Once Upon a Lifetime


Once upon a time old friend,

Our roads were intertwined

Once upon a time 

Our past was redefined

Once upon a time my friend

Our stories did rewind

Once upon a time

What was yours was mine

Once upon a time back then

Our friends were all the same

Once upon a time

We swore we’d never change

Once upon a time to them

We’d be close all the same

Once upon a time

We said we’d never drift away

Once upon a lifetime

We were all caught by surprise

When once upon a time

Our friendships slowly died. 

“You’re Gonna Sing the Words Wrong…”

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Riptide by Vance joy struck me in a way that few songs do the very first moment I heard it. I think it took me almost two months to actually find out who the song was written by, but one line in particular haunted me for a very long time:

“I love you when you’re singing this song and I’ve got a lump in my throat cause you’re gonna sing the words wrong.”

Funny story: I actually started writing this post over a year ago, but I was so wrapped up in the emotions surrounding it that I couldn’t finish it. After a while, the fate that awaits many of my wonderful ideas came about and I forgot about it. That is, until now.

This song rings the anthem of insecurity for me. I’ve read Vance Joy’s interviews on the way he wrote it, and as fascinating as all of that is, it struck a personal note with me. Perhaps it was the descriptive honesty that brought me to such a reaction, but after all, I’ve been that way with songs for as long as I can remember.

That particular line resonated with my deep fear of no one ever fully understanding me.

My battle with insecurity is a grueling one that predates my awareness of its existence. When I was a child, I wrote in codes and spoke in stories because I had determined that no one could possibly understand what I really wanted to say. My little habits led to much more complicated problems as I grew older. Although I learned how to communicate fairly well, expressing emotions was not my strong point.

This past Spring I took up the challenge to read a book called “Secure in Heart” with the intention of beginning to recover from my battle with insecurity. As a friend of mine would always say “Insecurity is direct pride against God,” and I was tired of questioning the way that God made me. If you read through the scriptures, the Bible is full of incredible men that God chose, but they battled insecurity; Moses, Gideon, and Peter come to mind. However, these fears caused them problems later on in their walk, and it is clear from scriptures that insecurity is not a God-given feeling.

2 Peter 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

In efforts to put everything on the table, I extensively went through all of my fears and insecurities (both past and present) and searched for scriptures to counter my emotions. As you can imagine, this was a messy process that resulted in digging up many things I had forgotten about. However, I’ve found it to be worth it. Finding the source of my insecurity (as painful as that was) allowed me to see God’s provision for true security.

Insecurities (or false securities) come when we decide that God’s provision is not enough and that we must measure up to an imaginary requirement; not being good enough, loneliness, fear of failure, fear of abandonment, lack of trust, ect.

As a leader, my insecurities are magnified by my responsibilities and the charge to be an example to those around me. This year I’ve battled with depression, been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, been in a painful car accident, seen women turn their backs on God and in turn get angry with me, and it’s only June. On the other side of things, I’ve seen and experienced many wonderful things in God’s grace as well. Yet, I’ve come closer to God through my challenges than I have my victories and through my weaknesses I’m truly beginning to understand what Paul meant in this passage:

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

However, as leaders our security must not come from success, as many of us will fall and fail to reach certain goals. The only way to truly overcome your battle with insecurity is to truly find your security in God. Sure, there are wonderful people in my life that help me and teach me and have become very dear to me, but not one of those people can give me true security. Sure, God has given me intelligence and talents and has shown me success in this life, but I have also come across many weaknesses and failures. People are there for you sometimes, but it is inevitable that they let us down and we tend to do the same for them. I’ve learned that it’s unfair to expect people to do and say the right thing all the time, your expectations could be the very thing that makes it difficult to have good relationships. The only one who can truly never fail you always has your back, but trusting in God is no excuse to push people away. Let people fail you, let them hurt you, let yourself hurt others, it’s going to happen and you’re going to grow. If you expect people to take God’s role in your life, it will not only ruin your relationship with them, but also with Him. Instead of fighting to fill the insecurities in my heart with my own strength and comfort from others, I’ve been learning to accept what this passage really means:

Psalm 18:35 You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.

It would take much too long and way too many words to share my entire journey to true security in God, but I found my direct answer to this fear in particular here:

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

The insecurity that Riptide exposed in my heart is that the people I desire to share my life with will not fully understand the “Song” of my heart. As hard as it is to admit it, this is a fact. No one in your life will fully understand you (including yourself) the way that your Creator does, and He has the perfect song for each of us. A “Riptide” (the actual name would be a rip current) is one of the movements of the ocean that would pull you out to sea if you got caught in it. The only way to escape a rip before it runs out is to swim sideways and get out of it, if you try to swim against it, you’ll run out of energy and most likely get nowhere in the process, eventually drowning. Insecurity, much like a rip current can pull you off your feet and into the ocean spiritually. Don’t try to fight your insecurities with false securities, instead get out and find your true security in God.

While my battle with insecurity is far from over, I’m glad to say that I’m not giving up any time soon.

To God be the Glory,
Tori Lynn.

“God Knows My Heart”

When I hear a phrase like this, it’s usually in a defensive form. It is the anthem of modern false Christianity and the very poison that keeps many people from seeing the true light.

The truth? Yes, God knows your heart. But what does a statement like that really imply? It’s most common use is along the lines of; “Yes, I’m purposely choosing to sin but God knows that I’m really a good person most of the time.”

Think about it. How many times have you reasoned that in your own mind? Before you get super defensive reading this, I realize that I’ve used this way of thinking to excuse my own sin before too, and it’s not okay. In my own life, I’ve used this terminology to justify my laziness. I love serving in certain capacities, but when it comes to “Domestic” ways of serving (Cooking, cleaning, ect.) I struggle with coming up with excuses. What about you?

This morning I was reading in Luke when I came across this particular passage:

Luke 16:14-15 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

That didn’t quite feel like the cozy “God knows my heart” saying that passes around. You see, when Jesus taught a hard line message about not loving money, the Pharisees responded in their hearts with contempt. How do you respond to someone calling out your sin? Do you accept the correction or try to justify yourself?

The concept of “God knows my heart” saturates the scriptures pretty deeply. In response to this theology, I’d like to look at a few of the other passages that have similar statements.

Matthew 9:2-6 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”

This passage gives another example of Jesus seeing clearly into peoples’ hearts, and what he saw was less than pleasant. God always sees the evil thoughts we entertain. Sure, maybe it wasn’t your idea, maybe it was something that Satan tried to slip into your heart, but did you entertain it? God may know your heart, but that is certainly not an excuse to live wildly. On the other side, Jesus also saw the faith of the paralytic’s friends. What does God see when he looks into your heart?

Proverbs 15:11 Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD– how much more do human hearts!

Nothing is beyond God’s knowledge. You can’t choose to only let him see the good in you, although many of us are guilty of doing that with the people in our lives, it doesn’t work with God. Your heart lies open before him. Even the things that you don’t quite understand or realize about yourself are as clear as day to God, and if you’re truly following Him, He will take the necessary measures to deal with the evil in your heart.

Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

If you will allow it, God’s very word (The Bible) will penetrate and reveal your thoughts and the attitudes of your heart. However, this only helps you if you actually read His word and allow it to cut into your heart. God sees everything, nothing is hidden from his sight. You’re right, God does know your heart, but guess what? He wants to change it.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

One of the saddest misconceptions is that you can “Follow your heart” and somehow get closer to God that way. The sad truth is that your heart is full of tricks and it doesn’t always want the best for your soul. Our hearts are full of deceit and seek to please our own emotions. God is examining our hearts, but we must change the way that we live if we’re going to be close to Him.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Instead of using “God knows my heart” as an excuse to sin, let’s have the heart of David to have God search us and lead us in the right way. Don’t be deceived by your heart, let God’s word cut through those tricks and emotions to get you on the right path. If you’re interested in Bible Studies, please contact me and I’d love to help.

Tori Lynn.

Depression vs The Cross

This morning I was given the humbling opportunity to share for communion what the cross means to me. I could have spoken about many things, but a recent experience trumped everything else. Alongside this, I was able to spend time with a dear friend and mentor, (pictured below) Cassidy Olmos. As I will devuldge further, she has helped me a great deal with what I’m about to share. 

  
As most of you know, last week I was visiting my family in North Carolina.  While I was home, I helped move my stuff out of my room for my little sister to move in, and I came across some old notebooks and scattered papers.  Since I was deciding what to keep and what to throw out, I ended up reading a lot of these, and I was brought to tears.

Many of the notes read things like: 

“What’s the point of all this? I’m only making everything worse.” “They would be happier without me.” “I’m surrounded by darkness and it’s killing me.” “I feel so helpless, will this ever stop?”

and things of that nature.  You see, as long as I can remember, I’ve battled depression, and at times indulged in it.  As a young child, it was manic, coming in heavy mood swings that I tried to block out.  In high school, I pinned everything I had onto people and it destroyed me.  For two whole years (save a few “good” days in the midst) I was depressed.  My friends described me as fragile, as if one last thing were to happen I would completely fall apart.  But many of my friends were like me, and when I found myself suicidal, I realized that if one of us were to go through with it, in turn we all would.  I also found a few remnants of old suicide notes, and these were written at a time when I was in leadership at my old church.  And as much as I looked for help, I found that most people were “caught up” in their own lives.

Somewhere around mid 2013, I felt it sweeping over me again, but I was determined to fight it.  The emotional callouses I had built up were wearing thin and I found it difficult to wake up again.  Even during my time on a “mission trip” in Costa Rica, I suffered these heavy feelings that drained all motivation I had for anything.  I searched my Bible for answers, and though most of it still wasn’t making complete sense, I latched onto Ecclesiastes and Psalms.  

One note in particular, I wrote between the trip to Costa Rica and when I moved here to Long Beach:

“The waves are getting higher and I can’t remember how to swim, but if I could only reach the surface, maybe my lungs won’t cave, maybe I can make it.  Oh God, help me make it.”

And here I am, almost two years later.  When I moved here, I was searching for answers.  I remember sitting on the plane and asking myself if I had gone completely mad.  But when I came out of those waters ten days later, I had never felt so great a joy.  Finding all of those notes helped me to remember what the cross means to me.  God saved me from a winding hole of depression and the deceit I used to cover it up.  

But the battle isn’t over.  As a disciple, I’ve struggled with depression, and the natural instinct to cover it up, resulting in being emotionally deceitful.  The truth is that I hate feeling weak and helpless.  I have a difficult time trusting God to use my failures and I definitely have a hard time admitting emotional pain.  As a child, I would try to “toughen up” and refuse to cry, never really accepting bandages for when I fell down, but letting the scrapes turn into scars, which eventually led to self harm and cutting my wrists.  When I feel pain as an adult, the last thing I want to do is to accept it or tell someone, so I try to fight it myself.  I don’t want to keep doing this emotionally as a disciple, and I know it’s my pride and deceit that has been fighting, and then it even draws me away from prayer and towards distractions to numb it.  And these sins nailed Jesus to the cross.  To help get my heart in the right place, I watched the Passion last night in preparation for sharing.  I haven’t cried that much in a long time, but I realized more than ever how much He had to sacrifice to save us.  He brought me out of the depths of depression and gave me a hope, as well as a spiritual family to fight the fight with. Before, I felt helpless and rather pointless, but now I’m living a life greater than I ever dreamed of.  I don’t really like the trials that He has to use to refine me, but it’s nothing at all compared to what He went through for us.  

2 Corinthians 12:10b For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

And that’s what the cross means to me.

To God be the Glory.  

-Tori Lynn

On Emotions

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Proverbs 20:5 The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.

The past couple weeks have been spent drawing my heart out through many painful ventures such as actually talking about my emotions. Though this sort of freedom feels rather relieving, much like the first gasp of air when surfacing from a deep dive in the ocean, it’s not such a lovely process.

The drawing out of my heart could compare to flowers, I think.  You start with dirt and break up the hard ground, you have to pull out the rocks and weeds before you can even stir up the proper soil for the seed, yet once it begins to grow, it breaks through the dirt and feeds on those lovely rays of sunshine for a time before dropping its seeds, dying and repeating the process. For many plants, every spring that they return, they are much grander and more lovely, but the process never quite ends.

I used to think I could reach a level in my heart where everything was out and plain and it could be completely lovely and desirable.

Please don’t fool yourself.

The more I’ve grown, the more those ugly little bits of dirt and rock find themselves surfacing. I find my selfish habits and shortening patience disgusting, I don’t like seeing the rips and tears in my way of being loving that should be a complete cover, but the truth is, they’re there and I have to admit it.

2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

I’ve never found true comfort in concealing my emotions.  Regardless of the motivation behind covering them up (whether pride or fear), it never results in comfort. How can someone be comforted when they have expressed no need for it? So in sharing in Christ’s sufferings, I am also learning to be open about my weaknesses. It has not been easy, it makes me feel vulnerable and a little panicked at first. However,

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 Emotions are seen as weak by the world and for as long as I can remember, that is the view I had taken of them. I remember crying in a movie as a child, someone kicked a dog across the room in the movie and I couldn’t stop bawling. I felt so frustrated with myself for reacting this way and I saw it as a weakness. From then on I fought to beat emotion. I didn’t want to simply cover it, but I desired to conquer the need to feel anything.

As a disciple, however, I’m learning that this is ungodly and in many ways a very selfish approach to life. Our emotions make us relatable, they remind us to rely on God’s strength, they give life flavor and open up opportunities to love. Emotions are beautiful, though also painful, they are part of God’s design, even those that make us weak, and I am learning (and striving) to work through them.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

One of the main reasons I struggle with being open about emotions comes from a deep rooted pride; I would like to see myself as accepting everything without a negative reaction. However, it has caused me to be dishonest with my heart. People who know me well are accustomed to my “two week reaction time” for anything emotional. In the past, when someone breaks painful news to me, or even something wonderful happens, I would react logically in the moment and most likely have a panic attack or get super giddy about it on the bus or at home up to two whole weeks later.

One particular example would be when I was told that my boyfriend would be leaving to the Philippines shortly after (and I mean like three days after) we started dating. I responded coolly and remained collected, but later my emotions started coming out unexpectedly, and about the same time my grandfather passed away. My heart felt tied up and I found it once again difficult to communicate anything.

I suppose all of this is to say, I’ve come a long way and I’m sure you have too, but emotions are something that have to be processed. In the best way I’ve ever heard it phrased,

“That’s the thing about pain; it demands to be felt.”

So going forward, I’ve discovered no clear cut solution to avoiding emotions. However, staying close to God and open with reliable friends has helped me handle them much better. And so, I would advise the same. There are endless “coping” methods, but we weren’t designed to just cope with our emotions, but to thrive.

So start living. 

-Tori Lynn