Choosing Fact Over Feeling

I wake with a jolt, heart shocked alert, mind reeling and running a hundred marathons in minutes. The room around me, black like spilled ink, douses my thoughts with slick lies and unreasonable worries. I’ve been wracked by anxiety for the last few weeks, fallout from trauma of three ER visits in a month, my husband and I sick with COVID and absolute terror of the unknown.

I can’t relax, can’t get myself back to sleep for the fear that pushes me awake, taunting that this is all there is, a new way of living that allows me no rest.

In mental anguish, wracked with the worries that stack on top of one another like cement blocks, I blink and call out to God in the night, repeating promises that He has given to me:

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for You alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8 (NIV)

The thoughts don’t slow, but somehow, His words slip through the stream of scared thinking and my running anxiety. Here, I hold to Him who I can’t see, but believe is at work fighting on my behalf. My husband relays this confirmation as we sit in bed, and I breathe.

**

So incredibly honored to be published in another Proverbs 31 devotion book. This one is especially close to my heart as it’s all about sleeping peacefully in a world full of worry.  You can pick up a copy–FREE–with a donation to P31 Ministries. I know you’ll be blessed by the beautiful devotions and prayers in this book by some incredible women.

What lays heaviest on your heart as you lay your head on your pillow? We understand the anxieties that come right before we go to sleep. That’s why we wrote our newest devotional: Clear Mind, Peaceful Heart: Prayers and Devotions for Sleeping Well in a World Full of Worry. Written by women just like you, these devotions will help you remember the true source of help when you feel anxious and unsteady through reading God’s Word, prayers, and the stories of fellow sisters in Christ. For a limited time, you can get a copy FREE with a donation of your choice to Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Get your copy here!

 

Holy Even Here

… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
-Romans 5:3-5

 

Here I am, again with my heart trembling before you. Here I am, holding myself out to Your great love, which is unfailing and on which I stake my hope. It’s been a long road; a hardness threatens to take hold of me. After prolonged time of hurt and pain and feeling so disconnected and far from You, I long for a response from Your mouth.

Yet You lead me in new ways, stretch my faith and grow my character, because suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And not just a singular hope, but one that does not disappoint, because You pour out Your love for me, directly into my own heart. How I long for that direct love deep inside, but I fear I will not have the closeness I once felt with you before.

Let my faith be greater than my fear. Let my heart be gentle, tender, open to You love, open to experiencing Your love in greater ways. You do speak, one way or another. In the care and words of those close to me, in the cobalt lake on a day where the sky spreads wide and clear; in Your word that digest, even if it’s only one or two verses at a time. You make Yourself known; You still make Your way towards me.

Let Your words be soft and gentle to my scratched and dry soul, water my parched places with the right words that will tend to my brittle soil. Let them be purposeful and perfect for my deep needs.

Allow me room to breathe, to fall into Your goodness. There has been so much barrenness, pain, fear. So much straining to stay up and hold to a blind faith when I could not feel. And how I love to feel the expanse of emotions! I’ve told myself of Your truth when my head couldn’t hear or believe, set what weak belief I had on Your character and promises. I’ve pleaded with You to hold onto me because I was too weak and tired to hold onto You.

You are my sustaining power, my grace again and again. My burden becomes my blessing because I encounter You when I am at my lowest; there You lay with me, heart against heart, for You, too, know what it is to bleed. The suffering, the mystery, the unanswered questions—here I let go and lean into the things suspended, breathe into the pause, and clear a space for You to sit with me when I can’t hold still.

It is hard, but it is holy, because You are here. The One who is no stranger to suffering willingly stakes His life to mine. Nothing can separate me from the expanse of Your love, the deep, rich, high and beyond love that has chosen to stay. Even when I run, when I flail, even when it feels futile, terrified of what You’ll find inside, here You are, Your gaze unwavering.

Surrender the fear, You whisper. Surrender the shame, the guilt, the fear of control. Let go, and let Me in.

Surrender can begin to stitch me whole. Here I am, all of me, exposed. Letting You in to where only You can go. Grace. Goodness. Glory. All grab hold of my heart as I entrust my mind to You. I receive You in; now hold me near and guide me closer.

Rest. Truth. Trust.

Greater are You who are in me than he who is in this world. Holy even here. Your death, giving me life. My life, given to You. We are here, in the hard, becoming holy, building hope. Yes, Your holiness is healing, yes, holy even here.

 

Read Again:

… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.

-Romans 5:3-5

 

Linger:

Where have I been keeping my heart and mind closed to You?
How can I find holy even here, in the hard?
God, what are You saying to me through these verses?

 

Abba Father, You have been with me through so much pain, confusion, hopelessness, and hurt, and yet You’ve never once left me. You are the God who stays, who sees, who heals. I want to give You these hidden places in me, where I am fearful and weary and unsure what will play out, but I am trusting You to keep making a way, making hard things holy. In Jesus’s name, amen.

 

Listen To:

Make Room by The Church Will Sing

Hope Grows Slow

Hope: that long-buried seed you forget about because it’s dormant. Hearing nothing, seeing less.

Weeks pass, then months, and you get used to the feeling of emptiness, a lack of expectation. It becomes your regular as you begin to wonder if this will be reality.

Has the frost destroyed the soil of your heart? Will this always be the way, living muted, on auto pilot, surviving day by day?

You even wonder whether God intends for this new normal and long for His presence and love that seems to lack.

Where, in these barren fields, is He?

**

This winter doesn’t seem to end, even when the first days of spring officially arrive. The ground is still frozen, grass lay brown and brittle, miles of bare branches and zero signs of life. Snow and sleet still pour down, relentless, and the cold is a constant companion.

You get used to the monochrome.

But you cannot underestimate the determination of the seed, deep buried underground. It is meant to do what it was made for; it listens to the One who first dropped it into the earth of such a fledgling heart.

Though it tarries, wait. You cannot rush the work, the becoming. You do not know when or how, but that is not up to you anyway.

Perhaps that seed you wait on is waiting on its own orders, its own cultivation.

**

Hope grows slow. An important metamorphosis is happening in these slogging, messy months and it cannot be rushed. God is all seasons and shaping and for deep and good transformation, and He does not adhere to time like how you cling to it. For Him, the seed is hidden in a safe place, nurtured, protected from the elements until it is ready for release.

God has been saving you.

God has been savoring you.

God has not stopped caring for you every step of the way.

 

**

It’s a joy to be featured over at Agape Review with my creative essay, “Hope Grows Slow” — I would love for you to read and find a seed of hope for yourself: Hope Grows Slow

To Give of My Love

Perfect love casts out fear.  -1 John 4:19

 

“Keep holding out your heart,” You say to me. As if this suggestion will suddenly solve all the pain I’ve worked so hard to ease.

To hang my heart suspended, open, revealed and flesh tender offers it up for continuous misalignment? Not what I have wanted. We have come so far for me to retreat and hide away the core of me, though what You are calling me to is not easy.

To tell the truth, it’s excruciating. To give of my love when it is not returned in the way I desire, to gently encourage another, see them through their own difficulties, when my heart breaks every day because I’ve asked from the start how could it ever end without a battered heart? But I bleed, again and again, for the sake of Your perfect love casting out the fear to flee.

Yet how long, O Lord, will You call me to this constant exposure, this continual brokenness as I bare my soul for the sake of another?

You still hover, motionless, in pause. I still wait, pensive, willing Your move.

How the wait hurts. When there is nothing I can do, simply sit with heart throbbing, worn from its unraveling. The old me has been razed to the ground, leveled, pitched into an abyss. I am not who I was when I said yes to this life, however reluctantly, unaware of the fight and burns that lay ahead.

But I have been as brave as I’ve dared, searching my scorched spaces and staying in the discomfort, digging in to the secrets of my heart and bringing my fears to the table, the timid self that has not been allowed a voice. You’ve coaxed me to admit my desires, to get desperate before you, soul parched for my deepest needs. And You began to bring a newness to my heart I didn’t recognize I needed until one day the veil dissolved before my eyes and I saw in front of me the desires you knit deep inside before my time began.

And now, just as I air my heart’s importance to the front of my days, You hold off on completing my request. Heart hung in uncertainty, clarity of path erased so I literally cannot see the next step in front of me. I feel stuck, though I know You mean for me to move forward with the tender beats of my heart still willing to shine Your love towards the source of sun.

I cannot come out unscathed. Already shaped into someone I do not recognize, I do not remember how my heart beat before it broke. So here I am, told to love as You do, selfless, for another’s wellbeing before my own.

I am willing, but I am also naked before the breath of my heart’s bravery, this hurt as it breaks every day, over again. A cycle of cries begging to be released from this season of extended wait, disappearance of the love I hoped to receive. This is where You tell me to settle. Into the unknown, into the softening of my heart’s skin to believe that You are indeed over that which is completely out of my control.

To love without expectation of return. To steady the flow of blood that streams from my private places and fall onto Your grace when I live and love and have to stare my unfulfilled dreams in the face every day. To trust that You have plans for unfolding my heart inside out, upside down.

But it had better be beautiful. You’d best be breathing it back to life.

Your hovering irritates my already raw heart, as all I feel is the prickle of Your presence. I am not yet stirred to action, yet I don’t know if there ever will be the answer I long to hear.

How long must I love without condition, without return? How long must I be brave to bring my hope and hurt to the life You usher me towards, stay in this undefined state where my heart refuses to fold back into itself?

If I continue to offer my heart open, how will You respond?

Give me strength to love what is now before me, how to gently coax my tender fears, gentle hope to continue when I cannot see, when You call me to face beyond understanding the ways of the heart.

 

Reflection Time:

What does perfect love look like?

How can I combat the fears I have with God’s perfect love?

God, what are You saying to me through this verse?

 

Here I am again, Father, heart hanging in the balance. Again in the unknown, forging forward to live a life I never expected, one I don’t quite know how to handle. Help me, please, to keep my heart open, even when it hurts. Help me to trust You, to know that You are in control over all things. That includes my life, and all that is deep within me. Heal me in this newness, my Lord. Amen.

 

 

He Who Holds the Pillars Firm

When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.” Psalm 75:3 (NIV)

It’s been a roller-coaster time for my family: My 2-month-old nephew has been hospitalized for bacterial meningitis.

His sweet little body flush with fever. Swelling in the brain, at the base by his spinal cord. A PICC line to better receive antibiotics rather than struggle with his tiny veins.

The days drag, slow, uncertain. We don’t have answers to most of our questions, just prayer and possibility, and I feel helpless that I can’t make his body better.

Sometimes, it’s torture to wait. I pray in every style I know how, and still I can’t quite grasp God’s presence in this. I know in my head that He’s here, but the knowledge doesn’t fully make its way to my heart. My heart — my heart is on shaky ground, grasping for sure footing.

What do we hold to in times like these?

With no solid ground beneath our feet, we stand on the Word of God, build our faith on who He is and the pillars of His protection.

  • God is, above all, loving. Our Abba loves us with a fierce, delicate and selfless love that stretches from one corner of the cross to the other.  His affection is gentle, and His tenderness is great. His love is pure.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8, NIV)

  • God is faithful. His eyes never stray; His heart stays fixed on us, and He tenderly keeps us close with unwavering loyalty. From the beginning, God made and kept His promise to never leave nor forsake us. God has our good in mind, and there is nothing that can separate us from Him.
 
 
Incredibly honored and excited to be sharing about this experience over at Proverbs 31 today. Will you join me in standing on the Word of God for a firm foundation when our world is shaky?

Strength in Stillness

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

The afternoon sun streaks through my living room window, and I settle into my seat, finding just the right spot for the light to warm my body. On my windowsill, books bend into one another, and pens spill from their holder; my daily Bible verse calendar shows an image of majestic mountain peaks and a scriptural assurance of faith I cannot see.

The call to faith in the unseen resonates deeper than I wish it to.

I’ve spent these past six months fighting for my mental and physical health.  I’m still wrestling with the lingering aftermath of COVID-19 and anxiety, comparing my state of exhaustion to where I was before I got sick.

When I see my life as it was, and I see the setbacks I’m battling, I can’t help but be tempted to spiral down the “why me?” rabbit hole. The daily battles leave me worn and wondering just how this will play out.

My camp is close to crumbling, and I need reinforcements. If I have the Lord of heaven’s armies with me, what is His tactic? What is His next move?

Is it to strengthen me supernaturally so I can take ground where I have loosened my hold?

Is it to storm my enemies and knock them down in one motion?

Is it to wait for me to say the right prayer or scripture and believe just a bit more for my faith to come to life and be “useful” in my healing?

Or is it possible God is calling me to something radically different? What if God’s will looks something like this: “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)?

The more I meditate on this verse, the more I realize I’ve been carrying much more stress than I need to. I’ve hoisted the weight of my health on my shoulders, striving to learn answers, comparing what was to what is now, and holding heavy, unrealistic expectations in my heart and mind.

Maybe you are, too. Maybe we’ve all been holding on to our own designs of how life should be and having trouble wrapping our minds around reality.

What do we do with the vice grip we’ve put ourselves in?

 

**

What a joy and honor to be over at Proverbs 31 Ministries today to examine what strength in stillness looks like. Will you join me there?

Good to Come

Plush grass cushions my body as I shift on my blanket, blue pearl of a sky wraps the dome of Port Washington, harbor full of hulls and bows of sailboats. Lake Michigan spreads wide and comfortable out to the eastern horizon, where a thin line of gray clouds gather low. Sparrows, red-winged black birds, and chickadees play in the air, plunging and rising around the park. Sun rests warm on the back of my neck; out in the distance, white-winged caps of wave flank and furl for speedboats flying across the open water.

This early June day is dipped in what it should be, the delight of a drowsy, sun-soaked slowness and as close to perfection as we can get this side of heaven. It’s also my 37th birthday, and the lightness of the environment matches me inside. I have been slow to embrace my birthday, but for some reason, perhaps for the first time, I see this day as a start to another year, a start I can—dare I?—believe will bring new healing and joy that haven’t yet been revealed? What newness is to come? What road to wisdom and wholeness and depth and life?

The wind shifts and blows from the southwest, covers the warmth from the sun with a thin blanket of cool breeze. But the sun still stays, and so does the light blue of the sky. Fishing boats still motor through the marina, make their way to the wild azure water past the lighthouse. Birds still dance and sing, and my heart stills stays open, ready, asking God to move my mind, body, and soul in a restoring direction, let this smooth, simple day be the start of His good to come.

 

Beauty, Here

There is beauty, here, now. In this season. Yes, even in this season of suffering. There is a good God who sees, who feels, who emphasizes and emphatically says all is good, because all is God. He is the Waymaker, Deliver, Strong Tower and Soft Place, the One who loves unfathomably and unconditionally. Here, in the dappled sunlight that streaks through the pines, the flash of wing in the cross of Blue jay from one branch to another, the gentle rhythm of the water that never hurries, always sets its course assuredly. There is no rush, no hidden agenda. The waves just move.

And I just move with it all, swept in the current, roll with it under the watchful eye of Him who pulls me close when I am over my head in the deep waters, enclosed by flames. He soothes when I feel scorched, overwhelmed. He is here, in this season, bringing beauty when I pull my heart to hear His heartbeat. Lord, keep showing me where You are in the hard, keep showing me the beauty and grace that gets me through.

You get me through, somehow, in the stillness that somehow suddenly appears, when I am unexpecting, when I am parched and drink my fill.

 

Untangle My Chest

I wake to a new day, sleep still lingering in my eyes. As my body stirs, so does my mind, doing a mental scan of my thoughts and emotions. I notice, again, the weight in my chest, gaining strength. It’s been the pattern for weeks, my constant companion in my waking hours. Frustration settles, as I prepare to battle through another day weighed down.

This invisible heavy hand has a hold of my heart, presses down, keeps joy from rising, from excitement growing.

I’m a tangled metal knot with no idea how to lift the oppression. It’s debilitating—how does it dissipate?

I share this with Eric as I brew the coffee, kettle boiling, beans ground into powder for my pour over. He takes me face in his hands and leans me in close, nuzzles my nose.

“It’s like a tangled fishing line,” he explains, the man familiar among open water. “There can be many knots—big ones that take a lot of line, small, tight ones that seem almost impossible to sort. But you work them out, massage the line. It takes time, and you have to be patient, but eventually the knots loosen and come undone, and you’ve got a full, clean line again. Sometimes you have to clip, sometimes you lose a hook, but eventually it works out, if you take the time and care.”

I stare into his blue eyes, still sleepy in their own right, but true and focused, soft. His next words are almost a whisper. “That’s what God’s doing with you. You are uniquely made and it’s beautiful. Something’s gotten tangled inside, and He’s sorting it out with His own hands, helping you untangle.”

I hold to his words, wondering. That’s a new picture I’ve never drawn before. The tender process of becoming undone to be pieced together. The strong and nimble fingers of my Lord, massaging out the clump of knots crimping my life flow. Bending close, breath on my face as He studies what has curled to choke me inside, maneuvers each strand to slip free.

It’s in this intimacy where I find my God Immanuel, the One who wants to be with me. If I lean in, allow Him His work, I find His presence, find healing strength in Him.

Make a Way in Me

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the 
afflicted;
You encourage them, and You
listen to their cry.
-Psalm 10:17

 

You are faithful, even in the midst of the raging storm. You are the God who calms the seas; surely, You can calm the sea in me.

Calm the raging sea in me; say to my mind and soul, “Peace, be still.”
Help me to be still and know Your goodness, Your timing, Your ways, Your presence. Joy and hope amidst the hard, my God. I ask for joy and hope, a sound mind and secure heart.

You are my firm foundation and I climb on top to stand, however unsteady my hands and feet. You are the One who sees and knows all the swirls within me. And You love me, though it’s hard to feel. But faith is not based on sight, but stepping one foot in front of the other in the unknown, choosing to trust You are over all, You are over me.

Be over me, my God. My good Father, whose plans for my life are good, for hope and a future. You are making way for my good future. Just help get me through the storm, get in the boat and soothe me to sleep as You slice through the waves, guiding me. God, steer me through. God, calm me through the middle of the water, when there is no shore in sight, when I tremble with fear and am frantic for land.

Be in the boat with me. You know these waters well. You know me well; call out my name and speak to my deep places where You know better than I do what I need. You know what I need, my Counselor and Comfort.

You are my fixed point on a shaky axis. Rescue me, out of Your great mercy. Restore me through the suffering. Give me Your grace for today, but bring hope to my heart and healing to my body, mind and soul. You are able, and You are near.

Faithful One, be faithful to me. I want to see You, hear You, know and experience You in deeper and new ways. I want a way out, yes, but I want You too.

 

**

Read the rest over at Awake Our Hearts!