Twenty years ago I was an elementary school teacher. I taught second grade in Austin, Texas, and worked with a lot of children who came from troubled homes. I wanted my classroom to be a place that felt cozy and safe because many of my kiddos didn’t know what “safe” felt like. Some had parents in jail. Others lived in homes where family members were dealing drugs.
So one of the small things I did to try to create this environment was putting this cute lamp on my desk, and every morning I turned it on as the children entered my room. It was a way to create an inviting and warm place for them to know they were loved.
My teaching days are far in the past, but now that we are all “safer at home” because of the COVID-19 outbreak, I’m putting my teacher hat back on for my own girls. Incredibly, I still had the lamp, and now it sits in our sunroom where we “do school”. Every morning I turn it on as my girls get settled and ready to learn and I’m reminded of how our past prepares us for our future.
Never discount what you have been through. Whether it was good, bad, or simply a training ground. God is always preparing you for something. I challenge you to take the experiences that you have lived through and really think about the lessons they have taught you.
Maybe they were simply times that felt like you were in a holding pattern. Those are valuable moments too. God’s timing is perfect and the seasons that feel like an uncomfortable pause could quite simply be opportunities for God to align what it is He has for you next.
They always say “hindsight is 2020”and I believe that is so true. Be proud of, or at the very least accepting of, your past and be open to how it has readied you for your future.
I’ll give you a hint, there are NO cliche “resolutions”!
The year 2020. That just sounds cool, doesn’t it? Every new year brings new possibilities, new goals, and new resolutions we get excited about and commit to for the first three weeks of the year. Then reality and routine set in and so many of those good intentions go flying out the window like confetti in Times Square. This was always my story in the past as I tried to use the beginning of each new year as a time to make life changes for the better.
I always felt like I knew what I needed to do, or change, to live up to that “New Year, New You!” mantra I always hear playing like a broken record come January 1st. Inevitably I would make resolutions like commiting to working out more, eating more healthily, or maybe doing something a little out of my comfort zone for “personal growth”. But again, these were always things I thought were good for ME.
Therein lies the problem. This is why so many of my past resolutions lost steam, gave me zero passion, or flat out failed. I thought I knew what was best for ME. Wrong approach.
If you are sick, do you ask yourself for a complete medical diagnosis so you can get better? No, not unless you are actually a doctor. If water is leaking through your ceiling in your living room do you use your massive internal knowledge of plumbing and house construction to fix the leak? No! Not unless you’re a skilled plumber and a fabulous contractor! The same goes for your life. How can you expect to know exactly what you need to live an exciting, productive, and ever growing life? You can’t! And why put that kind of pressure on yourself?
If you’re trying to figure out what you need to improve upon or change in order to live out your God given purpose while using your specific gifts and talents, stop asking yourself! Instead, ask the One who knows you better than you ever will! Take the pressure off of YOU to figure it all out and put it on the One who created every fiber of your being.
Take a computer for example, and imagine this scenario. You’re sitting by yourself at a diner having breakfast. A man you’ve never met sits next to you and orders a cup of coffee. Then he proceeds to slowly push a laptop down the counter to rest in front of you and says, “I need you to make two Powerpoint presentations, send five emails, and compile this data into two Excel documents in the next hour. If you complete these tasks I’ll give you a million dollars.”
Now here’s the catch. Also imagine that you have never SEEN a computer before. What would you do? Other than the obvious reaction of, “Who in the world are you mister, and why are you disturbing my morning with this weird square metal contraption?”, you might actually be intrigued by the challenge and try to complete the task. That hefty reward is a bit enticing for goodness sakes.
This is where you have two options. You could struggle to figure out this crazy machine you’ve never seen before all by yourself and get extremely frustrated because you don’t know the internal workings of a computer. Or, you could ask the gentleman who charged you with this challenge, for assistance.
And would it help to know that this man’s name is Bill Gates, a brilliant software programmer and co-founder of Microsoft? Uhh….yea, that would help. Anyone with half a brain would ask the expert, who practically built the computer, how to navigate this challenge instead of winging it with limited to no experience in the field. Right?
So why do we put this pressure on OURSELVES every new year to know what is best for us, where we should focus our efforts, and what areas of our lives we should work on? We shouldn’t! Instead, ask the expert! God!
Once I shifted my mindset from this “me centered” approach to a “God centered” focus, my “New Year planning” took on a whole new look.
It actually began about three years ago when I had just completed my breast cancer treatments and my husband and I were finally able to exhale. The stress and trauma of what a cancer diagnosis puts you and your family through is nothing short of exhausting. We were in dire need of some quiet time together as a couple to recharge, reconnect, and process everything we had just been through, so we decided to get away.
We cashed in some gift cards we had received to a spa, about an hour away from our home, and booked two nights and a few relaxing massages during the day. Because this difficult trial had brought us so much closer to God we knew that we wanted to dedicate this time to express our gratitude to Him for His many blessings, and seek His will for our lives in this next season of continued healing for me. That dedicated time away, just the two of us, has become a wonderful tradition that we have continued to do every year since.
It isn’t just the quiet time together that is so nice, it’s what we intentionally do during that time that has become absolutely critical to us each year.
Here is how we structure our “New Year Retreats”.
A week or two before we go we individually begin praying that God will prepare our hearts and plant seeds of direction in our spirits. We like to choose specific words to be our theme for the year and these words are also something we ask God to start sifting out in our minds. During this prep time Andrew and I are both spending quiet time with God, reading our Bibles and devotions separately, and jotting down anything that sticks out to us, or seems like a nugget we should remember.
Something else we do during this process is fast. For us that means fasting from food or certain foods while we go through this process. This can look different for everyone, but we believe in the power of submitting this basic need to the Lord for a time, and have personally seen how it brings us more in tune with Him.
2. Put Away Distractions
Once we are away, whether it’s a one night “staycation” in a local hotel, or 6 hours of solitude in our own home with kids off at the grandparent’s house, the first order of business is turning off the cell phones. This needs to be a distraction-free zone so we can focus on each other and be free to listen to what God wants to share in His still small voice.
3. Get Out the Tools
When we begin this yearly session we always bring the necessary tools to the table. A Bible, (preferably a couple of versions; we like the NIV Life Application Bible and the Message Bible), our Jesus Calling Devotional, and a journal.
4. Set the Stage
Again, beginning everything with prayer is so important. So before we dive in, we thank God for seeing through us another year and ask him to bless this time as we seek His direction for the coming year. We specifically ask Him to show us what to pray for and to guide us in this process.
This is where the handy dandy journal comes in. Andrew started recording our prayer requests and goals for the year in his journal, and we have found it to be so enlightening. Looking back on the previous year to see how God has answered prayers is one of our favorite things to do. It’s amazing to be reminded of His goodness in this way. Oftentimes our requests aren’t answered in the manner we THINK they should be, but when we are able to reflect on how God did it HIS way, it’s always better. We also take time to evaluate the goals that we recorded from the previous year, and celebrate the ones we have accomplished. It also gives us the opportunity to discuss the ones we still have to work on.
Now it’s time to think about the coming year and begin writing down the prayer requests and goals that have come to mind. Andrew and I make a point to sit in silence for a few minutes, listening and waiting for God to impress upon us exactly what those things are. Remember, it’s not about what YOU want those requests and goals to be, it’s what HE wants them to be. Be still, and give Him the space and stillness to tell you.
7. Determine Your Theme “Words”
This is one of my favorite parts of this process. Giving your new year a theme is super helpful. We like to pick one or two words, or a phrase that will be our anchor for the year. It helps us stay on track with the plan and mindset that God has put on our heart for the next twelve months. Use your Bible to research the words that you choose. If your theme is “Be Bold”, then look up verses in the Bible about being courageous. Meditate on those verses, and write them down as a reference. I will talk more about theme words in an upcoming blog so make sure to check back soon.
8. Lock, Load, and Let Go
Finally, take all of your dreams, requests, and goals, and release them from your hands. Begin praying…out loud…together…(yes I said that…OUT LOUD) through your list. If praying with your spouse isn’t something you’ve done before, I encourage you to do it. It’s awesome. Andrew usually starts off and then we volley back and forth like a tennis ball, each taking turns praying. Not only is hearing your spouse pray powerful, but the Bible says in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Make sure to allow plenty of time for this prayer process, and don’t be afraid to cover EVERYTHING, including the kitchen sink, in prayer. Family, work, marriage, country, etc. Nothing should be off the table.
This whole process is wonderful and extremely fulfilling, but it can also be a little exhausting so make sure to celebrate when you’re finished. That can look as simple as cooking a great meal together or going for a nice long walk. Celebrate the fact that you are choosing to put God first in your lives. Celebrate that you were willing to sacrifice your most precious commodity, your time, to seek wisdom from the God of the universe.
Remember! You are submitting and trusting your year to a God who loves you and is FOR YOU!! Now that’s something to raise a glass to as the clock turns midnight and your new year begins!
Happy New Year!
It’s a new year already? Hold the phone! How did this happen? I feel like I just cleaned up the confetti from last New Years’ Eve party. Okay, who am I kidding? There was no confetti, or a party this year. Andrew and I were in bed by 10 pm like we are most New Year’s Eves. Truth. Not ashamed. But seriously, how did another year fly by like this past one did?
Last year was an incredible collection of twelve months, and voted one of our favorites by the unofficial “How did this year stack up to the last few?” poll in our household. It was definitely a year of new births, and no, I don’t mean actual babies. Good gravy, that would have sent me over the edge, and we all know my baby ship has sailed. But God birthed some dreams in us over the past 12 months that were pretty awesome.
I’m sure all you moms can understand and relate; birthing babies and having newborns is a LOT of work! And even though these new dreams and projects are wonderful and exciting, bringing them into existence is exhausting! Please don’t read this as complaining. I am definitely not doing that. In fact, it’s far from it. I am SO grateful for it all, the release of my book, the start of this blog, to name a few of the blessings, but to put it quite simply, by mid-November I was tired. In fact, here is a little snapshot of what my brain was saying on a daily basis….
“Make it stop, Lord! Make the spinning, the constant spinning of my mind and my anxious thoughts stop! I’m FREAKING out!”
Yep, it had happened. My brain had officially become a salad spinner. “A what?” you ask. You heard me. A salad spinner. You know, those cute little kitchen gadgets that look like a big bowl with a strainer type thing inside and a plunger pumping mechanism on the top. It’s what cooking savvy people, a.k.a. my husband, use to put rinsed salad greens in. Once they’re tucked safely inside, the plunger is repeatedly pushed down to make the inside strainer basket spin like a crazy tilt-a-whirl at the fair. Those poor unsuspecting lettuce leaves don’t know what’s hit them and before they know it they’ve been whipped into oblivion in order to draw the excess water out of their leaves. If you’ve ever used one of these before you know that even after you stop pressing the plunger, the inside basket continues to spin until you either manually stop it or let it slow on its own.
Well, my brain had become the epitome of this salad spinner. The pace of the past year and all of the work that went into birthing these dreams was like that plunger constantly pushing up and down on my brain. That consistent pumping was keeping my mind spinning, and fast. Even though all the work and projects were good things, my thoughts were still moving at top speed. Then as November rolled around and the pace of our lives began to slow a bit before the holidays, the “plunger pumping” stopped, but my brain couldn’t stop spinning, just like that crazy salad spinner.
I found myself unable to concentrate, and I was having a hard time setting aside quiet moments to be with the Lord. Even when I did, I couldn’t focus and I felt anxious. I was beginning to see that social media was keeping my mind in a constant state of stimulation, and I wasn’t allowing it to rest. I was far from the peaceful person I wanted to be, and I didn’t like it. I knew I needed to do something drastic.
Well okay, not drastic like move to Bali and meditate in a cross-legged position on a beach all day kind of drastic (as lovely as that sounds), but I absolutely needed to make a change in some of my daily habits. As I lay in bed one night trying to quiet my mind so I could go to sleep, I started praying and asking God for help. What I heard was a still small voice in my spirit say, “Give up social media for awhile.”
Earlier in the year I may have had a slight heart attack at the thought of doing this, but at this moment it felt like a breath of fresh air and permission to unplug. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until now, but I saw how the frequent scrolling, posting, comparing, and pressure I put on myself to “show up” was keeping my mind from finding those much needed quiet moments.
It was one of the things that was forcing my salad spinner brain to stay in motion and in turn, was keeping out the peace, guidance, and wisdom that God was wanting to let in. So I made a pact with myself that I would put social media to the side and not engage with it as long as I felt God wanted me to. Let me tell you….
IT WAS GLORIOUS.
Like anything, it took a little while before I stopped reaching for my phone in the grocery check-out line, or in the car waiting for my kids at school pick up. That weird need to scroll and kill time was still strong. But like any habit you’re trying to break, the more you work on it the less the desire is there. Anytime I felt an urge to scroll I would change my focus to my Jesus Calling devotional app or my Daily Bread app to be filled with God’s wisdom instead of what someone ate for breakfast that day.
(Disclaimer: I love a great breakfast idea, and I’m sure I’ll be doing an Insta Story on avocado toast in the near future, so no offense my breakfast posting friends!)
As I began clearing my schedule, putting my phone down, and picking up my Bible more I began to feel the spinning start to slow. My thoughts were becoming more calm and less fractured, and I experienced my brain beginning to reset.
Every morning as I began to wake up and be conscious of my thoughts, I prayed Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” The other verse I frequently meditated on and often still say outloud is Phillipians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I think God shines His light on things in our lives that need a little attention, or a little less attention, as in this case. I don’t feel like He was condemning social media or saying it as a whole is “bad”, but I knew He was telling me I needed to step back to refocus my eyes on Him. Just like Ross and Rachel from Friends, (yes this is dating me), I wasn’t deciding to “break up” with social media. I was simply “on a break!”
As I re-engage into this digital world again, my goal is to live in perfect PEACE and to do that by trusting God in all things, and setting boundaries for myself. These boundaries are going to look like specific times that I am allowing myself to “scroll”, and/or post, and making sure I keep that piece of my life (that I do enjoy) in check. I think simply being aware of it is half the battle and often a great place to start.
Stopping the spinning was the first thing that needed to happen at the end of 2019 so that I could effectively vision cast and seek God’s will for myself and our family for 2020! If you’d like to read about what that looks like and the process my husband and I go through to do this each year, check out my post on “How I Begin My New Year”!
I love when some of the biggest life lessons happen over a five minute discussion….in the car. Last year, my morning school drop-off routine consisted of driving my oldest daughter to her school, and then a quick five minute drive to drop my youngest to her’s. I love those rare occasions when I get one-on-one time with my girls. It’s definitely a luxury, and I always looked forward to this brief time with Katherine, my youngest.
Each morning I would try to do a quick check-in with her. Those check-ins typically consisted of short questions like, “How are you feeling today?” “Is there anything exciting happening at school this morning?” Or sometimes we simply recited some of our favorite Bible verses together, to help her prepare for the day, like Phillippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Most days, her answers to my questions were peppy retorts and excited responses about the upcoming day’s activities, but this day was different.
It was a beautiful autumn morning and the changing leaves on the trees were ablaze with color. As we drove the quick route to school, I asked her how she was doing. Instead of her normal, “I’m great, Mommy!”, response, instead she said that she was sad.
She began to explain that something had happened at school that made her feel different than the other kids. She was struggling with being set apart and she didn’t like it one bit. As a momma, my heart was breaking for her, but I knew that this was going to be a good learning moment.
Just a few days before she had pointed out a large maple tree at the edge of the playground whose leaves had turned a gorgeous red color. She mentioned that the kids always commented on how pretty that tree was when they ran outside to play for recess each day. Everyone loved the “red tree”, and she was right, it was stunning.
So as she was pouring out her heart about feeling different, I listened, and then began sharing what started bubbling up in my heart. This is how the conversation went.
Me: “Katherine, you love fall, right?”
Katherine: “Yes Mommy, I do!”
Me: “And you love how the trees change color and create this beautiful mix of yellows, oranges, and reds, right?
Katherine: “Uh, huh.”
Me: “What do you think fall would look like if all the trees turned yellow and there were no other colors?”
Katherine: “It would look pretty boring.”
Me: “You’re right. Fall would look pretty boring and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the beautiful variation that we see now. And what if the red tree that all the kids love wasn’t there, or if it were the same color as all the other trees around it? How would that make you or your friends feel?”
Katherine: “They would be sad because they would miss the red tree.”
Me: “Honey, I want you to be the red tree. God made you the way He did for a reason just like He made that beautiful red tree for a reason. There are going to be times when you aren’t going to fit in with the rest of the crowd or you may have beliefs that are different than others around you, but you need to be the “red tree”. Don’t be afraid to stand out. There may be times when it’s not an easy thing to do, but without the “red trees” this world would be a dull and boring place. Be proud of the beauty and the potential that is inside of you, no matter what anyone else says.”
By the time we had arrived at her school, her demeanor had completely changed. We pulled into the parking lot and there next to the fence was the gorgeous red tree in all of its glory. I pointed to it and said, “There it is honey. Look at how beautiful it is. Now go and be the red tree today.”
A smile broke on her face and she slipped out of the car and skipped into school. It was a great reminder for me too, of the importance of being okay with going against the crowd sometimes. God made us all different and special in our own ways. If everyone was the same, how boring this world would be.
Psalm 139:13-14 says, “You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.”
It can be hard feeling like you’re the one fish swimming upstream some days. But just like a fall season with only yellow leaves, if this world didn’t have YOU, and all the uniqueness found in each and everyone of us, it would be a boring place.
Don’t let the fear of standing out keep you from stepping into your purpose. You are not an accident. God meticulously created you for a reason. You weren’t meant to blend in or get lost in the shadows. Be the “RED TREE” and don’t be afraid to stand out and shine in all your beauty and uniqueness.
I love a good bucket list. You know, those things you want to accomplish before you “kick the bucket” and skip through those pearly gates into God’s heavenly bliss. We all have them. I have one too. It’s filled with things like, going on a true sleigh ride while it’s snowing with horses and jingle bells, and touring Vermont at the peak of the fall color. I may or may not have “dance with Derek Hough” on there too. (If anyone knows Derek, put in a good word for the middle-aged ex-dancer mom!) But having a book signing at Barnes and Noble was never on my list. Not because I didn’t think it was a super cool thing to do, but because I never, in a million years, thought it might actually happen.
But it did. And I’m still kind of freaking out.
When you’re a newbie author like me, you have no idea how this whole “writing a book” thingy goes. But when you feel called to do it, you just put your head down, strap on your noise canceling headphones, and get to work. That’s what I’ve done this past year. It was almost one year to the day since I began this writing journey to when this baby of a book was born into the world. And I’m finding that I’m just as clueless about what happens after the book is released as I was about the book creating process itself. But again, God is good, and He is walking me through this next phase of the journey gently holding my hand and wowing me in ways only He can.
Cue the Barnes and Noble opportunity.
It was the day before my book was to officially launch and my husband sent me a text with a screen shot of a post from our local Barnes and Noble Facebook page. It was a photo of a stack of my books on the information desk of the store with a sweet announcement that the book was available for purchase there. What?!! I hadn’t even reached out to them yet to inquire about having my book there! All the questions began circling in my head. “How did they get the books?” “Where did they hear about it?” So I did what anyone would do in that situation…..
I squealed, clapped my hands like a four year old, and forwarded the screenshot to my mom. (And then called the store a couple of days later to get the scoop.)
I met with the manager of the store, John, and said he had heard through the grapevine that I had written a book and he loves to support local authors. Then he graciously offered to host a book signing for me! The whole conversation is still a little fuzzy because one side of my brain was focusing on trying to answer his questions intelligently, and the other half was acting like a teenager on too much coffee rapid firing comments and excitement like a crazy person. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.
Now I’m sure you’re saying, seriously woman, get a grip. It’s a book signing. In ONE store. In a small town. Yea, I know. You’re right. But to me it felt like that exciting moment at a running race when the athletes are anxiously waiting at the starting line for the gun to go off signally the beginning of their event. They have trained and worked, sweat and toiled to get to the place where they’re ready to release what they have long been preparing to do. And now it’s here. That crack of the starting gun telling the runners it’s “go time”. It’s time to see what all this work was for.
This book signing felt like my starting gun.
The day came and I arrived 20 minutes early thinking it would give me time to get settled, gather my thoughts, and pray that maybe one person would show up. Well, those great plans of some prep time didn’t exactly happen. I walked in and there was a handful of people already in line waiting. Uhh…the line for coffee at Starbucks is on the other side of the store people. Are you sure you’re in the right place? They were. Oh my goodness.
The first person in line laid my book down in front of me open to a specific chapter that spoke to him. He was going through some difficulties in his life, not cancer related, and there was something in those pages that gave him encouragement and hope. I so wish I could remember everything he said, but I was too overwhelmed with the fact that God was using my story to help someone with a situation that I had no knowledge of.
The next lady in line was a complete stranger who stood clutching my book in her hands with tears streaming down her face. She proceeded to tell me that her daughter had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Unlike the previous gentleman, her words were few and labored so I simply got up from behind the table and hugged her. I could feel her sadness and I tried to reassure her, the best I could, that she wasn’t alone.
A little later another woman appeared in front of my table with a questioning, yet resolute look on her face. She proceeded to tell me that even though she had a mountain of housework to do, she felt strongly led to leave it all behind, take some time for herself and come to Barnes and Noble. She said, “I have no reason for being here, but I think I’m supposed to get your book.” I happily signed it for her, and said a little prayer to myself that God would bless her right where she needed it that day.
The flow of the rest of the afternoon consisted of some wonderful friends and family just coming to support me, to a recent breast cancer survivor, looking beautiful in her head covering, who had just finished her treatments. After it was all over, we had sold out of Barnes and Noble’s stock. I packed up my things, went back to my car and took a big, deep breath.
Wow, that just happened.
I was so grateful. I was grateful for my incredible friend and publisher, Staci Wallace, for flying all the way from Texas to be there, and beautifully supporting me through this process. I was grateful for John at Barnes and Noble for not only giving me the opportunity, but for making this experience such a wonderful and memorable one. And I was grateful to God for pushing me to tell my story, and for going before me to show me this path. He is faithful and once again, true to His promise to work all things together for good.
I don’t know what the next leg of this race will look like, but I’m thankful for the start.
Fear of the future. Also known as “your peace stealer”. If you’re a planner like me, you have probably felt those moments of anxiety when things don’t go your way, or worse yet, you’re not sure how your future is going to go altogether.
So many times have I wished that I owned a crystal ball so I could see five years down the road. I have struggled with “fear of the future”, and also an occasional, innocent curiosity of what is ahead in my life, many times. However when I allow this to creep into my thoughts, it begins to manifest itself as massive anxiety. (Which in turn triggers my menopausal hot flashes, ugly sweating, and mad dashes to the kitchen freezer for relief. It’s not pretty, people.)
However, I have learned that this isn’t God’s plan for us. He has a better one! When I finally understood this concept, it became my chance to actively fight anxiety and reclaim peace in my days.
I’ll explain. Psalm 119:105 (NIV) says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” This life that we are walking out is our “path”. God doesn’t allow us to see the entire road of our future because it would be too much for us to handle. He graciously covers that future in His version of “fog” so we don’t freak out!
Imagine yourself walking in the dead of night with no stars or moon to light your way. The only source of light you have is a small handheld lamp. That lamp is only going to cast enough light to illuminate your next step. It doesn’t reach all the way down the path to your destination, but it does give enough light for your foot to find a firm and steady foundation as you slowly walk forward.
God’s word, the Bible, is that light for your path! He is the light that will give you the steady foothold you need for TODAY. We don’t need to know what tomorrow will bring, or the next day, or the next. God loves us so much that He purposely shelters us from that knowledge of the future so we can be engaged and effective in our current moment. If we are so focused on our future, we may miss out what He has for us today.
Yes, planning is good. I don’t think we are supposed to living continuously flying by the seat of our pants. However, make sure that you are committing those plans to the Lord and holding them loosely in your hands. They are ultimately His plans, and He directs our steps. Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:”
It has taken time, and often a few self reminders, but I’ve learned to not worry about my future and instead to stay present in my current moment. Those times when I allow myself to give into that fear, it’s as though I’m telling God that I don’t trust His plans for me.
To get into this trusting and peaceful mindset each morning, I start by praying scripture. Praying scripture is like pulling out your best weapon in your arsenal and pointing it at the enemy with a steely gaze and rock solid confidence.
This is what sounds like when I pray using my “weapons”:
“Good morning, Holy Spirit. I give you my day today. Jesus, You say that Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path, so today I ask that You pour your wisdom into my heart this morning as I read your word. Show me what I need to know for this moment. Lord, I know that You determine my steps, and I don’t need to fear my future. I commit my way to You today, Lord, and I trust You in all things!”
Speak God’s promises back to Him in your prayers, confidently acknowledging that you trust Him to come through!
Taking one day at a time, not focusing on the “what ifs” of my future, and resting in God’s “peace that surpasses all understanding” has helped me be okay with the fog of the unknown. Stay present in THIS moment, and don’t let fear steal your peace!
Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve started a project that I feel completely unqualified to do. What is this project you ask? You’re reading it. Yep, it’s this blog. A few weeks ago I launched this puppy after months of getting it ready for that exact moment. That ultra scary instant when something pretty personal becomes very public.
I’m just now finding a minute to add another post because it’s been a little nutty around the Dahl household. I haven’t been able to do this sooner primarily because that crazy thing called the “summer transition” just happened. You know, that wacky three to four week time frame in May when your kids are finishing up school and your comfortable structured routine gets thrown on its head. Just looking at my Google calendar this past month makes my eyes cross. If I squint, it looks a lot like a colony of ants marching across it from all of the appointments, school concerts, and dance recitals that needed to be squeezed in before that last ding of the bell and my kids were released into the wild.
Needless to say, uninterrupted moments of quiet reflection have been in short supply in my world lately. But the more I kept thinking about my inability to whip out another post in a blink, the more I realized it wasn’t just because I was so busy. It was because I didn’t feel qualified.
With that little act of pressing “share” a few weeks ago, I stepped into the world of blogging. That big, daunting, scary world of information exchange. As soon as my #blogger was out there, I started getting likes from all kinds of other bloggers. This was fun at first because I enjoy seeing other people’s creative expressions and reading their stories and insights. But then I started careening down that slippery slope of, “Oh crap. Who am I to contribute to this world of perfect selfies, and fabulous recipes proven to make the reader a gourmet cook from the three random ingredients left in their pantry?” That is SO not me.
I am completely NOT qualified. I do not have extensive knowledge about clip-in hair extensions, where to invest your money to be the next Warren Buffett, or how to grow prize winning tomatoes next to your perfectly manicured herb garden. Nope. Definitely not this girl. And once again, that little voice of fear and self-doubt started to speak a tad bit louder. But thankfully, when I start toddering on that ledge and am just about ready to throw myself over, God always shows up with an outstretched hand and a loving “side-eye” that says, “Com’ on you goofball. Let me share something with you.”
What always comes next is His simple reminder that it’s not my job to be “qualified” for the task He wants me to do. All He asks is that I show up to work.
I remember a specific time when I was going through my cancer treatments a few years ago that He vividly demonstrated this point. Writing became a way to cope and process the emotions that I was experiencing while going through the trenches of my yuck. During that time I noticed how I would periodically get a gentle prompting from the Holy Spirit to write about something specific and then post it to my Facebook page.
Many times I wouldn’t feel like writing, but the urging was always very strong. Even then, I procrastinated putting the pen to paper, but when I finally did I often had no idea how to start. It was as though my mind was blank except for those couple of words or a topic that I felt I was supposed to write about. One specific time, I was sitting on the porch, very frustrated, with the empty screen of my ipad staring back at me. I started having this conversation with God….
Me: “God, I’ve got nothing. My mind is mush.”
Me: “Hello? Anyone there? Don’t you see me struggling down here?”
Me: (getting a bit annoyed at this point) “Yep. Still here, and nothing’s coming out. How am I supposed to write about what YOU told me to write about if you don’t give me some help here?”
Me: “Really? I can’t do this. I’m out.”
God: “Just start writing.”
Me: “Wait, what?”
God: “Just start writing.”
And that was it. Three quiet words I felt in my heart, “Just start writing.” So without much content to back it up, I simply did just that. What started as a few, (very labored), sentences of rambling began to take shape and the words started to flow with unexpected ease. After I finished, I read what came out and was amazed at what had developed in spite of my brain feeling completely void of anything worthwhile to say. The lesson I learned in this moment was HUGE.
God doesn’t call the EQUIPPED. He EQUIPS the called.
To be “equipped” means to “supply with the necessary items for a particular purpose” or “prepare (someone) mentally for a particular situation or task.” In that moment on my porch feeling like I didn’t have anything to say, God filled in the blanks. In my weakness and in my limited abilities, He equipped me with the words to write that post. That particular post got more comments and positive feedback than any other post I had written up until that point. And more importantly, many of the comments I received from the readers were ones letting me know how those words had helped them. That is what truly matters.
If you look at the Bible, there are so many stories about men and women that God called to a specific purpose that were not “qualified” for the job He laid out before them. Take a gander at Moses. God specifically called Moses to speak to Pharaoh, the most powerful ruler of the time, and to tell him to let the Israelite slaves go from captivity.
Moses was currently living a quiet and peaceful life as a shepherd minding his own business in the hills of Midian. And then God dropped a bomb of a plan on him through a burning bush and Moses pretty much freaked out. His mind went immediately to his inadequacies and perceived inability to do the job set before him. Speak to a ruler? And not only speak, but be confident, eloquent, and persuasive? Hold the phone! Moses even tells God, (in my words) “God, did you forget I have a speech impediment, and I spend my days with sheep? I am definitely not qualified!”
But God reassures Moses that He would be with him and provide all that he needed to carry out His plan. Oh, and did I mention that Moses had lived as a prince in Egypt for 40 years prior to becoming a shepherd? God already knew that these experiences, connections and basic knowledge of the Egyptian culture would help Moses be successful.
And because of all the weaknesses Moses had, God got all the glory! Trust me, He’s pretty smart. If He only called the equipped (the ones who had it all together and can seemingly do it all on their own) then there would be a messy grey area of who gets the credit.
Are you feeling “called” to do something big that you feel completely unqualified for? Or maybe it’s something seemingly small like praying with someone who is hurting. Perhaps you’ve never done that before, and you don’t think you’ll have the words to say, or the eloquent syntax you think is necessary for a “successful” prayer. Stop right there. You don’t need to worry about that part! God only wants you to show up to work! He will equip you with the tools or words that you need to fulfill His purposes.
My favorite part about all of this is that it takes the pressure off of you! You don’t have to perform and rock your dog and pony show. Just come to the table with what you’ve got and give the rest over to the Master Creator who will breathe His life into it.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I love the Message translation that puts it this way, “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Yes! Insert clapping emoji here! Whatever ability, experience, or knowledge that you have, whether it be a lot or a little; wherever you are in your life or whatever your circumstances, God will help you through anything!
So please, please remember. God EQUIPS THE CALLED!
Now when I start having freak-out moments about my many weaknesses and inabilities, (which happens daily) I am learning to come to God with an entirely different attitude. Now when He prompts me to do something that feels totally out of my comfort zone I simply agree to show up for work. The rest is up to Him.
I can confidently say, “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING!” So don’t expect brilliant blogging dialogue regarding which iPhone is the best or how to fry bacon without creating a grease apocalypse on your stove. What you can expect is a chick who will be willing to share what’s on her heart and who is desperately praying that God will make it what He wants it to be.
I’m not going to lie. I struggle with this. I’m in the middle of writing a book, and it has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. The level of vulnerability and persistence that it takes to follow through with this process was something that I was not ready for.
I’ve made it to the editing stage, and I think this has been the scariest part so far. Up until now, I’ve held this little “baby” close to me, protected and guarded, as I pour out my thoughts. That moment when your “heart” leaves your hands and is now in the care of someone else, is terrifying. I feel like it’s a baby bird leaving the nest. The momma knows that it is time for that baby to spread their wings, but the big bad world is waiting to swallow it up.
What I struggle with most is my innate need for perfection. I believe that God calls us to do things with EXCELLENCE, but the “perfection” I expect from myself is oftentimes a bit on the unhealthy side. And with a project that means so much to me, this has been a difficult beast to tame.
However, I had an epiphany the other day when I was preparing for the book cover photo shoot. Up until this point, I was stressing. I mean BIG, TIME, STRESSBALL, stressing. There are so many details that go into something like this. What should I wear? Will my makeup look ok? Will my crazy, growing out, hair cooperate? Will the lighting and location be right? I’m an extremely visual person so the “look” of something matters a lot to me.
But then, as I was praying about it God gently reminded me of one of His truths. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 says; “Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”
The purpose behind this book is to help other women and point people to Christ. I absolutely can’t do this on my own, or make it great based solely on MY abilities. My competence comes from God. Only He can take my humble attempts and turn them into something that will bring HIM glory.
My writing coach and mentor, Staci Wallace, so beautifully put it when she told me that the “performance of your book will never equal the value of your obedience.” God just asks us to be obedient with what He has asked us to do. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Once I let myself off the hook, and stopped expecting perfection, I felt a peace about this project that I’ve never felt before. Will some people hate it? Yep. Will I have to remind myself of this again when the book is finally released and I’m freaking out? Yep. But, for now I’m going to trust the process, and ask God to breathe His life into my imperfections and weaknesses.
And keep repeating my daily mantra.
Less of me. More of HIM.
This is a topic that I often need help with myself. Confidence. In fact, I’ll be completely transparent and tell you that as I was writing this I began doubting if what I had to say would be even be relevant. Yep. I lost confidence in myself. The struggle is real. Especially if you are working hard toward a dream that seems big and audacious. The “unknown” forces us out of our comfort zone, and finding the confidence to press on can be challenging for all of us. However, I also think it is something each and every one of us can work on, and overcome.
It’s easy to portray confidence on the outside, but inside we are often timid, or in some cases, flatout terrified. Maybe for you it’s a struggle to even feel confident in any situation let alone trying to act that way. I want you to know that you’re not alone. And more importantly, I believe you CAN be that confident person you’ve always dreamed of being with a little hard work.
You have been created to live and operate in confidence. It’s time to tell yourself to “STAND UP!”, because you have everything it takes to walk in the assurance of your purpose. No more sitting on the bench for you. Here are six simple tips on how to begin doing just that.
But, before you can be confident you need to know what that means. Confidence is “the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.” Your truth should be, “I AM ABLE!” We all need to learn how to have a mindset of certainty in ourselves and our abilities. Which brings me to my first tip.
Believe in yourself.
You are here on this planet for a reason, and you have gifts and abilities that are unique to you. No one else is YOU! God created each of you with a meaningful plan and purpose for your life. You have significance! And it is important for you to be your own encourager, and to frequently tell yourself, “I can do this!”
Begin learning how to stand up for your own talents and potential. A good homework assignment that I challenge you to do is to make a list of your strengths. Are you a great communicator, an encourager, extremely organized, or a people person? Write those things down and review your list frequently. Especially on those days when you are doubting yourself. Seeing your strengths in writing is powerful.
If you’re struggling with knowing what your strengths are, ask a trusted friend who will be honest with you. Oftentimes, others are better able to see and recognize our strengths and giftings than we are ourselves. First and foremost, believe in yourself.
Find Your Cheerleaders.
When you are pursuing a dream it can be scary. I was deathly terrified to launch my blog. I also doubted my ability to write a book. However, I knew I was being called to do both of those things. Doubt and fear crept into all parts of the process. Those nagging voices kept chirping in my ears and made me second guess my dreams. To keep my dream alive, I needed people around me that I knew would support me and cheer me on. I sought out family and friends that I trusted to encourage me, especially on those days when all I wanted to do was chuck my computer over a highway overpass.
Find those people who will stand up for you, and ask them to hold you accountable when you’re lacking confidence. Ask them to give you frequent pep talks, and allow them to speak truth to you that will keep you going when you’re feeling those pesky doubts creep in.
Understand the Difference Between Internal Opposition and External Opposition.
External opposition are those things or people that say you can’t do something or keep you from accomplishing a goal. An example of external opposition is someone voicing that your idea isn’t good. Or, that you lack the talent or ability to get the job done. External opposition is for the most part, relatively manageable and can be overcome if you commit to ignoring it and pushing through.
However, internal opposition is what can really be deadly for your confidence. Internal opposition is when YOU tell yourself you can’t do something. This is the real beast you need to tame. Where are you sabotaging your own success? What lies are you telling yourself that are keeping you from moving forward. Are you convincing yourself that no one wants to hear what you have to say? Or maybe you believe that your gift isn’t unique. Do you think that it can’t possibly be used to positively affect someone else? This is where you need to stand up to that lying voice in your head and commit to breaking down that internal opposition. Stop being the one holding yourself back!
Know Your “Why”.
Your “why” is like gas for your car. A car can’t get to its destination if it doesn’t have fuel, and your “why” is the fuel that is going to give you the confidence to get out of your comfort zone. Really think about why you have committed to your dream. Each and everyone of us has a story that is at the heart of what drives us. Know your end goal. Maybe that is securing financial freedom for your family, or empowering other women to find their voice. Whatever it is, keep your focus on the horizon, and not on the momentary roadblock in front of you. If you can see the bigger picture, you will have confidence to continue pushing on.
Fight Your Fear.
Fear is the arch enemy of confidence. What you are afraid of? Are you afraid of failing? I remember when I first began working as an independent consultant for Beautycounter just over three years ago, my husband bought me an ipad for my new business. When he ordered it there was an option to have it engraved with my name and phone number. Unbeknownst to me, he also had “Beautycounter” engraved below my name. So thoughtful, right? Wrong! I totally panicked! My first thought was, “Oh my gosh! Why did he do that?! What if I fail and end up quitting! Engraving is so permanent!” I immediately let my fears take over and they began sabotaging my confidence.
Fighting your fear is just that, it’s action. It’s not passively sitting back and allowing your fears to paralyze you. You have to take one step everyday, even if it’s small, toward overcoming your fears. That may be signing up for that class you always wanted to take. Perhaps it’s going to the library and learning how to start a non-profit. This goes back to getting out of your comfort zone and allowing that stretch to grow and strengthen your confidence. It takes time, but each action you make will begin to chip away at those chains of fear that are preventing you from moving forward. Stand up to fear!
“Don’t Worry About What People Think!”
As women, I think this is something a lot of us struggle with the most. Myself included. I got a crash course in overcoming this particular confidence destroyer in March of 2017 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With my diagnosis came a pretty harsh treatment plan that consisted of four rounds of intense chemotherapy and an extensive surgery.
This was a dramatic season of loss for me on so many levels. Loss of my physical strength, loss of my ability to take care of my family, and most noticeably the loss of my hair. Now as a woman, you can imagine how devastating that can be. Never did I ever think I would one day look in the mirror and see a bald headed woman staring back at me. That vulnerability taught me to dig deep inside of myself and really discover who I was.
I was able to see that my worth and my value as a woman was not my outside appearance or my accomplishments, but rather the person I was in my heart. It forced me to learn how to be confident in who I was, not in how I looked. It stripped me of “hiding” behind something we all often take for granted, our appearance.
Being bald taught me not to care when people gave me strange looks or when kids stopped and gaped at me in the grocery aisles. Having this confidence wasn’t something I rocked on day one, but the more I told myself that I didn’t care what people thought, the more that confidence began to grow. Once you stand up to your worry about what people think, you will find a freedom that will unleash a whole new level of potential.
You as a person, and as a woman, have so much to offer. You may have never been told that, but it’s true. And now is the time to stand up for yourself, and begin understanding the ability that you have to positively affect your family, your friends, your community, and beyond. You are the only one holding yourself back, but now is the time to change all of that. Begin walking confidently in your purpose today, and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.
My husband took this picture of me years ago in the Egyptian Sahara Desert not long after he and I were married. It is still one of my favorite pictures because it symbolizes so many things for me. Especially as we leave 2018 and toward a new year.
Reflecting on this photo again makes me think how a new year is often a time to look forward. It also gives me a sense of excitement for what the next year has in store. However, sometimes it’s easy to look back and wish for a previous “life”. Or, maybe it’s an old, and comfortable routine you used to know. Maybe because it was easier, without major challenge or struggle.
But, I believe that God brings us into new seasons of our lives for a reason. Often times, these seasons are meant to teach us, grow us, and protect us. Even difficult seasons can bring us more into His fulfillment of the glorious plan He has for each and every one of us.
Even the Israelites, a people that God brought out of slavery in Egypt, had to to wander in a difficult desert before being shown the Promised Land.
Sometimes He takes us out of “comfortable” situations to challenge and teach us. And ultimately He allows us to go through difficulties to strengthen our resolve and show us how to fully trust Him. It’s during these times that we often see His incredible miracles manifested in our lives.
I felt like someone needed to hear that today. If you’re feeling like “going back” to a way of life you knew, but in your heart know it isn’t where God is calling you to be now, stop. Let yourself trust Him and keep putting one foot in front of the other. The road may feel long, but He will never leave you.
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”