Love is All You Need

IMG_8083The other day, I was driving with a carload of pre-teens when I heard one of them say, “I hate gays!”

“Uh-Uh,” I said. “You are not allowed to say such things in this car.”

“But the Bible says that being gay is a sin,” said the child.

Well, you want to know what the Bible also says? That thou shalt not eat bacon (Leviticus 11:7). That thou shalt not have tattoos (Leviticus 19:28). That thou shalt not wear spandex (Leviticus 19:19). I guess everybody at my CrossFit gym is doomed!

Growing up, church always seemed to be about all of the things thou shalt not do. But as an adult and reborn Christian, I was surprised to learn that there are only TWO commandments containing all of the laws of God. Just two. (Is anyone else surprised by this?!)

1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

2. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)

On the way to church yesterday, my son asked me about what his friend said. Was it true that being gay is a sin? I explained to him that I did not have the authority or the power to determine what is or is not a sin, only God does. Though the Bible speaks out about homosexuality, it also speaks out about practices no longer shunned in our modern world, such as women not being allowed to speak in church (1 Corinthians 14:34) and long hair being disgraceful for men (1 Corinthians 11:14).

I told my son the one thing I knew for sure was that as a Christian, I am directed to simply love my neighbor as myself. To have hatred towards anyone- whether it is based on sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, religion, or because someone said something mean to you in the lunchroom- is in direct contravention to one of only two commandments God has given us to obey.

Can you imagine a world where we ALL just loved our neighbors as ourselves? Sign me up. I want to go to there.

The pastor at my church recently said the opposite of love is not hate. It is fear. Think about that for a second.

I have to believe it is fear that causes a child to be taught to hate someone he doesn’t even know. The fear that someone’s skin color is different. The fear that someone feels love in a different way. The fear that someone worships a different god. It is the fear of someone being different that stirs up this hatred. And isn’t it funny how many times as a parent you tell your child to embrace his or her differences? “The world would be a boring place if we were all the same,” we tell our kids.

I recently had a vision or a dream or something weird. In it, what appeared to be a filthy man in rags approached me. As he came closer, I saw a bright light. In a split second, I was given great clarity. What if the poor, the needy, the oppressed- the ones who are different- are really a test for each of us regarding our capacity to love? And every time we look away or refuse to help or express hatred or disdain, we fail the test. These are the very people that Jesus loved and cared for the most. Shouldn’t we as well? We are not commanded to “Love only those people who are exactly like you.”

As I sat in church yesterday, I wondered if I said the right things to my son. Did I get my message of love across to him? We bowed our heads to pray, and there I saw it. Etched onto the surface of my apparently recycled church program were the words, “Every day love is a choice.” Pastor Chris spoke these words as it related to marriage last week, but I think it applies here as well.

Every day, we are given a choice. A choice to love our neighbor, to fear our neighbor, to hate our neighbor. God tells us to choose love so I am going to choose love. I am also going to teach my children to choose love.

You may not agree with me on my views in this post (or any of my former posts for that matter). But that’s okay. You are entitled to your opinions, and I will respect them. And I am going to do my best to love you no matter what because I believe if everything we said or did went through a filter of love, our world would be a much better place. Choose love. It really is all you need. IMG_8069

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The Art of Being Perfect

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Last week, I sat down to write this blog post. But guess what? When you are writing a post about being perfect, you want it to be… perfect. I read it. I edited it. I read it some more. And then I finally deleted it. It was like my need for perfection kicked into overdrive simply because I was writing about it.

It is a true sickness.

True confession time. Here are some of the ridiculous things I have done or do in my efforts to maintain a state of perfection:

1. A couple weeks ago, at the last minute, I offered to bring a dessert to my small group when I found out no one was bringing one. I do love some dessert. I could have quickly picked something up from the Publix bakery, but no… In 55 minutes, I left my gym, went grocery shopping, came home, cut up 3 pounds of strawberries, made homemade whipped cream, lovingly displayed strawberry shortcake for 18 on my finest party ware, took a shower, fixed myself up, and arrived at our meeting only two minutes late. I am still trying to recover.

2. I once went an entire year without buying clothes because I did not know how to age-appropriately dress myself. I was concerned someone might mistake me for a “cougar.” I now go to a department store twice a year where my personal shopper picks everything out for me. Everything. And it is common for this personal shopper to receive emergency texts from me asking what shoes I should wear with an outfit. #firstworldproblems #itsafreeservice #fashion911

3. I have a fear of cooking and dropping off a meal for a family in need. Want to know why? It’s not because I am a bad cook. It’s because I imagine said family sitting around the dinner table commenting on how terrible my meal tastes. If you’ve ever received a meal from me that you did not eat in my presence, consider yourself loved.

I am well aware that I have a special kind of insanity, and it is not something I am proud of. And so the other day, I was literally brought to a standstill when I read this quote from Donald Miller’s excellent book, Scary Close:

“…those of us who are never satisfied with our accomplishments secretly believe nobody will love us unless we’re perfect.” 

-Donald Miller, Scary Close

If this quote resonates with you, then you are probably one of the gazillion who also suffers with Everything-Must-Be-Perfect Syndrome. It describes me perfectly.

I have never taken a lot of pride in my achievements and often convince myself an accomplishment wasn’t that great or I didn’t deserve it. Sometimes I even think I may have just gotten lucky. A perfect example is the full scholarship I received to go to law school. I told myself that it must have been because the school needed to increase female enrollment. It couldn’t possibly have been based on my merits.

It is rare that I sit back, pat myself on the back, and say, “Job well done, Shelby.” Which kind of stinks. And I have never really understood why I was this way.

I now realize this is tied to my feelings of not being “good enough” which I try to hide by being perfect. Now why do I have these feelings of inadequacy? Well, that’s a whole other blog post!

But in my mind, I think that if I am perfect, you won’t notice that I am not good enough. If I am perfect, you will like me. Just typing this makes me realize how ludicrous it sounds. Because honestly- nobody likes Little Miss Perfect!

It is incredible when you do a little soul-searching like this, acknowledging your faults and trying to correct them. It is like a tremendous burden being lifted off your shoulders- one you may not have realized you had been carrying for a long time.

It is exhausting trying to be perfect. I worked hard at it over the years. I am certain I kept a lot of people at arm’s length so they wouldn’t find out the deep, dark truth about me- I am not really perfect. I know I missed out on some good friendships because of this.

So if you see me out and about with mismatched earrings on, an entirely inappropriate v-neck sweater in need of a camisole, and my keys locked in my car- which is exactly what you would have seen last week at church- please know that I am just trying to show you who I really am. Me and all my imperfections.

If you have trouble letting people get close to you, I highly recommend Donald Miller’s Scary Close. You can find it at bookstores or online at Amazon. He also has an awesome blog at: http://storylineblog.com.

 

It’s Not About Religion

IMG_7918Yesterday I received an email from a family member that said, “I want to know what at [Church of the] Highlands has changed you. And believe me, you have changed.”

I am hoping she meant I have changed for the better!

I want to make it clear as to why I think I have changed. It is not necessarily Church of the Highlands, though this wonderful church pointed me in the right direction.

Quite simply, it is prayer that has changed me.

My family has been going regularly to church now for 11 months. I admit, we were pretty proud of ourselves. Patting ourselves on the back. “Look, honey! We finally go to church like everyone around us! Isn’t that great?”

And it IS great!

But please don’t think we have been sitting over here like saints. In fact, my children have been in more trouble in the past six months than they have been in their entire lives. Serious trouble. We are talking “leaving flyers with cartoon penises drawn on them on the doorsteps of homes in our brand new neighborhood” trouble. For real.

I don’t know how I would have gotten through these “incidences” without the little nuggets of wisdom I have picked up at church. Let’s just say there has been a lot of forgiveness and grace going on at the Levy home.

But it has been the time spent in prayer that has brought about the transformation I am feeling and other people are noticing. It is a feeling of fullness, contentment, and protection like I have never known my entire life. And here’s why- through prayer, I have established a relationship with God.

My church often talks about how important it is to have a relationship with God. But I never really got it. How do you establish a relationship with someone you can’t see or feel or sometimes wonder if He even exists? It always sounded crazy to me.

But spending 20 minutes every day pouring your heart out to someone will create a relationship. It doesn’t matter that that someone isn’t sitting right next to you or on the other end of a phone call. In fact, I think that is WHY my relationship with God is so good. I don’t have to worry about Him judging me or running off and telling His friends what I said. I can tell Him anything. All of my secrets. All of my needs. All of my fears. It is like the cheapest form of therapy ever.

I used to think being a Christian was all about who could be the “most religious”- who could go to church the most, read the Bible the most, join the most Bible studies. But that is not it at all. Life is about relationships. Connections. And I have realized this applies to our spiritual life as well.

Whether you are a believer or not, I encourage you to spend a few minutes in introspection every day. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What do you need? Just put it out there. If anything, it will bring great clarity to your life. Call it meditation if you need to. You’ve got nothing to lose.

The Bargain

IMG_7873I wasn’t 100% honest about my testimony I shared last week. I left out one important detail- the bargain.

Four years ago today, my family experienced a devastating loss.

It was around 6 p.m. on a Thursday night, and I was sitting in the drive-thru of a local hibachi restaurant. My husband had friends in town for an Auburn fundraiser. The four of them, along with my dad, were at the banquet. My kids were staying at my in-laws so it was just me and my fried rice that night. My cell phone rang. It was my brother.

“We lost Hugh,” my brother said in an unrecognizable voice.

Three words I would give anything to have never heard.

After years of negative pregnancy tests, miscarriages, and fertility treatments, my brother and sister-in-law lost their unborn son, three weeks away from his due date. It was the umbilical cord. Wrapped around his tiny foot.

Have you ever loved someone so much that you would willingly take a burden from him to spare him the pain of having to go through it?

I called my husband at the banquet who quickly informed my dad what was going on. I called my mom who, at first, did not understand what I was telling her. Todd and Katie were at the hospital and wanted privacy so I went home and screamed and cried until I wore myself out. And then I screamed and cried some more.

“Why did you let this happen, God? Who allows this to happen to an innocent baby? Why did this happen to Todd and Katie? Why?” I wailed.

When the morning came, I began my bargaining.

“God, help me get through this. Help me help my family get through this. Help me be strong for everyone. I promise if you help me get through this, I will make you a part of my life again. I will return to church. I promise,” I pleaded.

Funny how we of little faith end up calling on God during times of crises. When everything is hunky dory, we don’t need Him. But when everything goes to hell in a handbasket, He is on the top of the call list.

The next two days were unbearable. Katie was induced because sadly, when a baby dies in utero, it doesn’t just disappear. My brave sister-in-law endured two days of labor, and all of the pain that comes with it, to finally give birth to Hugh Larrick Hockman, III on February 26, 2011.

I was standing outside the room during the final moments of Katie’s labor. The saddest sound I have ever heard was the sobbing of my brother and sister-in-law as Hugh entered this world. I should have been hearing the sweet cries of a newborn instead. It breaks my heart to even think about it four years later.

So did God keep His end of the bargain I made with Him? Did He help me get through this?

Jumping into full-on help mode, I literally googled, “what to do when someone has a stillborn baby.” I found a wonderful organization, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, that provides a photographer, free of charge, to come to the hospital to take family pictures for parents who have suffered the loss of a baby.

At first, Todd and Katie didn’t know if they wanted professional pictures made with Hugh but then decided they did. Not only was the photography session one of the most healing processes for our family, but Todd and Katie treasure having these pictures of their son.

God also showed me that there really are angels among us thanks to a special labor and delivery nurse, Christi, who tenderly cared for Hugh after his birth and during the pictures. Ironically, Christi would contact me months later about CrossFit unaware of our connection, and we are still friends to this day. She is very special to me.

I asked if I could speak at Hugh’s funeral. Again, I turned to God for help in writing an appropriate eulogy for my precious nephew. Pulling up the eulogy from the depths of my computer’s hard drive to review it for this post, I believe that it was divine inspiration that helped me write it. And I know that I felt the presence of God as I stood in front of that tiny coffin to honor my nephew and his grieving parents with my words.

Life continued. Time went by. We grieved as anyone grieves over the loss of a loved one.

I knew I had made a promise to God that needed to be kept. My family tried a new church. We went for a couple of Sundays, and then we were right back where we started- not making God a priority in our lives. In the back of my mind, the bargain always loomed. It is four years later, and FINALLY, I am keeping my end of the bargain while God has patiently waited for me all this time.

But this story does have another happy ending.

After the loss of Hugh, Todd and Katie decided to adopt. Anyone who has gone through adoption understands the frustration that comes with it. They applied with an agency but also spread the word that they were open to a private adoption.

On a Wednesday night that November, Katie’s sister received a call from a nurse in a neighboring town. A woman was coming in to be induced in two days and could not keep the baby. Were Todd and Katie still trying to adopt?

On Friday, November 18, 2011, Todd and Katie became the proud parents of Frances Claire Hockman. They made it to the hospital minutes after Claire was born. The birth mother said she was expecting a boy, but it turned out God had a little girl in mind for them instead.

No lengthy home study. No getting their hopes up and having them crushed by a birth mother changing her mind. No expense except for the cost of a lawyer to do the necessary paperwork. Even more amazing, when we calculated back to the month when Claire was conceived, it was February- the same month we lost Hugh.

When I was little, my mother used to rub my back and tell me I was an angel in heaven before I was born. God picked me out of all the angels, snipped off my angel wings at my shoulder blades, and sent me to live with my parents. I like to imagine that Claire was a little angel in heaven, and God selected her specially for Todd and Katie. He cut off her tiny angel wings and delivered her through a birth mother who wanted to give Claire a better life.

We may not always understand why bad things happen to us, but I do believe that goodness can come out of a terrible situation. I have said that Claire is the greatest gift God has ever given my family. Though we will always have a hole in our hearts for Hugh, Claire has helped patched that hole.

If anyone would like a copy of my eulogy, I am happy to share it. Please email me at shelby@allincrossfitauburn.com.

Todd, Katie and Claire Bear!

Todd, Katie and Claire Bear!

Praying for Dummies

IMG_7844As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently went through a transformative 21 Days of Prayer as a new churchgoer. I’ve said prayers before, but I wouldn’t say that I have ever prayed before. “God, get me through this workout!” doesn’t exactly count as praying.

I really wasn’t sure how to pray. When I tried to pray in the past, my mind always wandered. I would start my prayer, and the next thing you know, I would be thinking about what I was going to make for dinner or what kid needed to be where and when.

My church encourages praying out loud, and I quickly found that this solved my problem. If you have never prayed out loud, try it. No need to holler. A whisper will do. You will be surprised at the things that come out that you didn’t even know you needed to pray for.

I was also hesitant to pray for myself. I thought it might be selfish. Maybe I should pray for myself last? But then I realized, this 21 Days of Prayer was about ME trying to establish a relationship with God. Of course, I needed to pray for me. And let me tell you, spending a few minutes thinking about yourself and your needs is very therapeutic.

I know you probably aren’t interested in the specifics of my praying, but let me break it down for you in case you struggle with your own attempts at praying. Not that I’m an expert. At all. I call this, “Praying for Dummies.”

I began each prayer by thanking God for the day and for anything I was feeling especially grateful for- my family, my friends, my job, my health, my home. I thanked Him for giving me that moment in prayer and for giving me the desire to know Him. I thanked him for my church and for the way He was working in my life.

I had seen a Facebook post about picking three adjectives to describe your goals for the New Year. This helped me narrow down what I prayed for as it related to myself. I prayed to be:

Positive: When Grumpy Cat is your spirit animal, you know you’ve got issues. I prayed that God would help me be a more positive, joyful person and that I would have immense gratitude in my life.

Open: I have always struggled with letting people get close to me so I prayed for God to help me become more open and to help me establish stronger relationships with others, as well as become closer to Him.

Teacher: I heard this little thing about letting God shine his light through you so I prayed for exactly that and for God to allow me to be a teacher, or an example to others, specifically my children.

So my prayer acronym became P-O-T. Yes, I prayed for POT.

As I progressed through the 21 Days, I started asking God to help me in other areas where I needed work. I asked Him to help me let go of resentments, to help me only speak of good things, to help me with my ego, and to help me with my insecurities.

I then hit my family members. I prayed to be the spouse my husband needed me to be and for him to be the father his children needed him to be. I prayed that my children would make good decisions and be surrounded by friends who lifted them up. I prayed for healing for my mom who had knee replacement surgery on the first morning of my 21 Days. I prayed for my dad to continue to bless people in the special way that he has. I prayed for peace for my in-laws. I prayed for my brother and sister-in-law to have a strong marriage and be good parents. I thanked God for the gift of my niece, the greatest gift my family has ever been given. I prayed for my extended family near and far. I even prayed for our dog, Max.

Next on my list were my friends. I prayed for healing for Cope and Lauryn’s daughter. I prayed for comfort for Joy’s family in the death of her father. I prayed for Kara’s mom and for Rob to be cured of cancer. I prayed for Chris and Libba’s upcoming nuptials. I prayed for Beth and Adam and their hopes to become pregnant. I prayed for Jack to know that he was not alone. I prayed for Shanae to stay positive and to be an inspiration to others. I prayed for strength for Trace as he helped his family get through his dad’s open heart surgery. I prayed for the family across the street. I prayed for so many friends that I ended up downloading an app so I wouldn’t forget everyone on my prayer list.

After my friends, I prayed for my “groups.” I prayed for Church of the Highlands and its pastors and staff that they continue to do good in this world. I prayed for the women’s small group that had yet to be identified but that I was hoping to join after the 21 Days. I prayed for the small group I was thinking about starting. I prayed for my gym and all of its members. I prayed for my husband’s business.

Finally, I finished up with the city of Auburn (prayers for its city leaders, the University, and the school system), the United States (prayers that all of the division and hate in our country would end), and the world (prayers for our world leaders, exploited men, women and children, our military, and terrorists).

Sometimes I threw in very particular prayers like when I found out that I forgot to file for the homestead exemption on our new house, and we received a notice that we owed a bunch of money on back taxes. Praise the Lord! Turns out Lee County is one of the few counties in Alabama that has a grace period.

Whew! On average, my praying would last 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I always prayed around 6 a.m. every morning. Sometimes I prayed in a quiet room. Sometimes I prayed with the “Jesus Jams” playlist my kid made on my iPhone. Afterwards, I always felt cleansed, fortified, and ready to take on the day.

Guess how many prayers I could definitively say were answered during my 21 Days of Prayer?

21.

Here’s my challenge for you- today or tomorrow, begin your own 7 Days of Prayer. Just give it a week, and see for yourself what a difference taking time for personal reflection and prayer can make in your life. Let me know how it goes. I am currently on Day 49.

I told you Grumpy Cat was my spirit animal.

I told you Grumpy Cat was my spirit animal.

Turning Point

IMG_7815A few weeks ago, I went through a full-blown “spiritual crisis.”

Spiritual: adjective, \’spir-i-chə-wəl\: of or relating to religion or religious beliefs.

Crisis: noun, \ˈkrī-səs\: stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.

I didn’t intend to go through a crisis. I mean, I avoid drama at all costs… which is why I was never a very good lawyer in my previous life. But unknowingly on January 4th, I started something that has changed me forever.

Let me give you some background.

I grew up in a family that went to church. It was never something I enjoyed, and I distinctly remember crying on Sunday mornings not only because I had to wake up early on the weekend, but I had to put a dress on. The tragedy!

When I started high school, I was invited to visit the youth group at a different church. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that the only reason I agreed to go was because a boy that I was majorly crushing on was in it.

Nevertheless, I took to this youth group like a CrossFitter to a barbell. In fact, my family started calling me “church lady.” Isn’t that special? I was at Sunday school, church, choir, and youth group on Sundays. I was at Bible study on Mondays. And I was at Wednesday night supper on, well, Wednesdays. I travelled on choir tours. I went camping with the youth group in the summer. I helped teach vacation Bible school. I was ALL IN.

I will admit that being involved in the church as a teenager kept me on the straight and narrow. Though my big crush never noticed me (I was really awkward back then!), I am grateful for having had such a positive influence at such an impressionable time in my life.

The odd thing was that as soon as I graduated from high school, my church life ended. Other than going to the Christmas Eve service when I came home during the break, I quit church cold turkey.

As I became “more worldly,” I began to question religion. Who was this condemning God who only let certain people into heaven? Did heaven even exist? How am I supposed to believe the Creation story when there is scientific proof of evolution? Why was I taught to “love my neighbor” when there seemed to be an awful lot of hate going on among Christians? Why were some people considered “good Christians” when they obviously did not lead a “good Christian life” outside of Sundays at church?

The hypocrisy I saw in real world religion made me feel like I had been tricked all those years in high school. Bamboozled. And I was not about to let myself be made a fool. I was done.

Through my 30s, I became one of those people who likes to say, “I am not religious, but I am a spiritual person.” I read self-help books on spirituality (thank you, Oprah!). I tried meditation. I even attempted to read the Bible straight through in order to understand it (only made it to 1 Kings).

Then came CrossFit.

In case you avoid physical activity or don’t watch late night ESPN, CrossFit is a form of fitness consisting of “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.” I promise you it is a lot more fun than that sounds. CrossFit’s goal is to prepare you physically for the unknown and unknowable. We do a little bit of everything to create all-round fitness- running, rowing, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, kettlebells, gymnastics, plyometrics.

There are over 10,000 CrossFit gyms worldwide, and its proponents are… Well… Shall we say “obsessive” about it? In fact, some call CrossFit a cult. And I understand that.

When I started CrossFit at age 37, CrossFit became my new religion. I lived it. I breathed it. My days became filled with reading articles or watching videos on it. It satisfied me spiritually, giving me incredible self-esteem for the first time in my life. I tossed my self-help books aside to read “Starting Strength” and “The CrossFit Journal.” I became so passionate about it, I eventually opened a CrossFit gym. I found great fulfillment in helping others achieve physical fitness.

But something happened along the way. My kids became older. They started asking questions I didn’t know how to answer. My oldest son kept asking us to take him to church. How do you tell your child, “No, son, you can’t go to church.”

Last year on Nate’s 13th birthday, I woke up and decided I would take him to Church of the Highlands, a church he had been wanting to visit. I don’t know why he picked this church other than the fact that we had driven by it numerous times as it was under construction. Maybe there was a girl there that he was crushing on? I don’t know.

I admit I had my opinions about COH. It is what you would call a “mega-church,” with multiple locations across Alabama. The church plays “rock music” with a full band, not the good old-fashioned hymns I was used to. There is smoke. There are lights. There are people raising their hands to God. You actually watch the pastor on a big movie screen because he is preaching at a different location. Weird.

I was certain COH would be one of those churches where everybody looked like me (i.e., white and middle to upper-middle class) and would be a church that preached fire and brimstone to non-believers like me. I was convinced all of its members could rattle off a Bible verse for any occasion and tithed in order to fund fancy new campuses across the state of Alabama.

Judge much?

I told my husband that there was no need for him and my other son to come with us. I was just going to check the church out and cross it off my list. I would do my good deed for the day- take my boy to church on his birthday- and that would be that.

I was unprepared. Boy, was I unprepared. Because as I walked into a packed auditorium- so packed, chairs were set up outside the lobby for overflow- into what I thought would be everything I hate about religion, I felt an overwhelming sense of… something. It was as if I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My feelings were unexpected and, honestly, made me uncomfortable.

Nothing was as I thought it would be (except for the music and the movie screen). I learned that all are welcome at COH and that it exists for non-believers like me. It teaches a message of love and acceptance and of finding your purpose in life. It stands by the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” in its message and its deeds.

Nate and I returned the next week, and then I think my husband and other son joined us the following week. My husband, who did not grow up going to church, also felt there was something special about COH. We kept going and going. We were dumbfounded that we had found a church that we actually wanted to go to. We still are.

Fast forward to January 4, 2015. COH was beginning its 21 Days of Prayer to kick off the New Year. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. Pray? Every day? Ummm, I am kind of new to this church thing. Don’t go pushing it, COH.

But in a sermon the prior week, one of the pastors was encouraging participation in the 21 Days. He said more than once to just go “ALL IN” for those 21 Days. Now, I am a believer in signs. Is it a coincidence my gym is named ALL IN CrossFit? I decided to go ALL IN and join the 21 Days.

Long story short, my 21 Days of Prayer were transformative. When I began to pray on Day One, I felt very fragile. Very insecure. Very emotional. Who was this person? I was tough, stand-offish, and distant- a persona I had worked years to perfect. I don’t cry. I look ugly when I cry. Really ugly.

But when you spend 20 minutes a day praying to your God, you begin to peel back the layers of who you really are. You may find that you are actually an extremely sensitive person with a compassionate heart that has been scared to reveal itself for fear of being hurt. You may find that you have a great capacity to pray for others and then unbelievably see those prayers being answered right before you. You may find that there is an even greater purpose in your life and that you need to have faith that you are on the path to find it.

I emerged from those 21 Days a new person- more positive and open towards others. My husband and children loved the new me! I found immense gratitude in my many blessings, and I developed a closer relationship to God.

One year ago today, I would have scoffed at the notion that I would become a “Jesus freak.” If a friend had posted a link to this blog on Facebook, I would have probably kept on scrolling.

But this is where I am- on the tail end of a spiritual crisis and on the beginning of a spiritual journey. I still question, and I still need to understand, but I am grateful that I even have the desire to question and to understand.

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