Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Honesty is the Best Policy

I want to preface this by saying that I do not think that blunt honesty is necessary or wise in every single situation.  However, I think that many of us have fallen into the habit of stretching the truth, and not being very honest about our lives.

Before you get offended, please hear me out.

When is the last time that you honestly answered the question, "How are you doing?"

When you post a picture on Instagram, do you include the tough parts of your day in the caption, or just the highlights?

Does your tweet include a balanced view of the entire story?

Our culture makes it so easy to pretend.  We can easily appear to be doing much differently than we seem to be.  And I know this from first hand experience with pretending.  Much like breathing, it seems to come naturally for me to 'suck it up and deal with it'.

You wipe away the smudged mascara, put a smile on, and push through whatever is going on.  However, fake masks take away our opportunities to have real connections with the living, breathing humans that surround us.  The idea of brokenness is something that has been coming up a lot lately.  I struggle with the desire to be a perfectionist.  If I could make everything right in the world, I would.  I would exhaust all of my energy and resources in order to help others.  That's how God wired me.  I love taking care of others and helping them in hard times.  When it comes to me, however, I want to appear to be put together.  I don't want other people to have to worry about me, or feel the need to look after me.  I want everything to be in place, so I pretend that it is.

I don't often realize that I am worsening this situation by pretending.  My false pretense of being okay puts more pressure on others to do the same.  No one wants to be the odd man out.  If everyone else says that they are fine, most people will succumb to the pressure, and say that they are doing okay as well.  We are creating our own pretend world.  We are forcing people to fake the true state of their being.

The idea of being open and vulnerable with another human is intimidating.  It is difficult as well to follow through with.  However, it is so necessary in order to live in healthy community.   When we stop wearing masks we allow others to feel more comfortable without wearing their masks.  All of that to say, I am trying to work on being more bold with my life and my story.  I want others to know that because of Jesus, I can offer a safe place to be real, and to be known.  I am not perfect, and won't always have the most helpful responses.  I make mistakes often.  But, I do love people.  I want people to feel able to share who they truly are without the fear of judgement.

In order to practice this idea of being more honest and real about my life I have decided that for the month of April, I will post an honest Instagram post about my day.  I won't give you a second-by-second play of the entire twenty-four hours, but I want to share pieces of me.  These pieces will be messy.  They are not whole.  But they do make up my story.  Some days will be bad, and some days will be good.  Most will probably be a mix of both.  If this is something that is impactful for you, feel free to join in for one day, or the whole month.  Use the hashtag #honestapril if you decide to join in.

There is a reason for every strength and flaw that you are made up of.  You are unique, and no one else could take your place.  Don't hide the beauty of who God made you to be.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Show off Your Stories

People ask me about my tattoos often.  I have many reasons for each one that I currently have, and for the others that I plan on getting.

Each of the three tattoos that I have tells a piece of my story.  I've struggled a lot throughout my life with being vulnerable with other people.  I love tattoos because they are conversation starters.

I love being able to ask people why they have certain tattoos, and why they picked different designs.  The stories that they share with me are pieces of who they are.  Every time I ask others to share themselves with me I get the chance to connect with a new person.  Tattoos give me a way to start a conversation with people  that I would never have talked to otherwise.

My tattoos allow me to connect with others through my story.  I am thankful for the gift of encouragement that God has given me to share with others.  I have learned on my journey of vulnerability that sharing my story gives me cool opportunities.

These precious times that I have spent with others have shown me grace, and allowed me the chance to tell others the grace that God extends to them.  Because it is hard for me to just offer conversation, my tattoos give me reason to share my story.  And each portion of my story is a precious reminder of what God has done for me.

He is giving me strength and grace to take each day as it comes.  Currently I have the opportunity to be studying counseling.  I am learning things every day that will allow me to help other people.

And I am so excited about it.

I am very grateful that I get to be in a difficult, but very impactful line of work.  Jesus works in and through hurting people.  Pain pushes us closer to the healing that only God can give us.

Steady as they come, mountains remind me of my family and my home.  Not only my solid home and parents, I am also reminded of how steadfast God is no matter how faithless I am.

And God gives us passions to use for Him.  That is what my third tattoo represents.

Don't be afraid to ask people about the stories that their tattoos tell.  Just remember that each tattoo is a story.  Be kind when you ask.  Don't make jokes about their stories.

But ask.  Get to know their stories.  Ask me about my stories.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

You Amaze Me

Today I was reminded of truth.

Jesus prays for me daily.

That put me in a state of awe.  Why would Jesus pray for me?

After the immediate awe, a flood of emotions filled me.
Disbelief, humility, grief, a weight- so many emotions all at once.

It seems insane to me that Jesus, who is more important than any celebrity that I look up to, would think of me, and mention me by name to his father.  Did I mention that his father is the God of the universe??? Why on earth would he humble himself to the point of thinking of me?

It is incredibly humbling to know that Jesus prays for me.  I would not imagine that President Obama would call my boss to put in a good word for me.  Yet Jesus who reigns over the universe, takes the time to talk to his father for me.

I feel like all of my efforts pale drastically in comparison.  My feeble prayers look so small when compared with the perfect communion between God the father and His son Jesus.  Plus, there's that huge detail about how terribly inconsistent I am when it comes to praying.

I LOVE being independent.  When I am independent, I don't have to worry about if other people will follow through with their promises.  I also need not worry about being abandoned.  It's just me, myself, and I.  Being hurt by humans gives you awful scars that show through as distrust.  Sometimes it can be hidden, but in extremely stressful situations my lack of trust is a glaring attraction of attention.  I wish it wasn't the case.  I wish I could distinguish between my distrust of people and my need to take a leap of faith to trust God.  What I tend to forget is that when I refuse to trust God, I'm disrespectfully telling the Creator of the universe that he is not big enough to handle my life.

Talk about a shot to the heart!

Despite what I may feel at times, God has never left my side.  A constant companion, he sticks around to reassure my fearful heart of his promises.  If I could translate my head knowledge to heart knowledge, I would believe firmly that my heavenly Father is always with me.  Unfortunately, it is very easy in hard times for me to slip into the overwhelming feelings of being alone.  This huge disconnect screams at me when I try to imagine that Jesus prays for me daily.  I would have to believe that I'm not alone if I want to believe that Jesus intercedes through prayer on my behalf.

And that scares me.  It can be a long, difficult process to change a core belief.   It will probably take a lot of time to change what you see as truth.  The beliefs that you hold did not become true to you overnight.  In the same way, they will not be perfectly labeled as lies overnight.

Someone I respect greatly once shared this analogy with me.  Just like we have to tell small children over and over again to say thank you, we will have to remind ourselves again and again of the truth.  This is a process, a journey and NOT a result.  It is natural to make mistakes.  We are all human.  No one is perfect.  Would you spend your time kicking someone who is already laying on the ground?  Don't do the same thing to your mind.  If you are down, having made a mistake, do not kick yourself with extra guilt.  It will not help anything, and will only cause you to feel further from your goal.

The knowledge that Jesus prays for me makes me long to be more consistent in prayer.  I reminisce on the many times that I told people that I would pray for them and forgot to.  I remember the many days that I did not make time to spend with God simply because I was tired.  That seems such a paltry excuse when compared with the sacrifices of Christ.  Why am I so quick to excuse my laziness with so many excuses?  I am amazed at the patience that God has with me.  No matter how many excuses I make up, he is always waiting patiently for my return.  Nothing that I say or do reverses the love that he has for me.  And I am so thankful for that truth.

Hey, want to hear something cool?!

The Holy Spirit is our partner in prayer.  Living inside of us, we were given the Holy Spirit to intercede for us and strengthen us.  That is one of the amazing tools that God equipped us with.  When we ask God for consistency and strength, he will grant our requests.

Remember today that Jesus is praying for you by name.  You couldn't possibly give a better reference to the Father.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Excuses, excuses.

I tell myself that writing is hard.
I should check Facebook.
There are emails to answer.
I need to clean my room.
I'm not creative enough.
Other people can write better than I can.
Nobody reads what I write.

These are all excuses that I use in order to get out of doing what I love.  How does that make any sort of sense? I love something... and avoid it.

That's perfectionism rearing it's ugly head.  If I cannot do something perfectly, then I don't want to do it at all.  It is so difficult to stick to a schedule of practicing something with the intention bettering myself.

And that would be the microwave mentality that is so frequently seen in our culture.  I want something AND I want it now.

Hearing Hannah Brencher talk about how many words she's been writing has been pricking at me.  She decided that her goal for every day would be to write three thousand words.

Three THOUSAND.  Dang.

I can't even get myself to journal every day.  I am the queen of not finishing creative projects.  I started a blog.  I have several refashioning projects sitting in the drawers of my desk.
Here's the thing- I am great at achieving when it comes to helping others.  I do a really poor job when it pursuing my passions.  I tend to drop my dreams when others need help because helping them seems easier than working at what I long for.  

I'm working on that.

Today I was reminded yet again of a dream that I've stopped pursuing.  Talk about convicting.  I believe that God gives us dreams and passions for a reason.  When we stop pursuing them, we lose opportunities to connect with others and have an impact for Jesus.

So now, I'm working on being more consistent.  Using my heart and words.  And praying for a LOT of help from Jesus.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Masked by Words

I found this picture one day on Pinterest.  I pinned it to a board and went on with my day.  The quote screamed at me while I was scrolling through Pinterest today, My favorite mask to wear is one made of words.

"I'm fine."

"I don't need help."

"I'm just tired."

I'm not.

2015 hit me like a train.

This year brought beautiful, beautiful moments, but also lower lows than I thought I could handle.  I found myself being forced to ask for help.  I was being held accountable to how I was caring for myself.  Vulnerability was suddenly required.  I was sucker punched again and again by being an adult.  Finances, the death of a close friend, coming death of another, and distance took their toll on me.

I took a Buzzfeed quiz the other day, and laughed at the objective, already knowing what the result would be.  The quiz asked if I could survive the year 2015 again.  The answer? A very clear no.  My answers to the pop culture questions were not sufficient enough to help me survive, but deep down I knew that there was more to it.

2015 was a harder year than I could have ever imagined.

Needless to say, the past few days have found me reflecting on this past year, and the year to come.  I started a document that now holds some of my dearest dreams for 2016.

When a thought popped in my head about blogging my list, I immediately shot it down.

"That's too personal," I told myself, "No way I'm doing that."

Jesus slapped me in the face when I came across the quote that started this post.  Do I really want to start 2016 off by using words as a mask once again? Because I've been there countless times and could certainly do it again.

I don't want to start the year off this way.  2016 is going to be a year of healing me, and healing does not begin with deceit.

So here I am, mess and all.  This is me, and I will not apologize for who I am.  I am learning and growing, and that is a process.

This is my year.  And this year, I will take action on things that heal me.

F off 2015. 

You've dealt your blows.  I'm done.  I'm not living 2016 in darkness as well.

Instead of setting huge, vague goals for 2016, I decided to make a list of actions that I want to take, and skills I want to grow in.

  • Learn how to and then maintain a budget.  Adulting wants to make me curl in the fetal position and play Stressed Out on repeat, but it has to happen.
  • Get a job that pays higher than minimum wage. A girl can dream, right?
  • Learn ballet.  My lack of grace and balance has kept me away from dance for 19 years, but I would love to care for my body by strengthening it in this way.
  • Continue to be mentored.  I am thankful beyond words for the people who wrap there arms around me and live out one of my pastor's favorite phrases.  This is what we get to do.  We get to love broken people.  It is a privilege to see the lives of others and be there in the hurt and the joy.  While I have learned how to show this love to others, I am not good at accepting it.  I want to keep letting people into my heart.
  • Start writing a book.  Lifelong dream, 'nuff said.
  • Be a more consistent blogger, and improve my blog.
  • Bible journal at least once a week.  I am so excited about getting a journaling Bible as a Christmas present, and want to be consistent in using it.
  • Follow through with the contentment challenge.  Read about it here.
  • Follow through with 30 days of writing.  My friend Sky and I are doing this together! Find her at www.skyvsworld.com 
  • Keep painting.  I loved watercolor, even though the class was discouraging at times.  I want to keep painting with a few friends because we enjoy painting together.

This is me.  Happy New Year.