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 🙂

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.

Jesus may not be who you think.

There are two types of people you cannot fool: kids and drunks.

 

So says Bill Murray. And Charlie Chaplin. AND Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong NYC.

 

And these people—who can sniff out a “faker” from a mile away and run the other direction—loved being around Jesus.

 

Evidence? Matthew 12:14. Matthew 8:1. Mark 5:21. Luke 9:11. Luke 14:25. And many more.

 

The big mystery—why?

 

 

The problem with my past perspective.

 

I’ll be real—when I used to read Jesus’ words in the Bible, my interpretation of them was tainted by the fact that I didn’t fully understand the person—or personality—behind them. The voice in my head was coming from the Jesus dressed in white robes, with a calm voice that had minimal inflection. He wasn’t always relatable to me, like a friend.

 

I understood who Jesus was in a religious sense—that He was the Son of God, lived a perfect life, and loved me enough to die on the cross for my sins. I could apply His words to my day-to-day.

 

But then it felt like I hit a wall. Religion? Got it. Relationship? …working on it.

 

If that Jesus in my mind would have suddenly materialzed and asked me to hang out on a Friday night, I would probably have said, “Um, okay.” It would have been more obligation than celebration.

 

It may just be me, but I’d venture to say a lot of Christians have been there.

 

 

The small thing that changes EVERYTHING

 

But why did kids and drunks and businessmen and families and hosts of other people love to spend time with Jesus?

 

I’d like to propose that it’s because there’s a little detail that will change your entire worldview…

 

Jesus has a personality.

 

WOAH. That’s what I felt like when someone said that to me. I realized that, until that point, reading my Bible had been like reading a text message without knowing the person who wrote it. Was that a snarky, “Be right there?” Was their, “You would” comment a joke or exasperation? How do I respond? THE STRESS.

 

So, Jesus has a personality…what does that mean?

 

My interpretation? Jesus laughed—often and out loud. That He was fun. That He would joke around with His disciples.

 

Look at John 21. The disciples, following Christ’s crucifixion, are feeling a bit aimless. What do they do? They go back to what they know—they go fishing.

 

Let’s pick up the story: “So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’”

 

Jesus had just conquered death and risen again and could have come back with trumpets blasting and horns blaring, surrounded by battalions of angels.

 

Instead, He casually stands on the shore, hands in His pockets and calls out to them. He knows they haven’t caught anything. He’s probably smiling a bit as He asks, knowing that they don’t even recognize what’s in front of them.

 

Once they do, He says, “Come and have breakfast.” And, He’s already got a campfire with breakfast cooking set up on the beach.

 

This Jesus spends bro time. This Jesus is extremely likeable.

 

In a recent study, researchers at UCLA asked subjects to rate over 500 adjectives based on their perceived significance to likeability. Contrary to popular belief, the highest ranked adjectives were not “gregarious”, “intelligent”, or “attractive”—they were “sincerity”, “transparency”, and “capacity for understanding another person”.

 

Based on UCLA’s findings, Forbes suggested innate behaviors that the most likeable people seemed to have:

  • They ask questions
  • They are genuine
  • They aren’t judgmental
  • They are consistent
  • They smile
  • They balance passion and fun

 

Jesus was sincere, transparent, understandable, inquisitive, genuine, smiling, passionate, and fun.

 

…am I allowed to think about Jesus with a personality? Is that sacrilegious?

 

OF COURSE YOU ARE. And NOT AT ALL.

 

The Bible says we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). The short version: we have a personality. Logic then says that God has a personality. God tells us to be cheerful. God is cheerful. And so on.

 

My original view of Jesus was like a car without an ignition. I could sit with it all I wanted to, but it wasn’t going anywhere.

 

Having the right view of Jesus makes relationship possible. He laughs with me, cries with me, passionately loves me. He’s not just the Jesus of my Sunday mornings, but of my Friday and Saturday nights. He’s not just the one I owe my life to, but the one I want to do my whole life with.

 

That’s my Jesus. Who’s yours?

Undone by love.

“I will sing until the miracle comes.” ~ Hillsong United

 

As I write this, I’m about 20,000 feet above the ground, somewhere between New York and Pennsylvania. The sun has just set, and the horizon outside my window looks like it’s on fire. The tears on my cheeks aren’t yet dry, and I’m at a loss for words.

 

My fellow passengers have sent me sympathetic glances here and there—I can only imagine they assume I’m crying because someone broke up with me or something catastrophic has happened. But that could not be further from the truth.

 

Before this month, I never knew that peace could bring you to tears. But now, it’s happened to me twice in the last two weeks. I’m awestruck by His desperate, astounding, unshaking love for me—love that delights in surprising me, and continues to go above and beyond to provide a future that isn’t just good, but is absolutely amazing. He loves me in a way that eliminates any need to strive, and so brings freedom, fills me with joy, and inspires confidence. He invites me to rest with Him, and to enjoy living in relationship with Him. I am in love with Him because of this love. It’s a love that can be trusted.

 

His love brings tears to my eyes, and I’m so thankful for the journey that has brought me here.

 

Don’t misunderstand me—these past few months have been full of challenges I never thought I’d face and battles I never thought I’d fight. Some have found me on my knees in prayer and others have driven me all the way down to the ground, lying flat before Him, with tears falling onto my bedroom floor.

 

Someone very wise once told me, “It’s okay to let God know you’re angry and frustrated. He’s big enough to take it.” I understand what that means now. Just like my earthly father, there are times I feel like I need something now and don’t see him working on it or moving quickly enough, so I make the entirely unfounded assumption that it’s not on his radar. That somehow, what’s important to me isn’t important to him anymore. Every time, my father will patiently listen to my ridiculous reasoning and desperation and, every time, answers me with one question: “Do you trust me?” “Yes, but—“ I’ll answer. “Ah,” he cuts me off. “No ‘but’. Do you trust me?”

 

For the past 23 years, each and every time I’ve jumped to the conclusion that my dad isn’t on the case, he has proved me to be egregiously wrong. He’s always working behind the scenes, going above and beyond to make sure don’t just have everything I need, but everything I could possibly dream of. My earthly father delights in surprising me and ensuring I always have more than I need, and the same is so true for my heavenly Father.

 

“Do you trust me?” That’s the question that I’ve found God asking me over and over in the last year. Sitting here on this plane right now, I can say, “Yes” without any hesitation or reservation.

 

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice!” That’s the key to life there, friends. I’ve met other Christians who seem entirely empty of joy—that they find no happiness or fun or excitement in their faith (and, some even seem to find it offensive that others do!). It’s the difference between religion and relationship. You can’t wholeheartedly trust someone that you don’t have a deep relationship with. And did you know—God wants better things for us than we want for ourselves! But, His ability to bring these things to us is entirely dependent on our faith in Him and His nature.

 

He loves us so desperately that He didn’t want to live without us, so He came down and took the pain we deserved so we could spend eternity with Him. He made this sacrifice for me, so I freely give Him my life.

 

I’m crying on a plane because He has written a story for me that is better than I could ever imagine, and I could not be more excited or confident to take this next step with Him.

 

“There isn’t any fear here, there isn’t any fear in love when You come.

There isn’t any heart here that you don’t want to overwhelm when you come.

I am speechless, but I can’t keep quiet.

I am wordless, but I can’t keep silent.

I’m lost for words to say. You take my breath away.

There isn’t any rush here, so I’m just going to wait on you and linger longer,

Because every time I find you, I’m a little more undone.

You move me, and I can’t define it.

You consume me, and I can’t describe it.

I am speechless, but I can’t keep quiet.

I am wordless, but I can’t keep silent.”

Wordless, Lauren Daigle

 

Thank you, Abba.

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!