Standing Up To Fear’s Grip

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We have another guest who’s going to share some of her heart with us! Maddie has shared with us before, but she’s lovely and always has some insight, so I asked her to do it again!

We were supposed to be quiet and I was afraid those near me could hear my heartbeat.
I knew what God wanted me to do, just as I knew air was flowing in and out of my lungs.
I looked over at my friend, who had no idea what I was about to tell her. Satan whispered lies in my head – she’ll never love you once she knows what you’ve done.
Fear’s grip on my heart tightened. I knew Christ was pushing me towards authenticity and honesty, but the power of fear seemed too large to conquer. I prayed for God to give the the words to say and the courage to say.
And, with a whisper, it was done. I had told my friend about my deepest sins, the mistakes that bruised my past, and the shame still burning inside me. Instead of a judgemental glance, I was met with arms open wide. She told me that she struggled with the same things I did.
When it was all said and done, I felt ashamed of my hesitancy to answer God’s call. I knew it was His voice – it was calling me towards intimacy and honesty. I knew the other voice was from Satan – it was calling me into isolation and fear. Now, it all seems so black and white, but, in the moment, I was caught up in the shades of gray. I knew what God wanted me to do, but I had found myself tripping over Satan’s lies on my way there.

Here’s the truth of the matter – God works for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28). Even when He calls us to speak up in the face of fear, He is working for our good. He is calling us out of the wilderness and into the Church, into love, into community. We can recognize His voice by the things He calls us to, and the same goes for Satan.

Though a spiritual battle may be raging in your heart today, you are not alone, and you need not fear. The victory was won two thousand years ago on the Cross. In His victory, we can stand up to the grip fear has on us and embrace authenticity with ourselves, with those around us, and with God.
With His Love,
Maddie Queen

But He Gives More Grace

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I spent time in prayer & in scripture last night, just being legit before God & telling Him that I was sorry for the way my heart has been over the last few days. I wrote a poem about it (of course), so here it is.

“Let me tell you of the grace of God
And how He pardons my soul
From the pit of death
Where I belong.
He helps me out of the hole
And gives me a new home.
The shadows of death ensnare me
But He snatches me from their reach-
Quick and fearlessly.
He dusts me off,
And asks me, ‘Are you okay?’
Then He reassures me that I’m safe,
Puts me to bed,
Tucks me in, and kisses my head.
For this is the grace of God.”

Humility Issues

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I’m struggling. I feel like I can’t simply be like, “I’m struggling with pride”. I guess I feel like talking about it is just as taboo as talking about a porn addiction. It’s awkward to put ourselves out there like that, especially if we’re revealing new flaws. It’s giving the opportunity for others to point fingers & judge. I personally don’t like being looked at under a microscope; I am not something to be poked and prodded about. I’m a human being. I am a flawed human being.

There, I said it.

Mini story time: I’m a worship leader. When I lead worship, I usually stand in the front next to my co lead/homie guy. It’s always been like that; we have a dynamic when we play & we work well together. But for some reason, this time I was moved to the back, behind everyone, right by the drums. It didn’t bug me before, but after thinking about it for a while, it was getting on my nerves. ‘Why can’t I stand next to my homie?’ ‘Is it because I sometimes go  barefoot onstage & the elderly people don’t like seeing naked toes?’ ‘Am I not good enough to be at the front?’ That’s when I remembered how worship is about shifting our focus from ourselves to Jesus. During worship, we could sound like crap, but that doesn’t matter because we’re singing to God, for God, and nobody else. If I’m thinking about whether or not I’ll be seen by the congregation, I’m going to be distracted & not fully focused on Jesus like I should be.

In my “oh-no-I’m-a-sinner-and-I’m-struggling-with-a-new-sin-that-i’ve-never-dealt-with-before-help” state, I opened my bible in order to find some insight. I turned to Job, of all books. This is what I read:

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.” -Job 1:20

Some context: Job lost all his property & children. He was wrecked. He expressed his deep grief without any resentment or rebellion. He worshiped God with the only thing he did have- a humble, dependent, and devoted heart. A humble heart. How God was speaking to me through this little bit of scripture.

Now, I’m supposed to help lead worship on Friday & Saturday. Some people would say that it’s not right for worship leaders to lead worship if they’re dealing with something. They should deal with it quietly & alone, and come back when they’ve righted with God. I disagree. Everyone goes through stuff, and everyone deals with sin. Worship leaders are not perfect sinless human beings. I’m going to come before Jesus & repent. I have a duty to fulfill as a worship leader, so I’m going to worship Jesus with His children & I’m going to need His help to keep my focus off of myself. I’m going to sing His victory over myself, I’m going to set myself before Him, & have Him do what needs to be done in my poor, contrite heart.

He will make my heart as white as snow.

 

Setting Up Camp in the Belly of the Beast

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I’m super happy to introduce to you, Mick Germain (#pastorextraordinaire)! He is one of my closest friends & he will be sharing an article he wrote which deals with depression (just a warning if you need one). I’m happy to share it with you, because the church body should spread light and talk about depression more than we do.


 

Relating to others can be hard. Like, really hard. Some stuff is easier to grasp though, ”Oh you don’t like dark chocolate because it’s bitter? I get it’’, but for everything I relate to, I like to imagine there are 100 more that I cannot. I can’t grasp what it is like to be an orphan, a widower or even a heroin addict (not that those 3 things are related in anyway). Some things have to be felt in order for us to wrap our heads around, for better or for worse.

It becomes even harder to relate when things get specific, God made everyone unique so you can imagine that things are always very ‘’specific’’. I don’t know what is like to lose a child, or to have a child, or to be unable to have one. You see, we experience life differently; our joys and our pains lived out with different intensities, all equally important in the very knitting of our beings. These emotions come and go, and these landmark events define how we’ll approach the upcoming ones. So regardless of our inability to understand, we shouldn’t shy away from speaking about these subjects. This leads me to the topic of depression.

Depression is this secret illness in the church. Although it has been getting more exposure as of late, many still suffer in silence. Statistics Canada found that 20% of adults will suffer from mental illness during their lifetime. That is an incredible amount of people to have been swept under the rug of the church if you ask me. Feeling depressed is fairly common for people; it can come from disappointment, anger, sadness, etc. It is to be noted that just like many feelings, it is temporary, but that isn’t depression, that’s just feeling down. Without wanting undermining ‘’being down’’, I must state that ‘’Depression’’ is a constant state of despair.

I ignored my illness for 3 years before doing anything about it. I lived with the belief that mental illness, just like cancer and death, could only happen to others; since nobody in the church ever told me otherwise, I just assumed it would pass. Alas! It did not. In fact, not only did it ‘’not pass’’, it got gradually worse. I barely noticed how bad it was getting until I realized I had set up camp in the ‘’sunshine’’ state of Despair.

Before we continue, here’s a little disclaimer, this isn’t a post on how to make it through depression, if anything it’s for the 80% that will never experience it.

So, yes, ‘’depression’’ is a constant state. There are ‘’bad days’’ and ‘’worse days’’, the sun doesn’t shine as much and cloudy days bring you down even more. For something that screws you over, depression is awfully poetic. Your brain is under fire, as if a shooter was running amuck in there. It is a constant state of fear; you are a victim of your own body. You can’t see a future beyond trying to make it to the end of the day. A constant fear of being unable to take it one day, and just choosing to become end it all instead rising above in victory. The worst has got to be those days when you don’t feel, not when you ‘’don’t feel like’’, just when you don’t feel. When can’t feel anything at all. You become a prisoner in your own body; in my situation (you see, again with specifics), it caused physical and emotional hypersensitivity. Picture this: you find yourself needing physical affection, but getting it (be it by the means of a hug) feels like receiving 1000 lashes. Living in this bubble of irony is draining, even for a ‘’hipster’’ as I.

I may not have had cancer, but I too have felt despair, anguish and anger (in my own way of course). I know that some of you have as well, and if you are stuck in a rut, I can’t stress this enough, get help. GET HELP.

On a more encouraging note for those who are going through depression; God loves you, and understands your pain. Isn’t it wonderful to have such an incredible Father? Not only does He care about us, but He will pull us through these dark, dark, dark days. Our victory was won at the cross, and I have this crazy belief that any challenge I come across is just fluff. It’ll either pass, or stay in my graves. Either way, it isn’t coming with me in Heaven.

Your Story Matters

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I used to hate sharing things with others, or opening up about my life. It’s best when nobody knows details about you- no drama, no nosy people trying to pry. I didn’t like to share experiences of mine, like, who wants to hear about what happened to me? That’s kind of selfish, and I don’t want to be known for that. Besides, my life isn’t that interesting. However, something shifted in me when I decided to genuinely follow Jesus. I wanted to share every detail of my testimony. I was ready to share it at any given moment. I think I’ve shared it at least 15 times.

I have shared my story with my youth group family, and a few people who I barely knew. When I started college, I realized that being authentic is really important, not just when talking about Jesus, but throughout my whole life. I am more inclined to be honest when someone asks how I’m feeling, because there’s literally no point in faking. If I keep to myself, I am limiting the community that could potentially happen between me and that other person.

Sometimes I find myself sharing my experiences and thoughts with someone, and they’re like “You know, I’ve been going through something similar!” In that moment, I feel connected with that person, and I feel happy that we get what the other is going through.

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” -Brene Brown

Being a youth leader helps me a lot. I’m a role model to the kids I mentor. When they ask me how I’m doing, I don’t simply say “I’m fine”. I tell them how I’m feeling. If I’m struggling, I ask them to pray. Opening up to them about my experiences encourages them to do the same in their friendships. Hopefully they will carry it with them through their lives. I want them to know that they can impact the world around them by sharing their stories. At least one person is bound to relate. Because of that relation, they might be able to extend grace and love to (and beyond) that person.

You have something to offer others, which is the results of your experiences thus far in life. No story is too mundane, too insignificant. We can use any situation to create community.

The Desires of My Soul

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I desire gentleness. You know when you’re holding a baby, and they reach up to softly touch your face? The child doesn’t even realize that they’re being gentle. They just are. The looks of love & adoration exchanged is what I want. It stirs something in my heart that I can’t exactly pinpoint. Gentleness is sweet kindness, the epitome of “How are you?”, “Let’s talk for a little bit” or “I miss you”. In a way, it’s the embodiment of a verbal “I love you.

I desire campfires. The kind of atmosphere where friends are gathered & share stories and songs. I love how campfires give off warmth. It’s homey and comforting. Laughter is guaranteed. There’s something about circling around flames with blankets and friends, smelling the burning wood, the trees, and the clean air. Friends give off more warmth than the fire itself. You better believe me when I say I love each and every one of my friends. It sounds juvenile, but I could care less. Every friend I’ve made, I love.

I desire early and chilly mornings, where the fog is thick. Where silence is not just a lack of hearing anything, but becomes something to be felt. When the coffee is strong and already brewed as soon as you get up, and all that’s left to do is sit and watch the sun rise. Early morning conversation with a beloved one. We all want to be heard; it’s the perfect time to do it.

What kinds of things do you desire?

Intro to May

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My word of the month is “Nearness”.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking of the idea of drawing near to Jesus. Many of us have those weeks where everything we go through is difficult, or we live in constant fear of the future, or we just don’t want to be near anyone at all.  It’s difficult, being human sometimes (or most of the time- for me, it’s most of the time).

Jesus is there though. There’s nowhere we can go where He is not. Even when we don’t want Him to be there, He remains with us. I think that’s really endearing. It only proves how faithful He is to us. Even though we struggle with such things, He remains as close as the mention of the first syllable of His name. Our fears & our troubles don’t make Him fearful to come near to us, for He is bigger than them.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28 (an often used verse, but a good one nonetheless)

He calls us over to Him just so we can be near Him & find rest in His presence. I like to think of Jesus’ presence as a little closet, where I can hide away and find peace. Nobody can find me, and my deepest thoughts are safe with Him. Just the act of being near Him makes me happy. I have to be near Jesus, or else I’d be quickly pulled away by everything that distracts me from Him. He has my heart. It’s literally a desperate thing.

I’ve made a playlist that centers around this theme (it’s best if you play it on shuffle). What is your word of the month?

Make More Time

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9:27pm, and my wardrobe consists of black. I just like it. I have my 3rd or 4th cup of coffee (I don’t remember) sitting on the table in the corner in my lamp lit room. I’m contemplating reading my collection of Edgar Allan Poems later (I know, I’m such a romantic existentialist). I’m listening to one of the dreamiest songs, and I’m struggling to find something to write about. I think I found something, though.

There’s a desire that I’ve been realizing over the last two weeks. I keep wanting to make sure that everyone is okay. It breaks my heart to know that people are sad or just plain unhappy. I can feel the pain that my friends and family go through, and I hurt with them. I can feel the sorrow that they hold in their heart, and I want to go up to them and say, “Let me hold that for a moment. Get some rest.” So often, hearts go weary from holding the weight in for a long while. It burdens me to know that. Maybe it’s a blessing that God made me able to tangibly feel the pain of others.

My heart wrenches with sadness when my friends & family pour out their hearts to me. So much of the time, I can’t do anything to ease their pain. But I can offer them my ears to let them know I’m listening & that they’re heard. I can offer my time. People are precious. Absolutely delicate things. We break easily. We should love each other more. We should take care of each other more. We need to listen to each other more. We should make more time for each other. Making time means “I care about you, and I’m listening. Take all the time you need.” When we make time for each other, it encourages & uplifts, which is what we’re supposed to do. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Maybe this is why I feel the pain of others when they open up to me. It’s a matter of reaching out, and making it known that everyone matters, and that everyone should be heard. There are many other people who take on the burdens of others, but not everyone does. Empathy is such a necessary thing that this world lacks. Empathy is linked with care. Care is linked with love. We really need to love others more.