Tag Archives: fight

Suffering and Victory: Your Epic Story.

Sometimes, I don’t have anything nice to say.

Like, nothing. Can’t think of one nice thing.

So I don’t say anything at all.

Yes, Grandma, I was listening.

A month ago, I wrote a blog post. I’ve been quiet since then for various reasons. I’ll write more about it when I can laugh about it. One thing I know about myself, is that when I’m down, I’m DOWN. No need to take you all down with me.

Seems like one thing after another some days, doesn’t it?

 

I have an un-prayer I pray when I don’t know what the heck is going on. I say, “Ummmm, ok God, I know I’m not supposed to ask ‘why. . . .'”

And then I kind of wait a minute and see if anything comes through. “I’ll try not to ask ‘why,’ but if You want to tell me anything, Jesus, I’m all ears.”

I don’t usually get a straight answer to that question.

What I do get is more of an impression, an invitation to trust. To wait and see. To watch it play out. To believe that there is more going on than meets the eye.

It’s nice and all but easier said than done.

And I don’t fully see it yet, although I do see my heart growing stronger in the meantime.

But here’s what I do know.

People connect with your suffering before they connect with your victory.

 

Epic stories are epic, not because of the finish line or the end of the journey, but because of what the hero had to go through to get there.

What the hero had to go through to get there.

That is what makes the story epic.

You are a part of an epic tale. Your suffering speaks. Your life tells a story.

Wait and see. It’s not over yet.

And people are watching. Like a movie, you have an audience, and they are waiting to see what you do next.

And just like a movie, there will always be some who don’t support you, no matter what. But most of them are rooting for you. Because your suffering makes them know that they are not alone in theirs. And when you have victory, they know they can have it too.

Your suffering is not wasted. Victory is around the corner. Hold on. Wait and see.

***

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28

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It’s Yours. Go and Take It! How to Let Struggle Work in Your Favor.

Finding joy. Finding strength.

It’s not easy. Not for any of us.

And so often, those who do this hard work of fighting for life and fighting for power are given what is possibly the most condescending response ever. “It’s easy for you. It’s harder for me than it is for you. You have something I don’t have. You have the gift of joy.”

But.

Here’s the thing.

Joy is not a gift.

Galatians 5.

Joy is a fruit.

That means it is something that must be cultivated.

Fruit comes after ownership–owning our territory, and owning our part in the growing. It comes after plotting, tilling, planting, and much care.

Joy is not a gift of the Spirit, nor is it a gift of circumstance. Some of the most emotionally challenged people that I know have had it the “easiest” in terms of visible circumstances.

Joy is not a gift.

 

Those who have not known ease can assume that if they only had a different circumstance, they would also have a different level of joy.

But happiness studies from around the world show that this simply is not true.

Joy and circumstance are not related to the degree that people assume that they are.

Joy is not a gift, but sometimes struggle is.

Struggle works in our favor when we realize that it leads us in to our identity. Struggle and work make us feel our own power when we engage wholeheartedly and watch the fruit come.

Good parents see struggle as part of health.

 

Infants struggle to be born, and then they wriggle and struggle to hold up their own heads.

Babies struggle to crawl. Toddlers struggle to walk, falling down a million times and never giving up.

Good parents see this struggle as part of health. Like weight-lifting or training for a marathon, it’s hard in the moment, but no one gets stronger being carried everywhere.

In fact, I recently heard of a mother who was so protective of her child, never wanting to see him struggle, that she did carry him everywhere for almost two years. The child could not walk. He never had a chance to struggle and learn. There was no normal, healthy development in his legs. Child services came in to insist that the child be allowed to struggle to gain strength.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

And even in Eden, there was work to be done.

There is a consciousness to joy. A conscious choice for cultivation. This consciousness exists with all the fruits of the spirit.

Even in Eden, there was work to be done.

 

There is nothing easier than criticizing a joyful, loving person. Nothing easier than tearing down a soft target. And there is something about a joyful person that can make an angry person angrier and meaner, especially if he is determined to stay in his state of mind.

It is not only that the joyful are a soft target.

A joyful person is a challenge.

The mere presence of a well-adjusted person is an inherent challenge to those who don’t have it figured out yet. And when that same well-adjusted person is also flourishing and strong, the challenge is even louder. And those who have not fought in the same way can sometimes assume the way was easy for those who have already won their battles.

A joyful person is a challenge.

 

I have fought this temptation too. The temptation to see someone who is living well and bearing good fruit as someone who just had it easy and has no real clue about life.

But then, after years of struggle, I started to wonder if, maybe, those people knew something I didn’t.

It can feel good in a twisted way to fall into self pity, to sit and tell myself how hard my life is. To vindicate the waves of emotion that, at forty-two years old, I still have not learned to entirely control.

“I deserve it! I want chocolate! I want to complain! I want to watch myself cry in the mirror! I want to quit!”

Self-pity gives us all the excuses we need to not try harder, to not go out and do the hard work of pursuing our destiny. It makes us feel exempt from the struggle for excellence in our own minds, where the battle is the thickest. We can redefine “excellence” in our pain, saying, “Well, at least I’m still here, well at least I’m this, at least I’m not that.”

At least.

But I don’t want “at least.” I want “at most.”

I want the best there is.

And I know you do too.

And God wants the best for us. He already has it planned out.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

 

When the Israelites were “given” their inheritance from God, He also told them to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Ruth went to Boaz for charity, it was there, but she still had to work for it. She still had to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, He told the man, “Get up. Take up your mat, and walk.” The man had to take responsibility for himself and TAKE his healing. He had a choice.

GO AND TAKE IT

 

It’s time for us to GO AND TAKE the inheritance, the blessings, the joy, the healing that God wants to pour out in our lives. God does many, many things by grace, just giving us blessings because He loves us. But even with a gift, we have to stretch out our own hands to receive.

But other times, like a good father who wants to see his child grow healthy, He stands out a little way from us, holding out His arms and saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! I know you can do it!”

The way to let struggle work in our favor, and incidentally, one way to cultivate joy, is to count the struggle as joy. 

Don’t know how to do that? Me either, sometimes. Ask God to help you reframe it. And you will see Him standing before you with arms outstretched, cheering you on.

***

Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance. Jas 1:2-3

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. Ruth 2:23ab

See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land. Deut 1:8a

What have you been putting off because of self-pity or fear? What do you need to GO AND TAKE today? What is one thing you can do to move forward in claiming your inheritance?

Father, thank You that You allow us the good kind of struggle that brings strength in us! Thank You that You stand before us with Your arms out, saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! You can do it! Come to me! I’ve got you!” Thank You that You know how much we can be, and You believe in us! Thank You that You never leave us or forsake us, and You are our greatest Helper, our greatest cheering section, our greatest encourager!

I pray for anyone reading this to hear Your voice in greater measure today and every day, cheering them on to claim their inheritance! To hear You say in their hearts–there it is! That thing I have for you! I’m shining a light on it, I’m cheering you on! Now! GO AND TAKE IT!

Thank You for helping us and planning out our best lives and making a way for us to find what You have! In Jesus’ name, we GO! Amen!

Your Where Before Your What. And You Need a Who.

Your where comes before your what.

In other words, moving forward with an idea will help you know what to do next. Sometimes we try to wait until we know every detail until we move forward on a dream. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s often impossible to know everything that we will encounter along the way.

Like generals looking down from mountains, we have to sometimes change our position to gain insight on our strategy.

When we get an idea or a vision, it’s all fun and games until we try to see it through. I can get caught up in things that either don’t matter at all or don’t matter yet. Getting the vision in order makes a huge difference. And teamwork helps.

Your where comes before your what.

 

The other day I went shopping with my friend.

We used to have a great thrift shop in our town, but when I went to the old location, it was gone. There were no signs directing customers to a new location, so I assumed they had gone out of business.

When we pulled out of the parking lot, my friend pointed and said, “There it is!”

“Where?” I said, looking everywhere.

“Right there! Across the street! Don’t you see the sign?”

I looked across the street. I could only see the old sign directing traffic to the old location.

I said, “Oh yes, I see it. But that’s the old sign. I think they must have closed.”

“No,” she said, “across the street! With a huge red and white banner that says, ‘Now Open!'”

“Um, I see the sign? But I don’t see a red and white banner?”

I looked sideways at her. “Lord,” I prayed silently, “is she having some kind of vision? What are you trying to say?”

“Are you messing with me?” I laughed. I could only see the old sign from before.

“No!!” She laughed and looked at me like I was crazy. “A huge red and white sign? You seriously don’t see that?!?”

The light turned green, and I pulled out in traffic and looked all around. As I moved forward, I was able to take in more of my surroundings, and, finally, I saw it. Across the street. A huge new sign declaring the name of the store and the fact that it was NOW OPEN!

open sign

A car lot had used that building before. It never occurred to me to look there, even when my friend was pointing right at it. I thought I knew what was going to be there. I expected to see a car lot. So much so, that I could not see the new thing that had come in, even though I was looking.

What made the difference?

Moving forward. And moving forward with someone who saw it with fresh eyes and brought a different perspective.

Sitting where I was, I could not see the sign. But the light in front of me turned green, and I had to do something.

It was when I moved forward that I was able to take in a more accurate view of my surroundings. And because of my friend, I knew where to look.

What made the difference?

Moving forward.

 

Lately God has been sending me this message in a lot of ways.

Since I moved into my house, I have wanted to plant a secret garden to the side of my porch, but I have been a little overwhelmed by landscaping. It’s all so big, and the sky is literally the limit.

I start obsessing about plants.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my sister to come over and look at the space with me again. It occurred to me that, if I knew where I wanted to put the garden, it would help me choose the plants. My sister and I walked out to a spot in the yard and turned around and looked. In my mind I was envisioning all kinds of plants, rose arbors, pencil hollies, big grasses.

I started getting overwhelmed. Started thinking about calling landscapers.

“I can’t tell what I need to do,” I thought, “because I’m not standing in the right place.” I felt too close to the patio. I needed to be farther into the yard and more at an angle.

stephanie-krist-41061

Trying again.

We went back to the porch and dragged some chairs out in the yard. That was better.

We moved the chairs again. And one more time.

Aha! There. That’s where it needs to be.

First things first.

When I tried to plan it before, I had it backwards. I sat on the patio obsessing about plants, when what I needed to do was step out into the yard and plan the foundation. I needed to stop thinking about it and mulling it over and over. I needed to stand up and move forward.

I needed to do something.

Imagining possibilities energizes us.  Dreams and visions delight our minds.

But there are a few things that can derail these dreams before they ever get going.

Three Things that Can Derail Your Dreams and What to Do Instead

 

1.  “Mulling” ideas over and over. It’s good to give our plans some thought, but, that word. Mulling. It comes from the process of mulling cider, to heat and sweeten a drink. But we are not a cider. Too much mulling makes us weak, stagnant and depressed. Like a flabby orange peel boiled too long. Stop mulling already, and do something.

2.   Too many details. Instead of focusing on all the details at once, which can be overwhelming and discouraging, just start with your where. When I needed to do my garden, I had to know where to put it before any other planning would make sense. Whether you are planning a garden, or building a house, or a website, or a business out of your home, you have to have a location before anything else can fall into place. Even if you just start with putting all your plans in a notebook. Your dream needs a where. It needs a physical place to live and grow. You know the saying, “You have to start somewhere”? It doesn’t say “You have to start somewhat or someone.” It says somewhere.

3.  Doing everything alone. It helps to have a who. But it can’t just be any who. I had a book when I was very young called “Whobody There?” It described the contrast between the safe people who get you and the cold and indifferent people who don’t. Your who needs to be a whobody. Don’t share your dreams, and especially your insecurities or questions about your dreams, with anybody but a whobody. But find a whobody, an encouraging friend who believes in you and will help you see your where when you get bogged down in details. And, your best whobody is the Holy Spirit.  Ask Him along the way, “What’s next? Where do I need to look? Where do I need to move?” He will show you.

Dreaming brings vision, but it is action that brings vision into reality.

walk into the light

What dreams are you holding onto in your heart? What visions do you have for your life? Where are you stuck?

Write down the dream. Write down the vision. Write down the top three places where you are stuck and want to move forward. Pray, and ask God, “What’s the first thing I need to do to move forward toward this vision?”

You may hear something very clear. You may see exactly what you need to do next. Or it may be fuzzy. Like my friend pointing to a sign right in front of me–I had to move forward to see it.

You may have to start on the project, just start. Move forward in some small way to better see your surroundings. You can’t know what you’re dealing with until you deal with it.

Pray, and ask God, “What’s the first thing I need to do to move forward toward this vision?”

 

Like my garden, I had to step out. I had to actually get out there and start moving chairs. It was very unclear when I started, but the more I walked into it, the more I could see what needed to happen next. Now that I know the location, I know that I need to go pick out paving stones to create the space. I was obsessing about how hard it would be to choose plants, when I hadn’t even laid the foundation yet. And I can already tell that choosing the plants is going to be much more obvious once I get the stones in place.

One thing at a time. First things first. Move forward.

Now.

Now, you can see it.

***

Father, thank you for the dreams and visions that make life exciting every day. Thank you for the direction and the confidence and peace we find in You that help us move forward. pray for the where that births the what. I pray for the whobodies to come alongside and offer perspective and encouragement. I pray for Your people to step out toward their goals, one little step today toward the calling and the blessings You have for them. I pray for the willingness to take a little risk, to shoot for the moon, to try, try again. For resilience and for steadfastness. For forward movement in all things that You have planned. Starting now. In Jesus.

13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

Friday the 13th.

Mine was great.  How was yours?

I’ve never been especially superstitious, but I do remember a time when numbers, bridges, black cats, and ladders made me think twice.  Now they make me smile.

So, in honor of Friday the 13th and all the good gifts God gives on any given day, here are

13 Ways to Fight Anxiety

  1. Positive messages.  Start pumping them in.  Right now.  Whatever.  Whoever.  A comedian you love, songs, speakers, TED talks, podcasts, redemptive movies and television shows.  Tons of great preachers have free videos on YouTube.
  1. Pump OUT the positive messages.  Fill up on joy to spread joy.  Make yourself a veritable font of joy.  LAUGH.  Joy is strength.  Learn from people who make you laugh, listen to speakers who make you laugh, create a culture of humor around you.  Plan to make someone else laugh.  You reap what you sow.  So, instead of ruminating on negative statistics, politics, news, gossip, and complaints, sow some joy, and reap some strength.couple-1846208_640
  1.  If fear does not budge, you may need a deep healing work in your life.  Most Christians believe that God does deliverance, in other words, cleanses us of any spiritual influence that is causing fear and replaces it with peace.  Get counseling from someone who understands emotional healing and deliverance.
  1. Hope.  For something.  Believe that things can get better.  Believe that you can be free and victorious.  Believe that your dreams can come true, in some form.  Believe that you were made with a plan and a purpose and that God has not brought you this far to drop you.
  1. Do something.  Don’t give up.  Don’t back down.  Just keep swimming.  Forward movement is always better than wallowing in emotion.  Remember, no matter how little you are able to do, doing something means you are running circles around the guy sitting on the couch.  running-573762_640
  1. Raise up your voice. Talk back to anxiety.  Recite scripture.  Just say “no.”  Just say “Jesus.”  Say something, anything, to cheer yourself on and give yourself much needed strength.  The most powerful people I know speak over themselves constantly.  It’s a habit that has to be learned and practiced—put up post it notes with verses and sayings, and then SPEAK THEM!  Don’t let random thoughts rule your life.
  1. Move in the opposite spirit. This means that when circumstances look bleak, you look for the rays of sunshine.  Stop blaming everything on the devil and looking for demons in every drawer.  It is not about being Pollyanna, it is about looking for the Easter egg, the silver lining, the hidden treasure of goodness, and focusing on that instead of anything else.  If you can’t see it, ask God to show you.  Ask Him to tell you what moving in the opposite spirit looks like right now.
  1. Watch the crowd you hang with. If everyone around you is constantly spewing negativity, fear, and doubt, it is going to be harder to find courage.  You don’t have to drop everyone, but make your inner circle a circle of courage.  active-1822704_640
  1. Watch the influences you allow. So many of our emotions flow from things we did yesterday or last week, or things that happened to us years ago.  We can’t control everything, but we can control some things.  What are you reading, listening to, watching, thinking about?  Watch your responses to movies, conversations, news reports, etc.  How is your heart rate?  Are your palms and pits cringing with sweat?  Are your shoulders tense?  Do you feel restless and wish you could get away?  Are you reading/watching/listening out of obligation or peer pressure?  What is your body telling you?  Listen, and limit influences that rob you of strength.
  1. Love and draw near to God and draw identity from Him. The more time spent in His presence, the more like Him we will be.  There is no anxiety, fear, stress, or frustration in God.  los-cabos-68861_640
  1. And, as God reveals His identity to you, saturate in that. Pay attention to His love languages with you, like armor, doves, hearts, thunder, etc.  What do “God winks” look like to you?  And then watch for these things.  Billboards, radio, people, little signs.  Wear them, find clothing that reminds you of what He’s shown you.  Jewelry, stickers, artwork, furniture.  Let Him weave His message into every part of your life.  Write down every instance and reminder in a journal, and pull that baby out and read it often, not just on the bad days.  And spend time with people who understand identity.  Celebrate these encounters and reminders with them.  It’s amazing and encouraging to see how much He is communicating with us when we plug in.
  1. Forgive.  Yourself and others.  Confess something if you need to.  Let old and new things go.  Quickly.  Don’t ruminate and take offense.  God is for you.  Forgive and move your focus to the plans God has for you.
  1. Know your why! You’ve heard me say it before:  Your why will help you with your how.  Why do you want to beat fear?  Who is watching your example?  Kids, family, friends?  What are your dreams?  What do you long to do?  As the old question asks, “What would you do with your life if you had no fear?”  Knowing why you’re fighting the good fight will help you push through the hard days.

What habits do you cultivate to keep anxiety at bay and your mind on things above?  When anxiety creeps in, how do you kick it out?

***

Anxiety is doublemindedness.  –Neil Anderson

Peace I leave with you; my peace I leave with you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not be troubled, and do not be afraid.  Jn 14:17