So I’ll Cherish the Old Rugged Cross

The time change has me so messed up! I went to bed early last night, as I have done since it’s started getting dark at dinner, but for some reason I struggled to go to sleep even though I was exhausted. I say “for some reason”, but I know the reason. I had gone down the worry road. I was obsessing about the same things I always obsess about, the things I can’t control but at the same time, wonder if there’s something, anything, I can do to help God hurry it along a bit. As if He needs my help at all.

I’ve been praying a lot lately that God would take over my dreams. My dreams are almost always stressful and it’s exhausting. I have also prayed that He would speak to me in my dreams. During waking hours, I wonder if I’m hearing His voice or mine or a mixture of both. I figured my thoughts might take a back seat while I’m sleeping and I wanted to hear His voice more clearly. Another prayer I have prayed is for God to be more real and important to me than anything or anyone in my life.

Last night as I was obsessing, I drifted off to sleep for just a brief moment and immediately dreamed about the song, “Old Rugged Cross.” I jolted awake knowing that I had received a gift from God since I haven’t thought about that song in years. I believe God was answering my prayers, reminding me to focus on Jesus so the obsessions and worries won’t matter as much. Focusing on Jesus will automatically bring me closer to where God wants me so I can allow Him to solve my problems His way instead of me trying to fix them on my own.

The song holds treasured memories for me because, if I’m not mistaken, it was my great grandma’s favorite and we used to sing it to her while we visited her in the nursing home. I never understood why people love the song so much until Jesus became so precious to me. Honestly, I don’t like to think about the cross. It’s too gruesome for me and very hard to think about Someone dying for me like that. The love is difficult to absorb so, instead of allowing it to consume me, I look away. But God wants me to see, to know deep in the depths of myself that He loves me… insignificant, worrying, fixing-obsessed me… more than my mind can comprehend. But He wants my heart to feel it, and to rest in it. He wants me to lay all those worries at the foot of the cross because, while focusing on Him, those worries are exactly where they should be.

I have been singing the Old Rugged Cross all day long, praying the worries drift away with the melody. I pray for the strength to deny myself, to deny my control, to deny my desire for things to be better, to embrace the overwhelming love pouring from the cross, and to cling to the One who died there. He will lead me on a better path than I can walk myself. Thank You, Jesus.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”- Mark 8:34

Song I’m feeling: This beautiful cross medley. https://youtu.be/GLeHDfCGKM0

Like what you see? Share it!

The Gift of Tears (Part 3) – Don’t Forget to Laugh

Make sure you click here to read Part 1 and here to read Part 2.

Well, I already sobbed my eyes out at 6:00 this morning… how about you? Please don’t hear me making light of depression. There is such a thing as excessive crying and, who knows? Maybe I’ve reached that point. I’ve been stuck in sadness plenty of times but I also believe if I have the feelings, they should be expressed. And I’ve got a lot going on right now, from my illness to loneliness to missing my friend to loved ones who are going through so much. I’m sure I’ll be able to share more as time goes by and test results come back. Sometimes abundant tears are warranted but if you ever experience excessive sadness, I definitely encourage you to seek a counselor. I have one who has helped me through so much (Thank you, Wendi!). Actually, I don’t think it’s a bad idea for everyone to have a counselor. Many of us try to hide our feelings and do life on our own but it helps to speak them out loud to someone we trust. It helps the thoughts and feelings to lose some of their power over us.

Sadness has been following me for quite awhile, sometimes consuming me and sometimes just poking me where it hurts. My depression was quite a bit better for about a week (taking it one day at a time, friends) but for some reason it’s been especially lurk-y the last few days. I’ve tried so hard to stay out of the pit by ignoring it but, as we’ve already established, it doesn’t work that way. So I just keep pouring it out to God and trusting that He hears and holds me. And He has been faithful to help me cry, but miraculously faithful to help me laugh in the midst of it all. It’s important not to forget that part. I have been guilty of forgetting that joy is allowed in the midst of sorrow. I haven’t been able to experience joy in a very long time, but I also haven’t prayed that God would help my joy either. I was neglecting that important step.

Lately, God has given me glimpses of my previously silly self and I kind of miss her. It is definitely amusing my husband and a nice change to hear laughter in this house and realize it’s coming out of me. I’m not even kidding you, I was trying to test our bark collar (the citronella kind, not the mean, electrocuting kind) so I was barking… and then my dog started to bark too… and I’m glad no one had a video camera. Then last night Jason and I were watching something on TV and it was so hilarious that I couldn’t stop laughing, and he was mostly laughing at me! It’s been awhile since my stomach hurt from laughing. In the midst of so much weeping, God has helped me find laughter again. Allowing ourselves to experience emotion without holding back doesn’t just allow the negative emotions to pour in and out of us, but the positive ones as well. We can’t let God help us cry while skipping the laughter. Blocking one emotion blocks all the others. All emotions are His gift to us and He wants us to fully experience them.

I love the passage that non-coincidentally showed up in my reading the other day so I will include the whole thing:

“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” – Psalm 126

I wrote about dreaming in several recent blog posts so I found this amazing. The footnote in my Bible says “men who dreamed” could also be translated as, “men restored to health.” It’s just another God-wink for me, underlining the importance and health of allowing God to help us dream and hope. But the last two verses are my current focus. They highlight the benefit of allowing ourselves to weep. The passage is also careful to point out that we still have a job to do while weeping. There are two important messages I receive from this Scripture. First, we cannot completely give up in times of sorrow. Sowing may mean resisting Satan’s lies, continuing to serve others, talking to a counselor, or even just clinging to God instead of letting go and walking away from Him. Second, we need to sow our actual tears, to bury our faces in God’s loving shoulder, allowing ourselves to cry to Him. In doing this, the tears that we sow will grow into a bountiful harvest of joy one day. It is often a precious ministry to continue clinging to God while weeping. It can lead to a harvest of joy for other people as well as for ourselves. But we absolutely cannot experience the sheaves (the bundles, the heaps) of joy without allowing ourselves to feel the sorrow. We can’t have one without the other. Perhaps I should start looking at my sensitive heart as a beautiful gift, one that will eventually bring me heaps of joy.

Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21b). Jesus blesses our tears and, one day, will fill the ache with laughter. I wonder if that’s why God keeps our tears in a bottle. Maybe one day He will rain them back down on our dry, thirsty ground. They will water and grow our fruit (Galatians 5:22), not the least of which is… JOY.

"I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing" (Ezekiel 34:26b).
Like what you see? Share it!

The Gift of Tears (Part 2) – A Physiological Discussion

To read Part 1 of the series, click here.

“As counselors, we’re reminded continually of our tendency to stuff our hurts rather than allowing time and space for them. Well, those things have to go somewhere, so they go into our physiology and they eventually get our attention in another way” (Susie Larson quoting her counselor friend).

I’ve mentioned before that I used to be a therapist. I should have known better. I DID know better. When I started to get panic attacks, I pretended I didn’t know why, even though it was obvious. I pretended even to myself because I didn’t want to face the massive amount of stuffed pain threatening to crack my walls. But since I wouldn’t let the pain out, it had to go somewhere.

Some of you may not believe that autoimmune diseases have an emotional component but the timing in my life is spot-on. I lost my first grandparent at age twelve and never cried. That’s when I first sent my body the message that emotions should not be felt or released and my body started doubting itself. After grad school, I was miserable in my job. It was far too much stress for me to handle and it owned me 24/7. I was a therapist with a sensitive heart, seeing and hearing brokenness every day, but I never had time to let myself feel anything. It turned into the perfect storm when I lost all three other grandparents during the span of just over a year, while continuing to work at that same job. So much stress and deep grief, completely unexpressed. I’ve written about this in several posts before so if you’d like to read a more detailed version, click here. To be honest, it’s still difficult for me to even read that post.

Emotional tears contain stress hormones. Crying releases toxins and endorphins so it can actually ease pain. When we hold in our tears, the fight or flight response kicks in and our adrenals release stress hormones, increasing our blood pressure and heart rate, causing chest pain, blood sugar issues, anxiety, insomnia, physical pain, and, over time, disease. Stopping ourselves from crying increases the stress and makes us feel worse.  After crying, breathing and heart rate decrease and it puts us in a calmer state. If we don’t allow tears, the stress only continues and sits in our bodies (Medical News Today, Psychology Today).

Since I got sick, I have spent countless hours searching for answers. I did not realize/did not want to admit that shutting off my emotions was hurting my body. When I got my first diagnosis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, I finally had proof of an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases happen when the body starts attacking itself. I would not allow normal emotional processes so my body received a confusing message that it should hurt itself. As I’ve continued on my journey and told practitioners that I have Sjogren’s before I told them anything else about my life, two of them immediately said something along the lines of, “you don’t let yourself cry, do you?” Whoa. It is apparently well-known in integrative medicine that a major cause of Sjogren’s is often shutting off tears. It makes sense if you think about it. Sjogren’s is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the moisture-producing glands. It’s why you will rarely see me without water, my parotid/salivary glands are often swollen, I choke on dry food, and I can no longer wear contacts. For many years I was sending my body a message that tears are not permitted. My body received the message that it no longer needed to produce moisture in my eyes or anywhere else. How I grieve what I have done to myself!

And I’m one of the lucky ones. My eye doctor says I don’t produce enough tears and the ones I do produce aren’t good quality and evaporate too quickly, but at least I still have tears. Many, MANY tears. Some Sjogren’s patients aren’t quite so blessed. There are often people in the Sjogren’s online support group talking about how they feel deeply but can’t cry anymore. Their tears are gone. Can you imagine not being able to have a release? To not be able to cry when something deeply moves you? Imagining that breaks my heart, and makes me want to cry! I don’t want to take it for granted anymore.

When I held back such an enormous amount of emotion during those two short but horrible years, my body went into fight or flight mode and I began having panic attacks which started while I was driving back to TN after my last grandpa’s funeral. I numbed those with medication instead of allowing myself to feel. It would be many more years of unexplained knock-down, drag-out illness before I finally snapped awake to what I had done to myself. Many years before the dam finally broke.

Now I think I must be making up for lost time. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t cry. Everything moves me in some way or another. God created me this way. Honestly, sometimes I get angry with Him for creating me with such a sensitive heart. Anyone who knew me during the ‘dry years’ would think I’m crazy for saying I’m sensitive, but I am. Extremely. I always have been, but I was denying my true self. I was pushing away the gift of emotion that God gave me. I believe God’s heart is moved by many things, and my heart is a reflection of His. I don’t want to squander the gift to feel the heart of God anymore. Habits die hard, though, but I’m working on it. God is working on it. “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). I’m so thankful God allows me to be a work in progress.

I will close today with a reminder of Jesus’ grief over Jerusalem in Luke 13:34, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” and Luke 19:41-42, “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes.'” Jesus wept over the hardness of the people’s hearts… and I believe he has wept over the hardness of mine. I can hardly stand to think about grieving the heart of Jesus in such a way. He longs to gather us into his protecting and loving embrace and he longs to give us peace, but we won’t let Him. We favor the protection of our own hearts. I am thankful that He is softening my heart and I pray that He softens the hearts of His children everywhere. Beautiful things happen when the walls come down and we allow ourselves to feel the heart of God.

Song I’m feeling: Weep with Me, by Rend Collective
“Lord, I believe You weep with me.”

Thank you for entering into such a sensitive subject with me, and stay tuned for the next post in the series…

Like what you see? Share it!

The Gift of Tears (Part 1)

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” – Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

Ummm… excuse me, God? I think you’re gonna need a bucket…

I don’t know why I kept this picture. I guess maybe I wanted to remember the many excruciating, precious nights of clinging to the feet of Jesus, washing His feet with my tears. Even though it’s extremely painful, expressing my emotions to God has become a lifeline for me. There was a time when a bottle would have been more than enough to hold my tears. Throughout my teenage years and my twenties, I rarely cried. Actual years went by without me shedding a tear. There were many reasons for this, some I’m still figuring out. I didn’t think people were supposed to cry. I was embarrassed by tears. I thought they made me look weak and needy. I was afraid that once I started, I would never be able to stop. And mostly, I didn’t want to let myself feel the kind of pain that produces tears.

So I bottled up my emotions… but that wasn’t my job. It was God’s job, according to Psalm 56. But He can’t bottle up our tears unless we give them to Him. God knows that tears are precious treasures and they are never wasted. He keeps our emotions close to His heart. Did you know that humans are the only creations that cry emotional tears (Psychology Today)? Isn’t that amazing? God gave us a beautiful gift when He gave us emotions but we often fear and resist the gift. He gave us hearts that reflect His, but we turn them off.

Jesus was a very emotional man, and we are to be like Him. Why do we resist so hard? I read something the other day that touched my heart. “Jesus knew Lazarus would rise again. Still, he wept. Because embracing pain does not negate faith. It’s actually part of being in the likeness of God. So have hope, but don’t deny your emotions. Pay attention to them. Feel what you feel. And enjoy the coming resurrection” (Carlos A. Rodriguez). We sometimes think that being sad means we lack faith, but that is so far from the truth. I wish I could throw that lie as far as the east is from the west! Tears are Christlike. That’s why I think Satan has created a war against them. He has inserted so many lies into our wounds that make us believe feelings are to be avoided. But Jesus never hid His tears. In fact, He prayed “with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). David cried so much that he talked about his tears being his food (Psalm 42:3) and flooding his bed with them (Psalm 6:6). Mary washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:38). Paul often accompanied his writings and teachings with tears (2 Corinthians 2:4). Tears move the heart of God. How can we resist the chance to share something so precious with Him?

I am not, by any means, communicating that I am cured of my aversion to tears. Far from it. Once it becomes such a habit to avoid something, it becomes a pit in your brain and it’s difficult to climb out of that pit. In fact, just writing this post has caused trembling panic and a headache because of my instinct fight-or-flight response to tears. But I am getting better. My tears are helping to heal me when I allow them to fall. I have much more to say about this topic, so much so that this post was getting lengthy. So I’ve decided to give it a whole series. I hope it will be healing for me to talk about a subject I have avoided for a very long time and I hope it will be healing for you as we appreciate the gift of tears. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for a good cry…

Song I’m feeling: Tears of Praise, by God and me

“Creator of this world and Painter of the sky
Your beauty goes beyond my words and Your joy fills my eyes
Protector of my soul through trials and through pain
You’re patient in my sorrows when my tears fall like rain

There’s a deep river of love flowing through my heart 
Welling up to overflow with the blessings You impart
When the floods rise in times of joy and pain
Drops of love flow from my eyes that my heart cannot contain
You, oh Lord, accept my tears of pain
Because deep in my heart of hearts, they’re all tears of praise.

Giver of all good and of blessings from above
And the gifts from those who understand and who walk with me in love
Healer of my grief and Lifter of my head
I place my life into Your hands for whatever lies ahead

There’s a deep river of love flowing through my heart
Welling up to overflow with the blessings You impart
When the floods rise in times of joy and pain
Drops of love flow from my eyes that my heart cannot contain
You, oh Lord, accept my tears of pain
Because deep in my heart of hearts, they’re all tears of praise.

Take my life, the blessings and the pain
It’s all for You, Your glory, and all my tears of praise.”

Stay tuned for the next post in the series… hopefully coming in the next few days…

Like what you see? Share it!

The Gift of Solitude

Sunday was a beautiful day in the life. One of my best friends in the world came all the way from California to her college reunion and she came to visit me. God gifted her to me my Junior year at Milligan when I decided to leave my roommate option up to the “luck of the draw.” We quickly discovered that we are kindred spirits and many days when we weren’t just chatting about life, love, and God, we would sing together in our dorm room. All of that is exactly what we did on Sunday. It was a lovely afternoon that uplifted my heart immensely. You can see one of our duos as well as some pictures from the day, including four deer that wandered through the yard here. Living in the desert doesn’t give her many glimpses of rain or deer so her TN weekend was a nice change.

Unfortunately, I am not usually a person who “smiles because it happened.” I lean more toward “cry because it’s over.” My friend’s visit was the future event I looked forward to and when it was over I struggled not to plunge into sadness. But I am incredibly grateful it happened! And God has helped me to stay out of the depths for the most part. I woke up yesterday completely exhausted, sad, and filled with anxiety. There was laundry to put away, sheets to wash, a bed to make, and books to read. But I just felt God calling me to spend the day with Him. I was slightly surprised, as some of you may be as well, because to my mind I spend most days with God. I am home all day every day and He is my only company besides my little fur-ball. But God wanted me to just sit with Him. He didn’t want to spend time with me and my laundry, or me and the author of the book I’m reading, or me and the artist of the music in the background. He just wanted me. I’m pretty sure Jesus’ time with God was not distracted by chores, music, or books. He valued His time alone with His Father and sought Him frequently.

"Be still and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10

I’m not going to say my time with God went super-well. I think in general most of us believe reading or listening to music counts as solitude. We very rarely just sit in the presence of God, letting Him talk to us and pouring out our hearts to Him. We like distraction because being alone with ourselves and with God can be very uncomfortable. I was incredibly restless most of the day. I felt guilty for not putting the laundry away and the fact that there’s a chance my husband will go to work with a wrinkled shirt. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I realize the irony of quoting an author when I just got through saying that reading does not count as solitude but Brennan Manning says, “The false self dreads being alone, knowing that if it would become silent within and without, it would discover itself to be nothing. It would be left with nothing but its own nothingness, and to the false self which claims to be everything, such a discovery would be its undoing.” In other words, we fear being completely alone because we would have to face the fact that the person we portray to the world, and even to ourselves, is not who we truly are. We fear being exposed. We don’t want to spend time alone because we would have to face and feel our deepest pain and confront our doubts, fears, and sins. All of this fills us with dread, hence my constant restless anxiety.

God led me to some discoveries that are not pretty, but I think that was the point. He wants to heal those areas and they cannot be healed unless I bring them to Him. First of all, it was glaringly obvious that I am afraid to be alone with God, to rest in Him. I already knew this but I don’t fully trust Him. I believe that if I do trust Him, I will relax into His love and into His hands and then He will pull them out from under me. I think I believe that He will, or at least could, lead me into more pain. I’m afraid that I will start to enjoy Him and then He will break my heart. How can I possibly trust with beliefs like that?

I struggle very much with love. I am terrified to fully love and to allow myself to be fully loved because I’ve poured myself out enough times to become completely heartbroken. I’ve been asking Jesus a lot lately, especially yesterday, how He could love so fully and so wholeheartedly, and not be utterly shattered when those He loves so fully reject Him, or don’t pour themselves back to Him, or even love Him at all. How did it not destroy Him emotionally? It is going to take a long time for me to understand this concept but He did provide a few answers. He said that God’s love heals the wounds of other people’s lack. I realized also that I have added expectation to love when God’s aim is pure love, nothing added. I have asked Him to separate those two things for me. And the most difficult answer for me to swallow was that a broken heart is not the enemy. Satan is the enemy and if the enemy is defeated by love and truth, sometimes a broken heart is worth it. God is close to the brokenhearted. I am far from loving this answer as of yet. It certainly added to my sadness and hopelessness.

But I kept sitting. It’s what God wanted so I did it. He wanted me to notice and enjoy His presence. I started to notice His beauty outside my window. I saw the brightly-colored leaves sparkling in the sun and wind and I thought about the fact that they shine most beautifully when they hang on for dear life even when the threat of death looms and changes them. Maybe we sparkle most beautifully when we hang onto God for dear life when the threat of death looms and the windy trials swirl. Maybe it helps us reflect the Son. I would notice and ponder things like this, and then head back into restlessness the next minute. Brennan Manning describes this again, “it takes time for the water to settle. Coming to interior stillness requires waiting. Any attempt to hasten the process only stirs up the water anew. Guilt feelings may arise immediately. The shadow self insinuates that you are selfish, wasting time, and evading the responsibilities of family, career, ministry, and community.” Even though I would always rather be working, God reminded me all day when my anxiety rose that I GET to be here with Him. I am ALLOWED, even INVITED to just be. To just sit in His presence. There is nothing to feel guilty about when you are spending time with God. It is absolutely the best use of time. I think we need to get that through our heads.

Brennan Manning puts it like this, “Tenderness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone. The mere presence of that special someone in a crowded room brings an inward sigh of relief and a strong sense of feeling safe. The experience of a warm, caring, affective presence banishes our fears.” That sounds beautifully precious. I very much want this with God. During one of the few moments I was able to allow myself to just be with God without restlessness yesterday, I noticed that I was daydreaming. At first I was chiding myself for allowing my mind to wander but then I realized where it was wandering. God was helping me dream. If you read my last post, you know how difficult dreaming is for me because it involves hope and potential heartbreak, the thing I try to avoid most. But I daydreamed with God yesterday and it was beautiful, not terrifying. I saw myself speaking in front of people. I saw myself singing again in corporate worship. I saw myself walking into gatherings with confidence and showering love and affection without fear. I saw broken friendships restored. I saw children. And I saw myself enjoying life. And when I snapped myself out of it, I was not more devastated. I realized that I could dream without needing those dreams to come true. I know now that God wants, and has a better life in store for me, even if nothing else changes within me other than freedom from the burdens I have unnecessarily placed on myself.

Like I said, it was a far-from-perfect encounter with God yesterday. I fidgeted and fretted, cried and sighed, talked and listened, got tangled in my thoughts, and let God sneak some words in on occasion. It was not relaxing, but it was enough to make me want more. I am not finished with this solitude thing and I pray I never am. God has awakened a craving for it in me. I already spent an hour in solitude this morning. Try it. I dare you. And don’t stop trying it until the waters still and the craving comes. God wants you and only you. The all-powerful God wants to personally heal our hearts. Lets take time to give them to Him, however imperfect that time may be, and see what happens.

Just so you know, today the laundry is done. The sheets are not on the bed but I guess they’ll eventually head that way. I’m still exhausted for some reason but I’m feeling about as okay as ever. Speaking of okay, I found a wonderful surprise in the mail. Sheila Walsh, one of my favorite authors, has a new book out called “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay”, and one arrived in my mailbox today without me ordering it. No one told me but I guess I must have won it the other day while I was watching a Facebook Live of my two favorite authors, Susie Larson and Sheila Walsh. So, not only have I been blessed to be on the launch teams and receive other books from both authors, I have now won another. Since I’ve been gifted a spot on several launch teams and been given books, I thought surely I wouldn’t be gifted another book, but God knows what I needed and I felt like He gave me a big hug today. Plus, I think Susie Larson is getting to know who I am because I’ve been fan-girling pretty hard! God may have led her to send me a copy of this book. These two authors speak truth, something I value tremendously. The church needs more people to be honest about our ‘not-okayness’ and I am so thankful for their examples. I pray for the courage to continue sharing my truth.

Like what you see? Share it!

Dangerous Hope

The other day, Jason asked me an unexpected question. He asked something along the lines of, “where do you see us in five years.” I wanted to dream with him but I found myself paralyzed. I just couldn’t do it, and I got increasingly sad the more we talked. Where we will be in the future should not be a depressing conversation, but it fills me with immeasurable sorrow. I’m fairly certain it has everything to do with my tenuous relationship with hope.

I can’t seem to let myself think about the future. All I see is my illness (physical and otherwise) and I can’t handle thinking that I may be this way for five more years. It’s too much. And no matter how many times you say I may not be sick for five more years, I will only argue back that there’s a chance I will. What if I were to believe that I could be better in five years, and then five years comes along but I’m not better? How could I possibly survive that kind of hope and  heartbreak?

I’m not sure when I started losing my hope. It was there at first but I think once my bubble got pierced so many times, it started to leak out. The best way to describe myself right now is defeated. I believe that the opposition has won, but somehow I’m still walking around. So, that means it couldn’t really have won, right? I’m still in this fight.

Shortly after Jason and I had the conversation, 1 Chronicles 29 came up in my reading. I related so much to what David said in verse 15, “Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” I was pretty thankful to have someone backing me up on this until I remembered the things David said about hope in Psalms and it didn’t quite add up. “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3a). “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:4-5). His mention of our days being like a shadow reminded me of Psalm 23 where he talked about walking through the valley of the shadow of death… but then added the part about goodness and mercy following him all the days of his life. What gives, David? Make up your mind!

I started studying the context in 1 Chronicles 29 and I think I better understand what David meant. All the people had just given a massive amount of wealth and materials in preparation for building the temple. David knew everything that had just been given was provided by God in the first place. When he said “our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope”, he meant that on our own, we have nothing. The next thing he said was, “O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you” (verse 16). Without God, not only do we lack anything to give, but we also don’t even have the hope of anything to give. Our life is empty with no meaning. But with God, we can have hope that He will provide everything that is needed. We can have hope that our lives are worth something.

I feel completely defeated with nothing left to give. But what if I viewed my lack of hope like David did? What if I saw everything I have belonging to God anyway? My days may be filled with shadows that cover my hope, but as long as my hope is in God, I will not be defeated or put to shame. My life is not empty and meaningless. And though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I do not have to fear.

I’ve been mulling over a quote from one of the Hunger Games movies. President Snow was trying to squash the people’s hope because he knew that hope could be the quality that would overcome defeat and provide courage to rise up. He said, “Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine as long as it’s contained.” A little hope keeps us walking. A lot of hope gives us the strength to overcome defeat. A little hope gets me out of bed in the morning. A lot of hope helps me dream with my husband and walk toward those dreams unafraid. A little hope can come from a human perspective. A lot of hope comes from God’s provision of that hope. A little humanly hope easily disappears. A lot of godly hope builds up to victory. A little hope can keep us barely hanging on. Dangerous hope helps us pour out the blessings of God from deep within ourselves without fear of what it will cost us.

It’s my desire that somewhere in these fuzzy words is a message of hope. My brain is cloudy and I’m struggling to understand them myself, but maybe some day my hope will be bigger than my fear of it. Maybe I will have the courage to dream.

I haven’t written in awhile. Circumstances haven’t been the greatest. Even though the flu was miserable, the physical pain distracted me from the emotional pain so now I’m faced with it. I was then distracted by a wonderful week having Jason home with me during Fall Break, but he is back to work this week so I’m alone most of the time. I’m wrestling with whether or not I’m doing the right things, the things that may lead to my healing despite them creating a loss in my heart that I now have to grieve. I know that’s vague, but I guess what I’m getting at is the fact that sometimes healing means loss of some things in order to gain the right things. I do rejoice in just a few anxiety-free hours after an amazing chiropractic adjustment on Tuesday. It goes to show you how exhausted my body is from constant anxiety because I could have gone right to sleep. It was a blissful few hours during which I could breathe deeply without struggle, but sadly it didn’t last long. I need a chiropractor to just follow me around all day for free so, you know, if anyone has any such options… let me know.

I’m trying to cling to God. For so long I’ve clung to humans and that’s not fair to them or to me. Humans let me down. And somehow I got God so entangled with my beloved people that I’m struggling to sort Him out. That’s another post for another time, but I’ve asked Him to untangle Himself for me so that I can get my priorities in His order, not my own. I know that He needs to be more real and more worshiped than anyone else in my life. Maybe once He gets untangled from the mess I’ve spun around Him, I’ll be able to see the hope He provides more clearly. Amen. Let it be so.

Like what you see? Share it!

A Burden We Are Not Meant to Carry

“You’ve got to pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is not in the Bible. Neither is “God helps those who help themselves”, “God will never give you any more than you can handle”, “ignore your pain and it will go away”, or “think positive and you’ll be happier”. So, why is this human-created nonsense weighing so heavily on me? You know what IS in the Bible? “Jesus wept”(John 11:35). “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). “My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened” (Matthew 11:28). It doesn’t say that we have to hold ourselves together to approach God. He wants to be the One to hold us together, but we have to get rid of these damaging self-sufficient mindsets in order to let Him.

I’m so overwhelmed by this burden right now. My dreams are full of stress and my waking is worse. I feel lost as to how to deal with it so I wrote myself a letter in my journal. I wasn’t sure I would share it but I have nothing else to write about and maybe it will help someone else.

Karina,

I feel the massive burden on your shoulders. It’s oppressively weighing you down. I’ve watched your shoulders hunch until they can’t possibly get any lower. You were never meant to carry such a heavy load. God says His burden is light, but yours is so heavy that it’s crushing and consuming you. What happened?

You care far too much what other people think and how they are living their lives compared to how you are living yours. Comparison is such an evil tool of Satan. Just because those around you are sucking it up and living their lives does not mean you are weak because you can’t do the same. Just because you grew up thinking you were supposed to forsake yourself in every way does not make it right or healthy. You know what hiding your pain does to you. We’ve been over this time and time again. I thought we were past this. We agreed that the only way to be free from emotional pain rotting into physical pain is to be honest about it, to speak it out loud instead of ignoring or avoiding it. I know it’s hard when you see other people happier than you because they’re ignoring their pain. You wish you could go back to doing that. But you know they are not healthier than you. Their resistance to the truth and denial of reality will eventually destroy their life. And I know you want to fix that for them because the thought of that breaks your heart but, just as they have no control over you, you have no control over them.

But it feels like they have control over you, over your emotions. However, that’s only because you let it get to you. You feel so unbelievably guilty that you can’t live a life/lie like they can. You’re done with that kind of life, remember? It destroyed your body, wrecked your mind, and broke your heart. You don’t want to go back there. Satan thrives in lies so he hates when you’re honest about how you feel. It seems to me that you should keep doing what he hates.

Why is it so hard? Because we’re back to caring what other people think. Why are other people so important to you? You feel the God-given nudges to honesty in your heart that they don’t. Those nudges should be stronger than your guilt. You fear others see you as weak but they don’t understand that to do what you are doing, to lay your soul bare before God and everyone, you have to be incredibly strong. You know what God wants you to do. Stop second-guessing.

But I know how hard it is when love gets involved. You love the people you perceive are looking down on you and they say they love you. So you berate yourself even more for your inability to be like them, to do the things they want you to do. And church? Church can be an absolute nightmare. You’re relieved you can’t go right now because you don’t think you could handle the judgement, the spouting of the human-created  and human-perpetuated nonsense mentioned above. But every Sunday still brings news of people blaming you for your continuing illness because they are so uncomfortable with the thought that God doesn’t always heal. They blame the victim, and they break your heart. You know not everyone is like that, right? Think of the people at CR who suffer alongside you. I know how hard it is but you don’t have to take the others so personally. It’s an issue inside their heart, not yours. I know yours still shatters. You long for relief from the blame and rationalization, for just love with no strings attached. People are not God. They will always let you down. You don’t have to pick up the burdens they are laying on you. They probably don’t even realize they are doing it. Their hearts are damaged… just like yours. Forgive them for they know not what they do.

I feel how terribly alone you feel, but know that you do possess the one Love that will never blame you or place an unnecessary weight on your shoulders. In fact, He wants to take the burden away from you. Please, Karina, for the sake of your heart, your health, and your ministry, take this burden in your arms- the comparison, the judgement, the blame, the perception that you are weak, not good enough, and not doing what you are supposed to be doing. Take your broken heart, your expectations of others and yourself, your own judgement of yourself that you simply allow others to confirm and perpetuate. Take your loneliness and grief. Take your very sick body and heart. Take all of these in your arms, go to the cross and just drop them. Drop it all. If you can’t leave it there, pick it back up and start to drive nails into it piece by piece. Allow Jesus’ blood to flow down over it all. His love covers your broken heart. Let it. His love changes your expectations. Let it. His love makes comparison unnecessary. Let it. His love adores your honesty. Let it. His love helps you forgive. Let it. His love works on the hearts of those who hurt you. Let it. His love covers your shame. Let it. His love binds up your wounds. Let it. His love understands why you have not been healed. Let it. His love is more important than anyone else’s. Let it be so. His love longs to see you walking upright out from under this burden. Let it. Jesus loves you more than you understand. Let Him.

Song I’m feeling: Would You Be Well, by Taylor Leonhardt. Needs to be on repeat in my head.

“Would you be well from crushing anxiety and live inside a peace you can’t understand?
Would you be free from all that entangles you, trade what you couldn’t do for all that I have?
Would you be held safe in the solace of a kinder and deeper love? I’ll hold you tonight.
Would you be seen for all that you really are? Come let your weary heart lay in the light.
Would you be well from fearing you couldn’t be as dear as you are to me? You’ll always belong.
Would you be free to stand on your legs again, and run like the holy wind that’s blowing you home?”

Like what you see? Share it!

Believing the Impossible

The very first song I played for my high school choir was Dry Your Tears, Afrika. I will never forget it because it was so difficult. I remember saying I needed to apologize to the piano after I played it because I was pounding so hard. For years I’ve wished that I had kept a copy because I wanted to play it again. Maybe if you play classical piano, you know the ache of needing to play something. I guess I have just missed it. But last night Jason actually found it for me! Guess what I’ve been doing today? Here’s a clip of it all coming back to me: Dry Your Tears, Afrika – Clip

My fingers are super happy. And there’s a story behind this that needs to be told. I did not volunteer to play this song. The thought of that is laughable. I was sitting among the crowd of altos in choir, minding my own business and blending in as usual when my choir teacher looked right at me and said, “I want YOU to play this song for the choir.” I about fell out of my chair. Is she talking to me? I’m wallflowering-it up over here as usual. How did she even know I played? How did anyone know? I could not have been more confused but I reluctantly took the song home.

Come to find out my piano teacher, Mrs. B., had introduced herself to my choir teacher in the grocery store. One thing led to another and, next thing you know, I was tasked with playing the most difficult song I had ever played for an entire choir in front of a huge crowd. I was quite upset with my piano teacher. First of all, she blew my cover. I wasn’t allowed to be a wallflower anymore. Second of all, there was no way I could play a song like that! It was much too difficult. No, I couldn’t do it.

But… I DID. I’m sure my family got really tired of hearing this song over and over again. I worked very hard and what I didn’t need to work on came naturally and it was a huge success. I was never allowed to hide again. I played multiple songs for every concert after that. I knew there was no way on earth I could do it… but Mrs. B. knew that I could. I surprised many people that night, no one more than myself.

That experience changed my confidence. Granted, I am still not nearly a confident person, but you should have seen me prior to this. Now, I finally had a name and a face. My talent was no longer hidden and I will always be grateful to Mrs. B. for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Sometimes that’s what we need, isn’t it? We need someone to believe in us when we’re having trouble believing in ourselves. I’ve been there for quite some time- struggling to believe. Maybe more specifically, struggling to hope. Hope doesn’t make sense to me. I hope for heaven every day but that’s the only thing I seem to be able to hope for, and maybe that’s okay. But why do things seem so dark if hoping for heaven is enough? That may be a question for another post. But these ever-present questions discourage my hope and belief. Why hope for anything in this life if there’s a chance it will just crush you? Why believe things will get better when there’s a good chance they won’t? It hurts too much. I can’t seem to let myself believe right now, but I know there are people believing for me. I’m grateful for that. As long as they know things can get better, part of me knows they can too. I remember the music story and how absolutely certain I was that I couldn’t do it and I am encouraged. Mrs. B. saw something I couldn’t see… the gift, the spark of talent in me. I pray there are people who still see a spark in me, the gift of life that must still be in there for some reason. Otherwise, I wouldn’t still be here. Maybe if the spark is fanned enough times, I’ll see the flame… and believe.

“One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven'” (Luke 5:17-20).

Thank you to those who continue to carry me, believe for me, and hope for me. I pray that you don’t get tired of fanning that flame until my stubborn soul believes there is still life in me. I will never be able to thank you enough on the day when I finally pick up my mat and walk.

Song I’m feeling: Dry Your Tears, Afrika (This is the full version, the same version we did, complete with percussion and piano solos! Love it!)

Like what you see? Share it!

Does My Back Say “Kick Me”?

Another post from my phone as I wait to hear back from the car dealership. My car has been recalled because, apparently, I’ve been driving around a ticking time-bomb in the form of an airbag that could shatter and kill me for eight years. Actually, Jason’s been driving it lately because I can’t and his won’t start anymore. I always wondered why the airbags didn’t go off when we got rear-ended a couple years ago because I know my face hit the steering wheel. Now I know that God kept us safe. Anyway…

This week’s pile-up of issues could almost be laughable. More like the “I can’t believe this is happening so I don’t know how to react” kind of laugh. Nine days of the flu wreaking havoc on a body that I already thought couldn’t survive anymore. Add to that relationship issues, extra financial strain due to unexpected illness expense, and a canceled visit from my parents because they didn’t want to catch the plague, of course. And then Sunday happened. Jason started not feeling well so I worried I’d passed the flu to him (doesn’t appear so now, praise God). Then we found out our bank account had been hacked. No, we haven’t been to a movie theater in Kansas, thank you very much. We had just finished dealing with that issue when…SMACK! An egg hit our porch.

 

At that point I kind of felt like I was truly being egged by life. I didn’t even have the strength to be angry anymore. I just felt hurt. I couldn’t figure out what we had done to someone to make them want to egg our house (we figured out later who it was and think he was just throwing eggs from his porch and ours was perfect proximity so no one hates us that much, I guess). I felt vulnerable and unsafe. And something much more worrisome happened later that I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about, so there’s your vague-blogging for the day. My heart felt like it had been pulverized and I was too weak to even obsess anymore.

What’s been so interesting is that instead of complete despair, I’ve had tiny glimmers of something else. I have a small sense in my spirit that this is kind of like my death. I can’t imagine surviving anything else but I’ve definitely been wrong over the last week. But it just feels so much like the death of everything. The lowest of the low. And right now I’m not panicking about it. I feel just a little bit of this rare fruit, peace. I’ve had a tiny, whispering  thought that it’s time for the beginning of my resurrection. Only God knows if it’s true but I’m ready whenever He is.

That photo is from the writers of Hope When It Hurts (https://kristenwetherell.com/hope-when-it-hurts/) and they happened to share it on Facebook this week. On Sunday I found myself lying here in agony but quietly singing every song I could think of until I got too tired. I’m thankful it sunk in that this small offering was enough for God. I don’t have to find strength for anything else right now. I am very thankful He loves me like this. His timing is amazing and His plans are too complicated and beautiful for my brain, but I’m thankful He has them. I was mad that my disability attorney canceled my appointment at the last minute but now I know that if I had gone, I’d have passed on the flu to others. I was mad that the flu lasted far longer than I expected but if it hadn’t, something else unpleasant would have happened. There are so many questions I have but right now I don’t seem to be clinging to them quite so hard. I’m either too exhausted or finally experiencing the peace that passes understanding. I like to think it’s the latter. God knows what He is doing. I don’t know how He will restore everything but I’m looking forward to the resurrection.

Song I’m feeling: I Cry Out (https://youtu.be/b4kvq0cUDb8), one of the songs I sang from my ‘deathbed’. This song never gets old to me. I learned it at camp as a kid and have sung it for many years. I remember Vespers at college, and church not that many years ago. It’s timeless. I wish I could find a version with more singers because the descant is beautiful. This song speaks my heart right now.

I cry out for Your hand of mercy to heal me. I am weak and I need Your love to free me. Oh, Lord, my Rock, my Strength in weakness. Come rescue me, oh Lord. You are my hope and Your promise never fails me and my desire is to follow You forever. For You are good, for You are good, for You are good to me.”

Like what you see? Share it!

How long?

I’m writing this from my phone so it probably won’t be very long. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’m writing today except that it’s been awhile and I’m hoping it will be a tiny bit therapeutic.

I’ve had the flu for 6 days. Unbelievable. I haven’t left the house in 10 days and somehow I’ve managed to catch my death of flu. I’m not sure I’ve been this sick in my life. And with that flu has come intense pain from the top of my head to my toes. It’s lasted so long that I’m starting to wonder if I’m finally experiencing the Lyme pain most people have. I feel awful for those people and don’t understand how they do it. It is the WORST. I’ve taken enough painkiller to kill my liver and it still doesn’t touch the pain. I’m growing weaker by the moment, hence why I can’t sit up and use the laptop.

I’m sorry for just spewing my woes but here is the question in my mind. How can God see this and not know that I truly can’t take anymore? I’m too weak and heartbroken for different reasons. How can He see that I can’t possibly go on? These are questions I quite frequently have so they’re nothing new. It’s just that now I have the pain to back me up and tempt me to believe that God doesn’t care.

It’s not true. It’s a lie from Satan and I know that. But believing that God can see this, expect me to go on, and still love me is a challenge. I hurt so bad in every possible way so I just keep crying out to Him. I know He hears me so I keep crying. I wish He would heal, but there must be some reason He hasn’t. I lie here trying to meditate past the pain and into His arms. I am so grateful He is here with me.

“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.”- Psalm 6:2-7

Strengthen my eyes, Lord. Help me see how You are working. Help me see You so much more clearly than the pain. And while I continue to cry, “how long?”, help me trust You. I wait for You. Amen.

Song I’m feeling: I Wait For You, by God and me. https://www.facebook.com/133052930060444/posts/1449130181786039/

God, remember when
You said you’d lift my head
Well, I’m bowed to the ground
In wait for you
God, you promised good
As only you could
Oh but God, where are you now?
I wait for you.

How long will I wait?
How much more can I take?
Oh God, do you hear my cries?
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
I wait for you.

God, you said you’d fight
If I would just hold tight
Well, my strength is wearing thin
I wait for you
God, you said you’d be
A shield around me
But I’m bruised and broken down
I wait for you.

How long will I wait?
How much more can I take?
Oh God, do you hear my cries?
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
I wait for you.

God, I do believe
That you’re still holding me
And this desert path I walk
I walk with you
God, until the day
You reveal to me your ways
I will thank you for the gift
Of waiting for you.

There’s beauty in the wait
So I will give you praise
Oh God, you will be my strength
Through the land of suffering
I will count all the blessings
And know that there’s meaning
In waiting for you.

Oh God, I know you hear my cries
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
While I wait for you.

Like what you see? Share it!