Monday, April 4, 2016

The possibility of pain

I recently spent some time in Florida.  The beaches, the sun, the warmth, the sand, the amount of books I was able to read, was good for my soul.  I was able to spend some time with my younger sister who lives down there and I managed to sneak some time in with a friend who happens to live in the same city as my sister.  It was amazing.  I've now been plunged back into Michigan's bipolar spring (you would think I would be used to this having lived here my entire life) and am missing the afternoons spent outside with a book in hand.

But I had a conversation with my friend while I was down in Florida and it's been running around my head now for the last week and a half.  So I decided to come here and share what God's been impressing on my heart as I've been reflecting.

To understand the context of this conversation, you have to know what my life has been like over the last 5 months.  I'm going to give you the cliff notes version, okay?

In early November, right before my birthday, the guy I was dating broke up with me.  There were some circumstances surrounding the break up that made me question the timing.  We had a couple conversations and I told him that I believed God was telling me to fight for him.  And I did.  For 3.5 months.  Until it became crystal clear that I could stop fighting and move on.  So about 1.5 months ago I started reentering life and truly enjoying every moment again.  There's a lot more details I'm obviously leaving out, but that's not the main point of this post.  Basically you need to know, I wasn't expecting the break-up and felt blind-sided.  It sucked. It hurt. It was painful.  But can I share something?  God is really good at this healing thing.

Why did you need to know this?  Because this was the conversation that my friend and I were having. But it was her comment about all of this that made me pause and has caused me to continue processing over the past week or so.  Her comment was about how no one saw this coming and wondering how we keep it from happening again in the future.

And while we talked about different ways that we can be discerning about who we are in a relationship with, the answer that I kept coming back to is that we can't.  If we are truly looking to gain any sort of close relationship with anyone, a friend, a family member, a potential significant other, we open ourselves to the possibility of pain, of being hurt.  It's going to happen.  We're humans.  We hurt each other.  And while we can be discerning in relationships, we're not perfect.  Caring about anyone opens you to the possibility of pain.

What we do with that pain is incredibly important though.

Are we trying to quiet the hurt and pain with something that the world offers?  Or are we running to Jesus?  Because he gets it.  He so gets relational pain.  And that's really what I was struck with over the last couple of weeks.

If anyone understands the pain of a relationship rejection, it's God.

He created us in the Garden of Eden because it gave him pleasure.  He created us for a relationship with him.  But we rebelled.  We decided that we knew best.  And our relationship with God was fractured. And it caused God's heart pain.  By creating us he had opened himself up to the possibility of rejection, and we followed through with that rejection quite well.

But that's not the end of the story.  Because God wanted a restored relationship with us.  So he had a plan.  A plan that would cost him so much.  He sent his son.  And the response of the people to the son? Rejection.  To the point that they nailed him to the cross and killed him.  But I am so thankful for what Easter means. Because Jesus didn't stay dead. He conquered death and sin and made a way for us to once again have a relationship with God.  Yet, in doing that, God is still incredibly vulnerable.  He has opened himself up to rejection once again.  He will never force a relationship on anyone.  We have to choose to come to him.  And the choice of people to not have a relationship with him, breaks his heart.

God understands pain in relationships.

And who better to comfort us when we experience pain in our relationships?

Because here's what I think God also understands: By opening ourselves to others and the possibility of pain, we are also opening ourselves to the possibility of joy, and laughter, and love, and hope.  Without the possibility of pain, what meaning is there in any of these other things?  What do we have to compare them to?

What is a life full of acquaintances but no real meaningful relationships?

Please know my heart.  I am by no means saying to stay in friendships and dating relationships and other relationships that continually and consistently cause you pain and hurt. People who hurt you with no regard to the pain they continually inflict may need to play a much lesser role in your life, if they even play one at all.

What I am saying is this:

In any close relationship, pain is possible. Where we take that pain and what we do with it, matters. And Jesus gets it.  So cling to him.

And can I tell you something else?  Pain has a purpose.  The pain that we experience has a way of bringing us to the end of ourselves. To running to Jesus.  To being made more like him.  Pain has a way of growing us like nothing else.

Were there several months of the last 5-6 months that were incredibly painful and hard? Yes.  But looking back, I wouldn't change them. Because I see where I am now.  I see what God has done in my life.  Would I have ever chosen the pain of those months before going through them?

Nope. Not at all.  No way, Jose.  Not in a million years. (I can say this a bunch more ways if you'd like).

But I wouldn't change them.  I wouldn't change the nights spent in pain and heartache where I knew the only place to turn was Jesus.  And I wouldn't change the joy and hope and life that came at the end of the pain.  Because it was that much sweeter and more meaningful because of the pain. I would never choose pain.  But I am thankful for the way God uses painful events and circumstances to make me more like him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fighting the Crazy

There are days I feel downright crazy for doing what I'm currently doing. Even though I believe God is asking me to walk this walk, it seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.  Or maybe I just think it does.  I told you, I feel downright crazy some days.

You know when I feel the most crazy?  When I spend too much time on what ifs.  When I spend too much time scrolling through the pithy quotes on Pinterest. When I spend too much time focusing on what I think everyone else would do in this situation.

And I realized something today... after spending 3 months feeling half insane (I'm not always the quickest learner)... I feel crazy because I'm taking my eyes off the one who matters: Jesus.  He is the one who has called me to walk this road.  And this road may not go on forever, but for right now, this is the road he has called me to walk. When I keep my eyes on him, I know I'm walking the way I'm supposed to walk.  When I let my eyes drift around to see what everyone else is thinking, I start feeling like I'm insane.

I don't like feeling crazy.

So I'm thankful for a God who keeps reminding me that right here, right now, he is asking me to trust him and walk this road not knowing how or where it will end. And I'm thankful that God has put friends in my life who when I start to feel crazy, remind me that I'm not.  That what I'm feeling is normal.  That as long as I'm following God, nothing else matters.  And that they'll support me as long as I believe God is asking me to walk this way.

And I spend a lot of time praying.  Praying that God will sync my heart with his for this walk. Praying that if God tells me to turn a corner and go down a different street that I'll have the courage to step out in obedience.  Praying that if God tells me to keep walking this same road I'll have the courage to trust and continue to obey him.

So right now, I'm going to keep praying and keep trusting and keep walking and fight to keep my eyes on the one who has called me to this road rather than on things that like to point out how crazy I am.  Because I like feeling at least a little sane.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Lead Me to the Rock

I've spent the last 3 months praying myself through the hard.  Asking God for a miracle.  Pleading with God for wisdom. Praying that my heart would be in sync with God's heart and that I'd have the courage to step out in obedience for whatever he asks.  And that's just the start of what I've been bringing to God.

Sometimes I feel like I'm running out of words to pray.  Not because I think God doesn't hear me or because I think I need to say certain words.  But because I've been praying the same things for the last 3 months.  I know God doesn't get tired of me coming to him with the same things over and over, but still, I've found myself running out of words lately.  Those moments when I just can't put thoughts together anymore. There have been moments where my prayer just consists of "Jesus, please." Those moments are when my heart is just completely overwhelmed with everything that is going on.

And in those moments I'm so thankful that God can see my heart and my brokenness and can put the words together that I can't.

Because "Jesus, please." gets the point across just as well as the much longer prayers I've prayed lately.  Sometimes I think it gets the point across even better.  Because that's the moment that I have nothing else left.  The moment I come completely to the end of myself.  The moment where I'm open to letting Jesus do whatever it takes.

And that's a really good place to be.

I haven't seen that miracle yet.  I might never see these specific prayers answered the way I want.

But I know.  I know God hears me.  I know he sees the hurt and the pain my heart has been in for the last 3 months.  I know he cares.  And I know he has a plan.

And so, I'll keep praying and keep trusting and keep hoping for this specific miracle until God tells me step back.

"...when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Psalm 61:2b

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The hard

I haven't written in awhile.  Partly because I'm not exactly sure what to write and partly because I'm not sure I know how to say what God keeps impressing on my heart.  But I'm going to give it a try.

These last couple of months have been HARD. Like lots of tears, long nights, and trouble laughing hard. Like I should have bought stock in Kleenex hard.  If I've been moody, depressed or distant with you, I'm sorry.  So sorry. I have so many emotions swirling around inside of me all the time that it's difficult to know which way is up and I know the people closest to me are taking the brunt of it.

Yes.  The last two and a half months have been hard.

But can I tell you what's good about the hard?

The hard brings out the people in your life who love you.  The prayers people have prayed.  The tears people have cried with me.  The hugs people have given.  The places to hide people have provided.  The sense of normalcy when everything else seems abnormal.  I would not have gotten through the last couple of months without my people.  I will not get through the next few months without my people.  The hard reminds me of who those people are.

The hard brings me closer to Jesus.  It forces me to my knees because I can't handle it on my own. It makes me pray more, read Jesus' words more, worship more.  It makes me trust him more.  Because as I have prayed for wisdom and discernment and to know which way to walk, I hear his voice.  It's not always loud.  It hasn't been easy.  But I know it's him.  I know he's saying, "Trust me."

The hard reminds me of how big my God is.  It puts children's songs running through my head to give me hope and encouragement.  It brings to mind Bible verse upon Bible verse that I've memorized about how God can do what I feel is impossible. About trusting him.  About resting in him.

This hard isn't going away yet.  I'll admit, there are days when I wonder why God hasn't let me walk away from this situation. I've even come pretty close a couple of times lately.  But every time I've gotten close to walking away from this hard, God has stopped me.  He's said, "Not yet.  Trust me." And so I do my best to trust.  And I cry and I pray and I hope and I get discouraged and I keep fighting and I pray and I figure out how to adjust my eyes back to Jesus and the cycle repeats itself about a million and one more times.

I don't know how this hard will ultimately end up.  I do know that right now, God is calling me to trust him with the hard.  And part of that trust, is trusting that God will show me when this specific season of hard is over... no matter how it ends.

I've found that I don't particularly like the hard.  I don't know many people who do.  But what I do like?  I like the results the hard produces.  I like the times I draw closer to Jesus.  I like seeing the people who love me support and love on me. I like knowing how big my God is. I like knowing that I can trust God, because he's a good God, who loves me and wants the absolute best for me.

This season of hard isn't easy, but I'm trusting that God will make it worth it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Happy Re-Birthday #20

Today is my 20th "re-birthday". Today marks the decision that I made 20 years ago to follow Jesus.

It's been 20 years. 20 years of following Jesus, of running from Jesus, of good times, of hard times.  It's been 20 years with lots of changes.  I didn't fully understand 20 years ago what following Jesus meant.  What changes would happen.  What it would require.  But I understood enough to know I was a sinner who needed a savior.  And it's not a decision I regret.

And, as I've grown and come to understand more of what it means to follow Jesus, it's not a decision I take lightly.  My faith defines me.  Or at least I hope it does. My faith is the basis for the decisions I make and the way I live. And sometimes that's hard.  But even though it's not always easy, there's joy.  There's peace. There's hope.

Because I serve a big God.  A God who is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.  And while I may change and my circumstances may change, my God doesn't change.  His truth is still truth.  His love is still strong.  And he is still enough.

And that's why I've chosen him for 20 years.

Happy Re-birthday to me.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My best laid plans...

I like plans.  And structure.  And I like them a lot.

I like how they move you places and give you a framework to build on once you're there.  I like how they map out the future and give me concrete things to work towards.

But over the last couple of weeks, God's been teaching me that I need to leave the plans to him and enjoy the moment I'm in.  Because sometimes, I get so caught up in the future that I'm planning out that I forget about the present I'm living in.

And that's when I freak myself out.

Because I start thinking about things that are about 15 steps past the point I'm currently living and I realize I'm not ready for those steps.

And I have to stop and remind myself: I'm not ready because I'm not there yet and God is still working things out. And when I do get there I will be ready because God has gone before me and prepared the way.  And he's prepared me.

He will teach me what I need to know by the time I need to know it.  Not before.

He will show me the way to walk when it's time to walk it.  Not before.

He will put the experiences in my life I need to prepare me when it's time for the preparation.  Not before.

My job is simply to trust, learn, and enjoy the moment.  To trust that God's got this all figured out even when I don't.  To learn what he is teaching my heart in that moment.  And to sit back and watch him show off because these moments are going to prepare me for the next moments... and I don't want to miss that.

I'm not saying I'm throwing out all my plans.  Plans can be good.  They can give focus and purpose. They can form a vision and gather a team.  They can motivate a team to reach a goal.

But when I'm living too much in the future and trying to make plans that aren't ready to be made, that's when I need to take a step back and just watch God work.  That's when I need to trust.  And that's when I need to just enjoy the moment God has given me to live right now.

And that's when the freaking out stops and the peace and joy take over.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014



I love them.  They're how I make my living.  They're how I spend my free time... both devouring them in the form of books and creating with them in the form of this blog and journaling and a million other ways.

I don't know what it is about words that brings me such pleasure.

But there's something about specific words that just fit.

And as I look back over the last year, there are some very specific words that come to mind that have played an important role in my life.  Words that seem to have embodied what this year meant in my life.

And I want to share them with you.


I don't know what it is about this word.  But I love it.  I can't get enough of it.  It's actually staring at me right now as I write this in the form of a Christmas decoration I have.

I think when you've lived life at points with very little or absolutely no joy and then walk through it to a time where there is laughter and peace and joy, that you realize you never want to go back.

Joy is contagious.  Joy is life-giving.  And joy is a choice.

Joy comes from choosing Jesus.  From choosing to serve others.  From choosing to trust that God has a plan and he knows what he's doing.

Joy is one of my favorite words right now.  If I'm not careful, I could seriously buy everything in the store with the word JOY on it.  I love the reminders around my home to choose joy.


One of my favorite things lately is to turn on my Christmas tree lights, light a candle, maybe turn on one lamp, and just sit.  And think (because my brain literally never shuts off).  It's a time of quiet.  It's a time of peace.  And somehow, the word that comes to mind whenever I do this is simplicity.

More and more I'm finding joy in the small things.  The simple things.  A really good chocolate chip cookie.  Purple and white Christmas tree lights.  Yummy smelling candles.  Time to sit and reflect. Simple prayers.  A mug of vanilla chai tea.  Time with people I love.  Amazing hugs.  A song on repeat.

The simple things often mean the most to me.  I don't want lavish things.  I much prefer things that let me know you know me.  That you were thinking of me.  Simple, but meaningful.

Quiet Strength.

Yes.  I realize this is two words put together.  But I love them together.  Quiet strength isn't strength that's in your face.  It's the strength that comes out when you think you're about to break.  It's the strength that people don't see until they think you're going to break.

It's not a strength that always has to have its own way.  It's not a strength that demands.

It's a strength that gives everything it has.  It's a strength that considers the needs of others.  It's a strength that loves when it's really hard to love.  It's a strength that comes from time with Jesus, in his presence.

It's the kind of strength I want to have.  The kind that I'm constantly working on.

Words are powerful.  Words can breathe life.

There are so many words that I am in love with right now.  These are just a few that have stood out over the last year.  What are some words that have spoken to you over the last year?  Are they life-giving words?