Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pressing Forward

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Philippians 1:6

I'm a big believer in repetition, whether that be in re-occuring dreams, repeated phrases or words, you name it. It catches my attention. In my case, I've heard Philippians 1:6 five times in the past three days alone, and I am confident that God is laughing over the fact that I'm baffled by His persistence. I mean, it's God- I should know by now that He enjoys getting my attention this way. 

The journey continues in fervently battling fear and worry, and although there have been many steps in the right direction, there have also been the days where I feel like I stumbled half a mile behind. One situation in my life is requiring so much patience, hope, confidence, and love that I'm not certain I can physically handle it on my own. Praise be to God though that I don't have to go through it alone! The struggle within that struggle for me is overcoming the desire to just give up. The other night was one of those "half a mile back" nights, and goodness was it a storm. I'm so blessed for the friends who remind me to stay the course, despite my inner desire to throw my hands in the air and cry out to God, "I'M FINISHED. I WANT OUT."

As I took the time to sift through some of the emotions, a simple image came to my head of a little girl and her Daddy, walking hand in hand along the beach.

The bond between this Father and daughter was unlike many of the broken relationships you see these days. His love for her radiated like a burning ember, and every ounce of Him desired to protect her, to care for her, to want the very best for her life. Nothing less! The daughter, however knew her Father loved her, yet didn't have the maturity to comprehend why He said no to certain things, like running too close to the waves when He knew she couldn't stand against them. Nevertheless, she loved Him, and sought joy in making Him smile. As they walked hand in hand along the beach, both with an empty bag craving shells, she boldly declared, "Father, I want to collect every shell on this beach to fill my bag!" Her Father calmly advised her, "Sweet daughter, only spend the time searching for the purest shells, the ones that take your breath away, and leave the rest here on the beach." Heeding her Father's advice, the little girl spent delicate time only picking the beautiful shells. She found joy in each creation, marveling over their beauty. However, she became lazy and started settling for those shells which had live creatures in them, were covered in seaweed, or were too heavy for her bag. Slowly, her big increased in heaviness and the precious shells at the bottom of the bag started to crush under the weight of these newer, uglier shells. Time and time again, the Father watched her pick these shells, softly reminded her of His warning, and offering to hold the bag for her. Soon, the daughter's bag became too heavy for her little hands to carry, yet she refused to hand it over to her Father, because in her mind it was her bag, her shells, her walk. Eventually she looked up at her Father with big sorrowful eyes and asked, "Father, will you please hold my bag? I can't carry it any longer." Without any hesitation He replied, "I've just been waiting for you to ask." He swept his daughter into His strong arms, and carried her the rest of the way on the beach, emptying her bag of shells along the way to only contain the precious, beautiful shells of worth again. 

In the same way, our Heavenly Father seeks to walk with us, spend time with us, but if we become distracted in seeking the worthless shells that only weigh us down, we hinder our walk with Him, as well as destroy the beauty He's trying to display to us. God's comfort and compassion for our struggles, pains, and heartache perfectly emanates His love for His children. My mind is blown that He deeply desires to rescue us from our pain. Kind David wrote in Psalm 40, 
"I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord."

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-30, 
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Let Him carry you today, including your troubles. He is loving and strong enough to handle it. Our Lord does NOT give up on us, He is faithful and enduring, and desires to "continue His work in us until the day when Christ returns." 


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Paralyzing Fear

"JOY is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life; the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be okay; and the determined choice to praise God in all things." 
-Kay Warren

Now that the holiday season is over for oh, the next 300 days or so, this gray fog of dullness has started to settle in the world around us.  It could be the idea of losing those 15 pounds you gained over the break, or the mere thought of heading back to work and school, but either way it seems the fog is unavoidable. For me, the fog came in the form of being miserable in my own circumstances. I felt like I had held it together pretty well for most of the break, being positive and enjoying some actual quality time with friends and family. But as I drove up to College Station for CARPOOL training a few days before school started, my chest tightened up as if someone had stuck me in a 19th century corset, and tied the strings beyond their capacity. Memories, thoughts, emotions flooded me like a tidal wave from this turbulent last semester. In September/October, I nearly lost my best friend Brianna to a rampant infection, and the world around me crumbled with my depression and heartache over the idea of life without her. Meanwhile, my friendship circles drastically changed, my vision for life suddenly got cloudy, and honestly, I nearly lost sight of myself. My faith in Christ was the single string that kept me grounded- every other string had snapped, split, or dissolved right before my eyes. So there I was, back in College Station, paralyzed with fear over the upcoming spring semester, and there was nothing I could do but face the fear head on. I sobbed the entire drive home, chest still tight with fear, and heart sickened with sorrow over everything that had happened. Yet in typical Britta fashion, I tried pulling it together for my parents when I got home that night because there's nothing I hate more than crying in front of people. There was no hiding it though- my eyes turn bright green when I cry, and I stop talking entirely. Not a peep. Nothing. It's not that I don't want to talk, it's that I physically can't get the words out without crying, so I just stay quiet. But it was in that pure moment of vulnerability that I finally let my mama in to teach me one of the most important lessons I've yet to learn in my life:

Happiness should not stem from your circumstances, but rather from your attitude.

Personally, that sounds kind of "newage-hippyfreelove-listentomeimsowise", but it makes sense. I can't keep basing my happiness on what's going on in my life. I have to make the conscious effort every day to choose joy by choosing how I'm going to let it affect me. Let's be real here though- I have about as thick of skin as a caterpillar; my feelings are hurt easily, I take many things personally, and I have this awful way of overanalyzing things to make them worse off than they actually are. It's hard for me to let people truly get to know me. But I trust and know that the Lord made me this way for a reason, because without these ever-present struggles, I would not rely on Him.

So here's the deal. I wear this basic rubber band on my wrist, and every time I worry, I pop the band. I'm not talking some dinky little "pop", but more like a SNAP. Yeah, it's loud, and yeah, people look at you, but big deal, not their problem. This is my reminder to myself that fear and worrying produces nothing but pain. In that split second after snapping the band, I thank God for being a fountain of joy, and humbly ask to mold my mind around Him, and everything He encompasses- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. You should try it too, then let me know so we can be band buddies. That's right I said it. I'm actually kind of serious though. 

I'm going to try blogging more throughout the process of overcoming fear, so I pray you'll follow me every step of the way. Go getchoo some rubber bands now. 

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
                                                                                        Isaiah 41:10