Just worship

I’ve always been a person who tends toward the darker side of life. For a very long time I lived in the negative. Somewhere along the way I made a choice that it was easier to embrace pain then to try to change who I was.

Last year I made a real and true commitment to follow Jesus with all my heart. Over the course of this last year, I’ve been learning to trust God as the Lord of my life in more than just words. I’ve been growing with God in an intense way. I’ve felt my faith strengthening. I’ve worked to build a real relationship with God through reading the Bible, a commitment to prayer, and attending church as more than just a social gathering.

A few weeks ago I noticed some of my old patterns and feelings coming up. I was unreasonably annoyed with the little things of life. I was frustrated by everything. I wasn’t treating my husband the way he deserves to be treated, at all. I was struggling to just get through the day, instead of appreciating each day for the gift it is. I started to feel extremely anxious in social situations, which is something I haven’t had to deal with in months.

When I’ve felt this way in the past my response has been to isolate. I would stop talking. Sleep as much is my schedule would allow. Not spend time with my family. Stop going to church. Stop reading the Bible, because it’s easier to escape into fantasy books then it is to really try to give God‘s word all your focus. Stop praying. Stop listening to worship music. I would get caught up in the cycle of feeling bad because I was feeling bad.

Once I figured out what was going on, I decided not to do that this time. I didn’t miss a single day of praying. I didn’t miss a single day of reading the word of God. I didn’t miss a single church service. And while I wasn’t always is nice to my husband as I should be, I didn’t shut him out. I prayed every day that God would show me what this was, and help me to get rid of it. I told God that I was tired of going back to the same patterns I’ve been repeating since I was 11 years old.

Wednesday night, my husband was out with my stepdaughter so I had the house completely to myself. I turned up my worship music as loud as it could go and danced around my living room like an idiot. I spent most of that two hours praying for others and not myself. But near the end of my worship time I heard God say to me, “just worship.” I decided to take that literally. I spent time in worship, with my christian playlist whenever I could on Thursday and Friday. Yesterday I went to a women’s conference and during worship time I pretended I was in my living room, or at my home church, where I worship like only God is watching me. I didn’t focus on the 350 other women around me, I didn’t worry about what others might be thinking of me. I just worshiped.

This morning I woke up with a very true and real sense of peace. I found myself smiling at nothing while making breakfast for my kids. I prayed a true thankful prayer to God for his peace, and his joy, and his love. There is absolutely nothing different about my life today than there was yesterday. There is no reason for me to be any happier or on happier. The only reason that I am not stuck in the same depressed cycle I was in three years ago, is because of God. I am learning to trust God, to seek God, and to worship the Lord my God no matter how I feel.

In doing that, God is teaching me that he can use my feelings. I can be an intense person, and that can be a good thing when that intensity is focused on God. I can be an emotional person. And that can be a good thing, when I’m using those emotions to bring others closer to God. I am learning to let go of who I used to be, and the old things that gave me comfort, and hold onto the only true comfort there is in this or any other world.

“Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”

Psalm 100:2 NIV

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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.