Numbering Comfort

Comfort.

 

Interesting word. You may not think so, but I believe any word that can be defined in different ways by different people, deserves to be dubbed “interesting.”

 

Of course, comfort is technically defined as something that soothes or reassures. Most people think of familiar food, a shoe that’s the perfect fit, a smooth driving car, or loose fitting clothing.

 

But I’m learning that there’s comfort in time, too.

 

Yeah, so maybe it goes too quickly, but that’s not what I mean. I find comfort in time, with regard to people. The longer I’ve known, really known you, the more comfort I have to just…be (with you). What a gift to have comfort with a friend, knowing that for better or worse, they’ve been there and will likely be there in the time to come.

 

Time spent with a good friend is like coming home after a long and exhausting trip, taking your shoes off, and tucking your feet under you as you curl up in your favorite chair.

 

Be honest, does a smile not drift to your lips as you draw that mental picture?

 

It doesn’t seem to matter the time or distance that separates, you just sort of fall right back into place—a place of being mutual desire for connection and acceptance. And the best part? You don’t have to do a thing differently or change yourself, because this time you’ve spent connecting and knowing each other allows you to simply be.

 

The only discomfort I find in time, is the thought of not having more of it to just spend in the presence of a good friend; the telling of it’s comfort simply a soft smile lifting my lips.

Let Me Take the Lead

Have you ever refused to vocalize a question because you feared God’s answer? Funny, because He knows your question anyway. Recently, I decided to ask Him about something I long ago decided wasn’t in my best interest. I’ve been restless and wrestling with this decision over the last two years. If you even came close to the topic in my presence, I’d clam up or become extremely defensive; listing all the reasons my decision was best for me at this point in life.  And I’ve been going nowhere fast.

Notice anything about the paragraph above? Lots of and me and my. I feel like I’m singing a vocal warm up here. I guess I’m just in the mood for being vocal today. Fighting within myself over what to do with my life was just plain exhausting. My main worry? Money.

Will I have enough money to pay my student loans this month?

What about my car payment?

How could I possibly consider pursing my master’s degree when I’m still paying for the last one? 

Somewhere along the way, I stopped asking God what He had planned for my life; instead I asked Him to fit into the plans I crafted for myself. And not only that, I had the audacity to ask Him to bless those plans. Eh. I do believe that He gives us what we need to make wise decisions about the way we live, but I was ignoring a lot of the wisdom He tried to give me.

Y’all the more living I do, the more thankful I am for His grace. Man, what grace. How do I know His grace? I’m still here. My stubborn, often self-centered, soul has beheld more second chances than mistakes.

Well, I’ve felt this gentle nudging to look into a couple of Masters programs over the last few weeks. I prayed and told God all the reasons I couldn’t and didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want more student loans. I wasn’t looking forward to writing more research papers. I wasn’t looking forward to losing what little bit of a social life I have. We went back and forth–me with my “no,” and Him this soft prodding for a “yes.” I’ve felt more unsettled during these last two weeks than any time throughout the last two years. I thought okay, God, I’ll try this Your way. So, I finally said yes.

Yesterday, I applied for one of the programs. And it’s all I’ve been able to talk about over the last two days. I’m actually excited about it–so excited that I’m checking daily to see if I’ve been accepted (yes, I know that means I just got up first thing this morning to check my application status). Who is this person? 

I’m not guaranteed a spot in the program. I’m still praying for enough money in the form of something other than student loans. But the funny thing is–I’m not worried about any of it at all. I gave up my worry and took the next step. Instead of feeling more fear and trepidation, I just feel peace seeping deep into my bones.

I have this visual of the Lord reaching down and patting the top of my head like I’m a child, saying, “It’s okay little one; I’ve got this. Let Me take the lead.” I see Him standing beside me with my worries and hopes and dreams lying across His capable shoulders. The weight lifts off of my own shoulders and my heart no longer feels like it’s sinking. I exhale, releasing things I never realized I held inside. And I know what it means to be buoyed by hope.

I want to leave you with a passage I’ve grown to love over the last few months. I know, I know–it’s not exactly the same situation, but it is life. I just want you to take a minute, grab your Bible, and circle all the promises He makes. Notice, most of them start with “I will,” not “you will.” Amazing, huh?

“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”

Jeremiah 29:10-14

 

*Update: As of today, Friday 3/6, I have been accepted to the Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling at Liberty University (Online). God sure worked quickly on this one! :)

Excuse Me, Was That A Prayer Request?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21

I escaped to a night in my memory that mostly passes in a blur, except one moment stands out–clear like the crystal of my mom’s Princess House glasses. As a teen, I remember having weekly Friday night hangouts at our house. My parents would order pizza or grill out, and a couple hours later my brother and I packed the house full of our friends. I went to a public school and I think my parents saw it as a way to reach some of the kids who might not know Jesus.

Many conversations, conversions, and games of spades happened on our old oak table. But one scene keeps replaying on my mind’s reel. My parents, my brother and his best friend, and one of my best friends and I were all sitting around after stuffing ourselves with spaghetti. We three ladies were just having a moment, and not the good kind. A mutual friend said and did some things we didn’t quite understand, and we were all hurt. So, what did we do? We ventured into the lands of “I can’t believe she…” and “Bless her heart!” Suddenly, the dinner table commotion stilled.

I caught my Dad’s expression and stilled, too.

He said, “Excuse me, was that a prayer request?”

And I realized, somewhere along the line we all cross some lines; with words we can apologize, but we’re seeking forgiveness for the words we can’t take back.

For years I told myself that I wasn’t a gossip, that I would never hurt someone like that because I personally knew the wounding power of words. (Apparently, the trick really is never saying never.) I definitely had the attitude and the words to match my teen-age. Oh sure, we think we’re clever with the way we hide behind words like “venting” and “letting it out” or “prayer request.” But what is it about us, ladies, that makes us want to tear each other apart?

Here are some common excuses:

“I just talked about him because that’s what everyone else was talking about at lunch.”

“Well, she’s shared her drama with half of the church already, why should it matter if I tell my best friend?”

“I don’t really care. I  may have said something bad about her, but she’s said far worse about me.”

“It’s really not that big of a deal. Who cares if we talk about it?”

“I’m not gossiping. I’m just venting. I really need you guys to pray for me in this situation.”

Yeah, I’ve been there and certainly have some regrets. I’ve fed myself on cynicism, anger, and bitterness. I guess I mixed up letting out my hurt in a healthy way with apathy for the effects of the nasty word barbs I strung around the walls of my heart. Oh, words.

Letters were my currency; journaling my lifeline; and ink-slinging stories my chance to stand out. I have been wounded by many a sharp tongue, and words also helped me heal. But I’m sure my quick retorts inflicted their fair share of pain. I’d be lying if I claimed I never said anything bad about anyone. Was pain my intention? No, not always. But deep down I think I knew someone would end up hurt, I just didn’t analyze that feeling long enough to shut my mouth or to (kindly) shut them up.

I still slip up from time to time and say hurtful things, and I probably will again. But God convicted me about my words that night–a lesson I took a few extra years to learn–hurtful words are just wrong whether I’m the one saying them or failing to stop them.

I have learned that the right words can also heal, but that’s another line for another time.

The Honey-Phrase: A Class in Southern Sass

When you live in the South and someone calls you honey—something’s up. It might mean you recently experienced a terrible break-up, so you get an “Aww, hoooneyyyy.” It might be because someone decided to switch on the southern sass and say, “You have no idea who you’re messing with, honey!” And it might be another way of saying, “Bless your heart, you just don’t get it.”

The South is notorious for using normal words with numerous meanings, and you’re supposed to know them all if you live here. Luckily, you can usually classify the honey-phrase by the tone of voice. For example:

“Now honey…”

This one, I’ve heard before. So much. And the tone? Condescending. Sure, maybe she meant well, but those two words…well, they ruffled my feathers a little.

She continued, “…don’t go questioning God.” She said it with concern across her brow and good-intentions written on those now pursed lips.

But I wanted to scream.

What exactly did she mean? I only mentioned asking God, why because I was facing a tough situation. She may have been listening to me, but she wasn’t hearing me at all.

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I don’t question His existence. I don’t question who He is. I don’t question His ability to do anything. I don’t question His knowing everything. I don’t question His love. I don’t question His plan being the best for my life. These are the very reasons I feel completely comfortable asking Him why.

 

“…he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything…God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:25, 27 (ESV)

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8a (ESV)

 

To me, why is the deepest question. I could ask what, but that only gives me the facts. How—the process. Where—the location. When—the time. But why? Why is thousands of question marks packed into one tiny word. Why digs to the heart of an issue.

Asking why makes me feel closer to you, because your answer gives me a glimpse of your heart. Sometimes, I even draw answers from your silence, knowing that wisdom often comes in quiet.

And I think asking why is essential to spiritual growth.

You see, asking why tells God I don’t understand but I’m here anyway. I want to know His heart. And I think God wants to be known deeply, just like I want to be known deeply—loved, trusted, and respected even when I don’t make sense to the one asking why.

Sometimes, He directs me to an answer in His Word. Sometimes, it’s just His gentle whisper to my soul saying, “Trust Me.” Sometimes, He sends me a quiet peace that I can’t explain.

What God does doesn’t always make sense to me. I ask Him why all the time. Instead of walking away disappointed by what I don’t know about life, I always walk away with a deeper understanding of who He is and how intense His love is for me. And that is enough.

Leaving Egypt

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.”

Hosea 11:1

Slavery. Literal in this passage (and for so many hurting souls across the world), figurative in my life (and so many others’). My chains cannot be seen by the naked eye. I am shackled to my past, pain, insecurities, doubts, fears, and outright failures. But here’s the thing–just like God called the Israelites out of Egypt and into a place He prepared for them–He called me out of my sin and the normal of this world into the extraordinary love, grace, mercy, healing, and wholeness of His arms.

But here I go, weak as I am, trying to turn back to Egypt. Over and over. When things don’t go my way or aren’t perfect, I let go of His extended hand and walk away. How many times have I ignored His call or drowned it out with the sound of my own desires–turning my head back over my shoulder, reaching for torment in my Egypt? Instead of leaning into His loving guidance, I opt for the life that only strengthens my bond with what’s behind me. I grasp at this destructive inheritance of pain and regret, instead of rejoicing in my inheritance of His glory and hope.

The journey from Egypt is wrought with trials and pain as well, but I travel on the hope of what lies at the end. I am His beloved daughter.

I am His. 

He calls to me, and I want to cling to Him. I know I have to let go of these chains. I’m leaving Egypt behind once and for all. And as I walk through the desert, I realize I am free.

He is my promise.

He is my future.

And in that I found my freedom. 

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At Least I Can Breathe

At least I can breathe.

I recite over and over

Quietly, internally.


 

At least I can breathe.

I feel all of life deeply,

and maybe too quickly,

and maybe that’s a problem.


But today at least I can breathe.

My heart no longer pounds

Gasping for air in its cage.

Its wounds are healing, slowly,

And it doesn’t feel so broken.


At least I can breathe.

The soothing rhythm runs on—

Inhale, exhale, and repeat.

It keeps me tied to reality.

Life moves on; I must move too

Or be stuck here forever.


At least I can breathe.

Movement is an uphill climb

I’m dragging and falling behind.

My head spins as the air gets thin

I want to go back to the start,

Where my heart’s trail meets

This rocky, mountain road.


At least I can breathe.

The altitude crushes my lungs.

I bite back the bitter sting of tears,

As I climb higher still

And further from the noise.

The cold air burns my nose,

It turns that angry shade of red,

But I feel it—I’m alive, I’m awake.

And at least I can breathe.


Oh, the view from this peak’s point!

I find myself breathing easy now,

Taking in the vista of crystal–

Blue sky, frosty lakes, and emerald forests.

This beauty expanded my heart,

My love is not cold but tempted

To explode from my chest

In the most erratic fashion.


And once again, I’m here, telling myself—

at least I can breathe.

(Don’t) Let it Reign

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” Romans 6:13

When you find your new identity in Christ, it is so hard not to have moments where you want to slip back into your old identity, your old way of doing things with your old friends in the same old place you’ve always been. Trust me, I’ve been there. The old way is comfortable, and much easier than implementing all of these changes God asks you to make. Change is messy, and incredibly difficult. We can’t turn toward God without His strength working through us.

Sometimes, we have weak moments. We try to do things on our own.  We try to pull pieces back in from that old life. But the old life and new life in Christ–they just don’t mix. Even if you say, “Well I wasn’t really that ‘bad’ before,” we all have or have had bad habits in need of being broken. But there’s still a difference in picking up old habits and letting your sin run your life. Life is such a delicate balance of knowing your desires, and following God, and somehow getting those to align.

We all slip up from time to time, when those old habits just come along and the temptation is too strong for us. And we fail to ask God for help so we give in. But it isn’t just that once that breaks us, it’s the giving in again and again and again. That is when sin runs your life. And this may sound like such a simple statement some of you will wonder why I even made it, but if sin is running your life, Jesus isn’t.

It is possible to slip and slide until you don’t know which way is up. So what do you do when you realize sin has taken over? You choose. So simple, yet extremely difficult. Whether we realize it or not, we are always serving something or someone. The choice to change is a huge step, but the hardest part is sticking with it. So you pray, you surround yourself with godly friends, you get involved in a church, and you stay in the Word. Life as a Christian is not easy. Making the choice to live for Christ is not easy. Consistency is not easy. But every bit of it, despite the challenge, despite the failure, despite feeling like you will never figure it out–is worth every bit of effort.

Break and Choose

When you break you have two choices. One: You can break and let your life fall to pieces, let those pieces scatter to the wind and always feel like you’re missing something as you walk through life dissatisfied and confused. Two: you can break, fall to your knees, and reach up for the Hand that’s reaching down to you.

Walk On, Walk Tall

What do you do when your fear becomes reality? Keep your head up. Let the tears fall. But remember–chin up, dear, lifted toward heaven. He gathers your tears; He knows the exact location of each break in your heart. He knows the way the pieces will fall. He knows your pain. He knows YOU. And that is why you can walk on and walk tall. That is why you keep smiling when your world feels like the darkest place around. When your heart is broken, let Him hold it. He knows just how to hold it gently so it won’t feel the breaks quite as much until He heals them.