Fixing the Heart-Shattered Life

Ladies, I’ve started using a highlighter pencil to hide the dark circles under my eyes.

I know many of you are saying, “So what? I do that every day.”

Yes, but I didn’t. There was a time when the skin under my eyes was bright on its own. Then darker shades under my eyes gave way to deep circles until it’s reached a point where I rely on a highlighter pencil to fix it. I’m not capable of immediately fixing it on my own, I must use something outside of myself.

The thing is, this transition from light to dark hasn’t been purely cosmetic. It was paralleled by a shift in my spirit as the wellspring of my joy dried up and gave way to what felt like a spiritual desert.

Have you even been there? The voice of the enemy still whispers in my ear that I was justified in this shift – telling me that I’d given God long enough. That He had been indifferent to my tears and begging and pleading. The fact that more appeared to go wrong than right. In my hurt, hope should have been my lifeline. But in my pain, I instead I transitioned my fireplace of hope into a solitary candle that I set in the corner, and boarded up my heart in an effort to make it impenetrable to disappointment.

But, I hadn’t realized how much that fireplace fed my spirit until it was gone long enough for the warmth to die down. I realized that I transitioned from being confident and self-assured to anxious and apologetic. From poised to tense, from giving grace to focused on self-preservation.

I realized that I felt a spirit of condemnation for who I had allowed myself to become – but then, a mentor pointed out to me that it was just that: a spirit.

I’d always expected the enemy’s attacks to be bold and devastating – the kind you could “see” from a distance and defend against. External.

I was guarding the wrong gates.

As much as I believe many Christians view the enemy as rather direct and unintelligent, he is quite the opposite. He is calculating and incredibly cruel. When he stages an attack on you, he’s considered everything and knows exactly where to hit you where it hurts. For me, that was community, self-esteem, anxiety, and guilt.

It’s best pictured as a sword fight, where blow after blow the adversary cripples the knight until the knight cannot stand, and has only the power to call for help.

And my heart started to call. The hope that I held flickering in that corner tried to leap out with all it had left, sending showers of sparks into the room. I remember praying, “Lord, I’m in need of triage. I need you to come get me.”

The thing is – many of us read stories like these and assume that there were outward signs of such inward devastation. When a Millennial speaks to this kind of spiritual desert in Christian circles, there’s a naive assumption that, “Oh, this must have been manifested by behaviors in your life – drinking, doing drugs, sleeping around, spending way too much.”

For me, none of those things were true. Outwardly, my life looked like I was a model Christian taking strides forward. Inwardly, I felt like I was dying.

I’d guess that many of you can relate. And, may be using your outward progress as justification that your inward state is alright. It’s not.

You’re out of balance. That’s what it comes down to for me. Sure, there are other external factors that were contributing to my tired state. But it all stemmed from a spiritual imbalance.

So, that was the first thing that I had to (and am still striving to) get right.

Spiritual balance.

Making time for Jesus. Not hardening my heart to the pain, but giving the pain to him. I was anxious because I was trying to control everything instead of giving Him control. I felt like I couldn’t trust His heart, because trust only comes from spending time with someone.

Schedule balance.

I was working two jobs, blogging, taking on responsibilities of a Board Member, and trying to be helpful in additional family challenges outside of that. I’d often be working from 9a – 9p or 10p, getting home at 10:30-11p every night and feeling too exhausted to make dinner, let alone spend time with Jesus. I was working for others, but I was not taking care of myself – getting the eating habits, sleep, or exercise I needed.

And, as a pastor once told me, “If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re of no use to anyone else.” A-MEN. I had to let go of some things that were hard, and learn how to say, “No” to some things so I could say, “Yes” when it mattered.

Dietary balance.

I was living the lifestyle of “grab-and-go” which is great until it isn’t. I wasn’t getting the nutrients I needed to feel fueled and awake. I didn’t have time to prepare meals, so I was grabbing what I could when I could. Huh, reflective of my spiritual life then too 🙂

Intellectual balance.

I was highly “reactive” – trying to put out “urgent” fires and forgetting the “important” things. These are the things that I was passionate about, that fueled my soul. You can’t be entirely immersed in your areas of passion and let the other fires burn – that’s irresponsible. But, I was becoming a “doer” instead of a “thinker” – and, for an intellectual human, that’s dangerous. We must feed that inside of us which makes us feel alive.

That’s just a summary, but you get the picture.

Psalm 51: 16-17 says, “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.”

I love that. Heart-shattered lives. What a perfect way to describe what so many of us feel. That’s why we need a new heart. In the same Psalm, David asks, “Give me a new heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

David understood that this passion – this heart that we so desperately need – is a gift that must come from outside of us. Not our power, but His. This joyful spirit is a gift that Jesus is ready and willing to bestow to us.

I want to trade my heart-shattered life for this new heart full of life, don’t you? Will you join me in praying for that and striving for balance this week?

Grace & peace. xoxo

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The Dating Equation

One of the blessings of having lived in different states is that I have friends all over the country—and, that the rare times when I get to catch up with them face-to-face is so much sweeter! Last week, I had the pleasure of catching up with a few of my girlfriends—some closer than others in proximity, but all close in spirit. And, though we’re not all in the same life stages, “relationships” is a theme that’s consistently woven into the fabric of our conversations.

Relationships are tough to write about. They’re personal. They’re messy. And that’s why, to this point, I haven’t. But there are some things that have been on my heart for a bit, and I think it’s time to share them. From high school prom dates to the dating landscape of our 20’s—and marriage, for a few of us—our relationships have shaped our lives and the women that we are today. The boys and the men that have entered our lives have had enormous power to leave their mark on our hearts—and, our hearts continue to grow and shift in light of these interactions.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand that. I thought the equation was “me + him = 100%”. My heart, though I didn’t know it, was looking for someone to come along and complete it. That meant that, through the tumultuous world of dating, it was constantly shifting—who I was was constantly shifting—as I sought to be the someone worthy of completing.

That’s no way to live and, candidly, isn’t a fair expectation within any relationship. Nobody can take the pressure of being who they are, and completing someone else. What the equation should be, I’ve learned, is “me + him + God = 200%. or 250%. or 400%.” It should be the addition of two people who are wholly comfortable in themselves to create something greater than themselves, not two people coming together to create one whole person.

Does this mean that, when we realize the right equation, our hearts are impervious to the words and actions that others speak to them? No. So gentlemen – please do understand the privilege of having access to a girl’s heart. And ladies – be careful who you allow to hold your heart. The right relationship should not complete you, it should add to you both. Know who you are, so someone else someday can know how to add their 100% to yours.

 

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In other news – Kenzi-Caudill.com has a new Instagram account! Follow along at caudill.kenzi on Insta daily inspiration. (Honestly, I’m about 10425 times better at updating my Insta vs. the blog. BUT – hopefully that’ll change! In the meantime, I’d love to continue the conversation with you on social media 🙂 )

Staying strong in the struggle

“Walking around these walls, I thought by now they’d fall – but You have never failed me yet.”
I’ve heard it said that prayer is like chopping down a tree – one or two whacks won’t do it, it takes strength, commitment, and persistence. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise to you 🙂

 

And, we’ve seen that – haven’t we? When we are in the midst of the struggle and pray without ceasing for a month, or two, or twelve – and it takes what feels like an eternity – BUT! The answer does come, and it is indeed miraculous. What happens, though, when one year turns into three? Or five? In the spirit of complete honesty, there’s one thing that I’ve been praying for – passionately and persistently – for the past seven years. And, if anything, it feels like more of an impossibility today than it did seven years ago.

 

My heart feels like it’s been on the losing side of a fistfight and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t found myself crying on the bathroom floor a few times over recent years. So what happens when God feels distant, and we start to doubt His promises to us? Well, first – is He being distant, or are we? Have we grown skeptical, and started to pull away? Have we become so fixated on this one request that we’re blind to the blessings that He’s poured out in other areas of our lives? Do we doubt His power because He hasn’t yet answered one request, while we forget the hundreds of miracles and past prayers that He’s answered? The times He made a way when there was NO WAY? Do we doubt His goodness because we don’t see “the goods”? Do we doubt His timing and develop a preference for our limited understanding? Yes, it hurts when it feels like the cries of our hearts are unmet, and it’s desperately lonely in that place. It HURTS. And oh, dear heart, yes the loneliness hurts too. God doesn’t discount that – not for a minute.

 

But, He does ask us to trust. To bask in the overwhelming evidence that He IS good, and is always on our side. So tonight I make the resolution that how I feel won’t dictate how I follow. Will you join me?

 

“Your promise still stands, great is Your faithfulness. I’m still in your hands. This is my confidence – you’ve never failed me yet.”

3 Ways to Worship

A week ago Saturday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a super fruit smoothie and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: It happens.

Sunday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a super fruit smoothie and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: …are you serious.

Monday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a coffee and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Sure thing, coming right up!”

Barista, 2 minutes later: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: It’s a conspiracy.

Now granted, this is a trivial example (SERIOUSLY though – who is taking all of my bagels?!) — but, do you ever have days when it feels like #thestruggle is all too real? Raise your hand if you can relate.

KIDDING this is a blog—of course I can’t see if your hand is raised. But I can imagine that most of yours would be.

Now, we all have daily annoyances— like when your favorite coffee shop is out of bagels or you have to drink Pink Apple kombucha instead of Ginger or whatever that may be for you, but I want to dig deeper here.

Do you ever have days when it feels like you’re experiencing opposition on all sides? When it feels like you’re swimming against the current, and the number of things going wrong seem to outweigh the things you feel are going right?

Yeah, I’m with ya. Oh boy, am I with ya.

Can I be completely, no-holding-back honest with you for a moment here? This week has been one of the most challenging of my life.

Two weeks ago, I was wrestling with God because it felt like something core to my being, that I’d been praying for over a span of 7 years and desperately needed was nowhere in sight.

Two weekends ago, my teenage cousin (who is more like my little sister) was in a freak accident and her finger was ripped from her hand. Her lifelong dream of being a surgeon—not to mention her applications to medical school—were in jeopardy. Doctors said that her injury was a worst-case scenario at every step. Just two days before, she had texted me—thrilled that she was able to share the Gospel with some friends, and claiming “Even If” by MercyMe as her life song. And now, she was being rushed into emergency surgery.

On my way to be with my cousin, I walked into the parking lot to discover that my car had been in a hit-and-run accident.

…and so on and so forth.

Now, I firmly believe that if you’re living a Christian life without any opposition, you need to check yourself. The very act of living a Christian life means that you’re in the battle. Shining Light means that you’re a problem for the Darkness. Experiencing opposition means that you’re a contender.

Just ask Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Nehemiah, Esther, Paul, John—even Jesus.

Got it. So, then, we turn to 1 Corinthians 10:13: “All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you through it.” That is truth right there.

Still, what happens when it feels like you have reached that limit and there doesn’t appear to be a break in the battle?

GOOD QUESTION.

Fast forward in my week. On Sunday at church, the congregation was singing Chris Tomlin’s new song “Good Good Father”.

Now, I once had a pastor tell me that, even when we don’t feel like praising—that’s when we most need to lift our hands in worship because assuming the physical posture of worship will transform the internal posture with which we approach the Throne. I’ve found that to be 100% true in my life.

So anyways, returning to Sunday—“Good Good Father” comes on the speakers, and I lift my hands. I remember that I couldn’t even sing. I just stood there with my hands lifted, surrendering my broken heart to God with tears streaming down my face. I was silently praying, “God, I want to be in the battle, I want to be your soldier and not let the enemy take ground. But right now, it’s feeling hard to stand.”

How many of you have been there, too?

For me, the key part in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is, “He will always be there to help you through it.” You see, His limits are not our limits. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His power is not our power (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We so often cling to the portion that says “He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit”. We translate “your” into “our”—as in, us alone. We miss the second half of that equation.

It’s not “our” limit.

It’s our limit when we realize that God has given us His power through the Holy Spirit.

Then, the “limit” becomes infinitely greater. Just look at what Jesus says in Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” We no longer have to be dependent on our strength—the Savior of the World offers us His.

The situation goes from impossible to possible. We are able to go from being overwhelmed by our current situations, to being victorious because “all things are possible with Christ, who gives me strength.”

If you’re like me, you hear that and say, “That’s all well and good, but I’m still in the midst of the battle—how do I start? That seems like a stretch for me right now.”

First, remember that “worship” and “praise” are two different things – worship is an internal posture, and praise is an external expression. We’re called to live a life of worship, even when we’re not always “praising”.

Secondly, do these three things to yield the weapon of worship in the midst of your problems.

  1. Thanking God for His presence – knowing He’s there even when we don’t “feel” it, and inviting the Holy Spirit into you & your situation.
  2. Channeling your worries into prayers. (I love to do this by praying the Psalms – they remind me to shift my mindset and find peace in who God is, not just what I want from Him).
  3. Understanding that you have a weapon called praise, and that your choice to praise in the midst of your problems presents a problem for the enemy.

 

Take this to heart this week, and let me know what happens! Remember, sometimes God needs to move the mountain within you before the mountain in front of you.

Grace and peace.

A life of small indulgences

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse…Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:8-9

 

The origin of my “Small indulgences” philosophy

My Mint money management app – along with my financial planner – have always told me that ~30% of my monthly income should go towards rent.

 

HA. CLEARLY neither my app (which – of course – is not a person and therefore has never had to pay rent) nor my planner have ever tried to put this ratio to practice in New York. Starting out in the City, with bright eyes and a “big” salary…well, let’s just say that the minute you signed your first Upper West Side apartment lease, you realized that “big” may be a matter of perspective. For a while, that “30% ratio” became a joke worthy of SNL and you started realizing why everyone you met in the City had a side hustle.

 

Now, when you’re living on a budget, you start to develop certain “indulgences” since you can’t afford to eat out at Jean-Georges every night. For me, those indulgences came in three forms: wonderful candles, cozy socks, and cupcakes. After a hard day, I might even indulge in all three. I even had my favorite spots to grab each one – candles from Anthropologie, cupcakes from Magnolia, and happy socks from – you guessed it!  – Happy Socks down in SoHo.

 

While I frequently chose candles that smelled like floral fragrances or refreshing blends, I did have one guilty pleasure – Vanilla. Vanilla-scented candles were my weakness – I loved the smell, and never wanted to be without one. I didn’t cook (and still don’t, FYI) and the wonderful, warm scent would fill my apartment with its fragrance and make me want to curl up under a cozy blanket and dream lovely dreams. There was nothing quite like it.

 

On the other hand, however, there was also nothing quite like picking up a candle, reading the label, thinking to yourself, “oh this sounds excellent!”, slowly lifting the lid and…realizing that you just released an assault on your sense of smell. You replace the lid as quickly as possible, throw down the candle, and look at it like it had suddenly started talking to you and said something appalling. It’s an equally memorable and horrifying experience – one that makes you probably keep a radius from that candle for a good long time.

 

The beauty of a sweet aroma

 

 

You see, friends, the sense of smell is one of the most powerful we own. It allows us to fully appreciate the beauty of fresh flowers, and keeps us from making a mistake when our milk has gone bad. It’s a tool that allows us to surround ourselves with good things on the outside, and keep away things that would be bad for our insides.

 

In a similar way, the Bible says in 2nd Corinthians 2:15:

“For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

 

We are to be a sweet smelling aroma. We are to be God’s representatives on the Earth – something they seek to be around, and desire to have close to them. Something they recognize is different from the others out there, something of which they can’t quite get enough, and keep turning to in a desire to discover more.

2 Corinthians 5:20 even goes on to tell us that we are “God’s ambassadors”. For this ambassadorship to be successful – for us to fill the world with the sweet aroma of Christ – we have to start with adjusting what’s inside so we reflect who He is on the outside. For, “so a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).

 

Question to consider: Are you following the pattern in Philippians 4:8? How can you “meditate on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse”?

 

xoxo.

Live Epic: Choosing Joy

Do you ever have days that feel like the Friends theme song?

It can actually be a quite relatable and relatively accurate picture of #adulting.

Haha, no seriously. Regardless of how you feel about #RossAndRachel, we’ve all heard at it at some point or another and thought, “Yeahhh okay I’m there right now. My ____(job is a joke / I’m broke / my love life is D.O.A)_____.”

That’s never happened to you?! Come on. Well, I’ve lived the NYC adventure—and I’m happy to let you live vicariously through my experiences. I can tell you, those days happen.

So, what do you do when your day feels like Friends’ opening credits?

I see three options:

  1. Watch Friends. (Clearly you already are, if you’re thinking of the theme song. And we all know that HIMYM is a knockoff and Seinfeld just isn’t as good 😉
  2. Buy a pint of HaloTop (I recommend the Lemon Cake) and eat the whole thing.
  3. Listen to what James says in his book:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

I’d like to point out that the three of those options are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ve been known to do all of them in the same evening. (You’re not judging—you’re jealous and you know it.)

But, let’s focus in on the third (and most effective) option here. Particularly, the first four words of that verse:

“Consider it pure joy.”

That sentence holds true, regardless of which word you emphasize.

Consider it pure joy.” — Joy is a choice. Happiness is a feeling. It is possible—and Biblical—to choose joy, even when the world may say it’s okay to throw a pity party. Which leads us to…

“Consider it pure joy.” — Choosing joy does NOT mean that you’re turning a blind eye to the situation, or saying that everything is 100% A-OK. It very well might not be. It’s saying that you choose to trust the situation to the Lord, and you take joy in knowing He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

“Consider it pure joy.” — Nuh-uh, there’s no room for “sorta” or “mostly” here. James is presenting an all-or-nothing statement. You either trust the situation to God, or you don’t. You choose to focus on Kingdom purposes and His promises, or you choose to dwell in and become overcome by the struggle.

“Consider it pure joy.” — As Nehemiah so eloquently put it, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” If you allow your situation to sap you of joy, you no longer have one of the most powerful weapons God provided. Allowing your joy to get lost in life’s struggles eliminates your ability to be a contender for the Kingdom. If “The joy of the Lord is (my) strength”, and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13), then logic tells us that with God-given Joy we can do all things. Amen to that.

Let me encourage you friends – Choose joy. Choose to be a contender for the Kingdom. You see, friends, life’s situations and worldly forces have no power in your life except for the power that you give them. Yet, we hear Christians complaining all of the time about being kept down by their woes and foe—yet, this foe has already been defeated. Both in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 20:4) and New Testament (John 16:33), we’re told that Christ has already won the victory! So, if you feel like you’re being overcome by the #struggle, first take a look at your perspective.

Are you choosing joy? Are you remembering your “why”—why you live, why you make money, why you do whatever it is that you do? Are you acting from a place of submission to your situation, or victory over the struggle?

And remember, when it seems like choosing joy is a challenge, people are watching to see how you’ll react to your situation. You’re an ambassador of the King (2 Cor. 5:20). More on that to come… 😉

Grace & peace.

Live Epic: Finding Victory in the Valley

“When life gets tough, the tough get going.”

Or, so says the cliche. For me, though, there’s a crucial part that the phrase omits:

“When life gets tough, the tough get going to a movie theater & sneak in their own Starbucks.”

& at this point, you may be very confused. Or chuckling to yourself. Or see “Starbucks” as a synonym for “basic”.

Oh goodness, “basic” is about the last word that comes to mind when I think of my life right now. Nope, no-no. Not the case here.

Why do I slide into the cinemas myself? Well, because sometimes when your story gets tough, you want to step out of it momentarily and get lost in someone else’s.

I am wildly in love with stories. First and foremost, I feel like I was put on this Earth to be a storyteller.

In fact, I’ve actually crafted my life around it—in branding, I help companies tell their stories and become a positive part of the stories of their customers. In Pilates, I’m able to listen to people’s stories, and help them—even in some small way—to take steps closer to the story they’ve always dreamed about. In discipleship, I get the privilege of coming alongside others in realizing the story God has for them. In friendships, I’m blessed to be a part of other’s stories and do life together.

Everyone has a lens through which they view life. Some see it as more of an equation—“X+Y=Happiness”, as a pre-determined linear path, a sequence of small steps, or random shots in the dark.

I see life as a narrative—and I mean the big “LIFE” as in since the first breath was drawn, since before the beginning of human existence. It changed my entire perspective, actually, when I started reading the Bible that way—as a narrative, a story—instead of a list of “who, what, when” facts. It’s the difference between reading a thrilling novel vs. the encyclopedia. In fact, 40% of the Bible is written in narrative form—its the most common single type of writing.

All of that to say—for me, life is a story. My life is a story. Given my beliefs, my Biblical knowledge shows me that I was dropped into the midst of an epic story—and, my mantra since I was 16 was, “I fully intend to live an epic life.”

There was never an epic story about something safe and predictable. That would be the most boring story ever. There would be empathy in the struggle, no moments of joy. Nobody would pay money to go to the movies & see that.

In fact, within all great stories, the hero / heroine was always thrust into challenge or adventure instead of falling in-step with a life that was safe and predictable. They’re different and unique. The journey is often lonely, but they’re headed towards something greater. There’s a hope in their chest, and a knowledge in their heart that they were meant for more. They meet compatriots that share their purpose and laugh and walk with them on the way. At the end of the valley, there’s something that will bring fulfillment. That will validate their challenges. That will give meaning to their story.

But, so often we lose ourselves in the valley. We become so focused on the challenges that we completely lose sight of our calling. 

If you’re waiting for a mountaintop victory, you’re missing the point. God calls us to rejoice in all things. You see, so often for us, when our visions of victory don’t match our current situation, we lose heart. The victories aren’t always on the mountaintop—they come by choosing joy, and by choosing Him, every day. They’re not big leaps of faith, but small steps of obedience.

Embrace the epic story. Choose joy. And keep following Him to the victory.

Grace & peace.