take heart.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset So, here we are: January 5th. 

And yeah, some of us are planning to run that 5K, to write more, have a quiet time, lose the weight, stop procrastinating, get the junk room organized, quit smoking, make that person notice us -- but most of all, we're just looking for more resolve.

I think what stops us in our tracks by week three is that creeping feeling that we really don't deserve that thing we're after. One day, life will get in the way, and out of nowhere it has been a month since we went for a jog or stepped foot in the junk room. One day, the gossip at the office will say something mean behind your back and you'll end up chain smoking four cigarettes and its easy to think in that moment that it has all gone straight to hell.

So let me just say this, before we even reach the one week mark and all the lies start throwing rocks at your window in the middle of the night and croon on and on about how you're not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not _______ enough: you were made for this moment. 

And I'll be your Aibileen all day long, telling you how kind and smart and important you is. Cause yeah, its easy to forget sometimes.

Maybe you're like me -- sticking just your toes into the pool, hanging out on the sidelines and waiting for your big moment. Maybe you're finally ready to chase down that dream, but you don't know what tomorrow holds.

He goes before you. He will be with you. He is the Author of hope and dreams and second chances, and He doesn't ever leave us where He found us. In fact, He tells us to not look back, but instead, look to the new things He is doing.

But sometimes, we'd rather look the other way. Sometimes, this new thing He is doing feels a lot like pain and grief and loss. Sometimes it looks like waiting for a diagnosis, or watching a family member walk down a road filled with desperation and heartache. Sometimes it looks like reaching the end of our rope, hands scalded from trying so hard to hold on.

I'll say it again: you were made for this moment.

I believe the fringe of your rope is one of the most sacred, holy places.

We fear that it is the place that God's love runs out. But what if it is the birth place of His grace? What if the end of our rope is the beginning of watching Him provide in ways that we do not understand? What if it is the starting line of immeasurably more?

What if, at the end of the rope, we find that hope is the anchor for our souls?

Because we know that the storms will come. We know that some days, we will feel our hearts capsize in our chests -- but what if it is really the hand of God turning us over, molding us? Those things that feel like suffering in the temporal are shaping us and preparing us for the eternal.

And these stories of ours, conceived from mountains and valleys, are how we overcome.

My sweet cousin-in-law Julie came up to me at a family get together over the holidays and told me that I had inspired her to choose a word for 2015. Like me, she mulled over several before reaching the word she knew was for her. The word she chose was obedience. 

My breath caught.

He delights more in our obedience than any religious ritual, more than any sacrifice or hard bargain we could drive.

When God calls, He equips. He promises to go with us. We can change the face of nations when we obey. Giants are defeated when we step out in faith.

Our hope does not disappoint. This battle has already been won. We can rest assured.

Shalom.

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.