You’re Not Alone {Coffee For Your Heart}

Holley has the sweetest little link-up going on on her blog right now, it’s called Coffee For Your Heart. Every week, readers and bloggers and friends meet together sharing posts about a topic Holley picks to prompt us to write encouraging words to others. It’s magical to see people come together sharing encouragement, love, and kindness each week. This week, her Coffee For Your Heart topic is “You’re Not Alone”. It’s really a beautiful thing to talk about, something I don’t think we say so much as assume sometimes. “You’re not alone” can be one of those unspoken truths, whispered in the embrace of a loved one of the laughter of a friend or the smile of a family member. It’s even gently spoken in the wagging of a puppy’s tale. But it’s something we can forget to say to each other. This week I’m remembering just how far a thoughtful card, a call, and even an email from a loved one can go. There’s enough love in small gestures to brighten a gloomy day, to bring a smile to a face and to a heart, and to let someone know you’re along side them. It’s a gift to give and to receive such loving kindness. I think we’re made to share love, not just on special occasions but on Wednesdays, too. Holley asks us to write about what we need to hear when we feel alone. I think what we need to hear is sometimes unspoken. We need to hear laughter, a heaping mix of our own and a loved one’s. We need to hear songs that are brave enough to break the silence and sing about hope in the midst of pain. We need to hear the phone ring. We need to hear the doorbell ring. We need to hear the voices of loved ones. But there are words, too, and I think that they are this: We are more loved than we can understand by a God big and bold and beautiful enough to fill our every loneliness. He sees our emptiness and longs to flow through those places with eternal love. We are loved. We get stuck in moments and feel that they define us, that they tell us who we are and where we are going, but we are part of a bigger story. Hope is bigger than this moment. In time this aching will pass and when we look back we will remember the joy and love and friendship that traveled with us. It will shine brighter than the memories of pain. Gratitude will shape us. Redemption will win. We can rest knowing God holds not only our hearts, but our lives too. And while we are on this side of heaven, we are given a family. We are all in this human experience together. We’re here together on this roller-coaster ride of life. We all ache in the shadows of loneliness and we all beam with delight in the presence of love ones. We’re made to share life together. We’re not meant to strive for a life of independence; it hardens our hearts to our needs and the needs of those around us. We’re made to be sincere and tender and authentic, even to our neediness. We’re made to share. We’re made for the warmth of embraces and the jokes of friendship and the joy of companionship and the heart-healing grace of fellowship. We’re made to give and we’re made to receive. It’s okay to ask for help. Life isn’t something we’re meant to walk through alone. I pray that you won’t believe the lie that you should be tougher, that you should be able to experience life without aching in loneliness. Your tenderness and love are sweet treasures. They deserve to be met with love and light from God and others, and I pray that you will see that illuminating you each and every day. You’re not alone in this. There are people who feel the things you feel, they have empathy and compassion and tenderness for your wounds. Please don’t hide away in the shadows. There is sunshine for you, turn to its warmth.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;

~Isaiah 40:11

 

{If you are feeling alone and in need of support, InCourage Community Groups are hosting two online community groups for chronic illness, HOPE for Chronic Illness and Living With Chronic Illness. Take a peak! You never know what gift may come out of a special group. If you’d like to read Holley’s You’re Not Alone post, you can by clicking here.}

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When You Feel You’ve Exhausted The Search of a Cure

Have you ever been graced with a sweet moment of companionship within a Bible story? A moment where the story relates to you so deeply you feel as if God was speaking to you through it? It’s such a lovely kind of moment. A sense of awe wraps your heart as your souls relaxes into the peace of His presence. A few weeks ago, I had one of those moments. Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell the tale, but Mark shares a few special details that melted my heart. Let me share:

A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition. (Mark 5:25-29)

As the story continues, Jesus turns around in the crowd in search of the woman. When they meet, he tells her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

Do you ever feel like this woman? Going from doctor to doctor, trying medicine after medicine and remedy after remedy, trying diets and herbs and supplements, traveling to specialists, having lists of tests, but never finding a cure? I find this story deeply encouraging for a few reasons and I hope you will, too. This woman is certainly an inspirational testament of faith, as she has suffered for many years yet still kept hopeful and faithful, even among disappointments. But another beautiful thing is that God’s love is so transforming that it doesn’t matter how complicated or hopeless our diseases seem this side of heaven, He can cure each of them instantly. He didn’t give this woman a form to fill out about her symptoms and ask her about her diagnosis. He sure didn’t need to do that! She believed, He loved, and healing came at once. It certainly doesn’t mean we should stop trying our treatments, because surely He can use those for His good, too! But it does mean that even if we try and try and nothing seems to help, it’s never hopeless, for He will come again and all pain and sorrow will fall away. So we take our supplements and try our treatments and see our doctors and trust that healing can come in any way, but we know that even if it takes longer than we expected, we’re drawing nearer and nearer each and every day.

Art in the Heart

Hello dear readers,

It has been such a sweet gift to connect with you over these last few months. I am so heart-warmed by this opportunity to share with you, and so thankful to get to know many of you throughout this time. Unfortunately, writing every week is beginning to be a bit too exhausting for my current state of health, so I am going to have to space things out just a bit longer. Will you join me every other Monday afternoon instead? I look forward to seeing you then 🙂

On this note {the note of having to set energy limits} I’d like to share some wise words with you that the dear Holley Gerth shared with me. They have been a treasure for me, and I hope they become the same for you. She said:

When you’re not writing or talking, you’re still actually in the writing process because you’re thinking and listening with your heart. So that time is really valuable.

It took me a long time to realize that when I’m putting words on paper it’s only one little piece of being a writer. Most of it happens quietly in my heart. So remind yourself that in the times when you can’t produce anything you’re still being very productive.

Is there a way this little quote is true for you today? Maybe there is some sort of art, some sort of purpose, some sort of dream in your heart that is growing and developing, even if you don’t always feel physically well enough to work on it. The beauty of growth and of art is simply that; it is honest and existent even in restful moments because it isn’t only achieved through manual labor. Sometimes attention, contemplation, imagination, and ideas are equally powerful (and certainly always equally beautiful). They lead us to places we couldn’t see or touch or even dream of otherwise. They help us reflect, release, and expand. Rest in this today, sweet friend, and I will do the same.

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6

What if the true artistic work is being fully ourselves in the presence of others?

What if the book, the painting, the meal, the presentation were all simply evidence of a deeper art happening within the soul of an artist?

Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are. ~Emily Freeman

When You Need A Little Courage to Share Your Struggles

I hope this week you are touched by the freedom of being honest about your struggles,

And feel the value in sharing your heart and all its beauty, vulnerability, and authenticity.

I hope your openness is met with genuine comfort, support, and acceptance from those dearest to you,

And you are offered listening ears and open arms and that your heart is greeted with the soft but powerful whisper,

“Your story is significant.”

I hope that whisper casts a ripple effect that reaches each part of your being, refreshing it with the truth of your worth.

I hope you feel no shame in your pain,

But feel the triumph of grace overwhelm even the shadowiest valleys of your soul.

For you may walk through the valley with no fear of danger, for He is with you.

I hope you find relief from the burden you’re carrying, and feel how honesty alleviates suffering.

Sometimes all it takes is a listening ear.

I pray we find the courage to be open, and the grace to meet others with the same compassion we wish for in return.

“For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.” ~Isaiah 49:13

When You Feel Lonely

As September unfolds and brings a new season, and the chill of Autumn begins to touch our towns,

I hope you find yourself warmed by the sweet embrace of loving company.

And if your days feel cold with loneliness and isolation, I pray that you will nestle into hope.

I hope you find a moment of courage to lift your eyes and your heart just a little higher, in order that you may see the loving heart of our Lord, outstretched for you.

I hope you’re reminded that our lonely times aren’t really barrenempty, untouched times but pruned ones.

I hope you’re reminded that there is a coming Love more abundant than any we can imagine,

A Home where He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

If we can lift our eyes and our hearts a little higher than our hurts, even for just a moment, and look into the face of our Savior, we can trust He will comfort us with His mercy and teach us of His harvest.

Our gracious Savior is with us, Our God who places the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6).

I pray you will let Him draw near and whisper healing truth into your aching heart.

There’s so much joy ahead, friends. There’s so much joy around.

I hope this Fall season leaves you with little reminders of how all seasons will be redeemed;

I hope you let your worries fall away like the leaves of the trees.

You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. ~John 16:20-22

Delighting In Life’s Tiny Treasures

I hope you find it in your heart to see beauty in the small things this week,

To embrace your days with gratitude for all the tiny treasures sprinkled within them.

I hope you stop to smile at the way golden sunbeams warm your face in the midst of the chilly fall weather that’s unfolding day by day.

And if that sweet sun tucks itself behind the clouds and the rain comes down instead, I hope your soul quiets to its tranquil rhythm.

I hope the only thing you’re drenched with is peace.

I hope you lift your eyes up with the steam that rises from your cup, and take time to admire the last of the summer blooms outside your window.

I hope that fresh life outside reminds you that hope is always blossoming, bursting forth in radiant color.

I hope you flip open your Bible to a page that has a Scripture that speaks truth to your heart in just the way you need it to,

And that you feel awe-struck, joyful, and filled to the brim with the love the Spirit longs to delight you with.

I hope you light the candles you’ve been saving for a special occasion,

And that you’re reminded of the gracious purpose woven into your being.

I hope you keep taking those little steps towards your dreams, even when they seem miles beyond your reach.

I hope you touch them. I hope you embrace them. I hope you cherish them.

I hope your week is beautiful. I hope you let it shine.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~Romans 15:13

When You Feel Misunderstood

When you share your heart with someone who doesn’t yet understand your suffering,

When someone slips in a comment that wounds you deeper than they intended,

When you feel a pain stronger than you can express,

May you see God’s merciful hands outstretch before you.

May your heart find peace and safety in the One Who understands your pain not only because He’s carried you through it,

But because He’s felt it Himself.

May you be comforted by the One Who has endured every hardship, every heartache, every agony, all to hold you closer.

May you feel the empathy of the God Who loves you in and out, up and down, and every space in between.

May you feel the encouragement of the One who not only endured such pain, but conquered it.

May you know you are not alone.

So hold on to the ones that care deeply, and let them nurture your heart and soul.

And be patient with those who don’t yet understand.

For despite any hurtful comment they may utter, this truth sweet still remains:

Just because someone doesn’t understand, doesn’t mean your pain is any less significant.

May this truth soothe your soul.

Week 5: Your Hopes, Your Dreams, And Your Life Still Hold Purpose, Value, And Meaning

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

~Psalm 37:5-6

One of the most beautiful and remarkable things about hopes, dreams, and purposes is that they are so much more than a blossoming future, they have their roots secured in our present life. Often times when we look at our dreams, we see the blissfully blooming flowers of all we desire most. We see our plans, our expectations, our wishes and wants. But beneath those precious dreams are something deeper, sturdier, and stronger; our passion. If we think of a dream like a flower, we could imagine that the petals are our hopeful outcome, and the roots are what they grow and stem from. Or, maybe you could think of your dreams as the moon, and your passion as the sun; brilliantly illuminating it. Our passion is what gives life to our dreams. The exciting thing about passion rooting our dreams is that it means even if our dreams look a little different than we expected when they bloom, they still grew from our authentic, open hearts. If we can get to the root of our dreams, we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and may even come up with some new ideas on how to live out these callings in our hearts without over-extending our energy and burning out along the way.

When we get to the root of our desires, we can embrace creativity, expression, and ministry. In order to do this, we have to be willing to simplify and look at our goals more like a journey than a race. When we revisit our passion, we can channel it in new ways that move us closer to our dreams (and maybe even find some new dreams along the way). Here’s a few examples of how simplifying may look.

Maybe your dream is to be a counselor, but what’s really rooting it is your love of listening to others and offering them your empathy and support. Maybe being a counselor isn’t within your energy range right now, but hosting a small support group (in person or online) for chronically ill people is.

Maybe your dream is to have a family, and what’s really rooting that is your desire to love and care for others deeply and consistently. Maybe you aren’t well enough to nurture a child at this point in time, but maybe you are well enough to adopt an animal from your local animal shelter. Maybe you’re well enough to care for an animal that doesn’t need as much attention as a child but still needs a warm and loving home. Or, maybe you’re able to sponsor a child. Maybe you can help provide expenses for a child that needs financial stability in order to thrive.

Maybe your dream is to doing missions work in areas of poverty, and what’s truly rooting that is your desire to care for the broken and hurting in the world. Maybe you are not well enough to travel far and serve, but maybe you are well enough to join a prayer team or fund-raise for a charity or cause that’s important to you.

It can be hurtful to release dreams that are so dear to our hearts, but the truth is, there are so many ways that we can live out our unique purpose in life. We simply have to be willing to let go of forcing our dreams to look a certain way, and allow them to bud and blossom in God’s way and time. They will. And they never stop growing! If God has called you to a specific ministry, He will always provide a way to fulfill it, and many times our current circumstances are preparing us for our future ministry. If we are open and willing to learn, He will fill us deeply and guide us with love and intention.

Week 4: It’s Okay to Rest; It’s Okay to Need Care

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~1 Peter 5:7

In her book, “You’re Already Amazing”, Holley Gerth dedicates a chapter to why it’s okay for us to care for ourselves. She gives us permission to release the lie that “it’s selfish to care for ourselves” and instead, guides us to the truth that we need to care for ourselves so that we have the inner resources to care for those around us. She gives us the imagery of an “emotional bank account” and talks about how it’s so important to balance our deposits and withdrawals. I find her simple explanation so refreshing. It clicks in the way that lights up the eyes and an understanding “ohhhh!” escapes the lips (or, the more comical light-bulb flicking on above the head). When I took time to reflect on this, I noticed just how out of sync my “balance” was, and I fear that you may find the same. It is so easy to overextend our energy balance when each movement costs us valuable energy, but in a way, it is such a powerful little reminder about prioritizing, simplifying, and accepting the here and now so we can return to a state of balance.

I believe, with such joy, that spending time with Christ with an open heart and surrendered spirit leads to us finding true balance. He’s the God of radiant redemption. It’s time to let Him gently take off our masks that say, “I’m fine” and “I should be able to do more”, to let Him lovingly draw near to us and intimately look into the face of His child. Let Him see your authentic soul, He longs to. He knows you need care, and He isn’t disappointed. There is no shame in Christ. No guilt, no earning, no striving, and no condemnation. Especially not for the weak, for it’s the weak He came to rescue (Mark 2:17). We believe many lies that steal our rest and joy, and I believe this deeply saddens our Lord. Our all-loving Jesus knows just how to cleanse us from these lies. He knows how to help us see that it’s not selfish to rest (Matthew 11:28). He knows we don’t need to “do more” because He has already accomplished the true victory (Romans 5:6). He knows how to help us stop striving to please others so vigorously that it leaves us empty (Galatians 1:10-11), and He knows how to fill us up again (John 16:26). He knows how to remove our doubts, insecurities, and anxieties and replace them with peace (John 14:27). And the most beautiful thing He knows how to do is simply to care for you (Luke 12:6-7). I pray that you will let speak truth into your life and spread peace throughout your soul.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)

Week Two: Your Pain is Significant

As we wake in the morning, open our eyes to the sunshine peaking through the cracks of the blinds, and are embraced by a fresh new day, it doesn’t take long for pain to slip in. You may awaken beaming with hope and feel your soul dancing with joy, but somehow, pain still creeps into the shadows. There are so very many ways it can. Maybe it’s aches all over your body, crashing as strongly today as they did the day before. Or maybe it’s the tender wounds that a broken relationship inflicted on your heart. Perhaps it’s the loneliness in the midst of a loss you haven’t been able to fill. If none of these things, perhaps what you feel is the exhaustion of being downtrodden by emotions that you’ve battled day in and day out–feeling oppressed by their weight and conquered by their power. No matter what you feel or how deeply it’s affected your heart, these pains are so very real, and they matter. These pains may have stolen your gaze and slipped lies into your heart. They may have taken the serenity of the morning and twisted it into the sorrow of mourning. There is such a vast sea of sorrow, and yet, every drop of it matters.

These words may look like a small statement to offer such a big wound; somewhat like a band-aid offered to a life-threatening wound. But please don’t let the simplicity of this statement fool you; these words have a great power to them. Neatly packed within that statement are two beautiful, strong, soothing, and inspiring truths. Will you take a closer look with me as we unpack them, one by one?

The first garment of truth is comforting and cozy and just what it sounds like: your pain is noticed; your pain matters. You may have grown used to your pain. You may have accepted it as a companion, even though you’ve longed to be freed from it. But there is still hope, and there is still peace, and there is still freedom for each and every one of your wounds. Your pain matters. If you’ve felt it for an hour or you’ve felt it for many years, it’s still a terrible pain that you do not have to simply adjust to and overlook. It matters. You don’t have to hide it or push through it. You can show your heart, your wounds, your tears, and your desire for restoration. You do not have to be ashamed; not ashamed in front of God or in front of me, because we both understand what pain feels like.

In Psalm 56, as David cries out to God, he shares a verse that roots the truth that our pain is significant. He says:

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.

God pays special attention to us. He sees your tears, your sorrows, your pain, your worries, your doubts, and all those broken pieces you’re trying to put back together. He doesn’t simply see them, but comes along side you and offers His comfort, understanding, and redemption. This means that He knows not only the wounds, but how to heal them, and how to protect you from worsening them. As we open our precious Bibles, we are introduced to a God who was involved with and empathetic toward His children in every pain and sorrow. He’s a rescuer and a comforter. Please allow Him to come along side you, to cleanse your wounds and tenderly wipe the tears away from your eyes. Allow Him to tell you that He has a plan and a purpose for you, and you don’t have to hopelessly endure pain. He is with you. Allow Him to talk to you about your pain and to bring you His rest. He longs to be near you and share this burden with you. He doesn’t want you to try to bear this on your own; He longs to be your faithful companion.

The second garment of truth is bold and graceful and has deep meaning. This truth is that your pain has purpose. Pain itself is a terrible, awful, and entirely dreadful thing, but we learn a great deal from it. It isn’t the pain itself that is so significant as what it teaches us and how we let it form us. It’s not the fact that we need pain, but that we need the lessons that pain sobers us to. Pain reveals a divine hope that is independent of earthly comfort. When we let go of earthly safety nets, here are a few of the lessons and virtues we learn and grow in: gratitude, mercy, empathy, true friendship and companionship, patience, endurance, healing, hope, redemption, compassion, appreciation, depth, deliverance, purpose, joy, faith.

If you’re stuck in the midst of sorrow, wondering how pain and heartache can shape your heart and soul into something more beautiful than it was before this grief every touched you, let me remind you of how sweet little snowflakes are formed. As the rain falls down from the sky–that gloomy, formless rain slipping from grey clouds–the bitter air touches it. The bitterness stills each and every motion of that falling drop of water. The drop stretches and falls and the bitterness freezes its every motion into a masterpiece. And that’s certainly what a snowflake is, a piece of irreplaceable art that is tiny in size yet immense in God’s craftsmanship. And these lovely snowflakes are never the same, but always unique. The form, the artistry, the beauty, and the unique design of every little snowflake is a direct result of the bitterness it came through to fall upon your shoulder, stick to your coat, and bring a smile to your face.

So take heart, and be courageous, because God even redeems the rain. And as the sweet, beautiful snow reflects the sunlight, so His love shines upon us.

{If you’d like to read the original post 5 Truths Your Heart Needs to be Reminded, please click here!)