The Ping of Death

I heard the ping, ping, ping of a nail going into a piece of wood echo in the room. Words, lies, hurt, anger, things carried by women for far longer than they should of, and some since childhood, getting nailed to a cross. If I am still long enough, a week later, I can still hear it.

And there’s part of me that knows the devil does not want me to remember that. He likes me hearing words, believing lies he’s fed me and living in a place of hopeless regret and bitterness, turning to gossip and envy rather than pouring out love and support, encouragement and joy.

Y’all. I know without a doubt God has given me a desire to work in women’s ministry. To write about faith, singleness, dating, community. To put together studies and gather women to uplift one another. I know that without a single doubt in my mind. But here’s the kicker I have wrestled so hard and for so long with: I don’t do relationships with my fellow ladies well.

That’s the reminder I get when I start writing, when I sign up to lead a small group, when I step out to engage other women. You don’t do it well. Who are you to do this? Your circle is small. It’s like he knows what my downfall is, what will make me stumble and run back to my hiding place. Where I circle up with my self and vow that I won’t put myself out there, to look ridiculous and be known. I’d rather stay to the outskirts and not be hurt or mocked.

Even writing all of this has been a difficult step for me over this last week. Because I’ve had to admit to myself that I would prefer to live in the lie and doubt God rather than trust Him fully with the work He’s doing all along. And so last Monday I sat sobbing…ladies around me not understanding why or knowing what I wrote on that sheet of paper and put down on that cross-knowing Jesus Himself took care of it so long ago so that I wouldn’t carry it anymore, that I should have never carried it to begin with. But I had taken to living in James 3:16, choosing envy of others living out what I believed God had given me and seeking my own selfish ambition in my own strength…I was leaning into words and perceived slights of others as a means of willful disobedience and mistrust of God.

Y’all it’s an ugly place to be in, where you point the finger of judgement and unmet/unreasonable expectations of others, seeking to gossip and cut down fellow believers instead of building each other up through encouragement and support. It’s not mine to define how someone should be a friend to me, nor should I choose to sin against them when they don’t meet expectations I have falsely established for them. My life should look more like verses 17 and 18 of James 3-peace loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, bearing out the good fruit of righteousness.

And so a work God had long since started in me, came bearing out in the pings of a nail and a hammer onto the cross Monday night. Surrounded by women from across the church, fighting to let go and put the lies, the hurt, the doubt, the anger, all of it. That view was intended specifically for me. That sound. That moment. Because God knew only that would get me to wake up to what He’d been aiming straight at my heart with for months…that the desire of His heart was calling to mine if I would but listen, lay everything else down and pick up the cross instead.

I had to hear that specific ping of death, the death nail of the lies and sin I had chosen repeatedly to finally see the weight of it all…to know He long took it from me, if I’d but put it there for good.

Hoarding Memories

I love spring cleaning. Hi, yes, I am confessing that here in my safe space. I absolutely love the purge of  stuff. I don’t hang on to much, except this one box of stuff when I worked in baseball (shoebox size) and another small box of photos…they were these things you took with cameras and you couldn’t actually see the picture until you were done with a whole roll of film. You prayed just one came out well.

I love looking through those two boxes because they hold alot of memories and people who impacted me.

I am for the better because I purge though. I don’t like hanging on to stuff that is just clutter, that doesn’t bring value or meaning. While I enjoy clothes and shoes like a lady does, I wear out my clothes rather than leave ones with tags on them for months. Books and vinyl records I keep or accumulate if they bring to mind fondness or truth in the midst of alot of other noise.

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I was thinking on this recently, the things I hold close to me that bring smiles and joy, warmth to the heart as I talked with someone about the words we tell ourselves. We heard someone share the phrase “hoarding the wrong messages” and I could not believe just how true that statement was for me. I purge so much external but I hoard messages of lies and deceit, of hurt and anger, shame and regret. Most of this is aimed squarely at myself.

In realizing this, I find that I am not alone. The wrong messages I keep on repeat are of the wrong voice. The voice sounds alot like myself, very self focused and me-centered. It reminds me of the red flags I missed in a relationship. The faults I have, the shame of a lost job. The ways I fail and the regret I easily run to instead of the truth.

The truth of the matter is that there isn’t much truth being hoarded, only the self messaging. But truth is exactly what will throw the wrong messages out. The Truth found only in His Word, spoken throughout time and repeatedly to my heart. But when I hoard the wrong things, I don’t leave space for Him to get in. To breathe life, renewal, conviction and hope. 

But I choose to hoard the other messages. I choose to live into self through the wrong messages.

As I sat thinking on this, I thought about how I clean my closet. I follow the “Have I worn this in the last season?” But I don’t really apply that to my thoughts. I don’t look at them through the lens of “Is this truth I should be dwelling on?” It means I have to die to self even in my thoughts, every. single. day.

I can make that choice on so many actions but my thoughts? This is where I struggle so much. It is what leads to regret, shame, hurt, anger and deceit as we get self-focused and driven by ego/pride…driven by self. The work of our minds is the thing we are alone with the most, and as God dwells in us and the Holy Spirit fills us, we have to purge our minds of the messages we are hoarding.

I land here with Peter, nodding my head and seeking to purge the wrong messages of self and instead choose grace, the armor of God in the helmet of salvation, to use in adding truth in my thoughts.

With your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

My hope is no longer set in me, what I lack or what I accomplish, what my plans are or how I have failed. No, my mind is fully alert for Christ’s revelation. A mind shod with the helmet of salvation-grace extended in an unfathomable way- that is prepared for the battle ahead, in the day, with self, against the deception. A mind so trained on truth through the protection of faith that trust in the battle is forged fully in the hope of Christ.

Illusions of Control

How is Halloween over? It’s November 1st and we are dive-bombing straight into holiday season aren’t we?

Halloween has always been a fun time for me. I love the whole candy/dress up/festive nature of it. So many people take it to an extreme in either direction but I like to nestle in right in the middle. I enjoy campy scary movies, costumes and ridiculous ideas for goodies. There’s exactly one photo of me dressed up as a kid, and it was taken at school over lunch in the cafe-gym-a-torium. (What, your cafeteria wasn’t the gym and the auditorium too? You were missing out!)

I was a witch, and I don’t even recall that costume. I do however remember a Jem costume (which I touched on last week) and I recall that year in college I dressed as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I always picked strong females to go as. This year I constructed a lovely combo and the end result was this:

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Yes, I am a Price is Right contestant…and a fabulous one at that I might add.

But this all got me thinking, as most holidays tend to do. I think the reason why we all love Halloween so much is the illusion of controlling who people see us as is so prevalent.

Hang with me here, as I know we jumped from Plinko to pursuing control rather quickly.

It’s the illusion we all walk around with daily, on social media, in the office, in stores and with one another. We want others to see us in the way we have crafted, with almost too much perfection, rather than the way we were crafted to be. Because we were crafted as image-bearers. Reflections of the Divine, but broken.

In that broken, we just cannot manage. We cannot cope and we run to things to sew onto ourselves so that we are hidden. The we that shows our faults, our ugly bits, and who we were crafted as. So we feverishly hone the art of controlling the illusion of control. We chip it away, we polish it up and we put it on display. We hide away the parts that have been brought to our attention so that others cannot see them-see the real us, the faults.

We take ourselves right back to the beginning, there in the Garden, to the original sin all in the name of control. In the name of having control because it’s too hard to not have it. It’s much more difficult for us to relinquish and let go, trusting that He has it all planned and we just aren’t privy to it. We desire after that knowledge, and controlling how others see us is exactly how we can map out life in a controlled environment.

I keep saying we here because I am guilty of it too…seeking the illusion of control in order to be something other than what I was created to be. His reflection. The bearer of His image. Because when I seek that control, when I knit those fig leaves together to cover up, I am telling Him His image isn’t good enough for me. It’s not worthy and I don’t trust Him with knowing me.

Oh it stings to get to that realization, to see exactly what the lie of control really does, what it really communicates. It’s saying He isn’t enough. That He’s not trustworthy with my life. That faith cannot solely rest in Him because I know more, I am better. It’s a lie friends. A lie we have believed from the beginning that we can be more, and that if we but believe in the illusion of control then we will be more than what He has created us to be.

Frankly, I am just tired of the illusion and trickery. I am no longer a kid prone to magic tricks and tales. But I still dress up as though I believe it…so what if we decided to stop with the belief in the illusion? What would that look like within our own hearts, our lives, our relationships?

It’s November 1st y’all. It’s time to take off the costumes, the masks and relinquish the illusions we have carried up to now.

27 Thought Dresses

Over the years I have been graced with ample closet space. Living in a residence hall for four years as a professional, even then I had several closets for storage and clothing. When I moved to Nashville the first place I lived had seven closets. Seven. One was like a nesting doll, you kept finding additional closets within it.

For many that would have been a dream come true. But for me, it was wasted space. I am a purger of things. I don’t like to keep them around much if I haven’t worn it or used it within the last year. I have talked about this before on here, but I circle back around on it today because I have been dwelling on the idea of purging thoughts.

19dressesMuch like Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses I cling to the past in a way, just in case I might need it for later. My thoughts are stuffed full of moments and words, things I think about myself more than anything else, storing up mistakes and bad choices with the words I call myself.

I encourage and speak support into other lives, but myself? Not so much. I pull out the dress of dumb when I am just not getting something at work. I wrap up in the fabric of not good enough when I think about my singleness. I zip up in ugliness as I look around me at my beautiful friends. I pull the hood up on not qualified as I attempt to write.

Over and over again I run to this closet full of the garments of thoughts to clothe myself in, these invisible dresses and shirts of my own design that I can wear which no one sees. But they do. People can see how we talk to ourselves, because out of the overflow of our hearts come our words. We self-shame, and one of my go-to shamings (because this is a time to be raw with you all) is “big girl.” I call myself that pretty often around others, in attempt at humor but it’s also a defense mechanism…call yourself that first before someone gets the opportunity to think it, get the upper hand and let them know you are confidence in your looks.

Let me just tell y’all right now, this isn’t confidence. Identifying and dwelling in the untrue words of our thoughts is a lie. A lie we believe and cling to, hoping for comfort in whatever we are in. But the truth is it’s a mess and something we need to stop. Our thoughts lead to actions, lead to words and the building (or tearing down most likely) of ourselves and others.

I have had to take a good long look at my thoughts recently, and how they spill out in words. When I look at all those dresses of names and identities I have chosen for myself over the years within my thoughts, I recognize the ugliness and ridiculousness of them all. With all that Christ says I am, I have chosen to put on the robe of “not good enough” for far too long.

Now I choose to purge. To relinquish that which isn’t flattering. It isn’t pretty. It isn’t in season and it most certainly should never come back in style. Today I pull out all the thoughts I have been clothing myself in and make room for the thoughts He thinks towards me.

Daughter. Chosen. Beloved. Beautiful. Mine.

“Strength and honor are her clothing, and she can laugh at the time to come. ” Proverbs 31:25

I go back to these words which hang in my bathroom and are slowly being etched in my heart…ladies, (and gentlemen too) I hope you too clean out the thoughts of your mind if you are choosing the wrong things to clothe yourself with. It’s an every day choice, and sometimes that old sweatshirt of your former thoughts can look mighty appealing in the hard times, but trust that He gives you a crown, a robe of white….and those are far greater things than some dingy hoodie.

Worthy of Self

I preach to students that their self worth isn’t defined by others, unless they allow it to be. That it is not a reflection of who they are, simply in what someone else is saying, unless they choose to let it define them or live into it.

But I have struggled with the exact thing I am saying to others. People wield words to attack, simply out of their own need to control. They use them to make themselves feel better, because they have an issue within that they are choosing to ignore and instead deflect onto another person, often not even knowing them. In my humanness I have allowed others actions and words to take root.

Recently I was talking with a friend on how I worried over the judgement of what I write here. Of what people would say, and have said in regards to my writing. Then I realized I don’t write for anyone else, I write for my self. I write because God has gifted me with this and to allow others to define or quieten that gift is to be disobedient. It’s to look at the blessing and say “No, I value others over Your gift God.”

The same thing happens when we allow our self-worth to be defined by what others say, titles, or actions. I cannot control what others say or do towards me or about me. You can’t. No one can. People will lie because that’s what they do to make themselves look and/or feel better. That’s not your business. Your business is using the gift God has given you, for the time He has given it and the way He has given it. He has told you that you are worthy. You are beautiful. You were created by Him, for good works.

Does that mean that sometimes it’s incredibly difficult and people close to you hurt you? Absolutely. Does that mean it will come naturally to value self over other’s opinions? No. Our natural tendency is to focus on the approval of others, to appease others, to gain as many people to our view and way of thinking as possible.

But God hasn’t called us to that. He’s called us to so much more in Him. People will let you down. They will cut you down. The ones you thought you could trust will inevitably break that trust. Don’t rest your self-worth in anyone other than yourself and God.

We do a slap-bang job already of tearing ourselves down, how about we stop letting others do that too? Walk worthy of the calling you’ve been given, regardless of what others say or do in response. After all, the only thing you can control is how you respond or allow people to affect you.

The Heckler.

I was a part of a group in college that, due to our heckling, were instrumental in getting the student section moved at the Tennessee baseball games. I had to stop going to basketball games at the first institution I worked at because the gym was so small, they could hear me yelling outside.

I am, by nature, a heckler. I am not proud of this ability, and it has been reigned in with recent years and age. I used to call it sass…but I think alot of it has to do with the attitude and perspective.

You know the devil likes to heckle us. He chooses to heckle the ones whom God is using powerfully. The ones God is working in and through to be impacts on others, on the world. The devil heckles because he is annoyed with us. Because from his perspective we are not diverted or distracted by his whims and wiles. We don’t fall prey to his tactics.

So he goes to what he knows…biting words. Lies. Mocking.

He can and will choose anything to keep us from stepping into what God has for us. Because after all, isn’t that hecklers do? They yell and scream until we believe them. Until they disrupt what we had our mind set on, what we believed to be true. We will doubt our ability, in Christ, to step forward. We will doubt where He is calling us. We will begin to believe what he says about our inabilities, just how incapable we are for anything. We will see the excuse and use it, rather than take that one step out.

That one hesitation is all he needs. One hesitation and then he’s on you like the crowd in Cameron Indoor is on an air ball by the opposing team.

But God. That’s something I always love about Scripture. He places a “but” in there.

But God says you are more. That you are not capable on your own, but in Him you are strong. You have the power to withstand, to take the one step. When you do, you silence the heckling. And when it comes again at you, and it will, you will know and remember His promise that He is with you. He has good planned for you. And you took that one step to silence the heckler.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

 

The Window’s Ajar

I have a window at the top of my stair well. I love how light floods in at certain times of the day there. As I went to open the blinds on the window I happened to look out and see water had pooled at the top of the frame from the rain we had gotten over the last few days. That’s when I really saw it.

The window was ajar. Like a good two inches.

I looked at the bottom and saw it was not wet underneath nor had any water gotten in. Thankfully nothing seemed to be damaged and I quickly shut and locked it. Then I started to think about when I had opened that window. In the two months I have been in my home I have not opened that window once. Thus making me ponder on the fact that it had been ajar for a while without my notice.

I go by that window daily. Multiples times a day. There it stood partially open. Allowing not only energy and air out, but the outside in.

The same could be said for the heart. More importantly my heart.

For quite some time (and by time I mean years) I have kept my heart ajar. With a small filter, it’s remained open to letting some things filter in and alot of it to flow out. And while it is a good, and right thing to have an open heart, I did not realize what I was allowing to flow in. You see I had allowed in the whisper of a lie and it had set up residence in my heart. It was small and inconsequential at the time, but years down the road I see the infestation within my heart.

A whisper of “you can be the one.” Seems so harmless, right?

When that whisper grows into “you are the one” and it clouds your thinking and judgement. It points to a past and never to a future, or even a realized present. It overruns your thinking in situations, conversations and encounters. It is a me focused way of living, or existing I should say. While it is an exhausting business to dig deep and find the root of the issue, it’s also breathtakingly releasing to know the problem was there all along.

It’s a disgusting rodent to root out in your heart, but one that requires a complete fumigation. Mine went unchecked to the point where the heart had to be tented and I had to move out of it for a few days. I had to step aside and see that I was being shown over and over where it was manifesting and how I needed to set about pulling up the carpet and shutting the windows. Does this mean a closed-off heart? Absolutely not! I just know that I have to be aware of when the bugs attempt to get in to have a screen in place. I must filter and address, spot shooting anything that might slip in undetected.

Ultimately I know I cannot keep the window ajar for periods of time. It could lead to a higher price to pay down the road and one that goes beyond just the energy lost.