“In The Middle”

“Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me” – Casting Crowns

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And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you – Psalm 9:10

I often find myself in the middle. I can be so close to where God wants me to be but something holds me back. I can’t always offer a full surrender. It’s that part of me that still wants to be in control. That part of me that hesitates because I can’t see what is ahead and what the outcome will be. This has a lot to do with being an anxiety sufferer/worrier and if you are one as well, you know that we have a need to always know what is going to happen in order to be prepared for whatever arises. I laugh at myself for this because it is completely irrational and not at all in line with how a Christian should think. Thus, I am in the middle.

As the song I quoted above goes, “Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?” God is trying to make me into the person I am meant to be but sometimes I halt the construction. I let Him get me, where? To the middle. Often times just past the middle. And then I restrain. I have “deep water faith in the shallow end”. I can stand at the edge of the water, feet still planted firmly on the ground and say “sure… I have faith” but if I’m not willing to step into the deepest part where I can’t see but only trust, then where am I?

I don’t want to start the New Year in the middle. So today I am shooting for just past the middle and see where I end up in the coming year. If you find yourself caught somewhere between who you are and who God wants you to be, or who you used to be and who you want to be, remember that He is always near. He loves you no matter what and He will never stop trying to bring you closer to Him.

I wish each of you a happy, healthy and blessed New Year and pray that you seek God and find Him in everything you do!

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“The Calmness”

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The sun has not yet risen over the water but the sky begins to lighten in its wake. The waves gently lap the shore and my feet sink slowly into the smooth, glass-like terrain that the water creates as it retreats back.  The pull of the waves leave a beautiful impression upon the sand. It is another form of our creator’s artwork. His art isn’t framed and hanging in a museum. It is beneath my feet, within my eyesight and felt in the wind.

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As I walk and wait for the multitude of colors to appear with the sun, I think about all that is troubling me. The thoughts and emotions that crisscross through my mind and down into my heart are threatening to steal the peace I am searching for here. I push it away and it creeps back. It is true that the ocean can calm the mind and soul but only briefly. I search for more.  A permanent peace. One that won’t abandon me once my feet leave the sandy shore.

I continue to walk as the sky begins to produce a warmer glow. My thoughts progress into tangled knots and tears begin to flow. I look upward in a desperate plea. My shoulders slump and I hang my head. Suddenly I feel a Presence. I look to my right and my gaze falls upon Him. He walks alongside me in all of His glorious wonder that outshines the sun emerging from the water. “What troubles you my child?” He asks, as if He is not already aware of all that weighs heavy on my heart. As we walk, I speak to Him aloud about my fears, doubts and anxieties. He slowly nods, His hands clasped in front of Him and His eyes filled with compassion and understanding. It is as if we are two friends having a simple conversation. The heavy burdens begin to lighten but they are still there. “How about I take those for you?”, He gently suggests. I hesitate. Can I relinquish control of them? Can I truly say Thy will be done, not mine? And can I leave them with Him and not ask for them back when I feel uneasy about not knowing what is ahead?

His hand rests upon my shoulder, His eyes penetrating into the depths of my soul. I surrender. I suddenly feel a calmness that I have never felt. My shoulders no longer carry the weight of a thousand burdens and my steps become lighter as the water laps at my feet. The sun has shown itself fully as it hovers over the water. I take in the sight of the different shades of yellow, pink and orange. I turn back to my side and there is no one there. But the calmness remains.

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I find a spot to sit in the sand. I let my senses take over. The sight of the sunrise is breathtaking. The smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves crashing to the shore surround me. I look upward once again. This time not as a desperate plea but to simply say “Thank you”.

 

 

 

 

“You Survived”

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What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23

 This morning as I was opening a book that I carry with me, a piece of paper fell out. It was a copy of an email from a dear friend of mine. As always, the words were beautiful, inspiring and encouraging. I hadn’t read it in a while and one sentence caught my attention :

“The battle is over but the memories will have to be rearranged to the back of your mind and this is where God’s gift must be fully internalized…………………..YOU SURVIVED.”

This was a while before the full-on panic attacks had started and she was speaking of another time and another battle but I realized that it could easily be used in the terms of that struggle as well. As with any type of situation that causes us grief, pain, disappointment or fear, the lingering thoughts of that time will sometimes resurface and pull you back into a place where it seems as if you are reliving it all over again. This is especially true of anyone who has faced anxiety or panic attacks. We all know that the memories of the way that moment felt are what cause you to stay in a constant state of fear.

You really do have to rearrange those memories to the back of your mind. It takes a lot of will power and a ton of faith but it is do-able. I am proof. I think often of the worst days. I don’t let them linger very long though. I shuffle them back to where they belong and replace them with praise for the One who brought me through the fire, refined and strengthened.

If you are struggling, if your battle is all uphill, I encourage you to simply call out His name. Let Him show you how mighty and powerful He is.

And if your battle seems to be over, yet the memories are haunting you, replace them with thoughts of praise and thanksgiving. Prioritize your thoughts and bring God to the forefront. Remember that with Him, YOU SURVIVED.

“Answered Prayer In A Tissue Box”

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My daughter and I were hit hard this week with the latest virus (her) and the mother of all colds (me). We spent two and a half days curled up under blankets in bed or on the couch, watching Brady Bunch and Gilmore Girls reruns and sharing the tissue box. It was by far the worst I have felt in a while and with three days of fever bringing her down, it was obviously the worst for Callie as well. But in the midst of sneezes, coughs and general “yuckiness”, one afternoon she curled up next to me and said “Aside from being sick, I like this day”. She was enjoying our Mommy/Callie time and honestly so was I. It was then that I remember a conversation I had with God several days earlier. We had been in a whirlwind for the past two months it seemed and I felt like I hadn’t had much quality time with her. It was concerning me and so I shared this thought during a prayer. God heard me. We may not have enjoyed being sick and weak but there were moments during those two and a half days when we bonded like we hadn’t in quite a while. Lots of conversations about random things, some silly, some serious. It was just what we needed and God provided.

As we prepared for the day today (back to school and back to work) I prayed for strength for both of us. That we would muddle through the day and God would step in during moments of weakness. I thought of two verses and repeated them in my head as I started the morning:

God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present and well-proved help in trouble – Psalm 46 (Amplified Bible)

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I amself-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency] – Philippians 4:13 (Amplified Bible)

And when I checked my email this morning, this verse was in my inbox:

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect – 2 Samuel 22:33

No matter what you are facing today, whether it be a virus, a cold, a more serious illness, depression, fear….God’s strength will carry you.  And in those moments (even those sniffling, sneezing moments) there is a reason. It is well-orchestrated and a part of God’s master plan.

“Comfort Zone”

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Last night I picked up a book that lives on my coffee table….my copy of Jesus Calling, a daily devotional written by Sarah Young. I haven’t read it in a month or two, so I decided to pick it up and see what yesterday’s message said. I have been feeling very tense this week as I face a hurdle this coming weekend, when I have to step outside of my comfort zone. Something inside me said to pick up the book and meditate on the message. This is what I read:

“You are surround by a sea of problems, but you are face to face with me, your Peace. The closer you live to Me, the safer you are. Circumstances around you are undulating, and there are treacherous-looking waves in the distance. Fix your eyes on Me, the one who never changes. By the time those waves reach you, they will have shrunk to proportions of My design. The future is a phantom, seeking to spook you. Laugh at the future. Stay close to me.”

I sat and thought about those words for quite some time and truly meditated on them. Then I allowed myself to imagine Jesus kneeling beside me, comforting me. He reminded me that He is eager to give me peace if I will simply let Him. Curled up under my Grandma’s handmade quilt and clutching my book, I truly felt His presence and was comforted. It was an awesome moment. But it was short-lived because I know that I still have a long way to go to be able to fully release all my cares and burdens. It’s not as easy as it seems…at least for someone like me. However, I realized that if I intend to get there, then this is something I need every day. To feel at peace, even for a few moments and allow those few moments to turn into hours.

Today’s Jesus Calling devotion was just as powerful:

“You know that this day will bring difficulties, and you are trying to think your way through those trials. As you anticipate what is ahead of you, you forget that I am with you- now and always. Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur. Do not multiply your suffering in this way!”

Wow…those last two lines hit me. How often when we worry, do we rehearse our troubles? I know I do it all the time. I’ve been doing it all week. But that’s what worry is. When my mind conjures up scenarios that have the worst possible outcome. Rehearsing scenes that most likely will not happen. By doing this I indeed multiply my suffering. I need to focus on the positive and if trouble does come, then I should have to only deal with it when it happens, not a thousand times over and over in my mind to the point where I create more anxiety than needed.

Today I encourage you to step out of your “comfort zone” and step into God’s comfort zone. Let it go and be encouraged by the peace that only He can provide.

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) loveturns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fearbrings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection] – 1 John 4:18

“I Will Not Be Hindered By Lies”

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January. This month has been haunting me for quite a while. It was January of last year that my panic attacks hit me hard, completely debilitating me. I never really figured out why but I keep thinking to myself, “If I can make it through January (and then February) I will be okay”. So far, I am trying to simply be more optimistic and smile even when I don’t feel like it, laugh when I’m not sure it’s in me and force myself to do something positive even when it’s hard. And as I go, I find myself feeling better. But this morning I realized that isn’t enough. God made it known to me that in the fear I was facing and associating with this month, I still wasn’t trusting in Him as I should be.

I will be honest, there are a lot of times when I know He wants to walk side by side with me but I act like a toddler with a temper tantrum, wanting things my own way and screaming, “Not right now…I don’t wanna!” No, I don’t really do that but you get the picture.

Then there are the moments I do stroll alongside Him but I’m like a sixteen year-old with an iPhone. Head down, only looking up occasionally to say “Huh? What did you say?” Not fully involved in the conversation or appreciating the friend who is willing to “hang out” with me.

So I prayed about these things this morning and God led me to Ephesians 6: 10-12 (Amplified Bible):

10” In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].

11 Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.

12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere”

From this I understand that the enemy wants nothing more than to remind me that January was bad for me last year. He wants me to believe that this month is cursed and that I will not make it through. But with these words from God I know that I can continue on the journey that He has me on. That I will fulfill whatever He has in store for me through the struggles I overcome on a daily basis. I will not be hindered by lies, deceit and strongholds, whose only purpose is to distort or confuse my thinking. Any lie, with our permission, will gain control of our emotions and change our behavior. These things do not come from God.

But these things do:

22 But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness,

23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. – Galatians 5: 22-23

What are you facing today? Whatever it is, please let these powerful verses speak to you. Personally I am writing them down and carrying them with me this month : )