lose your busyness. find your life.

I just have one question.

That’s probably a lie. I ask a lot of questions of you on here. But let’s just start with one, shall we?

How in the actual heck are there only two months left of 2021?

I know everyone told me that as I get older, time seems to move faster, but this seems a little extreme. Anyone with me?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog and shared with you my big news. Woo hoo! It is almost time for my book to be fully out of my hands and into yours. Two more weeks. Is your calendar marked for November 17th?

During those few weeks leading up to that time, as I was putting all the final pieces together, I was in a short season of quiet.

I was off of social media.

I almost feel like I don’t have the words to properly explain that time to you. It almost makes it seem dramatic. It almost puts too much emphasis on the power of our phones over our lives. Because I didn’t really think I had too much of a problem.

But the truth is that – we all have a pretty big problem. And our phones are just one small piece of it.

We’re tired.

Amiright?

In my book, Backwards, each chapter is dedicated to one area of our lives in which the world’s idea is so backwards from God’s perfect plans for us. One of the chapters addresses busyness and rest. This has been a massive lesson in my life that I’m still learning. The problem is that we are moving so fast, we don’t stop long enough to even recognize our speed. Our thoughts are coming at such rapid rates, silence makes us uneasy.

On this forty day social media break, the changes in me were subtle. But the biggest one I noticed was that my head truly just felt less cluttered. It was almost as if I could feel the nonstop scrolling screech to a halt within my own body. I didn’t feel the need to constantly be checking on what I might be missing out on. I noticed some things around me more. And I heard God more clearly.

The reality for our lives is that if you aren’t constantly on the go, the world deems you as unmotivated. Hustle is attractive. But God’s world works completely different. And His is the one that brings about true life.

“God knows. He knows your tendencies, your weaknesses, your strengths; the things that refill you and the things that drain you. He is waiting on the edge of His seat for you to take a step back and show you what real life is like. What real rest is like. When we finally seek Him for our strength and our energy, when we finally say no to some things in order to say yes to the right ones, we see how living can really be. Wait, we don’t have to live in stress twenty-four hours a day? I thought that was just the American dream. It may be. But it is not God’s. You’ll have trouble, yeah. the Bible says that. You will have suffering, yeah. But nowhere in the word of God does He tell us that life should be busy and full of stress and anxiety. Could it be that our anxious culture is a result of forgetting to leave room for God? Not just acknowledging that He is Lord and He is sovereign, but we’ve also lost the idea and the value of creating empty space for Him to fill.

Lots of us are asking Him to come and fill us up, and yet we feel the same way. We’re frustrated, and we conclude that God isn’t answering us. He doesn’t hear us. But maybe, we are just too full, and there’s no room for His Spirit to come and fill.”

Backwards, Chapter Six

This is the photo that represented my most intentional rest time:

Isn’t that amazing? Through this social media fast, I didn’t have my phone to occupy my eyes or my thoughts whenever we drove in the car. I was so much more attentive to my surroundings. And this was the most incredible rainbow I’ve ever seen. As always, my little iPhone photo doesn’t do it justice. We were in Nashville, TN, experiencing a wild encounter with God. It was our last day to sightsee, and it rained ALL DAY. Literally. Until we got in the car to head to the airport. This beautiful, full rainbow followed us on our drive. The symbol of God’s promise, His peace, His covenant.

I’m not here to make you feel guilty about your phone. I’m just asking you to be honest with yourself and with God. Your life may feel a little out of control right now. You have more choices than you are led to believe. The world has lured you in with “must-haves” and they are not in line with God’s necessities for freedom.

What is taking up your time that you have believed wasn’t even your choice?

What is taking up room in your heart where you know Jesus should be?

In Hebrews 12:28, we are promised that “…We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”

If Jesus is in His rightful place, He is the King of your life. And you are inheriting an unshakeable kingdom.

You do not have to be shaken.

When you choose Him over the temporary, glittery desires of the world around you, you will find rest. You will find life.

why i wrote a book and why you should care

It’s been a week! A wonderful and horrifying week of my book being made public knowledge.

So many people have asked me why no one knew this was happening.

The honest answer is that I had no idea if it would ever truly end up in anyone’s hands but mine.

Backwards was being written for about three years. And for the majority of that time, I believed that maybe this was just a process for me to learn with God. All I knew was, He made it very clear that it was to be written. The topic was deposited in my heart right after I began counseling. I journal everything. My prayers, milestones, questions, revelations. And in the moments when I need some reminding about where I’ve been, I find myself stuck reading back through my journals for, at times, hours. This is what happened to me last night and transferred into this morning.

I wanted to share with you how this book came about, and the only way to tell you is to show you.

These are my journals from the past four years. They hold every word from God, every question I had about who He was.

Because I had lost Him.

In a short span of several months, my stepdad died very quickly from pancreatic cancer, one of my closest friends discovered she had a brain tumor, and another family member was diagnosed with breast cancer. The suffering around me was stealing my air.

I had lost God and absolutely lost myself.

I didn’t know it at the time, but after reading through these journals again, I had asked God to rebuild me. I knew I needed a new foundation. One that was firm and not built on my idea of Him, but who He truly was.

God took me on a very long (still continuing) journey of letting go. Letting go of my idea of our relationship. Letting go of my high expectations for myself. Letting go of control. Letting go of the idea that living comfortably would bring me fulfillment.

He brought me on a journey that I am so thrilled to share with you. So that we may not only accept the time-consuming and sometimes grueling journey of God’s process, but actually love Him more for it.

What in your life doesn’t seem to line up with who God says He is?

Are you walking through anxiety or depression? You thought God said He’d heal you, and that this is not His plan for you. But here you are.

Is your heart broken in pieces from grief or loss? You simply cannot reconcile how this could be God’s plan. For your life or for theirs. How can He still be good?

Have you prayed for the same thing for so long, you’re convinced He stopped listening?

Have you tried listening for His voice, only to be met with silence? You’ve convinced yourself that either you’ve believed in a fairy tale, or you just aren’t worthy of God’s attention.

Our journeys are not the same. God will not necessarily heal you the way He healed me. He may not speak to you the way He speaks to me.

Let me assure you, He wants to heal you. He wants to speak to you.

But we’ve got to trust that everything the world has told us just isn’t true.

Through Backwards, Jesus walked me through a journey of tearing down and rebuilding. A journey that learns to listen to what He says and how it’s so opposite from everything else that’s being screamed at us.

Our identity.

Our patience with process.

Our strength.

Our pride.

Our need for control.

Our version of success and need to be busy.

Our desperation for clarity.

The way we cling to comfort.

Our idea of forgiveness.

And in the end, our entire lives.

God has something miraculous planned for you.

Are you willing to grab hold of it, even if it it isn’t how you would have planned?

I’m telling you, with all that I have: Jesus’ way is better.

“Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to have scars on His hands and His feet? When He showed up to the disciples after His resurrection, the imprints of the holes were still there. Why did God leave them there? Jesus rose from the dead, for crying out loud. I think if we had written the story, He’d be glowing and have no mark or scratch on Him. But the scars remained. The scars remained because they are physical reminders of healing. They are a part of Him; His entire purpose as a man on this earth was wrapped up in those scars. His sacrifice, His suffering, His love – is in the broken holes of His body, which healed through His resurrection. They were the proof. They are what people asked to be sure God truly was who He said He was.

None of us are currently being raised from the dead. Nothing is impossible, but as you read this, you are living and breathing and not being buried. But wherever you find yourself today, the truth is this:

You have holes that are waiting to be scars.

Scars are not indicative of brokenness; they are proof of healing.”

Backwards, Chapter 8

I’ve been praying for you for years, and won’t stop now. The reality is, a book isn’t going to change your life. And it’s not changing mine. But Jesus can. Partnered with your openness, humility, and trust, everything can change.

Backwards is coming November 17th.

surprise! i wrote a book.

Welp. It’s been three months since we’ve exchanged internet space here together.

That sounded weird. It’s true, though.

I took a very intentional 40 day social media break and somehow, it just kept extending. God also made it very clear that He was also asking me to quit writing publicly for that time, too.

If you have ever wondered if your phone has more control over you than you’d like, just assume that yes, it does. If you’ve ever wanted to take an extended break to see what happens, do it. I heard God more clearly in those days than I can remember for a very long time. And truly, so much has happened.

This post isn’t about the last forty-ish days.

But more on that later.

It’s about the last three years.

Over the these years years, while I committed to more consistent blogging and getting to know all of you, I was silently writing pages that no one would see until now.

Yep, I wrote a book.

WHAT.

Guys. This is not me.

I was reminded over this time that in elementary school, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, “author” was one of the titles I considered. I used to write short stories and poems and I loved it. Somewhere along the way, that got a little lost.

What continued on as journal entries turned into a blog, and now, a book that I’m hoping you will hold in your hands.

This has almost nothing entirely to do with me becoming an author. That’s for me to celebrate.

What you get to celebrate here is God’s direct word to your heart. I have read this book ten thousand times. And every time, it moves me. Because it didn’t come from me.

This is crazy exciting news for me, but if I were you, I’d be asking one question.

Why should I care?

I’m so glad you asked.

If you have ever believed that God was good, but life stared you in the face and it wasn’t good at all…

If you have trusted that God was for you, but it felt like He was silent…

If you believed that God so loved the world, but the world felt a little bit abandoned…

This book is for you.

What do we do when what we believe about God doesn’t line up with what we see?

This is what Backwards was written for.

We’ve been told that the Bible tells us that God’s ways are higher than ours, and His thoughts aren’t like ours. What does this actually mean as we live out our lives?

The problem is, we are trying really hard to believe that God is who He says he is, but what we see around us and in us doesn’t seem to line up with those truths.

I am telling you, with every single fiber of my being, there is another way.

I found my life when I laid it down.

I found freedom and peace when, after struggling with disappointment and anxiety, I grabbed hold of these words:

Those who cling to their lives will give up true life. But those who let go of their lives for my sake and surrender it all to me will discover true life!

Matthew 10:39 TPT

I’ve prayed for three years that this is what you will find within the pages of Backwards.

We are called to live in a way that is completely backwards from the world around us. Jesus doesn’t do this to make our lives harder. He does it to set us free.

We are dying to find out who we are. Jesus died so that we may truly know Him.

We are grasping for control, when freedom is found in releasing it to the One who is actually in control.

We are avoiding pain and suffering, when our Savior said that suffering makes us more like Him.

We are begging the world to recognize us, when the Creator of the world created and defines us Himself.

Have you been feeling tired of grasping onto your own life?

There is another way.

Backwards launches November 17th.

Truthfully, It makes almost no difference to me if you buy this book or not. I didn’t do this to make money or be successful.

I wrote down words that the Holy Spirit deposited into my heart, and I believe He’s waiting to speak directly to yours.

I’ve prayed for you for three years, and won’t be stopping now.

God sees you.

He hears you.

He knows you.

And He’s ready to speak to you, if you are.

Let’s lay our lives down together to find them.

the cure for your discontentment

Y’all.

I don’t know what has happened to me, but we’ve become the level of friends where I’m about to share something I’m legitimately embarrassed about as a parent. I can’t help it. My children teach me more about the love of Jesus than anything else in my life.

My sweet little girl turned six this past weekend. The previous weekend, we threw her a pretty big birthday party. She wanted to invite everyone in the world. For her fifth birthday, it was a COVID summer, so I felt like she got pretty gypped. So we went for it this year. Fifty-plus people came to celebrate the birthday girl and it really was a ball. She was a lovely host and the kids had a blast. Not to mention alllll of the toys and presents. It was a kid’s dream.

Her actual birthday was a week later, and we still planned a special day for her. We went out to breakfast, spent time with friends, went to Chuck E Cheese, made pizza and had ice cream. Not too shabby, if you ask me. We decided not to go crazy with gifts because she got so many for her party. I got a few more practical things, but still things I thought she’d like. After she finished opening them, she turns to me and says, “Why didn’t you get me more toys?

Ummm… excuse me?

I seriously don’t know if I’ve ever felt like more of a failure as a parent than this moment. I honestly felt kind of shocked. I answered her very calmly and talked with her about gratitude, and then I walked away. I thought I would feel angry but the truth was, I felt sad! It surprised me. I texted my best friend in panic mode and asked her, “Are my children spoiled?! What is happening!?” Several people have assured me since then she is just six, and this is how kids think. To be honest, I’m still not totally convinced and we will continue to talk about gratitude even more moving forward.

As I began to process this and really bring it to God to help me respond well and teach her, He answered me in His own gentle way and essentially said to me:

You do the same thing.

How often has God gifted us with more than we deserve and we respond with complaints? The answer is every single day. He has already gifted us with more than we deserve. Our baseline for every single morning is salvation, grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace… the list is endless. These are things that God has already promised us, already purchased for us.

Our hearts and our hands are full of His goodness. And far too often, we come to Him, complaining that we don’t have enough.

But God, why didn’t you give me that relationship?

God, what about that job?

God, I don’t think this house is big enough.

This car works and everything, but I’d really love a new one…

He is so patient with us.

My initial reaction to Olivia’s response was, “Well, I guess we’ll just return these things we got you, then.”

God doesn’t do this. He’s too patient, too good. He doesn’t take things away to teach us a lesson. (For clarity, we didn’t take her presents away, either. We’re not totally evil.)

It’s been breaking my heart a little bit to picture God ever feeling the way that I felt. These were the thoughts running through my mind:

I love you so, so much. I gifted you with things that I knew would be what you would enjoy, things you need over things you want. You already have so much. I can’t believe you would doubt that we don’t want to bless you with absolutely everything. Also – do you even recognize how much we did to celebrate you this past week?

Now, those are not God’s exact thoughts. And the Bible tells me that I can’t even begin to know the thoughts of God. But I can imagine Him, as a Dad, when I ignore His goodness and faithfulness to me and complain about what I don’t have.

I talked with a dear friend this week about how overwhelmed I was with all that was coming up for me. She reminded me of something that we all know but too often forget:

Look back.

When you look back at where God has brought you, what He has given you, who He has been to you – gratitude can’t help but fill that space. There is a reason that gratitude has taken over the world; not just Christians. There is psychological proof that it can help rewire your brain.

The truth is, even if we didn’t have any personal stories of something God did in our lives, He has still given us more than enough. Our salvation was the most costly gift of all eternity. Our eternal freedom, joy, and salvation was wrapped up in one moment; one God-decision. We don’t deserve, let alone need, anything more than that.

But our God is gracious and good and kind and that is only the beginning.

What have you found yourself complaining about?

Where have you felt discontent?

This truth does not discount the heartbreaks in life. But if we’re not careful, our focus and our gaze can get skewed on what we don’t have, rather than what we do.

When I truly look back and see God’s perspective over my life, He reminds me I should absolutely not be where I am. By statistics and culture’s standards, I should have married an abusive man just like my father. I should be bound by rejection and insecurity.

The literal only reason why not is God’s grace. I am free from bitterness and unforgiveness. I am free from insecurity and shame.

Look back. I don’t know what your life looks like, but I know you have so much to be thankful for. How do I know?

The same grace that has been for me is for you. Today. Right now. And again tomorrow. The day after that.

You do not have to live trapped in discontentment; trapped in the story of your past. It begins today with wanting to move forward. Wanting to trust that there is a God who not only can rescue you; but wants to. And catch this, He already has.

You are God’s kid. You are not living in scarcity. I know your circumstances may have made you feel abandoned and poor in more than one sense of the word. Look around you at what you have, and look back on where you’ve been.

Gratitude doesn’t usually find us. We have to pull it up and out and place it in front of us over and over.

What are you thankful for?

“If you, imperfect as you are, know how to lovingly take care of your children and give them what’s best, how much more ready is your Heavenly Father to give wonderful gifts who ask Him?”

Matthew 7:11 TPT

true life: i’m not a fitness model [a challenge to the moms of the pandemic]

This was it.

This was going to be the summer that we got it all under control. Routines, everyone helping around the house, some deep cleaning and organizing that couldn’t happen over a pandemic school year. My kids are at prime ages for taking on more chores and responsibility, and I want to be the kind of mom that teaches them well. I also planned on doing more with them. More outings, more fun, more memory-making.

Spoiler alert: literally none of these things have happened. It’s been a good summer, don’t get me wrong. Since last summer was anything but normal, like many others, we are doing a bunch of traveling. Up to New York for my sister’s wedding, the Outer Banks for the annual family vacation, and back up to Massachusetts to visit my mom and speak at a youth camp. You know the drill. Why unpack from the last thing when you just have to re-pack in a week? It takes us about five days to recover before we’re back at it with the next thing.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because none of my good intentions have come to pass. And just like every other time, I return back to the lie that each of us believe far too often:

I’m failing as a mom.

Let me be real with you. Uncomfortably real, maybe. The COVID 19 was far too true for me. I’m not talking about the virus; although, I got that, too. I’m talking pounds. A weight gain of literally nineteen pounds. I’m a short person. This was a lot of weight for me. More than any other year, I dreaded wearing a bathing suit for a week at the beach. But I decided ahead of time: I wasn’t going to let this affect me. I wasn’t going to feel self-conscious or not engage in activities with my kids because I would hate the candid photos of me. My silent mantra to myself was, “I am not a fitness model.” I’m serious.

These are just two tiny examples of the kinds of things we’re facing as women; as moms. The pressure is ridiculous. Insane, actually. But I’m not here to convince you that you need to cut yourself a break. I’m not here to tell you to be more comfortable in your body and who you are.

I’m here to point you to Jesus.

Parenting is hard enough; forget a global pandemic. And although it feels like we may be on the other side, things are anything but normal for us or our kids.

Too much has been asked of us.

But wait. Has it actually been asked of us? Or have we put it on ourselves?

The real question is: What have we been focusing on?

If that’s the question, here is the truth:

If we’re focused on all that we are not doing well, then we are not focused on Jesus.

Pause.

Go up. Read it again.

It is actually that simple. Think about the intrusive thoughts that plague you throughout the day, and especially as you lay down at night.

Why can’t I just say no to sugar?

I can’t believe I yelled at my kids so much.

I am never going to get anything done.

There’s no way other women are struggling this much.

I don’t know what happened to convince all of us that we are supposed to be amazing at all of it. Organization, discipline, housekeeping, careers, fitness, cooking… the list goes on and on.

Take a moment to honestly think: who told you that life was supposed to be this way? That motherhood was a rockstar event with gold, silver and bronze medals?

I would be willing to bet that no one has actually spoken those words to you. It is a smoke and mirrors effect; a lie straight from the enemy to keep us useless and isolated. And he uses anything and everything. Social media is really not our enemy. It highlights and puts pictures to the lies that are already swirling around in our heads.

Winning the war in our minds as moms is not about self-acceptance. It is not about self love, even.

It has to be about Jesus. His love. His acceptance.

Our self-love and self-acceptance runs out. Like, fast.

But the Savior? He is love and He accepted us thousands of years ago through perfect sacrifice.

This week, I held and prayed for a dear friend as she broke down and finally spoke out loud the fears and secrets she’s been holding as a mom with young children. The weight she was carrying was tangible. Before I even said anything or prayed a word out loud, she said she already felt better after voicing it all. What was the true weight pushing her down and dragging her into darkness? Shame.

Shame is the underlying thread woven throughout the lies of motherhood. Not good enough. Failure. Pathetic. Less-than. Weak. Inadequate. Shame screams these words over us and then whispers, “No one else feels like this.”

This post is for one reason only. Okay, maybe two. Besides pointing you to Jesus, this is what you need to know. As boldly as I can say this in black and white for you to read – EVERYONE ELSE FEELS LIKE THIS.

Everyone else struggles. Feels less-than. Wonders if they have what it takes.

The only, and I mean, ONLY, differential is the peace and the love of God.

If we are worried about doing a good job in the eyes of others, we will fail. Every time.

If we focus on pleasing God in our parenting, we literally can’t lose. He promises this:

My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness.” [So Paul says,] “I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me. So I’m not defeated by my weaknesses, but delighted! For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 TPT

With God, the only way we lose is if we rely on ourselves.

We lose when we hide in isolation and silently measure our every day motherhood against polished photos of someone else’s motherhood.

We lose when we refuse grace. When we push to be powerful on our own without the power of the Holy Spirit.

But when we delight in those failures, the weak places, we open up space for God to be powerful in us. We push shame aside and throw our weaknesses in its face.

This post is useless unless you do two things:

Turn to Jesus.

Speak your stuff out loud.

Find a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor. Preferably more than one of those. You were never meant to carry this weight alone. When your weight hides in isolation, it strangles you. Bring it into the light. The light is where Jesus is.

if you’ve felt overlooked by God

Every summer, my husband’s family all take a week and go to the beach. Thirteen of us share a house for a week (minus two this year… we missed you, Layne!). It’s been an amazing tradition that is helping to shape my kids’ memories. Five kids under ten make for a memorable (and exhausting) week. I grew up living less than ten minutes from the beach in Massachusetts, so it feels like home to me.

For the first time in eleven years, we drove about four extra hours to Corolla, North Carolina. It’s amazing to me how beaches can be so different in different parts of the country. The shells and the sand aren’t the same as they are in New Jersey. The waves have their own personality. 

As the kids grow, each year they find new things to do and it’s really fun to watch. This year, Bocce Ball was the new addition. Boogie boards take up most of their day, though; riding the waves over and over until the next one comes. But every year, no matter what, someone is collecting sea shells. 

The girls collected shells constantly. I chose some, too. As they brought me and my mother-in-law shell after shell, we found ourselves tossing most them secretively behind our shoulders. You know you’ve done it, too. Don’t tell, okay?

These weren’t the shells we were looking for. They were broken. The shells we had hoped they would bring us were beautiful scallops in whole pieces. 

But the little girls didn’t care. Their eyes brought them to the color, the shape, the texture. Shells that have lived. Endured waves and shores and storms with a story to tell. 

I was reminded again that there are just so many reasons that God tells us to approach His kingdom like kids. 

To be honest with you, I wanted to run far away from this analogy because it felt cheesy. I couldn’t, though. It represents our life, what we value, and what God values far too much.

This summer, I read Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist for the second time. In case you were wondering, it was just as good. It’s a book that makes me take a deep breath, and never want to stop. 

As I read it again, I never felt like I strove for perfection. It’s not a word that I use in my vocabulary as I assess my life. But the image of wholeness? Smooth edges? Unbroken, un-tattered, maybe even unaffected? Yeah. I work tirelessly for those things without much of a reward.

When we think about God, we envision Him like us: combing the sand, skimming past the piles of half and cracked pieces of shell and rock, looking for the diamond in the rough. The untouched, the whole, the supposed beautiful.

But I think He’s far more like the kids. He finds something beautiful and unique about each individual piece. Each one a chosen treasure.

I know what you see when you look in the mirror. Your eye is drawn to what you are convinced is the worst part of you. That crooked nose, those ears that are too big. The flabby arms or too-thin lips. And it never ends there. We know what lies deeper within. 

That secret sin.

That fear that traps you.

A dream that you could never be good enough for.

Insecurity that keeps you hidden. 

Comparison that literally sucks the life out of you.

As Olivia placed her treasures in my hand, I looked at them and saw something very ordinary. They all looked the same to me. Different colors, maybe, but each blended in together to create a pile of broken pieces. But my girl? She had commentary about each one and why it was special.

“Look, Mom, this one has a purple stripe.”

Feel it! This one is so smooth.”

This one has so many bumps. Isn’t that cool?

Look at the silver stripe on this one!

This one looks like French fries!

We pass by the sea of people around us, most of the time, judging others or ourselves as ordinary and broken; just blending in with the masses. 

But Jesus? He holds each of us in His hand and finds something unique. I picture Him sitting at the right hand of His Father, saying:

Wow, look at her compassion.”

Look at that strength to get up each day.

Look at the shape of her face.”

I’m so thankful for the time she spends talking with Me.”

Wow, look how she loves Me.”

Listen to that repentant heart.”

He never skims.

He carefully holds, admires. With slow steps and careful eyes. There is no discrimination, no tossing aside. 

1 Chronicles 16 says, “The eyes for the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

Can you see the visual? Like us walking up and down the sand, head bent, eyes focused; this is how the Lord is searching. But unlike us, He’s not looking for what anyone else would call beautiful or whole. In fact, it is usually the most broken parts of us that search for Him the most. And that’s what He searches for. 

A committed, repentant, desperate heart. 

Forget put together. Forget unaffected or strong or successful. 

He’s searching for you. 

You. 

The broken heart with the story to tell.

The rough and scarred edges, tossed over and over by the waves until you finally feel washed up on the shore. 

He’s searching for you – to do what? Strengthen you.

So, listen, don’t pick yourself up. Don’t dust yourself off. Don’t worry about working hard to be made whole. That’s all His job. Let yourself be picked up, held, treasured. 

Oh, and if you were wondering, we came home with a big ole bucket of broken shells with purple stripes and lots and lots of bumps.

confessions of a worship leader

What do we do when what we believe about God doesn’t line up with what we see?

This. This has been the question that I’ve been asking God, myself, my therapist, my friends, for a few years now. 

If you believe in God in any way, and you haven’t asked this question, I am not here to jinx you. I’m just telling you; it’s gonna happen. 

We believe what we have been told. What we read in the Bible. What we have even experienced firsthand. God’s faithfulness, His goodness, His protection, His love, His strength. 

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know now that almost four years ago, my sweet stepdad fought a very quick battle with cancer and went to meet Jesus before we were ready. This is what began the new chapter of my life. I have asked God so many questions since then. 

Questions like:

If You can heal, why didn’t You? 

Do You actually hear my prayers?

Do You really mean that You care about me?

What about the rest of the world’s heartache? Are we just doomed for tragedy forever?

How can God be so good when everything around us feels so awful?



Spoiler: I have no answers for you. What I do have is three and a half years of prayer and therapy, which have led me to actual faith and trust in a God that I can’t understand most of the time.

Fast forward to about three weeks ago. There’s a new song out called “Too Good to Not Believe.” Have you heard it? If not, go search for it on Youtube or Spotify. You won’t regret it. The very first line of the bridge is this: “I’ve seen cancer disappear…” and the bridge basically recounts the miracles of God.

I have the ridiculous privilege of leading worship at my church. It’s one of my favorite things I get to do for Jesus. I listened to the song. I prepared all week. And for about six days in a row, I wondered how on earth I could stand on a stage and sing those words into a microphone. Because over and over in my head, I thought, “But God, You didn’t do it.” I am a straight hypocrite. Standing on a stage leading other people in a song with words that I can’t actually believe.

Our church has three gatherings each Sunday. With rehearsal, we probably sang the song five to six times. I won’t lie to you, I don’t remember which time it happened. But during one of the gatherings, when the line came, and I sang, “I’ve seen cancer disappear,” God reminded me:

What we see as an ending is a true beginning.

The truth is, I did see cancer disappear. Not in the way I wanted to. When we ask God for healing, we are asking for it on our terms. To keep our loved ones on earth. When the truth is this:

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for HIm to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control.”

Philippians 3:20-21 NLT

There are a million verses to choose from that remind us that this earth is not our home. We know we are living for eternity someday, but someday seems so very far away. We ask God for so many things that we believe are best. We ask for jobs and families and freedom from sickness and pain. I believe in God’s goodness and mercy. I believe He loves to give us good things. But at the end of the line, eternity is filled with every good thing, because it is where He is.

How could I be disappointed that my loved one is with Jesus? He is surrounded by love and majesty and glory. Forever and ever.

Well, I’m human. That’s why I’m disappointed. And that’s why you’re disappointed. God is not asking us not to acknowledge our losses or even ask questions about how He chooses to answer us.

But I’ll be honest with you; we are just so short-sighted. We have lost sight of the prize. We’ve lost sight of what God has found important. It isn’t comfort or happiness that makes us more like Him; it’s suffering.

“We view our slight, short-lived troubles in light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond all comparison, because we don’t focus our attention on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but the unseen realm is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 TPT

I don’t know what it is for you. I don’t know what Bible verse you’ve read or worship song you’ve sung that just hits your heart wrong and makes you question if you really believe God. My challenge for you is not to necessarily pray harder or worship more. When what you see doesn’t line up with what you believe, here is what God tells us to do:

Ask.

Ask Him why. Ask Him how He wants to reveal Himself to you through it. Ask Him what He wants to show you. Ask Him to give you a bigger perspective; to zoom out on the every day of the pain of your life and to see your situation how He sees it.

If I have learned nothing else about God these past three years, I know this for sure: He is good. He is everything else He claims to be, too. But sometimes we forget about the goodness. Sometimes we keep an arm’s length out because He is a Holy Father who simply knows best. He is; but He is near and He is present and He is personal.

What have you been afraid to ask?

“How bold and free we then become in His presence, freely asking according to His will, sure that He’s listening. And if we’re confident that He’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.”

1 John 5:15 MSG

if you aren’t sure how to move toward God

It was a holiday on a Monday. Three day weekends are so glorious. I was so prepared for a peaceful day. All of us, at home, with no plans. Rest. All the good stuff.

Nothing ever goes like it’s planned, right? My husband left early for a workout. And y’all, we were out of so many groceries. I asked my babies what they wanted for breakfast. I’m going to share with you how this conversation went. Are you ready for this dialogue?

Brady: “I want a pancake!”

Olivia: “I want a waffle!”

Brady: “Wait, I want a waffle, too.”

Mom: “Okay, well, we have one waffle left. So Liv gets the waffle and Brady gets the pancake.”

*Peace for about ten minutes. Both children eat their respective pancake and waffle.”

Olivia: “Okay, now I want a pancake, too!”

Mom: “Sorry, babe, we’re out of pancake mix. Brady got the last one.”

Olivia: “Well, can I have cheerios?”

Mom: “Sorry, we’re out of cheerios.”

… Meltdown ensues. I’m talking like a twenty minute ordeal here. I was patient. I gave her the options. I empathized. I was calm. “I’m sorry you want food we don’t have right now. I know that is frustrating…” Epic meltdown continues. I wonder what I’ve done wrong as a parent to bring about this kind of behavior.

So I finally get around to making my breakfast and my darling girl is sitting in the stairway from the living room while I cook in the kitchen. She continues to yell that she’s hungry. I tell her, “I’m not going to have this conversation yelling at you from another room. If you want to talk to me calmly, you can come here.”

She wails.

I say it again. Once, maybe twice.

Again.

“If you would like to come talk to me, you need to come where I am.”

And then, God spoke.

He said, “Go to her.”

And I’m like, “Wait, God. Doesn’t this mean I’m teaching her that I’m giving into poor behavior? I need to stick by what I said!”

And He said, “Go to her.”

I went to her. I knelt down on the stairs. It didn’t fix the conversation. But my face was level with her face. I acknowledged her emotions. All of us de-escalated. Eventually, I found a tiny bag of cheerios to turn our day around.

She didn’t know how to make herself better. She wanted me, but she couldn’t get herself to make the move toward me.

If you stuck with my story this long, kudos to you. Here is the deal, though. This is us. This is us and God. How often are we stuck pitching fits to our calm, perfect Father?

It’s what He does every time. We don’t have to meet Him where He is. When we open the door even a tiny bit: when we sit on the stairs and pout, but our hearts are open to conversation or relationship, He moves toward us.

Most of us are familiar with this verse:

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

James 4:8

What most of us hear or envision when we read this is a fifty-fifty move. We move halfway, and He meets us there. If we move a certain percentage toward God, only then will He meet us.

And I just have to believe that is simply untrue.

God sent His only Son, who died on the cross, when no one was willing to make a move. In fact, He was rejected and abandoned in every way. It was a zero to one-hundred percentage. Forget fifty-fifty.

He is God. He is worth every fiber of our being. He is worthy of our abandonment of every comfort and every ounce of stubbornness. There should be nothing holding us back from running to Him every second of every day.

But most of the time, there is something that holds us back. Whether weariness or doubt, frustration, depression, or selfishness. And yet, He chooses to move toward us.

Recently, my husband and I found ourselves in a stupid, distant place. We were both tired. We each needed the other person to make a move, and no one was moving. We both knew it, too. Which feels like the worst kind of place to be. We finally had a conversation where we agreed that a fight or disagreement was more important than giving into apathy or distance. We made a move. And we found grace and love there.

This is love.

Love persists.

Love is not stubborn to prove a point.

Love is willing.

Love goes beyond discipline or teaching a lesson.

God is love.

Love persists.

Love over all.

Over discipline or bitterness or confusion.

Are you afraid that your move toward God isn’t big enough?

He knows your heart. He knows what you’re facing. He is kind. He is not stubborn to prove a point. He will err on the side of love, every single time. Are you frozen or stuck in the same spot, unsure to move toward Him? If your heart is open to relationship, that is enough. Come toward Him any way you are able. He knows you. He loves you. That can be enough.

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that His love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken His love. There is no power above us or beneath us – no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!” (Romans 8:38-39 TPT)

Nothing. Nothing can separate you from His love.

Nothing is strong enough to pull Him away.

Not even you.

healing from emotional dependence: [why am I so complicated? pt.2]

Let’s address the elephant in the metaphorical room, shall we? My blog title is so long. I know. Let’s move on. There’s too much going on here. I want you to know what we’re getting into.

In my last blog, I shared with you about how our complex minds and emotions are not a curse. They are truly an intentional gift from God. If you need the context, you can click here to read it: https://wordpress.com/view/rachaelrestrick.wordpress.com

The more I thought about it, I realized it wasn’t a fully complete thought or truth. Yes, God made you marvelously complex.

But the truth doesn’t end there. The reality is that there is an enemy that sees our complicated actions, our played out emotions, and he works extremely hard to trap us in our complicated thoughts. Instead of a full and complete view of our complex thoughts, most of the time, we feel like prisoners to them. They spiral. We dive further and further into darkness, and the light of growth dims.

I see so much of myself in my daughter. Some of it is good; some of it, not so much. This girl has big emotions. We’re talking bigger than her little body kind of emotions. There are times where she chooses to be disobedient and disrespectful. Honestly, though, there are times that I watch her kind of meltdown and I can feel it: she doesn’t even feel like she has a choice. Especially this year. Her little self has been through so much change. She is resilient. Kids are completely amazing. But their bodies and their emotions feel things that their brains just have a hard time catching up with. I couldn’t begin to count the times that after a long meltdown, I’ve sat down with her and explained that she has a choice. She can decide how she acts. She can decide what she decides to do with her thoughts and her big feelings.

And just about every single time, I walk away with a little gut punch. As I preach to my five-year-old about taking her thoughts captive, am I living this way?

Don’t you dare think about reading this blog with the impression that I have gotten this under control. I certainly have not. But. With my paid therapist and the Counselor who guides me, along with some really great books, I have learned that the gift of my complicated mind can take a turn.

I have a choice. And so do you.

Believe me, I know it doesn’t feel that way. I understand the crippling tidal wave of anxiety, where all reason flies out the window and fight or flight instinct yells the loudest. I understand the threats of panic, which convince you that you are crazy and/or dying. I understand the heavy drudge of depression, of an empty, nothing-ness kind of mindset.

More than sometimes, we need others on this journey of choosing. We need trusted friends or paid counselors to validate our feelings, and lovingly remind us of the truth. These tools cannot be replaced or skipped over.

But there is more. If we don’t believe that God has given us the power to choose what we do with our thoughts and emotions, it won’t make any difference what anyone else says to us. We have to believe that God created us mysteriously and complex, and at the same time, has given us power through Him to overcome.

I created a diagnosis for myself the other day. Well, technically, it is already a defined term, but God flipped it around to show me a new definition.

Ever heard of emotional dependence?

Normally, it is dependence emotionally on something or someone. If you are emotionally dependent, you rely on external circumstances or people to regulate your emotions and perceived life balance.

But as I sat down with God to ask Him to help me process some of my emotions recently, He showed me that I actually had dependence on my emotions themselves. I was controlled by them. I let them take over, manipulate me, when that was never their designed function. They led me, told me who I was and what I wasn’t. What began as a gift from God became a bully that I continued to invite into my life. I believe this is an area that He has healed me from, and it is very much a work in progress.

The very real problem here, is that instead of allowing God to be the light to our feet and lamp to our path, our emotions shove Him out of the way and assume that role. Sadness, anger, discomfort, jealousy… they are cement under our feet and they dictate where we go and when we get stuck. They are gifts from God that, unfortunately, are given more power than they were ever intended for.

The majority of us swing to one side or the other when it comes to this. Some of us allow our emotions to hold us captive; drowning in them and becoming their slave. Others of us pretend they don’t exist. We shove them in a box and never deal with them. Can I tell you something, though? Even if you pretend they aren’t there, you are still giving them too much power. Neither of these ways were God’s design.

This is why we find it so impossible to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, like the Truth tells us. Too many of us depend on our emotions to be our leader. Our emotions are real and they are not wrong. But they are not our Savior.

Healing from emotional dependence for me has looked like this:

One very small step at a time. One step after another, every time.

It looks like a choice to worship, on my knees, hands open.

Eating a real breakfast and then also a piece of chocolate because that’s okay.

Eating meals while sitting down. Maybe even outside. Maybe even without my phone.

It looks like silence.

One foot in front of the other; a shower, more water, clean clothes, less caffeine.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Over and over and over.

I grab hold of the truth and speak it or write it as many times as it takes for it to sink in. The truth is here for you today.

Each sentence below is for you to grab hold of and make personal for yourself. We can walk this out together.

I can choose what I do with how I feel. The Spirit is in me and He produces good fruits of joy.

If I am feeling weak, I will accept that Jesus is allowing me to slow down, and I won’t fight Him if He believes that is necessary.

I won’t belittle myself for not being “stronger.”

Pause. Sip coffee.

I will remind myself that His grace is enough for me and my weaknesses. For my impatience and frustration at others. For my misguided belief that my emotions are a good leader.

What I feel is very real and it matters. But it is not everything. I am not a victim to myself.

I will depend on God. He is my friend, my safe place, the One who will tell me the Truth. He alone decides who I am – a royal priesthood and a chosen daughter.

You are not a victim to yourself.

You have a choice.

If you have found yourself drowning and it feels like you have no way out, this is your sign: find a counselor. Let someone else help show you how to deal with you.

But even more than what another person can do for you, the Holy Spirit is even more powerful. God is with you, for you, fighting for you. And He is in you.

For if you embrace the truth, it will release true freedom into your lives.” [John 8:32 TPT]

why am I so complicated?

why am i so complicated?

Have you ever asked yourself a version of this question? If not, feel free to give up on this blog. But for those of you who find yourselves trapped in this thought sometimes, welcome to the journey with me. Fairly often, I find myself questioning my thought processes, my emotions, what bothers me and why. Every once and a while, I get particularly stuck and frustrated and spend a good bit of time asking God why on earth He would make me this way.

Your questions or thoughts may resound with one or more of these statements: 

Why am I so sensitive? Why can’t I let that go? Why does that make me so angry? Why can’t I just be content where I am?

Know the feeling?

I know one person in my life who I am convinced has never had this thought. My darling five-year-old, Olivia. A few weeks ago, right at bedtime, we were gifted with a pretty amazing lightning storm. She and I laid in her bed, opened all of the blinds, and watched the sky light up for a good twenty minutes. It was one of those moments where I felt very present. I knew this was a beautiful and memorable experience, and I was there for it. While we laid there, I could hear her mumbling something. Then, as another flash lit up the sky, she yelled, “God heard me! I didn’t even finish asking Him for a big lightening and He answered me!” 

Yes, I know. Heart swelling. Proud mom moment.  I told her, “Yes! He hears you!

But in my mind, I thought, “You are so lucky to still be so innocent to believe that all of this lightning was just for you.” 

And just as quickly as He answered Olivia with lightening, He answered me by saying, 

I have blessed you with a complex mind.”

All week long, I had been questioning myself and asking God why I was so complicated. Without using audible words, I felt Him saying in my heart: You are just as blessed to know so much about the world and still trust and be in awe of Me. I have gifted you to be able to think, reason and weigh – and yet, still trust Me.

And so for the past week or so, God has been teaching me what a gift it is to be complicated and complex. 

Who on earth decided that complicated equated to negativity? We stay away from relationships if they are too complicated. We give up on problems when they are too complex for us. We’ve decided that if it’s complicated, it must be negative. If we can’t make sense of it, then one of two things must be true: either we are bad, or it is bad. 

If you have a hard time believing God’s opinion on the subject, then look at our language’s definition of these words:

Complicated: consisting of parts intricately combined 

Complex: a whole made up of complicated or interrelated parts

These have no negative connotations. It is simply intricate, intertwined. The opposite of complicated is simple. One dimensional. No color, no depth, no real life. 

If we’re honest, none of us want to be simple or uniform. It is our complexity that makes us unique and proves God’s masterful handiwork in each of our lives. 

Complexity is not a curse. It is a badge of honor – an honor to be a whole made of intricately combined parts. It is an honor not to be simple or one-dimensional. Our complexity leads us to deeper questions, stronger relationship with the One who made us. As we seek to understand ourselves, we can’t help but find Him there. At the very core of our being – it’s Him. The Creator. His fingerprints are all over it; all over us. They’re in the intricate parts of us that make us feel messy and twisted up. It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible that it is God’s intention to untangle us and to make us more simple. His intention is simply that we become more like Him. 

And let’s be real – nowhere does God say that He himself is simple. God is mysterious and complex. So much so, that we can barely figure out how to define or make sense of the three parts that make Him a whole.  

It is a gift to understand the goodness of God on a deeper level. To understand suffering and anxiety and trust anyway. It is a gift to trust in His sovereignty even when so much is out of my control. 

God never says, I will work in spite of your complicated self. He says: I have purposefully made you wonderfully complex. 

The next time you find yourself berating your heart or your mind because you can’t figure you out: take a deep breath. You were intentionally made to be mysteriously complex. There were no mistakes or oversights. 

Instead of asking “why?”, we have the beautiful opportunity to ask “what?”

God, what else do you want to teach me about Yourself?

What new facet of Your character do You want to reveal to me?

What is in me that You want to take out so that I can see You more clearly?

What do You want to show me about myself?

My friend, You’ve been intentionally, creatively and complexly designed completely on purpose. What a gift.

You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside
    and my intricate outside,
    and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
    Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
    It simply amazes me to think about it!
    How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
You even formed every bone in my body
    when you created me in the secret place;
    carefully, skillfully you shaped me from nothing to something.
You saw who you created me to be before I became me!

[Psalm 139:13-16 TPT]