Challenge Accepted

God gave us hearts, He gave us souls. He gave us personalities and lives, some pleasant and idyllic…but some complicated and tragic. And some of us teeter on the fence, perilously suspended somewhere between fulfillment and discontent. Which are you?

We can choose to conform to all of who others want us to be—demand us to be—or we can choose to be ourselves and not worry so much about who we think we ought to be.

Some of us are like square pegs, and we may never ever fit into the round hole.

And wouldn’t that be nice?

To flee from the formulas, the agendas, the criteria. To breathe and be with God and for God…and not let the people be who we want to please, but instead seek contentment with the Creator? To love like Him and show love like Him and be love like Him.

My heart wants to dance on the white sands of night beaches and be free of alarm clocks and lists. My soul wants to rip the anxious ties that bind it and explore creativity with reckless abandon.

And where do we square pegs fit in this world of ambition and competition and the aspiration of enough-ness…when all we want is to simply be?

Just be.

I know I have responsibilities and I will not desert them, but they do not need to overwhelm my every hour of my every day.  My lungs needs space, my heart needs to maintain its rhythm, and my mind needs rest.

And so I will focus on what needs to be done—but at my own pace, with my own skill, and rising to my own expectations…listening to the voice of reason and not losing sight of who I am.

Just. be. you.

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Let Joy Win

I’m doing laundry today. You know…my favorite thing. Just kidding! While my hands are busy, my mind has been engaged in a gentle spin of a thousand thoughts.

Despite a list of challenges I’ve encountered in the last month or two, this morning I woke up feeling energized and excited for the week ahead. Such a gift— a new dawn, a new day…and I was feeling good. Then, as I went to make my coffee and start the first load of clothes, the memories of those recent hardships tried to cancel out all those positive thoughts.

Thankfully, some kind advice from a friend earlier this week came to mind—the reminder to “take it all in stride”. Being able to accept and tackle difficulties well is truly a life skill, and one I have been able to accomplish more and more. But it takes practice. Instead of dwelling on all the negatives, I instead chose to shake off all those things weighing on my mind and trust in whatever the outcomes may be.

And just like that, joy wins.

Throughout my life as far back I can remember I’ve had my fair share of trials, as well as accomplishments. We all have. We all face obstacles that can feel annoying or insurmountable. They can threaten our joy. But we all have a list of things we can be proud of (and if you think you don’t, I challenge you to make a list of wins in your life to remind you of your awesomeness). It’s important to recall the good stuff.

In this last half of my life (because a few weeks ago the doctor declared I was middle-aged), I am never more thankful than now for the fact that God can see through to our hearts. He knows when we feel overwhelm…He knows what we can handle, and He will give us what we need to persevere. He is available to us through prayer, and His word will equip us through even the hardest of times.

We have that access to Him all because of Jesus and what He sacrificed for us. We are loved—YOU are loved—THAT much. The creator of the universe is our constant companion. We are not alone in our trials, and the love of God–the joy He offers–will carry us through, if we just seek it out.

So hold your head high, my friend. Follow the loving path of the One who loved you first. Remember your strengths and focus on that. You don’t need to dwell on the past…and you don’t need to fear the future. It is waiting for you with joyful anticipation, because with God by your side you can handle anything.

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“…Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” -James 1:2-3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16

 

You Are Significant

Do you even know? Can you see it? That glow inside of you that the world sees?

You’re doing all the things. You’re doing the best you can, and you’re pouring out your heart and soul into what you think matters.

And you think no one knows, that no one can even begin to know how hard you work…how high you strive…you may think no one knows what you’re up against or what you’ve battled to get to where you are now.  What they think doesn’t matter…there’s only one opinion that matters, and that’s of the One who made you…who formed you into the special person that you are.

You plug in each day, you try your best, and you keep showing up. You are amazing. Your grit may not be noticed by the passersby, but something within you still says, “Just keep going. You’ve got this.”

So, you persevere. Because the alternative is giving in to self-pity—and there is no time for that. You’ve got bills to pay and people to feed and laundry to do and lives to inspire.

The world needs you…needs your voice, your love…your joy.

Your light is shining for all to see…can’t you see it? I hope you do.

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Break Time

Sometimes we need a break from being courageous. Just a little one. Just the simple gift of some needed space to breathe and grow. Then, once we’ve had time to get comfortable with our newest stretch marks, we can get back in the saddle again and try out our newest roar of courage.

Who are the courageous?

All of us. 

We are all getting up every day, putting on our badge of courage as we leave our homes. We go off in our cars to days unknown, filled up with hope, fueled up with faith, and fired up with courage. You may not even realize it, but it’s there residing inside of you.

Ambition rules our agenda, but courage leads us through it. It’s how you get through the day. Some of us don’t leave the house—some work from home, some keep company with pain from illness…some face the day fighting battles beyond the ordinary. Yet we are all bravely facing the things which propel us forward in this contest of life.

In some way, big or small, we all march on. We do the hard things. We say hello to the stranger at the grocery store. We sweat just a little (or a lot) under the pressure from our jobs. We blunder through social gatherings. We enter the hospital doors for one more treatment. We give our kids the tough love they need to grow into responsible, kind adults. At the cafe, we ask for a table for one. We show up to write. We show up to comfort. We show up to help out.

We. show. up.  That takes courage.

But even the brave need respite from the battles we face each day. Runners needs recovery days. Workers need weekends. Mamas need a day out with her friends. Dads need their time in the hammock. Kids need to play.

The warriors that we are need rest to gain strength and perspective. In the reflection of the place where courage rose, wisdom is found. When the hard thing is done, recuperation is needed for the mind, the soul, and the heart.

So breathe today. Deeply.

Forget about the scary thing that lies ahead of you for just a little while. Don’t let it rob you of your sleep. Don’t let it steal your confidence. Don’t let it blind you from the beauty that is within your current view. Seek out the person who is waiting for you to connect with them. Drink in the scene of the rolling hills that may surround you, the trees… and the listen for the sounds of the red-tailed hawks screeching among their feathered families. Shake off your your burdens and give them to the Lord. He is there to take them from you (Matthew 11:28-30).

As you rest, recall how far you’ve come and tally up your triumphs. Remember at the core who you are and tell yourself it’s okay to take a break for however long you need. You’re not perfect, you don’t always have to be the strong one, you’re allowed to stop and breathe.

And then, once you catch your breath…when you’ve reflected, and begin to make new plans (or shore up the ones you’re still feeling called to pursue)…get back into the hard things that make you stronger and wiser and able. The world needs you. Stay strong. Carry your courage all the day long. And remember you are loved just as you are, brave one.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

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Crushed By Gentleness

In a harsh world, where everybody is hyper-focused on their hustle, there are those of us who need the gentle space…a cavern of affectionate calmness. The need to be wrapped in rock-solid arms of comfort. The desire to be so still you can hear the heartbeat of the one who holds you.

We, who fear of not being good enough, who work so hard not to be underestimated but still believe we never seem to come up to par, just need to be completely crushed by the gentleness of arms that will hold us up until the tide of self-doubt and fear recede. When the waves rush over us, the busyness, the overwhelm, when we are barely breathing…we need the solace and the sympathy….we need a savior’s rescue.

It could be a vice we turn to, sometimes friends and loved ones answer the call…or it could be Jesus. I want to choose Jesus. The One who rescues every time. The One who is a refuge. He is waiting, and all I have to do is call on Him. He cares not if I am the best or the strongest or the one who has all the answers. He cares not if I am thick or thin, impulsive or cautious, ready or not. He just loves me so…and he loves you, too.

 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. -Matthew 11:29

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Hope Says…

I know hope.

Hope says, “Give me that challenge…I’m not afraid.”

Hope says, “I’ll persevere, and I’m not going to give up.”

Hope says, “I may fail today, but I’ll show up again.”

Hope says, “You can’t catch me…wait—maybe you can.”

Hope says, “Let me take your breath away.”

I know hope, and hope knows me.

We’re inseparable.

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An Image of Frustration

A man is shaking his fist at the indigo sky.  The horizontal lines gripping his forehead cram together as if it’s stuck in a trash compactor. The tight corners of his mouth dive down deep to meet his jawline. Tears pool and threaten to sprint past his hollow cheeks, dripping onto his shirt…his eyes are hauntingly desperate, his brow defeated with sweat.

But I see his strength in the bottom lip that quivers, like a table about to buckle because it’s been loaded with too much weight. As he struggles to yield to the hope which still exists within him, he breathes deeply and closes his eyes.  This torrent too shall pass.

For all those who are frustrated today, hang in there. Breathe. Pray. Choose to shake it off and focus on something that will make you smile. Or even better, something that will maybe make you laugh. Look for it.

The Lord says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

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