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.

 

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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.

 

Speak

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“God, I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”

I’ve been wrestling with my mind and my body. I’m fighting my anxiety. Well, God’s fighting my anxiety because I feel like I don’t have the strength to cope anymore. I just don’t care enough.

I’m tired of feeling like this. So I’m gonna watch TV and disappear into a life that was never meant to be mine, and I’ll do my homework when I feel like it because I am tired of forcing myself to live, to survive.

Forgive me for being blunt, but this feels like my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely grateful that I get to go to university and for my family and my friends.

It’s just that anxiety takes away life. It sucks out the energy and joy. It makes me someone I don’t want to be.

I have desires and dreams and goals, but every time I sit down to do them or think about them or write them out, my motivation disappears. It’s gone. I can’t do it anymore.

I called my mom from the Boston airport. I had only mentioned to one other person that I was struggling. It had to come to the point where nausea had embraced my whole stomach and made my head spin, and the whole expanse of my body ached. And the only thoughts I could think were literally, “God I can’t. I can’t.”

My prayer for the past few weeks has been something along the lines of, “God I can’t fight anymore. I’m sick of fighting for me. Bring people to fight for me. I need you to fight for me.”

I hate admitting that was my prayer, but it was. Maybe not every day or every moment of the day, but it was a common prayer.

I’ve realized that the Lord has been answering it. Rather randomly almost every weekend God has brought family to see me.

I didn’t even realize it, but he was answering my prayer. I didn’t seek those things out, which is so beautiful to me because He says, “I will fight for you. You need only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14).

So I called my mom in the Boston airport. I told her what WebMD, my doctor, and my counsellor had proved to me months ago, which she already knew, that Generalized Anxiety Disorder was something that I could call my own. For some reason it hit me like a train. I cried.

She didn’t promise me it would get better, and I loved her all the more for it. She was shooting me straight, and I couldn’t have been more appreciative. She just said, “you must be tired of feeling like this and struggling with this over and over again.”

With those words, I knew she got it. That meant so much to me. She didn’t tell me to fight harder or that things were gonna work out. She just stepped into my junk with me. She realized how exhausting this is and how much I must hate it; and of course that only made me cry harder.

I don’t say this because I am asking for attention or trying to throw myself a pity party. I say this because I know I’m not the only one. I say this because God gave me a voice to use and lately I’ve been taking that for granted. Keeping my struggle to myself because I’m embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid.

In all honesty, I wrote this blog awhile ago. I was just too scared to post it.

But asking for help is necessary.

In Exodus 17:8-15, Moses has to hold his staff to God in order for Joshua to win the battle, but his hands grew tired so Aaron and Hur ended up holding his arms.

This is beautiful. This is proof. Proof that it is okay to ask for help, if not necessary. It is permission. Freedom to ask for help and let others carry you.

As I said before, I told God I couldn’t do it this semester. I got real. Over and over again, I told Him I needed Him. That’s it. I’ve always hated asking for help, and talking about things. It took me about three weeks to tell my mom.

It’s been so much better having told her though. I’ve started going to counseling again. I only say this because I want to encourage you to speak, to be brave, to say the things that you’re so afraid of saying that it makes the whole world spin and tip once you do say them.

I believe in you, in your brave spirit. God made you a mighty warrior to fight battles, and if this is yours, it is okay. You’re not the only one.

I’m nauseous just writing this post. I get it. It’s hard. It seems like no one understands this struggle. They think we’re overdramatizing everything, making up symptoms. You can’t argue with hives, migraines, vertigo, nausea, shaking, heart palpitations, lack of strength, etc.

Ask for help. Be brave. You’re not the only one. Speak. Please just speak. You never know who needs to hear your words or your struggle.

And please, please, please let others fight for you.

All in good time

cropped-hollsers4.jpgLife is painful, down right uncomfortable. No one said that growing is easy and no one taught us how to deal with these growing pains. Now I want to say that I don’t want to be anyone else or anywhere else. I understand you have to be uncomfortable to grow, to learn, to change but it’s painful and you can’t understand it unless you’ve stood there.

I came here during a hard season. I came into an unfamiliar town with all new faces, a different school system, a strange state, nothing from back home. It’s been so great and so sweet, but it’s been hard. I don’t want to sugar coat it. And I guess all I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to miss home. It is. No one may understand your struggle and I mean truly understand your struggle, but you do and that’s okay.

I’ve gone to college. I’ve been here for over a month; crazy right? But even so I didn’t get really home sick until this week. I think I was in denial partially, and partially there was so much to handle that I didn’t know how to handle goodbyes and distance and all things new, and so with my brain and body on overload I ignored them, until I couldn’t.

I got sick, a cold to be exact, but nothing will make you crave your mother’s arms like the sniffles, and then I realized I missed my volleyball team and tournaments and the most random things like streets and stop signs and being able to see eight miles in any direction and the visibility of stars at night.

I knew I missed my people. I knew I missed being hug and understood and people getting my inside jokes and making fun of my quirks in the way only a brother can.

It’s okay that I miss home and I’ve just now realized this. My childhood and high school years were special. I will never get them back. Home will never feel the same. It will always be so much more special, and yet different because now I have a life in Birmingham, Alabama too.

Life is good and life is hard, and change is scary and uncomfortable. God’s got it in His hands. He’ll take you where you need to be when you need to get there. All in good time, my child, all in good time.

It will work out in the end, and if you feel like you have no purpose listen to me: you do. You are worthy simply because you were bought with a price by the Most High King.

When you wonder if you matter, I’ll say it again: you do. You never know what a smile means or even just your mere presence. You never know who was encouraged by your struggle or your tears. Your failures remind others that grace is a real thing, and that is important to live on this earth, if not necessary.

God’s got you. Your life will work out. Failing a test or a game is not the end of the world, the world doesn’t stop for skinned knees or trophies. The world has expectations. People around you put pressure on you for who you need to be and what you need to do. It’s not important.

At the end of the day, your life is between you and Jesus. May you delight in the Lord and may He be your strength, comfort, and solace in time of need.

And in the words of Hannah Brencher may our prayer be, “Keep me small. Keep me grateful. Keep me humble.”

The Lord knows your struggle and your heart. Hold onto that. When you feel alone and He seems distance, just now that He is there with you in every painful, scary, exciting step.

Make your life. Make Him proud. Find out what’s important in the end. Do your best with everything that comes into your hands, and when you can’t just make sure you are focused on the important things. There is always grace in all things. The Lord is good and He loves you; hold onto that.

Plant your seeds

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Where do I place my roots? In a new place, a new home, I wonder what’s the point? Is it finding good friends, having fun, finding the best food and coffee shops? Is it being a leader on campus?  Is it secluding myself to be still with Jesus? There are so many different things I could focus on.

College is a time when we are told to choose our schedules, our meals, our jobs, our budgets, our futures, and even possibly our spouses. Everything revolves around what we want, what we desire.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that.

Sure, it’s uncomfortable to not choose what I want, but honestly I think I genuinely want what the Lord wants. I don’t want to be a slave to my desires. I want to pour into other people. I want to be broken. I want to grow. I want to change. I don’t want to follow every whimsical desire of my heart.

Last Sunday in church a man prayed that we would be blessed with a restlessness in Christ. That we would never be satisfied in where we are, that we would always crave to be more in Christ, deeper, fuller.

That encouraged me so much. It scared me too, but it means that I will never get to a point in my relationship with Christ where I have to just shrug my shoulders and say “I guess I know all there is to know about You.” It’s encouraging because I know that I am no where near that point, at all. The fact that I’ll never be there until heaven doesn’t scare me. It’s actually quite comforting.

Change is hard. Realizing that no matter how much I know there is still more to know is hard. Pressing in is hard, but perseverance is so important.

I’m in a new place; I feel empty in a sense. I know no one. Sometimes I feel completely out of control, spinning, nauseous, but the Lord is good. He’s got a plan. I trust that. Even if it’s hard and painful, some of the best things in life are hard things, and I fully believe that.

No rain. No flowers.

I’ve been here nineteen days and I’ve already seen flowers, lots of them. And so many buds. So I’m just going to keep planting seeds even if I’m sweating, even if callouses begin to form. I’m going to keep planting seeds, and I’m going to continue to let the Lord prune me.

I’ve realized that my relationship with Christ is like a tree that never dies. First, it is a young seed and then it grows, and as it grows its seeds go deeper into the earth connecting with other trees and its limbs reach farther out, shading the earth. Slowly but surely it changes. Nothing happens overnight. In order for a tree to grow to its full extent it must be trimmed. Painful for the tree, I’m sure, but that is the only way it will reach its maximum potential.

We need to be willing to let the Lord prune us and shape us so that we may grow into the trees that He’s designed us to be. That’s the thing about sanctification, it’s a process.

So continue to plant your seeds. Don’t worry about the callouses; they’ll heal eventually. Be patient. Growth takes time. Don’t expect to withstand your first storm. Failures happen. Give a little grace. Have a little faith. Things will turn out right in the end.

Safe in His Arms

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I sat with sweet friends at Ihop this morning. Our last morning together for awhile since I’m leaving for college tomorrow. We laughed. We talked about sadness and goodbyes, hard things, new things, exciting things. We discussed change, and we were reminded of God’s constancy. The only One that will never fail us.

On my drive home, I didn’t want to listen to the radio; the goodbye made me really sad. Eventually, I figured that Christian music might be comforting. So I turned on the radio, not expecting much. But God blew me away.

I don’t know if it was encouragement hour or what, but they were having a discussion on the air. The announcer explained that the pastors that he was about to interview had both lost children on a Thursday. He then went on to say that on those Wednesdays, life had been normal, usual. They had no idea that a Thursday was coming.

I immediately tuned in. My family lost a dear friend last year. We lost him on a Thursday. It was true that Wednesday we had no idea what would hit us. My original college move-in day was August 14th, the anniversary. I didn’t think I could handle it. When I figured out that I would be moving in on August 12th unlike most freshman because of my orientation schedule, I was beyond grateful. I couldn’t believe God would change something like that just for me.

So on this Monday- a figurative Wednesday- we could have a Thursday coming tomorrow. Life could completely change.

For me, it will. I’m going to college tomorrow, leaving. Traveling 654 miles from home. Sure, I’m excited, but I’m scared too, maybe even a little terrified. I know I’ll be fine, but anxiety’s always been a companion.

Both the pastors gave the same encouragement: God is unchanging. He doesn’t waver. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I started crying. My car’s radio lost reception and somehow connected to another station. I was immediately frustrated, but then it began to play “Safe” by Phil Whickham. Yet again, I lost it.

“You will be safe in His arms. You will be safe in His arms. The hands that hold the world are holding your heart. This is a promise He makes. He will be with you always. When everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms.”

I am blown away by the Lord’s love for me, how unrelenting He is. He wants me to know that He’s here with me. He reminded me so beautifully, so intricately.

I am safe in His arms.