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

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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.

Three ways to “Live Free”: Open heart, open eyes, open hands.

I’ve spent a lot of time in conversation with God this week.

 

I don’t want to say I’ve spent a lot of “quiet time” with Him. Why? Because our chats have become rather continuous throughout the day and, well, when you’re talking to God while braving NYC traffic, that’s not usually quiet. It’s far beyond “devotionals” and it isn’t always “study” in the truest sense of the word—it’s really been a back-and-forth dialogue with the King.

 

It’s taught me even more how to invite Him into my everyday.

 

Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk who worked in his monastery’s kitchen, started his prayers with, “Lord of pots and pans and things…(The Practice of the Presence of God).”

 

In the last few weeks, Brother Lawrence’s prayer has triggered a profound revelation in my life. My God is not just the God of the big things or the immediate crises, but rather, He’s also the God of taxis and subways and things, of meetings and coffee and views and Pilates and air conditioning and oh so much more.

 

One of the most frequent mistakes we make as Christians isn’t something we’ve committed-rather, it’s something we’ve omitted: we forget to invite God to infuse our natural with His supernatural and make our ordinary, extraordinary.

 

How do we live life with this Kingdom perspective? Here’s the checklist He’s been revealing to me:

 

1. Open your heart to God’s plans for you.

We serve a God who despises “religion” and desperately desires relationship. He offers us the opportunity to live a life of freedom and joy, knowing that our soul craves connection with its Creator—and that He’s created us to fulfill and be fulfilled by a customized purpose in His Kingdom. It’s all there, in Matthew 11:28-30: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (MSG).”

 

2. Open your eyes, to see and steward His blessings.

God has given us the gift of wisdom and discernment, and living life in freedom does not mean living a life that squanders what He has given to us. This discernment is a tool to navigate the Christian life. In Philippians 1:9-10, Paul says, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so you may approve what is excellent and be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (ESV).”

 

 

3. Open your hands to live freely and lightly.

We are stewards of God’s resources, not owners (Hebrews 2:10, “Everything belongs to God, and all things were created by His power [CEV].”). These resources include our money, our apartments, our cars, our relationships—everything we’ve been given is a gift. And, if we open our hands to give these resources back to Him, He has promised to withhold no good thing (Psalm 84:11). Just look at the story of Job, who God blessed with twice as much because Job understood the steward / owner relationship. Isn’t that great news? We serve a God who desires relationship with us, wants to show us how to live freely, and who we can trust will not withhold any good thing from His children!

 

Hopefully this is an inspiration to you, too, as you start this week.

 

Grace and peace, friends!

Royalty.

Once upon a time in a land far far away, there lived a young Princess. She had beautiful long hair, bright eyes, and a brilliant smile. She had a joyful laugh that filled the hallways, and her songs carried throughout the chambers of the palace. To her father, the King, she was the most lovely girl in the whole land. She was his world—he ensured she had all that she needed, and she grew up learning to trust him, his heart, and his plans. He would often read her stories while she sat on his knee, and would throw back his head and heartily laugh at all of her jokes. She felt safe in his arms, and protected within his palace.

 

But one day, the King received word that the enemy was attacking, and there was a battle raging on the far border of his Kingdom. Though his heart broke to leave his daughter, he knew he had to go and conquer the enemy to keep his kingdom—and his princess—safe. He also knew that his Princess would never be safe in the palace by herself—there were those would seek to harm her to get to him. So, he sent her into hiding with her trusted nurse in the village. He hugged her, kissed her on the head, and said, “My dear, I’ll be back as soon as I can. Until then, stay with your nurse—do what she tells you, learn as much as you can, and continue to bring joy to the village as you can. Though they may not know, always remember that you are my daughter—the daughter of the King—and I love you very, very much.” And, with tears in his eyes, he rode off to go win the battle.

 

The princess awoke the next morning in the upstairs apartment of a village bakery instead of the palace. She opened the window, and her nose was immediately bombarded with the smell of chickens and pigs and her ears heard the hustling and bustling of the village. “Let’s get ready for the day,” said the nurse.

 

“Alright,” said the princess. “But, who will tie my shoes?”

 

“You will, dear. You’ll need to learn how,” said the nurse, gently.

 

“But who will make my breakfast? And who will brush my hair?” the princess pressed.

 

“Dear one, while we’re away from the palace, you’ll need to learn to do these things for yourself,” said the nurse.

 

The first few days were a challenge for the princess. She had to acclimate to her new situation, and overcome new challenges—waking early, getting dressed, gathering eggs from the chickens, grain from the stable, and milk from the cows—and learn how to make bread for sale in the marketplace. The first few days she fell over her poorly tied shoe laces, burned the bread, and got pecked by a few chickens. But as time went on, she grew to master these tasks, and even find her song while doing them. She looked forward to singing with her nurse and making bread every morning, which she would then take to the customers. She became known as a girl who brightened the village.

 

Seven years later, the King returned victorious—yet weary—from his battle on the Eastern front. He was excited to see his daughter, so he sent out a message throughout the land with his heralds, saying, “The King has returned for his Princess. Will the Princess please come to the palace this afternoon to meet her father?”

 

That afternoon though, instead of one girl, many girls arrived. All were dressed in fine gowns with jewels and silks, tiaras and pearls. The King looked out over the ballroom full of girls and felt weary—where was his daughter?

 

“My soldiers are weary from a long journey,” he said. “Will one of you please sing them a song?”

 

“Let the servants do that. I’m a princess,” said one girl.

 

“I’m so parched from the journey, will any of you bring me a glass of water?” he tried again.

 

“I don’t do that—that’s for the kitchen staff. I’m a princess,” said another.

 

The King sighed heavily and shook his head. But, then, he looked up to see a girl dressed in a simple pink dress step through the crowd. She wasn’t dressed like a princess, but rather in clothes from the village.

 

“I’ll sing for your servants,” she said softly, “and I’ll bring you water after your long journey.”

 

In the grace, love, and beauty of her spirit, the King recognized his true daughter. He picked her up and swung her around, saying, “I love you more than anything else in my Kingdom. You’ve grown into a woman with a heart of grace, mercy and wisdom. You are my true daughter—my heir—and with that, you have access to anything you desire in all of my Kingdom.”

 

 

 

My mother used to read me this story of The True Princess (originally by Angela Hunt) every night when I was a child, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not a book for children. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to see that we live in a world where, as women, we’ve searched for worth and value in the wrong places, and those wrong places give us underwhelming and often hurtful answers. We settle and start to define ourselves by those reinforced perceptions. We can feel empty or materialized, or feel a need to strive to prove ourselves as though our value depends on what we can do.

 

We live in a world where the concept of royalty can be hard to grasp—but that’s just what we are: Royalty.

 

We are Princesses. Daughters of the King. Heirs to His Kingdom. A woman is made in God’s image, as a reflection of His beauty and peace (Genesis 1:27, Song of Solomon 4:7).

 

Here’s three things that it means to be royalty:

 

  • Your title gives you status.

You are a Princess. This means that you can walk with confidence and poise, with your head held high. You are not striving or seeking love, value, or position—you already have it in your King and His Kingdom. Being royal means that you don’t forfeit your dignity—that you don’t listen to voices that don’t recognize your status, and you don’t settle for those who don’t treat you with the respect you deserve. You don’t need validation or to reach out in desperation—you are protected. You are strong. You are secure.

  • Your position gives you power.

Being royalty means you have the right to step into the throne room any time of any day, and ask the King for exactly what you need. You can act in His name, and knowing that you have His power behind you. Not only that, but you can feel comfortable in the throne room because you have a King who loves you, wants to bless you, and put all the riches of His Kingdom at your disposal. You have a King who holds nothing back (Psalm 84:11).

  • Your duty gives you purpose.

As the King’s daughter, the furthering and protecting of His Kingdom becomes your purpose. You are called to be brave, and you will ride alongside Him into battle. It sounds like such a great idea, until you’re asked to wield a sword or face the lions. When those times come, you must remember that they are not a questioning of your position, but rather an attack against your position. The enemy knows your power, and the power of your Father, and will seek to tear you down. But we can go into each battle with the assurance that the victory has already been won (John 16:33). The King is the most powerful, and you are His child. He created you, and He chose you!

 

So, dear hearts, go out today and live like the royalty you are. Remember whose you are, and what you are. Act with the power of the King.