when the fear comes…

Today is March 3, 2019.

On this day last year, life was good. I was happy, I was healthy, I was working.  The Lord had just brought me out of a season of waiting and feeling “stuck” (see “The Desert Place post if you don’t believe me), and I was excited about His working in my life.

Today, I reflect on that day and I’m honestly brought to tears by what I didn’t know then. I didn’t know that in 9 short days life as I knew it would be turned upside down.  I didn’t know that I was about to be brought to the end of my strength, my sanity, and frankly my ability to live. I didn’t know that over the next few months I was going to find myself closer to the Lord of my heart than ever before out of pure desperation to grasp the one thing I knew would stay steady.

I didn’t know.  Because it hadn’t happened yet.

So today, I have to admit that the point behind me writing this is that I am finding fear creeping into my heart.  Fear is reminding me of how oblivious I was to the pain that was so near to making its presence known, and fear is telling me that it can happen again.

As the 1 year mark gets closer and closer on my calendar, I find myself in crippling moments when the fear of my headache returning overwhelms me. It terrifies me.  It reminds me of the miserable pain and whispers to me that I couldn’t survive that again. And y’all, the limits of my humanity agree with the fear. I don’t think I could survive that again.

But God.

I could honestly stop writing there because God is the only word I need to keep speaking over myself. I need to be reminded of God.

I need to be reminded of God’s past faithfulness, of His right-now presence, of His future promises.

I need to be reminded of the love story He has written to me, of the sacrificial and unconditional love He has shown me by saving my doubting soul.

I need to be reminded that even when I want to let go and give in to the fear, He holds on to my heart and whispers truth. Even when I’m paralyzed by fear and don’t think I can take another step into the unknown, He sustains me…and carries me if need be.

I need to be reminded of His  grace. The kind of grace that gets me through the day when the day seems like it just won’t end.

I need to be reminded that time and time again He has rescued me from fear and provided a shelter for me in Himself, and He will continue to do so until I’m home with Him where fear cannot find me.

I need to be reminded of the peace that is found only in Him. The peace that goes beyond my circumstances and remains steadfast in the chaos.

I needed to be reminded of the purpose behind the pain. The pain was real, but I cannot express the incredible joy I have found in His presence or the unending gratitude that fills my heart each day at the thought of His provision during the fiasco that was my life in 2018.

When I think about enduring any kind of pain like that again, my humanness shouts that I could not survive it again. But God. God is reminding me of Himself. He carried me through once before and if the pain comes again, the Lord will carry me, once again.


 

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord. He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you…The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
-Psalm 91:1-7,14-16

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JOY

2018 – What a year. One of my favorite things to do as the year comes to a close is think about where I am now compared to where I was when this year began, and this year has by far been the most challenging and rewarding years I have ever experienced. There has been stress, suffering, and lots of searching for answers I may never find on this side of heaven, but there has also been strength. There has been more strength than I knew possible, more love than I am worthy of, and more joy than I can hold in my heart…

It’s no secret that I am Christmas crazy, and while I sadly have already safely packed away most of my Christmas decorations, I’m still caught on the joy that surrounds this season. Because of the gift sent to us all those Christmas’s ago, there is JOY to be found in this season and in every day to come. So as you read the descriptions of joy I have found to be true this year, my prayer is that the joy of the Lord will fill your spirit so completely that this joy will overflow into the world around you each and every day.

Joy is independent of circumstance. It is not restricted by what is going on in your life. As believers, we are called to “always be full of joy in the Lord” (Philippians 4:4) and to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Joy is possible in all moments because it is found in our Lord, not our circumstances.

Joy is found in the presence of the Holy Spirit. King David said “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence…” (Psalm 16:11). This same joy is offered to each of us today through the ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.  The Creator of the world is with you, living within your heart. When your circumstances don’t leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, lean into the joy found in His presence. He will always be there.

Joy is found in trusting that your Creator is working out his purposes for your life. He is working for your good and for His glory.  God created you, uniquely and intentionally, for a specific purpose that He wants you to fulfill. When you trust the plan he has so carefully laid out for you, there is joy to be found in knowing that “God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).


“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13


Joy is meant to be as steadfast as the faithfulness of our God. It may not always be as visible as it’s worldly counterpart of happiness, but joy will always be found when you remember that our God is faithful. Psalm 126:3 says, “The Lord has done  great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”  Isaiah 35:10 says, “Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” David says in Psalm 71:23, “I will shout for joy and sing your praises, for you have ransomed me.” Jude 24-25 reminds us of the faithful promise that God “will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.”

Throughout the Bible are examples of believers who have no reason to be happy, but every reason to be filled with joy at the redeeming power of God.  As you reflect on the last year and look forward to what the next has to hold, remember what the Lord has done for you / what he has brought you through / how he has lifted you, and be filled with overflowing joy.

Joy is not a fleeting feeling, escaping you when the pain is just too bad or the hurt is just too deep. Joy is the strength that carries you through the pain, the grief, and the struggle as you hold tight to the hand of your Deliverer, your Protector, and your Healer. One of my favorite reminders of this is Nehemiah 8:10, which tells us that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The entire book of Job is a testimony of joy that can be found in the most difficult of circumstances – he endured every trial and every sadness and at his lowest point, when he no longer wanted to live, still maintained “my joy in unrelenting pain–that I had not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10).

Additional reminders of strength in joy are found in the Psalms, including Psalm 21:1 which says “How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! He shouts with joy because you give him victory.” and Psalm 94:19 which says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Joy is the knowledge of unchanging Truth – You are loved by the Everlasting Father (Romans 8:38-39). You are forgiven through the Prince of Peace (Ephesians 2:8). You have been adopted as a son of the Most High God. You have been made a daughter of the King of kings (Romans 8:15-17). You have been brought to life by the gift of the Perfect Savior (John 3:16-17).

Joy is for all believers…not just believers with sunny dispositions and optimistic attitudes. Remember what the angel told the shepherds on that holy night? He said to them, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born today…” (Luke 2:10).

Jesus is our joy.  He came for us, all of us. Immanuel. Joy to the world.

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new year, same God

For the past few years, I have sworn off New Year’s resolutions.  Not because I think they’re a bad idea, but because someone once told me to pick one word. Not a list, but one single word that will define your new year, because it’s much easier to keep up with one word than a whole list of resolutions.

In 2017, my word was peace.  In a year where I would leave the USA for the first time, start a job, finish my exams, and manage to get my Masters degree, peace was just what I needed.  And I found it…and then lost it (my fault)…and then found it again.

Through it all, the biggest thing I learned was that peace, true peace that comes only from God, is really just a whisper away.  It’s amazing and it’s completely insane and I don’t think I could ever explain it well enough to do it justice, but there is something so incredible and so humbling about being  able to literally say the name of Jesus and feel a peace in your soul that tells you He is there. He has always been there.

Even in the struggles and the moments where it seems like you take one hit after another, the peace that can be found in the presence of the Holy Spirit remains steadfast.  The key is not God giving His peace to you because He did that long, long ago. You have to accept it. You have to choose it. You have to trust Him.

Thinking of this new year and what my word would be for 2018, I began praying…because as much as I like to think otherwise I really don’t know anything about what this next year will hold, but God does. He’s already laid out each day with more care and more love than I could ever deserve. And that’s when I was reminded of part of a devotion I read a few months back:

“Linger with me.” 

So as I continued praying about what my word should be, it was as if God kept reminding me of this little sentence and then one word started popping up…

Abide: to wait for…to accept without objection…to remain stable…to continue in a place…to conform to…to dwell…to stay or live somewhere...

In 2018, I want to wait for my Jesus and for His perfect timing. I want to “stand still and see the great thing the Lord is about to do before my eyes.” (1 Samuel 12:16, Psalm 27:13-14, Psalm 130:5)

I want to believe and trust with all my heart that God is exactly who He says He is. I want to accept without objection that freedom and forgiveness and grace can be found through Christ because of a love too great to understand. (John 3:16-17, Romans 8:2, 1 John 4:10)

I want to remain in His love, to dwell in the shelter of the Most High God, to linger in His presence, to rest in His promises, and to seek his peace and hope and joy in every moment. (Psalm 91:1, Romans 8:28, John 15:9, Ephesians 3:16-19)

I want to live the life He has called me to live, becoming more and more like Him with each passing day. (Ephesians 2: 10, Romans 12:2)

In a life full of brokenness and uncertainty and so much darkness, I want to abide in the One who shines so brightly the darkness disappears.  The One who redeems and restores the broken. The One who speaks life and shows grace to every child He created. The One whose power is unmatched and whose presence is as steadfast as His love.

I want to abide in God–reverently, wholeheartedly, intentionally–as He so lovingly and faithfully abides in me.


“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4

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full

To be completely honest, the majority of this post has been written in moments of insecurity. In moments where I don’t feel like I’m enough. In moments where I feel like I don’t measure up to the unspoken standards in my life. In moments that I struggle with doubting my potential and whether I can live up to the expectations of people or (more importantly) the plans of God.

So why would I think it’s a good idea to publish all these moments and reveal that as much as I like to pretend to have it all together, I really, really don’t? Maybe it’s because I’ve lost my mind (real possibility), or maybe it’s because I’m guessing I’m not the only one who struggles with insecurity.

But y’all the biggest reason I want to write this is because this is life. Sometimes life is great and everything works out exactly the way you want it to, but other times life can absolutely kick you in the rear end…and then kick you one more time just to be sure you felt it.  It’s with this in mind that I need to remind myself (and anyone willing to read this) that even in the dark corner of insecurity and comparison and uncertainty, there is God.

“For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” – Colossians 2:9-10

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” -Ephesians 3:16-19 

So with these verses, here’s what I’ve been reminding myself of:

Because God is full, I can be too–not by my own abilities, but by His.

Because He is faithfull.
Because He is wonderfull.
Because He is all-powerfull.
Because He is mercifull.
Because He is full of hope and joy and love and patience and kindness and goodness, I can be too.

To clarify: He is full, 100% complete, lacking nothing, needing nothing.  And He is mine.  He is my God, my Savior, my Lord, my Comforter, my Guide, my Maker.  In His fullness there is no room for insecurity and no desire for comparison.  God has made every effort to pursue my heart and pour Himself into me so that I could experience the fullness of Him who stopped at nothing–not even death–to make me His own.

God, in all His fullness, chooses me.  He wants me and calls me His beloved and His child.  He offers to fill me with all of Himself–His love, His grace, His strength, His presence– knowing all too well that I am not even worthy of a drop of His sweat.  Knowing that I will never in my own power be deserving enough to call on His name, He calls mine.  Hallelujah.  There is nothing more powerfully secure than this.


ps- if you have similar struggles, say these words to yourself as if you had written them. Lift up your cup (aka-your heart), watch Him fill it up, and then watch it overflow with all that He is.

 

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Expecting the Expected

“No matter how well we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that He may break in at any minute.”

How would life look if we lived in a constant state of expectancy?  If we made an effort to look for God’s presence and His fingerprints each and every day of our lives?  Because this is something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now, I didn’t want to just pose the question. I wanted to see it through and share the result, and let me tell y’all that there are results (praise Jesus).  So for the past week, my goal has been to “live in a constant state of holy expectancy.”  I wanted to seek the Lord first, depend on His promises, and expect that He will reveal Himself (in His way and in His time) in even the smallest moments…

*side notes- I only go through 5 days because if I did any more than that y’all would get tired of reading this post. (because God is good & I could go on and on about this topic)*


Day 1: Intent and attitude.  It’s only been one day, but it quickly became clear to me that holy expectancy begins with intent and attitude.  I must be intentional in seeking the Lord and expecting Him to do great things in my life.  My attitude must be one of humility and awe.  I must realize that I have no good thing apart from God, and I must believe in all that He is and was and will be.

Day 2: It’s day two, and y’all I’m kind of already shocked.  No shining lights from heaven or visits in the middle of the night from an angel, but I can honestly say that I cannot remember even a moment where an anxious thought held me captive.  This isn’t to say I didn’t have an anxious thought (the enemy knows my struggles well), but these thoughts didn’t linger and steal my peace.  This may not sound like a big revelation or victory, but for someone who has often struggled with worry/anxiety, there is no other explanation for the unhindered joy I’ve felt than God himself.

Day 3: The only word I can use to describe this day is joy.  Pure, not circumstantial, carefree joy, and it. feels. GREAT!  There is something so powerful about seeking the Lord’s presence and believing that He will be found each time I turn my eyes His way.  My day may have had a few bumps, but even with the bumps I found myself overflowing with joy with the help of this reminder of the greatness of our God and His love for me (and you):

“There is nothing that can ever separate us from Your love.  No life, no death, of this I am convinced: You, My God, are greater still.”  -The Greatness of our God, Hillsong United

Simple and to the point but so, so good to hear time and time again.

Day 4: Today was not my best.  Nothing ‘bad’ happened, but my mind was not Christ-focused for much of the day.  I let my focus slip, until I got in my car to drive home from work…sitting on the interstate, surrounded by people, with road rage building in my veins, I was gently reminded (shout-out to the K-Love radio station) that more than being loved by God, I am renewed, I am cleansed, I am restored, and I am free to dive into the depths of His love for me.  His love expresses itself in grace the moment my thoughts turn back to Him. The road rage that quickly rang through my mind can be even more quickly replaced with thankfulness at the reminder of God’s grace for sinners like me.  This is the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is the purpose of me working on holy expectancy.  He is working, even when I am slipping.

Day 5: Today I wanted to focus on what “holy expectancy” was all about… Walking by faith and expecting God to show up in all moments, not just in the moments we most clearly see our need for Him.  Believing that promises made thousands of years ago still remain  (Romans 8:28).  Waking up with the knowledge that you will one day literally stand before the King of kings and Lord of lords and hear Him graciously welcome you home (John 10:27-29).  Believing that the Almighty, all-powerful God is exactly who he says he is (Revelation 1:8, Psalm 95:1-7).


With these things in mind, holy expectancy simply put is believing that God will do God things.  He has split the seas, healed the sick, raised the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, freed his people, and the list goes on.  He is God, and He will do great things, but if we are not tuned into Him we will miss His fingerprints and the blessing that comes in recognizing His presence and power over our lives.  This past week has truly been eye-opening, and if you (like me) haven’t really put much thought into this concept of expectancy until now, I encourage you do so.  However that looks for you, please take a step in faith and expect the Most High God to do things that only He can do.

If you listen, He will speak.

“Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do right before your eyes!” – 1 Samuel 12:16

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Remember

It seems as if lately God has been calling me to remember Him…and it’s sad how often I really do need the reminder he places on my heart.  I think this forgetfulness is something a lot of us struggle with, and so I share the reminders I have needed over the years with the hope that anyone willing to read finds the reminder they might need tonight:

“Remember my love.” Romans 8: 38-39, 1 John 4:9-10
God’s love exists without condition, without exception, and without end.

“Remember my grace.”  Romans 3:23-24, John 1:16
We make mistakes, but God (thankfully) welcomes us home with open arms time and time again.

“Remember me before you stumble.”  Psalm 37:24
He may catch you, or He may use that to raise you higher than before. Either way, He is good.

“Remember my presence.” Acts 17:27-28, Psalm 23:4
Even when He seems distant, He is closer than you know.  Our King is ever-present.

“Remember my pursuit of your heart.” Psalm 23:5-6
God wants your whole heart, brokenness and all.  He wants you.

“Remember my promises and hold tight to them.”  Hebrews 10:23
In the mountain-top moments and the deepest valleys.

“Remember my wisdom.” James 1:5
Seek Him.  For guidance, for clarity, for all things.

“Remember my plan.” Proverbs 16:9, Jeremiah 29:11
His plan for your life is good and pleasing and perfect, and it has been designed for you and you alone.

“Remember my sovereignty.” Colossians 1:15-17, Psalm 33:6-9
When life gets messy (and it will), God is in control.

“Remember my goodness.” James 1:17, Psalm 119:68
There is no good thing apart from Jesus, and in Him goodness can be found in every situation.

“Remember my sacrifice.” Romans 8:1-4
Jesus left a perfect home to come humbly into a broken and hopeless world to pay the debt of our sin and make us children of God and co-heirs with Christ.

“Remember my strength.” Philippians 4:13, Isaiah 40:29-31
When you are weak, He is strong.  When you are strong, He is stronger still.

“Remember that I am for you.” Psalm 16:8, Psalm 68:19
Every step you take, He takes with you.  Cheering you on, lifting you up, carrying you through every day and watching over you every night.

“Remember my peace.” John 14:27
A peace that is available in all moments and all seasons of life that cannot be taken from you by this world.

“Remember me…”  Isaiah 48:12
He is the Almighty God.  The great I Am.  He is unchanging, never-failing, ever-present, and so much more.

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peace

For the past month, I have been praying for answers.  What will I do after school? Where will I live? What will my life look like 6 months down the road?  These are things I have worried and stressed about for months, but over this past month of prayer I finally realized what my answer is:

“just wait.”

What months ago seemed like the dreaded answer I knew I would get but didn’t want to accept has now become one of the greatest blessings in disguise.

You see, one of the things I’ve learned in my walk with Christ is that God does his own thing, and he does it better than anyone ever could.  His timing, his plan, and his faithfulness all remain in perfect condition.

In finding that I am just going to have to be patient and wait for His plan to unfold, God somehow managed to show a new depth to his faithfulness in giving me the answer to a question I didn’t even realize I was asking.

He gave me peace. And y’all let me just say that I have never in my life been so overwhelmed with pure, hopeful joy as I have these past few weeks.   I have no answers to where my life will be this time next year, but I have been given something so much greater.

I didn’t intend for this post to be all about me, but as much as I read and hear and speak about the peace God offers, I feel as if I am only now experiencing it in truth.  The peace God offers is different.  His peace is capable of melting every worry from your soul, every wound you still hold tight, and every single anxious thought that tries to crowd out what you know to be true in Christ.  His peace replaces any doubt with a trust that burns so deep it seems as if nothing could break it.

And the joy.  Of all things His peace has brought into my heart, the joy is priceless.  Even now, as I sit and wait for one of the most important exam scores of my life (really), I find myself full of joy because I have his peace.

Tonight I pray you find the same peace.  I hope that as you pray for whatever it is your heart desires, you take the time to listen.  He may not give you the answer you want, but He will answer.  He will answer in His way, in His time, and it will be exactly what you need because He is good and He is sovereign.


 Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
– Romans 15:13

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
-Isaiah 26:3

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