It’s Okay to Feel Unnerved.

It’s Okay to Feel Unnerved.

My counselor and I have been working on me being more honest.

It’s not like I’m a pathological liar. Not really. It’s not like I’m scheming up lies to tell people all the time. But to myself… I’m hardly ever honest. I live behind masks and goals and distractions because I have a hard time telling myself the truth.

Conversations in my head 90% of the time:

Me: “Hey how you feelin’ Maddie?’

Me: “good.”

Me: “How are you handling work?”

Me: “well.”

Me: “Aren’t you mad about that conversation?”

Me: “nah.”

Me: “How you feelin’ about dropping $200 on that windshield replacement?”

Me: “fine.”

Me: “You cool that you only have $42 in your bank account?”

Me: “yah.”

 

And, lately…

Me: “How you taking in this whole corona thing?”

Me: “eh not too worried. good.”

 

I mean, sometimes I am good, but let’s be real: sometimes I’m really not.

I went on a walk today, risking the outside world, because it’s just too sunny not to. I have a secret pathway behind my closed-in apartment complex that I’m convinced only I know about (and plan on keeping it that way). I’m probably the only person to walk there because it’s not paved and forces me to walk across a busy intersection and down into an un-mowed and hole-filled walkway, but that’s beside the point.

So as I braved Maddie’s Secret Overgrown Forest Path, I played a game of mine I like to call “Honesty Hour”. It’s when I take my masks off and I ask myself, in the comfort of my own company, what’s really happening in my brain.

It’s liberating and completely terrifying. I kinda hate it.

And yet I do it because I lose myself under all the lies. I lose the real, authentic, bleeding, laughing girl under all of the “fines” and “goods”. Life isn’t always find and good. Life is raw and emotional and high and low and brutal and pleasurable.

And right now, life is way crazy. Isn’t it?

 

I know there are a million blog posts these days about this little thing called a worldwide pandemic, but maybe this is the only one that reached you. All I want to say is: it’s okay to be effected by it. It’s so unknown, and that can be so unnerving.

It doesn’t do me any good to pretend I’m a robot, and I don’t believe it will help you either.

I believe one of the most beautiful parts of being a Christian is that we don’t have to shy away from the harsh realities of life. On my Secret Pathway today, God reminded me of a verse in John where Jesus straight up says “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) God is so not surprised by this virus, just as He is not surprised by anything that happens.

Does this truth keep me from being scared? Usually, no, because fear is just a reaction to the things that happen in our lives. It’s normal to feel scared when every public place is being shut down and we’re all being told to stay in our houses. But knowing that God is in control can always keep us from being a slave to anxiety.

I encourage you to be honest to God through this process. I really am trying my best.

Honestly, God? I am unnerved about the corona virus. I am concerned that the fear and panic won’t subside from our country. I am afraid that myself or my loved ones will become sick. I am anxious about the financial and social effect this will have on America. I am restless because I don’t know what my role needs to be in all of this. I feel guilty for thinking so selfishly in this time. I don’t know what my job is supposed to be, and I don’t want to fall into fear. 

But. 

“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

“Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I will say rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet… for you have not come to what may be touched. Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” (Hebrews 12:12, 18, 28)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter: 5:6-7)

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on things of the spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

 

Friends, no illness or virus could ever touch our souls, and so we have absolutely nothing to fear. Trust in God, set your minds on the spirit, and LIFE and PEACE will be yours. Sounds nice, yeah?

It’s okay to feel unnerved, but we do not need to be shaken. 

When You Can’t Read Your Bible

When You Can’t Read Your Bible

I hardly read my Bible lately.

And it wasn’t a conscious choice. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to put it on the shelf next to all the other books I don’t read. I just kinda stopped. Day by day, I would let myself sleep in that extra hour instead of getting up and reading Philippians next to my cup of coffee.

For years, that hour at the beginning of the day was sacred to me. In high school, sometimes it would only lat 15 minutes because I had a 6:15 a.m. cheer practice to get to, but many semesters of college I didn’t have classes until 10 a.m. And so my mornings became slow and easy and full of time to fill with scripture. My ESV journaling bible became wrecked with notes, pages crumpled, and the cover stained with coffee, highlighters, and balsamic vinegar. (Yes, that actually happened.)

But when I graduated college my life became disrupted. Being in the “real world” is nothing like going to a small private bible college. Moving to South Carolina felt a million miles away from Ohio. And for an entire year or more, I just couldn’t find a rhythm.

For about 6 months, my Bible felt toxic. I just couldn’t seem to touch it. It felt scary and unnecessary and completely irrelevant to my life of internships and anti-depressants. How could the thought of a big God comfort me in any way if that God allowed my life to be so hard?

But as time went on, I just slowly drifted away from the intimate moments I used to have with God. Almost like slowly losing a friend, you convince yourself that it’s going to be okay, and it happens so gradually that you hardly notice the difference. Until one day you realize that a part of your heart has grown cold and you desperately want to zap it in the microwave to give it life again.

I know it’s why I haven’t written. I mean, my blog is called “This Life I Learn“. But when I don’t talk to God, how can I learn? That special part of my heart reserved for intimacy with Him becomes numb and stale.

I finally, finally feel like post-graduate life is starting to settle in. I’m finding my stroke. Normal, quiet Saturday mornings actually exist. And in these moments, with my bath-robe so warm around my neck and the noon daylight shining onto my kitchen table, I miss my old friend desperately. I want to talk to Him. I want to tell Him about my day and how much it hurts to think about boys and how confused I am about what my future career path should be.

And so I did what I used to do in moments like these: I started to read the New Testament. The epistles, mainly, because I love the thought of Paul writing letters to his friends and, in a way, to me.

Ephesians 1:16 begins by saying:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places..

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened…

If my heart has eyes, then they have been sealed shut lately. My head has been bent low, my eyes shut, as I’ve tried to get through the day in front of me. Forget the posture of wonder I used to have when I was younger. Lately, life has felt like something to survive, not live.

But that’s the gift of God. He wants me to live. His Holy Spirit has power and He desires that I take on the world with it! And that’s the difference between life without God and life with Him. Life without God means breathing and doing, but life with God means living. It means having the eyes of my heart opened and vulnerable and brave. I’ve missed that kind of life.

This fall I’ve been leading a small group at church of 9th grade girls, and this passage makes me think of them. Isn’t that my prayer? That the eyes of their hearts would be opened up? I pray that all of us would start to understand that God has so much more for us than we can even imagine.

And that life begins in silence, with the Bible and a pen. It has to start there.

 

The Beginning of Belief

The Beginning of Belief

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.”

1 John 4:16

One of the very first stories John writes about Jesus takes place at a wedding.

We know from yesterday that this man named Jesus started walking around and asking people to follow Him, and that John was a fisherman when he himself was called. I don’t know about you, but if some random person I had never met came by my office one day and told me to drop everything and follow him… well, I wouldn’t.

And yet John did. And the Bible tells us that 11 other guys were also chosen and called by Jesus. I can imagine them all meeting each other for the first time, having no idea what they were getting themselves into. I can only assume that they perceived that it was something great.

John says that the next day they were all invited to a wedding, along with Jesus’ mother, Mary. I don’t know exactly what weddings looked like back then, but I can imagine these 12 guys mingling, getting to know each other, taking a seat at a table adjacent to Jesus and His mom.

And then the party ran out of wine. I can see John watching it all unfold, as Mary walked right up to Jesus and said, “They have no wine.”

“What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus said.

And yet Mary walked over to the master of the feast and told him to do whatever Jesus said. And John watched as Jesus complied, walked over to the servants and told them to fill the stone water jars they had with water, all of the way to the brim.

After they had done this, Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”

And when the master of the feast drank the “water” from the jars, it was wine. He called the (surely baffled) bridegroom and gushed about how great the wine was.

And the 12 disciples, these guys that had just met each other, that had just embarked on this new adventure, probably looked at each other and marveled. Who was this guy? Did he just turn water into wine? John recounts that they believed in Jesus that day. They began to believe that Jesus was more than just a normal man, that He was something magnificent.

 

At the end of his gospel, John describes Jesus as doing so many incredible acts that “were every one of them to be written, the world itself could not contain the books” (John 21:25).

Jesus made a lot of incredible claims when He walked the earth. He claimed that He was the light of the world, that He was the way and truth and life, that God loved the world so much that He sent His very son to die so that we don’t have to. And John heard Him make every claim. He was walking beside Jesus, listening to what He had to say.

But anyone can claim things about themselves. Jesus knew people wouldn’t believe that He really was God unless He proved His legitimacy in front of them. And so He did things in front of everyone who crossed His path, things that were miraculous, things we will talk about more later.

But this was His first sign, His first miracle. And the disciples had no idea at the time how much Jesus would do, and how turning water into wine would pale in comparison to everything they would see.

But John recounts this story, this first time He recognized Jesus as something special, the first time he believed that there was something miraculous in his midst.

The loving God Himself.

(scripture taken from John chapter 2)

 

 

That One Guy Named John

That One Guy Named John

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

1 John 4:16

Sometimes when I read the Bible my mind likes to pretend that it was written by a ghost or a robot or, I don’t know, some disconnected monk somewhere. And I forget that it was written by normal people, just talking about everything they experienced, and how they met God in a way they never planned.

This verse was written by a guy named John, and talks about how somewhere, somehow, he came to know and believe the love that God had for him. I find this intriguing because, well, want to come to know and believe that God loves me. I want to sit down with John and look him in the eye and ask him the entire story, because surely he was just like me. Surely he doubted his lovability, surely he faced hardships, surely the world around him absolutely screamed the opposite claim – that love is earned, not given. That love is conditional. That there is fear in love.

But that’s not what John says. A few sentences after this claim, he then goes on to say that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”. Ok, scoop that up on a plate and serve me dinner please, because I want that. (Whoops… is it showing that I live in the South now…?)

What in John’s life convinced him so thoroughly that it’s true?

 

I don’t know much about John, and Biblical scholars surely know way more than me, but the Bible tells us that he was a fisherman. And one day, he was sitting in his fishing boat with his brother, James, and their dad. They were mending their nets, as I’m sure they did often, when a man named Jesus walked by and he told them,

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Which, honestly, is kind of a weird statement. But the Bible says that John and James left their father immediately to follow Jesus. They vacated their fishing boat and profession and started a brand new life. Just like that.

What was it about Jesus that made them do that?

It must have been the same “thing” about Jesus that caused John, years and years later, to write about how convinced he was that God loved him. The things he experienced while following Jesus changed him forever, and what I believe he experienced above all else is love. He became convinced of the love Jesus had for him, and consequently, the love God had for him because Jesus is God.

And so I believe that the only way to understand how loved we are by God is to understand who Jesus was. Not who our minds make Him out to be, because our minds often lie. But who was Jesus really? What did John see Him do and hear Him say that convinced him of His love? Maybe you’ve read the gospels before, and you assume you know who Jesus is, but I know I need a closer look.

So this month I am going to use John’s gospel as a tool to finding God’s love. Every day, together, we will crack open the stories John tells and look at them from new angles. Not as people sitting in our living rooms reading about them, but as the people who were really there.

And I pray that, by the end of the month, you and I can both come to know and believe the love that God has for us.

Not Just Another Singleness Post

Not Just Another Singleness Post

I was tempted to celebrate Singleness Awareness Day with some sort of witty post like,

“The Top 10 Reasons Why Singleness Is A Blessing”

or

“Don’t Wish Away These Years”

or something along the lines of “DON’T YOU DARE BE SAD TODAY”.

But I don’t feel like it. Partly because I woke up this morning and completely forgot it was Valentine’s Day, and partly because there is something that matters so, so much more than romance. Yes, even today.

Everyday.

Do you know what I woke up this morning thinking? “God, please help me have a clear head today. Give me good time in your word, and give me peace in your promises.”

I have been suffering through stress headaches like crazy. After four years of college, I allowed myself to overload my schedule like a mad-woman and it took a serious toll on my brain. Suddenly, senior year hit and I couldn’t handle it all anymore. The whole “fight the good fight of business” thing just didn’t make any sense to me anymore.

And it began to take a toll on me physically. Nothing hit me worse than my sudden inability to be present, in the moment. My head would begin to “short-circuit” when in big crowds or faced with a long reading assignment. I had simply given it far too much to worry about and face for these past 4 years, and it was finally so sick and tired of it all.

And it began, in its own special way, to say to me, “Maddie, stop. Slow down. Rest.”

So that’s what I thought about as I awoke today. And I realized that nothing, not even a dozen red roses, would make me happier than finding rest in the promises of the Lord today. I realized that my prayers lately have had absolutely nothing to do with men and instead have had everything to do with health. My health. My mind and thoughts and utter exhaustion.

And the realization that nothing will give me that rest and healing but intimacy with my Lord.

And so this morning, I thought of Him.

 

This is not just another singleness post because I don’t want to talk about singleness.

I want to talk about God.

You know, we try so hard to convince ourselves that things matter more than Him. Especially on Valentine’s Day.

But I’m here to say, in echo of the Bible, that nothing does. 

I don’t care if the love of your life gets down on his knee tonight and pops out a rock the size of a small boulder, it still doesn’t matter more than knowing God.

I think of Philippians 3:8:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Can we just sit here for a minute?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that Paul, in some way, enjoyed the humiliation of himself in light of Jesus. In fact, just verses before, he brags about who he used to be.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Beneath all of those million-dollar christianese words, Paul is basically saying:

“I HAD IT GOING FOR ME.”

He was prideful, the top of his class. The AP student of the Jewish high school he attended.

And then Jesus came into his life, and you know what happened?

In humanly standards, his life completely and utterly fell apart.

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.

Three times I was beaten with rods.

Once I was stoned.

Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hinger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

And yet, what? 

“Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

 

Can I take stab here and point our that Jesus doesn’t owe us anything? We are entitled to absolutely nothing. I don’t care how many years you’ve patiently waited and slowly but surely become “the kind of person that the person you want to marry wants to marry”.

All that we have is because of Grace. Common grace that makes the sky blue and grass green, and saving grace that holds our souls fast and allows us to say “It is well”. Have we done anything to earn it?

No.

Do you know what I hope captivates your heart and mind today, this February 14th? Grace. Whether you are married with 5 kids or single as a Pringle, I hope that you are captivated by Grace.

I hope that you consider all a loss compared to knowing Jesus. I hope that you celebrate your intimacy with the One who loves your soul.

Happy Valentine’s Day.