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.

Rest: A Refrain

I’ve read a lot of words discussing God’s silence in our lives. I’ve sat in the darkness and wondered over why He wouldn’t answer me, why He isn’t present or visible in any number of seasons. I’ll be honest, I’ve felt the accute loss of not hearing His voice. I’ve asked a lot of questions of God over the years and I have cried out my “why God??” moments in the darkness.

A number of years ago I was given a reminder, that in all pieces of music there are moments of rest. I like this because it is an easy visual for me. When I am not hearing God’s voice clearly I likely need a rest, not from Him, but from my worry or my hurt or my frustration. I need some time from focusing on my struggle. When I realize that God is not close now, I no longer wonder where is He? Rather, what it is that I’ve given more importance to than Him.

Have you heard the story about how men go up to the mountaintop to commune with their Heavenly Father, but He comes to women right where they are, at the well, in their daily lives? It’s circulated through my social media a few times and has served as a good reminder to me that God enters into life with me daily (not that he doesn’t do this for men, I just enjoy the relational aspect of this story) I don’t have to go searching for Him because He is right here.

When I think about God being right here it is easier for me to understand His sometimes-silence. It’s loud here! There is so much screaming for my attention. Chores, meals, children, sweet husband, my own wants, and the never ending to-do list. How can I expect God to squeeze in there with kind reminders or gentle redirecting or valuable teaching? And so because my focus is on all of the things and not Him, He is quiet. His silence is what reminds me to refocus and it is the lack of God’s voice that reminds me to rest so that I may hear Him again.

Rest has been a continuous concept over the past couple of weeks. People keep bringing it up to me as if I don’t know that my body is tired, my soul is worn thin, my spirit deflated. I do, okay? I know. I know that carrying what I have been for these past months has taken it’s toll on my body and my mind. That the weight of it has allowed the anxiety to gain a foothold in my heart, a place I’d felt I had successfully banished it from for good. Believe me, I know.

I know and so I sit in the quiet of the early morning and count off thanks in my journal. I read and reread my Bible, searching to hear what God wants for me and from me. I know and so at the end of the day I crawl into my bed and sob. I let the tears come, cleansing the ache of loss and terror of anxiety away…for a time. I know and so I apologize to my children when I am impatient, I beg grace from my sweet husband when I just can not even do one more task, I message a friend telling them of my frustrations or sadness or fear. I know and so I do.

Do you see that? I didn’t get that before this morning. I know I need to rest, to be present in the stillness of God but instead I do all of these things. Even my prayer time is spent calling out to Him, asking Him for something, begging for Him to give… I had forgotten. Forgotten that being still in His presence means actually waiting on Him. Without an agenda. Trusting His will to be good, whatever it is, and in whatever time it should come. Being open to hear His word in my heart requires me to let Him silence the world around me.

I have to be willing to stop doing.

A reset then. We’re nearing the end of the Lenten season, entering into Holy week. The Passover Lamb has been slain and we wait. There are three full days and three full nights of silence while Christ descended into hell for me, for you. This is the ultimate reminder. Sometimes God is silent because He is doing the hard thing, the impossible thing. Though I can not see what that work is yet, though I can not hear His voice right now, though I may not feel His presence in this moment, He is at work, saving me over and over again in that one moment from my sin and my ignorance. I will not doubt that He has me in mind, even when I can’t hear His voice, and this brings something I have been lacking, an unusual peace enters into an overwhelmed heart.

I need not do anything. He has done it all. The battles I fight are meaningless, He has won the day. The doing, the striving, the fear and the worry and the ache can all be laid down. It is finished.

The tears are flowing early this morning. Knowing what was given so that I could be a momma and a wife and a good friend…what was given so that I could simply be loved and held, it overwhelms the stillness of my heart and startles me with its message. It asks one thing only.

Be still. And know that I am God.

Faith and Relationships

When at once we know we are created and that we are creators we can rest at peace. Knowing that all of life will fall perfectly into place as it has been created in perfection.

I didn’t always believe that God would work all together for my good.

At those most questioning, seeking moments I don’t know whether I searched after God with all of my heart or if I just searched blindly but honestly and found that God was in my heart. I remember spending a lot of time looking and a lot of time in prayer and a lot of time in the quiet, waiting. I still ask God a lot of questions and the more of my Bible that I read the more questions I seem to have.

This I know: God is not afraid of my questioning.

Over time I have realized that my questioning mind has brought me closer to Him, even if I don’t always feel the answers are super clear. I can see now that often the point of the questions; the reason they are put in my mind, is only to bring me closer to God. By seeking so hard for what is true and what is good and, well, so much more, I have spent an intense amount of time with my creator.

I’ve decided in my own heart that this is the only point. For me at least. The point of bringing all things to God, the point of asking Him so many “why’s”, the entire reason for my being…is simply to build a closer relationship with the lover of my very soul. This has helped me accept and process an innumerable amount of personal barriers. Knowing that the bad things will come and the hard days will march along, but that whether good or bad, pleasant or trying, full of snow or sunshine…in taking each moment to God and leaving it there at His feet…a deeper peace is found.

It is freeing to know that all of the hardships and all of the mountaintops are only to bring me to Him. I’m not tapping these keys, telling you that I dont worry or wonder or have days where my anxiety creeps itchy and red up my neck. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m trying to say is that regardless of my worry or wonder I know where to take it, and that has made all of the difference. For me at least.

I don’t know how to share this. How to explain my heart to the masses. I suppose it’s good that only a few of y’all read what I write, there are no “masses” to please. I want to put it out there though. If each moment of your life drives you to your knees or brings you closer to Him; well, then that moment has done what it was intended to do. And you’ve done what you should with that moment. No need to fix it or understand it or examine it further.

Be at peace with your Creator. Trust for today that what He wants is a relationship with you. Or believe it for the next hour if that’s all you can do for now. He is good, believe it.

***I know this post is not what you’ve come to expect from me…this is where I’m at today though. Thank you for reading it through, I am grateful.***

Walking the Path of Less Anxiety

Sometimes I’d like to hide in the sofa too little one, really.

I was pulled into a conversation recently. One that I really didn’t want to get involved in, but couldn’t quite stay out of either. Still working on keeping my mouth shut while the masses spout their opinions and certainties… As I thought about what I would say to a friend and her shared opinion, I felt the anxiety rise in my chest. Is that odd? I’ve written about my anxiety briefly before and I have actually had a pretty good handle on it for quite some time. I know that my current mental capacity is maxed though, and in adding in this small extra I should expect to feel the familiar flutter.

This has been going on for a few days, so I did what I do now; I sat with it. I’ve been reading too, trying to keep myself from reading too much into the flutter in my chest, the nervous creep inside my mind, the lack of peace and the lack of sleep. In being still with the unrealistic worry, I’ve noticed the growth I otherwise would not have. In the past my anxiety would make me jumpy, more stressed, more worried, more anxious. Nice cycle, right? Perhaps I’ve learned something over the years though.

While I still have the anxiety; it still surrounds me and closes in on me. The growth comes in not being afraid of this tight place anymore. I have felt the lack of oxygen enough times and I now know how to calm it, ease it, live through it. As I sat this afternoon, trying to write while my heart beat loudly in my chest, I decided that there are a few things I do to ease the anxiety. I thought perhaps they might work for you too. Here’s my short list and the path I usually take through the dark forest.

Most notably on my journey through each bout of anxiety is thankfulness. I have kept a joy-journal for three or so years, tracking every little thing that makes me smile, makes me see God, makes me thankful to do this life. My list is several thousand gifts long and when I look back over it I can see how keeping track of the good has been pivotal in weathering the bad. The “thankfulnesses” have helped me carry on through the anxiety, causing me to search out the good amidst the immense worry that sometimes threatens to smother me. When it seems there is no good, only pressure I try to remember that I can be thankful for the weight, how it anchors me here.

I’m going to assume that you can see how the writing has made a difference. I am not at all surprised that with each sharing of a struggle, each admittance of a fault, and each spoken silence I feel less of the crush. It is scary to put myself out here in this Nevernever of internet space. I find more peace in pouring out the truths of my soul than I could realistically put words to, though I will continue to try. I search for meaningful thoughts to be shared. I hope that you get something from the rambling. I pray for those who read my words, that you would be changed by them. My audience is small, but still, this is what I work toward.

My next go-to is that I get lost in fantasy. I post on Facebook begging for recommendations of a fantastical world to get lost in. I pull out old stand-bys; thick volumes that allow me to live in another time and place for two (let’s be honest, four) hours at bedtime each night. I make digital library requests and charge my Kindle. This getting lost in literature is not just a typical escape, I find that it frees up my mind to not focus and dwell on whatever is causing the anxiety. I can put myself in another world while my unconscious self works out the perceived problems in my life. I’m in the middle of my eighth book this month, so I know I’ve been hiding here.

My final tactic to fight against the clinging fear is sort of an anti-tactic, if that’s a thing. I will bail out of commitments and obligations, I will be still and focus on the anxiety, not willing it away rather, asking it to come close. To whisper what it is that is lacking or overwhelming. I suppose I could go to this place first, get quiet with God and my own mind, asking for the wisdom to be imparted. Not all anxiety is created equal though, and most is petty and manageable through these other strategies. This place here is where I have seen the most growth, this is why I no longer fear the crush or the flutter, why I can still process daily life when anxiety is pressing.

When I took a deep breath and spoke actual words to my friend, I felt the exhalation of my lungs and I let my head clear. I spoke my truth into the fear-filled place between us. The place where I didn’t really want to be. I was able to be kind and clear, I didn’t yell as perhaps I would have once, I didn’t demand she do it my way, I didn’t even suggest that she should. I trusted that my truth would not be lost on her and that if somehow it was misunderstood, we could work through that together.

I knew that my own experiences were worthy of putting out into actual space because I have put so many of them out there in digital space. I knew that I would, one day, be thankful for adding my own opinion to the masses, and that it matters what I think. I knew that no amount of educating myself on the topic would better express my thoughts than my own experience. I simply had to invite the fear in, let it rest in my mind and be healed by the peace it found there.