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It’s Okay to Cry

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo Credit | Donna Irene Photography

I’ll never be afraid to cry.

I have a weird appreciation for people that aren’t afraid to cry. So many people label the act of crying as weak, but I think it is incredibly strong.

We have a warped view of strength for the most part. We act like holding everything in and ignoring the things that hurt us makes us stronger, by I personally believe this couldn’t be further from the truth. We are never stronger than the moment we admit we are weak.

I have a friend that’s a few years younger than I am. She once told me that sometimes she had to cry just to release all of the pain and suffering she tried to hold in at a particular time. She told me that all the agony she committed to withholding would keep her from experiencing joy to the fullest extent that she imagined God wanted her to. Could you imagine a more beautiful way to explain a few tearful moments?

Saint John Paul the second said, “It is better to cry than to be angry, because anger hurts others, while tears flow silently though the soul and cleanse the heart.” This brings me to the reason I think I appreciate the act of crying so greatly.

Crying reminds me of rain. Ever tear that slips down our cheek brings to mind raindrops falling from the clouds. And rain is so powerful. It allows the vegetation to grow and thrive. Each drop literally brings new life. And I believe that tears are the same way.

Tears empty us of those hateful, hurtful, and pained emotions that prevent us from shining God’s light to the extent He desires us to. With every tear that falls, our heart grows lighter and becomes more capable of loving others and ourselves. Tears are truly healing.

Crying doesn’t indicate that you’re weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you’re alive.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” | Psalm 126:5

P.S. You are enough.

What if I mess up?

oct 15

By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

A woman asked me, If I make a mistake in my journey of recovery, does that mean I’m back where I started from? In my non-professional opinion, no, it absolutely doesn’t mean that.

I use to have an extremely hard time letting people display simple forms of physical touch towards me – such as hand shakes, hugging, sitting close to me and letting someone braid my hair, just to name a few.

I remember the first time I let someone braid my hair after the abuse had stopped. I wanted to work hard at getting comfortable with simple displays of physical touch, so I asked someone to braid my hair into two french braids. I hated how it felt that first time. Then, after some time had passed, I asked her to braid my hair again. This time it felt better, but it still wasn’t normal. I asked her a third time, and this time in an appropriate way it felt good to let someone braid my hair. Afterwards, I felt guilty that I liked letting someone braid my hair. I scratched my head forcefully and frantically unraveled the braids. I need to calm down, it’s just a braid, I told myself. Then my friend re-braided my hair, and even though I didn’t like how it felt this time, I tried my best to sit still.

Time passed, and I actively worked on looking people straight in the eye, while firmly shaking their hand, and letting people hug and sit close to me. Before long, she braided my hair for the fifth time, and I was more comfortable than the last time.

This same method could pertain to an eating disorder. I vividly remember the last time I drove my body through rigorous hours of exercise. Or when I would starve myself for weeks and survive on next to nothing. As I started to recover, I took steps forward, as well as steps back, just like the braid example.

There were days that I thought, surely I have this whole eating disorder recovery down. I’m eating three normal meals, even a snack too and I’m only running normal miles. I can totally do this. But then fear would inch its way into my mind, because after eating normally, I often felt fat. I’m not eating tomorrow to make up for what I just consumed. This cycle would repeat itself frequently, but as time passed, and I continued to work hard, the periods of starvation lessened, as I formed new habits.

Just because you have a moment of struggle, defeat or a bad day in your journey to recovery from abuse, an eating disorder or anything doesn’t mean you haven’t made progress towards freedom. Don’t be to hard on yourself and take it one step at a time, life is a journey, embrace the change. But when you do fall, dust off the dirt, as you rise to thank God and begin again, always embracing each opportunity in life to seek beauty.

So when you feel overwhelmed, confused, frustrated, alone or sad remember that we are closest to Christ when we are rejected, isolated and alone. Instead of turning inward, try with God’s grace to turn your suffering into seeking beauty in your cross. Instead of dwelling on the pain or falling backwards, try to mimic and cooperate with God, who will, with your cooperation (faith and hope), help you begin anew.

“Only those who do not fight are never wounded; those who charge the enemy with the greatest spirit are the ones who receive the most blows.”  – St. John Chrysostom

P.S. You are enough.

Why You Should Fall in Love with Someone Broken

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By Patrick Dunford | Guest Blogger

Photo Credit | Jenny Haas Photography

She was perfect. That probably should have been one of the first signs of trouble.

Maybe it was because I was a late-bloomer to the dating scene and she was the first woman I’d ever asked out. Maybe it was because we met through a campus ministry retreat and I thought that showed we were clearly meant to be. Maybe it was simply because she said “yes” to a date with me, period. Whatever “it” was, I thought she was the most perfect female human being I had ever met and I let myself be completely taken in by that feeling.

I even went to buy a pair of date shoes with a friend. I settled on a brand new pair of Adidas Sambas, because in the mind of a college man there’s nothing like full grain leather and suede indoor soccer shoes to win a lady’s heart. She had to pick me up because I didn’t have a parking spot on campus (read: car at all), I wore the only articles of clothing in my closet that weren’t a t-shirt and cargo shorts.

I hope, I did, anyway.

I remember a lot from that date: the restaurant we went to, some of what we talked about, even the chicken wrap I ordered and was too nervous to finish eating (c’mon younger me, a chicken wrap? Really?). I remember the friends of mine the waiter randomly seated next to us, and the admiring wink one of those friends shot me over my date’s shoulder. There’s one thing, though, I remember most about that date and what led up to it.

The moment I realized she didn’t exist.

Now, I’d gone out with a woman that evening. No Russell Crowe “Beautiful Mind” action going on here. That woman is a wonderful, good, holy person who is real, one I’ve been blessed to know. The “she” I’m talking about is the “she” I never called back after that date. An image I had projected over the true self of the real woman in front of me, loaded with unrealistic expectations and assumptions. An image which led me to a year of emotional unavailability, hung up on a relationship which never could have been because the person I hoped to be in a relationship with never was. (Granted, part of this feeling can be blamed on the depressing German Lit. course I took in the same time period. In German Lit., everyone you love dies.)

This is the objectification even good men and women find themselves a part of perpetuating. We don’t want to call it that, as if it were “A Sin That Shall Not Be Named.” Objectification reminds us of shameful things like cat-calling and pornography, the obvious diseases and usual suspects. It is painful admitting we could fall victim to something like this ourselves, when our motive seemed so pure. We only had a positive image of that person, didn’t we?

In the definitional sense, objectification simply means to treat a subject as an object. If we allow our expectation of who the person is (subject) to supersede reality, we are creating a “something” (object). We turn the individual in front of us into a Dorian Gray, only seeking to see the positive characteristics and hiding the wounds of their soul as if it were a portrait in storage. I was “in love” with the idea I’d formed of the woman I went out with, in the sense of a strong emotional bond to it. I couldn’t have truly romantically loved the actual woman in front of me in the space of time we’d known each other, and willed her good in that sense. I simply didn’t know her well enough. I allowed her reality, and thus the fullness of her beauty, to be obscured by idealization.

It wasn’t her fault. In fact, I don’t think any of the responsibility fell to her. Most often our own wounds cause us to place others on pedestals. Or even to rip them down from their rightful place.

This excerpt from C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed, written as he mourned his recently deceased wife, paints even more clearly this concept. Lewis realizes he must not give in to the mistake of loving the idea of God, his wife, or his neighbor, but love the person in theirreality. After all, he says,

“…don’t we often make this mistake as regards people who are still alive—who are with us in the same room? Talking and acting not to the man himself but to the picture—almost the précis—we’ve made of him in our own minds? And he has to depart from it pretty widely before we even notice the fact. In real life—that’s one way it differs from novels—his words and acts are, if we observe closely, hardly ever quite ‘in character,’ that is, in what we call his character. There’s always a card in his hand we didn’t know about.”

Lewis makes it very clear why he thinks this occurs, telling us his “reason for assuming that I do this to other people is the fact that so often I find them obviously doing it to me. We all think we’ve got one another taped.”

There’s risk in loving a real person. It means we don’t have them “taped,” it means they’re unpredictable. It means you might be able to hurt me, and I might be able to hurt you and there’s no way to plan exactly when or how to defend myself. I have to allow my brokenness and your brokenness to become our brokenness. If we desire authentic love, people cannot exist to us as a solution to our sufferings and insecurities. They must become a companion in it.

Companion. From the Latin companis. To break bread with one another. Our human relationships are inseparable from that which is broken. Venerable Fulton Sheen said:

“Broken things are precious. We eat broken bread because we share in the depth of our Lord and His broken life. Broken flowers give perfume. Broken incense is used in adoration. A broken ship saved Paul and many other passengers on their way to Rome. Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”

If you want to love for the sake of covering your wounds, date gauze and ACE wrap. There’s not enough bandage in the world to cover the wounds of a soul, to allow it to heal. The wounds can only be healed in the presence of the light, the open air. This is where I was afraid, and where I still find myself afraid at times as I strive to accept the truth of having to love broken people. To allow someone to fully love me, they have to see my brokenness.

We all want to fall in Love. Few of us want to admit our love is fallen. To admit how far we must fall from our pride, or more appropriately how far we must rise from our pride to authentically love another. If I am granted the gift of a wife, the gift of marriage, true love will demand our mutual admission of brokenness.  And not just an admission on the broad scale, but an intimacy within our weaknesses. I will need to choose to invite her into my own insecurities as she invites me into hers. To show our portraits to each other with their own imperfections. No edits. No Photoshop.

I’ll have to bare to her the insecurities that might make me reluctant to highlight my facial profile in our engagement photos. Reveal depths of my battle against feeling inadequate for a lack of worldly achievements. The fact that I’m an open-mouth sleeper.

She might have struggles with her body image that won’t just go away, even when I tell her she’s deeply beautiful. Or believe she’ll never live up to that sibling who’s achieved so much. Or there’s that obscure obsession with having the toothpaste on one side of the sink at all times.

We might both believe we’re not what the other deserves.

And as far as what we deserve, we’ll be right.

At a friend’s wedding, the very same friend who let me buy Sambas for a date, the priest caused a moment of nervous laughter in the congregation with one of his homily lines. He turned to the bride and told her she doesn’t deserve my friend. She doesn’t deserve his self-sacrificial nature, his humor, going on and on. Then, turning to my friend, he continued: “and you definitely don’t deserve her!” The following list was clearly much longer.

Father J was dead on. My friend doesn’t deserve his wife’s qualities or her love. Nor her, his. Not because they’re not loving or faithful, but because we don’t “deserve” Love in the first place. It is the gift most freely given by our Creator, what we were made from and for. We don’t deserve a Savior whose greatest gift came at His most vulnerable and apparently broken moment. We don’t deserve to fall in love. The word “deserve” as we most commonly use it hardly factors into real love at all.

This is the overwhelming truth of loving broken people, that our beauty is revealed within brokenness and not apart from it. Beauty is found in who a person truly is and as they truly exist, as they were created and as they are continually allowed to exist by their Creator who loves them enough to sustain them just so.

As C.S. Lewis knew “All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness. That is, in her foursquare and independent reality.”

In his or her foursquare and independent beauty.

It is true God wants us to become perfect. We are called to a perfection we accomplished by His grace and unity with Him. So brokenness does not translate to justifying sin or choosing to stop allowing Him to make us great. It is Love which banishes the excuses of brokenness. All of this is in the true sense of reality, the reality of failings which will not hold us apart from our purpose but are transformed into that which helps us achieve it. The truth of brokenness redeemed.

If we buy into the lie telling us we’ll find love with someone who’s not broken, we’ll never fall in love with a “someone” at all. We’ll only ever be in love with something, only possess an inferior love for that which can never exist in this iconoclastic reality. In the lines of Vance Joy, we say “this mess was yours, now your mess is mine.”

With few exceptions, God has only loved weak and imperfect people. And with those same exceptions, so He asks us to love. As for who to date? Who to join with in the process of intentional choice and wild intangibility that is falling in love?

They’ll be broken. That’ll be one of the first signs of something good.

P.S. You are enough

Love Your Body

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Lately I’ve been really caught up on the concept of body image. Not so much on my own, but on just how much I witness people struggling with it. I’m not even talking about struggling with obesity or acne or anything like that. I’m talking about struggling to see reality. I’m talking about those girls whose view of themselves is just so far from everyone else’s view of them. Those girls who tell themselves they’re too fat or too ugly or too imperfect to be desired. Because I’m starting to believe that this may be one of the most widespread illnesses among women.

I’m starting to think that we may be our own worst enemy. That we’re trapped within our false image of ourselves and beating ourselves from the inside out. That every time we tell ourselves we aren’t pretty enough to be desired or we aren’t skinny enough to be loved we’re simply bruising our heart and convincing our mind of lies.

You have to know you’re worthy. And you have to know that weight is not the only indicator of beauty. Nor is outward appearance for that matter. It’s okay if your thighs touch or if your bottom is looking a little big in your jeans or if some days your hair absolutely refuses to do what you want it to. It’s okay. You don’t have to hold yourself to a standard of perfection, and you don’t have to live in comparison to others. You don’t have to tear other women’s outward appearance apart to justify your own imperfections. And you don’t have to feel small in comparison to other women because your imperfections just happen to be their strengths.

That little pimple on your chin? Men don’t notice it. So your jeans are a little tighter on your bottom than they used to be? It’s totally cool – work it. Society’s perception of beauty is constantly changing. And our opinions of beauty are constantly shifting as a result of these changes of perception. But there’s a beauty that’s static. There’s a type of beauty to be found in Christ that never diminishes. And it’s rooted in a sense of worth and confidence to be found in your understanding of your position as God’s creation. Every time you look in the mirror and tell yourself you aren’t good enough He whispers that you’re perfect. Every time you pick your personal appearance apart He longs to put it back together. Every time you compare yourself to someone else He’s dying to tell you that you were created uniquely.

There’s a beauty to be found in Christ and it knows no imperfection. In fact, Song of Solomon 4:7 literally says, “you are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you.” There’s a beauty to be found in Christ and it covers you only in grace.

P.S. You are enough.

Letting Go

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo Credit | Donna Irene Photography

As a kid, I was always taught to never give up. That when you fall down you have two choices: you can stay down, or you can get right back up and keep on living. I think that’s one of the lessons I probably took most to heart growing up. And, if I were being honest, that worked out pretty well for me. But lately I’ve been learning that there’s a difference between giving up and letting go.

I’m learning that we have two options when we get hurt: we can walk around wearing our pain on our sleeve, or we can flash that beautiful smile that God gave us at everyone we see. Because you know what the latter option does? It shows people we’re strong. And it shows them that we have a sense of self-worth that is determined less by others and more by God. Because we are strong. And we’re gorgeous. And sometimes we just have to learn that pain was a small price to pay in order for us to realize that we were committing too much of our time, effort, and heart to a place where it simply didn’t belong.

Pain is less something to fear, and more something to face. It’s a battle. And honestly, in some ways I think it’s a battle in which we have something to prove. It’s a battle that grants us the opportunity to display our faith and trust in God. Because it’s those times when it is easy to fall away from Him. It’s easy to try to blame our misfortunes on Him. But it’s not His fault. It’s our blessing. And it’s our race to be won. It’s our moment to grow closer to God. It’s our moment to let our story speak to the hearts of those around us. And it’s our moment to actively discuss what we’re going through.

That’s hard, right? Because it makes us feel weak. Exposing our wound to others makes us feel weak. But the strength we have is the potential to bring others who are experiencing similar emotions yet think they’re alone. That turns our weakness into an asset. It makes us relatable. Because weakness is something we share. It’s something God granted all of humanity. He limited us in our physical and emotional capabilities that we might learn to rely on each other. Our weakness should be seen less in a negative light and more as a call to community. Because we are called to live as one body in Christ, a family. And families are built on a supportive foundation.

“She holds onto hope for He is forever faithful.” 1 Corinthians 1:9

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

P.S. You are enough.

To the boy I thought I loved

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Jenny Haas Photography

I remember how it felt. To have you always on my mind. To think about the two of us in the context of forever. To desire being held in your arms. To do everything I could to make the two of us work as one. To make your happiness a priority over my own.

I remember how it felt. To lose myself in you. My self-worth. My self-concept. My self-esteem. My self-love.

I remember how it felt. To put all of the right energy into the wrong person. The selflessness. The generosity. The purity. The innocence.

I remember how with every step I took towards you my heart took a step away from God. How with every word you spoke I would become less of who I wanted to be. How every kiss from your lips to mine broke my heart instead of embracing it.

I remember how it felt. And he knows.

He knows the scars you left on my heart. The ones that have yet heal. I work every day to fix them. Some days we talk it out. Some days I try to push them down because they hurt. He hopes that one day it won’t hurt anymore. We have the same hopes. That’s part of how I know he’s from God.

He sees my scars and embraces them. He knows that in some ways I’m imperfect. But eyes of grace allow him to see perfection in imperfection.

He believes I’m beautiful. He doesn’t tell me my hair isn’t long enough or that my skirts are too modest. He loves me how I am.

He’s always on my mind because he’s earned a place in my heart. I think about the two of us in the context of forever because God didn’t put him in my life for the temporary. I desire being held in his arms because I know that in him there’s safety. We do everything we can to make the two of us work as one. Selflessness is a staple of our relationship – seeing one another happy brings joy to our own hearts.

I’ll tell you how it feels. To have someone stand by you as a friend while you work to find yourself. To rediscover your self-worth. To reaffirm your self-concept. To rebuild your self-esteem. To be reacquainted with self-love.

I’ll tell you how it feels. I’m finally putting all the right energy into the right person. The person God intended. The person I’ve been waiting for. Praying for.

Every cautious step I take towards him allows him to become closer to me. Every word he speaks to me captures my soul. Every kiss I get to share with him leaves me feeling fulfilled and loved. He makes every wrong person worth it and every wrong turn make sense.

To the boy I thought I loved – I found forever in the aftermath of the temporary. The baggage I thought I had because of you only allowed me to become increasingly vulnerable with the man I know God sent me. Thank you for breaking my heart – it took every shattered piece to be made whole in Christ.

“…and in Him you have been made complete…” Colossians 2:10

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3:4

P.S. You are enough.

Hello My Name is Scott – I’m an Alcoholic

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By Scott Weeman | Men’s Staff Writer

Photo credit: Elissa Anne Photography

I took my first drink on a late evening in May, 2002.  I was 17 years old.  “Don’t think so much about how it’s going to taste, but think about how good it will make you feel,” was the instruction I was given while walking along a set of abandoned train tracks, my cargo shorts stuffed with beer cans.

As of the day this is published, I took my last drink on October 9, 2011.  I was 26 years old.  I didn’t care what it tasted like, I just knew that it would help me not feel the way I was constantly feeling.

I am an alcoholic.  I am also a drug addict.  God has blessed me with the opportunity to know Him in a truly personal way through my recovery from alcoholism and addiction, a relationship that I’m not sure I would have if it wasn’t for the dark hole that drugs and alcohol sucked me into and the suffering I put myself through as a result.   

I drank or used drugs every day, and my life, in every way possible, was falling apart.  As the pieces have come together, God has revealed Himself to me in some very blatant and very subtle ways.  He had not given up on me like I had.

I can’t tell you how it all happened because it still remains a miracle that I don’t understand, but I can scratch the surface on telling you what my life was like, what happened, and what it is like now.

Here is my story:

Not long after my first drink I began to find that alcohol (and later, drugs) could do for me what I could not do for myself.  It offered me courage, apparent charm, and most importantly, a retreat from my worries and problems.  Although I had a thriving social life, I was isolated in all of my fears and angst.  Thus, when I found a solution to these helpless feelings I wanted nothing more but to return to the promised relief of these substances.

At the same time, I began to find that I was compromising the things that were once important to me.  My close friends were seeing less of me as I spent time with those who preferred a more carefree lifestyle.  Relationships with my parents and siblings began to slide as I withdrew from my family and those closest to me, oftentimes lying to them and deceiving them about what was really going on.  These tools of manipulation were ones that I used even before I became an alcoholic as a means to evade short-term consequences, but became more prominent and damaging as I began protecting my poor choices.

While I did not grow up with a devout sense of religious obligation, I did have a moral compass that I credit as a gift from God and very loving parents.  However, the code that I did my best to live by started deteriorating as I built a muffler to the Voice that was convicting me of doing wrong.  Integrity was something of the past, and my selfish and self-centered behavior started affecting more than just myself. 

College brought me to New York City where I was given a full-tuition debate scholarship.  I was restarting my social life from scratch.  Partly because I was a people pleaser and partly because I didn’t really know what I wanted out of life, I began doing all I could to fit in with those around me and to stand out in some way.  Alcohol had a great way of making me feel like I was successful in those endeavors, and it also comforted me when reality set in and the truth about where my life was heading was too much to bear. 

My grades slipped tanked.  Within a year I was hardly ever showing up to class and my devotion to the debate team, my friends and family back home, and anything else that got in the way of me “having a good time” took a back seat to my craving for more alcohol and drugs.  The list of extremes I went to in order to secure this lifestyle can not be exhausted in this writing, but included doing some things I swore I would never do and would have never imagined.  I was selling drugs out of my dorm room, which found me in some incredibly compromised situations on both ends of those transactions.  I was using harder drugs and for quite some time was practically homeless, had it not been for some friends that offered a bed to me.  Yet, I was still convinced that I was living “the good life”.

Needless to say, after three semesters the university retracted the scholarship I spent all four years of high school ardently working towards.  “How did this all go so wrong, so quickly?” was the question I was trying my best not to answer.  For some insane reason I thought I was still in control of my life.  A cycle of depression, drinking, and deception was one that I became very familiar with.  By the age of 21 I had multiple police citations around alcohol, including two DUIs, and found myself in an inpatient treatment facility where I would prove to myself and everyone else that I was still in control. 

I wasn’t.

I was too young.  The party can’t be over yet.  Everyone else around me is drinking the same way I am, yet they seem to be doing alright.  How am I supposed to swear off alcohol for good?  How will I be able to celebrate life?  How will I get through life’s difficulties?  What about toasting with my future wife and everyone else at my wedding?  Life will be meaningless and a bore without alcohol.  It’s too hard.  I can’t do it.  I’m not good enough. 

Everyone who got close to me had reasons not to trust me.  By all indications, I loved drugs and alcohol more than I loved anyone on this earth.  I brought everyone who cared about me along on the ride to hell.  The closer they were to me, the darker and more dreadful the experience surely was.  Some relationships are still mending from the destruction that my fearful self-centeredness left behind.

I made plenty of promises.  I swore off drinking during the week.  I tried limiting myself to just two drinks per night.  I fell in love, hoping that someone else could change me.  I moved across the country to San Diego, hoping that new scenery would offer a new lifestyle and better choices.  I offered to take random drug tests to prove my innocence (and failed many).  I became more generous.  I bought lots of flowers.  I wrote songs declaring my new-found faithfulness.  I told everyone everything I thought they wanted to hear.  I was a fraud.

I lost everything, including hope. 

The last thing I wanted, or even thought was possible, became my only option.  I stood at the turning point.  I recall thinking to myself “I’m 26 years old, recently single, living by the beach, surrounded by beautiful women, and now you’re telling me that the party’s over?!” 

The party had ended long before that.  I had to stop drinking and doing drugs.

In a moment of “weakness” (and after getting caught in another lie), I knew I needed to make a plea for help.  I was alone and miserable as I took a bike ride down to a nearby San Diego bay. Pushing my bike tires through the heavy sand, I found a spot where I could collapse.  I cried alone for quite some time before mustering the courage to call some very close friends, my mom, and my dad to tell them how bad things had gotten for me.  The voices on the other end of each phone call were not shocked by the news as they had an idea of where my life had been going.  I had no vision how positive change was going to wedge its way into my life, but I found that this moment of honesty wasn’t as terrible as I thought it might be.  I was told that I was loved and that there were people in my life who were still willing to do whatever they could to help me.  They told me that they would help me stay accountable.

In many failed previous attempts at quitting drinking and drugging I had come across a few people who claimed to actually have some long-term sobriety, and they seemed genuinely happy.  Begrudgingly and full of shame, I reached out to someone.  He introduced me to a fellowship of others who were recovering from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.  Because everything else that I tried failed, I would give this a shot.  I was told that recovery was not possible on my own and that I would need the help of others and the grace of God to overcome my disease.  One man, whom I was not expecting to encounter warmth from, said he would give me as much of his time as was necessary for me to not drink that day.  He continued to do so, day after day. 

“You and I are going to be a taking a journey together, Scott, and neither one of us is coming back,” were the Providential words shared by this man.  He was right.  I have not had a drink since. 

I don’t know how I got through those first few days without a drink.  It was truly a miracle.  I was conditioned to drink, and now I was asked to uncover the honest and painful truth about myself without the only comfort that I knew.  Whatever was left of me was abandoned to God.  This was done not of my strength, but on the guidance of a Higher Power and the strength of others who were supposedly staying sober by helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety. 

My day-to-day life did not become easier, but slowly I was handed tools to handle life on life’s terms.  The first was the shortened Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the Wisdom to know the difference.

I said this prayer hundreds of times per day as I limped through the first couple days and weeks of sobriety.  For about the first ninety days my friends and parents were subjected to daily phone calls to let them know that I didn’t drink yet that day and that I didn’t drink the night before.  One day it dawned on me that the craving for alcohol and the mental obsession that accompanied it had ceased.  God was doing for me what I could not do for myself, and life began taking on a new meaning. 

scott jan 5

Upon starting this new life of sobriety I also found a community of young adults at the local Catholic church that I stumbled upon several months prior while fulfilling a half-hearted promise.  One man in particular, armed with a stern handshake and an embracing passion for what he was doing, led the group and showed a friendly interest in my well-being.  With mixed intentions, I got involved in a weekly bible study and other spiritual and social opportunities around the church. 

With my friend as a Christian mentor to guide me, challenge me, and encourage me through this new way of life I began opening up with him and others about what I was going through.  I was terrified to share my story at first, fearful of the judgement that would be placed on me and the resulting rejection.  Continuing to pray for courage, I started being more honest with myself, with others, and with God.  And how exhilarating it was!  Not only were my fears of dismissal proved wrong, but I found that honesty about what I was going through helped me get to know myself better, strengthened my relationship with God, and kept me sober one day at a time.

A great deal of guidance was offered to me as I started taking an inventory of my resentments, fears, and other general misconducts.  I began sharing what I found with those very close to me, and slowly I began to see where I was responsible for the way life was mistreating me.  I prayed for willingness, and I asked God to remove those defects of character which kept me from being the man I knew I was capable of.  There were many challenges throughout this process, many of which I handled very imperfectly, but the one thing that I successfully did each day was not take a drink or do a drug.  At the very least, that has made each day a success and continues to be the foundation of my life’s meaning.

Early in sobriety it was suggested to me that my healing must never be just “something on my plate”, but rather recovery must be the plate upon which everything in my life rests.  I have a disease that wants me to believe that I don’t have a disease, which means that I must make daily efforts to continue to do the things that got me sober.  Literature vital to the twelve-step program describes, “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.  Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities.”

Constant interactions with other alcoholics seeking to turn their life around has been one way I’ve maintained that spiritual condition.  Prayer and various efforts to form a personal relationship with my Creator has been another. 

I have found that the dark past that I was forever ashamed of and weighed down by has become my greatest asset.  Understanding how my experience can benefit others has made some sense of the years of turmoil I had been through.  Recalling the darkness and loneliness that existed in my life and comparing it to the opportunities that God makes available for me each day as a sober man reminds me of the glory He has planned, all along, for myself and all those who seek Him. 

I am not healed of my disease, nor will I ever be.  By the grace of God I have been relieved of the obsession and craving to drink and do drugs, for today.  I honestly thought that would never be possible.  I was a hopeless alcoholic.  Somehow, God still found me lovable in all of my brokenness and at my lowest.  His pursuit of me changed my life.

P.S. You are enough.

What do I do when Christmas isn’t so “Merry”

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By Alanna Burtis | Guest Blogger

Photo credit | Of Hearth and Home

I have been hearing this question a lot throughout these few weeks: How do I get through Christmas when everything around me is not joyful? You see everyone else get in the holiday spirit but there is just no way you can even fathom trying to enjoy your Christmas when you know it’s not going to be the best.

I know what it is like. For a couple of years I would receive lotion and perfume for Christmas because that was all my family could afford. Yet, all my friends around me received the newest iPhone and would have hundreds of dollars to buy new clothes. One Christmas I didn’t even spend it with my family because my faith was different from my family and I was uncomfortable to be in an environment where I did not feel welcome. Do you have an eating disorder? I know all too well the anticipation and anxiety I would get just thinking about sitting down at a dinner table with those who are supposed to be the ones closest to me, but I would sit there in tremendous sorrow and grab a spoonful of green bean casserole and that was it. I know what it is like to lose someone you love just before the holiday season, my family is going through a loss, as we lost Pop last Tuesday. I know what it is like to not spend Christmas with the man you want to spend it with, how hard it is not to have a dad there and then sometimes being envious of those who do have a dad. I know what it is like to not be happy during the holiday season. But it is okay. We have Someone far bigger than our small situations down here.

Jesus was born in the midst of absolute chaos. There was a war about to break with the government. Mary, oh sweet Mary was just a teenager; virgin and pregnant with a miracle baby on the way. And when it was time for Jesus to be born, He was not born in a grand ole’ situation, He was born in a dirty manger where animals were kept. And no one at all expected this grand gift to be born in this setting, as they were thinking something grand and beautiful must happen for baby Jesus. Even their expectations were wrong and this is how we can relate to those two thousand years ago.

We want the most amazing, joyful, carefree, all-loving Christmas we could possibly get. But, what we think we should have is not what God had intended for anyone. Not even you. Trust me, Jesus and His gift of salvation, forgiving you for all of your sins, and you having a spot in Heaven is far greater than having one perfect Christmas. Without Jesus we would not have that offering, we would not have hope or have the One to direct us to where we are meant to go.

Our situations down here on Earth will always change. There will be times of deep grief, suffering, trials, and the occasional steady times of amazing seasons along with joy and happiness. But if we did not get to go through the dirt in our lives, would we ever take a look back on that suffering once we are in a place of steadiness? No. The bad stuff is used when the good stuff comes. When all we have prayed for and hoped for comes to our lives that is when we can see God, look back at where we just were and believe there is indeed Someone who loves us immensely, more than we could ever possibly imagine.

Every ounce of pain is used, if you let it be. So do not think this hard time you are going through will not be used for God’s glory, because it will.

And, I have found: the most powerful moments in my faith happened when I had the opportunity to look back and see that God was faithful through it all.

Do not give up. Keep praying. Keep searching. Keep believing. Keep hoping. 

Soon, you will look back and see His Face in a light you have never seen before.

That to you, will be a miracle.

P.S. You are enough.

That’s talk about sex and what we keep hush-hush

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The author wished to remain anonymous.

Photo credit: The Shalom Imaginative 

To all unmarried Christian ladies:

I want to speak completely honestly with you all.

I…unashamedly, without regret, without a hint of guilt, admit that I…

love the feeling of an orgasm.

Yes, I said it. And you know what? I don’t think there is a single person on this earth who would disagree with me.

Yet, as you look around at your pure and holy friends, you can’t imagine them ever saying those words, can you? You can’t imagine them ever admitting to being tempted by masturbation, porn, or sex. You especially can’t imagine them admitting to acting on those temptations.

You look around and you see two separate worlds – there are the pure, holy, good girls who are so excited for their wedding night sex (TOB says sex is great, after all!), but who currently would die before smudging their purity. And then there are the regular people who have no moral, religious obligations and have sex as often as they want because they have no real reason to stop themselves.

That’s how the world is sometimes painted in your life, isn’t it? It’s kind of black and white. You’re either religious and pure or you’re non-religious and sex-crazed.

And then there’s you. You’re sitting here, and you’re a good Christian girl. Everyone says you are. But when nobody is around, you masturbate. You watch porn. Maybe you even have sex. Yet you keep that all hidden away inside of you, maybe confessing it to a priest if you’re brave enough. You then coat your actions with shame and tuck them down deep inside of you, painfully aware that you’re a hypocrite. You wish you could release your guilt, but you think the other girls would judge you. 

Just like they think you would judge them.

Ladies, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the line between the two “worlds,” the worlds of the pure and impure, don’t exist. Everybody is human. Everybody is tempted by sex. Some people act on that temptation, some people don’t. Some of those people are religious, and some are not.

I had an experience recently wherein I struggled with masturbation on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. I was fully addicted. I was filled with shame. As I struggled with a sin that I thought made me the devil, I became highly depressed. I ran to confession every day and cried every night as I fell into sin time and time again. I hated myself. I was miserable.

Finally, my best friend and I had a deep conversation and I confessed to her my struggles. I expected her to judge me, to look down on me, to be disgusted with me. After all, she was a good and pure girl, just like I was supposed to be.

Yet, after I admitted my struggles, feeling sick to my stomach, I remember she looked up at me, took a breath, and replied, “Me too.”

So did another friend.

And another.

And another.

One of them had sex.

Two of them had sex. 

Suddenly, so many of us… so many who had hidden our sins deep down, thinking we were the only ones struggling, found that we were not alone. We found ourselves facing the same temptations, sometimes acting on them, and always hiding away our shame for fear of judgment from each other. I cannot tell you how relieving it was to have my shame and fear melt away. I no longer felt like an outcast in the pure, Christian bubble. I simply felt human.

Ladies, I want you to know you are not alone. Let your shame fall away. You are an amazing, wonderful human being, striving to be a good person, just like everyone else. You fall, but you fall with everyone, and we are all here to lovingly lift each other up and help each other carry on. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your friends. Don’t be afraid to talk to a priest. Even though the world looks black and white, it’s much more colorful than you could ever imagine. And, just like you, it’s so beautiful!

P.S. You are enough.

You’re more than the size of your butt

dec 18

By Kathryn Gibbs| Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Flickr

Recently, all sorts of media attention has been given to the physical features of Kim Kardashian as well as the latest Victoria’s Secret fashion show. In a world that seems to praise women for their bodies, it is often difficult as women to truly know that we are enough without looking like that – without having a flawless body, a certain bra size, a specific waist line or a unique physique. Although any woman has the power to try to turn one man’s head with the “right clothing” and “sexy demeanor,” it takes a certain woman to turn a man’s heart. It takes a certain woman to turn a man’s heart, which always starts with virtue. As a woman myself, I do not know about you but I would much rather be able to turn the heart of a man than his head. That sounds more attractive anyways, right?

We are programmed as ladies far differently than the men around us and it is no secret that men are visually oriented, meaning they can take in a lot through their eyes. This can be a beautiful thing (just imagine how much a man takes in when he sees his future bride walking down the aisle!) but it can also be a bad thing (just imagine how much a man takes in when he searches the internet, with the click of a button, given free-access to pretty much anything). As women, I think we know men can focus in on what they see, which is why you will find all sorts of females dressing to impress at most bars on a Friday night. However, I think women should also know they are created as so much more than an article of clothing and if we don’t know that, it is time we get started! As one woman, you have the influence to determine how the men around you will look at you – how they will perceive you; how they will understand your own standards; how they will know what you tolerate and what you do not let slide. Ladies, we have the power (not the malicious, evil laughter kind of “power”) but the God-given, inherent power of our dignity as females to hold ourselves to a higher standard than what we may be assuming is normal or fair for men to reach. As a woman, you have the power to say:

“I don’t need to capture the attention or affirmation of that guy I am interested in – I can be okay with myself regardless if he notices me tonight.”

“I can believe that my body is something sacred, something not to be degraded in but something to be loved in” (and I can uphold my own self-worth even if the other girls around me seem to discard their own).

“I can wear something different tonight than what I was going to wear because guys probably won’t be looking at me as much as they will be looking at my body.”

Rather than use our dress to diminish our dignity, we should be using our dress to reflect our dignity. Instead of using our bodies to our own advantage, wondering who will pay us attention or interest, we should use our bodies to their advantage, knowing that the good men out there want to see us as more than a collection of body parts stored in their minds. The good news is that, as a female, you have the power within you to inspire and shape the men around you. Whether you are hanging with your guy friends, out on a date, spending time with your boyfriend or just getting to know someone, you have the ability to tell the men around you – “this is who I know I am and these are the standards I hold myself to.”

I bet, as women, if we held ourselves to higher standards, men would follow suit and do the same (because, well, they would have to.) Besides, your worth is so much more than any filtered picture you can upload on Instagram or Facebook sporting a bikini or showing off your cleavage.

You are not to blame for every man’s impure thoughts and actions, however, you can certainty influence or prevent them for happening based on how you conduct yourself as a woman. I’m not suggesting turtlenecks are the way to go but if you gradually allow yourself to be cheapened, chances are that the man who is interested in you will start to see you as less of a person to love and more of an object to use. Regardless of whether you realize it or not, every day as a woman, you get to choose how you invite the men around you to step up. You choose how much of yourself you want to reveal and how you uphold your own dignity and you get to do that as a beloved daughter, made in the image and likeness of True Beauty who is God Himself. What a gift this is. Besides, I am sure the virtuous men out there will find it refreshing that a woman like you cares more about attracting someone through the goodness of her soul and the depth of her personality as opposed to the amount of skin she can show. Men have what it takes and we need to make sure we are doing our part in helping them love like Christ, while affirming their goodness and strength along the way. May we reflect on all these things in our hearts, with the Our Blessed Mother as our model, knowing that we have the great reward (and task) of imitating Her as authentic women!

P.S. You are enough.