Words like Arrows

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“Lord, I ask that today, when I open my mouth to speak, my default is encouragement and not sarcasm.”

 This has been my prayer of late. It’s a desire that my heart is chasing on a daily basis.

Believe me when I say, I have come a very long way over the years. A few years ago, in particular, the Lord began to speak to me on the topic. He showed me the impact that an encouraging word brings and how they open a door for the recipient to receive His truth.

Words that heal and not harm.

Words that build up and not tear down.

Words that shift atmospheres and cause the darkness to flee.

This is what I want.

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I look back and think about the times when I have been the recipient of sarcasm. Sure, some of those words made me laugh in the moment, but there’s always those moments that linger. The ones that make you wonder if there was any truth behind them.

And yes, it’s usually something really stupid, but . . .

You can’t help but think to yourself, when the lights go out and you’re alone, staring up at the ceiling in your bed,

“Is that how they really see me? Is that who I am?”

 Of course, it’s not like we can control how people receive our words. But I suppose what I’m getting at is this:

“Lord, give me strategies on how to speak in a way that is intentional and with grace.”

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 We all experience times when the enemy seems to be shooting lies, like arrows, over and over. Attacking our insecurities and identities.

I don’t want to contribute to THOSE arrows.

I want my arrows to be the ones that attack the arrows of the enemy. Strategically sent out. Splitting the lies before they hit their target.

This is something I know can only be accomplished if I am taking the time to sit with the Lord. I need His heart for people.

His heart.

That’s where you get the power to shift atmospheres just by walking into the room.

His heart.

I want His heart.

I was reading in Matthew 12 this morning:

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

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 So, I cry out . . .

“Lord, I need Your heart.”

I may have shared this before, but a very dear friend of mine passed away a few years ago. It’s still sad, but I have such joy because the last conversation we had was epic.

They took the time in that moment to share how proud they were of me and what God has done in my life, and I was able to do the same and tell them how much they have contributed to my story in a positive way.

When I think about how they are no longer here, this is the memory I have.

On the other hand, not all of my last conversations with people have been this positive. I realize, I can’t always control that and sometimes it was completely out of my control because I was on the receiving end. But . . .

That one positive conclusion to my friendship with that dear person makes me want to take every opportunity to do that for someone else.

We don’t always know when a moment with someone is going to be our last. Sometimes life happens and you lose touch. Sometimes it’s with a stranger in Walmart and you may never see them again—as much as I rant about hating Walmart, I did have an opportunity to speak life into someone there the other day.

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The point is that we don’t know, which is why we should try (if we can) to not leave loose ends. To do our part, at least, and allow God to move through us.

I want His heart.

When the Secrets Come Out . . .

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This past weekend, I had the privilege of ministering at a women’s retreat.  To be honest, I don’t tend to go out of my way to attend women’s retreats.

Most of the ones I have participated in, I would find myself feeling very out of place and flooded with social anxiety.  As far as the women’s retreats I have ministered at, I would usually disappear immediately after the sessions.

Funny thing is, most of the women I spoke with this weekend had similar stories.

However, this one was different.  I expected God to show up and do amazing things—He always does!  But I did not expect Him to bring me so much personal breakthrough, as He did, starting the first night.

Toward the end of the first session, we were encouraged to ask God if there were any lies about ourselves (or Him) that we were still believing.  And if so, to ask Him to show us the truth, and then perhaps to share what He showed us with the women at our table.

I was sitting there, jotting some things down in my journal.  I asked the question, but I don’t think I expected an answer like the one He gave me.  In fact, I really expected I’d be mainly spending those moments that followed speaking into the ladies who shared what God had shown them.

I did not expect that I would be crying and sharing something so deep.  Something I had no idea was still lingering in my heart—I thought I had already dealt with this!

The phrase that popped into my head, when I asked the question, was this:

You are not disposable.

I felt the tears begin to form.  Everyone else was still praying around me.  A million thoughts rushed into my head.  Not in chaos, but in complete clarity.

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You see, I was in a very long, unhealthy, abusive relationship in my early twenties.  I thought I already healed from the roots that came from that time, but the reality was clear to me in that moment.

Because of what was done to me, and because of how it made me see myself, I still carried fear of being disposed, not seen, and rejected.

This weekend was my first time away from my husband since we got married over a year ago, and I realized that fear was still influencing me now.  Regardless of how amazing he is, I was still living in a certain state (at the back of my mind) of anxiety and fear of being disposed.

I started to write down scripture after scripture, and promise after promise.  I wrote about how God is trustworthy and that He will never leave me.  I wrote about how He will protect my heart and that I can let Him be in control.  I was never in control anyhow.  But I realized there was a certain part of my heart I wasn’t allowing my husband to see because I was still being affected by those lies from that previous relationship.

I looked up from my journal.  The ladies began to share.  I felt a lump form in my throat.  I felt my feet try to drag, and I thought for a second,

“I don’t want to share this right now.  I am totally going to start sobbing.”

But I did share, and I did cry.  A lot.  And after I shared, I knew it was a defining moment for me.  I knew it was a necessary piece of my story and that God had shown up once again with His mercy.

The more I share this testimony, the more freedom I find.  I had no idea what these feelings were for years, but now that I have a label for them, they can be addressed.  There has been a certain level of inferiority I have been carrying around, and that has manifested itself in anxiety for way too long.

Praise God, He is so faithful.

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I am writing this because I know we all have stories and we all have things in our hearts that try to hide in the shadows.  But . . .

When the secrets come out, the enemy can no longer dangle them over our heads.

Once the light shines in, the darkness has to flee.

There is restoration in vulnerability.

Friends, I encourage you.  If there is ANYTHING, any lie, any struggle, that is keeping you from walking in the fullness that God has for you . . . lay it down before His throne of grace!

We were created to walk in His freedom.  Let Him into those deep and tender places.  Let Him heal your heart.

The Call of Love

I picked up a book this morning that I haven’t read in a bit. In fact, I finally unpacked my box of books a week ago for the first time since we moved last summer.

It’s called, “Come Away My Beloved” by Frances J. Roberts. My mother gave me the devotional for Christmas nearly a decade ago.   It is written in old English. So, bare with me if you are not as big a nerd as myself—I am, after all, the girl who decided to read all the works of Shakespeare one summer in high school (for fun).

I turned to the first section:

The Call of Love

I read it a few times, underlining a particular paragraph that I felt led to share with you today:

“Tarry not for an opportunity to have more time to be alone with Me. Take it, though ye leave the tasks at hand. Nothing will suffer. Things are of less importance than ye think. Our time together is like a garden full of flowers, whereas the time ye give to things is as a field full of stubble.”

I made a huge change recently. That change was unplugging from the internet more than 80% of the day. I used to multitask to the point where it was becoming detrimental to my routine.

When I left my day job to make Awake to Dream Studios my full time job, I had to eliminate everything that would keep me from staying focused.

It probably sounds odd.

I mean, everything I do is internet based and requires access to social media. But I learned the value of pouring all of my brainpower into the tasks at hand. I began to plan out my posts and online strategies well in advance. I scheduled my updates to post automatically, which freed up my hands to work elsewhere.

In the end, I didn’t need my phone pinging every time I had a message or notification. I found out I could be much more productive by checking my profiles and email at a specific time in the day, and then moving on with my projects.

What did I end up with?

Quality time in my studio and more finished projects.

Also, my prayer life has greatly increased without the added distractions. That, to me, is way more important than any of my other endeavors. If that area suffers, so does every other part of my life.

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So, I pondered that paragraph, waited on the Lord for a moment and turned to Proverbs.

I laughed as I read the title of the chapter in my bible:

The Call of Wisdom

“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 

If you turn at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”

—Proverbs 1:20-23

“Tarry not.”

All that we are longing for can be made fulfilled in His presence. Whatever we need, He already has supplied.

This is a call to a higher standard of living. He has already reached out, and is waiting, to meet with us.

The present is all we have, as we watch time melt away without delay.

These temporal things that capture our attention are nothing in comparison to the love and the wisdom that calls out to each one of us.

There is no promise of tomorrow. There is only today.

“Nothing will suffer. Things are of less importance than ye think.”

Loving Beyond My Comfort Zone

 

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This year my resolution is simple.

I want to love people more than I love my comfort zone.

You’re right, it’s not actually simple.  It requires me to step out in the face of discomfort and embrace the awkward moments.

You know what I’m talking about.

Those moments when you get an itch to take action in a way that feels completely out of the box.  You may appear crazy, but I guess . . . who cares if you look crazy?

I don’t.

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As I get older, each year has brought an increased revelation of the fragility of life.  People have told me, all my life, that time seems to go faster with each season.

Life is too short to not take the risk of feeling awkward.

And people are worth more than time and energy combined.  They are precious.

The world is full of diamonds in the rough.

We can’t reach them all, I know.  But we can start by being faithful with the ones we have the pleasure of knowing.  Even if it’s only for a blip on the radar of our lives.  That blip matters.

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Just by loving them more than your comfort zone.

Maybe your love will heal some of their brokenness.

 

Thoughts on Seasons in Life and Why Our Perspectives Matter

The other day, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in several years at a local market. It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. We chatted for a brief moment, simply answering a few questions back and forth. It was surface level. We didn’t go very deep or share our life stories from where we last left off.

Ever since that encounter, I have been replaying one of my answers over and over again in my head. When asked how I was doing, my immediate response was,

“I’m in the best season I’ve had thus far.”

As I got back into my car and headed home, I was slightly confused,

“The best season?” I thought.

This year was completely terrifying and exhausting. I laughed at my response, but I laughed out of joy. The kind of joy that clearly displays the major work God has done in my heart in the recent months. To be able to look someone in the eye and give that answer so automatically, and sincerely, was a very big deal for me. I was completely floored, quite honestly.

You see, it’s not that everything is perfect in my life right now. I am in the best season of my life only because God has touched me in a way that has changed my perspective. It has been awful, I have cried a lot, and I may even cry again after I post this. There I said it.

The difference is that I am continuing on. I am continuing on and not using anything unhealthy to cope or self-medicate this time. That alone is HUGE for me. My sense of self worth has been reestablished in a way that I have never experienced. I am learning how to say yes to what is truly beneficial, and to say no in the face of conflict.

God truly saved my life this year, and though there is still much to walk through, I am not the person I was. I want to live every year in this way. To see each season of life through the eyes of eternity and as opportunities for growth.

There will be more hardships and tears down this road, but this isn’t the end. Though there are going to be many painful moments in the future, I know one thing for sure:

The road is rich and full of His love and companionship. Though all others may fail me, I will never actually be alone.

Be Selective . . . It’s Healthy!

Just as God spoke the universe into existence, our lives are continually being formed and rearranged by words. It is imperative that we use wisdom and be selective about the voices we allow to speak into us.  Yes, this is something that we alone can choose.  Even in those situations where we may not be able to silence all of the voices around us, it is up to us to learn how to respond, filter and process in healthy ways.

I talk to quite a few people on a weekly basis.  It is not unusual for me to be approached, specifically online, by those who are struggling with various issues and seeking counsel.  Sadly, there are always a few who don’t actually want to be helped, but merely want to be heard and validated.  Being validated is a good thing, but not when the desire to resolve the real problem is still lacking.

The number one root issue I keep running into has everything to do with words.  Words people have spoken over themselves and words that have been spoken by others.  It is a very sad thing when the most crippling words in our lives come from the people who should bring healing and encouragement, but sometimes that is just the way it goes.  [Believe me, I get it . . .]

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It is so common for people to walk through life holding everyone else responsible [except themselves] for where they are at.  An avoidance of taking action and taking control of their own life, by coming up with excuses and shifting the blame.  It soon becomes a crutch that eventually infiltrates their very identity, until they can longer see it for what it truly is . . . a chaotic mess of lies.

I write this with a bit of a burden on my heart.  This week I’ve dealt with those who are in this category and it felt like I hit a brick wall.  I saw that they were starting to attempt to use me as a crutch, or rather a human-garbage-can in which they wanted to dump the weight of the world that they were carrying.

I love helping people.  I hate seeing people living in darkness.  However, this was one of those moments when I realized that their words were starting to affect me.  I noticed that when they would message me, my heart would start to race and I would immediately be hit with a wave of anxiety.  Do you know the feeling?

It was time to draw a line.

We may not be able to completely remove all of the negative voices, but we always have a choice when it comes to how we respond.  And in those situations where you are able to completely silence the voices, please do not hesitate to be brave and take a stand for your well-being.

Be selective about the words you allow to form your world . . . it’s healthy!