What if…

What if the sun turned orange? What if the grass was suddenly the sea? What if cotton candy grew on trees, what if money was free?Three Rivers Deep (book series) "A two-souled girl begins a journey of self discovery..." http://threeriversdeep.wordpress.com/

So many questions, and an imagination of endless possibilities!

In many cases, the “what if” questions can be thought-provoking and helpful. For the inventors, the engineers, pioneers of science, technology, and new products, for the artists, dreamers, writers, a world of creativity and new inspiration can result from the “what if.”

See the existence of Microsoft, animation, live-streaming television and current events. Would the iPhone exist without someone asking, “what if?” How about Disney, or Pixar – would they be where they are without someone pushing the boundaries of art and film?

See the source imageSo yes, the “what if” can be a wonderful question to ask in terms of creativity and invention. However, in many cases, the question of “what if” can lead to anxiety, turmoil, and procrastination.

The flip side of “what if” is where anxiety reigns wild. It is the king of its kingdom, fear is the queen, and chaos and pandemonium are its citizens. Their national product is branded uncertainty, and its shipments are made of all the filaments called “causes and effects.”

Have you ever been part of this kingdom? Found yourself captured in the falsely alluring sensation of looking at something from every angle? Caught within the chains, dangling from your hands – placed in front of Anxiety and Fear like a relentless ping-pong match of millions of possibilities?

I know I have.

It can be very easy to get lost in the “what if” of life. What if I fail this test? What if I make the wrong decision? What if I mess it up? What if…what if…what if……

Oftentimes, I turn these “what ifs” towards God. I worry on whether or not I’m taking advantage of His grace, how to know whether He really wants me to do this – is the trial and error too much to risk? I find my mind wondering towards questions like does He really still give grace when I mess up time and again? Does it really never run out?

What if what I’m doing is incorrect? What if in my attempt to figure out the right thing, I go against His will? What if I’m doing this following God life all wrong? What if…what if…what if……

Recently, when talking with a friend about this, they gave me a piece of advice that I wanted to share with all of y’all. I was telling them about how I’m always worried about messing up, and how I struggle with the concept of God’s grace and unconditional love. We talked about the entire “what if” scenario and how anxiety loves to take hold of the reins in those situations and just go crazy.

They said that when my mind wants to say, “what if” about messing up, failure, grace, God’s love, I need to refute that with “even if.”

Even if…I make a mistake.

Even if…I sin.

Even if…I willingly go against what I know to be right.

Even if…I mess up what God wanted me to do.

Even if…

In whatever the circumstance, as long as we are truly saved and at the heart of it desire to follow and please the Lord, then the “WHAT IF” questions should not be allowed to have any power over us.

Because…even if the worst thing our mind’s can come up with or that we could do comes to pass, even if that happens, God’s love and grace remains.

Romans 8:38-39 says,

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Right here, God says that nothing can take His love away from us. Not our mistakes, not our failures, not our anxiety or what if questions.

Romans 11:6 states,

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

And then later in Romans, we see grace being addressed. In this short verse, Jesus is saying that His grace is not contingent on our works. It is not determined by what we do, how we do it, or anything in between. God’s grace is purely an unconditional gift that He lavishes on His children. 

When anxiety and fear say “WHAT IF,” the Lord’s grace and love say even if. 

~ Southern Dreamer

Seen

 So I just came back from Passion on Friday and one of the sessions was about letting God have ALL of you, even the parts that are ugly or broken or that you don’t want to show Him. Let Him have 100%, not 99.9%. So basically be seen by God.

As we’re driving home from Passion, I see a huge billboard sign that says, “SEEN.” I was like hmmm ok, might be something *files it away for later.*

Then Friday night, the live action Cinderella was on and I was watching it.

At the very end of the movie, the narrator says, “Was who she was, who she really was, really enough? This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us can ever take, is to be seen as we truly are.”

And I was like LIGHTBULB.

Like that’s me. There’s the prince, who saw her when she was polished and beautiful and together.

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Now, she’s not. Her hair isn’t tidy, there are dirt stains on an old dress, her shoes are worn out. Will the prince still want her, even in this? When she is not put together, not sparkling, where she walks towards him in a dress that has been worn for too many years, mud and mire clinging to it. She doesn’t have ANYTHING to offer him. She has no parents, no dowry, no fancy background, no support. Even her name, has been changed and taken: Cinderella.

“- you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give,” ~ Isaiah 62:2

She has everything against her, and yet, HE came to find her. To seek her out. But now she’s worried, because yeah, sure he liked her before – she was together, beautiful, looking like everyone else he hangs out with, and now? Well, she’s untidy, dirty…locked in the attic of a home with mice for company. Will he still want her?

See the source image

Here is the prince’s answer: “Of course I will.”

“And they shall be called The Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken,” ~ Isaiah 62:12

No hesitation, no well, I don’t know. You really haven’t got much going for you. She offers him the only thing she can, her heart, and without a second lost, he accepts her.

That’s Jesus.

I know so many times when I mess up, I feel like I can’t go to God then or spend time with Him. I just really screwed up, why would God want me to spend time with Him? My first instinct is to try and “better” myself, to try and make myself look, in analogical terms, prettier.

light and shadow

Do you do this too?

The notion of thinking that if after we mess up, if we can only do some good things then we’ll be able to approach Him.

But that’s not how God works. He doesn’t act like humans and demand distance from us if we mess up, tell us to “go to our room” or slam a door in our face. He doesn’t tell us that we can only approach Him once we’ve done enough good to outweigh the bad.

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” ~ Hebrews 4:13-16

Jesus already knows our sin. During Passion 2019, Matt Chandler said, it doesn’t surprise God when we sin. He knows we’re going to fall short – it’s not a matter of if, but when (paraphrasing here).

In Hebrews, it says several things that I think we should pay attention to. One, none of our sin is hidden – God sees everything, even the yucky parts that we want to hide from Him. He already knows. Further, the Scriptures say, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are.”

FaithI love that! After all, who wants to risk something for someone, who you cannot relate to? By experiencing humanity, Jesus truly is our Great Comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). And not only does He comfort us, but it says, he “sympathize(s) with our weaknesses.

Merriam-Webster defines sympathize as, “to share in suffering or grief, to react or respond in sympathy.”

In The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament, the word used is sumpathéō, and this means, “to sympathize with, be compassionate, have compassion upon.” Something that I found interesting about this, was one of the synonyms for this word: sullupéomai, meaning “to experience sorrow with, console.”

I think it’s really fascinating how for both of these definitions, similar words like sorrow, grief, and suffering come into play. I don’t know about y’all, but when I think of someone sympathizing, that’s not the first thing that comes to mind.

And yet, this is the context that the Bible uses it in.

Next time we fall short – in whatever way that may be, I hope all of us, myself included, can remember the truth of God, instead of what our perfectionism/fear/performance-based self thinks: that Jesus wants us to come to Him, just as we are – whether that means we’re frustrated, tired, or just screwed up, He wants us to come.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

God’s Promise

The rainbow. God’s promise.

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” – Genesis 9:8-16

In our world today, the rainbow has become the symbol for the LGBT movement. The real message of the rainbow, however, has existed for centuries.

After the flood, recorded in Genesis, the first rainbow appeared.

Can you imagine? Having never seen a rainbow before, and suddenly there is this sheer, sparkling magnitude of light over the horizon? The reds, the blues, the yellows! The purples, the oranges, the greens!

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It must have been absolutely stunning.

Rainbows…God’s promise to us.

Placed in the sky as a declaration of His covenant with mankind.

For me, the rainbow has an even more personal note. If you’ve read my story, then you may remember that I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy at a very young age.

When I had first gotten sick, at six years old, God told my family something. I’m not going to disclose it right now, but it was important for us personally. And not long after that happened, there was a huge double rainbow over the sky.

A few years later, my family and I were driving to North Carolina and stopped on the way to take a picture. My dad had the camera, while my mom, brother, and I smiled.

Snap!

The crazy thing is though, upon looking at the picture, we noticed something pretty amazing. There was a rainbow cascading over us. It was as if God was enveloping us in the words He had given just a few years before. My mom said, “I was basking in His glory.”

rainbow3

That array of color was not there before.

Totally God.

Last month, my family and I went to visit my grandparents in Mississippi. Our first night there, we all went to a restaurant downtown at the square. The food was delicious, and the restaurant was lovely, but for me, the highlight of the night came after.

We exited the restaurant. I looked up at the sky, and guess what I saw?

A rainbow.

I was so excited, and instantly called everyone else’s attention to the awesome phenomenon.

“We have to get a picture!” I exclaimed, yanking my phone out of my purse. Once my family realized, my mom came over and my dad snapped a picture. My brother, being the free-spirited person he is, decided to photobomb one of the photos.

rainbow

At first, I was kind of annoyed. We were trying to take a picture. But then my mom reminded me, that Brayden was in the original one too.. No accident, of course; Brayden has been such an instrumental prayer, part of God’s promise to me. He has faithfully gone before God on my behalf. He has walked every step of the way with me.

It’s so crazy looking back now, at the first picture with the rainbow, and then this one recently. Through all those turbulent times, God has continued to be faithful. Even during the times where it didn’t feel like it, when I had doubts, or during those seasons of silence, He has not left.

rainbow2

I love the rainbow, not only because of its beauty, but when I see it, I’m reminded of God’s promise. His promise to me…personally. I am hanging on to it.

Whatever God has promised you, don’t lose hope.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory,” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:20

He is faithful and His word is trustworthy.

~ Southern Dreamer

Feeding The Spirit

Everyone always talks about how we’re made up of the mind, body, and spirit. And I knew that. But…sometimes one forgets the importance of spending time with God to your own spirit.

The past couple of months I haven’t been hearing from God as much. Logically, of course, I realize that there are seasons where He is silent and other seasons, where you hear Him all the time. Feelings or emotions though, did not exactly get my self talk. It was more like…

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Yeah. Not exactly the most helpful thing.

It also happened to make my heart/spirit really anxious and worried.

Definitely not helpful.

So, even though I didn’t necessarily “feel” like sitting down and spending time with God. I made myself do it. Sometimes you have to make yourself do something even if you don’t want to.

I grabbed my Breaking Up With Perfect by Amy Carroll – which is a great read by the way for any perfectionists out there, my Bible, and a highlighter, sat down in my bed and closed the door. Now, everyone has their own way that they do their quiet time and I am by no means suggesting that this way is the “best” way or the “right” way. I tend to overthink things so I do better if I can have a guide, that helps me decide what to read in the Bible.

So, I’ll read through a chapter of the book, and then out of the passages of Scripture, Amy Carroll referenced, I’ll pick one to go more in depth to. This usually transitions to me reading that chapter in the Bible, and then having my prayer time.

I did this for who knows how long, I can’t remember exactly. It wasn’t a super long period though, and then, one day I just realized, wow. my spirit isn’t feeling panic-y and anxious about this. 

This does not mean that I don’t still struggle with anxiety, because I do. But there’s a difference in me being anxious, and my spirit part being anxious. At least, it feels slightly different to me. Additionally, this does not mean that I don’t still have questions or doubts or other such struggles that Christians go through.

Sometimes my head can be very full of thoughts going in all kinds of directions. Sometimes I’ll be obsessing over something, making it turn into an unnecessary anxiety.

But.

There is something that completes our spirit when we spend time with God. I’m not sure exactly what it is – if it’s the fact that the Holy Spirit is in me, or that I am formed by the Maker to know Him, or maybe something else.

I honestly find it amazing, since many times my humanness/sinfulness comes into play and I find myself thinking…I don’t want to do this right now. I have other things I could be doing. And in my own mind, I feel like a hypocrite. How can God want me to spend time with Him, when I have to push myself to do the basic quiet time?

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust,” ~ Psalm 103:13-14

Love this verse. Somehow, even in the midst of being the most powerful being in the universe, the one who created the stars and moon and sea, He still manages to see us and remember our humanity. Not only remember it, but to show us compassion for it.

Amazing.

The love and mercy of our God always astounds me, and more often than not, I find that my expectations of what it should be are expectations that exist outside of grace. Many times, I can easily start overthinking what I’m doing for spending time with the Lord, but I’m trying to work on that and to give myself grace, and remember that I am human.

As we all go about our day-to-day lives, let us remember the importance of feeding our spirit and to remove the yoke of perfectionism from ourselves, and take up the mantle of grace.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

Resting In God When The World Is Going Crazy

This past year, my senior year, I duel-enrolled at a local college. During my second semester, I took Bio 2 and found it fascinating (minus one section *ahem* parasites/bacteria/etc).

Anyway.

We were learning how everything on Earth is connected and how global warming is affecting it. Here’s the short spill on it – I promise you’ll be able to understand it and I’ll try my best to not spend several paragraphs on it 😉

Because of Earth warming, the Indian Ocean has been steadily warming as well. You’re probably thinking, “ok. so the ocean is a little bit warmer, what’s the big deal?” I’m glad you asked! XD

The increasing temperature of the Indian Ocean has caused the North Atlantic oscillation (aka two air masses) to become stuck on its “intense” cycle. The North Atlantic oscillation has never been completely calm, but there are usually periods or breaks where the intensity lets down and it is more docile. However, with the increasing temperatures that has not been happening.

north atlantic

It’s amazing how the entire world is so intricately connected. In Africa, there is a body of water called Lake Chad. Wikipedia says, “The United Nations Environment Programme and the Lake Chad Basin Commission concur that at least half of the lake’s decrease is attributable to shifting climate patterns.” As Lake Chad has dried up, the dust and dirt that was beneath the water has been exposed.

You can imagine what sorts of algae, fungi, and other gross things lie at the bottom of the lake. With the dust being out in the open, the pathogenic soil fungus it contains has been swept into the air from the Saharan and blown towards the Caribbean.

Interestingly, this dust has caused an ironic increase in pediatric asthma cases and coral sea fan disease. Which is obviously not good.

Now, I’m going to be honest. I kind of started to worry, because wow, how the heck are we supposed to fix all of this. ITS SO MUCH.

God, knowing this, led me to this verse.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” ~ Luke 21:25-28

WOW. Like, anyone else amazed??? I mean that’s literally what’s happening! And there it is, right in the Bible. It makes me feel so much better, to know that God knew this was going to happen. None of this is a surprise to him.

Thank you Jesus for that!

~ Southern Dreamer

The Battle Is Not Yours

“And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s,” ~ 2 Chronicles 20:15

Back at the end of January, I was reading a book series. The writing is really well-done and I thought the characters were wonderful, but last night I hit my limit.

It started to talk about stuff that I found too scary, and I tried to push through it because I’m curious and a reader and therefore, wanted to know what would happen. But I started to worry I would have nightmares about it (see blog post about my illness here, but basically horrific dreams come with it, so sometimes frightening things can “trigger” those memories).

So I ended up crying.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not a crier – it’s just not really my personality type to be overly emotional. However, I was just so scared that I was going to have nightmares and frustrated to be worried about ANOTHER thing.

blog39I feel like I’ve been fighting my whole life, and in all honesty, I’m just tired of fighting. Well, at some point after this, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Exodus 14:14.

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent,” ~ Exodus 14:14

This was really neat, because I was so tired of fighting, and…I had/have not memorized this verse.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” ~ John 14:26

I think sometimes we, as humans, get this ‘I have to do everything by myself’ attitude. We fall into the subconscious trap of not asking for help, not relying on someone, and often – at least for me – forgetting to even ask God for his help. I know I can go for so long, “battling” something, and not even remember oh, I should pray about this and go to God for help, until I’m completely exhausted and anxious.

Could this be why Psalm 23 and 46 both talk about being still?

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul,” ~ Psalm 23:1-3a

“Be still, and know that I am God,” ~ Psalm 46:10

I can picture God, as our Father, looking at us and being like, ‘if you will just be still in me and rest – I’ve got this.’

But of course, being our over-working, independent, forget-to-ask-for-help-selves, we run around trying to do it all on our own while our Father is waiting for us to release these burdens to Him, and let Him handle them.

As I finish writing this (I’ve written it scattered over several weeks), I find myself in that weary state again. For being a logical person, you would think that I would struggle with anxiety less. But my OCD brain loves to find silly things to attach itself to and worry on, and it can be exhausting. Maybe it’s because I had some intense anxiety and worries over the past few days and that’s all adding up to me struggling with anxiousness today. I’m not really sure.

Maybe it’s because I’m more tired today, and that exhaustion isn’t helping my mind to think clearly. I’m not going to say that I have found an all-perfect solution to this, as evidenced by this day, but I have to remind myself that even if it feels like it’s never going away, it will.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,” ~ John 14:27

I love this verse. Fear and anxiety tend to zap any peace we have, and I think it’s so interesting that He says “let not your hearts be troubled.” Often, the heart is associated with emotions, and anxiety tends to send those all out of whack. I don’t know about you, but for me, I find the mental battles are much harder to fight than the physical ones.

For those of you, as well as myself, who struggle with anxiety or are at that place where you are just tired and weary of fighting, let’s remember that the battle is not ours. We are not meant to fight alone, we have a Savior who is more than willing to come beside us and strengthen us during these times. I know I forget this, and then it’s like oh right. God is here to help me, I’m not supposed to do this by myself. Sometimes, maybe, it might invoke an emotional response 😉 (shhh, don’t tell).

Image result for snow keeping secrets ouat memes

As we continue through our days, let’s remember that and determine to not let anxiousness steal our joy.

~ Southern Dreamer

Compassion and Grace ~ A Journal Entry

Recently, I found a passage in the Bible that really touched me. The whole chapter is Isaiah 54. As someone who struggles with perfectionism, I often times tend to see God almost as a dictator. I find myself often thinking, oh no, I just thought that. And that thought usually ends up going in the direction of me fearing punishment from the Lord.

"Shame says that because I am flawed, I am unacceptable. Grace says that though I am flawed, I am cherished.":

Isaiah 54:10 says, “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

That’s not the only mention of ‘compassion,’ in Isaiah 54, however. Other references to it are, “but with great compassion I will gather you” and “with everlasting love I will have compassion on you.”

For some reason, I tend to forget the fact that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He knows I’m a flawed human. He is not expecting me to think, say, or do the right thing all the time. Psalm 103:8 states, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” and a few verses later it says, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Merriam Webster defines mercy as, “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly,” gracious as, “marked by kindness and courtesy,” and compassion as, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

Next time my mind starts going in that habitual way of thinking, I am going to try and remind myself of the type of God we serve, one who is merciful, gracious, compassionate, and understanding.

God's Grace by southern-dreams on Polyvore featuring art:

Note: I created the second picture/collage, but the quote is not mine. And the other picture comes from Pinterest 🙂

 

Journal Entry

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes,” – Psalm 119:71

There are many verses in Psalm 119 that I love, but I finally decided on this one. At six years old, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy. Narcolepsy is a severe sleep disorder. People, like myself, who have narcolepsy, are not able to sleep through the night. Experiencing constant nightmares, falling asleep multiple times during the day, and other components of narcolepsy are all common to narcoleptics.

Because of my illness, I have to take medication throughout the day and night, rest or nap every three-four hours, and be under a continuous schedule. It’s not always easy, but I wouldn’t change it. If I had not been diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy, I do not believe my relationship with God would be where it is today. Psalm 119:71 says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”

I found and find this true in my own life. When you get to a certain place of desperation – where all you have is God, it pushes you to open His Word and seek out answers, comfort.