• control,  faith in action,  intentional living,  weekly prayers

    When we just don’t know how to “be still”

    Recently, God has been placing reminders on my heart to slow down.

    This summer, I finally recognized my own addiction to busyness but my schedule still looks quite the same.

    This fall, He whispered to my heart that in order to heal through grief and forgiveness, I need to make space for my body to breathe. I haven’t quite found that space in full. 

    I continue to try to make room in my week to celebrate the Sabbath, but I still struggle with giving Him my time and my rest, uninterrupted from other focuses and commitments. 

    The truth is, I struggle to “be still” because I still try to be god of my own life.

    I scramble and manage and run and burn-out. I am busy and hectic and live my life in chaos, with momentary glimpses of rest before I’m back to the hustle and grind again. 

    I wrestle my schedule into place and worry about money. When my life feels out of control and I am at my worst with anxiety, I try to control the people and circumstances around me. 

    None of these things bring stillness.

    Because none of these actions or patterns recognize that God is sovereign.

    “Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10

    So I am learning. Slowly.

    That I am not God.

    That a knowledge of this fact requires deeper knowledge of my Savior.

    That being still is not a to-do list item but a matter of stilling my being before the Sovereign Lord. 

    If you also struggle with being still, I wrote this prayer for us. Feel free to list your own reminders and gratitude of God’s goodness at the bullet points. 

    “Be Still”

    Lord, I praise you because You are mighty. You are sovereign. You hold this world and my world in Your hands.

    I ask for Your help because I cannot do this on my own.

    Father, help me to view this world through wide-eyed observance, wonder and awe instead of the narrow lens of a cell phone camera and my crowded calendar. 

    To start my day savoring the Word instead of consuming the words and images of strangers in my incessant scrolling.

    To stop clinging to control of my schedule, money, relationships, so that I can open my hands to receive simple joys…

    • A small red leaf in my path in the midst of the yellows and browns
    • The warm sun splashed across the pillow on a Sunday afternoon
    • The autumn breeze rustling the ground
    • The smell of muffins baking in the oven
    • An acorn that reminds me of my Grandmother
    • A warm mug of cinnamon tea shared with a friend while our children play with wooden trains
    • The plant on my doorstep from a sweet friend to encourage my blossoming creativity
    • An enveloping hug from the person who loves my whole heart
    • The laughter of my son
    • A glorious sunset of peach and orange, with a hint of winter in the air

    Lord, my heart longs to be still rather than running through my week without stopping. Lord, I desire to be still and breathe rather than gasping for air. Lord, I’m ready to be still and surrender control.

    Father, I trust you to lead.

    Help me to follow

    unrushed

    steady

    calm

    ready to listen and receive Your truth

    ready to give, with Your guidance

    ready to be

    still

     

    – – –

    What are the things you notice when you slow down? What would you add to the prayer? Is this a struggle for you too?

     

    P.S. Thank you so much, Leah Kelley, for offering this handful of acorns to the public domain via Pexels. It was the perfect fit for this post.

  • control,  forgiveness,  freedom,  shame

    Shame Spirals and Learning to Let Go

    Shame Spirals

    Since January, I’ve been learning how to play piano. It’s slow going, but it brings me a lot of joy to be able to play and sing worship music (even in the comfort of my own home). Sometimes I play in front of others, but mostly it’s just me and Jesus in my dining room.

    On Monday nights I’m the worship leader for a group at church, which usually means coordinating the song selection, facilitating practice, and leading vocally on some of the songs. Occasionally, as needed, I also jump in and play keyboard. It’s clunky and a little awkward and I often apologize for my piano skills over the mic because I am a perfectionist and want others to know that I’m aware that it’s not good. How silly.

    The point of worship is to glorify the Lord, not ourselves. I have come to believe that the gift of worship leading is to help usher others into the presence of the Lord, and to help a community of believers come together to offer God our praise. But sometimes, I still make it about me. If I’m in my head too much, I end up thinking about the quality of our playing and singing instead of the quality of my heart. And that is pride at its worst.

    This Monday night, I lost sight of the greater purpose of worship. During our team’s practice time, I self-consciously stumbled my way through the music. I just could not get my fingers to work right and I kept losing my place in the music. When my team tried to offer suggestions I kind of snapped, and had to step away in an almost-panic attack. I closed the door of the bathroom behind me and leaned against the door with tears stinging in my eyes. I prayed for forgiveness for my heart, for my lack of humility, for my desire for control. I came out and apologized sincerely to our team. They met me with the sweetest grace and encouragement. During worship time later that night, my playing was not perfect, but my heart was better. And I know the Lord was still there and He was lifted up. Not me. As it should be.

    I came home from group that night and beat myself up. About my perfectionism, my pride, my control issues. I wallowed in the fact that I sinned against God and my teammates.

    I sat for a while that evening so aware of my own sinful nature. I wandered down a shame spiral- starting to list the other areas of my life where I have messed up. I started drudging up things from last month, last year, 10 years ago. And this was over a fairly small grievance. The shame spirals are wider, deeper, and last much longer over sins that I perceive to be even more severe.

    Do you ever do this?

    Learning to Let Go

    God extends forgiveness and grace to cover our sins AS SOON as we reach out and ask Him for it.

    My friends extended grace and compassion to me. They forgave me and let me know that it was okay.

    I have to remind myself that when I go down those rabbit trails of looking at my own sin and failures, I am not walking in the freedom that God has given me. I have a hard time forgiving myself and letting go of what has already been covered.

    There is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is godly sorrow over our wrongdoings, which is meant to lead us to repentance. When we experience guilt, it is conviction from the Holy Spirit. Guilt draws us to our knees to ask God to make our hearts right with Him and with others. Guilt says, “That specific action, thought, or word was not okay. Let’s go make it right with God and the people that may have been hurt by that.” Guilt recognizes our responsibility in wrong-doings and brings empathy along with it. And when we offer our sin up to the Lord, He makes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). Our sin is removed as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

    But shame? That is not from the Lord. Shame has a painful grip, and says to me “YOU are a mess. YOU are too broken for forgiveness. YOU are a bad person.” It takes my eyes off of others and brings them fully onto me. Shame separates me from the Lord and others, and often makes me isolate. I feel disgraced and find myself wanting to hide. While guilt spurs us to action, shame is chaotic and paralyzing.

    Last night I was reading 2 Corinthians 3, and came across this verse:

    “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

    When I am sucked into a shame spiral, I push out the Spirit of the Lord. Because shame holds us captive.

    When I encounter shame, I need to remind myself to invite the Spirit of the Lord in to remind me of His forgiveness. Of His grace for me. Of His ability to let go of my past.

    And if He, the creator of the universe and a perfect Father can let go of my past, I can too.

    I am learning to let go. To step out of the spiral and invite His Spirit of freedom to enter in. To remember that I can learn from these times when I stumble. To say “it is finished” and move forward with confidence that He is continually making me more like Him. To speak kindly to myself, with the words that He gives me as reminders of His grace.

    If you struggle with letting go of your past or shame too, I want to share some verses and a prayer to encourage you today.

    “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9)

    “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us,” (Psalm 103:8-12)

    “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame,” (Isaiah 50:7)

    “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed,” (Psalm 34:5)

    But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace,” (John 1:12-14, 16)

    Dear Lord,

    You are not a god that is far away, looking down on me with a wagging finger of disappointment. You are a loving, perfect parent. You see me as Your sweet and precious child. You welcome me into Your arms. Thank You for the GIFT of redemption and forgiveness that we can receive through Your love and through Christ’s sacrifice for us. Lord, I pray for Your Spirit of freedom to be close to me. Help me to remember Your Truth about Your mercy and love. I pray for strength and courage to let go of my past. Help me to see that it is not helpful for me to drag around self-condemnation. I pray for Your guidance to learn to walk with confidence in the knowledge that I am wholly forgiven and redeemed. Thank You for loving me for exactly who I am. I pray that I could bring YOU glory in the way that I walk that out. I love You Lord.

  • control,  intentional living,  mental health,  weekly prayers

    Manna and Morsels

    I had coffee with a friend, and we talked about the times of life where everything feels overwhelming and complex.

    We looked over at her sweet baby, napping in the booth next to us. We sipped on hot coffee in paper cups and talked about the seasons of life where we can’t see the path forward. We talked about the fog and the paralyzation of depression. She and I both have encountered the darkness of depression and the crippling weight of anxiety, and we’ve known in those times that God is there. But He has also felt far away.

    On those hard days and in those dark seasons, getting out of that pit can seem like a daunting, long road. Even if others could show us a charted path towards healing and towards intimacy with Christ–even if there are steps or courses we could take–we likely feel like that is more than we can handle.

    I am one who likes a good plan. I like to know the 12 steps I can take to find peace, the 3 things I can do today to feel less anxious, the 10 Scriptures I can meditate on to remember that God is light in our dark times. But what if even those “simple steps” seem too daunting? Sometimes 12 steps are too far ahead of what I can see, and that particular long path seems overwhelming. And 10 Scriptures? How do I pick where to start? Thinking about the 3 things I can do TODAY reminds me of the 17 things on my to do list that I haven’t done yet, and all of it seems like more than what I have the energy to tackle.

    So we can start by asking for manna.

    MANNA

    In the Bible (Exodus 16), there is an incredible story about a group of people (the Israelites) who were delivered out of slavery in Egypt by a man named Moses. As Moses and another leader named Aaron led the Israelites out of Egypt, they entered into a wilderness, where there was nothing to eat. The people complained to Moses and Aaron that they were going to die of hunger.

    God spoke to Moses and told them that He would take care of the hungry people.

    “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” (Exodus 16:4-6)

    The bread from heaven was called manna. God made these daily provisions for the people, even with meat (quail) in the evenings. Moses said that through these provisions,

    “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because He has heard your grumbling against the Lord.” (verses 6-7)

    When they went out to collect their bread for the first time, like flakes fine as frost on the ground, they asked what it was. Moses reminded them “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” He repeated the commandments of how they were to gather it, ensuring that each person would have plenty to eat– “enough for their fill that day.” And He warned them not to leave any of it over til the morning.

    BUT if the people feared that God would take care of them again the next day, and tried to gather more than their daily portion? The warnings were that the leftovers would either melt with the heat of the sun, breed worms, or smell.

    And yet… what happened?

    “But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it til the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.” (verses 20-21)

    God had to re-remind them that they were to just take enough for one day at a time. Their lack of trust in Him required repetition- that He would provide, and then God showing again and again that He would in fact do it.

    The people ate the manna for forty years, until they came to a new land.

    Every day for forty years (that’s roughly 14,600 days), there was manna.

    MORSELS

    How often do I get ahead of myself and try to figure out the next steps on my own? How many times have I been in seasons of waiting when I begged (demanded) that God show me the whole path ahead? How frequently have I stressed about provision, with crippling fear that He won’t take care of me? How many days have I woken up and thought about everything I needed to do that day, without a thought of prayer or consulting with God to lead the way? I cannot tell you how many journals of mine are filled with confessions of not trusting God to lead the way and trying to take control back into my own hands.

    Sitting with my friend, I was reminded that there are some seasons where we are just called to simply rest. In the daily act of surrender to Him, we get to stop wrestling and just ask HIM to be our fill. When we let Him show us one step at a time, one day at a time, He is faithful to give us a way forward. Sometimes they are baby steps- tiny morsels. But as my friend shared, morsels can be savored. With gratitude for the flavor that comes with each small bite, we can remember that He carries us through the wilderness and is faithful in His provision and protection over us.

    There are some times where we don’t need to chase down complex systems or plans, but just go back to the basics:

    Just choosing one verse to pray all week long.

    Reading a psalm before bed. Just one.

    Stretching in the morning and thanking God for the morning light.

    Taking a walk and noticing the droplets of dew on the grass, or picking a few small flowers to carry in your hand.

    Sitting for a longer period of time than the busy schedule might seem to allow for coffee with a sweet friend.

    Making a homemade meal and thanking God for the ingredients, for the home in which to cook it, for the body that it nourishes.

    Asking Him to show us the next right thing and learning to be still and wait for HIS guidance.

    There are some days where we just have to ask for manna, and trust that God will bring it.

    And sweet friend? He will.

    A Prayer for Manna and Morsels

    Lord, we ask for a taste of a manna today. You tell us in Your word that Your mercies are new every morning. Will You show me a new mercy today? Help me to have eyes that are opened to see Your miracles- Your provision in the daily needs that get me through this day; Your care and compassion for Your people, including me; Your sovereign knowledge of my life, that I can trust that You know the way and will guide me to walk in Your will, even when I can’t see the whole path forward. Forgive me for the times that I try to take control or look to other sources to be my guide. Lord, I open my hands to receive Your lavish love — help me to savor every morsel that You give me today.

     

     

    *Special thanks to Simon Wilkes and Isaac Mehegan who provided the images to accompany this post (via unsplash).

  • control,  freedom,  identity,  intentional living

    Addicted to Busy

    Four years ago I walked through the doors of my church for a recovery meeting. I was really there to try to support… help… okay, fix another person that I thought could benefit from the meeting. What I found was how deeply hurting I was, and how I really needed the support and help to recover from my own hurts, habits, and hang-ups.

    Celebrate Recovery became a safe place for me to take off my mask, understand myself and my issues better, and find healing in a Christ-centered recovery program. [Celebrate Recovery is an international program started at Saddleback Church with Rick Warren and John Baker in 1991. The program is now offered in over 35,000 churches, prisons, rescue missions, and colleges worldwide].

    Over the past four years I dug deeper to the root of my issues, completed a 12-step study, attended a CR conference last summer in the Nashville area with 3,000 other people in recovery (it was AWESOME), and entered into leadership at our church’s CR ministry. I now mentor other women, help lead the Newcomer’s class, serve as the co-leader for the Monday night worship team, and am passionate about recovery in all aspects (not just my brand of recovery). This is part of the life work I know I am called to do, and I am so thankful for the way this ministry opened my eyes to the pain and struggle of others (outside of my own “stuff”). At the end of the day, we’re a room full of people who love the Lord and want to be real about where we’ve been, but also find hope in where God can lead us next.  

    The first step of recovery (for ANY area in life) is stepping out of denial; admitting that we no longer have control. In the language we use at CR,

    “We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.” 

    I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
    For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. -Romans 7:18

    Once we admit that we do not have control over those compulsions, those painful areas of our lives, or other people, change is finally, truly possible. But first we have to get to that point of unmanageable–the out of control, rock bottom, heart break that life cannot go on like this any more.

    Each Monday, for the past four years, I have introduced myself in this way:

    “Hi, my name is Heather. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, and I am in recovery for codependence, anxiety, and divorce.”

    We introduce ourselves in this way to first of all recognize that our greatest identity is found in the Lord (our addictions do not define us!). We list our areas of recovery second to keep us out of denial– there is something very vulnerable about sharing those struggles out loud… but also extremely freeing to know that there are others who can relate, encourage you, and spur you on to greater growth. Once we say them out loud, those secret heavy things we’ve been carrying around for so long start to have a little less power. It is then that we can finally get to work.

    At some point I would love to tell you more about codependence and God’s journey in my life of shifting my identity away from extreme people-pleasing to finding my identity in Him. And I’d love to tell you more about these 12 steps that completely changed my life.

    But this week, what’s heavy on my heart is that my busyness is no longer something I can manage. It is officially… unmanageable. I have shared before with friends, family, colleagues, and my recovery friends that this is a deep-rooted struggle that has been a part of my pattern of existence for as long as I can remember. High school was stacked full of the hardest academic classes I could take, school plays, band, student council, church youth group, private flute lessons and voice lessons, a touring show choir, and a restaurant job. When I got to college, I promised myself that the fresh start would allow me to hit re-set. It didn’t take long for me to pick up new roles and routines that were jam-packed into my days, along with trying to find more balance for a social life. But that meant lunch dates and coffee dates and weekend outings with girlfriends and more things packed in than I could handle. I kept pushing. When I would come home on Christmas and summer breaks I would just sleep for the first 2 or 3 days home, only waking to eat. My mom would ask me what was wrong, but I was just purely exhausted.

    My adult life at 30? I could post a picture of my calendar here but I think that would only prove a point I’m finally coming to see– my own pride. A sense of self worth in how much I can juggle before breaking. I think there are roots of this busyness habit that are very much tied to my codependence (identity based in what others think/not wanting to let others down), but there is fresh, new work to do here. There are new layers to address about how I find a sense of worth in performing well, and coming to REST in the identity God has given me instead of one I create for myself or how I am perceived by others.

    As this realization really started to hit me this week, in yet another cycle of burnout and exhaustion and a 4th of July Wednesday that involved sleeping and “wasting” half of my day off, I realized…. unmanageable. For how much I CRAVE rest, peace, stillness, rhythms that feel intentional and slow, why have I not been able to change this pattern? I picked up a book from my bookshelf that I started reading two years ago. But this message is right on target with the reminders I need right now, in handing over my whirlwind of a lifestyle to God and STOPPING. To learn to be more present than perfect. To be more still than successful. To have peace when I sit in quiet instead of a frantic to-do list constantly running in my head to do more, or to be more.

    There was an ah-ha moment for me when I hit this passage in Shauna’s book:

    “You can make a drug– a way to anesthetize yourself– out of anything: working out, binge-watching TV, working, having sex, shopping, volunteering, cleaning dieting. Any of those things can keep you from feeling pain for a while– that’s what drugs do…

    Most of us have a handful of these drugs, and its terrifying to think of living without them. It is terrifying: wildly unprotected, vulnerable, staring our wounds right in the face. But this is where we grow, where we learn, where our lives actually begin to change.”

    So on that note friends, I am ready to take step 1 to admit that my busyness has become unmanageable. I’m ready to strip it away and look at the wounds and meet change.

    “Hi, I’m Heather. I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. And I am addicted to busyness.”

    This week, the greatest joys after making this realization were the moments of stillness and stopping to pay attention….

    I realized that every time I get in the car I use my voice-activated Siri and tell her to make a note in my phone about new things to add to my grocery list, my to-do list, my writing list, or to send a text message for me. My boyfriend (a wise man who gets me/my heart) challenged me to use my car rides for prayer or worship time. I loved it on the first morning…. but by the afternoon I auto-piloted into making a phone call when I got in the car. It’s deeply ingrained, but I am making progress by taking note, giving myself grace, and making heart adjustments.

    I wanted to work through lunch on Tuesday (a particularly busy/stressful day), but instead took a midday run through 90 degree humidity (I packed shorts, so don’t worry, I wasn’t running in a dress). I listened to a thought-provoking and centering podcast with J.A. Medders and Tony Merida about Christ-centered writing [Home Row, episode 31]. I let myself run slow up hills, and I took mental note of every single beautiful, simple thing I saw. I literally stopped to smell flowers. I waved at people I passed. I looked goofy, I’m sure, jogging in the heat, with a big happy grin on my face. But I felt peace.

    I spent time digging into Romans and DELIGHTED over all of the exciting ways the Word came to life. I could not get enough! So this weekend, I am unplugging. I am going to pay attention to where my sinful tendencies rise up to cover up any emptiness with activity, and I am going to work on being more present with my son and the people God has me with each moment. I hope you can do the same, one day at a time, one moment at a time.

    If any of this struck a chord with you, I’d encourage you to press in. Take note. Maybe sit with the question for a few minutes in a quiet place…are there any areas of your life that feel unmanageable/out of control? It’s okay (even freeing) to admit it to a safe and trusted friend… that’s where the healing begins. If I can pray for you let me know – I’d be honored.

  • anxiety,  control,  fear,  trust

    Climbing Through Fog and Walking On Water

    Photo credit: Mary Gin Shepherd

    “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

    -Joshua 1:9

    Imagine someone with control issues trying to plan their way up a mountain, where thick fog is obscuring the way forward. As a controlling planner myself, let me share with you what the potential thought process might be for our adventurer as they consider the daunting task ahead.

    Who knows how long this will take? Will I get there before dark? If this takes longer than I’m expecting, I’ll definitely be late/frustrated/anxious. What if I get lost? How will I shout out for help? Would I go back down? Or keep climbing up? What if this view isn’t worth it?

    My friends and the youth from our church did a hike the other day that literally embodied this foggy mountain climb that I’ve been imagining. (Shout out to my friends Mary Gin and Becky for sharing their foggy pictures to help tell my story). Confession: this control freak would have been a bit anxious on that particular hike.

     

    THE FEAR:

    I often claim to believe and trust that God is in control. But let me be honest; my life has often looked a lot more like a tug of war with God. A power struggle that I’m bound to lose, but I fight tooth and nail to win anyway. Sometimes, this is a very subconscious process. But regardless, I admit that I have control issues. I fear letting go, and I definitely fear trusting anyone other than myself to lead the way… even God.

    During one of the hardest seasons of my life, I grew paralyzed by a tough decision that I knew was ahead of me. The overwhelm swallowed me up and I was completely unsure of which way to turn, what the future held, what God wanted for me.

    As a type-A perfectionist and a big-time dreamer, I typically try to imagine life 10 years down the road. Then I come up with specific goals and a plan of action to get there. I like to have a plan A, along with back-up plans for my back-up plans. I think through the ripple effects of decisions and anticipate how I will handle the reactions/results that will “surely” come if I do x, y, or z. There is something terrifying about letting go of that level of detailed planning (control) and entrusting it to someone else.

    That hard season, I couldn’t even picture 2 months down the road. I truly needed God’s guiding for His will for me. Sometimes, though, when we pray for His will, we wait, and wait, and wait. We are looking for big neon signs flashing towards the path to take, or a mountain-shaking, booming voice of wisdom to point us in the right direction.

    “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

    “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

    “Come,” He said.

    Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

    Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

    And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

    -Matthew 14:27-33

     

    THE PEACE:

    Do you ever feel like Peter, calling out to Jesus to make sure He’s really with you on your journey? When we lock eyes with Him and follow His steady voice calling out to us to Trust, we are carried forward, one step at a time. But when we start getting wrapped up in the wind and the waves around us, we sink.

    In the hard season, I learned to pray to surrender to God in smaller ways, and knew that eventually He would reveal a path. I had to slow myself down and stop running ahead. I wasn’t asking for a big reveal of where He would take me long-term, I learned how to ask for Him to show me just one day at a time how to move forward, how to walk with Him. I learned how to press into His Word and focus on His strength instead of my own, waiting for His voice to show me the way forward.

    The answers were usually very quiet, so I had to sit in stillness and wait, something I’m not naturally inclined to do. But they did come. He walked me through it. And I learned to trust Him more with each step.

    If you imagine that foggy hike again, and apply this one-step-at-a-time approach, it changes the whole adventure. You can begin to enter into a slow but steady pace (not rushing anxiously). You get a chance to connect with others on the trail and take each step with intention. You carefully climb over a big tree root instead of tripping over it and falling. You look up through the mist and take in the birds in the trees and sky overhead, instead of laser focusing on the mission to get to the top. You breathe in the air of a nearby stream and realize how sweet it is to be here, on this very journey.

     

    A PRAYER FOR YOU:

    If you’re struggling with fear of the unknowns in the future, or trusting that God has you in His hands, I’d love to encourage you with this prayer today:

    To the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End… Lord, You know it all, and I am thankful for Your gentle care and Your sovereign knowledge of my life and circumstances. You are trustworthy. I ask that you go before me. Still my heart. Quiet the overwhelm. Help me to honor You as I learn to wait for Your guiding.

    I know that You honor obedience, so please bridle my heart in my desire for control as I learn to obey You instead of running ahead. I lay my plans down at the altar, and pray boldly (faithfully), “Not my will but YOURS be done.” If I try to pick up that control again tomorrow, please forgive me, and gently remind me to lay it down at Your feet again.

    When I can’t see the whole path, cast Your light on just enough for me to trust you and take one step. Help me relinquish control, my will, my plans, and trust You one step at a time. I commit this (decision, situation, relationship) into Your hands. Show me the next right thing; I pray that my life and my growing faithfulness will honor You.

    “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

    –Isaiah 41:13

     

    Source: my sweet friend, Becky McLaughlin
  • anxiety,  control,  faith,  spoken word

    From Fear to Peace

    Ya’ll. Let me tell you something. About a month ago, I felt a pressing on my heart to share about my journey with fear. And then the funny thing is, the FEAR took over again (as it does, when we let it). Loud thoughts and insecurities paralyzed me. I suddenly became engulfed with fear–how am I even qualified to talk about this? I’m not a good enough writer, my blog posts are too heavy/vulnerable, my voice doesn’t matter, I am STILL struggling with fear right now, etc. Ironic? Maybe,  or maybe the enemy just knows my greatest struggle.

     

    Since a young age, fear has OWNED me. I’ve been enslaved to it. It has found a way of creeping into my daily life and thought patterns, and I’ve let it rule. Something I’ve learned is that fighting fear is a battle. As much as I know the commands from Scripture to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds,” and “take every thought captive,” sometimes it is a lot harder to let the Truth of God’s love seep into the fiber of our beings and release the grip of fear, anxiety, worry, panic, and insecurity.

    I watch my 5 year old son wrestle with fear– he tells me before bed about his fear of robot aliens or snakes with chicken heads coming after him in the dark (the imagination of a child!). We look in the closets, and turn on the night lights, and pray over his room and his safety and for him to be super aware of God’s presence with him. But at 30 years old, I am no different! I still need to look into closets and seek out light and pray for a SUPER awareness of God with me, as I wrestle with fear–anxiety on the road about car accidents, or worry for my loved ones when they are far away from me and I don’t know if they are safe. I get tangled up by anxiety and hide myself, for fear of rejection or not being loved. I have breathed through panic attacks in Rome and New York City and sitting in the church pews and even in my own home when my rational thinking flies out the window and I am overtaken with fear. I KNOW FEAR like I know my own reflection in the mirror. But I also have come to know that we are not called to live in fear. And I have found delivery, and freedom, and want to share with you (if this is a struggle with you), that there is another way to live. 

    I’m going to share a few posts in the coming weeks about some practical and prayerful ways God has helped me conquer fear (and is still helping me, even now). In the meantime, here is a spoken word piece I wrote today at my favorite coffee shop, thinking about this fear, and thinking about the sense of freedom I feel when His love and Truth and peace take over.

     

    What does it look like to give up control? To let go of my pride and thinking I have to have it all figured out? Does it look like reckless abandon, abandoning my dreams, and sitting passive while someone else drives? That thought is terrifying for a control freak like me.

    What does it look like to walk in peace? I am not a natural pillar of peace- I run ahead, and rush around, and can’t sit in stillness for more than 2 minutes. I am anxious, I am a worry wart, I am obsessive, and I cannot imagine not having this fear as part of my life. When my thoughts race, I am desperate for this peace that surpasses all understanding, and I go to any source I can think of to find it– wise books, and wise friends, and time in the wilderness soaking in the beauty of creation, yet still I wrestle in the waiting. Peace is fleeting when I look to these sources, so still my mind races and still I sit in fear.

    What does it look like to take every thought captive? To say, I can’t do this on my own anymore? Exhausted from living this way, I realize I’m undone. I’m ready. I start to hand each thought over to my Creator, one by one, plucked up and passed over to someone Mightier than me. I release my death grip and let You crush to death my fear, the lies, the sin, the shame. When I find myself still holding on to fear and control, whether it’s a stronghold or a just a tiny pinch, You whisper, “I can handle it. It’s not too much for Me.” Sometimes I laugh, thinking these burdens and fears are too shameful for You to see or too big for You to handle. But even that’s laughable isn’t it? Here I am thinking the Creator and King can’t handle my control issues. But You whisper again, “I can handle it.”

    I labor and wrestle. With sweat from my brow and the intense pain of giving up control, I release the burden. You call me into FREEDOM. And I taste it. It’s close. With a cry of life, I sense Your sweet love wash over me and my lungs gulp for air. I taste Your goodness and mercy. New life. I realize the old way I was living was not what You desire or designed for me. There is a shift, and I go from that clinging to an unbridled release– Lord, take everything! You keep telling me, “I can handle it.” And I believe You.

    Thank You Jesus.

    “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are Mine.” -Isaiah 43:1

  • control,  faith,  rest,  spoken word

    Fill Up My Empty

    A few months ago during a sermon, one of our pastors shared the following quote that really resonated with me:

     

    “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” -Bruce Marshall, The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith

     

    Tim shared this quote to support the idea that our deepest longings point us towards God, even though on this earth we oftentimes seek to fulfill those longings in foolish, temporary, unfulfilling ways.

    That Sunday morning, it was almost as though something clicked into place for me that I’ve been coming to realize for a long time. Throughout most of my life, I have built my identity around other people–what they thought of me, trying to meet their expectations (whether stated or assumed), keeping the peace, helping others with their problems, etc. I also have used accomplishments and success, my ability to mother/friend/write/perform well, and my good works to give me a sense of worthiness or to attempt to fill holes in my heart. But the truth is, (and what Tim shared reminded me of this)—God is the only One who can fill those places. Everything else that I try to pack into those holes will come up short of His goodness.

    After hearing that sermon, when I found myself running to anything in this world out of a place of desperate need (ie: calling a friend when I wanted to process something; using food, drink, Netflix, spending money on coffee or new stuff to lift my mood or numb feelings of sadness; keeping myself far too busy to slow down and take space for stillness), I stopped. I tried to peel back that layer of the onion and look a little further by asking myself, “What is the deeper thing I’m longing for right now?” And often times the answer pointed back to a desire for a sense of worth, a place of belonging, something to make me feel less sad/tired/alone, a feeling of being loved. And while sometimes the things of this world hint at being able to fill those desires and needs, I am now trying to run first to God.

    Last night, I shared a spoken word piece at a Storytellers event at my church. This piece, entitled “Progression of a Heart,” has been rumbling around in my heart for the past few months and it felt really freeing and beautiful to share it yesterday with a group of supportive and encouraging people.

    I want to share it here to encourage you– this “chapter” is where I currently am in my posture towards the Lord, but there were 4 prior chapters that I summarized in my journey. And as a good friend shared with me last night after my piece, I can’t wait to see how God unfolds chapters 6, 7, 8, 9… there is surely more work to be done as I journey on, but for now, here’s my heart.

    Chapter 5- Fill Up My Empty

    Hello, my Father. My best friend. My shelter. My anchor when my soul is untethered. My comfort when I ache. My husband in this single mother season. My source of Truth when lies start to creep in.

    You. It’s always been You. You are the only one that can heal a heart that was once more holes than it was holy, or place a heart of flesh where there was stone. I no longer need to numb. Or hide. Or jam those puzzle pieces into place.

    Lord, continue to fill up my empty.

    When I want someone to tell me that I am worthy, You tell me that You fearfully and wonderfully created me in YOUR image.

    When I am weak and vulnerable, You tell me that Your grace is sufficient for me…Your power is made perfect in my weakness.

    When I desire intimacy, You remind me that You formed my inmost being and before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely Lord. There is no greater intimacy than to be known at that depth.

    When I am weary, You take my yoke upon You and replace it with a lightness that I can shoulder for that moment.

    When I am lost, You show me that You are the way. You help me put one foot in front of the other as I wait for You to show me the next right thing.

    And when I want a love story and to have my heart fought for, Oh Lord, you remind me that You love me with the fiercest, greatest love. You’ve already fought for my heart, and you PURSUE me passionately.

    I am in awe that the Creator of this universe is wrapped up in my universe and delights with me and grieves with me and shows me who I am.

    I will go wherever You want me to go and be whoever You are making me to be. I am free. I am wide open. My heart is all Yours.

    “Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” -John 4:13-14

    Friend…if you find yourself running to things of this world, don’t be discouraged. I am praying that you would start to run to the source of Living Water that can heal wounds and fill up your empty, too.