Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rocky Grief

Over my little break, on August 23, we celebrated Andrew’s birthday. He would have been 20 years old this year.

We decided to head west and do some hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. We’d revisit a trail we’d hiked with Andrew and remember the summer we spent a week camping with him in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado…. He was 11 months old. So we headed out early Sunday morning. The weather was gorgeous, the top off the Corvette, and the day a wonderful success.

While we hiked on Stony Man Mountain, I reflected on the concept of grief. 15 years have gone by since we lost Andrew. That’s a lot of years! But just 2 days earlier, I’d come home from my first week back to school in a new position, tired from the intensity of the week, and it all just hit me. Another birthday to celebrate without the guest of honor.

Anger.
Tears.
Grumpiness.
Loneliness.

It all swirled up within me with an intensity that caught me a bit off guard. Usually it builds up over the weeks leading to his day. I guess the newness of the job kept it more at bay, so when the weekend came and I could pause with my work, it all poured over me like a flood. 15 years maybe, but still grief can hit hard.

But as I sat upon the rock outcropping and looked out over the Shenandoah Valley, I noticed the rocks around me. A little farther down, I saw a sharp, pointy rock formation. The points looked jagged and freshly broken. That’s what the grief used to feel like- sharp, serrated edges that wounded deep and left jagged scars. 




But then I compared that to the rocks upon which I sat. There were still some uncomfortable points, and the rocks were just as heavy. But the edges were more worn, rounded, and overall less painful. That’s more what the grief feels like now. It still weighs me down at times, but the barbs are more like bumps. I more easily recover when grief hits. The wounds aren’t as deep or as cutting. It’s still hard, but not as piercing.



And in looking at the rocks, I could acknowledge that some healing has come.

Grief will never not be a part of my life. But the truth of God’s peace and the security of inner joy has worn down the jagged edges that pierced so deeply. Time doesn’t heal, but it allows God to heal.

And I found I could rejoice in the midst of those rocks, in the midst of the grief, because God is greater; because He has the final word; 

Because He lives, my boys do too!


I’m not sure there’s a succinct lesson in this post. I think I just more wanted to share with you the picture that I saw that Sunday… a picture of God’s grace in my life. A gift for me on Andrew’s birthday….

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It's Time!

Well, it’s finally here!

Tomorrow is the first day of school for teachers! I’m happy to finally be able to report that the anxiety is finally gone. I’m fully excited and have just the normal “first day” butterflies.

I am going to take a break from posting over the next couple of weeks. I should resume in September. Thank you for your grace as I pause for a bit to focus during this transition. Thank you also for your prayers if I happen to come to mind.

Here’s to the many opportunities God has in store for this year!
May each and every one bring glory to Him!

Juli

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Tenderness of God

When people fall, don’t they get up again? Jeremiah 8:4

The past 2 weeks I have been totally immersed in training for a particular aspect of my new job. (Thus, the lateness and inconsistency with posts this week J ) I spent 3 days in class and have put well over 10 hours into studying through training modules. This all culminates with an assessment I have to pass. It’s a 6-12 hour test. It’s kind of a big deal! Required and high pressure… (Just trying to set the scene for you.)

Add into that me

…a growing, but still insecure, student trying to overcome the fixed mindset of my past 40+ years.  

What that equates to is even more pressure, anxiety and challenge! Ha! Because all of these expectations and judgments about myself get piled on top of outside pressure and requirements. It creates a double whammy.

Well, yesterday I took the first part of the two part test. You have to pass that obviously to move onto part 2.

I failed.
By 1 point.

The outside pressure sources and requirements responded – OK, study a little more… see you in at least 24 hours but we recommend more. You still have 80 days to pass the test.

But the inside expectations and pressures had a slightly different response if you can imagine.

The important thing here isn’t the test or even how I navigated my disappointment. I will share I’ve made definite progress with deflecting judgments about my value based on a test. The voices of doubt and accusation certainly came, but I readily rejected them without significant difficulty! It was the unmet expectation of my time management that I truly struggled with. I’d developed a plan for navigating the immense learning curve and “to do’s” of my new job and this upset my timetable! But again, that’s not what’s really important.

What IS important is how God handled me.
This is what I want you to see.

Because all day yesterday I processed through this “mess” I found myself in. I did practical smart things like taking a break from things, getting some exercise and processing with my husband. But this morning I sat down for my quiet time.

Today’s key verse was the first thing that I read:

When people fall don’t they get up again? When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back? Jer. 8:4

This passage is set within the context of God talking with Jeremiah about how His people had refused to turn back, to get back up, to let go of their sin and come back to Him.

Now I’m not saying I’m equating not passing a test to sin J I’m not THAT fixed minded!

But what this verse showed me was…

1)    God’s judgment was not coming because of the sin, the falling, the failures. It was coming because of their refusal to leave that place, to get up, to try again by coming back to Him. Falling is a normal part of our human experience. God gets that. The important thing is our response to it….

So I didn’t pass! Yet! J It wasn’t the end of the world… it just showed I needed more time in the online training. So get back to work, girl!

2)    But what God showed me really is not the most important part. THIS is what I don’t want you to miss….

The tenderness of God.

How gracious for Him to so gently meet me this morning! I didn’t have to hunt for Him, for His perspective. It was the very first verse I read today!

I’m not saying that God magically ordained the structuring of my chronological Bible so that I would read this verse on that day! The whole world doesn’t read that verse on 8-7 because He knew I would need it in the year of 2015! J

But what I am saying is, He used something He already had in place. If it hadn’t been there, He would have provided it somewhere else. Don’t lose me here.

What I want you to see is God’s willingness to tenderly meet me in my struggle, in my pain, in my desire to grow.

Later in Jeremiah he prays to God

So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle. Do not correct me in anger, for I would die. (10:24)

We serve a wonderfully tender God who longs to comfort and direct and instruct us… out of the lies and fears and failings of our sinful nature and into the truth and freedom of His love and transformation.

That is what make me rejoice this day!
That is what makes my heart sing

-And gives me the courage to keep trying,
the strength to fight off the doubts,
the nourishment for these new sprouts of growth mindedness and grace to take root and bloom in my heart, mind and lifestyle.

Wherever you are today, my friend, I pray you so eagerly run to the Father’s lap. Crawl on up and let it all out… whether it be praise, anger, fear, pain, or doubt, God’s shoulders are big enough to take it all, and His heart is tender enough to love you through it.

I pray that, whatever you face today, in it you will be overwhelmed by the tenderness of our God.

Hugs!

juli

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What a feeling!

So sorry that this post is a day late.

To be honest, I have nothing written for this week.
And I've chosen to be Okay with that :)  My counselor calls it giving myself permission.

But I don't want to not check in with you all.
So thought I'd just pop onto here today to say hi...

And to offer the best encouragement I could:

God is awesome, my friends!

Best news I can share with you :)

Hopefully it's not news.... hopefully you are experiencing His presence in amazing ways. Hopefully you have recognized just how much He loves you, how much He's done to bring you back to Himself, how much He longs to be with you.

Hopefully you've surrendered to and accepted that love, you've found your security in that love, and you've chosen to extend that same love given to you to others.

Hopefully you recognize His power and His grace, in the bright places in your life as well as the dark ones.

Hopefully, you are able to praise His glorious name right where you are - this moment, this day, in this place.

That's where I am today.... and oh what a feeling!

Life's not perfect, I still offer broken hallelujahs, I'm still struggling to trust while trying to grow...

But regardless of me
regardless of life
regardless of what surrounds...

God does not change.
His love doesn't change.
His power doesn't change.
His intention doesn't change.
His grace doesn't change.
Nothing about Him changes...

And thus, as the saying goes, There is Always, Always, Always something to be thankful for....
There is always a reason to praise
Always a reason to worship
Always a reason to rejoice

So may His Word be true this day...
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Working Through Anxiety: The Fallacy of Feelings

As I’ve been struggling with anxiety this summer, I discovered another important step toward overcoming it. Last post I shared about Fixing My Focus. But another step that’s helped is recognizing the fallacy of feelings.
I remember learning this truth with Peter. I no longer remember the exact issue that caused my stress. But I do remember exactly where I stood in my kitchen, hearing Casting Crown’s Voice of Truth on the radio, and realizing that the circumstances that seemed to scream at us that life was out of control were a lie. I remember saying to myself, this is not the true reality. This is a lie. God is in control. That is truth! And how many times over that next year did I have to remind myself that what I saw, what I felt, what seemed to be true, was not.
But somewhere along the way of life getting easier, I find I still revert back to honoring my feelings way too much. Like this summer. I have felt anxious, have felt ill, have felt stressed even though my mind knows and my heart knows that I am fine, my job is secure, I have time to learn, I will do well in my new position. But because my body felt differently, my mind struggled to walk in what was true.
Once I stopped fixating on my fears and focused on God, it was easier to choose the truth over my feelings. But I had to consciously make the decision to ignore how I felt. Instead, I had to keep functioning based on what I knew to be true, not what felt like it was true.
Proverbs 14:12 states There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
This is another reason why scripture is so important. Feelings change. But the Word of God is constant forever. God does not change. His Word and His promises do not either. Thus, we can trust the truth of His good intentions, His working on our behalf for our good, His control over our lives to use everything for our good. This is truth. Not how we feel.
We must choose faith, not feeling. Faith is walking not by what we see (or feel) but by what we know to be true – especially when we don’t see or feel it.

Let’s purpose to live our lives based on truth, not feelings. It’s a foundation we can stand on.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Working Through Anxiety: Fixing My Focus

So this summer has been a far cry from what I’d expected it to be.
I thought I’d have an empty summer.
I thought I’d do a lot of writing.
I thought I’d pick up a class I needed.
Well, I thought wrong.

Instead I’ve had an extremely busy and full summer getting ready for my new position. I’ve had lots of meetings and little writing. I had to drop the class I’d planned to take so I could attend two other needed trainings instead. But the big thing dominating my summer has been anxiety.

And that makes me sad.
And mad.

Because I know the truth about God, but still my stomach knotted so tightly I couldn’t eat or sleep. My mind raced with “unknowns” I couldn’t even articulate.

It was not who I wanted to be, not who I knew I should be. I felt so frustrated for letting God down as well as myself. I knew this job was a blessing, a gift for my growth, an opportunity for God to use me. So why couldn’t my body function from those truths instead of my fears?

That’s why I’ve been asking for prayer this summer. And that’s why I’ve been praying so much myself. I wanted to confidently move forward in obedience, not cower in fear while I waited for the job to begin.

So finally, I stopped getting mad at myself and said, well, this is where I am. That sounds so simple but it’s such a critical first step to change anything.  In my frustration I was only adding to my anxiety. By accepting that, for whatever reason (thinking patterns from my past, fears of the unknown that lay ahead, insecurities of my abilities) this was where I was at the moment, it freed me to shift my focus. Instead of focusing on how I felt, on why I felt this way, on why I shouldn’t feel this way – instead of focusing on the problem, I finally started focusing on the solution. God.

I literally prayed,

God, I don’t know why I am feeling this way. I know the truth. I know You have led me to this job. I know that I will grow here, that You will use me here, that You will support me here. I don’t know why I’m physically gripped with such fear. But I am. I admit it. It’s present. But So. Are. You. You are here in this dark place with me. You have not abandoned me because of the way my body is processing these changes. You have to get me through this because I don't know how to.

And I know God smiled.

Because finally I started to shift my focus. I stopped obsessing on how I was feeling, on all the unknowns, on all my perceived deficiencies, and instead I started focusing on Him. I recognized God’s presence with me, in the hard place… not waiting for me to come out of it.

I pressed into worship – celebrating His victory over death- life’s greatest enemy. I stopped word calling when reading scripture and really focused on what was being said. I started searching for God throughout my day. I listened for His whispers. I focused on the evidences of His hand and His control that I started to recognize. I think I finally made myself available to see Him and hear Him.

And guess what? The fears started to lose their grip.

I still felt stressed at times. I still had trouble sleeping. But I could finally eat again. So I praised Him for that. The less I focused on my fears, the smaller they became. The more I focused on God, the bigger He became. J

I have found the words of this song to be true.
God is a mighty fortress.
A sacred refuge.
His kingdom is unshakable.

A refuge is needed in the midst of trial. Not after we’ve won a battle, but in the battle. I found freedom when I recognized God was with me in my anxiety. I found freedom when I finally kept my eyes on Him.

I don’t know what anxiety might be weighing you down, but I pray as you listen to this song, that you will be encouraged. And I pray you will see God right there with you.

Make the choice to stop looking around you - at the problem, and look at the answer – at Him.

A Mighty Fortress by Christy Nockels

We know the end of the story my friend.
And we also know the tenderness of our God.

We can trust Him.
No matter where He leads, He is there. We are with Him together – in the dark, in the light, in the high and in the low.


Thank you for praying for me, my friends. And know I’m praying for you too.

Friday, July 24, 2015

So Simple!

This week the radio aired a quote by Andy Stanley, part of a piece that would run this weekend.

“We don’t need any more information about God. What we need is submission to God!”

Man is he so right!

I can spend hours and hours studying, learning about God, defining words and reading commentary. But if I don’t DO what I know, what difference does it make?

It’s like knowing zillions of facts about your boss but refusing to do what she/he says.

Right after I lost Andrew, I questioned God a lot. I struggled to understand who He was in my battle to trust Him. I needed to find the truth about Him to help me trust Him. Information does have a small role to play.

But it’s a small role. Because when it really gets real, what matters is your choice, not your knowledge. I had to learn about God’s good intentions for me, about the traits of His character. I had to correct the mis-information that had led me astray. But knowing even the right information about God means nothing if I don’t submit to God! The information made it easier for me to choose, but I still had to choose.

It seems so complicated but it’s really quite simple.
I Just. Have. To. Choose.

Simple, but sometimes so hard. Because I have to fight my nature to rule.

This is really what it comes down to in serving God.
Who will be boss? What will I choose?


Will you join me in making a conscious decision to stop gathering information and just choose to say yes instead? It’s the simplest thing you will ever do that will have such eternal, far-reaching affects.