Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wandering and Rest

Have you read that quote that says, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away?”  That may very well be true, but this weekend I am reminded about how life is made up of God moments.  These aren’t usually huge and grand moments.  They aren’t filled with flashing lights and screaming words.  After all, “It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11b-12, emphasis mine)  Don’t think God can’t speak through wind, earthquakes, and fire but I find in my life He chooses to whisper.  That is how we can know when we are truly listening.  You don’t have to listen hard to experience Him in a fire or earthquake, but a whisper? 

I know that most people have been reading about my journey on here, Twitter, or Facebook because you want to know about my fitness journey.  My life is focused on one thing right now, and that is my health.  In December I hit a goal I had been looking towards (and doubting I would ever reach) when I lost 100 pounds.  Since then success has been something that has been hit and miss.  But today I don’t necessarily want to talk about that but instead I want to talk about what else has been happening.  Be forewarned, this could be lengthy.  J

So in December I was hired to be a temporary teacher at Lenoir City High School.  My mentor teacher had retired and I was blessed to be hired as his replacement.  You have to understand what a blessing this was.  I was going somewhere I felt somewhat comfortable, I had a couple of friends, and where I wasn’t going to be tied down by a state mandated deadline for end of the course testing.  I could go at my kids’ speed and not worry about getting through a certain amount of material.  To say I fell in love with my students would be an understatement.  Though I am not sure if they believe me when I say that I don’t dislike any of them (I tell them I dislike their choices), that is the truth.  I see what they can be and what they are and their sweet little hearts.  These kids have thrown me a surprise birthday party, given me class mascots to sit on my desk, give me hugs, spend time in my room when they don’t have to, and are generally are just good kids.  Unfortunately, I found out last week that I would not be returning here next year.  I knew that this was most likely going to be the case going into the job but I hadn’t fallen in love with students then.  Needless to say, I am crushed that I will lose these kids and this environment which in a world that is going further and further from Christ, still seeks Him.

I am actively looking for a teaching job for next year and have already interviewed at the school that I have always dreamed about teaching.  If you know me well, you know what school I am talking about.  I know (head knowledge) that God has plan for my life.  I know that where He wants me to work will be a place where I can bring Him glory.  After all, no matter what life brings our primary objective on this planet is to glorify His name.  That head knowledge is working on moving to my heart but more on that later.
With any kind of new job or life situation, you have stress.  It is a good stress because it is coming from a place of excitement and expectation but it is stressful none the less.  I don’t handle stress well.  I think we all know that.  If this had been the only stress in my life, maybe things would have been different.  But it wasn’t and we can’t go back in time.  There are a lot of things that you don’t think about when you are eating your life away.  For instance, do you know how much money it costs to replace your wardrobe every couple of months?  Do you know how much it costs to pay for a gym and a trainer so that you are actively working to change your life?  Do you know how much it costs to have adequate athletic gear to do the things you have fallen in love with?  Spin shoes, running shoes, gym shoes, shorts, T-shirts, compression shorts, etc?  Have you ever thought about that?  Money is always stressful but even so it still wasn’t the most stressful part of my life.

When you lose a lot of weight (I am up to 120 lbs) you aren’t just losing fat.  If you haven’t walked this journey, trust me when I say you can’t know what I am talking about.  You become a different person.  Yes, I still have the same heart that loves Jesus and wants to be married with kids more than anything else on this planet.  Yes, I am still a Wood.  However, things are stripped away from you.  No longer do you have your weight to blame or to hide behind.  You don’t have a built in excuse or a built in protection from the pain that will come.  Parts of you are changed.  The way you deal with positive good things change and the way you deal with the negative changes.  You walk unsteadily in a world you used to know but now you don’t quite know where you fit.  You don’t fit in where you used to.  Like I said, everything shifts.  Sometimes your family and friends get it and sometimes they don’t.  It can be a lonely journey.

In case you didn’t know I have suffered from depression since I was high school.  Yes, I have done counseling.  Yes, I have done medication.  Yes, I have been suicidal.  Yes, anything you think about depression I have been there.  It isn’t something I am ashamed of any more.  I used to be.  Too many Christians believe that depression is always a result of sin but that is NOT the case.  Yes, it can be but when we stick that on everyone we are doing so much damage to them.  So with the new job, the new me, the money issues, and just everyday life I began having a roller coaster life again with some good highs but with some nasty lows.  Roller coasters may be fun for a couple of minutes but when one day you are happy and content and the next day you are devastated, there is nothing fun about it.  I decided to go on an anti-depressant again just to try to balance out and gain some perspective.  A friend told me many years ago that sometimes you need a little help just to get to the place where you can deal with any issues that are causing the depression.  I completely agree.  But this time I didn’t realize what this seemingly simple decision would do to my life for the next 3 months.

That was February.  This is April.  Since I began taking that medicine, nothing in the circumstances of my life have changed.  However, I am in a much worse place.  You expect when you take something to help you, for it to help you.  In my case the two different drugs I have tried so far have instead driven me lower.  Yes, I am not swinging from high to low but instead I operate on a passionless, dead stare, just try to survive mentality.  And even worse, I do not sleep.  I am not talking that I am up constantly but instead I go to sleep and then wake up every couple of hours.  Every night.  And this isn’t a wake up groggy and go right back to sleep, this is a wake up and I am completely alert.  I have thoughts going on and song lyrics in my head as if they were playing while I was asleep.  This happens every night.  So compound the life circumstances, the depression, and the sleep problems and you have a very dysfunctional Hannah.  I don’t write this to complain.  I have done that enough.  I write this to tell you what God showed me this weekend in various moments.

Do you know what it means to rest?  In terms of physical rest I am definitely at a deficient place.  But what about in terms of your soul and spirit?  I don’t do well there either.  Check out this passage from my “Made to Crave” devotional referring to Matthew 11:28:
“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NLT
"The Greek word for this kind of rest is anapauo which means "of calm and patient expectation." in other words Jesus is saying, "If you come to me, I will take your exhaustion in this area and turn it into expectation.  In this place you feel hopeless, I can make you hopeful."...One of the assignments Jesus gives us is to take on his yoke and learn from him.  In other words, discipline and work are necessary.  This is my part of the equation.  But after the assignment comes reassurance.  God knows where your strength ends and that is the exact point where his strength begins.""
Did you catch that?  Resting means “of calm and patient expectation.”  Does that define you?  In this moment and in this time of my life it most definitely does not define me.  I am not calm.  I am a basket case about whether I will have a job next year, about whether I am ever going to start losing weight again, about whether I am ever going to get married, about how I can survive financially, about how long is it going to be before I can move out of my parent’s house, etc.  I am not calm.  I am not patient.  I am not waiting on the Lord.  I continue to live out of the impatience and anxiety of my own flesh.  This God who not only died for me but who holds my eternal salvation in His mighty hands is telling me to be calm and patient and rest.  But what do I do?  I wander.

This weekend was my weekend to volunteer with the Tech ministry at church.  I go to Faith Promise.  I struggled with the decision to call and say I couldn’t come.  I am so very tired and honestly the thought of hearing all the happy, peppy music and having to be fake around people just was exhausting.  I wanted to stay home where I could be sad and be left alone.   I have so much I needed to do this weekend anyway.  As hard as I fought to make myself stay home, my sense of responsibility wouldn’t let me skip out.  I went last night and found that as always, God was expecting me.  Did you know he wrote an entire sermon just for me?

I love Israel.  I don’t why and I don’t when it started but anything to do with the Jewish people just makes me happy and interested.  I know that I have always resonated with part of their story.  If you are familiar at all with the Old Testament you know that the Israelites were God’s chosen people.  He made a covenant with them and gave them a Promised Land.  This land was freaking amazing.  Take the most beautiful and productive land you can think of, magnify it by a million and you may start to get close to what the Promised Land was.  However, the Israelites were stupid.  They see God give them water from a rock, pour down manna and quail from Heaven, continuously renew their clothes, guide them as a cloud in the day and as fire at night, but none of that changed them.  They disbelieved God.  They said, sure you did all that but you can’t defeat these nations.  They are too big and we are too small.  You can’t do it.  So instead of entering this land that God had already promised them, they wandered around in a desert for 40 years until they had all died off.  40 years of wandering and 40 years of opportunities to trust and lean on God.  Instead, they doubted and complained.  They lived this constant cycle of seeing the goodness and miracles of the Lord, walking with Him, growing weary, turning away from God, suffering the consequences, turning back to God, seeing His goodness and miracles, and on and on it went.  Now before you get too upset with them, think about yourself.  How many times has God provided for you?  How many times has He come through?  Over and over again God proves himself to us.  Over and over again we forget and go back to living without Him.  This is definitely the picture of my life.

God has promised each one of His children that we can “have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  Yet, I choose most days to survive.  To subsist.  To barely make it through the day with sanity intact (and that is debatable).  Why when I have bought with the precious blood of Christ do I continue to live chained in sin?  Why do I continue to wander through the desert when God has thrown open the doors to the Promised Land and invited me in?  The answer is simple:  I don’t trust God.  We are going to stay in the Wilderness until we choose to trust God.  Until we learn to lean on Him.  I for one have not learned this lesson.

Why when the answer is so simple am I still wandering?  Each one of us has to ask God this question but for me, part of my answer is fear.  In the sermon today Pastor Chris talked about Israelites.  He pointed out that faith concerning our future is scary.  That is the truth for me in this moment.  My future is scary.  I don’t know where I will be working, how I can survive financially without a teaching job, how I can be successful and grow still living at my parent’s, how I can continue to wait on my heart’s desire, and how I can continue on this health journey when it seems to have hit a brick wall.  All of this scares me.  I am scared about who I am and who I am becoming.  Am I honoring God with the changes in me or am I growing further from him?  Am I constantly seeking His will and His direction or have I gone back to the old me and completely depend on others and the world for direction?  It is scary.  HOWEVER, my God and my Savior is love and “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18)  My Father tells me that if I will only trust him that he will fight for me.  I love this verse in Exodus 14:14 “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today…The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”  The one who created the Universe, who literally breathed the stars into being will fight for me.  If I will let Him.  But what do I do, I choose to remain a slave wandering in the desert.

The Israelites had choices.  They could have trusted God and entered into the Land he had prepared for them.  They could have returned to Egypt.  After all, they knew what to expect there.  They were slaves and their life was horrible but at least they knew what they were walking into.  They instead chose to wander.  To fight and struggle with resting in God and to witness some amazing miracles but miss the One who was performing them.  What decision are you making today?  I know that I am in the wilderness.  I know that I am not trusting God in spite of His miracles and provisions.  I intend to remedy that.  Does that mean I will wake up in a great mood tomorrow regardless of sleep?  No it doesn’t.  But what it means is that I have been placed under the conviction and compassion of my merciful God and I choose this day to submit to His will and direction for my life.  Yes, the future is scary.  Yes, I don’t know what waits for me.  But I do know who walks beside me.  My Jesus who promises me, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) and that, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Father, let it be done as you have said.  I choose to rest in you and walk with you.  I choose to step and trust you to move.  I choose to place my faith and my future in your nail-scarred hands.  Keep me close.  Bring passion that is unparalleled in my existence.  Restore my hope.  Pour out your peace.  Father as the song says, “But You were the One who filled my cup.  And You were the One who let it spill.  So blessed be your Holy name if you never fill it up again.  If this is where my story ends, just give me one more breath to say, Hallelujah.”

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