Wow! What an amazing year. Looking back I can hardly believe how much has changed. Truth be told, big change is often the case, but I’m always amazed. Always.
Twelve months ago I barely made it out of bed before noon each day. I often returned later. Tears often remained at the surface ready to gush forth. The after effects of extreme stress brought on by undiagnosed, but likely, PTSD & acute anxiety made me primed for extreme physical & emotional responses with the slightest prodding. Not a fun time & it felt like it would last forever.
Our marriage was in the midst of extreme heat which wouldn’t subside for months. Our middle child, who moved out in 2013, then dropped out of high school. We were refused contact with five children whom we’d cared for & loved for 15 months, for reasons that did not make sense. And Christmas, well, we had no money for gifts, we were missing most of our Christmas decorations & our family wouldn’t be together.
While grieving deeply & in an emotional whirlwind of turmoil I needed God’s help to navigate survival when the rest of my world felt like it was collapsing.
In many ways, I did collapse. I also dropped to my knees with growing recognition of deep, deep need for Christ moment by moment. That song by Matt Maher, “Lord I Need You”; it’s no joke. In desperation I have sobbed through the words & music many a time.
In January of 2014, through a combination of interesting God-incidences (as Jennifer Dukes Lee calls them), I had the opportunity to go to Jennie Allen’s book launch for Restless. Mind you, I barely knew who Jennie was, who Jen Hatmaker was (also in attendance), what the launch was about or about the now wildly popular IF:Gathering. While serving as a foster mom to many, on a ranch with limited connections, I was rather out of the loop. Regardless, I knew I was supposed to be there.
Attending though, was a challenge. Despite having grown up serving & leading, I was now resistant to anything that smelled of busyness or of regaling enjoyment. In addition to physical & emotional turmoil I was going through a culture shift. On the ranch it felt like we were isolated in another country even though we were only an hour from all we knew. Coming back home included cultural reintegration that’s hard to explain. I can’t say it’s the same as moving overseas, and not many will understand what this transition was like, but it was there nonetheless.
So here I was, waiting for my friend at the book launch. I got there early on & waited in the crowds alone. My nerves threatened to take me down right there, in one fitful mess in the middle of a crowd. Even though, God strengthened this otherwise not shy heart & brought about His plans in ways that blessed me & others. Read more on: When You’re the Awkward Loner
That event launched something else. It launched me deeper into my endeavors to write, to encourage leaders & to seek out ways in which my unique giftings & passions might be used for His glory, even if it meant staying in the comfort of my home. This concept still wrestles around in my brain because I’ve felt like the only way to really please God is to lay it ALL down. Then, I did and…well,
I began to go from restless longings to do more, to desperate resting as I learned to receive & live more fully in Christ.
Messages by Tullian Tchividjian on grace & suffering through books like One Way Love: God’s Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World & Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free ministered deeply into my soul. This message of God’s grace & rest became something to receive & understand at a deeper level.
Then, what do you know, I won a giveaway for Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough by Kristen Welch & Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval & Seeing Yourself in God’s Eyes. This heart of mine, already pulled in two directions not knowing where to land, struggled with messages that seemed in opposition. Together, these books epitomized the struggles of my heart.
Saying yes to big things & stepping out in faith, which I’d done for years, is an important message. Kristen shares her story well & doesn’t add undue pressure, but I do. I knew it would be hard to read her book because of personal experiences.
Jennifer’s book sat idle in my mind the first time I read through it. I couldn’t yet grasp the depth of a message which needed to penetrate my heart. I’m re-reading it now & oh boy, there is so much here I needed to hear. Again and again and again, through a variety of messages is this clear message from God; I will never be more loved or more approved by God than I am right now. Today. In this very moment.
The same is true for all of us. Nothing we say or do makes Him love us more or less.
Say it with me, friends. I, (your name), will never be more loved or more approved by God than I, (your name), am right now
In this, I have come to find rest unlike anything else.
Today, I’m still recovering but significantly stronger. But God.
Healing continues as I rest in His righteousness. It doesn’t mean that the coming year will be idle. Far from it. It does mean, however, that I am freed to heal, to live, to love and to give in new ways. What hope. What a gift to close out the year with.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see how many things are about to change in the months ahead.
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I am visiting your site via #TellHisStory, and I am so glad I found you. Your writing is beautiful. This line really hit home.
“Healing continues as I rest in His righteousness.”
The Lord continues to teach me that resting in Him provides everything I need. I pray you find complete healing in His arms.
Happy New Year,
I’m so glad you came by Renee. Thank you for your kind words & prayers. Happy New Year!
Jolene, what a beautiful testimony to God’s amazing grace this past year. He is truly wonderful and loves us more than we can grasp. Thank you for sharing your heart. May the Lord continue to heal you and renew your spirit with strength unimaginable!
Thank you so much Sabra. He has truly done amazing things throughout this year. So much so I can’t capture it here on a blog, but I hope the sentiment of awe comes through. Blessings, friend.
But God. Those two words always jump off the page for me. What hope filled words, Jolene. I just love how you share your heart. And I look forward to more of it in 2015.
Much love to you, friend.
Enjoyed reading your reflections Jolene. Thankful for you! Happy New Year.:)
Each time I sit here to read from your heart I am drawn closer to this thankfulness of just being able to call you a friend. Thank you for sharing parts of your journey to wholeness and healing, Jolene. Thank you for being willing to share where God has taken you, where He has been healing your, where He has allowed you to go so that He can be found.
Praying for extraordinary moments of grace and powerful moments of hope to explode in your life and that He will give you the very words to bring that grace and hope into the lives of others.
You are such a blessing Dawn. Glad to journey in grace with you, friend.
Jolene- Thank you for sharing your amazing journey and your faith in the One who brings rest. This is so beautifully written and powerful. May you see much of His Grace in 2015 and continue to be a beacon for Him. I love these lines: “I am freed to heal, to live, to love and to give in new ways. What hope. What a gift to close out the year with” Amen!
What a year of hard labor for you. May the Lord lift you up on His wings and grant you the desires of your heart. It’s so wonderful to see His goodness in the midst of pain. You shine His light beautifully through your account of your 2014.
God bless you with favor and grace in 2015.