Grateful For My Anxiety

IMG_7321.JPG

It’s funny how one day I can be in a state of near- full surrender, of kingdom-mindedness, of eternal focus, and the next day I can be a tightly wound ball of anxiety with my eyes fixated on the temporal and my thoughts magnifying what isn’t going my way.

I’m working on a collection of short meditations on anxiety right now. They are the things I say to myself and to others - and the things I think God says to us - when we are rolling in the muck of it. But as I write these down, as I contemplate the anxiety monster, I find myself incredibly grateful.

The knot in my stomach, the tsunami of thoughts, the tightness in my chest, the trembling limbs - they light up the cockpit of my life and remind me, painfully, to get out of the pilot’s seat.

In this way, the anxiety is a gift. For me it is a clear heads up to get my head up.

It still sucks. I don’t love it. At its best it is mildly aggravating, 
at its worst it is soul crushing. It’s a monster we won’t be bothered with on the other side of eternity.

But I’m grateful for the way it has taught me to shift focus.

For how it teaches me surrender.

For how it won’t let me be the pilot - how as soon as I take control of the cockpit it wakes up and sounds every alarm.

I don’t love it, but I’m grateful.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest in me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

*This little book of meditations, lamentations, and prayers is going to print in July. When you preorder through Kickstarter, shipping is on me. CLICK HERE TO VISIT MY KICKSTARTER PAGE

 

He Spoke And The Universe Appeared: Let Me Introduce You To My Good, Good, God.

Photo by   Rakicevic Nenad   from   Pexels

He spoke and the universe appeared. Full stop. He spoke. He said a word.

And everything in this natural world appeared. Everything you’ve ever seen, felt, heard is here because He simply spoke it into existence.

Imagine speaking and watching as what you spoke appeared. Imagine willing something into existence. It is almost unfathomable to me.

Yet, almost daily, I find myself telling my God - my God who spoke a word and saw the universe appear - I find myself telling Him how something should be done, where He should interfere, where He should move.

Me.

Telling Him.

It’s ludicrous.

But the best part of the whole thing is this -

God doesn’t squash me or punish me or wave me off with a “How dare you!”

He tucks me under His arm and whispers “I got this,” and He reminds me who He is and what He can do and He lifts my chin and pulls my shoulders back and he calls me “daughter.”

He loves me.

Let me introduce you to my uncontrollable,

unshakeable,

unrelenting,

undeniable God.

He is good.

He is mine.

I am His.

I'm Not a Statue, I'm a Voice in a Microphone: Loving Jesus When You're a Mess

i'm not a statue i'm a voice in a microphone shouting the good news.jpg

"I don't really want to be here - in this body, in this place. I don't really want to be here, looking out from behind this face.”

These are the opening lyrics to a song I wrote when I was about 13. I was miserable. I was desperate. I hated being alive. And I hid those feelings from everyone.

I didn't know God then, but I'm sure I would have hidden from Him too.

Even though I know we are all broken, even though I know it is our flaws and our need that pushes us toward God, even thought I know it is my imperfections and my mess that will be a microphone for the Gospel - even though, I still hide the mess when I'm in the middle of it.

I often wait until I've already dealt with something before I talk to any of my people about it. I don't let them see the raw, aching, gut wrenching part - the part where I doubt and I wrestle - I wait until it's over.

And it's not that I leave those parts out of the story I tell, it's that I'm keeping my people out of those parts of the story. I'll tell them all about it - when it's over, when it's wrapped up a bit, when I feel like I have a handle on it - but too often I leave them out of the messy middle.

Too often I leave God out of the messy middle.

And with depression and anxiety - this can literally kill us.

When I leave God out of the messy middle, I inevitably arrive here - "I don't really want to be here - in this body, in this place."

I arrive in my familiar hidey hole, surrounded by anger and cynicism and angst, curled up in a little ball, breathing quietly, hoping no one will find me here, wishing I would turn to dust.

In the messy middle of anxiety, there are whispers. The whispers say you wouldn't be here if you REALLY knew God, or alternatively, you wouldn't be here if God is REAL.

Those whispers are lying.

I don't need to mend myself for God to be with me. He is near the broken.

I don't need to peel my own self off the floor - He saves the crushed.

I'm NOT a monument - I'm NOT a shiny, beautiful, unmoving sculpture pointing people to Him.

I'm a voice in a microphone - flawed and raw, a living, breathing, messy testament to His redemptive power.

Shame and hiding and pretending and white washing - these pave my road to more brokenness.

Honesty, vulnerability, laying it down on the altar - these pave my road to redemption, these will amplify the good news of the Gospel, these will be the microphone for my voice.

And I will lift my voice. From the messy middle, if I have to, I will lift my voice. I will tell the good news. As long as I have breath, I will speak into this microphone. I will whisper prayers for the ears who hear. I will spend myself for this worthy cause - for the glory of God, for adding to the Kingdom population, for you.

Quit Striving

48032081_2066469373613649_40161474680717312_o.jpg

I think the only striving and effort in the Christian faith is striving to know God more - to seek Him and Love Him and know Him more each day. To crawl continuously toward Him. To sit at His feet. To know His word, His will.

In knowing Him more, we are the salt who does not loose it's flavor. Salt does not try to be salty, it doesn't strive toward more saltiness - it just is. And those who encounter it know it is salty - no proclamation needed.

If we shine with the light of Christ it is because He is in us. The light does not come from trying super hard to be righteous and generous and faithful - it simply shines because we know Him and He is in us. 

It would have to be actively hidden to not be seen.

A list of accomplishments, notches on a belt, strings of good deeds, piles of avoided sin - these flow naturally and unmeasured from a soul filled with His light.

But if I do to get God, if I make my lists and notches and piles my focus, if I plaster myself with light rather than simply being light, I do nothing more than paint another layer of whitewash on a tomb.

Taking A Second To Say Wow

IMG_7304.JPG

I’m taking a second to say WOW.
To say THANK YOU.
To say I CANT WAIT TO SEE ETERNITY.

I’ve been ruminating this last week on pain - the news cycle brings word of big, nasty, disastrous pain and closer to home is the somehow more real to me pain of friends losing pieces of their hearts.

And I want to say “oh death, where is your sting?” And I want to mean it, but to be honest I can see the sting right now. It is right in our faces sometimes and it’s worse than a sting - it’s a throat punch, it’s suffocating, it’s gutting. **
So I’m taking a second to say WOW - to look around and find a reminder God is real and good and alive. Something that makes my soul do a little flip and sends a chill up my spine and forces a puff of air from my lungs because WOW.

I’m taking a moment to say THANK YOU - to replay those ways He proved His love last week, last month, last year, last decade. I’m saying thank you for life and for purpose and for contentment.

I’m saying I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE ETERNITY as a way to remind myself it is coming - to remind myself mourning is not forever.


God is awesome. Life is short. This isn’t home. So I raise unclenched, reaching hands toward heaven and say WOW & THANK YOU & I CANNOT WAIT.

Dear Graduates:

Dear Graduates on stevieswift.com

Dear Graduates:

 I hope you will forget a lot of what you’ve learned so far.

I hope you will forget how to stand in line in response to a bell, how to go somewhere someone else told you to be simply because they said so, how to sit quietly and idly and wait for a clock to tick a certain number of times before you rush into the things that give you life.

I hope you forget to raise your hand to speak and to create three drafts before you share what you write, because sometimes you need to speak that thing on your heart without permission and without editing. Sometimes you need to get it out and sometimes it’s someone else who needs it in – whatever it is, I hope you say it.

I hope you forget how to read for an answer to prove you’ve read and I hope you find words that feed your soul. And instead of committing them to memory, I hope you let them roll around and shake you up and find a permanent place in your heart.

I hope you forget to respond to someone else’s bells and whistles and timetables for your day, for you life. Because everyone can’t fit on the same train and go to the same place at the same time. This big wide world has room for us all, but your short little life doesn’t have room to take in the whole world, and what a waste if you become another one of Pavlov’s dogs responding to commands until you shrivel.

But most importantly . . .

I hope you forget a lot of what they have told you about God, because the only thing they, and me, can do is point you toward Him or point you away from Him. You have to meet Him yourself, you have to come face to face with Him yourself, your soul has to have that moment where it is enraptured by the reality that is God, where you can’t not worship. 

If you have had this, keep chasing Him and following Him and seeking Him, but if you haven’t, don’t stop seeking until you have it. It is the most important thing you can do in this life. And that is an understatement because He IS life, He is breath and beauty and the fire inside of you and the most purposeful, only purposeful, thing you could ever chase.  

Did You See My Daughter Today?

IMG_7306.JPG

Did you see her? Did you see my daughter? She was moving slowly. Probably too slow for you. She wasn’t trying to be in your way - it’s just harder to maneuver the cart than it used to be - did you wait patiently? Did you see my daughter today?


She might not have looked up at you and smiled, but it’s just because she’s nervous to be out. Nervous about what she can’t do anymore, what she can’t reach. Did you see her? Did you offer to grab the thing off the high shelf? Did you see my daughter today?

She hasn’t left her house since last time she came here for groceries. She was excited to be around people - to see children, to see couples holding hands, to talk to someone, even if it’s only the cashier who makes conversation. Did you say hello? Did you see my daughter today?

I see her every minute of every day. And I love her. She brings me joy always, as you do. I thought today, when you crossed paths, you might bring each other a bit of joy. Did you? Did you see my daughter today?

War Wounds Us in a Million Little Ways

Photo by   Kat Jayne   from   Pexels

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

We entered the house, myself and another soldier, knowing it was already cleared. The occupants sat outside in a line, zip-tied, so I sauntered in expecting my work to be quick and uneventful.

But some of the occupants were still in the house. 

There were children, disabled and malnourished, congregated on the floor of the main room. 

I remember there being four of them. One who scooted along on his knees, his head rolling around as if he didn’t have the neck strength to keep it steady. The others were sprawled about on the floor, in various shapes and various states of undress. 

I saw unfocused eyes, ribs jutting out from lack of food – I saw pain and discomfort and innocent little bodies hardly cared for and left alone while foreign soldiers barged into their home.

And I stepped over them.

I stepped over them, the ones lying on the floor, to get where I was going, to complete my mission.

I stepped over them, did what I came to do, walked back over them, finished the mission, and returned to the COP (combat outpost)..

I stepped over them and I didn’t think about them again until later, until I was back on American soil, until I was a few drinks in, and then I thought of them. 

I couldn’t have done anything, I thought to myself, and it is true. But the truer truth is – I didn’t consider doing anything. 

In that moment, on that day, in that house I did not consider the humanity of those kids. I didn’t think about if there was anything I could do for them. I didn’t even give them my consideration. I did my job, I completed my mission, I got home. 

And the reality is, nothing I could have done, felt, said would have done anything other than hurt the mission. It was not feasible or practical for me to have any feelings on the matter, to say anything, to attempt to do anything.

But.

That didn’t make me feel better as I stared down the neck of a beer bottle, remembering what they looked like lying across the floor, and recognized someone in myself – someone who could walk over those kids and then leave them behind without a thought. 

And I wept. I could tell you I wept for the children, for their pain and for their neglect and for their hunger, but that would be dishonest.

I wept because I now knew something about myself – something I didn’t want to know.

Because war changes you in a million little ways, and I didn’t particularly care for this way. 

War shows you what you’re capable of, and I didn’t particularly care for this capability.

 You might not think yourself capable of walking over vulnerable, disabled, malnourished children while you carry out your business, but maybe you are – maybe you are and you just haven’t been put to the test yet.

You might not think yourself capable of a lot of things, but war has a way of proving you wrong. Sometimes it’s positive things, like endurance and toughness and bravery. But sometimes it isn’t – sometimes it’s cowardice or indifference or inhumanity. 

The fear that comes from being confronted with what you’re capable of doing, the fear that comes from wondering what else might be dormant inside of you, this fear is hard to describe.

It’s easier to understand the fear that comes from bullets flying, from driving around knowing you could blow up at any moment, from blood and guts and adrenaline.

But this fear - this new terror - it’s harder to explain, it’s harder to wrap our minds around, and it’s probably, for me, my deepest wound.

I’m quite sure I’m not alone in this. War wounds us in a million little ways.

 **

I don’t write about my time in the Army much and don’t plan to. This place is all about how God is awesome, how life is short, and how this isn’t home. But I am part of a group called “Blogging For Better,” and this month we are raising awareness and money for Valor Clinic Foundation, whose mission is to improve the lives of veterans.  Find out more about Valor Clinic Foundation HERE.

On Fixing Our Eyes

www.stevieswift.com

It’s easy for the steady one, the one who yearns for stability and security - who is more at home the more structure surrounds him - it’s easy for him to hold tight to these good things.

It’s easy for him to think these good things he likes, maintains, seeks are the best things- it’s easy for him to think these good things are always God things.

And to look down on the other.

***

It’s easy for the adventurer, the wild one - the freedom-craving, convention-shattering, incessantly-questioning one - who is more at home without walls, who ran dancing and shouting from that prison cell when Christ set him free, it’s easy for him to hold tight to these good things.

It’s easy for him to think these good things he likes, maintains, seeks are the best things- it’s for him to think these good things are always God things.

And to look down on the other.

***

But we are the same.

The steady one and the adventurer. We both imperfectly follow our perfect God.

And the one who follows, who abides, who fixes his eyes - he will build and maintain a stable structure, even if he has the heart of an adventure. He will build and maintain if God told him too.

And the one who follows, who abides, who fixes his eyes - he will knock down every wall, defy convention, and dance among a gawking crowd, even if he has the heart of a steady one. He will dance, if God told him to.

I Hope You Live A Resurrected Life

JPEG image-FC08DEA35D3A-1.jpeg

I hope you wake up tomorrow to a resurrected life.

I hope you live as if you actually believe Jesus came, died, rose - that He invited you to die and live in Him, live for Him.

I hope you live a life that has died and been raised this week and this year and the rest of your time here on this earth.

I hope you live as if you actually believe in the awesomeness of the God who created the insanely expansive universe along with our minutely complicated bodies.

I hope you live as if you actually believe you were created to be with Him.

As if you were separated from that for which you were made.

As if the chasm between you and He was too great for you to ever cross.

As if He gave everything to make a way across that space you had no hope of closing.

As if He offered a way to be reunited and reconciled with Him. As if He made a way for you to come home.

I hope you live as if you said yes. As if you believe in the one God sent. As if you have died to yourself and been raised to new life in Christ.

As if God is awesome. As if life is short. As if this isn't home.

I'm Making A New List

JPEG image-BDFF83A55DDD-1.jpeg

I make lists more often than I eat meals. I make lists of random futuristic goals, I make unrealistic lists about things I’ll do today, I make bucket lists, I make lists of positive things to tell my kid, I make lists of people to reach out to in order to remind them I do not in fact hate them - I am simply a hermit - and I hope they are happy and breathing and all that jazz.  I make lots of lists.

There’s one list I don’t make anymore though. Maybe it is just a season, or maybe I will do this for life, but I am not currently working off of a list of ways to grow/serve/be like Jesus. I’m not working on my pride, I’m not seeking humility, I’m not trying to sand down my iron will, I’m not striving to produce fruit, I’m not wearing myself out with service projects – I’m not.

Jesus told us not to work for food that spoils, but for food that endures for eternity.  The hearers of these words, naturally, asked what work they needed to do to get this eternal food.  Jesus responded with a list of works they could do to earn it. (John 6:27-29)

1.     Believe in the one God sent.

End of list.

It can seem too easy. After all, of course I believe in Jesus. Check. Got it. Moving on. What’s next? Pride, you’re going down. Humility – I’m coming for you. Fruit – I’m going to produce more fruit than a ten-acre orchard, hold on while I make a list about it. Service projects – where you at? 

Believe in Him. Done and Done. Or is it? 

Do I believe in Him? 

Do I believe it is finished? If I do, why do I still get caught up trying to be “good enough” as if I could earn salvation?

Do I believe I am dead and I am living new life? Why do I still catch myself putting my own feelings and wants ahead of others.

Do I believe everything around me is temporary and I am made to live for eternity? Why do I still accumulate temporary stuff and accomplishments?

Do I believe I can and will love Him no matter the cost? Why do I still spend more time pleasing people than Him? 

Do I know His voice? Why do I still strain and question when I’m listening for an answer to prayer?

My lists of works to do for eternity is now this – Believe in Him. Believe in Him in every moment. Believe in Him in every situation, in every relationship, in ever hardship. Believe in Him when I’m filled with joy and when I’m filled with pain.  Believe when people love me and when people hate me. 

It’s a short list, but it’s the only one I need.  Believe in the one God sent.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

IMG_7307.JPG

It will. It’ll show up like it does every morning, borrowed for us from the other side of the earth, to enjoy while it’s our turn.


You can count on that sun for another few million years, and you can count on our God longer than that.

The sun - it’s coming. And it won’t burn away every sorrow of night, every regret from the shadows, every grief endured before dawn, but it will be there.

Sure and strong and bright as it was the day before. No matter what changed, no matter what pain you are bringing to the next day, some things will be the same.

The sun, for one, will be the same. And sometimes that’s all it takes to get through the hard days - just one thing to hold tight to, one thing the night can’t take too, one thing the dark won’t steal from you.

It’s the hope of a new day. Of who knows how many breaking dawns, of limitless possibilities - the sun will come out tomorrow 

Pride: The Enemy Of Connection

Pride Enemy Of Connection Stevie Swift

I was watching The Amazing Race, a show with a tendency to highlight relational drama in editing, and something happened to pause me. I’ve been thinking about it for days now. 
The scene went like this:

In frustration, one partner was lashing out at the other with some pretty harsh words. The other partner snapped back with more harshness and, worse, indifference. 


But as he said the words, the camera caught something his partner could not see - he was wiping away a tear. 


He was hurt. 


The partner didn’t see the tear, only heard the words, and so only responded to the words. It was painful to watch. 
The moment highlighted for me why God hates pride so much. It unplugs us from each other, from Him - drives a wedge, disconnects.

We need connection. Every last one of us humans was created with the need to be connected with other people, to love them, to be loved.

Pride keeps us disconnected - it keeps us from saying “I was wrong.” “I’m not okay.” “I’m hurting.” “I need something.” “I need you.” Pride traps us in a cycle where self protectiveness keeps us from connection and lack of connection drives us to self protect even more. 


Feel free to pray this with me today: 
I hate it too, Lord. Shine a light on areas of pride in me - light them up and clean them out - I want nothing to do with that garbage.

STAY

JPEG image-AE94B0F8AB3B-1.jpeg

I see you. You are done.

People hurting other people over nothing, over stuff or money or status - over meaningless junk. Too much suffering for you to ever make a dent in. You see it. You feel it.


And you can’t take it. You want out. You didn’t ask to be here and you want out of this place. I see you.

And I see you - the angry one. You want out too. Out of the cycle of rage. Everything here seems to go the opposite of how you think it should and you can’t contain the rage that follows.

After the rage, more goes wrong, and more rage follows. You want out. You want to be done. **
I see you and I’m asking you to stay.

Not because things are going to magically get better, but because you’re right.

This world is meaningless and full of vanity. Things don’t go the way they’re supposed to and people walk all over each other to obtain what amounts to dust - it really is maddening.

But here is not home. There is more. God set eternity in the hearts of men - do you feel it there? Can you feel how you were made for more than this madness?

Stay.


If you want to spend all of yourself right now - spend it where it will echo in eternity. Spend it on someone else. Take what you have and ask yourself how you can use it to lift someone - to love them. **
This is not a waste, never a waste - stay.


“‘Meaningless, meaningless, says the teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’” - Ecclesiastes 1:2



Fill That Half Empty Glass

IMG_7308.JPG


Fill that half empty glass right up to the brim.

Fill it up with time spent at His feet.

Fill it up by giving a hundred compliments.

Fill it up by buying someone coffee, or a cupcake.

Fill it up by doing those things you were created to do.

Fill it up with rest.

With hugs.


With laughter.

Fill it up.