The Hard Hallelujah.

Reader, this season is hard.

If I could sit across the table from you, cup of coffee in hand, and pour out all that is on my heart, I’d share how I’m feeling cooped up, isolated, a little bit anxious and a lotta bit lonely. I’d share how my moods are changing by the hour, and how though some days I feel like I can identify and embrace all the beauty and joy there is to be found in this season; most days, I’m battling for joy and rejoicing is painful. I’d share how I’m finding so much to be thankful for, yet mourning the loss of so much. And I’d tell you how I’m feeling guilty about my struggle because I have been infinitely blessed and so many of my neighbors haven’t been. I’d tell you how most days I question who I am to consider this season one of suffering.

And I’d ask you the same questions I’ve been asking God.

Questions like: How do we rejoice in this season of suffering, isolation and loneliness? What does it look like to give thanks when so many people are losing and living in desperation? In this season of emotional frailty and weakness, where do we find the strength to rejoice in the Lord? When all we have are hard emotions, exhausted hearts, and weary minds, how do we embrace the command to rejoice?

Do we muster up “good” emotions? Do we look for the silver lining? Do we try to fake it ‘til we make it? And what about that thing called joy? Is it there and we just can’t find it? Or are we doing joy wrong?

Continue reading “The Hard Hallelujah.”

God, I give you my mess.

This is the cry of my heart tonight, reader. I’ve got nothing else to offer, nothing else to bring. No words of wisdom. No lesson or learning.

No, tonight what I have is a broken and contrite spirit. A faint heart, an emotionally exhausted mind, and a discouraged soul.

And beneath it all, the smallest flicker of hope.

The last few days, God’s convicted me big time of some sin I didn’t want to acknowledge. And I don’t know if this is how it works for you, but when God convicts me of sin, he doesn’t seem to hold back much. It seems like he brings out the big guns. (Even as I write this, I can almost hear God chuckle to himself, as if to say, “Oh Megan, you think those are my big guns? You’ve got no idea.”)

And I know God’s character is gentle. I know he can be delicate and soft in his handling of his children.

But sometimes, he is the thunder and the roaring lion and always he is a jealous God and a loving Father, and so when God sees us wrapped up in a sin, especially one we are either oblivious to or in denial of, he sends in the big dogs.

Or at least, that’s what it feels like on the receiving end.

And hear me, I’m not saying God isn’t kind in his conviction. I’m not saying his discipline isn’t rooted in love. I’m not saying he inflicts pain, pours out his wrath, or sends us into a place of shame and condemnation.

But I think what he does do, is come into our lives with all of his power and authority, and he hits hard on the hardest parts of our hearts.

And when he does, I always react the same way: first, I cry. Second, I question.

God, why do you have to hit so hard? Why is your approach so intense?

Continue reading “God, I give you my mess.”

God, why am I so afraid?

“Don’t be afraid.” Easier said than done, am I right?

You know, there are a lot of commands in the Bible that I can easily get on board with – a lot of straightforward, easy to understand commands. No, they aren’t all easy to follow of course, but a lot of them seem pretty black and white, right and wrong, do this and don’t do that. And I can see value in them all, even though I fall short of each one, often.

But when the Bible commands Christians not to be afraid, it throws me off because it isn’t just a suggestion or a good idea. It’s not just a friendly phrase to throw around in the midst of trials or to encourage loved ones with. It’s a command.

Fear not.

Continue reading “God, why am I so afraid?”

When forgiveness is hard.

“Do you forgive me?”

In my head? Yes.

In my heart? No.

This is often how things play out between my husband and I after an argument. It doesn’t really matter the circumstance, whether it’s a huge, deep hurt against the other or a small comment taken too seriously, when my husband and I disagree, he is always quick to apologize and quick to forgive.

I wish I could say I’m the same way. I wish I could say I fight for unity with ease and am quick to reconcile, but the truth is, I don’t and I’m not.

And I hate that.

I hate that I am often the grudge holder in our marriage. I hate that I am a keeper of wrongs. I hate that apologies don’t come easy and that I cling to unforgiveness. I hate that my mind is ready to forgive, but my heart and my emotions are not.

Continue reading “When forgiveness is hard.”

To the worn-out perfectionist

I see you.

You, the exhausted, worn out and weary soul, tired of chasing grace, yet refusing to accept it.

I see you.

You, who are fully aware you aren’t living in the freedom Jesus promised, yet paralyzed by desperate, failed attempts to taste His sweetly promised peace.

I see you.

You who’s been beaten down by shame and who’s given the reins to the enemy to attack you with his accusations. You – trapped in an exhausting cycle, a victim of the less-than-perfect, never able to meet the demands of perfection, yet refusing to ever accept the reality that we are surrounded by an imperfect everything.

Yeah, I see you. And in every way, I’ve been you.

Continue reading “To the worn-out perfectionist”

You don’t have to be afraid of change.

“Mom, be prepared.”

This is what I used to say to my Mom as a child every night before bed. Not your typical, “Goodnight-I-love-you,” am I right? I don’t know many women who long for their goodnight cuddles and their “I love you” to be returned with, “Mom, be prepared.”

But, for most of my preteen and early teenage years, I ended each day with a rigid routine – one where I placed my phone on the exact same spot on our coffee table, got ready for bed, washed my hands three times, restarted the bedtime music I slept to about 15 times, carefully took 11 sips of water – three regular, three big, three small, one gargling, one tiny – and then, always the same each night, “Mom, be prepared,” followed by the assurance, “Honey, I’m prepared.”

See, during those years I struggled with chronic anxiety and severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I couldn’t handle anything out of the ordinary and I worried constantly. I worried about my mom traveling on business trips. I worried about being the last one up at night. I worried about being away from home. I worried about school. I worried about losing my family or friends. I worried about germs. I worried about getting sick. I worried about what I thought. I worried about what I said. I worried about what I did. And I worried about change.

Continue reading “You don’t have to be afraid of change.”

God, will you make beauty from my brokenness?

Do you know when I love that idea? That idea of God making beauty from my brokenness?

I love it when I’m in the beautiful moments of life. When I’m sitting with my Bible open in the early hours of the morning, sun shining through my apartment window, warm coffee in hand, praise music on, and prayers of gratitude pouring from my lips. When I’m sitting by still waters and God’s peace has captured my heart for an hour or two and all I feel is still. When I’m laughing with my husband, caught up in the realization of just how lovely it is to be vulnerable, known, and unconditionally loved by another human being, despite the sin that courses through both of us. I love that idea when work is going well and loving my co-workers is easy and when I see them, I see God and his heart for them. When I’m in a season where the Lord has put all the pieces together and I am so aware of how perfect his plans truly are. When I’m sitting at a coffee shop, words pouring from my heart, and the Holy Spirit is speaking life right into my soul.

In those moments, I love the idea of God making beauty from my brokenness. Because it is so nice to sit in that beautiful place of reflection, thinking of all the ways God acted on my behalf to bring me where I am – to a place of being more free and walking in more victory than I used to.

You know when I don’t love this idea?

Continue reading “God, will you make beauty from my brokenness?”

The enemy can’t touch you.

I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea, spending a freezing Saturday night in October at a Haunted House when I’m the girl who’s always been afraid of pretty much everything. I’m totally a listen to Christmas music in September, beg for a Caramel Brulée Latte from Starbucks in October, and a let’s skip right past Thanksgiving and get on to Christmas type of girl.

Apart from candy, which I can get any time of the year (thank-you-very-much), I find no pleasure in Halloween traditions. For me, there is no joy in being scared, I despise horror films, I like avoiding danger, and I don’t need any inspiration when it comes to fear. Disney’s Halloweentown is as scary as I like things to get, and even that can be pushing it.

 So, it makes absolutely no sense why last Halloween, I raised the idea to my family and fiancé that we should go to a haunted trail. I’m not sure if I thought I would rise to the occasion or if I just figured that being a grownup meant I would find some type of joy in the experience. For the record, neither ended up being true.

Continue reading “The enemy can’t touch you.”

For the Christian who doesn’t trust God…

Ugh. Did you have to put it that way? “The Christian who doesn’t trust God…” That sounds so…harsh.

Yep. I did have to put it that way.

“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s anything that serious. Everyone doubts sometimes!”

“I’ve always been a pretty anxious person, it doesn’t mean I have deep trust issues.”

“But, I believe in God, so how can you say I don’t trust him?”

Ugh. Did you have to put it that way? “The Christian who doesn’t trust God…” That sounds so…harsh.

Yep. I did have to put it that way.

“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s anything that serious. Everyone doubts sometimes!”

“I’ve always been a pretty anxious person, it doesn’t mean I have deep trust issues.”

“But I believe in God, so how can you say I don’t trust him?”

Isn’t it tempting to brush our fear and anxiety away with those thoughts? Isn’t it easier in the society we live in, one ruled by anxiety and fear, to say as a Christian, “Yeah, I struggle with anxiety,” or, “I have some control issues,” rather than admit: “I don’t trust God.”

But the truth is, anxiety and fear are just the bi-products of a doubt-ridden and untrusting heart. And it’s easier to say we struggle with overthinking or with desiring to control our families, our futures, our relationships, or our jobs, than it is to try and reconcile the fact that a deeply rooted trust in Christ can’t be accompanied by control, fear, and anxiety.

But, can we be bold enough together, you and I, sweet friend, to admit the truth? The truth that we don’t believe God has the best in store for us, that we wrestle with trusting him to always be good, to always provide. Can we admit that there is even an ounce of fear that if we let go and trust, he might take something from us? Or might do something to teach us some kind of lesson? Can we be honest and acknowledge that we toil all day trying to keep the status quo, to check off all the to do lists, to keep up with the daily hustle and bustle, to work and work and never rest, because if we don’t take care of it all…who will?

I don’t write this with a light heart, and I know you don’t carry an easy burden. The weight of anxiety and fear can crush even the strongest soul. In my experience, it can feel impossible to dig yourself out of the mentality that the worst is going to happen.

I don’t know what you fear. Maybe it’s losing your spouse, a family member, or a friend in some tragic way. Maybe it’s getting sick, like really sick. Maybe it’s something or someone from your past. Maybe it’s what to do with your future, what job you’re supposed to have, what major you’re supposed to study. Maybe it’s singleness or a deep loneliness you fear will come or won’t ever go away.

Or maybe, if you’re like me, it’s a little bit of everything. It’s the big stuff and it’s the small stuff. Maybe you’ve gotten to a place where it isn’t very hard for you to spot what could go wrong in any given situation. And so, “in vain you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil,” constantly trying to control every outcome of every situation (Psalm 127:2a, ESV.)

Anxiety is a heavy weight.

But when you add anxiety, fear, and control to a Christian’s life it becomes…confusing. See, because if someone doesn’t have Jesus, then anxiety and fear make a lot more sense, right? Those without Jesus have to work hard to try and control everything in their lives because, well, the only hope they have is in their ability to make things work out. They don’t have King Jesus to look to or hope in, to trust their lives with, to trust their eternities with. There is no promise for them that everything will be brought together for their good, that everything is ultimately leading to a beautiful redemption, that all will culminate in glorious, unending days with God Almighty forever and ever.

No, they do not place their hope or trust in any of that. So, in many ways, their self-reliance, their desire to control, their anxiety and fear and feelings of hopelessness – they all make sense.

But, for those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus, who have trusted his life and death and resurrection to cover our sin and present us as righteous before God each and every day…Well, for us, anxiety and fear are harder to explain.

And that, reader, is an unexpected gift and blessing. Thank goodness we are not content to live ruled by anxiety and controlled by fear. Thank you, Jesus, that we cannot reconcile our fear with our trust in you. I know it doesn’t feel like a gift to battle anxious thoughts in the dead of night and in middle of the day, but we are the lucky ones because we know that the answer does not lie within ourselves and that living in victory is possible for children of God.

And so, this is where the wrestling match begins. Because why, oh why God, can I trust you with my life and death and resurrection, but cannot trust you with my daily tasks, with my relationships, with the lives of my loved ones? Why can I trust that you loved me enough to die for me, but can’t trust you enough to BE enough regardless of the pain or the suffering or the hardships that might come my way, here on this temporary earth?

It’s that pain and suffering part that trips me up, if I’m honest with you. Because the Bible is clear: we will suffer on this side of heaven (John 16:33.) The fall guaranteed that this perfect world was fractured in every possible way. Pain is inevitable here.

And for the anxious ones, that truth seems to silence all others. In the midst of our most anxiety-ridden nights, all we can hear is the promise that pain is coming. There is no promise of redemption or protection or peace that seems to scream louder than the fear of suffering. And isn’t that why we toil and why we grow anxious? Doesn’t it all tie back to fear of some type of emotional or physical pain? Doesn’t it all come back to the belief that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will?

And deep down, doesn’t that fear come from a place where no trust exists? Is that fear and anxiety rooted in anything other than the belief that at the end of the day, Jesus just might not be there when we need him? Might not be enough to get me through that day when the worst happens? And if suffering is guaranteed, don’t we struggle to see the goodness of God?

The wrestling is real. Because still, we do not know why it is that we can trust, truly and genuinely trust Jesus with our souls, with the redemption of all things, but cannot give up the worries of our everyday lives to his control.

Why do we believe he is not worthy of all our trust?

Doesn’t it feel impossible to answer that question? For me, it’s always felt more complicated than that. I can’t point to a moment when the shift happened. I don’t have an experience in my past that I can pinpoint and say, “There. That’s the event that triggered all my anxiety.”  It just felt like somewhere along the way, my view of God transformed from a benevolent Father who lavishes grace, mercy, and good gifts to his children into a sneaky, conniving God who gave the worries of my life only half consideration, half effort, and who was always looking for ways to pull the rug out from under me. As if he was operating from a mindset where causing me pain would be the only way to get me to ever love him more.

And that, dear friend, is the fiery dart the enemy shoots at those ridden with anxiety. He tempts us to dwell on the worst-case scenarios, he undermines our safety, he urges us to seek control and cease trusting Christ, and then he whispers lies until our understanding of God becomes totally twisted.

And what’s ironic is those things we begin believing are true of God are actually true of the enemy. He is conniving. He is sneaky. He is trying to pull the rug out from under us. He’s trying to attack our safety net, destroy our foundation of faith, shake our trust, and bring intense suffering to our lives. All in the hopes that we will accuse God of being untrustworthy and obsessed with getting his own glory at the expense of his children’s hearts. Because if the enemy can get us to accuse God, then he knows for certain we will not trust God.

The enemy knows that there is no one more fearsome to him than a child whose trust in God has been tested and proved unshakeable. Because then, the worst can happen, and that child is not running. That child is staying close, held tight in the arms of Jesus. For that child, their anxieties and fears can all come true, and they remain secure. Because the one thing that cannot be taken from a child of God, not now and not ever, is the secure foundation of Jesus.

So, how do we become the trusting children whom the enemy fears and the Lord holds secure?

We remember who God is.

Yeah, it’s not earth-shattering. Cliché. You’ve read this far…for that?

But, what if it is that simple? Maybe we just need to remember that the Lord looks upon us, his children who are his delight, and says to us, “Nothing but my very best do I have to offer you.”

Maybe it is enough for us to listen to his beckoning call, as he whispers in the midst of all the worry and the fear:

“Sweet child, I do not want to take my good gifts from you. I do not seek to harm you. Whatever you endure, I endure with you. I will give you nothing but the best for you. I do not put half effort into caring for you.”

Does that mean we won’t suffer? Nope, that’s still guaranteed.

Does that mean everything we want, we’ll get? Nope, wrong again.

Does that mean our worst anxieties and worst fears won’t ever come true? Unfortunately, no. The Bible doesn’t guarantee the worst won’t happen to us.

But what this means is that any suffering we endure will not be wasted. The Lord will bring pain to a purpose in our lives and will one day silence it for good. And we might not get everything we want, not every job, or every relationship, or every possession, or every reconciliation or healing, but he will give to us what is the very best for us. He will bring it about in the best way for us. And yes, some of those anxieties and fears may come true, but not a single one will separate us from the King and not for a moment will we endure an ounce of suffering without Jesus pouring out his mercy and grace and comfort on us.

And with this in mind, we can say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you…[you] are my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I have set you always before me; because you are at my right hand I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol.” (Psalm 16;2, 5-6, 8-10, ESV)

We can proclaim with confidence that we trust him. And on the days it’s hard and on the days that we don’t, we can come to the throne of grace, confess our doubt, and fight again for the little victories. And with courage we can surrender our control for his provision, knowing in full, that the Lord has already prepared the very best for us. Eternal redemption is our present reality and we are walking daily toward the place of perfection that he has prepared for us.

And that, sweet friend, is a promise from the King who we can trust in.

To the young wife who can’t cut an onion…

We were cooking dinner together, the hubs and I, and it was set up to be an absolutely adorable, Insta-worthy (by my standards at least) occasion. We’d picked the recipe, gathered all of the ingredients together at the grocery store over the weekend (because for the first .2 seconds of our marriage, we were going to do EVERTYHING together, including grocery shop…..which after exactly 2 times, and 2 fights, we agreed was the worst idea ever) and we were all set to make our first meal together. White bean chicken chili was on the menu for the night.

We were cooking dinner together, the hubs and I, and it was set up to be an absolutely adorable, Insta-worthy occasion. We’d picked the recipe, gathered all of the ingredients together at the grocery store over the weekend (because for the first .2 seconds of our marriage, we were going to do EVERTYHING together, including grocery shop…..which after exactly 2 times, and 2 fights, we agreed was the worst idea ever) and we were all set to make our first meal together: white bean chicken chili.

I’d created a perfect vision for how it would all go. We’d put on some cute music, wear the aprons we got as wedding gifts, laugh and talk about our days, all flirty and adorable. And then we’d have a beautiful meal and it would be precious.

And then, the recipe called for a chopped onion.

Believe me girl, I wish I could say the tears I shed that night were solely because of that onion’s aroma.

But here’s what actually happened:

I had to YouTube a tutorial for cutting an onion, which basically taught me how to throw the onion on the ground. I yelled at my husband when he offered to help. I pouted through the entire meal prep – because I couldn’t use our antique can opener correctly (in my defense, that was only partially my fault, the thing was ancient), because I couldn’t sauté the vegetables correctly, because my husband had to handle the chicken, because we forgot a major ingredient, and because by the end we had a pot of spicy water with crunchy vegetables and rubbery chicken.

We ate in silence (apart from my sniffles because HELLO, crying.)

Now to some, my reaction to the whole night might seem like a MEGA overreaction. Fair.

But maybe you get it. Maybe you know exactly the feeling I’m describing. You know all too well what it feels like to have out of control emotions fueled by uncontrollable circumstances and crippling expectations.

And you totally get why I cried that night. See, I wasn’t crying just because I couldn’t cut an onion.

No, I cried because when my husband leaned in, offering to help me cook, the enemy was busy cooking up a list of tempting lies and offering them to me disguised as truth. I cried because while my husband leaned in to love me, the enemy rushed in to shame me. Where my husband said, “Let me help you,” the enemy whispered, “You are helpless.” Where my husband’s actions said, “I can serve you in this way,” the enemy accused, “What kind of servant-hearted wife are you?”

Where I failed to simply cut an onion, the enemy convinced me that I failed as a wife.

And it doesn’t take much to convince a wife she’s a failure when her impossible expectations have already set her on a fast track to coming to that conclusion all on her own. I’m not sure about you, sweet reader, but my engagement season was full of expectation. It was full of expecting a wedding day that felt like it would never come, full of eagerly waiting to take on my role as a wife, full of eagerly waiting to put my married dreams into action.

And that entire season, I piled on expectations for myself as a wife.

I created this fantasy, one where I knew how to do all the kitchen things, one where I made our little apartment this cute and homey space and filled it up with everything adorable, one where my husband came home to cooked meals (that included properly cut onions when necessary), one where he melted at the comfort his wife created.

And I wish I could tell you that I remembered a few key things before our marriage began, like the fact that I have never been able to cook much of anything, that I tend to make a tornado out of any space I inhibit, and that I don’t necessarily have the best eye when it comes to decorating (apart from Christmas lights being a year-round, staple decoration.)

But I didn’t remember those things. Instead, I cried over a chopped onion.

As an engaged girl, I placed my hope fully on the expectation of who I would be as a wife, forgetting that in my marriage, my identity would still be the same. Forgetting that though the title might change from fiancé to wife, I would still be a redeemed, but sin-ridden daughter of the King, who would need grace upon grace daily as I took on my role as a wife.

So, I entered marriage on a fast-track to disappointment and with a set of expectations higher for myself than even God had for me. I entered marriage believing that to be a godly wife, I had to do all the things. So, when the enemy strolled in with a big platter of “You’re not good enough” and a heaping helping of “You’re a failure,” I was more than ready to dig in.

Because the enemy is crafty, the enemy targets emotions, and the enemy distorts reality by flooding our minds with feelings that distort truth. He will do all he can to shut you up and shut you down. To lock you up in a prison of lies when all the while you hold the key to freedom.

You see, I forgot something vital the night I couldn’t cut the onion: I am Christ’s bride.

Christ died for me to be His bride, long before I claimed him as my groom. He chose me in my filth and sin, knowing fully that I would be messy, broken, and in need of constant direction and redemption and forgiveness and grace. (Not to mention he chose me fully aware that I wouldn’t be able to cut an onion…)

But my inability to meet the expectations I had for myself as a wife revealed this deeper, much more personal and much more dangerous lie I believed: that the frustration I felt as a I failed to meet my expectations for myself as a wife, reflected the same frustration God felt toward me as I failed to meet His expectations for me as His daughter.

What a simple and natural lie to feed a vulnerable wife. With all the imagery of Christ loving his bride and marriage being a reflection of God’s love for his Church, what a perfect truth to twist and deceive a wife with. Why not convince the vulnerable wife that her inability to perform as a perfect wife displeases her husband just like her inability to perform as a perfect Christian displeases God?

Young wife, do not be deceived by the lies of a coward, by the lies of an uncreative enemy who wants to devour your life and destroy your marriage. Do not give power to the lies of the enemy who would love nothing more than to use your marriage to wreak havoc on your relationship with God.

Do not let the enemy cripple you with paralyzing expectations.

Instead, “preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13.)

Set your hope FULLY on the grace that is promised to you. Sweet wife, your hope is not in your ability to perform. Your hope is not in your own goodness, your own morality, your own ability to be gentle and self-controlled, your perfect submission.

No, your hope is in Jesus. Your hope is in your Groom who was and is and is to come. Who lived perfect and then exchanged that perfection for a brutal and bloody death. Who perfectly gave himself up so you don’t have to be perfect.

Young wife, cling to the acceptance you have in Christ, repent often, and set your hope on eternity with Christ. Eternal perfection, dripping with grace – that is the hope you are called to as Christ’s beautiful Bride.

~

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over your with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17