I'm back from the beach which means I'm back in business, baby! I got out of the week EXACTLY what I had hoped to. I feel refreshed, confident in the Truth found in God's Word and at peace with my spiritual walk. I had this beautiful little nook area on the 4th floor of our beach house that had just 2 comfy chairs, a small wooden table that held my Bible and a whole bunch of windows covering the walls. Every morning, as the sun rose up over the earth, I sat in my nook overlooking the ocean and enjoyed the world the Lord had made.
I spent many hours studying the Word in my favorite little spot, sipping my morning coffee as I allowed God to speak to me without the influence of anyone else's voice. It was sacred time and incredibly special. I did a lot of reflection while on Pine Island. I thought about how this project started and exactly how I got to where I am today. I looked back even further than my first prayer at Unity Church. I went back 23 years to when I first heard about God growing up on the Eastern Shore of VA at Onley Baptist church. There were a couple of unique moments in my life's history where I can now see that the presence of Holy Spirit was alive and at work. Like the time I had the unshakable fear that monsters were under my bed. I don't even know who or what I thought God was, but I talked to Him out loud. I begged Him to alleviate my fears by removing my panic and/or the monsters so I could fall asleep peacefully. As I snuggled up under the covers in my warm feetie pajamas and laid my head on my pillow, I fell fast asleep in God's peace. Looking back, it's that very same peace I have in my heart today.
Then, as a teenager, I was dating a boy that I feared was not treating me right. I asked my boyfriend to come clean with the truth, confronted his friends, and I even read his emails hoping to catch him in the act. I was absolutely heartbroken. In a last ditch effort, I clasped my hands together, through my tears and I prayed. "God, if you're real, convince me that Jamie is being unfaithful so I can move on with my life." The next morning it was confirmed, Jamie was cheating. I thought, "Wow. Maybe God is real." He then carried me through the break up and I eventually got over my first love. Was I grateful? Well, no. I continued on with my life, ignoring His constant tug on my heart. He answered the only prayer I offered up to Him that year, but it apparently wasn't enough to convince me to keep on praying to a God that cares so deeply.
As years went on, Jesus would continue to knock on my door like a gentleman and humbly ask me to allow Him in. And as usual, I'd keep it tightly barricaded, refusing to extend the invite. All the while, I think I knew in my deepest being that He was indeed real, that may have be the very reason I feared Him. Submitting to something bigger than yourself isn't easy for a person who is married to the idea of "I can do anything if I try hard enough."
Then, at age 23, I vaguely remember going to a bar and drinking WAY too much. In the midst of it all I started witnessing to a drunk guy about the reality of Jesus. He got irritated at me and told me that bars were not the place for Jesus. In my drunkenness, I launched back, THIS IS EXACTLY THE PLACE JESUS NEEDS TO BE! I imagine I didn't do God any favors that night. But looking back, He was there; he's been there all along.
See, I wanted that godly connection but just couldn't figure out how to obtain it. I tried going to psychics. I tried spiritual yoga. I tried horoscopes. I tried making a vow to never do wrong again. I tried self-help books and life coaching. I tried changing jobs, changing friends, even changing my hair color. All I wanted was to find that purpose, but all I could do was seek pleasure in every little thing outside of what truly brings the heart joy. Every time I felt as though I moved an inch closer in God's direction, it became painfully clear that the God I thought I had was only a temporary fleeting feeling, not an enduring, patient, and everlasting love.
Then, at age 26 I was introduced to the idea of Buddist meditation. I began devouring books on Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer. I started talking like I had found a "deeper truth" than everyone else had. I'd say things like, "You know, nothing is real. Everything we are is only a perception of our reality" It became abundantly clear to me during this time that God was not so distance and instead, He was in EVERYTHING. He was in the rock, in the tree, in the squirrel. All I had to do was allow my thoughts to create my reality and this thought process was the very essence of our creative God. However, there was only one problem, even though I was able to conjure up some superficial happiness during my 30 minutes of silent meditation, as soon as I opened my eyes and stopped chanting that mantra, all that deeper truth and peace disappeared into thin air. There was still something missing, God had to be better than this! Sure, I could feel happiness while laying on my back on the James River with my feet in the cool water looking up at the stars in awe of God's creation, but the chaos in my life still lingered. The things I begged God to remove from me for the past 10 years all remained. I was still drinking. Still smoking. Still overeating. Still lying to make myself appear more desirable. Still cursing. Still arguing. Still searching for something to heal me.
Over the next few years, like most people who aren't ready to give up the fight of self pride, I decided to ignore the Spirit's promptings. The immediate need for a God to save me was no longer there it seemed. I was no longer struggling with finding a great job. I found one. I liked my hair color. And the right group of friends were all falling into place. Who needs God when you have cool friends, ya know? And, I had almost kicked smoking. My drinking was limited to the weekends. There was no pressing need to submit to God because I didn't need Him to fill any major void for me anymore.
This time last year I knew for sure that happiness was right around the corner anyway because I had finally got to the place where TRUE JOY would be rightfully mine! On September 12th 2009, my purpose would finally be revealed and all my pain and suffering would be no more, happiness was just one white dress and diamond ring away; I was getting MARRIED! I start wedding planning and got lost in every beautiful detail of my perfect day. I also married the man of my dreams. We bought our first house. Now, I was sure that the emptiness of my past 23 years was going to disappear into the distant past. I found love. And I'd been searching for it for a lifetime.
After our amazing honeymoon was over, we played house for a few months and one day I looked at Patrick while I sat on the couch and said, "So, now what?"
And then this project starts. It starts because after 23 years of ignoring God, I was still seeking purpose in my life. Even with the perfect house, the perfect husband, the perfect business, the perfect everything, I still was left with something to be desired. "I need Purpose!" I told Patrick. And how would I get purpose? "I KNOW! We'll have kids" .....
By this point, God wasn't going to allow me to continue putting scotched tape on my spiritual brokenness to hold it together just long enough to create another temporary fix to an everlasting problem. Instead, God urged me to hold off on the children and He impressed upon me to take up cooking. And so, I enrolled in some cooking classes in an attempt to keep my life new and fresh. I thought, "Maybe I'll be a chef, THEN ILL FIND PURPOSE!" In my zeal for cooking, I watched the movie Julie and Julia which was about a blogger who worked her way through Julie Child's cookbook by making one recipe a day for an entire year. Thinking the project was so creative, I decided to start my own blog and do my own thing for a year. I'd always been fascinated by religion, and on that night in December, God decided I was going to finally find the purpose I'd been searching for; and so, 52 Prayers was born.
So, here I am, I have at this point attended 35 different places of worship and written about most of them. Like Julia, the road hasnt' been easy. Unlike Julia, I found the perfect recipe before getting to the finish line. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. My heart sings that God has chosen me to share with people this truth. It sings with an everlasting joy to which I can not hold in. I have found purpose in Him. I am complete with Him. It's not my wonderful husband. It's not the great house. It's not my awesome cooking skills. It's not the dream job. It's not my incredible family. All of it could disappear tomorrow, but my inner joy would still remain.
I don't know who reading has shared my emptiness. If you don't have this joy I have in my heart, I suspect the reality that God is outside knocking has at some point come clear to you, but you've somehow chosen to ignore it, putting a band-aid on every cut and scrape.
I suspect that you may be standing in front of that door right now as you read this, barricading it shut with all your might, refusing to open it because your pride is bigger than your pain. Like me, you may be holding on to the hope that's there's an easier route to happiness than picking up your cross and following Him. Or maybe you've been so jaded that you think this is too simple and there's something more you must do because of your unworthiness. I imagine many of you think I've got some kind of ego to even suggest that I might know God. If so, I understand. But it's my sincere hope that not one person finishes reading this post and continues to keep the door locked. I urge every single person who wants for anything, to put your trust in God. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. It's the answer I've been looking for, for the past 23 years. There's nothing you need to do to earn it. Just let Him know you want the gift he so generously offers. If you want to know what He has to say, open up the Bible, read it slowly, and let it speak to you. The road won't be easy, the Lord knows I struggled with the decision to give my life to Him, but it's so incredibly worth it.
I hope you can read this and know I don't say this to be condescending nor do I come from a place of self-righteousness, but instead, I say it from a place of sincere love, and utter joy: If you haven't accepted this gift, I will never cease praying for you because I assure you, it is the answer you've been looking for.
At the very least, I hope those of you who don't share my zeal, can share in my excitement. Today, I cry happy tears knowing that when the day comes for me to tuck my children in at bedtime, they are going to know without a shadow of a doubt that if they want peace at night, they don't have to wait 23 years for it. They don't have to kick, bite, scratch and struggle to find a seemingly unknowable God. The only thing they ever need to do is ask for it, and of course when that Gentleman shows up at the door, they need to invite Him in and never let Him leave.