When restlessness catches you off guard

Dreams.

I have many. They possess me. I am a dreamer, a visionary.

At no other time do these dreams kick and claw to get out than when I am at my most restless depth, somewhat stuck inside myself.

With dreams come change. With change come seasons of transition. With transition comes growing pains.

The growing pains are not what I am afraid of—though it would have been nice if I had quickly realized what they were when I first began feeling them. They are simply a component of this chaotic season of life.

Yet I have the audacity and misplaced perspective of being upset when the growing pains steadily increase.

I think if I backtrack, I can trace this season’s beginning to a late-night, redirected, luggage-losing flight from Houston to San Diego the day after Christmas. With nothing else to do, I sat in the darkened plane cabin and used my phone light—to prevent waking my sleeping seatmates—to write in my journal. I recapped the ending year. I wrote down every goal I wanted to achieve for the coming year. All of them had a difficulty level of extreme. But my soul was restless. And I knew then 2018 would be difficult, but in the long run it would be beautiful.

The growing pains started immediately. Yet I had a deep sense something big was coming. It was the same feeling I got the first time I rode Xcelerator at Knott’s Berry Farm the first time—heart-pounding nerves at the beginning, pride in myself at the end when the train returned to the station.


Patience, required. Endurance, needed.

Distractions galore. Loneliness abounding.

Discouragement, constant.


But I keep walking, remembering the goals I wrote down months ago, even as these 12 months march toward their collective end and the dominant feeling is one of realization—all those goals may not be crossed off the list by December 31.

And that is OK.

So what can I hold on to? What is going to keep me going? Of course, God is my sustainer. He keeps me breathing, gets me up in the morning, protects me throughout my day, calmly listens to my outcries. He never stops loving me.

I simply always have to ask, How can I face my fears today in a way that will not only strengthen my faith and encourage me, but do the same for someone else?

Simple answer: I will follow God’s leading to write, to encourage, to explore, to find, to discover. This means accepting the challenges to be more visible at work, put my writing out into the world more frequently and consistently, find the encouragement in the discouragement.

I have heard it said that the dreamers in this world are the most restless souls. Always searching for more, always finding something to improve, always picking up and championing this cause or that mission. They are the ones who champion change, or at least the change they want the most.

Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana…all visionaries. All dreamers. All restless. All strove for more than what their discontented hearts wanted and needed.

I guess if I had to be counted in a group, these names are not bad company. The sad reality is they passed too soon, but I believe that does not dimish how fiercely they chased contentment with everything they had while they were here.

So many of us are similar to these souls. I am similar to them. To this day I can’t watch a Princess Diana documentary without tearing up, because I understand what her heart so needed and wanted. It’s what I so need and want.

It can be boiled down to wanting to be understood, wanting to be a fighter but feeling unable, wanting to be an instrument of change but always doubting I can be used.

It is a difficult, even deadly, balance to strike. Too many expire before it is achieved.

Now, why am I saying all of this?

Because I am a dreamer. It’s not a dream state where people have five eyeballs and seventeen limbs. Rainbows don’t make up the whole sky or even one part of the sky. Unicorns don’t frolic. The grass doesn’t smell like cotton candy. I don’t have scary people chasing after me. And the worst, I’m not flying to China without my passport or visa—a real dream I once had.

Because change and improvement are coming, especially on this blog, and I am preparing myself for it.

Because my dreams are going to come true someday.

My dreams are concrete: To be a writer known for conveying the difficult things, for telling the honest stories, for encouraging her readers. To be a relationship master, to lay down at the end of every day able to say I was a good friend to even one person. To be the glue for my family. To be a good leader. To be able to travel someday and make a home closer to my family. To communicate with love and passion about what matters most.


My dreams are going to come true someday.


I want to be out there. I want to be content. I want the restlessness to cease. And the only way through, is through. No shortcuts, no going back, just trusting God to carry me.

If you can relate to any of what I just said, then stay tuned in the next few weeks as I fearlessly explore restlessness, discontentment, loneliness, and a few other topics. For each topic I will be trying a different method of storytelling, and I pray I gain some feedback and you gain some encouragement.

I almost left—heavenly purpose for negative emotions

Revelations seem to happen when we need them most, but at a time when we’ve stopped counting on them.

I walked into the room where the young adult café meets on Sunday mornings at church. I went to the same water fountain to fill my water bottle. I went to the same people to say hi. I went to the same table I had been going to for a few weeks. I sat next to the same friend.

I needed something, but I had stopped counting on that need to be met. I didn’t think it would happen.

The service follows a schedule. For 20 minutes we have connection time at the roundtables. Two questions are discussed. I normally don’t give answers; I listen to everyone else. It’s my way of keeping my guard up. This day was no different.


I normally don’t give answers… It’s my way of keeping my guard up.


I listened and let my eyes roam around the room. The floor to ceiling windows gave me a view of the sky and hills surrounding the church grounds. The lights made the room open and welcoming. The young adults at every table were engaged and conversing. And then there was me.

Waiting for the sermon to start, I impassively listened to the last few minutes of conversation. Then the pastor finally began. And he immediately posed a question that made my guard go up even further. In a sermon called “Why Sorrow Matters,” he began by saying, “Our emotional well-being is not always God’s number-one concern.”

Coming from my own story, those words felt like a slap in the face. I’ve experienced my own sorrow, my own turmoil, my own heartbreaks. The last thing I ever want to hear on any level is that my emotional well-being isn’t God’s number-one priority. It begged this question: If that’s true, then what do we say to victims, to the depressed, to the anxious? How do we assure them and ourselves that God still cares? How do we assure them there is still a purpose behind our sorrow? Behind all our negative emotions, regardless of how long the seasons last?

In the moments after the pastor said those words, I fought the desire to get up and leave. I couldn’t see the value of sitting there when someone was trying to explain something I didn’t agree with.

But I stayed. And I’m thankful I did. A revelation came from it.

There is always a purpose of godly sorrow, and it is found in the hard truths we learn. Hard truths lead to repentance, a change in behavior. A change in behavior looks different for everyone, but each of us can look back through our struggles and find that one part of the story where God stopped everything and yielded a needed change.

After the purpose comes the knowledge of who the source is: the Holy Spirit. My experience with negative emotions is that it makes it far too easy to ignore the Holy Spirit, but I have also experienced His faithfulness. The better I got at ignoring Him, the louder He became in trying to get my attention back. He pursued me like the hound of heaven. I believe God allows us to venture as far away from Him as we want to, and for some perhaps it gets to the point where He stops calling them back and lets them be. By no means does this mean He doesn’t want them back—He does—but He also wants it to be their choice. I’m thankful I never got tired of having Him after me.


The better I got at ignoring Him, the louder He became in trying to get my attention back.


And then there are all the opposites of godly negative emotions. Because while we have and always want to know the heavenly purpose behind negative emotions, we can’t be ignorant to what the world and what the enemy wants us to believe about our negative emotions. Here are two purposes I am sure of even though I’m positive there are more than just two…and I’m sure they become more personal for each of us.

Purpose 1: Godly negative emotions challenge me to be transformed. Worldly negative emotions challenge me to conform.

Purpose 2: Godly negative emotions challenge me to change my character (who I am). Worldly negative emotions challenge me to change my behavior (what I do).

So many of my own negative emotions have led me to discontent. My loneliness makes me feel alone even though I know I’m not. My sorrow had its moment of holding me down so far in myself I never thought I would come up for air. My deep discouragement made me feel as if there would not be another bright day for some time to come. And all these emotions made me ask this question: Can I move through this? How?

There are two methods I have been putting into practice to move through these seasons: Fellowship and Scripture.

That day at church, the day I wanted to give up and leave, the pastor shared two verses from 2 Corinthians 7—“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted” (verses 9-10). Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to understand their sorrow was for a purpose and God would restore them, and in the meantime they wouldn’t lose fellowship with their fellow believers. He wanted them to believe the truths found in Scripture—that while God cared for their emotional well-being, there were still things higher on the list He cared for more, like their salvation and repentance.

And the very fact Paul was providing these crucial biblical truths for the believers implies he wanted fellowship with them because he knew it would boost them up in their time of need.

I came so close to leaving service that day because my feelings were hurt. I needed to be told that God would always love me, that I could rely on Him and the people He placed in my life, that I could love people as He made me capable to do so. I didn’t want to hear that my emotional well-being wasn’t at the top of His priority list.

Imagine if I had left. I wouldn’t have had the revelation I had—that negative emotions have a heavenly purpose. I wouldn’t have walked away armed with the knowledge that God cares for me on all levels, not just the levels I care about the most. He sees me as a whole person, a growing person, when I can so easily be narrow in how I see myself.


Negative emotions still exist. Discontent still exists. Loneliness still exists.

So does fellowship. So does Scripture. So does repentance and restoration.


So does God’s plan to help each of us grow and see the changes and challenges in the right light, to see our sorrow backlit by its true purpose. And to someday use our godly negative emotions to love someone else through them.

Revelations can take place anywhere. Mine seem to happen in church. They seem to happen outside of the categories a human mind operates in. They happen in high school service even though I’ve been out of high school for years. They happen in the young adult service even when I feel more like a child who wants to be left alone. They happen at home during a small group session. They happen, and I have to hold onto that because sometimes every area of life doesn’t make sense. And that’s OK. Because in the meantime, God has me, has us, in His hands.

And soon, the heavenly purpose behind the negative emotions, the painful seasons, will be revealed.

Why it is OK to have negative emotions—the reason I wrote this series

There is always a moment. Time stops. Something clicks. God reaches in. It all makes sense.

I had this moment earlier this year.


There is always a moment.


I remember feeling unknown and disconnected. I remember feeling alone. I had lost my close dependence on God; I stopped trusting Him for a season. Life felt cheap in those moments. My existence had lost its depth and meaning, yet I was in the depths, treading water, muscles feeling like jelly and didn’t know how to get out.


It seemed I had no other choice than to wait. Wait for God to rescue me, wait for trust to be rebuilt, wait for the words to explain what felt unexplainable.


Time seemed to pass ever so slowly—like molasses going uphill in the winter time. And then the moment came. The click sounded. God reached in and gave me something to hold onto. A friend who needed prayer—and lots of it.

It’s been said that if we ever want to get out of ourselves and be a bit more selfless, all we need to do is pray for someone else. So I prayed hard for this friend. I put every single ounce of faith I could muster into what I was asking for. All of my unanswered prayers and even my mistrust no longer mattered. I knew God was trustworthy. I prayed promises over this friend for days, nonstop.

And God answered. Miraculous.

In the days following this miracle, God was doing something big. It felt like a deep cleaning was happening in my heart. Suddenly I had a reason to swim to the surface. Suddenly I had the energy to look at the negative emotions and ask God about them, lament those moments, grieve my losses and trust that redemption was already in process.

Soon I found myself able to trust God again, able to confide my laments to Him, able to articulate them to other people. He faithfully moved me from redemption to restoration. Every day I have a new reason to be grateful for the struggles I have had because that big something I felt He was up to…it comes a little more into focus.

But I wouldn’t have gotten to this place without allowing myself time to feel all the things I was feeling, to lament, to ask questions and wait for God to meet me in those places. To allow Him to know me.

If we weren’t meant to work on ourselves and process pain and grief, we wouldn’t have an entire book in the Bible called Lamentations; the shortest verse in the Bible wouldn’t be “Jesus wept”; we wouldn’t have all the grievous psalms David wrote when he realized just how much he was screwed up. If we were meant to have everything together and feel great all the time, then all the people in the Bible would be perfect too; they wouldn’t have a single flaw.


If we weren’t meant to…process pain and grief…the shortest verse in the Bible wouldn’t be “Jesus wept.”


But as you know, the Bible is filled with grief and sadness and heartbreak; it’s filled with grieving characters and harsh people who made big mistakes. But it’s also filled with redemption after all the negatives have been processed.

And that is exactly what God was doing through this miracle personalized for a friend.

In the days after this miracle, I was studying the armor of God. This workbook that was written by Priscilla Shirer, a very passionate speaker and teacher, was only meant to last seven weeks…it had been upwards of 12 or 15 weeks since I had started it. But it happened on the right timeline, and this was confirmed by the verses and chapters of this book that ministered the most to me.

One morning I sat on my bed with my coffee cooling on my nightstand beside me. Lottie was curled up near my feet. It was cool outside. I had a good amount of work waiting for me at my desk. But those moments…they belonged to me and God.

I think in the moments when you need Him most He always delivers in a tangible way. I was unaware how much I needed Him on this day. Here I was just sitting on my bed, feeling neutral, my emotions coming slowly coming out of numbness. But God was about to do something big (proving that HE KNOWS ME because I didn’t even know this about myself).

For the portion I was reading from the “Armor of God” study this day, we focused on the helmet of salvation, how so much of our lives can be thrown off simply because our thoughts and minds aren’t focusing on the truth and protecting itself. This truth was cemented by breaking down Psalm 139.

I had read this psalm so many times. I had heard countless sermons spoken about it. It’s the psalm everyone references when a girl is struggling with her identity. It’s the “fearfully and wonderfully made” psalm.

But oh does it have gems in it.

After reading verses 13-17, the book instructed to highlight two portions that spoke to me most, and then it asked why they spoke to me. These are the portions I highlighted:

“My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth…. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (verses 15, 17)

Then I answered why these statements meant the most to me. Here is what I wrote:

“The words ‘skillfully’ and ‘sum.’ Also ‘vast.’ It says I was skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth, and the word ‘wrought’ means tough metals were used to make something. I was skillfully wrought with God’s strength in me. And ‘vast…sum’… Well, who doesn’t want to know that a great and infinite and loving God has a ‘vast’ sum of thoughts for them? I feel very alone sometimes, just completely desperate for the knowledge that someone cares, however, humans can only care so much. God always cares. And I don’t think God’s thoughts for me can ever be numbered, and that’s a comfort.”

In a season when I felt unknowable and was convinced I shouldn’t have been feeling that way, and feeling absolutely discouraged because I didn’t know how to talk about it, this psalm I had heard and read 100 times before comforted me.

God knows me! God understands me! God can be trusted! He KNEW I needed that assurance on that day, at that time of morning, so I could be confident in someday explaining the seemingly unexplainable.

Your redemption is near. Trust God with your laments and your grief. And someday…who know, maybe God will have you in a similar mode as He has me—just trying to use your story to encourage someone else.

Hopelessness—approaching the downed bridge

I do not remember the first time I felt it. I am not convinced it feels the same way every time. Hopelessness feels like being at the end of the rope, end of the line on a long express train that took you from joy and happiness…through brokenness…and settled you on resolution.

Resolution because you have come to terms with the situation and believe it will never change as it cannot ever change. It is no longer something to fight for or fight over.

Imagine being in a long white room with no doors or windows, just you and the air surrounding you, you and the sound of your own breathing. You are unsure if it is a dream or if it is just a feeling. And instead of panicking, you adapt, you get used to the surroundings; you must to survive. You have resolved to accept where you are because nothing can get worse, but it also cannot get better.

You have now arrived at resolution.

It was a normal weekend. It always baffled me how a weekend could begin normal just as every weekend before it, but it could quickly spiral out of control for one small reason or another.

It started out normal, then spiraled.

I was angry at circumstances out of my hands. I had no say in what was being done, how treatment was being dulled out or what words were being said. I was by no means a bystander, I just could not change the situation for myself.

It went downhill at church. I had driven myself that day as I had developed a habit of doing so. On the drive home I would have 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to simply exist. But there was a tug. It was a beautiful day; did I really need to drive home where I would sit on the couch for the rest of the day and not do anything? The fresh air deserved to be breathed in. The clear day deserved to be enjoyed, if only for a few minutes.

Almost as if I was on autopilot, I continued on the freeway past my exit. My phone vibrated in the center consul and the text waiting for me only confirmed that running away for a few moments was the right thing to do.


Clearing my head was the most pressing need.


I drove up and around Moreno Valley and got off the freeway at Pigeon Pass. I could follow that road all the way up into the hills. Box Springs Mountain Reserve Park overlooks the city of Riverside. On a clear day I could see for miles up there. As the cars on the road dwindled in number, I rolled down my window and kept driving. The road rose and rose until I got to a good lookout point.

Parking my 4Runner on the side of the road, I unbuckled my seatbelt and made a point to leave my phone where it was. I walked around the car and leaned against the passenger door, and took my first deep breath of the day.

From my vantage point, I could see every part of Riverside. I could see for miles. I could see all the way to the mountains. I could see the intricate interchanges of the 60, 215 and 91 freeways. I could see the campus of UCR below me. I could see countless baseball and football and soccer fields. I could see every car on the freeways, yet I was far enough away that it was still quiet on my perch.

I would never say it was peaceful. It was simply a feeling of resolution.

It felt as if I had spent the previous seven months on a speeding freight train on tracks that went up and down mountains and around sharp turns and through dark yet short tunnels—like the videos you see when researching tourism spots in Switzerland—just with the destination in mind of “unknown.” And it seemed the destination was finally coming up. But instead of approaching a physical stop on the line, it was just a point where the tracks ceased—a bridge that was out, if you will.

All in all, I still felt as if I had plenty of time. The train would not reach the bridge for some time so I could still enjoy the benefits of being on a nice train. Right? I could enjoy the plush chairs and the view going by. Yes?

Thinking about all of this up on my perch in Box Springs Park brought an image to mind…the sinking scene from “Titanic.” Especially the part where the orchestra decided to keep playing. They were helpless; the least they could do was play their instruments until the end. They knew the end was coming and they just kept playing.

For me, there was nowhere left to go. There was nothing left to give. The downed bridge was coming up and all I could do was prepare myself and enjoy the moments of peace I would have until then. I had become the orchestra on the Titanic, just waiting.

There was no anxiety. There was no uncertainty. Just an arrival at resolution. I was resolved that nothing would change, nothing would get better or worse. I was resolved that the train would eventually crash, but I did not know when.

There was no heat in my chest as there was with sorrow. There was no ultimate sadness as there was with discouragement.

Just resolution.

I climbed back in my car, turned it around and began driving home. I did not feel better. I did not feel worse. Simply felt at the end of my rope, the end of my line. Nothing more, nothing less. The world was a numb place and I had learned to accept it.


The World was a numb place and I had learned to accept it.


As my train approached the no-longer-there bridge, I knew the fall would be frightening, I knew the landing would be painful. But I had to believe the fall would be the right thing, because it would bring the next journey, it would end the numbness by way of intense pain. And I was OK with that.

I was resolved.

The physicality of sorrow—it’s healthy to feel it

A bomb. An anvil. A wounded gazelle. A straw and the camel’s back.

This is what sorrow felt like. It resembled heaviness. In one instant, everything I feared came true.

I had given everything I could give. I had run my race with maximum effort and I was running on steam. The tunnel vision was so bad by the time I gave up, dropped and hit the ground, that I had lost sight of the finish line. I was not even sure I crossed it.

I was in my car. The weight of the world was on my shoulders and it pressed me into my seat. I could no longer move. I was trapped. Stuck.

Present day, I can still feel the full weight of it all. Everything that had pent up over time—all the denial, all the sadness, all the fight—finally gave way.


That day will live in my memory forever.


It was a normal day—normal in that nothing had fully settled. The feeling was one I was well-acquainted with. It was the most normal the chaos had felt. But something was coming. I felt it. And I knew I was helpless to stop it. The night before I had finally begun to take deep breaths again—like I had been under water for too long and my head broke the surface, allowing a taste of fresh oxygen. But it still felt like I would go under again.

The bomb was still ticking down. The anvil had not dropped yet. The gazelle was still moving—limping. The final straw had not been placed on the camel’s back.

I was the bomb yet I holding my own detonator. I was the anvil yet I was holding the rope because I was under the anvil. I was the camel at the mercy of the hand laying the straws down.

I feared the detonation.

I feared the pain of the anvil dropping on me. That is why I had been working so valiantly to hold onto that rope.

Strength was waning, though.

I stood at church. It was a Sunday night. I had my dog Lottie with me, as I always do. A long drive home to San Diego was ahead of me, and I was going to have a big enough jump on time that I would be able to relax for a little while when I got home before going to bed. But as I stood there, I doubted I would make it home in one emotional piece.

I could feel the heat of sorrow and exhaustion as it started to burn in the deepest part of my heart, and then it spread to the rest of my chest cavity and on to the rest of my body.

I tried holding it together as I said goodbye to my parents and a few friends I calmly walked to my car with Lottie in tow. Curious, I wondered how long I would last. A mile later I peeled off the road, screeched diagonally into a gas station parking spot and slammed my car into “P.”

Eyes closed, head leaned all the way back on the headrest, my breaths came fast. I opened my eyes and scanned my surroundings. I was far enough away from all the pumps and the customers with their listening ears.

I leaned my head forward and rested it against the steering wheel, opened my mouth and released a gut-wrenching, blood-curdling scream.

The bomb had detonated. The anvil had dropped. The gazelle was down for the count. The final straw broke the back.


The bomb had detonated. The anvil had dropped. The gazelle was down for the count. The final straw broke the back.


Tears were streaming and I angrily wiped them away. I sadly realized I was catching my own tears. No one was there to catch those tears, offer words of comfort.

I was the bomb. And the only thing that was not decimated was me, as a bomb can never fully destroy itself. Instead, it remains in pieces on the floor, leaving the most sorrowful evidence of what just occurred.

But there was an odd sense of relief. The running was over. Running from the pain, exhaustion, the Holy Spirit and His love. It was done.

The bomb pieces could finally be picked up. The anvil would be removed from the ground. The gazelle and the camel would heal.

I was the wounded child, but God was the caregiver, scooping me up, carrying me to His sanctuary where He would take His time healing me, teaching me to trust again, letting all the wounds heal properly.

The wounds that radiated with pain that day had to have their moment. That screeching stop, that loud scream, that long drive home was their moment. And God lovingly met me there and accompanied me as I dried my tears, got on the road and drove home with my heart pounding.

Embracing discouragement—Finding strength to overcome

Discouragement feels like Murphy’s law. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

This day was one of those days. It passed while I sat at my desk staring at the same piece of paper the majority of the day. When I looked up on occasion I would look at my computer screen or I would turn my head to the right to stare out the distant window. I yearned to see the outside world. To connect with something, anything outside of the physical corner I occupied at work.

When I looked at my computer screen, it displayed a familiar video that had always brought comfort. On this day it was only bringing restlessness. There is a beach city in San Diego called Coronado. It is a peninsula even though most people call it an island. And on this peninsula is one of the most historic hotels—Hotel del Coronado. In spite of its historic age and status, it offers restless souls like me a piece of happiness—a live video feed of the ocean view from the hotel.

I stared at that view for hours on this day. And as the clock struck 5:00 p.m. I knew what I had to do. I drove home, fed my dog, then promptly left. I endured some sadness over leaving Lottie at home so I could sit on the beach by myself for a couple hours.

Armed with my purple Knapbag, a quilt, my journal, a pen and my headphones, I drove the 25-minute route to Coronado. There was not much on my mind except the mission at hand: Get to the beach so you can breathe.

The clouds had rolled in since 5:00 p.m. Even though it was late August it was chilly. I trudged past the groups of high schoolers at the bonfire pits out celebrating the last days of summer freedom before school started again. I tried recalling a time when I felt as happy as they looked, especially at that age. I could not clock a specific moment.

I set up camp 15 feet from the tip of the tide as it rolled onto shore. Reclining in my Knapbag with my quilt snuggly wrapped around my shoulders and my left toes in the sand, I took what felt like my first real breath all day.

Not sure of the purpose I had at the beach that night, I just sat for a long time. Forced myself to slow down. Allowed the discouragement access to my heart. Denying it any longer had become impossible. A result or a way out was unknown. I just had to be there in the moment.

Unsure of what I could do beyond breathing, I took a tentative move toward my journal. Writing, journaling would be good because I could not seem to form adequate words in my thought prayers. Written prayers would suffice.

Everything felt heavy—my breath, my chest, my bones, my heart. It all bore a weight I was struggling to stand underneath. It felt as if I did not have a choice in how or what I was feeling. On the surface, what I felt was loss. I had put up a valiant effort and lost. And now I had to forfeit completely. But in the meantime, in the time it was taking me to get there, I did not understand the emotions rolling through me.

I opened my journal and I began to write. I wrote for a long time. I poured my heart out to God in my words, asking my questions and getting no answers. I stated the things I was struggling to understand, and I still struggled to leave them at His feet after I said them. I confessed how bad everything hurt, and I cried.

After a while, it felt like there was nothing left. I sat there and wondered if anything in any realm of life could get any worse. I wondered, Did I take the right first step? Or would I be doomed to flounder in discouragement forever?

As I deflated my Knapbag and grabbed up my stuff, I let my thoughts wander. The walk back to the car was steady, not fast or slow. The road that was filled with parked cars on both sides when I arrived had slowly emptied out. After unlocking the door and dumping my stuff on the front seat, I sat there.

I had taken the right first step. I ran to Jesus with the cries of my heart overflowing. And now I was left with some waiting. Waiting felt void, like it held no substance. I think I just had to be OK with where I was.

So in concrete terms, what does discouragement really feel like? Do you remember when you would swim as a kid, then get out of the pool and change back into regular clothes, then go swimming again later on it the day? Was your swimsuit still damp? Was your towel fully dry to be used for the second swim?

Discouragement feels like going for a second swim of the day after the temperature has dropped, then deciding to get out of the cold pool, endure the cold air with the hope that your towel is going to be warm and ready. But it is damp and cold. The towel never finished drying after the first swim. I imagine that’s what discouragement without Jesus might have felt like to me.

But discouragement with Jesus walking beside me feels like all the hope for that warm towel is valid. He is the warm towel. He will dry me off, He will warm me up, He will comfort me and shield me from the cold air.

Discouragement feels like Murphy’s law because as I left the beach that day, I got lost. My normal route was closed and Google Maps did not know where to send me. But discouragement with Jesus beside me felt like an opportunity to spend a few more uninterrupted moments with Him.

Getting lost was not going to ruin the progress my heart just made. Regardless of Murphy’s law and my cold towel of discouragement, I laid down my emotions at His feet and I knew, and still know, that He cares enough to pick them up and turn them around for me.

Should Christians have negative emotions?

It was drizzling as I walked to my car in the Target parking lot. It was the kind of drizzle that soaks you through if it has enough time. My cart was full of boxes containing unassembled furniture. With this purchase I had nothing left to do for the day except assembly which would not take long. Filled with the need to run, flee, I loaded my car with my bags and boxes and got on the freeway without a destination in mind.

As I drove, the destination came to my mind. I had always wanted to know what the beach looked like while it was raining. Mission Beach it would be.

The strip of concrete in Mission Beach—Ocean Front Walk it is called—is where I found myself after driving in silence for 25 minutes. There was no time of prayer, there was no music. It felt like life had stopped as the beach walkway waited for me. The deserted parking lot told me no one else had the desire to know what the sand and beach looked like while it was raining.

Wearing my New Balance flip flops and a hoodie, earbuds in my ears to ward off any conversation heard by the runners and joggers going by, I walked to the retaining wall, staring at the whitecapped waves being tossed before they hit shore. The clouds became grayer as my eyes tracked them from directly above to as far out as I could see. I felt like that color, as if I looked slightly harmless overhead but the farther out the more volatile my emotions would become. And I was out there alone.

How could I possibly explain these roiling emotions to someone when they felt unexplainable? It felt like there was no beginning and no known ending to the internal turmoil. Was there even a way for me to understand it?


It felt like there was no beginning and no known ending to the internal turmoil. Was there even a way for me to understand it?


I felt like those waves, being tossed, waiting for a pause in the tempest. Waiting for relief. I needed people to help me through this, but too often I heard other Christians, mature Christians, cautioning against emotion of any kind. How could I confide emotions if I cannot explain them, if they end up making me feel separate?

I stared at the waves long enough to be drenched by the rain. I got back in my car without a single clue as to how I could learn to articulate my emotions.

That day was nearly two years ago. I like to think I have learned a bit about emotions since then. Even more, I have learned that I myself am an emotional being. That is how God chose to create me. Looking back on the confusion and hopelessness and restlessness I have felt now leads me down a path of encouragement.


God taught me through a long season that emotions are not bad and they can be brought from the abstract side of life to the concrete side. And I can do this through words.


Last week as I opened my fridge on my lunch break, I thought about emotions, how at times they are the hardest things to explain, particularly the negative or difficult kind. There’s such a contrast here. It is difficult to explain what hopelessness feels like because it’s on the negative side of emotions. But can we explain what joy feels like? Anytime, any place. This sparked a desire in me to find a way through personal stories and experiences to relate what certain abstract emotions feel like. Maybe you are encountering these emotions right now and need a friend, maybe you need to know that emotions are not all bad, maybe you need the assurance that God will bring you through.

That is the purpose of this post and the following posts this month. I want you to understand that emotions can be felt and can be concrete rather than abstract. Then in the final post, I will conclude this series with a story of how I gained the confidence to articulate my emotions and gained knowledge of who God created me to be in spite of my emotional makeup being in turmoil at times.

Earlier this week I read a devo and a quote jumped out at me, making me believe even more in this mission. The devo is written as a personal letter in first person from God to one of His children (you):

“Pay attention to what I am doing in your heart—with your emotions, your thoughts. Ask me to help you decipher them. Ask me to show you why you feel the way you feel. But these emotions? Feel them. And show them to me. The open-hearted surrender of your emotions to me will help you see me in the storm, in the madness you feel when emotion is all you know and nothing else makes sense.”

Emotions are difficult, just as standing on the concrete walkway in Mission Beach was difficult. I left that moment believing answers would never come, believing I would be trapped by myself, in myself, forever. But just as the next day dawned with no rain (a change), soon my situation changed. And yours will too. In the meantime, my prayer is that you will be encouraged through these posts. You are not alone in your emotions.

The act of settling unsettles us

Settle is an active verb. It requires a choice, a conscious decision that must be made. The word implies taking only a fraction of what one believes is due.

Settling in relationships, all relationships, can be painful.

I have been in pain. I have walked miles trying to alleviate the pressure in my chest. Rain or shine, I wore a path around my work because it was the only time I felt I could release the tension. I have spent hours justifying making the wrong choices for myself and my long-term well-being. Through a cycle of seasons I had to prepare myself for the decision ahead. Leaves fell, clouds rolled in and out, the hour of the sunrise and sunset changed…I stayed the same—not ready.

I wanted things to be settled. But I could not find my way through it. If God wanted the absolute best for me in every category of life, how could I be OK with settling for less?

While the implication behind the word can easily mean compromise, a healthy compromise at that, it is not always the healthiest choice to settle. After devouring Scripture over the last year detailing God’s will for us (how much He desires for us to be happy and joyful and at peace) I can tell you with confidence that God does not want us to settle—at least not for unhealthy options.

Here are a few of the verses I have pondered—

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly,” John 10:10.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing…These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full,” John 15:5, 11.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage,” Galatians 5:1.

For me and for so many others, making tough relationship choice comes down to knowing that God wills for far more than what we will for ourselves. The feeling of knowing we can settle and supposedly be OK is like standing on the edge of a cliff knowing if you jump, you are likely to get injured and may not get another opportunity to do it safely. So, it comes down to this: If the pain you are enduring or the choices you are making are not leading to the life described in Scripture, then reevaluate.

If you continue to settle, here are some things I know from experience you will endure. I endured it. Some of my dearest friends have endured it as well. You are going to be OK. I just want you to know you are not alone.


The act of settling unsettles us.


Settling for those who are not going to treat you the way Christ does is unsettling. In settling, sacrifices will be made, beginning with your emotional and spiritual well-being. Your emotions will be rattled. Life will feel both chaotic and still, numb. You will question your own character, wondering what else you will find a way to justify.

The aftermath of settling is even more difficult to endure. If you are in the middle of it right now and you are rationalizing and struggling with doing what you know is right, I want you to consider the next couple of points:

  1. It will hinder future trustworthy relationships from forming. They will just be more difficult than they need to be. This could end up causing prolonged pain because trust has become difficult.
  2. You will always wonder if history is going to repeat itself, if you will find yourself in the same amount of pain for the same reasons again. This will zap your peace and your desire to move forward.

Those are a couple of the negatives. But because I tend to be the person who sees everything as being connected, I will tell you I have noticed two long-term positives from a season of settling:

  1. It has built determination to know the difference between healthy compromise within a healthy relationship and unhealthy settlement in an unhealthy relationship.
  2. It has strengthened me to stand up and not settle for anything less than what God wants for me, and as an extension what I want for myself.

At the end of these posts, I always have to ask myself, Where do I go from here? What does this leave me with?

Other than the verses I listed above, I am going to give you a person in Scripture I like to study. He is a kind, generous, compassionate, strong man of God who acted as a friend to everyone. He is an example I aspire to regardless of his gender. It is Boaz.

When I read a devo about him, I read these words—

In the example of Boaz, we see nine aspects of safe people:

Safe people understand the Father heart of God.

Safe people care about our safety.

Safe people introduce us to other safe people.

Safe people enforce good boundaries.

Safe people are generous.

Safe people encourage our character.

Safe people pray we would flourish.

Safe people provide comfort and kindness.

Safe people point us to God as our safe place.

If your relationships do not strive to this standard and you know God has better for you, trust Him. While I do not regret anything as it is always being worked out and redeemed, I do wish I would have been less fearful and perhaps not worn such a divot into the pathway around work.


Safe people point us to God as our safe place.


Be encouraged. You deserve the abundant like God has planned for you, the life He wants for you. Do not settle for less than what He wants, what He has. I am cheering for you.

How to enjoy the relationships meant for you

I sat at one of the picnic tables at work. It was hot outside. A heat wave had settled in the region and I was feeling it. But I was excited. I was going to catch up with a friend for a few minutes.

She excitedly hugged me before we sat down together, and quickly the conversation turned lighthearted as we recapped our weekends. Then it went deeper and what came out was a time of connecting, and we walked away with more common ground than we already had. But keep in mind, this person is not exactly like me. Looking at our personalities, we are opposites. But seeing that we can connect over a common desire and common lessons we are learning is encouraging.

Our lessons seem to be about relationships. And this is slightly where our differing personalities come into play: While she is fearful her people will leave her, I fear I am undeserving of my people, the relationships I have. Both stem from fear and both result in the potential to lose people who matter to us, yet the process we go through between the starting point and the destination is different.

The conclusion to our conversation was the reality that we are meant to be in relationships with others because we are meant to be in relationship with Christ first. And in the moments when our relationship with an invisible God is in jeopardy, it is the human relationships He uses to bring us back to Him.

A short part of my story has to do with isolation. During a turbulent time for me, I retreated from most interaction because everything caused pain. At times the pain was like an exposed nerve ending. Other times it was a dull ache. Still pain nonetheless. Coming out of that time of isolation made me feel as if my relationships could not survive much longer. How could they when I was holding myself back so fiercely?


Isolation made me think I did not deserve good and healthy relationships.


This was in complete stark contrast to the life I envisioned for myself as a young girl. Always knowing there was a cry in my heart for deep connections, I desired people from all walks of life to populate my life, my heart. I wanted to give myself to my people because that is what I wanted in return. But with age, the process of forming strong relationships seemed unclear. What worked for one relationship did not work for another. Nothing about connection seemed easy or wanted. Where did this leave me? Where was I supposed to go from here if I wanted that little-girl vision of full relationships to come true?

It has been a learning process. The past year has been spent relearning healthy relationship habits, reprogramming my thoughts and heart to trust and realizing relationships can be great, just as I always imagined.

Healthy relationships, in my experience, can just happen. But they take work to stay that way. When a relationship takes an unhealthy turn, it infects different parts of your life. Think of a habit you have, one you are not proud of. If you were to lay down that habit right now to replace it with a better habit, a healthy habit, do you know there would be a time of relearning healthy habits? You will need time to get rid of what was unhealthy to take on what is healthy. The same goes for unhealthy relationships. Be patient as you relearn what a healthy relationship is meant to resemble.

One part of my relationship struggle has been realizing that I find more reasons to keep my heart safe than I do to trust it to someone else. Broken relationships have been characters in the last five years of my life, and each one convinced me (in the moment of its breakdown) that trust is not something I want to do again. Earlier this year, I was so convinced trusting people was not worth it that it invaded my relationship with Christ. I could not even say I trusted Christ with my heart. But while it was scary for me to think about trusting again, it was even scarier to think of the alternative—an ever-hardening heart because I would not let anyone come in and change things. I could not live like that. So, I reprogrammed my thoughts and heart to determine it was OK to take a chance and trust. It has been a day-by-day journey, but God has not let me down; neither have my people.


So, I reprogrammed my thoughts and heart to determine it was OK to take a chance and trust.


What came next was a lesson about my community. While I would gladly step off a ledge for any of them or hunt them down in a burning building to pull them out or vow to protect them and take care of them to the best of my abilities, not all communities are perfect. They never will be. But that little-girl dream to have a group of loving, fearless, funny, inspiring, encouraging people to accompany me through life…that community can be real, even if not perfect.

All this to say that no amount of relationship struggles will ever kill my desire to have great relationships. If nothing else I am a fighter for my relationships because I know this one thing: I was made—we all were made—to be in relationship with Christ, and that is meant to extend to relationships with others. But here is the thing: The enemy wants me to think relationships are not worth it, or rather I am not worth being in relationship with. This is a lie. A lie I have to fight against every day. And this fight takes on three facets I am going to share with you and I hope it encourages you.

  1. Be the fighter God created you to be. Take up your belt of truth. The truth is God created you to be in relationships and has many precious plans and promises for you, for us. When we stand on that, we are fighting.
  2. Be confident in the relationships you have and the relationships you are working on. Each is accomplishing something in you, making you into who God created you to be.
  3. Enjoy them. A wise man once told me that connections with people are intoxicating. It is true. I enjoy my relationships with the hope they will all last a lifetime. I pray you have the same enjoyment.