The Precious in the Difficult

We have another God story to tell. Most of you know that I passed Lyme disease to Jason. His symptoms aren’t as debilitating as mine yet but I feel a little bit like I’m living with a ticking time bomb. We can’t afford for both of us to receive treatment so I kept trying to convince him that it’s more important for him to be treated because he has the job. He did not agree and how could I continue arguing when I’m so miserable? Honestly, we were getting to a point where we couldn’t even afford treatment for one of us so we decided to open back up our Go Fund Me page a few months ago.

During the time that has lapsed since I saw Dr. Sunshine, he has learned how to better treat MTHFR, a gene in our bodies, the mutation of which causes all kinds of problems. This gene is involved with methylation, which has its hand in the proper function of all kinds of things in the body. I have two mutations of this gene. So it had been in the back of my mind to go see Dr. Sunshine again and I had a fleeting thought that it would be great if Jason and I could receive treatment together but I never thought it could happen. God is so good.

My dad is the one who finally convinced me to call Dr. Sunshine and ask about getting Jason in. New patients have a nearly two-year wait list. But, since Jason is my husband, they are waiving that list. It’s very common for Dr. Sunshine to treat entire families at the same time because Lyme devastates households. The wait list was the first hurdle crossed.

Our hearts were touched as money started coming into the Go Fund Me page. After awhile, we thought the campaign was over. But again, God is so good.

I opened the mail one day and what I found took my breath away. The card said something along the lines of, ‘We were challenged to take big steps of faith. We trust God will meet your needs.’ The check was the exact amount we needed to get Jason in as a new patient with Dr. Sunshine. Only Jason and I, along with our good God, knew the needed amount. That, along with all the other gifts, allowed us to schedule our appointment for the four-day treatment program, June 8-11.

As if that wasn’t enough, we contacted the owner of the AirBnb we stayed at last time. It’s impossible for me to stay in a hotel because I have to be able to cook. This AirBnb is perfect for us, just three minutes from the Knoxville office and practically in the backyard of the famous used bookstore, Makay’s. Haha. I truly believe God led us there last time because the owner is so caring, washed everything in unscented detergents, and prayed for me. She is a retired Special Education teacher so she and Jason can talk shop. And, because we seem to develop special relationships everywhere we go, she is opening her place specifically for us in spite of all the insanity of 2020 and is giving us a truly generous discount. God gives extravagant gifts.

We do need to be covered in prayer during this time. Specific prayers are needed that treatment will not be too hard on at least one of us so we can take care of each other. I can’t drive and Jason needs to feel good enough to drive. Prayers of peace in and around our car would be so appreciated. Preparing to go anywhere is exhausting, as it requires much planning, meal prep, etc. Our luggage looks like we’re moving. Please pray for smooth preparations, the ability to sleep, and minimal stress. We appreciate my parents coming to stay at Narnia with June, Queen of the Castle.

Jason seems to have some sort of bug and I have had very little relief from my symptoms for several weeks and, believe it or not, there’s a certain balance needed for feeling okay enough to make it to the doctor in the first place. Please pray for us to feel better, for my blood pressure to rise to a stay-conscious level and for Jason to feel strong and well enough to drive. I’ve had intense pain in my left lower abdomen on and off for years. Doctors have fought over whose specialty it is, ultrasound technicians basically call whatever it is a UFO (Okay, I may have added the FO part, but it was definitely labeled “unidentified”). I’m not joking when I say ETSU asked me to sign a release so the students could study me. It’s hard to describe the agony of this pain on and off for weeks, but just as quickly and intensely as it shows up, it calms down for a day or so. Do thorns in the side show up on ultrasounds? Dr. Sunshine helped rid me of this pain for almost a year so, if nothing else, I hope to have less pain and higher blood pressure upon returning, and I have very high hopes for Jason’s treatment experience. Please pray for guidance for Dr. Sunshine, that he will address the things that will help us function better, and address them in an order that will not cause me to pass out. Can you tell I have all kinds of trauma issues surrounding this? We will have very long, difficult days of treatment, sitting under fluorescent lights and I will sometimes have to be alone while Jason receives his treatment as well. Please pray for protection, settled anxiety, and for our bodies’ strength under these extra burdens. God is good and we trust Him.

I usually choose a verse to carry with me for these days of treatment but I think I’m just going to continue thinking about “extracting the precious from the difficult.” I actually don’t think it’s necessary to remove the precious from the difficult in order to appreciate it so I’m thinking of it more like being saturated with God’s love and extravagant gifts, and squeezing out that love for His glory through a constant searching for Him, even in the difficult. Recognizing Him in the hard things and pouring out praise is the goal.

It would also be difficult for me to see Dr. Sunshine without thinking of my friend, Traci, who was also his patient. She saw heaven’s healing before earth’s, but I carry a piece of her with me. She would be rooting for us, celebrating our victories, as we celebrate hers. She is never far from my mind.

As you pray for us, please share any words or verses the Lord brings to you. We will have long days to ponder them. We appreciate all of your love, prayers, generosity, and support. There are no words to adequately express our gratitude. May you be blessed by the part you play in our lives. To our good and faithful God be the glory.

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It’s a Spirit Thing

I wanted to tell this story because it’s an amazing God story and it might help someone else dig deeper into the burdens they’re carrying, but it’s also difficult to put into words. So while you read this post, just keep the words to the Newsboys song “Spirit Thing” in mind: “It’s just a Spirit thing. It’s just a holy nudge… it’s just a little hard to explain.”

I love Holy nudges and am so grateful when I receive them. I want to shout it from the rooftops, but they are also often very personal. The nudges I receive are communication from God that not everyone will understand (because the communication is about my own heart and life), but I’m going to try to put this one into words.

God gave me a vision one day of shadows of people hanging off me, pulling me, dragging me back. It wasn’t the actual people hanging off me, but their shadows, their darkness, their burdens. I’ve shared before my gift of sensitivity and feeling other people’s emotions. I no longer believe it’s a curse to feel other people’s emotions, but a gift. However, it’s not a gift meant for me to carry alone. I know how hard it is for me to disconnect after I’ve sat with someone in their pain. Instead of feeling with and for them and moving forward with life, I take it a step further and pick up their burden, trying to carry it for them. I add burden after burden and it gets heavier and harder and I start walking with a limp, my own heart and body breaking down under the weight. Even when the person starts feeling better, I still can’t put their burden down. It never leaves me. I carry their shadows even when they no longer do so.

I’ve known this about myself for a long time and have done quite a bit of praying and working through it. I keep feeling led back into a helping profession but I have to learn how to let go somehow so that I don’t continue to carry on my back every client I’ve ever had. It would destroy me. Please don’t hear me say there’s something wrong with feeling for people… quite the opposite actually. However, my job has to be bringing those people before the throne of God, guiding them into the arms of Jesus rather than keeping them in mine. It’s His job to carry them through their difficulties while I walk beside them toward healing. I’ve tried to be the savior more times than I’d like to admit but it’s my job to trust people to the true Savior.

I thought I had prayed enough prayers against my emotional destruction and savior complex before. I’ve brought people in emotional turmoil to Jesus many times. I thought I had gotten past this but it turns out I hadn’t quite fully released control. God showed me that day that I still had a cord attached between me and every single person I’ve ever felt deeply for and with whom I’ve felt pain. I was completely unaware of how much baggage I was still carrying that wasn’t even mine.

After God opened my eyes to the shadows dragging from me, I spent a long time going through each person, praying for them, telling God I trust Him with them, bringing them to His throne, and visualizing breaking the cords and purposely handing them to God. He showed me that it’s not my job to pull them along through life, but to let Him have the reins instead. He said His yoke is easy. How hard I have made it instead!

After releasing each person in this way, I felt so physically light it was almost a shock to my body. It was nearly dizzying. It wasn’t a relief yet because I immediately started to panic, nearly full-on panic attack panic. So I asked God what was happening to me and it was suddenly so clear. In that moment, I felt more alone than I ever remember feeling before. I had no one with me to back me up, and no one for me to drag along. I felt indescribably vulnerable. It was just me and only me. I wish I could fully convey the sense of smallness I felt in those moments. I felt like an ant… a speck of dust to be trampled on. I was tempted to feel utterly insignificant and terrified, a tiny bit of scum in the presence of a huge and holy God.

But in His most precious way, the Holy Spirit rose up in me, squashing those lies that I am a tiny pile of nothing. No! I am God’s child. He chose me. He LOVES even me. How amazing and nearly mind-boggling that He loves someone so small and weak. In my deepest vulnerability, God showed me His indescribably precious love. I was completely overwhelmed. He didn’t love me because I’m doing what I thought was helping others by dragging them along with me. He loves ME. Period. Oh, how can this be true? But, it is!

This was such a priceless healing from the Lord and insight into the burdens He so desperately wants to carry for me. He assuaged my fears about daily entering into the pain of others. Now, instead of helping others because I think it makes me look better in God’s eyes (I had no idea I was thinking this way), I can help others from the depths of love He already has for JUST ME. Dragging people along revealed two things to me: Sometimes it was just another way I was trying to earn the love that God has already given me. Other times it was a clear picture of my lack of trust in God with the lives of people I love. God gifted me with a powerful Spirit encounter that opened my eyes. Helping people find healing should be a privilege, not a burden. God’s burden is light… and my heart and body thank Him for that!

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Hope Is Alive

“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. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”- 1 Peter 1:3-5

Hope seems to be the theme of our days lately, from CR to the sermon series, to my own wrestling. So here are some more thoughts I jotted down as they came to me the other night:

I know what it is to look forward to heaven. I can’t wait to see Jesus. I’m struck by the term “living hope” in the above passage. Looking forward to heaven is a great thing but I also know how good I am at looking forward to heaven as an escape. I’m especially skilled at longing for heaven while at the same time despairing of earth. This doesn’t feel like living hope to me.

I know that THE Living Hope is my Savior who lives and moves and in whom I live and move. I wonder if living hope is an expectancy to experience eternity one day but ALSO an expectancy to experience a reflection of eternity here on earth through a vibrant relationship with Christ. Keyword: vibrant. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Vibrant, living, ALIVE hope is not just a survival, a trying-to-hang-on-until-Jesus-comes kind of life. I’ve spent countless days doing just that. It doesn’t feel like living. Honestly, it feels a little bit like dying.

Living hope must mean an eternal focus moment by moment, a constant searching for God in all things and a willing, excited obedience to His lead. It’s being saturated with His love and abundance and squeezing it out for His glory. This is vibrant. This is thrilling. This just may be the abundance Jesus was talking about.

I read something recently that I can’t stop thinking about. It was a prayer, “Help me to extract the precious from the difficult.” Life feels like it will always be difficult and I think I need to just let go and stop waiting to get better before I start living. I’ve come to this realization before but I don’t think I understood exactly how to do that. I’ve had a very hard week, weeks. I don’t know, I’ve lost count. Yesterday my blood pressure was lower than it was when I passed out during the test that diagnosed me with POTS. I haven’t had the courage to check it today. I gotta tell ya, when you don’t have enough blood pumping through your veins, it’s difficult to feel like living. It’s easier to pray for death because it feels a lot closer than life.

BUT, I am still here to fulfill a purpose for the glory of God and, if He wants me to do that from my bed, so be it. I will be sick for His glory. I will lie there and extract the precious from the difficult.

Yesterday’s precious: Lying in bed talking to God, being aware of His presence and being gifted with the beautiful song of a bird outside the window. Having the hymn “Sweet Beulah Land” in my head, constantly shifting my focus to eternity and giving me the opportunity to worship while God sustained me. My husband cooking a dinner he knew I needed (very salty to help with the blood pressure) but couldn’t make myself. Practicing a skill that I may one day be able to use to help others.

Some days a living hope may mean following God’s lead outside of this house to serve others. Other days it may mean following God’s lead to do the difficult work of worshiping from the bed, praying for everyone that comes to mind, and thanking Him for the precious. Who am I to question which kind of obedience and glory God wants from me? Both are God-honoring tasks. Both grow my faith. Both squeeze the received love of God out of me for His glory. Both are alive.

May He bring more physical life to my veins with each passing day… but EVEN IF He does not, hope… and Hope… is alive… always.

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Hope Does Not Disappoint

Hope is about as comfy to me as joy used to be. I’ve not been a fan of either of those words but that’s just because I didn’t fully understand them. I’m still not sure I do but I’m working through it. Apparently I’ve decided to work through it publicly since I’ve written numerous posts on the subject. I’ve warmed up to joy and am slowly coming around to hope. The veil is lifting and I think I’m finally starting to get it.

Our Celebrate Recovery topic for the last two weeks has been hope. During the three years I’ve participated, I’ve not been a fan of this lesson. I felt truly hopeless for a lot of years. Life had no meaning to me. But now I’m working on putting my hope where it belongs, not in health, mental health, finances, a feeling of belonging, or any of the other things I want, but in Jesus. There’s a difference between hope and want. I want all of those things, but if I put my hope in them they will very likely disappoint. They have already disappointed immeasurably.

So when I answered a question about hope last night, it was not meant to sound negative, though it was taken that way. In fact, it was probably the most positive thing I personally could have said because it captured a letting go that has needed to happen in me for a long time. Maybe my delivery still sounded a bit like Eeyore so I’m going to work on that, but I said something along the lines of, “My hope is in God. I’ve lost hope in everything else.” Does that sound negative or positive to you? Until we fully understand true hope, giving up hope in everything else is always going to sound, and feel, negative. Raising my hand because I’ve definitely been in the negative camp for a long time. Thanks be to God, I think I’m finally starting to see the light.

My comment about hope wasn’t meant to be negative. I’ve put my hope in things other than God enough times to know that hoping in anything other than Him sets us up for disappointment nearly every single time. Life is so very hard. Why put my hope in something so unstable as anything in this life when I can solely hope in the One who will never disappoint. My only Solid Ground. 

I’ve not mastered this in the least. I’ve refused to get out of bed after the 12809475th (okay, so I exaggerate a little) time a doctor gave me the “I’d like to help you get better but I’m out of options” look. For so long I have hoped in health, in a “someday,” when that day may never come on this earth. So I understand the hopelessness of losing hope in this life. But I desperately want to discover the abundant hope that comes with placing my hope only in God. Does it sound like I’m talking in circles? I’m not. I’m talking about two different kinds of hope. Temporary, earthly hope, and lasting, eternal hope.

Just so we’re clear, it’s still going to hurt. Putting our hope firmly in God doesn’t make us immune to feeling pain when we don’t get what we want. When we hope for things on this earth and they don’t happen, what do we do with that disappointment? We fall to our knees and pour out the hurt on the solid Foundation that’s already there. Our world doesn’t rock and throw us off balance because our hope IS a Rock. It doesn’t move. I think there’s a big difference in hoping FOR and hoping IN. We hope IN God and, while we can hope FOR other things, we are not eternally disappointed when we don’t get those things.

That has been a huge misunderstanding in me for so many years and I think I’m finally starting to get it. Disappointment may actually be the most hopeful thing we receive because we get to run to the Hope that never changes or disappoints.

I’m not sure I can explain this very well because it’s one of those things that falls into the category of – until you get it, you’re not going to get it. Until it clicks and the light finally turns on, it’s very hard to understand this concept. Trust me, I know. I’ve rolled my eyes at plenty of ministers and words on a page talking about hope. I’ve said things like, “What? God can’t disappoint me? Ummm… yes, He can. He has. How dare you say He can’t?” Now I understand that He hasn’t. If we’re disappointed in God, that means our hope was in something He never promised to give. We projected our own desires onto Him and then got mad when He didn’t give us what we wanted. So can I hope treatment for my illness will work? I think so. As long as my hope is not IN the treatment, but FOR the treatment. If I hope the treatment works and get mad at God when it doesn’t, that shows my hope was in the treatment, not in Him. 

I think I’m finally understanding this hope thing… and that has given me so much hope! Oh, the irony. Life can be completely and totally falling apart. But when my hope is in God, that hope doesn’t leave me, change, or disappoint me. I’m having one of those heart-on-fire moments just writing this. I feel like the light finally turned on for me in this area… as soon as I let it go. Isn’t that the way it usually works with God? Give up all you thought you had in an area (control) and receive far more than you had in the first place from the abundance of God.

I recently prayed a prayer of submission to the hard things in life. “God, I’m tired of fighting. If You want to use my difficulties for Your glory and plan, I’m in. Your will be done.” It wasn’t an easy prayer to pray but as soon as I did, I didn’t feel the fear or disappointment I expected. I felt relief, a lessening of the constant anxiety I’ve had from fighting against the hard things. I no longer have to wear myself out striving for the things I want but may never get. Instead of, “Please, God, no. Please don’t make me do this anymore.”, I can start praying things like, “How can I do this hard thing for You today?”, “How can I be sick today for Your glory?” or, “What do you want to do in me through this?” Those are much more hopeful prayers than “Please, God, I’m begging You to take this away.” I’m not saying those begging prayers are bad or that I’ll stop praying them but I feel a lot less angst praying the submission prayers. How ironic it is that when I finally gave up hope… Hope rushed in. 

When we put our hope in God, it gives us courage to hope for other things because if we don’t receive those things, we still have the very best thing. I quote Susie Larson a lot but here’s another, “If you are in Christ Jesus, He is in you, and that means there’s no future part of your story that God is not a part of. And when you embrace that truth, you can also look back on your past hurts and know that they didn’t get the best of you. You’re still standing and God is in the process of redeeming your story.”

Therein lies our hope. There is nothing that happens to us apart from God. God is working to redeem our story. He is working to take all of the bad things in our lives and somehow, some glorious way, turn them into good. When you feel hopeless, its so hard to believe this truth. I know, and my heart aches for you if you’re still in that place. But it IS the truth. Speak it to yourself until you believe it. I have come through the deep darkness enough to see some redemption already happening in my story and it is MIRACULOUS. It is worth the near Hell I’ve gone through and it’ll be worth any more hellish things to come. I want more redemption… so I will trust Him. I will do my best to hope only in Him. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get the things I want in this life. I have the only hope that matters… the only One that will never disappoint.

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5). I have hated this verse. I have wished it was left out of the Bible or thought, “surely it couldn’t actually mean what it says. Maybe it was translated wrong.” Hope HAD disappointed me, broken my heart, kicked me while I was already down. But that’s because my hope was in the wrong things. Now I know that this verse absolutely means what it says. True hope will never disappoint. True hope is eternal. This is not an easy thing to grasp and I hope I haven’t made it sound like I’ve mastered it. Far from it. But the more I understand the Source of true hope, the more peace floods over me. I pray for a greater understanding of this hope with each passing day.

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God Fights Through Worship

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12

I hope that verse is the theme of our days right now. I’ve thought about it several times as I’ve asked God for wisdom, guidance, and discernment. I’m struck by king Jehoshaphat’s submission and faith throughout 2 Chronicles 20. When a powerful army approached, he declared a fast, reviewed the promise of the Lord, declared his people’s powerlessness without God, and he worshiped. He was so convinced of the promise that God would conquer the vast army that was coming against his people that he sent worshipers into the battle before his own army. As they praised the Lord, God Himself fought the battle for them. As Jehoshaphat’s men looked over the desert and the dust cleared, they saw that God had mightily won the battle. None of Jehoshaphat’s people had to fight except through worship.

I think worship gives clarity to our vision. When the battle kicks up dust in our minds, thoughts swirl and troubles come at us from outside and in, worship brings us back to one focus: God. It does wonders to clear away the distractions and worries. It reminds us that God is far more powerful than anything else that could come against us. Therefore, worship makes us stronger and more peaceful at the same time.

I tend to feel like I can do the things I’m afraid of when I worship. My vision clears of all the fears when I focus on the One who makes them disappear. Yes, I’m aware of all the unintentional rhymes in that statement but I’m just going to keep them there for effect! I have a supernatural confidence while I praise God that I do not have at other times. Knowing this, I’m not sure why worship is not always my first action.

Distraction has been plaguing me a bit lately. I just noticed that distraction is dis-traction and dis-action. Distraction makes us lose our traction, our footing, our steady connection to the Father. And it causes us to stumble passively rather than taking action and regaining focus through worship. While I do spend time with God each day, it hasn’t always been of good quality as of late. My husband working from home has changed my routine a bit and I’m certainly not blaming him. I could go to a different part of the house if I needed to. It’s just been a bit of a learning curve for both of us and I haven’t made the effort to change my habits. Without quality time with God, I’ve grown a bit restless and extremely distracted. My mind has been running a mile a minute with swirling thought upon thought. I finally decided to do something about it… imagine that! I decided to throw off distraction and fight for my mind and peace in the best way I knew how: through worship. I got alone with God in our beautiful window room one evening (I will never stop thanking God for the blessing of that room) and I prayed a prayer of submission. I confessed my sins, thanked God for His forgiveness, and I prayed about all the things that were on my heart. It was cloudy and dark outside and in. It took quite a few times of re-focusing through my distracted mind for things to start to clear. I began to listen to worship music and sing along with the songs. I remembered my God and fixed my heart on Him. It was a powerful time of praise and reconnection. It wasn’t long before God became my singular focus. As if to drive home the point that worship clears away the distractions, the cloudy sky cleared more and more as I worshiped. I began to see the stars and I smiled at God’s beautiful faithfulness. As the dust of the battle cleared, I saw that God had fought for me and my mind was His once again.

I can’t tell you how many times over the last few years God has fought for me like this while I praised. I have found tremendous healing through this practice. It’s not easy to make yourself praise Him when your world feels like it’s falling apart. But, oh, how powerful it is when you do! I find that when I don’t have the words to pray, I can sing and the Holy Spirit helps me pray through song. I have worshiped through anger, pain, and tears. Each time God has fought for me in mighty ways. The melody doesn’t sound pretty to us at all but I think it sounds beautiful to the ears of God when we choose to worship Him when it feels like our hearts are breaking. When we throw off our dis-traction and choose to plant our feet in the only One who can keep us steady, when we throw off the dis-action and choose the action of worship, God fights the battles for us, battles we could never win without Him. Why do we try harder to fight without Him than we do to worship while He fights for us?

Next time your heart feels unsteady or your thoughts swirl, choose worship. It may feel like the hardest thing you have ever done, but it will be worth it to have God fight your battle. When the dust of your thoughts finally clear while you praise the One who keeps you steady, you will see His mighty victory. He has already won! Praise God!

Here are some glorious songs based on 2 Chronicles 20 to get you started:

I Raise A Hallelujah (Bethel Music) I have so loved hearing my sister-in-law and niece sing this song via Facebook each day. They remind us daily to let God fight for us during this time.

My Weapon (Natalie Grant) Throughout the social distancing and stay-at-home orders, Natalie Grant and her husband have been blessing us with a song each evening. I had never heard this song before and when I heard her sing it, I could do nothing but fall to my knees and weep. Worship is SO powerful! Let it move you while God moves FOR you! Battles will be won in Jesus’ name!

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The Word of the Lord, Thanks Be To God

God speaks to me in different ways, through the beauty of nature, through words from other people, and through conviction in my heart from the Holy Spirit. But when I started to listen to what God was speaking to me through the Bible, His own Word, our relationship blossomed. It became more intimate. I can always mistake or ignore the nudges, get them confused with my own thoughts, or be amazed by nature though not sure what God is trying to tell me through it. But there’s something incredible about knowing when God’s own words are speaking to my heart. He’s written those words down for us. What a gift!

I don’t remember when it happened… this insatiable hunger for God’s Word. But I do remember the prayer that initiated it. I had been out of work for quite some time and it was during my very dark period so I’m sure I was desperately trying to grasp for whatever was going to get me out of the darkness. Deep down I knew I needed to let God get me out and I figured regular time in His word couldn’t hurt. But it felt like such a chore so I knew my attitude had to change first. I don’t know what made me say these words but I prayed, “God, help me be addicted to Your word.” I’m not God but I can’t imagine that’s a prayer He wouldn’t answer. Of course He wants to engage with us through His Word.

I’m not saying God is going to physically put your Bible in your lap and open it for you each day but I believe He will put the desire to encounter Him through His Word in your heart. He did for me. I’m also not saying that I always enjoy reading the Bible now, but my day feels off if I miss the opportunity. And many days I enjoy it immensely!

It takes 21 days to make a habit. It helps to break it up in our minds like that, to convince ourselves that surely we can stick with something for 21 days. We don’t have to think about it like, “ugh, how will I ever have time to do this every single day for the rest of my life?” Just take it in small steps and eventually our brains will form a habit. Let God grow the hunger in us.

Nothing about my day feels right without time in God’s Word… and a lot of it! I know not everyone has the kind of time I do but it’s absolutely essential to make time to read the Bible. Sometimes I wonder how I’ll handle it if I’m able to go back to work but I really believe that if we truly want to spend time with God, He’ll help us find the time no matter how busy we think we are. Any relationship will get stagnant without communication and we just cannot afford to let that happen with God. I am absolutely addicted to His word now and I could not be more grateful. Each day is another beautiful opportunity to encounter Him. Will I open myself up to that opportunity?

My purpose in writing these blog posts about how I found healing has been to practically lay out how to practice each concept but I am concerned it will sound like my way is the right way. It’s not. I’m just giving you ideas and you and God can discover what’s best for your relationship. Here’s what I have done for years, but that may change as God leads. My quiet time is in the morning. I try to remember to invite God to speak to me through His word. I read the devotion from the First 15 app on my phone. I like it because it’s very well balanced, includes worship and prayer, and zero fluff. I can’t even express how much I dislike fluff. Give me Jesus.. period. Then I just read the Bible straight through cover to cover. I usually make two page turns a day and end on a chapter ending. Then I read a Psalm because sometimes reading so much Leviticus deserves a palate cleanser 🙂. I definitely know my way isn’t for everyone but I have so enjoyed God opening my eyes up differently each time I read the same passages. I recently heard someone ask Beth Moore how she spends time in God’s Word and she was hesitant to answer as well because she knows her way isn’t everyone’s right way either. She gets up early while it’s still dark and only turns on a reading light so she can’t see anything but her Bible. That provides much less distraction and the first bit of information she gleans every day comes straight from the mouth of the Lord. How beautiful. We each have to work with God to find our ideal method of communication and learning and it may take some time trying different ways to figure it out. You won’t regret sticking with it!

God didn’t have to give us the Bible but we need to be thankful that He did. Some people don’t have the privilege and we often squander it so. It’s such an incredible gift from our Father who loves us and wants us to know Him.

When you get to the point where God speaks to you about whatever is going on in your life directly through His word, it’s going to be hard to go back to the days you spent without reading. There have been a few times that what I was reading on a particular day was undeniably God-ordained because it applied exactly to what I was struggling with on that day. I wrote about this a few blog posts ago. After hearing directly from the Lord, I became so smitten with Him, overwhelmed that He would care enough about me to speak to my heart in this way. It makes me want more: Addiction!

I’ll leave you with this. Once, God spoke to me through Isaiah 45. I have nearly every verse of that chapter underlined but the one that most jumped off the page at me was verse 3, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” I could write a book about what this verse means to me… and I am, haha. My book, if I can ever get it written, is called Treasures of Darkness. When I first noticed this verse I thought… treasures of darkness? Things are SO dark for me right now. I have to know more about these treasures. I believe the Word of God itself is one of these treasures. It’s something to be treasured even when things seem dark. It’s a shining light. Let it shine on your face each day and see how it lights you up. The Word of the Lord is a priceless gift but it means nothing if we don’t open it. Open the gift! Let it light up the dark!

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You Are More

This is not the topic I planned to write about today but I need to stop making plans. God’s in charge and I’m pretty happy about that.

I spent the better part of three days this week feeling sad and kind of lost and not being able to work through it because I couldn’t put my finger on why. I wanted to figure it out so I could move on but sometimes we just have to sit with it for awhile until God reveals its source.

I’d run through the checklist in my mind:
I’m a burden-bearer. Am I sad for the whole world? Yes… but that wasn’t all.
I had just started to gain more confidence in leaving the house. Am I sad because that’s been thwarted? Yes… but that wasn’t all.
Holy week is my favorite week of the year. Am I sad because it doesn’t look nearly the way I think it should look this year? Absolutely… but that still wasn’t all.
Picture after picture went through my head of things I’m sad about and people I’m sad for but I could feel in my guts that I still hadn’t discovered the whole of it. So I asked God to reveal whenever He was ready, and He did.

I’m a social worker. Social workers are in the trenches during crisis. I am not where my heart feels it should be. I feel helpless. I’m tempted to feel useless. My heart is ready to go back to work. I pray someday my body follows. It’s hard to be a benched social worker aching to help. I reached out to several places and offered help from home but finally just let go and asked God to bring people to mind and show me what to do, or bring the people to me. And in His sovereignty, He did… along with a word of, “patience, My child.”

Here’s what I’m being reminded of: I am so much more than a social worker. I can do whatever I am able to encourage my circle and follow God’s lead to who and how He wants me to bless. Susie Larson said recently that God reminded her that just because she doesn’t feel well doesn’t mean she can’t be mighty in prayer. Right now prayer is my weapon and my job and I am so honored to do it. God reminded me that it is enough! I am enough!

And that’s what I want to remind you. You who have just been laid off and don’t know what to do with yourself. I remember… and my heart aches for you. You who have worked more hours in a day than you thought humanly possible and have to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow. I remember… and my heart goes out to you. You who have to hold it together to help others when you feel your own world is falling apart. I remember… and I wish I could wrap you up tight! I want to remind you that YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN YOUR JOB. YOU ARE NOT YOUR HEARTBREAK. You are not irreparably broken. There is no such thing. You are GOD’S BELOVED CHILD, His HEIR. Our identity is so much more than we believe when we choose to wrap it around earthly things.

I am not a crippled social worker. I am a PRAYER WARRIOR. I am an intercessor, encourager, and listener. You are not the lie Satan is whispering into your ear now that the thing you thought identified you has been taken away. You are a child of the Most Holy God. Let Him show you who who really are. Stand in awe of the heart He placed in you. I pray for you to see yourself through His eyes.

I’m not saying this isn’t a process and isn’t difficult. It was one of the hardest lessons I learned. But such freedom and abundance comes from embracing it! Invite God to sit with you. Ask Him to show you who you are. Ask for His perspective and be open to receive it. I feel like I’m making this sound so simple when your heart is breaking. It’s not simple. But it’s worth it. So be angry, sad, hurt, confused as long as you need. But invite God into it. I pray He shows you a depth of your identity you never knew was there.

On this Holy Thursday remember this. Long ago on this the day before His death, Jesus prayed for YOU. He prayed for me. I am undone by this. His prayer was that we would be unified and be with Him. That’s what was on His mind this night so long ago. If that doesn’t help us understand our importance above and beyond any earthly identity, I don’t know what will. You are MORE. Don’t ever forget that!

“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” – John 16:22

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The Healing Presence of God

Throughout my period of darkness, I gained a much more profound awareness of God’s presence. Nothing is more healing. NOTHING.

I remember one of the first times God’s presence was almost tangible. I had just returned home from a particularly difficult doctor’s appointment. The doctor became another of multiple doctors to tell me there was nothing more he could do for me and I felt out of options yet again. Heartbroken again. Hopes crushed again. I pulled into the garage and turned off the car except the radio because it was playing a song I needed to hear. I stayed in the car so long that the car light and garage light went off and it was nearly pitch black. As the music played about the goodness of God, goosebumps formed and tears began to fall. As I sat there, all senses focused on God’s goodness with no distraction and no light. I became so overwhelmed with God’s presence in the darkness. It was clear to me that He and only He saw my streaming tears and was comforting me.

I received treasure in the literal and figurative darkness that day and so many others after. I began to feel pulled to the guest room late at night to fall on my knees and let God hold me. There are so many distractions in the light. Too many things to look at. Too much noise in the daytime. God shows up so strikingly in the dark because He has our full attention. Those nights of brokenness on the floor are the most precious times to me. Even though they often felt like agony and I thought things would be irreparably broken forever, those were my closest encounters with God.

Isn’t that precious of God? In the darkness, when we need Him the most, that’s when He is most tangible. But it wasn’t always that way for me. I would get mad when people would say their darkest times were the closest they were to God because I didn’t feel that way. I wondered what was wrong with me and why God wasn’t showing up. But He was. I just had a veil of bitterness obscuring my vision. But when I let Him remove the veil… when I prayed for sight… oh, the comfort I found!

The presence of God is what heals. Through counseling I learned that God can heal past wounds if we let Him take us to those hurt places that haven’t yet healed. We don’t have to live in those wounds by ourselves and we don’t have to keep them covered. Inviting God into our wounds allows Him to bind them up, just like He promised (Psalm 147:3). When I learned that God is not only present, but OMNIPRESENT, that’s when I understood that He is with me now and He is also in the past with me during the moments I was wounded. It’s hard to wrap our human brains around this concept! But He can heal those past wounds because He is still there now. He can give us a new memory of His comfort if we let Him carry us back to those painful places. I suggest doing this with support, as it can be very painful to revisit old wounds. But it can also be incredibly healing.

God’s presence also deflects fear. When we are aware of God’s presence, we are aware that there is nothing to fear. His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). When we fully grasp that the same God who is all-powerful and not at all surprised by anything- including global pandemic- is WITH US, we better understand why we don’t need to fear. From someone who still struggles with anxiety disorder, I know this is easier said than practiced, but when that anxiety comes, scoot a little closer to Jesus. Pour it out at His feet. The closer to His heart we are, the more peace we’ll find and the less we’ll fear. Listen for the heartbeat of your Savior. Eventually, your heart will beat peacefully with His.

With God’s presence comes His love and acceptance. I knew God accepted me because He said there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). I knew that but I didn’t believe it for a very long time. Then I finally got to the point where I believed God loves me but didn’t believe He accepts me. Huh? I guess I just thought He loved me but preferred the elusive perfect me that I ‘should’ be. When I finally understood the acceptance of God to my core, that He accepts the me that I am right now- the afraid, doubtful, sinful, current me- I can’t even describe the freedom and abundance that came into my heart. I stopped beating myself up for every imperfection. I was so overwhelmed and overcome with the love and acceptance of God that I felt something come alive in me that my constant self-condemnation had killed. God still raises the dead. I feel it in my bones.

I crave God’s presence now. If I’m doing something that isn’t seeking after or spending time with God, I honestly get a little restless. I miss Him! Not that He left and not that things like watching a bit of TV are bad, but I just love spending time with Him so much that my heart seeks Him out. The immense healing that has come into my life through my awareness of God’s presence is enough to make me constantly want more! I want more God! Always!

So, how do we actually receive the healing God wants to give us through His presence? It probably takes a little practice. At least it did for me. First thing’s first… ask Him! Invite Him every single day to walk with You. I have tried to remember to say to God every day for at least a year as soon as my eyes pop open, “Good morning, God. I need You.” It helps to start your day remembering who gave it to you. Then remind yourself often throughout the day that God is with you. Thank Him for what you see and experience. Ask Him for whatever you need. Sometimes even invite Him to just sit with you awhile. Wouldn’t you do that with a friend? He wants to be invited into your life and He so loves being with you! Then when you have private, quiet periods of time, ask the Holy Spirit to take you back to unhealed memories. Ask Him to help you recall and show you where God was during those times. Ask Him to pour His healing into those wounds. Again, you may need a counselor or trusted friend to help you through this if your memories are too painful.

It’s hard to explain how to ‘practice the presence of God’ because it’s something you just have to experience. There’s not a one size fits all prescription but you could start by inviting Him to sit with you in the dark. No distractions, no light, no noise. It may feel uncomfortable at first but soon enough, it will be the most comfortable you’ll ever feel because you’ll be with the One who knows and loves you most. He sees you and loves you even when you try to hide in the dark. Let Him see. Let Him love you. Let Him accept you. Let Him heal you. Things can feel really dark right now even in the daylight. But we know that’s when God shines brighter. Look for Him. He’s with you always. Remember that.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20b

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Let It Come

The man across the street has passed away. I’m making this assumption based on the constant motion over there for weeks, the line of cars with people dressed in black a couple days ago, and now the complete silence. 

Grief is an interesting thing. I think it’s somewhat expected that the funeral, the family gathering, the days immediately surrounding the death are the most filled with grief. But grief hits harder in the silence. No plans, no gathering, no distractions. 

I can’t imagine losing someone right now, not being able to gather and remember or maybe even tell them or hug them goodbye. No holding each other or crying together for fear of spreading the virus. My brain tries to protect my heart from even going there. I want to go inside and find something else to do. But I won’t. I will sit here awhile, gaze at his house, and pray God send His mercy and comfort to the family.

When I got sick enough to lose my job I had no distractions anymore. Nearly 20 years of grief that I’d refused to feel hit me all at once. I didn’t think I would survive so I pushed it away until I couldn’t anymore. I survived. And you will too. Let it come. 

I think a lot of us are feeling grief right now, whether it’s the fresh grief of job and social loss or old grief that you’ve managed to fend off until now. Now that it’s harder to push the silence away. Let it come. In the silence, we hear God’s voice more clearly. He wants to heal the hurts that have been living in us, slowly sucking the life out of us. Let them come. Acknowledge them. Speak them. Cry them. Scream them. Hold them up to the presence of God. 

You may not feel better instantly. That’s the thing about grief… it’s a slow healing. But the wound won’t even have a chance to heal if it’s pushed aside. It needs to pour out and breathe, allowing for the healing touch of God. Pour it out.

Everyone has to find what works for them but here are some things I have done. I have put on worship music in the dark, fallen to my knees and sobbed to my Father. I’ve asked Him really hard questions. I’ve gotten angry. I’ve screamed into a pillow. I’ve had fights with a punching bag. I’ve curled into a ball picturing myself at the feet of Jesus crying all my grief out to Him. Dr. Caroline Leaf just posted the other day that we should find an “anger wall” in our house and throw soft toys at it screaming whatever we need to get out. The point is, however you need to do it, let it out. Keeping it in destroys you. Trust me, I know. 

So today, even though the sun is shining, I am sad. And that’s okay. I’m tempted to distract myself and I have managed to do so thus far. But right now I’m going to sit here and grieve, for the world, for the man across the street, for his family, for my aching arms that want so badly to hug my loved ones. And I’m going to let God hold me. Because I know now that I will survive the grief. And you will too. Let it come.

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This Virus Could Heal Our Land

Good afternoon, friends. I know life is very strange right now and I hope I can get some of my thoughts together to share them with you. Let me start out by saying, this is A LOT for a burden-bearer/empath/someone possessing the gift of spiritual sensitivity. So if that’s you, I’m right there with you. I FEEL the whole world’s feelings right now and it’s so very heavy. I’m doing my best to lay the burden at Jesus’ feet where it belongs but it certainly isn’t easy. We’re all going to need lots of time at the feet of Jesus. Let’s not forget to take care of ourselves in this way.

One of the stories that has been helping me recently is about a man who went to visit some missionaries who were run-down and feeling defeated by the oppression they were experiencing. When he stepped off the plane the missionaries asked him, “Do you feel the defeat, the oppression in the air?” And the man said something I cannot get out of my head, “I carry the Living Lord Jesus with me. When I step on this soil, THAT OPPRESSION FEELS ME.” Oh my goodness, that gives me goosebumps. So as I feel the anxiety of seemingly the entire world, I’ve been reminding myself over and over again that I have the power, the authority, the love, and the peace of the Lord in me. While I feel the oppression alive in the world today, I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the oppression feels me too. WHOA. Let that be a comfort to you who are also sealed by the Holy Spirit of the Living God. Breathe, friends. That breath in your lungs is the breath of God.

There’s a particular author and speaker I follow on Social Media who was with someone who has the corona virus and that means this author is quarantined for fourteen days. I’m going to be vulnerable and honest with you today about the progression of my feelings and I do have a point so, stick with me. The first thing I did when I heard about her quarantine was cry for her. She lives alone and the thought of no human contact for two whole weeks for someone who is used to daily interaction is heartbreaking. Then I thought about those who live alone all the time and my heart broke for them as well. But the more she posted about it, I found myself moving into the “just get over yourself” realm. I wanted to tell her that I do this whole lonely thing all the time and she needs to get a grip. Wow, how quickly I turned away from grace. And really, I have a husband who comes home to me every night so, even though it is incredibly lonely to sit here all day every day, at least I have him. Some people don’t even have that and here come the feels again. I’ve been asking God how I can identify and find these people and regularly go give them hugs or something! But I think it spoke volumes about my heart that I moved so quickly from sadness and empathy to bitterness. What an opportunity God has given me through this for repenting and allowing Him to change and heal my heart.

I see so many people posting on social media about all the things they’re going to do to fill their time at home. I get that. When things get overwhelming, don’t think that I’m not going to put on some Netflix and try to turn off the world for awhile. But, friends, I want us to realize the incredible opportunity we have here. Please don’t miss it. We have an opportunity to spend time with God in solitude. This opportunity has tremendous value… a shining treasure in the midst of darkness. No work, no extracurricular activities, no outside entertainment. I want to encourage us to turn off the TV, turn off the phones, turn off the music, and just spend extended periods of time alone with God, allowing Him to heal the things we’ve allowed to sit and fester inside of us because we don’t have time to work through them. Throughout my period of illness, nothing else has been more healing. This could be an opportunity for renewal, restoration, relationship, REVIVAL. I just fear we’re going to miss it.

We have so much opportunity right now. For me, it’s an opportunity to discover and repent of the bitterness and jealousy I still carry. What will God show you during this time? You’ll never know unless you let Him. It’s also been a time for me to become painfully aware of my lack of concern for those who have even less human contact than I do. They have been so fresh on my heart and I’ve begun to pray earnestly for God to reveal to me or anyone else in their lives how we can identify and reach out to them. Who might God place on your heart during your time alone with Him? Someone’s feeling of belonging may depend on us opening ourselves to God’s leading toward them. We also have the opportunity to get to know each other’s situations and feelings better and to practice grace with each other. I appreciate the isolated author’s expression of her feelings of loneliness and singleness during her quarantine because it shone light on the shadows of my heart. It brought up less-than-healed memories of the complete loss of my daily support system when I left my job. This is a huge opportunity for God to clean more things out of my heart and I am filled with gratitude at the thought. What might God want to clean out and heal in your heart? Additionally, we have the opportunity to start conversations with people who are isolated much of the time. What do they need? How have we been failing to meet their needs? How can we reach out? What can we learn from them? Now that we understand just a little bit of their loneliness, what can we do to bring Jesus to them?

I’ve got a picture in my mind of Jesus during this uncertain time. No, I don’t think God caused this virus but I do think the way He plans to work it for good is for His people to use this time to spend with Him. I picture so many of us filling our time with activities and TV and social media while Jesus is right there on the other side of all the STUFF, waving His arms and saying, “Please don’t forget about me.” He loves us so much and wants to spend time with us. This could be an unbelievably healing time for all of us. Even though it might have taken a virus for God to get our attention, it absolutely could be the stuff of healing and revival. I encourage us to expect amazing heart miracles to come out of this by opening our hearts to His.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Amen. Let it be so, Lord Jesus.

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