“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”.

 

 

 

 

“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

“Where Do I Go?”

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.

Life’s small worries and life’s bigger worries may sometimes weigh you down to the point where you are certain you can’t put the next foot in front of the other.

Where do I go…. but to the Lord?

Your days may not go the way you intended and you question it with WHY…WHEN…HOW?

Where do I go…. but to the Lord?

Anxieties, tension, and depression creep in. You may ask, “Is this all there is to life? When will it be my time?”

Where do I go…. but to the Lord?

Right now your future may not look as bright as you had hoped but it’s only because you can’t see the light God is pulling you toward. He isn’t finished with you yet. You are still a work in progress.

Where do I go…. but to the Lord?

Your days may seem insignificant in your own eyes, but in God’s eyes and those around you, your life has a beautiful meaning and purpose.

Where do I go…. but to the Lord?

Go to Him. He is waiting.

“Open The Door And Smile”

Over the course of the last few months, I cannot tell you how many times I have read or heard mention of the story of Mary and Martha from the Bible. Today, I was sent an email that once again recounted this story. I am beginning to think God is telling me to take a hint. So after reading it today I decided to write about it because it definitely relates to me on many levels and makes me think that maybe my mother should have named me Martha!

Mary and Martha were two sisters who were visited by Jesus.

“She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ” Luke 10: 39-42

So here is how I picture it. (Ladies, I know you can relate to this. We have all been there.) Jesus and his disciples drop by for a visit and Martha asks them in. I imagine at this point she is looking around wondering if the house is clean enough. If only she would have had time to sweep! She then starts to prepare the meal. What will she fix? Oh, visitors on such short notice. While she is busy slaving and sweating over the food preparations she looks over and sees Mary just sitting there at Jesus’ feet. Well how dare her! Just look at her, lazy woman just plopped herself down in the floor and is not even thinking about lifting a finger to help me! And here I am busy in the kitchen. Hair falling in my face, clothes a wreck. (I imagine there is eye-rolling, huffing and puffing and hands on hips at this point.) Martha has worked herself into such a frenzy worrying about every little thing that she tells Jesus, “Do you not see me over here diligently preparing the meal while my sister just sits there? Make her help me!” But Jesus tells her simply that she is too anxious and worried. Mary is happy and content and he will not disturb her.

The Bible doesn’t say what Martha’s response was. Did she throw her hands in the air and stomp off? Did she hang her head in shame and agree with what Jesus revealed to her? I would like to think it left a lasting impression on her.

I am a “Martha”. Worrying over every little thing. I panic when someone stops by to visit and  the house is not in perfect order, instead of being pleased that someone thought enough of us to visit. I need to open the door and smile. Not do a quick glance behind me to see if everything is in place. This should be my aspiration in all areas of my life. There are moments that I spend more time in an anxious state of mind than in the presence of God, in peace and serenity. I shamefully admit that. I need to constantly “choose my part…the good part” that God has laid out for me. It is mine and it is there for the taking anytime I desire. It is my goal to be Mary in a Martha world. A world where life is fast-paced, busy, always in motion. I want to slow down and concentrate on the things that have the most meaning. Life will be much simpler when I do.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

“Come Unto Me”

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” ~ Matthew 11:28

I am excited to write this blog today. I have so much to share! So I apologize in advance for the length. I’m sure it will end up being rather long but I have a story to tell about how amazing God works in my life and last night was no exception. So here it goes….

A few weeks ago we started attending a different church. I am familiar with everyone at this church because there are five churches on our “charge”. I have always attended the one closest to me. We all share the same pastor and we often have activities that involve everyone in all five churches. I felt the need to worship at this new church because I needed a change and it seemed to be best for Callie as well. Greg and I enjoy it very much and can relate to the Sunday school teacher in a more positive way. This teacher is the amazing Sharon D. Amazing!… because she is a godly woman who walks with the light of God shining through her no matter what she is doing, whether it be organizing an Easter egg hunt or teaching a Sunday school lesson.

So on to my story. The churches have been holding women’s meetings recently and I hadn’t been to one yet but decided earlier in the week that I would attend last night’s meeting. However, on Tuesday I started feel anxious. Anxiety had invited itself back into my daily routine. I don’t know why. But there it was, the nervousness, the phantom chest pains, shortness of breath. I was starting to worry…. here I go again. Is this going to last? Will it develop into a full blown attack? It continued through yesterday and by the evening, I just didn’t know if I could make it to the women’s meeting. I didn’t want to have an anxiety attack in church of all places. But Greg encouraged me to go. He said “It’ll be good for you. Go and just have fun.” So off I went, praying all the way that he was right and for God to give me strength and bring me peace of mind.

I arrived and took my seat. Still nervous. No one probably noticed but I was already deciding how I would make my graceful exit if I felt like I couldn’t stay. Then I noticed that the lady who was in charge of last night’s meeting wasn’t there and Sharon was there running around getting everything set up. She announced that she would be leading the meeting (that she had an idea for another meeting in mind anyway and would just use it) in the other lady’s absence.

This is where I realized that God was working for me last night. Sharon’s meeting was all about how women have too much stress in their lives and how we can cope and use different methods to relax and let go of worry. I could have fallen out of my seat. How I needed that! We had sweet smelling candles lit, soft music playing, hot tea and we meditated on verses or quotes that had a special meaning in our lives. Then we did relaxation techniques and focused on how to relax ourselves not just in general but for when we start our prayers so that we can give our entire focus to God during that time.

We were told to sit and pray and just be calm and let ourselves relax but I wanted to just shout and say “Praise you God! You knew what I needed and you brought me to it.” Think about this…it was the first meeting I had attended, I almost didn’t go because I was so worried about my anxiety, then Sharon has to lead the meeting in someone’s absence and the meeting was exactly about everything I needed.  I ended up leaving there more relaxed and with a joy in my heart knowing that God was working behind the scenes to give me peace and to show me that He still has my best interest in mind…even as I doubted it when my anxiety level had went up.

To top off the evening, as I drove home I looked up at the sky and there was a cloud forming into the shape of a heart…I snapped a picture (above) with my cell phone just before it started to fall apart. The pic is not so great but had to share it anyway. It was just another “love note” from God.