What are My Chains?

chains

If we haven’t battled the demons of drug, alcohol, or sex addictions, we may not be aware of our own personal chains. We all compensate our pain one way or another. All of these compulsions start as an escape. Escape from neglect, pain, or sheer boredom. Escape to feel better in the moment. Then the next time, the next, the next, and eventually we feel dropped into the pit of despair with no idea how to function without them. Affecting children, marriages, friends, careers, a downward spiral. We’ve all heard the stories if we haven’t lived them. These testimonies are powerful, they get our attention, they warn us, and they open our eyes to what a powerful work Jesus truly can do in a life. Praise God for each and every one! But, if we don’t fall into these categories, it can leave us to wonder….what about me? What are my chains?

What are you dependent on? For comfort? For “normalcy”? What or who do you go to? What makes you feel better? If it is destructive, these are chains. We all have quirks, preferences, and interests, but at what point do they become destructive? This is a chain. We all need to eat, but food can be a chain. Overeating and anorexia. We all need to clean, but then there’s obsessive cleaning. We should all exercise, but there is also exercise addiction. We all need rest, but laziness can also turn into a chain. Relationships, friends, spouses, parents, and children are all wonderful, but if we turn these gifts into idols, they can become chains.

We all want to be loved, but people pleasing is a chain. The more I seek Jesus, the more He shines the light on this chain of mine. The chain of speaking up. The chain that my opinion doesn’t matter or is always wrong, just because it’s mine. The hardest concept for me to wrap my mind around is that it is possible to love others without pleasing them. My fear has always been that if I disagree, they will feel unloved by me or stop loving me altogether. So I freeze. I keep my opinions to myself. I feel like a don’t have a voice. After all, my thoughts on the subject must be wrong, so why voice them anyway?

Then, He reminds me that I am His daughter. Then, He reminds me that He died for me. Then, He reminds me that His love is greater than anyone else’s that I’m afraid of losing or hurting. And, it breaks. And, I’m free. Free to be me. Free to speak. Free to make choices. Free to admit how hard this is for me. Free. And, you know what I’ve also noticed? The ones who’s opinions I tend to fret about the most don’t seem to care one iota about mine. You see the chain?

This may not be a testimony that includes drug rehab, loss of custody, or Alcoholics Anonymous…but, to me, it’s powerful. Jesus is personal. There are some things only you and Jesus know that you struggle with. He will shine a light on your chains if you ask Him to. This is life changing, because once you begin to see His progress, you will be amazed as to how tied down you were.

Now, every time I speak my personal opinion or verbally disagree with someone else’s, I’m actually surprised. I still get scared of their reaction and don’t want to hurt feelings, but I realize more and more that my feelings and opinions are just as valid. This a chain that once broken, doesn’t stay that way. This is a heavy chain. My weakness. My struggle. My thorn. Oh, how I wish it would go away completely.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (ESV)

Paul pleaded for his thorn to be removed, but He said the Lord didn’t remove it in order to keep him from being conceited (verse 7). To keep him humbled. To keep him dependent. To keep him face down in awe of His Savior. If our thorns keep us at the feet of Jesus, then praise God for them. And, Paul did just that.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)

Making us aware of our thorns (crutches, tendencies), the damage they cause, and the relief available through Him alone is breaking our chains. It’s interesting to me that broken people know the weight of these chains. Once broken, we look to Him in our weakness. We go to Him with our problems. We appreciate others who do. We recognize His power. We request prayer. We want Him first. Once broken, He becomes the light and love of our lives. Once our chains are broken, we want to help others feel the release of theirs. Only Jesus.

 

 

Diagnosis: Panic

panic

The phone rings. The phone doesn’t ring. The news is not what you expect. The news is what you do expect. Our hearts race, mouths go dry, every heart beat is amplified in our ears. Fear. Fight or flight. Sheer panic sets in. This is an all too frequent condition that I deal with. Panic. Even seeing the word provokes what it means to me.

Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. Isaiah 41:10 (MSG)

Can I tattoo this on my forehead? Who’s with me? So, when I feel attacked or misunderstood, don’t panic. When my manager wants to “talk”, don’t panic. When the doctor arrives who seems hell-bent on criticizing me, don’t panic. When my plans fall through. When I can’t be two places at once. When I don’t get the reaction I want or expect. When it takes me two hours to get to work because of traffic, don’t panic. When these things happen, my first instincts and emotions go haywire. I want to yell and scream…”It’s NOT RIGHT!!” But, that won’t change any of it whatsoever. What will? Who can?

Although, my heart may pound and my mouth feel parched, my knees will hit the ground. My heart will cry out for relief. For guidance and the self control necessary to prevent the tidal wave of emotions crashing all around me from taking me down along with the ones I love. And, I will let the tears fall when they come. Tears are safe. Tears are cleansing. Tears are proof that we are alive. Because, life is hard and seems extremely unfair sometimes. Only with God’s perspective can we trust that the hard stuff is not because of His lack of love, but rather to draw us closer to Him. The closer the better.

We can’t make people do things. We can’t make people not do things. We can’t make someone understand. We can’t change people’s minds. We can’t make someone care if they don’t. We can only pray and ask for the help that He promises.

I still struggle with anxiety and panic, but I know the best prescription for this diagnosis is written in Isaiah 41:10. So, today I will take my medicine. My Ultimate chill pill. And, another one tomorrow….My guess is I need it every day.

Beauty in the Struggle…

struggle

Have you struggled?  Have you wondered if a lack of peace means you’re headed in the wrong direction? Have you wondered if the struggle is because of disobedience or God prompting you to change directions? Does the confusion get the best of you? It has for me. Why is it that when we pray a mighty prayer, make our requests so big that only God could deliver them, wait, wonder if it’s even possible, then actually receive it, that we still struggle? Why is that? Because we are human beings with mere human hearts and minds that have a hard time comprehending what is meant for us, what is best for us.

Have you ever heard, “Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it!” As soon as it arrives, our hearts are frightened and we feel like we’re not ready. If we weren’t ready, why would God drop this in our lap? Something only He could know we wanted. Something straight out of the deepest desires of our heart. Yet, we don’t feel ready. We don’t jump in with joy and excitement and praise His name, like a child would. Nope, we worry. We wonder if it’s right. We wonder if it’s real. We wonder if it’s finally here. And we wonder what to do with it. We pray for discernment, for peace, for direction…for truth.

Have you considered that the struggle may be because you ARE heading in the right direction? We tend to think that once our miracle arrives, it will be smooth sailing, but God has another thing in mind. How else would He keep us dependent?  How else would He keep us humble? By reminding us we can’t do it alone. By reminding us that getting our prayers answered doesn’t mean everything will be easy, but it will be different. With new territory, there will be new issues to deal with and problems to face. This allows us to praise Him while remaining completely dependent. When we feel incompetent to handle our blessing, He is STILL ever present.

Whether it’s a new relationship or an ended one, an unexpected baby or a long-awaited one. Whether it’s your dream job or an opportunity that you’ve waited and prayed so long for, there will be issues. New ones. I’m so thankful that God loves me enough to struggle with me. When my soul desire is to do His will, it means I love Him enough to struggle too. I’d rather struggle with God than silence or deny Him in my heart.

One thing’s for sure, just like Jacob struggled with God, we won’t come out the same. We’ll come out closer, changed, and with a limp that keeps us dependent and reminded of God’s sovereignty in our lives . The people who have stayed by our sides in our struggles will always hold a close place in our hearts. Likewise, when we struggle with God, we come out closer and ever more certain of His love for us. There is beauty in the struggle.

 

Embrace Grace

grace

Extending grace and forgiveness to others can be extremely difficult when we feel rejected, misunderstood, or offended. As tough as that is, I admit I sometimes have an even harder time extending it to myself. When I lose my patience with my girls, say something I wish I hadn’t, refrain from saying something that I should have, or just plain drop the ball, the most important thing I need to do is embrace grace.

The devil loves to watch us squirm in guilt for our behavior. Broken records of criticisms in our pasts can wreak havoc on our minds if we don’t remember to embrace grace. I was raised in the church, but embracing grace is a relatively new concept for me. It helps me breathe easier whenever I remember to do it. It takes an enormous amount of pressure off when we remember that God knows our flaws and weaknesses and loves us anyway. That’s grace.

We are finishing up a women’s Bible study called “Believing God” by Beth Moore. There’s a five statement pledge in this study that we repeat together every week. 1) God is who He says He is, 2) God can do what He says He can do, 3) I am who God says I am. 4) I can do all things through Christ, 5) God’s word is alive and active in me. All so awesome! I love each and every one of them and if we TRULY believe them all we are well on our way to victory. But, I can say, the one we agreed is the toughest to believe is #3. I AM who God says I am. As women, we just feel like we fall short. We struggle with this one, I know I do. Maybe because we were told differently growing up, treated less than, let down, put down, used, whatever the reason….the devil loves to prey on us and our sense of worth. Bottom line is: God says we are worth dying for and He did just that.

If anyone makes you feel inferior, criticizes your personality, strengths, or weaknesses, they are not viewing you as God does. We are who God says we are and that is a beautiful thing. Not one of us is perfect, but we are all loved by a God who is. If He can lavish us with His perfect grace, we need to remember to give ourselves a drop or two when we stumble. Let’s see ourselves and each other as He does, children worth dying for.