Held together

Shattered and Broken. Destroyed and torn apart.

Everything is ending, the pieces are on the floor in front of you. The door just slammed, the call just came, the tears are running down your face.

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Maybe it is a job, a relationship or a family.  Or maybe it is a hope, dream or desire you have held as a pillar in your life for so long.

Whatever it is, you can’t breathe or focus, or seem to move on, it just feels as if you will die under the weight of the shattered pieces of your loss.  You might feel as you can’t continue, you can’t face the world, the others that haven’t been broken, and everything is together for them.

Perhaps you are in hard place of “this time of year” that can be suffocating.  You can’t muster the strength to smile and pretend everything is fine, so you just don’t go to that work party or that event with your friends.  You can’t face them again when your insides feel ripped in two. The happy couple or put together family is a punch to the gut.

My heart has been heavy this year thinking about how this advent season, the season of longing is truly that for many people.  2016 was a hard year for many, filled with heartache and pain and worry.  A year that just didn’t seem to quit. The world seems to be aching in so many ways.  Brokenness, shattered lives, cities literally crushed by hate and war, it is all too much.

We want to look away, we want to run and hide.  It seems too much to handle, to bear, to carry around from day to day. So maybe you ignore or just numb your self to the pain because you just can’t.

If you are anything like me, there might be things that seem impossible to hold together, to balance, to get through.  I look to myself to try to do it for myself, to pick up the pieces, to hold it together until I leave a party before I crumble.

The truth is that we actually don’t have to just power through, keep it in, and stuff it down.  Friends, we don’t have to hold ourselves together.  

We don’t do a very good job anyway, right.  We make a mess of it, like a stain that we try to fix without the stain remover.

The truth is that we have something that holds us together.  Someone, really.

In this season of Advent, of waiting and longing, I have been reminded that what we receive in the birth of Jesus is way through the pain, someone to hold it together for us, to be with us in the suffering.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17 ESV)

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And in Christ, all things hold together.  

The power of that statement, in those moments when all the plates you have been juggling come tumbling down, when you feel at the precipice of destruction, when nothing seems sure, is water for the parched soul.

He came to us, he came to our world and lived the hard life that we are living.  He knows the pain and suffering of living this human life.  He knows. And he is still here.  He doesn’t run from it or hide from us. He stays and is with us. What a beautiful savior we have in Jesus.

Friends, as we wrap up 2016, we don’t have to pretend or posture before God about the state of our lives.  Our lives might be laying there destroyed by our sin or by others.  We might be in the midst of suffering and pain.  Or maybe 2016 was one of your best, but the message is the same.  It isn’t up to us to hold it together. 

We don’t have that power or might, but we have the One that does.

Friends, live in the freedom of not having to hold it together.  Step into the heartache and pain, you won’t be left there, you won’t be alone in it and it isn’t up to you to make it better. Praise Him.

photo credit: Shattered dove via photopin (license)

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Numb

 

“Phew, she canceled on me, I don’t actually have to leave the house today.”

I didn’t have to get out of my pajamas for another couple hours.  I had spent the day before, laying on my couch for most of the day, and here I was wanting to do the same.  Even with piles of laundry on my bed and a sink full of dirty dishes, and I had a BBQ that I was invited to later. I was given relief for a few more hours.

No one really talks about the hard days growing up.  They tell you things like, “Work hard and you will be successful.” “Get an education and you can have a great job.” “You never know when you will meet your spouse, but you will.”

Life is hard.  Sometimes there are things we encounter that are hard simply because they are.  It isn’t necessarily because we did something or there were big changes, but because the daily grind of life is a toil.  It is hard.

However, the hard days are glossed over for this thing that we are chasing, “THE GOOD LIFE.” The life that is comfortable and secure, with enough money in your bank account, a good job, marriage, kids, a minivan, a house in the suburbs. Or maybe a version of that.

But what we don’t talk about enough is that life is hard, difficult and messy.

People get cancer, people end up not finding the love of their life in college, jobs get cut, houses fall apart, cars break down, babies never come or miscarry, people change, move away or hurt you.

In the midst of hard days, we chose one of two routes, either push through the hard or numb ourselves out and avoid it.

The later is usually my choice.  Hard days lead to exhaustion and spent emotions.  I long for rest and refreshment and for some reason, the idea of laying on my couch doing nothing always sounds appealing.  I turn on Netflix and zone out. My addictive personality is fed and satisfied, and craving more.  T

wo days later it is time for me to go to work again and I still feel exhausted.  I just spent my weekend not really living, just numb. Feeling far from God, not really experiencing anything.

I let myself hide, not face the hard things, because I think it will be easier.  I avoid friends, and pretend it is just because I am not working out and didn’t get enough of my summer. But that is a lie.

It hits me Monday morning….

“Is this the life you really want?”

Even though I am living a life that I didn’t necessarily imagine, it can still be a life that I choose.

Because if I am truly honest, I just react to what life throws at me.  I tell myself that it isn’t my fault, “things changed,” “I am not in control of certain things in my life.” I let myself fall into the depression, when I know that there are patterns that perpetuate these feelings.  These patterns pull me down in the pit.

But it is a lie that I believe that I can’t help how life has turned out. Because I chose how I spend my days.

I chose whether or not to get out of bed in good time on a Saturday morning.  I chose to turn on the TV instead of just going to bed.  I chose to not text my friend back because I just want to escape from the questions.

That other route…the one that involves pushing through the hard things. The one less traveled. It means doing hard things. And the truth is….we are fully capable to work through hard things.  We can chose to face the hard things and still live despite the trials and level of difficulty.

I am not saying that this is a white knuckle through hard things, just trying harder, doing more or fix it yourself. That’s a lie too.

Because the greatest promise is that we aren’t left on our own.  Often I have chosen to be numb because I believed that I had to push the hard thing on my own, I had to face down the demon by myself.

I don’t.  I don’t stand on this earth without someone standing right beside me/in front of me.

Friends, this isn’t a confession of figuring life out, or telling the story how I have conquered the avoidance tactics I take when things get tough.  This is a confession that I am not good at this, running towards life instead of from it.

This is a recognition that this is not the life that I want to live.  This is not how I want to spend my days! I want to live life present and alive, in connection God and with the people that I love.  I want to uncover the life and passion that are underneath the surface of these numb feelings. The older I get, the more I realize that the hard days make the good ones even sweeter and more full. img_7373

The ironic thing is that I said these words to a student last week that maybe I need for myself, “I know that this hard, but I believe that you can do hard things.  You have the potential to do a lot of hard things.”

If you think about human history, and how we continue to advance, break records, and overcome odds against all sorts of circumstances, we are capable of more that we would ever believe.

AND we have one that overcame first and did THE HARDEST THING so that we wouldn’t have to. He overcame the world, he fought back the enemy and won.  So that even in the midst of trials and tribulation we would know that it isn’t the END!

Friends, take heart.  We have an savior that knows that trials will come, and hasn’t left us alone.  He has overcome the world, so that the world won’t overcome us.

Do you take the hard road or the avoidance one like I do?  Do you lean in or run away?  How do you find encouragement when things are just plain hard?

(As I was finishing this post, I looked back at some of my previous posts in the last month. They are all about hard things, change, conquering hard things….it is sort of a theme, but I am okay with that! I hope you keep reading!)

Someday is here

The sun crept over the horizon, the mist and fog cleared and there it was, the water in which I would swim in very shortly.  The hustle and bustle of the already arriving athletes greeted my ears.  Anticipation continued to rise in my stomach, reaching my ears.  

I barely slept, and couldn’t eat anything when I got out of bed in the early hours of the morning.  Nervous couldn’t even begin to describe how I felt about taking on this feat.  
This idea, this dream, this goal had been taunting me for years.  Even before I accomplished other feats of athletic strength that I had discovered after college, I had known that this was something I wanted to do someday.  I had written into my bucket list years ago, thinking it would be fun to try someday. 
This someday was here.  

I watch others arrive with their own cheer squad, as I unloaded my bike and gear from my car.  I didn’t bring anyone with me, which in the end was something I needed.  I needed to do this one on my own.
On my own, for someone who seeks approval and looks to others to define who I am, is a hard thing. But I needed to do this hard thing.  I needed to prove it to myself, that I hadn’t let myself fall too far behind where I wanted to be.
As I walked through the body marking station and set my bike and gear up, I took in all that was happening around me.  Women, all shapes and sizes were setting up their gear.  The pro athletes, the groups of friends, the young girls, all seeking to tackle this course.  A different kind of energy infused the transition area, an energy that can’t be found many other places.  The kind of energy that comes from doing something out of the ordinary, the something that isn’t for everyone, the something that pushes your body past what you think it can do.
Sure, I had run races and done hard things in the last 6 years of my life, but this was the one thing that  I knew that would show me what I was made of. This gave me a chance to redeem a very hard summer.  
For me this was more than a race, it was marking point in my life.  
See I had just spent the previous 2 weeks laying on my couch in a depressed state, angry that I didn’t have the summer break I used to have, mourning the changes going on in my life.  Some good, some hard, but changes none the less.  
I slacked off in my training, too sad and lethargic to get out in the heat and train.  I was tired, spent from a hard school year and harder year emotionally. God has wanted to do stuff in my heart and mind and I had been running, because I know that what he wanted me to surrender was not going to be easy.  Putting down dreams and hopes even though you know that your God is faithful is still a hard thing. 
This event has become a pivot point.  I want to choose to live differently than I have before this time. I want it to be a moment that I told myself “enough” time to move forward, to take steps toward where God has me headed.  
So that morning as I got out of bed, earlier than I had in 2 months, I faced a big goal and some ugly demons in my head.  I couldn’t have just not done it, not shown up, telling others that I was injured and not prepared.  But that isn’t how I roll.  I was going to do it.
And…I am glad I did.
During the triathlon, I biked past women cheering others on, shouting encouragement up hills and towards the finish.  I ran with women who were ready to give up.  People I didn’t know shouted my name and gave me cheers to keep pushing myself further.  
So friends, I write to speak out about doing hard things, about pushing yourself to not settle in with the demons, to give yourself the chance to prove yourself wrong.  More than anything to wake yourself up from a stupor that comes from wallowing during hard seasons. 
I am not an expert, I don’t have it all together.  My Instagram feed lies to you, because I choose not take pictures of the days I don’t get off my couch.  I often fail and skip workouts and run from hard things.  But I know that on the other side is a better day.  After mistakes and failures there is a moment when you can just start over say, “Today, I begin again.” 
Today is someday, I can start over and begin the ascent from the valley, to move toward a better day.  Not to say it is easy or without challenges, but that when we put one foot in front of the other, you will continue to move forward.  Friends, choose to move forward.  Choose to take a step, just one step at a time.  Eventually, you will find yourself on the other side of the hard thing, the someday you didn’t think would happen. 
So friends, what is one hard thing you have been putting off to someday?  (Maybe yours isn’t physical, but emotional.) What is one step you need to take to get there?