What To Do When You Just Can’t

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As we begin our series on healing, it seemed like the best place to start wasn’t with a specific trial, but with the feeling that you just “can’t”.   Sometimes the problem is one BIG thing, but most often it’s not just the big stuff, it’s the entire pile of stuff! Life seems filled by a couple big things, some medium sized challenges and then all the little frustrations get added in. And it’s the little things that on their own would be no problem, when stacked with everything else, makes you feel like the whole world is out to get you. It seems like they come at you day after day in an attempt to drain the joy out of life and cause you to feel like you’ll never finish fighting.

I’m pretty sure you’re already envisioning your own past experiences dealing with exactly what I’m saying.

Sometimes you feel like you just can’t do it or deal with it anymore. And a millisecond behind that feeling is the knowing that things could be a lot worse and you don’t really have anything “that bad” going on. Then you kind of feel guilty for even thinking that you can’t do what’s right in front of you. And that just makes it worse. Haven’t we all been there?

Maybe it goes something like this—sick kids for days on end. You barely have time to wash the germs from one of them off your body before another one starts to come down with the same symptoms. And then there’s the additional laundry, special food requests, your regular job, childcare, housework, errands, your other kids who have practices and last minute projects, orthodontist appointments, and the husband you know you have but you haven’t actually seen or talked to in weeks because life is just this revolving door of exhaustion. We all have those seasons.

So what do you do when you wake up in the morning and force yourself out of bed, fighting hard against the desire to simply disengage and skip all this stuff? And how do you find God in it?   And what does he want you to find in this anyway?

What if all you’re supposed to find is him?

Here’s my take on struggles. He is not DOING this to you, but he is ALLOWING you to walk with him through it. Yes, walk with HIM through it. Life is hard. And there isn’t really an answer to that “Why?” question. Walking through the valley is grueling, and sometimes it seems like we’re there WAY too often and for FAR too long. But when we’re in the valley, we can’t stop walking.  We can’t set up camp and decide to stay. We simply have to keep going one step at a time. And in the desolate place, we find that we’re not really alone after all. We experience relationship with our father (God) in the valley that we wouldn’t have been able to see on the mountaintop. We find that he carries us when it’s hard; he encourages us when we doubt, and he strengthens us when we’re weak.

2 Corinthians 12:9 is a verse I lean into when I’m weak, And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” I’m reminded of the truth—I don’t have to be “strong enough”. I don’t have to fix it. I don’t have to force it. But I must engage his grace and receive his power.

The best way I’ve found to do this is through rest. Yes, I’m talking about all forms of rest. If you can go someplace quiet and lie down and focus your heart on God for at least 15 minutes, that’s fabulous. If it’s more of a place where you’re still doing the things you need to do, but you tell your mind to rest and you’re breathing in his peace, that’s great too. Cease. Stop. Breathe. We can’t put it off, and we can’t tell ourselves that we don’t need it or that we don’t have time for it. I don’t need to force myself to be stronger. I need his rest. You need his rest. We all need his rest! It’s ok to tell him that you can’t do this; he already knows.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28 

Resting is a challenge for me.  It does not come naturally. It’s hard for me to stop moving, both physically and mentally. But I’ve learned the value of rest. There have been TONS of moments where I have chosen not to engage his rest. I’ve pressed on and pushed beyond my limit. I’m not the only one who pays for that kind of mistake. My family pays. They feel it when I snap at them for one of those stupid reasons like spilling the contents of a cup or better yet, spitting the liquid that was in your mouth across the room because your brother made you laugh. Or when a bowl of cereal (and milk) goes cascading across the kitchen because one of my kids was being silly and thought they’d dance their way to the table. When a harsh word pops out of my mouth it hurts. It hurts them and it hurts me. I don’t want those moments. I want the grace filled ones where we can laugh and live and clean together. But in order to get to the those moments, I must choose rest.  I must surrender myself to that sacred place. It’s in those quiet moments where either my mind or body (or both) is still, that God speaks to me. His words—his love—change everything. My circumstances are exactly the same, but the way I see it, and myself, is different.

There are many good books on rest. And if you’re able, I’d encourage you to search out some of them. But there are times that you really don’t have any extra moments for reading aside from the Word, and if that’s you, there’s no pressure here. Just embrace God, and let him embrace you. Start with one small passage and read it over and over (for days and weeks if necessary) until it’s penetrated so far into your heart that it’s changing you.

[Place Your Life Before God ] So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2 The Message

I totally understand that this looks different at different stages of your life. Most of the time, it looks a little different every day. Rest with a baby or toddler looks different than rest with teenagers. Rest when you’re working full time looks differently than rest for a stay at home mom, or a work at home mom. Not one of these places or seasons of life offers us an automatic place for rest. It is space that we must make though—it recharges our soul, it invigorates our mind, and resuscitates a faltering heart. He invites us to come, to lay our burdens before him and receive his rest.

So what are you waiting for? Rest. Yes, right now. At the very least, close your eyes, breathe him in, and breathe the weight out. Start with a simple prayer, “God I am weary. All this stuff is wearing me down. Show me how to find you, to find joy, and find myself. I know that you are with me. I need you right here, right now.”

 

 

 

 

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To Help You Heal

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Life is hard. We all find ourselves up against “it”. There are lots of things.

  • A family member is diagnosed with cancer.
  • Your child tells you that they were sexually assaulted.
  • Your spouse leaves.
  • Your kids are bullied.
  • You are bullied (because let’s be honest, it happens to adults).
  • Your dreams fall apart.
  • You lose a friend to drug addiction.

This is just a short list. There are many other things that we go through that make us feel like we’re struggling to stay afloat in a sea of trouble. We can barely get to the surface long enough to catch our breath.

And that’s the problem. We feel like we’re fighting through, on our own, barely able to stay alive. There’s no one throwing us a life-preserver or helping us to shore. But here’s the truth—everyone is going through something. And most of the time, they don’t realize that we are too. If they do perceive our agony, the other problem is that they think they don’t know how to help. Let’s be honest, most of the time we don’t know how to help ourselves, which makes us feel incapable of helping someone else.

But the greater truth in all of this is that we are not alone. God is absolutely with us. He is fighting for us, and with us. He will equip us to not only survive, but to thrive despite our troubles. And when we learn how to do this, it gives us the ability to do the same for those around us.  We can offer that life-preserver we so desperately wanted to receive.

So what do you think? Think I’m totally out of my mind? Or do you agree with me? Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, too burned out to truly believe that you’ll make it through, but too tired of fighting to surrender yourself to the thought that “this is all there is.” DON’T surrender. This stuff you’re fighting is NOT the end of your life. It’s not the end of beauty and joy and redemption that God has planned. The resurrection days are just beginning if we stand in faith and don’t give up.

David said it well when he wrote Psalm 25, verse 16 reads like the cry of a desperate heart: Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.”  Here is what I know about God: he hears, he answers, and he comforts.  

Come with me on a journey this summer. We’ll talk about the hard stuff. And we will heal.

Follow along on my blog (https://whisperandwonder.wordpress.com) and my author Facebook page for video chats.

 

Outrageous

On May 28th, a 4-year-old boy crossed the barrier and fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The gorilla was violently dragging and throwing the child. The Zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team made the difficult decision to put the gorilla down to save the child. I’m sure you’ve heard the outcry. Obviously it was a terribly unfortunate and sad event, but the actual event is not the purpose of my post.

The outrage directed at both the boy and his mother is stunning, and I will not remain silent. This is not acceptable.

In an age of technology where “once you’ve posted, you can’t take it back”, I’m shocked by countless posts and comments that have the potential to follow and harass this family forever. There are many people saying that the mother deserved to die. There are other posts suggesting that the child should’ve battled it out in a “survival of the fittest” showdown with the gorilla. Anger is everywhere, and it’s outrageous. Everyone knows “this”. People at the grocery store where this family shops know this, neighbors know this, people on the other side of the world know this—everyone knows.

Can you imagine the kind of thoughts racing through the mother’s mind as her son starts kindergarten in the days ahead? Forget the typical nervousness. She’ll wonder if the classmates’ parents are the ones who thought she deserved death, or worse yet, if they felt like her son deserved to die.

It doesn’t stop there. Think about this boy. Imagine that 5 years from now attends a classmate’s jungle-themed birthday party. One of the other partygoers has heard his parents talk at home. He makes a comment that this child can’t wear the gorilla party hat because he’s a “gorilla killer”.

What about 10 years from now when this boy is working on a research paper for school and stumbles across the sensationalism of this story. It hits him in a fresh way because he’s older and he can grasp the reality that everyone, everywhere knows, and that they hated him. You’ve told him that his mother is an “unfit parent” and you hated her too. Why is that ok?

He’s going to read your comments. They’re going to take up residence in his heart and mind. You have the ability to impact his future. And you’re telling him that his life is worth less than that of a gorilla.

I hope you never have to understand what it’s like to have your child text you from school to say that they can’t go to class, they are in the bathroom crying, completely destroyed by a social media post from a classmate about the event that happened in their life 10 years before. As you read their text you can barely breathe. Your heart breaks into a million little pieces. You want to run straight to that bathroom and bring them home and never send them back into the “real world”. But you can’t do that. You work through the aftermath of this situation. But it’s changed you, and it’s changed your child.

IMG_8278Your words carry weight. Your words shape lives—they have the power to uplift or to destroy. Choose wisely.

I am not going to be an Israelite today.

We all have those moments. We all have those days that seem to push us over the edge of what we feel is “humanly possible”. Maybe it’s that one appointment I almost missed, or trying to squeeze one more end of the year activity into an already full calendar.

Don’t get me wrong, this life (all of it), is a gift. But sometimes I forget that, especially this time of year.

And then my mental stamina takes a nose-dive, and my thoughts follow along that downward spiral. My head fills up with all the stuff I’m not doing enough of, the extra time I do not have, and all the ways I’m failing. And you know where that goes. I become a miserable Israelite, wandering in the wilderness, full of complaints.

But I have a choice. I can choose to regain perspective.  I can choose to realign my “to-do list” with God’s call upon this season. I can choose to look for the things that may seem good, but are not good choices right now.

And then I can take a deep breath, and pray, and start over. I can begin again with a faith-filled focus on God’s amazing grace and his ability to give me more than enough.   “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  I accept His invitation.  IMG_7232

What God Does With Death

It’s Easter week. My heart’s focus is redemption. More than any other time of year, this week calls to me, it grabs my attention and makes me take a long look at life. And in this process of discovery, there are truths that I don’t want to forget. One of the main truths I see is what God does with death.

I’m not just talking about physical death. I’m talking about the death of hopes and dreams, death of desires and passions: the death of the heart. Let’s be honest with each other—sometimes externally we’re entirely alive but inside we are absolutely dead.

And there’s probably a very understandable reason (or perhaps a whole list) that explains why we are dead. While important to our condition, the reasons are not the focus of what happens next.

Think about the whole focus of Easter and ask yourself this question, “What does God do with death?” And hear the answer, full of love and tenderness, “He brings life.”

Jesus chose death.

His family, his friends, his followers, and even his enemies all thought it was over.  But God wasn’t finished, because he does something incredible with death.

He brings life.

And that gives me hope. Because I know death. I know human death and I know the kind of death that tries to creep in and suffocate. If we’re honest, we all know the kind of death that tries to steal our hopes and dreams. The “death” that wants us to give up. But I’m telling you that you have a choice. Don’t give up! Hang firm on this belief: death is not the end—it’s a new beginning.

Jesus didn’t stay dead. God had this incredible redemption plan for Jesus and he has one for us too. Resurrected life. Jesus lay in the tomb 3 days. To those on the outside it looked like everything was over. But, deep inside that tomb, there was something remarkable happening.

And that very same remarkable thing happens in our lives.

Jesus rested in the Father’s hands for 3 days. And then came the RESURRECTION! He came out of the tomb and was practically unrecognizable. He had to prove who he was by his scars.

And I promise you this: God still has the same plan. The answer to death is always life. When some piece of our life dies, God asks us to place ourselves in his hands and rest. In that place of rest he breathes life over us. He restores our soul, he renews our mind and he revives our heart. But that won’t happen unless we let go and rest.

So maybe this Easter week you find yourself in this very place. You’re broken, beaten and the weight of life is crushing you.  Maybe you’ve come here unexpectedly or perhaps you saw it coming. How you arrived doesn’t matter. Why you’re dead inside doesn’t matter. What matters is that death is not the end and this IS your time for life.

If that’s you, then I’m asking you to be intentional to the place of surrender. Lay aside the deadness and your perception of personal responsibility and circumstantial disappointment. Simply rest in your Father’s embrace. Allow him to renew you from the inside out, and stay as long as it takes.

His plan for you is LIFE, and it’s going to be glorious! When you come out of this tomb, you (and probably others) will only recognize the “you that used to be” because you still have the scars. The scars are a reminder of what was, but now life takes center stage in the radiance of hope restored and dreams revived. RESURRECTION! Faith and passion become focused determination to live this “redemption story”.

But you have to make the choice to believe that death is not the end. It’s a choice to embrace surrender. And yes, this choice costs something, but the blessings far outweigh the cost.

Life is captivating, and it’s coming for you. Love. God’s love. It’s coming for you. Open your heart and get ready. It’s time for resurrection.

God is real, he is alive, and his love brings us to life!

 

 

A Day for Celebration

Everyday.  To me, celebration is necessary.  It is relevant, and it inspires.  When I’m looking for a reason to celebrate, then I will surely find one.  Some days the celebrations are obvious, some days they are hidden.  Regardless, there is something worth celebrating every single day.

Look for it.  Seek it out.  On the gray days, dig deep, keep your eyes wide, and refuse to believe that celebration is not meant for you.

Why?

Maybe you’re in the midst of a struggle and can’t find it.  But Jesus is celebrating you. He’s cheering you on.  He rallies to your side.  He sees your struggle and your fierce determination.  You haven’t given up. You are loved.   And that’s reason to celebrate.

I think about all the people I’ve lost and what I miss the most are not the huge “party type” moments.  No, it’s the little ones.  I miss the moments that seemed insignificant- the moments that I wouldn’t have thought I’d remember years later.  But I do.  I miss the quiet celebration in my heart over 5 minute phone calls with my dad about nothing.  We simply talked about the day. And simplicity didn’t seem significant then, but it does now.

So I will celebrate- with good food, hard work, and satisfying rest.  I will celebrate with laughter over funny youtube videos and “minion speak” with my kids.  I will celebrate with 5 minute conversations and holding hands.

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And in that place of celebration, my heart is satisfied.

 

Suffering is not a competition, and neither is your response.

Everyone has an opinion on the crises throughout our world. Here’s my 2 cents. Suffering is not a competition. It’s not an “us vs. them” or a “me vs. you” scenario. Pain is pain. Period. Here’s what I know- we all face pain. Our circumstances are different but we feel the same way inside. And if we allow it, pain changes our perspective. Pain has the ability to give us eyes to see and a heart that beats with passion and purpose.  I don’t have to experience your exact circumstances to feel motivated to do something to help you.

But here’s the kicker—I can’t just feel the motivation and let it fizzle away. I must choose to embrace the compassion in my heart and do something for you. From experience, when I let the compassion fizzle, it dulls my sensitivity. The more often I’m moved but do nothing, the less compassion I will feel in the future.

You can say that the refugee crisis is a religious thing, and you can quote verses to back yourself up—either for or against. I’ve seen it go both ways. But I’m telling you that it’s not a religious thing. It’s a cry from the depths of humanity to live and breathe. And that’s a hard thing to fully understand from the comfort of an American lifestyle. But I can’t close my eyes to their struggle and I can’t silence my ears to their cry.

No, America isn’t perfect. Yes, there are many other groups of people who need our help. But it’s not a competition. If you feel compassion for veterans, then help them! If you feel mercy for the homeless, then help them! If you feel tenderness towards at-risk youth, then help them! And if you are concerned about the refugees, then help them!

But don’t feel compassion and let it fizzle. If we decide not to help the refugees it means that fear has won—the terrorists have won, and they have terrorized us to the point of their control.

Let love win. We’re not all called to do the same thing, but we must do something!

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