The Battle is not Yours, but God's

January 30, 2015

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For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

The battle is not yours, but God's. 2 Chronicles 20:15

Sitting at home that first day, immersed in God, was easy. It was wonderful. But the next morning, my alarm clock went off, and I started panicking. I felt literally sick to my stomach dreading going to work and facing my biggest stress and fear. My students. It seems so ridiculous now, almost two months after the fact, but I was terrified.

I had started reading Max Lucado's book Fearless on the suggestion of a friend in my small group. Previously I thought of Lucado of a super cheesy Christian writer, full of lame platitudes and pathetic feel-good advice that wouldn't apply to my life and my problems. Boy, was I wrong! It felt like he was writing directly to me, like he could read my mind and knew my deepest worries and anxieties.I got great comfort from his words, and I am truly a convert. I can't get enough Lucado in my life!

That morning in my prayer journal, I poured out my fears. It makes me sad to read these words now. The desperation and fear is so apparent, so thick you could cut it. It was a dark time. I remember my husband, trying to encourage me, saying, "The school year is almost half-over. It will be summertime before you know it." That wasn't encouraging at all, but DISCOURAGING! I couldn't see myself making it through a single day at school, much less another week, another month, another five months! I was angry and scared and desperate.

December 4, 2014: Please take away the fear and dread. Fill me with a peace that only comes from knowing Your are my god. Give me the courage to before them no matter what they say, think, or do. Please be with me today. Show me your presence. Fill me with a sense of well-being and calmness. Let me think only of you and not them. Let me keep my eyes on you, my Savior, and not on any storm in my life. The storm isn't important. I choose not to fear the storm ahead of me and fully trust You to get me through it and draw you close to me for protection and a renewal of my spirit. Please be with me today and every day. I give you my fears, my worries, my doubts, the things I fear that I know I can't control. I am tired of fighting this alone. This is not my battle to fight; it is Yours. You hold the power to make me a new being in Your image- one full of light and love, not fear and darkness. I want to be that new creation. Give me your strength for I am weak. I know I can't do it alone, and I don't want to anymore. Be with me today, Lord, please.

PEACEFUL- Worry Stoppers (Adapted from Max Lucado)

PRAY, first- Ask for God's help. Prepare yourself inwardly to face your fears outwardly.
EASY, now- Slow down. Take your fears to Jesus and state them clearly.
ACT on it- Become a worry-slapper. Treat fear like a mosquito. Once it starts bothering you, slap it
                   hard! Don't dwell on it. Be a DOER, not a STEWER.
COMPILE a worry list- Write down all your anxious thoughts. Now think- how many of your                               worries and fears have ever actually turned into realities? Not many, I bet.
EVALUATE your worry- Look at your lists and highlight the themes of your worry. Pray for those                        things.
FOCUS on today- God promises to meet our daily needs DAILY. He will give you what you need
                   when you need it.
UNLEASH a "worry army"- Share your fears and worries with a few loved ones. Ask them to pray
                    with you and for you.
LET God be enough- Your heavenly Father already knows your needs. Seek the kingdom of God
         above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.

Take Courage! I am Here!

January 27, 2015

Part One: In the beginning....

So she did something she had never done. She sat down with a notebook and her Bible and she started writing to God. She wrote down verses to spoke to her about suffering and persevering. She poured her heart out to God. She listened to a few of her favorite worship songs from church service. She was drawn to Matthew 14 and the recounting of Jesus walking on water:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,”they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?”
And she wrote: 
I want to trust in you fully, but I feel like everything is a one-side
conversation. Where are you? Why am I not being comforted by You? 
Why can't I feel You? Why can't I hear You? What am I doing wrong?
If I can just find the courage to trust in You fully, I will be happier. And I know 
I can only do that if I trust you. But I don't know how to do that! 
Show me how. Tell me something. Help me please. I am begging. I am 
open and willing, I just don't know how. Jesus told Peter, "Take courage!
I am here!" and Peter had the courage to take those first steps onto the water. 
Give me that courage.

For almost four hours she wrote and read and talked to God and cried. She was broken, completely humbled, fully at God's mercy for the first time ever. Physically exhausted, emotionally drained and puffy-eyes, she decided to take a shower. (Just stay with me for a second here, I promise I'm going somewhere with this) She turned her worship music on, climbed in, and under the scalding stream of the shower head, she fell apart. She found herself  in the floor, crying and worshiping, hands raised to the heavens. She cried as she listened to the lyrics, and finally she felt Him. After all these years of empty faith, she felt reborn. She considers that shower to be her real rebirth, her baptism. The outward acknowledgement that her old self was dead and buried, and she was beginning a new life in Jesus. She felt washed clean. She came out of that shower with a peace that she didn't think was possible and a new hope for her life. 
That day was December 3, 2014. The day my life was changed forever. Every day I grow stronger in my faith and closer to God. This is my journey.

In the beginning...

January 27, 2015

Every good story has a clear beginning, middle and end. Some people believe that our stories are already written, that if we could literally flip to the back of "our book", then there we could discover who we married, how many children we had, how much money we made, where we spent our retirement, and what finally laid us down for our eternal dirt nap. Others believe each page of "our book" is blank, waiting to be filled in be the twists and turns we encounter as we travel through our life. Each day is a mystery; each page is still unwritten. I'm not sure where I stand yet. But I do know this--- I'm not quite ready to take a peek at the final chapter. I still have much to do before I sign with a flourish "The End". 

So, like most stories (good and bad), I will start at the beginning.

Once upon a time, a little girl was born. She was really, really cute. Like ridiculously cute. Until like first grade, and than she went through a twenty-year awkward phase. As this girl grew, she struggled with depression and anxiety and self-esteem issues. She struggled to fit in, to find a place where she belonged. When she was sixteen years old, she met a boy she really liked, and he really liked her, too. There was just one little problem. This boy was very religious, and, well, the girl? She have been inside a church once- for a wedding.

The boy was willing to make it work if the girl was willing to go to church. So she went. Every Sunday. Sometimes even Sunday night and youth group events on Wednesdays. Anything so she could hang out with the boy. But church was a drag- the songs were awful, the preaching was outdated and sometimes even scary for someone who had never been to church before. Eventually the girl got "saved", not really because she felt a calling, but because that was the natural order as far as she could tell. Go to church, get saved. Done and done. Plus it made her boyfriend  (and his parents) really happy.

So now the girl could rest assured that she wasn't going to hell, but nothing really changed. She moved away for college and stopped going to church. She never thought about God. She had done what she was supposed to do. Eventually the girl and boy got married, in his church, of course, and decided to search for a "home church" to call their own. They went to three different churches before settling on a small country church with one Sunday service. Again she went to church diligently. She took notes and attended Sunday School each Sunday morning. She even got baptized, so she could be an official member of the church family. This made her husband (and his family) very happy, but nothing changed.

The boy and girl decided to start a family. It happened quickly and easily. No thanks was given to God. What did He have to do with it? The girl started a teaching career, very unexpectedly. But God's hand wasn't in it, just a lucky break. With a baby and a new job, church attendance slipped, and before too long they weren't going at all. But that's okay, because she had been saved, which meant she wouldn't go to hell, and she had been baptized, which meant when people asked, "What church do you go to?" she had a quick answer, even if she hadn't been in years.

But she didn't feel any different. She didn't pray, and she never thought about God.

This worked for a long time. Yes, the girl struggled with depression and anxiety and self-esteem issues just like she always did. Yes, the girl struggled to juggle the demands of being a wife, mother and teacher, but that's normal. The girl and the boy found a new church that they really liked. The preacher was young and funny. The songs were upbeat and easy to sing along with. The sermons were interesting, and she actually looked forward to church every Sunday. They joined this church. They joined a small group. "This will be good for my son," she thought as she checked him into his classroom every Sunday morning. But she still never thought about God.

Then one day the girl just couldn't do it by herself anymore. That's when the story really begins. Because even though for 33 years, this girl hadn't been thinking about God at all, He had been thinking about her the WHOLE TIME. 

Everything had been going wrong at school. The girl was beginning to doubt herself as a teacher after seven years in the classroom. She began to get physically sick to her stomach every morning as she prepared to go to school. Her anxiety and depression hit a dangerous level. She thought daily for a couple of weeks about how miserable she was and how easy it would be to end it all. She didn't think about God at all. One day, some students started a terrible rumor about her, and even though it wasn't true, she just couldn't let it go. It was the last straw. Things had been building up for years, but this hurtful, completely baseless rumor, just broke her down. She couldn't handle it.

She wanted to walk out of the front door of her school and get in her car drive. Drive until the gas ran out and her problems were just a fading memory in her rear view mirror. She wanted to cry and break things. She wanted to climb in bed and eat ice cream by the gallons and watch sad movies. Instead, she felt inexplicably drawn to her computer. She felt compelled to email two women from her church, women who always seemed to have it together, who never seemed stressed or upset by the little curve balls life tends to throw. They stayed in close contact with her throughout the rest of that day, offering her prayers of encouragement and words of kindness.

That afternoon, she met with the pastor for a pre-baptism session for her son. He could tell she was upset and the events of the day gushed out of her. He looked at her and said, "Why do you care what a bunch of stupid teenagers are saying about you? It's not true. So what?" He didn't mince words and told her that if she would focus on God then the other things wouldn't bother her. He told her that the devil only attacked people who scared him. But this wasn't about God and the devil. This was about her.

Her head hurt. It was the worst pain of her life. She started throwing up. She couldn't stop crying. Her blood pressure was sky high and rising. Her mother feared she would have a stroke and drove her to the emergency room of a local hospital. Moms are great when you don't feel good, so comforting and reassuring, but her mom couldn't fix this. As she sat in the emergency room, surrounded by strangers, she resolved that something would have to change. She couldn't quit her job, so she would have to find a way to survive.

She called in sick the next day, prepared to mope and eat her feelings until she got another email from one of her church friends. It read in part, "My strongest recommendation for you in your time alone today is that you not spend it alone. You have a large chunk of time to pray... Just pour your heart out to God. Keep your Bible handy. And be sure to give Him time to respond to you as well." For 17 years, she had been keeping God at bay. This wasn't about God; this was about her. How could God help?
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