Lay It Down

We are constantly laying things down every day. We lay down our cell phones, our cups of coffee or a book we’ve been reading. We go through this mindless process every single day. But, the second we are faced with laying down people or circumstances in our lives, the struggle in our mind begins.

There is a powerful story in the Bible that depicts what it looks like to lay someone down. It’s the story of Abraham and Isaac. If you aren’t familiar with the story, I encourage you to read Genesis 22:1-19 in your Bible. Abraham and his wife Sarah prayed and waited for a child for 25 years. They were very old when Isaac was born. You can imagine how much Isaac meant to them. He was the answer to their prayers and also the answer to God’s promise to them. One day God asks Abraham to take Isaac to a mountain and sacrifice him on a altar. Abraham obeys God. They go to the mountain. Abraham builds the altar and ties Isaac up to be sacrificed. He gets ready to slay his son and then an angel of the Lord intervenes and tells him to stop. (This is a very short version of the story.)

Lysa TerKeurst writes in her book Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed, “No one understands the concept of offering it all to God better than Abraham…When God commanded Abraham to lay his only son on the altar…I am sure Abraham fully expected to plunge the dagger through Isaac. It would be an end…the death of a dream. Yet, Abraham was willing to give up the son he loved to the God who loved him more, and God blessed him…Abraham walked away having experienced God in a way few ever do. God wants to know if we’re willing to give up what we love to Him who loves us more. He desires for us to open our fists and trust Him with absolutely everything.”

Look back at the part that says, “God wants to know if we’re wiling to give up what we love to Him who loves us more. He desires for us to open our fists and trust Him with absolutely everything.” All of us have people we love in our lives. But, what I think we need to realize is the fact that no matter how much we love our people, God loves us more! Take a minute and let that soak in. God loves us more than we love our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, our families and our special someone. 

Abraham waited a very long time for Isaac. I know Abraham and his wife Sarah deeply loved him. Of course we don’t know what Abraham was thinking when God asked him to sacrifice his son and we don’t know what his internal struggle was, but we do know that Abraham was obedient. He knew God loved him. He knew God was faithful and he trusted Him. He knew God wouldn’t ask him to do something that was wrong. I believe this was a test to see how much Abraham trusted God and also how willing Abraham was to give up someone he dearly loved. 

As smart as I might think I am, there is someone who is much smarter than me. God has a much better plan than I could ever have. His way is far better than mine. And lately, He has been asking me to come before Him and lay some of my hopes, my dreams, my desires and my relationships down. He wants me to lay them on the altar as a sacrifice to Him. 

Let me share a few words from Carol Kent’s book When I Lay My Isaac Down. “At that moment Abraham relinquished his own desires, dreams, plans, and hopes for Isaac’s future and made the sacrifice an act of worship to the God he trusted with a confidence so strong that even if God allowed his son to die, Abraham knew God could raise him from the dead.”

Can I ask you a few questions? Are you hanging on to someone or something in your life with a tight fist? Do you see someone you love going down the wrong path? Are you wildly waving your hands in the air begging to be heard? Are you filled with anxiety over something in your life that you have lost control over?

May I say, “Welcome to the club!” Let me share some words from Carol Kent. “No one I know has been exempt from “faith-tests.” Whether these tests feel brutally incomprehensible, like Abraham’s, or are simply “par for the course” of life as a follower of God, they seem to have at least one thing in common: letting go of control. We get to choose how we will go about this excruciating process. Will we honor God by continuing to love and trust Him regardless of our circumstances, or will we insist on trying to direct the outcome?”

Oh how the struggle is real over “letting go” or “trying to direct the outcome.” I like to think that God needs my help, so I interject my will or my thoughts or my way. Oh brother! Like the God of the Universe needs my help. How silly of me to think that! But, that is what I do. I am learning that I have to daily lay down that person or that issue before God. In my mind, I have to hand it over to Him and ask that His will be done. 

I don’t want to be a tight-fisted woman and hang onto things that aren’t mine to control. It makes me miserable. I want to open up my fist and remember how much God loves me. He loves me more than that person or circumstance that I am hanging onto for dear life. His outcome is far better than mine could ever be. 

I have experienced a lot of loss in my life. I know that is why I tend to hang on so tightly. And, I am sure there are a lot of you that feel that way too. It’s hard to lose people, dreams, desires and plans that you have. Let me share a few verses with you. 

Philippians  3:8-9 “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.”

I am beginning to realize that I have gained more of Christ through my losses. With each loss, I have gained more knowledge and more intimacy with my Savior. Even though losing is painful, I am realizing that I gain so much more. I have gained intimacy with Christ. You can’t put a price on that!!

Look, it hasn’t been easy for me to get me to this point. It has taken some pretty difficult situations to get me to lay my Isaac’s down. I have been a tight fisted woman! But, I realize I have a choice to make. Do I keep stewing over everything, trying to make things work out, or do I sit down before the Lord and hand each person and situation over to Him? 

Relinquishment is a poignant word. It means “to let go of, to cease to hold in the hand.” It means giving up my rights to control the person, dream, expectation, or preferred outcome of the object of my concern… When we release our grasp, our relinquishment puts a stop to our manipulation of other people and releases the Holy Spirit to do the supernatural through the power of prayer. It’s an act of trusting God when we cannot envision a positive outcome. But in the end, its the only thing that works.” Carol Kent

So, my friends, I am choosing to relinquish my grasp. I am choosing to lay it all down before the Lord, so the Holy Spirit can be released. He is the only One who has the power to change me and the people that I love or the circumstances I am facing. I want to do this because I love Him so very much! It is a sacrifice that I am ready to make. 

My prayer for all of you is that you would be able to lay your Isaac’s down. I want you to be able to see God work in your life and in your Isaac’s lives. The Holy Spirit is already working in me through this process and I am sure He will do that for you too!

Regardless of what happens, I am going to trust Him and rely on His love for me. Like Abraham, I want to be obedient to what God asks me to do. Just look at what God did for Abraham because he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. The blessing from his bloodline was Jesus!! And, God will bless us too!!! May we be able to lay everything down before Him and watch Him work. May we rely on Him to do more than we can even imagine because of His great love for us. Oh, what a joy it is to witness the power of God in our lives and in others. To God be the glory because of the great things He has done and will do in our lives!!!

Until next time my dear friends. This is my journey to joy!!

What Do Your Eyes See?

Have you ever felt like a pinball in a pinball machine? It was a very popular arcade game that I loved to play when I was younger. Do you feel like a pinball being tossed back and forth? Are you wondering when the back and forth circumstances of your life are going to stop? Do you wonder when you are going to get a break from all the things coming at you? Are you ready for it to be over? Well my friends, let me share with you what I have been learning. It is helping me live in the back and forth of my life. I pray what I am learning will help you while you are being tossed around. 

When you are playing pinball, you are trying to keep the balls from reaching the bottom so you can score points. You want to win as many points as you can before the ball goes down the hole at the bottom of the machine. Your eyes have to be focused on the balls. If you take your eyes off them, they will fall. 

Proverbs 4:25 “Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”

I am reminded that it matters where my eyes are focused in my daily life. When I focus on things happening around me, I panic and fear takes over. We are in trouble in this world right now. There is no denying it. Everywhere you turn there is a problem or a disaster. You can’t escape it. In order to fight the fear and panic, I have to focus on God and His truth more than I ever have in my life. I can’t allow what is happening around me to dictate my life. When I focus on God, I can have the assurance that He is in control and He is working and fighting for me in the midst of the storms raging around me.

I have spent most of my life hoping people or my circumstances would change. You can imagine how utterly disappointed I have been because of where I placed my hope. I thought, “If only so and so would quit doing that, or if only that person would see me and care enough about me to change.”

This morning, I was thinking about a problem that has me pretty discouraged. This question popped in my mind. “Laurie, what are you placing your hope in?” I knew what my answer was. I was placing my hope in people and circumstances changing instead of my hope being placed on my Savior and my Lord. 

I know that most of us want things to change in this world. We want our country to get back to normal. (Whatever that is!) We want diseases to end. We want marriages to be put back together. We want people to love one another and quit hating. We want nations to quit warring and fighting to cease. We want hunger to end. All of us want something to change, but I can’t place my hope on that happening. I can pray for those things to happen, but my hope has to be on God and His word.

Isaiah 40:31 “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

My life has been filled with a lot of things that have scared the crap out of me. It is so easy for me to panic! This world is a scary place right now. Lots of evil things are happening. But, I have a choice to make; we all do. Are we going to let what is happening around us control us? Are we going to base our happiness or sanity on people changing or the world changing?

If we base our happiness on people or circumstances changing, then we are going to be very disappointed and maybe even devastated. I think that is why so many people are struggling right now. We have based our happiness on the wrong things. And when we base our happiness on the wrong things and become devastated, we lose our hope.

It has taken me a very long time to understand the difference between placing my hope in God and placing my hope in God to change things. I have to be okay, even if He doesn’t change things. Do you see the difference? Let me show you an example of this in the Bible. 

Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane waiting for the soldiers to come and get Him. He knew what was coming. He was praying to His Father and said these very important words.

Matthew 26:39 “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will but as you will.” He says it again in verse 42. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

This teaching is life changing for all of us. Jesus was in agony. He knew what was coming. He was feeling every human emotion you can feel. He even sweat drops of blood!!! Jesus prayed for his death to be taken away, but prayed “your will be done.” Those four words showed how much He boldly trusted God and His plan.

I have been challenged lately by those words. There are situations in my life right now that I desperately want to see changed. For goodness sakes, I want the world to change. So, as I lay my requests before God, I am adding, “But your will be done.” It is very freeing to add those words to my prayers, because now my hope is for God’s will to be done. When you pray that way, you are going from what you see to what you can’t see because you are trusting God.

Oh, I have so much to say to you because I have spent most of my life basing my hope on what I am seeing or not seeing happen. There is so much going on in the spiritual realm right now. God is working. God is fighting. God is moving. We might not be able to see it, but it is happening. He is going to war for us.

Proverbs 15:3 “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Romans 12:2 tells us that God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect. So, why wouldn’t we want that? I know that His way is far better than mine. I might not understand why He does things the way He does, but He knows things I don’t know and He sees things I can’t see.

His ways are definitely not my ways, but look at what He did with Jesus’ death. He made His death a way for us to be with Him. It definitely didn’t look good at the time, but boy oh boy, his death turned out to be the biggest blessing for all of mankind 

I am sharing this because life is hard right now. I look around and see so many things happening to others and to me. I have to quit looking around at what I see and fix my eyes on the One who stands before me. I want to praise Him for what He is doing and what He will do in my life.

Let me end by sharing something Lysa Terkeurst wrote about David in the Bible.

“David’s praise wasn’t in vain. It steadied his heart. And his painful circumstances weren’t wasted. God used those hardships to mature David. It was in the cave, the womb of the earth, where God met him and birthed in him a heart ready to lead. Darkness was the perfect training ground for David’s destiny. And those difficult places we so desperately want to be done with can be good training ground for us as well. Will we see this dark time as a womb or a tomb? Is it a birth of something new or the death of what we thought should be? Will we fix our eyes on the truth of God’s goodness, or will we give in to hopelessness and despair? Let’s choose to believe there is a purpose in every season, even the ones that don’t seem to make any sense. Let’s ask God to birth something new inside of us, allowing Him to do a work in us that will better prepare us to walk out His promises. Praise may not shift our circumstance, but it will definitely begin to change our hearts. We can choose how to live through our circumstances.”

I have always been told that reading and praying through the Psalms is so important. David chose to praise God in the midst of being hunted down by a mad man. I want God to use my difficult circumstances to be good training ground for me too! There are things in my life that need to die and there is definitely something new that needs to be birthed. I choose to keep my eyes fixed on the One who stands before me and ask Him to do a mighty work in me. What will you do? 

Until next time my dear friends. This is my journey to joy!!! 

I Can’t Let Shame Define Me

In my last post I talked about my struggle with contempt and shame. In this post, I would like to dig more into shame because it ultimately turns into contempt. I would like to discuss the difference between legitimate shame and illegitimate shame. I pray this will be helpful information to those of you who struggle in this area. 

First of all, everyone experiences shame. When you get in trouble for something you have done, you feel shame. When you say words you know you shouldn’t have said, you feel shame. When you do something you have been told not to do, you feel shame. These are examples of legitimate shame. Legitimate shame is about what you do. Most of us don’t use the word shame—we use the word guilt. 

The next form of shame is a little trickier to discern. “Illegitimate shame is an identity issue that attacks our being. It comes from believing lies about ourselves that have been verbally and nonverbally communicated to us through the actions and responses of others. Illegitimate shame attacks our personal dignity and fills us with shame messages: You are worthless, dirty, perverted, stupid, ugly and unwanted. These shame messages contradict what Christ says is true of us: You are loved, accepted and forgiven. No amount of wrongdoing inflicted by others or chosen by yourself will ever rob you of your God-given dignity. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The Journey Begins workbook

I have struggled with both types of shame, but the one that has done the most damage is illegitimate shame. This type of shame attached itself to me when I was little for several reasons. I had a father who was spewing lies from his mouth that attacked my dignity. Those messages made me feel stupid and because I didn’t have anyone to protect me, I felt unworthy. 

Let me share some truth with you. “Because we are created in God’s image, we have inherent dignity. As image bearers who reflect our creator, we are beautiful and glorious. We long to be seen, known, loved, honored and desired. God gifted us with talents, longing, intelligence and emotions. He allows us to rule and create. We are permanently marked with the indelible ink of God’s image.”  The Journey Begins workbook

I might do stupid things, but that doesn’t make me stupid. When I say that I am stupid I am committing violence to myself. I want to quit calling myself stupid because I am an image bearer of God. Is He stupid? No! He has gifted me with talents and intelligence. He values me. Here’s a question for you. Do you value yourself, or do you constantly put yourself down? 

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a valued child of God or do you see all the flaws and wrinkles you have? Do you pick at what you see? (I really struggle in this area).  I look in the mirror and think, “Yikes!! Where did that 20 year old go?” I need to realize that I am valued by God. Shame has made me look at all the flaws and not the beauty. You know that saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Well, God thinks I am beautiful because He created me. He gave me characteristics that make me unique. I am one of a kind and so are you!

Let me ask you a question. “What makes you feel shame?” Is it something you did or do you feel shame from something someone else did? “Shame is based on what you think, not necessarily what is true. Your experience of shame is subjective. What causes shame for one person may not elicit the same response from another.” The Journey Begins workbook

Each one of us has a story. My story will be different than yours because my experience with shame is different than yours. There are things that happened to me that didn’t happen to you. We need to value one another’s story. We need to listen and support one another because that person has value and so do you! 

“People’s stories reveal how shame has woven itself into their definition of themselves as human beings.” The Journey Begins workbook  How many times have we said to someone else, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” We usually say those words because we see something different in that person than they do. We are trying to help that person see the good that we see. Remember shame is based on what we think, not necessarily on what is true. 

For example, I know I have said to my friends or family many times that I was stupid because my shame made me feel stupid. Let me share something that I read from Lysa Terkeurst. “We’re all living out a story, but then there’s the story we are telling ourselves. We just need to make sure we’re telling ourselves the right story.” AMEN!!!

If we keep telling ourselves the wrong story, then our shame will develop into contempt. And contempt can cause so much harm to ourselves and others. We have to stop the violence to ourselves and others before it gets so destructive. 

I have been journaling a lot lately over these issues. I remembered something from my childhood. I remembered a look on my father’s face. His brow was furrowed and his eyes were full of contempt. That look was a very angry scowl. He didn’t need to say a word. I knew what that look meant. I knew trouble was coming. So, I took on the responsibility of doing whatever I could to get that look off his face. I spent most of my life trying to get that look off his face. That look did as much damage as his words or actions did. 

When he had that look, I believed I had done something wrong, whether I had or not. I hated that look. And when I couldn’t get it to go away, I felt stupid for not being able to do so. This was a vicious cycle that I put myself in every single day. I felt like a failure which led to so many other things. “Illegitimate shame is one of evil’s most efficient weapons. A few moments of gripping shame can create a lifetime of toxic inner turmoil.” The Journey Begins workbook

And let me tell you that I have had a lifetime of toxic inner turmoil!!! I don’t want that for anyone. I have allowed other people to control me just by the look on their faces. (I am not kidding!) Shame has made me do that most of my life. I am slowly learning that it isn’t my responsibility to take the scowl off people’s faces.  

“Shame shrinks us, silences us and numbs us. Whether shame exposes areas you are trying to fix though your own methods, or it exposes where you carry shame messages that came through harm done to you, God offers hope by His abundant grace, mercy and love. God is the only one who can forgive us and relieve us of our guilt. He is the only one who can heal us and remind us of the dignity He bestowed on us. This is a powerful message of hope.” The Journey Begins workbook

I couldn’t believe it when I read this next part. (God is so good!) “Rather than allowing shame to shrink and silence us or to make us brazen and harsh, will we allow God to enter it with us? Shame takes away our faces, our joy of living out the strength and tenderness of God.” The Journey Begins workbook 

Do you see that phrase in bold letters? Do you see that word face??? I was working so hard to take the scowl off of everyone else and didn’t realize I was losing my face (myself) in the process.

Let me end by saying that I have found great joy from inviting the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into healing me from shame. I can finally see the look of love and acceptance on their faces. I am beginning to see myself as a valued and deeply loved child of God. It feels so good to share my feelings with them.

I really want to encourage you to invite God into your shame. You won’t be sorry! He gives healing and hope. You will see the tenderness of God. He will help you! He does not condemn you. He brings freedom and forgiveness. He is safe. There are some verses in Jeremiah that have meant a lot to me that I would like to end with. His words are true! He will take you out of your captivity of shame. 

Jeremiah 29:11-14  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

Until next time friends. This is my journey to joy! 

My Struggle With Contempt

I am writing this post because I have discovered that I have an issue that has been with me since I was a child. I knew it was there, but didn’t know how much it truly affected me. It has been at the core of my being. This issue is why I have a hard time liking myself. I am writing about it because I know it affects many people in different ways. The word that I am speaking about is contempt. 

I know that most of us don’t go around thinking or saying that we have contempt for ourselves or someone else. You might not realize you have any issues with contempt. You don’t realize when you criticize or judge yourself or someone else, it might be from contempt. When you compare yourself with someone else, it could possibly be from contempt. When you verbally abuse or want to harm yourself or someone else, it might just be from contempt. Murder and suicide are the ultimate results of contempt.  

“Simply defined, contempt is our effort to cover ourselves and our shame apart form the grace of God.” The Journey Begins workbook  Shame leads to contempt. I have felt deep shame for my Dad’s actions most of my life. And the weird thing is, I am not the one who committed the abuse. 

“Children in abusive situations are exposed to more than they are capable of understanding relationally, emotionally, physically and sexually. Whatever forms the abuse takes, children will come to believe something is dreadfully wrong with them and for that reason they are responsible.”  The Journey Begins workbook

I didn’t realize how much I thought something was dreadfully wrong with me until this year. I also didn’t realize how responsible I felt for everything. No matter what I did to change the environment at home, I couldn’t get my Dad to stop his behavior. I couldn’t get my Mom to protect. I even felt responsible for my brother’s issues. I took it all on! 

“The misrepresentation of reality is one of the diabolical twists that results from being harmed as a child. Children’s perceptions of why the abuse or neglect happened to them are distorted because of their vulnerable dependence upon the adults responsible for their care. Children naturally experience themselves as the center of their universe, believing that what happens is within their control. Because of this, they quickly assume the blame rather than believe that the one who harmed them was responsible.” The Journey Begins workbook

When I read those words, I had a moment when it all made sense to me. I believed I could somehow control my home environment. I made vows to do whatever it took to keep the peace in the family. I needed to be a good kid and not make waves. I was constantly watching and observing what I could do to help my home life get better. My eyes were on them and not on me. I lost myself. 

I knew making good grades was important, so that’s what I did. I became class president to get my Dad to notice me. I made it into National Honor Society and remember my Dad coming for the induction ceremony. Being class president and in National Honor Society were the only times I remember my Dad showing up and being proud of me. I lived to make my parents happy thinking it would make a difference at home. It didn’t.

So, you can imagine how the contempt for myself just grew and grew every time I tried and failed. Day by day and year by year it grew. I knew it was there. I knew it affected me in so many different ways. But, I didn’t know how to deal with it until recently. 

Let me say that forgiveness plays a big role in this process. Lysa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget” and the material from a workbook called “The Journey Begins” are the tools that are really helping me with my issues. 

I want to help anyone I can because contempt can lead to so many harmful things. Suicide is one of the results of contempt. I have a tender spot in my heart for anyone that feels that way. I have felt like ending my life many times because of the shame and contempt I have felt for myself. I believe those issues were at the core of my brother’s OCD and eventual suicide and I believe it has been at the core of my anxiety and depression.

I want to share something I read from “The Journey Begins”.

“A part of you was left behind very early in your life;

       the part that never felt completely received.

          It is full of fears…You have to bring home 

 the part of you that was left behind. That is not easy, 

because you have become quite a formidable person…

                 Your grown-up self has to become 

       very child-like, hospitable, gentle and caring so

          your anxious self can return and feel safe.” Henri Nouwen

If you are struggling with shame or contempt like I have, I am learning that I have to show kindness to my little self. Little Laurie learned some very bad habits in order to survive. She felt shame when things were out of control and then contempt took over to make her feel in control. Violence was a way of life. The violence that was happening around her made her feel contempt for herself because she couldn’t stop it. (I am the oldest child!)

I have to go back to my little self and show kindness to her. This might sound weird to you, but it works. I had to go back to some of the memories and bring Jesus into them. By bringing Him in, I brought in truth and kindness. Jesus has kind eyes. I have to look at myself through His eyes. 

You feel your feelings and then give them to God. Emotions are meant to move you toward God.” Ann Voskamp   I always felt uncomfortable with my feelings. I really didn’t know what to do with them so I shoved them down deep into my soul. I thought it was wrong to feel what I felt. It was so hard to admit the contempt and shame I felt. Now, I am learning to bring Jesus into my feelings and share them with Him. 

Proverbs 4:20-22 “Pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight. Keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”

When you bring the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit into your life, their words are going to change your life. If you are willing to let them into your feelings, your memories, your pain and whatever you struggle with; you will be changed by the truth they bring. 

I have started picturing the Trinity sitting at a table with me. I am discussing my memories and my pain with them. They listen. They talk to me and speak truth to my heart. They pray over me. They’ve been able to show me how much contempt I had for myself and show me kindness.

I am going to share something I wrote while conversing with the Trinity from my journal. “Laurie, you have so much contempt for yourself because you loved someone who abused you. You feel stupid for loving him. Are we stupid for loving evil people?” That question cut through me like a knife and made me catch my breath! Of course, they aren’t stupid. And I am not stupid either. That gives you a picture of how much contempt I felt for myself. 

Let me say this, violence can seep in and you not be aware of what it is doing to you and to others. There is so much violence in the world today and part of it is what we are doing to ourselves. I am learning that the antidote to contempt is kindness. We need to show kindness to ourselves and others.  

I have lived most of my life thinking something was dreadfully wrong with me. That lie took my life over. The contempt that formed deadened longings I had and shut down my heart. Contempt kept me self-protected. It caused me to lose hope. I denied my desires and I settled for so much less than I should have. I want to help anyone I can realize there is a better way to live.  

I am going to leave you with something I read by Lysa Terkeurst. I have been struggling with the thoughts that I have wasted so much time struggling with so many things. Maybe you think that way too. I pray this will help you as much as it is helping me. 

“This time isn’t a waste, and it’s definitely not pointless when we are walking with God. Let’s cry out to God, declaring that this hard time will be a holy time, a close-to-God time. And let’s choose to believe that there is good happening, even in these places. Because wherever God is, good is being worked.”  Can I get an AMEN???

Until next time. This is my journey to joy.

A Shift In Thinking

I think it is pretty safe to say that life has a way of kicking the breath out of you. There are days when I just want to put my hand up and say, “Just give me a minute so I can catch my breath!” Like a runner, after finishing a race, my hands are on my knees while I wait for the pounding of my heart to get back into a normal rhythm. 

The past two months, I have been reading Lysa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget”. This book isn’t just about forgiveness. It is also about how to deal with the many issues that come from experiencing trauma. If you have faced a lot of trauma, and you need something to help you process, this book is for you.

I can relate to the pain that Lysa writes about. “And hidden behind all that exhaustion was a girl stuck in so much grief, her perception of God was more informed by her pain than her past experience of who she knew God to be.” Terkeurst 

My pain has a tendency to take over the truth of who I know God to be. Part of my problem has been disillusionment. I think I have been disillusioned with God because of what He has allowed to happen in my life. God didn’t intervene like I thought He would in so many different situations. I prayed and prayed for things to change, but my answers didn’t look like I thought they would.

“Your answer never looks like you think it should.” Terkeurst  I can “think” I know what should happen, but I am not God. I might think I have the right answer but God ultimately does. And somehow, I have to make peace with that. I might not like what is happening, but I have to get to the point that I have to trust what He is doing. He is the only One who can see everything and knows everything. And most important of all, I have to remember that He is good. (Psalm 34:8) He doesn’t withhold good from us. (Psalm 84:11)

“What if we’ve been looking at things from only what we think is good? From our vantage point, we can clearly see how what we’re asking from God makes so much sense. In our minds, we see all the good that would surely come from Him doing exactly what we suggest. But what if our requests, though completely logical and reasonable, aren’t what we think they are? Yes, from an earthly perspective, they are exactly what makes sense. But what if God sees things we can’t possibly see? What if we could see everything from His complete, eternal, perfect vantage point? What if I’ve been thinking of this all wrong?” Terkeurst 

This is where my disillusionment has to turn into trust. Do I trust God? That question can be a hard one. There are lots of things I trust Him for, but there are others that are harder for me to trust Him with. It is hard for me to trust when I don’t understand what He is doing. It is equally hard for me to trust Him with what He is allowing to happen. I like to be able to understand what is going on. And when I can’t understand or rationalize things in my brain, I tend to have feelings of fear. I think, “Lord, what in the world are you doing here? I don’t understand why You are allowing this to happen?” (Cue the trauma feelings that rise up within me that I felt as a little girl.) 

And then… I read these next words that made my jaw drop. “I’ve been praying for almost as long as I’ve been living. But I’ve very rarely had the thought to look around at my life and see today, this moment, in this season, as the answered prayer. When I think about prayer requests, I think of what I “hope” God will do… not what “has been done” for today. The reason I miss seeing what I’m living today as the answer to my prayers is that very often, maybe even always, it’s not what I thought it would be. God’s answers don’t look like what I have pictured so clearly in my mind.” Terkeurst

Oh my goodness! That’s it! God’s answers haven’t looked like what I have pictured in my mind. Can anyone else relate to that? I have pictured God working very differently. And, I have been shocked at some of His answers. I haven’t understood them and frankly haven’t liked some of them. I have had so many expectations of what I thought the answer should be.

That question— “What if I’ve been thinking or looking at my situation all wrong?”—stuck with me. I wrestled with it and journaled over it. 

This is what I wrote in my journal. “What looks good to me might not look good to you, Lord. I actually might not have the right answer. I need to let go of what I think is good. My idea of “good” needs to change. I need to say that I am sorry for the way I have acted when You haven’t answered the way I thought You should. I have become disillusioned with You. Yes, I would have loved for things to be different in my childhood, but it doesn’t get me anywhere to wish things were different. I know that You provided so many things to get me through those years and I am very grateful for your provision.”

When I was a child, I loved watching Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc…because all the Disney movies had a “happy ending”. I formed the belief that the evil would be dealt with and I would have my idea of a happy ending. So, when that didn’t happen, I didn’t know how to handle it. I became a little girl stuck in grief and shock of what I saw and experienced. My perceptions of what I thought life should be like were turned upside down. 

Of course, I didn’t realize any of this until I was much older. But, that has been one of my biggest problems. What I perceived to be good, has not been the same as what God says is good. I know God can work good from any situation. My answer for what is good needs to be what God says is good. I must focus on His provision and make the choice to see that instead of the chaos that is going on around me. I have been living in chaos most of my life so my brain has been trained for survival instead of looking at what God is giving me.

I am wired to be hyper. My brother is the same way. We attack and we do and we over do and there is no peace. It is a learned behavior from a chaotic upbringing. I don’t know how to rest or stay in the same spot very long. This past year has made it worse for me. The chaos of the pandemic made me crazy. I became that frightened little girl again. I’ve been fighting panic for over a year. The problem was, and still is, the fact that I forget to look for God’s daily provision. I am praying every day that God will help my mind look for Him and His provision for me. And, I am praying to be thankful for it all!

In the midst of everything we are facing, there is good provision from God. My mind always goes to the story of Joseph in the Bible. God provided for Joseph for so many years. His circumstances were’t ideal for sure, but God had a plan. I have to remind myself over and over again—amidst the chaos—that there is a plan. I must trust God with His plan.

I am going to end with sharing something I saved on my phone last year. The author is unknown. I pray the words encourage you and give you hope!

“I would have pulled Joseph out. Out of that pit. Out of that prison. Out of that pain. And I would have cheated nations out of the one God would use to deliver them from famine. 

I would have pulled David out. Out of Saul’s spear-throwing presence. Out of the caves he hid away in. Out of the pain of rejection. And I would have cheated Israel out of a God-hearted king.

I would have pulled Esther out. Out of being snatched from her only family. Out of being placed in a position she never asked for. Out of the path of a vicious, power-hungry foe. And I would have cheated a people out of the woman God would use to save their very lives. 

And I would have pulled Jesus off. Off of the cross. Off of the road that led to suffering and pain. Off of the path that would mean nakedness and beating, nails and thorns. And I would have cheated the entire world out of a Savior. Out of salvation. Out of an eternity filled with no more suffering and no more pain. 

And oh friend. I want to pull you out. I want to change your path. I want to stop your pain. But right now I know I would be wrong. I would be out of line. I would be cheating you and cheating the world out of so much good. Because God knows. He knows the good this pain will produce. He knows the beauty this hard will grow. He’s watching over you and keeping you even in the midst of this. And He’s promising you that you can trust Him. Even when it all feels like more than you can bear. 

So, instead of trying to pull you out, I’m lifting you up. I’m kneeling before the Father and I’m asking Him to give you strength. To give you hope. I’m asking Him to protect you and to move you when the time is right. I’m asking Him to help you stay prayerful and discerning. I’m asking Him how I can best love you and be a help to you. And I’m believing He’s going to use your life in powerful and beautiful ways. Ways that will leave your heart grateful and humbly thankful for this road you’ve been on.”

Until next time dear friends. This is my journey to joy.