A Trichy Update…

It’s been a little over a year now since I started openly sharing and speaking to others (and starting this blog!) about my lifelong battle with a disorder called Trichotillomania– a condition on the OCD spectrum that involves uncontrollable impulses to pull out my hair. This thing has been with me since I was a child. It has ebbed and flowed throughout the years and my journey with it has often been overwhelming, heartbreaking, embarrassing, confusing, infuriating, and full of shame and secrecy… just to name a few.

About a year ago, I shared a post on this new blog about a breakthrough I had made in my healing process. (You can read about that pivotal moment here) After nearly two decades of trying to deal with this disorder- including trying everything from therapy, to medication, hypnosis, physical restraints, punishment (in my younger years), to cognitive behavioral treatment, and beyond- I surrendered this thing that has been a torment for years over to Jesus. I prayed about it.

It seems like a simplistic approach, yes?

Well, it was and it wasn’t.

See, I’m all for miracles. I’m all for that “pray about it and God will do the rest” stuff. And miracles of healing do happen! The Bible is riddled with instances of them (like straight-up resurrection power, come on!), and I’ve heard tales of them from my leaders and mentors and family in Christ. But I had spent quite awhile praying for my miracle, and that didn’t seem to be the way God was telling me He was going to write my healing story. So I had resigned myself to the idea that “if it wasn’t by straight up miracle, then it just wasn’t happening”. Why pray at all? This was something I clearly needed to do alone, by sheer willpower.

To make a long story short (Or if you want the long version, refer again to the link above from one year ago), I realized that this way of thinking- this way of approaching my healing journey and my perspective on the character of God- was to speak literal death over my dreams and prayers. I was praying for healing, but turning around and then limiting not just God’s power- but my own! Because as a daughter of Christ, I have His power working in me as well. I can command demons to leave. I can speak miracles into existence. I can conjure up faith and self-control with the utterance of my words. I can resurrect dead dreams and dead hope. I can bring the dry bones of those places inside me that chose to give up long ago, back to life. (And you can, too).

And so for the past year, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Pause here for a minute: I am the last person to be telling you that all you might need in your own healing journey is some good old-fashioned, on-your-knees prayer, and everything will be alright.

This surrender and power-recognition was only step 1 of my journey. The rest of my journey has involved a lot of steps of seriously hard work on my own part.

It’s involved working through some bitter and real “heart healing” first. Steps like talking to therapists and trusted friends and faith leaders about the forgiveness I needed to work on from things in my childhood. It involved a lot of trauma-processing for the situations that caused this condition to worsen over the years. It involved resurfacing and exposing a lot of really painful memories about family that I still love, but have to set healthy boundaries with.

The next steps also involved putting some “earthly”, practical things into place, like getting my husband and friends involved in my journey in realistic ways that would help me recognize and be cognizant of my progress.

Then there were steps like choosing to be consistent despite feelings. Or steps that led me 10 feet backwards, but dusting myself off and choosing not to stay there. Steps like refusing self-shame and choosing grace.

So today, I’m here to share where those steps have taken me in just one year. If you know me, you know my biggest “pull spots” are my eyelashes and brows. I have grown accustomed to filling them in with makeup, painstakingly, every single day for a lot of years. The literal bane of my existence. Can you imagine waking up uber late for work but still having to draw your whole face on, artistically and realistically, before rushing out the door? Guys, it’s the worst. Also, I’ve been late for this very reason, because going out without my “face on” and thus having to explain to every person I come in contact with what they’re seeing for the first time? That’s not really an option. (Also trust me, old photos remind me that those brows have gone through some tremendously questionable shape phases… I’m often appalled at my past self for letting me go out in public that way.)

Anyways, here are some really, really vulnerable photos of my eyes that I never thought I would be posting on the internet.

I mean, never.

But I’m surrendering them over to you, friend. And to all those who need a dose of courage and faith and testimony today.

 

One year ago when I started this healing journey. Eyebrow and lash-line makeup.  

You can see how my lash line is basically just one black makeup line, especially when I close my eyes.

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Today (literally). Eyebrow makeup and mascara!

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This is big for me.

I mean… big. Guys, the last time you will find a photo of me with my own lashes on my eyelids, I was probably 8 or 9 years old. Through all of my years of being a woman- going on dates, getting ready for prom, even trying to feel beautiful on my stinkin’ wedding day– I did not have real lashes to put mascara on!

And let’s face it- eyelashes and mascara are a quintessential “woman” thing, right? (Turn on your TV for five minutes and tell me if you don’t see one single makeup advertisement spoofing you images of what it means to be a “beautiful woman”. AKA: wearing the best mascara or eye makeup… I’ll wait.) For years, this was just one really small, simple thing that reminded me of my disorder. Reminded me of what I could not overcome. Reminded me (as I told myself in shame) that I was not beautiful without brows or lashes.

A few real notes just to give you a glimpse into the reality of this disorder: I have no brows right now. Like, none. One of my practical steps was to choose to focus on one area of pulling at a time, because going “cold turkey” has never ever worked for anyone. So full disclosure, I still allow myself to pull my brows these days, but not my lashes.

My lashes, without mascara, are also discolored from years of root damage and eyelid swelling- yet another reality of this disorder. They have lost color and are almost a translucent shade of blonde/gray. One day in the future when I’m ready, I will look into microblading and lash tinting/lifting procedures. But I’m not quite ready for that step yet.

So today, I put on mascara- even if my lash-line is not “full” yet- and reflect on where I was a year ago. I feel sad for the girl that sat in the corners and backed away from close contact so that people would not ask her about her eyebrows or eyelashes. I pity the girl that told herself she was unworthy because she did not look like other girls and could not get ready in the same way with her friends or bridesmaids on the big day. I cry for the girl that spent so many years in shame and secrecy and cover-ups and hiding.

But I’m not her anymore. And if you’re needing to move on from that same secret place that sounds all too familiar to you, I’m here to let you know it can be done.

So yes, prayer. And surrender. And spiritual warfare. And a whole lot of Jesus. But also a whole lot of down-to-Earth practicality. Because isn’t that how God makes us work sometimes? He has the power all along to snap his fingers like Thanos and make this Trich disappear from my life. But after a year of this intense healing journey (and two decades of exploring and failing with it prior), I look back today and think to myself that I wouldn’t give up the work and the lessons and the faith that this hard walk has brought me.

God’s way is always better. He taught me about who He is as a loving father. He taught me about who I am as his strong-willed, stubborn, but still fully capable and worthy daughter. Those are things that can’t be taught with the snapping of fingers.

Sudden and instantaneous, finger-snappin’, Bible-thumpin miracles are great things. Truly.

But so are slow miracles of healing, over long and tedious and painful years, with subtler lessons and growth along the way, leading you to maybe a different destination than your instant-prayer would have taken you.

That can be great too.

Keep working on your slow miracle, friend.

xoxo
-Kendyll

 

No, you’re not being called up to war- but your feelings in this are still valid

white wooden framed bed with gray and white floral bed linen

Last night I hosted my weekly church community group, online for the third week in a row now- a group that is typically structured and founded upon connection, intimate prayer time, and being there for each other, in person. But life looks a little different these days, and we’re all adjusting to a new “normal”.

I knew that connection was a struggle lately, so before diving into curriculum, I asked this group of college-aged girls one question to see where we were all at right now, emotionally and mentally.

“If you had to pick one word to describe how you’re feeling right now or how life has been looking for you, what would it be?” 

I took note of their responses and have been mulling over the truth of them all.

Surreal. 
Weird.
Anxious. 
Exhausting. 
Conflicted. 
Lonely.
Numb.

Their answers were sobering. Because life right now is all of those things and more. And it is all of those things at once- I feel as if I bounce around between each of these feelings (and twenty others) every hour, every day. Sometimes how I feel doesn’t even seem to have a word to describe it.

I often combat tough times in my life with two weapons: humor and sarcasm. For me, laughter is medicine. And boy, have the memes and internet videos been on point lately. Truly, a golden era of the world wide web.

But when the laughter stops, those weird, numb, surreal, and restless feelings set in again and remind me that we are all dealing with something very real.

And so in the middle of every opinion, warning, plea, or call to action, I’m sure you’ve seen one particular sentiment going around right now- heck, I’ve even heard it spoken on the news by our government officials:

“Your grandparents and great-grandparents were called up to war- you’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.” 

And I chuckled the first time I heard it. Because it’s true. Certainly, I can’t imagine being called to the front-lines of France, ducking for cover under the attacks of enemy fire during the 1940’s. No, you’re right- I am safe at home on my couch, currently cuddled up with my dog in my pajama pants, my husband nearby, plenty of food in my kitchen, and stable income.

Let me be clear- these are crazy blessings. And they are not lost on me.  Not for a second.

But the more I hear that sentiment spoken over a nation, a generation, a globe, I have to be honest that “You can do this” sounds a lot more like “Get over this”. And I can’t help but wonder: Does not being called up to war mean that all of this should be easy for any of us? 

Because here’s the war I see.

I see the death toll climb by the hour- numbers that have surpassed those tallied in the aftermath of one of the most horrific terrorist attacks on our country.

I see healthcare workers and essential employees with battle scars on their faces from protective equipment that is searing its way into the fibers of their skin as they face a biological enemy inside the hospitals.

I see the tears of grief from families that are split and separated and self-quarantining to protect their children and spouses from exposure to something deadly.

I see the dark circles and exhaustion lines on the faces of the lonely and the depressed and the abused and the neglected whose lives at home are not as safe as mine.

I see the panic and fear and wringing hands of those who find themselves part of the statistic of historical unemployment rates.

I see the 12 AM text pop up on my phone and God waking me from a dead sleep to comfort someone who is reaching out to me in utter desperation for help with their crippling anxiety attack.

To me, these look a lot like the symptoms of a real and tangible war.

And I get it: apples and oranges, right? This still doesn’t compare to staring down the barrel of the guns of a fighter jet on a mission to snuff you out from the world.

I have veterans and first responders in my family and I absorb their recounts of the horrors they face- in the past and every day since- with silent admiration for what they have overcome, witnessed, and continue to step into and face on a daily basis.

But if you’re feeling some type of way in the middle of this world we find ourselves in today, right this second…

Can I reach through this screen, wrap you up right now, and tell you some real good truths?

The world may be dismissing your feelings right now, but God certainly is not. 

The world may be telling you to sit down and suck it up, but God is waiting with open arms for you to come to Him as you are

The world may be telling you that what you’re experiencing is null and void in comparison to others who have had it worse, but God wants to comfort you and validate you and remind you that you are seen and understood. 

All of it matters to God, every little bit. Even in the midst of a culture that is telling you that you should be embracing this entire experience as something “easy”; to sit on your couch instead of picking up combat boots.

But it’s not that easy. And it’s not that simple.

The grief over your cancelled weddings or the inability to have funerals for loved ones.

The fear for your family and friends who are at risk on the front lines of the hospitals and within the walls of the essential businesses, exposed every day to a invisible enemy that has uprooted our way of life.

The anxiety and panic that comes in the late hours of the night, for every little reason or no reason at all, keeping you in a state of unrest, spiraling thoughts, and short breaths.

The depth of restlessness, feelings of being trapped, and struggle to maintain habits that will keep you healthy when all you want to do is curl up, eat your emotions, and numb-out.

The deepening loneliness as you aren’t able to embrace your friends, scoop up the grandchildren, nieces, or nephews that were just born in the middle of a lockdown, or visit your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles that are most at risk these days.

The onslaught of news, updates, and information begging to be consumed and bidding for the upper hand over your mind and grappling for control of your thoughts.

No, it’s not easy. It’s not simple.

It’s novel. It’s unprecedented. It’s surreal.

And no matter where you find yourself or what you’re feeling, God is saying, it’s okay. It’s more than okay. It’s raw and honest and real and valid.

He’s saying to you, who are anxious:
“Pour out your worries on me and leave them at my feet, for I tenderly care for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

He’s saying to you, who are lonely:
“There is nothing in this world that can separate you from me, my beloved child. No circumstance that can make me stray from your side, no power that can distance my love and embrace.” (Romans 8: 38-39)

He’s saying to you, who are grieving:
“I am wiping away your tears and yearning to take away your pain. Bring it to me, child, and I will help you weep no more” (Revelation 21:4)

He’s saying to you, who are fearful:
“This fear is not from me, and I want so much more for you. Take my spirit of love, of confidence, of self-control, of peace that transcends understanding.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

God is not telling you to suck it up. God is not telling you that this should be easy. God is not telling you that your feelings are unwarranted. God is not telling you that because others have it worse, that you should be thankful for what you are facing in comparison.

God is validating you. Empathizing with you. Wiping your tears, drying your eyes. Mourning over what you have lost. Comforting you in your fears and frustrations and grief. Beckoning you to come near to Him so He can come near to you.

So this war looks a little different than what any of us have faced before, yes.

But please, never for a moment, believe that your heavenly father does not see you and know you and love you through it all.

He is with you.
He is with you.
He is with you.

He is for you.
He is for you.
He is for you.

Amen.

 

 

Marriage is not for fairytales

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My husband and I look at each other from across the restaurant table, unable to hide the growing smirks across our increasingly red faces as we stifle bouts of laughter- both of us having just witnessed the embarrassing scene a few tables down between another couple and their melodramatic, louder-than-necessary debacle.

It was one of those moments we’ve had so many times before- looking at each other with the same expression across our faces and not needing words. The looks in each of our eyes actually prompting us towards more uncontrollable laughter as we realize we are both thinking- quite literally- the same exact thing right now. Knowing in that moment that we were so in sync with each other that no sound was needed in this conversation between us shared with looks, snorts, and eye gestures. And when that snorting and hide-your-face-in-your-jacket-so-they-don’t-see-us-laughing bit was over, we would look at each other and simply say “we’ve been together too long“, in a sarcastic but knowing way that speaks volumes.

I cherish moments like this. The ones where I can look at my husband and know- without a single shred of doubt in my mind- that this was the man God created for me. The ones where I know that all the unspoken things really aren’t unspoken at all,  because he knows the inside of my head better than I do some days.

The ones where we can look at each other and believe in our heart of hearts that there’s no possible, fathomable, conceivable way that any other couple on the face of planet Earth is as close or as intimate with each other as we are. That no other couple knows each other like we know each other.

The ones where I think, “It’s you and I against the world, babe“.

But here’s the truth of all of it:

It wasn’t always this way. 

In fact, about a year ago, in what was supposed to be the “honeymoon phase” of our relationship, the scene of our marriage actually looked more like this:

Slamming doors. Raised voices. A permanent makeshift bed on the couch fit for one. Me getting in my car to drive off for hours without my phone. A silent house for days on end, despite our presence. Me, somehow, menacingly standing in the kitchen with a hammer in my hand while making threats of packing my bags (to this day, I can’t remember why I was holding a hammer. Intimidation purposes, I guess). Wondering when the other was coming home- or where they even where, for that matter. Questioning if we had made a mistake in choosing each other.

And tears. Lots and lots of tears. From both of us.

———————————————————————————–

I’ll pause here:
I don’t know where you stand in terms of marriage as you read this testimony. If you’re currently engaged and lovestruck, and thus horrified at my title of choice, thinking “Well, my marriage will be different“. If you’ve been married for 50+ years and have already assumed that pitiful head-tilt position that says, “Aw, she’s so naïve, this kid…“. Or if you’ve been married for only a few years like I have now, and fall on one of two sides: Either your marriage has been total bliss in these first few years as you hit all the milestones and navigate life together without speedbumps; or you’re having your own holding-a-threatening-hammer-in-the-kitchen moment, wondering why on Earth anyone calls the first leg of this journey a “honeymoon”.

I have to be honest: I’ve postponed this story of our first year of marriage for a long time, simply because I knew to expect the obvious skepticism and backlash:

“Married for two years and she’s suddenly qualified to give marriage advice? That’s cute.”

“Sharing those personal details about her and husband to the world? She needs some discretion.”

“Obviously just sharing for attention.”

These are just a few of the thoughts that always kept this blog post warm and comfy, safe and sound, at home in my “drafts” section. And I was determined to keep it there for awhile.

Because let’s be real- even as I write this, I still feel wholly unequipped and unqualified to be telling anyone anything about marriage or how to make it work. It’s been two years for me. But perhaps in a world where celebrity marriages can also span the exotic lifetime of a mere 72 hours, maybe I’d be considered an expert by some.

Jokes aside, I promise I don’t write as any type of supreme knowledge-holder, nor do I believe my words should substitute those of a qualified counselor.

But despite all the procrastination, I do think our words matter. Mine and my husband’s. Maybe they will matter just to one couple. And that’s okay. Because all of those anxious thoughts and expected criticisms that have delayed this post?

I started recognizing those voices for what they were: Lies from the enemy. And I started to understand why I was hearing them when I realized what the importance of our marriage story actually was: Testimony. 

So, I hope that’s the purpose this can serve for you if you’ve opened this piece curiously, maybe looking for a bit of camaraderie to hold onto today. If you’re struggling in your marriage- at any stage of your life or relationship- let me be the first to say: We get it. We were there. You’ve never been alone. 

Back to our story.


You know what question I absolutely hated hearing during the first year of my marriage? You know… that one where people come up to you with sly smiles on their faces, ready to get all the deets on your new life:

“How is married life treating you?! Isn’t it just the best!”

I can’t tell you how many times I mentally envisioned throttling someone in the nose in response to this question, all while politely appeasing them with a rehearsed answer of how amazing it was all going.

But it would be a lie. Every time. Or at best, even on the “good days”, a respectful fabrication.

Meet the Pfeifer’s. (That’s us). We’ve been together for six years, married for two. And of these six years, let us be the first to tell you- even as we sit practically on top of each other with these lovey-dovey looks in our eyes today with stories of moments where we feel soooo in sync- that our very first 365 days of marriage?

They were the absolute worst of our entire relationship.

Yep.

That bad. And we were not even remotely prepared for it.

You can’t prepare yourself for all things you’ll face in marriage, of course. But when I say that any type of turbulence post “forever and ever, amen”, especially after things had been going swimmingly for four years prior, was anywhere on our radar of expectations? Definitely not.

And as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, unmet expectations only compound an already desperate and heated situation.

And so, in addition to all of the specifics and details that everyone deals with in love, looking back, we can confidently say that this was the real enemy against our marriage in our first year: the expectations of how we both thought it would all be. The misguided beliefs. The lack of anyone standing beside us and saying “Hey, you know we really struggled early on. If you need someone to talk to, let us know”.

The enemy of our marriage in our first year was the deep isolation we felt. We truly believed we were the only couple in the world that was having a terrible “honeymoon” phase. And that made us angry. It made us confused. It made us resentful. And frankly, it made us feel totally jipped of the experience we thought so many others were getting. We had had a wonderful four years prior to the “I do’s”.

And then, all of a sudden, something snapped.

To add to it, we weren’t motivated for a long time to do anything about it. Our lives followed a pattern:
Fight hard. Breakdown. Ignore the problems for a few days. Make up. Repeat.

But in that cycle, nothing was ever addressed, resolved, or inspected for underlying issues. In that cycle, we didn’t ask for help because we thought that no newlywed couple should be needing help- less they shouldn’t have gotten married at all.  

The point is this: we had issues! But we had been led to expect that the newlywed life shouldn’t come with issues. We were led to believe, with pitiful comments from friends and family, that we should “Enjoy our first few years while it lasted before reality set in“, or “Remember these days now for when you have kids and start to hate each other“, or something to the tune of “This is how you’re supposed to feel and act right now, so soak it up!“.

I know you’ve heard them all before. And they’re innocent- really. They were said in good humor and affection. But the world has a way of painting a certain picture of what marriage “should” be like and we all tend to scramble to make sure we fit the mold at the expense of our sanity or our honesty with those who really care about us. And this mold isn’t just warped by the world itself- Christians are fully capable of warping the idea or picture of what a marriage should look like in pristine photo frames and sappy posts. And all of it compounded on top of us in a tornado of guilt and shame and confusion as we struggled to make sense of why we were… well, struggling.

There’s plenty to our story. But frankly, most of it is best shared over coffee by the fire, so I’ll spare you the 400 pages of testimony I could be writing and get to my point. Here’s what we did.

Eventually we both got desperate enough that we were questioning our relationship and looking for “outs”. It’s a rock bottom that I don’t wish on any couple. And I wish it hadn’t taken us falling down into that pit in order to do the sensible thing:

We sought people we could talk to. We questioned the very thought we had been holding onto about whether we were the “only ones”. We dared to believe something different- or at least put the belief to the test.

We met with wise advisors who could help mediate. We talked with people who shared with us that they did have similar stories, and that we weren’t ever as alone as the enemy wanted us to believe we were. We poured our hearts out to couples whose marriages we idolized and found that they didn’t get where they were by never encountering some really rocky times- and most of those rocky times? Were right in the beginning of their marriage. Just like us.

It’s a wonderful thing to discover that you aren’t alone. Crazy. Royally messed up. But instead, understood, loved, and heard- and dare I say… normal. 

Here’s the truth: The enemy wants to attack your marriage because he knows it is the source of your power and strength- God given, God-created, and meant to be the most meaningful human relationship here on Earth. And so his goal is to spur you towards division. Thus, one of his easiest methods of driving wedges between you and your spouse is through 1) unmet expectations you should never have had to begin with, and 2) convincing you that your struggles with each other are a rarity to be kept silent… until you break.

A few months after my husband and I had gone through counseling and were beginning to make some huge strides in our relationship, I remember sitting down with a group of people for lunch. Over the course of a conversation about romance that I don’t quite remember, some comment slipped out from a well-meaning friend that said “If you need counseling in the first few years of your marriage, you probably shouldn’t have gotten married”. 

Oof.

My husband and I just smiled at each other- we didn’t take offense. And we didn’t share our secret at the time. But because we had reached out for help, we were finally able to recognize in that moment the lie for what it was- even when it comes from the loving and caring mouths surrounding us.

Love birds: Don’t let the enemy win.

Don’t let him warp your mind with the ideas that a “good” or thriving marriage is one where the rainbows always shine and the rose colored glasses never slip off. And if you need to talk to someone about how your fairytale is not what you expected, then please: do it now, do it soon, and do it fearlessly without shame. 

Because here’s a fact we have now learned in our early years:

Marriage is not supposed to be a fairytale.
At least not in the way you’ve envisioned all your fairytales since your kindergarten days.

Because fairytales in essence are really quite simple: Boy meets girl. Boy slays dragon. Girl falls in love with boy. They live happily ever after. Doves fly off into the sunset to the tune of a Savage Garden song.

And you and I know that there are a lot of clichés circulating out there about how when you meet the right person, everything should be “easy” and “effortless”. How when it’s “right”, you’ll know it’s right. Nothing will ever shake you. But I think we can level with each other that if marriage were flawless and easy, then frankly, more people would be doing it and less would be facing the heartbreaking journey of separation.

(Another pause here: If you’ve been separated or divorced, please know- my heart aches for you, friend. And my testimony isn’t meant to be a shaming tool. I don’t know what you’ve walked through. I don’t know your reasons or your experiences. But I stand with you, too, and I wish I could hold your hand and let you know that my own heart hurts for the hurt you have gone through. I don’t pretend to understand.)

But if perhaps we stopped the façade of fairytales and honeymooning, we all might be better prepared for what awaits us after “I do”.

Marriage was created to be an amazing, unique, intimate, and out-of-this-world, close-to-heaven experience. It’s supposed to be awesome, so get excited! But, it’s also supposed to be work. God tells us so clearly in scripture how we are to treat each other, how we are to speak in love, how we are to behave in a marriage. And these aren’t niceties- they’re a command. They’re a depiction of the work that love requires. A reminder of the nurture that can’t be ignored.

Love is patient, love is kind“, isn’t just a poem. It’s a teaching. And I’d even venture to say- it’s a warning. Because I don’t know about you, but being kind and patient has never come easy or without effort for me. So why did I ever believe that marriage- even my own love story- should have been uncomplicated, painless, or simple?

Spoiler: it’s not. 

Perhaps the real fairytale is this: walking through those storms hand in hand- those storms that threaten to rip you apart at the very seams and pit you against each other in a battle-royale. Coming out on the other side- wounded and tattered, but also stronger, wiser, and more loving and full of grace. Perhaps the fairytale is in the more quiet days where you have figured out the routine of who does which chores and the fighting has finally given way to more time being spent on the couch reading a book, knowing you are safe with the other beside you. Perhaps the real fairytale is doing the hard, nitty gritty, capable of breaking you, work- and realizing that you survived it. That you’re better for it. That this, too, was all in His plans for your marriage. To show you what love does.

Perhaps the real fairytale isn’t just in happy endings, without ever getting down in the messy beginning and the chaotic middle.

And so if you’ve made it this far in my post and are struggling together in this married life, I want you to know: Most people really don’t have that honeymoon phase in the first year or two. At least not the majority of couples, family, and friends we have now learned from. I know, I know- with the help of social media, fake smiles, and great acting, it can seem like absolutely everyone in your circle is having a great married life. But this truth I’ve learned comes from countless other couples, advisors, counselors, and well-experienced other “married’s”, that the first years? They’re rough.  In the words of some (and us), they may be your worst years.

That’s not the type of truth that bodes well in the speech from the officiant on your wedding day, though. I get it. But you know what? I wish it were a truth someone had told me. A truth that could have prepared us instead of leaving us looking around at all the other smiling, lovely faces, wondering why they got their honeymoon phase and what the heck, by comparison, was wrong with us.

So. I’ll say it again. Your marriage is not supposed to be the fairytale you’re probably used to. It’s actually going to be so much better. And part of that “bettering” comes with a whole lot of mess. But you have a partner in your spouse. You have a partner in us now, too. And you probably have partners all around if you have the courage to step out, speak out, ask for help, and share your story in humility.

If you’re struggling- at all– you’re in good company.

The story of your marriage can just as easily become the testimony of your life and your faith. Don’t let the anything rob you of that.

P.S.: I promise that when you see smiling photos now of my husband and I, they’re no longer fake. And that is thanks to help, counseling, wisdom, and a lot of hard work. 

Don’t be afraid of the work, lovebirds. That’s where true love resides.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
— (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)

Peace in the chaos

The Nativity of Christ-themed wooden Christmas ornamentHow are you right now? No, answer that honestly… How are you feeling in this moment, wherever you find yourself today?

It’s mid-December. Christmas looms only a week away. An impending new year is inching its way closer. Stores and highways are congested and tense. Your wallets are growing thinner but the credit card bills are piling higher. Your kids are either full of holiday hype or well on their way to their hundredth over-tired tantrum, but no in-between. Your family is tap-dancing on your very last sane nerve. Grief still weighs heavy over your shoulders for the loved ones that won’t be joining you at the Christmas table next week. You struggle to find joy during the “happiest time of year” as you face new situations that you didn’t prepare for. And time in and of itself seems to be a cruel construct that has passed in such a confusing blur that you find yourself wondering how half the month has already come and gone while there are still so many tasks and desires left unaccomplished on your list.

Are you finding yourself nostalgic for simpler days? Regretting the lost time this month that was spent high-strung instead of aligning to your vision of a slow-paced holiday season, full of tradition and simple moments? Dreading the days altogether as you struggle to make sense of your loss this year and the new realities you must face?

I began this December with every good intention of being… well, intentional.

I wanted to focus this season on simplicity. On its true meaning. On unpacking what the gift of Jesus means for me 2,000 years later. On having a Christmas movie picked out for all 24 nights as I cherished slow evenings with my husband on the couch. Of a holiday spirit that might find me kinder, more patient, and more inclined towards gratitude. Of extending random acts of generosity to those I encounter.

Perhaps these were all your same wishes, too. And perhaps, like me, you may find yourself here- two weeks into your “good intentions”- and struggling to stave off the annoyance of the crowds, the resentment of all the obligations, the fatigue of the running and constant “yes-ing”, and the guilt of losing sight of being centered on all the things that are supposed to matter most.

Perhaps you’re finding yourself listening to “Silent Night” on the radio or in your church services, wondering when your silence, your moment of stillness, your time for rest, your calm, will finally come. Because oh, what you wouldn’t give for your own silent night in the middle of this season.

Just one, maybe.

In this month marked by rushing and going and making and doing- of grief and loss and heartache and questioning- I look upon the story of Jesus’ birth and can’t help but smile at the names God has given upon Him- intentionally– knowing what we as His children would be facing in the world around us.

There’s no scripture that explicitly says that the birth of Jesus was a silent or tranquil night. (I’m nearly positive that Mary would object to characterize her birthing experience as “silent” or “tranquil”…) But scripture does call Jesus the “Prince of Peace”. And if there’s one thing I have found characteristic of Jesus, it’s that He embodies that which is different from the world in every way. So, in a world marked by corruption, torture, fear, and chaos, I do like to imagine that that barn was a silent and still one… complete with a peaceful, sleeping Jesus in a manger of serenity, being watched over by adoring and awestruck new parents at an utter loss for words at God’s gift- even if only for a few moments that night.

“For to us a child is born. To us, a son is given.. and he will be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)

Did you catch that? Jesus was the prince of peace during His very first moments on Earth. And He is still the prince of your peace today, even as your life looks much less silent or still- running late to work, honking your horn in traffic, tapping your foot impatiently in the Target checkout lines, rushing between holiday parties and obligations, and rubbing your eyes over the finances on your kitchen table as you calculate presents and expenses.

So where is your peace now? In the middle of your muck and mess? In the deepest recesses of your grief and hurt? In the stress and the tight checkbooks and the exhaustion and the weariness? In the smack-dab-middle of a world that won’t let up on you?

Here’s what I know: If the stable was quiet and peaceful on that night, it was not because the world around Mary and Joseph was suddenly changed to be less broken, less treacherous, less dark, or less emotionally fraught with heaviness… it was because of one simple fact:

Jesus was present there. 

If you are struggling to find peace in  this season, ask yourself this: “Have I allowed Jesus to be present in my mess?”

His presence is the driving force behind the change in your atmosphere, your perspective, your energy, your ability to make it through the holidays, to the end of this year and into the next.

But if you are looking to this world to find remedies to the problems it creates for you in the first place, you will find yourself constantly drained- desperate for something permanent rather than the temporary fix. If you are looking to control and manage your stress, your grief, your weariness, and your anxieties all on your own, you will find that your stable will mimic the same atmosphere of the world you’re trying to escape.

Yoga is great, but it will not give your soul the rest it needs from grief. Self-care in a bubble bath feels amazing, but it will not heal your heart. Bingeing movies on Netflix can alleviate the stress of a long day, but it will not quiet your anxious thoughts. Going through the motions, crossing off the endless to-do list with a sense of satisfaction, and pushing yourself to the edge of your limits, all to avoid the thoughts and feelings that find you when you dare to slow down, will not bring you the sense of purpose you long for. 

This world wears a crown of chaos. A crown of rush. A crown of heavy.

Jesus wears a crown of peace. A crown of freedom. A crown of joy. A crown of rest.

But He can only be your prince of peace and rest if you invite Him into the mess you’re facing. He doesn’t trespass. Yes, God is with you. He is Immanuel, always. But He’s also a gentleman, and He will not force your hand. He holds it out for you to take when you choose.

This season, choose it. Choose Him. Accept the invitation to peace. Take five minutes to dive into his word before your day begins. Turn on the worship as you face the inevitable traffic. Lean into deep, grounding breaths as the time escapes you and center yourself before Him in small moments. Bring Him into your chaos instead of trying to control it all as it swirls around you.

Keep your temporary joys (don’t stop yoga!), but don’t forget to turn around to find that He has been standing there waiting to see your face all along, even as you continue your other efforts. Discover that He is not miles and miles away, but only a single step from you in His direction. Run into His arms. Drink in His peace and stillness and rest. Marvel in all the promises He has kept and will continue to keep to you.

Prince of Peace.
Immanuel. 
Wonderful Counselor.
Light in the darkness.

Jehova Shalom. 

This world will still be dark. The stores will still be packed. The roads will still be treacherous. The hurt will still be knocking at your heart. The things around you may not change.

But if He can bring peace to a small stable in Bethlehem as the world sought to snuff out his light, then surely He can bring peace to your living room. To your heart. To your family, and your finances, and your cares as this world beckons you to focus only on the darkness.

If you’re seeking peace, it’s time to invite him into all the things you have been keeping him out of. This season, this Christmas, this day- he is offering you all that He is. His presence. His fullness. It’s the only thing that can change everything.

Take hold of Him and don’t let go.


There’s a peace far beyond all understanding
May it ever set my heart at ease
What anxiety fails to remember is peace is a promise You keep
Peace is a promise You keep…
You are peace to a restless soul
Peace when my thoughts wage war
Peace to the anxious heart
That’s who You are, that’s who You are…
You are peace when my fear takes hold
Peace when I feel enclosed
Peace when I loose control
That’s who You are, that’s who You are

(‘Peace’ – Hillsong)

when you struggle to spend time with God

woman holding mug in front of book

You know those pictures on Instagram with the whole “morning devotional time” setup? Yes, the ones with the oversized coffee mug, a colorfully highlighted Bible chapter, and the latest Lysa Terkeurst or Beth Moore devo book?

They’re super cute and super aesthetic. As a crafter, I especially love a good flat-lay setup with that portrait mode setting. And these photos of others’ devotional and prayer times inspire me to also whip out all of the devotionals and word art Bibles I have on my shelf and plant myself in some time with Jesus in the same way.

So, I dig them- really, I do. But, they also have an uncanny ability to make me feel guilty and ashamed. They kind of make me want to curl into a ball and pretend I never scrolled by them. I have a tendency to see them and immediately feel like a crappy Christian. Why?

Because I struggle to spend time with God that way.

I’ve tried, trust me. I’ve bought all the coolest and trendiest specialty highlighters, vintage book of the Bible tabs, the modern devotionals with eye-catching foil-printed covers, and the cutest lil’ spiritual notebooks with verses on every page. And time and time again, I have made solid plans with the best of intentions to truly make a habit of taking time in my every day to set aside for studying the word and sitting in prayer. Sometimes I keep the habit for a week. Sometimes only two days. And I have tried countless new methods and motivations and disciplines over the years to keep myself accountable. But each and every time, it has proved unsustainable for me.

I could spit you all the reasons that some might call excuses: too busy to sit down and attempt to focus on anything but the “to do” list; too tired to get up even earlier than I already do or stay up later to fit it in before bed; mind too restless to stay focused on one thing and not get distracted. I could go on and on. But this method of sitting down and forcing myself to a certain habit… it just doesn’t feel right.

Nike’s “Just do it” mentality when it comes to taking time to be still with Jesus? It simply doesn’t work for me. It pushes me into a cycle of resentment for what feels like religious or legalistic ritual. It keeps me in a mindset of guilt and shame for not finding the same joy and peace in the practice that other Christians rave about. And trying endlessly to stick to a practice that works for others (and so I told myself “should” therefore work for me) ultimately pushes me further away from His arms.

Maybe you’re feeling the same way. Maybe you’ve completely abandoned the idea that you can spend time with God outside of Sunday service because you’ve tried the same disciplines that lead you to the same results. Maybe you’ve found yourself distant and desperate for connection, but are being too rigid about what that “connection” should look like.

I understand. But I am also confident that this is not the outcome Jesus wants for us. It can’t possibly be.

Where did we ever get the idea that there is only one true or meaningful way to spend time with the creator? When did we ever succumb to the notion that if we are not making our time with Jesus look the same as other’s, then it must not be “good enough”?

Spending time with God is important. It’s necessary. It’s vital. But Jesus doesn’t operate in guilt, shame, or the wagging finger. He doesn’t force us into love with folded arms or threats of withheld blessings if we don’t clock in with Him for 30 minutes of our day. And if seeking Him is beginning to feel like more of a time quota or chore, then He may be beckoning you to try something else.

It doesn’t have to feel this way.

Because above all things, I know that He wants us to feel the same joy in meeting with Him as He gets when we come knocking. So how do you find that joy?

Get this.

God is the ultimate communicator.

He created communication, after all.

He has infinite love languages with His children. He communicates and connects with his sons and daughters in endlessly complex or sometimes wonderfully simple ways. He has His very own language that He speaks to each and every one of us, unique and special and unlike any other because he created us to be unique and special and unlike anyone else. The way you see or hear about God communicating with someone else does not mean that we must force ourselves to fit into that same mold of connection.

I connect with God in the early hours of my work day, listening to worship music at my desk and sipping my coffee in the morning. Sometimes just a few deep breaths before I open emails helps me lean into His presence.

I connect with Him in the slow drives on backroads to my home at the end of the day, speakers loud with my favorite songs, and the ability to belt them out unashamedly where no one can hear just how much God has not blessed me with a singing voice.

I connect with Him in two-minute breaks throughout the day where I utter a quick prayer or simply say exactly what’s on my mind, paying no attention to eloquence or sensibility of my honest thoughts. He understands, always.

I connect with Him when I write posts just like this one- letting the words he has spoken to me flow out of my fingertips and reach out to you, too. Feeling a sense of purpose and calling in the messages He has given, and the lessons learned and faith built.

I connect with him very briefly as I lay in bed in night, and right before drifting off, simply lend my mind to his presence with me there. No long prayers or run-down of the day like a nightly debrief- just a simple heart connection where I envision him sitting beside me, smiling.

(My husband does this super cute thing where he is intentional about saying a quick prayer before he gets on his Playstation to play video games. He even named it “Pray & Play”. I mean, that’s adorable right? I knew I married a good one.)

So if, like me, you struggle with waking up at 4:30 AM to sit with your notebook and journal out page upon page of prayer or get lost in devotional time- take heart. It’s okay.

Admire the beauty of the way God speaks to his children that do connect with him in that way. What a wonderful language to have with Him! (I actually wish I had a bookshelf full of filled journals because I think that’s so special to look back on.) But don’t count yourself or your relationship with your heavenly father as any “lesser” because you speak with Him differently.

Your love language may look like:

  • Being intentional about turning on worship music as you work and clean about the house
  • Continuous strings of the same prayer, broken into small bits and pieces that you pick back up on throughout the day, rather than in one sitting
  • Writing down quick thoughts and prayers on notecards as they come to mind
  • Two minutes in the car every time you get in and before you get out, just to check in with Him
  • A brisk walk around the office floor or outside break for a few moments to reflect with him
  • Practicing the art of the “pause” before you transition to your next “to do” list item or on your way between errands
  • A few minutes at night flipping through the YouVersion App and picking a short plan that intrigues you (this app has so many cool features!)
  • Watching a short video in your free time and learning about the Bible stories artistically through the creative storytelling visuals of another favorite app of mine, Read Scripture
  • It can certainly look like 4AM wakeup calls with your journal and devotional if that’s your thing! (And hopefully coffee, because… 4AM… phew!)
  • Or any infinite number of other ways that pull you closer to Him and invite Him into the “ordinary and mundane” of your life

When God calls us to place our life before him, he means your unique life. Your own unique offering. Your own unique relationship with Him. Your own love language. Whatever it looks like.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1-2, MSG).

And you know what’s even cooler? Your language with him can change over time and throughout different seasons. It can ebb and flow as you are feeling called and connected and entering different phases of his plan for you. It can mature, it can reach new depths, it can grow as you grow. Not only does God speak and spend time with us in unique ways, but he also doesn’t shackle us to one method of communication for the entire duration of our lives. He throws open every door, window, and path of opportunity to come and meet Him.

There are still times that I carve out every once in awhile to push myself into those longer, more still, and deeply focused times with Him. When I challenge myself to journal a little bit or sit with the distractions. That method may not be my forte now, but even once per month of practicing something that is difficult for me is exactly where God begins to spur growth in us. He still encourages us to try those things that we don’t feel “good” at, and perhaps don’t even like. But always in this, there is boundless grace.

So, fine. You can’t wake up before the sun or sit in silent prayer for extended periods of time or even fill journals upon journals with profound reflection (yet, perhaps). You struggle with that “picture-perfect” devotional time. But you do have a love language waiting to be discovered. He’s beckoning you to the small moments that add up to a day of truly walking alongside Him- the way you need to walk with Him. Individually. Uniquely. Beautifully.

Go discover your communication style. Get deep with your own love language. Try different things. Ask others what they do. And find beauty in a maker that allows for such vast variety of connection. You can meet with Him anywhere and anytime, because He is in all of it. No more and no less than any other style.

He’s ready for you.

What are some ways or small moments where you enjoy connecting with God? What does that time look like for you?


 

 

 

 

Climbing your mountains

grayscale photography of alps

Ten steps forward… one hundred steps back.

That’s often what the journey of healing from this disorder feels like. “Relapse” is a nasty word that will literally send any Trichster into a cringeworthy state of shame and fear. For me, it’s a word that sounds a lot like “failure”.

If you’re new to this blog or I haven’t had the chance to share my story with you yet, I’ve struggled with an OCD disorder called Trichotillomania since I was a child. (You can read all about it in my original blog post, here). Mouthful of a word, right? Let’s call it “Trich” for short. It’s the term that describes the overwhelming, involuntary, and often subconscious urge to pull out my hair; mostly in times of focus, anxiety, idleness, or simply put, as a coping mechanism for any other number of environmental or emotional triggers. Yes, that age-old phrase about being so stressed out you could go bald? Well, I do. And my personal kryptonite is my face- easily accessible lashes and brows that my brain swears to tell me do not belong there. Get rid of them. And so without permission, my body seems to react to that prompting as if I exert no control over my own movements. Trich is an endless cycle of complex triggers, conditioned neurological responses, pits of shame… and no cure yet discovered by the medical community.

Earlier this year I shared a little bit about my first huge, amazing stride in finding healing from this disorder. After nearly two decades of hiding it from others, I made the decision to go public with my Trich. I surrendered it to God and was met with the most gracious group of people who then covered me in prayer and declarations of victory over my life for the first time. Chains were broken that day, and over the past few months I had been seeing progress like I had never experienced ever before. For many months, I was able to control my urges, avoid pulling, and see so much growth that I was actually able to wear mascara! (That sounds insanely feminine, I know. But trust me, this was a majorly tangible example of success for me, especially as someone who really has never had that *girly* experience of wearing makeup for “fun”, rather than pure necessity to cover up a disorder.)

But… here’s the sucky thing about Trich.

Progress, growth, and tangible results take a natural course of months to see. One single day of beating my urges or being “pull-free” does not equate to healing for me. It’s a step, for sure. And I try to honor those rare days for what they are. But the truth of this disorder is that ultimate healing and progress takes hundreds of steps: hundreds of those days to allow for hair growth, hundreds of moments of overcoming intense neurological processes and deeply rooted urges, and hundreds of practices and small moments of retraining my mind and cognitive habits, to start to see the product of it all. And even after hundreds of days of victory, it only takes one moment- a matter of mere minutes- to stare into the face of defeat.

Months and months of growth, destroyed in one “pulling episode” over a few key seconds.

This is relapse.

This is the pit of shame and regret and anger and self-berating and questioning that can feel like even though you made ten really important steps in the right direction, you still ended up 90 steps back from where you started.

It’s like you’re walking upwards on the down escalator, dragging your feet, feeling the weight of exhaustion as your muscles cry out from the pain of stepping over and over again, only to look up at that top floor- still all the ways away- and realizing that despite your aching legs, you’ve put no distance between you and the starting line.

Where you want to be is still out of reach, and all you have to show for it are sore muscles, a hurting heart, a deflated self-confidence, and a lack of motivation to try again.

With Trich, you’re not allowed to have even one bad day, lest you risk falling backwards to ground zero. And that makes efforts, motivations, and faith to start again… pretty unsustainable. Trich is an exhausting, emotionally depleting, and mentally taxing mountain to climb- especially when you can finally turn the corner and see that summit up ahead, only to trip on a single rock and come cascading down the cliffside once more. And after time and time and time again of that routine- after twenty years of falling down that same mountainside- it makes you want to just stay at the bottom, set up camp, and put up a resentful “welcome” sign, since this might as well be your home now.

I don’t know what mountain you’ve been trying to climb lately. I don’t know how many times you have painfully ascended towards victory, only to descend just as swiftly into the trench of failure. I don’t know how long you have looked at that summit- two years, twenty years, or longer- and wondered if the day where you will set your flag upon it even exists anymore. I don’t know how many times you have waved your white flag, sat down at the bottom, arms folded, and vowed your refusal to take another step. And I don’t know why God doesn’t always clear all the rocks from our path to prevent us from crashing down so often.

But can I share why I choose to keep climbing, over and over again, decade after decade?

Because I know that that camp I have tried to stubbornly and heartbreakingly set up at the bottom, in that valley of shame and fear and defeat, is not the home that God planned for me. I know that I will stumble down into it countless more times… but I also know that it is not where I belong.

I get it- it seems hopeless, and beyond frustrating, and sometimes downright foolish to keep going back up, knowing what could (or inevitably will) come. Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results”. And if you’ve been climbing the same mountain for as long- or longer- than I have, then it’s hard to not feel a little insane yourself. And frankly, that’s a really clever-sounding rhetoric of the enemy to get you to stop trying; tricking you into thinking that it’s the logical choice.

But here’s why getting back up and taking all the familiar steps again is actually not a repeat of what you have done every time before: because every time you take another step, you are not who you were before.

God may let you stumble, question, doubt, get angry with him, and crash hard. But He will not let you go unchanged by it. It’s a promise He keeps.

“You meant it for evil against me, but God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20)

“We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28)

If I look back at the way I started my climb of this mountain five or ten years ago, I realize how far I have come in knowledge of this disorder; treatments and techniques that will (or definitely won’t) work; and a comprehensive understanding of how faith makes a difference. And I’m betting that if you looked back on your own journey, you might agree that you’re not who you once were either.

You are more equipped. Wiser. More gracious with yourself. Each and every time.

And you know the cool thing about God? If before you stand up and take that first step again, you find yourself needing time to wallow and brood and be upset- He can take it.

When I find myself having crashed back down into that valley, I don’t open my eyes, immediately delighted by the chance to start anew, bubbly and bouncing my way back to the starting line. Not even remotely.

For awhile, I am resentful. Upset with myself. Upset with God. Full of doubt and anger and guilt. And just so. freaking. tired. Of all of it.

When I fall down, I want to spend a few days licking my wounds, crying, and thinking about how much it all just sucks. And I have learned that God wants us to honor those feelings for what they are- he allows us to feel deeply every human emotion and reaction we may have. And he sits in it with us, even when we don’t want Him to. He graciously holds our hand and wraps us up, even as we are content to stay covered in the dirt and bloody scrapes from our fall, while we let our brief phase of self-pity and loathing run its course.

Take your time. Feel what you feel. Honor it. Confess it to Him- He has shoulders big enough to bear it all, and you’ll not find him offended by your anger, hurt, or questions. He won’t turn away from you. He stays in the muck, gets down in the dirt, and holds the wet rag for you when you’re ready to clean yourself up and get back to it.

But do get back to it. Over and over and over again. Do keep chasing your summit of victory. If ever you raise a white flag of surrender, let it be to God and not to the mountain in front of you. Do keep growing, learning, and getting better at the climb you have climbed so many times already.

A year ago I decided to get a tattoo of a mountain range on my ribs- close to my heart.  (PSA- if you’re debating your own tattoo locations, I officially do not recommend the ribcage unless you have the pain tolerance of Chuck Norris). I got it not to remind me of the intimidating mountain I face every day, but to remind me of who is already standing on top of it.

God has already scaled that mountain for you. He’s already been atop it and placed a flag there in honor of your complete and final victory. But then He comes back down alongside you to help you reach it for yourself and endure the journey- whatever it looks like for you.

Keep climbing. Keep ascending. And if you find yourself failing of your own strength to keep going, take His hand for support.

He’s got this mountain. You don’t need to scale it alone.

——————————————————————————————————————–

“I will praise you on the mountain, 
And I’ll praise you when that mountain’s in my way, 
You’re the summit where my feet are, 
So I will praise you in the valley’s all the same…

Oh how fast would you come running

If just to shadow me through the night
Trace my steps through all my failures
And walk me out the other side….

Whatever I walk through

Wherever I am
Your Name can move mountains
Wherever I stand
— (Highlands, Hillsong)

If all I know of harvest is that it’s worth my patience, then if you’re not done working, God I’m not done waiting
–(Seasons, Hillsong)

 

 

 

To the friends who grew distant…

two women walking together outdoor during daytime

I’ve never been the kind of girl that needs more than one hand to count all her friends.

To the socialites and the extroverted, that probably sounds a little sad. And throughout most of my teenage years, I was sad about it, too. In high school, my mother would joke on Friday nights when I stayed plopped in front of Netflix and ask me if “all two of my friends were busy”. (In fairness, that answer was typically ‘yes’. All two of them.)

Flash forward to my wedding day and we all still look back and chuckle at the disproportionality of my husband & I’s wedding party- 5 bridesmaids on my side (2 of which were family), compared to a long line of groomsmen on his side that wrapped to the edge of the venue and refused to fit neatly in any of our photos. My husband is most definitely the social butterfly in our relationship- he’s never had a problem making or keeping friends. Some have even been around since elementary school. I’m so grateful he has those connections and am inspired often by his loyalty to keeping his friendships alive even when things get quiet. But I do gawk at this fact sometimes, as I have zero comprehension of what that feels like.

Personally, I’ve come to accept that the socialite life just isn’t what God created me for.
And that’s not sad. Really.

It’s a detail he planned for my life and who he molded me to be- and after many long years wondering what must’ve been wrong with me to see a never-ending cycle of friends that come and go so often, and my inability (or lack of energy) to really hold down more than two close friends at a time in my life, I’ve finally learned an important lesson in how God uses other people in our lives.

Friendships don’t need to last a certain amount of time in order to be meaningful. 

I know you’ve felt the sting of complicated friendship life cycles, too.

How it feels to get so close to someone, to bear your soul, to open your heart and divulge secrets to someone who understands. To talk visions of your future together and how your friendship will look in 10, 20, or 30 years.

And then perhaps, to see them go… whether by time, or physical distance, or diverted interested, or maybe an unsettling riff.

No one in this world is exempt from having lost a friend or two. And though it’s true that sometimes that loss will sting, does that have to mean that our loss is such a negative one? Should we subscribe to the belief that those who leave us or grow away from us would have just left us better off if they never showed up in our lives to begin with?

Here’s what I’ve discovered as I reflect on the lives I’ve encountered, and conversely, that have encountered me.

God brought certain people into my life for a certain time and for a certain purpose. And their distance in my life now- our natural ‘growing apart’ and walking down along our own paths? That doesn’t have to signify that anything was wrong all along.

Yes, sometimes the distancing of friends can hurt. Not all space created or relationships diluted will come on indifferent or peaceful terms- sometimes the growing apart is deliberate and boundaries need to be created. But even so- does that make their presence in my life, no matter how long or short, any less meaningful?

I can’t believe that it does.

Because even those friends that have since moved on or are only around today for the occasional quarterly check-in, they played a role in my story. And every bit of our story, as well as who walks in it with us, matters.

God has brought people into my life sometimes only for a season, even when I expected it to be a forever-bond.

But God didn’t create us to have forever-bonds with every single friend we make. In fact, I’m convinced that to do so, from childhood into adulthood, would be irrevocably unsustainable anyway.

God created this beautiful, messy thing called friendship- and he created a special intimacy for it that sometimes requires limits on time and capacity in your life. But make no mistake- they are intimate, and worthy, and valuable all the same.

Some friends are meant for seasons only- and that’s okay. It doesn’t make them bad friends or bad people.

It does make them instruments of a heavenly father who loves you enough to send you good people exactly when you need them.

I’ve seen so many friendships come and go- sometimes they go peacefully, and sometimes they go with a little sting. But as I look back on my story, I realize how integral each of them were in who I call myself today.

Some friends came in to help me move through a dark season of grief, heartbreak, and simply learning to breathe again.

Some friends came in to show me what vulnerability, openness, and fierce loyalty looked like.

Some friends came in during transition stages when I needed a model for confidence and for being unapologetically myself.

Some came in to help me find my faith again and carry me through the bumpy seas of doubt and questioning.

And some came in to last– to be the resounding and remarkably nuanced friend that is both a rock to stand on, and yet, can still ebb and flow as we both grow together.

We need all types of friends in this life. The ones that last, and the ones whose chapters are short.

So, all those sarcastic and emotionally-charged memes that circulate your social media feeds about how you should forget all the people in your life that haven’t “stuck around”? The ones that tell you that the ex-friends left in your past must be God’s way of removing the “junk” or “trash” from your life? You know… the ones that make all your “old” friends seem like a stellar mistake simply because they’re not around anymore or you had a falling out?

Don’t believe it.

Don’t discredit the people that helped shape who you are. Don’t deny anyone the grace of being able to enter your life- even if only for a short season- to help you move on into the next one.

No one in your life is a mistake- no matter how brief your time together.

If I’m honest, even the friendships that ended with rocky seas and a bitter taste in my mouth, still taught me some valuable life lessons that made me who I am today. And all the ones that simply grew busy, or distant, or moved on- they helped me through all the pre-planned seasons of life just as God intended them to.

Trust God for who he brings into your life, when he brings them into your life, and for how long he lets them stay there.

Because remember, a limit on their time in your life also means he’s planned for a limit on your time in their life as well.

So no, we cannot always carry every friendship we have into the next season of our lives. No, we cannot always keep our people forever. And no, if you- or them- move on without the other, it doesn’t mean that the bond was never meant to be at all. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we should regard those old friends as “junk in the past”.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” (Ecc. 3:1)

I’m thankful today for all my seasonal friends- whether we’re still close today or not. I’m thankful for all the “fair weather” friends, and all the “stormy navigator” friends. I’m thankful for the role played by each person that God has brought into my life at one point or another. I’m thankful for what they have taught me and how we both grew together and individually.

So, to the friends that grew distant… I’m still rooting for you. And though our paths may have been meant to divert from each other like Robert Frost’s yellow wood-and perhaps even if they should never cross again- know that you mean something to me, all the same.

You made a difference. And I hope I made one, too.

 —————————————————————— 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven….
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.A time to kill and a time to heal.

    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.

    A time for war and a time for peace.
— (Ecc. 3:1-8)

“And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back”
— (The Road not Taken- Robert Frost)

Why God doesn’t let you see the ending

open book lot

I have a terrible habit of reading the last page of a book before anything else.

I can’t help myself. Every time there’s a fresh novel in my hands, I flip through its pages until the very last one and indulge myself in that enticing last sentence. It doesn’t matter if it’s a story I know well enough that the ending should be familiar, or something brand new for which the last line may not even make a shred of sense to me yet.

I have to read it. It’s a ritual at this point. A right of passage for every book that passes through my fingers.

I can’t remember when I began this custom, but I know that I just don’t feel at peace when reading until I have cracked a glance at that last line so I can begin to make sense of it as I work my way through the pages (in proper order).

There’s something about knowing how it all turns out, right?

It’s easier for me to push past that climactic chapter on page 50 if I already know my favorite character comes out alive on page 500. I don’t need to worry- after all, I already know how this ends. So I can keep reading without an anxious heart knowing my beloved Jaime Fraser will not meet his untimely, tragic demise (Any other obsessive Outlander fans out there? We can fandom together sometime).

But as safe as it makes me feel to read novels this way, I can’t deny the truth: this isn’t how they’re meant to be read.

I’m breaking the rules.

I’m bending the author’s intended reader-experience to my own will.

I’m controlling how I move forward.

And if I’m honest with myself, I try to cling to that same control in my daily reality as much as each of my favorite fictional worlds.

Here’s a fact: failure is a core fear of mine. No one likes to fail, of course. But for me (someone who is unabashedly hell-bent on achievement and success as my banner and sense of worth), failure does more than simply leave me disappointed. It eats away at the very essence of how I define myself and what I believe I am capable of. Falling out of step or being detoured from the rigid plans I make for my life often leaves me desperate, anxious, and even angry… angry that God could let me fail or be re-routed.

I mean, I’ve worked for this, Jesus. You’ve watched me work for this. You’ve heard my anxious thoughts and pleading prayers for things to come together. You’ve known my hopes for walking out on the other side of some mountain that I’m facing. And all this time, I believed it was going to happen. You gave me hope, you filled me with faith… and yet I’m flat on my face wondering what I did wrong.

So here I am again, sitting in a shadow of failure.

I know you’ve been there too, friend. You may even be there right now- disappointed and angry and feeling hopeless. Wondering why, despite your best efforts, life seems to have gone a different way for you.

Maybe it’s not failure that eats away at your heart today.

Perhaps it’s the loss of a loved one.

The end of a relationship.

The unexpected layoff.

The bills that pile up on the counter.

The medical diagnosis that was prayed against so hard.

The dream fought for, but deferred yet again.

The distance growing between you and your spouse.

The scary send-off of a child on their own.

And you’re sitting in that storm praying that you could just flip to the last page of your story and see how it all turns out. Begging God for a sign that He still has a plan, a purpose, and something good in store for you on page 500. Wanting to take a peek at the last line of this story to see if your prayers will even work.

Because if you could just be reassured that at the end it will all be okay, then you might muster up enough courage to press forward into the middle parts with some confidence.

Despite my most eloquent prayers though, God doesn’t always reveal to me right away why he lets me stumble and fail, time and time again. He doesn’t always send notice of why he has allowed disappointments, worry, and heartbreak in my life. He doesn’t tell me in the middle of my mess how all His puzzle pieces are coming together. He doesn’t show me the last few words of the narrative even when I beg and plead for them.

In life, unlike my books, I have to stay on the page I’m on. I can’t skip ahead. And though I can spend as much time in reflection as I want, I also can’t go backwards either to the point where some turn of events didn’t occur yet.

So that leaves me in the middle. In the muck and mess of the thickest chapters. Waiting for resolution and to make sense of things, but having to wait for God to be the one to turn the page.

And I hate when I can’t see the whole picture. When I feel no sense of control over the middle chapter I’m in. When I go ahead and trust Him for what I think is personally a reasonable amount of time, but then begin to grow weary and impatient as the clock keeps ticking. So naturally, the thoughts of skipping ahead and fixating on every ‘unknown’ slowly consumes me.

I wish during these times of trial that life were like a book in my hands- able to sneakily peek at the last page and exhale a sigh a relief when I see what awaits.

But here’s the thing: when I take timing into my own hands, flip through the book pages rapid-fire, and search for any answers or tiny hints of my favored outcome, I ultimately rob myself.

See, every word an author etches into the pages in my hand have been carefully and willfully chosen: the arcs, the mysteries, the shocks, the turning points- they are woven together for a specific purpose. The author’s intention hidden within the black and white print, meant to drive me to a certain reading experience- to evoke the right feelings at the right times and push me onward, keep me enticed. And when I refuse to stay on the chapter I’m on, I’m missing out on the experience this author has designed for me. I’m taking away bits and pieces for myself that were meant to be developed fully and in a certain order.

Who is God but the author of our lives?

He strings together plot lines for us with specific reasons, timing, and purposes, just the same. He lets us fall, fail, lose, break, and doubt, chapter by chapter in life. And as we yearn to flip our pages, speed-up time, and learn what lies ahead, He is beckoning us not to miss the now. Because right here, in this middle, messy, scary chapter, you have an experience waiting for you that he’s prepared in advance.

Right now, on today’s page, you are meant to be growing, learning, trusting, and healing. You are beginning to make sense of all the long-ago chapters that have already passed. And you are meant to find or do something here in the middle. You are right where you are meant to be, even when it’s not where you want to be.

He has designed these chapters, in a proper order, specifically for your unique experience.

And though it takes everything you have inside of you to trust and hold on when he is delaying His answer, consider one thing: God’s heavenly perspective is so unfathomably vast that His presentation of only one chapter at a time is actually a blessing, not a curse.

Let’s be real: I like to try and negotiate with God sometimes (as if I had any real bargaining power to offer the creator), and tell him that if He would just show me a glimpse of how my life turns out; just one hint at what he is doing with all my dreams, hopes, fears, and striving, then I would finally understand and wouldn’t question Him anymore! It’s really a win-win, Jesus. Right?

My heart knows that’s a lie even as I speak it.

Because the truth is, if God did show us absolutely every detail of every chapter He is weaving together for us- every life event, every transformation, every single thing to come, good and bad… if he presented our every waking moment to us as if it were a novel in our hands, just waiting for us to flip through the pages at our own will and see everything at any time we wanted… it would paralyze us.

We like to think we could handle that kind of knowledge, but we would be crushed under the weight of seeing it all before us. We would be overwhelmed and threaten the very season of growth and metamorphosis that He is shaping us in right now.

And I know, it feels like torture, really. Especially if you struggle to loosen your white-knuckled grip on your life plans like I so often do. But after walking through enough anxious, depressing, heart-wrenching, and confusing chapters at this point, I’ve come to learn why God doesn’t let us skip chapters:

Being unable to jump to the last page doesn’t mean that I don’t know how this all will end.

He’s already told me.

“I know the plans I have for you-plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
(Jer. 29:11)

“Do not be anxious for anything- in every situation present your cares to God. His peace- which surpasses all understanding– will guard your heart and minds”
(Phil. 4:7)

“We know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him”
(Romans 8”28)

God’s word is filled with nothing if not constant reassurance and promise that he has got us.

Over and over and over again God tells me clearly: He knows what my last page reads. And that page is in no better hands than His. Not mine.

Even when we are stuck in the climax and falling actions of our plot arc, dreading the last pages of the story for ourselves or someone we love, God is pulling us close and reminding us that his plans are good. That he offers us peace in the icky middle of it- even when we don’t understand. That He uses all of it- the good, bad, and downright ugly- to create works of your narrative art and testimony.

And as much as we yearn to skip a few painful, agonizing chapters that leave us dancing across the pages of fear, doubt, anxiety, and resentment, He is calling us to hold onto the hope of His promises for His timing- not our own.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing”
(Ecc 3:1-22)

So I know today you will be tempted to ask God to skip this chapter you’re in. To understand immediately the purpose of your failure, loss, diagnosis, confusion, or heartache.

But God has already woven your reader experience together. Consume your chapters in order and dare to be thankful for them. Dare to ask God instead for your eyes and heart to be opened for what He is trying to do in these pages.

Embrace your messy, scary, terrible, but meaningful chapter- whatever it looks like. In the midst of it all, it’s still okay to be vulnerable and raw with God- he doesn’t ask us to like the chapters we’re in, nor pretend with Him that we have it all together. But our author is one who can handle our reader reactions, criticisms, tantrums, and questioning.

Today, don’t be so desperate to skip ahead and grasp at the ending that you miss what God is hoping you will experience now.

Life is not like a book. It’s sometimes unbearable to not be able to peruse through any page we want- go back to simpler times or spring forward to better days. But know that God has a purpose.

No chapter is wasted.

And that’s a promise.

————————————————————————————————————————–

If you need help facing your chapter today, tune into the song “See A Victory” by Elevation Worship. Make it your anthem.

I’m gonna see a victory
I’m gonna see a victory
For the battle belongs to you, Lord
You take what the enemy meant for evil
And you turn it for good
You turn it for good

 

 

 

“Why is it always me?”

man pouring coffee in white mug 

Seriously? Why me…

That was the flippant question I texted my husband as I angrily sat at an outside table at The Corner Bakery, trying to enjoy my lunch break on a gorgeous (almost Fall!) day, but was growing increasingly annoyed at all the food orders passing my table while I stared at my phone impatiently…

I ordered nearly half an hour ago… this is ridiculous.

*Another table order passes*

Okay, I know for a fact they came in after me.

*Stomach protests loudly*

I swear if that waitress looks at me one more time without my food in her hand…

*3 more orders go by*

Yup. That’s it. #Hangry.

I stormed inside, walked up to the register, and asked for someone to check on my order as it had been 30 minutes now. Apologizing profusely, the manager handed me a giftcard as restitution, and said that there had been a register error and that my order had not gone through the computer system correctly.

Oh… Of course it hadn’t.

Because, C’est la vie.

Despite my feisty inner monologue, I fixed my face, smiled, assured her I knew that it wasn’t her fault, and took my seat again- now having to scarf my lunch down in the remaining few minutes of my break, thus also sacrificing my otherwise intended trip to Homegoods afterwards to peruse the new fall décor line.

And as I sat there in full righteousness, annoyed by the mistake of it all, I was honestly less upset about the lateness of my meal, the technological issues of their computer system, or even the good sales I was inevitably missing on seasonal coffee and throw pillows. I was just frustrated that this whole scene seemed way too familiar in my life. And so I sat there venting to my husband on the phone and framing this question sarcastically to God:

This literally always happens to me. Why me? Why seemingly only ever me?

Because in truth, friends: Things like this really do always happen to me- I mean, a lot.

On date night when we are sat at a table, the wait staff nearly always puts us in some remote corner of the restaurant, then passes us by and by, each one thinking that another staff member has already taken care of us.

When picking up an online order from Walmart or Target, our purchases somehow always seem to get “overlooked” or “accidentally cancelled” by the slip of an employee’s button.

When I’m relying on an Amazon purchase under some deadline or as a gift for a friend, it frequently gets mistakenly slipped into the wrong mailbox or delayed by USPS.

And nearly 1 in every 3 of my Starbucks runs are met with someone “accidentally” taking my order from the pickup counter or mobile shelf. (Not kidding… I’ve done the stats.)

My life seems to be ironically marked by so many of these very tiny, but still immensely frustrating, little inconveniences that throw my day just a bit out of whack. They deter my plans. Make me feel overlooked or like the world has it out to get me for the blatant disproportionality of their frequency in my life compared to others.

Things that happen so often they seem less and less like coincidence and always push me to question, “Why me?”.

Sometimes my husband and I joke that it’s just our curse to bear and we haven’t figured out what exactly we did in our past to earn it- much like Eeyore destined to walk around under a raincloud, I often feel seemingly destined to always be on the receiving end of a “service mistake” or someone else’s error.

And for an OCD, Type-A, got-things-to-do, pre-plan my day type of girl… this can seriously interrupt my joy.

But as I sat there brooding with my mouth full of now untimely mac-n-cheese, God pushed back at my questioning.

When I asked him begrudgingly, “Why me?”, I suddenly felt him whisper: “Because I chose you”.

Um… sorry God, can you choose me for something else? I mean, really?

It stopped me in my tracks for a minute, honestly ready to get a little ornery, but I took a breath and leaned in and let Him speak.

“Daughter,

When the computer system went down in the restaurant, I chose you as the bearer of the missing order because you would be the one to show the manager an understanding smile rather than an enraged outburst. When that person took a coffee that wasn’t theirs from the counter, I chose it to be yours because there were fifteen others waiting for their orders that had the chance to watch you use your soft tone and charming eyes to inquire about the mistake rather than your angry fist- and some of them even noticed that cross tattoo on your wrist as you did it. When a purchase got lost in the mail or cancelled in the system, I chose it to be yours because I know you were already equipped with plans B through Z to rectify your situation with backups- after all, that’s how I created you. And when you are finding yourself stuck in these similar scenarios that try your patience so very often, wondering if they really do happen to you more than others… it’s true.

It’s because I have chosen you for them specifically. I have chosen you to be the receiver of these tiny opportunities for grace. I have set you apart to show mercy and understanding to those on the other end of your worldly frustrations. I have called you to shine a light in the littlest, most “insignificant” of moments, because it’s through those moments that people truly come to know me.

I’ve chosen you for every seemingly trivial minute where you have the chance to understandably air your emotional reactions… but choose instead to be different.

In fact daughter, I’ve not only chosen you for them- I’ve entrusted you with them.”

Ooof.

I don’t know what type of little frustrations seem like they’re your personal “curse” in life today- but I do know that God knows about them, cares about them, and can even use them for His cause- if we let Him.

When your kids won’t get in the car for soccer practice and other parents are placing bets on how many more minutes you can withstand of their craziness before losing your ever-lovin’ mind- a moment for grace.

When the frazzled waiter has looked you in the eye 17 times but has yet to ask your drink order- a moment for grace.

When the lady at the grocery store has 500 coupons she’s contesting and you just want to get home with your box of brownies on a Friday night- a moment for grace.

When you lose your car keys, phone, or wallet yet again in the house and are already running late and now your husband suddenly has an extremely urgent question that pauses you further- a moment for grace.

When the customer service trainee messes up your request and it takes you twice as long to get something done- a moment for grace.

When that “something” happens for the ten-thousandth time that makes you groan and question “Why is it always me?”– a moment for grace.

Personally, I really don’t know why the majority of my own recurring frustrations happen in some type of food setting (Perhaps simply because God knows my emotions are heavily tied to when I ate my last meal and he is testing me in this area in particular…). But I do know that not a single moment is wasted on Him.

He sees it all, he uses it all.

And it may be time that we start shifting our perspective back on Him in these very moments. To ask instead, “Here it is again… How can I invite you into this, Jesus?”

He’ll answer. Infact, He’s already answered this question for us.

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (Luke 16:10).

These little moments matter. These tiny yet huge frutrations matter. But here’s the thing- they don’t just matter for your sake– they matter for those around us. Those that are watching how we react, how we speak, how we love- all under the banner of Christ.

So when the waitress realizes she has forgotten my order and is starting to sweat as she wonders if I’m going to be the next customer to embarrass her and blow up in front of everyone while asking for her manager to comp my check, causing her to likely get a reprimanding later, go home in tears, and tally her calendar with yet another horrible day… No. No sister, I’m not going to do that to you.

I’m going to smile. I’m going to reassure you that I know you are a human being, just like me. I’m going to extend kindness in fully trusting that God will do something in your heart (and my own) as a result of it.

I’m going to be different. I’m going to turn the “Why Me’s” into “Thank you, Jesus”. I’m going to accept those moments as chances to be obedient to what He is doing in the life of the person on the other end of my frustrations- even if they don’t “deserve” it. I’m going to treat well what he has entrusted me with- people. I’m going to recognize that I was placed in these moments for a very real purpose and I’m going to remember that faithfulness matters in the small seconds of our lives just as much as the big events that transform us.

And at the end of our obedience in these oh so little moments, He sets off ripple effects of salvation that we will be celebrating in the Heavens one day.

Seriously.

Your kindness, your grace, your mercy, your patience, your deep breath when you feel like losing it, your moment of silence when you have more than enough to say, and your friendly smile in the moments where others would do quite the opposite- it changes the course of Heavenly history because it changes people. And people matter to God.

When those other parents witness your moment of patience with your children (no matter how rare); when the waiters are surprised that you offered them understanding instead of a lashing; when the strangers that are watching you politely ask for your order to be remade after half an hour are impressed by your gentleness; when someone doesn’t listen, makes a negligent error, does you wrong, or inconveniences you in even little ways, God is offering you an invitation to let Him shine through. He’s placing the opportunity before you to step up to your calling.

You have already been chosen for this. Of course it’s you. He’s designed it this way. He’s prepared it for you.

It’s time to embrace it for what it is.

I will probably still ask “Why me?” an innumerable amount of times throughout the rest of my life. You will, too. Things will still inconvenience and frustrate us and we’re only human.

But starting today, let God answer that question for you and give you a glimpse into how you are fitting into His good, good plans.

How amazing the things He can do with some late mac-n-cheese.

 —————————————————

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)

“And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming! Take advantage of every opportunity to be a blessing to others, especially to our brothers and sisters in the family of faith!” (Galatians 6:9, TPT)

From a recovering perfectionist

If you went as far as to curiously open this piece of writing at all, then I’m assuming you- like me- struggle from an inflated sense of perfectionism.

Hey friend! Welcome to the club! Our motto is: “We’re here, we’re using all the cool instagram filters, and we’re stinkin’ exhausted.”

But since you’re here, I’m also assuming you know we need to chat about this thing we do. Perhaps you’ve been avoiding this conversation.

I know… Me, too. But let’s do this. We really need to.

Perfectionism… it’s a loaded term, right?

We tend to view it as something to put on a resume: “Great with numbers, detail oriented, and extremely perfectionist”… As if it earns us brownie points and makes us more likable.

And it’s not hard to see that this world approves of the trait. It beckons you to strive for it, even, because it also promises us all the prescriptions for attaining it:

The perfect body, the perfect home vibes, the perfect romantic night, the perfect outfit, the perfect Instagram feed, the perfect vacation, the perfect relationship, the perfect family….

This world says “Look! Other people have this. This is what it looks like. And you should have it too.”

So, we try. Hard.

We only post the best photos. We only share the good news with friends and family. We only stick to 3 color schemes in the house. We only wear the name brands. We only talk about the good times when things go right. We only wait until the “right” time and setting to have that experience. We only pre-plan every little thing so that we know what to expect. We only keep doing it over and over until it comes out just right.

We only do what upholds our own sense of perfection, and we hide the things that don’t. And if heaven forbid someone comes to stop by our house unexpectedly, we stand embarrassed and exasperated at the door as we apologize for the unvacuumed floor or mail piled on the table, to someone who literally doesn’t even care.

But we care.

Thats how we justify it.

“Well, it matters to me. It’s my standard.”

I get that. Really, I do. I’ve given myself 500 gold stars in twenty four years for all the times I’ve proudly met my own “standards”.

But the reality is, I also have 5,000 unused stars from the times when I didn’t “make it”. The times where I told myself I wasn’t good enough or didn’t measure up. The times I was disappointed in a situation, event, person, thing, or entire day, because it didn’t go “perfectly”.

And if I’m honest with myself, it’s not because those things truly “missed the mark”- it’s because I set unrealistic expectations that shouldn’t have existed to begin with.

The truest definition of perfectionism should be this: To set one’s self up for perpetual failure. 

Because thats how it works, really.
You create a standard that seems obtainable, and then subconsciously begin to label anything that doesn’t measure up to it as “inadequate”, or perhaps you discredit it altogether.

And in doing so, you rob yourself.

You rob yourself of meaningful life experiences by choosing to view any situation, person, experience, or thing as a failure if it falls below some intangible vision you have created.

You rob yourself of a cozy night at home on the couch because you’re too busy cleaning and organizing everything around you. You rob yourself of looking back at that goofy photo that holds great memories because it doesn’t fit the theme of your Instagram feed. You rob yourself of the comfort of a T-shirt and sweats because you can’t have anything less than a matching, fashionable outfit or people might think you don’t look “put together”. You rob yourself of that beach trip and new bathing suit because your fitness goals haven’t gotten you exactly where you want to be yet. You rob yourself of having the whole family over for dinner because your house hasn’t been steam cleaned or de-cluttered. You rob yourself of your paycheck because you have to have all the “Magnolia Home” decorating your walls and spaces ($25 for a fake plant? I love ya Chip & Joanna, but come on now). You rob yourself of unburdened time with the kids because you’re trying to get them to pose “nicely” together. And you rob yourself of the connection and community with other women that comes from being raw, real, and honest about how much of a mess you really are… the same women who are just as much on the inside yearning to say to your realness, “Oh yeah girl, me too!”.

Here’s a truth: Your “perfectionism” issue is not a perfectionism issue- it’s a control issue.

We have been white-knuckling all of our pretty visions, best-laid plans, and tedious efforts as we try desperately to stuff them down a funnel of our personal brand of standards. And we pass off this compulsion towards perfectionism as nothing more than an innate desire to “not be lazy”, “simply have goals”, or “wanting to work towards something”.

Don’t misunderstand here: your standards themselves are not the enemy.

I love the perfectly planned- out date night by my husband who puts thought into the tiny details. I love an awesomely laid-out instagram marketing pic with that creamy filter that looks really dang professional. I love scrolling through family photos with the matching shirts and perfect little babes that literally make me say “Awwwwww” for days. I love when my outfit matches and when my house is clean and when I light a new candle and when all my vibes are just feeling totally #OnPoint.

These are good things. Please don’t stop them.

The real problem with perfectionism lies deeper within our inability or refusal to accept anything in life that we see as “sub-par”, when really they are good, good things. The problem is within our tireless need to control “only” everything around us and how it pans out. We want things to feel and seem perfect because it makes us feel as if we have the power to keep it that way.

If we’re not careful, we can start to label relationships, people, places, experiences, and connections as “failures” when they don’t go exactly as we envisioned them or would have preferred them. And in doing so, we open the door for the enemy to sneak in and whisper to us: “See? Your life will always fall just short of what you want.”

Make no mistake about it: Satan wants you trapped in the ideology of striving for “perfect” because he knows it doesn’t actually exist. And if we keep striving for unrealistic standards, convincing ourselves that the photos online, in the magazine, or in “reality” T.V. have really achieved it, then we take our eyes off of the goodness sitting right in front of us.

But there’s so much more in this life.

You and I are not perfect. We never will be. We have Jesus as our perfect standard while we’re on this side of Heaven, but we know we will never reach this standard fully, or even every time.

And even still, you have a God that loves you truly, madly, deeply. Not in spite of your imperfection- but because of it. Because it’s a quality that cries out for more of Him. Because it’s authentic. And because your worth isn’t found in living up to a certain standard and His love isn’t based on how often you do or don’t fall short.

You’re worthy of it anyway. During every second. Through every imperfect little moment. 

And so it goes with the things you want to keep striving to make “perfect” in your life. They’re worthy, too, even in all their own imperfection.

The messy house. The light in that unflattering photo. The notes with your sloppy or rushed handwriting. The living room that has “so last season” decor. The non-matching outfit and accessories with your messy bun and dry shampoo. The last-minute date night that goes a little awry because no one made reservations. The body that isn’t a size 0, ripped with abs, or flawlessly tanned. The kid that won’t smile decently for a photo and refuses to wear one bit of matching clothing out of the house. The family that is a little crazy and dysfunctional, but still full of love.

It’s all so imperfect. And it’s all so, so worthy.

So keep your standards. Keep your genuinely good desire for things to look, feel, appear, or play out as great as they possibly can. I’m certainly not going to stop taking 100 photos during date night just to post the best one where I don’t have 3 chins.

But, if you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a perpetual cycle of coming “so close” but constantly falling short… bring back some perspective to your life. If I have 3 chins in every single photo I take, I’m not going to label the entire night as worthless. I’m going to hold on to it and remember it with a smile.

It’s time to spring into your recovery season.
This is your start.

Release your tight grip on those “perfect” scenarios in your head. Sometimes you will reach it, and it will be dang awesome. And then, sometimes you won’t. And it will be awesome anyway.

Dare to see even the imperfect and sometimes disappointing things still as blessings. Be bold enough to say a firm “No” to the temptation of thinking that the “messy” things in your life are failures. Stop letting Satan take your joy away from the things that should be precious.

Perfection isn’t your friend and it doesn’t provide a safety net from the world.

Perfection is often an illusion. An intangible. A grasp at mere vapors.

But here and now- the messy, the ugly, the imperfect, the real– thats so, so good.

Let it be.