Joy in 2019

It wasn’t until late 2017 that I first heard the idea of choosing a word for the year. The idea intrigued me: choose a single word that all of your yearly goals point back to. To be honest, I don’t remember the word I chose for 2018 – or if I even chose one.

As I reflected on 2018, however, I did choose a word for 2019.

Joy.



I am not looking to do any and everything that makes me happy. I am simply doing two things: I am carving out the time to do the small things that I love – and am being grateful that I get to do them – and I am remembering that no matter what is going on in my world, I have a Joy that can never be taken from me.


I spent too much of the previous years trying so hard to do what I felt like I was supposed to do. I had to clean my house a certain way. I had to dress a certain way. I had to set goals a certain way. I spent so much time trying to be who I thought I was supposed to be that I never took the time to figure out who I really was, who God designed me to be.

I looked more to people on social media to figure out what I should do than I did looking to God. I decided I should do things because other people did them rather than because I wanted to do them. I have always struggled with feeling pressured to do what others do because I think it’s “the right thing to do.” I also let my circumstances dictate how I felt, leaving me feeling pretty crummy a lot of the time.


Maybe becoming a mom caused something to change, because quite frankly I got quite tired of living that way. But changing the habit of trying to conform to others’ standards so that I feel like I’m “doing it right?”

Yeah, that’s hard.

I’m a people pleaser by nature. I so badly want to have it all together.

But I don’t. And I never will. And I had to accept that just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for me – and it doesn’t mean it has to work for me. I also had to accept that if I let the circumstances of my life dictate my life, I was going to be a miserable person.


I decided to stop robbing myself of little things that I love because I felt like I had to be this super-structured person who lived by a strict schedule and always had everything done.

I’ve started doing things that I love again simply because I want to. Small things like reading four books at once, writing fiction, spending time with friends and family, and watching sunsets. These little things may seem insignificant, but they are little moments, little things, that I am so grateful for.

We can’t throw our responsibilities to the wind, but we can learn to be more flexible. We can leave dishes in the sink overnight because it’s been a hard day and we’d like to take a bath and relax. We can fold the laundry later so that we can play with our kids. We can do the things – big or small – that we’ve always wanted to do but never carved out time to do it.

Even more than these things – and these things are great – I’m remembering Who my true joy comes from. Please hear me here: My goal in life is not to be happy, it is to please God.


And to please God, we have to trust in Him always. We can’t give in to worry and anxiety. We have to remember that no matter the circumstance, not matter the battles, our Savior is with us always. Paul instructs us several times in the New Testament to rejoice in the Lord. He is the source of unwavering joy.

This is one of the hardest seasons of my life, but my God has so lovingly reminded me that His love is covering me. He is my true joy.


So this year I am carving out time for things that I enjoy, and I am resting it the unwavering promises of my Savior. I am finding joy in 2019.

With love,

Photo credit:

unsplash-logoTom Sodoge
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Toxic 

Lately I’ve been revisiting the past few years of my life, seeing how I got from point A to point B, from the girl I was to the woman I am. I’ve thought of the periods of grief, of joy, of growing. I’ve looked back and I’ve seen purpose. I’ve seen God’s hand in every season of my life. I see how He worked out every horrible thing into something good – even if the only good that came out if it was to relate to someone else.

If I were to tell you everything that God’s hand has been in, every bad situation that He turned for the good, it would take writing a book. Instead, I’m going to tell you today about just one area.

Since I was a Freshman in high school I had a tendency to get myself into toxic relationships – not all of them were, but some. It started when I got my first boyfriend. I was fourteen, naive, and honestly just didn’t know that the way I was being treated was awful.

I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be forced to do things I didn’t want to do.

I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to be talked to like I wasn’t a person.

I didn’t know that I was being manipulated.

I just didn’t know, but when I figured out – with the help of my best friend – that the way I was being treated was not okay, I ended the relationship. And the three months that I was in that relationship impacted me for years.

I then dated someone else and he broke up with me because I stood my ground. Though I was heart broken, I moved on with a sense of dignity.

My Sophomore year of high school I got into a relationship that I was in for nearly two years. It wasn’t a bad relationship, it just wasn’t meant to be. But when it ended, I was heart broken so badly I didn’t know how I would go on; however, though I had been following Jesus for a few years at this point, He truly became my anchor at this time.

Despite that I began to trust Jesus and rely on Him so much more during this season of my life, I still wasn’t truly content in Him. Almost a year after that relationship ended, I dated someone else, someone I really shouldn’t have.

Things were okay at first and then red flags started popping up. I should have left, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be alone. But because I didn’t want to be alone, I allowed myself to be treated horribly.

I set standards and boundaries.

He said he agreed.

Then he pushed them.

I pretended everything was fine.

The stress of dealing with – and hiding – the mental, emotional, and sexual abuse that occurred in the relationship left me physically ill.

It got to the point where I wasn’t staying because I didn’t want to be alone, I stayed because I was scared to leave.

Finally, after breaking down and telling my best friend what had really been going on, I ended the relationship.

The aftermath of that first relationship was nothing compared to this one. It left me so broken, so scared, so untrusting, that when I began dating my husband, I was terrified – even though I knew from being friends with him and knowing his character that he wouldn’t treat me like the others that came before him.

If I had to change plans, I prepared myself for the backlash – it never came.

If things were moving too fast emotionally and I told him we needed to slow down, I waited for him to get upset and tell me how stupid I was being – he never did.

He took everything at my pace. He was so patient, kind, and loving. It was amazing – and strange.

He accepted my past and took me as I was.

It was a beautiful display of selfless love.

But it still wasn’t enough.

I was still hurting. I was still scared. I still hadn’t truly given it over to Christ. So for much of the time that we were dating and engaged, I started giving Christ the pieces of my past, and for every piece I gave Him, He returned it with a peace of His own.

I truly forgave.

I truly moved on.

•••

I have been married to my sweet husband for four months now. I am at peace with my past. If it starts to try to work its way to the surface, I remind myself that it served a purpose.

Because of that last, awful relationship I learned what it meant to be content in Christ.

I learned to trust God with my relationships.

And, in a roundabout way, my best friend ended up dating her husband because of it!

One of the most important purposes I have found looking back on this time is the empathy I’ve gained because of it.

When I see someone in a toxic relationship, I no longer wonder critically why they don’t leave.

I look and I know that there are so many reasons why they might not, and it breaks my heart.

I look and I know what it feels like to be treated like you are less than human.

I look and know what it feels like to not know how to get out.

I look and I know that there is hope found in Jesus to heal their brokenness.

•••

This post wasn’t easy to write, but it’s been on my heart for some time. Though I have forgiven, moved on, and healed, it is still not easy to relive; however, it’s still part of my testimony. It’s a part of my life that screams about God’s faithfulness. So I sat down and wrote to share hope. Hope that God works in even some of the worst times in our lives. Hope that we are not alone in these dark times that we’ve gone through. Hope that someone out there understands. And, most importantly, hope that Christ is Lord even in the dark times, and He is the Healer of all broken things – including hearts.

•••

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

 

Photo credit: unsplash-logoKristof Rasschaert

The Monster Inside Me

It starts sneaking it’s way in, and before long, you don’t really notice it anymore because it becomes the new normal. The sad thing is, you don’t even want it to be gone because it’s taken up a permanent residence inside of you; it’s a part of you. What you don’t realize, though, is that it’s squeezing the joy out of you life as it gets its sleazy little tentacles wrapped tighter and tighter around your heart.

Anger.

Are you surprised that that was what I was talking about? I would have been, probably. Throughout my life, anger has probably been one of the hardest things for me to overcome – especially since I didn’t know how it was affecting me. It has a snowball effect: the longer you let it go, the bigger it gets and the harder it gets to stop.

At some point I guess I either no longer noticed or no longer cared how the anger in my life was affecting me, because I no longer tried to keep it at bay. When something made me angry – even something minuscule that shouldn’t of bothered me – I just rolled with it. And the sneaky thing about anger is that it isn’t always obvious. I didn’t – always – lash out or express my anger in overt ways. Most of the time I just hid it and brewed about it secretly. Before I knew it, my little anger problem was breeding some ugly friends: cynicism and bitterness. Soon, they, too, were taking up permanent residence inside of me, robbing me of joy, love, and contentment.

I began seeing people only for what the did wrong or for how they were lacking, never for what they did right or the abundance of good things in them. I was quick to criticize (even if it was only in my head) and quite slow to praise. I thought, “Oh, sure, they did it right this time, but what about the other hundred times that they didn’t?” That kind of thinking kills your spirit, drains your compassion, and just plain hardens your heart.

I didn’t have an outlet; I just kept bottling up my anger and adding to my List of Things That People Do Wrong. It kept getting bigger and bigger and quite frankly I didn’t care; the problem was with them, not me.

I’m not sure when it happened – when I started noticing that my heart had all of these ugly tangles trying to squeeze every last bit of love out, leaving it shriveled up and dry – but I wasn’t okay with it.

I wasn’t okay with the fact that my husband expected me to tell him all the things he should have done or that he did do and should have done better. He should know that I appreciate him and all that he does – and he does a lot – but I wasn’t showing him that.

I didn’t want nearly every thought I had about my loved ones to be negative. I wanted to once again look through eyes of love, not the eyes of a critic.

So, I decided to change. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I knew that my thoughts definitely weren’t falling into the “Obedient to Christ” category. So every time I was angered over something small or started criticizing someone or held on to bitterness, I rebuked the thought. I try to take a step back and pray, asking God for wisdom in the situation. I reflect and ask, “Is my criticism necessary? Is my anger justified?” And it’s not easy; it uses way more mental energy to change a thought than to just think it.

It can be hard and tiring and I fail sometimes, but my heart is no longer a dark, shriveled up thing, it’s filling with light and love and compassion again. I’d rather try hard and say to my husband, “Can we talk about this?” instead of yelling at him when we disagree – I’m sure he prefers that, too.

And, no, I don’t like painting this picture of myself. I don’t like saying, “See how awful I can be sometimes!” but the story ends with growth and healing. I also know that I am not the only one who has let the life-sucking monster that is anger make a home in my heart. I tell you this unflattering tale of myself so that if this is you, you might realize what anger is doing to you, or if you’ve realized it already, you can take heart and battle it.

Until next time, lovelies.

For Real

I mentioned in last week’s post that I began the book of Matthew.  The past few days I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  I’ve read it before, heard sermons on it before, but this time I noticed a common thing as I studied.

  • Jesus says that we know that God told Moses to tell the people not to murder and those who murder will be judged and punished.  He then goes on to say that those who are angry with their brother will be judged (chapter 5).
  • Jesus again says that we know that God forbade adultery; however, He says any man who lustfully looks at a woman has committed adultery in his heart (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that when we give, do not do so in front of other people where we will be praised, but to do it secretly in front of the Lord (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to pray in front of others as if it is a show or to ramble on, but to pray privately and concisely (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says to forgive or we will not be forgiven (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says that when we fast, do not make a spectacle of it, do it quietly (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to worry (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to judge others, because how we judge, we will be judged (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says that those who seek will find what they seek, that we should continue to ask for what we need (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says to treat others as we want to be treated (chapter 7).

Do you notice a common theme? All of these things have to do with our relationship with God (e.g. are we praying just so others will see us or do we have a true relationship with God?) and the spiritual condition of our hearts (e.g. yes, murdering is bad, yet God says so is harboring anger at someone).

If you’re like me, you look at this and think that this is impossible. When you’re having a terrible day it’s hard to treat someone how you want to be treated, when things are hard it’s difficult to trust God and not worry.  Yet these things I have listed (only some of the things that Jesus says in this sermon, there is plenty more!) give me hope.

I have hope in the fact that Jesus lived a sinless life.  Hebrews 4:15-16 in the Voice translation says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious without failing God.  So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace when we need it most.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus knows these things are hard to do, yet we have the Spirit to guide us and the free-flowing grace of God at our fingertips (for more on this topic, check out a previous post: Victory in Jesus).

I also have hope because I know that my relationship with God is what’s important.  I don’t have to put up this charade that I have my life together so that other people will see.  I also know that when I have a real relationship God  I am filled with the Holy Spirit, and Galatians chapter 5 says that the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  When you have a real relationship with God these things will start to become a part of who you are, and when these things are a part of who you are, doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do becomes more natural.

We will always struggle, we are human, but when we take part in a real, intimate relationship with God and allow our hearts to change, we find it is easier to live like Jesus.

Check out the Sermon on the Mount for yourself if you haven’t before, or if you have, read it again.  The Word of God is alive and relevant.

Photo Credit: Cherry Laithang

The Missing Peace

Let me set the stage (cue lights, audio, and other technical things I don’t know about): Something happens, something bad, something you just can’t get out of your head.  Maybe you were in a car wreck, or you lost your brother, or you are experiencing heartbreak for not the – but just as painful – time.  You relive it over and over again in your head, especially at night when you have nothing else to keep your thoughts from wandering to the infamous ‘thing’ that haunts you.  They say time heals but it’s been weeks, months, years and you don’t feel like you’ve healed much at all: you’re just stuck in this endless cycle of remembering.  Or maybe in your case it’s not even that, maybe it’s just the balancing act of life that’s got you stretched beyond what you can bear; you have finals and bills and your car broke down and your job doesn’t pay enough and you’re sleep deprived and you just yelled at someone for no reason and the list goes on and on.

Sound familiar?  What’s missing in the scenarios above?

Peace.

Things happen that we cannot control – you can’t control the fact that your sister has cancer or that your landlord raised the rent a hundred dollars that you can’t afford to pay – but you can control how you deal with the situation.

I know, you’ve heard it before.  So had I.  Did you let that sink in, though? You do not have to fall victim to things that happen outside of your control, even the things that happen because of your own bad decisions.

Jesus didn’t die so we could live miserable lives.  He died to give us hope.  He died to free us from sin. He died so that our trials can build our faith instead of ruin our lives.  He died so that death would not be the end for us.  Jesus didn’t die for us to fall victim to a lost and dying world, Jesus died for us to have hope even in the gravest of situations because He overcame the power of the grave. 

But how do we do it?

Philippians 4 is such a great chapter of the Bible and is so relevant.  Check out the whole chapter (it’s short, it won’t take long), but I’m going to leave you with verses 6 and 7.

“Don’t worry about anything instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all that He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds all anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Don’t worry.  Pray.  Give your needs to God.  Thank God. The result? Peace that soothes your soul.  God can handle your mess, I promise.

•••

If you have specific passages, chapters, or books of the Bible that have helped you through hard times, leave me a comment.

Until next time, lovelies.

 
Photo Credit: Aubin A Sadiki