Hope, Keeping it Real

Operating in the And Also

There’s a term, a thing, in psychology called black and white thinking. It also could be referred to as splitting or polarized thinking. 

If you have done recovery work, are doing recovery work and have ever experienced trauma maybe you can understand this idea of black and white thinking. It’s a life stealer if you ask me. I used to operate there regularly, and have learned to operate in the “and also” over the years. 

The polarized thinking that steals pieces of our lives, relationships, opportunities and memories maybe sounds like: 

  • It is or it isn’t there is not in between.
  • He is the best thing that ever happened to me or he is the devil incarnate there is no in between.
  • You always. 
  • You never.
  • It always….
  • It never….

That thought pattern keeps us from seeing the world as it is: complex and full of different shades of every color in between black and white. Right? It holds us in a place of extremes, and nobody likes to live at nor thrives best at one extreme or the other. It’s difficult to have much of a life or quality of life at those extremes. 

I have got to be on guard against slipping into that type of thinking as a regular way of functioning, coping (read NOT COPING) or facing the real issue. I can say that operating in the and also is a much healthier, fruitful, wise and hopeful way to live and think. God carefully reminds me, from time to time, that I have slipped or that even in the smallest ways I can and do respond in a black and white way instead of an and also way. How about you? 

There’s the big-time, big deal examples of seeing a hard circumstance as just bad, just hard and just impossible. The flip side? There’s the opportunity to see it as an and also scenario. It is bad, and I am also learning new things about myself. It is hard, and also easier with great people around me to love and support me. It is impossible for me to see the way through this and also it is not impossible for Him. 

In my own life, there’s a silly example of me not listening to any music other than Christian music that was created from the year 2012 forward. No, I am not kidding. I stopped listening because I was so offended that George Strait and Eric Church performed on an awards show together one year and I was mortified. So, I stopped listening. I also probably had it in my head, more honestly, that because I had turned my life over to Jesus that I could not listen to that kind of music. Seriously. I know, ridiculous. As it turns out, I have discovered that all new country music is not bad and also I might actually enjoy some of it. I have not thrown my faith out the window by listening to it and nobody got hurt in the process. 

My point is, friends, that I think that whether you believe in God or not; no matter who you choose to worship, there is always an opportunity to take a quick check and see what kind of thinking we have going on inside our heads. If we are moving away from the life-sapping defense mechanism of black and white and towards more of the and also thinking while learning to operate more in that space, then we are better for it. 

Learning to operate in the and also, thinking in the and also, and speaking that into my own heart and mind has gained me a much more colorful, happy, joyful, authentic life. How about you? 

Hope

The Pathway to Praise

Prayer and praise. The prescription for both ends of our human emotions. The antidote to struggle, worry and doubt is prayer. Not only prayer for God to solve the “problem” but also the grace and strength to bear it.  

James 5:13 Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. NLT

Prayer is not complicated. It’s a conversation-a relational exchange between God and His kids. If you are a parent, maybe you can recall the tender moments of your baby’s firsts words and how you waited in anticipation to hear them for the first time. When the day came, you sang praises of joy to everyone you knew and even maybe people you didn’t. You told it on the mountain, posted it on social media and told the cashier in the check-out line at Target. 

Maybe you can recall how thrilled and excited you were for that communication that came, at first in a string of one or two words. Maybe in a language that only you, as the parent, could understand. 

Perhaps your baby is older now and the words, “Mom/Dad, I love you want I want to share some news with you” or “Mom/Dad, I am struggling and I need your advice.” are something that you have heard, or maybe you are waiting to hear? 

Imagine our Father’s heart when we ask Him and seek Him through prayer and petition. 

Prayer. Going to Him with any and all because He already knows. Returning to Him to sing songs of praise for the resolution, the answer and the revelation of His plan even when it looks or feels different than we anticipated. 

When we pray through whatever it is, we begin to see God’s will and, newsflash, sometimes His will is not the same as ours. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Just like when we hear our children’s voice, the words don’t always make sense or even matter. What matters is the heart and intent behind them. As a child or a young adult or even a more grown up child, think of the joy and twinkle of tears in your parents eye when you reach out to them with your words-just a simple relational connection. 

Human connection and relationships matter. The game goes for our communication and relationship with God. From Him all things flow. 

Prayer is the pathway to praise. Prayer is the pathway to firmly planted joy and gratitude. Praise is the pathway to sharing the Good News with a world that certainly needs it, and perhaps the pathway for someone else to come to meet, know and follow Jesus. 

He loves to hear from His kids. He knows our voices and wants us to know His. 

Is prayer your go-to first or your last resort? How can we pray for each other today. If you are bold and willing, post your prayer requests in the comments below and we can lift them up together. 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Makings of a Joy Junkie 2.0

When this whole thing started, I had written a cute little introduction about the who, what, where, why and how. That was like 9 months ago and I never posted it. I also did not get off my butt and do what God had asked me to do 9 months ago and I waited procrastinated. 

I re-read it and laughed. It was cute, it was real and it was honest. It also is not where I am right now. And that is perfectly okay. So here, we are with the 2.0 version as I actually thought about what I really want to convey. I still don’t fully know the why, but I do know the what behind it and so I am going with that because I have learned to be okay with that. Mostly. 

When I started my walk with Jesus, the real walk with Jesus, I was told that the best way to get out of my own head was to serve. As it turns out, the best way to get out of my own way is and will always be to serve. It brings me joy, it brings Him joy. That’s part of my why. 

Over the years, He had me doing things I NEVER would have chosen to do on my own. He had me serving in places I would have NEVER chosen to go. Truth is, He has been turning people upside down forever. That’s just who He is. 

Over the course of time, most of my addictions and/or compulsive behaviors have been replaced with more life-giving, healthy addictions and compulsions. The ones that are meant to help, not harm. In a sense, I am addicted to joy. His joy. That’s why I called it Joy Junkie. 

When I encounter Jesus it brings me joy EVERY SINGLE TIME. 

Long before I ever knew Jesus, I found a love for writing and sharing words through it. I was a journalist starting in high school, college and even beyond that for a few years. It was my first stop on the journey to my big dream of being an NFL broadcaster. Obviously He had different plans. 

I had the privilege of writing for our church’s daily devotional for a few years, and I have often wondered if that should be on a bigger scale. That was a whole lot of scary. But I finally decided that it is okay to try and it is okay to fail. So here we are. 

 I want to share good news for all people for all times through the gifts that I have been given. Simple as that. I also want to be inclusive of people that don’t have the same beliefs that I do. It’s okay that we don’t believe the same things. I respect our differences and maybe we can learn from each other in this. 

It is not complicated. What you need to know is this: I am real and raw. I may use language that some find offensive. I may say hard things that make you uncomfortable or make ME uncomfortable. I may share from a place of deep hurt or of radical healing. I promise to be as respectful and kind as I can be while sharing truth, humor and the occasional random subject matter. I may put into words what we all think but are not willing to say out loud. I may not put things into words that are better left between myself and God. I may or may not have a filter. 

I don’t yet fully know the why, but it is being revealed over time. Maybe you are asking why I chose to rewrite what I had already written. Well, the truth of the matter is that I recently read something written by someone that I don’t really know but that has inspired me and given me a little more courage than I had before. She wrote an entire post apologizing for not being where she was when she started, when she branded herself in a certain manner, and I realized that God was speaking to me in a million different ways through what she said and what she did. 

I don’t want to live with the gate closed, I want to live with the gate open. I don’t want to find myself apologizing for where I was, where I am and where He might take me next be that physically, spiritually or emotionally. I also don’t want to run thoughts through just the common filters of is this true, is this kind, is this helpful and all of that. I also want to do more filtering of: is this real? I am not necessarily talking about rational, I am talking about real. Like, the real me, all of me and unapologetically me. 

He uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things through His power and strength, and through our willingness to be used for His glory. That’s the real what. That’s part of my why.

Joy Junkie

Thanks for being part of the ride. My hope and prayer is that you are not staying where you are because you are afraid or unwilling to fail, fall and get back up again. We have all been there, maybe are there and will most likely be there again. 

 My prayer is that you feel hope, that you feel encouraged through raw and real, filtered and unfiltered, and everything in between. Even if not, my what is about being obedient and I am choosing to do that to the best of my ability.

Live loved today! If you like what you are reading, and care to share with others that might want to join in on the conversations, please feel free to share.

Hope

A Vision Check

There’s always an opportunity to find the blessing in the bummers. I say it a lot, I mean it a lot and I know it a lot but sometimes I have to repeat it over and over again until I believe it a lot. Even more than that, God has to keep reminding me a lot. 

I cannot say that I love this seemingly never-ending season we are all living in, but what I can say is that I love that the God I love and serve is reminding me again and again and still to keep digging, keep seeking and has continued to prove that He is rock steady in every struggle and is in this one, too. 

I wish we could stop talking about it. I wish we could stop living in it and I wish that it was just a temporary time of change. I hate that it is the new normal and it feels like there is nothing normal about it. And then, I see that it appears to be another time to recognize, remember and have our vision redirected. 

In a matter of hours today, He took me from a place of asking the what and why questions, to hearing Him say, “Seek and You shall find me.” to a message that almost brought me to my knees in gratitude. Well, actually it DID bring me to my knees.

Friends, we cannot grow tired of what He wants to teach us. It is not happening to us, but it is happening for us.

Joy Junkie

We have most likely seen the same story in our lives already. I know I have. The times when we were asking things like why does this person not love me like they said they would, why did you take that job away from me or what plan or purpose is there in this mess? Been there, done that, came out of that and have been restored from that. Right? Our hindsight vision is 20-20 and we can see clearly now the why and the what. 

I know we are weary. I know we are tired. I know we have more questions than answers. For some of us, we are questioning the validity of our own faith and allowing ourselves to be tempted to believe that our feelings are facts, that God has suddenly forgotten or forsaken us and maybe this season is full of way more challenges than just avoiding a virus. 

I know that our first draft stories about all of this are not likely to add up with what God has planned in the middle of this mess or any mess we have been brought through or what mess He will lead us through next. 

In our weakness and tendency to do or believe the wrong things, He is not done with writing the story. Maybe our vision is a little blurry, but I know that He makes blind people see. He made this blind person see once or twice or forty times before and He will do it again. 

There’s a picture of this miracle and truth in Mark 8. There’s so much power and so many lessons in the middle of this scripture. Read it and let it sink in. Don’t miss out on how relevant this miracle was then and how it is true today. 

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.” (Mark 8:22-26 ESV)

On the days that we forget that we have felt His touch before, that our blindness was once restored and can be restored again; let’s remember that we have the tools for a vision check. We have people, we have the truth in His word and have first-hand knowledge of His power to restore us.

Our vision may be blurry, but His is not. He can see what we cannot see, He knows what we do not know and He has a plan and purpose for all the things in our lives. Check your vision, check in with your people, and watch Him clearly do His work in all of it. 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Is Good Enough Good Enough?

When you slow down enough to really think through, feel through, and pray through the circumstances of the season you’re in, the dreams about your future and take inventory of what the next right steps are God will meet you right in the middle. 

I know this is not a new concept for many of us, but sometimes we just forget, get out of practice or find ourselves just going through the motions. That’s how life works sometimes. 

Personally, I have been really fighting over so many things including the idea of being content and being fulfilled and how different those two things are. We can have one or the other and be just fine. But, my belief is that He came for us to have life and have it to the full not just in the ever after but also in the here and now. 

Those conversations we sometimes have with Him that start with the word why or what? There’s been a lot of those lately. How about you? Most of the time I am able to have my priorities and focus right and can say, “What do you want me to learn from this?” and sometimes I ask, “What is it that I am not seeing here?”. And boy, does He answer. 

I recently experienced a three-day series of totally and wholly designed by Him moments that left me so full of hope and so refocused, less afraid, less angry and more bold and excited. I heard some great leaders and pastors speak over the last 48 hours that God used to speak right into me in a way that was so desperately needed. He ALWAYS knows what we need and when we need it. 

The question on my mind beforehand to my own self was, “Are you content? Are you fulfilled?” and there was a lot of if-then-this mixed in with the answers. No shame in that game, people. But the question then comes, how good is good enough? 

I would argue that good enough is not good enough when He has so much more in store. I know He does and He always has. I am asking these questions, and God just poured into me the courage and boldness to answer truthfully. I can have both. Now, I am not talking about wanting more fulfillment or contentment in terms of material possessions, money, or any of that business. I am talking about contentment and fulfillment for my best life and the best version of my whole self I can be and in turn more able and free to share the source of true contentment and fulfillment from a full love tank. Do you know what I mean? 

Friends, I firmly believe that He wants more for us than we could ever ask for or understand, but at the same time, He loves his kids and wants to hear the desires of our heart. I was not asking for courage and boldness, I was asking the questions about what He wants for me and somehow that aligns with what I want for me. I want more than good enough. Good enough is not good enough. He answered my questions in the most unexpected ways which turned out to be exactly what I needed and when I needed it. 

Here’s the challenge for all of us today. Pray big questions. Ask big questions. Listen for those answers that come in unexpected ways and find the courage to believe that good enough is not good enough for the children of the King of Kings. His children are priceless in His eyes and Daddy will always give us what we need and when we need it.

He pours out His love lavishly, so good enough should not be good enough if it doesn’t mean contentment and fulfillment. Today, are you both content and fulfilled? If not, what needs to change?

Hope

There’s Beauty in the Breaking

When you and I remain curious about ourselves and our world through the eyes of our Creator we find healing and hope and beauty in the ashes. 

Jesus came to bless our lives and in blessing our lives and rebuilding our lives He tends to break things apart, disrupt and disturb to get our attention. He was doing it when He walked the earth, He is doing it now from His rightful place at the right-hand of God and He will do it again when He returns. 

How often do we forget and lose sight of the beauty in the breaking? We are ALL in the middle of it now. And it is so hard to see the purpose in the pain and uncertainty when we don’t keep our eyes focused on the One with the control and divine authority. 

Over the last several years of walking with Jesus, working an honest and thorough recovery program and being just overall generally curious about my tendency to do the wrong things I have seen the beauty in the breaking. If you have done any sort of 12-step work, then you know what I am talking about. The part in the journey when you take a fearless and moral inventory of your life? Painful. It can only be described as a breaking. 

He breaks us apart so we can be built back up. As painful, disturbing and disruptive as that is there is ALWAYS beauty on the other side of that if we choose to see it that way. 

Are you remaining curious in this season of opportunity? As much as the emotions can be overwhelming and the decisions to walk through it can be confusing, there is beauty in this breaking. For you and I, we get to choose who and what we focus on. 

I am remaining curious and in doing so, have discovered different pastors and sermons preaching the good news about how Jesus works miracles in the middle of the breaking. He has been doing it since the beginning of time, and long before He ever came on the scene humanly speaking. 

There’s a rising and revolution happening within me, within our world and He makes beautiful things out of the ashes, friends. I would invite and encourage you to not lose sight of the opportunity here. It’s dangerous to stay in a place of feeling all the feels and not be turning those things over to the One who has the authority and power to turn those broken thoughts and feelings into something for our good and His glory. 

We have an open invitation to be part of a revolution. To show the love of Jesus both in words and actions. To sharpen one another and to help others be blessed in the breaking. We may not see it right away, but our prayers don’t expire and in this season of disruption our hands are not tied. We may have to be more creative in how we connect and how we safely go about our lives these days, but His power and authority is not thwarted by the circumstances.

Isaiah 61:3 And provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

He will renew our strength and raise us up. Let’s not lose sight of the rising and revolution and the power of the resurrected Jesus in the middle of the breaking.

Hope

The Boat Isn’t Going to Tip

Have you ever climbed into a raft, canoe or kayak before? How about attempting to get up on a water ski, a stand up paddle board or a boogie board? 

Do you remember that awkward, ungraceful, terrifyingly uncomfortable feeling? Do you remember how awkward and ungraceful it looked to those watching it go down? 

It happened anyway. It might have been rocking and rolling, but eventually we got on it. 

I am thinking about the storms around us and the fact that we are all having to deal with so much uncertainty, awkwardness and maybe some fear mixed in with what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. It’s happening anyway, and eventually we will understand all the reasons why. Eventually we will get it. 

Whatever the storm is and whatever the storms will be, He has yet to let the boat flip over. It might sway and squirm around a bit if we take our eyes off the One who calms the waves, but He is not going to let the boat flip. He will ask us to get out of the boat. He will be in the boat apparently asleep while the storms rage around us, but He is with us and the boat is not going to flip. 

I am a visual person. I need to see it believe it most of the time and admittedly, even in my faith walk with Jesus I am tempted to only believe Him at His word when I see Him at His word. That doesn’t make anyone a horrible Christian. It makes us human and normal.

Remember this today, friends. I am doing everything I can to see Him when I don’t necessarily appreciate the feelings and emotions that are swirling around me. I encourage you again, don’t stop talking and praying through the real emotions of whatever the storm you are experiencing looks like. 

I am reaching for His hand, standing on His word, and not allowing the feelings to drown me. I am choosing to not allow the sway of the boat be the end answer. I am choosing today, to hold confidently to His promises not only because I do see Him and feel Him but because I trust Him.

The boat is not going to tip. The same One that can calm the waves is most definitely allowing the storm to rage for a bigger purpose and plan than we know. It feels and looks awkward, uncertain and ungraceful, but He is with us in the storm. Do you believe Him at His word? 

In the boat, out of the boat, holding our hands or inviting us to reach for His hands, He is with us in the storms and is not going to allow the boat to tip. He won’t let us drown.

Hope

Self Care is NOT Selfish

I did this to myself and now I am reaping what I have sown. 

Have you ever said that to yourself? Yeah, me too. Recently, I find myself beating myself up a little bit about a choice that was SO DANG GOOD for me. I took a break, went a little wild and took a little trip to my favorite place on earth and that should be a really, really good thing. It was. It is. 

The problem is that I have a difficult time making sure I am doing what I need to do for myself and when I do things that might disappoint someone else, then I start second-guessing my choices and decisions to do what I am confident is the right thing for me. Maybe you are a recovering people-pleaser codependent that can understand this concept. Let me remind you that self-care is not selfish. Repeat that a few times in case you forget it. 

E V E R Y single time I return from my home state, I feel a little blue and down and out of sorts. The upside is that I am normally past that state of being in a few days. This time, it’s been a lot different. 

Here are the facts: 

 Exhibit A-We are in a pandemic and it is wise to limit interaction with other human beings whenever possible to slow the spread and flatten the curve.

Exhibit B-This means that life as we know it is blown to you-know-what.

Exhibit C-Mental health is important and I am losing my ever-loving mind being cooped up in my house where I get to work all day, clock out, hang out, and get up and do it all again five days a week. 

Exhibit D-It does not appear that this is going to let up any time soon. Sigh. So we all have choices to make. 

Exhibit E-We get to decide how we live the life we have been given, who we spend our time with and how we go about loving the people around us. 

So, I am deciding what it looks like to do what God wants me to do. Love Him, love others and that includes me. That includes you. I am reaping what I have sown and, with His help, in the very best way possible. I am reaping what He has sown into me and how He created me to be. 

The God we know will be with us wherever we go. I know He is with us while we play house in our houses, and don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying I am ungrateful for the opportunity to work from home, slow down, and really pray and think about what God wants to teach me in the middle of this. If there’s anything I have learned that He will hold open the door while we decide which ones to knock down and which ones to go around; which ones to kick down and which ones to walk through. 

He is in it with us no matter what choices we make during this time. This time that we cannot really seem to get away from talking about. I remember when it started that it was just going to be a couple of weeks or a month at most. That was precious, now wasn’t it?

Repeat after me: Self-care is not selfish!

What doors do you need to kick down? What doors do you need to go around? What adjustments do you need to make to keep yourself sane and healthy? 

Hope

Be Careful That You Don’t Fall

It blows my mind how God sends the exact things at the exact moment that we need to hear them, or at least He does that for me.

I was in the shower this morning having a conversation with Him about the status of things and passionately telling Him I just did not understand all of this and what the point is/was in drawing the recent months into what feels like forever. 

As I am having this conversation I heard Him speak to me inside my very soul asking me, “Dig deeper. What’s really underneath all of this?” I both love and hate it when you hear Him tell you something that you literally have uttered out loud to someone else a time or two. You know those times when a friend is feeling all sorts of out of shape and not quite sure what the actual problem is and you put on your best friend/sponsor/counselor/sister voice and make them really get honest with themselves? 

Seriously God? Well, okay then. I thought about that prompting and asked myself that very same question. What is underneath all of this? As it turns out, there’s a wee bit of fear of change, rejection and abandonment wrapped up into a nice little package of not wanting to have to adjust because adjusting is not what I really feel like doing right now. Do you know what I mean? Please tell me I am not alone in this. 

There is a scripture in the Bible that says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12) and you will never guess what came to mind today. 

The truth is that pretty much nobody is all excited about having to adjust when it isn’t in their game plan. I knew months ago that there was so much good that was going to come out of this reset, slowdown, crisis, or whatever you want to call it. There HAS BEEN GOOD. Truly, there has. 

The problem is, the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to see, and that brings me back to my point about not slipping and falling. Perhaps, that sneaky little bugger that wants to steal, kill and destroy has gotten a bit of a foothold inside your head or heart, too. He is not firmly planted, but when we start looking under what is underneath and recognize the traps he so craftily sets for each of us I see that the gray is getting gray and things are getting pretty slippery. 

When the underlying fears surface and the real truth is told or admitted then the gray cannot get any grayer and the slowdown can still be a good, good God thing that He will turn into so many things for His glory and our good. Let’s face it, none of us really like to admit what we really feel or think from time to time. It’s just not our human nature. We want to hide and that leads to the slippery slope we should go to any lengths to avoid. 

Your turn. Have you found yourself on the slippery slope? What have you not admitted to yourself, to God or someone you trust lately? I challenge you, as I challenge myself today, to not become complacent or afraid to passionately share with Him what you really think or feel. He is a big God and He can handle it. Be careful that you don’t fall.

Hope, Keeping it Real

The Things We Do

I have learned to laugh at myself and the ridiculous things I think and do. I can laugh at myself most of the time, especially when I see the silly patterns and ingrained tendencies within me that can either make me cry or laugh. The response is usually based on the day and how that day kicks off. 

There are funny (READ FUN FACT) things about me that are just silly, weird, awkward or a mix of all of the above. Things that I would be almost afraid to share with my best friends if I did not know that they all possess their own quirks, too. And we love God and other people and accept them for who they are and not as they should be. Right? 

For example: 

  1. When doing anything involving a checklist or project-I have to leave off at an even number. Let’s say I have a list of things to do at work. I won’t stop with 3, 5, or 7 things remaining. I complete them in even numbers. It bothers me to have an uneven number. 
  2. The volume setting on a device also has to be set at an even number. 
  3. When I am walking, I count steps in my head and, you guessed it, I cannot handle an uneven number.

See what I mean? Quirky. And then not so much. Maybe the connection between even numbers could be made to equality and justice and fair. I don’t know. Maybe that’s a stretch. But seeing people treated fairly, equitably and justly matters to me, too. I get a little bent out of shape over various shades of inequality and injustice. Who knows? I will have to wait to see what God has to see about that and that’s another conversation for another day.

My point is, laughing at my tendencies and odd little quirks make life so much sweeter than wrapping myself up in self-pity, self-loathing and general disdain at my whole self and identity. I am labeled as the daughter of the King of Kings and still human. My labels don’t identify me (at least not much anymore on most of the days) and so I can laugh and find humor in the silly things about me that don’t define me, but make me unique.

What labels have you placed on your pretty little head that you need to let go of? What areas of your life can you laugh about? What are the fun facts you want to share with the rest of us? This is a safe place and it’s okay to be who you are. 

Oh! In case you have forgotten, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14