Silence

All my life I’ve hated quiet. When I was a teenager I’d sleep with headphones in and music blasting. I’d always have 1 earbud in with music playing so I’d never risk even a moment of silence. In the last few years it’s been books. I’d have an audiobook on constantly. I’d fall asleep listening to stories because I didn’t want to listen to myself thinking.6 months ago my husband and I started going to church. I hadn’t attended church regularly since I was a teenager, and quite honestly, when I was a teenager church was a social gathering for me. It was the one time a week I could see people my age. I didn’t go to learn Gods Word. I didn’t go to worship or build people up or anything. When my husband and I started attending our church we also started reading the Bible daily. We do this together and on our own. 

I’ve noticed changes in my husband more than myself over the last 6 months. I’ve seen his faith become stronger than I’d ever have believed possible. I’ve seen his calm when over his anxiety over and over again. I’ve seen him become a leader to the kids and I like never before in our relationship.

This week however we’ve taken our bible study time to a whole new level. We run a paper route which means we drive around all night throwing news papers. Yeah, some people still read actual news papers. My husband and I love our job because it gives us about 5 hours a night to just talk. Some of our deepest conversations have been had over news paper bags. The past few days we have been listening to the Bible read in audiobook while we drive. We listen to 4 hours of bible reading then we talk about what we’ve read. I ask questions about what I don’t understand. We share the things that got our attention the most. And something has started to happen to me this week.

Instead of needing a constant distraction I WANT the quiet. I want to lay in bed with my husband and just be thankful for the time to rest. Silence has become a gift, not something to be afraid of. Instead of listening to my audiobooks I want to listen to worship music. I notice the lack of God in the places he should be. I notice the wrongs in myself and I work to make them less. I miss my bible time when I don’t get it. Reading the Bible has gone from something I do out of obligation, to something I’m genuinely excited about doing. Church has become second home for my family, rather than something to be endured on sundays. My prayer life is a constant thing now instead of a last resort in emergencies. I’m beyond thankful for the changes God has been making in my heart. And I’m so excited to see what’s to come.     

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What doesn’t work, and what does.

What doesn’t work, and what does.

I’ve always been a different kind of person. I feel things deeply and I have a very hard time letting go of anything. When I was 11 and my family moved from California to a small town in Arizona what I was feeling was incredibly alone. For more than 10 years I tried to find a way to break that feeling. I tried to make myself feel anything else because the loneliness was eating me alive and I didn’t want to be entirely consumed. What I found was a lot of things that didn’t work. I found a lifestyle and an attitude that kept me from disappearing altogether, but in no way filled the empty, lonely places in my soul.CUTTING DIDN’T WORK!

For a very long time I believed slicing myself apart was the only way I could control the feelings that would rip through my head. I thought that lies and blood and secrets and pain were the best I was going to get. I wrapped myself in the identity of a depressed emotional girl and I held on to that tightly. I held my knives and my pain and my scars very close because I believed they defined me. I didn’t really want to be broken, but that was far better than being nothing at all.

STARVING DIDN’T WORK.

When I was 16 I put all the will I had into quieting the part of myself that told me I was UGLY, FAT, NASTY, WORTHLESS. I went on the diet. I pulled all my mastery at lying and hiding to the surface and I stopped eating. I lost 40 pounds within the span of 2 months and I sucked up the approval of everyone I knew. I thanked my parents and siblings and boyfriend when they told me I looked sick. I never told anyone when I passed out on the living room floor. I didn’t care when handfuls of my hair started coming out. None of it mattered. The feeling of being empty because I was starving was far better than the nameless ache for SOMETHING that I’d always had before.

LOVE DIDN’T WORK.

Falling in love with the wrong boys didn’t work. The label of being someone’s girlfriend didn’t give me the belonging I believed I needed. I still felt every bit as lost as I had before, but with the added fear that the boy would leave me. Because of course, I wasn’t good enough for them anyways. Falling in love with the RIGHT man didn’t work. Even when I found the man of my dreams, who has loved me the right way from the moment we met, I still didn’t feel like I was good enough. Why would this beautiful, smart, funny, charming man want a wreck of a girl like me?

CONTROL DIDN’T WORK.

Trying to control EVERY aspect of my life and my families life didn’t make me feel any more at peace than I had at any other point in my life. Budgeting our money, obsessively scheduling our time, and constantly worrying about absolutely everything DID NOT WORK. Those things did however drive my family crazy. I became someone I didn’t like being around. The expectations I put on myself and everyone else were nothing short of impossible to reach. So what have I learned from all of these failed attempts to make myself happy?

IT WON’T WORK.

I will never be able to make myself feel better. I will never be able to cut or starve or control the emptiness away. I can’t make my life or the lives of those I love perfect. I’ve learned that I DON’T HAVE TO. Through a faith that is growing every single day, I’ve learned that no matter what I do to mess it up, God does in fact have a plan for my life. In spite of my flaws and all of my brokenness I am loved beyond understanding. I have learned, and am still learning, that if I let go and trust I will be better than okay. Everything will work out exactly the way God means for it to work out. I’ve learned that even the things I’ve seen as bad in my life were being used for good. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be perfect because I’m already perfectly loved. In all of this, I am finally coming to know PEACE.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/jer.29.11.niv

Surface Christian.

I never would have described myself as a surface Christian. I mean, I have always believed in God and Jesus. I grew up in church and youth groups and the whole thing. If you had asked me yesterday if I had a strong faith, if I was a true believer I would have said yes, and I would have believed I was being honest. I realized today though that I’ve been living my life on the very edge of faith. I’ve been standing on the shore rather than diving completely into the ocean.A couple of months ago my husband and I were invited to church by the man who presided over our wedding. Because my husband and I felt such a genuine connection with this man we decided to check the church out. We had been together for 2 years and while we both have a true relationship with God, life and our circumstances had prevented us from attending church regularly. We went into this church with open minds but not very high expectations. We were quickly reminded of how God works in our lives. 

Every week the message has had something to do with 1 aspect of our lives or another. My husband has totally immersed  himself in studying the Bible and prayer in a way that I’ve never seen him do before. Because of his true desire to become closer to God he has become a totally different person. He has a peace surrounding him that I can’t even believe some days. He has become quicker to pray and slower to react in every situation. Until today however, I wasn’t really getting it. I was seeing the changes in my husband and the strengthening of our relationship because of it, but I wasn’t finding that peace or that closeness in my own relationship with God.

Today I finally prayed. I asked God to show me what it was that I’ve been missing. I asked him to show me why I’m still panicking over every little thing and getting so lost in the stress of life. I asked to truly feel Gods spirit in my heart. And something remarkable happened to me.

As I stood praying in church with my husband and kids I had an experience that I’ve rarely had in my life. I heard a voice in my head that was absolutely not mine. I felt the words in every part of my soul. God spoke to me and said, “I have given you so much in your unbelief. Why do you still doubt?” This statement applies to my children. When I was 18 I had a hysterectomy. I chose at that age to not risk passing the gene that caused my cancer along to my babies. As a result of that choice, I believed I would never have children. In spite of my doubt and worries and stresses, God saw it fit to bless me with a daughter that inspires me every single day, a little boy that stole my heart completely, and an angel baby boy who I want more than anything to make proud.

Today when I looked at these gifts from God that I did nothing to deserve I felt like a fool. I have seen the evidence of God working in my life every day for the last 24 years yet still I’ve held onto my pride. My human nature told me I didn’t need to get any deeper into my relationship with God than I already was. I was on the surface of Gods love, only dipping my toes into what this relationship could be. Today I made the choice to accept this invitation from God. I chose to let go of every single doubt and every bit of my human stubbornness to handle my life myself. Today I decided to throw my arms out to God and dive completely into the Ocean.

Reminded Yet Again

I laid down in bed this morning with a sense of dread. My boyfriend and I are working an incredibly hectic schedule that has us running nonstop from friday afternoon to sunday night. I don’t mean nonstop like we won’t have time to watch the latest episode of some show, or see the latest score of some sports game. I mean we usually don’t have time to so much as sleep between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. This week has been one of our busier weeks, so it’s been a long time since we’ve had one of those sweet, relaxing days where there’s no where to go and nothing that needs taken care of. This morning I planned to lay down and read some of the mindless science fiction novel I’m currently wrapped up in until I fell asleep. I knew I’d be exhausted even after I woke up. because of course, I only had a few hours until I had to get up for work. I actually laid down expecting the rest of my day to pretty much suck, with maybe a couple of good moments, if I was really lucky. As I was opening my book app to start reading I had an overwhelmingly strong feeling that i should have been doing my bible study instead of reading more stories that I’m just using to waste time I don’t have to be wasting in the first place. In one of my finer moments I listened to that feeling and opened my bible study book instead. The chapter was on being refreshed. The scriptures were all about how God is there to offer strength to those who feel weak. How God is there to offer refreshment to those who are exhausted. I read this chapter and I put on a worship station on my phone. After a few minutes I was praying like I haven’t in way to long. It became one of those times I just spill my heart open to God completely. As I started to give thanks for the things in my life that are undoubtedly blessings, something in my heart opened up. Without planning to I started thanking God for the things in my life that don’t feel like blessings right now. I thanked God for those people who can drive me the craziest. I thanked God for the times I am exhausted. I thanked God for all of the things I have absolutely no control over. I thanked God that I don’t need to have that control. I thanked God that I don’t have to understand how he will use all of those things to put me exactly where I need to be, I simply asked for the faith to believe that he will. When everything in my head and heart had been spoken out loud to God and I was just laying in bed humming one of my favorite worship songs I noticed that I felt more awake than I had in days. It wasn’t physical rest and surrender I needed to find today. It was most certainly spiritual rest I was in need of. I have done versions of this exact same thing since I was a teenager. I let other, louder, more demanding things come before my need to pause and just be with God. I say a quick prayer before dinner and call that good for me and God time that day. I get all proud of myself because I managed to listen to 1 worship song in my music mix any given day. I forget that truly coming to God with my heart open isn’t another obligation I have to meet before I get to relax. Rather these moments are the most real peace there is in this life. These moments of true connection with God are a reward, not an inconvenience in my oh so busy and important schedule. In this clarity today I see that I’m remarkably blessed and I am so grateful. This is my promise today. I will put God above all else. I will put my trust in God above all else. I will put my faith in God above all else. And I will thank God for every single blessing, and every single thing I don’t yet know how to see as a blessing.     

Worship.

My boyfriend and I are studying “With My Eyes Wide Open” the latest book from Brian Welch. We’re only on chapter 5 at this point but there is one thing that has stuck in my head so far. This guy was the guitar player for KoRN, one of the number one bands at the time. He walked away from a life of drugs and rock to follow Jesus. Anyone can say that’s cool. I mean really. Who wants to be a drugged up mess? But this guy also walked away from a contract worth millions of dollars because he knew it wasn’t what God wanted for his life at that point. He said no to everything the world had to offer on faith alone. That’s what’s smacked me hardest at this moment. Has your faith ever been that strong? So strong that you looked at what the visible world had for you and you said no. That’s not enough. I want more than this for my life. I don’t think there are many people who have done something like that. This morning I started my day off with my Christian music playlist, the first time I’ve opened it in months. I heard a song that took me back to when I was a little girl and living my everyday in the most real depression. I remember standing in church absolutely alone and singing this song. I remember crying real tears, not because I was sad, but because that was the only time in the world that I didn’t feel empty. I remember I’d stop going to church, I’d stop talking to God, and I’d always feel that same feeling of peace and love when I’d finally go back. This morning in my bed, not a church, I had that feeling again. Not because of the song, but because I prayed when I started the playlist. Asked God to be here while I worshiped. At the start of this book my boyfriend made a joke that’s stuck with me. He said, “we check our bank accounts everyday. When was the last time we checked our faith accounts?” It made me laugh when he said it, but it’s completely true. I’m sure you have a million things to do today. You’ve got kids. You’ve got work. If you’re me you’ve got kids, work, a school paper, and a dog that needs food too. God easily gets bumped to the background because he isn’t going to cry for your attention like your 4 year old or your hungry dog. But I can honestly say at this moment, having started my day with worship, I’m more peaceful than I’ve been in a long time. Studying this book has gotten my boyfriend and I talking about faith more in the last 5 days than we have in the last year. If you give God your time, you’re the one who wins. I’m making a commitment here today to start my days off with God in worship. Start my day in this world right. 

Faith in progress.

I am a Christian. I believe in God and Jesus. God is a real part of my everyday. I don’t doubt the power of God in my life. I believe with my everything that my life is not mine to plan, but part of a much bigger picture. I believe this. Well, I say I believe this. I believe I believe this most of the time. You know, until things get difficult at which point I get insanely control freaky and I start PLANNING! WORRYING! My boyfriend and I are compatible in most every way. He and I are an incredible team. We parent the children as a team. We take care of our life as a team. One of the only areas we conflict in is my worrying. I tend to over worry about our finances most often. When I worry, I go one of 2 ways. I get pissed, or I shut down altogether. Worried Harmony is not a good team partner to have. She is not a good mom. She is not a good friend. Quite honestly, she sucks hugely on every level. I KNOW this. Even though I know this, I still worry every time something comes up. This month for example, I have 2 weeks of unpaid vacation. I spent the last 2 weeks stressing out over this. I laid out an unreasonable budget for my boyfriend no less than 209 times. I stress my poor stepdaughter out with my worried, sucky, Harmony attitude. I had nights with my boyfriend where I refused to even speak to him. Not because things were bad, but because I was angry with him for not worrying with me about a possible time in the future when things may be difficult. How incredibly stupid is that? So yesterday I got paid. I made A private decision not to worry about the money situation. I prayed over my check when I got it, handed it to my boyfriend and committed not to worry about it. My not worrying about it equated to me telling my boyfriend I wanted nothing to do with the money situation for the rest of the month. “You deal with it. I’m not worrying about it.” I don’t think that’s exactly what he’s been waiting for me to realize. Mostly because he knows me way better than that. He knows I am incapable of not worrying about things. I can talk a lot of game about how I’m not going to worry while continuing to worry extra hard. Today I got a smack me in my doubting, worried, stupid human heart moment. A few months before I got my job, in the middle of my worrying I posted a bunch of stuff on EBay. I was going to be an EBay super seller and NEVER worry about money again!!! And then only 2 of my things sold. After I got my job I no longer thought about the EBay stuff. I let all my posts expire. Today I got a message enquiring about one of my expired posts. This item ended up selling today for exactly the amount that I won’t be making at work the next 2 weeks. What does this mean? This means that all my worrying was absolutely pointless. This means I’ve waisted days of our lives being a B word to my family for absolutely no reason. This means that God took care of us, like he always has, like he always does, even though my faith is CLEARLY a work in progress. I’m writing this as a public thank you and apology to God for being an idiot most of the time. And as a reminder to myself for the next time I want to slip into the worrying mindset. I am not the boss of my world and I don’t want to be. God can take care of us much better than I ever could. No matter how much I worry.