Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Sweetest Medicine

"Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
Proverbs 16:24

Words are a precious tool for us as people. We have a great arsenal of words, and various ways to speak them to one another. We speak them, type them, pray them...they are a foundation of all that we do.

Due to the simplicity of expressing thoughts through words, we often fail to remember the power of words. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." That is what we would say on the playground when a kid called us a name or made fun of us. Yet it is a statement that is simply untrue. The fact is, the power of cruel words is like that of a sharpened blade- cuts deep in less than a second, yet can take a great deal of time and effort to heal. They can cause a person to build a cold, icy wall around their heart in a desperate effort to avoid being hurt by such words again. Yet, on the other side, the power of kind words is life-giving. They heal wounds, break down walls, and are a source of hope. Kind words fill you with a sense of sweet warmth, like a lovely mug of hot chocolate after walking in from a winter snow. Kind words melt away the icy walls we have built around our hearts.

We live in a fast-paced society where we are always so quick to speak, our voices enabled through both tongue and keyboard. Yet as we quickly speak our minds, what is it we are speaking to others? Our words do not only impact others, but our own selves. When we choose to use our words to tear others down and be cruel, it hurts others and corrupts us. When we choose to use our words to love others, to bless them and to remind them of their value, it lifts others' up and makes us more loving and Christ-like. How we speak to and about others in our daily life is a testament of who we are. Our words are a reflection of our heart, and the words we speak have a continuous impact on the condition of our heart.

I love to give words of encouragement. The reason why is this: because it is a simple way to love others every day. Whether it's saying "I love you" to a friend, or telling a stranger she looks beautiful...it seems like the simplest thing, and it truly is. At times, it can feel so simple that it even feels unimportant. Yet a few seconds of personal intentionality can make a world of impact to someone who needs it. You never know who needs to be reminded that they are valued or loved that day. What can feel insignificant in those few seconds may be monumental to someone else, and we might not even know it. We may not always be aware of the impact of a kind word to someone, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't speak such words. Choosing to speak life into others regularly has healed some of the most bitter places in my heart. There was a time when my words came from a place of animosity. My words were weapons used to protect my heavily guarded heart. As I wounded others and pushed them away with my words, I became colder. Now, years later, as I speak in kindness to others from a place of love, my words have become sweet medicine. I have become more warm and loving, and my heart has softened. When kind words are spoken to me, they are like medicine to the hurting places of my heart. When someone says, "I love you," on a day when I feel insignificant, it means the world because it is a sweet reminder that how I feel on a bad day isn't the truth...it lifts me up and reminds me of my value in this world. Just a few simple words can have an incredible impact.

If our hearts belong to Christ, our words should be sweet and healing, genuine and life-giving. Our words should reflect the goodness and love of our great God.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Seasons In Between

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:19

Life is composed of many seasons. Some feel like you are on top of a mountain, others like you are in a vast, empty desert. Some seasons are filled with accomplishments and major life steps taking place. In between those seasons of fulfillment and success are seasons where it can feel as if you are standing completely still for entirely too long. It's monotony at it's worst, where you feel stuck in the simplicity of day to day life without any special matters of significance. It can feel empty and even meaningless. It can feel even more so when you see others in these amazing, life changing places in life such as entering dream careers, getting married, having children...all while you seem to be at a complete standstill. Yet those in between times can be filled with beauty, purpose, and meaning if you choose to see them that way.

I will be honest and say I was, very recently, bitter and even somewhat resentful towards God. I'm currently in a season in between, while several of the closest people in my life are not. I saw their fulfillment, looked at my lack thereof, and felt, in a way, abandoned by God. Why is seemingly nothing happening in my life? Why do I have to walk through this endless desert of nothingness while those around me are in fields of fresh greenery? Where is my life's meaning? Does my life even have meaning anymore? As I walked on and on through my overwhelming desert, slowly feeling more empty by the day, I one day stopped asking God why...because I stopped talking to Him altogether. That was when the last droplets of hope and meaning dripped away, and I felt completely and utterly empty.

We have choices in life. I don't believe that emotions are necessarily a choice in and of themselves, but what we feel directly relates to how we choose to perceive our circumstances. Perception will determine if a circumstance breaks you or makes you better. How you choose to see is how you will be. I saw my circumstances through negative, worldly eyes. I saw my in between season as a desert, an empty and painful struggle and an endless nothing. My emotions responded to that perception...I began to feel empty and meaningless myself, each day being a struggle. Then one night, in the midst of my painful emptiness, I decided to come to God again. Not to ask why or point fingers or tell Him how hurt I am. God knows how I feel, He knows the season I'm in, He knows my struggles and my hurt...I knew He knew all of it. I had fallen into such a dark and empty place, and all I knew to do was to set aside my own human feelings and perceptions and to seek His comforting light again. After all, He has brought me out of places much darker than this one. So I picked up my phone and opened my neglected prayer playlist. As I scrolled through the titles, a long-forgotten song caught my eye. The first words hit my ear, "This is my prayer in the desert, when all that's within me feels dry." For the first time in entirely too long, I felt something other than struggle and emptiness. I felt the Lord's compassion and forgiveness, I felt the darkness begin to lift. I felt my perception begin to shift. As I continued to listen, every line resonated in that place of brokenness that I had been living in for so long, yet hiding from everyone around me.

"All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship"

Over and over I repeat these lyrics to myself, singing them in my head and out loud constantly since that night. A feeling of hopeless emptiness going on too long when all I needed to do was find my refuge in God instead of pushing Him away. A brokenness that could have been avoided if I had chosen a better way of seeing my circumstances. A desert season not yet ending, but being seen in a new, life-giving way. I chose to shift my perception to God's and now I see the desert for what it can be. Desert seasons are incredibly valuable, because there it is just me and my God. In the desert, the fiery heat refines me and makes me better. I can pour all of my focus into my relationship with God without outside distractions. I can become who I need to be for life's biggest trials and biggest triumphs.

In the desert, you truly learn how to depend on God for joy and fulfillment rather than the experiences and happenings of this life.
In the desert, you grow into the person God has called and created you to be in Christ Jesus.

This desert is my season in between, and what I once so longingly wished would end, I now refuse to waste. It is still a struggle at times, but God is with me walking beside me every step. I am singing as I am being refined. I finally opened my eyes to see the stream of living water that has been in this desert the whole time.