Freedom in Pain

For a big portion of my life, I was dishonest to both myself and to others. I was so focused on shoving any negative emotions down that I never allowed myself to truly feel pain.

The pain of death, the pain of mental illness, the pain of broken relationships, the pain of practically any life experience that hurt – I shoved deep down inside of myself. I lived life numb. I turned off my pain receptors and was “strong” for myself and for everyone else around me. 

This next sentence was a revelation: vulnerability goes so much deeper than simply allowing yourself to TALK about the hard stuff. It is allowing yourself to feel it, too.
I never gave myself the freedom to actually “lose control” and embrace pain. I would be sad for a little while, but would quickly tell myself, “Enough is enough,” only because I’d get tired of feeling the negative emotion. I would cry for as long as I deemed necessary, but only when I chose to. 
I constantly tried to control and limit the depth of my pain.A short backstory: I used to highly value looking like I was put together. I was the “strong” one. Even when life got hard, I was the person who could carry on, regardless of anything. Looking back now, I realize how I allowed my insecurity of looking weak to steal life from me. 
False strength stole the intimacy of being vulnerable, and the closeness it fostered in relationships.
I even allowed it to steal my dependence on God. I was too busy being “strong”, instead of relying on him to carry me.
More recently, I came to the realization that I have lived the majority of my life half alive, numb to pain – all because I believed allowing myself to feel pain was bad. It made me weak, somehow.
Lately, I’m discovering it’s actually the complete opposite.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
God loves broken people, and he loves being glorified in our weaknesses.
It’s completely selfish that I haven’t allowed this healthy emotion – pain – into my life. I’ve lost a lot of opportunities where I could have relied on God instead of trying to do it all myself. 
Even though being vulnerable may make me feel cut open, wounds bleeding and scars showing, I know it is necessary. God is best glorified in my weakness. And as I find the courage to feel, I can see God working for me, not against me. 
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” 
By walling off pain, I was denying myself the comfort God brings through mourning. 
Dear Friend, if you’ve had similar struggles – please know that it is okay to cry, even when people can see you. Chances are, those same people want to be there to comfort you, love you, and support you. It is okay if we don’t have our lives put together. We aren’t called to perfection; we are called to live in complete abandon for Christ. 
It’s also okay if you don’t know how to explain your feelings. I encourage you to just take the first step, and allow yourself to feel. 
Feel the ugly, and feel the brokenness. Be completely honest with yourself. Allow the tears to come. Let your walls come down. 
In these feelings of “weakness”, God can create intimacy. 
In these feelings of pain, God can create dependence on Him. 
In not having your life put together, you can witness to other people who don’t have their lives put together, either! Let your brokenness be your testimony for God. 
I am weak, because God is my strength. 
I am not perfect, because He is the only one who can be. 
I am not independent, because I am DEPENDENT on the One True King – and in this, I am free. 
I am free from the fear of judgement. I am free from the standards of my own mind. I am free from the guilt, the shame, and the perfectionism! 
In Christ I am free. That my strength. That is what I will lean on. 
2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Living Intentionally This Summer

Summer is here and oftentimes that means relaxation, catching up on netflix, and sleep and books we want to read that were all pushed to the side during the craziness of school. Tanning, taking road trips with friends, hanging out and sometimes spending days doing nothing if that's what we feel like....and that makes summer a very dangerous time and a time where it can be very easy to waste these 3 months and simply let them slip by instead of taking advantage of and being intentional with this special time of the year.

It's so easy to become self-focused and self-absorbed, but what if we spent this summer focusing on others. What if instead of spending our time figuring out how tan we can get we spent our time investing in relationships and people who may be lonely and need a friend. Instead of watching hours of netflix we spent hours serving those in need. Instead of sleeping the days away we spend them in prayer and seeking God?

If we are not intentional with how we spend our time, then it really doesn't matter how much extra time we have it will simply be a wasted. While I may still have a busy schedule this summer it is not nearly as crazy as during the school year and so I want to take advantage of it to seize this time and not let it slip away. 

I order to not waste my summer I need to plan. Because like the old saying goes “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” I need to plan out what my personal, relational and spiritual priorities are for this summer, and then once I know what my priorities are I need to plan and spend my time accordingly otherwise I will let the time slip away & my priorities will fall to the wayside. 

Friend, I would encourage you to take the time to look over your summer, to set some priorities and goals and then make sure that your schedule and the way that you are spending your time is a reflection of those. Let's not look back with regret, because we weren't proactive in using our summer wisely. 

Real Hope

Where do we turn when the pain is real? Where do we find our hope?

Certain hope is  Strong, Trustworthy, Anchor

An anchor keeps a ship from drifting and to add stability in  storm, we all need those two things in our life, because we are not anchored to something it is easy to allow our lives to drift. 

Real hope is based on God’s word and not my wishes, it’s not based on what I sense, but what God has said it’s not based on my emotion but on what God has spoken

God CANNOT lie 
One truth I am learning is that our savior is BOTH big enough to right all of the wrongs and compassionate enough to care for us (as he displayed by going all the way to the point of death for us).
When trouble comes and there is no a light you can see. 

Trouble that almost suffocates us, Jesus is the one who provides us with the answers. 

There is a God who is big and powerful, but a world that is falling apart

Don’t lose sight, don’t give up, hold on allow yourself to lift up your head to look up and see Christ—because Jesus has overcome the world. No matter what comes remember that Jesus has overcome the world.

Trouble comes, life hurts and life happens, but we have confidence in a Jesus who tells us that he is an overcoming savior.

So when life hurts most we turn to the cross of Jesus Christ – he is our hope the anchor for our soul
At the cross we see that God loves us, and that’s what we need to know most during these times.
-It will assure us that there is a God who loves us unconditionally
God is never not in control of your life
God can use the worse for eternal good
If we fix our eyes on the storm we’ll wonder if God still loves us, but if our eyes are on the cross we’ll know that he always has and he always will

Have you ever stopped to think about what it was like for Jesus’s disciples and his mother Mary after Jesus died. I picture them all huddled together, just sobbing and weeping and trying to comfort each other. Not understanding or being able to make sense of anything that just happened. This sky was black and all of their hopes and dreams seem to have died. Nothing that happened that day seemed to make any sense. What good could ever come out of this bleak scene? This was the scene on Good Friday it seemed like the darkest day of their life and that there was no way that anything good could come out of it. BUT oh what joy and beauty was coming—Easter was coming Jesus was going to resurrect and bring life and hope. But at that point in time all they could see was the horrors of that day. They couldn’t see the bigger picture, how God was bringing good out of the situation.
Friend God is not finished with your life. Easter IS coming. Hope is not lost even if it seems as dark as good Friday did for the disciples.

So let this bring you courage, may you cling to this truth and remember that God brings beauty from ashes. Our suffering is only temporary, and it will one day be over. And our suffering has meaning, it’s not wasted, our suffering can glorify God and is ultimately for our good.

So now in life when the storms happen we are all tempted to run away from God, or be mad at God, but when we look at the cross we can stop asking the question “why are you letting this happen to me” instead another thought emerges, “Jesus this happened to you” everything in my life both good and bad were all put on you, you’ve been there you know and you can relate. I’m going to run to you and not away from you, because you’re the only one who really knows and understands what I’m going through.

 There are so many different places that we can put our hope. But as we see in Colossians 2:17 we are reminded that the things we are tempted to put our hope in are not the real reality. It says These are a shadow of the things to come; the reality, however is found in Christ.”  Instead lets seek to find our hope in Christ—“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curatin, where our forerunner, Jesus has entered on our behalf he has become a high priest forever…”  (Heb 6:19)

Busy, but not stressed

Some weeks you open up your planner and look at your to-do list and instantly all the happiness, laughter and smiles are wiped off your face, because a wave of stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious immediately seem to take over your heart and attitude. It happens so quickly that sometimes we don’t even notice it.

This week I remembered about a paper that I forgotten was due the next day, my capstone abstract is due, I have to work extra hours at my job I have a midterm, another paper, literature review and I’ll stop boring you with my to-do list now, because it’s long and boring and everyone else has their own problems, to-do lists and stressors.

When I first realized all of this my natural tendency was to immediately become stressed out. And sometimes it can seem as if we don’t have any other choice but to be stressed when life gets crazy and the to-do list seems overwhelming, however that’s a lie. A busy life does not have to be equated with a stressed out heart. Instead “Stress is not identical with the pressures of life. Nor are the pressures of life the cause of stress.” Stress is the mental and emotional tension that is generated from our unbiblical responses to pressure and a lack of trust in God.

So instead of responding to these situation with my eyes focused on my own strength and my to-do list this week I make the choice to respond with my eyes focused on savior the sufficiency of his grace and power and how he will use all the situations in my life including the hard ones refine me and help me to grow.

So this week I want to be intentional about my attitude
Instead of complaining about my busy week I choose to have a thankful heart and spend the week looking for all the things I can be grateful for.
Instead of being stressed I choose to remind myself of the truth of God’s word.
Instead of feeling anxious about completing my to-do list I will choose to trust God and his grace and power.
Instead of allowing my heart to be overwhelmed with the crazy busyness of life I will allow my heart to be overwhelmed by God’s unending amazing grace.
Instead of choosing a grumbling attitude I will choose to allow the joy of the Lord to be my strength.
Instead of allowing my heart to be self-focused I will choose to love and serve others.

In order to have these heart changes and focus on God even in the midst of this I need to fight the temptation to give into stress and a complaining attitude through prayer and meditating on God’s word. I would encourage you to find your triggers for stress and temptations to become overwhelmed and anxious.  Enter into those with prayer and dive into God’s word to find some verses that you can keep on hand to remind yourself of truth during the times when it is easiest to forget it.
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. (Matt. 11:29–30 NLT)

Lord, you've promised if I ask, not only will you take my burdens upon you, but you will teach me how to find rest for my soul. My soul craves that right now— yet everywhere I turn I find something else to worry about. Lord, show me your ways. Fill my soul with your gentleness today.

God is with us in the Pain

Everyone carries around their own inner rain. We have our own hurts, hardships and pain. Sometimes when we’re in the thick of it deep in the fog with no end in sight there’s a part of us that thinks that maybe God makes no records of us, but instead maybe he forgets me, and I’m tempted to view him as the blind, deaf and dumb God.
But God is not far off he is our Emmanuel—God with us.  He is love, he is tender and sweet to us. He notes our every ache, he is there when we cry and keeps tabs on all our pain, scrapes and failings.
What would cause our Father to record our every lament and tear—only his deep wild ravishing love. We never ache without God attending to it and every time a tear slips from our eyes, God cups our grief and puts our tears in his bottle (Psalm 56:8).

God is with us and it is his tender with-ness that binds up our wounds.
Only by allowing him to come into the broken pieces of our lives can we begin to experience healing

The creator of the universe the ruler of the world, the one who is all powerful and is in complete control cares about your hurts and pains, the wounds you hide from the world the thoughts that fill you with sadness late at night, he sees, he knows and he cares but even more comforting than those facts he is right there in the midst of it with you. He wants you to feel his presence to reach out and experience his peace that surpasses all understanding and to allow him to come into your heart and fill you with comfort as he slowly day by day binds up the wounds of your heart as you look to Jesus as your healer and comforter. As you learn to let go of control and self-sufficiency and begin to loosen your grasp as depend completely on God, as you drink deeply of his love and grace for you and see his intimate care for every detail of your life he will transform your heart, he will take your pain and he will fill you with healing, restoration and deep joy.

If God makes a list of my laments, I will make a list of God’s love.
If God has a list of pain, I will make a list of my praise
If God writes a list of my tears, I will write a list of my thanks.

When I remember God’s love, and fill my heart with praise and thankfulness I allow my heart and mind to become fixed on my savior the only one who can heal the broken pieces of my life.

Under Attack Again

Under attack again, such is life 
in a broken world where sin still lives 
under attack again why was I surprised?
Why did I give way to anger, 
fear, discouragement, vengeance
questioning the one thing that is sure, safe 
constant, reliable?

You have promised to keep me, protect me,
nurture me, to love me and defend me.
I have hidden in the shelter of your wing. 
I have had your peace put me to sleep.
I have had your presence comfort my heart 
I have had your spirit give me new strength 

Yet somehow when under attack again
I forget you and in forgetting I did what I regret 
and said what gives me grief.
I even questioned you.
The enemies I face are too great 
The brokeness around me is too pervasive
The sin inside of me too hard to escape 
So I have come home again, 
home to this one thing I daily need.

In moments mundane and great 
the rescue that can be found only in you.
I know that in the face of your wisdom, your control
your power, your righteousness 
the enemies of my soul will stumble, will fall, will crumble
In defeat.

When evil comes and it will
I will remember you, run to you 
believe in you, rest in you and with hands that are clean
and a heart that is pure I will fight evil
not with words of evil or actions of vengence 
but with the one thing the enemy cannot defeat-- worship of YOU. 

(inspired & adapted by shelter in the storm)

God delights in you

Have you taken the time recently to think about how God delights in you?
He delights in YOU period.

There is no comma, conditioning clause or a but followed by exceptions.
He simply loves and delights in you as his child.

The Lord your God …will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

God gave me a beautiful picture of this the other day when I was spending time with my nephew. Have you ever held a sleeping baby before? (if not I'd highly

recommend it because you're missing out on one of the most precious, peaceful moments in life)

But anyways, as I sat on the couch holding my baby nephew in my arms. I simply looked down at his sleeping little body and my heart overflowed with joy and love for him. I watched his chest rise and fall to the rhythm of his breathing, the details of his little eyelashes and the warmth of this body against mine and simply soaked it all in. I was delighting in him, and my sweet little nephew did not have to even do a thing for my heart to be filled with joy. He wasn't smiling at me, holding my fingers, making adorable baby noises, or showing me his new tricks of clapping his hands, waving and standing up. No he was just there simply being and that's all he needed to do in order for my heart to overflow with love for him.

I wonder if that's a picture of how God views us. He doesn't need us to spend an hour reading the Bible every day, or to perfectly share the gospel with others, be involved in 5 different ministries at our church,  and go on missions trips every summer. While none of those things are bad, God doesn't need us to do any of those things. He delights in us and loves us because of who we are and not because of what we do. He delights in us simply because we are his children just like I delighted in my nephew simply because he is my baby nephew.

God loves you simply because you are his.

Now, when my nephew gets excited to see me, gives me a hug or does something cute, it brings me joy, because I see that he is responding to the love that I have for him and he shows me that our relationship isn't just one sided. So yes it does bring God pleasure when we walk with him and follow his ways, because we are showing him that his deep, unconditional love for us has affected our hearts that we have received the love and value that he has placed in us and we want to respond to that love.

BUT even when we don't and even when we mess up and we aren't perfect, God's love for us never changes. We are still his children who he delights.

Rest in that today, sweet friend. Bask in the knowledge that you can rest that you can stop striving to earn God's favor, performing and seeking to be perfect, because God has already poured out his favor on us and given us the highest value he has called us his beloved Children, and that is an unshakable identity.

You know the best part about our identity as children of God? There is nothing we can do to earn it (it is only through the cross and Jesus's payment for our sins) which also means that there is nothing we can do to lose it. This is the one identity that is not dependent on ourselves, but is instead dependent on God's amazing and unchanging grace and love for us.

So let go of the burden of performance and run in the freedom of grace.
You are a beloved child of God, and no one can change that! 
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