finding my armor-bearer.

1 Samuel 14:7 has been one of my favorite verses since college. It’s a sweet reminder to me of God’s all-knowing guidance wherever I go:

His armor-bearer responded, “Do what is in your heart. You choose. I’m right here with you whatever you decide.” (CSB)

 “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” (NIV)

I’ve been slowly going through She Read Truth’s 1 and 2nd Samuel study (which was over at least a month ago, but I’m slow and September wasn’t my best month!). I got to 1 Sam 13 and 14 last night. It was the first time I’d studied 1 Sam 14:7 in its full context. Here’s a bit of that, from verses 6-10:

Jonathan said to the attendant who carried his weapons, “Come on, let’s cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will help us. Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

His armor-bearer responded, “Do what is in your heart. You choose. I’m right here with you whatever you decide.”

“All right,” Jonathan replied, “we’ll cross over to the men and then let them see us. If they say, ‘Wait until we reach you,’ then we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ then we’ll go up, because the Lord has handed them over to us—that will be our sign.” 

d922c9cae82d4799cf59c1d98315ac95-1Reading the verse in context, mixed with life happenings that changed my perspective, made me look at it in a new way.

I’ve always read this verse as the armor-bearer representing God. I don’t think this is necessarily a wrong way to read the verse; for the season of life I was in when I first read this verse, that is what I needed it to be, I think. I was trying to figure out my life, my dreams, and my plans, unsure of my next steps. I didn’t know where God was leading me or what He had called me to anymore. I needed the comfort that God was with me, heart and soul, that he was going to use my gifts and my talents and my dreams right where I was, whatever I did with them. I didn’t fear doing the ‘right’ thing as much when I read this verse–I felt that as long as I was trusting that God was with me no matter what, I couldn’t go down a wrong path.

With all my struggle on calling and careers and the future, this verse has acted as a reminder for my must-figure-life-out-ness and desire to know my future before it happens. 

That is what I’ve needed that verse to be for me at the time. But now, I’m reading it differently, from a different place in my life.

While studying this verse in a more recent context, I didn’t see God as an armor-bearer anymore. I saw people. Community. Friends.

It made me realize I need an armor-bearer in my life. Or a better one, at least. 

Upon reading this verse in this light, I decided to check out a few commentaries for a definition of an armor-bearer. I could kind of guess what they were based on context (that English degree did teach me something!) but I wanted some more depth.

The words “armor-bearer” literally translate to “the one carrying the armor.” It’s defined as “One who carried the large shield and perhaps other weapons for a king, commander in chief, leader, etc.” (source)

The armor-bearer was a leader or warrior’s right-hand man, carrying weapons and armor to and from battle. He worked for and with the leader; he was his helper, his encourager, his support.

He was his person. Reliable and capable, supportive and strong, a guiding force that carried their respective leader or warrior’s life in their hands. Where the leader went, so the armor-bearer went too.

When we get to this point in 1 Sam 14, Jonathan is wanting to go against protocol and charge towards the Philistines. He fully trusted that God would be on his side. Jonathan fully depended on God to carry him through the battle, so he decided to go for it. When he told his armor-bearer his plan, 14:7 was his response.

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

His armor-bearer was with him heart and soul. He would go alongside him no matter what. He supported him. He encouraged him. He knew Jonathan and trusted God too, so he trusted Jonathan’s judgment. So together, they went off to battle and came out victorious (for now).

Jonathan didn’t just go into battle with God alone. He had his armor-bearer with him, someone he trusted, someone who cared and supported him. With God and his armor-bearer at his side, Jonathan did what he intended to do, and did it well.

A lot of the commentaries I read on this verse talk about the encouragement and support of the armor-bearer:

Who could not win victories backed by such armor bearers as that? Go back through history and you will see that the men who have done the greatest work in the world are the men who have been backed by faithful helpers with staunch and loyal hearts. (source)

 “Armor-bearers in ancient times had to be unusually brave and loyal, since the lives of their masters often depended on them.”

These words from Jonathan’s armor bearer must have cheered Jonathan greatly. When we step out in faith, encouragement can make all the difference for good and discouragement can make all the difference for evil. (source)

Jonathan’s armor-bearer was a man of resource and courage. (source)

I see a lot of descriptors here: loyal, faithful, brave, encouraging, resourceful, courageous.

This embodies what an armor-bearer was in scripture. Dependable, encouraging, helpful, loyal, brave.

In a lot of ways, I think it embodies what we’re called to be to each other. 

We’re called to be armor-bearers for one another.

Are we literally carrying armor into battle for each other? I sure hope not. But we still carry each other– our stories, our hurts, our joys, our tears. At least we’re supposed to do that for each other, right?

Give your loved one an extra kiss today.We all need people like an armor-bearer in our lives. Someone we depend on to help lighten the load as we walk into whatever battlefield we’re going into. Someone who will boldly encourage us, while gently reminding us that they’re with us no matter the outcome. People that are loyal and brave and willing to support us through it all.

We need people who will be a bearer of our lives, no matter what’s going on or what we do. 


One of the things I’ve talked to God a lot about lately is my need of a friend. I have friends– a community of friends I love spending time with, whenever we can.  But I need not just community, but a friend. A best friend. Someone I feel like I can text funny things or serious things without feeling a tinge of guilt or burdensomeness, one that will actually respond more than 1 or 2 words. One I can be honest about my life with– and all of it, not just bits and pieces I usually share. Today is Public Service Day (1)

I’m tired of shallow relationships, to put it bluntly. I’m tired of always being the one to text first, without the lack of a response. I’m tired of being an afterthought or forgotten about. I’m tired of thinking I’m a close friend with someone, only to find out that they don’t think we’re as close as I think we are. I don’t want half-assed friendships where I’m only remembered when I’m needed or only thought about when I initiate the conversation. I’ve had enough of those in my life.

Don’t get me wrong– I have some good friends. But a lot of friends have come and go or just fizzled out. I get that life happens and things and people change. I get that life gets crazy busy and circumstances sometimes keep us apart from each other. But I feel like I’m the friend that always gets left in the cold. And I’m tired of trying to be a better friend without reciprocation, or at least an attempt to be a friend back. Friendship has to involve at least two people, ya know? It requires work and honesty and vulnerability on both sides. I’m trying to deliver on my part. I don’t want to be enough of a friend for two of us, and it’s hard for me to be honest and vulnerable if I don’t think you’re going to stay. Thank you for your service!

My prayers for better and stronger friendships were met with this scripture. Funny how God works sometimes.

I need an armor-bearer kind of friend. One that embodies the qualities of Jonathan’s armor-bearer: supportive and encouraging, helpful and loyal. One that pushes me to more and brave things, while not leaving me in the process.

Rant/segue: I don’t need flighty people that come and go in my life. I’ve had enough of that kind of relationship in my 25 years. It doesn’t hurt any less the more it happens to you, by the way. You continually second guess yourself, and your worthiness of friendship when people keep leaving you. You get to feeling like you’re alone and no one actually wants to spend time with you, but do so begrudgingly when you ask to. You feel like you’re doing something wrong or annoying everyone– and even if you are, you wish people would tell you what it is so you could fix it! When people come and go, you get the impression that you’re not worth staying for. I’ve felt that way about myself pretty much my whole life; I don’t need friends making me feel like that too. /rant over 

Simplicity speaks volumes..pngWhere does one find this type of friend? An armor-bearer type that actually tries to be there for you, loves you despite your faults and annoyances, and will walk alongside you in every chapter? (Especially the hard ones).

I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m afraid to, honestly. Because I’m afraid of more of those friendships where I think we’re better friends than we actually are, and I’m afraid people are going to keep coming and going like I’m a revolving door of friendship. 

But I want it. I need it. I’ve been living at home since June, and can count the times on my hand I’ve spent time outside it with someone besides my mom. I live in my middle of nowhere hometown and few to none of my friends live here anymore– for good reason. (I love MJ, but it’s freaking boring). I go days on end without texts or any kind of social interactions from people besides family. 99% of my texts/calls are from my mom. I am not proud of this fact.

We'll make you blush!

I’m praying for stronger, better friendships still, but I’ve changed my words a bit. I’m praying I’ll find my armor-bearer; I’m praying for someone to be that armor-bearer for me. I’m praying for the type of friend I can depend on, that will carry my stories and I can carry theirs. One that I don’t feel like a burden towards or guilty about actually trying to be their friend. A dependable, helpful, loving friend I can be an armor-bearer back to. A friend that treats friendship like the two-way street it should be.

But in the paraphrased words of Flannery O’Connor: a good friend is hard to find.

 

Advertisements

five minute friday (depend)

hola. not too chatty tonight– I’m only halfway upright and the heating pad has been my best friend all day (and not for my back this time… let’s just say being a girl sucks sometimes).

 

Anywhooo… this week’s word: Kate once again has good timing.

 

I hate depending on other people.

I’m a helper by nature. I like helping everyone else. But being helped? Not so much.

I was discussing this with a girlfriend over dinner last night. It’s hard for me to depend on people because I spent most of my childhood depending on myself for everything. I had a roof over my head and food and the basics… but love and support and comfort? Nope. So I got used to not getting that from others, thus not being willing to let people in enough that I can depend on them, lean on them in my times of need, let people help me or love me like I do them.

It’s hard to live life dependent only on yourself. it gets quite lonely and exhausting quite quickly.

Help is my word for 2017– I haven’t been super vocal about it, mainly because I’m still struggling through this whole letting people help me thing. Letting myself depend on other people is never going to be easy, but I’m getting better at it.

Last night I was reading in my A Moment to Breathe devotional from incourage (I’m on the launch team for it, releases next week!). The devotional got me right where it hurts:

IMG_9604

It legit made me cry.

I long for a community like this. One that asks the hard questions, that cuts right through the bull and the lying “i’m fine” answers and holds you in the hard stuff. I need this kind of friendship where people see you and know you and go to the throne room on your behalf when you can’t yourself.

But I have to let people in enough, I have to actually depend on people for this kind of relationship to happen.

Stop.


any others out there get this– and if so, how do you figure it out enough to find the community you can depend on?

 

This song has absolutely nothing to do with this post, it’s just one of my favorites (and what I was listening to as I wrote this). I love her voice.

give me rest.

I am so tired.

Yet I can’t sleep. The dark circles under my eyes probably tell you that.

There are some days/nights where my anxiety overtakes me down to the bones.

There are others where depression calls the shots.

Then there are the fun days where both fight for control of my brain.

A lot of days lately have been the third option: the overwhelming numbness and apathy paired with the exhausting parade of anxious thoughts, fears, and worries dancing together in my head, fighting for who gets to lead.

It’s utterly exhausting.

Today has been a more particularly bad anxiety day.

Anxious about things that I can’t fix. (I’m the helper. I’m supposed to fix the things).

Anxious about things out of my control.

Anxious about things that are not my responsibility to be anxious about, yet I feel guilty if I’m not worried about them.

Anxious about important things I haven’t figured out, like finding a full-time job or why my back hasn’t stopped hurting since August. Frustrated being stuck at home day in and day out, feeling like nothing is getting accomplished.

I feel shaky and my stomach hurts and I can’t stop the obtrusive thoughts and what ifs. I replay every thought, every word said, and every interaction in my brain, worried I said the wrong thing or didn’t do enough or did too much.

I’m struggling to keep my head above water.

I want to pray, but words don’t come out. And when they do, they’re normally angry.

I want to worship, but I can’t get my mouth to form the words. Don’t have the energy or the belief right now.

Between my migraines, lack of sleep, and my back, I can’t sit up straight long enough to Bible study right now.

The only bit of Jesus I tend to get right now is through my devotionals, which I usually read right before bed so they’ll stick to my brain as I try to sleep.

I was reading in my Savor devotional last night, and the scripture caught my attention.

Psalm 55. A psalm I didn’t recognize. Shauna quoted verses 6-8:

“I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
    and stay in the desert;[c]
 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
    far from the tempest and storm.”  (NIV)

I decided to read the rest of the Psalm, and felt that all-too-familiar feeling of my heart caught in my throat:

Listen to my prayer, O God.
    Do not ignore my cry for help!
 Please listen and answer me,
    for I am overwhelmed by my troubles.

My enemies shout at me,
    making loud and wicked threats.
They bring trouble on me
    and angrily hunt me down.

My heart pounds in my chest.
    The terror of death assaults me.
 Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
    and I can’t stop shaking. (v 1-5 NLT)

1-3 Open your ears, God, to my prayer;
    don’t pretend you don’t hear me knocking.
Come close and whisper your answer.
    I really need you.
I shudder at the mean voice,
    quail before the evil eye,
As they pile on the guilt,
    stockpile angry slander.

4-8 My insides are turned inside out;
    specters of death have me down.
I shake with fear,
    I shudder from head to foot.
“Who will give me wings,” I ask—
    “wings like a dove?”
Get me out of here on dove wings;
    I want some peace and quiet.
I want a walk in the country,
    I want a cabin in the woods.
I’m desperate for a change
    from rage and stormy weather. (Message version)


 

Yup. I’ve been there. A lot. 

The enemy shouting at me (though in my head). Causing trouble where there shouldn’t be any.

The heart pounding in my chest. The terror. The fear and trembling and shaking.

A day in the life of an anxiety sufferer. Of a panic attack sufferer.

While I haven’t had a full-blown panic attack in a while (praise be to God), I often still feel the pounding heart, the shaky hands, the sense of terror of dread that accompanies panic21740606_1185978468170862_1643832430519548051_n. It’s unsettling, to say the least.

I long desperately for my brain to rest. To find somewhere to escape this mess and actually rest.

I don’t want to worry or panic about things out of my control. Or things I don’t have to freak out about, things I’m not responsible for. And yet here I sit, anxious about tomorrow and whatever will be. It’s the worst feeling.

I want God to hear me, to take this burden and all this stress from me, but I can’t make out the right words.

The rest of the Psalm reassures me that he hears even my wordless whispers of frustration, even when I feel like he doesn’t:

I call to God;
    God will help me.
At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh
    deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.
My life is well and whole, secure
    in the middle of danger
Even while thousands
    are lined up against me. (Message)

I want to believe this. I want to believe he hears, he listens, he cares. But lately, it doesn’t feel like it. Life has proven otherwise.

Maybe that’s the depression talking, who knows. I want to believe He’s seeing these words and listening as I type them. Lord, help my unbelief.

I want so desperately to believe Him. To find rest. To find peace and quiet and to ignore the damn voices that are shouting fear and chaos and unrest.

But they’re loud, God. They’re so freaking loud. And I still can’t sleep.

It’s in these times that I’m grateful that King David wrote these psalms because it reminds me that even a man after God’s heart fell into these valleys and periods of darkness. And he made it through. Maybe I can too.

Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
    topple into ruin.

Someday, I hope I’ll be better at ignoring the shouts and screams. I want to find peace, rest on the wings of a dove, away from the enemy and the panic. I want to trust that God sees me and will give me help, give me this rest I so need. I want to find rest and peace in Him, but I can’t find Him anywhere it seems.

Maybe then I won’t be so tired.

via @sarahagertywrites

thank god for storms.

It started to storm in my neck of the woods shortly before the sun set on this long day.

I felt like I was suffocating stuck in this house, so I quietly moseyed outside at the first ring of thunder.

I sat down on what barely constitutes a front porch to watch. The thunder and lightning rolled on their own for a few minutes before the rain started.

The rain came in waves– small droplets against my feet to start, slowly increasing in size and strength as the thunder got louder.

No symphony could imitate the sound of the raindrops crescendoing, hitting the ground louder and faster with each drop.

Soon, we were caught in a downpour, with lightning lighting up the sky and thunder booming so loud you could almost feel the ground shake.

And I sat there and watched. On that little front step, I watched the sky turn dark and the rain became so thick it looked like fog. I listened to the thunder roll in. I “counted” the time between the lightning strike and the thunder, like my Papa taught me to when I was little.

I sat there and exhaled for what felt like the first time all day. 

I didn’t think about the ache in my back and what the cause is.

I didn’t think about another favor my mom needed me to run for her.

I didn’t worry about the amount in my bank account.

I didn’t feel my usual pang of loneliness.

I just sat and enjoyed God’s handiwork.


I love storms. I love the dark, cool effect storms bring to a hot, humid day. I love the natural light and sound show lightning and thunder put on (even if thunder scared me as a kid).

I have every reason not to like storms.

They’re messy. They’re an interruption to the normal rhythm. I can’t really plan them or plan around them, they have a spontaneous mind of their own. Sometimes they’re scary or dangerous. They can ruin fun days or plans in an instant.

Those are all things I don’t particularly like about life… fear and spontaneity and lack of plans or change of plans. And yet, storms are still one of my favorite things, despite all of these qualities.

In a lot of ways, I think the things I hate about everyday life are why I love them.

I love the way rain feels on my skin, soaking the bottom of my sweats as the wind carries the rain onto the porch.

I love how they force me to push pause and sit still for awhile.

I love how they display the majesty and power of God, captivating me with wonder instead of fear.

They remind me to slow down. To breathe. To quit trying to do everything for once in my life and just be for awhile.

So I sit and watch. I let the heaviness and the lightness overwhelm me.


It doesn’t take long as I watch for me to start thinking of the metaphorical storms life’s been hitting me with this season.

The fatigue, sleep issues, and physical health problems that have been plaguing me since May… I’ve had some sort of body ache, stomach problem, or a migraine nearly every. single. day. for months.

The depression that has enveloped every part of my being since moving home… since my birthday, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve left the house for something other than running errands with my mom. I’ve spent almost every day in my pajamas, with Netflix and food as my crutch. I don’t color or Bible journal anymore, or much else that brings me joy. (Being on launch teams has kept me reading, which is a blessing). I don’t sing or worship. I don’t play games. I don’t hang out with anyone, or even try to. It’s not a good place to be.

FullSizeRender
Somedays I believe this. via Sara Hagerty

Moving home– both living back in my boring little hometown and living with my mom– has been both blessing and curse. I’m grateful for a roof over my head, but I feel like either a punching bag or a live-in servant most days… it’s not fun. And living where you literally have zero friends anymore is freaking hard, especially when you’re depressed and won’t ask your friends to come here to visit lest you feel like a burden on them.

Job stuff… I won’t even go there. I’m slowly trying to build a portfolio of freelance writing work, which I’m excited about–writing is my favorite, after all. But I still can’t get over the fact that I was rejected or ignored by so many other opportunities, ones I would have excelled at. Ones that would have helped me stay in Nashville.

So I sat there… and let the heaviness of this season hit me as hard as the rain hit the pavement. And I cried.

I cried… because let’s face it, this season has been hard. So, so hard. And I’ll never understand why.


I sat there amidst the tears and looked out. The storm continued to pour at a steady pace now. I felt myself calm down… I just inhaled and exhaled, focusing on the storm in front of me instead of the storm in me.

9e871e96e33562b9c6c396edc2d8ac6dI felt this deep sense of peace surround me as I continued to enjoy the storm, despite sadness lingering. I forced my hands to unclench, palms upward. I prayed through tears; I don’t remember the words. A lot of my prayers have been wordless or breath prayers these days; I can’t seem to find words to convey the sorrow of life’s storms right now. But nonetheless, I prayed. I breathed and prayed, palms up, eyes looking outward towards the storm.

The peaceful feeling overtook the tears. I just felt wrapped in this sense that He was right there in that moment. In the moment, I did something I rarely do these days… I sang. Before I could even think about it, How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God started tumbling out, in my shaky off-key voice.

Because even in the midst of the messy, not-going-as-planned, absolutely terrifying storms of this season… He is still God. And He is with me. 

He is still God. He is with me.


A short time later, the storm started to slowly die down. I decided to head back in, my back pain raging as I stand up. I m13358946e18073a60d29699690dfd2e3ay have come back inside to my own storm, but the peace from the storm outside is still here with me.

The storms inside my life may still be raging, but I cling to the thoughts from the storm outside: He is still God. He is with me.

And even during the darkest of storms, His goodness shines. 

Maybe that’s why I love storms so much.

Thank you, God for the storms… for the beautiful, wonderful storms of the world, and the messy, unplanned ones in me.

Since there’s no youtube version of this one… here’s to hoping this works.

tell him how {I} really feel.

If you follow along with She Reads Truth’s studies, you know that the newest study is on 1 and 2 Samuel, centering on the life of King David. This is the first time I’ve studied David himself, so I’m excited to learn of his history and the background to his kingdom.

Before we get to David though, we have to get through Saul. And before him, Samuel. And before him, his mom, Hannah.

I’ve read and heard these stories in sermons or devotionals, but this is the first time I’m actually studying them intensely (even broke out my good study Bible!).

The first part of 1 Samuel 1 is all about Hannah’s desire yet inability to have a baby. Her husband, Elkanah and his other wife have babies, yet she hasn’t had any, and it’s breaking her heart. It doesn’t help that Peninnah, the other wife, keeps throwing her kid-less-ness (is that a word? it is now!) in her face, rubbing salt in an already-bleeding wound for poor Hannah. Frankly, I think Peninnah is the root of this whole “mommy-wars” culture where we bully other moms/parents for not parenting the “right” way– I fully expect Peninnah to eventually start bashing Hannah for weaning Samuel early or not baby-wearing.

OK probably not, but you get the picture.

Back to Hannah. So she’s with her husband and his other wife and kids in Shiloh, to worship and sacrifice and all that jazz. At one point after a meal, she decided to get up and pray.

My words don’t do the story justice:

Once after a sacrificial meal at Shiloh, Hannah got up and went to pray. Eli the priest was sitting at his customary place beside the entrance of the Tabernacle.10 Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord. 11 And she made this vow: “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if you will look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut.”

12 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. 13 Seeing her lips moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking.14 “Must you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”

15 “Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to the Lord. 16 Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out of great anguish and sorrow.” (1 Sam 1:9-16, NLT).

So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:

Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.

12-14 It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”

15-16 Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman hard used. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.” (Message version)

It was quite obvious that she was having a come-to-Jesus moment (if that was such a thing in the OT). She was distraught, at her wit’s end, and just over the whole situation.

Have you ever been that way? Lord knows I have. More than once… or ten times. But who’s counting?

She tried so hard. She longed so greatly. Despite the hurtful words slung at her, the pangs of jealousy, and her complete and total sadness, she carried on.

She could’ve taken matters into her own hands (a la Sarah and Abe). She could’ve gotten angry. She could have given up and resorted to a childless life (which was culturally frowned up at the time).

But she didn’t.

She took all her anguish, her sadness, her hurt, her anger– all the emotions stirring inside her– and she released them back to God. Despite her discouragement, she still looked towards God. She trusted that he was still in control and that he would listen to her pleas and cries.

With anguish and sorrow, she told God exactly how she was feeling.

She didn’t sugar coat it, but instead let herself feel the weight of her pain, and gave it up to God.

She poured out the contents of her heart, she left it all there at the altar for God to hear and do something with. She left her problems and her tears with him.

Reading Hannah’s story, I realized I don’t see a whole lot of me in her.

I see a lot of who I want to be.


I am an emotional person. I have been my whole life, sometimes to my detriment.

And yet, it’s hard for me to be personal or emotional when it comes to how I interact with God. Praying most often feels like a honey-do list or a one-sided conversation. (It’s hard for me to understand the concept of prayer as talking to God when I’m the only one in the room… but that’s another story for another day). I can write emotional things about what I’ve learned or what He’s doing, but I don’t typically feel the emotion or direct my feelings back to God.

Image result for the one when chandler can't cry quoteIt’s like the episode of Friends where Chandler couldn’t cry. No matter if it was a sad movie or uplifting book, or his dismal family situation, Chandler just couldn’t cry. He felt sad or upset but just didn’t know how to express it, nor did he want to. Unless you count the sarcasm and funny jabs he used to cover up his feelings as expressions of emotion. 

Yes, I did just compare my faith life to a character on Friends. That’s just how I roll, people.

I just want to feel something, anything, when I’m talking to God. I want to connect to what I’m doing or what He’s doing or how I’m feeling about this or that, instead of feeling like I just use prayer and connection with God as a list of concerns or prayers for everyone but me.

With all the crazy going on in my life, I want to be able to just let it go and actually open up about it. I want to actually feel like I could admit how I really feel to God, but I don’t know how.

jack30rock.jpg
me, in a nut shell.

Even when I’ve felt emotional or upset about something, I don’t know how to talk to God about it. I just don’t get how to let myself feel these things when I come before him. I usually just list off needs and concerns and maybe about something I learned in scripture, but it’s honestly rare for me to try to actually use prayer as a place to be open and honest and real about myself.

When I feel these things– sad, anger, frustration, all the not fun emotions— I normally don’t run straight towards God. I avoid. I close myself off, I isolate myself from Him (and others, intentionally or not). I usually run to something to numb me instead– food, Netflix, mindless internet searches or social media scrolls. That’s where I find my comfort and peace in times of trial instead.

When I’m happy and things are going well, I’m good to go to God with thanks and joy.  I can tell about my day and how I’m doing when I’m happy and feeling good. But when I feel anything but, it’s almost like I’m afraid to say so. I don’t know what He’s going to think or say if I’m anything but joyful.

And frankly, life hasn’t been all that joyful lately.


I think a lot of my struggles with having a relationship with God where I’m not afraid to cry out to God and give him everything is fear.

I’m afraid of what God will think of me when I’m upset about this or that (when He has it all planned out, I just don’t know about it yet).

I’m afraid I won’t be heard. Prayer confuses me sometimes (a lot of the time) because as much as I love being an introvert and not talking to people some days, I get frustrated not being able to see or hear or feel God with me. I’m afraid I’m just talking to the wall a lot of the time.

I’m afraid God’ll get tired of hearing me. I usually worry and fret about the same. things. (aka control) all the time, you’d think I’d have figured it out by now but I haven’t.

But I think my biggest fear is that God will see my mess and my life and just not accept me. He’ll run. 

Plenty of others have. Why wouldn’t he?

I’m afraid to be honest with God. I’m afraid to let myself get real and cry out when I’m in the depths because I don’t want to be left there alone. I already feel alone enough these days. So I keep my life and my prayer focused on the happy positives and focus on praying for other people, in the hopes that I won’t lose him too.

I spent so much of my life thinking I had to come to God perfectly and shiny with my baggage hidden. I think there are times I still slip back into this notion, and my prayer life highlights that. I struggle to admit when I’m struggling; it’s easier to say I’m fine and just let all my feelings fester inside me. Instead of letting God into my mess, I run and avoid him until I think the mess is hidden enough that He’d want to spend time with me, or would want to listen to me. But that’s not a way to live, especially when scripture clearly shows us how much Jesus calls us to him just as we are, mess and baggage and all. 

I think sometimes I slip back into the notion that God is another person I have to please, another person I have to earn love or praise from. I can’t bring him my bad stuff because it’s a mark against me. I can’t cry out to him when life is hard because that means I’m not grateful; or I can’t bring him my mess and my baggage because that means I’ve messed up, I’m not good enough for him.  

 I have to do it all, be it all, and go through it all with a smile, because otherwise, I’m not pleasing God. This is where I’ve spent so much of my life– faking fine and trying to do it all in the hopes that the real, broken me won’t be seen. 

I can’t let myself be anything but the image I put out there.

So I instead feel completely disconnected–unattached to God and others, putting on a happy face and doing all the things to help people, instead of addressing my own needs and hurts and fears to God. 

I call God my Father, but I treat him mostly like a wish granting factory, or someone I’m conducting a transaction with. I don’t get intimacy and connection; I get work and to-do lists and longing to fix all the broken things around me, but not the broken things in me.

But I want more. I want God to be more than someone I’m trying to please with all my to-20525737_10155584106829710_1719107463548903055_n.pngdo’s and helping people.

I want a friendship for my lonely, isolated heart. A confidante I can be honest with in the serious and the silly, someone that will empathize and help me (even if it hurts).

I want a nurturer. Someone to take care of me. I take care of a lot of people, but never let people take care of me.

I want someone to listen. To remember. I have a knack for remembering even the minute details about a person. I know not everyone has this ability to love in this way, but I’d love to just be thought of sometimes (or be reminded that I’m being thought of).

I want to be noticed. I want to be known, to feel like I’m not just here floating along without purpose.

I’d love for God to be all these things for me. But I don’t know how. 

I long to be connected to God in a way that I can feel like I’m known. Seen. Remembered. Acknowledged.

I long to be connected more than just to talk about the needs and prayer concerns or to-do list of things I’m listing off to you before I go to bed, like a business agenda.

I want more of a friendship with my Father instead of a contractual relationship, where I do this and that to be counted as “in.”   

I don’t want to hide parts of me from Him for fear of being outcast or ignored. But I’m still afraid.


In the Message version of 1 Samuel 1, the title is “Hannah Pours Out Her Heart to God.” I want to do that. I want to feel comfortable enough that I can not just rattle off a list of concerns or tell God all the good things I did for Him today.

I want to feel like God is the mighty counselor and loving Father he says he is. I want to believe that he is the one I can vent to, pour my heart out to when I need it, be a confidante and holder of my hardest hurts.

I want to not live in fear of his judgment, but live in light of his friendship and love for me.

My friend Osheta Moore quoted a blog post of hers in her beautiful new book, Shalom Sistas:

“Being a Christian feels less like a to-do list of righteousness and more of a to-be posture of relationship. I want to be open to his feeding and present for his gathering. I want to be accepting of his gentle leading and willing to be carried.”

I want that. I don’t want to live like I can’t come to God for everything. I don’t want to live striving to check off my to-do list before I can come before him. I want to sit in the to-be posture and let Him be who he says he is to me, mess and sadness and all. I need to let him carry me, instead of insisting I can carry myself. lettiecowman

God tells us to come to Him if we’re weary, and he will give us rest.

Not come to him all shiny and perfect, and he will make us work. That’s not what he says at all, but it’s what I’ve believed.

We can come to Him for friendship and support, not for our chore list. I want to believe that. 

I just need to learn how to connect to Him in this way, because pouring my heart out to God isn’t something I quite know how to do.


 

and in a funny twist of fate only God could provide, I read this blog post this morning by Bonnie Gray, and it seriously took my breath.

from the post:

incourage_soulconversation-620x380

 

“God longed to be my soul’s confidante. Deep where I felt lonely — where I struggled to receive and make space for me — God wanted me to rest as His beloved.”

Jesus. If that didn’t fit in the middle of my lonely mess, I don’t know what will.

God has a wicked sense of humor sometimes, and He really does know exactly how to meet us where we are. I’m starting to get it.

 

I want to know you, Lord, like I know a friend… that is my prayer.

From the head to the heart, you take me on a journey…

 

let go of your grip.

Since moving home, my mental health has taken a huge hit.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Leaving my job/my kids so suddenly, transitioning home (which isn’t exactly the healthiest place for me to be in the first place), not having access to counseling, being separated from my community, figuring out job things-– these are all factors at play. a947405f655c46882a292967114eb493

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of it, truthfully. 

I’m just sad. And anxious. And then sad some more.

Add bored, lonely, and jobless on top of that, and you’ve got quite the spectacle. While my depression hasn’t taken as much of a hit (though being isolated and rejected a bit hasn’t done me any good in this area, and it’s been slowly getting worse), it’s my anxiety that has struggled with all this change the most.

My anxiety tends to manifest in a few different ways, primarily in physical symptoms. My stomach aches, my chest hurts (think how your chest hurts when you’ve been coughing a lot… that’s the feeling), my head throbs, I get random aches and pains, heartburn, so on and so 4ddb62652b753e804c0fe1747ecec30cforth. A lot of my anxiety is tied to my health, so when I get anxious because of one or more of these physical symptoms, my anxiety gets worse… it’s a cruel, unfair cycle.

Another way my anxiety manifests is in my insomnia, my inability to get to sleep. My inner night owl comes out to play, and not just ’cause I enjoy the night life.

So since I’ve been home, it’s been getting harder for me to sleep at night. I’ve been awake since 2, 3am most nights. Melatonin helps me get to sleep, but it’s willing myself to take them amidst the voices in my head wanting me to stay awake that’s hard. Because I’m scared of sleep, I stay up until I physically collapse, usually overthinking myself to sleep instead of counting sheep.

This is unsustainable in the long run, especially when I DO start working again. I cannot survive going to bed at 3 am and waking up at 7 or earlier to get to work, unless I’d like to become a zombie on The Walking Dead (I don’t).

I’ve nearly become nocturnal, sleeping during the day and staying up all night, filling out applications and dawdling on the internet. It doesn’t help that in the midst of all this, I was diagnosed with anemia, thus another reason I’ve been so fatigued/exhausted/drained, on top of the lack of sleep. (Now that I’m getting that under control, my fatigue is getting much better during the day! But getting to sleep at night is still a struggle).

I was out with my mom on my birthday a few weeks ago, picking up my birthday cake at Publix. I went to get some iron supplements (for the above anemia diagnosis)  when a new sleep supplement caught my eye. It’s a gummy by the company Olly, called “restful sleep.” It has melatonin in it (which I have survived on since my mental hell started nearly 3 years ago). It also had an ingredient I didn’t know, L-Theanine. On the bottle it’s described as “an amino acid that encourages calmness so you can hush those voices in your head and drift off.”

Man, I need an IV of that stuff 24/7. Anything to shut the damn voice recorder in my head.

I ended up buying some, and it’s been great. I’ve been sleeping a lot better than I did with just melatonin, and I think part of that is because I’m not (mostly) sitting in bed overthinking everything before I go to bed.

Another thing I had to do when I started taking this stuff: Despite the anxiety telling me to stay awake, I’ve been forcing myself to go to sleep earlier.

I’ve begun using bits and pieces of the bedtime routine I started in therapy after my panic attacks started: Write my to-do list if needed, turn my phone on do not disturb and turn the laptop off, make my bed (yes at night, i know I’m weird) read my bible study/devotional, say my prayers before my head hits the pillow. This signals my body that it’s not time to burn the midnight oil, but time to gear up for rest.

529edf4491b095dca26e9ac6e0fd0e6aI hate it. Every fiber of my body hates it, because I lie down to sleep every night so scared, even with supplements and routines. I’m scared of dying in my sleep. I’m scared of the future and not knowing what’s next. I’m scared of financial struggles and paying bills and getting out of my mother’s house. I’m scared of everything and anything. It all manifests itself at night, when my stomach starts aching and my heart starts racing and I begin my tossing and turning dance routine (that my back and shoulders pay for every dang morning) as I lie down to sleep.

I will never understand why this is part of my life. I hate it.

Every night I pray the same prayer: just wake me up tomorrow, God. Let me sleep through the night and wake up the next morning. Please don’t let me die in my sleep. This hasn’t changed since my initial anxiety disorder diagnosis a few years ago.


There was one particular night a few weeks ago where I was just freaking out as I got into bed– unable to get comfortable, feeling sickly and sweaty and just inconsolable. As I was praying this particular night, I was exasperated. Defeated. Tired, but trying desperately to fight sleep. It was in this time of trying to get this desperate prayer out that I heard a voice. A thought that was undoubtedly not mine, because it was the complete opposite of where my mind was:

“Let go of your grip.”

That was it. “Let go of your grip.” When I heard it, I stopped and just thought for a moment.

I was lying in my bed on my stomach, my head in my pillow, arms over my mattress. My fists were clenched tightly, for no reason. But as I heard this voice I relaxed and let them go slack.

 


Let go of your grip. 

There’s a lot of unknown in my world right now.

As my friend Kaitlyn so eloquently put it, “I have literally nothing together about my life.” Nothing. Absolutely nothing!

And to think, I used to believe I had it all figured out. Then life actually happened. 

FullSizeRenderControl of everything in my life has slowly slipped from my grasp the past few months: my career, my home, my community, even my health… it’s all unraveled in some way recently, ever so slowly.

I’d love to say I’m okay with it, this losing control, thing. But I’m not. At all.

I hate losing control. I like knowing my steps before I move. I like having everything about my life in my grasp, right in front of me so I can determine where to go and what to do.

Letting go of my grip on my life and all that’s in it is extremely difficult. It means letting go of control. I don’t like relinquishing control– and as my fellow control-freak Monica Gellar-Bing says, relinquish is just a fancy word for lose. Losing control is something I loathe.

I’m afraid that if I let go of control, things won’t happen like they’re supposed to (aka like I want them to). 

Letting go means surrendering all I am and not knowing what’s next with it all. I don’t like surrendering.

But then I remember who I am surrendering it to. 

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7

I love the Message version of the same verse:

Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

Here’s another one:

God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction. Psalm 23 (Message)

and another:

“That’s right. Because I, your God,
    have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, Don’t panic.
    I’m right here to help you.”

Isaiah 41:13 (Message)

And my favorites:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Ephesians 3:20 (Message)

 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” John 13:7 

I can let go of my grip, even when I’m fearful and frustrated with the whole control thing, because I know who has a grip on me.

 

FullSizeRender 2It doesn’t make it easier to let go of my grip. It doesn’t make relinquishing control a happy thought. But I’m realizing that letting go doesn’t mean everything is out of control. It means that it’s now in control of the one who goes before me, the one who knows me and my life and my plans better than I can.

 

I can let go of my grip on my fears, my future, my plans, my everything when I know that they’re being caught by the same God who catches me.


My prayers before bed are a little different now.

My stomach still hurts, and my heart still beats out of my chest. But I take a deep breath and try to relax into sleep anyway. I still pray for God to wake me up everyday, because I still live with the fear that I wont. But I pray something else too now.

Alright God, I’m letting go of my grip. Please take all of this from me so I can sleep. 

Take my fear of the future. My struggle with my career path. My worry about money and finances. My loneliness and frustration. Take my worries, my annoyances, my sadness. My overthinking and trying to plan it all on my own. Take all of what’s forcing me to grip my hands so tightly that I can’t let them go to find rest.

Letting go of my grip, I let His grip catch it all.

Maybe someday I’ll believe that letting go of my grip will be something good for me. Hopefully someday I’ll see the fruits of giving it all up to God and going to sleep. But until that day, I’ll say this prayer on top of everything else I pray, and hope to God someday this all makes sense.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 (Message)

Pastures- Housefires (listened mostly to this album while writing)

this one too. Sound of Surviving-Nichole Nordeman (her whole new album is great)

 

Uncertainty and the unknown.

I believe God has everything figured out for my life. He knows my plans, my desires, my steps before I do.

I really think Paul means what he says in Romans 8:28, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.” He will work out my life and my calling if I follow him, which I try to do everyday.

I also have no idea what the next season of my life looks like, and I really want to know now (or last month, but whatever
.) I hate second guessing myself, my abilities and strengths- the rejections and unanswered job applications cut like a knife to my heart. I hate not knowing what’s next. I hate sitting idle in this in-between.  I hate being stuck.

My internship has ended, so now I’m back to where I was last year: figuring out what the heck I want to do or what I even can do for a job. Because for love of Jesus I do NOT want to teach or do anything in education right now (honestly I need a break from kids), but I don’t have the experience to do anything but working with kids. I don’t have enough experience or don’t meet the requirements for any non-kid job I apply for, even ones I have the skills and degree to do. I’ve pigeon holed myself times infinity. It sucks. I was clueless about my job prospects before I took the internship; now I’m not as clueless, but more frustrated that I’m closer to knowing what I want to do, but can’t get a dang job doing it.

I turn 25 on Friday with no career or focus or goal or job prospects, or even and idea of what my future looks like, and this frustrates me to my very core. (And please don’t say “you’re young, you have time to figure it out!”or something of the sort-you may not think it matters, but it matters to ME.)

I don’t want this post to feel like a pity party, but I’m just so stuck and frustrated and exhausted.

I’ve been officially done with my internship for a week. With the exception of one application (for a perfect job for me, that I still haven’t heard anything from), I took a break from the job hunt. I needed to rest and recuperate from an exhausting (albeit wonderful) season of working. I needed some space to breathe. But it wasn’t far from my mind- it rarely is these days.

Now that week is over. I’ve got to get back into gear looking for things I’m qualified for. But I don’t know where to effing start. I just don’t know exactly what I want–or how to find a job that I want that won’t automatically say no for lack of experience. I know what I don’t want, but that’s not really helping me right now.

I just want some sense of direction, something that won’t slam a door in my face. 

I was listening to the always-wonderful Annie Downs interview worship leader and musician Chris McClarney on her podcast (it was a great and hilarious interview). They got to talking about his career and how he does multiple jobs at once (worship leading, commercial performing/touring, and songwriting), and their conversation turned into talking about God and plans and things of the like.

When Annie asked him about his different jobs, and figuring out what to do next, he replied, “I’ve always walked through open doors, and waited for the Lord to tell me to stop.”

He then talked about how people tend to wait around for a moment where God tells them what to do or where to go next instead of just walking trough the open door God has provided. Annie went on to add, “they don’t want to see three open doors, they want God to tell them the right open door.”

She hit the nail on the head, at least for me.

I want one door. Just one. Preferably already open, ready for me to walk through without risk or uncertainty. Please, Jesus.

I tend to do a lot of second guessing about a lot of things in my life, and the future is probably the one that I overthink the most.

 

Is this door really open? Is this the right one? What about the others? Are we really sure I should go through this door? What if it’s not the right one? What if I mess it up?

 

I don’t just walk through like Chris does, without (over)thinking my choice, trying to figure out if this is *really* what God wants from me. I struggle with outright trusting that I’m making the right decisions– in reality, I’m struggling more with trusting that God really knows what he’s doing, and that I couldn’t do it better myself.  (Total pride/control thing, I know this about myself. Still working on it). Instead of just trusting that God has opened this door for me to walk through, I hem and haw and question at every turn, hoping God will put a big neon sign on the right door so I know for sure this is where I’m supposed to go.  

That’s not my current struggle, though. Right now, I’m struggling more with finding any door willing to open. I would take having to choose between three doors if it meant I had doors to walk through.

What do you do when you have no doors to choose from? When every door that is possibly cracked open gets slammed shut? What do you do when you just don’t know where any open door is?

I wish I knew. Because it feels like I’m stuck in a room with no doors or windows, no way through to what’s next.

I can’t help but think I should have this all figured out by now. Or at least I should have an idea of how to figure this all out. But I feel so clueless.

No doors in sight. I don’t even know what one would look like if it was in front of me. Or what would be behind it.

The last thing Annie said in this job/doors discussion really got my attention.

You know you  are not going to miss Him, right? If you are saying, “God I want your best for my life,” you are not going to miss him.

I’m not going to miss him no matter what I end up doing. This is both comforting and annoying to me. Comforting knowing that God is with me no matter what, wherever I go he will support me. Is annoying because I want a definitive answer, dang it! I want to know what path I’m supposed to go down, which door I’m supposed to walk through without fear or regret. I love knowing I’m not going to miss him, no matter where I go, but I would love to have at least an idea of where to go.

Chris talked about when he was in a season of transition, and he heard God say to him, “what do you want to do?” He’d never thought of that, he said, but it made him think about how God had given him desires and the like, so he decided that those were what he was going to focus on instead of finding the “right” job or the perfect way. He trusted that God had put these talents, passions, and desires in him for a reason; God gave him the freedom to pursue those things, and opened the doors that allowed him to do so.

 

I want that ability to trust God like that, to trust that he has put in me the desires of my heart, and that He’s given me the skills to accomplish those desires He’s put in me. I want the freedom to pursue the passions and I have, with the talents He has given me.

 

But how do I know what skills and talents I have for this purpose? What if this talent or that skill isn’t meant to be a part of my purpose, but is just supposed to be a hobby?

How do I know my desires are the ones given from God, not my own desires? How do I determine what is  my passion and what is a fleeting thought or in-the-moment desire?

Where do my passions and desires turn into marketable skills I can use to make a career, or where can I turn those skills and passions into a job opportunity that I won’t be rejected from?

I want to believe that God has given me these talents and skills to do something I’m passionate about, something he has placed a desire and dream in me to do.  I want to do something meaningful for a living, something I’m passionate about, and something I’m good at– somewhere my skills and dreams collide.

But is this an actual possibility? From all the applications rejected, unanswered inquiries, interviews declined, jobs unoffered, dream jobs dashed,and tears shed I’m starting to doubt so.

I wish I could end this post with a tidy bow or sweet anecdote, a glimmer of hope the midst of the hard or encouraging charge per my usual. But I can’t right now.

Maybe when all these doors stop slamming in my face.

Open Space-Housefires

Chris McClarney-Thirsty