Before I started this writing in this space, I would always roll my eyes when an author would start a new update with “it’s been x-amount of time since I have posted here”. I was always so judgmental of the people who were called to write, had very strong and powerful voices, and yet went months without sharing anything. When I started this space, I didn’t know how often I would post, but I knew I was never going to be one of those annoying people would would start with THAT sentence. Then 2020 happened. Here I am, trying to write for the first time in four months. All the judgement I have ever felt for other authors… this is a bit humbling!
Anyway, this year has made me feel ALL of the feelings, but has left me speechless. I haven’t known how to begin to process all my thoughts into words and so I just stopped trying. I stopped writing here and I went silent on social media (well except for random posts about coffee, a few books and cute pictures of Leo). I stopped writing in my journal. I lost myself in books. I found audio-books and basically had someone else’s words going 98% of the time.
This past year I have consumed more written words than at any other point in my life. I listened to the bible and read the bible. I listened to audio books and read books I could hold in my hands. I listened to sermons and podcasts. I thought I was digging in deep and I did for sure grow deeper roots this year, but looking back now, I realize I was looking for someone to put into words the thoughts I had that I couldn’t process.
I needed someone to tell me why in the world God would give us the word “secure” for 2020 (The 2020 Word of the Year I Never Wanted), when I felt like this would be the year that we would drown? Why did I feel the most insecure I ever have in my life? I would lay awake in bed asking God questions like “Okay, when is this secure thing going to start?” and “You promised you would be my fortress, but I am feeling anything but safe. Am I missing you?”
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. If you have been following along for any amount of time, you know I lean towards a little “flair” when I tell stories about my life. So, when I say things like “I felt the most insecure, I ever have”, you are probably expecting some hilarious story where I nearly die, but through my near death experience the Father speaks to me. Sadly friends, there is no hilarious near death experience to share. This year has felt heavy in a way that is still hard for me to put into words.
I know so many of you reading this can relate. 2020 is a year full of events we couldn’t have expected and I am not going to try to sugar coat the ugly of 2020. It’s one of the hardest years many of us have walked through. I am not going to try to list out all the goodness in 2020 to somehow outweigh the ugly of the year, but I do want to take you on the journey of what God did (is still doing) in my heart this year. So, grab your favorite drink and a cozy blanket. I want to tell you a little story about who God has been to me this year.
The year started with one of my hardest seasons I have ever had professionally. I have been in my industry for ten years and love what I do. I am a nerd when it comes to regulations, following directions and paper work. It’s really were I thrive. Give me a stack of rules and force me to complete paperwork that complies to those rules – you have given me one of my happiest days. Every January and February is crazy in my world because one of my biggest deadlines of the year comes at the end of February. While I know these months are always bound to be crazy, this year stretched me extra thin. My team took on more responsibilities, more applications and dealt with some significant transition. The days were extra long and very exhausting. As if this wasn’t enough to juggle, I got sick the final week before our deadline, however that didn’t slow me down. I pushed myself way too hard. When deadline day came, and I finally slowed down, I was forced to spend several days recovering. I use the word “recovered” very liberally, as there is still so many moving pieces in my professional life. Is recovery a thing?
Shortly after one of the hardest seasons professionally, the world starting shutting down. It’s like we jumped from one hard season to another. Rumors of sickness and quarantines started swirling. The grocery stores started selling out of the craziest things, and it felt almost comical how crazy everyone seemed to be getting. In mid-March, Dan and I went to the grocery store to stock up on a few things “just in case”, and that’s the night I had my first panic attack of 2020.
That small panic attack in the aisles of that grocery store wasn’t the first panic attack I have ever had. In fact, years ago panic and fear were a constant presence in my life. I carried Fear and listened to what it had to say about me and my situation. I thought carrying Fear made me cautious and smart. I believed it was wise to carry Fear because Fear kept me safe. However, at some point, the Fear that I thought was my friend threatened to swallow me.
Years ago, Fear made me believe I couldn’t leave my house without panic attacks. Fear told me I couldn’t be left alone at home. Fear made me clean every inch of my home over and over again in an effort to keep myself safe. Fear told me I couldn’t walk through stores without the walls caving in on me. Fear told me our cars would wreck and the planes we got on would crash. Fear made me sure everyone around me would die or leave me. Fear tormented my sleep and threatened to squeeze the life out of me. However, everything changed in 2014, when I began to understand that Fear had been lying to me.
Since 2014, I haven’t really haven’t had to deal with Fear. Sure, there were times I sat in an airport and had to remind Fear that it didn’t get to fly with me. I absolutely had to remind Fear that it didn’t get to rule my mind when I sat in a doctor’s waiting room. I am not saying that Fear never tried to sneak in, but what I am saying is that the deep panic that once tormented me wasn’t really something I had to face until that moment in March standing in the grocery store.
I remember Dan recognizing the fear in my eyes quickly. He could tell that I was no longer in the store with him, I was walking with Fear. I remember Dan grabbing my hand and telling me he was with me. He walked me through that store and led me to the safety of our car. As soon as all the car doors closed, I broke into tears. I felt so ridiculous. Where was this feeling coming from? I was a rooted woman that knew Fear didn’t get any control. Why did I just have a panic attack? Dan spoke words of truth over me, but not one of the words soaked in. All I heard was the whispers of failure. I had already conquered fear. Why was it back?
A few days after that crazy panic attack, the governor of Missouri issued a stay at home order and my office announced that I would need to start working from home. Dan’s work life changed quite a bit too, but because He was considered an “essential worker”, he went in every day to changing protocols. At first this change felt really good. I found a new rhythm quickly. I thought I had it all together. I thought I was doing all the things to stay sane. However, I was lying to myself.
Fear continued to mock me. It continued to whisper its lies. Then I started to deal with shortness of breath. At the time, I didn’t think fear was the issue. I texted my doctor and after listening to my symptoms, he encouraged us to go straight to the emergency room. That night was a very scary night, and we left with zero answers to what caused the shortness of breath. (Fear Lied to Me).
Over the course of the next several weeks I had several tests trying to figure out what was causing the shortness of breath. Test after test came back without any answers, but I was still sure that something was wrong physically. They were missing something. After a while, I started to think maybe there was something in the house causing my issues. I mean I had been staying at home more than ever. In May, our stay at home order lifted, I went back to work and the shortness of breath continued.
That’s when I finally came to terms with my reality. I was battling anxiety. It had grown too large for me to handle and I needed help. I had found myself in a similar place that I was in 2013, however this time was much worse because I felt like a total failure. I knew the warning signals, how did I let myself get this bad? I remember telling Dan I knew better. I know what Fear looks like and I know what lies he speaks. Why did I listen?
In June, I reached out to my doctor and began taking an anxiety medication. I struggled to admit this to even my closest friends. I was such a failure. A complete fraud. I laid in bed in the middle of the night reading scriptures about fear, trying to figure out where I went wrong. Again, I cried out to God “Okay, when is this secure thing going to start?” and “You promised you would be my fortress, but I am feeling anything but safe. Am I missing you?”
After a few months of being on the anxiety medication, I was able to start processing through some of my big feelings. My family, like all families, has skeletons in the closet. You know, those deep dark secrets that you never want anyone to know – that’s what I call skeletons. Last summer, there was a skeleton that fell out of my family’s closet that I was forced to deal with. I was angry at the decisions made that were out of my control, and upset that so many lives had been impacted by that skeleton. This may sound really selfish, but the thing that made me most angry is I really didn’t know how that skeleton impacted me.
I know it sounds crazy, but I really have no memories before age 12. While there are many healthy people walking around that don’t remember parts of their lives, the skeletons that have been tightly hidden in the closet, paired with not remembering much of my childhood haunted me in the night. I wondered if “victim” is a new label I should carry.
After learning the news, I really thought I was okay not knowing. I told everyone I was okay, and that I had peace. I honestly believed that maybe not knowing was actually a blessing. You know, maybe it saved me from something really ugly. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I actually carried so much shame for not knowing. I felt voiceless and the unknown seemed to scare me more than the stories themselves. I desperately looked for answers, but wasn’t sure I really wanted to find them.
I know that oftentimes trauma is the root of the lies we believe, but how could I pull out the lie if I didn’t know the root? I read a book this year where the author was dealing with some really big feelings. In the book, God broke through and brought to light some memories He had never had before. When he was processing through those memories with his counselor, he asked “Why is God bringing these to light now?” and the therapist said “Because you have never been in a safe enough place to handle these emotions before?”
I remember reading those words and thinking “That’s it! That’s why God gave us the word secure. He wanted me to know I was safe so I can handle all these memories that are going to come back!” So, I started to ask God to show me the unknown, bring back to memory the things He wanted me to see. I thought this would bring clarity to the question “am I a victim?”, but instead God started shining light on places in my heart I thought were dealt with. It’s like I took old battles and boxed them up and stuck them under the bed in my heart. Since the box couldn’t be seen, it was obviously dealt with. However, when I started praying that God would shine places on the dark spots, He lovingly walked into my bedroom, flipped over my bed and said “Why are you keeping this?”
Instead of picking up the box and quickly taking it to the garbage, I held on to it and made excuses for keeping it. The box felt safe, and the longer I held it, the more comfortable it felt. Slowly, I opened the box and started to take things out and start placing them back around my room. Those things opened the door to allow old demons to walk right back in.
Now I was probably a victim and Fear no longer was the only thing lying to me and telling me I was broken, completely unfixable. Fear and all of these other “old friends” told me I was a failure. They told me I was unlovable, and would always be chosen last- if I was chosen at all. The longer I listened to the lies, the more comfortable they felt, in fact, I started to believe them. The more I believed them, the more I let them define me.
Suddenly, I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I didn’t know why anyone would want to be around me. Dan would wake up, see my brokenness and leave. My friends would realize that I wasn’t really who they thought and they’d run. I felt as if I was living a very big lie. I was pretending to be okay, but slowly dying inside. I was walking in a complete identity crisis. I knew in my head what the Bible said about me, but my heart had a flipped mattress, and junk strewn all over.
In October, I attended the Moms in the Making conference. This conference is specifically for women who are trying to grow their families. I have been to this conference every year since it started, and I honestly thought I knew what to expect. However, when the announcement was made that one of the sessions was called “Breaking Free from Trauma and Shame” it stopped me in my tracks. I attended the session thinking that God would reveal if I was a victim or not. Once I knew, then I could work on getting rid of this fear. I could fix this once I knew more.
The leader of the session reminded us of who God is. These truths were basic and much like what I have heard 100 times before, but I tried to listen extra intently for something I may have missed. Then, the leader gave us a handout of all the things the bible says we are. Again, this felt like information I already knew. Finally, we got to the good stuff. The leader had us write one negative thing (from a list of things) that we felt God was highlighting for us during the session. Then she had us close our eyes and apologize for believing that lie and ask for God to give us a word, image, or verse to replace the lie.
I honestly don’t remember what exactly I wrote, but I vividly remember closing my eyes and seeing a huge field full of weeds. Awful ugly weeds. I asked God what the weeds were… silence. I asked Him how to take care of them… silence. The longer I had my eyes closed the more confused I got. When the session ended, many left visibly looking like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders… and I was still stuck in a field of weeds. Great. I was obviously so broken and lost, even breakthrough couldn’t fix this.
After the session, I asked a dear friend to pray for me. She wrapped her arms around me, and before I could even say anything tears started to run down my face. She simply pulled me in closer and said “You’re safe here”. Those words aren’t lost on me. This friend didn’t know that our word of the year was “secure”. Slowly, I started pouring out my heart. I shared about the skeletons, the old demons and all the unknowns. Then I just blurted out “I’m afraid everyone is going to wake up one day and leave me, because I am simply not good enough”.
My friend didn’t say a word, she simply let my words hang in the air. After a few seconds, I started to worry that my issues were too big. Just as these fears crept in, she started to pray. However, this wasn’t a one person prayer, this was a prayer we prayed together. She had me repeat after her. She had me apologize to the Father for not feeling like enough. She asked me to forgive those who had contributed to the lie that I wasn’t enough. I actually said names of people I haven’t thought about for years out loud. Then she asked God to exchange the lie for something straight from His heart. As I sat there, the huge field full of weeds came back to mind. I got a bit discouraged, but then I asked God to help me clear the weeds.
As I prayed, I had a memory of several summers ago. In our backyard we have a small storage building or shop. In between our house and the shop, we have an area covered in rocks. Even though a weed barrier was laid before the rocks were laid, it seems the weeds get out of control every summer. A few summers ago, Dan asked me to come out and help him pull weeds. I remember saying yes, and then getting on my hands and knees and beginning to pull the weeds. Why is this memory important? Well, because I never once stopped to think about what the weeds were. I didn’t spend hours googling about dandelions, clover, or bindweed. I simply started pulling. I didn’t have to know what the weed was to pull it out by its root. That memory reminded me that I don’t have to live in fear of the unknown. In fact, I can laugh without fear when facing the unknown (Psalm 112:7). Instead of spending hours trying to get to the bottom of a lie, I can take it and pull it out.
This revelation made the tears that were already flowing turn into sobs. As I started to pull the weeds out of my heart, I began to see myself as God sees me. There were beautiful flowers of truth that had been covered by those weeds. I remembered that my husband chose me, he continues to choose me, and he will always love me. My friends love me, and every ounce of sass in my bones. I am enough, because my Father gives me everything I need.
This revelation didn’t automatically make the fear disappear. In fact, nearly two months after the conference, I am still actively putting the bedroom of my heart back together. I am still taking anxiety medication. The garbage left over from old battles and the family skeletons is still being removed every day. The Father has been helping me flip the mattress back over and remake the bed, but the “simple” vision of a weed filled field has completely changed my perspective of the situation.
Weeds and flowers can grow in the same soil. Both take time to grow, but there is a huge difference between the two. Weeds typically grow uncontrolled, and flowers typically need tending to grow well. Remember all that shame I described because fear and anxiety were back in my life? No gardener would ever feel shame because a weed they had once pulled out once before came back and needed to be pulled again. Would they be annoyed? Sure, but not filled with shame! My heart is no different. I am not a failure because this year has been heavy. I am not a failure because the weeds of lies needs to be pulled. I am also not a failure because the truth takes extra tending.
A few days ago, I was listening to music and “Forever Amen” by Steffany Gretzinger started playing. The lyrics stopped me in my tracks:
“I was made to love You
It’s all I really know for sure
All I am is wrapped up in You
The center of my world
I was made to love You
From my beginning to my end
You’ll be my forever
My forever amen
I was made to love You
It’s all I really know for sure
All I am is wrapped up in You
The center of my world
I was made to love You
From my beginning to my end
And You’ll be my forever
My forever amen”
The start of this song sums it up so well – “I was made to love Him. That’s all I know for sure.” While much of 2020 has felt anything but secure, when I look back over the very long months – I see so much of Him. This year, I was secure enough to ask God big bold questions. I was secure enough to boldly stand before Him and remind Him what He promised. This year, I was safe enough to face big skeletons and I was secure enough to walk away from those skeletons without many answers. This year, I was secure enough to push further than I ever have before. I was secure enough to finally start to let go of the baggage I have carried for years and to stop allowing those years to define my future. This year, I learned that pulling out weeds doesn’t make us weaker, in fact, pulling out those weeds gives the truth more room to bloom. This year, more than anything, I rested securely in this – “He’s the center of my world. My beginning to my end. He’ll be my forever. My Forever Amen.” Knowing that truth deeply in my bones, doesn’t automatically remove all the pain. It doesn’t quickly fix all the issues – but it allows me to rest easy.
Throughout the year, again and again, Father has brought me back to Isaiah 43:1-4. It says this in the message translation:
But now, God’s Message,
the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you…
When God gave us the word “secure” I really had no idea what to expect, but I was confident the year would end with me in the strongest place of my life. I mean security means strength right? While I may feel as broke down as I have in a long time, I am the most secure I have ever been. I feel like I have walked through these verses. When I was in over my head, He was there. When I have been in rough waters, He held me. When the next steps felt impossible, He made a way. As 2020 closes, I can say with my full heart, no matter what comes next – He would trade the entire world just for me. I am secure in Him.