In the Words of Bon Jovi & a Franciscan Prayer

What could an 80’s metal hair band babe and some Franciscan monks have in common? I mean, do they have something in common?!

Stay with me for a second. I know this sounds crazy as I’ve been laughing (literally out loud) while watching the Bon Jovi “Livin’ on a Prayer” music video, but sometimes this is how God talks to me. I can’t help it.

For the last week, I feel like I’ve been at a loss of words. When confronted with the deep, heart-wrenching pain of others I wondered, “What could I possibly say?” So, I spent lots of time listening and reading because I believe that’s part of my calling at this time– to no longer feign ignorance, but educate myself and grow.

This is no new concept. In fact, this is a foundational principle whenever you come in contact with someone who is grieving….LISTEN. There is no perfect arrangement of words to make everything better, but listening brings a simple solidarity between people.

As I’ve mentioned before, during my own personal darkest hours the moments people came and just sat with me or allowed me to share openly about my loss and bear my wounds have been some of the most comforting. These kinds of interactions also bring about a depth of genuine connection certainly needed in this current conversation as well.

In my reading this week, I came across this ancient Franciscan prayer. Even though I haven’t had many words to share and have even struggled knowing what and how to pray this simple prayer seemed beautifully relevant.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live from deep within your heart where God’s spirit dwells.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world and in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don’t think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you’ll have the strength necessary to do.

May God bless you so that you remember we are all called to continue God’s redemptive work of love and healing in God’s place, in and through God’s name, in God’s spirit, continually creating and breathing new life and grace into everything and everyone we touch.

No fancy words are necessary when we pray. You do not need a Theology degree or even know the Greek word for prayer. Prayer is simply connection with our Heavenly Father. I’ve started many a prayer with a sigh or groan.

Sometimes the majority of prayer IS listening. God listening to my list of grievances and frustrations. And if I’m smart, me doing the majority of the listening as He comfort or corrects or directs me.

No need to over-complicate it or overthink it. Just make the space to do it–to simply quiet yourself down and turning off all the distractions. Just you and Him. It’s there where the Living Water of His Presence can come in and give us a drink of water. A drink of hope and a drink of strength.

Here’s my encouragement, whether in the words of an 1855 hymn by Joseph Scriven (“Take it to the Lord in prayer”) or a 1986 rock ballad by Bon Jovi (“Livin’ on a Prayer”) take a minute to do just that.

White Christian Hypocrisy

White christian

I will give fair warning now, there will be language found in this post that some would call vulgar and distasteful. If that is something you find offensive then you might not want to read this one. 

As a white/heterosexual/female/Christian, I have often heard Christians accused of being hypocritical. It’s certainly nothing new, but each time I would do my best to ardently defend Christians everywhere by saying, “Christians aren’t hypocrites. We are just imperfect people. We make mistakes.”

As true as that may be, we aren’t perfect by any means, I am finding it harder and harder to dismiss the hypocrisy found among some.

As a Christian, if you give a hearty “Amen!” after someone reads Micah 6:8 (He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”) but don’t support justice for our black brothers and sisters then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with protesting colonists who threw 342 containers of British tea (valuing about 1 million dollars today) into the Boston Harbor, but get upset when protesters loot a Target then you’re a hypocrite. (By the way, the CEO of Target released a very loving and UNDERSTANDING message to the community.)

As a Christian, if you are ok pledging allegiance to a flag (or nation), but feel personally offended when someone kneels during the pledge (the very right given to them because of that flag) then you are a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you fight for your right to bear arms, but don’t weep when you see and hear of UNARMED black men and women being shot then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you preach that God is love, but God’s love has some kind of conditions to it (like race, sexual orientation, political party, gender, denomination, etc.) then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you celebrate that the Body of Christ is diverse (and you even send missionaries to other countries because every nation needs to be represented in the kingdom!!), but everyone around you looks like you and thinks like you then you’re a hypocrite.

As much as this applies to race, it isn’t the only area of hypocrisy.

As a Christian, if you are ok with your President using the term “pussy” on multiple occasions, but get upset when people wear pink vagina hats at the Women’s March then you’re a hypocrite. (Or if you think Christian women shouldn’t even be a part of such an event!)

By the way, if you support a President who uses vulgar language and claims to be a Christian, but get pissed off when a Christian blogger does it then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with your President talking about kissing women without consent (or “grabbing them by the pussy” as he so lovingly described it) and say it was “before his conversion”, but are disgusted by children being abused in Catholic church (which is undeniably disgusting on every level) then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with obeying one politicians direction because he considers himself a Christian (because he prays?!?!), but refuse to listen to another one because he isn’t then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you pray for the persecuted church in other countries and then use the same term to describe the American church during social distancing/quarantine then you are a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you say women and men are created equal and in the image of God, but magnify the voice of men while stifling the voice of women because they are “too emotional” then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you say that abuse is wrong, but allow husbands to verbally abuse their wives and children and allow them to remain in Christian leadership because it isn’t PHYSICAL ABUSE and you aren’t sure it’s “that big of a deal” then you are a hypocrite.

In order to define hypocrisy, I’d like to throw it back to 1995 when DC Talk (a popular and celebrated Christian rock band) released the song “What If I Stumble?”. The song begins with a recording of Christian theologian Brennan Manning saying:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Or if you prefer the definition found in the dictionary it’s when someone claims to have a moral standard or belief but their actions do not line up. Seems to me like consistency is important here. And I believe one of the top reasons why so many young adults leave the church after high school, but that’s for a different post.

So, how do we address this? How do I even begin to discuss the next steps. If we allow ourselves to look in the mirror and we find hypocrisy there how to we respond? That’s the question I keep asking myself because I understand there ARE areas of hypocrisy in my life.

As I have mentioned in past blogs the only thing I know to do is look to Jesus. How did He respond/act? What did Jesus say about it?

Jesus was not silent on hypocrisy.

In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus talks to the religious scholars and Pharisees calling them out on their bullshit. As The Passion Translation puts it in verse 28, “Outwardly you masquerade as righteous people, but inside your hearts are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

THIS is the question we’ve got to ask ourselves– is there hypocrisy in my heart? Allow Him to reveal it to you. We can trust Him to do that because there wasn’t an ounce of hypocrisy in Jesus.

Jesus was so perfect in fact that His perfection caused people to not like Him. Actually, some people hated Him and were trying to trick Him and trap Him with His words.

They were so hell bent on it in fact that they brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery (I wonder how they knew that?!) in front of Jesus who was teaching in the temple courts (John 8). They made this woman, who I assume was naked, stand in the middle of everyone not only to shame her, but to see if Jesus would condemn her.

As good religious scholars would they brought up the law of Moses. Certainly Jesus wouldn’t disobey the law handed down to them! When He finally responds to them He looks them in the face and gives them permission to stone her if they themselves have never sinned.

I wish I could have been there– to see the look in His eyes the tone in His voice. The leaders who were once angry and demanding answers now silent. One by one walking away because they couldn’t deny their own hypocrisy when Jesus presented them with it.

Again, an example of how Jesus can bring conviction to our hearts if we are willing to listen. If we are willing to let Him confront us on stuff that we’d rather not see.

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty angry about the hypocrisy I see in others in the Church. It disgusts me and enrages me to no end, but I need to have that same response when I see it in myself, too.

Oh, Jesus. Root out every sliver of hypocrisy found in our hearts and allow us to pursue justice, to love mercy and walk with humility. Break our hearts for the things that break yours. Heal our nation and bring unity as only You can. Bring freedom to those bound by racism, by tradition, by sexism and ANYTHING that doesn’t come from You! May your kingdom of peace reign in the hearts of your people. Amen.

Is Church Essential?

White Simple Woman Photo Sale or Business Women's Beauty Facebook Cover

I’m not sure there is a way to discuss this without it becoming a polarizing issue except to NOT discuss it. I’m also aware that those who disagree will have much to say about it…and me…but it’s not the first time a post written with loving intentions had me certainly damned to hell by well-intentioned Christians.

Those who disagree are welcome here, too.

Enough about that. We’re here to discuss if church is essential. Many Christians says so. Savior Trump says so. Must be so.

Is it?

Let me make a simple distinction at the get go. One that I think is wildly important.

There’s a difference between a church service/institution and THE CHURCH. I think we’d all agree with that, right? As Christians, we know we are THE CHURCH. The Body of Christ was put on this Earth to love and serve and bring His kingdom to others. (Which was, in fact, Jesus’ mission as well.)

I am THE CHURCH. You are THE CHURCH. God wants to use us. Desires to use us. Has gone so far as to commission us to BE His Church.

Still with me? Good. Cause here’s the part that I’m going to call into question.

Is a church service essential? Frankly, is the church as an institution essential? No. I don’t think so.

But Holly what about Hebrews 10:25??? What about Acts 2:42??? I’m very much aware of those references and am in no way suggesting anything that is contrary to those verses. What I am suggesting is that it doesn’t look like the Sunday morning service the masses are convinced are essential.

Throughout this season of social distancing and quarantine I have been bewildered by some Christians desires to “get back to normal”. As if normal has somehow been working for us. This could be it’s own blog post, but I wonder if God has been trying to use this time to shake the Church out of it’s stagnancy and CHANGE THINGS UP.

Whenever I have BIG questions like whether church is essential I go back to Jesus. I look at His life. How he was doing things during His time on Earth and then try and use that to answer my question.

If we were to go the traditional route, there are a few times in the Gospels where Jesus was explicitly at the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was the hub for Jewish teaching and was the center for celebrations and holidays. We know Jesus’ family visited the Jewish temple and participated in these holy days. In Luke 2, we read about how as a boy Jesus got left behind at the temple because He was busy listening to the teachers and asking questions.

Jesus also tore up the joint (John 2, Matthew 21) because the temple had become a place of profit. Hmm. I’ll leave that one alone.

We also know Jesus taught in the synagogues “as was his custom” (Luke 4:16). One of my favorite examples of this can be found in Luke 4 where He stands up and reads from Isaiah 61, rolls up the scroll and goes to sit back down. All eyes are on Him at this point because they realize what He’s just alluded to and then plainly states– that He IS the Messiah. Uh, mic drop.

So, what if the temple had been closed for two months? Would this have halted Jesus? Would He have been in an uproar to get the doors re-opened? 

I want to take us back to the story of Mary and Martha. Not so we can look at my woman of faith doppleganger, Martha, but Mary. We are told in Luke 10 that Mary was found at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching. Mary wasn’t the only one in the room. Yes, Martha was pissed off in the kitchen prepping for dinner, but the rest of the family (neighbors, friends) were listening to Jesus, too.

It’s kinda what Jesus did. To echo 12-year old Jesus’ words, “Didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”

He went from place to place hanging out with people. Eating meals with them and giving them the literal Word of God while He lingered there. He did this with Zacchaeus and even big time Pharisees and Jewish leaders, too.

It was this meeting people along the way kind of ministry. The kind of ministry that met people at water holes, along roadsides, in cemetaries (hello, demon possessed naked man!) and in open fields.

He was not shackled to a building, but rather a mission. 

And I get it, we’ve tied the mission of God to a building for so long it’s been uncomfortable and shaky for many when that building (crutch?) has been taken away. 

In a very real way, I understand that meeting together can be encouraging. How praying with one another and worshiping together can usher in the presence of God. I would never deny that, but maybe our church buildings have become precious little idols.

I wonder that because when it’s taken away (even temporarily) a spirit of fear rose up. “They’re denying us our freedom!” “We’re being persecuted!” In Sunday School, we are taught early on that an idol is anything that takes our focus off of God and onto something or someone else. So, again, I just wonder if a building/service/institution has become our focus.

I often wonder if Jesus would be impressed at our big fancy buildings that take up city blocks or old strip mall plazas or would He remind us that it is just a tool. One of many that can be used for His glory. If it gets taken away tomorrow His mission doesn’t and will not end because He’s bigger than that. 

Please hear me. I am not trying to be edgy, clickbaity or controversial. I’m just like you– trying to figure out the heart of God in a world that is constantly changing. I don’t want to miss something He has for me, or US, because I was so busy focusing on one thing when He had something better and BIGGER in mind.

 

 

Life Lessons & Wallpaper Removal

life lessons & wallpaper removal

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you’ll notice a theme. I write about stuff I’m going through and/or learning. If you’d go back through my old posts you’d see those things range from time I spent on the river kayaking or passing a torn down McDonald’s. If our ears and eyes are open, there’s so much to learn in the simple, ordinary moments of life.

Like while tearing down wallpaper.

In October 2011, I moved into my apartment and immediately hated the wallpaper in my entryway. I’m not sure when this house was built, but I’m certain the wallpaper (at least the first layer) is circa the 70’s at my best estimate.

Please don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my little apartment. It’s got character much like it’s tenant. There’s tons of kitchen storage though some of it can’t be reached by a 5′ fun-sized person such as myself. It’s got brand new windows that let in the morning sun and overlooks a back yard with green grass and a bunny or two. The hardwood floors in my bedroom make me smile every single day.

My landlords/neighbors have become friends over the past 8.5+ years of me living here. Their daughters leave me the occasional hand-picked flower on my step to brighten up my day. Of all the sweet perks of this apartment (and there are many) they are by far the best part.

But it was time for the wallpaper to go….past due in fact!

One might ask, “Holly, what has taken you so long to take down the wallpaper?”

Here’s where my lessons begin.

Lesson #1: You can’t get what you don’t ask for. 

I lived with something I didn’t like for almost 9 years because I didn’t ask for anything different. I was willing to live with it.

What things have you been willing to live with?

I’m not talking about dated wallpaper here. I’m talking about toxic relationships, mental health hang-ups or jobs that leave you feeling unfulfilled.

Don’t you think it’s about time you ask for better for yourself? And not just ask for better, but DO better, which leads me to my next point.

Lesson #2: You’ve got to put in the work.

You can have a realization for a looooooooong time that things need to change, but if you don’t do anything to make some changes things are just going to stay in the same.

We don’t lose weight, get a new job or set up personal boundaries just by thinking about it. We’ve got to do something about it. We’ve got to set aside time to exercise or plan healthy meals. We’ve got to search job postings and send out our resume. You get the point I’m trying to make here.

For me that meant tearing down two layers of unruly wallpaper. If I want a renovated and beautiful entryway/office I’m going to need to put in the elbow grease.

Lesson #3: You’ve got to have the right tools.

Something you might not know about me is I’m slightly obsessive. Personally, I’d prefer if we called it driven or highly-motivated, but obsessive might fit better. If I get something in my head that I want or want to do I dive right in. So, when my landlord gave me the go-ahead to tear down the wallpaper I started immediately.

I have a small drawer of floral handled tools (Thanks, Mom!), that doesn’t seem to include a scraper. This tool is extremely helpful when trying to remove old wallpaper. Yet, in my haste and excitement to begin the task at hand I just started. I don’t need a scraper. This is fine. (It was not fine.) It made the job more tedious than it needed to be.

Thankfully, my landlord had the tools I needed and graciously shared them with me.

Sometimes I don’t have the tools. That’s ok. Others might and many are more than willing to share their knowledge/tools/gifts/skills to help you accomplish the task at hand.

Also, I’d prefer NOT to bring it up but this lesson also might also show the importance of allowing people to help you. Please don’t tell my best friend I said this. She’s always telling me it’s important I recognize I need community and other people to grow and heal and all that stuff and I simply don’t like admitting that because I like doing things myself. (cough, cough. I mentioned I tried to remove wallpaper without a scraper, right?)

Lesson #4: It’s all a process. 

I’m a bit naive when I take on projects. I’ve got the end goal in mind and the euphoria of having a beautiful updated space is at the forefront of my mind. NOT the steps I will need to take to get there.

But it is a process. After I tore down the wallpaper I needed to do some repair. The repair required it’s own steps. After taping and mudding and sanding it’ll be more sanding of trim in order to prepare for painting. Even after I get it painted and I stand to admire all of my hard work I will still have to put furniture back and get it set up the way I’d like it.

Process.

Accomplishing goals requires acknowledging there is a process and recognizing not all of the process will have linear progress. AKA ya’ll we are going to have set backs. And that is OK.

As I sit here mid-process on my project it could be easy to get discouraged. Why did I get myself involved in this anyway???

I’ll tell you why! The end result. Sometime soon (soon….that nice vague timeline) I will be typing this from my beautiful office nook with freshly painted walls, vintage white lace curtains and a small plant I will certain kill in a few weeks after getting it. I’ll be sitting at a desk the full length of my wall that my brother helped me put together from some scrap wood he had and some hairpin metal legs I bought on Etsy. It will be perfect.

While social media will surely see the finished product they won’t see everything it took to get me there. Maybe that’s lesson #5. People won’t know all it took for you to reach your goal. They just won’t.

My hope for all of us is that wherever and however the lesson comes (or wherever we are at in the process) that we would learn a few things about ourselves, about our priorities and about life.

 

Radical Acceptance

Radical

Every time I sat down to write this I was unable to because I felt like a fraud. You see, I don’t have this radical acceptance stuff figured out. I am very much on the journey towards it, but I’m not there yet.

Actually, that could go for everything I write. There is not a topic I’ve fully grasped, championed or perfected. I’d like to think that’s part of why you come here because you can relate to not having it all figured out. When I share my own imperfection I hope you find it an encouragement and not something that makes what I have to say fraudulent.

Back to the topic at hand then: RADICAL ACCEPTANCE.

A friend mentioned this phrase to me recently and it stuck with me. So much in fact that I scribbled the words into my notebook to study out when I had more time. I wanted to figure out what radical acceptance means to me? FOR ME?

Like the nerd that I am one of the first things I like to do is look up definitions. In my experience, there’s a wealth of insight when we look at what a word means. So that’s what I did here.

I won’t bore you by writing out the lengthy definitions, but just some things that stood out to me that I think will further our discussion. (This is a discussion, right? Or are blogs just me talking to myself? haha….moving on.)

radical (adj): far reaching or thorough

Radical is fundamentally extreme. It is not wishy washy, but an “all in” mentality.

I’ve heard Christian leaders call us to be “radical for Jesus” yet when we radically love the people He instructed us to they don’t like it. Funny how that Truth can be so easily warped by a person’s agenda. Thing about that is when you warp a Truth to fit an agenda it’s not longer true.

I may be going off on a side tangent here (not sorry about that), but being radical for Jesus doesn’t mean sitting in the front row on Sunday mornings or rushing to get back IN a church building after this Coronavirus stuff is over. Being radical for Jesus doesn’t mean putting a Jesus sticker on your bumper or not saying words like shit.

Being radical for Jesus means advocating for those who have been abused, neglected and mistreated. Being radical for Jesus means getting OUTSIDE the church walls and pursuing the hurting and broken and not just expecting them to walk into a church building.

Seems to me like some of the stuff that Christians have labeled as “radical for Jesus” is just whitewashed religiosity.

My tone might sound angry in those last few paragraphs because….I am. American Christianity (and I do stress a difference here) seems to pick and choose what aspects of Jesus fits nicely into our life and schedule. There’s nothing radical about that.

On to our next word.

acceptance (noun): consenting to receive something offered

Under one of the definitions for acceptance was this line: a willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation. 

Damn.

I’m going to let that sit a minute. That leveled me. I feel difficult and unpleasant the majority of the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered and worried if I was being a pain in the ass. Just ask my best friend, siblings or guys I’ve dated and they could all attest I’ve asked them if I was being a pain numerous times.

For me this phrase “radical acceptance” should read “radical self acceptance”. And when I go back to my original questions (What does radical acceptance mean to me? For me?) this is how I would answer them with all that stuff in mind.

Radical acceptance means willingly tolerating (and even celebrating) every aspect of who I am. Even the more difficult or “ugly” parts of who I am.

Radical acceptance means to thoroughly and wholeheartedly receive a person and all they bring to the table.

It means allowing myself the grace to share my thoughts, struggles and opinions without having to preface it with an apology. NOT that it gives me free reign to be a jerk, but that it simply allows me to be open and authentic without feeling like I have to soften that for someone’s palate.

I’ve been told I’m too emotional, too loud, too opinionated, too whatever and I’m coming to some conclusions that I might be too much for some and that’s ok. I may not be spiritual enough for some or lady-like for others. I may be too liberal for some and too conservative for others.

In caring so deeply about what other’s liked and didn’t like about me I ended up hating myself and I’m slowly trying to pick up the pieces and accept me for all that I am. I am imperfect and flawed and get it wrong so very often, but I’m also generous and thoughtful and funny.

And on my journey to radical acceptance I will celebrate all of who I am…even the unpleasant or difficult stuff.

I hope you will find the strength and courage to love all of you, too. That’s the kind of radical love Jesus has for you. An all encompassing, unapologetic fierce kind of love.

 

The Exact Timeline for Healing

the exact timeline for

I tricked you.

There is no such thing as an exact timeline for healing. 

wish it were that easy. I wish I could sit here and give you a formula so we could determine how many days you’d be hurting. It’s not like that.

Yet people will try to offer you advice, books to read (I currently have 8 books that have been given to me and are waiting to be read)  or essential oils to buy. When that stuff doesn’t work and some magical number of days/months have passed we’ll be told to just “get over it”.

Sure, they may not say those words. Most will try and cushion it and frame it as gently as possible, but when you shake off all the niceties that’s what you’re left with.

We say some dumb things to grieving, hurting people.

And I get it’s with the best intentions. Actually, I really get that. As I’ve watched people I love walk through some horribly painful experiences I have tried to use every kind of word band-aid I could come up with. Anything to ease the pain and stop the hurting.

“It won’t always be like this.” Just another fancy way of saying, “You’ll get over it.”

We wrongly assume that time lessens grief and pain….but it doesn’t. Time (alone) doesn’t do anything. In fact, sometimes time can make it worse.

The last few years I found myself in a perpetually painful situation. One that has left me so strangled by anxiety that I am losing sleep (or unable to get out of bed). I have felt like a shell of a human unable to even fake a smile on the outside. On the good days I’m miserable and on my bad days I’m begging God to kill me.

I told myself a good Christian (a good leader) would just get over it. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal and to just get over it. I told myself it was all my fault and to just GET OVER IT.

As time went on the hurt only got worse as I compounded it with layers of shame and guilt because I hadn’t just….gotten over it. I’m starting to slowllllllly peel back those layers, but it’s only through getting help that I have made any progress towards healing at all.

But what about grief? It’s no different.

The thing about losing someone you love is that time only makes the chasm bigger. The time since you last heard their voice, felt their touch or saw their face gets further and further away. You don’t just get over losing someone.

I saw a bleeding heart plant the other day and for a moment it took my breath away. That plant will always remind me of my grandma. Each summer she would have one hanging on her back porch and we would watch the hummingbirds come drink from their flowers. I miss her and as the time goes by I only seem to miss her more.

At the grocery store this week, while we were all masked up and steering clear of each other’s personal space there was a woman who came up behind me in the meat department. I almost said to her, “Hey Ma!” thinking it was my best friend’s mom who passed away a few years ago. She’s gone and I don’t feel like I had the opportunity to say goodbye to her. Time hasn’t brought any comfort there.

Grief is more than death though. It’s the loss of a marriage that you thought was perfect. It’s the loss of a job because of COVID-19. It’s infertility or miscarriage. It’s singleness. It’s the result of abusive relationships. I don’t need to give you examples. You’ve got your own.

If there is no timeline, and there isn’t, what do we do?

It seems silly to try and give you some prescription for this. There are no “3 easy steps”. No miracle drugs. And to be honest, I’m still in over my head trying to work through it all myself.

My intention wasn’t to give you answers. It was simply to let you know that if you’re still hurting when everyone has forgotten why that it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. There’s no reason to be ashamed. Your healing process won’t look like anyone else’s so be gentle with yourself. No need to compare your journey with those in your Facebook feed.

Please, whatever you do, just remember to give yourself some grace.

 

 

Lessons from COVID-19: Things I Don’t Want to Change

Lessons from COVID-19_

Captain’s log: Day 9,214 of Quarantine

Has it been that long or does it only feel that long?

I no longer fit in pants other than leggings (yes, leggings are pants). I blame it on an amazing 1-minute microwave mug brownie recipe I found a few weeks ago.  Days not only bleed together, but snacks and meals volley back and forth all day long. Also, is it ok that breakfast has dessert following it?

I’m finding new and creative ways to organize drawers and cabinets including using an old Clementine crate I painted to match my shower curtain. I’ve scrubbed cabinet handles with Brillo pads, which I’m certain haven’t been cleaned since I moved in 9 years ago. Also, spent an afternoon soaking my shower drain grate and then cleaning each square individually with a pipe cleaner.

This is what my life looks like, but I’m not mad at it.

Actually, quite the opposite.

I know this season has been difficult on many as they try to manage finances, homeschool children, social distance and simply survive this global pandemic. This post is in no way belittling the hardship people are facing.

Yet, I find myself incredibly thankful for some lessons I am learning during this time. Maybe you have felt these, too.

R E S T

I was listening to a sermon recently where a question was asked that pricked me a bit. You know what I’m talking about– the one where you’re like, “Alriiiiiiiiiiiight, Lord. I’m listening.” The preacher asked:

Are you praying to get out of something a few months ago you were asking God to give you?

Gulp.

I have been begging God for a break for a long time now. Not months….we are talking years. I’ve been so burnt-out on busyness that it was grinding away at any joy I had in life (or ministry or serving). I couldn’t enjoy simple pleasures because I was so busy trying to fit in all the friggin things I HAD to do.

And now, I don’t have to do anything. Well, I’m still working from home everyday, but other than that my schedule is free and that is freeing.

W R I T I N G

My cabinet handles aren’t the only thing getting some much needed attention. My blog, which had gone radio silent for well over a year, is now back into my regular routine. Where ideas had dried up previously there are now creative and inspiring springs coming forth.

In a similar creative vein, I’ve started testing out 1-Minute Monday video messages on some of my social media platforms, which I’m quite certain I would have never attempted if it wasn’t for all this. I’m actually  enjoying changing up the media and trying something new even if my stuff isn’t highly edited or the lighting isn’t always quite right.

C O M M U N I T Y ~ R E I M A G I N E D

One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in this season is that I get to connect to those I want to. The social demands of my life are much more restricted, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to experience community. It just doesn’t look like it did before.

It’s not just that I’m spending more time on the phone and writing letters, but it’s the quality of conversation I’ve been having. Where conversations were once overrun with recapping schedules and how tired I was I’m now able to talk about an interesting article I read or how I’m exploring ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

I’ve also been inspired by the simple creativity of others who have found new ways to connect while maintaining the 6-feet perimeter. For me personally I’ve had handpicked Spring flowers left on my doorstep. I’ve seen how others have used some of their time to sew masks for those who need them. This generosity creates connection even if words are never exchanged. I can’t fully explain it, but I know how it feels. I’m sure you do, too.

Have I felt lonely at times? Absolutely!

I’d be lying if there weren’t moments this whole situation has felt mind-numbingly isolating. On the good days, I redirect and FaceTime my sister to talk about laughter yoga and say “Hi” to my doggie nephew. On the bad days, I eat a “sharing size” bag of peanut M&M’s.

B O U N D A R I E S

If ever I needed an intervention (besides for my chocolate addiction, of course) this would be the area I’d need it. “No” was a word that had somehow never been programmed into my vocabulary. Add an unrelenting desire to make people happy and voila you’ve got the making for some toxic relationships!

This season has created some much needed space for me. Space for me to realize what I need to do moving forward to create a healthier environment for myself.

It’s hasn’t been easy and the first few weeks I was scrambling to find some activities I could safely lend myself to like serving at the Meals on Wheels program. An amazing and worthwhile place to give your time, but for me this was me filling an unhealthy hole that very much did not need to be filled.

There will come a time where this “pause” will be lifted and life will get back to normal. I will no longer be able to use social distancing as an excuse NOT to do something. A time where I will have to actually stick up for myself and my needs and not feel guilty about it and I’m using this time to (hopefully) prepare for all of that.

I’m finishing this post on a rainy, chilly Sunday afternoon. My morning spent enjoying scrambled eggs, a pot of coffee and trash-picking videos on YouTube. I’ve got some candles burning and things feel….good. I could not say that for many years and for that I am thankful.

I hope there are moments like this for all of you, too. Moments you find yourself snuggled up on the couch with your kids or pets watching a funny movie or with your hands elbow deep in bread dough just having the time of your life. May there be lovely moments that bring you simple contentment.

Things You Shouldn’t Say to the Hurting

Things You Shouldn't Say to the Hurting

Here’s another one from the vault. Last week’s post was from 2015– this one goes back a snidge further to 2014.

I’ve debated on reopening these posts and actually finishing them. There’s a reason I never hit publishShame (& fear) has often stopped me in my tracks. I’ve worried I’d “offend” people. Afraid of being misheard or misunderstood.

Turns out that I’m finding freedom in realizing no matter what I do or say someone will always be upset. So, I’m going to share the stuff I feel like God has placed on my heart and hope it encourages the people it’s meant to.

A few weeks ago (in 2014) at church, a lady came up to me and said: “It’s so nice to see you smiling again. It’s good to have you back.”

I didn’t know I had been “gone”.

If you’ve spent any time with me in person, you’d know that my face is pretty readable. When I’m sad, you can tell. When I’m pissed off, you can tell. When I’m giddy with excitement, you can tell. If I need a cup of coffee….you get it.

There’s no doubt, that my “struggling” had been visible to people. I knew I hadn’t been smiling very much, but I’m not the type to smile if I’m not happy. Maybe you think its appropriate to be fake in certain settings, but I don’t. See it as a flaw or a virtue, I am who I am.

So, when I stared at her first in shock and then in frustration, I’m pretty sure she could sense that I wasn’t taking her comment as encouragement even though I’m assuming that was her intention.

Instead of encouragement I was met with shame. Holly, why can’t you just get your crap together? Why do you always seem to be struggling? You’re a Christian, what kind of testimony is it to be such a mess? That’s a brief and highly edited synopsis of my internal thought life after the woman walked away.

I was hurt. It hurt. And it’s ok to admit that. It doesn’t make me emotional or immature or ungodly. IT MAKES ME HUMAN. 

I’ve sat in meetings where people have told me they couldn’t understand how I could look so miserable. What kind of leader was I? Just more examples of what NOT to say to someone who is hurting.

It never seemed to cross their minds to simply ask, “Hey Holly. It looks like you’re hurting. I see you. I care about you.”

I’ve said the wrong things, too. Actually, just this week (back in 2020 now) I probably (read: absolutely) said some things to my best friend I shouldn’t have. I was trying my best to encourage with endless Bible verses when all she really needed to hear was “I love you. I’m sorry this sucks so bad. Let’s eat ice cream.”

Is it bad to share Bible verses or worship songs that have lifted you up in hopes it’ll be a drink for their weary soul? No. Not at all. Most of the time though they just want to know you care.

Just shut up and care, Holly.

 

The Back Story: My Writing Journey

The Back Story_ My Writing Journey

I started writing this post in 2015. It was originally titled: “My Struggle to Speak”. haha. Pretty fitting title considering it’s 5 years later and I’m just now finishing it. 😉

My blog has been on again off again since 2013. When announcing my most recent return to it on Facebook I jokingly asked, “How many times am I going to do this?” The answer? As long as it takes.

I was created to write. How’d I figure that out? Here’s my story….

I started writing in high school, which means I kept a journal filled with angsty poetry. My senior year I took on some larger writing projects and realized writing came easy(er) for me. At that point, it wasn’t a dream and I had no idea what my calling was…or, if you would have asked me, it’d have been to get married at 18 and live off love. Ya, I’m serious.

While attending Bible college a few years later, I took a Journalism class which had never been offered and would never be offered again. My first article was about the MTV generation and I got an A (in case that question ever ends up on Jeopardy). This was where my sassy tone in writing started showing–like when I mentioned in one of my pieces how I imagined my guardian angel to be the type to have tattoos, smoke cigarettes and drive wood paneled station wagons. Actually, this is still pretty accurate.

My last semester there, Ezekiel 37 became my life calling/verse. If you don’t know the story off the top of your head, it’s where God tells Ezekiel to speak to the dry bones and command them to live again. Spoiler alert: THEY DO. I felt like God was telling me that I was going to be used to speak life. I wasn’t entirely sure what that would look like then. In many ways, I’m still figuring it out.

After Bible school I moved to Kansas to be a full time youth leader. Writing became more of a hobby during that season. I started a Xanga page, which was the cool social media platform back then. This was when Facebook was still only for college kids (that makes me feel old) and Xanga was a way for me to connect with the teens in my youth group. There was still no dream just a recognition that I enjoyed writing and people enjoyed reading what I wrote.

It wasn’t until I moved back to New York that I realized there was more to this writing thing than I thought. I was now unemployed and waiting to figure out my next step when I submitted an article to an online magazine on a whim. It was accepted and published and I was ecstatic. That happened a few more times and I decided I should probably get my writing degree. And that’s what I did.

Do you need a Writing degree to write? Absolutely not. haha

Fast forward to 2015 (when I first started writing this). I’m working as an administrator at a small church. It’s not a writing gig, and it won’t be making me a millionaire, but there’s some perks to the job. The biggest perk being that it’s paying my bills so I can write when I come home at night. My small studio apartment has a writing nook, which once held a kitchen table. Now I just eat dinner at my desk.

It’s now 2020 and most of that is still true. Still no kitchen table and I’m eating meals at my desk. Seems like what a die-hard writer would do. 🙂 I’m no longer working at the aforementioned church, but work from home which allows me the same flexibility I had before in regards to my writing.

So, what’s this mean for you? Why should YOU care about this?

I don’t think I’m the only one who has struggled to do what they were made to do. Knowing IS half the battle, but doing is no easy task either. At least in my experience. My advice is going to be simple and a repeated truth from the second paragraph. Keep doing it (or attempting to do it) as long as it takes.

I’m not sure what you’re trying to do– start a new business, learn to paint or create a YouTube channel. You may have tried a dozen times. Try again. If God put something on your heart to do please do it.

We need you to do it.

 

Jesus’ Resurrection Day Instructions

Jesus' Resurrection Day Instructions

We’ve come to Sunday. The day that ushers in the grand celebration and realization that Jesus did what He said He would do– He conquered death and the grave and gives us all the VICTORY!

If that’s all I were to write for you today it would be sufficient. Period. But as I read the resurrection account in Matthew I felt there was a message for us for the days AFTER Easter and especially in the days of quarantine and global pandemic.

These instructions come from Jesus Himself when talking to the first people to see Him in His resurrected form. I know we like to focus on His last words before returning to Heaven. They are obviously important instructions as well, but these “first words” shouldn’t be skipped or skimmed over.

Here’s the interaction:

Matthew 27: 9-10 (The Passion Translation) “Along the way, Jesus suddenly appeared in front of them (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) and said, ‘Rejoice!’ They were so overwhelmed by seeing Him that they bowed down and grasped His feet in adoring worship. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Throw off all your fears. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will find me there.”

REJOICE

I’m a word nerd. Sometimes I look up definitions for commonly used words just so I don’t miss any deeper beauty. Rejoice is defined as to feel or show great joy or delight.

In the Greek, rejoice was used as a common greeting but it’s also a blessing. Imagine if the very first words out of your mouth when interacting with someone was a blessing to say, “My desire is that our conversation brings you JOY!”

Or in Holly terms, that our hope is that we leave people better than we found them. I could go on in great length in the amount of conversations that have left me hurt, discouraged and angry. Instead, I’d like to turn the question to myself. How many people I haven’t left better?

If you read the Gospels you’ll notice the vast majority of people who encountered Jesus left feeling lighter– many of them having their lives radically transformed. Just like Mary Magdalene, in fact.

There were some people who left Jesus saddened. Why? He told them something they didn’t want to hear.

I’ve had both experiences. I know you may be shocked to hear that sometimes I do dumb stuff and Jesus needs to lovingly correct me. It happens. But oh man, those joyous moments where I’m lost in His delight and affection have revived me and comforted me time and time again.

THROW OFF ALL YOUR FEARS

Unfortunately, fear isn’t quarantined to this Cornavirus crisis. For some, it may rise up when they see a certain name pop up on the caller ID, see a negative balance in their checking account or get the news of a diagnosis.

Fear has come at me in all those ways and more. I’m sure you’ve got your own to share, too. It sounds like Jesus is showing our options when faced with fear. We can hold on to it and allow it to consume us OR (as He suggests) throw those suckers off.

What does that mean? How can I practically apply that to my life? As soon as the fear and anxiety comes your way to not entertain them. Often I find myself conversing with my fear giving it more time and space than it’s due.

I’ve worked with kids for a long time and when a child is struggling with fear (like homesickness at camp) you redirect them. You ask them questions about their pets. You tell them about fun things you’ll be doing with them that day. You tell them a joke.

When fearful thoughts come our way (I KNOW this is easier said than done)– redirect them. Respond to them with faith and God’s word. In doing so, you’re redirecting yourself to the heart and voice of God and giving attention to what He says.

GO & TELL

When you’ve encountered Jesus in a supernatural and powerful way He wants us to tell others about it because He knows others need to hear it. They need to know that God does what He promises and that you’ve seen it with your own eyes! It’s not just something in an old book, but it’s something you’ve experienced.

What are some things God has promised you that you’ve seen come to pass? Tell someone! They need to know that God is still working and moving and speaking TODAY.

If we skip to Mark 16:11 we find out that Mary does exactly what she’s told. Let’s check it out:

Mark 16:11 (TPT) “Excitedly, Mary told them, ‘He’s alive and I’ve seen Him!’ But even after hearing this, they didn’t believe her.”

Even when God Himself gives you a message to share there will be people who doubt it. 

Wow.

How many times have I shared something in a sermon or a blog post and wondered if I said the right thing because of how people responded? The Truth is Jesus only requires me to do (and say) what He says. I don’t get to determine how people will interpret it or respond to it.

In fact, as one friend encouraged me today, you will be opposed in the areas you have been effective.

What’s that mean for me? Imma keep writing.

What’s that mean for you? Keep doing what God has called YOU to do.

In conclusion, Happy Easter. 🙂 Though your Easter may look wildly different this year, I pray it’s one where you encounter Jesus in a powerful way!