TRUSTING, EVEN IN THE DARK

The last few months have been a confusing, confuzzled configuration of one mess puddle after another. There are times when it feels like I walk out of one valley and fall into another that is deeper than the last.

So much of my life is unrecognizable compared to even six months ago. Everything has been turned upside down and I have been forced to branch out and learn things I never thought I would have to learn – and some I hoped to continue to avoid.

I have found myself in situations where a rather destructive behavior was planned, but the Lord intervened and I ended up with other plans/commitments during the time in question. There have been other times when I was so determined to go through with the destructive plans that I made sure I went through with it. I did not leave myself or my heart open to any other options or possibilities. However, these times ended up doing nothing more than making me look like a fool and feeling so much worse in the end.

I have:
raged at the heavens desperate for relief…
yelled at a friend in a desperate search for clearing of my confusion…
hardened my heart to the Spirit of God in defiance of His Sovereignty…
denied myself the release of the feelings through the tears I have not allowed to flow…
isolated myself from those who would speak the ugly truth to me in the moments when I needed it the most…

But most of all, through all of this, my stubbornness and hardheadedness have cost me the peace I could have been enjoying all along if I had only allowed God to be God rather than blocking Him at every turn because life was not going how I felt it should go.

Despite all of the jumble of junk and mess that have been trudged through, there have been moments of elation, moments of surprise, and moments of freedom. The truth is not as frightening as it once was and I have found a strength within I did not know I had. I have also been blessed with a friend who is not afraid to speak the truth to me in bold living color when it is needed – and whether I feel it is needed or not.

When the storm rages and the darkness envelops my heart, I must remember to fight against the darkness, but not fight against the One who anchors my soul throughout the storm. Even though I cannot see His hand and I do not have a clue where He is going with my life, He is still there, He knows every pain in my heart, and He understands every tear I cry. He knows the beginning from the end and He will carry me when I lack the strength to even stand. He can be trusted for He is faithful.

Even in the darkest of times, the deepest depressions, and the most difficult circumstances, He continues to be faithful. He can be trusted, even in the darkness of the heart.

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The Heart of the Problem

A little over two months ago, my PC was attacked by a very nasty virus that inflicted irreparable damage to every document that was saved and not open at the time of the infection. Many years’ worth of writing was just gone. I could see the file name, but not open them. Countless ideas that had been jotted down and saved for future expansion and elaboration were gone. Hundreds of poems (many of which were not very good at all, but they had a line or two that could be used in another work) were gone. In one brief moment, all of my words seemed to just disappear, stolen away. Unfortunately, this was just beginning of many more trying times and various losses that were to ensue over the months that followed, however, I never realized how profound of an effect the loss of my writing would have on my heart.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I attributed the heaviness and emptiness of my heart to being just a side-effect of all the other stuff that was unfolding in my life. No matter what I did or how hard I prayed, I just couldn’t seem to shake a rather specific feeling of emptiness that I just could not explain.

The other day, I was reading a wonderful novel my cousin wrote (Steal The North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom) and happened to read the acknowledgment in the back. In this, she references a tragic event in her life when a fire had taken place and she thanked the fireman who ran back to save her laptop. In this statement, she referred to herself as a “frantic” writer and it was at that moment that the light came on. The emptiness I had been trying to pray through, or pray away, was a subconscious mourning of the loss of my heart, the loss of my writing. A poetic heart with no poetry is like a heart with no purpose or peace.

I have often felt that my heart was more poetic in nature, but I never realized the depths of that truth and how tied to those words my heart really is. It is almost as if I can barely breathe without them. This thought, however, is rather astonishing considering how long it has been since I have written anything, even a sentence – and even longer since I have written any poetry (over a year…).

In an ironic turn of events, I was cleaning my desk the other day. Now, before you think I just left the sentence hanging around and unfinished, I must admit that cleaning my desk can be a challenge (If I am not careful, my desk gets as cluttered as my mind!). However, I was cleaning my desk on an act of faith that situations would be restored or renewed and that my desk would be needed again (the story in the Bible of the two farmers who prayed for rain, but only one prepared his fields in faith that God would send the rain). During this wonderful cleaning moment (not really….), I noticed a manila envelope in the corner with a stack of paper beside it. It is not like me to have a stack of paper standing up without it being in a clip or envelope or something.

I carefully remove both the stack and the envelope and I could not believe what I had found.

I had found my heart!

I found the manuscript (both the edited version and unedited version) of a book of poetry I had assembled for a completion a couple of years ago. All of my “best” works were there – in their finished form! In the envelope, I found the rough drafts, pieces in progress, thoughts/ideas for new works, and my notes regarding the format/setup of the “book” as well as the pieces I had elected to not include. While it was not everything, it was the most important parts – the pieces that I worked the hardest on, invested much of my heart into, and the ones that spoke the loudest to the depths of my being.

Up until this point, I had no idea that just the thought of losing my poetry (let alone the reality of its loss) would have such a devastating effect on me, that the words had that profound an impact on my heart and mind – almost as if they were a part of my very soul.

During these past few trying months, my heart has leaned heavily on Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God…”) and I had remained in Psalms on a basically daily basis searching for answers or something to fill the emptiness inside. The night after I found the manuscript, I just opened my Bible randomly and found myself in Jeremiah…29:11-13, to be specific. I was totally floored – again! The thought that there could be a plan through all of this, a reason, some purpose – some hope– was rather shocking. Hope had been in rather short supply in my heart despite the knowledge in my head that there is always hope so long as we have Jesus.

In re-reading this passage, I found that I love both the way the KJV is written as well as the NIV. Both give such a unique perspective and, in my opinion, complement each other very well. With your indulgence, this is how my heart reads it.

I know the thoughts I think toward you, the plans I have for you, what I have in mind for you.
Thoughts of peace, not of evil.
Thoughts to prosper you, no to harm you.
Thoughts for well-being, not for bad things.
Plans to give you a future and a hope,
An end and an expectation,
A hope and a future.
You will call upon me, come to me, pray to me –and I will hear you,
I will heed you,
I will listen to you.
When you search with all your heart, you will find me.

During this experience, I found that all the searching, seeking, crying out, and pleading don’t always end in His miraculous majestic arrival at the foot of the bed to announce to the universe He is here, but rather, when we are trying, searching desperately to find Him, He finds us.

He comes to us in ways that can be so subtle, so still, so quiet that if we are not looking for Him in that way, we will miss it altogether, but, thankfully, this does not negate or minimize His arrival! While we would all love the majestic fanfare announcing His intervention in a situation, sometimes He arrives in a manila envelope and a random stack of uncontained paper that He had been saving for just the right time – a time when I was broken, I had stopped fighting the emptiness, and given up all the hope I dared to.

It was in the moment that He quietly stood beside me and returned to me what I had given up as lost – He returned my heart and my hope.

SWEET MEDITATION – a good way to battle depression

As I was reading my Bible the other night, I landed in Psalms (which is normal for me).  I was reading along and found a familiar passage I had read many times before, but, this time, I saw something in it that I don’t believe I noticed before.  I found the word “sweet” written in a group of verses talking about singing and praising.

Most of the time in my writing, I use the NIV for Scripture as it is easy to read and understand.  However, there are some passages in which the beauty of the King James Version cannot be matched.  This is one of those passages – a passage where the word choice paints a richer picture that the heart seem to connect with just a bit more.

Psalm 104:33-34  (KJV)

33 I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.

“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live…”
There is no disclaimer here. There is no mention of situation in which we are not to praise Him.  It does not say that I will sing to the Lord on days when I feel great.  Nothing is mentioned of only singing when the weather is great or things are going well.  It simply states that “I WILL sing unto the Lord as long as I live…”

“…I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”
As long as there is breath in my lungs and my heart continues to beat, I am to praise Him. So long as my sanity remains (which is questionable some days), I am to praise Him.  Regardless of whether or not my “being” is what I want it to be, how I want it to be, or how I think I should feel in my “being,” I am still to sing praises to my God.

“My meditation of him shall be sweet…”
MY meditation of Him shall be sweet.  Oh how I love that line!  While I certainly want the Lord to be pleased with my thoughts toward Him (which is how the NIV translates that line) and the way in which I praise Him, my meditations of Him don’t just affect Him, they affect me as well.  They should be pleasing to my soul.  They should be beneficial to my mind.  They should be healing to my heart.  MY meditation of Him WILL be sweet – and it is because of Him.

“…I will be glad in the Lord.”
Such a simple statement with such wide reaching effect – and it is a choice.  We must make the choice every day to be glad in the Lord regardless of what life throws our way.  We must be determined.  We must make up our minds to be glad in Him.

We must choose to sing to Him.

We must choose to sing praises to Him as long as we possess the physical/mental ability to do so.

We must choose to be glad in the Lord.

With the choice made, the issue decided, and determination set, our meditation of Him truly will be sweet.  It is at that point that we can begin to understand more fully just how deeply the river of His heart flows, a river that flows with love beyond description, joy beyond belief, and peace beyond comprehension.

RUNNING IN THE LIGHT

In the quiet, before what is really occurring is truly known, the veil of darkness is lifted. Ever so slowly and gently, the warmth of the sun begins to creep into the cracks and crevices, into the corners and closets, driving away shadows along its way. The dark has left behind a weariness that is felt within the depths of the soul and cuts to the very center of the heart, the pain so overwhelming that the beginnings of the dawn are not even noticed. But the Father knows.

Ever gentle, ever faithful, and ever kind, the Father reaches down and begins to bandage the wounds left behind. He lovingly wipes away each tear and cherishes what each individual tear represents. As the intensity of the pain eases, He gently turns the face that is cradled in His hands toward the sun. The warmth shining in is so comforting, so soothing. The warmth brings with it a sense of calm and a peace that runs deep into the wounded places. Although wounded and weary, restoration is coming, peace is returning, and healing has begun.

Easing out of the corner and beginning to struggle to stand, a steady hand is offered, but this hand is unlike any other. This hand radiates power. This hand carries within it a boundless unfathomable love. This hand bears scars and written with in the scars, I find my name. I find my name carved into His hand! Within His hands, I find my healing, but it is a healing that is only found within scars left behind by nails.

Holding onto His hand, I rise. Holding onto Him, I find solid ground beneath my feet and the strength in which to stand. Focusing on Him, I find the assurance that all which remains broken will be healed, that strength will be renewed.

With one glance at the smile on His face, my soul begins to take flight. With wings like eagles, my heart begins to soar. Caught up in the strength of His hands, I find the courage to run once again. In His light alone does that which once was weary and broken become renewed and restored. Carried on by His everlasting arms, I run once again, for I am running in His light.

10 LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE DARKNESS

While going through several recent bouts with depression, I attempted to try to not only put into words the stuff going through my head, especially as the darkness begins to subside and light begins to creep back in, but I also wanted to see if there was anything I could learn from this time…find some purpose in it…find something that can be carried into the next dark time…find something to cling to. I know that there is a purpose for everything under Heaven, so surely He has a reason for these. Perhaps He will use these experiences in the future, but perhaps there is a more personal lesson that can be learned.

1. It is dark….some days are darker than dark – but even in the darkest of moments, He still sees. The darkness within does not block out the view of the Almighty.
(“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:12)

2. It hurts… some days the pains is almost unbearable, although there is often no explanation for it, but the Father knows. Every tear we have ever cried has been seen, understood, and known.
(“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not in your record?” Psalm 56:8)

3. Everything appears to be upside down and the top cannot be found. At times, it is as if you are being pulled down a spiral and there is no way to know which way is up or which way is down. It is a swirling sea of pain and darkness. But, despite all of this, He is still there, He is still holding on, and He will not let us go.
(“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b)

4. It seems to last FOREVER — and F…O…R…E…V…E…R… is no joke when you are drowning in darkness.

5. God doesn’t let the darkness remain all-consuming. He sends a ray of help at the darkest point. BUT, it is in His time and not ours, which is a tough one to swallow. Perhaps this is why I always felt drawn to lighthouses. They symbolize hope in the midst of raging storms and help to guide sailors away from the unseen ragged rocks that would dash them to pieces. He truly is our Lighthouse as He is the One who gives light in the dark, that protects us from what would crush us, and that guides us safely home.
(“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27a)

6. You are NEVER alone or unloved in the darkness, even though it may totally feel that way.
(“The LORD appeared to us in the past,[a] saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness…’” Jeremiah 31:3)
(“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2)

7. Nothing seems to matter, even though everything really does – and even more so.

8. Feelings, while very frightening, are allowed and need to be released/expressed during this time. Freedom comes from expressing some of the feelings. It is almost as if that, by putting words to the feelings, they are disarmed and lose some of power.
(“The tongue has the power of life and death…” Proverbs 18:21a)
(“My tears have been my food day and night… 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:3 – 5)

9. It will end – the light will break through. Just be patient and remember to keep your head up despite the drowning sensation.
(“14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.”
“20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”,
“29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea[b] were hushed. 30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:14a, 20, 29-30)

10. You will be stronger for having survived the storm.
(“2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:2-3a)

The biggest challenge for me, but one of the most crucial one, is to remember to just be still and to hold on. Even though I cannot see what is around me or where I am reaching, I must trust that when I reach out to Him, He will find me. When I grasp hold of even just the hem of His garment, He will hold onto me and will not let me go.

All that is expected of me during these times is to trust His heart and, most importantly, be STILL and KNOW that He is God.

He is in control even when the darkness surrounds and obscures all vision.
He is in control when everything around me seems to be crumbing to pieces.
He is in control in the mist of the chaos.
He is in present,
He understands, and
He will have mercy.

They dawn will break, morning will come, and He will exchange our tears for His healing, our pain for His peace, and our darkness for His light.

*All Scripture quoted is from the NIV.

Faithfulness Displayed!

This past year has been one of challenges. It has not been the easiest year of my life, but neither has it been the worst. I am not quite sure what to classify it as beyond challenging. On the flip side of this, I can say that this past year with the Lord has been one full of grace and faithfulness. Regardless of the valleys, caves, or shadows, He was faithful through it all. Regardless of the victories, the mountain-top moments, and the realizations of truth, He was an ever-present constant friend. 2013 was a year in which God proved His faithfulness time and time again. It was a year that, if one looks with the eyes of the heart, the hand of God can be seen throughout.

On professional level, even though I started to work from home in the summer of 2012, the transition from going to work to working from home has been one full of challenges that I never knew would exist nor would I have dreamed would take so long to adapt to. I love what I do and I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given, but it is more difficult than one might think. The lack of social interaction is merely one of the challenges as is the tendency to not leave the house very often. However, the Father has been faithful through it all and has walked me through each day. It is a daily challenge depend on Him for the endurance to handle all that comes my way and to trust Him to provide the not only an escape from the four walls I am surrounded by, but also the inspiration to write when the opportunity arises.

On a spiritual level, this is a year that has shaken the very foundations of my faith. Every truth I ever held dear has been challenged and my faith has been shaken to the very core. This was a year where I had to go back to the Bible, search it out, pray it out, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart. One thing that stands out the most about this period of time was a challenge I was presented regarding the truth of Jesus as the Messiah by a friend who was searching out the depths of her faith. I was asked how I knew for sure that He really was the Messiah. The fact that He lived was not disputed nor was the fact that He was a wise teacher. She wanted to know how I KNEW He was the Messiah. She didn’t want to hear about how I felt in my heart or the standard churchy answers that tend to be full of doctrine and rhetoric. This question above all others sat me down and hit me hard. The reasons for her doubting made rational sense, the presented questions were relevant and authentic, and I found myself in a very frightening position of not having an answer. As I prayed through this problem and was searching for an answer to share with my friend, I had a wonderful conversation with a woman full of boundless energy, a deep love for the Lord, and the gift of putting a whole lot of truth into a small, blunt, right-to-the point package and then slamming you upside the head with it in love (or at least that is how it hit me). (Paula, you are a blessing beyond description!) The fact that He is the Messiah is a FACT that must be believed IN FAITH. It is a heart-thing. It is a choice. While the truth that she hit me with soaked in and was prayerfully passed along to my questioning friend, the Lord proved Himself to be so faithful. He brought back to mind a situation from many years ago in which I witnessed firsthand how the Holy Spirit guides in frightening situations as well as the awesome power that exists in the Name of Jesus. If He was not the Messiah, then how can there be such power in just His Name? If He was not the Son of God, then why do demons flee at the mention of His name? There was my answer…spelled out for me many years before the question was even asked. How faithful He is!!!! Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

On a personal level, this year has been one that has brought to light some rather ugly truths about myself that sent me reeling as well as the return of struggles with depression. In terms of the ugly truths, I feel I still have a long way to go in this area, however, I have no one to blame but me. After all, if you aren’t prepared for an answer from the Lord, it is usually a good idea to not ask the question because it just might get answered – and that is exactly what happened. I still have not completely regained my footing with this or with the depression, nor have I sorted through all that needs to be sorted and understood. However, I know that there is a purpose for everything, that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, and that He has a plan for me. While I have no idea what that plan is or where the words He lays on my heart will go, I know that He has His hand in the midst of it all. He will continue to show Himself to be faithful just as He always has.

This is my favorite part – the true joy of my soul. Writing! And what an amazing year this has been in writing!! Through His leading, I have been challenged to share my poetry in ways I would never have dreamed – and He provided the courage. He also provided the strength needed to write and to share my story and my journey with others through this blog. I am normally a very private and closed off person so this has been a great challenge for me and yet another way for Him to prove Himself strong on my behalf. As if all of this was not enough, He even provided a way for several of my poems to make their way into two different poetry compilations this year. (Yeah!!!!!!) I cannot describe the feeling of holding a book in your hands and see the words once birthed in your heart printed in black and white before your eyes. Every time I look at the book, I am in awe of His gift, His grace, and the fact that He could find a use for the words jotted down through my heart.

The struggles of 2013 have left me weary and worn, but I have not been forgotten or forsaken. I have been challenged and defeated, but the Lord has not left me there alone. Every valley lead to His throne, every dark tunnel was illuminated with His love, and He was there through every desert crossed. Even when I had nothing left but questions, He was still by my side. 2013 was a year in which the Lord proved Himself to be faithful time and again to one who was unworthy and undeserving of such tender care. It truly was a year spent with Him. It was a year where my soul can truly shout Baruch HaShem Adonai, Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

May the coming year finding you walking in His way, showered in His peace, and resting in His love.