2022 Reflection and confession

The last several weeks I have been on Sabbatical. 30 days off of work and while that may sound like a dream. When I was ask if I would consider it, the only reason I said yes was because I heard the Lord’s voice among the question saying, “Recieve the gift!” So, I said yes simple to obey and to follow my pastor who asked me to consider it. Plus, I have been tired. I’m really tired.

In the first couple of days I had been asking questions like this:

“What is this for Lord?

“What is the point?”

“Why am I here?”

In the questioning, as I prayed, I saw myself walk through a doorway and turn into a hall, and the Lord said simply, “Be here.” Then my son got the crud sickness, then my husband, I didnt until after I was able to watch my granddaughters while my daughter had her third child, and I was able to meet my new grandson.

The second week, something came up at the church. I jumped right in to help find the answer, and while that was helpful due to the circumstances. I wanted to get back to normal ( you know ..like work!) I like helping out and stuff. I started to talk about what I was sensing and such. Then I got the crud in the chest and I lost my voice. I have now been 4.5 days with no voice. So, I’ve been listening, pondering, praying, and reading more. As my focus had to turn toward the Lord, just being here and scanning my inner heart and mind. I started to notice things I had stuffed away. Things I haven’t cared to admit. Things I didn’t want to deal with. Pain I didn’t want to uncover. As I began to reflect over the last year, I realized that 2022 has been a lot like 2021 in the weightiness and hardness of traveling through it. I described it as a ‘walking through deep sand while waves were crashing over me, and I was trying desperately to find solid rock.‘ There have been many transitions, people I have walked with a long time who are now gone or out of my regular routine, again, and being thrown into work I didn’t ask for. Again. And God has again showed His mercy and grace through it. Even if I am somewhat deaf, dumb, and blind to what He is doing.

This morning, I woke up dry, choking, like as if I had been breathing chalk dust. As I prayed for relief and took several sips of water, I was describing it in my journal as ‘having the feeling of being crushed by a giant rock’… let me take you back a second. I had written at the end of last year in November 2021 many of the same feelings I’ve felt this year. We had walked through much transition and friends moving away. But I remember feeling strong and like faith was being restored to me. But then, in January of 2022, my grandmother died, and all the work that had been done, all the unpacking of the boxes from the closets of my internal landscape all got shoved back into the closet. My friend Karmen, who has moved away, had said many times over the years of our friendship, “It is better to fall upon the Rock than to be crushed by it.” …. and here I am. I had been desperately looking for solid rock, but in my refusal to keep swimming in the deep end of life because it was hard, I now find that rock crushing me. We either choose humility or we find humiliation. One way or another, our God will get us to where and what He has for us. It can be the way of His gentleness or they way of the Lord great and terrible. Either way, it is His goodness to expose our refusal to obey Him in hopes that we (me) would stop being stubborn, made fit for the crushing, or could we rather fall upon the rock.

Matt 21:44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

This morning, I said to myself, “How did I get here?” It’s simple. The Lord led me to …be here.

It is His kindness that leads me to repentance. It is His grace that He sent me away on Sabbatical to lead me here. To show me my heart, my hurt, my anger, my frustration, my grief, my pain. To grind all my wooden idols of self-absorbtion to powder.

Life can not be full of love and joy if all your energy goes to bending life to your will. Sometimes the thing that is wearing a person out is the pain and sadness, the guilt and shame, the anger and frustration we carry but ignore because we are too busy trying to convince ourselves that the issue is something other than what it is.

We are all so good at hiding from ourselves. So here I am, realizing from reading my end of the year 2021 posts that I was processing and finding health, and my grandma died, and I ran from the process. Much like when I was 10 years old and my great grandfather died and an adult asked me if I was going. I said, “No,” and since I seemed to have a choice, and from that day forward, I stopped processing death and loss. I wasn’t necessary to the process. I didn’t need to go through it with my family then. So, I simply just dont go through it now. As I have refused to use the tools that God gave me in the previous season because my heart has been so full of ache and I couldn’t bear it when my grandmother died, even though I was there for her final breaths, all the feelings and the need to move through the grief got stuck. I would start to cry, and I shut it all down and just went on task mode to do what needed to be done. I would just distract myself and go take care of life.

Take care of her final affairs

Take care of home stuff

Take care of my daughter, my son, my family

Take care of the church and the financials and all the other stuff that I focused on to take care.

I am always amazed at my God, who knows how to teach me and help me grow. In April, I officiated my first funeral. After my Grandma died, I remember how it felt to have others show up in the hurt. I said yes to officiate because of what I experienced with my grandma’s passing and the words that I felt burned on my heart, “Lean in when death happens, show up, call, go. It matters a lot!” I remember Wanda as a woman of wisdom. I remembered and shared at her celebration of life, me saying to her as I was leaving her house one day, “take care of yourself!” and she said, “I will not, I will cast all my care on the Lord for He cares for me.” How is it possible I’ve been ‘taking care’ all this time? Is it so much more than a coincidence that the surrounding Bible verses speak about this? And they say so much more and speak directly to where my poor and needy heart has been. In need of humbling, devil prowled and nearly devoured, suffering, and in need of Christ.

…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:5b-11

Father, forgive me for – once again – trying to be my own savior. For hiding myself from You and all that You desire to show me and love me through. For forgetting Your kindness, Your goodness, and Your desire to be with me through all that I go through. You told me in 2021 that“Legitimate suffering is a discipline that starts at the beginning and goes through.” Forgive me for all the ways I have built my own constructs of safety and refuge from suffering that didn’t involve You.

Psalm 18: 28-32

For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
30 As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is flawless;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

31 For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength,
And makes my way perfect.

Long ago, when I attended Wanda’s prayer group, I wrote a song that I’ve been hearing lately. A song about these verses and the chorus went like this:

And I will praise You! Yes, I will trust You.
No matter what I may go through – I will choose –
I will choose to believe in You.

Starla Smith

Never forget that life is lived in layers and God is in all of them. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and sovereign overall. He writes the story and uses every part to teach, correct, and grow you. I am convinced, as I have said many times before, that we miss much of what He is doing because we are not tracking, chronicling, or having a way to remember what our God has done. I heard earlier this week that the most used word behind ‘fear not’ in the Bible is ‘remember.’

The goal is more like Jesus, but the only way to get there is through. So, if you must go through – follow Jesus, fear not, and remember!

He will get me through…

All is grace,

Starla

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