welcome to the family

I went to Naples Night of Worship a few days ago and I just wanted to write a tiny little note about what it meant to me.

The worship was held at New Hope, which is the church that spent all of my formidable years. I got saved in kids church in Mrs. Judy’s preschool class there (and she still invests in me to this day which means so much to me), I went to youth group there and I learned to serve there in every capacity from the altar ministry to the choir. There are people there who’ve known me from a little girl and I remember growing up in that building. It’s tremendously emotional for me whenever I come back to visit.

I’ve spent the last six months or so with Eddy searching for our own church to get involved in. After visiting about 3 different churches, we finally landed on Destiny, which we’ve been going to for about 6 weeks now. During that time we visited Livewire, Summit and Living Waters; all of which are wonderful churches.

The thing that I loved about the Night of Worship was how connected I felt to everyone and each congregation represented there. I could look on the stage and recognize worship leaders from all the different churches we’d visited, all cohesively worshipping together like one big family. I could look around the room and see different people who’ve sown into my life, people who know my parents, people I’ve gone on mission trips with, people I’ve learned under and served with. It was a wonderful, anointed time and it was exciting to see different “churches” come together as His Church and recognize that Jesus is our head and we are all part of His family.

I loved that.

How often do we take time to recognize our connection to Christ or to each other? How often do we gather as a family and just love Jesus well?

Not enough, I submit.

But I think this is a good place to start.

Thankful for all the passionate believers who pushed and believed for a night of unity and worship.

How else can we extend this and live in it out in our daily lives? I’ll be thinking of that this week and pondering the possibilities. What do you think?

 

A Few Things I’ve Learned at 25

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Today I am 25 years old.

This is the oldest I’ve ever been, and therefore the wisest I’ve ever been. I still have so much that I can’t wait to learn as I grow and mature, but I thought I’d share some of the best things I’ve learned over the past few years. These things have truly revolutionized my life and set me free from faulty mindsets that were holding me back.

Not everything is my fault.
I am quick to blame myself for everything. If someone is upset near me, I’ll wrack my brain to figure out how I personally offended them. If something goes wrong, I’ll assume responsibility regardless of my non-involvement. I’ve come to learn that doing this is not only irrational but also is a form of egotism that assumes that I am that important in the lives of others as to be the source of their frustration. Can you say unbalanced?

You can start anything at any time.
I’ve spent most of my life either saying “I can’t do _________” or “I’ll do _______ later”. I always felt like I had to have more money, or be stronger, or be smarter, or more fill-in-the-blank to do the things I was thinking of in my head, whether it was as small as reading a book or as large as going to India. I finally realized that all I have to do is decide to start something and then do it. It can really be as simple as that. If you want to start running, go for it! If you want to blog, do it! If you want to grow in your weak area, the only person stopping you is you.

I can’t save anybody, I can only love them.
I’ve consistently found/put myself in situations over the years where I’ve wanted to help others. I see people in need or people struggling and my heart goes out to them. I want to do everything in my power to fix things for them or change their scenarios; at my best I basically want to save them– at my worst I want to tell others how to best live their lives. I’ve learned that even if I pour out myself and all that I am to someone else, at the end of the day, I can’t save them. People have to want to change in order to do so and that’s something that no one else can force upon them. The best I can do for anyone I want to help is to love them, present them with my best advice when asked and know that ultimately it’s God’s job to save them.

The only thing in life that I can (mostly) control is me.
I can be a pretty controlling individual at my core. I think it mostly comes from spending so many years alone and independent, but this being the case plays to my advantage as well. I started journaling my particular stresses a year or so ago and evaluating which I could actually control and which I would have to change my attitude on since I couldn’t control them (lazy coworkers, other people’s perceptions of me, the emotional energy of the room, etc.). Almost everything that I was able to control came down to my perspective, my attitude, my behavior. It’s humbling, but it’s real and it has saved me hours, days, of unnecessary stress.

We really do reap what we sow.
I’ve watched time and again in my own life and the lives of others this simple truth played out. I’ve watched shady coworkers eventually lose their jobs, I’ve watched dedicated servants of Jesus be blessed, I’ve watched people get everything they want fall apart in the end because they missed their opportunities to build character. There are tons of things in life that aren’t fair, but we can’t escape our good or our bad choices. I won’t do myself any favors by constantly thinking, “What about them?” It’s not my business or job to exact justice on anyone. I have to leave that to God.

I won’t reach my goals if I don’t plan to reach my goals.
Whatever my goal may be (read this many books, spend this much time in the bible, run this 5k, etc.) I will never reach it if I don’t plan to reach it. It helps to work backwards from a date or event and then I try to break it down to weekly goals and then daily goals. I’ll never be able to do a headstand or crow pose if I don’t start practicing. I’ll never read 12 books a year if I don’t make time to read. Goals are totally reachable, I just have to first prioritize what my goals are (spiritually, financially, physically, relationally, etc.) and then create and implement plans to get there. I’ve heard it said and seen it to be true that “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

If it scares me, I have to do it.
I will limit this to everything shy of jumping out of a plane, but I stand by this. If I’m intimidated and I chicken out, I lose an opportunity to grow. It may be as simple taking dance lessons or being vulnerable with someone I love, but I want to choose to do it. Instead of shying away from discomfort, I want to embrace it. It’s brought me the greatest growth in my life this far and while it’s not usually quick, if I’m consistent I can see great results.

Don’t talk about it, be about it.
I get really passionate about things and I’m good with my words, so it’s easy for me to talk or to sound like I know what I’m talking about. Words excite me, motivate me, inspire me and so I want to give that to other people. I’ve watched the damage both I and other have caused by offering words unsubstantiated by actions or behaviors and I don’t want that to be the norm in my life. It’s my policy now that there aren’t measurable differences in my actions to back up my beliefs, then I don’t have the right to speak to anyone about it. Plain and simple. It’s been a great challenge, but it’s been very necessary in my life.

These are just a few of the things from my list, but I’m interested to see what has set you all free? What life lessons has God used to deliver you from anxiety, stress, fear, or whatever it is you struggle with?

We Are Not Our Successes

I’m a recovering perfectionist. 

Anyone who knows me could tell you that I want to get it right, get it right the first time and get it right every time after that. I hold myself to an extremely high standard and will mercilessly pick myself apart in the hours and days following any mistake or error I make (real or projected). I’m constantly re-evaluating my mindsets and behaviors to come up with better solutions for growth. 

This is actually a good thing–a little self awareness and desire to grow never hurt anyone. 

I saw a quote the other day from Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, Scary Close, etc.) that stated, “We are not our successes”.

  
I’ve spent most of my life trying to get past my failures and mistakes and I’ve honestly taken more pride than I should in the few things I’ve gotten right in life. I’m not perfect but I’m competent enough to deal with interpersonal relationships, to hold a decently high stress job and rise to challenges, to take care of (most of) my financial needs, to serve the Lord in a way that makes me feel productive, etc. 

I’ll be honest, I’ve based so much of my identity and value has been in whether or not I’m doing well. Am I getting it right? Or more importantly, do I look like I’m getting it right? 

There are passages all throughout scripture about the value of hard work or doing well at whatever tasks we’re given in this life.

It is a gift from God to be able to eat and drink and experience the good that comes from every kind of hard work.                    Ecclesiastes 3:13

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…       Colossians 3:17 

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.    Psalm 1:3

These may seem disjointed, but there is this sort of concept that I’m inferring that seems to say “work hard, enjoy success, do this to glorify God”. (I literally used the word prosper non-ironically. Who am I?)

Lately I’ve realized the exhausting pressure of maintaining this image–feeling like I have to get it right every time and no one can know where I struggle or fall short. It may be good to have a good name and do good work, to be successful and productive and all of that, but at the end of the day of that validates me more than the love of Jesus and who He says I am, I’ve missed the whole point. I’ve allowed something outside of my Creator to assign me value and give me strength and purpose. I’ve become a foreman on a project, trying to build without spending any time at all with the Architect who’s designed the entire operation. 

… God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus… 2 Timothy 1:9 

It’s common to hear people say that something to the extent of “I am not the sum of my past mistakes”. I’d submit that an equal and more subtle danger is to reassure ourselves that we’re the sum of our successes, past and present. 
If I can gain my value though my success, I can lose it through my failure. Frankly, that’s more pressure than I care to bring into my life these days. I want Jesus to be my identity; when I think the disciple in John that is described as “the one Jesus loved”, I want that. And I don’t desire in vain, because Jesus gives himself generously to all who seek Him and hope in Him. They are not disappointed. 

My favorite passage right now is Isaiah 41:9-10 because I feel like it calms my fears about who I am, how secure I am and how in the end it comes back to Jesus and who He is and what He will do. It’s not dependent on me and thank God. 

You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I’ll forgot it ten times between now and tomorrow morning, but I am so encouraged by this! I’m thankful for this place that I don’t deserve that’s been freely given to me and that is ever secure in Christ. 

“I’m Going Ahead”

I went on a bike ride today.

It sounds like an excellent start to a Sunday and it definitely was, but it was an 11.46 mile bike ride.

I checked and the last time I went for a bike ride was about two months ago so I was a little rusty (read: slow). It was a perfect morning for it, though, sunny and low 70s with lots of shady spots during our journey (obviously I had my honey with me–I wouldn’t undertake something ridiculous like this on my own). I really enjoy bike riding; it’s good exercise but also enjoyable. I’m not like panting and wheezing just to get a sliver of oxygen in my contracted lungs the entire time.

Eddy is a beast so obviously he was able to go a lot faster than me. He was patient and stayed with me during all the sections of road side riding. Around mile six or so, we came to the “secret sidewalk” that cut back towards the direction of home–a wide strip that passed behind gated communities and retirement homes. After making sure I was alright with it and reassuring me he’d meet me at the end, Eddy sped off so he could actually get a serious workout and I continued on my own.

It wasn’t very long–honestly out of over eleven miles, the “secret sidewalk” probably lasted a mile and a half, maybe two miles. Despite that, it was considerably more difficult to keep myself pedaling without having him next to me, or even in eyesight than it was when we were going along together.

I was thinking as I rode along how easy it is to become tired or fatigued during the periods that we must go our journeys alone. Even when we have the promise of someone going on ahead and meeting us there, it’s easy to lose sight of that and feel suspended in the moment.

How many times has Jesus told me to keep going and maintain my consistent pace because He is going ahead and will meet me there? How many times have I allowed discouragement to cloud my vision and slow my progress because I couldn’t see Him next to me?

I made it to the end of the stretch to find that Eddy was exactly where he said he’d be: waiting for me at the end, ready to go the next stretch of the journey together. It was a poignant parallel to how I feel Jesus deals with me most of the time and I felt a great deal of peace in my spirit as I meditated on that for a while.

Happy Sunday from me, my now very sore legs and the One who either goes along with us or goes ahead to meet us at the end.

new things & thankfulness

There are two different definitions for the word new. 
New (n(y)o͞o/)
1. not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time or 
2. already existing but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time.
So what is new with me?
As of October 15 my sister Christina got married to the man of her dreams and has a new last name of her own, but I also gained a new brother-in-law! It was a beautiful celebration and such a special time for our family. I definitely ugly cried three times, especially when Christina danced with my dad to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”. I’m thankful for new beginnings and for our growing family.
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Mom, Myself, Ryan, Christina, Snugz (Sarah) and Dad
As of November 9th I’ve moved from Executive Assistant to Director of Administration at Wings of Shelter, which I totally love. I’m thankful that I got the chance to work alongside Hillary for a few months before moving up because now I feel like a have a much better understanding of what is required of me and how to do the best possible job in this role. With this newness, comes the need for a more official home office. I’ve been working off my bedroom and kitchen table for the past several months and I’m feeling pretty stoked to have my own little cubby to comfortable get my work done.
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I still need to center my world map, but this is more or less the gist of it.
As of November 11th I have a new hair color. I’ll probably realistically be a brunette until I die (unless I turn into a lovely silver fox) so this is just warmer with more red tones for fall (because apparently going “warmer” for fall is a thing?).
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Also pictured: My little green baby ‘Stang
As of November 24th I have a new car! My 2003 Ford Mustang that I bought exactly seven years ago (2008) has finally reached the end of her journey. The whole two-door sports car with somewhat lagging pick up and scary noises when I accelerate on the highway has become a bit difficult during all my commute time on the highway for work. I’ve been more blessed recently than I’ll ever deserve and it’s given me the chance to get something nicer than I’ve ever imagined I would have.
As of November 25th I’ve spent the past two months with a wonderful man that I’m enjoying more and more with each passing day. He came out of nowhere and when I wasn’t looking (just like every well meaning middle aged already-married woman has told me for years). No one is more surprised than me or more thankful. It’s definitely a change for me and it’s been so much fun and has melted me out of my frosty snow queen defenses. I’m thankful for this guy!
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Look at that smile!
I don’t understand why I’ve been so blessed, but I’ve heard you aren’t supposed to apologize for your blessings. I’ll be thankful, humbled and stand in awe instead and hopefully I can be an equal blessing to others. Thank you Jesus for your kindness towards me–I’m overwhelmed.