Be a Cheerleader, not a Competitor

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Ever notice how sometimes themes tend to run through your life? Lately, a theme of running in your own lane has been weaving its way through several areas of my life. A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Q Conference in Nashville with a group from my city. Honestly, any other conference I go to from now on will be judged against Q. It was hands down one of the best conferences I have attended. Perhaps because over a period of 2.5 days, we heard approximately 50 different speakers. Talk about information overload! I am still trying to process it all.

Annie F. Downs gave a short talk the first morning and it hit me like a ton of bricks. She talked about how so often we live our lives like we are playing Chutes and Ladders instead of like we are playing Solitaire.  When we see someone else roll the dice and get to climb up the ladder we are jealous or envious and if we were honest, when we see others slide down the slide, perhaps there is a moment of where we think we aren’t doing terrible after all. We spend a lot of time and energy comparing everyone else’s lives to our own. We watch them succeed or fail and judge our own progress against theirs.

The thing is, as Annie said, our hands don’t look like everyone else’s. We were given a unique set of gifts and talents and entrusted with passions and skills. God has put a call on each of our lives only we can fulfill. And He knew what He was doing. (this hit me straight in the face). When we spend our time comparing or wishing our lives looked like so and so, we are doubting God’s perfect call on our own life. Perhaps we question why others have success and ours seems ever elusive.

For me, I struggled so much with watching other people seem to be living out their passion and doing things they love while I felt left out and left behind. This is not the life God has called us to live. We walked out of the room after Annie’s chat and were each given a card to remind us to play our own game. As I have been mulling over the card and her talk, I have come to a couple major aha moments.

  1. We are called for such a time as this. If you have ever listened to Ann Voskamp speak, you have probably heard her refer to the Esther generation and how we were called for such a time as this. As Christian women, I believe God has called us to the work of love and reconciliation and restoration.  This has to start with us. We have to stop competing against each other and start cheering each other on. We have to be agents of love in our families, our friend groups, our churches, and our communities. We have to stand up and say enough. My call is my call and your call is your call and guess what, there is enough room in this world for both.
  2. Her success does not mean my failure. This has been a tough one for me. It’s so easy to view life like a pie with finite slices. If she gets a slice, it feels like there is less for me. But the thing is, there is an endless number of pies. Instead of viewing others’ success as taking up some of ours, lets celebrate each other. Let us encourage and cheer and support and motivate. For much of the last couple years, I have felt so stuck. Unsure of what was next or what to do with the dreams in my heart. And then Annie told us to do the best with the life we have been given and it was like a light-bulb. I have felt stuck because I have been watching others tackle their dreams and felt like I was getting left behind. When God was simply asking me to put my dreams in His hands and trust He had a perfect plan for my life.
  3. We all need cheerleaders. After Annie’s talk, we were supposed to talk with the people we came with about what we felt our lanes were-where or what was God calling us? I told the two ladies I was with where I feel God is leading me and they were both so supportive. When we got home, one of them texted me and said ok, what now? How do we move forward? It was a moment I realized, we all need cheerleaders in our lives. And we all need to be cheerleaders in the lives of those around us. I mean, can you imagine what life would be like if we were all cheering each other on as we pursue our dreams? My dreams aren’t a threat to hers nor are hers to mine. Together we can encourage, cheer, and motivate each other towards the life God is calling us to live.

How can we do the best with the life we have been given? I believe it starts with running our own race and cheering on those around us instead of viewing them as competitors. I believe it starts with vulnerability and community and understanding the world is full of pies, waiting for us all to partake. It happens when we become cheerleaders to each others’ dreams. So friend, join me in cheering on those around you and enjoying pie all around!

Put Down the Expectations

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My word for the year was authenticity. And right now, being authentic means admitting to myself (and ya’ll) my expectations set me up for a dark dive into struggle.  See, buying your dream farmhouse with dreams to fix it up is very different from living in said dream farmhouse in need of fixing up. Pinterest boards full of Farmhouse decor are exciting, but ants covering your counters and bathrooms not working are not. I have spent hours aimlessly wandering or doing nothing because I am so overwhelmed by it all. Perhaps though the aimless wandering gave me ample time for much needed soul-searching. I realized in all this expectations can set you up for massive disappointment. Reality is often different from what we picture or what we see on other’s newsfeeds and Pinterest boards. And when your expectations and reality clash, it can all come crashing down.

As I have sorted through these feelings and tried to get to the core of it all, I realized so much of it comes from wanting the finished product without the hard work. It’s wanting to post a perfect picture of your pristine kitchen when the reality is three days of dirty dishes, unpacked boxes, and ants. It’s feeling like you need to fit into society’s version of acceptable instead of giving yourself grace because you just moved, have a toddler, and between you and your husband work outside your house 100+ hours a week. It’s carrying it all on your own when we were never called to those burdens. So here are three things I am working on as I reset my priorities and put my soul-searching into action.

 

  1. Accept help. Seriously, unpacking is the worst. But when your mother-in-law offers to help you unpack the rest of your kitchen, take her up on the offer. No one is going to take away your super mom status because you couldn’t do it all by yourself.  This has been really hard for me because I tend to be pretty independent, but I have had to admit I can’t do it all. I am still working on asking for help from others, but baby steps.
  2. Unplug from Pinterest. And any other social media site making you more overwhelmed. I gave up pinning farmhouse decor and stopped scrolling through my app aimlessly.  Someday my house may look like one of those pictures, but for now, it looks like a tornado came through and left a wake of empty boxes, random clothes, and nonperishable food which happens to be all over my kitchen.  There is no magic wand I can wave to make my house perfect and right now I have to be okay with the “character” of the house.  I have to settle in and live there and not feel like because the walls aren’t painted or the house isn’t perfect, I am somehow less than those around me. This is tough. Comparing our reality to other people’s highlight reels is oh so easy.
  3. Give Grace. As I mentioned, I have spent a lot of time soul searching as I have dealt with an onslaught of emotions surrounding our move. I am Type A to the max and grace is hard for me. It’s hard for me to accept and it’s been hard for me to give. I honestly think so much of my struggle comes back to beating myself up for not meeting some impossible standard I set for myself. But we bought a house in need of a lot of work and the work has humbled me. It has caused me to cry and to laugh. It has caused me to get on my knees and to realize the life Jesus is calling me to is so different from the life I have been living. Jesus doesn’t ask us to get our house in order first. He asks us to come to Him and rest. To accept His grace. His stamp on us says we are bought, we are covered, and we are redeemed. He says His burden is light. I preach this message a lot, but for some reason letting it sink into my own heart has been harder. The burden I have been carrying around felt like a ton of bricks. It felt like expectation and perfection and pressure and the need for my life to appear put together. The more honest reality is both my house and my soul are a disaster. They are both in desperate need of grace. One for physically being left empty for years and now housing 2 working adults and 1 messy toddler and one for spiritually being starved for years. Neither will get to their full capacity on their own. Both will require work and grace and patience and acceptance.

Friend, Jesus invites us to come to Him with all our burdens and weariness and He will give us rest. Are in a season in desperate need of rest? Do you struggle to give yourself grace in our picture-perfect world? Let’s trade our heavy burdens and Instagram filters for the burden of a Savior who is light and life and unconditional love. Seems like a better deal to me.

 

 

Stop Striving and Start Seeking

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Every once in a while I miss reading actual books because you cannot highlight and write in audio books. I am a highlighter of books. If you ever borrow one from me, they will have marks and double underlines and “yes” and “Amen” written in them. When I switched to the world of audio books because I have a toddler who refuses to sit still, I find I miss being about to go back and reference lines or quotes from the books. Occasionally, something hits me so hard, I hit pause, reverse, and hit pause again to write down a line. Near the end of one of my most recent “reads”, I did exactly this because the line the author wrote and was now reading hit me square in the face. The entire book, entitled “Breaking Busy” by Ali Worthington, was incredible. If you are an over-scheduler, Type A personality like myself, I highly recommend it.

“You do not have to strive endlessly to be good enough or to find God’s plan for you. When you stay focused on God, you will not miss your destiny. “

Oh sweet friend how those words washed over me like water on the ocean shore! As tears welled up in my eyes, I realized this was exactly where I had been all these years. Striving to be good enough. Striving to be worthy enough. Striving to fit in. Striving to reach a dream which felt so far out of reach. And in all my striving, I lost focus on the One who loves me unconditionally. Who died on the cross and opened His arms to me with no strings attached. Those of us who grew up in the church could probably quote Jeremiah 29:11 forwards, backwards, and in our sleep. It’s one of those verses we just like to call on for all variety of situations. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  But so many times we stop there. We stop with the promise – God has plans for us. And somewhere, we get all caught up in trying to figure out what those plans are and how to accomplish them. We add to our resumes, to our knowledge, to our calendars, all in an effort to pursue this ever elusive plan God has for our lives.

But what if we are completely missing the point? Perhaps the verses we really need to memorize forwards and backwards are the ones following Jeremiah 29:11. The next two verses say, “12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  God promised us a future, but it is not a future we are to strive for on our own. Our future plans come when we seek and find God, when we call on His name, when we spend quiet moments in prayer. He never intended for us to move ahead on our own. The verse doesn’t say I promised you a future and the only way to get there is to have the perfect resume, the perfect network, and the perfect wardrobe.

No, sweet friend, God is calling us to a different path. A path often unknown and perhaps a bit scary. A path which for me has been a struggle to find because it is a path I cannot control. I cannot work hard enough, hustle fast enough, volunteer long enough to get there. I won’t find my way on my own. My dreams will lay in shattered pieces around a broken soul, tired by the striving, until I sit at the feet of Jesus and offer Him it all. Until I seek Him with my whole heart. Only then will the path start to make sense. Only then will my feet begin to walk and skip and run again.

If you, like me, struggle to be quiet in a world calling us to strive harder, I encourage you today to start small. Sit in quiet for one minute. Reflect on Jeremiah 29:12-13. And together, lets stop striving and start seeking.

 

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Dead Begin to Rise

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When you walk into the room
Sickness starts to vanish
Every hopeless situation ceases to exist
And when you walk into the room,
The dead begin to rise
‘Cause there is resurrection life
In all You do

 

Sunday morning as we sang the lyrics to the song above, they hit me in a way they never have before. The last three lines rang in my head for the rest of the day. I could not shake the thought of how different things would be if we actually lived like we believed the words of this song.  As a believer, we don’t often question the cross and the message of hope it brings, but I wonder how often we live in light of the fact Jesus brings life.  As a Jesus follower, I bring His light and life with me each and every place I go.

Oh friend do you see what this means?  We should be running to every dark place, every place with the dead and the broken, every place with the sick and hopeless because when Jesus walks into the room, boom. Life, Hope, Healing. When I walk into the dark places, I walk in with Jesus. And when He walks into the room, the atmosphere changes. I can attest to this because I have walked into some dark places. Something changes when we bring the light of Jesus with us.

Because of Jesus there is no place too dark, too scary, too hopeless, or too lost. So let us run into those places with the light and love of Jesus and be amazed at what happens as we go.

 
Read more: Bryan & Katie Torwalt – When You Walk Into The Room Lyrics | MetroLyrics