Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stop Fighting, Start Listening (guest post from Mallory)

I realize that I've been sharing a lot of guest posts here lately.

This is for a few different reasons: 1 - I am having trouble posting every day. The last few weeks have felt especially crazy, because of getting the flu and babysitting Amir and work photoshoots and Anteater championships. This picture, in fact, represents a pretty accurate depiction of my days/life around here lately. Sigh. If you look closely you can see all my dirty laundry. Let's just pretend you can't.
But also 2 - So many wonderful friends have sent me so many beautiful and vulnerable and heart-felt posts, I am honored to have the privilege of sharing them here in this space.

One of those friends is sweet Mallory. She shares her story and heart with vulnerability and honesty, and I hope you will all make sure she feels welcome and loved well (just like you always do for me!
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Hey, y’all! My name is Mallory, but you can call me Mal. I want to say thank you to Becca for allowing me to share a piece of my heart with you here on her blog. This morning, when I woke up and saw the email from her, God spoke straight to me regarding something that happened just last night and how it applies to my walk with Him and I knew I needed to write about it for this post. I’ll try to be as condense as possible, but I am a little wordy, so my apologies in advance. :-)

Sometimes, my family feels like the poster child for dysfunction. I’m 21 years old, and have a 24-year-old sister named Chelsea and a 25-year-old sister named Holly. My mom, Sheri, has raised us on her own for what feels like my entire life, as my dad, Keith, passed away two days after my 7th birthday. We grew up in the church, until they kicked me out when I was 14, but I don’t think you could ever call us Christians. Chelsea suffers from severe mental illness that impacts every member of this family to this day, including her 3-year-old son Blake, and all four of us, my mom, both my sisters, and I, have dealt with depression to some extent for years.

I didn’t grow up having relationships with my sisters. If anything, I grew up believing they were the exact opposite of who I wanted to be. I have spent my whole life worried about becoming another “burden” on my mom’s lap. I thought I had to be strong because she had her own problems, Chelsea, Holly, and so much else to deal with that I genuinely did not want to make life harder. Every single day, I aimed to be the one “bright spot” in her life, the one person who was always there to remind her she was an incredible mom when my sisters didn’t treat her well. I stopped confiding anything hard in her, because I was more worried about her own feelings than my own.

Things started to change, though, when I became a Christian through a series of very God-ordained events in April 2012. To say my family isn’t a fan of me being a Christian would be an understatement. It took me a while, however, to realize how my role changed in my family as I learned how to give more and more of myself over to Christ. Eventually, I realized that the expectations we both had placed on me were for a role that only Jesus is meant to fill. This all boiled up into us breaking into a major fight on Wednesday, and then spending two hours on her bed late last night talking, me finally telling her all the things I’d kept hidden for so long. At the end of that talk, I walked away feeling like my mom had actually listened to me for the first time.

She and I are so much alike, you see. We both want to be right. ALL. THE. TIME. We spend so much time in arguments thinking about the next thing we’re going to say that we never take time to understand where the other one is coming from. We’re incredibly emotional and sensitive and take things as an attack on ourselves when they aren’t meant to be. It’s not hard to see how all of these shared traits and a lack of communication led to distance and strain. Those two hours last night were spent with each of us fighting to get the other one to understand how we felt. It was a perfect mirror of the last few years; we spent so much time and energy fighting to be right and to feel vindicated that we never stepped back and truly listened to the other’s heart.

When I woke up this morning and saw the email from Becca, thoughts came flooding into my head. I thought about what a draining fight last night was. I remembered how a dear friend of mine who had listened to me after the fight with my mom on Wednesday told me that the expectations my mom had put on me to make her life okay and her getting mad at the fact that I couldn’t were simply her fighting God reaching His hand down into her life. But mostly, I knew that I couldn’t be mad at my mom, because I was in her shoes not too long ago at all, and I know exactly what it feels like to be absolutely terrified of the one thing people you love tell you will heal you.

Between August 2009 and September 2010, I faced nine surgeries and five different medical problems that, by the standards of every one of my doctors, should have killed me. Since I didn’t have a church at the time, the only connections I had with Christians were nurses, hospital chaplains, and bloggers who tried so hard to get me to lean into God in the midst of the indescribable pain I was facing. I couldn’t see it at the time, but looking back, I now know that God was using all of those surgeries, hospital stays and scares, and people to try and open my eyes to what had been waiting for me. With every late night stuck awake with nothing but my own thoughts, with every conversation with a well-meaning stranger, God was whispering into my soul, “Child, I am waiting for you. I love you more than you know. You are worth more to Me than you could ever imagine.” I heard it…but I didn’t listen. I didn’t listen because I couldn’t believe it. I still couldn’t understand that a God that loved me would let me be suffering so greatly. So I fought. I fought to prove to myself and to the world that I didn’t need God. I didn’t need anyone to take care of me. I would be fine.

In November 2010, I completely and utterly broke. I realized that God didn’t torture me; God saved me from multiple encounters with death. And I knew there had to be a God taking care of me because at that point, I knew that I wasn’t taking care of me. I begged Him to show me that there was a reason for all of what I’d been through, to prove to me that I was wrong about Him. I was making demands of Him as if I was actually the one in control.

I didn’t believe it would happen, though. After the way I’d been treated by my hometown church and spending my entire life feeling totally abandoned, soon enough, I was back to being convinced that I was on my own. Then, in February 2011, I met a band from Nashville called The Vespers (check them out!), and told my life story to one of the members. He, Bruno, was the first person I’d ever told every detail to, and he was also the first person to tell me that my story, my testimony, could change people. I knew God was telling me that day, “This is just a glimpse of what I have planned.” But I ignored it, and Him, because I was still too ashamed to tell the world of all the ways that I’d failed. I fought to make everyone think that I was fine, that I was as good at handling my life as I appeared to be.

Over the next 14 months from that initial meeting with the band, people I’d known for varying lengths of time started coming out of every direction to tell me how knowing me had affected and helped them. I also formed real, solid relationships with Bruno and his band mates, and eventually, I could no longer ignore the fact that the reason I admired them so strongly was because they shined the light, love, and security that I’d searched for my entire life, and the one place they got that light, love, and security from was Jesus.

In April 2012, I was in Nashville with them celebrating the release of their second CD, and on Thursday the 5th, Bruno and his brother/band mate, Taylor, took me to this worship service for young people called Sanctuary. I walked into the church thinking I was going to get to hang out with two of my best friends and listen to some good music; less than four hours later, I left a Christian, having been baptized into God’s family surrounded by 600+ people I’d never met but somehow felt like I’d known for my entire life. God chased me down in that church. As strangers prayed over me and my family, I broke down sobbing and knew that I couldn’t fight it anymore. I couldn’t ignore the calls of love. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t need God or that God didn’t want me. By getting baptized that night, it felt like I made a promise to myself and to God that I wasn’t going to fight anymore. I was done, and I was His.

It was hands down the weirdest night of my life, but also the best decision I have ever made. In the year and a half since that crazy, God-breathed night, I have felt God speak to me many times about many things, and I used to be the one who thought that people who said God spoke to them were nuts. I have found a church family that accepted me from day one and has walked with me through a very hard year since. I have grown in my passion for my faith and knowing Jesus despite many obstacles. And now, I’m just a little over a month away from returning to Nashville and the first church that ever felt like home.

Just like my mom and I couldn’t truly listen to each other when we were focused on ourselves and fighting to be right and to be heard, I couldn’t listen to God when I was fighting His pursuit of my heart. It was when I stopped fighting and started listening to the Lord that all the dark spots in my life didn’t seem so dark anymore. It was then that He started changing every aspect of my life, right down to the very core of who I see myself as. It was then that I started not only loving Him, but loving myself. Being right can be great for our egos, but being safe is what is great for our souls. And nothing of this world can offer the safety that we so desperately seek.

That’s why my heart breaks for my mom and all the other non-believers in my life. I don’t know if these people that I love more than I could ever put into words will ever come to know Christ. I don’t make the plans here, but I do what I can. And what I can do is pray for them, and for my place in their lives. I pray to show them Jesus when my humanity wants to react in anger. I pray for the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts.

And what I also can do is to trust in my love for the Lord more than my love for them. No matter how many complaints I get from them about my passion for my God, I won’t stop talking because I never want to go back to where I was before. I want to tell anyone and everyone who will listen how I know that God really is exactly who He says He is, how I have been redeemed by the King of the Universe. I hope that if I keep talking, people will see God’s power and grace in my life. I want to show everyone that if they just stop fighting, God will redeem every inch of their lives, just like He did with me.

I promise you, I know what it feels like to look at parts of your life and think that they are just beyond repair. Maybe it’s just you who’s told you that, maybe voices from the outside have told you it and you believed it. But I am here to tell you that when you stop fighting to keep a death grip on all the pieces of your life that are just falling apart, that is exactly when God will come in and start turning all of your brokenness back into the whole creation He intended you to be. He will restore you to the place of righteousness that you deserve as a child of the King, a place you were given when Jesus went to the cross. It won’t be easy; it’s been painful and hard and a real struggle for me, but I can tell you that is worth it. God has the whole picture, we don’t, so if you trust Him enough to let go of the fight for control and follow His lead, He will bring you to the mountaintop. And it will be greater than anything you could imagine.
Thank-you Mallory for sharing your heart here and reminding us to listen well. Be sure to visit and follow Mal on Twitter and her blog

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your heart here, Mallory- you're mighty brave! And you know what? I've just recently stopped fighting with God over a specific matter because it finally dawned on me that He LOVED me. So grateful we serve a God who is all about restoring what the locusts have eaten and loving us through the hard parts.

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    1. Amen, Lori! Thanks for taking the time to read my post! It's kind of funny that you called me brave; after I saw that Becca has posted this, I told her I was nervous! Being vulnerable isn't easy, but I still love sharing my story because I know what God's done for people through it, and it's very humbling, especially as young and inexperienced as I am, to know that God has chosen me for a story that is visibly doing things. I wouldn't be where I am now if it weren't for His endless pursuit of my heart and His constant desire for restoration! Praise Him! :)

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    2. As are you, dear friend. As are you. :)

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  4. Thank you for this Mallory. It reminded me of the verse, "To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair." What an amazing God we have.

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