hair on my arms to distract me.

“Yes breathless, the undead masses of the Odious” she took a canteen that was hanging over her shoulder under her robe and offered it to me “Drink.” Oh man am I am parched! I gulped the water down.

“Odious?” there was my voice again. I licked the last of the water from my lips.  If the word breathless frightened me Odious was worse. It made my aches more sensitive, it left me empty, listless, dead. Were her eyes changing color? She shot me a glance. She seemed to sense her appearance was freaking me out a bit. What is she?

She sighed “Really, I feel like this is all I ever do. Yes, the Odious. The creatures the Atoma of Xenos let through the portal after the 100 years of peace. If we had printers with ink I would make a pamphlet.”  I remembered that we had peace, then we didn’t.

“My memories–“

“Oh is that what you want to know?” She started to casually braid her hair. “You were scratched. The first thing that happens to a human who is scratched by the breathless is that they start to lose their personal memories. It dwindles your frontal lobe. Whatever is most important to you is lost most quickly. But– for some reason your blood type fights and defeats the sickness at this stage. Makes no sense to us. Next they get ill. Pass out for a few days. Lose sensitivity and most reasoning abilities. There was a study posted on it in the beginning of the outbreak if you want. Look in our library.” She frowned, a small line formed on her forehead. “Do you remember anything? Maybe the dead coming back to life?”

“I think that I was a solider… and that I like the color green.”

“What about your ability to do math or anything else you learned in school.”

“I don’t know, I have a feint feeling I was never good at school. I think I played football… a small town”

She snorted. “Well then, I will see if we have a place open for a football player”

I ignored her jab. “So who are the Atoma?”

“We replaced your energy resource with ours and cured all sicknesses. We illuminated the skies with improvement!” she shook her fist in sudden anger. “Ungrateful swine. We of course had to enforce our own way of dealing with people who refused to be peaceful..” Scary. Vyra took a few deep breaths “Then the Atoma went home. Or rather most did. We gave up. Your condition could not be cured. Even with peace and prosperity you all wanted more. Nothing satisfied you.” She took a harsher look seeming ten years older than a moment ago “I regret to tell you that when the Atoma left, Odious came through the portal.”

“You gave us 100 years of peace… then monsters?” I asked sitting up. Ow. I moved my feet to the floor. I felt the coolness of the cement. I liked it. I wiggled my toes.  I reached for the cool piece of metal that touched my chest and lifted it to read it. “Aimee Martin, that isn’t how you spell Amy..” the room spun a bit. I kept my balance.  I let my eyes adjust to the font on the name tag for a bit longer.

Martin,
Aimee L.
854-45-0900
A-Positive
Protestant

“Her parents must have been progressive” Vyra said with a shrug. “You are more curious about an Aimee than a Vyra?”

“I don’t know anything about how aliens spell their names..” I was sure now. She wasn’t alien. I said that out of humor though. Just realized it could have been rude. I don’t know what aliens find funny. “You are Atoma… arn’t you?” I thought I had pieced it together. I felt clever. The look on her face told me I might have just told a totally average girl she was an alien. She drew in a breath. She better be an alien. “Sorry, if you are not I just thought..”

“I don’t think we should label it” she cut me off. Each time I looked at her she seemed to have change a bit. Sometimes she looked older or younger than I she had looked a minute ago. Her eyes seemed to have every color present but in certain light they would choose one color. Her hair length was the only thing that stayed the same.  “Lucky…look, we just don’t ask that question. We can just know things sometimes without being told.”

“So yes.” Vyra shot me a look. She seemed to go between light brown hair and blonde hair. It was scary, cool and beautiful. Mostly it was weird. She was not human. Had I remembered other Atoma, just seeing her hair was long would have revealed her species. Unlike humans breathless would not threaten the Atoma. They did not have to fear being dragged off by the hair because the Odious saw the Atoma as an equal. The Atoma could not become breathless. All Atoma’s have hair at least to their elbows. Like their horns and tail, length had much to do with their perception of beauty.But that doesn’t matter and I didn’t know that then. Let me dive back in.  She had finally seemed to be the same. Her eyes fixed in a teal color and her hair stayed strawberry blond. Once she chose something it was as if she had been that way always. I forgot that she hadn’t been strawberry blonde with teal eyes. I would learn how to remember. Vyra is a very important part of my story. But, I will get to that. Promise.

She didn’t look anymore like she was from another world. So I eased. She turned on an overhead light and I could see my reflection in the mirror on the wall. Brown hair, square jaw. He looks familiar. He reached for his chin when I did. It was all too much. I wanted to lie down and go back to bed. Maybe I would feel less sick to my stomach if I rested more. Being a stranger to my own reflection was really scary the first day. I don’t know how to get you to imagine it. I imagine you can understand the loneliness of it a bit better if you tried anyways.

“Maybe we can look Aimee up in a computer. That is an army tag.  See if the tag numbers to a unit stationed nearby” Vyra then left without saying farewell or hinting she was done speaking with me.  “See if she exist still. You are free to go where you like. Or stay here.” She never bothered to tell me where I was. I guess she figured I would figure it out soon enough.  “Maybe you will get Lucky, lucky.” I don’t think I have that kind of luck if I am here. 

“We’ll see” she hummed as she went out of the small room. Had she just read my thoughts? I should get a tinfoil hat.

Wait.  I had never considered that I might be able to get back what I had lost. Who is Aimee and what did she know? Do I even want to know who I was? I guess I couldn’t know that without trying to find out who I was. It wouldn’t be to hard to forget again. It just took a scratch. I avoided the mirror with my gaze as I looked around the room. It was a makeshift hospital room. The cot I had been on was low and the floor was old gritty tile. The lights wires hung loose along the ceiling. Some were taped out of the way. An IV and an old computer system rested next to the cot and a couple empty chairs along the wall and one small table by the bed with an alarm clock and a candle that flickered low.

There was no door, just the cutout in the wall where it used to be. I went though it. The ceiling was just above my head and a light bulb hung every ten feet. We must have been underground, the hall way was a tunnel  dug out of the earth. A few people walked around. They had short hair but their clothes were not as tight. Oh, they must not leave base. It must be the people that go out that worry about being grabbed. I followed the metal of an old railway.

A girl eventually ran up to me.  Her whole face lit up with genuine joy. I knew from her smile that she was one of those people that you have to love being around. “Hey, Lucky!” she waved at me “Vyra just ran past me and said I should head to the med ward to meet you.” I stared at her. Her tone was different than what I just experienced. She came over to me and wrapped her arms around me. “There there, don’t feel so alone. We have a whole family down here.”

“Er..” I took a step back and shook her hand. “Hi” She had short copper colored curles, high cheekbones, bright green eyes and freckles. She wore hiking boots, dark jeans, with big pockets and a tank top. She also sported a rather large wedding ring.

“I’m Sadie” added “Can I give you a tour?” I nodded. It was better than wondering around. “Oh good, it’s easy to get lost here. We just keep digging when we need more room.” We passed a hall full of little rooms like mine. Some had just mats on the floor instead of a cot. One had Vyra in it with two of the men with guns. Had they just been found too? We turned down a hall lined with doors that rested against the sides of the dirt tunnels. “Rascal has been needing more raiders. He sure will be happy to have another man on the team. It’s not hard to be liked here Lucky. You just have to pull your weight.” Through an open door on my right I saw some kids reading books in a circle on a large yellow carpet. The walls had whiteboards and chalkboards nailed into the plywood. In spots not covered by writable surfaces were educational posters. I counted about 15. Including two adults.

“There are kids here?” I asked.

“Yes, everyone is here. We probably have about 200. Those kids have seen a lot… poor dears..” her voice lost it’s joy for a moment. “Do you have kids?”

Oh God. I don’t know. I stared at her bewildered. “I don’t know. Do you?”

“Oh, Lucky. You should know that in this world telling your story means a great deal. If someone tells you how they got here or what happened to them the day the portal let in the Odious, it means a great deal. We don’t have much anymore and it is hard to trust people anymore. If someone tells you something personal, understand how much they are saying.”

It made sense and it felt like she was avoiding the question.  I looked around and saw a bunch of hardened souls carrying supplies, running to stay fit, walking quietly and quickly. They did not look like the type to share their feelings. No one did. “What is this place called?”

“Rascal’s last stand. Rascal is our unquestionable leader.” I raised my brow at the word unquestionable. “He and his troop secured an old mine when all this happened. There are 10 of them total that made up the original group. That was five years ago.  They collected people on raids and well.. here we are.” She smiled and shrugged. “They found Harrison and I in a sad situation. If not for Russel and his men almost everyone here would be dead. Some groups have heard of a functioning society and sought us out. We can just keep digging. So we won’t run out of space. It’s the food and supplies we worry about.”

“How do you sustain yourself?”

“We steal generators, we have a lot of coal because we are a mine. So we don’t freeze.  We have several gardens on the surfaces and some underground. We are not well fed, but we eat. A lot of it comes from raids. Lots of groups bring food in with them. That helps for a bit. One group brought pigs with them. We have about thirty now. Thank goodness pigs will eat roots, rotten food and almost anything else we give them. They are not very fat pigs. If you head on a southbound tunnel and take a left at the warehouses you will start to smell them. Thirty pigs is not a lot for 200 stomachs. We make due. We have also let the chicken breeding go haywire. They run loose and eat bugs. If you find an egg in good shape it’s yours. One job is to try to gather them back to the pen. They just escape the next day but Russel likes to try to know how many we have. A few people have taken on cats as well.”

She told me a bit more about their electricity and how it ran on falling water from the man made river by the surface farms. She told me about their hospital and computer systems that monitored breathless levels. She took me to a room that there was mostly candles and only a few lamps rigged up. It was lined with beds and hammocks tied to the beams holding up the ceiling. Some sleeping bags lined the room. She took me to a nook dug out of the wall covered by a curtain with a cat pattern on it. “Harrison..” she whispered and shook a man’s foot that stuck out from underneath a cotton sheet. “Honey..” she chimed.

He sat up and stared right at me “Who is this?”

“New guy, Vyra asked us to make sure he adjusts.” She smiled at me “This is Mr. Sadie” she laughed. He was scruffy looking with a beard about three inches long that was well trimmed but as uncombed as his brown hair. His gaze was cool and serious. He had the complete opposite air to him of Sadie. “He majored in early 21st century film, so if he quotes something don’t worry, we don’t know what he is quoting either.” She crawled onto the bed so he could hug her and kiss the top of her head. I felt uncomfortable with the display. Who was I forgetting?

“Umm, hi?” I said to Harrison and he nodded at me; and I thought I was a man of few words!

“Harrison has rations duty in a half hour, you can go with him” she told me. “Harrison, will you get him a place to sleep.”
He crawled out of the nook and stood up. He was taller than me. How tall am I?  He took a blanket from a chest by the door and tossed it over a hammock. “Tory was eaten, so you can have his hammock.”

Oh, so that is how it is here. Fill this hammock, pull your weight, don’t question the leaders, don’t question the alien and don’t get attached to people. It meant no one could question me either. I liked that.

An Engaging Post.

This picture was taken and edited by Miranda Renee Photography.  Just to keep you all posted while I work on several drafts of blogs. Can’t decide between a zombie rewrite or a devotional called “Am I a Corinthian Woman?” Also been wanting to write another poem. We’ll see. Love you guys. Also a link to my wedding website that features Alysha Owen’s engagement pictures for us.

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Miranda:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Miranda-Renee-Photography/239910126072855

Wedding website:

http://www.theknot.com/wedding/Jennifer-and-Chistopher

Anxiety and Life without Fear.

For a sister of Christ of a Sister in Christ.

I think it was two weeks ago. The worst panic attack I have ever had. My chest got tight. I gasped for breath and found none. I shut myself in my bathroom, went to my knees and sobbed, or tried to. I began to think my throat was shut for good. I was dying… no. I was fine. I would be fine. I had to hold onto my sanity. I had to calm down. I listened to my pounding heart and freaked out more. The tightness in my chest controlled and drove my thoughts. I kept thinking “I know what this is, I need to STOP IT.” Stop wondering if I was having a heart attack, stop dry heaving (retching) over the toilet and get past this moment. It is just so hard to focus when you are struggling to breath.

I had to stop my thinking. I had a meeting in a new location the next morning. I was terrified. I have become anxious and easily terrified since graduating. Sometimes my fear of… well I don’t know what I am afraid of but it keeps me from going to the store or out by myself. My head was throbbing but knowing what was happening calmed me enough to let me get in some air. Another gasp, more air. I started taking steady shallow gasps. I was going to be okay. People drive to places they have never been before all the time. I wasn’t going to choke on my snot and tears. I was going to get up in the morning and go to a meeting and everything would be just fine!

I had been trying so hard. I wrote the Google directions down twice. I used Google earth to look at the streets. But I felt helpless. No one else seemed to think what I was trying to do was ridiculous and impossible. As I looked at maps I isolated myself from my roommates. I decided for them that they didn’t understand. The place I wanted to go wasn’t clear on the street. I only really knew what the things around it looked like.  Worst of all, I had to do t myself. Anything could go wrong. I could get lost and have to pull over and have an embarrassing attack. Worst of all, I might have to confess that I am afraid of a very normal thing. Going to a meeting that is a whole 11 minutes. I think that is the worst part about panics. That they are embarrassing and make you feel trapped. I can’t live my life because I am afraid of doing ordinary, everyday tasks and you feel out of control of your own life. It sucks.

If you have panic attacks then you understand. If not, you can imagine. We have all had anxiety and felt out of control. Lately I have had that in overwhelming amounts whenever something changes my schedule, a new task is asked of me or I have to go somewhere new. I don’t have an answer for how I will get past this. It seems to be getting worse and I don’t know why it started. My plan is to tackle it like I did my depression. Cling to hope and struggle to adapt. Be thankful for all the kindness people show me. I know when I finally calmed and went to go to bed my roommate came and reassured me that I was normal and I could have a full life. She is a saint. I really mean that, God made her His saint. She is my sister in Christ. She can love me sacrificially and she did. I am so glad I received comfort from her. Comfort is hard after an attack.

I think these attacks might be suppressed from my senior year of college. Or at least I joke that they are! I love my job, my middle school and high school groups, my home and the life I am planning with Chris. I may have already bitten off more than I can chew. Who knows, with prayer maybe I will learn what size of plate I can handle. Not what other people handle. I can find a balance. I can decide that a full time job and youth group once a month with planning a wedding is enough. But I haven’t reached the point to start sacrificing yet. I am ready to change how I view my struggle right now.

“Do not be anxious in anything” is a comforting command. At this moment I feel the peace of it. I understand the life that my Father wants for me. One without worry. My Bible addresses anxiety, let me share with you:
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“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25, NIV).

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7) (Also seePsalm 55:22-23)

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV). (Also see Matthew 6:25-34)

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

The apostle Paul found his strength in God, He reminds us that, “I …have …been in prison …frequently, been flogged …severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. …I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. …Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. …I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. …[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10).

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

“…put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1)

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Like my housemate, my God cares for me. I can give Him my anxiety by quiet times, devotion and thinking about what I know of Him. Other people might need the help of meds or therapist to get here. No shame in that. I needed that for my depression for awhile. When I start panicking I pull on the Truth. Nothing can touch me. There is no fear in me. Perfect love has cast it out. When I am weak, He is strong. He gives me straighten. For the day and for eternity. Even if my understanding doesn’t make ends meet, His will! I will give Him prayers, praises and thanks. When I think on Him I will not panic. The spiral that lead to panicking stop in their tracks IF I cling to Him. If I do not cling tightly enough and I start to panicking I can get out of it by calling on me. He has delivered me every time.  He will do the same for you.

That being said please get to the root of your issues. Get good sleep, eat well, know your limits, exercise, talk it out. Do all you need to to live well and leave panic where it belongs. It doesn’t belong in me. It doesn’t belong in someone who has been promised by the God of the universe that he has this handled. Turn your eyes off of your fear and cast them onto Jesus and the hope He has given to us. It’s a fight you can win with Jesus at your side. Honest. A fight, but one worth picking. Most days I can go to the store if I need to. I can live my life if I fight my panic and don’t let it rule over me.

Here is my prayer for you if you are downcast or anxious:
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thes. 2:16-17).