Thursday, August 10, 2017

Courage, Dear Heart. You are Free.

"I feel paralyzed."

These words slipped out of my mouth as I sat across the table from one of the influential women who have poured into my life. That was the only word that expressed the lacking of power, courage, and hope I felt when in a certain situation. And as I contemplated how I was going to deal with being faced with a situation like the one we were talking about, that was all I could feel. Paralyzed. I was captivated by that feeling. Powerless. 

I imagine you know a bit of what it feels like to be held captive by a feeling. Maybe it is fear. Or hopelessness. Maybe it is anger or bitterness. Regardless, at some point in time I am sure each and every one of us has felt what it is like to unable to move around a feeling we have felt about a situation or person. And the problem is, most times how we feel influences our actions. Or lack of action. 

I feel like getting to have a relationship with Jesus has never ending discoveries. I am always learning something new. And what He has shown me recently is that I am no longer a slave to sin. I am empowered through Him to choose not to sin. And it doesn't mean I don't sin. But that I don't have to be trapped by it. I don't have to be stuck in it. I don't have to choose it. But the question is why? Why am I free? How am I free? Are these just words that are like a big, abstract idea that I can know but not practice? 

I don't think so.

Back when Jesus was on earth, He spoke these words, "If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free... Most assuredly I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:31-36). The truth is that Jesus has redeemed me. He has bought me and brought me into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13). And He says that if He makes me free, which He has, I will be free indeed.

 I get the idea that Jesus isn't just for big, impractical ideas that sound nice. His word is truth. And it's real. And powerful. If He says I am free, I am free. INDEED. 
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” ‭‭John‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
(Pc: Pinterest)
It says in Romans we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive to Christ. And that sin no longer has power over us. No dominion. No rule. No authority (Romans 6:11-14). But instead we are alive in Christ... Because He now lives in us. The all-powerful God who made the heavens and earth. Who formed us out of the dust of the earth and crafted us in His image. The One who sustains each day. The One who perfectly covers all sins when we believe on Him. He is alive in us (Galatians 2:20). 

He is in me. And the verse which I was given in the conversation before mentioned- when I cried out that I was paralyzed and unable to move- was 2 Timothy 1:7. 

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, 
but of power and of love and of a sound mind (self-discipline)." 

I am not longer a slave to fear. I am no longer a captive. I have been set free. I have Jesus living in me. And His power and love live in me. Giving me new life. He has given me the ability, through His power, to say no to sin. To say I will not be trapped. I will not be ruled. I don't have to submit to the chains of fear, worry, anger, and bitterness. I do not have to submit to lies. The chains which I allow to hold me so often... they don't have to stay on. Because Jesus has set me free. 

So if you feel trapped, lost, or hopeless... turn to Him and ask Him to show you just how free you are. He says if we lack wisdom to ask Him. So ask (James 1:5). He is a good Father and gives us what we need. 

Let Him whisper the words "Courage, dear heart. You are free in Me. You can be BOLD in Me. For I am with you." 


"Courage, dear heart."
(Pc: Pinterest)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Feeling Homesick



This is where I find that I do know what I long for. It's eternity with Him
Pc: Pinterest
If anyone has hung out with me a fair amount, they probably are very aware that I really enjoy talking about personalities- specifically the Myers-Briggs 16 personality types made up of different combinations of four pairs of letters. Another hobby of mine is scrolling down Pinterest and finding quotes, pictures, and thoughts that relate to my personality type. Needless to say, there are always plenty of suggested pins relating to the INFJ personality on my Pinterest feed.

Recently I was scrolling through and found a quote that hit home. But in an oddly sobering way. The quote read as follows: "I am homesick for a place I am not sure even exists. One where my heart is full. My body loved. And my soul is understood."  This quote hits home. How often I have known this feeling. Wanting a place of belonging. Wanting acceptance. Wanting security. Wanting purity. Wanting ultimate purpose and life. 

I have searched. And longed. Pining for something I wasn't even sure existed in the real world. Maybe that is part of why fantasy was always so drawing to me in my childhood. The worlds with magic and beauty. Enchanting. Filled with gorgeous colors. Ending with a the hero riding off into the sunset. Like the song from Hercules "I have often dreamed of a far place where a great warm welcome will be waiting for me... and a voice keeps sayin' this is where I'm meant to be." 

Whether you are a slightly giddy, halfway lost in the clouds, romantic like myself or a solidly planted on the ground, analytically minded individual, I am sure you know what I am talking about. Everyone wants to have a home. A place of belonging. Somewhere where they are whole and full. 

But where is home? Where is that place? Where am I whole? Where do I finally feel satisfied? Not running after the next emotional high? Not looking to hide from reality? Is there such a place? 

What if I told you there was a place? What if I told you there is place where you can feel satisfied? Where you can know rest? Where you can be whole? Where you can come home? 

Because there is.

I like the first couple chapters of Genesis a lot. They are are so full of newness. Perfection. Life. And in there we get to read about our origin story. How we were created in God's image (Genesis 1:25-26). How walking with Him and having a relationship with Him was how we were created to be. How we were made perfect. How He designed us intimately. If you have ever wondered about your value or worth as a human being, take a moment to look at Psalms 139, specifically verses 13-16. We are created by an all powerful God and He knows us deeply. All our complexities and quirks. 

Pc: Pinterest
But unfortunately, starting with the very first humans and working up into each of us individuals, we have turned away from God. And guys, He made what was good. And perfect. And right. And when we walk away from Him we enter a world of darkness because walking away from Him and His design from this earth... that is the opposite of life. The opposite of fullness. The opposite of beauty. Every good and perfect thing is from Him (James 1:17)- and when we walk away it's just... gone. And we are left so stinking empty. I have spent probably 3/4 of my life living on empty. Trying to fill a void that was there because I deliberately cut myself off from the Giver of life. Like taking myself off life support and pretending I can breath though I am choking on the very air that surrounds me. 

I just want to throw my hands up in the air! Because despite my running from God, despite my desire to do things my way, to find my own life, He still pursued me. And put people in my life pointing me to Him. Pointing to Him as the only source of true life. Because He is the Creator. And because He loved us so much He came down in the body of a Man. And suffered. And cared for others. And stinking died for us. And because He is so ultimately powerful and cool and awesome, He could not be held by death. But rose from the dead and triumphed over it. And even though this was 2000 years ago, He still is pursuing and calling us to Him. Because He loves us a ridiculous amount. And wants us to be in that place of relationship with Him, because only there is true life. 

Guys- I've lived empty. And broken. Messed up to the very core. Living in fear. In death. In darkness. Controlled by fear and obsession. And feeling compulsions to do things. Feeling lonely. And so far removed. With no connection. With no hope. Just searching for the next emotional high. Just looking for some source of joy. Or purpose or something...

But because God put the right people in the right places at the right time... because of His great love for me and because He showed me that I could have a relationship with Him- and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)- I can say that I finally know where my place of belonging and satisfaction is. It's with Him. Because that is where we were designed to be. And without Him, we all have a ridiculous void. That is like this massive chasm that we are trying to fill and it just never happens. In His presence. In His company, which He invites us to, is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). Not just dosages of happiness. It's like... fullness of joy. Where my heart IS full. Where I am fully LOVED. Where my soul UNDERSTOOD and FULL. And this is for now. And forever. 

The cool thing is- it's real. It's legit. And I know you, whoever you are, know what I am talking about. So let me ask you a question... What is holding you back from coming to the source of life? Do you feel homesick? Why don't you come home? 

Pc: Pinterest

I'll just leave you with this link to this ridiculously cool video someone showed me. And yeah. You should watch it. 





Saturday, July 29, 2017

Something to Remember


Its moments like this when I am sitting in my car. Lights on, window rolled down for the fresh mountain air, laptop propped on my lap, writing away to the background noise of some of my favorite country songs when I realize that, while I have come to love being with people, I am still an introvert. My social battery still runs dry. I still find myself exhausted and needing a respite from the stimulus of being around people.

Love Triangle by RaeLynn echoes from the playlist on my phone. It has been one of my songs that I have loved listening to the past couple months. I wonder if in a couple more months it will be a source of memory for this summer. One of those old songs that bring you back to a certain time, place, and memory. The kind that are bittersweet. Always going back to another time and place but filling you with such feelings.

I’m trying to remember the last two months in full. What it was like at the beginning of the summer when I began this Christian leadership training program. How have I changed? How have I grown? What have I learned?

I think of my older brother telling me how coming to this program would change my life, though he didn’t know how. I think of my mentor encouraging me to allow this summer to be a time where I am drawn into God’s loving arms. And then I realize that both of these statements which I recall ring truer than I could ever imagine. And it is almost like a worship song – I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves…

And I have. Not of my own power. Or my own ability. And here is where my heart quickens. God, my God, of the universe did draw me out into the mountains to surround me with His loving arms and to show me Himself more deeply. To show me He is my Father. My Abba. To show me I am His. I am His beloved. Can I just stop for a second- mouth wide open in amazement? If you haven’t heard the good news, you need to. God loves you. And He wants a relationship with you. Stop for a second. Look into the night sky. Get up early and gaze at the morning sunrise. Stand in awe in the midst of a thunderstorm. The God who designed and sustains this earth, this universe, He wants you. And for you to know Him and to feel His love. He wants to give new life. New hope. Fill you with purpose.
I wish I could speak more eloquently. I wish I could express the truth more clearly. But then I don’t have to because the words are already written. Full of truth. And mercy. From John 3:16- where we see that Jesus, who is God, came to earth as a Man and gave His life so that those who believe in Him will be saved; to Galatians 2:20 where we see that if we come to know Jesus it is no longer us who live but Christ who lives in us and makes us whole again; to Galatians 4:7 and John 1:12 where we see that we are children of God; and into Revelations 21 where it is revealed that we will be alive in Christ forever. One day completely new and whole in Him- not just in soul but also in body.
And then I realize that while I have been God’s precious daughter for so long, I have rarely claimed this promise. This inheritance. I have walked in fear, instead of trust. Walked in my ways, not His. And yet He pursues me. He is faithful. Because He drew me into the mountains to show me, among other things, that I am His. I am whole. I am complete. I am made new. I am His beloved daughter. I can run into His arms each morning. Each moment. I can know His loving embrace. I can know that one day, I will see Him physically in person. And for now, I can still turn to Him for wisdom, guidance, strength, and comfort each day. He is my Rock. He is my Refuge. He is my Strength. He is my Abba. He is my God.

When I hear a song from this summer, I don’t want to just remember the fun things I did, or the people I have come to love, or the amazing experiences I had. Yes, I want to remember these things. But more than this, I want to be reminded that I am new. I am whole. I am His. I can stand on His strength and pour into others. I want to remember that Jesus is so faithful. And He knew just how to reach me- personally and intimately- this summer.

This evening there was a terrific display of a rainbow presented in the sunset filled sky. A reminder of one of God’s promises long ago. The same God who made a promise which He faithfully presents in a rainbow, thousands of years later, has promised us that we can be His children. Citizens in His Kingdom of Love. And one thing I never want to forget from this summer is the truth that I am a citizen of His Kingdom, made new and alive by Him. A daughter of the King. I will never have to face anything alone. Because I am held by the One who holds the stars. And because I am His beloved.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?...
If I take the wings of the morning
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me
And Your right hand shall hold me…”

-Psalm 139


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When the Dragon Rears Its Head

I feel like writing is one of the things which comes fairly naturally to me. When I was in grade school I would spend hours plugging away as various stories. I wrote with paper and pencil, I typed on the computer, and I developed stories in my brain while I played and rested. I know some of my siblings and friends had, and may even still have, little books about puppies or racehorses or a short story about a whale which I gifted to them. For about as long as I can remember I have loved to create stories, planning the characters and the names, developing the plot, infusing the tale with deep emotions. I could spend literally days putting together a plot simply for my Playmobile characters to carry out.

But the trouble came when I started to lose footing in the real world. When I placed one foot in reality, enough to function and act as normal as possible, and one foot in a world that was simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.

It was several years ago, possibly in seventh or eighth grade, when I began to recognize that my imagination had a propensity for getting me in trouble. For getting me lost. For starting me down the wrong path. Considering the distance of time which has transpired between then and now, I don't remember all my decision making processes but I do remember trying to control my story telling which had literally moved to consume the entirety of most of my days. I would be detailing a fictional world while I mucked my horse's pen or saddled her for a ride. If Bible time was boring, it was no problem to retreat into my internal world. Fear and intrusive thoughts, which had become normal with my obsessive-compulsive-like complex, were easier to put away when I could simply turn off the real world and fade back into a world I couldn't quiet touch but could feel deeply.

But from time to time, I decided a certain story had to go, perhaps because it was too consuming, and then I made up rules about what would happen if I resurrected that story. I placed possibilities of me randomly contracting a cancer as a consequence. But it was never good enough. The fear would die down or I would find a way to outwit my rules and start a new story line, with fresh characters and an exciting plot. My internal stories became the place where I was focused, spending a good part of any activity- whether playing, working, or doing school- vastly devoted to this past time.

Looking back, I see how long the struggle has been. Somewhere back in the past, my stories and imagination had become a place of hiding and security. But what once was innocent had become twisted and was infused with a daily struggle to fight against fear. These fears were deeply entwined with the possibility of breaking a rule or a promise I had made in an effort to control something or another, or the fear of displeasing God. And there was also the possibility that what wasn't real was real, which opened a place of logically knowing what was realistic but emotionally not being sure what was logical.

Over the years I would continue to fight this dragon of my imagination, sometimes going months without indulging in creating a fictional world, and sometimes caving into my need to create an alternate reality with people who surpassed insane odds and conquered difficult obstacles no matter what their trial. I came to simultaneously love and hate this monster. To both know it was no help to continue living through fictional characters and likewise, to crave being away from reality. It became an addiction. An addiction to fantasy. And in a world like this, there is no room to get to know God and enjoy His presence. And that is where the ultimatum lay: to follow God, to know His undying joy, or to keep walking my way.

It turns out I have had to learn an important lesson about surrendering things which might not be inherently bad but are an intense stumbling block to one's self. I've had to learn, and relearn, to be sure! that sometimes we have to surrender what we want to God and that He knows what is best. And that He can provide something that is better. And He has. Getting to know Him, to be able to rest in His presence, and more fully experience seeing His glory through His creation have all been worth while trade offs.

A life in Christ is not a life of bondage. He is freedom and life. And that which pulls us away from Him is always leading to chains and living in a box. A verse I have found encouraging is found in Galatians chapter 5, verse 1.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, 
and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

While this verse is applying to things other than my love of living in fantasy, I think it can be applied directly to my situation. I may always have a weakness for retreating into fantasy and blocking myself off from reality. But I know Christ is my freedom. And He says not to be entangled by things which we have already been freed from. Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20). I no longer have to be a slave to my whims, fears, and stumbling blocks. Without these things crowding in, I can learn about and experience God for more deeply. And you know, I still believe He has given me an imagination to be used. Just not for the things which lead to fear and imprisonment and stagnation in my growth in Him. Yes, music can still cause my mind to imagine far off places or take flight to the top of a mountain. And I so like to contemplate what the new earth and heaven will be like. And I think He has redeemed my imagination in this way. Not to say "don't use it" but to use it in a way which does not draw me away from God but instead pushes me closer. 

So maybe. Just maybe if you have been struggling a long time or have had a relapse into some old habit, have courage! If you give it to God, I have faith He knows what is better for you. And since He is the all-powerful, good, holy, and perfect, we can trust that what He has is what is good and more complete than what we have fashioned for ourselves. 

And I write this for myself as a reminder. A reminder that a life in Him is always better. Turning aside is never worth it. Keep on fighting. Keep on walking. Trust in the Lord. Lean on His strength. Follow Him. It is always what is best in the long run. 

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
- John 8:36


Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Closed Door

My life feels like it revolves around paperwork right now. Apply for this. Apply for that. Ask someone for a recommendation. Remember due dates. Write convincing statements. Submit. Wait.

Of course it isn't true. There was a movie at the theater. Bible study with a friend. Making dinner. There was Christmas. And Christmas break. Those seven days in Florida, on the beach, in the ocean, and under the sun. And the almost two weeks I was out of town. And even now, I am happily not in the throes of filling out MORE paperwork. But it lurks in the back of my mind as a consistent nag, which is probably why I feel it is so much a part of my life.

The paperwork falls in the usual categories- scholarships, applying to different schools, filling out forms for the current school year, and of course, figuring out my summer plans. A couple months ago I took an dive at an opportunity of working with kids for the summer. I applied on a moment's inspiration, gifted to me by a dear friend. But as the moment of inspiration passed, the idea took root. I filled out MORE forms. I asked people to be references (a task I am not fond of). I had interviews. And I waited. I prayed, talking to God about this opportunity. I texted and chatted, talking to people in my life about this idea. And I waited some more. Through it all, I asked for direction. And for the right decision for me to be made. And I waited some more. Then the phone call for which I was eagerly waiting finally came. I was fairly certain I would get in. I would be able to claim this opportunity- if not into the first option I applied for then surely the second option... And now the phone rang.

I walked quickly from the room and answered the phone. But a couple minutes on the phone yielded a different answer than I had anticipated. The programs I was interested in doing were full- I wasn't needed. Being a Christian organization which I had applied to, I gave the appreciated comment somewhere along the lines of "if it isn't what God has for me, then that is all right!" I hung up and just like that my little network of how my summer was going to go, expertly designed and planned by me, caved in.

Oh, I wasn't devastated. A little disappointed. And the truth is if it isn't what God wants for me, then it isn't what I should want for me either. But deep down a little piece of me wants to be sulky. It wants to come out as a dramatic little girl. Why didn't I get to do what I wanted? It isn't fair. I have no idea what to do now. I have to remind myself this isn't the person I want to show- because after all its better to present the attitude of "oh I guess this is God's will then," right? Well, I am not that perfect and there is still a restless feeling lying beneath the surface. Waiting for an opportunity to get out. To play feel-sorry-for-me. And that is why I have to be reminded: A Closed Door is an Answer Too.

Yep. That is right. A closed door can be an answer. If I give a request to God... if I ask Him to work it according to His will  (and not so much my own)... if I decide what He has for me is better than what I have for me... then a closed door is also an answer.

God is the sovereign one. He is the one who knows the past, present, and future. He has been around literally forever- before we were even around to recognize the concept of forever. Just last night I lay in my bed and looked up into the blue-black night sky, dotted with the stars visible in the city. It was beautiful. And God is immense. Powerful. Beautiful. Magnificent. Holding this whole universe in His hand. Oh the heavens really do declare His glory- even if only a little piece of it. It is a nice way to fall asleep. And today, under the moody clouds and the answers which aren't quiet how I imagined, He is the same God. He doesn't change. And He is still the God I want in control of my life. I don't know best. He does.

So God, even though I might be disappointed, feel a tad lost, get a bit frustrated... help me to remember that You are a good Father, an all knowing God, and a loving Savior. You got me. You know what is and isn't for me. And like all good parents, You know sometimes "no" is just as good as "yes." So here is a reminder to me. Yes, a closed door can be Your answer. And "no, this isn't for you," can be an answer to prayer too. So thank You, God, for this reminder. And thank You that I can trust You.

Downstairs in my room, on my desk, is a little collection of rocks with memoirs written upon them. Things I need to remember. Visible reminders of God's hand in my life which last after the feelings. It is time to add another. And you can probably guess the phrase I intend to write on it. A Closed Door is an Answer Too.