Scarcity Pie

Hi, my name is Kylie, and I’m a podcast junkie.

Okay, bad and overdone jokes aside? I'm crazy, head-over-heels in love with podcasts. If you hang around me longer than an hour at some point in the conversation I’ll probably lean in and excitedly share something particularly juicy I recently heard in a podcast. #nerdalert

So it’s no surprise that with the amount of podcasts I listen to that I can’t remember exactly where I heard the concept of scarcity pie, but if it comes to me, I promise I’ll give the podcaster credit. Sometimes we believe there’s only so much “good stuff” to go around which is why we tend to get antsy whenever something good happens to someone else. We get especially antsy whenever something good happens to "that person." Don't act like you don't know who I'm talking about because I know you know. We wonder things like, if that good thing could happen to them, what does that mean for me? They just took the last good job, didn’t they? They just snapped up the last good man, which means I’m doomed to be single forever, doesn't it? Ugh, they got a book deal/pregnant/trip around the world/miniature pony with diamond encrushted sequins braided into its mane? I’m done for.

We think if someone gets a slice of the pie, that means there’s less to go around for the rest of us. I’m pretty sure scarcity pie is made of poisoned apples that causes our hearts to rot. When someone else gets a slice of scarcity pie, it’s almost like they hold up a mirror to us that reflects back our deepest insecurities.

In my work as a counselor/coach and in my own personal experience as a human being, I know how difficult facing fears of feeling not enough or worries about being too much can be. These aren’t easy things to navigate.

One part of working out who we are and our place in this world is recognizing we are lovable exactly as we are. For most of us, it’s a hard concept to accept. Our chummy, BFF status with our shortcomings can cause us to struggle to identify the things about us that are good. But it runs so much deeper than that or else we would be able to shake free from this struggle much more easily than we do. Ever the over thinker, I’ve been wondering what it is that makes it so stinking hard to believe our hearts are good? I’ve begun to wonder if it’s because we are eating from a different kind of scarcity pie? If we recognize the good in ourselves, do we feel like it somehow takes away from the goodness of others? Have we somehow begun to believe there only so much heart-goodness to go around?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson

We’re called to be light in this world (Matt. 5:14). Part of shining our light is learning to make peace with who we are. Recognizing that we are deeply loved and were crafted with careful intention to shine brightly and intentionally living from that space doesn’t take anything away from anyone else. Instead, it contributes deeply to the world because walking in your freedom invites people to step into their own freedom.

Let’s put down our forks and push away from the scarcity pie. There’s enough goodness to go around in every single area of life, my friends.

When you feel unlovable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. 

I know, I know - now that it’s February and we’re surrounded by hearts, pink and red decor, and all things cupid, it may seem a little cliché but truthfully, love is something I think about quite often. Hopefully that doesn't make me a walking Hallmark movie. (Oh, who am I kidding, I love a good cheesy Hallmark movie, so that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world!) No, really, in all seriousness, there’s something in particular I’ve been trying to suss out these past few months and I’m going to do my best to put it into words.

Have you ever noticed it’s much easier for us to give love than to accept it? It’s also far easier to believe the voices that call us worthless and unlovable. When we believe these voices, success and popularity become solutions that woo us. But what grabs us and pulls us all the way under is self-rejection. The greatest enemy in our walk with God is self-rejection because it contradicts his voice - the voice that calls us not just lovable, but deeply and wholly loved. Being his beloved is the very truth of who we are.

But simply knowing we’re the beloved isn’t enough. Take an honest inventory of the people in your lives and ask yourself, “how many people are living like they are the beloved?” Then, bravely take an honest inventory of your own self and your own beautiful heart and ask yourself, “am I living like I am the beloved?” For many of us, the answer is no. We discover that something keeps this truth of our truest identity from sinking into our innermost being. These past few months I’ve found myself pondering what makes it so hard for us to fully believe we’re the beloved?

Perhaps it’s this: when we realize we’re lovable not in spite of who we are, but because of who we are, it shakes up life as we know it. Things get turned upside down. When the status quo gets shifted in such a way that the foundation of our existence comes crumbling down, suddenly everything we thought we knew doesn’t hold up in the light of day anymore. And it takes real humility to be okay with the fact that everything we thought we knew about ourselves has been wrong.

Oh, but friends...knee deep in this kind of sacred heart work we could all rejoice and celebrate how wrong we have been because this is where we come face to face with freedom. Realizing we were wrong all along and that we are actually lovable, deeply loved, and cherished so much that God calls us his daughters, his prizes, his ambassadors? That can be life changing, if we'll let it all the way in.

Yes, it’s true letting love all the way in feels ridiculously scary and terrifyingly vulnerable, so we can convince ourselves to simply be the one who pours love into others, but that’s not fair. Letting love all the way in is an act of love in and of itself. Maybe one of the most tender and loving things we can do for those who we love is to let their love in. Letting the love of others in is a way we get to love them. It’s turns out it’s all a beautiful, cyclical wheel of love. 

And that includes letting the love of God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - all the way into the deepest, most hidden parts of who we are. It’s a way we get to show him how much we love him.

Girls - we’re lovable just as we are. We’re loved wholly and completely in this moment. We’re the beloved not in spite of who we are, but because of who we are. No matter who we are, what we’ve done, or what we haven’t done...we’re deeply, and incandescently loved. Come what may, this will never change.

My prayer for us this February is that we’ll let his truth and his never ending love all the way in.

A Year of Peace

My friends!

First things first - how was your Christmas? Maybe it was like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, but if it wasn't, I'm here to tell you you're not alone. I spent part of Christmas in tears because my beloved grandfather is beginning to struggle against the inevitability of the aging process, and it's breaking my heart. This life, while insanely beautiful, can also be so brutal, can't it? 

So, how are you feeling about the new year? I've always been a new year junkie. I had big, glamorous plans to share my new year's routine with you in December so you could welcome 2017 with grace and intentionality, but that didn't happen. Here's the truth: I just needed to slow down, which is why I went MIA. Last year I started a new day job which has been so life giving, full of belly laughs, and so much fun I never could have dreamed it was possible, but starting anything new is tiring! On top of finding my way on the work front, I lost my footing after my struggle with pneumonia, and I've had a tough time getting back into my routines and rhythms. All that to say, I'm grateful for a new year with a chance to mindfully create new routines and rhythms. You with me?

I thought I'd share my heart as we enter this new year. Of course I created dreams and goals because that's what I do, but I also started off 2017 by prayerfully choosing my word for the year. I struggled and stressed more with my word for 2017 than I have for any other year. (Which is awfully ironic, considering the word I landed on!) But I am so excited to share the word that finally connected with my heart because it encompasses every other word I was considering. So, without further ado, my word for 2017 is:

P E A C E.

I connect with this word for so many reasons, and I will unpack it more in the weeks to come, but here is a brief overview of the areas I want to find peace over these next 365 days:

Peace with God: I want to live every day recognizing God is who he says he is and he will finish what he started in me. This truth takes a ton of pressure off me to try and do it all and be perfect every step of the process. I want everything I do to bring glory to God. I want to stop worrying and stressing and pray more. I want to trust that God truly does have good things planned for me and that he, in only the way he does, brings beauty from all things. Simply remembering this truth brings peace to my soul. I want to live from this place of peace and make all of my decisions from this place, too.

Peace with myself: Girls, I've gotta be straight with you - I am my own worst critic. I'm so tough on myself. But even more than that, I tend to cling to the criticism of others like it's a life raft, but really, it's a sinking ship, and it's going down FAST. I want this to be the season of life where I finally make peace with the truth - I am enough, not because of anything I will ever do or not do, but simply because God says I am. A woman I admire greatly posted a quote on social media this week that said, "Enough is a feast." That quote resonated so deeply with me. I'm done with begging for scraps from the table when I could pull up a chair and be part of the feast. 

Peace with others: While working with my own coach last year, I realized this is an area I want to continue to grow in 2017. Last year I learned that when I live like I'm not enough, it's difficult to let the love people pour into me all the way in. I worked on this a lot last year, and praise Jesus, I have grown so much! I want to continue to work on receiving the love people give me because this love is such an exquisite gift that I'm so thankful for. On the opposite end of the spectrum, not believing I am enough has led to me sometimes not having the best boundaries with others. Sometimes I have allowed people to speak to me in a way that doesn't benefit either one of us. Last year, I began to experience first hand all I have learned about boundaries, and this year, I am going to continue to uphold boundaries I began to implement last year. And if people aren't okay with the boundaries I have in place, I am going to be okay with letting them move on and trust that God has both of our best interests at heart. Sometimes letting go is the most loving thing of all. 

Phew. How's that for a heavy, deep start to 2017? I'm clearly not interested in tiptoeing enough the permitter of this year - I'm diving all the way in!

Here's the thing: claiming the word peace for 2017 doesn't mean every moment of my life will include a serene smile painted across my lips with harp music playing in the background. More than anything, I'm interested in long-term peace, and I know to get there I may have to slog through some muck and mire, and I am so okay with that. 

Jesus says, come to me you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. That's the ultimate peace I'm interested in this year. I just want to get to December 31, 2017 and know + love Jesus better, know myself better, and love his people better. 

So those are the big themes. How about next week we talk about specific goals?

Do you have a word of your year? Some major themes? You know me, I've love to hear them! Share in the comments below or email me!

Let it be Restful

To quote the ever-eloquent Britney Spears, “Oops, I did it again.”

Several years ago I spent all of Advent backing myself into a corner trying to be the hostess with the mostest. I pined all the pins, baked all the cookies, created all the crafts, and bought all the presents. By the time Christmas morning rolled around I was so worn out that all I wanted to do was stay in bed, pull the covers up over my head, and sleep straight through until the new year.

Never again, I muttered as I finally fell into bed that night, only to find myself in the same exhausted stupor the following year.

Why do we do this to ourselves, ladies? As women after God’s heart, we know good and well what this season is about. But we continue to run ourselves ragged all in the hopes of having the “perfect Christmas.”

But here’s the catch (and a giant spoiler alert!): the perfect Christmas? It already happened in a stable in Bethlehem. The OG Christmas was the best Christmas, and nothing we ever do is ever going to top it.

Which is such great news, right? It allows us to jump off the tinsel-covered hamster wheel and straight into our Father’s arms for an Advent like never before.

We’re going to start this journey to the greatest Advent of our lives by taking a huge, audacious gulp of air because bailing on the Christmas rat race takes some courage. I get it. We want to have a wonderful, memorable holiday season with the people we love, and it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. We worry that if we don’t do it all, we’re terrible moms, daughters, sisters, and friends. But I’ve got to ask you something: where did we get this idea? Certainly not from our Father. The One who hung the moon in the sky and crashes the waves into the shore knows otherwise. He tells us He will fight for us - we need only to be still (Ex. 14:14). If He will fight for us, surely he will hold the gap if we stop trying to do it all this Christmas season in order to find some real, true rest in the depths of his fierce love instead?

The truth is, finding rest, especially during Advent, isn't something that happens on accident. It’s something we must get intentional about. We’ve got to say no to some things to find rest. We can't do it all, so let's stop trying to do it all, okay?

Instead, let’s be women who decide to be deliberate about using Advent as a time of preparation, but not in the way the world asks of us. We know Christmas isn’t found on Pinterest, in the mall, or in the kitchen. Christmas is found in our beloved Jesus. So let’s find rest in the knowledge that our hearts are his dwelling place now and forevermore.

Everything's Not Going to Be Okay

Friends! I can barely believe it’s been well over a month since we’ve gotten to talk. I’ve missed you guys! I was was down for the count with a case of the flu which became the gift that kept on giving when it turned into pneumonia, which caused intense complications with the asthma I was diagnosed with as a little girl. Thankfully I don’t even have to think about things like inhalers, medications, and breathing treatments most of the time because that pesky asthma rarely gives me problems anymore, but then there are times like this past month when it gets the best of my body and I find myself struggling to draw life into my lungs.

These past few weeks I found myself gasping for air, coaching myself through the moment by saying things like, when I can breathe fully again, everything is going to be okay. When I can go a full day and not feel like I’ve been hit by a freight train, everything’s going to be okay. Just hang in there. It will all be okay soon.

I’ve gotta to be real - that moment where I couldn’t walk up the stairs because my lungs felt clamped shut? Not my finest, that’s for sure. When I woke up gasping for air in the middle of the night? I was basically paralyzed with fear. Not being able to breathe is absolutely terrifying.

So one day in the midst of one of those moments where I could barely inhale and I was trying to find peace in knowing that it would pass and everything would be okay soon enough, the Holy Spirit breathed truth into me that was more nourishing than a lungful of oxygen could have been:

Everything's not going to be okay because everything is already okay.

At first I snorted to myself, thinking, well, isn't that a sweet little churchy quote? Is everything really okay if I can't draw in a full breath? But the more I pondered it, the more I was hit smack in the middle of my gut with some serious, humbling conviction.

I realized I’m quick to tell other people everything is already okay because Jesus has won. God has declared us his daughters, his ambassadors, his girls...but when I was in the thick of it, how easy it was for me to stray from this truth. How easy it was for me to cling to the fear of never being able to draw in a full breath again. How easy it was for me lay awake out of fear that it could be my last night on earth if I had an asthma attack gone wrong. How easy it was to let go of God's comfort and trade it in for worry. How easy it was for me to let the truth fade away...

In other words?

I forgot.

I forgot that everything isn’t going to be okay because it already is. Even when the world feels like it’s crumbling. Even when it feels like the air has been sucked out of the room. Even when everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong?

Emmanuel - God is with us.

And because of that, everything is already okay.

It’s the truth I’m consciously choosing to remember right now in the face of so much heartbreak, so much uncertainty, and the heaps of what feels like unending suffering that permeates this world. 

I pray you are well, my sweet friends, and that you find peace and freedom in knowing that everything isn't going to be okay.

Because it already is.

October dreams!

Do you like reading other women’s dreams and goals? I LOVE it. Reading the things that light women up and get them moving fires me up like nothing else. I love that in spite of everything we have going on, women still get vulnerable and say, "This is where I am, and this is where I hope to go." It lights a fire under me, that’s for sure.

Is it strange to start sharing monthly goals on the blog in October? Most people probably do that sort of thing in January. I think there’s something freeing about going there now before the whole, new year, new you hubbub starts. So let's get cracking. Here are my October dreams and goals:

  1. Move at least 3x a week. I have been so busy lately I haven’t done anything exercise-wise other than power walk around the grocery store. This week I received the sweetest message from my 86 year old email friend telling me about how often she exercises and gals, let me tell you - it was humbling. She made me decide to stop making excuses and get moving.
  2. Carve a pumpkin and roast the seeds. If you’ve never roasted your pumpkin seeds, let this year be the year you start a new tradition. It’s easy! Once you’ve scooped the seeds from the pumpkin, clean all the goop off the seeds, pat them dry, toss in olive oil and salt, and roast at 350, stirring every 7 minutes or so until the seeds are a light golden brown (maybe about 20 minutes). SO GOOD.
  3. Sit on the back porch with my puppy and a cup of hot tea and do nothing other than savor fall.
  4. Spend time in prayer and meditation every morning.
  5. Write daily for 30 minutes, especially on the days when I feel like I have nothing to write. Those tend to be the days I need to write the most.
  6. Get a massage. Self-care, my friends!
  7. Celebrate my successes. The other day I was talking very matter-of-factly to a friend about the articles I’ve had picked up for publication recently. She was so excited for me that it made me realize I tend to jump from thing to thing without really celebrating these big moments. I want to intentionally do something to mark this moment of life where some of my big, life-long dreams are really coming true. I’m not sure what I'm going to do to celebrate yet, but I want to do something special!
  8. Choose feeling over numbing. This is something I plan to write more about at some point. Stay tuned!

What about you my friends? What are your October dreams and goals? I’d love to read yours, cheer you on, and get inspired!!

Let it be your undoing.

So here’s what I know for sure: when we make the decision to let go of life as we've known it - the contained, small version of life, the version where we've pretended we were in control, the version where we danced around the perimeter of the woman we were created to be, the version where we imitated others and believed what the world told us to believe - it’s going to bring up some big, messy feelings and emotions. We’ve held on tight to the lies for so long that the experience of actively encountering the feelings that come on the heels of letting go feels brand new, overwhelming, and scary. Spoiler alert: it’s supposed to feel that way precisely because it is all of those things.

And here’s why: we’ve clung to our junk for years. For some of us, we’ve clung to it as long as we can remember. We’ve gripped tight until our knuckles turned white because we feared the discomfort that would barge into our sterile existence if we looked things straight on and felt the entire, wild depth of the messy stuff. Most of the time, the burden from carrying this big stuff has been overwhelming. We aren’t taught how to deal with the overwhelm, so instead of admitting that we don’t know what to do, we keep hiding out, clinging, stuffing, numbing, and trying with all of our might to avoid the feeling the emotion that’s married to the big stuff. Those two are in it for real, ‘til death do they part. In other words, if we want to deal with the big stuff that comes with the territory of letting go, we’ve got to be willing to deal with the emotions that’s going to come along with it.

I recently read the word “emotion" comes from the French word “émouvoir,” which means "to stir up."  Just when I thought I couldn’t love the French more for inventing things like croissants and macarons, they go and prove me wrong. Leave it to them to go and put skin on the word-bones we’ve had ruminating through our minds but didn’t know how to flesh out ourselves. When we feel our emotions, everything gets stirred up. When feelings are felt, our sterile existence just can’t exist anymore. Emotions bring air to our hearts - the same hearts we’ve been unknowingly suffocating for years. When the emotions come, our hearts gratefully draw in a deep gasp of oxygen, elated to join the land of the living again. But our minds? Oh, our minds pitch a fit, because they want things to go back to the way they were before all this mess got rolling, thank you very much.

Which is exactly why so many of us try to avoid feeling feelings. We think we don’t want to be stirred up. Somehow we’ve bought into the lie that says we prefer numbly going through the motions. We’re convinced that things feel safer in the land of unfeeling because we’re able to keep pretending we’re in control that way.

But in the deepest, wildest parts of our hearts, we know. We know that isn’t really the kind of life we want.

Our hearts are good, my friends. They’re just junked up with believing some stuff that’s untrue. Our job is to figure out what that junk is and sit with it - not in order to “fix ourselves" - but so we can live free. Let's decide for once and for all to be done with that whole "fixing ourselves" charade. Let’s just go and get free. Jesus has already gifted us with that freedom. So let’s figure out what’s keeping us from walking in it and get after it.

We can’t numb our pain without numbing our joy. We can’t selectively decide to numb parts of our life without numbing them all. We want the joy, yes? So we also have to be willing to feel the depth of the hard stuff, too.

It’s going to be so gritty and raw, but let’s get stirred up, gals. Let’s stop dreading the undoing. Let's boldly and wildly feel it all.

Because our undoing is only the beginning. 

So let it happen. Feel all the feelings.

It's just a place to start.

The broken hallelujahs.

// We shall draw near to God, not by trying to avoid sufferings inherent in all loves, but accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all our defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it. // {C.S. Lewis}

{My friends - this letting go thing is much more difficult than I anticipated, and it's bringing up some big emotions. Instead of writing something new for the blog this week, I'm sitting at the feet of Jesus to let him minister to my heart. I thought I would skip posting anything at all today, but then I felt led to share this newsletter I sent my email friends a few weeks ago to remind us all that Jesus is in the thick of the huge feelings with us and if we press in, he will turn our broken hearts into broken hallelujahs. Sending you all love and courage to keep pressing in, sisters.}

Have you ever noticed how they tend to come in seasons, these heartbreaks? Heartbreaks over unanswered prayers, heartbreaks over dreams that have gone awry, heartbreaks over friendships that have cracked right down the middle and you fear will never be able to be repaired...

Our natural tendency is to run from the pain, to numb out, or to play pretend, hoping if we turn our backs long enough the heartbreak will become a figment of our imaginations. But there comes a point where it all catches up. There, in that space where reality reaches into the depths of our heart, no amount of magic pixie dust exists to carry this charade on any longer and we're forced to face it: the exquisite, crushing agony of the heartbreak.

One of my sweet friends shared a powerful Brené Brown video on Facebook this week. Brené gives a wonderful account of how many people believe Jesus will take away the pain we feel. We hope Jesus will be our anesthetic. No such luck. Instead, Jesus holds out his hand to us and says, I want more for you than the easy way out. You're not alone in this my darling. No matter how dark it feels, no matter how heavy it's pressing in on you, no matter if you believe you're an invisible nobody, I've. Got. You. 

// These broken hearts turning into broken hallelujahs // {Leonard Cohen}

The heartaches will come, my friends. So let us choose to be broken for a purpose, setting our eyes on the dawn that is to come, because we know - it is His love and His love alone that carries us through the deepest pits of darkness and will carry us into the hallelujahs.

When surrender feels like death.

I’m going out on a limb: maybe we’ve had it all wrong. Maybe it’s not really just as simple as prying our fingers from the ledge and free-falling into the strong arms of God. Perhaps the first place to start isn’t letting to at all. Instead, it seems before we can even entertain the idea of letting go, we have to start at the very beginning; we have to learn our Father’s heart. We have to feel confident of the fact that his posture towards us is one of love, and nothing we could ever do would change that.

That’s not groundbreaking news. It’s something most of us have heard often. So why can’t we believe it? What’s keeping us from rooting deep into his love for us?

It's an all consuming fear of death. Surrender is a death of the flesh, and we live in a culture where death is feared. But this death, the kind of death that Jesus asks of us, is different. Whenever we die to our flesh it doesn’t mean we’re drawing out our final breath so we better make it a good one because we’ll never live to see another day.

This kind of death is where abundant life - life to the full - really begins. We so often think glorified life begins when we’re in heaven, but we don’t have to wait that long and can experience it here on earth - if we cooperate with God. Jesus shows us it’s true. It wasn't until he died that he came into all of his full glory. The resurrected Christ saved us all. Without his death and resurrection, we would not have this gift of eternal life. And it can be experienced here on earth. We know it because when he was resurrected, the first place Jesus came was earth:

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) {emphasis added}

Jesus sets the example and asks us a bold question with his life: if we are unwilling to face the death of our flesh how can we come to full into our own fullness of life and spirit?

Maybe it’s supposed to feel like surrender is death because that’s exactly what it is. We're invited to die to our flesh only so we can experience true life - abundant life - full life. Without that death how can we be resurrected into the fullness of life? So when it feels like you're about to die as you face the prospect of surrender, yeah you are. And that's okay. Because that’s exactly where true life begins.

If we let our flesh lead on this journey of surrender and letting go, we’re going to run right back to the ledge and cling for our lives. There’s no way we’re going to let go and free-fall into God’s grasp. Then we’ll get to the end of our lives and discover we never really lived at all. But if we make a choice to surrender, to die to our flesh to instead let our spirits lead, we'll be able to connect to our Father’s heart and not just know, but experience, his posture of love towards us.

All the “deaths” of life have a purpose: to bring us smack into life to the full. Letting go is how we encounter it.

The only way I know to begin this journey of letting go is for us to let our flesh die.

But even more importantly, the only way I know to begin this journey of letting go is for us to live from our spirits.

Lord, let it be.

Holding back and letting go.

In a session with my counselor (yes, even counselors have counselors!) she once said she often had an image of me clinging to the edge of a cliff, my fingers and arms aching in agony from hanging on for dear life so long. “If only you could let go and know that God would catch you, you could be free. All you have to do is decide to let go,” she said with intensity.

"All I have to do?" I chuckled to myself. "Do you really think letting go is that easy?"

The idea of letting go isn’t a new concept to me. Many (okay, fine - many, many, many) years ago, long before Elsa ever sang a word about letting go and how the cold never bothered her anyway, I sat in my room one ordinary day, thick in the swells of teenage angst. I remember crying and praying about life and what it all meant. Suddenly, out of what felt like nowhere, there is was; as clearly as if it had been audibly uttered into the recesses of my heart, the Holy Spirit whispered, “Let go.” I stood up with goosebumps on my arms and in the midst of such a holy moment actually had the audacity to shake my head no to God! You see, the only thing more impossible than the struggle I found myself in was the idea of letting go. I clung tightly to every piece of my life, desperate for control. To let go of the illusion of control I clothed myself in every morning was unfathomable.

The theme of letting go continues to find its way into my life often, much to my frustration. I’m frustrated because it’s something I still need to learn, even after all this time. I really wish I could share that I’ve pried my fingers off the edge of the cliff and have free fallen into the strong arms of God, but that wouldn’t be true. A more honest and accurate report would be that I have released a finger or two from its years-long cliffside post, which is progress and such a good thing - but I want something more.

Last week in the blog comments a sweet reader shared that her friend often points out there is a difference between trusting in God and trusting God, with the latter being the most difficult. I couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly what I want - true, unwavering, unadulterated trust in our Father. And to get there, I know I have to stop holding back and let go.

Living a life of not having to hold ANYTHING back - isn’t that what we’re really after? When we get vulnerable with people and share our hearts, we do it because in the back of our minds we hope someone will say, I see you, I hear you, and I love you, even in this. Especially in this. You’re not too much. You’re not not enough. You’re wonderful, just as you are. In the deepest corners of our hearts we desire to be in relationships where we get to meet each other in this level of vulnerability and authenticity and find total and complete acceptance. I’m convinced of it.

So often we go off in search of this validation from people with skin on because in some ways, it feels easier. We need to hear it audibly and I think that’s okay. But the truth is, we will never get enough validation or acceptance from any person because at our core, we are needy people. The neediness isn’t something we need to fear. We were made that way, after all. Which makes it all the more important to realize that ultimately, we crave this acceptance because our spirits long for this unity with God above all else.

We can have small tastes of this acceptance with God without going all in and fully letting go. I know because I have experienced it for myself, and I’ve spoken with other women who have too. But if we want it for real, in a way that changes us from the inside out? We have to let go. Because when we let go, it means we no longer have to hold anything back. And that’s freedom, my friends.

I wish I had a bullet point list of something to give you like, “5 Ways to Let Go!” but it just isn’t happening - at least not now. This is something that I am smack in the middle of learning. When I started writing and publishing my words years ago, one thing I knew for sure is that I am called to get vulnerable and share what God is doing in my heart so other women would know they aren’t alone in their struggles. So. I’m going to get really brave and share my heart over these next few weeks (or months...or gulp...years?) as I learn more about what it means to let go, how to actually do it, and the fallout that may come as a consequence. This is the craziest thing I’ve done writing-wise. I usually only write and share the lessons I’ve learned long after they’ve happened and I’ve had lots of time to process, but I’m smart enough to know that letting go is going to be something I learn about my whole life. If I wait until I feel secure in this area, it’s going to be something I spend forever waiting on. I know this is going to be messy and probably not eloquent in the slightest, but I think I’m okay with it. I'm doing this because I need to learn how to surrender and let go. 

And maybe, just maybe, this is something somebody else needs to learn about, too.

So I'm letting go and sharing my journey with you.

When the prayer goes unanswered.

If I could have earned a prize for prayer effort, I would have collected the grandest, most beautiful, sparkling, shiny trophy that ever existed. (Clearly this trophy wouldn’t have been issued in the Humble Olympics, but I digress.) For years I was Type-A-level committed to a particular prayer for a person I cared about very much. I prayed all over the world; I kneeled in ancient churches, lit candles in cathedrals, and whispered the longings of my heart to God atop landmarks in different time zones. Due to my all-in commitment to this prayer, I was convinced God would answer it the way I hoped he would. I clung to the verses that said God would give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4), that nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26), and that if I had faith as miniscule as a mustard seed, it would happen (Matthew 17:20). I waited and waited, psyching myself up during the “in the meantime,” sure that if I just tried harder and prayed more, God would give me this thing I dreamt of.

But it didn’t happen.

And when it became clear to me that it wasn’t going to ever happen, oh, did it ache. The ache was strong -  too strong - so I tried to numb the agony by running from the feeling of isolation that God’s no sent straight to the center of my being. The only way I knew to try and run from God was to stop praying. I felt like if I shut him out, He couldn’t hurt me anymore.

It crushes our spirits when we boldly utter the innermost desires of our tender hearts to our Father and it feels like he doesn’t hear us. When the prayers go unanswered, we often decide God isn’t trustworthy because it seems like he took our desires, squandered them, and crushed our hearts into smithereens in the process. But is that really the story God wrote, or did we write that story ourselves and plagiarize His name?

When the unanswered prayers come, it doesn’t make sense. Why are some prayers answered with a yes and some are answered with a no? Instead of running from the confusion, the questions, or making the choice to shut God out of our hearts, let’s simply be still. Let’s allow the pain from the unanswered prayer to come, mourn it, and then let it go. But let’s let it leave us with a burning desire to turn to our Father and get real with Him - maybe more real than we have ever been before.

We get to decide among the wreckage that comes from unanswered prayers to take a brave, shaky step into holy intimacy with God. Sometimes I feel really broken God, and the no from this prayer has me feeling more broken than ever before. Sometimes I don’t believe you’re good. Sometimes I don’t believe you have my back. But I want to, so Holy Spirit, will you please change that? We get to pray these prayers not because we’re driven to pray them, but because we’re given the freedom to pray them. Our hearts don’t want to shut God out - instead, our hearts long for the One who understands its pain even more than we do. 

Frustratingly, we may not know the whole truth of why certain prayers go unanswered until we see God face-to-face, but right now, we have enough of the picture to keep pressing on - we know that the nos and unanswered prayers are for His glory. But maybe today, you feel crushed and honestly, that doesn’t feel like it’s enough. If that’s where you find yourself in your journey, that’s okay.

Just tell Him how you feel.

I'm praying for you, sisters.

Every no is really a yes.

As women we seem to have a serious phobia of saying no. Trust me, I get it. We say yes when we want to say no because we fear disappointing people we love, we worry about missing out, and we want to prove to ourselves {and the world!} we can do it all. When we say yes to things that don’t align with our hearts or to the mission God has given us during this season of our lives, all we are ultimately left with is a feeling of disappointment and frustration with a side of guilt and shame. Want to know why we feel that sting?

Every yes is really a no.

Seriously. Think about it. Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do, you are also saying no to something you actually want to embark on. For example, every time you say yes to reporting to the job that you cry over as you drive to work each morning {been there!} you are saying no to the job that would light you up. When you say yes to checking your social media for the nineteenth time today, you are saying no to time spent in laughter with your family or friends. When you say yes to mindless TV reruns, you are saying no to dusting off your old art supplies and getting messy and creative. Now, it’s your turn. When I say yes to ________________, I am saying no to _____________________.

Recognizing that every yes is really a no is a freeing concept because it works the other way around, too:

Every no is also a yes, friends.

Saying no needs to be a priority so we can say yes to the things that truly mean something. We have a short, finite time on this planet. God has us here for a purpose. We don't want to waste our time saying yes to things without value or that don’t fuel us forward on the mission God has created me us. I don’t want this to be the kind of life you live, either.

It's your turn: When I say no to _____________________, I am saying yes to ___________________________.

I dare you to get a little bold and fill in the blanks in the comments below!

To the weary woman.

{Many women I've spoken with lately are worn down and they feel it deep in their bones. If you too find yourself in a season of weariness, these words are written for you. If someone is brought to mind while reading these words, would you consider forwarding this post to them for a bit of encouragement? Let's rally around one another in our weariness.}

Dear Friend,

I see you. You haven’t slipped between the cracks. You aren’t forgotten.

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And oh, how I know. I know how you’ve grown tired of doing good. I know how you’re tired of feeling like you’ve been overlooked. I know how the idea of having hope for one more second seems like the last thing you want to do. You want to let go and sink down deep into the surging waters of bitterness that have crashed violently against your tender heart for so, so long now.

Oh, sister, I know how it aches.

But this season isn’t all there is to the story.

Weary is a season, but it isn’t who you are.

And what you’re doing, slogging through this hard season? It’s so beautiful. It’s so holy.

Because God is going to redeem it.

I ask this gently and with so much love: what would happen if we stopped fighting our weariness? What if we realized fighting a battle against these heavy, hard feelings is nothing but a massive energy suck? What if instead, we lifted our eyes from our weariness and said, even though I feel weary, I still love and accept myself because Jesus loves and accepts me? Even when I feel weary, I know who I am is not weary because who I am is the Beloved of Christ.

When you feel like you’re unseen, you’re not. God is with you, and he sees you, even in the midst of your weariness. He knows you better than you know yourself, and these things that make you question the entire world around you don’t make him flinch in the slightest.

So pour out your heart to Him and tell Him how it hurts. Keep pressing on. Do the next thing, then the next, and the next. Say yes to things that light you up and bring you peace in this tough season. Know that God is mighty in you, right in this very instant. And know that you are vivacious, even in the midst of the weariness, because God has chosen to give abundant life to you. He has made your heart His home. 

And what a beautiful home it is, my friend!

It's not fair.

Okay. So.
 
These past few weeks? They’ve been a little crazy.

I’ve caught myself muttering, “it’s not fair” under my breath a few more times than I’d like to admit. (Yes, I go there from time to time! Don’t judge!)

So now that my confession is out in the open I definately can’t tiptoe around this topic because I’m preaching to myself today. Maybe it will resonate with you too, so let’s dive straight in and not waste time trying to make this into something pretty because it’s kind of ugly and unglamorous. Sometimes things in life don’t really seem fair at all, do they? Maybe the job you landed that seemed tailor-made for you on paper turned out to be a massive disaster once you discovered what it was really about. Or what about the time your best friend betrayed you unexpectedly and undeservedly? And what about that person who seems to have everything work out in his favor over and over again while you keep landing flat on your back?
 
Oh, but then it gets worse, because that’s just how it goes during times like these. It’s usually exactly when we’re wading chin deep in frustration that a friend swaggers up to you, jumps up and down, grins, and shares her great news: “I just booked a 3 month European excursion!” “We bought a beach compound in Hawaii!” “I unexpectedly came into an absurd amount of money and am quitting my job to start a unicorn farm!” Or something else as equally wonderful, glamorous, and at the complete opposite end of the spectrum that you find yourself in.
 
Ugh. Really?
 
Have you ever noticed in those times when you’re struggling, when having hope feels like the last thing you could do, and when things don’t seem fair, it’s almost impossible to tell someone, “I’m so happy for you!” and mean it?
 
That phenomenon is exactly what I’ve been pondering these past few weeks. Do you think it could be that we feel this way because we believe there’s only so much goodness to go around? And maybe, just maybe, we worry that if something good happened to them, it means there’s less goodness available to us?
 
Good stuff happens in this world to people who really don’t deserve it, and there’s no denying it. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise. But knowing good things happen to people who don’t deserve it doesn’t have to lead us to any conclusion about what that means for us. So can I ask you an audacious question? If something good can happen to the knuckleheads, what does that mean for you, sweet sister?
 
When others succeed it’s not a threat to us. It’s a glimpse of the goodness that is available to us right now. It’s points us back to the One who is goodness itself.
 
God’s goodness cannot be divided and we, as his daughters, dwell smack in the middle of that goodness. Even when things don’t seem fair. Especially when things don’t seem fair. There’s enough of his goodness to go around.
 
The rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Good things happen to everyone. Bad things happen to everyone, too. Who are we to know what’s fair and not fair? We’re not the ones to know, because we don’t see the whole picture. Maybe we could put down our gavel, stop trying to decide what's fair or not fair in our lives, and realize that only God knows the whole story. He sees it all, the beginning, middle, and end. He’s far more interested in seeing us grow in holiness and virtue than becoming unicorn farmers.

So what if instead of spending all our time worrying about what’s fair, we simply pressed onward? What if we decided to get bold in the face of the doubts, to have valiant faith, and tremendous trust in our Father? What if we stopped with the pouting and decided to believe he’s good and desires good for us, even in the thick of the moments that seem unfair? And then, what if we actually got insanely crazy and lived these what-ifs out? What would change in our lives? How would things look different? What would change in the lives of the people around us as the choice to do things differently rippled out into the world?
 
We won’t ever know the answers to the what-ifs unless we stop dancing around the edge of these questions and jump in the deep end. Let's stop being women who are content to simply dip our toes in the water. Let's go all the way in.
 

You are not a mess.

For a long time, I laughed off my quirks and less than shiny bits by saying, “Oh, I’m just a mess…” It wasn’t some humble admonition. Instead, I wanted to beat other people to the punch by pointing out all of my flaws before they could. Underneath the laughter was an ocean of pain with a strong undertow that threatened to pull me under. After all, a lifetime sentence of being a mess hurts!

It’s so easy to believe we’re a mess, isn’t it? We live with ourselves all the time. We never get a break from who we are, and we know ourselves all too well. We know the things we think, the things we would be mortified for other people to know crossed our minds. We know all of the mistakes we make and the way we struggle to hide them from the world. We know the things that keep us up at night with worry but how we paste on grin and spout out a chippy “fine!” when someone asks us how we’re doing. We know how we forget to pray even though we promised someone we would lift them up during their heartbreak. And oh, how we know all the ways we sin.

To deal with the lumbering weight of our humanity, we shrug our shoulders in a child-like manner and believe that we are, have always been, and will always be, a mess.

But that’s not okay. Because being a mess isn’t the end of the story.

Because Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we’re no longer a mess. Now, we’re wrapped tight in a cozy quilt of grace, a patchwork of God’s tremendous mercy.

Now, because of Him, our true identity is His beloved. It’s an identity we need to accept. We have to stop buying into the lie that says we are anything less. When we’ve claimed it and settled into every corner of this identity that he has lavished us with, we are able to live in the world that gives joy as well as pain. When we settle into who we truly are instead of buying into these harmful lies, we are anchored to the truth of who we were created to be. This is how we begin to live authentically. And that’s when we set the world on fire.

Let’s be real: we still have to live with ourselves day in and day out, and in our human frailty, we know all the things we think, the ways we fall down, the things that cause us to worry, how we forget to pray, and all the ways we sin.

But wrapped in grace, we know this isn’t who we are. It doesn’t get the final say. God’s mercy does.

Let’s speak that over ourselves today, okay?

Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I realized something weird: I live life like a gold miner. Only instead of spending my days mining for treasures, I pan through the moments of life looking for ways the other shoe is going to drop. Maybe you do it too? Your boss snaps at you? I guess that means I’m about to get fired, you worry as you slink back to your desk. A friend doesn’t call back when she says she will? I guess that means our friendship is ending, you cry on the way to pick up the kids in the carpool line.

I’m almost certain you have a go-to person, place, or thing that triggers your sense of dread as you wait for the other shoe to drop because every woman I've ever talked to has one. Do you know what yours is?
 
Waiting for the other shoe to drop is a disconcerting thing we do. We know it’s not good, but we continue doing it anyway. Why is that? We do it as a way to feel in control. We don’t want anything to catch us off guard, so we grow hyper-diligent. And as a result, we get hard around our edges. We don’t want anything to slip in through the cracks of life and surprise us.
 
This isn’t any way to live. Not breaking news, right? But what you may wonder is how can we combat it?
 
We can live with Assumptions of Grace.
 
When we live with Assumptions of Grace, we extend ourselves and others grace by assuming the best in each person, place, and thing we encounter. Will we always succeed? Uhh, no…I wish! But when we create a mindful intention to assume only the best in others and give it our best try, we get big shifts in our lives, hearts, and minds.
 
An even more sacred component of living from the space of Assumptions of Grace is to actively seek the light inside each person who crosses our paths. The light’s there every single time. The interesting thing I’ve discovered is that we’re naturally drawn to the light once we start looking for it. It turns out the trick is simply to remember to look for the light in the first place.
 
There’s also another piece to living out the idea of Assumptions of Grace: to stay soft around our edges. Why? Because just like we want to see the light in other people, we also want other people to be able to see the light in us. By staying soft around our edges, we make it easier for others to see our light.

Something really beautiful begins to take place in our hearts when we decide we want to see the best in people, places, and things at all times - we actually do. The more we implement thinking with these Assumptions of Grace it becomes something far more than glitter and rah-rah. Our minds truly begin to transform. Where we were once hopeless, we now have hope. Old wounds we feared would always be part of us miraculously begin to transform into places of healing. Sweetness springs forth from the old stagnant lands of bitterness. Disengagement that overflowed from the fearful place of being “found out” gently shifts into an invitation to let people into our genuine, authentic hearts. We truly enter into sacred ground when we think from this place because we begin thinking with the thoughts of God. Not just assuming the best - but actively seeking to truly see the best - in people, places, and things isn’t naive; it’s the way to peace because it’s the way God sees us.
 
And call me crazy, but I think if it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for us.

Praying for you, friend!

Let’s clear the air.

Over the past two weeks, this blog has received a little buzz around the internet I wasn’t quite expecting. It’s been lots of sweet with a little bitter mixed in. Truthfully, I’m grateful for both. When my little corner of the world wide web went live in 2015 I prayed it would be a place where women would dialogue about the things that matter most. While I love love love talking about fluffy, fun things like what music we’re jamming out to, what recipes we’re in love with, and which red lipstick is the best (Clinique’s Angel Red, hands down!), what really makes my heart leap is talking with women about the deep topics of life: God, friendship, family, our hearts, freedom, Scripture, love, life to the full…you get the picture.

The thing is, I definitely don’t have all the answers. I’m a fellow sojourner just like you. Writing is one way I meet with God to pray and grow as a woman and sometimes I feel led by the Holy Spirit to share that writing here on my blog. But I’m far from perfect. There will be times on this journey where maybe I don’t explain myself as well as I’d like. Maybe I’ll even put my foot in my mouth! There may also be times where we don’t agree with one another. And that’s okay! We are all daughters of God, and as long as we respectfully share our hearts with one another, I welcome the disagreements and the conversation more than you know.

I’m so grateful you’re on this journey with me. I'm truly humbled that somehow, in a world as big crazy as this one we live in, we have crossed one another's paths. Please know you’re prayed for daily and ferociously by me, friend.

Now, let's get back to the fun, shall we?

 

Why saying everything happens for a reason is harmful.

It started early in my life, when my good friend died in an unexpected, heartbreaking accident in seventh grade. My friends and I clutched one another through tears while we whispered, “Everything happens for a reason,” longing to find comfort and explanation among the agony and confusion. Over time, everything happens for a reason became my go-to mantra. When another friend died suddenly in 11th grade, when I experienced a massive heartbreak, or when life threw a setback I never saw coming, I told myself time and time again not to worry, that everything happens for a reason and that the magical reason would all become evident one day.

Years later I sat in a chapel praying after a particularly difficult counseling session with a sweet client. Not even yet old enough to drive, this girl had experienced more crushing agony than anyone should ever see in a lifetime, let alone before she turned sweet sixteen. I sat in the empty church, tears streaming down my face as I looked up at the cross above the altar and asked God, what is the reason for all of this?

And that’s when I realized something that changed my heart forever: saying everything happens for a reason is incredibly harmful. God doesn’t will the evils of the world. The truth is, our suffering isn’t always from God. Yes, it is true that sometimes, God does allow suffering and he’s absolutely in the business of bringing good from evil, but more often than not, this suffering we face is a result of the evil that permeates this broken, busted, and messed up world. And when we believe it’s from God, how in the world can we believe he is for us and loves us?

So how, then, do we deal with the evils of this world? When the enemy starts to plant fear I am reminded that God knew since the beginning of time when we would be born. He didn’t just know it, he ordained it. He chose us to be warriors to bring light into this dark world in a time such as this (Esther 4:14). You don’t know how to do that? That’s okay. It doesn’t fall on us to do the equipping (Hebrews 13:21). You feel weak? Good. His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

So how do we endure the hard times? It begins with the sure and certain truth that we are loved. Completely. Beyond measure. Exactly as we are. Not once we hit some mark or give a perfect performance in the roles we have been given as friend, daughter, mom, wife, fiance, girlfriend, or single woman. We know with assurance that the God of the universe, who needs nothing, still wants us.

And not only does he want us, he wants to partner with us. He invites us to grieve with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). It's a pretty weighty invitation in these tough times, but this is the hope of the gospel, gals. One day, our mourning will be turned to dancing (Psalm 30:11). When the darkness comes, we weep, but when the light comes, we rejoice (Psalm 30:5). In the meantime, we have to enter into the hard stuff with the people around us. 

Why? St. Teresa of Avila says is better than I ever could:

"Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” 

So while saying everything happens for a reason is incredibly harmful, there's work for us to do, sisters. Let's stop dwelling on the whys and get after being mighty warrior women of God who are here to bring God's glory out into the darkness of this world we call home.

You with me?

PS: It seems I may have struck a chord with a few people on my last post and have been overcome by all the sweet comments, sharing on social media, and emails from women who relate. Thank you from the bottom of my heart - so much. 

Why we need to stop fearing mistakes.

Last week I rode shotgun on a good old-fashioned road trip across the US of A. Somewhere along the journey I saw a quote on a cheesy inspirational calendar that made me do a double take. I can’t remember if I saw it in a grungy gas station or in some hole-in-the-wall restaurant but I guess that doesn’t really matter. What counts is that I still remember the quote perfectly:
 
“Freedom without the ability to make mistakes isn’t freedom at all.”

Guys, can I be honest with you? I’ve been feeling a little stuck these past few months. After sweating it out I finally realized that I’ve been afraid to move forward in several areas of my life out of a deep fear that I’d somehow get off on some crazy path, not be able to find my way back home to my heart, and life as I know it would be ruined.
 
Ahem.  Dramatic much?
 
I’m sure nobody else can relate. {Insert sarcasm here.}
 
Have you ever noticed when we look back on the places from our past where we “messed up” we call them lessons, but when we look forward to the future, we get a little bit desperate to avoid falling flat on our faces, hitting rock bottom, or making a mistake? Why is that?
 
We know it’s for freedom that Christ set us free (Gal. 5:1) but it’s pretty easy to forget that sometimes. He didn’t set us free to be gripped with fear. He didn’t set us free to shiver uncontrollably in the corner with worries of getting off course. He set us free to be his girls and to lavish tons of love on us.
 
So I’m preaching to myself today to remember that God works all things together for our good. When we’re walking with him, even if (more like when!) we make a mistake? He’s promised he’s going to work it out for good. Which is pretty good news, huh?
 
Today as we remember that God's set us so free that we don’t need to fear making mistakes, let's allow joy to weave its way through our hearts because it's something worth celebrating! In his kingdom, he makes even mistakes beautiful!
 
Yes, he’s set us free indeed.

Praying for you, gals!