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Life

Learning to Love Life

February 23, 2016

At times I can really struggle to enjoy life. It’s pretty easy for my eyes wander to what is going on around and let the goodness in my own life slip right through my hands. To compare, decide how my life doesn’t measure up, and find myself in total despair – all in the matter of three thoughts.

Sometimes I can even recognize that destructive voice in my head for what it is and still listen to it. In those moments, it’s almost as if I’m the door holder for that thief to come right on into my space and steal what valuables I have. If I’m not intentional to move myself out of that cycle, I feel totally stuck, slipping from comparison to despair to utter defeat.

I’d love to say that those tendencies don’t affect me today, but they still do. Everyday there are temptations to allow what isn’t in my life to trump all that is. And it always begins with a thought.

But the other day, the three of us were on a walk through our neighborhood. The sun was gently setting and Eloise was tucked in my carrier snug against my chest taking her short catnap. I didn’t realize Mark and I had stopped talking because in my mind I was having a whole dialogue with myself about all that makes me thankful and alive today.

Out of the stillness, I turned to Mark and said, “You know, I really love my life.”

I let out a big, thankful exhale because that statement was so true for me. It wasn’t some prophetic profession in an effort to move myself toward a desired reality. It was a declaration that I have walked into some tangible breakthrough.

I feel more secure in my skin and more thankful for my life than I have ever settled into before. I’m not as antsy to move ahead to prove something. I’m patient in the process today, where I am and what God is doing. This has been a major transition and one that certainly didn’t just happen. Thinking about it, there are some things I started doing over the last few years that have moved me to a more rested place.

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One major thing I did was take back permission from the outside world for my life. This is huge. If we are living with a set of expectations of what will make us happy based on what must happen to, for, or around us, we will never be happy. If our enjoyment is only contingent on the external, whether it be applause, promotion, or abundance, we will always feel dissatisfied and disappointed. Our permission to live and enjoy life cannot be based on external voices, but on the inner one that reminds us, “You are enough and today is a gift.”

I began really celebrating others, especially when it was something I longed for in my life. I decided to live from the place of abundance, not lack – believing there is always enough. Always. The people around me became reminders not of how I am missing out or not measuring up, but of what is possible for my life. Their victories cheer me on to believe more for myself. Their breakthroughs prophetically speak hope for what can be in my own life.

I say thank you, a lot. Thankfulness lets us enjoy what is presently happening in life.

I take control of my thoughts. I shut off that tempting voice which beckons me to make external circumstances a megaphone for my own inadequacy. Though I am still learning to be quicker in this, what’s helpful is identifying my rhythms and triggers. Knowing when it may be easier to give in allows me to be extra aware that I need to speak out truth.

I relaxed, realized time is finite, and that I might as well enjoy today for all that it is. Maybe becoming a mom did this or maybe just getting older. But I am acutely aware of the preciousness of time, the false guarantee that I have tomorrow.

And finally, I’m taking risks to move forward in some deeply planted dreams in my life. I’m breaking out of stagnancy and each step is reviving me. Pushing past my own fear reminds me not only that I am alive, but that life is exciting, risky, and beautiful.

Life

Current Thoughts on Mamahood

February 9, 2016

As I write this today, I am tucked away in a booth in the back corner of Panera, all by my very self. No babe, no husband, just me, my green tea, and this little corner. This is rare and I am thankful for the quiet respite to write out a smattering of thoughts on mamahood today.

I wasn’t someone who grew up so readily anticipating the day I would become a mom. But I did always wonder what in the world it would be like to experience such depths of love packed into one tiny life who is part of me.

As my due date approached, I would get lost in my thoughts of holding this little one who I got jabs and kicks from all day and night. I wondered what she would look like, how it would be to take care of her, and what I would think as she reflected my good and my bad. Then, a few months ago, our little Eloise Haven came and changed our world forever.

Some of the best things that have happened in my life since having Eloise are the smallest and most hidden from other eyes. What brings me joy with her has nothing to do with the applause of the outside. My experiences don’t need validation or participation by others. This I find extremely freeing, probably because it hasn’t always been that way. But it is incredible to experience joy that is tangible in the simplicity of a moment, not dependent on anything external or additional.

I also find that I worry less about lots. I don’t fret over certain things that I used to because I honestly don’t want to give my time away to them. I am extra aware in this season that the time I do have is both precious and finite. So I find myself more intentionally choosing what I give my thoughts and hours to, steering away from time-suckers and toward what brings life and value. And realizing that the difference is a simple matter of my choice.

On a totally different note, I find myself utterly amazed how any person could lose as much hair off their head, and yet still have hair, as I am currently experiencing. The sheer quantity is unbelievable. I am unsure when this hair-purge will cease, though I am hopeful I won’t find myself with the level of fuzz atop my head currently being modeled by our sweet Eloise. But I realize only time will determine this one.

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One daily ritual we’ve been doing since the beginning is looking at Eloise and telling her a few things about who she is. Since the world will try to tell her so much of who she is not, we’re intentionally speaking into her identity. Among other things, I tell her that she is brave, she is kind, she is strong, and she will see God’s kingdom come. I had this moment early on, though, when I found my words being a boomerang of both truth and challenge to me. As I told her who she was, I found those words channeling back to me as reminders of my own identity. But I also found them asking if I am being brave and if I am playing my role in God’s kingdom.

Out of all that has happened in our world being turned upside down, this one experience has realigned me most suddenly and drastically.

And so, today I would say mamahood has surprisingly empowered me to walk more as the person I know God has created me to be. I realize that the trails I blaze by my own bravery will propel my daughter farther into those depths of identity, intimacy, and wonder-filled adventure with God.

That is equal parts exciting and terrifying. But so freaking exhilarating.

Really, I am so thankful and so in over my head. It’s probably where I should pitch my tent more often.

 

Photo credit: Kim Daniels

Life

How to Navigate the Unexpected (Part 2)

January 29, 2016

The sun isn’t up yet so it’s still pure darkness outside. What I love about this time of day is that though my eyes see darkness, I know that the breaking dawn is moments away. That fireball of a sun is about to peak its first breath of red over the edge and declare in its small yet bold way that a new day has arrived. Last year all I wanted to know was when that new day would come.

Some days Mark and I woke up and prayed like wild people who were confident that those seeds of ours would move mountains. We did our best to stay focused and hopeful, wondering if each day held our suddenly that would transition ourselves out of that season. Other days we didn’t talk much to God or each other. We just made it.

If you’re in a season like that, I know it’s not easy. Below are some more thoughts on how to navigate it though none of them say how to fix it. We want to be moved right out the season and sometimes we simply cannot be. We’re longing for the miraculous parting and instead feel we are merely wandering in the endless wilderness.

So how do we keep breathing and keep moving?

Get alone with God and be brutally honest. This may sound contrary to the final point in my previous post, but both are necessary. We need safe space with God where we can drop the religious stuff that makes us feel more presentable to him and allow ourselves to be honest about exactly how we feel. Days after Mark lost his job, I found myself in Nashville for my celebratory birthday weekend away. With journal in hand, I sat on the hotel bed and poured out my raw, tear-filled words on paper. This practice safeguards us from throwing our anger and disappointment onto those around us. God can handle our unfiltered truth.

Identify your pillars. Pinpoint the promises that speak to you with such conviction that you will cling tightly to them no matter how long the storm rages around you. For me, it is straight out of Psalm 27 – “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I will see. I will see. I repeated it over and over again throughout my days, reminding both myself and God. I still do.

Remember, this is a season.  A wise voice told this to me early on so I would know that this wouldn’t last forever. Mark would find another job. We would get settled in a new rhythm and it wouldn’t always be the mess it was for those months we waited. Some days, this is the best we can hold to. We may not always have the strength to hope for more or be confident of how things will turn out. On those days, reminding yourself that this is a season can help you get out of bed and keep moving forward with the day’s demands.

Take a deep breath and wait on God to bring forth life. Faith isn’t required to see what we have lost or recognize what could have been. What demands our faith is to believe for what will be despite our present circumstances. And this is the promise of God alive in our midst. That no matter how chaotic or dire situations may feel, God will bring life from within the upheaval. Oftentimes it is out of the mess and uncertainty that our breakthrough springs up. The promise of his resurrection power is that out of what we are convinced is dead and buried comes life.

 

Photo credit: Patrik Nygren

Life

How to Navigate the Unexpected (Part 1)

January 27, 2016

Let’s imagine we’re having coffee this morning. I’m definitely drinking a latte, whole milk please. You have your drink of choice in hand and we’re sitting down in two chairs in the corner of some local joint.

You’re grappling with an unexpected circumstance in your life – because who isn’t? Maybe you’re disappointed because of what didn’t happen. Or angry at the reality of what did. Or feeling lost with no idea how to move forward from here. I just finished telling you my story from 2015 and you ask what I’ve learned to help you navigate through what’s pretty trying today.

Well, below are my thoughts. They’re not complete or perfect nor do they necessarily apply to your circumstance. But they’re what I would tell the Caroline of a year ago who felt hurt and angry and completely lost. If she sounds like a familiar friend to you, maybe you could use some of these words too.

So here’s what I’d say…

There’s an opportunity here to intentionally steward the unexpected. What I mean is that the season doesn’t have to be defined by chaos, confusion, and continued wallowing until a breakthrough comes. Instead, it carries the opportunity to take us to deeper dependency on God, community, and his promises. It could grow and shape us. But we have an active role in determining the outcome of the unexpected. Our small, daily choices matter.

Find who God is in it. Through whatever happened, God has invaded ordinary life and completely disturbed your plan. It happened and it’s okay. It will also happen again. The opportunity is for you to focus less on what happened and more on who is with you. The question is not if God is doing something. He is. Nor is the question necessarily what he is doing, because it may not be the time to understand. With the journey of faith being centered on knowing God, the best question to ask is, who he is revealing himself to be in the midst of this? Write it down, hold tightly to it, and let it be a source of stability in the middle of what may feel like sinking sand today.

Fight the urge to fix. We live in a culture that is obsessed with fixing problems and managing pain. Slogans, commercials and culture shout that all we need to do is fix what is broken. But resist the urge to do that. Because if you move too quickly to solve your problem, you may in fact eliminate yourself from experiencing the actual purpose of why you are even here. Not all brokenness demands our interference. Sometimes the wisest move we can make is to not move at all but allow ourselves to be present in our pain.

Remember that the destination does not shape, change or grow us. The process does. It will always be in the process where we will become more of the person we are longing to be because life is the process. We are easily fixated on this ideal destination we’re aiming to arrive at while all along Emmanuel, God with us, is in the unfolding process of today. So if the unexpected flung you smack dab in the middle of a messy process, it’s okay. You’re likely right where you will change and grow the most.

Intentionally give an offering of thanksgiving and praise to God. This is when we respond despite feelings and press into faith for more than what we see. This is when we say even with what happened, I will thank you for what you are doing and I will believe you for what is coming. I remember just days after Mark lost his job, we found ourselves home the night of his company’s holiday party. We desperately wanted to wallow in the loss by curling up on the couch watching Netflix to pass the hours. But instead we responded contrary to our feelings. We put on worship music, got our faces to the ground, and cried out some guttural prayers. Saying “thank you” in the midst of unexpected loss or uncertainly is a precious offering to God and one that can only be given when we have no idea where or how to move from here.

More to come later this week…

 

Photo credit: Neo_II

Life

When the Unexpected Interrupts Our Best Plans

January 25, 2016

I remember the night well. It was New Years Eve 2014. The clock had struck midnight and we were back at our apartment with some of our best friends. We each poured our drink of choice and stood on the furniture to usher in the shining new year with declarations of what would be. With glasses raised high and voices loud, we agreed that 2015 would be the year we would see dreams come true. I remember watching Mark as he said, “This year I’m declaring a new job, a better job!”

We all let out a joy-filled “Amen!” and clinked away.

Fast forward to two days later, on January 2, 2015, when I missed a phone call from Mark. I was walking to the elevator of my friend’s building when I listened to his voicemail.

“Hey. Can you please call me back as soon as you can?”

Please. That please struck me as odd, out of place. We don’t really do pleases in voicemails. I rode down the elevator to the first floor wondering what could be up. Walking out of the building and crossing the street to my car, I called him back. I’m pretty sure he picked up before the phone even finished its first ring.

“Hi.” He sounded short, quiet in his response.

“Hey,” I replied. “What’s up? Are you okay?”

“No. I’m not.”

“Okay…what’s going on?” I figured the sooner he told me, the sooner I could fix it.

“Well, I lost my job. I just left.”

My body swelled with emotion. Opening my car door, I’m sure I made one of those totally confused faces as if to say, “I think I misheard you.” But before I could reply asking him to repeat himself he capped it off with, “I’m done. Box packed up and I’ve walked out. It’s effective immediately.”

“Whatttttt?” I trailed off. I was so confused. He had gone to work that morning in an effort to get some extra work done before we got on the road that afternoon for a belated Christmas with his family.

Both of us were totally blindsided and unable to process what in the world was happening.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m just driving now, not sure where to go. I may call some people to see if anyone’s free to meet.”

Good, I thought. Trusted voices to help us navigate this news sounds like what we need. However, no one ended up being available and Mark headed to mass at a local Catholic Church, one of the only places open for visitors on a Friday afternoon.

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Today I laugh thinking back to that day, not because it’s funny but because it’s such evidence that our life is scripted by a hand much greater than our own. And the plans God has are so intentional. We never saw that day coming and it took us a long time to come to grips with what had happened.

I also laugh because we had just spent the last five days going through Michael Hyatt’s “Best Year Ever” and Mark losing his job less than 48 hours into our new year was definitely not part of the plan. 2015, our year for a fresh start after a tiring 2014, had taken its first hit before we had ever written the dang number on a piece of paper.

Later that same afternoon I told a friend, “This right here is the irony of faith.” What I meant was that despite the best dreaming and planning, things rarely play out their course the way we’ve plotted. Dreaming is a beautiful practice of awakening our faith and soaring higher than reality would allow. But while dreaming ignites, it does not guarantee.

So often in faith, to reap the greater harvest, the best-year-yet kind of manifestation, the pathway is humility, getting on our knees, letting things die, and finding ourselves more dependent than ever before.

I know that our story is not unique. All the time the unexpected disturbs. Despite best intentions, things do not go as pictured. So the question is, what do we do when God completely interrupts what we’ve carefully planned and hoped for? What’s our response when the answer to our prayers takes us in the exact opposite direction of where we’re trying to head? And how do we deal with disappointment, frustration, and total confusion?

Stick around this week. We’ll talk about how to navigate the unexpected when God interrupts our best plans.

 

Photo credit: Marcus Spiske

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