Positive Change and Negative Change

My post today will have some beginnings and some endings. Before I type up my post and publish it, I usually hand-write it in my journal. I can be old-fashioned in that way. I like seeing the pages of written words and knowing that I’m the one who wrote them down. One of today’s endings will be completing the last page of this journal. This is a positive change for me. I take a picture of all the journals I’ve completed (over 20 now, I think) and a picture of the next journal I’ll start tomorrow. It helps me to mark how much time has passed and to remember how far I’ve come. Being able to write down how I’m feeling has been a game changer for me. I still might not be able to verbalize my feelings well, but writing them down…writing them down, I can do.

This post will also be published at the end of the month. The ending of a month is usually a positive change for me. I like tearing off the calendar page at the end of the day and seeing all the possibilities of the brand new month coming–the passage of the seasons, so to speak. The ending of this month though will represent something negative for me. No, I don’t mean negative like I don’t want my son to graduate from high school. It just means that I will have less than three weeks of homeschooling left. Twelve years of doing something is a long time, and in a way, it can be negative because I’m not sure of what I’ll be doing next. Let me be honest. Right now, it does hurt because it is an ending, and because I like to know what I’m doing each day. I don’t like to not have the control I usually think I have over my days.

Change can hurt, as it says in today’s devotion. Sometimes, the change is out of our control, and sometimes, it is something we might want, but can still hurt because it represents an ending. I needed to be reminded of what God says about how He works in our lives through today’s Bible verse. From Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God works for our good–in the positive and in the negative. I don’t have a problem with positive change as I’m sure most of us don’t. Who wouldn’t want a better job, a promotion, a new place to live, etc., etc. though these positive changes can come with their own kinds of stress? No, it’s the negative changes that can hurt…losing a job, finding out about an illness, or losing a friendship. The author says this about how brave people react to change which confuses me. “Brave people are okay with change because they remember that change is for our good.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I equate this with pretending that nothing is wrong so I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

But then, she said that God knows. God knows our pain, and He knows our joy. We’re allowed to acknowledge both parts of our lives with Him which is one of my biggest struggles. We don’t have to have it all together to live bravely in His presence. We might not know the good that is planned through the hurt, but we do know He is working for our good through this verse. May we all acknowledge the truth of Romans 8:28 as we go through the joyous times and the hurting times of our lives!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

 

 

Apologies to My Subscriber List

It has been a little over a month since I moved my blog to a new website, but I’ve just now realized that my subscriber list didn’t move with it. I’d like to offer apologies to all of you. I think I’ve fixed it now so you should be able to enjoy my posts again. Please let me know either by a comment or a like that you can see this now. Also, if you have this page bookmarked, please change it so you can continue seeing my posts. Thanks so much!

Brave Enough to Let Go

Facebook memories can be a funny thing. They can remind you of what you posted on a particular day at a particular time. They can also take you back in time like they’ve done for me today. Seven years ago today, my younger son took his last gymnastics lesson. His coach and the owner of the facility was planning to move back to his home state. He had been one of the ones God had used to bless us over the months previous as he had allowed me to work for him in exchange for my son’s tuition. Both of my sons also took karate, and I was grateful to the instructor there as well that my sons’ lives could be kept normal while their father was out of work. As we headed home from the gym that day, I knew we were about to get some rough weather, but I had no idea of the magnitude of it or that God would send us to one of the hardest hit states only four months later.

I wasn’t thinking about letting go then though. We had been living in our home state again and in the city where we had met and married for almost two years. I was anticipating that we would be there through my sons’ high school years. My husband just had to find another job. A few more months passed, and we realized it wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t know it at the time, but God knew I needed to find Him again in a more personal way, and He had to refine my character in order to make that happen. I didn’t want to let go of our home state. In fact, I fought it hard because I didn’t want to let go of the familiar. Jumping into the unknown was and still is a scary thing, but it proved necessary.

Letting go was also hard because I equated it with giving up, and if you read yesterday’s post, http://thrivingingrace.com/brave-enough-to-hold-on/, you know it is a dangerous thing for me. But, they’re not the same, and I understand them both in a better way now. Giving up means quitting and never wanting to try again. Like I said, a dangerous thing because giving up can be taken to the extreme like with everything else in life. Letting go though, while it is an ending, means something better is on the other side. The Bible verses in this morning’s devotion say the same thing. From Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

I can look back now and see that letting go of our home state was a good thing. It has brought so much joy to our lives and so many new relationships including a closer relationships with God. We have had sorrows too since we moved here, and I have wanted to give up many times. In fact, if I’m being honest, I’m in one of those periods now. Life is hard, y’all, and it’s even harder for someone with depression. The feelings, the hurts, the aches, gnaw at the edge of my brain, and make the urges to give up even stronger.

But, when I remember how my new state was still recovering from the generational outbreak of tornadoes that happened seven years ago today when we moved here in September of that year, when I remember what God has done in our lives since we moved here and the relationships I have formed, and when I remember a four-year old girl, I can’t give up. I can only remember this quote from the author and know that God is leading me to my next best thing. “I have seen over and over again, that to simply let go is a powerful catalyst God will use to move me toward the next best thing.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) May we all be brave enough to let go at the right time and let God lead us to our next best thing!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Brave Enough to Hold On

This morning’s devotion was interesting. It had three things the author was encouraging us not to give up on as we considered whether holding on was worth it. I guess I’ve been braver in my life than I thought because I’ve never given up on more than two of them at a time. What are they? This is what she says. “Don’t give up on life. Don’t give up on God. Don’t give up on yourself.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

At times, I’ve given up on each of these things, but never all at once. I don’t think I’d be here anymore if I’d given up on all of them at the same time. 🙂 It’s like God has been building my bravery one block at a time. When I’ve given up on myself, He has brought people into my life who I’ve loved more than I’ve wanted to give up.  When I’ve given up on God, He has sent people to show His love. When I’ve given up on life, well, I haven’t done that yet though I’ve come awfully close. As we all know, life is hard, harder than we want it to be sometimes. Everyone else seems to be doing well except for us, and it can be frustrating. Those same people seem to be willing to tell the rest of us what we should be doing in our faith not realizing we are hurting ourselves.

But, I look at today’s Scripture and realize it gives me the reason, more than anything else, about why I shouldn’t give up on life. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The troubles we have here are temporary though they can be overwhelming. What’s more important is what’s eternal. This is encouraging to me when nothing else is. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus and forget about the rest of it.

It’s hard though, isn’t it? And right now, for me, it’s the hardest it’s been for a while. I’ve been listening to my Christian playlist on Spotify while I’ve been writing this, and a song played that has been sticking on the edge of my conscience for a while. It’s the song Thy Will by Hilary Scott. She wrote it after she had a miscarriage, but I think it helps anyone who is hurting. Here are the words, and I hope it helps you as much as it’s helped me.

Thy Will by Hilary Scott

I’m so confused

I know I heard you loud and clear

So, I followed through

Somehow I ended up here

I don’t wanna think

I may never understand

That my broken heart is a part of your plan

When I try to pray

All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

 

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

 

I know you’re good

But this don’t feel good right now

And I know you think

Of things I could never think about

It’s hard to count it all joy

Distracted by the noise

Just trying to make sense

Of all your promises

Sometimes I gotta stop

Remember that you’re God

And I am not

So

 

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will

 

I know you see me

I know you hear me, Lord

Your plans are for me

Goodness you have in store

I know you hear me

I know you see me, Lord

Your plans are for me

Good news you have in store

 

So, thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

Thy will be done

I know you see me

I know you hear me, Lord

 

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

The Waiting Season

I don’t think any of us likes to wait at least not from the people I’ve seen speeding through the open gate where I live or the horns I hear on the main thoroughfare in my area. We are all in a hurry–to go to work or school, to come home from work or school, to go on vacation. It seems like nothing is done at a slow pace in our society. We especially don’t like having to wait on the phone and trying to figure out when someone will be available to speak to us. It could happen in five minutes or it could happen in thirty minutes. We just don’t know, and I think that’s what gets most of us–the unknown. We would rather be in control of every situation that comes our way.

But, for those of us who are believers, isn’t God supposed to be in control? Aren’t we supposed to trust Him for the next steps in our lives? Scripture says so. The Bible verse included in today’s devotion is one of those verses. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.” There are many more verses I could quote, but I’m only going to feature a few. Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I get my hope.” The next one is from Psalm 33:20. “We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”

I especially like this passage from Lamentations 3:22-26. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

The quotes all reflect that God wants us to learn how to wait and how to be patient while we’re waiting. Then, why is it so hard? Or maybe it’s just hard for me. 🙁  I’m going through a waiting season right now, and it’s tough. It has played havoc with my brain chemistry, and it’s hard to talk about, even with God. Not only am I waiting in regards to a second car; we’re also waiting for our older son to hear about some things for the summer which are necessary for him to graduate from college next year. There are other areas of waiting too, and all of them have been tough. Coping when my heart has been this low is not something I do easily.

This is where being brave comes in. I hadn’t thought of being brave in relation to waiting, but it makes sense to me. If we have our bravery in tow, we can be patient and express patience with others. The part of the devotion that really got to me though was the part when the author said how patient the Lord is with us. Wow! Reality check! We should be able to wait if we remember that God has been incredibly patient with us. God’s will, not ours, even if our hearts have to be broken in the process. A broken heart can’t be wished away or prayed away. It has to be walked through like I’m walking through one right now.

So thankful I have a Lord and Savior who lets me lean on Him when I have a broken heart!

May God bless you all today!

Saying No

It might be obvious by now, but I like to write. 🙂 The words gather at the edge of my brain waiting to be poured onto paper. If I wait too long to write them down, I feel like I’m about to explode. I guess that’s why God wants us to use our gifts on a regular basis–so we won’t explode.

When I write fiction stories, I like to put my characters into situations that show their courage and their expertise–two things I don’t do well with in real life. I’ve heard it said that people escape into the world of a book as they read it. It’s also true of the people who write their stories down. At least it is for me.

I wrote a story the other week. I plan on entering it in a contest so I’m not going to publish it here yet. But, I’m going to give you some teasers because they are related to today’s devotion topic of saying no. My main character has a choice, and it has to do with her faith. If she makes the choice to defend her faith, she will die. There is no choice of having a lawsuit being filed against her because she “took a stand” for her faith. There is no rallying of other Christians to stand beside her. There are no Christians where she is. There is just death for speaking her beliefs. I won’t spoil the rest of the story. I’ll just say there are some western believers who are not cognizant of what a real challenge to their faith is.

There are times when God says no. There are times when we’re supposed to say no. It happened in the book of Daniel with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were told if they didn’t bow down and worship the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, they would be thrown into a furnace. I know a lot of courage was involved. They didn’t know what God was going to do. They only knew what they had to do. I like what Daniel 3:18 has to say. “But even if he does not [rescue us], we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” That took courage, courage I’m not sure I would have had until the moment it was required. Know what I mean?

This Scripture also reminds me of the song “Even If” by Mercy Me. God wants our hope to be in Him alone when He says yes and when He says no. It is the same when He is asking us to say yes or no. Like it says in the chorus of the song–“I know You’re able and I know You can. Save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don’t. My hope is You alone. I know the sorrow. I know the hurt. Would all go away if You’d just say the word. But even if You don’t. My hope is You alone.”

I read these words and realize God wants me to say them even if He doesn’t heal my depression. I’ve talked about this recently–how I feel isolated, alone and forgotten because of a lack of transportation. It’s done ugly things to my brain chemistry, and I’ve cried a lot–a reality of life for someone with depression. It was bad this past weekend. I realized a choice I had made was going to prevent us from getting another car until next year. A choice I had made, a choice I thought God had asked me to make was going to lead me into the deepest well of loneliness I had ever known, and it hurt more than I could imagine. I didn’t feel like I could even share the specifics of the hurt with anyone including God though I knew He knew anyway.

But, I look back at the words “even if You don’t”, and they bring me clarity. God wants me to say them even when I’m at the bottom of the well. So, here goes.

I know God can provide a second car, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is Him alone.

I know God can provide a ride to an activity I really want to go to, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is Him alone.

I know God can provide a way to a retreat, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is  Him alone.

I know God can provide friends, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is Him alone.

I know God can take the loneliness and isolation away, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is Him alone.

I know God can heal my depression, but even if He doesn’t, my hope is  Him alone.

And He is enough!

May God bless you all today!

Saying Yes

It’s finally come to the point where I’ve looked at the devotion from 100 Days to Brave, and I’ve not been sure I could pull even a small thread from it to write about. Saying yes has been scary for me of late. I have a hard time walking into somewhere by myself and feeling like no one wants me there–that I’m not pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or just enough to be with that particular group. I feel like I have nothing to contribute especially to a group of women who are all friends with me being the outsider.

But, this is when the author says it’s good to say yes. “Even when it’s scary or costly or unknown.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) There are more things I can add to this though that make me wonder. Do I say yes to doing something when I disagree with how it’s been handled in the past, and I haven’t had the courage to confront? Do I say yes when I’ve had the courage to confront and nothing’s changed? And what about that courage to confront? Confronting in a Christian way is something I haven’t figured out how to do yet, so, most of the time, when I disagree with something, I’ll keep my mouth shut and internalize all of my bad feelings. I know that’s not good for me either, but what do I do? I don’t know how Jesus wants me to handle it.

Sorry about that. I went off-topic. 🙂 Back to the subject of saying yes. Every yes I’ve said lately has been scary. God has been leading me to some places that are unfamiliar, and unfamiliar equals scary in my book. I’ve submitted one story to a contest and will be submitting another one shortly. I’ve agreed to go on a missions trip this summer. I know I’m in God’s will for both of these things, and I know I’m in the palm of His hand, but I’m still scared.

I also know God gives comfort in the midst of fear, and I think that might be the point of what the author has to say about saying yes in today’s devotion. “Say yes to the situations that stretch you and scare you and ask you to be a better you than you think you can be.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) God wants us to be better people so I’m pretty sure that’s why these fear-inspiring situations keep coming up. And if we’re believers, shouldn’t we want what God wants for us?

It’s hard for me to ask that question because the answer is obvious and because there are a lot of times I can’t or don’t want to say yes. It makes me feel ashamed. Fear does a number on us all. I will talk more about God giving us grace in these situations in the next post, but, for now, I believe God gives us the courage and the bravery to say yes to the things He wants us to do if we keep our minds and hearts continually seeking after Him. Praying for us to have courage and bravery as we seek our Lord and Savior and praying we can receive His grace when we can’t reach through our fear!

May God bless you all today!

Small Steps to Becoming Brave

I had been doing so well with my journey to becoming brave that yesterday surprised me. I didn’t think I could be knocked down that far again. But, I was wrong. With this journey though, I have found that getting back up again is crucial even when you don’t want to. That was true for me yesterday and is still true for me today. I didn’t want to get up. All I felt like I could do was languish in the pit. Nothing had changed, and nothing was probably going to change for a long time. I still felt isolated.

This was where making a small decision and taking a small step became important. I could not change the big problem or the isolation that came from it. I could not change the shame I felt because I was struggling mentally and emotionally instead of physically and the feeling that I would be ignored if I shared it. That was where the small step came in. I ended up going to church last night with a heavy heart. I didn’t want to, but I did. Once I got there, I wanted to be brave, sit within the crowd of people, and share my pain. I ended up sitting on the last row though. I couldn’t go any further. My state of mind wouldn’t let me. But, I did do something from the back row. I asked for people to pray for me and said why. Saying why was a big step. I had never been able to do that out loud before. It reminded me of what Galatians 6:7 says in the Message. “What a person plants, he will harvest.” I planted a tiny sprig of bravery in my heart last night. It might not have meant a lot to people. I only ended up speaking to a few people last night who offered encouragement. But, like the author of this morning’s devotion says, “A little yes can be a step in the right direction, even if it isn’t a leap.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

So, with God’s help, I’m going to keep taking the small steps, the ones that will fuel the flickering candle of bravery in my heart to a steady, constant light. I’m going to keep reading God’s Word, praying, and talking about bravery until God wants me to stop. Praying for all of us to be able to take the small steps!

May God bless you all today!

It’s Okay to Not be Okay

It took me awhile to puzzle out how I wanted to write this post. I agree with everything written in this morning’s devotion. The seasons change, and as part of the rhythm of life, I go along with those changes. I also believe with my whole heart that God and Jesus do not change. As it says in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

I believe all of this with my whole heart. But today, I am sad. Overwhelmingly sad, as a matter of fact. Sadness can come to people who suffer from depression as I do, sometimes without warning. It can even come to people who are Christians though other Christians would like to pretend it doesn’t.  I’ve never understood that. We pray for people who have cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or a host of other physical diseases. We pray for people who have been hurt in accidents. But, we don’t pray for people who suffer from mental illness. Instead, we are afraid of them. And those of us who suffer are forced to pretend we don’t when we’re in church. That is, if we go to church. I know people who have given up on the church because it’s not okay to not be okay. Is it an easily solvable problem? Being intimidated by something that’s not understandable is a hard obstacle to overcome. I can’t offer a wholesale solution. For me, I can only be as honest as I can when I do suffer.

It’s been a rough few weeks. Not only have I been dealing with life’s current of homeschooling, baseball, and church, I have also been working through my feelings of being done with homeschooling in just a few short weeks. Added on to this is a somewhat loss of freedom in going down to one car and not getting things done I wanted to get done. Isolation–it’s not a good thing for someone who suffers from depression, but it’s where I am.

Now, before someone says what I need to be doing, be assured that I am. I’ve been spending time in God’s Word and time praying. Praying for relief. Praying for His presence. I know He’s there even when I can’t feel Him because He is constant; He is unchanging; even when I’m isolated from other people. He has taught me through His constancy that He will be with me through my happy times and through my sad times and that being sad is okay with Him. He is teaching me to be brave through my sadness. Not to necessarily pretend that everything is okay all of the time, but to show people it’s okay to not be okay.

So, if you see me today and ask how I am, know that even if I say I’m great, I’m not, and it’s okay with God for me to say it. Praise God!

May God bless you all today!

Changing is Constant

When I was growing up, I was envious of the people who had one job in one place. There was no chance they would move, and they would be able to stay in their familiar places all of their lives. It used to be like that in the United States. Moving from one place to another was a bigger deal than it is today, and if moving was necessary, coming back to the old place was not possible.

I, on the other hand, measure my life by my moves. When people ask me where I’m from, I start listing out the different states where I’ve lived and the years I lived there. It was a lonely existence especially when I got old enough to realize what I was giving up. I remember hearing about a particular move when I was sixteen. We had only been in Ohio for one year, and the choices were to go to California or back to South Carolina where we had lived for six years before that year. It’s probably obvious what my choice was. I wanted to go back to South Carolina. I had friends there. I was familiar with the school and the area. I think it’s also obvious what we ended up doing. We went to California because the opportunity was better. Another change. Another new place. For my junior year of high school. It was a struggle although I eventually adjusted.

But, the struggle outweighed the adjustment enough that I chose to go back across the country for college. My heart ached for something familiar, and I thought going to college in my old hometown would ease that ache. It didn’t. Instead, I learned my first lesson about change being a constant thing in life. Oh, there were familiar places and familiar people, but we had all changed in the three years I had been gone. Changed and grown up. I can look back now and say it was a good thing, but I wasn’t so sure then because once more, I didn’t have an anchor.

I did though. I just didn’t realize it. God eventually reminded me, and we started having more talking time. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Our Father does notchange! I hung onto God tightly during my college years, and He brought people into my life who would become mentors and friends some of whom are still good friends all these years later.

The end of college brought more change. I began working and met and married my husband a few years later. Low and behold, the moves continued. First, they were within the same town–into a rental home before our first son was born and into a home of our own when both of our children were small. These moves weren’t such a big deal. We still had our same set of friends, and we went to a lot of the same places. But, then we moved to another city and to another state a few short years later. Those moves were harder. It was the same kind of change I had felt when I moved around as a child. It was weird though. The adjustment was easier. I felt more prepared for the change. It didn’t hurt any less, but it was easier.

I know now that God was preparing me for the moves through my childhood experiences. He was teaching me He would always be there for me even when I acted like I didn’t want Him and even when I wasn’t as close to Him as I am now. He was teaching me how to let go, and I needed to learn how. He was teaching me He was my anchor, and no one else could be. All good lessons to learn.

I’m not jealous of people who get to stay in one place anymore. They have as much to deal with as I’ve had with the constant change in my life. God, not a place, is my anchor, and I wouldn’t want it any different!

May God bless you all today!