Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Thirsty

They say a picture speaks a thousand words. Not this picture. This picture is a fraud. I’ve never been shy about calling it what it is. I can’t tell you how many clients have looked at this picture as we’ve discussed their fitness goals and declared…”THIS is what I want to look like.” I replied every time, “No, you don’t” and followed it with the truth behind this picture.

You see, just moments before this picture was taken, I was back stage, on the floor with 2 paramedics tending to me, allowing me only tiny sips of water and my friend feeding me spoonfuls of jam. I was severely dehydrated and my body was tired of cooperating with my less-than-kind treatment. After spending 14 grueling weeks training and dieting off 30lbs there was no way I wasn’t going to “shine” in this moment. So I rallied. I grabbed my 5” heels and ran out on stage, smiling from ear to ear. 

I look at the picture now and I realize…I was thirsty. In every possible way I was thirsty. I wasn’t just dehydrated in the physical sense but spiritually I was bone dry and as thirsty as I felt that September morning on the floor backstage…ready to give up, ready to quit, but knowing I had to find a way.

As I look back at this picture, it’s really easy for me to see what was missing and what I was so desperately thirsting for. That’s the easy part…looking back and knowing now what you didn’t know then. I was looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places - my business, my clients, bodybuilding, relationships with the wrong men. I would use any distraction that I could find that would totally consume me. It’s like drinking alcohol when what you really need is a big glass of water. I only became more dehydrated and my thirst more severe. 

Are you thirsty for something in your life? Are you looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places - people, things, careers, money? I was too but none of those things I grabbed ahold of could fill the hole that was in my heart. None of those things could give me the unconditional love I so desperately craved. When we search in the wrong places it can help initially but over time, it only leaves us feeling emptier than we were before. Empty, discouraged and possibly depressed. 

When we are unsatisfied and discontented in our lives, it is because we have a spiritual thirst. I had no idea. And to be honest, I had no intention of believing in God and giving up my Sunday mornings to go sit in church with “a bunch of religious folks.” So I baby-stepped…or rather, I took tiny sips. It started with reading a Joyce Meyer book which lead to watching Joyce Meyer sermons, which lead to Henry Cloud books, which lead to more sermons by other people. After about 6 months of this “spiritual sipping” i was thirsty for a “faith community.” I was feeling ready to branch out and fellowship with other believers. Slowly my sips turned into gulps and I was daily drinking from the Word in some way or another. 

As time went on, I found that I was able to release those things that were draining the spiritual life out of me. I found that I was being filled up spiritually and as a result, I no longer felt the need to hold onto the things that left me empty and searching for fulfillment. 


Quenching your thirst starts with a sip. A verse a day, a Christian book that gives you new hope or encouragement, a sermon on YouTube or a Podcast on your commute to work. There are lots of easy ways to sip and have your thirst quenched. It’s jus like drinking water - the more you drink the more you want to drink. Drinking 8, 8oz glasses of water a day seems daunting at first and before you know it, you’re drinking a full gallon because your body craves it. Jesus is the same way - get a little and pretty soon you need a lot. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

You've Been Rescued - Live Like it!

For some time now, I’ve been struggling with my writing. It’s not that I have writer’s block or a lack of ideas or topics but every time I would write something, I would hear that voice of the Spirit telling me…”Don’t post that.” It wasn’t like I was writing anything that was not in alignment with who I am or my mission but…it wasn’t in alignment with where I want to go. It was a continued look into my rear view mirror and I could tell that God was telling me to stop looking at my past.

But how am I going to share my message? How am I going to help other women and families like mine? I can’t possibly do that if I don’t drudge up the past day after day…after day. “But you can”, I kept hearing. 

I stopped writing for awhile because I really needed to give myself some time to process this idea that in order to truly move forward in life, I was going to have to stop living “my old story.” For years, I had let my past define me and define what I was about and I realized that because I was carrying it around day after day, I was still weighed down by it. I really thought in order to use my experience to help others, I would have to tell it and retell it and retell it some more and I really did not like the way that felt. It was heavy. It was too much to carry around. 

We do that, you know..we carry our past for so many reasons. We carry it because we feel guilty…this is our burden to bear, so bear it we do. We carry it because we don’t recognize ourselves without our old story. We carry it because we think if we do it will help someone else. All of these reasons, while usually well-intended, keep us stuck in an old story and for many of us, keep us in victim mode, making it impossible to enjoy today.

As I was spending time processing this idea that I had to stop telling an old story on repeat, I realized that God was telling me He rescued me from that. He rescued me not so I could carry it around but so that I could have NEW LIFE in Him. Keeping that old story on my bookshelf and pulling it out everyday to re-read was not why God rescued me. He rescued me so I could leave it. So I could walk away and have something better, have joy that I had never experienced before. His plan does not include us feeling guilty forever, day after day. His plan is to make beauty from our ashes and He can’t bring that to completion if we won’t let go of yesterday. 


Has God rescued you from your past but you keep hanging on? That’s not the point of the rescue, you know. God didn’t give us New Life so we could carry around the baggage from the old one. If you are like me, I would encourage you to let go of the chains of the past that are keeping you from experiencing the JOY and PEACE that God wants for you to enjoy right NOW. Your story has a purpose but wearing it like a badge or scarlet letter is not the purpose God had in mind. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

This Was Not My Plan

The bread is “too burnt” she said. I was sure that I had toasted this cheese sandwich to perfection…you know, golden brown with no trace of “burn” anywhere on the bread. I watched over that stove to make sure that it was just the perfect amount of golden…not too much, just enough. I encouraged her to at least take a bite and try it, so she did and immediately determined that this sandwich would have to go in the garbage. 

And I stand there, exhausted and confused as to how a child could possibly be so particular. It is in moments like this, where I have made meal after meal to try to please this child that I think: 

This was not my plan. This is not how I envisioned my life to go. Parenting a child with special needs was not something I planned for when I was dreaming up the people my children would become, long before they were even born. I also didn’t plan to do this alone for 7 years. I didn’t plan to have my children, by myself, 100% of the time. What is going on here? Because this is so far from what I had planned.” 

Do you ever feel like that? Like your reality is so far off from the daydreams you used to have about what your life would be like? I feel that way frequently. In earlier days, I actually used to feel that way, think those thoughts and then proceed to throw myself a pity party for one. Woe is me. Why God why? What did I do to deserve this? I never left the pity party feeling very good. The hangover was severe and I would slip further into the dark. 

Maybe like me, you often feel like this isn’t “your plan” and like me, you would be correct. It’s not my plan, it’s not your plan…it’s GOD’S PLAN! Until I could really find peace in that reality, I couldn’t get myself out of that dark funk. Now that doesn’t mean it’s easy or it’s better. All it does, really, is change my perspective about my job as a mother. 

Many are the mornings, afternoons or evenings when I feel like the task of motherhood is altogether daunting and there is no way I can be successful but I have started to cry out to Jesus…and usually it’s really simple…”Help me, Jesus, help me Jesus!”…because if Jesus doesn’t help me, I am going to fold. (Not to mention, my ability to find any other words in those exasperated moments is next to impossible) I remember very clearly a couple years ago when I heard the spirit telling me…

”I have called you to this place. I have called you to motherhood, for these kids. You have what they need.” 

Motherhood often feels like a pretty lowly job. The “thank you” is rare and the demands are high. But these are His children that He has entrusted to me. In the midst of the chaos, the tears, the exhaustion, I remind myself…THIS IS MY CALLING. 

Andy Stanley really says it best: sometimes our best
contribution to the kingdom isn’t something we do but someone we raise. God has given me 4 children to raise and when I realize that His purpose is so great, I am able to dig deep and find the strength to continue on in obedience to my God and my contribution to His kingdom. 


It’s not easy to give up our plan for His plan but when we surrender to His plan in obedience it sure adds joy to our lives. What we do is so important to God, to our families, to our society. You are not alone. Mama, you are important. The daily grunt work you do…it matters and it is so valuable. Keep going. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Just Wait

It seems that the message God is giving me right now is pretty clear...
I have a purpose for your pain, JUST WAIT. 

Just wait. I feel like I've gotten pretty good at that over the last couple years. It seemed that every time I tried to forge ahead with a new brilliant endeavor, God stopped me. Just wait. As these past few months have unfolded in our family and we have learned new things about my youngest daughter, I get it. I understand the wait. I understand that I am supposed to be right here, right now. And for once, I am finally content with it. 

It has been showing up everywhere I turn over the past year, at least. Just wait. Just wait and trust in the power of small beginnings (seriously, 3 sermons I watched on Sunday were about small beginnings. If you don't think God has a sense of humor...). Because right now, everything seems small to me, but I know in my heart that all of it is leading to something big that God has in store. There have been times in the last few years that the pain of my circumstances and the pain of waiting was physically uncomfortable. I had a tension in my body that I couldn't seem to release. I had made up my mind I was ready to move on, ready to get on with my life...ready to get "back" to my life. But the life I had before wasn't the life that God had in mind for me. 

Waiting is hard. Appreciating small beginnings is hard, especially when you are the kind of person who likes to make things happen and be a "productive member of society." Our society has ingrained in us this idea that we must be constantly busy to be making an impact. And maybe like me, you've bought into that and have a hard time getting out. I still struggle with waiting. I struggle with the idea of small beginnings and I'll be honest, some days I struggle with feeling like "just a mom." But I've come a long way in the last few years and wanted to share a few things that have helped me and continue to help me.

Trust Him. Trusting that God has a plan for me, my life, the life of my family has been huge. I would say that having trust in God is what was the key in lifting me out of my depression. When we are hopeless and self-reliant, it is easy to get bogged down and into the dark pit of life. When I started believing in His perfect plan and trusting in His timing to make it happen, it relieved me of a lot of stress, anxiety and filled me with hope. We can't live without hope. Some days I'm tempted to rely on my self to make things happen and I just have to stop myself in my tracks and say..."I trust you, God." (*repeat as many times as necessary)

Patience. Not one of my previous virtues but I would have to say God has taught me to be patient. Without trust, we can't be patient, so you'll have to go to the "Trust Him" step first and then work on the patience. When we trust that He has a plan it is easier (I didn't say easy....just easier) to be patient. To just wait. When we push things at our own pace we will meet resistance. I think of it like banging on a closed door where nobody is on the other side. It's NOT going to open. Move on. This is sort of how patience works...stop banging on the closed door and relax in the hallway until you see that God is opening a new door. I have banged on a lot of closed doors and met with a lot of frustration. I have learned that patience and waiting on God's timing is a lot less frustrating. 

Never "just a." I'm pretty sure we all do this on some level or another. Whether you're "just a mom" or "just a janitor" or "just a dad" or "just a student"...you're NEVER "just a". Every single thing we do has a purpose. If God has called you to it (I don't know, say, made you the mother of 4 kids) He has a purpose for it and it's not to be taken lightly. Sometimes being obedient to God's will can make us feel insignificant to society..."just a." But I like to remind myself that God has specifically chosen me, apart from everyone else, to raise these 4 human beings. I am not "just a" mom...I've been given a huge responsibility. And so have you...whatever your "just a" may be.

I was sure by now I would know how God was going to use my pain of the past but I don't know. I don't even try anymore. I just wait. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I Ruined Santa

I love the holidays and I really love the magic of Christmas especially through the eyes of a child...especially through the eyes of my children. It's always been fun to play into and "feed" the belief in Santa, the belief in something that we can't see. Children are a wonderful example of faith. 

All of that said, I "ruined" Santa for my children. A couple years ago my young children asked some questions about why Santa's giving habits had changed for them. Did Santa like them less? Was Santa not reading his mail? How come Santa brought more gifts to other kids? And then last year as my children were another year older and starting to put the pieces together beyond themselves, they started asking why some kids don't get presents from Santa at all and others get so many. 

I made an executive decision. Christmas is not about Santa. Christmas is not about how much you can buy your child. Christmas is about Christ and I decided it was time my children learned that Santa is not real but Jesus is. And even though you cannot see Jesus, he loves you and he loves every other kid just as much as he loves you. And that on the days when your friends at school are being mean and you feel sad, Jesus is still with you. I wanted them to know that no matter what they did, good or bad, that Jesus was someone that they could believe in who is for them and loves them...all the time. 

I don't feel bad about "ruining" Santa. I actually think it is one of the better parenting moves I've made. This year, my children understand that Christmas is about giving and not getting (don't get me wrong, they all have wish lists...for me). They don't expect a huge pile of presents under the tree and they are much more receptive to experiences and to learning what Christmas is really about.

So this Christmas we are celebrating Advent as a family. Not like a calendar where you open the little doors and eat a little chocolate elf everyday for 24 days. Everyday is a reading and teaching and discussion. We are trying to slow down - with a house like ours, this is a necessity! We are learning to be more patient and believing God's promises for us. Christmas is so much more than a day to receive gifts...and I want my children to know that. 


Monday, November 16, 2015

Letting Light In

It's really easy, when you find yourself in a dark place to feel alone and like no one else can possibly understand. It's easy to feel like your brokenness is somehow a special kind of broken that is worse than everybody else's. But the reality is, we're all broken. I don't care who you are or what you have or haven't been through...we are all broken. It's the one thing I can guarantee we all have in common. Our brokenness is different. Our experiences and circumstances are different. But we are all broken and we all have wounds that hurt, whether we tend to them or not. 

When the hurt is more painful than we can stand and the world gets dark, it's really hard to let the light in. There's something about the darkness that sucks you in and grabs hold of you, trying to shake off any kind of hope you may have in you. And when you're in that darkness you have to fight to let the light in. It is so easy to get into a dark place and just wallow in it. And when you do that it just sucks you deeper into the darkness until that light gets smaller and smaller. It doesn't go away, but it's lucky to get in just a crack. 

I have learned over the last many years as I have struggled with my own battle of darkness and light that the only thing that heals us is light. The only way to conquer the darkness is with the power of the light. Light means different things to different people. For me, light is my faith. Light is knowing that there is a God who loves me no matter how much I hurt and that He wants me to be healed. Light is my friends who will sit with me, pray with me and just be with me and comfort me. Light is every good thing I have been blessed with that I can possibly think of in my moments of darkness. 

Light is sharing my story, knowing that someone else is hurting too and comforted knowing that what they feel is felt by other people too...hopefully letting them know that they're not as alone as they may feel. Because the darkness is lonely. It's isolating. We don't want anyone to see our brokenness and our pain. We want to fix it and pull ourselves together again and then we are worthy of being around others. That's how I feel, at least. Go in my dark hole, fix my brokenness and when I've got it to a presentable state, I can come back out and face the world again. It's hard to let people see us because there's that unknown: will they judge and criticize me or will they want to help me? Unfortunately, not everybody is interested in helping us. But I believe that's a risk we have to take. There's no healing in the dark, only when we bring our brokenness into the light can we really begin to heal. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Protect Your Upgrade

When you go through a personal transformation, it's kind of like "upgrading" yourself in the same way you would computer software. Once you have gone through a transformation and experienced personal growth and change, you usually don't respond to your circumstances and situations the way you did "before." And if the people around you have not gone through the upgrade process with you, receiving "updates" along the way, chances are, they are not able to interact with you in the way that they once did. 

This is not a bad thing but it does mean that they will need to receive the upgrade if they are going to continue being in relationship with you. When you no longer respond and react to people and things the way you did before your upgrade, your friends won't know what to do with you if they don't have the upgrade. It's basically like getting to know you all over again. You're still you...but you're not. 

Here's the thing: not everyone that knew you before is worthy of receiving the upgraded version of you. Not everyone in your life is designed to go the distance with you and not everyone in your circle is "for" you. After your upgrade, you need to guard yourself and use discernment in your relationships. Not everyone is happy to see your growth. Not everyone wants to help you on your path to personal improvement. People that aren't willing to change themselves usually have a hard time watching and supporting other people who want to grow and change.

Personally, I think the upgrade is a huge blessing because it allows you a fresh start so to speak. It allows you to determine who you want in your circle...who deserves to be in your circle. You have to protect this new, upgraded version of you. Not everybody deserves to know you intimately. You should always be authentic and real, but there are many people you need to keep at arm's length if you want to continue to grow and change. The upgraded version of you can't go back to old ways and some people are "old ways." 

It's perfectly okay (and recommended), to be authentically you to everybody - whether it is social media, work, school, church, etc - but that doesn't mean that all of those people get to be in the circle of people you are vulnerable with...the people who you let see all parts of you because you know they are not going to judge and condemn you but they genuinely want to help you grow and heal. 

Protect your upgrade. It's ok for some people to expect you to respond the way the previous version of you did. It's ok for them to never get the full upgraded version. Protect yourself, protect your growth.