A Hope For a Future

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Sometimes the most obvious things in life are the things we seem to miss, even though they’re right in front of us the whole time. This is how it was with me when I realized that my desire to have a life that was healthy, care-free, and limited on pain was far too important in my life. Being able to not have to worry about pain, weakness, or sickness was my version of the white picket fence American dream. It was so obvious, I’m not sure how I missed it. I spent so much time, effort, and money on achieving it, that I often found myself lacking joy when it wasn’t easily obtained. Those are all the tell-tale signs, right? When your happiness is directly connected to something, that you shape your whole world around getting it. That’s got to be somewhere in the definition of an Idol in a dictionary somewhere, right?

it’s actual definition is “an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship” or “a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered”…just in case you were wondering. So yeah, that’s me alright.

It’s really hard to look this kind of truth in the face. To admit that your dream may be toxic to you. To admit you might need God to pry it out of your white knuckled grasp. I was glancing at this in my life before, but recently I’ve had to really stare at it. I don’t want pain. I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to be sick. I don’t want to ever have to tell myself “I can’t”. I don’t want to have to question myself or doubt my body’s capabilities. Ever.

So what does a kind God do with my white knuckled grip on my current and future health goals? He slowly pries my fingers back by showing me that my grip doesn’t really control any of the outcomes of my life. It just leaves me stressed out trying to fix things I can’t fix. So again, I’m a recovering control addict.

I’ve spent a lot of time praying through this realization, trying to find a way to accept a weaker not-so-perfect version of myself. I really hate being weak. It’s probably my least favorite thing next to not being in control of my own life. Is that because I like trying to be my own God and guide my own life? Is it because I tend to think that what I think of as good is the only really good I can guarantee in life and so I should only trust myself to provide what I know to be good instead of trusting that God is and always will be good to me through it all? Probably, yes and yes. No, not probably. Just yes. But as God peels my fingers back He doesn’t leave me empty. He fills and replaces these empty spaces with Himself and then there is peace. But the struggle to keep trying to fill them is a battle I’ll probably be fighting for the rest of my life. So I keep fighting.

The other day I was trying to pray through handling physical weakness again. I found myself praying that God would show me why I needed to endure this, which is a question I never really ever get answered. But He gave me something else. I felt like He didn’t answer my question with an actual answer but instead gave me a nugget of hope to hold onto.

He gave me this thought: that the pains and sufferings of this world are the worst pains I will ever have to experience, and that this world is as far removed from Him and His peace as I will ever have to be because of the cross and because I am His child.

Instant peace in waves. This is as bad as it can ever get for me. This world. It can only get better, and I have a promise of something so much better and greater than this world. And He is here with me as I go through these hurts and He sustains me, even though the trials of this world are only a short time in light of eternity. My time spent in this world is spent in His hands, which only draw me closer in over time. A broken body sustained by the hand of God and loved as His child until I’m called home. God isn’t my crutch to get through this life, He’s my healer and helper until He makes me new again. Heaven is a hope not just because I will be free of all the hurts and pains of this world, but because He will be there. That has to be part of the completion process, right? Being whole again because I’m fully with Him in His fullness? Because it sounds wonderful. No distractions. Just God. Sounds amazing.

So when I’m weak and beginning to fear, I remember that He has it under control, and that even the hard things are only for a time. It’s a peaceful thought to know that because He has taken care of my greatest need on the cross, that all my other needs are only for a time and He’s got those covered too. I already know how the story is going to end, even though I’m not sure how the middle of the story will play out, I know He does. Stepping into that kind of freedom in the midst of pain is an oasis in a desert that my soul was craving and couldn’t muster up on its own. Thank God that He knows what we need before we even ask, and that He is kind to provide for us what we need when we need it even if it’s as simple as a hopeful thought.


What I Learned in 2017

” Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

– 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV) –


It is around the time of year when people get really retrospective on their lives and start looking at all that changed in their lives before we bring in the new year. I’m no exception. As a chronic over-thinker, the end of the year spells out major self and life evaluation for me. 2017 has been a roller coaster in a lot of ways, but God has done a lot over this past year, and I’ve learned so much.

So lets recap real quick.

Most of the year was pretty basic. Life was good, and pretty uneventful. There were good days and bad ones, just like anyone else. But it was around the end of May that things began to change for me. My health began to back slide even though I had been doing well for over a year. I did everything I could, but my anxiety continued to get worse and my body more and more distressed. I couldn’t get to work, or stay there when I managed to get into my office. Social things were becoming impossible, and I wasn’t able to leave my house. I eventually reached a point were it was hard to eat or drink anything, and I was in fairly consistent pain. Nothing was helping, and I was miserable. I felt like a failure at my job, at life, and as a person. Amidst my best efforts to help take care of my health, I just couldn’t seem to manage to rid myself of some of these health issues. I felt so broken.

During this time, I spent a lot of time alone, so I had a lot of time to think. My health failing again gave me a lot of things to think about and gave me an opportunity to face some things about my life. First off, it’s hard being sick and not knowing if and when it’s going to end. It’s scary not being in control of your own body, and how that might affect your future. It can make you wonder what kind of future you really have, and it makes you doubt things. Is this forever? Am I ever really going to be able to move on from all of this? And so many other doubts like this that I can’t even begin to list them all. You’re desperate to move on with your life, yet you’re stuck and feel terrified to move all at once. It’s a mental olympics I never seem to be properly trained for.

I had more than one mental breakdown during that time. I had several in fact, sometimes even more than one a day. It’s hard when pain and suffering just keeps dragging on with no defined end. I tried to be strong, but I just couldn’t handle it. Not by myself.

But being sick and having a lot of time to be still gives God a lot of time to speak very clearly and directly to you, especially when you find yourself doing a lot of praying in a state of weakness. He made it pretty clear to me that I was not depending on him for my health, my future, my life, my protection…..anything in my daily life. I was trying to take care of myself, and I was failing horribly at it. Many of my efforts to cure and control my anxiety had actually been enabling it by trying to control things that I had no real control over. My anxiety was brought about not by my loss of control, but in my realization of my lack of control in my life and in everything around me and my constant efforts to change that, even though it’s impossible. I wanted to be fixed so badly, that I was desperately chasing perfect health because I thought a good God owed me that. I had been through enough. But I was wrong.

What if part of God’s plan for me was to take place within a “broken body” and that it was exactly where I was supposed to be. That I needed to be humbled through this experience to realize that I was just functioning out of my own pride and self-sufficiency. That I needed to be broken to be able to be put back together again and made new, because unfortunately that’s what it takes to get through to someone as stubborn and prideful as me.

I had some choices to make about how I was going to move forward with my life, and by God’s grace, I was able to start making some changes. More trusting and dependence on God, and less on me. Less fear of what I can’t control, more trusting the one who does control it. Trust me, it’s hard at first, but it’s so worth it.

The next few months started a long recovery of trying to deal with what’s really causing anxiety in my life. A process that I’m still walking through now, but have made a lot of progress in. But I’m grateful for all of it, because the suffering helped me get to know God better. He was there the whole time, even when I was too proud to look or admit it. So now I’m a recovering control freak who’s learning that things are much better off in God’s hands than in my own. And God spent the rest of my 2017 giving me many opportunities to hand things I wanted to control over to Him. It’s been a process, and I’m sure I’ll continue to be working on this in many ways for the rest of my life. But there is change, and it’s been great and freeing.

My life is more free than it’s ever been, and I can actually feel it in my body that I’m not carrying around as much stress anymore. It’s crazy to think of all the stress I was putting my body through trying to control my life when freedom was an option the whole time. God used 2017 to break me for His good and He was with me the whole way, even though it was really hard to walk through. It was worth it, and I’m glad it happened. I’m glad He broke me. And I’m grateful for 2017 and all that it brought my way, pain and all. Who knows what 2018 will bring, but I’m no longer anxious about it. I know Gods got it covered, and whatever is best for me in His sovereignty is what will come my way. My 2018 will be great because no matter what happens, God is the one leading it, and He is far better equipped to handle the job than I am.


Unexpected Blessings

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Psalms‬ ‭23:1‭


A few weeks ago, I was driving to work one morning and I was praying. It was something I had been feeling very convicted about and as a result I was trying to spend more of my “in-between time” talking to God. I wanted to help remind myself of my daily dependence on Him, so I figured that praying while driving was a good place to start. I had been working on it for a few weeks, and was really enjoying my prayer drives to work, but this one time I felt prompted to do something different. I had been spending most of my time praying asking only for daily necessities, like asking for grace and patience which I have to ask for extra on the daily. But this time I felt like God want me to ask for something different.

I felt like He challenged me to pray for Him to bless me. Like, He wanted me to ask for His help in the normal ways that I do, but He also wanted me to ask for more. This surprised me and actually felt kind of weird, since normally I try not to spend my whole prayer life asking for things. Everything I’ve heard on prayer has recommended it not all be about asking God for things, plus I tend to think to build my relationship with God the same way I would another human being. And I would not be comfortable having a relationship with someone where all I ever did when I talked to them was ask for stuff. I mean, honestly. That would get old pretty fast.

But the prompt was clear. He wanted me to ask. So I did. I asked that in some way, He would bless my day. I told him it didn’t have to be big or anything, but that maybe He would do something nice and small for me that day, and that it would help remind me that He was there with me. That I would know it was Him being active in my day. And I left it at that and went on with my day.

Several hours later after my small act of little faith had been long forgotten, I was getting off of work and headed to get my hair cut down the street. I pulled up, went it, and when my stylist was ready I headed for the shampoo bowl. My stylist was about half way through washing my hair when she told me that before I left she had something she wanted to give me. I didn’t give it much thought at the time or ask any questions since we didn’t normally chat too much while I’m in there, but it struck me as odd. As she was cutting my hair she proceeded to tell me that the main product brand that they sell there had just finished doing a major brand overhaul, and that they were in the process of moving out the old product and making room for the new branded stuff. The only issue was that they weren’t allowed to use the old branded stuff on clients in the salon, or sell it to them. So she was giving the old stuff away to people who had hair types that matched the product she had left in the back. I had never heard of anything like this before but I kept listening.

She then proceeded to tell me as she was ringing me up that the only one she had left was perfect for hair like mine, and that she had been looking for the right person to come in to give it to. She then proceeded to walk in the back room and bring out 2 liters of very expensive organic hair product, which she then handed to me for free. I started doing the math as I walked back to my car. It had to be somewhere north of $200 worth of product. Product which I had always loved, but never thought it a wise investment to buy in the past.

By the time I sat down in my car and looked over at my purse that was overflowing with hair products, it suddenly hit me. He blessed my day. He blessed my day in a little way that He knew I would love, but was something that wasn’t a need. I asked Him and He did it. It seems silly, but I couldn’t stop smiling. He was there with me and I could see it then. The way that all the little things in my day had to fall into place for that moment to happen. The way He had planned it to go, and then walked me and my little bit of faith through every step. All so He could bless me and show me He was there. How kind.

It seems like such a little thing, but I know He wanted to show me something about Himself through this. He wanted me to see that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask and then believe that He can and will act with my best interest at heart. He wanted me to know that He was there in the details, and that He knows me to bless me and have me see it as a blessing. He just wanted me to know Him and who He is through something as simple as hair product, and to grow my faith so that next time I ask I’ll be able to ask with an active faith.

So pray when you’re weak, but also pray when you’re strong. Pray for your needs, but also pray for His blessing on your life. He was just waiting to show Himself to me so that I would know He was kind, so ask Him to show you. Blessings come in all shapes and sizes, but all of them are from Him, and I’m grateful that at least that day, He allowed me to see that so clearly.

From Broken to Beautiful: Revelations in the Irish Mountains

“For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.”
2 Corinthians 13:9

Recently I had the privilege of being able to go on a 10 day trip across the United Kingdom with my sister. It’s been something we both have dreamed of doing for many years now, and things finally fell into place in both of our lives in a way that allowed us to make that dream a reality. It was quite the adventure, and we both loved it. God was very kind to us both as He led our trip in many ways that were very evident, but there were 2 things specifically that really meant a lot to me from the trip.

First were the friends we met in Ireland. For those that know me, you’ll know that I’m not always a huge people person. I’m a secluded introvert, and even though I’m a lover of people…I don’t like everyone all the time. And I get bored very easily. So meeting new people, even though I’m always up for it, can be a real gamble if I’m being honest. I take a pretty long time to really connect with people, so brief encounters are usually not my strong suit. So when I learned that I was going to meet up with some of my sisters friends in Ireland, I was both excited and nervous. We would only get to be with them for about 2 days, so I was already feeling a little out of my element, but I really wanted to meet them and see the people my sister had told me so many good things about. So even though I went in feeling like I was already going to fail at life, I was pleasantly surprised.

They were wonderful. All of them. They were all so kind and funny. But what I loved the most about them all was that they were real. In a raw life way, they were honest and I love real and honest people. So surprisingly I was kind of in my glory. And the best part was that they love God. That’s where the blessing was for me. To be able to go to a different country and meet people that you didn’t know before that still love the same God as you in a similar way is an amazingly special and refreshing experience. Our worlds can get so small just living our daily routines that it can be easy to forget about how big God is. That He’s so big that there are other people far away that He’s working in and through their lives just like he is yours, even though none of you know about each other. How amazing. I felt blessed to get to meet all of them and to get to know them for those 2 days as followers of Christ sharing a common goal. God used them to remind me in such small ways that He is bigger than I tend to give Him credit for in my daily life. But the idea that we are all working together all over the world is mind-blowing. And I love it.

Second was a hike our friends took us on in the mountains. Now, for those who know my story, you know I’ve had some health issues I’ve battled for the past 5 years that have made my life a lot more challenging. Things that I used to just do, I now second guess myself a lot instead. I spend a lot of time wondering if when I do say yes to things, if I should have said no. Basically, I still struggle with treating my body like the traitor that I sometimes still feel like it is. And it’s not as bad as it once was, but it’s still hard. So when they said we’re going on a hike I tried not to overthink it too much and happily agreed. I’m not sure how long it took, but I’m pretty sure it took hours. I told myself that I wouldn’t look back while I was climbing until we got to the place we would stop for lunch, which was close to the top. I was enjoying the hike the whole time apart from feeling like the most un-athletic person on the planet. We talked, we laughed, people fell… it was great. All of it. And then we got to the top where we were going to eat lunch before we decided if we wanted to climb some more. So I turn around for the first time during our walk and it struck me how far we had come. How high we had climbed. How much had been accomplished by just taking life one step at a time.

I wanted to let it sink in so I walked a few steps back down to eat my lunch on a rock that was like a seat looking out over the gap we had just climbed through in the mountains. It really stuck me how much that gap felt like my life over the past few years. Every boulder an obstacle that wasn’t easy to get over. Sinkholes where you didn’t expect them. Mud that would make your feet slip. And yet we made it there. It was work, but piece by piece we made it there. I made it there.

I felt like God wanted me to see my life as I was looking out. I felt Him speak to me through that hike. He wanted me to know that no matter how challenging the path, that He would always get me where He wanted me to be, and that He would be with me every step of the way to guide me, just like getting up that mountain. He also wanted me to see not only what He can do, but what He’s already done. The past few years have been rocky, and I feel like I’ve had more failures than victories, but no matter what He still carried me. And I have come a long way from 5 years ago.

I remember a few years back when my sister first told me she was going to Ireland. I remember thinking that I would never be able to do a trip like that again, no matter what. I remember thinking of all of the things I never thought I would be able to do again, and feeling like life wasn’t worth living if that was how it had to be. I remember the discouragement and depression that sunk deep into my soul as I felt the weight of all the things I believed God had taken from me for good. I remember it all, in a way that it all still feels so close to me. I’m not sure some things ever feel far enough away from you, no matter how much time passes, but I do know that God can turn suffering into beauty and pain into joy.

God wanted me to see that mountain as my life, and He wanted to show me that I wasn’t at the bottom anymore. Look how far He had brought me. Look how high He had helped me climb. And look at all the beauty I was able to see from my view at top of the mountain that I couldn’t appreciate from down below. God made the mountain. God made me. He had done it all, and look how beautiful the view was from where He had taken me. Now, there was a tall fence at the top of the mountain that you couldn’t really see over, but there was a gate that you could walk through to get to more mountains. And by God’s grace I’m happy to say that I happily and peacefully walked through that gate ready to climb higher. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I knew wherever it was that it would be great.

So I left Ireland with gratitude for great new friends, a refreshed spirit, and a new love for mountain metaphors. Reminded of His grace and kindness in my life amidst my shortcomings, I’m blessed beyond what I deserve and reminded that my life is beautiful not because it’s perfect, but because I had mud and sheep’s poop all over me and yet God has brought me to the top of a mountain. And I wouldn’t have it any other way than to serve a God who takes broken and makes it beautiful again.

Love: Why I’m Giving up 15 Seconds

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

I have a confession to make. Sometimes when I’m in an elevator alone and I hear someone else running towards the elevator, I will slam my fingers repeatedly into the “close door” button and pray that it closes before they get close enough to see my face. I know. I’m terrible. I’ve also been known to duck behind a potted plant or two if I’m out in public and I see someone I know. Why? I’m not sure. I’m sure it has something to do with being unprepared and selfish, but I never really gave it much thought. At least, not until recently.

Recently, I’ve found myself surrounded by things and people confronting my life in different ways on what it truly means to love other people. At first I thought I was doing a decent job at this. But Now I’m not so sure. Once I started realizing all of the places and interactions in my life where I’m not really loving others (such as repeatedly trying to slam the elevator doors in your face), I saw that I’m actually failing big time.

My loving others shouldn’t have anything to do with the situation. No matter the location, or the circumstances of that interaction, I should be not only ready to love, but excited to do so. I should be excited and anticipating loving others actively. This includes all of the situations where you have hurts, wrongs, misunderstandings, and the simple you’re-just-not-my-favorite-person interactions with others. I’ll give you this hint. If you think you’ve moved on, or gotten over something and forgiven someone, than you should have no problem moving your life towards theirs to love them. If you hesitate or are reluctant, than you’re not loving them, and there is a good possibility that you are holding onto something else as more important. You’re saying” I want to love you, but there is *blank* in the way stopping me”…and that is not really loving someone. Real love puts that “thing” aside. Real love has no restraints, hesitations, or stipulations. The love God calls us to, is the kind that comes with no requirements. The kind that loves the very people that have failed you, the hardest of all. And I’m supposed to be ready to do this with the people I know, don’t know, and the people I just think I’ve already got figured out, but don’t really know. I’m failing at this in all of those categories, but for now I’ll just focus in on the people I don’t know.

So I thought about the elevator scenario. Why am I so quick to want to ride the elevator by myself? It’s literally a 15-30 second ride. What’s the big deal? Do I really just not want to have to be pleasant to another human being for 15 seconds? Am I living a life where that is THAT inconvenient for me?

Well first off, if you are living a life where that is your biggest inconvenience, then you need to realize that you’re incredibly blessed. There are children starving in Africa, and I’m here trying to ride my cushy elevator in privacy. When did I become so bougie? And are the other people being it the elevator for 15 seconds really that big of a problem? Am I really just worried that I’ll have to give of myself for 15 seconds? Wow. 15 seconds. I struggled to give up 15 seconds. I’m that selfish.

It’s not that I’m not loving in the big things, but in the little things. It’s not much to ask to have someone be kind in their interactions on such a brief elevator ride. Yet, I’d rather not worry about it. I’m so selfish that instead of seeing an opportunity to love, I saw an inconvenience to my personal preferences. And that’s really all they are. Preferences. If I never got to be alone in an elevator again, I’d live. So maybe it’s time I stopped treating my preferences like needs, and stopped thinking so much about myself and more about others.

Do I think God would like His 15 seconds back? Yes. Those 15 seconds weren’t really mine to begin with. I just convinced myself that they were since they were entrusted to me. And sadly, I’ve wasted so many of them on myself. But Thankfully, I still have more left. So next time, instead of closing the elevator, maybe by His grace, I’ll hold the door instead. Maybe I’ll strike up a conversation in those 15 seconds. Maybe I’ll make a friend. Who knows. Imagine the possibilities of what God could do with those 15 seconds if I gave them back. I think God could change lives if we were willing to give Him our 15 seconds back. It seems silly to hold on to them once I remember they are His, and I can’t help but wonder how many other 15 second chunks of time I’ve walked around with that I need to give back. It’s like borrowing clothes from a friend and then wearing them years later when you go hang out with that same friend. It begs the question: what are you still doing with that when it doesn’t belong to you?

The Bible talks about loving others, but we tend to get caught up in the fact that we’re all so busy. But no matter how busy I am, I’m not too busy to ride the elevator. So while I’m doing what already must be done, I could remember to redeem the time. To love practically and functionally in the little things. To encourage and uplift, even if it’s brief. To be kind and thoughtful, even if I don’t think I’ll ever have the time to develop it into something more afterwards. I can remember to give those 15 seconds to God so He can work in the in-between places of life when no one is expecting it. I should be praying He would be kind enough towards me to use my 15 seconds because to give them up would be greater than to keep them. I pray that He would redeem all of my 15 second windows in my day and that I would not only see them, but be willing to use them for Him, even if it means an uncomfortable ride in the elevator, or a greeting.

The act of living on mission is not just found in reaching the objective, but in the journey to reach that objective. More work can be done in this journey that in the act of actually arriving at your destination, and the journey itself prepares you for your arrival. So I think I’m going to actively give up my 15 seconds as a part of my journey. What God can do with those 15 seconds is greater and more important that what I want to do with them, and I look forward to seeing what He does with them. It has to be better than what I was doing with them.

Daily Battle: How I Fight Back

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

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

Romans 8:31-39 English Standard Version (ESV)

There are days where I wake up or go to bed simply to reset. The day was too long, too hard, or too empty and so I had to close it out and hope that the next day would be different. Better, somehow. But a reset doesn’t always happen, and I still have a day to get through. So this is how I fight.

I wake up and I can feel it immediately. I don’t have it in me today. “It” being that magical thing inside of you that helps you feel like “you’ve got this”. And mine today, is missing. Why? I don’t know. I try to find it, gathering what pieces of it that are left lying around. There isn’t much, and what I can seem to grab slips through my fingers. I’ve got none of it today.

The rapid fire thoughts start coming even before I’m fully awake. Starting with simple questions, only to find out later down the line that it’s Fear in disguise. Do you really think you can make it today? Maybe you should just stay in bed. Today is going to be hard, are you sure you can handle it? You don’t know what’s waiting for you outside those doors today, and you’re sure you can handle it? Not just it being there, but the unpreparedness of it coming at you? No. I’m not sure. Gosh, this feels hard.

Then, after the questions begin to turn into concerns, the self-doubt bursts through the door like the Kool-Aid man. Why can I not get up and face life like everyone else can? My life’s not that hard, I know it’s not. So the problem must be me. Why can’t I just be strong enough to easily get through a day? Why do I always have to struggle?

Then the statements show up. Self-declared statements that feel like facts. I’m never going to be able to beat this. It’s always going to follow me. This is the rest of my life, and I’m already having a hard time. How can anyone put up with someone like this when it makes me a monster? I am a monster. And I can’t stop. I can’t handle today. I’m not going to make it. I’m not enough to get through this day. And if I keep trying, I’m going to keep failing and this world will crush me. And no one wants to deal with a crushed person.

Geez. I can’t handle today.

So let’s break down today into smaller pieces and see how I do.

Let’s close our eyes and slow down for a minute. Whatever it is that you know needs to be done can wait a minute. Forget about all the people you think you need to be there for. All the things you know you need to do today. Forget about the details of what you need to do at work. If you could take it all out of the equation for just a bit, where would that leave you? That leaves me with nothing. Great. So now I’ve broken my life down to nothing. There would be nothing left. Nothing but God. I almost forget about Him. I keep confusing Him with “it”.

He’s still here. So it’s back to me and Him. I keep forgetting this is exactly where He wants me. Not getting too wrapped up in all the “stuff”. He told me I’m not supposed to be strong enough. “It” was just a lie anyway. I forgot that it’s really kind of Him to break me down until my only prayer can be, “Help. God, just hold my hand”. That way I won’t forget He’s there. That He controls my day. That He knows what’s outside the door, and He is ready to face it boldly, even when I’m not. I forget that my day is His, not mine, and that He has a reason for having me go through today. And that includes this struggle. He is ready for every step of the way, so that I don’t have to be. My interactions with people are for Him, not for others. I work to be faithful, not to impress. I hold His hand because I trust Him and want Him to guide my day, not because it’s the only option. Even though it is the only option. I’m broken. But He knows that, and He said it’s okay.

Geez. I forgot everything. I want to be free again. I want to give Him back my day again. I want Him to have it. I think I could face today if He had today. I don’t want this day to own me. I want to be free again. God take this day back. It was already about you, but I had forgotten, so please take it back and make it about you for me too. Help me to remember. And please, hold my hand while I keep trying. I’m going to need so much help. But I think if you were there, I know I could make it. And even if I fail again, at least I won’t be alone. Help me to remember and see that today is for you. For your plan. It was always your plan.

Ok. Eyes open. It’s time to move. My first step can’t wait forever. I’ll just work on making it to breakfast first. Then to the car. Then until lunch. Then home again. Piece by piece. And somehow I’ll turn around and be amazed at what happened in the “in between” spaces of all those place markers in time. Somehow in the in between spaces, I listened and prayed for a friend. I accomplished a task. I solved a problem. I avoided an accident. All while avoiding a meltdown. But how? I’m not even sure, but I do know one thing: It wasn’t “it”. It was Him.

Why Your Encouragement Isn’t so Encouraging

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Sometimes I don’t think people realize what they’re saying. I think they mean well, but sometimes things just come out all wrong. A major part of communication is not just the message that we send, but what is received, and I wonder at times if people realize that the messages they think they are sending aren’t getting received. Life can feel like a giant game of telephone. Let me explain what I mean.

When I talk to people, look on Facebook, read Instagram posts, and Twitter posts, I see a lot of people attempting to be encouraging. This is great, considering I’d really hate to interact with people on all of these platforms and be smacked with pure negativity at every turn. So positivity is good. Great even. But here is the issue. These interactions usually consist of something that happened that day in your life. Perhaps your husband served you by cleaning up after the kids, or maybe just cleaning up after you. Maybe that boyfriend brought you flowers “just because” so you talk about how amazing he is to you and how you don’t deserve him. Or maybe how God blessed you today at work and how you got rewarded for it. Perhaps even a quick shout-out to a sibling who did something particularly thoughtful or sweet. Or just because.

Now none of these things are directly bad. They are positive things, and they are better than hearing how terrible life can be. We all have enough of that reality in our lives already. But that’s just the issue. I know we are supposed to rejoice with those who rejoice, but if we’re being honest, that’s easier said than done for a lot of us. When we see something great happening for someone else we don’t always naturally cheer for them inside. I’d love to say that I do, but I don’t. Not always. Why? Because sometimes life is hard, and not all peaches and roses, and being bombarded with how great things are going for everyone else is the exact opposite of encouraging. It sounds more like bragging being rubbed in my face. I’m glad God’s been kind to you. I’m happy about your job, your family, and your friends. But sometimes your “attempted encouragement” is really the worst thing for my soul.

Life is hard. Harder for some than others, but still everyone has their share of rough spots in life. And trust me, we can see them. So if you want to be encouraging, then I recommend the following tips:

Acknowledge the rough spots in life.

We all know not everyone is perfect. We know it inside, even though some of us like to pretend it’s not true, or at least not let others see the bad parts. But if you want to encourage, hear this. For those who don’t see the rough spots in your life, you will discourage them by seeming unattainable, or at best not relatable. Hardships are a major part of the human experience, so if you take that away or don’t acknowledge it, than you are trying to make yourself seem unhuman. This is a major waste of time considering anyone who spends a decent amount of time with you will quickly see otherwise. And for the people who do see these struggles that you don’t acknowledge, you will look like a joke. They will clearly see that you say one things and live another, and they probably won’t respect you more for it. So acknowledgement is key.

Make sure the positive things you say are linked back to the one who actually made them happen, not you.

For anyone who is confused, that would be God. God is kind to us even when we don’t deserve it and that is worth bringing positive attention to. But too often we make the positive encouragement we share about us. Look what we have. Look what happened to us. Look what we did. Sounds a lot like bragging, right? That’s because it is. Too often what we disguise as encouragement is really bragging about us. We brag on our encounters with that person, experience, or place and link all those great things we are saying back to us. Because that’s what it’s really about. If you are going to encourage, do your best to do it selflessly. If what you are presenting really is about God and how kind He has been in some way, than that is what you should share. Not “look what happened to me” with a simple” God is so good” tacked on the back-end of it. You know. To make it look spiritual and stuff.

Think of the good of others when you chose to share.

If encouragement is truly meant to encourage than context and audience really do matter. Talking about how great of a blessing your new-born baby is and how amazing they are might not be an encouragement to the couple that has been struggling to get pregnant. Hearing about your amazing promotion at work might not be a blessing to the person who can’t find a job. And hearing about all of your amazing traveling adventures might not be a blessing to the person whose health won’t allow for them to ever do such things. I’m not saying never say anything. I’m saying think before you speak or post. Especially if you post. The internet has opened up a window for people to blast thoughts in front of people’s faces repeatedly, and for people to collect your words, taking in the bigger overall picture of what you present. It’s the equivalent to interacting with you face-to-face and writing down every word you say and posting it on a sticky note on the walls for everyone to read over and over again, forever. You’re surrounded not only by what you recently said, but everything you’ve ever said. You can no longer only think in terms of the moment, because those moments are captured. So please choose wisely what you say and post. What you think of as a good thing, in some contexts and audiences, may very well be someone’s largest stumbling block. So please do what is possible to avoid it.

And lastly,

Check your heart.

Maybe the real issue is that you’re not really trying to encourage. I’m giving most people the benefit of the doubt, but if we’re being real, some people just want to brag. If you really just want a platform to make the good things in life about you, then at least don’t attempt to disguise it. We see you and we know what you’re up to, so it’s not worth hiding. We also know that your praise of yourself is misplaced glory to the one who did bless you, and that is sad. As true friends, I would hope we would have the guts to call you out on this topic, and if someone has called you out, then listen. Our hearts are twisted, so it’s not beyond any of us that we could be deceived about our motives.

In short, if you really want to encourage, than make it about God and his glory and showing what he has done without connecting yourself to it as if you deserve whatever kindness He has blessed you with. No one is good, not even one, so trust me, you don’t deserve it. None of us do. But it’s important that we remember that, and not rob Him of the glory he is due as He continues to bless undeserving people like myself. Let’s make encouragement truly encouraging again. And not just a string of humble-bragging.