Seeking Joy Through the Fog

This season is teaching me a lot about what it means to trust God’s kindness and choosing to be still (yes, again).

A lot of it has to do with my long-neglected habit of stopping to count the gifts in my life, rather than spending my time entertaining the lies and fearful thoughts that cloud my mind.

You see, if I don’t sit still for a moment, things stay foggy.

Have you ever dealt with something for a long period of time and, instead of using your energy to keep fighting it off, you just subconsciously decide to welcome it as a part of you? Almost as an annoying friend you have to take with you everywhere?

That’s me and anxiety.

There are some days where I’m feeling ultra-victorious, when I’ve been encouraged and reminded of the victory I ultimately have in Jesus. And man oh man, on those days am I ever. But then there are other days when it just feels like too much. I feel I don’t have time or energy to fight. I’m tired – physically, emotionally, spiritually – and I just want to give up.

Do you ever feel like that? Like the fog just follows you?

Like fog tends to do, it makes your vision a bit hazy. When I welcome anxiety as a companion instead of seeing it as an enemy, I can’t see well at all. My circumstances look different and my motivations are off, which then leads me to see God through the lens of my circumstances and not through His promises.

Through the lens of the circumstances of my mental health, I see God as unfair. It feels He’s forgotten me, that my prayers are not heard, that He doesn’t want healing for my life. What a hopeless and lifeless place to be.

In His word, though, and through the little graces in my life – if I’ll only stop and ponder them – I’ll see that none of that is true. It’s where working on my faith comes in, where I have a choice to stop and remember.

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I have a sweet baby girl turning twirls in my tummy, who could make her debut any day now. What a gift, what an unfathomable grace to be her mama.

God promises me that He hears my prayers, and will deliver me from all my troubles (Psalm 34:17, 107:13).

My husband is the sweetest gift from God. He is calm when I tremble, sane when my hormones are everywhere, and patient when I am frustrated with lack of control. He fights for me daily and intentionally speaks words of life over my fears and insecurities. What a blessed gift to celebrate.

God promises me that His kindness and His peace will never leave me (Isaiah 54:10).

God has given me a reason for my pain, an outlet to use my brokenness for good. He’s set His vision for a ministry in my heart, and given me a team of women to lock arms with to share His freedom and peace with others. What an incredible opportunity, what a purpose-filled calling.

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Maybe today you find yourself in a tough situation. Maybe you’re struggling with something in your life, and nobody even knows. Maybe there’s a sorrow – a hollow pain – in your heart that longs to be filled with joy.

Can I speak something over you, my friend? You don’t have to stay there, in that dark place. You have the choice to find joy in the promises and presence of God.

You see, God never leaves His children. The realities of His kindness and His mercies may be fogged by our circumstances, but His light and His freedom are always there behind the haze – we just have to choose to find it.

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Part of being still is choosing to stop fighting and letting Him fight for us. Instead of giving up and giving into the struggles in our lives, we settle in and welcome His truths as holy weapons for our battles.

Let’s search for joy today – in His word and in the little gifts in our lives. Let’s take time to stop, breathe, and choose to believe in His promises, to let Him stir up the hope and peace in our hearts that we so long for.

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my “so that” moment

It was February of 2015, the month my whole life changed.

Everything was light, and all the sudden there was a dark heaviness. All I knew to be true about myself and about God was questioned in the most twisted ways and I didn’t feel there was any firm place to stand.

Thoughts were consuming, my heart was pounding, and I didn’t trust anyone with the thoughts I had swirling inside my head. Suddenly my thoughts seemed not my own, but from a place I never imagined I would go.

It was the darkest time I’ve ever known. Even calling my condition by name wasn’t very helpful – but only by the process and the journey God gave me was I able to see light again.

OCD.

The most twisted, ugly, dark, unfamiliar, unlikely, unwelcomed companion.

Most think, as I did before, that people who struggle with OCD are just clean freaks or quirky with lining their pencils straight on their desk. But this mental disorder is so much more than that. OCD takes what you are most afraid of and makes it a possibility in your mind so much that it seems true. In short, it attacks what you love the most in your own mind, leading you to think that you are the one to blame for the destruction that isn’t even happening. Think of the most unlikely and terrifying thought you could ever have, and that’s what OCD plants in your mind, making it seem the thought is your own. There is so much shame, so much guilt, so much fear. It’s crippling.

February of 2015 was the first time in my life that my faith’s strength was truly rocked. It made me hard, cold, distant, and a different version of myself. I was being thrown lies about who I was and as a result, questioned God’s goodness and purpose for me. It was as if everything I knew to be safe and true was suddenly sharp and unnerving like broken glass under my feet.

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Today, I’m still fighting the darkness. Every day my thought life is a battleground I never knew I’d encounter. But there’s light again.

I still question God in the most vulnerable ways. Why would he let this happen to me? Why would he allow this mental disorder to be a part of my life? And although I think it’s okay to ask God those questions as Jesus did (see Matthew 27:46), I was neglecting for the longest time the more important question: “Lord, how can this be used to help someone else?”

You see, pain always has a purpose.

As my pastor wisely spoke on Easter Sunday, “Your purpose in life is not to understand your ruins, but to seek how your ruins can rebuild someone else.”

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One of my Bible study leaders, sweet sweet Lisa, used to remind us over and over again that we have a “so that” moment. She would read to us, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (emphasis mine)

I love her for that because I can’t count on my fingers and toes how many times that thought has flown through my mind.

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On April 5, I woke up expectant.

Earlier that week, I felt God stirring something inside me, and I just knew He was soon going to give me His ideas. I had asked some friends to pray, and I knew that on that Wednesday there would be special time to sit in some quiet and listen for Him to speak.

He did.

He gave me a vision for an online ministry to help women heal and find freedom in the midst of their brokenness through the written word. My calling and my pain, combined into one vision.

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It’s my “so that” moment, my opportunity to share my broken places and the ways He’s touched me and healed me, so that maybe someone else can experience it too.

He’s calling me to step out in faith and be vulnerable in my weakest places, so the strength of His love and power can shine even stronger and provide hope for His girls out there that need encouragement and freedom.

He’s calling me to build a team of women to do it with me – to write about their broken places and use their pain for a purpose, and to create images and pretty reminders for His girls to be encouraged in His truth.

I wonder if this is your “so that” moment too? Would you pray about it? Would you seek the Lord in this, and ask Him sincerely if He’s calling you to share your gifts to help His kingdom grow?

*If you’d like to learn more about the opportunities available to be a part of this launch team, please email me at tagillilan@gmail.com. I’d love to share with you more of this vision, and about the Designer position in more detail! We are currently at our max for Contributing Writers, but are still accepting applications and are in need of TWO Designers to launch the site!