At the tail end of a long work week, I found myself in a screaming match with a four-year-old. Certainly, it was not my finest hour—but if I get painfully honest, it was really just another snapshot in an ever-widening pool of evidence pointing to a truth I have long been avoiding: all is not well with my soul.Read More
All throughout the Bible, we find stories of people who get to leap before they look. We read the narratives of people who are called beyond the realm of their comfort zones -- people who are given new names that are entirely contradictory to the identities they have always known. The weak are commissioned to go to war, to defeat giants. The barren and the virgin are called forth to bear new life. The Lord tells people to move without maps.
My husband and I signed our names to resignation letters a couple weeks ago, and I have to be honest, it is one of the scariest things I have ever done. Not just the resigning part, which will officially take effect in eleven short days, but my waking thoughts on the morning after, and the morning after that. Our lives are about to take a drastic turn. And drastic turns are not for the faint of heart. They require strength, but even more than that, they require vulnerability -- something that I can only ever ask of myself in easily measured doses. So it wouldn't be too difficult to deduce that sometimes I take issue with an immeasurable God who asks us to do seemingly crazy and often even impossible things. There are days when it seems like nothing about this faith is easy -- days when I have to try even harder to remember Brene Brown's revelation that if you can measure it, it probably isn't all that important. And in all my years of studying the Bible, I've never come across anyone who was called to easy.
To be fair, our destination isn't totally unknown: we are moving to South Carolina, to a town all of forty minutes from where we live right now in Georgia. But we don't have a house there yet, and I will be without a job. A couple weeks ago, Craig got a phone call, and within a matter of days, had been offered a job. His dream job. The job that he would talk about when we lay awake at night and talked about where we wanted to be in ten years. Of course, I cried, because that is what I do. And I said that we would be crazy not to walk through this door that had so obviously been opened by the Lord. And so we wrote our letters of resignation and put in our notices, bound for a place that had not been entirely revealed. We were all geared up to take the leap of faith. And we still are.
There's something different about this leap, though (granted, at twenty-four, I don't have a very extensive history when it comes to leaping). Surely, there have been days when my heart has nearly beat out of my chest with the anxiety of it all. Where will we live, what kind of job will I be able to find, how long do we have to change our drivers licenses, what about health insurance? I am learning to let go of my perceptions of security, learning to let the Lord go before me.
In Deuteronomy 31, the Lord promises his people that he will go before them. It is a truth I have not heavily relied on. Rather, I charge ahead with my own plans and my own schedule and priorities because who in their right mind would actually trust their entire future to a God who delights in leaping without looking? Sure, I've claimed the yes, claimed the surrender, but all these years I've been living the no and the striving and the hustle. I say that it is because I want to be prepared -- I want to have the nice house, the steady and rewarding job, the fruitful marriage. But the truth is, the striving and the hustle are fueled by fear. Fear of letting people down, and people letting me down. Fear of letting God down, and God letting me down.
I inhale deep as I stare at the words. Afraid that God will let me down. Afraid that at some point, he'll fall asleep on the job and I'll leap head first into a black hole of pain and grief and loss. Afraid of the total insanity of it all. I think God is probably nodding along as I type, as if to say yeah, girl, you're kind of a work in progress. And I've never been comfortable with being undone.
But lately, that is what I find myself asking for. Lord, undo me.
Because this undoing of self is how all of his stories begin. And I want my story to become his.
Midway through the month of August, I wrote about walking through the wilderness. I even used distancing language, in a vain attempt to avoid the admission that I am, indeed, in that place. Because its hard to find anything pretty about my here and now, and I wrestle with wanting to look like I have it all together, and August was another messy month. Everything was late and rushed and busy and some was left half done, and here I am completely and totally undone, again. I realize that I have been here for awhile now, stuck in a revolving door that dizzies between so much faith and so much anxiety. I lift my hands in worship and experience the beauty of surrender and the power of shaking the gates of hell for an hour and a half on Sunday morning, but inevitably, Monday morning pounces and the lies creep in again and I fall back into the pattern of too much to do and never enough time or energy. I read blog posts about how precious time is, and how the true key to joy is found in slowing down. For a moment, I lavish in the thought, but eventually, bitterness seeps sour into the crevices of my heart and I gnarl to myself that there is no way that the person who penned those words could know anything about me and my life. Slowing down is always easier said than done, because faster is always made to look more attractive and productive.
The truth is, I'm a mess. Seeking some solace, I picked up my friend Holley's book "You Are Going to be Okay" last night and turned the pages in search of answers. In the first chapter, Holley writes of a conversation she has with Jennifer Dukes Lee in which Jennifer says that we don't have to be citizens of wherever we are right now. I quickly shut the book and replace it on the dresser, singed by conviction. Its a dangerous thing to pray for answers. They almost never show up where I expect them, and almost always reveal some harsh truth about my flesh. I didn't want to come face to face with the realization that the overwhelming majority of my difficulty lately may very well be from browsing the real estate catalog and renting a post office box in a place that was never meant for staying.
Perhaps it is the season of life I am currently in: desperate to put down roots anywhere, seeking meaning and identity and purpose wherever I happen to land. Because I want to be so much, but mostly I just want to stop waking up in the middle of the night with the feeling that I'm drowning. My spirit is wrenched by the current, and fear and doubt make for a horrendous ball and chain.
The mantra that has defined my days has been one of rebellion: one of no, I'm not okay. I meditate angrily on the same page, repeating the words until I can no longer catch my breath for the panic that has invaded my cells. I wonder, could it be that the remedy to this madness, the map to turning the page and healing all this hurt is to say it is well?
It is well, even when the pain overwhelms and nothing makes sense. It is well, even when I don't know which way is up, because the Savior is always reaching down. His plan, even for this place, is good -- but that doesn't mean that He intends for me to stay here. At some point, that truth became blurred. It might be easy to stay in the wilderness, getting just enough manna mystery for the day, but we were made for more. I was made for more than just getting through the day. It might be easy spin my wheels in the desert, but I was made to move forward, knowing not just in my head but in my heart as well that no matter what, I am going to be okay, and that yesterday is well, today is well, and tomorrow will be well with my soul.
Never in my life have I clung more to Jeremiah 29:11. For most of my life, having grown up in the church, this verse was commonplace to me: as one of the most commonly quoted verses in scripture, I had heard it so often that it began to lose its meaning. It was always the theme verse for camps and youth events and bible studies, and I had managed to file those words away in a drawer at the very back corner of my mind. I didn't really struggle with planning until I went away to college, and my time had to be more stringently delegated. Professors told me that college was like a triangle, with a social life, grades, and sleep, and I could only ever have two of the three. No matter what I was doing, I would be sacrificing time that could be put towards something else. And I couldn't tell you now exactly when it happened, but at some point back there, I morphed from a person who could fairly easily go with the flow, to someone who very nearly needed to plan out every hour of the day. To this day, I am still very much the latter personality.
Between graduation, getting married, and getting a job, I feel as though I got sucked into a vortex of constantly needing to plan and make decisions -- not only for whatever is going on in my life at the present moment, but also for the future. And I feel the weight of responsibility for every decision made, even the seemingly arbitrary ones. Things that I ultimately have no power over whatsoever, I somehow end up feeling responsible for.
A script from a television show arrests my attention: "she is a narcissist," it says. "You can't believe everything is your fault unless you also believe that you are all powerful."
The words leave my lungs feeling strained, and I didn't want to hear them, and I try to shake off the fact that Jesus is still in the habit of using whatever is in front of us, ordinary things, to bring our attention to him.
It seems silly. It seems elementary. It seems like I should know better and why am I reading the same page over and over?
Have you ever heard the saying "we plan and God laughs?" Sometimes, I don't believe He finds it all that humorous in the light of day. I think it breaks His heart, this endless flailing of mine.
He is still inviting me to rest, still wooing me and beckoning me to trust that all things are held together by His infinite grace. He knows the plans He has for me. He knew exactly who and where I would be at this moment, and Spurgeon says "had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, Divine Love would have put you there."
Its a promise that wherever you are right now, there is meaning and purpose. We are being made whole.
The trial is learning to rest in the middle of wherever I am, knowing that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and believing that He gives His children good gifts. He disciplines those that He loves. He teaches those that He loves. He directs those that He loves. And (later on in Jeremiah,) He says He has loved us with an everlasting love. That means no height, no depth, no fear, no plan for the future, no regret from the past, or anything else can keep me from His love.
Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. In the morning, when I wake up feeling just as tired as when I laid my head down, help my unbelief. In the afternoon, when I want to be somewhere -- anywhere -- else, help my unbelief. And when I lay down, my body tense from the constant anxiety of bracing myself for the unknown, help my unbelief. When I doubt the nearness of Your presence, give me faith. When I doubt the fullness of Your love, help me to hold onto these truths, that from ashes, You bring forth beauty. Teach and direct this feeble flesh. Keep holding me together.
And help me to slow down, to open my hands to Your grace. Help me to remember that I don't need to have every answer, but rather, I can trust the One who does. Help me to lean not unto my own understanding. Let joy and rest be the balm to this burnt out heart.
Give me the grace, the unshakable grace, to laugh at the days to come -- trusting, unshakably trusting, that You have a plan.
A plan for good, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. And in those days, when you pray, I will listen. When you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will Find me. I will be found by you, says the LORD.
After struggling for years with some degree or another of depression and anxiety, I had my first panic attack last night.
My husband, faithful and unwavering, sat up with me in bed as my head grew increasingly lighter, my lungs struggled to stay full, my face tingled, and heart raced.
And all day today, I have felt the fatigue. I feel as though I’ve run a marathon with no training whatsoever.
In the hours that preceded the panic attack, I admitted that I don’t like the way my life looks right now. At twenty-three years old, I’m still struggling to figure out who I am. And a lot of times, it feels like I’m floundering, grasping vainly at straws in the middle of a crowd who has it all figured out.
Obviously, that’s not actually true. But we all tend to be absorbed by thoughts that we are the only one with this struggle or facing that trial. All the while, pretending to have it together.
Read more at Hashtag Hope.
Five of us women piled laughing into her great big sports utility vehicle. We had been in training together for four weeks, the latest of which brought us to the hustle and chaos of the city. We had taken turns driving each day to a different lunch destination, and as we pulled into the narrow space, I jokingly admitted that I would be afraid to drive such a massive car.
And then it happened.
The one in the front seat turned to me and said “you’ve got to stop saying you’re afraid.”
Ouch. Barely a month after meeting me, she speaks these words. And I wonder how many times a week — a day, even — I say that I am afraid. I know that I am an anxious person, but do I really let that anxiety overflow from my heart and through my lips often enough for her to pick up on it so quickly? I sit quiet though lunch, embarrassed and pondering.
Read more over at (in)courage.