Unfamiliar Changes Are Harder Than Time-Consuming, Familiar Changes (Why Taking A Walk Is Hard)


March is here, and I am still thinking about my goals for the year. That’s not an unusual thing for me, but if sticking close to your goals is hard for you, may I recommend Powersheets?

I won’t list out all my goals for you, but I want to tell you what I’ve learned from two of my goals for this year. I decided I wanted to take more walks and read more books this year so I came up with this cute goal. It’s Instagramable and Tweetable.

200 books

200 walks

200 Books 200 Walks.jpg

Isn’t it adorable?

So how I am doing two months in?

I’m right on track on my reading goal.

200 books divides out to 17 books a month. I read 17 in January and 17 in February. I’m right at 34 books read.

200 walks divides out to 17 walks a month.

Ummmmm.

I didn’t take 17 walks in January or February.

I didn’t take zero walks though.

So there’s that.

I took 5 walks in January. (Single digits, y’all.) I took 8 walks in February. (The tiniest bit better.)

So I am not on track with my walking goal. I’ve done 13 out of 200. That means I still have 187 walks left in 2019.

187!

Here’s the puzzling thing about these two goals. I am not demanding about these walks. A 30 to 45-minute walk is great. I’m not speed-walking these things. A stroll counts.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

On the other hand, it takes hours to finish a decent book.

HOURS!

Why am I flying through this time-consuming reading goal while the walking goal that demands so little of my time gets pretty much ignored?

I think it’s because I was already reading a lot last year, and bumping up to reading a little more wasn’t as big of a change.

I was not exercising with any amount of regularity last year. Even though taking a walk has a literal phrase that means easy — “walk in the park” — I can’t seem to get it done.

It’s a bigger change, not because it takes more time, money (it’s free to walk), or equipment (I have legs, headphones, and shoes.) It is a bigger change because it hasn’t been a habit in my life.

Reading takes lots of time, some money (God bless the library and Ben Franklin for suggesting it), and I think it may be ruining my eyes (ain’t gonna stop me though.)

Googling “how long does it take to form neural pathways,” tells me this:

Now 66 days is the average and there are always variances. Some people can form deeply ingrained habits in as little as 18 days while others can take well over 200 days to form a habit. The ease and convenience of the habit also has a large part of how long it takes to form a habit.

So basically, it may take all 200 of my walks this year to change my brain to make walking a habit.

What does this mean? Give up? No!

It means I have to celebrate my progress. I have to be proud of my 13 walks in two months. It might be more walks than I took in the whole of 2018. I wasn’t counting.

People often ask me how I stay so motivated and energized. I could tell you I try to eat healthy foods and sleep well at night, but the real answer is grace.
— Lara Casey, Cultivate

It means I have to push myself to do something that doesn’t feel natural.

It means I have to stop listening to my excuses.

I never make excuses not to read, but I can think of 15 excuses why I can’t take a walk right now, the first one being I would have to put real pants and shoes on. Ugh. Who can be bothered?

But when I realize I’m not just taking a walk, I’m changing my brain, I can tell myself I am doing a hard thing that needs extra babying and celebration. I can pep talk myself into creating pathways that think walks are a normal part of a healthy day. I can tell myself that 2020 Jennifer will find walks easy peasy.

What about you?

What changes have you found hard to make because they were new and unfamiliar to your life?

What small numbers do you need to celebrate?

Marking Changes By Changing my Instagram Name

Changes are coming.

How do I feel?

Do I feel excited? Yes, because of the possibilities.

Do I feel scared? Yes. I don’t want to feel hurt again.

How can I know it will be different?

I’m different.


This year is going to be full of change for me. We are walking fast towards changing cities, changing ministry jobs, changing homes. We are going from dry to humid, from comfortable to new, from local ministry to global ministry at Wycliffe Bible Translators, from Texas to North Carolina, from Amarillo to the JAARS headquarters near Waxhaw.


It seems fitting to make a simple change to mark these changes. I am changing my Instagram name because AmarilloJennifer doesn’t fit what God is telling me about who I am or what God is calling us to.

How did I get here, to such massive changes?

It started with pain as all new things do.

Childbirth.

Pruning.

Turning over a leaf without pain isn’t realistic. Is the leaf removed from the tree, in the process of dying, crackling even with your gentle touch?

It’s a common refrain in this Christ-following life: church hurt.

I was in a season feeling out of control (as if we are ever in control.) In Annie Down’s book Remembering God, she said the place she wanted to be when she felt church hurt was an old, sturdy, reliable cathedral.

When I read this, I laughed out loud because I realized this is exactly what I did to respond to my church hurt. I asked my family, cleared it with my pastor, and we started attending a very traditional, early church service. We went and listed to their pipe organ, choir donning robes, hymns with obsolete words, high ceilings. I felt safe in those pews.

We did those early services for about three months, and God met me there.

God met me in other ways in those hard months when everything about my life felt as if it had forgotten about gravity and was hovering and threatening to crash down.

I was asking God, “Are we suppose to leave?”

I realize now I was asking God the wrong question. In Jen Wilkin’s book In His Image, she talks a lot about being in God’s will. She says this:

For the believer wanting to know God’s will for her life, the first question to pose is not ‘What should I do?’ but “Who should I be?”
— Jen Wilkin, In His Image


I was asking “DO” questions, but God in His loving way was answering my unasked “WHO” question. In every good thing He was putting in my path meant for my healing, He was telling me who I was.

I started therapy around the same time I was finding solace in that unchanging church sanctuary. Over months of talking through feelings shoved in corners, patterns emerged. God showed me that I could ignore my past hurts not allowing them to come into my thoughts, but they were going to drive my brains reaction to every current hurt whether I acknowledge them or not.

I saw that hiding in the bathroom during times of stress or feeling ignored was directly related to experiences I had as a child. I saw that my urge to run away when I felt like I wasn’t measuring up to other’s standards was directly related to my flight responses. I saw that my anxiety to enter situations had everything to do with fears of rejection.

I began to turn those fears, anxiety, and hurts on their head. I looked to Christ. How does He feel about me?

  • I know I am seen. I am never ignored by God, and He hates being ignored by us.

  • I know that I am known. God takes pleasure in knowing me.

  • I know that I am chosen. I could never be rejected by God because we are forever family.

  • I know that I am loved. God first loved me, and His pure love for me cannot be matched.

  • I know that I am liked. God sees and knows me, and His opinion of me is that He likes me.

  • I know that I am friended. God calls me friend, and He lets me know what He is doing.

  • I know that I am included. God never pushes me away; He always draws near.

  • I know that I am commissioned. God has given me all authority of Heaven and earth to make disciples in His name.

When I look at my current Instagram name, AmarilloJennifer, I think of me three years ago before I was graciously showed who I was. I was looking for identity in my role in ministry here in Amarillo. I saw what I was doing for God in my outreach, church, service, and good works as who I was. If you asked me to tell about myself, I couldn’t get through three sentences without mentioning my ministry in Amarillo.

I am not AmarilloJennifer.

As we pursue this calling to join Wycliffe, I have learned some lessons. I know I am not WycliffeJennifer. I cannot define myself by the temporary or what I do.

I can only define myself by the permanent and what Christ did.

Which brings us to the new Instagram name:

KnownSeenLiked

I am KnownSeenLiked.

ACS_0210.JPG

You might wonder why I picked out these three truths. You might be especially wondering why I would choose liked over loved.

My pain centered around being misunderstood. I wanted desperately to explain myself to all parties involved and the world at large in a way that would end in everyone’s approval. I wanted to be known.

We all have this longing deep inside us, and I believe this longing is good. What is not good is selfish ambition and bitter jealousy. It is hard to separate those good motives of sharing myself with others from the motive of wanting approval from this world.

God meets this need to be known and understood on the deepest level. He knows me better than I know myself. When I get brave and be honest with God, when I let down my false selves that I can easily hide behind, when I allow sharing of my true, real thoughts and feelings with God, I feel that need to be known by others slip away. I understand now it was an unattainable goal that would never give me any satisfaction.

In my pain, I wanted to be seen. Feeling ignored sends me to a very dark place very fast. I do not mean failing to be recognized or not applauded for doing good. What I mean is feeling like I have been hurt and no one notices or cares. This feeling that I am on my own, left to bandage my wounds myself causes overwhelming feelings of distress and anxiety in me.

Others sometimes do God’s work in showing me love, they show me that they care about my life — the good and the bad. More often, others are too busy with their own life to notice valleys or mountains in my life. God sees every step. He is never too busy to see me.

Why liked instead of loved?

One of those healing, good things that God put in my path was Sonscape Retreat. Sitting in front of printed out results of online tests I had taken before we arrived and a couple who was there to counsel, mentor, and guide us toward healing from ministry burnout, I was faced with some truth. I was confronted with the fact that I was not objective in my thinking. I had the tendency to illogical and self-absorbed instead of fair-minded when it came to thoughts about myself and how I was perceived by others. My surveys had also revealed the fact that I had a big problem with negative self-talk. These things together pointed to a deep-seated hurt in my past that had not been dealt with. I was advised by these wise guides to listen to a sermon. The sermon was delivered by Brennan Manning.

I had never heard of Brennan, and like the overachiever I am, I took notes. I wrote these quotes in my notebook.

  • God loves you intimately. His love reaches into my dark places.

  • God loves you uniquely and reliably.

  • God loves you tenderly. God likes you. Do you believe it?

  • I dare you to trust that God loves you as you are because you’re never going to be as you should be.

  • Self-love is a profound act of faith.

This sermon challenged me in a way I had never been challenged before. I began the work of accepting that God liked me just the way I am.

These words were not new. They had been drilled into my head as a child from the television set. I had let shame and untruths cover over this beautiful, childlike truth that my friend Mister Rogers had told me over and over every time we met in my living room.

You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”
— Mister Rogers

What I didn’t know as a little girl is that Fred Rogers had trained at seminary and had been ordained by the Presbyterian church to minister to children through the medium of television. He was telling me how God felt about me by modeling our loving God in his words and actions.

There is something about knowing we are liked that feels so much more intimate than the overused word love. I feel a deeper connection to this God who wants to commune with me. God would have never sent His precious son to earth to die for my sins if He didn’t not only love me but like me also. And Jesus died not for some idealized version of me. Jesus died for me, the sinner - just as I am - me. I am His handiwork. He called His creation good. He made me, and He likes me just as I am.

I am KnownSeenLiked.

The best part of this new Instagram name is that it is you too.

You are KnownSeenLiked.

These truths about me are true for you too.

How amazing to try to avoid this trap of selfish ambition on this social media platform and instead speak truth to all of our hearts from a place of pure gratitude to our God?

I want you to know this joy of being known, this relief of being seen, this deep appreciation of being liked.


Do we need to be friends in the church?

Did you know a synonym for kindness is friendship?

kind·ness

/ˈkīn(d)nəs/

noun

  1. the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

friend·ly

adjective

  1. characteristic of or befitting a friend; showing friendship:a friendly greeting.

  2. like a friend; kind; helpful:a little friendly advice.

  3. favorably disposed; inclined to approve, help, or support:a friendly bank.

  4. not hostile or at variance; amicable:

I learned this little synonym fact teaching a kids Bible class how we could use the fruits of the Spirit to help us know how to pray.

I started asking myself this question: Do we need to be friends with our brothers and sisters in the church?

Why is it that showing friendship is sometimes hard for us? Why is it that we want to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, but it does not come naturally? Small acts of kindness sounds so simple, but small acts of friendship doesn’t sound as simple. How do we take friendship into our communities and imitate God’s kindness? We are going to need His Spirit to help us share that fruit.

IMG_9333.JPG


Lord, help me to be kind to those who know you and to those who don’t. Let me be a friend to those who are easy to show care for and also to those who are challenging to show care towards. Amen. 

The problem I encounter in my heart when I think about showing friendship as a fruit of the Spirit is that friendship sounds deeper than kindness. I want to pick and choose who I show friendship to. This is me struggling with the sin of partiality. When I pull back from showing friendship to my brothers and sisters, I am either wanting something out of my effort or I am trying to protect myself by withholding vulnerability.


Lord, help me to see your image in all of my brothers and sisters. Help me to not put a premium on friendship with the wealthy or people who look like me. Help me to be vulnerable enough to hold friendship out to others without the instinct to protect myself or use friendship to get ahead in life. This friendship is though you as a fruit of your Spirit so I know you will help me. Today help me to go deeper in relationships and commit a random act of friendship. Amen.

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, ‘Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!’ and either ignore the street person or say, ‘Better sit here in the back row,’ haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—‘Christian’—used in your baptisms?
— James 2:1-7 MSG

I’ve been reading the book Anatomy of the Soul, and it explains how brain science teaches us that we were made for community. We need to be kind to others, and we need them to be kind to us. We need to see our brothers and sisters as friends, and we need to be treated friendly in return.

Anatomy of the Soul also teaches that what we need is a few very close friends that we can trust with all of our story. This isn’t everyone in our church community, but we need to be really known by a few people to help us process our story.

It is hard work making friends, going deep with people, going deep with God, being kind in our church community, being friendly to our family, letting others know us, but we need it. We can’t go it alone and accomplish anything as the church. Alone we are just one body part of the body. We need each other to serve and to be healthy.

IMG_9323.JPG
When you keep your relationship with God exclusively fact-based and rational, it’s easy to make judgments about others and yourself. Such judgements reduce your anxiety and increase your sense of safety and protection. However, this way of being also has the curious effect of increasing the isolation you feel, both from others and within your own mind. If you allow yourself to be known by God, you invite a different and frankly more terrifying experience. You are now in a position of vulnerability. If you permit others to know you, they can make their own assessment of your worth. They can react to you. You grant them the option to love you or to reject you. In essence, you must—must—trust another with yourself.
— Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul

What about you? Do you struggle with friendship in your community? You are not alone, but I pray we can begin to show love through tangible acts of kindness and friendship.

Lie #9 I Can Fix It

I fall for this lie all the time. I want to believe I can fix problems so badly.

Here’s the truth.

I usually can’t fix it.

The situations I can fix are extremely rare. Not only that, most of the things I want to fix are frankly none of my business.

Instead of trying to fix it. I need to be fixing my eyes on Jesus and my purpose — the race set before me and the prize I am racing towards.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
— Proverbs 4:25 ESV

Wanting to fix situations limits my ability to listen to others. Instead of really listening to what I’m hearing, I’m thinking ahead to problem-solving solutions. Listening is usually the kindest thing you can do for a friend, so I should focus completely on just listening.

Thinking I can fix things puts myself on a different level than the person with the problem. Instead of being peers, I put myself as a fixer who is higher than the one with the problem.

When I think I am supposed to fix situations, and it turns out reality dictates I can’t, I have unnecessary shame. If I think I should be fixing it, and I can’t, it can make me want to avoid a situation or the friend with the unsolvable problem.

In short, trying to fix it often pushes me farther away from others instead of bringing us closer together.

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet.

Fix it, Jesus.

Lie #8 Certainty Is Possible

One of the ways I know I’m not doing well mentally is that I am waiting for certainty to move forward or I am wanting certainty from a situation where it isn’t possible.

When I am wanting to be certain of an outcome, what is going to happen in the future, or wanting certainty in what someone else is thinking, their thoughts behind their actions, I am wanting something I can never have.

I can’t know these things.

I can get stuck wanting these things.

I have been stuck wanting to know the future. I have bee stuck wanting to understand other’s thoughts and actions.

If we want to move forward with our lives, we have to accept that we just won’t have all the answers.

Not knowing can put you in two very different places. It can put in a place of paralysis, full of fear. Or it can put you in a place of bravely facing the unknown, otherwise known as having faith.

We aren’t suppose to have all the knowledge. We aren’t supposed to see all the steps and pieces in this life. It doesn’t work that way. It never has and never will.

There are things we can be certain about as Christians.

Knowing those things about God’s relationship with us is what we hold onto as we deal with these uncertain, difficult times in our life. Searching out these truths brings freedom, not fear. It will never bring you to a place of feeling stuck, but it will bring to a place of open hands and surrender.

Surrender isn’t a comfortable place, but it is the best place.

If you find yourself stuck, ruminating uncertain situations or confounding people in your mind, step away from wanting certainty. If you find yourself stuck facing a decision, and you think you can’t make up your mind without every ever-loving fact, step away from wanting certainty.

Let go of the absolute words about your life right now or your thoughts about yourself. Stop using: should, shouldn’t, never, always, everyone, no one, everything, nothing, must, and ought.

Embrace: maybe, trust, possibility, surrender, imagine, adventure, brave, and hope.

So don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our Master or for me, his prisoner. Take your share of suffering for the Message along with the rest of us. We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Savior, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus.
— 2 Timothy 1:8-10 The Message

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet today.

Here’s a song for you today.

Lie #7 You Have To Say Yes

In my early twenties, I was a young, new mom. I went out in search of mom friends and friends for my little girl who loved to talk by joining a few playgroups. I was very insecure because of my age. I wanted to get the parenting gig right, and I had no idea how to do that. I wanted to be liked. I didn’t want to be criticized. So I thought I had to say “yes” to every opportunity to prove to the older, more-experienced moms that I was responsible and capable.

I said “yes” to many things that might be parent adjacent like baking cookies, organizing crafts, and whatever else was needed. I said “yes” to things that had nothing to do with parenting and, in fact, probably took time away from my children like being treasurer of the homeschool association.

My motive was probably a high percentage towards wrong on a scale of pure to neediness. In many ways, I wanted to prove my worth by volunteering and knocking that task out of the park.

I don’t regret those yeses. I learned things and grew as a person by serving others.

I also said “yes” out of a fear of being overlooked the next time. What if they never ask me again? I wanted to be needed and well thought of. I wanted to seem capable, cool, and smart to the older women I was making friends with.

As my children were older, I was able to be more involved with our church that is really more of a children’s ministry than a church. It had lots of outreach to under-resourced neighborhoods: feeding programs, free camps, and Bible classes. I started saying “yes” to all I could in our ministry too.

My motives were a little better when it came to these yeses. I had lost my brother to suicide, and life felt so much more urgent. I wanted to love these children and make sure they knew about Jesus.

I ran heavy and hard at ministry. The undercurrents were that neediness of my soul wanting approval, seeking to prove my worth.

I had to burnout to learn the lesson that I could say “no.”

I had to realize how protecting my times of quiet and rest was crucial to ministry longevity. I needed to protect my time for the “yes” I should say, and I would bring God glory by serving out of a place where I was secure in His love instead of needy for others’ approval.

Saying “no” is still hard for me because of the bad habit of people pleasing, but I am fighting that lie that I have to say “yes” every time I say “no” when I should.

Have you believed the lie that your “yes” is required? What is something you know you should be saying “no” to in your life?

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet emailed to you today.

A song for you today.


Lie #6 I'm Too Much

My thoughts are too much.

My ideas are too much.

My feelings are too much

I take everything too seriously.

I care too much.

I make people uncomfortable because of my excess of thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

These are all the lies I believed about myself centered around this idea of being too much. And these lies aren’t just lies. They are shame. I believed there was something wrong with me. I constantly censored myself around people because I believed they couldn’t handle it if I let them see the real me — hear what I was really thinking, share all my ideas, or show what I was really feeling. I’ve been censoring myself for so long that I don’t know if I will ever be comfortable enough to stop completely.

If I cry, I’m being too emotional. If I laugh, I’m being too flippant. If I talk, I’ll probably be disagreed with. If I don’t talk, I’m being too quiet.

This is really hard to write about. I’ve been dreading sharing this because this place in me is still raw. I don’t have it all figured out. I’m still changing this lie to truth in my thought patterns.

But I know so many of you have this same lie haunting your thoughts and actions. I know so many of you shame and censor yourselves too.

Let’s make a deal. Let’s quit believing this together.

I’m not too much.

You are not too much.

You know how I’m beginning to see the light of the truth about us? I’m beginning to see a fuller picture of who Jesus is and knowing that allows me to shine a light on the truth about us.

Jesus is the Great Acceptor.

He did not come to earth to point out our flaws. He came to earth to bridge the gap between our possibility of righteousness without Him to our possibility of righteousness with Him. He came to bring us life, not tweak our personality. He came because he loved us — who we were created to be, not to dim or censor our personality to be less.

God sees you and knows you, and He doesn’t think you are too much because you are not too much.

God loves you and likes you, and He doesn’t ask you to censor your thoughts, ideas, or feelings because He already knows them anyway.

Here’s the thing that makes being yourself hard. There are people that will reject you when you share your thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Guess what? It’s ok. You are not any less of a wonderful creation because a person doesn’t like you.

The work of fighting these lies also requires the work of letting go of needing acceptance from other people.

I already have the only acceptance I need from the Great Acceptor.

It is all I need. (Well, it is all I want to need. I have yet to let go of that addiction to people pleasing completely, but I am fighting for that freedom because I need it to be healthy.)

You already have the only acceptance you need from the Great Acceptor.

He knows you, sees you, loves you, and likes you.

Quit shaming yourself. Allow yourself to be you. Share your ideas. Show your true feelings. Quit worrying about people’s reactions.

Use common sense as you do this. There are unsafe people in this world, and you may need help figuring out who is a safe person to share your feelings with.

In safe situations, be you.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
— 1 John 3:1 ESV

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet today.

A song for you today.

Lie #5 You Are Either Good At This or That

In seventh grade, my math teacher suspected I was too good at math to be in the regular class I was in. She gave me a test, and apparently, I scored well enough to convince the school to let me skip pre-algebra and go straight into algebra. 

There was a lot of left-brain, right-brain talk going on in the early 90s. Somehow I got the idea that if I was never going to be good at Language Arts because I had been dubbed a math person at that point. (Never mind the fact that I devoured books all through my childhood and I don’t remember not being able to read.)

My junior year of high school the English class I would have been in didn’t fit my schedule. I convinced the advanced English teacher to allow me to join her class instead. My motivation wasn’t purely academic. My two best friends were in the class. Even though I made good grades in the advanced class and was able to stay in the advanced class my senior year, I would have told you I was good at math and bad at language arts because I had put myself in that box in seventh grade. 

Even after I dropped out of my pre-calculus class my senior year, I would have still told you that I was a math person.  

I choose accounting as my major in college because I was a math person.  

Even though one of my favorite college class memories was talking about The Awakening in my sophomore English class, I would have told you I was a math person. 

I loved a lot of my college business classes, and I even to an upper-level math class called set theory for as an elective for fun. 

The truth is that I was good at different portions of math and I was good at different portions of Language Arts. It wasn’t an either-or situation.  

I’m good at reading and writing. I’m awful at spelling. I’m good at algebra and theory. I’m awful at doing math in my head and geometry.

If I had embraced what I was good at, I might have studied something different in college. I might have started blogging and writing sooner.

I think we have a tendency to look at spiritual gifts the same way. If I’m good at teaching, I must be bad at hospitality. If I’m good at prayer, I must be bad at evangelism.

Or sometimes we don’t know what our gift is because we are too afraid to try.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
— 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV

Don’t put yourself in a box. Try serving, even in areas that are uncomfortable.

Spread your wings. Allow God to paint your story outside the lines.

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet today.


Lie #4: What You Do Is Who You Are

I easily fall into the trap of achieving. In my flesh, I strive for approval through achievement.

Accomplisher is not my identity. Writer is not my identity. Mom is not my identity. Teaching is not my identity. Wife is not my identity. Podcaster is not my identity. Friend is not my identity. My local church is not my identity. Homeschool mom is not my identity. My IQ is not my identity. My bank account is not my identity. My hobbies are not my identity. My home is not my identity. How I look is not my identity.

What we do is not who we are.

It can get confusing because we get introduced as or called these things, but this is not who we are.

Our identity is established in eternal facts about us. Who we will be in Heaven should be how we define ourselves now. How God sees us is how we should train our brain to see ourselves.

A beloved daughter of God through faith is my identity. Covered by His blood because of grace and mercy is my identity. Who I was created to be at my soul level is my identity. Being seen, known, loved and liked by God is my identity. Disciple of Christ is my identity. Being called friend of Jesus is my identity. Adopted heir to the kingdom is my identity. Chosen by God is my identity.

What we do is good, but what the Lord has done is who we are.

You are not what you do.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
— Galatians 3:25-29 ESV

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet today.

A song for you today.

Lie #3: All Checkboxes Are Created Equal

I can get the same sense of satisfaction from finishing a tv show as checking off a box in my planner. I feel as accomplished when I add another finished book to my Goodreads account as I do posting a blog post.

As someone who enjoys finishing tasks, I take enjoyment when I check off a box that I’ve accomplished something.

But not all checkboxes are equal or accomplish the same thing in life. I can fool my brain into thinking I did something at the end of the day. I can believe the lie that I’m accomplishing what I should be doing with my life by watching a tv show.

There are survival accomplishments: buy the groceries, pay the bills, file the taxes, do the dishes, wash the clothes, and read yo’ Bible.

There are make-life-better accomplishments: go to that doctor’s appointment, take my kids to the dentist, Target runs, organize that closet, buy some flowers, water the plant, meet with the insurance agent, and/or actually put up those clothes and dishes you washed.

There are entertain-your-brain accomplishments: binge the show, read that mystery novel, listen to the music, or maybe Wednesdays we PopCast.

Then there are the accomplishments that actually are long-term, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life accomplishments.

I can get bogged down in the weeds of just finishing survival accomplishments with a side of entertainment accomplishments and never actually accomplish the things I want to do in life (especially when my mental health isn’t the best.) I heard a podcaster call it “running the errands of life.”

I have goals that will never get accomplished if I never put time towards them. These goals require me doing things that I don’t always feel like doing. I want to be a better writer. I want to study my Bible with intention. I want to publish a book with a traditional publisher. I want to disciple my kids. I want to have a marriage I enjoy. I want to see a book I wrote on the shelf at Target. I want to really know God. I want to fulfill the Great Commission to the best of my ability. I want to make life better for other people. I want to enjoy my family and love them well.

What will my life be known for?

What will your life be known for?

Are there things you want to accomplish that get pushed to the back burner? Have you believed the lie that all checkboxes are created equal?

Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.
— 2 Corinthians 6:1 The Message

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet today.

Song for you today.

Lie #2: "You're Too Quiet" = Something Is Wrong With Me

I heard it again today. A woman leaned over to me and whispered, “You’re too quiet.” I had tried to interject a thought during a discussion, but the group leader who was leading the discussion moved on without hearing my comment.

I want to make it clear that the leader and woman didn’t mean any harm, and I didn’t take offense.

When I heard, “You’re too quiet,” I physically shook my head “no” and I was honestly surprised to find myself refuting her words with my head shaking back and forth. My body had responded before my brain knew what was happening.

The next thought I had was to see the humor in hearing these exact words today when I knew I was writing this Write 31 Days Series.

And then my next thought was that I realized I wasn’t disagreeing that I was not quiet, I was disagreeing that I’m too quiet.

That little word — too — changes so much.

I’ve heard it all my life, and I know the words were often spoke to fill awkward silence. I can’t know the intention of the words, but I know the message my heart received every time I heard them.

I heard, you should change because the way you are is wrong.

I am quiet. If you met me in person and then had to try to describe me to someone else, I think you would probably use the word “quiet” in your description. I know I could not change this fact about myself if I tried.

The other thought I had as I was shaking my head “no” this morning was, what I’m hearing does not mean that something is wrong with me.

As I’ve worked hard to fight negative self-talk this year, I’ve learned that the other side of this spiritual battle is liking myself by embracing the exceptional way God made me.

Embracing this quality, quietness, in myself was a fight because I didn’t know how to see the positive attributes around my quietness when I had focused on the wrongness of my quietness for so long.

Here’s what I learned to appreciate about my quietness. I know my quiet allows my soul to dig deep, ask difficult questions without fear, observe my world, and notice the other quiet humans who often go unnoticed.

I’m not sure I would choose quietness if I could change myself because outspokenness is applauded in our culture, but loving myself requires I appreciate this quality.

What quality to you struggle to appreciate about yourself and what does that attribute allow you to accomplish in life?

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
— Exodus 14:14 ESV

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet today.

Here’s a song for you today. I hope I didn’t shake my head this crazy this morning. Ha!

Lie #1: Everyone Berates Themselves in Their Thoughts

As long as I can remember I’ve had critical, shame-filled thoughts about myself. I thought everyone did.

It went beyond correcting myself when I did something wrong. 

An example of a correcting thought might be, “I knocked off the cup. I need to be more careful next time.”

An example of a shameful, berating thought might be, “I always knock off things off. I’m so clumsy and awkward. I have no coordination and I take up too much room. Other people aren’t like this. What is wrong with me? I’m the worst.”

After a retreat leader brought up my negative self-talk at a ministry retreat we attended last fall, I asked my husband about his thoughts toward himself.

“Don’t you have these types of thoughts?”

The retreat leader had me list out all the negative thoughts I had about myself. I was on my third page, and I wasn’t done yet.

“No,” he said emphatically. “I don’t think that way about myself at all. It worries me that you do.”

I tore myself down in my thinking, and I was shocked to find out that everyone didn’t do the same.

I’ll be sharing some of those negative things I thought about myself this month because all of the things I allowed my brain to repeat to myself in my head were lies. I reinforced those lies by repeating them and believing them in that invisible space no one can see and hear.

The effect of berating myself and believing those lies was not invisible though. It spilled out into my life in so many ways. It affected the speed in which I could slip into anxiety or depression. It affected my ability to be objective about my relationships with friends and family. It pushed me into perfectionism. It enabled my people-pleasing to continue because I if I could get approval from others then maybe I could prove the voices in my head wrong. It made me wear shame-colored glasses that changed how I viewed everything in my life. I was constantly on the warpath of striving to prove my worth.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
— Proverbs 23:7a NASB

It was daunting to think about changing the way I thought. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t think that way about myself.

Realizing that not everyone had pages and pages of negative self-talk gave me hope.

Not everyone rakes themselves over the coals in their thinking, and I didn’t have to either. 

If you need to hear this because you believed this lie too: Not everyone lives with negative self-talk. You don’t have to think that way. You can change the way you think. You can stop berating yourself in your head.



Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet today.

Here’s a song for you today. John Ortberg says that the soul is needy like Bob from What about Bob. That’s accurate.

To All the Lies I've Believed Before

A Write 31 Days Series

logo write 31 days 2018.jpg

Introduction:

Life as a Christian is filled with spiritual warfare, and the harshest warfare for me has been an internal battle — lies from the enemy and negative-self talk in my head. The great accuser’s currency is lies. These lies are like arrows thrown where we are most vulnerable.

For the next 31 days, I’ll be sharing lies that I believed, how those beliefs based in fallacy affected me and my ability to follow Jesus, how I decided to quit believing the lies, and how powerful embracing the truth can be in our lives.

I know there will be some overlap in some of the lies you’ve believed with some of the lies that I’ve believed. Join me, and I hope we can find some truth and freedom together.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one
— Ephesians 6:16 ESV

Table of Contents:

Need help fighting lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter & get this helpful worksheet today.

Seven Things I Learned This Summer

  1. New Pencils Make Me Happy

I get sad about summer ending. I love the sunshine, and fall allergies send me inside sneezing. The thing that cheers me up more than a pumpkin-spiced whatever-is-now-spiced is a brand new pack of sharpened Ticonderoga pencils.

Anyone else? They are prettier than a bouquet of flowers, and they smell good too.

2. Jane Had Cute Clothes in the Jungle

I obsessed about Mr. Rogers all summer, and I blogged about seeing the documentary here. I also watched a documentary about Jane Goodall. It was a beautiful documentary, and I learned some interesting things about her life in the jungle. But most of all, I wanted to run out and buy kaki shorts and button-down dress shirts.

goodall2a.jpg

Someone remind me of this next summer. For now, it’s fall, and I’ll be wearing my Mister-Rogers-type cardigans and hoping some of his goodwill, kindness, and self-discipline rubs off on me as I wear it.

3. Codependency Happens

This is a little heavier topic, but it is the biggest lesson of the summer. (I’m an INFJ, so these lists are never going to be all superficial.) I thought codependency was something limited to situations involving addiction or domestic violence so when my therapist gently told me my thoughts toward someone in my life was my codependency, I felt like I’d fell off a truck. I lost all my bearings. Everything I knew about how I interact with people in my life had to be reexamined through this new lens I was handed. I googled codependency. This is what I saw.

IMG_8432.PNG

When I looked at this list at the beginning of summer and got honest with myself, I said “yes” to ten of these questions, and I was in the extremely codependent category. I was sad for days. How could I be so flawed and unaware?

Number 14 is my life struggle. Number five was also a big one for me, because it is just so unhealthy. I would tell myself that if I just did the right thing, I was leading by example, and others would see and follow. I can choose to do what I think is right, but thinking that my actions would change others or having that motivation is codependency.

I may be codependent, but I’m also an overachiever. I got busy reading and listening to podcasts. The best thing I learned is the simplest little phrase you ever did hear, “I am me and you are you.”

Saying, “I am me and you are you” out loud does something in my brain. I can feel myself separating out from the entanglement with others in my mind.

Say it with me, “I am me and you are you.”

It’s so simple yet so good and true.

4. Church is a Codependency Hotbed and Real Relationships Need Equality

Most of my codependent thoughts were wrapped up in our church situation. Maybe it is because my husband and I have been heavily involved and employed by a church ministry for over twenty years, but I suspect other church members have these struggles even if that isn’t the case. I suspect that many of these codependent thoughts are embraced or even rewarded in church settings. After all, if you take better care of others than yourself you might be compared with Mother Teressa. And trying to change other people’s choices is how some people gauge how good your teaching is, and saying “no” is always hardest when it is the church asking.

I believe healthy people are needed to make up a healthy churches, and healthy churches strengthen believers. Spiritual growth thrives in healthy people and healthy churches. (This is what I’m learning in my Community Bible Study lessons about 1 Timothy.)

The lesson of “I am me and you are you” is really needed in church, and it can help church members thrive.

When I learned this phrase I also learned an important lesson about relationships. Real, true, healthy relationships need equality and mutuality, meaning one person cannot be dominate or more needed or a relationship doesn’t really exist. When church members are constantly on the giving end, the person receiving isn’t entering the relationship. A relationship must have giving and receiving or it never gets off the ground.

This is a picture of a real, healthy relationship, two equal circles that don’t overlap.

You-and-Me-300x182.png

We are separate. We both have things to offer the relationship. We both are giving and receiving. Church outreach might start out on uneven ground, but the goal should be to eventually have a real, mutual, equal relationship with the person receiving help from a church outreach. That is easier said than done! If we don’t have that goal in mind, we’ll never even come close.

It was messy learning this lesson for myself. I’ve been put into the situation of giving in so many mission trips and church outreaches, and I’ve found true friendship with a few people that I’ve taken time to allow that uneven balance to shift to mutuality. It takes humbling yourself and receiving from others. The times I’ve accepted the hospitality of others have been a real blessing, and I have real regrets over times when I didn’t seek the shift because of pride or times I didn’t generously give my time with others to make room for the shift.

5. Formula For Giving Feedback on Someone’s Writing

Is there anything more sticky than trying to give good feedback? I learned this formula from writing coach Ann Kroeker — Ask and BAP.

Before giving feedback, ask the writer what they need to be addressed in their writing. What should you be reading and watching for? Then BAP.

B - Bless - Give encouragement for what was good in the writing.

A - Address - Answer specific questions about the writing. Did it have good flow? Was it a good concept? Did it make sense? Are they repeating themselves too much?

P - Press - Only when the writer asks for it do you press. If they want critical feedback to make the writing publishable, then you should give them every p & q for making the new draft as perfect as possible.

I feel empowered to offer this type of help to my writing friends after learning this.

6. If It Doesn’t Have Fruit, It’s Not best

I heard a sermon by a guest speaker named Marlin Vis. He pointed out something that I had never thought about, but I think I agree with him. He said, “God is not overly concerned with outcomes. I’m not saying He’s not concerned. He’s concerned with output. Here it is — the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity [goodness], faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things, and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with their passions… and desires…. If you want to know if God’s will is being done in your life or in anybody you are watching, you look for these fruits. If you don’t see them, God’s will — no matter what the outcome is — that is not the result of God’s will. And where you see this, that’s God’s will being worked out in the world. Amen? Or not? It’s ok if you don’t agree, but think on these things.”

This is a lot to think about. It is hard to stay walking in the spirit, but God is concerned if I do and it is His will that I do walk in the spirit. This made me think about the life of Samson. He wasn’t concerned with output during his life and his outcome was pushing over those pillars. I have to believe God wanted better for Samson.

Am I more worried about outcome or how I walk through the situation? This idea makes me lock eyes with my sin nature. It is lurking there, and it is not pretty.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
— Galatians 5:16-26 ESV

7. Some Encouragement From Ruth Bell Graham

After facing my sin nature, I need some encouragement not to give up because walking in the spirit does not come naturally. I love this reminder of sanctification from Ruth Bell Graham’s grave marker.


End of construction — Thank you for your patience.
— Ruth Bell Graham
IMG_8345.JPG

We are all a work in progress. We will not be completed until that day when we are face to face with Jesus!

I’m thankful for this godly woman’s vulnerability and honesty, even in death.

What about you? What have you learned this summer?

Emily P. Freeman is good to remind us to keep track.

Here’s a song for you just because.

Guest Post: How the Good Gift of Adopting Displays the Goodness of Our Heavenly Father

I shared what I’ve learned about God as a Father from our adoption on the blog Beloved Prodigal today. I hope these lessons help you know how much you are loved by the God who sees every exceptional thing about you.

Five years ago, God called our family to international adoption. After years of waiting, we finally traveled to Ethiopia in March for our court date. Our brand new two-year-old has been home for four months now, and God is teaching me things about His character as a good Father through this experience of having a new son.

Here are three things I have learned about God from our adoption:

1. God sees the heart, but I can’t.

The first thing I noticed about our boy when we first met him were all the little details about his hands and feet.

Keep Learning From Mister Rogers, Your Soul Will Thank You

As soon as Fandango told me our town had a viewing, I absconded to the theater to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the new Mister Rogers documentary. It was a moving movie, and even though my husband and I bought our tickets late and had to sit in different rows, it was such an enjoyable theater experience. Stephen Thompson from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour Podcast expressed that “the movie feels like you are getting warmly and softly hugged for an hour and a half,” and that’s the best description that could ever be said.

Why was it such a feel-good experience? It is rare for someone to tell you-you are liked. It’s even rarer to be told that you are liked just the way you are. Mister Rogers said it, sang it, believed it, and lived it. Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who attended seminary on his lunch hour over a period of eight years. He believed that God liked him just the way he was and he should, therefore, feel that way about every God-created person. He looked through the screen and openly invited the whole world to be his neighbor, and he believed that everyone who knew they were liked would in-turn like their neighbors also. The world could be a very different place, not because of just one sweater-clad friend, but it could be different because of God who is love, the Holy Spirit that Rogers relied on as translator of this Devine message, and us — his neighbors.

IMG_8541.JPG
ACS_0107.JPG

As a little girl, Mister Rogers was my friend. He made me feel safe and heard. He told me things I still need to hear as an adult.

1. Express your feelings.

Mister Rogers frequently and intentionally included the message that we all have feelings and it is good to express those feelings in healthy ways. Last year, I became very discouraged in the ministry. My husband and I had been serving at a very missional church for twenty years, and we were both feeling burnout. We began seeing a therapist to help us work through our tough time, and one of the things he told me was that I was afraid of my feelings. He said to me, “It is like you view your feelings as a dark closet, and if you let one feeling affect you that you will be engulfed in the dark closet and you won’t be able to get out.” As an adult, I’ve had to relearn that lesson that we all have feelings, and I’ve had to allow myself to feel and express those feelings.

There’s no ‘should’ or should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

2. Slow down.

One of the most countercultural pieces of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood was the pace of the show. His slow speech and slow movements were a subtle cue, as was his life-sized traffic light glowing yellow. The show had the ambiance of a Saturday spent at grandma’s house. He would often bring out simple props like paper, instruments, or cups and play with the props in an unstaged, unpracticed way, letting the paper accidentally tear where he didn’t intend or letting the cups fall across the table. He gave his neighbors the nudge to accept that it is good to slow down and try new things. When my husband and I experienced ministry burnout, we went to a week long ministry retreat that was intentionally slow paced and were reminded of the importance that rest has in the kingdom work. As an adult, I need slow. I need permission to try and fail. I need to let the cups fall sometimes and pick them back up again.

It seems to me, though that our world needs more time to wonder and to reflect about what is inside, and if we take time we can often go much deeper as far as our spiritual life is concerned than we can if there’s constant distraction.
— Fred Rogers, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth

3. Be yourself.

Vulnerability became a mantra and catch-phrase to many after Brene´ Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and shame when viral in 2010, but Mister Rogers was modeling vulnerability every day in his neighborhood in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. He sang his easily-poked-fun-of self-composed lyrics, wore his mom-made sweaters, and never tried to be someone he was not. Even when being interviewed on edgy late night talk shows, he spoke slowly and appeared to be the same guy who welcomed me with a song and a shoe-swap as a kid. One scene in the documentary we are shown footage of his neighborhood show where his shares his love of swimming with his neighbors. He is completely at home with himself, even when he is donning a speedo and swimming loops in the pool. We get the feeling that it never even crosses his mind to not be completely himself, and we are told that we made today special by just being ourselves.

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

4. Invite everyone to be your neighbor.

The genius of Mister Rogers is that he was able to translate the second part of the Great Commandment into simple, secular terms and model loving your neighbor in a practical way. This command is a great struggle for everyone. Loving and liking others doesn’t come naturally, but doing this is essential to Christian life: seeking wholistic ministry, valuing and carrying out the Great Commission, having a healthy family life, confronting racial prejudice and bias, and seeing the image of God and the preciousness of life in each and every neighbor.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if God and neighbor are somehow One. ‘Loving God, Loving neighbor’ — the same thing? For me, coming to recognize that God loves every neighbor is the ultimate appreciation!
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

5. Remember the invisible.

Posted above Mister Roger’s desk was a saying in French from The Little Prince. It said, ‘What is essential is invisible to the eyes.’ This quote is very much like what Paul penned in Second Corinthians 4:18, “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” We must always be focused on the unseen, realizing that these things are not just important — but essential.

Beside my chair is a saying in French. It inspires me every day. It’s a sentence from Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, and it reads, ‘What is essential is invisible to the eyes.’ The closer we get to know the truth of that sentence, the closer I feel we get to wisdom. That which has real value in life in any millennium is very simple. Very deep and very simple! It happens inside of us — in the ‘essential invisible’ part of us, and that is what allows everyone to be a potential neighbor.
— Fred Rogers, Life According to Mister Rogers

Can we see the world as our neighborhood? Can we see the good in others and like them just the way they are? Can we recognize our feelings and express them in beautiful ways? Can we remember to keep our eyes on the invisible, unseen Kingdom work? Can we slow down rest, play, and be vulnerable? I think we can. Mister Rogers showed us it could be done.

 

I still need all these lessons as much at forty-one as I did when I was four. 

 

I think the big question for our soul is this: Can we accept that we are liked by God just the way we are, not the way we’ve decided we need to be to fit in or to try to be liked? Can we accept that God likes the deep down person we are at the soul-level of our creation, with all our faults and feelings? I’m asking myself that question.

Why do I feel the need to question it?

I think I need to recapture the childlike faith that didn’t question Mister Rogers sitting on my living room carpet with my pigtails in front of our console television.

God likes me just the way I am. Can I say it, sing it, believe it, and live it? Can you?

           Photo by  Pawel Kadysz  on  Unsplash

          Photo by Pawel Kadysz on Unsplash

The Kindle version of this is on sale for $0.99!

When Anxiety Makes Celebrating a Chore, Six Tips to Survive the Party

Parents were picking up kids, and I was handing out little baggies of goodies to each bouncing boy headed out the door. We had filled their systems with all forms of sugar from liquid-grown-in-fields to powdered-and-whipped. We had celebrated our bright-eyed boy’s turning of eight, complete with a hand-drawn ten-foot Godzilla adorning the wall, a back porch covered in yellow, blue, orange, and green silly string, and a cake that featured gummy army men plotting the takedown of a plastic Godzilla. I felt two feelings battling inside me, dark and light. On one hand, I felt proud we had celebrated well, even with while keeping the newly adopted two-year-old happy and feeling safe with all the buzzing, busy boys in our house. It felt good to feel like celebrating and celebrate well. On the other hand, I felt the presence of my anxiety.

IMG_8206.JPG

May and June are full of big days for our family: four birthdays, Mother’s Day, wedding anniversary, and Father’s Day. Last year during this time, we were in the middle of a very uncertain international adoption, and I didn’t feel like celebrating a darn thing. I was treading water emotionally. We even had a bonus special day thrown in last year because our oldest graduated high school. One more party to plan in between crying and mental nail-biting. My grief and anxiety would not be put away; It demanded to be seen and acknowledged. What I’ve realized this year is that even without the stress of our adoption and graduation, my anxiety still makes it hard for me to celebrate. 

ACS_0109.JPG

Celebrating is worth fighting for. It is worth it because I love my family. We must celebrate because celebrating brings joy, and joy is our strength. 

 

Here’s how to survive when the calendar demands celebration:

1. Don’t shame yourself at any point in this process.

Thoughts like, what’s wrong with me that I can’t be happy about a birthday party? are not helpful or kind to yourself. If you are wrestling temporary stress in your life or you are dealing with the realities of living with anxiety, you must allow yourself the room to feel what you really feel, and you cannot have shame because you have those feelings.

2. Set up good boundaries in your celebrating.

You don’t have to be hype for a week over the big day. You don’t even have to be partying for more than a few hours. The point is to take a chunk of time and celebrate something for the sake of celebration. Set aside your grief, anxiety, or stress-inducing problem for just a few hours and give this important person, place, or thing in your life its due festivity. When it is over, you will still have your issues you are struggling through there waiting for you.

3. Invite people who have proven themselves as safe people.

Someone who will bring you flowers on a bad day is the perfect person to invite to your good day. Someone who refuses to acknowledge you are struggling during hard times isn’t going to truly celebrate your good days either. They may pretend to celebrate with you, but if they don’t engage in your whole life as a person, good and bad, they aren't genuinely rooting for you or the success of your life. You have permission to only invite who you need and want to invite. It is perfectly ok to only allow people who are genuine and kind into those big celebratory moments of your life.

4. Do not overdo it on your party planning.

Don’t demand perfection from your party. Keep things as chill as possible. The icing might run, the wrapping paper might rip, or you might forget the cups. Something will go wrong. If you have unreasonable expectations for the big day, you are setting yourself up for a meltdown.

5. Schedule time to recover after the party.

Your energy level is going to be depleted. Plan for that. Don’t plan to hop from a time of celebration to something else that would demand your energy. You will probably have feelings about the day or interactions with people at the celebration. Plan a quiet morning the next day to reflect and recover. It may even take two or three days to recover from a party. Don’t beat yourself up if that happens. Remember, no shaming yourself!

6. Give yourself credit.

When the celebration comes to a close, don’t allow your anxiety to rob you of that moment of congratulating yourself for celebrating well. You honored the moment and didn’t allow your anxiety to steal your joy. You celebrated (not perfect) well.

Your life deserves wonder, fun, the satisfaction of accomplishment, and delight, even as you contend with your anxiety. May these tips help you celebrate and bring more joy to your life as you deal that anxiety.

The wonderful thing about joy is that it is deep enough to hold all the light and dark that your soul can hold, and as you allow joy to enter into that space in your soul that was made to hold it, your body, mind, and heart will be strengthened for the good days and bad.

Have you accomplished the goals you set for this year?

July 1st will start the second-half of 2018. The halfway mark of anything is always a good time to check-in. I've made you a worksheet that will help you do just that.

How did I come up with my 2018 goals?

I used Jennie Allen's Dream Guide to set 9 goals for 2018. In January, I evaluated my spiritual growth, relationships including marriage, kids, and friendships, health, personal growth, dreams, and work life. I also did a quick read through my to-do lists from 2017 to see what I had done the year before to see what I wanted to repeat or not repeat in 2018.

Six months into 2018, I know there are goals I've met, goals I've partially met, goals I'm working on actively, and goals I've forgotten about.

I need a reminder and a fresh dose of inspiration to finish the second-half of 2018 well. I need to be intentional about going after those goals and dreams that will change what my life looks like.

It is important to be intentional about our goals. Well thought out and accomplished goals can be the building blocks to an accomplished dream.

What makes the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes? Lots of things, and it may take months or years for a wish to come true, but it’s far more likely to happen when you care so much about a wish that you’ll do all you can to make it happen.
— Mister Rogers

How am I doing?

If you are wondering, I've completed 3 of my 9 goals. There's another goal that is almost accomplished. Two other goals are partially completed. And three goals have been completely ignored. I felt it was important to ask myself some tough questions about these goals that have been ignored. It was also important to take a thermometer on my wishes and dreams and then make sure my goals refected the direction I want to be headed. Lastly, prayer should be a big part of this process. 

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
— Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

How are you doing?

How are you doing on your 2018 goals? Download the Mid-Year Check-In Worksheet and see where you are at and get some inspiration to finish well.

book cover paper tigers.jpg

Does the idea of goals make you anxious?

Are you dealing with people pleasing or not sure what God wants from you? My book Paper Tigers might be the message you need right now.

Does feeling alone trigger your anxiety?

There are feelings that can tigger my anxiety in an instant. 

It is probably the same for you too.

Feeling ignored throws my brain into survival mode, and I feel myself wanting to flee. I want to run away from the danger. But the truth is there isn’t any danger.

In every moment of my life, I am seen by my Lord. I am deeply known.

I found beautiful validation of this truth in an unlikely place in the Bible. Right in the middle of one of the minor prophets, a lesser read portion of Scripture there is an example of deep disappointment and God’s reassuring gesture that says, “I see you.”

The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, ‘Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.’
— Haggai 2:20-23 ESV

Here is what you need to know about Zerubbabel. If the exile had not happened, Zerubbabel would have been king. Instead, he was governor over Israel. Not all of the Israelites had returned from exile. They had limited resources to rebuild what had been a magnificent temple, built under Solomon’s leadership and destroyed during the Babylonian capture. They had no armies, and they were rebuilding without the power Israel once had.

How disappointing to know that he could have been a king over Israel with a beautiful temple. Surely if the exile had not happened he would feel the favor of God. Being a governor isn't the same as being king.

I’m sure Zerubbabel probably imagined how things could have been different if the exile hadn’t happened. I’m sure he imagined the respect he would command, how it would feel to stand in front of the grandiose temple as king, and how it would feel to sit on a throne.

Did anyone notice or acknowledge the position he didn’t have, the position that would have rightly been his?

I think Zerubbabel felt unseen.

God noticed.

God saw Zerubbabel.

God looked straight at Zerubbabel and said, “O Zerubbabel my helper, I know your lineage. I will make you like a treasure. I will make you like a sign of royal favor. I choose you.” (my paraphrasing)

When Zerubbabel heard the words of Haggai, hearing that the Lord would make him like a signet ring (a highly valuable possession or treasure, a sign of royal favor) and that God had chosen him, he must feel so know, seen, and fully loved.

He was seen. He was not alone.

God promises to be with Zerubbabel and the small number of Israelites obediently rebuilding the temple. The prophet Haggai records these words of encouragement from the Lord:

Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.
— Haggai 2:4-5 ESV

The prophet Zechariah also records these encouraging words to Zerubbabel.

Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.’
— Zechariah 4:6 ESV

The other thing you need to know about Zerubbabel is that he is in genealogy of the Lord Jesus. God fulfilled his promise of a king who would reign eternally through David and Zerubbabel. What a servant indeed!

Being seen and chosen was true for Zerubbabel, but it is also true for you and me too.

Feeling unseen by others causes me anxiety, but knowing how intimately God sees each of us is changing the way I react when I feel that anxiety start to build.

I do something daily that helps with this. Each day, above my to-do list I write, “I am seen, known, loved, liked, chosen, friend, included.” This is how God sees me, and I remind myself every day.

ACS_0086.JPG

What are your anxiety triggers?

Think about times when you’ve felt anxious. What other feelings accompanied your anxiety? What circumstances brought it on? Make a list. Then for every feeling on that list, write the truth about how God thinks of you. After you’ve done this, incorporate those truths into your life. You can copy them into a journal daily, make a reminder on your phone, or print them and put them in your bathroom. See or write the truth of how God sees you every day.

It is too easy to forget how God views us. It is too easy to think we have to behave ourselves to be loved by God. It is too easy to think we have to perform to be seen by God. Anxiety manifest in perfectionism that lies to us. Perfectionism says that we have to measure up to an unattainable goal, being a perfect Christian.

Real life is far from perfection, and truth overcomes the lies every time.

God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be.
— Brennan Manning, All Is Grace

Need help battling lies?

Subscribe to my email newsletter, and get this helpful worksheet today.

What you should know about suicide in the wake of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

Losing my youngest brother to suicide eight years ago changed my life forever. I know things now that I could never have known if I hadn’t experienced this terrible loss.

IMG_0070.JPG

Here's what I think you need to know.

1.  You’ll never know why, and nothing good comes from speculating.

One of the most frustrating things about losing a loved one to suicide is the unanswered questions. Even whenever a note has been left behind, that note will never answer completely answer the question of why. The note might give you some idea to what they were thinking, but you can’t assume they are they are sharing what they were truly thinking in their note. Their last thoughts were likely so untethered that they themselves might not know why they are making this bad decision.

When famous people end their life, there is a temptation to try to answer why. It isn’t helpful to the family grieving or to your own mental health to try to pin an answer to something like fame or true happiness.

2. You need to examine your motivations for wanting answers.

Everyone wants details. The story is sensationalized. Why do we want to know?

Would you have listened to a podcast interview with Kate Spade last week? Would you have watched another rerun of Anthony Bourdain before this?

The details of their life go from mildly interesting to must-know the instant the news breaks of their death.

My suspicion is that you want to know details because you think you can isolate yourself from this kind of loss. You want to make sure you or your loved ones aren’t headed down a path that could end in suicide. The truth is you cannot isolate yourself from suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

This fear is why people love to blame famous people’s suicides on fame. When you aren’t famous, you don’t have fame as a danger in your life.

Do you want to know because you genuinely care about the family affected? Do you want to know out of morbid curiosity? Do you want to know to reassure yourself that you are safe from this type of threat? 

3. You have no idea what the family is going through.

After living through the loss of my brother, I now know that it was impossible to imagine or explain the depth of emotions to someone else that comes when you have lost a loved one to suicide. I had experienced a near-fatal suicide attempt of another loved one previously, and it in no way compared or prepared me for the blow of actually losing my brother. The sudden loss is so beyond heartbreaking. I can try to describe some of the feelings that are unique to suicide loss, but even knowing these facts will not help you to imagine the loss. 

Suicide comes with a rejection that isn’t present in other deaths. When a loved one dies from cancer or an accident, you can know that they did not decide they wanted to never see you again.

Suicide comes with anger. With other deaths you can be angry at a disease, circumstance, or murderer. In suicide, your loved one is their own murderer. I was incredibly angry with my brother for years. I had to navigate grief and forgiveness at the same time.

Suicide comes with uncertainty. Not only do you have to come to acceptance of your loved one's death, you also have to come to a place of acceptance of not having answers. 

Suicide comes with guilt. No matter how your relationship was with your lost loved one before their death, you will inevitably feel as though the loss is your fault. It is not your fault. It will take years to accept that the blame for the loss cannot be laid at your feet.

4. Loss because of suicide can take a long time to grieve.

Because of the added stress, feelings to process, and stigma, grieving suicide can take much longer than typical periods of grief (as if typical exists.) The closer that a person was to the lost loved one can make the amount of time to grieve longer as well. Do not expect someone to be done grieving a suicide loss in a year, two years, or even five years. It would be better to see the grieving as a process that never ends during their lifetime.

5. Losing a loved one to suicide makes you 65% more likely to commit suicide.

This fact may contribute to the feelings many people have that make them want to isolate from suicide loss or reassure themselves that they are not at risk. You need to be aware of the statistic so you can be proactive. If you’ve lost a loved one to suicide, you will need to take your mental health very seriously for the rest of your life. Keeping your mental health in a good place is extremely important. 

If you have a friend, family member, or church member who has lost a loved one to suicide, it is important that you remain proactive in showing love and care towards them. Remember that it takes years to grieve this loss, and you will need to show support throughout the whole grieving process. You don’t have to have the right words, just show up for them and remind them that you care about them and their grief. Check in often, and make sure they are caring for themselves.

6. Guns make suicide-attempts effective.

Wherever you land on political arguments about guns doesn’t matter when it comes to this issue. The fact is that firearms account for more than half of the suicides each year. 85% of suicide attempts with a firearm end in death. Every other method has a higher survival rate. For example, drug overdose attempts are only 3% fatal.

If you or a loved one is at higher risk of committing suicide, please remove guns from your home.  My brother killed himself with a gun that our family wasn’t even aware he had.

Be aware of these facts, and I would advise you to lean towards safety.

 

7. Celebrity suicides bring up feelings of loss for survivors of suicide.

I remember exactly where I was when I found out about Robin Williams’s suicide. I will remember where I was when I read about Kate and Anthony as well. It isn’t because I’m a huge fan of their work. It is because feelings resurface. It is impossible to not think of my brother. Those feelings linked to his death rise to the surface. Guilt, anger, uncertainty, and rejection have to be processed again. I’ve gotten good at calming these feelings over the years, but I still have to go through the thoughts: It is not my fault. I forgive him. I will never know why. He loved me.

IMG_0351.JPG

If you need more information, I recommend the book & the website The Gift of Second.

Please call if you need someone to talk to.