Dancing in the Freedom

Ballet is something near and dear to my heart. I spent 12 years of my life in class and on stage. I miss it more than I can say.

Anybody recognize Sebastian the Crab? Oh, maybe not without the claws. Trust me, the claws existed. I just wasn’t wearing them. Or how about a little Colors of the Wind, with too much makeup and a silly brother who may hurt me for this picture? It’s amazing that I still remember the songs that matched the costumes.

And finally, because I don’t want to continue boring you with my reminiscing, here is a Lady in Waiting.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t always so dedicated to the world of dance. In fact, I didn’t get serious until a couple of years before the end, which meant I wasn’t nearly as good as I could have been. Much to my later regret, I fell into the dreaded trap of peer pressure. You see, I was part of a… let’s say… rebellious class. I don’t know if most of the parents just forced their daughters to attend or what, but the class jokers would take over and everyone else was supposed to be distracted and laugh. It became particularly awful when we got old enough to start dancing en pointe, which was my favorite way of dancing. But, did I admit my love for pointe to the class clowns? Of course not! It was during this time that I received the nickname, “Pavlova”, after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian dancer. But, don’t be fooled. This nickname was meant derogatorily. I was considered…shall we say… “uncool” because I was apparently abnormally skilled at putting on my pointe shoes. Dancers will understand that the proper way of putting on pointe shoes is an art in and of itself. It was a silly unwritten rule in our class that the first one with their toe shoes tied was a loser so no one wanted to be the loser. I cannot possibly explain how much time we foolishly wasted trying NOT to be first. When our teacher would walk in to see if we were ready yet, we all pretended we were still tying our shoes. This sounds utterly ridiculous but it gets worse. I specifically remember one day we took so long that we never had enough time for the actual class. That was the low point, pun intended.

I’ve been trying to recall what flipped the switch in us and made us actually start trying and taking dance seriously. I think it was a combination of the class clown quitting and the rest of us joining with another, much more mature class. It pains me to think of the skills I lack because of my tremendous fear of what other people would think of me. Dancing is freedom to me. Freedom of expression and freedom of self. And I was a slave to others, who didn’t care a bit about me.

I’d love to say that my mindset has changed, but sadly, it hasn’t. I still have the same, overwhelming fear of how other people view me. I am a slave to people instead of to God. I have honestly never really grasped what it means to truly own the fact that I am God’s child. His perception of me should be the only perception that matters to me… ever.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:2 (NIV)

I am loved by God. Do I just hear that so often that the full weight of that statement escapes me? Admittedly, I have been following the pattern of this world, but always with a longing in my heart for something better. Something that would set me free. Something I have always known but too afraid to grasp.

Perhaps the most disturbing portrayal of bowing under pressure from others is found in Mark 15, Verse 15.

"Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barrabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified." 

Can you imagine participating so fully in the death of the Son of God simply because of pressure? I can. I do it every day. Every moment I care more about what other people think of me than what Jesus thinks of me, I hammer the nail a little further. I smash the crown of thorns a little harder. Every moment that I hold back the personality and expression that God has created in me, I spit in Jesus’ face. Oh, my heart aches to write these words!

I am slowly, painfully realizing just how much I have allowed others to influence me and how much self-loathing I have allowed into my heart. How can a child of God be so utterly wrong about who she is? I’m sure there will be other posts as I continue to crawl out of this pit. As I slowly, painfully, remorsefully clean and kiss the wounds I’ve caused in my Savior. I cannot wait until the day I no longer care what other people think of me, I can wear the name, “child of God”, and even “Pavlova”, proudly, and I no longer have the ache of self-hatred and fear in my heart. I cannot wait to dance in freedom with Jesus. It’s Friday now, with all of its darkness and chains. But I see a glimmer of light and I cannot wait to dance on Sunday!

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The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

I remember the day well. It was the one and only time I was put on the witness stand at a court hearing. Sure, I’d been sworn in many times and had given updates on the progress of the teenagers on my caseload from my seat in the crowd. No problem. But to actually be put on the stand was a first. Not to mention, this was without a word of warning or preparation. It was a different type of hearing than the normal progress report. This was an attempt to get my client’s record expunged, but since I was only a contracted therapist and not part of the Department of Children’s Services, I expected to answer the usual, “How’s his progress in the program” from my seat and simply just watch the rest of the proceedings. So imagine my surprise when I heard the other party’s attorney call me to the stand.

I raised my right hand, swore to tell the truth, and haltingly stated my name and relation to the client. It was incredibly intimidating. I had never met this attorney in my life. I had never been present when he or the case worker discussed the case. I had never had anything to do with the legal aspect of this kid’s life except to be his therapist. And yet, the attorney proceeded to completely thrash me. He questioned my competence by forcing me to read an assessment that I had never seen before out loud and tried to make me interpret it even though I was completely unqualified to do so. He asked confidential questions about our therapy sessions, trying to get me to offer information even though neither I nor my notes had been subpoenaed. He paced back and forth for show and threw his hands up every time I answered a question as if my answers were ridiculous. I allowed him to make me feel like the worst social worker in existence.

When I was finally dismissed from the stand I just knew that I had hindered my client’s chances. I felt like I had completely messed everything up and I was sure I had ruined his life. Thankfully, by some divine intervention, the judge saw through all the hype the attorney was creating and ruled in our favor anyway. He didn’t have to do it, but he even offered a word of encouragement to me by way of informing the attorney that it was unnecessary for him to “completely ream the poor [social] worker.” Despite the favorable ruling, utter defeat must have been written all over my face because as we left the courtroom the bailiff whispered to me, “Smile, it’s not so bad”.

Even though the judge still ruled in our favor, I was not the same after that. I allowed that attorney to shatter any confidence in my ability that I had possessed. I questioned my effectiveness as a therapist and I questioned my career choice. I questioned myself as a competent person. When I think of that day, I’m still tempted to pick it apart in an attempt to figure out everything I did wrong. That attorney’s sole purpose was to make me look like a fool in order to win his case. He didn’t care that it would ruin a teenager’s life and cause an innocent person to question her entire career.

I’ve been reading “The Bondage Breaker”, by Neil T. Anderson, and when I got to the chapter called “Accused by the Father of Lies”, Anderson’s description of Satan took me straight back to the memory of that day in the courtroom. “In Christ we are important, we are qualified, we are loved. Satan can do absolutely nothing to alter our position in Christ and our worth to God. But he can render us virtually inoperative if he can deceive us into listening to and believing his insidious lies accusing us of being of little value to God or other people” (Anderson). If we let them, accusations from Satan can paralyze us with feelings of worthlessness. We can believe there is no hope for us and we can become completely ineffective in our walk. Anderson says, “But Satan is not your judge; he is merely your accuser. Yet if you listen to him and believe him, you will begin to live out these accusations as if they were a sentence you must serve.” The attorney was not my judge, and yet I allowed what he said to impact my life in much deeper ways than the judge’s favorable ruling and encouragement of me. Satan is not my judge either. God has already expunged my record through Jesus and yet I often live weighed down by the accusations and lies Satan feeds me that make me question my worth.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I’m sorry/not sorry to the attorney that I will never read this verse again without picturing him in my mind. The way he paced back and forth in that courtroom in an attempt to devour me is just too menacingly similar to ignore. And unfortunately, I allowed the attorney to devour me. I believed his accusations that I was a completely incompetent and worthless social worker. The judge had taken up for me and put the attorney in his place, but I still let it cast a shadow on the rest of my career. In the same way, we often allow Satan to devour us. We believe his accusations that we are worthless and our lives don’t matter. His goal is to make us ineffective and he succeeds more often than he should. Our Judge has taken up for us and our Defense Attorney, Jesus, “has never lost a case before God the judge” (Anderson), but we still let the accusations cast a shadow on our lives.

Well, I think it’s time to fight back with the truth. Jesus has already won our case and we belong to God, but Satan’s lies can render our ministries (and we all have one) ineffective if we believe them. But when we hear his lies, I’m learning that we have to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When a lie about our identity or worth comes into our minds, we need to capture it, throw it out, and combat it with the truth that we are children of God and have mind-blowing worth in His eyes. We have already been set free from bondage because Jesus took all our guilt. Our records are clean. We need to swear to tell the truth to ourselves and stop believing the lies. When we live in the truth, our ministries will not be stifled. Instead, they will thrive in the light of the gifts God has already given us for those ministries.

So, smile! Jesus has already won our case. Hallelujah!

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How Do I Keep Forgetting?

How do I keep forgetting? How do I keep forgetting it is well? Ann Voskamp calls it “chronic soul-amnesia” and boy, have I got it bad.

I may have told the story before, but my chronic soul-amnesia needs to hear it again. I’m not sure how I’m alive to tell of the Fall of 2015. I was already sick and losing weight due to undiagnosed autoimmune disease when I contracted pertussis. When I have a cold, I may feel like I’m dying for a few days to a week but then life goes on. But this time I coughed non-stop for fifteen weeks. I gave myself mouth sores and I’m certain I rotted my teeth from all the cough drops I constantly consumed day and night. I coughed so much I gagged and couldn’t breathe. When I did try to work, I would find my coworkers standing outside the bathroom making sure I came out of a coughing fit alive. I barely slept. I was so weak and sick. I truly thought I was dying. I made sure I had life insurance and things were in order. I hadn’t started writing letters to loved-ones but it did enter my thoughts and if I had possessed the energy, I would have done so.

I would sit up nights on the couch listening to worship music, sometimes begging God to take me home. It was during one such sleepless night that God introduced me to the song, It Is Well, by Kristene DiMarco. I found myself sob-coughing, lifting my hands in full worship, “Let go, my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know his name.” The miracle is not that I discovered the song. The miracle is that in the midst of truly believing I was dying, hardly able to breathe or sleep, God helped me worship with this song and mean it. How do I keep forgetting it is well with my soul?

My chronic soul-amnesia often comes in the form of fear. Fear of the unknown, of uncertainty, of pain, of vulnerability. Sometimes I’m nearly paralyzed by fear. But God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). God is strong in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). How do I keep forgetting? How do I keep forgetting it is well? How do I keep forgetting that, though the earth gives way, God is my ever-present help? (Psalm 46:1-2) It is very well with my soul.

My fear has become particularly debilitating lately. I haven’t been doing very well at laying my burdens down without picking them right back up again. I often walk up to the mountain, as I call it, and attempt to release my burdens. Last Saturday, I cried out to God on the mountain. I laid down my burdens before him and I sang to him. God often gives me songs to sing on the mountain when I can think of nothing else to say, and that day he gave me How Great Thou Art. I was struggling to leave my burdens there in peace so I continued to sing it over and over all the way down the mountain. Because this is how God speaks to me, I knew that we would sing How Great Thou Art the next day in church. When we did, I just smiled and felt incredibly loved by a God who cares about my burdens. Who am I that he would pay so much attention to me? How do I keep forgetting? It is very well with my soul.

I’ve had a pain in my side for more than a month now. I feel like I have a literal thorn in my side, a big one! Ultrasound, X-rays, CT show nothing. And yet it is always there, lurking, sometimes able to be ignored, sometimes excruciating. Much of my illness is puzzling in general. Kind of like my chronic soul-amnesia, it never leaves. Sometimes I fear what this pain means. But perfect love casts out fear. On the mountain of the Lord, He provides his songs for me to fight the fear and pain. It is well with my soul. This pain in my side meets the one in Jesus’ side and shared pain means less fear and more healing. Jesus endured pain for the intimacy of a relationship with me. Through unknown pain, I experience dependence on God. Through uncertainty, God is constant. Unless I allow it, fear has no power over me when Christ is living in me. Jesus’ wounds heal my wounds. It is very well with my soul.

 

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Haters Gonna Hate, Especially on Valentine’s Day

I wrote this on February 14, 2014:

To all of the haters on Valentine’s Day,

I have needed to write this note for some time now, though you probably will not believe me. There was a time when I would not have believed me. I was once one of you. Anyone who knew me before a couple years ago can vouch for that. Love just seemed so- what’s the word? – fake, gross, cheesy, elusive, impossible. I was the first one to gag at all forms of affection – every. single. time. Speaking of single, I was happy. I’m not kidding about that. Though there were definitely times that I thought it would be really nice to have a significant other (like when invited to weddings, needing a back rub, needing someone to open a jar, etc), I was completely ok with living life without a husband. Funny how we start to wonder about singles in their upper 20s… as if they are reaching their expiration date. I was incredibly blessed to feel complete in God. He is the one who completes me and makes me who I am supposed to be. A man would just be icing on an already-beautiful and fulfilling cake. I found it offensive when the little old man at church would ask me if I’ve found a man yet, or the other one who, instead of simply saying “hello”, grabbed my ring finger and asked “why is this empty?” – as if I could control that? I’m not exaggerating. Those scenarios actually happened. I wanted to scream to the world – What are we telling those who are single??!! They are incomplete and destined to be unhappy? And most sadly, that God is not enough. I wanted to, and probably should have, confronted the elder in the church who would ask why I don’t have a man. I wanted to ask him why he feels the need to infer that I am somehow incomplete. What kind of message is that sending? What kind of message is all of this sending? Well, I’ll tell you. Here are just a few of the lies that I was told, either by myself or by others who thought they were helping.

1.  “There is someone out there waiting for you”. – Umm, how do you know? What if God’s plan for me was to live out my days with Him only. Like I said, I felt complete, but the people telling me this lie only sowed seeds of doubt. Maybe I wasn’t complete after all. Now I want to tell people in general to stop saying this. It does not help, and it may not even be true. Only God knows. So please stop saying this.

2.  “You will not be fully you without a man” (a.k.a. “I am incomplete without a mate”). – This is one of the most, if not THE most dangerous lie. I believe 100% that until a person is able to just be single without feeling like life is over, they will never feel complete with a mate either. They will be more likely to worship their mate instead of God. This is beyond dangerous. Of course I had my doubts and have not always been as close to God as I should, but I knew that a man could never fill a place in my life that was meant for God. It’s just not possible.

3.  “You need to lower your standards or you will never find love.” – Yes, I was actually told this several times. I did not consider my standards unreasonable – male, never been married, no kids, loves Jesus, college degree, life experience, never had an intimate relationship, sense of humor, etc, etc. If I had lowered my standards, it would mean I did not respect myself enough to uphold my God-given desires. But then I actually started to believe the lie that this man does not exist, which leads me to Lie #4.

4.  “There are NO good men in the world. At all. None. Period.” – I fully believed that all of the men who met the above description were taken. There was not a single one left for me. Though men like this are very difficult to come-by, I’m willing to at least entertain the possibility that there is a man out there thinking the same thing you are thinking. There was a man like this for me, despite all odds!  If you told me this a few years ago I would have laughed… and gagged… and laughed some more. Funny how things change.

5.  “There must be something wrong with me… since I haven’t had a boyfriend in 10 years.”  -Though I was happy and complete, there were still some days that I would wonder what must be wrong with me. I mean, no one had even really shown interest in years. Was I that unapproachable, strange, scary, ugly? No, it just wasn’t time yet. I needed to fall in love with God first. During this time I wrote a song called My First Love. Some of the words are “Lord, I know you long to be my first love. Your arms around me show me that you are enough. Fill me with you before you give me to him. Ready my heart to let someone in. Prepare me for the one you’re preparing for me.” Little did I know he was preparing me, and he was also preparing Jason for what was to come.

6.  And the final lie: “It is not possible to wait for intimacy.” – We live in an over-sexed world. Nothing is left to the imagination or to the bedroom with your husband. It’s all out in the open, thrown in your face with a loud, “you’re-crazy-if-you-think-waiting-is-best”! A lie I often told myself was that there is no man who has never had sex before. He doesn’t exist. It’s just not possible and, the older I get, the less likely it is that I will find one. This ties into the “lowering your standards” lie. I am here to tell you, this is a bold-faced lie. You do NOT have to lower your standards. Don’t you dare let people tell you that your heart’s desire is wrong. God gave you the true desires of your heart. It will never be worth-it to compromise them.

As it turned out, there was someone out there waiting for me, much to my surprise. I was blessed to be completed by God and blessed to get my icing on the cake too! I did not have to lower a single standard because, in fact, Jason far exceeded my standards. He is a good man, and he gave me hope that there actually are good men in the world. There was nothing wrong with me. I just had to wait until God allowed Jason to walk into my life. There is a perfect time for everything.

So to all the haters – go ahead and gag, I deserve it! But also try to take some of this to heart, as it comes from the de-throned Queen of all haters! And to all the liars – just stop. Please realize that you are hurting instead of helping. And to everyone who chooses to read this – Happy Valentine’s Day, gags and all! Enjoy today, as it is just a day. Love is all year ’round.

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The Sin of Humility

“You must be struggling.” That’s what my friend said to me after she noticed I’d been kind of quiet on Facebook lately. Good grief. Even when I think I’m hiding it, God always uses someone or something to break through my walls anyway.

The Sin of Comparison

Struggling is such a relative term to me. But it really shouldn’t be. This is how my thought process goes. Yes, I have an illness, but I know other people who have far worse illnesses that they’ve fought far longer than I have. I’m not struggling. I know several people who have been in the hospital for a long period of time. I’m not struggling. This person over here is dealing with an abusive marriage. I’m not struggling. This person over here has already lost one child and just found out the child she’s carrying may not survive. I’m not struggling. This person over here lost his job with a large family to support. I’m not struggling. Reading my own thought process in black and white makes me kind of ill. Why do we think that other pain is more important just because it’s different than our own? Oh, my dear ones, why can’t we just admit that we’re struggling?

I don’t think I have the right to be struggling. There, I said it. I incessantly compare myself to others even though I’ve read so many godly writings warning me against this. I have a suspicion that some of you can relate to this realm of thinking. I still can’t seem to convince my brain that comparison is a thief. It’s a thief of joy, contentment, rest, even friendship. I don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to feel down. I don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to share my problems when there are others who have worse problems. I also don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to burden others who already carry burdens.

This way of thinking is an utter nightmare. Constantly comparing my burden to the burden of others in order to judge whether or not I have the ‘right’ to feel the way that I feel is nonsense, and I know it. The Bible gives us specific permission, no, INSTRUCTION, to share our problems with that pesky “carry each other’s burdens” verse (Galatians 6:2). It doesn’t say “carry everyone’s burden IN ADDITION to your own” or, “carry everyone’s burden INSTEAD of your own.” But isn’t that what so many of us do?

"But, 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.' For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." - 2 Corinthians 10:17-18

You may be thinking like me. Boasting? What I’m doing is far from boasting. I mean, verse after verse in the Bible tells us to care for others more than ourselves. But while I think I may be doing just the opposite of boasting, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Get this – I’m actually boasting about being humble. I’m not doing it out loud so it doesn’t look like boasting, but I’m still weighing myself against everyone else and I’m winning the ‘least problems award’ every time. But look what the verse above says. These things are not for me to judge. Only God can judge the heart and I’m willing to bet that he sees all pain equally. That’s just how much he loves us.

The Sin of Over-Analysis

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe I should have said this. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything at all. Is she upset with me? What did his response mean? I’ve said the wrong thing again. She must be disappointed in me. He’ll never tell me anything again. I’ll never tell her anything again. My heart will be safer if I just stay quiet.” I, I, I, Me, I, Me, Me, I, My.

I absolutely hate admitting that my brain functions like this. I’m so obsessed with what other people think of me. I want to scream into a mirror – GET OVER YOURSELF! What about what God thinks of me? Have I forgotten to whom my life belongs?

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." - Psalm 139:13
"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" - 1 Samuel 16:7
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:22-24

The Sin of Can’t

Yep, I just went there. Even when I do have my mind on other people’s needs I’m thinking, “I can’t help them because I don’t have the money. I can’t help them because I’m sick.” And I’ve even been afraid to speak my heart. Afraid of writing, afraid of speaking, afraid of encouraging others because I’m afraid that I won’t speak God’s words or I’m afraid of what others will think about me. I think to myself, “if I say this, everyone is going to be watching me to see what happens next so I better not say it at all.” But goodness, I AM NOT THAT IMPORTANT.

This is all fear. Fear that I don’t have it all together. Fear that I am not enough. Fear that I don’t have the resources. Fear that other people may see my weaknesses. Well, guess what. I don’t have it all together. I am not enough. I don’t have the resources. I do have weaknesses. But there’s really good news. God has it all together. God is enough. He has the resources. And He is strong in our weaknesses.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" - 2 Corinthians 12:9

One Common Thread

What do all of these sins have in common? Self. The real IDOL… yes, I said IDOL… is me. How on earth did this happen? You’re telling me that the person who is constantly thinking about others is really worshiping herself? Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Think about it. Comparing yourself to others, believing you have nothing to give to others, over-analyzing how others interact with you- It’s really all about you!

Perhaps God revealed all of this to me so that I could, once again, show my cards to all of you. Maybe I’m supposed to overcome the fear of speaking my heart. Maybe there are others who haven’t recognized the hidden sin in their lives. It’s absolutely stunning to think that Satan can take humility and turn it into a sin. Deception at its evilest. When I tried to figure out why I’m struggling and why I feel so depressed, God put a thought into my mind that if I were Satan what would I do? I would start confusing and putting fearful thoughts into the mind of somebody who thinks one of the only things she is offering the world is her words. I would make her feel the need to compare herself with others. I would make her think that her words are hurting people, or her words don’t matter, or her words will just be misunderstood. I would make her think that she can’t. I WOULD SILENCE HER WORDS.

If I were the enemy, I would steal, kill and destroy. I would steal the meaning that you thought your life had. I would kill your joy. I would confuse and destroy your relationships. I would steal your heart with constant fear and doubt.

"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

Jesus came to give us a full life. Letting Satan steal, kill, and destroy is anything but a full life. It’s a full mind but it’s not a full life. Jesus did not die so that we could constantly compare ourselves to others. He died for all of us equally. Jesus did not die so that we could over-analyze our interactions. He died because he loves us. There’s no ulterior motive, no angle, just LOVE. Jesus did not die so that we could discourage ourselves with “I can’t”. What if Jesus had said, “I can’t?” The truth is, we can, because Jesus lived, loved, and died for us. He is our strength when we are weak. He gives us permission to feel the way that we feel and he feels it with us!

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." - Hebrews 4:16

Look at that. Approach with confidence, not fear. Receive mercy that none of us deserve. Find grace to cover the sin of self, and grace to help us in our need. If we don’t admit that we are needy, we don’t allow Jesus to meet our need. If we don’t admit that we are struggling, we don’t allow Jesus to carry us through.

So when you put it that way…. I’M STRUGGLING!!! JESUS, CARRY ME. And the really, REALLY good news – His arms are strong enough to carry us all.

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Prayers Offered in Faith Will Make the Sick Person Well

"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." - James 5:16

I’m struggling to find the right words for this. There just aren’t words beautiful enough to describe what happened today, but I pray that God gives them to me.

The last journal entry I wrote was on January 19 and I told God that I felt lost. I told him I was having trouble believing that I will ever be healthy again in this life and I didn’t know if it was ok for me to feel that way, or if I should keep hoping for health. I didn’t know if I was supposed to just accept what is, like a thorn in my side, and live my life as best I can, or if I should keep believing that God will heal me physically. Of course I have hope. Hope for eternity. But I ran fresh out of hope for health in this life. Honestly, I’m exhausted. I’m so tired of the fight. I’m tired of hoping for every appointment and every treatment, and getting my hopes crushed. I just didn’t think I could do it anymore. I told God the thought of continuing this exhausting fight for something that isn’t going to happen is unbearable and I prayed that he would give my feelings direction.

I think I’ve said here before that God speaks most clearly to me when he gives me songs. They are not my songs at all, but His. I would never be able to write them on my own. A new song is one of the ways I know that God is present with me. But I very briefly mentioned in a post on Monday that I hadn’t received a new song in awhile. Being the beautiful person that she is, my friend immediately sent me a card that said God is filling my heart with music and will bring me to song again soon, along with this verse:

"Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted." - Isaiah 49:13

What a beautiful, beautiful verse. Perfect for me, really! Here’s where it starts to get very obvious that God is working. Before I ever received the card, God heard my friend’s prayers for me and gave me a song called I Wait for You. A perfect song while I waited for God to answer my prayers about my hope. A song asking God to show me His glory. I thought the song was an answer to my prayers. Little did I know that God was only getting started.

My Rheumatologist had set up a Dermatology appointment for the next day (yesterday). I was supposed to get a biopsy to confirm the next illness they think I have – Lupus. However, I received a steroid shot at my last Rheumatology appointment and when I showed up at my Dermatology appointment, they said a biopsy so soon after a steroid shot would skew the results. Let me tell you, I was fighting mad! It was such a waste of time and money, just to have to go back and spend the same amount of time and money in three weeks, and my Rheumatologist should have known that! I was so angry! My lack of a job does not leave us room for errors like this! I was ranting about it to my friend, who then prayed as only a person of bold prayer would. She prayed that I would receive peace, but also that I would find a monetary treasure somewhere, somehow. Well, I did find a penny yesterday, which was a beautiful sign pointing me to what God was about to do, though I didn’t know it at the time.

Today, I received the card that my friend had sent me and was floored that God filled me with song even when I didn’t know she had prayed about it for me. She then came over to my house to tell me even more news. Her car recently broke down for good and she was cleaning it out to take it to the junkyard. She reminded me that she had prayed for my treasure, and then told me that she found my treasure in her car. She said I have to accept it because it’s an answer to prayer. What could I possibly say? I’m still so very overwhelmed by this whole story.

The nearness of God has been so real to me lately. He knew exactly when I needed hope. He knew exactly when I needed a song. He knew exactly when my friend’s car would break down. He knew when she put that money in there long ago and forgot about it, that it was meant to bless me. He knew she would immediately recognize the answer to her prayer and she would let him use her. He used her precious heart to bless mine with far more than money. He has shown me that he does care about the physical things. If he cares about money, he cares about my health. He does want me to hope for more than just eternity. He does listen to and answer our prayers. And he did show me his glory!

As soon as I started writing this, God brought to mind the verse that I put at the top of this post. And now that I look at it again, the previous verses just complete this story and confirm that God has had his hands ALL over us.

"And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." - James 5:15-16

My prayers offered in faith gave me the most incredible friendship when I needed it the most. I could really write a book about how I know that God gave her to me. The prayer offered in faith gave me a new song. The prayer offered in faith gave me a treasure. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. We pray for each other, so that we may be healed.

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'" - John 9:1-3
"'Lord, the one you love is sick.' When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.'" - John 11:3-4

Loneliness, a period without song, a broken down car, wasted money, illnesses. These all seem like bad things. But just look! Look what God has done and tell me! Tell me that you don’t see his Light shining in the darkness! Tell me that you don’t see His glory! There is beauty in the wait.

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

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

Amen.

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Dear Doctor

Dear Doctor,

Do you remember me? Did you even know me when I was your patient? Or was I just one simple problem to solve with one simple remedy? Did you ever even look me in the eye? I wonder what would have happened if you had looked me in the eye. Would I have looked as mechanical as the picture in your mind? Or would I have resembled an actual human with a heart and soul and, yes, a physical body?

Dear Doctor, you’re in too much of a hurry. I feel as though I’m interrupting your day when your day is supposed to be dedicated to people like me. But you don’t truly SEE me, do you, dear doctor? If you did, maybe you would recognize that my pain is real. Maybe you would see a whole body rather than an individual malfunctioning part. And maybe, just maybe, we could solve the whole puzzle. But you’re not interested in the whole puzzle, dear doctor. You’re only interested in the first diagnosis that comes to mind and you’re not open to anything else.

Dear Doctor, you’re not listening! Do you hear me?? Or are you already singing your one solution in your head while I’m telling you I dance to a different tune? Everyone is different. Why can’t you see that?

Dear Doctor, why do I have to beg you to listen to me? Why do you not want to hear from the one expert in my body? Should you not want to consult the expert? I know from experience what will or will not work but you care nothing about my experience. You don’t care that the potentially-harmful drug you want to put me on has given me awful side effects in the past. You belittle me and patronize me when I voice my concerns.

Dear Doctor, you made me feel guilty. I get enough guilt from the outside world that thinks I should be getting better by now. But you. You signed up for this work. You treat people who don’t often get better, and yet somehow I left feeling guilty that the medication you put me on didn’t help. I felt like I had to apologize to you for my body’s lack of response, which is utterly ridiculous. You pressured me and made me doubt myself.

Dear Doctor, you made me feel crazy. You and countless of your colleagues saw my history of anxiety and that’s ALL you saw. That’s all you cared to see. You lumped every problem I had into mental health. You made me feel like it was all in my head, because you refused to believe it wasn’t. You told me over and over again that I needed antidepressants. You didn’t listen when I told you why I didn’t want them. You ignored the tremor of sheer terror in my voice and frightened tears in my eyes every time I told you I didn’t want to take them. You didn’t care that I had been on them before and the side effects and withdrawals were nothing I can describe other than Hell on Earth. I told you this point blank multiple times and yet that continued to be your only answer to all my problems. And while I believe there is a place for antidepressants, I knew in my heart that there was something else going on inside of me, but you and your one-track mind didn’t care to figure it out.

Dear Doctor, did you know that I am not crazy? Did you know that it was NOT all in my head? Did you know I have real physical illnesses with actual physical diagnoses?

Dear Doctor, WHY? Why did you never do just a simple lab test? If you had, you would have seen the clear autoimmune markers. You would have seen that my Rheumatoid Factor is 780 when it is supposed to be under 14. You would have realized that my body is attacking itself. When I begged you to believe that it was not all in my head, you refused to look any further.

Dear Doctor, you messed with my mental and emotional health. You ADDED to my anxiety instead of helping me find the root problem, because you doubted me. You doubted my soundness of mind and, therefore, you weakened my soundness of mind. You made me doubt myself and your attitude stole from my overall well-being.

Dear doctor, you don’t think beyond a diagnosis. You don’t consider that there may be something else. You don’t care to learn from me and for me. When I told you my stomach issues are related to my autoimmune problems, you simply said that’s difficult to prove. And you, the Specialist who treats autoimmune diseases, simply said you’d see me again in a year. Well, guess what, I was right.

Dear Doctor, I finally found someone else. I found a doctor who cared. One who listened to me and spent time with me. One who took one look at me and knew I had Sjogren’s Syndrome. One who immediately ordered the right tests and took the right steps. One who LOOKED ME IN THE EYE and said with compassion, “I don’t know how you are still smiling”. One who made me feel human and let me participate in my own care.

Dear Doctor, you dismissed me. You dismissed me while I was still in indescribable pain and suffering. How is that healthCARE?

Dear Doctor, you’ve lost your compassion. You’ve forgotten why you went into this field. You’ve allowed pressure from insurance and drug companies, and your own habits to erode your concern for those you are meant to help. You were more of a hindrance to me than assistance. You took away from my life rather than adding to it.

So therefore, dear Doctor, I dismiss YOU. I dismiss your lack of care. I dismiss the patronizing looks, the passive-aggressive comments, the know-it-all attitude. I dismiss your cover-up ‘remedy’ and quick diagnosis. I dismiss the pressure, guilt and anxiety with which I left your office. I dismiss your one-track mind and my own self-doubt. It’s my one body, and it’s too important to allow you to participate in its care anymore.

I only ask, dear Doctor, that you refrain from treating others in the same way. I ask that you go pick up your listening ears wherever you dropped them. I ask that you remember your compassion. I ask that you return to the day you took the oath to “first, do no harm.” I ask that you keep learning, and what better source from which to learn than your patients? And I’ll even point you to the first step. Start looking your patients in the eye. I’m convinced that if you do that one thing, you will start to see them as human again. We are not a diagnosis. Please SEE us.

Sincerely,

Every patient who has ever been hurt
by someone who promised to heal

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From the Inside Out: A Year in Review

On this the anniversary of my job resignation, I feel the need for reflection. And perhaps God will use the sharing of my heart to stir something in yours. I’ve done a whole lot of lamenting this year, but I’ve also done a whole lot of learning. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about God and I believe that’s at least part of the reason he is taking me on this journey.

I have learned that I had my life’s purpose entirely wrong. Previously, if someone had asked me to identify myself, I would have led with Social Worker. To me, that defined who I was. I knew I was a child of God, but sadly, it did not define me in the 100% way that it should have. This year, God has helped me start to align my identity with his identity for me. My purpose is far greater than my narrow scope. I am still learning my purpose but this I know for sure: My purpose is Heavenly and eternal. I was not put on this earth to simply be a Social Worker, although I can definitely be that to the glory of God. And you were not put on this earth for your own plan. We were put on this earth for God to accomplish his plan for our lives, whatever they may be, for his glory. And what an honor!

I have learned that God wants me to start noticing beauty again. Somehow in the business of life, I lost the awe. I used to watch the sunset every night in college and sitting on the back porch of my first apartment. But after awhile, I stopped noticing it so much. Now, I find beauty in my day in the gifts of nature, God’s people, his provision, his love, his grace. God puts so much beauty into our lives and I was missing it! Are you missing it? God also wanted me to find beauty in his Word again and become more acquainted with his Spirit. Reading the Bible before seemed like such a chore, but now I love my time with God. He has helped me deepen my prayer life by leaps and bounds and I am so grateful. I pray the same for each of you reading this.

Onto the not-so-pleasant lessons. I have learned that years of unfelt and unexpressed pain wreaks havoc on body, mind,and soul. I knew my stubborn need for control was not good, but I never would have guessed the extent and length of time I’ve refused to let go. I didn’t realize it could completely wreck a body and now I will live with the consequences for the rest of my life. God is slowly teaching me how to feel things as they come and also how to lament pain from many years ago. Ironically, I am also learning that I am an extremely emotional person. That’s almost laughable because of how long I’ve convinced myself and others of the opposite. Everything seems to move me, good or bad. God has given me a very sensitive and deeply-loving heart so I guess I should just own it! For better or for worse, I’m learning that is the real me. It’s hard, but I’m trying not to be embarrassed by it. That may take awhile! Have you discovered the real you? Are you being the real you or are you hiding? If you are keeping the real you from the rest of the world, we are missing out on you. Have you ever thought of it that way? We are missing out on the person God created you to be and the way in which he intended you to impact the world. I pray that we all learn to let go and allow God to use us for his purpose.

I’m learning that I have very deep-seated trust issues. I’ve been trying to control everything to protect my own heart for so long that I have never known the freedom, relief, and healing that comes from fully trusting my whole heart to God. I thought I trusted him, but the fact that I continue grasping at control has shown me that I do not. When my plan doesn’t work out, I lose hope very quickly. When the treatment I thought would make me better doesn’t work, I despair. But you’ll notice I said “MY plan”. Once I learn to embrace God’s plan for me, the joy that gets me through the hard times is indescribable. Slowly but surely, God is teaching me that he is the most trustworthy companion in my life. He is chipping away at my protective walls and I see the light of freedom up ahead. How beautiful it is! I pray that this freedom is made known to you!!

The other day, the song “From the Inside Out”, by Hillsong came on the radio and I realized that is what God is doing for me. He wants to heal me from the inside out. He wants me to let go of the protection of my heart and allow him to be the protector instead. God wants to give me a healing memory for each painful memory. He wants to show me that he was with me even in the past hurts and he can still heal those hurts today. Many of you know that I love sunrises, sunsets, and sun rays. Something about the sky reminds me that God is so amazing that he has all of us held in his hands and still has the power and love to paint us a beautiful picture every day. Something about the sun rays reminds me that he is with me. You may also remember my description of my first panic attack. I remember exactly where I was and how it felt to ride in an ambulance to a hospital where everyone who cared about me was hours away in any direction. I was in the car near the Weston, West Virginia exit and I truly thought I was dying. It’s why the majority of my panic attacks happen in the car and my chest still tightens when I near that exit. Thanks be to God, I was finally able to visit my hometown again recently for the first time in a long time. On the way back, sun rays beamed from the sky for the entire nine-hour trip. And where they shone most beautifully was… Weston, West Virginia. I realized right then that God was giving me a new memory to heal the pain of a heartbreaking one. That doesn’t mean I will forget. It’s hard to forget something like that. But it does mean that my chest won’t tighten so much when I’m in the car and I’ll smile the next time I pass that exit because I will remember that God was with me then just as he is with me now. He was mending that piece of my broken heart back together with his loving, strong, healing, unbreakable bond.

Mostly what I have learned this year is that God IS working and has always been working in my life. God knew even twenty years ago during my first real grief experience that I would be completely stubborn about not expressing my pain. He knew that if he did not eventually allow my world to crumble, I would never heal. Everything I thought I could control had to fall apart so that I could see who was always constant. I needed to see God waiting for me to run to him when I was finally forced to stop fighting. The clearest picture God has given me of myself this past year deeply moves me. I see a stubborn, angry child on the floor of her bedroom, kicking and screaming, fighting for what she believed she wanted and furious at the world for taking it away. I see that awful day when I screamed hateful things at God for my perception of a ruined life. But I also see a picture of a parent kneeling on the floor trying to comfort a deeply-hurting child, getting kicked and hurt in the process, heart breaking for being blamed for something he knows is best. I see God, trying to comfort me and hold me as I try to fight my way out of his arms and spew hurtful things at him in my heartbreak. I see him soothing me, rocking me, and singing over me with the love of a Father. He loves me even when I hurt him. How can I withhold my love from him when I am hurting?

God wants to heal my memories and my heart. He wants all of me, from the inside out. He wants all of us from the inside out. Our Father goes with us into 2017, rejoicing with us in the happiness and comforting us in the sadness. Through the good and bad, he holds his children. I pray that we feel his presence in ways we never thought possible this year and that we remain in awe of the beauty. Blessings on your New Year!

Love,

~Karina

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Ending the Pretending

Have you ever received a gift that you know came straight from God? It could have been an actual physical gift, financial assistance right when you needed it, or even a word of encouragement at the perfect time. I’ve been incredibly blessed to receive many of these gifts lately. It’s amazing, humbling, and sometimes downright staggering to see how clearly God is speaking to me. From leading me to the best possible counselor for me, to words of encouragement from friends, to sermons that speak almost word for word what I’ve been wrestling with in my heart, to songs with messages I need to hear, I am overwhelmed by God’s clear and audible presence in my life right now. All of these gifts have been encouraging me to be more honest and real with my emotions and who I really am. Like I said in my previous posts, that makes me extremely uncomfortable and I have honestly been very tempted to give up and run the other way. But when God speaks, as scary as it may be, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to hear.

Right in the middle of all of these neon “share your feelings” and “be real” signs, God decided to make it even clearer to me by dropping the book, “No More Faking Fine“, by Esther Fleece, into my life. Really, God? I hear ya! I was chosen to be on the launch team for this book, which comes out January 10. I knew just from the title that I would be in for the ride of my life. You know a book is going to impact you when you start underlining even in the forward. This book has given voice to my very heart and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and healing.

“No More Faking Fine” is a true story portraying Esther’s journey through learning how to lament. She had a very difficult childhood and received a “suck it up” message at a young age. She learned to keep all of her feelings inside and thought that moving past her pain without feeling it and keeping busy meant that everything was “fine”. But she realized that pain doesn’t just disappear. It turns into far more dangerous things like anxiety, depression, etc. That is when Esther discovered the necessity of lament.

Lamenting is being honest with God about our feelings when we go through difficult times. Esther talks about our temptation to cover up our feelings, even in churches, because we think that being unhappy gets in the way of our joyful gospel message. However, there are many laments in the Bible so it doesn’t make sense that we would leave lament out of our own lives. Esther says in the very beginning that she wrote this book to give us permission to feel, to weep over our circumstances even while knowing that God is still with us through them.

She says, “For so much of my life, I thought sucking it up and faking away the pain showed true strength. But real strength is identifying a wound and asking God to enter it”. This is exactly where I am in my healing process right now. I have realized that my perceived strength of not allowing myself to feel has caused panic attacks, depression, constant anxiety, and yes, even health problems. But here is the great news. “[God’s] omnipresence means He is present even in our past, and even now, He can speak healing over the wounds we are trying so hard to leave behind. We can lament something in the past in order to receive health in the present.” This is what I was explaining to you in my last post and what I am attempting to do right now. I am trying to invite God into my past wounds, to help me feel the pain and to allow him to heal me from the wounds. It is messy and painful, but it is honest and healing at the very same time. As Esther describes in her book, it is impossible to heal without feeling the pain.

Another important concept in her book is that we need to allow ourselves to lament if we are going to be able to help others in their lament. If we are to “mourn with those who mourn”, we won’t be very good at it unless we learn to weep ourselves. She talks about our tendency to compare our pain to others’ and convince ourselves that our pain is not that bad. She says, “‘It’s not really a big deal’ are words we will never hear out of the mouth of God. That phrase only tells me we hold ourselves to higher expectations of ourselves in grief that God Himself does.” Just because our pain is different does not mean it is not just as important to God. He will never tell us to suck it up because we think someone else has it worse than us!

“We are so quick to get to the beauty that we skip over the brokenness or have a hard time seeing beauty arise amidst brokenness.”  I feel like this could be the theme for my blog. This whole thing is about me wrestling with my brokenness to find beauty. Without the brokenness, the beauty would not be quite so beautiful. As we draw nearer to God in our brokenness, we allow him to hold us through it all. Without our pain, we would miss the intimacy of God. Suffering makes us feel like we have lost control and often our automatic tendency is to push the pain away and act like all is well in order to feel like we have some control. But losing control is the perfect opportunity to allow God to finally have us. It is a holy process, this letting go. And without it, we can never truly heal. “Lamenting is a painful process. But it is even more painful to live a life of pretended strength, of keeping God an arm’s length away because you’re shutting down the conversation with a ‘fine’.” I want God to be as close to me as possible, even if the process of him getting there is painful.

The passage that impacted me the most was this. “God is lovingly and powerfully present with us in our laments, but sometimes that knowledge needs to be enough. Sometimes we need to learn to love God more than the happy ending we hope for.” WOW. This was like an arrow to my heart. I’ve been searching for happiness for so long that I’ve been disappointed in God because of all the pain. My heart needs to draw nearer to him in the pain rather than running around searching for happy. It is only then that I can find true healing.

Esther weaves the hope of healing throughout this entire book, but she ends by telling us how we will recognize the end of a lament. When the lament is over, we will begin to hear and sing a new song of praise that we would not have been able to hear prior to the pain. She says, “After spending the majority of my life sucking it up and stuffing my true emotions as far down as I could, I can say this genuinely: lament has given me my voice back. I can groan and cry, dance and shout, praise and sing. I’m singing now, because I know He was with me in the storm, and He celebrates seeing my faith make it out to the other side.” As someone who feels God speaking most through song-writing, this excites me to no end! I cannot wait for my new song!!!

As a member of the launch team for this book, I felt like it was part of my ‘job’ to write about it, but it turned out to be my absolute privilege to share this gift with you. This book has impacted me more than any I have ever read and I will be referring to it many times throughout my continued journey. Don’t forget to pick up your copy of No More Faking Fine January 10. Pre-ordering is also available now. Thank you all for joining me in my lament. I can’t wait to share the new song God gives me when the healing is complete!

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Wonderful Counselor

"Because sometimes that's what has to be done. You have to lay down with it. The hurt. Or the heartache or even the hate. Whatever is inside. Sometimes you have to get close to it. Taste it and understand it so you can define it, before it defines you." - JmStorm

I used to be a therapist. It was my first job in my Social Work career. It’s a common statement that all therapists should have therapists, but I had no idea how to be on the other side. It completely stumped me. I realized that, even though I tried with all my might to get my teenagers to open up about their feelings, I had no idea how to express my own. So, I didn’t. And I thought that would be OK. I thought that not expressing emotions even made me a better therapist because I could listen to someone’s intense pain without breaking down. I created a rock-solid wall around myself because I was so afraid of getting my heart broken. And I thought that made me strong. But instead, I was so very weak. You cannot simply avoid pain. It has to go somewhere. And, even though I told myself I wasn’t affected (ha!), the pain piled up inside my fortress started to leak over the walls. It had to go somewhere, and because I had long-since been unable to let myself release the pain in a healthy way, it turned into panic attacks. As a therapist, I knew that meant it was past time to ask for help.

I’m not sure how I thought I would get any better by simply going to therapy without actually engaging in therapy, but I sure tried! I went to a few sessions but I was completely unwilling to explore the pain pile-up. In fact, attending therapy actually increased my panic attacks. I now know that was because I had a deep-seated fear of my fortress being attacked and leaving me vulnerable to the pain. I wanted to just ignore it, and hoped that by doing so, it would magically disappear. It doesn’t work that way…

I made the excuse to myself that the therapist was looking down on me (I still really think she may have been), I told myself I was fine and didn’t need her anyway. Change of scenery. I thought when I stopped being a therapist and got a job that I loved, all would be well. Instead, my panic attacks followed me. So, I gave it a good four years before I tried again. You know, just to make sure! This time I found a therapist about my age who was still in the licensure process and inexperienced. I thought maybe I could open up to someone who was less likely to look down on me. Yes, my brain has an interesting logic sometimes. I am not knocking this therapist at all. In fact, I really liked her. I could sort of think of her as a friend instead of a therapist. The problem was, I wasn’t opening up to any of my friends either. This therapist tried, but she was just so inexperienced. I was able, with very little effort, to evade her attempts at cracking my walls. I told myself she helped me heal but really, I just WANTED to believe that I was healed. I wanted it to be over. I’m not saying she didn’t help, but the way she helped was to encourage me to write in a journal about my experiences on my own. So, I did. I wrote about each and every kid and my experiences working with them. I wrote about each painful experience in my recent life. One after the other, I wrote and I prayed. I prayed for each teenager and I prayed for my own heart, thinking that by writing I was releasing the pain. I told myself and my therapist that I was healed. I believed I was healed because that’s what I wanted to believe. But, that’s not how it works either…

In all fairness, I would have kept seeing her but, by that time, my health had taken a disastrous turn. I kept having to cancel on her at the last minute, which wasn’t fair to her and technically against policy. So, I told her I needed to get my physical health under control before I could continue working on my mental health. But, that’s not now it works either…

So, I gave it just a year this time. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you already know that during that year, my life had pretty much fallen apart. I lost my health, my career, our financial stability, friends, my sanity (well, almost). The thought had been nagging me that I really needed help getting through this but I dismissed it due to finances and, if I’m honest, being completely terrified. See, I knew deep down that my walls were crumbling under the weight of the pain I told myself I was getting rid of, when I was really just shoving it down to make room for more. You can only do that for so long before you start to break and I knew it. And it terrified me. The thought of someone finally seeing all the garbage inside of me, and forcing me to rifle through it, was completely revolting and horrifying. I knew that this time I wasn’t going to be strong enough to fake a healing. I knew I was actually going to have to let myself feel all the pain if I was going to heal. Oh, I craved healing! I longed to finally be me to the world even though it simultaneously filled me with fear, and still does.

So, I started praying. My husband and I started asking God that if this was in his plan for me that he would provide the funds for it. Right about that time, insurance sent me an unexpected check from some treatment I didn’t think they would cover, and my husband got a great second job. That’s when we knew that since God was being faithful on his end, I had to follow through on mine. I was still too afraid to pick up the phone. The final straw was a stress that God was using to bring up all kinds of unhealed memories and I knew I couldn’t go through those memories again without help. I considered going back to my last therapist because it was the safest way to go. But, healing is not safe.

I felt myself being led to Christian Counseling instead. My two previous therapists were Christians and they were counselors, but they weren’t Christian Counselors. By code of ethics, they were not allowed to discuss God or lead prayers unless I brought it up. I really felt I needed to be led to and through God’s truths instead. I began to truly believe in my heart that my healing could not fully happen unless God was the Healer, standing at the very center of it all. I needed the real Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). I needed my counseling to be absolutely saturated with him. So, I scheduled an appointment with a Christian Counselor and I prayed. I simultaneously feared that this would be like all of the other attempts at healing and that it would not. I told exactly three people that I was going to this appointment and needed them to pray that I would have the strength to walk through the door. I shook the whole way, but I walked in.

And what I found were the arms of God, wide open and waiting for me to explore the truth. My counselor prays with me and for me before and after the session. She reads Scripture to me and proclaims God’s truths over my life. She constantly invites the Holy Spirit to guide us in the healing process. And that’s certainly what it is, a process. It is not all hearts and flowers. In fact, it’s incredibly painful. Now that I am finally exploring and trying to allow myself to feel the hurt, at least 20 years of pain is hitting me all at once. I hate it. I want to quit. I’m not kidding. It is a struggle every week for me to go. But, here’s how God works. The very next Sunday after my first session, my counselor started attending our church, and sitting in the same vicinity as us. I know that if I quit going to counseling, I still cannot hide from her. Hilarious, God. Hilarious!

I want to, and sometimes still desperately try to, collect and patch up the bricks that are tumbling out of my crumbling fortress. But they’re falling too fast and I am broken. So broken. And God is showing me that perhaps I need to stay broken for awhile. After all, moving past all of the pain is what caused my problems in the first place. Oh, how it hurts! But, every week God gently picks me up off the floor and carries me through the door again. He is revealing things to me that I didn’t even know were there and he sits with me in the pain. He holds me when I cry and takes the punches when I get angry. He listens when I talk and he hears my heart when I can’t find the words. He is trying desperately to teach me who I am. He is introducing me to myself! I am not made for fear. I am not on this earth to constantly beat myself up. I am God’s child, created in his image. He did not make me flawed. And if I finally let it, his perfect love will cast out my fear. I am learning that I have to feel pain before I can heal. It is possible to ignore pain for 20 years. But it will eventually eat me alive. It’s already taken a big bite.

So, here I sit with my God, his Word, and his love, watching as piles of pain flow out and through my walls and through me. Sometimes I think it’s too much and I want to push it back in but it’s too late. The avalanche has already begun and there’s nothing I can do but feel it. And the whole time I know God’s heart feels it with me. His heart holds mine. Even when I throw tantrums, even when I grow numb, especially when I cry, he holds his child. It is my opportunity to feel well-loved by God. And what better love could be possible? THAT’S how it works.

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he that listens to counsel is wise." - Proverbs 12:15
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