Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who Am I?

Who am I to scoff at the beauty that has come from the ashes? Who am I to deny the dance upon these ruins and the hope that I have indeed seen with my own eyes?

Alone I Am...


BUT... HIM, I Am...

...Energized by Faith
...A Dancing Fool

"Out of these will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning...
in the morning..."
~ Beauty will Rise, Steven Curtis Chapman, 2009

Friday, January 29, 2010

Layers of Healing

This week has been a bad week, to say the least. It started off with work being crazy, understaffed, and overwhelming... not a good thing for this structured, crazy busy grad student. Wednesday made it worse with the result of a 'C' on a midterm that in all honesty I could not stay awake to push through and study for. On top of that Thursdays are what I refer to as "my day" as that is when I get to spend time with an amazing group of women and be honest with where I am with life and experience healing at a whole new level, well, not this week. With the overwhelming need to spruce up a research paper, do laundry, and straighten up my home a bit I chose to stay home. I also missed a fun outing with my team from Ecuador because I should have been going to Celebrate Recovery, but instead at the last minute stayed home to take care of some personal duties (sorry Guineas). I'm sure this far in to my blog you're thinking, "what is her point?" I have one, I truly do...

What do you do with a bad week? Do you throw in the towel, give up, lock yourself away, and close out those around you? Sometimes I do, sometimes it is so overwhelming that all I can do to get myself together is be alone. This week brought an amazing realization though. The realization that as we go through a time of change or healing it's not a quick fix, but rather there are layers. I feel like I've said this before, but just go with it like I haven't. In between the crap of this week I did get to talk to my sister (she's my best friend and one of the most amazing people I know). We got to talk about my niece and nephew (Nathan, by the way is hitting some major milestones). On another call she was telling me about Steven Curtis Chapman's newest CD "Beauty Will Rise."

An amazing album, oh my gosh, if you have not heard it you need to. If you know of anyone (or you yourself) have faced any times in the valley recently you will find healing and ministry in this album. When Cheryl called me about it I was at work so I didn't have much time to talk, but as soon as I got home that night I ran to my computer to purchase it off iTunes. I think I spent all of Wednesday night (after the revelation of my horrible test grade) crying as I listened to this CD. I listened to it all day Thursday and am listening to it now... I can't get enough of it. To give you a quick background (in case you don't know) Steven Curtis Chapman's youngest daughter, Maria, was hit by a car and killed on May 21, 2008. Over the last year and a half he has spent time in studio recording songs that he wrote through the grieving process. I've followed the Chapman family on their blogs pretty closely as thier tragedy came only 2 months after the death of my sweet nephew, Billy. It has been amazing to watch their honesty come out as they express the emotions they have endured through this time. His wife, Mary Beth, has expressed things that I only wish I could find the words for.

There is so much truth and revelation in the words SCC sings. I realize many people may find his music a little "cheesy" but after what his family went through (and what other families have faced as well) you can't help but find hope in listening to the words God has given him to sing. Here are just a few snip-its from some of the songs...

"I am broken, I am bleeding, I'm scared and I'm confused, but You are faithful. Yes You are faithful... I am weary, unbelieving, God please help my unbelief!" ~ Faithful

"Heaven is a sweet, maple syrup kiss and a thousand other little things I miss with her gone. Heaven is the face where she takes my hand and leads me to You, and we both run into Your arms." ~ Heaven is the Face

"Is that you I hear, laughing loud and calling out to me? Saying, "See, it's everything you said it would be, and even better than you would believe. And I'm counting down the days until you're here with me, and finally, you'll see." ~ See

"Spring is coming, Spring is coming
(Out of these ashes, beauty will rise)
And all we've been hoping and longing for soon will appear
(Sorrow will be turned to joy)
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
(All we hoped for soon will appear)
It won't be long now, it's just about here
(Out of the dark clouds, beauty will shine)"
~ Spring is Coming

My heart aches and longs for the day I will be reunited with Billy, the day when he will come running and introduce me to God... I know it will be more amazing than I could ever imagine. Until then, I wait, and I fulfill all that God has asked of me here on earth.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chasing a Dream

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from him." ~ Psalm 62:5

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word, I put my hope." ~ Psalm 130:5

"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off." ~ Proverbs 28:13

It's been 4 1/2 years since I applied for graduate school... when I graduate it will have been 5 years. That's a long journey, a long time to wait for something God has called me to. Granted I didn't begin until 2008, so when all is said and done it will have been a 2 1/2 year journey. I think what took so long was that I was convinced other things were to happen before I begin this journey. Little did I know I would not only begin, but I would finish it before what I expected to occur would occur (or I hope to anyway). The point is, I'm tired, I've run this race with excellence and tonight I hit a huge discouraging roadblock. Of course as the rational/not so tired side of my brain finally kicked in, I realized this is not the end. God's been speaking to me a lot about what the future may look like. I like the times where I can sit, be still, and day dream about all that God has for me. I feel called to help counsel future generations. I don't know yet what that looks like, but I trust God will make a way. I haven't been faithful in sacrificing my time to be the best grad student I could be or even the most faithful daughter to the one who has breathed life into me, but there is still hope. God is changing me daily.

It's funny how this journey began. I finally found the faith and courage to step out of the boat and into the crashing waves of graduate school. Almost instantly, the enemy threw everything he could think of my way to discourage me, to make me run and hide. But despite the losses, the heartache, the confusion, and the discouragement, I stood firm in what God had for me... what He wanted me to do. Now here I am, so close to the end and I'm scared to death. I realize that the enemy is still and probably will always be trying to keep me from my calling, but I won't let go, I won't give up unless God tells me otherwise. One of the things that keeps me going, that keeps my strength up and for me to keep pushing through is the memory of my sweet nephew, Billy...

I don't know how this cute and charming face could keep anyone from fighting for the future! Billy will forever be engraved in my mind and heart as a precious 5-month-old baby, and that does break my heart. But more than my sadness over losing him to the unexplained, is the fire that burns in my heart to fight for children of his, his sister, and brother's generation and those to come. To fight for their families and to help them find knowledge and hope in you. I don't intend to specialize as a Christian counselor, but I have no intention of hiding the one who keeps me going. I hate that it took losing Billy for me to find my strength and hope, but I thank God that he will live in me forever, inspiring me, and encouraging me to continue to chase the dream.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lessons Learned In...

Recovery. That's where I've been hiding on Thursday nights. Since April 2009 I have been spending my Thursday nights in Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step recovery program designed to help those who struggle with hurts, habits, and hang-ups by showing them the love of Christ. What got me there? Mostly a broken heart and realizing that I didn't want to question God, myself, or man anymore... I wanted to live life as He intended for me, in freedom. Plus, I was tired of constantly sticking a band-aid on my life and walking around like everything was "okay." Why am I sharing this with you now? Lots of reasons, mostly through the recent realization that I'm not sure people truly know who I am. And the realization of the fact that we as humans are not one dimensional, but rather there are many dimensions to each of our lives. That last one I think I've always known in my head, but this week I'm finally seeing it with my eyes.

Now, I can't be upset that people don't know who I am... I don't think I really knew who I was until recently, or at least I'm beginning to. That's probably the number one thing I've learned in the recovery process. It's truly been a joy to process through everything and realize that I don't have to keep living life the way I have been and to realize that I'm a pretty cool person just the way God created me to be. It's taken me a while to get here and I have no doubts that God was already workin' on me in regards to finding confidence and contentment in who He created me to be long before I made the decision to work through my junk in Celebrate Recovery. It's been an amazing journey and sometimes I wish I could articulate it better.

Through it all I'm starting to hear more how people describe me, see more how I communicate and I realize that is not me... or at least that is not how I want to be known or heard. Our God is truly a gentle God, there was no hitting me over the head with a mallet on this one. He was patient and every now and then I felt His gentle nudge slowly opening my eyes and my heart. I am human, I make mistakes... I get loud when I'm nervous, I try to be funny when I meet new people because everyone loves to laugh, right? But more than all that, more than what others see (and what I see) on the surface is a gentle spirit... one with love, compassion, grace, pain for the lost, faith for the unexpected, and hope for the unseen. A lesson I've learned in recovery is that I, Cristyn Rohloff, am a girl of not one, but several dimensions. Depending on the season of life (or the situation at the moment) I might be sad, happy, angry, excited, frustrated, or whatever the case entails. One thing I've heard God tell me consistently over the last 2 1/2 years is I'm someone who loves with a BIG love... and I can see that now.

I don't share this because I think it's all about me, but rather to encourage you to stop and think about how you view yourself and others. I've been questioning myself on that one for a while now. I catch myself making judgment calls, I've lost relationships because of being too judgmental and trying to make someone into something they weren't. I wouldn't want that done to me, would you? We all fall short, that I know. But that doesn't mean we have to stay there. I'm 28 years old and I feel like I'm finally seeing life the way God wants me to. I don't know if any of this translates or makes sense, but it was heavy on my heart tonight and I felt it was about time to finally share. After all, this blog is about matters of the heart, right?

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.

"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but cannot carry it out." ~ Romans 7:18

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lessons Learned from a Broken Heart

"My good friend says we can't compare losses. Anything that breaks the heart is a legitimate reason for seeking the healing only Christ can bring." ~ Beth Moore, Breaking Free

"On that day when I see all that you have for me
When I see you face to face there surrounded by your grace
All my fear is swept away in the light of your embrace
When your love is all I need and forever I am free

Where the streets are made of gold in your presence healed and whole
Let the songs of heaven rise to you alone

No weeping, no hurt or pain, no suffering
You hold me now, You hold me now
No darkness no sick or lame
No hiding You hold me now,
You hold me now" ~ You Hold Me Now, Hillsong United

This picture was taken nearly two years ago, I kind of dislike it now. Not because I look bad, shoot man, I look great... but rather because I don't even recognize that girl anymore. The girl in that picture was living a life she perceived to be perfect and maybe it was for that season, but now... well now it's a completely different story. Between this picture and the one you'll see at the end of this writing there has been a tremendous journey, one of heartbreak, loss, disappointment, denial, hope, renewed joy, renewed passion, and most importantly renewed love.

What a journey it has been! There are still days I can close my eyes and hear very clearly my dad calling to tell me that my nephew Billy was sick, that he wasn't breathing. Of course there are also those days where for a split second it all seems like just a dream. Oh how I wish it had been... but it wasn't and as a result of it all I can say is God has taken me on quite the journey. It has been hard and most days I wish I could just stick my head in the sand and hide. In a matter of just a few months my spirit felt crushed and abandoned by God and man. I perceived my world to be crashing down around me, that I couldn't tell up from down or the dark from the light. But as I've gone back to pick up the pieces, as I've allowed my heart to be made whole again I'm finding that the one thing I've ever needed, the one who I perceived to have betrayed me the most never left my side.

I was in denial for a long time after my nephew died. For months I had no idea how broken, angry, and disappointed I was. Through a series of events that occurred in 2008 I found myself in a very dark place and the only hope I saw was in the face of my Lord and Savior. Now nearly two years later I've come to a place where I am proud of the woman God has created me to be. Not proud in an arrogant or "Yay me!" sort of way, but rather in a way where I cannot believe God chose me... I cannot believe I get to live this life. I remember thinking I could have turned my back on God after Billy died, I could have chosen to walk away from the one who breathed life into me. But instead I pressed in... much like Jacob in the Bible, I wrestled with God. I yelled, I screamed, I cried, I shut out the world around me and found no answers, but rather an unspeakable peace. A peace that comes knowing that I will see sweet Billy again one day... a peace knowing that God hears the desires of my heart and in His time they shall come to pass.

2010 is going to be a remarkable year! This year brings to a close a five year journey for me. It brings the hope and joy of a new path. I've learned and am still learning a tremendous amount about myself... what an amazing gift!

William Thomas Darnell, Jr. left behind a legacy bigger than anyone could have ever imagined. That little boy (in just 5 months time) taught me how to love, reminded me to dream big, not to give up, and to never let go of the one who holds us. I thank God everyday for breaking my expectations two years ago, for breaking what I perceived to be a "perfect" life. I thank Him for stripping away the things of this world that I was holding onto so tightly. I thank Him for breaking my heart and that through the brokenness He has redirected my life... I thank Him that this is me...

"Then I saw a new heaven and an new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the end.'" ~ Revelation 21:1-6

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hold onto Hope

Most of you know how much I love music... most of my day is spent walking around with one song or another in my head. It truly brings peace to my soul and happiness to my heart. One thing I love about my eclectic taste in music is that more often than not I find music in a television show or a movie I've seen. I focus on a section of the song I recall hearing and as soon as I can I "google" it in order to find the artist. This has happened in the last couple of weeks and the song I found I can't help but listen to it over and over again.

If you have not heard of Amy Stroup, or her song "Hold onto Hope, Love" I highly recommend it. She has an honest and pure voice, and the words she sings are so simple. Here is just a snapshot of this song:

"Hold onto hope, love, I've searched high and low for you
for you
Each day gets closer so hold on stronger to me and you
Someday soon I'll find you
Someday soon I'll know you

As an artist she is listed in the pop/rock genre, but I can't help but think that song has a little bit of faith behind it. Today I was sitting at my desk working on some things when that song came on and I was moved to just sit and listen. As I was listening I looked up at the picture of my family from my sister's wedding. Cheryl has some of the most remarkable pictures/memories from her wedding day and as I sat looking at the one of my family I remembered asking Cheryl a few months ago about that day. I asked her if she could have imagined the journey God would lead her and her husband down as a married couple. There was so much joy and laughter that day, could she have ever imagined that they would be handing their firstborn son to the God who created him before they were ready?

Not far from that picture from that day is Baby Billy's picture from his first Christmas. He was only a month old when the picture was taken, one of a few pictures I have of my sweet nephew. I'm missing him dearly lately. I think that the older his younger brother, Nathan, gets the more I think about where Billy would be if he were still here with us, what kind of relationship he'd have with his older sister, Avery and with Nathan.

But the thing that really gets me is picturing myself in the place of my sister. One day, hopefully, it will be my wedding day... my chance to say forever to the man I will spend the rest of my life with. My prayer is that we'd walk in the same humility and strength as my sister and her husband. I can't help but wonder what that day will be like, what the day will be like when we welcome our children into this world. But I guess for now I hold onto that hope... that one day I will experience both and walk life with a man on fire for God.

"But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."
~ Romans 8:25

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chutes & Ladders: The Forgiveness Edition

"But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love." ~ Nehemiah 9:17

"Forgive, and you will be forgiven." ~ Luke 6:37

Never before have I been awakened in the midst of sleep with the idea for a blog... until the other night. Of course what I believe to be the reason for my awakening was a killer headache, but God used that time to speak to me in the midst of unbearable pain.

Have you ever noticed how a board game can become such a hit that it leads to spin off versions (i.e. Disney Trivial Pursuit, Friends Scene It, etc.). I don't know what made me think about this, but at 2am the other night I started to think of life as a real life version of "Chutes & Ladders." This game is a classic, I played it as a kid and I still play it with many of the kids I babysit... I love it, so unpredictable and nail biting. Anyway, isn't life so much like that. One day we hit the spot to skip ahead on a ladder, other days we fall short and find ourselves sliding back a bit. Oh and then there are those other days where we are holding our breath to skip over the spot which causes us to slide backwards.

As I've been working through some forgiveness issues I started to picture the act of forgiveness much like the game of "Chutes & Ladders." Somedays I step out and forward and able to move up the ladder of forgiveness... other days I fall short, unable to forgive (whether it be myself or another) and I'm sliding back a few steps. Could you imagine if God did that with our transgressions? Some days He choses to forgive us and places us up the ladder and then other days He doesn't feel like it so much and pushes us down the chute. I can't even fathom that knowing what I know about my loving Heavenly Father. So why in the world is it so stinkin' difficult for us to forgive, to take those steps that lead us up the ladder... closer to the one who loves us more than anything?

"So we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we are all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart
turns violently inside of my chest

I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way

He loves us..."**

**How He Loves (Jesus Culture)