I was recently watching Brené Brown’s Netflix special, “The Call to Courage.” It was incredible. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading my blog and go watch and then please come back and finish reading. *wink, wink* I found myself taking notes and after I was finished with her special, I googled her looking for anything else I could learn from her. I found videos and watched them and then I got on my Hoopla app (it’s basically the library on your phone and it’s awesome, especially for audiobooks. I prefer to read actual books, so I can smell them (weirdo, I know) and feel the pages in my hands but I digress.) I was able to find “The Power of Vulnerability” and I began to listen to it. Her definition of vulnerability is this:uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. She goes on to say, “Vulnerability is not about winning, it’s not about losing, it’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” All of that to say that this particular topic for me leaves me feeling incredibly emotionally exposed. I want to walk in authenticity, I want to allow myself to vulnerable, to be real, to be my true self. I want to be able to connect with people on a real and transparent level. I’ve spent so much of my life in a “false” self trying to protect myself; when in reality I think I was just cheating myself and the relationships of those around me. So fear and doubting God, I know a lot of us struggle with this and that’s what I want to write about today.
The closer my divorce was to being finalized the more and more anxious I became because I knew that meant I was going to be back in the dating game, eventually. This is gives me extreme amounts of anxiety, like for real. I haven’t dated for ten years. A decade. That is a LONG time. So much has changed in the dating game since I’ve been in it; not to mention the last time I dated I was in my twenties. I am now in my thirties with a child. I have no clue what I am doing. The only male friends I had were my friend’s husbands or my ex-husband’s friends. It’s WEIRD y’all. I literally have no clue what I am doing…which leads me to the FEAR & DOUBT that runs rapid in my mind. Here is a typical thought pattern for me, “How am I going to meet someone, I am a nanny and spend my day with a 1 year old and a 7 year old? I don’t want to go to a bar to pick someone up…pick someone up, *eye-roll* I don’t want to “pick someone up” I want someone to pick me, plus I have no desire to go a bar. I barely went to bars in my twenties, they are loud in my opinion and I don’t want some creeper all up on me and I don’t even drink anymore, alcohol has way to many calories and I am in my mid thirties now and geez metabolism is really slowing down, plus it’s expensive and kind of gross. Next thought pattern, I guess I could meet someone at church but they all knew my ex-husband, are they going to judge me, are they going to actually want to date me, I don’t want to share my story with everyone. Now I am going to have to get a babysitter when I want to go on a date, if someone actually wants to date me, oh my goodness, I have a child, who is going to want to date someone with a kid?! How am I going to do this? Am I ever going to get married again? I want to get married again? Whose going to want to date someone whose been divorced? ” Exhausting right, that’s not even the HALF of what runs through my brain y’all. It is RIDICULOUS.
Those fears are all consuming. Maybe you read that and think well that isn’t fear, it’s just being anxious. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philipians 4:6-7 Sometimes though the fear thought pattern gets louder and louder and it drowns out the truth of what God tells me, Elisha don’t be anxious,present your requests to me, let my peace dwell in you. Elisha, trust in the Me with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Me and I will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, paraphrased to fit my name) I forget this and I allow fear to lead me into a downward spiral that leads to doubt. What does God say about fear? God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 I know God’s word is true. I know it in my heart and yet sometimes I convince myself that it’s not true for me. Like I know God is God and He is good, but what if I am somehow exempt from His goodness because look at my past, look at the things I have done and the situations I have walked in and out of. Maybe His promises aren’t for me. Maybe He is mad at me, maybe He is going to punish me for the choices I’ve made. Maybe what He says excludes me. Sounds like a lot of lies right? Doesn’t really sound like the gracious, loving God I know yet sometimes I allow these thoughts to permeate my day, my being and my heart.
“This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. , etc.” – Jeremiah 29:1 This is the opening scripture of chapter 29 of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was writing to the people who were exiled from Jerusalem. Jeremiah then goes on to tell the people to build houses, settle down, plant gardens, marry , etc. Basically in my understanding it seems like he is telling them to live. He also tells them to seek peace and prosperity and this is all in the midst of them being exiled from their home and taken to a foreign land, with foreign gods and people. He then goes on to say one of the most striking things, for me at least. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” – Jeremiah 29:11-14
FOR I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU. WOW. They are in captivity and to me it seems God is saying through Jeremiah, be content in your captivity, be okay in the midst of your storm, be okay in your struggle, keep living, don’t give up, create a beautiful life for yourself, BECAUSE I KNOW THE PLANS I HAVE FOR YOU, plans to PROSPER you and NOT TO HARM YOU. Plans to give you HOPE and a FUTURE. He then gives us a way to communicate with Him. He says, you will CALL on me and COME to me and PRAY to me and I WILL LISTEN TO YOU. You will SEEK ME and FIND ME when you seek me with ALL OF YOUR HEART. I WILL be FOUND by you. WHAT?!?!? That sounds like a promise to me and if I believe God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow ( which I do) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8 and I am His child, what in the world makes me think that He doesn’t have the same plans for me, plans to prosper me, to not harm me, plans for a hope and a future. He also gives me a way to communicate with Him and promises me He will be found by me, ME!!!!! I can have access to the good, loving Father. I can have hope and peace and a future ALL IN THE MIDST OF MY STRUGGLE. I am in the middle of my own “exile” if you will, maybe not the middle, I felt like I was in the middle last year. Maybe a more appropriate term would be, coming out of the struggle but no, not really. I am still in my struggle, still in my captivity. I am a 35 year old divorced single mother. I mean I am reeling and healing from the EXTREME craziness of the last year and really the last ten years. Reeling and healing, hahahaha, I find that to be HILARIOUS, probably because it rhymes and I love when things rhyme, I am typing this and laughing out loud. You know I didn’t intend on the later half of this entry turning into a blog, I sat down to type because I really had some stuff I needed to work out in my heart. Things I am struggling to understand, things I am wrestling with, desires I have, disappointments I am wrestling with. I’m really trying to understand why some things have happened and then God led me to this scripture and really the chapter and here I am feeling some semblance of peace having navigated through it a little bit. I know without a doubt there are going to be times probably in the next few hours actually, that I have to fight tooth and nail to protect that peace and to remember that promise that God gives, even in the middle of my exile. I know that God’s promises aren’t just for the Israelites who were exiled in Babylon or that they’re not only for the really good Christians who have never struggled or for the Christians who are doing amazing things for His kingdom. They are for me too, the woman who fails every single day to measure up against her own impossible standards she sets for herself, the woman who feels the utter weight of loneliness because she has never allowed herself to sit alone and just be with herself and now God has given her this time to be alone (well with a toddler, is that REALLY alone?!?!, haha) the woman who looks in the mirror and wonders if she is enough, does she measure up, is there actually going to be a man who loves her, imperfections and all? Is there going to be a man that God brings her that one, loves God more than anything, two loves her son as if he were his own and three really loves her, dorky, silly, self inside and out, will he really love her the way Christ loved the church? Will she be able to love herself, to be gracious with herself and really truly accept every single flaw and let go of the guilt and shame that tries to hold her captive?
As I grapple with all of these thoughts, the fear that sometimes paralizes me, the doubt that I drown in on occasion; I can absolutely rest in God’s word. I know it’s true. I know it, I’ve experienced His goodness and His grace and His provision. So when the waves of fear and doubt hit, I have to address it head on and ride the wave until I get to the other side of it. Towards the end of the scripture it says, “…and(I, God) will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:14 This to me is another promise from God saying He can bring you out of what you were carried into. Sometimes we bring the trial/storms/exile or whatever you want to call it, on ourselves. Sometimes it just happens. Loved ones die, we lose jobs we adore, friends walk away, people leave, tragedy strikes. We find ourselves in the midst of brokenness and struggle we never planned for or could have even imagined possible for our lives and yet we are in the thick of it. Yet we have the promises of God to cling too. This post isn’t to MINIMIZE anyone’s storm, that is the last thing I would want to do. I have had friends with the best of intentions say to me, well at least your situation isn’t as bad as so and so’s or “it could have been so much worse”. Those phrases drive me CRAZY!!! I read this quote somewhere, “Someone who drowns in 7 feet of water is just as dead as someone who drowns in 20 ft of water. Stop comparing traumas, stop belittling your or anyone else’s trauma because it wasn’t “as bad” as someone else’s. This isn’t a competition, we all deserve support and recovery.” I don’t know who said this, if this is your quote please let me know and I will give you credit and a hug because this quote gives me so much freedom!!!! Basically all of this to end with the reason for this post is to offer support, love, grace, a safe space for whoever is reading to know that we ALL struggle, we ALL have really hard stuff we are dealing with and YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Hear me when I say that, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I don’t really know how to end this post, I don’t even know it is cohesive or if you can even understand what I am trying to say. Like I’ve said in prior posts, a lot of what I am writing is to work out what is going on in my head and my heart and I hope and pray that this encourages someone else who is struggling. I need to go now, my child has started making noise on the baby monitor and its only a matter of minutes before he stands up in his crib, turns on the light and starts saying, “MAMA, MAMA.”
Messy Momma signing off, in her own form of exile and clinging to God’s promises,