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.

When it’s more than you can handle

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You’ve heard it before. You’ve said it before. You’ve made it the lockscreen on your phone before. You’ve probably even put it on your Pinterest board under “Inspiration” before.

“God will never give you more than you can bear”.

It sounds great, really.

It uplifts your spirits when a season of depression and heaviness have seemed to follow you around every corner and down every hallway. It encourages you to keep fighting when the doctors tell you the Chemo has stopped working and it’s time to start preparing your family and affairs. It motivates you to pull your spouse in close when you have been so distant and tense with each other that separation is merely one unemptied dishwasher away. It brings you peace when you’re in the third month of unemployment and the silence on the other end of your resumes is just as terrifying as the bills and “past due” notices that are sprawled all over the kitchen table. It comforts us when we lose someone and feel as if the light has suddenly gone out from our world with no hope of rekindling.

It’s not a new sentiment that we share with each other as we search for help with tears in our eyes, lumps in our throats, and buzzing desperate minds that scream “How am I going to get through this?”.

But here’s the problem with the idea that God will not give me more than I can bear:

It puts the heavy burden of a broken world on top of my frail shoulders.

It puts all of the responsibility in my lap, assuring me that I have the power, the knowledge, and even full control, over my situations. It tells me: “Hey! God gave this thing to you because he is expecting you to deal with it- you just have to buck up and bear it! You can do it!”

…But what if I can’t do it?

I mean, what if I have been bearing it for years? Or decades? And what if after all of it, I still find myself with empty hands, a hurting heart, confused thoughts… and now guilt- for not being able to do what God has supposedly called me to bear?

Friends.

Can I grab you (and myself) by the shoulders for a moment and tell (or scream) you a truth?

God will give you more than you and I can bear in this life. You cannot do this on your own.

I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t sound as motivating as telling you that you have it all within you already. That power and control and wisdom and ability are just sitting inside you waiting to be accessed and released. I know it doesn’t exactly inspire you upon first read…

But it should.

It should actually be the most inspiring, empowering, and full-of-hope thing you have ever heard.

Because if it’s true- if I can’t do this on my own, if this thing plaguing me really is more than I can handle… then it means there must be someone who can. It means there is someone out there, who when faced with exactly what I am wrestling with, can look it in the eye and not have it crush them. It means that if I don’t seem to have the power, control, wisdom, or ability inside myself… then someone else must be capable of those things.

Spoiler alert: It’s God.

And here comes the post-credit scene: Not only does God have everything he needs to bear my burden- but I can also trust him with it. I can let go of the wheel. I can hand over the weight. And he accepts it all with open arms and a delighted heart.

“We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.” — (1 Corinthians 10: 13, TPT)

There’s a lot to soak up from that verse. You’ve probably read or heard it in another paraphrasing. Personally, I’m partial to the Passion Translation of verses because I love its way with delicate words, and this verse is no different.

But we tend to zero in on that one line, don’t we? The part where we get our Christian soundbite from about “bearing our burdens”… and when we repeat that one line to ourselves or others, we can forget that there is some pretty important wisdom- and instruction- that come before and after it.

“God will be faithful to you…”

That’s great. But why does his faithfulness matter if this is my own thing to figure out?

“Each test is an opportunity to trust him more…”

And why would I need to place my trust in God for this thing I can’t hurdle past, if I am meant to handle this situation on my own?

“He provides you an escape…”

What do I need an escape for if I have everything I need to overcome?

So, I’ll take us one step further- not only can you not do this on your own, but you shouldn’t be trying to do this on your own.

This is the part we miss: Your burden was never meant for your full ownership. It was never meant for you to bear alone.

The trial you’re facing was meant to point you back in the direction of a heavenly father. It was meant to direct you to the respite of his loving arms and immeasurable power. It was meant to be an opportunity to see his faithfulness.

I’ve wrestled with Trichotillomania for 24 years. And 24 years is a lot of time to try endless methods of bearing a burden: Therapy, medication, hypnosis, Cognitive Behavioral Training, duct taping my hands at night so I couldn’t use them, plain ol’ punishment, and then just sheer willpower because “I should just be able to stop” (epic fail on that last one, might I add…).

24 years of trying and failing. Lots and lots of failing. And then after 24 years, I finally fell on my knees, got desperate and angry, and cried out for help. I laid this thing down (chucked it, actually), at the feet of a father who I knew loved me. And for the first time, I asked him to take it.

And I trusted (still am), that to every despondent degree I wanted this thing in my life gone and done with, God wants that for me even more.

… you too, by the way.

God actually cares about that thing in your life that feels so far beyond your capacity to handle. He feels every heavy emotion right alongside you in it. He is waiting with arms wide open for you to turn away from the face of the problem, and bury your face into his chest instead.

He is trying to get you to understand- “Child, I will not give you more than you can bear- so long as you choose to bear it with me.”

Without God in our corner, we can bear nothing.

I can try it on my own, sure. But I can also guarantee that I will fail. Maybe not immediately- maybe at first it will even seem like I have won it on my own. But to be truly victorious as he promises we will be? To find the freedom that awaits us on the other side of the struggle? To catch a glimpse of the faithfulness of God?

I have to include Him. I need him in the equation or it just simply doesn’t add up to the outcome I’m really searching for. I need to remember that the only reason I am able to bear anything is because I’ve entrusted it over to someone who will do it far better than I ever will.

Please don’t misunderstand: Knowing that I am capable of nothing on my own doesn’t mean that I wave my white flag and give up my human efforts. On the contrary- I continue my own efforts, but all while releasing my white-knuckled grip on the outcome.

Which brings us to the second half of the test: Will you allow him to keep his ownership of your burdens? To not snatch them back out of his hands when the solution is taking too long- or perhaps, when it never comes at all?

I’ve spent the last year continuously giving over this disorder into God’s hands. It’s a daily decision to invite him into my human struggle and ask him for help for what I can do. And its also constant surrendering of my expectations, wishes, and desired future. And in all of this, I’m still not healed yet. I didn’t get an instantaneous miracle. I haven’t found immediate relief. It’s just not my story. And it may not be yours.

I know. That’s a hard pill to swallow. It’s a pill we don’t even want to acknowledge. That even when we act in obedience and trust him with our situation, he still could choose not to fix it.

But what if that’s not really what handing our burdens over is about? What if God is growing us through it all anyhow? What if he’s still good either way?

Short answer: I know he is. Because with God, nothing is wasted. He delights in mercy, love, empathy, freedom, broken chains, and abundant life- but we have to know that taking away every trial we face is not the only way for Him to bring us victory in those things.

And sometimes this mantra of “not being given more than I can bear” does us a disservice, not just in convincing me that I have to defeat it on my own, but also echoing a more subtle lie that it must be within God’s plan for it to be defeated in the way I want it to be defeated.

God is after more than this. God is after our hearts- a heart independent of the circumstances surrounding us.

I can find peace and freedom while still living with a disorder I wish I never had. You can find joy within your marriage even while you’re in counseling to figure things out. You can find fulfilment in your ultimate purpose even when the recruiters aren’t choosing your application. You can feel vibrant and be filled with new perspective on life even while fighting for it in the hospital room.

You can be victorious even before your burden is demolished- if ever.

I understand it’s no easy feat. I’m preaching to myself, honestly.

But we need to make a shift from this “DIY” culture.

Stop trying to take away God’s role in your burdens. Stop trying to handle it all yourself. Stop believing the lie that you only have this struggle because it must mean you can do it all. Stop white-knuckling the hypothetical future you’re begging for.

Instead, it’s time to start trusting. Start turning your face towards him instead of self-help. Start asking for His help to bear it all. Start saying “your will be done, Jesus.”

And you know what? Be honest about how that feels. I promise you, he can handle the full spectrum of your human emotions.

He can handle that I’m angry about his timing. He can take it when I get stubborn and refuse to pray for awhile because I resent another day of not seeing my burden lifted. He understands when I throw a tantrum about why I watched someone else get an answer to their prayer and I have not. He is big enough to bear all my hurt, confusion, bitterness, desperation, and sadness.

But he doesn’t want us to live there.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, or perhaps what you’ve been facing for a lifetime. But I do know that it sucks. And that’s okay. God knows, too. He knows this world is broken and that we are broken right along with it.

But in all of it, He’s calling us to come home. He’s beckoning us to return to living waters and bring our burdens with us. He yearning for us to stop trying to play ringmaster over our lives or wait until things are “perfect” in order to seek him out.

He’s waiting for us. He’s waiting to lift that weight off you.

I cannot bear this on my own. It is more than I can handle.

And thank God for that.


“What a glorious God. He gives us salvation over and over, then daily he carries our burdens.” — (Psalms 68:19)

“He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering…” — (2 Corinth. 1:4)

“Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you”.” — (Psalms 55:22)

When God wants you to say “No”

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It was a Wednesday night.

My feet were dragging as I climbed the stairs groggily and flopped myself on the bed with an exasperated sigh.

It was 7:30 PM, and at twenty-four years old, I have consistently been giving myself a mandated bedtime of no later than 8:00 PM for the last year and a half. (Those who know me, know.)

Another weeknight meant yet another routine of sore feet, an aching head, skipping dinner, and begrudgingly trailing my laptop into bed with me to work on shop orders until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Per usual, my husband was downstairs plopped in front of the T.V. at the end of his own long day (because, well… I was in bed while the sun was still up and most normal adults don’t want to resign themselves to a daylight bedtime), and I had planned on spending the remainder of my night working on various things until I finally fell asleep… alone in bed, long before he would come up for a quick goodnight kiss… per usual.

But this night was different.

This night, the second my head hit the pillow, I looked up at my popcorn ceiling and… well, completely lost it.

The ugly kind of “lost it”. Not the cute little, one-glistening-tear, cinematic “lost it”. Nope. I was done for.

My husband came up (having heard my audible sobbing from downstairs, no doubt), knelt at the bedside, and asked me what was wrong.

So, I proceeded to spit out a monologue about how I was just so tired, but had so much to do.

I told him that all of my days were blurring together. That when the alarm clock blared inevitably every morning at 5:30 AM, I had been waking up in a bout of anger, resentment, and utter bitterness- far exceeding the normal level of simply being annoyed by the alarm clock. No- I was waking up absolutely hating my life lately.

Hating that I had spent the previous eight hours tossing and turning without really finding sleep. Hating that I had been awake for five minutes and already felt a migraine coming on. Hating that I knew the coffee I’d make at work later wouldn’t sustain me long until my head was nodding in front of my desk around 11:00 AM. Hating that after I got home from the work day, I knew that I already had a mental list of orders piling up in my small side-shop that were on deadlines. Hating that in between full-time work and side-work, I had also committed to 3 separate community groups at my church, including leading one, and was way behind on my reading and workbooks. Hating that the house hadn’t been vacuumed, or dishes cleaned, or laundry started because I was too busy with other obligations. Hating that pitiful look in my adorable Husky’s little face because he hadn’t gotten any play time with momma in a while. Hating that I was hiding my entire self under deodorant and dry shampoo for the last week because I was too exhausted to really shower. Hating that I hadn’t gotten to spend any time with my husband throughout the week because I was engrossed in an endless to-do list. And hating that somehow in all of that, I was still feeling guilty as if I wasn’t doing nearly “enough”.

It was a sobby, snotty mess of a monologue.

But seriously… bless my husband.

He took a deep breath, told me to “scoot” so he could lay down and hold me, and then whispered, “You need to take a break”.

*Instant eye roll*

“That’s not an option”, I scoffed, as if it were so simple.

But he stopped.

He sat up, told me to look him in the eyes, and then very sternly gave me a reality check. One that would rock my world.

“You are doing way too much. No wonder you need medication to sleep at night. No wonder you have a migraine the minute you open your eyes in the morning. No wonder your body aches when you finally sit down. No wonder you’ve been sick all the time, having weird anomalies happen without explanation…”

“You have got to stop,” he whispered, “You’ve got to say “no” to something”.

And friends… this was not what I wanted to hear.

In fact, I was becoming extra salty because in the moments he was giving me this reality check, I suddenly realized that on this very same day, a friend had messaged me earlier in the morning… giving me a similar spiel…

Suspicious?

I stopped him and actually asked if they had planned this. The synchronicity of their lectures to me in the same 12 hour span…like an intervention of some sort.

No, they had not.

But then I understood… God had.

I’ve learned well enough at this point that there aren’t any “coincidences” in my life. Merely revelation that God was sending me signs all along- short of rocketing down from Heaven, grabbing me by the shoulders and screaming “Get the message, girl!”.

And God was right. (I mean, of course he was right).

Because as I reflected, I saw that a quick snapshot of my days were this:

Hating, hating, hating.
Guilt, guilt, guilt.
Tired, tired, tired.

The cycle didn’t end. And I was frustrated with all of it- lashing out at my husband at the slightest inconvenience, neglecting catching up with friends who missed me, turning down family dinner invitations or date nights because I had too much to do, and seriously underestimating how much my body and mind could handle all at once. In the last six months up until this breakdown, I had been in countless doctor’s offices and urgent care facilities, trying to get my body to keep up with the pace I had been pushing it at.

Getting myself a prescribed sleep sedative. Bouncing back and forth between diagnoses on why my face was having random allergic reactions to seemingly nothing. Getting second and third opinions about how to get rid of a nagging cough that was so persistent and noticeable, even my coworkers had begun to comment on it.

My mind was already wrecked from all of my mental “to-dos”, and on top of it, my body was not cooperating with my stubborn efforts to push it to do all the things I needed to do- making “keeping up” ten times harder than usual.

And God was trying to get through to me, using the people I loved around me, to say “enough”.

To tell me, “You need to say no to something”.

Ooof…

Here’s why I struggle with the word “No”.

I’m a textbook people-pleaser. Despite deeply-rooted introversion and my genuine contentment with isolation, I still want to be liked. I still want to be known as the “yes girl”. The girl who is always helping. The girl who has the talent that people want. The girl that doesn’t back down from a favor, or a “rush order”, or the chance to volunteer at a moment’s notice. The girl who is selfless and giving and always prepared to step up. The girl who isn’t “missing out” on opportunities that God could be calling me to. The girl who allows herself to be used by Him, even if it’s through my favors, or my service, or my time.

I want to be the girl that people can rely on. I want to be the girl that God keeps sending opportunities to because I boldly say “yes” to Him. I want to have an impact in His kingdom for all eternity. I want to be His “yes” girl.

Oh, you too? See, you’re in good company here. I knew you would understand. So, let me continue:

Those are good things to be known for. Seriously.

But here’s the bottom line.

The more we say “yes” to worldly things- even admirable things in the name of Jesus- the more we say “no” to time with God.

It’s true. Because even in all the things I was doing for God- leading a small group, studying his word as a participant in other groups, trying to offer my service every Sunday wherever I could- I was still ending my days drained, depleted, exhausted, and bitter.

And while I told myself that I was serving God in all of this, God was simultaneously trying to get me to remember one of his best promises:

“I came so that you may have and enjoy life- an abundant life-lived to the fullest!”
(John 10:10).

Y’all.

An abundant life is not one that includes running your body and physical health into the ground. An abundant life is not characterized by waking up in bitterness at every daybreak. An abundant life isn’t marked by juggling so many plates that all of them are a little bit chipped from where you have dropped them previously in exhaustion, all the while proclaiming that you can definitely keep them all spinning for at least a little bit longer. An abundant life is not one that involves so many “yeses”, that you find yourself empty of God’s peace, rest, and time to simply be still with Him.

God will never ask us to be his “yes” henchmen to an extent that it means saying “no” to Him.

No one understood this better than Jesus.

At the peak of his ministry, Jesus was met with literally thousands of “asks” of him on a daily basis- desperate people that traveled unfathomable lengths in hopes that He would change their lives. They gathered in troves around him. Questions that needed answering. Sicknesses that needed healing. Relationships that needed restoring. Things that only Jesus could do.

It would have been easy for Jesus to feel the immense weight of those needs and favors- in fact, we know that he did.

“We do not have a God that is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses- but one who in every respect has been tempted and tried as we are…” –(Hebrews 4:15-16)

Those trials include Jesus knowing exactly what it’s like to be juggling plates in your life, desperate to balance them. And the temptation comes when we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, burdened to say “yes” to everything, thinking we’re the only ones who can do it all.

But Jesus had more burden to say “yes” than any of us- If anyone could argue that saying “yes” or “performing” Godly works was their calling, it would be Jesus. If he took on every single person that came to Him, it could never be said that He wasn’t clearly walking in the will of God.

But instead, what was Jesus clear about doing?

He took time away and alone- from people and obligations and the need to say “yes”.

“Jesus left that place and entered a house- he did not want anyone to know it- but he could not keep his presence secret…” (Mark 7:24)

“He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray, and when evening came, he was alone” (Matthew 14:22-23)

“While it was still dark, he went out to a desolate place and prayed” (Mark 1:35)

“Come with me- let’s go off by ourselves and rest awhile in a solitary place” (Mark 6:31)

Jesus regularly sought solitude. Time to take care of himself. Time to connect genuinely with His father, and with those most important in his life.

And you know what? Doing this– resting– most definitely required that he say “no” to other things. “No” to things that did not truly fill his soul. “No” to things that His father was not calling him into urgently. “No” to performing, to people-pleasing, to making everybody happy all the time.

Instead, he protected his “yes”.

He used his “yes” for the things that God wanted most in his life. He allowed his “yes” to be meaningful, impactful, and a sacrifice that was worthy of what he was answering. He didn’t say yes to every little thing in the hopes that it would lead more people to believe in Him. And most of all, he understood why he was doing this:

Because he knew that saying “Yes” to one thing, means saying “No” to something else. Always. 100% of the time.

And sometimes this is exactly what God does call us to do: saying “yes” to time in worship means saying “no” to a Netflix binge.

But saying “Yes” to everyone around you could mean saying “No” to your physical and emotional health- saying “no” to the abundant life Jesus came and died for you to have.

Friends.

Protect your “yes”.

Use your “yes” wisely, charitably, and always alongside prayer.

But learn to start using your “No”, too. Use your “no”, not as a snub to others, not as a slap in the face, and not as a sarcastic Christian catchphrase.

But use your “no” to create the very margin you need to say “yes” to what God has in store for you. Life abundant. Life rested. Life with an easy yoke and a light burden (Matt. 11:30). Life free of people-pleasing; free of resenting when you are asked a favor; free of the incessant guilt about never being able to do it all.

What are those things in your life that are draining your energy, depleting your resources, and leaving you feeling distant, overworked, guilty, or resentful? What are those things you might need to go back and say “no” to, in order to say “yes” to the rest, peace, and clarity that comes from a balanced life?

Start today. Start whenever you are- endless list of “to-dos” and all. Prioritize what really matters, and cross off the things that don’t. (Hint: the world will not go up in flames if you don’t vacuum your living room today, and instead sit down with a book or devotional).

Just start with one “no”.

Say “no” to the enemy’s lie that you need to say “yes” all the time.

Instead, say “yes” to a life lived God’s way.