Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spiritual Warfare and When Everything Is Fine But You Aren't

You can stand with hands raised in worship one day and kneel with hands over your face in frustration hours later.

It is entirely possible to sing and smile on Sunday only to lay awake Sunday night with tears trickling into your ears, eyes staring straight upward, asking God once again to be near.

I don't care if you've gone to church every Sunday since you were still in your mother's womb - darkness is real and it spares no one.

Even Jesus? Yes - even Him.

Everything can be fine on the outside and you can be completely un-fine on the inside.

It's pretty hard to explain that one to the people around you. "What's wrong? What's going on?"

"I don't know" is the only response you can manage and I just want you to know, friend, that it's okay.

It's okay to not know where the heaviness has come from as long as you know Who can carry it.

It's okay to be frustrated when you can't find the answers if you can hold tight to the only Answer.

It's okay to wrestle and fight if you lay there each night knowing He is fighting for you.

It's okay to not be fine when everything around you is fine as long as you remember the Truth.

It's okay to not know how to answer the people around you if you know the only way to answer back to the darkness is to say one name: Jesus.

Whisper it when you're scared, when you're tired, and when you've got nothing left but Him.

Shout it when you're angry, when you're passionate, and when you've got everything to fight for.

Sing it when you're still, when you're in the battle, and when you've gotten through another day.

There isn't always a reason for the sadness or the heaviness. Sometimes walls go up and there's simply no explanation.

Don't fight alone. Take the risk and let someone behind those walls. Allow them to help you tear them down and choose to fight together. Ask the ones you trust to bring your name before the throne daily until you're no longer drowning. But if that's too hard and you simply don't know how to manage any of it, not even one more thing, then this is what you've got to know:

Just say Jesus.

Repeat what you believe not because you've stopped believing but because there is power in the name. He is light and darkness must flee. Whisper how much you love the Father, offer praise to His Son who was crucified and then raised to life, and gratefully ask the Holy Spirit to intercede when you have nothing left to give.

Go ahead - talk to the darkness. Tell it what you believe and feel free to mention how the battle has already been won. Jesus comes out victorious, so keep on whispering that name, friend.

And it's okay if you wake up tomorrow and the burden hasn't lifted. It's alright if you find yourself weeping an hour from now, completely unsure what has upset you so much.

Sometimes Goliath looks more like getting out of bed in the morning than a giant looming. Sometimes Goliath looks less like an enemy and more like letting someone into your lane without waving your arms. Sometimes Goliath looks more like a waiting blog post than a battle waiting to be waged.

Today we will simply stand. We will choose for today to pick up the Sword and to be prepared.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

It's funny, all this armor of God that is listed out for us to wear. The one thing that will pierce, the one weapon we are to wield, is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. And I can't help but wonder why God would ask us to put on armor when we already feel so weighed down.

The tip of Goliath's spear weighed close to 15 pounds and his armor was likely 125 pounds. David, completely armor-less and fighting with a sling and five stones, killed the giant with one shot.

Could it be that the armor of God carries the weight for us, lifting it off and placing it in His hands? Is it possible that David was wearing the armor of God and that as we open His Word each day we are sharpening the tip of an invisible sword?

You don't have to win the fight - that's already been taken care of.

All you've got to do is stand.

Some days that feels too hard to manage, but it is possible. He brings beauty from ashes, light from dark, and life from death. Put on the only armor that will be a relief instead of a burden.

This is why we can stand with hands raised in worship. It is why you can whisper His name until sleep comes and the darkness must take a step back. And it is why it's okay to not be fine even when you keep on fighting.

Today, we're simply going to stand.

I'm joining this week with several women I admire, offering encouragement and telling His Story through the words just say Jesus. Feel free to join the link-ups at Holley's, Jennifer's, Beth's, and Holly's each Wednesday morning, and by all means happily pin and share these images!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bloom {Five Minute Friday}

Let your roots grow into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7

Even when the rain falls
Even when the flood starts rising
Even when the storm comes
I am washed by the water

I can't draw a full breath.

I'm living on stale oxygen, sucking in air before I go under again.

I've been drowning. Rain has fallen so hard and for so long that I'm flat worn out from dog-paddling. I've swallowed salt water from my own tears and have cried out for mercy, for a lifeline, for someone to hear the desperate pleas.

They've been muffled by the sound of the waves and I sink further, lower, deeper.

I write about belonging and the truth is, I didn't write it for anyone but myself.

Because I feel like I don't. And so I write what I would want to hear, what I need to hear, and I tell myself that if the lies are gonna pour down then the Truth is gonna have to rain down, too.

All images are created for you, friends. Feel free to save or share.

Darkness has come and attacked. The winds are mighty and strong. I long for quiet and rest but they push me down and under and I am tossing, turning, churning.

He knows it because I've told Him so - If life is a flower bed then the truth is I love the gardner but I don't always love the garden.

I'm bent over with petals flat on the ground as the gardening hose drenches day after day and I am a sopping wet mess.

But the roots are growing deeper. The darkness hasn't disappeared and the water is still pouring but I see the sun peaking out.

I will bloom where I am planted and the rain will strengthen the roots.

Sometimes you hit publish when the words don't make any sense at all. This is one of those times, and truly all I can ask for is grace. Grace for the messy, grace for the true, and grace for the fact that although everything is fine - I am not. I'm learning daily - sometimes hourly - how to combat the darkness and I although I don't have the answers, I do know the Answer. So I dig in and of this I am sure: His Word is a life preserver.

We gather. Fast and in five minutes, with sisters and lots of delicious. Every Friday the prompt goes up at Lisa-Jo Baker's and #fmfparty slows down. We write. We breathe out our hearts, sharing the hurts and the joys and splitting hearts and words wide open.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Women: We Can't Shrink Back

This is a follow up to the recent post For The Girls With Thighs That Touch. We will not - can not - shrink back or shrink down just to please another.

Sun streams in mid-morning and I stumble down the stairs after completing my morning work routine.

There are days things go long or go wrong and I rush from one thing to another out the door, but on the slower mornings I make my way to the kitchen.

Grab bowl, pour water from the tap, heat it up and open the package of instant oatmeal. Stir until the water soaks in, the grain soaking up, and then eat before rinsing and placing everything back as it was.

The house is still quiet, the boys asleep from a late night of goofing off, and I am a ship moving in the night - except it's 11:03am. Unless they dig through the trash, and since they are teenage boys, I am most certain they will not, they'll have no idea that on a Tuesday morning I found my way to the kitchen counter and swallowed the bites of oatmeal I don't even like, all with their words in my head.

"Bud, she just downed that whole piece before you."

And I smile. The oatmeal is sticking to my throat and it tastes like a bowl of nothing, but I eat it anyway because today the battle is won.

My brothers will not know me as the girl who shrinks back or shrinks down just to please another.

Oh, they aren't disillusioned. If there are any three people who have seen the worst of me, it is these three. Fights and words that never should have been spoken, rude looks, hours of silence, I've done it all.

They have seen me at my weakest and my worst but I am determined to show them the other side of the same girl.

They can blame me for the awkward moments of walking the row of feminine items at the grocery but they're also gonna have to blame me for the knowledge that women come in all shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful.

They don't live with a magazine cover model. I wear make-up on my birthday and to Christmas Eve service. Unless I am headed into work, you'll find flip-flops on my feet.

They can't blame me for living with a girly-girl but they can sure as heck blame me for showing them that being a girl means more than carrying a purse and wearing heels.

There was a brief season when I would walk into the kitchen and right back out. My clothes were tighter than I wanted and I cared more about how I looked than how I lived. I picked at myself and picked at my food and no one seemed to notice but the mirror.

I swallowed words and swallowed food and it all tasted like nothing. You can chew and swallow and still be empty inside.

This wasn't an eating disorder, it was a terrible mind trap. I simply cared about the wrong things. Maybe I thought in order to be considered a winner you had to be slimmer, smaller, thinner. Maybe I listened to the lies and covered my ears to the truth.

One day I just reached out and picked something - anything - and I ate it anyways. I wasn't hungry in the least, but I acted in defiance. The mirror lost, the pantry won, and whatever food I swallowed was a victory.

My brothers will not know a size 0 sister, but each day they see a girl look herself in the mirror and walk out the door with her head held high.

We sat in a food court on a Tuesday night and I laughed because I was the first to demolish a piece of pizza.

I thought nothing of it - but they noticed.

And I don't feel any shame in that. Because this is real. This is me. I like pizza, so what, right?

Except it matters, that's what.

It matters more than a $2.98 slice.

Because they're watching. The food going in and the thighs that touch and the smiling going out the door.

They're watching and I will not be responsible for showing them a fake, photoshopped, carrot stick version of their own sister.

They get me, all of me. The one who makes weird faces and made-up words, the girl who sings off-key and changes into pajamas within five minutes of returning home from work.

A piece of pizza showed me that I'm showing them what a woman is. That's scary and weighty . . . but I won't shrink back from that either.

I'm joining this week with several women I admire to go first in being vulnerable, in talking about hip size and touching thighs and choosing not to shrink back. Feel free to join the link-ups at Holley's, Jennifer's, Beth's and Holly's each Wednesday morning, and feel free to eat that slice of pizza.

{Photo source}

Monday, July 14, 2014

Passion [Book Review]

There are people who doubt my generation. They say we live on our phones, are selfish, and don't care for anyone other than "me, myself, and I."

And there are days I believe that, too.

But then I meet others who believe differently and are doing something to show that our generation may be known one way but we are not all the same.

There are those standing up to say it only takes one to make a difference and so why not be that one?

Aliza and I are taking a stab at it, and there are countless others, too. I'm going to keep saying it until I go hoarse: this generation can flip this world upside down with the love of Jesus.

I believe it in my core, and I smile big when people choose to support, encourage, and push this generation.

There are those who choose to champion us instead of chasten us.

Recently, a few of those people wrote a book together for everyone - not just generation Y.

I think you need to read it. Every word of it.

PASSION: The Bright Light of Glory is a compilation of stories and messages (many, if not all of them, from the Passion Conference) written by Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, Beth Moore, John Piper, Judah Smith, and Christine Caine. Each message is a direct transcription from the conference, so if you were unable to attend Passion 2013, this will be a little bit like you're there.

The heartbeat is Jesus and the book is centered around one point: we each only get one brief shot at this thing called life, so we've got to make it count. How can we be the ones that burn brightly for His renown?

Each chapter beautifully weaves Scripture into storytelling and truth into what seems ordinary. Stories that I've heard told over and over again came to life with these words.

Let's be honest - there were a few moments reading this book that I physically felt my eyes glaze over. I had to read and re-read paragraphs until I felt like I had at least a loose grasp of what was being said. But then other chapters shook me up so much inside that the book would sit on my nightstand for days, my mind tossing and turning.

It will make you think. This book will challenge you to examine what you really believe and what that means for your life.

Each of the authors and speakers taught me multiple things and I re-heard truths that I'm afraid I forget a little too often. To give you a little glimpse at the words inside, allow me to share a quote or two from each contributor:

God didn't take away the holes in His hands and His side; the scars remained. But they were transformed from a mark of pain to a mark of victory. The same thing happens to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We bear those marks of what once was so that we can show what now is. -Louie Giglio

What is the one passion of your life that makes everything else look like rubbish in comparison? Oh, that God would help me waken in you a single passion for a single great reality that would unleash you, and set you free from small dreams, and send you, for the glory of Christ, into all the spheres of secular life and to all the peoples of the earth. -John Piper

God's Word was not meant to build up our theology. It was meant to change our reality. -Beth Moore

You operate with a massive advantage: you are working from acceptance and not for it. You strive to be the best, not so that you can be applauded by someone else, but because you are already dearly loved by God. -Louie Giglio

We might be tempted to equate compassion with getting sad watching a movie or hearing a story. That's not compassion; that's sentiment. Compassion isn't compassion until you are actually interrupted. It's not real until it inspired action. -Christine Caine

"I finally asked one of the leaders, "Don't you have people in your churches who just call themselves Christians but don't really live it out?" He just looked at me and said, "That wouldn't make any sense. If you call yourself a Christian, you automatically lose everything. Why would someone volunteer for that if they weren't serious?" -Francis Chan

Don't let past mistakes delay today's obedience. -Beth Moore

Let's be careful, students, that we're not busy adhering to a code or concepts or principles and we miss the person. It's all about Jesus. -Judah Smith

Personally, I refuse to pretend being a 20-something in todays world is easy. It's plain hard. But with every truth poured back in, it's a little bit easier to remember who I am because of Whose I am.

I highly recommend PASSION: The Bright Light of Glory to you, not because it's encouraging or written by some amazing people, but because it is packed full of Truth. If you truly read and let it sink in, you will not walk away unchanged.

Writer's Note: I was provided a copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links are included in this post.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Belong {Five Minute Friday}

I see you in the corner, picking at your fingernails and ducking your head.

You're fighting back the lies and pushing against the walls you've built inside but you're stuck.

Every time someone attempts to help, to love on you, to whisper kind things, you burrow further inside. With everything you are, you're crying to be loved - maybe just simply appreciated.

But with every advance of community the walls climb higher and higher.

I see you.

Behind the fence and the barricade, past the walls and the broken spaces.

I see you. And I will fight for you as I fight with you until these walls come tumbling down.

You belong here. The corner was not made for you - it is never meant to be a home. There is a safe place and it is in the arms of community.

And oh sweet one, I promise there will be times of hurt and community will disappoint but we will say it loud until the walls crack and you're unchained: you could never un-belong.

You are seen. You are dearly loved. You are valued.

The work you do is important even when it is not recognized. The words you write are moving even when the comment box is empty.

There is nothing you could do, nothing you could say, that could ever make you un-belong.

We gather. Fast and in five minutes, with sisters and lots of delicious. Every Friday the prompt goes up at Lisa-Jo Baker's and #fmfparty slows down. We write. We breathe out our hearts, sharing the hurts and the joys and splitting hearts and words wide open. {Tonight we are visiting Crystal Stine to join the link up, as Lisa-Jo is out of town.}

Related: Last July we wrote on BELONG, and you can read that post here.