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 🙂

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 🙂 )

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

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.

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

5 Best Christmas Gifts Under $35

11 days.

If that number strikes fear into your heart, it’s probably a sign that you’re still scrambling to find the perfect Christmas gift. I get it.

In fact, I’m right there with you. Tough to believe, I know, because my last few blog posts have been full of fabulous places to shop and wonderful experiential ideas! You better believe that I’m planning to #shoplocal this weekend, and that there are some fabulous “experience” gifts waiting for family and friends under the tree…

…but, it doesn’t cover everybody. There are still people that are either A) so special or B) so selective that I’m still #desperatelyseekingpresents for! #TheStruggleIsReal.

And, I’ll be honest – with my move this year & just buying a new Jeep with cash, I’m a bit low on $$ too.

So, if you’re at all like me, here’s an early Christmas gift to you: my top 5 favorite gifts under $35 that you can order online today! This hour! This minute!

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(Photo credit: Rhea Kulcsar)

A brilliant ring from coveted NY designer, Rhea Kulcsar ($30)

I met Rhea while shopping at the Chelsea Market over the summer, and own a couple of her pieces – like the Gold Floating Crystals Ring and the Cylinders Bangle – which I LOVE. (I’m wearing the bangle right now, in fact!) If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas present that makes them say “WOW” without taking too much out of your Christmas spending budget, I’d suggest one of her many fabulous rings. Each is a work of art, but I’d suggest her Delicate Baguette Ring or her Moon + Star Adjustable Ring.

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(Photo Credit: Chemex)

A handblown Chemex Glass Mug ($16)

“The perfect balance of form and function.” Say “Chemex” to any coffee aficionado, and their eyes will immediately light up. It’s a high-end brand known the world over for its elegant coffee maker which has won design awards and “makes perfect coffee.” Their Coffeemaker Kits start at $59.70 – but, they also make a handblown glass mug with the same iconic Chemex design, and available for only $16! The best part: You don’t have to drink ONLY Chemex coffee in the mug 😉 So, it’s a safe bet for any coffee lover on your list – whether they have a Chemex or not!

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(Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens)

Tillandsia, or “Air Plants” (5 for $15)

The succulent craze has been sweeping the nation for years now—so why not gift your friends a tasteful terrarium with their very own air plant? Air plants are succulents – except, they grow and even thrive without soil. You can purchase 5 of them on Amazon for $15 ($3 / plant) and then purchase a 3-pack of hanging terrariums for $13! (Note: the air plants will not arrive in bloom yet, so it may be best to gift that one as a gift.) You can either give all five plants in three terrariums to the same person, OR this could become a gift for three people – making each one just $9-10 a piece!

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(Photo credit: Tarte Cosmetics)

Tarte Cosmetics Limited Edition Rainforest of the Sea Hydration Travel Set ($29)

I am a huge believer in Tarte Cosmetics. In the summer, I love to use their Foundation – made from Amazonian clay, the foundation lasts 12-hours, provides a soft matte finish, and is also vegan friendly. But, the winter causes skin to dry out, and you need a solution to take care of that, too! Enter the Tarte Limited Edition Rainforest of the Sea Hydration Travel Set – it includes customer favorites, like the Deep Dive Cleansing Gel, Drink of H2O Hydrating Boost Moisturizer, Pack Your Bags 911 Undereye Rescue Patches, and their 4-in-1 Setting Mist. And, all first-time Tarte buyers get $10 off their first purchase today if you sign up for their email list – so that brings the set to just $19!

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(Photo Credit: Saturdays NYC)

Saturdays Surf NYC Coffee ($13.50)

Saturdays Surf NYC has taken off as of late, and grown into a global fashion brand. It still holds true to its roots, though, and its start as a surf shop that sold coffee is still at the heart of the company’s philosophy. Give your coffee connoisseur a taste of the good life with a blend of beans from Saturdays NYC – just $13.50.