Nevermind, I don’t want to be in control.

Life is funny, sometimes. Or learning about it is. I am sure God is upstairs chuckling at our cluelessness at times.

For most of my life, I struggled with trying to control my life and circumstances. And for most of my life, I had no idea just how hard I was trying to control it. I started to see it one piece at a time. It took me a long time to realize just how deep this need was. This began the process of trying to surrender all to God. Wow, was that hard! You don’t think you are a control freak until you come to terms with needing to let go of everything, including your most treasured parts of life. This also does not happen overnight and it is finished. You will continually try to regain control or recognize that you are trying to hold too tightly again, and struggle to release.

As if that wasn’t hard enough, then came my latest realization. Last year, my life was truly about surrendering those last pieces I was clinging to. For quite some time, I have felt “stuck” in my life. I knew my old one didn’t fit anymore, but I could not seem to find the new one either. (Kinda reminds me of jeans… or at least what I remember, since 14 months into the pandemic pants with a button and zipper are only a distant memory). This stuck feeling is torture. For awhile, I felt like I was waiting on God. But a number of pastors kept saying often when we think we are waiting on God, He is actually waiting on us. Could that be true? It didn’t seem to fit in my circumstances. Surely, I was waiting on Him.

While waiting, I tried really hard to make the best of it. This was another challenge. But, I did know I was sowing a lot of good seeds, and I was believing that eventually, they would have to grow and produce fruit, and I would finally reap a harvest. I started to wonder though, if I wasn’t meant for farming, because not even a sprout appeared. After the loss and betrayal I endured recently, on top of all of the tsunami storms that have swirled in my life these past few years, I was left wondering when was I going to see any positive changes? I had given up and let go of SO MUCH. I basically walked into 2021 with nothing I had before- none of my comforts, none of my security, none of the things I felt Jesus had asked me to lay down and leave behind.

I listen to Christine Caine almost every day. I say her full name only for your benefit, as she is my spiritual big sister. (She just doesn’t know this, not anymore than Joyce knows she is my spiritual grandmother…maybe one day…). Christine often says that we have to go in and take our Promised Land, that God wants us to receive our blessings, but basically they don’t just rain down, we have to slay some giants and lasso the promises in order to grab ahold of them. Although I was hearing this message regularly, it wasn’t really something I was fully understanding.

Monday, I attended a marathon virtual conference. It was better than I had expected, and as I sat their listening to these speakers and marveling about this abundant lives they lead, I found myself questioning why my life was so hard, and why this was so unimaginable to me- why were they so different?

That night, after 11 hours of speakers, I was sitting in quiet trying to start to process all of the information when my son entered the room asking about purchasing another college textbook. I broke down crying. Expenses have been piling up and funds have been drying up, and having spent the last decade being the only financial support, I was overwhelmed. I have given my finances over to God recently, and it is one of the hardest mindset shifts I have ever tried to make. And here again, I was not seeing any positive change from my efforts.

That’s when it hit me. I am standing in my own way. I am holding myself up. And God probably IS waiting on me, and I probably do need to grab ahold of my blessings if I want to receive them. You see, self-doubt has been plaguing me. God has planted mighty dreams in me, but I have been paralyzed. I tell myself I am not ready, I don’t know what I am doing, I can’t do this or that, I need help, I can’t put myself out there, I am too introverted and shy, I am not _____ enough (adjective changes). I know God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. I know God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear and that He tells us to be strong and courageous, and that everything He asks of us is already in us. Why, then, do I have ZERO confidence to move forward? Because the thing is, God is absolutely in control. He is the captain of my ship. I am not even a passenger, I am meant to be the vessel. BUT, as much as I have been preaching to myself that I am not in control, that I can only control how I respond to my circumstances, that I can control my thoughts so they don’t control me AND my emotions… I was blind to the fact that I may have more control than I bargained for. The only catch is, it is not a type of control I want!

I want a life that is very different from the first 42 and almost 1/2 that I have lived. I can describe the ideal, but it seems out of reach for me. I can spout off all kinds of limitations as to why. But the biggest limitation that I never fully understood… may just be ME. I felt something change inside me after this thought hit me. I have been wanting to live a flourishing, abundant life- not by the world’s standards, but by living out God’s will and plan for me. I have prayed and prayed about it, but maybe I have to do more than just want it, maybe I have to chase it. Maybe for my life to BE different, I have to DO different. And that requires facing fear, and fighting until I get the life I want. In seeing someone else’s mortality… I have been struck with just how tragic a life is when someone gets stuck and can’t move forward to what God has intended for them. I do not want my life to end that way. So it is up to me to do my best to be sure it doesn’t… which means I am in control of it.

Mirror, Mirror

I have written before about how I was rediscovering the girl God made me to be. At first, I thought this was a journey unique to me. But, the more I reflected, the more I realized this is something that almost all of us need to do.

Mel Robbins hit me with a truth bomb the other day. She asked us to think about a baby in a mirror. From the time they first discover their reflection, they are intrigued. They stare and smile, laugh, as she said, even lick the face looking back at them. Toddlers and children are the same way. They love to see themselves. Today, I suppose this extends beyond just mirrors, they also like to see photos and selfies. They delight in looking at themselves. Back to Mel, she then made note of how much different it is for us looking in the mirror. At some point, we were taught what we see is ugly, unworthy, not enough… Oh, how I cried listening to this revelation. I actually do not look in the mirror unless I have to. The only mirrors in my home are the ones above the bathroom sinks. I will do all that I can to avoid catching a glimpse of myself. When I used to go to the gym, the classroom was my worst nightmare because all of the walls were mirrored. (Great, I don’t like to look at myself standing in place, why on earth would I want to look at myself while inflicting self-torture?!!) I hate photos, and anytime I look at one I zero right in on all of the things I dislike- and the first thing I see every time is my nose, which I feel is not unlike Gonzo’s. Maybe I am more extreme than others, I don’t know. I have lived a lifetime of actual voices telling me the reflection was ugly and not enough. And after a little while, my own voice started to agree.

This week, I watched a video clip of a toddler who was all out belly laughing at her father being silly. Over and over, as he pretended to fall down, she busted a gut. It was the most incredible sound, and the look on her face was absolutely joyous. And I thought, how often do we, as adults, experience joy like that? Especially out of something so simple.

The Bible tells us to have faith like a child. Children believe without seeing. They believe in magical things like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. They believe in the goodness of people. They believe Jesus loves them, because the Bible tells them so. As we grow, we become more jaded and less convinced. For me, one of the most difficult things God asks me to do is to walk by faith and not by sight. I believe what I see, and I even believe what my mind thinks it sees! I think my circumstances tell the story. This has been such a challenging battle, and I can’t imagine I am alone in this. That’s why the reminder is in the Bible.

I think we could learn a lot from children. As I typed that line, I heard a song in my head. This comes from a dynamic 80s power ballad that I’m sure those of you who are old enough will recognize…

I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier...

Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.

Did you sing it? I can’t seem to read it without singing it in my head.

I am evolving. Sometimes I wonder if this is what a mid-life crisis is. I do know that I am standing in that place- we never know how long we have. I certainly didn’t expect to suddenly lose a loved one who was just 44. It has been another reminder of how temporary our time here on earth is. If I am lucky enough to see my eighties, then I am already halfway through my life. I am staring down the first half, trying to take lessons, not regrets, with me into the next half. I do know the first half was nothing like I expected and it wasn’t what I wanted either. I am hopeful the changes I am making will make the second half of my story the better half. And, I hope that I can find that little girl in the mirror. The one with the belly laughs.

Showing up

Jesus woke me up at 5am today. Well, kind of. The sound of a text notification actually woke me up… what sort of lunatic sends a text at that hour, you wonder? (My ex-husband.) But anyway, after the alert woke me up, I very quickly knew this was not one of those days where I would be falling back asleep. And that’s when God stepped in. Often, I have the most productive time with Him in these moments. I guess my cluttered mind is clear when it is still sleepy. These are also the moments when God often lights a fire in my soul, ignites my passions, and burns dreams into my heart. Which is a little crazy, considering I am so NOT a morning person.

Today, my mind was flooded with an abundance of ideas and thoughts. I knew I needed to write, but I have about 5 different blog posts brewing in my head. It can be difficult to decide which topic is the one to focus on. To be honest, as I sit here typing, I have not made that decision. I just know I needed to start typing. He will take care of the rest.

The last time I blogged, I described an amazing experience I had with God. One that left me filled with hope and anticipation. I felt like I was right on the verge of change- good change- big change. I thought I was about to step into some of the things I had been waiting for so long.

I had no idea that just a week later, my entire world would be flipped, shaken, and come crashing down on top of me. A week later, I received a phone call that did change my life, but not the way I expected. A few hours later, in traumatic fashion, I would learn that someone I loved very much had passed away. Over the next few days, I would discover that my life, once again, was not at all what it seemed. I had been deeply betrayed by someone who chose to live their life as a lie. Again. What I went through that week literally felt like I was plopped in a field where one bomb after another exploded in front of me, and in those ashes laid my hopes, dreams, expectations– the rest of my life as I had imagined it.

It is nearing on two months since this brutal attack. I feel like I have been on a roller coaster- I love roller coasters in the physical world, but not in my emotional life. I am ready to exit the ride. The biggest positive in all of this has been as I lost a love that I thought would leave a gaping hole in my life, my eyes were opened to love that surrounded me. I will forever be grateful to the people who showed up for me, especially the ones who continue to do so, day after day. The ones who aren’t afraid to reach out, the ones who pray for me, the ones who serve, in big ways and small- whether it is a text, a meal, or a financial blessing, I am beyond grateful. Joyce Meyer says when people do these things, it is God showing you His love, and I have seen this firsthand in a way I never have before. Last night, after a long, emotional day, my 16 year old brought me a plate of food. He refilled my water. He asked if I needed pepper on my fries, and he took care of it. He buttered my roll. That, my friends, is LOVE. That is serving. They were small, insignificant little tasks that took only a few minutes and cost nothing, but they meant EVERYTHING to me. And that is exactly why we are here. We are here to love on others, to serve them, to shine our light, to give them moments where they experience Jesus and His undying, immense love for us. If you take nothing else away from reading this post, I hope that I can encourage you to show up. Show up for the people in your life, for those that you love. Even if you don’t know or understand what they are going through or what they need. Love them. No act of love or kindness is too small. It will mean more to them than you know, and it may just change you too.

Taking the long way

Today, I was running some errands, and when I left the first location, I entered the second into GPS. As I started following the instructions, I became confused. I knew that this was definitely a longer, back way to get where I was going. However, I wasn’t in a hurry, so I decided to just roll with it.

As I drove, I passed through the cutest little picturesque town that reminded me of something from long ago, or from a Hallmark movie. (which I don’t watch). Throughout the town, there were wooden snowmen that had been decorated in different ways.

Once I got through the town, I was in an area I was familiar with, and it led me to the interstate. I got on and there was some roadwork that had closed a small section of the left lane immediately after I merged.

After running my errand and returning home, I passed this stretch of highway going the other direction. I first saw the small patch where the lane was closed, and was shocked at what I saw. Cars were at a standstill beyond that point. In fact, I would see cars were sitting for almost 8 miles!

As soon as I saw the traffic was stopped right past where I had gotten on, I realized that long way around had detoured me through this insane back up. And because it was all behind where I had entered, I had no idea how far back the traffic was stopped until I drove back by it.

It immediately hit me that this was God. But, also that this is exactly how He operates in our lives in general. Often, we get frustrated, feeling like we are headed the long way, or that the path we are on is taking too long. Often, we are unable to see what is going on behind our scope of sight. God sees all, and sometimes, I am certain, He is taking us the long way in order to avoid certain “traffic jams” that would hold us up far longer, or create more problems. God does not often take shortcuts, but sometimes the long way protects us, and sometimes it winds up being the shorter way in the long run. Part of our struggle in life is learning to let God be the GPS. And sometimes, that means flat out ignoring our own instincts or what we know, and trusting that God ALWAYS knows the way there, and it is always the best possible way, no matter how it may look or seem.

Holding Cell

I have so many different thoughts tonight… usually I have a seed for a post, but right now I just feel the need to write.

In case you read my last posts, and are wondering, I am still free-falling in the abyss. Picture a slooooow motion leap of faith… I guess that is what this is. I mean, I jumped pretty forcefully, but I don’t seem to have landed yet.

Today, I listed to a sermon on waiting. Rick Warren said that while we wait, we typically wonder, worry, and whine. Oh boy. Guilty! In these last nearly two weeks, since I leaped -apparently right into a holding cell- I have done all of the above. I have asked what is going on, I have asked how God is going to fix all of this, and I have complained about why I am still stuck, in pain and misery.

Honestly, I guess I thought when I jumped, God would swoop in and say “Good job! I am so proud of you!” and then he would catapult me into a new direction. Or, at least reveal the door or the first stair. None of these things have happened. Still feel like I am in a dark cave, without a light, feeling my way around, trying to get out. It has been eerily silent. Deafening silence.

I do think He spoke to me today. I have multiple services I watch each week, and Pastor Rick’s sermon, from 5 years ago, appeared on my suggested videos after the last service of the day. Pretty sure Jesus put it there to make some points. It was filled with all kinds of nuggets I needed reminded of right now.

I have been involved in an intense wrestling match lately. Me vs. Me. On the one hand, I have a deep rooted trust in God, and I believe he will be faithful to guide me through this. (whatever “this” is). On the other hand, I have been angry at him for not flying in to save me from my scary plunge and for continuing to keep me in the waiting room, which make me want to give up. Then I get angry at myself for being mad at God. Its a mess. The only thing I am certain of right now, amid all of the uncertainty, is that He loves me.

I guess I write tonight mainly to document that walking with Jesus is not easy. It is not a casual stroll through a pleasant garden. These days, I often feel like I am in some cavern of hell. And contrary to popular belief- or perhaps just my own erroneous one, taking a leap of faith sometimes lands you into another depth of the wilderness, where you remain as lost as ever. I just had a flashback of Dora episodes- I sure could use her map right about now.

There is this part of me that wants to be excited. That says, I made room for Jesus to work. I made room for Him to do something big. And while I can’t really fathom the what, or why, and I wish the when was now, the possibilities are limitless for Him. So I wait…

Free-Falling

Are you channeling your inner Tom Petty? Is the song an earworm in your head now? You’re welcome.

In my last post, I wrote about a gigantic, free-falling, leap of faith I was considering. Earlier this week, I jumped.

Leading up to this decision, I gained traction. I felt more confident that this was exactly what God was telling me to do, and with that, came peace. If God is directing, then He is certainly going to take care of all of the details.

It took me an entire day to make it official. I knew I had already made the decision in my heart, but committing to it on paper was harder.

What I did not expect was the aftermath. I mentioned I felt like this was comparative to sky diving and expecting Jesus to swoop in with a parachute. I kinda expected this to happen immediately. Take the leap of faith- be reassured and safe.

Only, it did not happen that way. Instead, I took the leap of faith, and immediately I was flushed with instantaneous panic. Terror. WHAT?HAVE?I?DONE? Should I try to take it back??? I spent the next 24 hours experiencing waves of fear, doubt, confusion, conflict…

A good friend of mine pointed out a theme to those waves. Those are not feelings from Jesus. Jesus is peace, comfort, love, joy… Nope, these were straight from the enemy. You see, I was prepared for the enemy to launch a full-on attack while I was in the throes of my decision. I was surprised by how easy and obvious it seemed. Apart from it not being at all logical, that is. The day before, I watched several church services, and every one sent me a message confirming my step forward. What I was NOT prepared for was that the enemy was going to show up the second I surrendered. No sooner than I pressed SEND on the necessary email did he start hurling fireballs my way.

Last week, I was in The Lord’s Shoppe (Hobby Lobby). I passed by a little sign. I have an obsession with arrows and it had an arrow so I stopped to read it. The sign said something like “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” Something I have heard many times before. It gave me pause. I did not put it in my cart though. (It probably would not have fit. I did some unexpected damage that day…probably stress shopping.) Today, I randomly thought about that sign. This leap of faith- it is a giant leap forward, into something new. If I want to step into this new thing, I believe I have to step fully in. That means I can’t have one foot back in the old, trying to create a little safe zone, just in case. The Bible promises us that there are always greater things ahead, so today, I am choosing to press on toward those things.

This won’t be easy. I have been living a life of total uncertainty for the last few years. I desperately want to regain some- ANY, for the love of God!!! – certainty in my life. This move just hurtled me forward into more of the unknown. I am grabbing ahold of the hem of Jesus’ robe and clutching for dear life, hoping that things start to clear up soon.

Darkness can’t last forever. There is a garden waiting, with full, abundant, glorious, flourishing life. Right now, I can see it with my heart. I can’t wait to get a glimpse with my eyes.

Skydiving

I have always been a play-it-safe girl. My plan for my life was to get married, have kids, and die having been happily married for 50+ years. Simple and ordinary was fine with me. I have never had big dreams or believed that I had any reason to dream big. Just the sound of the word “risk” would give me anxiety. Decisions paralyzed me. So, making any sort of decision that would involve a risk would be out of the question.

And now, here I am. About a year & a half ago, God pushed me to take what felt like an enormous leap of faith- I went back to school to pursue another degree. Shortly after that, He planted some new dreams in my heart- dreams I never would have dared to dream for myself on my own. And since then, they have grown, little by little. I have struggled to make sense of these dreams. They were too big for me. They seem impossible. They seemed to be too expansive and not focused enough. Yet, they persisted. And I struggled to understand where God was trying to lead. I prayed and prayed for clarity. None came. I watched for doors to open, even tested a few door handles. None did. Things got more confusing and unclear.

Until one ordinary day last week. All of the sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, puzzle pieces seemed to click together. I had an “a-ha” moment. I felt like God had directed my next step. Then, I felt as though he pulled back a curtain and revealed more and more of the mystery. While there are still so many unknowns, so much is making sense all at the same time.

There’s just one problem. All of these incredible, exciting things I have seen require one C O L O S S A L leap of faith. This is the kind of leap that absolutely makes ZERO logical sense. Not even a teeny tiny bit. Logically, it can’t work. Logically, it would be shooting myself in both feet. And, I just painted a clear picture for you of how I lived in logical and safe land.

Why then, do I feel like I am going to jump?

I am not the same girl anymore. These last two years or so have been a path of discovering who I really am. WHOSE I am. And, the thing is… the step I am being led to? It makes perfect sense by faith.

Here is the completely crazy thing… when I think about it, I smile…

Me. Miss-Anxiety. I don’t cringe, I don’t feel the hot waves of panic, I don’t feel the jittery nerves, I don’t feel the upset stomach or the general uneasiness/being on edge or the tension. I feel excitement. I feel hopeful expectation. I feel peace. I feel permission to dream.

This week, I have a decision looming. It pretty much requires me to jump out of an airplane, counting on Jesus to appear with a parachute prepared for me. Because I do not have one for myself nor do I have the resources to get one.

In the past, my mind would be racing with all of the possible scenarios that follow the question: “What if I fall….?” Yet now, the only question I can seem to consider is “What if He catches me?”

For the love of paper products

What love looks like in 2020

Lately, I have been wrestling with a heavy decision. This weekend, I was praying about the situation, wondering how the option I feel led to would ever work, as it defies all logical reason. However, it feels like the right choice, by faith. I was thinking about how God would need to provide if I were to take this leap of faith.

My phone rang. No, it wasn’t God. (How nice would it be if he would call us and just tell us directly what to do??!) It was one of my best friends. She asked me to come to my door. I walked out & she was unloading these paper products from her car.

I started to cry. Ironically, as I type this, paper towels and toilet paper are in hot demand as people have been stockpiling them again as the COVID pandemic surges. In a conversation about dog pee (yes) the day before, I had told her I felt panicked cleaning up an accident because I only had a few paper towels left and no more rolls, and I hadn’t been able to order or find paper towels or TP in weeks. She also knew I was dealing with some financial stress.

Not long ago, I was listening to Joyce Meyer, and she said something that hit me hard. Joyce said that when people show us love, that is really God showing us His love for us.

So, in this moment, after I had just prayed out loud, questioning whether God would provide for me if I did what I felt like He was directing me to do, my friend showed up to meet a need, to provide. I cried because I was overwhelmed not only by her generosity (she is incredible), but also at this evidence of God’s love… and I think He was answering my question of whether He would provide.

This is the beauty of knowing God intimately. He wrecks me with His love. When you awaken to it, the evidence is all around. It will change your life.

What do you see?

What do you see?

If you are like me, and probably most people, your response is “a black dot.” This example was given in a podcast I listened to this morning by Christine Caine. Her point was, most of us see a black dot, but truly, there is more of the blank space surrounding the dot.

We do the same thing in our lives. We focus on the black dot, which is our circumstances, our problems, our storms, rather than the space all around- and that space, which is greater, is God. We need to train our eyes (and minds) to be fixed on the blank space, or on God. What we see, we can magnify. When we fix our perspective on the problem, we magnify it and it seems even bigger. We need to instead magnify God and what He has done for us, what He has promised us, and who we know Him to be.

I loved this metaphor, but it also made me think of another. The enemy is very real, and at times in this tsunami season of my life, he feels so BIG and powerful, because he has been relentlessly attacking me from all angles. In reality, he is the black dot. God is the space around it, which shows just how much bigger and more powerful God is than the enemy. If the enemy can trick me into focusing on his attacks- the anxious thoughts he puts in my mind, the doubts, the worries, the FEAR… he will seem so big and powerful. But that is only an illusion! If I can see with a proper perspective, I can see that the devil really is small compared to God and he never has more power than I allow him to have.

Finding your core

Typically, we think of stronger as bigger. If we want stronger muscles, we work to grow them, and they get bigger.

Healing actually works just the opposite. When we heal, we do grow stronger, but instead of adding on, we are taking away. Healing is peeling back layers, little by little.

In the most painful moments of life, we feel like we can’t possibly tolerate what is happening. We feel as though we will break, literally. This is such a pivotal moment. Most people will look for a way out. They will do something to numb the pain and push it away. That may be using substances, cutting or self-harm, sex or jumping into relationships, starving themselves or purging, spending money and buying things, excessive exercise… the list could go on. Anything that can be used to alleviate the pain or take their attention from it. This is always a temporary fix, and will therefore need to be repeated over and over… and usually this results in new problems, and new pain to bury.

But, for those who choose to sit in the pain, rather than bury it, something else happens. In those moments, we experience healing. One layer is carefully pulled back. If we think of a flesh wound, it is like peeling off a layer of skin. It hurts like hell. But it is necessary in order to heal, just as emotionally, it is necessary in order to move forward.

And then, the process starts again. We hit the wall of pain another time, make another choice, and we heal, or we don’t. Healing happens bit by bit. For those who will allow it.

When we are born, God has created us in our purest form. This is our core. Over time, childhood, experiences, the world… all of it starts to add “junk” that slowly covers up the core. Eventually, we barely resemble the person God created us to be.

This is why healing is so important. Stripping away that junk, layer by layer, reveals our core. It is there that we find who we are meant to be. I have found, for me, it is funny how much she resembles the little girl I once was.

If you go through the fire, it will feel as though you are getting scorched. You will be tempted to douse the flames with any thing you can. But, be careful. These only ignite it more. The thicker the scar tissue, the harder it will be to get back to the center. Difficult, yet not impossible.

I don’t know how close I am. I feel as though hundreds of layers have been shed. Some of the spaces I was used to filling and some of the people who filled them do not feel familiar anymore. Not in this new layer. I hope I am close to the core. I am starting to believe I can feel her again. I hope this means I am almost there, partly because the process has been a long journey of being crushed, and partly because she has work to do, and I am so excited to get started!

I have often heard pastors say that a breakdown comes just before the breakthrough. I felt like I have had a lot of breakdowns, but am still waiting on a breakthrough. To me, that is a huge, sudden change of circumstances. But, I also have come to wonder if this same truth applies to our healing. Just when you think you cannot tolerate anything more, the piece (and peace) of healing comes. My waves have been coming closer together. I wonder if this means I am in the final layers. I feel like when you peel an onion, you first peel off large pieces, and it takes a little longer… as the onion gets smaller, so do the layers being peeled away, which means they are pulled off faster.

I’m sorry if you thought this post was about abs. I think I am closer to my core God created than I am to revealing THAT core. Pretty sure that one might remain buried for life. But, the core me… she is starting to surface.