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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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 🙂

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.

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