Saturday, July 30, 2016

All we can do is rest




There is nothing I can do to earn my salvation.  I can not appease God.  I can not make Him like/love me more by acting a certain way. . . by behaving in a fashion that resembles godliness.

I can, however, rest in His unfailing love, and praise Him because of His goodness, not to earn His goodness.

When He delights in me, it's because of His goodness, not my own.  When He forgives me, it's because of His mercy, not my perfection.

He is gracious because He is grace.

He is loving because He is love.

He is faithful because it is impossible for Him to change.  His word says, "if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." (II. Timothy 2:13)

So what else can we do, but praise this grace-filled, loving, faithful Father?  We praise Him not for what He can do for us, but rather for what He can and is doing within us.

He takes those undeserving of grace, and kindly brings them to a place of wholeness.

He guides those with imperfect love to a beautiful dwelling where His love is felt and in turn, expressed.

And He shows a faithless generation what His never-ending faith, hope, and love can to do rescue their souls from sinking into despair.

We are not good to show Him how lucky He is to have us.  We are good because He has us.

When He is LORD of our lives, we are launched into a lifetime of transformation.  Not to be good enough, but to be made aware that we are not God.  We can not be better at what He is the best at.

Grace.

Love.

Faith.

All we can do is rest.

Rest in what He is doing for us, in us, and through us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Perseverance, and what it means for anxiety

(image via Unsplash)

I've been told that I'm a born leader, although I’ve always tended to disagree with anyone who would label me as such.  I have always known that God gifted me with the ability to coordinate people effectively in order to get a job done with excellence. However, in the past it has been my tendency to cringe at the added responsibility required to manage a group of people. Because of that pesky feeling that I'm out of control when working with other humans.

Imagine my surprise several years ago when I found myself saying yes to the question of whether or not I would take over the position of Nursery Leader.  It couldn’t be that hard to coordinate childcare for one service a Sunday, I told myself.

I found myself pouring over schedules, making calls to nursery workers, and organizing the rooms in new ways in order to make the Sunday morning experience better.

Part of my role required that I work alongside two other children’s ministry leaders.  I remember one meeting with them, in which we had to have a difficult conversation.  As we were discussing and brainstorming, my heart was racing.  I felt as if I had to stuff it back down my throat.  I was completely undone on the inside, but was doing everything within my power to keep the appearance of having it together.

I found myself having this reaction to meetings in general.  When decisions had to be made, and when discussions had to be held, I buckled under the pressure of it.  I cowered in the presence of conflict, even when it was of the healthy variety. I preferred to work in isolation, carefully planning all details on my own.

That was not an acceptable way to operate kids’ ministry, so I had to become capable of discussing ideas, plans, and assignments without worrying that I would end up with a giant panic attack.

Kids require confidence under pressure.  They want to know that the people in charge of them are somewhat stable and capable of meeting their needs.  Because this prerequisite for running children’s ministry existed, I learned to fake it till I made it.

Sunday mornings were often a blur. Arriving early, I would make sure everything was in it’s proper place. You could find me, at the crack of dawn, unloading a dishwasher, and carrying a large bowl of sippy cups to the nursery.  I would wave and smile at people as I walked by, armed with a certain level of confidence in my ministry position.

Some mornings I would arrive at the church, begin my preparations, and suddenly find myself with two or three text messages of people who were canceling just that morning!  I can remember telling myself to breathe...to calm down.  I could handle this, I would recite to myself over and over.  And, I would.  Through God’s grace, and some fantastic deep breathing skills, I would typically avoid the panic stage of anxiety.

I learned some valuable lessons during this time that have served me well as I have graduated into other forms of ministry.

First, I learned how to organize my time effectively.  I couldn’t completely wing it, because I needed to focus in order to facilitate the systems the church and I had put in place.

Secondly, I acquired the important skill of managing a team.  I was in charge of at least six people every Sunday, which meant that I was dealing with approximately thirty individuals throughout the span of a month. Different personalities, ministry ideas, and philosophies collided into one team. I also dealt with the different obstacles that would present themselves within the ages of children, newborn to five.

Lastly, I learned to give God my problems.  I’ve always been a fixer.  I can typically make things happen, even if when I’m not relying on Someone outside of myself.  This time, I found myself in situations that I couldn’t figure out, and in problems I couldn’t solve on my own. And while these "difficulties" might seem laughable to some of you out there who have gone through unspeakable hardship, at that time they were huge to me. They were like mountains that were rising up in front of me, and I was the inexperienced climber.

God used this period of my life to teach me about blind faith.  He taught me to trust that He was good enough to handle my problems...no matter how insignificant they might seem.

There were many times when I would wonder where I would find people to help.  I would worry about how I would fill certain spots.  And, God was there, inviting me to let Him in on my problem and allow Him to provide the solution.

And He provided solutions time and time again, often just when I was about to reach freak out mode.  He was there, steadily, and faithfully teaching me to lean into Him.  To call on Him when life got tough.  To trust Him.

Those moments were what launched me into believing that I could be stretched beyond what I had previously thought. His hand of protection, provision, and promise was there, lifting me up when I walked a seemingly impossible path.

Walking on those “impossible paths” taught me life-changing lessons in perseverance.

Let me tell you a little about what perseverance can mean in a life filled with anxiety.  Perhaps you find yourself in a season of anxiety right now.  You feel like you can't keep moving. You fear that you are failing. And, you certainly aren’t growing.

Can I let you in a little secret?  The road to success is paved one step at a time. You have to dig in and keep moving.  Even on the days you don’t feel like it.  Dig in.  Don’t let fear control you.  Don’t let it have the upper hand.  Look it square in the face and declare with your entire being, “You won’t win.”

Even when it seems like things aren’t going right.  Even on days that you can hardly get out of bed.  Just do the next thing.  Wake up. Rise up. Move forward.  Imagine the day when you will kick fear out completely. But, until that day comes, reach for the courage inside of you that comes during your moments of intense fear.  When you think you can’t keep moving...move anyway.  When you don’t know which step to take...take one anyway.  When everything is caving in on you, push away the debris with your weakened arms, and cry, “You won’t win… I’m not going to let you win.”

(image via Unsplash)

The secret to living a life of courage in the midst of anxiety is relatively simple.  Just do it.  You may have wished for a better formula, or a step by step process.  But, let me assure you, from my experience, the most important thing you can do is to just move.  Remember that it’s not brave if you’re not scared.

If you can get up each morning, get dressed, brush your teeth and eat breakfast...you’ve won a little.

If you can make your bed, do the dishes, and do something for your self-development…you’ve won a little more.

If you can walk outside, get in the car, and drive down the road...you are on your way to a life of uncommon courage.

As one who lives every single day with the cloud of anxiety over my head, let me tell you, there is hope. There is always hope.

Persevere.

Don’t give up.

Get out of bed, brush those teeth, and start the day.

You can do this.



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Angry. Perplexed. Frustrated.



I'm angry. I'm perplexed. I'm frustrated.

I have anxiety and depression, and I want it to go away.

I thought that if I was a good Christian girl...if I did everything right...If I controlled all of my surroundings, that I wouldn't be dealing with problems like this.

I sat in my Counselor's office this week and got mad.  It occurred to me that I had no choice in this matter. I'm here because something didn't work right in my brain.

If it was something external, then I could change it by changing those external circumstances.

But, I didn't choose this.

One day I woke up like all the days before, got dressed, ate breakfast, buckled my baby in her car seat, and headed toward a panic attack I didn't see coming.

It came with no warning. It hit me with a force unlike anything I had every felt.  It didn't ask my permission.

As my life spiraled out of control, I found myself grasping to hold onto anything that would make it okay.  I came up with excuses for my problems.  I bargained with myself.  I bargained with God.  Surely this would pass, much like indigestion after too much pizza.

And yet, it stayed.  It came in and made itself comfortable in my home, my head, and most distressingly, my heart.

I asked it to leave so many times.  I begged God to remove it from my life.  I tried to use every ounce of strength I had to remove it on my own.

And the panic just wouldn't leave.

It told me I wasn't good enough.  That I needed to worry about everything.

It lied to me and said I couldn't handle things on my own... that I needed my husband to make everything work correctly.

It left me speechless, breathless, and hopeless.


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Truthfully...I want to be her again.


















I want to be the twenty-one year old, un-medicated, change-the-world girl who had all the optimism in the universe at her disposal.



And yet, I also want to be her.


















The thirty-three year old woman who has a softer, more understanding side.  The one who lives her life for others more than herself because she knows how empty the latter is.  The one who has been brave and strong in the moments when it counted.  The one who didn't give up, even when every neuron in her brain was screaming at her to run away and hide.

And, I'm angry...a little at myself, and a lot at God.  I'm angry that I can't seem to be both.  I'm frustrated that I live in a medicated state, and yet still have issues that seemingly preclude me from changing the world.

I want freedom.

I want to look at the sky and know that it holds no limit.

I want to breathe in life-giving air, while simultaneously exhaling grace to those around me.

And I want to live with purpose and intention...with no thought to what might happen if I wander too far out of my comfort zone.

Surrender can't come as long as I am clinching my fists in anger and frustration.

This problem angers me because I can't "make" this go away.  I can't yell at it long enough and make it walk out of the room.  My stomach churns at the realization that I am utterly and completely out of control.


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Jesus, be near to me.
Walk with me, as you already have shown yourself able to do.
Lead me into the path that YOU have for me, not the path I'm trying to forge on my own.
Give me peace that passes even my understanding.  Rescue me from my worry. Deliver me from my fear. Protect me from my pursuit of perfectionism.
You've got me.
I know that in my head.
Please whisper this truth to my heart.