Testimony Tuesday: A New Lens

Needless to say, I’ve been a little quiet on the faith front lately. This isn’t intentional, or really significant of anything other than being just plain busy.

Just. Plain. Busy.

Or at least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself. That’s how I’ve been justifying it.

But that’s not really it, is it? Busyness is an excuse. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. And more than that, it’s a vice. An idol. It’s one of my worst ones, actually. I can prioritize anything over my relationship with the Lord if I try hard enough — we all can.

I mean, take this very blog post for instance! It’s my first Testimony Tuesday in over a month, and in the last one, I was talking about how I’ve been struggling with juggling life, church, and everything else. And yet, nothing changed.

Okay, I won’t say nothing. I’m going to give myself a sliver of credit and note that I caught myself slacking on the faith front, and that should count for something, shouldn’t it?

But again, I’m justifying. beyond that, I might even be rambling, so for that, poor dear readers, I apologize.

The point of this post was not to ramble about my own lack of prioritizing. The point was, quite simply, to share an excerpt of a devotional I read recently, one which touched me, and called me to open my eyes to how I’m viewing the world. Am I viewing it through rose-colored glasses, or God’s prescription? And when my vision is blurred, am I even aware of it?

With a new lens prescription, it can take time for your eyes to adjust. A change in spiritual vision can take time, too, and you might find yourself slipping back to old ways of acting, or thinking. When that happens, remind yourself that God has given you a new way to see the world, and He has enabled you to recognize His presence and His love in your life. What a beautiful difference! – from “He Restores My Soul, 365 Daily Devotional”

These words were so, incredibly comforting to me. I read them on a day I was being particularly hard on myself for letting life get in the way of God’s love for me, and of learning to see that love evermore clearly. But the truth is, what the devotional says is right: it takes time to adjust. It takes time to open your heart in the first place, so opening the rest of yourself to God’s love can be just as slow going too. We are not called to be perfect, after all. We are called to love.

And how lucky are we that He loves us, even in moments where we cannot see so well!

For now we see in a mirror dimly,

but then face to face.

Now I know in part;

then I shall know fully,

even as I have been fully known.

– 1 Corinthians 13:12

We only know in part now, and that is okay. We are called to continue learning, continue growing, and continue loving.

For now, my focus is on exactly that: refocusing. I’m working to spend time each morning, reading my devotional and connecting with God, instead of rushing straight into the business of this earthly world. I’m allowing myself to recenter, without reprimanding myself for doing so, because how is that as forgiving as our Lord is?

Short answer: it’s not.

My hope for you is that if you’re in a place like me, where balance isn’t necessarily within reach, you’re allowing yourself to take a time out and do what you need to do to once again even the scales. I pray you allow yourself time to refocus. More often than not, that’s all we need to, once again, see clearly.

Real Talk: Self Care September

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Guys, I had a plan for September. I had it all laid out — every blog post, every media event, every photoshoot I wanted to squeeze in. I was ready to dive into this blog again headfirst, after the August craziness that always comes with my birthday.

That said, it’s now the twenty-first of September (I’m noting that, just in case I don’t end up getting this post up until much, much, later), and I’m just now sitting down to blog. Not only that, but this particular post was definitely not on my editorial calendar.

And yet, I think it’s a pretty important one.

Needless to say, as you can see by that sorrowful schpiel above, this month has gotten away from me. My friend Nicole actually called me last night and we both spend a few seconds in awe of the fact that not only is it the ninth month of the calendar year… we’re more than halfway through it. Aside from the general panic that causes me about the upcoming end-of-the-year events (holidays, travel, potentially moving), it’s also just amazing to me that this month has flown by so quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a fantastic month. I got up to the cabin, I puppy-sat for my brother and sister-in-law as they took their babymoon, my best friend came to town, the boy passed the first phase of his CPA exam (praise!), I got to work yet another rewarding work event, my mom and I took the best Rory/Lorelai trip to Tahoe (more on that later, I promise), and my little niece was born.

Seriously, it’s been a great month.

But even in the midst of spectacular seasons like this one, I often find myself caught up in it all and, as the hype begins to wind down and things settle back into a more normal routine, I tend to find myself feeling a little, well, blue.

It’s not that I’m not appreciative. I’m so, incredibly grateful for the opportunities to live a life so full, and I thank God every day for it. It’s just that, as I transition back to “real life,” so to speak, it can feel a little… anticlimactic.

It’s in seasons such as this that I rely heavily on self-care. I know myself well enough by now — I hope — to know when I’ve run myself a little too thin, and usually, this heaviness is a key symptom of that.

So, I know it’s time to take a step back and take some time to reflect, reevaluate, and, more importantly, relax. In the spirit of doing so, I wanted to share my key elements of self-care this September:

A regular routine. Oddly enough, I thrive on routine. I like to know what’s coming next — it keeps me calm, and lets me feel on top of things. That means planning out my weeks to the best of my ability, including time allotted for workouts, errands, blogging, and reading (yes, I plan out my reading time and yes, I know that’s weird).

Hit the gym. This is a big one for me, and I know it is for a lot of people. I feel all out of sorts if I’m not exercising regularly. My anxiety and stress levels skyrocket, I’m irritated, and I generally just don’t feel my best. Which is why, these past few mornings, I’ve taken advantage of working from home and dragged myself out of bed an hour early to go running — it helps, of course, that Arizona has suddenly decided that autumn can, temporarily, be a thing.

Sit still. I’m terrible at this. Ask anyone. Unless it’s on a beach with a book, sitting still isn’t my strongest point, but I know it’s important. Even if it’s sitting still as I read, binge watch something on Netflix, or sleep, it’s the stillness that’s important.

Go to church. It’s so easy for me to fall out of the habit of going to church when life gets busy. I adjust my priorities, and my spiritual health takes the hit as a result. But I know it’s important to get that structured time with the Lord, to gather an outside perspective on what’s happening, and to spend time in my church community. When I’m not doing that, I don’t feel quite right, which is why it’s always at the top of my self-care to do list.

Cry it out. Okay, yeah, so I’m one of those people who sometimes just has to release it all, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Crying is just as much of a release as anything, and while it can sometimes be embarrassing to walk back into the office with my eyes rimmed and my makeup gone, it also, 9 times out of 10, feels so much better once I’m stopped holding it in. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not professional to cry sometimes. Who cares? It’s still human. 

That said, I’m taking this weekend to do all of these things — readjust my routine, get some good workouts in, sit still for a while, go to church and, who knows, maybe even cry a little, even if it’s just at a sad part in my book (and I’m reading Les Mis… everything is sad in that). We’ll see how it goes.

What are your self care rituals? Whatever they are, I hope you take some time to indulge in them.

Remember, even when it’s so easy to run around taking care of everyone else, it’s just as important to take care of you.

4 Goals for 24

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The older I get, the more I frown upon the idea of resolutions. I think there’s a lot of unnecessary pressure that stems from the concept of a resolution, this gigantic thing that you have to do in a set time period. Don’t get me wrong: I respect the concept, and I know that for some people, it works really well.

It’s just not my thing.

I am, however, a big fan of goal setting. Now, I realize that some may argue that this is essentially the same thing as a resolution, and to that, I beg to differ, and I offer this counterargument: resolutions are measured by whether or not they are accomplished, whereas goals are measured by how much you have accomplished towards it. Say you set a goal to save 500 dollars, and you only save 430… you’ve still saved 430 dollars, and that’s still a pretty darn good accomplishment.

I’ll admit that perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective, but that’s how I like to look at it.

Perhaps the other reason I am not so much a fan of resolutions is because I’m not a big fan of New Years. Beyond its overhyped expectations, I guess I also never really saw January 1 as the start of a personal new year. I’ve always considered my birthday more of a time for reflection and goal setting, as opposed to the arbitrary day that the calendar changes.

So, that said, it’s time to set some goals because, in case you missed it, my birthday just passed (and if you somehow did miss that, you must be new… and in that case, welcome!)

Once upon a time, I set goals based on how I old I turned, but the older I get, the more ridiculous that sounds. I doubt I’ll want to set 98 goals when that time comes.

So, this year, I’m instating a new system, a set of goals based on four key areas in life:

Professional. Projects. Personal. Physical.

And, yes, before you ask, I did intentionally start them all with the letter P. I’m a big fan of alliteration, okay?

Professionally, I want to continue on the same track that I like to think I have been heading. Admittedly, this is the goal I am probably least public about, at least over here on the blogosphere, because those worlds are somewhat and intentionally separate. So for now, I’ll go ahead and leave it at that.

As far as projects are concerned, I want to grow this blog of mine. I’d like to put the effort in and reach one thousand Instagram followers and continue to share a message of balance between faith & life for anyone who’s interested.

Personally, I want to work on my relationship with the Lord. I’ll admit that I have fallen into a pattern of leaning on Him when things get tough, and pulling away when all is going well. That’s an unfair give and take, and that’s not how He wants us to be with Him. He wants all of us, all the time, and I recognize that – it’s just so easy to unintentionally credit your idols when life is going well. So I’m setting a goal to be more proactive and intentional about my time with the Lord in order to further strengthen that foundation.

And when it comes to physical goals, I’m a bit of a broken record. I still haven’t run my first race, and it’s still a bucket-list item. I know I physically can run a 5K – I do it regularly on a treadmill. For whatever reason, though, I’ve always held back when it comes to actually putting on a number. This year, that changes.

Four goals. Four main buckets, if you will, where there’s room for improvement.

Then again, there’s always room for improvement, isn’t there? We can always work on being better versions of ourselves, and whether it’s a birthday or a new year, or you’re one of those lucky people who is motivated to evaluate their goals and progress without a calendar reminder, it’s important to set a course for what’s to come.

Testimony Tuesday: Practice Makes Perfect

I have a confession to make:

I’m writing this on Monday night. I mean, it will post on Tuesday, if only for the sake of alliteration, but still. Technically, this is a Testimony Monday. That just doesn’t sound as good.

I have another confession to make:

I’ve been pretty bad about going to church lately.

Oddly enough — or, perhaps, not oddly at all — that second confession is a little bit harder for me to make. Because, of course, that’s not how it’s supposed to be. That’s not part of the image I’m trying to create for myself, but I’ve realized that upholding that “perfect, churchgoing” image can be just as dangerous as anything we idolize. In fact, it can probably be more so, because I’m idolizing that perception of myself. I’m idolizing a falsehood that I’m portraying. I’m idolizing someone that, quite frankly, I’m just not.

So, it’s time to put an end to that. It’s time to ‘fess up.

I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m far from it. I don’t go to church every Sunday; in fact, more often than not, I’ll go to teach my favorite kiddos, and then head home, because those energetic 5-year-olds just completely wipe me out. I stopped going to small group, partly because I moved further away and partly because it started to feel like more of a social obligation than a spiritual one, and something about that caused some anxiety. I’m really good at going through guided Bible studies for a couple of weeks, but then I usually let it fall to the wayside. I’m notorious for letting life get in the way of my relationship with the Lord, all in the name of “experiencing His blessings.” And while I do firmly believe there is some truth to that, I also recognize that one of His greatest blessings is our relationship with Him, and it’s probably time that I start to prioritize that, as well.

However, I was reading a devotional this morning (another thing I will probably be really great about doing for a couple of weeks or so, and then I’ll choose to sleep in an extra five minutes… however, I really love this devotional book that the boy’s mom gave me for my birthday, so I’m determined to make it a habit). That devotional was titled so simply, and yet it struck me so deeply:

Keep on practicing. 

And it went on to say, basically, that our relationship with God isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being consistent. It’s about continuously practicing, continuously slipping up, and continuously humbling ourselves to start over again. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s the point.

My favorite line was this:

“Remember, practice comes before perfect — and perfect will come when you’re standing with Him in heaven.” 

Oh, how encouraging that was to read! Oh, how much I desperately needed those words! Oh, how incredibly thankful I am that they came at this time!

I always look at birthdays as a time to refresh, reflect, and realign my goals (but more on that later…) and while I already knew that one of my goals for the year would be to work more at my relationship with God, reading a confirmation that He is ready and willing and waiting for that was so heartwarming. It was one of those things that, yeah, I knew, but I didn’t know. I unknowingly needed that confirmation, and the Lord provided it to me, right as I needed it most.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

So, this testimony is less of a testimony and more of me taking the time to step out and encourage you, too. If you’re faltering or questioning or just feeling a little stuck, keep practicing. Even if it’s not a faith-based situation, but especially if it is, keep practicing. Sometimes, when we’re in too deep, that’s really all we can do.

Remember:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,

if we do not give up.

– Galatians 6:9

In other words: practice makes perfect (someday… in the kingdom of heaven.)

ps: in case you’re curious, the devotional I’m reading is “he restores my soul.”

Testimony Tuesday: God Will Provide

It always strikes me as so odd how sometimes it just clicks. By that I mean, those “cliche” (for lack of a better word) sayings that float around the church community. Things like, “God will provide.” It’s repeated over and over and over again and inherently, you believe it. You know that’s what the scripture says, you know that’s the promise He has given His people. You know God will provide… but when does that click?

For me, it was last weekend.

I know, I know. That probably seems late but I think that part of this faith journey I’m on is really, completely getting what I’ve believed my whole life. After all, I think there is a different between believing it, and getting it. It doesn’t mean you’re doubting it up until that point. It just means that there’s a moment where you’re like — oh, okay. Yup, God. You’re right.

You will provide. 

What led me to this particular moment of clarity was car troubles. Cosmetic ones, technically, but air conditioning isn’t necessarily optional in the 115-degree Phoenix heat. And, let me tell you, air compressors don’t come cheap.

However, as I left the dealership knowing how much of a hit my savings were about to take, I felt oddly at peace. Sure, it’s a lot of money and yes, that still sucks, but it’s not as much as it could have been, and, I have it. It’s there. Was I planning to spend it on this? Of course not. But that’s what savings are for.

A year ago, I would have absolutely panicked, very much so in the how-in-the-world-am-I-going-to-comfortably-pay-for-this kind of way. But now? I will get the bill paid and set up a plan to rebuild the (relatively minor, in the grand scheme of things) hole it’s digging into my savings account.

It will be okay. I’m not worried. God will provide the means, even if it entails skipping a couple of happy hours for the next month or so.

And, really, I know the nonbelievers might just look at this as a result of growing up, and building a savings, and being more financially responsible. All of those things are true, and I get it.

But the Lord also provided something else for me this weekend, something more unexpected and decidedly less monetary.

Time. 

You see, I was supposed to go up to the cabin this weekend. My AC went out as I was running errands to prepare for the drive up north — getting my air pressure checked, getting gas, the usual. I could have gone up with no AC, probably, but I didn’t want to chance it just in case it was something bigger or more hazardous. So I resigned myself to staying in the Valley (and its heat) this weekend. I was upset about it at first, but as the weekend progressed, I realized that God was really handing me this set of circumstances as away to say, Whoa. Slow down. Reflect. Pause. 

I’ve been a little bit all over the place lately, due to stress and the heat of the summer and just a weird feeling of not accomplishing the things I want to do. But now I was handed this built in downtime, time where I really had no choice but to fill the hours at the dealership by doing something productive. (Granted, yes, I did watch a few episodes of Netflix, too, but that’s not the point.)

God provided time this weekend. Time for me to lay out some blog posts, which helped me get over the feeling like I wasn’t doing what I should be for this platform. Time to rest, which was surprisingly much needed after a weekend of travel and a stressful week of not sleeping well. Time to talk out some things that needed to be talked out, which provided a reality check for myself and just some good communication otherwise. Time to unwind, to wash the sheets, to organize my dresser. Time to check things off the to-do list, which turned out to provide more peace of mind than a weekend in the woods (though I do miss the smell of the pines).

His provisions aren’t always physical — they’re not necessarily food or money or housing, though they often are those things. He provides what He knows we need. We just have to trust Him about that.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
– Matthew 6:33

Testimony Tuesday: Without Ceasing

background-blur-close-up-998592Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
– Romans 12:12

Well, that command is pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

That one verse can really be broken down into what are, if you ask me, the basic principles of steadfast faith:

be hopeful, be patient, be constant.

And yet, that last one is so easy to overlook. At least, it is for me.

Maybe it’s because I am admittedly still unsteady when it comes to my practices. Maybe it’s just a general unsteadiness in life. Maybe it’s the inherent unsteadiness of human nature. Whatever it is, being constant is one of my biggest trials, and what I have to work towards the most when it comes to maintaining and flourishing my relationship with God.

It’s just so easy to only rely on the Lord when it’s convenient, or when I can glorify His blessings. It’s so much easier to be able to say, “Yeah, the Lord is so great because he’s provided so well with this, and that, and this.” Of course I want the relationship to remain happy and carefree and easy – that’s not even unique to my relationship with God, that’s just how I’d like every relationship to be. I don’t think I’m entirely alone in that wish. Right?

Right.

Hopefully.

(See, I’m easily hopeful.)

Jokes aside, consistency is something that I am working on and, perhaps a tad ironically, something I pray about often. I pray that I can do just that – pray – with unwavering dedication and faith. I pray that I come to not only ask for things I want or need or think I deserve, but that I ask for the simplicity of knowing the Lord’s presence. I pray that I can find the courage to pray even in the darkest times, when I feel the most alone, not just in the happy times where I can feel God’s presence so strongly.

A relationship with the Lord is hardly one of convenience. It’s one that takes work and effort, just like any other relationship we come across on earth. Where would I be if I wasn’t constant with my friends, or my family? (Actually, don’t answer that. Life has gotten a little too real lately and I’ve seen exactly what happens when that’s the case.)

Beyond just being something that we should be doing for the sake of strengthening our relationship with God, being consistent is something we are quite literally commanded to do.

Pray without ceasing,
– 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
– Jeremiah 33:3

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
– Colossians 4:2

So today, I pray that we can all be consistent and steadfast and open. I pray for my own consistency. I pray that any relationship with the Lord that might be wavering finds that faith and constant steadfastness again.

I pray that we can all be, exist, love, and know without ceasing.

Happy Tuesday.

Testimony Tuesday: Thank You

Maybe, just maybe, calling today’s post a true “testimony” is a little bit of a stretch. Perhaps I should call it more of a rambling… a stream of consciousness, if you will. Although, even that isn’t a proper term. Because what this really is, what I was truly called to write today, is a thank you letter.

Yes, you read that right. Today’s testimony is, rather simply, a thank you letter.

I’ve felt so called lately to listen. And by lately, I really mean for the past several years. As I’ve been aching to move on, move forward, everything has told me – or, in some cases, forced me to – slow down, be still, and open my ears and heart to what the Lord was trying to tell me. Sometimes, particularly at the beginning, it was listening to Him tell me what He wanted me to do. Other times, more recently, it’s been Him trying to show me why.

I’m humbled, embarrassed, and elated to say that finally, finally, I did just that. I listened. Maybe it was because I’ve hit the two-year mark since jumping into full-time adult life (aka, graduating) and that’s hit me in ways I could never imagine, or maybe it’s something I can’t even fathom, or maybe it’s literally just me listening to Your beckoning and obeying. Whatever it is, I finally listened.

And all that I can think to say in response, Lord, is “thank you.”

Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for calling me to dwell in the desert a little longer, even though I had the opportunity and a nagging desire to go elsewhere. Thank you for putting me in the internship that became my full-time position and for showing me that this was not just something I did for a desire to be comfortable and secure. You brought it to me as something that was exciting, a goal to work towards, a job I love. That, I’ve realized, was You offering me an opportunity for growth, for learning, and for forging relationships that I otherwise would have missed out on.

Thank you for keeping me close to my family, immediate and extended. It was so, so needed these past two years, in both the best ways and the worst.

Thank you for pulling me further into the church, further into a relationship with You. I admit that I falter here sometimes. I prioritize earthly duties and desires over the spiritual obligation of attendance, but I know that You are beside me even in those times. I know that now because of the way You brought me back. I know that straying for a week, a month, a year, does not mean I’m lost. You love us all, You love me always.

I’ve said this one a million and ten times, but thank you for the boy and for every wonderful, glorious thing that has happened because of him. Thank you for giving me an everyday example of the person I long to be, through the person I most wish to be that for.

Thank you for giving me a newfound appreciation for the city I call home. I fallen in love the way the mountains look when painted against your purple night sky. I have learned to appreciate the smell of the creosote after a rainstorm even more than I did when we first moved here, all those years ago. I have grown to appreciate the grid of the wide streets and avenues, an the eccentricities of them, like how the east valley stops numbering and Grand Avenue cuts up the squares with its diagonal direction.

Thank you for the courage to start this blog and an outlet to proclaim my love for You and my lessons along the way. Thank you for helping me grasp at what is still a murky balance of finding myself and finding my faith, and for reminding me again that mistakes are always okay. Just learn from them.

Lord, I’ve learned so much in the past two years and I don’t think I would have had I hopped on a plane to Boston right away. I’m so thankful for the opportunity you gave me to stay here, even if I questioned that.

So, okay. Maybe this wasn’t a true testimony… but then again, maybe it really was. Because Your hand is so clear to me now, Your presence throughout all of this.

I am so humbled, and so grateful.

Thank you.