The Beauty in our Flaws

I have a feeling that by the end of quarantine, people will be sick of the dreaded “zoom call”. What started out as a cool way to see people in real time no matter where they live, has become the only means of seeing those you used to spend time with in the flesh. Replacing all of our in-person interactions with a screen is not nearly as satisfying. I am filled up by being alone, but I am coming out of this season knowing I am not a recluse.

I was made for community and being in contact with other human beings. I am sure you are coming away from this with similar realizations about yourself. Maybe you have found being at home to be extra trying or the lack of close, social interaction to be particularly hard on your emotional/mental health. Despite what you think of it all or how it has impacted you, I hope you see that God is still working and moving. I am hopeful that when we come out of this, we will be different for the better. I can’t speak for our country or the population as a whole (I have asked God more than once if He would just let me in on how this particular chapter in our lives was going to end up…I’ll take His silence as it is better that I don’t know.), but I believe as individuals, we have a high percentage of coming out of this better connected to God. 

He has never and will never need to socially distance Himself. I don’t care if you just gave me an eye roll for flipping a secular term into spiritual concept, it’s true. He is closer than the air we breathe. We are the ones that put distance between His heart and ours. We run to things of this world to tell us who we are, what to do, when to act, and where to put our focus. The world feels incredibly loud right now, and the sheer volume is only matched by the number of splintered opinions flying around. Like pieces of straw in a tornado whipping around and doing destruction to our peace and safety. I have spoken to so many that feel like nothing is as it seems, everyone has an agenda, and no one knows who to trust. 

Ultimately, our trust isn’t in this world. Our government is flawed. Our healthcare is flawed. Our church is flawed. You are flawed. I am flawed. But this assurance that we are all flawed qualifies us as a candidate for Jesus’ ministry. In Luke 19:10, he says, 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (NIV)

The even better news is this is an individual call. You don’t have to wait for your President or Governor to release you to choose a life pursuing Jesus. We get to do that on our own. You don’t have to worry if your neighbor will approve, you get to decide this purely for yourself. 

Regardless of where you started when the world began coming unglued, you get to take time to make sure you’re anchored in the unchanging, ever-present power of the God of the Universe. 

For those barely holding on, can I speak some life over you?

We have access to the Holy Spirit and He can minister to your heart and bring you God’s peace.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid. You heard Me say, ‘I am going away, and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. (John 14:26-28 NIV)

You have a purpose.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13 NIV).

He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (2 Timothy 1:9 NIV)

He uses all things to good 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

You are loved

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7-8 NIV)

I hope this encourages your heart and spurs you on to a deeper connection with the Father. He loves you and as I like to remind myself daily: Nothing surprises God. He has the whole world in His hands and those who put their trust in Him can know that in the end, we win. If you feel stretched too thin or depleted in energy because of the current events of this world, take time to unplug from those sources and saturate yourself in life-giving verses of the Bible and in worship songs that lift you up and shift your perspective.

The Beauty of an Exchange

Life looks different right now. We’ve all said or thought it over the last few weeks. This time in history will mark each of us in ways we can’t even imagine right now. Our rearview-mirror perspective will show us much more than our in-the-moment view ever can. I hope I can look back at my own life and know I did my best. My best to glorify God in the good and bad of a life pushed into a time where so much was decided for me and my dependence could only be found in Him and who He is for myself and my family.

As I write this, I am on the breakthrough side of a lesson that my heart needed to learn…again. If you read a piece I wrote not long ago called Leaving the Land of Self Protection, you know that I am a recovering self-protector. Trauma in my life has given me a stealthy skill of slipping into self-protection to weather difficult relationships and/or conflict. My word for 2019 was level-up and it played out in wild ways (isn’t that God?) most significantly was showing me there was an elevated way to operate when things got hard. Last year was the revealing and subsequent deliverance from having to live this way. Letting Jesus be my defender and protector is still new to me when I am hurting.

Over the last few days, I have felt the invitation to self-protect. I didn’t catch it right away, but now, I see the signs. I was numbing myself to feelings about anyone else. (If I don’t care, they can’t hurt me…) Also, doing whatever I wanted to feel cared for (under the slippery guise of self care). So indifference coupled with self indulgence are my big red flags that Self-Protection is creeping in.

**Quick note about these two actions: In health, I can put up good boundaries and practice self care. I am all for those actions. In the doing of both of those, I must be seeking the Father for guidance first or I can guarantee I do both from self protection. My biblical litmus is Seek ye first the Kingdom of God found in Matthew 6:33. When I seek Him first, His wisdom for boundaries or self care are good and life giving.

In the morning when I went downstairs to have quiet time, I felt my (fleshy) mind making a game plan on how to act today to preserve myself. This is when I had the full-blown ah-ha moment about the direction my behavior was taking. I sat with my coffee, journal, and worship music in my ears and I let it out. I started writing my most honest feelings. At the end I silently cried to God that I didn’t know what to do with these feelings, but I didn’t want to operate in old habits.

As I experienced all of this, it was in fact Good Friday. Just before Jesus gave up His spirit, and He declared “It is finished.” When He did this, He was ending the reign of terror that sin had on our lives. We get to put our sins to death because of His death. I am not destined to be a slave to Self Protection the rest of my life. I am 100% free from it in eternity, but I am also declaring victory over it in my remaining time here on Earth. My abundant life came at a price, and I will not forsake the cost because it is easier to live out old patterns.

Upon asking God, “what now?” I opened the YouVersion Bible app to participate in the reading plan my small group has been doing together. When I opened the app an ad for a three day reading plan greeted me. It was called Living Hope: A Countdown to Easter, and was designed to be read Good Friday through Easter Sunday. All I can say is the Holy Spirit prompted me to open it. I did and I was immediately blown away by the content! The devotion talked about being forsaken and listed three things to do when you feel that way. I don’t want to give it all away so please go the app and check it out for yourself, but that list confirmed that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. I was crying out to God with my honest words and a heart that knew there was a better way and yet felt drawn to old patterns. However, I was choosing worship and His word in the waiting to receive direction.

I finished day one of Living Hope and then turned to the reading plan that my small group was following and a line from that devotional jumped out at me too. It said, “The victory of Jesus is received where your trying ends.”

I realized my mind had been working to sift through all it knew about my old and new self to come to a conclusion as to what to do next. I was still trying to do this based on my own resources! This is when I stopped and reflected on how my showing up with open hands ready to receive something new is right where He wanted me. Now I am a visual person and the Holy Spirit has full access to my mind’s eye. So He showed me a picture of the poor widow mentioned in two of the Gospels. Here is what Mark 12:41-44 NIV says:

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

As I pictured her outstretched hands, poverty stricken and perhaps even dirty, but as humble as a pure-hearted child letting the two coins slide out of her hands to fully surrender herself to be cared for by God, I couldn’t help but see something new in this story.

God looks at the heart and in that moment Jesus looked at a woman who was all in. She knew where her hope was anchored and empty hands are free of false security in earthly resources. But more than that, He delights in watching us bring our “stuff” for the exchange. This action is an act of worship that declares that we know that He supercededs ANYTHING we could bring to the table. He delights in me coming to Him and spewing my very real feelings and honest longings. He knows it is for my benefit to unload on Him. In the unloading, I am emptying my hands to receive a priceless exchange.

With worship music in my ears and eyes closed I continued to see in my mind’s eye a simple scenario of my own hands dirty and ravaged, clutching sharp rocks. When I opened my hands, the jagged stones had words written on them. One said “brokenness” another “self-protection” and another “pride”. I flattened my hands and tilted them down to let the rocks slide to the ground and they landed right in front of the feet of Jesus. I was crying and sad, but He had the biggest smile on His face. He was overjoyed to see me surrender these burdens. To give everything I had to bring so He could exchange it all. He then extended His hand and touched mine, healing and cleansing them. Empty hands are a joy for Jesus to fill. The exchange has nothing to do with the value of the items brought, but everything to do with the heart of the one bringing them. The heart reveals when we are truly at the end of our own trying.

As we continue to wade through difficult times, how are you dealing with disappointment, fear, frustration, sadness, conflict, the unknown, etc.? Are you taking time to be truly honest with God about all of it? If you haven’t, I urge you dear reader, to spend time unloading on God. He is big enough to handle any and every emotion you have. His exchange is based on who He is, not what you bring.

Easing Into Rest

I have raised three kids from infant to school aged so far. We are in this deliciously sweet spot where independence meets innocence. No one has social media or a significant other and yet they can all get themselves ready for the day and bed and, well, you get the picture. Beautiful! But I very clearly remember the days when any one of my children had had insufficient sleep and needed a nap, yet fought it like Custer’s Last Stand. The whining and fit throwing that only displayed outwardly their desperate need for inward rest. Despite what meltdown occurred, there was inevitably a release and surrender that resulted in sleep. Rest. 

My life was traveling at a pretty good clip in the early days of March. It was ramping up to be the busiest 2 months of my entire year. Between spring sports, after school activities, end of (school) year programs, and my own part time jobs, our family basically sprints to June. Like many people, our norm has been drastically disrupted. I am grateful that my husband is still working, and any issues we are currently dealing with are tertiary to the more pressing effects this pandemic is having. I venture to guess there are many in my situation. I would love to share a few things I’ve learned over the past week. 

There is a difference between information consumption and information obsession.

When our activities began shutting down, I felt like I needed to be glued to my phone to check email, text messages, and social media. I wanted to be in the know about the minute-by-minute changes that were taking place around the world and in my little world as well. This, however, turned into a constant craving for the latest tidbit. The tipping point, for me, was when I realized I was running to information first thing in the morning. I would open my phone apps to check for any new news before anything else. This craving felt urgent and real. I needed the info. 

How did I course correct?

I confessed. This is an important part of course correction. In Psalms 51 we are given a display of a contrite heart when David cries out to the Lord to have mercy for his transgressions. He asks to be cleansed and made pure and renewed. I encourage you to read the whole chapter when you get a chance.

There is something special that happens when we spend time confessing our sins to God. It clears out the space in our heart and makes room for an exchange. We have named the junky thing that has taken up residence in our heart and this allows God to sweep it away.

The Exchange.

What I needed was something to take the place of that ravenous craving for information. I knew in my heart the only thing I truly needed was time with Him first thing in the morning. I asked for a fresh hunger for Him. The next morning, I actually woke with a song running through my mind that spoke of repentance and running to Him. I grabbed my phone off the nightstand and had the instant urge to open it up. But I didn’t. Instead, I took it down to the living room and opened up my Bible. Now, I could have opened the Bible app, but until I could demonstrate self control, I felt it best to stick with my tangible Bible. There is a discipline component to this even if it starts with a spiritual shift. I am learning that in times of uncertainty, my flesh wants things I can see, but my spirit needs to seek Him first. 

Busyness Replacement is a thing. 

As I found myself with more time on my hands than I have had in awhile, I began to fill the time with more baking and extra projects that weren’t on the docket weeks prior. I also found that I could fill an entire day with things that didn’t make me feel more productive or fulfilled, but yet filled my whole day. Because of the chaos of our changing circumstances and the adrenaline of the ominous nature of our nation these days, it took me almost a week and a half to catch what I was doing. I was so used to being busy, that my mind latched onto any task that would fill my time. This created a false sense of having been busy all day. But busy doing what? Some of it was good and some of it was vital, but I was operating out of a fleshy place that wasn’t going to feed my soul. 

How do I course correct?

Again, going back to the beginning of my day and filling my heart and mind with Him first can change my thought patterns about the rest of the day. I also ask Him what I need to be doing that day. I have tried to check in with myself throughout the day to make sure I am doing worthwhile things…even if that worthwhile thing is resting, chilling out in front of the TV or taking a nap. It is not about the doing, it is about being intentional with the doing. Do it on purpose, not by default or out of a false need to be busy. 

I’d love to hear how you have fared in Quarantine 2020. Have you learned anything about yourself? Is God teaching you some cool stuff? Share with me in the comments or on social media!

Leaving the Land of Self Protection

“But he continues to pour out more and more grace upon us. For it says, God resists you when you are proud but continually pours out grace when you are humble.” 

James 4:6 TPT

I used to believe grace was something I had to work to have for others. I know we all need grace, but I thought that having grace for others was a skill to be honed, a discipline to be developed. It turns out, my lack of grace for others is actually an indication that I pridefully believed others needed grace more than me.  

My path to this revelation came through being in conflict with a few people I am close to. These people and the situations we found ourselves in were a catalyst in driving me to the revelation that I am not as generous with grace as I had previously thought. In closer relationships, I tend to believe I know the intent behind the actions of those I know best. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I can see that this line of thinking is rooted in self protection. 

As the name suggests, Self Protection is not interested in truth, it is interested in Self. My emotions would jump in to ensure my perception of the situation put me in the right and all of the unsavory actions from the other were viewed as an attack on me. Any of my unsavory actions were given a pass as they were traced back to my intent which is only ever good in the eyes of Self Protection. Self Protection is a ruthless way to operate. It takes on a “me against the world” mentality. Fight or flight is the go-to strategy, and I become the jury and judge of all that is done to me. 

When we are in charge, we take the role of god in our own relationships. If we are god, our resources to see the situation or relationship with anything other than selfish eyes is impossible. We do not have access to the resources of Heaven or the spirit that dwells in us while in the confines of Self Protection. Grace is a scarcity in the land of Self Protection, because it was never our job to conjure it up in the first place. And when we are operating in Self Protection, we cut off the Heavenly resources that Jesus paid such a high price to put at our disposal. Grace is a gift from Jesus. In Him we have all we need, and dear reader, we NEED grace. 

Ephesians 2:8 says 

“For it is by grace you have been saved. Through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–”

In 2 Thessalonians 1:2 it says

“Our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you’re to be.”

He offers these gifts (fruits of the spirit) to those willing to accept them. They are there because of who He is, not who we could ever be in our own power. All we need to do is leave Self and follow Jesus. Submit to His ways of being and let Self die daily. Self will protect you, but it will come at a cost that I am only now seeing is far too steep. I was looking for so many relationships to serve me and if they didn’t, I was on the defense at every turn. I had no clue for many years that this is how I was operating. I know what good behavior looks like and I know how to make my actions mirror the good morals I was brought up with. But my heart was methodically looking out for my best interests at every opportunity. Self doesn’t know how to be any other way. 

In the days and weeks and months to come I see myself crucifying old thought patterns and behaviors that only served Self. Some might die instantly and easily–others might go kicking and screaming, but I know there is newness of life being breathed in my spirit daily as I embrace a life of freedom from the land of Self Protection. Stay tuned for a deeper unpacking of how finding grace for myself (read: embracing the free gift of grace that has been waiting for me) unlocked my ability to give grace to others.

Level Up: A 2019 Word of the Year Review

This past year has turned out very different from what I would have predicted this time last year. Just over a year ago, I was on the hunt for a business property for my husband’s office when I stumbled upon a home that fit the bill of our hypothetical forever home. A home we had only talked about once and weren’t planning to pursue for another few years. Yet, here I sit celebrating one year in a home that fills me with joy and gratitude nearly every day.

A little over a year ago, I was dreaming of beginning to do more ministry in my own space. Having dealt with feeling like my dismal hosting skills would keep me from living out some of the dreams God had placed in my heart, I was asking God how to do more for His girls. He answered, and February will mark a year of doing what I call Friday Soak in my home once a month. Yes, not even a month after moving, I hosted women in my home. The goal was to hold space to just be and rest in whatever He had for them that day.

Not only has He helped me with hosting in a ministry capacity, but I have also had the opportunity to host family as they have traveled into town over the past year. A thing that we rarely did before, and I always stressed over. Now, it is a joy and that is a testimony in and of itself.

In the beginning of 2019, I chose a word: Level-Up. Now as I begin to reflect on how that word has played into the events of the last 11 months, I am blown away. He has upgraded so many areas of my life—least of which was my housing situation. I have seen Him use tension to invite me into a higher level of being. I have been enjoying massive breakthroughs that—although they cost me in the moment—were some of the biggest advances I have seen in my entire life! It wasn’t cheap! It cost me my pride, my self-protection, and my ability to “do it myself”. It felt like too much in the moment if I am honest. The only reason I pushed through and paid the price, was because I was sure to the deepest part of my being that God—the one who paid an even higher price for me—was asking me to. And true to who He is (you can’t out give God), I have received 10 times anything I paid. The counterfeit comfort I once knew can’t even compare to the newness I am experiencing now. 

Level Up had come to cover a lot of areas: my thinking, my self-worth, my confidence in what God has called me to do, learning to put to death selfishness and pride. I love being blown away at the end of the year by how God took my feeble willingness to choose a word and focus and make it into SO MUCH MORE than I ever thought or imagined (Ephesians 3:20 anyone?).

I have already begun to direct my attention to my word for 2020 and am excited to declare dependence and growth over my next calendar year. I have goals to be more active here and the exciting news that my book will be out in 2020!!!     

As I work to peel off old-self ways of thinking and being, I hope you pick up some encouragement if you choose to follow me on this journey. I can be found on Instagram and Facebook @embracingthewild and I am openly working to teach and encourage the beautiful message that saying yes to becoming holy (sanctification…I know churchy word) is the most fabulous journey you can take. You will never regret it! Let me know on social or the comments below how your 2019 word has played out. Also, if you have a word for 2020 please share. Mine will come in a new post next week.

The Tribe we Find

That time 5 years ago when I released a Mini Study on Friendship, and you can still buy it on Amazon!

 

Have you ever thought about how you’ve come to find the women in your life? Stop for a moment and reflect on who you would call in a moment of great need. Who do you text when you need prayer, a favor, people in your corner? These people matter more than you realize. They are the reason you stay afloat many times whether we acknowledge it in the moment or not.

Jesus had a following (lots and lots of people who were all about His truth). He had a tribe of people He could teach more in-depth and lead more intimately. He had people He could count on in the twelve. He looked to them for support and pushed them to believe beyond what their upbringing had asked of them. Then He had the three. He let down His guard completely with them. I believe it is a great model for us. We can have that crowd of people we interact with regularly. Do some life with, say hi, and catch up with at church or in the grocery store. We can have a smaller group of people that we let in a little more and remember details about their life and ask them how we can pray and support them. We also need to have a “group of 12” kind of thing that we are being more honest than with the general public and these people are allowed to pour into us. They can challenge us and hold us to a higher standard. Then there is the three. Your inner most group. Your core tribe. I don’t think it has to be 3 but if it was good enough for Jesus…well, you get it. I have three girlfriends and my husband that serve in this most vulnerable of places in my life. I am as real as I can be with these people. Even if I know what is getting ready to come out of my mouth is unsavory, I will say it to these people. They know me as much as anyone on earth can know me. They also all serve the same loving God and operate in the Holy Spirit which unifies and emboldens us to speak truth in love to each other. It is a beautiful thing and I am grateful to have this. Seven years ago, I would not have said this. I was floundering to not only have these relationships, but to be vulnerable enough in them to reap a bountiful harvest from our conversations. So what changed? How am I where I am today? I have a few secrets to share that I hope encourage you if you are still on the journey to finding your tribe.

  1. Prayer

I will not waver in my strong opinion that I am sitting in the wealth of prized women friends today because I cried out to the Lord and He heard my prayer. I begged for women that I could learn from  and then for women that I could pour into. I asked for a few years for God to send me friends that would help me grow and encourage me and that I could in turn encourage them. Over the last decade He has connected me with SO many amazing women and I would not be who I am today without them. So pray, be specific and believe that He is for community and He will answer this prayer in His perfect timing. Which brings me to number two.

2. Patience

I hate to bring this up, but it is part of the journey for many of us and I was no exception. I longed for true friendship, but in the desert time of waiting I leaned in and learned that I was missing a piece from God and He wanted to fill that before giving the human component. I see now what I could not see then. His timing is perfect and I am better for having waiting on Him.

3. Intentionality

Lastly, when I was given the connection with another woman, I intentionally put myself out there. Not all at once, wisdom, Dear Friend, to quote “Friends” I said share not scare. Be yourself in reasonable doses. There is a spirit check we need to do before going deep. Is this person safe, will they hold my vulnerability in confidence? Can I see myself building a friendship with them? Don’t take any old warm body as a bestie. Pray, and patiently seek the best for the relationship. Despite your great desire to connect to someone deeply, make sure you feel peace about them. But when you do, give that person your best. Be willing to share and bare their burdens as well. This takes intentionality—especially when we are busy with a family, work, etc.

If this is you and you are stuck in the desert, will you drop me a line and ask for prayer. I love praying for others and community is important to me, and I know it is important to God. Jesus modeled the need for others so we would know that it is important. He was great at show not simply tell.

Giving Credit: A Lesson in Gratitude

gratitude post

The other day my son (11) and I were in the van alone. I find he is more chatty in those moments running from here to there than when we are at home. Thankfully, I have been aware of this for the past year and I have been using that time to check in. “How is school going? Any big projects? Anything cool happen at school today? How are you feeling about soccer these days?” etc., etc. He will usually give me more than one word answers when he isn’t competing with his sisters for my attention. Well, this particular conversation was one I will cherish as a mom for years to come. It started out randomly.

 

“Hey Mom, God was really kind to me today. He saved me from a bad grade.”

Okay! This was unprompted and I was all ears! He went on to explain how he had this big group project that he had been working on over the past week. Presentations were supposed to happen that day, but because they took so long his group got bumped to the following day. He explained that as he was listening to all the others, he noticed they did something extra that he learned was expected with the project. He said that because he learned this before they gave theirs, he was able to add it to his group project and he and his partner would now get a better grade for having that other aspect added to their project.

This story isn’t in and of itself that interesting, but I want to point out that his first response to this “happy coincidence” is to give God credit. This past year I have felt God highlighting to me how I need to train my kids to see God’s goodness in their life. Help them make the connection that God is good and He is good to them. This little story was a huge gift and I fought back tears as I realized God was giving goodness to me in showing me the work of the daily grind of raising my kids is paying off. We don’t bat 1,000 around here, but I take a win when I can. I sent up a shout of praise in my heart as my boy and I continued our conversation about giving God praise in everything…good or bad. He then blew my mind by agreeing that even when something bad happened (he lost his ipad for a few days) he could see God was making a way (he was grateful that he had enough money in his account to replace it if needed).  I mean I was a wreck by the end of this 4 minute car ride from one place to another.

So I ask, are you pursuing a life looking to connect all things to a way to praise God? Praising Him and having an attitude of gratitude takes practice and intentionality, but I can see it changing my son’s perception on life. I believe in the science behind this too. He is rewiring pathways in his brain and shaping his body’s response system. Simply giving God credit stirs our heart to praise Him. Praise opens our heart to trust and believe He will do it again.

Start the cycle today!

Ask God to help you see His goodness in all the things this Holiday season is about to throw your way. Even the hard/unexpected. Ask God, show me your goodness in this. Be open to a perspective shift.

 

Merry Christmas to all! Christ came and will continue to come for you, every day of your life.

 

We Write to Remember

wewritetoremember

When my husband and I were dating, he took me to a chiropractic conference. It was one geared towards marketing a chiropractic office. I was in my (very) early twenties and it was my first business conference. I remember really leaning in when they started talking about affirmations. I believe they even made us all stand on the chair we were sitting in and repeat together the affirmation that was scrolling on the giant screen at the front of the large conference room. Although I was new to the world of chiropractic and even newer to the business side of it all, I felt the energy that filled the room. To see hundreds of adults standing on chairs and declaring powerful truths over their profession was something to behold!

In the last 13 years, I have been to a few different conferences for businesses of various types: chiropractic, writing, a home-based business I was a part of, as well as faith-based conferences. They all drive home a key point: your thought life is the keeper of your actions. It might be packaged in a completely different way depending on the common thread that brings the attendees together, but a major goal in each conference is to get you to think positively about the product you sell, the skill you have, and your ability to execute success.

This is a foundational truth that has biblical support. The Bible talks a lot about your thought life. We see characters who struggle with bouts of hopelessness and depression, but so often if you look at the big picture, they lived an amazing life. God showed up powerfully in their lives, yet their thoughts and mental power could still pull them into the pit. I bring this up for two reasons:

  1. You are not alone. From the greats to the least of these, we all have moments of weary thinking.
  2. Your thought life is incredibly important to evaluate and maintain.

One of my favorite examples of someone who had stinkin’ thinkin’ and still saw miracles was Elijah. He was cared for by ravens and still doubted that God saw him and met his needs! He displayed unshakeable faith in God by challenging the worshipers of Baal to a showdown of sorts between their god and his God. He even dumped water on his wood beforehand and God still consumed his offering in fire. (Side note: my favorite part of that story is when he trash talks the Baal worshipers by accusing their god of daydreaming or relieving himself! And that was BEFORE God showed up–talk about bravado!) The very next chapter we see Elijah terrified and running for his life! It is easy for us to give Eli the big eye roll here, but how often do we forget to be captivated by the miracles we have seen in our lives as soon as our circumstances turn south?

I love the story of Elijah because he makes us all feel human. I also appreciate the truth we can tuck away in our hearts about God. A common theme that I really believe God wants us to grasp from the pages of our Bibles is this: Our lack of faith or our depression or our _____ (fill in the blank with any human shortcoming) in the moment does not make us useless in the Kingdom. Let me make this even clearer. God has never and will never require us to be perfect. Before the beginning of time, the realization and solution to this problem was taken care of. What God wants is our heart and a total surrender to the reality that we cannot do this on our own. That’s it. Your pride will tell you that this is too high a price or that you are somehow giving up your freedom with this belief. But can I share a secret with you? One that someone on the other side of the leap can share with full confidence? Living a fully surrendered life is the most free kind of life there is. And the best part? This life is just the beginning. It will only get better from here (Earth), I promise!
Here is another piece of hope from Elijah. He goes back to truth about God. Although he has been known to slip into bouts of depression or hopelessness, he doesn’t stay there. He keeps fighting to be sure of God and His unmistakable power. That is what I want to encourage you with today. Going back to my story about the chiropractic conference. These men and women of the profession weren’t hearing these affirmations and being shocked to hear brand new information. They were being reminded of the passion they once had or the confidence they once possessed. We write to remember, and when you take time to write down truths about who God is or truths about who He says you are, you are able to be reminded. Even when your mind is so low, it can’t (on its own) remember, you can look at your journal or highlighted scriptures in your favorite Bible and you can speak truth over your heart.


Challenge: Write two truths about God and two truths about who He says you are in your journal or on a few index cards and read over them every day for a week. See if this begins to bring your mood up or your focus a little higher.

I am Worth It

i am worth it

The school year is officially underway! My kids are all back in school, and I can feel Routine waking from her fun (yet seemingly) short summer slumber. She is easing back into our lives like as if she never left. As this season approached, I began making a mental list of the things I would like to do on a regular basis again—as well as reworked the logistics of things that were already happening in the summer, but now need to be at different times. As the mom of the house, it is easy to put everyone else’s schedule and needs in place and then wedge my hopes and dreams in the cracks of what’s left over. I actually bought into the lie that this was noble. I felt extremely guilty when I didn’t follow this sacred protocol. Like I was somehow betraying my fellow tribesman, my Christian Mamas. This leads me to share with you one of the biggest lessons I learned last year:

I am worth it. (And I don’t love my family less for following my passion).

Here is a lot of how last year played out for me. I saw the long hours stretch in front of me and thought, “Wow! I can write and clean house and visit with friends, and still have time to pursue ministry opportunities and be at peace and fully present when the kids get off the bus etc., etc., etc.”
The dream seemed so real and so doable. Except the first few weeks I thought “Well, self care obviously (coffee date with a friend scheduled every few days because I have several I haven’t seen since school let out). Then let’s catch up on this house—sheesh! these kids are pigs still for being gone 7 and a half hours a day! Now, oh gosh, soccer keeps us really busy, it is too hard to establish a routine now. I mean my evenings are crazy with these practices…blah, blah, blah.”

I could keep going but I think you get the point. It was one thing after another and before I realized, the year was nearly over and I hadn’t even given a small percentage of my time developing myself. This had happened little by little over the course of the last few years and I did just enough for myself to feel like I was getting attention, but the big things—the things that make me come alive—I put those off and now I realize it was out of fear.

Fear of not succeeding (and then I will have wasted time that could have been spent on family needs).
Fear of being judged for spending “too much” time on my projects (too much being a subjective thing that I am not sure could be literally defined).
Fear of putting myself out there (this is akin to not succeeding, but is more about being found out as having no talent as opposed to not hitting a particular mark).

So I stopped writing regularly for the “sake of my family” and hid under self protection. I am not hiding any more. I am not hoping to squeeze in a writing session sometime this week. I am also no longer going after success, approval or a following. I am writing for God—the very one who placed this desire in my heart. In reading Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis) she says something to the effect that no-one else will want your dream as badly as you do. This wasn’t brand new information, but when I read that I instantly knew that a piece of my hangup was that I wanted my husband and my tribe to carry my dream for me at times. That is never going to happen. Sure they are supportive and they will encourage me, but if I am expecting them to carry my vision for me, it is DOA. Once I stopped looking at them to create the motivation to pursue my dream, I have had fresh vision. I have to be the one that mans this ship and runs wild after my dream. (and I say that with the assumption that I am first seeking God’s wisdom and His vision for me). When/if my husband or family has a qualm with what I am doing, I expect them to share that with me. I can’t be super proactive and hamper my efforts to appease them. We need to work together to strike a balance. But doing it without their input and before they have voiced concerns is a false humility and rooted in excuses.

Getting to this place has been freeing in ways I never expected. Now I can turn to God and let Him lead me to the next place of revelation. For me, I think I hear Him say to schedule the writing time and go with it…even if I am “not feeling it”. Furthermore, when I am not feeling it, I can lean in and unpack that a little bit, because there is a chance that little “not feeling it” could be a small fox coming to spoil the vine (bible reference…Solomon 2:15). I am a feeler and sometimes the enemy uses them to pull me—ever so slightly—away from what God wants for me. Taking a moment to pause and acknowledge the feeling takes most of its power away. Being willing to be honest with myself takes the rest away.

I am not sure what it is for you, but you have something that makes you come alive inside. Do you give it space in your life? Do you struggle to find it worthy of your consistent time? Why?

What is God Teaching You?

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This blog…it has been around for a while, but it is neglected as of late. As a matter of fact it has been 6 months since I have even looked at it. Forgive me. I would like to think that it will change for good this time and maybe it will, but I make no promises.

Last year this time I was embarking on a new chapter in my life and I was swimming in some pretty tough stuff. My entire life was turned upside down. I was entering a season of all three of my kids being in school all day. A year prior to that I was homeschooling my oldest and had my youngest home aside from preschool. Then we transitioned the older back to public school in January of 2017 and the youngest graduated from preschool that May, which led to everyone being poised to embark on elementary school in full force come August of 2017.

I give all of that backstory to say that the 2017-2018 school year taught me a lot about myself. I had time autonomy for the first time in a decade and really for the first time in my adult life. I ran into it thinking it was going to be an awakening of sorts, and it was, but not in the way I thought a year ago. Have you ever had decision paralysis? When you have so many options that you simply can’t choose and move forward? That was me. Too many hours in a day. Now before I unpack this, for those of you still living your moments of freedom between the hours of 9:15am and 1pm 2-3 days a week, hear me out. It will not always be like it is right now, and I would give you a slick party line about enjoying it while it lasts, but truth be told, you will and you won’t. Be kind to yourself for where you are. Enjoy the moments when you can, and hide in the pantry with a pint of Halo Top when you can’t. Grace upon grace.

So, I had too many hours. I was so overwhelmed with the windfall of hours I was give FIVE DAYS IN A ROW, EVERY WEEK (save those few tiny breaks between August and May) that I just didn’t know how to spend them. I then wrestled with how best to spend them and began frittering them away on little things that probably didn’t amount to anything. I did this so much that when added together, those hours could have produced the next great American novel (or at least the page number equivalent). I let mom guilt, unreal expectations, and lies that “I am not worth the time it takes to pursue a personal dream” steal so. many. hours.

Again, if you are reading this, it is not a call to feel guilty about what you have or have not accomplished. This goes much deeper than that. It is about leaning in and asking God what I am supposed to be doing and actually doing it. I sent a lot of time examining myself and my habits over the last 12 months and I used this first year of freedom to do some personal maintenance. Let me share a few of the things I did/learned in the last year.

1.  I am worth it.

I learned that I have put myself on the back burner a lot while raising these kids. Some would call this a badge of honor as we mothers selflessly put our families above our own ambitions. On one hand I wholeheartedly agree. On the other I shake my head no. I am all for sacrifices for the family unit and going “all in” in some capacity while your kids are little, but how often do we put ourselves down while putting ourselves last? I started to gain weight over the last 3 years and I also quit writing regularly. If someone would have asked me why I would have hidden behind the family unit excuse. But the reality was I didn’t value myself enough to address these issues. Something I learned over the last year is that no one is going to want my dreams more than me. So I have to believe in them and go after them for me, and not wait for even my husband to validate them. Once God gives the thumbs up, I need to run like my hair is on fire. I need to value myself enough to put my feet in the direction of my dreams. No one else is going to give me the “golden permission” I have been waiting for. Make it work, figure it out. You are worth the effort it will take to achieve the thing that makes you come alive.

2. Time needs to be managed like money.

I will be the first to admit that I am terrible at budgeting. I HATE being a money micromanager. I cannot tell you how we have made it this far in life in the financial place we are in except that we are generous in the Kingdom and God has taken care of my stupid self. I am a deal hound and not prone to big purchases, but if it weren’t for my saver husband, we would probably be in trouble simply because I am so nonchalant with day to day spending. With that said, I see that God is showing me the value of managing this are better. Much like I let hours slip through my fingers by unmanaged minutes, I let dollars slip through in unmanaged cents. This is a piece of my personality I am still trying to understand and work with God to be renewed in. I wish I had more answers at this time, but acknowledging the problem is a step in the right direction. For now, the idea is that if I plan ahead how I will spend my time I can get more done and enjoy my relaxation time more. Right now this looks like spending some time each Sunday looking at the week ahead to understand which days will be busier than others. Then I also make a list of things to get done tomorrow. Each night I make a quick list of things I need to get done in my free time. (I believe once I get this down a little better, I can apply it to my budget and see a clearer picture of our finances from month to month…we shall see).

 

3.  Little goals are the key to big goals.

In addition to these big take aways of 2017-2018, I am seeing something new emerge for me. I often set BIG goals and get super overwhelmed with how to make July 26, 2018 Ashley do the things that January 17, 2019 needs to accomplish. I begin to crumble shortly after setting the goal and end up imploding and only bringing a portion of myself to the main event. Then I use my family or some other lame excuse as my reason for not accomplishing the goal. Not anymore. I am committed to the second step of making a big goal for myself: creating checkpoints and smaller goals. This is what has been missing in my life and what has kept me from writing that book, losing that weight, and putting myself out there in ministry. I think of the verse in Zechariah 4:10 that says:

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.

Small beginnings are something I undervalue when my eyes are on the big prize and I am salivating at the idea of what it will feel like to accomplish it. However, I lose that lovin’ feelin’ in the mundane of the journey to get there. God has been pulling me back and making me aware of the beauty found in the journey. Make big goals, but consider them incomplete if you don’t also have a list of small goals that will contribute to the achievement. But don’t stop there, share them with someone who will cheer you on and hold you accountable. This is what makes it the most real.

 

Whew! You made it! And more surprisingly so did I. This post contains just a few of the lessons that God is teaching me. What is He teaching you? I’d love to know. If you think it’s nothing, than you just aren’t hearing Him. He is always teaching us something. Good Daddy’s keep the lessons coming to all who are eager to learn.