With.

A Void. A Gap. A Hiatus.

A feeling of emptiness. A longing for more. A desire to be filled.

Recently, I’ve been longing for more. I want more of God. I want to experience His goodness and follow His plans. I feel as though I am following the same routine, day after day. I feel constrained because of certain people. I feel that I am internally at war between right and wrong, every minute of the day. I know God is moving. I know I am loved. I know of His greatness. I’ve heard how He has prevailed. I’ve been trying to live life with God. I’ve been trying to pray. I’ve been trying to seek Him. I’ve been trying to involve myself with things that honor Him. And I still feel empty. I feel as though I am trying to serve two masters, though I want to only serve one – the God of the Universe.

Around me, the majority of my friends have no dedication to Jesus. They don’t believe in Him, and their lives reflect that. They do what they want. But yet, on the outside they appear to be happy. But me. On the outside, I do all the right things. Why do I feel so empty?

I went on a retreat two weeks ago. The guest speaker talked about doing life WITH God as opposed to over, after, against, for, from, under. One that I felt described my personal walk was doing life “for” God. For what you all can see, I have it all together. You see me doing stuff at church, Jesus is referenced in the majority of my social media bios, I have a blog about Him and His greatness, I’ve had great opportunities. I’ve made it appear like I am living WITH God. That He is guiding me, and I do those things WITH Him. Spoiler alert. I feel like I’m doing those things for Him. And though I have good intentions, I am missing Him throughout the entire process. I could live my whole life living for God, and never experience life WITH God.

Today was a day off of school, and I spent it sleeping, thinking, and wondering. Sleeping enough for the first time in a long time. Thinking about where I stand. Thinking about where I want to be. Wondering why I feel empty. Wondering if there is more. Wondering how I can get more.

I know that more is Him. He is the only one that can satisfy my empty soul. I know so much about God. I know stories, verses, songs. A lot. And I appear to live my life WITH Him, and deep down, I want to live life WITH God. My patience, my pride, my plans all stand in the way. But I actually want to know Him. I want Him to speak to and through me. I want to be a living example. I wonder why my role models can do it. Jo always seems happy, filled with His spirit. I know she isn’t perfect. I’m just saying that it is obvious she has a genuine overflowing passion for God rising from deep inside her soul. And that is something I long for.

Primarily, I need to change my posture with God. I also need my change the amount of time I give Him throughout my day. I loose focus so easily. I also need to obtain pure motives. Towards the beginning few chapters of Matthew, Jesus talks many times about doing things in secret, because the Father will still know. And as I’ve been trying to do that today, it hasn’t been coming easy to me. I put on a show. A mask. A pretty good one actually. Inside, I feel like a fake. I feel empty. I feel that my faith is not genuine. And I long for it to be genuine. I really do.

In Skye Jethani’s book WITH (which I haven’t read yet, but plan to), he talks about our posture with God and the results of that posture. WITH was also the basis of the messages at the retreats. A result of living your life for God, according to Skye, is completely missing Him. Another is that we get so caught up in putting on a good show that our motives become impure because we are trying to appear as though we have it all together. And I feel that I am a victim of both. Originally, I wrote to God. In my journal. And I felt His presence some days. I felt renewed. I felt that I could do things without peers looking over my shoulder. This summer in Trinidad, I got asked to write a trip journal, and my gift of writing was graciously affirmed. Now, why do I blog? Do you all really need to hear what I’m saying? Maybe. Probably not. But who am I writing for? Am I writing for His glory or for mine? And in all honesty, I feel like it depends. But increasingly, it’s been the latter. I started off with pure intentions, but quickly fell into a vortex of self glorifying habits. And I hate it. Even now, I question posting this.

Why am I posting it? I don’t really know. I could say that I want people to keep me accountable, but that might prevent me from going alone with God. I want to have special moments. Moments that I don’t need to tell anyone about. Moments where I feel full, because it’s just me and the God of the Universe. Moments that I know are from God. I want to have a life of meaning. Not of simple moments of happiness and empty expectation. I know what I want, but I fail to commit to it. I know what I could have, but for some reason, I turn it away. Life is so short. During this time, I could be bringing glory to God. Instead, I’m failing. I’m failing to be full. Failing to fill others. Failing to be genuine. Failing to be honest about the dark corners within me. Failing to confront this ongoing problem. Failing to live life WITH God.

I just want to be effusive with God’s spirit. And right now, I’m spending to much time talking about what I want. I should be seeking God to see what He wants.

With: “accompanied by (another person or thing).”

xo.

With.

El Gozo.

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The sand, soft between my toes. The cool rain from the sky, falling on my cheeks. The salty water, filling the roof of my mouth. The birds, calling to one another from the trees. The people, bringing joy. The ocean air, fresh as we breathe it in. The sky, a beautiful blue. The sun, casting warmth all around. The clouds, dancing along the horizon.

This is Trinidad.

This is a place I long to go back to. This is a place where I was blessed to meet many beautiful people. This is the place where I found joy juxtaposed with sorrow. This is the place where I felt homesick for the first time. This is the place where I learned my love for peanut punch. This is where I say I found joy. This is where I ate too much roti. This is a place where I will remember picking mangoes off trees. This is the place where young school girls called me Cinderella and played with my hair. This is the place that allowed me to become open about differences. This is the place where I actually enjoyed washing dishes.

This is Trinidad.

Joy.

xo.

El Gozo.

Passionate Desire.

I yearn for joy.

I yearn for overwhelming joy.

I yearn for joy so overwhelming that I will not be empty. Joy so overwhelming that everyone around me feels full. Joy so overwhelming that I can have confidence through all periods of life. Joy so overwhelming that I rejoice as I rise and when I fall. Joy so overwhelming, so beautiful, so satisfying.

Not Happiness.

Joy.

It’s my middle name, yet it is something that comes hardest to me. When I feel invaded, uncomfortable, alone, joy is nowhere to be found. In fact, it’s probably the last thing on my mind. It’s out there. Unreachable. Unfathomable. But yet, it’s all I want. But it’s all I can’t have. I see it. I know happiness. I know the short highs. The laughter with friends. The feeling that comes from new shoes, good grades, affirmations. Short term.

Why?

Why can’t I just be fulfilled?

Why can’t I just exude joy?

Why can’t I find joy throughout life?

It can’t be impossible. So many people around me seem to have joy. I used to have overwhelming joy.

I need spiritual healing. I need to be restored. I want to get there.

I need pure motives. I need to manage my time. I need to overcome anxious and detrimental thoughts. I need to get out more. I need to surround myself with a community that has found joy, learn from them, and provide that same joy for others. I need to remove fear from my life.

Even here, I list the things I think I need. Will they bring me happiness? Or will they provide joy? Are they what I actually need? Or what I think I need? What do I need?

I want to go back.

Back to the years where my biggest problems were spilled milk.

I want simplicity.

Though above all, I yearn for joy.

Overwhelm me. Cover me. Shelter me. Submerge me. Complete me.

Joy.

** while writing, I was overcome with memories from second grade, where we did the “j-o-y” prayers – Jesus, Others, Yourself. Could it be my mentality? What is stopping me? Spirit break out; break these walls down.

xo.

Passionate Desire.

Cognizance.

“Open up my eyes to the things unseen.”

One week. One line. One purpose. Many aspirations. Many opportunities. Few taken.

As I look back on this week, I am overcome with regret. Or maybe it’s disappointment. One of the two. Regret that I didn’t take advantage of opportunities I was given. Disappointment, as this week I aimed to open my eyes. Were they opened? Maybe a little. But not as much as I hoped.


The events of Sunday 11/09/15: Twas a long day. But a great day. Here we go.

10:30 AM, Church.

Yesterday morning, at church, I came awake. I came focused. I came ready to see God move. My youth pastor (who I’ll just call T) and I were talking about our weeks and I suddenly felt overcome with regret. I started to zone out while he was talking. To think about all the opportunities I had, the difference I could have made. Like, I’m just a thinker. And I think a lot. T clapped in my face, waited until he had my attention, looked into my eyes, and said no zombie mode today. It was a command, but it was given in love, in truth, in concern. He’s seen me anxious. He’s seen me upset. He’s seen me laugh. He’s seen me at my very best. And I guess zombie mode isn’t my very best. I quickly nodded and said okay, dismissing the statement. But as I thought about it more, I realized how often I go into this so-called zombie mode. I push people out. I think alone. I don’t feel adequate. I intentionally do it sometimes. I can usually hear you talking to me. I know what you’re saying. I listen. I just don’t respond. As Bob Goff would say, I have selective hearing. Maybe its fine at school, home, when I’m alone. So I’m sorry if I’ve shut you out, ignored you, dismissed you. These next few weeks, I want to relinquish zombie mode. Its become a barrier for me to connect with people. When I am restless, exhausted, thinking, feeling alone, I shut everyone out. Its become a part of my personality, but I need to limit the places where it is present. So call me out. Do it, I dare you.

11:30 AM, Church.

Just like last week, we had 10 minutes to respond to what we thought God was saying to us while I was volunteering with the junior highers. A few minutes later, I gathered my small group of seventh graders. I asked them how they saw God moving in their life, and unlike last week, they all shared something of value. One of them admitted that her aunt was battling cancer, and it had really been taking a toll on her this past week. She also mentioned that whenever she began to feel alone or weak or worried, she kept on hearing the word strength. Over and over again, just in her head. It was so cool to see God speaking into someone so young, so powerfully. And to see that she recognized it. I talked with her and the other girls for a little while, and we embraced the community. Towards the end, one of them looked at me and said something along the lines of you are so cool. you’re so faithful, you listen to God and you speak His truth. —– too. I want to be like you guys someday. And that was enough to fill me up for the next few hours. To know that I have the privilege of entering someones life, and that He will use me.

12:15 PM, Church.

After volunteering with junior highers, I had a student leader meeting. T and his wife were there, and we ate in fellowship with one another and proceeded to watch a video. The speaker in the video talked about how God has called each one of us. There is a calling for you. And whether you choose to say yes determines if you are chosen. One line that really stuck out to me in the video was this: If your faith costs you nothing, it’s probably worth nothing. BAM. Like wow. How inspiring, reviving, and thought-provoking. Does our faith really cost us in America? It’s so easy to go to church, pray at home, listen to whatever music, listen to broadcasts. Is our faith often tested here? Personally, I’d say no. It’s true that sometimes we receive judgmental looks or even hateful comments. But very rarely do we encounter experiences with potential to threaten our lives if we were to stand up for our faith. It really makes you think, doesn’t it?

** side note: T’s wife also gave me a note, and for those of you that don’t know me, notes are literally my love language. I’m not crazy about spoken words of affirmation. They’re present for a moment, and then they slip away, just as quickly as they came. You could say I like receiving gifts. I really don’t; I mean like they’re great, but I feel obligated to give back. And that just produces stress. Though not very different, notes can last so long. Notes prove that someone took time to think about you and write you something. I just feel loved. I adore receiving mail, and there is nothing I love more than sending mail. But yeah, I got a note. And a goofy smile. But yo, it was fantastic. **

2:30 PM, Random Routes.

After the student leader meeting, a girl my age and I drove around for about an hour, gathering stuff T needed for the high school youth group. We made fantastic conversation. I also went through a drive thru for the first time. Like I’ve been in the car as others have gone through and ordered for me, but I’ve never actually driven and ordered. It was absolutely terrifying, but I did it. If I’m ever driving you around, you’re ordering. Glad we’re clear.

3:30 PM, Church.

Worship rehearsal. Worship rehearsal involved flying sheet music, laughing pianos, and ape-style kahon-ing. I love all those people. So much. Hey band, you da best.

5:15 PM, Church.

After worship rehearsal, I decided I wanted to conquer chemistry. I actually enjoy chemistry. Sorry. Anyways, me and our drummer went upstairs to work. The lights were low, classical music was playing, the couches were comfortable. It was the minuscule amount of peace I had all day, all weekend to be exact. To say the very least, I was annoyed at the slightest when we were summoned for the pre-service prayer. I had around 50 chemistry problems due for Monday. I hadn’t even finished taking notes on the chapter. And now, they wanted me to sit somewhere for 20 minutes, and pray? Absolutely unbelievable. I dragged myself downstairs, hesitant to, quote en quote, waste twenty minutes of my time. It probably wasn’t even twenty minutes. So I sat there. For however long. Resistant. Stressing. “Zombie Mode-ing.” I was frustrated, I was bothered. How could they have the nerve to disrupt me? I talked about how I wish my eyes had been opened more this week. This week especially, I should have gone down wholeheartedly and engaged in lifting up the unseen needs of others. From that point until after worship, my heart was nowhere to be found. I wasn’t engaged. I was thinking about a. the formidable chemistry problems I needed to do by 7:00 AM the next morning, and b. how absolutely selfish and awful my behavior was. So I’m sorry if I yelled at you. I was wrong. But hey, man, what’s new?

7:15 PM, Church.

By now, T was giving the message for the night. Currently, a junior was wrapped in ace bandages while everyone else sat looking amused. Lazarus. There were some pretty cool points that I sorted through, but my ah-ha moment occurred at this point. As they began to unwrap him, I realized that we’re all wrapped up with past troubles, current fears, heavy burdens. And we can’t break out of it on our own. Ultimately, we need to seek Him and allow Him to help us sort through it all. Occasionally, other humans can help begin the process by leading you to Him and staying with you through it all. But you weren’t meant to do it alone. You were meant for community. So embrace it.

7:30 PM, Church.

A group of senior and junior girls sit around a table on couches, attentively writing. Occasionally looking up, as if searching for a specific word. After everyone stops writing, they go around and share their list or at the very least a few items on their list. The prompt: What do you need to let go of? Some know exactly what to write. Others start to search in deep, dark places. Some write song lyrics on the side. Towards the end, a giant compilation is made:

  • anxiety
  • appearances
  • appearing as though [you] have it all together; admitting weakness.
  • bitterness
  • boys
  • fear
  • impure motives
  • pride
  • time management

and a handful more. Anxiety and Fear both prevent us from experiencing God’s goodness. It’s almost as if we’re saying we don’t trust your planours is better. i’m to afraid to let you have control. Appearances and Boys result in incorrect focus. We focus on these things and don’t focus on God. Appearing as though you have it all together hit home for me. I’ve expressed that I feel like I paint the wrong picture sometimes [find in Shortcoming.] and that I am hesitant to admit that I can’t do everything. Bitterness prevents us from loving. And that’s a huge problem. It’s something that I need to work through. Time Management. Oh gee. Can we ever get enough Jesus in our day? No. Pride prevents us from showing empathy and compassion, from loving wholeheartedly. Impure motives are worthless. If I pray to impress other people, is that of God? No. If I serve, just so people will notice me, is that of God? No. You get the idea. Overall, fear, bitterness, and admitting weakness struck me. Sometimes, I’m afraid people will disappoint and shut them out [zombie modeeeee]. As for bitterness, there are relationships that I need to heal. And I already ranted about appearing as I have it all together. Go Figure. Anyways, small groups last night was a time of confession, community, and collective zeal for revival.


That’s it. That was my Sunday. I won’t bore you with chemistry. But this week, I don’t want to have regrets. And my purpose this week, is to

Show me how to love love like You have loved me.

It’s going to involve sacrifice and patience. Let’s do this thing.

xo.

Cognizance.

Redemption.

She looks in the mirror, a blurry reflection looking back at her. Alone. Frustrated. Confused. Like soft drops of rain, they roll down her face, clouding her vision. She wonders what she did wrong. She wonders why. She knows she will be hesitant to trust again. But yet, she knows she can’t do it alone. People all around her, unworthy of her trust. She’s the same person she’s always been. She’s been focused. She’s been present. She’s tried to fill others up. She goes about her life, humble, gentle, hoping someone will care.

She looked up to her. She trusted. She told her everything. She was disappointed. Again. Every time she becomes vulnerable, she was no longer wanted. Others shun her for not opening up, oblivious to her past experiences. She is stuck. She tells herself it must be her. She must be the problem. That has to be why they left, why they became defensive, why they stopped replying. Maybe she was the one who disappointed them. Maybe she was the one who said the wrong thing. Maybe it was her. It had to be her. Of course it was her. She longs for a contender. She longs for someone who won’t disappoint. And so far, she has found none. Over and over again. It’s the same story every time. Defeat.

As she stands, words seem to appear around her reflection. Malicious, destructive words. Words like Outcast. Failure. Alone. Undesirable. Confused. Not Good Enough. Disappointment. Sinful. Afraid. Worthless. And she sees them. She begins to see them so much that she believes them, all the while going about life quietly. They begin to define her.

Until one day. One day, she is told that she is loved by the creator of the world. How could anyone love me? she asks. This creator carries an eraser. Each day, he replaces one word with another. Outcast becomes Chosen. Failure becomes Enough. Alone becomes Wanted. Undesirable becomes Beautiful. Not Good Enough becomes Sufficient. Disappointment becomes Joy. Sinful becomes Pure. Afraid becomes Strong. Worthless becomes Daughter. He adds more. Words like Beloved. Treasured. Loved. Made New. Righteous. Holy. New Creation. Born Again. Precious. Royalty, for your father is the King. Beautifully and Wonderfully Made. Victorious. Strong.

Just as she did before, she begins to see the words, believe them, let them define her. Only this time, she smiles. She laughs. She is overcome with joy. She is relieved, restored, reassured. All at once, the weight lifts from her chest. She is free.

Some days, she sees the first set of words. Some days, she has panic attacks. Some days, it doesn’t work out. Some days she hurts. Some days cries alone. But she knows how to go back to her roots. To go back to the one who calls her Beloved. To the one who names her Daughter. To the one who sings over her as she sleeps. To the one who delights in her. To the one who has given her a higher calling.

She cautiously builds relationships. Will they disappoint? She already knows the answer – yes. But it doesn’t stop her. She has been given a heavenly calling. One that enables her to love, regardless of people in return. She loves others through words of affirmation, though claiming she hates receiving complements. She adores physical touch, never resistant to offer a hug.

Once again, she trusts. She is thereafter disappointed. Once again, she goes home. But this time, looking in the mirror, she remembers that she is enough. They never said it’d be easy. It isn’t. It never will be. She’ll never forget the stinging feeling of regret, of wounds, of broken trust. But, she remembers that Him who is living in her is greater than those who are living in the world. And, that might just be enough. It is enough. He is enough. She is victorious, she is resilient. She knows who she is, where He says she is, where He says she’s at. No one can speak defeat to her. She is a Child of God. She has the victory.

One day, she sees a girl, younger, looking alone. She looks into her eyes, not oblivious to the pain as everyone else is. Memories flash back. Instead of her reflection this time, she sees this young, innocent girl looking into the mirror. Drowning in lies. Drowning in expectations. Drowning in disappointment.

Come, she says, I know One who can restore you. He carries an eraser; He brings joy, peace, hope; He is all you could ever want, all you will ever need.


R,

you inspire me. you are enough. you are loved. it’s not easy. i know i will let you down someday. he never will. thank you for your love. thank you for your joy. you are appreciated. you are not a disappointment. you are not an outcast. you are chosen and beloved. and that’s quite enough for me.

xo.
Sissa.

Redemption.

Audible Instruction.

Yesterday, I was at church from pretty much 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM. I attended service, and I’m starting to volunteer with the junior highers. It’s out of my comfort zone just a little bit, because I mainly like little people and old people. But I’m doing it, because I want to see God move, and I feel like it’s almost, well, not like a test, but more like an opportunity for Him to work in miraculous ways. That being said, I was a little hesitant. The message for the junior highers was about our new six-week series, which is all about revival. We had ten minutes to just stand there and receive Him. To ask what He wanted us to do. In that moment, I felt more compelled to pray for the people in the room, and I asked that they would feel His presence. Like actually feel it, whether it be chills, comfort, peace, etc. After we were done praying, some of the students shared what they thought God told them. And one of the leaders shared that sometimes she feels like she prays and never gets a response, but today, she felt tingling throughout her back and feet, and then felt a blanket of peace wrap around her. It was actually amazing. So many times, I’ve prayed for people, but very rarely have I seen God pull through in the moment, immediately after, knowing that He directly answered my prayer in that moment. It gets better. So then I had lunch and worship rehearsal and such. Sunday night, we also have a youth group for high schoolers. The youth pastor gave us the same kind of message, but maybe with a little more zeal and intricacy. And again, we had ten minutes to receive. Instead of standing this time, I felt like I needed to go back to the tech booth and sit just with my hands open. Instead of praying for others, it was my turn to receive. And ten minutes passed. And I still felt empty. As people were sharing, the bridge from Hosanna kept on popping into my head:

“Open up my eyes to the things unseen,
Show me how to love like You have loved me,
Break my heart from what breaks Yours,
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause,
As I walk from earth into eternity,
Hosanna, Hosanna.”

Over and over again. So I wrote it down. And shortly after, I looked up “Hosanna.”
“an expression of adoration, praise, or joy.”
 I can’t even explain it. Our youth pastor kept on asking if anyone wanted to share, and I didn’t feel like I should. In small group, I didn’t either. So I didn’t. When I got home, I unfolded the piece of paper and taped it in my journal, and I just kinda looked at it and prayed for a while. It’s six lines. Our series is six weeks. I’m supposed to focus on one line each week. So this week, I’m trying to regain focus, regain focus on the people around me and unmet needs; I want to regain focus on Him, His goodness, His sovereignty. Next week, I want to love unconditionally. Week three, empathy. Week four, dedication, reflecting Him in everything I do. Week five, regain of focus towards His kingdom, leading others, something. Week six, I want to just praise Him and thank Him for the past six weeks. I don’t know everything. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, how often I’ll get off track. But it’s Him. And there is revival going on. This is real. He is working. And I am in awe of Him. I am in awe of His goodness, in awe of it all.
xo.
Audible Instruction.