I’m Terrible at Fasting…

In an attempt to always share real life, I need to confess: I’m a terrible faster.

But really, I’m so bad at it.

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I didn’t grow up with fasting being a regularly practiced spiritual discipline; despite growing up in a passionate and God centered home, that wasn’t something we did.

Prayer, Bible study, learning, teaching, serving etc.. All normal practices in my home growing up.

Fasting? Not so much.

In fact, I was in my early 20’s the first time I fasted! – That was a bad day, and I was hungry and frustrated all day.

I can confidently tell you that as I am about to turn 32, I’m still bad at fasting, but I’m practicing it more regularly now.

I have fasted food, social media, TV, meats and dairy products, sugar, caffeine… So many things, but every single time I come back to the understanding that I think I may be doing it wrong lol

Here’s what I have decided and/or learned as I practice fasting:

Fasting takes practice. 
It isn’t about success or failure for me, it is entirely about learning HOW to fast well. Because, if I am being honest, I don’t entirely understand it… I mean, I understand the concept, but it doesn’t seem to be for me what other’s explain fasting to be…

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have experienced a more full and fulfilling life while fasting!
I have had a shift in perspectives!
I have even been able to see something’s grip on me get broken (think you may have an addiction to food, sugar, social media, tv? – Fasting is where it’s at!)

Fasting is hard.
Literally, it is actually really difficult to fast.

Fasting sets you up for some really bad days.
I have yet to experience a day/season of fasting that wasn’t actually really frustrating. I have concluded that all of the things that come up while fasting are classic case devil tactics. – I recognize the tactics for what they are, but sometimes not until much later… After I have been ready to kill people (oops) haha

Fasting can kill your focus.
Reportedly fasting can give you mental clarity… That has not been my experience. At. All. – In fact, on days I fast, a lot of the time I find myself unable to focus on anything longer than two minutes; and end up rotating between 15 different projects in order to see some sort of productivity!

Fasting by yourself is the worst..
I have fasted alone, and I have fasted with others… Fasting alone is terrible. I can never seem to get it right when it’s by myself. My focus, attitude, attention, perspective, all awful.

AND, sometimes I forget to even pray on days I’m fasting.

I’m terrible at fasting.

Fasting with others can make all the difference.
When someone is agreeing with you in prayer, and when you’re able to share the frustrations of the day, it makes or breaks the fast… (at least for me currently).

When I fast with others, and talk about it with them; we began to notice more of the prayers being answered, clarity on each other’s behalf, and we can see more tactics being used by the devil. Not to mention, more solidarity as we learn to navigate through how to fast better when we reflect on the successes and failures from the day/season.

Fasting requires preparation.
If you go into a fast willy nilly style and expect God to show up, you’re going to fail. Every time. – But really, this has been my experience.
If you are doing the Daniel Fast, you will need to prepare with the right foods.
If you’re doing liquid only, you need to prepare your day.
If you’re fasting social media/tv or something else, you need a plan for what to do instead. Otherwise you’ll fill your time with equally useless things…

But, you also need to know what you’re praying for/over, otherwise your focus will prevent you from praying well… or maybe at all.

I think it should be said again: I have fasted before and forgot to pray for the ENTIRE DAY.

Fail.

Fasting should include Bible reading.
Read your Bible kids… I have failed at this frequently. How do you forget to read  your bible when you’re fasting? I dunno, but I do!

More than just reading your bible, know what you’re looking for and planning, otherwise it can feel like empty words. (trust me)

Fasting doesn’t always mean better Jesus time.
I often find fasting to feel more like an uphill battle trying to connect with Jesus rather than a sweet beautiful or intimate time with Jesus and the Holy Spirit!

Fasting can make all the difference.
I know with all the confidence that some strongholds can only be broken through prayer and fasting… I’ll let you know when I experience a life changing stronghold being broken. I have complete faith that this is crucial and important, which is why I continue to press in and practice fasting.

One day it will make all the difference.

Fasting isn’t as simple as people make it out to be.
Fasting isn’t as simple as: “I’m going to pray, read my Bible and then *BAM* the Holy Spirit shows up and we have a beautiful time together.

Fasting is actually really hard mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even spiritually. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that either these people are lying, or they just have more experience at practicing fasting than I do. So, because I believe that fasting matters, I continue to press in. I continue to practice, and I will slowly get better at this… Maybe. 😉

What I know for sure is that I am terrible at fasting; but, I need to hone my skills and tactics for doing it better…

But, as of today, I am still pretty bad at it. 🙂

Is there a classic spiritual discipline that you’re terrible at?

Yes, It Is Normal…

I want to be known for my blending of Grace and Truth exactly perfectly…

Unfortunately, I tend towards Truth naturally and really have to work on being better at HOW I say things.

And, in the spirit of honesty, one of my biggest struggles is learning how to blend Grace into my words to mitigate my natural leaning towards Truth in a way that reflects the Holy Spirit and Jesus well.

You see, I believe that one of the biggest tricks the devil uses against us is making us to feel like we are isolated. I think often many do not share openly their lives in a way that could be helpful to someone else because it is personal, private, and feels intimate… But, if we are alone, and if that thing we are struggling through is believed to be abnormal, if we are the only one, then clearly we are weak or there is something wrong with us…

I regularly find myself in conversations with people that allows for me to share my own story, struggles, and in a completely honest light offer them authentic encouragement because, after all, we are now in this struggle together.

Over the last few months, I have been given this amazing opportunity to share about my ministry/job with other churches around the country. Some of them were referred to me, others found my name and title (First Impressions Director) on our website, and others I am not entirely sure how they found me. But, I have gotten to talk to them, encourage their ministries, hearts, and share whatever information I could about how and what I do… As well as simply connect over our common bond of “overwhelmed but passionate” for our ministries.

One of the biggest things I have come to realize, regardless of the ministry, church size and even occupation, it needs to be said frequently: 

What you are feeling, that’s normal. 

It doesn’t really matter what you’re feeling:
Overwhelmed,
Annoyed,
Blessed,
Content,
Frustrated,
Excited,
Like you’re drowning,
Struggling,
Overjoyed,
Dry inside,
Agitated,
Numb, etc…
AALLL of the feelings are normal, they are being experienced by someone else also in your same place trying to keep that same pace.

I have been asked SO many times, “How do you manage it all?”

And, my very real and honest answer:

Sometimes I handle it well, flawlessly, and feel energized!…

Aaand then other times, I find myself binge watching Netflix with a glass of wine and snacks, locked away in my room with my puppy for six hours. – Totally healthy coping mechanism 🙄

Sometimes my daily Jesus time is SO GOOD! Then all of a sudden I look up and it’s been TWO WEEKS and I’m not entirely sure where my Bible is even located.

Sometimes my journal and prayers are overflowing, and other times I just sit and stare blankly.

Sometimes I wake up looking forward to my day, having slept well and stoked about what I have planned. Other times I hit snooze until I’m late for work (sorry boss!) and have to bolt out the door without brushing my teeth (I promise I make up the work time)!

Sometimes I go to the gym and eat so well totally dominating the meal prepping for the week. Other times I can’t even remember the last time I ate something other than fast food.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the love and joy for my job and life. Other times I am just overwhelmed with a heavy and discouraged heart.

Life is hard. 

Following Jesus is hard. 

Life and following Jesus are all real things, real struggles, authentic joys and sorrows, love and hate, anger and repentance. These are normal life things that so many try to hide or pretend are not a normal part of their lives. Why are we not highlighting the good, bad, beautiful and ugly as ENTIRELY normal?!

Some days we will feel ready to go and like we can conquer the world. Other days we will do all we can to merely survive the day. 

So, Yes, it (whatever “it” is) is normal. 

Don’t let the smiles, adventures, Instagrams, Facebook posts, snapchats or 30 second conversations of and with others fool you… We are all swinging back and forth on this pendulum of so good, and really just trying to survive the suck.

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”– 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Trust me, those feelings are normal, and experienced by others! Share your feelings with others, be honest, choose to help someone else see their feelings are normal and accepted too.

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Heavy Days…

The Wounded Healer implies that grace and healing are communicated through the vulnerability of men and women who have been fractured and heartbroken by life. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

Some days are just heavy days, full of frustration, heart hurt, aggravation, not being enough, and being helpless to fix it (whatever all the “its” are). Heavy days for me becomes an exercise of sheer will in order to be kind and fully invested in those who are not a part of my heavy day.

I have found that I cope mostly through praying… or rather, I slip away as much as I can and allow my thoughts the chance to let go of the clutter, which creates space for prayers to float their way through my head. I also spend a lot of time intentionally focusing on setting aside feelings and engaging well in my day.

Heavy days are some of the worst days for my heart because I have no solutions, no ways to make things better, so my heart just hurts, my head cannot seem to orient, and my body hurts more on heavy days. Yet, despite the struggle, I find heavy days good for me because they are the days that my heart is the most open to communication with my Savior.

On heavy days the Holy Spirit speaks to me differently, His voice is sweeter, softer with much more tenderness… and on heavy days, those are the days I feel God’s affection towards me. On most days tenderness is not particularly an attribute of God that I identify with (nor communicate to those around me), but on heavy days I feel the calming presence of His tender presence.

I never wonder why God allows heavy days or bad days, because those are the days that I do not have such carefully constructed walls around my heart and He and I communicate better.

All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved,’ and all I hope is that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold. My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being— ‘You are the Beloved.’” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

Online Dating Help for Men…

So, I guess with this post I have to finally admit to more than just a few people that I am online dating… Or rather, I’m “online looking” since I have unfortunately been on very few actual dates.

Let me start by saying, obviously not all men need help… but, from what I have experienced, so. many. do need help. To be clear, I also cannot comment on whether women need similar help (or the same advice) since I am looking at only men’s profiles.

This post is meant to be humorous… However, every. single. point. made. comes from one (or a plethora) of men, and therefore everything below is factual.

Let’s start with, you do need to actually be single.

If you are separated, seeing someone, married or anything of the sort…
Then, hell no, I am not talking to you. No, we are not going to be friends because I won’t be the one helping you to be a cheating husband… Move along.

Safety First.

If you ask me on a date that is  me taking the metro to a far away stop, where you will pick me up for our fabulous date…
Then, I’m left to assume you are the Craigslist killer and I can’t let myself go and get into your car… That’s how people die.

Eyes. Men, eyes are important.

If in every single one of your pictures, you have sunglasses on or they are from behind or far away…
Then, I’m left to assume you have crazy serial killer eyes.

Abs are so great. Face is better.

If you have a plethora of pictures of your fantastically sculpted body, but none of your face…
Then, while I love me some great abs, unfortunately I’m left to assume your face it is horribly disfigured or your compensating. Your face matters.

Please, for the love, take photography lessons.

If your best angle is to put your phone in your lap, thus creating a triple chin and a clear look up your nose…
Then, you are definitely not catching my attention for the good. Maybe google selfie angles.

No one wants to be that close.

If your phone is so close that I can see the pores on your nose and your eyes are slightly crossed…
Then, maybe you have nugget arms or your phone should back up an inch or 15.

Everyone has a type they are attracted to…

If I decline to go out with you…
Then, maybe I’m just not attracted or interested in you, everyone has a type (or types) they find attractive, it’s not personal if you are not that type…

Please don’t make me explain why I’m not interested.

If I declined to go out with you…
Then, I’m probably not interested, don’t ask me why, and make me tell you potentially hurtful things because I won’t lie to you.

Height does matter.

If you get offended by my questions inquiring about your height…
Then, you are probably too short for me to feel comfortable with you… Don’t worry, another woman won’t care like I do. I’m a heightist, it’s a real thing for me I’ve stopped apologizing.

Which one are you?

If every single one of your pictures is a group picture…
Then, I’m hoping you are the attractive one. You are never the attractive one.

You do actually need to have friends though.

If every single one of your pictures was taken from a weird angle in your car, the bathroom, or the gym…
Then, I must assume you have no friends, which makes you either socially awkward or a narcissist. Neither of which am I interested in.

Let’s be clear, just don’t with the stupid confusing opening lines. Just. Don’t.

If your opening line is even remotely similar to (real openers):

“You’re a marvelous chocolate chip pancake in a sea of burnt waffles.”
“Hey, I feel you appear attractive and consequently would like to explore the possibility of exposing you to my awesomeness.”
“I’ve never gone out with a virgin before, but I’d be up for that experience.”
“Boo!”
“Beautiful! And they said I couldn’t find beauty and class online!”
“What is love to you?”

Then, you are certainly not getting any sort of response. Figure your life out.

I didn’t ask for a picture.

If I didn’t ask for a picture of you half-dressed (or less) and your two little chicken nugget abs…
Then, stop embarrassing yourself by sending them. There isn’t going to be a return picture.

You can figure out how to see what I look like currently…

If you ask for an updated picture and I say no..
Then, maybe try asking me on a date to see what I look like currently. I look way better in person than in one of my ridiculous selfies I send to friends… Trust.

But for real, it’s called “online dating”, let’s actually try going on dates.

If you message and text me for days and I’m responding well…
Then, let’s actually try a date, laugh, talk, flirt, and enjoy getting to know someone new. I don’t want a digital pen-pal.

And because I feel like I have done enough directed at the men, I will leave you with this hilarious meme sent to me by a girlfriend. (sorry for the swear word)

(sorry for the swear word, but this is hilariously appropriate for this post)

(sorry for the swear word, but this is hilariously appropriate for this post)

Don’t Tell Me I’m Beautiful…

Some blog posts turn in my head for about 13 seconds before it spills out to be shared….

Other blog posts take months before I have words to share, and the bravery to back up what I allow others to see in me.

I was reminded this week of something our Pastor of Prayer says, “Fear is the opposite of love; not anger, but fear.”

It is always interesting when you discover a fear you have carried around for as long as you can remember, but never even noticed that it was there or that you were protecting it so severely.

What is my intensely guarded fear?: My Beauty.

I have been slowly processing with several very patient and diligent friends my thoughts about beauty… or more specifically my beauty. It has been a slow-moving journey to realizing the insecurities I have. But, probably more than that, it is an arduous task of recognizing the walls I have created to try to ensure my heart is not hurt or disappointed.

You see, I do not let people comment on my physical appearance. Meaning, regardless of the comment, good, bad, sweet, rude.. Whatever the comment, I disregard it and protect my heart from feeling or accepting the comment.

It was described to me that it is as though the comments are bouncing off my carefully crafted armor. I wanted to deny it, but the reality is, I am intensely and unrelentingly vigilant in the protection of that portion of my heart.

What I find particularly interesting is that, for as far back as I can remember, I have had this wall built around my heart regarding my physical attractiveness. More specifically, I have been disregarding compliments about my physical appearance my entire life (that I can remember) from everyone… As a young child, my mom and dad (who are amazing parents and people) would make comments to me about my beauty, and I would brush it aside with a laugh, eye roll, sigh or some sort of reasoning that they “had” to tell me these things.

I can point to a hundred different things that added to my reason to protect my heart in this area…

Most of my life I have been (gladly) in the company of guys as their friend and have heard hundreds of times over about how pretty or beautiful my friends are… To which, I definitely agree(d), but I carefully avoided the awkwardness or disappointment of not being seen as beautiful as well.

I have always loved how the martial arts has helped create me to be capable of protecting myself and others. I love practical things so very much, and the martial arts is so practical to me. However, the martial arts certainly added to my already not dainty, but definitely athletic physique that I have only recently begun to appreciate… However, many of the words I have spent my life hearing from men are about how the dainty, tiny, skinny is where beautiful is held.. So, to be effective like I wanted to be, it meant setting aside beautiful things in place of better things.

Then, on the flip side, the times in which men have told me that I was beautiful, I felt like they wanted something from me or worse found out later they had been lying to me and could not be trusted to tell me truth.. or in a couple of instances I felt like the guy wanted to devour me, and I was not safe in their care… So, I protected myself and my heart diligently to avoid any additional damage.

Then, of course people use scripture to point out why beauty should not be something I cared about anyway…

I mean, after all: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30 … And yet, here I am in the depths of my heart unwilling to admit that I still desire to be beautiful. I do NOT want to be vain nor deceitful, so I rationalized that it was better to tuck it all away, and prevent others from speaking into it one way or another. I have spent my life not wanting to know if people thought I was beautiful, and sidestepping every chance I could to avoid knowing.

Throughout my life, I have reasoned that there is no possible way that I am as beautiful as some people have claimed. I rationalize their comments away as purely sentiment because my life circumstances simply do not line up with their nice, sweet or well-meaning comments.

I mean, after all: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” so their perspective does not really mean it is true anyway.

Then, to make an intensely personal and private struggle more complicated, I want to be seen in so many ways… I desire to be dynamic and unique. Full of life and adventure, leaving a trail of joy spilling out everywhere I go, seen as capable, intelligent, knowledgeable, loving, graceful, giving, welcoming, compassionate, and full of kindness.. And always reflecting Christ. I desire these things more than beauty, so I have spent my life focusing on these rather than the “vain beauty.”

But, if I am being totally honest, I want beautiful to be included in the list of things I am seen as too… Yet, even typing that, I feel it sounds vain and conceded. The struggle is very real in my heart.

I also know that sometimes your personality and character add to or detract from your attractiveness. I have long thought that I have the type of personality that makes me more attractive… but that it is sort of like a lens in which you see someone; the perspective is changed because of it, but the object itself has not changed.

Even as I process these thoughts and heart feels out with people, I often set up the rule that they too are not allowed to tell me how they see my physical appearance. It is safer to not know… But, I also do not want fake words, nor do I want reactionary comments.

To be clear, I do not want to be seen as more beautiful than someone else. I want to be my own stunningly beautiful woman that requires no one else to be less.

Because I am not yet beyond these struggles, I am once again going to ask you not to share your reactionary comments about how you see my physical appearance.

Please do not leave a comment out of a desire to make it better, that is not what this blog post is for.

Seasons of Healing…

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I typically love seasons of healing, there is life and death taking place together in the process. I am entirely guilty of wanting to rush the process, but I never regret the time it took on the other side… This particular season of healing has proved more difficult than I anticipated. Which, I suppose no matter the injury, healing always takes longer than we think or hope for in the beginning.

One of the things that has struck me about this particular season of healing is how little the Christian community addresses what seasons of healing look like. And then, in the absence of clarity, I have found myself feeling a bit crazy in the process of what I have recently realized is actually pretty normal..
Should I feel this way?
Should I think like this?
Should I be this emotional?
Does this show my lack of faith?
Is this normal to feel this way?
Why can’t I seem to shake this off?
Am I depressed?
Is it normal to be so tired all the time?
Have I always been this stressed?
Have my muscles always been so tight?
If I love my life so much, why am I still feeling anxious?
And on and on and on….

I was talking with a friend who went through a similar experience, and her response was, “I’m sorry, I should have told you that you were going to feel all of these things for much longer than you would expect to.”

We then talked through all of the random feelings, all of the irrational emotions, the physical effects of everything… and how the season of healing on the other side of a dessert season is often forgotten about by those who have gone through them. I can see why though, I do not want to “stay” stuck in the past, so even I do not want to talk through my own situation… I just want to push forward.

I cannot possibly blame someone else for not thinking to tell me that this season of life sucks almost as much as the last. However, it is of utmost importance to work through and not barrel through this season. I must feel, sit in, deal with and process each step; then and only then will complete healing take place.

True growth and learning must happen in the midst of the whirlwind that feels like this season has been.

I am so thankful and beyond grateful for the plethora of people who have encouraged, challenged, given undeserved grace, shared wisdom or a listening ear, and for all of those who have prayed for me throughout.

So. Grateful.

On the other side of all of this God will make my ashes into beautiful art.

Trees…

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Over the last year and a half I have become slightly obsessed with trees.

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Especially cool looking trees.IMG_1243

But, my obsession is not just because I all of a sudden noticed trees, or had an encounter with one, but because God used trees… Or specifically one tree to show me His plan for my life.

It is a little odd now to think about, how much I used what I came to decide and call a prophecy given to me at such a low point in my life to cling to hope… You can read more about what was said to me here.

You see, there were some seriously long periods of time that felt like I had died or that I had nothing good, helpful, or beneficial to offer.. or as my sister-in-law puts it, I had become like a “little sad grey piece of paper”. Which is about as accurate a description as they come.

But, even during those times of struggle, I knew God would use what was happening to me, and even all of my failings throughout, and He would take it and He would grow it all in the ways that only He can.

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Then slowly, over the course of about six months He began to reawaken me. It was as though He knew it had to be slowly in order for me to survive and not undo or break the ways He had grown me. I mean, it makes perfect sense, He is the one who set up how the world grows, the laws behind the health that takes place in a tree after a severe pruning. He did all of that… It only makes sense that He would then apply those same rules to the way in which He began the re-growth phase of our journey. In the process of cutting away, and then in the slow-growing back, my already deep and wide foundational root system grew and strengthened. I learned in new, painful, refreshing, and restorative ways how God provides for me… Especially when I do not deserve a thing.

Then, ever so slowly I began to realize that the grey had dissipated, and maybe, just maybe beauty would return to my vision. Maybe I would see and feel deeply once more. Possibly, I would once again revel in joy in ways that I had grown to expect throughout my life. Laughter would return easily and sit in my heart for longer. Life, beautiful overflowing life would allow me to dance my way through it once more.

Then, out of the blue, I was gifted the picture below. What a special little I love you drawing from God delivered from a new friend. She said she was praying for me, and she could not get away from a tree, but specifically the roots, and that God is regrowing me. She had no idea of my past, and certainly did not know anything about my tree.

And just like that, God reminds me that He sees me, and then tells me exactly what we are doing this year.

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I discovered a while ago that I tend to get tattoos when God changes my life. Not in regards to physically changes or when He moves me or anything similar to that… But, when He changes who I am, the deep down makeup, and especially when it is so dramatic that it causes me to be totally changed… Those are the things that spur me towards a tattoo. Almost like a forever mark on the outside showing what He has done on the inside. I equate it to the Old Testament temples and name changes whenever God encountered His people.

I have been slowly piecing together what my tree tattoo will look like, who will do it, where it will go, and all of the meaningful elements that will tell a story within it. I am so excited to get it (sometime soon) and share it with you all.

I have been forever changed, and while I am not done regrowing, I have begun to feel the beautiful new fruit that is coming.

(As an FYI, and to be totally honest I did not take two of the pictures in this post)