7 Habits of Women Who are Fully Alive

I like to help women get untangled.

I do it for myself all the time. If something is off I dig, pray, journal and talk to friends until I figure out what’s going on inside me or around me. I’ve always been about freedom, and depth, and really living. It's who I am.

It is also why I've decided to make it my career! I like to see women alive. Alive in Christ. Making the most of their life.

The opposite of numb and boring. Because, with Christ, we have no excuse to be either. 

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This week, as I’ve continued to refine my purpose (Did you see my new tagline?), I’ve been thinking a lot about how we as everyday women, can be fully engaged with life, now.

I’m a firm believer that life is now, today, and that really living has to be fought for. It isn’t handed to us.

Comfort is handed to us. Obligation is forced on us. Fear finds us. But a life fully lived? We have to be proactive about that one. 

So, today, I write to encourage us all to be more proactive. Here’s the cool part. I’m not about to say that you have to move to Uganda and start an orphanage to be fully alive. While that would be awesome, being fully engaged with life is not about whats going on around you, it's about whats going on inside you.

The 7 habits I’ve seen in women I admire and in myself, when I’m at my most alive, are simple choices we can start making today. I’m talking about all of us. The mom. The single working gal. The cosmetologist and the church secretary.

The 7 Habits

1) Make Healthy Female Friendships a Priority

Sisterhood. Squad. Tribe. The need for female friends is even more real, I think, then the desire for romantic love. Women who are really choosing to show up for life every day, know that they can not do life alone and that normally have a close group of girl-friends who they can vent to, garner encouragement from and speak out loud their most irrational fears. It also does wonders for the soul to sit around in sweatpants and laugh with a nice glass of…something=)

2) Don’t Watch Too Much TV

We are only given so many hours in a day. You can spend your time or you can invest it. Too much TV is not really a wise investment of time. Yes, I binge-watched The Crown. And yes, “A binge can work like a steel door that blocks our brains from thinking about those constant stressors that force themselves into our thoughts.” (Paige, 2017) But I wasn’t fully living during that time in my life. I was self-medicating the extreme burnout I was enduring. TV is a nice way to relax for an hour or two but I ask you – if you are watching more than an hour or two a day, what’s the issue? Are you overly stressed? Are you bored with your life? Are you trying to escape?

If you want to be more alive, choose to invest in your own life, not watching other people live theirs.

3) Work Out

Women who live life fully work out because they want to feel good, heal or be kind to their bodies. They work out because it creates balance and decreases stress. They do not work out to simply “look good.” Exercise can’t just be about getting the attention of others. It has to be enjoyed for what it is in the moment. The release of all those great endorphins, the ease of depression and anxiety, the self-confidence booster, and so much more. (Semeco, 2017)

Exercise promotes the energy of life to flow into nearly all facets of our being. Walk. Do yoga. Jog a little bit. Exercise not to live longer but to maximize feeling alive, today.

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4) Spend Consistent Time with God

If I was ranking these in order of importance this would be number 1 with a big fat star next to it. Listen, I know who I am when I’m abiding with Christ versus who I am when I’m not. We all know. When not practicing this habit I have less patience, I give in to the temptation more often, I can feel sad, anxious and even numb for no reason at all. I lack faith, fear starts to set in…and so on.

Praise the Lord, I’ve been pretty consistent in this area of my life lately. What changed? Well, much like I said about exercise I began to realize how life-giving this habit is. It’s so positive and so pleasurable when it’s happening the right way, that it’s pretty hard to stop!

What is a right way? Well, whatever works for you. Long walks. Prayer Journals. A structured devotional. So long as it includes complete vulnerability with Jesus and some daily bread for your soul.

5) Serve

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We were made to give. Giving to others is practically satisfying and natural for women. (the real challenge for most women to learning when to say “no” when the “takers” in their life don’t set limits) But still, it’s important to remember that “The more we make this life about ourselves the more miserable we will be” – Matt Chandler. 

I have never felt more alive than when I was serving others while doing missions work. Yes, the exotic locations helped. But I felt most alive because I could almost physically feel the life of Christ empowering me and flowing through me and into others.

So, who are you pouring life into? Your kids? Your husband? The team you serve with at church? Your local Habitat for Humanity? Serving, when done with a willing heart, will make you feel more alive than almost anything else.

6) Don’t Sit in Self-Pity

As John Gardner said, “Self-pity is easily the most destructive of the non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure and separates the victim from reality.”

When I have given in to self-pity I am the absolute worst version of myself. I assume the worst things about others, envy takes over my heart, I am fruitless. It’s an ugly situation. I give myself a bit of time, depending on the severity of the situation and then I try really hard (and it is hard) to fight the temptation to feel bad for myself.

Pulling yourself out of self-pity is almost a physical struggle. It’s heavy and hard and you have to manufacture the energy to do it out of thin air. It’s mind over matter. (Renewing your mind)

It’s choosing what is good until you start to feel good again.

7) Practice Vulnerability

Ah, human connection. Scary, isn’t it. I don’t really need to say much here instead I’m just going to drop in the video of a viral TEDtalk on the topic. Have you seen it? If not, make time. This one will blow some dust off the rustiest parts of your heart.

 
 

 

WHAT NOW?

Friends, this is NOT a To-Do list. That’s the last thing any of us need. However, I bet as you read there was an item or two that pricked your heart. There was a moment when you felt a quickening in your spirit that said: “girl, you need more of that in your life.”

So here is the big secret, habit # 8 if you will. Listening to that voice, right there, is how you start to really live. 

Get out of your head and just listen, with wisdom, to the Light inside you. That voice is leading you to LIFE. You can do it. Choose one thing and go for it.

You can start by commenting below and letting us know which thing you choose! Maybe you want to stop shopping so much and buy a ticket to go see your best friend. Perhaps you will put on your walking shoes and walk until you feel better. Today, you will resolve to tell a trusted friend something you've never told anyone (practice vulnerability).

Yes, it's easier to go through the motions day by day. Personally, I don't want easy...I want good. I want life. 

I have a feeling you do too. 

 

 

NOT SURE WHERE TO BEGIN?

If you happen to read this list and feel a bit sad because even though these things speak to your soul, you feel like you don't have the tools to get there (don't have an easy time building close friendships, have no idea what your passion is or where you want to serve, are terrified of vulnerability) I encourage you check out the Personal Coaching I offer. It is designed for moments just like this and women just like you. 

 
 

How to Date a Non-Believer

I know you. The one who clicked on this link, hoping to read something here that will affirm your current relationship, or the one you want to be in.

I am you. Or at least I was.

The girl who loves Jesus and has an honest to goodness desire to be married, to be a wife and a mom. The one who has been a bridesmaid…a lot. The one who knows her worth and often wonders why others can’t see it. The one who has waited for 4 years, 10 years, 15 years…or more for her “life” to start.

You fill your life with good and meaningful things. You try your hardest to trust God. Small group here, a weekend trip there, a good job. You listen to all the encouragement from your family and friends but secretly still cry about once a week because the longing is so real and the wondering why grows on you with each passing year like an ugly wart.

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You are lovely…but you don’t feel it anymore. You are lonely, on a level that family and friends just can’t fill. And while Jesus is indeed enough…there are still desires.

The world feels like a twilight zone where no good men exist and the ones that do, oddly enough, look right through you. An alternate reality to the one you dreamed of growing up. You are living in a world where everyone else’s life seems to have kept going and yours somehow stopped.

You feel left behind. And alone.

Then…he comes along. The one who finally sees you. I mean really sees you, the woman in you and he thinks you’re beautiful. He makes you feel special. Somehow, over some course of time…you let him into that place inside where the void has caused gnawing pains for years. And suddenly, miraculously, almost overnight, the pain goes away.

There is only one problem. He isn’t a Christian. He does not have a personal relationship with God…and you most certainly do.

I have been in love once (and infatuation once) with men who didn’t share my faith. I did not go looking for them, they found me. I worked in close proximity to them and an initial attraction grew into an appreciation for their company which led to a date. The rest is history.

Let me say something. Girl, I do not judge you for falling. A LOT of people will but most people have not walked your road, or rather stood there in the middle of it while everyone else zoomed by.

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I have. I honest to goodness have. I am 35. I am still unmarried. I am still waiting to have sex. I know your experience.

And that is why I will never, ever judge you.

But, I must warn you. The road you are on, or about to embark on doesn’t usually turn out good. It can. I have actually heard of a few situations where a non-believing partner has a genuine conversation after starting to date a believer. I’ll get to that.

But first, let me tell you, from my experience, how to date a non-believer.

1) Get ready to be mad, a lot

If you come from a God-fearing family, this situation normally upsets a lot of people. Be prepared to feel the most misunderstood you have ever felt. You will get mad at them for not “supporting you” but how can they, really? They are afraid for you and don’t know if you will have the ability to let your brain (and faith) triumph over your heart. Most people don’t. So, they will get mad and you will get mad back.

You will also get mad, or more likely hurt, every time your new man doesn’t show up at church. Every time he doesn’t listen to that sermon you sent him. Every time he says one thing but does another.

I don’t like being mad at the people I love, but somehow these situations seem to cause a lot of that.

2) Get ready to miss God

In order to for the relationship with non-believer-guy to grow, you will have to meet him the middle. And you will because it feels so good to finally be bonding with someone you actually like and who is male!

You will have long talks and walks and kisses and it will all feel good. So good, that you will forget for a little while, how much you need God.

Your prayers will become almost exclusively about the relationship and the salvation of your guy. Your time in church, if he does join you, will be spent wondering the entire time what HE is thinking. Forget actually growing in your own faith.

You will probably stop worshiping the way you used to and maybe even stop hanging out with your friends as much. Why? Because nobody else understands and this guy just feels good, and he is enough. 

For now.

But the day will come when the newness wears off and you will wake up to realize that you miss God. You hear His voice in the distance and it actually sounds, wonderful. More wonderful than you remember.

Because your Loving Father misses you too and will never leave you, He will begin to woo you. He will convict you with His loving-kindness.

When that moment comes, the moment that you know deep in your gut that your guy is doing this whole church thing “for you” and that it has never really turned into something that he is truly interested in for himself - your heart will start to feel like you are betraying your Lord.

Up to this point there has been an honest-to-goodness agreement between you and God. God, I really think you are using me in his life. If it ever becomes clear that he is not interested in the faith, I will walk away, I promise. I do love You, Lord, more than Him.

(Are you wondering yet how I got a hold of your journal?)

When this moment comes, you have three choices.

1 – Lie to yourself and go on ignoring all the signs that your man really doesn’t want to get to know God and look only for the smallest hints that prove otherwise.

2 – Renege on your promise to God. Sorry God, I choose him, but I still love you too!

3 – Break-up with him

3) Be prepared for heartbreak

I’ve chosen #3. I have an annoying inability to lie to myself and by the grace of God, my heart is still the most enchanted with my Savior King, even when I love someone else.

This is when it turns ugly. The breakup happens and it hurts.

Have you ever cried so hard you’ve had a migraine? Get ready for that. Have you ever been so grieved by a loss that you lost your appetite, for weeks and weeks? That might happen too. Have you ever had a sense that something just broke inside you that is unrepairable? Have you felt true depression?

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Breakups hurt no matter what, especially when people have fallen in love. But there is something about praying for the salvation of another, that makes your heart attach to them is a different way. There is something about letting someone go not knowing if you will ever see them again, not even in heaven, that causes a there-are-no-words-kind-of-sadness in a way that other break-ups don’t.

I literally remember telling one of the loved-me-didn’t-love-Jesus-guys, in tears, that I can’t imagine spending my life here with him only to not spend eternity with him. He had compassion for my sadness but no understanding of my words.

I’m more haunted by that than anything.

4) Gird yourself for some serious guilt

After it’s over you will experience a sense of shame and guilt. It will be greater in proportion to how long you let the relationship go on and how far you went physically. Even if you kept it relatively short and don’t sleep with the guy (my situation both times) you will STILL feel bad for letting someone fall in love with you, only to eventually tell them that you are walking away for a reason that was there from the very start. 

Yuck.

OK, I WILL WRAP IT UP

Listen, sister. I’m writing you this article today because unlike the rest of the world who will try to tell you "Just don’t do it," I’d rather give it to you straight and say if you do insist on going down this road – be ready.

I don’t know the real numbers, I wish I did, but I bet 1/50 get saved (if that) and 20/50 break up. Where does that leave the other 29?

Unhappily married.

Of the few stories I’ve heard of where a partner has a genuine conversion experience, two things are always true. #1 – they don’t have sex. If you sleep with someone while trying to win them over to Christ you can FORGET IT and #2 – the honest interest in God on the part of the non-believer happened right away as if God was really already working in their heart before you showed up. If months pass and there isn’t much change – that’s a bad sign.

My advice to you, sweet, lovely, lonely, amazing, worthy friend is simply this. Do not go down this road unless you are sure that you can deny your heart what you think it wants when the Spirit speaks up. 

And honestly, do you even want to make that choice?

It was way, way harder than I thought it would be.

My Favorite Finds #3

Discovering great products, things that can become my new staple or just add a dab of joy to my day is a favorite pastime of mine. I don’t know about you but I always get so excited when someone recommends something I haven't heard of or tried yet. So, for fun, occasionally I do a “Favorite Finds” post. Welcome to post #3! I hope you find something new to love!

Click on any picture to shop on Amazon

This book. If you haven't heard of it already you might be living under a rock. Ha. But, for good measure, I'm recommending it too. The message is simple. Love everbody, always. Its refreshing and light and very inspiring and you should get it if you need some feel good in your life. 

My favorite moisturizer of all time. This body oil is affordable and works better than all the pricey stuff I've bought at Sephora. Put a good squeeze in the bath and you will emerge with the softest skin with no effort at all. Use it in the shower - Just use it. It removes that annoying step of putting lotion all over your body. You'll thank me! 

While we are on the topic of affordable pampering here, enter the best cup of black tea you will ever have. This is loose leaf tea, so if you don't have your own tea strainer, make sure you select the option with the "satchels" AKA tea bags. It's so yummy that it's like a Hug-in-a-Mug...for your soul. 

Here we have a more practical item. Cute Mailers! I find that I need these little guys often to ship stuff that I sell on-line or to wrap a quick present. They are under $20 and you get 100 of them! Cute and classy - nice to have around. I've re-purchased these twice. 

3 Ways to Take Self Care to the Next Level

There is a lot of talk about Self-Care lately. Why? Because there are a lot of very overworked, over-committed, stressed out, anxiety-ridden people – young and old. A lot.

We’ve been told we can do it all, so we try. We’ve been told we can have it all, so we get it. We’ve been told the world is ours, so we expect it.

The answer to all this burnout, stress, anxiety and depression seems to be “self-care”. Self-Care urges us to put our own needs first, occasionally, in an effort to avoid ending up in the ER (or putting someone there)!

Get that massage. Buy that purse. Get whipped cream on your iced latte. Light up that scented candle and take a long bubble bath. (Side note: All those things actually sound really good right now. 😉)

Good things. All of them. Helpful things.

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We’ve even taken it to a better place where we consider making time for solitude, prayer and Bible reading to be “Self-Care” or “Soul-Care” as some call it. Make ABIDING a priority.

Now we’re talking.

I’m proud of us all for fighting this culture that wants us to be exhausted, busy and overwhelmed. I think Satan uses those things to keep us all angry, stressed and looking just like the world. Because if we act  and operate just like the world, then we aren’t very bright, little lights, are we?

So, I’m sold on this idea of Self-Care.  Except, I believe it goes way beyond alone time with your favorite Netflix show. I believe our first obligation is to our own souls’ condition. I believe this is a command. It’s also a gift from God. I believe that all work and all love and all giving must flow from fullness and not be given begrudgingly.

I’m so sold…I want to take it to the next level.

What else can we do? What else can we learn from the Word? What does Jesus teach us about how to best maintain our center of peace and our wellspring of joy?

Today, I offer a few ideas.

#1 - Set Better Boundaries with Your Time

Setting boundaries boils down to being more concerned with pleasing God than pleasing others. When pressed, 9 times out of 10, people who are giving out of compulsion, living on emptiness and having a hard time saying no, will eventually say “But I don’t want others to be mad at me.”

Ok then. You have just decided that the approval of others is more important to you than the approval of God.

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Or maybe what you are saying, when you agree to do something even though you don’t want to do it, is that you think the essence of being a “Good Christian” is never saying no.

Yeah, we are supposed to kind, but can you be kind when you are empty? I mean really, can you? Can you really love others with you own finite supply of love? No. 

God does not tell us to sacrifice our body, mind and soul for the benefit of others. He tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, to Him. (Romans 12:1)

Did you catch that? He wants us holy, long before he wants us to be productive. He also wants us to be joyful. If you can’t give (your time, energy, effort or even money) with a good attitude, He tells us not to give at all.

What does this have to do with setting better boundaries with your time?

Self-Care can not just be reactive. Oh! I snapped at my brother so I probably need some alone time. Shoot, I cussed at my spouse so I better get a mani-pedi. No. Start to think ahead. Look at your schedule. Plan it out. Say no sometimes even if you don’t have a concrete reason. Keep yourself from snapping in the first place, if you can.

Make time, all the time, to just enjoy loving & learning more about God before you "do" anything else. (Luke 10:27)

#2 – Say No to Inappropriate Behavior

I absolutely love when Jesus shows love…for Himself. He repeatedly refuses to give into cynicism, manipulation and baiting questions. Have you seen it? He’s so matter-of-fact about it that it is easy to miss. 

When we feel mistreated or misunderstood we can fume for days. Not Jesus.

He didn’t sit around with the disciples and complain. “How dare the religious leaders try to make me look foolish with their questions!” “Did you see the way Herod mocked me, it hurt my feelings!” “I don’t understand why you guys still don’t understand who I am, I need you to believe in me!” He’s not offended or surprised when sinners act like sinners and people are just…dumb.

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He doesn’t take it personally but He also doesn’t take it.

Look it up, it’s so great. (Luke 5:15-16) (Matthew 12:46-50) (Matthew 21:23-27, 22:15-22) (Luke 23:8-9) (Matthew 16:23).
He just shuts it down and moves on.
I think that’s the key to saying no to inappropriate behavior in life. Don’t get too worked up. Be matter of fact. Just say no. Just call it out, without getting mad. Just move on.

Someone I used to know liked to jokingly guilt me. They would sometimes say things like “How dare you. You just ruined my whole week” when I said I couldn’t have lunch with them. One day I said, “Nope, I’m not responsible for your emotions, don’t put that on me.” We laughed a little. It was awkward. They got the point.

I also had a co-worker who liked to talk down to people in the office as a defense mechanism when she made a mistake. She would make someone else look stupid so she didn’t feel stupid, kind of thing. She tried it on me. Very calmly and kind of confused, I asked “Why are you talking to me like a child?” She never did it again.

Self-Care is about more than just keeping your reserves full, it’s also about refusing to let the precious reserves be wasted on situations that don’t deserve it.

#3 – Choose a Sole Focus

Jesus could have done more when He was on earth, have you ever thought about that? As a carpenter, He could have built physical churches. As a friend, son and brother, He could have made other people’s problems “His to fix.” As the Living Word, He could have written books!

Jesus had sole focus when He was on earth…the cross. He made His focus the greatest thing and that was that. He listened to His Father and showed restraint with His ability and power. I also highly doubt that He ever let himself feel guilty about the stuff He “could have done” or all the other people He “could have healed”.

Nah. He just did what He was called to do and could not have cared less about others opinions.

One of my life mottos has become, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. I know. It’s incredibly hard to say no to good, worthy things. It’s even harder to say no to things that you are good at and people praise you for! Ah! There we go again…wanting the approval & acceptance of others over that of God.

The final way that I think we can take Self-Care to the next level is to choose, very wisely, what our focus is. What is the best thing, or few things? What we have to give is precious and powerful and frankly, not even ours. What is the sole focus the Father is impressing upon your heart and hard will it be to cut the other good (and bad) stuff out?

What’s the point?

Self-Care, when taken to the next level, restores and protects our soul. It allows us to be the most different and bring the most glory to God. This is what I want. I want my life, me, to be so different that it speaks of Jesus without me saying a word. If that means I have to tell people "no" and cut some stuff out, so be it. I want to be full. 

Friends I’m challenging myself this week (and you!) to stay close enough to God that His love fully satisfies me and His acceptance completely fulfills me. Then, to allow that fullness to overflow into willing work, happy serving and cheerful giving. And say NO to anything or anyone who attempts to steal or misuse my precious peace.

 

My Favorite Finds #2

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Discovering great products, things that can become my new staple or just add a dab of joy to my day is a favorite pastime of mine. I don’t know about you but I always get so excited when someone recommends something I haven't heard of or tried yet. So, for fun, occasionally I do a “Favorite Finds” post. Welcome to post #2! I hope you find something new to love!

 

Click on any picture to shop on Amazon

 

To start with, the most perfect backpack at the best price you will ever find. This bag is thick canvas with leather accents and comes in a ton of cool colors. I took this bag with me on a trip to Europe and I can tell you that the construction is quality. Not to mention the "doctor style" opening is cute and making finding stuff inside super easy. Then there is the price....it's kind of a steal. Get one. It's cute and perfect for everything...school, day trips, diaper bags, and even European adventures. 

Next, the set of pens that will end your search for the perfect pens. These pens are fine point, very pigmented, mine haven't dried out yet (and I've had them for months!) and major bonus, they are super affordable. Check them out now!

Not Yet Married, the book. It's different and refreshing, which is hard to find when it comes to the topic of singleness. It's really more about living and finding joy and removing that assumption once and for all that marriage will complete our life. Read it, or gift it. It's a chain-breaker kinda book.

Last, Tarte Cosmetics palette. This palette is ideal for ladies with "cool" coloring. Not sure what your coloring is? Check here:  http://stylecaster.com/cool-warm-skin-undertones/. Anyway, this palette often sells out, so hopefully, it's there if you want it. If not, just remember that Tarte products are a big winner in my book. No weird smell and they go on smooth, last forever and are worth the investment - I've had this palette for over a year and its still going strong. 

Enjoy!

My Favorite Finds #1

I'm often asked if I have any book or Bible Study recommendations. This blog category began with that in mind but has somewhat morphed. Discovering great products, things that can become my staple or just add a dab of joy to my day, is a favorite pastime of mine. I don’t know about you but I always get so excited when someone else loves a product! So, for fun, occasionally I do a “Favorite Finds” post. I will recommend a great book as well as some of my personal favorite products. I hope you find something new to love!

Click on any picture to shop on Amazon

First, the book. I'm halfway through Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler and I'm loving it. It's life-giving in ways that I didn't even know I needed. I re-read the introduction three times before I even moved on to the rest of the book. Three times! 

Next, some pricey shampoo. But not just any shampoo, this is the one, if you know what I mean. ORIBE is the only shampoo I've ever used that makes my hair crazy shiny and full of body. If it's within your budget, I promise you will love it.

Rifle Paper Co. Inspirational Wall Calendar. At 11 x 17 inches, each month is a work of art. After 2018 has passed, do yourself a favor and trim the calendar part off and then frame the pictures. They are so stylish. If nothing else, click on the picture just it to see how lovely each month is.

Last, a leather drawstring purse from BAGGU. In all honesty, I don't have this purse...yet, but I'm eyeing it! It's casual, cute, quality and would make a really great gift for any female, of any age, for any occasion. (hint, hint;) Personally, I love timeless pieces like this, they are always worth the investment. 

Balancing Effort and Surrender: My Quest to Enjoy My Work

#Hustle #Slay #Grind.

Work hard. Work harder. Work the hardest.

I’m in the middle of launching my own business. Well, by the time you read this, it will be up and running! There are endless things to be done. Write this, print that, post this, look up that, file that document, learn more about this thing and that thing, write some more, put together a promotional pack, welcome pack, intake sheets, go meet with local pastors, set up meetings with local pastors….you get it.

About six months ago I was in the middle of the worst health crisis I’ve ever experienced. Stress had caused my body to pretty much shut down on me in more ways than one and in the span of 3 months I had taken 3 trips to the ER, a week of “stress leave” and had a procedure done for a mystery ailment.

Cliff notes version of the last 6 months…I surrendered all my pride and quit the job that defined me as “successful,” at least in my eyes after the Lord made it clear I should do so.  I moved to Idaho to rest for a while and took some time to travel. The story of how and when I felt the permission to finally strike out on my own is awesome but for another time. For the sake of this blog, I want to focus on what the Lord is teaching me today. Right now.

Only a few months past the epic stress-induced, anxiety-ridden meltdown, I’ve been tempted to go right back to the old habits and ways of thinking that I had just been delivered from.

Perhaps all working women feel this way, but I know as a single woman, I feel an enormous amount of pressure to work hard and provide for myself. I also feel like I have to “be successful” because if I’m not a wife and a mom, well then, I have to at least be killing it at my career, right? The natural drift of my heart is towards self-reliance. I like the pretty Pinterest posts that say “Wake up, slay, repeat” and “Dreams demand hustle.” My flesh responds to every #girlboss quote I see. Yes, girl, YOU can do it. Get it done! Work hard. Work Harder. Work the hardest.

Yet, as I am embarking on this exciting and demanding time in my life, a time when #hustle should pretty much be tattooed on my forehead, I feel the Holy Spirit telling me to stop. Slow down. Rest.

God has just delivered me from a life and mental addiction to overworking, over-worrying and self-reliance. I will not go back to it. The trial was so severe that the truths I’ve learned are like “well-driven nails,” (Eccl. 12:11) and I am so, so thankful. I have been refined, and Satan will not trick me again.

So instead, as I prepare for the launch of a new life, a life where my income relies solely on how hard I work, I am not rocking a cute T-shirt that says “Wake Up. Slay. Repeat” I am contemplating and seeking wisdom about what the balance between effort and surrender really means for me, in real life, every day.

Here is what I’m learning.

Taking a break does not make me less productive

It makes me more so. Read more about this awesome truth here. https://lifeforleaders.depree.org/wont-keeping-the-sabbath-make-me-less-productive/

It's ok to step away from work when there is still work to be done

Jesus did it. Why can’t I?

We are not told to work harder but we are told repeatedly to rest, take refuge and trust harder

67 verses in the Bible talk about taking refuge in God. 71 verses talk about resting physically. More than 120 verses talk about trusting God, which implies mental rest. One of the 10 commandments actually requires that we rest, weekly, not just two weeks a year.

Jesus was never hurried

Jesus never lets anything, not even the death of his friend (John 11:6) force him into a hurried pace of life. 

As I started to contemplate NOT working too hard, I thought of the verse “There is a time to work and a time to rest” and wondered what it might teach me on the topic. Are we really meant to grind away all week and just fall on our face on Sundays and binge watch The Office? Are we really meant to just push and push and push and then spend two weeks once a year in Hawaii?

Guess what, no such verse exists. The verse I was thinking of actually reads “There is a time to plant and a time to harvest” (Ecc. 3:2) and it implies that work is done is rhythms, not that we live a compartmentalized life or work until we are so exhausted, anxious and stressed and that we have no choice but to stop.

What was even more interesting to me was what I found a few verses later. Verse 11 says “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live, also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in his toil, this is God’s gift to man.”

Woah. Hold up.

Those are some seriously strong words. Be joyful and do good? Take pleasure in our work? This is God’s gift to us? This is revolutionary stuff. This is what I want. 

So...what does abiding look like for me to make sure that I am joyful? How often do I need to pause, bask and reflect in order to take pleasure in my work? How seriously do I need to surrender worry about finances, reputation and the approval of others in order to just enjoy my toil as God’s gift to me?

Work honors God. Worry does not. Can I do the former without the latter?

With the Holy Spirit's help, I can. The Spirit is loud in my heart right now and I'm determined to listen this time. Trust in my provision and not in your hard work. This trust is what actually allows me to enjoy my work. This trust must be fought for daily and I fight by simply living as if God's got it. This means stepping away from work to let God continually provide rest for my soul and to refill me. It's simple things like taking a walk, going to grab a coffee, eating and drinking, singing a few worship songs in my car or calling a friend when I “should be writing.” It's a new way of life, a new way of work, to consciously allow Him to be the source of all my strength and all my provision. 

Suddenly, familiar old verses are coming to life in a new way.

Matthew 11:28–30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Philippians 4:6–7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I will leave you with a snippet from my most recent journal entry.

“I feel you, Lord, granting me the faith to trust that you will provide for me. You are leading me step by step in this unfamiliar dance. My nature wants to learn the steps now, be good at it, and take over the lead. But with a tug in my spirit here, a pull there, a spin here, a nudge and a pause – you are asking me to just enjoy this once in a lifetime dance. 

For me, surrender (trust) is stopping, often and believing that You can and will take care of me. And in this stopping, I am finding you waiting there, to refuel me, to inspire me, to receive my offering of thanks. Then back to work I go, happy.”

It feels really good to be happy. 

I’ll miss you, you sassy slogans, you. Slay, Hustle, Grind. You sure made me feel important.

But from now on I’ll be all about the #comeallwholabor (Matthew 11:28) #bejoyfuldogood (Ecc. 3:12) #takepleasureinyourwork (Ess. 3:13) #workbutdontworry (Matthew 6:31) #ineverythingpray (Phil 4:6-7) #dwellintheshelter (Ps 91:1-2) #myGodwillsupply (Heb 4:19) kind of life.

Why We Must Sacrifice for Love

This week I had lunch with an awesome young woman. She probably has no idea (unless she reads this blog!) that something she said, along with 2 other occurrences this week, helped a major spiritual light bulb go off for me.

During our lunch, I was talking about trusting God’s guidelines for my life romantically, even when they don’t make sense. (Which has included not having sex yet --- which by the way is really really hard. Not sure why the Church doesn’t acknowledge that more often! And also letting go of a guy who I actually loved and loved me because he didn’t share my faith --- and some other hard choices) Trusting that if He says “don’t have sex with someone who isn’t your spouse” then he means it, even when I’m getting older and society makes fun of me for this choice. Trusting that I shouldn’t be unequally yoked even when there are some “good guys” out there who want me and it seems all Christian men are married already.

As I was telling her some of this she looked at me and said: “That’s an amazing testimony…that you have chosen to trust God even when it hurts to do so.”

When she said those words something that felt a lot like relief came over me.

I’ve spent the last three days trying to figure out why.

For a long time, I’ve been bitter about my obedience, because at times it really does hurt. I’m like a little kid who crosses her arms and looks defiantly in her dad's face and says “fine, I’ll do what you’re asking me to do, but I’m not happy about it.”

Occurrence number 2 that led to my spiritual epiphany was when my mom was telling me about giving something up to make my dad happy. In my bitterness, I personalized her situation: God, you have asked me to give up things I LOVE for you, too. That can’t be love?! That’s abuse. That’s control. That’s mean. Obedience is one thing, doing something that hurts me, is another! (Can't you just see my red-faced little-girl tantrum. Ha.)

Enter occurrence number 3. Last night while still contemplating if love should ever really hurt or not, I randomly opened the book “The Reason for God” (By Timothy Keller) and I read these paragraphs:

“For a love relationship to be healthy there must be a mutual loss of independence. Both sides must say to each other, ‘I will adjust to you. I will serve you even though it means sacrifice for me.’ If only one party does all the sacrificing and giving and the other does all the ordering and taking the relationship with be exploitative and will oppress and distort the lives of both people.

At first sight, then a relationship with God seems inherently dehumanizing. Surely it will have to be one way, God’s way, the Divine being has all the power. I might adjust to God – there is no way God is going to adjust to or serve me.

While this may be true in other forms of religion and belief in God, it is not true in Christianity. In the most radical way, God has adjusted to us – in his incarnation and atonement. In Jesus Christ he became a limited human being, vulnerable to suffering and death. On the cross, he submitted to our condition – as sinners – and died in our place to forgive us. In the most profound way, God has said to us, in Christ, ‘I will adjust to you. I will change for you. I will serve you though it means a sacrifice for me.’”

So. Many. Lightbulbs.

1.     BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD DOES RESTRAIN ME. I do not like feeling restrained. I like freedom. No, I love freedom, but I was created to be in love. I think we can only be our truest selves when we are in love – but how interesting that we also give up a lot of personal freedoms and independence to get love. In both a romantic relationship and a relationship with God this is true. Being in a relationship with God does restrain me but It also sets me free because freedom “isn’t the absence of limitations and constraints but it is finding the right ones, those that fit our nature and liberate us.” (Keller, pg. 49)

Like a fish who can only be free in the water, it is also restrained to the water. It was created to be in the water. I was created to have intimacy with God, that is where we I am free and yet, restrained.

2.     I AM BLESSED TO BE ABLE TO PROVE MY LOVE TO GOD. Wow. I really hope I can still say that in a year. It’s taken me 33 years to say it, I sure hope it doesn’t wear off anytime soon=) I was bitter about “sacrificing for God” because I was feeling like the “relationship” was one-sided and that he was somehow demanding this obedience of me. I had lost sight of the great adjustment and sacrifice the God really has already made for me. He proved his love to me….through a willing, though PAINFUL sacrifice. I don’t want to compare my level of sacrifice to Christ’s, but in my own way, in the way Christ has given me the opportunity in this life, I too get to willingly prove my love to Him by trusting when it HURTS, believing when its HARD and obeying when it DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. I’m not sure how or why I had forgotten this but my relationship with God is NOT a dehumanizing, one-way dictatorship.

God has willingly sacrificed for me. I will get to willingly sacrifice for Him.

He doesn't demand it of me. He will love me even if I go out and have a one-night stand right now, but he allows me this opportunity to prove my love and that is a pretty amazing opportunity. I'm happy to prove my love. 

3.     MARRIAGE MUST BE HARDER THAN I THOUGHT. It’s such a random thing, my mom giving up something she loved for my dad, but that, combined with the spiritual truth that real love does require sacrafice, made me have more respect and compassion for all my married friends. I’ve always know good marriages involved hard compromise. Who’s family will we spend Christmas day with? How much money do I have (or not have) to go shopping? You hate country music? Ok, I won’t blast it on long drives. (Side note, that might actually be the hardest compromise for me;) Suddenly I realize, it must be harder than even that! I bet I know a lot of men and women (including both my mom and dad) who have given up things they loved and even sacrificed to the point of real hurt for the other person. Go you. All of you. Your love is divine, transcendent and I should really pray for you more! ;) 

Love. I believe we were made for it. I believe it brings us fulfillment, security and a sense of worth. But I am also reminded that in order to enjoy those freedoms we sometimes have to willingly make sacrifices that can hurt. Sacrifice: (noun) An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. 

I was bitter not because I didn't love God or believe that He loved me. I was bitter because I had not really wrapped my mind around what true love requires at times and I forgotten to what great degree true love had already been shown to me. As the old chorus says...He gave his life, what more could He give? 

I can honestly say that sitting here today I see and feel God’s love for me, my love for Him and all true love in general as harder, deeper, and better than I had known it to be, just one week ago. 

 

 

 

 

(PLEASE NOTE: INCASE THIS BLOG DOESN’T MAKE IT CLEAR, LOVE SHOULD NEVER HURT PHYSICALLY OR BECAUSE SOMETHING IS BEING TAKEN FROM YOU AGAINST YOUR WILL. IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING “LOVE” FROM SOMEONE THAT HURTS YOUR PHYSICALLY OR REQUIRES YOU TO SACRIFICE THINGS AGAINST YOUR WILL, THAT IS NOT LOVE, THAT IS ABUSE. ABUSE INVOLVES MANIPULATION AND DEMANDS. GOD’S LOVE DOES NOT EVER INVOLVE MANIPULATION OR DEMANDS NOR DO HEALTHY HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS.)