Why I chose to get baptized…again.

I remember the day that I told my parents that I was ready to get baptized. I was 8 years old & we were planning a trip back to America where we would be visiting the church I was born into. It seemed like the perfect time & I was ready to take this next step in my relationship with Christ.

I was so extremely fortunate to be born into a family with parents who taught & led us in our faith in such a beautiful way. So it truly was a commitment I took very seriously & absolutely knew the promise I was making to always walk with Christ.

And it’s a promise that kept my wandering heart safe & grounded throughout the many years that I strayed away from my faith.

When God brought me back home 3 years ago, I made the commitment to walk in obedience. He has taken me through many painful lessons to learn to let go, walk in faith, and trust that His plans are far more beautiful than anything that I know to pray for. I am not perfect. But I hold close to the promise of grace & His unconditional love. That no matter how far I walk down a road of destruction, He will always bring me home.

I have spent this summer focusing on detoxing from my past.  I’ve learned grace, forgiveness, and what it means to move forward into a life of purpose.   So it was time.  To wash away my past, once & for all & re-commit my life to walking in faith from this day forward. To trust in the beautiful promises & future that God has planned.

To let go of all that was & surrender to Him.

My summer of “yes”.

I tend to lead a very cautious & calculated life, as a means to protect myself. At the beginning of this summer, I spent 20 minutes convincing a guy I was interested in why I was not going to do something he enjoyed that he was inviting me in to be a part of. I stepped back the next day & started really digging into why my first instinct tends to always be “no”.  And I didn’t like the harsh reality that hit me in the face.

I will only do things I am certain that I will be good at. If there is any element of unknown, I will always shy away from it.

This made me really wonder what beauty lies ahead that I am missing out on, simply because I am paralyzed by fear.

Three years ago, my life was so calculated to the point that I would only go to the same 5 restaurants in Houston & order the same thing at every single time. I had no desire to venture out of my comfort zone & I thought I was completely content.

The reality was, my life had felt so out of control for so long that I defaulted to always controlling what I could.

Thankfully I serve a God who does not ever let me stay stagnant. I was pushed into a career that had me traveling alone to cities I had only experienced with the safety of others. I slowly began to find new restaurants within those cities, yoga studios I loved, and created a life within the uncomfortable. It makes me laugh to look back at that girl 3 years later. I can’t even fathom living my life with the same caution now. This opened the door to a life where I am now traveling across 21+ states alone & I actually look forward to exploring & discovering the beauty & local charm that each city has to offer.

I’ve spent so much of my life in survival mode that I had to take a deep breath & realize that I am no longer that girl. God has been so incredibly faithful & my season of sunshine & rest has come.

So I made the decision to start my summer saying “yes” to all of those little things I would typically shy away from. This has opened the door to trying new workouts, going to parties by myself where I only knew 1 person, and saying yes to lots of last minute plans. These may seem like small matters to some, but they are huge victories for me. I believe this new rhythm of this season is pushing me into a spirit of saying “yes” to God wholeheartedly with all of the things I want to control.

I am choosing to view this journey of unknown through a lens of hope. To live fearless, knowing that God has never once let me fall.

I am choosing to free fall, knowing God is going to let me land exactly where I am meant to be.

Tattoo #7

At the beginning of every year, I prayerfully decide on what I want to learn & focus on for the upcoming year. This year, I felt God drawing me to the word “love”. Realizing that I have a very skewed vision of what that means, I knew this was going to be a challenge. Nervously, I began my journey to understand what God would teach me through this season.

Growing up, my mother would frequently threaten to kill herself or leave if we did anything wrong. Although I always felt extremely loved by her, it really distorted my view on what unconditional love looks like. I yearned for everything to be peaceful and strived to do everything in my power to make her happy. Her threats became a reality when she did, in fact, leave when I was 14 yrs old. We did not know where she was for a year. Despite my best efforts, it was not enough.

My memories of my dad growing up were a dad who worked long hours, but the vision of his face lighting up the minute he walked through the front door & saw us have never escaped my memory. He would have weekly individual “dates” with my sister & I where it was all about us. I remember being so excited to dress up & go on adventures, just me & my dad. I felt so cherished, valued & loved by this man. When my mother left, my father shut off emotionally & began to seek fulfillment in moving onto dating again. When he met my stepmom, I was quickly pushed aside in pursuit of his new life and keeping his new bride happy. We began a long journey of him only speaking to me when things were good. Whenever I made a mistake, he would not speak to me or answer my calls. Sometimes for days or weeks.

Thankfully, I had parents who did, at some point, model what love looks like. And most importantly, they always instilled in me the value of my relationship with God & what a healthy relationship with Him looks like. No matter how alone or far I wandered from God, I always knew He loved me & would never leave me.

With time, I have learned grace & forgiveness of the human struggle that both of my parents experienced. I have made the choice to see the good in them & be thankful for who they always pushed me to be. I truly believe that the prayers they endlessly prayed over me growing up never went unheard, and God watched over me and kept me safe because they always put me in His hands. And I have learned that was truly the greatest act of love that they could have given me.

But this still left me not really having a good grasp of what love really looks like. The two people who are never supposed to forsake you and are supposed to love you unconditionally had both left me lonely & longing for the love & security that I once experienced.

I moved onto seeking it from men through my 20s. And with every mistake, every heart break, I was left more & more lonely.  My vision of love became so unbelievably skewed. It left me more broken than before.

I took a 2 year break from dating 3 years ago to re-ground myself in God & re-set my perspective on what I was seeking in life. It was the best decision I have made & this season firmly planted my feet in what God wanted for my life.

But I still was not understanding what love truly means.

I started this year off envisioning that God would teach me love through meeting the perfect man & we would learn what it meant to give unselfishly to one another. Halfway through this year & a couple of dating situations that God shut the door to, I have realized what God has been trying to teach me all along.

Love is not about what others can bring into your life. It is not about fulfilling our desires in this world. It is a way of life that God commands us to act with in every encounter, with every person, every step of this journey. It is what we are to bring into this world, not what we should be expecting to take.

My tattoo says “ Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14) in french(just because it’s such a beautiful language) as a constant reminder that everything I do in this world needs to be layered with love.

That’s my ultimate life goal. To leave everybody I touch knowing what it means to be loved. Many days I fail. But I will keep working to do better each day.

To love others well.

Learning to connect

I tend to be the girl who loves to tackle things and move on. I love working on multiple projects at once. There is very little in this world that makes me happier than getting to check things off of an actual hand written to do list. But lately, a thought has popped into my head. Am I racing through life at a pace that’s faster than God intended, simply with the goal to knock out as much as I can, as quickly as I can?

My relationship with God has been in a little bit in a valley lately. He has been so good to me and has given me an amazing season of rest. And I am quickly realizing…I am so good at getting on my knees before Him and spending time with Him when the road I’m walking is tough and I need His help to push me through it. But when the road is smooth, I tend to run so far ahead without Him.

When I started traveling heavily for work 3 years ago, I really had to learn the value of living with intention. My time at home was now limited, and I could not just call my friends to hang out whenever I wanted or needed them. And I could not expect them to drop everything in a moment’s notice when I was home either. I really had to ensure that we worked together to carve out time for one another. And I learned quickly that it’s not always necessarily about how much time we can give each other. It’s about making one another a priority & really being there with one another to make time to connect on a consistent basis. This means no multi tasking. Phones away, and really making the most important thing that God’s given me a priority. My people.

So why is it so hard to do this with God?

Somebody recently asked me how I view God. No matter what has happened in my life, I have always known such beautiful truths about who God is. He loves me. He’s safe. He will never abandon me. He is faithful. His love is not conditional upon what I can do for Him. These are things I know. Because He has a very strong track record of always showing up.

This sounds like such a beautiful thing that I am so lucky to have. But I am also concerned that it’s causing me to float and I tend to blow wherever the wind takes me in that very moment.

I am a person that loves smooth sailing. It bothers me to my core when things are off with the people I care about. I won’t sleep, and I will not stop thinking about it. So if something is off in my relationships with the people I care about, I make it a priority to course correct & ensure that everything is moving in the right direction. And quickly.

But knowing that God will always be there leaves me thinking I almost take advantage of that. I don’t have to worry about Him every leaving me. So I feel a little too free to run ahead, without Him, not knowing what lies ahead. And every time I run into a space that gets a little bumpy, I run back to the safety net that I need so desperately to help me get through.

I show up for the people in my life because I love them. Not because I need something from them. It takes a lot of intention and a lot of prioritizing. But it is so unbelievably important to me.

I am committed to working towards that same mindset with God. To shut things off & create the space for us to really connect. Without any distractions. To be a person who spends time with Him to really get to know Him. Not just when I need something from Him.  It is the very most important relationship I have, after all.

Fear

So many times in life, we stay stagnant. We find ourselves frustrated that the same patterns keep happening, but we tend to push the “why” behind that towards external things that feel out of our control. We blame it on other people or circumstances. So we stay stuck in a job we don’t love, keep repeating the same patterns in relationships, having the same fights with friends, keep gaining weight, continue living with strained relationships with our family…the list goes on and may look completely different for all of us.

When I have sat down with people to hear what’s going on in their lives, I start digging with them to try to look past the surface issue at hand. I encourage them to really start taking a look at what it is that’s actually truly bothering them. Most of the time, the surface issue is simply the result of what’s hurting them deep down.

And most of the time, the core concern is fear.

Fear that we won’t measure up. That we are opening ourselves up to be vulnerable with people that have the potential to really hurt us. To be exposed to circumstances that we cannot control. Am I good enough? Do they truly have my best interest at heart? What if they aren’t being honest with me? What if they find somebody better? What if my dreams are too big for what I’m capable of doing?

And the root of it all comes out.

We are afraid that we are not enough. We are afraid of the unknown. We are afraid of growing, stretching, and taking a step out of our comfort zone.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made in perfect love.” -1 John 4:18

Now, I think this takes on several different looks.

I think first & foremost, it is important that we understand the perfect love that Christ has for us. And we stay grounded in who He is & what He has promised us. To be our protector, to walk beside us, to give us the freedom to soar because He has marked our every step before we were even born.

It also is important for our love for ourselves to drive out fear. We have to know who we are & who we are in Christ. He has enormous plans for our lives & He has never laid a path before us that we are incapable of walking. He does not promise us that there will not be growing pains along the way—that is, after all, how He is shaping us to be more like His image.  But, He does promise us that He has gone before us & will not lead us down a path that we are unable to handle.

I also think it shows true in how we treat one another as well. I know for myself, I tend to yield to hurt & lashing out when I feel like I could be hurt. And I think that is the natural, human reaction for most of us. But when we choose to live a life walking with Christ, He commanded us to not be of this world. So I am continuously re-routing myself to walk on a path where my default reaction is love & grace, rather than fear.

One of my close girl friends shared this quote with me recently. It was Abraham Lincoln’s response when somebody asked him if he was afraid of the threats that he was receiving to be assassinated.

“If I am killed, I can die but once; but to live in constant dread of it, is to die over and over again.” -Abraham Lincoln

We can spend our entire lives hiding behind the fear of everything that could go wrong. And we will die every single day. Or we can choose to step out in faith, as wobbly as we may feel, and choose to walk this path that God has laid before us. And to trust that we are more than equipped to walk the road that He has prepared for us.

We are enough. And we can do this.

The Secret to Happiness

As women, we tend to be the care takers, the ones who are the most willing to bend, and the ones who are there to nurture. It is how God designed us to be. It’s a beautiful & amazing gift that He has given us. And utilized in its true form & intention, it is one of the most valuable things we can contribute to this world.

But there’s a glitch in this whole operation when we are pulled too many different directions. We tend to find ourselves in a place where we feel extremely empty and completely depleted. That is when we start wandering off the path that God has designed for our lives.

So we embark on this journey to try to fill our tank back up.

Sometimes we take the route of finding unhealthy things to give us instant gratification. I was on this path for many years. I used shopping, depleting my friends for emotional support, utilizing men to be my savior, or throwing myself into a career that would provide instant success.

Other times, we do find healthy options though. And I am thankful to be on this path at this point in my journey. It has turned into taking the time to workout, organizing my life to where it feels balanced, and spending time with friends who feed my soul.

And although my journey has evolved to a place of choosing healthy options, the reality is, I’m still grasping onto things of this world to try to fill me. And sometimes, those things are still going to let me down.

I’ve spent lots of time talking about this with several of my girl friends. Some are happily married, some are single, some are living a life dedicated to their families, some are career driven. One thing is constant with all of us.

We are all constantly struggling to not feel drained.

No matter what stage of life we are in, I am convinced that there is truly only one way that we will ever feel fully satisfied.

“Don’t fall in love with this corrupt world or worship the things it can offer. Those who love its corrupt ways don’t have the Father’s love living within them. All the things the world can offer to you— the allure of pleasure, the passion to have things, and the pompous sense of superiority— do not come from the Father. These are the rotten fruits of this world. This corrupt world is already wasting away, as are its selfish desires. But the person really doing God’s will—that person will never cease to be.” -1 John 2:15-17

God promises us that there isn’t anything in this world that will ever truly satisfy us. So while it is absolutely vital that we as women take the time to feed our souls, it is absolutely necessary for us to ensure that we are firmly planting our feet in the word of God. Everything else will disappoint us and leave us emotionally vulnerable to whichever way the wind blows us that day.

“If you are right with God, He strengthens you for the journey; the Eternal will be pleased with your life. And even though you trip up, you will not fall on your face because He holds you by the hand.” -Psalm 37:23-24

Today, re-centering myself consisted of getting my butt back in church, having lunch with a strong Christian girl friend who always brings me back to the word, and taking time to spend some time with God. These are the things that I know will be guaranteed to re-fuel me to a place where I am prepared to embark on this life that God has entrusted to me.

And of course, spending a little time cleaning & going to yoga to breathe never hurts 😉

Words

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately on the impact our words truly have on one another. So many times, we carelessly throw them around without a second thought to the impact they may have once they land. But how much are they truly destroying our relationships with the people around us? Are we leaving people feeling refreshed or bogged down?

I grew up in a home where it was very typical for strong words to be thrown around without a second thought. There would seldom be an apology or any discussion as to the impact they had on me. I was left with a heart that was slowly cracking and being whittled away with every comment made out of impulse. There was always justification as to why the words were shared. But never ownership over them.

This set me on a path where I had a strong foundation of being careless with the words that came out of my mouth. I never had regrets, as long as I felt I was justified in my actions. I was coming from a very strong place of instant gratification and not worrying about the damage that my words could be causing on others. I was looking out for myself & figured if somebody truly cared about me, they would just let it go.

A harsh reality I had to soon face: I was causing wounds to the hearts of those around me. I would justify that the wound wasn’t that bad. What I said could have been worse. But the reality is, it doesn’t matter how deep the cut is—there will still be a scar left. And the more you re-open that scar, the deeper it becomes. And eventually, people get tired of being hurt.

I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with some incredibly strong, amazing women in my life. I have seen first hand the power that their words have had to feed my soul. The moments when they choose grace and encouragement over condemnation and hurt. To feel so very seen, heard and supported. It has given me courage and the inspiration to move forward on so many things I did not think I could do.

This has really made me stop to think about the power that we all hold. We truly have the choice to either lift somebody up and we also carry the power to tear them down pretty quickly.

When an unhealthy foundation is built so strong in your life, it is a very tough pattern to break. But I am determined to be more intentional with my words. To choose love and kindness in the moments where I could easily slip into an old habit of snapping. To choose to build in the moments where I could easily hide behind busy or stressed. To understand that when somebody entrusts their heart to you, it is a strong responsibility that we all have to care for each others hearts with tenderness.

I want to be a woman who chooses to walk with those who walk beside me with nothing but grace & love.