The 8 of 2018

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a while now, mostly because it feels so much more real and vulnerable than some of the others I have written lately. Even though this whole fall has been incredibly intense and personal in general, I have purposefully written my blogs in a way that creates enough space for anyone reading it to connect it to themselves.

This blog post is just me, it is my story.

Every year, our pastor chooses a word or theme, and challenges us to do the same for the coming year. A couple of years ago, my theme was Never Dull, which you can read about here and was very much re-teaching me how beautiful and full life was in all moments. Life is Never Dull.

Last year, I had TEN words; It was ridiculous… Actually, in all honesty, I forgot about them a couple of months into the year. The chaos of the year overtook me, and it wasn’t until a friend mentioned them in a conversation sometime in October or so that I went back to my prayer journals to look them up again. – I was blown away to see that every single one of those words is what God was working on in me throughout 2017… Whether I remembered them or not didn’t actually change the fact that God worked on them in me despite what the year threw at me… The year was anything but peaceful, calm, tranquil, still etc…

I began praying about 2018 in October.

I started praying about it because I was feeling overwhelmed, fear-filled, and realizing that my heart didn’t trust God in a pretty substantial area.
I knew I needed to press in even more and let God work in and through me.
I knew that God had been speaking to me to “Hold Steadfast, Persevere, be Obedient.” But, I didn’t quite feel like these were the words or theme for 2018. And then November 2nd (a day when I was fasting), I felt like God clearly spoke to me “Love is patient“. And that has been rolling around in my head and heart since. The last six months has been one thing to the next that God is working on in me to rebuild and restore the trust that He didn’t damage. – But, even still, these are not the words or themes for 2018.

So, without even intending to, the word “Change” popped into my head out of nowhere as I drove back to DC from Atlanta. I was returning home after visiting my brother and his family for Thanksgiving; and road trips, along with the ocean seem to create space for my brain to think, process, and almost breathe deeply. However, because I always process and mull over things intensely, I began to think through how change was probably more my own self, and not from God. You see, not only am I accustomed to change, I love it (see all my random hair changes). I am used to major life change happening every couple of years, so I wasn’t confident that the word wasn’t just constructed by me. Yet, as I prayed over change, it seemed less of a tangible change (like previously it was new jobs, moving, etc..), and more of this feeling to “Watch and See the change around you. Change that I Am is going to do before your eyes without you controlling it.” – Yet, change just felt like my comfort zone word. So, after a week or so of praying over it, I decided to reach out to three girlfriends, and I asked them to pray for me/over me for my word or theme for 2018. I explained to them that I maybe had the word, but I was really uncertain, so without telling them my word, I wanted them to pray and come back to me and let me know what God spoke to them.

For the record… I very much love this accidental practice of asking other people to pray over/for you for your word/theme for the coming year; I will probably continue it in the future.

Four days later, the first girlfriend, in the middle of a conversation talking about something totally different, suddenly stopped and said, “Ok, the Lord told me that I have to share this word with you. I had that sudden check in my spirit and pit in my stomach.. So I have to tell you the word…” She had been praying for days and felt like she had a word, but also didn’t think it made sense and kept trying to pray for a different word; but in that moment, she was confident that the Holy Spirit wanted her to share it.

Watch. As in, step back and watch, observe and see all that God is going to do with anticipation.

Instantly, I knew that both Change and Watch were so interconnected that they were accurate. Confirmation. The feel descriptions that came with both words rolled one to the other exactly right and I knew that these two words had settled for 2018.

About a day later, the second girlfriend came and said, “I have three words.” (oh gosh)

The first is Re-Make. As in, let God remake you, remake and cultivate your foundation, changing who you are. Which you and He are already doing, but will continue and look different in 2018.
The second is Anticipant. – I don’t know that I’ve ever said the word Anticipant in my whole life. But, you need to be anticipant of what the Lord is going to do. Which leads to the third word, I think both of these words are going to restore Hope in you.
So, the third is Hope. God is going to remake your Hope, and you need to be open and anticipant of what He’s doing.

Change. Watch. Remake. Anticipant. Hope.

Are you noticing a theme?

The next day, the third girlfriend came and said, “I have two words.” (And then the next day said, “Actually, I have a third word, but I didn’t want to tell you the last one and wasn’t sure about it, so I needed to pray over it some more.“)

Open. Open-minded, Open-hearted, Open-handed. All three require dependence on him, abiding in following, and humility/soft heart. Which you’ve been doing, and I’ve seen start being more of a consistent trait in you.
Cultivate. Similar to open in that God has been helping you cultivate a bridge between your head and your heart. But it’s also a 2.0 feeling of cultivating new: community, career, you’re own voice, how you follow Him, hear His voice, and your character.
Pruning. One of my favorite explanations of pruning is that it doesn’t have anything to do with cutting or getting rid of what’s dead or not growing. Pruning has to do with there’s a limited amount of healthy supply and nutrients a plant can divide up. So pruning is all about prioritizing what is healthy and what/who gets your resources to remain healthy and balanced. Maintaining that balance takes cultivating.

In all honesty, the word Pruning gave me a little bit of ptsd from the end of 2013, and the entire year of 2014. Easily the hardest year and a half of my life, and one that took me almost all of 2015 to heal and recover from. Yet, after talking through it, it would seem that this pruning is more about creating space for God to do and move the way He wants to, creating a more healthy me in the process… Not so much the pain involved in severe pruning like 2014 was for me.

Change. Watch. Remake. Anticipant. Hope. Open. Cultivate. Pruning.

One of the things that is I think the most unusual thing about this whole process and these words, is that with each word and the description of the feelings behind them rolled right into each of the next words. I talked more about these words with the three of my girlfriends together after I had all of the words, and it seems pretty clear that this year will be So intense. So challenging. – But not painful in an injury way.

Like, the difference between something being difficult and getting hurt vs being difficult and getting injured. Maybe a better way to say is it will be the type of pain involved when you exercise; you are breaking down muscles, making them sore and tired, but ultimately building them up and becoming stronger with more endurance in the process.

I believe very much that 2018 will be challenging, and full of intense growth, but that it will not be the type of painful that injures me; instead, I think this year will be the type of pain that comes with exercising.

I have passages of scripture for six of the eight the words for 2018:

Change – Romans 11:29 (ISV), 1 Samuel 10:6
Watch – Micah 7:7
Remake – Colossians 3:10
Anticipant – Psalm 40:1
Hope – Romans 4:18
Open
Cultivate – Psalm 90:12, 37:3
Pruning

                       The 8 of 2018.

I cannot even begin to pretend like I know all (or any) of what the Lord will do this year. I wish so much that I could have specifics, know exactly what I’m working towards.

Because I am who I am,
I want to grow faster and do better in this process.

But, that’s actually the point… growing faster and doing better isn’t at all what 2018 is going to be about.

What I do know, is that these eight words are the areas that God is going to work on in me and through me.
He has every intention of rebuilding the areas of my heart where Trust in Him and His faithfulness is broken or simply not there.
He plans to use 2018 to completely change me, and make me more into the woman that He has intended for me to be all along.
He plans to use this year as a banner year to look back on, point to all the things that He did, and because of 2018, I will better be able to give Him honor and glory.
This year, I also have no doubt that I will learn how to hear Him and follow Him better.

But mostly, this year I will learn to Trust Him and believe in His complete Faithfulness.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:6-8

For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,  and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 1:4-8

 

Getting Your Want Back…

A while ago I posted about the intense and intimate season God and I are in… I have had several people ask me what I’ve done to “get” that…

The honest answer: Go through a hard season and press into Jesus at the same time.

I’ve been through rough seasons before… Some way worse and others not as bad. Some I started in a super healthy place, and others I felt like I was dragging and clawing my way into the desert season already starving and dying.

Maybe you feel like you’re in pain and He’s absent or silent.
The passion has turned mundane or boring and bland.
The overwhelming feelings are negative… or maybe just a deep feeling of ambivalence.
Praying is more rote than meaningful.

Let’s be honest here, going through the motions suck (I would venture to use other descriptive words too.. but you get the idea), but when you don’t know what else to do… you sort of just keep plugging forward hoping something eventually gives or sticks and makes you feel differently. (Or maybe that’s just me)

It was probably 4-5 years that I ebbed and flowed between feeling nothing particularly interesting in my spiritual walk, a few moments of connection with the Lord, a few seasons of intense pain and struggling, and then grateful to feel pretty much just “ok” about God and I… But, honestly, nothing particularly fulfilling or satisfying, much less internally all-encompassing and changing.

My heart and soul were definitely in a drought season… and it was sprinkled with some rains to keep the well surviving, but definitely not life abundantly.

Don’t get me wrong, life had these amazing moments, incredibly fun weeks full of laughter and satisfaction; but, deep down, there was no deep and moving elements impacting my relationship with God… It just sorta, was there; plugging along like normal, mostly mundane and comfortably boring, but it was dedicated and persevering none the less.

I hated that.

I was also coming off of an intensely painful season of life, and it took me a long (long) time to find my way back to healthy. – Then it took me an even longer time (almost a full year) to desire to wrestle through how I felt about the idea that “The Best is Yet to Come” or that God wanted me to live a life of abundance that is full of joy… I really had totally forgotten what it felt like to feel overwhelming joy and peace that could only come from the Lord anyway.

Slowly, over the course of about a year and a half (2016 and into the beginning or 2017), I started desiring God again. I wanted to want a close intimate relationship with him again…

Here is where I’m supposed to actually tell you how to get your “want” back with the Lord… How to turn around from your struggles of connecting, to suddenly (realistically slowly) begin to rebuild and make it all better… To find that meaningful connection with God.

But, let’s be honest, as much as I wish I had a three-step process for you or a formula that is simple, the reality is, it just isn’t simple.
My journey isn’t yours.
My season isn’t where you find yourself.
My struggles are not where you are.
What worked for me isn’t a three-step process… It was much more all-encompassing.
The only thing I know is that I had to choose to press into the Lord no matter how I feel. – That was the biggest shift.

I had decided that no matter the time it took me each day, I needed God’s face in mine to deal with this season I was/am in.

Our heart, and our journey is complex; it’s hard and complicated, sometimes overwhelming, and full of sorrows. But, when it all boils down to it, when you’re ready, you have to desire a healthy relationship with our Lord more than you desire Netflix, dinner with friends, or any other activity or distraction. It takes determination, but mostly it takes setting aside of your pride and own selfishness.

If you have decided that in your pain, sorrow or struggle and with all of your feelings that you won’t turn to God and force it all onto Him… Then your pride is still in your way. What have I learned and continued to fight for? God to speak to me. Each day it looks more like an emotional, mental, physical $h!tshow that really isn’t pretty, but over time God is changing me, changing our communication, He is healing and slowly restoring what was broken and hurt.

So, no matter how you feel: You. Need. God. To. Fix. It.

How do you get your want back?
I don’t know, but I can share what I am doing now, and what I have been doing the last few months that HAS actually helped me get my want and desire back from the Lord.

God is speaking to me more in the last few months than He has maybe ever in my entire life. – But, I am also trying to connect with Him each day.

Music.

Sometimes. Eh, no, actually probably most of the time, worship music gives my heart, soul and spirit words to connect my emotions to my Sweet Savior that I just do not have on my own. I feel like in the dark and hard times of life, in the grateful, overwhelmed, and everything in between, worship music fills the air with the spirit and presence of God. When I’m hurting the most, I likely do not have the words to speak, but my emotions need to express anyway, and music creates a way to do that.

I believe that the Holy Spirit meets us in those moments and spaces where life just is hard and hurts… Or maybe we are longing and struggling. When we are trying to press into the Lord more, but just feel lost, abandoned, or maybe just too numb to feel Him there at all. – I think worship music creates a safe place for rest and is a salve to our raw hearts.

Recently I have found that my heart is struggling to choose Faith, Hope, and Love… and peace over anxiety and fear. The most tangible way I have found to calm the fear and anxiety is by playing worship music; when it is playing, my mind is paying attention and reciting the words, and subsequently, I’m not paying attention to the struggling, but rather speaking life into my own mind. It feels a bit like the words are washing over and through me.

So, find new worship music for whatever season you find yourself in, and let it wash over you and speak for your heart. – Ask me if you need some fresh recommendations.

Journaling.

The church I attend, is huge on journaling, taking notes, listing gratitudes, and writing down prayers. – I journal prayers.

Why?: Because we often forget our prayers, and then later lose track of being able to thank God for what He has done, and we are unable to give Him honor and glory later or point to the journey, process and miracles He did along the way.

Journaling prayers also makes me feel less crazy… And my prayers are more focused.

I have realized in the last year alone that I have written prayers on specific days or long forgotten prayers that the Lord amazingly showed up; He answered, He proved Himself faithful, He was present and He carried me through. And yet, I had forgotten all about the prayers and would never again remember them if I hadn’t written them down. Going back and re-reading them, I also didn’t realize I was lining my prayers up ahead of time for a specific reason or season… The level of awe and honor that God got and gets for how He worked in those seasons simply wouldn’t be possible without having written them down.

On the flip side, one of my absolute biggest regrets from the most painful season of my life (so far) was that I did not journal my prayers. I have no record of the nuances of ways that the Lord showed up and was present in my suffering. I cannot tell you the little ways that my Sweet Savior carried me when I was too numb to notice. I actually had to go back and spend some time apologizing to God for this, and now I tell everyone to journal prayers no matter how they feel! – God deserves the credit, but you’ll never see it in the midst of the pain, only afterwards will you find yourself blown away and grateful for what He did and how He showed up.

Praying.

Sounds simple, but prayer matters.. and not just prayer, but prayer on behalf of others, prayer every day for the same thing; repeatedly going to God over and over. Absolutely pray for yourself, but don’t forget petition for others, like pray as if their life depended on it (because it might).

There is just something about the needs and urgency of praying for and over other people that will put a bit more weight behind my prayers. More yearning and desiring for the Lord to answer and His faithfulness to shine through.

Read Yo Bible.

Yes, I know, seems obvious and maybe cliché, and you’re probably doing that already. – Unless you’re in a season like I was a few years ago, and I just Could. Not. Read. My. Bible.

But truly, find a topic, press in.
Find a book and begin – Psalms, Isaiah, Timothy, Ephesians, Philippians, John.. Somewhere, just start.

OR… Find themes/topics and research them.

The last couple of months for me has looked like this:
Find a word/theme,
Look up the definition for the word, then write down all the synonyms,
Biblegateway.com the word – usually in multiple version of the Bible,
Read through ALL of the different passages that have that word in it,
Expand some of the verses to get context or read the whole chapter,
Then, copy the pertinent verses into my journal…
Sometimes copy the passage in my journal in a couple different versions

It takes a long time. It’s worth it.

Fast.

Listen, I. Am. Bad. At. Fasting.

Actually, I’m pretty much just bad at fasting food… Everything else is pretty easy; which means I need to continue to fast food. *facepalm*

Like seriously, I’ve been legit practicing fasting over the last year or so… Thankfully, I’ve gotten significantly better, but dag yo, it’s hard. I’ve had to make clear rules and guidelines for myself to help me learn how to do it better. I’ve done just about everything wrong as I learn how to fast, including the “I actually just starved myself today because I forgot to pray or read my Bible while I fasted.” – Terrible.

It’s called a spiritual practice for a reason… You have to practice it in order to perfect it and get good.

Also, know SPECIFICALLY what you are fasting for. Unless you are an expert at fasting, you need something to focus all your prayers towards.

Have a plan. Set reminders, spend your lunch walking and praying… Make decisions ahead of time to help you succeed on this day of fasting!

Also, it’s helpful to know, often my fasting days are really hard and frustrating days. I get annoyed very easily. – Neat.

Find a Study or Book.

Sometimes, when you just cannot pull it together in your head, finding a study helps. A book or study that someone else has done all the research and reading to craft and create for you on a topic or need. Dig in.

Listen to Sermons.

I happen to think my church has some amazing sermons, on a plethora of topics (no really, you can go back YEARS and look for series’ that sound interesting or speak to your season.)
But, so does Northpoint, Elevation, LifeChurch, Crosspoint, Newspring etc..

Find Community.

Genuine and authentic community makes all the difference. Choose some people and don’t do this alone.

Don’t let your own struggle and pride be what keeps you in this season any longer than you’re supposed to be.

Some of the most healing, restoring, encouraging, and challenging things for me are found sitting around a table with food, drinks and talking through hard, authentic, and complex life things with people I trust and love. It takes vulnerability and it takes courage, but it is worth it. – If you do not have people in your life who can do this or be this for you, let’s talk.

Change Up Your Routine.

Changing the timing of what I do, the place I do things, the cadence to my time with Jesus has also been a huge help. My pastor Mark Batterson always says “Change of pace, plus change of place, equals change of perspective.” – It has absolutely been true for me in this season of learning how to press in each day no matter how I’m feeling.

Find your grit to get back to the Lord.
He will meet you there.

Also, I want you to know, none of these things I list mean that each day hasn’t been hard… Different types of challenges, new graces, new words, emotions and tears.. But, you must find your perseverance and determination to dig in and grip with everything you are to our Lord. Decide you won’t let go until God speaks to you and meets you there. He will meet you there, but never when or how you expect Him to.

Prove your grit and character; you can do it and He is faithful.

While I cannot say with absolute certainty that these methods that sparked my own “want to get closer to God” again will work for you, I’m also willing to bet that you might be stubborn enough to try it for three or four months… And if that is the case, I’m actually confident that your spiritual life will never look the same.

Learn everything you can, steward this time and season well.
Don’t let what you are going through go to waste or be for naught.
Don’t be prideful enough not to need God or anyone else to get through this.
Don’t blame anyone else, even if your situation is someone else’s fault, it is up to you and God to dig in and do the work to get through this season and heal.
Don’t let where you are now prevent you from going to God in all the rawness and authenticity.

Also, for the record, this list of things doesn’t mean that it won’t also be a $h!tshow. – It is likely to still be hard and painful, exhausting, overwhelming, but also full of peace and love. It may be the hardest season of life you have ever fully engaged in… It will be all of the things as you work out your faith and salvation with love, fear and trembling.

For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
– Isaiah 43:19

Don’t Avoid the Awkwardness…

 

I have been thinking a lot lately about awkwardness.

I watch people of all ages actively avoid situations they feel awkward in or aren’t sure how to engage in, and allow their uncertainty to hinder them.

I have started to realize that it seems that often we avoid things that put us in an awkward situation or scenario that we don’t know what to do… So, instead of viewing it as a hard thing we must step into, we avoid.

For example:

  • We get on our phones while we wait for coffee or food.
  • While waiting for a friend to arrive, phones are often our go-to awkwardness avoidance device. (I’m totally raising my hand as a guilty party)
  • The guy won’t ask the attractive, funny woman he is maybe interested in out for coffee.
  • Someone is struggling, but we don’t send them words of encouragement.
  • Even if someone doesn’t “need” help, but it would be nice, we don’t offer just to be kind or make it easier for them.
  • How about just eye contact and good morning?
  • What about a simple hello and asking the cashier how they are doing before you start literally issuing an order at them?

I have started making it a practice of my will to putt my phone away, or leave it in my pocket on purpose when I am out in public or waiting for something. – You know what I have discovered? I will reach for it about every 2 minutes.

So, my coping mechanism is that I have started just checking the time and putting it back away to slowly break myself of this habit.

What I find funny is, when I am at home or at work, I will walk away from my phone and leave it somewhere for hours at a time… When I am hanging out and talking with my friends; good luck getting me to respond to a text quickly…

Why the gap between compulsively checking every 2 minutes and going hours without it even on my body? – My ability to walk away from my phone for hours at a time shows that my struggle is not addiction related but rather situational awkwardness related.

On the flip side, I have been mulling over this idea that as a believer, a follower of Christ, how am I communicating that I love or even just slightly care about them if I never even acknowledge they are there?

“They will know us by our love.”

They won’t because we avoid awkwardness and uncertainty as a preservation and anxiety reducing strategy.

Awesome. So, will they know us by our eye contact and hello at least?
How am I supposed to show love or mild interest for someone else if I seek to reduce my own awkwardness and anxiety first?

In Romans it says that we are to “Practice Hospitality”. – I write more about my thoughts on that here and here.

But, there is a theory that if you want to become an expert or master at something, you must put in 10,000 hours of practice.

Have you spent 10,000 hours on any character discipline at all; let alone hospitality?

  • Have you gone above and beyond trying to hone your skills of engaging well with strangers?
  • Do you work at acknowledging and seeing people in any situation.. forget about “loving them well,” how about even just showing that you see them and they matter?
  • Are you trying to get better at speaking encouragement to those you encounter?

What if you fail?

Are you getting up and starting over? Learn from your mistake, evaluate how you can do better moving forward. It is simple, but does not feel great.

Challenge:

  1. Step into awkwardness this week. Dig down deep inside of you, and decide that today you will do one thing differently.
  2. Decide to willingly be in an uncertain situation and practice handling it with grace and patience.
  3. Choose to talk to the person standing closest to you when in a moment of waiting for coffee, an elevator, your food, the metro.

Tips:
Here are a few self-development tips and topics to help you grow yourself.

Ask two questions of someone, and wait to hear the answer.

If you notice someone showing signs of emotion (joy, anxiety, frustration etc..) Ask them about it…
“You seem pretty upset, are you having a frustrating day?” – Wait for an answer and then offer a real word of encouragement: “I’m sorry, that’s so frustrating! Would you allow me to buy you a cup of coffee or tea to improve your day?”

A few examples of putting a simple spin on normal questions: 

  1. How is your day going?
  2. What do you do for work? – Do you love what you do?
  3. Are you doing what you dreamed of as a kid/teen?
  4. Your style game is spot on today! Where did you get ____ (jewelry or clothing that you particularly like)?
  5. What’s your favorite thing to do/order here? (Depending on if you’re at a restaurant or just in public)

Behind the Bittersweet Story…

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I went to Costa Rica for my 32nd birthday with a few close friends!

But, there’s so much more to the story than the pictures ever can share…

One of the definitions of Bittersweet is “both pleasant and painful”. I have always known what this word means, especially as it pertains to food (such as bittersweet chocolate). However, I do not know that I have ever had such a vivid and personal scenario that is best described as: Bittersweet.

For my birthday, a few of my best friends and I planned for me and a group of my girlfriends to escape to Costa Rica… Secretly, I think they were all tired of me complaining about winter ruining my birthday every year!

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So, we found an amazing deal to go to Vista De Olas in the Mal Pais region of Costa Rica. Beautiful, and full of adventures waiting to be had. It was going to be epic, we had all sorts of fun things planned, and they had a slew of surprises up their sleeves. Jokes about the trip permeated our conversations for months as we planned and dreamed.

As the dates got closer, we all worked harder towards our goals financially, physically, and made lists of all the pictures and things we wanted to experience while in Costa Rica. It was going to be such an adventure, but we had such a fun time of planning and laughing at each other’s plans!

Three days before we were scheduled to leave, one of my best friends, who was also scheduled to come to with us had the worst day of her life. Without giving all the details of her story, her brother passed away in his sleep. It was a day and more than a week full of so much sorrow for her, her family, and loved ones. No one should have to navigate the death of a loved one… and as a best friend, there are no words or actions that can be done to make it better.

Pain and sorrow. That is the best way I can describe it all.

Two days later, her, myself, and another mutual best friend gathered and just sat together and cried. We spent hours sitting in silence, talking, crying, and just staring off into the distance as we processed and just experienced the loss of it all. There is so much pain in this unexpected season, and none of us know how to do this well, so we spent time just talking through our pain and sorrow for each other, and figuring out trying to support and navigate it all.

Pain and sorrow.

The following morning I turned 32; and I boarded an early plane headed for Costa Rica to celebrate my birthday with four beautiful and amazing women that are such good friends of mine… But, also without one.

Bittersweet sorrow.

My heart was overflowing with so much pain and sorrow. I spent the first part of the morning fighting back tears and trying to figure out how to celebrate and experience an amazing and fun trip that was planned by all of us; yet knowing one of my best friends was absent, and going through the worst week of her life… And struggling through the guilt of going without her, even though we had talked through it and she wanted me to go; it doesn’t reduce the sorrow experienced.

I kept finding myself circling my thoughts back around to the fact that we had planned this whole thing months prior, and yet God knew what would happen. So, why had he created this space for me to be separated? – Not in a questioning His goodness, but rather questioning the purpose and process He wanted with me when this space was created.

fullsizerender-1Each morning we spent time just being. Sleeping, reading scripture, journaling, and just sitting still to soak in the view before we went on adventures or to a beach.

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The ocean and sunshine have always been my go-to place to find Jesus and a soul reset. My mind almost instantly finds peace and calmness when I smell the ocean water and hear the waves. I have never had to fight for it before, yet I found myself heart-sick, and struggling to connect with God. I was fighting to find peace and release of my pain and anxiety. I knew what I needed, but I just couldn’t seem to get there.

A couple of nights into the trip, we gathered together on our patio and shared all of the different struggles we were each trying to work through. Anxiety and fear were the common thread between each one of us. The trip was a bittersweet escape for everyone. We spent a great deal of time just sitting silently together, each somewhat reluctant to share our own anxieties, but when all was said and done, we prayed while I looked at the stars.

The sky was expansive, never-ending, and beautiful.. Created and intricate by a God who cares and knows pain and sorrow intimately.

That night, I went to sleep with no change in feelings, but a desperate need to connect with Him.

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When I awoke in the morning, my sorrow for the situation had not changed, but I knew God was ready to spend some time together. I journaled and read scripture for longer that morning, and then swam to the edge of the infinity pool and just waited for God to show up.

He did.

Ever so slowly God replaced my anxiety with peace, He took my overwhelming sorrow and sided it with His Grace and understanding. He didn’t remove the pain and sorrow, but it no longer felt too much. Bittersweet. I could now see the sweetness of this trip without first seeing the pain. God met my needs with Himself, and I knew the pain wasn’t over, but the anxiety was put to rest, and I could now enjoy the trip fully, while experiencing the sorrow fully as well; but not feeling it tainted.

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While the trip is over, the pain and sorrow certainly is not. Death and grief are not simple nor easy. Life is different and changed forever, this next season is not what anyone wanted or planned, but it will be met with more of the Grace, Love and Mercy of our Lord.

Costa Rica was everything I needed it to be. I was able to find rest, to reset my heart, soul, and mind. I had the space to pause and grieve and hurt on behalf of someone else I love so much that words fall short.

God met me in Costa Rica with mercy new and specific for now.

Turning 32 was not what I expected, but it will forever be a marker for me. Bittersweet.

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?

#NeverDull2016 Year in Review

At the beginning of the year I was asked by several people, and challenged by several more to come up with a word or theme for 2016. I am not really a goal setter. I do not have enough organization as a personality to plan things out well…Nor do I enjoy it. I more often than not fake being organized, and typically use all of my organizational capacity for my job.

However, this year I decided to try to pick a word or theme. So, I picked “Never Dull”. It felt like a way of focusing on all the big and little things, noticing how interesting and worth while life can be. After having a few hard years, I needed a year not focused on healing or regrowing, but instead a year focused on the life I have, the good, bad, interesting, growing, and adventures that can be found every day!

Thus, #neverdull2016 became my social media hashtag.

You can read my 2015 year in review posts here.

So, what a year 2016 was!

January

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We had a record-breaking snowstorm in DC, with over 30 inches of snow in 24 hours.
My sister came to visit, and I surprised her with a whirlwind trip to NYC.

February

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Uganda team meetings started! #Ugandaexcited
I studied Romans with a group of other leaders.
I got to tour the Capitol building for the first time.

March

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Threw a bachelorette weekend for one of my best friends.
We continued our Easter tradition and several college best friends came and stayed. – We failed again at going to the top of the Washington Monument lol
I started my big side tattoo!

April

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One of my girls from MI came to visit for her Spring Break.
I went to Philly and got to hang out with some of my favorites.
Threw a super fun fundraising house party for clean water wells in Uganda.
I also started having much more regular meetings with other churches to talk about First Impressions things.

May

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One of my best friends got married! #Howboutthemappels
Our Uganda meetings started happening twice a month!
People continued to join us at the gym haha

June

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We had the 2nd Annual Race for H2Ope Run/Walk fundraising event for our Uganda mission.
I went to Nashville, did a whirlwind visit, and helped her drive back to DC for the summer.
I continued my tattoo process.
I got to help teach dance classes throughout the summer with a super fun group of ladies!

July

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I finished my tattoo just in time for it to heal before going to Uganda!
Our team went to Uganda and dug 2 clean water wells! You can read more about it here.
Our house shifted as one roommate left and a new one began living with us.

August

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I spent the first 8 days of the month in Uganda.
I went on my first date in a year – Had a great time, but it didn’t go anywhere.
We did a presentation at the Fairfax JDC about our work in Uganda.

September

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I went to Disney World for the first time! – With a ton of my family! It was awesome!
Family Dinner Mondays started up again for the fall. – It has been such an amazing weekly time!
College friends had a free weekend, so they came to visit and we all headed to the beach!
A group of us undertook project get Amy’s iron up.. which meant a more strict diet than normal; it sucked and was great all at the same time.
I put all of my roommates on a traveling ban because we travel SO much…. it failed miserably. lol

October

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I went to visit 6 churches to learn from them and deemed it my #tourdechurches – It was amazing!
Our church celebrated its 20th anniversary.
My little brother’s wife had their first baby! – She’s so cute!

November

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I was able to go to Puerto Rico for free cause I have lucky friends haha
I had to say goodbye to friends who followed a God-given dream across the country.
My roommates and I are now fluent in food as a love language.
I finally finished my “corner office” for my consulting work!

December

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This is always one of my favorite months in DC. There’s so much happening, fun parties and sweet time with friends.
I got to spend a lot of time with my family for Christmas, it was amazing.
I got to snuggle my new niece.

Overall

I feel like this year was full of adventures, big, small, and everything in between.

How did this year compare to what I thought it would be? – You can see some of my goals and predictions here.

In some ways I feel like it was pretty spot on… In others it was close, and obviously in some ways it was totally different.

In general, my sentiments are: What a beautiful year it has been.

I find myself grateful. Incredibly grateful that I was able to experience such amazing things this year with so many wonderful and amazing people. I feel rich with friendships and people I love. I am grateful for the adventures and the laughter. What an incredible year full of ups and downs and everything in between.

#Neverdull2016

Practicing Hospitality..

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Showing Hospitality for me often takes the form of sharing food with others.

I have half a dozen blog posts that are half written and not yet posted, full of ideas, thoughts, and things I am working through deep down. But, today, as I love my Monday routine (I’m convinced I’m the only person who loves Mondays), I am mulling over “Practice Hospitality” from Romans 12:13.

I have been contemplating the idea of how so much of my life revolves around practicing hospitality. Learning to get good at it, adjust it, improve weaknesses, and identifying the type of hospitality that each person needs.

My job entirely revolves around this idea of practicing to get good at hospitality, and then helping to lead an entire community towards being good at it as well.

Today I am mulling over the order and process of how passages are put together. I find it fascinating is the types of things put together in scripture… Why are these things linked? What is the importance behind why they are listed like they are?

For example, practicing hospitality is listed like this:

so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:
if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

if service, in his serving;
or he who teaches, in his teaching;

or he who exhorts, in his exhortation;
he who gives, with liberality;
he who leads, with diligence;
he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
give preference to one another in honor;

not lagging behind in diligence,
fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord;

rejoicing in hope,
persevering in tribulation,
devoted to prayer,

contributing to the needs of the saints,
practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Be of the same mind toward one another;
do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.
Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.
Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

I do not think it is happenstance that “practicing hospitality” falls in the middle of this, serving as a transition point. The first half of this seems to be talking to believers, for believers, and how to operate with other believers… But, then after practicing hospitality there’s a pretty clear shift in the conversation.

The second half of this depicts life: The good and bad, the ugly, hard, gritty, un-fun, and difficulty of being in real relationships with people. And then, it ends a few verses later with: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

There are three main points that stand out to me in this passage that seem to be what hinges on overcoming evil with good:

Let love be without hypocrisy
practicing hospitality.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

I think the reason I love these, and see them as anchors within this passage is because they point to real relationships. The beauty and struggle, the intentionality, and how authentic relationships are supposed to look.

Let’s be real: Life. Is. Hard.

But, life is easier if we love well, practice hospitality towards one another, rejoice and celebrate, and weep with those around us.

Life becomes less hard, less sucky, and more tolerable, enjoyable, and fulfilling when we travel it together.

We want real relationships, hard conversations, people who make us grow and allow us to fail miserably. There’s nothing quite like deep meaningful relationships to boost our spirits. Life feels a bit more manageable when we enjoy dinners, laughter, and silence with people who extend us grace and mercy throughout hard seasons because it creates a safe place for us to heal from wounds of our past. – Whether they are of our own doing, or at no fault of ours.

Life is hard, but practicing hospitality is important for everyone to learn how to do well; it is a skill that needs cultivation. Each person has their own flavor of hospitality, but most do a poor job of trying to hone their own style of hospitality to convey love without hypocrisy, rejoicing with those that are rejoicing and weeping with those that are weeping.

We must all get better at hospitality.

True, authentic, welcome to the real life of me, type of hospitality; not the fake Pinterest, better homes and gardens, Martha Stewart style hospitality.

The thing I love about this passage in Romans is it also prevents selfishness. Loving without hypocrisy, practicing hospitality, rejoicing with those that rejoice, and weeping with those who weep etc..etc.. prevent us from focusing on ourselves. – We must focus on others.

Life and community suck less when we are focused on others. We stop feeling alone when we enter into the ups and downs of the life of those around us.

People find hope and a place to learn how to be healthy if we live like this passage in Romans calls us to fulfill.

I love that my job requires me to be intentional about understanding hospitality, learning about it, and then creating space to practice it both professionally and personally.

How do you practice hospitality?

What does that look like for you?

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More often than not, hospitality and loving well looks like me freely giving my time and sharing food or drinks with someone!