When Dead Things come alive

A couple months ago, as Texans began to emerge from their dark, cold homes and enter back into everyday life after the significant winter storm, so much of what we love about this time of year was gone. Usually, Springtime in Texas is the most beautiful season we get. Everything bursts into life, colors are bright and vibrant, critters start emerging, and things just seem more hopeful.

However, the storm took all of that from us. Everything outside was drab, dead, gross.

All the experts said to wait. They told us not to cut down trees, dig up bushes, or any variety of drastic landscape changes we might make when everything looked dead to us.

My daily walks with the dog, for those first several weeks, were sad and disappointing. I felt like the one thing I really looked forward to here was just ripped away from me. Just another loss. Another thing to make life a little less beautiful. Hiking was boring because everything just continued in the same brown landscape we’d already had during the winter season. It was just another thing to be bummed about.

And then, just as the experts predicted, dead things began to turn. Life came in leaps and bounds to the things that appeared dead to all of us. Flowers bloomed, green leaves sprouted, lizards climbed walls. All at once, things were brighter and more alive than we’ve seen for nearly a year.

Isn’t it just like that sometimes? We can look at our own lives and see no reason to keep pruning back the dead pieces. We get frustrated that things aren’t moving at the pace we want or need. We get used to seeing everything as drab, lifeless, unwell. We start to pull up the roots. We begin to toss away what doesn’t look good or pretty.

Or we look at another person and choose to cut them off because people don’t change or because we can’t see anything that looks like life within that person. The dead bits too much for us to believe life can be restored to them.

Yet, all along, the Expert in all things sees life where we’ve already pronounced death. In John 15, we’re reminded that as long as we remain in Him, He remains in us. He is our Vine. We don’t get to see and pronounce death based on what we understand. Remaining in Him might look like dead branches to us, but He is faithful. He has already spoken life into us–we are already alive. So, we lean in, remain in, depend on Him. We remind ourselves and others that we cannot be fruit bearers all on our own.

We ask Him to help us with our unbelief to rely on the Expert, the Vine. We trust Him more. We remind ourselves how well He cares for the trees, shrubs, birds and how much more so He must care for us.

God, I pray that You settle our souls. I pray grace for our unbelief. I am thankful for the rest You give to us.

Trauma Does Weird Things To Us – July 5, 2020

I don’t often dream, at least not that I remember anyway. I hardly ever have nightmares. The last several nights, I’ve been awakened by one set of nightmares or another. Nothing really tied together, or to anything really—just horrible things robbing me from sleep.

A few nights ago, I’d fallen into a sound sleep around 12:30, after wrestling down another nightmare. However, by 1:30, I was wide awake, jumping out of bed and onto my floor, crawling to the other side of my room, and lying next to the bed with my phone.

Five loud pops rang out, and with my bed right next to a first-floor window, I was desperate to find shelter in the dark. All fell silent. No sirens. No police lights. Maybe I imagined it? Another nightmare?

From what I learned the next morning, the “pops” were not imagined – it was someone setting off mortars, illegally, in the amphitheater behind my apartments. Usually, easy enough to distinguish the difference between fireworks and gunshots, but maybe not from a deep sleep state. 😉

Trauma does weird things to us. It changes us. It forces us to remain in a state of readiness, alertness. It’s hard to relax and breathe when we’re always waiting for the next thing to happen. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel safe in my home – especially not as a single woman living alone. I’m sure that’s why I’ve struggled to set boundaries around who lives here and for how long; the alternative is that I’m all alone, and that just feels really scary still. Interestingly, I don’t find the same fear anywhere else – just my own home.

And that’s how trauma jacks us all up. It takes the spaces that are supposed to be safe and turns them on their heads. So, we run. We find other things that give us a sense of control and safety. Some of us look for that in a bottle of pills or a bottle of drink. Maybe we eat too much, shop too much, gamble too much. Perhaps we work too much or try to control the people on our teams. Maybe we work hard to avoid people, thus avoiding conversation, thus avoiding dealing with “it”. Image may contain: text that says 'TRAUMA CREATES CHANGE YOU DON'T CHOOSE. HEALING CREATES CHANGE YOU DO CHOOSE. MICHELE ROSENTHAL'

It’s normal for us to want to look for ways and things that will soothe that which is hurt, broken, and plain scary as hell inside us. However, the day will eventually come, if we’re working toward health, that we learn that none of the coping mechanisms we’ve been trying really work.

Friends, actively seeking healthy coping strategies is essential. Trauma happens, and it’s terrible, and it sucks. Acknowledging that is important, and it’s part of the process – and then it’s up to us to make a choice to move toward health. I imagine that will look different for each of us.

For me, it has really been an inward journey, even writing this piece has offered some revelations I didn’t fully understand until it was written out. My most significant unhealthy coping mechanism is isolation. Oddly, it’s also one that I can turn to in health, but understanding the motivation for my isolation and knowing the right balance is critical. Prayer, mediation, being in nature, sitting near the water, appreciating creation, listening to music, driving down lonely roads, writing, and cooking are all ways I manage and cope with trauma.

Having safe people with whom we can freely talk and feel secure in our conversation is another healthy strategy. It might be someone we pay, a small group, a support meeting, or a partner, sibling, trusted friend. This has probably been my hardest to hurdle. And it might be yours, too. I understand. Asking someone to hold it all seems impossible. We don’t even want to hold it and handing it to someone else to hold it seems – mean. It’s crucial, though. It has to be part of the process.

When memories kick up, and they will, we have to actively use our senses to look, smell, touch, feel, and listen — we’re not there at that time, we’re here at this time. The memories are going to come, and triggers are going to happen – and eventually, they will lessen. In the meantime, we pray, find our safe person, pull ourselves out with healthy strategies we’ve put in place. It will get easier. It will.

If you’ve gotten this far, then I’m going to assume you either really like me and want to know more about me, or you’re ready to face your trauma head-on and start working toward your own health. I mean, I guess it could also be because this is a super light read for a Sunday morning.😉

No matter the reason, my friend, I’m glad we could walk this bit of the journey together. I feel as if I’ve learned some things about myself, and I hope that you’ve found some freedom to make moves toward dealing with the trauma in your life. If I can help, I will. There are a variety of resources available for us, and I hope we’re all actively looking for ways to be our better selves.

It’s all just hard – June 27, 2020

If you’re anything like me, you’re tired. And you’re probably a good bit sad, too. The entire everything in the country has turned upside down. Maybe, like me, not only is the country messy, but your life is messy. Mine, too. I’m tired. And I’m sad.

I’m not gonna lie—I was a little mad at myself for not “getting it together” all the times I thought I should. Right? Like, c’mon, man… you’re ALIVE! Your family is alive! you’re able to work. You’ve been able to visit people and places. Every corner I turned offered a blessing.

And still.

I’d lie in bed at night and cry. Sad. Broken. Hurt.

All the ways I’ve been desperate to cope with pain — cooking for no one, working too much, driving around to absolutely nowhere — help at the moment, and then at night I have to be alone, with nothing to distract me and think about all the things in my heart… in my head.

I’m a crap mom.
I’ll never be a good wife. Or a girlfriend. Or date.
I’m a terrible friend.

I think about how I miss my granddaughters and my friends. I miss my kid.

I think about the friends I have that I didn’t know were racist, and now it’s so evident, I have to make hard choices. I’m thinking about how everything has turned into a political arm wrestle—where we stand on face masks; whether or not we believe the science of a virus; systemic racism; and, well, everything.

It’s all just hard.

Today I gave myself some grace—lots of it. I thought about all the things above, and all the things I hold a bit closer, and just allowed myself to feel it all. I allowed myself to feel the pain of it, to acknowledge that it hurt and that it wasn’t easy. I reminded myself that the enemy was real and his tactics were legit. I reminded myself that we’re still very much in the middle of more than one crisis. I gave myself the grace to not have the answers today. And probably not tomorrow either.

Maybe you’re there, too, friend. Feeling all the everything and a little bit mad at yourself for not just getting over it.
Maybe the point isn’t to get over it.
Maybe the whole point is to go through it.
Maybe the point is to allow ourselves to see truths, to miss things, to learn new things.
Maybe the whole point is to realize that this is precisely what we needed.
Maybe we needed to confront the things we’ve not really had the bandwidth to sit in because everything was moving too fast.
Maybe we are learning how to confront things we’ve been willfully denying or pleasantly giving a blind-eye to keep the peace.
Maybe God is allowing us to walk in this time and space for a purpose.
Maybe this is His attempt to grab our attention in a way that we’ve historically shut out or down.
Maybe He is keeping us here until we’re one with Him.
Maybe we’re in the perfect position to allow our souls to sing how we need Him.
Maybe…

Maybe it’s you. It is definitely me. Friend, beautiful soul, human who is loved well and deeply — this is not a fight you’re in alone. I know, I know, I know that it feels like you’re all alone, I feel that way, too, sometimes. It’s like we know we have friends and people who love us, but this shizz in our head is a bit too heavy for just anyone. I hope and pray that you have a person to help you carry your shizz. If you don’t, find someone, okay? I’ll help. Not one of us can walk through life alone, and we’re facing all sorts of things that are going to make the shizz in our head fuzzy, and messy, and hard.

If not one other person has said it to you today – I’m so so thrilled you’re alive. I’m glad that I know you. You are made for a purpose that only YOU can fill. I am praying for you. The Creator of the world is not done doing His work in you. This battle is His, and you will see victory! Keep feeling, growing, learning, leaning in, searching, seeking, hoping, and, of course, keep loving well.

Image may contain: text that says 'writing is wringing out your heart and rearranging its spilled blood into words and verses vic'

You are loved…

Sometimes we can look at our current circumstances, see absolutely no way out of them – but we cling to Him knowing that He is all we’ve got left. When everything else is gone, taken away, or stolen – He remains.

Lamentations, an often overlooked or less discussed book in the bible, is where my heart was drawn Saturday while driving home from my mommas. It was mentioned in a book I was listening to and it prompted me to go read it once I was home. While The Message is not my usual translation, it’s the one my kiddo is using this week, so it’s the one I’m using too.

In Lamentations 3 – Jeremiah openly shares his suffering. Jeremiah was a faithful servant who God called to prophetic ministry over 40 years and five kings of Judah. God spoke over Jeremiah from a young age and told him that from the time he was in his momma’s womb, God had a plan for him. This isn’t a history lesson on Jeremiah – I’m not nearly equipped to teach about prophets. I do feel equipped to teach about being a person called by God for a specific purpose, and who also suffers.

Lamentations 3 is broken up into three sections: God Locked Me Up in Deep Darkness, It’s a Good Thing to Hope for Help from God, and God Speaks Both Good Things and Hard Things into Being.

I’m positive that each one of us can look at a season in our life, and maybe that season is right now, when we’ve felt like we were locked in deep darkness. Maybe it was a season we wrestled with God about this thing, or that thing, or all the freakin things. Friends, count yourself among those most anointed! We all find ourselves in the place of deep darkness and a full on wrestle with God.

How many times have we felt as if we were being walked right into the darkness? That our cried out prayers were locked up in some space never to be heard, and surely to go unanswered? How often have we felt knocked down, dragged out before everyone to be mocked, judged, or ridiculed? How many times have we just wanted to give up all together?

Jeremiah says in verses 19-24, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember— the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.a533ab3c174c2cedaade21264460da01

Sometimes we can look at our current circumstances, see absolutely no way out of them – but we cling to Him knowing that He is all we’ve got left. When everything else is gone, taken away, or stolen – He remains. He waits. He asks us to enter into quietness with Him; relationship. He doesn’t want to skirt us around the mountains we face; He wants us to plow directly through it, knowing He is walking with us always. He is tender for us. He loves us. His justice will prevail over us. When we call out to Him, He does hear us!

Sweet friends, we can’t always see and we rarely understand the works of God. We don’t see at the million foot view that He sees things. I wish we didn’t have to face some of the things we face. But we do. We live in a broken, sin-filled world. There is a plot to take us down! The enemy doesn’t so much need to disprove to us who God is, he simply needs us to believe that his way is better. More enjoyable. Easier to swallow and fathom. Just generally easier to plot through life.

A holy life won’t be easy. It will be the hardest thing we do, but it comes with the sweetest reward. And, as followers of Christ, what we have here is just a blip of what’s to come. His promises might feel far off and they may seem out of reach… oh, man… do I ever know it! WHERE IS MY PROMISE, GOD?? I wish I could tell you… “Hey, friend – here’s your promise. I found it just around that corner.” I can’t. And I won’t try. But I will encourage you to keep.going.

Continue wrestling about things you don’t understand.
Continue asking for clarity.
Continue asking for the next step.
Continue seeking Him above all things.
Continue to wonder.

Also – continue to pray expectantly. To hope expectantly. To remain in a posture of surrender. To have faith that surpasses all understanding. To remind yourself that God is good and you are loved.

He is good. You are loved.

His lovingkindne… what?

The enemy will push and push and push. The only hope the enemy has is to completely shatter us. The single way he can fully consume us is to keep coming for us and hope that we forget to Whom we belong. So often, we’re just dangling on the edges, and it’s only for the mercy of Christ and the Holy Spirit inside of us that we’re able to take a step back into Him; our true Savior. 

This week, the EMS saved my kiddo. I know we can go round and round about whether or not the emergency services should be “wasted” on saving people with substance abuse issues, but I will forever be grateful.

I got the call that any momma to an addict dreads receiving. “Is this so & so’s mom?” “Yes. Who is this?” “The fire department. Your son is unresponsive. Are there any medical issues we need to know about?” “He’s an addict.” “What’s his normal consumption so we know how to treat it?” “Xanax.”

Just like that. He’s swept off to the hospital. I leave my job to sit with him. I will always leave to sit with him. Not every momma chooses the path I’ve chosen, but we all have to choose what’s right for us. That’s something I’ve learned in this journey. All our paths look a bit different, and oddly similar still.

We had three solid good weeks. That’s how it always goes. Three good weeks. A trigger for him. One or two bad days. Then all the shame, apologies, regret. Did I mention shame? So much shame. Three good weeks. One or two bad days. Wash, rinse, repeat. I can almost set my clock to it.

Why is this my life, God? I did what You asked. I broke generational curses. I came to You in faith over and over again. I chose obedience when it would be so easy not to. Every day I surrender to You. He’s chosen You, God. He works hard, provides for his kiddos, doesn’t steal, pays his bills. Why is this his life, God?

This disease is all-consuming and has been for the last 9 years of our life, in one way or another. I rage against the heavens for him. For me. God knows this prayer from me better than He knows any other. I don’t have to beg God to hear me, He already does, yet I feel unheard. Alone. And struggling to find a way to ask Him one more time to save my family.

And then, simple as a warm Texas breeze, His love comes over me in waves. Psalm 118 says that He is good, and He endures forever. In our darkness, we can call out to Him. In our darkness, He will answer us.

Friends, we all have various struggles, challenges, and obstacles in our families. Mine is not anything that can’t be overcome and yours isn’t either. Trust me, I know how you’re feeling when it feels like we’re at the end. Not one more moment. I’m almost ashamed of my prayers the other day because of my total undoneness.

The enemy will push and push and push. The only hope the enemy has is to completely shatter us. The single way he can fully consume us is to keep coming for us and hope that we forget to Whom we belong. So often, we’re just dangling on the edges, and it’s only for the mercy of Christ and the Holy Spirit inside of us that we’re able to take a step back into Him; our true Savior.

He is good. His lovingkindness endures forever. Keep going. Please, don’t give up. I don’t know why this is your life or mine. I do know that God is in it with us, though. I know that in every instance when I think I can’t go on for one more minute, I can call out to Him and immediately feel His strength rise up inside my spirit.

We will not die, but we will live and declare the works of the Lord through all of it. We will come to see His hand in places we weren’t fully able to see until we moved through this thing. Our perseverance is creating something in us that we will use to reach others for the sake of the Kingdom. Our persistence to keep going forward will be rewarded when we’re able to walk with another soul through a similar journey with all the things we’ve learned in ours. Please, don’t give up. We need you.

You’re so wildly loved. You are not unseen, even if you feel that way sometimes. You are being heard all the way in the throne room of heaven because Christ is right with you through all of the stuff and things and stuffy things. Press on, my friends. I’m right here with you.

Psalm 118
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness endures forever.

5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me free.
6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can [mere] man do to me?
7 The Lord is on my side, He is among those who help me;
Therefore I will look [in triumph] on those who hate me.

13 You [my enemy] pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.

17 I will not die, but live,
And declare the works and recount the illustrious acts of the Lord.
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
But He has not given me over to death.

21 I will give thanks to You, for You have heard and answered me;
And You have become my salvation [my Rescuer, my Savior].

28 You are my God, and I give thanks to You;
[You are] my God, I extol You.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness endures forever.

 

Keep Going…

The tension I feel between God and me sometimes is palpable. Then I fall into His theoretical lap, mostly ashamed of myself, and allow His love to wash over me. Again. And Again.

I’ve started and stopped this post so many times this week.

What did I want to share? Why did I want to share it? What is the goal or message of the post? Who should read it? I’ve been trying to sort out those questions, as well as formulate words that made sense. I don’t always do either of those things very well. 😉

I want to share about trauma and its aftermath. Unfortunately, my life isn’t short of trauma that I’ve needed to heal and process, but most of that was from my earlier years. For some of it, I was at fault(ish) because of the decisions I was making and the lifestyle I was living. My most recent trauma, though… not my fault.

Last year, on July 3rd, after an incredibly busy day at work – like my busiest one yet – I was finally home, the day before a holiday I already struggle to enjoy, taking a few minutes to relax with my cats on the sofa.

I heard someone come up the steps outside, but didn’t get up… see above sentence. Anyone that might be showing up had a key. No need for me to open the door, though, usually I would.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

I drop to the floor, footsteps running away, cars speeding off, my phone ringing.

My neighbor. Frantic. What was that? Are you okay? What happened?

I don’t know.

I call my kiddo. Where are you? Someone just shot up my apartment.

He’s safe. I call 911.

I won’t revisit the whole event; I’ve already shared about it. But I will say that a year later, I still freak out when I hear someone/something outside my door. That’s probably going to happen for a long while.

On July 5th, we were homeless. Unable to stay there. Unable to stay anywhere. Believe it or not, apartments are hesitant to have renters who’ve had their apartment shot up. I found respite from a friend and slept on her futon for several months, while my kiddo was at a slimy, sleazy, disgusting motel with hookers and drug dealers and addicts. Exactly where he didn’t need to be.

In my previous post about all of this, I talked about being mad at God. And I was. And I got over it. And then I got mad again. And then I got over it. And the cycle just kept going.

The truth is that mad might not be the right emotion. The truth is that a year later when I try to name the emotion, I still can’t. The truth is that I’m still struggling to understand everything. A year later I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s too complex to find a good word to explain it… trying to unwrap all of these emotions is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but I’m committed to doing it.

The tension I feel between God and me sometimes is palpable. Then I fall into His theoretical lap, mostly ashamed of myself, and allow His love to wash over me. Again. And Again.

Aftermath of trauma, whatever that is for each of us, is going to look different. In so many ways, I’m grateful to the point of spontaneous tears when I think about how I normally would’ve stood at the door and how He protected me. I’m also frustrated to the point of spontaneous tears that my life will never be normal again. It will regain the appearance of normal, mostly, as it has with other traumas, but it’ll never be quite the same. No matter what. And I think I’m a little bitter about it. Maybe a lot.

I’m frustrated that I can’t seem to find safety or comfort, even though I’m in a whole new physical place. When I left the other apartment, my only home in TX, I left most of my big things because I needed to go quickly. So I’m sitting on furniture that isn’t mine, and it isn’t comfortable. I have boxes still unpacked, unheard of for me, because I have this weird aversion to feeling settled now. I’ve thought of every reason to leave TX all together. I’ve kept most people at arm’s length for fear of getting too close and then having to leave suddenly.

This aftermath is not okay. I’m struggling to find my way through it. But I am committed to the process. Dear friends, I have no idea what your struggle is today or what you’re processing through, but I’m here to encourage you to keep working it. Keep facing it, day after day. Trying to numb it or run from it isn’t going to do anything but prolong the healing that needs to happen.

When you’re frustrated, call someone you trust. Seek care for your mental health. Find a workout plan that works for you. Most of all cling to God through the process. I know how it feels to be angry with Him. I know what it feels like to feel as if He’s let us go. I know what it feels like to lose all hope. Living for Him, we were never promised struggle free or pain free lives. We have sin and evil in this world of epic proportions. We can’t escape it. We’re not untouchable simply because we serve the Almighty. God doesn’t have to keep me physically safe to prove He loves me – He proved His love for me when His Son was beaten, hanged, and murdered on a cross for me.

John 16:33 (AMP) I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

Let’s make strides toward His perfect peace. Let’s be courageous and remember that He is always in control. Let’s walk with confidence and joy – each day claiming victory in and through Him. Let’s remind each other that sometimes it sucks and it’s really hard and also that He is always for us and He is always there. He never leaves our sides, and when we’re ready to climb back into His lap for His extravagant love to be poured out over us, He’s there – in the waiting space.

Share the song already…

None of us fully know what others are facing day to day or what’s happening in another person’s heart. Encouragement is never wasted.

Sometimes a friend will reach into your inbox to say words that affirm who we are and the path we’re walking. She’ll share a song that reminds her of you.

She told me that hearing this song that talks about desiring deep, connecting relationships reminds her of me. It’s how she sees me. And it’s what she likes about me. She called me courageous…

… little did she know that I sobbed into my hands last night calling myself stupid. Little did she know that just last night I was doubting all the ways my heart has loved and cared for others; with its deep desires, its longing for something real to grab onto, and the need to skip over all the nonsense and jump right into the deep, dark end with another soul.

Stupid for loving hard, for being so vulnerable, and for allowing the opportunity to be broken happen over and over again. Punishing myself for not learning lessons, for continuing to seek the things a person hides beneath, and to tear down walls to create healthier people even if it means pieces of me are lost in the process. Stupid for desiring the deep, connecting relationships that come with an overload of risk.

I asked a friend once why God would allow my heart to be so fragile that it stays in a continued place of brokenness – and this is why. Because God gave me the desire to love others so profoundly and with the sincerity to see the underbelly and not run away or be afraid. Because of these experiences, God uses my readiness to share words to bring hope to others. He’s created me so that in my willingness to be open and transparent, others can find their own opportunities to be brave. He’s made it so that other people can see something He’s placed inside of me and find their own ways to be vulnerable and courageous.

God will use each one of us to bring glory to the Kingdom. Our obedience to tread into the space He calls us is up to us. We get to make the decision to walk the walk He has for us, or not. Sometimes the enemy will have us questioning everything and everyone – doubting who we are and to Whom we belong. The enemy would rather have us imprisoning ourselves for the perceived weaknesses we have rather than stepping into those soft spaces of who we are created to be with bravery and courage.

Last night, the enemy tried his trickery… and it worked – a little bit. In true form, though, my Daddy God wasn’t going to let the voice of the enemy destroy His spirit in me and He directed His daughter to speak His words over me, to refresh my soul, and fill my tank. Obedience is critical when it comes to Kingdom work.

When you see something in someone, speak it out.

When you notice the bravery on that momma in the store, speak it out.

When you see that daddy doing his best at the park with his daughter, speak it out.

When you see your coworker accomplish something she didn’t think she could do, speak it out.

When you see that person you’re not even sure you like very much take a step in humility, speak it out.

When the Lord prompts you to speak into someone else, do it.

None of us fully know what others are facing day to day or what’s happening in another person’s heart. Encouragement is never wasted. Remind someone about how their gifting is making an impact in the Kingdom because the enemy is always on the prowl to take us down! Speak some meaningful truths to someone this week. Tell them the things you like about them and the things that you see God doing through them.

The song: https://youtu.be/1Wk8ZRgXQnY

Vulnerable

I’ve sat upon the floor of hell. The enemy escorting me there time and again. Each time, climbing out — to what I was never really sure and for reasons I couldn’t comprehend. While seated on that floor, the breaking of my spirit, my confidence, my very essence happened in the most painful ways.

Years later, God gave me the strength to climb out for good and to never fall into that space of unworthiness, shame, doubt, condemnation, judgement, perfection again. He offered a hand that led to a redemption of epic proportions. That’s not to say that I don’t struggle with each of those things from time to time, but now I know to choose not to live in that lie from the enemy any longer. Jesus has created a path of righteousness, lined with His blood, full of His grace, where I’ve been ushered into and made whole. Clean. A new creation.

I don’t take this lightly, friends. In the washing of His blood, He gave me a story. One to be told so that none of us ever feels like we’re walking in this life alone. He’s provided me with a voice that some will hear, but not others. He’s made me palpable for some, but not for everyone.

The good news is that none of us have to carry the weight of the Great Commission all on our own. You’ve been given a story, a voice, a group of people who will only be able to hear the story you tell in the way you tell it. Your experiences will speak to the hearts of people that mine never will. Your life and redemption will usher in people to the Cross who would never hear my voice.

Over the last couple of months, when I’ve tried to think through how I write about what breaks my heart, how I remain vulnerable without floodlighting people, and how to help people with whom I have influence to see the goodness and trueness of a loving God – I continue to come back to being true to the walk He’s called me to walk. Right here. With you.

Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability — the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome – is the only path to more love, belong, and joy. The downside? You’re going to stumble, fall, and get your ass kicked. Worth it? Yes.”

It’s hard to be that vulnerable. Maybe we don’t all do it en masse like this crazy fool *points at self*… but I hope that you have someone(s) who will allow your full vulnerability and that you feel safe and secure in the telling of your story while you’re there.

You were created for this time. This space. This unfolding. I’m praying that your confidence to walk in it is encouraged daily and that you are reminded often that you are a beloved child of a King.

Ephesians 2: 10 10 For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. 52057067_10218550456971100_425165667398844416_n

 

The struggle is real…

Friends, the enemy finds our weaknesses and he is masterful at using those spaces to dig in his feet and whisper untruths to us. He knows how to angle himself in such a way that we only hear his voice – he wants to stand between us and Him. 

Are you single and okay with it?

I’m not. Not always.

I spent a good deal of my life learning the art of self-sufficiency and independence, but, in some ways, it was to my detriment. So much of my time was spent convincing myself and others that I didn’t need anyone and I started to believe it myself.

The truth is that we do need people. I do. And if you’re being honest, you do too.

It doesn’t mean that I sit around wailing and wanting… although, sometimes I do feel like there is plenty of wailing and wanting happening! heh. It means that sometimes I wonder why my longings are still longings. I get stuck in a place somewhere between being hopeful for a godly marriage and feeling like a hopeless lost cause. I want to believe in it and I also want to be realistic. Yanno?

What I had to realize is that struggling with it isn’t a bad thing. It’s okay to question and wonder about things that we are asking God to do in our lives. We can trust Him and still wonder about the outcomes. Remember my last post where I talked about being frustrated, and that this last year has been one rolling frustration? Yep… my heart was all part of that frustration too.

In the last year, I’ve tried lots of ways to deal with the things that are hurting my heart… I’ve tried to run from church, I’ve tried to drink it away, I’ve tried to get lost in books and movies, and if I’m being really honest, I even thought some physical comfort would do the trick. Thankfully, I didn’t explore that last option more than a passing thought.

The truth of it all is that none of those did or could comfort the longings I felt. Sometimes, for months and/or years, I am able to just go along with normal life without thinking about my desire to be married and other times it’s like I’m being punched in the face. Over and over. A violent reminder of my worthlessness, my inability to close a healthy relationship, my lack of the necessary skill set to secure a man, my inability to attract a man, every flaw on display.

Recognizing how the enemy works was critical to overcoming the constant beating I was doing to my own heart. And there’s a good chance you’re doing it to your heart too. Maybe not today. But maybe you did yesterday or will tomorrow.

Friends, the enemy finds our weaknesses and he is masterful at using those spaces to dig in his feet and whisper untruths to us. He knows how to angle himself in such a way that we only hear his voice – he wants to stand between us and Him.

We are going to struggle. It happens. We have a choice how we struggle and with whom we struggle, though. I’ve made a choice not to struggle with the enemy… I want to struggle with Jesus. With knowing Him better, with allowing Him to know me better, with getting closer to His heart and the things He has for me… that’s my struggle these days.

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As believers, we’ve fed ourselves some untruths like; push through the pain and/or the longing, if you loved God enough you’d be patient and not question His will for you, if you trust His will for your life then you could truly be content in this season. Bleh blebby bleh bleh. The truth is that we gain His power and grow stronger and closer to Christ in moments of our own weakness. When we are in the midst of a struggle and our dependence is all on Him, then we’re closing that gap the enemy uses to speak lies to our hearts. Let’s stop being people who are pretending to be okay when we’re really not okay. Let’s embrace the areas we struggle and struggle with the One who has the answers. Let’s stop shaming other believers for not being content enough, faithful enough, or patient enough. Let’s walk each other to the cross, keep one another in prayers, remember that we’re all just trying to live our best lives and make it into eternity with our Creator.

My name is Stephanie, I love Jesus with every bit of my soul, and I struggle. And He struggles with me. Because I am His and He is mine.

What in the world…

We are His beloved. 
He is our Defender. 
We have a purpose. 
He will position us for our purpose. 

Who knew that when I posted my last post, on July 3rd, at 5 pm, that just a few short hours later, everything in my world would change. It’s funny reading it now.. like talking about how I struggle to focus on things because I’m often focusing on so many things. Well. That shut me up.

And made me focus.

Today I was reading something on another blog about how to continue writing when life is blowing up around you, and I was reminded that writing is something that is important, of course, but that it’s also okay to take breaks when needed. Writing is often an escape, but it’s also a place for me to sort out emotions. Until there are too many emotions to sort out in any particular moment. And having some grace with myself to step back and process is important.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about how I would come back to this space and at what level would I share what’s been happening..

Here we go…

On July 3rd, I was home alone, when some crazy, angry, delusional person opened fire into my apartment. Only by the grace of God I didn’t get up to open the door when I heard someone coming up the steps (like I normally would’ve done) and that the shooter didn’t understand the layout of my apartment and where his bullets were landing. Forty-five minutes later, the same shooter opened fire into another apartment in the next complex over. The alleged shooter was caught three days after the incident and is in custody awaiting trial. That’s all I can share, and that’s public knowledge. The rest is tied up in legal mumbo jumbo.

We are safe.

Trying to process through that with my kiddo and myself, while in the midst of a huge work project, and then into my busiest work season has been… challenging. And difficult. And life-altering, to say the least.

One of the things that made me angry at myself, though, was how I got angry with God. Not at first.. I was grateful for His protection, in the beginning. But then I was angry. I was angry that I have felt like the last year has ripped me open over and over again. I was angry that every time I thought we were swinging toward some lasting goodness, there would be another punch to the neck and something taken from me. I was angry that with every wave of grief over the last year I leaned into Him and dug deeper in my relationship with Him. And then this happened. It was the literal straw that broke the momma’s back. I was getting closer and closer to Him and this was my reward? This was what surrendering to Him looked like? NO thank you. I mean, I’ll love Him, but not like that.. it hurts too much.

But then… God.

I tried so hard to stay mad at Him. Have you ever tried to be mad at someone and you just couldn’t?

Maybe it was the softness in His spirit;
or the gentleness of His love;
or the patience He showed toward me;
or the tenderness of His relentless pursuit for my heart even when I was so done;
or the willingness He had to let me be angry and not be mad or hold it against me;
or the desire He had to love me even though I was not being lovable;
or the mercy He showed me when I screamed that His way was too hard;
or the grace He freely gave to cover me as I crawled back to Him.

This was between me and Him. There was no one to walk through this with me or to encourage me along the way… it was me and Him. On an island. Working through some messy stuff. Have you been there? On that lonely island?

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Here are some truths I’ve learned, some for the first time and some for the second or third time…
He didn’t put me on that isolated island. I did that to myself. I refused to allow anyone to walk through this with me because I was too busy being mad. And angry. And bitter.
He didn’t do this to me. We live in a fallen world with broken people. The enemy is real and he knows how to cause division. It’s his whole purpose on earth. Trying to separate us from Him.
He didn’t push me away from Him. I went headstrong in the other direction.
He didn’t force me to stay near to Him if I didn’t want to, I have a choice in the matter.
He didn’t hide Himself from me when I was ready to go to Him.
He didn’t try to offer me an explanation, He just wanted me to trust Him.

We’ve all heard the phrase that bad things happen to good people. And godly people. Being a good, godly person doesn’t mean we’re immune to the suffering of the world. But it does mean that we have a Place of retreat when the suffering is too great for us to handle alone. It does mean that we have a Provider who will find a way to keep us moving forward. It does mean that He will knock down walls to remind us that we’re important to Him. And that He loves us deeply.

We are His beloved.
He is our Defender.
We have a purpose.
He will position us for our purpose.

Oh, friends, sometimes it will be hard to let His love take hold of us and carry us. He wants to be near to us and has a steadfast love for us. His faithful pursuit for our hearts is steady. Even when our thoughts are all jumbled, His promises for us will come to pass when we remain in a place of surrender and obedience. Temporal existence is just a blimp on the radar when we have eternity in mind. I want to be a woman focused on eternity and the Kingdom. Even when it hurts. Even when I’m angry. Even when I’m scared.