There are two kinds of friends.
One who you expectantly bring through the front door and one who unexpectedly shows up and pops right through the garage door. I will explain, but before I do I feel like I must assure you that sometimes the front door is just closer, easier, and more accessible. Just because you have come in through my front door, does not make you a “front door friend.” Ok…let me explain…
We all have “front door friends.” You know the ones. They are expected, planned. You rush around the house hours beforehand making sure that everything is tidy and in it’s place. A well-presented snack is prepared and hopefully everyone on the homefront is completely ready to behave themselves. The guest arrives and you truly have a splendid time, but when they leave you let out your breath (that you didn’t even realize you were holding), and you thank the Lord that at no time did you stick your foot in your mouth, and at no time did the children embarrass you. Immediately, you change into your comfy clothes and proceed to relax, probably for the first time that day. TRUTH! Right?
Now for the “garage door friends.” These ones are rare. For whatever reason you just click, you get each other, no doubt kindred spirits. They arrive unexpectedly and don’t even knock. They waltz in through the garage door, directly into your kitchen and instead of being stricken with panic, a smile lights up your face. You don’t care that it seems like a gorilla has tromped through every room of your house or that you are standing there at 2pm still in your yoga pants. You know that they will see what needs to be done and instantly lend a hand. She pulls the dark chocolate out from her bag, gives half to you, and jumps right into the biggest problem of the day, even if that means she just caught you in a PMS rage that may or may not have included an axe. When she leaves you feel a little lighter, the tasks before you seem less daunting, and you breathe easy knowing you are deeply loved, not only by her but by a Heavenly Father that would send you such a dear gift.
Two days ago one of those “dear gifts” moved 3000 miles away. I won’t lie. I’m sad. There is a little hole in my heart right now. Although I know we will always be friends the dynamic will, of course, change. But I’ve been through this before. This ain’t my first rodeo. I know in my heart of hearts that God is doing some more of that character building…that we all love so much! He’s opening up each of us for a little more dependance on Him. The fact is, from God’s perspective when life is hard is exactly when you are more blessed. He draws you into deeper pockets of contentment; intertwines your heart with His until you can’t explain the peace you feel. The hard doesn’t go away, but He makes it bearable. Be careful, you might even find yourself rejoicing. That’s how big our God is. That’s how I know the 3000 miles that now separates my friend and I is not the part I need to dwell on. It’s the fact that because of this we will each grow in ways that we couldn’t have otherwise. I’ve seen it before and I can’t wait to watch it happen again.
I feel my anxiety choking me again. I have avoided writing because I’m not “through” it, but I now realize that putting it out there is part of what I need, and may very well help someone else. I read an OUTSTANDING, vulnerable blog post by a friend this morning and I realized the more we talk about it, the more we heal, the more we are reminded we are not alone. What she writes is short but packs a powerful punch. The last paragraph is what keeps playing over and over in my mind:
“My biggest challenge is to quiet myself in this place – and frankly – I don’t think the quiet will come from climbing a mountain or reflecting by a glacier lake. I think the quiet will come at home, in the midst of the place I circle the drain, where I cannot hide from my fear or anxiety or emptiness or victim mentality.”
“At home…where I circle the drain”…that phrase captures it so completely for me. It sometimes feels like I am on the edge of a cliff. And for some reason lately, I have felt it the most in the quiet of my own home. I put too much pressure on myself to always be “doing.” The one place that has always been relaxing has become the one place that nothing gets done. I feel guilty resting. Like I will somehow be less-than if I don’t live up to my own expectations. It feels like I will never be free from anxiety. But that is a lie. And the truth is, that while anxiety is a powerful thing, it doesn’t hold the power. With every anxious thought I have a decision to make.
The definition of anxiety:
–a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
The definition of worry:
–give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.
Anxiety is the feeling of worry. And sometimes that feeling surges through my body with no rhyme or reason. Worry is when we give way to it and allow our mind to go to dangerous places. The ONLY way to spiritually quiet the rampant anxiety is to fill my mind with Jesus, to remember his supreme authority over it all, and to rest….”be anxious for nothing…” (Phil 4:6)
Anxiety may be that “thorn in your flesh” that will not go away, and just might very well plague you for the rest of your life. It is definitely a physical battle as well as a spiritual one. But it doesn’t matter. Because the part we need to understand is that it only holds the power when we give way to it, or allow it to consume us with worry. In those anxious times where we feel we might drown from the weight of it, we need to run to Jesus. He has already said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) Or better yet, just “draw near to him and He will draw near to you!” (James 4:8) Why does this often come as a last resort? Why do we try to do it on our own until the drain threatens to suck us in? For me, it’s fear. Fear that I will be stuck in this pain, in this condition. Fear that He is asking me to do something too hard. Fear that there will be no answers. Fear that I am not good enough to do what He has called me to. But you know what? “For God gave us a spirit NOT of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:7)
I HAVE a spirit of power in Him. I am not alone. It takes self-control. Sometimes I have to get up and physically take inventory, and my whole perspective changes. It is then that I am able to see that He has been there the whole time, it is me who has looked away, who got wrapped up in my own thoughts, just like Peter did as he was walking on the waves. (Matt. 14:30) But when Peter yells, “Jesus, save me!” as the waves threaten to overtake him, it says Jesus IMMEDIATELY reached out his hand and caught him. Jesus never moved. It was Peter who doubted, who instead of gazing upon the certainty of Jesus let the uncertainty of his surroundings consume him.
May we remember to be consumed by the love of Jesus every minute of the day, and not by the surroundings that threaten to steal our joy.
Be thankful. Get outside. Exercise. Eat nutritiously. Take time to breathe. And most importantly gaze upon Jesus. Let your troubles fade into the background. He hasn’t gone anywhere…he never will.
PC: Evan Lites
Steadfast: A word meaning to endure patiently.
A steadfast person is one who is reliable, faithful, and true to the end.
I have felt anything but steadfast lately. Since the hurricane that disrupted our lives last October my thoughts have felt jumbled and my body has felt sluggish. I have also been quite lazy about fixing any of it. After all, the holidays were coming. How is that a good time to start any kind of routine unless, of course, it involves eating? But that is a whole other topic in itself!
Starting out this new year with a good dose of routine is just what I need. There is something about having a plan and developing consistency that gives me a sense of accomplishment. A brand new, well-thought out schedule brings me such joy! It looks so pretty on the paper and each task seems to fit beautifully in between the lines.
If only life fit inside those beautifully crafted lines. Come to find out, I am not the only one in my universe! So as much as I plan, organize, and implement, derailing seems inevitable.
This is where God comes in. Well, actually, God is always “in” I just forget to let him run the show a lot of the time. Thankfully, He is happy to remind me now and then. He brought 2 Peter 1 to my attention last week. This is SUCH a power packed little chapter!
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…
It is terribly easy for me to get so focused on one very small piece of the puzzle. I struggle with follow-through and often look for new gadgets or tools that I am convinced are the answer to my inconsistent tendencies. But HE has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness! Why do I keep looking for new solutions when he is right in front of me and has equipped me with everything I need?
He has granted to us his precious and very great promises…
My view is so narrow, but His promises are great! As I spend all my time and energy on one tiny piece of my puzzle, like making sure my children graduate high school, He sees the entire completed picture of each of our lives. I want the kind of faith that rests in His knowledge of my future. It is not for me to figure out. It is for me to trust and follow.
For this reason, make every effort to supplement your
faith with virtue,
and virtue with knowledge,
and knowledge with self-control,
and self-control with steadfastness,
and steadfastness with godliness,
and godliness with brotherly affection,
and brotherly affection with love.
Do you notice that it starts with faith and ends with love? I was blown away when I read this, and I’m pretty excited about this next part! God is nudging me to step out of where I am comfortable and work on my first “project”. I am going to attempt to unpack this little section right here. Discover the depth and application of what is being said. Each quality that God calls us to has a perfectly complimenting supplement. And in the same way that our physical bodies sometimes require supplements to be at maximum performance, so do our spiritual bodies.
Supplements for our soul.
I am going to put together “24 Daily Supplements for Your Soul”, spending 3 days on each of the 8 attributes listed. I don’t have a completion date yet but let me know if you are interested. I am excited to dig in and learn what God has tucked into these three little verses, but I also need the accountability to follow through with this little project. So as I try to apply some real-life-steadfastness, just knowing you are waiting helps me do that. Thank you to my small, but ever so important audience. You are why I am here.
Something struck me in a new way today. I need Jesus EVERY day. I can’t save him up and use my “Jesus” reserves when I don’t make time to spend with him.
Now, I’m pretty sure I don’t have a completely theologically sound argument here, but just humor me.
I was teaching my daughter’s science class about vitamins and minerals the other day. They were learning the difference between fat soluble and water soluble vitamins. The water soluble ones, like Vitamin C, cannot be stored in your body for later. We need Vitamin C every day. The fat soluble ones, like Vitamin A, are stored in your body for days when you don’t get enough of that vitamin. I think spiritually this is true as well. We can definitely “hide His Words in our heart”. Those ones that we need to rise to the surface at exactly the right time, when we need a reminder, encouragement or even a rebuke. But Jesus, the actual heart of Jesus, needs to be invited into our life every. single. day. Intimacy happens over time, but it will not keep. It needs to be tended to on a daily basis or it will wither away before we even realize what happened.
I’ve been feeling blah lately. Ever since the hurricane really. About that time my morning routine fell apart, my chronic neck pain which had been dormant for nearly a year flared up again, and a tiredness crept into my body that I felt all the way to my bones. Hence the reason I have not been writing much. But just as I realized I need to be taking my vitamins to nourish and care for my physical body, I have been reminded that my soul needs care as well.
Daily, intimate time with Jesus is just like those water soluble vitamins. It fills me to the brim with the grace, peace, and joy that I need to get through THAT day, but just like those vitamins, or better yet, like the manna that fed the Jews in the middle of the desert, it doesn’t keep. My soul requires daily nourishment that only Jesus can provide. New and fresh each day. Neglecting him is detrimental to the health of my soul. And in the same way that a vitamin deficiency isn’t obvious right away, neither is the silent deterioration of our soul. Apathy and anxiety don’t just appear over night. They gradually trickle in and before we know it we are drowning.
Jesus is our most basic need. The most important thing our soul requires. Leave him out and symptoms of a shriveling soul begin to appear.
Rest feels forced and never complete. Creativity is squashed. Joy falls flat, our smiles forced.
I don’t think I am alone in this struggle. Do you feel it? The weight of all life brings is a little too heavy right now? It’s because we are deficient in “intimacy with Jesus”. My soul is thirsty and I can practically taste my next encounter with Him. Let’s not put it off any longer. This doesn’t just happen. We have to make it happen, be intentional. Tomorrow morning I have a date with Jesus. Are you going to make one too? This will be more refreshing than a thousand spa days! Join me! The rejuvenation of your soul is where it all starts.
Hard is a reality of simply being on planet earth. Every single day we have to deal with something that is hard. It might be something as simple as figuring out what to make for dinner, or it could be as devastating as hundreds of lives being lost in a hurricane.
Already, you are probably wondering how those two things even go together in the same sentence. But in the same way the word “love” has a multitude of meanings in the english language so does the word “hard.” We all experience hard in a hundred different ways. It’s never easy. But I recently realized I’ve been doing something that isn’t making it any easier.
I’ve been comparing my “hard.” I compare mine to those who have it worse and I feel a guilty sense of relief, or to those who have it easier and feel sorry for myself. Or even worse, I judge those who think theirs is hard, because for some reason I have the audacity to say it’s not?
Just a couple of weeks ago I read a friend’s post on Facebook, who was having a particularly hard day, but I only saw it through my grief-clouded lens, so I too quickly commented:
“Well, at least you weren’t in Haiti.” It was the day after Hurricane Matthew obliterated parts of Haiti, and the day before it was supposed to hit my hometown. Clicking refresh on the hurricane center’s webpage became an obsession. I was completely wrapped up in my own anxiety.
As soon as I hit enter I knew it was the wrong thing to say. Why did I come down on her so hard? Because I lost my compass. Grief, anxiety, adrenaline, and fear where clouding my judgement and instead of showing compassion to a hurting friend, I somehow deemed that my hurting was worse. It is incredibly easy to lose perspective in the eye of the storm. We all hurt. We all have disappointment. We all receive our share of grief. Just because ours looks different than someone else’s doesn’t mean it’s any less painful or more devastating. It’s all hard.
Look at James 1:2-4 with me:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing.”
We all experience various kinds of trials. Some trials may feel harder than others, but that doesn’t make the easier ones any less valuable. God uses ALL of it to test our faith, to see if we will count it all joy, and to produce a steadfastness in us that cannot be shaken. Faith is what we cling to as we hold our ground, knowing that God is the one doing the perfecting. God is the one that makes us complete. In Him we replace our fear with hope. In the end we will lack nothing at all, because God allowed hard things in our lives and character was formed. After all, we know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
So, whether it is being stuck in an airport missing your daughter’s homecoming or sitting in a lobby wondering if you will have a house to return to, hard is not something to be compared. It is to be embraced as one more chance to get it right. To respond with joy while enduring the pain. To know that our character matters and our compassion makes a difference. To believe with all of our heart that in the end our hope is in God who has already overcome it all.
Romans 5: 3-4
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope.”
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
A week ago I sat in church still reeling from the events of the days in our very recent past. Hurricane Matthew came and went; I was in a fog-like, emotional state of all that had just happened and how miraculously our area was spared major destruction.
Although there are parts that I will write about, parts that stopped me in my tracks at the sovereignty of God, and parts that I just don’t know how to put into words yet, I still feel as though I will never completely sort it all out. I have sat down several times to try. The words just aren’t coming.
I simply can’t yet.
Stress can do powerful things. I have never felt more tired, while not being sick, than I have this week after the hurricane. I have been exhausted to my core!
I am desperately missing my 5am time with Jesus. My carefully balanced life has unravelled before my eyes.
But while I get myself out of survival mode and back on track in my daily life, my dear friend, Carolyn Lones gracefully wrote about last Sunday.
That Sunday that I felt like my brain was in a fog.
That Sunday that I should have been fully rejoicing with my church family and my heart just wasn’t in it.
That Sunday that marked 75 years since the founding of our little Covenant Church that we have grown to love.
Her words parallel so many of my own thoughts. It was like therapy as I read them, knowing that I was not alone that day. Having a kindred spirit is vital to the healing our heart needs. So for anyone who is feeling like your heart just isn’t in it right now, you are not alone. I can’t wait to share this with you:
When Your Heart’s Somewhere Else…by Carolynn Lones