“Tidying Up” Your Heart

Marie Kondo is all the rage on Netflix right now and apparently Goodwill is hopping with all the latest and greatest because of it. So, one night last week, instead of tidying up my house, I watched “Tidying Up” on Netflix–which was obviously necessary and much more productive. Duh.

Now, let me be clear, I don’t know if I’ll be kneeling in the middle of my floor and thanking my house for providing a roof over my head with emotional music perfectly cued in the background. I am also quite doubtful that I’ll be perfectly folding my clothing face side up and placing said items delicately in my drawers and closets (yeah, not going to happen) —but I did take away quite a few things from episode one—most of which had nothing to do with reorganizing physical clutter in my home and had everything to do with organizing emotional clutter in my heart.

The family in this particular episode had become so buried with clutter that it was causing a sense of disfunction and conflict. The accumulation of unnecessary stuff was overwhelming and the load carried was too much to bear on their own. Because of that they lost sight of what really mattered. They weren’t spending quality time together, they were physically and mentally drained and even started to forget why they decided to become a family in the first place. Not good.

Emotional clutter is exactly the same way. It can collect slowly and gradually. It creeps in the corners and cracks. Events and emotions that occurred years ago can simply be stowed away in a corner collecting cobwebs while we are blissfully coasting through life saying “I’ll get to that later.”

Let me tell you something, from personal experience as a fellow procrastinator, “later” never comes on our terms. Later comes out of the blue and smacks you in the face and suddenly you’re tired. You’re tired because you’ve lived for so long not dusting the cobwebs of your heart and now the spirit you used to once have has become completely unrecognizable because it’s tainted with years of dust.

Our hearts become desensitized. We become less vulnerable. We become less aware, less open, more suspicious, less of who Jesus designed us to be.

The cobwebs don’t look like much when they start to creep in. We’re busy, we blink, and suddenly, low and behold before we know it we become an innocent little fly flying through life and then suddenly find ourselves stuck in this horrible muck of a web. We become completely raveled and consumed. (Yuck. How’s that for a visual?)

It’s true! Cobwebs carry into our relationships—especially our closest ones. Much like the couple featured on “Tidying Up”, they can cause us to lose sight of what’s right in front of us. They can lead to doubt, insecurities, distractions, hurt, anxiety, anger, fear and all sorts of misunderstandings. Many times, if we haven’t dusted our sometimes embarrassing or “shamefully” tangled web, we can end up causing another innocent person to reap the consequences for a web they didn’t even weave. Truth be be told, that is not very fair nor is it very healthy. Its deeply damaging. It can taint many of God’s greatest gifts.

I was challenged by this episode, in true Marie Kondo fashion— to look at something you’ve been holding onto that no longer sparks joy and to say “thank you” and let it go. Now look, I can look at a ratty old T-shirt and say thank you without skipping a beat and throw that piece of junk in a giveaway box in five seconds, give me a break—but how different would it be to look at a face that hurt you and say “thank you” and to repurpose that pain. Wow. Think about that for a second. Think about looking at a painful experience, thanking it and then giving it a new purpose. I believe that is exactly what we are called to do.

Notice how I said repurpose–not let go or negate. Many times I think we tend to push things to the side because we are simply trying to get rid of them. I don’t think that that is realistic for anyone that has any sort of memory. Certain things will stay with us. It is our job to simply dust them off and let God repurpose and rebrand them for greater good. How great is that? You don’t have to pretend to forget. It’s impossible to forget. Say thank you!

So what is something you have been holding onto that does not spark joy in your heart? What’s holding you back from loving and living to your full potential? What’s been sitting there in the cobwebs, slowing raveling you up or eating away at your relationships? Can you say “thank you” for the lesson and let it live on in a different way?

There is so much beauty in the present. Sometimes we have to take the time to dust through all the cobwebs of our past to really see our own hearts and to really remember why we’re here in the first place. To really appreciate where we are now, we need to say “thank you” to where we’ve been first.

So fold your clothes however you want, really truly that’s not going to end up on your gravestone anyway. Live your legacy freely enjoying the moments of today. Thank your dusty cobwebs, get out that swiffer duster and love to your fullest capacity- freely and fearlessly- just as He desires you to.

—xo—

Sweet Surrender

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? Maybe it was starting a business, moving across country, or, if you’re certifiably insane, jumping out of an airplane for fun. (WHAT?)

For me, the bravest thing I’ve ever done was walk away, not just from a relationship but from an entire life I created with someone. This was someone I had invested in for over ten years. During the last several months, I considered myself brave for holding on and fighting. I considered it strong to stay, in spite of the circumstances.

Here’s what I realized though. I wasn’t being truly brave. I wasn’t being brave because I was choosing to live in ignorance. I was choosing to hold onto a perception over reality. It just hurt too much to let go. It was too scary.

How was I to recreate an entire life? To be a single mom? To find a new place to live? Would I have to find a new career in order to support my son? And the big one: who on earth was ever going love someone who had so much “baggage”? No one would want me. I was choosing to be half loved because it hurt too much to come to the realization of not being loved at all. It was too much to deal with. It was too much to face on my own.

Here’s what happened: I realized that in spite of my circumstances, in spite of my so called baggage, in spite of all of the unknowns, I was not just loved but TREASURED by the same God who created the heavens and earth and all of the galaxies. He loved ME perfectly. ME. Little, lost, damaged me.

This realization is what gave me the bravery to stop attempting to repaint the picture and to accept it for exactly as it was. Because I experienced His love, I knew love. Because of how He viewed me, I knew exactly who I was. Because of His strength, I was able to surrender. I was able to let go.

You see, I think many of us view bravery as going to battle. We view it as this raw, bruised up and battered version of ourselves that runs relentlessly into danger…but what I’ve learned is that the first essential step in being truly brave involves letting go and surrendering.

I mean, think about it. Think about those crazy people who skydive. What do they have to do? They have to jump out of that plane and LET GO. I am certain that those first moments are frightening but once you realize you aren’t going to die (not sure when/if that happens), you can see the beauty beneath you. As you fall, you will continually see the world in a different perspective and eventually, (in this case, hopefully) you’ll land, gracefully (or perhaps not so gracefully) right where you need to be. There is so much beauty in that!

Life can be so hard and so hurtful. It can feel nearly impossible to let go of whatever it is that you have experienced or are currently experiencing–but when you allow your hands to let go, they will be freed to embrace so much more.

Jesus wiped out everything I was holding onto because I chose to hold onto Him. One year later, I can sit here and say that I have experienced many things I could not have ever even dreamed of, things I didn’t even know were possible, all because of the courage to let go.

So if the grip you have on something in your life continues to cause damage, it may be a little too tight. Try loosening your grip, then let it go, give it to God and indulge in your sweet surrender.

—xo—

Choosing Truth, Even When it Hurts

I’ve been MIA on this blog for a few weeks. To be completely honest, I’ve been at a loss as to what to write. I thought it was writers block. It wasn’t.

The truth is that I’ve been consumed with negative emotions and so blinded by brokenness around me. “Writers block” happened because I was unhappy with the current state of my heart. Instead of writing freely, I tried to think of what I needed to say. Sometimes we don’t know what to say, we just know how we feel.

Sometimes the biggest contender in our struggle is the attempt to remain perfectly composed when we feel like the walls are around us are crumbling. It’s okay to crumble sometimes. It’s okay to feel pain and anger. Its okay to be confused. It’s okay to break down and have a good cry. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong.

It takes strength to acknowledge your anger, pain, trauma, disappointment and fear. It takes strength to address every piece of your heart; every broken, confused or lost piece and deal with them accordingly. Processing every piece is a never ending process. Want to know why? People are going to hurt you. Struggles are going to happen. Life is hard.

But you know what? I’d rather be an authentic mess than living in a state of consistently comfortable denial. I want to live fiercely and boldly in truth, even when it hurts. When we choose to live in a state of denial, we settle.

I’ve settled before. I’ve settled a lot. Beyond impatience or fear of perception, when I accessed my state of mind during those times, I realized something; Each and every time I’ve settled in my life, it was because I was choosing to dwell in a state of denial.

Settling can feel comfortable and even safe at times. It’s deceiving. It’s alluring. It seems stable and promising. The temporary discomfort or discipline necessary to boldly pursue the unknown can cause us to freeze, step back and ultimately settle for something “safe”.

Let me just tell you something, settling is far from safe. Settling is sneaky dangerous and it’s led me to end up in some pretty painful places. It’s a state of complacency that can cause us to dwell and not actually live. It halts our growth. It robs us of our potential and purpose. We don’t see settling as a form of denial but it’s the very essence of it.

Life can be painful and hard. Part of living fiercely and trusting God is accepting those emotions, processing them and then handing them over. The processing part has been the most frustrating part for me as of recently.

I’m okay knowing the truth, I’d rather know the truth. Always. That’s not the hard part for me. The hard part is being patient enough to process all of the emotions that come with that.

Recently, I said, “Okay God, here you go. Take this away from me! I don’t want to carry it. I’m done.” Well, it hasn’t been that simple and I have been frustrated. I asked Him, “Where are you at, God?”

Now that I’ve accepted that He isn’t just going to flick a switch for me and make me feel better, I kind of jolted out of my self-pity and realized my immediate demands were foolish and also quite arrogant if I’m being honest.

Who am I to tell God that I’m done processing pain? Can He take it away? Yes, but what I do in the meantime is the test. You see? Part of the process is actually processing the emotions. There is no definitive timeline for that. There’s no deadline for it. It’s a process. Anger, pain, confusion; none of those are inherently evil. Experiencing them is a part of life.

How we choose to process those, how we act (or don’t act) upon those emotions are what grow and shape us. Living in truth, choosing to do the right thing, even when it hurts, is confusing or uncomfortable builds integrity. It builds our relationship with Him. That is the true test.

Choose truth, even when it hurts. Denial is deadly. Never, ever settle. You’re a part of something bigger. Be patient in the process. He’s got this.

—xo—

Forgiving the Not-Sorry

Okay you guys. I’m going to be real with you. I prayed upon what I needed to write per usual and hated the answer. I hated it! I hated the answer because it is something I’m personally struggling with so much at this moment.

Are you ready for the topic of doom? Forgiving someone when they aren’t sorry. Forgiving someone who wrongs you not once, not twice but ten times over. Today I’m going to write about treating someone with kindness when they continually treat you with disrespect. I’m apprehensive because it’s such a difficult topic but I have a feeling this post will be therapeutic for the both of us. Keep reading.

When someone continually disrespects you and you don’t lash back out in disrespect, it can cause you to feel like a sad, little, defenseless punching bag. It hurts. Every single blow hurts and all you want to do is jump out of that punching back and strike back for the kill. Jesus calls us to respond differently. He calls us to respond radically.

Firstly, after the initial blow, he calls us to pause. Self control and patience are two fruits of the spirit. Take these bad boys out of your tool belt during this moment. You’re going to need them. If you have to stay silent for a bit, stay silent. I’ve learned that when dealing with ignorance or difficult people, sometimes silence is the best response. When you are silent during a time of which someone expects you to scream, your deliberate silence speaks volumes. During this pause, whether short or long, check in. How does God desire you to respond?

After you’re done pausing, however long that may be, ask questions. Make sure you understand who and what you’re dealing with. Many times we (as in a whole lot of me) reply with a presumption already in mind. Try your best to understand the other persons point of view. Be open and understanding. If at all possible, try to be flexible. Be gentle but stand firm in truth. This is a delicate balance, my friends. I’ll let you know when I perfect it.

Feeling like a punching bag and feeling like a doormat can often times go hand in hand. I don’t believe God desires us to sit back and allow ourselves to be soiled by the dirty feet walking all over us. When abuse happens, I believe God calls us to respond. He desires us to speak out against mistreatment. It should not be brushed off or pushed aside. Wrong is wrong.

The thing about God is that He judges us by our hearts. This means, if we aren’t speaking out for the right reasons, if we are speaking out to expose someone out of vengeance or to “clear our own slate”, we are not speaking out in truth. If you haven’t forgiven them, don’t speak out before you do. Resentment taints the intent of your heart. Ask God to get rid of it.

This is so, so hard friends. The person you are forgiving may not even care about you. They may hate you. They may seek to intentionally harm you or your character. They may hurt an innocent person that you love. Striking back is the easiest defense mechanism. Truly, it is. But if we know who loves us, if we remember our identity, we don’t need validation from men! Amen to that!

I talk about identity a lot but that’s really what everything comes down to. When we remember who we are, we can easily identify mistreatment but also, because of who we are, it equips us to react differently. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard and painful and sometimes messy. It’s sacrificial. It hurts. Faith hurts. Killing someone with kindness can feel like it is killing you. However, take heart dear one, because scripture says that His power is made perfect in our weakness! It is HIS power that enables us to do this, not our own.

His power enables us to be slow to anger, to think about our response and to respond in an unexpected way….and Lord knows that I desperately need His strength to do this.

So when you start to feel like a battered old punching bag, remember Who is in your corner. Trust Him. You may feel powerless and without Him, quite frankly you are. He is the one that will give you the strength and gusto to get through this thing gracefully and to forgive the seemingly unforgivable, just as He has forgiven you. This battle is tiring. Rest in Him.

Although you may not come out unscathed, although the path may not always seem clear; walking fearlessly in faith is the first brave step. It takes courage to fight back differently. Stay strong. Fight fearlessly. Let it go. Press on. You’re free to love.

–xo–

Growing In the Gray Zone

Growing In the Gray Zone

I’m a black and white kind of girl. Although spontaneity is something I enjoy and practice in the little things, when it comes to bigger issues in my life, I prefer to have definitive answers. Living in the “gray zone” is actually my worst nightmare. This is exactly why Jesus had me live in that gray zone for a season or two (….or three).

When we picture a gray area, we picture something gloomy and dark, like a rain cloud. It can definitely feel that way. Trust me when I tell you I’ve been there. Have you ever heard the quote “No rain, no flowers.”? There’s truth in that. Think of that rainy, grey cloud that is pouring down uncertainty into your life as a vice to grow a colorful garden full of faith and trust.

Living in a gray area is uncomfortable, but being comfortable doesn’t build your faith. There is so much power in discomfort. When the answers aren’t always black and white, your faith can fearlessly flourish in the gray area. The search for the answer is the answer! God has more for us. He is the solution. He has the answers.

Living in that gray area helped me grow. It made me brave. My steps became more intentional because of the fact that I didn’t know where my feet were headed. I know that sentence probably does not seem to make any sense. Allow me to elaborate.

Sometimes when we have definitive answers, we begin to think we have all the answers we need, so instead of carefully taking steps, we start making strides. We start making checklists. We start trusting our own human efforts to get us to where we’re going. When we have it “figured out”, we tend to stop looking up for continued guidance and begin to focus down at our moving feet. We stop being desperate to follow and start pressing forward to lead. This is detrimental and so dangerous. If we aren’t desperately looking up, we’re missing out on the journey God has in store for us.

Friends, by the grace of God I’m out of that gray season, but let me tell you something, He has not so subtly reminded me today that the only definitive black and white answer I have is to follow Him. I need to be desperate for His guidance. I need to be desperate to trust Him and Him alone for every single step. If I feel like I have all the answers, I start relying more on the answers than I do on the One is the answer.

So whatever season you’re in, I hope you are reminded today to be desperate in your pursuit of Him.

Desperately seek Him. Desperately depend on Him. Desperately love Him.

— xo —

Sprout, Bloom and Be Colorful

How pretty are the leaves right now? If you aren’t in New England maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about but here in New England, there is nothing more breathtaking. If you don’t believe me, google it. It’s the best.

As I was driving through the colorful scenery today, I was reminded that fall is a fantastic representation that there can be so much beauty in the end of one season and in the beginning of another.

I began to think back to where I was at last year-physically, emotionally and spiritually and it felt like a lifetime ago. I look back at that person and I barely recognize her anymore. She was emotionally drained, physically exhausted, discouraged, anxious. She felt unloved, betrayed and alone. She had trusted her own plan and it was falling apart before her eyes.

I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know where I was headed. I had lost the identity I had created for myself. There was nowhere to hide anymore.

Sometimes our walls have to be taken down in order for our hearts to be exposed. It’s a painful process. It’s raw and rugged and it’s never straight-forward. You feel exposed and sometimes ashamed or embarrassed. Sometimes you scurry and try to rebuild the pieces by yourself which often times makes it worse. Ultimately, when your walls crumble, you begin to access what kind of foundation you have and how solid that foundation really is(or isn’t.)

I was raised with a firm foundation but I wasn’t choosing to stand on it. I chose a different path to walk on. Although, I wasn’t walking through life, I was strutting. I thought I had it all figured out. To be frank, I tripped. I tripped over my own pride. I tripped a lot actually…and then I fell flat on my face. That hurt. How beautiful it was though, to look up from the dirt and notice Who was standing there with open arms ready to help me up.

I used to live in arrogance but now I can sit here and boast in my new identity in the One who rescued me from that foolish pride. I can boast in my new identity. I am flawed, unworthy but beloved.

When you believe in Someone so much bigger than yourself, when your identity is redefined as beloved, you start seeing the world through an entirely different lens.

Like the fall foliage, I began to see the beauty in a new season. I began to see the beauty of dying to my old self and sprouting new vibrant colors as a new creation in Jesus.

The journey is just getting started but it sure has already taken me places I would have never expected. It hasn’t always been easy, in fact so many times it’s been really hard. Letting go of certain things and embracing others does not just happen overnight. It’s a process.

I can tell you though, that in the midst of so many changes, I’ve never felt so secure. I’ve never been so certain of who I am and Who is guiding me to where I’m going.

I used to look at my life and feel lucky for certain things but now I look at my life and I know I am intentionally and purposely blessed.

You see, when you believe in Someone bigger than yourself, when your identity is transformed- you stop chalking up the good things in your life as luck. You are beloved and because of that, every single gift was hand picked for you. They didn’t just happen to fall into your lap- they were chosen because you are chosen. You are not lucky- you’re blessed. How cool is that?

So sprout, bloom, change colors but most importantly grow in whatever season you’re in, recognizing every blessing as a personalized gift. He is so good.

–xo–

Rich Living

Rich Living

Budgeting is the worst. Let’s be honest, it is. It’s a hard discipline to implement. It’s also quite the reality check when you break everything down and realize you’ve spent about $1500 on caffeine in the last year alone. (Yes, that’s a real thing. Don’t judge me.) Although, quite frankly that could be considered a bit of an investment. I don’t wake up this awesome, after all! Coffee makes me awesome. Espresso awakens the Holy Spirit! Am I right?! Just kidding. That’s ridiculous.

In all seriousness-I am a single mom, working part-time…meaning I’m not living the lush life over here. Every dollar counts. I’ll be honest with you-it’s a sacrifice. It’s worth it to spend four days with my son, I’m blessed to be able to do that, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

We live in a world where being rich is equated to the money in your paycheck, the car you drive, the house you live in and the money in your bank account. In turn, when you add up your monthly income and deduct the cost of rent and basic living expenses, it can leave you feeling very discouraged. I know I was.

But do you know what I realized? Listen to what the Lord has taught me. This is gold, pure gold. Rich living begins when we stop asking what we can get and start asking what we can give.

You weren’t called to be rich. You were called to live richly! You were called to serve! If I’m being honest, materialism took up so much space in my heart for so long. God removed so many toxic things from my life. He removed so many unnecessary distractions. He humbled me and that is a blessing.

However, If you’re kind of broke like me, you may be thinking-“How can I give when I don’t have much (if any) extra to give?“. We are automatically fine tuned to think that giving is equated to making a monetary donation. While it definitely can be, let me present a rebuttal for you.

Maybe you are short on cash but do you have time? Do you have a willingness to serve, to write, to speak up or out? What natural God-given gifts do you have? They were given to you freely as a blessing. It’s your responsibility to give them away! What do you have available to you? How are you using those resources?

After all, you didn’t see Jesus going around throwing money at people. He served. He interacted with people. He gave His time.

Okay and maybe you’re short on time too-aren’t we all. Welcome to 2018. We’re all “too busy”. What can you do in your daily routine to make a difference? If you are captivated by purpose, you will find a way. Focus on what matters. Do not underestimate small acts of kindness. Do not underestimate the power of Jesus to speak through you if you allow him to do so. In a world that is exceptionally cruel, genuine kindness speaks volumes.

You see, the enemy speaks to our insecurities. He tells you that you’re insignificant. He tells you that because you aren’t popular, famous or wealthy that you do not have the ability to impact anyone- so why bother?

Even regarding this blog-I’ve been tempted to stop. It’s not always easy to post. It’s not always easy being vulnerable. It’s not always easy to expose my heart, my emotions or experiences. Its not always easy feeling as though I may be judged or mocked for it. You know what though? I may have one reader. That’s okay. It won’t stop me. As long as I believe it is something I should be doing I will continue to do it. As long as I continue to do it for HIS glory and not my own, I will continue to write.

So if you read this and felt called by the Spirit to do something, to start something or finish something- do it, say it. You can’t perform miracles but He can. If He lives within you, what you have to say or do is so significant.

Keep shining. Be generous with whatever it is that you’ve been given. Sacrifice, serve and always remember that being rich has nothing to do with money.

–xo–