Thursday, December 18, 2014

Growing in the Valley

Our greatest times of growth comes during the times we spend in the valleys. 

I've heard that said different times throughout my life and have come to greatly believe it more and more the older I get.  Sometimes it may take us a long time to be able to see the growth because we are blinded by the hard times we are in OR we might just be stubborn (ha!)  Seeing the growth taking place WHILE we are still in the valley itself---that comes from spiritual maturity and faith.

THIS has been a valley week (or several weeks) for me.  Multiple painful and stressful situations going on, emotionally on a roller coaster as I think of this time of year and grief, and physically a battle with lupus were already swirling like crazy and then I think the bottom of the valley floor smacked me in the face. I had the rug pulled out from under me in a way that I was TOTALLY not expecting with someone very dear to me betraying my trust like I've never experienced before. It literally took my breath away and physically felt like I broke in multiple pieces.  I also had to FINALLY face the fact that a highly valued friendship(s) has changed so much that I had to  "release" it and along with it I had to let go of my expectations, hopes, and LOTS of hurt.

In the valley, I can already see growth happening.  However, I don't want to be in the valley.  I most definitely do NOT want to be having to grow.  I most definitely would rather life be easy and without pain. I would much rather just float along on "easy street".  (Annie lyrics are going through my head as I type that----though I've not seen the newest version, this Annie fan of many years is quite excited to see it soon!). 


I have a choice to make.

Kick and scream.  Fight like crazy.  Spiral downward.  Shake my fist at God.  Spew back hate and hurtful words.  Give up.



See what it is that He is wanting me to see during this difficulty. 

Maturity comes from trying to see through His eyes.

For me, this growth in this particular valley is all about forgiveness.

Forgiving the betrayal and trusting again, though my heart is bruised and the wound still very fresh.  Offering grace and mercy SO the relationship can have room to be healed.  Looking at the roots of the situations instead of just at the surface.

Forgiving God. 

Granted, putting those two words together is quite odd.  They really shouldn't go together.  Why in the world should I need to forgive a perfect God? Who am I to think that He needs forgiveness? 

He doesn't.

But I do.

I need to say, "I forgive you", so that the chains holding me back can be broken.  It has nothing to do with actually forgiving Him---it's all about the posture of my heart. 

Sometimes, we just need to say it. 

We just need to say it so we can move on.

God, I forgive you.

I forgive you for "allowing" me to go through this/that situation instead of preventing it.  I forgive you for not "allowing" that dream to take place or forgive you for not making it easy and without obstacles.  (After all, don't we tend to think that if God gives us a dream and calls us to something it should happen instantly and without obstacles! For example, our desire to be in the foreign mission field.) I forgive you for not allowing that friendship to remain as top priority and meet the needs that I thought it would.  I forgive you for "taking away" that person (either by death, by location, or anything that causes separation).  I forgive you for not solving the financial dilemma.  I forgive you for not healing that person.  I forgive you for not providing this/that on MY timetable.  I forgive you for.............

I forgive you.

Again, He doesn't need forgiveness.  He's done nothing wrong.  His ways are FAR beyond our ways and He sees a big picture that we can not always see.  His timing works entirely different than ours. 


To say the words and mean them...

Opens the door to our heart for the chains to be broken.  The growth to happen.  The changes to take place.  The bitterness to be released.  The selfishness and expectation to be removed. 

The forgiveness changes US.

Yesterday, I couldn't breath.  Hurt was so heavy that I felt in a fog.  I felt like I was waking with a pair of the kids old "moon shoes" on.  Smiling on the outside when necessary---but crumbling on the inside. Thinking there was no way I could survive all of these "things" going on in my heart with any faith intact.

But then...

I realized that I'm growing. 

I'm growing IN the valley.  I'm not just waiting to see how I grew--after the fact. 

Then I realized that THIS growth was about forgiveness.  Sure, I need to forgive some individuals.  I need to forgive myself.  I need to seek forgiveness for some of my own reactions and faults...

But in reality...

I needed to forgive Him. 

I had to ask for the chains to be broken.  I had to release my anger towards Him.  Had to release Him from the hurt.  Because...

THAT'S when TRUE growth can happen.

I say it often, "I trust in Him."  Yet, then I don't.  I really only give him PART of my trust or I pair together trust and doubt.  In reality, that isn't trust at all. 

To trust means I have to completely surrender.

So in this valley, in this hard place, in this hard season----I surrender.

God, grow me.  Grow me, HERE.  Grow me, now.  Teach me YOUR ways.  Show me YOUR truth and YOUR plan. 

I'm yours. 

Grow me.

Either in the valley or the mountain top.  Grow me.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Garbage In...

I *may* be a bit hard-headed.
I *may* be a bit stubborn.
I *may* struggle with an issue that I KNOW has a fairly "easy" solution for WAY too long because I just won't give in.
I *may* also have learned something in the past and still slip back into a bad habit, negative way of thinking, etc..

That *may* be true of me right now....

Ok.  Forget this *may* business...

My name is Tracye and I'm stubborn.  I can be staring directly at a solution for WAY too long, but just too hard-headed or "weak" to submit to it.

That has become SO very apparent in my thought life.

I firmly believe that what you put in your mind is what's going to come out.  What you feed your heart is what's going to come back out in your life.  That is the reason we are SO very picky about what our children watch or listen to, what they are exposed to, and what we feed their hearts.  Even more so, that's why WE continue that same level over into our adult lives.

Find yourself in chaos, hard times, overwhelming stress and just in general---weighed down by life---what you've fed your heart and mind is what is going to come back out.  Most especially during times of pressure.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

It's why I flood my heart with worshipful music.  Why we have raised the bar so high on what we will watch on TV, in the theater----in public or behind closed doors. 

It's also why I've forced myself to step away 24/7 Facebook access.

I've mentioned many times before how it has drawn me into a place of anxiety, depression, bitterness, anger.  I've walked in to the door of discontent, comparison, etc..  Simply put:  it's been a poison to my soul.


I love it.  I love the connection.  I love the encouragement from multiple sources.  I love "seeing" others outside my four walls.

Because it's the ONLY way many family members and far away friends see our family and I see theirs, I couldn't just walk away. 

I find it necessary on MULTIPLE levels.

But, I was an addict.  There you go.  It's the truth. 

I may not have spent long periods of time on it during the day, but my countless few seconds here or five minutes there ADDED up immensely. DRAMATICALLY!

I needed to step away....

But in today's media world it's nearly impossible to cut it off completely.  It IS in reality a form of communication that many people use on a regular basis.

So, I had to come to a compromise and it's working.  I don't keep it open all day and I have GREATLY reduced the amount of time by only purposely using it on mobile devices instead of mindlessly filling in every second of downtime and waiting (which was my downfall!).  I only give myself a certain amount of time to check in to see if anything is going on.  I specifically go only to certain pages to check for updates instead of scrolling through newsfeed every time (sick friends, those that are posting updates about specific prayer needs, etc...). Lots of little details that have balanced out the time I spend and therefore how my emotions have been affected.

Let me be blunt:  we often say we don't have time to read the Bible, send a personal note to a friend, spend time in prayer, sit in the quiet and LISTEN, spend some quality time TALKING with a loved one, etc....  It's a lie.  A flat out lie we tell ourselves or a lie that we believe from satan.  It IS true that life is a whirlwind speed, BUT we honestly waste so much time in big ways and little ways that add up.  We DO have time for what we decide is important.

Because my heart has been struggling with countless issues, I KNEW I had to step away and refocus.  It's come in the form of social media. 

I also had found myself watching more "tv" on my kindle (we don't have cable and our TV is so old that we seldom sit in front of it to watch anything).  Though I wasn't watching anything "bad" by normal standards, I had found myself drawn into "binge" watching shows/series.  It was affecting my time AND my emotions. 

Time to step away again.

Along with reading books that lead me towards spiritual growth, I've with great purpose been instead spending my time WRITING positive thoughts.  All those COUNTLESS positive pictures with quotes/scriptures from facebook/instagram/pinterest that I had been saving as screenshots on my phone, have now been written down in a journal (though I still have 100s left!).  It has freed up space on my phone and computer, BUT more importantly it has filled up my heart.  The process of writing them down and then having them in ONE place has been remarkable. This notebook has now become "my" place of redirect.  If I'm having a bad day, need encouragement, find my thoughts going down a path of negativity or anger, need to relax, etc....  I can pull out the journal and either read what's written or add more.  Sometimes they are convicting reminders.  Sometimes they encourage me to not give up.  Sometimes they just make me laugh.  They all point me back to Him.

The result....

My heart is GROWING in the direction it needs.
My thoughts are centering around positivity.
I can HEAR God more clearly at work in my heart and it's MUCH easier to get my heart in a place to connect with Him.
Conflicts at home in regards to parenting and marriage are not nearly as volatile when my heart is in a good place.  It's easier to forgive, compromise on solutions, and "let it go".
I'm more full of joy, affection, laughter, and at peace.
I can more easily find myself thinking of others and seeking to encourage them.
Hurtful situations don't cause the same amount of distress.
The ability to handle stress is increasing.
The downward spiral is decreasing.

Even the physically difficult days (which have hit HARD and FREQUENT with the weather changes and some SLE imbalances!) are easier to handle.

All because....

Of what I'm stepping away from and instead replacing.

So many people think it doesn't matter what you put in front of your eyes.  What you read doesn't matter.  What kind of movies and TV shows we watch don't matter.

But it does.  Oh it does!

I'm being spiritually fed and coming alive again.  I can sense His presence more often and easily---though still a work in progress.  My prayer life is reviving.  I'm reviving.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Just like a load of laundry...

Today, I found myself just standing in front of the washing machine lost in thought as I watched a load of clothes swirling around. At first I was just "out of it", lost in another world, as my thoughts were swirling around just like those clothes.  My head was working "through" unexpected thoughts I had just shared with a friend in a text message.  I was going over what I had said about some areas that God was leading me to release to Him. 

As I stood there, I began to think about those clothes and how they relate to our spiritual lives. 

We wear clothes and they get soiled.  Some just a bit and others disgustingly so.  If you have boys in your life, they mostly all will fall in the later category! :)

Life is like that.  Our hearts are like that.

They get stained.  They get dingy. They get worn out, stretched out, and in need of refreshing.

Sometimes I get angry or bitter towards God, though I know that's wrong in itself and a matter my heart still needs to work through on many levels.  I think of how sometimes life just gets hard.  Nothing comes easy it seems.

 I may have friends that on the outside look like they have it all together.  Finances never seem to be an issue to them.  They can travel around the world often and do.  They can give their children the best of everything.  They just don't ever have to really consider something as crucial as planning meals just so that you know there is enough money in the bank account to cover the ingredients---they can "do" and "go".  There may be friends that just always seem to have a great support system when hard times hit.  They don't ever seem to have to feel alone or have to struggle to balance things because they have a massive amount of people that will drop everything when they are in need.  There may be friends that are from families that are intact and relationships aren't strained. Friends with abundant talent.  Friends that look straight from a magazine.  Etc..., etc...

I can take those feelings of improperly placed jealousy and bitterness and let it get the best of me.  I can let those things bubble out of me to the point that I can't see the gifts and blessings right in front of me. 

I can get irritated at God and wonder why in the world life can't be "easy" for us.  After all, I try hard.  I do my best to live a life pleasing to Him.  Therefore, shouldn't life be easy. 

Simply put, NO. 

It doesn't work that way. 

Struggles actually keep me pointed towards Him.  Seeking Him.  Needing Him.  Unable to rely on myself. 

That load of laundry in the washing machine just didn't sit there. 

To get clean, it had to be agitated, tossed around, rubbed the wrong way.  It had to be subjected to hot or cold water---not just a comfortable temperature.  As a watched a specific article of clothing go into the water and agitate around in a specific pattern before coming back up to start the entire cycle again, I thought of how I'm in the same cycle. 

Dunked into the hot water (or cold). Swirled around and around.  Tossed and agitated.  Rubbed.  Subjected to deep cleaning.  All before I can come up for air again, barely catch my breath and then the cycle begins again.

For my heart to be clean and to be growing in Him, I have to continuously go through a refining process.  Clothes don't get clean just sitting in the laundry basket (contrary to the belief of my children!).  God can't shape me into His vision if I'm constantly living a comfortable, easy life.  Though clothes sometimes need to soak in water for stubborn stains, for the most part the cleaning process takes places through a pushing, pulling, tugging process.  An active process.  My heart and life are the same.  I can't expect to grow in Him or become more of the woman He wants me to be, passively.  I can't just sit in one spot and expect that growth process to just happen without some effort.  Without some moments of struggle.  Without some pain. 

Oh, how He loves me (and you!).  Oh, how He wants the best for us.  He loves us so much that He doesn't want us just sitting around in our own filth. 

Sometimes that growth and change of heart can come quickly and easily.  Sometimes situations can quickly shape us and refine us.

But sometimes....

Many times...

Often times...

It doesn't come from our comfort.  It doesn't come from just observation. 

We have to let ourselves be subjected to the hot waters.  The cold water.  The dunking and twirling.  The swirling around. 

Just like a load of clothes can come out fresh and clean---after the process of being washed, heated, and folded----so can we. 

He alone makes us clean.  It's not from something we do or don't do.  It's purely by His mercy and grace and SACRIFICE for our sins that we are made spotless in His sight. 

But we also require some daily refreshing...soil removal...sprucing up.

To keep growing in Him---finding out more of what His purpose for us is---we have to go through that not so easy process of refining.

As I find myself, DEEP in that refining process as He's shown my heart some changes He wants and some different directions, I *want* to just skip the cleaning process.  I want to just skip over the hard stuff and get straight to the victory. 


It doesn't work that way.

So, instead.....

Just like those clothes I watched today...

I will be twisted, agitated, swirled, knocked around...


In the end...

I'll be like that freshly washed basket of laundry waiting to be put away.  Clean.  Refreshed.  Renewed.  Ready to be used by Him. 

Oh, yes....

The process becomes much more worth it when you see a glimpse of the end.  What lies ahead!