Tag Archives: God

Trusting My Voice

I used to describe myself as a people pleaser the way an interviewee would say their weakness is just being too committed to their work. I didn’t understand how detrimental it was to try to please people. To make people happy. That doesn’t sound bad, right? But what it did was put undue responsibility on myself to regulate other people’s emotions and tempers and views of who I was. Things that I had absolutely no ability to control. Still, I was consumed in wanting people, anyone really, to see me in a positive light, because my whole identity was hanging on that opinion.

In the midst of all this worry and anxiety about what other people thought about me, I lost my own voice. I didn’t set up healthy boundaries. I always had an excuse for others, but never excused myself. I would break down if someone confronted me about how they felt I needed to change or how I disappointed them in some way. Shame became the guide in my life, either by trying to avoid it or just letting it consume me.

Something changed over the last year. Along with learning to trust my own body, I started building space around me. Space to sit in stillness and listen to the Spirit’s whisper reminding me who I was. Reminding me that I had a voice of value. Reminding me that I no longer needed to let shame lead my decisions or overpower my thoughts. And as my voice grew louder, it had some things to say.

  • I have the power to say no. Even if I have said yes in the past. Even if I said yes to begin with. I can still say no. This requires me to slow down and start listening to my body, to God, to my own bandwidth. No longer can I fill up my days with busyness. Busyness was a way I could escape from the shame and the guilt of not measuring up to other people. Saying yes until I was burnt out was how I showed others that I was dependable, to show that I cared. But I could never balance it all, and something else in my life would always be left wanting. So saying no gave me the power to create space.
  • I purposefully create space. Space for body breaks. Space to sit with God and with my breath. Space for days when I do absolutely nothing. For me, one of those days is Monday. I don’t set appointments on Mondays. They are the days I recover from full weekends. I don’t do housework on Mondays. They are unproductive days to the outside eye, but they are so necessary. And if Monday doesn’t work, then it’s a different day. I’m not rigid in the structure, but I make sure that there are at least a couple days like this in my week. They are an important reminder that I have value even when I’m not producing. I get to just be me.
  • I get to define me. When I was a young married, I would scour the internet and books for information on how to be a good whatever. Wife. Christian. Person, in general. I thought I needed some definition to fulfill. And if it wasn’t research, then it was how other people thought I was doing. Did they feel loved by me? Wanted? Respected? I measured my entire life on the opinions of others, whether in person or in word. But now, I have taken back that responsibility and acknowledge that right now, without a single change to who I am, I am a worthy and valuable individual.
  • I stopped trying to constantly improve myself. What I mean by that is instead of feeling like I’m a broken thing that needs to be constantly fixed, I start with the idea that, “I am already good.” Maybe a bedtime routine needs tweaking, or maybe my lack of patience means I need more sleep, or I need to add an extra walk into my day, or maybe I don’t need that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon. But none of this takes away from the fact that I am already good. I don’t have to have it all figured out. Of course there is always something new to learn, something new to try, but I celebrate the things I’ve already learned and what I’ve already let go.
  • I officially retire as a mind reader. For the longest time, I would anticipate other people’s feelings, desires and needs. I would get it right enough to think I was right every time. This doesn’t mean I have completely stopped caring about whether or not my actions or words hurt others. I take responsibility for causing pain or hurt, even unintentionally, to other people. But it is no longer my responsibility to regulate other people by trying to read into their tone or facial expressions or expect any kind of passive aggressive behavior. I want my words to be taken as truth so it’s only fair that I give others the same treatment.

I’m learning and growing every day. I am finally really giving myself grace, and not just one more chance to get it right. I’m not the girl I was yesterday, though I look at her as the beautiful heart that she was, willing to carry shame and blame for the sake of others. But I’m letting go of that shame and moving towards the person I was created to be. What I keep reminding myself is that I’m doing the best I can with every day God gives me on this earth. Letting go and learning to become the person that God created me to be on this lifelong journey.

Trusting My Body

In the first year of my kid’s life, I was desperate to find a schedule that solved every issue we faced. But even to this day, not one of the many schedule suggestions online worked for us. Namely because this kid wakes up between 6 and 6:30 almost every single morning, and apparently, the majority of the schedules out there cannot fathom a child getting up that early. The best piece of advice for us was “feed the baby when they are hungry and sleep when they sleep,” but it required me to slow down, tune into my kid’s body, and look and listen for cues.

That was extremely hard for me. And one of the reasons it was so difficult was because I wasn’t doing it with my own body. I hadn’t for a long time. I didn’t realize that this was a major barrier at the time, but looking back, and after an extremely good amount of therapy this last year, I discovered that somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting myself.

I stopped trusting my body. Instead, I let society, community, and culture dictate how I should take care of this body, what it should look like, what it should be able to do. I chased one diet after another, one schedule after another, researched every culturally successful person’s morning and evening routine, trying to glean some wisdom that would make me feel happy, healthy, put together, organized, and whole. Even church culture promoted a certain standard to chase, from the clothes I wore to how I should act in every relationship I had, even how to grieve.

But this spring, I started listening to my body. At first, it was chaotic because it had so much to say, but once I stilled, once I allowed it to speak, it reminded me of the truths that God had woven into my heart from a very small age. I am loved. I am beautiful. I am strong. I cannot be defined by the ideas around me because I will never completely fit. I was not made to completely fit. I was made to stand on my own, to shine, to sing, to dance, to smile and laugh, to be in relationship with the one true Creator of the universe.

Now, that sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But I am still in the early stages of this realization. I still struggle with the beauty of my body. Something that I’ve seen work for other women who have had children and are trying accept their body after it goes through so many changes in pregnancy is the fact that their body carried those babies and brought them into the world. But that doesn’t completely work for me. My body has a 25% success rate so far in that area. And before I had my kid, I was carrying the weight of failed pregnancies. So, how do I find beauty in a body I thought betrayed me?

It’s not easy. Surprisingly, or maybe not so, when I recently started doing 20-30 minutes of yoga a day, I started to feel more in tune with my body. I’ve been doing yoga for about 20 years now, off and on, but I don’t think there is something mystical or magical about yoga. It’s about breathing, listening to the basic breath coming into your body and releasing out of it. It’s about being aware when your muscles stretch and your bones creak or pop. It’s not about the positions or getting to the next level for me, it’s about the slowing down.

When I slow down, I see my body in action. It actually tells me much earlier than I realized exactly what it needs. There are the big signals, like the extreme pain of a kidney stone, but it also tells me in the small nudges towards hunger, loneliness, thirst. I also recognize that this isn’t new. We learn this in science class, but it’s drowned out by words like food addiction and laziness. These kinds of words have convinced me not to trust my body, that it is too broken to communicate. When in reality, it’s been communicating just fine, it’s just that how my body works doesn’t seem to match how my culture says it’s supposed to work. And that is what I have to unlearn and let go.

It’s a work in progress. For the longest time, being busy was considered the highest achievement, but I realize now that it was keeping me from listening to the body God created, to allow it to work the way it was made to, instead having to turn to other sources who could never know my body the way I do. Right now, I have a slight headache, and I realized I hadn’t had much water this morning. Now, I wouldn’t have realized that before, I would have taken a pain pill or tried to find some quick fix, or I would have tried to muscle through it, ending up more sick, usually with something sinus related. But I stopped, listened, and I’m sipping on water between sentences. Slowly, my headache is disappearing. Of course, if it didn’t, I would try other things, but I’m not chasing the quick fixes as much anymore.

And learning to embrace my body, to listen to its cues, will not be quickly fixed either. There are days I’m frustrated that I don’t look like I did when I was 20, or fit into clothes and styles I have loved in the past. But now, I have an opportunity to really find what I love, really know who I am, and build a confidence that will see me through this life with grace, compassion and love.

Generosity (2 Corinthians 9)

This year is hard. It’s affected pretty much every aspect of our lives. We have lost loved ones, our rhythms are completely interrupted, and social media feels like a powder keg on most days.

But one of the things that has kept me upright is acknowledging the blessings of God. I’m thankful for the health our family does have. I’m thankful for the roof over our heads and food on our table. I’m thankful for the many growth moments in my relationships. And I’m really grateful to get to be a mom to my kid, watching him adjust to a new normal and new experiences with excitement and curiosity.

In response to these blessings, we are called as Christians to express gratitude through generosity. I know that there are people who financially struggling in a lot of ways, but in the verse below, I feel like Paul is talking about more than just money.

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

2 Corinthains 9:11-12

“You will be enriched.” God is going to give you the things that you can share. Whether that is time, or skill, or even presence in someone’s life, God is providing the margins for you to give to others in different ways.

“Your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Everything will point back to God, not to our own abilities or resources. This is paramount in our generosity. We give because it has been given to us.

“Not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” The really cool thing is that even if what we have to give is small, God can do amazing things with it. He will multiply our generosity over and over again. We may never know the complete effect of our giving.

These verses have encouraged me this week to look for ways to be generous. Maybe it’s being generous with my time with my toddler – turning off the screens and playing games with him. Maybe it’s being generous with my love for reading by helping others find books they might enjoy. Maybe it’s being generous with my writing, by encouraging others with handwritten notes or texts or comments on their posts.

I am so grateful to God for all that He has done for me. I want to be a person who is generous to others so that my actions and words point back to God. Because that is what I want my life to be about.

Participate (Genesis 18)

There’s a story in Genesis about Abraham pleading with God over Sodom and Gomorrah, and this verse popped out at me.  Right before God lets Abraham in on his plan for these two cities, he says:

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?  Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Gen 18:17-19

So, God tells Abraham that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was so grievous that he was going destroy the cities.  Abraham asks God if he would save the city if God could find 50 righteous people.  God agrees, then Abraham goes down to 45, 40, 30, 20, even just 10 people that God would avoid destroying these cities.  God agrees and then leaves.

God brings Abraham alongside him in this plan.  He doesn’t just let him in on the plan, but actually lets him participate in the conversation.  So, what does that mean for us now?

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Galatians 3:7-9

Just like Abraham, we are chosen by God.  And just like Abraham, God wants us to know the plan, and he wants us to be an active participant in that plan, even if that means we ask questions and plead for specific outcomes or knowledge.  We can ask these things in faith because even though God sees the bigger picture and plan, he also hears our whispered prayers and proclamations of longing. 

Abraham knew that the cities were corrupted (as evidenced in Genesis 14 and his conversation with the King of Sodom).  And he knew that God’s plan was bigger and better than he would ever understand.   Today we know our world is broken and full of death and destruction, and we can plead with God all of our struggles and worries.  He not only hears, but he listens and considers and patiently walks through it with us.  How good it is to have a God who is not only in control and knows where this is all going but wants to stand beside us, walking through it with us, every step of the way!

COVID-19

The Coronavirus, as it is commonly called.  What a week, or should I say month, huh friends?

I’ve gone back and forth about what I would actually say, if I would actually say anything about what is going on in our country, let alone the world.  But for my little corner of the internet, I thought it would be appropriate to tell my story, my experience, so far, as a little memory capsule for years to come.

So, in my normal routine, I get supplies for the house about once a month and groceries once a week.  Starting at the end of February, Michael and I decided to go ahead and get March’s supplies and two weeks’ worth of food for the pantry, plus a few nonperishables.  At the time, I’ll admit I thought I was being a little overreactive, but even at that point, there was no hand sanitizer on the shelves and very little Clorox wipes available either.

Then last week happened.  The Stock Market started tanking.  The first states to be hit with the virus started shutting down and taking more extreme measures.  The President addressed the public several times.  The CDC went from just washing hands to social distancing recommendations.  And the number of people affected by this virus in our area started to climb.

My dad works at one of the biggest grocery chains in the country.  He told me stories of people waiting by the stock room door for pallets of toilet paper to come on to the floor.  They get picked up before they even make it to the shelves.  By Saturday, every department was hit with empty shelves as people continued to buy in double the normal average amounts.

But the reality is this.  We are not running out of food.  Employees are working overtime to make sure we can get the things we need.  And I am so grateful for them.  And I’m also reminded that I need to not let myself succumb to the hysteria while still being alert and informed.

There is a lot of unknown and scary right now.  Anxieties are high.  My anxiety has gotten the best of me several times.  I’ve had to designate phone-free times during my day.  I’ve also had to designate clean-free times as well, because I will stress-clean (as my husband calls it) obsessively.  I have to be really intentional about down time and self-care.  I haven’t finished a book in over a week because every time I try to sit down and read; my brain won’t turn off.

One funny example from last week, I made myself some tea and was going to curl up in bed with a book while my son napped.  But first, I needed to clean off my bedside table, and then my headboard, and the other bedside table, and might as well wipe down the dresser.  I knew I was in trouble when I found myself kneeling on a chest wiping down the frames on the wall.  So, I have started using timers. I also bought myself some puzzles.  For some reason, puzzles can take that obsessive aspect of my brain and keep it occupied.

And of course, I’m leaning on God.  He is revealing things about His nature through this experience.  His faithfulness to our family, His love and strength.  I am so thankful that He is in control, and no matter what happens in the next few weeks and months, I know He won’t leave my side.

I hope you are finding ways to bring calm and sanity into your life.  Whether it’s gratitude for the hard-working men and women at the grocery stores or organizing and structuring your life to keep you from obsessively cleaning (or is that just me), or leaning on God morning, noon, and night.  I hope you stay safe and healthy and find new ways to stay connected to both God and the people around you.

And as always, wash your hands.

Watched Vs Seen

I remember a song that we sang in Bible School, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see….For the Father up above is looking down below.” We didn’t sing it often, but it was enough to give me spiritual paranoia. God is watching. All. The. Time.

When I know I’m being watched, the walls go up. One time at the grocery store, I picked up and promptly dropped a jar of preserves. It was an accident, but I felt every eye in that store watching me. I wanted the aisle to swallow me up in that moment, or at the very least I wanted to quickly develop an invisibility superpower.

But most of the time, I don’t think about it. When I put up a post or picture online, I don’t really think about all the people who view that post. I usually think of a few people who might read it, but not much beyond that. However, if I realize just how many people are looking at something I wrote, all I can think about are all the flaws in that post, or flaws in other things I have posted that people might also be looking at. It can be paralyzing!

While being watched is a kind of exposure that gives way to paralyzing fear, being seen means being made vulnerable in a safe, non-judgmental place. Being watched is passive while being seen seems more active. And I think that is what God does, instead of just watching us, he truly sees us.

Yes, God sees your flaws and your brokenness. But he also sees your broken heart as well. He didn’t just watch his creation from afar. He came down close to it. In Jesus, we see a God who looks us in our eyes and sees us. Really sees us.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Like the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus watched her approach, but in conversation with her, showed her that he truly saw who she was. He listed her living reality with no judgment and allowed her to respond. She was a woman used to being watched. Why do you think she went to that well at the hottest part of the day? But when she was truly seen, her life changed. Transformed.

So, if I’m suppose to be a Jesus-follower, then I need to learn how to see, not watch. It’s so easy, even in social media, to scroll through and consume the stories of other people, making easy, fast judgments, instead of taking the time to really see people for who they are.

It means prioritizing my time and my relationships with other people. It means that I focus less on the number of followers I have and more on the people God has sent into my life. It’s being open. It’s not putting too much stake in what people think when they watch me. It’s slowing down. It’s trusting God to pull down some of my own walls that are blocking my ability to see others.

Sure, God is watching. But more importantly, God is seeing. He walks with me. He guides me. And I pray that I can continue to embrace vulnerability and humility in the same way Jesus did, trying to be more and more like him every day.

Psalm 40: 1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

When I was in middle school, there was a huge storm that came through our town. I mean, thunder and lightning and heavy raindrops. When we woke up the next morning, the street in front of our house had turned into a river, and the backyard had turned into a lake. School was canceled.

My friends came over and we were exploring everything (Though we did not play in the water. That would have been nasty.). As we were walking around the side of our house, my foot got caught in some mud. This wasn’t like a little mud you might slip in, it was more like quicksand you sink in. And I started to sink. I has to cry for help and my friends pulled me to out.

I think about that day when I read these verses. Mud clings and wraps and pulls. You can’t pull yourself out, you have to be pulled out. When God pulls us out, three things happen.

When you are placed on solid ground, it gives you a different perspective than when you are sinking in the mire. From that perspective, you are given hope and faith that can be shared with the people around you (singing a new song). And by sharing that hope and faith, others can put their trust in God and find their new perspective on their own solid ground.

It’s amazing to see the power of God in the struggle. How he can equip us to do the hard stuff. God did not create you to sink, but to sing.

Sustaining: Thankful for God

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. Psalms 36:5-6
Six years ago, Michael and I went to Paris, France for our wedding anniversary.  I remember the first full day, we got on the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower.  We entered a tunnel during the trip into the heart of the city.  As we left the tunnel, the Tower came into view.  We were in a train car with other Americans, and there was an audible gasp as we all looked at it. We left the metro and walked to the tower.  We stood under it and looked up.  The sheer size of it left me speechless and overwhelmed.  I’ve had similar experiences underneath the Arizona sky at night, how the entire sky seems massive, stretching from one end of the earth to the other.  Also, looking out over the ocean on a cruise ship, how tiny the boat feels (which isn’t tiny in the least) compared to the unending water around us. This verse reminds me just how small I am compared to the love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice of God.  It is the tall tower, the evening sky, the expansive ocean.  It’s overwhelming and awe-inspiring.  I am so thankful we serve a God like our God.  

Sustaining: Thankful for Hope

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus has entered on our behalf.

Hebrews 6: 19-20

I like the idea of hope being an anchor, something that remains steadfast in the winds and waves of life and its cruelties.  But the next part of it is pretty amazing too.

The inner sanctuary was one that not a whole lot of people could get to in Jewish times.  You were going into the presence of God and had to follow a number of rules and requirements in order to be there.

But our hope is that Jesus took care of that.  He is our forerunner.  According to dictionary.com, a forerunner can be a sign or warning of something to come.  It is an advance messenger.

The glorious wonder is that one day we will enter into the inner sanctuary into the presence of God.  Jesus has prepared that way for us.  And we can have a close and intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.  All the rules and regulations have been taken care of by Jesus.  The invitation is there.

And that’s pretty cool.