The Lord gives, and takes away.

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

The Lord Gives, and Takes Away-  by Marisa Swann

“The Lord gives, and takes away, was my first thought when I saw my lifeless son lying on the guest bedroom floor.

Let me give you a little backstory. I was pregnant with our fifth child. We had a great midwife that had delivered number four at our home a year prior. (God truly does have a sense of humor.? )  We had sonograms and the appropriate prenatal appointments.   A few people had asked if we were having twins. Several close friends said that they hoped we were pregnant with twins. At our first sonogram appointment John asked the tech is it twins. He had a feeling.  She assured us that there was only one baby. “I’ll bet my job on it”.  John still wants to go back and tell her she was wrong.

It was early in the morning on February 9. I hadn’t slept well because I was great with child.  My contractions had begun and I was waiting for John to wake up.  Sure enough it was baby time. We called our midwife and John called the church he was pastoring at the time. I labored and delivered a healthy baby boy, whom we named Noah. We were celebrating and enjoying our newborn cuddles.  I stood and up and said “something isn’t right.” I didn’t recall that until months later.  Suddenly, I delivered another baby boy.  Honestly, it was more like he fell out feet first and my midwife caught him.  I saw him and was in disbelief.  “The Lord gives, and takes away.”  I told God in that moment, “I know he belongs to you. But I haven’t had the chance to say hello.  I’m not ready to say goodbye.  Please God don’t take him”.

EMS was called and we spent several hours in the local emergency room with our surprise blessing.  After that,  Isaiah was transferred to Cooks Children’s Hospital.  Our first day was a complete blur. It was filled with listening to beeps, watching different medical staff come in and out, and our doctor telling us this and that was now a new concern.  On day four we received his MRI results.  They were not promising. Isaiah’s little brain was completely black and grey.  In fact, we were told to do “comfort care” aka, hospice for babies.  Our team of doctors told us to take our time making a decision, but they thought it was for best. John and I agreed, nope, not happening, we were bringing our boys home together. We took day four in waves.  One minute we were talking about how we could set up our home to best serve Isaiah. We would have to change rooms and we would have to create easy access for the EMTs. The next minute we would be sitting there listening to the beeps.  We would just look at each and laugh and say, “WE HAVE TWINS”.

Our first week was a just wait and see.  Isaiah would make an improvement only to have four setbacks. Our nurses were so kind. Each day they would ask about Noah. They also told us they had a concerns for his health. Finally, we gave in on day seven. John took Noah to the emergency room downstairs.  Two hours later, the charge nurse came and informed me that they didn’t have a twin room available. Noah would be two rooms down. I remember telling her okay and thinking, “she’s crazy.” Noah didn’t need a room. That’s when my phone rang and John told me he would be up soon to explain and that Noah was being admitted. His blood was thick and his red cell count was extremely high. They were shocked that Noah hadn’t had a stroke.

So, there we were with our twins in two separate rooms, both facing death.  John and I prayed.  We reached out to everyone we knew asking them to pray for our boys.  We made daily posts keeping everyone updated on Isaiah’s progress and then on Noah’s.  We didn’t give all the details on Noah.  Only a few knew Noah was on the verge of death. We received so many messages of prayers and encouragement.  We had family and friends posting and sharing our story.  Each of them asked their friends to pray for our TWINS.  We had people all over the world praying for our boys.

1 day turned into 7 days. 7 days turned into 14 days. Each day brought either a new issue or a struggle that one of them overcame. Eventually, we were moved into a twin room. Then, Isaiah was breathing on his own. Something the doctors told us that he would never be able to do.

On day 16 Isaiah had another MRI. The following day the doctor came into our room. He looked bewildered.  He sat down and said “I can’t explain it. Isaiah’s MRI came back normal”. In complete disbelief I just sat there. John asked to see it and if we could get a copy of the MRI. We also asked when we could go home.  We had been without our four other children for 17 days. Thankfully, the doctor told us we could go home that afternoon.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t in fear of what was to come next.  I knew I had to fully trust God. I knew He was the only one who could save our sons.  I knew now was not the time to be angry.  I knew now wasn’t the time to ask why. See the why didn’t matter. The why really never matters.  What mattered was that I knew God had a plan and I needed to trust Him. I knew I had to bring glory to God.  I knew God could perform miracles.

Noah and Isaiah are now healthy 4 years old, soon to be 5. I still say, “We HAVE TWINS,” in complete disbelief at least once a week. While Isaiah has challenges, but we don’t let those hold us back. We are still trusting God to do what He wants to in and through our sons.

Marisa Swann is a wife and mother who is coffee and essential-oil obsessed. She currently lives in Cypress, TX with her husband, 6 children, and a the start of a domesticated zoo. Her passions include cooking and sending starter kits for The Loved Bible Project. She also enjoys sleeping in, fine dining, and trips to Hawaii…or at least she thinks she would if she ever got the chance to do any of them.

Fear

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Categories God

When God Gives You What You Need Instead of What You Asked For

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

When God Gives You What You Need Instead of What You Asked For by Lesley Islas

I spent the first 36 years of my life merely surviving, trying to muster up enough will to live, to get out of bed, and to try and be a decent person. The manipulation, untruths, and trauma of my childhood had me tangled in a web of shame, co-dependency, loneliness, and despair. I walked around attempting to mask my fear of so many things – mostly people and all the ways they could break my heart.

That kind of heaviness weighs on a person – for me the weight was both emotional and physical. From the age of five until just recently, I steadily gained weight in both capacities. The pounds on my body became a protective barrier from the kind of people who frightened me and the emotional baggage became an excuse to retaliate, run, and burn bridges at the first sign of rejection.

The thing is… that’s not a very fun way to live. That kind of life doesn’t embrace the abundance Jesus died to offer us. I knew that. I felt that truth in my bones. I knew the life I was living didn’t line up with who God said He was or who He said I was, but I couldn’t see any other way. Fear had paralyzed me. Fear had convinced me that the life I was given was not worth living.

On a Sunday afternoon in September 2017, I found myself in the middle of a medical emergency. My blood pressure was well over twice the numbers considered normal – stroke range. In the midst of this physical ordeal,  I was begging, pleading, bargaining, and crying out to God to take my life. This was His chance. I was done. Done fighting. Done pretending to be okay when I wasn’t. Done feeling broken and inadequate. I could not live in fear any longer. My solution was death. God’s solution was life.

Something shifted in me that day. God didn’t give in to my desire to give up, instead He revealed Himself to me in a new and different way. I walked out of the hospital with a new perspective. If I was broken, unworthy, unlovable, a burden, a charity case – all those things I had previously believed about myself – then why would God spare my life? He wouldn’t. If God is a loving Father and I was better off dead then He would not have let me live. But he did.

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  This scripture can sting when your in a place where you’re not sure if you believe God is always good. But when you decide to trust that God is FOR you, that He is sovereign – these words bring so much hope.

I decided that day last September that if I was going to be highly encouraged by God to keep this life I had been given then I was NOT going to live it in fear. I decided to live truly surrendered to God – to trust His goodness, to trust His ability to protect me, and to trust His plans for me. That surrender has led to immeasurably more than I could have hoped for or imagined. (Ephesians 3:20)

Today I am starting the pre-op diet for my upcoming gastric bypass surgery that will take place on December 10th, 2018. Several people will be waiting and praying at the hospital while I am in surgery. After I am released from the hospital, I will be going to stay with a couple who have taken me into their lives and overwhelmingly shown me what love really looks like. They asked me to come stay with them after surgery so they could care for me and be with me as I recover – not because I needed them too but because they wanted to.

These friends, and all the others God has placed in my life, are not perfect. They are very much still humans who sometimes cause me to hold my breath in anticipation of rejection. Occasionally, I still expect the worst. But I have learned to stop and take a moment, to not react out of my feelings, and to check in with a trusted mentor when I get too anxious about a particular situation.  I am learning to let God into the moments where fear tries to creep in and to let His peace that is beyond my understanding (Philippians 4:7) be a comfort and a protection.

In Psalm 34:4 the psalmist writes “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” The same is true for me. He didn’t answer the way I wanted Him to, but He answered the way I needed. And, I am SO grateful.

Lesley Islas is an Early Childhood Educator who loves living life in sweet Wimberley, Texas. Her favorite things include: holding sleeping babies, genuine laughter, honest tears, and holding hands. She writes honestly and vulnerably out of her own experience. Find past blog posts at: https://lesleyislas.blogspot.com.

Fear

Categories God

Perfection, Performance and Anxiety

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

Perfection, Performance and Anxiety by Heather Hughes www.mirrormirror05.com

Wearing a mask, building walls, the need to appear perfect, all play into anxiety. When you are a strong Type A personality with some slight OCD tendencies, anxiety seems to be a natural part of who you are. Well, at least in my case it is. Growing up, my family was a hot mess. I took on a great deal of responsibility at an early age. I guess as I grew up the need to look and at least appear perfect along with the need to control everything intensified. It wasn’t until well into adulthood I even realized that some of my behaviors, thought patterns and behaviorisms were linked back to anxiety.

I’m a married, mom of three, who happens to be on a church staff. I also hold a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Counseling. One would think looking at this list, I would have all my stuff together and never waiver in my faith. When I look at where I am in life, while it may not be perfect, I really do have a great life. I have been married to the man of my dreams for a little over 13 years. I have 3, beautiful, healthy, active kiddos. If that’s the case, then why and how does anxiety play into my current life? The answer is deeper than what I can get into in a single post, but it’s a combination of past trauma and biology. Do you know how humbling it is to even admit out loud I have an anxiety disorder and have a therapist?

What many people don’t realize is anxiety falls on a spectrum. Some of what you think of anxiety is what you picture and is often portrayed in movies. Other people are ones you may consider to be “Worry Warts,” or characterize as “high strung.” Not all who struggle with anxiety have panic attacks where you are struggling to catch your breath, crying uncontrollably, or rocking in a corner somewhere. Sometimes the person in front of you may being having a panic attack and you don’t realize it’s happening at all.

For example, a couple years ago I went on girls’ beach trip. It was divine. I was with some of my best girlfriends. The weather was gorgeous. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We were sitting in beach chairs, books in hand, enjoying conversation and listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore in front of us. If I were to describe a perfect moment in life, this would be one of them. All of a sudden a feeling of dread washed over me. My heart started racing and I wanted to flee. It was literally a feeling of fight or flight. The most frustrating thing is there was no identifiable trigger. All I could do was put down my book, get up and jump into the ocean. I swam out a ways and then stood there with my back to the shore doing deep breathing exercises until I no longer felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. My friends all assumed I was hot and wanted to cool off, not knowing anything was happening. Once I felt like I had my body back under control I went back to my beach chair. It wasn’t until later I told one of them what really happened. She wanted to support me, but because I was so embarrassed I couldn’t tell her in that moment.

In a later conversation with my therapist, she told me that in times of complete peace the body, always on guard, took the total lack of issues and triggered a physiological response. There is not always a identifiable trigger to panic attacks. We also talked about how other situations, not necessarily stressful can trigger an attack. Lack of sleep, hunger, intense situations and sometimes even talking to certain people can trigger an attack. Most people assume if people like me would “just quit worrying” or “think positive thoughts” the anxiety would disappear. Like so many other mental health disorders, there is a chemical imbalance and it’s not something we can just “think away.” Trust me, if that were possible I would have done it a long time ago.

Given that it’s something I have to live with, how do I cope on a regular basis? Most days I’m honestly ok. Therapy, the greenway and deep breathing exercises have been the best ways for me to deal with my anxiety. So far I’ve been able to avoid meds. This may not hold true down the road, but for now I don’t take anything.

The Lord and I also have many many long conversations. Please don’t hear me saying this is something that can be prayed away, because I know from experience, it can’t. It’s not that the Lord isn’t capable of taking away anxiety, but He doesn’t always choose to remove it from a person’s life. My faith is important to me and I can’t imagine walking down the road of anxiety without my faith. There are days when the fact that I am a Christian and on church staff the guilt and shame come into play. On those days I have a couple of people the Lord has put in my life I can turn to and lean on. I’m grateful the Lord has put people into my life who can be His hands and arms on the days I need them.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned this year is that I can’t please all people, all the time. There are days when I strive to do everything right and know that I’m going to fall short and it has to be ok. For so long I’ve allowed what others think to rule my life and I notice on the days when my anxiety is at its highest, I am trying too hard to please those around me. As silly as it sounds the song “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” has become an anthem for me in coping with life. Yes, the Lord has used a secular song to speak volumes into my heart and life this year. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to let things, situations and even people go, especially if they don’t accept you for you.

My greatest encouragement to anyone who walks this path is to let things go. Don’t tell people you want to do things you don’t want to do. Don’t continue to try and get certain people to like you. Your greatest value comes from the Lord and not those around you. On the hard, high anxiety days cry out to the Lord. Give it all to Him. He knows how you are feeling anyway, so let it out. His shoulders are large enough to handle it. It may also help to find a trusted friend or therapist to help you walk the hardest, darkest days of anxiety. You are NOT alone. You are NOT broken. You ARE loved. You ARE valued. The anxiety many never completely disappear, but it does not have to define who you are or where you go in life.

Heather Hughes is a wife, mother of three and on staff at The Glade Church. She has been blogging for several years and has a book in progress. Heather’s passion is to speak into the lives of women, assisting them to build authentic relationships with the Lord and those around them. Blog: www.mirrormirror05.com

Fear

The Answer to Fear

Hi friends! This post is part of a 7-week series on overcoming fear in which a few friends will be dropping by as guest bloggers. Please visit their blogs, linked at the bottom of their posts here, if you’d like to hear more from them. Here’s to getting a little more free from fear together. – Bree

The Answer to Fear by Cattie Price – cattieprice.com

Here are a bunch of things I’m afraid of right this minute:

  • That I can’t write a real thing that will help real humans because I’m not a real writer
  • That I’m too big of a sinner to ever be qualified enough to tell anybody else what to do with their Christian life
  • That I won’t ever figure out my real calling, or worse, I don’t have one
  • That I won’t ever get to be a mama, a huge dream of mine since childhood
  • That a lot of people secretly don’t like me and just pretend they do
  • That I’m not thin or pretty enough
  • That I misheard God and I’m missing His will for my life
  • That heaven will be boring
  • That I’m always doing the wrong things
  • That my mouth is too sassy to be a good, sweet Christian girl
  • That I’m just too much and not enough at the same time
  • That I’m too big of a mess for God to fix

Just in case you were thinking, friend, that I am writing this from the other side, having come through the fire and now I am healed of all fear and totally free of all of this, and now I can instruct you on the way out and fix your mess in three easy steps and four payments of $19.99, I’m not and I can’t. (I just don’t have that Billy Mays swagger, may he rest in peace.) But I can sit here in the middle of the mess with you and maybe we can figure it out together. Maybe the answer is somewhere in admitting I don’t have the answer – and none of us really does – but Jesus. Let’s run toward Him together.

I grew up without my dad. I’ve never met him, heard his voice, or been the recipient of one of his hugs. He has never sent me a birthday card, called me on the phone, helped me loft my bed in college, or taught me how to change a flat tire. Instead, before I was born, he decided I wasn’t worth sticking around for, so he walked out on my mom and me before I drew even a single breath. As a result, I have always been afraid that maybe I am more leaveable than lovable. That maybe anyone who I let love me would eventually figure out that I’m not worth it and skip out, too.

Sometimes I wonder if fatherless people don’t walk through this world a little more afraid than those who have fathers. If children build their lives on the foundation of their parents, it makes sense that mine has always felt a little wobbly. When one of the first people who is supposed to love you unconditionally decides to opt out of loving you at all, a specific kind of fear starts to seep into your bones. You become afraid that something in you is so broken, so worthless, so sideways that you just aren’t like other people. You become afraid that you’re not a valid person at all, that maybe there is no place for you anywhere. You perpetually feel like you don’t belong. You walk a little more carefully through your life, like at any moment someone might catch up with you and tell you the jig is up, you got here by accident. You weren’t invited. Just go away.

Fears like these are the number one things that steal my joy and peace. I’ve lived with them, in them, and through the lens of them my whole life, including my life with Jesus. It’s only now that I’m realizing fear has been kind of an idol for me. I know that sounds nuts, but we don’t always want our idols or choose them – sometimes they just sneak in there and we don’t realize we’ve been worshipping something other than God until we find ourselves joyless and lost, unshowered and depressed from letting something else steal the reins of the only precious life we have. And if you’re like me and fear is the thing you’ve accidentally handed over control to, it can be extra tricky to spot. You and I don’t desire fear, like people who have made idols out of money or sex or power. We don’t actively invite it in, lust after it, or even seek it at all on purpose, but here it is, controlling us anyway. How can something we don’t even want be our idol?

It starts by making little, harmless-feeling decisions for us. Things like, I don’t want to be a part of a church community because it is scary to open up to people and live vulnerably with others. I might get hurt. Or, I don’t want to visit my grandmother in the nursing home because it’s uncomfortable and awkward. We allow this, because it is more comfortable not to fight fear. It doesn’t feel like fear, it feels like certainty and safety. I think this sort of relational fear might affect people of my generation and younger more acutely than in prior generations, because we have screens to hide behind when we absolutely have to engage with others: text messages instead of phone calls, Instagram and Snapchat instead of coffee dates, eating in front of Netflix instead of family dinners.

Here’s a hard truth that kind of stinks: one way to get a little less afraid is to do the thing you’re afraid of anyway.

Yes, you might feel weird being the new kid at a new church or small group. Let them get to know you anyway.

Yes, you might get stuck in an awkward moment with your grandma. Go anyway.

Yes, you might get left and hurt and heartbroken. Love anyway.

I’m learning to embrace the anyway. It’s not easy, but it is simple. I know – it’s not fair. All the stories we read growing up about a hero who faced her fears instead of hiding from them were true. I would very much prefer the hiding route. Fix it, Jesus.

But every time we choose love over our fear, we look a little bit more like Jesus. Each time we go with love over fear, we chip off another piece of the idol to safety and comfort that fear has built in our hearts. Every time we gather up all our brave and choose love, we are allowing God to carve out a new heart in us in which love is bigger than our fear. In which love always wins, and fear is powerless.

Here’s what else I know: looking our fear in its lying face and choosing to worship Jesus instead is worth it. Over the years, I’ve worn my emotional brokenness like a shield, a badge of honor, and a doctor’s note, but most often I find I wear it like a nametag. Fatherless. Broken. Worthless. But my real Father, y’all? He has a different story to sing over me:

Worthy. (Luke 12:7)

New. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Wanted. (Isaiah 43:4)

Remembered. (Isaiah 49:15)

His. (Isaiah 43:1)

Loved. (Romans 5:8)

Brave. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Yes, brave. As in able to overcome my paralyzing fears, and shake them from my feet like so much dust. Because the thing is, I do have a Father – one who planned for me, intended for me to be here, and breathed me into existence for the purpose of being wrapped all my days in His love. And my Father has not given me a spirit of fear, but one of power, one of love, and of a sound mind. So when my mind is not sound and my spirit is trembling, I can run to the storehouse where He keeps His extra power and love and strength and all the brave I need. He is always faithful when I run out. He always helps me with all the anyways.

I wish I had the answer to fear. I’ll be honest with you, friend, it’s not always as simple as praying the fear away. I wish it was. Sometimes the fear is stubborn and sticky and doesn’t want to shake loose. Sometimes it stares into my eyes and demands I answer its constant question: What makes you think you’re anything worth anything?

And all I can do is keep whispering the only answer I know: Jesus. And though my fears roar and threaten, I will keep singing it anyway.

 

Cattie Price is a writer and speaker from Kansas City. A former teacher and social worker, she has a passion for welcoming the left out and pushed aside. She loves to bake and hang out with her fiancé, and drinks way too much Diet Coke. Connect with Cattie at cattieprice.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/cattieprice.

Fear

Targeted

God is moving in big ways in my life, and because I can’t see the end, the purpose, the “why” of it all, some days it is so hard. I’ve always said I have Big Faith. Friends tell me that I’ve overcome so much in my life, and I have. I have walked through and conquered huge fearful things, especially in the past few years. But the enemy doesn’t stop attacking just because you beat him once. If you wake up every day seeking after the Lord, consider yourself targeted. As a follower of Jesus I have a huge target on my back and the devil wants to take me down. I learned yesterday that fear can come when you least expect it, especially when everything is going so well. I was sitting in the rain of favor and overflow, and the devil didn’t like it one bit. So he attacked.

When I woke up yesterday, I prayed about a situation and felt good that God had it all under control. Of course He did, right? He always does. Even so, I asked for confirmation. I put into practice something I think a lot of us do. Something I learned from a Pastor that has brought me confirmation before. I held onto my closed Bible and I prayed that when I opened my Bible and pointed to a scripture, it would confirm for me what I was specifically praying about. So, with eyes closed, I opened my Bible and pointed to the page. Imagine my surprise when my finger landed exactly on John 5:39.

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me.” John 5:39 NLT

I laughed out loud. I had my confirmation. The Holy Spirit was saying “you already know God’s got this, you don’t need confirmation, keep your focus on Jesus”. Big faith.

As the day progressed, that big faith of mine was tested. The enemy came at me hard; he knows my weaknesses. Some thought I was crazy for having so much faith and putting it all in God’s hands. And when “it” didn’t happen the way I thought it would, when I thought it would, the enemy used that and ran rampant through my thoughts with doubt. I recognized it as an attack of fear, and it was so powerful. To combat it, I used all the weapons in my arsenal. I prayed, worshiped with music, read my favorite go-to Psalms, and got on my knees crying out to the Lord to ease my suffering. But suffering has a purpose; it grows me, stretches my faith.

Even with all the fight I could muster, fear derailed my faith yesterday for just a little while. I knew I had to stop giving into fear, but how? I couldn’t ride the faith train and the fear train at the same time. I listened to doubt and fear and said things that were so not like me; even I was surprised when I said them. Repeating the enemy’s lies out loud gives him power. This had to stop.

Yesterday was not a pass or fail test. It was a test of faith and learning; did I learn something? About me? About God? I did. And my faith is all the bigger for it. I keep coming back to James 1:2-4.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 NIV

I learned a big lesson yesterday. I learned that “God’s got this”, no matter what. All my doubt was so unnecessary because He was there the whole time working things for my good. I’d spent the whole day wallowing in doubt and frustration, and all the while God was still doing what He does – preparing a place for me. He was still on track with His plan for my life, still faithful, still loving me, even in my anger and doubt. God doesn’t change.

Keep praising Him in the storm, friends. Praise Him when it’s hard, praise Him when you don’t feel like it, praise Him when it seems pointless, because praise is never pointless. Hold fast to your faith. Have big “now faith”. That means right now, in every moment, even the hard ones.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

There’s no comma between the words “now” and “faith” in that verse. It doesn’t say “Now, faith is …”, it says “Now faith is ….”. Right now. Even when you cannot see. Remain confident. Rest assured. Hold onto hope in Jesus. When the clouds clear you will be amazed at what you see.
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Seasons

I haven’t written in a long time. Nudges from the Holy Spirit are telling me it’s time to start writing again. Bear with me, I may be a little rusty, but I have so much to share.

I’ve gone through huge changes in the past two years. Physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. As the seasons of life rolled through like summer storms, I always kept looking for the rainbows. Through all the trials and waiting and joy, I watched God moving, and it has been spectacular. To have been so lost and outside of myself for so long, and surrendered to Christ, is a joyful thing. Is it hard? Yes. But it is worth it. I am worth it. And so, like James, I counted it all joy. (James 1:2 NIV)

A season of surrender.

On November 20, 2016, I left my abusive marriage. It was not planned. I did not want to go. Two days prior, my husband had abused me physically and verbally worse than he ever had before. Yes, it had happened before. Many times. You might ask why I didn’t leave sooner. For every abused woman, that answer is different. For me, I was trying to save my husband. But I had heard from God that I needed to get out of His way. God would heal us both, but not while we were together. Also, I did not want to leave my comfort zone, where abuse, addiction, and lack had become normal to me. On that day though, God was having no more of my stubbornness. If I would not leave on my own, He would yank me out of there. No pit is too deep for God’s long arm of love to grab hold and pull you out.

Sitting in the house that day became impossible. God was literally shaking me to my core to get out. So, riddled with anxiety and tears flooding my eyes, I went outside, sat by a tree and called my mom to come and get me. I left with just the small suitcase I never unpacked from my trip to a Christian woman’s retreat just a week prior. Leaving it all behind, and surrendering everything to Christ; trusting Him step by shaky step. I left my job of four years with health benefits, left all my belongings, my husband, my dog, and my home (a tiny 5th wheel trailer with no heat). I had no car because I’d totaled it in an accident a few months prior. I moved back in with my mom in a different city. I was addicted to drugs, penniless, jobless, abused, abusing myself, defeated, and depressed.

A season of healing and restoration.

I previously wrote about the day I quit my addiction to opiates. On May 5, 2017, I started a long and painful journey through withdrawal, detoxing, and day by day sobriety. It was the most painful thing I have ever done. I kept a journal, and if you read it, you would learn that many days I did not think I would survive. I thank God for His presence through it all, and for my family who supported me through this time. In ten days, on November 5th, 2018, I’ll be 1.5 years sober from my 20-year addiction to opiates. And all the glory belongs to God.

The Lord healed me physically, is still healing me emotionally, grown me spiritually by leaps & bounds, and drawn me nearer to him through it all. He has restored all that I lost and more. I’ve had an amazing part-time job for nearly a year, and have accepted a full-time job that starts in the new year. I have a car and my own laptop. I’m paying my own bills, including my debts, my own car insurance, and my school loans. My credit score has increased by 50 points in the past 2 months and is climbing. I have money in my savings account. I’m traveling; vacations and women’s retreats. I’ve been to 10 states with friends this year. My father has said he “has his daughter back” and that he trusts me again. My parents are proud of me and excited with me about my future. And again, all the glory belongs to God. Some will say that I did the hard work. And I did. But I could not have done it without Jesus.

A season of stretching and standing up for myself.

In the middle of all of this, God led me to a church that helped me grow spiritually by leaps and bounds. They poured into me and I soaked it all up like a sponge thirsty for water. I was so thirsty for the Lord. I was at church anytime it opened. I served as a greeter, served on the prayer team and the intercessory prayer team. I loved it all and made new friends there. God stretched my already big faith and began to teach me about my self-worth and spiritual gifts. I received my prayer language, which was something I had been asking for from God. I never wanted to leave that church. After about a year God began to gently whisper to me that my attendance at that church was only for a season. Of course, I didn’t want to hear that and so I kept attending. Again, God nudged me: this church is only for a season, and that season was coming to an end. Again, my stubbornness kept me there – in my comfort zone. I kept going, sitting in the front row each Sunday, worshipping and serving … until I couldn’t anymore. Slowly, church leaders pulled me out of different service areas. I reconciled it to myself as “it’s their church, their rules. I’m just here for Jesus anyway”. Within a few months, I found myself in the middle of the hardest spiritual battle I’d ever faced. Up until then, the church leaders thought they could fix me with niceness. Surely, they wouldn’t lose their “miracle of 2017” to what they considered a mortal sin. As I listened to the pastors, whom I deeply respected, I also insisted on digging into the Word myself. When I wouldn’t simply bend to their beliefs because I had my own interpretations of the living word of God, they become hostile. They will tell you they did it out of love, and I truly believe they loved me the best way they knew how. But God doesn’t love with fear and verbal abuse. They told me I was no longer allowed to sit on the front row, where I had been sitting since my first day there. Why? Because they needed to protect their reputation. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Oh, and I guess don’t let the sinners sit on the front row. Thank God that when the verbal abuse started, I immediately recognized it as abuse. The very church who helped me realize that I was, in fact, abused by my ex-husband, was abusing me now, and I was having none of that again. God had already yanked me out of an abusive marriage and healed me from abusing myself with drugs; I wasn’t about to stay at a church who abused me because of my sexuality. Today I thank God for the friends I made there who did not abandon me as I thought they might. I thank God for the knowledge, growth, and support I received from the church during the season I was there. But as my best friend told me out of love and support, “season over”. I never stepped foot back in that church again.

Restored to more.

Seasons are never just about us. All of this was never just about me. It’s so much more. People are always watching. My family and friends have watched me walk this out. People I have never met have heard my testimony. I surrender to the Lord daily and take each new step slowly but surely. I have been restored to more than I was before, physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. And all the glory belongs to God.

Before We Go On

Hi, it’s me, I’m still here. I’ve been journaling in paper journals since summertime. I was working through a lot of life changes and honestly did not have the wherewithal to type it all out in this blog, nor was I ready for everyone to read all about this part of my journey.

I found my journals and read through them. I’m not quite sure what to write about yet because the past six months have been such an amazing, refining, difficult, and fulfilling journey for me. A journey of surrender, pain, discovery, and restoration. My journals contain a lot of Scripture, a few letters that I wrote to myself from God reminding me who I am (His daughter), and so many words that are really hard to read about how I was feeling and what I was thinking at the time. Many pages are crossed out with the word “LIES” written across them. I realized that I was writing down lies about myself because as I went through this trial I learned more and more about what God says about me. I learned the truth.

I want to tell you all about the journey I’ve been through in the past six months. I want to share about hardships overcome and friendships made; about sickness and brokenness, and faithfulness, God’s and mine.

This coming Sunday, November 5th, I will be six months free from my drug addiction. That is a huge milestone and I’m very proud about that. On that day at church I’ll be getting re-baptized. I was baptized when I first came to Christ five years ago because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do – and that’s not wrong, that’s okay. But now I want to do it because I’m more aware of who I am in Christ. I agree with my friend that baptism should be about you and Jesus and not a work that’s done to prove something.

For right now I want to share this that I wrote at the beginning of August:

When you decide to acknowledge a hard thing that, until today, you didn’t realize had been stuffed so deep down inside for so long, but it comes bubbling to the surface and makes your eyes all watery; when you decide to do this hard thing, go ahead and crank up the worship music and dance before you do it. Praise and dance and sing; pray thanksgiving to God for going in before you, coming along side you, and going in with you. Because this is no cakewalk. You are going to be hugging the fireball, which is exactly what you need to do for God to refine you; burning out the old and making space for the new.

Photo taken by Holly Waugh.

Splendid by the Sea: Relinquish and Restore

I’ve always been an introvert, a wallflower and a loner. Group activities give me anxiety, especially groups of women. So when I decided to go to the Splendid retreat in 2016, with a group of 37 women I’d never met, I was excited and terrified. 

I’d been “friends” with these women for years in a safe, supportive group online, but I’d never met them in person. What if I didn’t fit in? They knew my story, but what if, in real life, I was different. Self defeating thoughts raced in; I’m weird, I’m shy, my life is a mess, I have secrets. How did I belong with these women I so admired? Women who I thought, for sure, didn’t have problems like me. I thought I was the only one, which is the worst thought of all. Soon I’d learn that you are never the only one.

I expressed my concerns to a friend who said I needed to talk to Ticcoa, who had experienced anxiety before going to Splendid. Ticcoa said the most wonderful thing that I will never forget. She told me I was wanted there, that I had a place at the Splendid table, my place was set and I just needed to show up, pull up a chair, and lean in. Since then, I know that “leaning in” is more about leaning into love and friendship, of other women, and of Jesus, than just a meal at a table.

From the day I decided to go to Splendid, until 9 weeks later when I got there, it seemed like everything was against me going. So much hardship and heartache. I grasped on to the one thing I knew to be true, that God wanted me there, and that my life would change for the better afterwards. But better doesn’t always mean easier, and I would have to give up the control I was trying so hard to maintain in my life, surrendering it all to God. 

Heading to the airport, I felt a great weight lifted off me as I left my stressful life behind even for a few days. I had no idea what I was walking into or how much it would change me. When I arrived at the retreat I met Jenni, my roommate for the weekend. I’d never met her before. She gave me a bracelet in the shape of a key that said “believe”. I believe, I thought, help my unbelief.

The location of the retreat was beautiful, by a lake at which I’d spend many hours by myself praying, crying, and journaling. There were no rules really, but the the Splendid Team had put so much work into planning events for us all. From worship and testimony, small groups, and classes to learn about authenticity, abiding in God, restoration and friendship. Friendship was the hardest thing for me because I believed so many lies about myself. 

I’d not read my Splendid journal until very recently. What I read sent shivers down my spine and tears from my eyes. I wrote things like “no one likes me; no one wants to”, ” I’m not a good person, I’m alone, I’m a burden”, and “why would I ever tell anyone else about my secrets; please help me God”. 

Then I learned about restoration, and how it comes from a breaking down of the old so God can rebuild to a point that was even better than the before. I learned about how God’s peace was so much bigger than the hole in which I’d dug myself. God’s love was bigger than all those lies, and if I would surrender to Him, love would win.

The most surprising thing I read in my journal from Splendid was that my prayer had changed. For a decade prior, I’d been praying that God would give me and my husband something to change our lives for the better. I was focused on the healing and not the healer. At Splendid my prayer, as written in my journal, changed to “God, I want to be closer to you. Please heal my life and my husband’s life, no matter what it takes. I surrender control to You.”. Whoa, “where did that come from?” I thought, reading it months later. 
I know now that it came after deep prayer and a rising up of the Holy Spirit within me, while new friends held my hand and prayed silently for me.  

That was a big surprise prayer for me. Giving up the control I had so purposely, and not so winningly, managed for years, thinking I could do it alone. I didn’t realize that God’s idea of healing would be very different than my idea. God’s ways aren’t always easy or fun, but necessary to move you in the direction He has already forged. I made up my mind to surrender to Him and willingly allow the Holy Spirit to lead me. I decided to get out of God’s way. Not only in my life, but in my husband’s.

Six days after returning home, I left my abusive marriage. Not because I decided I wanted to; I was scared to death leaving behind a decade of everything I knew. But God was pulling me towards a better life. I felt it in my bones. I was shaking inside as I left. Sometimes God shakes you to let you know you need to get moving to more firm a foundation. Soon after that, I quit my 20 year addiction to opiates and am now 6 weeks clean. Best of all, I’m discovering just how splendid and lovely I truly am. 

Categories God

She Believed She Could So She Did

Today is Monday. Most of you woke up early, maybe wishing it was still the weekend, bribing kids to get out of bed, and hurrying off to school or work. 

I have a different sort of purpose today. I’m in the process of healing. In past posts I’ve mentioned the abusive relationship I was in and the drug abuse. It wasn’t just my husband who was abusing drugs, I was too. For years I’d been getting treatment for my addiction from a specialist. I’ve decided it’s time to stop taking the medication that treats my addiction, not to take another drug, and to take on the big bad wolf, quitting altogether and getting healthy. My doctor agrees it’s time. Which means I’m in the business of trusting God. I could not do this without God’s help. I know that because I’ve tried many times and failed for over 20 years. 

This time it’s different. This time I have Jesus by my side, the Holy Spirit in my heart, and God coming for me. I may have been wounded by emotional, physical, and drug abuse, but the wound is not fatal and I serve the greatest healer of all, God.

Trusting God is not always easy. If you don’t know God, imagine trusting someone that you cannot see and surrendering your entire life to Him. Then waiting to see what happens on His time, not yours. 

During this process, I have to be honest with myself & God, confessing my sins. I have to be willing to surrender to His will for my life. I have to stop depending on myself, let go of the reins, and let Him lead me. I have to be able to be silent and still, listening for His instruction. 

Trusting God means going down the road less traveled when most people are going the other way; it’s usually not the way you wanted to go, or thought you were going, but it’s His way, the best way. It is not easy.

Trusting God means trusting the people around you who He sent to help, and trusting that He always has your best interest at heart.
I made the decision to break this chain about a month ago. Since then I’ve gone through many ups and downs, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I’m blessed because God has sent many people to help me, including my family, doctors, and my friends. 

My friends are integral to this process because they always remind me of my goal, which is to be free and to accept the freedom that Jesus bought for me on Calvary when he died on the cross for me. They are my spiritual supporters, my midnight cheerleaders, and mid day musketeers, coming to the rescue with words of encouragement via text messages and phone calls. A sweet picture or meaningful scripture; just a soft reminder of how important it is that I do this, to break this chain that has held me back and weighed me down for 20 years. The enemy cannot have hold of me anymore. 

My family and my doctor keep me in check, ensuring I do what I need to do. Things like eating well and checking my blood pressure. It sounds so simple, but when you’re in the thick of it, when you’re in the fog of war, a physical, emotional and spiritual war like this, it’s hard to remember what you’re supposed to do. If you cannot see the shoreline because the storm is raging all around you, you have to trust the people who love you. You have to trust they were sent by God.

In four days, by the end of the week, when everyone is saying “TGIF” and making plans for the weekend, I will be celebrating a major milestone in my recovery. I don’t know if I will feel horrible or okay. It will take my body some time to heal. I’ve been abused, and abusing myself, for quite some time.

I do know that God is going to take my brokenness and put me back together, better than ever, healthier, wiser, and stronger. A friend of mine once said that “brokenness blooms beautiful”. All I have to do is hang in until He gets here. To wait on Him, for His perfect timing, to trust in that and to not waver in my faith. To have blind faith that keeps going no matter what. Even when I cannot see the shoreline through the storm. 


Sign by Melissa Weimer @ Mel Belle’s http://www.facebook.com/MelBellesCustomDecor

I’m scared because I have no idea how I’m going to feel and excited because I know that the healing process has started. My body will regulate back to normal over time, and I will start a new journey, whatever path the Lord has carved for me.

Normal. Whatever that means. But I’m looking forward to finding out who Bree is. She’s been missing for quite some time.

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Faith sprung forth

No one sees it happen in the twinkling of an eye. A seed falls to the ground, the rain falls from the sky. The sun shines down its brightest, day after many day. And beneath our feet, that seed cracks open, life is on the way. The roots go down in search of water, the sprig, up, in search of light. No one sees it happen, many people pass it by. Beneath our feet that little plant reaches upwards towards the sky. It pushes through the darkness, soaking in the morning light. Then walking by, I look down; I see a little green. How slowly and discreetly has faith sprung up in me. As quiet as a growing seed right beneath my feet.

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Categories God