Faith and 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

Faith and Fear by Connie Hellmuth

What scares you?  I am fearless in many ways.  I lived in Mexico for a year and I still drive in Juárez often, even at night, which many of my fellow El Pasoan’s consider lunacy.  I will eat street food in other countries.  I talk to strangers.  I have traveled internationally by myself and loved it.  But I have recently become aware of how fear has limited me in the past and I am trying to recognize when fear influences my decision making.  Fear can hold us back from what God is calling us to do.  In the Christmas story are two examples of people being called to do something, and their responses.   Let’s look first at the story of Zechariah in Luke Chapter 1, verses 12-20.  The angel says,

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.  He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 

Wow—this is great news!  A long-desired and prayed for baby, and an angel telling you that this child will bring you joy and be used by God in mighty ways.  Zechariah’s response tells us a lot about his view of God and his faith. He was a priest, and he would know about Abraham and Sarah.  This wasn’t the first time God had sent a baby to a woman past child-bearing age.  Instead of receiving this news with joy, Zechariah asked the angel,

How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

For years I struggled with fear, just like Zechariah.  I struggled to believe that God loved me, that He was not disappointed in me.  I also struggled with the fear that I could not hear from God, that I would mess it up somehow.  For years I thought God might be calling me to get my master’s degree in Counseling.  I would inquire about what it took to apply, read the list of required classes, and then I would stop.  I didn’t know if I would be good at it, I was afraid to put all that work into a degree, spend all that money, only to find out I wasn’t good at it or I didn’t like it.  I finally identified that it was fear that was holding me back, and the only way to find out if I liked it, was to do it.  I absolutely loved the entire process.  Learning brought something to life inside me that had been long dormant.  It was life-giving to me.

As a young woman, I didn’t feel like God loved me.  I wanted to please Him and tried to follow all the rules to gain his approval.  I didn’t understand, at all, that there was nothing I could do to make Him love me more—or less.  When I finally came to understand God’s unconditional love for me, I was free from the fear that God was disappointed in me and that I couldn’t hear His voice.  God came into the world in humility as a baby, in the mess and muck of a stable, less than perfect conditions.  I don’t need to clean myself up before He loves me—He has always loved me, even before I surrendered my life to Him.  I came to understand as well that God’s ability to speak to His children was greater than Satan’s power to confuse us.  That understanding gave me a lot of peace.

When I was an early believer, someone told me that if I didn’t obey God, He would find someone else who would obey Him.  For years I lived with the fear that God would pass me over and abandon me because I didn’t respond to His call, or because I didn’t realize He was calling me.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  The angel Gabriel sets Zechariah straight and gives him a consequence for not believing him, but I think it’s beautiful to notice that the angel’s message was true, and it did come to pass.  Elizabeth did conceive a boy and he was a prophet of God.  Zechariah’s doubt did not cause this important event to be canceled or transferred to another, more believing couple.  This story is a beautiful illustration of how God works with our frailties.  He knows us and our weaknesses and doesn’t leave us there.  He is always working for our good.

The next time in Luke that an angel is mentioned, it is with Mary.  Here is the passage from Luke 26-38.

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

                 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.   But the angel said to her,

            “Do not be afraid Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
                 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

I believe Mary’s response was not one of doubt and was totally understandable.  She was a young woman, and she was not married.  Virgin birth had never happened before in the history of humankind, so she had reason to be confused.  But her response was based on her faith, not fear. Even though she might have felt afraid she chose to trust God rather than be led by fear.  Faith is the antidote to fear, and the more you exercise your faith, I’ve discovered, the greater it becomes. The more I know about God the more certain I am that He is worthy of my trust.  As I have obeyed Him, I have come to know Him better.  I might still be afraid, but when God is calling me to step out, I know He will go with me.   Mary believed God and His messenger and became the mother of the Messiah.  Fear comes between us and what God is calling us to do.  We miss opportunities that are life-giving when we give way to fear.  What are you afraid of?  What might God be calling you to do that scares you?  I will leave you with this poem an old friend posted on her Facebook wall.

I will not die an unlived life,
I will not live in fear
of failing or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise

by Dawana Markova

Connie Hellmuth is a Jesus follower who lives in El Paso, Texas with her husband of 38 years where they serve with Youth With a Mission El Paso/Juárez.  She is also a Licensed Professional Counseling Intern, loves kittens and puppies but has zero pets, and loves what she does.  She has seven children, ten grandchildren and loves to read, workout, and learn new things. 

Fear

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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

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.

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.

©

The Loved Bible Project

It was the summer of 2016. My husband’s birthday and my birthday, a week apart, had just passed. The sticky heat of Florida summer had me praying for rain. We lived in the country with wildflowers and wild animals; it was lovely and I truly enjoyed it’s beauty. 

Two days after my birthday a tragedy involving my husband brought me to my knees in the middle of the night. It was too much. I wailed at God. I’d like to say I was hanging on to life by a string, but that’s not true. God was holding me up because I had no strength left. I felt alone and broken. But what I had failed to notice through my tears was that God had seen all of this coming long before the days of summer. 

God had put a vision in a woman’s heart to send me a Loved Bible. At the time I’d never seen or heard of “The Loved Bible Project”. I’d also never communicated with the woman who mailed it to me in the beginning of September. This Bible was beautifully decorated with scriptures highlighted, fancy ribbon, and special notes written just to me. Imagine my shock. Why would anyone, especially someone who didn’t know me, take time to create this beautiful Bible for me?

As I read it daily, it’s words sank deep into my heart, patching the aching holes that fear had caused just weeks earlier. It was, to me, a gift like no other, of the upmost importance. This Bible, that seemingly came out of nowhere let me know that God knew what I was suffering. God was with me. 

About a month later, following more problems, I decided to leave my marriage. I didn’t take much with me, but I certainly grabbed my Loved Bible. I walked away from my life, everything I knew, and followed the Holy Spirit down a path I’m still on today. 

I’ve arrived at a point of rest where God has asked me to “be still” and wait on Him. With time on my hands, I pray and read a lot. I especially read my Bible. While praying, I decided I wanted to make a Loved Bible for someone else, someone specific I was praying for.

I got a Bible, pens, stickers, washi tape, notecards, and lots of ideas from The Loved Bible Project Facebook page. Then I got stuck. I just couldn’t do it, I was afraid to ruin the Bible by writing in it. I was afraid that I would mess it up, or do the wrong thing. I had all these plans, my favorite scriptures, great ideas, but fear took over. Weeks passed. 

Finally, I did it. I created my first Loved Bible page! It was exhilarating! I was so excited. I drove a couple of people crazy by messaging pictures of every page I created. Now I can hardly stop. It is so much fun and something I look forward to doing every day that I can. In fact, I think I need to start a new Loved Bible before I completely fill this one up and leave no room for its recipient to take their own notes.

As for the woman who sent me my Loved Bible, Kelli Moore, we are now friends. Though we’ve never met, we hope to one day. We message often and talk sometimes. She is my beloved friend, a beautiful woman, and an angel sent by God; the hands and feet of Jesus that loved on a Bible just for me. And, because of her generosity, I am loving on Bibles for others. 

If you have never tried to love on a Bible, you should. It is so simple and fun. Imagine reading the word of God and coloring, highlighting, drawing and decorating all of your favorite verses! You can make one for yourself, for a family member, or even for a stranger. Who knows, maybe that stranger will end up being one of your best friends. All you need is love. ❤️


Please check out The Loved Bible Project at http://www.lovedbibleproject.com

The following 3 pictures are of the Bible I received in the summer of 2016.



These pictures are from the Bible I’m currently “loving” for someone else.

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My Journey to recognize myself in Christ.

“I will cast my cares on you” Lord (Cast My Cares by Finding Favour), as I start down this road to healing. You have given me such a sweet, straight path to follow. 

The air smells of honeysuckle and hope. The sun is bright but not hot. My heart is at peace with the decision I’ve made. 

My family, and those who care about me have come into agreement that this is the best thing for me; confirming, for me, that we have come into alignment with God’s plan. My friends (you know who you are), have agreed to pray for me and check on me, being the hands and feet of Jesus when I need them.

Thank you Lord for this soft place to land after such a difficult decade. I made many bad decisions, and I’m so grateful for your never ending grace, mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, and love. You, Lord, are faithful even when I am not. You are the anchor of my hope! 

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)


You, Lord, are making all things new, and “You are making a miracle in me. When I see nothing but damaged goods, You see something good in the making. When I see wounded, You see mended.” (Mended by Matthew West).

Sometimes I get scared, but when I turn that fear over to you, you give me strength instead. When I get anxious, you give me peace. I’m so grateful for my faith in Jesus Christ as I face these challenges and choices. I believe my faith will heal me. I believe that because God said it would. Looking forward to this time of healing, and abiding in Christ; listening for what God would have me do. No matter what road I take, Jesus will always be with me. That is for sure, that is unchanging, that is a promise from God. 


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Sipping sweet tea

I was in my early twenties when I met him. He was so charismatic, funny, charming, smart, and cute. He was a DJ and locally “famous”. He said I was beautiful every day. Literally every day, he told me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me. He told me he loved my body. I followed him everywhere, to the grocery store, to his new apartment because he decided to move to my town (leaving his children and their mother), and followed him all over Florida for years. When things went wrong we always moved back to our hometown and stayed with one of our parents, weaving together whatever lies we needed to just long enough to stay. 

Then I got it. I got what I believe was my first big obvious warning from God (who I didn’t know yet) that this was not the man for me. 
He wasn’t working at the time and had developed a habit of not coming home at night. On this particular morning, I knew where he was and I drove over there before work to get him. I found him locked in a room with a hooker and a bunch of drugs. He was drunk. I was so angry, upset, and confused. I tried to leave, but he followed me. We argued on the porch. I slapped his cheek, he spit on my face, then put me in a head lock and pushed me to the ground. I remember my face being pressed onto the wood planks of the porch at the house where he was partying night before. Don’t get me wrong, I had partied too, just not on nights where I had to work in the morning. He was good at putting people in headlocks; he’d been a wrestler in high school. But he’d never done it to me before. Not once. That morning in particular, he didn’t want me to leave because I got paid that day and we had drugs we needed to buy. I tried to get In the car and leave, but he took my keys and wallet with my ID so I couldn’t cash my paycheck. Finally all the screaming must have woken up one of his drunk buddies. They stumbled out asking what the heck was happening and they convinced him to give me my stuff back so I would just leave. They didn’t want the neighbors to call the cops. 

I drove home, woke up my mom and cried to her. She said he couldn’t stay in her home anymore. I wailed “I can’t start over! I’m too old. I can’t do this without him. My life is over.” 

Truth is, my life wasn’t over, it was just starting to roll down hill, and as it did it would gain momentum, getting faster and faster. Quickly approaching the dreaded “rock bottom” where everything would come to a halt. Rock meets rock. My rock would shatter into a million pieces. Then, left with nothing but shards of a broken life, I would look around and find myself completely alone.
But rock bottom was still at least 6 years away from that morning. I still had so much awfullness to face. So much loneliness and darkness, terrifying moments that would make that morning on the front porch feel like sitting in a rocking chair with your neighbor sipping sweet tea.

Most importantly, I still had to find God. Of course He was always there, waiting for me, but I didn’t know it. He was just waiting for my messed up life to come into alignment with His plans for me. God was waiting for me to want something greater, better, safer; something more. Something I could only find through Him.

And thank God I would.

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I’m not abused. Am I?

Abuse. Abusive relationship. Being abused. My loved ones, the ones I trust, tell me that I was abused. My brain understands the concept, but my heart doesn’t believe it’s true. The thing is, we really did (do?) love each other. He was my best friend, and I was his. We were together all the time for 12 years. Maybe that was his way of controlling me; I don’t know. Maybe he did it purposefully, but I don’t think so. I never saw it that way. Honestly, I still don’t. I’ll talk about that later. I’m starting therapy this week or next, so I’ll write about that after I’ve had some time to hash it out with myself.

For now, I’m going to continue to share my story. It’s not pretty or easy or fun. It hasn’t gone the way I thought it would. My plans were not even close to God’s plans. Thank God. I’m going to keep sharing this journey because God’s plans are always better than our own. God has a great plan for me, and I cannot wait to see what I’m becoming.

“Becoming”

So after “the beginning” https://breenicolem.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/in-the-beginning/ I followed my boyfriend all over Florida, moving for jobs or just because our lives had crashed and burned where ever we were living. We moved back home, staying with his parents or mine more than once. Continuing to abuse drugs and emotionally abuse each other. Needless to say, life was not good. But Jesus was there. I know this now because I can look back and see him through the tears. He was waiting for me. He was protecting me. He was loving me. I just didn’t know it yet.

My boyfriend and I were abusing drugs. It’s gross and I look back with shame and disgust. We managed; we were what you call “functioning addicts”. We held down jobs (usually), had friends (drug dealers) and we were able to look like a normal couple. I think. But maybe not. I’ve never really asked anyone who knew us if they thought something was going on. I don’t really think I want to know what they suspected because I thought I was doing such a good job of pretending to be ok. I’ve written about how I came to Jesus earlier in this blog if you want to check that out here: https://breenicolem.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/tell-me-about-jesus/

What I didn’t know at the time is that in order to truly find Christ, I’d have to lose myself and be broken into a million shards of scary sickness and sadness. Of course God had a plan for those shards, but I needed to surrender. And I did on November 20, 2016. I left my life and walked toward a God I cannot see; blinded by tears, terrorized by my thoughts and feelings, and guided by the Holy Spirit.

I want to tell you all about what lead up to that horrible, terrifying, exhilarating moment of surrender. The months of constant attacks and hardships. Then I want to tell you about my healing and my growing relationship with God. I’m still in the middle of all of this, I have no idea where it will lead.

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