Ripped Apart

Life has a weird way of changing on you suddenly. But, I think we forget about the fact that life is ever changing because we get lulled into believing that things are the same due to so many seemingly mundane moments.

My life feels ripped apart after a defining moment a few weeks ago. And yet, I find myself more grateful than I’ve felt in about a year.. or more.

Three weeks ago, my life dramatically changed due to a work accident; when I almost entirely took off three fingers on my dominate right hand. It’s traumatic, crazy painful, really hard to manage, very humbling, scary, overwhelming, frustrating, and so so many other emotions and actual nerve and healing feelings.. and yet… I see mostly good. I don’t understand it, but this trauma seems to have cleared my intense heart pain of the suffocating silence between God and I from the last year, and allowed me to have words to start speaking to Him again.

About this time last year I was really struggling with the fear of being hurt and feeling stuck because I very much did not feel at peace to walk away. It was crippling, and the different ways I reached out for help were largely met with silence or ignoring. So, I looked to God, and had maybe the most vivid connection I’ve had with Him, which ultimately after looking it up later realized it was Exodus 3. – Long story short, I had this image from The Prince of Egypt movie, and felt God say “I Am, I am here.”

I probably haven’t seen this movie in 20 years… But, it was the image and the phrase I heard.

The more I dug into this story, the more rich it has become to me. Even still.

The crushing blows that created silence between God and I were largely due to being certain He had lead me into the desert, and left me there to die (in a heart sense). The man I loved destroyed my heart in the most painful way he could have, and I lost my job unexpectedly all within a month. And, it all felt like God’s fault, He had prevented me from protecting my heart, and instead had kept pushing me to be all in… no matter what. Then it all was ripped apart and I was left to silence from God.

The silence continued.. and honestly feels a lot like it’s still largely in effect a year later.

This is round two of my “Dark night of the Soul” type season. – You can listen to a pretty good sermon on it here (this is part 1 of 2). But, no matter what I did or didn’t do, nothing was forcing God to do anything. I couldn’t hurry it up, and I was unable to do anything but relinquish to giving God the time that this season obviously is calling for. So, I went to church a few times, found one I really love the preaching, but honestly, I mostly don’t go. I miss it a little, and I think it’s important, but I also know I need time to heal and this season it doesn’t include attending church or any striving of any kind to fix it.. 2019 is about God redefining and reshaping everything.

I could go on for eons with the details, rationalizations, total misses, etc.. from the last year, but the reality is I felt like God broke my trust and betrayed me.. I rationally knew that to be untrue, and along the way found my faith in Jesus is more solidly firm in my head rather than my heart. I KNEW God had not failed me, but my heart also knew only pain… and I had nowhere else to go but to sit and wait for Him to prove my head right and heart wrong and show me where He had been all along.

I saw God in the business I started with a best friend.. It exploded and flourished. But, that didn’t heal my heart.

I saw God in my friends and family’s support and love.. But my heart didn’t know what to do with the lack of healing even still.

In full honesty, God and I are not all of a sudden better.. My finger accident hasn’t fixed that, but there has been a shift towards healing.

However, what has happened is that when I almost cut off my fingers with a circular saw, Jesus showed up in a miracle and literally saved my fingers. It was so bad when it first happened that I thought I had cut two of them entirely off… but they held on by a little bit of skin. Somehow, that skin got progressively better over the next couple hours, and I had enough circulation and healing to postpone my surgery to the next day. So, I keep telling people that Jesus legitimately saved my pinky and ring finger… And, I’m not placating. It was bad.

I get pins out this week, and then I get to start another year-long process of healing, just of mostly a different kind. There is so much more pain ahead. – A seemingly never ending line of days of needing help and having to humbly give up much of my independence… Which can also substitute in as identity in my own strength.

Also, a punk kid stole my phone two weeks after my finger accident, and I ran him down and got it back… Ask me about it, it’s a ridiculous story.

But, what I have found in this trauma is that I am ok. The I Am is still here… and I was reminded that even after God told Moses He was there, heard and saw the suffering of His people, it took a long while and a whole heck of a lot of work before they were set free from slavery… and an even longer 40 years until they found fulfillment in His promises. Sometimes it just takes a stupidly painful amount of time to see ANY progress… Which also doesn’t remove the pain I’ve been through, or still have to come.

Sometimes life, people, and just the complete and utter brokenness of our world causes more pain than we can wrap our minds around… But, also, God sees our pain, He cares, and He is here… even if it takes a long time for us to see it and an even longer time to feel it.

I have no choice but to dig deep and find my perseverance stubbornness to continue this path towards God no matter what.

My life has felt ripped apart for about a year now. – And yet, I am grateful, even in the midst of literal excruciating pain.

The 8 of 2018

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a while now, mostly because it feels so much more real and vulnerable than some of the others I have written lately. Even though this whole fall has been incredibly intense and personal in general, I have purposefully written my blogs in a way that creates enough space for anyone reading it to connect it to themselves.

This blog post is just me, it is my story.

Every year, our pastor chooses a word or theme, and challenges us to do the same for the coming year. A couple of years ago, my theme was Never Dull, which you can read about here and was very much re-teaching me how beautiful and full life was in all moments. Life is Never Dull.

Last year, I had TEN words; It was ridiculous… Actually, in all honesty, I forgot about them a couple of months into the year. The chaos of the year overtook me, and it wasn’t until a friend mentioned them in a conversation sometime in October or so that I went back to my prayer journals to look them up again. – I was blown away to see that every single one of those words is what God was working on in me throughout 2017… Whether I remembered them or not didn’t actually change the fact that God worked on them in me despite what the year threw at me… The year was anything but peaceful, calm, tranquil, still etc…

I began praying about 2018 in October.

I started praying about it because I was feeling overwhelmed, fear-filled, and realizing that my heart didn’t trust God in a pretty substantial area.
I knew I needed to press in even more and let God work in and through me.
I knew that God had been speaking to me to “Hold Steadfast, Persevere, be Obedient.” But, I didn’t quite feel like these were the words or theme for 2018. And then November 2nd (a day when I was fasting), I felt like God clearly spoke to me “Love is patient“. And that has been rolling around in my head and heart since. The last six months has been one thing to the next that God is working on in me to rebuild and restore the trust that He didn’t damage. – But, even still, these are not the words or themes for 2018.

So, without even intending to, the word “Change” popped into my head out of nowhere as I drove back to DC from Atlanta. I was returning home after visiting my brother and his family for Thanksgiving; and road trips, along with the ocean seem to create space for my brain to think, process, and almost breathe deeply. However, because I always process and mull over things intensely, I began to think through how change was probably more my own self, and not from God. You see, not only am I accustomed to change, I love it (see all my random hair changes). I am used to major life change happening every couple of years, so I wasn’t confident that the word wasn’t just constructed by me. Yet, as I prayed over change, it seemed less of a tangible change (like previously it was new jobs, moving, etc..), and more of this feeling to “Watch and See the change around you. Change that I Am is going to do before your eyes without you controlling it.” – Yet, change just felt like my comfort zone word. So, after a week or so of praying over it, I decided to reach out to three girlfriends, and I asked them to pray for me/over me for my word or theme for 2018. I explained to them that I maybe had the word, but I was really uncertain, so without telling them my word, I wanted them to pray and come back to me and let me know what God spoke to them.

For the record… I very much love this accidental practice of asking other people to pray over/for you for your word/theme for the coming year; I will probably continue it in the future.

Four days later, the first girlfriend, in the middle of a conversation talking about something totally different, suddenly stopped and said, “Ok, the Lord told me that I have to share this word with you. I had that sudden check in my spirit and pit in my stomach.. So I have to tell you the word…” She had been praying for days and felt like she had a word, but also didn’t think it made sense and kept trying to pray for a different word; but in that moment, she was confident that the Holy Spirit wanted her to share it.

Watch. As in, step back and watch, observe and see all that God is going to do with anticipation.

Instantly, I knew that both Change and Watch were so interconnected that they were accurate. Confirmation. The feel descriptions that came with both words rolled one to the other exactly right and I knew that these two words had settled for 2018.

About a day later, the second girlfriend came and said, “I have three words.” (oh gosh)

The first is Re-Make. As in, let God remake you, remake and cultivate your foundation, changing who you are. Which you and He are already doing, but will continue and look different in 2018.
The second is Anticipant. – I don’t know that I’ve ever said the word Anticipant in my whole life. But, you need to be anticipant of what the Lord is going to do. Which leads to the third word, I think both of these words are going to restore Hope in you.
So, the third is Hope. God is going to remake your Hope, and you need to be open and anticipant of what He’s doing.

Change. Watch. Remake. Anticipant. Hope.

Are you noticing a theme?

The next day, the third girlfriend came and said, “I have two words.” (And then the next day said, “Actually, I have a third word, but I didn’t want to tell you the last one and wasn’t sure about it, so I needed to pray over it some more.“)

Open. Open-minded, Open-hearted, Open-handed. All three require dependence on him, abiding in following, and humility/soft heart. Which you’ve been doing, and I’ve seen start being more of a consistent trait in you.
Cultivate. Similar to open in that God has been helping you cultivate a bridge between your head and your heart. But it’s also a 2.0 feeling of cultivating new: community, career, you’re own voice, how you follow Him, hear His voice, and your character.
Pruning. One of my favorite explanations of pruning is that it doesn’t have anything to do with cutting or getting rid of what’s dead or not growing. Pruning has to do with there’s a limited amount of healthy supply and nutrients a plant can divide up. So pruning is all about prioritizing what is healthy and what/who gets your resources to remain healthy and balanced. Maintaining that balance takes cultivating.

In all honesty, the word Pruning gave me a little bit of ptsd from the end of 2013, and the entire year of 2014. Easily the hardest year and a half of my life, and one that took me almost all of 2015 to heal and recover from. Yet, after talking through it, it would seem that this pruning is more about creating space for God to do and move the way He wants to, creating a more healthy me in the process… Not so much the pain involved in severe pruning like 2014 was for me.

Change. Watch. Remake. Anticipant. Hope. Open. Cultivate. Pruning.

One of the things that is I think the most unusual thing about this whole process and these words, is that with each word and the description of the feelings behind them rolled right into each of the next words. I talked more about these words with the three of my girlfriends together after I had all of the words, and it seems pretty clear that this year will be So intense. So challenging. – But not painful in an injury way.

Like, the difference between something being difficult and getting hurt vs being difficult and getting injured. Maybe a better way to say is it will be the type of pain involved when you exercise; you are breaking down muscles, making them sore and tired, but ultimately building them up and becoming stronger with more endurance in the process.

I believe very much that 2018 will be challenging, and full of intense growth, but that it will not be the type of painful that injures me; instead, I think this year will be the type of pain that comes with exercising.

I have passages of scripture for six of the eight the words for 2018:

Change – Romans 11:29 (ISV), 1 Samuel 10:6
Watch – Micah 7:7
Remake – Colossians 3:10
Anticipant – Psalm 40:1
Hope – Romans 4:18
Open
Cultivate – Psalm 90:12, 37:3
Pruning

                       The 8 of 2018.

I cannot even begin to pretend like I know all (or any) of what the Lord will do this year. I wish so much that I could have specifics, know exactly what I’m working towards.

Because I am who I am,
I want to grow faster and do better in this process.

But, that’s actually the point… growing faster and doing better isn’t at all what 2018 is going to be about.

What I do know, is that these eight words are the areas that God is going to work on in me and through me.
He has every intention of rebuilding the areas of my heart where Trust in Him and His faithfulness is broken or simply not there.
He plans to use 2018 to completely change me, and make me more into the woman that He has intended for me to be all along.
He plans to use this year as a banner year to look back on, point to all the things that He did, and because of 2018, I will better be able to give Him honor and glory.
This year, I also have no doubt that I will learn how to hear Him and follow Him better.

But mostly, this year I will learn to Trust Him and believe in His complete Faithfulness.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:6-8

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,  and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:4-8

 

Changing Slowly…

Lately I have been taking time to reflect on where I am internally compared to where I was almost five months ago.

Throughout each year, there are markers that serve as points to pause, reflect and compare to a year ago… Yet, this time, rather than reflecting on a year ago, I find myself processing how much has happened inside of me since July of this year. I went into Uganda struggling very much internally, but not even really in a place to recognize it because of how hard and hectic May and June had been in every regard.

Before we left, I had begun asking God to reveal the lies I had been believing, and to restore hope where I had lost it… Then I closed that box of my heart, and got on a plane and launched myself to another continent.

Twice on the flight over I was asked how my heart was doing because people who know me, are aware of how much I struggle and have to actively work to link my head and heart well. I have had a habit of locking my heart up and setting it aside, especially if I am uncertain or overwhelmed by what I’m feeling.

Perfectly timed, around that same time before we left for Uganda, I also began asking God to help me navigate my head and heart well together. I had started to realize that Grace and Truth as well as Head and Heart are the balance of the Holy Spirit. God is perfectly both sides in unison, and in order to be more like Him, and more sensitive to His guidance, I too needed to start learning how to balance these things rather than setting one aside.

I was not prepared for the answer God was going to give me, nor the longevity of what it would mean to get the answers to these prayers.

I actually think if I had known how long and hard this all would be, I would have peaced out and quit right from the beginning. I am fairly confident I  would have shut my heart down and opted out of the process to protect my heart had I known the pain and struggle involved. Yet, one of the many graces in this whole journey has actually been my lack of knowing God’s timing. – I struggle with it all the time (as in allllll the time), but not knowing has also created a reliance on Him that I simply did not have before. Not knowing God’s timing has been so good too because I was unaware of the depths of intensity it would take to fix and heal certain areas of my heart, and just what it would mean to restore the trust and hope in God that I had lost. – Back in July it was as though my prayer for help balancing my head and heart caused God to lock my heart in the open position; it has been exhausting and overwhelming almost every single day since.

Even still, almost five months later, I regularly feel overwhelmed by how I am feeling, the ways I am changing, and how far I still have to grow. About once a week I have a late night meltdown over how exhausted and weary I feel internally due to actively processing every day. I am given the option to choose to grow and learn more about who I am supposed to be in Christ, and to face the ways in which I lack in trust/faith/fruit of the spirit (throw a dart at some character trait and I’m probably working on that too)… I assure you, it is Not. Easy. Nor. Fun.

But, God does not force me, He allows me the freedom to choose to face these things or quit… However, because of who God has made me, I will not give up, and I will choose to daily engage in this process of growth and change.

My journal of prayers is getting record use (literally). The current one (each one is 40 sheets/80 pages) is my 4th one in just about four months…

But so that there is no patting me on the back with congratulations: My prayer journal just makes me look like a crazy person.

Seriously, going back and reading the day-to-day prayers, they just swing widely back and forth, it’s embarrassing, but also they are incredibly intimate and real. These prayers reflect my struggle, my anxiety, my fears, my heart wide open and effort that it all takes, but also the ever so slow changes that are taking place, and just about every emotion possible finds its way into my prayers.

These journals are very how I am choosing to press closer to God and processing all of my tension, thoughts, and emotions.. But, in all honesty, they just really make me look like a wackadoodle. I wish I could share about how sweet the prayers are, but no. The sheer level of back and forth my prayers exhibit is ridiculous; the overwhelming emotions, the joy, thankfulness, the over analyzing things, the confusion and uncertainty, the copied scripture trying to help me grasp onto solid truth amidst the chaos of feelings, the waffling ebb and flow with how I feel vs what my head knows… EXHAUSTING.

Yet, I am also currently reading through the book of Psalms: I feel like my journal looks a bit like David’s prayers and hymns.

Some are so sweet, loving, encouraging, full of thanksgiving, while others are all raging and demanding that God do something (usually an overreaction to an emotion or situation). Some are declarations of praise, faith, love, and hope, while others are full of anger, sorrow, and despair. – This could literally be the description of my prayer journals AND the book of Psalms… So, I guess that is comforting?

At the end of every journal (about every six weeks currently), I go back and review it. I re-read things I have prayed for, asked God about, passages of scripture I copied, and then compare them to my calendar and remember what was going on that day. Every few weeks I am amazed at all that the Lord has done, how I feel about those days after the fact or in light of things that happened a few days later. I marvel and thank God again for answers to prayers, and for His continued patience, grace, and tenderness as I try to press in, learn, and grow.

But, let’s be honest: It. Is. So. Hard.

Several months ago I felt like God told me three things:
Hold Steadfast.
Persevere.
Be Obedient.

Then about a month ago I felt like God added Faith, Hope, Love.

As I review my journals, I am amazed at what it looks like to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient, and how these three things play out (and don’t). Previously I never would have been able to accurately identify what it truly looks like to hold steadfast and persevere, because I struggle each day with them. – Before all of this, I would have felt as though the level of my struggle daily would clearly indicate I was not in fact holding steadfast; yet as I go back over my prayer journals, I realize in the long haul it absolutely does. Holding steadfast and persevering doesn’t mean a lack of experiencing emotions or struggle, it means turning to God with every single little bit of it, and remaining there with Him.

I have learned that holding steadfast and persevering throughout scripture leads to faith, hope and love… but also proven character. It is in the journey, the long haul, the process that we refine, create, and prove who we are at our foundational core. But, let’s not dismiss how much proving character takes time, and is incredibly difficult and oh so awkward of an imperfect process.

In the last couple of months I have begun to see the transformation, and just how much I am changed forever because of the time pressing into the Holy Spirit and expressing all the things to God. Choosing to return back to Him with every little thing has changed the way in which I handle joy, hope, failures or despair on a daily basis. Because of the difficulty of modifying who I am on the inside, there has been an increase in desire to spend dedicated time every day with God; I am not entirely sure I can name any period of time in my entire life that I felt this way for months on end… I am so incredibly grateful (and hope it continues, recognizing seasons of life and all).

I long for connection with God, I need time to tell Him how I am, ask for what I want, and process everything that I’m struggling with. Every day there is a nuance to the areas He is work on growing in me, and whatever is heavy on my heart or mulling around in my head that day also gets some much-needed time laid before Him.

Now months into this whole process, I realized this week, on one particularly intense and emotional day full of stress, frustration, anxiety etc.. I still had the clarity and presence of mind to actively choose my responses. I was not swept away in any explosion of emotion and even the intensity with which I experienced my feelings was still there just like before, but despite it all, I found myself able to actively chose grace and patience. – Well that’s new… and not easy.

I have started to realize over the last couple of weeks that the force with which I feel and experience my emotions has not changed at all. God has not lessened who I am or the passion and intensity that I process, feel or express things; instead, He has changed my ability to see perspective, have understanding, and respond in grace and love. It is as though the spring that feeds into my heart-well is different, and therefore what is coming out is also distinctively changed, but that I am who I have always been in many ways, just a better version of that person.

A couple small excerpts from one of my prayers at the end of a particularly difficult day recently:
Thank you for being with me and giving me the extra measure of grace, patience, and presence of mind to choose my responses…
Help me to follow your leading better tomorrow. Give me more wisdom and understanding, and bless me with a greater capacity to love well…
Forgive me for the things I said and did today that did not line up with you. Forgive me for the things I missed…
Show me how to trust you more and be confident in your faithfulness more…

It has been an interesting experience reading through my prayers over the last few months, I would never have chosen this ahead of time had I known how hard it would be. I also have realized that I would never have been able to predict beforehand the ways in which I would respond (good or bad) to how God would grow and make me new. Yet, through it all, I am starting to recognize the small ways He has shown up and proven Himself trustworthy and faithful. But, above all, recognizing this gaining familiarity with Him as I spend more time communicating with Him. His presence and “voice” feel different to me now than they did in July (or previous to that).

My daily struggle to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient is still going strong.
Learning how to love well is not easy.
Finding and growing my faith and hope feels ambiguous, but slowly I am realizing that it is creating a foundation I did not have previously.
Making decisions against my own insecurities, and choosing to share my heart rather than shut it down and set it aside is still incredibly hard.

I am not the same person I was a few months ago.
My heart has changed. I have changed.

It has been a slow sometimes arduous process, and it certainly is nowhere near complete, but I am also incredibly grateful… and exhausted.

I am learning that the process and journey is full of challenges and pain (there are good and joyful times too, but let’s be honest, we don’t need people to identify with our good times as much), but it is worth it to become more of who God intends for you to be.

Choose to face it all head on, experience every emotion, and sift through them with the creator of your heart; it will change you forever and it will be so good.

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.

IMG_4872

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.

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.