Overflow and Fairytales

As a child, it was so easy to believe it all. I wanted to be everything when I grew up. Well, now it’s here. I’m grown up. This is the age when adults do adult things. I’m turning 29 in less than a month, and the people I babysat are grown up, too. As for me, I’ve been cleaning a lot, giving away some things, and making space for my reality.

IMG_20131105_020141

I backed off of the internet big time in the last few months, if you’ve noticed. I deleted the Facebook app and deleted a lot of people off of my “friends” list, and made my Instagram private. I almost stopped writing blogs altogether. Crazy, right? The truth is that Facebook isn’t ME. I’m a person, flesh and bone. I live in Atlanta. I have a phone, and an address. I drive a car, and I get coffee and meals with friends and my boyfriend. If you want to be my real friend, I’m available. I’ve been available since 1987, whereas I only got on Facebook in 2005. Back then it was just for college kids, and I wish it had stayed that way. It was much more useful to message someone in the same chem lab and get a study group together, instead of sifting through hoards of cat videos and awkward political posts that fill it up now. What’s the use? Pictures. Information. Announcements. Gender reveals. I would hope that my friends would tell me directly, right? When my best friend got engaged, I heard directly. When one of my best friend’s grandfather passed away, I heard directly. I don’t need the birthday reminders to tell me when my family has a birthday, or when one of my closest friends is turning a year older. It’s almost like we’ve settled into an audience seat instead of being IN other people’s daily lives.

I’m backing off of that so that I can make room for reality. And this is what I wanted to write about: reality.

This is my reality: I work over 40 hours pretty much every week between two jobs. That’s overtime. I get home and sometimes I’m wired, and sometimes I’m super tired. I have a few best friends, and I am head-over-heels in love with my boyfriend. I write a devotional on my spare time, because I think there are people who are willing but want direction. I secretly enjoy teaching, but openly enjoy writing. I think the Bible is inviting and approachable, and it makes me want to go there. Women’s ministry has blurred more into relational ministry than anything else. One friend is finally selling her wedding dress, and is praying that the buy is finalized soon. One friend is going through a tough divorce. One friend is looking at moving to a smaller place. One friend is celebrating that her child is finally cancer-free. You see? It started out as “ministry” but now it’s blurred into friendship. I’m working on boundaries and praying through what that looks like, but I’m beginning to understand that what started out as a “mission” and “calling” is slowly becoming my lifestyle and not something I switch on and off. This is me, and I have a heart for women and discipleship. I am also learning what parts of my life are reserved for only my closest people and mentors.

Now let me tell you about fairytales and overflow: they’re real. It’s a thing. Psalm 23 talks about God’s anointing and His perfect ability to shepherd us unto overflow. Overflow is a real place and a real concept for you and me. If you’ve been on the struggle bus like Job for years and years, don’t forget to read the last chapter. Don’t forget God’s punch line to that story of suffering: double restoration. That’s overflow. Jesus was crucified and buried, but He rose again. Overflow. Don’t get it twisted to call it a fairytale, and roll your eyes, and discredit it as naiveté. Don’t get embittered to the point where you despise the promise of God’s very real abundance. The only thing that could ever disqualify you from God’s abundance is your unwillingness to receive it. SO. I have three little words for you:

OPEN

YOUR

HEART.

You might need to tell your mind to shut up. You might need to tell your mouth to shut up. You might have to change everything you have, and start wearing bright colors again. Paint a wall sky blue. You might need to start hanging out with younger people who sing pop songs and eat lollipops, because you need hope. Roll down the windows of your soul and stick your head out. Play in the rain. Believe that it can happen again, that love can happen, and grace can happen, and that a new adventure can happen for you. You might need to get your passport and go somewhere insane, just so you can get over yourself. I challenge you to it. I challenge you to overflow, or rather to believe in it again. Believe in laughing til you cry. Believe in stomach butterflies. Believe in moments you can’t photograph, like a hot pink sky as the sun rises and little snowflakes fall down. An afternoon rain, falling on the greenest of grass. Counting shooting stars on a rooftop in the middle of the night. Digging your toes in the finest of sand, wondering just how the water could be so blue. Holding that person’s hand that feels so warm, knowing what an insane blessing it is to be in love and to be loved in this short life. Having a little child tell you that they love you, and giggle at you, and pull you to play. THAT. You can only have these things, truly, if your heart is open to appreciate them.

I thought my plant was about to bloom, but it took 22 days for it to actually bloom. Sometimes we think things are just around the corner, and we get disappointed in the waiting. Rest assured, that bloom was worth the wait. Whatever it is you’re desperately waiting for, expectantly, I pray you don’t lose heart. I pray you find your brave moments of joy while you wait. I pray you keep your heart open and stay willing to receive it from God in His perfectly unrushed timing. If it took 22 extra days for a tiny yellow flower, I believe the Lord is also working inwardly and purposefully on your promise’s reveal.

There’s a tragic thing that sometimes happens to people who have been through so much pain, and that is they forget what carefree and happy looks like. They’re traumatized and that trauma traps them like a bug under a jar. The good news is that we are made new in Christ. New means new. New means stop replaying it over and over in your head. New means stop dwelling there and move. New. New looks different and even acts different, and it’s not faking because it’s… new. You have permission to be new, you know. It’s not cheating on your past to be new, it’s giving your present a purpose and your future a chance. Jesus has the gift of “new” for you, and he wraps it with carefree paper and ties it with a ribbon of happy.

This life is only so long, and I pray you’re alive in yours, with the powerful ability to make an impact as an adult, yet the wonderful privilege of receiving overflow like a child.

7 Lessons I’ve Learned from Ministry

You name the ministry, I’ve probably done it. Homeless. Door-to-door evangelism. Special needs kids. Teaching. Orphanage. Preaching. Healing. Prophecy. Manual labor. Cooking. Worship leading in languages I don’t even speak. Mentoring. Writing. Sunday school. Women’s ministry. Hiking mountains to go visit sick people and do church in their homes. Going into bars to befriend prostitutes. God’s given me the opportunity to start a ministry, and also a glimpse of what it’s like to jump behind the wheel of a ministry I didn’t start. God can use any of us as vessels, and it is His utmost joy to do so. From all that jazz, here are 7 lessons I’ve learned…

1. Let Holy Spirit do His job.

389026_10150915761510194_140302104_nI can’t tell you how many times I’ve approached situations and tasks with my logic, and fell on my face. I’m talking EPIC FAIL. I rushed in with my YES when I should have said NO! The most important thing I’ve learned is to take the time to ask God what He’s doing, and give Him time to be the First Responder. Holy Spirit is gonna do a much better job bringing conviction to a heart than any of us could. Holy Spirit tenderizes hearts. He heals. He gives us information we couldn’t possibly know, which is heaven’s intel for you to do what needs done. Our job is to be willing to agree with what He’s doing and saying. We need to be attuned like Jesus described in John 5, doing exactly what He saw the Father doing. Another example is when Jesus didn’t show up to heal Lazarus, because He was on Father God’s timeline. Had He showed up on time, Lazarus wouldn’t have died or been raised from the dead. Yield to Him! One nugget for you: desperation is an invitation to enter into God’s chill zone. Any time you feel RUSHED, especially in ministry, guess what? Press pause, even if it’s an internal pause. Have a moment with Holy Spirit and say “hey, what’s the big picture?” and listen. Slow your roll. God is not frazzled, because He’s not losing.

2. You can do it anywhere.

compassWhatever ministry you do in Thailand, you can do in Georgia. It breaks my heart when people “come home from the mission field” as if there is such a concept. We’re not home, yet. If a certain people group or ministry broke your heart overseas, don’t stop working with them. You can move somewhere far away to tend to a crisis, and many times God will call on the willing to go. But let me tell you… sitting with widows in Nicaragua and sitting with widows in Georgia feels pretty similar to me, except we’re speaking English. Holding a special needs baby in India and holding one in Texas was the same feeling of overwhelming joy to me. Don’t let your address dictate your calling. Sometimes you’re gonna go overseas, sometimes you have 4 kids and can’t. Doesn’t make you any less of a missionary, with any smaller of a heart. The poor are everywhere. The homeless need hope. Kids need instruction and parents. The broken need a shoulder to cry on. The baby believers need teachers. Same same, but different.

3. You need to be ministered to, probably more.

devo2They should have a show on TV called “So You Think You Can Help People” and make contestants go to counseling for a long, long time. Newsflash: you’re super imperfect and messy and you need a lot of help. Once you get that through your head, you can drop the act and get real. We are vessels, and we can give what we receive from God, that’s in 2 Corinthians. That means we ask for help, and we invite people into our lives to call out our mess and make us deal with it. Mentors, counselors, brutally honest friends… give people the double scoop on what’s going on in your heart and let them minister to YOU. Receive it. When you run into a hurdle, grieve it. Life is hard, yall, especially when you go and put yourself out there to help others. You’ll hear some stories that hurt, and see some things that stick with you. Don’t let pride lead you to trauma. Take care of yourself… on that note…

4. REST.

1526621_10103504744396170_959411098518940348_nBurn out is real. You need time to smell flowers, and stick your feet in the ocean. You need a drive with your windows down, and breaks from whatever is super difficult. PLAN TO REST. It’s not selfish. It’s a commandment, if you’re gonna get technical. The work will be there for you when you get back, I promise. Take the time. Bubble bath. Movie theater. Road trip. Trail run. Whatever it takes for you to hit reset and calibrate yourself to the rhythm of God’s breathing. Jesus would sneak away. Be like Sneaky Jesus and take your time away.

5. Leave the 99.

decaturWe all know and love that sweet parable of the lost sheep that wanders off, and the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 to go get it. What does that mean for you? One time during a women’s ministry meeting, I knew someone was missing. And I knew they needed to be there, and that something wasn’t right. I left the meeting and went to pick her up. She had been having thoughts about hurting herself, and I showed up at her door. Don’t busy yourself trying to get your validation from 99 that you miss the opportunity to do what the Good Shepherd would, which is to know His sheep and take good care of each one.

6. You’re never stood up.

notebookcryThis is kind of a joke, because yes you are. All the time. If you do one-on-one ministry with vulnerable people and set up 4 meetings, and actually end up with one meeting, guess what? That’s okay. People cancel. People sometimes don’t show up. Plans change. All the babies get sick. Sometimes you cook for 5 and end up eating alone, and you cannot take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. I’ll say it again: it’s not about you. Don’t let yourself get bitter and give up on people. God sees your heart, and He gets your frustration. He also rewards you. Keep showing up, just like Jesus does for you, and know that when you pour grace on someone who can’t make it (instead of shame/disappointment/anger/frustration) they will experience that grace, and maybe that was the whole point of the meeting anyway. Check!

7. Don’t wait for permission that is already yours.

oh-manIf you look at the greatest scholars, they started out as babies, pooping themselves. Their brains may be brilliant, but so is yours. Their organs are the same as yours, their hearts beat and so does yours. You can disqualify yourself from contributing to the Body of Christ by comparing yourself to someone up on the stage, but let me save you the time and tell you that’s silly. God teaches you things every day if you listen. Little things and big things. My favorite thing to do is ask people what God is teaching them today, and wait for the answer. There’s always something. You hear Him, too. He teaches you things that He may not have taught me. You have something to bring to the table that is unique and much, much needed. The Bible says you’re competent as a minister of the gospel! Did you know that?! Jesus didn’t have a flashy diploma, nor a rich upbringing. He wasn’t privileged, but He certainly knew His Father. We’re loved equally and there are no favorites. If you’re older, you could mentor a younger one. If you’re younger, you could be a great friend to someone, and have deep conversations about God. You have God’s permission to do Kingdom work, and it’s unlimited. Go do the thing that God put in your heart to do.

Weak Sauce and 27

I couldn’t wait to raise my hand this morning when the pastor asked if anybody needed God to be their Defender with a certain battle in their life. My hand shot up. As he asked for us to come forward for prayer, I practically power-walked to the altar.

Dear God, do I ever need help. I had a deacon pray for the lies in my head to get out. That was necessary. My pastor was practically yelling the prayer in my face haha, needed that. The tears just coming down, just like the stance I take to keep myself on guard. My surrender and weakness and vulnerability were visible for all to witness.

I am weak sauce, hear me roar.

sissysauce

I’d like to think of myself as a low-maintenance person. Not quite “I am titanium” bullet-proof, but a darn good shot, someone who can hold her ground and man-handle an assault rifle. I think of myself as a defender, and a very willing mama bear when I’m needed. I’m someone my friends can count on to stand up for them, to hold their hand through tough stuff. I fight for my people.

Lately, my strength has been sapped. I’ve needed people to come alongside me and fight for me. I’ve been extra needy. Ew. I’m needing a good cash-in of the golden rule, needing that zesty zing fight to be returned for me now.

Good news? It’s coming around. I am fought for. I am welcomed in my weakness, nurtured, and counseled.

The hard part about being in this situation is the innate assumption that it’s a permanent state. That I’m down for the count and that is just who I am? I don’t think so. I was raised in the ‘levanta, sacode a poeira, da volta por cima‘ culture, infused with Cowgirl Up, and a mix of fall down seven times, get up eight even when everything feels like it’s gonna snap.

This hard spot is temporary. You better believe I’m making a comeback, and I’m choosing into the right things. God is sifting through my life, and I gotta let Him. There are some epic things coming up ahead, and He’s not sending me without discipline and testing. The refining fire.

There is sufficient grace for my weakness. I am seeing it in my loved ones, the ones who are lavishing me with grace and prayer. God is using those willing ones to minister to my spirit and my heart.

This will pass, and I get to remember the bold love that was shown to me in this season of difficult growth. Blessings have been released from heaven to me. Every love note. Every careful thought. Every word of prophecy. I cherish it. God, how I need it.

Two weeks ago, I got a card from a sweet WR alum whom I’ve never met. I cried. It was exactly what I needed to read. She even drew a crowd on one side, and said that every person was a life I was impacting. I soaked that in.

I am loved, and I know it. I already knew, but thank you again and again for showing me. Isn’t that what this life is about? The again and again of the love of God, displayed to us and through us?

The Lord is my Shepherd.
I lack no good thing.

The Lord is my Defender (He fights for me).
I need only to be still (and rest in His peace).

Even in my times of weakness, my times of uncertainty, He makes sure I lack nothing, and that my fill comes from Him. I was worried about my birthday, not gonna lie. Worried somehow that I wouldn’t know how to receive, how to embrace. You ever have those dreams where you show up in your pajamas and everybody kinda laughs? Thankfully that was not the case 😉

My birthday was so special. I saw turtles, and got flowers, and a necklace, birthday meals, margaritas, love notes, cards, a mug, stationery, chocolate, a puzzle, Easter eggs, ca$h money, desserts galore, phone calls, and enjoyed a fun dance party. I got to go on a roadtrip, and play at the zoo with two of my besties.

zoo2


#turndownforwhat

Thank you, friends and family, for your grace and extravagant love to me.

I’ll share with you one last thing I had written into my notes::
The Lord does not rule out suffering in the fulfillment of His promises.

Maybe you’re going through a hard time right now too, where you don’t quite know what’s in store, you’re trusting blindly, and grieving all at once. Take heart. It might look like you’re falling apart, but God is walking you through toward the fulfillment of His promises –His GOOD promises to you.

Affirmation Addict

Guilty.

I realized why it’s hard for me to say no.
Why I choose challenges.
Why I find myself fighting this flesh that actually strives to be perfect, just so I can hear that I’m perfect.

The irony is that technically I am perfect, because of what Christ has done.
I’m holy and righteous. I’m awesome by Him. His grace comes to give me relief from my striving, and my flesh still fights it.

I hear Him sometimes raising His voice, envision Him gripping His throne with what I can only imagine to be passion, as He affirms me that I’m plenty good, that I’m wanted, and to stop freaking out.

Truth is that a little part of me is still broken. It hurts. It’s flaring up right now, and I know it’s for a reason. It’s for me to truly yield it and let the Lord heal it.

I feel the need to be affirmed more than the usual.
Then, the affirmation I just received expires rather quickly.

You can imagine how frustrating that can be to my loved ones, when I doubt them or question them, or push them. It’s obnoxious. I annoy myself. I question if I’m loved when I seriously was just told that I was loved. I’m not okay with that, it’s like I’m stuck in a catchy 90’s song. No.

90s

Believe me that I am taking this to the Lord.
The affirmation room in my heart is leaking or something.
It’s not holding well. I should be able to hold it better, to cherish it longer.
To believe it.

It’s not even that I don’t hear it from people or hear it enough.
I’m constantly hearing it. My family, my friends, my love, Phylla House ladies, church folks, strangers, internet people… I hear it. Affirmation is on loop, y’all.

africanlol

Yet I find myself wondering if it has all run out. If everybody has all of a sudden changed their minds about me in a matter of hours, days, weeks. It’s ridiculous. Jesus wants to fix it, which is why it’s being brought to attention.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I knew this would be a good thing to write about, because I bet there are a lot of good girls and guys who wanna hear just one more time that they’re awesome, and wanted, and loved. Just one more time, right? And then again. And again.

asianbaby

Can’t hear this enough, am I right?

Just for you, here’s some truth:

You are loved.
You are loved by the Father above, and the people around you.
Cherished.
Every hair on your head counted and every step for your feet is guided.
Pursued.
You are called, chased, needed. Run after. Sung over.
Beautiful.
Strong enough, fit enough, fair enough. Stunning.

Take it to heart because today and always, you are affirmed. Have your fill. May God’s love rid your heart of any fear and heal your wounds like it’s healing mine. May it give you peace and confidence to love and be loved.

DATING NON-NEGOTIABLES

Okay… yes.

Another one. Eat your heart out, people sick of dating blogs.

WHAT ARE YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES?

Red flags? No nos? Turn offs? Yes. Those.

Some of you think you know what you’re looking for, what you want in a husband or a boyfriend, or the future father of your children, but when a guy comes around and starts flirting with you, you act STUPID.

{there is grace for you, this is a hug}

BUT SERIOUSLY.

You might have no idea what you want {or what you don’t want}, so you end up entertaining the idea of being with someone who violates your {possibly nonexistent} non-negotiables. You flirt back. You string him along. You might actually date. You might even start to get attached, and override all of your panic alerts inside going “no no no no no no” just because of the attention? Fear? Confusion?

That’s okay in middle school, when Bobby gives you his puddin’ cups at lunch, and for the love of God, you love the puddin’ cups so much {not Bobby} and that’s a tough call. Honestly, puddin’ is delicious. This might still be a tough call… anyway…

NOT OKAY WHEN YOU’RE A GROWN UP.

It is not okay to wager hurting someone in order to get attention.
It is not okay to flirt with people in order to get attention.
It is not okay to go on multiple dates with people you do not like in order to get attention.

It’s mean, and mean girls lose respect. Respect is hard to get back.

fakesmile

{there is grace for you, and this is another hug}

So, let’s think of what it is that we don’t like. Dig deep, friends.

This is for you, ladies. Maybe you should know a few things that make you cringe a little or shake your head, so you don’t string a guy along or date someone you don’t even like.

So-Youre-Telling-Me-Theres-a-Chance-In-Dumb-and-Dumber-Gif

Here are my most honest, ridiculous maybe and vulnerable red flags:
I am not too picky and my specificity will be a big relief for my man, thank you.
:: & don’t judge my very specific and accurate red flags, because these things do not work for me::

1) Holy Spirit shy {weird is good, actually}
2) Easily intimidated/small dreaming {yes, I do divorce ministry, that’s hard}
3) Has soul ties {you be talkin bout her, shutty}
4) Unsettled, not ready {babies shouldn’t be scary}
5) Fake laughs {80% of my jokes are just sad, so I know}
6) Can’t just “be” and do nothing with me {comfort factor}
7) Irresponsible spender {hello fights about money}
8) Sends me messages at ungodly hours {hey shady}
9) Reminds me of an ex {yeah no, that’s unfortunate}
10) Doesn’t affirm me verbally {gotta hear it, often}
11) Imperative verbs without saying please {rude, no}
12) Hides me from his family and best friends {not okay, I’m awesome}
13) Makes me feel uneasy or weird {best friend comfort level}
14) No rhythm/non-musical {I’m Latina…}
15) Non-dancer {I’m Latina…}
16) Non-fun-haver {if you just know me, you’ll know}
17) PDA hater/non-kisser {it’s my love language!}
18) Manboy {can’t cook/clean/buy grown-up clothes… that’s a baby}
19) Funky teeth {if I’m gonna tell my kids to brush, daddy’s gotta}
20) Doesn’t joke back {banter banter banter}
21) Jury is still out on certain tank tops {wife beaters sometimes weird me out mostly bc of #22}
22) Chest hair {excessive, bear status… personal preference}
23) Doesn’t have a Twitter account {subtweeting about each other…}*
24) If there are a lot of red flags, about family or friends, or emotional maturity {obvi}
25) Mean to strangers/servers {just makes me cringe and want to apologize}

*#23 Twitter is not a deal breaker.

There you have it, folks.
Non-negotiables.
Write them down or something. Have some.
It’ll make a lot of sense if you can say “well I don’t like him because ___________” and then be a big girl and say “Hey Guy, thank you for being so kind to me, but I don’t see you as more than a friend.” and you don’t have to explain anything else. You just have to be honest.

Honest SOONER than later.
And you stop texting.
You stop hanging out by yourselves.
You don’t manipulate them or do anything that would be considered manipulation.

Please trust that Jesus made you to be who you are.
The guy you marry should sharpen you into a better, truer version of who you are, and you should sharpen him.
You don’t have to marry, much less somebody you don’t like.
You don’t have to date someone more than a couple of times to realize that you aren’t feelin it.
Don’t keep dating in hopes that you’ll eventually like them.
That’s a terrible idea.
That’s not nice, and it puts a stumbling block in your ministry.

If you don’t know what you want, at least know what you don’t want and save time, hearts, and money.

{{Oh please leave comments. What are your non-negotiables?}}

My Failures and Achievements of January 2014

Hey friends, family, internet peeps I’ve never met,

This month has been the two extremes of failure and achievement.

Failure to stop being sick for about 2 weeks. I had a sore throat for most of this month, and I’d like to report that it was infuriating. I have seen healing, I’ve received healing, and this was just not happening, not going away. Medicine didn’t help. It finally went away and I’m still asking Jesus what up with that.

whatupwiththat

Failure to get things done on my own. I couldn’t seem to make it to the office on time. I couldn’t make the calls I wanted to make. I couldn’t remember things. I mean you’d think I was just abducted by aliens or that my Myers-Briggs had just done a flip flop (no offense… but come on, where my high J at). I had to start setting reminders for basic stuff, like birthdays, and people’s surgeries, and things I normally do weekly but I now forget what day it is? So if I forgot your birthday, or didn’t follow up on something you trusted me with, I am super sorry.

sorry-remind-birthday-ecard-someecards

Yep.

Failure to get my emotions under control, or to prepare emotionally for possible changes. I knew there was a big chance of us losing the house I just moved into 2 weeks ago. Our neighbors did not approve of the group housing for the apprenticeship program (I was gonna be a house mentor), and I, instead of bracing myself and holding off on unpacking and on bonding, decided to bake cupcakes for the neighbors’ meeting. Ha. I sincerely thought we had this in the bag, that they would just love us. Nope. We were unanimously voted out. And with the reshuffle, they already had two mentors at the apartments, so I opted out.

dougie

Failure to pep and motivate 100% of the Phylla House ladies to come on back out of hibernation. Yep, I thought this was on my to-do list. I obviously failed to have a realistic to-do list. That was not a S.M.A.R.T. goal, kids. Whoops.

I failed so much this month.

But here’s where the opposite of failure took place… somehow…. you tell me…

I succeeded in apologizing a lot this month. I apologized a TON. I was humbled. I came up short. I was out of juice, out of health, out of my usual sunshine. I just showed up in most places. But I succeeded in apologizing. Hey!

I succeeded in being weak. Physically, emotionally, and I guess spiritually? I cried a bunch. Snotfest. I found myself asking a lot of questions about why I obeyed, if it was out of fear or out of love. Fear of who I would become, or of the choices He’d allow me to make out of my disobedience. Fear that He’d ‘let me do it my way’ and that I’d end up in the belly of a fish, or drowning in seaweed, or longing to eat pig food… ya know… the usual fear of the consequences of disobedience… God was able to soothe me and tell me that He’s sealed my heart for His courts above, and that I don’t have to worry about who I would be without Him. What a good Father!

fishbarf

I succeeded in receiving favor. I was asked to preach on Superbowl Sunday. I was asked to share in two different campuses at women’s ministry meetings. Filming 2 videos about Phylla House this month, thanks to Shaun, the saint. I succeeded in playing the shofar haha. Honestly, I’ve never been this taken seriously before, ironically just while I was a little weakling. And I was so blessed with a place to live, with the Smiths! THANK YOU.

es7

Flashback to my first time preaching, in El Salvador, in Spanish, barely visible over the podium, clutching the microphone with both hands. Aw.

I succeeded at saying see you later. I had loved ones leave Georgia this month. On to the next adventures, to do the thing God called them to do. But I will see them later. I was able to cry and open my heart and know, and trust.

I succeeded at moving. TWICE. Chad, also the saint, helped me move yesterday. We were fierce ninjas. Two carloads in 38 minutes, from beginning to end.

I succeeded at unpacking. TWICE. I nested all over again, and I was afraid that my ‘give a darn’ was busted, but it isn’t 🙂 I still care. I still LOVE to unpack, and to settle in, and put up pictures, and pin up my Brazilian flag.

I succeeded in asking for help, or accepting help. I’m still asking for help. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to grasp just how much I need help. I need the Lord ALL THE TIME. I need Him. And my help comes from Him, whether it comes in the shape of a stranger, or a friend, or a family, or a job. I can’t do things alone. I am not supposed to even try.

es2

that one time I spilled punch everywhere… life analogy

I succeeded in going to the gym for the first time since November. Yep. Yep. Believe it. I ran. Not much. Broke that threshold though, babies! Put on my Vibrams and ran on that mill o’tread. My goal last year was to not run when I was upset, or wanting to run my feelings. I needed to teach my heart how to run to Jesus with my feelings. Now I’m slowly, slowly going back to the idea of running, of just enjoying it.

I succeeded in spending $200 and my morning at the auto repair shop today. My car had a “dramatic leak” and a few hours and a chunk of my savings later (thanks, Dave Ramsey!!), it’s good to go. And I was able to help a lady named Aurora from Mexico who couldn’t speak much English at all. I interpreted for her at the auto shop and she smiled at me a real smile, and hugged me. I had warmth on a super cold day. I made friends because of car troubles. So good!

I succeeded in trying to rest. Hahaha… I laid there, and listened to a podcast about rest. I seriously closed my eyes, horizontal on the bed, with my hands on my stomach, and practically hummed while listening to this podcast. I might as well have chanted “I am resting, I am resting, I am resting” because it was that funny. I tried. I did awesome, I think? Two huge prayers got answered almost immediately after I got up, so I think there may be a holy correlation. Jury is still out on that 🙂 I am still learning what rest is. Rest is a state of mind, yes, but also something you do… or don’t do? Yes. All of that.

Stop-Youre-Under-a-Rest

or this

I clearly “succeeded” more than I failed. I know that my failures were counted for me.

My faith is increasing. My reliance on the Lord is highlighted. I get to be real and weak and broken and normal. Not Mother Teresa, not the Instagram-filter missionary, not all bubbles and sass. I am weak, but I’m learning. I’m maturing and going on display for the gospel. I am succeeding in Christ. I’m a warrior in Him.

4 Reasons Why You Feel LONELY

COMMUNITY. Ahh, the word that gets tossed around but not truly explained, this mythical, inconvenient concept of having people around who love you, being in consistent relationship. It’s messy, you have to share things, it’s obnoxious and yet it’s so needed. We feel lonely without it.

IMG_20140103_101955

not the most accurate depiction, maybe

My views on community are my own. You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have to change the way you do life. All I’d like to point out is that only you know the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction you have right now with your ‘community’ and if you feel LONELY, there’s a problem.

If you feel like you DON’T FIT IN or that you DON’T BELONG or that you are UNLOVED, or that you lack DEPTH in your relationships, or that REJECTION is one engagement or baby bump or move away… there’s a problem. There’s a big problem. It needs to get addressed. You shouldn’t continue on into life feeling like that.

alernterm1

sometimes Goosebumps don’t cut it

I’d like to share a little bit about what my community looks like first

I choose to call my community my “FAMILY” and that includes about 6 people, of various ages, relationship statuses, and geographical locations, some blood-related, and some that I choose to love as such. Some of them weigh into my life spiritually, some do not. That’s okay.

I pursue depth with those people.

They are my family and my best friends. I consider them my blood. I try to keep a few close to me that will have fun and encourage my faith, so sometimes this circle ebbs and flows, because the gospel drives them to different nations and states. It’s a fun family. It’s spread out.

There’s a high level of trust and loyalty. There’s been time invested. I’ve showed them over time that I love them and their love is returned.

What that looks like is that I call them {and they call me} to see how life is going.
I tell them about my life, my struggles, and my walk with the Lord.
I tell them things, and they tell me things.
We ask each other hard questions.
It’s not uncommon that sometimes we cry on the phone with each other.
We encourage each other deeply with big matters.

Sometimes my brother will say something that is exactly what I needed to hear, and he doesn’t sugarcoat things. I get to hear about when depression is on the horizon, and when someone is frustrated, or when there’s been a fight, or a conflict. I get to hear about financial, spiritual, and emotional struggles, and I also get to hear about the good grade on the hard test, roommates, and funny stories. I keep in communication with my “family.” I open that channel and I keep it wide open.

I see a correlation between my vulnerable, constant pursuit of my ‘community’ with my feelings of being loved by them.

Do they ever let me down? Yep.
Do they ever make me mad? Yep.
Do I stop calling or answering the calls? Nope.
We don’t walk away when things are difficult, or when one offends the other.
Families fight.
Oh well.
That’s life.
We still love each other.

In Psalm 68, it says that God puts the lonely in families.

It doesn’t say that He gives them conditional besties.
Doesn’t say that He rearranges their social calendar.
Doesn’t say that He makes sure they have more money to offset their loneliness.
Nah… He puts them in FAMILIES.

I think we focus too much on COMMUNITY and we forget that FAMILY is the key.

Looking at it from a family’s perspective, here are 4 reasons why you might feel lonely…

1) PHYSICAL DISTANCE – with families, some members are distant but some are right with you. You come home to family, right? You do life with them. You share meals, and share stuff, and you’re fun together and boring together. You clean up after each other. You help each other. You’re present with each other. You go to the store, and church, and you also know that there’s a constancy about that presence. You might feel lonely because you don’t live with “family” and that doesn’t necessarily mean you should move back in with your blood-related family. That just might mean that you appreciate your roommates, that you do life with people and enjoy the gift of their company. Live with people.

2) EMOTIONAL DISTANCE – You might live with someone, but you might feel lonely because their hearts are far away. You might have so many walls up that all you do is talk about the weather and sports. There’s an emotional vulnerability and openness to family. You can tell them how your day really went, and your frustrations, and your fears. You can tell them, and they want to hear it. And they tell you, and you want to hear it. The only way to kill emotional distance is to approach someone and tell them “hey, can I tell you about my day?” and to be honest. Give them the chance to get to that level with you. Thank them and tell them that you’re there for them. The way I know I’ve built emotional closeness with someone is that they react to my news in a way that ministers to my heart. If I’m sad, they have compassion. If I’m overjoyed, they jump with me. They rejoice and mourn with me, it’s really quite Biblical. But someone has to take the first step.

3) REJECTION – families shouldn’t walk away from each other because of hardship. In a perfect world, you’d see that played out more. Unfortunately, lots of people bail when things get tough, and we now have generations who are scarred by rejection, and terrified of it. The Lord does not reject you. You have the ability to trust people, and trust is a gift. You might feel lonely because you are afraid of loving someone and not being loved back.

awkwardhugsYou don’t want to invite someone over because they might say no. You don’t want to initiate because you fear the response. And so you become that person who doesn’t reach out, and you tape your arms to your sides, and it’s harder to hug that way. Even when someone approaches you, you can’t embrace them back. You think it’s the world rejecting you, but really at the root of it, there’s a fear living in your heart. It’s a legitimate fear. It’s awful to be rejected. I pray you see the risk as worth it, though. I pray you free your arms to reach out, regardless of the outcome. You just might find that someone says yes, that someone does want to spend time with you and get to know your heart. Ask the Lord to give you a friend. When He does, be bold about loving that friend well.

4) SAMESIESYou might feel lonely if you think that your friends need to be LIFE TWINS with you. Life is a constant change. People get engaged, they have babies, they age, they move to Houston, and what do you do? Now your circle of friends is UTTERLY RUINED because you saw your friendship through conditional lenses. Because you live together, or because you’re both single ladies, or because you work together, or whatever SAMESIES you met through should not, then, kill the friendship when life changes.

samesies

not all your friends should wear this

If you only ate one kind of food, your nutrition would be LACKING.
It’s the same with your community, if it is made up only of people your age/status/location.
That community is DEFICIENT.
It’s deficient of AGE, and WISDOM, and DIVERSITY, and CHALLENGE.
It’s a community of ice-cream for dinner, and that’s not going to sustain you for long.

You need friends who are in high school, and friends who are in college, friends who are married, friends with kids, friends old enough to be your parents, and grandparents.
You need variety in your life, otherwise you’re stuck.

Engagements, babies, and moving should not ruin your community… they should enhance it.

Families are not all made up of people of the same age, from the same place, at the same status.
It should be the same with your friendships, if we can mature unto fullness and realize that we ourselves will change, and will not know anything about what’s next if we don’t choose to surround ourselves with those who walk ahead of us, and those who walk behind us.

Community is not just a two-way street,
but a maddening highway of multiple lanes, bridges, and intersections.
If you’re feeling lonely today, friend, I pray that the road of your heart gets a little more traffic.

What will you do about your loneliness?

Do you struggle with any of these things?

Feel free to comment, and I’d love to be praying for you.