Stirred, Not Shaken

She began to shake me violently as I cowered in fear. Why was she so persistent?! Physically and mentally jerked back and forth, I couldn’t decide whether or not to acknowledge her voice. The teacher had said not to, but this child was relentless.

 

I was back in school, sitting shoulder to shoulder with my classmates. Far off in the distance I recognized the face of my kindergarten teacher, who had given us clear instructions not to talk. Naturally, the most talkative girl in the class was sitting on my left. The people-pleasing perfectionist within me was torn. Maybe I could turn my head toward her and just listen…that wasn’t talking….

 

No sooner than my attempted compromise did I hear the teacher give the ominous reminder that those who were talking would be punished. I realized that even engaging as a listener would render me guilty by association.

 

As her attempts at my attention intensified, a horrible thought hit me.

 

What if this little girl has something urgent to tell me? What if she knows something the teacher doesn’t?

 

Pushed by an emotional whirlwind, I finally made the decision to get up and run away. Although panicked, I took confidence in knowing that I would not be held responsible for being obedient. I knew that no matter what this girl thought was so important, she couldn’t know better than the teacher.

 

The obnoxiously upbeat music of my alarm jolted me back into a grim reality. I remembered the tasks I had been given for the week and could already feel the voice of anxiety spreading toxicity through my mind. For over half of the day, the struggle to let God handle my fear was becoming a losing battle.

 

It wasn’t until a conversation with a trusted confidant that I heard God speak….

 

Haleigh, just listen to the Teacher.

 

 

Anxiety takes on so many forms, but its trap is always the same. It undermines the counsel of those who love you the most, and wreaks havoc on a sound mind. When fed, it leads to a series of unanswerable questions that shake the firmest of foundations. Anxiety arrogantly pretends to be a close friend  warning you of pending doom, yet costs you relationships, peace, and fellowship with God.

 

No matter how convincing, anxiety does not know more than the Teacher.

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Loneliness: The Ultimate Companion

Anger. Hurt. Loneliness.

They usually stem from broken relationships. And I have a few. But this week they were staring me in the face, and I couldn’t hide from them.

It’s funny, really. I’ve always tried to get along with people, and I’m not one to ruffle feathers. How had I made “so many enemies”? Strange, I thought I was such a delightful person.

I forced myself out of bed and stumbled into church late. Maybe I could be friendly enough to not appear rude, but not approachable enough to actually force a meaningful conversation. (That’s hard to admit, but let’s be real. I sometimes feel the need to appear as put-together on Sundays as I do on social media.)

I felt lonely. Shocker, right? I was in such a sociable mood. Not only had people failed me, but God didn’t seem to be doing such a great job either.

With only minutes left of church, I began planning my quick exit. Until God decided to meet with me.

The song lyrics cut through me like a fierce wind:

“Make me lonely, so I can be Yours

‘Til I want no one more than You, Lord.”

I didn’t want to be lonely, even if it did mean being closer to Him. So I did the only thing I could do—I told Him that. The song ended, and as I prepared to make my grand escape she made her way toward me. Correction: she made a bee-line for me and knocked over two people and a chair on her way, not wasting a second to ask how I was. Before I realized what was happening, I was leaning on her–in every sense of the word.

We didn’t talk long. We didn’t have to. The ten minute walk we took was all that was needed for the Lord to show me that He was there, He heard me, and to renew me. It made the previous days of loneliness worth every second. The rich fellowship with the Lord that followed was and is as real as the chair I’m currently sitting against.

But here’s what I don’t want you to miss:

I didn’t get there by pulling myself up by my own bootstraps. I didn’t get there by saying one-hundred “Hail Mary’s” or reading six chapters of Scripture. I got there by telling the Lord that I knew I was wrong, and I didn’t know how to fix it. And then He changed me.

May He keep making us, no matter the cost.

 

Congratulations, Happy Birthdays, and Sneak Peaks

It was 2003. I was thirteen and dolled up to walk down the aisle as a junior bridesmaid, already getting ideas for my own wedding—way in the distant future, of course.

We had stopped for lunch in between wedding festivities to meet up with another local friend. Naturally, the conversation turned to marriage. Our friend shook her head sadly as she spoke of her own daughter.

“She’s just having such a hard time watching all her other friends walk down the aisle. She feels like it’s never going to be her turn.”

“How old is she?” I asked nervously.

“Twenty-five,” the mother replied.

Nodding silently, I stared out the window with a sinking feeling that would also one day be me. I pushed the thought out of my head—that was years away.

Reflecting on that memory, I am sickened by the self-pity. If there’s one thing that has never inspired me, it’s the victim mentality. It’s repulsive. But my fear has become my reality. It’s devastating when fears come true.

Most days I love my life. If you’ve read “My Engagement Story!” you know that I love the freedom I have to go out with my girls on a Monday night (if I don’t have to study). It’s wonderful eating what I want for dinner rather than having to plan around a husband’s allergies or children’s pickiness (and vice versa!). And if I was responsible for a man’s laundry on top of my own right now, I wouldn’t be able to walk through my room.

So why is it that sometimes in the middle of the night I hear the enemy whisper, “You were right. Look where you are not.” It’s scary being right. It’s scary when the enemy’s right, and I can’t argue with him. And if I was right as a thirteen-year-old, who’s to say that I’m not right about my fear of growing old alone?

Cultural norms don’t ease these fears. These days it seems like wedding invitations and baby showers are just as common as birthdays. The sweet old ladies at work who mean well when they ask me if I’m bringing anyone to the staff picnic, or the ones who shake their head and say “we gotta find someone for you, Haleigh” don’t do much for my contentment with this stage of life. And I really have to evaluate myself when I scroll through social media and see that someone’s overcome singleness the same way they’ve overcome jealousy and bitterness. I didn’t realize those were in the same category. I’ve got a lot of repenting to do….

I’m convinced that my fear at age thirteen stemmed from the times that society had told me my circumstances fell short of expectations. At such a young age, I had already fallen into the trap of looking to others as a reference point of how my life should be unfolding. But when did heroes of the faith ever look to others for their standard?

So I sit still. And I look to the only source who I know will speak the whole truth. Culture does not define God’s plan for my life. The enemy—the father of lies and accuser of the brethren, is not my reference point of progress. His tactics of mixing the truth—my “foreknowledge” of being single—with lies—I’m not worthy—have not changed.

As we scroll through our newsfeeds today, you and I have a choice. I can choose to rejoice with my sister who found the man of her dreams, without allowing it to threaten my joy in this season that, in reality, will all too soon pass away. I can choose to rejoice with the one who cuts the cake to see the baby blue filling, recognizing that they too have their own obstacles. I choose to celebrate my own highs in life, without overlooking the heartbreaks that others are dealing with behind the “selfie Sunday smiles”. I choose to look outside of myself, and “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,” (Romans 12:15), remembering that “to everything there is a season” (Ecclesiastes 3).

Skipping March Fourth

I love social media memes. There’s nothing like scrolling through your news feed and seeing that perfect meme that literally makes you laugh out loud, or nod your head emphatically in agreement. I’ll even share it to my timeline and tag those few friends if it really strikes a chord.

Yesterday was no exception. It hadn’t been a particularly awesome day. Actually, it had been particularly awful. So much so that this social-loving extrovert went into hibernation mode and indulged in cookie dough and Netflix. Pitiful…

Scrolling through the news feed in between episodes and chocolate chips, I saw it:

Today is the only day of the year that tells you to do something…March 4th.

“Well that would’ve been cool if today wasn’t March 5,” I thought, annoyed that I had missed the opportunity to enjoy that pun for a full 24-hours.

Drifting off to sleep my mind was thinking about the laundry list of things I needed to do. I had already done some much needed cleaning…but where was I going to put that camera I had gotten for Christmas? I hadn’t been doing much video blogging lately. I didn’t really have much material. I guess that happens when you are a Christian blogger who hasn’t felt much like a Christian lately.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love my Heavenly Father. I just miss him. And I miss who I used to be. There was a time that I thrived from spending time with Him and dreaming of all He has for me. There was a time I placed Him before myself. There was time that I didn’t constantly abuse and re-abuse His grace. But I wasn’t sure how to get it back. And even if I did, why should He use me in the way I used to dream He would? People in ministry who have a rebellious background did all their rebelling before they were saved, right? What platform is there for the prodigal daughter?

Sharing all of these thoughts with a trusted friend, I was encouraged to go for a walk in the sun. “Tell Him you want to come back,” she said.

For the first time in months…maybe years….I began to feel hope. You know, that hope. That hope that you feel that only He brings. His purpose for you, His forgiveness to you, but best of all—His love of you.

Digging for some workout clothes, I found an old, yet barely worn ministry t-shirt I hadn’t seen in forever. Excited and filled with nostalgia, I was about to throw it on when the verse on the back caught my eye:

 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”-Phillippians 3:13b

March. Forth.

No matter what day it is. March forth.

Taking as much effort as needed to peel yourself off the ground. Regardless of if you fall again. Forgoing how far away from the path you have run. March forth. Soon, you may even find yourself skipping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Princes of Deliverance

It’s a story many of us have heard relentlessly. Maybe you’ve heard it too. If you’ve heard it as many times as I have, it’s possible that you didn’t even realize how much you have in common with her.

Her name is Jochebed. And she is my hero. You may have heard of her son…..Moses.

It wasn’t until one night spent surfing Netflix did I realize how much we shared in common. I hadn’t seen “The Prince of Egypt” in years, so why not spend a night reliving my childhood? But rather than relive my childhood, I ended up staring at my current, twenty-four-year-old self straight in the eye.

Prior to that, Jochebed’s choice to give up Moses had really always just been a part of the story to me. Pharoah had ordered that all the infant males be executed, so sending Moses down the Nile seemed like the best option. Hopefully he’ll make it. Sure it was hard, but Moses ends up delivering the Israelites and they go riding off into the sunset. Happy ending.

But as I watched Jochebed’s hand slowly release the basket and saw the immense pain in her uncertain eyes that could not hold back the tears, my heart broke. How difficult it must have been not only to say good-bye to her infant son, but surrendering him to the fate of the Nile? Even if he survived, who would receive him? Would he be safe? And would he know that he was sent off because his family loved him rather than in spite of it?

Here’s what Jochebed didn’t know: Her surrender resulted in her deliverance.

You and I know the end of the story. I’m sure that if we could travel back in time and we could see the internal conflict she faced we would emphatically tell her to calm down because everything works out. “Stop fighting with yourself, Jo. Just put Moses in the Nile. It’s God’s will. It’s how He’s gonna deliver you.”

It’s easy when you know the end of the story.

No doubt that Jochebed would, if she had the opportunity, encourage another woman who would live several generations after her to surrender her Son to the will of the Father.

Imagine with me the depiction of Mary, following Jesus as He carried His cross down the Via Dolorosa. Was she frantic? Did she cry for help? Or did she just watch in silent submission? We can be sure of one thing. She was hurting, but she was watching the manifestation of her deliverance.

I’m not sure that it’s possible to truly surrender something without experiencing a degree of pain. Often, pain is accompanied by other emotions as well. When God has called me to my own person Nile, I often approach it grumbling the whole way. I may even raise my voice and accuse the Lord of not caring. I argue, I negotiate. But as I finally release the basket and my eyes fill with tears, I’m held. I know that this is for my ultimate deliverance.

When was the last time God led you to the The Nile? You may be standing on its banks at this very moment, holding tight to your basket, and letting it go goes against every ounce of instinct you contain. I know it hurts. I know it feels wrong. I know you wonder what may happen if you let go. Please, I beg you to let go anyway, for what could happen if you don’t? Or worse….what won’t happen? Jochebed’s surrender led to the deliverance of the Israelites. Mary’s surrender led to the deliverance of the world. God never calls us to surrender something simply to inflict pain. What will your surrender lead to?

On this Good Friday, we stop and remember the death of our Lord. It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. We know the ending. Don’t let the fear of surrender on Friday rob you of the joy that deliverance brings on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

The Church that Missed Christmas…and Where They are Now

Nearly everyone’s heard it: the thirty-second monologue Linus gives in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” But for some reason this year it was all I could do to keep from bawling like a pre-teenage little girl. Maybe it’s because of the article going around (spoiler alert) about Linus dropping his blanket when he says “fear not!” Or maybe it’s because the monologue has been integrated into one of my favorite holiday songs that holds sentimental meaning. Or maybe it’s simply because I’m a typical emotional, twenty-something year-old female.

No doubt you’ve experienced it too—the crowded shopping centers, the disgruntled sales reps, the panic over the perfect gift for loved ones—the hustle and bustle of the holidays. But at least to balance out the stress there’s a certain warmth that comes with seeing the mall decked out with wreaths and Christmas banners, hearing Mariah Carey belt out “All I Want for Christmas,” and sipping hot chocolate next to an open fire.

Or is there?

For some, this Christmas is marked by apathy. You’ve made it through your child’s Christmas play, your church’s annual cantata, the office party, the Love Feast, the Festival of Lights, and even had every present wrapped and hidden away before December 1.

But it just. doesn’t. feel. like. Christmas.

I know some people who felt the same way. If they could teleport into the modern-day world, we would instantly recognize their exhausted, emotionless faces.

The Ephesians. In the second chapter of Revelation, they have quite the resume of everything that makes a “good” church member. They did good deeds, hated evil deeds, were hard working, had a good eye for false prophets, and were praised for their perseverance and endurance. There was only one little thing wrong…

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:7).

In spite of working themselves ragged to be the ideal body of Christ, they got their priorities mixed up. Sound familiar?

Every year we are encouraged to remember “the real meaning of Christmas”. It’s almost becoming cliché. But reality slapped me in the face as a tiny manger was set before me in the middle of a church gathering three days ago—only, the manger was empty.

There was no baby Jesus. No one to heal my wounded soul. No one to purify me of my sin. No one to pay my ransom……yet.

“In just a few more days, the baby is coming. I hope you will be sitting on the edge of your seat anxiously awaiting His arrival.”

Reading in Revelation the following day, I realized I had not been. I was, however, on the edge of my seat, waiting to spend Christmas morning with my family, and that afternoon with a dear friend. I was on the edge of my seat, excited to see the lit up faces of those I love opening the gifts I got especially for them. But awaiting the celebration of the arrival of my Savior? Nah…He’s always around.

The angel of the church in Ephesus had a warning for them if they did not repent:

“….or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (verse 5b).

I have yet to research exactly what that means, but it doesn’t sound good.

Biblical scholar and commentator Warren W. Wiersbe paints a somber picture of their fate:

“In spite of the privileges it had enjoyed, the church of Ephesus

                                was in danger of losing its light! The church that loses its lovewill

                                soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be….

                                the glorious city of Ephesus is today but a heap of stones and no

                                light is shining there.”

May we never forget why we celebrate on what would otherwise be just another day. May we never take for granted the sacrifice of the Christ coming down from glorious paradise to a wretched world. May we never cease being thankful for His atonement on the cross. May we never grow weary of worshipping Him or numb to basking in His sweet presence. May we never lose our first love.

 

“That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown….”

My Engagement Story!

Just kidding. But I do have a date tonight—with my friends. Two guys, two girls, plus myself. Five peas in pod. No, I’m not fifth-wheeling a double-date, but if I was, would it really be that bad?

I’m convinced that far less women would be distraught over singleness if it was celebrated by society. Don’t misunderstand me—I love that God created marriage. There is nothing more beautiful than two people daily laying down their lives for each other to physically display the love that Christ has for the church. Memories of watching fairy tales and wanting to be pursued by Prince Charming flood my childhood. I believe God placed that desire there.

But…

Not. Right. Now.

And sometimes I forget that it’s okay to not have it right now.

I get to go out with four of my friends tonight for dinner. I have the chance to go back to school and enter into a field I never dreamed my future held. I have some pretty epic plans to binge watch Netflix with my married best friend this weekend….and I don’t have to worry about cooking dinner for two that night. It’s kind of awesome.

But it’s easy to forget that it’s awesome when well-meaning friends and family ask why I have not met “the one” yet. Or when I scroll through Facebook and see younger women being swept off their feet and I hear the voice in my head whisper, “Why not you?”

Marriage and relationships are to be celebrated. So tonight, I’m celebrating the relationships I have now as I wait for the future to reveal my most important earthly relationship. In a sense I guess I am engaged—whoever he is, I am called to practice fidelity to him, even as I wait.

Now if you’ll excuse me—I need to go spruce up for my dinner dates 🙂