Shattered Perceptions

I’ve been a Christian since I was 19. I wasn’t always the greatest Christian, but I’m getting better by the grace of God and His grace alone. I mean, yes, the Holy Spirit is an aide in this process, but when I pray, I pray to God to help with being obedient. And then sometimes I still do what I want. But like I said, I’m getting better one moment at a time…jez-timms-207948-unsplash

There have been three times in my life that my perception on Christianity has been shattered. The first time I was around 20 or 21 when I left the traditionally black church I grew up in and started going to a nondenominational church. It was more than a culture shock, it was a faith shock! The church I grew up in had all kinds of rules and traditions that later on in life I realized either had nothing to do with how Jesus did things or stemmed from slavery. I mean the sermons were doctrinally sound, but everything else made church a drag and I didn’t like going. Not only that, I watched how people who made a big deal about being in church on Sundays lived their lives during the week. Now, I’m not perfect, but one thing that has always irritated me is a person telling me what I should be doing while they are doing the exact opposite. I grew up in a church that always talked about what you shouldn’t be doing if you’re a Christian. Crazy enough, when I started going to this nondenominational church, everything I was told I shouldn’t do, I saw these Christians doing. Pastors had tattoos and were preaching with an ESV Bible and had their sermon notes on iPads and MacBooks. Pastors aren’t supposed to be able to afford those things. I made friends with people who drank beer and ate pizza before getting into deep discussions about Jesus. The foyer has a kiosk where you could get coffee, water, soda, snacks, and the sanctuary had stadium seating with cup holders. People who didn’t even know me would greet me and genuinely ask if I needed prayer for anything. Granted, this was new to me and a bit off putting, but I quickly got used to it. For the first time in my life, I was able to use the word authentic in the same sentence as Christian faith. I saw an authentic faith lived out by people who weren’t afraid to share their story and were even less afraid to share the love of Christ. This church introduced me to grace and helped me get over legalism. This church made me excited about Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. I felt like I was in a community where I could be myself and thrive. And I did!

shelby-miller-640804-unsplashMy second shattered perception came when I started dating my husband. Let’s just say I was a little mad at God on this one in the beginning because what I told Him I wanted in my husband and who he brought me were polar opposites. I wanted a God-fearing man who would lead the family in Bible studies and prayers and would attend church every Sunday. What I got instead was a man who said, “I’m an Atheist.” Big red flags, must push him away. Now, seeing as how he’s my husband, I failed at getting rid of him. Once people realized I was a Christian dating a non-Christian people started putting their biblical two cents in. They said God wouldn’t have something like this for me or they just couldn’t understand or live their life like that. Well, to start, people are really good at putting God in a box, myself included. We’re also good at assuming everything we go through is solely about us. But a few things have happened since my relationship with my husband began. I got a personal taste of how Christians behave that put a bad taste in my husband’s mouth and left him with some deep seeded issues to work through. Issues he’s had for more than half his life. I got a reality check from him of how I came across as a Christian and his words broke my heart because where I thought I was doing a bang up job of representing Jesus to the world, I was failing miserably. Only, he was willing to call me out where other people kept encouraging me. And lastly, the man who once said, “I’m an Atheist,” is no longer in that realm of thinking. No, he’s still not a Christian, but he’s asking questions, he’s open to having conversations, and he’s not hesitant about hanging around other Christians. There is a night and day difference in his thought process about a lot of things. And that has nothing to do with me. After almost ruining the relationship a number of times, I just put everything in God’s hands, like I should have done from the very start. My husband has never made a big deal about me blessing our food before we eat and when I kneel beside our daughter’s bed to say bedtime prayers, he’s right there next to me. I don’t know what God has in store for my marriage, but I like where it’s going because we have both grown. I’m way more aware of how I come across as a Christian. And my husband is realizing not all Christians are terrible. And an even bigger lesson is the opinion of man will never and can never trump the will of God.

My third shattered perception has come from a Christian I’ve never met, but I’ve read his books. His name is Bob Goff. He’s all about whimsy and love. And I like that. He just talks about how we’re to love like Jesus loved. He strips it down to the bare minimum of what Christians are supposed to do and that’s love like Jesus. And I like that he doesn’t sugar coat it either. Let’s face it: people are difficult, mean, rude, crazy, and some make you just want to punch them in the face. But Jesus wouldn’t do that. Jesus would embrace them. Jesus would share a meal with them. Jesus would be with them. I don’t do things like that. If you annoy me, I’m keeping you at a distance. If you’re different from me, I’m keeping you at a distance. Basically, the more I read Bob Goff’s books, the more I get the message, “Hey Krystal, you’re doing this Jesus thing all wrong. You’re called to love the person where they are and for who they are. Let God take care of the rest.” I want to be a more whimsical Christian. Well, just a more whimsical person in general. I want to be more loving like Jesus. I want to be less structured with my faith and let things flow naturally. If I don’t go to church, then I missed that Sunday. It doesn’t make me any more or less of a Christian and Jesus doesn’t love me any more or less. Actually, He can’t love me less. He literally died for my sins, so if that isn’t the ultimate declaration of love, I don’t know what is. What I do know is, once again, a pivotal change is taking place in my life and I look forward to where it’s going to take me because it’s going to force to be more dependent on Jesus and way less dependent on myself.gift-habeshaw-453482-unsplash

My faith will never look like the next person’s faith. Because I am not the next person. I am unique in who God created me to be. I’m caring less about how people think I should live my life and becoming more concerned with what God has for me. I’m less concerned about making sure my two-year-old looks like a million dollars before heading anywhere and more concerned with her knowing just how loved she is and how much more loved she will be as each day passes. I’m becoming less concerned with my apartment being in shambles and more concerned with figuring out ways to invite people over and just let them be part of my family’s lives and my family be a part of theirs. None of this will be done overnight. I have to get through this second pregnancy before I can really tackle the things I want. But in the meantime, I can plan and prepare through lots of prayer. I’ve got this. I’ve got all of this because my life is in the hands of God and He’s never failed me or steered me wrong yet.

 

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New Leafs in Marriage

Marriage is definitely a daily challenge. Not a hard challenge, but a daily one. The challenge for me is to love my husband more than I did the day before. The challenge for me is to know more about him than than I did the day before.

Marriage is also hard work. It’s a good hard work, but I’m learning it’s hard work. You don’t just say “I Do!” and then start deciding what you will do and won’t do. That won’t make for a productive marriage. At least, that’s what I’m learning.

I love my husband, otherwise, he wouldn’t be my husband. And while I say there’s nothing (legal) I wouldn’t do for my husband, I quickly do a mental run through of things I probably wouldn’t do. I Heading into my third year of marriage, I want to start changing that mindset. My husband is always going above and beyond for me and our daughter because that’s how he’s wired. I don’t mind going above and beyond, the mood just has to fit me. It’s time to start rewiring that part of my mind.

I don’t view marriage as a contract. I view it as a covenant. I have to remember that and I have to act accordingly. Most of the time I don’t do something, it’s not because I can’t, it’s because I don’t want to. That’s not fair to my husband. And I’m not saying he doesn’t have those kinds of days, but he has them far less often than I do.

 

New Leafs in Motherhood

There is an ever growing love in being a mother. Some days are good and then some days are better, but there is never, ever a dull moment with my daughter. I’m sure once my son arrives, the dull moments will become phenomenally less. But each day I definitely learn something more about myself and at present, about my daughter.

I’ve recently decided that knee-jerk reactions aren’t the way to go with my daughter. One reason is she thinks it’s funny and imitates it before repeating the very thing she got in trouble for. The second reason is because the more I observe some of her behavior, the more I realize some of the things she does, she got from me or her father. So is it really fair to get upset with her for doing something that she’s seen us do?

Another baby step on the road of motherhood. Some of the things my daughter does, she learned from her parents. That’s just a reality. And if I don’t want her doing something, I need to make sure I’m not doing it myself. Whether she’s watching me or not, I need to make sure I’m setting a positive example for her. I don’t want her to be the kind of child that has a knee-jerk reaction to things, so I’m working on getting better about my knee-jerk reactions. I’ve definitely got an uphill climb ahead of me.

 

Worrying About Myself

So, I’ve been doing this thing lately, where I’m figure out the parts of my life that need to change for the better and then work on changing them for the better! Well, I’ve made yet another discovery about something that needs to change! I need to learn how to worry about myself. Funnily enough, Bible Study of all places is where this epiphany happened.

I have this habit of applying something to other people, that I should first and foremost apply to myself. It’s so easy to point out who else isn’t doing something right. I should first point out what I’m not doing right. A spade is a spade and I need to learn how to call it on myself before I try to start calling it on someone else.

Now, I don’t feel like writing more on this subject because I’m getting a little touchy and sensitive about it.

 

Dear Younger Me

Dear Younger Me,

Life is not as hard as you think it is. You’re going to think it’s hard and some days you feel like you cannot possibly go on anymore, but you always find the strength to go on. Why? Because you’ve always been stronger than you give yourself credit for.

Take plenty of naps. You’re going to need them. One, they’re awesome. But secondly, sometimes you annoy yourself to the point a nap is the only solution.

Stop being scared to take risks and be daring. Stop being scared to dream. It’s going to take you awhile to figure this out, but once you do, it’ll be amazing at how much you will set your sights on to accomplish. A day will come where you participate in this thing called National Novel Writing Month and you will complete your first novel. You will hate it, but it will give you the motivation you need to keep aspiring to be the writer you really want to become.

You will fall in love one day. And the man you fall in love with won’t be like any other man you’ve encountered before. This man you fall in love with will love you for all of who you are. And because of his love for you, you will learn to love yourself more and you will learn to love others more. And when you become a mother, you’ll have a love for God you never knew possible and a love for life that goes beyond comprehension!

Your biggest challenge will still be your temper, but between being a wife and a mother, you will start to mellow out on the things that upset you. And you will continue to mellow out because marriage and motherhood show you what’s important and what’s not. And a lot of things that aren’t important, that you made important, will be put in their proper place.

I will write you more letters in the future, so don’t worry about that. But where you are now and where you end up when I’m writing this letter is a night and day difference. You learn to realize and believe that you are beautiful and you stop becoming afraid to let that beauty show.

Always and with love.

 

Out of the Darkness

I always find it funny how people talk about going back and changing things about their past they considered mistakes. That’s just me personally. If I had to choose between changing my past and receiving $10 million, I’m easily taking the ten mill! If I go back and change what I’ve done, then I’m ultimately changing who I am, and I know for a fact that I would not be where I am today. And I am very happy with who I am and what I have today.

I’ve been in some very dark places in my life. And many times I didn’t think there would ever be any light at the end of the tunnel. But by the grace of God, I’m here today. Funnily enough though, I didn’t always feel God’s grace though. When I was 18, I contemplated suicide for the first time. It seemed like the easiest solution to all my problems. The second time I contemplated suicide, I was 19. I still felt the same, that life wasn’t worth living and nobody would miss me. That was my rock bottom, but that was the rock bottom that led me to accepting Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. Sure, I grew up in church, but that didn’t make me a Christian. And no, my life situations didn’t turn around overnight, but my outlook on life did. Eleven years later, I’m happily married, with a beautiful baby girl and a beautiful baby boy due this coming December. Do I wish that I had never reached a point in life where I didn’t think about suicide? Yes, absolutely. But had I not reached that point, a major change in my life for the better probably wouldn’t have taken place.

There are many other decisions I’ve made in life that I wish I hadn’t. Some were minor, some weren’t. But I managed to find ways to grow and learn from those decisions. Some lessons took years to learn. Some lessons didn’t take that long to learn from at all. However I look at the darker moments of my life though, I find ways to be thankful for the experiences because who I am today is a lot better than who I used to be.

 

Fear(Less)

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” -Marcus Aurelius

I am presently 17 days away from my 30th birthday and for the first time in my life I have reached the realization that I don’t hate working, I just hate working for other people. I hate having my schedule dictated, I hate the politics of the workplace, and I definitely hate the unnecessary drama that seems to take place from time to time. I always opt to play it safe and with each passing day, I grow more and more frustrated. As my family grows, what I realize is that I have more to lose by remaining fearful of taking a chance on what truly matters to me.

I realize that it’s natural to be fearful in life. Not knowing what to expect when taking a risk is something to fear. But I have been fearful to the point that I start something and then don’t finish it. I have been that way for years. But now, I’m realizing being at a job that I don’t like is taking me away from my daughter. And with baby number two on the way, I definitely don’t want to be pulled away to work somewhere I don’t like. I have to get over my fear (and my impatience) and start doing the work that’s necessary to get to what I truly want to be doing with my life. I want to be home with my children, but I also want to work from home. So I need to figure out that balance and thankfully I have a husband who is supporting this goal of mine! If I’m going to work, I may as well take a risk on what I love because I’m already failing at what I don’t like!  

So I need to come up with a game plan. A generic, foolproof plan to follow would definitely work in my favor. And off the top of my head these are the things that come to mind:

  • Pray
  • Patienceclark-tibbs-367075-unsplash
  • Trust
  • Patience
  • Positive thinking
  • Patience

I have never lost sight of what I truly want, but I have never maintained the patience that is necessary to get to where I want to be. But I realize now that I have far more to lose

 by staying where I am in life. So scared or not (mostly scared) I’m going after the things that truly matter. I only have this one life to live. I spent my twenties being young, dumb, and scared. I can’t afford to take that mindset into my thirties. If I want my children to live their best lives and believe that can achieve any dreams, then I need to set that example for them. 

Life is meant to be lived. It’s time I start living!