Truth Over Fear

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It was one of those rare summer evenings, when the children have actually gone to bed –and to sleep- on time and I had a few moments of quiet to myself. It had stormed all day and the clouds were finally beginning to break about midway across the sky as I stepped out onto the back porch. To my right, grey and ash colored clouds continued to intermittently glow from within by summer’s heat lightening. To my left, dashes of pink and deep purple cut across an orange sun that was sinking below the shadowed tree line.

I looked out to my backyard and watched the fireflies dance and sparkle, waiting for their reflection in the form of stars in the approaching night sky. The moon hung like a tilted crescent, thick and white against the forming darkness. The storm had broken the heat and left little humidity and a lot of breeze. Crickets sang their calls and frogs croaked their love songs.

This was the first time in weeks, months even, I had felt peace at night- real, deep in your soul peace.

When you get closer to the truth of something, the lies scream louder, trying to draw you away. This was what was happening to me, a fear uttered aloud coupled with tension and pain and a tendency to worry left my nights plagued with sleeplessness and fear.

This fear culminated in what some call a panic attack, an anxiety attack, an overwhelming sense of fear. To put it simply, it is an attack against all your logic and sound mind.

After dealing with the same issue for so long, you begin to wonder if something is sincerely wrong. Deep down inside, especially during the day, I know these headaches and fatigue are from tension, worry, overworking myself, overthinking, and carrying stress around like it’s a trophy to be had. But at night when I try to sleep, these thoughts come, these whispers in the dark, that it might just be something more.

And lately I have been reading a lot of truth, a lot of wisdom that is changing the way I view things about myself and God and what it really means to be free in Him. I am learning how my very thoughts and perceptions of God change the way my whole mind and body work. And His Word, the main source of Truth, has reminded me time and time again of who I am in Him, Who He is, and what faith really means. It has been a moment of letting go and submitting to God.

So many years I have been driven, maybe even pulled, ever forward. I have always felt I had to prove myself, that I am good enough. So I did what I had to do to win favor; I pushed in school, I became the submissive friend, dependable employee, the quiet, nice one. I was competing against this lie that I had been told and believed about myself that I would not be anything, that I would not and was not worth anything. Then I tried to be overly something I was not- loud, assertive, nonchalant. I quickly reverted back to quiet. I always envied those who were in their thirties and said, “Now I know who I am and I don’t worry so much about what others think about me.” I am one year away from thirty and still think that will never happen.

But, slowly, ever so slowly, like a parent with a child who grips the edge of a pool for dear life and refuses to let go, God was saying, “Let go.” Through all those years of believing those lies, He still whispered just enough Truth to me that I held onto hope. And now, through this “re-training” of my view of God and me and what is really the truth and really seeking out His Word and knowing it as I know breathing, the tension is being released.

No one ever said growth doesn’t hurt. I remember having terrible growing pains as a child and my grandmother would put warm rice pads on my ankles and calves. Growing hurts. Things rooted deep over the years have to be pulled out, not just chopped off at the base. So here I am, a year from what has become, to me, the golden ages of the 30’s, and instead of settling in I am being torn up. But I know the growth is coming.

I know because of nights like the other night, where peace flowed through me and I knew Jesus was working on another piece of me that needed to let go. Re-focusing me on the truth of His sovereignty and His love.

 

Thoughts on Purpose

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There’s a lot of talk on the idea of purpose. There are those who claim they can help you find it, those who are seeking it, those who claim it is elusive, and those who really just don’t care.

To put it bluntly, I think most are wrong.

I have had my fair share of the quick on-line tests to see what I “was made for.” I’ve read the books and done the diagramming and the journaling and the seeking.

I have spent ten years in college looking for it.

But that is where the problem lies, really. We are all so busy looking outside for our purpose, for something that we can do to fulfill our life’s calling. We couldn’t be more wrong if we tried.

Whether or not I am a writer or counselor or mother or student or wife or all those things, that is not my purpose. Whether or not I am called or gifted to put words on pages or preach or be a doctor or artist, that is still not my purpose.

To really find our purpose, to know why we are on this Earth and what we are made for, we have to stop looking out and start looking in.

Really, really, far in. Past the personas and the facades, past all the walls we have built and the way we want others to see us, past the lies and sins and secrets we carry. Past our own motives and desires and what we think we are and should be. We have to turn inward to the quiet corner of our hearts and souls to hear the answer.

I Am.

When God identified Himself to Moses, it was not about who Moses was or would be or what his life calling was all about. It was about Who God is. In the moment that defined Moses’ life and what it stood for, it was not about him at all. It was the acknowledgement of God.

Our purpose is found in Him. Christ set us free and gave us eternal life and told us to go and tell others the good news. He didn’t say tell them what you have done, where you are going, or what you think you are good at doing. He told us to tell others about Him.

Our purpose lies in Him.

When I get a quiet moment to search the depths of my own heart for the One enthroned there and everywhere, nothing makes things more clear than when I hear those words: I Am. He cannot be moved. He cannot be shaken. He cannot be told there was anything before Him that leaves Him unaware or anything that will surprise Him. He purposed us to serve and love Him. He created us, and the glory of it all is because He wanted us.

We were created with the purpose to live and love like Him and to love and worship Him.

But our society has so confused us by creating the idea of purpose as synonymous to gifting or talent or passion. It has whispered lies that we can prove our stature if we just find what we are made for. Blinders that lead us to mirrors where we only look at and to ourselves. No wonder we are empty inside. No wonder the ache never goes away and we doubt and convince ourselves we have not really found our purpose because we have not yet “made it.”

And all the while Jesus beats steady in our hearts, I Am. I Am. I Am. Our center found in the center of our beings, pulsing truth through our veins but our heads keep telling us we have to prove. We must be driven or we have lost our purpose.

It’s a cheap gimmick that is costing us everything. It takes the focus off of Christ and back onto ourselves and the weak flesh overcomes the soul and we are vacant, hollow. We compare and contrast, trying to justify if our lives are successful and meaningful or if we need to push a little more. The epidemic spreads and we all think our gifts are our purpose, never realizing that we are instead serving our gifts instead of using them. They are using us.

Gifts are not meant to become chains. Callings are not substitutes for purpose. These things make life well and good and meaningful, but it does not, or should not, change our course. We can serve God and love Him and others through these things, but not because of these things. If all my words failed me, if my hands could no longer hold a pen or my mouth form the sounds, my purpose would remain unchanged. I would find another way. Nor am I limited to these acts as there is always a way to show the love of God. His Word even tells us the rocks will cry out if necessary.

In Him “we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 18:28). Our purpose is defined here in these words. We were created by Him, for Him. The real purpose we all have, that we all should be seeking? Is to know Christ, to serve Him and love Him, and by doing so love others.

Everything else is just a gift. So with open hands and grateful hearts we accept those things which we enjoy, knowing it is there for us to do just that: simply enjoy. But it is not what defines us or what we are made for.

Because we were purposed for I Am.

 

Darkness

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I debated on sharing this one and may be just getting it in last minute, but as an aspiring counselor I felt I could not let May pass by without saying something about Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a short “poem” I wrote for those who are struggling with some form of mental illness. We have all been there, whether it be a mild form of depression, anxiety, outbursts of uncontrolled anger, or something more severe. You are never alone, and there is always help for those who need it.

There’s a darkness there, and no one can touch it.

It will eat you alive and leave you writhing within the confines of your own mind.

You feel powerless to stop it.

They place names upon you, slangs like “crazy”

And hang diagnoses on you like you’re a doll to be clothed with dx’s and tx’s.

The pills are hard to swallow

And the darkness drums on, victorious in your head.

So you withdraw, un-invite Hope because you think she won’t show anyway,

Never letting the darkness out for others to see

You are lonely

Afraid

Playing a game of chess with your own mind and it’s always stalemate

You think the darkness knows you better than you do

Take another pill, hide,

Always

Always

Pretend

And this becomes your life, this endless nightmare that leaves you desperate

Suffocating

Choking on your own lies of “I’m ok”

Because that’s better than the pills and the looks and the stigma

And the shame you have no reason to carry

No one tells you that you are not alone

The darkness, it hides in everyone

Battles rage in millions everyday

Overcoming

Victorious

“Normal”

A word you think ill-defines you

But like the mad hatter says, we are all a little mad

And what is normal, anyway, because we are all broken

So don’t give up

Don’t hide

Don’t pretend

And always

Always

Know

You are not alone.

When You Don’t Feel Like Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day can bring about various reactions. There are those who feel the sorrow and ache of what they cannot have- a mother or to be a mother, or still, to be without both those desires and feel like an island unto herself.

I am one of those women who can truly say, I understand. Mother’s Day affords me a morning to grieve a mother lost, a child never born, and a time to remember them in my heart before my kids wake and seek to celebrate me. After church a visit to the cemetery to honor a mother, a grandmother, and an aunt- all women in my life now gone from this Earth.

The cemetery is lonely, quiet. It’s the feeling of loss recognized. Some feel they are walking through a cemetery everyday- wading through the loss, the stolen time and moments, and just wading through as everyone else parades about in joy and celebration, and you feel even more alone.

The good news? After 20 years after my mother passing and almost 8 years since losing my first baby fresh in the womb, I can say: there is good. There is hope.

There is good and there is hope because in Christ, there is redeeming love. There is a love that heals, that is always working for you, and is the hope we have of reunion with our loved ones in heaven one day. God has been faithful, and His faithfulness to me looks like four beautiful babes that I birthed and am in the thick of raising. It is a maddening, loud, and often exhausting moment in life, but it is only a moment, something I remember as I watch years tick by and wonder how time goes so very quickly.

God’s faithfulness to you may not look the same as mine, but that does not mean He is not faithful. He pursues us, He sent His Son to die for us, and He gives us an eternal life that will supersede all our hopes and desires and lives here on Earth. And while no one can tell you how to grieve or how to go on from losing your mother or a child, there is hope that one day you will wake up and it will be a little better the next day. And the next. And next Mother’s Day you may still be sad, may still cry, may still feel a pang while others celebrate, but just know that is the natural process of healing and you must be gentle on yourself. My own healing did not begin until I was willing to let it happen, to allow myself to feel the loss and sadness and sit in it so completely that there was no running from it, until I allowed myself to talk about my mother and my child and be okay while doing it. So take heart, my dear sister, because joy will come in the morning if you cling to the hope of His promise and His goodness.

So if you are a mother who has lost her own, a woman longing to be a mother, a mother who has lost a child, or a mixture that causes you to flinch at the word mother, I pray for peace for you today. And the next. And the next, until it gets a little better and you can see that hope you have clung to through all these dark moments, and the joy comes.

 

 

Turning Toward Pursuit

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Before I know it, I have done it again. It really shouldn’t but it always still amazes me how easily I let this happen.

And I know I have been quiet on here, since my last post where I said I would not abandon this place completely, and yet, it has been a silent few months. And I have had posts come to mind and points and I wanted to share but nothing that seemed substantial.

So instead of doing something, I chose nothing.

I did nothing on this blog, nothing on my book aside from a pre-cursory edit, nothing in my journals, and ashamedly, little in my prayer life.

I was just kind of…here. All that talk, all that resolution, sucked right out of me. So I hesitated again, not sure where to go from here, and ended up nowhere after all.

And I kept thinking to myself, What is wrong with me? But I honestly believe it all comes back to that little whisper, that one foot in the door thing that is always right there, waiting.

Hello, Fear.

Fear I really had run out of words to say. Fear that once my book is published, it will be done and no more excuses to hide behind. Fear that I am not good enough, that my prayers are empty, that my studying of His Word is not yielding anything profound, fear that I am getting dangerously close to having to propose a dissertation and having my best idea already shot down.

Yet I feel the need to make it very clear that I am not in a corner, cowering. I still live each day, do what needs to be done, have a good and mostly fun -and lately feeling a little chaotic- life.

It’s the dreams that fear chokes. The dare to live open and brave and really even believe that I am not in this alone. Even when my prayers feel hollow.

Recently my pastor made a statement along the lines of how if only we could realize that God never stops pursuing us. And I thought about how all the times I thought I had to pursue God, had to fill my prayer journal with heartfelt thoughts and words and it was all on me. And yes, there is a desire there to know Him more but my relationship with Him does not rest solely on me. And thank God for that. He pursues me. He pursues me.

That’s when I realized I just need to turn around.

When I try to control, try to navigate the direction of my relationship with God, I am just setting myself up for disappointment. I try to do it my way and what do I end up with? Fear. Hesitancy. A fine life, but not an exciting one. If I were to just turn around and let myself be caught by God, be surrounded by Him and loved by Him?

Goodbye Fear.

And just today I read a line in a book that said, “Expectations are just preconceived resentments.” I had come to expect my relationship with Christ to be one way, had inadvertently put it in a box, and when things have not gone the way I expected there is some resentment. Or, in this case, lack of any movement or motivation.

So I find myself laying down at the altar of my heart this need for control once again. And I am begging, begging, God for something more. A chance to shake off the dust and fear from my dreams and trust in Him. To come to a place of vulnerability and honesty in the hopes that others will see His work and His goodness in me. I feel like I am shaking off a heavy cloak and am running the race again. Because it is not about this blog or a book or school or a journal, but my heart. It is about my soul turning around and running to meet God in His grace and mercy, Who is always right behind me. It’s about Jesus, about laying my control at His feet and saying, “What’s next?” Lest I forget, faith is an action and who better to have faith in than the Creator of all things seen and unseen?

This time, I have let myself be pursued, pursued through all the aching and numbness and doubts and struggles to finally get to a place where I feel like I am found once more. And where I am found, I am free.

Into the Light

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This is the post I didn’t really want to write, the one that I put off as long as possible since I realized I had to write it.

I hate that feeling. I know I am running away from it, saying I just need to get my thoughts together, but that is not the case. I am just procrastinating.

But who really wants to admit something hard anyway?

Last week I had the opportunity to spend the weekend with my friends and listen to some teaching. After the first night I was nervous because I left there feeling so emotionally spent, all the while trying to hold it together.

I really hate crying in front of people. And I cry easily, so it is no small feat for me to manage to keep it together for three hours and smile and not act like what I really want to do is cry and go sit in a corner somewhere.

The joys of being a melancholy when you get convicted.

The session moved into a time of confession and they discussed different hidden sins they have dealt with and exposing them to the light. As each one was called out, I could relate to some of them and in my head would say, “Yes, that is me Lord, forgive me.”

But then there was the one I deal with the most, the one not named.

Here.

This.

As much as I love writing on my blog, as much as I feel inspired or led to write about something, I have also let it become something else: an excuse not to speak.

I have hidden behind my words on here and have become less vocal in one-on-one conversations when they matter. I have told myself that I am telling others the Good News, doing my part for the Great Commission each time I hit “publish.”

But when a friend comes over with a bleeding heart and I sit and listen and know I need to say, simply, “You need Jesus” but I don’t, I have failed.

When I talk less about Christ in front of my family that does not have the same beliefs, I fail.

And I think I have become so worried about sounding like an angry Christian that I have become a silent Christian and that might just be worse.

It creeps into my interactions with others, trying not to cry, to bare my soul, or even pray. My word/phrase this year is “Be Brave” and I thought I was doing that. I started working on a book, I have entered a writing contest, I have said yes to more things. But that is not so much brave as comfortable.

I don’t know where this timidity came from. I have often felt that people expect it of me, often described me as “nice,” “quiet,” or “sensitive”- a word I have started to hate. So I put the walls back up and just decided not to go there anymore. I bought into the lie that my words here would matter more than the ones I could offer a person, even if I stumbled along and couldn’t get a re-do. I bought into the lie that being brave meant not having those qualities. I sold myself short. I sold my salvation short and my God short.

Looking back, I see the process of how I struggled with my words here, struggled in my personal life about questions that I once was so sure of and now doubted. And I think it was because I had not shared with others, had not been reminded of why I believe the way I do and the eternal hope that I have. I felt I sounded phony or silly if I used “Christiany” words. Another lie I bought into. I became so worried about being genuine that I no longer was genuine but instead someone who felt a little flat, a little boring, and a little safe.

On my first mission trip about 15 years ago, I remember apologizing for crying. My friend looked me square in the eye and told me to never apologize for who I was or how God had made my spirit. She said it was a gift I should embrace. But I was uncomfortable with it, still am. And I am not saying that we should all be criers or that I cry all the time, but apparently it is the thing I do the most. When I am sad, angry, or overly happy, I cry. And that often chokes the words right out of me because I allow my pride of not crying overpower the necessity to speak to others.

Where did this shame come from? Why did I buy into this lie that I can’t cry or be open with others? I think there is a necessity to be reserved in some situations, but how is that I have lost the confidence to talk about the things that matter most in life, in the context of eternity? When did my need to feel comfortable emotionally become more important than another’s soul?

That is my hidden sin that needed to be brought to the light. It doesn’t mean that I will stop writing on here or that I am going to become a public speaker. But I will seek out what it means to be brave in Jesus, to trust in Him to overcome my fears, to renew that joy of knowing Him until it spills over to others. To pray for boldness, for words to come out of my mouth and not just my hands, to being a living love to others and present them with hope every day.

To speak. Proclaim. And rejoice. To really be brave.

Beauty & Ashes

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The concept of beauty has always been intriguing to me. How can we define something so abstract, so subjective, something altogether ethereal and intangible? We try to place qualifiers on it, from art to nature to homes, and sadly, mankind. We try to deem others as model-esque and others average and others, well, as other.

I myself have been called other-than, hurtful words flung at me by a careless individual who thought they could get a good laugh.

It baffles me how we determine beauty and yet we really had nothing to do with it. If we truly believe God created everything, then how can we decide what He made was good and other things He made not-so-good? We are, after all, simply dust. And there is nothing glorious about that.

Or is there? Can there be?

God took the part of creation that we think the least of, the thing we try to rid our homes of and wash off at the end of the day, and made us, made His image from it. And without Him, we are just dust. That is, until He breathes His life into us, until he transforms us into something altogether other than dust.

Isaiah 61:3 gives us the promise that God will give us beauty for ashes. We have heard at funerals the saying, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Often, dust and ash are interchangeable in some translations of the Bible. We are formed from the dust and return as ash.

But God promises more than dust, a transformation to beauty. Beauty in the form of eternal life, a transforming of this earthly body to a spiritual one through His Son, Jesus Christ, a transforming to a body which never decays.

Beauty, a promise to work good for those who love Him.

In Isaiah 61:3, beauty and ash are written with the same 3 Hebrew characters: פְּאֵ֜ר (Pa’ar, beauty) and  אֵ֗פֶר (Epher, Ashes). Three letters, re-arranged to bring about two different meanings. God transforms us with what we already have. Our pasts, our presents, our choices and involuntary happenings, He takes those and gives us beauty. He takes our dust-made flesh and breathes His Spirit upon us. He takes our ugly sin and gives us robes white as snow. He takes our broken and shattered hearts and mends them back together. Some of the most captivating stories we love regard transformations into beauty, weak to strong. Our sadness turns to joy when we allow God to take our ash and transform it. Like the ugly duckling or the phoenix rising, we are transformed by God’s redeeming power.

Epher and pa’ar. Dust, lowliness, grief, humiliation, shame, all turned to beauty, wholeness, restoration. Often beauty is synonymous with God’s glory; we are redeemed to God’s glory through Jesus Who is prophesied about in this verse.

As easy as it is to re-arrange those letters God can re-arrange our hearts, minds, and lives. In the midst of it we may not see the good, may be sitting in our ashes and watching our world burn down around us, but we must hold on just a little longer. The God of beauty and reformation is coming. He will take the dust He loves-us- and crown us with beauty. And there, in Him, we will be made new.

My beauty and your beauty are not due to how we look or our homes or our clothes or our jobs. Our beauty is the reflection of the essence of Beauty, of the Glorious One Who made all things, of the beauty of the cross (once the most cruel and ugly of all things) turned to a symbol of love and the beauty of Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of life forever with the One Who deemed dust beautiful, Who declared it good, and Who is the highest standard of beauty and glory. When we live in Him and for Him, then we are transformed.

There is no greater hope.

Epher to pa’ar.

 

On Grief

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The mending of the heart is not something that can be manipulated and calculated. To grieve, in all honesty, is to love, and to live raw. Grief expresses the loss of someone/something loved, is a demonstration of love. A smell, a touch, a song, anything can trigger the flood of memory, the pain of loss seared and no longer salved.

Who can say how one is to cry? Who is to count each tear that falls, to dare to say, “That is enough, no more?” Who can limit the hours, days, a person thinks on the one who is lost?

My husband and I were working out our schedules when he pointed to this day and said, “What is this? This 20 years?” And I sat quiet, still unable to say it like it’s just another anniversary, “That’s the day my mom died.” “Oh,” he replies. I sigh, “It doesn’t feel like 20 years already.” He pauses then says, “No, I imagine it doesn’t.”

Because when someone so integral, so meaningful in your life is gone, eternity begins to make more sense because 20 years is just like yesterday. For me to say 20 years ago about anything feels strange and foreign- where have the 20 (and eight) gone?

And yet for as fast as it goes and the process seems a blur, grief does change over that 20 years. Many years I did not speak of my mother- if I at eight years old could barely understand, barely handle it, then which of my friends at eight years of age could do the same? How could I ask them to? I felt very alone in a new school with a deceased parent. No one got it.

Then this girl moved to our school in 5th grade, two years later. She was tall and quiet. Her mother had died too. And suddenly I had a friend, because there was someone who got it. It was this unspoken thing between us; we both knew each other’s stories and we got it. And it always burned a little between the two of us when girls would gush over their perfect mothers and infuriate us when later as teens they would say how they hated their mothers or couldn’t stand it. And we got each other in our anger and sorrow and frustration because it felt like the others didn’t get us. She got it when I was near fighting with the boy in 6th grade who made stupid “yo momma” jokes and when I told him quietly to stop he took it to the next level and said outright awful things about my mother and then I was in his face yelling and then at least half the lunchroom heard the confrontation and why I was so angry and my fist were still shaking when I was asked to “settle down.” But I couldn’t settle because the sea of faces was marked with smirks and some with pity and I couldn’t stand it. At least one person got it.

There was always this awkwardness when people would ask me about my mother. I hadn’t really had the chance to get to know her; she was and is a bit of a mystery to me. I recall what she was like as a mother, but as a woman, I missed out. When people would find out she died they usually apologized, asked how, and then were at a loss of what to say. I learned quickly that death was uncomfortable therefore talking about my mother was uncomfortable so I never did. She had become her death, not her life, which I knew so little about.

Grief is different for each person. Mine culminated in the moment I knew I was going to have my first girl. Terror-stricken, afraid I could not create that mysterious, natural bond between mother and daughter, afraid I too would leave my daughter(s) too soon. I cried and prayed more through that pregnancy than any other. And that was just four years ago.

But grief has a way of releasing the soul, of pulling out the heartache. New loss, whether last week or last month or two years ago, is raw, sharp, and often can be overwhelming. I felt it was something I had to hold onto, out of respect for my mother’s memory. If I didn’t feel sad when I talked about her I thought something was wrong with me- as if I could not remember with happiness the good times! But, I have recently learned God wants to heal that part of me. And He is. There is still a twinge of sadness, a melancholy nostalgia, of which I think will never go away nor do I want it to. But the edges have been softened, the pain replaced with peace.

Slowly I can tell the story I know of my mother, to ask others about her, both good and bad and feel it is okay. I can do this because I know I am not so alone now. And neither are those I know and love who are working out their own grief of family and friends. Grief is raw and ugly, but God turns it into something beautiful in His healing. Grief begs for communal partaking, whether we draw close to others or, even better, draw closer to God. Grief brings a strange comfort when it is shared, knowing that one is not as desperately alone as one thought (even with siblings or family going through it too this is a common feeling). It isn’t something that can be placed, controlled, or forced to move past. It truly is a process, whether 20 years in the making, five, or a couple months. But hold tight, because God will bring beauty from it. He will bring about good and comfort and love to those who seek Him. Because that is Who He is, and He can do no other. Mourning will be turned to joy.

So just hold tight. There is someone who gets it. And there is Someone Who will heal it.

Brave

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It’s that time of year again- although I can hardly believe it- where I reflect on the year passing and prepare for the new one approaching. It’s that time of year where I feel nostalgic, a tinge of sadness at just how fast time is going now and wondering how much I missed this year and what can I do better next year.

In February we had this conference and I have wrote about here before and I got a sort of theme to live out the remainder of the year: No Fear and to be enough. And really when I started dissecting what that meant in my life I knew that in God I need not be afraid and that when I was fearful I should instead turn to Him in prayer and faith.

I did this a lot but I also deceived myself into thinking that this would mean I would not have any fear this year- and that concept failed miserably.

A medicine I was taking gave me the worst headaches of my life, caused my eyes to do weird things, and made me afraid to go to sleep at night for fear I would not wake.

Insecurities plagued me as I internalized other’s feelings and thought it had something to do with me and I withdrew, put walls up back up that I had fought so hard in my life to take down. I was not very vulnerable- or available-this year.

Although never made official by a doctor, a bit of post-partum depression may have been in there too- there were many nights (and days) I would cry, was overly sensitive, and felt I was more of a bother for people than anything else. There were constant struggles in my mind that I had to fight, battles of fear that I often tried to overcome myself, all while knowing the answer was not in my capabilities but in Christ alone, the One who whispered to me first, “No fear.”

But there were things I did that made me afraid but I remembered to breathe deep and trust in God. I wrote letters to precious ones, bearing my soul to them. I wrote a book, finally preparing myself to really get my words on paper and maybe- just maybe- make something of them. All the times my thoughts were giving me doubts about these moments, I could hear His whisper, “No fear.” My hands were often shaking as I typed or wrote with pen, but in Him I was able to get the words out. So for all the things I was dealing with in my own melancholy mind He was working in me in other areas to show me that I really did not have to have fear.

I may have gotten part of it wrong but I know now that the no fear concept is His part, it is where He comes in to my worries and doubts and takes them away, for He is the Father of lights and where light is there can be no darkness. My part was to be enough- enough in Him, enough for Him, enough in how I view myself when for so long I thought I was never enough.

It’s like the light at the end of a tunnel, or the clearing after a storm. When you are in the thick of it things look a mess but when you step out and have a little clarity it all makes more sense.

Moving into the new year I couldn’t quite grasp what it was I felt I needed to focus on. The word “brave” kept coming back to me; this would be for me as God continued to work in the “no fear” part of my life. I realized that many of my fears have kept me from doing things I want to do and now is the time to be brave. Those moments I was trembling but trusted God and did it anyway this year? Those are the moments I least regret, the moments I look back on and say to the new things, “I can do this.” The words “quiet” and “calm” also came to mind. But the more I prayed about it and quietly reflected, I think that is just a part of being brave. It does not have to be some flagrant action, loud and announcing. Brave can be quiet, can be in the small moments too. Brave can, and I think will be this year, in the personal and intimate moments between God and myself, between my family and friends, and within my own heart and mind.

Brave. It does not mean I have to overcome all fear. God is capable of that and my faith in Him has to be enough. Brave means doing the things that make my hands and voice shake and believing that Jesus will guide me though it all.

Like one of my newly favorite books, Hinds Feet on High Places, I don’t have to be strong or powerful or even capable. My love for Jesus and His unending love for me will be enough. I don’t know all that will happen in the following year, but when I think of things planned and the things hoped for, a quiet bravery in Him is just what I need.

When We Make Room for Quiet

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My life is loud. It is messy and sometimes a little chaotic and there are schedules to keep and time to manage and it is just. Never. Ending. That is the life I have with four little ones, school, (some) work, and life in general.

That is why I love the quiet solitude I find in God. I have to seek it out, much like my own children seek me out when they first wake, always checking my bed first and then running pell mell down the stairs to check the living room and dining room. Often they can find me in the dining room, coffee mug in one hand and a pen in another, writing in my prayer journal. It is how I prefer to start my day but there are many days where they still find me sleeping in my bed, just as groggy as they were a moment ago. Sometimes I bribe them into laying quietly on the couch just so I can finish up what I am doing, to linger in the quiet just a moment longer.

If I don’t seek out the quiet, I lose it. I won’t get it because there is never enough time in the day, never a dull moment where I can just sit and be quiet. Not when there are children and laundry and cooking and school and my school and the endless to-do list.

Sometimes I think we expect God to be loud. We see the movies and re-telling of stories where God speaks in a thundering voice of power and the whole earth shakes. We see His movement and when He does big things we cry aloud, “That’s my God.” Rightfully so.

But just as God made man and woman in His image, God has two parts that are equally loud and equally soft. He was purposely absent in the loud and noise for Elijah but so very present in the whisper. He is just as soft as He is loud, tender as He is powerful, loving as He is strong.

I wrote those words above a few months ago and never finished it. I wasn’t sure where to go from there and realized that I did not have the ability at the time to write on being quiet before God. But as we have progressed through the season of Advent and I have watched myself continue to fail miserably in this aspect, I have finally found a few more thoughts on the matter. It is not just about being quiet, but about being able to prepare room for Jesus. We have to be willing to cast aside all that is in our hearts and allow Him room there. We often accept Him as our Lord and Savior, thus allowing for the notion that He lives in us. But living in us and having room to live in us, I am learning, are two very different things.

In order to prepare Him room, I must shut out the noise. If not, the noise and daily living pushes Him out. I have no time to listen, to sit in His presence, to know Him and be known by Him.

In a world of loud, constant, chaotic background noises that buzz and hum and beg and lure for our attention, quiet must enter into my soul, must be given room to give Him room. It must remain a background noise, one that dulls, not sharpens, over time.

This Advent season I have struggled to explain to my kids, to show them the importance of this season and I all I have to show for it is a failed, busy season. I have failed to teach them the quiet, the waiting, to listen to hear from God. I have failed to prepare room and like the inn keeper have offered subpar commodities in my heart.

We (I) trade joy and peace and love and hope for chaos, begrudging, rushing, and irritation. We lose room for Him and nudge Him out when we instead focus on the obligations and other things this season has become to us.

Not just this season, but anytime my life gets too busy or my priorities are out of alignment do I lose the room I have for Him. So I am beginning, slowly, to see places where I can add quiet, refocus, and allow Him to have the room in my heart He more than deserves as the One Who saved my soul. It is in the quiet I can toss out all other things that hinder, that keep me from listening for Him, and simply embrace and savor His presence.

What a refreshing to the soul, to the heart. What courage and strength and peace are found there. In Him. If only I don’t let my mind get in the way and open my heart fully and completely, and allow Jesus room to abide. That is the greatest struggle in this time where we are always busy, attending parties and visits and lunches and dinners and buying gifts and go go go.

This is my favorite season. From Thanksgiving on to Christmas, no other time do I love more. But when I focus on Christ, my reasons for loving it change, evolve. And in these quiet moments I steal away, whether in the beginning of the day or end or somewhere in between, it is there I find the One Who my soul loves, the One for whom this season is about. I prepare Him room today, and quietly wait.

For a beautiful song and reflection on preparing Him room, listen here.

 

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