“Imagine for a moment you are alone . . . no books, no Netflix, no one is home with you. The house is quiet, and so are you.
The longer you sit, the more you feel.
The silence is uncomfortable. An argument with your sister rises to the surface, the sarcastic comment your husband/boyfriend/friend made days ago still hurts, the discontent and discouragement you feel in motherhood slices open a shameful hole.
Longings begin to rise and so does guilt. Guilt over not being fully present with your people shames you, the loss of a loved one aches, the guilt for not being further along in your spiritual life stings.
The longer you sit, the more memories begin to rise, taking you back to years ago. The anger of your father makes your chest tighten. The neighborhood boy who teased you stirs up feelings of embarrassment. These complicated memories and uncomfortable feelings make you want to get up, grab your phone, reply to texts, or reach for a wine glass.
But what if, for a moment, you stay?
Imagine the very places you want to fix, avoid, power through, shout Bible verses at, stuff, or run from are actually the very way to wholeness. Imagine, instead of getting up to investigate what is under the couch or neurotically tidy the mail, you let all those feelings rise. You let them come up to the surface to breathe. You open your heart, talk to Jesus, and find love.
Imagine God is inviting you to follow these feelings. Imagine if you could stay with all those unfinished places within your soul and story and let them become your pathway to freedom.
If we’ve walked with Jesus long enough, we may feel a void inside of us. It is an uneasy place. One without words. We accepted Jesus into our hearts to escape the void. But it’s still there. We know it. It is there inside of us. It makes us feel guilty, ashamed, uncertain, and afraid.
When we withdraw, we abandon our very souls because we can’t make sense of our inner chaotic cell. Everything inside of us has become too much. We begin to believe that counseling or Jesus or communion just can’t resolve the ache we feel. We keep showing up to church or Bible study, but we slowly disengage our souls.
When we work harder, we battle on, grit our teeth and bear down. We read more books, follow more Christian women online, listen to more worship music, and silence all uncertainty. We control and contain and constantly lose ourselves in the need to keep up.
When we walk away, we give up on Jesus and the church. Our faith becomes a complex story from our past. Jesus just didn’t work out.
But what if we are in this place, not because we are doing something wrong, but because God is tending to the soil of our inner world? The process is hard because it means experiencing parts of our stories that make us cringe with painful self-awareness. But the most unlovely parts of us are the very places God is redeeming. God is moving closer.
Yes, stay. Stay where you most resist being.
You are exactly where you’re meant to be. Not fighting to get ahead and not giving up on ever overcoming, not closing the door on your faith entirely but there, right where you are. Simply opening. Simply accepting. Simply moving inward.
This is the sacred gift of staying.“
Copyright 2020, Bethany House Publishers. No part of this may be copied or used without permission. If interested, contact Anjuli Paschall.
Stay is a tender call to enter, to open, and to experience the echoing darkness buried beneath piles of mail and laundry and years of pain. This is a call to follow the fears and frustration to the unknown, frightening places inside. This is an invitation to let Jesus pull out a chair at the table of your soul and hear Him say, “Stay, you and your heart sit down.” Stay is about how Anjuli learned to become a little girl again, asking a big God if He could stay with someone small like her.
a promise + a prayer
Be sure to sign up for my new 5-day series called “a promise + a prayer” starting in May. Each day you will receive a note with a daily Bible promise and a simple prayer to help you stay close to God’s heart. Just a little something to help you pull away from all that is pulling on you in this season of uncertainty and overwhelming concern. And it’s free.
Stephanie Radican says
I’ve never heard the name Renee Swope or Anjuli Paschall until today. Drinking my coffee this morning in my favorite place in the world (my craft room i.e. magic space), I was organizing some stamps – because that’s what I do, I’m an endless organizer on the road to never being organized enough – and decided to hop on Amazon to look for some containers that would fit in my new storage cart. While I was on Amazon, a book I had been interested in popped up and the rabbit hole began. I kept telling myself, “STAY FOCUSED! STAY FOCUSED!” This led to that and here I am. I began reading this post and my heart leapt and it gasped and it stayed. I very rarely reply to blog posts because I don’t typically make it to the end. Today, I did. When I began imaging myself alone in my house and all that’s happened in my life in the last 12 years, 5 years, 2 years, losing my 45 year old brother to pancreatic cancer 6 months ago, inside it feels like a well filling up quickly and the mounting pressure is nearly too much to withstand. But then I read, “But the most unlovely parts of us are the very places God is redeeming. God is moving closer.” For me, ‘stay’ means giving God space to do His work in me. It means the messiness, both in my house and in me, is fine. Do what I can; then, rest easy because God is the Master of cleaning up messes. It means sitting in the mess, being unorganized, feeling uncertain and focusing my energy on Him. It means leaving it all undone so that He can equip me to go out and do His will.
Im so glad you found your way here, or that you followed God’s lead to come here and stay with Him. I pray that you are finding comfort and calm for your heart as you stay near and nearer to Him each day.
It seems what I just shared had already been shared!
I have had a “good life”…..but there are sorrows that one doesn’t share, others don’t see. Challenges, insecurities, failures, disappointments…..and a deep down longing to flee, just run away.
To me, “stay” means just that – it is the antithesis of every nerve, desire of my heart. I am where God would have me to be. To truly trust Him in ALL things.
Tina Bautz says
I’ve been meditating on Pslam 46; Be still and know that I’m God.
I always thought it meant, be still, like rest…which I think He wants us to do BUT in this context, Be still, was a command from the Lord, to STOP, LISTEN, ENOUGH, STOP FIGHTING! It was written in a time of war and turmoil. God wants us to cease striving and relying on “other” things, ways, people… but to totally depend on Him, believe in Him, rest in Him, and give Him the Glory!
Stay tells me to welcome the uneasy. It honestly is a little daunting. I feel like I have been struggling to find happiness and belonging the past 12 years. I grew up knowing I am a child of God, and He is who helped me still be here today; but I’ve been struggling and fighting to find a place of peace. From last year to now, God showed me I had to stop fighting to understand what’s happening around me, and to fully accept where I am in life. I was so tired of being uncomfortable and not being truely happy. God is working through me to make me wholeheartedly rely on Him. I need to stop trying to plan ahead and simply embrace where I am. I need to stop preparing for what’s ahead and depend on God as my strength. He is my Father, and I need to know that in every part of my being. I know He loves me, but I never truely understood how unconditional love worked. Last year God show me just a taste of how he would take care of me, but at that time I was also still fighting to be happy. I know God is still with me. I know I must truely depend on Him , and make Him my everything. It’s been tough to embrace the unpleasant things and call on God instead. Every day is a mental battle, but God is still showing me He is here.
Alison Lindauer says
Stay to me means to stay in the moment or moments as you journey through life and especially with those you love. Also stay with Jesus on the path he leads you on and in our daily journey of life. This also helps you stay in peace knowing God has got youand is always with you❤️
Gayle Jones says
Stay reminds me my heart and thoughts must “stay” with God, not just when overwhelmed with anxiety and grief but to Stay awhile longer BEFORE I turn back to this world’s sadness and confusion and unanswered questions. My thoughts will come and go but my faith knows God always STAYS with me. Reminds me of the sign I saw,”if God seems far away, guess who moved.” Some days I run, I hold back tears, I hide my fears and anxiety, I try to get busy doing something else but I finally realize if I had stayed with God’s comfort, listening to my fears, crying with him, and allowing Him to stay with me, I would feel His arms and His love which would remind me He is in charge and even though I don’t understand everything,, that He is Good. His plans are good and all will be well.
Phyllis Howell says
Stay means to be still before God, to let go of the “noise” and distractions. However, things are always pulling for my attention, and I’m a doer. But the idea of STAYing is so appealing. I need it. I want it. But I’m so caught up in life and work and stuff. I need peace to fight my battle with Amyloidosis. It’s a devastating disease, and I’m weary. I want to learn more about STAYing.
Robbie L. Anderson says
Stay. Yes, I am a retired person who had eagerly anticipated this season after spending 45 years in Corporate America. Instead, a health crisis from my special needs adult child has me tethered to home, (this being the case long before Covid-19 reared it’s ugly head) with the exception of brief forays out for church, carefully scheduled visits with friends and/or family.
Stay. Yes, those years where Mom was “on call” 24/7″ and the summons to “Mooooooommmmm”, while exasperating, was also a part of a life populated with short people. Somehow, that same call from an adult child is less endearing, far more exasperating, and not what I signed up for. Where does Mom go to resign?
Stay. My word for 2020 turned out to be “Bloom”. In order to bloom, and grow, I need to stay, to dig in my roots, turn my face to the Son, and strive to both learn from and accept this season.
So, I stay, and seel contentment in the staying, growth opportunity in the frustration, and forgiveness at those times of resentment. I’m bid to Stay.
Stay. This is a word in due season. A sudden cancer diagnosis in January rocked my world and altered what I had planned as I looked at my future retirement. Radiation and chemotherapy have put the rest of my life on hold. Stay. As I have spent day after day, at times unable to do almost anything for myself, my loving Father God has caused me to stay, much like when I used to hold my own children in a sustained hug until they finally settled down and rested in my arms. As I have asked God to show me areas of unconfessed sin in my life, I have been able to understand Him better and repent and accept the relief of deeper forgiveness. Forgiveness I was unaware I needed until now. Stay. As I wait, He has allowed memories and hurts from the past to rise, I have examined them in light of the promises of scripture and looked at them through the lens of Jesus love for me. I have made peace with them, come to a greater understanding of how and why I am who I am. Stay. It has been a healing process for my soul and a deepening of my faith even though I have walked with him for forty years now. My cancer treatments appear to be working, but greater still is my understanding of God’s power and presence in my life at an ever deepening level.
Laurel A Cherry says
Bobbie. Thank you for your openness. May
God bless and keep you and hold you in the hollow of His hand. Recently I was reminded that He sits right beside me, holding my hand when I need him to. Laurel
I am one to busy myself in anything I can find when emotions hit. It’s easier just to work and stay busy until they subside. To me, stay is telling me to quit running to busy work. Stop and be still. Feel the emotions and understand them. Take them to God instead of just trying to ignore them. I see this in my 9 year old son. When I can tell he is upset but then he don’t want to admit it or talk about it. It hurts my heart. I realize now how God feels when I try to just act like it’s all okay too.
Susan Bricker says
This book sounds amazing! Stay to me means, rest awhile where you’re at, clear away the clutter and confusion and just pull up a seat at the table and be refreshed. Remain there, soak in His presence, listen to His quiet voice. Stay… with me and I will give you peace, lift your burdens, and comfort you.
Stay with me means to be present with myself, connected to my inner child, not abandoning myself. Allowing Christ to enter that sacred space with me, to restore me, heal me, give me peace and joy as I also connect with HIM the Lover of my soul.
When I think of the word stay, I am reminded to both wait and “be with” whatever emotion, circumstance or decision I am facing. I don’t need to rush ahead or avoid experiencing what is happening right now. Whether I am dealing with something painful or pleasureable, I need to fully experience it and allow God to “speak” as I stay with it. I can hold and be held in every moment that God calls me to “stay” with him.
Renee M Swope says
LInda, I love how you described “staying” here: Whether I am dealing with something painful or pleasureable, I need to fully experience it and allow God to “speak” as I stay with it. I can hold and be held in every moment that God calls me to “stay” with him.
Thank you for sharing!
Jill K says
To stay means to bloom where I’m planted. We want to be transplanted when the going gets rough, but that isn’t always the best. Our roots have extended and it would end up killing us if moved. Staying is hard because we can be choked out by others or overshadowed by something grandeur. But, He has us here for a reason and we must stay and bloom where we are. Our reward will come.
Renee Swope says
Im a garden girl and I love your word picture of blooming and staying rooted where we are planted. 🙂
Tamie Savage Johnson says
Stay is a fearful place a place of tears, doubt rejection and wonder. Stay say I want to know how it will end but I hesitate to take the next step in moving forward. Stay makes me hope that it can be better, more than what I see in front of me and Hope tells me it is good don’t fear trust try to start again.
Chantle Uthe says
What Stay means to me. Is for me to go to my Prayer Closet and listen for God’s voice. To become so vulnerable with God that I am able to to be at peace with my past.
This sounds like such a great book, Renee. Thank you for offering a free copy to someone. To me, “stay” means to sit at the feet of Jesus, listening and hanging on to His every word, like Mary. Love and blessings of peace and safety to you!
Aimee C Conleyreynoso says
STAY: To me it means is OK to cry, call out to Jesus and tell him my honest feelings. Read and write his word and pray with my husband and friends. On a quest to read all the verses in the bible where the Lord says FEAR NOT! + sing worship songs because i know that the Lord put the LOVE of music in my soul.
Oh my goodness. To stay. To stop. When I feel overwhelmed like this, my very body screams at me to take action. To do something. Anything. I so identify with Peter at the Transfiguration when it was all too much for him to take in so he decided to build shelters. What a challenge to not just slow down, but to stop. And stay. And take time… What an amazing topic to delve into.
Melissa A Chambers says
Just last week I was noticing how the role stay plays in my relationship with my precious dog. She’s had a tough life, many owners in our family because of both unexpected death and sickness and was never trained in any real way but I see how stay for her is a choice of trust. She must trust me as her provider and protector even when every fiber of her being wants to chase after the rabbit or hurry down the stairs on her old feeble legs. Sometimes you can read how hard it is to stay on her sweet face and I feel badly that I she doesn’t know what I know and I can’t explain it to her.
And so just as He does I realized how that’s really me with God. It’s so hard to stay in this season, we want to rush ahead and trust our own instincts but we must stay…trust our provider and protector.
Greta Smith says
For me, “Stay” means “Abide”, which is my word for the year. “Stop running, daughter, and sit at My feet. Don’t waste the quarantine. Abide in Me.” Yes, Lord!
Stay means to be still, in my opinion, remain in the moment so you can experience my fullness, my grace and my love.
When I think of the word stay, I think of remaining, being in the moment, etc.
Pamela Johnson says
Stay means to be focused on the one thing in front of you – not to be distracted to go toward anything else.
Stay means to me so many things…. that God will not leave me because of all the ways I have failed him. Stay… because I’m hurting and need You. Stay… because I’m so afraid I will end up all alone, unloved. Stay… because I want to be a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better daughter, a better, sister, a better friend. Stay… because I need yYou Lord.
Sue VanDlac says
Stay has a number of meanings for me……………I’m a dog mom, so stay has that meaning, however hard that is for the dog…………. for me? Staying is a secure word, staying a comfortable place, where you are known. Much less scary than taking risks. Stay for me, doesn’t mean less busy, and perhaps that is where I need to focus. Busy job, busy family………. Got lots to learn, that’s for sure.
Marsha Reul says
To me stay means listen, quiet down and pay attention to what my Father has for me.
N Joy says
For me, “stay” means to be still. I have a guest room sign that says “stay awhile” so I also view “stay” as an invitation to feel welcomed, at peace and at rest.
Kari Schmidt says
When I think of “stay”, I think of abide and rest. It would be something I would tell a friend – – stay a while, let’s enjoy our time together.
Robin Still says
To stay…for me that is the hardest 6 letters…then also Be Still is another set of hard 6 letters…I am always on the go physically or in my mind. I feel restless and can’t stop moving. So in this time of STAY….I am learning that STAY means to be indwelled with God. To be in tune with Him…in His word, in His world. So I become more in tune and STAY as I pray. I feel so connected with Him in prayer right now at this time in my life that I might finally be understanding to STAY and abide in Him. No more moving…just being!
Lynn Berk says
God is so timely. This is exactly what I needed today. “Staying” is not what I do. I’m a runner and right now amid this Covid19 crisis my job although secure may cause other’s to lose their job, so my thought has been to leave to make room for others and their security. Stay to me means placed as when we often say to a child “stay put” it means for just a little while. My greatest moments of staying and staying with God in any given moment and listening to him. Yet, while I seem to think I understand God’s direction one day, the next it seems I’m pulled in a different direction. I wish I could feel like I’m not being tossed about like the waves on the sea from one day to the next. I would love to read this book and find the answer to “staying” power. God Bless and stay safe everyone!
Stay, being present where you are in contentment. It also makes me think of the word dwell, remembering the Lord is with me.
So, so much easier said than done. Running away is the simple feeling – but where do you go? My mind doesn’t settle, my heart aches. Where do I start? Jesus.Try to get comfortable with Jesus – even for 5 minutes. That’s where to start.
Pat Hill says
Stay to me, means to stay still and know that I am God. We get so caught up in the things of life and forget that we need to “stay” still at times to hear and see what God has for us.
Gina Simpson says
Wow! I read this and thought, “Did she step into my mind?” It’s even hard for me to write a comment. I didn’t know, or maybe I did, that those memories and feelings that I keep stuffing back down are God’s way to heal me. I hate to Stay because of those thoughts, feelings and memories. I figured it was the devil trying to discourage me because lately all I have been hearing was replace the old tapes with the Word, tell yourself, these are not my thoughts. But God!
Being at home has given me more time to spend in His Word, but I keep running away from it. I don’t want to relive the pain, even know I have to walk through it in order to heal. Stay is scary, it’s painful, it the last thing I want to do. Without stay, I can’t have the true joy and freedom that Christ died on the cross to give me.
Even though I don’t need another book to help do what I know I have to do, I believe God wants me to have this one, so I am going to order it.
Thank you Renee and Anjuli for being God’s messenger to me. I have heard His still small voice in this blog!
Stay – to remain, to not avoid or run. To be with the bad memories and feelings we try to avoid in order to bring them to the Father for Him to take from us and relieve the unnecessary burden we carry.
Seeing the word stay during these times automatically solicits something negative inside of me. I’m tired of staying! However, after I read the post, it brought me a fresh perspective. If I can learn to truly stay in God, then this time will be easier.
Renee Swope says
Elizabeth, thank you for your honesty. I completely understand. I’m tired of staying home and away from all my people too. Reading “Stay” has really helped me see the blessing in staying during this time.
Annette Jones says
“Stay”, for me means it’s going to be OK. It’s OK to feel the emotions and also remembering that it’s healthy to feel. I think I’ve got mixed up with being a Christian and thinking I’ve to be strong. Even though I know what the verse says, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness, I still go on as if I’ve to hold it altogether and put it all into a box, fix it and move on independently. Coming from a background of loss from a broken home I learned to run, fix and become independent from a very young age. This was strength in itself but I’ve brought that survival struggle into my walk as a Christian adult. This truly does not work.
Over the past few months I’ve learned that the love of Jesus is far more what we could think or imagine or feel. He hears our cry, He cares and He is there waiting for us with open arms for us to jump or even crawl into His lap and let Him love us in our very depts of despair.
I’m so grateful for your post as it’s exactly what I’m learning throughout this season of my life.
In November my sweet little boy went home to be with Jesus. Although he had been born with disabilities, I always focused on his ability. He was a true fighter and although his life span was to be 2years of age he lived until he was 22 and a half. In those blessed 22 and a half years I learned the precious true nature of love and the miracle of life. And that the simple things in life truly are the most important.
During this time I am eternally grateful that God brought him home. But when the sadness and the pain come crashing in from missing him, missing his laughter, missing his gentle humble spirit and longing to hold him I am LEARNING that grief is a process that cannot be put into a box or fixed..
It’s allowing myself to be real and raw. It’s remembering that He(Jesus) has me. It’s remembering that Jesus wept, even though he knew that he was going to raise lazarus from the dead. He still wept although He knew the outcome.
Jesus came to give life and life with abundance. I feel I touch on this freedom each time I sit in his presence but I don’t want to just touch on it anymore, I want to LIVE in that freedom. Remembering to trust an unknown future with a known God. When I look back on my life it’s been so evident that He’s always been there working all things together for good. I thank Him for this wonderful opportunity and adventure of trusting Him with my all.
So keep calm and STAY!! He’s got me…..
Renee Swope says
Wow. Thank you for sharing you so much of your heart with me. I am so sorry that your sweet boy went to be with Jesus. What a miracle that you got to have him 20 years longer than they said you would. Im so happy to hear that part of your story. I come from a home of addictions and unhealthy boundaries, chaos and confusion. I learned the same coping mechanisms as you did, and they served me well for that time. But as you said, they are not what Jesus wants for us. He is okay with us not being okay and our feelings are a gift from him. And indication that something more is going on inside, a prompt for us to lean in and listen to what He wants to show us in our weakness, sadness, joy and sorry. All the feelings.
Again, thank you Annette for all that you shared. xoxo
To me stay means to be still and trust God in my situation and know that everything is going to be ok. I’ve been assigned to work in a covid19 treatment tent and it is very out of my normal and very trying for me, but I can hear God telling me to just stay and trust him. I can’t wait to see what he is going to do in me and through me during this. God is good, He is faithful and He can be trusted!
Stay means to me to stop and remain. Stop worrying about doing things or
running to or away from things or people or activities. Sit and wait for instruction from my master. Put aside my selfish desires and fleeting activities and focus on eternal effects and lasting rewards. Stop ceasing and striving and remain in his presence at his feet leaning against him and in his embrace. Stay with the lover of my soul who longs to be with me and savor his presence.
Stay to me means ‘to sit awhile’ – don’t go anywhere. The Lord wants us to sit awhile and draw near to Him.