From Christmas Pressure to Peace
Embracing Death Brings Life
Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Except for your house, on Christmas Eve, with presents still to wrap, dinner preparations to make, and out-of-town company to host. Your kids are hopped up on anticipation and sugar cookies, taking their usual volume of 10 to 100. The only thing silent is the screaming voice in your head telling you to cancel Christmas this year. And the only thing holy about this night is the run in your tights that won't be subdued by clear nail polish.
The celebration has turned into commiseration. If Christmas is supposed to be a time to celebrate Jesus, the Prince of Peace, then how have we wound up feeling no peace and all this pressure?
The Difference Between Honesty & Vulnerability
"Hopefully you don't miss the party," spoke the woman across the isle. I shifted nervously in my chair as I smiled and replied, "It's okay. It's my party so they can't start without me!" Sitting in the packed waiting room of a medical lab for the third time that month wasn't how I expected to spend my evening, right before heading to my own 30th birthday party. But nothing about this year has gone the way I expected. There have been more thoughts of death than I would have liked, but also way more opportunities to choose life than I would have imagined.
I had high expectations for turning thirty. I was ready for my twenties to be over and was looking forward to an amazing decade ahead. So when an alarming symptom appeared, just days before my birthday, I was shocked. After lab tests and doctor appointments with no answers, the shock turned to fear. What if this decade that brought me so much excitement was going to be ripped from me? What if all of the future plans and dreams I was anticipating were suddenly out of reach?
It took my husband and I several days before we could even speak out loud our greatest fear: this could be cancer.
Moving Forward through Self-Forgiveness
Honesty is not a big issue for me, but it used to be. I would tell "little" lies to save face or cover my mistakes. I would exaggerate my strengths or things I did in order to look better in someone else's eyes. I would tell stories of things that never really happened to that "friend of a friend" of mine.
It took a lot of work for me to become truly honest with myself and others. Full transparency: it's still sometimes a temptation for me. I absolutely hate looking inept or incapable. If I do something embarrassing, my first instinct is to make up an excuse for what I did.
Through continually practicing honesty in all situations, I am amazed at how comfortable I have become in my own humility. When you try to pull a door with a "push" sign on it as much as I do, you become very familiar with humility. I think God may even have given me that unique "ability" just to keep me from becoming too prideful.
So with honesty a well-practiced character quality, it caught me by surprise when God showed me how he didn't just want me to be honest with others, but also vulnerable.
When I Fail, God is Faithful
No one I know answers the question, "How's it going?" with "Oh man, I failed BIG time this week." We often feel embarrassment, and even shame, about our failures. So instead of being honest, we just smile and say "good!" But everything isn't all good all the time, and we know it.
Whether it's a minor error in our work, a harsh word said to a friend, or an affair on our spouse, we will regularly come face to face with the challenges of our sin condition. We won't always resist temptation. We won't always act according to the Spirit. God willing, we will grow stronger and become more resistant to the desires of our flesh, but there will always be things that we do or do not do that will cause us to feel God's conviction through the feeling of guilt.
Beauty for Ashes
I am in the middle of an unexpected season of change. All of the change is ultimately for my good, but some of it is born out of my failure. I still hate to admit that I've failed. My prideful heart has a difficult time admitting failure, let alone accepting it. But at the same time that I have failed, God has been so faithful.
He never once let me crawl into my shell of defeat and hide. In His loving nature, I believe He allowed me to face tremendous challenges this year for the very purpose of breaking down my walls--both to Him and to people around me. He didn't let my heart harden. He sought me. He loved me. He opened up my heart in such vulnerability that I would have not believed I could do it had I not experienced it.
He didn't love me in spite of my failures, He loves me through my failures... all of them.
Focus on the Process, Not the Result
Ashes: the remains of something destroyed.
The fires that raged in my soul and those that surrounded me left me in ashes. With hardly an identity or form, I entered my young adult years unrecognizable to myself. With no substance or weight to keep me rooted, I was blown by the winds of each day, unable to plant my feet or feel at peace. My soul was perpetually unsettled.
I remember clearly the day that I traded the lifeless, formless ashes of myself for the beauty God desired for me. In an instant, God swept up the pile of ashes and lovingly reformed me in His image--in my true image.
The beauty had always been there, I knew. I kept grasping for it in vain, not understanding that I needed to surrender the ashes to God first.
Why Millennials are the Worst Generation
I recently finished reading the book The Miracle Morning for Network Marketers. I have the ebook so I highlighted digitally, took screenshots, and sent snippets to my team a few times. There are some nuggets of gold in that book. The interesting part about all those "nuggets" that stood out to me is that they are all solid pieces of wisdom that apply to more than just network marketing. The biggest piece of wisdom for me is this:
"The secret to success in network marketing is to be committed to my daily process without being emotionally attached to my results. I can't always control my daily results, but as long as I follow through with the process, the law of averages will always play out, and my results will take care of themselves."
Wow. "Be committed to my daily process" but not "emotionally attached to my results."
This can be applied to every area of my life. From running my business, to losing the baby weight, to growing spiritually, to raising up my kids to know and love God... I can get so focused (truthfully, worried) about the future result that it often takes over my ability to be committed to the process.
The Difference Between Reading God's Word & Hearing His Voice
Millennials are the worst. We're lazy, entitled, selfish, and rude. We make terrible music, movies, and art. We're narcissistic and spend too much time taking selfies and posting on social media. The only people we care about is ourselves. We expect everything in life to come easy to us and we quit as soon as anything gets challenging. All of these things make millennials the worst generation of all time.
As a millennial, I see this issue through an autobiographical mindset. I understand the current worldview and challenges millennials face more than I can understand the worldview and challenges of past generations. But it makes sense logically, that every generation is faced with negative, stereotypical, and even demeaning judgement from the generation before it.
I can easily imagine my great-grandmother, born in the 1920's, being shocked--and even disgusted--at the younger generation of pot-smoking, bra-burning, hippy culture of the 60's. Every decade has its teenagers and young adults pushing the boundaries and doing things differently than their parents.
The Purpose of Perseverance
I still remember the feeling of God's voice penetrating deep into my heart the day I became a Christian. It was a wonderful feeling that I held on to tightly for several years after that day. I grasped those words tightly in my fists, afraid that it was a once in a lifetime moment that I would not get again. My fists held closely to my heart, I hoped that I wouldn't forget the sound of His voice. Today, my arms are stretched out in front of me, hands loose (except for a gentle grasping of my pen), and bible laid out on my lap as I soak in the sound of that familiar voice--the voice I open my bible and my heart for almost every day.
The Problem with Self-Help
Persevere. This word God has spoken to me more times in this past year than any other. "Be patient. Trust me. Keep going. Don't quit. I've got this." At times I've wondered if I just skip this lesson, will God let me move on to the next one? Maybe the next one will be more to my liking. Maybe it will be less uncomfortable. Maybe it will produce a quicker result. But aren't those thoughts precisely why God is being so thorough with teaching me perseverance?
Finding Joy in the Mundane
My goal this year has been to read more books. Whether it's paperback, ebook, or audiobook, I want to be filling my mind with more wisdom and knowledge than I have in previous years. I want to grow as a Christian, as a business owner, as a wife, as a mother, and as a writer. I cannot expect to grow if I am not feeding my mind with the wisdom and knowledge of those who have more knowledge and experience than I do. But in my quest for knowledge, my first priority is (or should be) my daily bible reading. If I find myself spending my time reading self-help books, even Christian ones, but don't read my bible--there's a problem.
If you're an avid reader, but struggle to read your bible regularly (or consciously choose not to), let me share with you the two main issues I see...
Have you ever read or been told that you’re doing “kingdom work” by taking care of your home and raising your kids? Did you smile and nod outwardly, but inside you were rolling your eyes or laughing? I’ve been there. When you’re right in the thick of it—the messy, noisy, long, repetitive days of motherhood—it’s hard to see the bigger picture. But, finding joy in the mundane may just be the key to unlocking the peace and contentment that you need.