There’s A Place For You Here.

You know what’s fun? Doing something for yourself, just because you want to…. and then not apologizing for it.

Last weekend I went to Brooklyn, New York. I went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell talk about life and creativity and what it means to live a creative life for a day.

You know, Elizabeth Gilbert?… Eat Pray Love? Big Magic? Magic Lessons podcast? And you know Rob Bell… Love Wins? Everything is Spiritual? The Robcast?

All those shaking your heads “No,” go check them out. They might change your life.

So here’s why I didn’t go to the Rob & Liz event:

I didn’t go to this event because I had to.

I didn’t go for work. I didn’t go for school.

I didn’t go because I’m some sort of creativity guru that felt deeply called to go and hang out with my fellow creativity gurus.

And I definitely didn’t go because I happened to be in Brooklyn anyway, had some extra cash lying around, and because the whole thing just sounded convenient.

Nope… didn’t go for any of those reasons.

I went because it sounded fun, and because it was something I was curious about.

That’s it. I know. Crazy, right?!

Now to all of you impulsive people out there, this might not sound so crazy. But if you don’t already know me, it’s important you know that I have a history of being overly rational about deciding to do things. I’d tend to only do things if they really “made sense,” which usually meant I’d only do things that were free, almost free, or better yet, if I were paid to do them.

And if I did on the off chance indulge in my curiosity, and God forbid spend a little extra time, energy, and money in the process, there was a twisted sense of guilt for having wasted said time, energy, and money on myself and on something that wasn’t “essential.” I found myself seeking out opportunities that I not only wanted to do, but that could also conveniently pass as some kind of obligation, so I didn’t have to feel bad about using up such precious resources on just myself.

What I didn’t realize was that in saying “No” to all these things that sparked my interest (and that were not also an obligation), I incidentally was declaring to myself and to the world that I’m not worth the investment of going to something interesting.

Work is worth the investment, sure. Family is worth the investment. Friends are worth the investment, no doubt. If the investment was for them, or even for me and them, then I could go. But heavens, not just for me!

Some of you think I’m absurd, but some of you kind of know what I’m talking about.

So I’ve been following Rob and Liz for awhile now. I had heard about this creativity event online, and knew that it sounded irrational to go simply because I was curious about it.

And as you know, in the past, I would have shut down the idea like that [snaps fingers], just like I had with so many similar events before it… but for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, but am fairly certain have something to do with the sheer boredom and sometimes angst that comes from never checking in with yourself and asking it the simple question of “What does your soul desire?”… I said yes.

This time, I tried something new. This time, I didn’t shut the idea down. Instead, I followed it. I listened to the slight tug on my heart that told me to lean in, to learn more, and to see if I could find a way to make it happen, even though it sounded kind of crazy, but trusting it was for some kind of bigger purpose. I didn’t punish myself for daring to think I was worth such an investment, and I let myself dream for a second about what it would be like to indulge in that slight pull to go, and actually… well, go!

So I went. And as it turns out, cool things happen when you not just follow your curiosity, but follow it with an open heart.

I’ve talked before about how I have often particularly loud voices of negativity in my mind that speak lies to me sometimes. So naturally, as soon as I booked the bus ticket, made the AirBnB reservation, and bought the ticket to the actual event, those voices piped right on up, and did what they do best… they tried to mess with my head.

Their tactics are different depending on the situation. They’re very clever, these voices. Or at least they think they are, and they try to cater to the situation at hand. So in this case, these voices knew that, in addition to not feeling worth the investment of an event like this, I also have had a tendency of getting sick before big events in the past, and thus have needed to bail last minute. Whenever these voices would remind me of this, 9 times out of 10 I would (of course) wind up getting sick, just as the voices told me I would.

It took me awhile to catch on, but I recently had a thought:

How many times have I gotten sick before a big event (whether a concert, Thanksgiving, a birthday party, etc.) because I was actually just getting sick, as humans inevitably do sometimes? And how many times have I gotten sick because I just magnified and fed the negative voices in my mind that told me I was bound to get sick… and because getting sick at inopportune times is just what I do best… and because of course I’m going to get sick, otherwise what else am I going to do? Not get sick and just… go to the big event?! Well that would be ludicrous. Everyone knows I don’t belong there. I belong on my couch, watching FRIENDS reruns, disappointed that I missed another fun event. I’m the sick girl. The girl who gets sick. Sicky McSickster. (That’s enough, Elizabeth).

So anyway, when the voices in my head caught wind that I was (GASP) not only going to an event, but voluntarily going to an event, that seemed out of my reach due to finances, distance, and general impracticality, they got right to it.

About a week before the event, I sneezed once. (!!!!).

Oh my God. Am I getting sick? The voices found their “in.”

I‘m getting sick. I thought. Of course I’m getting sick. I’m going to have to miss the event, I’m going to lose my money because it’s too late to get a refund, I’m going to have to stay home and wallow, and I’m going to hate myself for having even thought that I could go in the first place. What was Ithinking?! Bonehead bonehead bonehead! [Slaps forehead repeatedly].

The thoughts continued for about 10 minutes before I found myself both unexpectedly and yet undoubtedly…… bored.

I used to panic when I heard the voices… and I tried to panic this time, too. I really did! That’s what I had always done in the past, after all. But for whatever reason, it just wasn’t doing anything for me this time. It was as if, in a new way, I saw through the voices for what they really were, and I understood the irrelevancy of them. They were merely a manifestation of my fear. Namely, my fear of new experiences and of an unknown future. The voices were trying to get me sick, because they were trying to keep me home, on the couch, where no new experiences could be found, and where I was surely safe from an unknown future.

I guess the combination of me realizing this and of me just finding myself straight up bored with the whole shtick led me to what I did next. What I did next was unlike anything I had done before… and yet it was astoundingly simple.

What I did was I stood up for myself.

Not in a self-righteous, “I’m super entitled” kind of way…  but just in a very normal, “I’m a human, just like everyone is a human” kind of way. And since I think humans deserve to go to events that feed their soul every once in awhile, for the benefit of themselves and consequently the greater good, then maybe that made me also deserving of attending such events.

So I worked to change the narrative in my head. I switched from I’m sick and I’ll never make it there, to, I’m healthy. I’m strong. I’m confident. And there’s a place for me there.

That last line took me most by surprise I think, because it seemed to not necessarily come from my normal, conscious brain like the other ones. It seemed to come from someplace deeper. From the Holy Spirit, even. And it was a bolder statement than the other ones, too… it was very unlike me, to dare to say that not only was I going to be there, but I should be there. That there was even a place for me there, a seat destined especially for me. Now some of you may argue that I took this a little too far here, but hey. It was working for me, and it seemed like a better idea than thinking my way into sickness, so I just went with it.

And interestingly enough, that last line was the line that popped up in my head the most in the days leading up to the event. Anytime a lingering thought of, “I’m getting sick,” would show up, immediately I would hear the Spirit respond, “There’s a place for you there.”

And eventually, the voices of fear couldn’t even finish their thoughts before they were interrupted by this new voice:

I’m getting sick. I just know I’m coming down with someth-There’s a place for you there.

But what if something else entirely unrelated comes up and forces me to have to-There’s a place for you there.

Oh my GOD what if I get pancreatitis right before the event and have to go to the hospit-THERE’S A PLACE. FOR YOU. THERE.

(Who was this newfound voice that actually cared about me? And was so confident that I was deserving of good things? I don’t know man, but I liked this voice.)

And even on the day of the event, I walked into the venue and as I gave the check-in lady my last name, me being the Debbie that I can be, I had one last fleeting thought of, What if they don’t have any record of my ticket purchase, and the event is sold out, and I came all this way for nothing?!

And again, that voice: There’s a place for you there.

The lady found my name no problem, and pointed me through the double doors to the event. [Switching to present tense for dramatic effect].

I walk in and it looks like a movie theater, so it takes me a few steps before I round the corner and see the seats that are taken and not taken.

I turn the corner and see that the front is pretty full, but there’s actually quite a few seats open in the middle and the back. PHEWF! So naturally I look up to the back of the room, and prepare to trek up the stairs and make my way to a seat in the corner. I knew I would probably be crying most of the day (after all, I do cry at the drop of a hat, and Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert have a way of making me cry even more than other people do). So I figured the back would be best. This way I can stay out of everyone’s way, I thought. I won’t make a scene, and won’t make anyone uncomfortable. Yeah. I’ll find a seat in the back. That’s best.

This is where it gets interesting. So before I make my way up the stairs, I decide to take my backpack off. And as I’m readjusting my belongings and getting ready to head up, a woman in the front row, dead center, with one seat empty to her right, pretty aggressively waves her hand and flags me down.

“UH, MISS?”

“Um.. me?” I look behind me.

“Yeah.” She points to the seat next to her. “There’s a place for you here.”

There’s a place for you here.

There’s a place for you here. There’s a place for you here.There’s a place for you here. So it was true after all.

I learned something that day: that sometimes, there is a place for you here. “Here” being anything from a normal event, to a big event, to even just a place for you here on earth: a place for you to be a human, to take up space, and to just BE who you are.

I learned that day that indeed, sometimes there’s a place for you here.

And sometimes? “Here” is someplace you and the people around you would least expect, and perhaps even a place that fear would like to see you avoid.

And sometimes? That place isn’t in the far back corner. Sometimes, that place is front and center. Not all the time, by any means, but sometimes. And sometimes, you don’t need to hide. Sometimes, you don’t even get to hide even if you want to, because sometimes, a lady with a loud voice tells you that there’s a place for you up front, and when a lady with a loud voice tells you there’s a place for you up front, you take your place up front.

Trust is what it comes down to. Trust that you deserve to be here as much as the next guy, not because of anything you’ve done or haven’t done, but because you’re a human, and humans are allowed to do fun things for themselves sometimes.

Now I recognize… it doesn’t always work like this… I realize that I actually could have gotten sick, in spite of the positive self talk, because getting sick sometimes is a thing if you’re human, but at least I allowed for the opportunity to NOT get sick. I didn’t stunt possibility by assuming the worst. I think that’s the key: allowing for the best, while vowing to surrender to the outcome, regardless of whether it’s the best or worst.

I’m also not going to go to the next event I go to and expect an anointed seat to be carved out for me in the very front of the room with my name on it. Nor am I going to buy a ticket to every single event I want to go to going forward, just because it sounds fun. That’s not my point. My point is that sometimes, it’s okay to go someplace with the expectation that you belong there, and deserve to be there (assuming of course, it’s not a place you were explicitly banned from showing up at). We’re all allowed to be here, and all have a place for us here. We don’t need to feel sorry for being where we are, and don’t need to assume we’re not allowed someplace because we’re not obligated to go.

This is the longest post I’ve ever written, but I want to add one more cool thing that happened last weekend. In the past, at events with people I don’t know, I’d walk into the event with my head down, and would avoid talking to anyone because I was scared… scared of what, I’m not exactly sure, but needless to say, I don’t typically seek out opportunities to talk to strangers. But this time, in the spirit of thinking positively and openly, I prayed on the bus ride to Brooklyn:

God, show me who you want me to meet at this event. Work out the details and allow our paths to cross if that should be a way you want to work through this event.

For the purpose of this story, here’s a seemingly random compilation of anecdotes about me:

I’m a Christian. I historically have gone to a catholic church, and I’m now going to a non-denominational, evangelical megachurch.

I’m fascinated by the exploration of life and love, I appreciate Gabby Bernstein’s insights on life when applied in a Christian context, and the only type of alcohol I drink is vodka.

The woman who I sat next to at the event was named Cindy. Cindy is a Christian. Cindy historically has gone to a catholic church, and is now going to NorthPoint Community Church, a non-denominational, evangelical megachurch pastored by Andy Stanley.

Cindy is fascinated by the exploration of life and love, she appreciates Gabby Bernstein’s insights on life when applied in a Christian context, and the only type of alcohol she drinks is vodka.

NOW TELL ME THAT’S NOT WEIRD.

We spent the day talking about our stories, and especially our families, and it turns out there are a lot of similarities there, too. Shout out to Cindy: I’m SO grateful for your willingness to listen and give insight that day, because I needed to hear it just as much, if not more than I needed to hear what Rob & Liz had to say. Thank you!

So this weekend was a Good weekend. It turns out interesting things transpire when there’s a genuine willingness to let new people, things, and ideas into your life. And I’m beginning to see that life is much more fun and much more FREE, when you invite something bigger than the manifestation of your fear into your life.

Sometimes something that starts out as a fun thing to do, God uses to lead you to discover all sorts of cool things about yourself and your place here in the process.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a champ! Thank you for reading. I haven’t even begun to talk about the actual content of this event, which was equally as fascinating as the victory of actually going to the event… but fear not. I’ll share that in a separate post.

Cheers! To all having a place here.

Indulging in Our Self-Created Pain

You know what scares me? The comfort in continuity… the fact that so much of what we do is because we’ve created a habit of doing it, or because it’s familiar to us.

Let me clarify… not everything about continuity scares me. In fact, a lot of the times it can be a good thing, because it means once we foster good habits it becomes pretty natural in most cases to keep them up after practicing them for a certain amount of time. It means we have the power to make things like taking care of ourselves and taking care of others a habit, and that’s a great thing. (Not that we should do it simply because it’s a habit, but you get my point).

I guess it’s the other side… the “bad” habits that scare me. It’s scary because it’s unnervingly easy to not even realize I’m doing something I shouldn’t, simply because after experiencing something enough on a consistent basis, it can’t help but become familiar, and somewhat comforting.

Something I think we have a tendency to do if we’re not careful (once again, saying “we” assuming/hoping I’m not alone in this…), is indulge in our self-created pain. We dwell on things that we know we should move past, or continue bad habits that we know God wants us to stop, because it’s comfortable. It almost feels good to disappoint ourselves and let ourselves down, because we know what it feels like.

We know the drill. We let ourselves down. We hate ourselves for it. We wallow in our own self-pity. We say we’re going to change, but are distracted by this or that thing and eventually forget about it enough as we become numbed and distracted by whatever busyness comes our way.

And we do the same thing day after day, month after month, year after year. And we know we’re not going to change, because we’re not really trying to change. We don’t have a real game plan on how to move forward, or if we do, it’s an unrealistic one, so when we don’t succeed in doing it, we let ourselves down once again with thoughts like, “See?! I knew I couldn’t do it,” and quickly revert back to our old ways. So we’ve already subconsciously planned to fail. We let the fear of the unknown get the best of us. It’s easier. It’s less work. It’s predictable. And there is a twisted element of comfort in that.

You know that song by Lady Antebellum that says, “I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all”? It’s so cliche, but it’s true: we’d rather hang onto the past and do what we do best even if it’s not the best thing for us… all in hopes of avoiding “nothing at all” or God forbid, avoiding something better we haven’t allowed ourselves to discover yet.

Obviously this looks a little different for everyone. And it’s not necessarily some horribly awful life-shattering habit that I’m talking about.

Sometimes it’s the simple continuation of a thought pattern… one that keeps us in the past, reliving moments that made us feel wronged, rejected, or upset. That pattern keeps us from picking ourselves up and actually MOVING ON.

And sometimes, instead of a mental state, it’s a more outwardly obvious form of self destruction.

Regardless of the nature, bad habits can often be something little and seemingly insignificant. Sometimes it can simply be something we know that we don’t need to be doing, that’s taking up time we could be spending on doing something better… just something that’s significant enough to cause even a twinge of guilt and dissapointment within us… something that inevitably chips away at the trust we have for ourselves.

I think the solution lies in creating new (realistic) expectations for ourselves, and essentially rebuilding a relationship of trust with ourselves… being patient as we do it, but lovingly leading ourselves into new habits, until eventually the old habit seems like merely an illusion. It takes time, and for some of us, we need to start from the ground up, because we don’t trust ourselves at all anymore. And that’s okay! Healing and change takes time. The beauty is found in the journey to that change, and if you sit back and think about it, it’s incredible that we even have the ability to start over like that.

As it relates to how you treat yourself (and even how others treat you), it’s okay and I’d argue, necessary, that the person you are today, doesn’t stand for the things that you stood for yesterday. It’s time to stop expecting and indulging in pain and failure, and to break free from our self-created chains, and forgive ourselves for all the times we haven’t.

So often God sets us free from things we want to be set free from, and the only thing we need to do is allow ourselves to be free. So what are we waiting for? Let’s stop wallowing in our self-manifested puddle of self pity. Let’s get up, and experience the freedom that’s been ours all along.

Nobody Likes Dry Elbows

So the title has nothing to do with the actual content of this post… I just thought maybe it would catch some people’s attention. Plus, it’s true…… do you know anybody who likes dry elbows? #clickbait

Anyway, thought of the week:

We have to give up what we want before we get it. 

Not an earth-shattering concept I guess, but something I’m for sure learning in a new way. We need to really release the idea of getting [insert whatever you want] when we want it, in order to get it.

I’ll speak for myself here: I’m finding that when I really desire something in particular, I almost never get it… at least not in the time frame that I originally wanted it. It’s like I try to receive whatever I want by hoping for it, praying for it, and building up in my head how amazing it’ll be once I get it, and it’s as if God chuckles, shakes his head, and lovingly tells me that I don’t know what’s good for me.

I guess He’s right… a lot of times I have no idea what’s best for me. [A humbling reminder.] In fact, a lot of times I think back on things I used to want (and didn’t get) and am grateful as I realize now that had I gotten said things, my life almost definitely would have been much worse off, and not better as I initially thought.

So my new approach:

Tell God what I want at first glance, while acknowledging that it may not be the best thing for me. In other words, I’m not afraid to be open about what I want on instinct, and to pray for what I think would be good for me, but am careful now to realize (contrary to what many believe) that I myself am not God, and to instead do my best to surrender to accepting an alternative, and even perhaps the opposite of whatever I want myself, trusting that the real God knows best.

I’ve found since starting this approach, one of two things happens:

One, I get an alternative, or sometimes the opposite of what I initially wanted, and I feel oddly at peace with it. There’s a level of disappointment… not gonna lie, sometimes more significant than others depending on the situation, but there is overriding peace nonetheless. There’s something really helpful about picturing beforehand what it might be like to receive the opposite of what I wanted at first. Nine times out of ten I realize that receiving even the opposite of what I want wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I’m reminded that I’m lucky to have the problems that I do… Many would not even call them problems, and this quickly puts things into perspective.

Or two, I get what I wanted initially (usually after some waiting), and I’m pleasantly surprised and oftentimes incredibly overjoyed. It’s as if when I take a step back and give away the notion that I need whatever I want, God nods his head in approval and says, “Here. You’re ready for it now.”

Quick but important side note: you can’t beat the system. I’ve tried. You know you’re trying to beat the system when you try to convince God and yourself that you wouldn’t mind not getting what you want and you’d be just fine getting the opposite (all in hopes of actually getting what you want)… but then when you don’t get what you want, you’re distraught and angry and anything but peaceful… If this happens, don’t beat yourself up… but do take a step back and try (again) to let go of your desires… for real this time.

So I guess I’m (re-)realizing that God doesn’t necessarily give us what we want. He gives us what we need. And trusting that God knows best, I realize that I actually don’t want what I want. I want what I need. So if I want what I need and if God always gives us what we need, then in actuality, I’ll always get what I want in the end…. you follow?

It’s the Climb

Apparently I was a big Hannah Montana fan as a kid, because somehow her song lyrics have wound up in my blog twice in the past two months… the girl’s got a point though. Life really is a climb.

And now, unsurprisingly, please allow me to use this simple phrase as an excuse to ramble about the jumbled thoughts floating around in my head these days…

You know what’s funny? We drill into kids’ minds that they can do anything when they’re young. “The sky’s the limit.” “You can do anything you put your mind to.” “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” “Life’s what you make it.” “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Why do we so often choose to forget these words when we’re older? Is it because we don’t actually believe them to be true? Because that would mean we’re lying to pretty much every kid growing up today. Or is it because we know now the amount of work and risk that would come with actually accepting these sayings as truth? If you ask me, I think we’re all just scared… (but I’ve talked enough about fear for the time being).

So fear aside, I’ve decided I’m going to try to live like a kid again, and believe that these things are true… that change is possible and that dreams can become reality. And I’m coming to realize that in order to change my future, I need to change my present. And in order to change my present, I need to forgive my past.

If you think about life as a climb up a ladder (here she goes with the metaphors again…), I think a lot of times some of us think that we’re stuck on a rung. We can’t climb up to higher rungs of change, goals, progress, and potential in life, because we’re chained to the rung we’re on. We’re stuck. Or worse, not only can we not climb up, but our only way is back down to rungs we’ve already surpassed once (or 100 times) before. We’re slaves to our past, and are destined to fall back into old ways, dwell on what’s already happened, and hang onto habits, people, memories, and things that no longer serve us.

Well in the name of Jesus, I’m going to have to call bull. (Is that sacrilegious?) I have come to believe that this is one of the biggest lies Satan feeds us… that we are unable to continue the climb up the ladder of life. But it’s just simply not true. Unless, of course, we let it be true.

Now this is where I’m realizing that in order to actually prove Satan wrong, we need to do something about it. Calling BS isn’t enough, and it’s necessary to actually take action to reap results, because the fact of the matter is, a lot of people are stuck. But they don’t need to be. None of us need to be.

I think the simplest things we can do to work our way up the ladder are as follows:

(P.S. Please keep in mind when I say we, I really mean I. I just say we to make myself feel like I’m not talking to myself).

1. Accept and appreciate the past for what it is.

It’s good to recognize the past for what it is, and acknowledge that in a lot of ways, we are the way we are because of our past.

2. “Forgive and forget.”

For a quick sec I thought about trying to come up with my own version of this saying, but I’d just overcomplicate the topic.

Forgive:

So forgiveness needs to happen on two fronts when it comes to the past. We need to 1. seek forgiveness from those we’ve wronged, and 2. also forgive ourselves for the ways we’ve wronged others and ourselves.

Notice I said seek forgiveness for number one, as opposed to attain forgiveness. Talk to the person you’ve continuously hurt in the past. Apologize to the people in your life that have received the brunt of your bad moods time and time again. Tell the people you’ve wronged that you want to make things right. After you’ve done this, recognize that not everyone will necessarily accept your apology, and at the end of the day, we don’t have the capability to force people into forgiving us. Don’t use someone else’s opinion of you as an excuse to hinder your own view of yourself and your potential. All we can do is let others know we are sorry for what we’ve done and that we desire reconciliation, and we should rest knowing that.

Now when it comes to number two (forgiving ourselves), this one we do need to attain. I am convinced that we can’t truly move on from our past and make lasting change until we show ourselves grace for the mistakes we’ve made in the past. And I’m talking real grace. To the point that when you think or talk about the things you used to do, the habits you used to hang onto, the unhealthy relationships you used to have, you don’t feel angry and hateful towards yourself and punish yourself with self-deprecating thoughts, but instead love and accept the person that used to do all of those things, while recognizing you are also no longer that person.

Forget: 

Now when I say “forget,” I don’t mean that we need to pretend that our past didn’t happen, or that we should bury our past, or deny it. I just mean, continuing with what I was saying, we really do need to realize that we are not our past selves, and that there is no need to pretend that we are. So with that comes a level of letting go and “forgetting” the past. If we believe we are made new each day by the blood of Christ, then we should live like we are truly made new each and every day.

So when I say “forget,” what I really mean is “don’t dwell.” We should resolve to use what we can from our pasts as learning experiences for where we are today, in this moment. Our histories are tools to the future, not a means to backsliding into places we’ve already been. The goal is to move up, not down, remember?

3. Perceive your future self as reality.

The more we think and believe that we can and will become the person that we believe God wants us to become, the more we can manifest that person into reality. The more we can mentally build ourselves up and encourage ourselves to new heights, the more we can actually reach those new heights. I listened to a podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert recently who said something like: the greatest people in the world didn’t become the greatest people in the world by talking to themselves like they were the worst in the world. You manifest what you believe, so it’s important we be our biggest cheerleaders.

5. Introduce people to your future self. 

Change is much easier when we tell people about it. The climb up the ladder of life becomes less daunting when we have people around us encouraging us upwards, rung by rung. It’s hard for people to do that though, when they don’t know that you’re headed upwards in the first place. So (not to repeat my last post, but) don’t be afraid to tell people about your goals. And don’t be afraid to tell people that you’re working to move on from old ways. Well, be afraid if you must, but don’t let it keep you from doing something about it.

A huge piece of this I’ve found is to let the people who have made it known that they’re on this journey of ascension with you know, the ways that they can best help you. This is especially important when it comes to those that have been in your life for a long time. For family, for example, your past self is all they’ve ever know. So when you resolve to change something about yourself, but they have no idea, they’re bound to treat you like the unchanged self you used to be, and you shouldn’t really expect anything different.

I’ve found personally that I used to get angry with my family. I’d think things like, “Ugh I’ve worked to overcome and they’re treating me as if I’m still the person I was a few months ago that loved x! They’re making it hard to remember that I’ve already overcome x victoriously and am now thriving doing y to maintain that victory. How dare they!” A friend of mine gently asked me as I was telling her about this, “Well, did you tell your family that you’re working to change that about yourself?” To which I responded, “Oops. Maybe I should do that.” After all, as well as your family does know you, they’re not mind readers.

So change sometimes means difficult conversations. It sometimes means telling family and friends that things they used to say or do are stunting your climb, and that you would appreciate it if they shifted their thinking and consequent actions with you, so that you can move on to become a truer version of yourself. I’ve found that as scary as these conversations can seem on the front end, the results are well worth it on the back end. If they’re really on your side, then they’re happy to help in any way they can.

6. Do the same for others.

If you expect people to build you up and encourage you up this ladder of life, do the same for everyone else, too. As important as it is to treat our own lives with grace and encouragement on this upward climb, it’s even more important to remember that you’re not the only one on this ladder, and you’re not the only one trying to make it to the top (nor do you want to be the only one that makes it to the top. How lonely and boring would that be?!).

As my fav artist Rihanna sings, “I mean who am I to hold your past against you?” (Kidding about the fav artist thing). My point is, if you don’t want people to hold your past against you, then don’t hold other people’s against them. A complete and total letting go of the past and building up of the future should be something you both gift and receive to and from others.  Bottom line, treat others the way you wish to be treated. Hey. That should be some sort of universal rule or something…

3 Reasons I’ll Never “Try to Lose Weight” Again

1. Weight does not equal worth.

I’ve said it before, but regardless of what we look like or what we do or don’t do, we are already enough. It can be so hard to accept that we aren’t the ones with this control, but that we are all already worthy of life, love, acceptance, and success precisely where we are at right now because of what God has done for us, but it’s true!

I think a lot of people get it in their heads that “Once I lose this ‘extra weight,'” or “Once I look like I did 2 years ago,” or “Once I can fit into those jeans again,” or “Once the number on the scale says ___ lbs,” … “then I’ll be happy with myself.” “then I can celebrate.” “then I’ll be able to go after that goal.” “then I won’t feel insecure around people anymore.”

The truth is…. none of that is true. Speaking from experience and from what others have told me, it appears that a lot of times the opposite actually happens. Once the weight is lost, you just want to lose more weight. You find you’re not actually happy with yourself, and that you don’t look as good as you thought you would, and that you don’t feel as confident as you thought you would, and that it’s still “not enough.”

If anything, now you’re more insecure, because there’s this pressure to upkeep an image that isn’t realistic long term, and the fear of backsliding into who you used to be actually causes more problems in your life, and not less. There’s a reason we feel like we’re fighting an impossible battle when we try to make ourselves enough…. it’s because it’s not our battle to fight. The battle is already over, and we’ve already won, because Christ has won for us.

2. Weight loss does not equal health.

There’s a very big difference between trying to lose weight, and trying to be healthy. Trying to be healthy is a good thing. God wants us healthy, and to do what we can to best take care of the bodies he’s given us to do his work is a goal worthy of our time. But when we just try to lose weight, we lose sight of the fact that we should be working to balance mind, body, and spirit, and instead get caught up in looking at our bodies as a problem to be fixed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that weight loss is inherently bad. I’m not even saying that I’ll never lose weight again myself. I’m just saying that I’ll never “try” to lose weight again. Weight loss is not a goal deserving of my time, while health is.

When health is the goal, sometimes that means weight loss comes with it, and sometimes, that means weight gain comes with it. And neither of those are a bad thing! Far too many people who are underweight are actually trying to lose weight because society tells them skinnier is always better, but are actually hurting themselves physiologically (and psychologically) in the process.

Bottom line: weight loss or weight gain should never be anything more than a byproduct of trying to be healthy. It’s a side effect. It’s not the focus.

3. It doesn’t work.

Let’s take a step back in time, shall we? Before grocery stores at every corner and farmers’ markets every weekend, we humans used to have to work for our food. We were hunters and gatherers, and ate with the seasons. We experienced times of famine and times of feasting, and our weight fluctuated as our food supply did. In times of scarcity our bodies knew to hang onto their fat supply until food was readily available again, since it needed that fat for fuel.

Biologically, we’re still wired this way. So when we place rules and restrictions on our eating, we trick our brains into thinking there’s a scarce amount of food available. We create an imaginary famine in our minds. Our bodies, in an effort to protect us and take care of us, hang onto the fat that we have (and often try to gain more fat), since they’re not sure when food will be available again.

Little do our bodies know we could eat virtually anything we want whenever we want in this day and age, but because we constantly tell ourselves that we can only eat 4 ounces of chicken with 7 ounces of broccoli for dinner, and no, we can’t have that cookie on the lunch table, and no, we of course can’t celebrate with a slice of that ice cream cake with everyone else… our minds assume the worst and do the opposite of what we want and avoid weight loss at all cost… all in an effort to preserve ourselves.

Don’t be fooled: if we restrict and starve ourselves enough, then the weight will come off in the short term, but, as we continue to mess with our heads and metabolism, the weight will only come back in the long term.

This is why allowing your body to eat what it wants when it wants, assuming that it won’t significantly and negatively affect your health, is the best way to go about life. There’s a reason that we feel hungry sometimes and full other times… those signals are meant to be listened to! Throw away the scale. Throw away the restrictive meal plan. Throw away the size 2 jeans that you want to fit in again someday. Buy clothes that you feel comfortable in. Appreciate your body exactly where it’s at today. And love it enough to feed it food when it asks for it. It’s as simple as that.

Jump.

I have a theory that we keep things, both good and bad, inside too much. We don’t talk about things enough.

Do you ever have things that you struggle with, but don’t say anything about, because you’re too ashamed to admit it to people, or because you’re not even sure how to articulate it?

Or do you ever have a crazy dream in your mind of something you’d like to accomplish, but don’t ever share it with anyone, because you think there’s probably no way you’d ever be able to actually make it happen?

I’ve been in both of these situations, and have come to think the key to changing these situations is to talk about them. Progress is possible when we acknowledge the ideas or thoughts in our heads and do something about them.

So often we have something in our life that we know in the back of our minds is a problem that needs addressing, and yet we fail to address it. We put it off until tomorrow. We bottle it up inside, try to suppress it, ignore it, or distract ourselves from it, until eventually our once tiny problem that affected just a singular aspect of our private life begins to bubble up in other areas of our life. It becomes unavoidable, crippling, and oftentimes unable to be hidden.

Suddenly the bucket in the corner that used to catch the initially harmless leak in the roof is no longer big enough to handle the now massive flood that’s damaging every part of the house. If only we had said something sooner… maybe everything wouldn’t need to be put on hold to tackle something that could’ve more easily been solved by fixing it correctly the first time.

I am convinced that it’s only once we speak something into life that we can make strides to either kill it or grow it.

In the case of a problem, by speaking it into life, you make the problem a reality, and can then work to “kill” it. It’s no longer something that can be ignored and left unaddressed. It no longer has the power to remain in our minds, remain a secret, and fester and grow in private. It’s real. It’s uncomfortable at first, yes, but ultimately it’s recognized as something that needs attention, which is what’s necessary for change to begin.

I guess it really is true that “admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.” For me, I have found that true and lasting transformations from demons that used to torment me have only become possible by me verbally acknowledging my problems, and thus declaring them into being. It sounds backwards at first, but it’s really only by speaking something into reality that we can actually resolve to eliminate it. A journey to eliminate something that doesn’t belong in your life can’t ever end until it officially begins. (Am I making any sense?)

The same goes for dreams. Dreams should be sought after. They are not meant to remain dormant in the secret places of your mind. Talk about them. Speak them into life. Grant them weight, power, and possibility. To all of the people that say dreams aren’t meant to be achieved, I say you’re wrong… (I know, not my best comeback, but you get my point).

Is it easy for dreams to go nowhere? Sure… alarmingly easy, actually. But if we speak about them (often), then we remind ourselves that they are living and need attention to be able to grow, thrive, and bear fruit. There’s a reason you have that gnawing feeling in your gut telling you to go after that job, to make that move across the country, to get to know that person, to get that degree… it’s okay that it sounds crazy. Crazy isn’t a bad thing. Crazy does not equal impossible.

If speaking about something with someone (whether good or bad) seems intimidating at first, write about it instead. Writing about something is like climbing up the ladder to the top of the diving board. It can be a great first and gradual step to making the jump off that high dive that you know you need to make, but aren’t quite ready for yet. In the end, you’ll know when it’s time to jump. I’ve found God will prompt you when it’s time. And if you ignore the prompt? No worries, He’ll push you if you wait too long.

Happy jumping!

Reminder: You Can Swim

When I was little, I wouldn’t talk to people. I mean it. I didn’t talk to anyone except for my mom and dad. If I let out a peep it was only to tell my mom I wanted to leave wherever we were and to go home, or to cry because people scared me. Seriously, ask any of my family members or kindergarten classmates. Lol can you say issues?

As I grew up, I came out of my shell little by little (thank God), but usually only enough to say things that I thought other people would be okay with me saying, all the while trying to be like “everyone else.”

It’s only been within the past year or two that I’ve realized that this stemmed solely from doubts and insecurities.

My whole life I’ve grown up with the insecure voices in my head that we all do. You know, those voices in our head that tell us everyone else is beautiful, but for whatever reason, you’re not?

I know that people tried to tell me otherwise as I grew up, but it really took me until recently to actually accept and believe that those voices were nothing more than Satan feeding me lies in hopes of getting me to believe that I didn’t have anything to offer.

Before I realized that the voices were from the enemy, I did what I think a lot of young kids do, and was tricked into accepting those voices as truth.

If you’re like me, the thoughts of doubt and worthlessness in your head can be scary. I used to hate them. They caused a lot of anxiety and hurt for me, and I’d be scared of what terrible truth they might show me about myself, or what dream of mine they might squelch in a given day. So for a long time, in an attempt to find a solution, I’d try to drown the voices out.

When I’d hear Satan telling me things I didn’t want to hear or believe, I’d try to distract myself. I’d watch tv and would fill my head with nonsense in hopes of overpowering his lies. I’d gossip with people about other people so that I wouldn’t have to think about the chatter in my own head. I would eat (or not eat) until I was so full (or hungry) that I wouldn’t be able to think clearly enough about anything except the fact that I was so stuffed (or starving).

In hopes of helping anyone who’s experiencing something similar, let’s think about these voices metaphorically. Picture ourselves swimming at the shore of an ocean, and picture these lies Satan feeds us as waves approaching us on the shore. Trying to stop Satan’s lies from entering our heads is equivalent to trying to stop the waves of the ocean from crashing over us when they approach. It’s an impossible feat.

Satan will always make it his mission to tell us that we are not worthy of life, of love, of success, of whatever, just as the waves of the ocean will always come. The solution is not to stop the waves from coming, but rather, to recognize that when they do come, we are not slaves to them, but instead, can rise above them.

We don’t need to fear the voices of doubt, or try to stop the voices of worthlessness altogether. We need to remember that we really can swim, and when we do experience a wave of insecurity or doubt, we can allow it to crash over us, uninhibited, and respond by calmly rising to the top and continuing to swim forward in our lives.

To think of it another way, picture an alarm clock. (Yes, I’m switching metaphors. I love metaphors, so sue me). If your alarm goes off, and you’re, for some reason, not able to shut it off, but can still hear it, it’s similar to Satan’s lies in our head.

At first, it makes you jump, right? You panic, assume something is wrong, and want to immediately do something to shut it off. Eventually though, as time goes on, you become accustomed to the noise, and recognize it’s not a cause for panic. The alarm continues to go off, but you’re able to continue about your day, and to do the things you need to get done. It’s just noise…

Is it annoying at first? Yes. But does it inhibit you from progressing forward? No. And what happens after the alarm goes off long enough without being touched? … It shuts off on it’s own! And so it is with Satan’s lies.

So to any girls (or guys) out there thinking about unnecessarily changing something about yourself, because you’ve been duped into thinking you are not enough, remember that you don’t need to change a thing. You are more than enough, just the way you are, and to lose yourself in hopes of becoming someone you were never created to be would be stripping the world of a vital part of its truth.

You don’t need to look to other people for permission to allow your true self to manifest.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved.” Eph 1:6

Created to Create

For a long time, I didn’t let myself create for fun. I grew up thinking there were generally two types of people in the world: creative people and non-creative people. I cringe even writing that, because I know now how flawed that thinking is, but for whatever reason(s), that’s what I thought.

Being told I was a numbers person as I got older caused me to then jump to the conclusion that I belong in the latter camp of people, and it’s taken me a solid 23 years to realize what a mistake it was to assume that, and to make strides to reverse it.

I’ve realized that just because our name isn’t Picasso or Monet, and we don’t have a career in the arts, doesn’t mean that we can’t grow our artistic muscles and discover what creativity means to us.

I’ve only recently been allowing myself to explore what creativity looks like to me, and it’s been really eye-opening. Turns out I like to write. Who knew?

Am I the best writer? No. I’m not even a great writer. But writing for fun makes me feel like I’m doing something good. Like I’m fulfilling some sort of purpose, and making something of value, even if the value is just simply me having an avenue for me to get my thoughts on paper.

I think it’s because we’re all creative beings. We were created in the image of a creating God, and just as God creates, so should we. And it can look different for everyone. Writing (articles, poems, songs), drawing, gardening, photography, painting, building, dancing… the sky’s the limit.

I think it would do us a lot of good to all find a hobby that allows us to create, and to then allow ourselves to pursue that hobby without putting pressure on ourselves to become the best at it. In a society that gets so caught up in goals (myself included), for once we should allow ourselves to just do something for the sheer joy of doing it, and for the way that it allows us to explore, understand, and get to know ourselves and other people.

It’s a Gift

I have a problem…

I could take this post in so many different directions right now, because Lord knows I have a lot of problems (lol), but the problem that’s on my mind today is the fact that so many of the things I do in my life, I do for the wrong reasons.

Let’s use going to the gym as an easy “for instance.”

I attest to the notion that exercise improves health, and is a good thing for us humans to make a habit of. Because of that, I try to go to the gym, or get some form of exercise in at least a few times a week. It’s been only recently though, that I feel like I’ve actually been making an effort to go for the right reasons.

People who know me know I have a tendency to get caught up in extremes, and a lot of times it’s not until I swing from one end of the spectrum to the other that I realize the best space to be in is neither extreme, but somewhere in the middle instead.

So I’ve been a gym-goer now for over 8 years, and when I first started going, I went because I felt “less than.” I had to lose weight. I had to gain muscle. I had to look better. I had to fit in. I was insecure. I had to work out, because I wasn’t good enough. Working out was a punishment for being not enough.

Then, after I realized that wasn’t good, I incidentally swung the opposite direction. I went to the gym because it made me feel “better than.” I went to feel good about myself. I liked getting up at 5am to work out, knowing that the majority of society was still sleeping, because in my head that meant I was more motivated and had more drive than those people. Working out was a reward for being better than other people. Working out made me prideful.

God’s reminded me lately that neither of those reasonings were valid for working out. I am not any less than others, nor am I any better than others, and to think that going to the gym could affect my worth in any way at all was silly and altogether incorrect thinking.

Going to the gym is not a punishment. Going to the gym is not a reward. Going to the gym is a gift.

We’ve been given bodies to steward in this life, and it is a gift from God, and nothing we could have earned, to be able to use those bodies to their fullest potential.

The goal of going to the gym for me has now become an effort to contribute to the health and vitality of my body, because as I increase my strength, I increase my capacity to work for the glory of God. The more that I can thrive as a result of getting proper physical exercise, the more I’ll be able to help in spreading Love throughout this world. What an opportunity!

Working out is no longer something that stems from insecurity or from pride, but instead is a celebration of the capabilities that God’s given us through our bodies.

Plus, the physical act of pushing myself to become stronger and continuously change myself for the better in that way, serves as a powerful reminder to me that we have the ability to push ourselves to places we’ve never been before both emotionally and spiritually, as well.

Life is not a punishment. Life is not a reward. Life is a gift.

Water Your Roots

If you ask me (I know you didn’t ask me, but I’m going to pretend that you did), we are far too absorbed in things that don’t matter in this day and age.

I see girls (and guys) all around me so concerned with what they look like, how they come across, and how others perceive them… it makes me kind of sick tbh. It bothers me so much, because these are things I have a tendency to be far too concerned with myself, if I’m not careful.

If we think about our lives as plants, really simply put:

We’re watering the wrong end of the plant.
 
So often, in an effort to be accepted, we focus on making ourselves look really nice, and look like we have things all together.
We put on more makeup. We fake a bigger smile. We exercise and alter our eating to try to lose weight. We act happier than we really are, to trick people into thinking we really are “fine.” We pretend to be “Good. (And you?)” when people ask us. We’re all about the appearance.
Continuing with the metaphor, picture a gardener spraying the leaves of a plant, washing them clean of any dirt, making them look nice at first glance, but completely missing the roots, causing the plant to, in actuality, be starving.
I feel like that image represents so many of us in this country. We create the illusion that we’re thriving and succeeding, but underneath it all, we’re thirsty, sick, and desperate for water and sonlight (See what I did there?).
It makes me sad, because if people are anything like me, then a lot of times the reason for putting on this fake front stems from insecurity, and a desire to be accepted.
We think things like, “If I eat less and lose 10 more pounds, then I’ll be happy,” or
“If I go to the gym and get back that six-pack that I used to have, then everyone will like me,” or
“If I wear this name-brand jacket and buy these expensive jeans, then they’ll think I have money, and will respect me,” or
“If I act like I’m confident, then they’ll think I really am confident, and then they’ll view me as their equal,” or
“If I pretend to have it all together, even though inside I’m a mess, then I’ll be worthy of that relationship/of that job/of the accomplishment of that goal/of whatever.”
The problem with all of these “if, thens” is that all of them are contingent upon the assumption that our worth is ours to create, grow, and prove to others. This reasoning completely contradicts the Truth that teaches us that our worth is not ours or anyone’s to determine except for our Creator’s (which He already did long ago).
God’s reminded me of this a lot lately, thanks to his Word, his Church, and especially his people, who continue to speak the truth in Love to me (shoutout to all of those beautiful people).
The key is to look to God for true and life-giving nourishment, and to allow his Love to continuously grow us. As opposed to futilely and unnaturally trying to prune our own selves, if we give God the shears (yikes, taking this metaphor a little too far, I know), only then will we be able to organically rid ourselves of the bad fruits and allow good fruits to grow in their place.
(See next post for tips on how to deal with the insecurities that result in these futile efforts in the first place).
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5