Forever Faithful.

Forever

The whole bible is a testament of God’s faithfulness, a faithfulness that comes to fruition in the life of Jesus Christ. From Genesis 3:15, God promises offspring of the woman to come and bruise the head of the serpent—that being Jesus. The whole of the bible, every letter, every word, every story, every event is about one thing and that is the coming and death of a savior, Christ Jesus who came to do just that, save his people.

And he did.

That is the truth that we can dwell upon, the truth that we are to guard our hearts with, the reason that we can continue on in the face of persecution, pain, and suffering. That he did. That Jesus did come, he did live, he did die, he did take every bit of our pain, he did take every bit of suffering, he did take every bit of our sin upon himself, and he did die for us. He did all of these things because we have a faithful God. We have a God who promised us in the third chapter of the bible that he would send him, and kept reminding us of this promise through the whole of the Old Testament and made it come to fruition in the New, and he keeps on in this same faithfulness each and every moment of everyday, now and forever.

Faithful

Anxiety has ripped me apart at the seams. The past month has been a torment.

I returned from a weekend of rest, restoration, realizations, and the Redeemer with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) at their Fall Conference in Montezuma, NM, only to get a bad case of bronchitis or the flu or something of the sort; all I know is I was miserable for more than a week and a half.

Prior to the trip and prior to my illness, I had been feeling better than I had in five years. I was happy again, I was interested in things again, and I was sleeping well again. I felt like a new woman. Then, the illness hit and along came a crippling bout of anxiety.

I am still not sure of the origin of this anxiety, I have my suspicions that it had to do with how miserable I was while I was so sick, that I was scared that it was going to continue or get worse, but even after I overcame those thoughts, the anxiety remained.

The last few weeks have been nothing but an inner battle with myself, trying to convince myself that everything is okay day in and day out. I’ve been trying to find anything that could comfort me and make me feel good again.

But let me tell you, this stuff is consuming. It’s like every moment is a fight to keep going, to keep breath in my lungs, to keep tears from my eyes, to keep my heart from racing, to keep myself out of bed (where I would no doubt remain all day if I could), to keep myself from panicking, to keep from blaming myself for anything and everything happening around me.

With all of this inner turmoil, I am sure one can deduce just how hard it has been to keep faith. All I can do is ask God why this is happening to me? Why it has to be that every night I have a series of panic attacks that make me worry if I will be able to sleep or not? Why I can’t just go back to the progress I was making a month ago—to the feelings of wholeness and that I was finally overcoming this silent beast?

But even as I type out these questions that have been the real life things I have been proposing to God, I see the error in them. I have been begging God for all the wrong things.

In Philippians, Paul writes from his Roman prison cell, where he has been imprisoned for spreading the gospel. When looking Paul’s circumstance, one would think his first response would be to ask God why; why if he is serving him, would he let this happen to him? However, when I look at Paul’s actual response to his imprisonment, my own hardened heart that is prone to ask “why” questions of God is challenged and changed. Paul says,

“I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known among the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

Philippians 1:12-13

As Paul sits in prison he looks at it not as a burden or a reason to ask God the “why” questions, but rather an opportunity to spread the gospel to the guards that watch over him and give vigor to those who still remain out in the world seeking to share the truth of Jesus. Paul even manages throughout the whole book to rejoice, to rejoice in the fact that still in his suffering, he is allowed the privilege to serve Christ and is still be able to call on others to rejoice in doing the same.

This God of ours is a faithful one. One who can take the things that seem to be holding us captive and make them good. He is a faithful God that despite our shortcomings and selfish requests of Him still calls us back to the reality of Christ, his faithfulness incarnate. He was faithful to Paul in contenting him in the revelation of the truth and purpose of his imprisonment, and so He will be faithful to us.

While I examine my own prayers and thoughts against Paul’s, I can do little else but be convicted. As I sit in my situation with this anxiety that has created a sort of prison for me, I recognize that I should be praying that God would use this pain to ultimately propel me to press on to serve Christ. While this circumstance hurts and is confusing this is where I am supposed to be.

He will be faithful to me and to you to the very end, because His faithfulness is never ending.

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Coming to Terms with Time

I have taken to this blog as a place where I can do what I do best, writing. When I write, it serves the chief purpose as to gather my own thoughts in one singular place and to look over them in hopes of reaping from them some particular insight or epiphany and hopefully help someone else along the way. Sometimes though, my writing isn’t always in that fashion, it doesn’t always afford me the opportunity of a great epiphany or understanding. Sometimes it is just ramblings in hopes of getting them out of my head, and that is a bit like what I seem to be doing here with the concept of time.

On August 30th I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I decided to leave behind the only sure thing I have known in the last fifteen years—school. I decided to take a semester off of college, a hiatus if you will, in hopes of making some attempts at getting well.

In this time off there have been marked improvements.  There have been improvements like the fact that anxiety is not gripping everyday of my life, or that I am not dealing with horrible side effects of former medications, or that I don’t feel like there is a dark cloud above my head in every moment preventing me from living. I have had time to come closer to God and to contemplate his truths. I have had the opportunity to make a platform for myself to share these things and because of this I feel like this is the place to contemplate the following thing that I have been too scared to admit to myself, that this whole thing is going to take time.

I have no good explanation for you as to what I thought was going to happen when I decided to take a semester off of school. I remember going in to it considering it a time of healing, to give myself time to repair, to heal not only physically and mentally, but also spiritually. My words, however, seem to have rung hollow to myself, I seem to have just been justifying my hiatus with this concept of allowing myself time, and leaving it as just that, a concept. Though I have made strides in these places of healing mentioned above, there seems to be a part of me that thought it would all be over by now.

But this is not the case. While I have come to this place before and explained great things God has revealed to me through this pain and have had the excitement of coming to know him better, I have also come to realize that there is a difference between knowing God is in control and accepting that he is in control. That may seem fairly obvious to some, but it’s a hard pill to swallow, a painful realization when you thought you were being accepting of such a thing, then having it proven by yourself, to yourself that you have been trying to hold fast to your own schedule and your own plan. It seems to be that He has decided that his plan for my life, for my healing, will take time, the very concept I justified my hiatus with, and it will take longer than human me wants.

Time is cruel, but yet again, I am left here in awe of the revelations of himself that God has presented me through this pain. Again I am left with the recognition that He is in control, and it is now my turn to relinquish my own attempts at having said control. I am still hurting. I am still broken. But it is time that I not only allow God to do what he will, to align my desires with his will, but also to start to be truthful with myself about where I am and what I need which is his good and perect time, not what I want in my human schedule.

 

The Greatest Gardener

 

Consider the wildflowers, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Luke 12: 27-28 

A few days ago, I was outside talking to my grandma on the phone.  I like to make my phone calls outside, one because when there is a chance someone will see me whilst driving by, I stop my relentless pacing that takes place when I am indoors (gee, thanks social anxiety) and two because I like to be out in the fresh air, and have company whilst doing so.  Often times, however, I find myself doing things while I am talking.  Either I am going through Instagram, forsaking the beauty before me in conversation and in the outdoors, or I am staring at the lawn sitting in front of me and the dandelions creep into my head and are relentless in their calling me to remove them from the green grass.  The other day the latter transpired.
My grandma and I were talking about some pretty heavy things, she was giving me encouragement regarding some major life decisions I have made in the last week, extending her willing hand to help me however I needed, reminding me of God’s sovereignty through it all.  Though the conversation was compelling, I still felt the urge to pull all of the weeds which resided in every crack and crevice of the driveway and on every square inch of the yard.  I saw them all and saw how even in the midst of this conversation they took away from the beauty of the front of our cute little house and distracted me from the things at hand.
I worked tirelessly then, even after I hung up from my grandma, to make sure all the weeds I could find were pulled up from the roots and thrown in the garbage that was to be taken the next day, never to be seen again.
Let me tell you, it looked great when I was finished.  Weeds that had been growing in the cracks of the cement in our drive were now lying as waste and it looked smooth and clean just as something that a car drives over daily should look.  I was so proud, that everyone who drove by could see that our driveway was clear and clean—someone obviously cares at that house, right?
While I was clearing these weeds though, I had a thought about the way I was pulling these weeds with my two pronged weeding tool that digs deep, sitting on both sides of the root to pull the weed completely out, in hopes of making the lawn and driveway look clear and pristine. The thought was of how this process is so akin to the way Jesus works in our hearts.
Jesus works tirelessly to remove weeds from our heart to make us clean and pristine— the weeds of unbelief, distrust, unforgiving ways, unkindness, anxieties, burdens—the list goes on and on.  When we trust in him as our Lord and Savior, we allow him to come into our hearts to weed.  His tool however, is not like the two pronged one I used to pull the weeds in the front of my house, but his love, the freedom we gain from the blood he shed on the cross, the price he paid to the Father in our place so that we could come to Him and be clean and pristine as Jesus was.
Later that day after weeding, I came upon a quote that read, “The prettier the garden, the dirtier the hands of the gardener.”
My breath was taken after reading this, after contemplating the way Jesus weeds our hearts like a gardener earlier in the day.
Jesus has the dirtiest hands—they have worked the hardest, paid the ultimate price.  The cleanest gardener went from white as snow, to covered in blood, with a crown of thorns on his head and nails in his palms, all so he could have the prettiest garden in us.  We just have to give him the opportunity to do his work in the garden, because it has already been done, he has already made us clear and pristine.  He has already determined it is our place to have the passerby admire the way our soul is clear and pristine, so they can see his glory, and because of that, we don’t worry about the weeds. All we have to do is let the truth that he has and is taking care of the weeds, reside in our hearts.

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Caregiver: Having a Soft Heart in a Hard World

My entire life, I have been the “mom” friend. You know, the one friend in the group who is the voice of caution, the advice giver, the “wise” one. This has always meant I am placed in the position of caregiver, whether I like it or not.  I am relied upon to be there when friends and others fall, and to be the one who they can come to when times are rough. These are duties I have always been happy to attend to. However, this title has also often meant lots of hurt in relationships, acting as what I felt was a weakness in my personality. I have found myself in relationships where I am considered the “mom” reach a point it becomes a one way relationship—me taking care of them, constantly, with hardly anything in return.
When my relationships seem to morph into these sorts, is when I always disdain being a caregiver by nature. I begin to resent these relationships because I feel like I am giving so much care, pouring my entire heart into this human connection, and receiving little to nothing in return. I ache because I want so badly for these people I love, to love me the way I love them in return. I love so deeply and completely I want to feel the same from them. I can’t even count the number of sleepless nights crying, feeling weak for loving like I do, sobbing to my mom, asking underneath tears why I love too much.
As a disclaimer, I said before I have always loved these duties I am given in these relationships, so some of this is brought on by myself. But there has always been a part of me that questions myself, asking why, just why do I have to care so much, pour so much in, love so much when I am not guaranteed that these people I am giving my heart to will love or care for me the same way in return, and in reality often don’t.
These questions have often been the reason I have known ended friendships. I start to hurt so bad that these people aren’t loving me like I expect them to or care for me like I expect them to, so I push them away and claim I can’t do it anymore.
However, I have been lead to the realization that this is not my duty. It is not my duty to determine how others are supposed to care for me or how they are supposed to love me. We are sinful beings incapable of delivering to one another the type of love and care we need. In fact, my desire to make these people “love the way I love” is a kind of greediness.
As I contemplated this topic this week, I began reading Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst.  It was here where it was reveled to me the true nature of these desires of wanting people to love me the way I “needed” in return. TerKeurst tackles the topic with these self-examining words,

“We must respect ourselves enough to break the pattern of placing unrealistic expectations on others.  After all, people will not respect us more than we respect ourselves,” and continues, “No, it’s not wrong to need people.  But some of our biggest disappointments in life are the result of expectations we have of others that they can’t ever possibly meet.  That’s when the desire to connect becomes an unrealistic need.  Unrealistic neediness is actually greediness in disguise.” (page 45 of Uninvited)

I love to paraphrase that, but I don’t think it could possibly fit the topic at hand better. I have come to the following realization: It is merely my duty to care and love to the best of my ability all those around me. To remember that I sin and they sin, and that breeds hurt no matter how complete your human love or care might be it is not enough. But this heart that I possess is not a weakness, it was created by God and given to me to be a caregiver and a deep, deep lover. So that is what I will do.
But then, I am still left with the inherent desire for human love and care.
Don’t get me wrong. I have several relationships where I am cared for and loved beyond measure. But regarding those relationships where I would question if that is the case or not—I can release my unrealistic expectations of others and rest soundly. I can be contented with a peace in my heart that can only be known by understanding that I am loved for and cared for by the ultimate caregiver, by the ultimate lover, Jesus.
So as I sit here and contemplate my heart’s varying feelings and desires I can find a comfort in knowing that the God of the Universe, who is love, sent His son, to show His love for me, to show His care for me, to make me clean. All in a fashion that I could never even attempt to wrap my mind around, because the nature of Jesus’ care and love is beyond human comprehension. All I can do is accept this gift of grace humbly and learn from it how to love others.
His love and care reaches so far beyond that of human beings’ capability, including mercy and grace that no human can deliver, that only his love and care can present.
With this I challenge you to examine your life and find the areas where you feel that you are being let down and recognize that God is using that in your life to help you realize something bigger in His plan and recognize His deep, deep care, love, and provision for you, that will never fall short, that will never fail. 
 
The LORD your God is in your midst, 
  a mighty one who will save; 
he will rejoice over you with gladness; 
  he will quiet you by his love; 
he will exult over you with loud singing. 
                                                      Zephaniah 3:17
                                                     (emphasis added)

We are Called to be Wild and Free

Recently I was browsing the tumblr of one of my favorite people on social media, Hanna Olivia Way, and I came across a post from her Instagram with this quote attached to it,

“And the truth dear friends, is this: our standing has never wavered with our Father. Though the world has twisted what it means to be a daughter, His stance and His position toward us has absolutely stayed resolute. The world cannot dictate what it means to be treasured by our Father, but the love and relationship of our Heavenly Father can heal and transcend the damage done here on earth. The Creator of the universe didn’t just love and speak us into being, he also called us good – the same word He called the massive majestic oceans and the sun that lights our solar system and keeps us all sustained. He sent His son to make a way for us while we were still broken and sinful and sitting with our fingers in our ears, unwilling to hear truth. His Holy Spirit runs wild in our lives, guiding us, leading us, growing us, and groaning for us so we can genuinely be in community with Him. We mean the world to Him – not because we’re good or we’ve earned it, but because we are His treasure, the apple of His eye, the daughters He is coming back for.” 
Jess Connolly, Wild and Free
 
Incredibly moved by that beautiful passage, I immediately went to Google, and searched what this Wild and Free thing was.  When I found the book on Amazon, I was instantaneously inclined to hit the “purchase now” button when I read this sentence on the front cover, “A hope-filled anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and never enough.” When I read that, all I could think was UHHH Hello, that’s me. I was so excited to have this book in my hands.
Let me tell you dear friends, it has been a game changer since the moment I opened the next-day shipped envelope. 
       If you are new here (which you probably are, I am not consistent enough to have a true following) I would first like to introduce myself. My name is Laci, I am a nineteen year old college student, studying Secondary English Education, who lives in the most beautiful state of the fifty—Colorado, who loves to read, drink coffee (sometimes absurd amounts of tea), be in the mountains amongst pine trees, and to watch the rain.  But most importantly, I am a daughter of The Most High.  
          My spiritual journey has not been an easy one, but sanctification is not easy for anyone. In fact, up until six weeks ago, I had not picked up my bible in over three months. Each day, I am still growing in my relationship with Jesus and learning what it truly means to follow Him. Each day I am met with things that call me to examine and question myself, if I am truly living as Jesus has called me to.
          Though, I have been a Christian since the age of seven, when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I did not really understand what that meant until a year ago.  After going through the most difficult season of my life in my senior year of high school, I started college and I was diagnosed with anxiety and severe clinical depression that dated back to my sophomore year of high school.  It was a few months after that diagnosis when another book The Lipstick Gospel (my post about it is here) opened my eyes to how badly I needed Jesus.  After reading that book, I wept and sought Jesus with what I thought was all of my heart for about two months, but then my fire kind of dwindled.
          This has been a pattern in my life since my junior year of high school, when I first decided that I really wanted to start taking my faith seriously.  I get this fire in my heart to follow Jesus, and I do great for a few months, then I just stop.  I stop praying.  I stop doing my devotionals. I just stop.  I determine I will be fine going it alone, it will all be okay, but let me tell you—that NEVER happens. It is NEVER okay.  I ALWAYS come crawling back, sobbing to God on my bed at night begging He forgive me and take me back.
          However, it was not until I began reading Wild and Free, that I was prompted to truly examine these facts about myself and how I approached the title “follower of Jesus” that resides in my Instagram bio. It was then when I was truly called by the Holy Spirit to examine myself, that I realized, that was where my problem laid; before—my entire faith was based on “I” statements.  “I was going to make myself feel better by doing this.” “I was determined to follow Jesus.” And that is not what this faith is about. 
          The most beautiful element of this faith is that it means there is no longer an “I”, there is only Jesus.  There is no longer a struggle of having to make myself  determined to stay, there is only Jesus.
           Recently, my stepmother sent me the link to a sermon preached by an intern at her church.  His sermon was titled, “The Simplicity of Faith.”  While I listened, I was moved toward the end of the sermon, when he spoke the phrase, “This is a gospel of simple grace and simple faith.” 
          That is the point my friends, a truth that has been spoken to my heart so many times over the last two months or so, I cannot even count.  This is a simple gospel of simple faith.  This is a faith that the God of the Universe has handpicked you, loved you, called you good and at ease, sent His Son, who shed his blood for you all so you can stop saying “I” and be free of your worldly, sinful self.  You are washed clean, and you have been made a wild woman in God, who can call herself free not because of “I”, but because of him, Jesus. 
            If you are a woman who calls Jesus your savior, whether you are 19 or 95, I suggest you pick up Wild and Free.  I can hardly put into words this book’s ability to change lives.  You will be challenged, you will ache, you will have joy from its words, and I strongly encourage you to embrace that.  Embrace this truth that we receive from God’s word, embrace this message that echoes the truth of the gospel that authors Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan have been called by the Father to share with women of all ages.  We are not called to be quiet, to be perfect, to have perfect bodies, or perfect houses, or perfect lives. 
We are called to live not by the rules of this world, but wild in the woman that God created us, by hand, to be and free in being the daughters who Jesus came to save.  

The Anthem of Wild and Free, Wild and Free, by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan