Learning how to talk to God

how to talk God

Listening has never been my strong suit.

On the contrary, talking is second nature to me, as evidenced by a letter my mom wrote to my grandmother when I was about 4.

She wrote, “Susan is the loudest little girl, she runs all around the house just talking and yelling.” “I think she just loves the sound of her own voice!”

Ouch, mom. * Eyes rolling with head lowered in embarrassment.

Sadly, not much has changed. Anyone that knows me, knows that I like to talk. A lot.

It’s just how I process. As you can imagine, it’s a bit of a difficult place to be when listening is a far better, less selfish skill to have.

Thankfully, in the Bible, I find myself in good company, although, it’s not the ones with outstanding character qualities and endless amounts of faith that I relate to.

Usually, it’s the misfits.

How to Talk to God

The listener and the talker

If you’ve heard anything about Mary and Martha from Bethany, I’m going to bet it’s been praise for Mary and a steady shaking of the index finger at Martha for being consumed with busyness.

When we stumble upon Mary and Martha in the book of Luke, we see Mary seated and listening and Martha serving.

“…She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Tell her to help me…” Luke 10:38-42

“The Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part..” Luke 10:41-42 NASB

Oh, that Martha… Complaining, fretting…

I’ve always had a soft spot for this poor girl who was busy serving and looking for help. Instead of validation, she was reprimanded and then used as an example for the next 2,000 years of how not to do life.

I’m thinking this wasn’t her ultimate goal.

Yes, Martha was serving, she was fretting. But do you know what else she was doing while Mary was sitting?

She was talking…To Jesus.

The message I have always heard about these two sisters was this, be like Mary, don’t be like Martha. End.Of.Story.

Because I have a penchant for the underdog or possibly because I feel like maybe she got a bad wrap, I started paying a little more attention to Martha than Mary.

And wouldn’t you know it? My perspective changed a bit. I felt like I was standing on the other side of the room getting an entirely different view of Martha as a person.

What has resonated the most with me is that she came to Jesus with this assumed grievance without fear or hesitation. She clearly was used to talking with Him and felt comfortable doing it. You’ll also notice, Jesus listened and was genuinely concerned with how anxious she was.

I became aware of how Martha was speaking to Jesus rather than how wrong she was. I began checking all of the other places in scripture where Martha was mentioned and sure enough, you guessed it.

She was talking.

“..a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.. Luke 10:38

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. John 11:21

Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” John 11:24

Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” John 11:39

Carrying our burdens to Him

Over in the 11th chapter of John, we find the siblings again. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, had died and was buried. They were grieving and upon hearing Jesus was coming, Martha went to meet Him and Mary stayed back. (literally translated “was sitting.”)

I don’t know why Mary stayed back but I love that Martha went. Even in their grief, we see their personalities.

Mary sat quietly.

Martha grieved and processed in the only way she knew how,

She talked… she went.

She meets her Lord on the road, eyes, red with pain from weeping hot tears, brow furrowed at the seriousness of her words as she looks up into His eyes and speaks.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.” John 11:21, 22 NASB

Jesus states that He is the resurrection and the life and asks her if she believes this.

“She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” John 11:27 NASB  

This statement of faith is beautiful. Martha proclaims God’s victory while choking back tears at the very present loss of her brother. It’s incredible to me that she was brutally honest with Him, both in her confession of faith and in her expectation of Him. She carried her burden of grief and disappointment and in the same breath confessed Jesus as the Messiah.

None of us are “less than”

Some of us naturally talk more than others and I’ve finally decided that maybe it’s not a bad thing after all.

Of course, I’m certainly not advocating to go around saying whatever you want, there is discretion. But, what if sometimes we can be a voice for those who can’t find theirs?

I have felt “less than” because I am innately a talker. I wonder if Martha ever felt this way.

I’m thankful for her, this woman who walked alongside Jesus thousands of years ago and welcomed Him into her home. I am thankful for her words to our savior and the example she set for how easily we can speak to Him.

I have a new perspective on the whole Mary/Martha paradigm.

Mostly because of this;

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus.” John 11:5

Just to clarify, what it doesn’t say:

“Jesus loved Mary and Lazarus and, oh boy, He sure would’ve loved Martha if she would’ve just shut her mouth every once in a while and sat at His feet.”

Nope. It says He loved Martha.

He loved them all. Equally.

Warts and all.

Talker. Listener. Sick

There is value in our talking.

We as Christians have raised Mary to this place of superiority because she was a listener. Jesus praised Mary but didn’t tell Martha not to talk to Him about her concerns.

By putting the sole focus on Mary’s listening, maybe we’ve missed the beauty of Martha’s brazen confidence to speak to her Lord.

I believe we can learn just as much from how Martha spoke to Jesus as we can from Mary’s actions.

Talk to Jesus

Martha brought her concerns and carried her burdens to the One that could correct her thinking, and in exchange, Jesus engaged in conversation with her. He listened to her, even when she may not have been in the right.

It’s not our job to pretty up what we bring to Him. We’re just supposed to bring it.

He can do the prettying up thing all by Himself.

Even though I’m a talker, I’ve been afraid in the past to speak openly to Him. Like He didn’t already know about the bitterness, sadness, fear or jealousy I had in my heart.

We don’t need to be afraid to speak to Him, He already knows what we’re going to say anyway.

Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord you know it all. Psalm 139:4  NASB

Whatever crazy thing you’re thinking or feeling, just say it. He’s not going to shy away from your ugly, your mistakes, your missteps, and assumptions.

He listens and if needed, kindly speaks back, even if it’s with correction.

He did that for Martha and I believe it changed her.

I believe it will change us too.

This post is also shared over at the Salt & Light link-up and at Tune in Thursdays, Come on over and read some other fantastic posts!

Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For

I never thought I'd be

Thankfulness can sneak into the most unlikely of places.

The end of this year finds me rapidly heading out of my 30’s and smacking straight into 40. (No, an exact date need not be mentioned here.)

As I look back over these years, I’m thankful for many things, which include obvious blessings, like my family and amazing friends. And of course, my Jesus.

Today, however, I find I am also thankful for a few things that surprise even me.

Things I Never Thought I’d Be Thankful For:

Slow starts and small beginnings

I’m not going to be shy about telling you that I’m new around here. You, my dear readers, are on this journey with me as I learn, and by God’s grace grow. I’ve been overwhelmed lately with my to-do’s, whether it be for my blog, homeschooling, or any number of other things in my life.

If it were up to me I’d have it all be full-grown and magnificent immediately. You know, snap my fingers and voila, D.O.N.E!

However, that’s not God’s plan. Instead, I feel as though it’s all progressing so S.L.O.W.L.Y.

While feeling frustrated and overwhelmed today, I realized that God’s grace is all over the slow starts and small beginnings of life. His lovely grace is apparent in giving us sweet, tiny, extra lovable babies at birth. Not full-grown 15-year-olds, with stinky, size 10 feet, facial hair and a deepening voice that more often than not talks back. (Oh, I’m sorry, too specific to just be an example?)

The recognition that I wouldn’t know what to do with an instantaneous full-grown-dream occurred to me. With tears in my eyes, I stopped and thanked Him for where I am. right. now.

Without those slow starts and small beginnings, there would be no hard lessons learned and magnificent little triumphs.

I’m thankful that He allows us to dip our feet in the water slowly. He is gracious to allow some changes gradually, even when I wish things would progress much faster. He knows this anxious girl can only handle a few things at once.

I may want something badly, but He knows just what I can handle now.

His timing is perfect and I’m thankful for that.

Thank you, Jesus, for slow starts and small beginnings.
For Anxiety

This is something I can genuinely say I never thought I’d be thankful for.

But.

I am.

I was once an extremely fearful girl. Filled with panic, fear, depression, and pain.

I sometimes read words I used to write back then, meeting up with that fearful girl every once in a while to remember where I’ve come from. There is a place for sitting with her, listening to her and remembering the journey.

I do this, so as I sit with others I can listen to them and relate to their journey.

When I was in the midst of that painful place I never imagined the beauty that could come from it. While in the storm we find it nearly impossible to see far enough in front of us to know it can be a gift.

I used to beg God daily for my anxiety to go away and I longed to forget the rocky road I had walked. I saw no value in the cuts and bruises I had sustained along the way.

I’ve since learned that forgetting would render me ineffective.

I can choose to hide them and go inward or I can take those scars, show them to the world and offer encouragement to other hurting souls.

You don’t even have to be finished with your path to be used by Him, which is the most beautiful part.

There IS beauty IN our pain and redemption in our ashes when we allow Jesus to use them.

It’s not just a trite saying.

Every time I sit and remember the fearful girl, I walk away a little more thankful for me. Because after all, I’m still her.

I’m thankful for my story.. for anxiety.

Because;

There’s hope in my scars.

Healing in the tears.

Wisdom from the pain.

Encouragement to be shared by an imperfect woman living an unfinished story, written by the ultimate story-teller.

Jesus, thank you for showing me your love even in my anxiousness. Thank you for showing me that perfect love casts out fear.

For my imperfections and weaknesses

There are many things I don’t love about myself. I’m learning every day to appreciate my imperfections because they are a part of who I am.

I laugh loudly. (And may have been known to snort while doing it.)

I talk loudly and give my opinion far too easily.

I love ice cream and chocolate Way. Too. Much.

I tend to talk far more than I listen.

I’m a procrastinator.

I give up too easily.

I jump to conclusions.

I’m fearful and highly sensitive.

My imperfections and weaknesses abound…

And I am thankful for each one simply because;

 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.

For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

 

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving that you never thought you would be? What things do you feel you could never be thankful for? And, what do you long to be thankful for but just can’t be right now? Bring them all to Him and lay them at His feet, dear friend.. 

 

 

 

How Does Jesus Speak to You?

Pillow, blanket, toothbrush…

I can’t forget my Bible.

I marked off the mental checklist running through my mind while wandering around my room packing my bag for my weekend away. Naturally, I love the idea of going to a women’s retreat, there’s just one small problem.

I’m neurotic about my sleep.

Jesus and

Jesus and My Fan… A Story About Jesus Meeting Me Right Where I was. 

I promise I’m not just high maintenance. You see, about 18 years ago, when I started having severe anxiety and depression,  I went through what I now affectionately call, “my breakdown.”

At the time I was a 21-year-old woman, reduced to the status of a little girl. I was frightened by almost everything and didn’t sleep for 4 days straight and struggled with sleep from then on. Night time was just, well, hard.

I have come a long way, but as with any trauma, scars remain…

Being out of my comfort zone and sleeping in a strange place is a struggle for me. Because of this, I like things a particular way when I sleep:

  • My bed
  • A dark room with one, maybe two night-lights
  • The room can’t be too hot
  • Did I mention my bed?
  • Last but NEVER least, a fan. I must always have a fan.

(I know, I know, you’re questioning that whole “high maintenance” thing about now.)

You could probably put me to sleep at most any time of day by switching on a fan. I may possibly appear to be a narcoleptic at that moment. And supposing people came with an instruction manual, mine would simply say:

Wake me up? Turn off my fan.

I am so excited to be featured over at Married by His Grace today, come and join me there!

**Read the rest of my story Here. It’s all about Jesus, a fan and how He meets us in the most unlikely of places…

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Do not let your heart be troubled or let it be afraid.

let your heart be troubled

Earlier this last month I spoke a little about “doing it afraid.” 

It’s funny to me how just when I write about something, Jesus gives me a chance to live it out. I have to face something that I find very scary and a friend kindly sent those 3 words to me in a text. I smiled reading it because I knew it was my words. A little “practice what you preach” was most definitely coming my way.

It keeps me on my toes, I guess. (Oh, Jesus, following you certainly never leaves me with a dull moment. We’ll have to have a discussion about this someday along with the fact that I can’t seem to consume copious amounts of ice cream without getting fat. It all seems so unfair..)

 As for now?  Well..  practice what I preach.

“For we walk by faith not by sight..” 2 Corinthians 5:7

I love the NLT version of this scripture, “For we live by believing and not by seeing.”

Living by belief and not what we see is exactly what I meant by doing it afraid. The whole point of “doing it afraid” is to prove God’s faithfulness in our lives.

It’s easier said than done, right?

Living with anxiety tends to feel like we have a serious disadvantage in the whole walking by faith realm. It can feel like a non-stop uphill battle and an unfair one at that. When we are anxious, everything we see, feel, hear or touch screams at us because we are so overly sensitive to everything.

I was just talking with a friend the other day that is currently struggling with some severe anxiety. She was telling me that every sound puts her on edge and all I could do was nod emphatically.

Anxiety and stress cause every nerve in your body to be on high alert. Every person that has ever lived knows how it feels to be “on edge,” even if they do not struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. Living with anxiety means being over the edge every day.

When I am dealing with strong anxiety I struggle to eat or to sleep. Obviously, both are necessary to function normally. So, as you can imagine, I don’t function quite “normally” in my day to day life when this is happening.

The question remains, how to live by faith and not feelings when anxious or depressed?

It has taken me quite some time to learn how to walk by faith in seasons of anxiety or depression.

The key phrase being, “learn.”

I’ll start off by saying something you will hear me say often; it will take time. Thankfully, however, God has nothing but time. Remember to be kind and give yourself lots of grace. Putting one foot in front of the other and accepting who you are and the fact that God accepts you just as you are. He is not upset with you for being anxious.. and no, you’re not a bad Christian. (I’ll talk more about this in upcoming blog posts.)

Learning..

When I truly began digging into God’s word for the answers to what I was going through, without expecting it to be a quick fix, (This will ALSO be a topic for another day) It was the smallest things that opened huge doors for change.

Reading in the book of John for probably the hundredth time in my life, I turned to chapter 14, verse 27 and began to read.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

It never stops amazing me how God uses His word in the simplest ways that make the most impactful changes in my heart. It’s especially amazing when it’s a passage I’ve read time and again.

That word “let” leapt off the page at me. I distinctly remember staring at it in amazement because it explained something I never knew that I didn’t know.

Reading that sentence over and over, I narrowed it down to the main point, “Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid..”

“It’s a choice.” I whispered out loud to no one in particular. And smiled.

I had a choice.

It almost sounds silly now typing that small sentence. But it is huge.

When you truly begin to BELIEVE from the heart that you have a choice, it changes everything. This tiny portion of this verse spoke volumes to me because I was finally  ready to stop being a victim.

Let me pause and explain something here. I know what it feels like to be upset at statements like the aforementioned. Because I know what it feels like to truly BELIEVE there is no way out.  Please understand what I am saying, anxiety is not something we ask for, but it is something we can choose or not choose in a moment. I used to believe I was a victim to anxiety and fear, I believed I was ruled and defined by it. No, I didn’t ask to be prone towards a fearful, worrying mind and anxious body, that was not my “fault.” However, when we believe in Jesus He gives us self-control over our mind and emotions.

I am a new creation in Christ, but my body is not new yet. Therefore, here lies the tricky in-between where I must make a choice. When I read the truth of “Let not your heart be troubled,” I learned that feelings don’t rule me. Jesus does.

If you know anxiety and the feelings that come with it, then you may be sitting here thinking, “yeah, easy for you to say!” Believe me, I get it. We can not change our feelings in a moment. It’s not about changing our feelings, so much as not allowing them to be the final say. There are times my heart is pounding out of my chest and my stomach is in knots. The key is, I don’t have to let my mind follow.. because it always tries.

I absolutely have a choice.

I do not have to LET my mind race down a rabbit trail of fear.

Every moment we live is just that, a moment. We live life in snippets of time and therefore, we make a million choices within moments every day. I have to choose in that moment of anxiety or panic if I’m going to allow His peace to rule me instead of the fear. I choose to put one foot in front of the other, walking in the direction of Jesus’s peace.

The best way I have learned to describe this, is being in a boat on a stormy sea and just “riding it out.” The difference between me now and me then, is that now I believe it’s not a passive “riding it out.” When I would have anxiety or a panic attack in the past, I would sincerely believe there was nothing I could do. In my mind “it” was happening to me. Now, I believe I have a choice in the matter. It may not be pleasant but I can choose where I set my mind. I ride the waves, focusing on the horizon and the truth that my feelings don’t rule me. Jesus does.

This is a little bit of where the “doing it afraid” comes in. Your feelings are just that, feelings, they are going to mess with you and come along for the ride no matter what. So, I say, do it, believe you can, feel that fear and let Jesus prove His truth is bigger than your feelings.

I can tell you that after years of dealing with anxiety, speaking truth to my mind in the midst of a panic attack or anxious episode, always makes it go away faster.

Truth believed and acted on in the heart of a child of God can do amazing things.

Speaking Truth

If you are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, remember that speaking truth to your mind is the most important thing to do. It can mean the difference between falling into a deep pit of despair and simply just having a rough day.

There are times we can’t speak lengthy scripture passages to ourselves or pray eloquent prayers, we just don’t have it in us. When you are in this place, keep it simple and speak a small truth that you know means something huge. When you do this you’re training your brain and changing your belief.

Focus on a simple truth and say it out loud if that helps. Or say a simple prayer, asking God to help you believe that you have a choice. Sometimes we don’t even feel as though we can choose in those really hard moments. Focus on the truth and keep moving forward. Remember, “it’s just a moment.” I would often tell myself, it’s just a moment, I’ve lived thousands and thousands of moments. He has brought me faithfully through all of those moments, He will bring me through this one too.

If you stick around here any length of time you will hear me say this again and again; Anxiety does not just vanish in a moment or go away over night if this is something you deal with regularly. It will, however, lessen over time as you implement tools in your daily life. Also know that your faith walk will look a little different in seasons of anxiety and/or depression. That’s ok. Remember, be kind, you’re human, you’ll have good days and bad.

My friend, struggling with controlling emotions doesn’t have to define you. You have a choice. Living by believing sounds so mystical and other worldly, but really, it’s simply speaking truth to ourselves and continuing to choose to not let our heart be troubled. Even when it feels like the hardest thing in the world to do, you will find your savior always faithful to help.

 

 

**I’m working on getting some printable’s up with simple truths that you can carry with you. Check back soon for these!**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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