Can’t stop won’t stop

Isaiah 61:3 she said… we had just been discussing things that made me feel the crippling anxiety that has burdened me these many months. And I cried in her office on that couch that is older than me for the thousandth time this year. It’s been six months. I emptied the Kleenex box. Six months since this journey to healing began.

I’ve asked all the “why” questions… especially “why me?” And “why am I still feeling this way?” The answer I’ve come to? There is no why. Sometimes life just happens and because I’m a feeler first and foremost and forever. And when someone feels things in life so deeply it’s easy to get caught up in it and sometimes the wires in your brain disconnect. And then this thing we call anxiety can take over.

But this week feels different. It’s not the same old fog anymore. Probably because I’ve learned to reach out in the fog and find His arms again. Find His PEACE. I don’t mean that there isn’t fog anymore, there is. I just mean that I know he’s there in the fog. And so He makes everything bearable.

But back to what happened this week to make the difference. It started out with me in corporate worship at my beloved churchy.

(I clarify the corporate because there’s something about Sunday morning church that I just can’t manufacture at home. Oh I can worship and fall deep into his presence at home for sure! But when I’m at my local church where God has planted me, it’s a thousand times different. I can not only find His undeniable presence but I can also open my eyes and see my best friend and her husband lifting their hands in worship even though they’ve been through the wilderness this year. I can see my other dear friend leading worship with everything in her and dancing wildly before her Lord, even though her body has been through surgery only 6 months ago and her body still feels the pain… but she DANCES! Because she knows He is greater and He heals and her spirit is stronger in the waiting than her body is.)

So as I stood in this place of corporate worship… all of us chasing the One who passionately chased us down in the first place… I closed my eyes tight and I saw my secret place and Jesus there. I said, “show me the pieces of my heart again… my emotional heart, functional heart, and guardian heart.” And he did and Emotional was sitting down (she has always up until this point been lying on the ground wounded) as though she was still lame from the battle she’s been through this year. Functional was sitting beside her caring for her. Guardian was standing further off protecting my heart as she does. Jesus was standing right there and he stretched out a loving arm and said very clearly to my Emotional heart (the place I’ve lived out of until last year when she broke and Functional and Guardian didn’t know what to do so they went into defence mode)… Jesus said, “RISE UP AND WALK!”

I’d been praying for healing… was this possibly the time? Could I be free from anxiety?

I went into the week trying to feel better. I really believed this was it. But Tuesdays come in all shapes and depths of emotion. And I couldn’t even get out of bed. What resulted was another one of the worst weeks I’ve had in this mental health journey. It was discouraging of course. But in the midst of the brain fog, the stomach cramps, the crying for no reason, the doubting everything I’ve ever done with my life… in the midst of the cloud was the light of Jesus. And he said: it’s ok to be you. It’s ok to not do things the way everyone else does things. It’s ok to still have anxiety. It’s ok to still be going to counselling. It’s ok to feel every pain and peace and triumph of this journey. It’s how he’s wired me. But I can’t give up on the journey.

Do I believe Jesus heals? Absolutely. Do I believe he could have taken away my anxiety that Sunday morning? Undoubtedly. But I also know he’s after intimacy with my HEART in this season. He’s in it not to make me unbroken, because we’re all broken somehow, but to make me broken and strong.

“It’s ok to be broken and strong.” She said. This counsellor who has walked me through this long journey (and likely will be walking alongside me for some time yet). “Not all of you is broken. But God has plans for this and even though you may see this season as a waste… He wastes NOTHING! So go ahead and cry. Empty the Kleenex box. Let it out. You’re gonna be ok.”

And then she prayed and she saw Isaiah 61:3… she didn’t remember it all so we looked it up.


A crown of beauty for ashes… and all that this says. She saw all of this that Jesus was putting on me.

It didn’t end in that office on that old couch… I went home and saw and heard beautiful things from Jesus for myself. Because it’s ultimately not about the people he’s placed in my life, though they are the ones that are his hands and feet when I can’t see him, but it’s about me and him. After the lights go out and I’m alone… but not alone. He is there.

And I am his ruins he’s rebuilding. And he’s giving me a crown for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise for despair. And I am who he says I am – his daughter. I am not my anxiety. But if I have anxiety days, I’d rather have the day with Jesus in it than not have the anxiety day and not have Jesus.

So this journey through the fog… I can’t stop. I won’t stop. Why? Because: He. Is. Worth. It.

February is backwards because Jesus loves me

Tonight I messaged one of my close friends and said these words… “Kayla, Theres a THUNDERSTORM!!” (followed by many emojis that indicated my ardent love for thunderstorms) She responds with, “IN FEBRUARY! God loves you. haha”
She gets it. She understands my love for storms.
It seems fitting this year that there’s a thunderstorm in February… on the darkest week for me.

Not many people know the reason I LOVE thunderstorms.
I was an average kid – scared of the dark, scared of snakes and mice, scared of loud noises like thunder – so what changed?

I was probably around 11 or 12 years old when my family reconnected with a man I consider to be my adopted uncle. A man who became so close with our family that every family road trip we would ask “Are we taking Randy’s van or ours?” It was never a matter of if he was coming, just whose vehicle we would take.

I remember vividly one such road trip. I was 12, that age where I was trying SO desperately to become a grownup aaaaand  right around the age when older brothers taunted that I would always be their baby sister. It was rough.
But Randy always treated me like a young adult. We talked of dreams and giftings and callings. I consider him to be the first person who believed in me.
This particular road trip there was a HUGE thunderstorm. We were driving through the hills of Tennessee and the hot June weather made the storm seem so much more than it actually was. I was terrified. Randy was not. I remember him looking at me and saying, “Michelle, you don’t need to be afraid.” I half expected him to make some joke about God and the angels going bowling – as he always liked to joke around – but he didn’t this time. He was a very intelligent man. A scholar of language and fine art.
Randy looked me straight in the eye and said, “You don’t need to be afraid of the storm because you know the One who made the storm – God. And the One who calms storms – Jesus. And besides that, we are in this van and the rubber tires grounds us so there’s no way lightning can strike.”
Of course shortly after that we made it to our hotel and I didn’t want to get out of the van.
But I never forgot that conversation about the storm and I’ve loved storms ever since.

I guess the wild wind and dark clouds remind me of Randy and all the times we had when I was a young adult.
Randy’s life was stolen from us the winter I was 15. He was trying to help a young man find Jesus, and instead the young man caused Randy to meet Jesus much sooner than any of us expected.

Randy was killed that night in February 13 years ago.
I can’t even explain how much it hurt – and still hurts – to lose him so soon.
Part of the emotional and mental health journey I have been on in the past months has been a journey to healing from losing Randy. I never truly grieved when he died, I went straight from his funeral to having fun with friends. Anything I could do to forget the pain. Pain is a process. Healing can only be brought after you’ve been through grief.
I’m still learning to grieve. I’m still learning to let go of the pain and leave it in Jesus’ hands.I’m still crying cuz it hurts. I’m still learning to forgive the man who stole Randy from us.

But tonight. A night only a few days after the 13th anniversary of Randy’s going to heaven. I sit and watch a very unusual February thunderstorm and I remember that night in Tennessee. I sit and know the One who created the storm – God. Because I know he is bringing me through and I am rising above this storm in my life. This dealing with soul pain and anxiety. I sit and know the One who calms storms – Jesus. Knowing that only HE can bring me peace. I know that God never intended me harm. The enemy of my soul causes death and destruction. And what the enemy uses for evil, God will use for good.

I pray this encourages some of you who are dealing with pain. There is no scale for pain, there is no way we can measure whose pain is greater. There is only grace and peace in the midst of each individual storm.
I pray this story reaches your heart and validates your pain. And I pray that you know that God is turning it into good.
The storm will pass. The sun will shine again.
Life will never be perfect, just as I will never watch a storm with Randy on this earth again. But I know one day I will see him again. And I know that where he is, it is far FAR greater than where I am. A place with no pain or tears. A place of pure peace and joy.
I imagine the lightning is the crack into that heavenly home. An opening for God’s light to shine through the darkness.

So tonight I am thankful for a backwards Canadian winter.
I am thankful for memories and for pain.
I am thankful God sent me a thunderstorm in February.

 

Are you “ready” for Christmas?

“You can either walk inside your story and own it or you can stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” – Brene’ Brown. …

“Are you ready for Christmas?” They ask. What they mean is: have you got all your presents bought and wrapped, have you signed the last card, have you baked and iced all the cookies? Are you ready for the chaos?…

But I want to ask, are you ready for Emmanuel?

Are you ready for a Saviour?

Are you ready for the Prince of Peace to invade your chaos?

Are YOU ready for Christmas?

Are any of us ever TRULY “ready” for that kind of Christmas?

But oh how we so desperately need Him.

Thankfully He comes not when we are ready, but when He is needed.

In a small, lowly stable. Laying his newborn head in a cow’s feeding trough … maybe the cow nibbled his hair before Joseph shooed him away. Maybe Mary’s heart was so filled with joy she wept.

Maybe the shepherds flat out RAN to worship him… knowing they were desperate. Knowing that nothing else in this broken world could save them.

No matter how broken and bruised we are this Christmas.

Emmanuel… He is with us… The weary world rejoices.

Look, yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, like the shepherds.

Care like Joseph.

Weep like Mary.

Sing like the angels.

Glory to God in the highest.

Our broken world needs peace this Christmas.

Are you ready?
If you want to care for this broken world, share a little love to those who have nothing.

This year I sent gifts to Aleppo, Syria by way of http://www.preemptivelovecoalition.com

Breaking Seasons -Part One.  

It’s that moment when the phone rings, that bit of news you always feared would come, that conversation with a friend and her world has shattered in a million pieces. And we cry and try to understand the why. There is no why. Just heart break. 

I remember the first news. Where I was standing in church when I happened to overhear my youth pastor say to a fellow youth leader those dreadful words: We need to relax today because we just heard that one of our youth passed away. 

Who? My world stopped. I couldn’t breathe. Who is it, Pastor Nate? Zina. Then he rushed off to find his wife. 

My world wasn’t stopped anymore. Now it was spinning. I sat down and felt like I was tipping over still. I sobbed it out on a friends shoulder. 

Church – His body. When one hurts we all feel the pain. And we need each other’s shoulders to cry on and arms to lean on as the world tips off its axis. 

Her funeral was bigger than her family realized. I remember the weight that had been crushing my heart lifted as they talked about how Zina loved Jesus and her passion was evident – I hadn’t known. How do you know, as a youth leader, that when they go off to college if they’ll remember anything you tried to teach them? But she had. More than I could have hoped. We’ll see her again one day. 

Fast forward one month… the phone buzzes. A text from a dear friend. Then another. Life keeps shattering bit by bit. I can’t help them, but I can pray. We will be ok. I try to say what I can, though I know nothing will help. I didn’t know that when their worlds crashed in… when their hearts broke. I did not know that mine was about to crash even more. A heartbreak I’d never known. 

It was a Sunday afternoon in February. The sun shone. Bright on the snow. I had just had a beautiful day at church and was just finished dinner with family. The day was as perfect as could be, in spite of the hard week. Sunday is like a fresh slate – we all get a second chance. 

The phone had rang twice and I missed it… 5 frantic texts and a voicemail from my little roommate/sister in Christ. I called her back – her voice shaking: Claudia passed away. Last night. No one knows why. She’s gone. 

My world crashed. My heart shattered. 

“Great grief isn’t made to fit inside your body. It’s why your heart breaks.” (Ann Voskamp – The Broken Way) 

It couldn’t be real. I loved that girl. Tried to help her through her mess and pain… reached out countless times and heard her stories and tried to point her to Jesus. She always pulled away, but I knew one day she’d see and know My Jesus.

 I couldn’t breathe. Guilt overcame my senses. Did I do enough? What if I missed something? I should have tried harder. Oh Jesus… that poor little girl all alone in that apartment. What could have happened to her? 

When grief and guilt overcome, it’s hard to control ones actions and reactions to life. And sometimes the way we react is to shut down completely. 

If we shut down we cannot feel the pain. If we can’t feel the pain we can go into a sort of waking comatose in which we pretend that everything is ok… when really, our hearts are shattered. 

Sometimes it seems the only way to survive heartbreak is to pretend it never happened. 

This was the beginning of what I call my breaking season. I’m currently learning to heal – bear with me as I’m still rusty. My heart shut down in order survive the pain. But some say when you shut your heart down to pain you shut out the love as well – and Jesus is the one who loves. My heart also shut down to beauty and creativity as well. (To be quite honest, I haven’t written much this year at all since the breaking season. Not writing – it’s almost like not breathing. Suffocation.) 

My desire this month is to share my journey of brokenness through this blog as I read through a sweet book called, “The Broken Way” by my dear friend Ann Voskamp. I’ve learned that grief takes time, hearts need to be held, and pain is part of the beauty. Also, the pain is eased when holding tight to the Body of Christ. We are all meant to hold each other through the breaking. 

More next time… just one last golden quote from this beauty book. 

“Maybe the love gets in easier where the hearts broke open…” Ann Voskamp. (The Broken Way) 

(The Broken way can be preordered at http://www.thebrokenway.com. Release date: October 25, 2016!) 

Setting Sail

Forever ago I wrote a poem (in grade 10, I think) called “Set your sails”. It was about a man who sailed the ocean and learned how to trust God in the midst of the storms of life.

I’m thinking of this old poem now and realizing how much it really foreshadows all of our lives – especially mine.

I’ve found myself in more storms than I can count in the last year and a half. Some were beyond my control, some were definitely because of my own response to life, and some were my reactions based on past experiences to other (sometimes unrelated) storms.

But here’s what I’ve learned… The bigger the storm, the bigger the TRUST!

It’s always a matter of heart connection.

How much are you willing to go through – how big of a storm? Just to be closer to Jesus and hear his steady voice saying, “Do not be afraid. I’ve got you. Have faith.”

Cuz that’s what storms are all about. Seeing his power break through and carry you higher. Higher above the clouds until the storm is raging under your feet.

Sure he walked on water that one time with Peter – who had his faith strengthened – but we are called to do greater things than even Jesus.

John 14:11-12 The Message (MSG)

“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it.”

Because we are called to greater AND because we have the power that raised Christ from the dead living inside of us, we can rise above the storms of life and not just merely walk on water… WE CAN WALK ON THE STORM!!

Life is tricky though and we need to cling to him every moment that we’re walking up there because an instantaneous run-in with someone who doesn’t walk on storms can potentially leave the enemy’s fingerprint in the shape of a huge “what if?” searing in our mind.

But let me tell you this… The storm is worth it. The storm is the biggest thing that will seemingly carry you further into the unknown… but ultimately the storm is the thing that makes you KNOWN!

Known by the King of Kings – my provider who owns everything.

Known by the Prince of Peace – the Son of God who walks on stormy seas and calms the wind and waves.

Known by a loving Father who protects and goes before you.

Known. Seen. Loved. Adored. Provided for.

No matter what your “storm” is today, whether it’s a living situation or finances or trusting for your future or praying for a loved one or an illness or even getting out of bed in the morning (not so simple)… No matter what it is TRUST him. He is Faithful to carry you over the clouds and into the unknown… because YOU are known.

stormDon’t give up because you can’t see through the rain and fog and clouds… Rest and know that your God conquers storms and the hands that raised the dead are holding you. There’s so much hope in trusting Him in the storm. I pray you find that hope and peace… And I hope I stay here too, since this is what I’m currently learning. 😉

One last thing… listen to this song. It helps. 🙂

Amanda Cook – Set our Sails

Oh, and as for the poem about the sailor… It must be lost in the recesses of my basement and old poems from high school days. But if I ever come across it I will post here to all of you. 🙂

A REAL Happy Valentine’s Day

Hmm… how do I explain this.

Ok. I’ll just say it flat out. You’re single for a reason. There are people who look up to you and need you whole and healthy as a single woman – your relationship with Jesus stronger.

It’s just a season, trust me. You’re only single once, but you’re married for a long long time.

These are things I should have told my younger self on valentines day through the years, rather than getting all mopey and binging on chocolate and movies that made me cry. That’s right, I’m a binger. Doesn’t matter what it is I’m currently addicted to, I binge. Music, movies, chocolate, romance novels, even masturbation.

That’s right, I went there. The mind is a dangerous place for a young woman.

An addiction I was caught in for 10 years that I thought was an innocent way of finding satisfaction for what God created to be beautiful and with one man in marriage.

But my addictive personality caused me to get caught in a trap of sin. Sin keeps us longer than we meant to stay and takes us further than we wanna go and costs us more than we can afford to pay. And guess what, only Jesus can fix sin. Only Jesus can heal our minds.

But wait… I didn’t mean to go there with you today – whoever you are finding yourself reading this. Today is Valentines Day… Love day.

I love LOVE – I love the stories, the feelings, the butterflies (yes those annoying things flying around in your stomach with a crush) and the idea of having someone special in my life.

All these years it never went past crushes and butterflies. All these nearly 28 years (yes, I’m turning that old in May.). All these Valentine’s Days without the man of my dreams.

But I’m writing this to you today because I want you to know I got over my addictions. Not by myself of course, because sin is a trap – Jesus set me free. Complete Freedom.

And I want to try and disperse today a little of what trapped me.

The world says you’re nothing without someone special in your life, so it’s easy to buy in.

How many times have you heard the term “Singles awareness day” this year?

I can’t remember a year where it didn’t fill my social media newsfeed more. People mourning the fact that they are “forever alone” or the brave ones (the liars) that say they’re totally fine on their own. People buying in to the concept that they need a person to make them feel complete. Let me tell you this, if this desire is in your heart, GOD will make it happen! And I’m not gonna tell you you don’t need a person to feel complete. You DO! But it’s not who you think it is. It’s not Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome, Mr. Amazing or Mr. Hot-stuff.

Let me tell you after 28 valentines days without that guy… JESUS is ENOUGH!

Jesus is more than enough. He is the one you need to fill your heart. He is the only one who actually can complete you.

You know that feeling when you’re with your crush (or boyfriend) and you think you’ll be together forever, and then when it doesn’t work out it’s like 10-tons of ice fell on your heart and left a hole big enough for a cupid army to fly straight through? Yeah that feeling. Go back to that emptiness for a moment with me. I know you know it. We’ve all been there.

That emptiness? That’s meant to be filled with the man who actually died for you. His name is Jesus. He knows you, he knows what you did to fill that emptiness and how you try to mask your pain with those Facebook posts about being single. He knows. He KNOWS!

And here’s the best part… HE LOVES YOU!

He loves you until you’re whole again. He loves you and completes you the way you’re meant to be completed. He fills that empty spot more than any man could. And he wants the BEST for you! I’m not saying you won’t ever have fairytale romance and hearts and red roses delivered to you on this day someday in the future… but don’t let the butterflies define your life. If you’re going from one guy to the next, or even from one addiction to the next because you can’t function without your sin vice, let me tell you this: Let Jesus in and let him take over that part of your life. Give HIM your love, your affections, your emotions, and your body. He created all of that and he knows what’s best for you – even better than you do.

So down with the singles awareness day facade… You guys, it ROCKS being single! You know why? Because we get to spend a season just doing things with Jesus, undistracted by what the world says about love. We can wait for real love, knowing He’s the one writing this love story.

So whether you’re reading this single or married for 50 years (either place can be empty without Jesus) I just want you to know… You are NOT alone! Jesus is just waiting for you to stop for a moment with him. Guaranteed, a moment will change everything, if you let him.

And if you’re reading this on this Valentine’s day and are totally blank to what I mean, let me know. I would love to share more with you on my freedom journey. I never get tired of bragging on my Jesus. He’s amazing.

Also… if you’re scared to talk to just one person right now (though community and accountability is the best way to stay free – people who will remind you that Jesus is there loving you in the dark moments), but if you are scared and just want to start exploring some ideas, I highly recommend this website: www.moralrevolution.com. These teachings really helped me think through some stuff and come to a place where I did reach out to my accountability for help.

If you’re reading this today and know it’s for you, remember this: Valentines Day is a day to celebrate LOVE! So stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop listening to the lie that you’re not enough and that you should mope today with chick-flix and chocolate, under a pile of soggy kleenex. Stop thinking the bitter things that Love will never happen for you. It HAS happened, His name is Jesus. And he wants to heal you and make you whole and then bless your socks off with the most amazing things in life (marriage may be included, you don’t know.).

Also, if you’re like me and have more married friends than you can count and you’re spending Valentine’s alone because there’s literally no one left, let your FRIENDS know you love them and admire them! They’ve taken some big steps in their lives (it ain’t easy being married) and they probably won’t hate some encouragement from time to time.

And one more thing. If you do find yourself alone today, know that you’re not. There is someone a little younger than you probably facing the same things you do. Use this valentine’s day to reach out to them as well. They need some love today too.

So in closing remember this: Love is real. Jesus loves. He wants you to be loved by him. He died for you. He will never leave you. You are NOT alone.

And lastly… Singles awareness day is a joke. Don’t buy into that. You’re single and it’s not fatal. Romance will come in the right time. Focus on Jesus until that time. He was single all his life and changed the world in the process. He gets it, more than you know.

Happy Love Day everyone! 

Why I’m buying a house – Part 1.

A few months ago I stood on the sand and wished I was brave enough to be walking straight into them. To have them crash over me and under me. To learn how to really walk on water. A new longing to TRUST my Father.

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To walk up there where impossibilities really don’t exist.

It’s funny because a few months later I read that last story about the wave game and my nephew and what God showed me… And I heard that quiet Holy Spirit voice speak something new about it to my heart.

But let me tell you some of my life these days.

After that moment on the beach in Florida… I had to go home to real life. But the problem was I wasn’t happy in real life anymore. So I began a searching journey.

So applications went out… 5 of them… to 5 prestigious colleges… for 5 Journalism programs.

My heart was saying, “Go to Hamilton… Go to Mohawk… Be a Journalist… Write for a living…”

Looking back I think my heart was making things up in order to try and make up for a dream that was beginning to die in my heart… like the way one part of the body works overtime in order to make up for a failing organ. (and all of you know how I am SUCH a dreamer.)

But that’s another story for another blog.

A lot of frantic praying went into the college dream… Prayer. And making sure all my people were supportive. They were! There were green lights all the way! So I told the college yes. I looked up student jobs in the area, browsed course lists, and dreamt about how my life would change… and then as things got more and more real there was something deeper in my heart.

I can only really explain it like my heart was knit to this place called Crossroads Life church. And when something is knit, it is so intertwined that any amount of tearing can completely destroy it.

I got really really sad… heartbroken.

And then one night I didn’t want to look up college courses, I didn’t want to pack my things, I didn’t want to downsize and sell my car… and I ended up just crying uncontrollably on my Jesus’ shoulder.

Suddenly these words came out of my mouth… “Lord, I’m sorry if going to college is wrong. But I’ve GOT to do SOMETHING! I’m going CRAZY here!”

As soon as I said that, I chalked it up to nerves. Even denied it for a few days.

But then Jesus sent a sweet and truthful friend my way… A friend who gave me a brighter perspective on living here and serving this house we’re both planted in. Hearts knit together.

And because of that moment of tears only days before, I listened. I cried. I opened my heart to her. I explained how torn my heart felt. She explained why. She even mentioned that dream that I had been trying to replace. 

But I didn’t want to make a decision because of her. Or because of my pastor. Or my parents. Or my best friend. Or my mentor.

No, I was beginning to see how this journey was because my Heavenly Father – my Papa – wanted me to know without a doubt WHO I am and WHO He created me to be.

So I sat down with Him and wrote it out and decided not to go to college. To not become a city girl and leave my churchy family.

Instead I wanted more than anything I wanted to move back to my hometown and BE exactly who my Papa says I am. I am His. I am Loved. I am worthy. I am His daughter. I am filled with His Holy Spirit. I am called to this place. For this time in History. To do exactly what He wants me to do. He told me I didn’t have to go anywhere else or be anything more than I am right now.

He told me not to chase new replacement dreams just because my God-dreams aren’t happening in my own timing. He told me not to fabricate my own blessing, because I may accidentally steal someone elses.

He has plans for me here… This is my adventure.

… To be continued. 🙂