One of my favorite things about starting a blog based on vulnerability, has been getting to hear the stories of others. In the last week alone, I have interacted with women who have bravely shared their stories of depression, rape, addiction, fluke accidents, suicide attempts and other continued struggles. There is so much power in this! By sharing our pain, the darkness loses its power. When we expose the darkness for what it is, then it no longer holds isolation over anyone. No one has to feel alone, watching the world and thinking that everyone else is going through life without a problem. What has become blatently apparent to me is that everyone has a problem, a story, a past.
Through these conversations with other women, I always find myself thinking that what we all need is more God. I know that this sounds vague and cliche but stay with me. At our women’s events, I talk, extensively, about how I used to be…the frame of mind I used to live in. When I think of a word that describes what has changed the most for me, it’s: QUIET. “Quiet” didn’t exist in my life, before, and is a necessary ingredient to a real walk with God. You might think you’re “getting God” by going to church or by leading a small group but the real fun begins when it’s just you and Him. And there’s QUIET. Enough of it for you to talk to Him, read with Him, and watch while He reveals things you’ve never understood about scripture. Enough quiet to notice as He brings the tiniest details, which only you would appreciate, to life. Come alive, as your prayers and journaling and heart become captivated with passion. THIS is the point of life. THIS is our purpose and THIS is the only thing powerful enough for all of the good, the bad and the ugly to make sense.
But the benefits to walking closely with the Creator of the world are not limited to the above. Through a QUIET relationship with God, you will also rediscover who you were meant to be and what you were meant to do on this earth, develop compassion for others around you, enjoy loving and reciprocal relationships in Christ and grow every day with an inner strength that nothing and no one can steal from you.
There was a time in my life where I was just coasting. Everything appeared “happy” on the outside, but I was miserable on the inside. Though I was constantly surrounded by people, I was so broken, so fragile, so starved for affection that I would rather have heard a sugar-coated lie than the ugly truth. I was at capacity, and I couldn’t handle any more pain. I lived my life to please others, thinking that they could fill my void. And I thought that if I worried enough about the past and future, then I could prevent further pain.
If this is you, know that you aren’t alone. There’s hope and there’s a better way. Jesus says that in this life, we will have trouble, but to take heart! Because we don’t have to face it alone. Because we can look forward to Heaven. And because He promises to be with us and give us peace in this life, if we will only learn to let Him.
Here are some of the things that gradually helped me out of my rut, in learning to LET God help me:
FIND YOUR QUIET PLACE.
One of the first things that drastically changed my life was a quote I read by Rick Warren: “Your character is the sum of your habits.” At the time, I had a newborn and was too exhausted to read through even a paragraph of anything without falling asleep. But as I read that quote, it struck me that I wanted my character to be good. Really good. I was depleted and empty. I was tired of being unhappy the moment my eyes opened every day and was ready to do something about it. I started waking up just 15 minutes before the baby did, and went downstairs to read a devotion, book or the Bible and talk to God. Half of the time I fell asleep but at least I was going for it…and that was enough to give me hope. As I regained my strength and sleep habits, the 15 minutes turned into 30…then 45, and today, it’s about an hour. Sometimes my little is watching a cartoon next to me, but I don’t care. It’s worth every minute of tv for the power God gives Mama during that time. The last thing I’ll say about this is that I highly recommend doing this quiet time in the morning, and alone is best. There are many Bible verses that support our waking and speaking to God, alone, first thing in the morning!
In addition to finding a daily time and place in our homes, I have had some of my most intimate moments with God in nature. Maybe this can’t happen every day, but finding a special place where you can literally see God’s handiwork is powerful. Interestingly enough, I experience God a lot in a little town called “Stillwater.” The bridge I remember driving across to get there as a kid has now been closed and is used as a walking bridge, only. But because of this, there’s – quiet – in the air. When I stand over the waters near the bridge, I see God, feel Him, breathe Him in. I can’t help but think of Psalm 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God. Not you, Hailley. Not your job, your pride, your problems, not even your ministry to others. I AM, is in control so stop flailing.
Another place that I have experienced the stillness of God is in Birkmose Park, of Hudson. Just south of Stillwater, its billowing views of the St. Croix River expand, largely, from Prescott to Bayport…they take my breath away. From the time I could drive, that park has served as my resting place. Its grounds have caught many of my tears. When feeling overwhelmed in college, I’d drive all the way there from Bethel University, just to sit in the park for a moment. Fast forward twelve years, and my family’s home has been built in Birmose Park. That means I wake up, every day, to the same views that often held me together as an adolescent. Could God have known that this was where I’d wind up, having led me there all those years? I know He did. Don’t ever let the enemy tell you that you aren’t exactly where you’re supposed to be. God is a personal, conversational, intentional, and detail-oriented God. He pays attention to everything about you. Loves, everything about you. Adores, everything about you.
FIND YOUR TRIBE.
Go after God. Seek Him, and peace will come. Not every day; it might still feel like a battle but you will find yourself on the winning side of it, every time. Seek Him til those friends come along who will lovingly hold you accountable, speak truth into your life, hold you up, build you up and celebrate your light! Wait for the ones whom you never have to worry about saying no to, or admitting too much, to. They’re worth waiting for. They’re worth giving up old habits, bad relationships and feeling lonely for a while. Wait for the women who will humbly pray with you, over you and hold your hand through whatever darkness you’re walking through. Wait for the ones who shine with God’s light every time you see them. They’re there, and He wants to give them to you – you just have to make room.
NEVER GIVE UP.
Pursuing God won’t always feel magical and we won’t always have good days. But that’s part of learning to trust. We are called to trust that regardless of how we may feel, He’s always there with us (Hebrews 13:5), that He will work good from even the worst things that happen in our lives (Romans 8:28) and that no matter what, He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).
Have you grasped this? Have you grasped that you are a beautifully designed, everlastingly loved, precious, forgiven, citizen of Heaven? That no matter how far from Him you’ve fallen, He wants to forgive you and love you and hold you and welcome you home? My precious child of God, have you grasped the fact that your legacy on this earth is so significant that even if you were the only person here, you have someone who was willing to die just so He could see your face every day for eternity?
“Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” -Psalm 37:4.
This post is dedicated to the many women who have brought God’s light into my life, and also to the many women who have been vulnerable enough to share your stories with me – You know who you are.
Photography by Naomi Goff (top and bible photos); Jenny Loew Photography (group photo); Models Jori Blaiser (top); Jayme Mees, Erica Carlson, Laura Haslup, Abbie Dahm, Anna Johnson, Mary Johnson, Katie Berg, Maddie Moen (April 2018 BB Event Team).