Changing from the Inside Out

This past year has taught me so much. So much more than I wanted when I asked God to change me from the inside out the last time it was time to resolve to walk better in the new year. My plan was to train for a marathon. Push myself and discover how my body after four pregnancies and four c-sections can do so much more than I once thought it could.

I wanted to read and I wanted to write. I wanted to connect with my husband and make sure I read with each of my four kids, prayed with them, instructed and corrected them faithfully and asked them about their days-each and every day.

And I was able to accomplish some of the above: read pinch more, connect with my husband a tablespoon more and be maybe an ounce more faithful in this role I have called motherhood. I ran a whole lot and actually wrote very little.

But last year was not at all the easy, comfortable, peaceful year I had resolved for myself of loving better, writing more and reading cozy by the fire last time the New Years Ball dropped. It was a year of learning to harness my grief and redefine relationships. And as I’ve poured out my heart in this piece I have decided to only share half of what I learned this past year and follow up in a another piece with the rest.

Grief and relationships. These are my tender places and Brene says,

“When we don’t acknowledge how and where we are tender, we’re more at risk of being hurt.”

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Last year the changing from the inside out I asked for actually happened- and not from the comforts of a cozy fire. At times it felt like my very own heart was being ripped out. It’s been an unraveling of what I thought I knew. An unlearning of old patterns. And hopefully so many opportunities to weave new healthier patterns, rooted in who God is and embracing the characteristics of being His daughter instead of patterns rooted in what I thought I should do or what others say I am.

Just when I think I have these tender places all figured out, I feel God calling me back to them, to put off the old and put on the new. To continuously undress and redress.

Then the lion said — but I don’t know if it spoke — ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.

C.S Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader

This year I discovered, if you don’t get to know your grief, look at it in the face, become angry with it, cry about it, ask God why about it, you most likely will never be fully healed.

At the beginning of last year I thought my marathon journey was going to be all about me. All about my fitness goals, all about being a bad-ass. But all those miles around town, on the trail and in my neighborhood were actually opportunities to stare my grief in the face. To wrestle, to find closure, to feel broken and human and to find the peace of God which transcends understanding. Looking like a bad-ass this year was not about medals and PRs but instead finding bad-assery in hurts, tears and anger.

As I ran some, walked some, turned off my headphones in the quietness of the trail I got angry thinking about my mom, why she had cancer for most of my childhood and I became angry about her being gone. I hated cancer as I ran. I cried about how the last time I remember speaking to her was probably over some kind of fight we were having about whether or not I should be allowed to spend the night at someone’s house as a teenager or her last memories of me were finding my cigarettes in my room at thirteen or driving the family minivan through the garage and into the dining room while my dad was at work and my mom was receiving chemo at University of Cincinnati Hospital. I hated myself for being such a difficult raging teenager as my mother was breathing her last breaths.

I asked God why I have had to live through having four kids in four years without a parent to call, without someone to listen, without extra hands and without an unconditional-people-who-you-call-about-things-you-can’t-tell-anyone-else- village. I cried about my kids not having Grandma Shelley. I cried because she missed knowing them, she missed knowing my husband. And I know she would have loved my husband and my kids.

All those miles on the trail, I looked my grief in the face. You can walk with God for a decade, have lost someone two decades ago, read good books on grief and still not look grief in the face.

I never had looked my own grief in the face before. I had never taken the time to be mad and sad, frustrated, disappointed. Those are all nasty feelings and for so long I just wanted to push them down rather than feel them. Picking up my boot straps and burying my hurts was so much easier than learning about this tender place. I put band aids on gunshot wounds and for so long I let myself walk in a false sense of peace, not rooted in anything accept what I thought it looked like to be strong and carry on.

My false sense of peace was a breeding ground for insecurity, false hope, cynicism and a whole lot of feeling sorry for myself.

But in taking hold of my grief, learning how and where I am tender, unraveling my yucky strings, I found the comfort of a God who knows suffering.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

I have found thankfulness. To see past the hurts and see how much God has provided for me along the way. Even when I didn’t deserve it with the cars I put in the dining room and cigarettes my parents found in my bedroom only to name two safe stories with you.

How I was an outsider who was brought in. How I have the right and privilege to not just to resolve to be better once a year, but the access of a child of God to His new mercies every single morning.

After a long year of training and running in memory of my mother my plan was to culminate the journey with a Race for the Cure 5K. Something I had never done before because I feared I would be a hot mess of tears for 3.2 miles.

But as I walked that race with my husband and my four kids I was not at all the hot mess of tears I had imagined. I felt whole. I felt shalom-peace for a moment.

Shalom: peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, tranquility

Shalom-peace. On the other side of the hard journey of looking grief in the face I was thankful. That the road has not been cozy or comfortable but as I look around me I can see big hurts, feel sorry for myself, make the emptiness big or I can see a big God, who knows big hurts, who is walking with me in sorrow and be thankful for the places where he has me now.

Asking God to change you from the inside out is a scary thing. But when you lay back and let God do the work in your heart, when He begins pulling the skins off, it can hurt worse than anything you’ve ever felt. But I promise what comes after the hurt is the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. It is freedom. It is peace. It is shalom.



Unraveling Anxiety

I dance with worry and anxiety too often. Sometimes I let anxiety lead the rhythm of my step. I find my feet walking to it’s beat.

Just like you when a child naps in the afternoon who usually does not I may begin to worry that he may be ill. I am walking in anxiousness waiting for that thermometer to read above 100.5.

Or other times when my husband is not home at the usual time and is also unreachable on his phone. My mind assumes that something is really wrong, most of the time assuming the worst and waiting for an officer to show up at my doorstep to tell me my husband has been in a terrible car accident. The rhythm of anxiety causes my mind to pace just to keep up with it’s steps.

Most of the time what I see in myself when I am dancing is really just the symptoms of anxiety. I see the dance of anxiety and I am beginning to recognize it’s luring rhythm. Racing mind, racing heart, outrageous thoughts,  sweating plams, edgy tone, words that spew out of my mouth like an unredeemed child with an out of control God. Words like:

I fear…

I can’t…

It won’t…

I try to cover up the symptoms of anxiety with prayer and verses memorized from scripture or verses found in the Bible topic glossary under the bolded words: worry and anxiety. But the worries come back. I find myself back in the luring rhythms dancing with worry and anxiety because I am only seeing what is above the surface.

I forget to go down deep below the surface and take a good look at the giant glacier below me- where worry and anxiety are breeding a faulty foundation completely out of sight.

Tip of the Iceberg

I am lured by worry and anxiety in my thought life because beneath the surface I have an unbelieving heart.

Beneath the surface I am drinking from the broken cistern of control. (Jeremiah 2:13 For my people have committed two sins. They have forsaken me the spring of living water and they have dug their own cisterns:broken cisterns that cannot hold water.)

Beneath the surface I am a beautiful jagged mess of pride and unbelief. 

My pride desires to be in control. I want to know what is coming. I want to prepare my heart. My pride believes if I know what’s coming I can be more prepared. My pride tells me I am able to do all things. Like Eve, I want to taste the fruit so my eyes will be opened and I will then know like God knows.

My unbelief is screaming I have giant patches of cold glacier where I fail to know the character of a loving God. In my unbelieving desire to control I forget that God is in control of all things for his redeemed children. In my unbelief I choose to dance with the enemy instead of the One who truly loves me and knows the plans He has for me. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I’ve always known I am prone to worry. When I sing the words from “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”

Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love- I think of my anxious adulterous dance. My constant pattern of leaving the God I love to wander over and let the rhythm of worry and anxiety control my steps.

shoes dance

It has just been recently that I have had the courage to look deep beneath the surface at the giant glacier of pride and unbelief breeding below me. Where the desire to control and the unbelief in my Great God are growing beneath the surface of my anxious symptoms.

Before I can examine what is tangled up beneath the surface I need to know how loved by God. I need His presence and His Spirit to be present with me.


So with courage and the armor of the Holy Spirit I have been willing to go down beneath the surface. When I see the beautiful jagged mess below. I am heartbroken. I didn’t even know about my broken cistern to be in control. But with the armor of the Holy Spirit I remember that God knew this about me anyway and He still sent Jesus to die on the cross for that icy jagged mess. I place my hand on my head to remember that no matter the mess my helmet of salvation is secure.

image via "practical pages"

image via “practical pages”

With the armor of the Holy Spirit I can begin to unravel all the tangled up dances from wandering back and forth between belief and unbelief. With the armor of the Holy Spirit I know I have a Great Surgeon who helps me go to work, ever so gently to unravel the wandering mess I’ve made.

For now I am going down deep beneath the surface to fight the unbelief and pride of my heart. Not alone but with the armor of the Holy Spirit. With truth. With the gospel of peace. With the helmet of salvation secure.


I am called Sought Out. A city not forsaken. God remembers me and He cares for me SO MUCH that I am sought after. (Isaiah 62:12)

Why do I let the myths of anxiety lure me when I have a God like this?

I believe. Help my unbelief.


Where do you feel the lure of the dance of worry and anxiety? 




Job Security?

Relationship Security?

Final Exams?


Is God calling you to look beneath the surface at the glacier below you? Take your armor with you. 

Let the Great Surgeon help you unravel. 

And dance with the One who calls you Sought Out. 


Also read…

Unraveled Marriage 

Unraveled Identity 

It’s Not Like A Quick Wardrobe Change

And please, pass this on. I see you walking alongside me. Share this with someone walking alongside you. Seeking Jesus in every day life.