This Is How You Let Yourself Be Held

I know God is a good father.

But I wish He felt like a good father a little more often.

Certainly He can’t expect us to do this life without knowing His arms around us- without sensing ourselves held, beloved, in His warm embrace?

“I want to cry. I am so, so tired,” I told someone yesterday.

And I laughed. Yesterday, I laughed so hard I couldn’t talk.

And I got a migraine.

And I slept well.

And I held a child.

And cuddled a dog.

And I sobbed.

And I feared today coming.

And I wondered what the point of all this is.

And I asked God if I’ll ever feel okay again.

And I checked in with myself and was disheartened, but not surprised, to discover my outlook on being alive is still the same.

I’m so tired.

I am fighting so hard. I’m doing everything I know to do, and this life? It feels… Well, it feels like I’m carrying a cross. I’m doing something I don’t feel like doing, each second choosing to put one foot in front of the next. And not only don’t I want to do it, but it HURTS. Each second, each step, it’s so painful. And yet I’m choosing to walk. I’m choosing to live in the pain.

And I ask God big questions. And I tell Him bold things, like, “This is WRONG. This can’t be what You have for me. Something isn’t right. This can’t be all there is.”

And I sob. I get angry and I get scared and I can’t breathe and I want to jump ship. I want to be done with this life I never asked for in the first place, this life that I don’t see getting better any time soon.

And my head fills with heavy things and everything is spinning and I have no control.

And then I close my eyes.

And I whisper the only prayer that comforts my heart: “Just hold me.”

Because it’s all spinning and the cross is heavy and I’m in so much pain. And time just doesn’t freaking stop. It just keeps going and it doesn’t care if I’m tired.

But I’m still His.

He is still my Father.

And, even when I can’t feel it, I know He is holding me.

I know He is good.

*

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord!” -Ps. 27:13-14

 

It Is Well With My Soul

“Our own limitations should never inhibit our expectation of God…”

It doesn’t depend on us…

If I want to do well, if I desire to follow Him, that’s enough. I can look forward in hope and anticipation of what’s to come.

Hallelujah.

*

I’ve come to this place in my relationship with God where I say things to Him like, “Fine. I surrender. I give you x, y, z. But if I’m not going to have those things in my life, then I NEED MORE OF YOU.”

And then I read my Bible and pray and worship.

And I don’t feel more of Him.

Nor are X, Y, or Z marching (or even, from my perspective, crawling) into my life.

And so I get frustrated. And I say, “Fine, if I fall to my knees and don’t feel You, if I pray and things don’t get better, then it’s Your own fault if I stop seeking You first. Because You’re not enough. You’re not here and You don’t care and You see that I’m hurting and WHERE ARE YOU?”

And I blame Him. I blame Him for being absent.

But we know He never is.

I base SO much on how I feel.

And because I know He could swoop into my life in some big way and turn all my emotions around, I fault Him for not doing that.

And when I say, “FINE! All I want is You then!” and nothing changes, my heart still hurts, I fault Him even more. Because isn’t that the golden prayer? For more of Him? Him above all else? His face versus His hand?

…But if I’m basing my answer to my prayer for more of Him on what I feel, then it isn’t really His face I’m seeking, is it?

I am asking for Him, but the underlying request is that He prove Himself. “Prove it to me that You’re present. Prove to me that You care about my heart. Prove to me that You heard my prayer.”

…Because if I don’t feel it, then it isn’t happening, right? And, while we’re on the subject of how I’d like to see my prayers being answered, I don’t want to wait either. Because why should I have to?! If He’s here now, then BE. HERE. NOW!

…It’s insanely bold of me!

And also just insane.

Because His ways aren’t our ways.
His timing is perfect.
He is present.
And He cares, deeply, about my heart.

I know all that. But I am so quick to become a toddler before Him, begging my Father to pick me up, to carry me, to let me hide my face against His shoulder. And for all of that to happen in a way that doesn’t require, for just a few minutes, that I “walk by faith”.

I don’t understand. Oh, Lord, I don’t understand.

Scripture says David strengthened Himself in the Lord. It didn’t say, “David despaired and then God gave Him strength.” Although that, too, is true. But there’s a middle part to that equation: David chose to trust God. He chose to cling. Even when what He felt was despair, He chose to hold tight to the truth of who God is. And then, in doing that, God gave Him strength.

Very rarely, I’m coming to learn, is living a godly life a natural reflex for us fallible humans. Almost always, we have to choose– to be consciously aware of what is true and then be deliberate to live out of that truth.

No matter what I feel, I have to choose to keep falling to my knees and raising my hands in worship and praying wordless, tear-filled prayers. Because I KNOW they matter. Each time I run to Him, even when I don’t sense Him standing before me with arms outstretched, I know the spiritual realm takes notice.

I have to live my life with eyes open wide in holy anticipation of what’s to come. BECAUSE HE PROMISES IT WILL BE GOOD. And He has never broken a promise.

I can’t fall to my knees, press my head to the carpet, kneel before Him, and then despair because flame and wind and His voice didn’t fill the room. I can’t rise from the ground and furrow my brow and look up at the ceiling and say, “Don’t You see what I just did!? Man, You really missed an opportunity to win my heart over and speak to me!”

I can’t give up.

And I have to choose to rise from my knees in a room that still feels empty, with my heart that still screams with ache, and say, “You are still what I want above all else. I know that You alone can fill this ache within me. I know that the best, safest place for my heart is here, at Your side. And I know that, regardless of how I feel, I can smile and hope because You are good.”

Because I KNOW it matters. He bends to earth when we pray. EVEN WHEN WE DON’T FEEL IT. And how miraculous is that? How incredible that He do desires for us to speak to Him!?

Will I choose to stay, to say He is good, that what I have in Him is more than enough, even when I feel empty and alone, and He isn’t flooding my emptiness with Himself in a way that I can perceive?

Will I trust that when I open my arms up wide, when tears stream down my face and I need a shoulder to rest my head on, when all that is within me is screaming for relief from the pain, for more–more love, family, belonging, joy, hope, HIM–, will I trust that He comes running?

Will I throw my questions and anger and sorrow at Him, and then still say, “I choose You”?

Yes. Yes, I will.

Because HE IS GOOD- not just when my life reflects His goodness in the ways I want it to, or when I feel His goodness, but always. He is unarguably, unchangeably, unwaveringly, steadily, forever good.

And so I will choose, over and over and over again, to stick this journey out- eyes open in expectation for the wonders He promises to do.

And when nothing else makes sense, I can find comfort in what I know. I can tilt my head towards heaven and say, “You are good.”

And I can know that His eyes meet mine.
And He smiles a gentle smile.
And He says, “Yes, baby. I am.”

I will choose to ENDURE and let the face of Living Hope shine down on me.

I will cling to the One who is I Am.

*

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying…destiny…in the hand of Almighty God.”

 

Protected: A Letter

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He Is Present

On Tuesday evening, I nearly died.

I’m only kind of exaggerating.

I sat out in the cold in not nearly enough clothing for 2 1/2 hours, waiting for the Tegan and Sara concert to start.

I spent most of the 2 1/2 hours buried in my coat, trying to will my hands and feet and knees to come back to life. I don’t know the last time I was so physically miserable. I’d rather break my wrist again. Or get dental work. Or go for a run.

I didn’t wait in the cold for Tegan and Sara as much as I did for Brittany. My sister wanted to get there early so that we could be close to the stage, and I obliged.

Of course, after obliging, I realized I am too old for that crap. I don’t want to sit in the cold, and I don’t want to follow that sitting in the cold by standing in a crowd of people on my numb, club-like feet, amongst pushing and shoving and jumping people who smell like cigarettes. The concert was fun, don’t get me wrong, but that’s probably the last time I will put myself in that kind of situation. Next time Tegan and Sara come to town, it better be summer, or else there will be no obliging to a 2 1/2 hour wait outside.

You know what else I found myself thinking though, while I was sitting in the cold wondering how it was possible that time was moving so slowly? I thought about how love put me in that position. Loving Brittany caused me to agree to subject myself to bitter cold.

And as much as I love Brittany, how much more do I love the Lord?
And when is the last time I allowed myself to be even half that uncomfortable for Him?

I hesitate to go to church because it’s scary. I choose Gilmore Girls re-runs over time spent with Him because mindless television is “easier”.

Of course, if God asked me to sit in the cold for 2 1/2 hours, He’d also probably say, “Dear girl, bring a coat! And a hat!” He provides for us and walks us through anything He asks us to do. However, would we even get that far? Or would I say, “It’s scary and uncomfortable. He understands. He knows how hard it is for me. If I don’t do it, He’ll forgive me.” I worry I often say the latter.

Desperately, I want the life I live to be one that gives God priority, always. I want Him to be God of every area of my life. I want to love Him more than Gilmore Girls and comfort and mindlessly doing nothing. I want to love Him more than people.

I want to need Him and hunger for Him and thirst for Him and TRUST that when I call on Him, He will show up in a way that is real and not fog- present and real but intangible.

I don’t know what I expect, I just know prayer and Bible study hold a lot less appeal if I don’t open my mind to the possibility of God showing up in some way that blows my mind and makes me take Him out of the box I’ve put Him in for so long.

Maybe now He is still in that box, but the lid is off at least. I have given Him permission to stretch and move and stand up and maybe even step out.

But I know He wants me to seek Him whole-heartedly, and that if I want Him to show up, that is what I need to do. However, as hungry and thirsty as I am for Him, often I quench that desire with something less. I don’t want to do that anymore.

There’s so much power in going through life expecting that God will actually show up.

Life just isn’t worth it without that possibility. People are great and sunsets are breath-taking and my cats make me laugh daily, but I need Jesus. In a world filled with loss and sorrow and suffering, I’ve been reminded over and over again that God is the one thing I can count on never to leave me or be taken from me or break my heart. He has, at many points in my life, been (or felt like) all I had.

I don’t know what I want or need or expect. I just know I’m hungry. I just know I cannot turn off the part of my brain and heart that insist that there’s got to be more.

I want Jesus to hug me. I want Him to kiss my forehead and look me in the eyes and tell me it all matters. That even though it’s part of His plan, and even though He’s going to use it, and even though there’s worse suffering in this world, than what I’ve been through in my life matters- that it wasn’t okay, that my heart is important to Him.

Recently I read something that initially seemed like a pretty obvious statement, but my eyes stuck on the sentence: “The devil fears prayer.”

The devil fears prayer.

When I pray, that makes the devil squirmy and twitchy and nervous and uncomfortable.

BECAUSE HE KNOWS GOD WILL RESPOND.

And maybe God won’t respond in the way I hope, which will give the devil the opportunity to convince me God doesn’t care or love me, but that’s all the power he has- he is armed with nothing more than lies. And even as he tries to get me to believe his lies, he will know that, regardless of how my prayer is answered, it was (or will be) answered. It was heard, and always God will do what is best for His Kingdom.

No wonder the devil is scared of prayer! Our prayers are powerful!

And the fact that we love and worship a God who cares what we want and how we feel?! It’s BEAUTIFUL. It’s an inexpressibly beautiful thing.

I think sometimes that the devil has more faith in the power of my prayers than I do.

How important the Bible is. How quick I am to believe lies. How quick I am to tune out the voice of my beloved God and side instead with the enemy. It’s easier, y’know. It’s the way of the world to believe we have to struggle and beg and worry and fight. It’s the way of the world to be afraid and angry and depressed and hopeless. But God has more for us than that.

God has more for us.

More.

I have to believe that. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know what I expect. But I trust God with my heart. He understands me so much better than I understand myself. He knows what will be best for me. I trust Him. I trust Him to show up.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to sob in pillows or scream in my car sometimes. It doesn’t mean I’m not going to occasionally turn away from prayer and instead go to sleep or watch mindless television to cope with what I’m feeling. Life is hard. It just is.

But the beauty of that is, God understands. He will never say, “This will make you stronger. Buck up.” He will never minimize my pain.

It’s like a toddler throwing a fit about not being able to wear their favorite flip-flops when summer fades to autumn. They don’t understand and think their parent is just beign cruel, and honestly, from an adult perspective, their temper-tantrum is kind of eye-roll-worthy.

God easily could roll His eyes at me. He could say, “You don’t understand. Just trust me. Enough of your belly-aching.” But He doesn’t. He isn’t condescending, even though my infantile perspective makes me whiny at times.

Instead, He says, “You’re right. It does matter.” And then He reminds me of scripture. He comforts me with His word. And when His word fails to comfort because my mind isn’t ready to receive it, He is patient with me. “That’s okay,” He says. He’s not threatened, Truth is Truth and it doesn’t change. He will keep reminding me of it because one day it will stick and my perspective will become slightly less infantile.

And in the meantime, He wipes away my tears. They matter to Him.

He holds my hand when I’m scared. He encourages me and comforts me and promises to never, ever leave me. He reminds me I don’t have to be strong because He is.

He is there. Always, always, He is present.

Even when I’m sitting outside in 30-degree weather for 2 1/2 hours.

: )

Love: Where Action And Emotion Collide

Multiple times a day, I find myself telling the Lord that I love Him. Sometimes I tell Him I love Him like I tell the people in my life that I love them, randomly and out of habit, because I do. And sometimes I tell Him I love Him as a prayer.

Last night, I said it as a prayer. I said it to recenter, to remember that nothing matters more than my relationship with the Lord. Even when everything else falls apart, I am His and He is mine. And that is beautiful.

The knowledge that my relationship with Him cannot be taken away from me is my peace, my safety, my security. I no longer feel like I need safety or peace (or love or understanding or positive regard…) from people because He has shown me that they are totally found in Him. Hallelujah. How blessed we are to be loved so deeply by the One who created us.

I cannot hug Jesus (yet). I cannot look at Him with love in my eyes. But I can love Him in my actions, in my thoughts, and in the emotions I choose to harbor.

If I really love Him, then my decisions need to be different. If I love Him, I will be slow to anger and quick to forgive. I will radiate love, even when I am wronged.

Nothing matters more than loving the Lord and the people in this life. Being heard or right or respected or loved or understood? None of it really matters. And when I choose to act in love, in spite of how I am feeling, I am reminded of that in a powerful way. I feel Him smile at me. I feel Him draw near. I feel His love for me flood my heart and bring tears to my eyes. When Jesus bends down to kiss the top of my head, or I sense Him fist-bumping my mom and saying, “That’s our girl!”, it really helps to put every other aspect of life into perspective. I so treasure those moments.

“I love You, I love You, I love You” is a prayer.

It’s a prayer of gratitude- thank You that You love me, thank You that I love You.
And it’s a prayer for more- Lord, help me to love you more.
And it’s a prayer for strength- Lord, help me to love people with the love of God.
And it’s a prayer for peace- Lord, help me to remember what really matters.
It is an emotion.
It is an action.

I feel like I am just starting to understand that love is an action and not just an emotion. I used to think I was good at loving people, but I’m not always good at living it out. Sometimes the love just gets caught up in my heart as something I feel and not something exhibited. And sometimes I have the opposite problem- sometimes I confuse love and healthy boundaries. I confuse love and letting myself being manipulated. I confuse loving someone and being whatever they need (or want) me to be in any given situation.

The Lord is teaching me how to love better.

Thank You, Jesus, that you don’t just love me in emotion, You love me in action. After all, it was love that sent Jesus to die for me.

And the people I love? You love them, too. I can trust You to teach me how to love them well because we both want the best for them, and sometimes neither they (nor I) know what that looks like and we get confused. But You don’t. You always know.

So help me, Lord, to love You in my actions and not just my heart. And help me to love the people in my life in action as well.

And help me to remember, Lord, as I get better at honoring boundaries, that sometimes the most loving action is doing nothing. Help me to remember that even when I am doing nothing, You are working. Even in the waiting, even in the uncomfortable moments, You are moving.

Thank you, Jesus, that loving You really is the best way to love the people in my life well. Even if they cannot see that right now.

Lord, help me be firm, but not angry.
Help me be loving, but not easily manipulated.
Help me be sensitive to Your spirit.

Lord, teach me to love. Teach me to love without expectation or fear. Teach me to love even when the love isn’t reciprocated. Teach me to love like You.

Seeking Your Face

I seem to be forever discovering how very much I have to work on. And yet, there is no discouragement or shame in that because I am safe in Jesus.

I was thinking last night about false idols, and how seemingly innocuous they can be. How we might not even recognize them as such.

I find a lot of comfort in knowing that God won’t allow us to have false idols—that He will burn them to the ground until He resumes Lordship over our lives. As painful as it might be for God to discipline me, I want that. I want, more than anything, to live right with Him.

Plus, I know that no matter what He takes away, no matter what He is forced to burn to the ground, better things await me. He is a master at rebuilding. Remember, God made a person out of nothing more than dust and His breath. (How beautiful that humanity started with the very breath of the Almighty!). He made the whole world with just His words.

However, I think it’s really easy for me to allow other’s voices, especially my sister’s, to be bigger than God’s. It’s not a matter of “worshipping” my sister, but a matter of convenience. It’s easier to bend to her wishes, to spend evenings with her instead of God. “He will understand if I don’t have time to spend with Him tonight,” I think. It’s easier to apologize to my understanding and forgiving God than to rock the boat with my sister.

But that’s not fair to Him. And that is not how I want to live.

I was talking that over with God last night when I realized I made it to bed too late to have time to spend with Him. Certainly my evening wasn’t so busy that I couldn’t have made time for Him, I chose not to because my sister wanted my attention.

And it occurred to me that the reason I so often allow her to call the shots is because I see her as my primary opportunity for comfort and love, and I don’t want to jeopardize that. And so, I willingly trade in time with God for her love and comfort, even though I know that no person’s love compares to the love of the Lord. I trade in Love for humanity’s version of it.

God promises to meet us when we come to Him! He isn’t just able to provide comfort, He IS comfort! He is more than able to provide love, He IS love!

I think I tend to do whatever is easiest. Not rocking the boat with my sister? Easier than excusing myself to spend time with God.

And shamefully, sometimes spending time with God feels like work. Sitting in front of the TV? Easier than seeking the face of God.

But it isn’t supposed to feel like work! Jesus spent hours with His Father. He wasn’t bored. To Him, it didn’t feel like work. It felt like comfort. It felt like Love.

It felt like rest.

He calls the weary and brokenhearted to Him. He promises to quench the thirst of those who seek Him.

It isn’t supposed to feel like work.

And when I’m with Him, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. I know from experience that He truly is all that He promises to be.

So why do I still live like I don’t believe that?

I think we are born hungry- needing things like love and comfort.

And I think God did that on purpose, I think he WIRED us that way because He didn’t want us to be able to be completely satisfied with what the world has to offer- He wants us to be satisfied in Him alone.

He wanted to give us a reason to seek Him.

I think a lot of people never get to the place of seeking God’s face and discovering that He keeps His promises. I think they grow disillusioned, bitter, cynical, angry. Their efforts at trying to find or create fullness of life haven’t worked out. And so they decide there must not be any more, that they are destined to live dissatisfied and unfulfilled. And they quiet the part of themselves, the part of themselves placed there by their Creator, that whispers, “Don’t give up. There IS more.”

The voice of God never stops calling us to believe there’s more. But the world is always going to disappoint. We have to find our “more” in Him alone.

And He promises that in Him we will find all that we need. This I know to be true; I have experienced it.

Thank you, Abba, that You keep Your promises. Thank You that all that You do is for our ultimate good. And the ultimate good of Your Kingdom.

Lord, I believe You are worth “rocking the boat” for. You are worth leaving the boat for- as Peter demonstrated. Only, unlike Peter, help me to trust You so fully that, when I step from the boat, I don’t sink.

Help me to do life with my eyes on Your face.

Help me to do life running across the surface of the water after You.