Just Do It… or not…

Just Do It… or not…

We are going to go there. “Go where?”, you ask. THERE. The unveiled place. The naked place. The sex place…(hands fly to cover mouths as great big inhales of air sound out in alarming gasps, cheecks blush a crimson red, and my Catholic brothers and sisters make the sign of the cross). “Isn’t this a taboo topic for a Christian?”. It can be and sometimes is, but that’s the whole point in bringing it to the table. WHY is it taboo? WHY do we feel like the moment we have a sexual thought or inclination we have to grab the holy water and exorcise the “sin” right out of us?

For years (almost 14 to be exact) I saw sex as a very exclusive act that only belonged in the context of marriage. Anyone participating in sex outside of marriage was sinning big time and surely would not garner God’s favor until they repented and cleaned their act up. Because of this, any sexual thought or desire I felt was rebuked harshly and treated as a snare of the devil designed to entrap me. While I do believe that God has created healthy parameters in which we can safely express our sexual selves, I do not believe He meant for us to treat it as the unpardonable sin and deny that He created us as sexual beings.

Forgetting that we are made of mind, spirit, and BODY can cause much unnecessary guilt and torment when we experience very healthy and natural biological desires. At the same time, forgetting that we are made of MIND, body, and SPIRIT can cause much unnecessary emotional and spiritual pain and disconnect if we express our sexuality carelessly and treat it as a purely physical thing. So what is the answer? Just do it, or not?

To be honest, I don’t think that I can answer that for you, or you for me. As in many things, I think we need to humbly accept our humanity and acknowledge that we were created with a biological inprint to desire intimacy and sex. We were built for connection and both our chemical and neurological make-up proves this. Likewise, we can’t deny that we were created with emotions and a spiritual connection to God as well; exclusively connecting to one and not the other creates imbalance.

It saddens me that so many people are hiding away riddled by guilt and shame because of their very real human desire for sexual connection. Many are taught to just deny it versus finding healthy ways to discuss it. It also saddens me that many are hurting and wounded over not understanding the emotional and spiritual components that come along with their sexuality. Neither repression nor careless expression seem to be the answer.

So where do you land on this topic? Help us all out here and chime in with your thoughts below ūüėČ

 

RomCom

RomCom

(Image taken from Google Images- Plugged in Movie Review)

Cue the lights. Camera focuses in on the faces of two apparent lovers. There is intensity in their eyes, and by the expression on his face he is confused. The countenance of hers is laced with familiar anxiety mingled with a determined effort to remain strong. Her world has been flipped upside down lately. Years of securing her little box of hurts with clenching white knuckles has become too much. As her fingers slip abruptly in surrender, the lock busts open and the content of the box shamelessly spills out in the broad light of day. With no blanket of night to cover herself, she is entirely exposed.

Trembling hands accompany her effort to pick up the fragmented pieces. There are so many, and she is not certain of how they all fit together. Some seem vaguely familiar, others appear as cloaked strangers. She had buried them for so long that her mind has no concious memory of them. Regardless, fingers pinch and grasp at every small particle she can find. She wants to keep it together. She NEEDS to keep it together, but the only way to the other side of this is through. She must walk through it.

Uncertain of the journey, she attempts to take a step forward. As clumsy feet begin to flail and thump, loving hands grab hold to steady her. These are the soft, familiar hands of a loved one. Hands that have held her, stroked her hair, wiped her tears. Hands that have always extended forth to offer security and a safe place to fall.

As day turns to day, one stretching forth into another, many such hands thrust forward with their offerings of love and support. Ears become attentive, words become soft, hope is hailed in confident tones. She is loved. She is stronger. Striding forth with purpose on the path of “through”, she is mindful that one is unaware. He is so new, and their love is so fresh … just a sprout. Can such a small thing, an infantile and immature thing, bear such a weight?

Gathering the pieces in her hands she lays them out before him as an offering, “Can you love all of these?”, she vulnerably asks. His voice softens, hesitates a bit, and honesty peppers his words, “I will do the best that I can.” Not heroic, but honest. She loves honest. She takes a deep breathe and surrenders herself to the unknown.

Some days feel almost “normal” again, others, her mind swims in a sea of unbridled emotion and torment. She seems to swing from one pole to the other, uncertain if she is facing North or South. Her family listens well, therapist helps shrink¬†the brain, Jesus comforts her soul, and on some evenings her fresh love, that infantile and immature one, holds her in his arms… and she feels loved.

Weeks. Days always blend into weeks. Therapy continues, job resumes, Joy returns to contend with North and South; most times Joy wins, there are moments that he loses. ¬†Fear, anxiety, and panic — the faithful three — attempt to visit often, but she is still standing. No more running. Just determined to walk through. Her family listens well, therapist helps shrink the brain, Jesus comforts her soul, and the weight begins to bend the sprout, press against the fresh love — that infantile and immature love, and she spends less time in his arms.

This journey has taught her intuition. The ability to listen to herself and offer trust. This is something she was suspicious of before. How does the “deep” her know more than the her that wears the skin? No explanation. She just knows it to be so, and decides to follow it out.

Serious, yet gentle voices speak to one another. “Deep” her asks the new love if the sprout is beginning to succumb to the weight of the open box. The truth is, she understands if it has. After all, it is just a new thing, a fresh thing, an infantile and immature thing. Such things can scarcely bear the weight of themselves, yet alone the load of an emptied box such as hers.¬†But still there is hope. Sprouts can be surprisingly strong, though not commonly so.

The new love confirms the intuition with loving and gentle words. As painfully as the ear receives them, she is aware that they are pregnant with wisdom. She knows that he is right. As much as she doesn’t want it to be so, so it is. She allows herself to feel. To cry. To hurt. She decides not to bury it deep, to create a new box where all her hurt can be locked away until something forces it to the surface.¬†There is a slight moment when she wonders, “Is this the part where he runs frantically to my house, tears open my front door, and professes his undieing love for me? Where we both mockingly laugh at wisdom and say ‘love conquers all’?”. But this is not a RomCom, and they are not Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates. She is she¬†and he is he.

So… she lets go. She surrenders. She accepts. She prays God’s best for him, and prays God’s best for her. And with that, she continues her journey on the path of “through”.

Sparks

Sparks

I had the priceless joy of spending time with one of my favorite friends this afternoon, Michael. We always have the most amazing conversations about God, life, our humanity… you name it. There is NEVER a moment when I walk away from our time together without feeling full and refreshed, and I always hope he feels the same.

Spending time with him is like walking into a dark room and switching the light on. Or better yet, standing in the middle of a pitch black forest, striking a match, and starting a fire. He is definitely the match striker, the one who sparks the flame, but as we continue to talk and our conversation gets rolling, insights like sticks of kindling start flying forth from my mind and feeding the flame. Before you know it, we have ignited a blazing forest fire.

Today, we were discussing the various dark places we have recently been walking through. He has been battling a significant health issue, and my mind has been acting as a relentless foe for days. Michael wants to run away like Jonah did from Nineveh, but just like Jonah, God sees all the “YES” that is in Michael’s heart and is using him despite himself. Michael has so much “YES” in there, I don’t think he would even make it past the toy boat section in a kid’s store (yet alone charter a real one to sail away in)¬†without turning aside to encourage someone on the way.

And me… as much as my mind wants to stay preoccupied with its own turmoil and woes, I am continually reminded of Isaiah 58. When God’s people were whining, complaining, and accusing God of not answering their cries EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD FASTED, God encourages them to really look at their hearts and challenges them to a¬†true fast. This fast would include setting the oppressed free, not putting unnecessary burdens on others, not hiding from family members in need, sharing their bread with the hungry, clothing the naked, not gossiping or accusing others of evil… This sort of fast had a promise that came with it, “Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am’.” Isaiah 58:8-9; “Then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” 58:10-11

We think in stark contrast to this. We think, “Once I get a handle on this situation, then I can help others.” Or, “What about me?! I am literally falling to pieces, how can I possibly be anything to anybody right now?”. But it is precisely in this place of brokenness that we can reach out and be the light to someone else and see our own healing manifest as well. The darkness is the very threshold for light to go out and light to come in.

How do you plan to spark a fire this weekend? How can I light a match and help you get started? Think of this as a safe place to be authentic, raw, real and loved exactly where you are at. Please feel free to share your heart below ‚̧

 

 

 

 

 

NO STONE UNTURNED…

NO STONE UNTURNED…

Recently, I started questioning whether or not I really believe in the devil anymore. For many, many years I believed in a literal devil. The archenemy of God who was avowed to destroying God’s people. Someone who relentlessly pestered me as I attempted to make progress in faith and love. An evil being who constantly weaseled his way into our Christian conversation and prayer. Many a time did we rebuke him, bind him, yell at him, cast him out… you name it. But no matter how loud I yelled, how tightly I binded, or how thoroughly I rebuked — He just kept coming back. Exhausted from all of this devil hoopla, I decided to ditch the idea and chalk all those bad things up to circumstances, psychological perspectives, and outdated ancient ignorance. I’m done with this devil stuff!! Or am I?

While I am happy to report that ditching the idea of him for a time did bring some needed balance into my thinking, I can’t say that I completely believe he doesn’t exist. In fact, I’ve sensed him in some undeniable places lately.

From what I can tell, he likes to find dark places to hide. Since light is his kryptonite, he loves when we keep things hidden and unexposed. The more locked down we are, the more strength he has. His power remains in the hidden and the lie, so the last thing he wants is for you to confront your fears. Face your hurt. Unpack your junk. Fess up to the painful truth. He is like a sneaky snake who will find any rock, crack, or crevice to hide in. Don’t give him that space. Be brave enough to leave no stone unturned.

Healing takes courage and resolve; But not healing slowly takes your life. God created us to be boundless and free, but we only experience that freedom as we leave ourselves open and exposed to the light. If you discern that something is casting a shadow, pray for the courage to confront it… no matter how painful that process may be.

I am thankful for the strength that God is giving me at present to do some serious boulder rolling. I am thankful for the boundless love that Jesus is gripping me with as we turn these stones together (yes, I can’t deny Jesus either). Healing can be hard work, and I don’t want ANYONE out there to go it alone. If you find yourself in a place that you are ready to start kicking up some rocks and you need a hand to hold, please don’t hesitate to write me. I would be honored to pray for you, encourage you, and help you flip the light switch ‚̧

 

 

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

(Sorry I missed my usual Sunday posting last week. I was felling very POTSy. Next week, I will explain what “POTSy” means!)

I decided to lighten things up a bit today. I love talking about real raw life and growth, but sometimes we just need to have a little fun. I realized that I haven’t shared too much about everyday, ordinary me and the things that I enjoy. So, below is a list of some of the things I love (in no particular order) from favorite foods and blogs, to silly words and such. I hope that some of them bring you joy and maybe even give you a good chuckle. Without any further ado, these are a few of my favorite things…

#1 The word “shenanigans“- ¬†I’m not quite sure why, it just makes me happy when I say it. It’s a silly word that rolls nicely off the tongue and brings images of little boys creating innocent mischief and playful mayhem (another word I particularly enjoy). It’s also a bit old-fashioned, and I am strangely drawn to many things old-fashioned.

#2 Ice Cream –

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I believe ice cream should be a meal in itself. I will gladly skip dinner just to bank the calories so I can gorge on ice cream. We probably make a grocery store run for a quart of ice cream at least twice a week. My kiddos inherited my gluttonous gene for this tasty treat. Thank God for the good metabolism gene as well!

#3 My Bedroom-

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This is my resting, prayer, meditation, yoga, and hide from the teenagers space. I recently revamped it with a Zen sort of vibe, and I simply love it! From the smell of earthy candles or my essential oil diffuser, to my cozy chair and bright colored bedding — this is definitely my happy place.

#4 Marc & Angel Hack Life –

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This is my favorite blog. It is written by Marc and Angel¬†Chernoff who also write books, speak at conferences, and offer life coaching courses. The writing is simple, but profound. They tackle everything from relationships, to goal setting, and how to start “Getting Back to Happy” (the name of their online course). I enrolled in this course and like the content. Admittedly, like many ¬†other things in my life, I am way behind (sorry Marc and Angel). Nonetheless, their writing is worth the read. You can check them out here:¬†http://www.marcandangel.com/. Another blog that I would suggest is¬†http://www.everydaynatalie.com – my friend Natalie discusses everyday life, travel, family, faith, recipes … you name it! It’s a great source for a variety of everyday things. The topics are creative and helpful, and the site is very asthetically pleasing.

#5 Sushi-

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I could live off of this stuff! I like really simple rolls. A bit of salmon, a leaf of seaweed, and a splotch of rice. Maybe trade the salmon for spicy tuna here and there, ¬†a rainbow roll and some miso soup… I’m in sushi heaven. And it never hurts to wash it down with a cold Sapporo ūüėČ

#6 Nature-

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It is quite possible I am part plant, fish (does that make me some sort of cannibal because of # 5 ??), or something. I seriously¬†need the brightness and warmth of the sun to survive and run at my optimum physical and psychological levels. I¬†need the look, touch, and feel of green grass, blooming plants, dirt under my feet and air swirling about. I¬†can’t live without the crash of the waves or the feel of being submerged in water. Winter months are hard for me. A piece of me shrivels up and doesn’t bloom again until Spring.

#7 The Tao Te Ching and the Bible-

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Some people may not get why I like this combo, others will completely understand. The writing and teachings of Lao Tzu are so similar in truth and style to Jesus. Both books reveal aspects of God and urge a person to live for something beyond this world. At the same time, they also teach us how to live in the present moment. While I do not believe that any one book is the complete “end-all” to knowing everything there is to know about an infinite God, these two books offer wisdom and shared revelation.

#8 Good Shampoo and Conditioner-

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My coarse Italian hair can get quite frizzy and unruly. Although I do not believe in taking out a small loan to fund locks that are soft and manageable, if I go for totally cheap product I look a bit like Mufasa. I have found the Black Cavier by Mon Platin to give me manageability without breaking the budget. The smell is also a fabulous mood booster. Sorry Simba, looks like your daddy is the only one who gets to sport the fro.

#9 Winning-

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Yes, I am sadly competitive at times. I didn’t play any sports as a kid, but somehow I still managed to develope quite the competitive edge. Admittedly, I play up my competitiveness a bit just to be extra silly and entertaining. I love provoking a good laugh out of others. Being wildly competitive can be just the right platform for such an endeavor. It also creates opportunities for lots of shenanigans (see #1 above).

#10- My Imperfect Family

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I used to try so hard to right all the “wrongs” and “fix” all the messy and dysfunctional parts of our little foursome at home. I wanted our household to function like any perfectly good 1950’s two parent home should. The problem is, we are a single-parent 2000’s home with lots and lots of imperfect. When I began to accept it, appreciate it, and go with it; our family got a lot more fun and a lot more loving a place to be. I enjoy that we can laugh at ourselves and any hard times (sometimes a tad inappropriately, but hey) and I truly prefer the real us to the pseudo family model I created in my mind.

– This is definitely not an exhaustive list! I could throw in new socks and undies, clean sheets, comfy pajamas, my sectional… and on and on and on. For now, this list will do. Feel free to comment below and share any of your favorite things!

Masterpiece…

Masterpiece…

For much of my life, I have had an incessant need for something¬†outside of myself to grant me strength, validation, or purpose; for something ¬†from the outside¬†of me to define the inside of me.¬†I was thoroughly convinced that I wasn’t strong enough, capable enough, discerning enough, or simply…enough. Unfortunately, when I was practicing a strict religious mindset I took this belief to the extreme. I saw it as lacking humility and somehow slapping God in the face with arrogant and satanic pride if I felt too strong or capable. Therefore, I often viewed myself and kept myself in a state of weakness. What a sad affair.

What I failed to see was that I am already enough simply by design. Everything I need to succeed in this life is already inside of me. Everything I need to overcome fear, make a goal and meet it, change behaviors I don’t like; all of the ability to grow and overcome already exists within. I was created in the image of God. I was designed with His DNA. By walking in the strength and power¬†inherent to that design I am honoring Him, not slapping Him in the face. I am operating as the masterpiece that I am, and I believe the Artist takes pleasure in that.

So much of what holds us back in life is fueled by self-imposed limits. We often embrace negative beliefs about ourselves that define the way we see ourselves and our abilities. These beliefs also cause us to filter out the information we receive and our interactions with one another in a way that confirms our negative views. It becomes a continual cycle of false beliefs accompanied by negative affirmations, reinforced by a flawed perspective. Unless we interrupt the cycle, it will continue on.

What is holding you back?  Where are the areas that seem to keep you stuck?  What are the lies that are fueling those limits? When you uncover the faulty beliefs, challenge them. Begin to replace those negative affirmations with positive ones. Start to speak to yourself in a new way. Venture to see yourself as the magnificent masterpiece that you are, not the fragmented collage that you feared yourself to be.

Life is a continual process of growth and evolution. Know that you are enough to handle those changes. Paint a new picture ‚̧

 

I Think I Can…

I Think I Can…

” For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” ¬†Proverbs 23:7

”¬†What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” Gautama Buddha¬†

It seems that no matter how many times I reflect on the above truths, I cruise back onto the wrong track of negative thinking… and my mind ends up becoming a temporary train wreck. For some reason the wrong thinking seems right, and the right thinking seems like an unattainable ideal. I want¬†SO¬†badly to paint my world with joyful and fantastic thoughts, but I become temporarily suspended in my small personal universe of dark and foreboding imaginations. When the freight train has passed and it’s time to scoop myself up and begin again, I don’t always have the motivation I need to get myself going.

Recently, a coworker of mine introduced me to the story of Ernestine Shepherd. Ernestine was a 56 year old woman who hadn’t worked out a day in her life. Ernestine and her sister, Velvet, decided to go swimsuit shopping. As they openly laughed at their out-of-shape-physiques, they decided to do something about it. Soon, Ernestine and Velvet were faithfully hitting the gym together. Tragically, it wasn’t long after that Velvet died suddenly of a brain aneurism. Ernestine was devastated and stopped going to the gym. After some time, a friend reminded her of what Velvet and she were seeking to accomplish and encouraged her to continue on with their plan. Ernestine found a renewed motivation and committed herself fully to being the fittest she could be. She is now 80 years old and holds the Guinness World Record for the Oldest Female Body Builder! (http://ernestineshepherd.net/?page_id=2)

Since the day that my coworker escorted Ernestine into my little world, I can’t stop thinking about her. Ernestine’s whole life was changed because she made a decision and completely dedicated herself to sticking with it and seeing it through. It took hard work and committed devotion, but she has seen her goal realized. I’m sure that if I could¬†sit down¬†with Ernestine and have a heart to heart conversation with her, she would ¬†tell me that in order to reach her goal she had to ¬†win the battle in her thoughts first. No one reaches a significant victory in their lives without first persisting in conquering their thought life. And anyone who has faced significant mental battles knows that it takes just as much hard work and dedication to conquer your mind as it does your body or anything else. If I choose to apply even a fraction of the effort to renewing my thoughts that Ernestine applied to her fitness, I could be realizing my goals as well (not to mention all the new fitness goals Ernestine has inspired in me! )

Whether your battle is with your mind or your body commitment, persisistence, and motivation are needed to make progress. If you are finding yourself low on the motivation meter, find a good story like Ernestine’s to spark renewed inspiration in you. Seek out friends who will support you, pray for you, believe in you and cheer you on. Remind yourself that what you meditate on is what you will experience. Above all, commit to always picking yourself up and going at it again — no matter how many times that darn freight train seems to run you down.