365 days and a whole heart

Yesterday marked one year since my friend Brittany got married in Gulf Shores, normally that would be a great thing to celebrate but that trip was much bigger than that for me. I limped into that trip broken-hearted, confused, believing little of myself, my worth, and wondering why I wasn’t enough. I was putting a great smile on my face but I dreaded going on a trip where I was the only single one in the group when my heart felt so confused. God used that moment, that trip to start healing me. I sat on the beach in the morning and would open my Bible just searching for something, for hope, for belief. I started writing prayers that week for myself, for others and for the future. I knew that trip was the beginning of a season of travel, I decided to use that season to try and learn some things about myself. Alone time can be very daunting for me, I can let feelings and thoughts take over. I can slip into an easy pity party where all the wrongs are magnified and I believe the least possible version of myself. That’s where I was 1 year ago. The next 5 months I can say my life changed. People entered my life who made such big impressions that my thought process is different. My heart is different. People re-entered my life and allowed me show the changes and encouraged me to grow.

Looking back I can see answers to those prayers I wrote. I recently found a “prayer note” in my phone from that time and I looked over and they have been answered or in the process of answering. In ways I never would have imagined. It was a reminder of where I was and where I am. See the anxiety tells me nothing will change, that I will end up back where I was 1 year ago. But the truth and prayer tells me it’s different. I’m different. My heart is different. This is different. My anxiety is not an excuse, it’s not a reason to continue on the same path. My thoughts and actions can be different. I started praying for these moments, this man and this job during that time. I didn’t know what would happen but I prayed with open palms and now is the time to ENJOY the answers to those prayers and keep those open palms to the gifts.

1 year, 365 days. Plenty of tears and prayers. All worth it to be the woman in progress I am. So Brittany, thank you for forcing me to go on vacation. To sit still by the beach and read my Bible with the promises of a healed heart. Thank you for giving me a reason to smile and believe in love when my heart was utterly broken. A reminder of what we can’t see during those times, like healing will happen. A heart can become whole again.

Today, I’m thankful to rest in the truth and say I can’t wait to see what comes in this next year because hope can grow in a year. Love can happen in a year. The sky is limit with a whole heart.

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Unplanned & Ever-Changing

The sun was shining brightly in my eyes, I tried shielding them as I had forgotten my sunglasses in my friends purse the night before. This wasn’t the night I had expected or planned. See I had planned on reading/spending some time studying before my meeting. Instead I received a call asking me for a ride. At first I selfishly admit at first I didn’t want to give up my time that night but I just knew I am called to do more. That this would be time well spent.

That night I was blessed more than I gave or deserve with a great conversation, and an understanding into who my co-pilot really is. She’s a woman doing her best to provide for her daughters, who isn’t looking for handouts, and truly wants better. She thinks that I sacrificed that night but really God used her to show me something, to remind me.

When we chose to really see people we usually can relate to some part of their story. See I grew up in a not so wealthy family. My parents did everything they could to provide for my sister and I, which allowed me to grow up not realizing how much they sacrificed. Being able to tell my co-pilot my story, my heart and why I am the way I am, was a blessing.

My goal is to make her see she is noticed, she’s not forgotten, we’re similar. It’s not about “changing” people. It’s about reminding them who they were created to be, who the God of the universe made. He thought about us, he put us in time at this very moment to do something. He didn’t haphazardly create you or me. He put thought, care, and purpose in everyone. Sometimes it takes a unplanned drive and an evening with a stranger to remind me just who I am.

God uses moments like this, because honestly this week has been long, and it’s been hard. Hard lessons have been learned, weaknesses pointed out, and faults magnified BUT in the end I’m on the road toward Christ. On the road to a better me, to the best me. I will never arrive there but I do know if daily I put my selfishness aside, lift my hands up and say what would you like me to do today, and stop trying to fit God into my plan that I will be better than I was yesterday. This life is ever-changing and it’s beautiful. I’m choosing to see people for the beauty they are, knowing God created better stories than we’re telling. I’m letting his grace wash over me, and I’m learning to listen for his voice and guidance. I’m loving and serving because I know my purpose is within those things. I know he gives me the strength and the joy to complete this race and I know it’s his encouragement that gets me through hard days. I know he’s working in my life and in the lives of so many around me. I’m grateful to be able to live this life.

Psalm 43:3–4
3.Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
4.Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

It is still good.

Last week I was blessed enough to spend some time in NYC for work. It was a nightmare getting there and home but the in between was great. I am, admittedly, a bad traveler with a group. I get easily frustrated with delays and I like my space at times. I went into this trip with some different goals. I am really working on enjoying everyday for what it is. Finding those tiny moments that make up life. I got up early on the last day to walk around Central Park for a little quiet time. I’ve been to NYC a couple times and never took the time to walk around the park. This small space in the middle of city was so quiet and beautiful. The tall skylines that surround this little paradise in middle of the island were such a beautiful reminder of all the facets of my life. I spend most of my time in that frantic, skyline, city area of my life. Running from project to project. Moment to moment without as much of a thought to slow down. I want to develop the habit of spending more time in that quiet, peaceful place. The center of my life. The soul of it.

 CP

Because when I stop and appreciate what a day has brought instead of focusing on what I lost or am missing life gets better. When I step out of the way and let God do his work, there’s more peace. Why is it so hard for us to let go of clenched fist and control of relationships when we know patience is sometimes how God works? His planning is much better than I could dream. If I’m honest, please don’t judge, I’ve found myself with angry clenched fist. Angry that life has changed in such a way that was unexpected. Angry that I’m doing the supposed “right” things and what feels correct, what feels like what God would want me to do but I find myself depressed. Angry at God for giving me a desire, but I sit by and watch friend after friend have that desire fulfilled for them. In that anger I realized I let the dangerous thoughts of my worthiness be questioned. This does no good and only pushes further into a dark place, its a well worn path that I’m changing. I’m thankful to be able to recognize those moments now. I’m grateful to have (amazing) mentors that reinforce the positive. Thankful that I understand the Daniel 3:18 & even if not, God is still good. Just because a promise isn’t kept in our timing doesn’t mean the promise isn’t kept. I have to believe the positive. There’s a reason these people and this place are in my life. So maybe if loosen up my grip, let the anger go of what was supposed to be and appreciate what is I can see what I have. I can live a lot more in love and kindness, without conditions.

There’s a PURPOSE and just because I do not understand doesn’t mean the purpose isn’t good. So I am being more resolute in just being who I am. Not trying to be more or less for people. Accepting what is, and being thankful for that time.

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Equal Ground

When I write and I share publicly it is generally because I do not want anyone to feel alone. I believe in sharing our non-perfectness. I want you to know that I struggle daily. That I fear appearing weak, I don’t have it all together, I’m not perfect. I am daily just trying to live the best I know how, and as I learn more, I try and do better. I have my limits, I have my flaws. We are on equal ground. Generally I’m happy, I like my life, I have joy, and I LOVE the people in my life. I love new people. I can say over the past year I’ve added about 10 people to my life who have dramatically impacted me. Pushed me, prayed for me, loved me through my extremely ugly moments. They inspire me. I’m inspired by a 21 year old I know who has a faith that is beautiful, I’m inspired by positive Twitter posts, I’m pushed by knowing a lady who feverently prays for me and my well-being when she has no reason to. These are the things that push me towards the better.

See I find it easy to compare myself to others. I’m horrible about comparing my journey to my peers. I’m 28, single, do not own a house, paying off college loans, no where near having kids, struggling to get my dreams on track…But someone told me the other day, what about that makes you behind? I am in charge of putting myself on the timeline. I am learning to share in the joy of my friends marriages, their pregnancies, their home purchases; because that’s their journey. My journey is mine and right now it looks like waiting.

I struggle with waiting. Goodness do I struggle with it. I want answers now, if not 5 minutes ago. When I pray for my future husband I want to ask God where he is right now. But I realize now that’s questioning His goodness, that His timing isn’t perfect. Believe me it is. I can look back to 2-3 months ago when I thought my life was falling apart and really God was showing me some of the ugliness inside of me, pruning. I needed these months of struggling to let go, to work on not being codependent, to rely on my faith, to cut out my smart mouth. To love people loosely and allow them to be who they were created to be. I’m praying & thankful for 2nd chances these days.

I’m learning to go to God in my waiting, not to my friends. Do not get me wrong I know God has placed some very Godly people in my life. I’m very lucky, but my first response should be towards Him. I’m reminded there is a content and peace in the waiting. In knowing that my future will be great because of who holds it.

If you can grab anything from this, know you aren’t alone. Your journey is yours alone. It’s beautiful, and it’s yours. It makes you, you. Please remember you are loved more than you could ever realize. You are a good person. The waiting and questions are hard but believe me it’s worth every minute. God is working for our good, if we let him. I’m praying for you, I’m rejoicing in your breakthroughs. We are on equal ground and every victory is a victory we should celebrate.

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/678333-faith-is-the-art-of-holding-on-to-things-in

Gratefulness and Repentance

Gratefulness and repentance, those words. Two tough ones for me to swallow right now. I read something the other day that said we go through winter of the soul to get the spring (She Reads Truth-Springtime). I wish that wasn’t true. This winter in my soul hurts but spring is around the corner. But that is the thing…

The thing about gratefulness is it doesn’t always make things better but it can give you a better view of what exactly you have in your life. It sometimes doesn’t come naturally for me but when I sit & think about what it means to be grateful I find a slow smile start to appear on my face. Gratefulness is kindness, thankfulness. Gratefulness begins in our heart and it think it slowly spreads throughout us. I want to believe that I can create a grateful life; full of kindness and love.

I have to start where I am and move my heart in the direction that it needs to go. I want to be grateful for the experiences I’ve been allowed to have. Not be so sad when they’re over. For the people who have entered my life and decided to stay when they see what a MESS I am. For these feelings I have, for caring as deeply as I do.

May I open my ears and open my heart to different stories. May I let go of how I think life is supposed to go and believe in the better. May I let go of the weight and shame and guilt; and start to live life out fully, free from past. Perfection isn’t needed but you know what is? Real, honest, life with heartbreak and cracks and ugliness. May my failures teach me and comfort others. We aren’t alone. We aren’t done. This world needs us. In case you ever forget. You are loved. Loved more than you could ever imagine. While I search for love from a man I forget that I’m loved more by a God than I could every possibly understand.

How am I going to get there, that grateful place? Repentance. I’ve never done a Lenten study before. This year I knew that my heart was stagnant and it was becoming hardened. It was in a place that I do not like, and do not want to be. Considering and acting in ways that are not consistent with who I am. And as Jon Weece said in his sermon last week “What is inside us comes out” I instantly groaned and said please don’t. Please just stay inside and go away. So this year I am reading She Reads Truth lent study. This week is about Repentance. Something that I like to ignore. The writer perfectly describes my actions….that I would rather curl up under my cover, grab a book, a glass of wine and just ignore the world and my problems, my transgressions. Then she says this “Hard-heartedness just leads to more judgement, but repentance leads to life.” I want life. Life abundantly. So this week and for a while I must do the hard work. The work I don’t want to admit.

So gratefulness and repentance. They do not always go hand in hand but I think I need to be grateful for the opportunity to have repentance. To have a Savior who loves the sinful. Who loves me and isn’t driven away by my sin but someone who pulls me closer. He won’t judge us, he’ll love us. For that I am grateful.

When We’re Grateful, Even When Things Aren’t Perfect

Can gratefulness and sadness exist in the same realm? In the same heart, at the same time? I find myself asking these questions. On days when I don’t trust my feelings, when my heart is stretched beyond belief, when I HAVE to actively choose to be graceful towards myself and others when that normally comes naturally….I wonder, can I be grateful but still sad? I think the answer is yes. I believe the gratefulness lessens the sadness. It makes it better. Remembering the positive and not the bad. It’s a better way to live. It’s a courageous way to live.

You know what makes me smile? God is with us in hard times, when things don’t go the way we perceived or wished. I re-read my prayer journal last night and WHOA God has been answering my prayers I just didn’t see it. I was specific in my prayer but I also said more than anything please let your will be done. So I must believe this is his will and he is pouring out lavishly on my life. How wonderful is that reminder? His mercies are new, everyday. God is in the business of loving us. Through good and bad. So I’m brushing myself off, saying thank you for the experience, being grateful for people who pour into me, and realizing just how wonderful it all can be. When you can honestly say I’m better now than I was before, why let sadness be your main emotion? We are in charge of our lives and we make our own rules by how we live. we can choose to live by what everyone tells us is right or we can live with love and how we feel in our heart is right. I’m choosing to make my own rules. I’m not looking to be an exception but I feel lately that my heart says to love and to support people with love. I won’t regret it. I live with my choices, I live with my decisions and I’m proud of the people who are in my life.

This year has already proved to be such a growing year. I fully believe 2015 is going to be the best year yet. I am not searching for my purpose, I’ve found my sweet spot and where I want to serve in church. (If you live in Lexington, check out Serve the City) I want to put my heart in God’s hands this year, that is not something I have ever committed to before. When you have people you respect tell you they’ve seen amazing changes in your life over the past 6 months you can’t help but want to continue, and be humble enough to admit those changes should have happened long ago. I want to grow more into this woman I’m finding myself become. One that is gracious and humble and meek and free. One that laughs and smiles more than she cries and frowns. One that is able to see just how special she is and believes she was created for a purpose. My wish in my life is that people say I left them better than I found them, not because of me but because I showed them love. I want people to say I was kind and that I had an impact. If those things are said I believe I lived the life God wanted me to.

I find that writing all this out helps me reign in my thoughts. Helps me set plans and goals. Helps me remember just what I’m looking at. It is cathartic. Because sometimes I get so wrapped up in the wrong I’m like “oh I need to write about it” but I sit down get two sentences in and realize that I should be writing about what’s right. My hope is that I can inspire one person. Let’s together choose Faith over Fear and live this life out loud and together. Forgive easy and love hard. This life really is beautiful if you let it be.

Best

The Thing About Courage…

It’s isn’t always fun. It isn’t always rewarding in the way we want it to be. Because I’m choosing courage over fear that means I’m choosing vulnerability. I’m choosing openness. I’m choosing self-awareness. I’m choosing to open my heart everyday heartbreak.

I think I believed that when I started to realize my strongholds, my fears and my faults I would be able to conquer them. I mean I’m not a weak woman but I now know I’m a weak human being. What I realize is that courage is sometimes quiet. That it’s an everyday choice. Not just everyday but every hour. Some people won’t see the courage it takes to be honest and tell them how you feel. It’s not easy, it’s scary but at 28 I don’t have the time to not say I love you, or I miss you to the important people. It’s not the easiest to choose love everyday. Some days I want to be selfish. I want to show people how if feels to be walked on and made to feel like an option. When those moments of doubt/selfishness hit I remember what LE told me. For me to understand that even if I end up being an option in someone’s life, that even if my worst fears come true that I did my best if I’m showing God’s love and I can’t be faulted for that. That I can stand up for myself but continuously show love, grace, understanding.

While it’s so much easier to put up walls, to close your heart off because you fear your heart can’t handle another crack, another failed dream, another rejected application or you fear your prayer isn’t going to be answered in the way you selfishly want; putting up walls isn’t a great answer. For years I thought I lived with an open heart but I wasn’t. I hurt myself so much from 23-27 but not allowing myself to accept any type of love. I wasted time that God gave me.

So three days into this new year I’m evaluating the goals I set for myself and I’m still trying to listen, not to have a response but to just listen I think everyone needs that. To understand others more, not to fix but to just understand. I think one of the greatest ways we can show love is to try to understand someones position even when they’ve hurt us. I want to continue to live in the courage to be open and share my life. I’ve added be present to the list. Thanks to my Holly, I’ve realized that I worry so much about what’s next that I don’t think about what I have now. So 2015 is listening, understanding and being present. With a lot of courage and grace thrown in. Life is messy in its own beautiful way, love is scary but so worth it. The intimate work of friendships can bring a beauty and light to our life we didn’t know we were missing. So be courageous and let people in, you’ll be surprised by how many people walk forward instead of walking away when they see your flaws.