Begin Again

So here we are a week into 2017. How are those resolutions treating you? Or better yet, how are you treating them? I know all the statistics surrounding the people who keep their resolutions is staggering at best. It reminds us of failure and best laid plans.

Shoot, even I indulged in cheesecake yesterday and thought “well, here you are ya failure.” But then I remembered it’s my choice. I chose to grab that deliciousness (and it was delicious) with the same choice I made to get in good health this year. One doesn’t nullify the other but it can overshadow it if I let it.

I can allow the weight of one poor decision to counteract the good intentions and focus I had the other six days of the week. Or I can say that this was a choice today, that has no effect on what I accomplished the other six days this week and will have zero bearing on the next six days following.

new-years-resolutions-calendar

Recently I was listening to a friend speak about beginning again…something we all often like to do in January each year. We have come off the indulgences (and some over indulgences) of the holiday season that lasted well over six weeks. We have said “come January” more often than we would care to admit. In my friend’s sermon I couldn’t help but think about how we reserve January 1 as a do over day. We hit reset, wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

But what about April 18? Or July 24? Or October 1?

I think we put far too much emphasis on the date on the calendar than we do the intentions and purpose of our hearts and minds. We lump in so much, put alot of pressure on a new year, on January 1 to bring about some radical shift in our lives that when it’s a week later and we’ve not seen much we grow discouraged. Or when we slip up because we’ve lived for the last eight weeks, eight months, eight years, a lifetime a different way that we chalk it up to us being failures.

What if instead of letting one slip up damage the whole focus of your determination, preparation and focus, you allow it to give you another reset? What if instead of focusing on the location of where you find yourself on January 8th, you focus on the people you get to interact with, what you can learn from them, how you can bring brightness to their day?

Maybe you do need to begin again today. It’s a new day, full of new mercies. It’s full and waiting for you. Maybe it’s about not letting the date on the calendar or one poor choice dictate how your life is structured and lived out. You get the choice. You get the decision. You get to tell failure that it had it’s time, you have learned and you are utilizing that to move in the direction you feel led. That it’s not about where you are in location, job, relationship, hardship or joy but it’s about choosing to begin again with yourself.


You can listen to my friend’s sermon here. (And you should)

Courage, Dear Heart

“Courage isn’t natural;  it’s a choice.”

Angie Smith, Bring the Rain

It is a strong belief I have that we think courage is reserved for those who have it lying dormant within themselves. A select few who are gifted it at birth and use it best when under immense strain.

But my mindset on that is shifting.

When I stumbled upon this quote from fellow Nashvillian Angie Smith I couldn’t help but pause and think on it. Think about how I have viewed courage, and that I frankly lacked it because I wasn’t gifted it.

I have to choose courage in the face of life, in the face of competing priorities and heart-longings. I have to choose to be courageous instead of quiet when it matters, when I know my voice is needed. If I waited for courage to come, it would lie dormant.

It is choosing to be strong in the face of it all. Courage to get up off the couch and do the thing. Courage to start something that frightens you. Courage to pursue better, for us all. Courage to face the diagnosis and the daily pain of chemo. It’s a choice to pick it up each day and wear it with joy and strength.

For so long I saw it in so many others, instead choosing for myself to believe that it wasn’t available to me. But that’s just not true. I hope that in this new year you too find the truth that courage isn’t natural but a strength we hold as a choice, one that we choose to use and live into. One that we know we can have for ourselves and that it’s just not for others.

All the Questions. 

I ask a lot of questions. I like context and clarity. It’s something as I have gotten older that has provided me with both, and saved a lot of time assuming something else or misunderstanding a situation/comment/task. 

When I was fired from a job, I had a lot of questions, none of which have ever been answered. For a while that unknown, that “no-cause” just left me deflated and assuming a lot. It welled up anger that had to be dealt with, and it also took me to God asking Him a lot of things about how He could let that happen and so on. 

We take a lot of questions to Him, maybe not all of them because we are human and we often try to answer the majority of them on our, in our own thinking, instead of laying them before Him. However He answers in His time and His way. But I find that some questions I ask, and this may hold true for you too, just don’t get answered. 

We hold some elite company in the Bible as well with this. When we look at the life of Joshua we can see his ordainment to lead the people of Israel into the land that was promised. Confidence and influence are with him, as is God. We see him lead them across the Jordan, obedient to the commands of God. 

Then he meets a Man. The commander of the army of the Lord as a matter of fact. Joshua doesn’t know this, only that this Man has His sword drawn. Joshua asks Him a question, of whether He is for them or heir adversaries (Joshua 5:13-15). His question, it goes unanswered. What follows in that very brief synopsis is God meeting Joshua right where he is at, and that’s all that mattered. 

You see I believe that often it’s not our questions being answered that we are in deep need of, but that we need to encounter God and be obedient in humble worship. That we need that time with Him far more than our future revealed or a question deeply answered. He tells us over in Jeremiah that His ways, His thoughts aren’t ours. The sovereign Lord of all is answering our questions so often by giving us what our limited understanding couldn’t comprehend-time spent with Him. 

It took me seeing Joshua and Job (Job 42:5,6) have their direct questions go unanswered to see they were answered by the loving, caring and reigning God for what their deep need was, Him. To know that when I take all of that to Him, He gives what He knows is needed…more of Him and less of me. 

That Year in Birmingham

In a couple of weeks I’ll be headed to Birmingham for an event. At one time, just after college, I called Birmingham home for a year. I have been back once, for a little over 24 hours, in those 13 years since I packed up a that Uhaul trailer with my dad and grandfather and booked it back to Tennessee.

In planning my trip back down, I couldn’t help but recall the first time I went to B’ham as a freshly-educated college grad knowing I had a job in baseball. One week in I was crumpled on the floor of my kitchen telling my sister it was a mistake to be there. That I had somehow made a terrible decision, living five hours from anyone I knew, and I wasn’t possibly going to be able to make it in this city that didn’t offer me much.

Part of me cringes at that memory because of the emotion of it all, remembering how bleak my outlook was and how incredibly alone I felt in that city. The other part of me rejoices though, because I am 13 years wiser from it. God drew me there, whether I wanted to recognize it or not, for a purpose and a reason. He led me there, to get me right here. He did some significant work in me over that year that I can only see in hindsight, and allowed me to work out who I was in some difficult moments.

Throughout my time in B’ham I made some poor decisions, I will own that entirely. My way, my will and my attitude won out on several occasions but I am also able to see how I needed to work out that in an environment where it was me dealing with Him without distraction or other voices bringing solace. Being there allowed me to see where He was not leading me and I was taking my own path and my own way. It brought me back to Him in a way which if I had remained in Knoxville I would not have seen nor chosen.

In so much hurt and grief we cannot possibly see how it’s for our good while we are in it. We cannot see how being alone in place, a place we don’t like and the circumstances aren’t how we would craft them could bring anything remotely resembling His good for us out of it all.

But it does.

It did for me. I am pretty sure it will for you too, if we let go of our expectation of the situation, our will and our way and accept the work God is doing without knowing what it is. The end result isn’t the point, it is what you are going through that’s refining you and making you who God intends you to be in His image, as His reflection and not your own.

The whole process, in the circumstance, in the location, in the job, in the relationship…all of that is the point. Sometimes it takes a whole lot of distance of years or miles to see it. To see how one of the worst and hardest times of your life was also one of the best parts of your relationship in Christ, with God through the Holy Spirit.

But we have to allow it. We have to accept it. We have to be willing to go through it, even in the ugly, even in the lonely, even in the longevity of it all. It’s never about us. It’s about the work He’s doing, we just have to receive it.

What A Hip Hop Dance Class Taught Me

Lately I have been taking a hip hop class at the gym I go to. I was getting bored quickly with the elliptical and treadmill, even though it had a tv and I had podcasts.

When I run outside, it’s just different. The monotony of a machine makes me want to put a pencil through my eye, but I digress.

Nervously I entered the incredibly full class the first week, inching my way to the back so I could blend in. (SN: a woman from my Tuesday step class had misinformed me that this was also a step class, it is most definitely not.) That just wasn’t possible because this class builds on itself each week. Regardless of my trepidation, I told my 34 year old self that this wasn’t middle school and that I was going to do this. So I have for the last few weeks.

Last night I looked around at the smaller group, since it’s the holidays, and saw a pregnant woman, a 70+ year old woman, and a couple on the back row with me that were just having fun, moving. Yes we were out of step, but we were having a good time and getting some exercise in.

It takes us all a while to loosen up in these situations-where we are out of our comfort zones or are pushed to be beyond our boundaries of security. I felt a little whisper last night as I was completely off on one whole routine that said, “Be confident in yourself.”

Fear’s a good liar. It reminds us of the long-forgotten mistakes, errors and embarrassments. It points to the awkward and the negative, the judgements and the critics. And we can buy into fear, and it’ll keep us on the back row in alot of life, or even outside the doors. It’ll tell us that we don’t have the body, the rhythm, or the drive to do that. It’ll whisper we aren’t as good as the former dancer in front of us and cause us to misstep. Then it will point at that misstep any time we falter or question whether we should go back, try again, or take another leap.

Yes, this is about a group fitness class, but it’s so much more than that. That’s where we often find the lessons in life-in the unexpected. That’s also where we take one more step against fear and self-doubt, banishing them with a confidence in ourselves to be bold, be brave and to fear not.

As we start to look at a new year, may we live in the confidence of the gifts and abilities we have been given by a God who designed us to live fully into them. Using them as blessings and goodness, and understanding that fear is based upon the lie of worth and value. Take that step into the room, move up from the back row and get off the sidelines this year. Show fear it has no place in your head, your heart and your life.

Because if I can take a hip hop dance class, trust me, you can do the thing you have been fearing too.

The Week I Couldn’t DeThaw

The entire city shut down this week. Nashville doesn’t handle bad weather well. I am not sure if it’s because we’re in the South (I am a Southerner, so I can say that fully) or if it’s because so many people that live here are from elsewhere, where they may never see weather like this. Whatever the reason, when we got a mix of sleet, ice, snow and freezing rain this week the city flipped out. 10999900_10102866496130665_6212275999966148498_n 10995656_10102866495806315_5455224881107460534_n(1) Across the nation everyone’s been dealing with this winter weather in one way or another, so you can all commiserate. this week proved to be too much for us all though it seems. No one could handle it well, least of all me. It turned from a calming peace of a couple of days off, to the week which wouldn’t I couldn’t dethaw. I kept finding myself in this place of bitter icyness. I simply could not dethaw from the weather, from my head and from my heart. Have you ever encountered that? Where all you could see what the growing hardness but could simply do nothing to stop it? I found that I kept climbing back into this igloo this week after poking my head out. All I saw was bleakness running on for endless miles ahead and I welcomed it. Things were abounding where I would see winter’s firm grip on my heart and situations. A frozen state of mind that simply could not warm to anything. It’s sad to even type those words but that’s where I have been. I think we too often don’t talk about when we feel closed off, hardened by life. We instead only want to point it out in others and move along. Telling them simply to “straighten up and get over it” as if those words are helping a situation or season of life. I am thankful for friends who allow me to be in this season without judgement or harsh words, but instead words of encouragement, of support. Words that affirm that this is a season and not forever. Prayers of perspective instead of gossip and whispers. Friends that take time to understand rather than pass the buck of fault, seeking healing rather than wounding. I am also so very thankful for this season of life. While difficult, trying and tense it has show me that springtime is coming. That I have to navigate the icy paths of winter in order to get new life springing forth. I hope that breathes hope into someone else today, as it did me. Instead of an icy chill of demeaning words or judgement, let the warmth of the hope of spring blow into your heart as it did mine. You don’t have to be strong for tomorrow, simply in today. You merely only need to grasp today as you were created for it, and it was made for you to live fully in. 10173578_10102531468843035_8725455831267033928_n Soon enough spring will be here.

Hoarders, the Mind Edition

Yesterday I went to my favorite little store where I make ridiculous decisions on things I buy, never spending more than $10 in this store. No, it’s not Target either. It’s this little thrift store I have come to love that is relatively close to my home.

For some reason, this store is a gold mine for books. I have found so many amazing books by authors I love there. Take yesterday for example, I got books from Elizabeth Elliott, John Piper and Henry Blackaby to name a few. Six books total, and I spent $9.56. I have gotten inspired by things there to craft and re-purpose. It’s my little soul-shop on random Saturdays.

I joke about being a book hoarder because I love to read, and finding good books is my specialty. I very rarely ask for recommendations simply because I don’t like to be influenced by others’ impressions. I have one friend who I will ask what he’s read or would suggest only because I trust his expertise entirely in this area. He has yet to steer me wrong. But I purge as well. Once I have read a book, and unless it was one that I can pinpoint the life change from it, then away it goes to McKay’s. Currently I have about 15 books in the guest room piled up ready for a trip. I rarely keep fiction books, with the exception of the very worn copy of Wuthering Heights, the Harry Potter collection (one day my nephews will like those books, one day), and a British author I have followed since college’s collection.

The same can be true about beliefs in my life. Some I hold onto for nostalgia without realizing it, only taking stock when things pile up and my life screams “NO MORE!” Who else but me is responsible for my values, experiences and beliefs? We tend to collect so much in this life without pausing often to take stock and purge from it what we no longer need to carry or shouldn’t carry with us.

They can weigh us down, cause us to view every experience with the same lens as that first one, and ultimately become overwhelmed with the piles of burdens. While life won’t be neat and orderly all the time, I think we could all do a better job of purging long-held beliefs or situations from the mess within in order to provide a cleaner existence for ourselves and others.

We clutch at memories of how it used to be, rather than forging a new path in a new adventure. We cling to what was rather than grasp at what is now. We choose long-held beliefs instead of attempting understanding something new in order to feel safe and secure. With a new year I find myself no longer wishing to cling to thoughts that bring frustration or anger, no longer piling up situations and circumstances that should never have been kept.

Being a mind hoarder only brings burdens to carry, weights to bear and sorrows to drown in. Hoarding wrongs, rights and beliefs that aren’t healthy only affect you long term. They eat away and rot out your foundation, to a point where no one wants to enter that realm with you.

It’s January 11th. This year still has that newborn scent, full of hope and joy. You get to decide if it feeds on the burdens you’ve brought or the joy of a fresh start. Clear away what you have been hoarding within, address what needs to be addressing, and then allow newness to flood you. Stop hoarding and start renewing.

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
    the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
    What can man do to me?

Psalm 118:5-6

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2