Sunday, January 17, 2016

Whatever it Takes

Tonight, I did like every night (when I'm not recovering from abdominal surgery and living on the couch) and went to my room, snuggled under some warm blankets, got my Jesus music on lightly in the background, put the phone away, and pulled out my Bible and all of its current friends.

But tonight was a little different. God broke up my routine a bit (which is always a marvelously good thing, even--scratch that--especially when it's hard). I was reading a little book by Max Lucado called Everyday Blessings and playing a little catch up from being completely out of commission the last two weeks. The verse is Psalm 136:1 and the small little tidbit below it was like, well I said "smack in the face" but really it was more of a Father's loving, guiding touch; and I heard "I'm waiting for you to fully let me be your Father". 

It said:

If I know that one of the privileges of fatherhood is to comfort a child, then why am I so reluctant to let my Heavenly Father comfort me? Why do I think He is too busy for me?

And I had to set the book and my Bible to the side and fall facedown before a Father who loves me beyond my comprehension, and has been longing to extend that comfort to a receptive daughter. And I cried a gushing waterfall on the floor that no dam could contain, but they weren't filled with sadness or defeat. They were filled with understanding, and gratitude, and regret, and peace.

Understanding that He's been extending comfort to me from Himself as my Father and also through godly people He has surrounded me with. Understanding that being afraid of being hurt, I've shoved it away, as I cowered waiting for it to be snatched away like some past experiences. Understanding that God is showing me another area of my life that I need to surrender control and go to Him for comfort and be receptive of that comfort in every avenue that He sends it my way. Understanding that it's time to start calling out the lies that I'm not good enough or that I'm not worthy of it and putting everyone else in my life, whether relationally or in passing, on a higher level that I think I will never be good enough reach to stand beside anyone. 

Gratitude, that He never leaves me. Gratitude that He is opening my eyes a little bit at the time to areas of my life where that total surrender isn't quite total. Gratitude that He gives me everything that I need even though I don't deserve it. Opening my eyes that being undeserving of His grace, and compassion, and love, makes me human, but not worthless and not less.

Regret, for pushing away what He has sent my way; for retreating in fear and still carrying that stone of the wall that is my life that He is currently dismantling to rebuild on a foundation in which, He is Lord of ALL and the total surrender is daily and in every aspect of my life.

Peace that only He can give. Peace that He is always there and I can always go to Him. Peace because He is a Good, good, Father and a faithful Father who openly extends forgiveness, mercy, grace, love, and much more beyond the comprehension of man. Peace that He's walking beside me, carrying me as needed, providing Fatherly discipline and redirecting as needed, and a peace in knowing that that truth will never change.

No matter where I go. No matter what I do. No matter what the world throws at me, He is constant; a sure and sturdy foundation. No matter if I stray, I have peace knowing that my Father, my Jesus, will do whatever it takes to bring His wayward sheep home. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Hello 2016

Another year is here (I actually stayed up to ring it in this year) and I couldn't be more excited to see what it holds, but at the same time, I am grateful for all of the gifts that 2015 had to offer.

Honestly, it would be so easy for me to talk about how awful 2015 was. Very easy. But yesterday I was challenged to only look back at 2015 in a positive way and I realized that the things I could easily complain about from 2015 also gave me some incredible gifts.

I was challenged to think of 12 gifts from 2015 and 12 words to take with me into 2016. These were the 12 gifts from 2015 that came to mind:

1). Reconciliation: Broken relationships mended and reliefs that come with that.

2). Family Memories: All of the memories with my husband and daughters this year are more than I can name. Every moment of every day of every year is an incredible blessing because of the gift from God of their existence and presence in my life.

3). Brokenness: People tend to associate this word with such negativity, and rightfully so as being truly broken is hard and uncomfortable. But most people also tend to forget the beauty that emerges from being broken. 2015 found me shattered into a million tiny pieces that seemed impossible to find, like a porcelain doll that had been smashed by a hammer over the ocean shore as the tide moved in and out. It was panic inducing and I was afraid as I realized that no matter how hard I tried, all of the pieces wouldn't be found. Some of them were washed out to sea for eternity, never to be found again. I was afraid and angry and resistant because I didn't know what to do without those pieces.

Finally, I resigned myself to gather what I could. I didn't find many pieces; only the ones that made up the basic components of myself. All of the details were gone. Hopelessness and desperation suddenly consumed me. I fought the situation until I had no more energy to fight and I was just...still. I gave the pieces I had to God and prayed for direction on how to move forward.

Gradually, God began to place new pieces in my path. Some of them were scarred pieces of shell that had been worn down by the ocean tides. I was hesitant to pick them up, but God showed me that the scars were healed physically. I picked them up with the doubt still strong and began to add them to the pieces I had. Some of the pieces were beautiful shells and incredibly strong ones. Some looked like they belonged to an artist of the sea with patterns of blues and purples and oranges among the familiar white and gray. 

At the end of 2015, I find myself looking at the pile of pieces I've gathered and noticing that some of them have been glued together by strength, faith, courage, relationships, love, grace, and so much more. I can't see the whole piece yet, but I can tell that it's beautiful. Beauty from the broken. I had to completely fall apart in order for healing to take place.

4). 2nd Chances: More than I can count. Second chances at life. Second chances at health. Second chances at happiness and true joy. The grace God grants every time I falter. I have more gratitude than I can express.

5). Good Football Season: Okay, I had to throw in a shout out to my Bama boys! Ha! 

6). New friendships: This is a huge one. My months in Birmingham have consisted of so many new connections and friendships that God has placed in my path. They are each such a blessing and bring so much joy to my life.

7). Broken Boundaries for Self: The chains that bound me into the small little world inside my head are no longer holding strong around me. The main link has broken and the others are falling apart in time. The world is a big place in which God has so many opportunities for each of us. My eyes are opening to all that is out there.

8). Renewal: In every way that the word applies.

9). Vulnerability: One of my biggest fears; letting others see my fears. Letting others see my pain and my scars and the baggage I've carried for so long. The walls that I had spent so much time building to hide all of it had to come down. It was one of the most hard and terrifying things I've ever done; to allow people to truly see every part of me. But, without this vulnerability, none of the amazing things that have grown within my life would have had the room to grow. 

10). Freedom From Fears: They're not gone. They're still here. But they no longer control everything I do.

11). Broken Chains: One by one. They're coming undone.

12). A New Reflection: I no longer cringe every single time I look in the mirror. My eating disorder still tries to pick me apart, but I'm learning to call out its lies and cover them with truths, even if I don't quite believe all of them wholeheartedly yet. I don't see the same person anymore. I'm not the same person. 

The next challenge was to come up with the 12 words to carry into 2016:

1). Connections: Continuing to foster current healthy connections with others and openness to new ones. 

2). Peace: Peace that can only come from Jesus. Peace with life. Peace that comes with trusting Him with whatever comes. 

3). Freedom: Seeking complete freedom from fears and this eating disorder so that nothing in my life is controlled by them.

4). Empowerment: Finding inner strength in myself and Christ within me.

5). Joy: Continuing to carry this joy with me that comes only from Him. Seeking joyful moments in every day and every situation.

6). Acceptance: Of myself as I am now, and of my past, and wherever I am in life.

7). Undone: Being comfortable in being completely undone so that God can put it all back together again.

8). Hope: Hope for full recovery, hope for what is to come, hope for a life no longer bound by chains.

9). Courage: Courage to recover and give up unhealthy coping skills that have been my normal for so long. Courage to break out of the comfort zone that my eating disorder has become. Courage to seek Christ first in everything. Courage to trust myself and others. Courage to trust the recovery process. Courage to seek acceptance.

10). Strength: Inner strength in Christ within me. Grabbing hold of it. Believing in it. Holding on to it. Applying it.

11). Faith: In God, myself, and others.

12). Passion: Constant pursuit of the passions that God has placed within me. Boldly seeking the things that set my soul on fire.

I've seen so many posts about being so glad 2015 is over and how awful it was. I get it. I've done that so many times, especially in 2012. I could easily say that about 2015. I've worked harder the last few months than I ever have. It's been an insane roller coaster ride. But, being challenged to only look at the positive completely changed my perspective and increased the joy within me.

My challenge to you is to look at 2016 in a different way. Find only positive things about 2015. That doesn't mean you don't honor the bad things; it just means that you aren't letting them pack the good things in a box. Take 2016 as an opportunity to love yourself; physically, emotionally, spiritually. 

Picture yourself as a well. Every time you give to others, whether it be time or love or support, you empty a bucket of water from the well. Eventually, the well will run dry and you have nothing left to put in your bucket. You're just empty.

Be open to receiving love and time and support from others. Be open to receiving what God has for you. Let Him refill your well. When the world tells you aren't worthy of receiving, call out those lies and cover them in truth. When the world tells you that you aren't good enough or that your body isn't good enough or thin enough or that nothing you have to offer is good enough, tell those lies to shut up. Tell them the truth, even if you don't wholeheartedly believe it yourself. 

Take time to get to know yourself and fall in love with the unique person that God created you to be. Allow yourself to receive the abundant life that He has always intended for you to live. Find what sets your soul on fire and passionately pursue it. Find what helps you to feel connected to God, yourself, and others and make time to engage in it and practice self care. Be you(tiful). Seek joy. And by seeking joy, and finding joy, you will spread joy all over 2016.