When You Know its Time to Change Your Mantra

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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

On reflection, rest, and looking forward.

A local pastor cuts deep in a radio commercial heard during my morning commute: did you do everything you could in 2013? I doubt my preparedness to answer.

Because I did a lot -- became a lot -- of new things in the past twelve months: a fiancee, a college graduate, a wife, a daughter and sister-in-law, a licensed driver (for the first time, at 22 years old,) and a social worker. I joined communities of bloggers who not only inspired me, but got down in the nitty gritty to do life with me. I also got baptized, over ten years after my parents and a pastor held an intervention and used guilt to try to motivate me to obey. Those were the highs. The lows saw me become anxious, angry, bitter, rebellious, and exhausted.

Did I do everything I could to be better? I ask it frequently of myself, and often I'm reminded of how short I have fallen -- how many opportunities I had to trust the Lord, and instead tried like hell to control things myself. At times, I became physically sick from the tension.

Timothy Keller's words resound: "anxiety is the result of a collapsing false god."

How much of my time has been consumed by the god of control? The god of perfectionism and guilt? Time that I can never get back.

But as I look back over the past year, what overwhelms it all is how faithful the Lord is, despite my not always giving Him my best.

An old roommate and I had a falling out a couple years back, but she left me this letter:

I see you struggling. I know you are fighting some major battles in your life. You have dealt with far more than I can even see. You aren't giving in and you aren't giving up. You are fighting against what you know should not be there. In this, I see hope.

I hearken back to her words at the end of this year, as I read over the past year of journaling -- of pouring my heart out to the Lord, regardless of its contents. I pray her words are still true, wherever she may be today.

Because at the end of the day, the essence of journaling is that it provides evidence of the journey. Throughout this year, I have been more intentional about being in tune with the Lord than ever before, because perhaps more than ever before, I realize my need for Him. 

....

Many bloggers I know begin their new year by choosing a word -- one word to focus their writing on during the year. As a lover of all things semantic, it has been particularly difficult to land on a single word. It is also difficult, given that my posts throughout 2013 are jam packed with words like joy, holy, faithfulness, thankfulness, trust, and grace. But there has been one word to breach my conscience again and again, and that word is rest. 

Rest: 

1. Cessation after exertion or labor. 2. Freedom from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs. 3. Calm, tranquility, ease, relief.

In the midst of the whirlwind that was 2013, I struggled to find rest. I thought about and desired rest constantly, even writing about it a few times on this blog. But what I learned more and more as the year progressed is that rest is a choice. The Holy Spirit was so faithful to convict me and bring to my attention the choices I was making when anxiety rose up in my heart. More often than not, my choices were not favorable.

My friend Andy says that the whole of life is about reacting well to the gospel. Could there be a better reaction than the cessation of my striving? At the cross, with his dying breath, Christ gave me victory. He put an end to my striving for perfection -- my striving to somehow earn grace -- so why do I insist on dragging it out?

Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat? One of the most powerful things we can do in our journey towards healing is to realize that we're not alone. Back in September, I wrote a bit about perseverance -- things that must be born in a person. Birth is an incredibly messy and painful experience. We have to push, and sometimes we come apart at the seams. But it is also beautiful.

The Word says "He has made everything beautiful in its time."

He knows what we need. He is molding us.

These are promises that we can rest in.

Hey, friend! Whether you're new here or find my small space familiar, I am so thankful that you've taken the time to visit. This post closes the chapter of 2013, but with every ending also comes a beginning! Join me in 2014 in my pursuit of rest? And let me know how I can partner with you in your own journey towards all things joyful and promising. 

The spring of the forest fire.

Oh, how quickly a forest is destroyed with only a single spark. Scripture says that only ashes remain when a rumor is ignited. I have been burned alive, left in smolders by those who thrive on spreading the blaze. Sabrina Ward Harrison once mused that she was afraid that others would find out who she was before she did, and that she would be the last to know. This used to be me, too. I have spent my twenty-two years wrestling. But I finally feel like I know who I am. Once, I felt as though I lacked something to fight for, but today, I know what I am protecting. Ever more importantly, I know whose I am, and who is protecting me.

One of my greatest ambitions is to lead a quiet life, unplagued by the hustle, bustle, and emergency that is screamed to me from every angle. To be in the world and not of it. I have craved strength and dignity, the ability to laugh at the days to come. This is truly the desire of my heart.

I have been hurt countless times by the sword words and judgment of others. I’ve repeated their darkness over and over to myself, but I’m done with that now. I must also confess that I, too, am prone to these judgmental tendencies, and yet through grace alone, I have been proven wrong about many things and people.

I never wanted to punish anyone… nearly as much as I do not want to be punished.

But sometimes, inevitably, the flint messes in our lives rub each other the wrong way. When a fire erupts, the soil can respond one of two ways: sometimes, the soil can benefit, but under other circumstances, the flames could cause detrimental erosion.

And what of grace? Can it really reach down to where we are when we’re at the end of our rope?

Could a garden come up from this ground at all? 

Depending on my heart’s response, this is not the end of the story. I choose the good. I choose right now to be better. The nutrients in the soil increase when there is a fire. The flames may destroy, but they leave quiet room for restoration. What death is experienced in the heat is miraculously contributing to the creation of something new.

Out of chaos, life is being found. 

Grace prevails every time. I am left with no room for doubt.

Yes, I know who I am. My identity is no longer found in what man might say about me. I have been redefined. Love really is amazing, and I am fighting to the death to protect it. In his book “The Cost of Discipleship,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated that “by judging others, we blind ourselves to our evil and to the grace that others are entitled to as we are.”

May I speak grace as the gentle answer, so as to turn away wrath. What man has meant for harm, God has redeemed in order to accomplish His will.