Hide and Seek

Just in casual conversations in passing I realize that because of everything that is chaotic around me lately in life I’ve been getting this intense desire to just..hide. I wait sometimes to open e-mails that I perceive to be problematic, I don’t reply to texts right away even if they are positive ones, I’m afraid to go to work most days because of the pile of work I am still trying to catch up on, and really all I want to do is run away and hide. I am depleted. I feel like I have nothing more to give. I feel like I am failing and falling flat on my face. I catch myself sometimes thinking about completely leaving the country, or totally caving in on myself by quitting and staying in bed all day and vegging out, or thinking about being able to hide my perceived failings at work by thinking about just being married with kids staying home and not having to ever be an an office again etc. And while binging on DVD tv series and eating donuts in my bed aka my Christmas days off this week isn’t necessarily a bad thing and feels pretty amazing (can I get an amen) I feel like it is not always in a way that is totally healthy and borders on not being normal. It feels safer I guess than coping with the things around me that I cannot change.

It occurred to me the other day that this phrase “Hide and Seek” easily applies to my spiritual journey. I want to hide. I sometimes actually do hide, but I also know that ready or not Jesus is going to come looking for me. He is going to seek me even if I do not want to be sought.

Today as I return to work from what was a nice relaxing lazy break I remind myself that though I have the urge to crumble and cower and hide..the Bible says that Jesus can be my hiding place. I can find shelter under His wings. He is my refuge and strength.

Test Me

In Malachi 3:10 God instructs us to tithe. This is something I have only done a few times in my life despite growing up as a Christian because honestly I live paycheck to paycheck and feel in a way like–it’s important to do and yet it’s terrifying because I’m used to ends not meeting. Feeling like my contribution is not enough, or it is enough but I’m scared to give it because there isn’t anything left over for the other bills. The other unexpected things. Feeling like I cannot get ahead no matter how I try. Like I can’t step up to the next level because doors for new opportunities seem to peep out at me through the door and slam shut once they see it’s still me knocking away. Emo perhaps but true.

Ever since going to “Heart for the House” the annual giving my church participates in I’ve felt like it was important for me to give. Even though it is a sacrifice and even if I’m honest enough to say it’s not with 100% joy. More like 100% fear.

Anyway I decided to give today. At 2:33 pm on 12/16 in the midst of a sick anxious stomach. In the amount of a Bible verse. In the midst of a work day where I feel like once again I’m coming up short and can’t get ahead, in a week where I continue to fight feeling the hopeless feeling of this is as good as it’s been and it’s not good enough, in the presence of only seconds ago making the comment that I can’t do this anymore. That I feel like it’s been a long 3 years of closed doors, and not having enough money, and feeling stuck and not understanding why God will not save me from this. Why I can’t make little money at a job where I don’t feel torn down, or make more money at a job that isn’t as bad. I know he hears me and yet I wonder how much longer I have to endure before the doors are thrown open wide and what I’ve been waiting for comes.

So I’m challenging you Jesus. I’m testing you. You say “Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.” Well God your dreamer is waiting.

No eye has seen

On December 5th I thought about writing something relating to 1 Corinthians 2:9 but it has been a whirlwind since then and I didn’t. One of my friends from church reminded me to read it after I thanked her for a much needed hug at the end of a mid-week service. It was just one of those nights, days, whatever where I felt completely incomplete. Where you walk through the doors to church, or into the elevator to work, or through the streets overflowing with tired commuting bodies and you feel completely weightless but also weighed down. What I mean by that is that you can almost feel yourself floating above everything, unable to cope with the chaos below and the days you are in, but yet you feel the reminder of that painful heaviness in your chest that grounds you. Am I the only one in this season?

Anyway it was just one of those nights. I was tired, I was weighed down, and honestly I was just pissed. It was a long day at work, I almost missed this night, and by the time I got there–it was late. I was bracing myself to have to stand even though I hadn’t eaten dinner and felt totally depleted. I was bracing myself for what I suspected to be another disappointment. I had invited my mom to come in and join me and she was already waiting for me to come get her from Port Authority and I was in RARE form. If there was the possibility that I could actually breathe fire that night, I think I could have. It was not a good look and yet, I couldn’t contain it. I was just exhausted from an awful day of work, and disappointed that what should have been a light in another dark work week was going to be ruined.

On top of it the foyer to the service was brimming with the most irritating, ill-timed…..dare I say happiness? Christmas cheer? I’m normally not this bitter but you almost had to laugh at the irony of my terribly ugly mood in the midst of laughter and caroling. Long story short, somehow I got preferential treatment or my mom complained about her aching knee loud enough for someone passing by to hear but we were led to a special elevator in the building where the event was to be held and we got great great seats. So all of my complaining and bleep worthy behavior and here I was in a seat like nothing was wrong. Okay God. I guess I can shut up now.

By the end of the service I felt better, the message was great, the worship was great, everything was great and yet I still felt the same mostly broken self I walked in as. I was still mad. I was still annoyed that I needed to go home tired, and wake up tired, and go to a job where I know I am unhappy and overworked and unappreciated. I felt grateful and ungrateful all at the same time. I was tired of feeling so low, tired of feeling lost, tired of hearing about how great things are happening in the church and for people, and yet not for me. When would it be my time? So in the midst of waiting for the elevator back down I see my friend in the crowd and probably gave a half smile or a barely-wave and she scoops me into this hug. The kind of hug where I guess you need one but you don’t want one. When I am in this mood I just want to fold into myself, to just sneak into the elevator and haul ass home. Certainly not to be hugged publicly when I’m in a totally nasty mood. And yet I guess she sensed it was needed. I was just tired. I probably looked like hell. I probably talked and explained my mood in a totally defeated way and she hugged me longer than comfortable. And yet the tick, tick, tick, of time past what was comfortable, past that threshold and I had to hold myself together. I almost completely lost it. Eyes were brimming, lip was quivering… I’m tired of being THAT girl. The one who is defeated, the one who “must be strong or God wouldn’t be trusting me with this”, etc etc etc. I’m tired of enduring.

The next day I thanked her for her hug and she told me to read 1 Corinthians 2:9 and that “God has something for you, you just can’t see it yet”. To remind you and me both here is what the verse before and after it says:

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.

But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.

Basically no one can comprehend the vast possibilities God has in store for his children. I cannot dream up how good the plans are that Jesus has typed up for me specifically. While I was just an unformed blob with no brain, lungs, or other organs he was already “nesting” waiting for me. He was already creating a place for me within a time I had not entered and yet—I find myself doubting that I believe that some days. God do you know me at all? Don’t you know I am not happy here? Don’t you know I feel lost there? Don’t you know I feel alone? Unloved? Untalented? Lacking? Forgotten? And yet you remind yourself that the plans He has for you are so unbelievable that no one has heard, imagined, touched, or experienced anything exactly like it. Nothing is off limits from the kind of surprises and blessings God is arranging for those who love him. Even a seat in a venue, that I wasn’t early enough to get. Why is it so hard to believe it.

I think sometimes I get so caught up in my own unhappiness in what I do not have that I forget the story isn’t over. Jesus wants and will give me the things he promised. So why is it so hard for me to rest in that? Why do I doubt that He will give me those things just because they aren’t here yet. I remember in the Bible when Sara laughs in Genesis 18 when she is told that she will have a son. Even though it wasn’t a loud mocking laugh, she laughed to herself in doubt about it happening. Even God is saddened by this in verses 13-16 “Why is she laughing…is anything too hard for God?”. Like hey Abraham why doesn’t she believe me? Why doesn’t she trust me? And you know what? The thing that really kills me lately about this verse is that THIS. IS. ME. This is my attitude. I am the one laughing.

I just pray that I learn not to allow all of the things that have gone wrong and continue to go wrong totally eclipse the truth which is that this is not over. I might be blind to the blessing now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. That doesn’t mean that my disbelieving Sarah laughter will not be replaced by true joyful laughter when His promise does finally come true in a tangible way.

Shame

I was reminded on Friday at work when I made a big literal mess at work when trying to fix an appliance and got submerged in muck that a lot of my struggles in my office are a direct result of shame. I’ve already been overwhelmed with my workload this year, made more mistakes this year than ever (or my perception has make me feel this way) and I’ve felt very low about what I’ve been able to pull off lately. When I saw the mess I made, my arms and shoes covered in ink in front of co-workers I felt it. Shame. When I make mistakes and get yelled at for problems I feel it. Shame.

We all know the phrase “Oh well I’m only human” and yet even as a small Kindergartener I remember vividly even feeling ashamed of myself or things that I didn’t do right even back then. So it’s no surprise that if I could feel those emotions back then having experienced very little that I would also feel that now having gone through much more. I know this feeling well. And though I am pretty good at hiding my sadness, and anger last week I lost it. I burst into tears. I think the combination of people laughing at me in my mess, and being overburdened with work, and full of fear with all of the mistakes I had been making I just felt embarrassed of myself.

In Isaiah 54:4 MSG this verse came up and it brought tears to my eyes today:

Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed.
Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.
You’ll forget all about the humiliations of your youth,
and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.
For your Maker is your bridegroom,
his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel,
known as God of the whole earth.
You were like an abandoned wife, devastated with grief,
and God welcomed you back.

Jesus says not to be ashamed or embarrassed about your past or even your present because He is not ashamed of me so I shouldn’t be either. In His freedom I should live because of what He took from me at the cross and yet it is hard for me not to feel grieved and “widowed” by the abandonments, failures, and other mistakes albeit little work errors currently. I spend a lot of time wondering why I am continuing in what feels like never-ending punishments without relief and why in the interim I can’t perform better than I am. Why am I not better? Why can’t I do better? Even though the workload is unmanageable some days why can’t I just say I’ll do what I can do in my power and then let it go? Why am I hard on myself and then ashamed for whatever I cannot manage?

My hope is that in this season I will continue to fight against my feelings of shame and inadequacy and see that you know what I can make mistakes and even if people dog me for them it does not have to define my character or mar all of the good things I do accomplish.

I can’t fail when You never fail

My Bible app verse yesterday was John 16:24 in the NLT version “You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.”

I love that. Now I usually stick to the MSG bible just because of the way they phrase things–the language is often very poetic and beautiful to me but occasionally other versions trump what the MSG version has to say. So congrats NLT. 🙂

Anyway I thought this verse was fitting in a number of ways for me personally:

1. I feel like I am in a season of life where I am uncertain of myself because I am going through things in my walk with God that I haven’t gone through before

2. After hearing Robert Fergusson speak at Radio City for Hillsong NY Conference I have been challenged to ask for things “in Jesus’s name”

3. I am desperately in need of more and more of His “abundant joy”.

Now right here in the Bible it is addressing the fact that Jesus knows I haven’t done this before and I haven’t been here before. Like in my last post He is taking me to places I have never been to and with that comes uncertainty. In my own strength it is hard to walk this path with Him; paths that years ago I didn’t have issues looking down or difficulties navigating. I go in and out of feeling anxious and lost. Yet He calls for me to ask for things (whether it be guidance, patience, or more tangible things like a specific answer to prayer) and to ask for them using His name in the midst of it all.

Now when you grow up in Church you are used to tying off the bow of a prayer with “In Jesus’s name–Amen”. It’s like the Christian version of “In conclusion” or “the end”. And yet I loved the different things that Robert Fergusson had said about the significance of His name. I took this from his posting on Hillsong Collected:

…In the Bible, names have far greater significance. When God showed Himself to Moses, He revealed His Name. When Jesus Christ asked His Father to protect us, it was through the Name that God had given Him.

It was this revelation that inspired the Early Church. They called on His Name: Jesus Christ. They acted in His Name. They understood that they were carriers of His Name. They were identified by it. It was their access to the Father. Through it they had authority and power. When Peter and John healed a lame man it was “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 4:10). They declared that, there was “no other name” (Acts 4:12) through which we find salvation.

I guess I never spent too much time thinking about it. It’s just what you called Him. It’s just what you said when you were talking about Him, things like that. And yet there seems to be something supernatural really that happens when you ask for things in His name because it is the Highest name you can use. It’s like an oath. It’s signifying that you will get what you are asking for because His word cannot come back void, even if it is in His time and in His way. It’s kind of like an adrenaline shot or a second wind that propels the prayer to heights you weren’t prepared to reach for. I think C.S. Lewis says it best with relation to what I am talking about on a personal level:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I mean really? It’s a perfect explanation because I think you go through life thinking certain things in your life are already renovated. Granted it wasn’t handled by a professional, but you’ve watched some HGTV you’ve pinned enough DIY on Pinterest. You got this. And yet it’s like Jesus kicks down your front door and yells into a megaphone “WHO ASKED FOR AN UPGRADE?” Believe it or not, want it or not, I think God’s blueprints call for upgrades you don’t even think are necessary. You just replaced that “stove” you just patched up that “hole in the wall”. What’s the point?

The point is sometimes you get used to living in a crappy apartment. It suits you. It takes care of the basics and when you splurge on some new towels or something you feel a sense of accomplishment. But what if God winces when he sees what you have settled for? What if he has this beautiful blueprint of a beautiful entryway, a fireplace, a spa-like tub, walk-in closets but you’ve been content to just live in one. Like that’s good enough. I don’t deserve THAT. I’m not saying we’re all entitled to live like royalty but I’ve been especially guilty of feeling shame for even purchasing the basics. Like is it really that big of a deal to buy new socks once in a while? Maybe you don’t need them, but maybe it isn’t about the socks and it’s more about what is wrong with you accepting to live a life of less when you serve a God of more? I think Jesus knows us all too well. In Ephesians 3:20 NLT it says:
“All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

If God is contractor, designer, remodler–maybe we should just let him create.

From this mountain

I was watching TV a few nights ago and caught a sermon from TD Jakes. It was all about Jesus taking you up a mountain to new heights. The mountain can represent different things for different people. For me, I don’t really know what my mountain is per se. I feel like my figurative mountain is going just about as well as if I were to attempt the outdoor activity of mountain climbing: I’m cold, I’m out of shape and winded, and I’m probably lost. I don’t know how I got here in other words, and I don’t really know where I’m going.

I did like one part where he said “The air is thin, the higher you climb.”  This resonated with me only because I do feel physically winded each day. I’m overwhelmed by the tasks before me at work, I’m experiencing a lot of stress and unhappiness where I am, and yet that clicked with me. What if I am being taken up to a higher altitude? Maybe I am adjusting to the heights I am being taken up?

In the Bible this is discussed in Matthew 17 when Jesus takes 3 of the 12 disciples up the mountain and they see Jesus in a new light…literally. “His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light.”

I can only imagine how high and for how long they must have climbed and yet just when perhaps they feel exhausted from the journey Jesus transforms in front of them.

It made me re-evaluate this painful time in my life where nothing makes sense, where I feel like none of my dreams or desires are coming to pass, and where I feel just like a failure in so many aspects of life. But what if my exhaustion in this journey is preparing me for something miraculous? What if the mountain isn’t the focus, but what I will see once I reach the top. In an every day way this could be like the phrase..”hindsight is 20/20″ and things will make sense more so in the future than they do now. But if I look at this with spiritual significance it could mean that I am on the brink of seeing true Glory in my own life. Just like it is stated in Eccl 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time”.

Pop Goes the Pyrex

Yesterday when I got home from work I decided to help my mom with dinner. The baked potatoes were out of the oven just hanging out in their Pyrex dish. I was marinating the steaks and the conversation had turned again to me telling her how I still believe that ever since I started going to a new church in the summer, everything has gotten more intense in my life. Things that never went wrong go wrong, situations that are unexplainable and strange have been happening, and it’s weird to think about.

I suppose because I don’t understand what is happening now that I’ve just come to believe that I must be on the right track. Not that I was never really terribly far from it but I do believe there are times where you might be moving forward on a path that might seem good but it isn’t where you are supposed to be. I was going to another church for 6 years. I liked it for a good portion of the time but the past I’ll say 2 years I wasn’t happy. There was lots of situations that I didn’t agree with; people’s treatment of one another for one. Not widespread but people my age and I just didn’t feel like I agreed with what was happening. There was a lot of drama and eventually I didn’t have a particular group of friends. I felt I was going to church solely for my relationship with God and there wasn’t much of a community anymore for me. I had gone to a conference and it changed everything for me about 2 years ago. I knew I needed to find another church and the pastor of my current church spoke there. His words I kid you not for a year and a half echoed in my mind. Over and over and over. Looking back on that I think I was being called to this other church. And yet, I was resistant. Mainly because I didn’t want to give up on my already lost group of friends, I was interested in a guy and kind of holding out hope that something would have transpired, etc. Which seems insane when you weigh that against how alone and miserable I still felt being there.

Long story short I finally said “screw it” in a sense and dropped going to start going to this new church and I’ve never looked back. However, even though I know without a doubt this new church is my home, it’s like this pressure cooker has turned on. Kid you not all of a sudden I was the girl getting panic attacks, the girl filled with feelings of inadequacy and fear because everyone was so talented or looked more successful or attractive (true story I still struggle with this) than me. Unexplainable things would happen i.e. drama at work that normally wouldn’t happen, my crazy father would be breaking things around the apartment in the middle of the night, people would come up to me and after a few minutes would tell me how what I’m saying is how they’ve been feeling and have been afraid to say it and feel better knowing someone else feels the same way, jobs I should have gotten literally where the hiring party would say I’m the front runner time after time would bottom out, etc etc etc. It might not sound all that bad, but suffice it to say each day since then more or less has been a struggle while simultaneously being the best decision I’ve made in years.

Anyway so the crazy part is the second I finished saying “I still feel like ever since I’ve been going, everything has been crazy” the Pyrex holding the potatoes exploded. Like IED exploded into a million shards of glass all over the kitchen. You can’t even make this kind of crap up. Granted the heat might have been coming off the other pan on the stove and helped overheat the glass dish but it was uncanny.

I guess the only thing I can say is the pressure cooker is on. And although I have learned to fight my new-found anxiety, there are problems constantly at home and work, and glass shards could have become embedded in my face I’m learning not to care. I’m learning to be unshakeable. I’m learning that there can be times where there are storms are all around me but I can be like Jesus asleep in the boat unfazed. I’ve had my fair share of trials and hardships in my 20s thus far and I’ve been all over the map with how I’ve handled it, but I think now that I’m a couple of months away from 26 that I’ve finally moved the see saw up from one side to the other. But it is a process nevertheless. Problems I’ve never had are coming out of no where and yet I feel like I am being fortified in the fire.

One of the best songs out there right now is Oceans by Hillsong United. Here is some food for thought that relates to this season for me:

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

If anything the explosion could have jolted me, could have escalated my nerves, and become a big fight in the home among my parents. Instead I am choosing to look away from it, accept the neverending storm, and dive beneath the waves instead of being bowled over by them.