Do what only You can do

My husband and I are both learning it.

How there are things we expected to be able to do in our own strength…that we can’t.

God has been teaching me this lately: normal is not a right. And NotNormal? Is character-building, trust-building, kingdom-building. 

It is one of the scariest places to be…the not-knowing how to make it better. When you’ve tried everything you know. Pressed in to everything you know. Listened to everything that is known. And it doesn’t work.

You just exhaustedly have to trust grace.

There is no normal.

Can I tell you something? I am learning how entitlement is warping my perception of God. I’m digging into why I sometimes feel abandoned by God.

Normal is God’s abundant blessing. NotNormal doesn’t mean I’m not blessed or loved.

It is still hard. But it is ever-increasingly reshaping my identity to not be in what I can do. One thing I do love is that now my husband has gotten to see and sense how God moves a bit more, too.

I don’t think that I’m the only one who has the desire to let others know about Jesus. I want to do it in so many ways. Just as he did with my job, I sense God wanting to build my character first. If it happened quickly, I might think it was because of me. I might think it was because of my gifts and not the vine whose sap and life flows through me.

A few weeks ago (July 1), I ended up sensing God telling me to go for prayer. No one prayed for me in the prayer corner. I was just on the floor crying as God told me I wasn’t disqualified. He didn’t disqualify me from sharing about Him even though I felt that way because of a period of mental chaos which at that point was still going strong. I ended up experiencing the second part of deliverance that day (and will share more about that in the future).

But as encouragement, doing small things with love is really what qualifies us. Letting God build our character qualifies us. And as Christine Caine says in the video below, God anoints us, but He also appoints us at the right time.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWorshipU%2Fvideos%2F1838836652848817%2F&show_text=0&width=560

 

Part 1: Jesus and mental health

Sometimes it isn’t until we hate our sin and what it brings us enough that we are willing to confess, repent, and change. In other words, seek God’s help.

Figuring out anxiety/OCD was like that, too. I tried to manage alone for a while. It had to get so bad that I admitted that having the label was worth the cost of getting help.

Can I tell you what that time was like?

It was like 8 months of joy (dating) followed by the worst low I have ever felt in my life. It started shortly before I got engaged, when I knew that was a possibility.

In the moments of panic and intrusive thoughts, I couldn’t worship. I couldn’t pray. I prayed and worshiped and felt like it didn’t felt dead and not powerful. I read the Bible, and it made me feel more condemned. The name of Jesus lacked the power to help me feel God’s presence…which was new. I would have intrusive thoughts at my husband’s church most weeks.

I was so scared of the intrusive thought being true. More intrusive thoughts seemed to confirm them. My thinking that “thought = sin” only made it worse. It made me repent (even though it was something I couldn’t control) and weep because didn’t that make me a killer and a violent person and a lustful person etc etc. Any and all of these thoughts could make me spiral for hours.

Can I be honest with what this looked like, starting in December 2017?

-Two weeks of obsessively debating whether I should say ‘no’ to a proposal because of the fear that I might turn homosexual (due to PCOS?) and not just know it yet. And though it abated for awhile, that fear sprung back up (due to intrusive thoughts) even after we were engaged.

-It was telling my new fiance that I was not willing to have my ring sized yet because I felt overwhelming fear and was not sure that I was making the right decision. After all, wasn’t I supposed to feel elated? And now, instead, there was all this fear.

-It can be the thought popping into your head while you’re angry that you might stab your husband in an argument because you’re upset with him.

-It can be fear of seeing (and avoidance of) children because you’ve had the intrusive thought that you might harm them one day, from nieces and nephews to the children at the school adjacent to the backyard

-It can be describing the fear of pushing a stranger in front of a bus to a pastor and having him shame you because he doesn’t understand– and imply that you’re too broken and not worthy for marriage as you are…and that was your “safer” intrusive thought.

-It can be having “intrusive dreams” that just seem to confirm your “intrusive thoughts” and thinking they must be your sub-conscious trying to tell you something.

-It can be screaming at your fiance over the phone that you’re afraid of yourself and you can’t do this because you pushed your cat off the bed forcefully and angrily, and isn’t harming animals the first step of becoming a psychopath?

-It is sleeping 2-4 hours a night before you wake up distressed and can’t fall back asleep.

-It was that one time you texted your fiance that you’d rather have God take you…you’d rather be dead…then go on like this. It was telling him a good 20 or 30 times that you wouldn’t blame him if he broke it off, because you feel like he’d be better off with someone–anyone–more psychologically sound.

-It can be feeling totally inadequate relative to his past girlfriends because of this, even though you know that you’re a good fit in all the other ways.

-It can be wondering if you should have kids if you risk passing this on.

-It was obsessively wondering if you’re going crazy and going to end up in a mental institution. It’s wondering if this is going to drive you suicidal at some point in life.

-It can be needing to see your fiance every other weekend or else feeling like it’d be too much to deal with. It’s trying not to let remarks of people who don’t understand that bother you.

-It was hating that God made it so clear that he wants to plant you in Philly, because you know this adjustment wouldn’t be so hard if you were able to stay in Albany.

-It can mean feeling like you’re being disqualified from any type of ministry. Spiritual work still happens in your heart in the in-between periods, but what right do you have to share them when you’re such a total mess much of the time?

-It can be needing to go to the rehabilitation gym and crying for 20 minutes because intrusive thoughts at work are impacting how you do your job.

-It’s feeling fear that your new family wouldn’t love you or approve if they knew or knew all the details (particularly as they’ve had long-term experience with mental illness). Or would just plain think you’re weird or crazy.

Had it not been for my older friend, Kristen, discipling me and God’s clear hand in bringing my husband and me together, I probably would have broken things off. Kristen met with me weekly, listened to me, and prayed with me. She was totally safe for every fear. She helped me understand how God wired me. She eventually felt prompted to encourage me to get help (medicine). My sensitive doctor provided the script a week before I moved but gently encouraged me to get counseling as well.

While things got better when I moved without counseling, I would still spiral every week or two for one to five days.

I contemplated seeing a Christian counselor. I was a skeptical. My experience telling a pastor hadn’t gone so well. My experience telling another person (not Kristen) had been met with not-understanding. It felt like the church was the least safe place to bring this type of brokenness. I couldn’t blame them. It would sound crazy to me too. I knew the intrusive thoughts were sin. Ironically, that fear of them is what helped sustain them.

I was afraid of having a few trite Bible verses or truths thrown at me (that I already knew). I was afraid of not being able to share all the intrusive thoughts I had safely. I did some research on OCD and felt better. Other people had these thoughts. Maybe a Christian psychologist would be a better route.

I completed the intake form anyways. I wrote on it that I wasn’t sure if they would address the cognitive side, too. I prayed. The intake coordinator sent me this

https://www.ccef.org/resources/podcast/ocd-mike-emlet-part-1

https://www.ccef.org/resources/podcast/ocd-mike-emlet-part-2

It described almost every obsession that I faced and allowed me to trust that I could be honest without fear of being judged, watering it down, or being ashamed.

Over the coming days and weeks, I want to share what God has taught me through the experience of having a mental health issue. But first, I wanted you to see…really see…how bad the worst parts were. There were good times too, and my fiance always reminded me that he knew this wasn’t the real me. He didn’t love me only when there was a certain proportion of Good to Bad experiences. He loved me all the time–and he takes the hard with the good. He prayed for me and read the Bible to me when I couldn’t read it myself and held and served me when I wasn’t able to be the person I normally am.

I’ve glossed over how bad it was because of shame, but Jesus really impressed upon me this week at church “I am the shame breaking.” I am not as afraid of the invisible thoughts of people who don’t understand. He is breaking that in me.

I don’t think this will help encourage anyone in my friend group who deals with something similar–because I have never met someone who dealt with something similar–but I do hope that maybe it will help you help a friend down the road.

There are four things I want to leave you with today:

  1. There is hope
  2. Getting help is accepting that sometimes God works through other people and their gifts/knowledge–sometimes God answers our prayers–through other people
  3. The enemy attacked my strengths (my relationship, kids, sharing God, work), not my weakness
  4. We as individuals and the church, need to be a safe place for things we don’t understand. And if we don’t understand, we need to consider not offering advice. Just listening, praying, and LOVING. It’s like the first rule of medicine: Do no harm.

 

Yielding

Pastor Rex told us the story.

How D.L. Moody preached for awhile. For years. And while there was some response, it was sparse. Then one day, in his mid-thirties, women (yes, women) led Him in prayer that the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon Him. They recognized his sincerity, but felt He lacked power. Shortly after, Moody had a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit in New York City.

Moody called it baptism by the Holy Spirit.

Shortly after, he went out. He preached the same sermons.  “I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience [New York] if you should give me all the world — it would be as the small dust of the balance.”

He preached to millions. Masses of people were converted every night.

That’s the difference of the Holy Spirit. We do nothing. The spirit changes hearts and minds.

That’s the difference between wanting to share what you know and wanting to share what you’ve experienced. 

We may not be preachers. We may be therapists and nurses and lawyers and teachers, but can’t we do it, too? Can’t we see God move in ways we’ve never imagined in our workplaces? Can’t we know that it doesn’t depend on our giftings–but His Holy Spirit? We can do the same job, but have His power behind us–not because we’re power-hungry, but because we’re God-hungry and hungry for others to know the goodness we get through time with Him.

I have experienced the Holy Spirit moving in others. There’s Peter and Rachel, who don’t have the most traditional voices, yet with their sincere intimacy with God, God chooses to use them Every. Single. Time they lead worship to work healing and breakthrough. They know God, and God chooses to work through them, not the perfect pitch singers with beautiful voices who don’t share intimacy with Him.

There are people who preach and people who share their brokenness who God chooses to use to heal others, encourage others, deliver others, because those people know it’s all about Him and the power of His Holy Spirit. We can’t share what we don’t have. 

And the revelation that keeps ringing in my ears these days:

I am only as useful to Christ…as I am yielded to Christ.

It is not our giftings, our recognition, our dreams, our intelligence, or our plans that make us useful to Christ. Our obedience yields abundance.

It is giving God everything that lets Him do anything.

It’s only when I’m yielded to Christ that He chooses to use me. I’m consciously trying to live yielded to Him in this job search. I wanted this job, and I had to yield it to Christ, because I want to go where I’m more useful more than I want this job. I yield my will to be useful…whether it’s this job, or others.

God doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need my giftings. It is empty and exhausting when I work out of that space. I went to a whole church of people with that frame of mind.

God doesn’t need us. He can save through supernatural encounters with His spirit (and He sometimes does). BUT He blesses us to use us. It’s not because we deserve it. It’s not because of a gifting. We do not have the power to do good in ourselves or other people,  but He blesses us by sending His spirit works through us.

And I find it works best through a sincere, yielded heart.

Cornerstone

We sang it in church the other day, swelling up in praise.

Christ alone
Cornerstone
Weak made strong
In the savior’s love
Through the storm
He endures
Lord of all

I’ve come to a place of surrender about some big things.

Don’t let my certainty mislead you that it was easy. Surrender is rarely easy, and usually a process. I surrendered my marital status. I surrendered the number of children we’ll have and how God may build our family. I surrendered even when choosing my profession. I surrendered my husband’s well-being. That all took time.

But if I’m honest, when I was singing that song, thinking about those “big things” I made God the cornerstone of, I was also convicted.

I’ve made Him the cornerstone of my life, but have I made Him the cornerstone of my job search?

I’ve made Him the cornerstone of my dreams, but have I made Him the cornerstone of my days?

I’ve made Him the cornerstone of my marriage, but have I made Him the cornerstone of my finances? 

Ann Voskamp featured an entry about “breath prayers.” http://annvoskamp.com/2018/06/a-four-word-prayer-that-could-change-everything-in-your-life/

And I find it helpful these days in all things I do:

Lord, be the cornerstone of this.

The integrity of what He’s building in me, for me, and through me depends on this. And for a born-achiever, it reminds me keep putting my trust in Him, not my abilities.

For hearts that are anxious

Thankfully, my anxiety has been so much better in the past few months with change coming to pass. The nightly nightmares stopped–which helps to not wake up anxious. It’s not the best way to start the day.

If you ask me why I’m anxious, though, I think it’s different than most peoples’. I don’t fear illness. I am surrendered if illness, injury or death overtakes anyone in my family, including my husband. I have surrendered whether or how we make a family to the Lord. I don’t fear car crashes.

It is mostly thoughts of falling from Grace that make me anxious. Leaving God. Doing something bad. My own free will is the only thing that God is not in control of, and I’ve heard more than a few stories of people (and pastors) of faith with radical departures from it. These can lead to otherwise benign intrusive thoughts to spiral and feel realistic.

I remember them telling us it in psychology class: How someone might think “I could push that person off the sidewalk into a bus right now.” A healthy person would think that and know they never would do that. They would dismiss the thought. A person with OCD–would be anxious that they would think that and feel that they might do that, so they engage in a compulsion to distract themselves.

That is how I have been feeling these past 6 months–battling a barrage of things I feel I might do and feeling like a terrible person for thinking that. I have no history of anything like that, ever. I realize it sounds weird, because a year ago I would have thought it was weird, but it feels so real to me when it happens.

Praying and reading the Bible do little to alleviate it during the spiral, though scream-singing to God helps.

I’m starting counseling for it soon with a Christian counselor, because I know it is not of God, and all my armor and weapons and declarations have failed to get me more than a couple weeks of freedom. I know that He has blessed people with gifts and intelligence to help me walk through this. I am so thankful for the way my husband is constant through this, steadily reminding me that he knows the real me and my identity in Christ.

The challenge from God has been to me: “Don’t wait until the victory to tell this story. Don’t wait until you can wrap it up pretty in hindsight with some super-spiritual revelation. Be honest, now. Be brave, now. Let people see “the middle.”‘

So here you are. This is the middle.

Today has been a good day, and I’ve steadily been building up my worship and writing since the wedding planning has mercifully ended (hallelujah and amen!).

My next scripture to commit to memory is this:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 

I know my father loves me, and I know He’s not done with me yet. I am so thankful that I serve a God who pursues, and not a God whose affections that I have to compete for or earn.

Dear church– Reasons to celebrate your members who are single.

Dear church,

I want to challenge your perceptions today. I want to challenge biases. I want to tell you something.

The single women of the church…are worth celebrating. Not just silently accepting. Not just “including” or “tolerating.” Celebrating. I’m talking about honoring singles as women (and men). Why? Because–God does. Because they are faithful, passionate servants. Because not doing so disempowers a powerful part of the body.

If we, as a church, acknowledge our misperceptions, we can let our misperceptions be transformed. The below are all things that I’ve encountered, and I want to de-mistify for my faithful sisters.

Perception #1:   Women who are single in the church are left-overs (or “must have something wrong with them”)

Truth: Women in the church who are single may have greater or fewer flaws than a married peer. There certainly are women who might remain “not selected” because of personal or spiritual immaturity. BUT, in general, I have found quite the opposite. I have found women who have been called to minister and are running after God, and haven’t met that partner who wants to run alongside them. In short, I have found women who have not been willing to sacrifice treasure found in God by compromising on earth.

Single women should be celebrated for their faithfulness to God. Many (though not all)  feel a strong desire to be married. And many might encounter temptation in the form of nice guys or even “marginally Christian men.” But, speaking for many of my sisters, we put God about having babies if it came to it. If a man didn’t have the capacity to lead us closer to God and nurture our usefulness in God’s kingdom, we said “no.” We should honor singles for loving God enough to give up their greatest dream to live His calling.

 

Perception #2:   Women who are single in the church can’t know sacrificial love or spiritual maturity to the same degree as a wife or mother.

Truth:  Women in the church have had to rely on God to meet all emotional, financial and physical needs, giving them a layer of depth in an area that women married young often do not know.

My mentor says it: “Marriage is an invitation to maturity.” And there are many ways that learning how to sacrificially love my new husband and how to forgive and how to heal fractures have grown me in maturity. But relationship? It can also distract me from maturity in different ways.

I used to spend hours in God’s presence. I used to run to him to pray. I had every need met by the Father and the bridegroom and the spirit. When there is a physical person (aka marriage), it’s easy to run to the person first. I have a second line to meet my physical, emotional, and financial needs, when it used to be just God. Single women when they are struggling–can choose to seize the opportunity go deep with God quickly–and many do. They know maturity and rely on God’s sacrificial love in ways that married folks need to be more intentional about.

 

Perception #3:   Single women are a good resource for the church to use, but we should heavily focus our using our resources on families.

Truth:   Single women are often seen as a resource more often then an area worthy of investment. The church heavily invests in peoples’ marriages and in children. If only…instead of pointing out the obvious forms of service…we also took time to invest in women and singles to explore their calling. Investing in single women invests in a vital part of the body. It supports women (and men) who may struggle with spiritual warfare in the form of loneliness, unworthiness, self-hatred, resentment of God–and can re-engage them in working for the kingdom (note: not always specifically for the church).

Jesus had single women follow Him on his journeys and he treated them with honor. Married women may not have been able to sell out and “go” the way unattached women can. And either way, a healthy church is made up of strong individuals. Christ assigns equal value to married women as single women. He totally and fully loves each one of us and wants us to flourish. He wants us to love our people in our villages. All our people. Does the churches current programs provide opportunities to equip women who are not part of families to also be fruitful and multiply (believers)?

 

Perception #4: They must be picky

Truth: It’s a crazy world out there, and I’ve had more than a few friends be accused of being picky. But one person’s “nice Christian boyfriend” peed in a bottle on a date (when it was not necessary) and another’s was addicted to porn and another had a guy played the field and decided “no-dice” after months of leading her to believe he was serious. These women weren’t picky. They just had standards. Let’s honor people for having some standards and appreciate that every “nice Christian guy” is not the “right guy” for every girl. Let’s say “holla, girl. Go you for dating seriously and not rushing into things/getting hitched just so you can have sex. Or even just hugs.”

 

Perception #5: I didn’t meet my wife until I was 25. I know what it’s like to be single.

Truth: Two things. First of all, most church leaders are males. It means something different for you to turn 30 and be single then it means for a woman. It means changing the number of kids you want. It means being perceived differently by men, who often go for the younger women. Men don’t encounter those things or those biases. They’re often just assumed to be “focusing on their careers” (a good thing), while women are assumed to be “career women” who don’t want a family (negative connotation). This can be very hurtful.

Another difference? Just because you were 19 and single–doesn’t mean that you know what it’s like to be 29 and single. Just because you were 29 and single–doesn’t meant that you know what it’s like to be 39 and single. Singleness is not a single experience. Your two-year stint with it in your early 20s does not encapsulate the full spectrum of what singles can experience. Which is why in any ministry to singles—don’t assume you know it all. Ask before giving advice. Listen before talking. Empathize before encouraging. And, as with any hard issue, if you don’t know what to say–please don’t resort to a cliche.

 

God wrote a husband into my new chapter, but that doesn’t mean that some have a “happy ending” and “some don’t.” God is working all of our chapters differently, and marriage is not the finish line. Jesus is. Children are not the finish line. Jesus is. Retirement isn’t the finish line. Jesus is. And He is at work in all the hard parts of our stories.

 

When it seems like everyone else is living a normal life

Our lives can look different then our peers, different then our expectations, different than our desires.

All we can want is for them to be the same. To be normal. To not be different. To have what they have found so easily.

To not be single on our 30th birthdays or to have a kid after 3 years of trying or to be not flat-broke at 32 while still pursuing our dreams. We can want security or neurotypical kids or not to be disabled.

There are a thousand little ways those wounds can take a knife to our hearts and twist. There are harsh realities to all those things. The lonely nights and the dread of milestones. The feeling of unimportance. The feeling of being left-out of the mom-squad and mothering references. The feeling of incompetence and fear. The inability to join in activities you want to with your kids. So I don’t say this tritely. I don’t want to be different, either. I don’t want to be like Elizabeth or Hannah. It hurts.

But what I’m learning is that maybe being different…is really just being set apart?

In singleness— I gained single-minded pursuit of God, because I needed Him. Old coping strategies were not enough to deal with feeling not-enough because of 10 years of singleness. He spoke His love over me.

In the fertility challenges that I will likely face— God may be multiplying my faith on the inside. 

The ways that He has made me different have made me cling to Him (despite my days of resentment) and kindred with those in pain. He sets me apart for my relationship with him, and my relationship with other people.

You, woman-child, who walks a different road with me: I will never tell you not to cry, mourn or grieve. I do and I will, and I want joy, not pretend happiness. But even with all that, let’s grab hands, too. Let’s hold on to each other and seek the friendship of Jesus.

Let’s press into being set apart by our differences, so God can work a different kind of story through us. 

I’ve realized it…how in my warped mind, I sometimes avoid giving God something, because I’m afraid that He’ll do the hard thing. But there’s this: Giving something to God doesn’t change what He was going to do. It changes you. It changes your joy. It helps you to hold His gifts with a loose hand.

I want to live like my identity is in Jesus and not in barrenness. 

Jesus is not only the way, the truth, and the life to heaven. He’s the only way, truth, and life through being set apart. 

 

When a little blind rage/hurt overtakes you

The Guy let me down.

They don’t tell you in romance movies that love is a bit traumatic, too. They don’t tell you how all at once you can wonder why you can’t breathe, you can seethe, you can want to to smash things. You can hate ever opening yourself up, because opening yourself up opens you to hurt.

And after the moments of fallout, you might go and take a bath. How could he not think to tell you that. And you might want him to feel a fraction of the pain you feel. Or half.

There’s no way to stop the pain in your chest and the circling of your mind into arguments except

thankfulness.

Thanking God for warm bath water in a town not under seige

Thanking Him for being consistent towards me

Thanking Him for who He is.

Gratitude literally resets a heart.

And then came the hard one. Gratitude that God doesn’t punish me before He is willing to forgive me. He doesn’t make me feel how much I hurt Him before He forgives me. 

The guy had sent me a text 20 minutes ago asking for forgiveness. I was going to tell him that I wasn’t ready to forgive quite yet, even though I knew I would. I wasn’t sure how I could right now. I was going to tell him that he ruined our (my) wedding.

But there’s this call to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. To exemplify Jesus’ love to each other.

And it’s hard to even just pick up the phone, but as I do, it becomes easier. The peace that follows making the right decision settles on me. We may still need to talk it out and I still may cry, but I do. I do forgive.

And it just highlights it once again: How forgiveness is an act of God. Sometimes we can’t do it in our own strength. But out of His love, His gratitude, His forgiveness, He has the power to help.

When Easter Sunday worship feels discouraging

We sang a song in church about how sin has lost it’s grip on me and whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

And I wonder why…why I’m still choked by sin and why I’m not free from crushing anxiety. I know that I’m delivered, but ever since that buzzing took up residence in my brain, I haven’t felt free. Aren’t I supposed to feel free indeed?

And I think about it. How sometimes we beg for the miracle. We want it now. We want the sin of doubt to be gone. We want freedom. We want God to reveal himself.

But before Resurrection Sunday…He asks us to endure Black Saturday. I’m there right now.

And maybe…before the miracle…God sets up the need for a miracle.

Maybe before morning revelation is the evening grieving.

And let the joyous faithful rejoice on Easter Sunday. But us, with broken joy and broken minds and broken hearts, can sing our own heartfelt songs, too.

Because maybe when it most seems like God left the world,

we’re on the cusp of finding out He’s still here and He never left and He’s never leaving.

Maybe when it most seems like the darkness, the anxiety, the depression, the eating disorder, the mania, the addiction, the perfectionism, the infertility, the wilderness has finally settled on us for good…Jesus is setting up to overpower natural law for His Good.

Can I believe in the resurrection of me more than I believe in the death of me? Because that’s the promise God made to me? Believe in my resurrection of your joy, Joyce. Believe in the resurrection of your peace, Joyce. Believe in the resurrection of your hope, Joyce. Believe in the resurrection of your dream, Joyce. You can’t resurrect anything, but I can.

Maybe it’s not only the blithe worshipers that Jesus loves to hear on Easter Sunday.

Maybe it’s all of us who are at the breaking point who are crawling to the cross, too. Maybe it’s all of us who need help lifting our heads to sing because sin still has a stronghold.

Maybe God’s just whispering it to us…this was for you, too. This was especially for you, beloved.

Walking through an anxious lent

Lent hasn’t all been anxious.

For two days, or five, I’ll be okay. But then I’ll wake up in a panic with a thought I can’t get out of my head and fear that can’t be contained,

And I become someone else.

The real Joyce is loving, encouraging, self-sacrificing. The real Joyce loves her fiancé and has no doubts. The real Joyce is confident and ready to do the hard thing, with the occasional tears. The real Joyce finds it easy to lay her emotions (good or bad) at God’s feet and hear His voice.

I love that Joyce.

Anxious Joyce? She is scared and panicked and unable to serve. She needs reassurance and tells her fiancé that he’d be better off with someone else. She lays her emotions down, reads the word, listens to the music…and feels nothing.

But here is what I’m learning: It’s not what I feel about Him that matters. It’s how He feels about me.

I can feel it looming sometimes. The start of the return of panic. Not just run-of-the-mill overwhelmed. Panic.

Sometimes I can stop the spiral. Many times, I cannot. I don’t know what goes on in my brain, but it feels like sin that I can’t prevent. Because I lay there, curled fetal, crying without ceasing trying to stop a crazy thought or raging fear and feeling like the truth, even the name of Jesus, holds no power over it.

But he’s still there.

I’ve screamed sung it, how He’s there even when I don’t see Him. Even when I don’t feel Him. And in the moments when I’m Anxious Joyce, shouting song is the only way the cycle breaks. I can’t sing worship, and especially not anyone else’s worship song. I have to scream-sing my own.

And there’s this woman…who keeps saying that she sees me writing songs, too. Who Amens when I surrender to whatever form of words God wants to put out in me, even if it’s song. Something I’ve dismissed time and time again on account of my voice.

It’s funny, then, that God is forcing me to sing. And He’s forcing me to sing my own songs.

Can I be honest?

I hate it.

I’d rather be sane. I’d rather not question who I am and every truth, value and conviction I have in an anxious panic. I’d rather not wake up crying and cry at night. I feel like being creative isn’t worth any this level of brokenness and mental instability. I tell God that all the time.

But that woman also talked to me about praying God-sized prayers. Things only God can do.

And the God-sized prayer He put on my heart tonight?

God, make all this pain worth it. Let me look back and be able to say that without a doubt.

In the meantime, I’m learning the song of an anxious worshipper…and learning because of Jesus’ final act this weekend…I am not bound to hell or Satan by any anxious or ungodly thought that gets lodged in my brain. Jesus was enough for that, too.