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…

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!**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if He’s not real? What if God is not real?

 

“What if He’s not real?” He asked, almost in a whisper, as if the question would offend me.

Pausing a moment to consider, I reached for another fry and decided the best reply was the truth. “I have had many doubts throughout my lifetime.”

He tilted his head, surprised, and interested in what I was going to say next.

“I would go as far to say that every Christian has had doubts, at least once, I mean, we’re human… ”

“I may doubt,” I continued, pushing my plate aside and looking directly into his eyes. “But at the end of the day, my belief is bigger than my doubts.”

“Whenever I have had a season of doubt, God has faithfully and gently answered them in a way only He could. He has come through and done things that I have no other explanation for.”

Sharing our doubts..

I think something amazing happens when we are honest with unbelievers about our faith and our doubts.

In those moments of honesty, they see that this faith is all-inclusive, it’s not meant for the über religious. It’s meant for all of us doubters, sinners, and skeptics. When we share how Jesus works in spite of our doubts, we give them encouragement to step into that faith for themselves.

I don’t believe we should “hide” the places where we struggle in our faith with the world. What would this prove? We are not perfect. Seeing our imperfections while we walk this road, shows them we are aware of our shortcomings and that Jesus is still the answer to them all.

Yes, Christians doubt.

What if He’s not real? What if God is not real?

We love Jesus, but we have moments of doubt because of this world we live in and our humanity. Maybe some of you can’t relate, but I know some of you absolutely can.

Within our church communities, there needs to be a space for understating and encouragement while we share our struggles with doubt. We can provide hope and lift each other up while we show how Jesus meets us in these rough places.

And really, doesn’t it feel like a sweet relief when someone speaks out loud a fear you secretly have struggled with? It certainly does for me.

Why do we as Christians behave as though none of us struggle with this?

Because we do.

We doubt because we’re human.. and God isn’t holding it against us.

Everything I have learned about His character is that He longs to show us more of Himself and isn’t mad at us when we stumble into a pit of doubt.

Remember “doubting Thomas?” Did Jesus scold him and tell him how awful he was for doubting?

Nope. He actually showed more of Himself to Thomas.

He offered for him to look at His wounds, to inspect the evidence and then He called on him to make a choice.

I think many people are under the assumption that faith in Jesus Christ is a blind faith. It’s not, and this scripture proves that.

He gives us evidence and then He asks us to make a choice based on that evidence.

“Reach here with your finger, and see my hands; and reach here your hand and put it in my side; and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” John 20: 27

I have always loved his story within the Bible.

It’s just so me.

I can completely relate to wanting proof. But more than this, there is a particular blessing from Jesus that is neatly tucked within in this story, meant specifically for us. 

“Thomas answered and said unto him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?”

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  

How beautiful is that? That’s for us, friend! Jesus spoke these words over 2,000 years ago about you and about me. There is a special blessing on us because we have specifically believed without seeing.

He absolutely knows our faith is hard. He knows it’s not easy to walk by faith and not by sight. He knows we will be tempted to doubt. And he’s not upset with us for that.

I doubt. I am a Christian. I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, I love him. But I doubt.

In some of my darkest days of anxiety, one of the greatest fears that nagged at me was the very question my unbelieving friend asked me.

What if He isn’t even real?

I have come to find that we have a God and a faith that can stand up to the questions we ask and the doubt struggles we have. Some of my greatest faith strengthening moments have come from Him meeting me in my times of doubt.

There are 6 words I pray when doubt enters my mind.

“I do believe, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24

I have whispered these words and He has answered in incredible ways. They carry truth and power in the fight with doubt because we are coming to the only one that can cure our doubts.

And He is faithful to do so.

So, I suppose in the end, it’s not our questioning that matters—It’s what question are we asking?

The more important question isn’t, “What if He isn’t real?”

It is, “What if He is?”

The evidence is there to answer the question, each one for ourselves.

**Want to read more? John chapter 20 and Mark chapter 9 are the scriptures I mentioned in this post. Some other great scripture in times of doubt; John 4:39-42, John 14, Psalm 28:7, 1 Peter 1:8-12


What if He’s not real? What if God is not real?

To be sorry…

The door swung open to my right as the lukewarm water splashed over my hands in the sink.

“Excuse me.” Said the woman pushing her way through the bathroom door.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” The words spilled out of my mouth before I even realized what I was saying. As I finished drying my hands, the elderly woman closing the stall door quietly said, “Never be sorry,” with a smirk.

I politely smiled as I started to walk out the door, face flushed red at the admonition. Good Lord, why do I always say I’m sorry for everything?

“Sorry, I’m in your way, sorry I’m in line before you, sorry I’m breathing, sorry I’m alive..”

It’s what I say.

It’s this annoying, knee-jerk response I have to any inconvenience, even if I did absolutely nothing to be sorry about.

“Why do I do that?” I muttered to myself under my breath as I walked to the car.

Exhaling deeply, I fastened my seatbelt as I thought about those words the woman exhaled.

“Never be sorry.”

They sound wise.

All of the things that I was sorry for began marching through my mind. The list was long.

Turning out of the parking lot, I turned down the radio so I could hear my own thoughts a little more closely.

“Never be sorry,” I whispered to myself. I like the idea of never being sorry, it’s like “no regrets.” But truth be told, I am sorry. I do regret. It sounds so virtuous to never be sorry, to yell at the top of my lungs, “no regrets!”

The problem is, I have lots of regrets.

There’s plenty of things I wish would’ve done and even more, I wish I wouldn’t have. Words I’ve spoken that I can never take back.. and so many I’ve left unsaid.

“What right does she have to tell me to never be sorry?” I asked the silence sitting next to me.

Frowning, I realized I was being unfair. She may have been sorry about many things in her life and wanted to give a little encouragement to those that still have many days of regret ahead. I don’t know the life she’s lived.

But nonetheless, I’m sorry.

It’s okay to be sorry

Reading this morning about King David and his life in I and II Samuel I noticed that he was a man who was sorry. Psalm 51 is one of the greatest “I’m sorry’s” in the whole Bible. At its simplest, it is an I’m sorry for what I did. In return, God extends His gracious forgiveness.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions…against you, you only, have I sinned. According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.” Psalm 51: 1,3,4

If we’re sorry, a true repentant sorry, that’s never a bad thing. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. There is so much to be sorry for. And quite frankly, that’s okay.

Having said that, I don’t think God intends for us to walk around constantly sorry. The point of this Psalm and the forgiveness we find in Jesus is restoration. We can be sorry but then we move on in the grace and freedom we find in Him.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Looking up the various meanings for steadfast within the Bible, the word translates to be firmly established, stable, secure or settled. I just love that. We say, “I’m sorry” and in return, he gives stability and security.

That sounds like freedom to me.

Even within our earthly relationships, there is so much to gain from being sorry. In parenting, I have learned the importance of saying I’m sorry to my children when I’ve messed up. For years I did not realize that it is as essential in our relationship, if not more so, for me to speak I’m sorry as it is for them to say it.

There is a barrier that breaks down when they see the humanness of their mom. And for me, a perfect humility created within my own heart when I turn to them and ask for forgiveness.

I believe this seeking and giving forgiveness is a basic relational component designed by God for us with Him and each other.

So, next time I knee-jerk speak those 2 words, I’m sorry, I’ll be a little nicer to myself. Even if not completely necessary at the time, I’d rather be open to being sorry and the freedom that comes with it, than not.