The Pendulum Swings

Confession time! I do this much more than I would like. I over-react to little things because in some way they hit too close to home. A trigger is pulled, a button is pushed, and boom! Then instead of reflecting, analyzing, and appropriately correcting my reaction, I try to avoid that stimulus at all cost.

That. Is. Not. Healthy.

It may be normal, but I’m not called to be “normal.” I’m called to rise above the storms. I’m designed to soar like an eagle far above the clouds where the winds no longer buffet my wings.

My tendency to swing between over-reaction and avoidance reminds me of physics class. (For those of you starting to glaze over from science-class inflicted boredom, I promise it is relevant. Bear with me a moment.)

Have you ever watched a pendulum? Maybe you are like me and spontaneously recite Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion… “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Just me? Probably… but the axiom holds true.

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When a pendulum is pulled back and released, the bob swings equally far in the opposite direction. In a system without resistance, this will continue indefinitely… a constant back and forth, never slowing or changing. That’s inertia – an object in motion will stay in motion. However, because of forces like friction or air resistance, the bob will return to a position just shy of start and then continue swinging in the opposite direction. Eventually, the bob will return to center, but how long this takes depends upon the angle at which it was released, the length of the bob, and how much resistance is present.

Now, what on earth does this have to do with over-reaction? Everything.

When we over-react to something, most likely it is not truly an “over”-reaction but rather a misplaced reaction. You see, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, including our emotions. Fear, excitement, joy, pain, anger… these emotions are all responses to something occurring in our world. Emotions are a natural response to a stimulus. Healthy, appropriate responses are neither suppressed nor exaggerated, but rather mirror the magnitude of the occasion. However, if an unhealthy or inappropriate response occurs, it does not mean that our emotions are “broken,” but rather that there is an area in our lives that is not in balance. The stimulus which prompted the seemingly exaggerated response is merely a shadow of some other trigger that is buried within mind and heart.

The pendulum was already in motion before the offending stimulus occurred, and its motion never stopped. Maybe the pendulum’s drop angle was very sharp, an intense trauma producing jarring effects. Maybe the bob was really long so the pattern has been in motion for a very long time, maybe even as long as can be remembered. Maybe there hasn’t been enough resistance to bring the bob back to stillness, so it continues to move uninhibited. Whatever the reason, the pendulum is still swinging.

If you’re like me, it might be because you have avoided the stimulus that prompted the chaos. Or maybe you need more time, more space, more healing, more chocolate. Whatever reason you ascribe to the behavioral pattern continuing, know that it CAN be stopped.

The pendulum will keep swinging, side to side, until some force halts it. You may feel powerless to stop it, but this is a lie. Peace can be brought to the swinging chaos.

Reach out to the One who is Peace, to Jesus. Ask Him to show you where the true stimulus lies within your past that started the wild swinging of emotional reaction. He is faithful and kind. His Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth and heal the inner wounds. Regardless of the intensity of the pain or wounding, He knows exactly what happened and He sees it from a different perspective. He designed you; He can navigate you back to truth.

He can guide you through the maelstrom to the eye of the hurricane where there is peace. He can cause the winds and waves to dissipate around you.

He is the One who calms the storms with a word. He can whisper “Peace. Be still.” to oceans, pendulums, and even your raging emotions. He can mend your heart in places you didn’t even realize were broken, but there is a cost.

No more avoidance.

You must be still in His Presence.

You must spend time with Him without shrinking back in shame.

Be like David and cry out to Him, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

Allow Him to transform every one of the scars into marks of beauty and badges of honor.

As He works within you, He will bring peace to your pendulum. You are His masterpiece and He is faithful to finish every good work which He starts. Let Him provide the restraint you need to change the motion and bring you back to center with Him.

Because when you are centered with Him, there is no cause for over-reaction. There are appropriate responses in perfect sync with His heart of mercy, love, and grace.

So go ahead, start slowing that pendulum down by being still with Him. Allow Him to provide the resistance to bring you back to rest. He’ll finish the work He starts.

Pursuing Peace with Other Humans

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy…” Hebrews 12:14

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Confrontation has never been easy for me. I tend to prefer to keep the status quo and forgive the wrong without addressing the underlying issue. This solution has the appearance of peace but none of the lasting effects. While my flesh prefers to yield to my “flight response” and ignore the “fight” instinct that rises up, there are times when I know I must make a stand. As a yielded vessel of the Holy Spirit, I must listen to His promptings to know when to act and how.1 Being Spirit-led like that has not been easy for me to cultivate and I definitely don’t always get it right, but I continue to grow.2 I know His grace is sufficient.

A friend texted me recently and wrote some things that hurt and stirred up confusion. Her words attacked what God has called me to do in this season. The offensive onslaught hit like a battering ram against the faith shielding me.4 Flaming arrows sought weak spots within my armor; tender spots where remnants of old wounds threatened to reopen. She wasn’t the enemy.5 No, she was being used as a pawn in a much larger battle. The stakes were high… my faith, my identity, my purpose, my calling, my anointing. A smoldering heap of rubble was all the enemy wanted to remain.

My first instinct was to break contact with this friend, to write the relationship off as toxic. I would lick my wounds, forgive her, and move on with my life. In the past, that has been my go-to response. Unfortunately, this pattern has also made it hard for me to stay in relationship with people, so I would not advise adopting my former methods.

Let’s pause for just a sec. Can I get an “Amen” that friendships can be hard? Like really hard! Sometimes a monk’s life of solitude seems preferable to the effort and work required to cultivate a healthy relationship with another human. But anyway, I digress.

This time, the Lord would not allow me to wallow in that old pattern. He gently reminded me that the issue needed to be addressed, not only for my sake but also for hers. I was a little stubborn, so He unfortunately had to tell me more than once. I long for the day when I hear His voice and immediately obey.6 No delay, only simple childlike faith coupled with radical obedience, this is my highest goal. 

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

I sat down at my computer, a conundrum of racing heart and quiet spirit. I told the fear and anxiety to hush and began to type. I allowed His Spirit to guide me and speak through the words clickety-clacking onto my screen. As I typed, the Comforter reaffirmed my identity. He spoke life-giving words into my purpose and calling. The unbelief was crushed and gave way to simple faith as I allowed His voice to become louder than the enemy’s lies and twisted truths that had pierced my mind. 

The enemy always overplays his hand. When the lies came that stirred up anxiety and confusion, I recognized that they were not life-giving words from my Creator. I discerned the spiritual battle that was being fought and pressed in to hearing God. I sought Him in the secret place.7 Like Psalm 46:10 suggests, I became still and knew He was God.8 And then I also knew what was attacked revealed exactly what the enemy wanted me to avoid. Much like it is easier to see the flame of a candle when the darkness surrounds it, the attack of the enemy actually illuminated the route I was to take.

It’s also important to note that I chose to not take offense against my friend.9 Holding onto offense is extremely dangerous and a trap straight from the pit of hell. Taking offense gives the enemy access to our hearts and minds. Offense creates a wound that if ignored will fester and become putrid. Nursing the offense leads to bitterness, unforgiveness, and all sorts of unpleasant effects. (If you desire to live a life free from offense, I highly recommend Bait of Satan by John Bevere.) 

And do you know what happened? Those words spoken deep into my soul by the Holy Spirit did not bring shame or condemnation to my friend.10 The words that I was led to send her opened her eyes to where she had been deceived but in a way where she felt affirmed, loved, forgiven, and accepted.11 If I had done things my way and retreated from relationship, there would have been no healing, no recalibration, no reconciliation. 

My way stinks. His way is beautiful. 

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10

My human perception of peace can get twisted to mean no conflict under any circumstances. I have to remember that there is often turbulence before you break through the storms and fly above the clouds. Sometimes confrontation has to happen in order for there to be lasting peace with another person. Relationships are hard, but healthy relationships are worth pursuing. 

Peace with another human requires forgiveness, honest communication, and two people willing to listen with humility. If reconciliation is not possible, trust God that it may simply be a timing issue. Follow His peace; if you do not have peace about reaching out to the other person, the lack of peace may be a warning that an attempt to reconnect is not the right step to take at that time. Pray for the other person to be blessed and for the Holy Spirit to reveal the method and timing in which He wishes to restore the relationship. He will lead you into all truth if you will yield your will to His.12

May God bless you with the wisdom and courage to pursue peace in all your relationships. 

  1. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
  2. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. Romans 8:14
  3. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Ephesians 6:16
  5. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
  6. He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28
  7. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6
  8. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
  9. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
  10. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
  11. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
  12. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13

(Note: All Scriptures in this post were taken from the NIV.)

Step Out

I’ve had a dream…

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There is a storm raging around me while I am tossed about in a wooden sailboat. I am concerned because of the wind and waves pelting the small vessel, but I’m not afraid.

I hear a voice in the wind. It’s a voice I know. Even though I can’t tell the origin of the voice, I know it is my favorite voice to hear. I crane my neck into the wind, straining to hear every syllable. I forget the storm while listening to the foreign melodic phrases reaching my ear.

The hairs on my arms stand on end and I notice my entire body is electrified, charged as if lightning swirls within the sound of the voice. And then I understand. Suddenly, I know what the voice is saying. “Step out. Step out. I’m here. Step out.”

Now the terror tries to claw at my throat. Step out? Step out of the safety of the boat? Surely I heard wrong. The voice wouldn’t tell me to do that… would it? I calm my racing thoughts and listen, hoping there is a different message on the wind. I hear nothing. Did I imagine it? Was it real? Maybe I am dehydrated… or delirious. The intensity of the storm must be getting to me. Have I lost my mind?

And then I hear the voice anew. A whisper amid the howling wind… “Step out.” This time I don’t think. I don’t pause to consider the ramifications of the action I am about to take… one leg over the side of the boat, the other leg following. The rough wood digs into my hands and splinters cause blooms of pain in my palms.

My feet touch the churning water beneath. Will I sink? I can swim but the voice said “Step” not dive. I don’t think I could swim for long in the waves around me. I take one more gulp of air into my lungs and let go of my wooden safety net.

Startled, I look down. I’m not sinking and my feet feel as though they are on something solid. Is it glass? Is it stone? The waves are still lashing at my legs but my feet are steady on an invisible path. Extending my right leg, I touch my toes down, daring to hope the pathway is more than the square beneath me.

I hear the voice once more, gently persistent, “Step out. I’m here.” I hear the screaming within my head, a shrill desperation to flee to safety, to preserve myself. As I turn to look back at the boat, my feet start to sink as if in quicksand. I snap my eyes forward and listen for the voice of peace. My legs pull free of the sinking sand and find purchase again.

There is no turning back now. One step. Another. And another. The boat must be a mile away now. Another step. One more. The angry waves still crash around me and threaten to overwhelm me, but the path is always there. If I hold my head just right, the way looks almost crimson extending out from my toes. Another step. The melodious voice meets my longing ears again… “I’m here.” I take another step.

I look down and this time I see two feet standing next to mine. A scarred hand is underneath my arm, ready to catch and steady me. I look up, in awe of the One beside me. His eyes are kind. His hair is unruffled by the wind… it cannot touch Him. I notice the wind and waves aren’t touching me anymore either. The sea beneath our feet transforms into a smooth sheet of glass, solidifying as a ripple of power radiates out from Him.

He turns to look at me and the only thing holding me up is His hand beneath my arm. One word proceeds from His mouth. “Prophesy.” I start to say I don’t know how, but the words die on my lips. Again comes the melody… “Prophesy.” I am undone. I open my mouth. I hear the voice… His voice… His breath… from my lips. His melody fills my lungs and brilliant light bursts forth.

I wake up.

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If you’ve struggled to step out of the boat, the only safety you have known, you are not alone. His voice is on the wind. Listen for Him.

It only takes a step. One step of faith. And then another. He will meet you among the waves. He will set you upon solid ground and lift you up with His right hand.

Prophesy to your circumstances. Do not let the waves you see stifle your voice. Speak His beautiful name to silence the wind… “Jesus.” My friend, His breath is what gives you life. His voice brings dry, brittle bones back to life. Speak His truth to what you see. His truth is what will burst forth.

Until the Light Breaks Through

What do you do when the darkness threatens to swallow you whole? You discover the most important weapon in your arsenal.

I had always tried to be the good girl. The one who obeyed. The one who held things together. The one who kept her promises even if they hurt her. The one who was everything to everyone. The one who wouldn’t take failure as an option and would push herself past exhaustion. The one who always had a plan and was prepared for every circumstance. I was the one who had her life together.

It was an illusion.

Control is always an illusion. I was a control freak because that was how I learned to survive. I had to keep myself together, or at least appear to from the outside. My world would spiral into oblivion if I didn’t. I couldn’t let those around me see the cracks.

There were so many cracks. Cracks in my emotions. Cracks because of trauma. Cracks in my family. Cracks in the very fabric of my identity. If anyone had held me up to the light, surely they would see the web of fractures. They would see the myriad of flaws in the vase that held my life.

But no one did. The light around me must have been too dim. That’s better than thinking no one truly saw me. It’s better than thinking no one really cared.

So I continued surviving. Never thriving. Just getting by without falling apart. A continual cycle of painting over the cracks but never repairing them. A touch up here. A little smudge there. No one could tell…

until I broke.

My vase hit the floor and all the pieces shattered. From that moment, there was no going back. In that moment, I had to learn how to fight through the pain and darkness.

I only had one weapon.

I cried out to God. I turned worship music on at a volume that muzzled the noise in my head. Surely the neighbors could hear the cacophony. Surely they could hear my mind splintering. I wasn’t the only one who could hear it, right? That wail from the pit of my soul ricocheted off the walls of my house as violently as it echoed within my heart. Surely someone else could hear my pain!

Eventually the wail gave way to a stifled song as I groped to join the music of praise filling my home. I grasped for every lyrical shred of hope, as a drowning man clings to a raft. I stretched to recall the ancient promises I had heard…

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121: 1-2 (ESV)

I lifted my eyes up to heaven. I reached out… His Presence reached back and grabbed my hand. He didn’t let go. He held me up to His light so my healing could begin.

It’s funny how, in the darkest moments, the faintest light always seems so much brighter. The depths of the darkness can’t quench the light. Darkness doesn’t make the light fade. The darkness only magnifies the very thing it tries to suppress.

In that moment, I learned the power of praise. Praise is a lifeline back to the shores of sanity. Praise is the beam of light that helps guide the weary traveler through the mountains and valleys. Praise breathes life back into the dry bones and raises the dying from despair.

Praise is the light that will always pierce through the deepest darkness. Praise revealed every one of my insecurities and faults, but not in a way that brought shame or condemnation. No, it brought life more abundantly than I could imagine. Praising my Creator, Savior, and Friend in the midst of my mess illuminated the dark that enveloped me. It broke through the barriers and tore down the prison walls. Praise was the light that revealed every crack in my vase, but, instead of throwing me out, God held me close and called me beautiful. He took each piece and, with the care only the Craftsman could, sealed every fault line with the light of His love.

So what will I do until the light breaks through the darkness? I will choose to praise.

My Journey to Here

Hi there! Let me introduce myself. Officially, I’m April H. West. You can call me April. My name means “to open,” as in the flowers budding on a tree will do in the Spring. To me, the name April means “beginning” and “awakening of life,” both of which are symbolic for me in this very moment. There is an “awakening of life” as I start this journey of beautiful words with you. There is a “beginning” as I accept the call and destiny placed on my life from the foundation of the world. 

So who am I?

I am a Daughter of the King of the Universe. I am a wife to a precious and precocious husband and mother to two precious and precocious boys. I am a biology and chemistry junkie. I am a high school teacher who relished her time in the public school system; it was my mission field for 12 years. I am a creator of words, music, and art. I find fun in making spreadsheets, lists, and successful formulas (aka recipes). My favorite earrings are beautiful silver (and structurally accurate) DNA double helix dangles. I reside in the space where science and art converge to render beautiful chaos into magnificent order.

I love theology, deep study of the Word, and challenging the status quo for the good of growth. (After all, no one ever grows in their comfort zone, do they?)  I love prayer, meditation, prophecy, and intercession. I find beauty in the details and purpose in the vision. His Presence is what I long for above all else. 

I grew up in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama called Leeds. I loved my small town but I also longed to leave. I knew the Lord was calling me somewhere else. I attended college at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee where I obtained my B.S. in Biology and a M.Ed. in Secondary Curriculum and Instruction. This is also where I met and married my best friend, Brittain. He is a wonderful partner in all aspects of life who reminds me it is good to slow down and smile at the little things. He makes me laugh and encourages me to pursue God’s plan for my life, even when it seems crazy. 

After college, we moved to my husband’s hometown of Paducah, Kentucky and made a life there for 12 years. I taught Biology and became a mother to our two boys, Caleb and Joshua. I longed to be a good mother to my boys, but it also terrified me. 

My inadequacies, perfectionism, and unhealed pain threatened to overwhelm me. I survived by the same workaholic patterns which had sustained me through childhood. If I never stopped, the depression didn’t have time to catch up with me. If I never took time to think, the pain would be numbed to an ache I could ignore. If I never reflected on the dry bones buried deep in my heart, they couldn’t haunt me. The problem is simple… eventually I ran out of room to bury those bones and they started peeking out, clamoring for recognition. I had to change. To survive, change was required. 

I loved God with all of my heart. I longed for more of Him, to know Him better. I sometimes thought I heard Him in my head, but wrote it off as being crazy… everyone I knew said He doesn’t speak that way today. One day, God put a group of people in my path that heard God the way I did. It was freeing in a way I still can’t fully describe. Learning to discern the voice of God brought my world out of the black-and-white television screen of life into full technicolor in all of its glory. I experienced His glory and I began searching the scriptures I so dearly love. 

When you experience the impossible, you have two choices. Either you ignore it, call the experience a fluke, and continue your life as before. Or you can take the more difficult option, the one that requires courage and faith and sacrifice. You can choose to change. You can choose to embrace what was impossible mere moments before and pioneer a path into the wilderness.

What if your promised land is on the other side of that wilderness? Would you choose change or going back to what you knew? Would you be like the Israelites as they fled Egypt? You know the ones… those who forgot what God had just done for them and begged to go back to the torment of slavery. Or would you choose to climb the mountain as Moses did and see the Glory of Jehovah God?

I invite you to partner with me on this journey of faith, healing, and joy. I am not sure where our destination lies; I leave the navigation up to the Holy Spirit. This is His blog. I am only a vessel through which He can speak to touch hearts, minds, and souls.

I chose to climb the mountain. I hope you will choose to climb with me.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

May you be blessed in all of your journeys. I hope we will continue to scale the mountain together. It might be hard, but the view from the top is worth it.

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