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