Tag Archives: Jesus

Joy, Where Are You?

Some mornings I can barely find the energy to get out of bed. I’m exhausted and worn out and in pain and I simply don’t want to do anything but lay there. This morning was one of those mornings. My alarm clock (AKA, my children) started screaming in my ears and I had to get up and face the world. Before I could even get out of bed, the girls were already dressed for church and chattering in their fastest, most excited voices about what they might do at church today. So, begrudgingly, I got up, showered, and got ready for church.
And I’m glad I did. 

We sang some of my favorite Christmas songs, which immediately lifted my mood a bit.

  

“I rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel.”

Today’s sermon was titled, “Joy” and based on Luke 2:8-20. My first thought, from anxious and depressed mind was, “oh great, joy. That’s the last thing I want to talk about right now.” But that’s exactly why I needed to hear it. 

Luke‬ ‭2:8-20‬ ‭ESV

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

So apparently, joy is command. My pastor opened up the sermon with that and all I could think was, “great, we’re starting the morning off with something I suck at.” But as he kept talking, I understood it more. God doesn’t want me to have fake joy, like the fake smile I tend to plaster on my face when I tell everyone I’m doing great. But God wants me to a real, genuine joy – the kind that only He can give me; the kind that comes from being awestruck by an amazing God. 

  

Let me be real here for a minute, the last few weeks I have been stuck in a cycle of sadness and feeling sorry for myself. I’m having brain surgery in four days and I’m scared – really scared, about all the “what ifs” and things that could possibly go wrong. I really haven’t felt much joy at all. I haven’t been praying. I haven’t been reading my Bible. I’ve just been quietly simmering with anger at God for not making me healthy. But the more I’ve ignored God, the worse I’ve felt. The more I’ve pushed Him away, the angrier I’ve gotten. My joy has been nonexistent.

I feel like an outsider in this world, like I just don’t belong anywhere. I have some wonderful friends and great church family – but often, I just feel different, like I don’t fit in with anyone. I feel lost. My pastor’s first point today was that joy is for the outsiders. We explained how God sent His angels to the shepherds, of all people. He could’ve sent the angels to someone powerful, like a king or ruler, but He didn’t. He sent them to shepherds – to the outsiders. 

In the same way, in our current society, God doesn’t come only for the “insiders.” He doesn’t come just for the powerful and popular – He comes for the outsiders. But here’s the thing, if you really think about it – we’re all outsiders. None of us in this world are insiders; we are all OUTSIDE of Heaven. And my pastor made a good point, even the people who I look at and think have it together and appear to fit in so well – even they struggle with feeling like outsiders, it simply part of being human. And we all feel like no one else feels the way we do so none of us talk about it; but if we did, we would know we weren’t alone. 

  

So in acknowledging that others feel like outsiders as well and many of us never speak of it, how well do I reflect God to others? How well do I reflect God’s love to those who feel like they don’t belong?

The second point that my pastor made today was that joy comes from Heaven. We don’t create joy from within ourselves. I can be sad or depressed or going through a rough time and still feel joy in my heart. God is perfect and Holy and separate from us, but He is also imminent and close through Jesus. 

The glory and power of God reassuring, but it should also leave a healthy fear in us. When the angels came to the shepherds, they were scared because they felt unworthy of their holiness. But the angels told them not to be afraid, for they had new that would bring great joy. The birth of Jesus brings us joy by reminding us that even though we may be going through a rough time now, even though we’re scared, even though we feel lost, even though life is hard – a savior has come to save us. 
How much different would my life be if I believed, I mean rally believed deep in my heart, that Jesus came down from Heaven for me? 

  

Lastly, my pastor touched on having joy in the valley – this was, I felt, the most fitting part for me today. I’ve had “mountaintop experiences” – times where God’s love and glory are so apparent that I am in awe and filled with joy. The goal is to live out the joy from those mountain top experiences while we’re in the valley. God wants me to treasure His words in my heart and live my life in faith. It doesn’t sounds THAT difficult. But when you’re in the valley, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative – the fear, worry, pain, and anxiety. But God calls us to remember the things we know to be true, to remember the mountaintop, remember what His closeness feels like – those are the things that will bring us joy in the valley. 

Each day that God gives me in a gift and I should rejoice in every day – even the days when I’m in the valley. 

So let me rephrase my current thoughts and worries…

  

I’m having brain surgery in four days. I may be scared, but even if the worst happens – if I were to die, I would go Home to Jesus and have no more pain. If it’s successful, I will stop going blind and my vision will be saved. If something goes wrong and I come out of surgery with some type of disability, God will use that to glorify Him. I am scared and I really don’t want to go through with it. But just like He always does, God has me in the palm of His hand and whatever happens will not be a surprise to Him, He already knows and He will care for and provide for me no matter what.

I simply need to trust Him and find my joy in Him, not in this world.

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Running from Anxiety

It was almost 3 years ago that I started running. As someone who HATED running with a fiery passion, it surprised me how much I enjoyed it. For the first time in my life o had found a healthy way to cope with my depression and anxiety…that was, until I shattered a bone in my foot. 

  
After a year of running hard, I was sidelined while I had surgery to remove the shattered sesamoid bone. This was the start of my downward spiral. All of a sudden, my coping mechanism was stolen from me and I didn’t know how to deal wmy anxiety anymore. 

Over the last 15 months, I have had 5 surgeries. After months of recovery, I’ve finally been given clearance to run again. But now, I’ve also developed plantar fasciitis. It’s incredibly painful and, at times, I can barely walk. 

I’m frustrated! I miss the feeling of the wind in my hair as I run down the road. Running gives me a sense of freedom that I can get from anything else. Running calms my anxious heart. It helps me decompress when I can’t make sense of my off the wall emotions. Running has done more for my mental health than any of my medications have. 

I’m planning on running a half marathon in 15 weeks – the Saddle Blazer half in Killeen, Texas on February 27. The Monday after thanksgiving, I’ll be starting my official training program. I’m incredibly nervous. But also so excited. 

My biggest fear with this half marathon training is that I’ll re-injure myself and have running taken away from me again. 

Running is a gift, a blessing. Don’t take it for granted. Running helps me to understand the chaos of this world. It helps me find meaning in a life that sometimes feels meaningless. It helps me connect with God in a way that nothing else can.  

   

So if you tell me I need to stop running, that it’s bad for my knees, that I need to find another way to cope…I’m going to tell you that running has changed my life and given me the courage to keep pushing even when I’m tired and scared. Quitting isn’t an option! 


Jesus, I Need You

You ever have one of those days where the enemy feels the need to remind you of every bad thing you’ve ever done in your life? Yup, today was one of those…this was my response – I had a talk with Jesus.

Jesus, I Need You
Here I stand broken
I’ve got nothing to bring
I’m holding on to the lies
Like a cat on a string
I’ve pierced my own skin
And denied Your truth
I’ve gotten lost in my mind
And I let go of You
Jesus, I need You

My stomach is empty
Poison courses my veins
My body is fading
I can’t handle this shame
You say You can reach
All the way out to me
But I feel just one step
Too far to be free
Jesus, I need You

If You know my heart
You know my evil thoughts
I once held on to You
But I let go and I’m lost
I’m trying to fight
The lies and temptations
But few things can compare
To power of starvation
Jesus, I need You

My sin is enclosing
Around my every side
The truth is fading
While I cling to the lies
I worthless and useless
You’ll never love me
The voices keep screaming
That You can’t save me
Am I too far gone
To receive Your grace
Your love and Your mercy
I’m just a disgrace
Jesus, I need You

I’m crying to You
As loud as I can
My ground has been shaken
And I can no longer stand
My voice, it cracks
As I beg You to answer
Because, Lord, if You don’t
My heart won’t endure
If You can’t save me
I have nothing left
The only choice I will have
Is to end it in death
Jesus, I need You

Then I heard Him…
“Daughter, You have me.
I’ve always been right here
So let me confront you with truth
In the midst of your fear
You are faced with two choices
Only you can make
You can wallow in pity
Or admit your mistakes
It comes down to one question
Do you believe
That I died on a cross
Nails in my hands and feet
I was scared too
Just like you are now
But even then I loved you
Enough to pour my blood out
You could never pay
The price of your own sin
My death on that cross
Is the only way You’ll see Him
I conquered death
And I took on satan
So that you could be free
From this life you are living
So tell me, is that enough
For you to trust
Will you stop fighting
And just give it up
Or are you gonna tell me
That my death was in vain
That I died on that cross
Just to feel the pain
I died for you
So that you could live
I’ve made your heart new
You’ve been forgiven
I didn’t deserve
The death I received
It was meant for you
But I took it on Me
So don’t you yet see
That I want to help you
If you’ll give me your hand
Just trust that I can rescue
You must make a choice
So what will you choose
My arms are always open
Just waiting for you.”

Jesus, I am so sorry
For my doubt and control
Please take it all
My heart, mind, and soul
I need you to heal me
I need your strength
I’m scared and confused
But I’ll trust what You say
Jesus, I need You


No Looking Back

When I became a Christian, I wanted nothing more than to leave my old life behind me; but my old life was holding onto me with a death-grip. I really didn’t want to leave my past behind me though; after all, it was fun and I was in control, so what was the big deal? The big deal was that I was living behind a mask. I didn’t want my Christian friends to know about my struggles or the very “un-Christian” aspects of my life.

But apparently, God wanted me to trust Him and allow Him in to those scary, untouched parts of my life. He wanted me to share my life, my hurts, and my struggles with other believers. At the time, I thought this was the most ridiculous thing God could ever ask of me.

Nearly two years and lots of tears, emotional meltdowns, sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, and fear later – God had brought me through so much and it is safe to say that I am no longer the person I used to be. I have been set free from self-harm, depression, a love and relationship addiction, and the effects of abortion and sexual abuse. God has proven Himself, over and over, in my life. He hasn’t failed me yet; but somehow, I still struggle with letting God into all parts of my past.

Recently, I have begun a new phase of my recovery. A phase that, in all honesty, I don’t want to go through. I want change, but I don’t want to do the work required to change. I don’t really want to change my behavior, rather I’d just like to change the pain I feel while still doing what’s bad for me. Yes, I am fully aware how illogical that sounds. But that’s the problem, when our minds get distracted by things of this world and we lose our focus on God, things start to get illogical.

In the midst of my shame, guilt, anger, and self-pity, God gave me a beautiful gift today. He gave me a reminder of where my hope lies; a reminder that He loves me, that He cares about me, and that He will calm my fears.

I walked outside this evening and I was immediately blown away by the beauty of the evening sky – the way the light shined through the clouds and the sun’s rays beamed…it was, for me, just a small slice of what Heaven must be like.

20130903-221705.jpg

But in that moment, while I marveled at the beauty of God’s creation, I turned around. That’s when I saw the darkness of the storm clouds behind me.

20130903-221814.jpg

Standing in the same place, I could see two totally different perspectives – if I looked ahead of me, I saw light, hope, strength, and beauty…but behind me, there was sorrow, pain, and darkness. I saw all these things without moving an inch, it only depended on which direction I choose to look.

This is, basically, the exact definition of my life right now…I can look ahead at the light and hope that God offers me or I can look behind me at my failures and pain and be stuck in the darkness. I don’t have to move to be able to see the light, I just have to choose to look at it, it’s my choice.

You see, for the last few weeks, I’ve been looking back; looking at the depth of my sin and the greatness of guilt and shame. Looking back into the darkness had drawn me away from the light and the things I know to be true. I have felt like God was distant from me, and now I ask myself – who moved, God or me? Clearly, the answer is me.

I moved away from Him because I wanted control in my out of control life…even though I have a pretty long track record of not being able to control anything in my life and just creating an even bigger mess than when I started.

I don’t want to give up the facade of control that I convince myself that I had (even though I KNOW that’s a lie). I want to do things on my own without facing the pain. I don’t want to do what’s right because, right now, what’s right is also what’s hard…and I don’t want to deal with the hard part.

So here’s, yet another, giant leap of faith on my road to recovering from my past. I know that God knows better than I do; He knows the master plan while I can only see the small space that I occupy. I know that this new phase of recovery will be painful. It will hurt, but I’m trusting that it will be worth it. God hasn’t let me down yet, I doubt He’s going to start now.

I’m tired of looking at my past and feeling discouraged by the darkness that surrounds it. I will CHOOSE (yes, it is a choice…a painful choice…but a choice nonetheless) to look ahead of me, to look at God and seek the light. I will CHOOSE to keep moving, even when it hurts, trusting that Jesus is right there next to me. I CHOOSE to not beat myself up when I fall (because I’m sure I will fall along the way). I CHOOSE to place my hope in my Savior and not in myself. I CHOOSE to celebrate the little victories and not get caught up in the set-backs.

Philippians 3:13-14,16No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us…But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

I CHOOSE TO STOP LOOKING BACK!


It Has Been Covered

I shared a poem this eveing with my Celebrate Recovery family. I love this group of people so much. CR will forever have a place in my heart and I feel so blessed to be able to be a part of it. I have encountered more love, support, encouragement, mercy, and grace by this one group of people in the last 8 months than I think I have in the reast of my life. Thank God for Celebrate Recovery.

It Has Been Covered
She sheltered her life
In the rags of her shame
And the guilt that she felt
Said she was to blame
She listened to voices
That told her “you’re worthless”
Not knowing, to Him
She’s precious, she’s priceless
So she kept on running
Afraid to face the hurt
All the time, not knowing
This guilt wasn’t hers
She gave up her body
Hoping for love in return
But when love didn’t happen
She was left broken and burned
She’d reached her breaking point
She thought her life was over
But that’s when her Savior
Said, “Your sin is covered,
Child, you’re precious,
Just look at the Father
He doesn’t make junk
And He made you His daughter.”

He left his wife and his kids
Stranded and alone
And after that moment
They never knew a “home”
He regretted his past
Thought they’d be better without him
But his choice caused a wound
That he silenced with gin
Years passed and kids grow
He missed every moment
First steps, first date, first loves and heartbreaks
He just couldn’t take it
He knew he’d messed up
But too much time had passed
Although he knew their hearts were broken
He just couldn’t go back
At the end of a bottle
He decided, “It’s over”
But that’s when his Savior
Said, “Your sin is covered,
Go home to your family,
Your daughters, they need you
Just as you still love them,
So your Father loves too.”

The moral of the story:
Is it’s never too late
To turn from your sin
And let go of the shame
God offers salvation
He forgives every sin
Because of Jesus’ blood
God’s inviting you in
You may think you’re too broken
That you’ve fallen too far
But I guarantee that He’ll save you
Just lift up your eyes and hold out your arms
Hold on tight to the promise
That He won’t let you go
Pray for His truth everyday
And the gift of His hope
When you can’t go on, can’t take another step
And you think it is over
Just remember God’s love, His mercy and grace
Jesus will tell you, “Your sins have been covered.”


Outside my comfort zone

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

I think this is something that we all struggle with. I mean, really, no one WANTS to leave their comfort zone and venture into the unknown. A few months ago I heard someone say, “when you’re lost, you want to be comfortable.” Which I realized is incredibly too true. Because if you don’t know that someone is there to catch you before you fall, are you really going to be willing to step off into the unknown? I know I wasn’t.

Before I knew the Lord and what He wanted to do for me, I never knew that there was someone there to catch me if I fell. Before this journey began, I was an introvert, afraid of sharing my poetry with people, afraid of letting people see the ‘real’ me, afraid of going anywhere where I had to associate with new people, and terrified of what other people thought of me. But now…now it’s a whole different story. Now, although still an introvert, I am more open to other people – talking to them, sharing my poetry, and letting them get to know me. I’m even stepping far enough out of my comfort zone as to volunteer to go to Guatemala on a mission trip.

Thinking of my “comfort zone” reminds me of the Casting Crowns song “Voice of Truth.” I love that song.

My faith is in Jesus, that He is there and will protect me when I am out of my comfort zone and I’m afraid. What a glorious feeling!

My Comfort Zone
A narrow existance
Left her afraid
Unwilling to leave
The mistakes she had made
Lost in a comfort
That didn’t relieve
All that she needed
Was just to believe
But she locked the door
In the darkness felt safe
And she didn’t notice
Her biggest mistake
Isolation was sweet
And bitter in nature
But no one could hurt
If they didn’t know her

Her comfort zone crashed
At the sound of your voice
It was in that moment
She saw no other choice
She let down her walls
And welcomed You in
Asked You to forgive
Her every last sin
True to Your word
You opened your arms
Made her safe in the light
And You cleansed her heart
Stepping from comfort
Into the love of a Father
Who won’t let harm come
To His precious daughter
Her life is all Yours
As she lives through faith
Outside of her comfort zone
You keep her safe


Healing

Nothing heals more in a moment of suffering than when you realize your not alone.

It’s an amazing feeling to finally know that I am not alone, after feeling alone for so long. I know that Jesus it’s walking next to me and that He will pick me up if I begin to stumble – He won’t let me fall.

Jesus saved me from my sin and from  my depression. It in Him, and Him alone, that I have found hope…How glorious!


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