God’s Healing Grace

I feel like the devil might be attacking me. Can I write that sentence? Will my people think I am crazy? I’m worried that most of you will think just that, but after yesterday, I feel the attacks getting stronger and I’m unsure what else it could be.

I’ve heard it before, that the devil doesn’t worry about you when you’re not doing kindom work. He doesn’t throw all he has at you if you’re not on a close walk with God. I think that’s probably mostly true. There are points of my life where I was pretty far from God where I remember feeling that everything was going just fine. And there are other times where I was going to church and doing the correct religious things, but it was mostly just an act I was carrying out, not a true relationship with my Savior, and I dont remember there being much difficulty at those times.

For over eleven years now I have made a very conscious choice to walk closely with God. That walk went from worship every Sunday, serving weekly in our church, kids in youth group to feeling the pull away from the modern American version of church. Even as I left the church, such as it was, I have still walked very closely with God.

Let me be clear, my church was a good one. The people I knew loved God, gave of their time and skills and finances, the messages were Biblically based, they practiced hospitality in a way that only a well-off congregation can. They do a lot of good in their community and in the world. They did a lot of good for and in me. But I sat in my seat on Sunday and I heard it; “I am not here.”. I wasn’t really sure what to do with that information. What I was sure of was that this was not the place for me anymore.

We tried a few other churches, a few other youth groups, but I felt nothing. The intention to do good, to serve God and His people is there, in the church body, I know it is. But I would look around and see the people in the church living these “easy” lives and I would wonder how I fit in, how the broken and the hurting and the poor and the sick and destitute fit into this church body. Truth was every time I looked I saw that these people were simply a project for the church. They weren’t being ushered up the aisles on Sunday morning, they were “out there”, someone for us to help but not bring too close…and that bothered me.

This wasn’t intended to be a post about me leaving the church, but in leaving the physical building and body of what the Westernized church has become, I found a closer walk with Christ and since then I have felt the devil on all sides. Some people tell me I feel this press because I’m not going to church. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer over this and I will disagree with that assertion.

I believe that by leaving the church I was able to step forward on my walk with God.

I’m not encouraging anyone to leave their church, you need to do what you feel led to do, but for me, my days are more filled with Him who sent me. God is so much more present in our lives. I pray constantly day and night, I beg for Him to come to those who need Him. I model (to the best of my ability) Christ’s love and servant heart to my children, to my sweet husband, to my friends.

If you know me and you see good in me, I counter that you see God through me.

As this closeness to God has increased, especially in this last year of global pandemic and the insanity that has come with it, I have gone deeper in prayer than I ever have before, I have walked more and more closely with God and I firmly believe that this is why the devil is attacking me. Whether you think I’m crazy for that or not is on you.

There has been a lot of hard for all of us in this year, I know. We all see these hardships through our own lens, I know. For my family the things that are hard have been targeted to go straight to my heart it seems. They are the exact difficulties that make my anxiety accute and my sadness deepen. I have been mostly unable to pull myself out of this cycle of working through my depression. Everytime I have climbed close to the light something else happens which drops me back a rung on the ladder. It is frustrating.

Through prayer I have come to believe that this is no coincidence, the devil certainly knows that which will hurt me most and is progressively building his attacks against me. Trying to break me. To get me to cry out against my God. To leave Him since He is doing so little to help me…..this is for sure one way I could see it.

Last night I so badly wanted to make a list of all the shity things that have happened in the last six months or so. I began that list in my mind and, thankfully, I quickly heard God’s voice redirecting me. Gratitude is a practice that I keep as one my few daily rituals, it was easy to see that listing the bad would not help me to get out of this cycle, rather how by condemning the devil-the root of these bad situations and circumstances- I could break free of this weighted chain dragging me down.

I needed a cleansing fire.

I needed a cleansing fire to break free of all of these annoyances, struggles, difficulties. And God gave it.

At the end of another seemingly impossible day here on our new patch of land, I was reminded by God’s gentle voice that there is more to come, but that it will be good from here on out. While that seems kinda hard to believe after so many months of being beaten back, I am choosing to do just that. Going forward, the gifts will be good, and the hardships will be handled.

I lay awake last night around one AM, praying for a few of the people on my heart at that hour. While I struggle with Easter as a “holiday”, and even with how the church remembers the death and resurrection of Christ, even I can feel the connection. This feeling placed in me of newness, of beginning again, of the old passing away. This resurrection of new life in me. I will begin again this morning, believing that what is to come in my life, in the lives of those I love, is for God’s good and is born of it.

The devil can continue to push and he may do so, but I know whose I am and I will not be tempted past what I can endure through Christ. Praying for you all, as always this Resurrection Sunday.

Sledding, Slowing, and Seeing

This is sort of a different, but not really, post for me. I frequently ramble on about getting out of this miserable weather or how much I despise the cold and dark. Occasionally I talk about something happening in the lives of my children. I’ve decided that today I will relate an adventure instead of whining, discuss a few moments of joy in winter on a day when I’d give most anything for 50 degrees warmer than it is right now. Weird right?

A few weeks ago, before the bitter cold completely engulfed central Minnesota, I took my children outside in the cold. Three whole days. I really did. I pulled on snow-pants and tucked wool socks into boots and drove out for some winter fun. This is unusual for me, if you haven’t figured that out by now. I don’t go out in the cold, I stay in, tucked under a blanket with a mug of tea in my hand most afternoons from December until, oh I don’t know…June or so. But I did this thing in the hope that embracing the cold would help it to not suck quite so much, and it did! It really, really did.

On our first day out we went to the big sledding hill in town on a perfectly sunshine-y day. Since it was the middle of the day there were only a few other kids on the hill and my bigger two went down and up at least a million times. Smiles plastered to their sweet faces. The teeny made it down, but needed convincing, and assistance, in coming back up. Eventually she and I made it across to gaze out over the river and walk along the stone ledge, we followed squirrel tracks in the patches of otherwise undisturbed snow, and she squealed with delight as she zoomed down the smaller hill.

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The sky was a perfect blue and I couldn’t help but stare up and think to myself that if this were winter, actual winter, I could handle it. For a brief moment in time I thought that I might actually make it out of this winter alive and with my smile still on my face. This day was filled with joy and peace. We were happy, even in the cold.

The second day out was more of the same. Sledding on a different hill with equally beautiful weather and, this time, friends. The day was only marred by forgotten ice skates. There were treks into the deep snow, a birds nest at eye level, and kids full of kindness. I have seldom been more surprised by a winter day than I was this day. The sun shone and the thermostats rose above 40 degrees. It was blissful and I was so very grateful.

I held out hope that this would be the winter that I didn’t hide indoors, that this would be the winter when I would do the embracing of the cold that everyone believes will bring me wintertime happiness. And I did get one more day. I am thankful for that third day and the walk we took. Being able to go out with my kids on adventures is one of my very favorite things. They have no agenda, few preconceived notions about what the day will hold. They need only a water bottle and a few snacks to explore a new space.

I love this about them.

I really hope that their attitude for adventures does not change much in the coming years, and not just for my own ease and enjoyment. If they can continue to be easy going as we travel and explore then they will continue to see the best in situations that may be less than ideal. They will keep their eyes open, slowing down to notice the red berries, the cup-shaped leaf, the tiny piece of agate in the gravel. If they can travel easy they will travel far. If they travel far they will be filled with wonder all of the days of their lives and I can think of little else that would be worth more, to give to a child.

The way this world spins, the pace it sets, the hustle we are expected to display…it causes the lives of children to be devoid of wonder. The lives of us all. I will continue to work to slow my tiny little piece of this world, if only a fraction and if only for my short time here. I will wander river paths while littles stomp in the snow. I will haul teenies up snow-hills so we can stay out longer. I will remember to bring the damned skates next time.

I will not enjoy winter. I don’t have it in me really. If it’s below 25 degrees, I’m not going out. I’m just not. I will revel in moments though. I will soak in the apricity, even if I have to sit on my living room floor under the picture window to do so. I will snap photos of joy-filled faces in deep snow and of Christmas tree lights shrouded under a blanket of white. I will be present this year, not just begging for it to end, but noticing all that I can while I’m here. This is not really what I’ve been encouraged to do by so many well wishing friends and strangers, but it is the best I can do. If it happens to get above thirty again soon, I’ll be one of the first people out there hopping over puddles, pulling sleds through the streets, and staring at the clear, blue sky.

On one of the last warm winter nights my sweet husband lit a fire on the deck, we stood out with blankets around our shoulders and hats pulled low over our ears. The stars were out and the noise of the city was somehow hushed just a bit. It was almost as if someone wanted me to see what winter could be. How I could be a small part of something that I hold such contempt for. How there is good, even in what we view as bad, and that we really don’t understand it all anyway. The peace washed over and the fire burned down to embers, time slowed, if only for a moment.

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