focus: to concentrate

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It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Life’s been crazy; I’m sure you understand.

God’s moving. Don’t doubt that. Look up even for just a second. Look away from the planners, the projects, the papers, the tests, and all the other stressors. Look up and realize that there is more going on and that God is moving and while grades are good, souls are much more important. He is moving. Be encouraged by that.

While the Lord is working, it’s important that we stay focused. I am a runner and when I focus on my run: my breathing, the steps I’m taking, where my arms are, my time is faster. I am more efficient. I think that we forget that as believers, we need to remain focused on our race. We need to watch our footsteps and see where our feet are taking us. Are we running to win the prize?

We need to make time to read our Bibles, to journal and pray, to meet with others. We need to stop wasting our talents by hiding them in the dirt and use them, even if we fail the first time and the second time. We need to pour ourselves out for the Lord.

We need to stop binge-watching Netflix and start moving.

If there is no strength left in your veins, then maybe this is a season of grace for you. Maybe you need to be reminded that the Lord is your place of rest. Rest is much more than kicking your feet up for a few hours. Sabbath for awhile and the Lord will remind you-if you ask Him- that He is your place of strength. He will remind you that He is comfort, strength, joy, and perseverance altogether.

While we are in a place of weakness and despondency, we must remember that when Jesus healed the lame man he said, “stand up, take up your mat, and walk” (John 5:8). So often I forget to stand up when I am in a hard place, when I feel paralyzed. I forget that I am capable of walking and so I hide in sleepy dreams or behind a computer screen.

I start to believe the lie that the Lord doesn’t see me.

And yet He sees me even with my doubts, but faith steps don’t get enough credit. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  We take steps of faith because while we may or may not see the sunshine right now, the Lord is preparing a way for the light to come through the clouds. Maybe we don’t feel the sunshine yet, but we have to trust that someday we will feel its warmth on our skin. So we step out of the front door, having confidence that the Lord will carry us through the day. We take faith steps.

Jesus is on this journey with us. One of my best friends has been ruminating on the idea that Jesus walks with us and how a walk can look different in various contexts. Sometimes walks are filled with laughter and intriguing conversations. Yet sometimes someone gets hurt and must limp for awhile; the walk then becomes painful, each step excruciating. A friend supporting a friend for a few yards or possibly for miles can be difficult. Sometimes walks turn into a run which may turn into a sprint. Yet no matter what Jesus wants to join in on our walk, on our journey. But will we let him?

Will we invite him in? Or will we say “but Lord this is too much for you?” As if we know the limit of His love.

Are you putting limits on the Lord’s love, power, grace, and mercy today? Watch your steps and notice where your feet are taking you today. If you don’t like it, change your course and your destination will change too.

 

Not an orphan

I’ve been living like an orphan or so I realized when my pastor spoke on the subject. I’ve been hiding metaphorical scraps of food in my pockets in fear of starvation, in fear that tomorrow will finally be the day when my father forgets me. I’m acting like the orphanage is still the place where I find rest in the form of sleep every night, but it has been so long since I called the orphanage my home and still here I am pretending that it is. 

I’ve been overwhelmed lately. I mean genuinely in over-my-head overwhelmed. I believed the lie that I was too much and that therefore I was not worthy of sharing my story or my scars. I’ve been overwhelmed by past scars that I didn’t trust the Lord to heal. I know it’s rough, but I know too that I’m not the only one who sings that sad anthem song as I fall asleep. The song that goes something like “I am not worthy. I am not pretty. I am not brave. God cares but I shouldn’t drag him down with this. I know this looks like a pity party but it’s not. This is the truth. I am not enough. I never will be. So leave me alone in my misery.”

Oh but my dear. That’s the point. We are not enough. We are not worth it. And yet- O what a beautiful yet!- God chose us, his sons and his daughters. Like orphans he paid fees and waited for children who may not choose him everyday or respect him or even trust him. Still he chose us- you and me.

Romans 8:15
“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!'”

May we not forget that we are apart of the family. We have no need to fear our tomorrow’s for God will be there and He will watch out for us.

 

Goodbye? For now.

I should’ve posted this a long time ago, but I didn’t. I apologize. Here it is:

If you’re like me, a soon to be college freshman, then you understand that the dreaded goodbyes are coming (if they haven’t already come). There are always a few people that you are ready to wave a farewell to, but I’m not talking about them.

I’m talking about the friend that sat with you in the Sonic parking lot when you were falling apart, and their presence itself was healing. The mere fact that they would listen while you talked nonsensically about fear and sadness and how you couldn’t shake the two, showed you that they cared about you. It proved to you that someone thought you were worth it.

Goodbyes are rather poetic. I hate saying that because I’m a firm Goodbye Hater. I even formed a club. I hate the starkness and the pain of it. I hate the way sometimes you get an invitation and sometimes you don’t. I hate it.

But the word. The word is poetic. It feels like an oxymoron. There’s good in saying goodbye? It seems like some form of a cruel joke. Sometimes I’d rather say “see ya later,” but sometimes somehow that feels dishonest because it is a goodbye for now.

There were so many moments that I thought I would have to say goodbye to because I was leaving but what I’d forgotten was that God gives us so many things to hold onto. But I thought that leaving meant saying goodbye to the making of memories with your besties. I thought goodbye meant that our childhoods disappeared and our terrible junior high years were replaced with high quality editing, but I was wrong. For childhoods and awkward photos like us grow too. They are a part of us. We don’t grow out of them necessarily but they are our sounding boards, our jumping off point. They teach us. They build us. Our childhoods give us a foundation for the rest of our lives, a pattern by which we can understand life.

As kids, I remember rifling through the other’s purse contents just to see what her purse held, back when purses were a right of passage, a level of maturity. I remember shoving her off the bed and laughing till we cried and I remember hour long conversations on the telephone and our parents asking us to get off. I remember gossip and fashion runways and dreams and stories and tears. I remember our hearts breaking and aching. Lots of conversations about cute boys, and as we grew the conversation turned into marriage and babies and what we want people to say about us when we’re gone.

I remember countless conversations of Jesus and how he should shine through our lives. The discussion of right and wrong. Jam sessions. So many jam sessions and music trades and rooftop conversations. Coffee shops where we talked about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. There were fights too, but God gave us grace and we made it through.

And now we’ve said a “see you later” and we’re going out to our futures, living our lives. We made our paths cross as kids and we’ll continue to do so.

I guess this one is for my best friend, who I’ve always been afraid of losing. This isn’t goodbye. This is just a different form of hello. We’re saying hello to new things and we will always be cheering each other on. Love is bigger than distance. Don’t believe the lies that tell you otherwise. Love never ends.

 

Discipline, expectations, etc.

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Maybe I thought that discipline was no longer necessary. As if at some point of life you can stop consciously striving towards some goal. As if I even wanted a life that meant that at some point I could become stagnant. I don’t want that and yet I get exhausted with the idea of setting goals.

Pushing for that goal though makes me tired. I don’t want that to be my life. I feel like it’s this constant gearing up for the race, this constant push for the finish line.

That’s the point though. I’ll probably never reach the goal of being fully healed, not having problems, being healthy, being fit, not making mistakes. As soon as I accomplish one goal or test, there is always another one that I add to the list, which makes goals seem rather unreachable to me.

I forget that it’s about the striving. It’s about the climb to the mountain not necessarily if I make it to the top. It’s the process.

The other day, my dad told me that my grandpa always says that it’s not where you are that matters. It’s where you are going. So basically as long as I’m moving towards better places I’m okay even if I’m still a mess.

I’ve been between a rock and a hard place for a long while. I don’t want to consider going back. I don’t want my lack of discipline to put me back where I was, but I don’t want to feel this pressure all the time to be a better me. I don’t want to be suffocated by my own expectations.

-But that’s where it gets real. Where did these expectations of mine come from? And what exactly are they rooted in?

God doesn’t ask me to be perfect or better. He asks me to delight in him, to find my rest in him. He asks me to surrender and to trust him, and when I do those things the fruit of following Him will naturally be produced. And yet I yank the reigns from his hands and say “God. I know what I’m doing. I got this.” When I can’t do anything without him, and I am genuinely reminded of that all the time.

I often think that I constantly have to be moving and running in order for me to be valuable, but again where do these expectations come from? They are not of the Lord.

My spring break was exactly what I needed. However I never would’ve chosen it on my own. I had oodles of time to think, be still, and rest. This is such a discipline for me, but it was beautiful. I wasn’t restless during it, which proved to me the authenticity of the peace He has given me. I saw this time of quiet as an opportunity to process all that the Lord has done recently. What a gift!

So I sat. I didn’t accomplish much, and I didn’t feel guilty about it. It was great. It was huge for me to just sit and rest, understanding that the Lord doesn’t ask me to be constantly running. Resting is a form of worship too.

It’s a balance and I have a hard time finding it everyday. Rest isn’t always in the form of sleep and worship is not always in the form of song.

Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward the goal to which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The point isn’t always that you’re gonna make the mark. It’s okay to miss the goal, but make sure you don’t stop shooting. Keep going.

Brothers and sisters, keep pressing on. If you feel like you can’t make it, do a strength assessment and see who you’re leaning on. Is it yourself or Christ? Adjust accordingly.He is gracious and kind. He will lift you up.

 

Out of the woods

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“I cannot, but Lord you can.”

I found the end of myself. My hands felt the walls that told me I could no longer continue. My feet traipsed with Defeat, and I wondered how I would make it. I did not know. I came to the end of myself; I had nothing else to give. Yesterday my roommate and I talk about the 2 a.m. moment when life is falling apart and you feel alone and scared. You wonder if you’ll make it. That was me all the time.

I do not say this to be dramatic or to draw attention to myself. The Lord has done a good work in me, and now I cannot keep it within me. I must share.

Anxiety consumed me and it felt like depression resided in my whole body. I completed tasks because my routine had always been to get things done. That’s all I knew. I appeared, or so I thought, to be fine.

But I wasn’t at all. I had a glimmer of hope at the beginning of the year; some part of me believed the Lord would make things better eventually, but if not I was okay with being miserable. I thought I could handle it. I knew no way to change it. It felt out of my control. As time went on, I did not think I could handle the world on my shoulders. I did not know how long I could keep running my life if I was always defeated and exhausted with little interest in anything.

My first week back at school, I fell apart. I was in bed with the lights out by nine, praying for someone to call me. I was begging God to show up. My mom called me at nine-thirty. I could not keep myself together. She listened.

She mentioned transferring, but that felt wrong. I knew I was meant to be here, and I still believe that fully. She mentioned dropping a class that brought me quite a load of anxiety, but that felt wrong as well. (It turns out that I ended up meeting one of my best friends in that class. God does beautiful things.)

My mother asked me the last time I truly remembered being content, besides a mission trip one summer, I legitimately could not remember. Of course there were times of happiness and such, but overall I remembered the random pain and fear that had always seemed to be my shadow not to mention the grief that I had experienced.

My mom told me she was convinced that I would get better. She was not worried at all. She reminded me of my beautiful watercolored comforter, kindly telling me to focus on the good things. She also reminded me of the wooden board on my wall that she gave me. It reads “Not to spoil the ending, but everything is going to be ok.”

It was perfect. She’s always been a prayer warrior and I knew she spent time on her knees for me. During our conversation, she also mentioned that maybe I should only listen to christian music.

Before I came to school for the spring semester, I met with an iridologist who loves the Lord. She looked into my eyes and saw things that no one else could. She saw through my walls; she saw plainly the extent of my suffering and how my body was being affected. She put me on supplements to help my body get working again, told me to journal, and said that if I wasn’t reading my Bible everyday the program didn’t matter.

It took time, but I began reading my Bible again everyday and journaling. I found scriptures that I could cling to and I declared them as my anthem. For the month of February and on, I decided to only listen to christian music. It has been the best thing. For Lent, I allow myself one Netflix show a week and that is it.

A week after I called my mom and fell apart, my church had a Body Life Sunday, where we ask the Spirit to lead, and anyone who feels led may go to the pulpit and speak. Person after person stood up and spoke of deep anxiety and depression. One of our prayer leaders stepped forward and asked for all who struggle with anxiety and depression to come to the table.

I knew I had to walk forward. There was no way I could deny that anxiety was a part of my struggle and my story. Being prayed over was one of the most beautiful things I have experienced. It was painful and uncomfortable, but it was needed. They spoke scripture after scripture over us, declared that our disorder was not our name. I took the bread and drank the cup. For the Lord said, it is finished.

It took time, but February 16th I noticed. I felt different. I had energy for the first time in forever. I can’t tell you why, but I can tell you that I knew it was from the Lord. That day I ended up asking myself and the Lord for forgiveness in areas where I had screwed up. That night I was in bed with the lights out at seven-thirty. My whole world was spinning and I expected to throw up at any moment.

I can think of one of two reasons for this. First, it may have been a spiritual attack. Second, it is possible that my anxiety literally couldn’t handle peace and calm therefore it made something happen in my body.

The intense vertigo and nausea continued for about a day and I still experience it off and on, but I am determined that it will not take the joy and peace that the Lord has brought me. A couple days later I was laying in bed and I could not believe the lightness in my chest. There was no weight and it was incredible.

I didn’t know that I could come out of the woods.

Every day is still a fight and a struggle to remember that the Lord is victorious. He has brought me freedom. Tears still come to my eyes as I write this story. I am beyond grateful for what the Lord has done in my life. Because of the Lord “my greatest pain has become my greatest gift.”

My God found me when I had no strength and no fight. He gave me both. I know he can do the same for you.

 

On Being Lost

And you’ll feel lost sometimes. Maybe you won’t even want to be found, or maybe you’ll fight with your whole being to be found, to be seen, to be loved, to be wanted.

Maybe we want the fairy tale to be true. Maybe it is. Maybe eventually, the prince gets the girl in the soft light of an autumn moon. But-

There’s always the chance that the prince doesn’t come home from the war he was supposed to win. There’s always the chance the ribbon doesn’t get tied.

Thankfully no matter what, we have this promise: Psalm 90:4 – “He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

At the end of the day, we want to know that when we screw up there will be someone to comfort us and help us through the difficulties. We want to know that we’re not alone. We want to know that what we’re doing means something. We want to believe in a hope that we can cling to. We want to know that there’s more. We want to see the bigger picture.

We want to know that it will be okay. We want to be found.

Don’t worry

; your story isn’t over yet.

 

Tell Me:

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There were words I wanted to say,

but didn’t know how.

.

Because how do you explain perpetual heartbreak?

And how do you say “I’m sorry”

and “I love you”

in the same sentence?

.

How do you ask someone to stay?

How do you tell them how you really feel?

How do you explain that your chest is heavy?

And how do you explain that every task on your to-do list

is a chore?

without becoming a burden?

.

Explain to me because I want to know

Will you still love me when I am so sorrowful?

Will you hold my hand even though it is so heavy?

Am I allowed to apologize for being too much or will you become annoyed

because I am considered too needy?

.

Tell me because I need to know.

My heart is too heavy for jokes and fallacies.

I am too unclear to understand the ideas you are connecting with simple words.

.

Tell me.

I know I’m not the only one.

Tell me.

Are the hands that cradle the stars still holding my heart?

Made Me New

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For I have fallen, lower than low

In a place I’ve learned to call home.

A house that is comfortable and diminished.

 

Far from you I cry out

In fear

For I cannot face this world alone.

I belong to you.

 

Make me new. Make me new.

For I am dust; far from you.

I am walking in the sludge of my own mess,

Unknown to the fact that I can walk among the light,

No longer lost in the shadows.

 

Make me new

For my heart is far from you,

But I want to be close.

Make me new.

 

Make.

Me.

New.

 

For I belong to you

My heart is low and broken.

Tempted and tried,

I am found guilty in the Judge’s eyes,

But you have made me new.

 

Joy such joy! on that day when I see my Maker’s face

And He smiles upon me with his unchanging grace.

Despite the muck and mire still on my shoes,

Despite the fear that wrapped me like a cloak,

Despite the judgement in my eyes,

And the unfaithfulness in my heart,

He forgave me and made me new.

 

Said “your past is no longer your own,

and I will pay the price of your disgrace.

If you let me love you, I will adopt you.”

 

And so I serve not out of compulsion,

but because of his compassion.

He set a fire.

He saved my soul.

He gave me a gift.

 

Tell me.

What could I do but lift my hands

When I remember His name?

For He made me new

Took my brokenness and called me worthy,

Made me belong in a place far better than I.

 

Tell me.

What am I to do but lift my hands?

C E L E B R A T E

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I know how to talk about pain and write about it. Pain has always been my medium. I’m thinking I want another medium to add to the color palette, but I legitimately laugh when I think of me talking about celebrating. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I suck at it. Not because I’m against having a good time, it’s just that being excited can be a struggle for me sometimes and if I were being honest sometimes I’m too tired to celebrate.

Some people are wired that way and I get that. I am not nor have I ever been, but I’m starting to think it looks like fun. I think I could do it, and I think I want to.

Now I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a good party every now and then. I do. I love laughing with friends and I enjoy people, but it is not everyday that I choose to celebrate nor probably every week. Although I am learning.

First of all, celebrating has nothing to do with ignoring pain. At some point I have to learn that celebrating is important because God is a giver of good gifts. Blessings are real and they cause joy.

It’s unfair to always make Pain the victim. Grief happens. Hard things happen. That’s life. We have to become okay with being sad because heart aches need to heal, but only feeling sad is unhealthy. I haven’t always understood that.

But I’ve learned a lot in my first semester of college. I’ve learned the importance and joys of celebrating. Cause life’s a big deal. And some days I don’t want to throw a pity party, I want to say HECK YES.

Life’s a big deal and learning how to live on my own and be an adult is hard and really exciting. Early on in the semester, my friends and I celebrated our first non-caf meal after being at school for nine days with cookies and ice scream. We celebrated a free Friday night with blankets and pillows, candy and a chick flick. I celebrated flying by myself for the first time with Starbucks. I rejoice all the time for God’s good gifts of great friends and a roomie that only God could have given. I celebrated my first real job- my dream summer job- with a book that I’ve been wanting. Celebrating doesn’t have to be marked or planned; it can be an ecstatic “hallelujah!” or a simple “God bless.”

Every day will not be a party. It can’t be. So when the opportunity comes, let’s celebrate until there’s no more laughter in our lungs.