New Bible Studies; Need More Grace

Well, in the almost two years since I’ve published a post to this blog, I have become pregnant, given birth, and now become pregnant again!  Praise be to the gift of new life, even though my first gift is currently screaming in the room next door, refusing a much needed nap, and my second gift has me curled up in my bed with a seltzer water and a puke pan (just in case).  Children really are a blessing but since I won’t be able to rest with all of this crying, I might as well update this much neglected blog.

I have been wanting to put down my thoughts for a while now, so I’m not quite sure where to start.  The emotional and spiritual slump God brought me through two years ago (read posts #1 and 2, if you dare) lasted through that spring at least, although it’s hard to recall exactly now.  It took on another, more ugly and angry form throughout that summer; but by the time the leaves started to change in the fall and the reality hit me that my self-absorption would be tested and probably overthrown by the birth of our first child in mere weeks, I think I started to let some of it go.  I began participating in my small group again at church, and I finally started to let my husband encourage me through the last leg of my depression’s run.  It wasn’t easy, and I can sometimes still hear the echoes of that dark, black lake lapping up against the insides of my brain, but I will say that I am much better off having left it all behind in Jesus’ hands.

So that brings me to now:  I am no better of a person than I was back then — still unforgiving, critical, irritable and moody — but I am at least praying to rely on the strength of God to not hurt or disrespect or push away people so much.  I know now that while being depressed is in some strange and twisted way comforting, it is an addiction and it is listening to and believing lies that makes it feel so familiar.  When I can muster up a fight against the little voices that tell me to fall back on the whole “what’s the point in life?????” drama, I have found that I can actually fill my brain with Truth and HOPE and good things like rainbows and lollipops!

A few months ago, after about a year of “heading in the right direction” but not really taking any action, I decided to make some changes in my life.  Something that had been difficult for me in the past was “devotional” time — I didn’t like the pressure of waking up every morning and feeling like I had to sit down and read the Bible and most of the time, when I did, I refused to pray out of stubbornness, pride, and what I now recognize as fear.  It felt legalistic to me, and though pastors and Bible teachers kept telling me of its importance, I continued to feel frustrated like I was just going through the motions.  Sure enough, it felt unfulfilled because I was just going through the motions, and while I felt like I was entitled to certain things because after all, I was holding up my end of the bargain, God still wasn’t showing up because I wasn’t actually inviting Him to and nothing in my life or heart really changed.

I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions, but at the start of 2012, I decided to try again with my devotional time.  I prayed about it (which was really the first time I had prayed in a long while, and I think it was something like, “God, I’m sorry I’ve been distant.  I really want to feel your Spirit in my daily quiet times.  Thank you.”)  I have to laugh at myself because I seriously am ridiculous and so prideful and easily embarrassed.  Anyway, He put a few things on my heart to try despite my blatant lack of commitment, and while all of them haven’t panned out, some of them have and they are helping me to fend off those daily lies and discover even more lies that I’ve been listening to since, well, as long as I can remember. Here are a few of the “habits” which are currently sticking:

1)  A weekly memory verse:  Very awesome, but for me, this TAKES SO MUCH GRACE.  Not only does it take so long for me to memorize verses (even though I remember cheap song lyrics the first time I hear them), but also I need a lot of grace in finding the right verse.  So far, I have memorized three, and they were all honestly God-given (for me, that has meant praying about it and then opening my Bible randomly!).  I really didn’t want “standard” verses — I craved verses that would speak directly to these lies which I’ve believed and which I’ve let become my reality.

week 1: “My heart and my flesh fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26) — This was my favorite because I had literally just admitted to God that I am sick of being a perfectionist that week (it is so tiring, isn’t it?!) and this was the verse He gave me from a psalm I’ve never even read before!

week 2:  “But you, Oh Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.”  (Psalm 85:16).  This one was great because I have realized that for so long, I have been worshipping the WRONG God — a God who isn’t full of compassion or longsuffering and who isn’t merciful and gracious!  I don’t know who I’ve put my faith in, but it certainly isn’t the God I believe in now!

week 3:  “Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which you have broken may rejoice” (Psalm 51:8).  That one speaks for itself. Smiley face.

2) Bible Studies!  This takes grace, too, especially if I am to do them right.  Since I am one of those nerds who desperately misses school and taking notes, I pleasure in any occasion to buy a new notebook and a nice new pen.  I’m afraid Bible studies have been just a vehicle for this in the past — but now, I am really praying that the two studies which I am a part of (Lies Women Believe — Online!, and a study on Forgiveness with the women at my church) cut me deep so that I can actually deal with the shame and guilt in my life instead of carrying its heavy load around with me all the time (along with a notebook full of copious notes).  People who have received Jesus still act like they don’t sometimes, I’m just saying.

3) A Reading Plan:  Again, I had been so adverse to “daily devotional” times because of the pressure and the routine … But it is important to be in God’s Word consistently, I see now.  I had tried a lot of the “one year” plans in the past, and never made it through Numbers.  But I recently found a Chronological plan, which is actually really interesting.  The books of the Old Testament especially seem interesting because they are broken up by events from other books that occurred at that time — for example, the beginnings of Genesis are broken up by 1 Chronicles and Job, and Numbers and Leviticus are interspersed with one another and more from Chronicles.  It’s probably not for everybody, but God is using it for me in this season of my life and I am — finally! — feeling blessed from having an open and earnest heart in these daily reading times. (And don’t worry, I definitely have been taking notes in a fresh new notebook!).

4) A gratitude journal as inspired by Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts (read it if you haven’t already!).  I don’t write in this every day, and try not to force it (i.e. write things like, “I am thankful for the trees on my property because they create so many leaves that fall on my yard for us to rake and that teaches me about discipline”).  Basically, I am trying not to write things that I’m actually not thankful for.  But I am finding that in sitting down and truly thinking about it, there are a few things that I really am thankful for, most of which revolve around God’s mercy because I have been so awful to so many people and so awful moreover to Him and I have so many regrets … yet, here I am, living and breathing (and typing) to tell about it and there He is, looking down on me with no apparent judgement.    Anyway, a thankful heart is an awesome thing and if I can only get in touch with that once a day, I am WAY better off than I have been in the past …

So that’s the gist of my encounters with grace these days.  And grace is like Bold-flavored Chex mix:  the more you taste of it, the more you want!  I suppose that analogy breaks down when you consider that Chex mix comes in a limited bag, but you get what I mean.  Also, I am seriously craving some Chex mix right now.  In any case, I know I need more and more and more of God’s grace if I want to serve this life He’s given me right … Just one day where I let these awful lies get too loud, or one day when I choose to ignore His awesome Truth, and you can expect some more depressed posts on this blog.

Peace out, and God bless!

 

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