When I usually say I need something, it has a tendency to be a bit overexaggerated. “I need a coke.” “I need those new shoes.” “I need to go on a vacation.” My “wants” are pretty much interchangeable with my “needs” list.
But tonight I’ve had a different experience. To make a long story short(er), God called me away to have some time alone with Him. It’s been pretty clear to me for awhile that there were some things He wanted to deal with in my life, but it’s always interesting to me how these type of conversations start. “God I don’t know how to deal with this.” And it is definitely worth mentioning that this is a typical Tiffany/God conversation.
It’s the confession of “I can’t”. Usually followed by –> “and it took me falling on my face TRYING to convince myself that “I can” to figure that out.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t make them happy. I can’t deal with these people. I can’t be fulfilled by this guy. I can’t stop trying to find my identity in people’s opinion of me. I can’t be perfect. I can’t be that beautiful. It’s just not in me, Jesus. I just can’t. No matter how much effort I put into it. I’m done with trying to make it work.
So yeah. I’ve figured out that’s always a good place to start. You sit there knowing that if you continue to try and mop up your own mess by yourself, that the muck and the mire of your sin will just keep getting worse.
I felt like this tonight. I chucked my phone across the room, and shut the door to my prayer closet as though trying to ward off the rest of the world. And this is how almost the entire conversation went, “I can’t Lord. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep trying to find satisfaction in places where You aren’t.”
Annnnnnnnd that’s about all I said.
Because at that moment, I was so overcome with conviction that I felt I couldn’t even lift my head. It was one of those hushed moments when everything is so quiet, you feel goosebumps rise up on your arms.
Because you know you aren’t alone.
Okay, so here is one of those moments where-as a blogger-you ask yourself, “Do I really write that? I mean… people will definitely think I’m weird.” And to that I must say: Nope-don’t care! Go ahead and think I’m weird. I’m sure there will be stranger things I share in the future, so I might as well start somewhere.
At this point, with my head in my hands, tears trying to make their way out of my closed eyes… I imagined myself in an empty room. But I knew my Jesus was there. I wasn’t sure if whether I should kneel, fall on my face, or simply continue to stand. How sweet a moment it was when I “saw” a hand outstretched, inviting me to sit down on the floor next to Him. As my heart cried out “Lord, I don’t know what to do,” it was as though I saw Him reach His arm around my shoulders and pull me closer to His side. I waited for Him to say something, but He remained quiet.
The silence was almost deafening — even as I sat there in the reality of my prayer closet. Because I knew this wasn’t something I was just imagining, but a way for the Holy Spirit to speak to me.
After several agonizing minutes I heard His voice say softly, but firmly, “Tiffany, you need to let this go. It isn’t yours.”
At that moment, as His words hung in the air, all I knew was this overwhelming sense that I had to write it down, or else I would lose it… like the moment would pass me by or something. So in the journal it went. As I sat there staring at my words quickly etched onto the page, one word stood out to me: NEED.
Now, this is just a guess, but I’m thinking that when I say “need” and God says “need”, there may be a slight difference. Because when God says something, pretty sure He means it.
Which then led me to the dictionary. (Of course, duh.)
Definition of NEED
1: physiological or psychological requirement for well-being
2: a condition requiring supply or relief
3: lack of the means of subsistence : poverty
Poverty. Aching and in need.
A pretty honest description of many of our souls.
In my case tonight, He could see what I could not. The very thing I was clinging to was the very thing that has been cutting off my oxygen supply. He doesn’t ask us to let things go because He wants to cause us pain. He asks us to relinquish them because He knows that as long as we continue to insist it’s “ours”, it will very well be the death of our spiritual life. Or more.
But Lord… the cry of my heart is that it’s such a sweet thing to know it. Because this is where I’ve ended up at the end of tonight. When you let go of your own wants and needs and finally come to the conclusion that “you just can’t”?
It finally gives Him the freedom to take it off your hands and say “but Tiffany, I can.”
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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
As the deer panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?”
In Psalm 42, David describes himself as panting, literally yearning after God. To ‘pant’ is defined as “a palpitation of the heart; to throb violently from strong emotions as in anxious desire or suspense. To long; to desire ardently.”
Okay, pals… extra special glimpse into my life. I’m sure you’re thrilled. 🙂 Lately I’ve been changing many of my eating habits. I’ve completely cut out sugar, avoided processed foods like they’re the plague, and am actively seeking to relearn my hunger signals. It’s simple: eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full. Not perfect at this, my people, but I’m getting better. All this “defining my hunger/fullness boundaries” has me thinking over the many years I’ve spent somewhat disregarding them. Not literally, but just never really thinking about the process that goes along with it.
It’s funny how random daily occurrences are able to take us back to our relationship with Christ. So let’s dig in… When was the last time you were truly hungry or desperately thirsty? We’re talking those moments when you need some MAJOR H2O. This may just be me, but remember those high school moments when you’d been practicing for hours, and finally get a chance to slam down a bottle of water? Ahhhh just the best feeling to finally have that cool liquid quench your thirst! It’s weird to talk about, because it’s a bit like breathing. You don’t really think about it until it’s brought to your attention. So humor me here, and really think about it. There is a hunger and thirst mechanism that has been built into our physiological make-up that literally serves as a reminder that we have to eat. Do you realize that if we didn’t have this indicator within us, we would most likely starve? Weird.
It is the pain of not having our hunger satisfied that urges us to eat. I’m going to geek-out here for a moment as the nurse in me attempts to bust a move. This physiological process, at its most basic level can be described as glucose levels in the blood dropping below a certain point. A little alarm bell then dings, suggesting that you need to eat something. This feeling can be described as a light burning in the pit of your stomach, which then turns into a growl. But what happens when these alarm bells aren’t heeded? Good question! Answer –> your body has to gain sustenance from somewhere. When you ignore the urging of your body to eat, your system, for lack of better terms, basically then takes a meal off your hips. That’s why your stomach stops growling after ten to fifteen minutes. But there’s a reason why this can be a big problem. If you continually ignore the urging of your body to eat, you will use up all your “nutritional stores” and begin to starve to death.
My question to you is this… where do you gain your satisfaction from? (And pretty sure I need this post more than ANY of us. So when I say “you” I kinda sorta maybe mean “me”.) When your soul begins to hunger and thirst, and you feel the need for nourishment… where do you go to be filled? You see, we know that Jesus is meant to be our first turn, but because of our daily schedules, our desire to have earthly love, distractions with entertainment, media, etc (AND job, sleep, family, school), we often ignore the burning within our soul that reminds us of our need for Him. Let’s just be honest. I seriously have so many great intentions. “Oh, I’ll eat later when I have more time.” Or worse yet, how often do we depend on previous “spiritual experiences” to sustain us? This hits me hard, because when you’re in ministry, it’s easier than you think to coast off of recent spiritual highs. How often do we believe the lie that because we “work in the food industry” that we don’t have to actually stop to eat something?
Ever had those moments when you think “Why am I not hungry for God? Prayer… reading my bible. It is the LAST thing I want to do right now.” Been there? Yeah, me too. When we continually ignore that “growl” within our souls, pretty soon, the burning begins to quiet, because it finds its nourishment from somewhere else. The sad thing is, we believe that kind of nourishment is sufficient. We believe we can continue to operate that way while experiencing no spiritual death. This really hits home for me lately because I have a nourishment problem. I can just imagine us sitting around in a circle, all AA-esk where I stand up and say,
“Hi everyone, my name is Tiffany.”
“Hi Tiffany.” (Think Nemo.)
“Well, I’m here today because I have a Netflix problem.”
Everyone stares, aghast!
“I know, right? Confession time. Sometimes, I feel so exhausted and wiped out from my schedule that it’s the only place I really have to wind down. I want it more than prayer, more than scripture. I look forward to it. Want to relax. It’s a place where I find rest. But here’s the thing… I think it’s slowly killing me.”
When we ignore that alarm bell for long enough, and realize that the hunger is “quieted” even without actually “eating”, we start to think we can get along fine without it. And slowly, but surely, we begin to spiritually starve to death. Until we recognize that the state of our souls can only be restored and healed by the Bread of Life alone, we will never be as we are meant to be: healthy, robust, and full of life. David recognized that his only option was God and God alone. He longed for him with such intensity, with such an anxious desire that he says “my tears have been my meat day and night”. Are we at such a place? Job 23:12 says, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Do we hunger and thirst after God in such a way? Or do we find our desires fulfilled in something else?
May the reality of our souls be to earnestly echo the words of Asaph in Psalm 73. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”
In the words of the great hymn writer:
Pass me not, O gentle Savior – hear my humble cry! While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by. Thou the spring of all my comfort, more than life to me! Whom have I on earth beside thee? Whom in heaven but thee?
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” -Matthew 5:6
Tonight I’m feeling a bit stunned, and a whole lot of thankful. One moment I’m laughing & hugging friends, the next, I’m sprinting across a parking lot as a young 20-yr-old kid has flown off his motorcycle, and landed 75-80 feet on the other side of my driveway. Those several moments between knowing or not knowing if his soul was here or “there” were absolutely agonizing. “Does He know Jesus? Is he okay? I wonder where my dang nursing bag is!? Is anyone calling 911 yet!? *deep breaths* Calm down, Tiff, you know what to do…”You guys, I’m not sure how, but this young man is going to be okay. He was pretty bloodied up, and I think both of his legs may be broken, but his time here on earth isn’t up yet. I know it’s hard to feel me on this because, tonight, you didn’t see the things I saw, and you didn’t experience the ache every one of us that were there felt, but I want to say something… We are not promised a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g concerning our time here on earth, with the exception of this one truth: one day it will come to an end. And each one of us will have to stand before God and give an account of our life and what we did with it. And in that moment there will only be two things that matter… Our relationship with God, and how our lives impacted others because of it. I think sometimes, we are “gifted” with moments like we had tonight. Moments when you realize what a treasure your life is, and how easily we take it for granted. This sweet young man was squeezing my fingers and said “I am so glad I put on my helmet today. I was lucky.” And I said, “Sweetheart, it was Jesus who was standing watch over your life today.” I’m not exactly sure what I’m trying to say here, or why the burden is so heavy on my soul to share it. But what I DO know for sure is that God loves you, and He loves me, and if we could understand how many times He has protected us, guarded us, how many brushes with death the wings of His angels have rescued us from… I think we would all be astounded. So know this… If you are still here, living, breathing, reading this, it’s because God still has a great purpose for you being here. As for me, I don’t want to waste one more moment of it.💛
(Pre-Post Warning: Major picture overload coming your way.)
*sigh* Our movie night was magical.
I have dreamed of putting on a night like this for all the little girls in my family, but didn’t know if we could pull it off. I was praying for no rain… and then we have this sunset that gives you goosebumps. The day was not without it’s kinks when it came to preparation, but the look of wonder on my little cousins’ faces kept me motivated.
See, I’m a little kid when it comes to Disney movies and fairytales. I am a staunch believer in big dreams, and stunning love stories. My heart does that whole flip-flop thing, and my tummy won’t calm down from all the butterflies that simply refuse to sit still. But sadly, I believe the vision of these beautiful love stories coming to pass in our own lives have gradually become clouded with cynicism in our present day. No, this night was for renewing hope, reviving lost dreams, and breathing a bit of new life into “the impossible”.
I’m not quite sure why and when it starts, but no one had to convince me I was a princess. I think I just believed it from the get go. With my make-believe wedding veil (aka white napkin) and my stunning, lavish wedding gown (hand-me-down skirt from an aunt), my 6-yr-old heart believed in white knights, daring rescues, and far away kingdoms.
The thing I can’t quite figure out is why and when that stops? It could have been the first time I was rejected by a boy I liked, or realizing that being chubby as a child was something kids liked to ridicule. Or maybe it was turning 16 and feeling as though I was the only girl on earth without a boyfriend. If it didn’t happen then, I am 100% certain it happened the day the only man I’ve ever loved walked out of my life. With wedding plans looming, two families preparing to become one, and futures being planned, he whispered those seven little words, “Tiffany, I don’t want to marry you.”
If that doesn’t cause a little fairy-tale cynicism, I’m not really sure what does. It happens when “reality” hits. When circumstances of our own, or of someone we’re close to shakes the core of our belief system. It’s when we begin to base our perception of beautiful love stories on our experience, not on a far-off notion that happy endings can actually happen. And soon we find ourselves wanting to make sure all those happy couples know, “You know, the newlywed thing wears off. Just wait until hard times hit… then it will probably lose it’s sparkle.”
If that’s so true, if the sparkle will inevitably wear off, then why do we long for it so much? What is it about the moment he rescues her, declares his love, and whisks her away to his castle that makes our knees weak? Not all of you will agree with me on this, but may I propose why I believe we ache for this?
Because we’ve been created for it.
Is it possible that God has allowed us to long and ache for this kind of relationship here on earth because it reflects our Heavenly love story with His Son?
I mean, talk about EPIC. We desperately needed a savior. We were so broken, lost, bruised, and without any remedy to fix it. We, in our destitution, would have put Cinderella to shame. And yet Someone saw what no one else could see. He saw someone worth loving. So He humbled Himself, even to the point of death, in order to rescue us, and show us how to live and walk in freedom. But instead of a white horse, a sword, and a prince’s crown, He carried a cross.
Why? So we could live our lives disappointed, disillusioned, and without any hope? I may be crazy and a bit over top with this, but… I don’t think so.
Listen, my friend, no one is perfect. Your Prince Charming most definitely will not always be charming. I want to make it clear that I’m not promoting this perception of an idillic life where rainbows, and flowers and talking mice are your constant companions. Not at all. What I’m saying is that God, our ever-loving Father, is in the business of writing beautiful love stories. But there’s a catch: He writes them for those who are willing to trust Him with their pen. He writes them for those who are willing to place their faith in Him fully… even when the evidence around you is a little sparse.
Believe me. I know how difficult this is. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve cried out to Him from the loneliness, from the pain of patient sacrifice, from knowing that my waiting on His timing may mean no earthly husband for me. But here’s the key: Our child-like trust.
It comes from knowing that His way is best. But it’s not only best, His way is also beautiful because it is God-breathed. Honestly, that’s what brings the sparkle. Sometimes it’s painful sparkle… but somehow, just like in the movie, our greatest triumphs often come from our most painful moments. Courage, in the face of loneliness. Kindness, in the presence of cynicism. Forgiveness, when forgiveness is most-undeserved. These moments are where we find our sparkle. They are the moments when we deny self, we shut out the opinions and voices of the world, and we simply believe. And there is much to believe in.
We can believe that He desires to do immeasurably above all we could ever ask, think or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) We can choose to believe that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) We can believe that He grants the deepest desires of our hearts when we choose to seek after Him as our greatest delight. (Psalm 37:4) And you know what? I think that we can even believe that He is able to accomplish the impossible. (Matthew 19:26) Your love life is not a mystery to Him, my friend. He is not confused, or baffled, or sitting up there on His throne trying to map out how in the world He’s going to figure out your love life. He is God. He knows you inside out. And He is trustworthy. And while I’m still in this special season of singleness, I know every one of these promises apply to those of you who are married. Life can most definitely hurt and often ends up a little different than we originally planned. But, if you’re willing, God can and will make beauty come out of your ashes.
As I sat there on my back patio, movie credits rolling, I had one very distinct reminder: My God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift. And I’m supposing, that may just include a fairy-tale or two. 😉
Last night I was sweetly reminded of the importance of family. Such a no brainer, and yet, the pressures on any given day, and the love of things (<– and securing more of them) often have a way of rendering people an afterthought. As my family sat around laughing together, I decided to make a new goal. Love and honor my family FIRST. Because I truly believe that the way we treat our family members is one of the greatest tests of our love and faithfulness toward God. Because let’s just be honest. They know how rotten we can be, and vice versa 😉
For some reason, God has seen fit to allow me an extended season of singleness, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it. I’m beginning to see, in very real ways, how much we can love and prepare for our future husbands and wives by doing this one thing well. ‘Cause from what I’ve heard, this marriage thing is kinda hard, and it takes a whole lot of Jesus to knock it out of the park. (And I’m seriously thankful for the extra prep time, Lord. For real.)
My godson and cousin Trevor has been ballin’ up the HS football scene over 2,000 miles away, and every game day is “Cougar Friday” in the Stow household. We sport all our Casa Grande gear, and sit by our phones waiting for updates and highlights from every game. Trev knows he can expect texts or vmail prayers before kickoff each week from his Tiffy. (And even crazy, makeupless selfies at 1am post-game time👇🏼) It may seem like a small thing, but I want him to know that even though I’m thousands of miles away, he is still my priority. I’m starting to see the “little” things make some of the biggest differences in the lives of the people I love. Maybe it means taking a niece out for a coffee date, or writing my mom a hand written note. Maybe it’s playing catch with my little cousin, or taking my parents out for a nice dinner. Whatever it is, I want to put my whole heart into it, and not cut corners with my VIPs 😏 So all of that to say, we are never promised tomorrow, so I want to make sure I love my people well TODAY. And pal, if you stuck around this long, know that I pray the same for you. 💛
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