My Beautiful Year

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I’m not usually the type of person who comes up with themes/motto/words for the New Year. Actually, I was always kinda judgy when I’d hear people talking about their theme words: Ignite, Pause, Empower, etc. The list goes on and the options are endless. Pick a word out of a hat and boom you’ve got a theme. Or, if you could use more help, there are websites for this kinda thing. I’m not even kidding.

I’m not sure why I hated the idea of a theme for the year. Possibly because for many years my unspoken theme word was “survive”. I just wanted to get through the minutes, the days and the year. And that’s exactly what I did. I spent my days just trying to get to the next one. From one big event (or chaos) to the next and the painful, life-less cycle continued on.

Looking back, my heart is grieved that I allowed myself to have that kind of outlook on life. I understand why I did it though. Life is hard and when life gets hard, some of us turn on survival mode and hope for the best. The problem with that is when we’re consumed with simply surviving we miss out on the things that make this life enjoyable.

I had no intention of 2016 being any different, but frustration has the potential to propel you into action. The only thing I knew to do was pray and ask God to help me. I couldn’t go through the motions of another year with the same crappy outlook and attitude. So, I prayed.

“God, I need a miracle.”

That’s my go-to prayer when I have no idea what to pray. I feel like it sums things up pretty effectively and gives Him the freedom to do whatever it is that He wants to do. I’m smart enough to know I don’t have all the answers on how a situation should or could be fixed and praying that kind of simple prayer keeps things in perspective. I need God to do something…I can’t do this alone.

His answer was pretty surprising and it seemed too easy: “Find beauty every day.”

Uh, ok. You got it boss.

Because I’m a writer I decided it’d help me if I wrote down the beauty I saw each day. If nothing else, it’d be a way to stay consistent. I tend to keep up with things that involve a check list of some kind.

Write about something beautiful I saw today. CHECK.

In the beginning, there were times I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find something beautiful. I’m now 3-months in and I can assure you there hasn’t been a day that has gone by where I didn’t see some kind of beauty. Admittedly, beauty sometimes came in unexpected places like the day that was heavily clouded with grief. Even on that day, God showed me beauty. It was in that moment that I was convinced that God was giving me my miracle.

A life that was once centered on survival was much lovelier than before. Had anything really changed? No. The only thing that changed was my perspective. I could walk out this life seeing only all the pain, frustration, circumstances and trials or I could allow God to show me the beauty despite all of those things.

Life is still hard, but now it’s also beautiful.

The beauty has come in a variety of forms and from a variety of places. Some days the beauty was found in the faithfulness of a friend who was willing to pray for me before I went into work. Other days, I saw beauty in the loving glances of a little girl who had crawled up in my lap. It’s not always big and dramatic. Sometimes it’s as simple as a good cup of coffee and the ability to take a nap after two overnight shifts in a row.

Let me encourage you in this: look for beauty. You don’t have to start a journal like me or write a blog post about it (again, guilty!), but train yourself to look with a different perspective. One that isn’t blind to the pain, but is discerning enough to see there’s more than that. It’s a diamond worth mining. You’ll be surprised the treasures you’ll find.

If you decide to do this, I want to hear about the beauty you find. Tell me about it either in the comments below or by using #MyBeautifulYear on social media! Even if it’s months or years from now because it’s just as encouraging to hear about the beauty others are finding too!

 

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My To-Don’t List

MyEverybody seems to be writing bucket lists nowadays. They write down the mountains they plan on summiting and the countries they plan on exploring. There’s the bucket list go to’s like bungee jumping, sky diving and swimming with dolphins. Don’t lie. I know you included those on your list, too.

I’m an avid list writer. I’ve got lists at the office and spilling out of my purse as I grab my wallet to pay for my Pumpkin Spice Latte. Just kidding, I’m more of a mocha girl myself. I’ve got lists of items I need to get at the grocery store, but will undoubtedly lose on my way to said grocery store. Lists of articles I need to write and lists of books I want to read.

There are two lists I refuse to keep. A list of qualities I’m looking for in a spouse, which seems to break everyone’s top advice to a single 31 year old, and a bucket list. With my deep love, even borderline obsession for lists you may be wondering why I don’t participate in this popular ritual.

Bucket lists are full of things we want or hope to do. They are adventures we hope to live and dreams we’d like to become realities. For many people, bucket lists are full of things they wish they could do, but most likely never will. They’re fun to write, but harder to live out because life is full of bills and other not-so-fun adult responsibilities.

Instead of writing a list of things I hope to do on the elusive “someday”, I started writing a list of things I didn’t want to do today. I’m not sure what kinds of things would end up on your list, but here’s a sneak peak of a few that made it onto my to-don’t list:

Don’t judge people by what they post on Facebook.

Sometimes people annoy me on Facebook. My newsfeed seems full of people trying to sell me something– either a product or an ideology and all I really care about is chocolate,  bearded lumberjacks and Jesus. Most days I can roll my eyes and scroll on by without a second thought, but sometimes I get judgy.

“Are they an idiot? They must be an idiot.”

I tend to start seeing people as a faceless lump instead of an individual that might have different political views than me but is still a nice person. I forget that Facebook is a filtered perspective of a person and that in real life they aren’t so bad after all.

Don’t be greedy.

This isn’t your normal Sunday morning friendly reminder to tithe. Being generous encompasses much more than the amount of Benjamins in your wallet. Generosity is about giving the little that you have (time, talents, words) and allowing God to multiply it to bless the masses. That’s kingdom economics.

Oh ya, you can give your money, too. Not just in the offering plate, but in buying a homeless guy lunch or providing education for a child in another country. Seize opportunities to bless others.

Don’t speak negatively about yourself.

I heckle myself relentlessly. I’ll be putting on my make-up in the morning and I’ll say things like, “Geez. These pores are cavernous! There’s not enough cover-up in this zip code to hide these bags under my eyes.” My appearance takes the heaviest blows, but I beat myself up over little mistakes that I’d quickly forget it if it had been someone else. The negative words seem to slip out now almost without me noticing what I’m saying.

Instead of being super critical, I want to saying the things God says about me. I want to speak His truth, His love, and His grace to my own soul because it needs it.

Don’t waste any more time.

To clarify, rest is not wasted time. We were made to rest and when we don’t…well, we get crabby and difficult to live with. Rest is a gift from God so we can be rejuvenated and ready to complete the tasks He has for us.

We’ve all got things that distract us from doing the things we should be doing. You know what they are for you. Sometimes it’s simply choosing to do everything else instead of that one thing you know you should be doing. Not that I’d know anything about that.

I’m not here to convince you to stop adding to your bucket list. Actually, I hope you don’t. Keep dreaming and crossing items off as you live out those amazing adventures. What I am asking for you to do is in between adventures and during the ebb and flow of your everyday life remember there are things you can do (or not do) today. They may not be as gloriously invigorating as cliff jumping, but they’ll be remarkable accomplishments just the same because you chose to make positive changes now instead of waiting.

What are some things you’d have on your to-don’t list? Don’t wait. Get started today.

 

 

#FireWorkPeople: Do What You Were Made To Do

#FireWorkPeople Doing What I Was Made To

I almost quit this week.

Monday night I called my best friend in tears, “I don’t think I’m strong enough to do this. Maybe I should just give up now.” Fear had crept in and I started to wonder if I really had what it takes to continue pursuing this dream, but fear is a liar.

The thing is– this blog, my writing, isn’t just some good idea I fell upon one day. I wasn’t bored looking for something to fill my time. I wasn’t looking for popularity. In reality, at the time I started this blog, I hadn’t even been dreaming.

But God.

Some of the most powerful portions of Scripture include a “But God” moment. A pivotal moment where there is no possible way for a victory to come unless God does a miracle. Everyone involved and everyone watching knows there can only be one explanation and it has to be bigger than themselves or their circumstances. It has to be God.

This blog is the result of a “But God” moment. I had been living life to the best of my ability– going to work every day and filling my evenings with a variety of ministry opportunities. All of them good things. Good things have a way of distracting us from the even greater things God has for us. Up until then that’s where my life was– it had plateaued at good and God had so much more in store for me.

People had been telling me to write for years. They saw greatness in me, but I had dismissed it. Not me, I thought, I couldn’t possibly do that. Those lies bound my hands and silenced my mouth for far too long.

Day in and day out, I’d suppress the desires of my heart– thinking that they were somehow selfish or wrong. I had forgotten along the way that it was God who had been the one to give me those desires in the first place. So, I tried to stifle the fire that was in my soul to write.

With time, as much as I tried to extinguish the flames, God continued to fan them. Finally, I gave in to the heat. “Alright. I’ll write,” I told God. A sideways grin formed on His face….or so I imagined.

So I began to write. And now I can’t NOT write. I feel compelled to do it with every ounce of my being. Yes, there are days where fear creeps in like it did this week. There are moments where the voices in my head tell me to just give up now. Those are the moments where I have to remind myself this is bigger than me.

It has been an amazing journey– one which I could have never imagined and this is just the beginning. There’s so much more in store. Not because I’ve got it all planned out, but because He’s writing the story. (I’m still hoping He adds in my partner for this adventure soon!)

What is it that you’ve felt like you should be doing, but have allowed fear to derail you? Don’t believe the lies that tell you that you can’t do it– you can. In fact, you’ve been made to do it. Now walk in it.

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My life as a prodigal.

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A few days ago, I woke up before my alarm. And as I laid there, all my stresses and anxieties from the past few months awoke as well. Each one feeling like a block of concrete on my chest– one on top of the other keeping me pinned down and gasping for air.

My weary heart turned to God, in that moment, and asked, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME??”

I was angry. I am angry.

And He whispered, “So, you’ll come to me”. He reminded me of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and how it was a desperate, weary, broken, poor man who wandered back to his father.

I was starting to see the correlation. You see, the thing that was so devastating about the son’s request was the fact that he wanted his inheritance before his dad even died. He wanted the benefits without the relationship. Just give me my due and I’ll be on my way.

The audacity of that guy, right?!?! As if his father OWED it to him. Selfish, greedy kid.

The more I thought about it though, the more familiar it seemed.

“Jesus where are my blessings? Like the husband I’ve been praying for. Or the check in the mail to cover these medical bills. Or healing for that relationship I keep asking you for.”

I stand there with my open hand demanding my blessing thinking somehow I deserve it. “YOU OWE ME, GOD. After all I’ve done for you. After all I’ve given up. After all I’ve been through.”

The audacity, right? Selfish, greedy kid.

Like a loving Father, He has blessed me in innumerable ways. In things I’ve seen and in some I haven’t recognized. I enjoy the blessings, but think somehow it was because I earned it. Or because I’ve worked so hard. Or been such a “good person”. (All of those things laughable….and untrue.) He let’s me believe it and do my own thing.

Even if that thing is wallowing in a pig pen.

And that’s where I’ve been. For months.  Covered in mud and shit. Stealing the moldy scraps of slop from the pigs. Just enough to SURVIVE. But there’s a moment when you get fed up with simply surviving. There’s a revelation that life wasn’t meant to be just gotten through. It’s this voice in your heart that says, “You were meant for more than this.”

But you’ve got to go home to dad. So, you start the long walk of shame. Along the way, you craft the most eloquent apology you can muster. It’s sprinkled with groveling and dripping with sorrow. Surely, this will guarantee some grace.

And when He sees you, He comes running to you. And before you can even get out your perfectly practiced speech you are met with kisses, open arms and a freakin’ party. It’s the kind of love that’ll stop you in your tracks. The kind of love that’ll restore a broken, hurting heart. 

I think I’m getting it.

It’s not about being independent and doing things MY way. It’s not about working harder or doing MORE. It’s not even about the right words. It’s about Him. About being with HIM. Oddly enough, this parable was shared with the Pharisees and religious teachers of the day. Some theologians will tell you, the main point was to point out to them, that God rejoices when lost things are found. And that is 100% true. But I also wonder, if Jesus was also wanting them to see that even though they could have all the head/book knowledge, all the memorization of Scripture, every law obeyed to the finest detail that it boiled down to being with the Father.

Simply put, a prodigal is anyone who has wasted their life, time and talents for anything less worthy than what they were made and intended for. And we were made to know the Father and make Him known. In the midst of the pain of this season, in all of the unanswered questions and the seemingly unanswered prayers– God’s desire is simply that I come to Him.

I’m coming home, Dad.

If I knew then, what I know now…

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I turn 30 this week. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten wiser. Although some days that’s questionable.

Here’s some things I’d tell a younger version of myself, if I had the chance:

Don’t be so selfish. Give of your time, money, skills and love to others. Those “deserving” and those, not so deserving. Those you like, and those you don’t.

Don’t ever regret loving. Sure, you’re gonna walk away with a broken heart some of the time, but its worth it. It’s always worth it to love.

Set more boundaries. Boundaries aren’t selfish, even though I still struggle with this idea. Boundaries help healthy relationships grow and protect us from unhealthy ones.

Don’t date him. Or him. Or him. Or him. Mom was right.

Stop being so insecure. You’re awesome. Sure, you’re not a size 2. You still get pimples. And you can be extremely awkward in social settings. It’s ok!

You’re not going to remember– write it down. This includes the trivial (like things you need at the grocery store) to the sentimental (like funny things dad says). I can’t tell you how many times you’ll walk away from a sermon at church and think “Wow! That was good.” and then forget everything that was said. Or the amount of times you’ll go to the store, only to come home with the one thing you needed most (like TP), but failed to because it didn’t get put on the list. Or the amount of times grandpa said something witty and later on thought “What was that silly saying Grandpa told me?”

Take more risks. Fear held me back from doing things I should have tried–even if to say, “I’m never doing that again!”

Being perfect is unattainable….so stop trying. And when you realize you can’t do something perfectly don’t beat yourself up over it.

Forgive faster. Forgive even if you think the other person is wrong. Forgive even if the other person IS wrong. Trust me. Swallow your pride on this one.

Grandma was right–make new friends, but keep the old. Though you may not text, or write, or call as often as they are on my mind– know when you do it will be like there hasn’t been any time or miles between you.

Jesus isn’t as hard on you, as you are on yourself. He’s more loving, more understanding, less judgmental and just more awesome than you could ever grasp, but try to grasp it anyway. Every time you ask Him for more of Himself, He’ll do it.

What are some things you’d tell yourself if you knew then what you know now?