Coming Home to Yourself

Coming Home to Yourself

“There are two realities to which you must cling. First, God has promised that you will receive the love you have been searching for. And second, God is faithful to that promise.

So stop wandering around. Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need. Your whole life you have been running about, seeking the love you desire. Now it is time to end that search. Trust that God will give you that all-fulfilling love and will give it in a human way. Before you die, God will offer you the deepest satisfaction you can desire. Just stop running and start trusting and receiving.

Home is where you are truly safe. It is where you can receive what you desire. You need human hands to hold you there so you don’t run away again. But when you come home and stay home, you will find the love that will bring rest to your heart.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love

 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of my life running from myself. And by running from myself, I mean doing everything I possibly could to keep certain parts of myself hidden or pretty so that I would be accepted and loved. As a little girl, I went through a period when was really heavy, and was left out by my friends, and these things created deep chasms of hurt that have taken a long time for Jesus to begin to heal. Because I wouldn’t let him heal me. Because I thought that’s just what people did. There’s something wrong with you and you just fix it and make it okay. And then you will again be loved. And so I’ve spent a lot of life editing myself and controlling myself and trying to be the best. I’ve kept quiet and proud so that people would not have to question that I was good and deserving of their love.

And don’t we all do that? I could name so many areas, but we let ourselves be named by other people as “the smart one” or “the funny one” or “the one who’s always kind,” and we shut off other parts of ourselves, the ugly parts, that we have learned that others don’t want to see.

And as we do that, we miss out on ourselves, on the person God actually created us to be.

In the last few months of my life, the Lord has been teaching me more than ever before that I can’t fix myself. All my former ways of protecting myself and fixing myself just are not going to work. Controlling my eating is not going to fix me. Purity is not going to fix me. Choosing joy and being kind and doing everything right isn’t going to fix me either. My old systems of operating are faulty and broken and they’re hurting me. They’re probably hurting you too.

I cannot fix myself. And I hate to break this to you, but you cannot fix yourself either.

From time to time over the last two years, I’ve gotten this picture in my mind of a little girl, who obviously very afraid and vulnerable. And I know that little girl is me. Because I feel her pain, her rejection, and her longing to be loved. I’ve done everything I can to ignore her and run from her, but she’s been showing up more and more and the Father’s been reminding me, “Mary Cate, my beloved, you have to love that part of you too.”

There are so many parts of me that I love. I really am a secure and joyful individual. I’m so thankful for my life, for the people in it, for my circumstances, for every single part. But there are pieces of myself that I’ve closed off and ignored. There are pieces that I have not loved, that I have not let be exposed to the Father’s love.

Because we don’t just close off parts of ourselves to other pieces. A lot of the time, we close of parts of ourselves to God.

And if we would just open up, if we would make friends with the pieces of ourselves that we’ve really tried to kill, I believe we’d experience more healing than we’d know what to do with. It’d be like Jesus kicking in the door of the darkest room in our heart and letting all the Light in.

I honestly don’t have this all figured out yet. These meditations are just stirrings in my heart. I haven’t even begun to experience the freedom that Jesus has promised, but there’s a new openness and a new love for that little girl inside myself who really needs a home. I could keep avoiding her. I could continue to shut her out. But throughout that time I would be missing God’s promise, that if I bring my full, entire self to him, I will be loved fully, in all His entirety. We miss out on some much when we refuse to let ourselves be loved. But the more and more we walk with Jesus, the more we’ll see these broken, “unlovable” places as the ones that allow us to experience the fullness of Christ. Paul had those places. And they kept him close to Jesus. They kept him close to the Cross (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

In his kindness, God offers us the opportunity to come home to ourselves, to embrace all the parts of our heart that our loved ones could not handle, that the church deemed unacceptable and dirty, that we tried with all our might to hide. He wants to welcome in that broken little girl/boy in you, wants to help you make friends with your pain and yourself so you can enter into healing and find the truest freedom and joy.

God is carving out a place for you, for all of you. It’s big enough for you to breathe, quiet enough for you to hear him, comforting enough for you to receive. It is home. It is your place. And all of you is welcomed there.

It’s so good to be able to love ourselves in our own brokenness, so stay familiar with the Cross. We are being made more and more like Jesus. And it’s a joy to trust in His process.

Amen.

Acorns and Oak Trees (More Thoughts on God’s Faithfulness)

Acorns and Oak Trees (More Thoughts on God’s Faithfulness)

Today, my friends, I have a story for you. It’s not a perfect story, but it’s the one that’s playing out in my life, and I’m humbled by it. Undeserving and speechless that I get to live it. It’s the story that I get to grow and nurture for the rest of my life, because for some reason Jesus has entrusted it to me. So here it is.

January 2014: the very beginning of my spring semester, sophomore year.
I was in what was (at that time) been one of the hardest seasons of my life. Things with my friends weren’t going the way I thought they would go. I had been head over heels about a guy who just wasn’t interested and was recovering from the greatest sting rejection I had felt in a good, long while. And really, I was just plain sad and couldn’t shake it. I felt weak, and messy, and honestly pretty hopeless. And in that sting of pain I decided I needed to do small things that could help me get well, that would serve as markers that I was choosing to care for myself, even when I felt so weak and weary. And on an unseasonably warm January afternoon, I decided I would walk home from campus. Because it was good for me, because I could. And as I was walking home, I ran across a huge pile of acorns, freshly fallen from the trees above, and something in my heart stirred: “pick one up.” And in that moment, I really felt like the acorn I held in my hand was a promise from God. That even though I felt like crap, and I couldn’t shake the sadness, that I was going to be okay. I was going to make it. He was taking care of me. And I carried that acorn around in my jacket pocket all semester long, my little inside joke with God, and I grabbed hold of it when I needed to reminded of His faithfulness to me.

May 2014: Cape Town, South Africa
As the beginning of summer, I found myself on the other side of the world with my college ministry on a short term mission trip. I was still a mess, but just beginning to scratch the surface of feeling like myself and having the ability to put words to what I was feeling and what I needed. In this season of my life, I never expected to find myself falling for a guy I had known for a year. And I definitely never expected that he had been patiently waiting for the right time form God to express his affection for me.

So while is South Africa, we started spending time together (walking to campus together, cleaning the dishes together at night), just simple things that enabled me to see his deep humility and compassion and strength. There were things that just drew me to Colton. I didn’t give it too much thought, but I knew I wanted to be around him. Wherever, whenever, for as long as possible. Because being around him felt like coming home. I was safe. I was secure. I was loved.

And then I flew back home and he stayed for another month, and when he arrived back in Nashville, I asked if I could pick him and our other friend up from the airport and take them back to Knoxville. Just because they were my friends and I wanted to spend time with them. Oh, if I had only known. 🙂

But a few weeks later, on the night before he left for Texas for a month, he asked if we could meet up and talk. My stomach dropped. I think I know what this is about… I think he might ask me out. And he did. In the most confident and gracious manner, Colton said to me, “Mary Cate I like you. I’ve liked you for a really long time. I think you’re beautiful. And I would like to take you on a date.” (And I’m sure he said much more than that but I was obviously not in my most prime mental state so those are the phrases that have remained).

And there it was. See, after a weird few years of one long, hard relationship and several guys trying to pursue me in a bizarre, “in through the back door,” passive sort of way, all I wanted was for the next guy I dated to say “I like you and I want to take you on a date.” Simple, clear, incredibly intentional. And he did it. And I was amazed. I hadn’t even told him that was what I needed. So he left for Texas, and we talked on the phone every night, which felt like planting tiny little seeds in the garden of what would become our relationship, and when he came back to Knox, we went on some very special dates and then he asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes. (Well, I said yes the second time for stupid reasons because I was afraid, but that’s a story for another Friday).

—————————————————————–
Today, we’ve been together for over a year. At then end of this month it will be 15 months. Over one whole year that’s been filled with a lot of laughter, tears, prayers, road trips, cups of coffee, homecooked meals, and healing in my heart. This man, who started off as just a friend who saw me in some of the ugliest moments of my life (literally, seasons of bawling on the floor in worship, never wearing make up, and other moments that I like to say were “very Mary Cate”), has become the deepest love of my life, my dearest friend, my perfect counterpart.

It’s a very interesting phenomenon to realize that God wants to do a deep and healing work in you through another person. Before Colton, I really believed that I didn’t need people. I didn’t need anyone but God. And while that is kind of true, in the fact that I will never experience fullness with anyone but the Father, I cannot forsake the fact that He wants to use other people to shape and transform and refine me too. I was keeping people at a distance, never letting anyone fully in, and was missing out of one of the greatest blessing God gives us in this life: to be known.

And it hasn’t always been easy. The doors of my heart weren’t immediately flung open, but sometimes love is slower and intentional, and you look back and gasp at the fact that someone has been slowly and patiently letting their love wrap you up and bring you healing. It’s what God does, and it’s what he offers us a glimpse of through others as well. And every time I think about it I’m floored because it’s just a really beautiful thing to realize.

A few months ago, back on August 15th, I was driving home form the beach with my group of best friends. We had spent the week laughing and soaking up the sun, and I was ready to be home after a long summer of traveling every couple of weeks. But we were heading to Max Patch (If you have never been or you don’t know what this is, YOU NEED TO GO!!). And when we got there, my friends handed me a letter and said their goodbyes and my heart started racing. Because I realized who was up at the top of the mountain. It was my love, and he had a question for me, one that was going to mark and define the rest of our lives. Tears are literally welling up in my eyes as I sit at the Plaid Apron and write this, because the reality of that sentence is so much greater than it was on that day in August, and it will only continue to grow in weightiness and strength. God is good.

So I hiked up the the trail in my dress (I thought we were having a photo shoot with all my friends lol) and tried to soak in the beauty that was around me. Colt had written me letters and placed them in various places up along the trail. So I stopped and I read and I tried to take it all in. But there’s really only so much you can take in and so long you want to wait when you know what is coming 😉 But I made it to the top and there he was. He led me to the spot he had picked out for us and washed my feet and told me that he was so sure about me. That he loved me. That he wanted to do this life together, always, for the rest of our lives. And I said YES!! Because when someone like Colton James LeBoeuf comes along and wants to love you, you say yes. And yes again. All the time, every day, for the rest of your life. ‘Cause he’s seriously the greatest one around and I do not deserve him in the least.

But why is this important? What does my story of relationship and engagement matter to anyone other than me and Colt?

It matters because God is faithful. He has always been faithful. He knows our deepest desires that well up in our hearts. And because I need to remember again and again that He is GOOD to me. And He’s good to you.

See, what I didn’t know when I picked up that little acorn almost two years ago, was that around the same time, God was putting Isaiah 61 on Colton’s heart. It says–
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor
.”

And what do oak trees come from? Acorns. ACORNS PEOPLE!!!!

How crazy and thoughtful of God?! How deeply intentional can He be?!

I had no idea that at the same time, the Lord was putting a similar promise in each of our hearts. We knew each other at that time, but we were not close, and it was only after we started dating that we came to this crazy realization.

And I didn’t even do anything to deserve it. I did not deserve a love, deserve freedom from heaviness and despair, did not even deserve a relationship with God. But in His kindness, He bent down low to save me. And He gave me the sweetest gift. He gave me himself. And that would have been enough. But he chose to bless abundantly beyond that as well. And I don’t take it for granted. I want to savor it and remember it and hold fast to the fact that He loves me.

It’s a miracle, and it’s a miracle that He loves you too. Because what we really deserved was His wrath, but He blesses us with relationship and with Truth. He comes near to rescue you. He has promises He wants to fulfill for you.

There are acorns all around your life, waiting to be picked up, believed in, and held on to. The Father is longing to enter into your story and take it in a direction that you never imagined it would go, but somehow would not ever change or rewrite.

There are seasons of hoping and waiting. The acorns of Truth have to be planted. Watered and nurtured. And the waiting can feel so agonizing because it seems like it’s taking to long. I know you want to quit. I know you’re feeling hopeless.

But He’s taking care of you.

And when little shoots of green begin to break out of the ground you will be overwhelmed and free to fall to your knees and declare that He is good.

So please keep hoping, please keep holding onto your own little acorns. Because people need the hope you have in your soul. You have a testimony. You have a story to tell. Our stories are not finished, they are not fully written, but they need to be told no matter where we think they are.

Hope is awakening my friends. The Lord is doing something new. I’m with you in this wherever you are.

He is taking care of you.

Photo above by the glorious and talented Erin McCall.