By His Grace…

Peace

I’ve been feeling that writing ‘feeling’ all day today.  It’s that feeling you know you can’t let pass. So here I am.

I took the day off today unexpectedly.  It’s been a wonderful month. It’s March! My birthday month.  It’s also the 3rd month in my new role as a Treatment Admissions Manager.  The honey moon phase is pretty much over and I’m settling in nicely.

The other day during a team meeting one of my awesome employees asked, “April. Maybe you don’t have the answer to this.  But how do I do this job and have a life outside of here?”

She was right.

I didn’t have the answer.

After 3 months of working endlessly, I was still trying to find the answer myself.

As I sat at the end of the conference room table I looked out at the faces of the heroes sitting with me and asked for their advice.

None of them had an answer and yet none of them were complaining.

Ultimately we all left the meeting with an understanding that you just have to know when to draw your line.  You have to know how to set healthy boundaries.  You have to know when to look over at your teammate and say, “Help! I’m drowning.”

So after an extremely hard and wonderful month of helping save people’s lives from the disease of addiction – I took a day off.  It was completely spontaneous.  Unplanned. I just knew it was time to draw that line for 24 hours.

My daughter has been on Spring Break all week and as I left the office late Wednesday evening I felt such a sadness in my heart. I missed her and wanted one on one, uninterrupted time with her.  So I immediately requested a day off.

Today we had a beautiful time together.  We spent the day in Nashville and submerged ourselves in every moment.

I am so grateful for the sweet time I got to spend with my 9 year old baby girl today.  It was much needed and did this mama heart some good.

As we were driving back from Nashville this afternoon, Trinity was quiet in the back seat. We rode in silence.  I looked at her precious 9 year old face in the rearview mirror. She was looking out the window.

As I looked at her I giggled to myself and thought about the fact that no matter how hard I try to get this right with her, I’ll still mess it up. She’s still going to be broken.  She’s still going to figure things out on her own.  I’ll leave her love tank empty at times. My words will  (and have) wound her.

God has already given me great peace in knowing that no matter how hard I try to do this parenting thing right – I’ll still fail.  And that’s okay.  Damn it, I’ll give it my ALL though!

I have great peace because I know that God loves her more than I ever could – which is hard to imagine – and he’ll clean up behind me.

I’m a living testament of his faithfulness when parents lack.  So I have peace.

I’m sitting here tonight with incredible peace in my life, period. It was of no doing of my own.  I paused for a moment to reflect on how I felt to write the next line and tears built up in my eyes because I have nothing but gratitude for the messy and broken parts of my story.

He uses it all, you guys.  There is no part of your story God cannot and will not use.  We just have to stop resisting the pain.  We have to stop resisting the discomfort of life and learn to embrace it … all of it.  I believe with all my heart that Jesus came to give us abundant life – on this side of eternity.

This is why I had a melt down last fall.  I was sitting on my balcony, staring out into the night sky, pissed off at the world and thought, “THIS is not freedom. THIS is not abundant life.  THIS is not what You died for, Jesus.”  Then I spent the next 3 months discovering true freedom through Christ that changed my entire being. (You can read some of that story here and here and here.)

Jesus didn’t come to give you a boring, worrisome, tiring, bitter life.  He came to give you a life of freedom and abundance in the midst of this messed up hell-hole world we live in! He came to show you secrets that pour out of his nature.  He came to lavish you in love that can’t be contained …so you pour it out on others because it’s so rich and merciful and too good not to give away!   He came to give you joy in the middle of deep sorrow.  He came to give you hope in the midst of what seems like hopeless situations.  He came to give you great courage when your knees are shaking and fear feels big.

And He’s still here.

We’re missing Him moment by moment. Day by day. Completely missing Him.

Being so wrapped up in the troubles of the world.  Silly and petty stuff that means nothing.

You’re caught in hating your job but then you get a new job and you wind up hating that job too.  Complaining. Being a gossip.  You hate your boss’ decisions and think you have better answers to all the company’s problems.

You’re angry at your spouse. They’re never good enough or do enough.  You’re constantly picking out the negatives about them instead of speaking life into them and praising them for all they are and all they do.

You’re upset about never having enough money when in fact you’re just not budgeting and managing your money properly.

You complain about your health but do nothing to enhance your health.

Distracted, busy, down and out.  Completely missing God in what you think is just another mundane day.

He’s there, y’all. He never left. He never leaves.

Last year I left the ministry role of ‘teacher’.  I don’t write this to teach or preach. I write this to tell you what I know to be true.  I write this because I was once damaged goods until Jesus picked me up and said, “No. You’re just good.”

You are not damaged goods.  You are just good.  You were made by the Creator and He says you’re good.  All that He has made is good.

The broken and messy segments of our lives are not who we are.  Those are just fragmented pieces that allow God’s glory to shine through us.  Trust me, you don’t want to NOT have those pieces.  I know that sounds crazy … but I’m just being real.  Those very shreds of your life create the breeding ground for miracles that only God can perform.

If you are consumed in shame and guilt tonight you need to know that you are deeply loved.  Yes.  Even if you did that thing (whatever that thing is).  There may be real consequences and there may be real pain associated with whatever that thing is … but that never takes away from the fact that you are deeply loved.

If you are overwhelmed with your past tonight.  You can be free from it.  God is wondering why you’re still holding on to it and allowing it to steal your abundant life from you.  Hand that over to Him tonight.  However you need to do that …  just hand it over and don’t carry that with you anymore.

If you are drowning in anxiety, worry, fear tonight –  you have a control problem.  You want to be in control and know the outcome of everything.  My friend, that is sin.  That sin is killing you.  I know because I still experience some negative affects to my health due to a year of debilitating anxiety and panic attacks from 2011.  It’s 2017!  It was killing me.  My body was in so much turmoil because my brain would not shut off.   That’s not abundant life!  It’s a lie from the Devil.

Your battle is not against anxiety.  Your battle is in your resistance to go to God when anxiety rears its ugly head.

If you are flat out in a place of complete defeat and pain tonight.  Real, deep, pain.  Only you understand it.  It’s that type of pain that knocks the breath out of you.  Where you have no words and even when you try to talk about it – it doesn’t make sense out loud.  If you’re in that place tonight- my heart is with you.  It’s the place where there are no real answers.  Heck, you’re not even sure you’re looking for an answer and you actually get annoyed when people offer an answer.  Answers are stupid at this point.  Do you know that place of pain?  I don’t really have words of comfort for you tonight because I know there are no words of comfort, there is only The Comforter.  He sees you and His heart breaks when your heart breaks.  He is there with you.  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  He truly does.  I’m sorry you’re going through this.

Ugh. Those seasons suck.  Beauty is birthed from them  but while you’re in the middle of them they just straight up SUCK.

So, all of this rambling to say –

God is good.  Even when we’re not good. He’s good.

There is beauty in the pain of life. Your story is still being written and it’s not over yet.

Look for Jesus among you. Don’t just make Him be at church. Blah. That’s boring.  The Kingdom of God is among us.  Wake up to that!  He’s playing the best ever scavenger hunt game with you but you haven’t showed up!  He’s waiting.

Seek God consistently on how to love and mentor your children but don’t be so hard on yourself when you totally screw them up! 😉

Know when to draw hard lines and set boundaries to take care of yourself and be present in the moment.

If you’re not living an abundant life – you’re choosing to live a life that was never intended for you.

You are so dearly loved.

I can only write all these things by His grace.  He’s a good and faithful Father.

– April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When People Hurt Your Heart

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately.  Mostly reflecting on who I once was and who I am now – who I’m  becoming and who I’ll eventually become.  Life is such a shattered yet beautiful adventure with Jesus.

My past is loaded with codependency.  Specifically emotional codependency.

Mental Health America describes emotional codependency this way:

“It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.”

Yup.  That was me. It started with my mom and a childhood friend. I can only remember as far back as 4 years old and the enemy had his hooks in me with both of these people at that point in my life.

4 years old.

I didn’t stand a chance.

My mind was such a hot mess express.  Honestly, sometimes it still is.  I’m just grateful that by the grace of God I’m now aware.  I can differentiate lies from truth – but it doesn’t mean that lies don’t still show up.

At a young age I was taught that if you feel proud of yourself, you’re being arrogant.  I was taught that defending yourself against certain people was wrong.  You should back down, be the bigger person, submit, take ownership even if it was the other person’s fault.  Don’t question.  Don’t argue.  FEEL BAD, apologize and work diligently to make everything better.

I was also taught that I couldn’t be mad.  If I kept to myself or cared about my own well being I was called selfish.

I guess I shouldn’t say I was taught these things …  I’ll just say this is how I perceived the way I should act/be according to the messages around me. This is how my little brain and emotions interpreted negative feelings.

These mixed signals led to a life of codependency in friendships and overall “good” performance.

In my late teens, early 20s, I remember if someone did something really nasty toward me, I would feel so angry and hurt but immediately would start to make excuses for the person.  “They didn’t mean it.”  “Clearly they didn’t try to be malicious and hurt me.” “It’s me. It’s not them. It’s my own tainted thinking.” “God! Fix MY messed up thinking patterns.”

Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t me at times.  But there were moments when someone was smiling so big in my face and we’d be having a very pleasant conversation but when I walked away I could feel daggers and shards of glass in my soul.

I was confused.

I found Jesus (with more in between … but for time’s sake…)

I went to church and became ‘churchy’.

In church I was taught to forgive, bare each other’s burdens, extend grace, turn the other cheek, pursue peace, don’t repay evil with evil and the list goes on and on.

Well, when you struggle with codependency (but don’t know you’re struggling) you go to church and find out that you’re wrong, selfish, arrogant. There were times when I would experience someone being down right malicious toward me but I felt shame and guilt if I let myself think and believe that someone was doing me wrong.

My whole life I had been wired to immediately create a false reality where people are not bad and mean and malicious.  Where people are not jealous, insecure, envious, and harmful.  I had to believe the reality that I created because to think that people were anything other than good was clearly just ME.  My fault. My problem.

But you know what?

It wasn’t always me.  It wasn’t always my fault.  It wasn’t always my problem.

And you know what else?

People can suck really bad.  People do mean and evil things.  And it hurts when you face that reality.

My husband is a realist. I’m the dreamer. The other day my heart was aching badly.  I felt hurt by another person.  Through tears I told my husband, “The hardest part for me is not the hurt that has been felt in my heart … it’s the reality that the person did it on purpose.”

Every day God is drawing me out into new grace. He allows me to experience real pain and junk that hurts you in your core. I’m anxious when I have to admit, not that people do dumb mean things … but to admit that people do dumb mean things because they intended to do a dumb mean thing.  They wanted to punish.  They wanted me to feel pain.

My sweet Savior meets me right there in that broken and wounded place and gently says to me, “But what are you going to do with it?”

I surrender.

I forgive.

I extend grace.

I die to myself.

I surrender again (because I probably got mad again thinking about it).

I remember that they know not what they do.

I remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood.  I’m not fighting people who do dumb things … heck, I do dumb things (often).  I can arrogantly say that my intentions are not mean or evil … but I definitely do and say some dumb things … and there was a time when I was mean and malicious.  Heck, I was hurt.  Hurt people hurt people and healed people heal people.

Cry, blow your nose and get over it.

If God thinks its a good idea to love others I guess I should keep on lovin’ others.  I guess I’ve got to confess that His power is made perfect in my weakness and thank Him continuously that He’s leading me into deeper places of love.  You can’t experience the love of God and keep it to yourself.  You just can’t.

Guys. I’m not even sure I know how to write anymore.  This stuff just comes pouring out without any rhyme or reason and I can feel myself walking on slippery slopes that may offend some — and frankly I don’t care … but I do … but I don’t.  I’m still learning that I don’t (and that THAT is okay but definitely a NEW thing for me).

Love covers it all.

It’s not even about hurt feelings and people doing mean stuff.  From a Kingdom perspective – that’s just stupid.  It’s a distraction. It makes me us puff up with pride and you immediately enter the contest ‘mine is bigger than yours’ …  it’s just gross and it breaks God’s heart. It’s foolish.

But this life is a journey.  It’s not a quick race to the finish line. That’s why I’m writing from a new angle of ‘look at all these broke pieces but I love Jesus … I don’t quite understand but I love Jesus.’ Instead of ’10 Steps to a better you’ … Heck, if I know the 10 steps I should probably teach myself first.  I just can’t do that stuff anymore.

Here’s where I’m at.

Just right here.

In this condition and not apologizing for it or using church verbiage to pretend I’m further along than I am.

I’m just lovin’ Jesus like crazy and feeling more alive than I ever have … experiencing more freedom than I ever have.

You don’t go from conversion to perfect.  You just don’t.  We go from grace to grace, from faith to faith, from glory to glory.

I think God meets us with fresh mercy and joy, not just in the morning but whenever we need it because He knew that we would need it over and over and over again.

I’ll leave you with The Message version of Ephesians 6:10-18

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

-April