Friday, November 7, 2014

Just Keep Falling

            Can I admit something that sounds terrible?  I haven’t felt like praying lately.  For a long while, actually.  I have been struggling a lot with thoughts of Prayer doesn’t really work anyway.  God doesn’t respond.  It doesn’t make much difference, so why wrestle and wrestle in prayer if the same disappointing thing is just going to happen anyway?  May as well just save myself the struggle and the pain that comes with hoping.  He’s just been so silent that I don’t feel like I can keep talking and talking. 
            The thing is, I know the truth in my head.  I know that He’s listening.  I know that He’s sovereign and He will work things out, that He holds everything in His hands.  I know that His grace is sufficient.  I know that He loves me and has blessed me in so many ways and granted so many prayers.  If He were to take away everything He blessed me with, I would be in terrible shape and realize just how many prayers He did answer.  I know that prayer works, according to His Will and His timing.  But sometimes . . .
            Sometimes I just really want to hear or feel something from Him.  Anything.  Well, maybe not anything.  I’ve read about the ways some people get hammered in the Bible.  I don’t want that.  I just want to feel . . . alive again.  Like I have something to be happy about, to feel excited about.  I want to feel Him speaking to my soul.  It’s been a long, long time.

            I know part of the problem is that I’m focusing on all the things that are wrong in my life.  All the things that haven’t gone the way I want, the things that I don’t have.  But it’s also that I have been pleading with Him a long time for certain answers only to hear silence in return, I have been desperately trying to do good for Him in some areas only to find out that I am getting nowhere, and I have been running hard after Him only to feel like He keeps pulling back the closer I get. 
            As I fell asleep last night, my mind was flooded with all the trials that I have gone through over the years.  Yes, of course, my life has been good.  I really can’t complain.  When I think of those who have it really hard, I think of children who are abused, parents who have chronically-ill or handicapped children (In my estimation, those parents are eligible for sainthood.  God bless them!), people who have been forced from their homes or who lost loved ones in bloody civil wars or to violent religious militants, war veterans and POWs, people who starve to death in third world countries, people who survived concentration camps, etc.  My problems are so small and trivial by comparison.  I know this.  But allow me to vent a little, to grieve for a life that hasn’t worked out the way I had hoped. 
            As I laid there last night and thought back on all the trials of life, I asked myself this, When was the last time I truly felt relaxed and free-spirited and like everything was just peachy? 
            And I think it must have been somewhere around 21 years ago.  Twenty-one years of one trial after the next, one heartbreak after the next.  Twenty-one years of picking myself up by my bootstraps, holding my chin up, and forcing one foot in front of the other.  Twenty-one years of feeling really, really old.  And I’m only 39 right now.  And I’m so tired.
            For me, the last time I felt truly free and young was when I was 18.  In high school, I was happy-go-lucky.  Life was fun and full of hope.  The future was wide-open, bright, and inviting.  I felt whole on the inside. 
            And then when I was 18, I was reading some letters that my biological father had written to me years before, and it dawned on me that I really never had a “daddy.”  I had a biological father who I basically had no relationship with and an ex-step-dad and a current step-dad.  But I didn’t really feel like I belonged to any of them, as great men as they were. 
            I never knew what it felt like to really be hugged or cherished or encouraged by a father, to have one look on you with eyes full of love and pride, to run to one when you needed help or deep emotional support.  I never got to hear, “That’s my girl” or “You mean so much to me.”  I pretty much always felt like I was on my own, like I was on the outside, looking in.  Don’t get me wrong, I was taken care of by my step-dads.  They were good people.  I just never really belonged.  I never had a “daddy.”  And with that realization, the internal pain and aching began. 
            The next couple years were alright.  But I did struggle with some severe personality and low self-esteem issues that come with broken homes.  (All of this is also covered in the series, “My Condensed Life Story,” in the June 2014 posts.)  When it came to my boyfriend, I was jealous, controlling, easily threatened by other girls, and terrified of being abandoned.  I thought so little of myself and didn’t feel like I was worthy of love.  And it took years to work through this. 
            But life was still okay.  I went on an exciting, life-changing mission trip to Papua New Guinea when I was 21.  Then I finished college, got married, went to grad school and got my Master’s in Psychology from a great Christian school, and had a couple sons. 
            But in the midst of this, the real trials were starting to come, one after another.  (This list isn’t necessarily in order because a lot of the trials overlapped, but it’s close.) 

            1.  My mom and second step-dad’s marriage fell apart, and things got bad, like "worry for their safety and lives" bad.  Years of bad!  With police, counselors, restraining orders, a tazer (or stun gun?), accusations of spousal abuse and affairs and drug use and bank robbing, a parent in jail for the night, thoughts of if we should involuntarily commit a parent to a mental hospital, family picking sides, alienation of long-time family friends, etc.  I basically had a nervous breakdown during this time and had to flee to my grandparents’ house in Iowa for a weekend, just to be able to catch my breath.  It got to the point where I was praying that my parent would just end their life like they were considering doing.  Then they could be at peace.  My greatest regret during this time is that I pretty much abandoned my younger brothers, left them in a very dysfunctional situation.  I didn’t really mean to, I was just living my own life with my own kids and trying to keep some distance from all the unhealthy drama.  I regret that to this day.  Thankfully, they turned out fine.       

            2.  (Deleted for now.)   

            3.  I had to let go of the years-old dream of having a real, two-way relationship with someone that I wanted to be close to.  I had to learn to be without emotional closeness to people you should be close to.

            4.  After I had two kids, I chose to stay home and raise them instead of working.  This put us under great financial strain because I still had (and have) school loans to pay off.  (But I wouldn’t do it any differently.  When I stand before God, I know I’ll be able to say that I chose the better option.)

            5.  We faced and embraced the possibility of adopting the child of a relative.  And after months of praying and waiting, it never happened.  Now I realize that it was a good thing, but it hurt and confused me and my faith at the time.

            6.  The economy collapsed and we had to live on even tighter resources than what we had been struggling to live on for years.  Buying frozen pizza and apples was a luxury we barely indulged in.  My head hurt every time I went grocery shopping as I tried to stretch every penny as far as I could.  And then we got pregnant with our fourth son during this time.

            7.  My now-ex-step-dad moved away and disappeared.  That’s three down!  Three dads I have no relationship with.  And then my mom remarried.  And while it was a good change for her and I was happy that she was happy, it was still a change.  And I don’t like changes.  Everything in my life felt so foreign to me.  Not only was she now part of a “new family,” but they were also living in a place that I didn’t grow up in.  Visiting them didn’t feel like home.  Plus, I barely knew my brothers anymore since I was so much older than they were.  Once again, I was on the outside of everything, looking in.

            8.  I went through five months of nighttime demonic harassment (in the “Supernatural Stuff and Spiritual Armor” post).  It was really scary at the time and I felt like I had no real support.  Even my husband didn’t really believe me and kept his distance from my struggle.  Now, I say that that time of harassment was one of the best things to happen to me because it really opened my eyes to the spiritual battle going on all around us, it reminded me of the incredible need for prayer and to abide in Christ and to seek righteousness, and it set my focus on eternity.  But at the time, it was terrifying and I basically had to go through it alone.  But even going through it alone turned out to be for the best.  My faith is stronger for it.

            9.  Every house we lived in has been a huge emotional burden for me at some point.  The first apartment we rented our first year of marriage was the only place where I felt like I could breathe.  After that, we rented a home that was in terrible, disgusting condition, and it was so tiny.  (My parents owned it, and I trusted that it was in good condition before we accepted their offer to rent it.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.)  And because of our meager resources and the growing housing bubble, we were there for several years, unable to get out or afford anything else.  And it made me very depressed and hopeless.  And then we found a new rental that was the answer to our prayers, and the first couple years were good.  And then we realized that it was moldy and making us sick.  And we were busting out of it with four kids.  But the economy was so bad that we couldn’t get out.  I was desperate to find a place to own, but it was a couple years of sitting in that moldy place before we did. 

            10.  During that house-hunting time – when I was desperate to get out of that moldy rental - God basically left me.  I had so feared abandonment, and then He did it.  He abandoned me.  I cried out to Him over and over again for years about helping us get out of that house.  I wanted to wait on Him and follow His leading.  But nothing!  For years, He didn’t lead or respond or seem to care that I was hurting.  This was one of the greatest struggles I have ever had to go through spiritually.  Of course, He didn't really abandon me, even though it felt like it.  Eventually He did lead us out of that place, but only after years of struggling through every doubt, fear, and self-esteem issue that I had, only after learning to place everything in His hands and to say, “You Will be done.  I still trust You, no matter what.  Blessed be Your name, even if my situation never changes.”  Looking back now, I can see that this was the whole point of the “abandonment.”  And this trial was very necessary for my spiritual journey.  It was necessary for humbling me, for building my faith, for developing a sensitivity to others who hurt or are in need, and for learning to be content and to praise in the pain.  But at the time, it really, really hurt.  More than anything.  More than being let down by earthly fathers.

            11.  Also during this time (before Baby #4), we spent thousands to get dental work done for my husband and me.  And I was dealing with an active infection that I had for seven years from a failed root canal.  It would be another $1,000 to treat that.  Money we didn't have.  I was so stressed about finances and teeth and health at this time.

            12.  And then, we discovered that our one-year-old had Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, even though he never got a bottle or sugary drinks.  This sent me into years of stress and tension headaches as I tried to slow the decay down and figure out the best treatment plan for a toddler.  Also (I think because the moldy house suppressed his immune system), he was susceptible to all sorts of infections and illnesses.  It was one minor-ish problem after another with him.  For a few years.  It was an incredibly stressful time for me, especially since I felt so trapped in that house and abandoned by God at the same time.

            13.  Because of the tooth decay, I began to scrutinize our eating and food choices.  I researched every food item and additive to find out how safe and healthy it was to eat.  And I ended up doing a major overhaul of my cooking and our food choices, overnight.  While this ended up being a good thing, it was very stressful at the time because I was doing it in a panic to try to help his teeth heal.  (And it really did help heal the decay in his front teeth.  And eating healthy also healed my active infection from the failed root canal.  It's amazing what healthy food can do.  I never did need that $1,000 procedure.  We are all healthier today because of his tooth decay.  It's one of the best things to happen to us.)     

            14.  Then came this home that we are in now.  The first home we owned.  What a blessing and long awaited answer to prayer.  And it was great at first . . . until we began to find one problem after another that's made it really hard to make it a home.  Oddly enough, I still do think this home was His answer for us and a blessing to us.  I just wish sometimes that we could live in a place that actually felt like a home, not a refugee camp.  
            15.  Recently, all of my family – cousins, brothers, mom and step-dad (all but one brother) – has moved away.  While we were not really close anyway, it still feels like I am a bit orphaned by the whole change.  We didn’t have much contact before, but now it’s virtually nothing.  I feel so alone.  Everything is so different now.  Plus, my husband’s mom just died.  And I recently heard from other relatives that my biological dad is most likely dying.  He’s got a coffin all made and a neighbor checks in on him regularly so that he can be found when he does pass.  And then he’ll be buried on his property.  He never even told me he was sick.

            16.  I have very, very strong reasons for why I homeschool my kids, and I wouldn’t change it unless I had no choice.  But I’ll be honest, homeschooling is terribly hard when you are your own worst enemy, when you are someone who is always down on yourself.  I struggle all the time with never feeling good enough, with being afraid that I’ll fail and never do enough for them.  I don’t know how to relax and just “enjoy the ride.”  And so I have to fight long and hard to be okay with who I am and with my shortcomings and my choices.  I don’t know if I’ll ever really be okay with all that, but I keep trying.

            17.  Despite the fact that I have always struggled with loneliness (it doesn't help that we have only had one car for years and years, so I can't go anywhere during the day), I had one friend who I could talk to freely.  She knew me better than anyone.  She was the closest thing I had to a “sister.”  And I needed our weekly conversations to keep sane.  But for some reason last year, she got busy and stopped calling me back.  We went from talking once a week for an hour to talking once a month for a half-hour to talking maybe a half-hour every six months.  It broke my heart.  And it made me clam up more when talking with her for the few moments that I do.  How can I really open up when she isn’t really invested much in the friendship anymore?  I lost something very valuable that winter.  And I had to learn to be really alone!  (This is at the same time my heart was breaking about the fact that this house wasn’t getting fixed up and that I was exhausting myself trying to do it all on my own.) 
            Thank God, though, for another friendship that I have that is growing deeper.  I don’t need many friends, but I do need one deep one.  And our friendship is at a point where I can ask her for prayer support as I struggle with all this discouragement.  

            18.  And at the same time as that, I was coming to grips with the fact that I failed in a very huge area.  I wrote a book about my life that I put on my other blog, hoping that it would encourage other people in their lives and faith and maybe deepen my relationships with others.  And I tried and tried to share it with many people I know.  But no one wanted to read it.  I can understand when no publishing company wants to publish it, but I can’t understand that the people closest to me won’t bother to read it, even though I asked.  That has been the hardest thing to accept, that I failed at something I was so excited about and had so much hope for.  I always thought I was good with words and encouragement, but I just don’t know anymore.  This failure made me pull back even more from people because I had put myself out there so vulnerably, and no one cared.  I can’t tell you how many people gave me excuses like “I have too much to do already . . . I have too many books to read . . .  Oh sure, I’d love to read it (and then they never do).”  This has been one of the biggest heartbreaks for me because it further confirms the idea that I don’t really matter to people.  It’s been hard to accept the fact that I’m so invisible, overlooked, and such a failure.  All that time and energy wasted.  I had such hopes for it.  I don’t like to hope anymore.  (Although, I have to say that I’m thankful that no one wanted to publish it.  I wouldn’t have anyone to celebrate it with anyway.  And I have to say that I really do believe that God might use it someday.  I don’t know when or how, but maybe someday.  I have to believe that.)    

            19.  This past summer, we learned that our neighbor has a very moldy garage and it blows all over us when we are outside.  It took away my desire to garden all summer (one of my biggest passions), and I basically kept us all inside for months because I didn’t want us inhaling those mold spores.  We already got sick once from mold.  It really depressed me and sucked whatever life was in me right out.  And after contacting them and the city, they replaced the broken window but haven’t bothered to clean the inside up.  I don’t know if we can stay here if they don’t. 

            20.  I have developed an ongoing eczema rash (or other “allergy” type rash) that occasionally covers my neck and face, and it’s discouraging me from wanting to be around anyone.  I feel so “diseased,” like it’s further proof that I just don’t belong around other people.  (I’m currently researching vitamin deficiencies, food allergies, or considering if mold is the culprit.)

            21.  And now, I am back to feeling like God isn’t listening, like prayer isn’t working.  No matter how much I call out to Him, all I hear is silence.

            The trials have all been different, but they have all over-lapped into a long, unbroken chain of various degrees of pain for 21 years.  And I am tired.  So tired. 
            Don’t get me wrong - I know that I complained a lot here - but please know that I am truly humbled by the fact that so many other people have it way worse than I do.  And my heart breaks for them.  I know that I have been truly blessed to have had a safe childhood and relatively stable upbringing.  I am so blessed to have my children, our health, a good husband, a roof over our heads, food on our plates, and to be born in America where we have our problems but we have so many freedoms that others don’t.  I don’t take these things for granted.  I am truly blessed and thankful. 
            And I do have to say that I am truly thankful that I am in much better spirits this year than I was last year at this time.  Last year, I was just dealing with the fact that my friend stopped calling, that the house was always going to be a wreck, and that no one was encouraging me in the book I wrote.  I was an emotional wreck.  But this year, I have come farther in accepting those things and being content with them.  (I never knew contentment would be so hard to learn.)  It still hurts, but I’ve stopped fighting it and stopped trying to make things better.  It hurts less that way.

            But I am tired.  I am not tired of the trials as much as I am tired of hoping that things will get better. 

            Usually I just try to talk myself back into a better attitude and outlook by counting the blessings and clinging to Scriptural truths and reminding myself of all the times He has revealed Himself in the past.  And this is good.  It is necessary.  And it usually gives me just enough hope to make it through the day.  But I’m tired. 
            I’m tired of talking myself into a good mood and trying to drum up hope.  I’m tired of praying and pleading and pouring my heart out and having nothing change.  I’m tired of running hard and getting nowhere.  I’m tired of getting excited about something only to get let down again.  I am tired of God’s silence.  I’m tired of being the one to encourage others, but getting no encouragement for myself.  I’m tired of bringing my pain to God and asking Him to encourage me, yet feeling nothing but emptiness all around me and inside.  I’m tired of daydreaming about the way I want things to be.  I don’t even know what I’m looking for anymore.  I don’t know what will make things “better.”  I just know that I am in a bad place.  (And I know I need to tackle all this as more of a spiritual battle than I am.  Satan seems to be getting the better of me at times.  And I’m finding it hard to find the strength to fight.  That’ll be the next part of the journey.) 
            I guess – when I really think about what I want – I just want to know that what I do matters, that I’m not a complete failure, and I want to feel God’s presence in my life without having to “convince” myself that I feel it.  I want to see His glory!  I want to feel His embrace!  And I want it to come from Him. 
            Is that wrong?  Is it wrong to give up the intense spiritual pursuit for a time?  To stop trying to make myself feel better?  To just collapse and to embrace the “desert times,” the “dark nights of the soul”? 
            I don’t think so. 
            I’m tired of holding my chin up.  I need Him to hold me up.  I’m tired of talking to myself.  I need Him to talk to me.  I can’t seem to make myself feel alive.  I need Him to breathe new life into me.  And if I have to wait for it, then I guess that’s what I’ll do.  Like Jacob clinging to God in his dream (Gen. 32), I will not let go until He blesses me.  I have nowhere else to turn.  And so I’m waiting on Him. 
            If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that this is what life is often like for me.  I’ve been here before.  Too many times. I am not a happy-go-lucky, “ain’t life grand” kind of Christian.  I’m a “life sucks most of the time and my heart is broken, but I know God is still good and so life is still good” kind of Christian.  I have to dig deep for joy, scratching around for whatever tiny nuggets I can find in the rocky, dry ground, and I have to gently cradle them in my hands to keep them safe so that I can cherish them and dwell on them.  I have to be deliberate about appreciating them and finding God’s goodness through them. 
            But sometimes, I just wish it wasn’t so much work.   
            In my life, there are more emotional lows than highs.  Not awful, tragic lows.  Just lows.  And I can’t live waiting for the highs.  I have to learn to live in the lows.  I have to learn to trudge through muck and mire instead of waiting for the easy, glorious times.  I have to keep reminding myself that this life isn’t all there is, that the best is yet to come.  And when it does, it will last for all of eternity.  These trials are momentary.  I can live with them as long as I have the hope that He will make all things right in the end.  How horrible it must be for those who don’t have this hope! 

            2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all,  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

            As I laid there last night thinking about life, I asked myself if I really wished I were one of those people who has “the good life”?  Who has it easy?  Do I wish that my life was one of smooth sailing and an abundance of happiness and carefree times?  
            Honestly . . . no, I don’t. 
            While life sucks sometimes and the burdens are heavy, I wouldn’t trade them for “the easy road.”  I’d rather struggle with deep loneliness, feelings of failure, and unfulfilled dreams than struggle with how big of a television to buy.  I’d rather desperately desire more of the Lord’s presence than desperately desire the newest upgrade for my phone.  I’d rather know pain so that I can sense it in others than know such incredibly self-centered happiness that I fail to notice and have sympathy for those who ache.  I’d rather cling to a tiny bit of grace than a whole bunch of toys.  I’d rather spend my days struggling with deep, meaningful ache than fritter away my days on meaningless pursuits.  I’d rather struggle with a confusing faith and a mysterious God than have simplistic pat answers about how faith works and have a shrunken, easily-manipulated God that I keep tucked away in a little box. 
            It is in the struggle and the longing and the pain that I have learned just how sufficient God’s grace is, even if life still hurts.  I have learned that God truly is enough, because nothing in life really satisfies.  I have learned to keep my eyes on and work for eternity, because this life holds very little for me and it will all pass away soon.  I have learned that God is so much greater and more mysterious than I ever imagined, and I’m learning to be okay with that . . . because that’s what makes Him the God that He is and not a god of my own imagination (which would be no god at all).  I have learned to sense pain in others and to desire to speak a word of encouragement or eternal hope to them, because I know how a broken heart and broken spirit feels.  And I know that these trials are building something in my spirit and my faith that will come to fruition and fullness in eternity.  And so I can bear with them for now.  Until the Lord returns or calls me home.

            James 1:2-4:  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
            And so until then, I struggle on . . . just focusing on doing the tiny jobs faithfully, trying not to worry about the results of my faithfulness but leaving that up to Him.  I pray, letting the Lord know about my wants and needs because transparency and connection matters, but I’m learning not to demand my way and not to let my faith be defined by the answers I get from Him.  My job is not to make my life the way I think it “should be.”  My job is just to fall into His embrace every day and to keep putting one foot in front of the other in daily, humble obedience and in light of eternity.  My hope is not in anything this world has to offer.  My hope is in the Lord alone, in that fact that He will make all things right in the end and that all of this struggle will be worth it when I hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 
            And then I will be able to rest. 
            And so, as I go forth into the end of this year, I have decided to go on a fast from negative self-talk and from dwelling on all that is wrong.  And I am going to put these verses where I can see them:

            Colossians 3:2:  “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
            Philippians 4:8:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.”    
            And one of my favorites: Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

            Be still.  I really need to just be still for now.  My spirit hasn’t been still for so long and it’s running on empty.  Of course, I’m going to keep praying and reading my Bible daily.  I desperately need those things because life is too hard for me to bear alone.  But I also need to stop frantically trying to make everything “better.” 
            At times, life feels like I’m falling down a deep hole, struggling to grab onto something on the sides for support.  To catch myself from hitting bottom.  To find something that I can use to pull myself back up to the top where the fresh air is. 
            Well, I’m tired of frantically struggling and grabbing.  And so I’m just going to stop.  I’m just going to relax into the fall.  And I’m going to trust that when I hit bottom, His hands will be there, waiting to catch me.  I have tried and tried to make my hope and faith strong enough to hold me up, but now I really just need God to hold me.  And so I’m going to keep falling until He catches me.  And my simple prayer is going to be, “Lord, I don’t know what else I need.  I just know that I need You.  Catch me, hold me, help me pray, and help me come alive again.  Just help me!” 
            In fact, I have stopped praying that God would change my situation, and I am praying that He would help me to just accept life as it is and to glorify Him in it.  It’s not that I don’t want things to be different; it’s just that I want to stop wanting things to be different.  It hurts to want, to dream.  And now I just want to lay down exhausted.  I want to be okay with being a lonely failure that no one sees.  I want to be okay with letting go of dreams and just doing my tiny, little jobs around the house, unnoticed, unappreciated.  I want to be okay having an audience of only one – God.  I want to be okay with the fact that the real rewards are in Heaven.  I don’t need earthly ones.  And I want to be okay with His silence and with the desert times in life.  Because they are many and I know that it’s part of the journey.  I want to be able to say, no matter what, “God, You are good.  Blessed be Your name.  Your Will be done.”
            And I guess life is going to keep testing me in this, giving me plenty of practice until it becomes second nature.  I thought I had learned this lesson years ago.  In fact, it’s what I wrote my whole book about.  But here I am again, crying out to God.  Asking Him not to change anything (because those prayers just haven’t worked), but asking Him to help me be content in the pain, to give me the strength I need to make it through just today, and to breathe new life into me because I feel so dry, shriveled, and lifeless.  And I’ll ask again tomorrow. 
            I’m just going to hunker down in life as it is, nestled up in the Lord’s hands, and let Him take me through it.  In His time and in His way.  I’m going to grab on like Jacob and cling to Him until He blesses me.  (Goodness, you would’ve thought that since I learned this lesson once before, I wouldn’t have to do it again.  But here I am . . . not able to do anything else but cling.  I wish faith wasn’t so hard sometimes.  But then I guess it wouldn’t be faith.)  I am going to set my mind on Him, not asking for things I want as much as just resting from the uphill climb of life, resting in His presence.  And if falling is what I am supposed to be doing, then I am just going to keep falling until He catches me.  My problems will still be there after the New Year and I can go back to dwelling on them then, if I want to.  But for now, I just need a break.  I need to just fall.  And I just need to be still and find out that He is God!
            Why am I sharing all of this?  Is it just to talk about it, because I need to be heard?  Maybe.  Is it because I want a little sympathy or I need to vent?  Possibly.  Is it because I wanted to write all the trials down in a list so that I could get them out of my head and onto paper?  Probably.  (And I don’t recommend this.  After writing it all down and thinking it all over, I almost went and had a panic attack as the weight of all the trials and painful years pressed in on me.  But I’ve always been a “get it on paper to get it out of my head” kind of person.  If I don’t write it out, the thoughts just keep swirling around in my mind, looking for a place to land.)
            But it’s also because I really hope that by being transparent about my struggles and issues, I may help someone else feel a little less alone.  I might help them feel like someone else is standing on the outside with them.  I understand!
            It’s funny.  I used to feel so smart and confident and capable in life.  But the older I get and the longer I walk with the Lord, the more weak and helpless and dependent I feel.  And that’s a good thing!  The more weak I get, the more I need the Lord.  The more unfulfilling this world becomes, the more satisfying, precious, and valuable the Lord and eternity become to me.  And the more I want to help others find the only hope that really matters, too.      
            Being a Christian doesn’t solve everything, doesn’t answer every question, and it doesn’t make life all better, but it does give you a deep hope and joy in knowing that you really do matter to Someone, that He walks through this painful life with you, and that eventually He will make everything all right again. 
            And that is far better than the alternative, walking through this life truly alone and ending up eternally separated from the One who made you and loves you more than anything, with no real purpose and no real hope of things ever being better. 
            I’d rather dependently and humbly walk with God through a sucky life with the hope that there is a glorious eternity awaiting me in the end than walk confidently and happily through a fabulous life but miss out on the glorious eternity because I chose independence from the Lord and temporary pleasures.  That would be truly tragic!  But a sucky life . . . not so tragic.  It’s really quite a blessing because the struggles will all work together for good in the end!  And that’s a promise you can cling to!

            Romans 8:28:  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

            Psalm 34:17-18: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” 

            James 4:8: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

            Psalm 86:1-6:  “Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. . . . Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.  Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call on you.  Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.”

            Psalm 51:17:  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

            Matthew 6:19-21:  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”