Just Enough Grace…

Sufficient.

This is the word that has been bouncing around in my head, poking holes in my fears and anxieties as I work to clean out the damaged parts of my heart and replace them with more of my Sweet Savior.

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suf·fi·cient: /səˈfiSHənt/: adjective & determiner: enough; adequate.

Synonyms include:
Plenty of, ample, just right.

Compound Sufficient with Grace.

grace: /ɡrās/: noun: the condition or fact of being favored by someone. a divinely given talent or blessing. simple elegance or refinement of movement.

“My Grace is Sufficient.”

I have been processing different facets of what and where my fears and anxieties come from. I want to understand myself, my heart and mind, and I want to see the flaws clearly.
The simple answer: My fear and anxiety is from insecurities, lack of trust in God, and feeling out of control… But, ultimately it has been born out of previous pain and hurt projecting into the future. – Neat.

The last few days I have found myself praying:
“Your Grace is Sufficient. Your Grace is just right for ______.”  – Insert myself, another person or situation… And then, just repeat a bit obsessively and you’ll get an idea of how some of my prayers sound.

And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

In the NLT version it reads: “…’My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’…”

Three alternate word choices:
There is plenty of my grace for you.
My grace is just right for you.
The fact of my favor and blessing is exactly enough for you.

I have not quite reached the level of boasting in my weaknesses, insults, distresses or difficulties. (Anyone else?)
A more authentic description would be: I still very much wrestle with giving God unmitigated control of a situation; EVEN IF I know that I only have perceived control.

On one hand, I very much pray through things, pray about them, over them, for them… I try to press into my Sweet Savior for all things and in all situations. – “Try” being the key word here.
Yet, on the other hand, there is a side of me that cannot seem to let go without a struggle. So, I end up with one hand on the thing I’m praying for or over and one hand gripped onto Jesus. – Let me assure you, there’s an intense and often intimate conflict within me until one hand releases… And, the only thing that ushers in peace is when both hands grasp onto Christ.

In Matthew we are told not to worry about tomorrow. – It sounds nice and like a solid peace of advice, until you realize that it is actually necessary to abide by this rule. Over the last couple weeks I have realized that if I begin to think about, plan for or rehearse things in my head looking forward beyond today:

Instant stress, fear and anxiety struggle within me.

In fact, the enemy of my soul knows how easily “thinking about things in the future” is a spot he can scheme against me. So, because he’s been studying me and knows when and how to attack, for me it is as I go through my bedtime routine (usually about when I’m brushing my teeth). I will often suddenly find myself thinking about future things, and my mind takes off at 100mph with fake scenarios and conversations under the guise of “processing all possible outcomes” and then, getting it all to shut down so I can sleep becomes virtually impossible.

The enemy of my soul is an @$$hole.

“‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” – Isaiah 41:10

A couple of nights ago the stress was palpable. I could feel it within me as I climbed into bed and found myself totally not ready to sleep. I was exhausted, feeling weary and overwhelmed from the day and what was to come. I uttered a few weak little prayers in my head for help, and then decided I would start at the beginning of the Psalms, maybe there was something there for me. (Imagine me saying that with a nonchalant shoulder shrug.)

So, I read the first four chapters of the Psalms, but decided to share with you the portions that screamed for my attention and why.

Here’s how our “conversation” went as I laid in bed:

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.” – Psalm 1:3

Conveniently this was my ‘take note’ memo because I have a vast tree tattooed on my side… Ok, maybe the Lord did have something for me tonight.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
I was crying to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountainSelah.
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.” – Psalm 3:3-5

This is when I realized that God and I were actually having a moment; I was struggling and crying out to Him, I was laying down to sleep! – He was answering me and His plan was to sustain me.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer…
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself;
The Lord hears when I call to Him.
Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And trust in the Lord
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than when their grain and new wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” – Psalm 4:1, 3-5, 7-8

God gives peace and relieves distress. He is gracious and hears when I am calling, I do not call out in vain when I am laying on my bed – like actually literally laying on my bed and being still. I will trust, even if it looks more like convincing myself because I’m struggling… But, I will sleep in peace because the Lord makes me to live in a settled state of safety in Him.

That night, I slept well.

His Grace is sufficient.
His Grace is just right for me as I lay down to sleep with a mind dabbling on the edge of overcome with stress about whatever is to come; He is there and I am safe.

His Grace is sufficient.

Synonym meaning:
His simple elegance and refinement of my movement is just right for me.

Cultivating Patient Endurance…

I have always said “I am not known for my patience…”

I don’t recommend identifying yourself as even a simple thing that is not from the Lord.

I naturally tend towards the side of being a bit of a whirlwind, charge ahead, figure it out as I go, and fly by the seat of my pants type person. I like to keep moving, feeling progress, and feeling stuck or stagnant feels more like jail than anything else. Can you imagine how I feel when God forces me to stop, pause, dwell, abide, and wait on Him?

Struggle.

On one hand, I desperately want to be obedient. But, on the other it is fighting my natural instincts. I feel a bit like a caged horse just anxious to move, to do something, to go, to take off and make progress.

Ahhh, but you see, patience is essential. Patient endurance is actually key to life with the Lord. – Crap.

I have been learning so much over the last couple of months, my themes get progressively harder and more nuanced. Each theme takes on a compounding weight with the previous themes…

But, true to form, here I am to share some of what I am learning.

Patient Endurance – It means the tolerant and even-tempered perseverance. It is the capacity or state of withstanding a hardship or stress, the act of persevering. The fact or power of bearing pain, hardship, or adversity.

If you have not, you may want to go read more about what I have been learning about Perseverance and Grit, or just a few of the themes God has given me to process.

For the longest time (aka pretty much my entire life) I have sorta separated out the Fruit of the Spirit. I have split them into two categories: the ones I am good at, and the ones I’m bad at. Naturally a lot of my life and actions are done through the lens of Kindness (pre-meditated thoughtfulness, consideration, and care for those around me)… Every single day, I am typically keenly aware of how what I do impacts those around me (sometimes for the worse, but also for the better).

Because honesty matters; what Fruit of the Spirit am I naturally bad at? Gentleness and Patience. – Shocked is no one ever.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, depending on the day, if I’m in a particularly unhealthy place, I’m bad at most of the Fruit of the Spirit!.. But, overall, on average, Gentleness and Patience are the struggles.

(A couple of years ago, my church did an “Elements” series. It was awesome, and I highly recommend checking it out to give you a good starting place too!)

So, I keep coming back to this:

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
– Galatians 5:25

When we are in-tune with the Holy Spirit, the evidence of that is each and every one of these descriptors:
Love,
Joy,
Peace,
Patience,
Kindness,
Goodness,
Faithfulness,

Gentleness,
and Self-control

Yet, throughout scripture I’m realizing that these qualities are not all equal. Some Fruit of the Spirit are gifted, others you actually have to work towards diligently, still others are primarily an overflow of time abiding with God, unfortunately some are straight up a willful decision in moments and situations, and then some are just cultivated over time.

Awesome. Not easy.

Self-control is cultivated.
Gentleness is a choice response; usually after wisdom and compassion have had a chance to work in and through us.
Patience, oh sweet dear patience is cultivated through difficulties. Repeatedly throughout scripture patience is linked to humility, gentleness, kindness, tribulations, proven character, hope, faith and love. – Ouch. There’s really no great and wonderful rainbows and butterflies; this one is a matter of grit.

Patience is cultivated.
Patience is learned and created through difficult situations, learning, growing and choosing the response.
Patience is born out of some of the worst seasons of our life that create compassion and love for others.

Also, just so we are clear, there is a huge element of patience that is connected to pressing into the presence of God. I have started to actually see the shift and change within me as I continue to spend more time abiding, dwelling, and going to God open-handed with every bit of who I am with the situations I am facing.

Here are a few things about patience that I am learning about in this accidental growth in patience processing season:

Patience cultivation is so freaking hard. – Like truly, learning patience means being aware of your mindset, your heart, the stress and situations you are facing, and being aware enough to know how to respond well… Even if that means actually not responding at all.

Patience is equated with perseverance, which means there is a longevity associated with it. There is nothing quick about patience cultivation.

Patience is a process. As in, I have realized that as I respond poorly in situations with little or no patience, I absolutely must spend some time processing what and why I didn’t have patience and learn from it.

I have realized that when I do not have capacity for patience, I am stress and overwhelmed, and likely tapped out. My only option and saving grace is for me to force space for myself to spend some time with God. – Over the last couple months, I have come to realize, no matter how busy I am or how pressed I feel, if I do not create daily time and space with God, patience is going to dwindle alarmingly quickly for me.

God is continuing to tell me to hold steadfast, to persevere, and then issuing the challenge of “are you going to be obedient?”… Only, the challenge has shifted slightly to “do you have the patient endurance to persevere through the process?”

What process?

This process; the re-shaping, learning, growing, and creating a new foundation within me.
This process is changing me intensely and incredibly from the core of who I am outward.
God has changed the game, He has adjusted the way He and I communicate, and He is teaching me about patient endurance day by day.
A huge part of this process has been God restoring the credibility I didn’t know had been damaged. I have started learning how to recognize my need for time with Him first before reaching out to someone else for comfort… It’s a huge step for me.

Each day, I feel as though I am living out and learning that in order to actually have patient endurance, I have no choice but to live by the, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” command in Matthew 6.

What’s coming soon, the stress of tomorrow or two weeks from now, it is literally too much to handle and it sends my fear, stress and anxiety over the edge… And graciously, lovingly with more tenderness than I realize, the Lord calls me back to today, to this moment, to Him, and asks me to Trust Him. – Allow Him to navigate the process and restore my faith and His credibility as I learn patient endurance. Some days, I easily do this with the feeling of contentment and grace, other days I am a waffling crazy person in my head and heart…. Who’s to say which way I will go each day!

Patient Endurance is intensely difficult because there’s a decision to choose steadiness that requires me to resolutely and dutifully hold firm and unwavering regardless of how I feel or see before me.

Patient Endurance begins to create a peace within your soul because of the time needed in abiding and dwelling with my Sweet Savior.

Patient Endurance forces me to confront my fears and the things I do not have control over and hand them over to the Lord trusting that His timing is better.

Patient Endurance changes you and slowly creates a calm confidence that God can be trusted.

God can be trusted. His timing is better than mine.

It will all be worth it in the end.

God’s Credibility…

I keep mulling over this idea that the enemy of our soul, the deceiver, the evil one or Satan, whatever name you’d like to use; that he has one singular goal:

“he only comes to steal, kill, and destroy…” – John 10:10a

That’s it, all he wants to do is:
A. Steal.
B. Kill.
C. Destroy.

The end.

As I have been learning more about him, his names, and schemes against me (us), I have also been correspondingly learning about God, His character, and the Armor of God. I highly recommend Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God study, it’s great!.. Although, it’s actually supposed to be done as a group study, and I’m preferring to do it on my own.

She makes this statement that has just stuck with me, and I’ve been mulling it over for a couple of weeks now.

One of the evil one’s main goals is to deceive us and to injure God’s credibility with us.

There’s something about the idea of my faith and confidence in God, His plans, and that He is in fact who He says He is being injured to the extent that I struggle with His very credibility… Maybe not necessarily ALL areas of who He is, but maybe just one or two?

Credibility is the quality of being trusted or being trustworthy. The ability to be believed.

Ugh.

I hate admitting that there are areas of my relationship with the Lord that have been injured, and it’s my fault. I just find myself so incredibly frustrated that I have allowed the enemy to deceive me just barely enough to create this struggle within my heart to trust that God is in fact inherently trustworthy in all areas of my life. He is not just trustworthy and able in the lives or situations of those around me, but for me, myself an I, on the most intimate of levels within my heart.

God’s credibility has been injured in my heart slowly over time, and He did absolutely nothing to deserve it, in fact, He’s done everything to not deserve it.

I can look back over my life and confidently say, God has been faithful to me. The Lord has comforted and guided me in the best and worst season’s of my life. God has blessed me in ways that aren’t of the American Dream blessings type, but in eternal things and richness of relationships… And, let me tell you, I absolutely am not nice enough or gentle enough to deserve it… Sometimes I’m just a jerk, and truly truly grace, mercy and forgiveness are my saving!

So where’s the struggle and why has His credibility been injured?

Simply put, because it pretty much boils down to His timing isn’t mine.

I have slowly, little by little over the course of my life struggled with one particular area of my life, and in my own hoping, and attempt to control or be capable or whatever, I have allowed his guidance to injure my belief that He sees me, and is for me.

In June I started praying that the Lord would reveal the lies that my heart had begun believing, and to show me where I had lost hope. It was sparked because of (I think) a staff Chapel where our pastor talked about it… In July leading into Uganda, what I prayed for over myself was that the Holy Spirit would not allow me to set aside or shut down my heart in order to function and “be a good leader.” I told God that I wanted whatever He had for me in Uganda, I wanted to have connection with Him, not just facilitate Him connecting with our team. I also had begun to realize how unhealthy it is for me to lock my heart away and not consult it for days, sometimes weeks. I believe that in order to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s movements, I absolutely needed to learn how to better navigate my heart and head at the same time.

About six weeks ago, I began to find myself just overcome with the same old insecurities. All of these things that I always control and set aside in my locked heart were bubbling up; I had no control over them and there was no stopping it. I saw what was happening. The Lord was finally bringing to the surface areas of my heart where I had lost hope and believed lies about Him and myself.

His message was clear: We (you and me) are going to fix this.

So far, it has been an intensely painful process of weeding through word by word (you can read about some of those words here, here or even here) the areas that God’s credibility was in question or my insecurities about myself reigned free were linked to some of these words (and other ones I have yet to blog about).

In five weeks I plowed my way through an entire prayer journal that typically take me 4 or so months to use up.

Daily, I continue to get themes to process, mull over, read scripture on, talk about, pray through, and ultimately come to a new place in my heart on…

My biggest frustration is with myself in this process. I see what God is doing (at least in part), I see the here and now elements, I see the impact it is likely to have on me in the future, and I see the character development happening. Yet, I have very little grace with my own pace, my own struggle, and the ways that I can know (head) that something is or isn’t true, and yet find myself struggling so intensely (heart) that it feels overwhelming. I get frequently upset with myself and the way that it isn’t just as simple as see the truth and reality, and settle it within my heart and move on. Check and done.

I find myself feeling like I waffle back and forth day-to-day sometimes. One day I will be fine, I will be secure and confident in what God and I are doing, how He’s speaking to me (because let me tell you, He IS speaking to me a ton right now), and then the very next day I am riddled with a struggling, doubting, and fearful heart. – So. Annoying. I actually get tired of my own process, I cannot even begin to imagine how other’s close to me that are being subjected to my processing feel!

A few days ago I shifted my prayers as I have slowly begun to realize where my issues lay.

Lord, I believe and trust you.
Help my unbelief.

I absolutely, confidently believe the Lord can and will change me, He is walking me through this season and towards another with confidence, a purpose, and creating and molding me into the woman He desires me to be. I see the process, I even see the progress, and I very much so feel the changes happening within me. – Yet, even still, at almost 33 years old, I am learning to reset how God and I talk, how we communicate, and how I let Him lead me. It is scary. Necessary, but still scary in the depths of my heart.

When I realized that so much of this struggle stems from a deception sown in my heart years upon years ago and continued repeatedly that “maybe God isn’t credible and reliable in this one area…” – Ugh. So frustrating and upsetting.

Yet, here I am, three months into the process, six weeks of intensive care from the Lord, and He has been nothing but patient and extending so much assistance and aid to me. He has helped me learn His voice better in the last six weeks. He is guiding me daily through scripture, He is giving me dreams when I ask for them, and prayers from other people when I can’t find clarity. He’s given me pictures spoken over me from people who know my situation and season, and other’s that are clueless. Literally at this stage, within one day I will have an answer to whatever I’ve been struggling with…. It is of course never as simple as “yes or no.” Instead, it’s a new theme or a synonym of an old theme spoken to me like, “God said for me to tell you ‘Keep going.'” (I *may* have fallen to the floor in dramatics when I was told that lol)

I think in my head I want this clear audible voice that I cannot refute with a specific answer.

Instead, God is not subject to my need for control in the form of a clearly audible voice. He doesn’t cater to my timeline, nor would I want Him to be ultimately… So, rather, He is teaching me along the way that He is in fact credible. He is trustworthy enough for me to believe and follow without pause or worry. His timing matters more than the insecurity and lack of patience in my own timing. He has been clear, not only am I able to understand what He is doing, but I will also be prepared when the time is right.

So good.
So hard and scary.

This season, it is about learning His voice, renewing what was broken and lost, it is about obeying what He is telling me. I will forever be changed after this season. My faith in God for everything, at every step, at every pace, and in all ways is being restored as if it was never broken or damaged.

God’s credibility is being restored deep within my heart.

 

Wisdom and Foolishness

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
– James 1:5

“The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.”
– Proverbs 19:3

Since I was a child, literally 11 years old, I can remember praying for two things for and over myself: Wisdom and Understanding. – If that gives any insight into the type of child and person I am! haha I realize and love that I’m a bit of a weirdo haha

I remember, and continue to feel like if only I have more wisdom and understanding, then I can and will do better at life. I will handle situations better, I will see people differently, I can assess and respond to various things that I encounter more effectively, I can keep the best and most important things in perspective… But, ultimately, I can just love others well.

Occasionally, I will also swap into my prayer mix, clarity and knowledge for myself before the Lord.

The opposite side of wisdom is foolishness, so it is no surprise that I want to perpetually stay as far away from that as possible.
One of the big things I process and struggle through before making decisions is wanting as much information and perspective as I can get to ensure that I do not make a foolish decision. – I don’t want to ever look back and feel like I had been foolish, hasty, thoughtless, or stupid in my decisions or actions.

So, given the way the Lord and I are working through things lately, Foolishness was the theme a few days ago, and Wisdom was soon to follow… As in, the next day.

I was amazed to realize that when you look up “foolish” in scripture, and when you read through the passages one right after another; it is actually very clear about who is considered foolish and what is considered foolish! And then, because God has a sense of humor, there’s one section of verses that throw a little wrench into what man considers wise vs foolish and what God does. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Just so we are all on the same page, other descriptors of foolishness are: thoughtless, senseless, stupid, mindless, unwise or incautious actions… The level with which I do not want to be or ever be described as these things is intense within me.

So, I began to dig deeper in scripture to get a handle on what it means, and compare myself authentically to see if I am foolish.

Here are some of the things I learned reading through the 88 passages that talk about foolishness in scripture:
Those who are foolish don’t even try to understand or seek wise counsel.
Foolish people are quick-tempered.
The Foolish have eyes but do not see, ears but do not year, and they do not honor or give thanks to God even though they know him.
Foolish people speculate futilely knowing it will lead to arguments and strife.
The foolish seek riches, fame.
Foolish people, who do not believe and follow Christ are actually enslaved to their evil thoughts, coveting, deceit, sensuality, adulteries, envy, slander, and pride… They are even described as having qualities that are evil and proceed from within them.
Foolishness is something that comes from within, it produces actions that harm ourselves or others, and entirely disregard the Lord.
Foolish people operate in pride and don’t even attempt to see or care about what is right, nor do they give thanks to the Lord and honor him in any way.

But also, interestingly enough, believers and followers of Christ are described as righteous, and that they previously were foolish but are no more…

However, I find it interesting that Paul won’t let believers sidestep people who are foolish. We must seek after them with love too. He says that we are actually under obligation to both Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and foolish. We must love and follow hard after our Lord making disciples of all people and all nations.

(You can read more about where I’m getting this information from here.)

One of my favorite things about the really hard, and honestly exhausting season that the Lord and I are currently in together right now is that I spend all day every day mulling and praying through things that He is teaching me. I feel as though in my head, in conversations, in my prayers, and journaling, in my seeking, in my rising and laying down I am working out my salvation with the God of the Universe. That, while He has already saved me, He is taking this season, and making me new. On a foundational level we are re-evaluating things and removing lies and insecurities, and also replacing and building new hope and faith in the process. – It is draining in every possible sense of the word, but it is intensely good and rich.

I feel like daily I am consumed by this season. I spend every spare moment reading and digging deeper. Exhausting.

As I get my Theme’s of the day and begin to dig deeper and try to wrap my mind around them, I have realized there are a lot of thoughts and assumptions that I have that are not actually described in scripture… or better yet, other things that are incredibly clearly defined that I was totally ignorant of!

There was so much internal sigh of relief when I realized that while I certainly have plenty of foolish moments and have done foolish things, *I* am not foolish by any stretch of the imagination.

This whole internal process of mulling and praying my way through this topic was sparked because I have been trying to figure out whether it is considered foolish to hope and pray for things that are more just “wishful thinking” when I do not know if it falls within the will of God.

My everyday struggle is that, I want intensely to do things well in the eyes of the Lord. I want to follow the Lord, and pursue Him with everything I am. I desire for my prayers and actions to be in alignment with him.

So, what did I find out as I dug deeper into wisdom and foolishness?

No, it is not foolish in the slightest to hope and pray for things that we don’t know whether they are or aren’t in the will of God… There is actually nowhere in scripture that foolishness even comes close to touching praying and hoping for things in the Lord. – Instead, it is actually the opposite, wisdom and understanding slide up right next to hoping and praying for things we want. It honors God when we go to Him, foolish people do not give Him honor, nor do they care about the things of His kingdom.

Throughout scripture, wisdom and understanding are intimately acquainted with every type of communication between us and the Lord.

In fact, the more we press in, the more we seek and ask for wisdom, the more we are actually changed by the Spirit. We find ourselves in alignment with Him as part of the process, and even if we don’t get what we want, we are content and continue to hope and build our faith throughout the journey.

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom… But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
– James 3:13 & 17

I do not know that I’ll every consider myself “wise” but, the more I learn about wisdom, the more I want to pursue it and also just find it fascinating. I seek the Spirit of Wisdom that is talked about throughout scripture. I want the blessings that come with having knowledge and understanding that is only given from the Creator of the Universe.

I also find it interesting that wisdom is given a gender, and that gender is female.
I also find it interesting that wisdom is ranked above coral, crystal, silver, gold, and any other riches or desirable things cannot compare.

Also, I very much am drawn to the fact that the righteous utter wisdom and their tongue speaks justice.

If your mouth speaks wisdom, then the meditations of your heart will be understanding.

Fearing the Lord is the start of wisdom, and it is pleasant to the soul within you.

Did you know that in scripture, wisdom is better than weapons of war?

And, just when I didn’t think it could get any better, the wise make the most of every day and every opportunity, especially with people who are not believers of who Christ is.

So, what is the biggest key marker between wisdom and foolishness? One seeks the Lord, the other does not care in the slightest.

My loves, be wise in all that you do.

Today’s Theme is Brought to You By…

A few months ago I told a couple of people that I knew God and I were entering a new season. I felt like God was going to start speaking to me again, but totally differently than he ever has before. I was excited about it, and felt like it was just going to be this really sweet season between God and I.

Then, as if to confirm my feeling, over the last couple of months I have had several different people either pray over or speak into me about how they feel or see God doing a new thing with and within me. – Some of these people trusted and close, one stranger, and a few people who were oblivious to the inner workings of my heart.

While I was ready for a new season, and I felt like it was going to be “sweet,” I was also a bit worried about entering into a new season. Because the last time He warned me a new season was coming, it was incredibly painful and I still refer to it as having put myself in an induced emotional coma to survive it… So I was anxious, and journaled my prayers to God about it a couple of times because, I am an external processor if there ever was one!

Don’t get me wrong, I so much love and enjoy my life.
I find joy in life every day, I love my community, friends, family, ministry.. Life is rich and full to overflowing with so many blessings!… But, I also live in reality, and that means that life is sometimes hard; as in, really incredibly heavy, full of sorrow and words that cannot comfort adequately. Sometimes, life feels more like just putting your head down and trying to weather the storm with as little damage done to you and your heart as possible.

(Anyone else feel like lately the world seems to be hell-bent on pain, destruction, divisiveness and sorrow?)

I also believe life should be lived authentically, and that while our stories are intensely personal, they were never meant to be kept private. So much of God’s power and help is experienced through people’s incredibly personal stories (just read the Bible, it’s full of these stories!).

When life is hard, I think we should admit it to people who ask that actually care for an answer. We should allow people to love us and help us (ok, so I am actually not always the best at this, but truly working on it).
When life is full to overflowing with joy and happiness, that needs to also be shared. – It pushes back and fights off the darkness.

While I can confidently say that I would not describe this season with God as “sweet” in the moment, I believe that after the fact, when I look back I will be content and find joy from this season. However, IN this season, it is hard, painful, challenging, and actually re-wiring me internally. It feels like a mental, emotional, spiritual breaking down of muscles, being intensely sore, and then finding yourself slowly getting stronger in the process. It also takes intentionality, determination, and a whole heck of a lot of hard work. You can read more about the Perseverance and Grit I am also learning in this season.

My heart is changing, growing, healing, and finding a healthy balance with my head. I am finding more and more that I am first seeking our Lord in moments of questions, uncertainty, thanksgiving, frustration, or any need or emotion really… It is good, it is refreshing.

In fact, I have discovered, that when I take time lately to process, read scripture, and journal, a theme almost immediately bubbles up to the surface.

I have started referring to my day’s like it’s a Sesame Street skit: “Today’s theme is brought to you by….”

Peace.
Steadfast.
Perseverance.
Anxiety.
Renew.

These words (and others) have bubbled up, and subsequently created a place for me to dig in and find out what the Lord has said throughout scripture on these topics. It is interesting, intense, convicting, challenging and comforting all at the same time. I find that many of the passages I am aware of; some vaguely, others are common, but then, there are these little gems that I have somehow never seen before! It has begun creating anchor points in my rock foundation for me to wade through these very hard, intimate, and difficult topics… I know that one day these Sesame Street style themes will also be able to be used to help create anchors for others, but for now, they are creating a space for breaking and healing my own heart and mind.

I tend to use Biblegateway.com so that I can easily pop between a couple different translations, re-check words and other possible translations for those words, and see which translation speaks to me the most… But, I prefer to also use my physical Bible so that I can write all over it! Then, of course, I copy the passages of scripture that speaks to the theme for the day into my journal and have therefore begun to compile a list to reference as I continue through this “sweet” season.

And, of course, like any good researcher, I also google the definition for these words, and find their synonyms to expand the words I use in my journey through scripture.

What a unique season I find myself in; one with so many emotions, so much mulling and thinking through things, loads of prayers, and lots of sitting in silence… But also some processing with people.

One of the daily themes recently was Hope, as I worked my way through the different passages on Hope, I came upon one of my life verses, and I saw it anew:

“Sustain me according to your word, that I may live;
and do not let me be ashamed of my hope.”
– Psalm 119:116

In this season, I have found that I am being sustained, and am so much better able to weather this season because of the words of our Lord. – I also know that I am struggling with hope in a particular area of my life, and have a tendency to rationalize things away rather than choosing faith and hope because it feels too risky for my heart… It feels foolish to choose hope.

So, Lord, do not let me be ashamed of my hope.

It is so interesting to connect to one of my life verses in a new way, and see it suddenly differently than I have for well over a decade. What a beautiful example of how God breathes new life into scripture and all of a sudden it has fresh life directly connected to where we are in our journey.

(Also, just for kicks and giggles, my other life verse is Colossians 1:10)

This season is hard.
This season is painful.
This season is beautiful.
This season is forever changing who I am at the very core and foundation of who God made me to be, and I am grateful beyond words.

Perseverance and Grit…

 

I love the show American Grit on Fox. I so much enjoy watching people dig deep and do things they never thought possible! (Although admittedly, the first season was way more intense and challenging than the second season.)

September is now, and forevermore known as “Sucky Sober September.” Obviously the name alone makes it sound like it is connected to alcohol only, but in reality it is a shout out to a friend who almost died a year ago. – You see, in solidarity, the best friend Trifecta adjusted our eating habits for a month to help one of us get healthy again, and in that process we also gave up alcohol. Because we do all the healthy things, we also change the name depending on how we are feeling and add various descriptive S words.

To some people, Sucky Sober September sounds dramatic and crazy that we remove alcohol from our diets for a month, and yet other people don’t understand why that’s even necessary (“do you drink that much?”).. In all honesty, it’s not hard, but, the reality is that living in DC, most social activities revolve around alcohol. So, we have removed alcohol from September moving forward, but alcohol is only one facet of what happens throughout the month…

In September, I am finding my perseverance and grit.

My grit physically looks like running 3 days a week, and doing strength training at the gym 3 days a week.
September means choosing to hydrate appropriately (and praise the Lord for sparkling water), exercise 5 days a week (usually meaning I have to get up early and workout before work), meal prep for the week, and remove sweets and junk food from my diet.
It is difficult to describe how challenging it is, I hate running, I hate mornings, and I hate being up before the sun. But, it is also hard because I have a disorder that means my tendons and ligaments don’t have enough collagen and I dislocate easily… Meaning, I am in some sort of pain most days, and while getting into shape definitely helps hold my body together, it’s significantly harder for me to get into shape because I cannot over fatigue my muscles or I will dislocate while I sleep.

Yet, here I am, 5 days a week, making it happen because I have decided. Simply saying I am showing up isn’t enough, it’s actually more about being diligent, persistent, holding steadfast and persevering day after day no matter how I feel.

On top of getting my life together physically, I am also in this corresponding spiritual season of resetting all of the things.

I have started doing a morning devotional phone call at 6:45am (it also helps to make sure I’m up and out of bed to workout too!), I have purposefully created time each day to journal through my thoughts and prayers, I have desired and created space to spend a ton of time reading scripture, and reintroduced fasting into my spiritual diet, I am also fairly certain I have been living on worship music alone. – This month I realized that when I’m not listening to worship music, my heart begins to fill with fear, anxiety, and insecurities… Neat.

There is a war going on, do not be fooled, the enemy is fighting whether you are or not.

Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually I am hitting reset for September; which sounds super fun, easy, and like it should be the type of motivation that gets others up and going too… But, let me assure you, it is actually insanely hard, it sucks most days, it hurts in every single sense of the word, and many days I am not sure how I will make it through.

Two things the Lord has consistently communicated to me this month:
Steadfast and Perseverance. 

Doesn’t that sound like I should post such a nice little inspiration about how great and important being steadfast and persevering is? – In raw honesty; it looks more like a $h!t show, brokenness, hurt, pain, exhaustion, joy, faith, hope and then choosing obedience no matter how I feel day to day. It is much harder to be steadfast and persevere than anyone can easily explain.

Don’t get me wrong, some days have been so amazingly good, full of fun, laughter, joy, contentment, gratitude, and so much Grace from the Lord.
But, many days have been headphones in, head down and just getting through the day while hurting, and choosing to be obedient to what I have had laid out before me.

In my attempt to heal and restore my heart and insecurities, to work through and calm fears and anxieties, and to gain greater understanding, clarity, and more wisdom, I have spent hours every day reading through scripture. I have copied impactful passages into my journal and reviewed them almost daily. This month I have lost track of time as I research and read through scripture on peace, steadfast, perseverance, obedience, character, the armor of God, and fruit of the spirit.

In Ecclesiastes 3 it talks about how there is a season for everything; this season for me is intense, it is hard, and I am learning how to be steadfast and persevere regardless of how I feel. Yet, I am unable to close down my heart like I do naturally.

I am finding my perseverance and grit emotionally.

A few months ago, I began praying that the Lord would help me learn how to better navigate my head and heart together simultaneously. I have a tendency to shut my heart down and set it aside when I need to get things done, when I’m hurting and have to push forward or when I feel overwhelmed… I very often forget to check and see how I am feeling or what my heart is working through. My go-to is to think through my feelings, sometimes obsessively before I share them or even allow them to be seen or experienced by anyone else. – I want to have a grasp on what I’m feeling before I expose myself and choose to be vulnerable. And yet, a few months ago, after something my pastor said, I realized that the Holy Spirit is the perfect blending of both head and heart. In order to follow after and be more like Christ, I absolutely must do a better job of balancing both at the same time.

So, earlier this summer, I began intentionally working to balance both and not requiring myself to have my heart figured out before I shared it with anyone else… I decided to choose to let people into my process if they asked, and to take the time to actually consider my heart in the moments.

In September, I began the month not well, I found myself full of insecurities coming out to play. I was struggling with the things the Lord and I have been slowly exposing in my heart over the last couple months. In order for Him to heal the brokenness in my heart I had to be open, and yet, in my fear and anxiety, I shifted my focus from the Lord healing and restoring me, to someone tangible being responsible to fix my insecurities.

Nope. Not good, not healthy, not ok, and not acceptable.

Hard reset.

Once I shifted back to the Lord, I began asking Him to heal me, restore me, and to show me what He wants from me right now, in this season.

Repeatedly I keep coming back to Steadfast and Perseverance.

I know what it means, I know how it applies, I am aware of the situations in which Steadfast and Perseverance are directly connected. I know that the Lord is putting the challenge before me to be obedient. I have a choice, and it is not an easy one.

I am finding my perseverance and grit spiritually.

This season has been equally beautiful and rich but also hard and painful spiritually. My heart desires a closeness with the Lord that I have not experienced in more than five years. I cannot say that I feel like the Lord has “said” anything specific to me, but more a confidence and guidance as I press in and spend more time with him.

This September has felt a lot like God is asking me to “adult”…

Almost like He is saying,
“Ok, you know these things, you hear me telling you to be steadfast, to persevere, to be obedient.
But, will you?
Are you going to choose to exhibit the fruit of my Spirit?
Are you going to come to me when you are weak and weary?
Are you going to be selfless and love unconditionally like I do?
Are you going to look to me when your heart is hurting and broken?
Are you going to come to me when you’re angry?
Will you decide to give up your anxiety, fear, and insecurities to me?
What will you do with what I’ve taught you?”

Yes. Yes, I will be obedient.
Yes, I will turn to you my God when I’m hurting, broken, angry, weak and weary.
Yes, my sweet Lord, I will choose to be selfless, and I will choose hope and faith. Help me when I cannot and give me more Grace.

I believe that God’s Grace is sufficient for me. That today, in this moment, He will give me what I need to persevere, to hold steadfast, to be selfless, to love well… I cannot worry about tomorrow, next week, next month or the one after, I have to hold steadfast in the here and now; the Grace for today.

Today, I choose to be obedient.

But, let me tell you: It. Is. Effing. Hard. – being obedient is not for the faint of heart, it takes grit, determination and willpower to push through the moments and days that I just don’t have it in me.

On my hard days, my perspective is very much that I do not get an option, I have to dig deep and find my grit to persevere, to actively decide to choose grace, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. It rails against everything I want to do in those moments, but it is obedience.

I have also realize that sometimes I literally run out of my ability to navigate and hold steady, to persevere, to choose to be obedient. And that sometimes, by the end of the day, it is like those parts of me have been exhausted and tapped dry. – Those are the moments when journaling my struggles and processing the day, when reading scripture and praying for the Lord’s blessing the next day, asking for more of His Grace make every bit of the difference.

He is faithful and He is enough.

So, Sucky Sober September is a month of making decisions against myself and my natural way of doing things. It sucks, it is hard, it is not easy, and I have no idea what is to come, but it is so good! I am not promised that things will change or get easier in October or November. I am not given assurance that everything will pay off…

But, what I do know and what I am holding fast to believing in Faith and choosing hope:

But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.” – 1 Timothy 6:11-12

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.
We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” – Colossians 1:10-12

“But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” – Romans 8:25-26

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

Yes, It Is Normal…

I want to be known for my blending of Grace and Truth exactly perfectly…

Unfortunately, I tend towards Truth naturally and really have to work on being better at HOW I say things.

And, in the spirit of honesty, one of my biggest struggles is learning how to blend Grace into my words to mitigate my natural leaning towards Truth in a way that reflects the Holy Spirit and Jesus well.

You see, I believe that one of the biggest tricks the devil uses against us is making us to feel like we are isolated. I think often many do not share openly their lives in a way that could be helpful to someone else because it is personal, private, and feels intimate… But, if we are alone, and if that thing we are struggling through is believed to be abnormal, if we are the only one, then clearly we are weak or there is something wrong with us…

I regularly find myself in conversations with people that allows for me to share my own story, struggles, and in a completely honest light offer them authentic encouragement because, after all, we are now in this struggle together.

Over the last few months, I have been given this amazing opportunity to share about my ministry/job with other churches around the country. Some of them were referred to me, others found my name and title (First Impressions Director) on our website, and others I am not entirely sure how they found me. But, I have gotten to talk to them, encourage their ministries, hearts, and share whatever information I could about how and what I do… As well as simply connect over our common bond of “overwhelmed but passionate” for our ministries.

One of the biggest things I have come to realize, regardless of the ministry, church size and even occupation, it needs to be said frequently: 

What you are feeling, that’s normal. 

It doesn’t really matter what you’re feeling:
Overwhelmed,
Annoyed,
Blessed,
Content,
Frustrated,
Excited,
Like you’re drowning,
Struggling,
Overjoyed,
Dry inside,
Agitated,
Numb, etc…
AALLL of the feelings are normal, they are being experienced by someone else also in your same place trying to keep that same pace.

I have been asked SO many times, “How do you manage it all?”

And, my very real and honest answer:

Sometimes I handle it well, flawlessly, and feel energized!…

Aaand then other times, I find myself binge watching Netflix with a glass of wine and snacks, locked away in my room with my puppy for six hours. – Totally healthy coping mechanism 🙄

Sometimes my daily Jesus time is SO GOOD! Then all of a sudden I look up and it’s been TWO WEEKS and I’m not entirely sure where my Bible is even located.

Sometimes my journal and prayers are overflowing, and other times I just sit and stare blankly.

Sometimes I wake up looking forward to my day, having slept well and stoked about what I have planned. Other times I hit snooze until I’m late for work (sorry boss!) and have to bolt out the door without brushing my teeth (I promise I make up the work time)!

Sometimes I go to the gym and eat so well totally dominating the meal prepping for the week. Other times I can’t even remember the last time I ate something other than fast food.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the love and joy for my job and life. Other times I am just overwhelmed with a heavy and discouraged heart.

Life is hard. 

Following Jesus is hard. 

Life and following Jesus are all real things, real struggles, authentic joys and sorrows, love and hate, anger and repentance. These are normal life things that so many try to hide or pretend are not a normal part of their lives. Why are we not highlighting the good, bad, beautiful and ugly as ENTIRELY normal?!

Some days we will feel ready to go and like we can conquer the world. Other days we will do all we can to merely survive the day. 

So, Yes, it (whatever “it” is) is normal. 

Don’t let the smiles, adventures, Instagrams, Facebook posts, snapchats or 30 second conversations of and with others fool you… We are all swinging back and forth on this pendulum of so good, and really just trying to survive the suck.

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”– 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Trust me, those feelings are normal, and experienced by others! Share your feelings with others, be honest, choose to help someone else see their feelings are normal and accepted too.

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