An Uplifting Tale: Life isn’t what I make it

I’m going to tell you something that hit me upside the head today: Life is not what I make it.

WAIT WAIT HOLD ON. 93% of you just started to continue to scroll down your Insta feed thinking, “Psh Mac I don’t have time for this Eeyore mentality. There’s @liketoknowit outfits to screenshot and cozy sweaters to covet.”

I agree with you, 110%. There’s too much beauty in this world to be stuck in the quagmire of our own anxious thoughts.

That’s why I’m standing today by the statement, “Life is not what I make it.”

A couple of nights ago, I texted friend just before going to sleep with a message that said something like, “Every cell of my body feels stressed.”  Have you ever been there? Had those times when your mind has your heart in a vice grip and it feels impossible to feel the sweet release of relaxation? Nope, it’s just me? Ha, okay 😉

I hated that feeling so much that I decided to conduct an experiment the next day. Every time I felt stressed or anxious, took a quick mental note and asked myself a quick series of questions:

  1. “Beyond prayer, is there anything I am personally capable of doing to fix the situation?”

If no, then I lifted it up to God and shut the stressor down right there.

If yes, then I continued:

2. “What are the steps I need to take immediately to fix the problem?”

Think about how many of your daily anxieties can be fixed with one text, call, or Google search. Minimum: 73%. So, don’t put it off – do it right then. Then, be FREE (until you get a response – then start back at question 1).

I’m also the queen of spending hours wording the perfect text or email. But remember – perfect is often the friend of the procrastinator, and the enemy of productivity. Identify what’s required, say “Good enough.” and send it. You have my permission. You’re welcome.

If you need to take steps that you can’t take immediately – say, when you get off the airplane or wake up tomorrow – write them down. A to-do list tames the abstract beast of anxiety looming in your brain. Think–turning a tiger into a purring kitten. Write the step. Then leave the stress.

Continuing:

3. “Will my stress in and of itself—elevated heart rate, tension, etc.—fix the problem?”

That answer is always NO. Actually, it only makes everything worse because you’re thinking clearly. And, if it makes it worse, then that’s something else for you to stress about…END THE CYCLE.

With those three questions, the situation goes from mountain to molehill because THE THINGS WE CANNOT IMMEDIATELY FIX ARE NOT WORTH OUR IMMEDIATE WORRY. And, I gave myself the ability to do the following:

  • Realize and release what I can’t control.
  • Develop a game plan to attack what I can.
  • Diffuse my physical reaction to the stressful stimulus. 

 

Is there a lot happening in my life right now? Sure. But, I was allowing my stress to color my perception of reality and was becoming weight down with things that were / are beyond my control.

 

So I realized today that my life is not what I make it. Stress is like sunglasses – remove them to see the real colors around you. Life is usually better than stress makes it seem – and, you’re doing better than you think you are 🙂

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The view from the passenger seat

Sitting in the passenger seat of a car with no brakes and no driver, hurtling down a steep mountain road with lots of hairpin turns and no guardrails.

The ideal:

Isn’t that sometimes how it feels when something in life is beyond your control? I prefer to be in the driver’s seat—accelerating when I want to, tapping the brakes when I want to, taking in at a scenic outlook when I want to, stopping for Starbucks when I want to. That’s my preference. My fate is in my hands. I am able to protect myself. The twists and turns my life takes are up to me—not someone else—and I can take a different path when I want to, turn when I want to, or hit reverse whenever I’d like. Having control over what happens in my life is one place where I find security, empowerment, and freedom.

The reality:

Have you ever realized in life, though, that someone else may have taken the driver’s seat? Sometimes you willingly hand over the keys, other times you don’t even realize it until you find yourself longing to take back the wheel. It’s part of why close friendships and relationships can be scary—because whether you may have intended to or not, you’ve strapped your heart into the passenger seat and let someone else drive the car. And let’s be honest—the reason there are backseat drivers is because nobody trusts anyone else’s driving style. It’s always the backseat driver saying “turn here!” or “slow down!” or buckling their seatbelt after a particularly fast turn with a pointed look towards the driver.

Over the weekend, I discovered that there are some places where I’ve put my heart in someone else’s passenger seat. And that can be an awesome adventure! But it can also be super scary, because your heart is your life. The brain can’t function without it, you can’t go anywhere without it—it fuels your thoughts and guides your movements. And giving someone else the privilege of protecting it is nerve-wracking. What they do with it is beyond your control. It may take time before you get to know their driving style and understand where they’re taking it.

In truth though, I’ve come to learn that, in life, it’s impossible to have control all of the time. The world does not start and stop around you, and other people’s lives are still happening in other places. You may be waiting for a message or a result, for a response or for affirmation. It takes time.

The truth:

And I’ve come to learn the that the only driver that I can ever trust with my heart, completely and entirely, is Jesus. I can trust that He will defend and protect it, that He knows the scenic overlooks that will make my heart swoon, and He knows what turns to take.

And my trust doesn’t come through the knowledge of His omnipotence, it comes because I’ve experienced His love. I know that He loves my heart enough to go through Hell for it, to die for it. That He’s always thinking about it and never wants to be without it.

Isn’t that such beautiful hope, friends? That there is one who is always in control so that I don’t have to be, and that my trust of Him—letting Him take the reins, is actually my source of freedom.

“I trust in Your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.” ~Psalm 13:5

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.

4 epic dates for days when going outside is just too much

With the holidays officially wrapped and New Year’s here & gone, we’ve officially entered that time in Winter that seems like a struggle. Rain tumbles down like a monsoon, the melting snow takes on a grayish hue, and the cold weather permeates your coat, gloves – and even your soul.

It may seem a bit overdramatic, until you’re walking 25 minutes home from work in NYC, jostled by all the people, annoyed by the traffic and, when you finally reach your apartment, it feels like a fortress away from all of the cold & craziness below.

Midwesterners, we feel the pain too – that trudge to the car, blowing on your hands as you wait for your car heater to warm up, & shivering as you make a run for it into work.

Long story short – wherever you are, there are days — and dates — that you just want to stay inside.

So, here’s 4 must-try ideas for epic stay-at-home dates.

These are pure gold, & a few of my all-time favorites. Try them – or put your own spin on them – and let me know how it goes!

Pillow fort movie night

Movie night is awesome. Movie night in a pillow fort is better.

Step 1: Choose your location – the living room is always a classic.

Step 2: Lay your foundation. Decide if you’ll want something to lean up against – like a wall or a couch. Spread out a down comforter or cushy blanket, & pull out all the pillows to make chilling with bae as comfy as possible!

Step 3: Top it off! This isn’t just child’s play – there’s real engineering involved! Get creative for how you create the roof of your tent – pull in chairs, couches & other pieces of furniture to create your ideal tent. Secure sheets & blankets with things that will be easy to remove – like laundry clips, rubber bands, and string.

Step 4: Get cozy. Pull your favorite blankets & pillows in the fort – even experiment with different colors / textures. String up some LED lights for maximum ambiance / instal-potential.

Step 5: Line up your refreshments. Who ever heard of movie night without popcorn? For something out of the ordinary, try Skinny Pop (LOVE the Naturally Sweet kind) or Poptique Gourmet Popcorn (a Ft. Wayne favorite!). & pro-tip: use a dining tray to keep everything neat & tidier.

Step 6: Lean back & enjoy the movie on your TV or a computer – whichever best fits your fort.

v dope. v chic. #ki date night in.

Cozy living room campfire

Spread out a faux sheepskin rug (like this one for $24), get your coziest blankets that make you feel like you’re at a lodge in colorado, and cuddle up in the living room. A fireplace is always a great option here, but if you don’t have one, here’s a fabulous little-known (and perhaps even better!) secret – a hibachi grill ($12). (Fuel is usually available at a local home improvement store.) Kabob skewers work well for roasting sticks – so get chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows & make your own s’mores.

Transport yourselves to an exotic location

Choose a country you’ve both been dying to visit. Set out a few trinkets reminiscent of that destination, or transform your apartment for the night – it’s up to you! Find a favorite recipe from the region, and make dinner / dessert together. Pop open a beverage or bottle of wine from that country, cue up a film about the country, and settle in next to each other for a brilliant evening staycation.

Example – Italy. I love to make a delicious focaccia, open a bottle of red, light my stone pillar candlesticks from Italy, and curl up in front of Cinema Paradiso.

Bond over nostalgia

Pick a decade – whether the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s. Go to the local music store and grab a few vinyl albums / cd’s of your favorite bands from that era. On the way home, stop by a local vintage store & choose outfits for each other so that you’re style matches the night’s theme. If it’s your thing, you can even look up the most popular drinks of the decade & take your hand at making / mixing them together! Have a dance party to the decade’s greatest hits. Then settle in the living room with a board game from “back in the day”, or a TV show about the “good times”. A few ideas – check out Netflix’s new series about the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, That 70’s Show for – obviously – the 70’s, Stranger Things for the 80’s and, Friends for the 90’s!

Kissing God

I was drinking coffee this morning.

…just like everybody else, you’re thinking to yourself. You’re right. Drinking coffee is a morning ritual religiously observed by millions of people around the globe. Drinking coffee isn’t at all unusual.

The fact that I’m drinking coffee—now that’s strange. Oh sure, I love using the phrase “get coffee” as a synonym for “spend time”. As in, “let’s go get coffee”. But then, when the moment of truth comes, I’ll walk up to the counter and the barista will say, “What can I get for you today?” And I, without fail, will say:

“I’d like a grande non-fat vanilla chai.”

It’s a running joke for those who know me well. They get a kick out of it, and I just stand there saying, “Ha, yes, that’s hilarious. Sure. Yep. So funny.”

…I digress. But I say all of this to illustrate how unusual it is for me to be drinking coffee this morning.

Friends, I’m tired. So tired that I felt the need for this unheard-of extra morning jolt. So tired that I dream of the day when I can get to sleep while the single digits are still on the clock. Just physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally exhausted.

Something I’ve noticed about myself: when I reach this point of exhaustion, it’s easy for my spiritual life to slip into the mode of “religion” as opposed to “relationship”.

And I’ve found that, for me, it’s impossible to love a religion. Sure, I can follow a religion, but it’s more out of duty than desire. God never intended for our connection with Him to be one of knowledge-based obligation – He created it to be a relationship of deep romance and love.

Just like a lover might whisper, “I love you, I desire to be with you, I long to spend time with you” – so I felt God saying this to my heart for the last week. So on Sunday, I sat down with my bearskin blanket and warm mug of tea. I opened my book* to these words: “What do you think of when you hear the word worship?”

Friends, what do you think of when you hear that word? Church, hymns, words of praise, prayers, psalms, guitars?

These are the outward forms of worship. How worship manifests itself.

I was intrigued by what I was reading, and continued on. The author asked, “What’s at the heart of worship?”

The answer? A secret. A wonderful, intimate, romantic secret.

There’s a word found in the New Testament scriptures, and appears only in the Greek translation. The word: proskuneo.

By definition, this word means “to kiss”. Therefore, true worship is to kiss.

What’s a kiss? It’s the most intimate of acts – one that we long for, that makes us tingle inside, that makes our heart soar. Something that makes the wrong, right and transforms any moment.

To worship God is to kiss God – the most intimate thing we can experience.

And, a true kiss is never done because of duty or obligation – it’s done because of an outpouring of the heart. It’s driven by joy, it brings joy. It’s an expression of love.

Kissing God.

I took it in, letting it all wash over me. I was humbled by the idea that I had the privilege to have this connection with God – to worship Him, to “kiss” Him. Not only the privilege, but that He desired it from me – that time, that intimacy, that aligning of spirits. That He is the Creator of the Universe and the Savior of the World – and at the same time, the Lover of my soul. The one who crafted its in’s and out’s, deepest fears and longings, and that His word & work in my life is His love letter to me.

Even in my most tired, exhausted moments, I am living loved, passionately and unconditionally.

“Let Him lead me to the banquet hall, and let His banner over me be love.” ~Song of Songs 2:4

*From Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn

Free falling

The hatch on the side of the plane slid open, and the wind rushed in with a strong “whoosh”. I held up one hand to shield my eyes against the blaze of sunlight, and felt someone firmly take hold of the other.

“Step forward now, a little closer to the edge,” shouted my companion over the roar of the plane’s engines. He must have sensed my hesitancy, because he put his arm around my shoulders and whispered, “Don’t be scared, I’m jumping with you.”

“Now, are you ready?” he asked. I steeled myself and stepped towards the edge.

“1…2…3…GO!” He took my hand and, together, we leapt out of the plane.

*                          *                     *                     *                   *                  *                  *                   *

“Are you ready?”

This story illustrates the state of my life for the last three months or so. I took the proverbial leap—one week, I was signing a lease to stay in NYC for another year. The next, I was moving halfway across the country. Certainties had evaporated, and impossibilities were not only becoming probable—but had taken the shape of contracts and dotted lines.

Never would I have thought that I would be where I am now.

I’ve never been more sure that where I am now is in the midst of His plan – poised for what comes next.

 

I’m not the same person I was four months ago. There have been times of almost unbearable pain and hardship. There have been victories beyond belief.

 

In the coming weeks, I’ve dedicated myself to writing it all down so that the miraculous will never become overshadowed by the mundane.

 

Thank you in advance for journeying with me. Peace & Blessings, Kenzi.