"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:9
As I read my devotion today which was based off of this verse and the preceding verses of Joshua 1:6-9, I was instantly encouraged and also reminded of a situation that happened just two days prior.
I love where I live. It is very different from where I grew up. I was a suburb gal and now I live in the city. It has a different feel and I like it. I adore my neighbors, some of whom have been here for over 50 years and have seen all the changes that time has brought. I get to hear the stories they tell of the people that have come and gone and the families that lived where I now reside.
I appreciate that we don't have an HOA. I accept that some people keep up their property differently than we do and I love the diversity of our area. We see struggles in our community, but we also see hope. A few years ago, we contemplated moving to a "nicer" part of town, something newer, but my husband and I made a conscious decision to stay where we are and be a part of the positive growth in our area.
Since we moved here 12 years ago, we have seen the effects of homelessness on a daily basis, but recently, I have been overwhelmed at the level that it's increased since the lockdowns in our country were issued. Places where there were always homeless individuals are now ravaged by an increase of people outside their establishments openly doing drugs, sleeping, leaving trash and setting up residence. The care for the mentally ill, addicted, and hurting is out of control or non existent. For that I don't have an answer.
Two days ago, as the weather became amazingly beautiful in Phoenix, AZ, I got back on my bike to run my errands that I used to save until my husband was home with the car. For this particular errand, it's about 6 mile loop. So off I went.
As I rode my bicycle under the highway underpass, I had to g0 very slow, almost walking my bike because of the amount of people camped out, passed out, actively doing meth and smoking pipes. I'm not a skittish person, so I'm typically not fearful going under highway passes surrounded by drug users. The biggest emotion I felt was shock (since, in the past, I rode here frequently and never had the pathway blocked) and sadness for those hurting.
On my way home I went through a different underpass a mile south. As I approached there was just one man picking through "stuff." He appeared to be a bit out of it, not completely aware of his surroundings. Again, I was not fearful. But as I got closer. I slowed down, he stood straight up and looked at me, almost challenging me to come through. I thought to myself, "But, God, I am not afraid" and then in an instant I felt the Spirit whispering to me "Go around." And so I did.
Being strong and courageous, not being frightened or dismayed, doesn't always mean going through, sometimes God is asking us to obey His instructions in spite of what we want to do and go around. It's being wise and yep, not being stupid.
Courage doesn't always look the way we think. Courage looks like what God thinks and what He is asking us to do. Our job is to listen and obey KNOWING that God is with us wherever we go. Because, friends, life is just one big underpass filled with messy people. Sometimes we go through, sometimes we go around, but there is always something and someone no matter which way He calls us.
If you think about it, pray for my community, pray for the hurting, the ill, the addicted. May I continue to step in where God calls me and love those I cross paths with.
Recently, the pain in my back became too much to push through. I couldn't figure out how to manage it on my own, so I went for help. I would say my biggest inspiration and motivation for seeking help was my new grandson, Gabriel. I love hugging, kissing and nibbling on his toes. I love to hold him and rock him. However, Gabe likes it when you stand and hold him or walk with him. When I would do this, I found the pain in my lower back to be too much. Even sitting was becoming difficult, so in order to be a Grandma on the go, I went to the chiropractor.
The x-rays showed several issues and we so began treatment. Within a week of treatment, I could sit longer, stand longer and I was not in 24/7 pain. And guess what? As an added bonus I have not had a single hot flash in a month! Little did I know that chiropractic work helped with my menopause issues as well.
But then there were days that things would flare or get worse. It was part of the process on the road to recovery. I was given information on retracing and our body's 4 responses to care.
I had to ask myself, "was she giving this information to me only for my back or did she know that my emotional and mental well being were also struggling and in need of an adjustment and healing?"
There I was and I had a choice to make. Would I:
1. Quit and the "damage never heals & symptoms return" and end up in the same place I started.. in pain.
2. Get care and "feel better right away and heal with a few flare ups" to arrive in a healthy place.
3. Get care and feel "the same and gradually get better" to arrive in a healthy place
4. Get care and "feel worse at first and gradually get better" to arrive in a healthy place
These are not only the 4 responses to chiropractic care they seem very similar to my mental health care. I am seriously asking myself. Do I even want to heal? But more precisely, Do I want to go through the pain it takes to heal. Healing hurts. Remembering and having to deal with the past is painful, especially since I thought I was past all of that. Until recently, I didn't even realize that I was still holding on to bitterness from my past. Mostly because I simply wasn't forced to face it.
God sees my hurt and he sees my hesitation.
But I want to face it. I want to heal, even if it difficult.
Most days are a battle. God is Good. God is good. God is good!
Today, of all days, I needed this! Sometimes the truth hurts, but I love that Jesus does not shy away from speaking to my heart so that I can be more like Him. When I opened my daily devotion and saw the verse from Matthew 12:28 which said "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest", I knew the Lord was talking to me. Anyone else?
But I immediately said, "Lord there is no labor here. I am not working, but I sure to feel heavy laden, so I'm going to come to you." I want to, as the verse goes on to say, take His yoke and learn from Him.
I know that as I learn more deeply to love the way Jesus loves, to serve the way Jesus does, that it is there and then that I will find rest, not for my body, I have enough of that, but rest for my soul. That's what I need. That has been my cry.
As I pressed into this truth and read the devotion from June 11th "My utmost For His Highest" it all made sense.
“…and I will give you rest”— that is, “I will sustain you, causing you to stand firm.” He is not saying, “I will put you to bed, hold your hand, and sing you to sleep.” But, in essence, He is saying, “I will get you out of bed— out of your listlessness and exhaustion, and out of your condition of being half dead while you are still alive. I will penetrate you with the spirit of life, and you will be sustained by the perfection of vital activity.” - Oswald Chambers
My soul is restless, because I have settled into being listless. I have slowly allowed being unable to do my "job" send me into a place of feeling grounded from taking on the yoke of Jesus, learning from him and then going out and doing what He does.
Today is a pivot. Today is a turning point. Today is the beginning of Jesus once again getting me out of bed, out of my listlessness and the exhausted state of my soul, acting like I am half dead and calling me to recognize the life giving vital activity He has for me.
Will it be easy? Probably not. Will I be tempted to crawl back under the covers of my depression? Probably so. Being depressed does not disqualify one from doing what God calls us to do. I will, however, wake up each day asking Jesus to let me learn by taking on His Yoke! That, I can do!
Thank you Lord for the perfect rest that you offer as we come to you.
Friends, do you need to take on His yoke and learn? Do you feel listless, tired and heavy laden? Jesus offers to all of us the remedy. The remedy is Him, one day, one moment, one breath at a time, yoked to Him. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
Yesterday, my friend posted a picture of well know people who battled mental illness/depression/suicide to show what the face of mental illness looks like. They were happy and they smiled. In my comments I added “and it looks like this... it was a picture of me, smiling.
I have never hid the fact that I suffer from depression or that I have been diagnosed bi-polar. I have struggled and although God has given me amazing skills to cope and the medication when I needed it to help me out of the darkness, I still have days that are dark. In light of that, I share these thoughts.
I went to a memorial service today at a large church for my dear friend’s son. There were about 1500 in the main sanctuary. Every seat was filled and there were 3 overflow rooms, filled with people.
We worshipped together, we prayed together, we sang together. The Pastor preached and the worship team led actual people, not just a camera. The gospel was presented and lives were changed even through the sadness of the day. The Kingdom of heaven was expanded.
This was my first time in church since the world went on lock-down.
In all honesty, what I realized through the tears of mourning and celebrating this young man's life, this loss which brought so many together is this: I was getting comfortable not going to church. I started to not even really care if we didn’t meet on Sundays. I mean, I’m in the Bible EVERY day on my own. I spend time in prayer on my own. I commune with God. I worship, I sing, I dance on my own. I listen to God and hear His voice.
But, today as I stood among 1500+ people on that campus hugging, being near and mourning together, I was reminded that I, that WE, need to be back in church. We need to open the doors wide open.
There is too much going on in the world for us to all stay away from each other any longer. Today, my son, Pedro, was attacked because of this racial anger and outrage going on around the nation. It’s spilling over from the public riots and getting closer to home. People are angry, feeling unheard, alone and without accountability.
So as I think about my son and what he’s going through and the fact that tomorrow, Sunday, he can’t be with his church family after this traumatic experience, it makes me see the need more and more that people need to be with people. We need to open the doors.
I think about last week when my sister from Chicago stayed on the phone with me as I cried uncontrollably for 20+ minutes as I was once again suicidal, deep in the darkness of depression. I was suicidal and alone.
I made it out. But how many people who have less support and how many people that don’t have a husband that will pray over her, a sister who will battle the spiritual realm on her behalf, how many of those battling mental and emotional issues don’t make it out and end up ending their life. I am alive. But others are not gonna be as fortunate. We need to open the doors to a space where we can all be together. I don’t care if it’s a church or a field or by the side of the sea, let's just open the doors like they did today. Because today, heaven received new believers because a church dared to open the doors.
I truly believe that not only will heaven’s numbers increase, but I truly believe that lives will be saved. #FellowshipOfBelievers #MentaILLNESSLooksLikeMe #Depression #Suicide
One of my biggest struggles is allowing people to really see me. True confession is one way people see us and are able to remind us that nothing can separate us from the Love of God.
The very short blog I posted before this one dealt with forgiveness. Forgiveness is instantaneous. That blog was spurred on because someone shared something with me and my only course of action was to forgive, immediately.
Fast forward to a week or so later. I hurt someone. My sinful nature got the best of me. It happened so quickly, I barley knew what transpired. What scared me most was how natural it was. But there I was, shocked at myself, mad at myself, embarrassed and most of all I felt ashamed.
My first thought was to just bury it. I'm good at that. I bury my emotions and feelings all the time (it always backfires in the end, but for a time, it seems to work) But as I took my next step, I was flooded with the pain of my sin.
So I confessed. With tears and shame, I confessed. For me the scariest part of confession is that person sees you, they see the ugly parts of you. Is that why it's called em-bare-assed? I don't know, but that's how I felt, naked and expossed.
This confession didn't really make me FEEL better and it didn't really seem "good for my soul" at that moment. It just made my sin (big or little) feel very real, very wrong, and completely opposite of what the Lord wanted for me.
But I confessed and was instantly forgiven. Honestly, I didn't want to be forgiven. It hurt t0o much. I wanted to be punished, chastised... even writing this and it's been over a week, I am in tears and my emotions are raw.
I wanted to be told how horrible I am. I wanted to follow the example of Martin Luther and receive my self inflicted lashes. I was so embarrassed. I still am when I think about it.
But at that moment of confession, my dear husband who has seen me at my worst, yet still sees me for who I really am, a forgiven child of God, said these words "God forgives you." And I said to him "But how? How can He forgive me for this?"
My husband shared the Gospel with me, the Gospel I know and Gospel I share with others. And in that moment God reveled this to me. "Child, even if you don't feel forgiven, it doesn't change the fact that you are."
So I had to... and STILL have to rest in the fact that my shame, as heavy as it was, drew me to confess. Its only job was to bring me to repentance. I wasn't called to remain in the shame. My feelings can not change the truth and for that I am thankful.
A collection of writings from a life based on the truth that about midnight anything can happen.
As an imperfect servant of the Lord, I often feel I am fumbling my way through life, looking upward for guidance and outward to love. So, I write about it, to break up the noise in my head.