Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Celebrating 3 Years of Mercy

Time really FLIES.
Today, marks three years of life in the real world since graduating from Mercy Ministries.

When I walked through the doors of Mercy, I was hopeless and broken, ready to quit on life. I had spent nearly eight years enslaved to an eating disorder, self-harm, depression, sexual sin, and the consequences of sexual abuse in my childhood. Two weeks prior to walking through those doors, I attempted to end my life, but God had another plan. As I lay in the hospital bed being pumped full of fluids and food, the Spirit was busy working in the hearts of dozens of prayer warriors who literally prayed me into those doors making what should have been a year long process quicken to a two week one. He knew I didn't have a year.

Those six months were life-changing. Messy and beautiful all at once—and he met me there. For the first time in my life, the Truth of His Word {which I was immersed in 24/7} began to penetrate deeper then the lies which had dictated my life up to that point. I walked through hard weeks and months of choosing forgiveness, dying to self, renewing my mind, accepting Truth at its face. Speaking aloud verse after verse as it poured over my weary, lie-infested soul. There was no magic solution—just Jesus being enough.

I walked out those doors thinking I had arrived—that I finally had it all together. Well, I didn't. And I still don't. But that is just God's grace in my life—in all of our lives really.

These three years have brought more hurt then I ever could have imagined yet His grace continues to run deeper still. 

It's a BLESSING He doesn't reveal it all at once—from Mercy graduate heading to college in St. Louis to life with a dozen in middle of no-where Arkansas traveling overseas and working full-time is unimaginable. Certainly not part of "the plan" upon leaving that house. Yet He has been gentle and patient, faithful to reveal the plans He has for me which have soooo exceeded my wildest dreams. 

Daily I see the ashes looking more beautiful, the wounds being bound up. I feel the years being restored deep within, years that robbed things I didn't even know were mine for the taking—those are being returned too. Far beyond my dreams. 

There have been many ups and downs, round-abouts, a few mountains and many valleys. Yet through it all, God has been faithful. Thus, I know He will continue to be.

As I look back on the photos from this day three years ago, I wish I could speak to that girl in those pictures. I wish I could fill her in on what is to come. I wish I could tell her about the road ahead. This is my letter to that girl, to every Mercy girl who walks out those doors, redeemed and made new.
Dear Mercy Sister,

The road ahead is going to be hard. You are not going to be perfect—in fact you're going to mess up {a lot.} But that's okay. You are human, a sinner at that. Don't forget who you are apart from Christ—don't let the title you bear from the last 6 months lure and entice your flesh. The Truth is, you need His grace more then you think. You need accountability more then you think. 

You need Jesus—more then you think.

You have not arrived, though you feel it crying out deep down in your bones on this day of celebration. As the high begins to fade and day to day life in the real world seeps in, you must remember Mercy graduate and all, you haven't arrived until you see Jesus face to face—oh what a glorious day that will be!! Your hope does not end when you walk out those doors. Graduation day is not the finish line. It is not where the victory is found. This day is not the finish line—seeing Him is. You have chosen life instead of death. And yet only He continues to sustain you—He is obviously not finished with you yet, sister. So run with perseverance the race set before you and hope in Christ alone.

Bearing the title of Mercy graduate and all, is not going to stop the trials from coming. Let no one say WHEN he is tempted....we will all be tempted until we see Christ. We are promised this much. The pain is going to come. The trials will be many. Yet His grace outweighs them all. Live here, in His grace. Sister, do not run from the pain. Let the ashes become beautiful—because they will, with the flip of the calendar.

It is okay when you have a bad day—but don't stay there. When you get stuck, remember the victory has already been won. When you think you have messed up one too many times, don't get lost in yourself nor allow the lies to consume you. You cannot out-sin the blood already shed. You are clean and covered in righteousness alone. You are new. Don't clothe yourself in old rags. Do not give way to your feelings. You can change how you feel. Speak Truth out loud when you would rather shut down. Shout it from the top of your lungs. Worship when you would rather pull away. Surround yourself with people. Don't shrink back. Stand on the promise. Cling to it. Proclaim it.

And on those days when the smells and sights and darkness are all too familiar, like a dog who returns to his own vomit—when you feel the need to somehow pay for being back here yet again—when you cannot believe you did the same stupid thing yet again—when you feel insane—when you wish you did not have to bear up beneath the title of Mercy graduate, well, remember He always gives us a way out and never more then we can bear. Look for the out. Believe it or not Christ is still sufficient. Yes, even here. He hasn't changed. He is the same as He is today, today on this day of graduation high. 

Please, sister, remember this. Jesus is the same inside these walls as He is out in the real world. Your dependency in Him is too. Don't forget you need Him alone. Apart from Him, you just cannot do it on your own.

Don't run from the brokenness. Don't hide your scars. Even when you think they are too messy to share. Even when you think no one will understand you. Put them on display. In our weaknesses His power is made perfect—all the more reason to boast in our weakness, to show our scars. People are messed up. We live in a fallen world. And we all have more hurt and heartache then you will ever imagine. So neat freaks, embrace the mess. Tell of the wounds and the binding up that is coming. Only by grace that you do not deserve, yet depend on. 

Just preach the gospel. Everyday. To yourself and to others. To the nations. Your life is not your own. Preach the gospel of grace, scars and all. You are no longer "that girl," you know the one. Even on the days you feel her rising up, you are a new creation, redeemed, bought with a price, the Bride of Christ, His royal priesthood, clean, and righteous. Nothing can separate you from His love. Your sin is cast as far as the east is from the west. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved this wretch like me.

Above all, live in His grace for today, since that is all you are promised. Don't ponder yesterday or worry over tomorrow. Just enough grace for today. Praise God that is enough.
I am so incredibly blessed to be alive today. To live life with Jesus. To love people. To know Him intimately. To need grace and accept it freely. If it were not for what Jesus did in my life during my time at Mercy, I wouldn't be here today. The road is hard and the process of sanctification unyielding, but boy oh boy, is He faithful and ever gracious to complete the good work He began until we see Him face to face. 

Arriving at Mercy {3.5 years ago}

Graduation from Mercy {3 years ago}

Ash, Me and Julie—Best Friends and Precious Sisters
Sarah and I—so thankful for her continued friendship and wisdom
Phillip & Shelly—precious couple who have been such an encouragement
Julie—incredible friend who just really loves Jesus and encourages me

Mom and Kevin

Rye, Meg and Angel—blessed to have incredible siblings who continue to be such an encouragement

A Few Mercy Events Over the Years:

Run for Mercy 5K 2009

Half Marathon for Mercy 

Run for Mercy 5K 2010

Incredible staff who I am so thankful for!
Sharing my Testimony at the 5K Run for Mercy in 2011

The whole family came out to support me—what a blessing!!
Annual Fundraiser 2008: {before I actually went to Mercy or knew I would be going}

Annual Fundraiser 2009: {graduated from Mercy}

Sharing Testimony at Annual Fundraiser 2010:

And Today...I am thankful and encouraged as I see God's faithfulness and grace etched into each of these moments.

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