26 February 2016

On Becoming a Woman of Grit & Grace

One of my favorite things about blogging and writing is discovering different writers and creative dreamers. I love finding new people that really make me think or try something new. One such place online I've recently discovered is Grit & Virtue

Honestly the only other time I have heard the word grit is when being referred to a well-loved dish hailing from the South (grits). Feeling rather certain this sweet community was not named after a savory breakfast food, I was curious to do some digging and see what the word meant.
Grit refers to courage and resolve, a person with endurance and resilience. Grit is strength of character. It is passion, purpose, and perseverance. Grit equals bravery.

The more I thought about it I realized that those are words I want to describe me, how I want to live my life and be engaged with the world around me. I want to be a woman who is courageous; one who faces the dreams and messes of life with resolve and patient endurance. I want to be a tough cookie, not rough or mean. But toughness in relation to strength of character. 

Grit to be courageous and speak up when your voice is needed when it may be easier to keep silent or blend in. Grit to not let people or situations in life knock you down, but rather you thrive instead of survive. To allow your God-given talents, passions, and big dreams to be used to build God's Kingdom wherever you are put.

And we women need grace too. Most importantly showing grace to ourselves when feeling we don't measure up or aren't (          ) enough. Fill in the blank.
There is a need of grace in all of us to love ourselves from a place of self care and affirmation rather self-hatred and frustration. We need grace to love and serve others well. If  you're a believer, then God's grace to help you become the woman you were created to be.

Grace is more than just elegance, charm, and class. Grace is also a reminder of whom is and is not God, it reminds me to get out of the way. Grace is not just spiritual, but also emotional and psychological. Grace reminds what is possible when I am in not charge or what wild, beautiful things happen when I let go of control.
Women in today's culture more than ever need a balance of both grit and grace. So much is thrown at us and sadly so much (perfection) is expected of us. The standards are impossible in our culture. But holding ourselves to a standard of grace not perfection is freedom in more ways than one.

Slowly I am learning in my life...it is not about the destination but the journey; all the experiences, situations, people, messes, and memories that shape a woman of strength and courage. You don't get strong enough to run a marathon overnight. It takes time, patience and endurance. It is the same thing in becoming a woman of grit and grace, it takes time and patient endurance. 

I am thankful for all the different beautiful, creative examples that give me different glimpse of what it means to live with grit and grace. So thank you Bonnie, Susana, Jenna, Mary #1, Amy, Molly, Mary #2, Nell, and Christy...each you reveal unique, beautiful snippets of this stuff lived out.

Who are the people that inspire or challenge you to become a better version of yourself? Who are the women in your life you see living with grit and grace?

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21 February 2016

A Prayer That Will Wreck Your Life

Sometimes I think it can be easy to pray it safe in life; to pray in a way that protects the safe, comfortable world we sometimes rather live in.

To pray with boldness and expectant faith is hard, not to mention really scary sometimes. 
Honestly for a time as a teenager, I used to think if I prayed "boldly" or directly asked to know God's will for my life it would mean I was going to the convent. Not really the best understanding for discernment 101, but it was where I was at the time.

As my understanding of prayer has grown over the years, it has also greatly simplified. I used to think prayer was about using the right words before God or seeing how many spiritual books and journals I could use or collect. It was more about the doing instead of just being with God. 

A prayer that's really messed me up, even totally wrecked my life has been the Serenity Prayer.

I have to admit all I knew was that is is associated with Alcoholics Anonymous. That and I thought it seemed a bit new-agey. Still working on the judgmental thing ;)

When I started to really listen and reflect on the words, they began to mess with me. On a daily basis, I began confronting and acknowledging all the things in my life that were outside of my control (which are many). Then I was slowly able to discern the difference between what I can and cannot change. 

Often times when I felt like I didn't know how to pray, these words helped settle my soul. When I was able to accept the people and situations I could not control it brought me a great sense of peace. I am learning (as the full version of the prayer reads) to "Live one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace."

Maybe praying boldly will look different for you than it does for me. It could be just sitting in silence 10 minutes everyday or maybe it looks like saying "Lord, I want whatever You want. No matter the cost." Whatever it is, pray with boldness. 

When we allow prayer to wreck us from the inside out, it allows God to do that deep soul work that is needed in each of us. I know I have seen that time and time again in my life. 

If you are looking for some help in understanding and applying the way of serenity to your own life, I highly recommend this book.

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17 February 2016

To Post or Not Post: 3 Questions To Ask

There can be a lot of talk on the interwebs and social media about knowing when to post or not post. The game has changed significantly since when I first "discovered" Facebook as a sophomore in college. 

Social media has quickly become a world without guidelines. I don't know abut you, but times in my life where guidelines are absent, chaos is almost always inevitable. 

Personally, I find myself asking these type of questions more often: Am I just adding to the "noise" of social media? Or do I have something life-giving and encouraging to share or add to the discussion? Am I just white noise in the middle of a busy, chaotic machine?

More and more I find myself reflecting on why I am doing certain things: do I feel I am merely trying to keep up with others in terms of blogging or social media? Am I one some level comparing myself to others? The more I think on these questions, the more I realize whenever I blog or share something on social media I want it to be because I have something to say: something meaningful, encouraging, and life-giving. 
I don't want to be a voice just adding to the mindless noise and chaos

The following are some questions I am asking myself in regards to why and how I am using social media:

1. Am I looking for validation, likes, and/or comments?
Perhaps on some level, we all have done this..well I know at least I have: looking to social media for validation. I think that is one of the reasons it can become so addictive because it gives instant affirmation. Post the pretty picture with perfect words. Click one button to post and then wait for the likes/comments. Sure its not like this with all of us all the time, but eventually the comments and likes stop. 

I have seen that desire grow stronger in me at times, and it can quickly become a slippery slope.
If social media impacts your worth, mood, value, or how you look at yourself, maybe think about taking a step back and wrestling with the deeper reasons. 

2. Will this post add something to the conversation?
Sure we all have the rights to post or say whatever we want on the Internet. But when we do, are we really adding anything new or deep to the conversation?

Start asking yourself (I'm trying to do this more too) before you post: "Is this beneficial? Am I adding to the conversation?" If you're unsure or the answer is no, maybe consider holding back from hitting publish.

3. Am I posting about something I should be taking action on?  
Social media can be a meeting place for people with new ideas and great intentions. But intention doesn't change the world. Action does.

Behind every social/political/cultural issue are real human faces, people whom this issues affects. Just like behind every book, blog, Instagram account, or computer screen is a man or woman; a person just like you and I.

There are times where I have posted something to social media or re-tweeted about an issue when I should be more intentional about doing something to correct the issue (or at least properly educate myself on the issue). Sure that is not always the convenient or the easy route, but it goes back to that whole concept of "am I just adding to the noise?" 

That is a danger of social media today; it can trick us into believing talking or tweeting on an issue are the same thing. When actually they are very different from each other.

Are there questions missing that you would add? 
How do you keep in check knowing when to post or not post?

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15 February 2016

The Day My Insecurities Didn't Win

Whether we like to admit or not, we all have insecurities swirling around inside ourselves. 

Sometimes in life I have tried to convince myself they don't exist or stuff down those uncomfortable little gremlins. Sometimes our insecurities win and get the best of us, and sometimes we beat them to the ground, victorious in battle.

Yesterday was such a little victory for me, a day where my insecurities didn't win.

I have never been a huge fan of Valentine's Day; the hype, the commercialism, and they way it is built up, or the false way it portrays true love. Valentine's Day can often be a day that celebrates people who have someone. I am sure many of us have felt less than on one or more Valentine's Day where we weren't in a pair.

I didn't have a Valentine this year. 
It is another holiday where I am slowly learning to be okay on my own, just be at peace with myself right where God has me. My insecurities of feeling alone or sad didn't win today. I embraced the silence and didn't run away from the loneliness. I acknowledged and named my feelings, but it didn't overwhelm me. Those little gremlins whispering "I am less than" or "not enough" didn't win. I kicked them to the curb.

Not every holiday will be easy, and I am certain my insecurities will arise again, but I did it. I showed myself I can do it. Whatever your insecurities are, don't let them win or beat you down. They do not have to control you and they certainly do not speak to the truth of your value and dignity.

Wherever you struggle, don't let your insecurities win.  

How do you use your insecurities as an opportunity for personal growth? 
What does it look like in your life to face head on your own insecurities?

Mary wrote this sweet and encouraging post yesterday...know how much you are loved:)

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12 February 2016

5 Difficult Truths About Ministry I Wish I Knew When I Started

This month I have been working 8 years in youth ministry. It seems like only yesterday I had my first job offer as a newbie fresh out of college. Growing up, I never would have thought I would someday work in full-time church ministry. As far as I was concerned, I wanted to be a teacher + hybrid version of Mother Teresa + a mommy.

As I got to college, I went with a pastoral ministry degree and it wasn't until I began volunteering a lot in a local youth ministry program that I could really see myself doing that some day. I loved God and really enjoyed teenagers and it seemed like a natural fit.

When I first started working in church ministry, I had these lofty, even idealistic ideals. I figured certainly everyone working in ministry is on the same with the same goals in mind: helping people meet Jesus, grow in faith, and reaching out to the unchurched.  I thought working with church people meant we'd all get along, pray together, and it would be like a Christian version of Disney World. Naive much?

Over the last 8 years, I have a learned a crap ton about myself, made plenty of mistakes, and learned to meet people right where they are. I have learned even more about grace, mercy, forgiveness, and not being a judgmental Christian. And while there have been some incredibly awesome and amazing things, there are several difficult truths I wish I had known about before.

1. God is not impressed with your exhausting schedule.
An odd concept to American culture is how sometimes we pride ourselves on being productive, busy. It's like we are frantically working on getting our busiest beaver merit badge award (reference to The Office). Sometimes especially in the world of church, people can easily equate being busy (even exhaustion) with faithfulness. 
I have had times where being busy led to being frantic which led to being cyclical at times. God really is not impressed with our being busy. He actually created the Sabbath for a reason, so take it.

2. Not everyone will share your passion for Jesus.
This was a difficult, even sad lesson I have learned the hard way many times over the years. It was heart breaking when I observed bitterness, resentment, even apathy from some in ministry. The church is a human institution. And with humans involved, there is brokenness, pain, and its not always a beautiful stained glass window.

Early on, that used to bother me a lot. But I learned that all those people are on a journey too. Not everybody will share my passion or faith and that's why I think I am still in ministry; because I want to help point them to the well of God's mercy, grace, love, and faithfulness.

3. Ministry is not a competition.
I used to think ministry was like a sprint. Work really, really hard to build it up fast. And then continue to build it better and better. It was easy to compare what I was doing with what that other church was doing for young people. 

I don't think God called me into ministry to build our church. He called me to build THE church. We are all on the same team, and comparing what I'm doing to someone else's beginning/middle/end never ever ends up well.

4. Learn what it means to have a "pastoral heart."
This is the greatest lesson I have learned and I learned this from my Dad. Dad is a deacon and works in our diocese but I always remember him telling me the importance of loving and meeting people right where they are; no matter if I don't agree with their choices or it is contrary to what we believe. 

Always, always love and show grace first. I have heard many stories from my Dad where has needed to be that pastoral heart to many people over the years, and I am grateful I have grown more in the ways of grace/mercy rather than judgment and legalism.

5. Be willing to sound, dumb, be wrong, and apologize.
I can and have been wrong on many things. Learning how to apologize has been a dose of humility, admitting when I have been or done wrong has shown me I have to be willing to get out of my own way. I may sound dumb or even contradict myself, but I have to own up to it and embrace my limitations. God doesn't expect me to be perfect. He expects me to pint people towards His perfection.

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09 February 2016

On Drive-Through Ashes, Lent & Why I Hate Paczki

Yes you read that right, drive-through ashes.

Before our staff meeting today, I ran out to grab a sub for lunch. A Methodist church less than a mile up the road from us was advertising their offering of drive-though ashes from 7-11am. I did a double take, had a good chuckle, but the more I thought about it, I started thinking on those several blue/white signs lining the front lawn.

What is the point of the concept behind a drive-through?

Well duh, I think we all know it. Drive-through's are all bout ease and convenience. They are supposed to make life easier and allow you to get what you want in the quickest way possible. Some companies even pride themselves on being able to get customers through in a certain amount of time, illustrating the great emphasis our culture places on speed, accuracy, and busyness.

The more I thought of those church signs selling an easier, more convenient way to begin a season of fasting and repentance, it kinda made me sad. Our culture is so fast paced and busy, now we're at a point where in order to get more people to come to church on Ash Wednesday we advertise drive-through ashes. And yes, I acknowledge I could be overly thinking this through. It is very possible this congregation has the bestest of intentions at heart. Not that I am wanting to go all Pharisee-like on another church, but I think it takes away something sacred from the meaning of Lent.

Photo credit: LifeTeen
Growing up, I have had a love-hate relationship with Lent. I love the somber, yet beautiful parts of the liturgy that challenge me to reflect on the lasting, eternal things vs that which will pass away. The simplicity, the bareness of what it all represents. What is difficult is the breaking of my own will, sacrificing my wants/desires, and acknowledging my own sin and brokenness in life.

I used to see Lent as an opportunity to make up for all the ways I spiritually failed over the past year. I know, lame and sad. Lent used to represent a time to become a spiritual ninja; for 40 days I overachieved and set the bar really, really high. And usually, somewhere in the first 14 days of Lent would fail miserably, then beat myself, and try to meet impossible standards yet again.

As I get older, I like to think though every year when Lent comes around I am getting a little wiser and more humble. This year though I am not setting out to become a spiritual ninja. I am not so much focused on the all the "doing stuff" of Lent but instead I am just focusing on being. 

Honestly for Lent my plan is simple: to keep Jesus company in the Garden of Gethsemane. I want to be the friend who didn't run out and abandon Him. I just want to sit close and be there. And in keeping Jesus company, He is keeping me company in ways I need it most right now. It's an image that is guiding how I am praying, fasting, and loving other people these next 40 days.

P.S.I'm sorry but any Polish Americans can you please explain the love to me on these glorified donuts? Don't throw rocks at me, but I really cannot get into the scared eating of paczki on Fat Tuesday. Personally I'll be eating enjoying cookies today with a side of Sander's Hot Fudge sauce.

I hope you are properly indulging today as well ;)

Whether you get drive-through ashes or love paczki, I pray your Lent is sacred, holy, and blessed.

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01 February 2016

On Entering a Season of Mercy.

Lent begins just over a week. In early December, the Catholic Church entered the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a year to focus, reflect, and celebrate the great mercy of our God. 
Different pieces of life around me are entering new seasons of mercy. 

Mercy. Such a simple word, but yet complex and rich with meaning. The coming 40 days of Lent are a time to examine our hearts and minds under the light of God's mercy. I know I am entering a season of mercy. I find myself deeply searching my heart and asking God to illuminate the broken, unmerciful parts of my heart, especially as I go through the divorce and annulment process.

I feel the word mercy is one of those spiritual concepts where we mentally get on some level. But the translation of that from our head to heart, is often not so easily understood. I can theologically explain God's mercy, but I don't always show it to myself or other people around me. I cannot be merciful to others until I experience the mercy of the Father in my own life. And oh how I need it.

I need God's mercy to cover every area of my life:
  • to break my self-righteous, judgmental heart
  • reveal my selfishness and pride
  • break the desire to want to blame and shame
  • when I think I better than other people
  • bring to light my resentment and anger
  • to be able to lavishly pray from heart for those who have hurt or misunderstood me
I want my life to live out of an abundance of God's mercy--not scarcity.

I need grace to be able to show and extend mercy to my husband, to pray for his well-being, healing, and wholeness even as we begin to separate our lives. I refuse to let bitterness and angry to color the way I look at him. I cannot hold him fully responsible for our marriage ending. 

I need grace to be able to pray from the heart for his parents, with whom at times its been difficult and felt hurt by their lack of support and encouragement in the middle of our pain. I am so grateful I took the time to write them a letter asking their forgiveness for ways I was harsh, judgmental, or unloving because of the pain I was experiencing. I want to show true mercy. 

God's timing is amazing and humbling all at the same time. All going on in my life is falling in this sacred year of mercy. I'm leading a group for World Youth Day to Poland and the theme is Mercy. In the middle of personal pain, confusion, and sadness God's mercy is all around me, swallowing me up whole. 

It is a time of mercy in life...
to lavishly show it to others and deeply experience it from God.

by offering more occasions during the week so that the faithful can go to confession and live the
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