From where I stand. 

I was trying. 

I was trying to live up to an expectation that I had placed behind my head and on my shoulders around the time I was a child. 

A backpack of expectations I put on everyday. 

I filled it with many things. 

When I was little it was wanting to fit. I poignantly remember being around 5 with my grandmother at an apartment complex as she visited a friend in Havre Montana.  I was swinging by myself on the swing when a little girl came and took both of her hands and pushed me firmly off the swings. I fell on my hands and knees in complete humiliation. 

Go away. Now. You can’t be here.” She said. 

And I did.  But the rest of the day as I picked pieces of gravel out of my hands I wondered what I did wrong. What I did to her. So I put the gravel-filled bits of humiliation in my backpack…so I would try harder next time.

Later the backpack was filled with anxiety that started around the time when I was 9, the kind of anxiety that kept me awake all night that I carried into adulthood. 

Deep fear of failure placed weight as the straps dug into my shoulders. Fear of gaining weight. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of not being loved. Fear of someone dying. Fear of being hurt. I was trying to protect myself. 

I carried shame from some scars that came when I was a child. That shame hung from the bag and rested heavy around the small of my back. These would shape my relationship with men, and change the way I viewed the world.  I was trying to be worthy. 

I had always loved Jesus. I don’t remember a day in my life where I didn’t know him. But He was TOO big to fit in my backpack, and so I put it on everyday. I never thought He’d help me with it. I never even thought to ask.

When I went into ministry I was either too full or too empty. I never found the balance so I was continually trying too hard, and putting too much of what others needed in my pack. I was trying to serve everyone. 

Later when I fell in love and got married, other things started to fill it. Suddenly I had all this “stuff” I was carrying into a marriage. I didn’t know how to live without my anxiety so I brought it along. I wasn’t sure how to be a good wife, so instead I spent too much time worrying I wasn’t measuring up. Then he became a police officer and I was worried I’d lose him forever.  Worry consumed me over bills, dinner, and dishes. I would zip worry in the side and squish it down. But it was always there, pulsing through. I was trying to be enough. 

…and then I had kids. I filled my backpack with the pressures of inadequacy, and guilt. So much guilt. Everyday I’d carry it around.  The burden and heaviness of all the pressure to be more, to give more, as I carried my back pack on my back with a child in my arms. It was so very much. I’d been trying for so very long. 

As the years have passed inadequacy has become heavier to carry but my backpack is as natural to carry as breathing. 

I’ve been trying to carry it. Trying to keep it all zipped tight. 

What if? 

Last weekend I packed a suitcase and flew to Austin Texas with my dear friend Britny to attend the If Gathering. If you are wondering what it is…it is more than a just conference and a retreat. It is a community  of women gathered together in unity to glorify God. But the gathering spans all across the globe watching and experiencing this oneness of what the church should be. There are amazing speakers and music and Jesus… 

Jesus is the center and no matter what our walks of life are- we are all walking toward Him. 

I was so humbled that it all worked out for me to go. But as I stood on the steps waiting to get checked in my backpack felt heavier than usual. 

Later, I looked around at all the beautiful women waiting in anticipation as we sat waiting for it all to begin. 

“Go away. Now. You can’t be here.” 

I tried to ignore it. 

But I heard and felt the words as I stood there. The weight of humiliation, anxiety and worry, fear, shame and inadequacy resting heavily on my shoulders. 

And then it began…

I want you to know that while I want to tell you about each speaker, and each song, I can’t really give any of it justice. Because there was more happening there…someone much bigger was working. 

I was trying to listen while my backpack rested against me…and pressed against me.

Words echoed off the walls as they were spoken:

God is the redeemer of my life. I do not need to hold tight to humiliation, because He redeems us and scrapes the gravel from my hands. 

Christ comes to redeem and restore my purpose. It is an honor trust Him with my anxiety and fear, because He is the God of restoration. He can save me from it. He can lift it off my shoulders. 

Repent and Believe. Because He is God. Those words carry power and glory. 

Stop making God in my image. He is better than that. He sees me- there is no shame in how He made me, I was wonderfully made. I don’t have to carry shame against me. He is big enough to lift it off me.

He knows everything about us…and he is still here. I can be worthy of His love. Not because of me…because of Him. 

We do not know the why, but we know the Who. Worry only seperates me from life, and joy, and God. I don’t know the why, but I have to trust the Who. 

Touch, feeling, presence, proximity…Guilt, inadequacy, detachment, hollowness. I don’t want to reach for those in my backpack anymore. I want more.

I am here. I am here God. 

In a nutshell I cried…a lot. I prayed a lot. And for the first time in my whole life I gave Christ my backpack. I emptied the contents at his feet. And Hetook it. And He took me as I am. And I was free. 

You see…I have always loved Jesus. I speak about Jesus  and I write about him but I carried those things on me. They’ve defined me for a long time. But this weekend I heard Him and I listened. And returned home with one less carry on and so much more. 

I’m done trying. 

I’m staying. Now. I can be here. 

I’m not wearing a backpack. 

I’m here. 

  We had never met Liz from Oklahoma City, but now I can’t imagine life without her. I cried buckets in front of these two beautiful souls. 

Four years ago my Kindred gifted me Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts.” During my dark night of the soul I read the pages over and over. Somehow after coming out of the fog I emailed Ann to thank her. She read my blog and emailed me back an incredibly gracious kind email. But then she gave me a gift- she prayed for me. Meeting her was a gift. I will always pray for her.