Life, Interrupted

“Every time I look down and see you’re calling or have called, my heart does a happy dance. Sweet dreams to my wonderful daughter and love forever!”

This was the last text I received from my mom before my sister called me the next morning to tell me she had driven herself to the emergency room (yes, you read that correctly). Going in for what she thought was either a severe case of pneumonia or a broken rib, the nurse saw something else in the X-Rays.

A suspicious shadow.

Cancer is not something that happens to OUR family. Cancer is seen from afar. I have watched  other families go through this. I have prayed for other families going through this. My mom and I have fund-raised and walked hundreds of miles for OTHER people. Not her. Not OUR family.

Initially, I was breathless. Suffocating. The words “cancer” and “more than we thought” are words that tend to do that to you. The phone call from my sweet daddy left me speechless and sobbing. This was NOT my mom’s life. This was NOT our family’s life.

Take a step back. Gain perspective. Pray.

There is boundless uncertainty because I am human.

But GOD.

With God, there is boundless certainty. He is not confused. He is not surprised. Let me tell you what He IS. Caring. Loving. Unconditionally sovereign. Healing. Powerful. Faithful. Invincible. Greater. 

Isaiah 54:4-5 (NIV) “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by His wounds we are healed.

My faith has not been tampered with. My faith is unwavering. My faith is zealous. My faith gives me peace that surpasses all understanding. My faith gives me no room for Satan’s lies and schemes. My faith gives me a boldness to pray BIG prayers. My faith makes me confident that my prayers will be answered. My faith convicts me that this trial will be used for a greater good (Romans 8:28). My faith gives me hope that my family will glorify the King’s name through it all. My faith gives me belief that miracles are modern.

Dear Mom: I want you to know that you are tenacious and unyielding. Your faith surpasses any mountain that could be placed in front of you. We are in the valley, but your heart is still dancing with joy. I have watched you give the glory to God in the most minuscule victories, such as walking to the door or eating a bite of grits. Your sociable persona makes you want to visit with every friend that walks through the hospital door, even though your body is weak and tired. Answering nearly 100 texts daily for you is a testament to the kind of woman you are. The influence you have had in your community and beyond is unmatched. My favorite part of this journey is listening to people tell me how much you mean to them. How you have touched their lives. How you have been their light in the dark. Whole congregations and small groups and offices have prayed for you. People who have met you once or twice have fasted meal after meal for you. Your importance in this world and to this family is matchless. You live life with spunk, newness, and adventure every chance you get. You put your family first. You love the people you work with and your clients so well. The phone calls and video chats we have mean so much to me because you have become my best friend, the one I confide in, and the one I seek prayer  and encouragement from. I hope you know that you have loved me best. You have loved this family unceasingly. You have never given up. You are a fighter for what you are passionate about. You have raised strong and confident women through your example. We are strong through this because of you. I love you to the stars and back, Mom.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV) “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

This is just a small detour, not the destination. 

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Inner Disposition

Let me fill you in on a little secret of mine.

Before I truly embraced my relationship with Christ, I would watch Christians. I would watch what they said, what they did, and how they treated others. To be honest, I was not that impressed. I did not have the best experiences with Christians. Often times, I felt judged, looked down upon, and excluded by them. They did not have much credibility in my mind. They called themselves Christians, but the only things that set them apart were their judgmental and close minded attitudes. I knew I never wanted to be that person. This completely turned me off of Christianity, religion, and Jesus.

When I started walking with the Lord, I knew I never wanted to be like that. But lately, I’ve been realizing how difficult that can be. It is difficult to love everyone. It is difficult to be inclusive. And sometimes I really suck at being a Christian. It really hurts to admit that. Sometimes I do things and realize that my integrity with people might have been tested. I am scared that others might look down on me. I fear that I am not set-apart. I get anxious that I might be the Christian that I used to dislike. It is a huge insecurity of mine.

I DON’T know how to be the perfect Christian.

But I DO know that I should pray these things daily

1. To love others well.

2. For my credibility to not be shaken.

3. To be set-apart.

This morning, I fell into that insecurity again. But God blessed me with some wise friends because they offered me the encouragement I needed. They reminded me that following Jesus is tough sometimes. Christians are held to a higher standard and sometimes we fall. It makes us human. That is what the cross is for.

In the wise words of my friend Alia… “When Christians fall, we don’t fall into an empty abyss to be lost and gone forever. We fall into a net that God placed there before hand because he knew we would fall. It’s kind of like a trampoline. We fall only to get right back up again.”

Here is some simple truth…

Psalm 103:12, MSG

“As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.”

2 Corinthians 7:10, MSG

“But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

2 Corinthians 4:16, MSG

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Remember that God is radically renewing us and eternally changing our inner disposition. Don’t be discouraged when insecurities get the best of us.

 

 

Vulnerability Hangover

Once upon a time… or two times… or maybe 250 million times… I told someone something that I immediately regretted. I have walked away from certain conversations feeling naked and exposed. I have woken up some mornings with flooded anxiety about something I shared with someone the previous night.

This is what I like to call a vulnerability hangover- a.k.a. shame.

So what’s in a shame?

Shame is the ultimate fear of disconnection from people. It is the result of rejection or fear of others not accepting us. Shame is the voice in our head saying “if you share this, others are not going to accept you” or “because you told them this, they are going to see you differently.”

I am unworthy of love.

I am not pretty enough to accomplish that.

I am not successful enough to do this.

I am not good enough to talk to them.

So, I am here to tell you this- having a vulnerability hangover actually has… NOTHING…to do with vulnerability at all. This said “hangover” is a result of shame, which can lead to some other really ugly things.

depression, anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders

Recognize the brutal lies the devil tells you and start believing that what makes you vulnerable makes you BEAUTIFUL! Rest assured that the darkest thought you could have, the lowest point you can feel, and the furthest place you could run… His grace will always meet us there.

  1. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and acceptance.
  2. Surrender to your vulnerability.
  3. Have the courage to be imperfect.
  4. Your life is your art.
  5. Vulnerability is most definitely NOT a weakness.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” ~Francis Chan, Crazy Love

Stay encouraged!

xoxo

Turn Your Mess Into Your Message

There is something so neat about people sharing their stories with you. It is a way to connect, laugh, and cry with each other on such a deeper level. They can be inspiring. They can be heartbreaking. They can send chills down your spine.  But as much as I love listening to them, thinking about sharing mine terrifies me.

I was asked by my small group leader to share my testimony. WHAT. My insides were screaming “no” but I politely responded with a “sure.” My anxiety levels were through the roof.

How do I even share my testimony?

What will people think of me?

Is my story “too much?”

With a troubled and confused heart, I prayed and asked God to show me what to share and how to share it.

Ironically, Passion City Church had sent me a free trial of their new devotional called “Simple Pursuit: A Heart After Jesus.” Two days after I said that prayer, the title of the devotional that day was “Your Honest Testimony.”

How cool is God.

Through this, I was taught a couple of things

  1. I am not sharing my testimony to reveal all of my deepest darkest secrets.
  2. My testimony is not “too much.”
  3. Testimonies are for giving real examples of what being brought from death to life really means.
  4. They show how radical a life change in Christ can be.
  5. Our story is not meant to lie dormant.
  6. Reveal how he breathes life into us e v e r y d a y and how His grace is, was, and always will be enough.

Testimonies are stories of hope and redemption. It is so important to be honest- do not worry about covering ANYTHING up. Speak boldly and be enthusiastically proud of your rebirth in Christ.

He has chosen us for our weaknesses, not our strengths. This magnifies our need for Him. Our stories are meant to be told.

“But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they said, “It was required that God’s Word be spoken first of all to you, the Jews. But seeing that you want no part of it—you’ve made it quite clear that you have no taste or inclination for eternal life—the door is open to all the outsiders. And we’re on our way through it, following orders, doing what God commanded when he said, “I’ve set you up as light to all nations. You’ll proclaim salvation to the four winds and seven seas!” When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune. All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.” Acts 13:46-48

I encourage you to share your testimony with someone. Ask Christ to give you the courage to share your story of being brought from death to life. If it encourages just ONE person, you are furthering the kingdom of God and that is wondrous. 

 

 

Getting High

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4

Well, what about when we are hurting, God? What about when the test and challenges seem like too much? What happens when we feel like giving up?

The first time I can ever remember my heart truly being broken was when my Poppie passed away. I had never experienced someone so close to me die. It all happened so suddenly; I remember the phone call I got from my mom when she informed me of the tragedy and all I could say was “No no no, I love him. This can’t happen.” I can still feel that perpetual gut-twisting moment when I thought about how he would never get to be the preacher at my wedding (as we always dreamed about together) or how he would never see me graduate high school.

The second time I ever had my heart-broken was not too much longer after that. It was my freshman year of high school, after the break-up with my first real boyfriend. I was soOoOoo in love and so head over heels with this boy and truly thought I was going to marry him. He was the first boy to ever shower me with love and affection and gifts and kind words. I was devastated when things did not end up working out. No matter what I did and no matter how much I begged him to take me back, he was gone. I felt completely and utterly out of control. He had moved on to the next better, prettier, and smarter girl and I was just “me.”

At this point in my life, I was unable to see past all of this. I chose to go down a completely destructive path trying to numb the deep pain that came along with rejection and loss. I soon realized that if you numb something long enough, it becomes cold- and that is exactly what my heart did. I made myself numb to feelings and emotions and intimacy. Instead of living life the way it is supposed to be lived, with zest and spontaneity, I lived it through boys, alcohol, and shallow friendships. I was constantly searching for something that would get my mind off of whatever hardship life threw at me or whatever sadness I felt. Eventually, I built a tolerance to these worldly highs and was left in a dark, cold, and scary place. Nothing could get me that good feeling anymore; I was emotionally exhausted. 

So many people can relate to the inner distress that comes with having their heart-broken. Whether it is a traumatic experience, the end of a long-term relationship, or the death of a loved one, not one person is exempt from the pains of this world. When your heart is broken, you have two options- you can choose to take the worldly, destructive path that brings temporary satisfaction or you can choose to take a different path. I want to tell you about the different path a recently took that really did help me be “okay”.

Heartbreak is inevitable. Recently, I rediscovered that painful feeling once again. Yes- the nausea because you physically can not eat, the anxiety that consumes your daily life and the exhausting thoughts constantly running through your head. I understand it from the core of my being because if you are anything like me, you feel things DEEPLY. When I love, I love hard and when I hurt, I hurt even harder. But something in me told me that I can not take that path that I did in high school. I can’t go to that dark, cold, and scary place again. I needed to do something different. I needed to FEEL better- physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

SOOOOOOO….

I ran to Jesus. Not only did I run, but I full on sprinted. During college, I truly found my relationship with Christ, but still felt some uncertainty when it came to trusting Him with all of my being. All I knew is at this point, I had to hand everything over to Him. I spent my days and nights in prayer, the Word, and in Christian fellowship. I asked Him to HELP me trust Him because it was hard. I prayed for Him to give me strength and peace and let me tell you… He was SO faithful.

There is no place so desolate that we cannot find Him there.

So after being vulnerable with you guys and gals, I want to tell you the ways I sprinted to Him in case you literally have no idea how to (because at one point I didn’t either). God works! He is the only one who can fully heal a heart and transform your mind.

  1. I started my very own War Room. I wrote down the desires of my heart. I wrote down comforting scripture. I wrote down long, deep prayers. I hung up pictures of people I needed to pray for during this time. I did this all in my closet (just like the movie war room:) and that became my place of comfort. I would sit in there all hours of the night just talking to God.
  2. I asked God to HELP me trust him fully. I never understood how someone just “trusts” God 100%. That was always a hard concept for me because I can’t physically see Him. So I asked! And once again…He was faithful.
  3. Open up. I love to bottle up my feelings and pretend like they don’t exist half the time. I have a bad problem of living in denial. Find someone to open up to and be completely honest with them. For me, that was my mom. Her and Christ became my ultimate safe space.
  4. Acknowledge God multiple times a day. Whisper to Him thankfulness. Sing to Him his goodness. Meditate on His sovereignty.
  5. Stay in the Word. It gave me instructions on how to make it through the days where I thought I couldn’t. Start in Romans! I found so much comfort reading this.
  6. Surround yourself with people who bring you joy! Even if you don’t feel like it… do something with someone. Don’t be alone with your thoughts too much. It is so easy for the Devil to speak lies into your head and heart if you are not constantly guarding them. Which brings me to the next point…
  7. Don’t let the Devil steal your joy. The Devil is real people. He is out for YOU and he is out for ME. I verbally tell the Devil that he can not have my peace, my joy, or my life.
  8. annnnnnd last but not least- God doesn’t offer a “quick fix” for the healing and restoration of our hearts. He offers us peace and comfort- but that does not make the heartbreak go away. He transforms us during this time. He builds our character, prepares our hearts, and builds our trust. When we feel weak and want to take the “easy” way out, remember that we are only hurting ourselves in doing so. He wants to make us stronger and we need to let Him.

REAL QUICK let me tell you about this miracle I had during this experience! At one point, when my anxiety was so bad it felt like I could hardly breath and move, I got on my knees. I prayed and begged for Him to take it away because it was so debilitating. And in that moment, I physically felt the anxiety leave me. LITERALLY, from my tips of my toes to the top of my head…gone. Now tell me that isn’t a full on miracle. I FELT it. That verified all over again what a personal and loving God He is.

Thanks for letting me share and be REAL with ya’ll! Hope you learned a little something and I encourage everyone to be more vulnerable to themselves, others, and Christ!

Check out my sweet, sweet friend Jenny’s blog for more love on this topic

Galatians 5:1

xoxo