My body holds memories of its grief.
Sometimes it manifests as anxiety, bubbling up as a slow simmer. Sometimes it is triggered by the news, or hearing someone else’s story that brushes up against mine. That is the pain that feels sharpest. Sometimes it comes out as anger, when I haven’t taken time to just feel sad and I’ve pushed it down and down and down and then it lashes out with an angry tongue. But more often than not, it is an unexpected wave that comes over me–a surprising sadness on an otherwise normal day or week.
And then I look at the calendar and I realize what is happening. Every February, heartache swells over missing my grandfather–my dear Poppy. Sometimes in April, the anxiety of a particular trauma rises up in my chest as my body recalls an event that changed the course of my life. And in early October, there is a sadness over a wedding anniversary that is no longer celebrated, and a painful heartbreak that occurred years later in the same month.
One morning this week I woke up with a dull ache, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I received a message from my cousin, letting me know she was thinking about me this week. Her validation that this might be a hard time for me was so comforting, and gave me space to grieve. The tears that had been lingering below the surface finally came out. I let my body just feel the pain and grief it had been holding.
Sometimes it is a lot easier for me to extend grace and kindness to others than to myself, so my counselor and I have been working through a series of letters that I am writing to myself. Letters to baby Heather, little girl Heath, the Heather who has made mistakes in the past that needs to be reminded of grace. So this week, I wrote my body this letter. And I thought it might be helpful for someone else today too, so I am sharing it here.
To my body,
Hello sweet girl. I want to tell you something. I haven’t always been kind to you. I want to whisper kindness over you today. You’ve been so strong, and you’ve endured so much. You have danced across stages and smiled at strangers, but you’ve also been bruised and scarred. You ran a half marathon and bring me nourishing rest each night, but there have also been seasons where I neglected or criticized you. You once withstood trauma, but at another time you also birthed a beautiful baby boy into this world. You carry me to work, sit in the car for road trips, savor new foods, offer hugs to loved ones, and lead others in worship with strong breath against vocal chords. However, in the times when grief has arisen, I have not always given you the space you have needed.
So today, I am making space for you. I’m slowing down for a little while to just listen.
Is today hard for you? How are you feeling? I’m here and I am listening.
I have tried to rush you past those very feelings. I have gotten wrapped up in justifying thoughts or trying to be further along in processing your grief. There have been so many times when I have used busyness or slapped on a mask of “happiness” to try to push past what you were feeling. I’m so sorry for that.
To the days when you feel echoes of trauma… I trust you. I believe you. It breaks my heart to think of what you went through, and I’m so sorry it still hurts at times. It’s okay to still be angry or scared or sad when you think of that. It’s not okay that that happened, but you are not broken because of it. You are compassionate and tender-hearted, and it has given you a sensitivity to others in their pain. You are able to share your story with others and let them know they’re not alone.
To the seasons where the grief rises to the surface… I’m here. There is healing in tears. When the tears burn just below your eyes, let them come. In survival mode, I know that I have pushed those tears down or moved quickly past. But I’m making a safe space for you to let it out. I will try not to numb those feelings with busyness or other coping mechanisms. I will try not to minimize those feelings and brush quickly past. Today, I will let myself feel sad if I need to let sadness come.
I know you’ve heard me say things like, “I should be further along in processing this,” or “I shouldn’t feel sad right now when I have so many blessings!” Those simply aren’t helpful phrases, Heather. Grief takes time and space. And it is possible to feel joy and sadness at the same time. Yes, there are things to be thankful for and blessings to count, but they do not negate the parts of your life that carry wounds.
But Heather? Even though these parts of your story and your life and the wounds you carry are true, there is another TRUTH that stands with you in all of this. You have a Savior who is with you in every experience, every joy, every sadness, and every ounce of pain that occurs. I want to remind you of these words today, even in the midst of feeling your grief.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 38:4)
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 38:17-18)
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
The Lord is WITH you in this. He can handle the grief. He can handle the sorrow. Bring it all to Him.
I’m proud of you. I love you. I’m here for you.
P.S. Special thank you to Lex Sirikiat, Autumn Mott Rodeheaver, and Aaron Burden for the beautiful autumn leaf/tree photos that accompany this post (all three photographers generously share their work via unsplash).
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” -Galatians 1:10 (ESV)
There’s an old wooden ladder, leaned up against a tall tree. Climbing this ladder proves to be challenging– shaky, unsteady. As you look around at the other trees, you see that some others are taller, some others are wider, some have brighter fruit or bigger leaves. So you keep climbing to get as high as you can. The wind is blowing, and your ladder and the branches around you seem like they could give way at any moment. And if you’re looking around and thinking about where you are compared to everyone else, there will always be another anxious climb, even if not this tree or this ladder.
But, what if there’s another way? Instead of climbing the ladder, can you just sit under the tree? Can you rest for a little while? With the solid ground beneath you, you run your fingers over the steady roots. You lean back, cradled in the shade of the leaves and branches above you. A bird is perched on a branch above and sings you a sweet song. You are grounded. Rooted. You are sheltered.
Have ever struggled with any of these statements?
- I’m too emotional.
- I’m not outgoing enough.
- I’m too loud; my personality is too big.
- I’m not organized or productive enough for that job/company.
- I’m too quiet to make an impact.
- I’m not important enough for others to listen to.
- I’m too broken for this church.
- I’m not spiritual enough for that friend group.
- I’m too quiet, shy, boring.
- I’m not pretty enough.
- I’m too inexperienced to succeed at this dream.
But here’s the bigger question–who says so? Somewhere along the way, did you hear that some aspect of who you are doesn’t meet the standard of other people’s expectations? Did you absorb the message that you need to tone down your light or your level of excitement to make others comfortable? Sure, for one friend group or person, you may be “too much,” but for another relationship, those very same characteristics might seem like “not enough.” For one job or company, you may be “not creative enough,” but for another role, you might be “too outside of the box.” It’s funny… all of these too much/not enough statements are actually very subjective if you think about it.
If we are living our lives in fear that our personalities, skill sets, and what we have to offer won’t meet the sliding scale of comfort or expectations for the culture around us, we end up living in a way that is inauthentic to who God created us to be.
As a recovering people-pleaser, I have had to remind myself often of what God says about where I find my identity. Do I find it in the opinions of those around me? Or in HIS value in me?
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” – Proverbs 29:25
“Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” – Isaiah 2:22
“For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” -John 12:43
“Let no one deceive you with empty words…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” -Ephesians 5:6-10
Here is what I’ve seen happen when we don’t believe that we are enough, just as we are:
- We gain false security: We become secure in things that can change at any moment. When we think we have reached the status of “secure” in the opinions of others, those views can change within moments, days, seasons. We can become puffed up with pride when we value those feelings and accolades of man higher than the view of God.
- We scramble: When we are constantly trying to get in the good graces of others, we end up doing things for the wrong motivation of trying to be SEEN as helpful, likeable, needed. Rather than stewarding the good gifts, skills, and characteristics God has given us, we scramble to try to earn the favor and praise of others.
- We strive: Similar to scrambling, striving happens when we start climbing a ladder fast and hard to meet the standards or expectations towards worldly “success.” This is what happens when we try to prove to ourselves or others that we ARE in fact enough. Can you learn to rest secure instead? Not in what you have done or haven’t yet done, but in what God has done for you. He has already rescued you, redeemed you, set you free. You do not have to live a life of striving.
- We become stunted: The too much/not enough lies can make us compare our beginnings, our skills, or our stories to those around us. And then in that comparison, we can become completely paralyzed. Our growth stops when we try to be like someone else, or when we are frozen in fear that we will never be good enough to try going after those dreams He’s placed in our hearts. Instead, we are called to walk forward in the confidence and calling that God has for us, and in who He made us to be.
- We suppress: When we fear rejection for the truest and most authentic parts of ourselves, we hold back and dim everything about us that in fact makes us unique. Because maybe, when we have let our true selves show in the past, someone verbalized our deepest fear….that who we are (our very essence) was too much/not enough for THEM. But for God? The One who made you? The one who knows the very numbers on your head? You are exactly who He made you to be, sweet friend.
“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” -Isaiah 61:3
Notice that it says in Isaiah 61:3, that they will be called oaks of righteousness for HIS Splendor. By HIS planting.
I know that we live in a culture of upward mobility. Of making room for ourselves to make our voices heard. Or rubbing elbows to get in with the right crowd. When we are not secure in who HE has made us to be, we worry that we are not enough. We become so fixated on what we can do, and on not making the mark, that the ground beneath us becomes unsteady.
We do not have to do the work or put our own selves on display. In Him, we are oaks. Firm. Strong. Righteous. Planted- exactly as He made us, and exactly where He wants us to be.
While the opinions, values, and feelings of this world can change in an instant, and are as fickle as the “breath in our nostrils,” our God is different. Throughout Scripture there are SO many powerful images of God as a steadfast and steady force. Here are just a few that remind me of the strength we can find when we trust in God:
“And they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer,” -Psalm 78:35
“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” -2 Samuel 22:32
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31
“Be still and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10
“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” -Psalm 95:1-5
“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” -Isaiah 54:10
Instead of swaying back and forth, trying to be everything to everyone, I pray that in HIM, you can stand firm. I challenge you to rest secure in the fact that the Creator of the universe also created you, with all of your quirks, character traits, passions, and your specific voice. We do not have to scramble or strive for value, because we are already seen as valuable to our rock and redeemer. If we can take our focus off of the changing tides of this world, we can keep our eyes on His steady face and do it all for His glory instead of man’s.
Lord I pray that you would remind each of us that we are not defined by what we DO, but by who you are, and who we are in you. Help us to rest secure in You, in your steadfast love and righteousness, not in our own striving or scrambling, or in the changing and unsteady things of this world. I pray that we would rest our souls before you, knowing that in you we can be called oaks of righteousness, planted and secure. Because you are more than enough for our questions of whether we are enough, Lord. We pray that today we might find our value in You, and You alone.
*This post is part of a series about IDENTITY for the month of August. If you want to read the series, here is the introduction (Who do you think you are?), followed by a post about our new-found purity in Christ, no matter how dirty we feel (I am clean, I am made new), and last week’s post about the lie that you are unworthy of love. Also, special thanks to fancycrave1 of Pixaby and Kevin Young of Unsplash for the beautiful images to accompany this post.
Dear Tender Heart,
You and I are cut from the same cloth, so I want to whisper you some words of encouragement. I don’t want to assume to know everything about you or your story, but I hope these words can give you comfort. I picture that we are sitting across from one another at my favorite coffee shop, or sitting side by side on a breezy summer day, rocking in wooden chairs on a big front porch. Or maybe this can be a folded letter on delicate stationary that you can tuck away and read again when you need reminders from a friend who gets you.
Sometimes I know you wish that the heart you wear on your sleeve could be covered up. I know its a heavy load to bear at times- feeling everything with such intensity and depth. I know that when you see the aching and struggles of the people in your life, you feel their pain too. I know that you often sit in longing, in sorrow, in the overwhelm of how to care for the hurt you see around you.
There may be people in your past or your present who made you feel abnormal for this tender heart of yours that feels so deeply. That you are too much or that you are too different. But I don’t want you to lessen yourself or try to cover it up or become like “everyone else.”
You know why, sweet friend? You remind me of Jesus.
He saw the HEARTS of the hurting and met them with compassion. When the stories and struggles of others were brought to Him, He felt every bit of it–He wept for us. Those tears were not a show of emotion just for God to display that Jesus was made of DNA and blood cells and the stuff of personhood. Those were the outward expression of a Creator, a Redeemer, a Mighty God who walked and dwelt among us and loved us so deeply. He touched our wounds and bore our burdens and WEPT for this hurting world. He ached to fix and heal and restore those deep hurts. I read the first 12 chapters of John this week and saw the person of Jesus in a new light. John paints the picture so clearly of a loving, kind, empathetic man whose whole ministry was filled with examples of compassion. As I read about Jesus’ healing of a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years, His conversation with the woman at the well, how He fed the hungry, showed forgiveness, stood up for those with shame, raised His dear friend from the dead, and wept with Mary and Martha, all I could see was that He was MOVED by the stories of others. He met us in our hunger, our doubt, our illness, our shame, our fear, even our death, with His whole heart and sweet TENDERNESS.
I know this passage is a little long, but can we read it together? It moved me to see how much Jesus loved and cared for His friend, so I want to share it with you:
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” He asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” He said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” [John 11:33-44]
He ultimately bore all of these burdens on the cross in His death, taking on every sin and pain so we wouldn’t have to bear the weight of it. He, in His mercy and with His own tender heart, DIED that we might have freedom and hope once again in this fallen world. We can bring every heaviness to Him and ask Him to sit with us. In the quiet or in our crying out, my friend, He is right there with you in this. He doesn’t need to you to change a thing before you sit side by side. He loves you and your tender heart just as you are. After all,
So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. [Genesis 1:27]
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. [Psalm 139:13-14]
Friend, your deep compassion, your empathy, your sensitivities, your desire to help others find healing? Those are GIFTS. When it is too much to bear, it is okay to weep. But also, I hope you can see that it is good and relieving to bring those burdens to Jesus.
He can show you how to care for the hurting by pointing them to His hope and healing. He can also bring a sweet balm to you. Rest in the truth that you are never too much for Him. You are His beloved, and He cares for your sweet, sweet heart.
A fellow tender hearted sister
I was reminded this week about the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, and I pictured myself about halfway between the sisters. I can imagine running to and fro trying to get everything just right, bumping into Martha as we hurry past each other in the kitchen. But I’d also stop for just a few minutes to eavesdrop on Mary and Jesus, soaking in just enough of His presence that I was NEAR to Him but not WITH him. That’s what I’ve done this week. I read the Word, I prayed the prayers, I did the ministry stuff, I was faithful in my work and parenting, but at the end of the day I was still leaning on my own strength. Here’s what Jesus told Martha when she bugged Him about making Mary help (He surely reminded me of the same truth this week) in Luke 10:41-42-
“Martha, Martha, [Heather, Heather] you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Sometimes our best laid plans don’t quite work out the way we envision, and the way we respond says a lot about us. Earlier this week, a project launched that I had poured a ton of time and creativity into; I felt confident and excited to watch it flourish. But factors outside of my control meant the project just didn’t quite land as expected. I quickly flew into a tailspin of proving myself—hurrying around and hustling hard. I jumped into action with fresh ideas and this striving started trickling into my relationships. I was suddenly caught up in fear that I wasn’t “doing” enough and wondered if I had been a good friend/sister/daughter lately. Which led to more hustling.
Midway through the week, a sweet man in my life and I had a little chat. I was feeling anxious and burnt out and stressed, struggling with my sense of self-worth. I told him, “I don’t get it—I spent like an hour reading the Bible and journaling today at lunch, and I’ve been reading the Word and praying a lot lately but I still feel off.” He asked me to tell him more about what I’d read that day… I shared the parallels I’d found in Jeremiah 17 and 1 Corinthians.
“This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
And 1 Corinthians 1:27-31-
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
I realized I had been leaning on my own strength and not resting. At. All. And when I trust in my own strength, I am parched like that bush in the wastelands y’all. Here’s what STRIVING looks like in my world:
- Relying on my own strength and understanding/plans
- Proving myself through my efforts
- Easily affected by my circumstances
- Trying to live up to the expectations of others (even if they are self-imposed/assumed on my part)
- HARD WORK, which tends towards legalism to earn the Lord’s favor/the good feelings of others
- Exhaustion (parched desert!)
- Judgment (of myself and sometimes others)
- Anxiety/rushed decision making
So what’s the solution? I find it in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
My striving looks a lot like the first part of this verse- laboring, toiling, weary, tired, burdened, heavy laden, worn out, burnt out. Sometimes with even good things! But my hard work and doing things on my own strength do not define who I am. When I allow myself to REST in His strength, HE makes me strong and brings peace. This goes against everything in my perfectionism that says “keep hustling,” but leaning on Him brings peace and refreshment to my soul. So if the opposite of striving is REST, here’s what we get to experience:
- Leaning on His strength. Finding that it is okay to show weakness, because that is where His strength can carry us and show His power.
- His wisdom (not our own way of understanding)
- Deep roots; we are not tossed to and fro because we are planted (Jeremiah 17:5-9; Psalm 23)
- The ability to be more present and connected with others
- Gentleness for ourselves
- Clarity of thought; sanity!
- Childlike joy as we slow down enough to recognize the sweet blessings in our lives
This summer, I will continue to pray for margin in my life (and in yours!). Not just tiny cracks for time spent NEAR the Lord, but an abundance of time to sit at the feet of Jesus. I pray that you also can spend time resting in His strength, and knowing that no matter what your circumstances bring, your soul can be stilled because your identity is found in the one who made you and who rests with you.
If you’re like me and need extra help thinking about why rest could possibly be important, here are some helpful resources I recommend.
- Sabbath rhythm- I’m so thankful for my friend Alexis Girvan who has introduced me to the beauty of intentionally spending time each week in Sabbath… read some of her work here or this awesome book Alexis recommended to me by Wayne Muller that helped me dig deeper into Sabbath
- Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
- This Spotify playlist I made that is on repeat in my house lately- “summer rest”
- Memorize Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 23; Matthew 11:28
When we put rest in HIM first–when we lean on Him for our source of refreshment–the world cannot take that good portion away from us. I hope you’ll choose rest with me.
- Have you ever sang the song “It Is Well With My Soul” when your soul did not feel well?On the days that that phrase rings true, we can say it as a declaration with peaceful truth and confidence– Yes! Amen! It IS well.But here’s the thing… most days, inner peace is not something that comes easily for me. In fact, I am currently in the midst of wrestling my good old frenemy Seasonal Depression. Yuck.There are days when it’s super hard to motivate myself to pick up my Bible because I’d much rather wallow in negativity. When I do NOT want to cook for myself and instead want to eat chips and salsa and chocolate chips for dinner. When I want to isolate and binge-watch Netflix instead of being real with friends about my place of need. This week alone, I have done a little bit of both. I’ve wallowed in darkness/negativity AND made myself read my Bible to seek out light. I’ve indulged in the snack junk food dinner, and also made some intentional, healthy meals. I’ve engaged in the Netflix marathoning, but also reached out to my support system to say “I am hurting.”As much as SOME of this is in my control, depression is a real thing. And I know that I cannot fight it without the Lord. In this season, I am learning to look at this prayer/proclamation differently.When I sit in unrest, when my heart is heavy, when I cannot move because my body is sad, “It Is Well” becomes a pleading prayer. God, please MAKE it well with my soul.The history of this song is pretty remarkable. A man who experienced deep, tragic loss, proclaimed that in the Lord, his soul was alright. I’d venture to say, it was more than alright. He found rest and hope in Jesus, and was even praising Him in the midst of darkness.Sometimes its too hard to sing or say “It Is Well” because we do not FEEL well. But if we fold our arms or refuse to sing it because it’s not true at that time, we are missing out on peace that can come JUST from praying it in genuine need. When we whisper in desperation that it WILL be well with our souls, He starts to bring a different kind of freedom from our trials. He may not remove the painful circumstances, but saying those words and clinging to Jesus opens us up to rest. To His peace. To HOPE. And I need hope right now, so I’m choosing to sing/pray my way through the darkness.So, if life is straight up hard for you right now, can we pray this prayer together?Lord, let me declare that it is well with my soul, and trust that You will make it so.In my desperation, still my heart. When my wounds are loud, bring Your healing balm. When my world feels like it’s caving in, help me dwell on the Truth about who You are. I praise You, because You are faithful, You are Redeemer, You are steadfast.Thank You Lord. You know suffering well- You’ve watched us betray You for thousands of years, choose sin instead of light, reject You when You offer life. Your only Son endured suffering to death on our behalf, and You absorbed the full weight of our suffering already.Help me remember the suffering of others, and to pour out Your love to them (I am not the only one hurting!).Help open my heart to receiving love from the people You’ve placed in my life (it’s okay to grieve, to ask for help).Help me to rejoice in the GOOD that I do see–and if I can’t see anything good right now? Help me to seek it out and start to see it with new eyes.Let me find my hope in You, and remind me that these temporary afflictions will bring an eternal weight of glory.Be my rock when the waves crash around me. Be my strength when I am weak and disheartened. Anchor me. Lord, bring YOUR peace to this soul.It is well, it is well with my soul.
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.
My favorite part of the Bible is the Psalms– the gut-wrenching honesty, the beautiful images, the hope even in the midst of the psalmist’s questions and pain. Recently I was introduced to a Puritan Prayer book, and I was inspired to write out a collection of my prayers for you here on a weekly basis. Some of these are utterances I’ve poured out into journals before, and some may have been laid on my heart just for you. If you need more specific prayer, please let me know here.
Lord, sometimes I am a mess. I am unraveled, I am anxious, I am lost. I feel overwhelmed by the pieces- sometimes tangled up, sometimes scattered everywhere- and I scramble to put everything back together.
Lord, be my rest. Help me to sit with the pieces. Show me how to let You lead. I don’t want to rush to hodgepodge it back together, as I know that my solution will surely be confused, jumbled, and not the quality you desire for me.
Will You slow my mind?
steady my heart?
help still me?
Lord, one step at a time, one piece at a time, guide me. Show me the next right thing. Help me to put one foot in front of the other.
Help me to truly be okay with the painstakingly slow pace that may be required, like that of a young child learning to stumble and hobble along. Help me take those first steps, full of focus, energy, balance, and trust, instead of running ahead of You.
Cast out the fear I have of the unknowns ahead. Help me to trust that Your plan is good.
You tell me to “be still,” so I will be faithful in that today.
And tomorrow? Please help me again to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that YOU are God, You are sovereign, You are my refuge, You are powerful, You are peacemaker, You are strong when I am weak,
You are making all things new.
Verses to encourage you:
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
This is the ceiling light in my living space. The room where I spend the most time, when I am actually home. I am constantly on the go, and I don’t leave much room for margin. My apartment, where I have lived for almost 3 years, has felt often times like a holding space for what I thought might be a temporary arrangement. The season has stretched on, and sometimes I neglect this little space because it’s easier to just keep moving than to sit… be still… to accept and call this home.
This holiday season was a bit of a hard one for me, and this particular light fixture needed its bulb changed for the past 2 months. I have let my fake Christmas tree and its tiny bulbs light my evenings, making frequent mental notes that I should put a new light in so that the room could feel a little brighter. But sometimes it felt better to sit in the cozy darkness, with just the corner lit up, my sweet little tree with my favorite ornaments looking back at me.
Today, I take my tree down. I made space today to write. I’m folding 5 loads of laundry that have been piling up. I’m prepping healthy foods for this week to be intentional about what I put in my body instead of eating for comfort or convenience as I have been the past few months. And I changed the light.
Because I’m making space in this season for more light, more hope, for establishing what it looks like to make this place actually “home.” I’m working on a gallery wall for the living room, finishing projects that have been in limbo for a while, and I’m letting light in, so that hopefully I have more to pour out.