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. 

Five Minute Friday | Red

There they are: the red words on my messenger that say "Hannah is busy. You may be interrupting." But we chat and laugh anyway, because for awhile, distractions cease to exist. I've come to love that about Thursday evenings. Bare feet, snuggled underneath the covers with tea and my laptop, I get to shut out the world and focus on two great loves of my life: words, and friends to share them with. But I realize that I'm busy, too. Perhaps not always in action, but the state of my heart is often hectic, and my thoughts smear together into a blur that I can rarely decipher. I hold white knuckled to all my best laid plans, and surrender isn't a word that really breaches my consciousness too often. I wonder, when was the last time I let grace interrupt me?

I remember sharing with a friend about my anxiety after a Bible study, and how he told me that perseverance means being willing to cooperate and remain under pressure. I pored over his words, wondering how that kind of submission would ever really come to fruition in my life. And I came across a verse, so common to me from my many years in the church. Perhaps its true, that when we hear something over and over, it loses its meaning. But this time, it was water to a dry and dusty heart. "Be still, and know that I am God," or as a favorite translation of mine puts it, "cease striving."

The Father's mercy, reminding His daughter, even now. And knowledge always trapped in my head begins a pilgrimage towards my heart. Certainly I'm not there yet. There are still so many nights that I climb into bed, feeling physical pain from the weight of whatever has happened during the day. Sometimes, I don't even recognize the stress at the time. But I'm promised that He is greater than anything I face.

I believe, but help my unbelief. Has there ever been a more honest prayer? There are parts of myself that I don’t really want to hand over, but they only drown with me when I take my eyes away from the one who came to redefine this life. I still do not really understand what it means to truly be, and let that be enough. Surely, I must have to live up to some obscene level of expectation. And every other graceless standard leaves me entirely alone and full of self loathing.

I’ve written a lot in the past year or so on freedom and the cessation of striving. Can I really be sustained on what I do not know? What love the Father must have, to allow me to trade my brokenness for daily bread, to lay myself aside and see each moment for what it truly is - an opportunity to react fully and well to the truth of who he is every day. That is grace that arrests the heart. He is still the God who makes a way where there is none. He is not asleep at the wheel. The refuge of his presence  is never hidden from me.

Part of this post was originally published in August of last year, in an entry called "Namesake."