Active Rest, Walking out the “Stuck”

I’m really good at giving advice. And I’m pretty good at taking it from others. I start to struggle a bit when I know that I need to take my own advice. More accurately, when I need to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He tells me something I don’t want to hear.

There are a lot of things going on in my life that I don’t have much control over. Yet, I’m wearing myself out, tangling myself up in my mind trying to get a grip on them, force the proper outcome, demand the delayed response, see the future. But I’m hearing God say “rest”.

How does one rest? What does one do in the meantime? I mean, the world keeps spinning, expectations keep mounting, time marches on and: I still don’t have an answer God! I don’t know what to do about this circumstance, that situation or another relationship.

The One Word God gave me as a lens through which to view this year is walk. I sat with my Bible on my lap, staring out the window at a gloomy, spring morning and waited, as best I could, for God to give me something more. I didn’t know how to get up, or what to do next if He didn’t answer me. Finally, He spoke:

Abby, I want you to see the correlation between walking and rest. Do not charge ahead as if you’re in some race toward a marked finish line. There are no lanes, no finish lines, just a person-goal, Myself.

When I was deeply entrenched in my eating disorder, compulsive exercise was one of my greatest challenges and resting was very hard for me. In “workout vernacular” there’s a term active rest. It is those seconds between sets or days between workouts that capitalize on all your hard work. During those rest periods, the muscles and tissues grow and rebuild. Without them, the body’s ability to perform diminishes.

When those rest periods are used wisely, the body is able to lift more, run farther and perform more efficiently over time. In those periods, it is beneficial to drink water, consume nutrients, stretch—and walk. Stagnant rest is detrimental to muscles, but slow, constructive, mindful movement accelerates healing and increases longevity.

Walk, Abby. This is how you wait. One foot in front of the other; the next right thing.

The exercise analogy can be related to the importance of rest in my daily life and walk with God. So often throughout Scripture, God calls us to wait on Him. Usually, I spin my wheels in those spaces, wondering when He is going to act, or maybe I can just step in and do whatever it is for Him. But God calls me to wait, tells me to rest for my own good.

He knows that when I slow my movement, consume the nourishment of His word and walk mindfully through each day I’ll eventually come upon His answer. And after those seasons of slow movement, rest and recovery, I will be able to serve Him longer, in more difficult circumstances and with a stronger faith.

This was first published at http://www.FINDINGbalance.com

Lord, Make Me Willing to Wonder

If I only wrote of what God is teaching me, how exciting it is, how I am growing, all of His goodness and the excitement of living Real Life in Jesus—the life I shadowed for so many years—you might get the image that all of my lessons come wrapped in exquisite silence. You might picture me sitting on the back porch with my Bible, journal and pen furiously writing down what I hear Father whispering to me through His Word. And all of that would be true.

I am blessed in this season to have unprecedented time to soak up God’s Word. And I’m so grateful for it. I do learn a lot in those quiet hours. But, some of the hardest hitting lessons are just that—hard hitting. They hit my ego, my sanity, my peace of mind, my confidence. Just such a lesson has been pummeling me against the stones of residual unbelief. In the wake of this storm, it feels like my mind has been thrashing with no upward or outward orientation.

Perhaps you can identify: It’s all in the numbers.

No, I haven’t been obsessing over the scale, calories in or calories out as you might suspect of a former anorexic. I haven’t been contemplating hours of exercise or the number of peanuts in a one ounce serving. It’s been another numerical conundrum—the fear of money. (I actually discovered a term for it: peniaphobia. Look it up!)

Here’s how it manifests in me: This week I have bought and returned and bought again an outfit (and almost returned it again). Another item I bought and returned and various others I have fretted over and worried through the halls of my mind like a stone between restless fingers. I have also panicked over credit card fraud, which resulted in closing two accounts and requesting new numbers. (One turned out to be real, the other I was in error.)

I have lost sleep over whether I should or should not buy something for the house. I have been consumed with whether my budget is correct or if I missed recording an expense. I have hounded my husband for not telling me he bought a Kindle book for $1.99.

Maybe you don’t have this problem. However, in the last week I have spoken to two other married women who alluded to wrestling with these unwanted fears too.

So, whether you fret about money or not, let me ask if this resonates with you: I live in a constant state of “what if”, living as if all the “what if’s” could happen and I must take preventative measures.

I’ll share some other specifics with you; try them on for size:
What if the government shuts down again and the military doesn’t get paid?
What if my husband is one of the hundreds forced out of the Army?
What if I need to work and can’t find a job?
What if we lose the renters in our house who are covering the mortgage?

These thoughts were very common when I dealt with anorexia:
What if I get fat?
What if I eat too much today and can’t workout tomorrow?
What if my family gives up on me?
What if there are more calories in that than what I counted?
What if they actually put dressing on my salad?

So, my self-protective, chicken-heart believes that it’s best to live as if these things might happen, live hyper-vigilant. More painfully true—it’s best to live as if God isn’t good just incase He withdraws His blessing that has been so generous to me for more than 34 years.

My eating disorder was one giant, frightened step back from a looming “What if?” It was my shattered response to a terrifying unknown. It manifested in rejecting love—What if they stop loving me? Extreme anxiety in school and other challenges—What if I fail? Fear of enjoying anything—What if I get used to this and it’s not here tomorrow?

Terror of the unknown cropped up in my marriage and almost short circuited forgiveness. After discovering my husband’s addiction to pornography, even after he addressed it, we worked on our marriage and I had no evidence that it remained, still I held him at arm’s distance, skeptical and suspicious—What if it comes back?

Paralyzing, invasive fear is the side effect of living in a perpetual, hypothetical state of “What if?”.

As I discovered this tendency to live in prevention mode against all possibilities, I realized that I rebel against wonder.

The same thing that I admire in carefree children and happy-go-lucky puppies, I fight against tooth and nail as an adult. I do not want to experience wonder. I do not want to embrace “maybe” or, “what if”, or “perhaps not”.

Then God got really personal. I heard Him whisper, “If you rebel against the unknown, you can never know me.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

To pursue the heart of God is to step willingly into wonder, amazement and, invariably, into the unknown. To trust Him is to acknowledge and embrace what I cannot fully know.

Oh My Father, I want to wonder. I want to know wonder and amazement and awe and true, Biblical fear—fear of you and you alone. Please, gently release these shackles of safety. Teach me to trust you and to walk in wonder. Teach me to ask “what if” with anticipation, joy and peace.

The Morning After

Thankfulness:

For noticing in the oddest of places.

Finding a measure of wonder, transfixed by unseemly, simply because it is you.

I watch and remark at the sway of trees, but if I peer closely,
Hundred of thousands of chlorophyl tissues greet the sunrise.

Welcome in the morning sun.
Even as heat bears down, sinks into asphalt,
As puppy paws seek grass and shade.
Thanks even there for grand design.
My skin deepens, bronzes, adopts a lustrous hue.

Even as humidity climbs and the air thickens,
As sticky syrup, yet sweet as too.
The faintest breeze bearing honeysuckle, fresh mowed lawn and tiny clover.
I’m glad even for these “weeds”.

After a move,
I am swollen with thanks for quick work and few things.
For empty boxes and mounds of paper and unbroken treasures.

Thank you for pillows and sheets aplenty.
For dog bowls, spoons and laundry soap.
Thank you for the waiting,
And my soldier’s patience,
Who coaxed me this far,
To wait past reason, hush and wait some more.

Thank you for the soft body curled peaceful on my lap.
For perky, black-brown ears and bright eyes.
And thank you for just enough space for the two of us
On this chair, in this ray of sunlight.

I wrote this the day after we unpacked all our “stuff” after we moved from Columbus, GA to Clarksville, TN. I’m finding attentiveness to the Holy Spirit in intentional thanks.

Welcome to Clarksville!

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Hello Lovlies!

Welcome to Clarksville! It’s my plan to be more spontaneous with our posts again here very soon, now that life is settling into its new, “normal”.

As I peeled my heart away from Columbus, GA and the friends I’ve made there and reacquainted with, the hobbies I’ve begun, my chair at church, the park that I frequented on sunny days and the one more conducive to rainy ones–as I gently wiggled my heart like a well-stuck sticker and tried to loosen it’s adhesive, I realized something. I mean no offense to friends, but I think I grieved the loss of routine more than anything. Does that make sense?

Of course, that routine included dear ones. I am sad for the end of weekly coffee visits with Johanna, for true-southern hospitality at Nanny and Katherine’s house. I am sad for Tuesday/Thursday visits on regular floors at TMC–for smiles with Mailey, Shanna, Nancy, Barbara, Megan, Penny, Daisy, Alex and Amy and others.

But here’s what I’m learning:

God has recently been speaking to me of exposure. My favorite therapist of all time (how many people can say that?) once told me that recovery would become easier with time, that walking in freedom would become my “new normal”. Stacy explained, “When water flows down one side of a hill over and over it creates a channel and nothing will divert it, unless the water is forced down the other side of the hill enough times. Then, it will create a deeper, more compelling channel on the other side. Over time, the water will naturally flow down that opposite side.”

Stacy was right about recovery. Today, healthy feels normal and right to me. But her lesson applies to so many other aspects of life, too.

The day after we arrived in Clarksville, Brave and I ventured to the Upland Trail, their version of a riverwalk. My heart sank. The trail is less than two miles long. Our home is lovely, but it’s situated in a neighborhood with no safe places to walk the dog. There’s more traffic than I expected, no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods or farmer’s market.

When our furniture didn’t arrive as early as I hoped, I felt my mood slipping and along with it a half dozen tears down my grimy cheeks. (Did I mention that it’s every bit as humid as Georgia? That leads to grimy cheeks quickly!)

Quietly, my Father started speaking to me about exposure. 

Lord, what can that possibly have to do with me, here, now and this achy sense of loss. I have no routine here, no way to plan or expect what happens next. I have no friends to call for coffee or familiar parks to stroll. What does exposure have to do with it?

One week later, from Thursday, May 29 to Thursday, June 5, I understand. You see, in one week I’ve been exposed to spectacular Tennessee thunder storms, friendly neighbors, a new state park with a few miles of trails that emulate a rain forest. I’ve been exposed to new patterns of streets and today found my way home without the GPS. I’ve been exposed to “camping” with my husband for (too many) nights and the welcome hug of a comfy bed again. I’ve been exposed to
wide—–open—spaces that remind me of Oklahoma–ranches, farms and fields of wildflowers between every building, bridge or street. I’ve been exposed to new accents and a different version of southern hospitality. I’ve been exposed to a new side of the hill.

The course of my life has been redirected. In only seven days I’ve begun to wallow out a different bed for my stream. My life is bubbling over new stones, around mysterious curves and tumbling down unexpected bluffs.

Are you getting this?

Exposure is what makes normal. Exposure is what makes familiar and acceptable and good. How does a child know that the neighbor’s mom can’t make chocolate chip cookies? Because they don’t taste “right” like the ones that Grandma makes.

So, I’m discovering our new town, our new home and forming new habits. They will feel deliciously comfortable and right, until it’s time to move again. Then, with a gentle nudge, God will redirect the course of my life again, expose me to what only He foresees and I’ll fall in love all over again.

Sampling Gratitude

I just dug into the sample.

I’d first tasted it at my parents’ house. Early one morning, in the same fashion as her own mother, my mom cracked open a devotional and read out loud to my father and me.

I felt so treasured, so uniquely special there, curled in the corner of their couch, no rules, responsibilities or places to be. Just the three of us, parents and their oldest daughter. And for a few brief moments, that’s what I was again–merely daughter.

Age can sometimes be irrelevant. I would have sat with perked ears and my knees tucked just so whether I was four, fourteen or thirty-four as I am now. Listening to the warm, familiar voice of my mother, I was truly thankful.

So, per her suggestion, I downloaded the Kindle sample on my iPad of 1000 Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces.

But I didn’t read it.

1000 things piled high on my plate. Not the least of these was packing and moving. Mixed into my daily mess was finishing one Bible study, starting another, saying indefinite goodbyes, pet therapy, writing obligations, book marketing, cooking, cleaning, bills, wifely duties–you get the picture. My to-do list probably looks a lot like yours. And your to-read, bedside-stack probably looks a lot like mine.

I didn’t read it until…

One bedtime when I was between books and dreading the next one in line. I opened the sample and read the tantalizing first 10 pages, only to find myself salivating for more.

Strangely, I was starving for more conviction, more Holy Spirit shoulder squeezes and humbled squirming. All the same, I pined for more. I bought the book.

Who’da thought I was so ungrateful?

I wonder how long God has been trying to convince me of the utter redemption of gratitude? I wonder how long He’s been waiting for me to realize that my own joy, my own hope, my own happiness and self-awareness and all the jazz we pedal for in this world, was on the tip of my tongue? If I would only open my mouth and express thanks for all that God IS, for all that He HAS done and promises TO DO, I would realize how favored I am!

But even though my nightly reading has been refreshing thankfulness, I tend to forget my lessons by morning. Just a few days ago, I opened my journal and scribbled the words, “Father, there’s so much going on. My mind can’t be still and I don’t know what to say.”

His response?

Abby, you will never be wordless while thanks remains.

And so I started:

Thank you for colors and limits to perfection even in the most exquisite prism. The scope finite here on earth, such that discovery remains. While nothing under the sun is new, so much remains new to me.

As we move Lord, give me fresh, childlike eyes in our new home–an innocence and willingness to bend to different, to embrace it. Fill me with no disdain for the past, but open hands to release it and grasp for an unforeseen, fresh, cusp of waking tomorrow.

I need you to do this within me. For this not me–a creature of variety of change. To forsake routine and safety is no relief to my carnal self.

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Poem secret place

arnsberg-617991-mTake me into the secret place, Father.

A hidden place of muted song and raging melody,

Of solace and passion.

That same place, with You,

I find that pours and presses peace into oft unwilling mind.

But that pulls me to my feet and sweeps me in ecstatic circles.

That place,

Only You know the way.

It’s never the same path twice,

To trace my steps or share a code:

“Two steps, a prayer, a toughened knee, three songs, a verse by heart.”

So I come, as far as I can go, the threshold of Your throne room.

So close.

I can taste Your goodness

Swoon with the sweet fragrance of a thousand prayers,

Peer at Your beautiful strength,

But freeze in awe of contained majesty.

In flesh!

A hand pierced, extended.

Please, please take me to the secret place,

Where no one else can see my tears today.

I need the sound of Your breath,

Even in the absence of Your words.

I need the thunder of Your heart,

Even when You do not lead me forward.

Oh, that secret place.

Where tears, shy of human comment,

Flow freely from waves of pent fears and awe.

Given Everything

Romans 8:32
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

I just returned from a two week trip to visit my parents and help them move. While I was there, Dad asked me to participate in a phone call with his investment advisor and estate consultant. He and my mom extracted seventeen years worth of memories and not-so-memorable things that my sisters and I had collected in their basement, and then abandoned when we married and moved away. I helped them haul literally hundreds of pounds of “stuff” to the donation center. It was an all-inclusive attempt to take inventory of what they had, who wanted it “someday” and what isn’t worth anything anymore.

In the basement, I sat cross-legged with my mother emptying trunks of baby clothes, hand-made blankets and old Yahtzee games. Carefully, I selected the one dress I remember her sewing for me when I was about two. I chose two baby blankets and a stack of old letters that had been sent to me when I was sick for an extended period of time. Across the room, one of my sisters struggled to contain her tears; her sentimentality offended at the loss of anything sacred—even if that be an old church bulletin with doodles done during a boring sermon.

My parents are almost 60, and a move like this necessarily conjures the conversation of who will inherit what when they pass away. I know I want my mother’s ring with all her children’s birthstones. They have two paintings that I’d like to have. Other things my sisters want for their homes.

Romans 8 explains the full beauty of our relationship to God as Father, and our position as His heirs by virtue of our adoption through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

Though our point of reference as an heir is our familial relationships, there is an important difference between what we experience on earth and the kind of inheritance we receive from our Heavenly Father.

My sisters and I are making choices, planning to divide my parents’ estate. We will have to take somethings and relinquish others. But the Bible says that in Christ, God gives us all things, and that every good and perfect gift is from above. And in the the Old Testament we are told that “no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” [emphasis added]

As if it were not enough to receive salvation and forgiveness of our sins, God has adopted us—made us His children—and given each one of us full share in His inheritance.

Jesus, I pray that you will open the eyes of our hearts, enlighten us in order that we may know the hope to which you have called us and the riches of our glorious inheritance through Christ.

 First posted on http://www.servantsisters.org.

Sampling Gratitude

I just dug into the sample.

I’d first tasted it at my parents’ house. Early one morning, in the same fashion as her own mother, my mom cracked open a devotional and read out loud to my father and me.

I felt so treasured, so uniquely special there, curled in the corner of their couch, no rules, responsibilities or places to be. Just the three of us, parents and their oldest daughter. And for a few brief moments, that’s what I was again–merely daughter.

Age can sometimes be irrelevant. I would have sat with perked ears and my knees tucked just so whether I was four, fourteen or thirty-four as I am now. Listening to the warm, familiar voice of my mother, I was truly thankful.

So, per her suggestion, I downloaded the Kindle sample on my iPad of 1000 Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces.

But I didn’t read it.

1000 things piled high on my plate. Not the least of these was packing and moving. Mixed into my daily mess was finishing one Bible study, starting another, saying indefinite goodbyes, pet therapy, writing obligations, book marketing, cooking, cleaning, bills, wifely duties–you get the picture. My to-do list probably looks a lot like yours. And your to-read, bedside-stack probably looks a lot like mine.

I didn’t read it until…

One bedtime when I was between books and dreading the next one in line. I opened the sample and read the tantalizing first 10 pages, only to find myself salivating for more.

Strangely, I was starving for more conviction, more Holy Spirit shoulder squeezes and humbled squirming. All the same, I pined for more. I bought the book.

Who’da thought I was so ungrateful?

I wonder how long God has been trying to convince me of the utter redemption of gratitude? I wonder how long He’s been waiting for me to realize that my own joy, my own hope, my own happiness and self-awareness and all the jazz we pedal for in this world, was on the tip of my tongue? If I would only open my mouth and express thanks for all that God IS, for all that He HAS done and promises TO DO, I would realize how favored I am!

But even though my nightly reading has been refreshing thankfulness, I tend to forget my lessons by morning. Just a few days ago, I opened my journal and scribbled the words, “Father, there’s so much going on. My mind can’t be still and I don’t know what to say.”

His response?

Abby, you will never be wordless while thanks remains. 

And so I started:

Thank you for colors and limits to perfection even in the most exquisite prism. The scope finite here on earth, such that discovery remains. While nothing under the sun is new, so much remains new to me.

As we move Lord, give me fresh, childlike eyes in our new home–an innocence and willingness to bend to different, to embrace it. Fill me with no disdain for the past, but open hands to release it and grasp for an unforeseen, fresh, cusp of waking tomorrow.

I need you to do this within me. For this not me–a creature of variety of change. To forsake routine and safety is no relief to my carnal self.

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

God’s Healing Touch, by Sylvia Gunter

We talked a little bit last Monday (April 14) about prayers for healing. This was in my email inbox recently and it really blessed me. Since it goes with our conversation, I thought I’d share. You can read more of these devotionals here: https://thefathersbusiness.com/devotionals/
God’s Healing Touch

Listen to God’s word for you in Isaiah 42:3. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.” And in Psalm 147:3. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Come to the promises of God for healing. In his humanity Jesus knew all your sorrows and griefs, your rejection and scorn, your shame and guilt, your infirmities and afflictions, your crushing and wounding, your oppression and suffering, your helplessness and your tendencies to go astray (Isa 53:1-6). He identified with you in every respect, because he was made like you in every way, and therefore he is able to come to your help (Heb 2:17-18). He understands feeling bruised, broken, wounded, and barren, and he turns them to shouts of joy (Isa. 54:1). He is your healing sacrifice.

Healing prayer is about applying God’s healing words to wounded, sinful, helpless, and hopeless places of life. Isaiah said that God takes our wounds as an opportunity to display his glory (Isa. 61:3). That’s how God can be glorified in the broken places. And the greater the wound, the greater the glory. In the end he “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev 21:4). God can restore what the enemy plundered. He said, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).

Let the Holy Spirit of truth bring those things to the surface that he wants to touch, and be blessed to partner with him to do his work. Bring all memories to him so he can shine his light into the darkness, into the nooks and crannies of the mind, in all storage areas of the brain and your emotional mind. Give him all blocks to healing, especially unforgiveness, inner vows, judgments, unworthiness, negativity, and hopelessness. Be blessed with the healing love and compassion of Jesus touching everything from the past. Be blessed as Jesus lifts from you the scar tissue of past wounds, be they physical, verbal, emotional, or mental.

Let your spirit lead the way. Choose release, choose to open the doors of the prison of fear in the soul. Identify all burdens the soul is carrying of shame, guilt, and rejection. Identify the lies, confess them, and renounce them. Ask the Holy Spirit of truth to minister  truth and expand on it, and let him bring you into his light. Be blessed as he heals deeply and profoundly at the root, inside the core issue, not just put a band-aid to cover over the injury.

Be blessed with the comfort of the Lord for disappointment, pain, loss, abandonment,

grief, fears, and all negative emotions. Look into the face of your tender Abba to

heal them all. Allow him to address your pain and minister his healing. He feeds you with gentleness and kindness, nourishing you with hope in him, gathering you under this wings, drawing you deeper into his grace.

God told Hezekiah, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears, I will heal you.”

That’s quite a promise, and it is as true today as when it was spoken then. He responds to our tears with healing. Jeremiah said, “Heal me, and I shall be healed indeed.” Spirit, be excited by those words. God remains faithful to you. Rest in those words. Breathe in the love and healing of God.

Your Comforter indwells you. He is now administering comfort and healing in every area of hurt. Be blessed in the peace of God that rests upon you with his joy and strength. Be blessed in the courage of the Holy Spirit. The risen Jesus living in you is bringing you resurrection power. Align yourself with the Spirit of Christ Jesus every moment of every day. Be blessed as he rubs his oil into all the places that were barren, broken, and hurting. Be blessed as he washes those areas that were tender and raw. Be blessed as he brings back to life those parts of your being long denied or buried. Be blessed that he is everything to you that you need.

Spirit, be blessed in confidence that your heavenly Father honors your tears that seek

him, your patience to wait for him, your eyes to behold him, your wisdom to perceive him, your heart to meditate on him, and your life to show him forth in the power of the Spirit of Jesus your Lord.

Be blessed to receive more peace, more love, more power,

more of him who is All and fills everything in every way (Col 3:11; Eph 1:23).