Tag Archives: GOD

If You Walk Into Church and Can’t Find A Sinner, You Should Probably Run

I haven’t written a blog post in a while, but as I prepare to attend my favorite blogging conference, I feel inspired.

Blogging has been a big part of my life for years. I’ve gained so much from it, and I’ve also let go of a lot as a result. I love to share my life, story and ideas, but it’s been nice to take a break too. I knew I needed one recently when I couldn’t wrap my head around living my daily life without talking about it here.

I went through a period of almost three months that was stresful and taxing, but I finally feel like I’m standing in the light at the end of the tunnel. There are things happening in my life that make me happy, and I feel a sense of relief that I’ve been craving for weeks. That has allowed me to give some thought to other things that I’ve faced lately.

If we’re connected on Instagram you may have seen a recent post in which I shared my feelings about going to church even though I’m a sinner. Here’s what I said about it:

I’ve taken some flack for being a “church-going sinner” lately, and here’s what I have to say about it: I love God, and I desire a deeper relationship with Him. I seek Him and ask Him to search my heart…to change it…I fall, and He picks me up. I fall again, and He’s still right there…waiting for me to surrender to Him. Even when I turned my back on Him, He never stopped loving me. He’s given me peace and hope, and if you’re reading this, He will do the same thing for you if you ask Him. It’s not easy, and going to church won’t make you holy. Jesus came to heal the sick because they’re the ones who needed a doctor. I don’t go to church to put in heirs about how perfect I am now; I’m not, nor do I pretend to be. I go because I need Jesus, and it’s a place to feel loved and to help me stay accountable to His will. #truth #grace #hope #HisLoveNeverFails #Luke5 #church #christians #disciples #religion #realtalk

The fact is we’re all sinners who fall short of God’s glory. Going to church doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly going to be perfect. Being a part of the worship team doesn’t mean that I’m never going to fall again. That’s not real. It’s not true. I’m weak, but God gives me strength. I sin, and He provides mercy.

Do I use God’s grace as a license to sin? I shouldn’t, but I have. I try not to, but His grace covers that too. He knows my heart. He knows when I’m seeking Him, and He knows when I’m drowning in shame. He loves me regardless.

I desire a real relationship with God, one in which He’s in control of my life and my circumstances. I don’t always act like it because I’m also selfish, and I like to be in control of everything. I love Him, and He loves me even though I often struggle to understand why.  It’s hard to surrender every aspect of my life to Him, but I’m trying (and sometimes failing and trying again.)

If you walk into a church and you can’t find a sinner, then you should probably run the other way. That’s not real. We live in a fallen world, and the the Holy Spirit is the only hope we have as we strive to live Godly lives.

I’m not perfect, and I’ve never claimed to be. Having a relationship with God doesn’t mean that I’ll never sin again. His grace just gives me hope

 

I’m Not Ready…Yet

After my last post I read through what I wrote and reflected on it, and one thing became clear: I’m not ready for the kind of relationship that I want. I felt ready at one point, but a lot has changed. I’ve changed.

When I take an honest look at my life, I’m not satisfied with everything. I have moments of joy – like when a friend I’ve been talking about with God for months calls me and says, “I’m totally lost. It’s been a long time since I’ve put God first in my life, but I’m ready. Can we talk?,” or when I spend minutes or hours in worship feeling the outpouring of God’s presence. 

I enjoy spending time with my family, and my nieces never fail to bring a smile to my face. I’m happy when I’m relaxing with friends in my rooftop pool or when I’m spending an evening with friends at a small group or having coffee, etc.

I experience a lot of enjoyment, but right now I’m struggling to find satisfaction. I’ve tried finding satisfaction without asking God for it on several occasions, and I’ve done it a lot lately. Doing it my way feels good too…until I realize that I’m still craving more. (This applies to food, attention, intimacy, etc.)      

Lately it’s been hard to admit that I’m struggling because I feel condemned for it. I’m not perfect; I’m not pretending to be. I suck at having patience, and I know that God wants to work in me. I’m just not sure what His plan is.

I know He loves me. I know He’s with me, and I know He’ll never leave me. I’m just not sure what im doing. I’ve let Him down so many times, and I’m still not getting it right. I’m just not sure what He wants from me right now.

Someone wise told me that God isn’t going to give me someone to love just because I’m lonely. He’s going to wait until I’m ready, which means He’s preparing me…which means I have to wait. (I’m not good at waiting because I don’t want to!)

I do know that God is smarter than I am. I know His ways are always better. I can look back and see how incredibly faithful He has been, which reminds me that I have absolutely no reason to doubt Him. 

My sincere prayer right now is that God will change my heart and line up my will with His. I want to desire more of Him and less of the other things that have led (or could lead) me into sin. I want Him to show me what He wants from me, then I need Him to give me the strength to do it. I’m weak, and in my weakness I want Him to mold me into someone who is living a fulfilled life. I want to serve His purpose, and I want Him to fill in all of the gaps.

I want Him to eliminate the distractions that are keeping me from moving forward, and I need Him to heal the hurt and anger that I feel toward people who have let me down. I want and need a lot from God. It’s a good thing He’s all-knowing and all-powerful, isn’t it?

I may not be ready for some of the things I want, but I know God’s working in me. I wouldn’t be feeling any of this if He wasn’t. That’s oddly comforting to me, and today, that’s enough. 

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They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Isaiah 40:31
         

No More

This is one of those posts that’s for me, not you. If you don’t want to read about my love life or God, come back another day.

I fell for someone last fall when I was trying to focus on other things. He came into my life and complemented it. He’s a family man, and he provided a lot of stability in my life…until he didn’t anymore.

If you asked him, he would tell you that I didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I was amazing in my not-quite-relationship with him. His kids adore me. They started blooming when I came into their lives. Their grades went up, they started getting closer to God, and they all had someone with whom they could trust to share their feelings.

Life was good for all of us. He was happier at the mention of my name than his family had ever seen him. Even his ex-wife was happy for him, and that was an odd, yet lovely feeling.

At one point several weeks ago (immediately following one of the happiest evenings I’ve ever had with him) he said, “Kenlie, when are we going to stop pretending that we’re not a couple?”

I giggled and said, “when you stop pretending. That’s your issue, not mine.”

He didn’t laugh though. Instead I spent the evening talking with him on his sofa. We held hands, giggled, flirted and talked for hours about his “need for clarity.” He has issues/fears about getting remarried, and I reminded him that I was in no rush for that. I explained that I would need time to develop an exclusive relationship with him (even though I had been un-dating him for months.)

He said that he knew me well enough to know that he wanted to marry me. He spent nearly everyday with me for months. He knows my family and friends (many of whom are mutual.) He knows every lie I’ve ever told (the little ones and big ones.) He knows all of the mistakes that I’ve made and my imperfections, and still, he said that he knew enough to want to marry me. Sadly, he said that he believed that God wouldn’t like it.

He’s a black and white kind of guy, and while that can be great at times, it can also screw things up when he becomes closed-minded. He believes certain things that I won’t share in detail here, except to say that those beliefs are based on pride, fear of moving on and religion. And that’s a deadly combination.

Religion is the arch enemy of Jesus. The rules that religion have dictated on this man’s life leave me oscillating between anger and uncertainty. If Jesus walked into the fundamentalist church that this man left, He wouldn’t be welcome, yet those rules (which are based on ungodly, self-righteous, religious garbage) have given him reason to hang on to the past and to walk away from a woman who makes him happier and more balanced than he’s been in a long time, maybe ever.

There are few things that I hate in the world, but religion is one of them. I love God, and I’m so thankful for the aggressive grace that Jesus pours out on me. I just wish that this man could truly experience and understand that grace too.

He knows and loves God, but he is so wrapped up in religion that I don’t know what to think. Did he lie to me about his feelings? Was he just humoring me because he didn’t want to hurt me?

It has been weeks since he ended our quasi-relationship. He still calls, and I still see him at my church (a place that I hope he continues to go so that he can truly collide with the love of Jesus someday.)

His kids miss me like crazy, but not as much as I miss them. He seems to be fine without me though – just not as happy or at ease or loving. It makes me wonder if he ever had feelings for me.

I’ve asked a few times since that night if I’m crazy…if I misread his feelings, and he says that I absolutely did not misunderstand. He says he felt everything that I felt and that he can’t be with me for the ridiculous, religious reasons that I can’t mention here.

I know him, and I believe that he’s clinging to religion instead of God because it’s easier than taking responsibility.  It’s also possible that he just doesn’t understand the difference. I do believe that he’s a good man though…who’s just dealing with unresolved issues.

He called me last night, and the things that he said (though not directed at me in any way) made me wonder what happened to the man I met and fell for.  He’s different without me. I ask myself when he reverted back to being religious and judgmental and self-righteous, but the truth is, I know exactly when that happened.

I’m pretty positive that I did not misunderstand his feelings. The man I met was humble, and I believed that he valued me. Now I’m not so sure.

Maybe talking to me was better than talking to than no one. Maybe we spent evening after evening together because he had nothing else to do. Maybe the hours we spent on the phone talking about everything from religion to politics to his work environment was more fun for him than sleeping. Maybe he never cared about me at all.

I don’t exactly believe the last part, but it certainly was easy for him to turn off his feelings. It seems that it was easy for him to forget the peaceful, quiet moments that were captured on his daughter’s camera phone when we weren’t paying attention to anything or anyone except each other. It has also been easy for him to forget how we laughed so hard that our faces hurt  just because we were using chopsticks together or discussing the Council on Foreign Relations.

It has been easy for him to pretend that none of it ever happened, but it’s been impossible for me. I spent the first few weeks drowning in misery, sobbing everyday and hoping that he would get back to normal. After that, I started ignoring his calls. When he asked why, I explained that while I loved it when he called me, I was better off when he didn’t.

I told him that he either needed to stop calling, or we needed to talk with my (our) pastor because I needed to heal. He reluctantly agreed, and when I asked him why, he said that was he was willing to make himself uncomfortable for me if that’s what I needed to know that he cared.

We haven’t had the opportunity to chat with my pastor yet because of our schedules, but it meant a lot to me that he was willing to make himself uncomfortable for me. Talking to your pastor is a big deal when you’re hyper-religious. Thankfully, my pastor is a cool dude who wears jeans when he preaches and loves all of the people that more traditional churches reject. Jesus would be welcome at my church if he showed up in old clothes and worn out sandals.

I’ve been much happier over the last few weeks, realizing that my life would change a lot if he and I were together. I love my life, and I wouldn’t want to change it for someone who wouldn’t be willing to do the same for me.

As I go to sleep and as I wake up, I ask God to eliminate the feelings that I have for this man if I can’t be with him. It’s the only thing I know to do, and I’m counting on Him to fulfill me because He’s God. I’m also counting on Him to heal the man who broke my heart someday regardless of whether I’m around to see it or not.

Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness and and how powerful it can be.   I don’t spend much time judging people like I used to, and I don’t hold grudges very long because I want others to forgive me when I mess up.  None of us are perfect, and there are parts of my past that I wish I would have done differently.  There are things that I can’t change, but I don’t live in the past anymore.

My guess is that I’m not the only one who has ever lied to or mistreated people who mattered to them.  I forgave myself a long time ago, and I forgave those who hurt me.  It’s not always easy, but I strive to do it now.  I treat people with respect, and I give second chances because so often I need a second chance.  I forgive because I want to be forgiven, and I forgive because I have been forgiven.

In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

It can be really difficult to forgive when we’re hurt, especially when we know that the person hurting us is in the wrong and not even sorry about it, but in Psalm 145:8, we see that, The Lord is gracious and slow to anger and rich in love. (NIV) The KJV says, The Lord is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger and of great mercy.

Forgiving someone that hurts you doesn’t always mean that it’s going to restore your relationship back to what it was, or that you’ll even remain in a relationship at all.  I’ve offered up forgiveness when the person who hurt me didn’t deserve it, and I’ve been forgiven at times when I didn’t deserve it.  But we do not forgive to help the other person or because the other person deserves it. We forgive because GOD created us in His image. (Genesis 1:27) We forgive so that our actions are pleasing to Him.

When we choose not to forgive people who hurt us, it keeps us from living a truly joyful, fulfilled, God-centered life. When we look deeper into Matthew 5, we learn that in order to be Christ-like, this is what He tells us to do:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

When forgiveness seems impossible for us, we need to remember that Jesus forgave us. He didn’t just forgive a few of us either. He forgave every sin that has ever been and will ever be committed.

He did more than simply say, “I forgive you.” He gave up perfection in Heaven to make Himself feel all of the pain and suffering that we feel as humans, and then He died so that we could receive forgiveness – before we even asked for it.

No amount of forgiveness that we have to offer will ever compare to the forgiveness that he has given us. And when we forgive, we break the chains that keep us from having the kind of life that is blessed as a result of being pleasing to God.

I’ve always wanted to live a life that is filled with peace and comfort and joy, but I didn’t live that kind of life until I let Jesus in.  Knowing that I’ve been saved by His grace makes me want to be more like Him, and I want to continue growing and living in His will.

Have you ever forgiven someone who didn’t deserve it?  Have you ever offered forgiveness to someone who didn’t deserve it?

 

And Then I Remembered…Life is Awesome…

I was looking for something specific on Facebook this morning, and I came across the first status that I ever posted (circa 2008,) and it simply said, “So. Freaking. Thankful.”

I’ve been in a pretty dark place over the last few weeks, but I woke up happy again this morning.  I smiled all day.  I felt so much joy that had felt missing for far too long.  Three weeks is a long time to be miserable when you’re usually a happy-go-lucky lady!

I’ve been lamenting some things that I simply cannot change, but last night I was reminded of how incredibly awesome my life is.  I allowed myself to be distracted (by positive things,) but it’s a good feeling to realize that I’m surrounded by stellar people who love me and want me to be happy.

I went to dinner last night and laughed until my face hurt.  We went to a new restaurant near my place called “Peche,” and everything we tasted was divine.

Peche New Orleans

After that, I spent the rest of the evening with two of my favorite men on the planet – Clint and Joe, and it was at that point that I realized that I wasn’t sad anymore.

Exercise has definitely played a role in pulling me out of this emotional rut too.  It’s funny, isn’t it?  Most of us know that we’ll feel better after a sweaty workout, but sometimes it feels nearly impossible to get up and do it.  Am I the only one who feels this way?

I’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to God lately too, and feeling His love and comfort has gotten me through this emotionally rough period.  Someone important to me sometimes  says, “the blessing is in the brokeness.”  (Yeah, I know that “brokeness” isn’t a word, but it’s true, to a point.)

It’s awesome to lean on God and to feel that He has everything under control, but the rest of that statement is overly religious rubbish.  Leaning on God when you need Him is amazing, but He heals us so we can bless others.  We can’t touch the lives of other people if we’re always broken.

I feel so much better than I have in weeks, and it feels good to be happy again.  It’s amazing how wonderful you feel when you jump back in and start experiencing all of the reasons you have to be thankful.

Does anyone else understand what I’m saying?  Have you ever made yourself feel better by recognizing all of the reasons you have to be thankful?

 

 

My Public Statement

I don’t talk about GOD on my blog everyday, but I have mentioned all of the changes that have occurred in me lately.  I’ve experienced life in a completely different way, and one of the biggest differences lies in the fact that I know that GOD loves me.   I believe in Him, and I believe that He lives in me.  It’s weird for me to say things like that so openly because if you’ve followed my blog very long, then you may know that I didn’t always feel that way.

I was baptized in Lake Pontchartrain Sunday afternoon.  I was baptized when I was a kid, but I did it again because I’ve spent the last several months in a totally renewed relationship with GOD.  I was so excited to publicly acknowledge my relationship with Him and my desire to commit myself to Him, and I think it’s important to do it here because I’ve committed so much of myself to this blog over the last four and a half years.  After more than a decade of feeling as though I didn’t need Him, it feels amazing to know that He is for me.

Kenlie Nola Church

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I saw the worst parts of the church, and as a result, I turned away from GOD.  I could not have been more condescending about church goers if I tried, and I didn’t understand why anyone would waste their time surrounded by such hypocrisy and judgement.  Those things summed up church for me, and I blamed GOD for it.

Over the last few months, I have written about my desire to cultivate my relationship with Him.  I was not looking for a church home, nor did I have any interest in getting to know GOD in my adult life.  I thought I was content in making the changes that I needed to make for myself, then something happened.  I felt His presence, and I began to pray.

I asked GOD to show Himself to me, and He did.  Through prayer I found myself feeling comfort and contentment and strength that I’ve never experienced before, and people in my life started noticing a difference.  I started noticing a difference, and I needed to acknowledge it out loud so I went into a cold lake and made that statement.  (That’s my pastor, Monte Young, next to me in the middle of the photo below.)

Monte Young Kenlie Baptism Lake Pontchartrain

My outside self hasn’t changed or moved forward with weight-loss in ages, but everything is different.  I am different.    I’m constantly amazed by the love and the grace that I’ve received while I was so undeserving.  I’m still imperfect, but I’ve been set free.

If you’re still reading this post, you don’t have to worry.  I have no plans to become a pious, judgmental Bible thumper who gets spiritual about everything.  I’m still the same flawed person who is struggling to finish what I started.  I’m not going to preach to you everyday, but I am going to pray for you.  I believe that GOD  loves everyone one of us, and I want you to experience the peace that comes in knowing Him.

The more I seek Him, the more I realize that He was always there.  I am loved.  I am forgiven.  I am redeemed, and I am blessed.  I could never put into words how thankful I am for his never-ending grace, and I sincerely hope and pray that you will allow Him to work in your life too….

 

 

I Stopped Dating, But…

I have spent the last 30 days focusing on things that enrich my life because going on unsatisfying dates was no longer cutting it.  In lieu of dating I spent time cultivating friendships, enjoying time with my family and getting closer to GOD.  I do all of those things regularly already, but taking the dating out of the equation for a little while helped eliminate distractions.  My official ban is coming to a close, and it has given me the opportunity to focus on everything that I do have.

As I reflect on the last 30 days it’s easy to see how much love exists in my life, and I’m so thankful for it.  My life is completely and utterly different than it was only a few years ago, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to say that and mean it!  After a long, tumultuous road that was paved with heartache, repentance and healing, I’m happy…genuinely happy.  I’d like to be in a relationship, and I think it’s okay to want that.  I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to admit it.

I wrote an open letter to my future husband almost two years ago. (You can read it here.)  I still want him to possess some of the those qualities that are important to me.  I also need him to have a relationship with GOD because I have never experienced the kind of peace and freedom that I have since I began getting closer to Him.  Of course, I still want my significant other to keep me safe from the occasional spider, open doors and pump gas even though I am perfectly capable of doing those things.

Nothing earth shattering happened as a result of my dating ban, but I am glad I did it.  It served its purpose, though I did find myself discovering possible feelings for one particular man who kind of seems like an unlikely match for me.  I like him...a lot, and though I will continue swooning quietly in his presence, I’ll also continue to focus on everything that already makes my life good too.

I don’t have any hot dates planned for now, and I’m okay with that.  I want something real and lasting so I’m focusing on everything that I do have.   I am blessed with so much more than I could have imagined, and I don’t want another relationship in which GOD isn’t at the center. (Who am I? Wow!)   I believe in my heart that there’s probably a man who will complement the life that I love, and I still can’t wait to kiss him good night.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Church, Or Things You Didn’t Think You’d Hear Kenlie Say…

There are days in which I feel like discussing things here that are totally unrelated to weight-loss, and today is one of those days.  I tend to work through feelings as I post them here so today I feel like sharing something personal that I don’t normally discuss.

If you’ve been here long, you may know that my dad was a preacher when I was growing up.  I grew up going to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night and usually at least one additional night for some kind of Bible study or youth group.  I spent a lot of time in church, and I saw a lot of things that I didn’t like.

As a teenager I still attended church at every turn, but when I was 17 or so, I decided that I didn’t want to.  I did anyway because I had to, but I found myself increasingly fed up with the hypocrisy and politics of church.

My late teens were the worst years of my life for reasons that I may never be comfortable sharing here.  I was dealing with my parents’ recent divorce among other horrible things, and I vividly remember driving around town, trying to figure out how I could end my life without it hurting too much.  I remember being unable to imagine what it would be like to celebrate my 30th birthday. (It was awesome, by the way.)

I remember walking into a Bible study one evening and hearing my friends/fellow church-goers gossiping about my problems. I remember being disappointed and beyond mortified. Life was hard, and I was keenly aware that the church was the last place I could go for support.

I needed peace and assurance that everything would be okay, but I didn’t find that. Instead I faced gossip, judgment and condescension.  The meanest, most judgmental people I knew were from the church, and I decided that if that’s what church was about, I didn’t want any part of it.

Over the last decade I have continued to distance myself from the church.  I go when I visit Dad, or when it’s important to someone in my family.   I’ve gone on occasion over the years, but I haven’t been a member of any church or organization since my late teens.  For years I felt so much anger toward the church that I couldn’t have a conversation about it or about God without becoming a condescending jerk.

Almost a year ago I met someone who had been through similar experiences growing up.  He’s a big part of a church here, and the day I met him (through Shannon) I made it clear that I did not like church and that I likely wouldn’t go.  He made it a point to know that he wasn’t pressuring me to.  We were both really upfront about it, but I worried that he might judge me or dislike me because I didn’t go.

After a few months of assuming that we’d never be close because I was a cursing, non-church-goer, I began to realize that he was my friend.  Over time I stopped waiting to see him roll his eyes or judge me because he never did it, and he continued to disprove everything I thought about people who go to church.

When he started dating someone new recently I started spending even more time with him because I really like her too.  I connected with her immediately, and when she mentioned that I should come to church, I said “okay.”  I’ve told Jeff and Shannon more than once that I was strongly considering showing up on a Sunday morning, but two weeks ago I did it.

Visiting this church had been on my mind for quite a while, but it took several months for me to convince myself to go.  In my mind I knew what church was all about, and everyone always says that their church is different.  Jeff said that too.  He said that I would walk in and not feel condemned or judged, and though I wanted to believe him, I didn’t.

I’m not sure what changed two weeks ago, but I decided to show up.  I got there a few minutes before the service started, and I was a little nervous.  I think I was bracing myself for the realization that this church was just like the rest of them, but that realization never came.  Instead, I found myself nervously embracing what was happening in me and around me, and by the time the service ended, I knew I wanted to go back.

It’s hard to make sense of my feelings surrounding this church, but I can sum it up by saying that I didn’t leave feeling “preached at.”  I know that sounds ridiculous when speaking about church, but I felt like the pastor taught from the Bible rather than shoving it down my throat.

I went back last Sunday, and again, I felt a little nervous.  Somewhere inside my head I wondered if the prior week had been a fluke, but I felt just as welcome, comfortable and fulfilled as I did the week before.  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a church home.  Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a church home, but I’m open to the possibility that this church could become that for me…and soon.

It’s hard to release the doubt, fear and anger that I’ve held on to for so long, but for the first time since my uncle prayed for me, I felt that God was there.  I felt safe, and I did not feel judged.  Maybe it’s because so many people there have been through similar experiences, or maybe it’s because there are genuine, God-loving people in the world.  Maybe I am just ready to embrace it.

I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about my place there.  When I’m part of that service, it feels like I’m where I’m supposed to be.  It feels like a place in which I can continue to  heal and grow, and for now, that’s more than enough.

Do you attend church regularly?  What made you decide to attend or not attend?