you still somehow love Jesus


You were every bit thirteen: skinny as a rail, brace-face smile, unbelievably shy, uncomfortable in your own skin. But from the first moment you learned what a mission trip was, you wanted to go on one. As soon as you hit the minimum-required age, you signed up for a trip to Central America.

Funds needed to be raised, of course, and you got to the hard work of raising them. You baked. Babysat. Washed cars. Wrote letters. Your small, zealous church was puzzled, but supportive. You remember that church, don't you? The one that met in the American Legion Hall, with children's church in the hallway and nursery in the coat closet? They readily celebrated the gifts of the Spirit, but didn't really have much concern about "going into all the nations." But now, one of their own was wanting to "go." And this—this—they could get behind.

You made a poster board map masterpiece with a movable airplane to track your progress as you raised support that would get you to Managua, Nicaragua. With sweaty palms and a shaky voice, you got up in front of the church and shared your desire to serve in a foreign land. Your nervousness was met with happy cheering, a side hug from your pastor, and encouragement from those who saw what a big step this was.

Your pastor took up a "love offering" for you. (You still laugh at that phrase.) And he did that every week for a month, with the church collecting all the funds to pass along before your financial deadline. You were blown away by the generosity of your tiny church family of tongue-talking misfits. Then when the time came for the funds to be sent to the missions organization, you made a painful discovery.

Your pastor decided to spend the money himself. There was nothing left for you. Nothing left for Nicaragua.

You were thirteen.


You were every bit nineteen: no longer skinny as a rail, curves had finally begun to find you. You laughed loudly and often, with a flannel shirt perpetually tied around your waist. Fresh out of a year-long missions internship, you had your sights set on Africa. You had six months to work, save, and raise money to move overseas.

Having graduated from the tiny Christian school at your church (a very different church from your previous one), your pastor knew you well—after all, he'd doubled as your Bible and pre-Calculus teacher. You loved him and the way he made you (and everyone else in the church) feel like family. And you knew he loved you too. He would beam with pride when he'd spontaneously pull you up on stage during a service to brag on something you'd done or said. You hated it and loved it all at the same time.

So when he said you were making a bad decision by pursuing missions, you were caught off guard. He told you that doing mission work was a waste of your time and skills, that you "could do so much better," and that you "could do anything you wanted." Of course you cried (as you always do when speaking about things of the heart) when you told him that contrary to his perception, you weren't resigning yourself to missions out of some strange sense that it's all you could do—but that it was, in fact, exactly what you wanted to give your life for.

Many tears and conversations later, your pastor agreed in the value of going to Africa "for a year, and then we'll see...." He went so far as to commit to covering your monthly support in exchange for you volunteering full-time in the church office until you left for Africa. (You can't help but roll your eyes at your 19-year-old self, stressed over raising $400 a month. You'd eventually be raising half a million dollars.)

So you spent those six months working as his assistant. It was a rocky road, that season of church work—like the time you had to challenge his integrity and stand up for your own when he asked you to write his thesis paper—but you worked hard, and kept your eyes on Africa.

And then came your last week in the office, when he told you he'd changed his mind. "I decided we'll only cover half of your support. The church will give you $200 a month." Amid tears, confusion, and disappointment, you reminded him that this whole arrangement had been based on them supporting your full amount.

"Well, it'll be your word against mine, so..."

You were nineteen.


You are every bit thirty-five: still pretty uncomfortable in your own skin (which now curves in all the wrong places), but you also still laugh loudly and often. And, by the grace of God, you still somehow love Jesus, despite a lifetime of being taken advantage of by those who carry His name.

And that has to count for something on the Sundays you can't bring yourself to step foot inside a church.

Originally posted on A Deeper Story >

He gave me permission

valley of the shdow

I've walked through the Valley of the Shadow. Many times over.

So have you. This I know.

Your Valleys look different than mine. Or maybe it's just the Shadows that are different. Either way, we all experience the same-yet-different sorrows, pains, and troubles that come in this life. We are all human. Our bones break. Our hearts hurt. Our loved ones die. We face illnesses, rejections, addictions, losses.

Yet the faith culture I was raised in didn't leave room for acknowledgment of the Valleys. Emotions were indirectly declared evil—the kind of theology that emphasized that Jesus is all we need, so whatever we might be feeling is invalid.

Because to grieve a loved one's death is to disbelieve that they're in a better place. To be disappointed in your now is to doubt that, in Romans 8:28 fashion, it really is for your good and His glory. To express sadness means you distrust that He is in control. To feel hurt by the doors slamming in your face is to disbelieve that He has something else better for you. To be frustrated by your financial position is to forget Jehovah Jireh, God your provider. To question, to doubt, to say "I don't know" is equivalent to not believing at all.

The end result of this sort of theology wasn't a faith community that didn't feel negative emotions. The end result was a faith community that hid them. We wore masks that plastered artificial smiles on our faces. We spouted out platitudes and trite answers instead of being honest.

I finally realized, as I traversed the Valley of the Shadow yet again:

That's not faith. That's denial.

Faith is most genuine and true when it acknowledges the current reality and still says, "Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief."

I'm struck by the story of Jesus when He visits the grave of His friend Lazarus, four days after he'd passed away. He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but right then, right in that moment, Jesus still felt, acknowledged, and expressed deep grief over His loss.

Grief doesn't negate faith.

Even though He knew that in just a few minutes He would hug his friend again, Jesus wept.

Just as they did for those with Him that day, His tears give me permission to not only feel what I'm feeling, but also to express it. He validated my emotions. All of them.

He's the One who gave me them to begin with—even the ones that are all mixed up and "negative" and un-faith-filled. He put inside me a heart that feels, and He handcrafted me eyes that cry...

So right here, right this moment, right in your Valley, He gives you permission to feel what you're feeling.

It's okay...

Face it. Feel it.

He's right there, weeping with you.

(photo credit: jayRaz)

the fellowship of the unashamed


I can't bring myself to part with the Bible I've had since I was a teenager. Every time I try to start over with a new one, it just feels... wrong. Sterile. Clean, fresh, and new in all the worst ways. So I inevitably return to my old faithful, held together with duct tape, glue, and rubber bands. It smells uniquely like a combination of the 29 countries it's traveled to. Sprawled throughout it are notes, photos, stickers, quotes, memories... And all together, they make the words on the pages that much more alive and rich and full.

Written in the back of my Bible is this note, found written in the office of a young pastor in Zimbabwe after he was martyred. And it still stirs my heart just like it did twenty years ago...

:: :: ::

"I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me—my banner will be clear!"

if i could

tree line

If I could find big enough words, I would tell you how grateful I am for the big-hearted, generous, and faithful loved ones who’ve walked with me, supported me, and strengthened me since I left African soil.

If I could find deep enough words, I would describe for you how unbelievably amazing it feels to be this settled after so many years of transitional limbo—and how good for my heart it has been.

If I could find strong enough words, I would explain my newfound understanding and awareness of grace.

If I could find clear enough words, I would recount for you my daily journey of learning to acknowledge and own that I am enough, and I have enough, because of the enoughness of Christ in me.

If I could find impactful enough words, I would articulate for you the ways I’m embracing a lack of plans, and my discovery that it really is okay.

If I could find weighty enough words, I would convey to you the matchless, anchoring, and freeing sense of home I’m discovering once again.

If I could... I would.

But I can’t...

blessed assurance

I moved to Africa with a couple of very-full suitcases, $200 in my pocket, and a heart-cocktail of faith, naivety, passion, and foolishness.

I was only 19.

younger me

I didn't know much, but I knew that I loved Africa and her beautiful people. I didn't set out on any grand mission or with any huge goals. I just wanted to meet needs where I could, and see what God would do with my meager fish-and-loaves life. I was hopeful that He could write a magnificent story for me and with me.

In the chasing of my dream, I found love. I got married, and together we pioneered a nonprofit that trained leaders and taught AIDS prevention in the poorest region of South Africa. God did astounding things. Constantly.

I watched Him open blind eyes, show up with eleventh hour provision, stop wildfires from destroying our mission base, and radically transform lives. After a decade of ministry, our team had grown to over 60 staff members, primarily African nationals. We trained over 100 pastors a year and taught 4000 public school students each week about living lives of purpose.

God was writing a story I never could have imagined.


He truly multiplied our fish and loaves to nourish the masses. He created something out of our nothing. He made life out of our brokenness.

Then everything crumbled to pieces when my husband finally confessed what I already knew to be true: He had been unfaithful. For a year and a half. With a friend of mine.

The pieces shattered even further when he announced he was done—with me and ministry. No matter how tightly I tried to cling to it all, I couldn't hold any of it together. Not my marriage or my ministry or even my life... Everything seemed to unravel out from under me.

After 13 years of ministry in Africa, I was forced to close down our operations. I permanently relocated back to the States, walking away from my home, my work, my community, my vision, my history.

I fought both my story and the Story-teller. This isn't how it's supposed to be!

It felt as though the narrative had come to a screeching halt. But He kept writing...

I've been divorced for a few years now. It still feels strange to say, and even stranger to truly accept at a heart level. Losing someone by their choice evokes a grief deeper than death. There is sadness and anger and mourning and relief and remorse. Sometimes all in the very same breath.

And underneath it all is the hole left in my everyday by the loss of someone I've lived one-third of my life with. The missing is deep. It's a missing of what was. A missing of who was. A missing of what could've been.

A missing of the story I was once living...


It's as though I lost not only my future, but also my past.

In so many ways, I lost my own history. I don't have a single person left in my life who walked that African road with me from start to finish. No one who was with me for all the memories, all the provision and lack, all the joys and heartaches. No one to corroborate what happened, to fill in the blanks where my memory fails, to simply remember with me.

There is a unique loneliness in that.

And even as I type these words with no clear end in mind, I hear Him whisper: I was there. Sigh... To be honest, it is so hard to feel content and satisfied in that. But I know it's true. He was there with me. In Him I still have history.

His. Story.

My history is more His story than mine anyway.


Even if no one else knows the details, and my fuzzy brain loses track of it all, and I never get to speak it out loud ever again, my history is still there. Still making up the fabric of my present and holding up the foundation of my future.

My story is more than the sum of my experiences. It is more than what I have seen and done and endured. It is more than what has happened to me.

I, too, am more than the sum of my chapters. I am more than my past or my present or my future. I am more than my history, forgotten or remembered.

I am His.

No matter what.

And that is my story.

Tell me your story »


Autumn Leaf  

I'm struck by how different my life looks these days. Sometimes, it stops me dead in my tracks and I just have to shake my head... Five years ago if you'd painted this picture of where I'd be, I'd have said you were crazy. Single? Nashville? Freelancing? No way...

And yet, here I am.


Some days, the disparity leaves me heartsore — because in getting here, I was forced to lose so much.

Other days, the contrast leaves me grateful — because in getting here, I've undoubtedly gained so much.


The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. 

bring the rain

Alece-Ronzino-Bring-the-Rain The list of roles I played in my former life that I no longer play in this after life is staggering. Wife. Founder. Leader. Missionary. Pastor. Ministry Director. Daughter-in-law. Aunt.

And though not the largest, nor the least, of the losses I faced through my divorce, I no longer fit among certain groups of people. Like pastors' wives, or ministry leaders, or ex-pats, or even just people who only spend time with other married couples. I lost a lot of relationships. And a lot of opportunities.

It feels at times like my history has been erased.

So when my friends at A Life Overseas asked me to share with their online community, I was blown away. Shocked, actually. Though I no longer direct a nonprofit overseas, their invitation told me they still value my voice and experience in that arena. And I can't even begin to tell you what that did for my heart.

All that to say, I'm really humbled and grateful to be sharing over there today. Come join us...

Bring the Rain »»

the vulnerability of joy

fleeting joy

Vulnerability is far bigger than owning my weaknesses. 

I've discovered that vulnerability also includes owning my joy.

On a deep level, joy taps into my very worthiness. I question whether I even deserve it. I can think of so many who are worse off, and it feels unfair that anything should go my way at all. Who am I to have good things happen? Who am I to be happy? Especially when so many I care about are currently going through their own challenging and dark times.

The contrast of joy against others' pain makes my heart ache. And I instinctively dim the brightness of my joy because fully feeling, acknowledging, and expressing it seems wrong. Immodest. Arrogant, even.

The battering ram of the past 4 years left my heart tattered and torn. Grif and heartache consumed everything for so long that, without even realizing it, I became afraid of joy. In its place grew a deep, underlying foreboding... a proverbial holding of my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So when good things happen, of any variety, I find myself dismissing them. It's too good to be true. This won't last long. I shouldn't be happy. I don't deserve good things. 

Somewhere along the line, I unknowingly convinced myself that being happy in this "new life" means I'm glad my "old life" fell apart. That enjoying Nashville is somehow an acknowledgement of gratitude that I'm no longer in Africa. Saying it out loud, I know it's ridiculous and untrue. My own journey of the past few years has taught me rather vividly that joy and grief usually reside together. I can be completely joyful and grateful for today, while still grieving over yesterday. One doesn't nullify the other.

And yet, still, even when joy comes, I don't embrace it. Knowing just how fleeting it can be, I send it on its merry way and close my eyes, cringing, for whatever might come next.

This is no way to live...

So I am intentionally forcing myself to lean into the vulnerability of joy. To look it straight in the eye, pull it close, and hug it tight. To allow myself to feel it and own it. To smile, to lift my eyes, to give thanks.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring, or if there's another shoe waiting to drop, or how long anything in this life will actually last. But I do know that the God who gives and takes away wants me to be fully present in the moments He's woven into my story.

It's not up to me to control what happens. But it's up to me to choose to live wholeheartedly—honestly accepting and embracing all that comes my way.

And so today I'm leaning in, embracing the risk, and owning my joy.

[photo credit]

gratitude and grief

I checked two bags at the airport, both bursting at the seams, and boarded a flight with a heart that was just as full. My soul was brimming with eager expectancy and apprehension. There were equal parts passion and fear, joy and sadness, excitement and hesitation. Like most people following God’s promptings in their lives, I faced a whole continent of unknowns.

I was moving to Africa.

I was 19.

In high school, I’d spent every summer traveling overseas on mission trips. First it was Central and South America, experiences which made my heart come alive as I discovered and embraced other cultures for the first time. But nothing compared to the way my life changed when I set foot on African soil.

The summer I turned 16, I spent two full months in rural Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa. I was this city girl from Long Island who preferred to pass a gorgeous day indoors, reading or watching TV. I had never been camping, and, quite honestly, I avoided the outdoors as much as possible. But there I was, spending eight weeks living in a tent, cooking over a campfire, and dealing with unimaginable amounts of dirt and insects—and I loved it.

Basotho Home

I remember sitting on the dirt floor of a hut constructed with mud, dung, and thatch, having a conversation with a beautiful Motswana woman. The lines on her weathered face and hands told stories of a long and hard life. Her clothes were tattered, her shoes peppered with holes, and her simple home bare except for a few essentials: a pile of neatly folded blankets, a tea kettle, some metal camping mugs, a broom. She had welcomed us in warmly and apologized for not having chairs to offer us. After she served us hot tea, I watched her make her own using one of our already-used tea bags.

She joined us on the floor and, with the aid of a translator, we talked about the Bible, following Christ, and what faith means to each of us. As she spoke, her smile lit up her dark, windowless home. Her face radiated joy and hope from a source deep within her, far below the surface of her outward circumstances.

This beautiful Motswana woman’s steadfast faith challenged and inspired me.

I wanted my life to be marked with that same kind of unswerving trust. I had gone to Africa with the hope of making a difference, and yet God was using Africa to make a difference in me.

Mosotho Woman

Later that week, people from the village gathered in the open square to visit with our team. I watched a young girl approach, holding the arm of her elderly grandmother, guiding her over from a nearby hut. The woman’s body was frail and bent, and she walked slowly but deliberately straight toward me.

“Mma?” She called me with the respectful Setswana word for addressing a woman, and looked up at me with milky, cataract-veiled eyes. Through my translator she explained, “I cannot see anymore. Everything is cloudy. But I know Jesus heals. Pray for me, Mma?”

With my mustard-seed teenage faith and a firm belief in a God who heals, I placed my hands on her eyes and prayed. My heart ached for this woman and her incredible faith, and I begged God for a miracle.

The woman began crying and I wiped her tears gently as I prayed. At my “Amen,” she lifted her calloused fingers to her face and rubbed her eyes. She wiped her hands on her dust-stained green sweater and reached into her pocket for a handkerchief. She blinked repeatedly and continued rubbing her eyes, wiping away a thick, filmy substance. A smile spread wide across her face and she began speaking excitedly in Setswana.

My interpreter translated for me. “I can see! I can see!”

“Go over there,” she told me, pointing to the tin snack shop about 10 feet away. I walked over. “I can still see you. Go farther!” I continued taking steps back until I was unnervingly far from the rest of my group, about 50 yards away. The translator shouted to echo the old woman’s excited voice, “I can still see you!”

I will never forget that woman’s smile and the sight of her walking home without the guiding arm of her granddaughter. And I will never forget the growing seed of faith that burrowed deeper into my heart that day.


It was these sorts of experiences that captivated my heart for Africa and her people, who overflowed with joy and faith from a well than ran deep, even in a dry and desperate land.

Africa changed me far more than I ever changed her.

So I kept going back, sensing even as a shy teenager that God was calling me to live in Africa. Not because I thought I had something to offer, or even that I wanted to do something courageous, but simply because I was convinced it was where I belonged. It felt like home.

And so, while friends were buying used books for college and adjusting their class schedules, I was saying my goodbyes and boarding a 17-hour flight to South Africa. 15 years ago today, I arrived in a country that quickly became home, that captivated my heart in every possible way, that became the source of my greatest loves and deepest losses.

I haven't ever felt as sure about anything as I did that day—so long ago and yet seemingly just yesterday. Part of me hopes that I'll someday feel that same confident "knowing" again and the other part of me doubts I ever will... and is absolutely okay with that. That I had one life-changing assurance, experience, and journey is enough—it's actually more than I could have hoped for or imagined.

NY in Africa

Regardless of where I am in the world—or in life—this will always remain my Africaversary. My heart is tender, vacillating wildly between gratitude and grief, joy and sorrow.

But mostly—mostly—I am acutely aware of the once-in-a-lifetime story I've lived, born from the seed of faith planted deep in my heart one dusty summer in Botswana.

Originally posted on A Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

the tomb isn't actually empty

English Bay My heart is camping out in the empty tomb today.

The empty tomb that isn't actually empty. Because it's filled with hope.


Undeserved freedom.

Scandalous grace.

The empty tomb is actually bursting at the seams, overflowing with unexpected second chances.

What seems like the end isn’t really the end.

When it’s over, lost, gone, broken beyond repair… that’s when things have really just begun.

Life after death is so much more extraordinary than life before it.

Wholeness comes from brokenness.

Beauty is birthed in ashes.

The new life of spring actually begins with the slow death of autumn.

And that, to me, is the joy of Easter. Found right here in the empty yet abundantly full tomb...

Happy Easter, friends. He is risen!

silent saturday

Grouse Mountain Waiting is hard.

Waiting in silence is even harder.

I keep thinking about this Silent Saturday wedged between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This day we know very little about.

What did the disciples do? Were they crying? Praying? Angry? Hopeful? I don't know what they were doing, but I know what they were hearing.


All they could do was wait.

For what? They didn't even know. For how long? They had no clue.

I'm sure the night-hours seemed darker. I'd imagine the questions kept coming and the fear grew crippling. I'm sure it felt like they were holding their breath, hoping against hope that Jesus was still who He said He was and that the last few years hadn't been a complete waste.

But their waiting was met only with deafening silence...

Just like yours and mine sometimes is.

So on this Silent Saturday, I'm reminding us of what we know to be true:

Keep waiting.

Redemption is coming.

why this friday is good

forest for the trees I'm thinking about this day we call Good Friday. And how it felt anything but good at the time.

It was dark and heavy.

A day with more questions than answers.

More confusion than peace.

More doubt than faith.

Despair hung thick in the air, hearts crushed and despondent. The soul-depth disappointment in God was palpable and suffocating.

How could He? Why would He? What do I do now?

None of it made sense. It didn't line up with all they had seen and heard and experienced. The miracles... the teachings... the love... it all hung in the balance of two wooden beams on a hillside.

Everything they thought their Messiah would be, died that day.

All their hopes and dreams shattered with His nail-split hands. They'd given up everything to follow Him -- families, careers, homes -- and now this. A horrible, wretched death.

Of Him.

Of their hearts.

Of their hope.

They didn't know what we know now, looking back thousands of years later. That life comes out of death. That new beginnings spring forth from the worst of endings.

That hope rises.

To me, this Friday is so very good because of the mere fact that it was so very bad.

It reminds me that the dark and heavy times of my life are not devoid of Him, even when I can't see Hm or feel Him. That doubt doesn't nullify my faith. And that questioning isn't wrong.

It reminds me to let everything I think my Messiah should be, die. Because He is so much more than my imaginary version of Him, made in my own image. He loves, redeems, and saves me in ways I would never expect and could never imagine.

And it gives me hope that someday... Someday I may even call my darkest Friday "good".


medium_6507332943 (1)

Brené Brown says it best:

"Faith isn't an epidural. It's a midwife who stands next to me saying, 'Push. It's supposed to hurt.'"


This is what I wish I'd learned in church growing up. This is what I now know the faith-journey to be. And yet this flies in the face of the breed of Christianity I was raised in.

Faith was a balm. Salvation was a rescue plan. Jesus was a Savior from all things hard and uncomfortable and icky.

And then life happened.

And I discovered none of that was true.

Jesus didn't come to immunize me against pain or grief or heartache.

He didn't wrap me in bubble wrap and send me on my holy way, safe from harm and hurt. He didn't say I wouldn't (or—gasp!—shouldn't) grieve, be uncomfortable, battle illness, or face insurmountable hardship. He didn't promise that things would be easy or fair or fun.

What He did was assure me that I would never be alone.

God came down to the messy hell-hole that this life can be and chose to sit in it with me. He's right here, sitting cross-legged beside me in the dirt.

He's not trying to fix anything. He's not spouting platitudes—"Let go, and let Me. I'll work all things together for good."{GAH!}or even trying to make sense out of the senseless. He's just being present with me. Holding my hand and my heart. And assuring me I don't have to do this alone.

I'm not spared. I'm held. 

When I stop looking for Him to deliver a wonderdrug or bippity-boppity-boo me into a blessed life, I'm able to recognize the gift of His simple presence. His simple, powerful, heart-strengthening, more-than-enough presence right here with me.


It's supposed to hurt.

And then I realize what it means to love like He does. What it means to be Christ to you as you face your own darkness and grief.

It doesn't mean pretending to have answers or presuming I can fix things. It certainly doesn't mean telling you what you should or shouldn't be doing.

It means simply being willing to sit in the pain and discomfort with you. And just be.

What I can do is assure you that you won't be alone while you push.

the false promise of abstinence

Abstinence was drilled into me as a young girl. To the point where it was implied (and at times, even directly said) that sex was bad. At the same time, like a dangled carrot, I was taught that if I wait (because that's what 'true love' does), then sex in my marriage would be amazing. At the right time, with the right person—in a marriage relationship—sex would be good. It would be better than good. It would be incredible. Easy. Passionate. Fulfilling.

And so I waited.

Partially for the right reasons and partially out of fear. Fear of becoming damaged goods... Fear of messing up God's perfect plan... Fear of disappointing the man I hadn't even met yet... Fear of sex itself: the big, bad, ugly thing it was made out to be.

Then I got married.

And on my wedding night, those fears occupied the bed with me and my husband. They overcrowded and overpowered the room... the mood... me. The anxiety gave way to tears which gave way to more anxiety which gave way to, well, no sex. It just didn't happen.

I mean, how could it? I was terrified. Ashamed, even. I didn't know how to flip the invisible, internal switch from SEX:BAD to SEX:GOOD.

It took a while for me to get there. And, if I'm being painfully honest, I'm not sure I ever quite did. Sex and intimacy were always challenging for me throughout my decade-long. It still felt immoral in a way. Scandalous—as though I wasn't allowed to enjoy that which I'd saved for this very context.

The promise of abstinence leading to a great sex life in marriage felt like a cruel mirage. A ploy. A lie. A deception.

And now here I sit, single-again... Contemplating sex and abstinence in a different light, given the past few years of my life. In fact, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder since 2010, born out of a conversation with a friend—scribbled thoughts that I've been hesitant to formulate or to fully own, since I'm not entirely sure where they're going, if anywhere at all. And also because I don't want people to hear that I'm anti-abstinence—because I'm not.

I still believe that saving sex for marriage is what God intended and is ultimately best for us. But holding to that truth does not mean:

  • That having sex before marriage leaves me damaged and unable to have a healthy sex life with my spouse.
  • That saving sex for marriage guarantees a healthy sex life with my spouse.

Holding to that truth does mean:

  • That I believe God can redeem all things.
  • That a healthy sex life, like all forms of intimacy, takes hard work, honest communication, and vulnerability.

While I wish I'd understood that holistic perspective a few decades ago, I find myself still grappling to understand it now. Somehow, it's as though the myths are easier to believe, or at least easier to live life by. (Fear can be a powerful motivator.)

I figure a good starting point to freedom and healing is to talk about it. And so as I keep staring at this blinking curser, taunting me to find a way to finish this post, all I know is this:

I want to be fueled by love rather than fear.

In this thing.

In all things.

Originally posted on Prodigal. Read the comments there >

shifting sand

I've been thinking about riverbeds lately.

And how, over a span of time, the rushing water cuts itself a unique course. In flood seasons, the water may overflow the banks, and once the flood recedes, the river's path is likely different than it was before. Maybe slightly. Maybe drastically. But even one rock overturned makes the river flow differently.


I've been thinking about suffering lately too.

And how it carves and scrapes and plows through the riverbed of our lives, ultimately changing our course and our current. The changes—sometimes slight, sometimes drastic—lie far below the surface of what others can see, leaving us more different inside than our exterior lives will ever show.


The entire path of our lives is transformed by the ever-changing current of our experiences. No matter how hard we may fight it, we are changed by what happens to us. But as Maya Angelou so beautifully said, we can "refuse to be reduced by it." And we can refuse to be defined by it.


Dry riverbeds don't change. It's only the violent, rushing water that has the power to shift and shape an entire river. I cling to that visual reminder that the pain, heartache, and discomfort stand as proof of life.


What I've learned from the shifting sand of my own riverbed is this: Embrace the shaping. Don't fight the current. Give yourself grace for the new normal.

And trust that the divine finger isn't finished carving the course yet.

{photo credit}