amo.says

my life in my words


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Just Like Fire

FPP

 

. . . 2 more days until I look at yet another possible apartment.

. . . 13 more days until I begin my three (3hr) Home Study Interviews

. . . 25 more days until I (tentatively) move to a new home.

. . . 48 more days until I leave for my family reunion in Austin, Texas.

. . . approximately 75 more days until foster care pre-placement activities begin.

. . . 80 more days of going in to work 2 extra hours at #TheOl9to5 so that I can get paid for all the time I’ll be missing at work while I’m in Texas, at VBS, and when ‘kiddo’ comes into my home for placement.

. . . 82 more days until our Vacation Bible School begins

To say that time flies is a giant understatement for me right now. Even as I sit here typing this, I realize I have about 20 things left to do before I go to bed tonight. Yet all I want to do is curl up on the bed and sleep until morning comes. I realize this is just the tip of the foster-parenting iceberg and I know I can make it through this whirlwind of a season with God on my side. Still, I feel like this entire succession of events flew in quick!

Last weekend I sent in almost every bit of my licensing paperwork—except for the emergency evacuation diagram & strategy, which will come when I move. It feels SO good to be out from underneath that monstrous tower of paperwork! The countless hours and brainpower have taken a toll on my sanity, but it was SO worth it to get to here. Furthermore, I can’t help but be grateful for those who have helped me get from point A to here. From amazing people who have written foster licensing recommendations for me; to my loving friends & family who are looking forward to welcoming ‘kiddo’ to the fold; to the countless people praying for me to find just the right home to move to, and more! I feel honored and relieved to have such an incredible supportive community of friends and family holding up my arms in the middle of the battles.

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Next up comes filling out financial paperwork, applying for grants and taking on contract work to cover the rest of my foster/adoption fees (about $5,000 left to go!). Also, packing this weekend and getting as many ‘ducks in a row’ as I can before the rubber REALLY meets the road!

All along the way, I keep repeating, “I’m coming for you, kiddo! We’ll be together soon!” to myself. I get these beautifully gut-wrenching pangs of hopeful anticipation and butterflies swirl around in my stomach. Simultaneously, stars fly over my head as though I’ve been knocked on the noggin’ with a giant frying pan of all the details still needing to be managed. I’m definitely leaning into grace, hope, and trust during this season and believing that the God who began this good work will be faithful to bring it to completion in His time. The other day, I had a daydream that I was sitting with kiddo at the dinner table, explaining to them how sorry I was that it took so long for me to get to them. In that scene, I remember saying, “I had so many things I had to let God fix in my life before I could bring you in, but I promise to make it up to you in the precious moments we have left together. My life isn’t just about me anymore—it’s about you and me, together . . . finding life, love, and wholeness.” Yeah, there were plenty of tears in that daydream! Come to think of it, the tears have been pouring from my eyes like a leaky faucet these days. Oh bless.

In closing, I want to say a great big THANK YOU to every single one of you who takes the time to read about this journey, commenting on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter posts, and giving me comforting hugs when I let the doubts get the best of me. I could not ask for a greater crowd to be in my Arena as I embrace this year of PROMISE!

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This Is Living

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It’s a known fact that there is a magazine called EASY LIVING. Personally, I believe they should have called it Easier Living. While life should be loved, and lived to the fullest, I don’t necessarily think ‘easy’ means better. Sometimes easy means careless and aimless. I don’t believe that life should be careless or aimless, rather it should be filled with purpose and adventure! Helen Keller once wrote:

‘Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.’

And oh how I totally get what she’s saying. This past week, my world has definitely turned upside down, but I’ve felt incredible peace in the midst of the chaos. My mother has been in the hospital with some serious medical struggles and it’s not easy to be miles and miles away, unable to really “DO” anything about it but pray and encourage her to keep fighting. Even as I’ve offered to fly home, relatives and doctors have assured me that there is no need and that things are getting better. She’s not 100% free of medical problems, but the red flags are definitely lowering. I give all the credit to God and the many prayers of friends/family members. One of the things that I have noticed a change in during the course of this ‘peaceful’ chaos is that my tendency to give up and expect only the worst has subsided.

Growing up was tough and left me with a mindset that “things can only get worse.” Yet through this trying season I find myself ever hopeful and believing for the best. There are definitely moments when my mind starts to get overcrowded with anxious thoughts but I pause, breathe deep, and then (honestly) repeat to myself:

 

 

Then I start recounting all of the moments that God redeemed the tough situations and proved faithful. I think back to the time I was in the hospital due to a UTI after contracting E.Coli from Guatemala. I was in a dark place, near the end of my rope—lifeless and hopeless. Then God broke through my darkness and gave me the strength and courage to reach out. He redeemed the time then and He continues to do it now.

I think back to the time I was near-death after a routine wisdom tooth extraction with an outrageous outcome. I remembered the people and the prayers that surrounded me. And I remind myself that the very same God that carried me through that season can carry me and my family through this one. He’s actually REALLY good at that. Whether we choose to allow Him to diminish the demons that ransack our hearts and minds, He is constantly making Himself available to us . . . until that moment where we throw in the towel and allow Him to show up.

I realize that not every situation has a happy ending, but I’ve been able to see some pretty significant fingerprints of God in these current circumstances. Whether things get brighter or darker, my song will be the same of Daniel 3:18. There will be no snuggling with my demons during this ‘peaceful’ chaos!


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Maps

Bags packed, Itinerary Compiled, Passport in hand, ready to board the plane to Atlanta!

Bags packed, Itinerary Compiled, Passport in hand, ready to board the plane to Atlanta!

 

When I accepted the position of Children’s Director a couple of years ago, one of my leaders reminded me that taking on this role would mean I would become less invested in my current role as Youth Pastor. Still, I accepted the additional role. I expressed to that leader that I would be okay with that because what I really wanted to do as Children’s Director, was to begin investing into a new culture of Children’s Ministry where we would develop habits to set kids up to be more easily integrated into youth group, and thus into the future church. I wanted to become more invested in their overall spiritual growth from cradle to college and beyond.

As I looked at the opportunity for structural growth in our Children’s Ministry, I made a conscious choice to adopt the Orange Strategy. I had heard about the Orange Strategy years before I had even taken on the Children’s Director role, but knew right away that it was where I felt we should be heading. What is the Orange Strategy, you ask? It is simply the impact of successfully combining the Light of the Church (represented by the color yellow) and the Love of the Family (represented by the color red) to work together and show a generation who God is, thus creating a new color—ORANGE. I tell ya what . . . here’s a visual of what that looks like . . .

As our Children’s Ministry Crew and parents have made the shift to the Orange Strategy elements we’ve implemented, we’ve seen quality growth not just in numbers of kids, but in their excitement to show up and participate in church, their desire to become leaders in Kid’s Church/Youth Group, and their efforts to hide the Word of God in their hearts. I was talking to one of our parents yesterday morning and he said,

“When I picked my son up from Westside Kids on our first visit here, he asked me, ‘Dad, can we come back tomorrow!?! Since being plugged in here, I’ve noticed that He has more faith than I think I do at times. He gets excited about scripture memory and really holds on to the verses we memorize at home together.'”

That, along with similar feedback from other families, reassures me that we are heading in a great direction. Since adopting the Orange Strategy, our volunteers and workers have become more involved and invested in the lives of the kids we see each week and it shows in all of their testimonies of what God is doing in their classes. By no means am I saying that Westside Kids is a perfect ministry free of shortcomings and hurdles, but I am saying that we are now working more as a team to strategize how we can best serve and minister to the kids that God has entrusted to our ministry. Our team is committed to the journey and is able to trust the process more and more as we continue to bond together. While we still have a way to go, I have no doubts that we are on the right track.

SO stoked I get to spend the day at Orange Tour w/ the Westside Church staff & Heather Jolly, working to build a better Kids/Student Ministry!

Last year, I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to attend the one-day Orange Tour in Seattle, hosted by the folks that run the Orange Conference and the masterminds behind the Orange Strategy. I learned a LOT of great material to implement and walked away feeling equipped for even more forward motion in Children’s and Youth Ministry. In fact, I gleaned so much from the experience that I knew I should make it a priority to attend the actual Orange Conference in Atlanta. I was so passionate about that pursuit that at the end of the Orange Tour, I purchased (out of my own pocket) my ticket to attend the Orange Conference. After that, I brainstormed and worked with my Pastor to create a game plan for me to be able to actually attend it. Thankfully, I was able to cut costs by arranging lodging with my best friend Joy. After hammering out a few more details, the game plan was able to work out (including being able to take off time at my other job to travel this week to Atlanta for the conference). It feels like a dream come true knowing that I will get to spend a week gleaning wisdom, inspiration, and guidance from some of the greatest minds surrounding Children’s and Youth ministry. To say I’m bursting with excitement would be an understatement! Here’s a sneak peak of what I’ll be experiencing at the conference this week:

I am flying to Atlanta today and then tomorrow I will have a day off to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with different friends of mine that live in Atlanta. Then on Wednesday, I start with the Pre-Conference Workshops. The Pre-Conference Sessions I chose are:

  • YOU LEAD KIDS:  [With Mike ClearCome network and learn from others who do what you do every week. Discover the five critical areas you need to grow and develop as a leader. Practically assess where you are now, in each of these areas, and begin to create your own long-term development plan.
  • BUILDING A HEALTHY VOLUNTEER CULTURE:  [With Chad WardIn this breakout we will discuss ways to recruit children’s volunteers in such a way that you create something they will love . . . almost as much as you do.
  • STARTING A CHURCH FOR UNCHURCHED FAMILIES:  [With Carey NieuwhofHow do you create a ministry to effectively reach the families in your community? In this breakout, we’ll look at 12 characteristics of today’s unchurched families and discuss what these characteristics mean for your ministry.
  • SAFETY SYSTEMS:  [With Jim WidemanSafety is essential for ministry. In this breakout, we will talk about practical ways to develop and implement policies and procedures for your ministry, how to evaluate the ones you already have, and how best to communicate ministry expectations regarding your safety plan to volunteers and families.

 

Ready to cover some ground in networking with fellow ministers and workers at #OC14.

Ready to cover some ground in networking with fellow ministers and workers at #OC14.

At the conference, I’ll have the chance to network with leaders and speakers across the nation. One that I’m already particularly looking forward to meeting is Megan Stewart, who is the Preteen Coordinator at First Presbyterian Church in Spokane, where my bestie Cindy J. and her family attend. Not only will it be refreshing to connect with others in my same vein of ministry, but we actually share a lot of the same interests and personality traits. Along with those connections, I’ll get to hear from incredible speakers and artists who work to help us make Children’s Ministry “the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week.” Those speakers include Doug Fields, Perry Noble, Sue Miller, Derwin Gray, Reggie Joiner, Heather Zempel, Andy Stanley, Mark Batterson, Jon Acuff, and more! During the main portion of the conference, I’ll also be attending some breakout sessions I hand-picked to help us grow in some specific areas that I see our ministry moving forward in:

  • STRATEGIES TO INCLUDE EVERY CHILD (including those with special needs):  [With Amy Fenton Lee] Join us as we discuss new ideas as well as tried and true strategies to help volunteers present Bible stories and engage every student, including kids with ADHD, autism, sensory needs, and other learning differences.
  • DESIGNING A FAMILY EXPERIENCE TO CAPTURE THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR COMMUNITY: [With Mike Clear] Some people like mediocre. But you’re not some people. You want families in your community to experience something that will capture their imagination and change the trajectory of their week. You want them to be drawn to each other and to be excited by relevant biblical principles. In this breakout, we will explore ways you can make that happen when you decide to do an FX
  • LEADING TEEN VOLUNTEERS: [With Meaghan WallWith intentional recruitment and well-planned training, teens can fulfill many volunteer needs for a ministry. In this breakout, we’ll show you how to create an environment that fosters experiential life-change for contributing students while raising up future ministry leaders.
  • SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY TOP 10: [With Amy Fenton Lee] In this breakout, she will share 10 current issues a church can anticipate facing as they welcome kids with special needs. Join Amy as she prepares you to meet these new challenges well.

 

With a natural bent toward learning/research, I’m very much anticipating all of the knowledge I will gain to help propel us steadily and sustainably toward a better, brighter, and bolder approach of healthy discipleship for the children at Westside from cradle to college. I’m also looking forward to coming back home with more practical tools to equip our team to uncover their sweet spots in life and ministry as they continue to invest in the future of the Church!

 

I'll also be sure to keep you all updated with pictures on my Instagram (hashtagged with #OC14). In the meantime, I'll be getting some good reading done on the flights ahead! F

I’ll also be sure to keep you all updated with pictures on my Instagram (hashtagged with #AMOC14). In the meantime, I’ll be getting some good reading done on the flights ahead!


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Love Alone Is Worth The Fight

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
[Psalm 30:5]

— feeling discouraged.

 

That was my Facebook status a couple of days ago. It was a rough day. It was a rough couple of days. From feeling inadequate at both jobs, to family concerns, to doubts of self-worth, to feeling unneeded, to having nobody show up for my ministry team meeting . . . I went to bed  with my pity party hat on, crying (yes, big girls DO cry), and wondering if what I was doing even mattered. I wondered why I was trying when it didn’t seem like I was actually making a difference. I poured my heart into my work, my passions, my family, and over those couple of days, it seemed as though I had taken 2 steps forward and 15 back—I was failing big time and bringing the people I cared about down with me. I posted the above statement on Facebook, partially wanting to just “leave it behind,” partially wanting to show my weakness, and partially as a landmark frozen in social networking time. So I posted it and traveled from FB Land to my Pillow Palace. The only thing I could do in that moment to calm the mind games was ask God to be with me. No really, I simply whispered as I lay in bed, “God, be with me. Please.” Then, I turned on this song and fell asleep, unmotivated, discouraged, and defeated.

 

 

Then I woke up to a brighter day. The thoughts of inadequacy were still hiding out in the corners of my mind, even as I looked in the mirror and said, “Today will be better. It’s a new day.” The feelings lingered and I kept pressing on. I knew they would—I’ve served in ministry long enough to recognize the mind games and the trying seasons post-victory. I just wish they would get easier to deal with as time goes by. Sadly, they get trickier and hit harder the further in you go. I played some of my favorite praise & worship songs as I got dressed and headed downtown to the waterfront for a special quiet time. The water is where I connect with God the most. The boundless wonder of the fluid mass reminds me that every particle that makes up that large body of water was handcrafted by the same Creator that made me. The the same God that orchestrates the tides also orchestrates my life. The stretch of water that spills over the horizon is as boundless as the Father’s love for me. As I sat by the water, meditating on 1 Kings 19:11-12, I asked for that whisper. I asked for the peace that passes understanding. I asked for the courage to face the earthquake and the fire, and to be able to walk away like guys do when walking away from an explosion . . . in confidence, without looking back. (Look, not all my prayers are PC.)

 

 

After that quiet time, I did what any normal human being would do when they realize they are the solo kid hanging out on a pier by the cold water—I checked my text messages and I checked my Facebook. What I got was that whisper. A very loud whisper. Friends had commented and texted some of the most ENcouraging things and it combated my discouragement like a rookie in a prize-fighting ring. Though the thoughts still clung to me for dear life, they were weakened, primed for a TKO. Part of that TKO came when I showed up to work at Westside. Our associate pastor’s mother noticed me walk in, but my headphones were in (as per my usual bad habit), so I didn’t hear her calling to me. Instead, she followed me into my office and I turned in shock that someone had followed me into my office, and stumbled to my desk as I belted out a terrified scream. Once I calmed down, she asked how I was doing and knowing she hadn’t seen my Facebook post, I broke down in her arms and let it all out. I’m not sure how much of those tears were induced by the circumstances and how much was induced by having the bejeebus scared outta me, but it felt great to cling to her and just cry it out. My co-workers at the other job would be so proud of me (it’s a Counseling Resource Center and they LOVE when you show emotion). After drying my eyes a bit, I went upstairs to see my G-Mama (our Office Admin), who invited me to come talk to her about what was going on, since she had seen the post on Facebook. I talked it over with her and was left even more encouraged and finally began to feel a strong peace about things. My heart had endured some good healing that morning.

 

 

 

The pinnacle of it all, and perhaps the driving force behind this post, was what happened later that evening. As our youth group game night began, one of my students asked if they could talk to me in private. We headed to my office and they began to share with me that one of their siblings had undergone tests and that it’s more than possible that their sibling has cancer. The student was overcome with fear and the tears were flowing as they asked me to pray for their sibling and their family. In that moment, I felt a fresh wind in my sails. I felt needed again—not to be their Savior, but to stand in the gap and assure them that their family wasn’t in this fight alone. My faith activated and I prayed one of the most passionate prayers I’d prayed in a while. We both walked out of that office with empty shoulders, having cast all of our fears and doubts on God, believing for the best. We spent the rest of the evening surrounded by people who share our hope, our faith, and our love for full life. Things came full circle and I had seen that not only was this a time for me to lean on others, but to be reminded that whether I’m in ministry or not, God wants me to be a refuge for those in need. In that moment, the student and I were twinsies—both broken, both hoping for greater things, and both putting our hearts in each others’ hands. I believe that’s what God intended from the beginning and it’s one of the lessons that it’s taken me what seems like forever to put into practice: To be able to surrender that image of “having it all together” and walk with others through the truth of “I have no clue what I’m doing, or why I’m doing it because nothing makes sense right now.” In the end, we were left with a hopeful future, knowing that whatever comes our way, we still have each other and we still have God. Before I went to bed last night, I thought to myself, “What you’re doing does matter. Stay the course.”

 

 

To everyone who left encouraging messages on my Facebook, THANK YOU! To Donna Stubbert, THANK YOU!! To Glenda Wright, my G-Mama, THANK YOU!!! And to my 2Twelvers, THANK YOU!!!! Thank you all for helping me stay on the right track and for reminding me of the complete greatness of God! I think I’m ready to go another 5 rounds!

 

rocky


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Grow Up And Be Kids

Me and my pops in front of the Six Flags

 

It’s pretty common to see strained Father + Daughter relationships featured on both the big and little screen. It’s a typical story of,

“But Dad, I love him!”

“You can’t tell me what to do—you’re not the boss of me!”

“I can’t be your little girl forever. Just let me go.”

“You were never there for me.”

 

While I understand that it’s a reality that many face and can relate to, I can’t help but feel blessed when I look back on the memories I’ve shared with my own Father and find that none of those phrases were ever uttered. My dad was actually my best sidekick, growing up. I am a Daddy’s girl through and through. I don’t just mean that in the vein of always getting what I want and wrapping Daddy ‘round my little finger, though I have had plenty of those moments. I mean that in the vein that he taught me how to be a respectable young lady who fights for justice, peace, and continuously looks for the good in people. He still let me have my boy crushes—without embarrassing me in front of them, might I add—and my emotional meltdowns, but through it all, he steadily reminded me that when I’m hurting and lonely, his loving arms are there to hold me through it all.

 

Best Buddies

Best Buddies

 

My pops has been such a huge part of my growth as a fairly well-balanced person surrounded by hardships on all sides. As I faced all of the questions and complexities of adolescence, I knew I could count on my dad to point me in the right direction. Together we met face-to-face with tough life decisions, like my choice to NOT attend a traditional college, but instead to pursue an education at Master’s Commission of Austin—a hands-on ministry training program. When family members on my mother’s side of the family grew to believe that I was not interested in men because of my single lady, childless, status, my father reassured me that I didn’t have to fit that certain mold and that I didn’t have to let their completely absurd generalizations set me back or label me as “less than.” He encouraged me to live every day as if it were a new adventure, treasuring every moment as if it were my last. We debated some of my toughest non-/convictions and He graciously listened and helped me see a different perspective, yet always allowed me to make an ultimate choice for myself as to what I truly believed was the wisest thing for me. He encouraged me to keep writing, keep dreaming, and keep believing for the best!

 

We know how to party! 😉

 

In return, I kept him on his toes and kept him young with my pranks and shenanigans. I mean, c’mon, any dad that lets his grown daughter smash a cupcake on his cheek for fun is pretty awesome—just sayin’! 😉 I love that he still knows how to have fun! Even as adults, we play games together. One of my favorites to play with him is a car game. As he drives and focuses on the road ahead, I will stare him down from the side and then, just as he turns his head to see what I’m up to, I’ll snap my head away as if I wasn’t watching at all. We keep doing this until he catches my eye and says, “Gotcha!” Then we laugh and laugh and laugh, enjoying our complete silliness! I also went through a season of life where a whole lot of my friends continuously referred to him as Mr. Amanda, and he would always answer to them, not offended in the least that the focus was on my name, and not necessarily his. Instead, he laughed at it and encouraged it!

 

Our fave hangout!

 

He has also GREATLY influenced my life spiritually! My faith was not found in a church pew or a revival service. It wasn’t found in a dish of Holy Water or in a Sunday School lesson. It was found at 3 a.m. when my Father drove over to my best friend’s house to rescue me from a slumber party because I had an allergic reaction to their dog and couldn’t breathe. It was found in a hospital bed in the form of a giant teddy bear to cheer me up after having an intense kidney surgery. It was also found years before that on a cushy bed, covered in tears and cries of agony, where he changed my wound dressing after an emergency appendectomy. Through every meltdown, his unconditional love has been a rescue. Through every disappointment, his hopeful encouragement has been a healing salve. Through every shining moment of success, his pride and congratulatory spirit have carried me from one stepping stone to another. Because of the love, encouragement, discipline, and understanding of my earthly father, it’s easier for me to embrace the love of my Heavenly Father. My dad, Ramon Martinez, Jr., is my very own “Jesus with skin on.” I could not be more blessed to have him in my life!

 

Dynamic Duo

 

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy-O!


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Bad Days Better

Saying YES to the dress today!

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

— The Man in The Arena by Theodore Roosevelt

 

Just let it sink in. I did. It hurts. It heals. Read it again. I just did. It still hurts. It still heals. Now, sit back, and breathe. Just let it sink in.

Last night I got a chance to have a late night coffee date with my best friend, Alisa. She’s amazing y’all, and not just because of what I’m about to tell you, but just because SHE IS. Honestly, I get kinda nervous when I meet up with Alisa. I get nervous because I know she’ll ask me how I’m doing. And I know that when she does, I can’t lie or hide from her. She’s way too safe a friend for that. I know that no matter what I tell her, she won’t judge me or dictate to me a solution for everything or try to draw more information out of me until I’m ready to make that leap for myself. And I know that as I tell her whatever it is I tell her, she’s listening. Soaking it in, holding my words in her hands and heart, caring for them as they escape the deep recesses of my heart. And when it’s all said and done, she’s got that patient smile and those words of peace and comfort that remind me that I’m not alone. Last night was no different . . . well, except that she shared the Teddy Roosevelt quote with me. She knew I needed it. She knew it would challenge and nourish me all at the same time.

 

FILE UNDER: Books Every Human Being Should Own

 

In light of the struggles I shared with her, she shared with me the Man in the Arena excerpt and more from the book she’s been reading recently, called DARING GREATLY by Brene Brown. I was challenged, inspired, and encouraged on a whole new level, just from her reading the 1st two pages of the book. As she read the introduction, I felt like I needed to pay for at least half of the cost of the book because even thatsmall snippet revolutionized my heart and mind. I even mentioned to her that I need to set aside the current books I’m reading and just pick this one up and get to it! . . . but I won’t. The books I’m reading right now are part of the work I’m doing with my therapist and I don’t want to interfere with that wonderful terrible work by adding another thing into my already crazy-busy-outta-control-in-all-the-best-worst-ways lifestyle. I need to do a lot more breathing right now and a lot less taking on of new endeavors . . . so DARING GREATLY is just going to have to wait. However, I did get this sucker waiting for me in my e-mail inbox when I got home!

 

This, plus my membership is how I scored a $26 + tax book for a whopping $13.93! 😀 Thanks, B&N!

 

I don’t think I need to tell you what I bought with it. It was the PERFECT gift at the PERFECT time. You see, yesterday was a bad day. Someone lied to me and I believed it . . . ALL DAY. My heart was hurting and my mind was searching for wisdom that kept slipping away. I got lost in a haze of negative self-talk and recited the lie until it became my mantra. With this proverbial monkey on my back, I adopted the lie into my heart, where it strategically leached all of my joy, hope, peace, and strength away. Thankfully, I’ve learned to let certain “safe” people into my life, and in return they have helped to show me the lie and remind me that it’s my choice to believe it or not and that I DO have the power to shut it down—more importantly, that God already shut it down and doesn’t want me to pick it back up.

 

As I got ready for bed, I set SHANE & SHANE’S song, WITHOUT YOUon repeat and mediated on the words to Man in the Arena. I prayed for clarity, wisdom, vision, freedom, and the courage to heal through vulnerability, honesty, and obedience to the things God was daring me to do. I decided to dare something great. I decided that I was going to wake up the next day, and not believe the lie. I wasn’t going to try to please everyone. I wasn’t going to try to be perfect. I wasn’t going to try to be “normal.” I wasn’t going to hide in shame and hurt. I wasn’t going to fear failure.

 

 

And so today, I am daring to run hard and fast away from the lies. I wrote this on my ride-in to work today and I want to share it with you. It is vulnerable and honest. It is my second daring move of the day. The first being getting all dressed up. The third will be hitting that PUBLISH button and not immediately deleting this post.

“THE PRETTY UGLY”

 

Yesterday I felt ugly.
I felt empty. Alone. Unwanted. Unworthy.
I listened to lies all day.
They grew and I became ugly.
I became empty. Alone. Unwanted. Unworthy.

I thought that the lies came from her mouth, but they didn’t.
The lies came from my only sworn enemy.
He tricked me again. And again. And again.
He always knows where to hit hardest.

 

But what he doesn’t know is that even when he leads me to believe that I’m ugly,
I’m pretty.
 

 

I’m pretty sure that “This too shall pass.”
I’m pretty thankful that God made a way.
I’m pretty confident that soon
I’ll be able to crawl out of the mud pits and onto the white sands,
letting go of the lies and clinging to Truth.

I’m pretty sure it’s not the last time.
I’m pretty sure I’ll keep training and getting stronger.
The training is trusting. The training is letting go and breathing.
It’s dancing on graves. It’s boxing the darkness. It’s cleaning off the mirror.

I’m pretty convinced it’s going to get uglier.
Then again, I’m pretty grateful that I’m not alone.
I’m pretty sure that someone wants me.
And I’m pretty confident that sooner than later, it’ll be me.

 


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You Gotta Be

 

Life has not been peaches and cream for my mind and heart lately. As I take on new tasks at each job and as I continue to work through my demons with my therapist, I’ve realized lately and have come face-to-face with a cold hard reality that I had tried to deny for so long—I fall into the comparison trap big time.

 

I compare myself to other people in ministry and push myself to try to be as good as they are at what they do/have done.

I compare myself to photographers/designers and wonder if my work would ever be inspiring enough to be proudly displayed in someone’s house.

I compare myself to my friends who have “perfect” families that seem to operate much like The Brady Bunch.

I compare myself to funny guys and gals I see on Saturday Night Live and on The Big Bang Theory and wonder if I’ll ever have  great comedic timing and material like they do.

I constantly wonder when I’ll be fashionable enough to not live in fear of a WHAT NOT TO WEAR intervention.

I fear that I’ll never be the wife that I want to be because of my shortcomings, quirky geeky personality & OCD tendencies.

I worry that I’m not THERE for my family the way I should be. 

I compare myself to ladies at the gym who can lift heavy weights and have such incredible muscle definition.

I compare myself to others my age that have incredibly foxy boyfriends, while all I can seem to attract is 50 year-old men looking to score with a younger lady.

I compare myself to other bloggers who write incredibly informative/inspirational posts.

I compare myself to foodies that make incredible meals and I feel like the weak sauce rookie still learning how to multiply measurements for a recipe. I guess I SHOULD have paid more attention in math class. :/

I compare myself to my friends that are super savvy to practical, effective solutions to everyday problems. I will face a situation and be so dumbfounded as to how to handle it and they’re just like, “Oh that’s all? It’s easy,  just do this _______.” 

 

I really could go on and on. I never really saw these thoughts as breadcrumbs that lead to the Comparison Trap, but now I do and I’m trying my best to kick them outta my mind and heart. However, those thoughts and I have been friends for so long, it’s super difficult to (1) Catch them in action, (2) Give myself permission to flourish without their self-sabotaging power, and (3) Let go of them for good . . . what will I have left to hold on to when I’m feeling down and out??

I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to stand out and do something meaningful to prove myself to my friends and family. I want to be dependable and add value to the lives of others. I want to be that kind of friend where people just show up at the door needing a good cry + snuggles session and I’m ready with a box of Kleenex, a cup of coffee/tea, and a listening ear . . . but I’m hardly home and I don’t always have the “right words” to say at the ready. I often think of what I need to do to be a better friend, daughter, sibling, niece, follower of Christ, minister, designer, etc. And it’s wrong. It’s taken me a while to admit it, but it’s way wrong. And I need to shift my thinking. Thankfully, I came across this sermon series by Andy Stanley. I’ve watched it through a few times now and God is using it to reshape my mind and heart in some pretty incredible ways. I haven’t fully mastered the shift, but I’m working on it.

 

(Click here for more of the series)

I’m learning to listen to my thoughts a little more before I accept them and surrender them to God—truly casting my cares on Him. I’m striving to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk and to actually believe that people sincerely mean it when they pay me a compliment. I’m trying to refocus my mind and give myself permission to be fully me . . . and to be okay with that. I’m fighting to remind myself that I won’t be able to please everyone all the time, and that that’s okay. I’m fighting to restructure my life to make more room for “free-play” and invite more friends that I don’t spend consistent time with along with me. Some days are WINS, most days are losses, but I’m not giving up. I don’t like this trap. It keeps me up at night. It hurts my heart and mind. It’s toxic. It needs to be left in the dust. One of the major insights I was able to take away from Andy’s message is to:

 

Celebrate what God has given others and leverage what God has given you.

 

After watching that sermon series and refocusing, I’m clinging to God more than ever and doing my best to remember that this is a JOURNEY and that I need to learn to delight in the milestones along the way. God has given me gifts and skills and insight to share with others as He leads. I just need to begin taking the small, but important steps (like exposing my struggle here) to change from a “can’t do” to a “am doing” mentality. I made a promise to myself after listening to that teaching that I am going to give myself permission to love every unique aspect of who I am in Christ. I am striving to exchange my inner monologue from “If only I was ____________er,” to “Because I am ____________, I will be great at ______________.” I’m looking forward to the changes (tough as they may be) that are coming. I know that months/years from now, I’ll look back on this post and laugh, maybe even cry to see how far I’ve come. This journey is far from over!