The Paths We Take

“What seems to us bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” – Oscar Wilde

. . . . . .

I never wanted to take this path. I never thought I would. But God has used it to help me find my way and draw me nearer to Him. He has provided me opportunities to begin a career I never thought would be possible. He has provided me community. He has always provided at the right time.

I was once asked if I feel like I’m wasting my time. The answer was, and still is, no. It’s not wasting your time when you’re learning from it. Nothing God does is ever a waste of time. And we have to trust that, even when we feel in the dark, He is guiding our path.

. . . . . .

Sometimes we don’t like the path we end up taking, whether it’s our fault we are there or not. We often can’t see the benefit the experience will have when we are in the midst of struggle because we are so overcome with emotion. But remember: God is faithful. He will see you through it if you will seek Him through it.

Battlefields and Beauty

About two weeks ago, I decided Belle and I needed to explore something new. While I had been (and still am) struggling with reality hitting me hard in the face each morning, I also knew poor Belle could not be expected to continue to just mope around with me–she needs stimulation. In that sense, she is a big motivator for me to get out and do things. Anyway, I took us to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia, and I was stunned at what God had for me on this particular outing.

As we walked the Murphey Farm, I was struck by how pretty the scenery was. The right amount of fluffy white clouds interspersed the blue sky, some trees still held on to their yellow and gold fall colors, and the tall grass waved blissfully in the breeze. Although beautiful, all that isn’t what struck me. This farmland once served as a Confederate battleline.

IMG_8814

When this place served it’s time in history, I am sure no one wanted to stop and think about how beautiful the surrounding scenery might be. While I’m not sure of exactly the history this land saw, given the cannons that still stand on the field, I can draw conclusions that it wasn’t pretty.

Yet, here it is today—flat, green, with a seemingly endless open sky.

IMG_2137

(And here you can see Belle fully enjoying the wind and historic grass.)

As I was walking Belle on the trail, something hit me internally: even the darkest of times bring beauty in the end. I feel God chose this moment to remind me that He will turn my pain to beauty in His time.

. . . . . .

I have been playing catchup with my favorite Harry Potter podcast, having fallen behind a bit on listening due to a schedule change, and I came across their episode on beauty. As I was reflecting on how interesting it was I came across this episode as I was preparing to write a blog post on beauty in darkness, one of the hosts said the most perfect thing: ugly things need to happen before things can be considered beautiful.

And I just thought wow. How could this possible be coincidence?

It seems this happens a lot. We feel sickest before we are about to feel better. Something terrible happens that makes us appreciate, even more, something good we have. Battles happen so countries can claim certain rights (I’m thinking here of the American Revolution, or of some of the moral reasons behind the Civil War). More importantly, it is literally always darkest before the sun rises.

. . . . . .

There is a reason darkness comes at the end of the day and the beginning of the next, why God uses colorful rainbows to show His people His promises.

As I struggle through…whatever this is, I have to work to remind myself God can, and does, create beauty from ashes. After all, how are diamonds made? But I’ve realized I am struggling to recall the promises He spoke to me before all this in the midst of my depression. I am struggling to connect with Him because the darkness has been so overwhelming, and, at times, it’s easier to deal with.

I have a better appreciation of what it must have been like to try to deal with me on occasion. Neither my husband nor myself had the words to describe what I was dealing with, but now I do: anxiety, depression, self-worth.

I remember God’s nudge at some point early in the line, but I don’t recall when. I remember the still, small whisper, which I know I ignored, but I don’t recall what it said. What I do remember is I felt like something was about to happen, like we were on the cusp of something, like something new was on the horizon. I remember feeling like this would open up all new doors for us.

So, as December progresses, I am going to brave the battlefield of my mind and heart and work to recall God’s promises. I’ll even start in scripture and work my way to His promises to me. And I will write them down, as proof to myself that He fulfills His promises, as visual evidence He is faithful. Because I need that reminder.

. . . . . .

Have you ever felt something happened that was not mere coincidence?

Do you have a story where it was “darkest before the dawn”? How did things turn out?

What promises has God made to you? Do you remember them all? Do you, too, need a visual reminder, a list, to keep you focused on them?

Days 20 & 21: Small Faith

How did it go?

Yesterday marked Day 20 in my 30-day positivity challenge, which means I am almost “done.” My goal, though, is to not be done with positivity just because the challenge itself is over. I was (and still am) hoping the challenge could transform, or help transform, the way I think and process through my anxiety and depression. I can feel the change that just trying to think positively has brought on, and that has made a difference in my overall outlook.

Having said that, I am combining Day 20 and Day 21 for a few reasons. The first is because yesterday was an emotional day that I needed to process. I had a friend visit me at my dad’s last night and we were all up until midnight, chatting. Between the emotions and the late night, I was tuckered out. The second reason is because today is yet another day of travel. This time, I’m heading back to the East Coast (“home”). While I have layovers, I won’t make it home until past midnight, and, even though I’ll sleep on the flights, I’ll be exhausted. Plus, let’s face it, I can only do so much positive reframing of flying before I’m lying to myself. (I hate flying. It gives me a ton of anxiety. I think it’s a control thing.)

Like I said, I can feel even a small change come over me when I work to reframe my thoughts into positivity. It’s somewhere between a fog and a physical feeling of being lighter. It just provides me a better way to go about my day: my tears come to a halt (though maybe not abruptly), my heart rate (sort of) slows down, I can breathe a little easier. Maybe the biggest change in feeling, though, is the feeling like my brain has changed.

Everything we think releases chemicals in our brain, and focusing on negativity can quickly drain our brain of its life force. In fact, negative thinking literally programs our brains to receive negative chemicals, making you more likely to be negative. In other words, it can turn into a constant cycle.

No matter what happens, I don’t want to be in that cycle.

What did I learn?

As usual, I need to reprogram myself to speak with God and listen to Him consistently each day. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I think that acknowledging that it’s a need is the first step.

Part of positivity is “keeping your head up.” That is, believe in the best possible outcome. It’s amazing what simple belief can do.

So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. – Matthew 17:20 (NKJV)

How powerful, right!? Just a tiny bit of faith can move mountains! I am determined to have that faith. But it’s something I can only achieve if I meet with God each day.

I want to also say this: note that Jesus did not say “and it will move immediately.” He only said it would move. In that word (or, really, the lack of a word), I am reminded that everything will happen in God’s timing. The mountain will move, even if it doesn’t happen immediately. Heck, it will move, even if it seems so incremental we can’t even see it. But our faith will move it because He is on our side.

What do you need believing for right now? What mountain do you need your mustard seed sized faith to move? I encourage you to plant that small seed of faith and see what fruit grows.

Day 9: Good Timing

How did it go?

It’s a little hard to explain today. I’m still moving through an “episode” so my world seems a bit fuzzy at times. In some moments I’m alright, then something tiny happens and I’m not. But one thing did encourage me this morning, and that was a—you guessed it—podcast episode. Except it’s a different one than any of the others I’ve mentioned.

I haven’t found a church here, and I’m struggling to connect with God. I know the enemy wants as far away from Him during difficult times, but I am trying to find my way back. I follow my pastor from my previous city on Twitter, and he often Retweets Joel Osteen. So, in an effort to get some time with God more often, I subscribed to Joel Osteen’s podcast on iTunes. This morning, I listened to the most recent episode: “Right on Time.”

And I think listening to it this morning was perfect timing.

I definitely felt more positive, more empowered, more convicted after listening to it. It was a great way to spend 30 minutes of my morning commute.

Today also gave me more opportunities to figure things out. (Sorry, that’s the only way I can think to put it.) And I’ve realized something: I don’t want to be alone because my mind won’t stop spinning, but I also don’t want to be around others because then I have to perform a certain way. (Have you ever heard of “speech acts”?) But I realized I’m okay alone when I’m with Belle, writing, or even reading.

So I’ve decided I’m going to take some alone time. More than I have recently. I also think that’s the only way I’m going to gain a deeper connection with the Lord.

What did I learn?

 I guess sometimes we do just need to be alone. And sometimes we need to revel in that alone-ness. And being alone is different than being lonely, especially if that alone-ness can bring you closer to the Lord.

The Joel Osteen podcast episode today talked about how God’s timing is always the perfect timing. We should not get upset or frustrated because something isn’t happening as fast or in the way we would like it to; God is moving. We have to trust in Him and His timing.

I learned that’s hard for me: trusting in His timing.

I believe in Him, and, deep down, I believe He can move mountains. But I need to spend time with Him to truly believe that. Which means I can’t rush anything because I haven’t figured out how to spend that much-needed time with Him yet.

Nothing will happen until I get my heart and soul right.