Who Am I in the Mess?

When things get messy, as they so very often do, who am I?

What are my defense mechanisms?

What do I tend to do?

Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly.

Do I yell or swear? Cry? Run? Avoid? Shut down? Lash out? Dive into a bad habit such as drinking more or over-eating? Spend money recklessly? Sleep all day?

Do I take it out on those around me?

Recognizing these tendencies is the path to growth. The path to change. The path to healing.

My response to stress, confrontation, or pain is flight. I will try to get away from it as fast as I can. I will avoid and hide.

Knowing this about myself doesn’t make it easier to make a different choice in those difficult life situations. It is hard, brutally so, to swim against my natural current and face the situation head on.

It is a weakness of mine.

It doesn’t matter what your defense mechanism is–what negative response you have.

We have a God who says that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

“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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthian 9-10

So who are you in the mess?

When a loved one dies.

When you’re in a decades-long argument with your spouse.

When your child needs a mental health diagnosis.

When a pet gets sick.

When you are waiting for test results.

When you lose a job.

When you’re flat broke and don’t know where the next mortgage payment is going to come from.

When your best friend moves away.

When someone lies about you to others.

When a pandemic hits.

When you are having a panic attack.

When the dishwasher breaks.

When your car won’t start.

When your heart is broken.

When you are in severe emotional or physical pain.

Who are you?

We all have things–moments, heartache, crises–that bring us to our knees. To be human is to suffer. We cannot escape it, no matter how hard we try. But we have a way through.

God’s powerful, life-changing comfort is waiting. His arms are wide open.

He says that His power is made perfect in our weakness.

He turns us around. He changes our hearts and moves mountains in our minds.

Our weakness doesn’t limit God. It proves His might and His perfect timing!

God is doing a thing in you. Let Him work.

Let Him soften your anger and flood you with His forgiveness, so that you can be a vessel of those things for someone else.

In the middle of the mess, little or big, we need to go to Him.

His grace is sufficient for me.

And it is deep and long and wide enough to cover you, too.

Faith in the Mess by Melissa Neeb

Friend, Press into the Pain

I woke up with a nasty headache. The kind that originates from a pulled neck muscle overnight and claws its way slowly up behind my eyeball.

I tried to be nice to it, gentle, so that it would let loose, but ibuprofen, an ice-pack, and a scorching soak in the tub did little to relieve my agony.

The only thing that seemed to help was pressing and working the muscle as hard as I could, kneading the pain point back and forth between my fingers. It was not a one-and-done massage either. I had to keep repeating this action until my fingers cramped and my nerve endings could hardly take it anymore.

Pressing into the pain was not relaxing or enjoyable. It hurt.

But it reminded me of something.

How often there is emotional pain in my life that I need to press into in order to get relief. Ignoring it doesn’t work. Neither does bubble-wrapping it and hiding it in a dark box somewhere.

Denial is really just prolonged, chronic disillusion that festers and rots my insides. Mentally and physically. There is no salvation in that.

I only get relief from my emotional pain when I peel away the protective layers over it, grip it, examine it, and even press on it.

It hurts. It is excruciating actually. The acute pain leaves no more room for denial.

I have encountered many emotional injuries along my life’s path that I tried to ignore, until the fractures were so compounded that I didn’t know where the first originated.

I was just a walking pile of brokenness.

I had to stop walking. Stop ignoring.

Stop bubble-wrapping the pain and deal with it.

Friends, I wish I could tell you that pressing on the pain brings quick relief. It doesn’t. It takes much kneading, so much so that your soul will be bruised and your cries will have no more tears to expel.

But oh my goodness, it will be worth it.

Once you’ve walked through that pain, once you’ve stared long and hard at it, once you’ve found the source and pressed on it with as much force as you can muster, you will ever so slowly begin to heal.

That is the place redemption is found.

One day you will look back on it and that pain you ignored for so long, well, that pain will make you smile.

Because that will be the thing that ultimately leads to your transformation.

A changed life.

-MELISSA NEEB

-Faith in the Mess by Melissa Neeb

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An Unexpected Angel

The moment I walked through the double doors of a local church for my first Celebrate Recovery meeting, I was greeted by an angel.

Not a wispy, transparent one. An angel in the flesh.

She smiled huge and squeezed my neck in a giant hug, like we were long-lost best friends. I felt seen, welcomed, instantly loved. I was tethered to her warmth and authenticity, bound to her in some inexplicable, anointed way.

God aligned our lives perfectly. We met at the exact point in time that He designed: the exact century, decade, year, minute, and moment that He needed to fulfill His purpose.

And to fill a deep well in me that was achingly dry.

She showed me how to be emotionally present, how to work through past trauma with grace and forgiveness, how to be strong at my weakest points, how to always show up, how to truly listen to people’s pain and give freely of myself.

She showed up for me in a thousand ways, sporting her “Y’all Need Jesus” shirt and a grin that could melt the Arctic. She radiated light from every pore.

No wonder she was my angel.

God had a purpose for us; plans we never could’ve concocted in our wildest dreams. Plans that a pandemic and a move to another state couldn’t interrupt. The miles couldn’t dislodge us, wouldn’t break our soul connection.

God’s plans and partnerships cannot be thwarted. He is so good.

I didn’t expect to walk into that church and find a living, breathing angel. Sometimes God answers our prayers bigger and bolder than we even dare to ask. He sure did for me that day.

Even as we are separated physically, my angel Krista is never far from me.

Because the best angels are always

only a heart whisper away.

Melissa neeb

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In the Middle of a Pandemic, God Gave Me a Lifelong Friend

We talk pretty much every day, several times a day even.

Not about small stuff either. Well, not JUST about small stuff.

We talk about everything.

Right now we are working through some really emotionally tough issues in a recovery step study that we are both a part of. Past mental and physical trauma. Paralyzing anxiety. Sleep disturbances. C0vid-related fears. Bad habits we’ve fostered for decades. Relationship struggles. Financial worries.

We also discuss dogs, teens, crafting, t-shirt slogans, husbands, and worship songs on a regular basis. There has to be a balance!

Funny thing is, we’ve only known each other since March.

We “met” online in a recovery Zoom meeting during the shutdown and became fast friends. We both battle anxiety, so having someone to check in with on a daily basis is both therapeutic and reassuring.

When one feels like she is drowning, the other is the gently bobbing lifeboat.

There is no shame or judgment in the lifeboat. Only coffee and life-preservers.

And maybe a few dogs.

God placed this lady in my life during one of the strangest and most uncertain of times. The pandemic. A time when the whole world was isolated and locked inside the 4 walls of their homes. God gets really unconventional sometimes.

I wasn’t sleeping well. I was spinning in all directions, unable to find solid footing. I was facing financial strain and massive health concerns with a stomach firmly knotted and migraines plaguing me.

Days of isolation turned into months.

She was there. Just a Zoom room away. Ready to talk it all out, offer tears of empathy, memes to make me laugh, and share any resources she had. Even while wading neck deep through her own trials and fears.

In 8 months time, we have done the impossible. We have forged a forever friendship. We are iron sharpening iron.

We pray together. We uplift each other. We give each other grace.

Back in March, God knew what He was doing. He knew in this pandemic, I would need a friend.

He gave me just the friend I needed.

He gave me Angela.

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Finding God at Rock Bottom

I couldn’t go on like this anymore.

My husband had another relapse, a pile of relapses, years of relapses. Once again I didn’t know where he was. I didn’t know if he had been in a car accident, if he was holed up somewhere waiting out his high or simply hiding from me, or if he had overdosed and died.

Any, ALL of these senarios were possible. I was left to my lowest common denominator, empty and hopeless, waiting for a phone call to solidify my fears.

There were countless night like this. This is the life of loving an addict.

You never know.

This was the last time. It may not have been the last time for him, but it was for me. I was at rock bottom. My heart couldn’t survive this anymore.

I dropped to my knees by the side of the bed, wailing, broken, defeated, desperate. Desperate for change. Desperate for my husband to finally get it. Desperate for our marriage to live up to its potential. Desperate for my husband to live. Yet everything I tried failed. All I had left was to beg for help.

I unleashed all my prayers in one breath and cried out to God. I let it all out: my fears, my frustration, my despair, my agony. And then I felt a wave of calm come over me. I dried my tears, got up, crawled into bed, and fell asleep.

God didn’t answer my prayer the way I thought He would.

See, God’s had a plan bigger and better than mine.

God didn’t change my outside circumstances. Not right away.

Instead, He changed me.

The night that I dropped down on my knees, literally, in the worst emotional and spiritual crisis of my life, God changed my heart.

I began to see my husband with the eyes of God. He was in pain and so was I. We couldn’t do this by ourselves. This disease was too big, too powerful, too cunning, and too full of madness. It was burying us, day by day, one inch, one limb at a time.

I needed saving.

At my weakest point, God asked for my complete surrender and trust.

I am so grateful for the night that I came to the end of myself. That night I hit rock bottom and that was when I truly found God.

What I didn’t realized until that moment was that

He had been there all along.

@faithinthemess by Melissa Neeb