Things I've Learned in 2013

How to process events, thoughts, and emotions with the Lord. He knows your heart better than anyone (Psalm 33:15) and is the greatest Counselor and Comforter in helping you work through what needs to be worked through. The greatest peace I have felt this year has come not when I have had answers, but in the lonely moments when I've poured my heart out to a seemingly empty space, only to feel afterward that God has taken all of my spewed-out words, put them in order in His little book, wrapped His big arms around me, and said, "I know; I understand; I see; I've got it; I will help you; trust me."

How to give others the same grace God gives me. God is so faithful to work deeply and gently in our hearts (Ephesians 3:20-21). I've experience this beyond measure this year. And when I am tempted to look at others and ask, "How could they do that?" God reminds me of all the times this year that I have wished to receive grace from others and haven't. He reminds me of how patient He has been with me (and He has been patient, my friends). And He asks me to trust that He will work in their hearts as deeply and gently and patiently as He has worked in mine (Romans 14:4). My only responsibility is to love, too, let Him do what He will in His own time, and allow Him to keep working in me.

How to keep a tender heart amidst loss. This has been one of the hardest lessons of all. Hardening your heart to avoid pain is a much more appealing option. It gives you a sense of control and confidence. I like both of those things! But hardening your heart to avoid pain hardens your heart to be met by God, too. And in being met by God, you are given a deeper, unshakable confidence in the Lord that has nothing to do with control and everything to do with surrender. And the ironic thing? Freedom comes in surrender. (Warning, however: Keeping a tender heart also means you may cry at ridiculous times, like when you see a dead chipmunk on the sidewalk, or when you pass a broken highway sign, or when watching Edward Scissorhands.)

How to find Jesus as my place of safety and protection. I must've repeated Psalm 91:2 hundreds of times over the course of September. "You are my place of safety and protection; you are my God and I trust you." A "place" should be something tangible, like a house or a church or a city; something you can see on a map. But God shows me that He is a place. This supernatural, undefinable place that we can hide in and find rest in and run to (Psalm 32:7, Proverbs 18:10). This place that He actually asks us to set aside all achievements and accomplishments before we enter into. The only place we are defined apart from our successes and failures (Jennie Allen*).

How to be defined apart from my successes and failures. Applying for jobs and going on interviews and writing up countless cover letters is nothing but selling yourself, talking yourself up, and trying to prove you are something and someone and valuable and an asset. But God has used this season of barrenness to show me how valuable I am with nothing. When I present Him with all that I have and ask, "Does this make me somebody?" Desperately hoping He approves of my efforts, because I try so hard, He pushes it all aside, pulls me onto His lap, and says, "I make you somebody. You are mine."

How to let things die with hope. Lots of things have died around me this year. I have battled a lot of hopelessness and fear. I have tried hoping that things will get better. I have tried hoping that people will act a certain way. I have tried hoping that I won't lose one more thing. But hoping in all those things makes my hope a very fragile thing that is easily broken, and I am left reeling in wreckage all over again. So instead, I hope that God will make me new. I hope that God will keep doing a work in me and making me more like Jesus. I hope that God will use what little I have to glorify Himself and build His Kingdom and bring people to Him. And that kind of hope never disappoints, because God is true to all He promises (Romans 5:5, Psalm 119:114), and He makes things new (Romans 12:1-2). You cannot control what dies around you, but you can control how much you allow God to grow within you.

I will still fail and forget and make mistakes. But I am thankful for, beyond thankful for, sometimes breathless at, God's grace, nearness, love, and ever-faithfulness, that picks me up and helps me try again.

So that is what I do.
"Who is to say what is good or bad anymore? Not till heaven will we know. From his eternal perspective, it's tolerable to allow our temporary dreams to fall apart. But we seize more of God when he seizes us through our broken dreams. He is wildly unpredictable, and learning to question and accept his ways is part of the journey of following an unsafe, invisible God. He calls the shots on what happens to us in this short stint here. He calls them, whether we want to let him or not. Our faith must remain greater than our pain and our fears." - Jennie Allen
* Readings throughout this season:
Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen
Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson
Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley
Until the Day Breaks by Dana Candler