Tag Archives: Peace

Knowing Why

How Healing Happens, Part 3

If you have suffered from a long-lasting illness or injury, or a series of illnesses, you know how frustrating it is to do the “right” things over and over again without seeing much improvement. Healing takes time. Doctors like to say this. It should give the patient hope. And sometimes it does. But the process brings up so many unanswerable questions and you really do start to wonder if it’s really worth it.

I was stuck in one of these cycles a few months after my initial diagnosis and my chiropractor challenged me to sit down and evaluate this: What is your Why? Because “to feel better” is not a sustainable motivator when the healing process makes you feel worse before you feel better.

This is true whether you are looking for healing in physical OR mental/emotional areas of life. Whether you are seeing a counselor and processing through your emotional pain, or doing therapy for a muscle injury, or detoxing from food or chemical addictions – in order to heal, you have to re-experience pain. It’s part of the process; God knows why. I’m sure there’s some scientific or spiritual reason that I haven’t researched.

Anyone who is currently on a super-exciting New Year’s resolution-driven cleanse will tell you that they have been swamped with things like brain fog (at which, after typing those words, my brain suddenly fogged over, in case you were wondering), joint pain, skin breakouts, gas and bloating, fatigue, headaches, irritability and extreme food cravings. Oh, boy, sign me up for THAT!

So…in the middle of new or exacerbated issues, we naturally want to give up. We know we need to heal, but this doesn’t feel like healing. More like the opposite of healing. We discover the root of our anger but we’re lashing out more instead of growing kinder. We decided to work on that old knee injury but instead of feeling better the pain has flared worse.

I found a quiet bench in the botanical garden near our home and sat down with my journal. Like the good 21st century Generation X-er that I am, I texted my mom pictures of where I was and what I was doing and that’s probably why I remember my exact location.

Step by step, I answered the questions: What is my calling? Why does my body need to heal to live out that calling?

I’ve been working through the question about my calling for some time now. Going from a place where I could do anything and everything to the verge of adrenal burnout will force you to evaluate a lot of things. What can I do that only I can do? What has he made clear to me? That is what God has called me to. Nothing more. Nothing less.

But why do I need to heal to live out that calling? The answer may seem obvious, but for me it came in layers.

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My greatest passion as an individual is to be fully free. To walk in absolute freedom with Christ – nothing holding me down. And this is my why. At the very root of why I must heal, is the reality that I am still stuck in a jail cell that isn’t letting me be free in Christ. The cell’s name is Fear. Fear of what could happen if something happened to me. Fear of being irreplaceable. Fear of not being able to do all the great things I want to do for God. Fear that maybe those great things are not such big deal to God.

My why, in six steps, because, nerd alert.

  1. I cannot fully speak to the freedom found in Christ if I am bound in any way, even physically (Not that I must be 100% whole to be free but I’m still governed by this physical battle and I have to walk the healing journey to break free.)
  2. I am not able to carry out my roles in my family in my current state of health.
  3. I have no margin to share with or lead others if I am at all consumed by my ill health and being in survival mode.
  4. I do not want to pass on a legacy of bondage.
  5. I am not living a life I love with such sickness and weakness from my insides out.
  6. I must walk in this journey of healing if my soul is to be free and my faith to be strong.

I have to add a disclaimer, to make sure nobody walks away from this thinking I believe that “If you’re not healthy, you can’t be free.” Because I don’t. I believe that God allows people at times to always suffer and not fully heal, and that even with a terminal diagnosis, we can walk in complete freedom in Christ. God can bring peace to help us overcome the pain of any physical sickness.

But for me personally, a chronic hypochondriac afraid of what the world would do without my services, I know I cannot try to walk through life without pursuing healing through the path God shows me. To stay in the state of constant fatigue, horrific skin flareups, complete lack of drive and overwhelming anxiety would mean to stay in spiritual bondage as well. As my team of practitioners and I peel back the layers of health problems in my body, I know God fully intends to peel back the layers of fear and bondage with it all. Because he’s already begun.

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This is Part 3 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

My (Un)Health Journey

How Healing Happens, Part 2

If I could define the first 24 years of my life with a word, it would be: more. I wanted to do more work, make more people happy, accomplish more dreams, save more money, do more research, read more books, get more done for God, speak more truth, get more friends, and ultimately, feel more loved.

I didn’t know any of this, of course. I just knew I could juggle a dozen balls in the air just fine and felt safer, happier and more satisfied the more people I was helping. Somewhere along the line I’d picked up this magical thinking that I could solve the world’s problems, one person at a time. I was the most responsible and reliable person you knew. You could count on me to get a job done, do it right, and make everyone feel good in the process.

Oldest child, teacher’s pet, star employee, but I wasn’t seeking popularity, at least not consciously. I genuinely believe doing my best meant doing more, more, more. Perfection was my goal, from the most sincere desire to get life “right.’ And I longed for people to know they were valued and loved so I gave and gave to them.

My identity was very much defined by the great things I could accomplish for God. I took for granted the way that God saw me, beloved and treasured simply for who I was. Of course he loves me, now let’s get on to the important stuff, like ministry.

In some ways I wonder if that’s what the young Moses was like, in Egypt? Of course God loves me, he rescued me from the Nile and put me in the palace. Now let’s get on to the important stuff, like rescuing the Israelites. And then God sent him to the back woods to tend sheep for 40 years. In my case, my body broke down under stress from the quick succession of college, marriage, ministry and motherhood like a runaway train. He has called me to serve in high stress roles I can’t step down from, with a body that no longer wants to function under stress.

Now as I look back on the last decade or more, I see clearly what God has been doing in me. I feel vulnerable writing this story because the pages are not finished. God is leading me to share my story of my health struggles, but as of right now, I only have a partial diagnosis. My symptoms are still at times unmanageable. And I’m still very much in the middle of healing. In other words, my health journey is not wrapped up in a bow. It’s more like the Christmas gifts I get from my husband, wrapped in a grocery sack and covered in a blanket. Here you go babe, in all its imperfect wrappings, but with lots of love.

But does the lack of shiny paper, a bow and a reindeer to/from sticker diminish the thoughtfulness of the gift inside? Does writing the story without a picture perfect ending subtract from the truth and the connection to be found within it? I’m trusting that God will accomplish what he wants in the middle of this mess.

So here I find myself, in my 30’s, with severe adrenal fatigue, the autoimmune skin condition dermatitis herpetiformis, various deficiencies in hormones and vitamins, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and quite possibly other issues we have yet to unearth. I can see now that the way here was gradual, although I had no idea it was coming. God is writing my story in a way I never dreamed but with a purpose I fully believe is born out of his kindness and wisdom.

Sometimes, secretly, I compare myself with the woman whose hemorrhaging Jesus healed…but on about year 5 1/2, instead of year 12, when he healed her. Currently spending all I have on doctors and suffering a great deal…and I keep saying, “Jesus, where are you? Can I just touch the edge of your garment? I know you could heal me! And then I could get back to doing all these great things for you…” And my voice trails off because I’m starting to think that my addiction to more may be why he’s let me get to this place to begin with. So I wait, and take another dose of supplements, another vitamin D shot, drink more lemon water and breathe deeply. And trust.

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This is Part 2 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

12 Years for Faith to Grow

How Healing Happens, Part 1

Imagine waking every morning for twelve years with symptoms of a chronic internal bleeding disease. You’re wiped out in every way. Sleep doesn’t recharge you, in fact, you barely sleep because of the anxiety that makes your mind spin. Will this new doctor be able to help at all? That is, if he’ll even see you on your limited budget. You’ve already spent everything you have on doctor after doctor with no results. They’ve given up on you and they don’t really care. You’ve been one of their “experiments” and you’ve failed. So here you are. Staring at your breakfast, wondering how much longer you have. Wishing your friends, your family – anyone – understood the fear and the exhaustion wearing down your body along with your disease.

Spiritually, you’ve felt defeated. Does God care you’re suffering? You want to believe he does. But why hasn’t he helped? You’ve heard about a man, a prophet at least, the Messiah at best, who is going around healing people. Lepers, the blind, even the demon-possessed. The faintest hope stirs inside you. Is this Jesus the evidence that God has heard your prayers, and the prayers of your people? Has God started moving again in your world?

People outside your window seem to be gathering into a crowd. That usually means Jesus is around. You’ve never stopped praying for healing through these long twelve years. One of these times, God has to answer you. What is it you can do? The thought of approaching him makes your blood pressure skyrocket. Your palms get sweaty and your breath comes in even shorter gasps than normal. But you want so badly to see if he could help. You’re sick of doctors. You’re sick of being sick. You have no other hope.

“I could try to just touch his robe,” you think. “If he’s from God, that would be enough to heal me.” Nobody else has to know. And if it doesn’t work…your family won’t know to ask any questions.

Heart racing, you put on your veil and leave the house before you lose your nerve. The sun hurts your eyes and walking quickly brings a stab of pain in your side but you bite your lip and push on, holding onto hope. You’re making it through the crowd, and find a spot to squeeze closer to him. He’s a few people ahead of you so you kneel down and slip up behind him to touch the edge of his robe. He’ll never know.

As instantly as you feel the wool touch your fingers, you feel the pain evaporate. Strength pulses through your body and your heart rate slows. Taking a deep breath, you can’t find even a twinge of pain. The harsh sunshine from a moment ago now feels soft and welcoming to your senses. “There’s no way,” you think, starting to shake with the surge of adrenaline your body’s been building.

Suddenly you realize that Jesus is looking for you. “Who touched my robe?” he’s asking. You’re panicking now but the shallow breaths aren’t hurting your lungs. You’ve been healed. How… This is no prophet. You can’t believe you’re doing this, but you have to say something. The miracle was too much. “It’s me,” you say, falling in front of him. “I thought maybe you could heal me, so I touched you. And you did. I’m well.”

And Jesus stoops down and lifts you so kindly by your shoulders. “Your faith. Your faith has made you well, sweet woman. Go in peace. No more anxiety. No more fear. Your suffering is over. You are well. And it was your faith that made you well.” His eyes are so kind. So understanding. Like he knows exactly how you feel and it matters to him. He’s not shaming you. Somehow, he’s healing you in your heart just by saying those few words. All your doubt of God’s goodness – it’s gone and the weight of guilt you were carrying around with it has vanished, too.

Someone else pulls on Jesus and the crowd moves away with him but you stand, staring at his retreating back. You’ve never felt such peace. You’ve never been so sure that God really does see you. And you never want to doubt him again.

What you don’t realize in that moment is that every step along the way that you chose to keep trying, to keep praying, to keep moving toward life instead of death, you were growing in faith. You were making progress. Your body was wracked with pain just like your heart was filled with fear, but you kept going. Little by little you were doing what God called you to do. That last big step of faith, to go look for Jesus, that was just the stretch to the finish line in this leg of your faith journey. If you’d given up with the first diagnosis, or refused to believe that God cared to heal you, you never would have gone to see Jesus. Your faith he referred to wasn’t conjured up in a moment. It had been built over the long horrendous stretch of twelve years when healing seemed impossible. God never forgot about you. He was growing your faith in the dark when you thought he was silent.

Jesus cares about more than your physical wellness, and he cares about more than your faith. You are one – your body, soul and spirit. God has been shaping all of them through the pain you’ve suffered. He could have healed you the day after you were diagnosed, but because he’s so wise, he chose to grow faith in you through the process of pain so that when he did take away your disease, you were so much stronger in every other way.

*This story takes place in Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48.

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This is Part 1 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

God of Peace {31 Days}

Thanks for stopping by! This is Day 24 of my 2015 “31 Days Reflecting on God” series. Find the rest over here.

thirty one days elizabeth cravillion devotional reflecting on god gives peace

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

God created man, and man chose his own way over God’s. When Adam and Eve chose to sin, following Satan rather than God, death entered the world and took hold of mankind and all the earth.

God is holy. He is perfect. He is radiant in glory. He despises death and sin and all their junk. They are his enemies.

So, born as slaves of sin and death, we were enemies of God.

But God would not let his enemies defeat him. He is a warrior. He will win the victory. He will have the last word. So instead of walking away, he picked up his sword, fought and won the battle in the most unconventional way.

He won the war by laying down his own life for his enemies. Not for sin and death, but for their slaves – for us. Many people willingly step up to do brave things, to fight valiantly. But to lay down their swords and give themselves up? That takes a deeper kind of commitment.

By doing what he did, God defeated death forever. He broke the chains that hold us captive and we can walk away freely. He brought peace that will never die.

It’s easy to be consumed by the long, hard days we face. The trials that seem to never end. Discouragement, depression, guilt, shame – they still seem like they’re winning sometimes. Peace seems far away.

But in light of what God has done to save us, these momentary trials are nothing. They will one day fade. We wrestle to feel at peace with ourselves and with God. Sin warps our feelings and we have to hold onto the truth. No matter how we feel, we have peace with God. We are not at war with him. Our enemy is death and God has defeated it, definitively. That’s why we can have true peace within.

He is a God of war because without fighting, he could never be a God of peace. He has conquered and we have peace in him.

Balance: Free Yourself

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillionHebrews 12:1 says, “Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, our leader.” TLB

I like this picture of running a well-paced race with nothing holding me down, all my training pushing me toward Jesus at the finish line.

However, so many days as I try to keep my eyes on Jesus, everything else crowds in and shoves him out of my vision. I end up struggling to just stay on my feet, let alone finish the race. So much slows me down.

In February I discovered an online Mom’s Night Out webinar each month held by Susan Seay. Please check it out if you’re a mom at any stage of life. She shares so much godly wisdom from her heart. As I listened to her teaching on spring-cleaning our hearts and homes, she said something that resonated with me.

“Clutter is the sign of a delayed decision.”

Hello! The reason I’ve struggled my entire life to establish good habits with my chores and routine and even my stuff. I care more about being with people and being comfortable than I do about making those little daily decisions to take care of seemingly insignificant tasks. That’s my excuse. Yours might be different.clutter free yourself hebrews 12 elizabeth cravillion

As the oldest in my family, I thought housekeeping would come easily for me. But I found I hated all the “mundane” household chores. And keeping things tidy has never been my strong suit. Last year we moved into a lovely rental home where we have a lot of redecorating and renovating liberty and my list of household projects began to accumulate.

So by this spring, I felt completely overwhelmed. My kitchen was always piled too high with dishes. Our home was always messy (beyond what the kids created). And I couldn’t stop thinking about all the jobs that needed to be done.

When I realized the heart of my struggle, something as simple as putting things off, I began to slowly change. For years I’d been saying, “It’ll do,” to a myriad of things, far beyond household chores, that clouded my mind. But living a mediocre life isn’t good enough. I want to be at peace! By taking two extra seconds to hang up the shirt instead of throwing it on the floor, and twenty extra minutes a day to do a dishwasher load, and making a list of projects to slowly chip away at, I began freeing myself of the negativity filling my brain.

Have you ever made a list of all the negative thoughts that plague you? What slows you down every day? What decisions are you delaying?

Maybe it’s stuff you need to release emotionally. Maybe it’s people you need to forgive. Maybe it’s circumstances you need to surrender.

See, by doing my dishes daily, my messy kitchen rarely even crosses my mind, even when there are stacks to scrub. To turn off that mental track stuck on repeat, decide to release that frustration to God. Seriously, let it go. Make the needed change.

One day I was whining to Nate about my stress over the dishes and he said, “Why don’t you just try doing the dishes once a day and see how it goes?” So I did. And it was amazing. And I’m never going back.

Just do it. This is about more than physical clutter. It will clear your heart. And maybe even your kitchen counter.

Balance: Just Because I Can

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillion“We must push beyond what is comfortable if we want to grow.” Susie Larson

They tell me it isn’t normal to be able to rattle off 30 or 40 people’s names I’ve been actively reaching out to on any given week. Camp kids I write letters to. Elderly people whose houses I clean, who I love on in a myriad of ways. Peers I email and call regularly. Everywhere, anywhere I run into a human being – that person becomes someone to care for and love.

Meet the former Elizabeth Skiles, the never-stopping, always pouring out caregiver. When God called me from a Kansas farm to Bible college, I especially felt like I was in heaven. Students and teachers all around me, who I could give, give, give to, every day.

When I took the Myers-Briggs personality test about 10 years ago, my results showed that I was 100% extroverted (by the way, if you haven’t taken it, you should). One hundred percent. My life literally revolved around other people. I loved it that way.

However, when you say, “God, do whatever you want with me and my life,” you may be surprised at what he starts to take away, and what he shows you about who you really are.

God began to teach me that by constantly pouring out, I was actually seeking for other’s approval and affection. Was it wrong to give, and love, and to be busy serving others with my time? No. But my motives to love others were completely intertwined with seeking love for myself.

So when I surrendered my love for people to God, he revealed just how deeply he loves and accepts me, no matter what I do. And he began to call me to be quiet and alone with him, and serve in uncomfortable ways that didn’t look like my definition of serving at all.

susie larson comfortable want to grow balance elizabeth cravillionFor example, I’m in my third pregnancy right now and I’ve discovered that there are seasons where physically growing a new life is my only service to God, because I’m too sick to do anything else. Motherhood in itself means your sphere of influence can go from wide to narrow very quickly as you focus on your children.

Or there can be lonely seasons of life, where you feel lost and disconnected from others. Using that time to draw close to God and learn contentment may be your one act of service to God.

Maybe God is calling you to a ministry of prayer in the quiet of your home, where nobody sees and knows how you spend your time. But it is service nonetheless.

I have introverted friends who say that for them, reaching out to say hello to someone, or offer a helping hand, is uncomfortable. To me, not saying “yes” to every possible opportunity to serve, lead, and meet others’ needs stretches me. For every person, “uncomfortable” means something unique.

What makes us uncomfortable is an area God can stretch us. It’s like a muscle that needs conditioning. If we never get off the couch, we’ll never become stronger. I’ve learned that balance in serving God means I trust him when he leads me somewhere new and challenging.

For me, that has looked like letting go of some ministries and being at peace with times of rest. What might it look like for you?

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A book that has been instrumental for me this year is Susie Larson’s Balance that Works when Life Doesn’t. It’s very practical and really goes to the heart of both physical and spiritual balance. Highly recommend it!

 

 

Balance: Not What I Think it Looks Like

journey toward balance elizabeth cravillionA favorite blogger of mine, Lisa Jo Baker, has been doing a 10-day challenge with herself to get back into regular blogging. I’ve decided I’m going to do half of that and blog for 5 days in the next week to stretch my mental muscles and prove to myself I’m capable of thinking about more than potty training or dish washing.

My  3-month goal this January was to become more organized and to streamline my routines. By the end of March I was feeling empowered and confident. I decluttered our home and my mind. We were creating good family habits. For the first time in my marriage I was beginning to feel like I ruled my housework and my schedule, instead of vice versa.

Then I got really sick. And pregnant. Enter my season of waiting and healing. I thought it would last all summer, but by the time second trimester snuck up on me, suddenly it was only mid-summer and I had energy to spare.

(Physical energy, I should say. Do you have any idea how much mental stamina it takes to grow a baby while parenting two toddlers? I didn’t – ha! It’s no joke. The blank mind. The forget-why-I-came-in-the-room brain. The after the kids’ bedtime zone out time. The “Is it only 10 am? Can someone please fast forward this day to nap time or we may end up watching PBS for the next 3 hours” thoughts.)

Once upon a time I had an unbelievable drive to get things done. Senior year of college I took 15 credits a semester (including two Biblical language classes), I headed up my church Sunday school program, led a Bible study, worked 3 part-time jobs, dated Nate, planned and designed our DIY wedding, and mentored several students.

Granted, that was a little extreme, but that’s how most of my life has looked in varying degrees, with little burnout. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back – just to emphasize that God gave me this capacity to juggle many plates at one time and thrive doing it.

seek peace pursue it find balance elizabeth cravillionSo when he called me to a season of sickness and weakness when I got pregnant with Charles 4 years ago, I floundered like a fish out of water, but came to accept his leading. He has spent the last few years redefining for me what it means to be a Christ-follower in real life, and showing me that it can include times of quietness and inactivity. In essence, that I don’t have to act like Superwoman for him to love me – he treasures me just as I am.

I wonder if somewhere, sometime, I asked him to teach me balance, because in one word, that is how I would describe my entire married life. Over the past 8 months, I’ve been discovering some beautiful truths about balance. I’d love to share them with you in a short series. Because once upon a time I thought balance meant doing 50 things well. But it might not be. I know a little more of how multi-faceted it is and how refreshing a life spent pursuing peace can truly be.

Will you join me?

More Posts here:
Balance: Just Because I Can
Balance: Free Yourself
Balance: Looking Beyond Today
Balance: Recognizing Your Season

 

Wisdom from Heaven – Deeper Life: James – Day 14

deeper life bible study james wisdom from above god elizabeth cravillionBegin your time with prayer

Scripture
James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfishness in your hearts, do not boast and tell lies against the truth. Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical. And the fruit that consists of righteousness is planted in peace among those who make peace.

Reactions
How many times is “wisdom” mentioned here?

What do you think of when you hear that word?

Digging below the surface
What are the evidences of true wisdom? (comb through the whole passage and make a list)

What are the evidences of earthly wisdom?

Thinking back through the book of James, where does true wisdom come from?

Making it stick
What is wisdom? What do you need it for?

How often do you ask God for wisdom?

Notes
In this passage James points out the root of sin – bitter jealousy and selfishness. Jealousy is another word for discontentment. Selfishness describes a heart that worships anything but God. When I am either discontent or selfish, any number of other sins start to come out in my words and actions. I quit trusting. I quit giving. I quit loving.

But when I look at life through the wisdom God gives me – the truth that he loves me and his ways are best for me – I experience the opposite of those things. Trusting God always brings peace. And as I trust God, he purifies me, and grows good things in my heart, like gentleness, mercy, and impartiality.

So where do I practice discontent and selfishness more than purity and peace? Those are the areas I’m leaning on my own definition of wisdom rather than God’s.

Lord, I want to love peace more than I do. I want this harvest of righteous fruits. I know it will only come as I allow the Spirit to produce it in me. I know it will only come as you cut away the dead branches of selfishness and discontent in me. Please show me what I need to release and where I need to grow. Then help me to obey. I will obey you, Lord.