Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Different Kind of New Beginning

"May you accept the past for what it is. May you celebrate what needs to be celebrated and grieve what needs to be grieved. And then, may you receive from God a new Spirit, one for Here - Now - Today."

-Rob Bell

For those of you that know me, I am a big fan of new beginnings. I've spent all year discovering and rediscovering their beauty. I haven't written since May 26th, and believe me when I say that more has happened than could fit in the space that Gmail provides for its millions of users.

But today was different. Something I couldn't pass up the opportunity to write about.

I sit here, sweaty, hair a mess, smelling like CLR (yes, the cleaner. "Just CLR it!")

Today is a Tuesday, not a Monday, which we often associate with a new week - or beginning. It is not November 1st, which I would have already proclaimed that it is a new month somewhere on my Facebook. It is not the beginning of a new season, we are in the middle of Fall - and a beautiful one at that.

So what is it?

Today, for whatever reason, I decided it was time to scrub my bathtub. Not just give it a quick spray and rinse. I'm talking deep clean. This is all compounded by so many other things happening, but today was the day.

But, why is this significant?

My whole life, I have associated rain and water with being washed clean. But my tub was anything but "clean." (You can run for the hills if it really bothers you).

For those of you who know the story that unfolded this Spring, Summer and well into Fall, you know I've been holding onto a burden of guilt, pain, confusion, hurt, and doubt caused by someone I was close to here in Denver. Despite this, I've found so much joy, which is the thing that has been different about this year. I think I'm finally getting a small grasp on the verse that talks about finding joy in your trials. It's not easy. It is a choice. And it doesn't always feel better right away. But, through baby steps and a strong will to believe things will change, things do change.

Sometimes I wonder why I complain about anything. I have a job that pays my bills, I have a family that loves me unconditionally, I have a roof over my head and a warm bed. I have friends that make every aspect of life - good and bad - worth living through. I live in the most beautiful state in the country. And I'm healthy. When was the last time we stopped to be grateful for that?

I went to church on Sunday night for the first time in months. Months. Might as well have been years since I've been so disconnected. The most amazing thing about this fact is that God has never once stopped pursuing me. And more often than not, I am listening. No matter where we end up, God is always there, whether we believe it or feel it or not.

On Sunday, a man named Peter spoke to us about the trials that his father faced growing up in Russia and fleeing to China as a little boy. His father was beaten as a child, deprived of food, saw both of his parents buried in the same hole before age 5. At age 16, he stood blindfolded in front of a firing squad because he refused to stand on the front lines with a weapon and shoot at people. And yet, God was faithful to direct and orchestrate a story that continued to lead him down the straight and narrow. A journey that was heavy laden with pain, is a journey that has changed lives and turned hearts toward the Creator.

And isn't it about the journey and not the destination anyway?

My shower has been a vehicle for cleanliness on the outside. But what about what is left behind? The reason we clean is to make new, start fresh, and be able to present something worth showing.

I was scrubbing my tub until I was covered in sweat, my hair falling out of its ponytail, remembering all of the things I have washed away in this one small space. But I had let what was left behind remain.

Peter spoke about how he was a little child at age 7 listening to parts of his father's story each night before he went to sleep with his siblings surrounding him. He would get mad when his father would speak of being mistreated, sometimes being left for dead. Peter would ask, "Daddy, why didn't you get mad?!" His father would reply, "My son, I could not get mad, I had Jesus." Instead of planting seeds of bitterness, he would plant seeds of gratefulness in the hearts of the children listening to these stories of how he grew up.

I was almost done scrubbing the bathtub and heard God say, "You have labored enough my child."

But he wasn't talking about the scrubbing. He was talking about my burden. He was telling me to stop doing it on my own. To stop carrying something that is too heavy for just me. To stop allowing what is left behind to build until it breaks me. He was asking me to give it to Him.

The problem with our human nature is that we actually try too hard. We think we can do things on our own until our exhaustion from doing so prevents us from functioning at even a fraction of our best.

As the water swirled around the tub in the final moments I was cleaning, I let the water rush to the drain to take with it everything I had left to hold onto from my burden. Although it has been a journey to this point, and I'm sure my human mind will not completely forget about what happened this year quite yet, I know that I have released that person to the loving Hands of God. And I wish him well.

And in the letting go, we find a different kind of new beginning. One that is not marked by the start of something, but that which is marked by the end of another.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is It So Simple, my God?

"Hands, is it worth my work?
If it's not with Your eyes, what is it worth?
Love, is it worth my time?
Cause if it's not with Your heart, it's from my mind."

-Kye Kye "Introduce Myself"

My checking account overdrew yesterday. It's the same story of trying to strategically plan my payments to clear the same day my direct deposit drops into my account. Living as a professional commuter makes this difficult sometimes. But, nothing is forever. And I get paid weekly. So it could always be worse.

As I sat in my car on my lunch break trying to figure out how to make it to Friday with $10 in my wallet, all I could think was I could make it work by spending $2 on my lunch and use the remaining 8 to buy enough gas to get me home from work on Thursday night. As I was leaving work later that afternoon, I took a different loop around the mall than I normally do. Stop. Yield. Go. Repeat.

And then I saw her standing on the corner at the stoplight.

She put her head down and looked at her cardboard sign; a look that revealed the shame she felt that she would have to beg. Her sign said she and her child were in need.

I caught a glimpse at the very moment her head sunk to her chest. She put her lips together as if to hold back tears, the same ones she's been holding in the entire time she's been standing there.

I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. Here I am wondering how to make it with $8 and she is trying to figure out how to make it with zero. The light turned green, and my car, fourth in line, proceeded to turn left. As my car passed her, it took less than the blink of my eye to feel the tug on my heart to turn back. I turned left and pulled a U at the next light.

My car stopped suddenly, half in the bike line, half in the lane of traffic. I flipped on my emergency lights and jumped out. My door slammed behind me and I just started running up the grassy hill to get to her. Why was I running? My car would still be there. She would still be there.

But I ran. And it was as if I was running toward my own brokenness.

She was startled by my sudden appearance in front of her. But I handed her the $8 I had and apologized that I didn't have more. I grabbed her right arm and told her to take care of herself even though it's hard. She told me God bless. And then I ran back.

The breeze was blowing so hard I didn't think I would make it back in one piece. It was as if God had come down in a rushing wind to sweep away the worry that should have gripped me in that moment.

I hopped back in my car and pulled away at a speed that felt much slower than it was moving.

And I just cried.

When will I see that I've never been in want for what I need?
When will I stop desiring more when God tells me He's enough?
When will I see that I am only called to give what I already have?

I desire more to give more. But does God call me to use a spiritual gift that He has not bestowed upon me?

He asks for what I have. Not for what I will have. Not for what I wish I had. What I have now.

Sometimes living in the present and fully alive isn't about feeling God's hand in it.
Sometimes it's about making the sacrifice you don't think you can and trusting that you've done all your human spirit is capable of doing.

And in this, you will find that it's not even by your own spirit you could do it. It is the Spirit of Christ that dwells within.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Phoneless Socialite

I am indeed a phoneless socialite.

My phone fell out of my lap into a parking lot on Saturday night and I didn't realize it until I tried calling it and guy picked up and said it had been run over by car and he had it with him. I have phone insurance - but it does me little good when they tell me my phone is backordered for up to 7-10 business days. 10 business days means two weeks from the day my phone died!Gahh!

The timing of something like this is never ideal, but especially right now. I met a guy on Thurs that I really like and he had my number and I didn't have his...and then my phone was crushed to death. It's laughable to a point, as I'm sure it's not the end of the world. But like I said: phoneless socialite.

I've been making the best of this situation by enjoying the quiet and alone time. Today I went to my favorite breakfast place JELLY! to get lunch. I've been there a handful of times and made friends with the staff on day 1. I saw Randy today who gave me a hug and told me to enjoy the alone time. I sat at the breakfast bar and met a girl named Regan who served me. She happened to grow up in Alameda, CA which is where I was born! One of the cooks, David, came out and I told him he made a mean breakfast. He introduced himself and told me about how he opened 2 restaurants in the Bay Area, then one in Seattle and made his way to Denver because this is where he wants to be.

Capitol Hill is by far my favorite place in all of the downtown area because you meet people just from walking down the street. I love how downtown used to be so foreign to me and I would get lost all the time, but now I know the sequence of streets going East-West and don't need a phone to navigate anymore. There's one positive despite being phoneless :)

A lot of times when I'm out by myself I tend to surf facebook on my phone or do other things on the internet, but today I didn't have that. I watched a group of 8 people eat their meals together and listened to their laughter. I loved it. Community is such an important part of life even if it's not for the purpose of being at church. A lot of times, the conversations and experiences outside of church bring different life perspectives and wisdom together and in that, the face of God is revealed to me. Brokenness is a common theme among all of us. Let's share it. And work through it. And heal from it.

There is a guy eating by himself across the way from me and he's surfing his phone. Sometimes I wish that every time I went somewhere, I could sit down with a stranger and just start talking to them. Social norms work against this desire, but I want to help change that. What would it look like if we ate with or talked to a stranger every day? Talk about community.

It's been easy for a lot of my Christian friends to tell me the reason my phone broke is because God thinks I need a break from it, or need be less dependent on it. I'm not going to get into this argument too much here. Maybe being without one for 5 days and counting is a good thing, but I think the way we go through life - with or without a phone - should be consistent. Maybe God broke my phone? Maybe it's for my well-being? Maybe the guy I met was bad news and God knows something about him that I don't? Or maybe it just happened? TBD...

On my 2 hour walk around downtown I got Pinkberry for dessert. My fave! Mango yogurt with raspberries, blueberries and chocolate chips was today's order. I filled out a survey for them and got two coupons for free Pinkberry. My day would've been complete at this point. But I left and just a couple blocks later a man named Eddie was sitting against a building and pointed at me and started dancing. He saw I had my headphones in and so I started dancing toward him. I took one headphone out and he laughed and he told me I "got it going on." Haha, it was so fun. I only had $1 left in my wallet and I gave it to him after he declined my offer of a raspberry. Normally I wouldn't blame him, but raspberries are my new favorite fruit, so I guess it was win-win because I got to eat my extra raspberry and he wanted the dollar instead. He had the best laugh. I couldn't help but smile.

I wish I had a moral of the story for this entry. Maybe it's that I am not a slave to technology (as I type this on my new Mac?), maybe it's stop and talk to people on the street, maybe it's about community. Or maybe it's all of them. I met 3 new people, got to listen to great music, walked four miles in my saffron yellow cord TOMS, and danced with a homeless man. Great day, great day.

p.s. The JELLY! jelly flavor of the day was raspberry!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Changing of the Seasons....

"And I didn't know who I really was, that I'd been locked up just because.
I didn't know what freedom was, but now I do."

-The Colorful Quiet "I Didn't Know"

A lot has changed in 9 months. Especially the last 4. And especially the last one.

Spring has finally sprung and there are no words for me to describe this feeling I have. I have been waiting for this Season since June and God has so faithfully carried me when I needed and guided me when I was running circles around my guilt. In the last month, there hasn't been a day that's gone by where I didn't stop suddenly and just beam. Because I am exactly where I'm supposed to be doing exactly what I'm supposed to be and able to become the woman God has destined me to be.

I have an incredible job with amazing people that I absolutely love - and I get to do it living in a place that I am in love with. In the words of one of my associates, "Shannon, you're in a city you're obsessed with." I do love it here, but I think no matter where I have lived or will live, I go out and explore. It's what I love doing. I'm meeting new people every week without limitation. When I think about the fact that I may have been at a different life stage, getting ready to spend the rest of my life with someone - I can't imagine being there right now. I am still soaking up the sunshine on my days off, dreaming, growing, hoping, praying, trusting, and surrendering. Every step I have ever taken has been guided and overseen by the Divine Creator. When I get scared or ask why or wonder what is next, He gently reminds me that if I knew all that is to come I would miss out on the joys of now. There is something beautiful about being fully present in the present.

All of the experiences I've had up until now have prepared me for such a time as this. And the timing of it all is so perfect. Had I entered the job I do now last summer, I wouldn't have grown into my role the way I have. And God knew that. He knew everything that would happen going forward last May on the day that I stood at my college graduation and the chancellor said, "I imagine you're not the same person you were four years ago..." And I know that 3 years from now, I will feel that way again.

I drove my friend Kelly to the airport this morning before the sun rose and after I dropped her off I passed a jumbo jet heading toward the runway. I had a particular song on and I always do this thing where I want something dramatic to happen - like a plane taking off? - right at the best part of the song. I kept rewinding and looking in my rear view mirror for the plane to take off. After a few minutes I didn't understand why the plane hadn't taken off. It was 6:47am and surely that plane was behind schedule because I've booked my fair share of flights, shopping those early 6:00 or 6:30 flights...

And then all of the sudden I looked out my front windshield and there it was, it had taken off and was headed upward. I had missed the take-off because I was so busy looking behind me. And it hit me that I no longer have to look backward - ever. Because I will miss everything that's ahead. Being present in the present.

Sometimes I see the lines on the faces of older folks and wonder what has caused the seasons of change in their life. Every line has a story, a sadness, a joy to be told. Tales of loss, success, dreams realized, and lessons learned. I hope that most of my lines will come from laughing - or at least finding a way to smile through the difficult times.

Every place God has ever taken me has been for my well-being, even when it hasn't always been a smooth ride. Suffering has been promised to me, a concept that I know sounds foolish to most. The path will not always make sense, and what is to come will not always be revealed - but I hold onto this promise:

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:37-39

Redemption and freedom from trying to do it on my own is the reason for every smile, for every laugh, and for every moment that I stop in the middle of a great conversation with friends and realize that the only thing that matters is the here and now. I refuse to let these moments pass without a grateful heart and a smile on my face. Don't let the moments you can't get back escape without a chance to experience their beauty.

"I think I'm ready to leap, I'm ready to live, I'm ready to go."


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mascarpone is the New Black

"If the Divine Creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."

-Fernand Point

Food. Such a simple necessity, yet it all awaits its discovery.

I spent the better part of February and now early March discovering Denver's finest restaurants and eateries. Colt & Gray, Steuben's, Vine Street Pub, Lala's Wine Bar + Pizzeria, Panzano, and Jelly! - just to name a few.

Chicken apple sausage, made-to-order cinnamon sugar donut holes, bacon grilled cheese, mascarpone-arugula pesto spread, Baked ricotta stuffed rigatoni with red pepper pesto, brown butter gnocchi, peach jelly, chocolate cannolis over black cherry sauce, and Dr. Loosen Riesling. Oh, must I continue? My mouth is starting to water!

A native of San Francisco, you would think I would have tried it all. But I grew up a picky eater - and some people wonder how I've lived.

It's a valid question, and one that I dared myself to challenge in 2011. With all of the exciting things ahead of me in my life, I figured I would add the uncharted territory of food to the mix. And I certainly haven't been disappointed.

When I went off to college in August of 2005, I had only ever tried 5 kinds of fruit: apple, banana, grape, watermelon, and cantaloupe. WHAT? No..ORANGE? Yes, no orange. I have distinct memories of my dad chasing me at half-time during little league soccer games to eat one. NEVAHHHHHH!!!! I was a defiant eater of sorts.

My lack of risk taking (but let's be honest, an orange to most people is not risk) in trying foods is almost humerous when I look at how I take risks in all other areas of my life. I'm not really afraid of the unknown when it comes to anything else - so why food? Perhaps this is a phenomenon I will continue to discover the answer to as I explore the possibilities. The only thing I know right now is that I sniff EVERYTHING I eat, and God gave me an acute sense of smell. What I'm finding is that acute sense makes new flavors unbelievable!

But the common theme I've found each time I dine is that I discover another facet of beauty. And it's not just in the food. It's mostly in the conversations. With friends. With bartenders. With servers. And with strangers. The times I dine alone are the most profound, because every time I do, I meet someone new. I'm more comfortable eating alone and making conversation with the guy serving me than I am eating a mushroom smothered in brown butter sauce. Perhaps there's something strangely beautiful about that.

Being young (almost 24 - eek!) and single, the freedom and possibilities are endless! And I can't say I've minded a few drinks and dinners paid for by strangers either. I swear I don't make conversation for free food, it really is because I want to get to know the person. But surely big curls and mascara help :) I'm kidding!

Just yesterday I was at Vine Street Pub with a friend. We walked around uptown (17th) for 20 mins while we waited for it to open at 4. We walked past my next adventures of il Posto, Thin Man Tavern, St. Mark's Coffeehouse, D Bar Desserts, Strings, Limon, and Pasquini's Pizzeria. We sat at the Vine Street Pub bar and it was there that I discovered the "Create your own Grilled Cheese." Bacon, pesto, mushrooms, avocado, you name it! The bacon grilled cheese on buttered bread paired with green chili chicken enchilada soup.

Mouth. Watering.

Every time I asked our server Andy what he thought about something on the menu, he used an exciting adjective, and said it in a way that made you want to order it. And he did that for EVERYTHING - the hops in the beer, the soup, the burger, the grilled cheese. Fantastic, delicious, amazing - it made me want one of everything.

I topped off my meal with a slice of Quoddy Mousse Pie in a small to-go box with a "to-go fork" - in the words of our adjective-loving server Andy. Dark chocolate cookie crumb crust, a layer of chocolate torte, a layer of chocolate mousse, and topped with white chocolate cream fluff. I ate it while we walked on 17th again so I didn't feel so guilty. We passed by a small boutique called Peppermint, and the only reason why we stopped was because there was the cutest dress on a mannequin outside. I may or may not have purchased it.

But, inside I met Tymla, Stephanie, and her husband Chris who all worked for the same company. Peppermint has a brother store next door for men, and then there is a place called Pandora on 13th near the Capitol building. Over the better part of an hour, we shared stories, laughed, and acquired new revelations about the purpose of the life experiences we've had. And all just for walking through the door. This is what I've loved about my food adventures. Someplace, someone, and something new every single time.

The newness of these adventures hardly leaves room for boredom; routines have no place. The exciting thing about where I am in life right now is I get to decide where I spend my time and with whom I spend it.

And can I just say that I'm having the absolute time of my life?!

I swear I was born for living in the heart of a city downtown!

I know that someday, I'm going to meet that person that shares the same love of adventure. We'll take the risks together. And we're going to have the absolute time of our lives.

Until then, I can't wait to try Crème brûlée.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

If Christians Can't Love Like Jesus, Who Can?

And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their brother and sister.
-1 John 4:21

I'm a little torn right now. I've been watching FOX News, which most of you know I watch regularly - and Sean Hannity just had a radical Muslim, Anjem Choudary, as his guest. Oooh, I used the word radical - so not PC.

As you can imagine, the two disagreed as much as humanly possible. Sean Hannity is a self-proclaimed Christian - he just said it on a later segment. So he's a Christian. But here's the thing, after he was done shouting back and forth with Anjem he said this: Alright, well thanks for joining us, you're one sick and twisted S.O.B."

NOTE: to my political critics who say I am a radical conservative, please keep in mind I am criticizing someone I watch regularly on a right of center network.

Hannity's comment really caught me by surprise and really put me off. As a Christian I proclaim the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and what that means for my life, and I have a hard time imagining that saying something like that would convey this message. Thoughts?

No one is without fault, especially me. Today while driving to work I was convicted by how I "talk" to other drivers while I'm in my car. I'm glad my own child wasn't in the backseat. Of all the places I spend my time, I curse more behind the wheel of my car than I do in every other place I spend time combined. This is a problem.

First, most of this language stems from the fact that the person in front of me is driving too slow (which is usually the speed limit). I know I've gotten a handful of speeding tickets, but please drive at least 5 over :) So what is it in me that feels the need to yell at the person in front of me for following the law? I use the same words toward them as I do the people who cut me off or worse, almost cause a collision that wouldn't be my fault. So I'm going to get mad because someone is following the law. Makes sense. NOT.

Those same people behind the wheels of their own cars would be people I would flash a smile if I walked by them in the mall. They're the same people I would offer to help carry their groceries to their car. They're the same people I would open a fitting room for at J.Crew. They're the same people I would spend time with at church.

My best friend is a much better drive than me. She drives the speed limit, safely changes lanes, and follows the two-second rule on the freeway 99.9% of the time. Sadly, if I didn't know she was behind the wheel of the car in front of me, I might say some of those nasty things to her. Reality Check 101.

People I work with wouldn't know I do this because I really don't say the F, S, B, and D words. I am being so PC. The kids I volunteered with wouldn't know I do this because I don't say them there either. My mom, who will eventually read this blog, doesn't know that I say F-ing idiot behind the wheel because I don't say it to her or in front of her.

The point is: whether to a person's face or behind their back, what we say matters. It really matters more what we say when no one hears it. God hears it - "even darkness will not be dark to You...for darkness is as light to You." Even in the secret, everything is exposed. I am called to Love my neighbor as myself. I am called to go one step further and be a servant to my neighbor. The "I am third" rule. God first, others second, me third. So what would it look like to serve a stranger who is driving in front of me on I-25? I think it might start with encouragement, as strange as that sounds. I mean, how can you even do that when you don't even know them and you can't even see their face? That's another thing, I glare at people as I pass them after waiting for them to move to the right. Yikes. Talk about being open about my struggles.

Maybe it's praying for that person, for whatever they're going through - that their day would be blessed by the presence of God. I'm pretty sure people can't see the face of Christ as my face frowns and glares at them for being obedient to the Law. (The Bible also addresses obedience to the laws of the government.) Like I said, yikes.

So Sean Hannity vehemently disagreed with his Muslim guest - but I can only imagine that Jesus's words would speak truth in love: That He is the only way to Heaven, that there is nothing that can separate Anjem Choudary from His love, and that He longs to know Anjem intimately because He loves him.

So maybe that is where I should start when I'm behind the wheel of my car.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011: All Things New

"May you accept the past for what it is. May you celebrate what needs to be celebrated and grieve what needs to be grieved. And then, may you receive from God a new Spirit, one for Here - Now - Today."

-Rob Bell

I have been away from the blogosphere for awhile...but so much has happened that this tug on my heart from God to share can no longer be ignored... A couple weeks ago I was at dinner with my best friend and told her, "I'm one of the most self-reflective people I know." She nodded her head in agreement so hard that the beanie on her head almost fell off :)

It's not that I didn't want to blog, I think it was more that there was so much happening that I almost didn't have time to be reflective. And more so, I believe that the reflection had to reach a culmination before I would be ready to share. It is hard to impart wisdom and learning through struggle when you are just trying to catch your breath. But now that my healing has reached this point, I believe I have much more to share.

Many of you know the events that occured in my life in 2010, more specifically in the second half of the year. And with a greatful heart, I am able to leave those events in the year 2010. I have spent months of praying - even pleading - to just move on. When you give a piece of yourself to another person thinking one day you will be married, no matter what, it is going to hurt for awhile - especially when it meant so much to me. And he knew it. And he still sunk to the lowest level when he addressed that part of it. But I have not forgotten that I am called to forgive, even if I will never forget.


On September 11th, I went to Big Brain tattoo a few blocks from my apartment in Omaha and got my first tattoo. It was something I had wanted for so long - the word "Redeemed" on my wrist. On my wrist because that is where Jesus was pierced on the Cross, and the word "Redeemed" because God has had to redeem me from specific things - and more than once. That morning I prayed on the way to work about my tattoo and what verse it was coming from. I had read this verse before but I just couldn't remember the reference. It was a hard morning, and working didn't seem all that appealing - even at J.Crew. Because at that time J.Crew > Gallup x 1,000,000. I went on my break in the afternoon and went to my car. I just cried. My bible was on the passenger seat and I picked it up. I randomly opened it and it landed in Isaiah 43, more specifically to the page where I had underlined verses 18-19. God had made a way for the Israelites out of Egypt and told them not to look back. He addressed his faithfulness in saying that if He can make a way for them, He can make a way through whatever trail you're facing. "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you see it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

I had read that verse so many times. So in my stubbornness I just cried harder. I didn't believe it. Here is the thing. I underline EVERYTHING I read that impacts me and put a date by it. So I noticed the page on the right had a few things underlined in Isaiah 44. I started reading in verse 21: "Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you."

And then verse 22, which only the first part was viewable on the page. "I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist." I turned the page and read, "Return to me, for I have redeemed you." It was dated 4-18-08. I sobbed. That was 3 days before my 21st birthday and I remember so vividly why I had read that verse. I couldn't accept the redemption God was offering me then, and I realized that I wasn't accepting it now. I had prayed earlier that morning for the verse I had read that was the entire basis for the tattoo. And there it was.

He had redeemed my sin.

He had redeemed my brokenness.

He had redeemed my Soul.

It was then that things began to change, however slowly.

Too often, we wait to step forward in faith that healing will come because we feel like we're not ready or that we must have it all together. That somehow, we have to feel better before we can be made better. But Redemption would have never come in the form of the Savior if God had waited for his people down on Earth to get their crap together. And accepting redemption doesn't mean that we feel better overnight. It took me until January 1st, 2011 to reach the end of the healing journey.

A very long story short, my job at Gallup was a terrible fit. I am a people person, a relationship builder, and an encourager. All of these things were lost in my data oriented job. So on October 20th I made the decision to move back to Denver. Talk about swallowing my pride! October 22nd was my last day and on November 1st I moved back home. It was so obvious from the moment I arrived back that this is where I am supposed to be.

I felt ok most of November and in December, but Christmas was hard. Christmas amplifies any and everything you feel - for better or worse. But instead of fighting it, I let it hurt. I remembered that new life had come and that like every struggle I have faced in my life, it too shall pass. A birthday came and went after Christmas, and then it was New Year's Eve. I spent it with a dear friend in my favorite restaurant (surrounded by other friends) and we reflected on all that God had done in the past year. Because as bad as I thought I had it with my struggle, she had it much worse. But instead of spending the night dwelling on what was lost, we celebrated that which had been redeemed. I went to sleep with a grateful heart, knowing that soon I would awake with a renewed Spirit - a Spirit that was able to live in freedom.

And then it happened.

New Year's Day. I woke up and I just felt different.

My soul had moved on. There are no words that could suffice in a novice blog to explain to you what it feels like. It just feels free. New life was HERE.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday - ALWAYS. Of all my friends, I put up my tree the earliest (on or around October 6th) and start listening to Christmas music the earliest (on or around October 1st). And I am totally ok with it! Because Christmas is about a new birth, a new beginning, freedom and redemption. And this is the story God has written in my own life. In the first chapter of Matthew, the Lord tells Joseph that Mary will give birth to a son and he will be called "Immanuel" which means "God with us." New life was coming and would always be HERE. I went to Denver Community Church on December 12th and the pastor kept saying GOD. IS. HERE. We often say this in the form of a question, "God is here?" Because there are times when it feels like He is nowhere to be found. When we feel Him near we say "God is here." A statement. But Christmas is about a proclamation, "God is here!" We exclaim the new life, the Love everlasting that is here to stay.

For a new beginning, you must let it hurt. You must surrender. And you must know that God loves you more than anything. One of the biggest things I learned in 2010 is that our healing is in God's timing. And God's timing, though not our own, is so perfect. If we deny the hurt, we inhibit the ability of God's Hands to mold and shape us through it. It hurts for a reason. It means you tried for something. It means you were in it. It means you invested love into it. And nobody can tell you when you should move on. Because it is God's timing. And in His time, He has and will always make all things new.