For Those of us still processing

It’s like this. We fell asleep one night and we’ve woken up in a dark cave full of unknowns and uncertainties. We’re crawling on hands and knees, slowly moving hands up, down, around, searching for boundaries to this rocky walled cave. How high is it? Does the floor slope? Are there dangerous stalactites and stalagmites jutting out ready to bruise heels or gash scalps? We’re searching for a safe alcove, maybe some debris to spark into a fire. All the while, some are shouting out, “Turn left!” “Move faster!” But no one is in another’s place, so it isn’t all that helpful. A few will call out, “You’re doing great, keep going!” or “It will all be ok.” Mildly and temporarily comforting. All eyes are still adjusting to the darkness. We’re feeling around for the from of our new world.

Less than 24 hours after schools and businesses began to close due to Covid-19 I felt the pressure of ‘figuring life out,’ of having a full map of the dark cave emblazoned in my brain. It seemed like so many others already had one. My in-boxes and social media feeds were already filled with advice – cute daily schedules for kids, work from home tips, fitness resources, inspirational quotes, recipes for homemade soap, etc… Before I could even define what was happening in my family, community, and country, so many people seemed to have this ‘new norm’ packaged and ready for delivery.

I felt rushed to adjust; and still do.

So the message I’m delivering is a simple one: It’s ok to still be searching. It’s ok to still be processing this new world shaped by pandemic. It’s ok to move slowly and carefully through the darkness. Maybe it’s even healthy for our souls to be slow to process.

I can’t offer you a map of the cave because I don’t have one, but I can offer a glimpse of how I’m moving through it.

Some of you are pro’s at quickly processing changes and developing an action plan. I envy you. I often need a little more time to process in a healthy-for-me way with the Lord. Here are a few points of process I’m finding incredibly valuable as I feel along the walls of the cave.

I’m allowing myself to Grieve. We have all incurred loss in the midst of this pandemic. My losses are minor compared to some, I know. But I’m just beginning to grieve the loss of things like travel plans, being face to face with family and friends, alone time (5 kids at home all day now!), goals for the future, routine, control, freedom. Grief is hard for me to admit, let alone walk through. I’d much rather just brush it under the rug as ‘no big deal.’ But that rug is becoming a sore in my soul. Loss is loss, no matter how big or small. Greif and lament are not foreign to God, neither should they be to me.

I’m naming my feelings. My actual experiences and feelings are often out of sync – like when the audio and visual don’t match up and the lips move before the sound comes out. I live life, and then later the feelings come. I am a very slow processor of my own feelings. But, I’m attempting to invest more in this area by purposely focusing on awareness of my feelings every day. There’s this great color of feelings chart that I’m using to help my process. Feelings must be identified before they can be processed. I’m learning that avoiding my emotions has actually been a rift in my relationship with the Lord. He made us all to have feelings. He has them too! Part of intimacy with Him, or anyone else, is to be honest about emotions. I know some of you are very emotionally intelligent and already have this figured out. But, I’m still in process in this way. And this unprecedented time of pandemic is providing me plenty of opportunity to practice processing feelings! The most profound thing I’ve recognized is that the lingering tiredness I’ve been experiencing is in the “sad” category of feelings according to the color of feelings chart. I often get upset with myself for feeling inexplicably tired. I’m now coming to realize that it’s probably often a sign of sadness in my soul. I’m learning to admit that sadness to God, myself, and others, even if I don’t completely know where it’s coming from. I hate not having an explanation for my feelings, but it’s a reality that cannot be ignored.

The logical and structured part of me thinks I should have a third point now, like a well-rounded three point sermon. I actually wrote one. But I was only fooling myself. There’s still so much I’m processing; so much I don’t understand about what’s going on in the world and inside of me. There’s the truth.

Each day one hand inches forward through the cave, feeling and fumbling in the darkness. Then, I remember there is a Light. Not the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, but a true and guiding Light named Jesus. He hasn’t told me what exactly to do or feel in these times, but He has offered His Life and Light to flow through me. He has promised His presence and He has promised to bear fruit through my life – even in the dark. His is the only fruit that flourishes and shines in the dark.

As I make my way slowly through the cave, ever so slowly processing the little I can perceive and understand, I hear the echoes of Jesus’ words to the disciples: “It is not for you to know times or epochs…” Neither is it for us. It IS for us to follow Him, to yield to His Spirit, moment by moment.

Lord of all creation,

We are profoundly shaken. We have lost our earthly bearings, our human made structures of time and purpose. As we grieve these losses, help us to begin to build on the one true Foundation. Realign our hearts to prioritize what you prioritize. Help us to neither seek for hope in controlling as much as we can, nor lose hope because of all we cannot control. Instead, help us to fix all hope upon you. Help us to rest in the process rather than in answers. More importantly, help us to process WITH You, so we may be firmly rooted in Your foundation. Shine Your Light on what is necessary for us to see. And for all that remains unseen, Lord we believe in You, help our unbelief!

God has made it imperative in the design of life that we become willing to trust beyond ourselves. Walking by faith means to follow Someone else who knows more than we do, Someone who is also good.

Ravi Zacharias

If you’d like some more encouragement in the middle of navigating all our current uncertainties, check out this short video Cyrus and I put together through our church!

The Accomplishment of Rest

Transitions can be messy. New boss, getting married, new neighbor, becoming a parent. These events can be awkward and punctuated simultaneously by loss and hope. Transitions can be beautiful – like the slow turning of summer into autumn.

September has been a month of transition in our home and in my heart. I’m afraid it’s been a bit more ugly than beautiful. As all my kids began school and sports, I was left with unusual amounts of time to myself. Some of you would probably do most anything for days like these. But, I somehow managed to twist this gift into a curse.

I failed to rest, or appreciate that I even had opportunity to rest. Instead, I worked my inner world into a frenzy of trying to figure out my new purpose and calling and life. I recognized the transition, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t have a map. Something ended and I wanted something else to begin, but I had no idea what. And God seemed so silent.

God, who knows all and holds all things together, wasn’t giving me even a trail of crumbs as to what good works He had appointed for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). I was ready for action. Heaven forbid I take time to relax. Rest is NOT an accomplishment. Is it?

So I filled my days with household work and worry. Wondering if I’d wandered too far to hear the Holy Spirit’s leading. Meanwhile, my soul was a turbulent mess. I felt like I was losing purpose and meaning – like God was silent and had stepped away. For someone who has tendencies toward depression, this is NOT a healthy path to trod.

So what’s a soul to do?

I’m learning, yet again, that there’s only one option. Believe. Trust. Have Faith. In the Biblical Greek language, it all stems from the same root word. But believe what?

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:6 NASB

I want to please God, to know that my Maker doesn’t look at me and shake His head, but looks at me and nods approval. But, I mistakenly believe that in order to please God I have to DO something: make meals for people, go to Bible Studies, win souls, care for my neighbor, be a better wife, be a better parent, change the world. But no! God is pleased simply with my belief in Him and my seeking after Him! My flesh and fallen mind cannot begin to comprehend how such a thing is true, and yet there it is in God’s Word.

So I am willfully choosing to believe. Regardless of feelings. Regardless of knowledge of His plans. Oh my soul, believe in God and believe that He is pleased as I seek! What a pleasant place to dwell.

Belief is ushering me into rest for my soul. Rest from the striving and yearning. Rest from seeking to achieve. Rest from comparing my life to others’. Rest from trying to earn God’s pleasure.

The nation of Israel struggled to enter into God’s rest too. And similarly, their issue boiled down to belief.

So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:19

How often God beckons me to rest in and with Him, and how often I fail to accept it. I believe lies of self-sufficiency, of purpose outside of Him, of worldly comparisons, of self-imposed expectations. All the while, God is only desiring that I believe in Him and in the sufficiency of His Son, Jesus, with whom He is well pleased. Jesus Christ, in whom my life is hidden and protected. So I can rest. That is an accomplishment!

Perhaps there’s a transition happening in your own life that is sparking tumult in your soul. I offer a simple prayer for us all.

Lord God, Creator and Sustainer, we recognize You as the One who holds all things together, even our souls. We confess our default setting of unbelief. We confess we often strive when we ought to be still, we often scheme when we ought to surrender. Thank You for Your faithfulness, even in the midst of our unfaithfulness. We need You. We need Your rest. Help us to believe You and seek You as the world all around us is changing. Amen.

How Getting Away Can Bring You Home

We added 456 miles to our minivan earlier this week. We traversed the Cascades and settled in Central Oregon, with dear college friends, for two nights.

Even before we left, I had a gut feeling that this would be a monumental trip, in an understated sort of way.

It was.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the life God has given me and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But, getting away for a couple days was just what my soul needed. Leaving home, work, neighborhood, and responsibilities proved to be more than just a break.

Our getaway to the center of our state helped center my soul.

The more self aware I become, the more I realize how travel – whether across town or across the world – can bring health to my soul.

When I don’t spend time away, I start becoming dangerously myopic. All I can see is me and the people and possessions that I think orbit around me. I become the center. I become the hope for my soul. I deceitfully begin to think and feel as if I am the one holding my world together.

I go. I get away. I step out of my life. And everything changes.

This recent trip was no exception.

Reconnecting with old friends reminds me of that intangible bond we have with each other in the Body of Christ. Seeing differing topography and the myriad beauty of God’s handiwork reminds me of His vastness and my comparative smallness. Brief intersections with unknown (to me) humans – the fellow hiker or grocery store checker or gas station attendant – remind me there are billions of stories being written in this moment and billions more that have gone before and are yet to unfold. My story, but a single star in the night sky. So small, yet significant and loved by the Creator.

Each of these small reminders, the friends, the hills, even the strangers, are like stepping stones back to Reality. They usher me into a perspective more in line with Truth. Getting away brings my soul back to my true home, back to an earthly life lived in light of eternity.

The Painted Hills

Is Self-Awareness Selfish?

I inwardly cringed at the question. She asked me: What are you passionate about in life? As a logic driven individual, I try NOT to be ruled by ‘passion’, because ‘passion’ can be dangerous – unpredictable, illogical, potentially damaging. Following ‘passion’ feels like losing control. I know it’s not always the case, but there you have it, a glimpse of my fear of emotions.

I understand my fears, desires and motivations more now than ever. But, as I pursue greater self-awareness, a few questions haunt me:

Is self-discovery simply self-centered?

Is self-awareness the cosmetic cover-up for self-absorption?

Shouldn’t I be more focused on others rather than myself?

I recall how the Lord has dealt so gently and lovingly with my soul. He has brought me through valleys and put praise in my heart in the midst of darkest nights. He has tenderly formed my heart, shaped my soul. A significant part of His process has included my growing self-awareness; bringing what was hidden in the darkness into the exposing Light of truth.

Yet I am still haunted by these questions. I feel a sense of guilt as I pursue personal growth. Is there really any benefit to understanding myself better?

I’ve taken all sorts of personality profiling assessments that claim to tell me who I am: a melancholy-phlegmatic, INTJ, Thinker-Doer, Blue-Green-Red, Rosebush-PineTree, 5 wing 4, etc…

You’ve probably got a long list of personality labels too.

Personality profiles attempt to give us a language for what can never be fully expressed. The writer of Proverbs describes our inner-workings this way:

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water,

But a man of understanding draws it out.

Proverbs 20:5 (NASB)

Deep water is dark, difficult to plumb, potentially dangerous. Our motivations and plans are often hidden so deeply that grueling work is necessary for anyone, even ourselves, to draw them out. Ultimately, such a task requires supernatural wisdom and understanding. To plumb the depths of the human heart and soul, we must turn to the Maker of all, “for He knows the secrets of the heart.” (Psalm 44:21b)

The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way,

But the foolishness of fools is deceit.

Proverbs 14:8

No, self-awareness isn’t selfish. Quite the contrary. Self-awareness helps us walk in truth! Unless we seek God’s wisdom to understand ourselves, we live in deception. Yikes! That is not the path I want to take. Give me truth. Give me self-awareness, no matter how revealing and painful it may be. Do you feel the same?

So….

Is self-discovery simply self-centered? No. It is a necessary component of growth in all areas of life.

Is self-awareness the cosmetic cover-up for self-absorption? No. Rather it can lead to the beautifying work of God within us.

Shouldn’t I be more focused on others rather than myself? No … and Yes. Our ability to love and serve others well correlates directly to our own level of health. (More on this to come!)

Self – Awareness is a crucial initial step toward partnering with our Creator in caring for the one, eternal soul with which God has gifted us. I’m chasing it; I hope you are too.

Back to my cringing inducing question. What am I passionate about? More and more the Lord is stirring in me a longing to care for souls and partner in God’s work of healing and growth. Growth in my soul, the souls of my family, my spiritual family, and you! I pray that the words I offer here provide even a smidgen of care for your soul.

I suppose soul care is the emphasis my blogging venture has always orbited, even though it’s just now that I am beginning to put words to it all. I write my heart and soul for you as a way of caring for my own soul, in order that in some way I might help care for yours, too. I write to bring my dark things into the Light, and maybe, just maybe, help shine a light on your dark things too. If my handful of words can somehow help usher you into the Light of Christ, praise God! It’s how I’m Aiming at Heaven.

If the pursuit of soul care resonates with you, wonderful! I’ve got a lot more to share on the topic. Be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss what’s to come!