The Awakening

My husband and I recently went on a trip to a small winery in a sweet little mountain town in North Georgia. This was a spur of the moment trip that was prompted by the first free Saturday in months and a stirring in our hearts.

From the moment we arrived I was struck by the nostalgia and vividness of the experience around me. The last time I had been was on my bachelorette trip, so fond memories were left and right. I would point at various places exclaiming, “Oh! That’s where we ate lunch!” “I think that is the mountain we stayed on!” “This is the view I was talking about!” It was so fun to share such a special place with my favorite person after two years of trying to get us there.

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Thinking back to that day, I liken it to The Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy steps out of her home into the world of Oz, her world that was once black, white, and gray, turns into a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors and vivid experiences. It was almost as though the scales of normalcy had fallen from her eyes.  Dorothy was living “of the world” prior to Oz. She was so caught up in the normalcy and day to day experience, she wasn’table to see the world clearly until  her normal was literally blown away. For me, this small, unexpected day trip did the same thing, just not in such a dramatic manner!

I think when you are living “of the world”, the everyday can begin to suffocate you. Things like catching up on sleep on the weekend, trying to maintain relationships with friends while you’re married, saving for a home, and going to work every day can take a toll on your soul. You start to view life in a way that is about maintaining and sustaining. How can I maintain my friendships? How can I sustain my livelihood? How can I maintain what we are doing and still get a house? How can I sustain myself if I don’t go to bed early every night? This kind of everyday living isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t really enrich your life or follow a purpose. When I stepped away from the everyday, this truth was revealed to me. I realized that my life had become a series of days held together by half-hearted attempts to live a good life. The problem is, I wasn’t really “living”. I was maintaining and sustaining…and God has so much more in store for me than that.

When I stepped onto the grounds of the winery I had longed to visit again, I felt something loosen inside of me. As the soft breeze blew my hair and the lush grass cushioned my feet, I felt a softening of my brow. As I took in the magnificent mountain range that enclosed this precious place, I felt my heart clench with longing. Why was I having such an emotional reaction to visiting a place I had been before, especially one only an hour and half from where I live? As I sipped the sweet wine in my Adirondack chair, I faced a verdant horizon that transported me to a different state of mind. I was surround by color, beauty, love, and the peaceful knowledge that the only thing I needed to do was be and the only place I was supposed to be was there.

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Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. [Job 37:14]

…A simple reminder to just stop. Stop maintaining and stop sustaining. Take off the lens “of the world” and consider its Creator. Breathe in His creations and experience life. Be in awe of what He has done and for a change, forget about yourself. When that happens, I think God can move mountains in your heart…


What I am writing wasn’t realized on that day in a small mountain town. It’s been a couple of weeks of emotional realizations, deep conversations, and restless moments. On that day, God was setting something up inside of me. I am finally in a place where I have processed that and want to understand what it means. Unfortunately, it wasn’t contentment or understanding or even a solution to the “of the world” living I have been doing. It was simply a reminder that there is so much more to this life than the things of this world. My attempts to “live” paled in comparison to what God wants for me. We weren’t meant to merely go through the motions and check boxes by life events when we have completed them.

 

I’m currently reading a book called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. There is a quote that helped unearth some of the things God place on my heart.

The boy didn’t know what a person’s “Personal Legend” was.

“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.

At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.”

I guess I’m trying to re-remember what my Personal Legend is…or what I like to imagine as my Purpose. I think it is what God was breathing into my heart as I let myself relax enough to listen to Him that day. Like Dorothy, I was not in Kansas anymore. Color and life overwhelmed me. God was able to speak to me when I stopped trying to maintain my normal.

Perhaps we aren’t able to know our Purpose if we live “of the world”. As we grow older, we begin to care more about what is around us than what is inside of us. We cannot embrace or experience true life through God if we are too busy maintaining life on earth.

Father,

Help me to see the world vividly and in color. May I experience the wonders of this world in reverence of You. I pray that my eyes will open to what you have in store for me and the scales of normalcy will fall from them. I do not want to live “of this world”. Maintaining and sustaining are no longer enough for me. May I live every day in pursuit of Your Purpose for me and may I spend everyday truly living. Help me to be patient as I attempt to strip away the habits of this earth in order to live every day like I did on that beautiful Saturday. You are a wonderful Creator and I am overwhelmed by Your grace and desire to fill my life.

In your precious name, Amen.

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I am so grateful for that unexpected, sweet trip to a little mountain town. Not only did I have a wonderful day date with my husband, I rediscovered something dormant in my heart that needed awakening. Whatever it leads to, I know I will be truly living.

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So Will I

I left church 30 minutes ago and couldn’t wait another minute before sharing this song. I’ve heard the song before but hadn’t really listened to it. I was fortunate enough to hear it sung live at church with incredible production value that made it that much more powerful.

As I listened to this song, my heart ached. Our God is so big, so beyond, so magnificent, it’s easier to just bring Him down to our level of understanding so we don’t become overwhelmed. However, I think God should overwhelm us. Our hearts should ache and our eyes should be filled with tears at His majesty.  If we look at the world and our brothers and sisters through the lens of “God’s Creation”, I think it is incredibly hard to not be moved deeply. He was there in the beginning and through everything He has spoken into our world. He has never left us and never will.

If we seek out His goodness and His grace, there is no need to doubt His love for us. It is undeniable when you do that. This song speaks to the goodness in our world – all created by our Heavenly Father. It speaks to the praise and reverence He deserves. It speaks to the power of His love and the beauty of His creations.

I encourage whoever reads this to listen to this song. Just close your eyes and feel the words wash over you. Think about our God and the magnificence of what He has done, is doing, and will do. It will overwhelm you in the best way possible.

So Will I (100 Billion X) – Hillsong UNITED

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light
And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapour of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I
God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice
And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I
If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times
God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I
Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind

Patiently Changing

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here. In the past couple of months, it seems like a lot has happened. I celebrated 2 years of marriage, started my second year of teaching, and have really just been busy with living life. It’s been awesome.

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However, my mind and heart have felt heavy lately. I’m not unhappy (the opposite actually – things are really good!), but I feel a bit weighed down with unprocessed emotions and thoughts. For me, the only cure for that is writing.

So here goes!


Let’s talk patience.

If you couldn’t tell from my blog title, the Fruits of the Spirit are a guiding force in my faith and life. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control! I challenged myself to memorize them last month in an effort to use them as a way to guard my heart. As an effort to live these words out on a daily basis, it has been interesting to think about these words intentionally and consistently.

I really wanted to choose one to really focus on for the rest of 2017, but I just couldn’t decide which one I was really struggling with. I felt “pretty good” about all of them. Isn’t it always when we feel “pretty good” about things that life lessons pop up?

About two weeks into the new school year, a student of mine had been struggling with some behaviors that were really interfering with her learning and my teaching. Defiance, learned helplessness, lack of self-control…behaviors that were very draining. I tried different strategies, sought wisdom in other adults, and genuinely tried to figure out the best course of action for this child. Meanwhile, my heart was honestly growing hard as I continued to interact with her.

Full disclosure: my first year of teaching was very tough. I had a lot of behavior issues that made it difficult for me to do my job let alone enjoy it! I was a little jaded towards behaviors like the one my new student was exhibiting. 

My relationship with her came to a head one afternoon and I essentially lost my temper internally. I “gave up” on her and resorted to teacher behavior that I completely disrespect. As the day wore on, the tension grew inside of me. I hated how I was feeling but I also wasn’t taking any responsibility. Thus, it got worse.

I continued to wrestle with this tension until I felt sick. At a breaking point, I felt a jolt of truth stir my heart: Alex. You have a really hard time with patience. This is not how God wants you to respond to the people He loves so much.

Ouch, God. This was a strong blow to my ego. Yet the tension was gone. I let the truth wash over me and I thought about it. Then, I thought some more.

Soon after, I spoke to my husband about this realization and much to my pride’s dismay, he agreed that this was something I had trouble with in our relationship. Even though it hurt that I had failed someone I love so much, I was thankful for his honesty. As I started to think about it, I could see how my struggle with patience had bled into many of my relationships. My heart broke as the wave of realization came over me that even though I’ve been making strides in other areas of my faith, this character crisis was happening inside of me.

I am an impatient person. 

The problem with patience is that it’s a word we use a lot that doesn’t naturally have self-awareness attached. For instance, we know when we are happy, sad, or angry We can declare, “I’m feeling happy today!” or “I feel really sad now”.  It’s a lot harder to say, “Man, I am feeling really impatient today” or “I felt like I was very patient this morning”.  I think we all know what patience and impatience are but we aren’t able to identify those feelings easily within ourselves.

My problem with patience was evident in another moment during work. I was reading my students a book called My Mouth is a Volcano. The book is basically a book about patience. How timely, right? Now, this might sound really silly but I had a major “aha!” moment from this book because of a kids’ definition of patience that went with the lesson. The vocabulary term for patience was “being able to wait without getting upset”. Now, that is not a revolutionary definition of patience. I know that. However, the way it was phrased really spoke into the problems I have been having with patience.

Instead of thinking, “Ugh, I am so impatient”. I can process my feelings by saying to myself, “Alex, you are having a hard time waiting without getting upset“. Doesn’t that just make more sense? Being able to identify the concrete action (waiting without getting upset) of the abstract word “(patience) really put it into perspective.

It took me a long time (um…26 years), but the weakness in my character has been exposed. Now, I have a concrete action that I can fix for the character crisis inside of me. I can begin the work. You know what is REALLY awesome?

As a Christ follower, recognizing my weakness doesn’t defeat me.

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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  (I’ve discussed this verse in a previous post if you’re curious about other ways it can relate to your life.)

I will DELIGHT in my weaknesses. Through my impatience, my ability to not wait without getting upset, I can invite God into my life to use it for His glory. His power is made PERFECT in my weakness. I just think that is such an encouraging truth that can take you from feeling overwhelmed by your mistakes to feeling overwhelmed by grace.

I know that in the past when I haven’t trusted God through my trials, I have felt incredibly defeated. I have struggled with worthlessness and shame. I have felt like I didn’t measure up or didn’t deserve a second chance. Through this process of discovering  my weakness, I felt those similar emotions creeping into my heart. However, this time I let Jesus take over my heart first. I let Him be bigger than my impatience and accepted His grace.

Sure, I still have those moments. I can feel the all too familiar symptoms of impatience weaken my spirit. I can also see how God is crafting me into a better person. I can see how my relationships are strengthening and my spirit is lighter. My student I mentioned earlier? She still struggles from time to time, but she responded to my change for the better. Actually, she responded to God’s power and strength, which is SO cool. Through all of this, we get closer to being the people that God desires for us to be.


So even though I haven’t written in two months, I’ve been busy. My heart and mind have been in a season of growth and change, and I’m excited about what is in store. I’ll check in with this little blog soon. It feels good to be back!

 

Let’s Talk…

If I could describe our country right now with one word it would be divisive. It can be overwhelming and deeply upsetting when you stop and look around at the world and see that everyone is at odds with someone. The majority of these groups I cannot speak on behalf of or pretend to relate to their experience. In fact, I cannot do that for some people in my so called “group”. I’m talking about believers – people who claim Jesus as their Savior. The divisiveness is not limited to conversation amongst believers and nonbelievers. There is tension and animosity directed at each other. The world is so splintered by different ideologies, different experiences, and different truths. People have lost the ability to come together despite these things.

Throughout my awareness of this, I’ve been observing and wondering how we can claim to know a loving and grace-giving God when we ourselves cannot extend love and grace to one another. How do we communicate who Jesus is if we seem to have forgotten ourselves? The constant exposure to people’s opinions and beliefs via the internet and social media have particularly twisted me up inside. There is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing someone claim to know and love God and simultaneously spew hate-filled rhetoric on their Facebook wall. Seeing divisiveness anywhere in the world is upsetting but I think when a group you identify with is a part of it, it is particularly painful.

Like I said, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ways to solve this problem that seems to grow worse with time. It breaks my heart to think about how our world has taken an opportunity – the ability to see and hear other’s stories with such ease – and completely turned it upside down. Shouldn’t we be closer? Shouldn’t we have more empathy? Shouldn’t there be bridges being built instead of burned? After asking myself these questions, I think at the root of this problem we don’t know how to communicate. We are stuck in this war with others because we aren’t able to communicate with them. We believe our truth and shout it, unwilling to uncover our ears. We stomp our feet and ignore compassion within the collective of those supporting us. We keep staring into the eyes of our fellow man and woman, all the while not seeing them.

It is incredible that all groups now have a platform. We are all able to see and be seen, hear and be heard. Yet, we still aren’t communicating in a way that solves problems. Platforms for everyone isn’t enough. So what do we do?

Could it really be as simple as changing how we engage one another? Could the divisiveness in our world (especially our country) be solved so easily?

I think so.

You know why? Because Jesus did it and it worked.

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Jesus showed us how in one of my favorite stories in the Bible. When you look closely, there is a timeless, incredible message that teaches us the solution to this communication problem in our world.

Let me set the stage. Jesus was traveling from Judea to Galilee and passed through a town in Samaria. Tired from his journey, he stopped at a well in the town for water and rest.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) John 4:7-9

This is HUGE. During this time, for Jesus to talk to a woman, especially a Samaritan woman, was remarkable. If we think there are issues in our world, look no further than the Jews and Samaritans. Politics and religion were at the center of this conflict (sound familiar?).

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said it true.” John 4:16-18

After Jesus begins to explain to the woman who he is, he asks her about her husband even though he already knows her story. He knows her sin and her brokenness. So, for a Jewish man to speak to a Samaritan woman with her history is even more remarkable. These two people could not be any more different. Yet, Jesus does not speak to her with disdain or disrespect. As a result, the woman listens and responds in kind.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:25-26

When his disciples return, the woman goes to her people and tells them about Jesus. Her heart has been changed as a result of their conversation and she wants to share it.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. John 4:39-41

Because of his word.  Can you imagine if you were a Samaritan during that time and a woman from your town who you knew had a checkered past told you she spoke with a Jewish rabbi? Can you imagine her speaking about the experience without anger or shame or embarrassment? Wouldn’t that make you pause and wonder? I fully believe that those people followed that woman to the well not because of what she was telling them but because of the unbelievable way Jesus communicated with her. They were shocked! They had to see it for themselves.

If you’re a Christian, this really sets the stage for how we communicate with others. We shouldn’t hold the expectation for nonbelievers to change the conversation. It isn’t up to nonbelievers to break down walls and uncover their ears. It’s up to those who follow Jesus. Jesus models for us how to flip the script. He’s telling us how to engage with others. He’s telling us how to communicate! We are meant to rise above the emotions and “truths” we fall victim to as a result of our brokenness and our culture. When we see someone who is the Samaritan woman to our Jewish rabbi, we aren’t supposed to judge, anonymously criticize on social media, or ignore what they have to say. Jesus spoke to her like an equal, all the while changing her heart. That is what we are meant to do. 

It is possible to stay true to who we are and maintain our beliefs while still valuing another’s opinion and voice. Jesus did it. His communication was radical. It was radical because it was filled with love. So, Jesus communicated with love and it worked. People listened, even those he had no common ground with whatsoever.

 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you Matthew 5:43-44

We are called to love everyone – those who follow Jesus and those who don’t, kind people and unkind people, our neighbors and our enemies. This means that when we communicate with anyone, we must do so with love.

When we love someone, we listen and we discern. When we love someone, we hope for reciprocation and not retaliation. When we love someone, we seek a “to be continued” and not a closed book. When we communicate with love, we see understanding instead of division.

I’m not saying this is an easy thing. I’m not saying I do it all the time. What I am saying is that this is the only solution to the divide in our world. This is the only way to heal the fractured hearts of those who cannot find common ground. It is up to those who know Jesus to set the stage for others in how to engage and communicate. We are not built to do so naturally. We are flawed, emotional beings who have a natural instinct to attack and defend and divide and “be right”. It is only through Jesus that we can communicate with love.

 

A Thief Named Comparison

“Comparison is the thief of joy”…a quote most of us are familiar with and one we keep in our back pocket as a tidbit of wisdom for others. However, how often do you find yourself struggling with comparison and letting it rob you blind? Me? All the time. I am the most guilty of forgetting to live by the words I so freely give to others.

With social media, it can be hard to not question your life when it is held up against someone else’s. I remember the first time it affected me. I unfortunately entered my teen years when Myspace became a thing. I was fourteen with every teenage issue under the sun. In my eyes, all my friends had blossomed and I was just stuck in this weird in-between place that left me feeling like a big loser. I wanted to be cooler, wanted a boyfriend (my eyes are rolling), and just wanted to be comfortable in my own skin. Looking back, I don’t think I was feeling much different than any of my peers. It wasn’t until my flaws and insecurities were put out on display that comparison took on an infectious tone.

I remember the process of picking a profile picture, and the painstaking attention I gave in the hopes of showing everyone my best self. It’s incredible, right? That desire to be who we think we need to be in order to please others. The sad part is that my best self wasn’t good enough. Atleast, not when I compared it to someone else’s. I can still recall the feelings and thoughts I had then.

If only I didn’t have braces like ______. [embarrassment]

If only my hair were a different color like _______. [jealousy]

If only I were smaller like _______. [disgust]

I had felt uncomfortable in my skin before, but I think putting yourself out there in such an intimate way in a non-intimate space is extremely toxic. I was so concerned with how I appeared in relation to others. As a teenager, I wasn’t sure how to navigate my own self-worth, and being bombarded with this freedom to compare was really harmful. I felt it deeply and am still aware of its effect on me to this day.

You would hope that on the other side of adolescence I would reflect on my past mistakes and rise above them. I wish. To be completely honest, the season of life Justin and I are in is wrought with comparison problems (then again, isn’t every season?). I cannot begin to tell you the amount of conversations we have had about money and purchases we are “supposed” to make because everyone else around us seems to be. If we lived in a bubble, we would be perfectly content with our lives and what we have. Yet, we connect with people through technology and are bombarded with beautiful pictures of vacations, images of fancy new cars, and stories of buying houses and perfect jobs. We just look at each other and ask…how? How is that not us? How are we the ones “struggling” in this season of life? Now, I’m going to press pause on this train of thought because it is really something I want to dive into deeper at a later time.

So to wrap this up, I obviously still struggle with comparison. It still steals my joy. But you know what? I’m not alone. Even though it can feel like you are the only one, we all feel the toxicity of comparison. Myspace has turned into Facebook and Instagram. Digital cameras have turned into iPhones. Photoshop has changed how we view beauty. People curate their lives to appear perfect. It’s a real struggle to be content in the world we live in. Technology has taken away our ability to disengage and just be. When you’re constantly surrounded by other people’s stories, you don’t have a chance to rest in your truth and your contentment.

So, how do we fight it?

How do we attempt to take back our joy when it seems like our culture thrives on comparison?


I feel like I could write a book on this topic but I’m going to do my best to narrow it down to two ways I’ve managed comparison stealing my joy. Just know, I’m honestly doing my best to live this out, but I fail all. the. time. In fact, comparison is such a “normal” thing that the toxic nature often goes unchecked. Everyone compares! Everyone feels bad about themselves! It’s how we get better! It’s “normal”.

Well, it may be “normal” but it is not okay.

So, let’s get to it:

1. You are the only you in the world. You matter more than you will ever know. This is so, so important. Every single one of us was put on this earth with a purpose. No one else can do it but YOU. Every thing you do, every relationship you cultivate, and every moment you take a breath are intimately woven into our world’s story. You are perfectly you.

Now, this is where it gets amazing. Your Heavenly Father made you exactly as you are. It wasn’t chance. It was a purposeful and perfect creation.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

God made you to be you and nobody else. Don’t waste this precious gift by spending time wishing you were like someone else or had someone else’s life. Your sense of humor, the color of your skin, your love of science, your interesting past, and the nature of your laugh are all pieces of who YOU are. Whenever I start to get down on myself and feel the toxicity of comparison seeping into my heart, I like to remind myself that I am a purposeful creation. I was meant to be only me and only I can live my life. Spend a little time each day praising God for the simple act of creating you just as you are. The more time you focus on what you have, the less power comparison will have on you.

2.  Live authentically. I think we all struggle with the need to share our lives but not share the real, yucky stuff. We want to have the best profile pictures, the best friendship photos, the most likes on our picture. We want the validation that we are good enough. However, I think it is so important that we are as appropriately honest as we can be. That means we don’t share every intimate detail of our lives, but we don’t lie and pretend everything is okay.

Justin and I were on a trip once and we got into an argument right after taking a picture. The next day, I posted the picture (which was happy, loving, and perfect for Instagram) but every time I look at it, all I see is the argument. Anyone else looking at the picture would think we had the perfect vacation. The pictures we choose to share never tell the icky details. It never tells the entire, real story.

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I’m not saying that I should have detailed the history of the picture in the caption, and I’m not saying we didn’t have a wonderful vacation, but I think it is important to be mindful of how we are presenting ourselves. Looking back, I shouldn’t have posted the picture. It wasn’t an authentic moment. I just wanted validation from other people.

Honestly, that’s really hard for me to write, but it needs to be said. We can’t fix the problem if we don’t renounce it’s power. So now, I do my best to live authentically in person and on social media. I don’t share the private moments of my life, but I don’t pretend things are okay when they aren’t.

Don’t force moments to happen simply to put them out there for validation. Live your life and those “perfect” moments will come! Let others see the real, authentic joy in your life.

On the flip side, remember this when viewing other people’s lives. Be careful when consuming other people’s stories. They are sharing what they want to share!


This post is getting a little long (like I said, I could write a book), but I plan to write more about this topic later on. In the mean time, I hope that wherever this lands with you you’ll remember that comparison happens to us all. Social media has created a platform for it, but we don’t have to let it speak into our lives. The next time you face comparison, try to implement one of the above suggestions and see how it makes you feel. I promise to do the same.

 

Shining a Light

Words. I’m amazed by their power.

I am inspired by others’ words. Whether it be from a book, a song, or a friend’s mouth, I find that words provide something life-giving to my spirit. In the same way, words can have the opposite effect. Their strength is not one-sided. They can cut, bruise, and tear into me with the same impressive force.

They are extremely powerful – redemptive or condemning, healing or poisonous, loving or hateful. It is a wonder that we don’t handle them with more care.

Because of the freedom we have now to use words as often and as anonymously as we like, the increase in verbal vitriol is alarming. Technology has created a double-edged sword. How wonderful it is that the voiceless now have a platform! What a gift. How tragic it is that so many have used this for such terrible, unimaginable purposes. However, it does us no good to get bogged down in the way words can harm. The best way to get rid of shadows is to shine light on them.

I want to shine some light by sharing a nugget of wisdom that has spoken into my heart and I hope will do the same to whoever reads this.

Whenever I am reading, I take pictures of quotes that inspire me so that I can reflect on them or share them with someone.

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp is an incredible book. Please go read it! I can’t tell you how many pages I took a screenshot of so I could keep her wisdom handy.

One thing I really want to share because of its sheer light and goodness is the following:

It’s the broken hearts that find the haunting loveliness of a new beat – it’s the broken hearts that live a song that echoes God’s. 

Beat, beloved heart, beat on in the world.

You will be broken and you will be loved.

You don’t ever have to be afraid.

When I read those words, I can see my heart. I see it so clearly in my mind.

I see cracks…lots of cracks. I see stains of bad choices and a couple of places where it was broken in two. I see where parts of the fissures are completely healed and parts that are still healing. There is a steady light coming through the cracks and the fissures…in fact, my heart glows. I imagine the faces of those who put that light there. Along with the light that has caused my heart to radiate so brilliantly, I see a faint beating. A soft, steady beat. I watch the light stay strong through the beating but I notice that the cracks and stains have changed its cadence. It’s an imperfect beat. It’s so beautiful I could cry.

That’s the magic of brokenness that Ann is talking about in this incredible excerpt. It’s this wonderful, backwards, radical love that our world has such a hard time grasping. God’s hands are on our hearts. It doesn’t matter how many times our hearts are beaten, bruised, or shattered to pieces. He will pick up every. single. piece. and put it back together to create a heart that beats a masterpiece. His love is tender and patient and unique.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Your brokenness is not too big for His love. He will not leave your heart shattered on the floor. He will not leave you. His promises – the words He inspired humanity to write down – are the most powerful words of all.

I can think of a couple of times (those half-healed fissures) where my heart felt broken beyond repair. I didn’t think I would ever feel okay again. Sometimes I still get residual aches from those past times and I wonder if my heart is strong enough to withstand it. Then, I remember what that brokenness has done for me. How it has shaped me to be more like God and less like the person I would be without Him. That’s the beauty of the brokenness. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. So I keep healing, keep trusting Him, and keep trying to shine a light.

You see, no matter the hatred, the anger, the sadness that can seep into our life via others’ or our own words, beautiful things can be made from brokenness. Powerful, incredible symphonies (my heart…your heart) can drown it all out.

I encourage you to seek out words that inspire you. I encourage you to fill your heart with light and find beauty in the unique beat of you heart. I encourage you to shine light on the shadows.

Remember Who You Are

Remember who you are…four words my dad said to me every time I left home and would be faced with “life decisions” – dates, big trips without them, college. Actually, it was “remember who you are, Alex P”, and he would look at me in such a way that I knew it wasn’t a flippant reminder to act right. He meant something much deeper that my young soul took quite seriously. This phrase has impacted me in an exponential way. The older I get, the bigger its value. I’ve never asked my dad, but I think this was his intention. He wanted me to live a life that honored what he already knew about me when I wasn’t capable of knowing it myself.  It made me stop before I did something and ask the question, does this choice honor who I am?

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As I have gotten older, I made this incredible connection between my dad and my Father. In the same way that my dad’s phrase imprinted on my heart, God wants his Word to do the same. I can apply the sentence I applied to my dad to my Heavenly Father (with a little change) – He wants me to live a life that honors what He already knows about me even when I am not capable of knowing it myself. Isn’t that just amazing?

In a book within the Old Testament, a prophet named Jeremiah writes of a message God sent to him. His message was:

 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

So that means that even before Jeremiah was born, God knew who he was and who he was capable of being. He put Jeremiah on his path before he was even a possibility. This is true for everyone! God knows us more than our earthly fathers ever could. He knows us more intimately and more honestly than any person can. So the amazing wisdom my dad gave to me is something my Heavenly Father wishes for every person on this planet every day.

God is whispering. God is speaking. God is shouting. Straight into our hearts.

Remember who you are. 


How do we do this? How do we live a life that honors what our Heavenly Father knows about us? How do we remember who we are? This is such a challenging concept that every person (Christian or not) has to face.

The culture we live in bombards us with ideas and lifestyles that don’t exactly align with the life God wants for us. When God’s and the dominant culture’s truths aren’t congruent, tension occurs. Because this tension can be so painful (especially as a young adult), a lot of us yield to the most obvious judge of our actions – culture. We can’t see God, we can’t touch God, and we can’t witness his disapproval. However, the people around us and the tangible world we live in are obvious to us. We are extremely sensitive creatures. We want to be liked, we want to be loved, and we want to fit in. If we aren’t getting those needs met, it can be hard to stay true to ourselves (trust me, I’ve been there).

But, it is totally possible. I’ve been thinking about how I’ve implemented this in my life because of my dad and based on what God tells us. After thinking on this awhile, I’ve tried to create a list of helpful ways to remember who you are when we face situations that may compromise who you are. We are all going to be faced with these situations and for this reason, we need to be prepared.

  1. Make a list of hard NOs

Hard NOs are things you would never do under any circumstances. There are no “what if” scenarios, no compromises, and no leniency. When it is a hard NO, it should never go. Having these established in your heart and your mind can take the tension away for you. There never has to be an inner battle because there is nothing to battle over. It’s already decided. When you relinquish that choice, you become free and you honor who God knows you are.

I thought I would share a couple of hard NOs I had growing up and still implement now. These served me so well. I never felt pressure to do them because I knew it wasn’t a choice.

No sex before marriage – This one is a doozy. Let me just tell you…the harder it is to follow through, the more rewarding it is when you do. Living a life with no regrets about my sexual past is the most incredible feeling in the world.

No drugs – This one wasn’t as hard because I didn’t surround myself with people who did do them. I did have to end some relationships because of them (which was so hard) but I never regretted doing it.

No inappropriate friendships – I actually created this hard NO after experiences I have had as a teenager. If either (or both) parties of an opposite sex friendship are in a relationship, cool the jets on the closeness. SO much pain can manifest. I’ve caused pain and received it, so I know firsthand how important this is to live by. I’m extremely glad I established this hard NO before I got married.

2. Remember that sometimes consequences aren’t immediate

I think it is extremely important to remember that sometimes are choices don’t yield consequences right away. We think if we only do it once, no one gets hurt, or we don’t feel pain, then it’s okay to sacrifice what we know is right – because it is fun, because it feels good, or because we want to. However, choices that potentially compromise who we are, are called that for a reason. Really think about how this could hurt you in the long run before you decide to do something. Look at the situation from all angles.

3. Have an accountability person/group

Choose people to be in your corner. Choose people who can help you remember who you are when you aren’t able to. These are people you confide in, trust their judgement, and will listen to when you aren’t able to discern effectively. These should be people who know how God sees you and truly want you to live out that life. They want you to make choices that honor that. When I was a teenager, my accountability person was my mom. Now, I have a married small group. You need people in your life to guide you. Life wasn’t meant to be done by yourself.

4. Give yourself grace

We are human. We mess up. It’s okay! I think sometimes we can get caught up in the “all or nothing” mentality and this is so not fair to us. If we mess up once, we don’t have to sacrifice who we are because of the guilt or shame we might feel. We can use it.

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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We don’t have to submit to the lie that we are bad people when we make a bad choice. Choose grace. God still sees you just as you are.


I hope this helps you remember who you are.

At the very least, always ask yourself the question does this choice honor who I am?

If you aren’t quite sure, talk to God. He knows who you are and loves you so, so much.