From Winter to Spring.


I’ve been thinking a lot about seasons recently. Both the literal and figurative kind.

No matter how brutal the winter may be one year, everyone knows that spring is going to come afterward.

That is a fact. Spring always comes after winter.

Life always blooms again, even after snow and ice have covered everything green and good and colorful in this world ten times over and made everything look like a scarred barren wasteland, it always melts and it always heals and turns into something new.

Always.

I have been in my own wintery, cold, and stormy season for perhaps the past entire year or so of my life.

Messy, chaotic, overwhelming in a bad way, feeling like a resident of the struggle bus, and overall just plain difficult…

….but Jesus…

Despite how brutal my own winter season has been as of late, Jesus has been and still is turning my winter into spring, and will finish the good work he started in me.

He has been the only constant and consistent presence in the midst of my chaos.

Even if I still feel like literally the messiest person on the planet right now,

Even if I feel like I’ll be stuck in this season forever,

Even if I don’t see how Jesus has changed things,

that doesn’t change the fact that he HAS.

Jesus tenderly and gently reminded me that he has felt what I have felt and then some, gone what I have gone through and so much more than I ever possibly could

– and yet he was without sin.
Tempted and tried in every way I have, and yet was without sin

On top of that, he chose to find me and you in the midst of our mess, chose to be humiliated, brutalized, victimized, subjected to abuse, and allowed himself to ultimately be murdered because he didn’t want the sin in our lives causing us to be hostile towards life anymore.

That is also a fact.

Jesus died. But the tomb is empty. He is risen.

And therefore, He is someone I can trust to help me get through the storms of life.

God designed the earth so that it was impossible for it to stay in a season that was hostile towards life forever. He designed it to be revived, to experience new life, new growth, newness, after the old things had died.

Resurrection.
New life.

I have had things in my life weighing me down and making it harder to grow closer to God, and I’ve realized that the desire to grow closer to Him, become more like Him, ultimately means having to experience the refining fire of his love. To be made new and pure, sometimes you gotta let God go digging with a garden tool to get all the weeds that have grown in of your garden of a soul. You gotta let God grab them, thorns and all, and rip them out.

Having weeds getting ripped out of your life is not fun. You have to recognize that they’re there first, and then the healing process can begin. Healing can’t happen without a hurt having happened first, and once the hurt is recognized, then the next step is accepting that it happened and asking God to take over.

In the case of the depression and anxiety I personally struggled against for years, I needed to know what it was I was being healed from so I could see just how absolutely amazing and faithful He is to me. I needed to identify the roots of my weeds.

And I finally did about a month ago.
It wasn’t fun, but it was good.
And God is GOOD.

Through Jesus’ death, my sin died with him, and through his resurrection, he resurrected me to new life, even though I may not feel it all the time, he has done it.

He has pulled out the weeds that were entangling my heart, roots and thorns and all.

It is finished.

New life is coming up.

Spring has sprung indeed.

Shambly.

When people ask me how I’m doing/how I’ve been doing, or how I’m feeling, the first part of my answer recently is, “A little shambly…”

According to Merriam-Webster, shambles is place or state in which there is great   confusion, disorder or destruction

AKA: a state of messiness. Storminess.

Shambles.
Mess.
Great confusion.
Disorder.

This has been me for a while.
Constantly feeling all out of sorts, disordered, chaotic, running around all over the place, not feeling like I have enough.
Not enough time to do what I need to and what I want to.
Not enough energy.
Not enough emotional or mental capacity.
Not enough for others.
Not enough for myself.
Not enough for God.
Not enough in general.

If last semester was a great big pile of flaming dog-poop (possibly another story for another time), then the past 2 months of this semester have felt like me running around like a chicken after its head’s cut off (sorry/not sorry for the vivid or gross imagery. Life isn’t always pretty).

Starting over Christmas break and going into the beginning of this semester, I starting reading through Psalms, and I ended up reading it in its entirety twice. In doing this I found several chapters and verses that I have found to be prayers. These are prayers that can be shouted and screamed and literally cried out when the weight of the world and the problems we face in life just get too freaking hard.

And in my life recently, these have been prayers that I have clung to when I have come to the end of myself, which has happened waaaaaay to frequently for my liking.

I title these prayers as prayers of desperation; heart-cries.

These prayers are saturated and ringing with hurt, aching, longing, sorrow and frustrating.

These are prayers that people have prayed over themselves when they need to be reminded of God’s character and consistency in the midst of their own chaos.

These are prayers that other people have prayed when they have come to the end of themselves, crying out to God, desperate to see him move, and when they are questioning His faithfulness and goodness.

These aren’t prayers to be said quaintly or in a rote way in a sermon. I mean they could, but I think that would be missing the point and making these prayers less than what they are. These prayers were written at times of great distress, sorrow, depression, aching, and frustration, and so people can and have the freedom to pray them with the same kind of emotion felt by those who wrote them.

And boy have I felt the need to do that recently. Thankfully, these prayers give me the words when I am overwhelmed by my emotions (remember, I feel things pretty intensely.)

These prayers are found in

– Psalm 3                                                                      – Psalm 77:1-13

– Psalm 13                                                                    – Psalm 80:3-19

– Psalm 17                                                                    – Psalm 86:1-6, 11-17

– Psalm 19:12-14                                                         – Psalm 88:6-9, 13

– Psalm 22 (super powerful)

– Psalm 25                                                                     – Psalm 89:46-52

– Psalm 27:7-11 (this is a good one to scream)       – Psalm 90:12-17                            

–  Psalm 28:1-2                                                              – Psalm 91

– Psalm 31:1-6, 9-21                                                     – Psalm 94:14, 16-19

– Psalm 38:9-15, 17-21                                                 – Psalm 101:2-3

– Psalm 39:4-13                                                           – Psalm 102 and 103

– Psalm 40:1-3, 11-13, 17 (this is a promise you can say over your life in this way – I will wait patiently for you to help me God: for I know you will listen and hear my cry. I know you will lift me out of the pit of despair, out of the bog and the mire, etc.)

– Psalm 42:4-11                                                           – Psalm 105 (not necessarily a prayer but good one to read if you’re struggling with remembering God’s faithfulness.

– Psalm 43:5

– Psalm 44:23-26                                   – Psalm 107:3-7, 9, 29, 35-38, 41-43

– Psalm 51                                                                  – Psalm 109:21-28

– Psalm 55:1-2, 4-8, 16-19                                        – Psalm 116

– Psalm 56: 3-4, 8-13                                                  – Psalm 118:5-9

– Psalm 57:1-3                                                             – ALL of Psalm 119

– Psalm 59:16                                                              – Psalm 121

– Psalm 61                                                                   – Psalm 126:5-6

– Psalm 66:10-20                                                        – Psalm 130:1-6

– Psalm 69:1-3, 13-19                                                – Psalm 139:23

– Psalm 70                                                                  – Psalm 139:23

– Psalm 71:1-6, 14-24                                                – Psalm 141:1-2

– Psalm 73:17-28                                                       – Psalm 142

– Psalm 74:1-2, 19-22                                                – Psalm 145:14-20

 

So, what am I getting at here? I didn’t just list a bunch of places in Psalms with heartfelt prayers for no reason, so bare with me.

Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this life, you will have troubles…”

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Yep. Accurate. Very very very very accurate.

This semester alone:

– I lost my job unexpectedly, and have been unemployed for over a month despite my numerous efforts.

– Because I don’t have a job I don’t have money coming in to help me pay for my mission trip I’m taking this summer, so that’s extremely stressful.

– A dearly loved family member that will need surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in their kidney, after having lost their other kidney because of a cancerous tumor 10 years ago (which I literally just found out about both of those things a week ago)

– There is a situation between me and another person in my college ministry that hasn’t been resolved yet after 5 months, which has been really really painful. This is an incredibly complicated situation that I can’t even begin to unpack, so for all of you prayer warriors out there please keep me in mind and pray for reconciliation between me and this other person.

– School has been a whole new breed of stressful all on its own

– AND NOW, ON TOP OF ALL OF THAT, people I know well and have done life with for a while now, have hurt me in a way I never thought they would and in a way I know they never intended to.

So, yeah, shambly. Very shambly.

BUT

And this is very important people.

IN THAT SAME sentence in John 16:33, Jesus also says, “…but take heart, for I have overcome the world!”

This is why the second part of my answer to that question of “How are you/how’ve you been?” is “…but God is good.”

This is why I can say that second part of my answer.

Jesus didn’t finish his statement with a “Life’s gonna suck” message. He didn’t just say, “In this life, you will have troubles. End of story. So have fun with that!”

I think he’s saying,

“Hey, life won’t be easy, you know life’s not easy, but you won’t have to and don’t need to dwell on it because I have overcome whatever troubles you may face today, tomorrow, and in the future. So hope in me, because whatever you do end up facing in life – I’ve already defeated it.

This is why the second part of my answer to that question of “How are you/how’ve you been?” is “…but God is good.”

I don’t always see it, but I always say it because I want to remind myself of this truth. Honestly, it’s really hard for me to believe that God is for me sometimes.

But all of those Psalms give me hope.
They give me words to pray, and they comfort me by showing me that there were people in situations that were way more extreme than mine probably ever will, but that God still showed up for them. So I know he can, and will, show up for me, too.

In James 1:2-4 it says,

“Is your life full of difficulties and temptations?…”  

Difficulties in my life? HA. Check. The temptation to grow hopeless, despair, and be bitter at God? Yep, check.

“…Then be happy, – ”

WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT WHAT? Come again??

“…for when the way is rough your patience has a change to grow…”

I guess that’s a good thing…

…So LET IT GROW…”

Okay, okay, but I don’t know how to do that God, so how do I do that?

“…don’t try to squirm out of your problems…”

Oh….

“For when your patience is finally in full bloom,

then

            you, Liv,

not just other people,

BUT YOU,

will be ready for ANYTHING,

STRONG in character,

FULL and COMPLETE.”

Patience is something that many people have told me recently that they felt God was highlighting to me, something that Jesus wants me to learn from him and lean into him for more of it, and I can’t deny it, I think they’re right.

It’s pretty clear that all of these things going on in my life which seem like a giant pile of suck are there not because Jesus likes to watch me squirm underneath the weight of my problems (that is not who God is).

The problems I’m facing are there because Jesus wants me to learn how to grow in patience, to trust that his provision will show up in his perfect timing. 

I want to be ready for anything, but I can’t be ready to endure the kinds of suffering that Paul or Timothy or Barnabas or other early Christians endured for the sake of the Gospel if my patience for suffering isn’t even developed to handle the problems I have now.

So, I’m going to stop trying to squirm out of my problems. It’s tiring trying to do that anyway. I know I can’t fix my problems through my own strength, and I know I’m not going to produce more patience by trying to get of my difficulties. Trying to get out of difficulties is immature, energy depleting, and won’t help me, or you, in the long haul.

So God, thanks. Thank you for the problems in my life, because they show me how much I need you. Yeah they suck big time and I don’t always feel thankful for them, but I know you’re at work in the midst of them, and I trust that.

Patience is a virtue and is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And because I have the Holy Spirit in my life, I know that this fruit is growing in me, little by little, day by day, problem by problem.

Growing is hard and comes with growing pains, but once the process is done, I’ll be in full bloom. And I can wait to see what I’ll look like by the end of this season because right now, I’m choosing to live day by day, because tomorrow’s got enough of its own problems.

 

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Feelings are Fickle. God is Good.

“God…I am just not feeling it today…

I can’t remember exactly when this thought ran through my head, which I subsequently said out loud to Jesus as I was driving in my car, but I know it was after I had been at a prayer meeting, or maybe it was a college service, or something else church related…

Anyway, it was after I had been trying to get into the presence of God for the umpteenth time, just trying to be with Him, just trying to feel something other than the gigantic, garbage-bag-of-a-mess I’ve felt like lately –

– And not feeling it. Not feeling his presence, not feeling loved, not feeling secure, not feeling it. At all.  – and it sucked.

God…I am just not feeling it today…

Before I continue with what happened after I thought this, I need to give you some background on me.

I am a feeler. A really, deep feeler.
I am an emotive person, and I am an emotional person.
And I am confident that God made me this way, however, it’s not always fun.

There are some emotions that I have felt, and, on occasion, still feel, so strongly it’s practically a miracle I haven’t imploded from just how intensely I’ve felt some of them – just ask my parents or my sister or my best friend, they’d probably agree with me.

Anyway, something God has been showing me recently is that a lot of the time my walk with Him has been heavily influenced by my emotions.

He’s shown me that what I have thought about Him, how I have experienced His presence, what I have believed about His consistency, goodness, and faithfulness in my life, have all been influenced by my emotions, so much so, that I have believed this very deceiving lie:

that the emotions I feel reflect what God thinks of me and how He feels towards me.

This has looked like;

– Me feeling disappointed and thinking that God was disappointed in me for wanting what it was I wanted, that God was disappointed in me for hoping for/in the wrong thing and not figuring it out until it was too late.

– Me feeling angry with myself and thinking that God was angry with me

– Me feeling shame and thinking that God was ashamed of me

– Me feeling loved and thinking that God loved me – BUT AT THE SAME TIME subconsciously thinking that the love I felt was conditional and that would fade the minute I did something wrongwhich, by the way, IS THE SPIRIT OF ANXIETY AND PARANOIA, PEOPLE.

– Me feeling the deeeeeeeep ache of the depression and the violent turbulence of the anxiety that I struggled against for years, and thinking that because I felt that way that God had abandoned me and given up on me, that God thought I wasn’t worth pursuing anymore because I felt depressed, alone, and anxious over ridiculous things that (at the time I didn’t know but I now realize) literally had no bearing on my life whatsoever. That because of my emotions, it was too difficult, exhausting, and useless for God to even try to do a good work in me. That because of how messy I was and my inability to do anything on my own that God was fed up with me, that I had finally done the thing that would convince Him to leave me, that He thought it was a waste of time to keep working in me because I was still struggling with the same stupid stuff all freaking over again.

WOW.

Lies. Lies, lies, lies, all LIES.

The enemy has been feeding me these for years. And it’s only recently that I realized how long this has been going on, how long I have been believing them, and how silly I have been for believing them as long as I have.

BUT (and here’s the glorious giddy-kind-of-laughter inducing FACT about following God)

God is not disappointed with me, mad at me, or upset with me for having believed these lies for so long.

He has grace upon grace upon grace upon grace upon grace

Which brings me back to what happened in my car the other day….

God…I am just not feeling it today…

Almost immediately after this thought came into my head and said it out loud did another thought come into my head –

But that doesn’t mean I’m not here, Liv. Just because you don’t ‘feel’ me doesn’t mean I’m far from you. I’m right here, with you. WITH YOU. You know why? Because I love you. I’m crazy about YOU. Even if you don’t ‘feel’ me or my presence, or ‘feel’ what you think you should when you worship me or experience my presence in the ways you see other people experiencing me, that does not mean I’m not with you, that does not mean I don’t love you or that I love you less for feeling the way you do.”

Emotions are not bad, people. God has emotions. God gave us emotions.

It’s how we respond to them, how we choose to act on them (if at all), and where the thought behind them is coming from that is important.

            “Just because I “feel” an emotion does not mean that the thought behind it is true”1

THANK YOU LORD FOR THIS REVELATION.

I want to be a woman who considers it all joy when I encounter trials of any kind,

and I know I can be BECAUSE OF GOD.

I want to be a woman who really asks with unshakable faith, not doubting that God will answer me so that I am not one who’s mind and emotions are tossed about like the waves of the sea.

and I know I can be BECAUSE OF GOD.

So, as a result of this finally getting through to my heart, I have determined to repeat this to myself UNTIL I TRULY BELIEVE IT, especially when I have moments where I’m feeling overwhelmed by my emotions (I encourage you to do the same (: )

– The emotions you DO or DO NOT feel DO NOT define you, your walk with God, or what God thinks of you. Period.

Your emotions do not have control over you, define you, or have the power to create chaos in your life.

You know why??!

Because God defines you.

God holds you and every little bit of you and your life together.

God understands emotions, and He is not surprised by, put off by, afraid of, or incapable of handling the intensity of yours.

God creates order out of the messiness of life and the messiness of our emotions. Even if we do not see it right away, He promises that it will happen, and

He. Follows. Through. On. His. Promises.

Always.

FOR THE LORD GOD SAYS,

I am with you and you, and I will protect you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you. (Gen 28:15)

Fear not, for I am with you: Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Remain confident of this Liv (or insert your name here): You will see My goodness in the land of the living. Wait for Me; be strong and take heart and wait for Me. (Psalm 27:13-14)

 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But TAKE HEART, because I have OVERCOME the world. (John 16:33)

When [NOT IF, BUT WHEN] you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and WHEN [NOT IF, BUT WHEN] you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you When [NOT IF, BUT WHEN] you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2)

Thank you Jesus. Thank you thank you thank you.

 

 

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  1. Healing Negative Emotions devotional on the YouVersion Bible App by Kimberly Taylor from takebackyourtemple.com.
  2. Note: All capitalized, bolded, italicized, and [inserts] in featured scripture verses were added by me.
  3. Songs for this post: God of Miracles by Springs Church Worship, I Want It All (Just Give Me Jesus) by Daniel Bashta, Mercy by Amanda Cook.

A New Chapter.

I came to a big realization pretty recently: I discredit myself.

Here’s what I mean;

I’ve found it hard to show that I am proud of things I can do, things I create, because I tend to think others will view me as being prideful or arrogant for saying what I can do or showing that I’m able to do something well, or, God forbid, that I’ll start to get a big head in the process of just sharing in what I’m good at with the world.

Here are the facts.

I am good at singing. Like I’m actually good at singing.

– I sang all throughout elementary, junior high and high school, a high school   choir kid if there ever was one, took vocal lessons for over 6 years and was classically trained by two incredible voice coaches, one who happens to be an opera singer with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, was going to pursue Music Ed and Vocal Performance as a career until God completely changed my mind (that’s another story for a different time), and I’ll be auditioning for my church’s worship team pretty soon (which I’m really excited about!!)

I’m good at writing.

– I have two poems published in an online student publication, I’m working on a poetry book that is currently 83 pages long, and I performed slam poetry at an open mic night in from of European strangers while studying abroad.

But I tend to think that people will think me boastful or prideful for showing and sharing what I’m good at with the world. I’m not good at giving myself credit for what I’m capable of doing.

I have been self-deprecating for a long, long time.

And it’s not like…being humble, honestly. It’s feeling unable to say or do what you know yourself to be good at.

And I realized that it’s because whenever I tried to share things that I know I’m good at in the past, people have shut me down, criticized me, told me that I’m not good enough, or that I should engage in my talents, but quietly and without any fanfare.

BUT,

I have chosen to not care anymore what people think.

I want to be proud of the things I create, and I will show it.

I will claim the talents that God has given me, engage in them, share them with the world, not be ashamed or bashful about them and give God the glory for those gifts if I get recognition for the things I’ve created – not myself.

So look out world – Liv’s coming for ya. Get ready.IMG_4695