I blame my mother for this habit– our house has always come close to being hoarder-esque, filled with random knicknacks and antiques and things of the like.
I’ve collected different things over the years: beanie babies, Disney Mania CDs (am I a 90s kid or what?!). pug-related things, books. The list could go on.
But my favorite collection is in my keepsake box.
It’s not a typical collection of pretty things or seemingly important items. It’s a box I’ve had for many years (actually I had to replace the box itself in college, because it got so full it wore out!).
Rather, I use my keepsake box to collect my memories and things that remind me how loved I am.
In it you’ll find every birthday/holiday card I’ve gotten since childhood, notes from church friends or college friends and mentors. Ticket stubs and programs from various events, church bulletins from important days, pictures, small key chains or other random mementos others would probably throw away. I’m too sentimental to let these things go, because they each take me back to a moment in time or a person in my life who means something to me. And that’s important.
As the cliche question goes,what would I take if there was a fire? Besides my dogs, it would be the most important item I grab.
When I’ve been in the depths with my mental health, battling depression and anxiety, the only thing that gave me a glimmer of hope– a small reminder that I was loved and cared for and thought of– was the containments of that box. It gave me peace and reassurance when my brain couldn’t. When I’m low and sad and frustrated at the world, it’s where I go for comfort and hope that maybe I’m still meant to be here.
I know we aren’t supposed to store up our treasures on earth, and I get that. But the items I collect in that box are more than things– they are a lifeline.
I was going to write on something COMPLETELY different (or I was trying to, at least), but I kept coming back to this. It’s hard. I didn’t want to write this post. But I’ve been sitting on my laurels with this for quite some time, and God is finally pushing it out of me, one blog post at a time. (I’m actually working procrastinating on an in-depth post on this topic. Ugh. Why, Jesus?!?). Anyway, here ya go. *deep breaths*
I am a comfort-seeker. I like safe, I like secure, I like control. When I can’t be a fixer or a helper, I become a numb-er: numbing myself from whatever I can’t fix until it’s not a problem anymore.
My biggest source of comfort isn’t scripture or worship music or anything Jesus-y.
I’ve been a food addict (my personal opinion, I’ve never been officially diagnosed) since childhood. I’m also an emotional (cry-baby according to my family) person, and when my emotions overwhelm me? I eat.
I would sneak food from the kitchen when I was upset with my grandmother, or eat leftovers from dinner off the stove.
At 25, I tiptoe into the kitchen still for late-night snacks, for fear of waking my mom up.
I celebrate victories with cake or ice cream or my favorite meal.
I calm my anxious nerves through baking.
I relieve stress by cooking.
I eat snacks when I’m bored.
I numb myself with candy and sweets.
I’m an emotional eater, bored eater, anxious eater.
Food is my greatest comforter. When I’m eating something I love, I feel safe and peaceful.
This is not how food is supposed to work, I’ve learned.
I comfort myself with food, and have done so for at least 20 of my 25 years.
Real talk: currently eating butter bread, because it sounded good and I have felt crappy all day.
I don’t run to Jesus for comfort. I run to food.
And I don’t know how to run elsewhere for it. Because Jesus doesn’t make me feel full and secure quite like cake.
–curls up in corner because vulnerability is hard–
This week’s FMF post is a little late, but better late than never right? Finally got my laptop charger (praise the lord) so I’m back in action! Yesterday was my birthday so it was a bit too crazy to write.
This week’s word:
I’m kinda glad I waited– I got a different idea for this word after thinking on it for a few days.
I have always loved to play games. As a kid, I loved board games and card games, or games on the computer (I’ve played on neopets since I was in elementary school– and i have no shame about still playing as a 25 year old, it’s my stress reliever!!)
As I’ve gotten older, it’s been less board and card games and more games that make me think critically or games where I have to use my brain creatively.
I’ve never been a get-to-know you game person or team bonding games fan– if you’re going to get to know me, I’d rather be through an intimate conversation than 3 truths and a lie. Youth group games or sports-like competition games are not my style– I am competitive, but it’s more of the trivia/brain game type.
My favorite game to play in the whole wide world? Bananagrams!
If you don’t know it, please go here now. I was introduced to it my sophomore year of college at a campus ministry retreat– I played for nearly 4 hours of free time that weekend, and then promptly came home and purchased the game for myself!
The game is a word game, similar to a speed scrabble competition. It’s so fun and incredibly fast paced(depending on how many people are playing), and it can get wickedly tricky depending on how many letters you have at a given time. But it is so. much. fun. Especially if you’re a think-on-your-feet, word nerd, dictionary of a person like myself.
It is played at nearly every game night me and my friends have had. I’ve played for countless hours in my college dorm lobby with so many friends (and met new people who would ask to come play with us when I played with friends in the lobby!). I now own two different versions of the game (the regular and party versions).
Because of the critical thinking skills required to play, bananagrams has surprisingly become a tool in my mental health journey–when I am overwhelmed with anxiety or in the midst of a panic attack, i grab my bananagrams and play by myself, focusing on the words I can make with the letters I grab from the bag or just building words. It gives me something to focus on instead of the looming anxiety battle in my brain. It gives my brain another place to divert my thoughts, and it gives me some control back. Bananagrams has traveled with me almost everywhere in years’ past (as far as Mexico!) as an easy way to combat panic, and has become more than a game I merely play for fun– it is an invaluable tool and gift to my life, as silly as that sounds.
Last night was my birthday party at a friends house. 4 of my friends had canceled on me before I even made it there, and I was overall in a blah mood, not really wanting to celebrate. The transition from my internship to home has been pretty brutal mentally, so I wasn’t really feeling much like myself. When I walked into my friend Jared’s house, I saw the little yellow banana of bananagrams fame on his kitchen table and laughed, visibly happy at the sight.
“I thought we could maybe play some bananagrams tonight!” Jared said excitedly.
My heart leaped with joy, i was plain giddy. It was the perfect way to end my birthday party– even if I lost twice. (dangit). It really turned my mindset around.
I’m super grateful for friends that know me and my game-loving self well– and that are always willing to stop being adults for awhile and play.
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, “theydon’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.
hmm. this is an odd word for this week. but here goes it…
blessings are not always easy.
They aren’t always welcome.
They don’t automatically look like a good thing when you first see them.
blessing is defined as, “God’s favor and protection;” i think for me I always see blessing as synonymous with happy, cheerful things, when in all honesty it could be something hard and tragic and not fun– but the blessing part is how God uses these things to show us how He loves and cares for us.
2 weeks ago I had to make a decision I didn’t want to make– a decision to end my internship early (for a lot of reasons, but self-care was the primary one). The next two after I made my choice, I sobbed both at home, at work, and in my therapist’s office because I regretted it. But once the initial emotions blew over, I realized that this choice was going to be a blessing for me. It might not look like it in the moment of hurt and sadness, but it WILL be a blessing.
Two weeks later, I’m not 100% there yet–the transition hasn’t been the easiest– but I know I’ll get there.
A blessing isn’t always pretty wrapped in a neat little box of goodness, but it’s never bad– it is always for my good, and for my care. And from a God who loves his kids enough to take care of them, no matter what it looks like.
This is after the time went off, but wanted to add a line from Lisa Harper’s recent she reads truth devotional: “How—despite our proclivity to make huge messes—He is so completely for us.”
that might be the biggest blessing of this whole Jesus thing, y’all. He’s for us, messes and all.
it’s been awhile since i linked up with my pals at five minute friday! I’ve missed this little writing family so much; Thursdays have been the busiest/longest day of the year teaching at my internship, so I never had a chance to jump in and write.
Now that summer is here and school programming is over (PRAISE JESUS), I no longer teach at night! All summer programming at my job is during the day (all. day. long. Jesus help) since it’s day-camp style, so my days end at 3. Which means I HAVE MY NIGHTS BACK! The night owl in me rejoices!!
The word for writing tonight is one that’s on my mind all day, every day lately:
In the words of Chandler Bing, could this be anymore relevant to my life!?
I like knowing what the future holds.
I like plans and the like, the whole schedule set out before me with no surprises. (I hate surprises.)
I spent a whole lot of my life thinking I had the future perfectly manicured to what I wanted it to be… and then not so much.
A man can plan and plan, but the Lord’s will ultimately prevails.
i’ve been reading James with She Reads Truth the last two weeks; one of the more well-known verses in James tells us about submitting to God.
Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (james 4:7-8)
The message version says it like this:
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time.
I just love that. Let God work his will in you. Submit has always scared me (because #controlissues), but the idea of God working his will in me is eye opening, especially to someone trying to figure out her future and what she wants to do with her life.
I’ve been dealing a lot lately with getting my identity wrapped up in my career and my future plans after my internship ends in July. After quitting student teaching, changing my major, and realizing the one career i’d ever wanted was not in the plans for my future, I got tied up in this identity struggle of being just a teacher. Then I got into this internship where I’m, yet again, a teacher, and I got to wondering if being a teacher was the only thing I was to everyone. I was afraid teaching was the only thing I was good at. It’s the only thing I’ve really done, it’s the only thing I’ve been hired for, anyway, so maybe I should face facts and accept that this is the future I have (even though I really really don’t want it to be).
I know teaching is not what I want in my future, but for whatever reason it’s the only future i feel like I can have.
I want to be more than a teacher, dammit.
I let my job and my future job take hold of who I thought I was.
Slowly, ever so slowly, God is reminding me that who I am is not in the career I have now or next year.
Who I am is not my job or my calling.
I am not my job.
I am not my future.
Who I am is who He has made me to be.
I am a daughter of the God whose plan prevails, and who will work his will out in my life– if I lay my identities down and accept the identity He has given me.
I’m not just a teacher. I’m His. and my future is in his much more capable hands.
**I went over by like 5 minutes… it’s the first time I’ve done one of these in a year, people!
just wanted to add this little nugget from the she reads truth post from yesterday:
“Tomorrow could bring beauty; it could bring heartache. But as I’ve been reminded, even in my darkest moments, Christ holds me fast. Each moment is laced with His grace.”
No matter what the future holds, I am held by Him. And that is who I really am.
Throwback: Can’t say the phrase Who I am without singing this one… very loudly. So many memories wrapped up in this song. Ah, the 90s.
Anyone who knows me is probably surprised by this, because I am the messiest person in my house (or any house… or dorm room… or any room). I tend to hold off on cleaning until I absolutely have to. Like, until you can’t see the floor in my room messy.
So me choosing to clean doesn’t exactly happen. But all my roommates were out of town, I didn’t have a field trip or any pressing work to do, and I felt the need to be productive. So I went for it. Cleaned the kitchen Saturday night, and the living rooms Sunday.
It’s simple, ordinary work really. I had the time and a house to myself, free of distraction and of people coming and going. It was just me and my music and some out-loud talks with Jesus about all the things.
I scrubbed the stove,
I swept the floors,
I wiped windows and doors,
I washed dishes and organized pots.
All ordinary work, usual chores from the chore chart. But I think sometimes the Lord speaks most clearly through those little, ordinary acts of obedience. It’s through the ordinary that the extraordinary comes through, if we’re paying attention.
While cleaning the living room on Sunday, I was listening to a Holy Week playlist on Spotify (from Sacred Ordinary Days– so good). A thought popped into my head about Spring Cleaning– when we transition our homes from winter to spring, thoroughly deep cleaning our homes to prepare for the light of spring to come.
While spring cleaning wasn’t really my intention this weekend, it kind of ended up happening– I opened up the curtains and let the light in as I swept and scrubbed and cleaned from head-to-toe, letting the bright sunshine from the 80 degree day bathe the room in its light.
I was sweeping, singing along to the music playing from my speaker, when a voice popped in my head. I heard a quiet whisper:
this is what I’m doing in you, too. you are being cleaned and made new.
I couldn’t help but scratch my head a little… huh? What the heck? I’m being cleaned? From what?!?
Then a verse (a favorite of mine) popped into my head:
“But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
“Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.”
(Isaiah 43:18-19, NLT and The Voice, respectively)
He is doing a new thing. But in order to do a new thing, I’ve learned, we have to take care of the old.
To do all that changing and making things new, we have to clean out the old ways, thoughts, and images I have in my head and move the new things He’s doing straight into my heart.
So I started thinking about all the things in my life… in my heart that need cleaning. And together, Jesus and I are beginning to change those things– a lot of the things, I learned, were things we’d been conversatin’ about the night before while cleaning the kitchen. (I’m glad I used that time to pray and be productive, Jesus!)
So we clean.
We scrub all the old thoughts, ideations, and excuses away;
We sweep the dust from the past out from under my feet– and into the trash, where I can’t keep looking for it;
We wash off the dirt and grime of overthinking and overanalyzing every word and action;
We shake off the feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and not being good enough;
We dust off the worries and fears of the future, the uncertainty of what’s next;
We have to usher out the old habits– the old ways I try to control my circumstances, the old places I go to for help and comfort (food, Netflix, isolation– the list goes on, people) and the old things I run to where I don’t want to run to His arms (people pleasing, striving, running away from my problems…again, Jesus has never been my first place to run to, y’all).
Notice this is all in present-tense. Because… I suck at all of these things. I am nowhere near complete at this process. Hell, I’ve barely started having more conversations about this stuff with Him– this is the stuff of me and my therapist (and maybe a few people in my inner-circle, but even that’s not so much these days).
But alas, He wants me to be a new thing. Just like everything with me, this is a work in progress. Barely even that– it’s merely the beginning of the cleaning process. I haven’t yet to figure out what or how he wants me to clean all these things (and actually do this thing called life), but at least I’ve heard him say that this is what He wants of me. And today, that’s enough to at least get the job started.
So I’m slowly beginning this cleaning process, albeit begrudgingly. Remember, cleaning is not my forte nor my favorite pastime (understatement of the century). Especially this kind of cleaning– the kind where I have to go deep into my own mess and the muck and try hard to get it cleaned. Because these messes? They aren’t surface-level. They’re deep and filled with muck and grime and cobwebs, where I’ve put them off in the corner to be forgotten or left them for dead. But like the spring cleaning of the house, this cleaning must be done, too. Because this is what the Lord has called me to do. Just like I had an urge to clean the house, he is nudging me towards this cleaning and remodeling of myself and my ways.
He wants me to be the best version of who He’s made me to be; in order to do that, I have to clean out who I was and who I’ve been, and start to let him make me new and clean and shiny again.
This isn’t just a one day kind of cleaning, I have a feeling (sigh). It’s going to be a process. It’s not an easy process. I hate hard things, y’all. And long things. Especially when they have to do with me and all my baggage and mess. There’s going to be a lot of sweat and work involved, I’m sure. Tears too, probably. But at the end of today, I got to rest and relax in a clean house, comfortable and content. I had done what I needed to do, and that
was enough. That’s what he wants in my life too– for me to rest and relax in who He’s made me to be. But to get there, I have to do this spring cleaning within me. Out with the old, in with the new– it’s not just a thing we say, it’s an action we take.
But he promises he’ll make things new if I do this cleaning thing. He’ll bring beauty from the mess, if I let him into the middle of it. He promises he’ll make a way for me to get through, even though this cleaning process is probably going to be long and dark and unsure. He promises a way. He IS the way.
It’s time to let Him do a new thing in me.
It’s time to open up the windows let the light flood in.
(was introduced to them via the Holy Week playlist linked above. I.love.them.)
“Why is it so easy to look for help everywhere but the feet of Jesus?”
I read that in my Lent devotional Thursday night and felt like I’d been punched in the gut.
I hate asking for help. I suck at it, if I’m being truthful. As I’ve written before, I’d rather be the helper than admit I’m the one needing help.
Asking for help means relinquishing control. Admitting that I need people or need something. It means having to surrender my power and plans and say that I can’t do it on my own.
I hate that. I want to have it all together and do it all by myself, for myself.
But I can’t. I just can’t.
My first line of defense definitely isn’t to ask Jesus for help. Hell, that’s usually my last desperate plea, begging for help when I finally get off my high horse and admit that I don’t have it all together. Clutching at my last shred of dignity in myself before I finally give up the ghost and surrender it all to the One that knows me and my life better than I do.
Truthfully, my first line of defense is to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything’s okay.
That’s usually coupled with my knee-jerk reaction to run like the wind from all life’s problems. (I talk about this more later in this post. The realization of this particular defense mechanism came about in therapy over the past few months, and is worth its own blog post in the near future).
But seeking out help? Not my strong suit.
During Lent, I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah, a book with a lot of my favorite pieces of scripture in it– but not a book I’ve studied in order or in its entirety. (It’s long! And there’s a lot of scary stuff in there I don’t want to read! All the more reason why I’m reading it!)
One thing I’ve realized about the book of Isaiah so far: it’s a tug of war between God and his people.
He wants so desperately to help his people. To be a God of mercy and justice that protects His people. He wants to be a God of love and not of wrath.
But they don’t get that. They keep living lives of destruction and lives away from their maker. They do everything in their power to run and survive on their own terms, by their own means.
And it’s destroying them. Literally.
I’m about 1/3 of the way through, the past few days getting into Isaiah 29-31. There were a few verses in these books that pricked me. Scripture isn’t all warm and fuzzy and comforting, I’ve learned. I usually look to scripture for comfort and support, but it’s not always that– it can be harsh and reality-shaking. Sometimes it pulls the wool off your eyes and makes you see right into the heart of your sin. That’s how I felt reading these verses– a shiver went down my spine when I realized the weight of who I was in the story.
Woe to those who go to great lengths to hide their plans from the Lord. They do their works in the dark, and say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, “He doesn’t understand what he’s doing”? (Isaiah 29:15-16, CSB)
The Lord said, “How terrible it will be for these stubborn children. They make plans, but they don’t ask me to help them. They make agreements with other nations, without asking my Spirit. They are adding more and more sins to themselves. 2 They go down to Egypt for help without asking me about it first. They hope they will be saved by the king of Egypt; they want Egypt to protect them. 3 But hiding in Egypt will bring you only shame; Egypt’s protection will only disappoint you. (Isaiah 30:1-3, NCV)
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses! They trust in the abundance of chariots and in the large number of horsemen. They do not look to the Holy One of Israel and they do not seek the Lord. 2 But he also is wise and brings disaster. He does not go back on what he says; he will rise up against the house of the wicked and against the allies of evildoers. (Isaiah 31:1-2, CSB)
I love the Message version of that last verse:
Doom to those who go off to Egypt thinking that horses can help them, Impressed by military mathematics, awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders— And to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance, not so much as a prayer to God. Still, he must be reckoned with, a most wise God who knows what he’s doing. He can call down catastrophe. He’s a God who does what he says.
How many times in my life have I said something to the effect of,
-I’ll do it myself!
-I can figure this out on my own.
-I don’t need anyone else’s opinion or advice.
– It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.
-I know what’s best for my life. It’s my life, after all.
-God doesn’t care about little me, so I’ll just do this without him.
-I know this is what I should do, so I’m just going to get it done on my own.
And fill in the blank of many more similar statements that I’ve said over the course of my life… I’ve always been an I’ll-do-it-myself-or-not-at-all type of person. I like being the fixer, the one that makes everything all better.
But I’m not. I’m not the one that can fix everything and make it right or better. I can’t do this life thing on my own.
I’ve put all my confidence in who I am and what I’m capable of…which I’ve come to find out is not much. At least, not much without Him.
“Pay attention to what I say,
you overconfident daughters.” (Isaiah 32:9 CSB)
That’s me. The overconfident daughter, always trying to strive and do all the things without help to prove that she’s enough on her own. The one that thinks she’s in control and does everything in her power to maintain that control.
I can’t plan my life or get through it without the One that made it. I’ve tried making plans down to the detail and watched it all blow up in my face (hello, student teaching! hello, panic attacks and anxiety disorder!). It’s no fun, y’all.
Yet I keep doing it.
I keep planning and ignoring God’s plans, thinking I know better.
I keep trying to carry the weight and the burden on my own.
I keep refusing help and guidance when it’s what i really need right now.
I keep thinking I know best, I can do it all, I can balance all the plates and all the things without God or anyone else…
and that’s sin. Right in front of my face. It’s the first time I’ve called it that, but it IS.
The sin of pride. Of thinking I know better than God what my life should look like. He made it, yet I know how to live it better? To claim that he doesn’t know what he’s doing?That’s 100% pride.
Relying on myself and my own limited capabilities is denying the power and strength of God in me. It’s denying that God’s grace is what makes me sufficient, not me or my own strength.
Trying to be self-sufficient and “do it all” is not self-sufficient at all. It’s selfish. It’s me trying to put my hope and trust in myself and my lacking human abilities instead of believing and trusting in the God of abundance.
Putting my hope and trust in myself and the temporal things this earth offers, instead of seeking Him and His help, does nothing but lead me down a path of exhaustion and struggle.
The people of Judah did the same thing. They were in trouble, in fear of Assyrian soldiers on their border, and kept turning to their own devices for saving. They tried to save themselves, and look for someone else to lead them into safety instead of the one that made them. So they ran from God, and into the arms of another.
The people that they found to lead them into safety? Egypt. The very people that enslaved them.
They sought out an alliance with the people that had hurt them in the past. They chose to turn back to what they knew instead of walking into the unknown… even though what they knew was nothing but bad news.
A quote from my devotional reads: “Yet in crisis they turned to what they could see and remember, rather than seeking God’s merciful path forward.”
So, when Judah discovered the Assyrian army on the border, they ran. But they didn’t run to the safety of their God… no, they ran to what they knew. They ran thinking of how they could fix the problem, leaning on their own devices and their own abilities. In crisis, they reverted back to what they could see (instead of trusting the unseen, they depending on pagan gods and the like), and what they could remember (they were enslaved by Egypt, sure, but hey, at least they were alive! and they knew what to expect! *eye roll*) They thought that they could handle it on their own… which clearly, if you’re running to the people who held you as slaves, is very untrue. 😉
Despite this, God still wanted to be their help. He longed for Judah to turn back to Him and let Him help them. He still wanted to be the place they went for safety. As my devotional reads, “but their faithful God longed for them to turn upward toward His mercy, and forward on the path He made for them.”
Upwards toward His mercy. He wants us to focus on Him. Fix our eyes on Him, the author and perfector of our faith, as it’s written in Hebrews 12:2.
Forward on the path He made them. He wants them to not run back to the failures and mistakes of the past, just for comfort or security. That’s what He’s for. But he does want Judah (and us) to keep moving forward. He’s got the path set out. He’s got it planned. (and He doesn’t need our help planning it, or us trying to plan it ourselves). He calls us to move both upward towards him, and forward on the journey he’s got us on. We can’t stay put. (ugh).
I’m quite like the people of Judah, I’ve learned. In fact, I wrote in my Bible study book as I read this story, “man, I’m like Judah.” Gut check!
When I get overwhelmed or I realize I’m not in control of a situation… I run. I hide. I get out of there before things get worse or I get hurt or rejected.I surround myself with what’s familiar and what I like instead of getting out of my comfort zone to do something new. I rely on old habits and security blankets to find solace instead of seeking God for comfort and peace. I don’t like when things get too hard or uncomfortable for me to do on my own… so when they get to that point, it’s easier for me to just give up and move on.
When in crisis, I run for the hills. I run to find comfort in things (food, Netflix, books, internet, sleep, social media, the list goes on) and what I know (striving, fixing, working to be enough, people pleasing, ignoring problems, burying my feelings, hiding, isolating).
I really AM like the people of Judah. I don’t look upward or forward for help. I look at me, and try to fix myself.
Why is it so easy to look backwards but not forwards? WHY is it so easy to fall back on the past and the old way of life when the one Jesus has for us is so much better?
Why is it so easy to look for help, comfort, solace, EVERYWHERE but the feet of Jesus– our true Comforter, our Prince of Peace? Why can’t I depend on him? Why can’t I need him?
For me: I like the old way of doing things. I like my comfort. I like my easy way, where no one gets hurt and everything’s safe and cozy. It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s predictable and I know what to expect. It’s not going anywhere. Sure, it’s not making me better or changing me… but at least I’m not going to get hurt or rejected or fill-the-fear-in-the-blank by staying put where I am.
but that’s not the way of Jesus. Jesus calls us to focus forward and upward– towards His plans and path made for us, and to Him for comfort instead of slipping backward into familiar territory.
Going forward into the future where things are unknown? Flipping terrifying. But that’s why He is our help. Our only solid, never-changing, constant help in trouble. That’s who he is. That’s who he wants to be for us. For me.
He wants to be my help. He wants me to WANT His help. He wants me to believe that I need him and his help.
Therefore, the Lord us waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, the Lord is a just God. All who wait patiently for Him are happy. (Isaiah 30:18 CSB).
He is waiting on us. Waiting on me.
He is waiting to show us mercy. He’s waiting to be our help, to love us back to life.
But we have to accept his help. We have to run from our self-sufficient selves and deny that we can do this on our own to get that mercy and compassion. We have to quit running from Him and run toward Him and His promises.
I have to lean on Him for help and strength in every situation, and quit depending on myself to get it all done (when that’s not what he wants of me in the first place).
“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.” (Isaiah 30:15 CSB)
It doesn’t say you’ll be delivered by helping yourself or planning your life on your own.
It doesn’t say you’ll be delivered by handling your problems on your own.
It doesn’t say your strength lies in striving and being enough on your own.
It doesn’t say that you’ll be delivered by running and hiding.
It says that by returning (instead of running) and resting (instead of doing it all yourself), He will deliver us. He will lead us down the path He’s planned out for us. And our strength will be in our confidence in who He is and His promises for me, instead of it being in who I am.
By being willing to accept His help, He will help me. He will guide me and bring me comfort when life looks differently than I expect. There’s nowhere I’ll go without his presence. There’s nothing I can do to be separated from His love for me.
He is in control. He is sufficient for all of life’s worries and fears. He will help me, comfort me, and be my safety.
Admitting my need is so hard. I HATE being needy. I HATE relinquishing control and surrendering to the fact that I need help. But there’s no way for me to do this life the right way without relying on God– without admitting that I NEED him every hour of the day, I need help with every aspect of my life. It’s hard.
But when I admit that? I quit running to those old habits and familiar thoughts. I quit running away and giving up because I know it’s not my strength or sufficiency doing the work. And I realize that I can do all the things I’m supposed to do, no matter how unknown or scary or different they may be– not on my own strength, but through strength the Lord has given me.
Help is a tricky thing. Relying on someone or something else isn’t always guaranteed. But relying on God to help me means I can unload the burdens life on my own has given me. I can let him shoulder the failures and rejections and fears and stresses, and He will be sufficient and strong enough to hold them all.
Because I am not strong, y’all. I am frail and weary and all kinds of needy without Jesus.
But with his help, I can be who He made me to be, and follow the path He’s called me to be on. By needing Him, I no longer have to rely on myself to do and be it all.
In my Bible study book, I wrote this prayer as I was reading Isaiah 30: Lord, help me to WANT to NEED You.
I want to need You, Jesus. I want to need Your help. I know I need it, but I want to need it instead of not wanting to accept help like my usual striving self. I want to rely on You and your help instead of trying to help myself. Because I’ve learned, helping myself does nothing but send me to places and things that won’t sustain me like You do. I can’t plan my own life. I can’t depend on the things of this world to comfort me or help me. But I can depend on you, the author and perfector of my faith. I can lean on you, and you will deliver me into rest. You will provide comfort and a hand to walk me down the path you’ve made for me. I want to need you, Jesus. Help me ask for help. Help me to want to need you every hour instead of thinking I can do all of this on my own. Lead me to seek help at your feet instead of the places I run to– the things that bring me only temporary comfort. Help me to seek you first before I run and hide from the problems life gives me. Because I can’t do this on my own. Amen.
This song has been on repeat as of late…
I lift my hands to Heaven Here my heart surrendered I tell my soul again You are Lord of all And though the seas are raging You will speak and tame them In You I find my rest You are in control
“That was awful. Why did you think it’d be anything but?”
“Oh, that was definitely directed right at you.”
“Everything is going to get messed up.”
“You messed up, so you suck.”
That comment was totally about you.
“You are the worst.”
“This is all going to go wrong.”
“No one’s listening.”
“You are just in the way.”
“Something is wrong with you.”
“You aren’t wanted.”
“Maybe the world would be better off…”
“You can’t do it.”
“No one cares.”
“You’re a screwup.”
“Life isn’t worth it.”
These are just some of the voices that I hear on a daily basis, fighting for me to embrace and accept what they say as truth. Day in, day out, every action is accompanied by some rogue thought that is planted in my brain by the likes of mental illness. And these are just some of them. They just begin to paint the picture of what it’s like to live with these struggles, one telling you that everything is wrong and the other saying nothing is worth it.
Depression and anxiety are the backseat drivers of my life, taking over my every thought and move with an annoying comment or an “are we there yet? (but worse)” every five minutes. They nag and they pull at every fiber of my being until I begin to emotionally, mentally, physically unravel. And then I just collapse under the weight of it all hitting me at once.
Some weeks these voices take over my thinking, like a tape recorder constantly playing in the background of my days, trying to scream at me with things that my brain wants me to think about myself.
Some weeks they scream loudly after every mistake or every conversation, overpowering any kind word or thought about myself.
It’s been one of those kind of weeks.
It’s been a rough mental week, which means I’ve been dealing a lot with the extra loud screaming voices in my head- the ones from anxiety telling me to overthink everything and be hyper sensitive, to the depression ones telling me that I’m not good enough or that no one cares. I deal with these external voices day in and day out, but sometimes they’re louder than I need them to be.
I’ve been studying the book of John over the past few weeks with She Reads Truth. John is my favorite gospel and one of my favorite books of the Bible. I’m a little behind (what’s new?) so I got to Day 12 this week– the story of The Good Shepherd (John 10). It’s a story we’ve heard time and time again, but this week, I felt like I read it with fresh eyes– or through the eyes of my mental illness. What I took away from it this time around was different than what I’d taken from it before.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:9-18, ESV, emphasis mine)
I was reading quietly, nodding along… until I got to this:
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
A thought popped in my head that I wrote in my SRT study book: There are a lot of “hired men” represented in my life.
A lot of voices, thoughts, what have you that set up camp in my head and heart long enough for me to believe them. But then these voices and thoughts run off and hide when met with truth– proof that they are not the voice I’m supposed to be listening for.
Anxiety doesn’t care about me. It flings me to the wolves when the going gets tough and overwhelms me with fear and worry.
Depression doesn’t care about me. It makes me hyper sensitive to the world around me, makes me numb to whatever feelings I need to feel, and forces me to think I’m not worth caring for. It forces me in front of the wolves, fleeing behind me to avoid what’s next.
There are other voices too– voices from people that tell me I’m not enough, or people that tell me I’m this or not that. I’ve had people tell me who I am and what to do and not to do my whole life, sometimes I don’t think I have a voice for myself at all. I’ve listened to a lot of voices– from people, media, etc. There are a lot of voices vying for head space, vying for attention.
There are a lot of voices I’ve listened to before I listen to the voice of the Shepherd. These other voices take up precious headspace from the one true voice I should be listening to.
The voices of anxiety trying to make me worry about every little thing (instead of trusting that the Shepherd will care for me and won’t let me be snatched from his hand).
The voices of depression tell me that numbing myself to feeling makes everything better (instead of going to the Father for comfort, knowing that He was human and understands feelings). Depression tells me that I’m not worth anything and I should give up (where the voice of the Shepherd tells me that I am a daughter and because of that I am worth it all– and that in Him I can do everything).
The voices of others tell me I have to look like this or act like that, that I can’t do this or be that, where God tells me that I have a purpose and he will be faithful in making that purpose come alive– no matter what it is or if I’m qualified for it. (He prefers unqualified people from the likes of the Bible, so I’m good there!).
All these other voices makes it hard to hear the true voice. The voice that promises to guide me day in and day out. The voice of the one who made me and knows me well.
Even when I don’t know the road ahead of me, I can breathe knowing that there’s a Shepherd calling me by name, a Shepherd that knows me and won’t let me be snatched out of his hand.
Something tells me that His voice is worth listening to over the voices in my head. Even when they scream louder than His calm whisper. Even when the thoughts are overwhelming to the point where I can’t hear any voice, let alone the voice of the Shepherd.
His voice is the only one that can guide me where I’m meant to go.
His voice is the only one that can bring me comfort when I don’t know where to turn.
His voice is the one that stills the waters when they’re raging around me and I feel like I’m going to drown.
His voice is the voice that leads me to full life. Abundant life. Those other voices, like the hired hands of the fields, can’t offer that.
It’s time to stop giving in to the voices that scream at me versus the one that brings me life.
I need to learn how to live against the voices and follow the one voice that guides me out of my past and into the future, no matter if I can’t see it. Because choosing to be against the voices that lie and steal and destroy leads me to the voice that gives me comfort and beauty and a full life. And that is the voice that I need to be following, not those others– no matter how loud or convincing they may be.
I am found (he saw me at my worst and still wanted me).
I am chosen (he calls me out by name to be his).
I am beloved (loved enough to have Him die for me).
I am wanted (he wants a relationship with me– he is the lover of my soul).
I am helped (because he gives me strength to do all the things).
I am cared for(because he gives me rest).
I am healed (by his wounds).
I am free (bought with the blood).
I am a daughter (because He is my heavenly father).
I have a hope and a future (because he declares that he has a good plan for me)
I am held (by a Father who won’t let me be snatched from his hand).
I am enough (because of Jesus in me).
I am forgiven (grace sets me free from all I have done and will do).
I have nothing to fear (He has me in the palm of his hand).
These are the truths I should be clinging to (and many more). These are the words from the voice that loves, the voice that guides me into everlasting and full life. These words come from someone that isn’t going to up and run when the world gets tough– no, these are words from a Shepherd who is my Father, my comforter, and my friend. And His word promises me that His voice will bring me wherever He leads me… that His voice will comfort me with truth and love, not with fear or doubt.
His voice is the only one worth listening to.
And His voice is the only one I was truly meant to follow.
It’s time to fight back against the voices that tell me otherwise.
I tearfully said this to my counselor this past week. Towards the end of our session, it came out pretty much like word vomit– completely off the cuff, part of the inner dialogue of my brain that just came spilling out in a vulnerable moment as she was wrapping up our conversation.
This conversation stemmed from an ongoing internal dialogue I’ve been having since… I don’t know, the beginning of time? But really, it’s been a recurring theme in my life, a wound that I finally acknowledged out loud recently:
I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling invisible. like an outsider, different from everyone around me.
I’ve always felt like the odd one out. Overlooked or uninvited. Invisible. Unimportant.
I was always the kid without a partner in school projects, hoping the teachers would choose for us so I didn’t have to go through the agony of being left out; I was always one of the last ones chosen for whatever team sport being played in gym, usually opting to miss out and watch from the sidelines.
I live with a fear of being forgotten and missing out, or of being dropped as a friend for someone or something better. (It’s happened more than once in my life).
I’ve always felt alone in a crowded room. Alienated. Ignored.
Invisible is probably the best word to describe it: I’m there, hearing and seeing everything, but no one sees me. No one understands me (or tries to).
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like I was in my own world separate from everyone around me.
I’ve always felt like an outsider in my family. My personality is vastly different from most of my family members; my opinions are different (and have been since I was a little girl, but I didn’t speak on them until I was older); my interests and hobbies have always been polar opposite of what my family enjoys (I never have and never will consider watching football or any sport fun). I’ve always been different. And it’s always left me feeling like something was wrong with me because I was so different, because no one was quite like me (or expressed an interest in anything like me).
There’s nothing wrong with it, I’ve realized; it’s just how it’s always been with my family. But that doesn’t make it any easier feeling like an outsider with your own flesh and blood. When you don’t have anything in common with the people you spend most of your life with, and no one acknowledges your differences… it makes you question yourself. So I did, for a long, long time. (And I still do sometimes).
(Trust me, sitting at the Thanksgiving table eating your Thanksgiving dinner alone while the rest of the family watches football will make you question your invisible-ness even more than normal. /sigh)
This has been a theme of my life in other places, too.
I’ve always felt like the outsider in my friendships… the one that could very easily be left off the invite list, or could easily be forgotten about at the party.
I’m the one that loves and loves hard… and it feels like I don’t get loved back. At least in the ways I need to be.
I’m always the one checking on people, writing notes or sending encouraging texts. I’m always the one listening intently. I care about others’ feelings and stories and passions and quirks. I make sure to remember certain things about people. And yet that’s never reciprocated. It’s appreciated, and I love that I encourage and love people this way– but it never feels good when I’m the one needing the encouragement and support and don’t get it. No one ever does what I do for them in return (not that that’s why I do it, but it would make a girl feel loved every now and again).
I feel invisible when I try to hold conversation and share my stories and thoughts often. I’m always overshadowed. I’m interrupted and talked over constantly, making me think what I say doesn’t matter (which has been another ongoing theme in my life since childhood, so yay). I’ve not been paid attention to or taken seriously… sometimes to the point where I’m thinking, do people actually SEE me?!” (I sometimes choose to be obnoxiously loud so that I actually know people hear me, because sometimes it feels like I’m not even there. Oops).
It’s happened more than once just this week. It sure doesn’t make you feel good.
I’ve had this issue with friend groups… former roommates/suitemates… you name it, I’ve probably felt like the outsider looking in at one point or another.
Sometimes I feel invisible in my own home,
my (now former) schools,
It’s hard to speak up and actually make your presence known when you’re afraid no one’s going to listen or care. So I just sit in the back, or away from people, hiding and daydreaming.
I was the girl who got rejected by her ex-best friend when she found someone better (and then got dragged through the mud as a result, oh middle school drama).
For the longest time, I was the only friend in my friend group that came from a blended/broken/divorced home.
I was the kid that was bullied (for what reason, I don’t remember truthfully) in middle school and felt alienated and alone because of it.
I was the ‘different’ one in my friend group in high school (the choir kid in a group of drama kids).
I was the Jesus-obsessed holier-than-thou roommate my freshman year of college (which I now realize was the worst kind of me to be– sorry, suitemates). Then I had the roommate that was my friend (or thought was my friend) but rejected me shortly after we started living together. Then I lived by myself, because it was easier than being rejected by another roommate.
I was the one friend that graduated a year later than the rest, starting my ‘adulthood’ journey later than everyone in our friend group.
These days, I spend a lot of time alone, the odd one out in my house of 5 where everyone else has kind of buddied up (on accident, but still). I’ve had the same best friend for nearly a decade, but I barely see or hear from her unless I initiate it these days. I get it, life gets busy and things change… but it doesn’t hurt any less.
I text friends back often and usually immediately. My texts could go response-less and ignored for days.
I hate always being the one to initiate things. I hate being the one that cares so much. I want someone to care enough to text me, to invite me to do things. It just doesn’t happen.
I really just hate feeling alone.
These things truthfully are not about me and shouldn’t get to me in this way, but they just open and re-open wounds: I don’t belong. I’m not cared about. I’m not wanted. I’m too different. I’m not worth the effort or the time. So while these things look small, they have a huge impact on someone who has lived in this mindset her whole life.
I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling invisible, the outsider looking in. Anna Kendrick wrote in her memoir that “I’ve been prepared to be an outsider most of my life.” It couldn’t be more true for me. I’ve always been more anxious, more sensitive, more… just different I guess.
I don’t want to be invisible. I don’t like being an outsider, or feeling alone when surrounded by people.