Testimonies

On Discerning, Suffering, & Trusting Myself to Know

outside breakfast 1Hi.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

This has been a strange, raw year for me, almost as if I’ve been in open heart surgery this whole time. It’s honestly still that way nearly every day. I know that someday I’ll probably tell you every little detail, but not today; the surgery still isn’t over. And recovery takes time, too. I’m beginning to accept that healing is a process, instead of attempting to push it to go faster. Hurt doesn’t usually go away by any force except for the force that time is. But it does go away. I’m beginning to learn that, too.

There is something I’d like to talk about right now, though. I haven’t written (to you, at least) in months, so I hope we’ve still got our cozy atmosphere for conversation and that I’ll still be able to articulate my insides decently on the outside. I want to share it now because it is what’s getting me through this tumultuous year, and, if no one else, I need to have it written down so I can go back to it and tell myself the truth.

Where should I start? Well…

This summer, I was facing a difficult decision. Actually, it wasn’t that difficult; I knew I wanted to say no, and I knew that the path He’d pointed me down years ago wasn’t down the route a “yes” would take me.

But… I struggled to trust myself to know those things for sure anymore.

Because a few months prior, the enemy broke into the lovely home Jesus and I had been building, and he tried to take it from me by attempting to imitate Jesus, treating me in ways I deeply hoped Jesus wouldn’t treat me and saying things I just couldn’t imagine Jesus saying.

Jesus had been shattering the false images I had of Him and replacing them with truth, so I wanted to be open to Him, because in this process I had been learning He was more loving and more kind and more passionate and more absolutely irresistibly good than I ever knew He could be. I didn’t know I could be this in love (with anyone, let alone Him), or that He would be this deeply in love with me. It was the richest I’d ever felt.

So when the enemy tried to deceive me, it nearly worked. Because I was so (beautifully) vulnerable and trusting, that even when I knew in my core this couldn’t be right, I didn’t want to hold the one I loved to a false image I might have of Him if He was trying to shatter it.

It took the persistent presence and affirmations of the people close to me to keep me grounded, to shake me out of the paralysis, and to get me to understand that the haunting, deeply unsettling image couldn’t be Jesus. But damage to my sense of trust had already been done. Because it had taken me so long to rest on the truth of who it was that had spoken… and because my (courageously) open heart had been so open that I almost let the enemy trick me into believing a terrible lie, about Jesus and about myself.

Ever since then, I have struggled to be open to trust anyone, even myself, to tell me the truth. I trust Jesus, with all that I am. But most of the time, I don’t trust myself to discern what He’s saying to me. And I can’t explain how terrifying that is. I’ve tried, so many times; I attempted seeing a counselor about it for a while, and I still haven’t found the words to express how helpless and rotten this has made me feel. No words feel sufficient.

So over the summer, when I faced a decision I thought deserved a no but was afraid should be a yes, I didn’t know what to do. I’d still been speaking to Him, even when I didn’t understand His end of the conversation, so I told Him about it. About how scared I was. About how I’d do anything He wanted me to do, and how I so hoped He didn’t want me to do this. About how confused I was and how lost I felt.

A few days later, I read the story of when He faced the enemy’s lying, imitating voice Himself.

Before Jesus began traveling with the disciples, He spent forty days alone in the wilderness– isolated, exposed, and without resources. He faced consistent temptation every one of those days, and He had no food during them. By day forty, He was weary and starving. The enemy saw that vulnerability, and said to Jesus:

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Jesus could have done it. Jesus probably wanted to do it. And most interesting of all: the act itself, of turning a stone to bread so He could nourish His starving body? It wasn’t an inherently bad, sinful thing to do. It even made sense.

But Jesus didn’t do it.

Why?

Because He knew who was telling Him to do it.

The voice telling Him to do it was telling Him to prove Himself– “If you are the Son of God,” it had said. And Jesus knew He had to do no such thing. He knew who He was already. And He knew His Father wouldn’t make Him question that or ask Him to prove it. Jesus knew that in His Father He had security and safety. So when the voice speaking to Him didn’t display those truths, He knew to reject it.

The enemy presented many more temptations to Jesus during that time, but the last one was unique. He brought Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and told Him:

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

The “if” statement was there again, but there was something more complicated in play, too: the enemy had quoted scripture.

It is wildly unsettling to know that the enemy can use scripture, but I’ve witnessed it so many times, in my culture and my church experience and my own mind. I struggle so much to trust anyone’s interpretation of scripture, my own included, because deception isn’t exempt even there. But Jesus experienced this, too. And He knew how to face it head on. The enemy used scripture, yes–

But he didn’t use love.

Because he doesn’t have any. That is his dead giveaway:

God is Love.

Love is the defining context of all of scripture, because love is God’s character. If it isn’t love, God doesn’t do it and He doesn’t ask us to do it. When the enemy told Jesus to jump off a building as a sign of faith, Jesus knew that His Father who loved Him would not do that to Him or ask that of Him.

He also knew scripture; that while it did host the words the enemy said, it hosted other words, too. He knew scripture required context to be properly understood. And He knew the words Love had for Him were not the ones that had been spoken; instead, the correct words were: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” So He spoke those words back to the voice, the enemy’s voice. Eventually, the enemy saw his efforts weren’t working, and he left.

Jesus knew His Father. He knew He was well-loved by His Father. And that was the pillar of truth for Him, who is Truth. That was what kept Him firm.

It is still so hard for me to trust that I’m walking in the truth. But I stick by Him. I study scripture intently, to see what love looks like manifested through Him. And though I admit I approach the Bible and His presence with a measure of fear every day, what I find there is not crushing– it is life-breathing. It is Him. It is love. I see that love is patient and kind, doesn’t insist on its own way. And that greatest love does not push us down– it lays down everything for us. Like He has always done.

I’d had it wrong. I knew that love leads us to suffer for the other person, but I didn’t understand what that meant. I wasn’t even aware that I thought this… but I thought that Jesus wanted me to love Him by suffering. I thought He was telling me to suffer and that it would prove I loved Him.

He was not. He would not.

Jesus knew it when He refused to jump from the temple roof, and I am finally learning it for myself.

Love does lead us to suffer for the other person. Love does not lead us to tell the other person to suffer.

That is not love, that is manipulation and cruelty and fear. When anyone else acts that way, it’s usually obvious to us that they aren’t being loving. Why do we automatically assume God, who is Love, might be the cruel and controlling exception?

Why do we continue to think that God, who is Love, would be less loving than we are?

Jesus laid Himself down to suffer for those He loved. He told us to follow Him in doing the same for others. He did not tell us that in order to love Him, we must suffer. Instead, He told us that when we love Him, suffering will come and He will be with us in it. He is not the source of the suffering; He is not behind it, He does not bring it on, and He does not want it for us. He faces the inevitable suffering with us, even after He suffered for us. That’s what love does.

Love doesn’t hurt others– it hurts for and with others.

Love lays itself down– it doesn’t push others down.

That’s what I hold to. That’s the heart I seek behind every voice. And if that heart isn’t there, I reject the voice and I wait for His. For the truth. I sit with Him, let Him wrap me up wordlessly, nestle in close.

Because, while I still struggle to be sure of His voice… I can always be sure of His presence. His overwhelmingly soft and kind presence.

He keeps my feet on solid ground, even as He lifts me up off my toes.

He’s love.

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Embraces for Your Spirit · Testimonies · The Basics

On The Giving & The Receiving of Love

flower walk, pink and treesGod knows how to love you.

He knows what’s going to reach you. He knows how to show you love in a way that will connect with you and make its truest mark on you.

He doesn’t love like people do.

People have loved you, but not perfectly. Sometimes, their love has manifested as dominance and even control. And it scares you, makes you build your invisible boundaries so that people can see you but can’t know you. You are open and honest and don’t hide your true self from anyone… but never do you give yourself to anyone. You let them see, but don’t let them touch. Because if they can touch, they can hurt. You don’t want that to happen to you anymore. So you hold up your invisible boundaries, so that you are visible but not truly vulnerable.

You know love is giving. That love is always a risk. But the cost… you’re not sure you’re truly willing to pay it.

She tells you that to love is to be willing to be broken for their sake. And that in order to be loved, you must make yourself vulnerable to receive what they give… which makes you vulnerable to the risk of being hurt. You know she’s right. You want to listen to her.

But you realize that in your efforts to keep people from controlling you, you have begun to act controlling toward them. You’ve learned to maneuver conversations and interactions so that you can keep anyone at a subtle distance, to protect against the chance of them hurting you. And when He shows you that you’ve even extended that to how you relate with Him… it terrifies you. Because who is He, truly, if He isn’t the image you’ve crafted of Him for yourself? If you can’t ignore pieces of Him and pretend He’s someone He might not be?

You pray a prayer you can feel the danger pulsating throughout: “Reveal your true self to me. Help me to accept the way you want to love me, even if it’s not a way I’d ask for.”

He starts answering. But not in ways you expected. And you even expected the unexpected.

He shows you a young man. One who is sweet and humble, but not without being strong and bold. The young man leaves soon, but not without searing that image in your mind. Part of you slowly begins to believe those things can coexist, gentleness and strength. Part of you begins to see that strength makes you feel small, but doesn’t have to in the ways it has before. Instead of intimidating and scaring you, this strength can make you feel safe. You don’t have to feel powerless. You can feel wrapped in it, and it can warm the winter in you. Among the wild mess inside you, there’s a moment of clarity, and you realize that is what’s happening.

You realize it is Him doing it.

You see that His love is meeting you in ways that will get through to you. He’s been going at your pace. Instead of demanding you change so that you can be loved, He has been entering what’s there, even your vices, and loving you. Not simply in it, but with it. Anything, He says, to be with you.

Anything to love you.

He knew what would reach you. You hid, but He still saw you and knew you. He became the shape that would fit the hole you’d found yourself in.

He knew the deep desires you barely knew existed in your heart, and He entered them, met them in ways you wouldn’t have thought. You didn’t think to want these things, because you didn’t believe you were the kind of person who would ever have them. But He brought love home to you, in a bouquet of flowers bigger and more elegant than anything you’d ask for. It blew you into wide-open wonder and gratitude. But you weren’t looking at the flowers when you thanked Him– you just looked at Him. You met His eyes with your teary ones, and you just looked at Him. Because He was the gift. He didn’t only give you flowers; He had given you His heart. Himself.

Love is giving. The giving of yourself for their sake. And He knows that more than anyone. He always has.

He’s been doing it right under your nose this whole time.

You thought you had to do the hard work of breaking down all the lies that live in your core before you could let yourself be loved. You tried to take steps to do so, and it was beautiful and brave of you. But He chuckles, and He murmurs into your ear that only one thing has ever been necessary.

All you had to do was lean into Him, and let Him love you.

So that’s what you do. You close your eyes, lean against His chest, feel Him wrap you close.

And you let Him love you.

“Simple trust is your participation.”   –Eve by Wm. Paul Young

Responses

On Having a Voice

everything will be okayA few weeks ago I started writing something in anger because someone was speaking pointless words that tore others down. I didn’t plan on writing anything more about it than that little processing-piece only I would see.

Then that person, not knowing I was upset or that I’d even heard their words, opened up to me. They told me they often feel they don’t have a voice; that they don’t have anything important to say, let alone a platform where they can say it.

I realized that I’m often a lot like them.

It’s hard to use your voice, let alone use it well, when you don’t believe you have one.

Shame, doubt, fear… they tell us no one really needs to hear what’s in us. And when we believe that, we not only don’t get to use our voices to spur the good we want to see in the world– we get careless. We say whatever seems interesting or funny or relevant at the time, whether we completely believe it or not, because we don’t think it affects anyone.

But wow it does.

That person’s unkind words were heard so clearly; they caused me to fume for days, and they weren’t even about me. But… how was that person to know? If they believe their words don’t impact anyone, the natural conclusion is that being unkind doesn’t matter, because there’s no one to be affected by it.

Here is the truth: people do hear you.

If you are speaking to one person, you have a powerful voice. You’ve got family members in your home, friends in your goings about, co-workers at your job, classmates at school, cashiers at the grocery store, Facebook friends on your screen… there are people all around you. You have an audience, and they are receiving what you say. You have the power to choose what you give them. If you’re careless and don’t give thought to your words, you can hurt, or confuse, or simply fall flat. But if you speak truth and love… it reverberates and carries on inside those who hear you. Because God is love, and He is the truth, and He is literally the Word. When you speak love, you are placing Jesus in front of those you speak to.

What was that about your words not having power?

Your words, when they’re spoken truthfully in love, have accessed the greatest power there is.

So many people from various walks have spoken love into me. I remember the most random compliments people have given me, because they uplifted me so much; I make better choices when people encourage me in my ability to do so; I remember truthful things others have shared with me when I need endurance; I am even more apt to purse something when people tell me I’m good at it. I’m not the only one who experiences this! We all do. Words matter so much to our souls. Why do we feel like our words would be the exception?

You have a voice. You have something important inside you, and you have an audience to share it with. What you say? It matters. The tongue has the power to kill and to bring life, and you get to choose which you use it for. You can tear down, yes, and you can hide in silence, too. But you can also ignite healing, world-altering things in people, just with your words of love. I know a man who responded to a suicidal-sounding tweet a young girl sent him; with his 140-character (if that) response of love and encouragement, he blew her away with his kindness and convinced her to stay in the world longer. Just a few short sentences. But they had the power of life.

Did you know that you have a voice? Because you do.

And we’re listening.

Testimonies

On Insecurity & Contentment (Or, When Clichés Tell The Truth)

DSC03824Growing up, I was never really too down on myself. Because I was convinced make up, hair dye, following trends, and the like were all pointless (maybe even bad),  I had to be content with myself the way I was. Of course I still had insecurities, but for the most part I just knew I was different and that I had to be genuine about myself. I didn’t really focus on my appearance that much.

The past year or so, I’ve grown in terms of how I view myself. I dyed my hair to a color I loved and learned how to take care of it; I collected a few little make up items and liked what they could do; I started dressing a bit more like a grown up version of myself (which is still pretty colorful and wild, let’s be real). Because I was starting to actually view myself as an adult, I was learning that I was in charge of myself, and that there were new worlds I could explore. I’ve been enjoying these worlds a lot, for the most part.

I’ve never really been concerned with being more relevant. But lately… I have.

I wonder if it’s because I entered these new worlds, worlds that encourage self-improvement and high standards I’d never sought to meet before. Without make up/hair dye/whatever, if you aren’t keen on how you look, you can’t really do anything about it. So you learn to accept it and live with your focus placed elsewhere. With those things, however, you can change a lot about what you don’t like. It’s really nice. But if you use them and still don’t feel great about yourself, it stings more. Because you tried to hide the insecure places, and they still peek out and bother you… maybe even make you feel inferior to those who do what you’re doing but seem successful at it.

I feel similarly about exercise. I wasn’t regularly exercising until about six months ago, and now I feel like it’s a hugely important duty for me to maintain my body, or even to make it better. Because exercising has improved my shape a little, and a few people have even noticed. Sometimes I notice, and get excited about it. But now I have this fear of not being able to keep it up. I started exercising purely because I wanted to get a better grip on my struggles with anxiety; I didn’t expect any of this to come with it.

I didn’t really deal with these feelings and fears before. But now I do. And something else has come with it, something that is devastating me: comparison.

I find myself looking at old photos and getting annoyed or even mad at my past self for her weight, which was never really noticeably bad. But worse than that: I look at other women and see things I wish I had… and things that I’ll judge them for having. Because I’m more self-conscious than I was before, I am now more apt to see issues in others and be a more harsh, judgmental person. I compare myself to them, wanting what they have, and I compare them to me, thinking they should want what I have. I hate seeing this in me, and I hate letting you see it; it’s embarrassing and painfully vulnerable. But it fully convinces me that judgmental, cruel people truly are just insecure people who want to feel better inside. People always say that, but I never saw the reality of it before it became my reality.

Dang.

Part of me wonders if I started a lot of this because I fell for someone who seemed to live in such a glittering world, and I wanted to measure up. I didn’t want to be invisible or unsightly or subpar; I wanted to be beautiful and noticeable… to be good enough for his world. And maybe I began tearing down other women in my head because I didn’t want to compete with them, because I had no hope in winning against them. What stupid games we play, thinking anything in life is a competition we have to beat others in. Thinking love is something we win from people.

Yesterday, I liked how I looked, so I took a few photos. Then I saw photos of other gorgeous women, and I didn’t like mine anymore. I met the reality of another platitude– comparison took joy from me.

I think I’m sharing these things with you just to show you how true those platitudes are. Because I’ve heard them my whole life, but I’m just now seeing them manifest. And wow… damage happens when you don’t see or truly believe in something that’s happening inside you.

When I’m alone, just focusing on enjoying what I have and being grateful, I like myself. It’s when comparison and standards come in that I begin to doubt and get anxious and defensive. I have to focus on gratitude. Gratitude for this body I have to live in; for a lifestyle that really works for me; for fun ways to explore expressing myself; for the beauty other women possess; for the unique images all of us get to carry that are a piece of the image of God; for the worthiness of the individual; for people who build others up; for the ability to compliment instead of compete. It is in gratitude that contentment will live and thrive.

So, thank you, Father, for all of those things. And that you like us even when we can’t like ourselves.

[Listen]

Misc.

On Being Broken & Having Doubts

DSC09999I’m broken.

I forget it sometimes. Sometimes, I think I’m doing okay. I do what I can with what I have during the day. Then I get into bed and start talking to Him… and I don’t want to talk for long. Because I just cannot be detached or passive with Him, and I don’t want to concede to the fact that maybe I’m still not okay. “If I just protect my joy, I’ll be fine and won’t get hurt,” I think.

I remember Ann speaking of candle flames. She said that when we desperately cup our hands around the flame of our joy in attempt to protect it, we are suffocating it; we will snuff it out. “My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy. Flames need oxygen to light. Flames need a bit of wind,” she said.

So I try to let myself feel what I feel. I try to stay out of denial when it’s an especially difficult day. I try to be kind to myself. But I still hate not being okay. I hate that hard days are more frequent for me than good days right now. And I hate feeling like a pile of broken pieces, feeling incomplete, empty, like I’m not whole.

Most of the time, I feel it’s my fault. When I recognize a mistake I’ve made or flaw I have, I feel that I should be able to change it. But I have so many flaws and wounds, and they still show up every single day.

Someone I admire once said he believes our gifts and our flaws come together to help us live our specific purpose. I keep thinking about that. And how I’m always going to have flaws as long as I live in this body. Though I’ll fight to overcome them the best I can, there are some things I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life.

I have power over my actions. But I also can’t fix myself, because the problem is that I am what’s broken. Only my Father can truly heal me, can fix what’s wrong, because He’s the one who made me. So what can I do to improve, and when is it an impossible task for me?

I want to share some beautiful answer He revealed to me. But the painful truth is that I don’t have one. I’m not even close. I’m broken over my brokenness. I’m hosting so many questions, questions I was afraid to ask Him before because I feared He would be angry with me for not trusting Him.

What I am learning is that when I have questions– ugly, difficult, sometimes angry questions– He isn’t upset with me for having them. He knows they’re in me already. When I’m honest with Him about them, He isn’t angry; He’s glad I’m coming to Him. It doesn’t mean He’ll answer the question with anything but His arms and the gentle words, “I know.” But He doesn’t love me less for asking. He doesn’t call my questions sin or mistrust.

…I doubt Him daily.

Solid theology in my head and noble intentions in my heart don’t change what’s wrong in my soul. I can know His promises and His truth and His character in my head and I can act accordingly, and I could still not be convinced of them in my soul. I know my Father loves me. I know He’s working things for my good. I know He takes care of me. I know He’s a healer. I know He makes a way where there is none. I trust Him in my head.

But, in my soul… I don’t believe it. I’m scared to.

I’m scared to surrender my vices to Him. Because I know in my head He doesn’t take things away without putting His best in their place, but in my heart I’m afraid to be left with nothing; left to myself, and now even without the little balms I’ve made for myself.

I’m scared to pursue what He points me toward. Because, in my head, I know that when He asks me to do something, He does it with me. But in my heart I know I am inadequate and not skilled enough and will fail by myself. I’m terrified He won’t come when I need Him. The enemy’s lies have been in my ears for so long that I can hardly distinguish them from my own thoughts.

I’m scared… I’m scared of who I am.

In my head, I know that my Father loves me, but… but all of me feels so unloved. Overlooked. Tolerated. Unlovable.

No words of wisdom can fix this brokenness in me. I have a lot of them, and I believe them in my head, but they don’t reach my heart. I wish they would.

“I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart,” He says.

My Father is the changer of hearts. When I want to believe but still doubt, He comes in power to teach my very heart to trust and know Him and His truth. In our struggles to believe, He reorients our hearts, completely, so that we belong to Him and He belongs to us, in wholeness.

When my faith runs short, He brings my heart into His own. And He doesn’t run short on anything.

“That’s always the best place for miracles: God meets us– right where we don’t believe. When our believing runs out, God’s love runs on. . . God takes broken hearts– and gives you His.”  -Ann Voskamp [full post]

“Before you doubt Me, doubt your doubts. Doubt your doubts, and you will see that they are just as empty as the tomb that I walked from. . . Don’t you see these rings in my hands? See, we are married.” -Joseph Solomon [full video]

Blossoms of an Artist

One of The Good Days

I am bursting. I have joy bubbling up inside me, joy that’s making me dance in circles around my room even though the song on my playlist right now is hard rock. It’s weird, and I know this isn’t going to make a lot of sense to you, maybe, but that’s okay.

Look what I did:life watercolor on easel

I painted. I painted on a full-sized piece of art paper. For the first time in such a long time.

For over a month now I’ve been in this place of complete open seas, not knowing where the Lord is leading me but knowing that He is leading. It’s a place that I’ve been grieving in, a place that I’ve been confused and hurt in, a place that I’ve wanted to leave. And I’m still here.

But today was the first time I saw a sign that I really am going somewhere.

I told you a few weeks ago that I feel so inadequate to make the art I want to make sometimes. And that having those insecurities comes from doubting that God is capable of using me in the ways I secretly dream He would use me. Knowing that I left college because the Lord wanted me to do some kind of creative work, the fear that I can’t make good enough art is crippling. But things are getting better. He’s teaching me to create again. He’s teaching me to go into creativity with the thought in the back of my mind, “There is a definite possibility that I could like this when I’m done with it.” And He’s teaching me to trust Him and what He says about me.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made something creative and been really excited about the way it turned out. But today broke that. I love this piece. And although I hope other people like it, too, it doesn’t matter to me a lot if they do. Because I think it’s lovely and it gets me excited every time I look at it. There are hard days, days that make me feel like I’m not going to be able to do what He wants me to do and what I want to do.

But there are also days like this.

I made blank space on my walls when the semester ended. I took down the pieces that didn’t carry deep meaning for me, but I also unintentionally made it so that I needed to fill those empty spots with new art. And I’m excited to start the refilling with this new piece, this piece that is ironic and kind.

Blossoms of an Artist

On Creative Drought & Faith

I baked cookies in the heat today.bowl of cookie cookies and bowl ovenready cookies

Why? Because I feel completely dry of creative juices.

I have written the same blog post nearly all day for two days now, and I don’t even know if I’ll end up posting it. I’m not passionate about it, I feel like I didn’t convey things the way I wanted to, and I don’t know if anyone else could even benefit from it.

“What’s the point?” my inner critic asks me bitterly.

I sketched out the beginnings of a painting I wanted to work on yesterday. The lines are there now, but I don’t want to fill them in. Because I can’t shut the thought out of my brain that it won’t end up looking the way I want it to look.

“Why would I waste so much time on something that I’ll end up finishing with the words ‘good enough’?” my inner cynic asks, a whisper of sadness in her tone.

I love my friends. I don’t get to see many as often as I used to and I’m trying to cope with that. I’ve been writing letters with a friend back and forth, but it’s been a while now since I’ve received her letter and I still haven’t written back. Because I feel like what I write her has to be uplifting, and I just don’t know if I have the right words.

“Why is it so hard to just make something heartfelt and be happy with that?” I whisper, hugging my legs in my desk chair.

That’s why I made cookies today. I want to– have to– create, but I am terrified that what I make isn’t good enough.

Cookies are easy. As long as they’re golden brown and taste like a cookie, they’re successful. There’s no pressure; I don’t view them as an expression of my soul. They don’t have to be unique, expressive, interesting. But what I write here, what I paint onto a canvas, what I say to someone else… it matters to me. A lot. I want it to be good.

I want to be able to create things that don’t get in the way of what I’m trying to express to you. I want to make something that captures what’s inside me and speaks into your life. And I’m being completely honest with you: I feel like I just can’t. I feel like I don’t have a voice to match my soul. My soul has so much in it, so much I wish I could share. I wish I had that ability. But, today, I don’t feel like I do. There are days like this that are just hard.

This is so hard for me to handle, because creating is what Jesus has asked me to do. I left college because He wanted me to create. I can’t express how weighed down I feel by the thought that I can’t do what He’s asked of me. If I can’t do it, what else can I do? Is anything left?

Phew. I’m sorry. Thank you for listening to my ugly.

I wrote a poem about a month ago when I was feeling like this.

Do you ever feel like you fail before you start?
Because it’s not what you do–
It’s you?
I am telling you, soul: this is your design!
You were created for this.
And the only person who can truly get in your way?
It’s you.
Believe in who you are;
Trust Him who made and is leading you.
There is so much beauty here, and–
It’s you.

And it makes me think maybe I should just keep creating, even in the slough. It’s not my best, but it’s not my worst, and I think I said what I wanted to say through it for the most part. If it helps no one else, it’s helping me.

After I wrote it, I realized that doubting my ability to create was a symptom of doubting the Lord. Knowing He asked me to take some intense risks in order to create, and knowing that all He’s been saying to me lately has been to express and create, what could make me think that I’m not able? This is His will for me. I am on the path I followed Him onto. Nothing is going to stop Him from accomplishing His good purposes, not even if I am lacking. This is His. He is in this. He has strength for my weakness. He has prepared these things in advance for me. I can create expressive, interesting, unique, meaningful art, because He wills it be so.

When I don’t trust that I can do it, it’s an indicator that I don’t fully trust Him. Creating great art seems impossible because I’ve been trying to trust myself for it, and put all my stock in my own abilities. And the truth is–

I don’t have what it takes. I can’t do this alone.

But Jesus?

He can take me there. And He’s told me He will. And when He does, it won’t be because I’m wonderful and talented; it will be because I am swimming in His grace. It is hard to sit back and wait, but it’s even harder when I find that I’m not trusting Him. When I don’t trust Him, I end up not even trusting what He says about me. And He says that I am chosen, royal, holy. He says that He does all He does for my good. He says that I share in suffering in order to become more like Him.

And He says that He loves me. He loves me enough to give up His life for me, to call me His friend, to walk with me every day.

I am growing in believing Him deep in my heart.

I haven’t believed You.
But it’s more than that.
I haven’t believed You because…
Because You believe in me.
And I don’t.

May we have so much faith in you, Lord, that we will have faith in your promises, too. May we seek to glorify you in what we do and may that be enough for us, because it is enough for you. May we feel deep in our souls that you are our reward, and that you understand our depths even when we can’t express them. And may we see an inkling of what you see in us. We love you.