The Inevitable Thorn of Waiting

FullSizeRenderThis whole year the Mister and I have been waiting – or it feels that way, at least.

In December of last year, we found out that the Mister needed to have another leg surgery. We weren’t sure whether or not the surgery would work, but we were hopeful. We waited and we waited, and then June happened, the surgery was done, and we are now waiting to see if the surgery actually worked. In August, I had my blood taken and it came back positive for Tuberculosis. In the midst of thinking through the worst case scenario, we waited. We waited on chest X-rays, more test results, and ultimately, for the “all clear” note we got at the end of September. (It was a false alarm.) In October, we found black mold in our apartment, and if you know the story at all, you know we had to wait a month-and-a-half for the whole thing to be resolved. Toward the end of October, we began exploring new job opportunities for the Mister, and we’re still waiting to see what will eventually come from his search. In January, the price of oil continued to plummet, and, like many others in the industry, we are waiting for the storm to pass so that life can get back to normal.

And these are just the things I can tell you about.

If you’ve lived life at all, you know that waiting is just a part of if. It’s the inevitable thorn that pierces our flesh at random times throughout our journeys here on earth. And I have yet to meet someone who totally enjoys it.

A couple of days ago, I read a story about waiting in 1 Samuel – and it stirred my soul.

In this story, the Israelites are at war with their neighboring enemies, and Saul (king of the Israelites) is commanded to go to Gilgal to wait for Samuel (the prophet of God) to come and offer sacrifices and give instruction to Saul on what he and his troops should do (10:8). A couple of battles later, we see Saul leading trembling Israelite solders through Gilgal and he begins to wait for Samuel’s arrival and instruction. At the same time, the Philistines (one of Israel’s enemies) had positioned themselves in a near by town with thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen/troops (13:5) causing the Israelites to scramble for their lives.

After waiting seven days, Saul begins to freak out. He observes his troops, which are becoming more and more frightened, surveys the might of the Philistine army, and ultimately decides to take matters into his own hands. He “forces” himself and offers the sacrifices that Samuel was supposed to offer (13:12) thinking that, by doing so, he would speed up God’s process.

Basically, Saul got tired of waiting.

He saw what was going on around him and panicked. And unfortunately, his need to have control, cost him greatly. Eventually, the kingdom was taken from Saul’s hands and given to someone else.

I like this story because I see myself in it.

I hate feeling uncomfortable. I hate hard emotion, and I hate feeling stressed. And in moments when I am feeling these things, I seek to alleviate all of the tension in whatever way I possibly can. I force myself, and I seek to control my circumstances. The problem is, by doing this, I miss out on what the Lord has for me in the moments of tension. I miss the learning, I miss the growth, and I potentially miss the opportunity to know Him more. Sometimes, just like Saul, I even make things worse.

When I choose not to wait, I take whatever God had intended for me and stick it in a corner so that I can move on to whatever I think is best. The problem is, I don’t know what’s best. I’m not God, and I’m not all-knowing.

There is an awesome poem/story in a Bible study that I’m doing right now called, The Thorn. It goes like this:

“I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne and begged Him for one priceless gift that I could call my own. I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart, I cried, ‘But Lord, this is a thorn! And it has pierced my heart.’ He said, ‘My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.’ I took it home, and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore, as long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more. I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace. He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil that hides His face.” – Martha Snell Nichols as cited by Cynthia Heald

As I reflect on my life, I find so much truth here.

That time when I ended the relationship because I knew I was supposed to even though I didn’t want to and had to wait years to actually be able to move on. That time when I desperately wanted to move jobs, but I knew the timing was bad for multiple people, and I had to stick it out. The time when I needed to take a break from dating for the sake of my own heart, even though I didn’t really want to. In all of these moments, I have learned something. In all of these times I grew tremendously. And in all of these times I saw God’s faithfulness – I saw how His plan is so much better than my own.

I’ve also seen the opposite.

I’ve seen the times when I’ve entered into a relationship because I was sick of being single. I’ve seen the times when I’ve wanted an expensive article of clothing and purchased it even though I couldn’t afford it. I’ve seen the times when I opened my mouth to make sure that people heard me because I thought that I needed to control my reputation. And all of these things ended badly. People got hurt, problems were caused, and I regretted it later.

I’m not saying that everything is a simple equation.  I do think God’s grace does meet us in the midst of our need to be in control and the bad decisions that come from it. At the same time, I do believe that we can miss out on things because we choose to rush to the better feeling – to the thing that will make us feel more content, happier, or more loved in the moment. I do think there is more to the waiting than just the pain and hardship it causes. God wants to give good gifts to His children, and sometimes what is gained through waiting is in fact just that – a good and perfect gift. It’s a gift that is actually for our good and not just a temporary bandage that makes life on earth more comfortable. It’s a gift that grows us, matures us, and allows us to know Him more.

We all have random thorns, for waiting is a given in this life. Some of us are waiting to finally be able to purchase a house in a responsible way, some of us are waiting to be able to conceive or adopt, some of us are waiting to get married, and some of us are waiting for our children to make better decisions. I’m waiting on the things mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. All of these things are wonderful, and are all worth waiting for. The question is: How are we waiting? Are we seeking to control things so that we feel better right now or are we relying upon the Lord to give us what we need in the moment so that we can persevere to the end of whatever it is He’s doing?

This journey can be hard. There’s no doubt about that. At times I feel totally out of control and a little bit clueless, but I’m praying that I am able to resist the urge to take short cuts. I’m praying that I remember that waiting is used by the Lord in powerful ways, and that that Lord provides me with true life.

“The greatest danger is that we would become impatient and miss the blessing.”         – Charles Spurgeon

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 30:18

**Thanks to Cynthia Heald for the awesome resources and insights she provides in thinking through interesting topics like this one. (Her study “Becoming a Woman of Strength” really helped me here.)

How Einstein Helped Me through My Eating Disorder…Kind Of

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I did not live when Einstein lived, so I obviously did not take this picture. I got it from a YouTube video called “Albert Einstein Explaining E=mc^2.” (P.S. The video is in his own voice which is pretty cool.)

I was once told an interesting story about Albert Einstein.

Ron, my 71-year-old friend, once told me that Einstein had a laboratory of white walls. As Einstein lived life, both inside and outside of his laboratory, he would think, making note of important thoughts by scribbling them down on the surface of one of his walls. Eventually, as one would expect, his walls were covered with random thoughts, equations and notes. One day, while in his lab, Einstein began examining his walls. Slowly, he began taking equations from one wall and piecing them together with other random notes from other walls until he had a simple theory we like to call the Theory of Relativity.

I like the story, because I think this is how life goes. We all have our white walls. We all try to figure out life. And we all do so by piecing together the things we have experienced with what we know or what we’ve heard from others.

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine asked me how I overcame my eating disorder. Honestly, I think it has been one of the biggest “white-wall experiences” of my life.

Overcoming an eating disorder is by no means a linear, step-by-step process, as rarely anything in this life truly is, but there were several pieces of information that made the whole thing make more sense to me. As time went on, I kept examining my white-walls, and eventually the facts that I had scribbled fit together, giving me strength and wisdom to fight the battle well.

So what were they? Here you go…

One: We all have a “natural healthy weight.” **

In our media-filled world, it is so easy to think that there is only one way we as females are to look (which as we all know, changes by the decade). When I was in middle school, it was Brittany Spears. You know, the skinny but some-what athletic look with a huge emphasis on the abs. Today, it seems to be either the super-thin Taylor Swift body type or the totally toned look of Kayla Itsines with a huge emphasis on the gap between one’s legs.

When I was in the trenches of my eating disorder, I was exhausted. Working out for an hour-and-a-half each day and restricting the food that I was eating kept me malnourished and cranky. It also kept me scared. Each dessert was a potential pound gained and each weekend away from exercising was a potential downfall. The anxiety was crippling and the inner emotional chaos was tiresome.

When I was out of college and I really started studying the idea of “intuitive eating,” I discovered just how influential genetics are to body weight. I also learned that trying to fit my naturally size [fill in the blank] body into a size zero jean was just not supposed to happen. If I wanted to run that course for the rest of my life it would mean non-stop stress and mental consumption. Learning that I had a natural healthy weight that could be maintained in natural and healthy ways was freeing…eventually.

Two: God created our bodies to be able to distinguish between hunger and fullness, and if I eat within hunger and fullness, I will be the size/weight I’m supposed to be. (Meaning, I would achieve my natural healthy weight.) **

This very simple idea was HUGE for me.

When I was in high school, my sister was a guest speaker at a conference on body weight and exercise. The basic premise of her whole talk was eating within hunger and fullness, a practice I had totally abandoned. You see, when you have an eating disorder, you learn to ignore hunger until you don’t even remember what feeling hungry feels like.

After college, when I got serious about my eating/over exercise issues, I clung to this truth. I began paying attention to hunger and fullness. (Which our bodies were designed to indicate through growling.) If I was hungry, I would eat. If I was full, I would stop. And something amazing happened: I gained weight until I stopped gaining a pound. Three-and-a-half years ago my natural healthy weight was reached, and my weight has not fluctuated and my jean size has not changed since.

Today, I try to make healthy decisions (both in the realm of food and exercise), but I ultimately eat everything in moderation. If I want pizza and I haven’t had it in a while, I’ll go for it. I eat one dessert almost every day, and I don’t freak out over bread. I’m telling you – it’s incredibly freeing.

Three: My identity is in Christ, and it’s permanent.

As humans, we walk around with an assortment of identities. Some people place their identity in being a mom, a working professional, a wife, an entrepreneur, a musician, or all of the above. For a long time, I placed my identity in what I looked like and what others thought about me. (I can still struggle with these things from time to time.) However, over the past seven years, I have come to appreciate my identity as a Christian more and more because it means that ultimately, my identity is wrapped up in Christ.

The problem with finding my identity in how I look is it’s fleeting. It’s not going to last forever. For some people, the “perfect” body can and will last until they are in their 60s, but rarely do you ever find a supermodel who is 80. Placing one’s identity in how they look is temporary. Our looks and our bodies (and most everything else in this world) will eventually fail us – it’s a proven fact.

One thing that lasts into eternity, however, is my relationship with God.

Knowing that I’m accepted by the one who’s opinion really matters has motivated me to not build my life on any foundation that is temporary. You see, God accepts me regardless of my performance (Ephesians 2:8-9), there’s nothing I can do to change the way he feels about me (Romans 8:35-39), and I seek to remember this daily.

Four: It was worth it.

Any addiction, or addiction-like behavior, only comes to an end when the addict decides that the addiction is worth giving up. If you’ve heard my story in full, you know that this moment came for me when my niece Macy was born. Instantly, a little girl was in my life, and I knew that she would be watching me. The things I idolized she would potentially idolize. The things I deemed important would probably influence her.

I did not want her to watch me struggling with food and exercise. I did not want her to think that she was defined by how she looked. And it suddenly became worth it. It was worth the extra pounds, it was worth the bigger jeans, it was worth letting go of my “super fit” image.

If I wanted Macy to be defined by anything, I wanted it to be the unwavering, never-ending love of God. A love that’s not dependent upon her performance or failures, but a love that rejoices in her unique personality and imperfections. The last thing I wanted her to do was obsess about her weight or external appearance because she saw that I did.

A lot of times we pass on our vices to the next generation, and sometimes it’s just not worth it.

I’m not saying that my nine-year battle ended in an instant, but the truths above created a formula that eventually, by God’s grace, led me to freedom. I still love working out and eating healthy, and I believe that everyone should do both, but there is a line between healthy and unhealthy and it’s not dictated by a weight, muscle mass, or pant size.

As I continue to run this race, some days are harder than others, but overtime the struggle seems to get easier. For those of you struggling, the first step is the hardest, but freedom is possible. There is hope.

** “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works” by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., & Elise Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. was a helpful resource in helping me think through noted topics

Those Dang Hills. Three Year Reflection.

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Photo creds to my awesome mom.

On December 29th, the Mister and I celebrated 3 years of marriage.

I have always found it helpful to imagine life as though it were the never-ending training grounds for a marathon. I know this sounds weird, but just hang with me for a bit. As I run through life, there are easier moments, those moments on flat and smooth ground, and then there are moments that are dreadfully difficult, when it takes all that I have and all that I don’t have to persevere. I like to call those moments “the hills,” and my theory is that I grow when I run them. Although my life is easier and more enjoyable when I’m running the flat land, I know it’s the hills that make me a stronger “athlete.”

I think you get my point.

When I got married, I thought marriage was going to be easy. Obviously, I figured the Mister and I would fight and get in disagreements, but overall, I thought it was going to be this magical land of never-ending movie nights, flowers, fun trips, and exciting dates. When I envisioned married life, I never really thought about the big decisions, the struggle for work/life balance, or the bills. Others had told me to set realistic expectations, and I thought I understood, but I really didn’t “get it” until I got into it. Overall, I thought marriage was going to be flat land. I thought it was going to be a light jog with an easy breeze in my face.

Over the past few years, the Mister and I have faced a lot of hills.

When we first got married, I had to sorrowfully learn that marriage was not all about me. It was not about how well I was being pursued, or how I felt, or what I wanted to do. That was a hard hill to run up, and I’m pretty sure I got upset more than a few times. Eight months into marriage, I learned that the unexpected can happen, and sometimes doing the right and healthy thing means giving up worldly wealth and “success.” That hill was interesting, and perhaps one of the most trying for us as a couple. Moving across the country three times in two years was also challenging, and I lost my breath multiple times in the process.

We have even had a lot of hills this past year. We’ve had unexpected surgeries, a tuberculosis scare (false alarm), an epic black mold battle, multiple situations which have caused us to re-evaluate plans we thought were certain, and health issues which have made us press pause on some things we hoped to be able to do.

I’m not sure anyone anywhere enjoys “the hills” of life, but I have to tell you, this year I’ve been extremely grateful for them.

This year I have seen the fruits of past hills and have seen the beauty in the present ones. I have seen how our communication has improved; how we both have grown in humility and in our readiness to seek and offer forgiveness. I have seen our appreciation for one another expand encompassing the parts of each other we used to find annoying, and I’ve seen us grow in our support of each other as we have had to make difficult decisions. Although we have both had our not-so-pretty moments, I have seen us let go of control knowing that we are not responsible for who the other person is. All we can do is love each other – care, support, encourage, serve, pray for, and delight in each other – and work on ourselves along the way. Most of all, we have both grown in our recognition that we cannot run through life, and live the way we want to, on our own. We have both come to realize that in order to have the marriage we want, we need help. We can’t do it on our own. We need community, we need each other, and, most of all, we need the Lord. Only He can change our stubborn hearts. And He continually offers us grace.

I’ve been running hills my entire life. I’m pretty sure we all have.

The funny thing is, as much as I hate the hills, each hill leads to another hill. As soon as I get over one hill, I can expect to experience another hill over the horizon. In fact, the way I face the hill in front of me helps to determine the hills I will face in the future.

There have been times in my past when I’ve wanted to take the easier route. I’ve wanted to take the side road instead of the hill. I’ve wanted to take the flat lands.

For example, in college, I was tempted to enter into a relationship with someone that was not right for me. My desire to be in a relationship was strong, for I craved the comfort that came along with having a boyfriend, and I liked the guy a lot, which made the decision even harder. However, instead of taking the easy route, I took the hill. I talked to my friends about it, and by God’s grace chose to remain single. (Believe me when I say, there were plenty of times I took the easier route…plenty of times…but I figured I needed to supply you with an example of the opposite.)

The hills typically suck.

Running the hills this year has not been any more fun than running the hills I faced in the past, but this year, more than any other year of our marriage, I have been thankful for the opportunity to run them with my husband. Our marriage looks differently than it did year one. We have had a few things taken away from us, and we have had to give up many of our hobbies because of health issues, but in the midst of it all, we have been able to bank on God’s love for us and His purpose in our lives. We’ve been able to rely on our mutual desire to serve God and grow in Him. We’ve been able to rejoice in our imperfections, for it has reminded us of our never-ending dependence upon our Creator. By God’s grace we have learned to love each other more and have grown in the way we express it.

I guess what I’m saying is this: The hills are awful, but I have come to believe that they are worth it.

It is worth the sweat. It is worth the tears. And it is worth the struggle. Lace up your tennis shoes, stay hydrated, and don’t give up.

I’m not sure what hills the Mister and I will have to face in the future, but I know that our marriage is stronger today because of the hills we have faced in the past. Although I wish we did not have to face some of the hills we faced, I am thankful.

“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1

Gratitude: Childhood Homes and God’s Faithfulness

Gratitude: Childhood Homes and God’s Faithfulness
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Me in front of my childhood home. Please excuse my tired face – a late night T-Swift concert and an early morning flight back to Boston don’t mix well!

For the past seven days, I’ve been trying to write this dang post.

So many thoughts have been swirling around in my mind, and I swear I’ve written multiple paragraphs just to erase them. I’ve gotten frustrated, I’ve gotten sad, and I’ve gotten super sentimental, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t find my words and none of my thoughts seemed to fit together. (If you’re asking yourself why I put so much thought and energy into something I don’t get paid for, just don’t. I agree with you…and I don’t know why.)

A few days ago, I was driving home from school, and a song came over the radio. It was a song I had sang multiple times before, but for some reason, the words nearly moved me to tears. I turned up the radio, closed my eyes (don’t worry, at this point I was parked in the driveway), and sang at the top of my lungs.

“Christ alone; Cornerstone. Weak made strong, in the Savior’s love. Through the storm, He is Lord; Lord of all.”

Oh…it is so true.

A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to my childhood home. Before walking out of its doors for the last time, I sat in “my” closet and reflected on my life. I thought about the day we moved in, and my first night in “my” bedroom. I remember waking up confused as to where I was, but then suddenly distracted by the need to find animal shapes within the texturing of the walls.

I was seven.

I thought about “my” neighbors. The ones we shared a fence with constantly saw my little-kid face peeking over in hopes of a conversation. The other neighbors, the ones on the right, basically adopted me as their own. They taught me how to drive in snow, helped me wrap Christmas presents, and allowed me to hang out at their place whenever I got bored. They spent holidays with us, and we did so with them.

I thought about my family. How I used to sleep in a sleeping bag on my big sister’s floor at night just so that I could be near her (or because I was scared or something). I idolized her when I was little. I thought about all of the backyard games I played with my dad, and all of the times I made cinnamon rolls in the kitchen with my grandma. I thought about shopping trips and concerts with my mom, and of course…I thought about all of the times I got in trouble and was forced to do manual labor. (I mean, I’m basically the reason why the house is still standing. Your welcome, dad!)

I thought about my friends. I thought about my life-long friend K-pomp and how we liked to play a little game called “NUR” in the hallways of the house. (My parents still don’t know what the game consists of, nor will they ever.) Whether it was building high school floats in the garage, planning high school pranks, staying up all night long for sleepovers, or organizing various clubs, the house seemed to stand for openness and friendship. In fact, sometimes it felt like a hotel. My sister’s friends were always living with us.

Lastly, I thought about my life.

In “my” closet there was a stack of journals dating back from middle school and continuing on through my post-college life. I flipped through them and found all sorts of interesting things such as song lyrics, fictional writings, poems, and, most importantly, pages and pages of contemplations regarding theology and the various circumstances I had walked through. It was fascinating.

There were times in my life when I doubted my ability to ever be “ok” again. There were times of extreme heartbreak, overwhelming confusion, inner chaos, and mind-blowing loss. There were also times of pure joy, utmost excitement, and abundant peace.

But through it all, God was faithful.

During the times of forgetting who I was in high school, He was there. During the bad breakup, He was there. During the loss, He was there. And He knew where I was, too. He knew I was confused and insecure. He knew I was sad, and He knew I was doubting. He knew I wanted anything but what it was that I was going through.

But, He didn’t take me out of those situations immediately.

Instead, He let me wrestle, He let me cry, He let mourn, and He let question Him. He let me come to him with nothing but my confusion and brokenness to offer.

And I’m thankful for it. For in Him, I found a God who is loving, forgiving, life-giving, and faithful. And without the hard moments, I’m not sure I would have ever known God or myself the way that I do today.

He is faithful. He has been working since the beginning of my life to bring me closer to Him – to allow me to fall deeper in love with who He is. Sometimes it has sucked. It has meant awkward conversations of confessing faults and asking for forgiveness. It has meant ending relationships that have been gut-wrenchingly hard to end. It has meant telling myself the truth and being honest with others when all I wanted to do was run and hide. It’s meant giving up some things that I thought I really wanted – and some things that I thought I needed.

But good gosh…I’m SO thankful.

Although I wish I didn’t have to learn some of the things I learned the way that I learned them – I still learned. And, today, I’m filled with gratitude over the fact that God loves me enough to teach me things.
For, a God who loves us is a God who loves us enough to not give us everything we think we need or everything we desperately want. A God who truly loves us is a God who gives us what’s best for us even if we get mad and go down fighting. I mean, if He didn’t love us, He simply wouldn’t care. He’d let us do whatever we want regardless of the consequences to ourselves or others. He wouldn’t work on our character or the innermost parts of our being. He’d let us become whoever we want to become, even if it wasn’t our best.

Life seems to be this ever-changing, always revolving, memory making thing. Some days it feels easy and smooth, where as other days it can feel like the Texas Giant. (If you’ve ever ridden it before, you know what I’m talking about…it’s brutal.) We can’t know all of the answers to why things happen the way they do, and sometimes things simply don’t make sense to us. Through it all, however, we can hold onto the fact that God knows. He knows where we are, and He knows what He’s doing.

He’s faithful. And He loves us.

Today, I’m 29.

My life is far from figured out, and I’m sure it will always have its hard moments. I might continue to struggle with things that I’ve struggled with for years, and I’m sure there will be times of confusion, but may this serve as a reminder to myself that God is faithful. He knows what’s up. He’s for me, and He loves me. He gives strength to the weak, life to the dead, and peace in the midst of the storm.

“And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat…And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was great calm…And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” – Mark 4:35-41

What I learned from Alcoholics Anonymous and DJ Tanner

The mister and I arrived to Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago. After traveling across the country two times amounting up to over 80 hours in the car and living out of three houses, two apartments, and six hotel rooms in a 2-month time span, we were more than ready to be back home where we could do laundry regularly and sleep in our own bed. (Being able to find the bathroom in the in the dark is wonderful, too…it makes life easier, especially on my overly bruised legs which are sick of being hit by random things in the middle of the night.)

Since we have been here, I have been reflecting on this past year.

I remember one year ago when we first moved into our little place in Cambridge. I remember feeling so optimistic but also a bit nervous about what the year ahead would hold. I was excited to be back in Massachusetts, and prayed over our time here. I prayed that the Lord would grow the mister and I as individuals and that our marriage would be strengthened. I prayed that the Lord would use me, and that I would be willing to follow Him regardless of whether or not it seemed easy. I wondered about what our days would look like and who we would become friends with. I thought about being a student again and wondered what that would like like as a married woman. Last time I did the school thing, I was a single young adult.

Most of all, however, I wondered what people would think of me. Would they like me? Would I be accepted? I hoped so. I mean, I deeply hoped so. And this bothered me…continually…

Last year humbled me. I saw social anxiety and old insecurities resurface in ways that were both alarming and internally exhausting. Idols had taken a hold of my heart, and I was paralyzed by self-concern. At the same time, I wrestled with why I was struggling and tried everything I could to jump off of the people-pleasing, approval-needing, train I was on. I battled and I fought, but for some reason, I just couldn’t break free.

Today, as I sit here in the same place I sat one year ago, I can honestly say I am in a better place. Although I think my people-pleasing, perfectionistic, and approval-wanting desires might always be something I have to wrestle with, today I care less about what others think of me than I did a year ago. I am not struggling with anxiety, and I feel at peace about the year ahead. My thoughts do not continually go back to some image I am trying to maintain, and my heart feels more free.

So what happened?

As I reflect on the past year, I can vividly recall three events that the Lord used to dramatically reshape my thinking and reorient my heart. They were not things I sought out for change, but they were things the Lord knew I was going to come across – and I am thankful that He put them in my path.

CO711 – This random set of numbers and letters is the description number for the group process class I took this past school year. As part of the class, we had to split up into small groups and practice doing group therapy. The only premise was that we had to be the clients, and we had to be real with each other. (In case you don’t know, I’m studying to become a counselor…that’s why I take weird classes like this.) Anyways, in the group everyone opened up about their lives and the things they were struggling with, which means I opened up, too. Toward the end of the group, one of the group members encouraged me with something – and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

During our last session, one group member turned to me and said, “Lindsey, my hope for you and for me is that we would make God our glory instead of ourselves.” I was baffled. What did he mean? What does it mean to make God your glory? I spent the summer reflecting on the statement, and after many attempts to wrap my head around the meaning, I came across Psalm 62:7:

“On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”

Making God my glory means making Him my security, my hope, and my strength. It means placing my identity in Him – as someone loved and cherished – and finding my purpose in Him and who He created me to be. It is the opposite of self-exaltation and fame for fame’s sake. It means banking on Him instead of myself. It means focusing on Him and his grace instead of my own achievements. It means laying down my own efforts to gain recognition and, instead, trusting Him when he says I do not have to earn self-worth. It means abandoning a life focused on self for a life focused on Him.

Although I knew that finding my identity in Christ was huge, this summer I engaged with the idea in a new way. I began to dream about what it might look like. I began to hope for it.

Alcoholics Anonymous – For my addictions class, I had to attend an AA meeting, and it was mind blowingly powerful. In a world that preaches self-reliance, AA seems to stand out. As I sat in the circle and listened to people vulnerably confess their inability to heal themselves, I was reminded of my own tendency to white-knuckle my way through life. I thought about my own disabilities – my inability to hold my tongue at times, my inability to calm down in certain moments when I get angry, and my inability to stop thinking about myself too much. I reflected upon my own powerlessness and my desperate need of the Lord. I left the meeting feeling encouraged but also challenged to seek God instead of myself (and my own idea of what goodness looks like). I felt motivated to stop chasing the world and what it wants of me and began praying that Lord would help me fix my mind and heart on Him.  As the leader of the group blatantly said in his testimony, “[You] have to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and focus on [your] relationship with God.”

It was a stunning experience.

Full House Documentary –  A couple of nights before the mister and I left for Boston we were watching a Full House documentary with my mom. I listened as the narrator covered each character one-by-one and explained what the different stars are known for and what they had become. When they got to Candace Cameron-Bure (DJ Tanner), they made one statement that caused me to reflect upon my own life. Some narrator who was wearing big glasses looked at the camera and said, “Candace is probably equally known for her faith as much as she is her career.” As we drove back to Massachusetts, I could not get the narrator’s words out of my mind. Although I can’t say that I know all of Candace’s stances on theology, and I’m sure we don’t agree on everything, I appreciate her. I appreciate the fact that she stands out in the midst of an industry that praises moral relativism and fame. I admire her boldness and honesty in the midst of people who disagree with her. I mean, it takes a lot of strength to stand up for what you believe in when what you believe is not popular. It’s a lot easier to sway for the sake of acceptance.

Candace reminds me that it is possible. It is possible to delight more in God’s never-ending love and less in the world’s temporary praise. And for someone who can struggle with seeking acceptance over God’s glory, this is both refreshing and challenging.

Last year was a whirlwind, but I’m thankful for it. Last year proved to me that I am so incapable of being the person I want to be alone. I desperately need the Lord’s help. I need his refinement, his gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) reminders, and his comfort. I need his help. I need his assistance if I ever hope to fix my thoughts on Him and the things that really matter in this life.

When I look back on where I was a year ago, I am thankful. I am thankful for a God who is powerful enough to change minds and hearts and for a God who is worthy of our praise. I am also thankful that He uses the weirdest things to shape us.

Cheers to another school year!

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” – Psalm 105:3-4

Brokenness and “The Unmaking”

Photo creds to  ja-pics.net
Photo creds to ja-pics.net

Writing has seemed more like a chore lately.

The hustle and bustle of ending semesters, beginning semesters, term papers, textbook reading, socializing, and driving back to Texas for the summer has definitely not helped anything, but ultimately that’s not what has caused my annoyance with deep thinking.

The truth is, life has just been hard…and it has completely worn me out.

Marriage has seemed hard, friendships have seemed hard, school has seemed hard, and the transient lifestyle we have been living seems harder by the day. As if this isn’t enough, my own personal hang-ups and bad habits compact the problems making things…you guessed it…even harder.

Long story short, it’s been quite the ride, and I have been waiting for summer since the beginning of the year.

A few days ago, I was driving home from meeting a friend, when I heard a song by one of my favorite artists, Nichole Nordeman. The song is entitled The Unmaking, and it immediately drew me in:

“What happens now when all I’ve made is torn down? What happens next when all of You, is all that’s left?…

This is the unmaking, the beauty in the breaking. Had to lose myself to find out who You are. Before each beginning, there must be an ending. Sitting in the rubble, I can see the stars. This is the unmaking.”

The song spoke to me.

For the past few months, I have been trying to hold everything together. I have been wrestling with my past, while trying to make my present a dream. I’ve been relying upon my own strength, my own intellect, and my own power. I’ve been trying to be the best wife, a good friend, a diligent student, a secure person, and a faithful follower of Christ. I’ve been clinching my jaws and my fists and have been determined to make everything work out as planned.

The problem is, I have been failing miserably.

Although it sucks (let’s be real), I think this is why Nordeman’s words are so powerful.

Maybe life isn’t found in keeping everything together – maybe it’s found in acts of surrender and letting go. Maybe life is found in the unmaking – not in endless strivings to make life work.

This message is echoed through the old covenant and the new covenant, too. (That is, through the Old Testament law and Christ’s death in the New Testament).

Romans 7:7-13 and Galatians 3:19-29 explain that the law (the old covenant) produced helplessness in people. It showed people that their own self-effort was not enough to save themselves from sin. Their own darkness, insecurities and idolatrous habits still ruled in their hearts no matter how hard they tried. They just couldn’t be the people they needed to be in order to experience life.

The good news is, this brokenness – this desperate need in the hearts of God’s people – set the stage for the new covenant (Christ, His death, and resurrection).

The new covenant promised that God would forgive the sins of His people and that He would write His law on their hearts so that they would not forget them (Jeremiah 31:33 & 34). He also promised that He would give His people a “new Spirit” that would enable them to walk in His ways (Ezekiel 36:23-28).

I like how Cynthia Heald puts it:

“Had Christ come directly after the fall, the enormity and deadly fruits of sin would not have been realized fully by man, so as to feel his desperate state and need of a savior.”

It’s clear. Faith begins with brokenness.

It begins with unbelief in yourself and your own ability to be all the things you want to be. It’s about believing you can’t do it alone.

You see, I want to be a lot of things.

I long to be a really kind and encouraging wife. I dream of being an effective counselor. I want to be a good friend, sister, and daughter – and one day, I hope to be a compassionate, intentional, nurturing, and loving mom. I want to be full of joy, and I want to see the best in people. I want to be physically healthy (not in a way that is consuming and idolatrous) and mentally free (free from anxiety and past hardships). I want to be a peaceful person who is not easily stressed out and a person whom people can trust. I want to be passionate about pursuing God and His calling in my life, and I want to exhibit patience, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and love to all I encounter. I want to be free from idols, and I desperately want to be less concerned about myself.

I want to be an investor in the things that really matter in this life.

The problem is, I do not have the power to change my heart.

Nordeman’s song was so powerful to me because it reminded me that I am incapable of being the person I want to be. The harder I try to change my heart, the more and more I am reminded of my inability to do so.

Brokenness. It’s all about brokenness.

It’s all about sitting in the rubble of the things you are trying to build, and realizing that you are in desperate need of help. It’s realizing you can’t do it alone.

These past few months I have been praying for transformation. I have been praying that God would help me be a better wife, friend, daughter, student, and follower of Christ. All the while, I have been doing what I can to make everything work. I have been coping and trying harder. Ultimately, I have been doing things my own way.

I have been praying for help, but I am not sure I truly believed I needed it.

Nordeman’s song reminded me that brokenness is beautiful.

In order to be whole, we have to be unmade. We have to have our self-made foundations torn down so that a new foundation can be laid – a foundation that is secure, and truly life-changing.

We can’t beat sin. We can’t beat death. And we can’t change our own hearts.

But God can. And He has equipped us with the Holy Spirit to help us. We are not alone.

Brokenness leads to surrender, which leads to faith, which leads to life. To be honest, I’m not sure it can happen any other way.

* Special thanks to the AWESOME work of Cynthia Heald, which has helped me navigate through the concept of God’s grace in the old and new covenants. Her words and insights truly encourage me. And of course Nichole Nordeman who has drawn me closer to the Lord through her music for the past 9 years.

The Beauty of Psalm 5

Psalm 5 is absolutely beautiful.

The Psalm provides a stunning picture of David’s vulnerability and need for God. The Psalm is a prayer – and throughout it, David reminds himself of truth and praises God for his steadfast love (v.7), His ability to provide refuge (11), and for the blessing God brings to those who trust in Him (v. 12).

My favorite part of the Psalm, however, comes in verse 8. Here, David cries out to the Lord for help:

“Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (ESV).

This prayer resonates with my heart.

My enemies may not be physical people, but I have some enemies.

Comfort tempts me to stick to my own schedule, my own plan, instead of submitting to God. My idol of acceptance lures me to alter who I am or what I think so that others will accept me more. Anger tries to convince me that relief is found in release, instead of remembrance of truth and words of love. Lies and negative self-talk seek to make me feel bad about myself – to disorient and distract me from the truth of who I really am in Christ. Security tries to convince me that money matters more than surrender, and discontentment aims to fill my mind with pessimism. Anxiety plays with me so that I seek refuge in myself, and my own clinched fists, instead of trusting God. Fear tempts me to stop moving so that I am stuck in places that are old, stale and dry. Loss begs me to despair.

You see, my enemies may not be people, but I have enemies. And sometimes they are fierce.

I’m thankful for David – for his truth, his boldness, and his confidence in God. You see, I think David got it.

“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.” – Psalm 5:7 (ESV)

David didn’t do anything to deserve God’s love. It wasn’t based on the good he had done, the skills he had been gifted with, or the successes he would have in the future. In fact, David did a lot of really bad things. He committed adultery, he murdered an innocent man, he lied, and, at times, he was gripped by passivity to the point of being an absent father and king.

Yet, David was covered by the grace of God. He rejoiced in the love of God and that love gave him the security he needed to cry out – to pray for rescue.

How easily I forget.

As Christians, we are not alone in fighting our enemies. We have a God who loves us, and because of that, we can boldly approach Him.

“Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.” – Psalm 5:8 (ESV)

Cry out, remember, and trust. He can help. Exhale.

A Pile of Kleenexes, Dirty Dishes, and Psalm 3

A Pile of Kleenexes, Dirty Dishes, and Psalm 3

photoEarlier this week, a wise friend of mine encouraged me to feel.

I know it sounds weird, but my friend was right. I think sometimes I get carried away in analyzing things instead of stopping to realize what is really going on and how it is affecting me. The advice has truly blessed me this week – and I believe it was purely God’s way of guiding me toward Him.

Anyways, my friend’s advice led me to the book of Psalms. There is no doubt that one of the most emotion-filled books of the Bible is The Psalms. Written by men, such as Solomon, Moses, David, and a few others, who all walked through extremely difficult (and sometimes self-inflicted) circumstances, the book is full of extremely personal laments where longings are expressed and anger is not hidden. I mean, the writers let it all hang out, which I can appreciate.

This morning, I read Psalm 3 and was deeply encouraged.

When David wrote this Psalm, he was fleeing from Absalom, his own son, who was trying to kill him. (Yep. You read it correctly.) I don’t have space here to get into all of the details (check out 2 Samuel 13-19), but I’m sure you can imagine the sorrow in your head. Your son, who you love, is trying to kill you so that he can be king, and you are running cave-to-cave to save yourself. Yikes! Pretty rough…

Anyways, as David is resting in the desert somewhere, thinking about the situation, he writes Psalm 3.

“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God” (v. 1 & 2, ESV).

David feels alone. He’s being mocked. His own nation, the one God put him in charge of, is being taken from him by his own son who wants him dead, and many others are helping him do it. His own people, with his son leading, are trying to kill him. I’m sure he also felt betrayed, confused, and scared. (I’m not him, but I’m assuming.)

In the midst of the circumstances, and the emotion, David stops and remembers the Lord.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. […] I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. […] Salvation belongs to the Lord” (v.3, 5, & 8, ESV).

David remembers God is present, God provides comfort, God who sustains his life, and God can save him. Although things look bleak, and the cards seem stacked against him, David knows that the Lord can be trusted. And it moves David from a dark place, to a place of confidence in God.

As I read this Psalm, I thought about my own life.

This week I’ve been really sick. Some sort of cold has gotten the best of me, and my sleep has been greatly interrupted/nonexistent. I’m exhausted and I feel awful. On top of this, my house is a mess, I’m behind on schoolwork, I’m sorting through some heart issues, while trying to apply for internships, and the mister and I have another heavy thing on our plate, which I won’t mention here.

Now, I know this all seems small compared to what David had going on, or compared to what a lot of people have going on, but it’s big to me. It all feels pretty heavy, and I feel (or felt) quite overwhelmed.

Through this Psalm, however, I’m reminded that in the midst of my longings, hardships, struggles, pain, uncertainty, sickness, anxiety, and fear, God is present. I’m not alone.

Even when it feels as though nothing is going right, and everything is hard, I have hope. The Lord provides comfort – He “lifts my head.” When I’m fearful of being rejected, I have acceptance in the Lord. When I’m scared of what people might think if I speak up, I know the Lord holds me for eternity. When I have too much to do, and not enough time to do it, I know it’s okay. When I’m scared of what the future might hold in one particular area, I know the Lord is moving in it. Even though the cards seem stacked against me, God can be trusted.

Sometimes I think I sustain myself, but I don’t. It’s God who sustains me. Because of Him, I’m alive. Because of Him, my life on this earth has purpose.

He knows what’s going on. He can see past the pile of Kleenexes that seem to follow me, the dirty dishes in the sink, and the chaos of everything else. He can be trusted with it all.

The Lord is present. He provides comfort and refuge, and He sustains life.

Lord, may I rely upon you for strength, instead of myself. Help me rest in you as I trust that you are at work, even in the things I don’t quite understand.

“You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.” – Psalm 3:3

I feel grateful, confident, and full of peace.

Exhale. Find comfort. He knows where you are – and salvation belongs to him.

Exercise and Motives

It’s snowing in Boston…again.

In fact, it hasn’t stopped snowing. We have officially received over 60.8 inches within the past 30 days, breaking the record for snowfall set in 1978 (http://www.wcvb.com). It’s been insane…and cold…and wet…and kind of annoying.

You see, I’m from Texas, which means a multitude of things, but mainly, it means I’m used to warm weather. It also means I’m not used to snow blocking my sidewalk, burying my car, or keeping me indoors for hours on end. I’m not used to my gym being closed or having to put eight layers on before I venture outside. The struggle is real, y’all. And if I’m being honest, it’s awful.

Because of the things mentioned above, I have been running the stairs of our apartment complex for exercise. It’s gross outside, my gym is closed, and I need something to do, so why not?

This morning, I rolled out of bed, did some laundry, and then contemplated what I was going to do with the rest of my day. School was cancelled again, but I still had a couple of hundred pages to read for my class tomorrow. On top of that, I was incredibly tired and did not feel well. Still, out of habit, I veered toward my athletic shorts. As I contemplated running the stairs (again), a feeling of dread began to drift over me. As I put my shorts on, I stopped to think:

Why am I doing this?

Sure, I need exercise, but I don’t feel well at all.

I pushed forward and put on my tennis shoes.

Okay…really…why am I doing this?

I mean, I have worked out every day for the past two weeks. Do I really need to exercise today when I don’t feel well, and I am behind on school work?!

As I reached for my ear buds, I heard my sister’s voice inside of my head telling me exercise won’t save me, and I took my shoes off.

As many of you know, I struggled with an eating disorder and addiction to exercise for nine years of my life. Because of this, I have had to set up some pretty stern boundaries around exercise and food. With food, the rules are decently clear – eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and focus on food with nutritional content understanding that moderation is important. With exercise, however, my boundaries are extremely motivationally based, and are therefore a little hazier.

I mean, motives themselves can be hazy. Why do we do the things we do? Are we doing them for ourselves? For others? Or a mixture of both?

Anyways, this all leads me to my point…

Motives are powerful.

They lead us to make decisions about whom to date, whom to hang out with, what activities to pursue, and how to spend our free time. They help us decipher which colleges to attend, which jobs to take, and whether or not we should have kids. These things are good, perhaps, but they can also push us in some weird directions, if we are not careful.

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why are you dating that guy or that girl? Why are you hanging out with that group of friends? Why do you spend your time pursuing the activities that you do? What is your goal?

During my recovery, I realized my addiction to exercise and my obsession with calories was rooted in my desire to be accepted. I wanted others to approve of how I looked, and I thought that if I felt accepted by others, I would feel okay about myself.

Basically, I realized that wrong motives can turn good things into bad things.

I think to some extent we have all realized this.

Ice cream is great until we seek it for comfort and we eat too much. Pushing our kids to do well in school is the right thing to do, but then we realize we are doing it because it makes us look good, too. We date, which is normal, but then we realize we are dating some guy, even though he’s not the best, because we are fearful of being alone.

It happens. Motives move us.

I don’t know where you are. You may be making wonderful decisions based upon relatively good motives, and are enjoying the freedom that involves. But I think I’m safe in saying, most of us aren’t there. In fact, many of us are probably doing things in order to be accepted, loved, comforted, appreciated, affirmed, or praised and feel trapped because we fear losing the acceptance, love, comfort, appreciation, affirmation, and praise those things bring us, if we were to stop.

Again, the struggle is real.

Every day I have to remind myself that I’m accepted by the one whose acceptance really matters (Galatians 3:26, Psalm 139, Psalm 27:10, Ephesians 1:13-14). I have to remind myself that He is a God of comfort, (John 16:33, Romans 15:13, Philippians 4:6-7), and that He provides life (Isaiah 44:1-3, Acts 17:25, John 1:3-4).

Two things last forever: the hearts of men and the word of God.

Your motives may lead you to seek a variety of things thinking that they will save you – they will give you acceptance, true meaning, or whatever.

The problem is the things won’t last, and they won’t fix you.

Your Lamborghini is going to break. Your hair will gray. Your skin will sag. Plastic surgery will stop working. Your money may lose its value. Your kids will grow up.

Then what?

Motives are powerful – and sometimes they push us to find meaning in things that were never intended to provide it.

What are you banking on? Why are you banking on it? Will it last forever?

For nine years I believed looking a certain way was the answer. I thought it would give me meaning and the acceptance I was looking for. Today, I can still struggle with believing that lie. But the truth is no matter how hard I try, no matter how strong the motives…

Exercise can’t save me. It was never designed to.

***Special thanks to Pete Briscoe and his sermon over idols for reminding me to think though my own.***

Experiencing the Season

mantleLast Monday night, I finished my first semester of grad school (well…kind of). Twelve papers and 4,911.5 pages of reading later, I was done. It was a momentous moment, for sure, but for some reason, I struggled to truly exhale and enjoy it.

Since we arrived to Cambridge in August, things have been crazy. I’ve been taking on a larger-than-suggested load at school and the Mister has been going to school full time, while working part time. Finding a weekend of nothing has been hard, as well. From weddings, to friends in town, to social events…it’s all kept us spinning. Last month we hosted our first Thanksgiving meal ever, and this month we both worked hard to do our best on finals and final papers. Besides our Christmas tree that is barely up, getting into the Christmas spirit – or even realizing it’s here – has been difficult. I mean, I have desperately wanted to “feel” the joy and hope of Christmas. I just couldn’t get there for some reason.

Sometimes when your adrenaline gets going it’s hard to make it stop.

I was driving to school this past Tuesday to turn in my final assignments, and it finally happened. I was listening to a Francesca Battistelli song when I noticed my eyes welling up with tears…

“I hear the bells, they’re ringing loud and clear.

You can’t help but love this time of year.

It’s Christmastime, there’s something in the air.

There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere.”

The joy of the season had finally hit me – and there was no going back.

I thought about the joy of going home and spending time with my family. I thought about how fun it is to play with my nieces and nephews. I thought about how thankful I am to be a student and learn, and how blessed I am to be married to an amazing husband who loves the Lord deeply.

More than that, though, I thought about life.

I thought about whom I once was and all that I’ve walked through. I thought about the freedom I’ve found from myself through Jesus Christ. I thought about the faithfulness of the Lord and how he always tends to create something beautiful in the midst of incomprehensible situations. And I thought about how He loves me. I thought about how He uses me for his glory, even though I am a mess in so many areas. I thought about redemption and how sweet it truly is.

I kept singing…

“It’s the smile on a man who has finally found hope.

It’s the tears of a mother whose child has come home.

It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share.

There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere.”

Christmas means more than presents, Christmas lights, and good food. It is a sign to the world that we no longer have to live in bondage to the struggles that hold us down. It reminds us that Jesus has overcome. Christmas means hope, life and joy, as we bask in the significance of God’s overwhelming love.

Still, I kept singing…

“It’s the grace that we show to a world that needs hope.

It’s giving our lives knowing they’re not our own.

It’s the joy that we feel and the love that we share.

There’s a little bit of heaven everywhere.”

You see, Christmas saved my life.

Christmas represents the day when God became man, so that he could die for the sins of his children. Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, I am free from bondage. I can abide with God forever. I no longer have to be defined by worldly success or possessions. I no longer have to strive endlessly for the approval of others (even though I am often tempted to do so). Christmas proves I am accepted and loved by the One who created acceptance and love.

Christmas reminds us that even when this life is hard, we have hope. It reminds us that God took care of that which we could not obtain on our own. He saved us not because our own goodness but because of his love, kindness and purposes.

Christmas means life. It means freedom. It means redemption. It means salvation.

And that, my friends, is something to sing about.

Merry Christmas! May you truly experience the season.

Lyrics by Francesca Battistelli (2012). “Heaven Everywhere.” Christmas. World Entertainment.