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 🙂

Living the Epic.

“We live in a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen—and wonderful things, too. It is a world where goodness is pitted against evil, love against hate, order against chaos, in a great struggle…Yet for all of its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily every after. That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy takes, which is the claim that it is true. That it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still.” ~ Frederick Buechner

 

“Christianity tells us that He has set our hearts’ longings within us, for he has made us to live in an Epic.” ~ John Eldredge

 

 

I fully intend to live an epic life.

 

I grew up taking amazing adventure roadtrips with my family. We’d all jump in the car, pick a direction on the map (e.g., “North!”) and take off for weeks without a definitive destination—just on a search for adventure. So, I grew up learning about the pirates on the North Carolina coast, exploring outlaw hideouts in the Badlands, or following the trail of Louis and Clark. I’d ride horses through the mountains of Wyoming and daydream that I was riding with cowboys, or fly biplanes and feel like I was the pilot of a fighter jet.

 

I realized at a young age that adventure is what makes a great story. Not just a great story—an EPIC story.

 

So, at the age of 16, wandering through Durango, CO, I turned to my mom and said, “I fully intend to live an epic life.”

 

It’s been my life mantra ever since.

 

Epic stories are woven into my heritage—my very being. Shakespeare wrote Macbeth about my Scottish relatives. My great, great, great, great, great grandfather was a pirate who sailed with Blackbeard. My great, great, great grandmother was a Cherokee princess. My grandmother left her hometown at age 16, went to Washington D.C. with only a suitcase, and started working with the FBI. To this day, she still has a letter written personally to her signed by J. Edgar Hoover.

 

But I think my deep desire to “Live Epic” goes deeper than that.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has set eternity in their heart.” There’s something more we were created for—we feel a longing, a desire for something more. It’s like that twilight between night and day—in our most intimate moments, we feel like we’re on the precipice of something monumental, we sense that something epic is happening, and we’re supposed to—no, we long to—have a role in it.

 

That’s because there is an epic story going on right now. A battle between light and darkness, with a Villain who will stop at nothing and a victorious Hero who romances our hearts. In this very moment—right here, right now—a war is being waged for that which is most sacred to us, our hearts.

 

God has placed this desire within my heart, this intimate longing for something more because it exists—it’s out there, and He has it waiting. He wants you to embrace the call to Live Epic.

 

So, here’s the challenge. We live in a world that strongly encourages us to think differently about this. To go for what’s comfortable and familiar.

 

Have you ever met a little girl that dreamed, “When I grow up, I just want to find someone I’m comfortable with and settle down.” Or a little boy that said, “When I’m older, I just want to find a job that pays the bills.”

 

Oh goodness, I sincerely hope not.

 

But, I was recently talking with a friend of mine the night before her wedding. “Have you found your Prince?” I asked. She paused (which I didn’t expect). “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know if I could say I’m in love with him, but he’s comfortable.”

 

Friends, when did we reach a point in life where we sacrificed our calling for what’s comfortable?

 

It’s so easy to slip into the mindset of “settling”—and so easy, in fact, we might not even realize we’re doing it.

 

When did we lose sight of the story?

 

I’m speaking from experience here. And, a moment of honesty—I’ve always desired for my epic life to include an epic romance.

 

But, when you find yourself at home on a Friday night while one friend is out with her husband, another is wedding-planning with a fiancé, and even your parents are out to dinner, it’s easy to slip into a mentality of, “Okay, so I said ‘epic’, but maybe ‘epic’ really means that guy from across the hall that’s mostly okay?” And soon, you don’t even realize that you’re settling because you’ve totally lost your place in the story. You even strive to settle. And, oh, dear, that never works out well.

 

Everything has its place in the story.

 

My mom is a musical theater director, so when I was little, we used to have a closet full of costumes. I’d spend DAYS dressing up like Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia or Robin Hood or Piratica—turning my couch into a pirate ship or blankets into a fort deep within Sherwood Forest.

 

What if Aslan had given his life for Edmund at the beginning of the story? Would it have had the same meaning? Would it even make sense?

 

What if Belle had met the Beast, well, before he was the Beast? The Prince would never have been transformed, and the Kingdom would have never been saved. She might have even decided that he was a mostly selfish jerk with no manners and never have gone on a second date.

 

When you lose sight of the Epic story, you compromise your Epic life.

 

I’m working on trusting God. It’s something I always think I have under control, then an event will happen and I’ll be like, “Mmmmm okay maybe not.” I’ve even fallen into the trap of, “Maybe after I learn this lesson, this will happen!” or “Maybe I haven’t prayed hard enough.”

 

But really, maybe it’s just not the right time in the Story. My Kingdom focus—winning the war—has been compromised over a single battle.

 

To be honest, I have no idea. But I do know that Living the Epic Life I’ve always desired means allowing the Author to write the story. Surrendering to His timeline, because He who set and fuels the desires of my heart will be faithful to fulfill them.

 

Live Epic. Always.

When things get hard, give up.

You read that right.

 

“I need direction, soon, that’s clear beyond the shadow of a doubt.” ~ July 12th, 2016

 

The words seemed to ring with confidence and assurance—a proclamation, a bold inquiry of God, a place where I was staking my claim. My way of saying, “Lord, move here.”

 

Exactly one week later, I sat on an American Airlines flight out of Newark. It was midnight. It was raining. I had gone through four cancelled flights and three standby flights that I didn’t make within a seven hour time span. I had cried in front of a flight attendant. I was supposed to be flying into Fort Wayne. At midnight, I sat on a last-ditch effort flight into Chicago, with a four hour drive home ahead of me once I landed.

 

Talk about a detour.

 

To make matters worse, the ceiling above my seat started leaking mid-flight. On an entirely sold-out flight. It was like a steady drop of rain just “plop, plop, plop”-ing into my lap as I tried to sleep. The flight attendant just looked at me helplessly and handed me a few cocktail napkins to wipe up the drips as they came.

 

I finally landed, climbed in the car, and turned on the stereo for some company on the long 4 hour drive back to Indiana.

 

Except the stereo was broken. The iPhone adapter didn’t work. The radio didn’t work.

 

Nothing was working.

 

I had been joking with my mom all day that there was really nothing else that could go wrong. That things had to finally be looking up.

 

But forget clarity. I would have settled for a working car stereo.

 

That phrase is the problem: “I would have settled…”

 

How often do we say that in our own lives. We often jokingly say, “I’d settle for this” or “I’d settle for that” when our ideal isn’t present. It may be settling for a job, car, or relationship. It may even be settling for a sub-par cup of coffee or any Friday night plans to save us from another Netflix binge.

 

You get the picture.

 

But saying “I’d settle…” implies that we’d settle for whatever is within our power at the moment. Sometimes, this need to “settle” even motivates our drive to strive. Yes, relating the two seems counterintuitive. However, if we are forced to “settle”, we want it to be the very best we could settle for. So we continue to work tirelessly towards the best job we can achieve, the best relationship we could have, the best car money can by.

 

We strive so that when we have to settle, we’ll at least be as happy as we can have made ourselves. We become “human doings” instead of “human beings”.

 

That’s the problem. “Settling” only happens when we remove God from the equation. I think the word “settle” makes God cringe. Actually, I think it makes Him angry.

 

He doesn’t want us to settle in the least. He doesn’t want us to only have what we can offer in our own power—even if we work our whole lives to achieve it. He loves us so much—we are His children, and He doesn’t even want “settling” to be in our vocabulary. He wants to infuse His supernatural power into our natural lives and bless us beyond what we can even imagine today.

 

When things seem impossible and it seems like we want to settle, He wants us to give things up—to Him.

 

Give it up to God when things get hard.

 

On July 12th, I had prayed for clarity beyond the shadow of a doubt. And on July 19th, the only thing I had clarity on was that I needed to entirely give things up to God. That’s incredibly scary for me. I say that I trust God and trust His heart, but I also most trust others when I’m actually in control of what’s going on. When I’m sure everything will be okay, because I have the power to make it that way. And I had to confront the question that asked if settling for what’s in my power is worth sacrificing what God’s best is for me.

 

Is settling for what’s in your power worth sacrificing God’s best for you?

 

The short answer: absolutely not.

 

C.S. Lewis once said, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

 

Giving God control means that I may have no idea what the upcoming plans are for renovation, or what the blueprints look like for the future. There may be piles of rubble where I throw up my hands and say, “I have no idea what you’re doing here. Why did we need to take this down? That wall was perfectly good there.”

 

But maybe God knew that there was mold living in that wall that needed to be torn out. Or, that that wall was actually supposed to be a door.

 

God says, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”

 

If I trust His heart, I’ll trust His plans. I give up to Him.

 

Would you rather be a cottage, or a palace?