A thought that keeps occurring to me, though thoroughly silly, is that I am more excited for the cast reunion special of Harry Potter than I am for Christmas right now. What an absurd thought. But, with so much in the unknown right now, I DO know I will be able to watch Harry Potter reunion. It will be on HBO Max & there aren’t a lot of things that can keep me from it (just death, I guess.)
I’m waiting to see if Covid cancels another Christmas. And that makes me sad – like so many others. What a beautiful antithesis that runs opposite of that thought, though… what we all wish for is to be with the people we love. That is what matters most.
It’s easy to get stuck in my feelings with so much bad news. People I dearly love are really sick. I’m very worried. Others are hurting in their relationships. I haven’t been able to see my friends recently. My health is frustrating and keeping me from doing things I like even at home.
Yet, to dwell in the bad just makes things worse. As I was getting ready to be disappointed for Christmas, and getting excited for Harry Potter, I realized something devastating about myself. That out of all of the characters in Harry Potter that I’d like to be like, the one I truly am is Dudley. Literally the worst.
Dudley is Harry’s cousin, for those that don’t know. (If you don’t; what are you doing with your life? Pick up HP 1, or text me & I will drop off a copy for you!!) What makes him so dislike-able is his ungrateful, royal pain in the ass attitude. He’s above everyone, expects people to treat him like a king, and so mean! Probably the most infamous Dudley scene is when he’s counting his presents for his birthday and realizes that he didn’t get as many gifts as he did last year… and there’s like 20-some gifts AND he’s going to the zoo for his birthday… It’s SO annoying & funny. & me.
When I’m in pain, & Covid is swirling, & I’m sad , & my plans get ruined – it’s like I am looking at the Lord saying “this isn’t fair” when I have a pile of 20 presents behind me, but I’m missing MORE. MORE, MORE, MORE! That’s what I want! OK God, you gave me so many things, but the fact that you haven’t met these expectations is so stupid. You’ve answered everyone of my prayers. You’ve protected me & my family against covid so far. You’ve done so much, but I deserve everything I want all of the time & never to suffer! Signed, Dudley.
That’s just it: I’m so overwhelmed with blessings that I’ve been spoiled. Yeah, suffering sucks & it’s real. But to act like life isn’t worth living anymore or that I have nothing to be thankful for is bullshit. It makes me think of the obvious fact we Americans forget: the poorest people in the hardest countries are always the happiest. Because they know what really matters in life & it isn’t getting everything you want…
One way or another, we’ll get through this. Life will go on. (Even if it doesn’t, to die is gain.) God has not abandoned me even though plans are cancelled or my fears consume me. I have to realize that I don’t deserve anything I have. And that he’s given me the very best thing that exists in the universe already; his son.
I also just read in Luke 18 about the Pharisee vs. the tax collector’s way of worshipping God. And I realized that I’m like the Pharisee, “Thank God I am not like that tax collector.” When I really need to realize, “Be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.”
God’s given us so much. This material world convinces us that life sucks when it really, truly doesn’t (with Jesus.) We’ve been given all we need and more.
Anyway, these are just some thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been throwing a fit as another wave of Covid comes & another round of pain with my other illnesses. There’s so much to be grateful for. Every day is a gift. Even sick or in pain. Look to the Lord. Look to Jesus. He feels it. He knows it. He weeps with you. But he also rejoices with you despite the pain, exhaustion, frustrations. Love is what matters this Christmas and nothing can kill God’s love for you.
Checking in here to talk about my favorite reads of the year! I met my goal in books, thanks to hoopla & being a SAHM (also 2 months of insomnia where I literally read all night long.)
Here are my top picks out of what I read:
Top Christian Books:
The End of Anxiety – Truly the best book on anxiety I have read. The title is ironic, because he talks about in the first chapter how you can’t end anxiety. You just learn to work through it with the Lord. He’s honest & relatable. And points to the ultimate prescription for anxiety is getting to know the Lord & loving other people.
Abide in Me by Andrew Murray – This is a 30 day devotional that is really deep. He breaks down John 15 so thoroughly. It took me a long time to get through it because it’s so packed & challenging. I really recommend it for anxious hearts or depressed persons. Or anyone who wants to learn what it means to abide in Christ.
Emotionally Healthy Discipleship (halfway through, really like it) – I’m not finished with this yet! But, so far – REALLY good. Jeri told me about it and I’m so thankful. The need to be emotionally healthy in discipleship, as we are Christ’s ambassadors, is definitely something I’d like to focus on next year with my friends.
Imagine Heaven – This was a great one to read specifically during the worst months this year. I always had a hard time being comforted by the thought that if I were to die I’d be in heaven. After reading this book, my confidence that heaven exists increased so greatly, and it’s starting to be a comfort to me. I really like the reporting style of this book. Lots of stories that happened to real people that are just true. I’d recommend it for Christians and non.
Top Fun Books:
Anna Karenina – Y’all this should count as 3 books. I think it took my 3 months. I like depressing romances, but a goal of mine is to be as deep as Ian (whose preferred reading is Russian authors.) But man, this was so good, so tragic. I love the themes and the philosophy each characters struggled through. It’s not a very happy ending, but a real one. Lots of thoughts about God and meaning, too, that I wish people wrote more about in today’s books.
The Princess and the Goblin – Probably a new favorite. Macdonald inspired CS Lewis & Tolkien. This is one of this kids books (I also read Phantasties and liked it, but I like this one better.) It’s truly scary, funny, easy to read & a touching picture of love & faith & youth.
A Man Called Ove – My friend Anne & Alexis both recommended this. It’s so heartwarming & heartbreaking. I love the idea of not judging someone until you know their story. And what kindness & initiation can do to change someone’s life.
Harry Potter (lol) – yes I effing read it again this year OK SHOOT ME.
1984 – I can’t believe I’ve never read it! Obviously it’s a classic with a thought provoking plot! Yes, everyone should read it.
Books I read that were OK & wouldn’t recommend:
Where the Crawdads Sing
A Song of Achilles
Fantastic Beasts & Where to find them
The irony is that the result of my reading has lead me to a different goal next year: instead of reading so much, I want to make a point to spend time in silence. A few of the books I read made great points about our need for silence before the Lord, and how little of that we truly get. It’s true. I am constantly consuming – podcasts, books, audio books, TV, news… I think this year I still want to read. But I also want to reflect & listen to the lord. Learn to sort out my feelings before him. Learn to hear his voice for my life and my friends. Let myself have peace, because I always like to go.
Anyway, I’m thankful for books. Books full of wisdom about god. Or relating to pain in a way that makes you feel seen. Books that take you into another world for a minute to get some relief, or to open your eyes to how little your perspectives really are. Books that help you understand someone else or think about them in a way you never did before. I love books. And I’ve loved reading them this year.
Jay turned 11 months old yesterday! His way of celebrating seems to be saying “uh oh” every 5 minutes. Which makes sense considering he does something that warrants an “uh oh” consistently at the aforementioned interval. Although I am shocked I have an almost one year old, and that he’s gotten so big and has changed in so many ways, I am more shocked at how happy I am.
I want to talk about Jay, and I can, all day. But, he’s really just a cute 11 month old. And I’m sure it’ll get boring really quick like. Instead, I’d like to talk about some things I’ve been learning as an (almost) 1 year mom. I’ve learned a lot and most of it is really encouraging, so I hope it would be encouraging to others.
The first revelation, as I’ll name it, is so profoundly simple I think you’ll think me idiotic for writing it as anything other than a fact of life. That being said: Life goes on. So simple. Not only does it go on, it gets better. This is something I never ever thought to think as a youth – that life could be better than where I’m at now. I looked at later 20’s, 30’s, 40’s as the downhill slope. I feared it, as I think most people do. I think our culture preaches that the 20’s are where you need to live it up, party hard, and don’t care about the future too much because it’ll just get worse. The “glory days” = your 20’s. I also see people on social media touting that they don’t want children so they can not only enjoy their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, etc since kids just weigh ya down and make life so much worse.
Life doesn’t end when you’re old. Life doesn’t end with kids. Life doesn’t end when you turn 25! In fact, DARE IS SAY, it gets better!! Zak & I were having a talk about something he regretted not doing. When we came to the realization that we can still do this thing. Just because we’re older & have a kid doesn’t mean life ends or the fun stops. I had the realization while I was thinking about Jay being 1 on the playground. I was able to imagine Jay as a kid, running around, playing catch, chasing him in the pool – and I got excited. Not only is there so much to look forward to with him, but with all of life.
I was praying this morning after reading Romans 5 & 6, about how much more I have to understand about my own sin & all that Jesus did on the cross for me. The temptation was to get overwhelmed with how much more I have to learn, but then it dawned on me that with so much more to learn comes the learning. That’s ALWAYS good with God because God is GOOD. And he is on our side. In Romans, Paul talks about how we’re now “friends with God” – don’t friends want what’s best for their peeps? I know I do. I’m about to help plan a wedding shower and I want it to be the best for my friend because she is the best! How much more does God want the best for us?! As he corrects and teaches, I know there will be gifts & provisions every step of the way! (Like a wedding shower, lol. You get all these cool new gifts, but they enable to you navigate your new life and all the lessons you’ll be learning along the way.) Every lesson I’ve learned with God comes with a true blessing I can hardly believe is real. I can only expect that for the future years to come.
Part of this revolutionary aspect of this revelation for me is my fear of death. With some of my health concerns, it’s hard not to feel like I’m dying. At random, for unknown amounts of time, I feel completely taken out of life. And I start to fear… will it always be like this? Will Jay have a mom who is stuck at home because her fear of an episode in public enslaves her? What about a second kid — isn’t it irresponsible to even think of another when some days I can’t get out of bed to care for one? These fears bring death to life. Literally. It’s like I’m already dead when I let these fears win. Every day for a very long time I’ve been asking God to help me with these fears, to not let them win, and to increase my trust in him. I think, at least this week, I’ve found some success here, thanks to God. I really don’t know how to control my fears on my own. I’m at a total loss. I really just need him. And he’s responded by giving me hope. Hope today, hope in what’s to come. I never thought I’d love life enough to be afraid to leave it. Which is also cool, in a weird way.
I’m really thankful for my parents & their friends who have showed me how wonderful later life can be. I’m really thankful that it can get better. I am much looking forward to it, even if it isn’t as long as I’d like or as many things done, I know life can be fuller toward the end.
Hebrews 12 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Life is a race. It would be so foolish of Katie Ledecky to stop in the middle of her 1500 meter. Even though I would’ve when I saw the screen said she still had 20-some laps to go! But she didn’t. She just went faster. And she won.
Which kind of leads me to the next/last revelation: God doesn’t promise to take suffering away, but he does give us things along the way to make it easier. I guess that’s also obvious, but to me, another lesson learned. I have read books, listened to sermons, studied passages, seen counselors on my journey through pain, depressive tendencies, hopelessness, anxiety… and I don’t have really any answers other than what I’ve read or heard from others. Nothing to add. But, I have learned to kind of accept the hard times because they shouldn’t define life.
That’s it: pain shouldn’t define your life. Or, it doesn’t have to. Because, what does define life are the things that really matter. Sorry, it’s abstract and hard to put into words, but what I’m trying to say is that God gives us meaningful moments, full of purpose & value, that make life, no matter the hurt, pain, circumstance… worth it. So, I can either choose to focus on my pain my whole life, or I can choose to focus on the things that matter, the things that give me purpose, because the good outshines the bad. And these things make the pain, the sadness, the hard – easier. I think in a roundabout way I’m trying to describe hope. But, the key is where you put your value. Will I put it in how I feel today? Or in what matters? Value in the painful, the temporary or put your value in the valuable – the significant, the eternal! It’s a mind game, or a battle of the mind. And a lesson to learn with the Lord – trusting that my symptoms today don’t have to relegate my entire being, my whole life. That my life is more than how I feel because I matter to God and what I do for him matters.
I found this extraordinarily true this summer. I’ve been able to connect with new people and had several opportunities to talk about God with people I love deeply who don’t know him. Those, despite a summer of pain, have meant the world to me. And aren’t over. I’ve gotten to see my husband thrive in his area of gifting, making me explode with joy even when I wasn’t feeling well. I’ve gotten to meet new friends through my son, which I’ve really always enjoyed hitting it off with others and learning about new people. I’ve gotten to see my friends’ faiths triple as they get ready to bring new life into their lives, or start new relationships via marriage. These moments mean so much more than my pain. And these moments give my life meaning that surely outweighs the hurt & the hard. Purpose does that. It belittles the temporary, painful and highlights the eternal, significant.
All the while I’m writing this, Jay is crawling (backward) circles around my living room, knocking over my trash can, and laughing at my cat. Ahh, peace, joy, the hope that fills my ungrateful, hopeless heart. God’s gracious enough to let me in on the wonders of life. A life of love, a life I love.
Baby Jay made it to 6 months today! And wow, I can’t believe we made it.
Recently, I got to teach on Daniel & the lion’s den from Daniel 6 at our Bible study. To my surprise, a point I focused in on was gratitude. I think God really put that one on my heart for myself… I struggle with gratitude. My strength is in negativity & I’ve learned over the years the opposite of negativity is actually gratitude. I’m such a stupid little butthole that I’d look at the people who could be positive all the time & just assume they were lying or looking for attention. Now, I strive to be them.
Because, I have a lot to be grateful for. More than I can understand or my ungrateful, negative heart can even see… Well, choosing to be grateful has made a real difference in my life. Especially in the midst of raising a kid. I was just at the point where I felt like I was starting to lose myself. All of my thoughts are about the baby or my basic needs (like when I was going to eat & shower. Butnot: what is God doing in my life, how are my friendships going, who can I love today…) I was starting to feel hopeless, but I thought that was just normal. Then, I got to look into Daniel & how he responded to suffering.
Now, let me preface this: when I started studying Daniel, I thought: there is NO WAY in hell I’m going to compare my life to his! He was kidnapped at a young age, raised/brainwashed into a new culture, faced multiple death threats because he believed in God. Now, I can relate to absolutely none of those things. Yet, he sets an example, as I learned – in the face of fear, run to God, no matter the situation. I think the danger is letting “little” circumstances in life pile up thinking I can handle this myself. Then, one day, you’re isolated, only knowing how to deal with the big stuff alone. So, in the mundane, we need to learn to seek the Lord for help so when the big trials come, we can stand firm no matter what. And that’s what I got to see in Daniel. Between his trials, he prayed and thanked the Lord. He made that a habit. I think Daniel could see God more clearly than I ever could and this knowledge urged him to praise and thanks the living God. I trust his insight and have felt the need to follow his example.
Let me tell you what, gratitude does change it all. And even when I’m in pain, or afraid, or feel like I’ve ruined everything & everyone hates me – being grateful changes your entire perspective on life. Even being alive is something to be grateful for every day!
Another thing I’ve really been grateful for in my gratitude lesson lately is grace. Being a mom has changed me, and not in all the best ways. Again, my thinking has totally changed as my life has. And frankly, it’s really inward. Even though I’m thinking of my kid all the time, it’s still my kid, my time, my schedule. I see how much more rigid I’ve become. It’s scary… I remember being so carefree. I long to be like that now. To be like my sister or my own mom – they’re really great examples I want to be like someday because they will literally drop everything if I ask for help. No schedule gets in their way! No tiredness or just feeling sad… And my sister has a toddler & a baby on the way! Jeez, it’s so cool. But yeah, that’s not me. I’m much more scheduled and planned than I thought. I knew I was controlling, but actually, turns out, I’m a control freak. And that sucks. I’m seeing how much that hurts my friendships, my marriage & misses opportunities the Lord has probably been putting in front of me to take. Those exciting adventures he puts in front of you that you can easily miss if you’re sticking to your plan for the day (all about me!) So, grace has really been huge to me lately. In so many ways I am not a good person. So many nights I fall asleep thinking about all the ways I was mean, rigid, judgmental, hurtful… But then, Jesus enters the conversation: and he says, I forgive you. And then my friends enter the conversation, my husband too, my family – and they forgive me for my inward, controlling ways.
I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend and our conversation ended on “being quick to repent.” She’s a strong willed lady whose been through some crap in her life. And now, she’s so quick to acknowledge her own sin and move forward with the Lord. I’ve been trying to practice this as I see my sin lately. It’s been so freeing! Instead of sitting in guilt or promising to be better next time – simply saying, “I messed up, I’m sorry” – wow. That’s it! That’s all I can do! I can’t fix myself. I pray for me, for my friends, that we can all learn to be quick to repent. To say: yeah, I’m not good, I mess up, can you forgive me? Then go on living & learning. I hate how much I hate being wrong or wronged. But how many times a day do I wrong others? The only solution is grace. I am very thankful for my friends that have stuck in there with me through it all. I am so far from a good friend. I get in my head, I get insecure, I get jealous which leads to imaginative feuds and conversations and bitterness. All because I think I know, my negativity, and my inward thinking. Where would I be without Jesus? Completely alone. Or with some sorry souls that would be so annoyed with me every day!
All that to say, I’m really grateful for my baby. I think in some ways God has been using him to teach me about gratitude, too. He literally smiles at everything. I am astonished. Where did this happy baby come from? Zak & I aren’t the most fun people. Our idea of fun is a good book & some good beer with a quiet night pondering the depth of the universe… not everybody’s cup of tea. Definitely not fun. But this guy, wooooohoooo, he’s a good time. He laughs & laughs. He observes & coos at all the new things he’s learning. He begs for you to relate to him every second and loves everyone that will give him any attention… Wow. I feel like I’m really learning what Jesus means when he says that the Kingdom of God belongs to little children. This audacity & innocence to enjoy life is what it must be like when all you know is love, security & see through a lens of excitement… it is what it must be to be close to a loving Father, God! May he keep teaching me gratitude through this little guy And here’s a pic if that’s what you came here for:
Thanks for reading this. I really like writing. I’m really grateful for the time to sit down & write today. And I’m really grateful that my little, limited life here in Ohio that is so absolutely small & meaningless, is actually rather significant to God.
Here I am – it’s 2021, I’m a mother, Jay survived, we’ve dodged Covid so far… There’s a lot to be thankful for.
Last night I had the privilege of attending our fellowship’s (fellowships’? fellowships’s’s’s’s’… lol) New Years Eve party to ring in 2021. Obviously, it wasn’t a normal party. It was outside of our new building (under construction) in freezing weather, masks on (thanks, Covid) – BUT, it was so great seeing everyone. And worth the 6 hours in the cold! My mom babysat. Zak & I were free to enjoy the evening. Typically, I would feel overwhelmed having to take care of the baby & try to quickly catch up or apologize to whoever is talking to me because my kid is crying in the cold… So last night I made the decision to stop to talk to whoever I passed. There were a lot of people there. & I had the most fun I’ve had in a long time… I got to talk to old roomies, old neighbors, my dear young friends (who offered free babysitting!!), old faithful friends, new friends, joke around with my good friends, watch silly friends deal Black Jack hilariously… So many great times. I know everyone’s been saying it, or at least thinking it, but 2020 just really brought weight to relationships of all kinds. And last night really sealed that for me. I am so thankful to have so many people I can run into & genuinely love & know they reciprocate that, no matter how long it’s been or how different life is. I know I am blessed.
Especially because this year showed me how despairing it is to be lonely. One of my dear friends last night asked me when I would write a blog following up my last one looking forward to motherhood, pre-baby Jay. Truth is, I’ve wrote many… MANY. (I process by writing. I’m an over-sharer here & on social media. I know some people view it as pathetic & possibly looking for attention – those both may be true, but hi, it’s me. I can’t change that too much.)
ANYWAY, I’ve been trying to process this whole change through my words. And I haven’t posted any because… well… they’ve been pretty dark. My untitled documents make it seem like I really regret becoming a mom. I don’t. So, I’m glad I didn’t share the rawness there. But, I am glad I have those because – well, it IS HARD. Especially for me: a selfish, comfort loving, spoiled princess. I had my world rocked with discomfort, loneliness, isolation, dark thoughts, alienating thoughts, hopeless thoughts… But, the air is starting to clear. I’m getting my vision back. The truth pierces the darkness. Nothing sits so dark too long. Alas, I still want to share what it was like, so I can remember. And if anyone reading this wants to know (& be prepared if they’re anything like me!)
I wrote this right before he was born: “here I am in my beautiful home that is clean, surrounded by presents people got for me and my baby, by my clothing, without needing to work — and I’m in unrest. My spirit is vibrating. My soul is sad. My hope is dwindling.”
I wrote on about how I longed for the peace I knew the Lord brings, that which Abraham & David had. And how I couldn’t find it & hadn’t seen it for weeks. I hoped & prayed it would come…
There was a 2 month gap… That two months was full of pain, tears and very, very sparse words written in frustration & anger. I don’t want to post those. But, I know they were real. And I remember much of those feelings vividly. However, a lot of that made sense – my hormones were so out of sorts! (On top of pregnancy, my doctors messed up my hormones I take daily for my thyroid stuff & so it was extra terrible.) I was hardly getting sleep! I felt alone! (Pandemic + Zak at work all day + not being able to see or relate to my friends.) It was really, really dark. I remember hardly enjoying my baby. I felt so guilty. I just knew I didn’t deserve him at all.
At 2 months in, I wrote this:“I get that women say that they change after having kids. EVERYTHING CHANGES. I am no longer the woman that I was before this baby. But, is that a bad thing? I can feel my soul and heart changing just as joints and muscles change with growth. Just as my son is new, so am I. I am new. Is that bad? No, it’s good… growth. I feared this whole being different than who I was, but it’s relieving. I don’t have to stay the same. If anything it gives me more of a sense of what’s to come in life. I had such a hard time understanding future. All I could comprehend was the now. I think this in itself is growth; the ability to start to see what’s ahead is possible. I’m not so closed into thinking my world is always going to be this way or that way.”
This is when I really started to realize that everything is temporary. That’s what I’ve learned! Suffering isn’t forever. Feelings aren’t forever. Isolation isn’t forever. Doubt isn’t forever.
At 3 months, it got bad again… “And as a person fueled by feelings, those have been all over the place. Good, bad… All the way up, to the lowest depths I’ve ever felt… a whole new meaning of love, sincere hatred. All that and more.”
I also wrote about all of the unexpected ways I felt alone. I think this is actually important to mention because moms DO NOT get enough credit here! Now that I am one, I can start to see that. And how my heart goes out to mothers all over who get through all of this – alone. If you’re interested, this is what I wrote about that & what it’s really like:
One thing that I’ve heard that’s proved true to me is how lonely being a mother can be. This one was honestly a surprise to me because I like being alone. I am a homebody. I know how to be social, I enjoy it. I like friends a lot. But, my favorite times are mornings, all quiet, that seem to last forever with a book, or my Bible and my cat. That true peace has been obliterated with a baby. I just sat down and wrote in my prayer journal for the third time since August 30th… This is something I used to do everyday and would wake up early and excited for.
So, the first part of loneliness is that I haven’t gotten my daily chats with the Lord like usual. That’s definitely sad for me. It’s changed everything with our relationship *on my end. I know nothing has actually changed, but I have needed to find new ways to try to connect with my Father… It’s been really hard. I loved feeling so seen by him in our hours together. Now, there’s no time to sit and talk like the friends we are. There’s always something to do. Our conversations are cut short and are usually initiated by me as I’m falling asleep. And they ALWAYS begin there with “thank you for my bed…” Not as deep talks like we used to have.
Another aspect of loneliness is feeling like you don’t know what to do and there is no one you can go to for help. A huge hurdle to jump that I’ve heard multiple women say is they don’t know how to ask for help because they don’t even know what they need. This produces a feeling of loneliness, in me anyway. Because, it’s just me, and this baby, and we have to figure it out. I don’t even know where to start phrasing what I need help with. (Another typical conversation me & God have been having: “HELP ME. Amen.”) I’m really thankful for my group of friends that are also new moms & he app Marco Polo to talk out a lot of these feelings & fears. They make me feel seen. I can’t imagine doing this without them.
Another part of loneliness: feeling forgotten. I know I’m not. My friends have been so very sweet. But, I’m definitely not the person I was before. I can’t stay out late, I have a baby. I can’t run over real quick, I have a baby. I don’t always remember to text, I have a baby. I don’t know what’s going on in your life unless you tell me because I have a baby. I’m still here, I just… have a baby. I hear about friends from other friends - exciting things, happy things - and feel sad that I don’t get to be there for these moments. (This isn’t just because I have a baby, it’s because of Covid which adds a lot more to the whole isolation situation.) I feel sad that people don’t seek me out like they once did. I feel sad that people feel like they can’t because they don’t want to take up my time or burden me, because… I have a baby. It’s all so contradictory… But, it is the way that it is.
I don’t want to sound totally negative. It’s not. It’s definitely hard, though. What makes me happy these days? When he falls asleep in my arms and then sleeps through the night. When my friends I’ve known since I was a baby get to see my baby. When he smiles and screeches at his dad playing with him. When he recognizes my voice before I walk into the room. These are all really awesome things that come with the sacrifice… Ultimately, the sacrifice is completely worth it when you realize you’re partnering with God to raise life. It’s a miracle. It still is. The more he grows, the more I see it.
And now, here I am. FOUR months in. I just got to see people again… I got to spend the holidays with some awesome family… my friends are out of quarantine… my baby is on a schedule & sleeping through the night… my mind feels like it’s coming back.
Four months later, I can say that I’m starting to feel like me again. But a better version. Still so, so, so far from perfect – if not further than before lol – but, starting to be able to remember what it’s like to breath the free air again. And bring my son into this life that I am thankful to have every day. I’m really excited to explore the world with him, to show him God’s creation, to show him what he can do with words and what words humans have made, to talk to him about Jesus.
That prayer I prayed before he was born about peace & faith? That felt so far away for so long. Yet, God doesn’t forget. I’ve seen him answering this for me all over the place. Even though I don’t feel as close as we were, I know he hasn’t left me. It’s taken a lot more to feel close. But isn’t that true with every relationship? Things change & you have to fight to keep close. It’s not always going to feel like BFFs. But faith is just showing up, even if I barely made it in the door & don’t know why I’m here – LOL.
Almost done – this blog is really all about me, as usual lol. I’m really finding a lot of joy in my son, though. I can’t believe how much joy comes from another person. He’s the best. I can’t wait to see who he becomes. He has such a personality already!!
Lastly, I’m pretty hopeful for my marriage. It was hard for a second… Still will be, I’m sure. (I hear the kids make it more difficult when they start like talking & making their own decisions, too. Yikes.) However, I have the best husband in the world who has carried me more times than I know through this hard time. I’m so grateful.
Zak suggested I write thoughts down about what it’s like to live in a pandemic. I don’t have many, though, because I have something really competing for my attention: a baby. And let me tell you how much the baby wins over a pandemic.
I found out I was pregnant at the very, tippy end of 2019. I took a test because I felt a little bit off and it was positive. I guess you don’t get false positives, but I was shocked because it wasn’t supposed to happen that quickly! Seriously, it wasn’t. If you haven’t heard, I’ve had some health trials in my adult years and with those trials was supposed to be the risk of infertility or at least harder to become and remain pregnant due to hormonal problems associated with autoimmune diseases. Yet – only one month after my doctor cleared me to start trying to have a baby and only 7 months after getting my thyroid removed – BOOM, there’s a positive.
Another reason why it wasn’t supposed to happen: I’m not ready. At 27 years old, I feel fresh out of high school. I’m still tired all the time. I can barely get dinners on the table for me & my husband of four years. I forget to feed my cat more than I’d like to admit and – most of all – I never wanted a kid. (The whole starting to try thing was Zak’s idea. He was so excited. Granted, I did get more warm to the idea of my own child when I met and fell completely in love/obsessed/borderline stalker with my nephew Lukas.)
So, how did this happen to me?! It wasn’t supposed to happen. And why me? Out of all people… It just didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t. Why would God let a selfish person like me in on this part of life – the whole creating life part? I don’t know. I still don’t, but over the last 9 months of growing a human what I have learned is that I’m involved in a miracle, a spiritual experience, that is so special and extraordinary, yet normal, that I would never take back, replace, change even for all the selfish wants in the world.
I still get doubts if I’m “ready” or not, but here he comes. And I feel blessed to be his mom.
I guess I started writing this as an encouragement for women who may be afraid to have a kid. I’m still afraid. If anything I am more afraid than I’ve ever been before. But that fear is so different since it’s triggered by all the good that is at stake. I fear for my baby’s health, and then I feel him kick and my fear melts. I fear for my health, but take a nap and end up okay, have doctors I see weekly making sure it’s really okay. I fear for the future, but think about how the worries of today are enough on their own and to enjoy the short (yes, short) 9 months given with a completely silent kid before the screams & tears come. I fear for my marriage, but fall into a warm hug, smile and laughter thinking about all the dumb shit we are going to do together and to this kid. I fear for energy, but wake up another day to friends asking how they can help (a truly beautiful body of Christ.)
I fear for the word “mom” because it sounds so boring, yet consuming. Somehow, when you become a mom, that seems to be all that you are. Why is that? As I’ve thought about it I get mad because I think the negative connotation subscribed to motherhood comes from our culture. “When you become a mom, your life ends… You get so boring… You lose yourself… Your career dies… You don’t get anymore ‘me time’…” All these terrible sounding futures; my individualistic American girl soul cringes at the thought. But doesn’t Jesus say to “pick up our cross daily”? Doesn’t Paul say “to live is Christ, to die is gain”? Doesn’t David sing “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!” The theme – “die to self” couldn’t be more clear throughout God’s plan for our lives, so the visceral reaction I have to motherhood is really me letting the culture decide to take the honor and privilege and importance away from giving myself for another human. Isn’t that what Christ did for us? Should not this be a dreaded task, but a position of undeniable honor?
And let me tell you what – coming from someone who didn’t ever desire a child – thinking of the sleepless nights, the sticky hands, the smells, the frustrations, the failure to come – all those things cannot outweigh the fact that I cannot smother the truth, the feeling, the reality that the honor is ALL mine.
Lastly, I just want to go back to the “spiritual experience” point: that might sound weird because literally unfathomable amounts of women get to become mothers, so is it really that special? That’s one thing that keeps tripping me up – how is this so normal yet so profound? How is this such an extraordinary experience, yet happens many, many times a day all over the world? I don’t know. As my doctor tells me to relieve my anxiety: “You’re not special. Women give birth every minute.” Yet, I am special! Because I have another person depending on me and connected to me… Isn’t that a mind-blowing, wonder of life? It’s really taught me the beauty of life and, at the same time, the smallness. So many are born and die without ever feeling like they matter. As a soon to be mom, that breaks my heart. Is this how God feels for every soul born apart from him? If I could describe to a lonely, empty spirit the intense love felt for them before they were even born, wouldn’t that make a difference? I wish, I hope. Life is weighty. Although we’re here one day and gone tomorrow, life is a gift. Even though there are millions of us (billions), each one matters. And that’s the beautiful seeming contradiction I’ve added to the list that God loves to use: you’re not special, but you are. Why? Because I made you matter. Motherhood? It’s monotonous and boring, but sanctifying and spiritual. Why? Because God our Father gave us this experience to share creation with him. Life is full of down time and stupid, selfish thoughts, yet my thoughts have value and weight and my time can change the world. Why? Because God so loved the world that he sent his son to die for us, so that because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand – confidently & joyfully looking forward to sharing in God’s glory.
I don’t know, man, it just blows my mind. And I hope my babe can one day understand more than I ever could about his heavenly Father.
So, those are some thoughts circling through my head as I’ve been pregnant through a pandemic. Not so much the pandemic, but the pregnant part. And I’m still scared & tired so I’d appreciate prayers for safety these last 2 weeks and a safe baby.
P.S.I guess it’s worth mentioning what it’s been like to be pregnant during a pandemic. Zak can’t come to any of the appointments, but we used Facetime when we found out the gender. My mom can’t be with me in the delivery room, which is sad because (remember how I’m a 27 yo high school graduate) I want my mom now more than ever. No visitors allowed after he’s born. And, a pregnant lady probably should take more precautions than I have been (but PTL, I have been safe!) So, there’s that! Overall, with things being shut down, I feel like I’ve gotten to rest more than I would have without a pandemic on the loose. And I am fortunate enough to live in an area not overrun with Coronavirus. I live in a quiet neighborhood where walking and biking have been a godsend. And the weather for Northeast Ohio this summer has been nothing to complain about – it’s been great! Which has been a wonderful experience to remain active without fearing for my life, as some have had to do in bigger cities. We also purchased a camper this year and have been able to get away into nature, which is really fun! Who needs international travel when you can plop down next to a lake for a week?! I haven’t given up grocery shopping just yet because it’s truly a freedom I’d risk my life for. Wearing a mask on a 90 degree day with a big ol’ pregnant belly smushing your lungs isn’t the most fun, either, but does make me feel safer. Also, an excuse not to hug every person I see is kind of selfishly great for a non-touchy person like me – lolz.
It will be interesting coming home from the hospital and how to navigate visitors for our little guy’s safety. But, as with all things, God has been so very gracious. And the body of Christ, even at a distance, has been a lifesaver! I wouldn’t know where to begin without the help & prayers of others!!
At the beginning of the year I found out I was pregnant. This news sparked in me a whole lot of “there’s so much to do!” One of the things I’m glad my freak out lead to was to learn to read again. I set a goal to read a book a month. At first I think I went too fast… But overall, I’m so glad I’ve gotten into this habit of reading. It’s so crazy what one chapter a day can do for your mind (or one a week!!) And it’s INSANE how much time you can save by plugging your phone in the other room, walking away, and choosing to focus in on a book. I’ve chosen to document the good reads here so I can honestly brag about my accomplishment… But also to let y’all know what I think is worth it! (Spoiler alert: every book I’ve ready is 10/10!)
Praying with Paul by DA Carson
I started this one January 1st because my beloved Darlene gave it to me for Christmas! So, you know it’s gonna be good. It was. It was definitely the first Carson book I could finish and get something from it. I struggle with prayer the older I get. I get busier. I forget. I grow MORE selfish!! How is that possible?! Yet, this book – instead of lessons on prayer and teaching you how and all the nifty ways to spice up your sex life — ER I MEAN PRAYER LIFE! (But aren’t a lot of prayer books like that?! lol.) Instead of that, Carson really wonderfully outlines Paul’s prayers! And lemme tell you, a spiritual book that begins with a chunk of scripture each chapter is something I can get behind! Use the Word, please! Thank you, Carson. (Beware: he’s Calvinist for sure. Also, very dense! But the theology is one of my favorites. It reminded me it’s all about God and when we look at who he is first, our prayer life changes tons.)
Unleashed by Samuel Stephens
Of COURSE I have to plug this! It’s by Rev. Samuel Stephens – only the most awesome church planter this century has seen! (OK, I’m biased. I work for India Gospel League – which he began.) But, I can’t tell you enough how much I love this book. It’s sings in perfect harmony with Acts/the first century church and is really a guide on how churches today can be more like the church in Acts! It’s refreshing, challenging and makes me excited to do ministry in all out dependence on following the adventure the Holy Spirit has set! I think all Freedom Fellowship folks will enjoy it and will be rejuvenated to hear that other people in the world like to “do church” our way! (Which is really relationally!)
Can Science Explain Everything? by John Lennox
Lennox has a special place in my heart since that one time he spoke at XSI and used the last part of his teaching to speak directly to the young people in the room. I can’t tell you how much, as a young person struggling with my faith, that meant. Everything he says is somehow revolutionary and soaking in humility. You can’t help but love the guy! He’s got a great sense of humor, too. The book really reads like one of his talks – a conversation. I picked this one because it was short and I suck at apologetics. What I liked about it was that it wasn’t so much an apologetics books, but an argument for why science & the Bible can work. He walked you through the WHY – why it’s possible there is a God and science, why scientists words aren’t truth, why you should think through big questions in life. It’s good. So good, I got it for one of my high school buddies. This is the kind of stuff I’d like to start discussing with my younger friends. I wish I did more pondering like this earlier on. Definitely worth the read in light of the cultural pressures around us!
So the Next Generation Will Know by J Warner Wallace & Sean McDowell
I feel like everyone is talking about this one lately… But with good reason! It’s a great resource for anyone working with youth or is a youth themselves or have birthed youths. For one thing I strongly respect in this book is their prioritization of how important it is we win the youth. Too many christian churches don’t do that. It’s sad. I think it’s because it’s frustrating – the new generations are really a whole new breed. And it DOES take WORK, but a labor of love. I wish everyone to read it and to get their hearts set on fire for this next generation. I honestly feel so badly for them with everything they’re up against. The future seems bleak, but these guys did a lot of great work with how to fight for them! (Spoiler: DISCIPLESHIP is everywhere in the solutions chapters!!)
Blessed are the Misfits by Brant Hansen
ANOTHER great one everyone seems to be reading. Which is fantastic. Everyone should read this book. It’s such a beautiful perspective on how every person’s walk with Jesus is unique. It was encouraging for myself as a reminder not to compare my walk with others, and a great encouragement for many people in my life who are very much not me and very much don’t fit the Freedom Fellowship “mold” of how you walk. Overall, it’s a great book that expands on the truth that God “meets us where we’re at.” Hansen lays out grace so well and critiques christian culture so entertainingly. I hope we can make this a staple and that I can learn to see people through Jesus’ eyes and help them learn grace as much as he’s shown it to me.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
OPE not a spiritual book! Nope, this was one fun one and the one I read in 3 days. LOL. It was just good. The drama, the mystery, the romance… I would recommend this to anyone! But I get that it’s not for everyone. 🙂
Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
ANOTHA ONE! Yup, he kinda won me with that first one. And this one was ALSO very good. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but lemme tell you – I felt REBUKED. It was a lot to think about. The premise is that we’re selfish and get angry at others for selfish reasons. But, we don’t have the right to get angry/annoyed/offended when we’re such sinners ourselves! Overall, it was really humbling. I was really thankful to read it when I did- about to go into a hard situation with hard to love people. And choosing not to be offended or angry beforehand changed the outcome of those events. I think I’ll need to read this one every couple of years given my self-righteous anger tendencies… (It would pair really nicely with an old classic, “Humility” by Andrew Murray.)
What’s next? Currently reading:
The Truth About Us by Brant Hansen
The Man in White by Johnny Cash
Christian Parenting by Dennis McCallum
& open for recommendations!!
I concluded 2020 with little more than the list above. But I’m not mad. I had a baby and it’s really, really hard to read a lot with them. Also, for having a baby, I did read a lot, I think. Nothing quite as heavy as a Carson book, but quite enjoyable. To add to my list above, I also read:
Babywise – a book about getting your baby to hecking sleep.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant I started having those thoughts: there’s so much I haven’t accomplished yet that I want to do! Dramatic, as per usual, and irrational. Of course I’ll have a life after babies. Since those initial talks, as I’ve talked to parents and reflected on what parenthood means, I’m actually getting more convinced that this is moreso where life actually begins rather than what I thought life was before. I am looking forward to it.
Yet, to some extent, I know those thoughts remain because life will be different. And the main difference I started worrying about was this: time. There were so many things I wanted to fill my time with that I hadn’t yet.
But why? And what kinds of things? Why?: Because I am straight up lazy. The things I want to accomplish are completely within reach. It’s just that, I didn’t exercise the self discipline to make them happen before baby comes. And now that it’s coming… It’s time.
So, the 2 main priorities I’ve found myself coming back to are as follows: 2) getting organized/clean/becoming a real adult. (My old roomies can attest: I’m not the most organized person. My physical belongings are often a great picture of what my thought life/emotional patterns are in that season. It’s rough. Gotta get that straightened out in order to keep this kid alive – as I’ve learned with multiple hospital bills being covered & quickly forgotten, then found months later… time to grow up.) 1) I want to read. I’ve always loved reading — as an escape. It’s been a hobby of mine since I was young, but I tend to read my favorites over & over because I like them. So, this is different: I want to grow. I want to take advantage of the insane amount of resources that are available to me! I want to exercise my mind instead of wasting away behind my phone. I want to be a good steward, become a better wife, friend, servant, Christ follower, evangelist, leader, mother and start by opening up the piles of books I have around me.
So, with that, I decided to start reading – real, good books that will help. I don’t know how much time I’ll have to read when baby comes. Someone told me that you’ll have more time when they get older and you can take them to the playground and read a book as they run. But, babies – I’ve seen the constant attention they need! My bff mamas are so great and sacrificial, but they don’t have much time to sit back, read, sip coffee & reflect. (Audio books, though, I hear are life savers.)
Then, my insanely smart & disciplined brother told me he has planned out what he’s reading THIS YEAR. I think ~20 books! For someone who has a newborn, works full time, does ministry basically full time – I thought: no way! So, I probably won’t do 20, but I think at least for me a book of month is reasonable. And challenging. And I need a challenge or else, frankly, my dears, I won’t give a damn.
ANYWAY – why am I publishing this to my blog??? 2 reasons:
I’ve started this challenge already and have gotten through 3 books. AND IT IS HECKING AWESOME!! I am kicking myself in the butt for NOT doing this when I had more time! (Yes, you do have more time, even in college. I know, I know – you hate hearing it, but that’s just the truth.) WHY didn’t I do this before?? A chapter a day isn’t unachievable! My mind feels fully engaged! It literally feels like in Limitless when you have full brain access – so cool. SUCH a difference to spending ALL my free time zoning out behind my phone/my Netflix. (Trust me, I still do that plenty… But it’s really made me realize how much time I was giving those things. And how much they don’t need.)
TLDR: I feel invigorated spiritually. I have more to talk about with God. I have more to think about my own faith, others, the future, the Bible. I’m learning so much of good, spiritual, sound information… all in small pages.
(I swear these are my words & not my English teaching husband who has to persuade people that books aren’t your enemy every day of his life… He has to do that for me, too. PTL.)
ACCOUNTABILITY! Yup, if I fail, then I want to do it publicly. (Not that many people are going to read this.) ((If anything, future me will read this past blog and feel the mix of shame/inspiration to begin again.)) But seriously, I want to stick with this as long as I can. This is NOT a waste of time! And I want to make it a habit that even after baby I will come back to.
surprise, 3 reasons: I want other people to do it, too. Honestly. I feel already I’ve wasted so many years not accessing incredible amounts of information around me. My heart breaks when my younger sisters say, “I hate reading.” I understand, it’s hard, it’s boring, it takes thoughtful energy (sometimes emotional energy), self-discipling. But, there’s so much we are missing.
Anyway, that’s A LOT for a simple point: I’m trying to read more this year & so far, it is awesome.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
(Adding the tag: Good Reads to this post & to futures for reviews of books I might publish… If they’re good enough/I have the understanding to do so.)
Today I am TWENTY SEVEN YEARS OLD. That is a lot of years… But not too many.
I am more than plenty shocked that I reached 27. There were times this past year I didn’t know if I could emotionally, spiritually or physically last. I really didn’t know. Yet, here we are! As I sit here writing this reflection I am swollen with tears of gratitude for every piece of my life. Every piece of the last year, every hope for the next. Without any doubts in my mind, so assuredly, I can say – I don’t know what the hell I did to deserve such a beautiful life.
There’s been pain. Yet, in the grand scheme of these 27 years, that has just been a background or a support to the beautiful things this old girl has seen.
Here are some things I’ve gotten to see recently:
A deepening understanding of marriage ultimately bursting out of a more intense, prolonged, intricate understanding of another human being every day. And the copious amounts of beautiful moments one gets to have glimpses of while living side by side and being knitted to another human soul… I feel this taste of heaven is far too worthy for my self-focused, sin drowned self should ever have had the privilege to be granted.
The storms people weather to be there for each other can be great, but never insurmountable. I’m so thankful for everything my people have done for me. Their actions are saturated in respect and deserve honorable recognition that I only can trust God will glorify them for. They’ve challenged me and confronted me with where I lack in responding selflessly toward them.
Growth – it’s real! The privilege has all been mine getting to be even the smallest fleck apart of some of these lady’s growth! Their faith shown in their emotional, spiritual, adulting growth, as they open their hearts to learn compassion, truth & trust has been overwhelmingly joyous. I’ve walked away from MANY conversations THIS WEEK simply awestruck and with no words but: “there is a God.” What else could explain the tremendous transformation in the people I interact with daily other than God himself? If it were something else, these people I see grow wouldn’t look the same – they’d look different. In a different way. But I know it’s God because each time I see them, their souls seem to shine brighter – meaning, I guess, they’re even more of who they were than the last time I saw them. It’s right & true to who they are, the person God made them to be. They’re simply becoming who they are, settled into the glory that is them in Christ.
Here are some things I really look forward to this next year:
Becoming a better wife. I have somehow scored the jackpot of husbands. He is on a whole ‘notha level. The way he lives is such an example to me. I just really hope and ask that I can be continually transformed to support that spirit in him.
Becoming a better friend. I’m not a good friend. I’ve seen that so much this year. And friendship takes energy & willingness to fight for. I want to learn to fight better for these women God’s given me that sacrifice so much for me!
Becoming a better sister/daughter/daughter-in-law/sister-in-law. Family is just becoming more important to me every year. I’d like to help cultivate a loving family environment instead of being so self-focused.
Becoming a better discipler. What an honor it is to be in the position to fight for someone else?! Yet, how terrifying that can be when our own sin shines brighter than Jesus! I hope to learn more how to rely on God and just point them to God before anything else. And become better at communicating what a freakin’ blast it is to be on God’s adventure of grace!
Learning to bring everything back to the Gospel and bring it up whenever I can! It’s all about the Gospel, isn’t it? So, how can I forget it all the time?!
Being alive another year! Recently, I got some good news about my heart… That is, they don’t think anything is wrong with it! So, my chest pains, fatigue & dizziness are most likely due to my hormones still adjusting after having my thyroid removed. Which is a little annoying since that’s not really a solid answer with solid next steps. HOWEVER, I’ve found some things that make me feel a ton better. Not 100%, but MUCH better! Things like cutting out gluten & working out certain ways. I am so thankful for doctors, friends, medicine and nutrition to help us along. I am sad I can’t eat my 2 favs (beer & donuts) but it’s worth it to have a clear head and more energy than 2 naps could have given me before! PTL!
Hopefully I get to be a mom soon.
OK, that’s it. That’s the end of 26 and the beginning of 27 for you. I can’t wait to see what happens. Thanks for being there for me through this year!
As the number of years I am alive grows, something I’ve sadly come face to face with is that life isn’t fun anymore. It’s just so different now. I don’t get to taste adventure on my lips at the start of every day, I’m not eager to find out new things and take detours. It’s just much more practical and getting harder to see the color. I’ve described it to a couple of people that growing older is like losing color.
With this slow tilt to grayscale comes more difficulties getting excited about the not-so-practical – or, the spiritual – in my life. The sad day has come (or just begun) that I’ve been dreading… God isn’t as romantic as he once was to me since life isn’t as romantic. Waking up and living for him is getting harder. My soul isn’t aching with praise, my bones aren’t shouting to joy – they just kind of grumble for sleep all the time. It’s stupid, sad, annoying and depressing. Why couldn’t it be like it used to be? When I was simply in love “with the God of my youth”?
As much as this natural digression is happening, I’m determined to not let it settle. I know I won’t always feed off of passions and convictions as my life becomes less about me and more about others, family, & responsibilities. I’ve already noticed doubts forming because I think too much of my faith was founded in passion and not everlasting, solid truths of who is God. So, over the last couple months, I feel like I’ve had to take it up a notch with God. Try some new things. Get uncomfortable. Discipline myself. And call on God for more than I ever have had to do before. I don’t know if this is “right” necessarily, but a wake up call is exactly what was called for before I slide too far into the dusty drabness I was heading. I hope it continues. I really don’t want to settle for a distant God who isn’t involved in my moment to moment decisions, who isn’t leading me on daily adventures and isn’t asking me to choose faith in every circumstance. I think what I want is my faith to remain salty!
So, as I call on God for more things than I feel like I ever have (practical or no, still large things that wouldn’t have happened if not for his intervention and strength) … He’s taught me some new tips and tricks for remaining faithful as life becomes less about what I can’t see and more about what’s on the to-do list… And here are 3 huge things he’s whispered into my life. (Which is so exciting and I feel so privileged to have a little spark from Him. He’s still there and still so good, so personal, so understanding…)
You can’t feel faith
This idea swirled around my life for the past year – I just couldn’t muster the feeling of faith and every time I was faced with a decision to turn to God, I never ever, ever felt like I WANTED to… Surprise! Sinful Elli still exists. There are days when I feel like she’s grown stronger than ever (whether that’s true or not, it’s a challenge.)
So, I came to the realization that —- DUH: Faith isn’t a feeling. Wait, I think I’ve been saying this for the past 10 years of my life. Why is it just clicking now? Well, it’s “hitting different” as the kids these days would say. When I’m really faced with some terrifying, faith breaking, emotionally draining, physically daunting realities I never had to face before – and then God asks me to choose faith instead of fear… HOW?! Well, Faith isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice. Some people like to swap the word faith for “trust.” Which is a little more concrete. You don’t always feel like trusting someone. It’s scary, hard, vulnerable, and uncontrolled. You don’t know the outcome.
I’ve been wrestling with anxiety. Nothing crazy, but I think some residue from health issues and fears I don’t know how to process. But this anxiety has taken such a form of its own in so many new areas of my life because I’ve let it. Because it was easier to feel fearful. It made sense to be fearful. My body TELLS ME to be fearful, so I go with it, and the anxiety wins and has been gaining ground. This was a terrible mistake on my part. I forgot how quickly emotions get out of hand and I forgot how much power my choice has in dealing with emotions. God’s asking me to choose faith over fear. To trust him over freaking out in those instances and I realize – it’s not going to ever be the choice that feels natural. That’s what I realize in Psalms (our summer reading plan.) David had emotions, he didn’t “choose against them” to become a stone-face non-person. But what he did was chose IN them. While feeling the fear, the anxiety, the rage, the guilt, the sadness; he presented these before the Lord and then would decide to place them in God’s hands and trust him with the outcome. It’s a CHOICE – will I “identify” as anxious, or as “in Christ.”
I need to go to God’s Word for conviction.
Again, too many of my passions about God came from feeling. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but I know feelings don’t last – they actually fade out of memory very quickly. And are subject to much change over any given amount of time. On the other hand, I think faith should be more like a work out – like in Philippians 2 – “Work out your salvation.” Wrestle with it. Figure it out. God will come into contact with each person differently since each person is different, but God is universally the same and never changing. These concepts require wrestling, taking time to understand, and really grasp not just applaud and wash right through you.
That means, the essential factor will come straight from God’s Word. The moments I’m weakest are when I drift away from the Bible. Thoughts seep in, feelings I haven’t felt in years, doubts rage uncontrolled – because I’m not constantly getting more information and my mind likes to fill in the gaps with its own ideas.
And I can’t muster my own ideas about God. Yes; poets, songwriters, authors all have wonderful things to say about him, but you can tell when the heart of these pieces are based in scripture, in what God says about himself. Lofty convictions that come from emotions aren’t going to last long. What does? When God himself tells me about who he is. Which is QUITE funny… if you think about it. I catch myself so often wondering “where is God here, why isn’t he talking to me about it” or even making up ideas about maybe what God would say or do or even just shrugging him off completely… But that would be like having all these questions and talking yourself through these dilemmas about a friend, while they’re sitting RIGHT NEXT TO YOU! Doiiii… Just open the Word. See what he has to say for himself!
I’ve really seen recently the spiritual battle is just to open the Bible. And then once you’re there, not to rush through so you can literally check off today’s date in your reading plan or feel good for a second about God’s promises, but not actually look deep into your life to see how these Words need to remake your view of God. It’s so easy to skip over, yet I truly believe God wants to talk to us himself, all we have to do is open our Bibles and our hearts to what he has to say.
Don’t expect some big, deep, awesome, joy-inducing conviction if you’re not in your word. Yeah, we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, so I do believe he convicts, obviously. But the Word has the power to cut through both joint & marrow, soul & spirit… and it even has the power to discern the thoughts and intentions of the human heart.
Fun, excitement, romance, life always, always, always, always can be found in, when we go back to, if we can simply remember the fact that – Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins.
What can break through the fog of life like rays of sunshine better than anything else? LOVE! The fact that there is a God of the universe who created all things, who is present in this life, who cheers along his creation not wanting to see them fall, who is ready to give chance after chance after chance, and who greatly sacrificed so that we could live life abundantly. Love.
Yes, this is where joy comes in the morning. When you wake up and realize the whole why of how I got here – because God had compassion on me. And he ransomed my sin. And he set me free because he loves me.
Today, I get to experience the joy of those who are faithful to the Lord their God, after many months of wrestling with Him, and battling to lift open the Bible day after day – he answers.
There have been some good days & some really bad days, but God remains faithful. The question is: will we?