Flail or Swim

“Just keep swimming.” That’s what Dory says, and it’s good advice. But lately I’ve stopped swimming and started flailing recently. Persevering through life can get daunting.

Do I think flailing is going to work? I don’t, but swimming wasn’t working fast enough either. When I get overwhelmed, I shut down. Still every other time it’s come to this point things only get worse – yet here I am, again.

I’m trying to get back to my diligent stroke through the waters, but realizflailing in watered I need help.

Swimming itself doesn’t help anything. You could be swimming in the wrong direction for one. Or swimming in circles. The sheer exertion could make things worse. It’s what you’re swimming to and where your energy comes from that matter.

You have to be swimming to a solution. But you can’t know what that is without asking someone who knows. Ultimately, there’s only one who knows and that’s God. If you’re not seeking His direction then you might as well flail. He may not tell you exactly where to go, or guide you to the final solution the first time, but He will guide you where you need to go – always.

If you’re guided by Him, you’ll also get your energy from the right source (hopefully). Once you’ve gotten the direction, don’t leave God by the wayside. It’s not a good place for Him to be in your life, trust me. The first stop on the right path is always straight to Jesus.

We have to rely on Him for strength. Swimming (living) is draining. It’s hard work. Without His strength we’ll fail. Even if we make it to the destination, we’ll be too exhausted to accomplish the next task properly.

 

 

 

 

 

ps 33.4Writing this, it’s easy to see where I’ve gone wrong. For some reason, I’m not better at trusting and relying on Him. I don’t do it as well as I want to. I’ve had to lean on Him for my entire life and still I often fail. Being human, and very fallible, is challenging to deal with at times. Trusting is hard, but we need to be trained in it. It’s so important.

Our training gets us to stop flailing through life and to start moving in the right direction. We all want direction in life. If we know the truth of trusting already but forget, then it’s just a matter of reminding ourselves and following through. I’m not saying it’s easy because trust requires surrender. With practice it does become familiar and that brings comfort. It’s easier to step back into something you already have footholds in place.

So here’s to getting back in line. To swimming. To the right direction. And to Jesus, who makes it all possible.

 

 

 

 

 

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Through – Perseverance

“Stay still until tomorrow finds the best way out is through.” – The Fray

These lyrics have been running through my head this week as a reminder of an important truth. A truth about the values of perseverance and perspective. In the midst of trial, pain or sorrow, one of the hardest things to see is your ability to persevere. And if you can see it, you may question its usefulness. When you’ve experienced a lot of trauma, as I have, you expect life to bring you more. Life becomes painted a certain way, and perseverance can appear futile. What’s the point if there’s only more heartache and
tragedy up ahead?

That’s why Isaiah 25 is such an important passage to me. It puts destruction into a godly perspective, and reveals a value about pressing forward, about what’s really to come for God’s people – of which crazily enough He has chosen me to be!

The opening verse is a praise of God Almighty:

Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done wonderful things,
things planned long ago.

destroyed-city

What strikes me more is that v2 immediately moves into a recount of God destroying a city! So much so that it will not be rebuilt. God’s destroying foreign and domestic cities in Isaiah’s prophecies. This is not something they don’t know or care about.

I can think of a few things that the Lord has brought to ruins in my life. Some of those experiences were the most challenging of my life. And if we stop reading right here – from our dismay, anger or hurt – then we miss the point of this destruction.

Even if we just read verse 3, God’s plan is revealed. “Therefore strong peoples will honor you, cities of ruthless nations will revere you.” It took for these people to experience destruction before they would seek out God. Their self-sufficient lifestyles repelled them from trusting a higher power.

After the destruction came new life. The old city was forever gone, but the people experiencing this tragedy were given something far greater.

Isaiah continues on to outline a feast to which God will invite all peoples. At this feast, tears will be wiped away for the last time, shame will be abolished and our eyes will relish the glory of God.

But this end, the beauty after the ruin, it’s often hard for me to see. Especially now, during this week, when I’ve been on house rest because of my health. When everything seems to be falling apart – one thing right after another after another. Perspective gets tainted. God seems less loving, active or concerned.

A beautiful thing about God is that He’s not human! If He was, He might go through periods of wavering and His power would run short. However, His character always stays the same – no matter what I tgrowth-in-asheshink, feel, am told or believe. What a magnificent thing!

Numbers 23:19 says it well:

God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?

Chapter 25 does not end at the feast, and I’d be wrong to leave the last verses out. God often uses destruction to create new life, but He also promised to totally destroy the wicked, as we see in verses 10-12.

God invites everyone to His heavenly banquet, but all people will not be there. Perhaps that sounds appalling to you; it devastates me. God asks, offers and pleads with every man to accept His invitation into eternal life. At the end though, the decision lies with us. Will we accept or refuse His proposal? Is He our God, or do we choose eternity apart from Him?

Knowing my answer, I go back to those lyrics: the best way out is through. Through whatever it is we’re experiencing. Because God has a plan, a great one at that. He destroys, but brings new life – better life. If my experiences have taught me anything, it’s that God always provides what’s needed for His plans to be accomplished.

We need perseverance to make it through, but thankfully God always provides that too.

 

What Baptism Meant For Me

baptim (2)Today, as I got baptized, I wore a shirt that read in my handwriting “Living For Jesus.”

It says that because my act of obedience was all about accepting God’s plan for my life.

Yes, I’ve been a Christian since childhood. Yes, I’ve done Spirit-led ministry. I have already received the Holy Spirit, but it wasn’t about that.

It was about my decision to live. To live the life God has for me wholeheartedly.

As I’ve battled through depression for much of my life, the desire to live was at times stripped away from me. It’s hard to really commit to God’s plan for your life, when you don’t want that life in the first place.

Jesus does call us to die to ourselves, but He doesn’t call us into death. He calls us into life.

Those concepts look very different.

For me, dying to myself means seeking God’s desire for me to live. It means accepting the challenge to battle through the upcoming wars, and to say “NO” when satan tempts me to strive for less than God’s intentions for my life.

I can’t tell you whabundantat those plans are, but I know they are good, prosperous and will add up to an abundant life.

So as I was submerged into water I said goodbye to my desires and my old way of “living.” And as I arose, I came into a new life plan. One that testifies that I will live, and do it for Christ.

I made a covenant with the Lord today, and I will choose to never regret it.

Lord, I thank You for calling me to be baptized at this time in my life. I thank You for the people who helped me get to this stage in my relationship with You. I thank You for being You. And ask for Your desire for my life to be sealed onto my heart. In Your Holy Son’s Name, Amen.

Pet Names For Confidence

I got lost in Trenton earlier this week and thankfully only one person besides the bus driver talked to me.

He was a kind man trying to help. I’ve spent enough time in Trenton to know that “What bus you waitin’ for baby girl?” Is a phase of endearment. Especially since he was across the street from me. 

But this encounter led me to realize that my biological parents never used terms of endearment. I wasn’t “my girl” or “sweetheart.” They did come up with cat-cat. That counts for something.

But after all the realizations I’ve had about them this year, I’m in no way surprised.

It also led me to realize that I can honestly understand how girls can be enticed into unwise relationships that might end up with them in the sex trade. That guy saying that simple phrase made my day.

Yes, morals can be strong but even the thickest awwof values can be broken or swayed.

That’s my story, anyway.

 I swore to the Lord, over and over, that I would never have premarital sex. But the first real relationship I had in college disrupted my former of dedications.

I dated a non-Christian who did not share my values. We progressively were more sexually active and my convictions slowly cracked apart. It only took 7 months to break my vows to God and myself.

That’s not to say that if my parents loved me better I would have stuck to my convictions, maybe I would have.

But if they had instilled confidence in me, if I knew that I was loved whether I had a boyfriend or not, I do think that would have changed my story. I think a lot of people’s story would be different if the “nice” man on the street, in the mall, at school wasn’t the most loving character in their lives.

If children were taught what real love looks like, feels like – than I think less women and girls would be pressured and give in.

Traffickers, abusers, sex-driven teens wouldn’t have the same power. They prey on those who aren’t confident in themselves. It would change the story of males too. A better understanding of what love is may change the way men think about women.

Giving our children “per names” won’t solve all the worlds issues but if it’ll help my kids know I love them, then I will use them.

Small steps begin every journey. I want my children’s journeys to be much different than mine has been so far.

Truly Flawless

Featured Post: I wrote this blog for The Hannah More Project, which is an organization dedicated to the Biblical call to seek justice. Please check it out: http://www.hannahmoreproject.org/

Music can speak volumes to our souls.

Particularly, if you’re like me, that can happen a lot. But sometimes there’s just one line that a song needs or that it has that doesn’t apply to your life.

One of the reasons I love the MercyMe song “Flawless” is that it covers all the bases. Give it a listen.

I love that the song doesn’t just talk about what sins we’ve committed or how far we’ve wandered, but the things that have happened to us too.

Because the reality is, injustice happens. Billions of people are damaged by the actions of another.

I’m not saying that we aren’t all sinners in need of a savior, but that some of us, like me, need to know God will wash away those things we had no control over. Some of the deepest wounds are created when someone attacks, abuses or misuses us.

Part of me felt left out this past Sunday during the sermon. We read Matthew 1 and the sermon focused on family lineage. I thought “Oh boy, this is gonna hit me right where it hurts.” But it didn’t.

The message spoke about the interesting characters in Jesus’ lineage. There’s a prostitute, foreigners, liars – take your pick.

All true and great to point out.

But what about the people in this lineage who were hurt?

Jacob was tricked into 14 years of labor for his father-in-law. Bathsheba lost her first husband and first child because of David’s sin. The sins of another caused pain to both of these people, and there are probably more like these in Jesus’ family tree.

I come from a broken family, and I need to know God erases the scars created by others. I need to know He’s strong enough, cares enough and won’t hold those things against me.

I want to be clear – God will redeem and heal. The God of the universe, as crazy as it might sound, cares deeply about each injustice committed. To me, you and everyone on the planet.

He can heal: “no matter the bumps, no matter the bruises, no matter the scars.” Only God can make us new.

That’s why He’s integral to justice. That’s why He’s integral to healing. Jesus Christ is the only

One with the power needed to make all things new. When we believe His testimony and accept His sacrifice, He will do a mighty work in us.

If you are a Christian, but you still don’t feel “flawless,” it’s okay. Me neither. But not feeling flawless in the sight of the God of the universe doesn’t make it any less true.

Hold onto that.

All Hands On Deck

All hands on deck, my ship is sinking – don’t let me go; don’t let me drown.

This is a line from a song that I love, a song that speaks to my heart.

More tangibly in the first half of 2015 than ever before. And that hurts.

To know that it was me saying those words with all that I had – at any point – let alone in April is painful. And I don’t mean that I sang them mosinking shipst passionately then.

I mean that was the cry of my heart. A deeper longing than explainable. So much of me wanted that boat to sink. So much of me thought I was just lost at sea and destined to stay there for the entirety of my earthly life.

Have you ever felt that? It hurts. And those wounds that brought me to that place are not yet healed. The wounds caused by being in that place – at the end of everything I was – are not yet healed either.

The struggle is not left in the ocean just because I’ve found some solid ground. Because I still feel moving sand under me. The Bible talks about building a house on a sturdy foundation (not sand) so that when storms come the house will be struck but steady.

I’m still building that house and the storm has not stopped raging, except for an occasional patch of sunshine.

And I look and see that the foundation has so far to go before the house blueprints are created. I cannot do it alone – and fortunately I don’t have to. Even when I believe that I am alone and that God has left the room, I am not alone.

It’s not possible for me to be alone since God is everywhere. That should comfort me more than it does.

Someday it will. I’ve started to believe in that concept. A someday.

When you grow up like I did, there is no point in somedays. It was about survival and that’s what I focused on. I need to learn how to have somedays. They are a beautiful thing.

And I know it’s another beautiful thing that those lyrics used to be the cry of my heart. That they are a memory. I still get caught up in and wonder when I’ll be back at that point but still I am not there.

What’s more rewarding is that I can say that to those that heard me.

It was not only the Lord that heard me. It was also my spiritual parents, my counselor and my roommate.foundation quote

They listened for and to my pleading. Each has partnered with me in their own way, and to each I am extremely grateful. None of them have stepped away either. As time passes the kind of support I need changes, and for the first time I am confident that if I cried out again, they would still come.

Because even when I quieted that plea for support, to them it was audible. How? Why? Those are questions for God, but I am content without the answers. I do know that the best kind of supporters are those who bring you to Christ and help you trust Him.

I am here and I am not where I used to be. I am not lost at sea, I am on solid ground.

My foundation may still need work, but it’s sturdier than I believe. I stand on Christ, He lifts me up and carries me in His arms. A big part of getting where I am, is that I let Him be what I stand on, be who lifts me up.

And I need a miracle to save me from this.

Another line from the song that was true for me. I got that miracle and I am so grateful.

The Caressing Tornado

 Imagine you’re climbing a mountain in a tropical forest. It is 95 degrees with 90% humidity. The bugs have been biting.

You see a clearing…it looks bright. There is movement in the trees making it look like there’s a breeze. You quicken your pace; step by step removing yourself from the thick forest. The bugs are no longer following.

The path is clear and you feel the cool breeze.

This is the beginning of a story that a friend sent me a few Saturdays ago during a stressful time. I shared that I was “losing my cool,” so I was sent this illustration.

While my original reaction was a laugh, that simple story was the start of something beautiful that the Lord was leading me to encounter.

I know it was from the Lord, because my friend didn’t know how significant the breeze is in my walk with Jesus.

I ofteswirl breezen associate the breeze with the Holy Spirit. I have felt His presence most palpably when being caressed by a breeze.

At times it’s as if the breeze is gently surrounding me as if caught in the least dangerous tornado in history. Other times, it seems I can breathe in the Spirit’s presence because it’s so tangible.

So when he was using this metaphor to help “keep me cool,” his wacky story was really something the Lord had given him.

I realized the connection only upon reflection, but I think the Spirit was still working in those moments that day to surround me in that tornado of presence and peace. It’s amazing how God uses people, even when they think they’re just telling a story. Knowing him, there was some deeper meaning laced in there, but God was working on an even deeper level.

I learned a lot about God’s work ethic that day.

To say that God is more powerful than a phone company seems obvious, but that God would surpass a system breakdown to get things done – especially on my behalf – does surprise me.

I had been in the store and on the phone with a phone company for hours, and was getting relatively nowhere. They were having system-wide difficulties, and eventually we gave up. Thought we’d try again another day, but God doesn’t need to wait.

That day He didn’t want to wait either.

As we were driving home my roommate got a call that things went through. I was feeling disappointed and still working on regaining my “cool,” but then we got the call.

It wasn’t all settled, but the big step one was complete. The company had called back and worked to settle the issue. No one involved on our end did anything but answer the phone. God is great. 

Back to the deeper level God was working towards.

Before the call came in on the drive home, I had a vision. The image came while I was listening to a For King & Country song called “Steady.” The song in itself was a great reminder of God’s presence. But as I listened to the lyrics, an image came into my mind.

I saw myself being lifted high up into the sunshine. And who else was holding me up but the Lord Jesus. A while ago, I wrote a piece called “The Wheelchair Effect” about how sometimes God keeps us right at the threshold of our bottom.father holding up (2)

But this time, He was lifting me up into the sun. As I relaxed there, confident that He would keep me safe, I felt a breeze. That gentle tornado flushing against my skin. It was a beautiful feeling.

Having that experience seemed inconceivable to me for over a year now; adding an extra dose of sweetness to the whole thing.

The while scenario is settled now, but what a comfort to know that God was working even after I’d called it quits for the day. He didn’t clock out when I did, and I don’t think it bothered Him that I reached my limit.

What a great Father who continued on my behalf, and also worked to restore my “cool.”

Thank you to my imaginative friend who would not let my ‘losing my cool” comment go. I needed that breeze.

Please, Lord, hold me up into that caressing tornado when I’m feeling disappointed, frustrated or I’m losing my cool. Thank You for surrounding me, but not overpowering me.