Beginning Advent

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When the sun comes up through the tall branches of the pine trees, Sunday awakens at my house. It is the first Sunday, the first day, of Advent. As a child, Advent meant nothing more to me than opening a little flap on a cardboard box that was filled with a plastic tray of little square chocolates. The dates were not entirely all that accurate either; no matter what we started on December 1st, with the culminating piece that was opened on Christmas Eve showing off a plump and cheerful picture of Santa.

I have passed this tradition on to my children, with my sister always being determined to deliver the calendars to her nieces on nephews each year, faithfully by December first. But even if she is a little late, they don’t mind as they can double up on the chocolates to “catch up.”

This was the extent of my understanding of Advent for many years. I remember a Sunday School teacher spending time on it, explaining the wreath and the candles and what each week signified, but unfortunately I was not paying as much attention back then or recognized the significance. It felt like something more traditional churches would do, as if it was only for someone who was perhaps Catholic or Methodist.

I read it about in people’s blogs years later, and saw ideas on Pinterest and people discussing the celebration. Still, I could not understand this idea of Advent; why were people waiting for Jesus’ birth when He had already come?

When I began to read more about it, to search for the meaning behind it and the purpose, I was surprised to find there really was a meaning to it, a purpose beyond plastic trays of chocolates or lighting candles. I saw that it was for everyone, not just the churches that were rooted in deep traditions already.

The more I saw the structure to it, the symbolism of it, the tradition of it, the more I began to think that this was something I wanted to teach to my children. I wanted them to see beyond the glittery decor and the presents and Santa, beyond the artificial magic we produce with stories of elves and wishes and Christmas miracles. I had told them the true meaning of Christmas, of the birth of Jesus and the angels singing and the shepherds and kings that came to visit that Babe in the manger, and they had nodded their little heads with eagerness, all the while eyeing the presents under the tree.

Last year we began to really participate in Advent, to learn of the prophecies of Jesus, of the many names by which He is called- Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and many others. We read in Isaiah of His coming, of God’s meticulous plan beginning in Genesis leading to the moment of Christ’s birth. As we read those passages, we were right there with those people, waiting for the Savior.

This year we have an actual book to help guide us, with traditional songs, activities, and the lighting of the Advent candles. Tonight we will join those who still seek Him, who have waited on Him for His birth in the Scriptures and those who now wait on His second glorious coming. We make the journey in our hearts, hearing the prophecy and seeing God’s plan in action. For four weeks we will study and grow and pray and wait. And the point at the end, at least for me, is to know how much like the innkeepers will I be? Will I have prepared Him room in my heart this season, or will I choke Him out of the meaning of the holiday we celebrate that is all about Him? Will the artificial magic reign supreme, or will I bow to His holiness and in the quiet recesses of my heart- and in my kids’ and husband’s hearts- surrender our love and life to Him?

My prayer this Advent, as we wait and hope, is for the children to understand the significance of Jesus’ birth, of the climactic scene of God coming down to Earth, equally man and equally God, borne a babe like us but dying and resurrecting as a Savior. Some traditions will not die- like the chocolate calendars- but I want my children to see beyond that, to see Him in it all, as we wait. And for them to revel in knowing that our waiting is only for celebration, as He has already come, but that others had to wait, not knowing when He would arrive, clinging to the promises of prophets of old. Our Savior has come; now we prepare our hearts once more to receive the miracle of Christmas.

 

The Oil of Joy

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These past three and a half weeks I have been participating in a study at church with a group of other women. In our private study at home, we were asked to read Isaiah 61 and to mark the passages that speak the most to us. It is a Scripture that many are familiar with, that many cling to for the promises found within and the glory of Jesus fulfilling these promises. It cannot be summarized, and I dare not to for fear of missing out on relaying the beauty of the gift found therein:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61: 1-3).

Those are only the first three verses, and yet they are captivating. We have all been through trials of loss, pain, suffering, hopelessness. We have all mourned and wept and questioned and fought to cling tight to the faintest of hopes that we know reside somewhere deep in our hearts. At times we have all traveled in dark places, lonely places, places where we think there will never be morning again. We have sat in the ash of our places and lives burned down, and could not find the good in it.

But these verses speak life into those dark moments. It forces the breaking of dawn and the light of Hope to shine once again in our lives. Just as we feel that there is no hope to hold onto, that we are completely abandoned, God whispers, “Wait. I have not forgotten you.” He lifts us from the ashes and gives us beauty; He lightens our loads.

And the one promise that I wrote down as the one that speaks most to me? Oil of joy.

We have heard it many times, that joy and happiness are not the same thing. Joy is like a state of being for the soul, an assurance of God’s goodness even in the darkness and trials. It is the delight in something, a pure thing that is not circumstantial. And I began to think of the imagery of these words, of what is means to have the oil of joy.

When looking back at many ancient Hebrew traditions, oil is used for many things. At feasts and other celebratory moments, fragrant, sweet smelling oil is poured onto guests. Kings were anointed with oil. Oil was used for prophets, for sacrifice. But the celebratory kind, the one that smelled so sweetly and was given to all guests and not held back for just one, as in a king’s anointing? That oil was the oil of joy.

The oil of joy was poured out. It was not just sprinkled or marked, but poured over the person. It covered them, head to toe. Oil is not like water that will dry and run off. Oil lingers. It slides thick and slow, seeping into every pore, running down to coat the person. It cannot be washed off easily, and was not meant to. It is shiny and noticeable on the skin. When one saw the oil one saw the anointing. It permeated the person and gave off a sweet aroma that others saw and smelled. When they smelled the oil of joy, they knew there was a reason to celebrate.

And Paul tells us that we “…are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Cor. 2:15). The fragrance of joy is the fragrance of Christ. And if that oil of joy is found in Christ, could it be, as Charles Spurgeon suggests, that the oil of joy is the Comforter, the Holy Spirit within us?

Could this mean then that we already have the oil of joy, waiting to be poured out? Believing that Christ came and fulfilled these words, as He says He does in Luke 4:17-21, means we also believe that God is working this in us.

This fulfills another promise of God, that He will always be with us and through Christ we can do all things. Even the hard things and the painful things.

But why then can’t I always feel it?

Because I am trying to work in my own strength. I am grasping at the intangible, thinking I can will joy to come and be done with the pain. I fail to see that the oil of joy does not pour out of me of my own accord, but because God has given it to me through Christ. When I give myself to Christ, relinquish my need for control, it is there He pours out the oil. It is there joy is found. We try so hard to push and force and make things work and struggle against ourselves when all the while He has provided for our every need. If I pour out my selfishness, my pride, my hurt, He pours in. The oil of joy seeps into those dark and hurting places and restores. It becomes a countenance, a sweet fragrance. When the oil of joy is given, the anointing is made visible. To the saved and unsaved. And it is no longer my striving and struggling others will see, but rather the Holy Spirit working in me. When the hard times come, the joy remains. Because Christ remains. God’s promises remains. The oil of joy permeates my soul. And that which I so long for I can cling to in the dark moments, because Jesus has never left my side.

 

Titles and the Forming of New Things

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Writing is a peculiar thing. It is something that I have courted for years; from the time I learned the magic of reading I wanted to be the one to put the words down, to share in the wonderment and pure joy that comes from words. It is no wonder my desire to know the Word of God in its entire nuance of original language also makes me love the description of Jesus in the Book of John as the Word. It is no wonder one of my favorite Scripture verses note that death and life are in the power of the tongue. In our digital age, I would apply that to our technological tongues too, which have become an extension of our own physical (and mental) beings.

Yes words can be elusive. There is a hide-and-seek game that is played each time one ventures to write, trying to find the best words, the eloquence, and the flow that makes it worth reading. Words particularly enjoy hiding themselves when I think of titles for my blogs or short stories. Will it be eye-catching without being another click-bait article? Will it bare another piece of my soul or feel insignificant? Will it be enough to encompass the words within, to bolster them up to something that makes sense and can be savored by others? Am I just wasting my time with all of this, writing out of selfishness and false bravado? I always hope not.

So when the title was the first thing that came to me for my next work, I thought surely this could not be right. The first problem was the words themselves, and how very unlike me they are. Then came the whisper, This is who you will be, if you will just let go. There’s that control issue again. The title feels like big shoes to fill and could be a let-down to the contents inside, but again, a whisper, This is your story. You are not a let-down, you are of worth, and value.

That was nine months ago. I tried starting, twice. I hand-wrote out the beginnings, trying to make it witty and light-hearted, like a thin veil over a dark hole. And while I can be sarcastic or funny at times, this was not the right move. This story was too important to laugh it off. So I began to type it out instead, and got to one part and cried. And cried and cried. And I thought, how horrible. How terrible this all is and I cannot do this.

Instead of writing, I did what any other author would do- I wrote other things, I sat completely inept at my keyboard and wrote nothing at all, I read other books. And then I picked up a book on writing and felt like someone was speaking to my soul, and the fire sparked again.

Like a mother who has waited nine long and hard months for the birthing of new life, it is finally time. The pangs of giving birth give way to the joy and relief of something new, something that has been worth waiting for and giving up one’s body for. I feel that I will come away ragged, torn asunder, and a limping in pain by the time this is over with, but it will be for something better, something I need to give up and let out. It will be my biggest challenge yet and for fear of talking it up too much as something more than it is, I will not say much more until it is complete. But my hope is that through the writing of this next book I will continue to be inspired to write on here, to share and grow with each of you who read these pages.

I look forward to this journey and hope you all will come along with me.

The Dangers of Positive Stereotypes

I received official word the other week that I am half-way through my doctorate classes. It was a surprise and not so much as this past class has been a whirlwind of information and one that is challenged me to think deeply. The class is Social Psychology and we have delved deep into stereotypes and biases. And as I have been thinking about these ideas and beliefs, one thing that came to my mind was the concept of positive stereotypes, and how very dangerous they can be.

We have all been referred to in some manner regarding a negative stereotype, some of us more so than others. Sometimes, we can ignore those, prove them wrong, have open dialogue about the issue, or sometimes be hurt. So when someone alludes to a positive stereotype, they may think they are not causing any real harm. Because let’s be honest, what Asian person doesn’t want to hear how they are so good at math, or a woman that she is nurturing, or a man that he is tough, or an African –American that they are good at sports? There’s nothing wrong with those, right?

Wrong.

A lot of times, the positive stereotypes are the most detrimental.

These types of stereotypes set standards, not for a person, but on a person. It stakes a claim on what others think they should be like or act like or think like or do like. And then when that person doesn’t fit the mold, people are surprised. Upset. Taken aback. Disappointed. And the one being labelled is left there feeling inadequate and ashamed.

There are some individuals who do not care what others say about them to a degree. They don’t mind being mold-breakers. But many, many more are directly affected and influenced by these “positive” categories they are placed in.

Recently I had a friend call me the “mom who does it all.” I cringed. I wanted to back away from the label and run far, far away. Because I am not that mother. I am the mother that yells when I am frustrated, is less patient than I should be, piles more on my plate than I know I should, lets housework slide, and generally fails in at least one area daily.

I am (self) labelled an introvert. But this too creates this idea about who I should be. But some days I am the extrovert screaming to get out but doesn’t engage first and wants to be involved and doing things and not just a tag along. I am not the one to invite first, usually, but a lot of times, I want to be around other people. Friends. Laughter. Food. But introvert mixed with the stereotype “busy” and a husband’s schedule that is not routine leaves me alone more than not.

So I am not the mother that does it all unless that means all the things that are not evenly balanced. I am not the introvert that always avoids people. Just as I am a Christian that still is not perfect because that will not happen this side of glory but I still try. We are all trying as hard as we can, keeping up with life and emotion and people and the last thing we need is another label, another expectation, to live up to. The last thing we need is to be considered a disappointment because we didn’t live up to how someone else thought we were supposed to be like.

It is a natural occurrence for the brain to categorize things. This is how we make sense of the world around us; compare and contrast. But the danger lies in relying on these categories and then reacting when someone no longer fits. Because they never really “fit” there anyway. The danger lies in losing the individuality of a person, even when you think there is no harm done.   So in treating each person as a person and not a group or notion, that is showing love for them as Christ loves us. And love is more valued than labels.

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.