if you aren’t sure how to move toward God

It was a holiday on a Monday. Three day weekends are so glorious. I was so prepared for a peaceful day. All of us, at home, with no plans. Rest. All the good stuff.

Nothing ever goes like it’s planned, right? My husband left early for a workout. And y’all, we were out of so many groceries. I asked my babies what they wanted for breakfast. I’m going to share with you how this conversation went. Are you ready for this dialogue?

Brady: “I want a pancake!”

Olivia: “I want a waffle!”

Brady: “Wait, I want a waffle, too.”

Mom: “Okay, well, we have one waffle left. So Liv gets the waffle and Brady gets the pancake.”

*Peace for about ten minutes. Both children eat their respective pancake and waffle.”

Olivia: “Okay, now I want a pancake, too!”

Mom: “Sorry, babe, we’re out of pancake mix. Brady got the last one.”

Olivia: “Well, can I have cheerios?”

Mom: “Sorry, we’re out of cheerios.”

… Meltdown ensues. I’m talking like a twenty minute ordeal here. I was patient. I gave her the options. I empathized. I was calm. “I’m sorry you want food we don’t have right now. I know that is frustrating…” Epic meltdown continues. I wonder what I’ve done wrong as a parent to bring about this kind of behavior.

So I finally get around to making my breakfast and my darling girl is sitting in the stairway from the living room while I cook in the kitchen. She continues to yell that she’s hungry. I tell her, “I’m not going to have this conversation yelling at you from another room. If you want to talk to me calmly, you can come here.”

She wails.

I say it again. Once, maybe twice.

Again.

“If you would like to come talk to me, you need to come where I am.”

And then, God spoke.

He said, “Go to her.”

And I’m like, “Wait, God. Doesn’t this mean I’m teaching her that I’m giving into poor behavior? I need to stick by what I said!”

And He said, “Go to her.”

I went to her. I knelt down on the stairs. It didn’t fix the conversation. But my face was level with her face. I acknowledged her emotions. All of us de-escalated. Eventually, I found a tiny bag of cheerios to turn our day around.

She didn’t know how to make herself better. She wanted me, but she couldn’t get herself to make the move toward me.

If you stuck with my story this long, kudos to you. Here is the deal, though. This is us. This is us and God. How often are we stuck pitching fits to our calm, perfect Father?

It’s what He does every time. We don’t have to meet Him where He is. When we open the door even a tiny bit: when we sit on the stairs and pout, but our hearts are open to conversation or relationship, He moves toward us.

Most of us are familiar with this verse:

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

James 4:8

What most of us hear or envision when we read this is a fifty-fifty move. We move halfway, and He meets us there. If we move a certain percentage toward God, only then will He meet us.

And I just have to believe that is simply untrue.

God sent His only Son, who died on the cross, when no one was willing to make a move. In fact, He was rejected and abandoned in every way. It was a zero to one-hundred percentage. Forget fifty-fifty.

He is God. He is worth every fiber of our being. He is worthy of our abandonment of every comfort and every ounce of stubbornness. There should be nothing holding us back from running to Him every second of every day.

But most of the time, there is something that holds us back. Whether weariness or doubt, frustration, depression, or selfishness. And yet, He chooses to move toward us.

Recently, my husband and I found ourselves in a stupid, distant place. We were both tired. We each needed the other person to make a move, and no one was moving. We both knew it, too. Which feels like the worst kind of place to be. We finally had a conversation where we agreed that a fight or disagreement was more important than giving into apathy or distance. We made a move. And we found grace and love there.

This is love.

Love persists.

Love is not stubborn to prove a point.

Love is willing.

Love goes beyond discipline or teaching a lesson.

God is love.

Love persists.

Love over all.

Over discipline or bitterness or confusion.

Are you afraid that your move toward God isn’t big enough?

He knows your heart. He knows what you’re facing. He is kind. He is not stubborn to prove a point. He will err on the side of love, every single time. Are you frozen or stuck in the same spot, unsure to move toward Him? If your heart is open to relationship, that is enough. Come toward Him any way you are able. He knows you. He loves you. That can be enough.

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that His love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken His love. There is no power above us or beneath us – no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!” (Romans 8:38-39 TPT)

Nothing. Nothing can separate you from His love.

Nothing is strong enough to pull Him away.

Not even you.

healing from emotional dependence: [why am I so complicated? pt.2]

Let’s address the elephant in the metaphorical room, shall we? My blog title is so long. I know. Let’s move on. There’s too much going on here. I want you to know what we’re getting into.

In my last blog, I shared with you about how our complex minds and emotions are not a curse. They are truly an intentional gift from God. If you need the context, you can click here to read it: https://wordpress.com/view/rachaelrestrick.wordpress.com

The more I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t a fully complete thought or truth. Yes, God made you marvelously complex.

But the truth doesn’t end there. The reality is that there is an enemy that sees our complicated actions, our played out emotions, and he works extremely hard to trap us in our complicated thoughts. Instead of a full and complete view of our complex thoughts, most of the time, we feel like prisoners to them. They spiral. We dive further and further into darkness, and the light of growth dims.

I see so much of myself in my daughter. Some of it is good; some of it, not so much. This girl has big emotions. We’re talking bigger than her little body kind of emotions. There are times where she chooses to be disobedient and disrespectful. Honestly, though, there are times that I watch her kind of meltdown and I can feel it: she doesn’t even feel like she has a choice. Especially this year. Her little self has been through so much change. She is resilient. Kids are completely amazing. But their bodies and their emotions feel things that their brains just have a hard time catching up with. I couldn’t begin to count the times that after a long meltdown, I’ve sat down with her and explained that she has a choice. She can decide how she acts. She can decide what she decides to do with her thoughts and her big feelings.

And just about every single time, I walk away with a little gut punch. As I preach to my five-year-old about taking her thoughts captive, am I living this way?

Don’t you dare think about reading this blog with the impression that I have gotten this under control. I certainly have not. But. With my paid therapist and the Counselor who guides me, along with some really great books, I have learned that the gift of my complicated mind can take a turn.

I have a choice. And so do you.

Believe me, I know it doesn’t feel that way. I understand the crippling tidal wave of anxiety, where all reason flies out the window and fight or flight instinct yells the loudest. I understand the threats of panic, which convince you that you are crazy and/or dying. I understand the heavy drudge of depression, of an empty, nothing-ness kind of mindset.

More than sometimes, we need others on this journey of choosing. We need trusted friends or paid counselors to validate our feelings, and lovingly remind us of the truth. These tools cannot be replaced or skipped over.

But there is more. If we don’t believe that God has given us the power to choose what we do with our thoughts and emotions, it won’t make any difference what anyone else says to us. We have to believe that God created us mysteriously and complex, and at the same time, has given us power through Him to overcome.

I created a diagnosis for myself the other day. Well, technically, it is already a defined term, but God flipped it around to show me a new definition.

Ever heard of emotional dependence?

Normally, it is dependence emotionally on something or someone. If you are emotionally dependent, you rely on external circumstances or people to regulate your emotions and perceived life balance.

But as I sat down with God to ask Him to help me process some of my emotions recently, He showed me that I actually had dependence on my emotions themselves. I was controlled by them. I let them take over, manipulate me, when that was never their designed function. They led me, told me who I was and what I wasn’t. What began as a gift from God became a bully that I continued to invite into my life. I believe this is an area that He has healed me from, and it is very much a work in progress.

The very real problem here, is that instead of allowing God to be the light to our feet and lamp to our path, our emotions shove Him out of the way and assume that role. Sadness, anger, discomfort, jealousy… they are cement under our feet and they dictate where we go and when we get stuck. They are gifts from God that, unfortunately, are given more power than they were ever intended for.

The majority of us swing to one side or the other when it comes to this. Some of us allow our emotions to hold us captive; drowning in them and becoming their slave. Others of us pretend they don’t exist. We shove them in a box and never deal with them. Can I tell you something, though? Even if you pretend they aren’t there, you are still giving them too much power. Neither of these ways were God’s design.

This is why we find it so impossible to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, like the Truth tells us. Too many of us depend on our emotions to be our leader. Our emotions are real and they are not wrong. But they are not our Savior.

Healing from emotional dependence for me has looked like this:

One very small step at a time. One step after another, every time.

It looks like a choice to worship, on my knees, hands open.

Eating a real breakfast and then also a piece of chocolate because that’s okay.

Eating meals while sitting down. Maybe even outside. Maybe even without my phone.

It looks like silence.

One foot in front of the other; a shower, more water, clean clothes, less caffeine.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Over and over and over.

I grab hold of the truth and speak it or write it as many times as it takes for it to sink in. The truth is here for you today.

Each sentence below is for you to grab hold of and make personal for yourself. We can walk this out together.

I can choose what I do with how I feel. The Spirit is in me and He produces good fruits of joy.

If I am feeling weak, I will accept that Jesus is allowing me to slow down, and I won’t fight Him if He believes that is necessary.

I won’t belittle myself for not being “stronger.”

Pause. Sip coffee.

I will remind myself that His grace is enough for me and my weaknesses. For my impatience and frustration at others. For my misguided belief that my emotions are a good leader.

What I feel is very real and it matters. But it is not everything. I am not a victim to myself.

I will depend on God. He is my friend, my safe place, the One who will tell me the Truth. He alone decides who I am – a royal priesthood and a chosen daughter.

You are not a victim to yourself.

You have a choice.

If you have found yourself drowning and it feels like you have no way out, this is your sign: find a counselor. Let someone else help show you how to deal with you.

But even more than what another person can do for you, the Holy Spirit is even more powerful. God is with you, for you, fighting for you. And He is in you.

For if you embrace the truth, it will release true freedom into your lives.” [John 8:32 TPT]

why am I so complicated?

why am i so complicated?

Have you ever asked yourself a version of this question? If not, feel free to give up on this blog. But for those of you who find yourselves trapped in this thought sometimes, welcome to the journey with me. Fairly often, I find myself questioning my thought processes, my emotions, what bothers me and why. Every once and a while, I get particularly stuck and frustrated and spend a good bit of time asking God why on earth He would make me this way.

Your questions or thoughts may resound with one or more of these statements: 

Why am I so sensitive? Why can’t I let that go? Why does that make me so angry? Why can’t I just be content where I am?

Know the feeling?

I know one person in my life who I am convinced has never had this thought. My darling five-year-old, Olivia. A few weeks ago, right at bedtime, we were gifted with a pretty amazing lightning storm. She and I laid in her bed, opened all of the blinds, and watched the sky light up for a good twenty minutes. It was one of those moments where I felt very present. I knew this was a beautiful and memorable experience, and I was there for it. While we laid there, I could hear her mumbling something. Then, as another flash lit up the sky, she yelled, “God heard me! I didn’t even finish asking Him for a big lightening and He answered me!” 

Yes, I know. Heart swelling. Proud mom moment.  I told her, “Yes! He hears you!

But in my mind, I thought, “You are so lucky to still be so innocent to believe that all of this lightning was just for you.” 

And just as quickly as He answered Olivia with lightening, He answered me by saying, 

I have blessed you with a complex mind.”

All week long, I had been questioning myself and asking God why I was so complicated. Without using audible words, I felt Him saying in my heart: You are just as blessed to know so much about the world and still trust and be in awe of Me. I have gifted you to be able to think, reason and weigh – and yet, still trust Me.

And so for the past week or so, God has been teaching me what a gift it is to be complicated and complex. 

Who on earth decided that complicated equated to negativity? We stay away from relationships if they are too complicated. We give up on problems when they are too complex for us. We’ve decided that if it’s complicated, it must be negative. If we can’t make sense of it, then one of two things must be true: either we are bad, or it is bad. 

If you have a hard time believing God’s opinion on the subject, then look at our language’s definition of these words:

Complicated: consisting of parts intricately combined 

Complex: a whole made up of complicated or interrelated parts

These have no negative connotations. It is simply intricate, intertwined. The opposite of complicated is simple. One dimensional. No color, no depth, no real life. 

If we’re honest, none of us want to be simple or uniform. It is our complexity that makes us unique and proves God’s masterful handiwork in each of our lives. 

Complexity is not a curse. It is a badge of honor – an honor to be a whole made of intricately combined parts. It is an honor not to be simple or one-dimensional. Our complexity leads us to deeper questions, stronger relationship with the One who made us. As we seek to understand ourselves, we can’t help but find Him there. At the very core of our being – it’s Him. The Creator. His fingerprints are all over it; all over us. They’re in the intricate parts of us that make us feel messy and twisted up. It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that it is God’s intention to untangle us and to make us more simple. His intention is simply that we become more like Him. 

And let’s be real – nowhere does God say that He himself is simple. God is mysterious and complex. So much so, that we can barely figure out how to define or make sense of the three parts that make Him a whole.  

It is a gift to understand the goodness of God on a deeper level. To understand suffering and anxiety and trust anyway. It is a gift to trust in His sovereignty even when so much is out of my control. 

God never says, I will work in spite of your complicated self. He says: I have purposefully made you wonderfully complex. 

The next time you find yourself berating your heart or your mind because you can’t figure you out: take a deep breath. You were intentionally made to be mysteriously complex. There were no mistakes or oversights. 

Instead of asking “why?”, we have the beautiful opportunity to ask “what?”

God, what else do you want to teach me about Yourself?

What new facet of Your character do You want to reveal to me?

What is in me that You want to take out so that I can see You more clearly?

What do You want to show me about myself?

My friend, You’ve been intentionally, creatively and complexly designed completely on purpose. What a gift.

You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside
    and my intricate outside,
    and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
    Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
    It simply amazes me to think about it!
    How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
You even formed every bone in my body
    when you created me in the secret place;
    carefully, skillfully you shaped me from nothing to something.
You saw who you created me to be before I became me!

[Psalm 139:13-16 TPT]

when Jesus seems distracted

It’s Holy Week.

Easter is coming.

My little one-thousand word blog could never begin to cover the power and the value of these next few days.

With each passing year, the sacrifice of Jesus seems to hold more weight. We need Him more than ever. It seems as if suffering and injustice are at an all-time high. Has there been any part of you lately that feels guilty to celebrate anything good? I mean, it feels like the world is burning around us. People are still dying from this pandemic, and that is really just the beginning of the heartbreak. To be very honest with you, I can’t keep up with the tragedies. The shootings. All of the injustices. And as the world continues to spin, we each walk through our own personal sufferings that come with life.

Have you ever belittled your own situation because it doesn’t seem as horrible as someone else’s? Have you compared sufferings and deemed your own as “not as bad”?

Easter displays for us so many things. It is the ultimate proof of God’s love. It is the culmination of everything that our faith is based on. Our salvation, our forgiveness, our righteousness before God. But can I tell you another truth that Jesus modeled for us on the cross?

Even the greatest suffering doesn’t distract Jesus.

Check out this tiny moment within John’s account of the crucifixion:

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved [John] standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

John 19:25-27

Can we even grasp this? First off, this little group near the cross modeled something so valuable: presence during suffering. They knew they could never fix or stop what Jesus had to endure. And yet, they were there anyway. The epitome of helplessness.

There is a beautiful reward to remaining with others in suffering. John was the only disciple present with Jesus and the brave women. And in their remaining, they were acknowledged by their Savior as He died for the sins of the world.

Okay, now put yourself in Mary’s sandals. Any time my thoughts try to delve a little deeper into her experience, I have to work to hold myself together. None of us will ever have perfect children. Mary did. She had a Son who loved her completely and fully. And now she stood at His bloody feet, helplessly watching the greatest and most horrific injustice in human history. What might she have been thinking?

I don’t very often take this kind of liberty and imagine what kind of thoughts Mary might have had. I’m going to today. Along with her gut-wrenching grief and sorrow, I wonder if these were some of the thoughts hidden in the back of her head:

I always knew Jesus would care for me. Who will care for me now? Ugh, I’m so selfish. What’s wrong with me? My beautiful Son is suffering, and I’m worried about my future… My problems don’t matter right now.

And without one ounce of verbal complaint, in His most vulnerable state, Jesus cares for her tomorrows. As He bleeds and hangs, He notices Mary and acknowledges her needs. He makes sure someone will take care of her.

Even the greatest suffering doesn’t distract Jesus.

Even in His own suffering, He notices the deep, unspoken needs. How much more, then, even as a vulnerable world around us feels like it’s breaking apart in pieces, can Jesus notice our deep needs, too?

The Easter story teaches us about our salvation, yes. But it also teaches us about our present. Our personal needs are not insignificant to Him. He is not too busy caring for someone else to also care for you. The truth is – are we present enough for Him to be able to answer our unspoken needs?

Charles Spurgeon had this incredible perspective:

There was no specific direction given to John to entertain Mary. It was quite enough for the Lord to call His attention to her by saying ‘Behold thy mother.’ How I wish we were always in such a state of heart that we did not need specific precepts, a hint would suffice.”

I wonder if we often dismiss God’s concern for our needs without actually bothering to get close to Him and see what He would say. We automatically decide that He must be busy caring for greater things, and we stay away like the rest of the disciples. But it’s so clear, based on Scripture and also from Spurgeon’s quote, that John had a close relationship with Jesus. Jesus didn’t have to lay out the next steps for him. Because of John’s proximity and willingness to remain present, even in the hard stuff, Jesus trusted Him and He honored him.

Easter is coming. The suffering, the grief, the waiting, the quiet, the questions, the joy and the redemption.

It’s all so much less black and white than we’ve made it. Listen. I know the world is big and hard and scary and so unfair. Jesus knows, too. But unlike the unmentioned ten disciples at the foot of the cross, we have a choice to remain. What can we gain by pressing in? What do we risk? What is the reward?

Presence and intimacy go hand in hand. Fight the urge to push down your own heartbrokenness, and allow Jesus to see you. Push through the crowd to get to the pain and the beauty of the cross, and Jesus will use you to care for those who have no one else to care for them. Resist the lie that pain and beauty are opposites. Jesus has never been one-dimensional.

This week in particular, we have the amazing privilege to remain. To acknowledge our own hurts before God; to open up our hands and allow Him to heal the pain in our personal lives as well as the overwhelming injustices of the globe. Don’t limit God’s compassion.

Because of Easter:

We have the freedom to boldly approach the throne to be fully known.

We have the benefit of letting God out of the box we’ve built and letting Him be enough for us, and for everyone else, too.

We can celebrate our hope in Jesus while we watch and wait surrounded by unfairness and injustice.

We have the ridiculous birthright of being the joy set before Him.

We look away from the natural realm and we focus our attention and expectation onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection. His example is this: Because His heart was focused on the joy of knowing that you would be His, He endured the agony of the cross and conquered its humiliation, and now sits exalted at the right hand of the throne of God!

[Hebrews 12:2 TPT]

the slow, silent thief of the past year

I had an embarrassing meltdown recently.

I’m a sensitive person. That’s really no secret. I think through all the implications of how things affect me and affect others. But every once in a while, my big emotions even surprise me.

My daughter has survived almost an entire year of virtual kindergarten. Those two words should never coexist, but they have now for a whole year. Thankfully, her kindergarten teacher has been such a gift. You know when it seems like people were made for their job? That’s Mrs. G. She is patient, upbeat, cheerful. She was made for kindergarten and she was a gift for our year. I have thanked God for her constantly.

Next week, our kids go back into school full time. Praise the Lord. Because of the nature of this virtual world, our elementary school has designated two teachers from each grade to remain virtual teachers only. You guessed it… our Mrs. G will be a virtual teacher only, which means my Olivia will join a new classroom this coming Monday. New teacher, new friends. Guys. When I got this email, I was just about inconsolable. I’m not exaggerating. I couldn’t help it. It’s been a hard year. My little kids have been so resilient, so flexible, and with about twelve weeks left in the year, we have to start over. Again.

We all know that our breakdowns usually aren’t really about the initial news, right? My emotional episode wasn’t truly about Olivia having a new teacher.

It’s been the slow buildup of change and redirection and restarts and steps backwards.

Underneath our little kindergarten moment stood a year of government and school politics, medical uncertainty, division, racism, and questions.

Within each of us is a dam that eventually bursts if not addressed.

I took some time to really ask God what was going on in my heart. I’ve been swinging so far from apathy to complete brokenness over the things I see around me. I worked really hard to reword His answer to me so that I wouldn’t have to post my journal to you, but there was no way around it. His words were for me, and may be for you. If His answer isn’t for you, feel free to skim right on past this chunk of words. But my guess is, most of us have been feeling similarly. Here’s how He answered me:

You are still running a little. For the sake of growth, you are abandoning deep process. You brush off the hard stuff and chalk it up to maturity.

Growth and empathy can – and have to coexist.

You have cut off one part of you and in turn it has shut down the whole. You must allow yourself to be hurt. You’ve strayed away from true vulnerability. Offense comes much more quickly this way.

You’re afraid to be truly you again. You are messy and imperfect. I love you just as you are at your core. You’ve allowed your healthy boundaries to create taller walls than your empathy and the calling of your identity.

At your core, I have made you sensitive and empathetic. Self-preservation has numbed these pieces of you.

You have to let all of it in to be complete. I will help you sift. I will be the filter that protects you so that you aren’t overcome. But you have to be moved by what you see in the world. Be angered by the things that anger Me. Be sad. And then let Me take the lead. It was never my intent for emotions to bounce off of you as if they were hitting armor. I gave you the armor of God. Your breastplate is not for self-preservation. It is for righteousness.

Let it in. Hold it. Weigh it. Feel it. And with open hands, drop it at My feet. I am your safest boundary. Your boundary lines have fallen in safe places. Trust Me enough to let Me be your protector. You have relied on yourself too long to hold that title. I want to show you what it means to have a Father who protects you.

I know… ouch.

Here’s what I took away from my Father’s little chat with me: vulnerability is Godly. Compassion fatigue is far too real. It’s a phrase we heard at the beginning of last March, but has faded away as we’ve all held onto survival. Comfort has become our new god, because everything has become so unbearably uncomfortable.

The hurt and the pain and the injustice in the world is so big. The list of wrongs never ends. It piles up so tall that we can’t see the beginning from the end, and each news report is just another number. And as we become numb to the brokenness around us, somehow simultaneously, we find ourselves numb and a little disconnected from God, too.

So what are we supposed to do?

Christine Caine said it this way: “The evidence that we see Jesus is that we see people.” It’s simple, and somehow, so difficult. We can’t separate our relationship with God from the brokenness of the world because to love God is to love what He loves. It isn’t our job to redeem the world; it’s His. It is our job to love the people in front of us.

I’m not just talking about our family or our circle, although that’s a sermon in itself. It’s truly seeing the cashier at the grocery store, the barista at Starbucks, the lonely woman at the dog park.

It’s the fine line of awareness with the injustice that surrounds us without being sucked into hopelessness.

It’s all a risk. To open ourselves up to vulnerability means having a broken heart for others. Seeing them. Helping them. Acting. Doing. Praying.

To be honest with you, I don’t know what exactly this all means for me yet. But I know that the first step is the step away from apathy and toward compassion. To be vulnerable and compassionate is a risk. It risks your comfort, and confronts you with your own selfishness.

If this year has slowly and silently stolen your compassion, now is the time for redemption. Ask God to renew your compassion for others and make you aware of your temptation of self-preservation. Make no mistake: you are not the best protector of your heart. That role belongs to your Savior. Let Him take His rightful place in your life as protector. Let Him open your eyes so that His heart doesn’t break alone. He’s chosen you to show people that Jesus sees them. Sure, it’s a risk. But it’s a much greater honor.

This is how we have discovered love’s reality: Jesus sacrificed His life for us. Because of this great love, we should be willing to lay down our lives for one another. If anyone sees a fellow believer in need and has the means to help him, yet shows no pity and closes his heart against him, how is it even possible that God’s love lives in him? Beloved children, our live can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds.

1 John 3:16-18 TPT

if you’re tired of asking God the same questions

I work really hard at trying to be understanding of my children’s stages of development. They’re kids, right? There is so much that their little brains can’t hold or grasp. But one thing that I have just about zero percent patience for is when I have to answer a question more than once. My son, Brady, asks a LOT of questions. I love how he thinks. However, very frequently, he will ask me a question, and after I answer, he asks the same question again. Word for word, as if I did not take time to think through my answer and speak it out loud. Sometimes he straight up didn’t listen to me. And other times, he didn’t like my answer. So he pretends not to hear me, decides to try it again and hope for a new response.

Anyone else? It makes me feel completely insane. Like, why am I using my brainpower to come up with an answer for you if you’re going to ignore me?? Rude. The logical part of my brain tells me, “He’s seven. His focus is definitely comparable to a goldfish. Be patient.” The tired, mom part of my brain says, “I refuse to answer your question again if you’re not going to listen to the answer.” More often than not, that is the answer that comes out of my mouth. Insert anyone in your life that has made you feel this way before. Maybe your kids, or your mom, or your husband.

I don’t know about you, but I am so thankful that God is not an impatient parent like me. I ask Him so many questions, and He answers me in ways I don’t always understand, and sometimes, I don’t even pay attention. I have found that I’m in good company, though. Jesus demonstrated ridiculous patience with his disciples over and over and over. Do me a favor and go read John 14:5-13.

I’ll wait.

Okay, I’m gonna paraphrase it for you the way that I wrote it down in my journal. This is how I saw the conversation going in my head.

[Verse 5] Thomas: “But how can we know the way to go?

[Verse 6] Jesus: “I am the way. From now on, you do know the Father and have seen Him.”

[Verse 8] Philip chimes in: “Show us the Father.”

Pause. If you didn’t see how hilarious Philip’s response is, read Jesus’ words one more time.

If I were Jesus (LOL), this would be my response: “…You’re kidding, right? Were you listening to Me at all? I literally JUST SAID you know the Father and have seen Him. Pay attention, guys!

But Jesus’ response is kind and gentle. He is clear, though. He asks these two questions: “Don’t you know me?” (v.9) and “Don’t you believe?” (v.10)

These are not sarcastic or judgmental questions that He poses to His followers. I believe it’s more of a loving, kind of sad question. It is as if He’s saying, “After all this time, and all we’ve been through together, don’t you know Me? Don’t you know that when I speak something, I mean it?” It isn’t that He simply just wants them to pay attention to His answers. He is longing to be known because of His goodness.

I’ve read this passage before but I’ve never put it together how often I am the one asking God questions without listening to His answers.

God, how am I supposed to make it through this time?

God, are You sure that you’ve called me to do that?

God, You told me that You would answer me, but are You sure You’re going to follow through?

Let me be clear: God loves and is aware of what Alicia Britt Chole calls “persistent supplication.” It is God’s desire that we would earnestly seek after Him, and honestly ask Him for the desires of our heart. He does not get frustrated with us when we seek Him over and over, even if we are a little repetitive. But in our questions, are we relying on His character and His words, or are we relying on what we see? Are we asking the question again because we aren’t sure if we heard Him, or because we are looking for another answer?

The depth of His character is far too magnificent for us to ever grasp. But the consistency of His character? This is not too much for us to understand. It is not a far stretch for God to hope that we would trust in His faithfulness.

The amount of unanswered questions we have just about always outweigh the clear answers that God has given. There’s a reason for this, you know. God is mysterious and far too much for us to ever comprehend. If we’ve completely figured Him out, that doesn’t make Him Someone worth trusting our entire eternity to, does it?

But for as many unanswered and mysterious situations you have in your life, I would be willing to bed there is at least one situation that God has made clear for you. Think back on the questions you’ve asked God that He has answered. Maybe a friend or leader affirmed it for you. Maybe you felt a deep peace and settling in your spirit. Maybe a Bible verse popped up that was so specific, you knew it had to be an answer from Him. Maybe the Holy Spirit spoke something deep within you that you absolutely knew couldn’t have been your own thought.

How often have we asked for more proof when God has already given us an answer?

This is not a challenge to stop asking questions. It is a challenge to actually listen to the answers. In this one passage that I asked you to read above, God has already answered us with this promise: “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and you have seen Him.”

I know your circumstances may not line up with what He has promised. I know you’re still waiting on the miracle. I know it looks like that dream may have been snatched from you. But what has God already promised you about that situation? Without knowing your personal circumstance, I can tell you what I know that He has promised:

He has promised to be faithful to you. It’s who He is. He literally can’t help it. [1 Timothy 2:13]

He has promised to strengthen you and hold you up. [Isaiah 41:10]

He promises to be present with you, no matter how far you run or try to hide. [Psalm 139:7-12]

He hears you. Every prayer, every question, every cry of your heart. [1 John 5:14]

He loves you. Deeper than those three words could ever convey. [Romans 8:38-39]

The promises God has made to you are practically endless.

Here’s the really, really hard truth. At some point, we have to believe Him and quit asking. Christine Caine put it this way: “At some point, we move from ‘Jesus, do You see me?‘ to a very settled identity that says, ‘Jesus, I know You see me, and now I will follow You to see others.'”

Take this day to think back on all the countless ways Jesus has answered you in the past and be encouraged.

He is for you.

I will answer your cry for help every time you pray,

and you will feel My presence in your time of trouble. I will deliver you and bring you honor.

I will satisfy you with a full life and with all that I do for you.”

Psalm 91:15-16 TPT

feeling empty? think again.

This morning, I heard birds.

Oh, and by the way, I’m back. Did you know I was missing? Did you miss me? I won’t hold it against you if you have had no idea that I haven’t published a blog in about three months. God and I decided together that this week was the week to return. And this morning, I heard birds. Like, a lot of them. They were singing so loudly, surrounding my house in a chirpy chorus. Why does this matter to you?

Because it’s been a year. A year of pandemic, quarantine, masks, distancing. This time last year, we spent all of our time finding ways to be still and be creative with our time. And the birds sang really loud, just like they are this morning. Do you ever hear a noise or smell a smell and it’s like the most intense version of deja vu? I was suddenly hit in the face with the reality that it’s truly been a year that we have been living this way. Everyone dealt with our new reality in different ways, right? Some of us really thrived with some extra rest and space. Others of us died a little inside when we had to isolate, and we’re still working through that shift.

Me? I’m probably somewhere in the middle. As the year progressed, I found myself seeking safety and comfort more and more. I surrounded myself with Netflix shows, TikTok, sugar and social media. I ate what I wanted because I deserved it. I rewarded myself daily for surviving virtual school in a pandemic.

None of that was necessarily wrong. But what I found is that at the beginning of 2021, I claimed the feeling of emptiness. I felt like everything in me had been poured out and I just couldn’t get filled back up. Not enough energy, patience, or passion. But the truth is, I wasn’t empty at all. I was completely stuffed with things that would never really satisfy me.

Have you been there, too? Have you been waking up and ending each day feeling drained; so unsure of where your energy or focus or passion would come from? Be really, really honest with yourself. What are you putting into your body, heart and mind? What is your knee-jerk response when things feel hard or out of control? It could be eating, shopping, scrolling, zoning out. None of these things are inherently bad. But do me a favor and dig a little deeper. Don’t read too quickly past these next two questions:

Are you really empty? Or are you full of things that never satisfy you?

What I found for myself in January is that I had nothing to write. I had nothing to share with you because I wasn’t leaving enough room for Jesus to really speak to me. Also, I was trying to just survive each day with virtual school. The reality of all of our lives this past year is that we are all living in some state of grief or loss. These levels vary based on your personal experience. Some of us are grieving normalcy for our work or our kids, and some of us are learning how to live without a loved one. By now, I hope you know me a little bit. I am never here to downplay your experience or your reality, and neither is God. He has given us resources and coping mechanisms to get through whatever we are facing.

The truth for those of us who call Christ our Savior is that not only is He everything we need, but He has also given us all that we need. Here’s that promise:

Everything we could ever need for life and godliness has already been deposited in us by His divine power. For all this was lavished upon us through the right experience of knowing Him who has called us by name and invited us to come to Him through a glorious manifestation of His goodness.

2 Peter 1:3 TPT

Isn’t that amazing? Pandemic or not, God has already deposited in us everything we need to live a godly life. But we will never reach the depth of that gift if we aren’t in need of Him. The deep need for comfort and safety in anything or anyone other than God steals our awareness of all that we’ve been given. The artificial comforts of the world leave us unsatisfied, always in need of the next thing. God promises satisfaction and contentment.

Here’s the thing. We can feel things are shifting, right? Spring is coming, thank You, Jesus. The world is beginning to open up a bit at a time. Yay! But before we celebrate, let’s take a really good look at what’s been filling us and what we rely on for our contentment. Let’s be careful what we idolize as our comfort and our safety.

Normalcy is not our god.

Comfort is not our savior.

Ease is not our safe place.

A lack of struggle does not automatically produce peace.

What has been filling you? What has become idolized in your life? Think of it this way: if I could just have ______________, then I would be okay. What fills that blank for you other than the presence and the promises of God?

Let me tell you something. I am still watching Netflix and I am still rewarding myself for virtual school. But I had to create more space first to put Jesus in His rightful place again in my life: my Sustainer, my Peace, my Strength, my Passion. Is there anything that has pushed Jesus out of the way in your life? Take a moment to ask Him to show it to you. Ask Him to reveal to you where you can create space, silence, room. He is gentle, and it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.

If you’re not sure what to pray or ask for, steal these words from Psalm 16 (TPT):

Yahweh, You alone are my inheritance. 

You are my prize, my pleasure and my portion. 

You hold my destiny and its timing in your hands.

Your pleasant path leads me to pleasant places. 

I’m overwhelmed by the privileges that come with following you!

The way You counsel me makes me praise You more, 

for Your whispers in the night give me wisdom, showing me what to do next. 

Because I set you, Yahweh, always close to me, 

my confidence will never be weakened, 

for I experience Your wraparound presence every moment.

My heart and soul explode with joy – full of glory!

Even my body will rest confident and secure.

For You will not abandon me to the realm of death,

Nor will You allow Your faithful one to experience corruption.

Because of You, I know the path of life,

As I taste the fullnesss of joy in Your presence.

At Your right side I experience divine pleasures forevermore!

when your best just isn’t enough.

Have you felt it, too?

The unspoken, internal struggle of somehow redeeming this season to be more beautiful and memorable than ever? The pressure. The weight.

It feels like so much has been taken away from us. So much has been stolen from my kids. My daughter will never know the true joys of making memories in kindergarten because she’s experienced it all from my kitchen table. I want nothing more than to be able to counterbalance the awfulness with fun and joy. So in my head, I have created lots of fun crafts and baking opportunities and photo shoots of matching pajamas.

Spoiler: none of those things have happened.

I get it. I really, really do. Our brains are telling us that we should have a little more family time this year to create even more special memories. We want our littles to feel special. We want to fill in the void of all of the loss and replace the negativity with light. The reality is, all of the lights and any of the most special moments you are looking to create cannot fill the void and the pain of what this year has taken from you.

Don’t kill yourself to create joy, okay? You know me. I am all about the lights and finding comfort in absolutely anything I can right now. But the truth? The truth is that even with all of the external stuff we can find to light up our environment, we can still come up empty.

The truth is that everyone I know is weary. Including me.

We are weary of changed plans.

We are weary of plan B’s. And C’s and D’s.

We are weary of urgent care waiting rooms and counting down numbers of isolation.

We are weary of wondering. Waiting. Hoping for breakthrough and change.

We aren’t the first ones to experience an unorthodox Christmas Day, let alone a year of surprise and heartbreak. Jesus entered the world after 400 years of silence and shattered every expectation of who the Messiah was supposed to be. I am pretty positive Mary’s vision for her first child didn’t involve a baby out of wedlock miles away from her family and hometown.

The story of our salvation was born, literally, out of inconvenience and flexibility. The Author of our faith wrote the narrative of salvation through a lense of unexpected and radical obedience.

My prayer for us is that we would lean into the responses of Mary as we are thrown loop after loop this year. The reality is that although it may feel like we are simply subjects to the facts of the environment around us; the truth is that God is deeply involved in the details of our lives. While COVID-19 is altering the globe, the same Author of salvation has a storyline and a purpose weaved into your personal life. Rather than, “Why me?” or “When is this going to end?“, I wonder if we could have a different approach.

It makes no difference that we only have 15 days left in the calendar year. The date is just a number. But the condition and the obedience of our heart can be brand new with each morning’s fresh dose of grace. May our hearts take on the attitude of Mary, after being dropped the biggest bomb of her life:

As His servant, I accept whatever He has for me. May everything you have told me come to pass.”

Luke 1:38 TPT

I’ve told you throughout this post that your best is enough. Practically speaking, it is. But you and I both know that even at our best, the glimmer of truth shines through us to remind us that somehow, even with our best efforts: there’s still something missing.

That has always been His intent. That when our very best attempts still make us feel like a failure, we would turn to Him. May our effort and our hard work fall to the side as we drop our tasks and open up our hands again. May we not throw ourselves into working hard for a positive attitude. Instead, let’s focus on obedience.

Surrender isn’t simply letting go of our own plans, it must also be trusting His.

Maybe all of your best laid plans were taken from you this year without permission, through sickness or that horrible “q” word. But maybe, with just 15 days left in the year, you can make the choice yourself to give up that last shred of attempted perfection. You can choose to open your hands and your heart, and allow God’s holy interruptions to shape you rather than forcing them to break you.

We are the Lord’s servants. Let everything He says about us come true.

thanksgiving: honor what sucks

There’s a disclaimer to this blog. The theme is not my original idea. My therapist should get all of the credit, as she listened to me whine for an hour about how bummed out I am about this time of year.

I cried about everything from a cancelled trip to the lack of Thanksgiving crafts my kids are making due to virtual school. There is a massive dichotomy most of us are experiencing today. We’re supposed to be thankful, right? We know the truth. Gratitude changes not only our perspective, but our physiology. Gratitude sources joy. The Bible says to be thankful in all circumstances. And we should be. We are blessed.

But let’s be really honest. Many of us right now are struggling. We are grieving yet another wave of loss; whether physical or emotional. Some of you are walking through your first holiday without a loved one. For our family, it’s our third. Thanksgiving is the anniversary of my dad’s reunion with Jesus. I understand what it’s like to feel the massive ache that comes with this kind of loss. So let me set you free with my therapist’s words:

Honor what sucks right now.

I know, I know. This is not the typical message you’ll hear on Thanksgiving. We’re supposed to be thankful in all circumstances, right?

Honoring what is difficult does not cancel out your gratitude. Thinking on what is true, right and lovely does not outweigh casting your cares on Him.

Being thankful in all circumstances does not negate the truth that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted.

Far too often, we bypass our reality in hopes of pleasing God with our righteousness when all He’s really asked for is our surrender and our sacrifice. And what is a true sacrifice to God?

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

[Psalms 51:17]

If you’re thankful, thank God.

If you’re sad, cry out to God.

If you’re bitter, pause. Look around. You’ll find something to be thankful for. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above.

You are not required by your Father to be happy about things that make you sad. Let go of whatever expectation someone else may have put on you to push through the reality of what is.

So today, I mourn the reality that we will not be with our extended family. I will probably cry at the reality of the world today which prevents my family from celebrating our dad in the same room.

And at the same time, I will be so thankful that Olivia and I baked a pie together. I will love the fact that today involves almost no stress as we eat whenever we are ready, with no one else relying on us. I will celebrate that we are healthy and loved.

I’m asking you today to take the bold step to fight what the world has told you God wants from you. He wants you. So be completely you. Messy, sad, thankful, whatever you are mess.

For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain.” [Isaiah 54:10]

when seasons collide

I have a confession to make to you.

I really like cold weather. I didn’t know this about myself until recently. I don’t necessarily enjoy being cold, but I love all that cold weather invites in. I love any excuse to be cozy. Twinkly lights, blankets, layers, candles, hot drinks; the list is truly endless for me.

Here in Maryland, it seems we’ve finally stepped into that kind of weather. But let’s be honest. The chance of a 70 degree day next week is just as likely. The truth is that within the change of seasons, there is often an overlap. A one step forward, two step back kind of thing. A period of time where you are caught in the in-between of more than one environment which gives conflicting messages.

I decided yesterday to take a walk in the sunny 35 degree weather, and on my normal route, I passed a tree that seemed to be in this exact state. Honestly, it looked really confused. A third of the branches were bare, prepared for the heaviness that winter brings. The next third was holding onto dead leaves, just waiting to release them to step into the next season. And oddly enough, there was entire section of tiny pink flowers. They were not withered or lacking any life at all. The leaves on the grass were covered in a sparkly frost, and somehow, these flowers held evidence of life and fresh growth.

Do not believe the lie that you are in any way one dimensional. You are allowed to be and feel more than one thing at once. It’s absolutely much more comfy for us to close the chapter on one season and open a brand new book to begin the next, but more often than not, that’s not how it works. 2020 has taught us that much, hasn’t it?

You are allowed to mourn for the reality of what is while still holding onto hope.

You can experience beauty in the midst of death. Gratitude and loss can co-exist. Disappointment and joy can share the same space.

Right now, the world shouts one word as the undercurrent: hopelessness.

Physical and mental health, politics, injustice, education, hate. According to the standards around us, we are in one season of darkness.

But the Lord promises us this:

It’s impossible to disappear from you or ask the darkness to hide me, for Your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night. There is no such thing as darkness with You. The night, to You, is as bright as the day; there’s no difference between the two.” [Psalm 139:11 TPT]

Make no mistake, this darkness wants to take you out. As you trudge through virtual learning, or show up every day to the hospital you work at. As you battle the fear of a very real virus, or pray for your sick loved one who is alone in a hospital room. Jesus is bringing light into your night. He is. Sometimes it’s subtle, maybe even slower than we’d like. The catch? We have to look for it.

We don’t have to give in. I’m telling you. This is the secret that the world wants to keep from us. Our God walks with us in the wins and the losses, the death and the life. Let the seasons teach us the lessons of coinciding loss and growth. Let the cold months teach us about quiet and stillness, while the noise of the world swirls around us.

You are are so much more okay than you think.

Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will define our character, and proven character leads us back to hope.”

[Romans 5:3-4 TPT]