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.

October

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The leaves fall slowly, carried off by the wind.

Crunch, crunch.

Under my feet, summer dies.

Not unlike the deciduous trees, I’m changing too.

The drizzle of rain is not uncommon.

The green blanket of grass is covered by

copper coins.

Begin to pull that sweater

closer.

Down come the sleeves, over come the turtle necks

The roundness of all kinds of pumpkin lovin’

Never to be unwelcome.

We all wear facades

So put on another ’cause Halloween calls for a third face.

The clouds have come to show themselves

And shower their

grace.

Goodbye dear Sun you were warm and inviting;

Thanks for spreading the rays.

But here come the

days:

With rain boots and lattes and scarves galore.

Pull up your socks for the cold creeps in. Before

Autumn is ready to wave goodbye.

Snuggle with the one you love for weather is another excuse

To just be

Together. Find

A winding road and let the glory of gold wash over you

With the sleek blackness of wet pavement.

Let the copper coins wink in your face as they shimmer elegance.

Accept that eighteen is not a crisp autumn and rejoice.

For so many seasons are still ahead.

Cup the warm spices in your hand

And sing in the long folksy way only an autumn girl can.

Let the chill of the wind pull your hair in any direction it feels;

For what is autumn without a fog.

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.

Take Me Deeper

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Lately, I’ve realized that parts of life feel dry, stale, specifically my relationship with God. Maybe that’s normal. There are always going to be dry spells. I mean the Israelites wandered the desert for forty years, talk about a dry spell.

Counseling is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it is worth it. It makes me cry. It makes me angry. It makes me numb, but I am aware of these things.

I often choose to ignore sadness, fear, and anger so when I must face them (and I’m learning to accept them) then I feel completely and totally out of control.

We do these exercises in my sessions where my eyes are shut and we basically dive into all the things I hate feeling. I sit still in a chair but it feels as though I am on a roller coaster, dipping, diving, spinning, but I’m not. I’ve shunned these emotions, which are actually good, for so long that now I can barely face them.

The other day, I bought a wooden stamp that reads, “Life is about using the whole box of crayons.” I like to think of it in terms of emotions. You see I have a lot of sadness, a lot of anger, and a lot of fear, and all of those emotions I really don’t like. So I casually ignore them, shun them, pretend like they’re not valid, etc. , but I shouldn’t because Sadness helps me let go of things, and Fear and Anger protect me. I can’t just leave them out.

I’ve been learning that a lot lately; each emotion is important. They’re okay. My counselor told me to see “Inside Out” (which is very good), and it gives a healthy picture of how I need all of my emotions. It’s a balance. So I have to learn to accept them, each and every one of them. No matter how difficult it is.

Lately, I think I feel a little like those Israelites. Not only do I feel dry, but I feel lost. I’m in between high school and college, Texas and Alabama. Even on a deeper level though, I feel somewhat lost. Maybe it’s anxiety or maybe its normal, but so often I get this intense feeling that there is no point in life, that nothing matters, and I pray through it. It goes away after a bit, but I’ve had it for so long. I remember getting it so vividly as a kid; I never could find a way to vocalize it though. It’s really quite freaky, but I am learning to trust the Lord. I’m learning that maybe feeling lost isn’t a problem. It’s okay. It’s just another chance for me to grow and get closer to the Father.

“Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.”

That is my prayer. I’m digging deeper. I’m choosing to. Reading Prayer by Tim Keller and studying my Bible and praying, I’m doing my best to connect with God, but I know that’s not enough. I could never do it on my own. So I’m asking the Lord to take me deeper. Take me deeper. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.

It’s somewhat uncomfortable, but I know it’s healthy and I’m learning to be okay with being real with God, and I’m learning so much. It’s like any other relationship. There’s talking, complaining, praising, listening. There’s a give and pull. It’s a two way street. It’s okay if I’m frustrated with where we are at.

I’m wandering. Like I said I feel lost, but that doesn’t mean I am. And I know that no matter how far I wander I could never be as deep into the Father’s love as I want to be. So I’m asking Him to guide me.

Psalms 3:4-5 “To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.”

He cares enough to listen. He cares enough to protect. He cares enough to sustain. I so often do not give Him the credit He deserves. He is changing my view. He is making me new.

“Lord. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

Hang on; the sun will shine again.

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I wish I could make you see that there is nothing wrong with a bit of pain. I wish I could make you understand that you are not supposed to wake up with a heavy head and a constricted heart. There comes a point when you get to say “no.” When you get to choose to fight. Sometimes all you need is a friend to listen as you speak. To form a little army behind you that can cheer you on with little drum beats.

There may come a point when your head feels too heavy and the pounding of your feet is physically painful  for you to hear. A time when you feel that you can no longer fight. Give yourself grace. Practice relaxing. It’s okay to lay in bed, maybe it’s your body telling you it needs time – time to heal. It’s okay. You’re not the only one. There is no shame in being hurt or scared.

What you’re dealing with is not weird. So many people struggle with it, but so many people can’t find the courage to say anything. Because many people don’t understand it, and hearing the words, “calm down. It’s not that big of a deal,” again makes you want to punch someone, hard.

Be brave. Have courage and speak. Tell your closest friends. Let them fight for you. Let them help you. It feels weak and vulnerable, but they will give you strength. That’s why we have friends and family. Jesus gave us community so we could lift each other up and strengthen one another.

Friend. It’s going to get better. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but things will look up eventually. And if not, it’s just a reminder for us to look up. This too shall pass. So hang on. Life’s tough, but so are you. Just hang on and maybe one day you’ll realize you figured out how to do this whole life thing. Eventually, the sun will shine again.

Disappointment and Buckets of Grace

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I hate saying it, but I think I’ve been hiding from God. Maybe I was mad at Him or I expected Him not to show up. Maybe I just didn’t want to admit that I was hurt and He was the only One who could heal me. Because admitting that I am weak makes me feel sick. I don’t want to be weak, but I am.

Maybe I was hiding because I was scared. I probably got lost in the idea that perfection is the only standard- that life only flows abundantly when I have everything together.

Trying to hide the ugly parts of me from Him while still holding onto the facade of a better me, I tried to run the relationship. God, You’re big enough to handle anything, but there’s nothing to see here. I’m going to do it on my own because I don’t want to bother You. I’m tired of being someone else’s burden. I even try to convince myself that I don’t need help.

Control invited me to go to dinner, but stood me up. Exhaustion seems to have seeped into the cracks of my schedule, and Confusion is proud to say that he’s my new bff. Anxiety has tattooed his name on my arm and I can’t seem to scratch it off. These four and many others have become my friends, and I guess, I guess I was afraid to tell God.

I was afraid He’d be disappointed in me. I didn’t even realize that. 

I am afraid He will be disappointed in me. So I hide. I’m so afraid that God won’t be pleased with me. I’m afraid to screw up our relationship. I’m afraid to mess up His view of me. As if God doesn’t already know the color of my heart.

Relentless is my word and yet I am being more relenting than ever. I’m just giving up. That’s not okay. When did I stop trusting?

Would I push harder if I knew Christ would catch me?

How many times do I stop short because I know on my strength I can’t make it? How many times do I decide when it’s time for me to cut it short? How many times do I think today I should write and yet I don’t because I fear that my words hold no weight?

Was I afraid that He’d be disappointed in a girl who wasn’t strong enough to finish the race? Yet if I think of the characters in the Bible, I am encouraged for they are like me. Moses doubted God and Peter denied Christ, and yet they were not kicked off the team. Because God has buckets and buckets of Grace and if we can learn to accept Grace then we will soon learn how to pass the buckets from soldier to soldier.

I know He won’t cast me out, but I don’t want to look into His eyes because I’m afraid I’ll see the sorrow of regret glistening there. I forget that the clouds are Him waving ‘hello.’ Shooting stars are a simple way for Him to say “I love you.” Orion’s Belt is a constant reminder of His faithfulness, and Dandelions on The Doorstep are just His way of saying, “I’m here too.”

I’m constantly looking into His eyes without ever thinking about it. But with every look it’s as if I’m saying, “am I worth it?” Over and over again, He’s giving me clues that I’m still His. No matter how good I think I am at hiding or how far I think I can run, I’m still in His hands and He is not disappointed in me. When mistakes and failures come, may we remember that there are more buckets of grace than we could ever imagine.

Be still.

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I’ve always had this sense of urgency. This feeling of go, go, go because life’s too short. Unlike a normal teenager, I refuse to sleep in because I don’t want to waste my day. I want to get things done. I want to be prepared for my life. I don’t want to miss anything, but somewhere along the way I lost sight of actually living.

Lately, I’m tired partly because I don’t sleep well and I just feel weighted down. Living feels a lot more like fighting lately and maybe that’s good because it sends me on my knees.

I’ll admit it. I’m scared, all the time. Anxiety – I’m learning – has been a buddy of mine for quite a long while. I just never realized we were at the level of sharing startling emotions. I didn’t know he could make my chest feel like an elephant sat on it. I didn’t know he could make butterflies fly in reverse order in my stomach. He could easily turn my insides into a hurricane and worst of all: I didn’t know that I ignored him. I had no idea that I knew him. No idea that he was the one who made me panic. Until I learned that fear shouldn’t be my everyday companion, and I must teach the butterflies to fly together despite the dizziness in my head and the fear in my heart.

Fear doesn’t deserve your love story. 

Hannah Brencher told me that. It’s true though. It doesn’t. Too many of us have forgotten how to enjoy things because we’re so afraid of screwing up. We’re afraid of feeling like failures when we fall asleep. So we double dot our i’s and cross our t’s, and we write to-do lists like it’s crack because every second must be full and we must always be in control. We’ve become addicted to the idea that we can have everything we want. We’re addicted to the idea that we can be everything.

I cannot be all the things. 

But -boy-oh-boy!- do I want to be all the things. I just really want to be good at everything. Genuinely successful. Never make a mistake. That’s impossible. It’s a goal that is unreachable.

I need to be okay with mistakes. I need to become confident with failure because it doesn’t mean that I am a failure. It simply means that I messed up. That is all.

It is okay to not be all things. I need to stop constantly striving to have the world together, to stop attempting perfection.

“Be still,” He said. “Be still. I’ll hold you in my arms.”

He’s telling me that I’m enough. That I don’t have to work for love or acceptance. That it’s not all up to me. When my schedule gets out-of-order or I lose control, it’s not in my power. It never was. May I be still and remember that it’s not my audience.

So take it away God. It’s your stage not mine.

Pass it on

It’s different growing up. I want to put a bow on little parts of life and say this was “good and beautiful and right and pure,” and certain parts I want to stick in a closet and say “you know what? This is where I screwed up. If you stay for long enough I might give you a tour.” Other parts I’d stick in a UPS box and label “Confusion: Need Answers. Please dissect.” I’d ponder that package for years and wait and wait till it probably drove me mad, but I don’t understand this whole life thing. I don’t understand how I can cry five times in a day and yet the next I can party like there is no tomorrow, as if life were in actuality a fairy tale.

But maybe that’s the thing. Life doesn’t deserve a label. Because sometimes it is beautiful and sometimes it is tragic, and yet somehow it is both.

And the parts of life we want to put in the closet so the rest of the world can’t see, we need to share. We must pass it on because there are people who need to know that they are not the only ones who stay up until the midnight hours because the voices won’t quiet. They are not the only ones who can’t get out of bed because their bodies feel heavy and they have no drive. They need to know that they are not the only ones who shed salt water like Niagara Falls.

We need to share our stories so they know that they are not alone in this. Share more than just the dance parties and the picnics, the nitty-gritty hard stuff. The valleys.

Not so that we can say, “look how much junk I survived” or “look how strong I am.” We can’t say those things because God uses train wrecks. We cannot boast, but only in the power of His grace. Without Him, we would still be train wrecks with no hope of being recycled.

We have to be okay with sharing our stories and being vulnerable with our struggles. We should not shout to the rooftops our deepest darkest secrets, but we should share our struggles with friends and be surprised to see that they are struggling too. They are walking a similar path of loneliness, of heartbreak, of fear.

We must learn to look up from our attempts at fixing our own train wrecks; so that we can see that we aren’t the only ones. We aren’t alone in our struggles. We’re not the only ones with skinned knees from rejection. We’re not the only ones with concussions from loss. Some things will never look the same.

So today and everyday, remember that you’re not the only one with a scar and a story. Pass it on.