Seeing Through Heaven's Eyes.

 

I was sitting in my car with the phone pressed to my ear as I was listening to a sweet sister on the other line. Through tears she whispered, “I do have one more question for you. What does it mean to live into the peace God promises us when everything in our life feels like chaos?”

Her words hit me so hard. Because I had been wrestling with the exact same question for the last few months. I told her honestly I didn’t really know the answer to that and when I figured it out I would let her.

So my sweet RGW, these messy and raw ramblings are for you.

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

I traveled the exhausting 8-hour drive from Nashville to Michigan with only stopping 3 times. (It is really only exhausting when you deal with chronic back pain and have to make the drive by yourself. Also-stopping 3 times is a record-ask anyone who knows me.

My first summer in Nashville had been a whirlwind of travel, craziness with SAS, and playing shows all while trying to battle intense anxiety, depression, and pain. I was so anxious to get home to see the sunset over the beautiful lake I grew up on and was yearning to be back with my family. My body and mind were screaming for a break from life and I knew three weeks at home would be the best gift I could ever ask for.

As I stepped into my house I was overcome with the familiarity of it. You cannot really appreciate something until it isn’t your normal anymore. I smiled as I looked out and saw our boat was gone-my family was already out watching the sunset.

A few hours later, I was curled up on our living room couch filling my mom in with all that had happened over the last few months. While the summer has been equal parts exciting and hard, the biggest thing I had learned along the way was to embrace the state of my heart without judgment or critique. To stop saying sorry for the way I was feeling and to let others into my pain. (Really light stuff guys, I know.) I soon found myself bawling and opening up to my mom about all my fears and frustrations and the “what ifs” of living in chronic pain.

I whispered, “Mom, I feel like I have to fight ten times harder then the next person just to get through a day – to even get out of bed. I am so tired of having to face this as my reality, let alone the rest of my life.” My dad walked in, sat down and listened as well. It was the first time since I had my lower back surgery (almost 3 years ago) that I was really honest with them about how bad it had been. They prayed over me and my dad said he would get me back in to see a doctor.

Sunday, August 21st, 2016.

Almost three weeks later having had multiples doctor’s appointments, meltdowns in waiting rooms and at home, MRI’s, X-Rays, and scheduled injections, we have no more answers than when we started. If anything I feel more confused because no doctor can seem to agree with the next. Not to mention having horrible stomach pain for two weeks straight from all the meds I have been given.

One afternoon, I was lying on my couch at home with horrible stomach and back pain and I just lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. I forced myself to close my eyes, went to my secret place with the Lord and honestly, just yelled at Him. I told Him how angry I was at Him for not healing me, for not having clear answers, and for not giving me relief over the last 3 years. I told Him how tired I was and how I was losing hope through it all. I lost it until I had no more to lose.

And the entire time, Jesus just held me. That was it. He didn’t try to fix it or tell me anything. He just held me.

If there is anything I have learned this summer through counseling and reading Heart Made Whole, (if you haven’t read it, stop everything and go buy it ASAP) it’s that Jesus can handle the weight of our reality: spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. And when I finally got quiet in that moment, this truth hit me:

My circumstances, if continued to look at through humanly eyes, will always seem impossible.

My circumstance, if looked at through His eyes, will always look like heaven.   

I am not going to try and say I know why sometimes healing happens and sometimes it doesn't but I do know Jesus promises healing. He promises peace. He promises to quiet our souls and give us joy… when we seek Him. And for the first time in a long time, I felt that. I felt that deep, inner joy that I cannot even describe. He reminded me of all the ways He has provided through this journey-from friends and family to doctors and community who has never left my side. My intimacy with him in those moments of breakdown have been some of my sweetest moments because I finally stop trying to do it on my own.

The reality is our intimacy with Him is the best healing gift we could ever ask for. Because it changes us. It lifts our gaze off of our selves and onto the One who gave us life. I think I am learning (VERY SLOWLY) that true peace isn’t a change in circumstance; it is a deep knowing that no matter what happens, He is by our side through it all.

He is the God of the universe but He also calls us friend. That means we do not have to pretend everything is OK when it’s not. I have learned that the most healing thing I can do is be honest with Him about my emotions, my feelings and my heart. He never expects perfection out of us. He wants truth. When we can finally open up our hearts and let him into our messy reality, He delights in it. He doesn’t run from our mess but runs into it with us. Because that is what a best friend does, am I right? They run INTO our mess with us. They sit with us and remind us we are not alone.

I cannot tell you the number of conversations I have had with people over the last three years that wouldn’t have happened had I not walked through chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Because you cannot fully understand something until you go through it. To have someone sit with me in my fears, tears, and mess is truly the greatest gift I could ever ask for and the greatest gift I can offer someone else. But you cannot see that unless you are looking at your circumstance through Heaven’s eyes.  And while I do not believe God has caused these things to happen, I do fully believe He is using them for good. Because that is what He promises.

I am still going to continue to believe that full healing is possible while living into the reality of today. Sometimes healing doesn’t always look the way we want it too. I have to believe there were so many moments of Jesus’ life that he probably wanted out of. He even wept before his crucifixion and cried out to the Father, “If you are willing, take this cup from Me.” (Luke 22) I have to believe that in that moment, deliverance didn’t necessarily happen the way that Jesus wanted it to. But he chose to let heaven define his circumstance because he knew abundant life was awaiting on the other side of death. He knew his suffering, death and resurrection meant eternal life for everyone else. (AND PRAISE GOD FOR THAT!)

I was just telling my best friend on the phone today about all of these recent revelations and I said, “You know, Ames, I can live my whole life pissed off and complaining about back pain, or I can decide to change my perspective to see heaven’s circumstance through it. And the latter seems so much more life-giving than the former.”

I don’t know about you, but I do not think the world needs anymore pissed off and complaining people. We have enough to go around and then some. ;)   

Here me when I say: this doesn’t mean I won’t wake up frustrated or grumpy tomorrow, (such is life with “morning Grace”) but it does mean I will continue to walk this messy path called life and chose to live and love with an open heart – despite my circumstances. Because life is just so much sweeter when seen through heaven’s eyes.

 


 

MEET GRACE:

HELLO. If you are reading this then you have (gracefully) (or not gracefully) stumbled upon my website and my first blog post! HIGH FIVE. And I couldn't be more thrilled to virtually meet you! Truly. There are so many other things you could be doing on this world wide web and I am honored you chose to spend a few seconds on my page. 

I guess it only seems right for my first blog post to be sort of an introduction to who I am or what this whole website is even about. 

You should probably first know that my first name is in fact not actually Grace... It is Anna. Anna Grace. (Shocker right??) But don't call me Anna Grace. I only got called that when I was in trouble and I probably won't ever respond to it because I always forget my first name is actually "Anna." 

I love anything that involves acoustic, folk, Jesus, and soulful harmonies. I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan as the youngest of five. In our family-it wasn't a real party until the guitar was brought out. I am pretty sure almost every family gathering since I can remember has been centered around singing, harmonies, and guitars. There was a LOT of Gillian Welch, Emmy Lou, and Patty Griffin being sung that’s for sure.

(side note: I also LOVE blues music...Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Otis Taylor… it gives me the soul feels. Every. Single. Time.)

So what is Songs Against Slavery? 

I graduated from Hope College in 2014, majoring in both Psychology and Women’s Studies. My freshman year at Hope, I came across an article on the internet that exposed the issue of sex trafficking in Michigan. Up until that point, I had no idea it existed in the U.S. and I honestly just sat there and cried. After a semester of learning and researching the problem, I realized I wanted to dedicate my life to fighting this terrible injustice. Which also meant, I wanted to use my music to fight this as well. I wanted to write songs that breathed depth, meaning, light and hope into other broken people’s lives. Because Lord knows we are all broken and sometimes, you just want to know you are not the only one.

So alas, in 2014, my best friend and I co-founded Songs Against Slavery-a nonprofit that uses benefit concerts to raise money and awareness to fight sex trafficking in the United States. In the last 5 years, we have run 20 benefit concerts in five states and raised over $70,000 to aid in the fight against sex trafficking. Crazy right?! That is God for you!

I now work full-time as the Director of Artist Relations in Nashville, TN. Along with running SAS, I get to book and work with all of the artists we bring in to play our shows. I may be biased, but I truly believe I have the best job in the world. And I praise Jesus for that every single day of my life.

Which brings me to today. My heartbeat for music.

Since I was a little girl, music has and always will be the thing that brings me most alive. And as I mentioned before, I knew I wanted to use my music. I just didn’t really process the whole “playing in front of people” part. You see, while music is my greatest joy-it is also my greatest insecurity. It TERRIFIES me to play my songs for people. It feels so awkward and strange to have people sit so silently while watching your every move. It makes me want to squirm just THINKING about it. So if you would have told me five years ago that I would be pursuing music, writing songs, and playing shows as my passion- I would have laughed in your face.

But that is just it. What I have come to realize through this entire journey is this one simple little fact: IT ISN’T ABOUT ME. AT ALL. And that, to me, is so so so freeing. (And gives me courage to actually go out and PLAY.) It is about people knowing, feeling, and understanding that even in their darkest moments-they are not alone. That there are people out there using their voices, singing songs, praying fervent prayers, and stepping out in courageous acts of faith to fight for freedom. Their freedom. Your freedom. My freedom. It’s about bringing hope to the darkest of places.

But ultimately, it’s about jumping head first into uncomfortable callings to make Jesus’ name be known and glorified. And that, to me, is worth it all. I just have the blessing of living and seeing it all through song. Because in the end, I believe that music is a universal language that can break the chains of bondage and bring freedom to all. And that is exactly why I do it.

<3 Grace