It's funny how God will choose any manner of ways to speak to us. Maybe He is always speaking, trying different avenues of getting our attention until one day, it finally clicks and we hear Him. He is so patient that way.
My kids and I have been watching Game of Thrones and yesterday they wanted me to take an online quiz to determine which character I was. Not putting much stock in the outcome, I told them that I got Arya Stark. Later that night as we sat down to begin binge watching Game of Thrones in preparation for the new season coming out in a few days, we started at Season 6, and that's when many pieces began to come together in my heart.
Arya in Season 6, was in the midst of trying to become someone else, "No one" actually. But she had been struck blind and was sitting on the dirty street begging for coins. Then her nemesis, the Waif, came by and started hitting her with a big stick and taunting her to get up and fight. Finally, the Master came by and he offered her many things in exchange for her going back to her old identity, if she would only say her name. She would not. She could not be bought and she would not go back. He finally took her by the hand and said, "Come, follow me... A girl is not a beggar anymore."
(By the way, wasn't Jesus always telling people to come, follow me?)
I was reminded of the story from when Jesus walked the earth, and he came to the house where the little girl had died. He went in with those closest to her, as well those closest to him. Mark 5:41 tells us, "Holding her hand, he said to her, "Talitha koum," which means "Little girl, get up!" With those two words, he was announcing that she wasn't dead anymore. She was alive and well and everyone marveled and rejoiced in the goodness the Savior.
I have often read this passage. In fact, I have even preached this passage. But today, it hit me especially hard. The two examples came together and did a number on my heart. I have been living under the weight of survival, unable to dream, unwilling to make changes that allow me to get up. I have been stuck. My kids and my dearest friends, have all been shouting, GET UP! but nothing anyone said could help me up. I needed the words of the Master.
Last night, I heard the Lord loud and clear as He called out, "Little girl, get up! You are not a beggar anymore!"
This was miracle news. The best news. I am not a beggar anymore. I don't have to beg for scraps from someone else's table. God has given me my own table and I can feast there any time I want. I am not held down by others or even by the thoughts in my own mind. I am free and surrounded by opportunities so vast - He has prepared a table for me!
The question is, will I choose to listen to only His voice? Will I choose to get up? Will I choose freedom? I cannot say with absolute certainty in the long run that my answer will be the right one but I want it to be. So I determine not to look too far down the road. Not to even look to tomorrow. I will look at today, and I will say Yes. I will say yes and I will get up today. I will remember today. I am not a beggar anymore.
When I was very young I was a makeup artist for a major cosmetic brand. It paid the bills but it also introduced me to the world of luxury.
When I was 21 years old I had the great adventure of taking classes in an historic downtown Chicago hotel for the Chanel brand. The experience enveloped me in the sights and smells of luxury and the set the bar for the most posh experience I had ever been exposed to at that young age. I never forgot the experience, both for the products represented and for the way they made me feel.
Luxury has a way of doing that. The memories, the feelings that are elicited linger long after the experience is over.
Since stepping into my new life, no longer working in the church, my part time job has meant a return to the artistry business. It's not so much that I love retail (because I don't), but I do love people and I do appreciate the luxury brand I work for.
I have found that many of the feelings evoked surrounding the purchase and use of luxury brand cosmetics are simply echoes of the residual effects many have found in a relationship with God. Luxury brands want to make people feel truly special, important, worthy and valued. They want to give their customers the ability to look and feel their very best, but no matter how badly they try or how much they spend on celebrity endorsements and lovely gifts, it is no match for what the King of heaven can deliver. I do not blame them for trying. They are simply trying their best to deliver their interpretation of what they think human nature longs for. Human beings long for significance.
There is a high value placed on self worth when you finally comprehend that you belong and you are His very own. When you realize the price Jesus paid to set you free, the far reaches He was willing to go to find you, to redeem you and set you free, you begin to appreciate your own worth. You understand that there must be a high value on you, because He paid such an exhorbitant cost to come and get you and make you His.
We cannot possibly understand all there is to know about the love of God or why He would go to such great lengths to call us back to Himself. His love is so vast and far reaching, it would be impossible to comprehend were we given 10 lifetimes to do it.
Webster defines luxury as, "the state of great comfort and extravagant living". Is that definition not a piece of kingdom life? The luxury of being His cannot be matched anywhere on earth!
Being His means you no longer have to prove your worth because He already proved it when He died on the cross for you. You are safely nestled in His heart. Connected. Warm. Known. Totally loved. Totally planned for and cheered on. Being His is where everything begins and ends. There are no more questions once you know you belong. Just think about that.
Climb up in His lap and rest your weary striving heart. Lean back into the luxury of His grace. Lean back on His heart and let Him set things right with His whisper.
Psalm 23, TPT
1The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd.
I always have more than enough.
2He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
3That’s where he restores and revives my life.
He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness
so that I can bring honor to his name.
4Lord, even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strength and my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.
5You become my delicious feast
even when my enemies dare to fight.
You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit;
you give me all I can drink of you until my heart overflows.
6So why would I fear the future?
For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life.
Then afterward, when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!
"Connie you will not be able to move on until you stop crying victim and hold yourself accountable for what you knew was going on. Family missionary trips to Africa, Europe, China, ect. A new outfit for Sunday mass from Macy's or Dillard's, the whole family on the church's payroll. Nothing but the best for the Friend family during the almost decade you were at Capital Christian. But you did not know what was going on (right)..Shame on you. As Dr. Phil would say, "You can't change what you don't acknowledge". The good thing is I am not your judge, juror or maker. The good Lord you so profess to is and he is watching you."
Unfortunately, since leaving Carson City I have received quite a few pieces of hate mail, however, this one caught me by surprise. Why would it catch me by surprise? First, it has been over 2 years since I left Carson City but most importantly, it is because I don't even know this person. If you have never been in my position, consider yourself blessed. It is an assault to the soul when moments like this happen. The devil is the accuser, and that's all this is. An all out firestorm assault from the accuser himself.
It's not that I need to stand up for myself, but that in the. process of healing, I want to. In the past, I would have just deleted it and held the pain inside. But I am outgrowing that type of response. So you really don't have to read this, and it may bring an onslaught of controversy but I will answer these accusations one by one.
#1: I am not crying victim. For me, writing is about me taking steps to be made whole. In fact, being silenced was what being a victim sounded like. I am not a victim. And I will not be silenced.
#2: Most of those trips the writer brings up were paid for by outside parties, and the Europe trip was paid for by me selling my car. Does the writer also not realize that I was in Carson City since the year 2000? That's a long time to take these trips.
#3: New clothes for "Sunday Mass"? I am not Catholic and I do not go to mass.
#4: Shame on me. Yes, shame has been all over me since this happened. Shame on me for protecting people, loving people, and trying to keep it all together. Shame on me for loving Carson City and dreaming for what could be and simply hanging on too long. Shame on me for losing my family and my marriage and my friends, not to mention my career and my home. Shame kept an ugly hold on me, until I realized that Jesus didn't just die for the unsaved person on the street, but He died for my sin and my shame so I have given my shame to Him. He reached out His nail scarred hand and He took it. He has removed it as far as the East is from the West. I don't need someone I've never met telling me I should feel shame.
#5: Dr. Phil is right. I have acknowledged much failure and tons of blame. Just because I choose not to write about private pain does not mean I haven't experienced it.
#6: The writer declares that she is not my judge or jury but by her writing this post, she has declared herself to be just that.
#7: "The Good Lord I so profess" is just that. He is good. Even when people are not. Even when I am not. He is good.
#8: "...is watching me." Thank God He is! He has been my protector, my sustainer, my ever present help in time of trouble. He is the Alpha and Omega, my beginning and my end. I would be lost without Him. In His eyes, I am forgiven, loved, valued and cherished, which is the same message I taught everyone in my care while I was in Carson City. And it is the same message I wish to share with "Sunni" and others like her.
I don't know this woman, but one thing this experience has taught me is that I shouldn't judge. People are like glaciers. There's only so much you can see on the surface and sometimes what's beneath the water line is bigger than you can imagine but God is big enough to deal with the seen and unseen. So I don't judge you, Sunni, but I have defended myself past your unkind words and accusations. I hope that's okay.
When the world seems against me and progress is very hard fought, I find that burying myself in the Word of God is the safest place to be. His private love notes console me and remind me that I am not alone.
Psalm 31 7-8 TPT
"In mercy you have seen my troubles and you have cared for me;
even during this crisis in my soul I will be radiant with joy,
filled with praise for your love and mercy.
You have kept me from being conquered by my enemy;
you broke open the way to bring me to freedom,
into a beautiful, broad place."
Maybe you too, have experienced the pain of failed dreams, of loss, rejection, or of people misunderstanding your intentions. This is not the end. If fact, it is just the beginning. So, take a deep breath with me and step into that broad beautiful place of freedom in Jesus, knowing you are loved. You are planned on. You are cared for. Even now, you are standing in a new place of freedom. I thank God that I am standing there too.
I made the move to Salem, Oregon a year ago this week. I knew I needed a new place to live with my two youngest kids, and I didn't have any idea where to go so I moved back to the place where I grew up. I thought I'd be close to my parents, where a safety net might be found, where a relationship might be built between my kids and their grandparents that they had never had before, growing up so far away. But very soon after we moved in, my dads health took a turn and he had to move to an assisted care facility.
The stress and turmoil upon my own nuclear family was echoed out into my parents and I felt completely tapped out. I had nothing to give to the caregiver or to the one who needed care.
Many people near my age group are going through the exact same thing with their parents and it is stressful at best and heartbreaking at it's worst.
Today I set aside time to go visit my dad. No kids, not mom, just me and him. For several hours. I bought him his favorite fried chicken to eat while we visited. We sat in silence most of the time, but occasionally I would ask him a question. Sometimes he could answer, sometimes he couldn't.
I asked him if he felt he had been a good father. He said, I don't know, but I tried really hard. The simple honesty brought tears to my eyes. I assured him that he had been a great dad, and I was so thankful.
We talked a bit about family genealogy, about my siblings, about how he was feeling, but mostly we just shared time. We did a lot of shuffling around from one spot to another, getting fresh air, returning for coffee, more fresh air, then as we were outside, he pointed to a small fruit-like thing hanging from a shrub. He said, "eat it."
I said, "I don't think that's fruit dad." He kept saying it was, so I threw it to him. He smelled it and scratched it, and nearly tasted it. I said, "no dad!" So he threw it back to me. I smiled and scrambled to catch it. I threw it back to him. We sat across from each other in the shady breezeway of the retirement home, smiling, playing catch and just being.
I'm learning more and more, it's not about the doing nearly as much as it is about the being. Being with someone, sharing the same air, a united understanding, a smile, a laugh or a hug. It's the being with someone that is a gift.
When will I ever learn? I have a whole bin full of half finished blogs and articles. The same thing happens every time I start writing on one specific topic. Every time. I get halfway through then I become inextricably tangled up in my thoughts and my words and I become stuck in the mire and simply shut down. When will I learn to stay away from the ideas that lead to this complex unexplored territory?
What is this territory, you may be thinking, but I dare not say it now, in the shadow and dread of being stumped...yet again! So rather than set my mind to circular thinking that tarnishes the soul and bruises the emotions, I will embark on a new line of healthy thoughts.
There are scriptures that coincide with this exact need I have, to get my mind right.
2 Corinthins 10:5, reminds me, "...We capture, like prisoners of war, every thought and insist that it bow in obedience to the Anointed One." (TPT). I love how pointed and direct that is. The human mind, will and emotions need to be trained. The easiest thing is to let them wander where they will, but it is in our own best interest to corral them into submission, to "make them bow in obedience". If I'm not careful, my mind gets stuck in a swirl of anxiety and I find it really difficult (nearly impossible) to pull out of it.
Philippians 4, verses 8 and 9 has been a scripture I memorized as a youngster. At night, in my room, all by myself, the wooden floors of our drafty old house would creek and crack and I often had trouble with my imagination getting the better of me. My mom gave me this verse to use as ammunition for moments of uncertainty. The Passion Translation states it especially clearly:
"So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising Him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things."
This passage is really a training manual for the troubled mind. When I find myself thinking about trouble at work or financial pressures or things I've lost, I stop and remind my self, "No, think on THESE things!" Yes, all the good stuff. Not the worries, not the bad news, not the fears. Just the good stuff.
And there is plenty of good stuff. I have so much to be thankful for. So I start to count them.
food (right at the top, lol)
a roof over my head
friends, some who have walked through fire with me
God has been faithful and so very very good
The list continues on and on. He knows right where I am. He will never leave me. He will never cheat me or hurt me or turn His back on me. He is that friend who sticks closer than a brother. So I fasten my thoughts and my every hope to the goodness of God. All of a sudden the fears that seemed to shout before, are now quieted. I can truly rest on a cushion of His grace. Yes, rest. Trust. Breathe. Know.
I am loved and He's got this. He's got me.
How about you? Feel free to comment below. I'd love to hear some other strategies you have used to pull yourself out of a difficult spiral downward, or better yet, to keep yourself out of that spiral altogether.
I admit it. In the past, I have hoped too much. For too long. Or possibly, placed my hope in the wrong things. I'm still not really sure. I feel like I staked my life on a hope that was dashed upon the rocks of a very harsh and unkind reality that stole everything. My dreams for my family, my community, and my calling were all snatched away in the span of one day.
Finding a reason to hope has never been my problem. I am hopeful to a fault. It is perhaps this hope within me that kept me going, kept all the plates spinning and caused me to refuse to give up.
I spent every Saturday night for many years, opening up the church, leading others, and leading myself to a place of consecration, surrender, to adoration and thanksgiving at the foot of the cross. Literally, I would lie down on the stage at the cross and pour out my heart and all my hopes to Jesus, trusting that somehow, "... in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 (NIV)
I'd check my heart to make sure I fit the criteria. I am called, check. I am doing His purposes, check. I love Him, check. He works all things, check. All things together for good... ok Lord, I'm holding on to that one, in belief and faith that you will do it.
I would pray for my children, my church, my friends, my family, and my husband. I thought my tenacity was a good thing. I thought He would come through. I really thought He would turn things around for good. I was looking for it, hanging onto that hope.
But it didn't go the way I thought it would.
In a few days it will have been 2 years since I lost everything. A lot has changed since that day. I haven't learned how to dream yet, but I am learning to hope again.
In my year at school at Bethel, Kris Vallotton used to always say, all things work together for good in the end, so if it's not good yet, it's not the end.
As much as I have wanted it to be the end over the last 2 years, it hasn't been. My life has not come to an end. So if I'm still here and God isn't letting me end, it must mean that He has a purpose in my existence, that He can make something out of my mess, and that alone is reason to hope. I can feel it slowly rising.
At times I have wondered why it is such a slow process. (Moses and the children of Israel must've thought the same thing, I mean 40 years is a long time!) It only took Jesus 3 days, but He's the very Son of God so I figure I should adjust my expectations, but resurrection for me has been an agonizingly slow and painful process. I don't want it to take any longer than absolutely necessary.
I am beginning to understand that my ability to rise from the ashes is a choice, not a natural accident. God won't do it for me. Life certainly won't do it for me, in fact the natural forces of this world will do quite the opposite to keep me in my place. I must refuse to stay there. Refuse hopelessness. Refuse to let loss frame my life or tell my story.
I will dream again. I will live again. I will hope again.
You don't have to have it all figured out, just start where you are.
I can't even count the many times I have spoken these very words to people; to those who felt stuck, those who lacked direction, and those who were desperate for a new beginning. People always want to know what to do next, especially when they feel like they are climbing out of a pit.
But what I've discovered is that when you rely on Jesus, when you put your trust in Him, He pulls you all the way out of the pit not just halfway. You never have to climb out by yourself. You no longer cling to the edge with your face in the dirt, clawing the mud that drips from the slippery fringes of the pit. No. In one swift motion, He reaches in and with His strong arms, He lifts you completely out and plants your feet on the solid ground.
When you lift your head and look around, it's important to know where you stand. (Don't let the new surroundings confuse you!) You have become free of all the filth, disentangled from the muck and mire and you stand clean. You are pure. You stand in the light, pardoned and unrestrained. It's that fast, it's that simple.
We sing the same song that has been sung through the ages, often without thinking, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand." Thank you God, for seeing me, for waiting patiently for me, for reaching in and saving me! I would've never been able to pull myself out, of that I am certain. I'd be scraping and scratching forever at the hope of being free. I stand in gratitude and in total reliance upon Jesus for my next move.
But don't you know, that became my biggest problem.
What is my next move?
And that is where I got stuck.
I felt totally alone. I wondered, "Where did He go? Why did He walk away?" And then suddenly I couldn't remember anything. Just like that, my brain turned to mush.
Where did my mind go? Things that happened before the pit, people I knew, precious words that He had told me, everything seemed covered in a thick cloud. Thoughts flitted through my mind, refusing to be captured. I couldn't rest on any of them. Names, dates, places, all a distant blur.
How to get it back. How to recall. How to understand. How to overcome. How to get a vision. How to see beyond the ugliness and pain of the trauma of losing everything. I kept gazing at the pit I had left behind. My spirit shouted, "Turn around! Turn around!" But it was like a train wreck! Ya just gotta stare!
How to find restoration. How to feel again. How to turn around. How to move forward.
Even now, as I slowly move out of the fog, I am understanding that when He reached into that pit and pulled me out, He didn't put me on the same side as I had been before, He set me down on the furthest edge away from where I had fallen in. That meant nothing felt the same or looked the same. My expectations of people's responses, my knowledge of where to step next, my understanding of where I was headed was all wrong! I had to put my trust and my confidence in Him and Him alone.
Is that what God has wanted all along? For all my hope to be placed on His shoulders, for all my resources to be waiting upon His vast goodness, for me to hang upon every word He says? Has He been waiting for me to put my hope in Him?
In Isaiah 43 God was talking to the prophet about the great things He had done in the past and in verses 18 and 19 He says, "Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert." (AMP)
I am learning that I can't simply close my eyes and wish to be in a different spot and I won't get where I am going by dwelling on the past. Forgetting about what is behind is not something that just accidentally happens along the way. Putting the past in it's place is a conscious decision. Where He is leading is not even a landscape I could've conceived of. God has not picked me up and set me directly into a new place, if He did, I know I would miss out on all the joys and victories of walking together into this land of victory with Him.
I don't have a map. I only have one strategy. I have to get there step by step, by following the sound of His voice and hanging on every word He says. Gradually the terrain changes and the clouds part. I know that one day soon, I will see again. And it will be lovely.
How about you? What are some practical ways you follow Him?
For lack of knowing how and where to begin, I'm just going to begin where I am.
The place where I have been tucked away has been a very lonely and dark place.
The thing is, when you seek out a hiding place, you may not be fully prepared for the repercussions of the very thing you sought. To be hidden means you are not seen. To be unseen means others are unaware of your presence, both what you carry and what you lack.
There have been times over the last 18 months or so, that I have wished to disappear. To not exist. In my efforts to not be hurt or wounded any longer, in my attempts to be safe and protected, I actually cut myself off from the life all around me. I cut myself off from being wounded, from being betrayed, from being misunderstood and accused. But I also cut myself off from healing, from being championed, from being accepted and loved. I suppose I didn't feel worthy of those things. I had realized that so much of what I had faith for seemed to be untrue.
I was faced with the harsh realization that what I had been waiting for and longing for was actually never going to happen. Were my prayers wrong? How had I missed the mark so badly? This sharp realization of missing the mark brought me to the conclusion that I deserved all of this pain. I deserved betrayal and loss on a monumental scale. To suddenly be left with nothing. Only one friend remained. Only one friend chose to fight through the pain to stay in relationship. All others turned away. To suddenly be left with no money, no retirement, no income, no meaning, and I could certainly not envision a future with hope. I simply could not understand or reconcile myself to these facts.
To now, put hands to keyboard and try to make sense of things... or to explain my lack of making sense of these things... it is simply what I must do for myself to move ahead. See, I know that God is gracious. He allows and actually sets us up for come backs. It's the thought of a do-over I truly wanted to avoid. A do-over implies that you are starting from scratch. I simply had no energy left to start over from the beginning. I felt as though my whole life was messed up and I simply could not imagine that I would have to go back and live enough life to make up for 50 years of seeming chaos. I DID NOT HAVE THE ENERGY OR FORTITUDE OF SPIRIT FOR THAT!
I told myself, "God knows where you are, He knows what you need, and He will provide." So I just sat. I sat and I built a place to hide from the pain of the world around me. Brick by brick, I built the walls that I thought kept me protected.
The hiding place of my own design actually became a prison cell. I designed it and built it with my own hands. Out of continual, unrelenting, extended pain, out of the fear of things getting worse, out of a desire to protect my own heart, I built the walls thick and strong. The walls were thick enough to quiet the voices of accusation. There was no wind so strong or light so bright that could slice through the barred, darkened windows I had put in place. I felt safe, yes, but I was also entirely alone in there. This is what I discovered: There is no hiding place so secret, so tucked away, that He cannot find me.
He found me. In fact, the truth is, He was with me even as I built those walls, brick by brick. I believe His heart was saying, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 NIV But I wouldn't. I could not allow myself to come to Him. He might ask more of me. He might ask too much. He might ask for what I don't have. I simply couldn't stand any more rejection.
To truly live means you must leave yourself exposed to those you trust the most. To truly live requires risk. Trust requires the wild abandon to self preservation, you stand unprotected before Him.
So how much do I trust Him? Do I trust Him enough to let Him see me? Do I trust that He has good plans for my life? Will I trade one hiding place for another? Trading the one I built, for the one only He can provide... I say yes.
Yes Lord, I give you the freedom to deal with my fears, my pain and my future, as I know only You can. So I give it to You, God. I stand unprotected before You.
"Lord, you are my secret hiding place, protecting me from these troubles, surrounding me with songs of gladness! Your joyous shouts of rescue release my breakthrough." Psalm 32:7 TPT
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NIV)
God can make His home in all of heaven, the vast expanses of the universe belong to Him, and the earth is His footstool yet He chooses to make His home with us. That thought has captivated the imagination of human beings for centuries. Where can we build a place for His glory to dwell? What container, what temple or palace could possibly be grand enough to house the very presence of God?
Men have tried. They have built structures that defy the logic of their time, grand cathedrals with soaring painted, detailed and carved ceilings that remind all who enter to look UP!
There is an inner longing to dwell with God, or to be more practical, have Him dwell with us. The prophet Isaiah pleaded with God, "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down." (Isaiah 64:1) David cried, "Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells. (Psalm 26:8) And at the time, He didn't even have a temple, only the portable (and fought over) Arc of the Covenant sitting in a tent! But He recognized the glory of God dwelling in that place!
I have been on this earth 52 years, I have been in relationship with Jesus my whole life, have visited and worshipped in cathedrals and churches around the world and I am still longing for something more. C.S. Lewis said, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” All this longing, this feeling of dissatisfaction with the things of the world is proof that there is more!
The truth is, we were created to be explorers, searchers of truth, finders of the nature of God. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us, "...He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end." The search is not intended to frustrate us, but to delight us! More and more of God to discover. Mountains to climb, beauty to discover and mysteries to explore.
God has been our answer, our eternal solution, and He has been making provision for our connection. He has never stopped beckoning, inviting and reaching for us. Perhaps one of the most important journeys requires no travel, and no telescope, only a mirror.
Emmanuel, God with us. He chose to come and dwell with us and within us. In human hearts wrapped in ribs and flesh. We don't need to go somewhere to meet with God. Sometimes we just need to be still. To become aware of His glory that dwells within us. To breathe afresh the breath of God and come alive in wonder. He lives! He speaks! And He is here now! The Message version describes it this way:
"The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish."
May I encourage you today to stop, even for a moment and take a deep breath of the glory of God. Accept His invitation to dwell.
How do you handle change? All of us negotiate new territory differently. What works for you to manage the stress of change may not be what works for me. Unfortunately, there is no guidebook, and no set rules for every scenario we go through.
The past seven months of upheaval in my life have taught me many things about how to better cope with the stress of life change and I am sharing them with you today.
1. Be kind to you. It is not helpful to have expectations set so high for yourself that you cannot possibly experience success. Instead of placing your entire life on a to-do list before you, perhaps you could narrow it down and tackle one or two things. When you finish, you will feel accomplished! You might even reward yourself with a treat, not necessarily in sugar form. Maybe allow yourself to watch a favorite TV show or to take a walk and breathe in some fresh air.
2. Know when to retreat. When you feel overwhelmed with noise, commotion, and chaos, sometimes the best thing you can do is to draw back, protect your psyche and get quiet. A well known passage of scripture is a beautiful reminder, "Be still and know that I am God;" Psalms 46:10. The NASB says it this way, "Cease striving and know that I am God;" Yes, cease striving. Retreating momentarily to gather your thoughts and breathe is not the same as letting yourself become isolated. Proper rest, moments of peace, sweet retreat.
3. Know when to connect. Depending on your personality, retreat may sound like the most welcome thing to you, Maybe too welcome. At times the stress of life change may beg for hibernation. At times I have been tempted to completely isolate myself, so that no one could demand anything or ask anything from me. But isolation is not healthy. You may want to climb into your shell and hide. Don't. We all need people around us who will encourage us, believe in us, and at times challenge us to move forward. Find them. Choose to be vulnerable and say, "I need you". We actually need both retreat and connection, like the ebb and flow of the ocean tide.
4. Stay in the presence. It is amazing what a difference a worship session can make in my own heart. In the presence of God we are lifted up above our circumstances. We are lifted up where we can catch a glimpse of the greatness and beauty of our Savior. We are reminded of HIs promises over us. We are reassured of His unconditional love. We feel Him holding tight to us and know that everything will be ok. When you live from this place, you suddenly find you are buoyed by hope! Oh what a precious commodity hope is. When you feel your hope running low, you know exactly what to do: get in His presence and worship Him again. And again. And again. (Repeat as necessary.)
5. Find a way to laugh. There is nothing that makes me laugh more than watching people fall down. (Don't judge.) I cannot help it! There is something about the spontaneous lack of control as they go tumbling to the ground in the most ungraceful way possible that just tickles my funny bone. (It could also be my own tendency toward clumsiness that makes me feel better about myself.) But YouTube is a GIFT of laughter when you are desperate. Think of the thing that makes you laugh the most and take a chuckle break. It will boost your serotonin and you will feel better equipped to tackle the next thing.
6. Stay thankful. Remind yourself of the things God has done for you. As money has become tighter and tighter for me, I find myself more grateful for the little things. I woke myself up the other night thanking God in my sleep for toilet paper!!! Whatever it takes, man. I am thankful! Even if things feel scary and your future looks uncertain you have so much to be thankful for now. You are breathing. You have a God who loves you. You have people who cheer you on, myself included. When you feel like complaining, start thanking.
7. Don't give up and don't look back. Just keep moving forward. There is always a next step that you can take. Determine to find it. You are stronger than you think you are. Today I read an anonymous quote that said, "One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage to let go of what you can't change." AMEN! There is far too much ahead of you to waste even one more second on regret or asking why. The Bible tells us that we go from glory to glory! Maybe you have had some past glory, Yay! But that also means GLORY AWAITS!
I hope these tips were helpful for you. This blog is one of the things I retreated from five months ago and oddly, it is one of my next steps today. Funny how that happens. I could beat myself up for it, but NO! I will be kind to me and say, "Good job, you! You did it!"
A reward is surely around the corner.