Wow, how in the world has it been 6 months of living life around a pandemic? How are you weathering this unusual rocky and unknown time? Are you fearful? Over it? Frustrated? Barely hanging onto your sanity with the kids having been home on the daily for 6 months straight? I have been all of these and more, trust me!

For me, this whole thing is far from over and until we have a firm, reliable vaccine we need to be careful and smart. Part of this is being sure to check in with yourself daily, lean on those you trust in your bubble, and stand firm for the social distancing you've set for your family and loved ones.

I can't remember how I found out about Anjuli Paschall and her book  Stay, but I was so very amazed at the beautiful stories from her life and how the lessons she found in those times were perfectly poignant to my own journey. I am not joking, it was amazing how the things she felt and expressed were things I'd felt, and thought I was crazy and completely alone in... I was humbled and brought to tears. I was given a gift through the pages of Anjuli's experiences.

As always, I am here to give you a glimpse of my personal connection found in the pages, in hopes that you will have a desire to get your own copy, buckle in, and see what light it shines on your own insides, feelings, and journey.

Anjuli brings about a personal and real truth in each chapter of her book. She speaks plainly, like a human being, and is so easy to connect with in her realness. I feel as if I know her now. The book brings about introspection, a seeking and a longing for a deeper meaning to life in a never ending world of busy, fast paced living.

Do you like fear? I know I don't. I know that it's my natural state of being to rush away from fear as quickly as humanly possible. To stuff it down and stuff it down until I find myself in a state of volcanic eruption... Because who has time to waste in the places of fear or discomfort when you can jump online and buy something to boost your spirit, or have another drink to help the feelings fade, or lose yourself in front of a screen that takes you to a different life so you don't have to focus on your own... I mean, I've done all three and it helped...but not for long.

Truly the only thing I know that can actually have lasting effect is my faith in the one true God. I find though that He is often not the first place I turn to for healing. Anjuli writes, "Christ keeps leading me back to my need for Him despite my incessant need to run away".  This is where the book grabbed hold of me; where God showed me that this beautiful soul I don't even know had been given a gift that I could learn from. Because it's true, no matter how far away I find myself "lost" from God, He is ALWAYS there waiting for me to turn around and run back into his embrace of grace and mercy. Even when I am feeling completely insufficient and broken, He is able to mend me. He is always willing to take me as I am, where I am and show me that I am enough, because Christ was and is enough.

To stay in hard times, in hard places, and in broken spaces of myself takes a lot of courage, and I've learned it helps to know God is meeting me there. To know I cannot hide the hurts and emotional rawness that I've buried so deeply, I am not even aware of the root origins anymore.  Staying home with my family for these past months has brought about feelings, hurts and frustrations that I would easily brush off, brush past, and push down by busying myself with outside things... Well when I was stripped of my outside things I found myself face to face with a very large volcano of raw emotions. My biggest warning sign has come to be panicked anxiety; something I've not known I had any struggle with but I guess my mental spaces are full to the max and so they are yelling out to me through a bodily reaction.

"When we shut out our past, we shut down our ability to be healed, to be whole, or to understand God's love for us in the depths of our hearts. We live half lived." As I said before, I need to stop running from my hurts and sit with them in God's presence and allow the hurts and pain and ache to wash over me and be finally washed away with the healing of a loving Father. How odd is it, I have put such limits on WHO God is and WHAT He is capable of. I've trusted my daughter's life to Him, He saved her, and yet I am in a constant tug-of-war over my own past, present and future. A lot of my life "may not be the story I'd envisioned, but it is the one I've been entrusted with. It is the one I have been deemed worthy to carry" and if I actually believe God only hands me what I can handle, He must have placed a lot of character strength in me. But, by not allowing myself to see this strength and allow God into my heart fully to the roots of my distrust, hurt and anger, Anjuli is right, I've been living a life "half lived".  And honestly, that's not good enough anymore.

Loving myself has always been a battle. Believing in my capability has been impossible for me. Seeing potential or allowing myself to "think big" for myself has always felt like it was linked to the sin of vanity. But reading through this book, God has gifted me with another layer of my "onion" (Thanks Donkey, aka the Shrek movie.) being removed. I'm seeing that "His love won't stop till my hidden heart is known and loved. Unless, my heart is known, it can never be loved. It can never be free." I often wonder, in my braver moments, if I was able to fully believe in God's love for me; fully believe, to the fullest extent of me being made in His image, His giftings in me, His Holy Spirit dwelling within me.... What.Could.I.Be.Capable of in HIM????  I forget that Satan is afraid of me. Afraid because of the love God holds for me. And he is going to keep pinning me down in self-doubt, worry, fear, anxiety, and dread as long and he can to keep me from becoming and fulfilling the will God has for my life. And I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty good reason to fight back! To seek God and to learn, burrowing deeply into the Creator so that my heart is known and it can finally be free!

My lessons and connections with this read could go on and on. This is a book of lessons sent from a divine Father to His beautifully loved daughter and I for one am so thankful for its blessings.

"...pain is a gift. It is a glorious, ugly, dangerous gift. A gift that if not handled with gentleness and grace can cause more damage. Pain requires a companion, a comforter, a counselor. Pain is the doorway to hope, to redemption, and our redeemer." -Anjuli Paschall