Jumping off the cliff, surrendering it all

Fictional scenario: The pastor announces in advance that he will be preaching on surrender. I suddenly find myself with a prior commitment, most likely Starbucks, and I exit the back doors in a hurry. Proceed out the doors if you must, or buckle up and let’s go for a ride.

The last couple of months I’ve been in the fast lane. How I got here I have no clue. Best way to describe it is that I’ve been driving along and suddenly Father puts his foot on the accelerator of my life and I’m holding on to the dashboard. We are crazily going places that I’ve not been and at speeds I normally avoid.

I am in an accelerated season of surrender. Faced continually with opportunities to “play it safe” and “play it cool”, I could hide behind cleverness and nonchalance. But I can’t. These are vulnerable days for me. But who likes vulnerability? I mean, we love when OTHERS are vulnerable (as long as it doesn’t make us TOO uncomfortable), but heaven forbid WE be the ones to expose vulnerability.

 

photo

“Strength found in weakness”

The artwork of David Costello

I am utterly weak. God is doing something in me. Over the last few weeks I’ve been laying lots of things at His feet. (Deep breath). Bitterness over being single. Judgements against men and every guy who ever pursued and couldn’t follow through. (I love men, by the way. But it’s easy to carry baggage that you aren’t aware of until the Holy Spirit starts shining His light on it). Control.  That’s the big one.

I had a personal head on collision with control five years ago. Devastating. What I had told the Lord I wanted did not work out for me. I prayed. I begged. I controlled. I wept. I shook my fist in the air and blamed God for my pain. I blamed the unnamed guy for my pain. But now, I see it differently. What I had tried to grasp as my “rights”, ended up taking hold of me. And I was going to have this relationship no matter what, thank you very much. (Oh, and yes God, you can block the doors if it’s not your best.)

He blocked the doors. The tornado had passed through, and I picked through the pieces of a demolished building. My heart. Humbled, I finally could see clearly. Where I had gone wrong? Surrender had taken the back seat. I had forgotten that the One who owes me nothing, freely gives me all things. Father, you have the keys to my life. Give. Remove. Because when you remove, you have something better in mind.

After the guy left, I felt like I had nothing to look forward to. I had put my expectations into this relationship. A couple of months later, a very humbled and broken me was starting to tentatively put my toes back into the waters of dreaming with God again. Life indeed was a beautiful thing when you can enjoy it and not choke the living daylights out of it. He suddenly opened up an “impossible” door–something I had only dreamed I could do.  Now THAT is a good Dad.

Surrender takes many forms and I cannot give you the formula, my friends. I can only give you a couple of examples.

Yesterday, for me surrender was standing tall as a daughter of the King and declaring that He is good and His promises are going to come to pass. It was the unshakeable conviction that I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in this life.

Today, surrender has a different face. It is weighty weakness. It is tears. It is laying myself before Him (literally) and refusing to despair. Refusing the lying taunts that God will never answer.  Or He will wait until I’m 60. It’s refusing to close my heart up and hide in my safe tower of isolation. Where nobody can hurt me. It is refusing to lose heart. Thank God that the many times I have “lost” heart, He always helped me to find it again. And again.

Surrendering does not = kill your desires. It is holding them with an open hand. It’s laying down entitlements. Picking up hope. Choosing risk, when playing it safe is more comfortable. Jumping off the cliff of the familiar, when Father is asking for all of your heart. Arming yourself with courage because His strength (not yours) will fight the battles.

Somewhere in the Bible (I’m horrible with references) it says that His promises are backed up by the honor of His name. That means that because He is honorable and trustworthy I can and will trust Him to not dangle a desire in front of me for the rest of my life and fail to deliver.

All this surrender feels a bit like dying; maybe what’s dying is my ability to control anything. Liz is going to ride the river of the unknown and see her Papa God bring her safely (WITH A FULL HEART) to the place of living waters.

(Best song I know of jumping into the arms of our good Father, surrendering it all to Him).

I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful: Lessons from the low places

Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12:25 (NLT)

I didn’t see the adrenal fatigue coming, because it was accumulative.   Stress over issues out of my control was wearing my body down. Decisions made that were wounding people I cared deeply for had begun to take its toll on my physical and emotional health.I admit I’ve perfected the “art” of carrying other peoples’ problems. It is hard for my mercy heart to do otherwise, which creates a ripe environment for codependency.  My working definition of codependency is this:  I care about your problems more than you do.

It is impossible to give the exact day I hit my wall. But over a year ago, I began to see the signs of the adrenal fatigue. Almost zero stress filter, meaning I had to eliminate any activity that promoted anxiety.  No evening news, which is filled with war and tragedy. Prayer requests burdened me. These are just a couple of examples. My antennae was up and I was making a bee-line for the door, so to speak, if I saw stress approaching me. Increasing pain in my abdominal area paralyzed me with dread, because I had lost a good friend to stomach cancer the previous year. At times I’d tremble uncontrollably when something felt stressful. I felt powerless to stop my reactions when triggered. Feeling guilty before the Lord, I wondered where my faith had gone. The role of the adrenal glands is to manage stress in our bodies and when one hits adrenal fatigue it is a real thing. Insomnia, fatigue, and even symptoms of depression (which I now understand is adrenal related) reduced my life to a fraction of what I desired.

I had nothing to give for many months.  Moody and edgy, I missed the old me that loves to laugh and connect with others. I felt like I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Shame and failure taunted me, causing me to hide from most what I was walking through.

My passion is for others to come into their true identity as sons and daughters and I couldn’t even find Father’s love.  It was a dark place and I didn’t know how to get out. And yet…

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24,b (NIV)

Through all of this, the One who knows and loves me most showed me His faithfulness. I believe He held me many times, though I was unaware. Hindsight shows me many ways He was “ever present”.  Trusted friends encouraged me and held onto hope when I couldn’t. They saw firsthand what was happening and their deep compassion and loyalty was a lifeline on a stormy sea. Family prayed me through it and extended great patience when I was all but pleasant to be around.

Father has been kindly showing me over the past couple of years that shouldering false responsibility produces no good thing. Playing the role of the Holy Spirit in trying to fix people, cripples my ability to walk in peace and trust. And in his loving way, He let me see the effects that stress has on the human body. He carried the burdens of the world on the cross. Only one savior was needed, so I could step down from that position.

Father’s steady love in my lowest place demonstrated that I am still lovable and worth the air I breathe. My comfort was that my Father promised never to leave me; this sustained me giving me courage to make steps toward health. I didn’t need to prove or promise anything to him. He would bring me out of this fog and I would learn much through it.

Sometimes the darkest places in our lives hold the greatest revelations. I treat myself much more kindly these days. If I feel stress coming on, I recognize it. On this road to health (not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually), I listen to myself more.  I pay attention to the warning signs. Sometimes I wish I could wave the wand and never struggle, but I’m oh so human. Desperately in need of my Father’s strength. But what a Father! And what a friend He has been to me.

To read an excellent post concerning boundaries and false responsibility amongst Christians, click here:  http://www.revelatrium.com/freedom-through-boundaries/

 

For more info on adrenal fatigue, click here:

 

It’s my Birthday Eve

I woke up excited today.  It’s my birthday eve!  Isn’t it amazing that birthdays come every year and I never lose that special feeling?  I’m like a child in my anticipation. I probably started getting excited about birthdays at age 3.  There’s no way to remember for sure, except that my 3 –year- old niece lights up whenever the subject of birthdays arise.

 

The conversation goes something like this:

 

(Me) Guess whose birthday it is?
(Jubilee) Jubilee’s birthday!!!!

 

So, every birthday is her birthday.  And she doesn’t seem to lose enthusiasm when she is reminded that she just had a birthday.

 

Last night, I showed her how to hold up three of her fingers and connect her pinky and thumb for the universal “I’m 3 years old” sign.  She had a bit of difficulty maneuvering her hand, but I applauded her efforts and informed her that Aunt Lizzy is going to be 33!  (By showing my 3 fingers and then repeating the action!).

 

How can the routine of having a birthday every year evoke such excited feelings?  I mean, you’d think we’d all be used to birthdays by now.  And perhaps take a more “mature” approach to aging.
NOT ME!  I love my birthday traditions!  Of course my routines have room for diversity as I’ve been known to locationally hop around.

 

As long as I have coffee in bed.  With singing and birthday cards.  My family started this tradition when I was a child.  We’d perform this way for each sibling and for the parents.  I’d hear my door creak and pretend to still be sleeping.  Suddenly, sleepy voices coming from the end of my bed would begin to sing the birthday song.  Pillows would be propped for the birthday princess, breakfast (we settle for coffee now) in bed, gifts, giggles, and just the aura of celebration.

 

I’ve taken ownership of this special tradition and performed it for roommates and they happily comply when my day comes around.

 

Another tradition is to eat.  Chances are, the fam or a good friend will treat me to a special dinner, lunch, or coffee.

 

Cake or sweets?  I hope so!

 

But what I cherish most is words.  My love language is affirming words so you better believe my love tank is on overflow come February 6th.

 

But enough about me!  ha ha.  I believe the reason for celebration is that this is the day of all days in the year where we think of our existence. It’s no wonder that birthdays bring feelings of joy or possibly deep pain.  To not be celebrated the way God fully intended is to leave a void.  Can you imagine the world without you?  George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life) had the gift of seeing what the world around him would have been like if he had never been born. I know it’s fictional, but try to tell that to my tear ducts.  I cannot watch this movie without deep emotion and re-embracing the value of my life.

 

When we say ‘Happy Birthday’, we are really saying “I’m so glad you are here.  Life would not be the same without you in it.  It was a happy day when you came onto the scene.”

 

And that is never to be down played.  Ever.  You matter.  I matter.  Every day of our lives were written in God’s book of rememberances before any day was actually lived.

 

Another slightly random thing I am pondering is that Jesus lived his full life on this side of things at age 33.  I am turning 33 tomorrow.  Should this mean something?  (Laugh).
I haven’t come to any deep connections with the age significance except that Jesus lived a FULL life.  Perhaps not in numbers (we would say he died young), but in heart.  He lived fully.

 

I intend to enjoy every birthday.  Even if I live to be eleventy-one, like Bilbo, I will not hide my age as if it is something to be ashamed of.

 

LET THE PARTY COMMENCE!

Can God speak to my heart while I’m cleaning the toilet?

You ever have one of those days (weeks, MONTHS?) where you know just a little bit  from God would go a long way?  A little encouragement.  A surprise around the corner.  Something to tell you that you are ok and on the right track? Even just “Hey, I’m here with you!  I’m not going anywhere”.  Remembering times past where you felt God’s presence frequently and His words affirming your heart.

 

I was reminded today of this.  While cleaning the toilet (oh yeah!) and feeling incredibly spiritual (wink) it came; two really random thoughts popped into my mind.  Both are areas that God has given revelation to me over the last two or three years.  Then I “heard” him say that he was going to take those things deeper.
It felt so good to hear SOMETHING.  I wanted to sing or dance or laugh. “I still hear God!  He speaks, he speaks!” Believe me, when you’ve felt thirsty you don’t underestimate a cup of water!!!  It really really matters even if it’s seemingly so small.

 

 Then I headed to Starbucks to do what little Starbuckies do and enjoy a few minutes of quality time with my friend.  Out of the blue she (without knowing my previous conversation with God) starts talking about those two unrelated things that God had been speaking to me earlier.

 

Needless to say, we were both encouraged.  She confirmed what I had been hearing and she also got to be reminded that she hears God’s voice too.

 

Then, she starts asking me questions like “So Liz.  If you could do anything you wanted and money wasn’t an issue what would it be?”

 

Easy.  I’d go to Finland and stay with my dear friend there and then we’d together romp all over Europe.  We could easily cover most of the continent, having so many friends that we know scattered around.  England, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Ireland, and I’m sure there’s so many more I’m just not thinking of.  After I got my fill of travelling, I’d return and find a job I LOVED—most likely with internationals.  (I was just getting warmed up, by the way…there was a lot more I could have said).

 

Then I asked her what she’d do.  This led to talking about desires and dreams and how it’s really hard to dream when one is low in their hope tank.  And how can we have hope or dream if we are disconnected to our own heart?  So, YEAH, we gotta start taking those moments to listen to those desires that may be buried under some clutter.  Because that’s where dreams are birthed. And who knows where God wants to take us?  But, we’ll never know if we aren’t dreaming.

 

So, with her frappucino finished and my Pike Place (with chocolate and vanilla) about gone, we agreed to bring photos to share with each other next time we meet.  She will bring her pictures from Africa.  I will most likely bring some from New Zealand and Costa Rica.  Why?  I imagine it’s because those were places where our hearts began to emerge…

 

And it all started with a toilet brush in hand!