The Solitary Place

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I lay on the floor, listening. Sometimes I do this, when I am all alone. It’s a good feeling. My long hair spreads out behind me. My cat hovers near the shades, wondering what has gotten into her playmate. I listen, in the shadowy darkness of a rain hushed day. I hear water falling on my roof. I see trees out my window. And I keep asking, will God provide for me?

It’s a silly thing to ask. I had a Starbucks coffee today, a rare treat, and went to a bookstore and browsed the shelves. I visited a grandma I feared I would lose months ago. She told me stories. Stories about the Swedish Hospital, and about the Alaska boy she met there. She told me of tapping on the wall between their rooms, and him and his roommates tapping back. She told me about the swimming pool and how the water held her up so she could walk. That was after the polio came.

So. Yes. God has provided. I look up at the popcorn ceiling. It’s empty and white. My life isn’t empty. Not anymore. So. God does work miracles. But I need Him to fill up my home. I need another miracle.

God, will you come?

 

The Saturday Before Easter

Do you remember what the worst day of your life felt like? I do. I felt like I would never sleep again. I felt humiliated and shamed. The world looked gray, as if a sheet had been dropped over my vision. My whole body felt sick and without health. I felt as if my soul was exposed and everyone could see how foolish I had been. My joy and hope were gone–shattered, crushed underfoot.

That’s what I think the disciples felt on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Can you imagine how long that day lasted? They didn’t know when the horror would be over. Their hopes had been snuffed out. They were confused. They were in shame. I’m sure Peter just wanted to say he was sorry, but now it was too late. Grief, fear, and an aching hollowness were their closest companions.

Jesus had promised hope. Where was that hope now? It was there, they had just forgotten His words. He promised that Friday–the day of His death–was not the end. We honor Jesus’s death, but we celebrate Him coming back to life. God didn’t leave Jesus dead, and neither will He leave you in a place of deadness.

Relationships and Dictatorships

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It seems all the popular Christian dating books say that, in order to be godly, we girls must let the guy lead.

Here’s the problem: Guys have sin natures and MANY are INCREDIBLY SELFISH. I cannot name the number of times I’ve heard from girls (and personally experienced) the following: “He led me on and hurt my heart.”

Christian writers are advocating for a dictatorship. And out of that dictatorship, the woman is powerless and at the mercy of the man. One of the worst spiritual attacks I came under was on this score. I felt I’d screwed up horrifically and that God hated me because I’d been honest with a guy about my feelings and asked him about a relationship. The demons used that to torment me for years. I was so very scared. And I felt I’d utterly screwed up (there’s a lot more to that story too. That guy wasn’t kind verbally and emotionally).

Let me ask you: Why did the Founding Fathers set up “checks and balances” in our government? Because they knew we have a sin nature, and they’d already seen that absolute power corrupts. This, I believe, utterly applies to relationships. We need checks and balances. Women need the freedom to know it’s okay to call a guy out on stuff. They need to know they can be honest, and hold guys to a high standard. They need to know it’s okay to say to a guy: “I want to date.” And then? They will have the opportunity to see what the guy’s reaction is. We women don’t “come free.” And neither do our hearts. Like I told one guy: “My friendship costs something. If you want the old friendship back, you are welcome to date me.”

So, women: Don’t get caught under the lies I got stuck under of “I’m sinning if I don’t let a guy lead.” I’ve saved myself a shortening of heartache many times by ASKING a guy his intentions. I call this “forcing their hand.” It’s true. That’s exactly what I did–twice, specifically, that I can think of. If a guy shies away from commitment, then ask yourself how much you’re really worth to him. Too many guys feed off women like sick leaches (and I know women do this to guys too. I’m not placing this blame strictly on guys. I have a brother, and I’ve heard stories).

God help me, I even proposed marriage to a guy once, just to see his reaction. He seemed to think I was crazy. But I wasn’t. My end goal of dating relationships is potential for marriage. If a guy wants me, my emotions, and my body without commitment, then we’ve got a problem. My body will only belong to my husband, and that’s that. I will only invest my emotions if a guy is honoring me, being trustworthy, and is truly following God. If a guy wants a girl “to have fun with” emotionally, he can go find someone else. A man who uses one woman after another emotionally, but without commitment just because he can’t handle being alone–a man like that has issues.

A last note on relationships (once you’re dating):

I’ve had a few dating relationships, and a few pseudo dating relationships. I always pushed them to the point of breaking it off when I was seeing that #1 They were verbally treating me like trash. #2 Had other women in their life. #3 Were dishonoring me in their actions. Etc. If a man is not treating you like the daughter of God you are, then don’t continue to date him, and don’t marry him. Who wants a husband like that?

Dr. Del Tackett

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“The Truth Project” had a huge impact in my life. We did the series with our homegroup (all the girlz, and my scout brother family) the years before I left for the hellish environment of university. It gave me one of the foundations I desperately needed to keep my faith off at college, and to lovingly combat with the professors and show the truth. And, I believe, it even ended up saving the life of one of my classmates.

Years later, after my second boyfriend had broken up with me (he had a past in porn), I was watching it again. And Dr. Del Tackett mentioned that if we knew who God really was, then men would not look at porn. That intrigued me. So, I Facebook messaged Dr. Del Tackett, telling him my writing goal, and asking for his input.

Here is an extract from our conversations:

Dr. Del Tackett:

Hi, [Arielle]. I don’t really do Facebook, but happened to log on and saw your note. What questions do you have?

My reply:

 

“You made some statements about pornography in the first or so lesson (I’m paraphrasing, but you said you’d talked with some men who struggled with it, and if they believed God was always watching them, they’d not be living that lifestyle). I’ve heard similar testimonies and have been blogging about the topic, for the purpose of offering wisdom and hope to those struggling, since it is such a great evil. How do you address it with people? (If you don’t mind).

“Thanks! I’m sure you’re super busy, and I appreciate you taking the time.

“Have a blessed Christmas!”

~~~Arielle

A later reply of mine: 

“I feel like God brings me into various people’s lives for a reason. And He’s gifted me as a writer, so I’m trying to address this topic of pornography. I hate what pornography has done to people, and how the church sometimes addresses it, and I want to write about God so that they can see His heart for them and find freedom, if they want to get free.”

One of his most powerful quotes: 

“It is important to note that when God created man, He made them male and female, so sexual issues go to one of the most basic designs of mankind.

“Pathologies here can become so deep that they require professional help. By that I primarily mean those kinds of programs that are required by those trapped in any addiction, possibly month-long programs. Alcohol addiction requires not only that but a life-time commitment. Sexual addiction, I believe is even deeper.

“I applaud your desire to help in this area. It is one of the toughest to deal with, but we live in a culture that is awash with sensuality. Because of how we are made, this is especially devastating to the male, but it is increasingly effecting the female.

“All of it is the enemy’s attack on the image of God, which he hates, that has been forged into the essence of man. I am, by no means, an expert in this area. You may wish to seek advice from those who are. Dr. Juli Slattely is one.

“May the Lord bless you in your efforts. Soli Deo Gloria! Del”

(Me again)

Dear Reader,

After I dated the second time, I asked God that the next guy He sent would not have a past in pornography. God answered “no” to that request of mine. But He’s giving me a bird’s eye view, and I feel I can see (a part) of His plan. And man alive, am I blessed to be a part of this plan. “Be strong and courageous,” is one of my favorite verses.

My goal is to destroy pornography at its roots, and to help set free the church (by God’s might, not mine. Because I am constantly running out of strength, and having to constantly turn to His). And I know, because I’ve seen this happen over and over, that as soon as this ministry becomes about me, it will fail. May that never happen, by God’s grace.

Here is some advice. I am but a child, as many keep telling me. I am young, yes. But that doesn’t mean that God cannot use me mightily.

Women: Seek God. Honor Him. Choose to act as Jesus would act. But listen for His Voice, because He will not tell you all the same thing He told me. My first boyfriend was living in evil, and to continue to date him would have been, I believe an abomination. Each story is different. Walk in whatever path God calls you to.

Men: You are heroes. You can beat this, with God’s strength. You can “lick it,” as us country folk say. Dig deeply into God. See yourself through His eyes. If you do, you’ll already have beat the devil at his own game. For the devil’s goal is to destroy you. Lift up your head, and see God’s love, and what He did on the cross.

Men: Here is another point that Dr. Del Tackett made in his communications with me. I think you will find it powerful.

“Another key thing to study is the design for marriage and the desire God has placed within the man towards his wife and his desire to please her. He cannot do this through pornography and will therefore always be left unfulfilled, though the lie takes him back there over and over again.”

Don’t let porn into your life. And if you do, repent, and know God’s forgiveness. Don’t let it be the “secret sin.” I don’t care how ashamed you are of it–have the courage to seek out godly help. You will meet many Christians who will condemn you, but God will bring you more that will love you as you need to be loved. He will provide you with the support system you need.

And if there’s a woman in your life, don’t put it on her shoulders. Porn gives us women horrific pain, and attacks our identity. We will need help and support as much as you yourself do. Don’t make your woman fight alone. Cut off, you both will die.

 

 

Redefining Yourself

I think one of the biggest traps of the enemy is letting ourselves be defined by what we believe about ourselves–from the nasty things people say to us. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this too (saying nasty things), so that’s that, but… I have a story to tell.

I had a friend who used to tell me really uncool things about myself. I did set myself up for it though (something God is working on with me). I opened the door for that. But her words were… uncool, and stuck with me for years.

Kierra told me many things.

She told me (when I asked her to be careful that a guy was not leading her on). She told me the devil had used my words to plant doubt in her heart. That hurt. A lot. And though that was nearly four years ago now, I haven’t forgotten it.

She told me I was obsessed with guys. I took that poison into my heart, and believed it for many years. I’m not obsessed. Do I think about my future a lot? Do I notice guys? I do. And how exactly is that ungodly?

She told me it was abnormal to not have guys as friends (I did have guys as friends though. They were my “little brothers,” and we had the best of fun–always. I will always praise them, for they are men of God). I didn’t have many guys my age as friends because they made me uncomfortable. That was that. Nothing wrong with being that way.

I always told myself I should be like her–less time spent with my “head in the clouds.” I told myself I cried too easily. I often called myself a drama queen (which was just plain mean. Why am I so kind to others and so cruel to myself? Is that not an attack of the devil?).

Those were all spiritual attacks–every single one. Shut your filthy, lying mouth, devil. I command you to flee, in Christ’s Name. I see your attacks, and I will not give you those footholds again. Flee.

In Which God Teaches Me a Lot about Myself

I’ve been struggling with the concept that God gives us grace to fail. You see, I’m a perfectionist (which the devil has often used against me).

Definition of a perfectionist: Someone who holds themselves to high, perfect standards, and then beats themselves over the head when they can’t (or don’t), meet that self-imposed requirement.

Today, I taught dance class to a five-year-old and her three-year-old sister. The elder girl is a perfectionist. It’s like looking in a mirror, honestly. Her face falls when she doesn’t “do it right.” And when she sees an eight-year-old do a dance she doesn’t know, she thinks I expect her to be able to dance it (boy, is God teaching me a lot about myself).

The thing is, I don’t expect any form of perfection from her. I know her capabilities (she has a real talent. I knew that from our first dance class, and it’s been a joy to teach her), and I encourage her to become a beautiful dancer. But I’m never disappointment if she doesn’t “get it right.” I’m just so proud of her that she’s trying so hard.

She and her sister are such a joy to me. I always look forward to teaching them.

But, that perfectionism… When she doesn’t do the dance movement just right, I don’t beat her up verbally (which is what I used to do to myself for years, until God showed me the verse: “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and I realized that I needed to love myself). When my dancer messes up, I just help her, and show her what I want (“turn out that foot a little more,” “move your heel,” “push your knee back,” “eyes up,” etc.).

She’s only five. She’s still a little one. She’s still learning.

God loves me so much. Each and every day, He’s been showing me that more and more (and God knows, I need it. I’ve had a rough life these past few years. Been a tough road). Now I know how He sees me and feels about me.

And that dance class? That was my God-kiss for the day.

Family History (Dad’s Side)

Papa (my grandpa) flew a P-47 Thunderbolt in WWII. He was about twenty-two at the time, during the War. He even has this amazing story of when he got shot down in the China Sea, and the Chinese helped him escape the Japanese. We have a copy of his story of it he wrote (typed up on a typewriter).

My main memory is when he told us he was flying, and an enemy plane was right beside him, and he looked across (as did the other man) and they looked at each other. And you know what? They were both human beings. When Ian was eight or so, Papa gave him his dog tags.

Papa met Mimi in Hawaii (Dad thinks). They stationed Papa there after the whole being-shot-down thing, to recuperate. Mimi was from California. Papa was from the Boston area. They fell in love and married, and they had three children (my dad is the middle child). Dad and Forrie were born in Cali.

There are several things I remember about Papa (both from my own memories, and from stories told me). He had a TON of integrity. He was super outdoorsy. He was an amazing photographer. He was extremely competitive (my dad is too). Dad says it was never a “win no matter the cost,” but he did say that Papa always “played his A-game, and never let me win by doing poorly.”

Me? I’m a perfect blend of Mimi and Papa, honestly. And yet, I am so much like my mom’s side of the family that it’s not even funny. When us gals get together… oh dear. We laugh loud, tell hilarious stories, don’t fret about table manners, and just generally have a blast. I fit right in with my mom, my grandma, my aunt, etc. They were work-with-their-hands type of people (Grandpa built his own house with his own hands). Grandma Eva was a very can-do woman, despite her polio.

Papa was very involved in both his families (he and Mimi divorced when my dad was eight or so). About a year later, and a friend of a friend mentioned Nani to him, and they went out on a date. The rest, as they say, is history. I grew up loving both my families, and both our extended families. That’s one thing I love about my family: We love each other a lot. Do you know how rare that is? My family is marked by a legacy of love.

Mimi was a Christian Scientist. Papa was a Methodist, though not a practicing one at the time. A lot of their disagreements were over religion.

He and Nani got saved later, and that’s when they started walking with Jesus. Nani gave me some of the best life advice I’ve ever received: “Stay very, very close to Jesus.” It was Nani who gave me my first Bellingham church, those years at WWU. The pastor of Grace Church had spoken at her church, and so she recommended that church to me. And that was my home church for my first year or so at WWU. I started my church-hopping because a gal friend needed to find a good church, and she didn’t want to go alone.

There are only two Allard boys in our family–my brother, and my cousin Kyle. Mom always said that if her kids turned out half as good as Forrie and Nancy’s kids, she and Dad would have done well. I agree, in a lot of ways. My cousin Kim is someone I really love, and I love my cousin Kyle too. It was because Elora (my writing group gal friend) reminded me of my cousin Kim that I chose to trust her and go to her for help. Kim just has this really sweet heart, honestly.

My other favorite cousin is my cousin Jody (she’s married to my immediate cousin, Nate). When I see her, I think: “That’s what my mom was like as a young adult.” She’s sweet, and tough, and strong, and tomboyish but perfectly feminine. I love watching her and her husband parent their kids. Their daughter looks a lot like Nani did as a little child.

Papa gave me my Scotland trip when I was fifteen. Did you know that? I remember that beautiful, hot summery day. I was fourteen. I came back from a walk, and heard: “We want to send you and Nani and your mom to Scotland.” And my heart swelled so happily, I was giddy for days. It’s what gave birth to all my dreams of visiting the Celtic lands.

I wanted to go to college at Aberdeen University (they have a great Celtic history program, and excellent classes in Gaelic). But it was too expensive, and I didn’t want to be that much in debt (and I couldn’t find any decent scholarships). Instead, I chose my Celtic trip (the one I took this past summer). My God is a good God. WWU was where I was meant to be.

 

A Dancer Reborn

I am a dancer on the stage of life. I am graceful, and poised, and confident. How, you ask? Simple: Jesus is my Lord. He is the source of my confidence. He is the reason for my beauty, inside and out. He is the root of my courage. He is the cry of my heart.

I am a dancer on the stage of life. A beautiful thing you will have never before seen. To see me dance, is to see perfection incarnate. I am more beautiful than the most beautiful, air-brushed model. I am more beautiful than the cold beauty of a heartless queen. To see me dance, is to see LIFE, and life more abundantly. How, you ask? Because God is AMAZING.

I danced in a wind tunnel today, a sky diver up in Seattle, dressed in her flight suit. I knew exactly what to do. I’d been observing carefully. And like a graceful dancer, I soon mastered it and flew. I defied everything. I knew exactly what I was doing, and I was fearless. The instructor said I twisted too much, and didn’t keep my form well enough. I didn’t tell her it was because I was testing out lowering and raising myself in the tunnel, by changing form. She was my safety net, but I was my own teacher, in many ways.

I stood in a wind tunnel today, and I danced, and watched others dance. And I told myself: I can do that. Every spinning turn, every moment of upside-down spinning, every movement of Peter Pan flying–I can do that, I told myself. I can do that.

That’s me and life, I realized. That’s how I live my life: I can do that.