Untainted

Wrists Tied in Chains --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

I’m stuck. Tears are flowing from my eyes but I really have no thoughts so I figured if I just started writing, I’d process something that’s clearly stuck.

So. Here goes.

There is a song by Hillsong Young & Free, called This is Living.  Last year I was in my kitchen making breakfast on a ‘normal’ week day.  This song was playing when these lyrics hit me hard:

“Waking up knowing there’s a reason
All my dreams come alive
Life is for living with You
I’ve made my decision

You lift me up, fill my eyes with wonder
Forever young in Your love
This freedom’s untainted with You
No moment is wasted

See the sun now bursting through the clouds
Black and white turns to color all around
All is new, in the Savior I am found
This is living now
This is living now”

Beautiful lyrics, right?  But here’s what really strikes me and often plays in my head: “This freedom’s untainted with You.”
Freedom with Jesus is untainted.
Untainted means: not contaminated, polluted, harmful or tainted.
Freedom with Jesus is untainted.
I’ve often been so perplexed by the fact that I have met so many Christians who claim the freedom that Christ died for and yet they live in bondage.  I, myself have been this person.  Claiming freedom and picking up chains of bondage – wrapping myself back into a prisoner daily.
On that particular morning when these words played over me – “This freedom’s untainted with You.” – It leveled me. The Truth is the Truth.
Freedom with Jesus is simple.
I continued scrambling eggs, digesting these simple lyrics slowly.
“God?” I questioned in the privacy of my thoughts. “If freedom is so simple, why do we live in bondage?”
His simple response to me, “Freedom is yours.  But you do have to defend it.”
My head shot up from my fixed gaze on scrambled eggs and met the eyes of my husband.
“We have to defend our freedom!”  I exclaimed.
I shared this revelation with my husband and could tell by his expression that The Spirit was opening his eyes to this simple truth as well.
Friends, freedom is untainted with Jesus.  So, if you are experiencing anything other than a freshness with freedom – it’s a lie!  It’s not from God.
It’s a lie set in motion to keep you in bondage.
We have to defend our freedom.  It’s not necessarily anything that can ever be taken away from us but folks are always after it!  This is why it’s important to guard your heart and mind.
Now, I know our battle is not against flesh and blood but there are little lies that show up when I least expect them (and when my guard is down).  The lie that was rooted in me as a young girl.  The lie that says ‘feel bad for being bright.  Feel bad for being bold and courageous.  If you ever do anything to take care of you – you’re selfish.’  Those lies scratch at my freedom.  They taint my freedom and present a counterfeit version that’s not from God.
I’m so grateful that the love of Jesus crushes every lie.  But, I have to choose to believe that His love crushes every lie. If I believe the lies – they hold power in my life and I ‘lose’ my freedom.
I don’t lose my freedom because it comes and goes.  No.  If you’re free – you’re free indeed.  But I lose my idea of freedom because every time I let it get tainted, I surrender it for the chains of bondage.  Bondage becomes a reality over freedom in my mind.
My choice.
Your choice.
Freedom is untainted with Jesus.  If you’re experiencing anything other than pure freedom, it’s not from Jesus.  There is a lie skewing your perspective of what living a free life looks like.
I refuse to carry bondage and claim to walk in freedom.  I just can’t.  I refuse to be a broken down, hopeless Christ Follower.  This is contradictory to all that I believe. It means Christ died for nothing.  He did not die for us to be slaves.  He died to set us free.  If we claim to know Him, claim His freedom and yet pick up chains of slavery … what the hell is the point?!?!   What kind of life is that?!
… To claim Christ’s name for cultural reasons?! To fit in!? To belong?!
You can keep all that.  I don’t want it.
Can you imagine a world where Followers of Christ actually knew the Christ we claim? Knew their identity?  Knew untainted freedom and defended it boldly?!
We’d see radical, effective change.  That’s for sure.
I don’t even know that this scripture fits in this blog but it’s what keeps coming to mind as I’m typing:
Ecclesiastes 7:27-29
27 “This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. 28 Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! 29 But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.”
Friends – I am painfully hoping that we get a grasp on untainted freedom – and start fully living in that victory.

Free Indeed.

woman in field

Every now and then I stumble upon my journal from 2011.  Interestingly enough there are not many thoughts written in this journal – just scripture and sermon notes.

When I did journal, during that extremely difficult time in my life, my words were intense.

I cannot read this journal without crying. Hard.

I’m crying now. I read through this journal tonight.

Here I am, sitting on my patio. Enjoying a beer. Watching the sun set. I just put my 2 beautiful, healthy children to bed.  I’m filled with joy after a day fully lived.  Fully lived – meaning I woke up at 4:30AM and worked out, had quiet time, spent some time in nature, grocery shopped, did laundry, drank coffee (twice), cleaned my home, food prepped, hung out with my kids at the park, took a nap, enjoyed the company of my husband … and here I am.  Alone again. On the patio, with my beer, watching the sun set and reading through old thoughts from 2011.

Crying.

Sobbing.

Completely undone by God’s faithfulness.

2011 was the year my life stopped.  Struck by paralyzing anxiety and depression to the point that I considered taking my life to escape the pain. No one could help me. No one understood. I was alone, lost and confused.  I felt like a burden.

There were moments where I felt like my life would never get better but I chose to believe Jesus. No matter how I felt, I chose to believe the Word of God.  I knew I had to dig deeper than what I saw and felt in order to be healed.

Reading through this journal takes me back to that little, dingy apartment.  It was dark and heavy there. I felt hopeless. The walls felt as though they were closing in on me.  The carpet was dark brown. The lights were dim.  I was out of work and alone with  3 year old most of the time. What an incredibly lonely season in my life.

I don’t know how or why I kept from taking my own life.  Wow. It seemed to be the only thing that made sense …. the only thing I could control during that season.

Here is what I wrote on April 30, 2011:

“Jesus,

This morning through about 4pm was crazy! Such a hard first part of the day. Absolutely no appetite and lots of work to do – not a good combination on moving day.

I had a great conversation with Sarah (one of my closest friends during this season) as I called her while following Tony to drop off the U-Haul.  It was a Spirit filled conversation, talking about how awesome You are and that You are making me dig up bad roots so You can plant great things in me.

I took a nap at Sara’s (my mother-in-love) today after getting hit with a huge migraine. It was lovely to close my eyes and be still.

Today I wanted to give up so many times – but I’m glad I don’t rely on my own strength at all.

I was numb today. So numb. And yet I hurt all over. It’s hard to explain.

Thank you for the vision you gave me today. The Apostle Paul in prison being held captive … but he was so joyful and excited about You and Your Truth and promises.  Then the word about the last days – God’s people being taken captive, but that I need to stand. I have to stand! I will stand!

As I showered tonight I sang, “Hosanna, Hosanna, You are the God who saves us, worthy of all our praises.  Hosanna, Hosanna, come have your way among us – we welcome You here, Lord Jesus.  Cause when we see You, we have strength to face the day and in Your presence all our fears are washed away. Washed away.

Thank You, Jesus.

Please continue to strengthen my mind.  I want more of You.

Love you.

Standing.

April”

 

I’m sitting here crying because I know how broken April was.  She was in so much pain. So much confusion. So much defeat.

But guess what?  I did not stay there. I chose to keep pushing. I chose to keep believing. I chose to believe God over how I felt. I kept waking up. I kept getting up out of the bed and moving forward. I would work out when I felt like sleeping.  I would eat whole foods that were good for my body when I either had no appetite, or I felt like eating cheeseburgers.

I read the Word like it was oxygen to my body – which it was!

And here I am.

Right here.  Healed. Whole. New.  Completely living in freedom.

Yet, I know I would not be experiencing this freedom had I not gone through that season of hell.

Once I stopped resisting the fear and anxiety and pain, I started to heal.

I remember getting so pissed off and thinking, ‘oh well … if I die today, I’m going to make it a day worth dying over.’ And I just started living the shit out of my life.

I realized the only person who could stop me was me. I realized the only person who could advance me was me.

The Spirit of God has equipped us with everything we need to keep going. We are empowered by The Spirit and yet we stop so short.

Here I am.  In 2017. 6 years later.

Free.

Free indeed.

Still in process – but free.  Once you’ve seen the glory of God it cannot be unseen. You’re never the same.

Friend – keep going. Keep pushing with all you have in you even when you have nothing left. There is something left.

You may not understand. It may hurt like hell. You may be tempted to fall into a victim mindset – but don’t.

You are a child of the Most High God. You were created on purpose with a purpose. Ask God who you are. Ask Him.  Seek Him and find out the power you possess through Him.

And don’t you ever… ever let the enemy tell you to sit down and shut up.  The only power the enemy has is that which you give him.  Don’t give him reigning power over your life for another moment.

I am a testimony of God’s faithfulness, y’all.  I was bat shit crazy in 2011.  I had voices in my head. I saw things manifesting from the spiritual into the natural during that season – crazy stuff that no medical professional could diagnose.  In fact, they told me I was ‘fine‘.  I was not fine.

But I’m here. Of love, power and of a sound mind.

Free.

Free indeed.

You are too. You just need to meet yourself in the freedom.

-April

Throwing Shards

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**Disclaimer: You must read this post through spiritual eyes or I’m going to appear to be a raving lunatic.  Or. Maybe I am a raving lunatic.  Oh well.  All part of the process.**

I’m wounded today.

I didn’t know I was wounded.  I woke up in a bit of a hurry with what felt like the start of a head cold. I felt fine though.

As the day progressed I started to sink fast.  I can’t really explain it.  It’s not like there is anything wrong.  There’s no particular culprit. No one did anything to me. My life is not in shambles.  No major obstacles or conflict.  …  just one of those days where your flesh, spirit and your soul eclipse.

I don’t know if that makes sense to you but that’s what I see in my head when I think of what I’m feeling.  My soul: mind, will, emotions.  My spirit: The spirit man – where my spirit and the Holy Spirit commune.  My flesh: the part of me that longs to gratify myself… to belong here on this earth and fit in and strive and perform and not endure criticism and disappointment and/ or disappointing.

Yeah. All those pieces of me eclipsed.  And it was painful.

It happens every now and then.  Usually when God is calling me into a new, unfamiliar, uncomfortable place. Or whenever God is asking me to surrender heavy desires of my heart.  I can expect an eclipse when new revelation has hit my eyes and I’m navigating deeper pieces of my journey.

But today was different.

I zombied through the day successfully (ish).  I drove home from work in a car filled with silence.  Struggling internally but without thoughts.  Have you ever done that?  No one to attack and nothing that is truly wrong …  but wresting.  You can literally feel the battle inside.

My mind flipped through the rolodex of satisfaction-seeking-quick-fixes to help me feel better.  I didn’t fall weak.  I know the enemy’s plot and his ‘quick fix’ will always be to numb the pain.  I’m aware of this – so thoughts of fast food, or wine, or picking a fight with someone weren’t even attractive.

Instead I sat in the pain.  The discomfort.  The anxiety.  The frustration. With what felt like a cement block over my lips, I opened my mouth and asked God to shine light on the root of discomfort.

There was no major revelation with fireworks.  I just rode home in silence.

Upon arriving at my house, my kids flocked to me to smother me in love.  They were so happy and excited for me to be home with them.  I was greeted by my amazing husband.  I zombied through greeting them – feeling overwhelmingly heavy at this point – and made my way to the couch where I lied paralyzed beside my daughter for about an hour.

I finally got up and walked into the bedroom where my husband was standing.  And I broke.

I hurt someone I love recently. It was unintentional. We talked through it and they’ve forgiven me… but I hurt them.  The selfishness that I often struggle with made them feel less than.  They’re not even holding onto it anymore and I didn’t realize I was … I actually don’t think I am – but that hurtful piece of my journey struck my heart today.

Followed by how someone I love hurt me and is currently hurting me.  They’re hurting me with what I view as blind eyes and confusion.  I’m caught in the cross fire and every time I see this person the reminder of rejection is right there in my face. I know this person loves me.  There is no doubt about it.  Normally if someone is hurting me, I can see that they are dangerous and toxic and I cut them off… but I can’t cut this person off.  It’s not even right to cut them off.  They’re not dangerous or toxic – they’re just following their heart and who am I to tell someone what their heart is telling them?  Or even more so – what they claim God is telling them?  It’s causing a wedge.  And I don’t like it.  But I can’t do anything about it.

So I’m learning how to love someone in the midst of enduring incredible pain.

The light shining on this area then opened me up to my habit to flee! To run away.  To cut off. To bury the hurt.  To move on. But I believe God is teaching me to hold on and endure during the discomfort in relationships.

Can I be honest? I don’t know how.

I’m getting the whole ‘let God love me’ thing.  But I am not at a place where I can allow others to truly love me.  We can be cool on the surface all day long.  We can rock social media and emoji high five, that’s cool … but when it comes to real life junk you can count me out!

I know Jesus loves me.  I know who I am in Christ (and continuously learning).  I’m secure in my identity.  I love myself.  But when it comes to me deeply loving others and allowing others to deeply love me –  I’m not there.

I want to be there.

But it’s on the other side.  Over there.  And over there requires removing the safety.  It requires love, grace, and mercy that I don’t always feel armed with. Especially when people are stupid.

Not sayin’ it’s right …  just where I’m at as of today.

So, today – as I was sitting on my bed and boo-hoo crying at the clarity on the things listed above, I pulled my knees to my chest, crossed my arms over my knees and buried my face into my arms like a little kid in complete protection mode.

Muzzled under my protective gear of limbs, I said, “I’m throwing shards.”

I’m feeling wounded and I’m deflecting.  So many people have tried to love on me today knowing that I wasn’t feeling well.  I was annoyed with them.  Really annoyed.

Words of affirmation, my love language, being offered up constantly and it took everything in me not to roll my eyes.

Get away.  Take your broken pieces of love that you’re trying to offer me and give them to someone else.  I don’t want it.  I don’t need it.  I don’t need your F-ing words or comfort or acts of service.  Don’t care for me.  Don’t love on me.  Stop asking me if I’m okay – as if you really care.  You don’t care.  You’re just being nosey.  Or is it because I’m not bringing entertainment and comfort to you today?!

Ugly. I know.  I’m not proud.  But this is a real (fleeting) moment in my life. Not my norm at all.  And even while undergoing this ‘eclipse’ I can see the truth.  The truth never left me.

Besides my husband and my kids, relationships have always been distorted in my life. Don’t read this as if I’m desperate for people to come and create a relationship with me.  In fact, if you do that you’d probably get your feelings hurt.  This is not a ‘people are not trying hard enough’ thing.  This is simply a ‘my heart is not ready thing’.

I’m throwing shards.

No forced or pity friendships could ever withstand where I’m truly at on my journey. That’s why I’m not desperate or seeking.

I believe and trust in God’s timing.  I know that may seem contradictory and gosh, I hope you’re reading this from the depths of the eclipse and not as some whiney ‘boo hoo, look at me, I have no friends, I’m all alone’ type message.

I’m fine.  I’m in process.  And it’s a painful yet lovely part of the process.  God is healing and restoring me every day in new ways.  It’s not an overnight process and I’m at a place in my walk with Christ where I can honestly say I’m grateful that He takes His time.

If all this rambling could encourage your own lonely heart – then receive it, girl!  I pray you are encouraged. I know I am!  I’m grateful that God’s Truth is not changed by our feelings.  Unwavering, my friend.

Loneliness is not always a bad thing.  In fact, the more I read the scriptures, the more The Holy Spirit has been really drawing my attention to the fact that Jesus pulled away from the crowds.  He didn’t isolate and he had incredible compassion for the crowds at times … but He also got away from the crowd.

I’ll leave you with this from Matthew 9:23-25.  A religious leader had approached Jesus, knelt down before Him and shared that his daughter had just died.  He was asking Jesus to come and put His hand on the girl so that she would live.

Watch what happens when Jesus shows up on the scene:

23 “When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.”But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.”

AFTER the crowd had been put outside the girl was brought back to life.

Let’s not be discouraged when a personal eclipse sends us spinning into crazy-psycho-in-the-head-woman.  You’re not crazy.  You’re smack dab in the middle of process.

He reaches out His hand, y’all.  Even if our lifeless hand doesn’t reach back – He’ll grab ahold of it.  He never claims us as dead.  He says we’re sleeping.  Guess what?  He awakens us from our slumber.  Over and over and over again.

It’s part of the process.  A beautiful process.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

-April

Stand & Fight

phone
Just leaving work from a late night in the office. On the front lines. Taking calls.
Oh, my heart.
If you are struggling with addiction – you are not alone. Your situation is not hopeless. There is a lie in your mind telling you to give up. It’s telling you that you’re a disappointment and it will never get better.

This team I work with joins forces every day to fight back against the disease of addiction.


You fight. We fight. We’ll stand and fight together.
2 things I’m cherishing in my heart this evening;

1. Talking with a precious co worker who shared some of her story with me tonight and that she’s been clean for over 20 freakin’ years!!! 👏👊

2. Hearing these words from a client’s family in regards to one of our sweet and compassionate Treatment Specialists, “You treated her like a person, not an addict. That made all the difference.” Our daily interaction makes all the difference. The way we treat others. The way we battle together and not against one another. The way we stand in the gap for the broken. The way we listen to understand and not judge. The way we love.
It makes all the difference.

So, whether you need help – or you’re the helper. You matter. There is a place for you in the tapestry of love.
You are seen and I honor you for your honesty and courage … for your ability to stand and fight.


I used to think that messy people would make me messy. So I stayed away. I was suffocating from cleanliness. Thinking I was protecting myself but really I was just dying a slow, clean, protected death. I was an advocate for freedom- claiming freedom and victory as I tried harder and harder. I strived more. I pushed more. I performed more.
I was clean, tidy and in bondage.

Freedom is found in the messy places. It’s found in the midsts of brokenness. All the places I avoided are exactly the places where Jesus camps out.


He’s not afraid of messy or broken things.

He has the power of life. Abundant life. Resurrected life.

Dead things surely come alive in His presence.

There. Is. Hope.
 -April

In The Brokenness

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“How could I have lived a life of gratitude without embracing the fearsome truth that my earthly path will always be paved with pain?  To join Christ in His suffering is to recognize that our brokenness, in so much as it connects us to the brokenness of him, is a gift. A catalyst for gratitude. Cracked blessings. Which lead to communion with Him.”

– Ann Voskamp

I’m still processing this past week. It seems as though it’s one of those weeks where things are getting caught in my heart.  They need to sit and marinate. Maybe to penetrate some calloused pieces and maybe to break the places that need to be broken.

I think of a friend I had in high school.  She had to get her feet broken so that the bones could be lined up properly and reset.  The doctors broke her feet, which seemed perfectly fine on the outside, but they weren’t. The doctors could see a deeper, internal issue.  An issue that could potentially cause her to be handicapped in the future or require a more intense surgery.

Yeah. That right there. I believe God allows that same kind of resetting to happen to our hearts.  Over and over and over again.  And it’s healthy.

I went to a women’s gathering this past week. It has been a long time since I have gathered with a large group of Christian women. This used to be one of my heart’s greatest desires – being with strong Christian women.  But I’ve since realized after my own meltdown last fall, that there really is no such thing as a strong Christian woman.  You either follow Jesus or you don’t.  It’s never in our strength where Jesus is found – it’s in our weakness … in our brokenness. To say that a woman is a ‘strong’ Christian woman is to say that she is better … higher … understands more … gets it…. makes me want to be more like her.  But I don’t want to be more like her.  I want to be more like Jesus.

There’s my tangent.

So, this women’s gathering.  I went to support a friend who was sharing a piece of her story.  This friend was actually at one point, one of my best friends. Until we had a terrible fall out in 2015.

We reconciled last winter but I hadn’t seen her in over a year and a half.

I entered the home where the gathering was taking place.  Women were congregating around the house.  There was a crowded area near the kitchen that I dare not try to enter. I saw a chair in the corner and claimed it quickly.

As the evening got started, the crowd cleared.  The hostess started to address the group and there across the room – was my beautiful, once, best friend.

Seeing her face was normal. I felt as though we had not missed a beat. She shared her story.  Although a story of broken pieces, it was filled with such beauty.  Such surrender and grace.

At the end of her story, the hostess opened up the floor for questions. Some people asked my friend questions but others took the opportunity to share a little about their own story.  Their own brokenness.  I had never seen or experienced anything like it.  People weren’t quoting scripture or one-upping each other with their ‘christianese’.  They were just there – pouring out the shattered pieces of their hearts – yet claiming hope and grace and freedom.

The room fell quiet and I spoke up.

“Can I just say – I am the pharisee on the other side of the brokenness of *friend’s* story. I was there during her hard time.  I was there when she started to ‘back slide’. It’s not who I had known previously. I didn’t know how to handle the messiness.  It was as if the broken pieces might get on me. So I rebuked her. I judged her. I was frustrated with her. But might I add, that I just didn’t know. I was completely unaware that what I was doing to her was actually hurting her more.  Until about a year later when God started opening my own eyes to my own brokenness. The Lord told me that he needed me to stop performing.  He could do more with me where I was then where I thought I needed to be.  God was searching for the real me.  I just didn’t know I wasn’t revealing the real me.

I had never let the real me come forward.  Because since my childhood I have been masking me with busyness.  I was taught that love comes from performance so if I’m not performing who will love me?  And that’s exactly where God wanted me.  To let me know that we weren’t moving forward if I couldn’t sit in His love and grace long enough to receive it and believe it.

*Friend* was experiencing freedom there in the midst of her shitty season because she was allowing herself to be broken. I was the one in bondage. I just didn’t know.”

Every woman in that room was turned around and looking at me with tears in their eyes. We were all experiencing reconciliation and forgiveness in real time.

*Friend* speaks out and says, “This is the first time I’ve seen her in over a year.”

The room gasps with ‘What!?!’, ‘Wow!’, ‘Oh my gosh!’ and teary eyes.

It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced.

Me and *friend* hugged and chatted briefly afterwards and went on our way.

I’m learning, you guys.  I’m not good at relationships with females. I let people get only so close and then when things get sticky, I retreat with a quickness.

This season of life is busy … and not in a bad busy kinda way.  My husband and I both feel that this is the season that God has led us into.  We commute quite a distance for work, we have 2 kids – one who is still overcoming developmental delays and one in elementary school.  We are trying to cultivate our own relationship as husband and wife, be with our children, invest into our health and stay close in relationship with Christ. There’s just not much time for anything else without me losing my sanity.

This is the season we’re in.

Yet I have 2 friends who have reached out to me this past week to let me know they miss me and they’ll be on standby for whenever I’m ready.

I don’t know how to process friendship like this.

Honestly, it leaves me confused.

To know that people do love me even if I can’t give to them. They love me just because. They’ve never loved me because they wanted something from me.  But just because I’m me.

I’m not going to lie. That’s foreign to me. I seriously don’t even know how to process that kind of love from females.

And that’s where God reveals another layer of brokenness in me.

Except now I don’t feel the need to deny it or run from it.  I just sit there in the pain of it. I can’t make myself understand. Understanding will only come from sitting in the pain – and I honestly might not ever understand.  That’s okay.

I don’t know how to let people love me in my brokenness because I don’t know how to love others in theirs. Frankly, it gets on my nerves when people have a bunch of drama and confusion in their lives.  I struggle to show grace because I’m a fixer. A fixer has the answers and if you’d just listen to my answers your life would be better and I’d be able to tolerate you better.

Except there is just one problem.  How many of us know that we never grow by someone else giving us the answers for our lives?  We grow by experience and struggle and brokenness and grace!

I see these huge gaping holes in my heart.  I see them there. I have no answers for myself. Yet, I’m encouraged because I know that God makes beautiful things out of brokenness.  I also know He wants us in community.  Therefore, I know that He is faithful to heal me and continuously teach me how to love and receive love in the midsts of brokenness.

I’ve started jogging in the mornings before work.  It’s been a time of reflection as a I run. The other morning I was listening to the book of Matthew, chapter 16. I was struck while listening to these verses:

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

I stopped running.

The Holy Spirit had pulled back another layer of Truth. I had always used “get behind me, Satan” in the context of an attack.  When hard times were coming against me or I was frustrated I would yell out, “Get behind me, Satan!”

But this time I saw something new.

Jesus said “get behind me, Satan”, not because he was enduring hardship but because Peter had told him he would NOT endure hardship.

His friend was telling him it was all good.  Bad things would not happen to him.

Jesus responded with, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Suffering.

Jesus knew He would suffer.

Freedom comes through the brokenness, you guys.

Yes. Yes. We’re free. We were set free when Jesus died for us.  However, Jesus had to be broken in order for freedom to come. So why would it be any different for us.  We have freedom through Christ’s death but we don’t walk in that freedom.  We don’t experience that freedom.

If Jesus had to be broken in order for freedom to come – maybe, just maybe, we have to embrace our brokenness to really live in the freedom that Christ died for?

I don’t know about you – but that’s where every ounce of my freedom has ever been discovered.

In the broken place.

When I embrace my weakness.

When the power of Christ is made perfect in my weakness.

When I stop striving and rest in Him.

There. That’s where freedom exists for me. And in that position is where I find the courage to step into that freedom and live from an angle of liberty.

In the brokenness.

A beautiful, grace-filled place.

Keep running, sisters.

-April

By His Grace…

Peace

I’ve been feeling that writing ‘feeling’ all day today.  It’s that feeling you know you can’t let pass. So here I am.

I took the day off today unexpectedly.  It’s been a wonderful month. It’s March! My birthday month.  It’s also the 3rd month in my new role as a Treatment Admissions Manager.  The honey moon phase is pretty much over and I’m settling in nicely.

The other day during a team meeting one of my awesome employees asked, “April. Maybe you don’t have the answer to this.  But how do I do this job and have a life outside of here?”

She was right.

I didn’t have the answer.

After 3 months of working endlessly, I was still trying to find the answer myself.

As I sat at the end of the conference room table I looked out at the faces of the heroes sitting with me and asked for their advice.

None of them had an answer and yet none of them were complaining.

Ultimately we all left the meeting with an understanding that you just have to know when to draw your line.  You have to know how to set healthy boundaries.  You have to know when to look over at your teammate and say, “Help! I’m drowning.”

So after an extremely hard and wonderful month of helping save people’s lives from the disease of addiction – I took a day off.  It was completely spontaneous.  Unplanned. I just knew it was time to draw that line for 24 hours.

My daughter has been on Spring Break all week and as I left the office late Wednesday evening I felt such a sadness in my heart. I missed her and wanted one on one, uninterrupted time with her.  So I immediately requested a day off.

Today we had a beautiful time together.  We spent the day in Nashville and submerged ourselves in every moment.

I am so grateful for the sweet time I got to spend with my 9 year old baby girl today.  It was much needed and did this mama heart some good.

As we were driving back from Nashville this afternoon, Trinity was quiet in the back seat. We rode in silence.  I looked at her precious 9 year old face in the rearview mirror. She was looking out the window.

As I looked at her I giggled to myself and thought about the fact that no matter how hard I try to get this right with her, I’ll still mess it up. She’s still going to be broken.  She’s still going to figure things out on her own.  I’ll leave her love tank empty at times. My words will  (and have) wound her.

God has already given me great peace in knowing that no matter how hard I try to do this parenting thing right – I’ll still fail.  And that’s okay.  Damn it, I’ll give it my ALL though!

I have great peace because I know that God loves her more than I ever could – which is hard to imagine – and he’ll clean up behind me.

I’m a living testament of his faithfulness when parents lack.  So I have peace.

I’m sitting here tonight with incredible peace in my life, period. It was of no doing of my own.  I paused for a moment to reflect on how I felt to write the next line and tears built up in my eyes because I have nothing but gratitude for the messy and broken parts of my story.

He uses it all, you guys.  There is no part of your story God cannot and will not use.  We just have to stop resisting the pain.  We have to stop resisting the discomfort of life and learn to embrace it … all of it.  I believe with all my heart that Jesus came to give us abundant life – on this side of eternity.

This is why I had a melt down last fall.  I was sitting on my balcony, staring out into the night sky, pissed off at the world and thought, “THIS is not freedom. THIS is not abundant life.  THIS is not what You died for, Jesus.”  Then I spent the next 3 months discovering true freedom through Christ that changed my entire being. (You can read some of that story here and here and here.)

Jesus didn’t come to give you a boring, worrisome, tiring, bitter life.  He came to give you a life of freedom and abundance in the midst of this messed up hell-hole world we live in! He came to show you secrets that pour out of his nature.  He came to lavish you in love that can’t be contained …so you pour it out on others because it’s so rich and merciful and too good not to give away!   He came to give you joy in the middle of deep sorrow.  He came to give you hope in the midst of what seems like hopeless situations.  He came to give you great courage when your knees are shaking and fear feels big.

And He’s still here.

We’re missing Him moment by moment. Day by day. Completely missing Him.

Being so wrapped up in the troubles of the world.  Silly and petty stuff that means nothing.

You’re caught in hating your job but then you get a new job and you wind up hating that job too.  Complaining. Being a gossip.  You hate your boss’ decisions and think you have better answers to all the company’s problems.

You’re angry at your spouse. They’re never good enough or do enough.  You’re constantly picking out the negatives about them instead of speaking life into them and praising them for all they are and all they do.

You’re upset about never having enough money when in fact you’re just not budgeting and managing your money properly.

You complain about your health but do nothing to enhance your health.

Distracted, busy, down and out.  Completely missing God in what you think is just another mundane day.

He’s there, y’all. He never left. He never leaves.

Last year I left the ministry role of ‘teacher’.  I don’t write this to teach or preach. I write this to tell you what I know to be true.  I write this because I was once damaged goods until Jesus picked me up and said, “No. You’re just good.”

You are not damaged goods.  You are just good.  You were made by the Creator and He says you’re good.  All that He has made is good.

The broken and messy segments of our lives are not who we are.  Those are just fragmented pieces that allow God’s glory to shine through us.  Trust me, you don’t want to NOT have those pieces.  I know that sounds crazy … but I’m just being real.  Those very shreds of your life create the breeding ground for miracles that only God can perform.

If you are consumed in shame and guilt tonight you need to know that you are deeply loved.  Yes.  Even if you did that thing (whatever that thing is).  There may be real consequences and there may be real pain associated with whatever that thing is … but that never takes away from the fact that you are deeply loved.

If you are overwhelmed with your past tonight.  You can be free from it.  God is wondering why you’re still holding on to it and allowing it to steal your abundant life from you.  Hand that over to Him tonight.  However you need to do that …  just hand it over and don’t carry that with you anymore.

If you are drowning in anxiety, worry, fear tonight –  you have a control problem.  You want to be in control and know the outcome of everything.  My friend, that is sin.  That sin is killing you.  I know because I still experience some negative affects to my health due to a year of debilitating anxiety and panic attacks from 2011.  It’s 2017!  It was killing me.  My body was in so much turmoil because my brain would not shut off.   That’s not abundant life!  It’s a lie from the Devil.

Your battle is not against anxiety.  Your battle is in your resistance to go to God when anxiety rears its ugly head.

If you are flat out in a place of complete defeat and pain tonight.  Real, deep, pain.  Only you understand it.  It’s that type of pain that knocks the breath out of you.  Where you have no words and even when you try to talk about it – it doesn’t make sense out loud.  If you’re in that place tonight- my heart is with you.  It’s the place where there are no real answers.  Heck, you’re not even sure you’re looking for an answer and you actually get annoyed when people offer an answer.  Answers are stupid at this point.  Do you know that place of pain?  I don’t really have words of comfort for you tonight because I know there are no words of comfort, there is only The Comforter.  He sees you and His heart breaks when your heart breaks.  He is there with you.  He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  He truly does.  I’m sorry you’re going through this.

Ugh. Those seasons suck.  Beauty is birthed from them  but while you’re in the middle of them they just straight up SUCK.

So, all of this rambling to say –

God is good.  Even when we’re not good. He’s good.

There is beauty in the pain of life. Your story is still being written and it’s not over yet.

Look for Jesus among you. Don’t just make Him be at church. Blah. That’s boring.  The Kingdom of God is among us.  Wake up to that!  He’s playing the best ever scavenger hunt game with you but you haven’t showed up!  He’s waiting.

Seek God consistently on how to love and mentor your children but don’t be so hard on yourself when you totally screw them up! 😉

Know when to draw hard lines and set boundaries to take care of yourself and be present in the moment.

If you’re not living an abundant life – you’re choosing to live a life that was never intended for you.

You are so dearly loved.

I can only write all these things by His grace.  He’s a good and faithful Father.

– April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When People Hurt Your Heart

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately.  Mostly reflecting on who I once was and who I am now – who I’m  becoming and who I’ll eventually become.  Life is such a shattered yet beautiful adventure with Jesus.

My past is loaded with codependency.  Specifically emotional codependency.

Mental Health America describes emotional codependency this way:

“It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.”

Yup.  That was me. It started with my mom and a childhood friend. I can only remember as far back as 4 years old and the enemy had his hooks in me with both of these people at that point in my life.

4 years old.

I didn’t stand a chance.

My mind was such a hot mess express.  Honestly, sometimes it still is.  I’m just grateful that by the grace of God I’m now aware.  I can differentiate lies from truth – but it doesn’t mean that lies don’t still show up.

At a young age I was taught that if you feel proud of yourself, you’re being arrogant.  I was taught that defending yourself against certain people was wrong.  You should back down, be the bigger person, submit, take ownership even if it was the other person’s fault.  Don’t question.  Don’t argue.  FEEL BAD, apologize and work diligently to make everything better.

I was also taught that I couldn’t be mad.  If I kept to myself or cared about my own well being I was called selfish.

I guess I shouldn’t say I was taught these things …  I’ll just say this is how I perceived the way I should act/be according to the messages around me. This is how my little brain and emotions interpreted negative feelings.

These mixed signals led to a life of codependency in friendships and overall “good” performance.

In my late teens, early 20s, I remember if someone did something really nasty toward me, I would feel so angry and hurt but immediately would start to make excuses for the person.  “They didn’t mean it.”  “Clearly they didn’t try to be malicious and hurt me.” “It’s me. It’s not them. It’s my own tainted thinking.” “God! Fix MY messed up thinking patterns.”

Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t me at times.  But there were moments when someone was smiling so big in my face and we’d be having a very pleasant conversation but when I walked away I could feel daggers and shards of glass in my soul.

I was confused.

I found Jesus (with more in between … but for time’s sake…)

I went to church and became ‘churchy’.

In church I was taught to forgive, bare each other’s burdens, extend grace, turn the other cheek, pursue peace, don’t repay evil with evil and the list goes on and on.

Well, when you struggle with codependency (but don’t know you’re struggling) you go to church and find out that you’re wrong, selfish, arrogant. There were times when I would experience someone being down right malicious toward me but I felt shame and guilt if I let myself think and believe that someone was doing me wrong.

My whole life I had been wired to immediately create a false reality where people are not bad and mean and malicious.  Where people are not jealous, insecure, envious, and harmful.  I had to believe the reality that I created because to think that people were anything other than good was clearly just ME.  My fault. My problem.

But you know what?

It wasn’t always me.  It wasn’t always my fault.  It wasn’t always my problem.

And you know what else?

People can suck really bad.  People do mean and evil things.  And it hurts when you face that reality.

My husband is a realist. I’m the dreamer. The other day my heart was aching badly.  I felt hurt by another person.  Through tears I told my husband, “The hardest part for me is not the hurt that has been felt in my heart … it’s the reality that the person did it on purpose.”

Every day God is drawing me out into new grace. He allows me to experience real pain and junk that hurts you in your core. I’m anxious when I have to admit, not that people do dumb mean things … but to admit that people do dumb mean things because they intended to do a dumb mean thing.  They wanted to punish.  They wanted me to feel pain.

My sweet Savior meets me right there in that broken and wounded place and gently says to me, “But what are you going to do with it?”

I surrender.

I forgive.

I extend grace.

I die to myself.

I surrender again (because I probably got mad again thinking about it).

I remember that they know not what they do.

I remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood.  I’m not fighting people who do dumb things … heck, I do dumb things (often).  I can arrogantly say that my intentions are not mean or evil … but I definitely do and say some dumb things … and there was a time when I was mean and malicious.  Heck, I was hurt.  Hurt people hurt people and healed people heal people.

Cry, blow your nose and get over it.

If God thinks its a good idea to love others I guess I should keep on lovin’ others.  I guess I’ve got to confess that His power is made perfect in my weakness and thank Him continuously that He’s leading me into deeper places of love.  You can’t experience the love of God and keep it to yourself.  You just can’t.

Guys. I’m not even sure I know how to write anymore.  This stuff just comes pouring out without any rhyme or reason and I can feel myself walking on slippery slopes that may offend some — and frankly I don’t care … but I do … but I don’t.  I’m still learning that I don’t (and that THAT is okay but definitely a NEW thing for me).

Love covers it all.

It’s not even about hurt feelings and people doing mean stuff.  From a Kingdom perspective – that’s just stupid.  It’s a distraction. It makes me us puff up with pride and you immediately enter the contest ‘mine is bigger than yours’ …  it’s just gross and it breaks God’s heart. It’s foolish.

But this life is a journey.  It’s not a quick race to the finish line. That’s why I’m writing from a new angle of ‘look at all these broke pieces but I love Jesus … I don’t quite understand but I love Jesus.’ Instead of ’10 Steps to a better you’ … Heck, if I know the 10 steps I should probably teach myself first.  I just can’t do that stuff anymore.

Here’s where I’m at.

Just right here.

In this condition and not apologizing for it or using church verbiage to pretend I’m further along than I am.

I’m just lovin’ Jesus like crazy and feeling more alive than I ever have … experiencing more freedom than I ever have.

You don’t go from conversion to perfect.  You just don’t.  We go from grace to grace, from faith to faith, from glory to glory.

I think God meets us with fresh mercy and joy, not just in the morning but whenever we need it because He knew that we would need it over and over and over again.

I’ll leave you with The Message version of Ephesians 6:10-18

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

-April