If You’re Looking for a Sign..

This week is Suicide Prevention Week. And I have something to tell you.

No, I’ve never attempted to end my life. I’ve never quite reached that level of hopelessness and I fervently pray I never do.

But I have seen trying times. I’ve cried fat, hot, ugly tears that seemed to never end and I’ve been on my face, more times than I can count, begging my Father to just help me.

I know what it’s like to be perfectly healthy and yet, somehow, not feel “quite right.”

I’ve experienced anxiety so crippling that I could barely get out of bed. There have been times where I’ve been completely and utterly overwhelmed with every emotion in the book. And perhaps even worse, there have been times where I’ve felt nothing at all…

Please know this: this is NOT a post about how awful my life is – I am not looking for pity. This is not a post about all the terrible things I’ve been through. My life, in fact, is
blessed beyond measure and, fortunately, the terrible things I’ve been through are few.

This is a post about mental illness – not the kind that can be seen, but the kind that hides behind smiling faces and perfectly edited Instagram pictures.

This is a post about being sad for no reason. This is a post about panic attacks. This is a post about lying awake at night because your brain won’t let you stop thinking about the countless ways that you could fail tomorrow.

This is a post about shame and guilt, because maybe you have no reason to feel these things, but yet.. you do.

This is a post about being afraid to talk about your struggles. And this is me begging you to stop being afraid.

This is me, attempting to share what it’s like to deal with issues that make no sense.

This is me telling you that sometimes it’s okay to not be okay and this is me telling you that it’s okay to ask for help.

This is me telling you that your heavenly Father will come through for you no matter what.

This is me telling you that “the light at the end of the tunnel” is not just a stupid cliché. The light at the end of the tunnel is Jesus Christ himself.

This is me telling you that there is deliverance from pain and fear and guilt and shame. This is me telling you that I found Hope and his name is Jesus.

This is me telling you that this world is a better place with you in it. And even though it may not seem like it, your struggles can be overcome.

This is me, Chelsey. And you, whomever you may be, are not alone. You were created for a purpose. And no matter what your thoughts might tell you, that purpose is not suicide.

I know far too many people who’ve ended their lives young and I can’t help but wonder if they’d still be here if someone had said something.

So, this is me, Chelsey, saying something.cdf2a24c09382e1e7f1e48c63920364d

If you’re looking for a sign telling you not to kill yourself tonight, this is it.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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Grace Changes Everything

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3:23

On one hand, I find this verse comforting. I’m not the only one who seems to make a habit of failing, over and over, again and again. But on the other hand, I find this verse wildly discouraging. No matter how sinless I try to be, the reality is that I’ll fall short every day. The only perfect, sinless, worthy man to ever walk this earth was Jesus himself. He set the perfect example for living a life worthy of God. That’s great, but am I the only one who feels like I’ve been set up for failure?

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me… For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Alright. So… our failures and weaknesses serve a greater purpose? That’s comforting, I suppose. But what about the guilt? What about the shame and the feeling of complete and utter worthlessness before the throne of God? Drunkenness, sexual immorality, dishonesty, selfishness, profanity, hatred…all those things can birth feelings strong enough to destroy a person. And yet, the Bible says boast? 

Each time I fail, sin, “mess up big-time,” it’s as though I’ve suffered some great tragedy. I feel paralyzed, insecure, worried that my sins and weaknesses will be chucked at my face, further proof that I have no right to proclaim the name of Christ.

But the real tragedy isn’t necessarily that I’ve failed. The real tragedy is that I’ve allowed the enemy to magnify these failures, filling me with guilt and shame and stripping me of my passion to pursue Christ. My guilt keeps me from the cross; it keeps me from meeting God in prayer, lifting Him up in worship, and seeking Him through His word. The enemy uses my guilt to push me toward a wasted life.

And then there’s grace. Grace changes everything. The beauty of grace is that we get it no matter what. Christ isn’t going to nail all your failures and weaknesses up on a wall for everyone to see. Instead, he nailed them to the cross. Everything that made me or you or anyone indebted to wrath…every sinful, drunken, sexually immoral, selfish, dishonest act was destroyed forever on the cross.

When Christ says, “my grace is sufficient,” he isn’t lying. His grace truly does cover everything we’ve done and everything we’ll do. This is by no means an invitation to keep on living a life of sin. Rather, it’s a beautiful reminder that we are loved and cherished and seen by Christ as PURE and BLAMELESS.

Instead of allowing the enemy to drown you in feelings of shame and guilt and worthlessness, point him to the cross. Let every one of your failures be a stark reminder to the enemy that he. lost. Rise above those feelings and rest in the knowledge that God “remembers your sin no more” (Heb. 8:12).

my grace

The Hot Mess Express

Remember that one time I had a blog? LOLZ.

In my defense, I spent most of last semester being punched repeatedly in the gut by a schedule that was, in all honestly, far beyond my ability to handle… but that story’s for another day.

So something cool happened today. I opened my Bible. Not out of duty or because I had to plan my next bible study lesson or because I had nothing else to do. I opened it because I actually, truly, genuinely wanted to meet with God. Which is obviously the way it should be EVERY time I open my Bible. But I’ll just be real with you right now – I haven’t truly desired companionship with my Creator in a long time. That sounds bad – trust me, I know. But I’ve decided that lying about it is silly and pretending that I’ve got all my bases covered when it comes to Jesus is even sillier.

I opened my Bible today, for the first time in a long time, with the sole intention of drawing close to my Father. And something great happened – he showed up.

I’ve been co-leading a women’s bible study through the Baptist Student Union for about 5 months now. When I was first asked to do it, I actually laughed out loud. Seriously, ask Jamie. I thought, “Goodness, they must be really short on leaders if they’re asking ME…” But for some ridiculous reason I agreed. And LET ME TELL YOU – it has been quite possibly one of the most rewarding experiences ever in the history of rewarding experiences.

But last semester, I was about as spiritually dry as you could be. Like I’m talking middle-of-the-day-in-the-dessert-with-no-water dry. It was bad. Jesus went from being front and center in my life to just another item on my to-do list that seemed to have no end. I “led” this community group, sure. But inwardly, I was a barren wasteland. I was an anxious wreck of a girl and I was giving from absolutely nothing.

I was the epitome of a hot mess.

And while I’d like to tell you that this is a post about how I’ve grown into such a mature, flawless model of a Christian woman who knows exactly what she’s doing in life… it’s not. The truth is, I’m still a hot mess. Honestly, “hot mess” will probably be a phrase that people will use to describe me for years to come… but that’s okay. The try-hard life isn’t for me and it shouldn’t be for you either.

See, I like to wear these masks sometimes. Somehow, I’ve rationalized that it makes total sense to feign strength when I feel weak, to force laughter and smiles when I just want to cry. Somewhere along the line, I started buying into this idea of perfection. This idea that if you’re a “good Christian woman,” then you’re perfect, you’re put-together, you’ve practically achieved sainthood. What a load of mushrooms. This stupid I-have-to-be-perfect mentality began to pull me so far from Christ that the only thing I felt when I thought of my Father was guilt. And guilt does not belong in a relationship with Jesus.

Jesus says, “Come.” He says, “Be with me.” He doesn’t say, “Get your crap together and then holla at me when you’re flawless.” No, he kicked back with tax collectors, people. TAX COLLECTORS. That title may not sound all that awful, but it’s basically Bible-talk for the worst of the worst. If you do your research, you’ll find that they were the cream of the awful-people-you-never-want-to-associate-with crop. They were EW.

But not to Jesus. You know what Jesus had to say to tax collectors? “Follow me.” He didn’t say, “Repent, do x hours of community service, become the epitome of perfection, and THEN follow me.” No, He wanted them exactly as they were. And, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, he wants us exactly as we are too.

The truth is, I’m not the Christian woman who knows what she’s doing. I’m not the girl who has it all together. I’m not the girl with an unshakable good mood and a perfectly disciplined Christian life.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be her. I so badly want to be that girl. I want to be the girl who doesn’t have to wear a mask of peace and contentment because THAT’S HER FACE. She has peace, she has contentment, and you can see it all over her face! I want that face.

I don’t want to be paralyzed with fear and anxiety. I don’t want to feel like I need to wear these masks to try and convince everyone that I have it all together. Because masks are stifling. And there’s freedom in taking them off, throwing them on the ground, and stomping them to pieces.

Dear world, I want you to know that, even on my best days, I am the epitome of a hot mess. And there is freedom in acknowledging before Jesus and everyone that sometimes (most of the time) I have no idea what I’m doing.

Today, Jesus showed me that masks are stifling and imprisoning and they don’t belong on our faces. He’s showing me that freedom tastes sweeter than the fake comfort of a mask. And when those feelings come back (and they will), the ones that say, “Put on your mask,” … Father, I pray I choose freedom.

Moldova State of Mind

Coming home was easy. When we landed stateside in Chicago, I practically kissed the ground. For the first time in two weeks, I could actually read billboards and converse with English-speaking strangers and – gasp – I wasn’t the only tall, blonde person! Be still my beating heart..

While I was waiting to go through customs, all I could think about was the fact that my friends and family and my warm, cozy bed were just one more flight away. I handed my passport over to the customs agent (like way too enthusiastically) and then he said, “Welcome back, the States have missed you!” ……just kidding, he was grouchy and kind of mean and he just handed my passport back like it was no big deal. Psh. But believe me when I say, that did not stop me from literally dancing my way down the obnoxiously long hallway that we were forced to walk through in order to officially enter the U.S.

I was home. And it was hard not to be excited about that.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that maybe being home wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought it’d be. People started asking me about my trip, which obviously makes sense… But I didn’t know what to say. The question, “How was your trip?” quickly became my worst enemy. I’d hear those words and it was like my mind would just shut down. Even three weeks later, I’m still sitting here struggling to put it all into words.

One word comes to mind: ineffable. My good friend Merriam Webster defines ineffable as something “too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.” Sounds about right. I’m not going to sit here and write out every single detail about the trip because (a) who wants to read a novel and (b) words just simply won’t do it justice.

I mean, it wasn’t like anything huge and crazy and unbelievable happened… It’s actually the small things that stand out to me the most. Like when I saw Chisinau for the first time. Or when I noticed how ironic it was that such beautiful countryside surrounds a place that knows darkness and depravity all too well.

Like when I saw a blind woman being forced to beg on the side of the road.

Or when we stood across from a neighborhood entirely inhabited by pimps and just prayed.

Like when I realized that it’s still possible to worship, even when the song’s in a different language.

Or when I stood alone in the middle of an empty soccer field at the orphanage and cried, just because.

Like when Valentine and Daniel gave me flowers and I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was allergic to them.

Or when they’d laugh at me when I tried to speak Romanian and couldn’t roll my r’s..

Like when Cristie laid his head in my lap and fell asleep. Or when I was hugging him goodbye for the last time and I couldn’t bring myself to let go first.

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It’s the smallest things that always seem to move me in the biggest ways.

And I’ll never forget the time my rowdy, ornery group of boys had to come up with our team’s name and motto. Amy and I were practically taking bets on which ridiculous name they’d choose… team awesome sauce… team chupacabra… team fire breathing rubber duckies.. No. They chose “Speranta,” which means hope. And they chose “Speranta Moare Ultima” as our team’s motto. Hope dies last.

I didn’t know at the time, but that was the first of many more surprises those boys had in store for me.

My heart breaks every time I see those faces. Who knows where they’ll end up? They belong to a culture that practically welcomes violence and oppression.

I’m gonna be brutally honest for a second… Statistically, the majority of the girls in that orphanage will end up in forced prostitution. And statistically, the boys in that orphanage will be the ones selling them. That’s almost surely the future that awaits those kids outside the gates of that orphanage if evil were to have its way.

Enter New Hope Moldova – the ministry we worked with on our trip. Lemme tell ya, that ministry is doing amazing things. Their passion for Christ and their passion for the children of Moldova are evident in everything they do. Their motivation and dedication to make a difference in their country is absolutely inspiring. The people at New Hope Moldova are the kind of people who make you question what you’re doing with your life. Not in a bad way, but in a way that truly motivates you to spend your time doing something that matters.

The people I met and the memories I made have truly changed me. Now that I’ve been there, now that I’ve seen, I can’t go back to the way things were. I miss those kids. It’s so easy for me to begin feeling helpless because I’m here in the States. But that’s absolutely the opposite of what I should be feeling. It’s my job now, to tell their stories, to be their advocate, to be their prayer warrior, and to enlist others to pray on their behalf!

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about them, and I pray that never changes. To my supporters: thank you. Your prayers and donations played just as big a part in all of this as I did. I have just one more thing to ask of you all: pray.

Pray for the children you see in these pictures. Pray for the people of Moldova. Pray prayers of hope and peace over the trafficking victims and pray prayers of revelation and heart-change over their traffickers. Pray for New Hope Moldova, that they would remain strong and faithful throughout their fight against human trafficking. And pray for me, that my life would be spent pouring into others, and that I won’t, even for a second, forget the things that truly matter.

I’m Really Terrible at Naming My Blog Posts

Sometimes I cry in public places. Not intentionally, of course, but sometimes I just can’t help it. Grief is a weird thing. My grams passed away over two years ago and I still have days where it’s as though it happened just yesterday.

I’m sitting here in Starbucks trying (and failing) to blink back tears because I was just rocked by a memory so vivid that I don’t even know what to do with myself. It wasn’t even a memory, really – it was a smell. A woman walked by me and, I swear, she smelled just like her. Lavender – that’s what grams smelled like. She always wore lavender-scented lotion.

So here I am in Starbucks, vividly surfing through memory after memory, remembering things I haven’t thought about in years.. Crazy how a simple smell can take you back like that. I think what really got to me was the fact that I forgot. I forgot that she smelled like lavender. Even as I’m writing this, I realize it sounds like a silly thing to be upset about – like, why am I crying… but I guess I’m just a little shocked that I could just forget parts of her like that.

The experience of losing someone so close to me has definitely been a journey. I’ve never missed someone so much in my life. But I can’t help but be thankful for how God has revealed Himself to me through this. Isaiah 43 has straight up been calling my name:

“But now this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (v.1, 2)

The rivers won’t sweep over me. The flames won’t burn me. He is God and He calls me His.

Like I said, grief is a weird thing. I think right now it’s sort of a peaceful kind of grief. Maybe even hopeful. Or maybe it isn’t grief at all. Maybe it’s just a tearful acknowledgment of what I’ve lost – overshadowed by the promise that I haven’t really lost anything at all. Because my grams worshipped Jesus. The same Jesus who died on a cross and then rose again three days later. Jesus is alive and so is she! And that’s totally worth celebrating. Kinda makes me want to dance… until I remember that I can’t dance. So I guess I’ll just blog about it.. (:

Yesterday, Today, and Forever

So can we just take a moment to think about the cross? To truly think about the fact that God loves us unconditionally? I’m floored. Every day, I give God a thousand reasons that prove I’m unworthy of His love. And yet, every day He still chooses to love me. Like enough to die on a cross.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:18)

Yesterday and today and forever. I don’t deserve a love like that… but I so desperately need it. Christ is my rock. Right here, right now, I need Him. And I’ll need Him tomorrow and the next day and for the rest of my existence.

How comforting it is to know that He’ll be there. Even through my anger, through my indifference, through my recklessness, through my pride, through my stubbornness, through my selfishness.. He’ll take me back. He always will. It doesn’t matter how badly I screw up, how far I stray, He is still there and He is still the same merciful, loving Father that He’s always been. He’s just waiting for me at the place where my knees hit the floor.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Praise God.

Empty Spaces

My life is so drastically different from what it was two years ago. Thank you, God, for that! But some days, my heart just hurts a little, knowhatimsayin? Sort of like a broken bone that heals but still aches every time it rains.

I dunno why people seem to come and go and I dunno why God calls people home when it seems like they still had years of life left to live. But I do know that God is faithful and He will never leave us empty and broken.

Today and every day, I’m grateful for the people who’ve been filling my empty spaces.