Archive | what I’m learning

What I’m Learning: Summer 2017

What I'm Learning: Summer Edition

I like the quiet habit of sitting down each season and looking back to remember. It remedies my rushed soul and invites me to recognize the lessons I tend to unintentionally discard.

I scribble out this causal list, determined to make it to number ten. At seven, I put down my pen. I’m learning that God’s ways are perfect, and since seven is synonymous with completion, I choose to accept that this list of seven things I’m learning is also complete… for now. For this season.

I’ll end with three tiny dots, a sure sign I’m still learning. The walk continues, the pursuit continues, growth continues, and love continues to carry me on into the next season ahead.

Seven things I’m learning this summer…

  1. Gratitude can turn any threat into encouragement.

My only defense against comparison for so many years was striving. Try harder, do better, be someone else. Striving only left me wounded. But then a friend’s precious wisdom helped me see a more effective defense when tempted to compare.

She challenged me to redirect my focus back onto God by thanking Him for the beauty I see in others. I’ve practiced this summer, (and when I say practice, I do mean it’s a work in progress) but I’ve noticed a faint trace of peace in my heart. I love the notion of imperfect progress, and this is where God has me.

  1. You’re never too old to try something new.

My picky eater tried ice cream for the first time this year. He’s seven. (I know.) Our family outings to the ice cream shop end with cups of ice cream for all but one. He’s always been content with his bowl full of toppings. Until he tried the delicious stuff at school towards the end of his Kindergarten year.

This summer my girl suggested we grab some ice cream cones on a weekly grocery run. That night after dinner, we all piled heaps of ice cream onto perfectly shaped sugar waffle cones—Homemade Vanilla for the boys and Southern Blackberry Cobbler for the girls, thank you very much Blue Bell!

You're never too old to try something new.

Watching my boy at age seven attack an ice cream cone for the very first time was a little bit like witnessing pure joy. When I start to tell myself I’m too old to try new things, I want to remember the grin on my boy’s face!

  1. The recipe for righteousness has always been and will always just Jesus.

Words like faith and abide fill my Christian vernacular, yet so often my understanding of their true meaning is lacking at best. I’m learning how to embrace the simple side of faith and how to let go of striving in my own strength.

Who knew an anniversary trip to Napa Valley with my man could have such drastic effects on my relationship with Christ? I’m thankful for the travel time, but even more thankful for the way Jesus is never ever finished with me.

  1.  God’s story cannot be silenced.

Our enemy is power hungry, but since He cannot steal the power of God within us, He comes after something else: our voices. I’m learning that God’s story cannot be silenced. Since my story tells His story, I cannot be silenced either.  

The stunning book of Daniel has captivated my heart this summer. God is teaching me that He is sovereign, unchangeable, and the ultimate pursuer of hearts.

  1. Only God can turn shame into beauty.

I don’t see my friend Julie very often, but when she visited a few months ago, I had the precious privilege of hearing her storyThough we grew up together, so much of what she shared was new to my ears. Her story gave me new eyes to view my own story.

I’m learning that my wounds and scars and battle stories reveal that I’ve been redeemed. The cross, the utmost symbol of shame, is a beacon of beauty and a representation of perfect love for all who trust in Jesus.

  1. One of the hardest, most costly aspects of discipleship is a willingness to let our hearts break.

I have struggled my heart out over this one this summer. Jesus washed the feet of His own betrayer and willingly gave Himself though many would never choose Him. My heart does not have the capacity to love like this, but Christ in me does.

This summer Love is leading me through rejection, hurt, and loss. I’m learning that love is always worth it in the end.

  1. Water balloons and sunshine are overrated. Bring on the rain!

We had big plans for our first day of summer with our box of 350+ water balloons and plastic water guns. When the rain came and stayed for a while, we exchanged our water war plans for puddle jumping instead.

When we finally got our day of water fun, the big kids and I raced to fill water balloons before their baby sister launched them into the grass, making a neon mess. The fun lasted minutes; the cleanup, however, lingered on and on.

The next day, as we wiped away the Texas sweat, the kids begged to pull on their rain boots and twirl their umbrellas. The impromptu shade made a hot summer day a little more beautiful!

Water balloons and sunshine are overrated.

I pray your summer was sweet and refreshing and full of learning adventures! I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Sharing what we’re learning connects our hearts in such a simple yet beautiful way.

Until next season…

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Three Ways Our Comfort Zones Deprive Us

I grab the stack of mail and mindlessly work my way through bills, ads, and junk.

My slow cooker is handling dinner, so I snag this tiny window of quiet to thumb through the pages of this month’s Pottery Barn catalog.

Somewhere between exquisite bed pillows propped on velvety sheets and rooms that suggest someone has momentarily stepped out, I discover something I’ve been missing in this magazine that boasts of comfort and sophistication.

People.

Families, dogs, real-life people who aren’t just a blurred afterthought.

As I zero in on expressions and imagine personalities, I wonder where these faces have been all this time. On my visual stroll through stunning spaces, I start to see how my own comfort zone has deprived me.

Maintaining our comfort zones means control but no authenticity, safety but no passion, perfection but no connection.

After a little research, I learn that Pottery Barn redesigned their catalog to include humans in 2001, but all the photos with people were edited out of the final draft. I’m sure I know why.

The people who occupy space in my living room are messy and loud. Daily evidence of their presence includes dirty socks left on the floor, last night’s snack wrapper (plus some bonus crumbs), Cheerios between couch cushions, and the six-year-old’s latest LEGO creation that the two-year-old will surely find and destroy.

People offer perspective for a home magazine like Pottery Barn. A purposely placed human can help show the actual size of furniture, but this successful company has avoided using them over the years because people pose inevitable risks. A person is just one more element that can cause a customer to react.

I chuckle at the boy eating Oreos on the light gray couch. On a different page this same boy stands on the edge of a sectional with a baseball in hand. I feel as if I might know the woman in her kitchen making dinner. I wonder what she’s cooking, how many she’ll be feeding, and whether she ever uses a crock pot like me. But then I remember she’s not real.

Until now, Pottery Barn has played it safe by displaying picture perfect scenes void of real life. But we’re really no different.

We like our comfort zones because we like our control, but control deprives us of authenticity.

My youngest is as fierce as they come. Ever since she rolled in my belly to the sound of worship music on Sunday mornings, we knew God made her to live life out loud. Since the day she arrived, this pint-sized member of our family has displayed the entire range of emotion with the volume cranked all the way up.

Brené Brown talks a lot about how numbing our negative emotions results in numbing the positive ones too. Any counselor will tell you that the freedom in forgiveness is claimed by wading through the anger and acknowledging the hurt.

When my girl’s angry, there is no holding back. When she’s happy, you can’t hold back your own delight. God has a plan for her animated personality. I don’t wish away the kicking screaming fits because I’d never want to erase the smiles she elicits.

We buy the lie that our comfort zones will keep us safe, but they deprive us of passion.

When I circle back to Pottery Barn’s stance on the liability of using human subjects, I think about critics I’d rather avoid. If I was mapping out people in my life like emotions in my heart, then my critics would be down on the far end with all the negative emotions. But what about the other end? Whose names would I write there? Who in my life brings joy into my day?

People like you.

I love connecting with readers I’ve never met in person and hearing that you too struggle with this thing called life, but I would never get to hear your stories if I didn’t believe God’s plan in sharing my own. And sometimes, my feet stretch far and wide across that imaginary comfort zone boundary. But it’s worth it every time.

God has only ever asked me to share publicly what He’s already healed within me privately, but it’s still difficult. Vulnerability is never easy, because it shatters the allure of a perfect image. From negative emotion to negative feedback, we spend our energy trying to bypass the very stuff that makes us human… and very alive!

We believe that our comfort zones will help us achieve perfection, but they deprive us of connection.

So how do we take bold strides to cross the lines our safe zones have kept us frozen behind? We look to the One who left His throne for our sake. Jesus came to us as a helpless newborn. Vulnerable in every way. He endured the hatred and slander and abuse of the critics and took on sin and shame and rejection… for us.

Jesus experienced every human emotion during His thirty-three years on earth. Up and down the continuum in both directions. He left heaven knowing full well what crossing that boundary would cost Him. In His eyes, we were worth it.

I’ve tried my hardest to live the abundant life from within my tidy comfort zone, and it just doesn’t work like that. We can’t have connection without vulnerability, passion without pain, and authenticity without surrender.

We can’t have abundant life without death.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Let’s ditch our comfort zones today, because haven’t they hindered us long enough? We only find passion, connection, and authenticity outside of the lines of safety, perfection, and control.  In this world, we’re going to have our fair share of trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world.

 

Join me over on Emily’s Freeman link up for more What We Learned This Spring….

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What I’m Learning About Unsubscribing

The holiday busyness has finally come to a thankful end, and the silence and stillness my soul craves every January has made me glaringly aware of a restlessness I need to address.

Every morning after coffee, I delete about 13-16 emails.

Without opening, or even clicking, I mindlessly drag them to my virtual trash can which is an overflowing mess of advertisements, coupons, time-sensitive offers, and junk.

I need to unsubscribe.

All those times I handed over my email address to get something in return: a receipt, freebie, or steal of a deal.

Then there were times I thought I was getting something I wasn’t. Or the sender turned out to be someone I didn’t recognize.

Today, I make my list and—one by one—I scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, and I click unsubscribe. It feels more refreshing than I expected.

I’m learning the freedom of unsubscribing.

January is always the best time to make space for new—new commitments, new adventures, and new yes’s. New relationships, new growth, new opportunities to join in the work God is already doing. New habits, new rhythms, new rest.

A wise friend recently told me that every season she asks God to prune everything from her life that is not bearing fruit. This is always so hard for me, because it inevitably means saying no to good things, cutting comfortable, and ending habits I’d rather keep in my white-knuckle grip.

Bare often comes before beauty. The practice of making space requires discipline and patience. We make space for yes only by saying no. We make space for new only by disengaging from what isn’t thriving.

Today, my email list is my barometer. I’m learning that I say yes a whole lot more than I should, and after just 15 minutes and 40 un-subscriptions, I realize why I haven’t unsubscribed sooner.

As I methodically click through the steps to disengage from all the marketing agreements, explain myself with a check of a box, and confirm my decision to unsubscribe, I am aware of one lingering fear.

I’ve been dragged down a time or two by the nasty fear of missing out.

Our culture screams to us that if we pull back, step out, or disengage—even for a season—we’ll be left behind and forgotten. We fear we’ll regret the decision as soon as we come to terms with all we are missing out on.

So, we keep subscribing.

The truth is that all this junk is what’s causing us to miss out. We’re missing out, because we’re too busy hauling stuff to the trash every day.

It’s amazing how much less distracted I am after unsubscribing.  I still receive emails. Out of 54 subscriptions, I eliminated 40, roughly 75%. My fourteen favorites I kept, and with all the space left over, I decided to add 3 new subscriptions.

Paying attention to my inbox has made me more aware of what I allow into my head.  I’m asking myself: What are my subscriptions to dangerous and destructive thought patterns costing me? Am I missing out on stuff like peace and opportunity and the silence required to hear the voice of God?

I’m learning through deep cuts and shallow scrapes that what I bargain for doesn’t always end up in my favor. I cooperate—even sign my name on the line—all to my own demise, because the source asking my consent isn’t God.

I’m learning how a cluttered mind crowds out peace.

Though I could easily crank out 40, here are the top ten thought patterns I am unsubscribing from… with God’s help, of course. (Disengaging from destructive or distracting mindsets is never something any of us can achieve on our own.)

I’m pulling every one of these out of my mental inbox and asking God to replace those empty spaces with the truth of His word.

 

M y   u n s u b s c r i b e   l i s t:

living like it’s all up to me

assuming the worst rather than believing the best

trusting others rather than God

fearing others more than I fear God

competing

comparing

harboring bitterness

choosing unforgiveness

measuring impossible expectations

forgetting all about grace

 

This is a lame list of lies or at best, it should be categorized as “Junk” with a capital “J.” It may take a whole lot longer than 15 minutes, but I know I’m not the One accomplishing this feat. Honestly, some of these have been on my unsubscribe list for years now.

Unsubscribing isn’t always automatic.

But the decision to unsubscribe—fueled by a desire to disengage—will eventually eliminate distraction and discouragement. Eventually.

This matters. The space you surrender to God counts. He sees beyond the disgusting pile of garbage all around you… He sees you, and He has a bold plan for all the empty space He wants to help you clear out. He’ll fill every crevice and corner and hollow space with His grace.

God, renew our hearts and minds. We bring every sinful subscription to the foot of Your cross, and ask You to unsubscribe us from all that contradicts your Love and purpose for our lives. Empty us of every lie we’ve believed in fear; empty us of ourselves. Make space in us for Your truth. Amen.

 

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

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What I’m Learning About Change This Fall

What I'm Learning: Fall EditionI love fall, but I can’t stand change. God whispers His language of change, and I can’t decide whether to spring to my feet and dance or run away and hide. Change excites, and change unsettles. Most of the time, change does both.

This fall, I’m learning how God uses the strain of change to draw my heart closer to Him.

Change is inevitable. It illustrates a good and promising sign of growth. We cannot experience transformation without change. If I’m honest, though, I’d rather stay stuck in my tidy, fenced-off, comfort zone.

When my heart experiences the excitement of change, it’s usually a good indicator that my eyes are focused on the new thing God is doing. Unsettledness in my soul often reveals I’m still clinging to the old thing. I tend to release it to God more confidently when I’m honest about what I fear. But still, it’s a struggle.

Maybe the trouble is our aversion to grief.

Why do we think we can let go of the old without allowing grief to do its deep heart work? Maybe it has to do with our desire to bypass grief, because grief is so slow and unpredictable. Sometimes, we’d rather not experience the pain of grief, but our hearts weren’t designed to rush into change without acknowledging the struggle.

Our hearts weren't designed to rush into change without acknowledging the struggle.

There is no way around grief. No detour or fast lane through. We cannot rush grief, and we cannot ignore it. Grief doesn’t indicate that God has failed us. Grief encourages us to admit that something is not right and we need God to make it right. We need an unchanging God to be our constant.

Grief invites us to experience the wonder of a God who cannot and will not ever change.

Maybe somewhere along the way, we’ve started to believe that grief diminishes the good that’s coming. Before the Israelites entered the promised land under Joshua’s leadership, they mourned the death of Moses for thirty days. (See Deuteronomy 34:8) They were right on the cusp of God giving them everything He had promised, but they didn’t dismiss their much needed season of grief.

Before Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb, Jesus wept with Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. The crowds that had gathered observed His deep love for His friend. (See John 11:33-43) Yes, grief is a sign that we’ve loved well, but the story doesn’t end there.

When Lazarus walked out of the tomb, God was demonstrating what He would soon accomplish in raising Jesus from the dead, only this time it would be permanent. No more death. No more darkness. No more grief.

When I reflect on my own need for change, grief should be my first response to the weight of my sin. Only in experiencing brokenness can I fully accept Jesus’ love for me. Grief is first, and next is precious, abundant joy for the new life He’s given me—a life I do not deserve.

The gospel is the very intersection of my desperate need to be changed and an immutable God who is willing and able to change me.

Fall paves the path to winter, and spring follows. We cannot skip winter. The cold of winter enhances the radiance of spring. Fall reminds us that this transformation is about to occur right before our eyes. We can’t stop it, and we wouldn’t want to. Not really.

It reminds us that our Creator is in control of the seasons just as He is in control of our ever-changing lives. It reminds us that we, too, need Him to change us moment by moment, season by season. Again and again and again.

Give your heart permission to slow down and savor the change all around you this fall. May this transitioning season draw you closer to the One who makes all things—hard things and awkward things and yes, even dead things—alive and new.

What are you learning this fall?

Kelly

 

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What I’m Learning: Summer Edition

What I'm Learning: Summer Edition

I get together with a group of women every Sunday night. We laugh, we cry, we pray for one another – oh, and we stuff our faces with yummy (sometimes healthy) food. It’s a safe place where we’re free to be our real selves. It’s where healing and learning and growing happens.

My favorite part is when someone shares what she’s learning.

I love hearing things like, “This is where God has me, but I don’t know why we’re here,” or “He’s teaching me about this, but I don’t quite understand it.” It’s like looking through a well lit window right into a beautiful soul where God is just doing His thing.

There is freedom in laying these lessons out on the table long before they’re tidy and clearly articulated and understood. We learn better when we process together. We need people along the way who are willing to just sit back and listen. We need people who are willing to ask us the hard questions. We need people who are willing to say, “Yeah, me too.”

Sharing what we’re learning is a lot like handing over a really messy rough draft.

There’s a certain level of vulnerability that comes with sharing something that’s still in the works. Life is all about recognizing that we are all still a work in progress. Today I’m sharing what I’m learning in hopes that it will encourage you to do the same. After all, rough drafts eventually become beautifully polished stories.

I’ve been unpacking Jesus’ response to His followers when they asked Him who was the greatest.  Jesus’ answer reveals so much about His heart and sheds some light on my own, too. Jesus’ response isn’t a recipe for how to become great; it’s a lesson on humility.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

My kids are home for summer, so there have been endless opportunities to reflect on the phrase “like little children.” Sensing that God wants me parked here this summer, I started a list of words that describe little children. Every time a new word comes to mind, I pull out my journal and jot it down. Nothing fancy – just a simple, scribbled list. This is what I’ve written so far:

L i t t l e  c h i l d r e n :

h u m b l e

s m a l l

p r e c i o u s

h o n e s t

n e e d y

d e p e n d e n t

b e l i e v i n g

t r u s t i n g

n o t   p o w e r f u l

v u l n e r a b l e

t e a c h a b l e

It’s the last one that has caused me to look at my own heart and ask, “Am I like that? Am I teachable?” Maybe it’s because of the one hundred and one questions being hurled in my general direction on a daily basis, all of which begin with the word, “Mommy,…? Mommy,…? Mommy,…?”

Little children ask questions because they don’t know, and they’re not the slightest bit ashamed to admit it.

Discovering the answer is more important than making sure no one finds out they don’t have it. Little children aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.” They know that the very words mark the beginning of an adventure.

So, why do these three little words feel so uncomfortable coming out of my mouth? After all, only God is all-knowing. I will never have complete or unlimited knowledge and understanding. But, I’ve started to notice how much saying this phrase frustrates me.

This summer Jesus is asking me to get comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.”

In Women of the Word (one of the books I shared last month), Jen Wilkin talks about how patience is part of the learning process, especially when it comes to studying God’s word. She uses the word dissonance a bunch. I looked it up in the dictionary the other day just so that I could understand it a bit better.

Dissonance is defined as “a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion; lack of harmony or agreement; tension.”

My restless soul craves completion. Engaging the dissonance between “I don’t know” and “I understand,” helps me come to terms with my limitations in light of a limitless God. Willingly entering the tension means placing myself in a position to learn.

I’m learning that humility means choosing to be teachable, and being teachable begins with saying, “I don’t know.”

What is God is teaching you this summer? Is there a phrase (like mine) that you’re learning to embrace? Leave a comment… I’d love to hear from you!

Kelly

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