Getting Your Want Back…

A while ago I posted about the intense and intimate season God and I are in… I have had several people ask me what I’ve done to “get” that…

The honest answer: Go through a hard season and press into Jesus at the same time.

I’ve been through rough seasons before… Some way worse and others not as bad. Some I started in a super healthy place, and others I felt like I was dragging and clawing my way into the desert season already starving and dying.

Maybe you feel like you’re in pain and He’s absent or silent.
The passion has turned mundane or boring and bland.
The overwhelming feelings are negative… or maybe just a deep feeling of ambivalence.
Praying is more rote than meaningful.

Let’s be honest here, going through the motions suck (I would venture to use other descriptive words too.. but you get the idea), but when you don’t know what else to do… you sort of just keep plugging forward hoping something eventually gives or sticks and makes you feel differently. (Or maybe that’s just me)

It was probably 4-5 years that I ebbed and flowed between feeling nothing particularly interesting in my spiritual walk, a few moments of connection with the Lord, a few seasons of intense pain and struggling, and then grateful to feel pretty much just “ok” about God and I… But, honestly, nothing particularly fulfilling or satisfying, much less internally all-encompassing and changing.

My heart and soul were definitely in a drought season… and it was sprinkled with some rains to keep the well surviving, but definitely not life abundantly.

Don’t get me wrong, life had these amazing moments, incredibly fun weeks full of laughter and satisfaction; but, deep down, there was no deep and moving elements impacting my relationship with God… It just sorta, was there; plugging along like normal, mostly mundane and comfortably boring, but it was dedicated and persevering none the less.

I hated that.

I was also coming off of an intensely painful season of life, and it took me a long (long) time to find my way back to healthy. – Then it took me an even longer time (almost a full year) to desire to wrestle through how I felt about the idea that “The Best is Yet to Come” or that God wanted me to live a life of abundance that is full of joy… I really had totally forgotten what it felt like to feel overwhelming joy and peace that could only come from the Lord anyway.

Slowly, over the course of about a year and a half (2016 and into the beginning or 2017), I started desiring God again. I wanted to want a close intimate relationship with him again…

Here is where I’m supposed to actually tell you how to get your “want” back with the Lord… How to turn around from your struggles of connecting, to suddenly (realistically slowly) begin to rebuild and make it all better… To find that meaningful connection with God.

But, let’s be honest, as much as I wish I had a three-step process for you or a formula that is simple, the reality is, it just isn’t simple.
My journey isn’t yours.
My season isn’t where you find yourself.
My struggles are not where you are.
What worked for me isn’t a three-step process… It was much more all-encompassing.
The only thing I know is that I had to choose to press into the Lord no matter how I feel. – That was the biggest shift.

I had decided that no matter the time it took me each day, I needed God’s face in mine to deal with this season I was/am in.

Our heart, and our journey is complex; it’s hard and complicated, sometimes overwhelming, and full of sorrows. But, when it all boils down to it, when you’re ready, you have to desire a healthy relationship with our Lord more than you desire Netflix, dinner with friends, or any other activity or distraction. It takes determination, but mostly it takes setting aside of your pride and own selfishness.

If you have decided that in your pain, sorrow or struggle and with all of your feelings that you won’t turn to God and force it all onto Him… Then your pride is still in your way. What have I learned and continued to fight for? God to speak to me. Each day it looks more like an emotional, mental, physical $h!tshow that really isn’t pretty, but over time God is changing me, changing our communication, He is healing and slowly restoring what was broken and hurt.

So, no matter how you feel: You. Need. God. To. Fix. It.

How do you get your want back?
I don’t know, but I can share what I am doing now, and what I have been doing the last few months that HAS actually helped me get my want and desire back from the Lord.

God is speaking to me more in the last few months than He has maybe ever in my entire life. – But, I am also trying to connect with Him each day.

Music.

Sometimes. Eh, no, actually probably most of the time, worship music gives my heart, soul and spirit words to connect my emotions to my Sweet Savior that I just do not have on my own. I feel like in the dark and hard times of life, in the grateful, overwhelmed, and everything in between, worship music fills the air with the spirit and presence of God. When I’m hurting the most, I likely do not have the words to speak, but my emotions need to express anyway, and music creates a way to do that.

I believe that the Holy Spirit meets us in those moments and spaces where life just is hard and hurts… Or maybe we are longing and struggling. When we are trying to press into the Lord more, but just feel lost, abandoned, or maybe just too numb to feel Him there at all. – I think worship music creates a safe place for rest and is a salve to our raw hearts.

Recently I have found that my heart is struggling to choose Faith, Hope, and Love… and peace over anxiety and fear. The most tangible way I have found to calm the fear and anxiety is by playing worship music; when it is playing, my mind is paying attention and reciting the words, and subsequently, I’m not paying attention to the struggling, but rather speaking life into my own mind. It feels a bit like the words are washing over and through me.

So, find new worship music for whatever season you find yourself in, and let it wash over you and speak for your heart. – Ask me if you need some fresh recommendations.

Journaling.

The church I attend, is huge on journaling, taking notes, listing gratitudes, and writing down prayers. – I journal prayers.

Why?: Because we often forget our prayers, and then later lose track of being able to thank God for what He has done, and we are unable to give Him honor and glory later or point to the journey, process and miracles He did along the way.

Journaling prayers also makes me feel less crazy… And my prayers are more focused.

I have realized in the last year alone that I have written prayers on specific days or long forgotten prayers that the Lord amazingly showed up; He answered, He proved Himself faithful, He was present and He carried me through. And yet, I had forgotten all about the prayers and would never again remember them if I hadn’t written them down. Going back and re-reading them, I also didn’t realize I was lining my prayers up ahead of time for a specific reason or season… The level of awe and honor that God got and gets for how He worked in those seasons simply wouldn’t be possible without having written them down.

On the flip side, one of my absolute biggest regrets from the most painful season of my life (so far) was that I did not journal my prayers. I have no record of the nuances of ways that the Lord showed up and was present in my suffering. I cannot tell you the little ways that my Sweet Savior carried me when I was too numb to notice. I actually had to go back and spend some time apologizing to God for this, and now I tell everyone to journal prayers no matter how they feel! – God deserves the credit, but you’ll never see it in the midst of the pain, only afterwards will you find yourself blown away and grateful for what He did and how He showed up.

Praying.

Sounds simple, but prayer matters.. and not just prayer, but prayer on behalf of others, prayer every day for the same thing; repeatedly going to God over and over. Absolutely pray for yourself, but don’t forget petition for others, like pray as if their life depended on it (because it might).

There is just something about the needs and urgency of praying for and over other people that will put a bit more weight behind my prayers. More yearning and desiring for the Lord to answer and His faithfulness to shine through.

Read Yo Bible.

Yes, I know, seems obvious and maybe cliché, and you’re probably doing that already. – Unless you’re in a season like I was a few years ago, and I just Could. Not. Read. My. Bible.

But truly, find a topic, press in.
Find a book and begin – Psalms, Isaiah, Timothy, Ephesians, Philippians, John.. Somewhere, just start.

OR… Find themes/topics and research them.

The last couple of months for me has looked like this:
Find a word/theme,
Look up the definition for the word, then write down all the synonyms,
Biblegateway.com the word – usually in multiple version of the Bible,
Read through ALL of the different passages that have that word in it,
Expand some of the verses to get context or read the whole chapter,
Then, copy the pertinent verses into my journal…
Sometimes copy the passage in my journal in a couple different versions

It takes a long time. It’s worth it.

Fast.

Listen, I. Am. Bad. At. Fasting.

Actually, I’m pretty much just bad at fasting food… Everything else is pretty easy; which means I need to continue to fast food. *facepalm*

Like seriously, I’ve been legit practicing fasting over the last year or so… Thankfully, I’ve gotten significantly better, but dag yo, it’s hard. I’ve had to make clear rules and guidelines for myself to help me learn how to do it better. I’ve done just about everything wrong as I learn how to fast, including the “I actually just starved myself today because I forgot to pray or read my Bible while I fasted.” – Terrible.

It’s called a spiritual practice for a reason… You have to practice it in order to perfect it and get good.

Also, know SPECIFICALLY what you are fasting for. Unless you are an expert at fasting, you need something to focus all your prayers towards.

Have a plan. Set reminders, spend your lunch walking and praying… Make decisions ahead of time to help you succeed on this day of fasting!

Also, it’s helpful to know, often my fasting days are really hard and frustrating days. I get annoyed very easily. – Neat.

Find a Study or Book.

Sometimes, when you just cannot pull it together in your head, finding a study helps. A book or study that someone else has done all the research and reading to craft and create for you on a topic or need. Dig in.

Listen to Sermons.

I happen to think my church has some amazing sermons, on a plethora of topics (no really, you can go back YEARS and look for series’ that sound interesting or speak to your season.)
But, so does Northpoint, Elevation, LifeChurch, Crosspoint, Newspring etc..

Find Community.

Genuine and authentic community makes all the difference. Choose some people and don’t do this alone.

Don’t let your own struggle and pride be what keeps you in this season any longer than you’re supposed to be.

Some of the most healing, restoring, encouraging, and challenging things for me are found sitting around a table with food, drinks and talking through hard, authentic, and complex life things with people I trust and love. It takes vulnerability and it takes courage, but it is worth it. – If you do not have people in your life who can do this or be this for you, let’s talk.

Change Up Your Routine.

Changing the timing of what I do, the place I do things, the cadence to my time with Jesus has also been a huge help. My pastor Mark Batterson always says “Change of pace, plus change of place, equals change of perspective.” – It has absolutely been true for me in this season of learning how to press in each day no matter how I’m feeling.

Find your grit to get back to the Lord.
He will meet you there.

Also, I want you to know, none of these things I list mean that each day hasn’t been hard… Different types of challenges, new graces, new words, emotions and tears.. But, you must find your perseverance and determination to dig in and grip with everything you are to our Lord. Decide you won’t let go until God speaks to you and meets you there. He will meet you there, but never when or how you expect Him to.

Prove your grit and character; you can do it and He is faithful.

While I cannot say with absolute certainty that these methods that sparked my own “want to get closer to God” again will work for you, I’m also willing to bet that you might be stubborn enough to try it for three or four months… And if that is the case, I’m actually confident that your spiritual life will never look the same.

Learn everything you can, steward this time and season well.
Don’t let what you are going through go to waste or be for naught.
Don’t be prideful enough not to need God or anyone else to get through this.
Don’t blame anyone else, even if your situation is someone else’s fault, it is up to you and God to dig in and do the work to get through this season and heal.
Don’t let where you are now prevent you from going to God in all the rawness and authenticity.

Also, for the record, this list of things doesn’t mean that it won’t also be a $h!tshow. – It is likely to still be hard and painful, exhausting, overwhelming, but also full of peace and love. It may be the hardest season of life you have ever fully engaged in… It will be all of the things as you work out your faith and salvation with love, fear and trembling.

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43:19

Love is Patient…

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I shared on instagram a couple days ago about how the Lord and I have been in this intense and intimate season over the last couple months. – Fear not, there are no signs that it is slowing down anytime soon.

I have had several people ask me about what I do or have been doing to create this intense and intimate season with the Lord… That’s actually another blog for another day that I am working on; but, I will say, it requires a choice to press in rather than continue as is or pull away. You must choose to create space to communicate a lot throughout the day with our Sweet Savior, remove distractions (I haven’t watched Netflix in months.. and I haven’t been listening to the radio in the car either). – Write. Down. Your. Prayers. – Just do it, and copy impactful scripture into your journal. Everything else I will talk more about later in a different blog.

Ok, onto the actual Love is Patient portion of this…

Yesterday, I was fasting (apparently something that I am actually getting better at compared to the beginning of the year). At the beginning of this year I realized how absolutely terrible I am at fasting, but I have continued to press in and practice, and can say that I am actually beginning to feel like I am connecting with the Lord differently than I used to. (Yasss!)

So, I took my lunch time and went to just sit on a park bench to soak in the sun, attempt to dwell and abide in the Lord, and pray through a slew of different things turning over in my head and heart.

I can honestly say there was no overwhelming sweet or intensely confident “the Lord told me this” moment… But, what I do know is the feeling in my heart and stomach when the Holy Spirit meets me. Sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between what is just my creative mind thinking as I pray and what is a picture from God. – I wish I could tell you how to do this, but I really I am just a baby in my figuring this out, so I cannot share much wisdom here. (However, you can go listen to my church’s series Whisper, it’s about hearing the voice of God. It’s very good.)

Yet, even when I don’t know specifically if something is inspired by God, or inspired by my creativity, I feel like it’s worth writing in my journal and revisiting until I have a sense for the accuracy of it!

So, back to the park bench… I “got” three separate things that I feel like are probably inspired by the Lord… Even if I didn’t get anything close to a confident assurance or audible voice.

Here are the three things:

1st thing:
Was a mental “picture” of me standing in front of a closed door.
I was getting ready to open it, to step into the next thing/season. I was full of anticipation and excitement, but I had paused to stop and take a deep breath to calm my nerves.

God or my own creative brain? I dunno actually, but does it matter? – Is there anything right or wrong with this mental picture? I do not think so at all, so I copied it into my journal to continue to pray over. But, maybe one day I will look back and see what that door was, what season was beyond it, and will be able to point to that park bench conversation and praise the Lord for this picture.

Or maybe it was my stomach just excited about dinner 😉 haha

The 2nd thing:
1 Corinthians 13
If you are not at all familiar, this is known as “the love chapter”… Basically everything you need to know about love: actions, attitude, perspective etc.. are all spelled out here in this chapter.

The 3rd thing:
The ending of “Faith, Hope, and Love” – This actually hit me as I was standing up from the park bench to walk back, and it felt a little like a resounding gong in my head.

So, before I had even got back to my desk to dig into this more, I found myself reciting what I knew from this passage, and then pulling out my phone to read through all of the things that “love” is.

As I walked back, I settled that the Lord’s answer to the things I had been praying through on the park bench boiled down to this: Faith, Hope, Love.

I was both happy, full of peace, and had a bit of an “well crap” moment all rolled into one.

Once I got back to my desk, I proceeded to look up the main portion of 1 Corinthians 13 in several different versions. My favorite two versions for this passage are the ISV and NLT, and while I read the whole chapter, I focused mainly on verses 4-7 & 13.

However to make it easy for you, the ISV version of these passages reads like this:

Love is always patient;
Love is always kind;
Love is never envious or arrogant with pride.

Nor is she conceited, and she is never rude;
She never thinks just of herself or ever gets annoyed.

She never is resentful; is never glad with sin;
She’s always glad to side with truth, and pleased that truth will win.

She bears up under everything; believes the best in all;
There is no limit to her hope, and never will she fall.
Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Can you insert yourself into this and it still hold up? – I can’t. At least not all of the things, and certainly not every day.

Humorously, after all was said and done and the day was over, one of my prayers as I laid in bed was:
“Lord, I don’t want to be patient anymore…” – Which is super fun given my conversation on the park bench earlier that day with God.
For a chuckle, be sure to read my blog post from just 2 weeks ago on cultivating patient endurance.

What has struck me the most is that Love is always patient. Period. – I am certainly not even consistently the FIRST THING mentioned as to what love looks like and how it tangibly plays out.

I have so far to grow.

Just so we’re clear though, I do not believe I am the exception, and this doesn’t mean I am beating myself up over my failures, nor does it make me think that everyone around me does this well. What this all does is highlight for myself once again that no matter what anyone else is or isn’t doing, I am responsible to carry out the command of Jesus to love Him and love others (well).

I like the ISV version of this passage, because love is described as “she”, so it is easier for me to see and connect these actions to myself for comparison.

Some of the areas where I realize I actually need a lot of work:
I am not patient (even if I am working on it),
I often think just of myself,
I definitely can get easily annoyed,
I for sure get arrogant with pride (the “I don’t need you” kind of pride),
I really do not believe the best in everyone all the time,
and there may possibly be a limit to my hope.

However, these three remain:
Faith, Hope, Love.

The greatest is love; because Jesus is Love. He died, resurrected, and since He is love: Love restores me every single day.

Now cycle back through the list…
Jesus is Patient.
Jesus is Kind.

Jesus is never envious or arrogant with pride.

Nor is Jesus conceited, and Jesus is never rude;
Jesus never thinks just of himself or ever gets annoyed.

Jesus never is resentful; is never glad with sin;
Jesus is always glad to side with truth, and pleased that truth will win.

Jesus bears up under everything; believes the best in all;
There is no limit to Jesus’ hope, and never will Jesus fall.
Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and Jesus. But the greatest of these is Jesus.

If Jesus is restoring me every day, if His mercies are constantly new (because He is constantly making morning somewhere), then I too am love and patient and kind and my hope knows no limit (and on and on)…

The difference between me, left to my own, and who I am in Christ is astounding.

If you experience love and patience from me, I can most certainly assure you it is the change that has occurred through my Sweet Savior.

Because I believe honesty is essential…. My prayer stands, “Lord, I don’t want to be patient.” – Yet, even still, I will choose to follow Him and do my best to choose patient endurance too.

He has told me to cling to Faith. Hope. and Love. With this means more of the Fruit of His Spirit must be learned and cultivated within me so that I can endure through a myriad of life’s seasons and relationships. My want and desire to succumb to my impatience doesn’t get to be what guides me, obedience to what He has told me is what guides me and ultimately determines what I will do.

I’m Terrible at Fasting…

In an attempt to always share real life, I need to confess: I’m a terrible faster.

But really, I’m so bad at it.

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I didn’t grow up with fasting being a regularly practiced spiritual discipline; despite growing up in a passionate and God centered home, that wasn’t something we did.

Prayer, Bible study, learning, teaching, serving etc.. All normal practices in my home growing up.

Fasting? Not so much.

In fact, I was in my early 20’s the first time I fasted! – That was a bad day, and I was hungry and frustrated all day.

I can confidently tell you that as I am about to turn 32, I’m still bad at fasting, but I’m practicing it more regularly now.

I have fasted food, social media, TV, meats and dairy products, sugar, caffeine… So many things, but every single time I come back to the understanding that I think I may be doing it wrong lol

Here’s what I have decided and/or learned as I practice fasting:

Fasting takes practice. 
It isn’t about success or failure for me, it is entirely about learning HOW to fast well. Because, if I am being honest, I don’t entirely understand it… I mean, I understand the concept, but it doesn’t seem to be for me what other’s explain fasting to be…

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have experienced a more full and fulfilling life while fasting!
I have had a shift in perspectives!
I have even been able to see something’s grip on me get broken (think you may have an addiction to food, sugar, social media, tv? – Fasting is where it’s at!)

Fasting is hard.
Literally, it is actually really difficult to fast.

Fasting sets you up for some really bad days.
I have yet to experience a day/season of fasting that wasn’t actually really frustrating. I have concluded that all of the things that come up while fasting are classic case devil tactics. – I recognize the tactics for what they are, but sometimes not until much later… After I have been ready to kill people (oops) haha

Fasting can kill your focus.
Reportedly fasting can give you mental clarity… That has not been my experience. At. All. – In fact, on days I fast, a lot of the time I find myself unable to focus on anything longer than two minutes; and end up rotating between 15 different projects in order to see some sort of productivity!

Fasting by yourself is the worst..
I have fasted alone, and I have fasted with others… Fasting alone is terrible. I can never seem to get it right when it’s by myself. My focus, attitude, attention, perspective, all awful.

AND, sometimes I forget to even pray on days I’m fasting.

I’m terrible at fasting.

Fasting with others can make all the difference.
When someone is agreeing with you in prayer, and when you’re able to share the frustrations of the day, it makes or breaks the fast… (at least for me currently).

When I fast with others, and talk about it with them; we began to notice more of the prayers being answered, clarity on each other’s behalf, and we can see more tactics being used by the devil. Not to mention, more solidarity as we learn to navigate through how to fast better when we reflect on the successes and failures from the day/season.

Fasting requires preparation.
If you go into a fast willy nilly style and expect God to show up, you’re going to fail. Every time. – But really, this has been my experience.
If you are doing the Daniel Fast, you will need to prepare with the right foods.
If you’re doing liquid only, you need to prepare your day.
If you’re fasting social media/tv or something else, you need a plan for what to do instead. Otherwise you’ll fill your time with equally useless things…

But, you also need to know what you’re praying for/over, otherwise your focus will prevent you from praying well… or maybe at all.

I think it should be said again: I have fasted before and forgot to pray for the ENTIRE DAY.

Fail.

Fasting should include Bible reading.
Read your Bible kids… I have failed at this frequently. How do you forget to read  your bible when you’re fasting? I dunno, but I do!

More than just reading your bible, know what you’re looking for and planning, otherwise it can feel like empty words. (trust me)

Fasting doesn’t always mean better Jesus time.
I often find fasting to feel more like an uphill battle trying to connect with Jesus rather than a sweet beautiful or intimate time with Jesus and the Holy Spirit!

Fasting can make all the difference.
I know with all the confidence that some strongholds can only be broken through prayer and fasting… I’ll let you know when I experience a life changing stronghold being broken. I have complete faith that this is crucial and important, which is why I continue to press in and practice fasting.

One day it will make all the difference.

Fasting isn’t as simple as people make it out to be.
Fasting isn’t as simple as: “I’m going to pray, read my Bible and then *BAM* the Holy Spirit shows up and we have a beautiful time together.

Fasting is actually really hard mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even spiritually. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that either these people are lying, or they just have more experience at practicing fasting than I do. So, because I believe that fasting matters, I continue to press in. I continue to practice, and I will slowly get better at this… Maybe. 😉

What I know for sure is that I am terrible at fasting; but, I need to hone my skills and tactics for doing it better…

But, as of today, I am still pretty bad at it. 🙂

Is there a classic spiritual discipline that you’re terrible at?