I was lost, but now I'm found

What is it about coffee shops?  They unravel the most beautiful conversations, inviting us to speak quietly, yet boldly. They draw out vulnerability, and sometimes even tears. But tears are ok in the coffee shop, because we all get it. We're all here to sit, to listen, to read, to write. And that stuff can draw out so much from our hearts that they overspill from our eyes and onto coffee shop tables. It's sort of normal. Have you ever noticed that? Now you will ;) The murmur of quiet conversations and the smell of fresh brewing coffee fills the air of The Well coffee house in Brentwood, TN. I'm sitting there with one leg crossed under the other, my hands tracing over the bible resting on my lap, drinking up the conversation like a warm cup of tea that settles into my soul and makes me feel right at home. I sit there between my two friends, an awesome couple who I met in the midst of the Nashville music scene, as I begin to unravel the path that Jesus has been leading me down.

I explained to them how for my whole life, I thought I was following Christ. God was always at the center of my life, I loved Him with all of my heart. I thought I was on the right path. But, for some reason, I always knew that there was soooo much more to Him than what I was lead to learn at Sunday School. Growing up, I knew in my heart that God was my reason for living, however I didn't know why I knew that.It was just in my heart. But it actually seemed silly + childlike to the outside world that measured people by their worldly success. Walking into mass, God just felt so dry, so vanilla, so void of emotion, I didn't see people being emboldened or transformed by Jesus' teachings. But I just thought it was my problem, I had to seek further, I had to suck it up and keep trying to be a better person, holier, more pure of heart and deed. I just felt guilty and ashamed all the stinkin' time. I could never be good enough. 

It was few and far between that I'd meet someone who actually was on fire for Him, who lived in a bold, gentle, loving, Christ-like way. The way that I perceived it, you had two choices. You were either a total bible-thumping, judgmental freak show or more culturally Catholic - kinda transformed, but only really in the way that fit with your worldly life. So, I became the later, because the former just did NOT sit well, and never will. Little did I know, there was a whole other way to live in this world, but not of it.

In the Catholic world, it was my experience that reading the bible wasn't really a big thing. It was cool if you did it, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't exactly recommended with any urgency. You'd usually find me at mass on Sunday morning, but it didn't mean that you wouldn't see me out late partying the night before. There was no real change of heart, no sign of Christ living in me. I wore a cross around my neck and referred to Jesus as my homeboy, and thought that being involved in my local church, helping with retreats, going to mass, and being kind was good enough - actually better than average. Looking back, I think it's crazy that I hardly ever used the name Jesus. I always just referred to "God" - to be politically correct, to not offend, and to include all. I thought using the name Jesus would disconnect people and bring up too much controversy. So I silenced His name.

Since going to mass and being involved in the church left a lot to be desired, I looked everywhere for the fulfillment that I was searching for. I knew that there was SO MUCH MORE to God than what I had been taught, there was so much more to be known about Him. I could feel it in my bones. So I looked elsewhere. And I became lost without even knowing it. I found myself in a "spiritual leadership" community that was filled with well-meaning yoga teachers, psychics, talk about manifesting, and just all kind of 'spiritually empowered' women. I thought this was awesome! Finally some other women who are moved by God... the woman who was teaching the program, had many best-selling books to her name, was wildly successful, and seemed to be making such a great difference in the world, so I looked up to her. And slowly, began to fall further and further away from Jesus. But I didn't even realize it.

I still went to mass, after all. I still volunteered. I still went to confession and sang at church. Jesus was still my flavor of spirituality. I honestly believed that I was on the right path, on the path that would lead to peace. But, my gosh, it lead to more disconnect, more anxiety, more sickness, a deeper depth of insecurity and restlessness than I have ever experienced. The funny part is that the spiritual books and programs all advertise themselves as revealing the path to freedom, from depression, from anxiety, from poverty, and lead to authentic happiness. If that's the truth, then how come each person who I know that is deeply "spiritual" are the most broken, sensitive, anxiety-driven, insecure people that I've ever met? There is no sense of peace there. And I can say that because I was that. 

Now that I am more familiar with the teachings that Jesus has laid out for us, I see so clearly that I was immersing myself in a world of false prophets, and honestly, I was becoming one myself! "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves" (Matthew 7:15). These people stray us away from the one true God by referring to the universe, spirits, and energy as ruling over us in some capacity. It sounds healthy and it sounds inclusive, so it's very attractive. I fell into it myself. But, thank you Jesus. I am so blessed and grateful that Jesus sought relentlessly after my heart, plucked me out of iniquity, removed this from my life and anointed me!

Like Paul on the road to Damascus, my eyes were opened anew. I began to tell my friends how I knew that God was pursuing me my whole life, but He shattered all of the walls that I've built up against Him (without even KNOWING it) this year. I had to be stripped of everything that I thought was right, everything that I thought I knew, in order to truly listen to Him. I cannot tell you how humbling this experience has been.

So, when I recently received an email from a woman who wanted to tear apart every little thing that I've done over the years that's not considered godly - my heart just about shattered. My eyes welled up as I revealed to my friends the words that this woman used to tear me down, hoping that my friends wouldn't dismiss me as a "bad role model," as well. She took everything that Jesus had cleansed me of and threw it in my face, I now see that this was the enemy's attempt to shut me up, to stop me from talking about Jesus. To stop me from spreading His word.

But my friend looked into my eyes and intently said, "Dana, God has already forgiven and forgotten your sins. He sees you white as snow." She explained to me that the Lord sees me as brand new, He doesn't hold grudges, He doesn't deem me unworthy of being His daughter because I didn't know any better before. My eyes became glossy and my heart became light as I received her encouragement. This is the Truth that I have been searching for all along. Finally I have peace.

As for the mean email that I received, there was no evidence of love or kindness present there. Old Dana would be shattered completely by this, and it would have sparked another suicidal spin (I'm not even going to mention the things that were said), but new Dana knows her identity. New Dana knows that the old Dana is gone, in Romans 6:6 we see that the "old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." This woman was seeing me for who I was, not for who I am. I forgive her because I see the pain and brokenness that led her to tear me apart, but I will choose to listen to who God says that I am, no one else.

It doesn't matter who I've been, it matters who I am now that I understand the truth of my identity. I have done horrible things, thought terrible thoughts, and been completely lost without even knowing it - but still, my God walks with me, waiting with open arms. I had to come running like the prodigal, to collapse into His loving, open arms. He is so faithful. Even though I wish I knew the truth earlier on in my life, I am so grateful that I now know, I'm so grateful that He caught me, that He stripped me of the veil I had over my eyes and is reforming my heart, each and every day. I'm by no means perfect, is anyone ever? I am re-learning everything that I thought I once knew. And I am truly more at peace, more secure, than ever.

I'm no longer a slave to the lies of the new age spiritual world, to looking for "signs" for guidance, to seeking out fortune tellers, chakra cleansing, angel card picking, and spiritual laws of manifesting...this stuff actually makes me shudder now. In my experience, this brought me further and further away from the Truth. And it was disguised so beautifully, it sounded so freaking healthy and wise, but I was fooled by the lies.

The problem is that I never was told how to discern God's will in my life - now that I've learned that God's Word is clearly lined out for us in the Bible, I am stunned that I never sought out His word before. If I wanted to be closer to Him all along, all I needed to do was read the Truth that He has given to us all along.

I can't tell you how much lighter, safe, and clean I felt after throwing out every book, angel card, every relic of this dark season of my life. The weight lifted, and I could breathe deeper than ever.

I used to wake up in anxiety, filled with fear of the future, I was insatiable for a deeper sense of spiritual connection, so I tried anything. I spent my money on programs that promised peace and abundance. But they just led me deeper and deeper into anxiety. So much so that a spirit of suicide has always loomed over my head. For years, I dealt with a voice in my head that told me to give up, to end my life, because my life was hopeless, I was worthless. I was so tired. And the voice  almost won me over multiple times.

It wasn't until I began to learn the truth of my identity in Christ, by reading His word and what He says about me, that that spirit of suicide was lifted from me. I'm no longer afraid of "bad vibes" or negative people because I know my identity in Christ. I know that I am protected, covered, by the Holy Spirit of my Lord, Jesus Christ. I know that I have authority over the lies of the enemy (Luke 10:19) and that nothing will harm me. And guess what? That's free. I don't have to pay someone to clear my energy from negative people or to balance my chakras (this sounds so ridiculous now). God's protection is the ULTIMATE protection, the ultimate armor. I am no longer a slave to anything outside of His presence. 

As I'm writing this, tears are welling up in my eyes. And I'm at a coffee shop...of course! 😂  Truly, I once was lost, but now am found.

So, my love, are you are looking for true freedom, authentic joy, a deep sense of peace, and unshakeable confidence? Are you searching for protection like a strong tower over your life? A safe refuge? Are you wanting to live with purpose and find your calling? Then darling, look no further. Jesus' love for you is free, it's for you, it's designed to teach you the Truth of your identity. Everything that you are seeking, you will find in Him. I promise.