Fully Known, Fully Loved

Ugh, gross, another Valentine’s Day themed post.  Seriously.  I know, I know, I really don’t want to be THAT person. 

Honestly though, this has been on my heart for over 2 months, so it isn’t really just about Valentine’s Day.

What I DO want to talk about is holding ourselves back from love. But I don’t necessarily mean the romantic kind.  Because the romantic sort of love begins somewhere else. 

This thought is a burden on my heart and the forefront of my story for a long time and is the cause of some weary and lonely days. 

“I am afraid that once they really get to know me, they won’t want to be my friend.”  I uttered these words over a cup of coffee with my bible study leader, whom I desperately was afraid of being real with.
This was after years and years of unraveled friendships as a teenager.  I came to college searching for friendships that would be the answer, that would fix that loneliness in my heart.  It was a line that would continue to linger in my heart for years to come.  I would just show enough of myself, of my heart to gain friendships, but never fully letting in anyone.
This has often held me back from admitting sin, or being real with friends.  I cared so deeply of what people thought of me.  In so many ways, I held it as an idol in my heart. I still do.
But what I found was that a fear had grown deep in my heart. Would anyone be able to penetrate my heart?  Would I always be this guarded?  Would I always feel this lonely?
We often times, hold out on people.  We put them at arm’s length because we are afraid. At least I am.  I find myself often lonely because I have held people at bay because I don’t want to let them all the way in.

This thought struck me, as I was complaining about why I am the person that does things for other people, but people don’t often serve me.   (Okay, I know that sounds extremely ungrateful and selfish.) But the point I am getting at is that people can’t serve us if they don’t know us.They don’t know us because we don’t let people in.

 And….we don’t let people in because we are afraid. 

Afraid of what happens when they really get to know us.
Afraid that if we are our true selves and we care for them, they will disappoint us or hurt us. 
Afraid of being rejected.

So we put up walls, we learn how to be independent and not attach ourselves to anyone.  We learn how to show only what we want people to see.  We learn to protect the very parts of us that we don’t want anyone to see.  This is so easy in our Facebook and Instagram culture, with just a picture showing people what we want them to see of our lives, not the mess beyond it.

If you are like me, there is corner of your soul, that longs to be fully known and fully loved. Even with our built up fortress around our hearts.  We long for someone to take a sledge hammer to our walls and see our muck and jump in anyway.  We long for the unconditional love that our hearts are created for.

Friend, I don’t write this because I have fully grasped this, but because I know the loneliness and these are words that I desperately need to hear, truly.

Psalm 139: 13-16
For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

He shows here in the Psalm that he already knows us.  So much more deeply than anyone else ever could.  We cannot keep any part of us hidden from our creator.  Even more so, he loves us.  Despite everything, he loves us. God loves you, he loves you.  Can we let that sink in….
Psalm 31:7
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,

We so are loved by the God of the universe, what do we have to fear of men. God knows every bit of muckiness in our heart, and yet he still sent his Son to die for us.  
When we rest secure in that, what do we have to fear?  What can others do to us.
 
Really it comes down to the fact, do we believe what God says about us? That we are adopted into the family, that Christ has covered us, that we are now righteous in his eyes.  Do we rest secure in that?  Do we believe that to be true?
If we do believe that then we can do as Detrich Bonehoffer says: 
 “Because Christ stands between me and another, I must not long for unmedi-ated community with that person .. , ‘Christ between me and an other’ means that others should encounter me only as the persons they already are for Christ … Spiritual love recognises the true image of the other person as seen from the perspective of Jesus Christ. It is the image Jesus Christ has formed and wants to form in all people.”
We can fully love others, and let others fully love us, when we know that God fully loves us, and fully accepted us.  We do not have to fear rejection, because we have been accepted. 
Friends, take heart, we are fully known and fully loved by a God who sees us and welcomes us in, under his wings, into his family. 

What if I don’t know?


It is mapped out for you.  It seems simple….right?
 
First, you finish high school in 4 years, and then you go off to college for 4 years. (Maybe 5, if you are lucky!) Next, you find a job in your chosen field.  Perhaps in that job, you move up and get raises and promotions.  
After college you might get married if you have found someone to tolerate you, or within the couple of years outside of school, you maybe meet someone and get married.  A couple of years into marriage you might have kids.  You have the family, you buy a house.  You settle in.  You take vacations, spend Christmas at the in-laws.
It is mapped out for you.  It seems simple….right?
However, perhaps if you are like me, it started in the right direction.  But now your reality is different than the fantasy.  You are in a place of waiting.  You don’t have a next thing.  The marriage didn’t happen, the kid hasn’t been born, the house fell through.  You didn’t get that promotion or you lost that job. What is next then?
Maybe like me, you made choices that you thought were the next thing without really thinking about them and now you are in limbo, waiting to figure out if you made the right decision or just wasted years of your life.
 You fret and toil over what is next.  People ask you, and you don’t know. And you start freaking out “I DON”T KNOW!” Your next thing doesn’t look like those around you and everything seems a little more uncertain.
For me, it is a horrifying feeling to not know.  The uncertainty has me up at night, weeping tears of fear and anxiety.  It isn’t clear.  The future is uncertain and just darkness.
The road map has forks in the road or the road just ends, wilderness and untamed weeds stand in front of you. 
Perhaps if you are like me, you have always been certain, you speak with confidence.  You make decisions and make choices without hesitating.  And to be uncertain seems like a failure.
For me, the road is unclear, the next step isn’t mapped out for me and I have choices to make.  Choices are paralyzing, I don’t want to make a choice, because…..what if I am wrong? What if I make a decision that sets me back on the path?  I sort of imagine it like a board game, that if I make the wrong choice, I have to go back to Start, and roll the dice again.  Suddenly this game of life is a competition, and I am losing. 
Here is the truth though, we don’t have to know.   
We don’t have to know the next step.  Because we have a God that has the road map. 

In fact he made the roads, he made the plans.  He knows the next steps, and will not leave us here. 
This deserves repeating: He will not leave us here. 
If I am honest, as I write this, right now I have a really hard time believing that.  I certainly don’t live or think like this all the time.  I struggle with God, I doubt that he won’t leave me in this uncertainty.  I doubt that he cares.
Often times, this is a truth for other people, not for me.  God will fulfill his plans for others, but not for me. So now, let me preach to myself for a bit.  
 
He is a God that has fulfilled his promises.  He didn’t leave his people in their sin.  He sent his son to atone for those sins.  He promised he would send a way, and he did.  
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.” (Is. 43:10-11)
He also promised that he wouldn’t leave us or forsake us. He gave us the Holy Spirit.  
“ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

Even more, let’s remember the others who didn’t fully believe God’s promises: 
 
He promised Abraham and Sarah, and he did fulfill it.  Even if they messed it up and doubted him and made wrong decisions.
He promised David, and David ran. 
He promised Joesph, and Joesph had years and years of trouble and unfulfillment. 
What I love about looking through the stories of the Old Testament is the fact that story after story God is fulfilling promises and dreams in the most unexpected ways.  
So why do I look for God to make the path or the next step clear in an expected way.  Why do I look to God to give me all the run of the mill signs?  Why would I look at the road map, when I need to be looking to him?  
When we don’t know what the next step is, we don’t have to panic, we don’t have to fret.  It is actually the most amazing opportunity to trust God and run to him. And for us to expect great things, and unexpected answers.  And even if we are wrong, God’s plans are not thwarted by us.
Where do you need to expect great things from God?  Where to you need to trust in His promises? Can you be okay with not knowing? 

#NewYearNewYou: 6 Reasons that Resolutions are Good.

This hashtag #NewYearNewYou has been floating around the interwebs.  I see it and giggle.  I think about all the new people in the gym with their new gym clothes during January or about the new calendars and journals that people are carrying around. 

So many people make resolutions every year.  I being one of them.  For many years it was “This year, I will lose weight, I will be healthier.”  Or even, “this is the year, that I will go on at least 1 date.”  (That did happen….maybe not in the best way, but I met that goal!)

It is 18 days into the new year, and some people may have abandoned their resolutions, or they have failed already. Goodness knows I have been guilty of that many times.  Perhaps like me, you might have already missed a day or two on the read the bible in a year plan!

Instead of writing about my own resolutions, because they are very idealistic and a tad repetitive. Let’s talk about why making resolutions is actually a good thing.  Because really it is important to draw a line in the sand and say, “No more, I resolve to change.”  



Many people abandon the idea of making resolutions because they want to go against the grain, but resolutions have merit. Here is my take: 

1. Resolutions require reflection.

As a teacher, especially English teacher, I reflect daily.  I reflect on my own teaching, on what the students are learning, what I am learning.  I am naturally a very self reflective person, sometimes to a fault.  Sometimes, I fall down the rabbit hole of overthinking.

However, reflection is so vital for our living.  It requires us to look back and examine what we have done well, what we could do better, maybe areas in our lives that we need help, maybe an area that we over look. 

For example, if we didn’t ever reflect on our relationships, we could spend a lot of time thinking we are treating our friends well and not be.  It is easy to ignore things and become complacent.

2. Resolutions require commitment.

My generation doesn’t like commitment, we don’t like to be tied down.  We are not our parents, we like the freedom of being able to move out of a house and find another.  We like being able to travel, we like a flexible lifestyle.  Or maybe this is just me.

When we make a resolution we are saying that we are making a commitment to something.  This sort of small practice of making commitments is good for us.  If we can commit to not drinking soda for 3 months, maybe we can commit to a job for a least a year.  Those small steps are good things.

Don’t get me wrong, making commitment in relationships is definitely different from giving up soda, but it is a small step towards the ideas of making commitments. (Perhaps it is the same practice as those who buy a pet before committing to the idea of having kids??)

3. Resolutions require actions.

For many years in my life, I was very passive about my physical health. I let life pass me by.  When I began to take my health seriously, I had to take action in buying the right sort of foods, actually going to the gym and not just talking about it. (I write more about that here!)

Resolutions, most of the time mean that we are responsible to do something or not do something.  That is an action, when we take that sort of action, other things in our lives change as a result.

When we sit back and let life happen to us, often we are unhappy with the result, angry and bitter and just whine a lot.  However, one of the greatest thing about being human is that we have the power to take action in some way.  

4. Resolutions require and result in mental strength

Something I learned as a beginning runner is that my body is more capable of what I ever thought it was.  My trainer constantly was pushing me past what I thought my limits were.  Even as I ran my 1st mile without stopping I realized that what wasn’t possible for me several months earlier was possible.  I just had to get mental stronger to get there. 

Many people say, “Oh, I don’t think I could ever do that.”  or “I definitely don’t have the self-control for that.”  Which is frustrating because they do, they actually just don’t have the desire or the drive to get there.  But when we make resolutions, we start to begin to build that mental strength required for bigger things.

This translates to other things, hard jobs, difficult relationships, struggles in life. We have to have the mental ability to push through the mental roadblocks and keep going, because we don’t know our own strength.

Ultimately, I was able to run a half-marathon. It meant that a lot of times when I thought I would have to stop, the mental strength carried me through.  That ability to say, “Nope, gotta keep going.”

5. Resolutions ultimately mean that it is possible to change.

When you are stuck in a rut, you need to know there is hope for change.  When we are stuck in hard situations, we need to know that it is possible for things to be different.  We need hope. 

If we believe what the bible says we know that God ultimately gives us a picture of why resolutions can be significant.  He didn’t leave us in our sin, he provided a way to freedom.

He provided a hope and an answer.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”(2 Cor. 5:17  ESV)

Even in the old testament God promised not to leave us as we were: 

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV)

Every day I thank God that he hasn’t given up on me.  Thank goodness that God isn’t finished with us yet! Thank goodness he hasn’t left us here, but is continually working to transform our hearts and minds.  

Friends, let us look to Him to ultimately make a change in our hearts, because we are not without hope.

What resolutions have you made?  Have you given up yet?  What stops you from continuing?  Where have you given up hope?

photo credit: miss604 via photopin cc

When You Invite the Thief Into Your Life


“He comes in the night to steal kill and destroy.”
 (paraphrased by me, John 10:10)
So often, we look to either side of us and compare how we are doing with others.  We want to use their life as a yardstick for ours.
“She is in much better shape than I am.”
“They make more money than us.”
“Their family is not as dysfunctional as ours.”
“He has it all together, he has nothing to worry about.”
“She is getting married, and I have to catch the bouquet again.”
That is quite treacherous.  It leaves open the door for the thief to steal the joy that we might find in our own lives.
As I prepare my heart for these next couple of months of holidays and celebration, I long to not trap myself in the maze of comparison, especially with my family and friends.  In the end it just makes me resent them and be frustrated about my own life. Often times, this creates disappointment or let down after the holidays and perhaps a stint in the prison of despair.

This has prompted me to think about the truths of comparison:
In our own comparison, we often forget that others are doing the same.  
We are sometimes so worried about how we measure up that we miss the important moments.  
When I was in college, some of my best friends and I all led bible studies for freshmen women.  We met together right before the bible studies to prepare.  It was one of the most isolated times in my life.  I always felt like they were doing a better job than I was.  A year later, we were talking about it and someone admitted that they always thought everyone else was more successful than they were. 
All of our mouths dropped and we all admitted to thinking the same thing.
That situation actually made me so sad. Imagine what our time that year would have been like if we would have stopped comparing and competing with each other and really enjoyed our friendships. 
There it is, the act of comparing ourselves with each other, stole the joy we would have experienced together.  

Comparison isolates and feeds insecurities and fears that we didn’t know we had. 
I have spent many years, comparing my life to others, trying to live up to, or be on pace with other people.  So many times, I have lost my way in that.  I distracted myself from what God is truly doing in my heart and mind.  This has only led to disappointment and despair.  In my isolation and insecurities, I have made desperate attempts to salvage what I thought was a ruined life.  This only left me even more broken. 
Even now, I sit here comfortably in this coffee shop surrounded by couples working or hanging out together, looking all cute and adorable and…stuff. (Ugh!) 
But in my own sin, I see their life as better than mine and I sit here wishing and hoping for the day that I might do the same.  I waste my precious hours of coffee shop time comparing my single life to their supposed happy couple life.  Who knows, maybe this is the only time they see each other during the week.  Maybe they are just friends.  

In our comparing, we assume the best of others and the worst of ourselves.
I do it all the time, as I run, watching other runners run with ease and I struggle to push past my 10:00 min/mile pace.  I do it when I walk in to my best friend’s home and it is clean and tranquil, with curtains, and nice furniture, reminding me of my craigslist finds and my shared space with roommates. 
In those moments of comparison, all I am doing is making my life seem worse, I am inviting the pity party!  I am inviting the thief in to destroy any joy I have about my current life situation.
However, if we name comparison that, a thief, perhaps that frees us to run away from it and lock the door to its attempts to steal from us. 
In this we can also find comfort, we aren’t the first to compare, and we won’t be the last. 
“When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”” (John 21:21)
In this, I always imagine Peter thinking what we all think, “That guy probably is getting a better deal from Jesus.  He probably is more loved by Jesus. His job is more important than mine.” 
But Jesus nails this spot on, “If is my will..” Right, we have to look to will of God to realize that our lives aren’t meant to be the same.  
Now, 7 years later, looking at my friends’ lives and mine, I see how beautifully God has worked in unique ways! We have beautiful stories of mercy, grace, redemption, and none of them the same!
Friends, I urge you to resist comparing your life, your path, your faith, or even your holidays to others.  It never ends well, and will only leave you void of joy.  Rejoice in all that God has given you and look to him to satisfy every unmet need.

“The Best is Yet to Come.”


They enter in, some smiling, some confused, some nervous. It is the first day, they all look freshly showered in new clothes and shoes, anticipating a day of rules and expectations.  Some not so excited, because school is hard, not a fun place for them. 

 
That was the quote I had on the my QOTD board for the first day of school.  I wanted my students desperately to cling to the fact that they can hope and dream.  In fact they should.   
They are young, they have so much life left to live.  I want them to dream about the maybes and the possibilities to come before them. 
But you know what….I need that to, I need to hope and dream. 

Even though life isn’t what I expected it to be at this point, I need to hope and dream of the possibilities. 

 God is not finished with me yet.
There is so much life left to live.  Even when I am 85, I want to have that hope too.  That until my dying breath, God is not done sanctifying and using me in the lives of those around me. 
We all know those people who talk about their glory days, whether it be high school or college.  They talk about those days as if it were the best ever. They never seem to think anything better can happen to them.  They live in the past, reliving those days over and over again and seem to be unsatisfied with the present and the future. They don’t enjoy the life they have now and they aren’t really hoping for anything better to happen in the future.
We don’t want to have that perspective, because the best is yet to come.  God promises us that, in his Son and his second coming. 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.(Philippians 1:6 ESV)
However, for now we are still here.  And when we live with the hope of something better, not in a idealistic way, but in the humble hopeful anticipation, we live life with a zeal and joy that is unmatched.  We live facing each day with excitement of what God can do in that day.  We live our days with joy that God can still use us. 
It is so easy to think that after we left the “prime” of our life that God can’t use us. 
But let’s look at Moses, he was used as an old man, the father of the nations. 
Sarah still gave birth after her child bearing days had passed. 
God still used Joesph even though he was sold, in prison, and lived many years in struggle.
Ruth lost her husband, and she was apart of the lineage of Jesus.
David was just a simple shepherd, turned great king, but also a sinner and God still used him.
Peter denied Jesus three times, and he still was used in mighty ways.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways 
 and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
(Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)
All over the bible, you see stories of the sinners, the downtrodden, the hopeless, the destitute, the ordinary people, who are past their prime, unlikely to do anything, but God uses them the most. 

To me, that is the most encouraging, even when I think my story is over, it isn’t.  The best is yet to come.  

So friend, I say to you, the best is yet to come!  Don’t fear, give up or give in, the best is yet to come.  

(*The picture is a print from a shop on Etsy.  You should buy it. http://www.etsy.com/shop/decodezign)

On Repeat


I have been listening to this song on repeat for several weeks.  I blare it in my care, I listen to in my earbuds as I work out.  I play it in my classroom as I set up for my upcoming school year. 
I listen to the chorus, to the verses and let them soak down to the trenches of my soul.
And let me tell you, I need these lyrics, like a balm to my wounded bleeding soul. I need to hear these words over and over again.  I need them everyday.

I stand before You now
The greatness of Your renown
I’ve heard of the majesty and wonder of You
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us, You are not against us
Champion of Heaven,
You made a way for all to enter in

I’ve heard You calling my name
I’ve heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let you draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves

You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises You’ve made

I need the reminder that He is the source of my strength and courage. Everyday. Everyday I need it. 
A year ago, I drug myself back to school, figuratively kicking and screaming the whole way.  I didn’t want to do it all over again.  I didn’t want to climb the mountain of changes and challenges that stood before me.  My life seemed so disappointing and not at all that I wanted it to be.  I was angry, sad, and depressed.  
Now, coming into this school year, I feel so much more hopeful.  Not because of anything I have done, I didn’t just decide one day that life wasn’t disappointing.  I didn’t just wake up one day not depressed or anxious anymore.  However, I did stop believing the lie that I had to figure it out and do it on my own. 
I stopped letting fear dictate my decisions, my emotions, and my reactions to what life threw at me. 
I went back to the beginning, to the truth from the One who Loves me.  
I let his truth start soaking into my soul again.  When I began doing that, it was as if the whole world began to open up again.  Anything was possible. All was not lost.  God began revealing all that he was doing in my life and those around me. 

It made me braver in my prayers and voicing my hopes and desires.  It made me dream a little bigger and bravely give over those dreams to the Lord.  It freed me from placing my hopes in my circumstances and in him who controls them. 

When you let the love of the one who KNOWS you best, who CREATED you, who has your life in his hands, soak to the depth of your soul, it makes you brave, it makes you able to bare the hard things. 
Friends, it doesn’t make those hard things less hard or less painful, but it gives you strength and power.  Hegives you strength and power, that you won’t have on your own.  He gives you a hope that doesn’t rest on the outcome of those hard things.  He gives you a hope secure.
He is the source of hope, strength, power, and courage when we have none left.  He is the one we can look to at all times to work on our behalf. 
That’s why I am listening to this song, over and over.  So that, THAT truth, that HE makes me brave, will be an anthem to my weary soul, when things inevitably get tough, when I will surely be anxious and fearful.

6 Truths about Change

For a long time, I used to fear change. (No not the dimes and pennies, I love those!)

No, I feared the way everything could suddenly be different than it was before.  I love to be able to count on things happening when they were supposed to happen, people to be the way they have always been. (You could probably attribute this to my excessive need for control and my idea that my way was right all the time.

This past year, I tried to fight it, I tried to hold on tightly to the things that were changing.  I ended up being bitter, angry and sad for much of the year.   
I ended up being worried that I had done something wrong with all the change. I was anxious and worried that I had somehow messed up my life plan.  



While processing all that has changed, I thought about some of these simple truths about change.  

1. It adds up.- The small things can suddenly be big.
In the 5 years that I have spent as a teacher in a public school, I have to had face change 5 times.  Every year is something different.  Every year we have new teachers, new policies and procedures.  Every year, I have something totally new to do in my classroom.
Sometimes all these little changes can get extremely overwhelming and exhausting, because learning new things is not easy.  It is hard, it requires work and dedication. It requires being uncomfortable for a short time or even a long period of time. Perhaps it means you have to step outside your comfort zone, embracing something you don’t initially like or understand.
However, sometimes…..sometimes those little things can add up to something good.  Like for instance, when I made little changes to my eating habits and physical activity and lost 90 lbs.
Then suddenly you realize one day that you/life/relationships are different than they were before. And you are thankful!
2. It always seems to happen at once.(Am I right, or am I right?)
Last year, I had a lot of changes coming up in the new year.  Not only in work but personally.  I was moving, living with more people.  I had to establish new routes to work, new running trails, new rhythms.  And I did it about the same time as the beginning of school. Last year, was a hard year, for many reasons, but mostly because of all the change all at once.  
Once the season of change passes, you are able to breath again, and look at things from a different perspective. Many times some of those changes are good ones, and when things slow down you can enjoy them.  In the end, you come out the other side different, changed, usually for the better.
3. The big ones hurt the most.  
Sort of like if you threw a handful of actual change (cents) at someone, the quarters would probably hurt the most.
Seriously though, the big changes (marriage, kids, moving, new jobs, loss of jobs) always seem to throw you like a giant wave crashing on you.  You don’t know if you will survive.  These are the ones that seem to shift your life course dramatically.  In these times you might begin to question and wrestle and even doubt your life choices.
The moving part of me was my big thing.  I got hung up on this change, suddenly it felt like moving into a house with 3 other single women was a giant step back from where I wanted to be. This sent me into a tail spin of questioning and doubting and rethinking what was next for me. 
The blessing that I didn’t forsee is that I did begin to rethink and question what was next for me.  I began to dream different dreams and uncover hopes I didn’t know I had. 
4. It won’t destroy you. 
Oh you think it will.  You think that this change, will be your death.  Many times, I dramatically would exclaim to my mother that my life was over, because this and this had changed.  
For example, when I was overwhelmed with graduating college and moving on, I was sad to leave my community of friends.  
“You will make new friends.” She would say.
“I…don’t…want….new friends!” I would sob into the phone.

But she was right. (I would never admit that.) I did make new friends, and dig into my old friendships in deeper ways.  
Much like how God promises to refine us by fire, to prune us so that we may grow. (Ps 66:10-12; John 15:1-6) But it is all so that He can make room for something else, whether that be so we bear fruit or to live in a place of abundance.
 
5. You need an anchor.
Much like a ship, when times of trouble are rolling in, you need an anchor.  You need something to keep you grounded, from drifting off course. 
Change sometimes can tap into our deepest fears, can cause more anxiety.  We want security and comfort, change threatens both of those things. So much like a ship in a storm, we need to rely on our anchor to remind of our true security and comfort.  
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,” – Hebrews 6:19
When change is whipping you around like the winds of a storm, remember the one who is your anchor of hope that doesn’t change.  He is our constant, our comfort, our security. 
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

6. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.
I have a wonderful, beautiful friend, who I admire greatly because she takes many changes in stride.  Something unexpected happens, she just rolls with it. She walks in grace for herself and the situation.  “It’s life.”- she says. 
(I imagine that is one of those qualities I skipped over in my frenemy Proverbs 31) 
We have to be able to sometimes just jump on a surfboard and ride the waves of change.  We have to see where it takes us and choose excitement  instead of fighting it.  (Now, I am sure that is in a surfers instruction manual somewhere!)

What about change is hardest for you? Do you roll with it or fight it? Or do you have anthem or motto that gets you through?
photo credit: Tom Gill. via photopin cc
photo credit: AGrinberg via photopin cc

Is fear winning this round?

Put on your boxing gloves. Step into the ring…and face your opponent.

Fear. All gloved up and ready to go.  He has some good ammo, he has been training, looks pretty fit.

As you stare at your opponent warming up, dancing around, getting the crowd all pumped up.  Already psyched out, you prepare yourself to just to take punch after punch.

Fear loves to talk trash….and is pretty good at it. He is going to find your weak spots.

Dancing around each other as the the bell rings for the round to start, Fear starts in….

….bringing up those nagging feelings of doubts and misgivings about your choices.
.reminding you of the should’ves and could’ves that haunt you. 

….whispering that thought that you are wrong about who you are and who God is.
….taunting you that you will always be on the outside, and you have to work to earn favor. 
….claiming that you will not accomplish all the things that you want to accomplish.   
….declaring that it is no use in working hard or sweating it out.  Fear says that you can’t do it.  
But really….. fear doesn’t want us to try at all. Fear wants to deliver punch after punch, disarm us with everything he has, and  make us ineffective and declare us the loser not a second after the round starts.
Fear is pushing us to hide and cower away from God.  Because when we hide, then the enemy wins the round.  When we second guess ourselves and doubt, then fear wins. 

When we let ourselves believe all the lies and trash talk, we are letting fear win.  We are forfeiting the game. 

We are backing down from something that has already been beaten.    

..”But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

We are letting the loser win, when we have the power to win.

 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 

We are already on the winning team. We are already in the circle and welcomed in.  

 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Then why do we get in the ring and suddenly start to cower away from Fear?

Perhaps we know what we are getting when we choose fear instead of courage.  Perhaps we want to be sure and fear gives me the sure thing.  We can count on fear, because we have seen it work time and time again.  (We like things we can count on, like snow in Colorado and sunburns in Cancun.)

We continue to forget, fear has already been beaten.  FEAR is defeated. Fear has nothing left.  All Fear has left is trash talk, nothing, words and lies that have no merit or truth. 

AND we do not want what fear has to offer.   
Fear only offers darkness and death.  Fear only offers misery and hopelessness. 

And the good news is that we have to settle for that!

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13

Ready to put those gloves back on and claim the victory already won? Go ahead! Jump into the winners circle. 

photo credit: M Glasgow via photopin cc

Fear is sitting in the LazyBoy

Fear. The nagging feelings, the overwhelming emotions, the constant worry.

A past acquaintance. Recently a constant guest.  All too familiar

It claims the comfy seat in my life.  Not just standing in my doorway, but plops down into the lazy boy. 

You might call it cautiousness or timidness, but I have always lived afraid.   
Sometimes it manifests itself in fear of calling people, fear of being left out, fear of being lonely,  or fear of not having any friends.  

This “friend” that sits in the lazy boy of my living room,reminds me everyday that I am insignificant, incapable, and a failure.  It feeds on lies and rumors and negativity.  It breeds like rabbits too.  It is like a mold of my heart and mind. 

It is nothing but a fungus on my soul.  Just growing and breeding.  My fears compounds on everything that I am feeding myself.  Negative thoughts, negative experiences, friends, relationships, the humidity of life. 

AND instead of going Ghostbusters on that bad boy, I just let it sit there, like it belongs, like it is welcome.
Today, I write to remind myself that fear doesn’t belong, fear isn’t welcome, and it isn’t productive in the creative process.  Perhaps that is why I haven’t done something creative in so long.  I am afraid of making mistakes, of producing something terrible.
Fear whispers to me that making mistakes is a deadly thing, that making mistakes makes me a complete failure, but that is a lie.  Fear doesn’t let mistakes turn into a good thing.  God all makes things good. 
I write to remind myself that it is never too late to go after my dreams.  It is never too late to do something amazing. 

Again, I write to sing the refrain “fear is no longer welcome.”

It is time that I kick him out, that I get out the bleach and the mold killer.  It is time that I clean that fungus out of my soul and breath deeply.  I need to breath deeply, let the clean air of possibility in to my soul.  

So friends, breath deeply. Perfect love casts out fear and God has given us perfect love in Jesus.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18 ESV)
 
Have you let fear into the living room of your soul? 
 
**Over this next month I will be writing on fear. Join in the discussion and share your thoughts!

Addicted

“You will never be able to eat whatever you want. You are a food addict.”

Harsh words that I needed to hear again and face up to. Even though it is hard to swallow and even harder to come to grips with.  Food will always be a problem for me, everyday

Those words were prompted by a year of excuses and denying my reality.

About a year and half ago, I returned from an epic trip to Australia with my family. Before I even went on the trip, I was carrying a few pounds after completing my 3rd Half marathon.  (I wasn’t running the miles but still eating the same amount of food.) So returned from my trip, I tried my best to get rid of those pounds, which I did, but they came back.

Slowly, after a few disappointments and a busy grad school semester, I mentally gave up. 

Last summer, between moving and a foot injury, some of those precious pounds that I worked and sweat off a couple of years ago began coming back.  Then in the midst of depression and hopelessness I spiraled.
At the start of the year, I realized that I had stopped hoping and dreaming about what could happen next.  Let’s be honest, in my mind I had thought that getting skinny was my best hope for good things in my future. 

I had thought getting skinny would fix anxiety, procrastination, relationships, and my own fears.

It didn’t.  It didn’t fix any of that, in fact it made all those things much more complicated.  I am still learning that.   

I also am still learning, like in life, there is never a point of arrival where things are over and you can live happy and content in that arrival place.

(Maybe this is the record that will be on repeat until the day I die. Maybe this is the one anthem that will be sung to my heart again and again.)

In the midst of that conversation, the hard reality hit me, I will never be one of those people that can eat whatever they want and not gain weight.  I will never be one of those people that doesn’t have to work out.  I will have to work hard for every pound and every calorie.

In the same way a alcoholic or a drug addict or a hoarder has to face up to the truth of their situation in order to heal, I have to do the same.  And I have to do so every day. 

But let me get spiritual on you, this is the reality of our souls as well.  We are sin addicts. At the core of who we are, we are sinners. We want to worship at the idol of ME. We feed that idol when we deny the reality of our sin nature.  When we down play the severity, when we chalk it up to circumstances or blame other people.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)
 

The part that makes this easier to bear, is the fact that God hasn’t left us in the street with a needle stuck in our arm.  The second part of the the passage gives us hope.

BUT God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)

When I think about this truth, and the reality of where I am at with my physical battle, I am hopeful.  If God is able to save my soul from the trappings of a great addiction, how much greater will he be able to help me in the battle against these physical addictions.

I don’t write this because I have finished the race, but because I am still running it.  I might be getting lost, backtracking, and stumbling.
I write this as a reminder to look to him who hasn’t left me to run this alone.
I write this to encourage myself to keep going.
I write this because all is not lost, but rather saved by his grace and mercy!