White-Knuckle-Tight

Resting begins when you realize you are right where God intends you to be. Seek His presence in that place.

I’m paraphrasing something I read this week in Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. But isn’t that exhilarating? Doesn’t it make you tremble a little bit? The possibility of what that means should travel up your spine like electric current, charged and sharp. I don’t know where you are this week, but I know where I’ve been. I’ve been swaying on that eternal teeter-totter called “freaking out.” I say swaying because the battle has been ON this week– the battle to stay in that resting place, the battle to seek God’s peace and pursue it.

I don’t like what I can’t control. Listen to me, broken record that I am, I’ve said this many times. But who does enjoy what they can’t control? I don’t think I’ve met anyone that does. Oh, there are some who manage their reactions well, but given the choice of deciding something and seeing it through to the “T” that you envision in your mind, I think you would choose seeing it through the the last “T.” I don’t think you would choose the wrench or the deviation or even the uncertainty of deciding to do something while the outcome of it, you can’t even imagine.

Here’s what I like: I like to say to God: “God, this is how I see it. I’m asking for this. I want this. Please, give it to me.” and here’s what I like to see happen afterwards: “Oh, Kate, you asked for that. Here it is. In a bow, no less.”

Now here’s what I know: What I want isn’t always what God wants. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” declares 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.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

So, little control freak that I am, knowing that what I want out of any given situation may not be what God wants for me…. I freak out. Or sway on that dangerous teeter-totter, listing closer to the abyss that is losing my peace. I’ve visited that hole before. I don’t want to go back.

Here’s how I’ve managed it this week: When that feeling comes, when I think of that thing that strains my sanity and stirs up my fears and insecurities, I’ve been saying: “Here, God, I give you this… I give you this memory… I give you this hope… I give you this imagined disappointment (because, let’s face it, half of the tragedy we put ourselves through is imagining tragedy that hasn’t happened and never will happen)… I give it all to you.” And then if that isn’t enough (in the battle against those pesky feelings that like to get me feeling all unseated before my God), I pull out the verses. I’ve memorized quite a few these last couple of weeks because the battle for my peace has RAGED. But battling has been worth it.

“You have said: ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.'” (Psalm 27:8) And just that whisper to my errant heart that wants to look elsewhere, that wants to look at myself in pity because my plans aren’t going just so and because life isn’t how I’ve built it up to be in my head… just that whisper, and I feel the scales of strain flake away. Maybe one fleck at a time, but even a fleck is progress to a heart that’s been scaly with stress for too long.

Too many times I’ve tried to cling white-knuckle-tight to things that matter to me so deeply and yet rip me up inside, because I feel that if I let go, even loosen my grip, that thing will be lost. And I will be left empty. Let me say, to myself and to you, God will never let you lose those things you were meant to have, but whatever it is that is testing your peace and your rest, He wants to hold onto it for you. His hands are much gentler than our worries ever can be. Let it go to God.

Do not be cast down, O my soul! God is your hope and your redeemer. Hope in Him. Trust in Him. Those praises you’ve been singing, they will rise again, and He will amaze you.

“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.”

Psalm 38:9

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No Ifs. No Ands. No Buts.

Here’s a little secret: When you ask God for peace about something, He gives you peace. No ifs, ands, or buts. He gives peace.

Without naming any names, I will tell you I’ve spent a lot of time lately with a Worrier. When I look at this person, I see myself from five years ago–knotted-up, over-blown, raging sometimes. And I think: “Lord, what is the difference?”

My relationship with God is the difference, the growth I have experienced. The fact that I talk to Him EVERY DAY is the difference. Now, this isn’t to say I don’t experience flashes of pure worry– almost panic–at times. I am human. My human reactions like to kick in faster than my prayer reflex at times. Yet I firmly believe the unsettled-ness, the STUCK, I’ve been feeling for the past year has had at least one PRIMARY purpose in my life–a twofold purpose: to bring me to my knees before God and to force me to leave my every thing, but especially my HEAVY things, in His hands.

This person, who reminds me so much of Five-years-ago Me, worries over everything– What we as a society are doing to the environment. What will happen when they go home tonight. What will happen when they wake up tomorrow. What will happen to military families, government employees in a government shutdown. They worry people don’t like them. They worry people don’t take their ideas seriously. (Don’t argue with me! I might have to question what I think!) They then worry, absurdly, if they’re offending anyone.

And you know the crazy part? The part that gives me the constant desire to bang my head against the wall–because that’s really ALL worry accomplishes for any of us?

ALL OF THESE THINGS.

ALL.

Are things that this person CANNOT control.

Five-years-ago Me kind of gives Now-me a headache. Sets my teeth on edge. And not because I dislike this person. I just want to take take my two cold hands (because my hands are always cold) and put them on either side of this poor soul’s flushed face, and say: “Listen. Take a deep breath. There is Someone bigger than you who’s got hold of ALL these things. And He never shuts down. He never sleeps. He’s always watching, and He never makes mistakes. His sovereign hand is always guiding everything that will ever happen. Period.”

This poor kid, though.

I can identify. I’ve been there– losing sleep over stupid things, waking up knotted, sore, and snappy. It’s not a very brilliant or comfortable place to live, and the road to living better– completely, utterly, fully better– can only start at the knees of Jesus. There’s a reason why He says: “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Because the life He frees us to live is freedom and peace and joy, even in suffering, even in the HEAVY stuff. Because in the life He gives, we are never meant to carry the burden at all. He takes it on His shoulders and carries it there.

Don’t waste years of your life paralyzed beneath the weight of everything you can’t control. It will crush you because you CAN’T control ANY of it. Your life and your circumstance rest solely in God’s hands. Why not rest you worry– and your weary heart– there, too?

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11: 29-30

Love: the Adventure

This was another up and down, busy week, and I didn’t get the time I would have liked to write, but I do want to share this prayer with you. It was inspired by my morning devotions and the paths of thought the verses took me down. I hope it encourages you to seek a better frame of mind this weekend, a more God-directed perspective:

“Today is an adventure from you. Help me limit my expectations of myself and my circumstances, and just swim in your grace. Already the world is beautiful and white this morning–a winter paradise, and the flakes fall gently. Even snowstorms can be a gift.

“You are always with me. Why do I ever fear? Why do I ever fear when something won’t go my way or I can’t control it? Then it wasn’t for me, Lord–something more marvelous is waiting.

“Sometimes I forget that you love a whole world–all the people that have been born, who are now alive, and who will be born– yet a large portion of all that mass of people have rejected or will reject you. You know that disappointment. If you feel each individual instance, you know rejection and disappointment on a level that would cripple us.

“And you, Jesus, know deeply, as a man in a man’s body with man’s emotions, the disappointment and hurt of being rejected by a close friend even. Yet you still have a vast capacity, a never-ending well of love to give. While we were still sinning and disappointing you, you loved us enough to die for us. LOVE never fails.

“Your love, like your mercies, is new every morning. You love will be the adventure today.

“Amen.”

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8

Whatever You’re Waiting For

Patience is a dangerous game. In our culture of instant-everything, we want what we want, and we want it now.

I want what I want, and I want it now.

The other day I had to ask myself: BUT what if I knew the reward of my patience? What if I knew that the thing I’m waiting for, asking God for, it’s coming and God is going to make it even more amazing than I can imagine? What if I knew the end of the story, and it’s awesome? What if– whatever it is…

It’s totally worth waiting for.

Wouldn’t I want to wait? Wouldn’t I throw worry out the window and just rest? Wouldn’t anticipation, not turmoil, be my state of mind? Wouldn’t it make me just want to dance because God loves me so much he HEARD my heart?

The problem is waiting frustrates me. It discourages me. It leaves me nervous. “Well, maybe…” I think, “Maybe I got it wrong. Maybe I should hope for something else. This obviously isn’t coming… this gift, this opportunity, this desire.” I spent the last year disappointed and distracted because I view waiting from all the wrong angles.

You see waiting from God’s perspective is nothing at all. A day to Him is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. He’s not worried about clocks and minutes and hours and days or years even. He cares about the shape of things as a whole, their fullness, what it takes for them to be complete. Especially our lives. Especially the lives of those who love and follow Him. He doesn’t care about your position at work, and if you’ve attained a certain plateau by a certain age. He doesn’t care if your married with kids by thirty. He doesn’t care if everyone else has gotten to X, Y and Z while you’re still in the middle of the alphabet. I mean, yes, He cares about those things, but you’re on His timetable, not the other way around. And He’s certainly not on your neighbor’s timetable or your coworker’s or your mother-in-law’s.

God gives good things in His time, and no one else’s.

Why else do some people pray about something for TWO DAYS before receiving, while other people pray for TWO DECADES or half a century before receiving? Like all Masterpieces, God’s plan for your life, His plan for my life, takes time. It takes care. It takes patience. It takes tending and shaping and pulling and pushing and crafting. The sculpting of the Master isn’t something to be rushed.

Maybe what God wants is just what you want. Maybe what God’s sending you, what He’s shaping for you, is just what you’ve been praying for, so if it’s going to be even more amazing than you think it’s going to be, isn’t that worth waiting a little while to receive? Doesn’t that make the waiting a sort of gift, too? Too little or too long, and it wouldn’t be perfect.

Dance in the in-between, it’s what’s shaping YOU for whatever it is you’re waiting for.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:11-13

The List

Dear Readers,

Maybe I’ve confessed this before– probably last year at this time– but I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. However, in the last few years, I have found it helpful to take stock of where I’ve come from and what I’ve gone through in the last year. It helps me decide what parts of my character and my habits I want God to work on in the New Year. No gym resolutions for me! Or losing ten pounds by June. Just heart transformation.

If the Lord wills, I simply want to be more like His Son.

I’ve mentioned it before, but endings always leave me a little sad. So the first thing I’ve determined is to try my hardest to see this time not as the END of one thing but really the BEGINNING of something else. Also I don’t want unrealistic expectations for the coming year. Going into 2017 I thought my life OUTWARDLY would look vastly different from how it turned out. I thought my whole LANDSCAPE would be different– literally. Yet here I am penning my thoughts at the same desk I’ve written them at since I was eighteen. Ten years at this desk. Funny how quickly that happens.

And maybe–in a year– I’ll still be here, but I want my inner landscape to be my most important focus for change this year. So I’ve made a list of the four things I want to get better at in 2018.

I challenge you to make your own list, and then pray about it. Write it down, too, so that when you get to the end of the year, you can see how God has moved. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or long. It could just be ONE thing if that’s the most important to you. Mine is four things. Nothing too crazy there, but this year’s list grew out of the lessons God brought me through in 2017. They are in no order of importance.

  • Be grateful; say “Thank you”
  • Expect Great Things from God
  • Pray more
  • Rest in God’s peace

The second thing I challenge you to do is make a prayer list for 2018 of the things you would most like to see God answer. I put mine on a sticky note and attached it to the inside cover of my favorite Bible so that it’s always with me. Some of my list overlaps with my character list, but a few of the six things are people specific– someone’s salvation, church’s spiritual growth (maybe some good godly men for my single sisters!! Haha). I wanted to write these things down because going into 2018 they are heavy on my heart, and I don’t think that’s a mistake. God gives us burdens even for things that may seem silly to others because He’s going to do a great work there, and He will be glorified in the offering. Even if we’re the only one watching Him do it. I also wanted to write them down because I fully expect this time next year to look and see God’s hand in each of them.

I pray for you that you too will expect Great Things from God in 2018, and that when He does those amazing, wonderful, unexpected, and impossible things, you will understand more deeply and gratefully the love He has for you.

In Christ,

Kate

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith– that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3:14-19

No Expectations

It’s that time of year again– when people start looking forward to new beginnings– when I ask: but do things really change just because we flip a calendar? I’ve said myself (and know several people who would join me) that I wish it was so. As up and down, hot and cold, as 2017 has been, I know God has changed me as a person through it all.

One of the things I’ve been quietly sitting on lately, mulling over and appreciating, is to enjoy those times when I have no expectations for things. Maybe in 2018 I need to stop waking up in the morning thinking: ‘This day is gonna be awful.” Or stop aggressively expecting that anything less than wonderful means life is unbearable. Maybe in 2018 I need to greet the day, greet life, with a blank anticipation that God will write the story no matter what the day holds.

The only thing God has taught me to expect with any surety is that he WILL DO amazing things, and He will do them in ways I never expect. That’s where I’ve been trying to balance myself this Christmas and New Year’s season. Outwardly my life looks quite the same as it did last year at this time, and most people would pull out their measuring sticks and label Katie’s 2017 as a Big Fat Flop– as lively as this year’s box office. But I don’t think I’ve ever learned as much about God in a single year as I have this year.

God showed me He uses unexpected means to move me closer to Him. He taught me to be content with the blessings He gives me. He has been patiently coaching me to not jump ahead, to realize when something is precious and enjoy it as such. He’s convincing me of my need to release my fear of how things will go and what will happen. After all, He carries those weights so much better than I carry them.

This Christmas I am trying to rearrange my expectations, to learn how to expect God rather than stuff or people or even just change. God surprised me in 2017, and He did it in all the ways I would never have chosen. He gave me some really amazing gifts even in the middle of the HARD stuff.

My year end prayer for you is that whatever you find yourself in or whatever faces you in 2018, you will always expect God to show up in surprising and unexpected ways.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Matthew 6:7-8

Fear of Fragility

Do you ever think about endings? Maybe it’s the nostalgic in me, but I’ve been thinking about endings lately. It could be that I’ve picked up F. Scott Fitzgerald again, or it could be this mood for poetry I’ve been in. For as long as I’ve been able to understand poetry, the poems I like best are about the transiency of things, the impermanence– the kind of pictures that give you a sad, little squeeze in the middle of your chest. Or maybe I’ve been thinking about endings because it seems, this winter especially, as if a day barely even starts before it’s over again. And now the year is almost over, and I’m still staring at my list of four things to get better in during 2017.

I’ve always like poems or stories that remind me that things don’t last, so you must love them, enjoy them now. It reminds me that, although God created Adam and pronounced him good, we are now fallen, trapped in a world broken by sin, and it’s sin that puts things to death, even the enjoyable things in this life. There may be memories of Eden, but sin is the shadow that blurs them, swallows them up, blots them out, and twists them. It’s a delicate balance between the beauty of things that don’t last and the torture.

For a Christian, we don’t belong to this world. Our hope of true beauty, everlasting beauty and goodness, lies with our Father in eternity. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t meant to make the most of these moments here on earth. Whatever you can say for eternity, as amazing as it will be, this life still matters and the things we do, the opportunities we are given in this life, still matter.

I think about endings, and I worry over them sometimes, even after all the lessons God has brought me through about not worrying over tomorrow. These days it becomes more and more apparent how different my life could become if I only made this decision or that one, and it bothers me. Say “yes” to one thing and twenty other things that you love and hold dear will leave your life. That’s a fragility that overwhelms me sometimes, and when I’m on my knees before God, I feel guilty for letting the frailness frighten me. It’s rather like waking up in the morning afraid to get out of bed just because you know this day, whatever it holds, will be gone soon so “may, as well not even start.” SILLINESS.

In these moments, I forget that God holds each of my moments, each of my days, each of my decisions in His hands. I forget that if He wants my life to follow a certain course, He will prompt me through prayer, through Scripture, through the Holy Spirit’s leading to make the correct decision. And even when I see I’ve made a mistake, He will somehow steady the course; He will somehow straighten out the wrinkle I seem to have made. (I am not so powerful, even over my own life, to overturn what God has laid out.)

As a Christian, I shouldn’t be so frightened over endings, over the natural fact that nothing in this life lasts forever, over the fact that even some of those things which truly bring us joy, once they’ve run their course, will go away, too. People leave us. Jobs leave us. Money and things leave us. Youth leaves us. Strength leaves us. But if we know God, if we have a realtionship with Jesus, He will never leave us. He is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother.

So I come back to this epiphany I whispered to myself in my journal a few weeks ago: “Some blessings are not meant to last more than a season for if blessings on this earth were eternal, there would be no need for heaven. They points us onward and upward. They are not meant to keep us.”

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30