Unapologetically

My daughter has a paint spinner. It pushes and flings colors in streaks and droplets. They puddle and spill over the edges, sometimes bleeding through the paper. The thrill of her work is that no two images will ever be the same. By design, neither will we. I am dormant in a bed of thorns. The unmistakable pounding in my chest, tightness in my throat has returned. Anxiety. Depression. Every single one of us can feel anxious: melancholy. Yet, to have it as a condition doesn’t require being shaken or stirred to wake it up. It comes from behind, squeezing the life out of precious moments, while you are strangely still physically present. You fidget and laugh, adrenaline rushing to your bones. You wipe your sweaty palms on your jeans as you change positions, hoping to relieve the dizziness and plaguing feeling to throw up. You wait out the moment, only to sink into a series of depressing afterthoughts about what happened. You wish you could control it…get rid of it. But, you can’t. I certainly couldn’t. That’s why I decided to get help. I began taking medication. Friend, if you’re suffering from anxiety and depression, I’m not offering advice on what to do. My message is simple. If you are struggling, you’re not alone. And, it’s going to be okay. “But you, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the {lifter of my head}…[Psalm 3:3 AMP] When we are not of sound mind, God keeps His complete word to us. He empowers us to live unapologetically where we are. THIS is the thrill of the...

The Conquering Grace Of Jesus

Have you ever been caught up in a moment of slow motion perception, where time seems to slow down? We’ve all seen this play out in movies, as moments build towards a climatic scene. While we know that time does not truly slow down, researchers suggest that because our memories and perceptions of what’s taking place are densely packed during a particular situation, the whole event seems to take longer. I had one of those moments tonight, and though I do not discount ideas of neuroscience and time perception, I believe that God heightened my senses to uncover the unnecessary weight pressing on my heart. My 9-year-old daughter told me that she had a solution for getting all of the tangles out of her hair (she is full of solutions these days). She explained that if I poured a shallow bath, she would lie down in the bathtub, and I could brush through her hair while it was underwater. Given that her hair is long and curly, I was eager to give it a try. I began to comb through each strand, which seemed to stretch the entire length of the tub. And, time became slow. I recall the slow rhythmic movements of the water along the circumference of the tub, the slicing of its surface as I combed beneath it. I remember the giggles of my little girl as she delighted in her ‘solution,’ while the ends of the comb tickled her scalp. Taking all of this in, however, my heart felt confounded. In the days leading up to this moment, I had been praying for God to...

Vantage Point

Do you have a son? Ahhh, then, you know. Twelve years ago, my husband and I took home a little 7 pound baby boy of our own, with long, slender fingers and toes, and blushed skin that covered his body loosely, bunching up over the tiniest knees. How delicate was this little fella, and how our hearts were brimming with both joy and fear at the weight of responsibility. The coming weeks and months had me sleeping with one eye open, my ears inclined to hear every little movement and involuntary punch of his bony fist against the side of a ruffled blue bassinet. Before he was born, everyone told me about the connection between mama and son. At once, I understood. This child ravaged my heart, in the best way. Today, we are in the throes of middle school with this babe turned boy. Again, there’s tremendous joy, yet an equal measure of anxiousness and fear concerning his life. We wrestle with the dynamic of grace, expectations, and setting boundaries. You see, when children are young, it’s easy to create a sort of utopian existence to control their behavior or responses. I see parents obsessing over what school their children will attend and what teacher they will have. They seemingly pick their friends for them, as well as activities and sports. From what they eat to what they wear and the amount of television they watch, not to mention screen-time and even the church they attend, every part of their lives is micromanaged. To be fair, I believe that we all do this to some extent. The truth...

Our Heart’s Yes

Nearly nine months ago, I, along with 11 other women committed to journey together to a foreign country for a short-term mission trip. For most of us, this would be our first time in this country, and for me, my second time on an airplane ever, with the first being prior to September 11, 2001. Even so, in the midst of the nervousness and excitement of something that I considered wild and adventurous, we made our deposits and began training. We didn’t know what we were in for, but we had a vision for what our work would look like there, and with every session spent together, we felt more convinced of our direction. Until June. While many of us were assembling our passports and completing the tedious process of applying for visas, we became aware of a missionary couple in our network that was denied entry into the country. This was both shocking and unusual. Soon, we learned that our visas would likely be denied as well. Given this news, the next weeks few were complicated, filled with highs and lows, and lots of anxious waiting. We were sure that this was a test of our faith, and we remained hopeful that God would make a way when they seemed to be no way. Yet, as it stands today, we will not be going. I found it difficult to sleep during those weeks of waiting, as a number of scenarios flooded my mind. One night, as I was folding laundry at 1:00 a.m., I felt the presence of the Lord. This is what I heard… “You do not...

To Hear The Music

As silly as they seem, cartoons are a myriad of strangely relevant stories and plots consisting of heroes, rivals, and topics like revenge, anxiety, and even death. Even so, the way in which they are depicted is far from the life we know. One example is TV tropes, which are a figurative demonstration of a character being stunned or injured. For instance, when a character is hurt or taken by surprise, there’s a halo of circling birds above the character’s head. You might recall the sound of “cuckoo, cuckoo” when these little birds appear. Either way, I’ve felt like one of these characters as of late, with emotions, feelings, and perceptions circling and out of sorts. Graciously, in my time with Jesus, He is showing me how my response and posture in light of things I didn’t’ see comin’ are casting a shadow on my days. When I’m hit over the head with the unexpected, I am a self-confessed over-thinker. I assess the situation. I find out every single thing I can about it. I process. I want to feel better about it…get over it, and move on. Unwittingly, I cause myself a lot of undue stress and anxiousness, because I am not equipped to handle the weight of the heaviest blows of life. Yet, even when I turn to Jesus, I continue to feel the tremendous tension of what’s going on around me. Joy is lost. Faith is weakened. Fear is rampant. What I’m learning is that struggles are a digression from God’s purpose. What’s more is that the struggle itself is not as much of a threat...

Break The Agreement

Have you ever experienced a moment where all of your senses are heightened, as if there’s a supernatural awareness or panoramic perspective of all that’s going on around you? I’m in a moment like that now. After several days of hard rain, I’m curled up on the sofa, and the Spirit of Jesus is all around. Through the second story window, being pressed by a gusty morning wind, I see trees of the purest Spring green, heavy with moisture from the drenching rains of the night. My attention turns to a few curious little cardinals perched on our bird feeder, determined to take the last of the sunflower seeds wedged within the splintered wood. Suddenly, two little cats spring to their feet to take a peek, their tails curved in attention. I’m clutching a fresh cup of coffee: the steam touches my face, and my glasses turn foggy at the first sip. It’s quiet here, except for the squall of thoughts determined to cut through the silence. It’s a gift really…to have all of your thoughts seemingly gathered into one room. But don’t get me wrong. On any given day, there’s a team of feelings and emotions, perceptions, ideas, dreams, and scenarios that swell up against me. Today, it’s the comfort of God’s creation and the awakening of my senses that carries these thoughts into new light. In 2 Corinthians 10, verses 5 and 6, Paul encourages the church to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” [NIV]. The Message...

Revealed and Concealed

It was early on a Saturday, and the sun, burning through the morning mist, was slow to rise. Truth…there wasn’t much rise in me either. Sleepily, I rolled over, back towards the light, and fell into a heavy sigh. It’s been my experience that even seasons of unrest gain energy and peace in the light of a new day. That’s why mornings, to me, are special. Light brings so much promise, hope & joy that I find myself walking from window to window in our home, chasing it. But, this day, I didn’t even want to get up. Somewhere in the night, I had been robbed, ravished by something…or so it seemed. For days after this, I pushed through, as we often do. Every now and then, when thoughts would catch up to me, I’d remember what I felt & notice that it was still there, amidst all of the busyness. When Monday came & kids were sent to school, I sat down in the quiet with Jesus, and found myself in the pages of Luke, chapter 18, about the rich young ruler. This is a story that I knew well, but my eyes kept circling back to this particular part of verse 23… ‘When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.’ [esv] What Jesus told the ruler (to sell all of his possessions) was just about the last thing he thought he’d hear; and it made him sad. My spirit was jarred at this! The thought came to mind, ‘the man pitied himself, and you do, too.’ I sat, and I thought, and...

Show Up For The Fight!

“A great multitude [a huge force] has come against you from beyond the Dead Sea—there’s no time to waste…” [2 Chronicles 20:1-2] Having received this intelligence report, Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, was aware of the significance of the threat against his people. Conscious of his own frailty and the weight of his responsibility as leader, Jehoshaphat set himself to seek the Lord. [Pause] At first glance, it may appear that this account in 2 Chronicles is just another example of a leader putting their trust in the Lord in preparation for a battle. Yet, we’ll see that Jehoshaphat’s attitude under the weight of such a threat is worth paying attention to. First, we see his immediate devotion to the Lord in the word “seek” in verse 3. This word, which becomes a beautiful thread throughout King Jehoshaphat’s reign, means to discover God’s will in “worship.” While I consider Jehoshaphat’s posture in a moment of impending doom, I compare the gravity of this threat to my own life and the ones that I love. I think of a dear friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer, and the weeks and months of therapy and surgery to come. I think of another whose husband has lost his job. I recall the face of a precious sister who recently lost her baby and a conversation with another friend who is grieving the choices made by her daughter. I think of those who have been emotionally and physically abandoned. I consider those facing battles in secret. I contemplate my own struggles and how they take a toll on my mind and my...

Still Frame

{The Vision} I looked out to see sheets of green dipping into valleys where early morning shadows hovered over the moist earth, only to build up again into curved slopes where wind curled and crashed over the top. From my mind’s eye, the hills stretched up, each touching the horizon in sequence, continuing into an infinitely of wide-open space. Eyes closed, I’d take off running towards the skyline, tension in my arms and the wind at my back. {The Backstory} I spent most of my childhood, until age 13, on a single street in rural North Carolina. Summers were my favorite. I’d wake up early, pick out mismatched clothes from my beloved pickled oak cabinet, and hurry out in search of the morning. A pasture bordered one side of our house. The rusty barbed wire fence, overgrown with prairie grass, separated us from a few cattle, occasionally grazing. The pasture, though small, would not only become a backdrop for some of the first conversations I’d have with God, it would appear as a still frame on a reel of memories, long after my family moved away. God knew that certain events in my life would crush me. He knew that I’d believe things about myself that weren’t true: that I would compare myself to others. Was I enough? Was I too much? He knew that I would strive to please, and how heavy this self-made mantle would become…with anxiety, panic, and exhaustion. He knew that I would make decisions, albeit with good intentions, in order to gain control. He knew that others would betray me, and how many sleepless...

Tell It To My Heart

Remember that 1987 hit, the one by Taylor Dayne, ‘Tell It To My Heart?’ (I bet you’re looking it up now.) It’s like most other catchy 80’s tunes with a sticky chorus that’ll have you singing for days…or, in this case, decades. Anyway, I break into song in random ‘doings’ of the day, mostly when I’m alone. Recently, up to my elbows in dirty dishes, this was my little chant. It hit me. As of late, I’ve felt a real sense of losing in life. Just not dealing well, ya know? I typically deal with things in my head. I love ideas and information and putting lots of ‘stuff’ up there and reading and asking questions and seeking answers. And, I go to God. I really DO. But, my heart has been so, so heavy. Somewhere between the head and the heart, things just got spacey. It’s maddening. It came to a boil months ago. I had one of those hard conversations; you know, one of those ‘talks’ that are easy to put off, until you realize that they are inevitable. And it was GOOD. But it was HARD. And I was emotionally exposed. No amount of head knowledge or wisdom or experience can lift a heavy heart. I know this because I tried. Out of sheer determination, I TRIED. I still couldn’t be free. The heart. It’s like the emotional drum of the soul. Beat, beat, beating and longing and wishing and hoping and refusing to let go. I can decide in my head all day long NOT to be disappointed, hurt, or offended. But….Ohhhh my heart. I...