Friday, March 15, 2013

Lean On Him

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’  Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.  You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”  ~Psalm 91:1-6

Earlier this week, in Melisa Taylor’s Online Bible Study of Karen Ehman’s book “Let. It. Go.” that I’m participating in, we were asked to read this Psalm and then share what God spoke to our hearts through it.  When I read the description of the assignment, I thought it was going to be quick and easy - one that I could simply read and do in a matter of seconds.  I was really not prepared for the big way in which God was going to use this small piece of His word to speak into my life.

As I read through Psalm 91, for some reason I automatically zeroed in on the last two verses.  Initially, I didn’t see any application it could possibly have for me or my life; however, knowing how much I’ve gotten out of each prior assignment, I knew there had to be a treasure there waiting for me, and so I persisted.  Over and over I read it until I finally slowed it all down by pausing to pray and seek the Lord in between each verse.  Then, when I came to the last two once again, the words “terror of the night…arrow that flies by day…pestilence that stalks in the darkness…plague that destroys at midday,” suddenly crept out to me like critters that have been scared out of their hiding place under the shadows of a fallen log when lifted.  In that moment I knew the truth – that these words did, in fact, apply to my life…for these very words I had actually come to know all too well.

Most who know me are aware of the fact that the birth of my daughter, which will be four years ago next month (wow, where does the time go?!), did not go well to say the least.  While I could replay for you just about every detail of those days (Lord knows I’ve done just that a million times in my own head, and yes, I did mean to type “days”), what I’d like to share with you instead is the battle that has ensued since those dark moments of my life were painted and left imprinted so vividly in my mind’s eye.

After the longest, hardest, worst, sleep-less week of my life, my daughter was released from the NICU and we were finally allowed to go home.  While I can now praise God for that miracle, and under normal circumstances this would have been a joyful and highly anticipated time for a new mom, neither were the case for me at the time.   For me, the nightmare that had become my reality that week in the hospital followed me home and continued on – both metaphorically and literally. 

For many weeks afterwards I struggled with panic.  At night, when attempting to lie flat, I would close my eyes and instantly, in my mind, find myself back in that hospital struggling to give birth…the pestilence that stalked me in my darkness.  When I’d finally fall asleep, I was also bombarded with all-to-real and intense nightmares of dying…my own personal terrors of the night.  Then, in the day, the panic would creep in on me while breastfeeding – the time in which mom and baby are supposed to spend quietly forming that special new bond everyone talks about…the arrows that flew by day.  And though mum was the word, if I had actually brought light to all of this with my doctor, friends and family, they too would have been aware of what I had already known inside me to be true – post-partum depression was my plague that destroyed at midday.

As time went on, the panic attacks and nightmares did subside, and though I still faced many very real problems physically as a result of complications during labor, I thought that I had worked through, gotten over, and forgotten the emotional wounds that had been inflicted…I was wrong, and it has been proven to me time and time again since.  It never fails to amaze me how quickly all the buried emotions of those moments can come shooting to the surface with even the smallest of things.  Things such as: a facebook poster declaring the miracle of childbirth or reflecting the special bonds between mom and baby at birth, finding out that yet another person I know is pregnant with their second child, hearing others stories of how easy and seemingly perfect their childbirths were, pictures of new moms slimmed down so quickly, facebook posts and pictures of friends being physically active with their children and doing the activities I so love and miss but can no longer do myself, that all-to-often asked question of “when are you going to have another baby?”, and the greatest of them all – when my daughter asks me to pick her up or she’s hurt and all I want to do is follow my motherly instincts to pick her up, but instead having to see the look in her eyes and pain on her face as I try to explain for the millionth time, “Sorry honey, Mommy’s not supposed to pick you up because Mommy has an owie.”

All of these things and more are the arrows that have descended on me by day and plagued me by night.  Each time that I’ve been struck has caught me completely off guard and left me thinking - “what in the world?”  And then I find myself once again pleading with God, “Why is this still plaguing me?”  Even while typing this, though nearly four years have passed, I’m fighting feelings of anxiety building in my chest and tears threatening to spill over. 

There is a very real struggle going on about not wanting to share this very personal part of my life.  Sharing things of this nature has never been an easy thing for me.  Not even with those I’m closest to…sometimes especially with those I’m closest to.  That snare that Psalm 91 spoke of - I fell into it long ago - set by Satan to keep me trapped in a place where I’d buy into the beliefs that I can handle it all on my own, sharing makes me too vulnerable, and keeping things to myself, makes me strong and allows me to remain in control - all lies!  The truth is Satan will stop at nothing to keep a person away from living the will of God and spreading the truth of the Gospel.  And the truth is both sharing our struggles openly with others, and letting go of control, is required in order for a believer to be used effectively in the Kingdom of God.

Learning to let go of control seems to be the key to unlocking so many of my struggles – many of which I’ve shared with you here on this blog.  But what is the key to unlocking my actual compulsion to control?  What is ultimately going to open that door to freedom and allow me to step out onto the path that the Lord has planned for me?  Well, that too was answered for me in Psalm 91: 1-6. 

When I think about the battle of taking and maintaining control, a picture comes to mind of a tug-of-war.  In this tug-of-war, I’m on one side, God is on the other, and His word is the rope that He uses to tug us and pull us towards him.  When we hold onto that rope/His word, but let him have control, there is essentially no tug-of-war taking place – just Him pulling us into Him.  However, when we take control, we are actually pulling back on that rope and alas, the tug-of-war begins!  If you’ve ever played tug-of-war as a child, you’ve probably noticed that when you’re pulling harder you’re able to lean back away from the other person, but when they’re pulling harder, this causes you to automatically lean forward into them.  Well, it works the same way with God.  When we allow Him to have control, we will automatically start leaning into Him, but when we pull back and take control, we essentially start leaning away from him in our life. 

This is fundamentally what I’ve done for the last four years and really for most of my life.  It is by engaging in this tug-of-control-war, that I have found myself placed in my current battlefield where I am left fully exposed and vulnerable to the cascading arrows surrounding me.  If I had instead, relinquished control to God and chose to lean on Him during my traumatic experience, He would’ve been able to pull me into His fortress and taken me under his wings, where I would’ve found refuge and rest rather than plague and pestilence.  Thankfully, now that I have been awaken to this truth, I can  begin to do and experience just that, and when the arrows of hard to take pictures, comments, questions and posts start flying by day, I can be protected by his shield and rampart and then I can begin to truly “say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, and my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!” ~Psalm 91:2 AMP. 

While this may not be a story of victory YET, I know that it WILL BE, for “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” ~Philippians 4:13 (4-13, as a friend of mine has pointed out, is my daughters bday :-) ).  As I learn to let go and lean on Him, it may look like, to the world, that I’m losing the tug-of-war.  However, in the view of the Lord, I will truly be winning because, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~Mathew 10:39.  So when we find ourselves in a place in our lives where we are asking “what in the world,” we should stop and ask instead “what in the Lord?”  In other words, what in my walk with the Lord has gone wrong or is missing that is causing me to feel like life is spinning out of control?  It is in those times that we’ll likely have found ourselves to be engaged in a tug-of-control-war with God.  And it is in those times that we again have to remind ourselves to just “Let. It. Go.”

As this study comes to an end, I’m very much aware of the fact that my journey of learning to let it go is really just beginning.  Truly there are many more examples and stories I could share of my struggles with control, and even in this particular chapter, what I've shared only begins to scratch the surface of the whole story...perhaps over time I will continue to share more, but for now I’d like to leave you all with a song that I heard for the very first time just yesterday and it couldn’t be more perfect for this Let. It. Go. journey…God’s timing is always perfect J.  I hope that it blesses you as it did me!
(Sorry about the ad that plays before the song.  Hope you wait it out though, the song is worth it! J)

                (poster credit: )

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Sound of Silence

My soul - in the world – it screams inside,
The noise, the clamor – it grows in size,
Rushing in - it continues to rise,
Consuming me like the ocean’s tides.

My soul - in the Lord – it soars inside,
The silence, the stillness – it grows in size,
Flowing in - it continues to rise,
Cleansing me like the ocean’s tides.

While the world - it screams – for my attention it vies,
The Lord - he whispers – in the quiet He guides.
And in the noise - there’s a battle inside,
But in the sound of silence - in Him I learn to abide.

For amongst the noise - my soul – it dives,
But in the sound of silence - my soul – it thrives!
While in the world - my soul may die,
In the Lord - my soul can fly!

For when the sound of silence sinks in,
It washes over the clamoring din,
And with the Lord - away falls my sin,
For in the sound of silence - control He wins!

Two months after becoming believers, my husband and I moved to the San Diego area.  This was a huge move for us, but I was ecstatic because I had always felt drawn to the big city – the lights, tall buildings, fast pace – it all exhilarated me!  However, once there, I was surprised by a yearning that began to grow in me for even just the smallest piece of quiet – a place of solitude where I could get away from it all…even if it was for just a moment.  I looked for it on our apartments balconies.  I sought it out in the recreational parks.  I even tried finding it through exercise and reading, and yet, no matter how much I searched and sought, it continued to elude me.  

Having grown up in a small town in Northern Idaho, I assumed that this longing for solitude was in my roots - where amongst the majestic mountain landscapes, the lack of population (people population that is) does not go unnoticed.  Little did I know that when I had accepted Christ, the seed that had been planted in me by God – the seed that is planted in us all – had been watered, causing the need to seek, and be with, and follow God to grow and take root inside me - that is truly where this new found longing had come from!

For several years I went on chasing the hustle and bustle of my dreams in the city of paradise, never once stopping to listen to the Lord, or even to consider the prospect.  Life was still all about me, which up to that point had seemed to work so well, but now – not so much.  Suddenly, life all about me felt uncomfortable.  Suddenly, life all about me felt wrong.  Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I felt directionless and confused, despite the fact that I was moving forward at a steady pace on the path I’d laid before myself.  Luckily, the Lord stepped in by placing several women into my life who would, with a lot of patience and persistence, lead me onto the correct path – the path of seeking, learning, and following the Lord rather than my own way. 

While there were many contributing factors that watered and fed the seed of Christ that was growing inside me, the all elusive sound of silence was finally fulfilled when I agreed to join a women’s Church group who was just starting a new study on prayer.  This particular prayer study, as I quickly learned, was not necessarily the best study for a first-timer.  It was very in depth and challenging beyond the average study, as the other more “seasoned” ladies pointed out.  But I was thirsty, like the psalmist in 63:1 (one of the memory verses for week three of that study): “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  And so I soaked in the challenging material like a dried out dingy old sponge when dropped in a bucket full of fresh clean water.

Prior to that study, I had never even heard of having a quiet time with the Lord, never mind actually attempting to have one.  It did not come easily at first.  It felt awkward and pointless – sitting there in the silence waiting to hear the Lord speak.  What was I listening for?  I had no clue!  But then in week three, the writer challenged us to wake early, before the sun even, to have our quiet time.  She asked us to pray for the Lord to wake us in excitement to be with Him.  I - not being a morning person whatsoever, scoffed at the idea with skepticism.  “Wake early and with excitement?” I thought, “Surely not!”  But I did what was asked out of eagerness to figure out what this whole quiet time thing was about.

Not really believing I’d suddenly wake up before the sun, and magically be able to hear the Lord’s voice because of it, I prayed for the Lord to wake me that next morning…and to my great surprise, wake me He did, at 4:30am!  Then, to my even greater surprise, not only was I wide awake, but I was excited about it!  And my surprise didn’t end there either, I then got up and prayed the second memory verse for week three of that study, just like we were asked:
To my amazement, the Lord’s voice came quietly through the darkness of that morning, entering in slowly like the dawn of the rising sun, flowing in to my heart, soul, and mind, filling them with the fullness of His light – the bright shining Son.  My heart sang, “I will praise you, O LORD my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.” ~Psalm 86:12.

It has been approximately five years since that first glorious morning in which I met with our precious Lord.  Learning to have quiet time with Him changed my life forever.  I wish I could say that I’ve consistently returned to the sound of silence every morning since then, but the truth is, despite the fact that I’ve been awoken to the beauty and nourishment that can be found there, there are still times in which I once again allow the noise of the world to rush in and seemingly extinguish His light in my life.  During those times, the Lord has patiently and quietly called for me to return…and inevitably when I do, He’s always there waiting for me - greeting me lovingly with His outstretched arms and grace.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” ~Jeremiah 33:3

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” ~Psalm 143:8

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” ~Psalm 62:1