On Patience

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5: 1-4

. . . . . .

Last week, the group I serve with at church wanted to recognize other church members who they believe were showing the fruits of the spirit by writing the fruit on a small piece of paper and giving it to them. A friend caught me off guard and handed me this piece of paper that said “patience.” She said it was for everything I had been going through this year.

 

Being recognized for anything makes me uncomfortable, but it got me thinking. This church launched last September, and I have been attending since Launch Day. This means these people–the people who have become friends, my church family–have watched me go from downcast and crying almost every Sunday and every small group, hardly speaking to anyone, to serving on the team, smiling, and interacting with others. This person has watched me grow. And the one thing I have been hearing from God consistently this entire season is “patience.” So it’s no coincidence I was given that word.

. . . . . .

I tend to process emotions and changes pretty quickly. I used to get upset when others didn’t process this stuff as quickly as I did, which usually led to more frustration. I’m that person that thinks “here is how to handle these emotions, put this piece here, and let’s move on.” But I’ve learned that I can’t do that because pressuring people into processing what they’re feeling won’t help them process any quicker or any better.

So I have to practice patience and allow them to process in their own way and on their own time.

. . . . . .

I have been asked why I haven’t moved on with my life. The initial response is simple: my heart has not changed, and for a while depression and anxiety ruled my life. But the more complex answer is that moving on looks different for everyone. And I chose to move forward.

I knew I couldn’t stay in a depressive haze forever. But I also hated it so much when I got the “Christian responses” because they felt so insincere to me. The more I became involved in my church, though, and the more I began praying and learning about God, the more I felt like my world would be okay. Because I had to allow God to answer me, not people. And that’s when I began hearing “patience.”

So I stopped what I had been doing and took time to re-evaluate my choices and decided to take things in slowly for the first time in a long time. I began getting back into things I enjoyed. I started writing again. I took time to properly train and bond with Belle. I went back to my roots, so to speak. I started seeing the girl that I had been when I married my husband, and when she started to shine through again, I saw hope.

But it’s not something that could happen overnight. Because trials breed patience, which breeds hope.

. . . . . .

The truth is, though, I am not that exact same girl. And thank goodness.

I am older. I know a bit more of myself. I have a stronger faith. I believe and love harder. I will try harder than that girl would have.

Because trials also change us. But they change us into who God wants us to be.

. . . . . .

If you are struggling, be patient. Often times the battle isn’t ours; it’s for God. I guarantee He is moving, even if you do not see direct evidence. You may not see it right that minute, but when you look back, you will see He did some incredible things.

And if you know someone who is struggling–it doesn’t matter what the struggle is–be patient. If they don’t process like you do, be patient. If they need time or space, grant it and be patient. If they don’t want to talk about something, if they don’t want to move forward, if they don’t want to have the “Christian conversations,” just be patient.

Sometimes we have to go through tough times to see God, to draw near to Him. He will use those storms to change you and to glorify Him. Those storms will build your character, teach you to persevere, and show you how to walk in love, patience, and gentleness.

What Is Strength?

“Strength comes from doing what you thought you couldn’t do.”

Okay, so this is actually from the trainer with the Beachbody exercise program I’ve just started. She uses it to push you to give a little more in your workout, but it rings true for life.

If you had asked me a year ago if I would make it through this storm, I would have said “no.” Beyond that, if you had ever before asked me if I could handle this type of devastation, I would have said no. But the year and a half has changed me.

Because I was thrust into (extreme) discomfort, God had an opportunity to pour into me in ways I had not before imagined. It caused me to draw near to Him. A year ago was the first time I truly cried out to Him, and I have felt Him with me ever since.

This time last year I was a complete mess. I was so depressed I could barely function. I wanted to sleep all day, wishing I could just sleep away the problems. But sleep didn’t solve anything, and, in fact, it started to make things worse. So I pulled what my pastor once referred to as a “Hail Mary”: I called out to God more sincerely than I ever have in my life. And then I started going to church.

And that’s when I started to gain strength.

I was suddenly surrounded by people who I felt comfortable opening up to. I was talking and socializing, something I didn’t think I was capable of. (I had even told a friend of mine I didn’t want to make friends at the time because I couldn’t be a good friend because I was struggling too much.) I started thinking about leaving the job, and then I did. I gained confidence as I began writing more. I was talking more than I had in weeks. I still remember the first real smile I had after everything, and do you want to guess where it happened? At church.

A friend (let’s call her A) recently told me her boyfriend had expressed to her that he thought A and I would become close because we are both so social. I looked at her for a moment, laughed, and said, “I’m really not that social.” But it was then I had a realization: God had given me the strength to keep pressing on and to socialize when I had never thought I could.

So here I am.

A year ago today, I couldn’t even think about lasting all day outside let alone beginning a new exercise or health regimen. A year ago today, I was so distraught I thought I would never smile again. A year ago today, I couldn’t tell you who or what I was. A year ago today, I was not who I am today.

Today, I proudly call myself a writer. Today, I make plans with girl friends to go do things. Today, I can leave my phone at home without having anxiety. Today, I sleep because I am exhausted from a job I enjoy. Today, I don’t always have to force a smile or a laugh. Today, I can breathe.

I never thought I would be able to get through this. I am by no means saying my storm has passed, but I know I can stand firm in the storm because God is my strength. I have a mental picture of myself standing in the midst of a tornado, as it is swirling around me, but I am unmoving.

We battle what we do for a reason. I believe that reason is so God can use it to strengthen us, to make us turn to Him, to enhance the relationship we have with Him. If you’re in the middle of a storm, know that you will get strength as you press into God and He walks you through the darkness.

So, sure, strength in exercising is important, and you gain muscle by pushing yourself. But you strengthen your faith “muscle” by believing even when it seems like your world is crumbling. It can be scary, and it is not easy at all, but it is worth it.

 

Math Lessons

My dad is really good at math. Like can-do-it-in-his-head good. And of course he is–he’s an engineer. I, on the other hand, am not cut out for the subject. And it shows when I have to calculate grades.

When I was little, daddy would try to help me with my math homework. It usually didn’t turn out too well. I didn’t understand the material so I would get really frustrated, and then he would get frustrated with me because he didn’t understand why didn’t understand. But there’s one particular homework that I still remember.

In elementary school, every class would learn to count to 100 and then we would throw a big party. Well, of course, after we learn to count to 100 we continue on. I had brought home this homework, moving on from just 100, but little me couldn’t wrap my head around what came after 100. To me, it was 200. My logic was simple for a child: 2 is after 1, so 200 must come after 100.

My dad kept asking me: “what comes after one?”

“Two!” I would yell.

His response: “No.”

And I just kept repeating that 1 does come after 2. At some point, I ended up beginning to cry, and I stomped up to my room and curled on my bed. My mom explained to my dad that I didn’t understand what he was asking because my logic was different.

Honestly, I don’t remember what happened in between, but I remember daddy coming up to my room and the lightbulb eventually going off in my head.

. . . . . .

I passed a sticker on a truck today for the 101st Airborne and, though a particular person passed through my mind first (for unrelated reasons, really), this instance of doing math with my dad followed quickly. And for some reason I just thought: “if he had said what comes after zero, maybe I would have understood it quicker.”

My point is that we all see things in this world differently. We come to our conclusions in different ways. Sometimes we can take a “shortcut,” and sometimes we can’t. Because we all have different ways of understanding, it means we have to be patient with others when they don’t see things the way we do or understand things as quickly as we might.

I recently wrote a post about how we cannot place our expectations on someone else. This is similar–we cannot expect others to comprehend or process in the same manner, or even the same pace, as we might.

Sometimes–like in the above instance with my dad–we need to walk away from the situation, take a breather, and then come at it from a different angle. It may take time to come to a solution. What’s important is that you are eventually on the same page. It doesn’t necessarily matter how you get there.

Daddy has taught me a lot of lessons, and he may not even know it. Heck, I didn’t even realize this was a lesson until this afternoon. And then it hit me. He may not have meant to do it, but he taught me something that resounds through the years.

. . . . . .

I don’t know why this came to me so suddenly today or why it resonated with me so much. I do feel, though, that it came at this time for a reason. This knowledge wouldn’t have served me well as a child because I wouldn’t have understood it, and it wouldn’t have been relevant even a year ago because I hadn’t grown in the way I have now.

Maybe it came to me now because God has a plan for it.

And that’s the thing: God has solutions for every problem we encounter. But sometimes we are too busy yelling “logic” and “reasoning” and “reality” at Him to really hear what He is trying to tell us.

Maybe what He is telling me now is to be patient and start simple. And for once in my life, I am content with that solution.