Joy is Not a Four-Letter Word

Joy has been like a curse word to me for the last few years. While typing that sentence I realized that curse words have probably left my tongue more easily than the word joy. Wow, that’s sad.

I’ve tried to understand joy. I really have. One of the definitions people spout is that happiness is based on circumstances while joy has no dependence on circumstances. I just haven’t been able to buy that. Merriam-Webster’s definition of both concepts is pretty much the same. So, I just don’t get it. Yes, I realize Merriam-Webster is not God, but I’ve studied joy in the Bible too and I still don’t get it.

There was a time I would have understood it better. Then life stomped my joy to a pulp and has continued to do so for years. I think joy is not even allowed in my vocabulary because I truly believe that the second I let it back into my life, my heart will be crushed again with the next horror that awaits me. I’ve heard many people who start to climb out of chronic illness say the same thing. We are afraid to rejoice. We are afraid to get our hopes up. We. Are. So. Afraid. Goooood grief, this post is depressing. Speaking of, everything I’ve described above might be the actual picture of depression, which adds another depth of difficulty. How do we get past this? How do we let joy back into our lives without waiting for it to be crushed again?

The answer may have something to do with the verse below. It jumped off the page yesterday, piercing my heart, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since. I know there’s a reason. I know God wants me to find joy again. I know this. I believe God wants me to be happy. I also believe life will never stop trying to suck the happiness away. How can these two beliefs exist so strongly in one person?

“…my joy in unrelenting pain- that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.” – Job 6:10b

I’m still not entirely sure, but maybe joy isn’t all feeling. Maybe it’s more related to faith than I ever knew. Through unrelenting pain, joy comes to us when we do not deny the promises of God. I have to face facts… and feelings. When I doubt God’s promise that His goodness follows me all the days of my life (Psalm 23), I have no joy. When I doubt that God will turn my pain into something beautiful and good (Romans 8:28), I only despair. When I doubt that God’s purpose in my life is the very best purpose there could ever be (Proverbs 19:21, Jeremiah 29:11), I live in the darkness of sorrow.

But when I believe that God is always, ALWAYS good, the sparks of joy appear. When I sing about His goodness following me, I can feel them ignite. When I let God love me through the pain, the tears turn to from sorrow to joy or maybe a mixture of the two. I’ve been seeing more of the sparks lately, though I stomp them out myself before life can do the honors. But maybe their fleeting existence means that one day I will be able to quit stomping and welcome the flame of joy with open arms. Maybe my eyes will become wet with joy, awe, wonder, and God more often than hurt. Looking forward to that day fills me simultaneously with excitement and terror. God, help me. Help all of us who are terrified to let joy back into our lives.

Living without joy is miserable. It is dark. It closes the door on any kind of happiness we may experience, rejects the gifts God wants to give us, and only lets Him love us with limits. I don’t want to limit God. I don’t want there to be any boundary at all between God’s love and me. I pray that He breaks this stronghold in my life, gives me strength to combat the lies I have believed, and loves me back into joy.

When I picture myself joyful, my shoulders physically relax a little, like a weight is being lifted off of them. So I have to ask myself, what is the weight? I think it can only be one thing: self-protection. God has been revealing this as the biggest issue that still entangles my life. I’m trying to fend off the sting of more crushing when that is not my job. It’s God’s job to protect me, not mine. That doesn’t mean He will protect me from bad things happening, but that He will protect me from being completely crushed when they do. He will love me through whatever heartbreak is in store for me. He will be my safe place to pour out my pain if I will only open up to His safety. If I attempt to block more pain from my life, I also block joy, love, peace, everything that is the fullness of God. I block God from the deepest parts of my life. He longs to enter into those deeper places and bring His light. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand joy – I haven’t let Him deep enough to explain it to me. I don’t want this anymore – this illusion of self protection. It’s too much. It’s too heavy a burden I was never meant to carry. God, help me lay it down. I don’t care anymore how it has to happen or how much it might hurt or how many tears I have to cry in front of how many people. I am done. I am tired. I want the fullness of God. I want the fullness of love and of joy.

The fact that I’m even willing to talk about this is a big deal. It says to me that God is making me ready for His healing in this area. It gives me hope that I am moving in the direction of joy. Thank You, God. May I along with my fellow fearers of joy break free from that fear that so hinders us and open our hearts to the joy of the Lord. We will not be disappointed, this I am sure. His goodness is His promise and when we hold that tighter than we hold our protection, we allow joy to show up and to thrive. Pour into us with the fullness of joy, Lord God. May we remove the blocks, embrace the sparks, fan the flames, and fuel the fire. Amen.

“You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

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I Wonder If They’ll Notice My Scars

Getting ready for church is hard for me in many ways. To start with, there’s the issue of finding something to wear. Pro tip: Don’t give up on gaining any of the weight you unexpectedly lost by finally getting rid of your wide variety of clothing sizes. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll start gaining it back the second you say goodbye to your wardrobe. I own four pairs of dress pants… and not one of them fit. Trust me, I tried them all this morning. So then I moved on to skirts but I had a problem with the short-sleeved top that matched. I finally just decided that’s what I was going to have to wear. As I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought, “I wonder if they’ll notice my scars.” That’s when God stopped me in my tracks.

If I can’t show up to church with God’s people, bearing my scars, where can I go? Where else can I belong, free from my perfectionism? I don’t talk much about this issue and I am embarrassed to draw attention to it but for some reason, today is the day. Around the time of upper elementary/junior high I started battling dermatillomania, which is a mental illness related to OCD, causing the urge to pick at any imperfection in my skin. I usually just do it on my upper arms so I can hide it for the most part but the more stressed I get, the worse it gets and the further down into the open it creeps. It’s why you’ll usually see me wearing 3/4 length sleeves even though I’m most often blazing hot and would love to be wearing a cute little tank top. Tank tops have sadly never entered my wardrobe. I hate what I do to myself but I can’t seem to help it. So usually, I cover it up. But I’m tired of worrying about it and I don’t want to anymore. While looking at myself in the mirror I finally decided not to care if people… my dear church family… see my scars. Yet in the next moment I looked down at my wrinkled skirt and said, “well, shoot, I don’t have time to iron that” and then my gaze fell to the deodorant mark on my shirt as I said, “good grief, I’m a mess today.” But I’m God’s mess, His work in progress, and He welcomes me into His house.

I’ve not made it much of a secret that I’ve been struggling with exponentially-increased anxiety lately so you can imagine how that has worsened my dermatillomania. I’ve wanted to write a post describing my panic attacks but each time I try, I realize I cannot put them into words. Unless you have panic attacks, you cannot understand, and that’s okay. The only way I can think of to describe it is, at least to me, it feels like the fiery depths of hell trying to swallow me and I’m trapped where I am, unable to escape. Being ‘trapped’ in a car triggers these attacks. I stopped driving years ago due to my illness but what keeps me from trying again is anxiety. And now even being in the passenger seat has started to trigger me. I almost made Jason get in a wreck a couple weeks ago because at the last second I made him swing into a parking lot. I just could not handle sitting at another red light. Trapped. It’s not rational and I know it. But knowing and believing are two different things. I’m fighting a battle spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Actually, I’ve been reminding myself that God is fighting the battle while He lets me worship (2 Chronicles 20). While I’ve too often let the panic win, I remembered the truth of this passage last week when I had a panic attack just sitting in my living room, seemingly triggered by nothing. I let the storm come. I fell to my knees hyperventilating and sobbing. But then, I tried to worship. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done and it was mostly: sing one word… gasp… sing one word… sob. But God helped me worship no matter how awful it felt and sounded to me and He fought my battle while I sang. Thank You, God, for fighting for me.

The first victory today was getting up and getting ready despite the anxiety and dread. The second was actually making it to church, many miles away, through traffic and multiple red lights, ‘trapped’ in a car. Guess what song came on the radio? The current song based on 2 Chronicles 20, I Raise A Hallelujah, by Bethel Music. Worshiping with that song reminded me that God is fighting for me. We made it to church and instead of fading into the background as usual, multiple people noticed me and they did not accept my pat, “I’m okay,” answer to the “how are you?” question. They genuinely wanted to know how I am, and I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. Answering the question more honestly was God’s third victory today.

You may not be able to see the words in the picture but the first song we sang was You Make Me Brave. I just about laughed out loud. The fourth victory has to do with the perspective of this picture. I am standing. I was able to stand through the majority of the service, which is something my illness doesn’t usually allow me to do. But God continued to fight for me. As always, when we were singing one of my favorite songs, Living Hope, I praised God that death has lost its grip on me once again. “The work is finished. The end is written… Hallelujah.”

There were other victories that left me breathless, thanks be to God, but the point of this post is this: I walked into the midst of God’s people with scars showing… and I am better for it. If we do not air our scars, we will never heal. I far too often play the “what if” track in my mind. What if they see my scars? What if they see my hands trembling with anxiety? What if they notice me sitting down while everyone else is standing up? What if I told them I took 1/4 of a klonopin to even manage walking in this morning, and it doesn’t feel like it’s helping? What if they knew I struggle with control and trust, that I’ve hurt people and struggled with grace? But when God stopped me in my “what if” tracks this morning, He turned the questions on me. So, what if? What if they DIDN’T see your scars? What if you continued to hide them? What if you stayed home and gave into the fear and isolation? What if you gave up on healing and stayed hidden? What if you missed the opportunity to be embraced by God and His people in your brokenness? WHAT IF JESUS HID HIS SCARS?

I think part of the reason Jesus kept His scars when He rose from the dead was so that people would recognize Him (i.e. Thomas, who said he wouldn’t believe unless he saw the nail marks – John 20), so that people would see Him and believe. If we hide our scars, how can people truly see us? How can they believe there is a God who fights our battles if we’re not willing to let them know there is a battle raging around and within us? How can Jesus be fully seen in our lives when our scars are hidden? How can our wounds heal if they aren’t exposed to the open air of God’s love?

I’m tired of being afraid to show my scars to God’s people. They proved to me today that they actually do want to see me… to know me… the real me. And it helped me heal just a little bit. I’d rather show up in God’s presence with a wrinkly skirt, deodorant marks, uncovered scars, trying to breathe under the weight of my sin… and maybe receive just a little bit more healing… than wither away in my own misery. God calls us to be in the light. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7). I decided to live in the light today, and received the gift of true fellowship.

As if the blessings weren’t already enough, God celebrated with me on the way home when another song came on the radio. Once again, I sang to my God in thanks for continuing to fight for me, “My fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in Your love.” Amen. Please don’t miss the healing that can come from sharing your scars. And if you see someone with scars, love them with the love of Jesus. The church should be the people who most welcome our scars. When scars are aired and loved on, only then can we finally receive the healing God offers. Let’s not be afraid anymore to let the healing happen. Who knows? Maybe there’s a tank top in my future. 🙂 Or more importantly, maybe there is grace, reconciliation, love, light, and healing in my future.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”- James 5:16

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Change My Name, A Different Take on the Prayer of Jabez

Right in the midst of 12-ish chapters full of names in 1 Chronicles is a verse that has become known as The Prayer of Jabez. I remember the book with that title being very popular around the time I was in high school. I think it was so popular because people like the idea of bold prayers granting a pain-free life. It’s so tempting to latch onto the “health and wealth” movement only to be disappointed when life doesn’t go the way we pray. I was very turned off by this story for awhile but now I see a deeper meaning.

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’ Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from pain.’ And God granted his request.”- 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

I don’t know why God granted Jabez’ request but not the requests of countless other people who prayed this prayer during the Prayer of Jabez craze. That’s not the point of this particular post. What I find so interesting is that right there in the middle of a myriad of names is Jabez, a name that literally sounds like “pain” in Hebrew. His name was “pain” and he asked God to free him from pain… to free him from his own name. And God did.

Several times throughout the Bible God changes people’s names to mark significant events in their lives. When Jacob wrestled with God, God gave him the name “Israel” (Genesis 32:28). I wonder if that’s why Jabez “cried out to the God of Israel”, or if I’m reading too much into it. Maybe he was thinking something like ‘God, you changed the name of Jacob when He met you face to face. Please change mine too. Let me see You. Bless me like You blessed Jacob/Israel. Give me a new identity.’

So many of us walk around with pain as our identity. Guilty! I grew up in the church and gave my life to Jesus at age 13, but I’m not sure I placed my identity in Him for a long time. Prior to my illness, my identity was in my job. I was Karina, the Social Worker, and I took great pride in doing my job well. I thought it was my purpose in life until it was taken away. After that, sickness and pain became my identity. Without even realizing it, I became Karina, the Chronically-ill, and I’ve continued to arrange my life around my sickness. While I’ve been aware of this mistaken identity for awhile now and have been working on it with God, I still haven’t shed my identity of pain and illness. Pain is certainly not the identity God has for me and He is working to help me believe the freedom He gives me from that identity, the freedom that Jesus gifted to me on the cross. I wonder if that’s why God granted Jabez’ request. He wanted to give him a new identity, one that has nothing to do with pain and everything to do with Him.

God does want to bless us and enlarge our lives. Jesus said he came to give us life to the full. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). A life trapped in a painful identity is definitely not full. An identity placed in Christ is a life of fruitful purpose and possibility, of service and blessing, connected to the heart of God. It is a life of freedom and expansion.

An identity placed in anything other than Jesus steals, kills, and destroys the full life of freedom God has for us. It cheapens what Jesus did for us. Oh, that we would place our identities in the One who gives us life… He would bless us indeed! I want to be Karina, Child of God. And I want that for you too. Let us pray along with Jabez and Jacob…

Bless me, Lord. I will not let go. Keep Your hand with me. Enlarge my life. Free me from the pain of placing my identity in anything but You. Help me embrace the new name You gave me. In the most beautiful name of Jesus, Amen.

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One Body

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there  are many parts, but one body. 
The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it." - 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27

There are some body parts I’d sure like to throw away. Quite often I’d love to be rid of my autonomic nervous system, sometimes my brain, and pretty much every moment of every day I’d love to chuck my entire abdomen out the window. This is not an exaggeration. When one part is acting up, I find myself struggling not to hate it, thereby perpetuating a constant me-vs-my body kind of scenario. When I’m successful at not hating my stomach, most of the time I’m just doing my best to ignore it. Is any of this actually helpful? Not likely. Fighting with my own body parts does nothing to heal them. In fact, holding onto anger actually makes the chronic abdomen problem worse because anger sits in my liver and rots. Those aren’t the exact scientific words for this phenomenon but it’s the truth. A problematic body part is trying to send an important message about the general function of the body or about issues that need addressed in order for the whole body to be healthy. Therefore, ignoring those body parts doesn’t help any more than fighting them. Ignoring my stomach doesn’t fix it. When it is ignored, sometimes it feels the need to scream louder so it can get my attention and I can try something else to help it. Ignoring a problem may seem convenient in the moment, but it never makes it go away. Guaranteed.

I am in a very unique position to understand this passage from 1 Corinthians. I’ve never actually read it literally until now and my physical body has helped me understand the passage so much better. I don’t feel that I belong in the body of Christ. But just because I feel that way doesn’t make it true. My excessive absences and lack of connection doesn’t make me any less a part of the body. Just because I am no longer a “more presentable part” doesn’t mean I am less important to the function and health of the entire body.

The church as a whole has a sad tendency to forget the chronically-ill. It’s easy to have the “I don’t need you” mindset when it appears that the body is getting along just fine without them. But Paul could not be any more clear that those people in the body who appear to be weaker are “indispensable.” We also tend to roll our eyes and ignore the people who ‘act up’, while harboring anger toward them. But Paul says we give special treatment to those parts that we think are less honorable. And just because I am no longer an eye or hand or something desirable like that, doesn’t mean it’s not my job to bring absolutely everything I do have to the table. All our gifts, as small as they may sometimes seem, are God-given and important. Ignoring them or hiding them away causes the entire body to miss something beautiful.

The very next chapter in 1 Corinthians is the famous love chapter. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. We unify the body with love. Unfortunately, we aren’t especially great at love and, as a result, the church as a whole is sick. We’ve thrown out our eyes and ears, choked on our anger, and ignored our pinky toes until we’re blindly hobbling around in pain wondering what happened. Fighting or ignoring our own body parts does nothing to heal them. Holding those parts close, listening to them, bringing them to the healing hand of God, loving them. That is what will heal.

We need to find our hearts again- those ignored, shriveled up love containers – and limp them up to the heart of God crying, “We’re so sorry. Please, fix this.” The fact is, God made us each an integral part of the body and no one is dispensable. If I throw out my abdomen, my body would die. If we throw out the members of the body we see as problematic, we die. We are not living in the healthy unity that God desires. We are sick, the kind of sick that only love can heal. I truly believe God sees it, and grieves. When will we?

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The Right Questions

I’ve been stuck amidst the questions again. God, are you going to heal me? Will I ever feel better in this life? Should I just accept that You may not heal? Does submitting to Your will by ending my own striving mean giving up more attempts at treatment? Should I stop what I’m doing now and let You heal me on Your own? Sometimes I think I would be able to handle suffering better if I knew there would be an end date. If I knew God would heal me, I could stick it out until then. The possibility of feeling this miserable for the rest of my life is unbearable and I struggle to accept it. That’s why my questions keep swirling.

On Sunday I was worshipping upstairs in the window room when God spoke to my heart and said, “You’re asking the wrong questions.” I thought about it for awhile and realized that all of these swirling questions boil down to one thing: Am I going to be disappointed with or angry at God? God hasn’t told me whether or not He will heal me and I have to admit that part of the motivation for knowing the answer would be so that I would know how to feel. If the answer is “yes”, I could thank Him and rejoice and hold on until then. But if the answer is “no”, I could be angry and hurt and have no more will to continue. Perhaps that’s the reason God hasn’t answered… because He knows if He said “no,” I would lie down and give up.

So then, what are the right questions? Maybe the questions I need to ask myself are, if God does say “no” to my healing, can I still thank Him and rejoice and hold onto Him? I’ve been openly angry at God in the past and I tried to walk away from Him. It was the darkest time of my life and I never want to go back there. I thought I had worked through this with God, but maybe a small root of poison is still inside of me that needs to be torn out in order for me to continue to heal spiritually.

I’ve been studying the book of Jeremiah for a couple weeks because, goodness, those people had to wait! God tells them that they have a future and a hope even though they will have to wait in exile for 70 years. That does not sound hopeful to me. My lack of healing does not feel hopeful to me. But God tells His people what to do while they wait for deliverance:

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”- Jeremiah 29:5-7

In other words, don’t just give up on life. Their circumstances were far from anything they wanted, but they were not to fall into despair. God wanted them to get comfortable with the circumstances in which He placed them and get on with their lives. He wanted them to stop pining for deliverance and start planting gardens and enjoying their fruit. He wanted them to increase and pray for peace in the midst of their circumstances.

I am asking God the wrong questions. He wants me to stop pining for deliverance and start planting and enjoying the fruit of my suffering. The right questions are actually directed at me. Am I willing to settle down and plant here or am I going to give up on life? Am I going to pray for peace here or will I fall into despair again? Am I willing to throw off the chain I’ve attached between deliverance and all things good (joy, endurance, etc)? Will I grow and increase here instead of shriveling up in the poison of my mind?

We have a poison ivy problem at our house and Jason is severely allergic so I’ve been trying to kill it with natural weed killer. Three times now I’ve sprayed it all along the fence to no avail. And this morning, as if to mock me, I noticed that instead of dying under the wrath of the weed-killer, a beautiful flower has actually bloomed. I laughed out loud. God gave a visual gift to my questioning heart. It was as if the vine said, “I know you want me to die here. I know I live in the midst of poison. But I will not die. I will bloom instead. You can spray me all you want but I will not shrivel up. I will increase.”

Will I say the same? Will I bloom and shine here or will I shrivel up in the darkness of disappointment? Will I pray for peace and for the poison of the enemy to be removed from my heart or will I shrivel up and die, fruitless? Will I not only survive here but will I increase and thrive? These are the right questions… and I hope and pray that my answer will be a resounding, “YES.”

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Home Sweet Home

Dear ones,

It’s been awhile and I’ve missed you! We have had an incredibly busy summer. Since I last wrote we have moved and, blessedly, had a revolving door of visitors to the house. I have loved every second of it to the point where it was VERY hard for me to see Jason go back to work this morning, knowing how quiet and lonely this place will be now. But my heart is also overflowing with the nearness of God.

I thought I would jump on here and tell the story of how we got this house. Jason and I have wanted to move out of our condo ever since we got married 5 1/2 years ago. It’s healthier for me not to have to worry about anyone spraying pesticides or contaminating my air with smoke and dryer sheets. We also dream about growing our own food so we know exactly where it’s been and what’s on it. Not to mention a yard for June to run and play. So we finally decided to talk to a realtor who, despite my serious doubts, assured us we could find a healthy house in our budget. We put ours up for sale near the beginning of the year.

Back in February we had such fun looking at a house with the most character I’ve ever seen. Around each corner was another nook or surprise that made us laugh out loud. Our realtor remarked that it was like Narnia! “It was the sort of house that you never seem to come to the end of, and it was full of unexpected places” (C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia). Exactly. But for whatever reason, we wrote the house off as not practical or ‘normal’ enough for us and we moved on.

Then around mid-May, a sweet woman we had the privilege of meeting later, put an offer on our condo that we could not refuse, as much as it scared me! Prior to the offer, it hadn’t become quite real to me that we were actually doing this. We had to get serious about finding a place. I was pretty disappointed with the quality of houses in our price range and knew that we would have to give something up, like a bathroom or dishwasher, which are both very hard for a person with chronic illness to give up. Also, the nicer houses were even smaller than our condo and I began to wonder why in the world we were even doing this. Well-meaning people kept telling me that God had the perfect house for us, but I knew a perfect house was not one of God’s promises. Side note, we really need to watch what we say. If God promises houses, wouldn’t there be no homeless Christians? I digress.

Believe it or not, I didn’t really get stressed until the actual moving process. For quite some time I had been praying for a house that could somehow be used for God’s glory. I knew God would give us what He knew we needed, even if it wasn’t a house at all. I gave Him the process of finding a house and He, in turn, gave me peace that I truly believe I would still have if the outcome had turned out differently.

We settled on a very small house with one bathroom, pretty far from most people who usually gave me rides to appointments, which made me nervous but I also knew I couldn’t arrange our lives around my illness more than I already had. We thought this cute little yellow house with the teal door and purple flowers was for us. After all, those are our colors and it really was a beautiful house. The problem was, the house already had an offer on it, which broke our hearts. This was even after we had fallen in love with a different house until we found out the basement was in danger of caving in. Heartbreak after heartbreak, while still believing everything would be okay no matter the outcome. The realtor of the cute yellow house told us that the contract was going to fall through so we actually put an offer on it and, after some negotiating, they accepted it as a secondary contract. That would have been all well and good except that we couldn’t be a secondary contract and have assurance that we wouldn’t be homeless after our condo closed if this contract actually didn’t fall through. The realtor wanted to get out of the primary contract but they legally couldn’t do so until it would have been too late for us.

So, our realtor asked for our backup plan. With broken hearts and some amount of resignation, Jason and I suddenly thought of the Narnia house, at the exact same time. Who needs ‘normal’, right? I still don’t know why this house was in our price range. It is HUGE and we wouldn’t have to give up anything except a garage and garbage disposal. And we would gain more than we dared to dream. Our realtor asked us if we wanted to go see the house again on Wednesday or Thursday. This was the last week of school for Jason and he had multiple meetings to prepare for so we originally said Thursday. But then Jason decided we needed to see the house again ASAP even if it meant he was up all night, so we went to see it Wednesday. We fell in love. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such excitement in my husband and it was such a joy. I could not stop laughing because this house is so quirky. The even bigger surprise was that Jason’s parents, who came to look at it with us, approved wholeheartedly. After seeing the Narnia house again, we pulled our offer on the cute little yellow house and put an offer on this one. That is why the days were important. After we put in an offer on Thursday morning, we found out someone else was going to put in an offer on Thursday night. Talk about timing! What a gift to have our contract sealed!

Then, of course, the inspection process was less than fun and my stress level sky-rocketed during the actual move. It has triggered my illnesses, especially dysautonomia. So I’ve been struggling with that and acting like a healthy person far too long. I haven’t stopped for months and my body is screaming for rest, so under it’s and Jason’s orders, that’s what I’m doing today and likely for the foreseeable future.

We are so grateful for this house and I very often walk back in after taking June for a walk and become breathless with the wonder that it is ours. The excitement comes back and the warmth of such a beautiful gift swells my heart. It is perfect. It’s almost 100 years old so it has unbelievable character. There are built-ins all over the place. There’s even a claw foot tub! I didn’t even know I could dream of having one of those! I have always imagined having a music room but knew never to expect one. Guess what? I have one now! The wall looks like it was made for my piano.

But honestly, I think my favorite room in the house is upstairs. It has tons of windows and, get this, it overlooks the mountains. I have dreamed of a home with a view of the mountains but never actually thought I would have one. What a gift! Our first day here was so stressful. Since no one had lived here for awhile, it was way too hot for me and I was feeling awful and very discouraged. Then, God gave me another gift. He showed me that I could see the most beautiful sunset out those same windows. The next morning He showed me I can also see the sunrise… over the mountains! I weep over this overwhelming gift!

For a long time, I have wanted a home that felt welcoming and open to everyone and we have had many people say it is warm and inviting when they visit.  When I thanked her for opening her home, a dear woman once said to me, “This is God’s house. I’m just visiting.” That beautiful sentiment is one I want to live by. This house that is beyond our wildest dreams is God’s gift to us that we can, in turn, gift back to Him. I cannot wait to see how He uses it! One day I was trying a little bit too hard to ‘help’ God use this house, coming up with things we could do to serve others with it. While it’s good to dream with God, we also need to wait on His guidance. It occurred to me that, at least right now, this may just be God’s overwhelming gift to us. I can hardly let myself think that because I always want to DO something to please God. My brain can’t wrap around His delight in me and I wonder if this is His way of helping me understand. What could give Him more joy than me simply enjoying the gift He gave? So, we will do that until He tells us otherwise. What an extravagant God we have!

This is our house on the Fourth of July. By the way, everyone has been calling it Narnia, so that name has stuck. It’s perfect. We even have a lion door-knocker and a lamp post in the backyard. It makes me wonder if the previous owners had Narnia in mind. So now we even have a guest book called… The Chronicles of Narnia! Come visit! We would love to welcome you!

I have a lot more blogging to catch up on so, stay tuned. I haven’t forgotten. I’m always looking for beauty in the rubble!

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When Healing Causes Grief

There are days when I can see and feel that I am getting better and healthier. I rejoice in those days. With God’s help, I have climbed my mountain again, both literally and figuratively. I have been to church more weeks than not over the last few months. I have been to the grocery store with my husband. I can generally stop and talk to people without scanning my surroundings for the nearest chair. I have added several previously-forbidden foods to my diet. I haven’t had to get labs in five months. These things are celebration-worthy. Step-by-slow-step healing is meant to be savored and celebrated. So, I celebrate.

But something unexpected is putting a damper on my full celebration. My old frenemy, grief. I know what some of you are thinking, “Goodness, this girl will find anything to complain about. She’s even sad about healing.” I almost didn’t write this post because I know how it sounds. But, hello, #thisisdepression. Also, I cannot be the only one with a chronic illness who feels this way and I think we need to talk about it.

In her book, “Fully Alive” (see, I told you I’d never stop talking about this book), Susie Larson discusses the man in John 5 who Jesus asks, “Do you want to get well.” The man’s immediate response is, “I can’t, Sir.” Susie encourages us to explore our own “I can’ts.” And so, I have… often. I’ve been asked over the years by counselors and various health practitioners if there is something holding me back from accepting healing and I’ve done my best to come to grips with those things and give them up to God. I know that fear is an issue – fear of the unknown, fear of hope because if I get better I’m not sure I can emotionally handle getting sick again. There are other hindering beliefs that I have fully explored as well, but I kept having this nagging feeling that there is something else gripping me. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. But God has recently opened my eyes and named it for me: GRIEF.

How can a person possibly grieve getting better? Well, after careful examination of my heart, I think I’ve nailed down one reason why each step forward is accompanied by a sharp stab to the heart. It’s because the people I’ve always imagined rejoicing with me in my healing are largely the ones who abandoned me in my suffering. They are the first people I imagined telling about my healing and yet, they are no longer in my life. Each step forward is a reminder of their absence and therefore, grows the intensity of my grief.

Not only is my celebration not happening in the way I imagined, but I see it as a final closure of the relationships I have lost. If I get better, the people who abandoned me are out of time and chances to show that they are willing to sit with me in my pain. If I heal, I have to finally accept that I will never receive what I want from them. I have to move on without them and I don’t know how to do that. It wasn’t “supposed” to be this way. I’ve been attempting the Dynamic Neural Retraining System, which uses a lot of visualization to help retrain the brain to wellness. I am supposed to visualize a future in which I am well. The problem I’m running into is, when I imagine my wellness, the people I thought would always be there are present in my visualizations… but they’re not with me now. And they haven’t been for a long time. So my visualizations are usually accompanied by grief, which kind of ruins the experience.

I don’t know how “normal” life goes without the people with whom I used to laugh. Those who were present in my healthy life have been largely absent during my sick life. Maybe my problem is that I’m trying to go back to a reality that no longer exists when God intends me to go forward with Him. I feel like I’m struggling for the right words so I’ll share a post by Sarah Panther, who speaks part of my heart a bit more clearly. I encourage you to read it here.

How do I celebrate when my heart breaks with loss for each step that I take? I guess the answer is that joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive. I can rejoice in my healing while grieving my losses. If I refuse to celebrate the victories, that discounts the work that God is doing and I never want to do that. He has been my constant through all of this and His work deserves every bit of recognition I give it and more. Healing is not only given to bring God glory in the eyes of the people who “deserve” to see it- those people who have held my hand in the trenches- but it is to reveal God’s glory to every eye who chooses to see. And maybe even more-so to the people who have misunderstood. Maybe those who feared my pain need to see that God is there and can heal even at length. Maybe those who couldn’t handle knowing that there can be long, intense suffering without God stepping in with a miracle need to know that He does still care. And maybe I need to fully recognize the miracle of God’s sustaining presence rather than pining for those I have lost.

So, I rejoice and grieve. I’m realizing that this may be life. Maybe the grief is our constant reminder that we are not Home where we belong. I don’t ever want to respond to Jesus’ offer of healing with, “I can’t, Sir.” This doesn’t sound like a very happy post, but we do have some celebrating to do. I invite you to rejoice with me and, if you have the heart, grieve with me as well. Together we will look forward to the final separation of joy and grief. Come, Lord Jesus.

Song I’m feeling: Where Joy and Sorrow Meet, by Avalon
“For the wounded, there is healing. Strength is given to the weak.
Broken hearts find love redeeming where joy and sorrow meet.”

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Deliverance In the Desert

*Song lyrics throughout are from Open Hands, by Laura Story. Listen to this beautiful song here.
*The sweetest sound, the highest praise is the letting go of this life You gave. Our greatest prayer, our act of faith is an open hand. Lord, have your way. Take it all, every hope, every dream, every plan.
“I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” – Exodus 14:4b
May we surrender all of our plans, everything we thought we wanted, for the greater glory of God. In this way, our hopes, dreams, and plans will grow to match His.
*Take it all, every weight, all the shame and brokenness. Jesus, I surrender all, every victory and loss. Take it all, take it all ’til all I have is open hands. A clenching fist, a life of fear, a burden held has no place here.
“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord… ‘It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'”- Exodus 14:10,12b
We may be afraid of our trials, but fear is not from God. Fear is one of the things that keeps us bound.
*‘Cause You call me now to cast it all on the shoulders of the One who’s strong.
“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'” – Exodus 14:13-14
God will deliver us from the things He knows we need to be delivered from, even if it isn’t the things we WANT to be delivered from. I want deliverance from my illness, but He is using my illness to deliver me from something far more oppressive – the sins that have kept me enslaved. His strong arms sustain me through the trials.
*Take it all, every hope, every dream, every plan. Take it all, every weight, all the shame and brokenness. Jesus, I surrender all every victory and loss.
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” – Exodus 14:21-22
God shows His power by walking us right through our fears, not avoiding them. Sometimes He doesn’t rescue us from the things we fear most because He wants to build our faith through them.
*Take it all, take it all, ’til all I have is open hands.
“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen – the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.” – Exodus 14:27-28
If we open our hands in surrender, God will cover the things that enslave us – our sin, fears, pain, our past. He will cover those things so that they no longer rule our lives. He has already set us free. The work is already done. We just need to open our hands and accept that gift of freedom.
*I’m not afraid of what I’ll lose. My greatest joy is finding You.
“And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted. The horse and rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.'” – Exodus 14:31-15:2a
Even if we are still in the midst of our wandering, we will see God’s power here. We will praise Him for His victories and those who see those victories in our lives will know the Lord.
“You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time.” – Joshua 24:7b
You lived in the desert for a long time. The deliverance God brought to the Israelites was not deliverance from the desert, but from slavery. The sea and the desert were not the enemies. The Egyptians were the enemy. Maybe the deliverance God is bringing to us is not deliverance from our desert but from the things that enslave us. Our illnesses and our trials are not our enemies. The things that keep us enslaved are our enemies. It’s time for us to stretch out our hands.
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World Lyme Day

Hmm… how do I even start this? I wanted to say “Happy World Lyme Day”, but happy is certainly not the right word. How about, “Informative World Lyme Day greetings to you.” Good grief, that sounds boring. Oh, well. Today is the beginning of Lyme Disease awareness month. Last year on this day I took my Facebook friends on a journey through my day just to give them a glimpse of a day in the life of someone with Lyme. Today, I decided to capture the things that make my life better, which has ended up being almost like a day in the Lyme life anyway. Some of you heard me say before that there’s a chance I don’t have Lyme anymore but, honestly, I think I’m in a Lyme flare or other disease caused by Lyme flare. Even if I no longer have the Lyme bacteria, I still suffer from the toll it has taken on my body so it’s still good for everyone to be aware that just because the bacteria is gone does not mean the person is better. Boy, am I struggling this week! Sunday was truly awesome for me. I was able to attend church and then make it up to my mountain for the first time in more than two years. I am still overflowing with gratitude!!

But, I’ve certainly been paying for it ever since. It was worth it just for that beautiful glimpse and the assurance that all things actually are possible. I haven’t slept well since then so I’m wondering if I tanked my adrenals. Always a guessing game. I had been sleeping much better (except during full moons and hormone shifts) since treatment from Sozo and the Sunshine clinic as well as letting go of SO much emotionally, but the last few nights have been rough. So I got up super late this morning. Here are some products that help my sleep: Room-darkening curtains (except I no longer wake up to sunrises so that’s a bit of a sacrifice for good sleep), essential oil diffuser with lavender oil, and my weighted blanket – the best birthday gift! I have restless legs and Jason would often massage them for me so I could go to sleep but he usually doesn’t have to do that anymore, thanks to this blanket.

After getting up I take a few supplements and the last couple days I have been drinking celery juice that I have freshly made in our juicer, which was an awesome Christmas gift from my parents a few years ago. Celery has natural minerals and salt, which is good for POTS, and it’s supposed to be very healing first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Speaking of salt, we buy Himalayan sea salt in bulk because I eat salt like it’s my job. Dr. Sunshine helped my blood pressure a lot but I still have to eat quite a bit of salt. Honestly, I’ve eaten so much of it that I’ve lost the ability to taste it very well. Himalayan sea salt is far better for you than other salt because it still has the minerals, and grinding it fresh is best. There’s a picture of my supplements. They certainly make my life better and more livable. I finally found a pill case big enough for all the times I have to take pills during the day. Another thing that makes my life better is cooking in my grandma’s case iron skillets. I just love thinking of the history and connection to my heritage and I love the way they cook. I have homemade “sausage”, spinach, celery, and raw, pure almond butter for breakfast, leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for lunch, and we cook something hot for dinner. I used to despise cooking and then my illness hit so I didn’t have a choice. I can’t go to restaurants at all and I eat nothing from a package that I can think of. Now I love trying to figure out successful substitutions for the foods I can’t eat. It’s such a thrill when something turns out well! My current favorite is the chicken asparagus roll-ups. Grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, delicious! And there’s a picture of my water filter. It’s not the greatest but it’s what we can afford right now and better than nothing. I swear I get a stomach ache when I drink the water from our actual fridge filter. People with Lyme are usually so sensitive to anything and everything!

After breakfast, I have my time with God. I have grown to usually treasure my solitude because I get to spend hours with God if I want to. A couple years ago, I prayed that God would make me addicted to His word, and He has answered. I’ve read the Bible straight through multiple times since losing my job and I don’t plan to quit. I’ve been praying lately that God makes me addicted to HIM too, and He is doing so. I love spending time with Him and I pray all throughout the day. I pray for the people He brings to mind as well as the list of regulars I keep, and I talk to Him about everything. I have my daily calendar from a dear friend that helps me focus too. Another thing that has helped me a lot has been to speak my identity in Christ out loud. It has helped me to break away from a lot of the darkness of feeling like I’m worthless. God made me and that makes me so valuable to Him. Amazing. One of my favorite passages came up in my reading today and it says, “on the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.” I love thinking about how God has led me up my mountain and has sustained me, providing all that I need along the way. I usually drink coffee while I’m reading and June sits next to me in the sun. I talk about quitting coffee all the time but it’s not working, so if anyone wants to be my quitting buddy, let me know! I enjoy looking out the window and watching my bluebirds. See the mama’s head peeking out of the house? Our friends made us a bluebird house last year and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I love our big window and will miss it if/when we move. Many people think that I am bored and they try to come up with things for me to do to pass the time. I used to be more bored than I am, but I have actually learned how to have a pretty fulfilling life. That has been such a gift from God. I am lonely, yes, but I am not bored. I write a lot, in my journal or in my blog, and I read (purple pens and journals make my life better too). I work on Celebrate Recovery stuff and a couple other projects I have up my sleeve that I may share later (gotta keep some mystery!). CR has made my life indescribably better too. It’s a place for anyone with hurts, habits, or hangups. God is using CR and counseling to help me heal from the inside out. There is a women’s Step Study (a more in-depth study of CR’s 12 steps) that meets at our house on Monday evenings, we attend main CR on Tuesday evenings, and lately we’ve often been meeting on Wednesday evenings for CR leader training. Yep, Jason and I are learning to be CR leaders now. I’ve talked myself out of and back into it many times and will probably continue to do so, but God uses the broken. That’s me!

After my God time, I shower and make myself as presentable as possible to the outside world before I take June out. Sometimes I take detox baths with epsom salts, but I don’t usually do that while I’m alone since hot baths and POTS don’t mix and I don’t want to be alone and faint. I also do ionic foot baths occasionally and castor oil packs. Basically, anything to get my stubborn detox pathways flowing. Fun shirts and socks make me smile and, yes, I had to fold myself into a pretzel to get both of those things in the picture. I don’t usually wear jewelry unless I’m going somewhere but since it’s a special day, I thought I’d wear some. I love jewelry that reminds me of the people who gave it to me or the verses on them. One of the bracelets says, “He restores my soul”. You  might remember that my word of the year last year was “restore”, and it is still very close to my heart. I also discovered eos, a natural lip balm, and Jason went a little crazy in cleaning the stores out of them for me. I think the ingredients are natural and okay for me but, if not, just don’t tell me! So then I’m ready to take June out and go get the mail. Mail makes my day better, getting and sending, though we didn’t get any today, perhaps because they’ve got condo complex-apocalypse going on out there. This place is torn up! I guess they’re trying to fix the pond so we will have a pretty fountain again, which will make me smile too. I do my best to send cards to people when I can. It’s pretty difficult for me to walk June, even just to the mailboxes, especially in the heat. Heat is still my #1 trigger and I cannot tolerate it even a little bit. It’s extremely discouraging. June doesn’t understand and she doesn’t walk well. She just likes to stop and smell every blade of grass. But, as difficult as she is sometimes, she is also the reason I leave the house and my constant companion. I am probably too attached to her and don’t know what I’d do without her!

Speaking of this dog, the following picture is just about right! I absolutely love Yoga Booty Ballet. I know, it sounds funny. Some of you know I used to be a ballerina. Well, I’m not sure if you can call someone a ballerina who just took lessons for twelve years and was certainly not a professional, but I like to call myself that! No offense to the real ballerinas. But, I miss dance so much and this has just enough ballet in it to keep me interested and helps me get some exercise. I’m not able to do much so, right now I only do parts of the Light and Easy version, but I’m trying. June loves to get in my way. I know, my yoga mat isn’t purple. Tragedy. A couple other things that make my life better are the salt lamp and my heart rate app. I don’t know if the lamp actually does anything but the soft light is calming to me. I only check the app when I’m feeling bad because it helps me know if I need to do something or if everything is fine and I just need to relax. I also follow a lot of inspirational people on social media, none more influential to me than Susie Larson. She is by far my favorite author and speaker, even though I’ve only read one of her books. Her other books are on my list for the future. She has had Lyme and she is unbelievably inspiring and powerful to me. I usually can’t watch her videos without tears. I also follow the group “A Little Lyme Laughter”, which provides so many laughs to those of us who certainly need them. Sometimes I’m able to have some porch time, but there is only a very small window of time when the heat won’t get to me. Maybe in our new house we’ll have a shaded porch. Purple flowers everywhere also make me so very thankful! Occasionally, I will get out my oil pastels and do some art. I’ve fallen in love with those things over the last couple years.

I know this blog has been stream-of-consciousness and jumbled, but these are the things that make my Lyme life a little better. I am so grateful for these gifts! I hope that they will give others who suffer ideas or inspiration and I encourage you to make your own gratitude list. It’s uplifting to count God’s extravagant gifts! Other things that make me smile are my favorite flowers – purple irises. I love the dark purple ones but haven’t seen any of those up close yet this year. I can’t get mine to bloom again. Sunrises and sunsets are God’s paintings for me, unique each day. My favorite creations in the whole world are sun rays. They remind me that God is here with me and that means everything is okay. Sun rays have often uplifted my heart during difficult times. I adore my Tennessee mountains and have a gazillion pictures of them. I wish I could hike them more, but maybe some day! I love looking at birds and watching the deer visit me from my window. I love getting lost in my piano, playing the guitar and singing. Also pictured with the piano is art from some of my friends, given to me over the years. Each one is precious to my heart. Most uplifting to my heart, though, are the people. I have an amazing husband who takes the vows of sickness and health very seriously and exemplifies what it means to love His wife like Christ loves the church. He is Jesus to me every single day. I also adore being an aunt to four precious children. It makes me so sad if I think too long about how my illness has kept me away from them much of the time but they are the most important kiddos in my life and I love them so! I am thankful for family and all of those who have become family by walking with me through this difficult illness. When life gives you Lyme, God gives you love.

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The Real Living Hope Is Not a Song

I’ve done some difficult things lately. I need to remind myself of that when I feel like I still can’t do anything. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that the verse I chose to repeat to myself during my last treatment was Acts 2:25-26, “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope.” The next time I went to Celebrate Recovery after treatment, I decided to try and test out my new stamina and stand for worship. I made it through almost a whole song before I had to sit down and then we sang “Living Hope”, by Phil Wickham. It was my hug from God letting me know that, no matter what, I’m going to be okay with Him.

Then I gathered even more courage and started going to church. Church is very hard for me for a lot of reasons. Leaving the house in general is very hard for me. If you see me at church and I appear to ignore you, it’s only because I am hyper-focused on survival, just making it from point A to point B (car to seat). If I don’t do that, all the faces swirl around me and I’ll never make it. My brain will sometimes play me a review later in the day and I’ll realize I ignored someone and feel bad about it pretty much for the rest of my life (J.E., I know you said “hi” to me at the Good Friday service… though it didn’t register at the time. I’m sorry. Good to see you). Yes, these are the things that play through my brain constantly. I am getting better at not beating myself up as much… slowly. Anyway, I struggle with attending church probably more than anything else. But every Sunday since I’ve been back, we have sung “Living Hope.” God hugs. I may be absolutely trembling the whole time I’m there, but I’m going to be okay.

Now that Easter is over, I know we won’t be singing that song every Sunday and it sounds so silly but I started to wonder if I could make through without that song. Umm… hello? What am I even thinking? I have the REAL Living Hope with me all the time. Who needs a song? He’s so much better than a song. Jesus plays in my head more beautifully than a song, fills my heart up better than a song, speaks to me even when words fail, and gives me chills with His nearness more often than a song. If I really believe the words that I’m singing, I need to start acting like it. “In desperation, I turned to heaven and spoke Your name into the night. Then through the darkness, Your loving kindness tore through the shadows of my soul. The work is finished. The end is written. Jesus Christ, my Living Hope.” I cried out to Jesus so many nights and He absolutely tore through the dark shadows of my soul. I am so comforted by the fact that the end is already written so I can quit trying so hard. IT IS FINISHED. “Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever. Jesus Christ, my Living Hope. Hallelujah! Praise the One who set me free. Hallelujah! Death has lost its grip on me.” I am His forever. Death has finally lost its grip on me and I feel the chains of all that I’ve allowed to keep hold of me slowly slipping off. Praise the One who set me free!

I quite often try to cling to things to get me through whatever I need to do, whether it be a song, a hyper-focus on the end, or even physically clinging to my husband. Am I alone in this? Maybe you do the same thing. I wonder what would happen if we cling to Jesus, the real Living Hope, during the hard things. Focusing on His presence will surely cast out fear if we let it. He is our ever-present God hug. We’re going to be okay.

God, I pray for the comfort of Your presence. I pray for a deep awareness of Your nearness. I pray for our hearts to be constantly reminded of our connection to You. Just as a song can get stuck in our heads, may You be stuck on a continuous loop in our hearts, giving us peace and strength to keep walking from points A to Z. Oh yes, and give us the ability to look up into the eyes of Your people along the way, even if we trip over our own feet. Help us love each other enough to embrace our awkwardness and anxieties. Grow Your love in us. In the name of Jesus, our Living Hope, Amen.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." - 1 Peter 1:3-5
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