what rest feels like

rest. rest. rest.

it feels like that is all i have been hearing, talking, thinking, and praying about for the past few weeks. and it seems as soon as it gets a tad bit easier, it suddenly gets much harder. it has definitely been a daily thing. back and forth, literally wrestling with doubts about what i think, believe, hear, feel and see. or the lack thereof. which has been so hard. there are multiple times a week-heck, multiple times a day- i ask myself if i really heard God, or maybe i heard Him wrong. or maybe i just missed the mark all together. it feels:

  • foreign
  • forgotten
  • misplaced
  • lazy
  • unpredictable
  • stranded
  • scary
  • wrong
  • overlooked
  • left-behind
  • unstable

but what i know it is, is:

  • healing
  • restoring
  • recharging
  • stretching
  • teaching
  • faith-building
  • a gift
  • sweet provision
  • a break

it is so hard to remind myself of what i am really in, and not let my feelings narrate the end of this season. sometimes it feels like i have used all the favor of God up, and there will be none left for the next season. but i know that is not true. i have to keep my eyes on Jesus, and stay in His presence to be reminded of where i am really standing. even when it feels the opposite of okay.

 

identity

i would say that this last year/ten months i have learned a lot about identifying.

identifying mental illnesses, coping skills, theories, techniques, friends, foes, words, feelings, thoughts, prayers, spirits. the list goes on and one. but i would say the most important thing i have learned to identify is myself. cheesy, i know. but true.

this year, i have had to learn about myself to learn how to be a good clinician. i have had to learn my own beliefs, values, thoughts, triggers, strengths & weaknesses. and all of those things feel external. even though they exist within me, they feel like something i can quantify and count. but this year and this process pushed me to go further. it pushed me to integrate those external qualities and find a place for them inside myself. to identify myself with those things as a part of who i am, not a hat i can take on and off.

if you ask me what my strengths are, 10/10 i would say “hard-working” first. i have always identified myself as hard-working. what a good quality to have. i have always worked so hard at everything put in front of me. it is one of the things i am most proud of about myself.

but hard working isn’t a real thing.

i mean it is. it is a great quality to have. and work towards. see-there is that word again, work. but hard-working doesn’t translate. because when you’re hard working, you get all the work. from everywhere. from peers, from family, from friends, from supervisors, but mostly, from yourself. there is never a break. because you’re always hustling. always running to the next thing. if there isn’t something happening right now in front of you, then you have to find something to throw yourself into. because that’s who you are. you are hard-working.

and that is how i measured my value. by my output. by how much work i could take in and how much i could produce. notorious for working more than one job at a time. working more than 60-80 hours in a week. taking 18 hours of course work and being involved in 10 organizations. as soon as one thing ended, i had the next thing lined up. because that’s how you produce and show your worth, what you bring to the table.

when i told my counselor this she said “it’s almost like you’re running from yourself. from the truth of who you are.”

which is a very counselor thing to say, and seems like it would be #3 on the list of generic responses to tell your clients. right below #2 “Mmmm, that makes a lot of sense”  and #1 “You’re safe here. ”  but i let it go in one ear and out the other. because i definitely have some bad habits, but work wasn’t one of them. work is what made me worthy. it gave me identity and purpose.

but graduate school really turned that idea on it’s head. because there is no way, let me repeat, no way you can finish this program on your own. you just can’t do it. you have to have support, and supernatural help. seriously. as the program got harder, i realized i actually could not do this work, and was going to need some help. so i leaned in. and He helped me. there were so many nights at 3am, crying because i knew i couldn’t finish the 12 page paper due at 8am, because i was only on page 5. but leaning into Him, i surprisingly found 7 more pages to write. and presentations that i had no idea how to even put together, but after a few days, they were done. and sessions and conversations that i didn’t know how to respond to or how to start, that happened. there was trauma that i couldn’t imagine, and grace to hold that space. it was incredible to watch Him work through me, because i really had nothing to give.

at first, i thought He was doing all of this because i was a hard worker, and had committed and obeyed and now He would do these favors for me. but as i got to know Him more, and see the magnitude of what He was doing-the healing He was bringing, and the knockout papers He was writing-i began to understand it differently.

He was helping me based on my identity. but not the one i thought i had. not because i was a hard worker. but because,

i was His daughter.

what dad doesn’t want to help his daughter with her homework? what dad doesn’t what to go out of his way to make sure his girl isn’t alone? what dad doesn’t want to be able to stay up late with her as she works on her latest project and presentation?

and how sweet is that. His help wasn’t something i earned. there was nothing i could do to earn His help. it wasn’t contingent on getting an A or the highest participation rate. it was freely given. all i had to do was ask. literally ask, and rest. and watch my Dad ace the work. every time.

it was a sweet lesson to let Him replace my identity, as a hard worker, with His as His daughter.

now, in this new season, He has called me to rest. to not work in the traditional sense. but to spend time with Him. remembering. reconnecting. healing. processing. it is really hard because my tendency is to want to work. to jump into a job. i cannot tell you how many times i have been tempted to look for a small part time job here. even while i wait. but i hear Him say over and over,

“will you not take the rest I have provided for you?”

He is asking me to really seal in this new identity thing. He is asking me learn more about myself and about Him, without the false identity of a hard-worker. breaking levels of pride and thoughts of “what will other’s think or see?” it is not easy. it is actually a daily struggle to keep my eyes on Him. but His grace is sufficient. and His peace is sweeter than honey. and His presence makes us whole. 

the lessons of the msw

i learned so much in these last ten months as i have pursued my Master of Social Work. i am so overwhelmed by the Father’s faithfulness, provision, grace and favor over these last few months. i have been impressed by my own learning and ability to utilize new skills and help people reach freedom. but i wanted to share some of the lessons i learned:

  1. how to be an integrated person-one of my biggest lessons this year was how to integrate who i am in my values, beliefs, interests and joys into who i am as a professional. learning that what makes me special as a friend, makes me a wildly special clinician.
  2. i don’t have live from a place of scarcity– i had to learn that I don’t have to grasp and fight for survival, Jesus died for me to have life, and life abundantly (John 10:10). i am not at risk of being forgotten or left behind.
  3. there is no striving in His love– i could never do anything to earn His love. its freely given.
  4. excellence is the boldness & willingness to do hard things- excellence is hard, but it isn’t perfectionism. excellence means to honor my commitment, and give my all to a project, but to know when to give myself grace for my own abilities and limitations.
  5. i am freaking strong– the more i learn about what resilience is, the more i realize my own. the more i move outside of myself, and move from competition to appreciation, i am able to honor the strength i have been given and used.
  6. everything has a spirit– but really. there is a spirit for everything, and it is my job to cultivate or rebuke those spirits.
  7. how to identify things– i have learned language and concepts for what things really are. what sadness is, what joy is, what connection is, what disconnection is, what returning means.
  8. breaking cycles of shame changes lives– i have been honored to walk with women as they identify shame in their lives and break the cycles & chains of shame in their families. i have heard stories of freedom and life. and i myself have learned how to identify shame, and put it in its place.
  9. rest is powerful, if it is done right– i thought i knew what self-care was. LOL. what it is not is vegging out and watching netflix & staying in bed all day without talking to another soul. it is not jam-packing as many friend visits into a weekend. its about checking in with my own heart, and seeing what is missing and what i need to do to rest, and take care of that need. which might mean staying in my pjs, but it also might meaning having a FaceTime call with a sweet dear friend. it might mean listening to worship music, or buying a blank canvas and painting with big strokes.
  10. He just wants to be close– That’s it. that’s what He wants. to be close to us. he is not scared by our wounds or our unbelief, He moves in closer. He pursues. He is enough. there is delight in who He is. His presence makes us whole. He loves to draw near and speak. its His favorite thing to do.

wind: update

i turned 23.

i graduated from graduate school.

i got a puppy.

i am unemployed.

its been an eventful few weeks. but i wanted to give an update about the wind.

my birthday was in the beginning of may, the day after i finished my big, final presentation for my degree. (how sweet is Jesus to wrap up a season on the last day of 22). and for my birthday/graduation gift, i just wanted to have some time to rest & relax. i asked for this gift before i really knew about this idea for God to call me into more rest. but regardless. i asked if i could go to a hotel at the beach town close to home, with my mama, lay by the pool & get some pampering to unwind from all the hard work. so we did. and He did.

and He did.

it was definitely one of those experiences where you didn’t realize how stressed, tired, overworked, high-strung, sleep-deprived and anxious you have been, until you take a second to stop. and boy, was i was exhausted. so tired. it was a sweet change to not have to check my email for edits, or my grades & feedback comments for adjustments. it was sweet to spend time with my mama, who is full of wisdom and grace. but mostly, it was sweet to reconnect with the Father. i didn’t think we were that disconnected, until i got to reconnect with Him during those few days.

one of the days there, we went and layed out by the pool. on a thursday. in the middle of the morning. like 10am. it was even kind of cold. very windy and cool so early in the day. hardly anyone else was out there, and we just layed out soaking up the sun. close to the shore. and i put my headphones in and played the latest Bethel album, Starlight. i am convinced one of my spiritual gifts is to be able to hear worship songs as Jesus singing over or to me. so i was laying there, soaking in the Son. and being reminded of His love, His relentlessness. remembering what it felt like to be connected to Him. literally letting myself notice and feel what it felt like to let go of stress and tension. but after a while, i was getting pretty cold. how weird. i was laying there, trying to get a tan in May, in Texas, but i was cold. so i decided to check the temperature, and i said to myself “gosh, it is so windy today.” and as soon as i thought it, i heard him say,

“see, when you rest, you will always catch my wind.” 

and completely caught me off guard. i had forgotten about the need to rest, and even the need to catch the wind. truly, when i was delighting in the sun, and the Son, and who He says i am, and who He is, i was able to find a real rest. and in that rest, i found Him. and His wind.

the wind was 23 mph.

just Him showing off. that He doesn’t miss a thing. and the wind kept blowing, and washing over me. and i could feel things in my heart shifting. i could feel the significance of His wind, his heart-shifting wind, changing my circumstances, and my vision and perspective. but mostly, healing my heart. and bringing me into deeper rest. and man, what love exists in the rest. its actually disarming.

this experience at the beach was powerful, and moving. those moments where you feel so seen & known by God mark your heart. and it has. it was a solid invitation to move into more rest. i felt a shift in my heart over those few days.

on my way to this mini vacation, i was stressing out about the next steps, job searching, bills, loans, licensure-all that was coming down the pipe at me pretty quickly. as i was rattling these things off to Him, as if He had forgotten that they were coming, i remember Him saying

“won’t you take this rest I am trying to provide for you?”

and I remember thinking, “hmm, okay, thanks, that’s sweet. but i really don’t have time for that Jesus.”

but He is sweet and patient and still pursues when we are weary and don’t catch on the first, or fiftith time. since those few days at the beach, i have been very tempted and challenged to reach, and strive for what’s “next.” and i have definitely caved some days. but i am trying to lean into this season of rest He is providing. i am trying to remember His sweet voice, and the deposit of faith, that i found in the rest.

the process: part two

my head and my heart are either racing, or completely silent. there is no middle ground. i am trying to wrap my brain around what God is walking me through in this season. here are a few things i knew coming into this new season in Waco:

  • Jesus wanted to heal my heart
  • Jesus wanted to transform me
  • Jesus wanted to teach me new things
  • Jesus was calling me, His bride, into the wilderness
  • this was going to be an influential time of formation, faith, promises, fulfillment, and newness

what I didn’t know was the following:

  • Jesus wanted to heal my heart, but first He had to let me feel the weight of it’s brokenness
  • Jesus wanted to transform me, but more than transform-He wanted to rebuild me
  • Jesus wanted to teach me new things about Him, about what faithfulness looks like, who He is, who His Father is, how He loves me and how He is calling me to love 
  • God was calling me, His daughter, His beloved, into the wilderness, where it would be cold, lonely, scary, dark, dry, and overwhelming
  • to reap the benefits of newness, I was going to have to do things I had never done before
  • God is so jealous for me, and is pursuing me unapologetically 
  • this was gonna hurt, bad

i feel like the past few weeks have been so raw, tough, trying, overwhelming, painful and heavy. i have been reading through Hosea, one of my favorites. as i began the study, i knew how much i loved the story on the pages of God’s unrelenting love, His pursuit of His people, and His willingness to stop at nothing to get them back. such a sweet story to read. but i had no idea God was ready to walk through Hosea so personally with me. half way through, i broke.

after one of the most intense encounters with Mercy and Truth on night in a confessional, chapel and HEB parking lot, i was shaken. to my core. i felt a fraction of the weight of my sin, brokenness, and helplessness. overwhelming is a understatement. it felt like a wave crashing over me breaking every part of my body. it felt like having light shined in your eyes after years in a dark room. it felt like a band-aid ripped off too soon. rejected, raw, vulnerable and weak.

He needed me to realize i was helpless. there was nothing i could do to earn my forgiveness. nothing i could give to Him other than my sheer brokenness. i have never felt more like Mary Magdalene at the feet of Jesus. pouring out the depths of my heart at His feet begging for forgiveness and offering every ounce of love my body could hold.

i knew this was part of the process. God knows me, and He knows what i need. i need more than to just know about my sin, i need realness I can relate to. and He delivered. after sobs and snot, i was finally able to calm down enough to ask Him where to go from here. He kept speaking Isaiah 54:11-12 over me.

“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
    I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,[a]
    your foundations with lapis lazuli.
12 I will make your battlements of rubies,
    your gates of sparkling jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.”

SO UNDESERVING. here i am: broken, sinful, weak, ashamed, rejected and in such need of the Divine Healer, and He says He wants to rebuild me! not just build an add on, rebuild. start over. knock down the old, and start fresh. He didn’t just want to make some renovations to the old model to make it livable and up to code, He wanted to do a new thing (Isaiah 43:19) and make it better than I could have ever dreamed. and on top of that, He wants to build with precious stones. ok….

when God speaks, He has such simplicity & depth in what He says. it may be a phrase but has a thousand meanings. in this image of rebuilding, i could hear Him speaking to the amount of time it would take. precious stones don’t just happen overnight. neither do beautiful buildings and structures. i could hear Him say if i wanted the fullness of His rebuild, i was going to have to do the work, let Him build and be patience with my heart as He reconstructed it.

so i’m trying. this breakdown was pretty perfectly tied into the Hosea study. experiencing the real discipline the Lord gives to us & the real healing He offers was paralleled so well in Israel’s journey. i am learning that God is jealous for me, and will stop at nothing to get me back. He holds nothing back.

 

 

the process: part 1

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”

hosea 2:14

it has been a while. things have been busy. after a lot of crying, wrestling with the Lord, unexplainable grace & unfathomable providence, i have moved to good ol’ wacky Waco, Texas to continue my Masters program at Baylor University. this was a really hard decision for me because i was in love with my job in Houston. i loved working with those ladies. Jesus taught me so much in the six months i was there. so many lessons learned. as much as i wanted to stay there for another six months, invest in the company and the ladies, i felt God calling me somewhere else…to grad school. i didn’t want to go. 1) i could not afford it 2) i wasn’t even sure that i needed a masters after spending time in ministry 3) i felt like i was learning so much more in the real world, real field, real mission 4) i could not afford it. but after a lot of prayer, lots of intercessions from my sweet friends and family, and lots of tears, I decided to accept my acceptance letter and beginning a new journey.

i started classes in July-one semester down! praise the Risen Lamb. but just moved to Waco this week. as i spent the little bit of summer i had before classes got rolling preparing for this new chapter, a few really important things emerged.

backtrack: as i was praying about what to do-school or stay working-there were a few things i really heard the Lord speak over me, 1) hosea 2:14 2) “You have learned alot, let Me help you unpack it, let Me be your teacher now.” so this idea of the wilderness emerged. and this idea of the Lord drawing me out into a new place-pretty much alone-and speaking to me really became clear. so as i was discerning what step to take next, I just really felt like whatever I did, would be a wilderness, whatever that meant.  

back to the story. so as i was preparing for this next season, i felt this theme of the wilderness, of letting the Lord teach me and then some new things came up. the idea of healing. the idea of restoration. the idea of preparation. the idea of transformation. all of these words kept coming up in prayer and conversation with others and books i was reading. and i began to feel the Lord explain more about what this new season would be about. yes, it would be about continuing my education. but this degree is for him. it is not mine. it is not for me. it is for His children that He has desired from the beginning of time would receive healing. so yeah, this season is about education. but even more than that, this season was about me and Him.

there was one day i came up to Waco before classes started to go start getting things squared away. i went to adoration with one of my dear, dear friends who lives here already (yay community-that’s a whole ‘nother story). so as we were sitting in our holy hour, i just told Jesus that i wanted this season/year to be just a time for me & Him. i didn’t want to focus on anything else. i just wanted this to be a sweet season of us.

well flash forward to now. and here we are. in a season of just me and Him. He is faithful. I asked for it. before i got here, He was shaking up my heart, getting ready to do some heavy lifting and dirty work. i could feel Him starting to loosen things that had a hold on me. i could feel Him calling me into a season of healing, transformation, restoration, heart work, and process. i have no idea how all of this will unfold. but i know that at the end of this year, i will be a different person. there is no way i can enter into this season with the Lord whole heartedly and stay the same. His love is so powerful it is transforming. i am so ready to be washed in this love. to learn what it means to work on restoration. to begin the process-as messy and dirty and hands on as it will be. He is not scared by my mess. I was listening to a teaching by Steffany Gretzinger and she was talking about that. that God has called us, knowing full well our mess and crap. He didn’t forget about that one thing, and He isn’t worried about it. it doesn’t scare Him. He doesn’t change His mind. in fact, He called us to dive into that very mess WITH us. not to sit there and say “hey, go work on that over there and come back to me and tell me how it went when you’re done.” nope, not Him. instead He says “thanks for coming, I have been waiting for you, let’s sort through these pains, hurts, debris, rumble, wounds, and fears together, one by one.” so patient. so kind. He has been waiting to sit with us and sort through the mess since before time began.

but it is a process. and not an easy one at that. i am entering into the process. and as i do, i am learning that i don’t really know how to “process.” ironically, because about 89% of my job is to help people “process” through what they are walking through in their life. oh Jesus, so funny that one. so i am starting this new chapter, journey, voyage-whatever. but more importantly, i am beginning a new process with the one who made my heart.

sweet Jesus, continue to walk with me, sit with me, cry with me and sort with me as we embark on this process together. i have no idea how to do any of this, but i am asking your Holy Spirit to teach me. i am asking to know your heart better and receive healing in mine. thank you for all that you are and all that you do. you’re so good. 

“i want to leave”

*originally posted in showngreatlove.wordpress.com*

that is the name of the form the girls fill out when they want to leave. a girl finds a staff member, says “I want to leave” and we give her the form to complete saying she wants to leave our needs assessment center.

I have said goodbye to three girls in four days.

not happy goodbyes as they go to another program or shelter. heartbreaking goodbyes as they go back to the very people and situations that pushed them to their rock bottom not even a week ago. they are going back to the lion’s den, but it is the lion’s den they know, and there is comfort in that. as dark, scary, unpredictable and evil as is can be, it is what they know, and that familiarity is what beckons them back.

what is extra crazy, is that these girls were on the brink of greatness. each on of them was doing so good! they were just starting to dig in, and see what a new life would look like. they were doing the work. and then just like that, almost out of nowhere, “I want to leave.” and they were gone. back to their “comfort zone”, their default. it’s like autopilot. as soon as they can see the beginnings of “new”, and they feel sobriety, and they start seeing that it is possible and attainable for them, they run. the control of their trafficker can still pull them back, even without having any contact with them.

I understand the research. I know the effects of trauma.I have studied abuse. I know about the cycle, manipulation, and the pull & control the trafficker has over these girls. but knowing all of this doesn’t make it any easier to watch her leave. it doesn’t feel right letting her go. everything in me wants to run after her, wrap my arms around her and let her know that things will get better. that things are hard now, but worth it. that she is worth it. to stick it out. but instead, I have to let her walk out-as she takes a piece of my heart with her.

my heart is so broken, so hurt. and as I watch these ladies leave, I hear Jesus say

“it hurts Me more, even in the little ways.”

and just like that, it is about me & the ways I turn away from the Lord. the ways I run from  His goodness. the ways I trade His safety, security and abundance for my own sinful ways. He offers me so much, and when faced with the idea of leaving my comfort zone for what He is promising, I run. even in the little ways that I turn my back on Him and choose to do things my way, on my terms. how many times do I say to Him “I want to leave” and He just lets me go? He can see the bigger picture, He can see what is around the corner, but He lets me go every time. what suffering.

my heart breaks every. single. time. a lady leaves. but even in that, it is just a fraction of the heartbreak Jesus experiences when she leaves. or when I leave. even though we aren’t running back to the same story, situation or life, we are both running. we both want to leave. and that I can understand.

So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually on your God.

hosea 12:6

God wants to be HGTV.

So, I mentioned earlier that this was the Year of Restoration. I believe this will be a year of restoration for myself in many aspects of my life. In keeping with this idea, the homily at Mass yesterday was prettttyy on pointe.

The priest suggested that we live from either two houses: a House of Fear, or a House of Love. He suggested that a House of Fear is run by our ego that constantly tells us we are not enough.  When we live in this place of fear, we are subject to immorality. Immorality becomes the “anesthesia” for our pain and struggle. We quickly find things that are harmful to us to distract ourselves from the defeat and hurt that we are constantly feeling. Before long, we are addicted to something.

Literally, as the priest shared this idea he had, I was taken aback. I had decided at the beginning of this year, it was going to be a year of restoration (last year was a year of positivity). But this year, I was going to focus of restoration. Last year, some things definitely threw me off track, I got distracted and sidelined. A lot. But this year, I have decided to focus on and seek restoration. So when the priest started explaining this concept, it really struck me. There have been so many things I have done to “distract” myself from the insecurities or fears I have held onto. If I want to seek restoration, I am going to have to move into the House of Love.

And that’s where God comes in. He is a “flipper”. Ya know, on HGTV, when those people buy those run down houses (a house of fear) and put all this work and effort into it to turn it into a beaut (a house of love)? That’s what God is willing and wanting to do for us. He wants to turn our current house of fear, into His House of Love. He wants to be a Flipper. He wants to be HGTV.

But it’s not always that easy. It can definitely be hard to let go and let Him start remodeling. That is the real challenge. That is what I am facing today. I am embarking on a season of change. I am trying to let go. I am trying to let God in. So He can flip my house of fear, into a house of love. And bring restoration. The restoration only He can bring.