When Anxiety is Great

Whatever anxiety it is that may grip my heart, my Heavenly Father has a consolation to meet it; a beautiful majesty of his character that surpasses any worry. Loneliness is met with his presence. Animosity is met with his love. Guilt and failure are met with his forgiveness and mercy. Weakness is met with his strength. Hard tasks are met with his grace. Decisions are met with his wisdom. Difficult situations are met with his peace. Grief is met with his comfort. Indifference is met with his compassion. Weak faith is met with his abundance. Lies are met with the truth of his Word. All the evil done in the world will be met with judgment. All those who hope in God will be with him forever.

Therefore, little heart, obey his call to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Even though

Whatever thing my life seems to lack does not diminish the goodness of God to me. God’s grace and love are not measured by wealth or food or health, what I receive or what I am not given. The joy of his Holy Spirit transcends all situations, even the deepest of joys and the greatest of griefs. His love is measured by Himself- the God who is good to His children and who never fails. Rejoice, therefore soul, in His salvation.

Assurance for Monday

“How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God.”
Psalm 139:17

Divine omniscience affords no comfort to the ungodly mind, but to the child of God it overflows with consolation. God is always thinking upon us, never turns aside his mind from us, has us always before his eyes; and this is precisely as we would have it, for it would be dreadful to exist for a moment beyond the observation of our heavenly Father. His thoughts are always tender, loving, wise, prudent, far-reaching, and they bring to us countless benefits: hence it is a choice delight to remember them. The Lord always did think upon his people: hence their election and the covenant of grace by which their salvation is secured; he always will think upon them: hence their final perseverance by which they shall be brought safely to their final rest. In all our wanderings the watchful glance of the Eternal Watcher is evermore fixed upon us–we never roam beyond the Shepherd’s eye. In our sorrows he observes us incessantly, and not a pang escapes him; in our toils he marks all our weariness, and writes in his book all the struggles of his faithful ones. These thoughts of the Lord encompass us in all our paths, and penetrate the innermost region of our being. Not a nerve or tissue, valve or vessel, of our bodily organization is uncared for; all the littles of our little world are thought upon by the great God.

Dear reader, is this precious to you? then hold to it. Never be led astray by those philosophic fools who preach up an impersonal God, and talk of self-existent, self-governing matter. The Lord liveth and thinketh upon us, this is a truth far too precious for us to be lightly robbed of it. The notice of a nobleman is valued so highly that he who has it counts his fortune made; but what is it to be thought of by the King of kings! If the Lord thinketh upon us, all is well, and we may rejoice evermore.

– C.H. Spurgeon, Evening, April 30

From https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/morning-and-evening/2018/04/30

Always Good: a song for fear

The word of the day is ‘doldrums’: a spell of listlessness or despondency. It came soon after a visit from it’s cousin ‘fear’ early this morning.

Laundry and sunshine and errands kept doldrums at bay as long as possible. However, evening soon set in and it was just the two of us: despondency and me.

Except there were really three of us: despondency and me and God.

So, regardless of what I am feeling, whether it is fear or doldrums that tries to make its home with me, there is One who has already made His home with me (John 14). And He will neither leave, nor be content to dwell with despondency. In fact, He gives the peace that drives it away. He is always good.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This Saturday song is from Andrew Peterson’s “Resurrection Letters: Prologue” album.

Always Good (Click for lyric video) Andrew Peterson

Do You remember how Mary was grieving?
How You wept and she fell at Your feet?
If it’s true that You know what I’m feeling
Could it be that You’re weeping with me?

Arise, O Lord, and save me
There’s nowhere else to go

You’re always good, always good
Somehow this sorrow is shaping my heart like it should
And You’re always good, always good Well it’s so hard to know what You’re doing
Why won’t You tell it all plain?
But You said You’d come back on the third day
And Peter missed it again and again

So maybe the answer surrounds us
But we don’t have eyes to see

That You’re always good, always good
This heartache is moving me closer than joy ever could
And You’re always good

My God, my God, be near me
There’s nowhere else to go
And Lord, if You can hear me
Please help Your child to know

That You’re always good, always good
As we try to believe what is not meant to be understood
Will You help us to trust Your intentions for us are still good
‘Cause You laid down Your life
And You suffered like I never could You’re always good, always good
You’re always good, always good

Saturday Song: He Giveth More Grace

“How was your week?”

“It was very good. Long. I’m quite tired.”

There is always a hidden story behind polite conversation. And Instagram. I’m guilty of that this week. How was my Friday? Let me show you!

img_2031

img_2033

#teacherlife #ihavethebeststudents #ajoyfulclassroomisasafeclassroom

And it’s true. I love my student kiddos. And they love their teacher. And I’m so thankful for them.

But the truth is, this year is hard in ways that years in the past haven’t been. The truth is, I’m exhausted and discouraged.

But the truth is, God is gracious, as he always has been.

So, how was the other side of my Friday?

Thursday I came home from school around 6. After cooking dinner, I had no energy left to translate more documents, finish Friday’s PowerPoints, grade the growing mound of student work, or do anything else for that matter. So I went to sleep. At 7:30. Even I knew that was a mistake, but I couldn’t help it. I simply couldn’t work any more.

So I was awake from 11:30 p.m.-2 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep, but the bad dreams kept interrupting me. The emotional stress of our grade level meetings manifested in the gripping fear that at 1 am one of my teacher friends was overdosing. One of the little first graders from hall duty was being harmed. Many other false, oppressive fears of the early morning hours met with real-life difficulties and their anxieties. And I simply couldn’t sleep any more.

So, I did the only thing I could: practice the presence of God in the face of my exhaustion, stress, and fears.

Last Saturday, I heard this song (Psalm 91 Eagles’ Wings) by Shane and Shane for the first time. It was a gift of God that began to quiet my spirit early Friday morning.

So I read the words of that song in the other songs that sound melodious, unfailing truth:

Psalm 91 —

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”…

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night…

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 37 —

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him…

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
  he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
     The Lord helps them and delivers them;
             he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
             because they take refuge in him.

Isaiah 40 —

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

 

It’s a miracle from the Holy Spirit that calms fears and worries in my heart — even at 2 a.m. — and let’s me sleep again. Not to dreams of despair, but to dreams of hope and waking to laughter. What a grace.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. — Annie J. Flint

What I Need to Know

This month, I’ve been participating in July’s Scripture writing plan from Sweet Blessings: God is Our Refuge. Focusing for over a week now on the promise of refuge and salvation has led to many thoughts and prayers, and I’m looking forward to the remaining 23 days.

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he know those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7 (part of day 7)

When do I need refuge? When I am afraid. When someone, or some situation, or some sin, or some other worry is pressing on me. In that moment, what I want most to know how everything will be resolved. I want to know, “what will happen?”

As with many others, however, what I want most to know is not what I need most to know. The way of quieting my heart and mind is not in knowing the end from the beginning. No, Nahum says in 4 words (in English, two in Hebrew) what I most need to know: The LORD is good.

The LORD — יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah

Not “one”, not “a”. There are no others in His rank. No other lesser gods to somehow grab power. No equal forces of good and evil to balance out, no equal dichotomy of right and wrong. He alone is unrivaled in the universe.

The eternal, self-existing One. He does not need our help.  All things happen according to His will — even the things that most trouble us. He is the authority, because He existed before all things and He is the Creator and Master of all creation.

is good — טוֹבtowb

He is right. Excellent. Rich and Valuable in estimation. Because He is good, He does what is good. Since He is good in His very being, He is trustworthy.

That’s what a child knows when they run to a parent for help when they are afraid: My parents are bigger, and they are good to me.

Because the LORD is unrivaled in His power and good in His very nature, He is “a stronghold in the day of trouble.”

And as an added balm to a worried heart, “he knows those who take refuge in him.” He knows every hair on their head. He hems them in behind and before. He sees their goings out and staying in. He has written down everyday of their lives. He calls them by name.

So take courage.

He is God.

He is good.

He knows you.

 

The LORD is good,

a stronghold in the day of trouble,

he know those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7

 

 

Suddenly Gluten-Free: understanding the feelings

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was looking at going gluten-free for her husband’s health. Our conversation took me back to when I first realized that gluten — and some of my favorite foods — were off limits. At 27-years-old, I didn’t expect that I had eaten my favorite dessert for the last time.

Enter disappointment. 

After doing some research, I discovered that gluten is not so obvious. It can go by many names. It’s in soups, seasoning mixes, tortilla chips, chocolate, ice cream, spices, supplements, french fries (!)… even makeup.  And don’t get me started about restaurant food.

img_0409

I accidentally ate gluten — even small amounts — with painful and scary consequences. As a result, I became even more careful. And people did not always understand. Even community meals felt ostracizing. I had become that person. Ms. High-Maintenance at restaurants.

Enter frustration.

For people with gluten-sensitivity and Celiac Disease (an incureable auto immune disorder), gluten-free is the only option.  Popular opinion can see gluten-free people as high-maintenance, immature hipsters who could use the health benefits of wheat/barely/rye/spelt. People can question how gluten-free a person really needs to be.

Enter misunderstanding.

All of a sudden, two things I thought I understood — wheat and my body — were becoming more mysterious. Why did that rice mix (seasoning packet!) cause such searing pain in my abdomen?  Why do cookies and communion wafers make my mouth bleed? What was it doing to me? What would happen if I accidentally ate it again? If I stay away from it, could my gut start to heal again or had I caused irrevocable damage?

Enter fear.

Then I learned aboutcross-contamination.

Emotion level: overwhelmed.

I may have started crying one day at Kroger.

Still, looking back I also remembered what helped me get through that feeling of being overwhelmed. Here are 5 tips I learned about the feelings of going gluten-free.

1.) Accept the Feelings

This one has little to do with the actual gluten, but a lot to do with the mentality of changing your lifestyle so drastically.

Go ahead, feel frustrated. Feel sad, disappointed, and misunderstood. Feel uncertain. Feel scared. This is a change and it’s hard. You are probably saying farewell to a lot of things you like. It makes something difficult that used to be easy. It means that you will become that person at restaurants.

img_0407-1

Accept all those feelings, and then say, “I will not lose hope.”

As a Christian, I gained hope by remembering I was “fearfully and wonderfully made”. That God is sovereign, even thought it feels like my body is mutinying.

2.) Get support

img_0408

Explain your circumstances to a close friend. Chances are, you have a friend who has also had to go gluten-free. When I first went gluten-free, I didn’t understand how to do it. I suddenly didn’t understand my own body or how to take care of it. I needed help understanding this new lifestyle and the circumstances around it.

If you are the first of your friends to have to make this change, find a support group. Ask your doctor for recommendations. Read thesepersonal stories from the Celiac Foundation.

Know you are not alone.

3.) Change your mindset

img_0415

In the U.S. — as many other cultures in world — eating is an important part of being social. So, what happens when it’s suddenly more difficult (and hazardous) to eat out?

  • Invite your friends to explore possibilities that don’t involve eating — bowling, make art, museums, escape rooms, game nights, movies, nature walks, plays, music performances, have a photo shoot. Think about how much you would usually spend for a restaurant meal and spend it on making other types of memories.
  • Bring your own food. I’ve only ever been kicked out of one restaurant for bringing in outside food (I’m looking at you, London Pizza Hut) and that was in 2006. I bring my own food to church potlucks, out to eat, friends’ houses (or offer to cook with them), and conferences.

Think outside the box. Stay involved. You’ll find your experience getting bigger instead of smaller.

4.) Be patient

img_0411

As I mentioned before, becoming gluten-free is as sudden as the doctor’s pronouncement of a diagnosis. Becoming an expert in living gluten-free is not. So be patient with yourself. Ask for help. Keep learning.

img_0410

Be patient with others. Don’t roll your eyes when others don’t seem to understand that whole grain bread, graham crackers, and wheat germ all have gluten in them. You will need to educate those around you even as you learn about all the places gluten can hide.  One fun way is to invite people over for a gluten-free dessert night. Some of my friends have found they really enjoy some of my gluten-free goodies.

5.) Keep Going 

img_0414-1

Even when feelings of frustration and discouragement — even jealousy and anger resurface, keep going.

Remember it is not the end. Just like other changes, the gluten-free switch will allow for new experiences, new foods, new friends, and new opportunities that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.  So, accept the feelings. But don’t let them rule you. Remind them that you’re not saying just good-bye. You are also saying “hello”. This is not the end, it is a start of a new chapter.

It will get better.

And it will get easier.

My biggest encouragement and hope is remembering that life is not all about food. That I don’t have to worry because God still cares for me.  Yes, food is a blessing from God. Yes, He gives food for us to thrive and enjoy. Yes, some days I feel excluded from part of God’s blessing, but then I remember that I have an even bigger blessing — God himself. Maybe, for me at least, part of this new chapter is learning to say with the Psalmist, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their new grain and wine abounds.”

img_0417