Job Identity Crisis

I’ve had this internal crisis since I’ve moved home, which has now been 1/4 of a year ago. I have been home for a season and I still have not found permanent employment. You know what that does to a person, more specifically to me? It destroys.

I didn’t realize this until I was unemployed, but I place the majority of my identity on what I do for a living. I know I’m not supposed to, as a Christian, I’m supposed to root my identity in Christ. But it’s really hard to stay focused on that in social situations. It’s such an easy go-to question that rapidly follows, “What’s your name?” or “Do you have a family?” or the classic “How are you doing?” –  “What do you do for a living?” or “Where do you work?” My answer for the last four months has been, “I’m still looking,” or “I’m unemployed,” which internally means “I’m a loser,” “I have no identity/purpose/reason to exist,” or “I’m lazy.” None of which are true, but they are the whispers that creep in, as I hopelessly respond to such an mundane life question.

People encourage my response in a variety of ways, but most of them add weight to my already burdening load. You see, I’m trying to have faith and follow Jesus, which often includes paths that are uncommon or nontraditional to the world. When God tells me to “Have faith and wait,” the world looks at me, disapprovingly shaking their heads saying, “Well clearly you need to try harder, apply more, or settle for awhile.” Oooo that word gives me knots in my shoulders. The being that God created in me is unnerved at the idea of settling, even temporarily. (Which also kills me inside, because it would be so. much. easier. to just have a darn job!)

This video summed up my emotions perfectly. I’m definitely the Cory in this clip, though I don’t know who I’m fighting with – God, this town, everyone, my internal critic, the jobs who take their time in the hiring process… but nothing makes me feel more worthless than not having a job.

Talk about an identity crisis. I really wish I could walk into a new social situation and say, “I follow Jesus for a living,” without sounding completely catty or slightly sarcastic. Then again, having support-raised for a living, a usual response is, “How do you pay the bills?” For me, this is when the internal sarcastic sh*t really hits the fan.

Basically our job identities plummet when one of the following three things happen:

  1. We are unemployed: Ah… I don’t have a job…?
  2. We don’t like what we do: Well… I work front desk at a hotel, but I really like the times when I don’t work – then I run half-marathons, and write letters to friends, and hip-hop dance (the last example I made up, but really who doesn’t want to rock the hip-hop dance-floor?)
  3. Who we are talking to, doesn’t approve of what we do: So I run the hospitality side of a retreat center that serves pastors and missionaries and their families… And I support-raise too! (Response: In America we work for our paycheck.) Ah… So do I…?

It is really easy when:

  1. We not only love what we do, but it also serves a greater good: I work with an awesome nonprofit in southeastern Kentucky that loves people for a living, and we help them help themselves get outta poverty while we’re at it! Woo! (Cheerleading kick for added enthusiasm for saving the world!)
  2. When our jobs provide affluently for our lifestyles (I’ve never known this reality, so I’ll make up an example): I work ten hour days with unbelievable pay and bennies, so that I can support myself, my hefty church tithe (wink wink), my family of adopted doggies, and all the gerbils I foster… Basically, I don’t know what to do with all my money!
  3. We do the thing that we always wanted to do (my brother is a good example for this one, so I’ll, in this instance only, pretend to be him): When I was a wee boy, I got my amazing little sis to play news with me. I’d anchor of course. Why, of course! I always knew I wanted to rock at news reporting, and now I do! Funny, how life works out!

I just vomited in my mouth.

But really, I’m happy for those people!

(Okay, the exclamation mark was slightly sarcastic…)

Anyway, identity. During the past several months I’ve been searching for mine – Who am I, when I’m not saving the world? More specifically – Who am I, when I don’t have a steady paycheck coming in? How do I make my time worthwhile? How do I not waste the days away in worry?

I’ve tried everything. I’ve written letters to friends, exercised like crazy, created yummy food and eaten too much, finished all the books I started at the beginning of the summer, spent time with family and friends, tried to reconnect with old friends, camped, hiked, road-tripped, healed, binged watched TV shows and movies, written, watched writing seminars online to improve my craft, and begged… Boy, have I begged God to just let me have a job that I somewhat enjoy that also pays my minimum hourly wage with good bennies!!! Please??? PLEASE!!!

But there’s one thing I haven’t done. I have yet to humble myself down, and ask God to help me root my identity in Him. So in future life crises, I’ll at least know who I am.

“Who are you?” – I am a child of God. – For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

“What do you do?” – I follow Jesus wherever he sends me. – Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

“How do you pay your bills?” – God provides. – Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

“How do you know that what you’re doing is right?” – Because it doesn’t make sense to me… – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

and

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

“Okay… How do I join?!” – Be born again. – Read the story of Nicodemus here

and CELEBRATE!!! IT’S NOT AN EASY PATH, BUT IT’S SO WORTH IT!!! – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Today was the day I was “supposed” to score an interview with the job that I lakeside cheers’d God for over the weekend. But I knew there was going to be trouble… ahem… life was not going to go according to my plan when I drew my word of the day – “FAITH”. My exact response was: Sigh, God. Come on! Really? So I’m going to have to wait longer? I called to “check in” and remind the organization that I am indeed human, and I am still interested (since the last time we talked… you know… last week…) They didn’t even record that I called, but kindly stated, “Well the closing date was Monday, so they’ll probably review applications this week. Maybe call back next week.” I hope I didn’t sound too disappointed as I responded that I would indeed check back in next week.

My heart sank. Fear crept in. My bank account sent daggers flying in my direction. I found my way swiftly to Indeed.com, and started frantically “easy applying,” when I heard a calm whisper: You’re doing this out of fear. You don’t trust me? I need something to do God! I need a job God! You need to trust me. I’m an adult! I need to provide for myself. My ship is sinking! Am I just supposed to wait on you? That doesn’t seem practical. Yes. Trust me. I will provide. Have I given you any reason to doubt this? No… So what’s the problem? I feel like I’m disappointing everyone, because while everyone else is working… I am not. So?… To everything there is a season. A time to rest, and a time to work. So rest. A time to work is coming soon. Have faith darling, I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it abundantly (John 10:10). There is not crisis, when your identity is rooted in Me – the great I AM.  But…? What do I do in the meantime? No buts about it, just trust. Take a risk – Have faith. 😉

 

Lakeside Cheers

Last weekend, I found myself helping my roommate cat-sit for one of her friends. And by “helping”, I mean “mooching”. You see, the cat lives in a cabin on a lake… Need I say more?

I’d been excited for this weekend since I knew of its possibility. Though house-sitting with this cat usually means sleepless nights lulled into alertness by its broken meow, to me, nothing beats days spend pondering life on their dock. It also means a few day escape from the “real world” where I still don’t have a job. Somehow, worries subside when seaside (or in this case, lakeside).

In preparation for this weekend, last week, I felt God urge me to bring one of my cherished bottles of wine to celebrate. But my Kentucky wine God? What do I have to celebrate? I asked frantically, not willing to minimize my Kentucky stash from three bottles to two. It’s not what I have done, but what I have yet to do, God responded boldly. Ah yes, one of those risks I get to take, I responded with slight sarcasm. So, basically, I’m going to trust that You’ll provide even when the job-world seems like a desert? And then I’m going to celebrate what You’re going to bring even, and especially before You bring it to me? Yes. Okay, I agreed, somehow comforted by His confidence, As long as we’re on the same page… Packing my sole bottle of Talon Winery’s Equestrian VI, I prayerfully prepared for God’s special celebration of trust.

It happened on Saturday. Spending much of the day switching from reading on the couch, to writing on the dock, I felt God okay the opening of the bottle once I finished the book I was reading. (It was cheesy, and terribly, terribly, written, so a reward was very much necessary.)

Around 5pm, the perfect “somewhere” time, I reached for the $23 bottle of Equestrian VI, momentarily pausing as I realized its representation in my life. For the nearly six years I spent in the land of the horses, Kentucky, I will now take a moment of silence.

winerrd

After a minute of respect for my past, and an epic product-placement photo opp. outside, I opened the bottle, and poured me a glass… Well more rustically so, a mug (classy, I know). I swirled it, sniffed it, and then let the dry’n’sweet Kentucky aroma flood my senses.

Making my way to the end of the small, wooden dock, I sat down at the end, dipping my feet in the icy cold, refreshing lake water. Raising my glass Heavenward, I cheers’d my beloved Maker, “To all the people nearby, who think I am crazy cheersing the sky, outloud, and by myself… To this summer, for helping me survive… No… For surviving me, is that a thing? I couldn’t do any of it without You. Thank You for all You’ve provided so far, and this really tasty wine! Finally, thank You for the job You will provide. You know, the one I want – the $17 an hour one in Moose Lake, Agency-Wide Advocate – the one I’ll be good at – yeah, to that!”

cheersrrd

Raising my glass slightly higher, I cheers’d, and then took a generous sip. The wine warmed my heart and soul as the tannins danced deliciously amongst the aromas of pepper, cherry, and spicy cocoa. To me, I’ve always tasted a red wine base soaked in a french oak barrel, with essence of cigar spice, deep berry, and the warmth of Kentucky love, but that’s just my wine inexperience talking…

After this short, soulful indulgence, I raised my glass again Heavenward, “To the jobs my friends want, that You will provide.”

Raised glass cheers and delicious sip.

“To the relationships blossoming in the lives of my friends. May You bless them, and may they bring glory to You.”

Cheers.

. . .

And then it hit me.

What if we prayed in cheers?

You may consider me crazy, or slightly sacrelig. for this idea, but nonetheless… What if?

Slowly, but surely, I continued to empty my glass to the praising of God – of all the things He’s done, and especially those He has yet to do!

. . .

Isn’t this how we’re supposed to live our lives? Taking the mundane tasks and directing them Heavenward? What if we took the activities we use to bring ourselves pleasure, and instead used them to bring pleasure to God? Do you think, perhaps, if done in the right spirit, that our blessings would multiply not just to ourselves, but to those around us as well?

I think so.

I’d like to see a ripple of cheers breakout from around the lake, to around the world. God knows we enjoy it already, so why not take it, let Him shape it, and celebrate God – for all that He has done, and all that He has yet to do?

I can cheers to that!

Can you?

MUGDOCKRRD

Wandering Heart

Rushing waters,

Ample soul.

Where to turn?

Only You know.

. . .

Jagged rocks,

Piercing doubt.

As the path deepens,

“Where are You?” I shout.

. . .

Muddy paths,

Distractions embrace.

As my downward eyes miss,

Your beloved-pursuing chase.

. . .

A quiet forest,

My anxiety at ease.

I hear Your whispers,

“Let me love you, please.”

. . .

Nature’s colors colliding,

Momentarily, I pause.

Recapturing beauty,

Reestablishing cause.

wanderingheartrrd

 

Poetic Confession

Clearly I’m broken, this is not news.

But what is the root of my sinful muse?

I’ve tried to stop it all on my own.

Lord I need you, and your love to be shown.

. . .

Sometimes I just… I just feel numb.

While my hormones keep fighting – it’s time to get some.

Being a Christian makes this part so hard.

Wishing one night, I could hand in that card.

. . .

Privacy! You say, I should keep it to myself.

The intimates of life stacked away on some shelf.

The world makes it tough to talk about our feelings.

Especially those of sexual dealings.

. . .

I’m learning how, to not play so nice.

So here I go, breaking the ice.

I’m a 29-year-old virgin saving sex for marriage,

But don’t think I don’t struggle with sexual disparage.

. . .

When I turned twenty, I found masturbation

To be a release for stressful situations.

Pulling me out of numbness and depression,

And releasing the thoughts of my hormone’s obsession.

. . .

However, in this I feel my soul dying.

To justify it, I forever keep trying.

Some sources I read call it normal and healthy,

While others declare it to be spiritually unwealthy.

. . .

I’m reading this book that answers with brokenness,

So prayerfully shattered, it’s time I confess.

Broken men and women (seemingly) don’t care,

Who finds out about their sin, (so others beware).*

. . .

It’s the struggling alone that gives sins their power,

To grow and to make us humans feel sour.

So sorry if my words have been too much information,

I’m praying they lead to a sinning cessation.

. . .

Here lies the end of my poetic confession.

To me this has been a free therapy session.

Sharing my deep, dark faults is not always easy,

But I must follow my heart, no matter how cheesy.

. . .

Even when He leads me through the trenches and valleys,

Loving and forgiving, beside me He rallies.

Emotionally empty and spiritually strong,

Obeying God will never be wrong.

poeticconfessrrd

* DeMoss, Nancy Leigh. Brokenness, Surrender, Holiness: A Revive Our Hearts Trilogy. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 52.

Baker’s Dozen

one revealing day

two beautiful souls joined

two and a half beer limit

three hours of laughter, love and joy

four times smiling for photos

five quiet bathroom breaks

six songs of outrageous dancing

seven silent sobs sympathizing my sad state

eight times the gratitude for the love along the way

nine weeks since the collision

ten lies of “I’m doing well.”

eleven minutes passed as I tried to catch my breath

twelve reminders, it’s about to get better

and only one Savior redeeming it all with love

bakersdozenrrd

 

 

Reconnecting with Old Friends

Crowded room,

Crowded heart.

How are you doing?

Where do I start?

. . .

Chugging beers,

Instilling fears.

Am I moping around?

Or are these real tears?

. . .

Neither here,

Nor there.

Blankly off into the distance,

I stare.

. . .

Fluttering heart,

Not a good start.

My jitters begging,

When can we depart?

. . .

Party pooper,

Not a life snooper.

I’m sorry… I can’t…

I’m not a good trooper.

. . .

Crowds make me anxious.

Enhanced by that day?

I’m ready to be healed,

In every possible way.

crowdrrd

Kentucky Memoir

DSC_0147

I miss Kentucky:

The rolling hills,

Mid-winter chills,

And the general calming sensation

that enveloped me as I wound

through those hills.

 

The people, God I miss:

Their beautiful smiling faces,

A day at the races,

Canned goods by the cases,

And the aspects of every

tear cried, life strived, and day survived,

wrinkled into their worn faces.

I miss who I was there:

To anyone, those memories I would share,

Of all the people who truly care,

Drop me off in Kentucky, and beware,

I may never return.

 

Redeeming Presence

God saved my life.

And by that I don’t mean the common Christian testimony.

I mean, God literally saved my life.

I shouldn’t have made it, but I did.

I did.

I’ve been procrastinating this piece for a couple months now… Well… Since it happen. The elusive it, the accident. Honestly, I don’t believe I can give it justice. I am, but a humble human being. And yes, God has given me a knack for words. Nonetheless, how does one tell a tale as grand as this one? How can I make my audience feel the presence of God, as I did, on that terrible, wretched day? How can my words form coherent sentences that will not only get my point across, but will also transform lives, because God transformed mine? I honestly don’t know. So I’m going to let go of any of my agendas, and let God take the reins on this one.

First off, human as I am, I must admit, that I would give almost anything to take that day back. I hate it, every ounce of it. I hate that I lost my sense of security. I hate that I didn’t realize it was something I could lose. I hate that driving in the city makes me anxious, even the suburbs drive me nuts. Whoa, wait. It’s not your turn. Please, please, please don’t cut in front of me… (heart thumping a thousand miles an hour, as I drive my 2 miles home from work.) I hate that I have to drive to my townhouse this weekend, once again at the end of my job contract, with hopes of moving “home”. I hate that “home” now has to be encompassed in quotation marks, because I don’t feel safe driving there anymore. And, I hate that my eyes fill with salty tears as I type in those words. I hate that my anxiety peaks when I think of (what used to be the grand adventure of) driving the U-haul from Kentucky to home. (Thank God for trusty, and amazing, co-pilots!) (I’ll admit, I have a raging temptation to simply stay with my heart in those beloved hills.) But I know, I know, that northern Minnesota is where God wants me – I can’t tell you why (because I haven’t the faintest clue) but deep inside, I know this is where He wants me. And finally, my delightfully shallow side hates that my first encounter with some of northern Minnesota’s finest, officers and life-savers alike, was this terrible one. Because despite the fact that a couple were mighty-fine, I never want to see them again, because I never want to remember that moment when my world came crashing in.

But God, He has a plan. It’s much bigger than me, and my list. He is the reason I’m here to tell this tale. He is the reason I can form words in to coherent sentences. He is the reason, that even though I hate so many things about June 8, 2017, I won’t trade it for the world (I want to, but I won’t). He is the Reason.

Thursday, June 8, 2017 was a day that began poorly. Do you ever have “one of those days”? Well, it was indeed one of them. But worse, because I had this strange sense that it wouldn’t get better as the day went on. Waking up early, I enjoyed the benefits of completing half of Jillian Michael’s “Six Week, Six Pack Abs”. Unfortunately, as I was grabbing one of the weights, before my workout began, I dropped it down the stairs. Nothing says “Good morning!” than loud kerplunks at the crack of dawn. In that moment, the subtle acceptance of defeat crept its way into my being, and nestled itself in for the day.

It was my last day of work on my temp contract grading standardized ‘brief writes’ exams of third and fourth graders. For those of you that have participated in this trade, it was one of “those” days. For early June, it was supposed to be hot outside. I remember finally using the butterfly-patterned car-shade-things that I got in Kentucky, to shade my Honda from the heat of the blazing sun. Heading towards the building, I glanced back at “Horse” (my companion Honda) and realized the trunk was still open. Across the way, a co-worker mused my misplaced-mind situation as I breathed deep, exhaled defeated, and headed back to my car to slam the trunk shut. Then headed to my eternal doom.

At 10:04 am, I texted my mother (who had previously worked for the same company): “I’m going to fail my qualifying exam, so I might me home early.” I may have shed a tear or two while I typed those words in. It was terrible, but my cynical side mentioned the benefits of heading up North early: ‘Well if you fail, then you can leave early. Of course, you’ll embarrass yourself in front of everyone, being the only one dumb enough to fail, but who cares?! You’ll never see them again’. Yeah… that voice was wrong about many things. So I prayed, ‘’God you called me here. You gotta take over, cause apparently, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing…”

Though my training scores gave me a 50% (70% is needed to pass), I somehow managed to pass both qualification exams. Looking back, this is the first way God saved me that day. Unfortunately the day still worsened itself. My supervisor had to come, not once, but twice to show me examples of how I screwed up. Each time she walked up to my station and knelt beside me, my heart sunk. Some supervisors seem to give off an aura of ‘I don’t understand why you don’t get this…’ So perhaps so you can understand the slight misery that overwhelmed me as I continued to spend eight hours staring blankly at the computer screen. 

After surviving the work day, I still had a sense that my troubles weren’t over yet. I knew I was driving back up North, as I had an interview in Duluth the following day. The crazy thing is, I didn’t feel like I shouldn’t go. I didn’t feel God whisper, ‘Wait until morning’. I did hesitate as I packed my TV into my car, but besides that I felt peace and post-job-contract energy. So I packed up all my stuff, because I didn’t think I would be back (to the parental’s casa), and headed on my merry way.

Leaving the cities, I hit rush hour traffic, which I made it through quite smoothly. Halfway through my travels, around Pine City, I finally felt like I could breathe. Actually, for the first time since moving home I felt free to be me. I rocked out to old music and sang along at the top of my lungs. Stopping in Hinckley for a bathroom break, I purchased cookies for my bestie, and a “Live Love Lake” drink coozie for me. Then I headed home.

Traffic wasn’t terrible considering the summer’s guaranteed delays of construction. I found my way to my exit with no trouble. As I was exiting my song came on.

By my song, I mean this song. When I first heard it approximately a year prior, I thought, ‘Wow, what a battle tune.’ As I prayed about it, God gave me a beautiful image. And for a this, I must digress.

For the past year and a half, for sure, I had this unsettling fear of dying alone. I’ve always struggled with violent nightmares for as long as I can remember (like all the ways I could possibly die, including being invited to a party hosted by cannibals), and I had a few several years ago that had to do with being martyred. Alongside current events, and through the struggles of living alone, at that time, this became an actual worry. I prayed that no matter what: 1. I would glorify God in the moment that truly mattered, and 2. That He would make it clear that I wasn’t alone.

That said, when I first heard this song, a year ago, I fervently prayed if I were to ever be martyred or have some epic death in which I would need epic comfort and courage, that God would play this song in the background. As I prayed that, He gave me this image: During the fight song would be courage for the battle, during the early amazing grace portion He showed me images of people and experiences I would miss from my time on earth (all the good stuff), then as fight song and amazing grace mash together, I could envision myself finishing the race and seeing my dad, grandparents, friends who have gone before, and best of all, Jesus, welcoming me home, finally – me, running towards His open-armed embrace. It would feel like the overwhelming peace and joy that accompanies the exhaustion of being welcomed into the finish line of a half-marathon by a hundred of cheering fans. Finally.

Though this moment wasn’t my finally, it was something. It had been the first time I’d heard this song in months, and I re-thought my request to God, as I drove – only five minutes from home.

Less than 30 seconds later…

<<CRASH>>

My car was spinning, and smoking, then stopped. The old, burnt, dusty smell of the airbags shocked me into movement, as I realized I could move. Unbuckling my seat belt, I moved out of the vehicle, and hit the ground a few feet away. I heard the lady in an upstairs apartment ask if I was okay, but I wasn’t able to fathom words. My mind kept repeating, ‘I was just in an accident. I was just in an accident. Breathe. Breathe. Don’t faint. You can’t afford an ambulance…’  In the background, I heard my song playing, until a passerby had the right mind to turn my car off.

So many people stopped. There were two ladies, one to my right and one to my left. They both kept me calm, and claimed to have nursing experience. When I felt like I was going to pass out, they made sure my body was laid correctly, and one kept my glass-speckled bleeding hand elevated as I rested my head on the ground. Two others hovered close by, and several more on the street out front. They stayed with me until the officers and the EMT arrived. I don’t know who they are, but I will be forever grateful for their presence. And for God’s presence through them.

It was terrible. Like I mentioned, I still hate it. But I don’t hate the person who cut me off. I don’t blame them for my new-found anxieties and trauma. Do I wish they were paying more attention? Sure. But I don’t hate them, because they made a stupid mistake. We all make stupid mistakes. I’m just glad, for the most part, we are both okay.

Because I shouldn’t have been.

Two years ago, the SRS system went out on my car. For those of you who follow me, you’ll know that my lifestyle for the past six years has not had much wiggle-room for expensive vehicle fixes. Saving the world means risking the comforts of one’s own life. I didn’t realize it was literally. The SRS system is the Supplemental Restraint System. It has to do with the seat-belts and air bags. Basically it meant they were faulty. Which means that on June 8, 2017, they shouldn’t have worked.

But they did.

For the logical, and the list-lovers, the following is given proof of how God saved me:

(I really don’t know how to express it any better than this…)

  1. I had a sense that this day was going to be a terrible one – God sees all. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but He can prepare us for them, and afterwards, redeem them by showing His presence through it all.
  2. He played my song before, during, and after the accident – Proving that He was presently comforting me through my first physically traumatic experience.
  3. The SRS system, according to the dealership who wanted to charge me several hundred dollars to fix it, shouldn’t have worked – the airbags and seat-belts that weren’t supposed to, comforted and persevered my body so I could walk away almost okay. 
  4. I wouldn’t realize this until the next day, but my TV was smashed – the one warning sign I felt was when I hesitated about bringing it with me at that time.
  5. There were people present at the scene, always – I was never, once alone.
  6. And I felt peace – Amidst the chaos, spinning, fear, trauma, shock, and pain, I felt God’s peace, and His presence, and I know He was with me.

There were angels at that scene. I couldn’t see them (or maybe I could), but I know they were there. In fact, in my 24 hours of shock, I could only speak this beautiful testimony – that it could’ve been so much worse, and that I knew that God was with me. Though the how and why details of the accident were a bit fuzzy, I knew in the depths of my being that it wasn’t my fault. I remember being in my lane, conscious of driving the speed limit, and being glad I was so, close, to, home, (and yet so far.) Still I was so worried about the other driver. I made sure all the people that were praying for me, were praying for them also. I knew that this experience wouldn’t make my life easier, but I hoped that somehow, it would still bring glory to God.

So here’s the kicker. The next morning, as I awoke in the recliner. Chest-pressure to a shocking pain, made me not want to move, ever, so I perused Facebook. Christian writer, Ann Voskamp (look her up, she’s amazing!) posted the following:

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 12.08.18 AM

According to the timing, this post was added within 10 minutes of the my accident.

If that doesn’t scream <<REDEEMING PRESENCE>> I don’t know what does.

I don’t know about you… But I still get chills, especially as I read Ann’s finely crafted words, “God is working for you tonight. Heaven is holding conversations about you. Angels have been assigned to you. Be at peace.” coupled with “God is at work. He does not slumber. Christ intercedes. He does not fail. The Spirit comforts. He does not forsake. Be at rest. Be at peace. You’re name at the end of the day is BELOVED.”

BELOVED.

as my friend recently mentioned:

be-loved

God loved me that night, and all the days and nights that have followed, by reminding me that HE IS ALWAYS PRESENT WITH ME. And it’s this Presence that redeems the tragedies of our lives.

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 “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20, ESV, underline – mine)

What is a life-altering tragedy that you have experienced? Did you see God present in that/those moment(s) with you? If not, looking back on it, can you see Him now? Did you doubt His Presence amongst the hardship?

Prayerfully seek God, and ask Him to redeem that experience for you. If you begin to doubt Him, remember that you are His beloved. And He is ALWAYS PRESENT WITH YOU.

Always. 

I used to not know  ^ this, but now I do.

 

Soul Weight

Have you ever felt like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? Do you ever have this unsettling need to solve everyone’s problems, and yet somehow, still don’t know where to get started?

I felt that way tonight. Typical me was on my evening walk on a ol’neighborhood trail that my feet tread upon at least thrice a week. But tonight something was different. As I passed through the first tunnel under the busy road, I stopped dead in my tracks.

I generally like graffiti as I think of it as a beautiful expression of the soul. Sometimes our souls need to be heard beyond the lights of our computer screens. In the real world, breathing fresh air, our souls have somethings they need to share. Sometimes it’s artistic scribbles, or fantastical designs, but sometimes… sometimes… it’s poetic cries for help.

And this time, I couldn’t just walk by.

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I wanted to help, so my soul cried out to God, What can I do?! I’m no better off, my life isn’t perfect or peachy keen as a jelly bean. This was no pity party for the artist, but a sheer desire to somehow relieve them of this burden that they carried.

I placed my hand on the centered “I” and prayed, that God would free them of this pain and burden, and bring them into peace and joy and love. Peeking to my left and right, every so often to make sure I wasn’t scaring off incoming strangers, I simply asked God to help and be present in their lives.

As I continued down the tunnel, I saw more tears sprayed black through the end of a spray paint can onto cold, dark concrete walls. During the day, I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at night, when I assume this art was created, it would have been dark throughout. Sheer pain spattered on cold walls, with no sense of light to cling to or hope for.

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Were they drunk? Maybe. On drugs? It’s a possibility. Completely clean and sober? Could be. But no matter what state they were in, these words are that of a beautiful soul begging for help.

I don’t know what you believe about this world, but you must have some sense of good and bad, light and dark, or God and evil. We are all fighting some sort of battle, this much is true. The only way I know of to overcome our demons is to 1.Pray and 2. Pray together. We need to take care of each other, even, and especially, those we don’t know (because some people don’t have anybody who will pray for them). It’s the only way we’re going to make it through, while being able lift some of the burdens that our world carries.

And what better way to become more like Jesus, than understanding an ounce of what it was like to bear the world’s burdens on His shoulders, and more painfully, in His heart.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV).

 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6, NKJV).

Because I fully believe in the presence of good and evil in this world, I also think it is incredibly important that we consider what we are feeding our souls. I’ve learned a lot recently about what my soul can, and cannot ingest. For example, though I adore British and American crime shows like Grantchester and Blue Bloods, I cannot, for the life of me, watch them. It creates within me this inner unsettling fear and anxiety that I cannot shake. It’s a really creepy darkness that only tries to overwhelm me while consuming those shows. However, my soul happily munches on Hallmark movies, reality dance competition shows (such as World of Dance), and inspirational movies. Those all make my heart race, and make me want to desperately follow my dreams.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23, NIV)

 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV).

We need to be alert of what we can, and cannot take. Of the foods that feed our souls, and those eat away at the lining of them. What’s bad for me, might not be bad for you, and what’s good for you, might not be so good for me… That’s the beauty of God creating us differently, yet still in the image of Himself. We all are different on the surface, yet in the core we’re the same.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27, NKJV).

Which is why we need to take care of each other, because at the core 1. We are all struggling with something, that we 2. Cannot handle alone, because we were 3. Made to need each other, as we are 4. Created in His image, and 5. He created us because He didn’t want to be alone either.

“And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.  So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:18-22, NKJV).

What you need to know is God loves us. God loves you. Wherever you are. Whatever you are going through. Just as you feel the pain of a stranger, He feels your pain – every single little bit of it. None of it is stupid, or irrational. God created you. God knows you. And He darn well LOVES YOU. 

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV).

You are not burdening Him with your troubles, and nothing is new to him.

“As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12, NKJV).

He is here, and He is waiting, for YOU, with arms open wide.

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).

If you are not burdened with your own load, and you stumble across someone that is, I ask that you stop in your tracks and pray. I completely understand discomfort in praying for a stranger in the moment, so if that isn’t your path, a silent prayer will do. God hears all. Listen to the names that God brings to mind, and send them right back to him with a well-wish or two. 

If I’ve learned anything in my humble life thus far it is that there is power in prayer, and that power changes things. It changes me. It changes you. And God is so delighted when we come to Him with our frustrations, wants, struggles, hopes and needs. Make God’s day, and let loose the weight of world from your shoulders, and lay it at His feet. Whether it be our own weights or those we see others carrying, we don’t always have to “got this,” and God’s here when we finally realize that we don’t. So as cheesy as it sounds, “Let go, and let God,” because there is a whole new level of freedom awaiting you at the feet of Jesus.