the underneath

There’s considerably more to me than I give way to out loud.  There’s a whole underneath layer that sits just below the surface, out of view.  Because the hidden parts are often in contradiction to the life I desire to portray.

See, you build your house with the beautiful parts of yourself and display all the lovely things on the lawn.  The ugly and the odd stays inside in the dark with the curtains drawn, only rarely, if ever, daring a quick glance between the blinds.  But even the quickest of glances offers glorious visions of the neighborhood, leaving me seeing spots, and it is quite painfully clear that the world…at least my piece of it…is not ready for the ugly and the odd.

Honestly, it is much easier to hide it all.  To just answer “fine.”  There’s less to have to explain.  Less to have to find words for.  The constant battle that rages on the inside – the fight between light and dark – is better left stuffed down inside.  There’s the fear that to let it all out in the open – to give it words – would set it free forever and I’d never get it all back in the bottle.

In case you’re wondering, we’ve more or less stopped looking for a church and honestly I’m not all that sad about it.  I don’t think what my heart deeply desires actually exists, so I’m just going to push pause.  And I’m actually somewhat relieved about it.

Because the facade is exhausting.

What I mean is that I’m just not good.  I am a sinner, buried in the mire and sometimes I don’t care if I ever get out.  Sometimes I quite revel in the mire.  The smell of it.  The way it feels smeared on my skin.  The honesty of it all.  There is no pretending to be done when you are covered from head to toe in muck.  And truth be told, I am raw from all the attempts at scrubbing it off.  Of trying to be different.  Trying to be better.  Trying to overcome.  Trying to live like I’m free when I know bloody well I’m not.  Trying to live like I’m head over heels in love with a God that I hardly hear from anymore when in reality, aside from the few prayers offered up for others, we barely speak.

A couple of months have passed since my last post and what I thought was a turning point turned out to be the same as every other time I think maybe I’m beginning to get somewhere.  Nothing changes.  I’m still the same.  Still a prisoner to anxiety and depression, food addiction, self hate, fear.  All of it.

I found myself wandering around Barnes & Noble today scrutinizing this book and that book, trying to find the one that might finally give me the answer.  Looking for that person who might have it all figured out and can tell me how the hell to fix myself.  And it’s all the same.  Pray this prayer.  Learn this scripture.  Do these steps.  These people with their all “God moments” and I wonder to myself if I’m just not fixable.

Maybe that’s it.  Maybe I’m just completely and utterly beyond fixing.

I know one thing though.  I’m tired.  Tired of the anticipation of changes that just don’t come.

Please Jesus.  Please.  I just want to be better.

 

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Coverings. Or “What I think of when I see the number 1222”

Do any of you tend to see the same numbers a lot?  Like when you look at the clock, you tend to catch it at the same time often?  Or you see it in addresses or totals on a receipt or something?  I do.  My number is 1222.  It was a while before I came to realize what I believe it means.  I wound up in Exodus, chapter 12, verse 22.  It reads:

Take a cluster of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and brush the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood in the basin.  None of you may go out the door of his house until morning.

Now I realize that doesn’t really seem to say much.  But when you look at what’s going on around that verse it does.  In fact, it completely blew me away.  Basically chapter 12 in Exodus covers the instructions God gave the Israelites for Passover and part of those instructions included brushing the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorways of their homes.  The final plague sent to Egypt, where the Israelites were enslaved, was that the angel of death would come and take the life of the firstborn son.  However, it would pass over the homes that had the blood of the lamb on the door and the son’s life would be spared.

What a beautiful picture of what was to come!  The blood of Christ, the sacrificial Lamb, painted over us so that we might not die, but have life everlasting!

And it hit me.  Every time I saw 1222, it was God was reminding me of the covering I had in Christ.  That I was forever sealed by the blood of the Lamb.  That I had been marked as a child of God.

Fast forward to the last week or so and I have been feeling quite alone.  I mean, I know I’m not alone.  I guess I’ve felt a bit isolated and a little tossed.  And I know it has a lot to do with having acknowledged leaving my church.  Before when not many knew, I still felt somehow connected, but after writing that last post, I guess it was an official severing and I have felt it.  And while we have started going to another church, we aren’t really connected there (by choice thus far).  I told my mom earlier this week, it’s like I feel a bit naked spiritually, not really having what feels like the covering of a church body right now.

And then something funny happened.  So that last post I wrote got read a lot of times.  I mean a lot.  Like over a thousand times.  Much more than any post I’ve ever written.  And it just happened this week, when I checked the blog to see if I had any messages to respond to, I saw it.  The number of times it’s been viewed.

1,222 times.

I was stunned.  And in that moment, it felt like God was reminding me that I always have HIS covering no matter where I am.  That I may not have a connection with a church as of right now, and while that is important, I still have and will always have the covering of the One who flung the stars into the sky.  HE is and always will be my covering.

So friend, are you wandering and feel alone?  Maybe you feel a little tossed and lost?  Maybe you feel like nobody cares or nobody sees you.  Well, let me tell you something.  If you’re wandering, He’s wandering with you.  You aren’t lost.  Maybe you’re on an ocean of doubt and you’re being tossed about by the waves.  He’s in the boat with you.  He sees you.  He knows your name.  And if you’ve called Christ your Lord, you are underneath His covering, sealed by his Spirit (Eph 1:13).  You belong to him.

Now if you’re like me and you don’t have a church home, I’d encourage you to keep looking for one.  I will too.  The body of Christ is just that…a body.  And we need each other.

And also, if by some chance you’re reading this and you have never submitted yourself to Christ, know that His love is for you.  His death was for you…for us all.  We just have to receive it as ours.  If you’ve never done that and you’re ready, please reach out to me or someone close to you and let’s talk.

And in the meantime, please continue to pray for us as we seek a settling place.

Love you guys,

J

 

Why I left my church.

I’ve hesitated to share this and gone back and forth about whether or not to.  But it seemed odd to me that I wouldn’t have written about it, considering it has been such a big deal in my life.  So here goes.

About two months ago, my family left our church.  This church had been my home for almost 17 years.  The only thing in my life I have done longer than attend that church is be a mom, and not by much.  It has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and not one I took lightly at all.  In fact, my husband and I discussed it for probably a full year before we finally made the decision to leave.  So please know, we aren’t “church hopping,” nor did we leave because we’re offended or mad.  Sad maybe?  But not mad.  And we only told a few people at the time.  We just kinda left quietly.  There are many reasons, but the summation of it all was that we were worn out.  Mentally.  Spiritually.  Emotionally.  Just worn the heck out.

The reality is that the longer you are at a church and the more involved you get, the more you know about the interworkings of it all.  It can be hard not to become disillusioned…especially in a large Western church.   The planning of every single piece of the service down to the minute, the time clocks on the back wall telling me I had 30 seconds to end my prayer, the silliness incorporated in to get a laugh, and of course, the smoke machine.  There’s this constant push to stay relevant, to stay up on the latest thing.  And I was completely and utterly exhausted with the whole entire production.  Sometimes I would walk in the door and look at the three or four video cameras we had sitting the sanctuary so the congregation could get multiple angles of the pastor as he spoke or a close up shot of the keyboard player’s hands while they played and would almost feel physically ill thinking how many families could have been fed for the cost of those cameras.  We could have probably at least partially funded an adoption with just the roving camera, but instead we’re broadcasting close ups of the keyboard for the sake of artistic presentation.  It was eating me alive on the inside.  I felt like I was suffocating.  And it had gotten to a point where it was affecting me in deeper ways than just being burnt out.  The more disillusioned I got with the church, the more disconnected I felt to God.

I started to really question the whole thing.  I just kept asking myself, is this really what church is all about?  Is this really what it’s supposed to be like?  Because honestly, what I needed…and still need…was a place to worship that looked and felt different from the world.  My heart was aching for a place that felt set apart from everything I saw in the day to day, a place that felt holy.  But what I was experiencing was smoke and lights and silly videos and announcements in the middle of the service that seemed to bring holy moments to a screeching halt.  It just felt like there was so much effort put into this weekly service – so much time, so much money, so many resources – when I couldn’t help but feel like there was so much missing elsewhere.

And listen, I’m not meaning to pound on this one church.  Because my church wasn’t really all that much different from most every other big Western church in this country.  Smoke machines, light shows, big screens is pretty much the way of it now.  Hours and hours of planning go into it all.  What will draw people in, what will keep people’s interest, what will make church more appealing?  Churches have their snappy catch phrases and overused cliches.  People don’t bring their Bibles to church anymore because they don’t have to…it’s all on the big screen.  They just sit and consume.  Theology gets tossed out the window in exchange for songs that talk about Jesus like He’s my boyfriend instead of my Savior and Lord.  People treat pastors and worship leaders like celebrities.  Church campuses are chosen over stand alone church plants because it’s just easier (and cheaper) to pump in the video preacher each week…and well…it gives branding to the church (hence the celebrity pastor issue).

I know I sound judgmental.  And while I can appreciate someone thinking that, it doesn’t negate what I saw, what I heard, what I felt in my spirit.  And I want to be clear and say that my desire isn’t to hurt anyone’s feelings or imply that I’m spiritually above everyone who still attends the church I left or any other church that does these things.  I’m not.  In fact, it’s probably the complete opposite.  Over the last year (and in large part in relation to this whole confusion and frustration with church), I felt myself sort of tumbling down the side of a mountain and I landed pretty hard in the valley of doubt and questions.  And that’s where I’ve sat for a long time.

Until I left my church.

It’s like I’m out from under it all and I can finally think straight.

And I’m concerned really.  Concerned about the state of the Church in America.  Concerned because I can’t help but wonder if the true intention of the gathering of worshippers is getting lost underneath all the fluff and and fancy.   Is the self-sacrifice aspect of the gospel coming through or are people being taught that bigger is better with our multi-million dollar building funds?  Have the topical sermons been enough to establish strong sound Biblical foundations?  And if we had to do without the screens and the cameras and the entertainment aspects of church would people still want to come or have we all been so conditioned to think that’s what worship is supposed to look like?  If we were to face persecution here in America like they do in other places, would the Western church at large survive it?

I’m not asking you to agree with me.  And I’m not saying that technology and church buildings and orders of service are inherently bad.  They aren’t.  But if they aren’t partnered with a strong teaching of the gospel and a true understanding of worship, then we’ve all missed the mark in a really bad way.  Is the picture of worship being painted every week an accurate representation of what it’s like to follow Christ – including the hard parts – or just the parts we think will make people come back next week?  If a congregation of people have been trained to think that worship has to be big and loud and entertaining, then that’s what they’ll be drawn to.  But if you strip away all the big and loud and entertaining, what happens then?  When the pastor with all his well planned out sermons and catchy one-liners isn’t there, will people know enough about the actual scriptures to dig further for themselves?  Can we worship just as well with a pipe organ and a hymn book as we can a full stage band and vice versa?  Are churches just as in tune with the move of the Spirit as they are with the time clock counting down on the back wall?

And again, I’m not judging you if you go to a church that does these things.  I’m not saying that churches that use movie screens are bad or unspiritual.  All I’m asking is that we stop to consider the way we worship.  Stop and consider if all the stuff we spend money on is really necessary or just more for our own enjoyment and comfort.  Stop and consider the amount of time put into planning out every little thing compared to the amount of time spent praying together as a congregation.  Stop and consider how much time is spent on videos and announcements compared to the amount of actual scripture that gets read in a service.  Just stop and consider is all I’m saying.  And if you’ve stopped and considered and you’re at peace, then carry on.  But if you’ve stopped and considered and you aren’t at peace, don’t be afraid to speak up.  It’s the only way anything will change.

 

 

 

 

Who are you, Soul?

Who are you, Soul?

Are you the one never quite at home?  Never quite finding the real belonging place?

You are, aren’t you?

The one who even among the dearest friends sits in self-imposed aloneness, owned by the fear of rejection and equally by the fear of acceptance.

Drawn to darkness, you find more comfort there than in the light you deem undeserved…undesired even sometimes.  Living in a minor key, as notes of comfortable melancholy map out your history, the same chords play over and over on repeat as if to prove that while the depths of your desires may be colored in the beauty of great and mighty things, your mind and your body will always betray you with feet dug in the ground, refusing to go one single step further away from same ol’ same ol’.

Yes, Brokenness is my name and I am broken.

I am the one always seeking and not finding.  The one who resides in a constant place of not enough-ness.  The one who needs desperately to believe that there is more here than meets the eye…because there’s more to me than meets the eye.  Please let there be more to me than meets the eye.  This can’t be all there is.

 Because I’m drowning on a daily basis underneath the doldrums of the day-to-day.  Always falling short takes it toll.  Being broken drains clarity and sometimes I can’t even remember my last coherent thought.

My dreaming mind sees a place where things are slower.  A place where I can breathe. Where all the right words flow clear like water and all the wrong-said things go unsaid. A place where twirling whirling hoop skirts dance and there is laughter and rose gardens and I imagine myself as an artist standing under a shade tree spreading lines of color on canvas.  Or I see a field of flowers bringing solitude and rest as I stare up at the night sky where little stars punch holes of light in the dark…much like the darkness of you, Soul.  Where are the little holes of light punched into the darkness that is you?  Because sometimes they are hard to see.  And sometimes there are no stars at all.

My name is Brokenness and I am broken.  But I hear there is One who changes names.  He gives new names written on white stones and heals up all the hurts.  He is the Light that punches holes in the dark.

Hold onto Him, Soul.  He is good.

Gratitude and thanksgiving

As the weekend comes to a close, I find myself with a quiet moment.  Everyone is in bed, the Christmas tree glows softly, and there’s a chill in the air outside.  The room smells like pine and I feel serene and at peace for the moment.  And then the dog promptly gags and throws up a little in the floor.

*sigh*

The long weekend was a good one though, dog barf aside.  Dinner with part of the family on Thanksgiving day and lunch with the rest of the family today.  But there was one moment that has sat with me all weekend.

My two cousins and I were seated at one of the adult tables with our spouses.  (I’m sure if you have a large family you know what the adult table is.  The kids got the card tables and the adults sat at the big table.)  And there we all are eating and having adult conversation when it suddenly struck me…where were the adults at the table?  I mean, we can’t be the ones here at the table having grown up conversations about kids and gymnastics and politics, can we?  Where were the real adults?

And the moment when I looked around at the table and realized we WERE the adults, it was like time slowed for just a second.  My cousin sitting across from me, the one who played dress up with me at Grandmother’s house.  Her husband sitting beside her.  Her daughters on the sofa, her son upstairs playing with mine.  My other cousin sitting beside me.  The one who, along with the rest of us, used to play fun games on holidays like this.  And there beside him, his wife, holding one of their three little ones in her lap.  Suddenly the children weren’t at the kids’ table anymore.  They were all grown up.  Now our children were at the kids’ table.  It was quite surreal.

And for that moment, I just wanted time to stop.  To just stay right there, while my parents and my aunt and uncle talked at the other adult table.  While our kids were all still young.  Before our hair goes gray all over and time begins to take its toll.  To just stay.

But stay, we cannot.  Time is not ours to stop.  The older I get, the faster it seems to go by.  And the older I get, the easier it can be to look back and be found wanting.  I think of things I wish I had valued at the time that I had them.  Moments in time that start to fade that I wish I could remember better.  So many things I realized I wanted to do when it was too late to do them.

But time doesn’t go backwards.  Time moves forward.  And we move with it.  And we must live in the moment while it is ours.  To enjoy what we are given as it is received.  To take those surreal moments and breathe them in while we sit in them and have the pleasure of later recalling those moments with joy for having had them.

Yes, time moves forward, but in that moment looking around the table,  my heart was full of gratitude and thanksgiving for what has been.

Greatness and change

Wow.  What an election season this was.  Lord help me, I tried to stay out of it.  I made my very best efforts to keep my opinions to myself on Facebook and to not be quick to jump to conclusions set before me by the media.  Lord help me, I tried.

But I’m telling you, this election stirred up some of the most hateful, ugly, embarrassing behavior I’ve seen in a while.  People are highly opinionated about the things they are passionate about, that’s for sure.  And we should be passionate about things…as long as they are the right things.  It’s when our passions get a little off center that things go to hell in a handbag.  And boy did they.

And I made a few observations.  And here they are.  And they are mine.  I don’t want you to tell me how they are wrong and I’m not looking for you to shout back a bunch of amens either.  Just a few things that I need to get off my chest.

First off, A LOT of people get their dander up over bullshit.  (Sorry.  This election has brought out the very worst in me and sadly I’ve tended to cuss a lot this past month.)  My Facebook feed was full to overflowing with posts about this thing Hillary did or that thing Donald said and you know what?  Half of it was either soundbites that were only meant to stir the pot or either they were bait and click posts.  Now listen, I know they both said and did some awful things.  Both of them.  I won’t deny that.  But I also am smart enough to know sensationalism when I see it.  Friends, please stop posting things that are nothing but sensationalist bullshit, so we can all focus on the real issues here.

Second, BE NICE.  Calling people “snowflake” or “crybaby” really isn’t nice.  And posting “love wins” with a snark in your keystroke really isn’t nice.  Do I think people were over the top ridiculous about Hillary’s loss?  You bet.  BUT are there people out there with reason to be uncomfortable, concerned or frightened even?  You bet.  And the sad thing is, all the ones wallowing around gnashing their teeth are overshadowing the people who might have some legitimate fears and concerns.  And where are those people?  Keeping their mouth shut, laying low.  Because scared people don’t mouth off publicly or make a show.  They hide and keep quiet.  THOSE are the people we need to be seeking out to comfort and put their fears to rest.  But calling them all snowflakes isn’t helping at all.  And for all the “love still wins,” or “love Trumps hate” posts.  Please just stop.  It’s just a passive aggressive way of saying screw you and you know it.

Third, STOP MAKING ASSUMPTIONS.  I heard somebody once say that basically to assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”  And we have all been behaving like a bunch of asses. All of us.  Lumping everybody into one category based on how they voted is unfair.  Not everybody who voted for Trump is a racist homophobe who wants to send all the Mexicans home.  AND not all Democrats are baby hating terror mongers who want Sharia law.  Just stop.  Seriously.  It’s an asinine way to think.  This whole election was hard on all sides.  And while there are surely those out there that were hardcore for one side or the other, I would present to you that most people voted more against one side than they did for the other.  If they even voted at all.  And for those who did the no namer vote (and I say that because I honestly cannot remember the guy’s name right now who ran Libertarian), please just stop with the “hashtag never” posts.  Many people truly did see that as a throw away vote, so while you may have been convicted to vote that way, it tends to make people feel less than when you’re reminding them of that with your posts.  I mean, it’s honorable that you took a stand for what you believed in, but not everybody was there.  I know, I know.  You’re not judging, but people feel judged just the same.

And fourth?  We are ALL a bunch of HYPOCRITES.  This whole entire nation.  We complain about the things Donald said about women.  He’s degrading to women.  Yet, I look on my TV and here’s a shampoo commercial using what sounds like a woman having an orgasm to advertise their product.  I go shopping and see clothes in the little girl section that no 10 year old girl ought to even consider having on her body.  I look in a magazine and there’s a scantily clad Miley Cyrus with her tongue wrapped around her face holding a blowup penis on stage, Arianna Grande in clothes so tight she looks poured into them, and Beyonce in photoshoots and on TV showing so much skin she’s a breath away from being naked.  TV shows that seem to have a rape scene in every fourth episode.  Music that calls women bitches and all sorts of other things….and I’m talking to you now Hillary standing up there on stage with Jay-Z.  Have you read any of his lyrics?  But holdup…before you jump on that train, it’s not just hip-hop either, although hip-hop is awful for sure.  Look at the top 40 chart and you’ll find song after song about sex.  Since when did it become okay to sing a song about having sex with your woman?  Would you invite me into your bedroom to watch?  Because if not, then why are you inviting me in with your song?  That’s private for crying out loud and yet there you are with your songs on the radio describing all the details for everybody in the world…and here we all are just listening away.

We complain about racism and how the church needs to put its glorious foot down.  We are hypocrites!  Churches are the most segregated places in America.  Think about your church, if you go.  Look around at who is sitting beside you.  I’m betting for the most part, they all look a lot like you.  My church has gotten a lot more diverse than it used to be, but it’s still pretty white.  And black churches are no different.  We like to tell everybody else what’s wrong with them, but when it comes time to get the log out of our own eyes, well…

And racism.  Ah, racism.  It’s the same as the fear issue.  There are so many real true incidents of racism that are hidden underneath the pile of cries of wolf.  Racism is very real ya’ll.  There are black people everyday that are looked at sideways in a store because of the color of their skin.  There are Hispanics (from lots of other places besides Mexico) that are here quite legally, but people make assumptions about their status because they speak Spanish.  Racism is a real true awful hurtful thing.  But what’s sad is that it’s become such a buzzword, a common and sometimes false accusation, that people don’t want to hear it anymore.  In fact, you can add some words to that list…homophobe, islamaphobe, bigot…just check your newspaper headlines or Facebook feed.  All those words have been so overused that nobody is listening anymore.  You want to end a conversation real quick?  Say homophobic to somebody who believes homosexuality is a sin.  You want to shut somebody down in a heartbeat?  Say islamaphobic to somebody who truly fears terrorism.  And on the other hand?  You want to cut somebody to the core?  Tell a black man racism is dead while he’s being stopped by cops in a white neighborhood.

You want change?  Me too.  So then we’ve got to get out there and have some face to face conversations that involve a lot of efforts to understand why people feel like they do.  Brow beating people with buzzwords and sound bites has made people stop listening.  I want to have a conversation with you, not the Huffington Post or Fox News.  However, ignoring strife and pretending there aren’t problems just makes people more hurt and more angry.  We need to have conversations.  We have to.  Nothing will ever change unless we do.  You won’t change people with Facebook posts.  You can’t change people by holding a sign up on a street corner.  You can’t justify your stance when you don’t really know what all you’re standing up against.  And you won’t change your own opinions until you start listening to somebody who’s different than you.

Ya’ll I’m tired.  Right down to the very depths of my soul, I am tired.  Donald Trump didn’t start any of this.  Obama didn’t either for that matter.  But it’s gone on long enough.  We have been at each other’s throats long enough.  I’ve realized some things about myself in this election.  Some things I need to change.  Some attitudes I need to rethink.  Some assumptions I need to let go of.  And I hope that will be the case for a lot of folks.  Lord knows we can’t keep on like we are.

spread out brokenness

The sea is a peculiar thing. The ebb and flow of it. How it brings up beauty from its depths and then batters it in the surf until all that is left are broken pieces of what once was a whole. It spits out ragged bits of shells and such, only to steal them back, toss them about, and lay them out again. A continued cycle of breaking and brokenness.DSC01615

As I stand with feet planted, the foamy water comes and swirls and I sink in and lose my firm foundation and have to adjust myself. Such is life too, I suppose, with its harsh push and pull, like waves that sweep over and over, tossing and churning, brokenness tumbling over itself, sand sucking down leaving me unsteady on my feet.

Even still, in the midst of the corners and colors and edges, there are rare treasures – worn out, but fully intact as if to say, “Look at me! I survived the beating.”

And while those complete treasures usually find their way into pockets and buckets to be taken from the sea as tokens, it is the broken ones that lay unclaimed that draw my eye today. The ones with the stories of change and loss and tearing away and wonder. Pieces that once were together – split, shattered, and scattered – finding themselves spread here and there, telling their harrowing tale to this passerby in one place and that one in another. Their spread out brokenness touches many all at once.

I trace the rough edges with my finger and marvel at the colors and lines etched in. And I see that while the whole is only now a part, there is still beauty in what remains and I am astounded by grace as the water gives and takes and the sand covers my feet.

Dark nights and mornings

Hey.  It’s me again.  Just wanted to stop by and check in.  It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post.  So many of you have reached out, sent prayers, well wishes, and expressed deep concern and for all that, I am so very grateful.

It feels good to be loved.  Not to just assume you’re loved, but to know it in the moment when you need to know it most.  To have had your heart just kind of explode out of your chest…and then to look down and see your friends scrambling around gathering up all the pieces off the ground.  You guys.  I love you all dearly.  Every single one of you.

I’ve learned a couple of things in the last couple weeks.  One is that when I need help, I just have to ask.  Two days before I wrote that last post, I felt lower than I think I may have ever been.  So low that I scared myself a little.  The amazing thing though is that when I shared what was happening with me and people reached out…many with stories of their own struggles with depression and anxiety…suddenly the pit didn’t seem as deep as it had been and I knew for sure that I wasn’t alone.  Not even a little bit.  It was a jarring realization, but in a good way.  It’s like all the sadness lost a little bit of its power.

Also?  Sometimes good days stay good and sometimes they go crappy.  And sometimes crappy days stay crappy, but sometimes they go good.  Either way though, until tomorrows run out, every dark night will have a morning.  And each morning brings a new day.  Maybe it’s a crappy day.  Maybe it’s a good one.  But it’s still a new one.  And if you got to the new day, it means you got through the yesterday and well, even just getting through is still progress.  Every tomorrow morning that closes out the night is a victory.

So anyhow, while I’m in a better frame of mind than I was two weeks ago, I still have a lot to work through and a lot of changes that need to be made, but wow.  How blessed I am to have such an incredible group of people to walk along with me in the mess.  xo

 

Dear all my friends to whom I have said, “Let’s get together soon,” but never followed through and actually got together with you…

I need to get this out there.  Partly because I want you to know why I maybe haven’t called you to schedule a date to get together.  Or why when you ask me how things are going, I say fine even though I know good and well I’m not even close to fine.  Or why when you call or text me, sometimes I don’t answer or respond right away…or ever.

I’m not fine.  And I haven’t been for a while, but it’s been especially hard this past few weeks.  Some of you probably know this already, but I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time.  For several years, it’s been manageable.  I mean, I’d have a rough day or two here and there and the rare panic attack, but I could work my way through it.

But for the last few weeks, I’ve felt like it was going to crush the life out of me.  The weight of it has been nearly unbearable some days and I spend most of those days in the bed or on the sofa.  I’ve cried a lot.  I’ve ignored a lot of phone calls.  I’ve avoided people.  The milk in the fridge has run out more than once because I just could not make myself go to the store.

And if I’m honest, I’ve pulled away from Jesus a lot too.  I went under the water spiritually dead at 12 years old and came back up and was called alive in Him, but of late I wonder if maybe I never really came back up and have walked around empty all these years.  Sometimes it all feels like a lie.  How can a person be free and still live in the same bondage they’ve always been in?  I’ve heard people say, “Jesus unlocked the chains and we still walk around carrying them like we’re still held captive in them.”  Believe me, if I thought all I had to do was put them down then I’d gladly do it to be rid of them, but I feel just as locked in and chained up as I always have been.  I think lately I’m just coming to the conclusion that I’m not free and never have been and I’m beginning to think I never will be and that makes it hard to breathe.  Or think.  Or be.

And I’ve been living in this pit for a while and frankly I’m tired of trying to claw my way out. Or pray my way out.  Or “be still and know” my way out.  And I’m tired of talking about it.  And I’m tired of trying to work through it.

I’m. Just. Tired.

And I don’t know what to say about it much other than that.  I just wanted you to know.

 

Starting Fresh

So how’s those New Year’s resolutions coming along?  Mine are doing great in case you were wondering.  You know why?  Because I didn’t make any.  Ha!  Resolutions are to me just the beginnings of failure mainly because I put these expectations on myself and I likely will not follow through.  It’s like I make this big list of all my flaws and think I can all of a sudden completely change everything I dislike about myself because today is January and yesterday was December.

That’s not to say that I didn’t start anything new.  In fact I did.  A new year is a great time to start a new thing.  So I’m going to read the Bible all the way through this year.  I got a really cool (really on-sale) Bible with my Christmas money that is set up in chronological order and the readings are marked by the day.  It’s definitely different because the prophets are all sprinkled in where they actually happened on the timeline instead of clumped together in the middle and at the end of the Old Testament.  I’m guessing that Paul’s letters are probably inserted here and there in the middle of Acts based on where he was.  Anyhow, I just thought maybe it would all make sense and stay in my brain better if it flowed based on when it happened.  It just seems to tie everything together for me.

Right now I’m about midway through Genesis (with a little Chronicles ancestry inserted in here and there).  Because this is not my first undertaking of reading the Bible, I have read Genesis probably more than any other book.  In fact, Genesis is literally falling out of my Bible.

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So I’m rereading again about Abraham (was originally was called Abram until God changed his name) and the rest of the patriarchs.  But in reading one of the passages the other day, I was struck again by the wording of one particular verse.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. – Genesis 12:1

At first glance, that might seem a little redundant.  Go from your country, go from your kindred, go from your father’s house.  Okay, we got it.  You want Abram leave where he is and go.  But read back over that again and take note to how each time it’s a little more personal.

Go from your country.  Leave this place that you’ve called home and are comfortable with.

Go from your kindred.  Leave this way of thinking that you been taught and this way of doing things that’s been passed down to you.

Go from your father’s house.  Leave behind who you thought you were…this old identity.

God wasn’t just calling him to leave a place a go to another place.  God was going birth a new nation from his offspring.  God was going to give him a new way of doing things, change the way he thought.  And God was going to give him a new identity.

Abram wasn’t just going away from something…he was going toward something else.

And verse 4 says?  “So Abram went…”

Just like that.  And he didn’t even know where he was going.  All he knew what that he was following God, and in faith he went.  And God didn’t tell Abram to just go and find a new place.  No, God said to leave and go “to the land I will show you.”  So the change that was coming wasn’t with Abram leading, but with God leading.  I wonder if maybe that’s where I always messed up with my resolutions.  Making that list of things I wanted to change and then trying to do it myself instead of asking God where I needed to leave and where I needed to go from there.

Sometimes God calls us to walk away from things.  Maybe it’s something that has become an idol and we have to lay it down and walk away.  Maybe it’s an old way of thinking and God is saying, “It’s time to put that to rest and let Me birth something new in you.”  Or maybe for the very first time, you’re hearing God calling you out of sin and He’s got a new name and a new identity He wants to give you through Jesus.

And look, the things that He asks us to let go of don’t always necessary have to be bad things.  Sometimes they may be things that are consuming too much of our time.  Maybe you’re involved in too many activities and God is saying, “Hey, let’s say no to a few things so you can focus on this one thing.”  It might be that the thing God is calling you to right now is simply a season of rest.

No matter where you find yourself right now, I can promise you with all confidence that whatever God is calling you to is worth leaving behind what he’s calling you from.  And the blessing that is waiting there?  It’s gonna be a good one ya’ll.