I grumbled when I saw the patches of ice on my windshield. I was already running late for work, and I didn’t want to make the time to go back inside for warm water to throw on my windshield. I reached out and touched the ice and felt its thin fragility beneath my fingers. I nodded triumphantly, hopped in the car, started the engine, turned on the defrost, and flicked on my windshield wipers to their highest speed.
Spring is peeking around the corner. Every time I step outside, I see signs of new life around me. The grass is greener. The trees are blooming. Everything around me is awakening. Maybe I’m awakening, too.
I’ve been taking daily walks around the yard with eyes wide open to the changing season, searching for the new life unfolding all around me. And every time I find it, I wonder at its beauty. And then my heart wrenches a little, and I ask for the same open eyes to help me see the life that’s coming to the dormant places inside of me. And for the first time in a while, I find myself full of hope—so full of hope that it’s literally overflowing, sloshing over the top of a bucket that’s been empty for so long.
I’ve had this prayer plant since July, and it truly is the happiest, healthiest plant I own. It raises and lowers its leaves based on its circadian rhythm, which is believed to be its natural design to catch as much sunlight as possible. It serves as a reminder to keep my face turned expectantly to God, waiting for him to show up in my everyday life and do the miraculous. Watching it raise its little arms up at night to ready itself to meet the sun in the morning encourages me to not only start my day with the Lord but also to end my day with arms outstretched to him.
This past weekend I felt a strange impression that it needed repotting—that it needed room to grow. I know that you usually repot in the spring and not in the dead of winter, but I ignored what I knew and followed my gut. I tried one planter and it was too small. Then I tried another and it was too large. I finally found one that was just the right size, but it didn’t have a drainage hole. So back into its nursery pot my little plant went, and I placed it directly inside the just-right planter.
I’ve found myself dealing with a lot of hurt over the past few months. And while the hurt is very real and very layered and very twisty, it’s not the main thing. The main thing is the sin pattern I’ve developed while walking out the hurt I’m wrestling down.
I wrote in my journal last week: “I need your eyes today, Lord. I repent for wearing lenses of suspicion and doubt and judgment. Help me see like you, Father—eyes of love and hope. Eyes that see the big picture and know our worth despite our flaws.”
The few days between Christmas and the New Year are such a gift to my contemplative heart. It’s a liminal space, hazy with the beautiful swirl of the nostalgia of the past and the promise of the future. I spend those in-between days pouring over my journals from the year, remembering the joys and the heartaches and looking for the golden threads woven by the Lord throughout my year. Then I start pressing in and asking for a word to carry as a banner over the upcoming year.
This past Christmas night, I told the Lord I wanted 2019 to be marked with joy. As quickly as those words escaped my heart and lips, I heard a whisper: “Where your HOPE is, there your JOY shall be, too.” I knew right then the Lord was illuminating HOPE. I went home that night and started looking up and writing down as many “hope” scriptures as I could find, and the more I read and the more I wrote, the more I knew HOPE would be the marker of the coming year.
This week I’ve heard a section from Psalm 23 repeat over and over in my head: ⠀⠀ “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” ⠀⠀ When I first heard that scripture roll through my mind, I immediately felt the Holy Spirit highlight the word enemies. I flinched a little at first because I knew where he was putting his finger, and it made me uncomfortable. But true to his nature, he was really gentle as he pointed out people I’d been unconsciously labeling as enemies. He reminded me that they were not my enemy, and then he started softening my heart to ask the hard question: What enemies actually surround me?
I found myself down at the altar Sunday night near a couple of youth that are dear to my heart. I felt the Lord nudge me to pray over them and place my hands on their feet. I did as He asked, but it really caught me off guard. Physically praying over them was not my original intent. I had only walked down near the altar to intercede for them and the other youth that were there.
As I knelt and grasped their feet, I asked Him what He'd have me pray. I knew there was something specific on His heart for these girls, and I wanted to know what it was. I finally realized why He led me to touch their feet – He wanted me to pray that they would walk in His truth. I only prayed for a couple of minutes, but I prayed with everything in me that they would walk in truth.
The Lord really rocked me during my time with Him this morning. He showed me this picture of Him in Heaven. I couldn't see His face because my gaze was locked on the hem of His white robe. It was swishing back and forth in constant movement. It was so bright and light and white and there was so much movement that it was almost dizzying. He was moving, the angels were moving. Heaven was actively moving - on my behalf. He then told me that my idea of His characteristic of "constant" was not full. We often call God "constant." He's unchanging, steadfast, dependable, and faithful. We know these things to be true, but then sometimes we can't see Him moving in situations in our lives and we start to lose hope.
Last night I finished writing and editing a blog post about war and surprise attacks in areas where I thought I'd seen victory. No more than two hours after I posted it, I was under attack again.
One of my dearest friends and I were talking about a specific situation in my life, and she was sharing her heart with me. What she had discerned from the Lord and what I had heard from Him myself were conflicting and tension was mounting. I suddenly found myself angry and questioning her intentions. Our interpretations of what we were hearing about this specific area were not lining up, so I immediately threw up a wall. I started backing away from one of my best friends – one of the sweetest gifts from God in my life.
As soon as I sensed the wall go up, I started praying and the Lord started unveiling my eyes. It was like a switch flipped, and I saw it for what it was – a very crafty attack of the enemy. The more I prayed, the more He revealed about the attack that had been set out against me that night.
Wars are being waged around me. Everywhere I look, I see the darkness and carnage that only war can bring. As I’ve navigated the treacherous landmines of my own battlefield, I’ve found myself glancing to my right and to my left and seeing the battlefields of my friends and family. War is everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong – there are times in your life when you have to go to war with your own flesh. One of my friends says that sometimes looks like the Lord squeezing everything out of us that doesn’t look like Jesus. And sometimes? Sometimes that just looks like war. As hard as some of these times have been, I’m thankful for the pieces of my own dying flesh I see littering the ground. Each piece of dead flesh represents a specific area in my life that didn’t look anything like Jesus. My Papa, the Great Physician, skillfully and carefully wielded his scalpel, surgically removing those decaying places out of me. He tossed those pieces by the wayside so they would no longer encumber me. He got rid of them so I’m able to look a little more like Jesus. And for that I’m thankful. But just because He’s a skilled surgeon doesn’t mean there was no blood shed in the process.
This past week during worship, I felt like I was hitting a brick wall over and over again. I kept trying to push through it, but I was making no headway. I started praying and seeking the Lord, asking Him why I was having such a hard time entering into His presence and giving myself over fully to Him in worship.
The Holy Spirit gently nudged me to recall the moment we started singing the first song of the set. Even though the song was personally significant to me, I wasn’t singing it with my usual joyful exuberance. Instead, I found myself feeling a little sad as we sang. What a juxtaposition – feeling intense sadness during a song about God’s miracle-working presence.
The song brought up some really sweet memories, but they felt as distant as His presence that day. With those memories came the harsh onslaught of comparison. But this comparison was different than anything I had ever experienced before. For one of the first times I can remember, I wasn’t comparing myself to other people. I was comparing myself to… myself. I was comparing my current situation to the places and seasons in which I had walked in the past.
Over the past few months, the Lord has taken me on a journey unlike any I’ve ever traveled before. As I’ve walked the path He’s set before me, I’ve been blown away by how gracious He’s been to me. He has dreamed the biggest of dreams with me. He has spoken the most beautiful promises over my life. He has answered some of my greatest prayers and fulfilled some of my deepest longings. He has healed places in me that were in desperate need of healing. He has injected me with hope.
Along the way, He did something I wasn’t expecting. He showed me my Promised Land, and then He showed me the steps it would take to get there. I started walking in faith toward what I knew He was calling me to.
Not long after He confirmed in my spirit what direction I was to head, I started running into walls of opposition. The enemy started coming at me with some of the strongest spiritual attacks I have ever experienced. My mind was attacked by whispers of lies from the enemy. My finances were hit from all sides. My closest relationships were in turmoil. Confusion and chaos abounded in every area of my life.