I Choose Joy

It’s hard to describe joy accurately. Some people may believe that joy means jumping up and down, gleefully clapping their hands. Others may think joy is raucous laughter. Still others may describe it as a calm, peaceful feeling with your lips gently turned up in a small smile. Personally, I think they are all correct.

Some days, finding the joy in the day is as simple as waking up and stepping into the sunshine. Other days, you may really have to search to find joy. Life is nothing if not unpredictable.

We stand on a shaking foundation when we focus on the things of this world. The challenge we face daily is to fix our eyes upon God before we allow the world to divert our gaze back to temporary worldly issues. This struggle persists throughout the day and we have to continually refocus on our purpose.

We must take every thought captive. Believe in the unseen. Remember God’s promises. Focus on what is true, good, and pure. Choose joy – whatever that looks like at the moment.

Every. Single. Minute.

Every. Single. Day.

When we allow the enemy access to our minds, we tend to get lost in the midst of the untruths he has planted. We wander around flipping through that collection of catalogued lies like they are old records in a vintage album store. When we fill our minds with God’s truth, however, we squeeze the enemy right out of our heads. Those lies become irrelevant and ineffective.

Today, I will choose joy – in all of its forms, no matter what it looks like today. I choose to stand on my faith and believe that I am who my faithful Creator says I am. I will focus on being grateful for all that I have, including my struggles. Without the challenges, I would miss the opportunities for growth.

********

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8-9‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

“For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:3-5‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Off Balance

When I get overwhelmed, my mind splinters in a million directions and I struggle to find my mental footing. Every thought I manage to touch seems to shift and fall away as soon as I reach out, leaving me desperate for just one tiny iota of consistency to cling to.

Being off balance is not a feeling I enjoy, to say the least. Honestly? It freaks me out. Stability is a basic need in life and, amidst uncontrolled chaos, stability is nonexistent. Chaos breeds more chaos.

I’m an odd individual because I actually thrive in some chaos and enjoy change (mostly). I like the idea of making something good from an uncertain situation and constantly trying to improve for the future.

However, I definitely have my limits. When nothing is set and I have to chase after everything to try and make sense, it completely exhausts me. Brain disconnect. Fried. Burned out. Toast. This is the epitome of unhealthy chaos.

When I’m stuck in a situation where I cannot wrangle some sense of order from the overwhelming insanity around me, I withdraw and just try to get my brain to shut off. This is not an easy task because I’m wired to try and make things better. When I cannot fix the issue, I consider myself a failure.

I become hypersensitive to every noise around me. I read things into conversations so that everyone is angry with me. I become a total wreck. I become so preoccupied with trying to fix things myself that I forget to call out to the One who can restore order to the mess.

God should be the first person I call out to for help, but my brain is in such turmoil that my thought processes do not make any sense. It takes me a while to recognize that I’m holding myself accountable for fixing the issues because I’m not thinking clearly.

As I walked tonight, I spent the first six minutes of my walk with eyes closed, feeling the crushing weight of this day, and trying to hold back tears while I handed my troubles over to Him. However, I kept taking the issues back, so I had to hand them over again. And again. And again.

Finally, after talking to a friend about my day, my brain decided to cooperate and finally let go. I handed the day back over to God and moved on.

My concern is this: how much time did I waste with anger, sadness, and frustration trying to resolve issues that were not mine to resolve? How much of what I was holding in a death grip wasn’t mine to even hold? How much turmoil did I allow into my life for things that have already been cleansed by His grace?

God is a gentleman. He stands ready and eager to help us, but we need to call out to Him. He is the only one able to restore our footing. He is our rock and foundation. His grace is sufficient and His mercy is unfathomable and unending. He promises us rest when we lay our troubles at His feet, but we must learn to leave them there for Him to solve rather than pick them back up and try to fix things ourselves.

***************

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Matthew 7:24‭-‬27 NLT

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 NLT

Guarding Our Hearts

I’ve been told to “guard my heart” more times than I can count in my life. I’ve been burned, hurt, taken advantage of, disregarded, and so on….

Each time I was wounded, I added another barrier around my heart.Over the years, the barrier became quite, um, fortified. I justified building the barrier by saying, “Well, the Bible says to guard my heart, so I am!” Yeah. Clearly God’s work here. #nope

As the barrier grew, I became more isolated. More guarded. More fearful. After all, when you let people in, you grant them access to exploit your deepest fears. To put it bluntly, you give them everything they need to destroy you.

When I began my journey to vulnerability, I took down the walls. Well, most walls. Some walls. Fine! A few walls.

Now, four months into my journey, I realize that not nearly as many walls have been removed as I had thought.As I drove home from a women’s event this week, I prayed that God would show me how to be completely vulnerable. I asked Him to smash down walls and remove the rubble so that I would be free of fear. Free of shame. Free of hurt. Free to be raw, open, transparent, and authentic in a way I never was before.

As I drove, I heard that we are told to guard our hearts. Yeah. Duh. I’m on it! I’ve got the basecamp surrounded with barbed wire already, God. As I continued talking to God, He spoke to me as well. The outcome? We are supposed to guard our hearts, not block our hearts.

Think of a coffee filter. The water flows through the filter and over the grounds, but the grounds remain in the filter. The filter stops the bad stuff from getting into the coffee, but allows the water to flow through it to create the coffee. If the water could not pass through the filter, there would be no coffee.

When we guard our hearts, we are not supposed to block them off. We are supposed to let the good stuff (God, people, love) pass through, but filter out the bad things (lies, fear, hate).

We are called to guard our hearts, but we are also called to be vulnerable so that others can see the glory of God through our stories of redemption and healing. We are called to share our testimonies so that we can show others His grace. Forgiveness in action.

You cannot block your heart and still allow these things to happen. You can, however, guard your heart and allow others to be impacted by your story.

*********

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Proverbs 4:23 NIV

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
Revelation 12:11 KJV

Rip Off the Bandage

Have you ever thought a wound was fully healed, but it really wasn’t? I’ve examined my boo-boos, touched them gently, and even poked at them to ensure they are healed. Then I brushed against something and reinjured the wound, taking the healing process back to ground zero.

There are some things in my past that I fully believed I had moved beyond, only to be surprised to find an open wound that hurt worse than the original injury.

Such was my predicament yesterday. I was challenged to identify what things needed to change in my life. The first two were easy-peasy, and both are already in motion. Then the floodgates opened and I was dazed by the deluge of things that were wrong in my life. The catch? They weren’t the words of God. They were lies. Lies I had been told all of my life. Lies from others. Lies from myself.

When I recognized this self-sabotaging behavior and began to combat each lie with truth from God’s Word, I was left with a realization that was not easy to swallow: my lack of vulnerability in ALL areas of my life has prevented full healing.

I can share a lot of things openly and honestly, but what has come to light is my unwillingness to be completely vulnerable in my relationships. Walls that were built years ago to keep people at a safe distance are still intact.

The sad part is that I truly thought I was being vulnerable – until friends recently spoke truth over me and told me I need to be vulnerable. My reaction to that word speaks more truth. As soon as they told me I needed to be vulnerable, my eyes got huge, tears popped up, and I began to shake in fear. No. Not fear. Terror. Panic. Hello, fight or flight!

As I reflected upon those conversations, I realized that was a pretty odd reaction from someone who is fully vulnerable. Interesting. Back to square one.

One of the friends who spoke to me about vulnerability also told me that healing was occurring, but I had to let it happen. At the time, I struggled to understand what that meant because a lot of healing has happened. Then yesterday happened and it clicked. I need to be vulnerable and open in order to heal from past hurts.

Does that mean I will never be hurt by people? Nope. It doesn’t even mean I won’t hurt other people who are vulnerable. What it means is that I have to expose my wounds to the God and others so that they can be fully healed.

Think about a scratch covered by a bandage. If you leave the bandage on long term, the skin never strengthens because everything (including moisture and bacteria) becomes trapped underneath the bandage. If I keep wounds hidden, they will always be easily reinjured because they do not fully heal. I can even be injured in different ways, such as through infection because the darkness becomes a breeding ground for all things icky. But, if we rip off that bandage and allow the air and light to touch the wound, the wound closes and heals completely. Sometimes not even a trace of the original wound remains.

I believe there is a lesson in every experience. My lesson here is this: regardless of how far I have come and how much I have grown (and I have grown tremendously), I will never stop growing until I see Jesus face to face. Until that time, I will heal, reinjure, heal again, repeat on an infinite loop, but the layers of healing will deepen each time I surrender what I am holding to God.

I can sit here listening to the lies, or I can listen to truths. I can choose to keep growing, or I can become stagnant in my faith. I can decide to leave my comfort zone, or I can live a shell of a life within that small area. I can walk into my purpose, or I can dig my heels in where I am now. The choices are mine to make.

*********

“And I will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh,”
Ezekiel 11:19 HCSB

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord . “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
James 1:2‭-‬5 NIV

Don’t Feed the Enemy

The enemy cannot hear your thoughts. He is not omnipresent, omnipotent, or omniscient. He is limited. He can read body language and hear your spoken words, but he cannot read your mind! He will take what he can see and hear and lay a trap for you. He will weave a web and plant a seed, then laugh as you tangle YOURSELF up in his web. He will let you do all of the work. You’ll fight until you are totally ensnared in that web! You will exhaust yourself until you have no fight left. His work is done and YOU actually supplied all of the power, and YOU gave him all of the credit! Stop feeding the enemy! Stop giving him information to use against you! Every time you repeat his lies, he hears you. He files that information away to use against you again. You just told him what buttons to push. STOP IT! Stand up straight. Adjust your crown. Pull your shoulders back. Eyes forward. You are the chosen child of the One True King! His beloved child. His beautiful and precious creation. What you say and believe about yourself is a reflection of how you feel about God because you were created in His image! Utter only truths. Speak only life. Find others who will remind you of the truth when you stumble. Do not give up. You. Are. Enough. #youareenough #stopfeedingtheenemy #inhisimagecreations

Originally written 2.26.2019.

Beauty from Ashes

How many times have you second guessed your decisions? How many times have you lived in the past and kept replaying your mistakes? How often have you contemplated giving up on your dreams because you felt like you were unworthy?

I am my own worst enemy. My worst critic. I will find every flaw in myself. Even when I do something well, I can imagine that it was disastrous. I will make something up if I have to. I am the queen of self sabotage.

The good news is that I don’t (usually) wallow in the mess these days. I realize what I’m doing and catch myself. In those times, I recall what God has said about me and I discard the rest. ‘Tis but a hiccup in my day.

When I wonder how and when I got this way, there isn’t a single event that provides an answer. I always had a perfection complex. I was always competitive. I always wanted to be the best. But I wasn’t. Instead of shaking it off and moving forward using the lessons I had learned, I beat myself up.

These days, I know who I am in Christ. I mean, I know, but I don’t always remember. At least, not right away because I still have the struggle. I just bounce back a lot faster.

I think of the person I used to be and I am astounded at how different I am now.

When I decided to follow Christ, I surrendered myself to Him. Sanctification began, even though I didn’t notice it at first. It was a series of small changes that made the transformation virtually undetectable to me. But others noticed it.

They noticed joy where there had been sadness. They noticed hope where there had been despair. They noticed peace where there had been chaos. They saw grace where there had been shame. They noticed Jesus.

Friends, if you are on the fence about following Jesus, I beg you to read the Bible, listen to online sermons, and reach out to others. You will find a peace beyond anything you could ever imagine because you will become friends with someone who loved you enough to die for you. You will learn about unconditional love and forgiveness.

God takes the ruins of our lives and restores them. He uses our brokenness to reach others to show them that they are not alone. He creates beauty from the ashes.

*******

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”
Ephesians 2:8 NIV

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:19 NIV

Voidville: MEHven on Earth

Complete exhaustion + endless lists of tasks + many missteps = mental shutdown.

Welcome to Voidville, my little slice of MEHven. You try to emote, but you just don’t have anything left.

Today started off pretty well. I lost 3 pounds. I got a great night of sleep. I drank lots of water. Ate well. Stayed within my guardrails. Then found out I actually gained weight this week.

And that, my friends, is where I lost my mind. Somewhere amidst the stress of life and career and healthier lifestyle, I ended up back in my own head. Apathy is an ugly thing.

To add to my stress, it’s my birthday week and I always struggle this time of year. My birthday was never a reason to celebrate as an adult, so I actually hate my birthday week. Some felt it was an inconvenience, so I learned to despise my birthday. That habit stuck.

So when everything is piling on during a minor-milestone birthday week, I think you get a pass on being petulant and whiney. And numb. So very numb.

I let myself get totally exhausted over the past couple of weeks and the joy (codeword for stress) of life has been overwhelming. Now I’m picking apart everything I have said and done over the past two weeks to critique my words and actions. Such a fun place to be tonight. *sarcasm*

Yet, in the midst of the turmoil on my drive home tonight, I turned on the radio and three of my favorite songs came on back to back. First, “Scars”, by I Am They:

Darkest water and deepest pain
I wouldn’t trade it for anything
‘Cause my brokenness brought me to You
And these wounds are a story You’ll use“.

Followed by “Who You Say I Am”, by Hillsong Worship:

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me“.

Finally, Lauren Daigle’s “You Say”:

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know“.

To say God was trying to get my attention would be a massive understatement. Where I had been shutdown, now I was revived. No longer numb. No longer stuck in MEHven.

Friend, He doesn’t care about our mistakes or failures or shortcomings. He cares about us. He wants us to run to Him and allow Him to tell us who we are. He doesn’t want us to find our identity in the human world. He tells us we are His. He loves us. Comforts us. Goes before us. Fights our battles.

Why, then, should I allow a bad day to dictate who I am or my level of success? How would a scale somehow correlate to my worth as a person? Why would a comment taken totally out of context indicate that I am unworthy?

Whatever you are facing, God has it under control. He is your strength and salvation. He is your shield. He is the author of truth and love. Look to Him. Do not allow the world to give you an identity or to proclaim your worth. Do not allow the world to overwhelm you to the point of shutdown or paralysis. The Kingdom needs you.

The enemy pushes these buttons to try to gain ground, but – spoiler alert – he loses the war.

My sweet friend, we have a Savior who willingly went to the cross for us. He died knowing everything about us and He still thought we were worth the sacrifice. When we remember these facts, it is impossible to remain in Voidville. He revives our spirits and stirs us to more than MEHven. He invigorates us and encourages us to lean into Him.

******

“The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.”
Deuteronomy 1:30‭-‬31 NLT

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12 NIV