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.

Heavy Days…

The Wounded Healer implies that grace and healing are communicated through the vulnerability of men and women who have been fractured and heartbroken by life. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

Some days are just heavy days, full of frustration, heart hurt, aggravation, not being enough, and being helpless to fix it (whatever all the “its” are). Heavy days for me becomes an exercise of sheer will in order to be kind and fully invested in those who are not a part of my heavy day.

I have found that I cope mostly through praying… or rather, I slip away as much as I can and allow my thoughts the chance to let go of the clutter, which creates space for prayers to float their way through my head. I also spend a lot of time intentionally focusing on setting aside feelings and engaging well in my day.

Heavy days are some of the worst days for my heart because I have no solutions, no ways to make things better, so my heart just hurts, my head cannot seem to orient, and my body hurts more on heavy days. Yet, despite the struggle, I find heavy days good for me because they are the days that my heart is the most open to communication with my Savior.

On heavy days the Holy Spirit speaks to me differently, His voice is sweeter, softer with much more tenderness… and on heavy days, those are the days I feel God’s affection towards me. On most days tenderness is not particularly an attribute of God that I identify with (nor communicate to those around me), but on heavy days I feel the calming presence of His tender presence.

I never wonder why God allows heavy days or bad days, because those are the days that I do not have such carefully constructed walls around my heart and He and I communicate better.

All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved,’ and all I hope is that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold. My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being— ‘You are the Beloved.’” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

The God of our Lonely Journey is Silent…

I am reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning, and it is hitting, carving, digging, and pulling out things in me that I was entirely unaware needed to be dealt with. There are nights that I can only read a couple of paragraphs, and then must put it down because the emotions are just too much and I need space to process… Sometimes giving myself a week or more before I drag myself back to this amazing book that plants me in emotions every time I read it.

Tonight is a night where one of the 10+ pages of quotes I have pulled out have just sat and resonated with me… I found myself overcome with the need to share.

Here are two of the latest quotes that I cannot shake:

How does the life-giving Spirit of the risen Lord manifest Himself on days like that? (he described a bad day from beginning to end that he had experienced) In our willingness to stand fast, our refusal to run away and escape into self-destructive behavior. Resurrection power enables us to engage in the savage confrontation with untamed emotions, to accept the pain, receive it, take it on board, however acute it may be. And in the process we discover that we are not alone, that we can stand fast in the awareness of present risenness and so become fuller, deeper, richer disciples. We know ourselves to be more than we previously imagined. In the process we not only endure but are forced to expand the boundaries of who we think we really are.

And secondly, I have spent months like this, finally I have words..:

“When tragedy makes its unwelcome appearance and we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own agony, when courage flies out the window and the world seems to be a hostile, menacing place, it is the hour of our own Gethsemane. No word, however sincere, offers any comfort or consolation. The night is bad. Our minds are numb, our hearts vacant, our nerves shattered. How will we make it through the night? The God of our lonely journey is silent….

We are able, as Etty Hillesun, the Dutch Jewess who died in Auschwitz on November 30, 1943, wrote, ‘to safeguard that little piece of God in ourselves’ and not give way to despair. We make it through the night and darkness gives way to the light of morning. The tragedy radically alters the direction of our lives, but in our vulnerability and defenselessness we experience the power of Jesus in His present risenness.”

– Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning, (pp. 105-106).
(emphasis added by me)

Slowly, I feel as though I am healing. I have begun to ask for it, which I’m not entirely sure I have ever done before. And, not even healing from the last couple of years, but across the board. Insecurities created in me as a small child have come up and begun to be dealt with, healed, and restored. Issues I have struggled with my entire life have begun to be looked in the face and replaced with Truth.

It is quite the emotionally exhausting task to sift through your heart’s pain and allow yourself to feel each emotion, identifying why and where it came from, then slowly… ever so slowly, opening my hand and allowing God to examine and talk it over with me.

To say that I am tired and worn out trying to work through these things with God is laughable. I would love so much to just be done, to drop them and move on.. But, I do not see that happening overnight. Everything is a process, and so this too must also be one I guess.

But, I finally feel as though my faith is being led by hope.

So, I leave you with yet another quote from the book:

“‘The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory’ (Colossians 1: 27). Hope knows that if great trials are avoided great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted.

 

His Beloved…

“How are you?”

That has been the most difficult question to answer as of late. I am good because I can look around and see the great things, people, situations, etc.. that leave my heart to fill with hope. And yet, I am not so good at the same time. I find that my heart is really not ok at my core, but not because of any one thing in particular.

The best way I can describe how I feel is, it seems like God and I are working on and through things that are leaving my heart in a difficult and vulnerable place in order to truly heal and move forward from here.

I am not the biggest fan of feeling vulnerable in general, but this time I also am allowing myself to sit in the emotions that God is bringing up instead of just pushing them aside.

After a few conversations with my bff about how I am doing, she recommended that we should read Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning together. At just a few chapters in, Abba’s Child has been distinctly different from most books I have read (especially recently) in terms of the impact it is having on my heart. As I read, I feel my heart stirring, and at times, I find myself so overwhelmed with emotions that, I have to actually put the book (or computer since I’m reading it on my Kindle app) down and walk away to take a breather.

I am quickly accumulating a ridiculously large file of typed notes, and highlighting the book like crazy.

You see, most days, I feel confident, secure in who I am, whose I am, and I tend to be fully aware of my strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and flaws. Then there are other times where I just feel entirely insecure, inadequate, like I will never be enough, like I am or need too much, and as though I am pulled apart at the seams on the inside.

Lately, I have felt mostly the latter sense of self.

I believe there are a few key things playing into the state of my heart right now…
1. Satan loves to whisper into insecurities, and unfortunately, I think I have been giving him too much room to play.
B. Sometimes, timing for things can be awesome… Other times, it can be the absolute worst timing to have to deal with things and it just adds to the weight.
iii. God knows it is time to burn away the chaff and scars in order to heal and move forward more solidly in His grasp… But, that requires allowing my heart to be molded anew, and that is just not an easy place to be.

I am a little scared to say, that despite the state of my heart, I am actually looking forward to this growth process.. It will likely be fairly painful, but hopefully in the good sense of pain.

I am looking forward to finally having the refreshing feeling of being closer to my sweet savior once again. From the very center of my being, I desire to rediscover my identity in Christ. I hope that in this process I can re-find myself, my strengths, weaknesses, identity, and that both my hope and faith will come out on the other side remade.

Because maybe the best way to communicate the rest of what my heart is working through is to share some (only a select few) of the quotes I have kept.
I am only a few chapters in, but these quotes are a great reflection of my thoughts and feelings from Abba’s Child (not necessarily in order of placement in the book):

“It takes a profound conversion to accept that God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are— not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them… He anguishes over our self-absorption and self-sufficiency.”

“God loves who we really are— whether we like it or not.”

“We learn to be gentle with ourselves by experiencing the intimate, heartfelt compassion of Jesus.”

“‘Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ.’”

“We are made for God, and nothing less will really satisfy us.”

“As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others— and is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer.”

“When we accept the truth of what we really are and surrender it to Jesus Christ, we are enveloped in peace, whether or not we feel ourselves to be at peace. By that I mean the peace that passes understanding is not a subjective sensation of peace; if we are in Christ, we are in peace even when we feel no peace.”

“I continually felt the need to apologize, to run from my weaknesses, to deny who I was and concentrate on what I should be. I was broken, yes, but I was continually trying never to be broken again— or at least to get to the place where I was very seldom broken….”

“He is the Savior who saves us from ourselves.”

“‘…to make the Lord and his immense love for you constitutive of your personal worth. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.'”

“We give glory to God simply by being ourselves…. Living in awareness of our belovedness is the axis around which the Christian life revolves. Being the beloved is our identity, the core of our existence.”

“All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved,’ and
all I hope is that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold.
My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being—
‘ You are the Beloved.
’”