The Shadow Can’t Have Me

Spiritual warfare is real and I think it’s time I talk about it. I’ve always known this but I think I only wanted to believe it happened in places like Haiti, where I went on mission trips and saw witch doctors. I’ve been afraid of the spiritual realm ever since my church scared the daylights out of me by letting a visiting preacher play a tape of demons. After that I decided the only way I would be able to sleep with the lights off would be if I just ignored their existence.

But lately I haven’t been able to ignore the spiritual warfare at work around me. Occasionally throughout my life I’ve had episodes of sleep paralysis. I only remember it happening a handful of times but when it happens, I know I’m awake and where I am and I’m trying desperately to open my eyes or speak to pull myself out of the nightmare, but I can’t do it for an agonizing minute. It’s amazing how terrifying one minute can be.

And while I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding the other couple of times it happened to me, it’s happened multiple times over the past couple weeks. I have realized that I am no longer able to ignore the pure evil I feel when it happens. I’m not saying all episodes of sleep paralysis are visits from evil spirits. There’s no way I can possibly know that. But I do believe that mine have been the result of evil oppressing me. I’ll tell you why.

When it happened last Sunday, I was sleeping on my stomach (I know it’s bad for your back but that’s always been the only way I can get comfortable). I woke during a nightmare. I knew I was awake and I knew where I was and that Jason was sleeping right beside me. I knew all of this but I was still unable to move or speak and felt as if something was holding me down into the bed. I tried over and over to say something along the lines of, “Leave me in the name of Jesus.” Somehow I knew that the name of Jesus would free me, but nothing would come out for a short but terrifying period of time until I finally woke up gasping “in the name of Jesus”. The second time it happened several days later was even more terrifying. That time I actually saw a dark shadow holding me down into the bed. I kept trying to scream the name “Jesus” so much so that my throat felt a little raw and I finally woke up yelling it, scaring Jason awake.

Since this happened, Jason and I have been much more diligent about taking up a warfare posture of prayer. We are fighting for my sleep and the peace in our home. We pray for protection before we go to sleep. We pray that the Holy Spirit fills every corner of our home so that nothing else can reside here. We pray that in the name of Jesus any evil that is here will leave and never come back. One of our ministers came over and prayed for us and our house.

I’m not going to say I’ve slept like a baby ever since. Far from it. Even though I know I have the strength of Jesus to run the evil away, it’s hard not to be afraid of something so dark. Just this morning I was on the verge of another episode when I woke up in a panic. But here’s what happened a couple nights ago. I had a nightmare but nothing was on top of me this time. Instead in my dream, our window was open a crack and when I lifted up the blinds to close it, the dark figure hurled itself up against the window as if it wanted to come in but couldn’t. I believe God is protecting us and I pray that one day the window will be completely closed, sealed, and locked.

You may think I’m crazy but I’m actually grateful that such scary things have happened to me. I’m grateful because it has confirmed to me that I really do know Whose I am. When I’m this depressed, it’s common for me to wonder if I am truly a child of God. I have been so encouraged that even in a dreamlike state, “Jesus” is the name I want so desperately to call out. I know I belong to Jesus and He can save me from this terrible evil. My heart overflows with gratitude for this, which I’m sure makes the enemy madder than a hornet. My heart just bursts to have confirmation that it belongs to Jesus and nothing can take it away. This has only spurred me on to fight harder and cling to my Savior with every bit of strength He gives me. I speak and sing His name over and over throughout my days, and even my nights when I wake afraid.

I woke up sad this morning for no apparent reason. And then fear was added when Jason got dizzy and fell getting out of the shower. He did not seriously hurt himself but I feel like over the past few months even up to a year, as he’s had sickness after sickness, I have been slowly watching my worst fear realized. I wonder if I am watching Jason become just as sick as I am. And I’m tempted to say that if it does happen the way I fear, we won’t survive it. It’s not possible. But I know that is a lie from the evil one. We will be ok because we belong to Jesus. I say this still gripped with fear, but I know it to be true and will repeat it until peace is mine. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There’s just something about that name. We walk through the darkest valley, but our Savior’s rod and staff are with us (Psalm 23).

There is no ignoring evil. We have to fight. I absolutely feel that I am walking through the valley of the shadow… but am overwhelmed with gratitude that the shadow can never have me. Thank You, Jesus, for making me Yours.

Song I’m feeling: The Shadow Can’t Have Me, by Arthur Alligood
“I walk through the valley of the shadow
I walk through the valley of the shadow
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
But the shadow can’t have me.”

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There’s Just Something About That Name

If you are reading this, I’d love your prayers. I’m extremely dizzy and faint. Part of the reason why I’m writing is to try and keep my mind conscious. But I wanted to stop bumming you out and end the week by recounting the good moments that shone a light into the darkness.

On Monday, one of our ministers came over to pray and sing with us. After all of my terrible dreams, it was a God-send to have someone pray over us, our house, and our sleep. I truly appreciate everyone’s prayers.

I received an email on the evening of my worst day that I had been selected to be on the launch team for Susie Larson’s new book, Fully Alive. I have followed Susie on Facebook ever since I found out she has battled Lyme disease. But what’s even more amazing is that this book seems to be just what I need right now. How perfect is this? Check out the description:
“In this eye-opening book, Susie Larson shows how intertwined our emotional, spiritual, and physical health are. Spiritual difficulties can have physical consequences, and physical illnesses can have emotional and even spiritual ramifications. So in order for true healing to occur, it must happen holistically–mind, body, and spirit.
Providing a fresh vision of what a flourishing life is, Susie shares practical, biblical ways to
· replace defeating thoughts with redemptive ones
· overcome stress and embrace God’s peace
· deal with the ‘I can’ts’ embedded in our souls
· trade unhealthy habits for new life-giving practices
We cannot keep ignoring the mental and/or emotional symptoms that are trying to get our attention. Fully Alive is an uplifting guide for anyone who longs to know the health, freedom, and wholeness that Jesus wants for us.” I pray that I can take this book to heart.

Something I still can’t wrap my head around is that there are people who, no matter how hard I try to make them give up on me, just will not do it. Maybe some day I’ll be able to operate in unconditional love like them. I can only pray that God grows me in love and grace.

Last but certainly not least, we have been speaking the name of Jesus in this house right and left, morning and night. Jason has been fighting hard for me, and that is what I need. When I absolutely do not have the strength to fight for myself, I am so grateful for the people who don’t stop fighting for me. We have been praying for the Holy Spirit to fill our house, to protect us while we sleep. And when we wake up in the night, we pray. And in the morning before Jason goes to work, we pray. Last night Jason prayed over my mind, heart, and body. I used to feel peace when someone was praying but for awhile now I have just felt numb. But last night as Jason was praying for God to calm the storm in my mind, to remove the confusion in Jesus’ name, to reign over my thoughts, I actually believed He could do it. Of course, prior to this, I KNEW He could do it, but there’s a difference between knowing and believing. It’s hard to get a broken, cloudy brain to pray, let alone believe. I was no longer numb and going through the motions of prayer. I believed God was hearing us and I believed that He was there. Prayer has been so important to me this week and I am grateful to the people offering theirs to me.

Please keep fighting for me. I need you more than you realize. At this moment, my symptoms have me pretty panicked so, when you read this, please speak the name of Jesus over me. I know… and I believe… that He can calm the storm in me.

Song I’m feeling:
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that Name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there’s something about that Name.”

 

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Purple Elephant Pants

I once heard Jen Hatmaker tell a story about the friendship of female elephants. She said that when they are vulnerable in some way, such as giving birth or being attacked, the rest of the females in the herd will stand in a circle to protect the vulnerable one. Jen compared this story to female human friendships… and I cried.

I’ve had friends over the years, don’t get me wrong. But a whole tribe I can count on to be there for me when I am most vulnerable? That seems impossible for me. If you’ll forgive my metaphors, I’ll continue.

The sisterhood seemed to start off well. I tried to make the purple pants fit out of convenience and it worked for awhile. But eventually, they just didn’t fit anymore. And I couldn’t figure out what I had done to make her give them back. And so began the stretch, wear, and tear.

I learned I had to do everything in my power to make the next person stay with the sisterhood. My fear of another unknown wrongdoing made me cling..no… suffocate. But being forced into something only stretches it out. She started spending time with other people and finally forgot about me. The pants came back with some holes after that, but I did my best to patch them up.

I learned to compare myself, and to try to shield her from my intensity. I could not be honest because honesty was too much. But you can’t have a friendship without honesty, so the pants came back to me… quite a bit more worn.

Then I wondered if I poured out my entire self to make her see my worth, if someone would finally keep the pants. Unfortunately, I expected the same amount of pouring back… and it was me who started taking back the pants that time, only loaning them out for short jaunts. And I continued this habit for years.

I learned I had to push people away first because they would eventually break my heart. I couldn’t give my heart completely because the pants would come back to me destroyed. The only problem with this plan was, when you love so easily, you can’t keep your heart to yourself no matter how hard you try.

So I’ve been in this constant tug-of-war with the pants for a very long time. They fit some people and they don’t fit others. Some people like them and some think they are too much. Some people get tired of them and some people want to wear them more than I’ll allow. And each back-and-forth adds another tear that threatens to destroy the whole pair.

But if I’m really being honest, no one has ever been able to keep the sisterhood going for very long. Because what has always worn the pants in these relationships is Shame. Shame that brought along its best friends- Fear and Self-doubt. I lost all confidence and tried to make it on my own, accompanied by the Shame-tribe, of course. At least I had a tribe.

But shame is destroying what’s left of a perfectly good, fun, comfortable, lovable pair of pants. And I don’t know what to do about it except to offer them to Jesus. Maybe he likes purple elephant pants. Maybe if I try to lay them at the foot of the cross, they’ll be stitched back together by the Man who scorned shame (Hebrews 12:2). I don’t know if it’s possible to repair the relationships that my shame-tribe and me have ruined but if anyone can make them new, He can. I’m not sure how to rid myself of the fear and self-doubt. The Lord knows I’ve tried… but only He can break those chains. I certainly don’t deserve it, but no one has ever deserved Him. Maybe one day all will be forgiven… and my heart won’t hurt every time I read about Jen Hatmaker and her tribe. Today it seems impossible… but maybe some day…

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” – Psalm 34:4-5

Song I’m feeling: More Than You’ll Ever Know, by Watermark
“Something brought you to my mind today
I thought about the funny ways you make me laugh
And yet I feel like it’s okay to cry with you
Something about just being with you
When I leave I feel like I’ve been near God
And that’s the way it ought to be

‘Cause you’ve been more than a friend to me
You fight off my enemies
You’ve spoken the truth over my life
And you’ll never know what it means to me
Just to know you’ve been on your knees for me
Oh, you have blessed my life
More than you’ll ever know”

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Psalm 88

***Disclaimer: This is very dark so feel free to skip it if you need to. It’s hard for me to describe the darkness when I’m climbing out, and the climbing out when I’m in the darkness so it helps to force myself to write during all times. Hormones make POTS and depression much worse so for about a week, I have/will be barely hanging on by my fingertips. This may not be the actual truth, but it’s what feels like the truth at this moment. My husband knows how depressed I am, and we are counseling with one of our ministers tonight. I am safe. ***

“Oh Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.” – vs. 1-2

No one understands what it’s like to beg God for trust, all the while wondering if you’re even capable of it.

“For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.” – vs. 3-5

No one understands what it’s like to feel on the verge of death, to have no more strength to put one foot in front of the other, but to have relief never come. No one understands what it’s like to not know how to live anymore, but to have your body keep breathing anyway.

“You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.” – vs. 6-7

No one understands what it’s like to not be able to trust yourself. To have an illness that has so clouded your mind that you have no concept of reality. Most days, all you see is darkness.

“You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. ” – vs. 8

No one understands what it’s like to know that most of the people you trusted to be there for you are gone, or can’t handle you anymore, or are just waiting for you to get better… and you’re not getting better.

“I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.” – vs. 9a

No one understands the guilt you feel, watching the hope in their eyes fade when you tell them that, yet again, their prayers have not been answered.

“I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?” – vs. 9b-12

No one understands what it’s like to be aware of how much you might need Western medicine, but to have your body reject it every time. To be afraid of medicine. To know that you are judged for not being able to handle it, even though you know your body more than anyone. No one understands what it’s like to know that the only One who can heal you is God, and He is not doing so.

“But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.” -vs. 13-17

No one understands what it’s like to feel so utterly alone, to know that no one else in this world can do anything to help you. To know that you need to work on suffering better, but not to know if your perception is real enough to work on it well. No one understands what it’s like to be afraid of yourself.

“You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.” -vs. 18

No one understands what it’s like to desperately need to talk but to not know for sure if anyone is willing to plunge into what seems like the pits of hell that is your mind. No one understands what it’s like to feel abandoned, yet not to blame anyone for the need to spare themselves from you. You wish you could spare yourself from you.

No one understands like Jesus.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” – Matthew 26:38
“Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” – 26:40
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – 27:46

No one understands what it’s like to be afraid to write this, knowing that it may hurt, knowing that it may be perceived as attention-seeking, and knowing that your ‘truth’ will probably look so much different tomorrow, perhaps even an hour from now.

No one understands except the psalmist and Jesus. And for that, I am grateful. I cling to that. And since they were brave enough to speak it, so will I.

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