you've changed

people love to say you've changed like it's an insult.

thank you, susan. please tell me again how you expected me to be the same person i was a year ago or ten years ago.

if a baby never grew bigger than its birth weight or a seed never became a plant.. we'd wonder what went wrong.

we are the same way.

i don't know where it came from, but this idea that who we are is who we will always be is problematic. we are constantly changing. or we should be, at least.

if we can't change. if we can't improve. if we can't better ourselves then what's the point of learning.. of trying.. of anything?

doesn't the Bible teach that God makes us into new creations. that we should be renewing our minds. that he'll give us a heart of flesh for these hearts of stone. that old things have passed away and he is doing new things in their place?

i wonder if maybe when they say you've changed.. it's after they've noticed how similar they are to the them they used to be. that if they couldn't change or let it go or move beyond it than neither should you.

don't let them limit you because of what they couldn't accomplish. it's a trap. remember: "they want to see you do good, but never better than them."

do better anyway.

a word of advice to the susans:

allow people room to grow. just like you long for people to allow you the same space. we expect unattainable perfection and then have the audacity to be upset when someone (read: everyone) doesn't reach it.

but life is messy. we don't always get it right. and that's okay.. we are human and Rome wasn't built in a day.

give others room to realize their mistakes and room to correct those mistakes.

psychology teaches that we judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our motives. so i'd judge you harshly for stealing, lying, murdering without knowing the full story.. but when talking about myself, i'd justify it.. well, i stole to feed my family.. i lied to keep from hurting someone's feelings.. i murdered someone to protect myself.

so give people the benefit of the doubt.. even if you think they don't deserve it.

and when they tell you that you've changed.. say thank you for noticing.


dear girl with anxiety (letters to myself)

you spent the last 30 minutes curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor. that's my go-to place when anxiety comes to visit too. i wish i had pixie dust or a magic phrase to give you that would ease your mind, but i haven't found any just yet. i'll let you know if i do.

i know you do a good job projecting a real put-together image to the outside world.. and sure, most of the time that image is truer than not.. at least you think so.. maybe.. sometimes.. but the other times? the other times, the darkness comes in waves. and i don't mean waves from a kiddie pool that lap at your ankles. i mean waves as high as mountains, coming and coming and coming and coming.. leaving you unable to catch your breath in between.

the waves are suffocating. but you keep them below the surface because you think that's what you should do, because that's what people do.. right? they sweep hard and heavy things under the rug, pretend everything is peachy, tell everyone it's fine. i'm fine. we're fine.

but you're not fine, not really. i've seen the panic attacks and how tightly your arms wrap around you like they're trying to keep you from physically falling apart. i've heard the voices inside your head yelling things you can't drown out. like how you're a loser. a failure. a burden. unwanted. unworthy. ugly. annoying. broken. i've seen you sit and suffer in silence because you're afraid reaching out will leave you even worse off. and because you've convinced yourself that no one would pick up if you called.

i don't even know the point of this letter, because i don't know how to make you better, dear girl. but i guess, for what it's worth, i see you. i see you and i love you.

but more than just me, god sees you. god loves you. god knows you better than you know yourself and he does not call you any of the things that you or others call yourself.

he doesn't see those things when he looks at you. instead of your sins, flaws, and weaknesses.. he sees his blood, his grace, and his strength. i think he picked you because he knew how awesome his perfection would look against your humanity.

dear girl, i wish you could see yourself through his eyes. i know he made you for incredible things and i know you can't always see them right now.. but i know you know what he's told you.

don't lose sight of what he promised you. what god has ordained for you is for you and it will come when he says. it's no coincidence that the moment you stopped running and said yes to god's calling and purpose for your life, your anxiety seemingly started taking steroids.

don't let your mind and the devil intimidate you into settling for mediocre when god has proclaimed excellence over your life time and time again.

god is bigger than your mind.
god is bigger than the devil.
god is bigger than your anxiety.

cling to him as the waves start to roll and trust him to calm the storm.
trust that he will complete the work he has started in you.


to know and be known by him

I hope my life speaks to my love of Christ.
I hope goodness and mercy follow after me and flow from me.
I hope the signs mentioned in Mark 16 are present in my life: speaking with new tongues, laying hands on the sick and seeing them be healed, etc.
But more important than all of that, I hope I know God and I hope He knows me.
We can be so close to the church and even identify as a Christian but be far from Him.. So focused on doing work for God that we forget to know God.
Lots of people were near Jesus in the crowd, but the woman with the issue of blood was the only one that touched Him.
If I busy myself with the work of God, but neglect my relationship with him.. I've missed the point. If my biggest concern is making myself known, I've missed the point.
In a world full of people seeking to know and be known by others, may we seek to know and be known by Jesus.


i don't know what's coming, but i know it's gonna be good

When I was a kid, I planned out my entire life with the help of a MASH game or two or 10 until I got one with the most favorable answers. I was SURE it would happen exactly like I dreamed, because that's how life happens in the movies.. And well, because that's sometimes how life happens in real life. Although I would quickly learn that sometimes that's how life happens in real life.. just for other people.

You see, twenty-five was THE golden age. I'm not sure what it was about twenty-five exactly that made my kid self geek out. But she sure thought it would bring fulfillment, even completion. When I looked into my crystal ball to the twenty-five year old me, I was married... duh. To a handsome and funny and kind man. He and I had a love story that made Cinderella and the others jealous. We lived in a big house, or sometimes a shack, because odds are you weren't getting everything you wanted in MASH. I was definitely a mom to 2, maybe 3 beautiful, smart, funny kids who all started speaking in full sentences at 13 months, never talked back, and always ate their vegetables and always cleaned up after themselves. Remember, this is kid me (and maybe adult me) wishing these silly, impractical things. Oh, to be a kid again.

But God definitely has a sense of humor because I told him my plans and he said, "Bet." Word to the wise: Never bet opposite God... House always wins in this casino. And so, as if I made all my childhood wishes on Opposite Day, (almost all of) my twenties came and went without a drop of romance. The golden age flew by and I was neither married nor a mother and my relationships certainly weren't making anyone jealous. I spent a lot of those years in prayer asking God, "Why?" and "Why not?"

I didn't usually hear back from him, but that probably had less to do with him and more to do with me. I have a case of what my mom likes to call Selective Listening. She says I get it from my dad. I wanted God to say that he had forgotten about me, that it had slipped his mind to send a family my way.. but that he was sorry and would fix it right away. But God wasn't saying that, because he's no one's genie. And so, I wasn't listening.

I closed my ears and entertained myself with my own cruel and misguided thoughts: I thought because my life wasn't progressing at the rate of those around me, it wasn't progressing correctly. I thought because no suitors were calling, something had to be inherently wrong with me. I thought because my finger lacked a ring, my life lacked meaning. I thought because churches favor married people, my ministry was on pause until the day I died or the day I said I do, whichever one came first. I thought because no one was calling me Mom, I wasn't responsible for birthing new life. I thought because God wasn't answering me, he either didn't care or couldn't do anything about it.

Life quickly became dreary and burdensome. Again nothing like I imagined when I was a child. The perfectionist in me couldn't come to terms with this off-track life I thought I was living, so along came my dear friends, anxiety and depression, and their cousins, guilt and failure. It took a while for me to part the clouds and start listening for the answers to the questions I'd been asking for years, instead of just pretending that something was wrong on God's end.

Nope. Something was definitely wrong with me and the unrealistic expectations that society and I had placed on myself. I was struggling through life and losing every battle because I was wearing armor that wasn't designed for me. I was counting myself out because other people seemed to be already at the finish line, when in reality, we were playing different games. I didn't understand that God intended me to run the race he had set before me, and Sally to run the race he set before her, and Jimmy to run the race he set before him. And while our paths might intersect at different points in life, our races were our own.

Crazy how it happens.. the more I began to listen for his voice, the more I began to hear him speak into my life. Over time, he began to teach me some lessons about himself, about myself, and about staying in my own lane. I'm going to elaborate on two really important lessons he taught me during this time that have helped me for the better:

The first being, God is as unchanging as life is changing.. His goodness, his faithfulness, his grace, his love, his being never change, diminish, or falter. Therefore, God is always worthy. On good days and on bad days and on those grey in-between days. Whether we're married, single, divorced, or widowed. Whether we're parents, not parents, can't be parents, don't want to be parents. Whether we've outlived our parents or even our children. God is still worthy. When we understand and when we don't. When we are sick and when we are healthy; when we have money and when we don't. God is still worthy. In seasons of blessing and in seasons of famine. In times of growth and in times of pruning. In a perfectly planned out life or in a flying by the seat of His pants life. God is still worthy and he will be forevermore.

The second was definitely the hardest of the two: Nothing in this life is about me. Sure, sometimes I like to pretend that the Sun (and the Son, if I'm being honest) revolve around me and are here only to bring me joy.. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Truth is I am here to bring God joy. I am here to praise him according to his greatness, not according to his ability to follow my plans (but trust me, he has the ability to follow our plans, he just doesn't need or want to follow our crap human plans. So I guess, if I were praising him according to his *ability* to follow my plan, I'd still have to praise him).

Yet somehow, I convinced myself that my life existed so I could be the happiest or the prettiest or the smartest (which will only lead to disappointment because there will always be someone happier, prettier, and smarter than me). At its core, my life is to point people to Christ. Plain and simple. Every blessing, every trial, every sin, every betrayal, every valley, every mountain has been crafted so that I react and live in such a way to bring glory to God. If this life brings me nothing but earthly pain and I use it to draw people to Christ, I will be able to look back and see only beauty. If this life falls short of every earthly success but meets God's expectations, I will not feel any loss. This life is about him, not me.

So with these lessons learned, I started praying those "Why?" and "Why not?" prayers a little less and started thanking God a little more for the path He's chosen just for me. I stopped complaining and started asking him for help to run my race with endurance even when I can't see around the next bend or over the next hill, which is often. You see, God isn't confined to our limits of time and space and knowledge.. My odds are astronomically higher if I allow him to call the shots, because remember: House always wins in this casino.

My favorite song right now is Adelina by Johnnyswim. When they sing this song live, Abner and Amanda start ad-libbing and sing, "I don't know what's coming, but I know it's gonna be good." over and over. I seriously get chills. If I had to pick a life motto, something I want to be known as saying often, it's this:

I don't know what's coming, but I know it's gonna be good. I have no idea what God has planned over the next couple months or the next fifty years. I don't know if kid me will ever get her "happily ever after" ending. But I do know God loves me and has good things in store for me. Whether it's a life filled with pain or joy or sorrow or laughter or heartbreak or love or loss, I know it will be good because God makes all things good in time. And even if he chooses not to in my life, God is still good. And that's enough for me. 
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