a letter to my 17 year old self

I kind of can’t believe I’m typing this, but I graduated high school 10 years ago today. It’s a bit baffling. But rather than diving into a long rant about how time is wild and I just don’t understand it, I thought it’d be fun to write a letter to my 17 year old self (because I was a youngin’ and didn’t turn 18 until the week before I left for college) as a form of reflection. So here it goes…

Dear 17-year-old Kelly,

Congratulations! You finally made it. You finished high school and get to move on from this place that you’ve been looking forward to leaving for the last 3 years. Since I’ve gone ahead and taken on the next ten years of your life already, I figured I’d give you some insight to ease your mind about what is ahead – or at least prepare your heart for what is to come – without giving you too many spoilers. So here’s what I have for you:

First things first, get ready for a roller coaster ride. And not the kind that you ride over and over again because you love it so much. But the kind that you can only ride once and you have no idea what is going to come next. Because honestly, that’s what life is. It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns. There are high highs ahead, and there are also low lows. But don’t be afraid of them. They all piece together to make you the person that is writing this letter to you now. And while she’s perfectly imperfect, she’s grown significantly more in the last 10 years than you could ever expect.

While we’re kind of on the topic of it, I know you don’t like to consider yourself a perfectionist, but we both know that you’re chasing perfection in pretty much every area of life…and to be honest, you’re going to keep chasing it, and you’re going to keep coming up empty handed. Don’t let that statement discourage you. Honestly, the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll feel freed up by it. Life isn’t meant to be perfect. YOU are not meant to be perfect. And even though you’ll come to learn that your desire for it is just how you’re wired, it doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in an endless chase. There are far better things to chase after. So take the pressure of yourself, do your best, and most importantly give yourself GRACE.

I know you’re going to overlook that last word, because it just sounds like a simple church word to you. But I’ll warn you now that through some hard and heavy failures, you’re going to truly learn what God’s amazing grace is and it’s going to be a game changer. It won’t be until you experience these hardships that you truly understand your need for Jesus, and that up to this point you’ve still been trying to save yourself. The sooner you surrender, the sooner you can rest in your freedom in Christ, and the sooner God can really use you for His glory.

I know you feel like you’re “behind” in some way for only knowing Jesus for a few years, but girl, He is just getting started with you and that is a beautiful thing. He’s going to wreck your heart and build you back up so much stronger – which might not sound appealing, but trust me, it truly is for your good. He’s going to use you in the quiet moments – some you’ll be aware of, and many of them you won’t. Just be open and willing to be used for His glory and be ready to be amazed of all that God is capable of. Following Him truly leads to a more abundant life.

I remember now that you’ve been trying for awhile to fully believe it is ok that you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life. You’ve been told it many times from other people as well. I’m here to confirm for you, it really is ok. Even when it feels like you’re doing something wrong because everyone else seems to have it figured out, you’re not. The fact that you accept this will only make it easier for you to find your path when the time is right. Because God’s not leaving you hanging. He’s just waiting for the right time. He’ll let you in on what you need to know when you need to know it. And that means you’ll figure things out piece by piece. (Heck, I’m still figuring it out. And don’t worry, I’m so okay with it). Until then, I know you’ll come to this verse on your own eventually before you head off to college, but I’ll throw it out there to emphasize it’s importance for you: “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Life is never again going to look like it does right now for you. It’ll weird you out, and confuse you, and create some tension within you at times, because I know your tradition loving self likes to cling to the way things are when you are happy with them. But trust me when I say it’s okay to accept change and step out into the unknown. Your best memories will happen because of it. Your most significant growth will happen because of it. And it’s true that in order to experience the greatest abundance you have to let go of some things in the process. I’ll affirm with you, though, that there won’t be a day that goes by that you look back and want to return to high school. You’re going to love college. You’re going to love what comes after it. Good days and good things are ahead.

Now let’s be real, I think there’s some temptation for you right now to think you have it all figured out. I mean you’re about to turn 18. You’ve experienced a lot of life so far and you’ve already learned so much. But please let me do you a favor and lovingly tell you that you don’t. And that’s a good thing. Embrace humility in accepting that. And more importantly, embrace humility in admitting that. This will especially come into play as you navigate friendships. I know you’ve had your fair share of trials when it comes to friends (be encouraged that you do learn from them), but there’s still so much room for you to learn and grow here. There’s still some hurts ahead of you, and there’s certainly still some hurts that you’re going to inflict on others. Know that there is beauty in redemption, even when the road to it is painful. And there is also peace in letting go at the right times, even when the road to do so is painful. The friendships that endure through it all in the end become all the more worthwhile because of it.

Speaking of relationships…now I probably shouldn’t spoil this surprise for you, but it’s just too good not to…that boy you’re dating…you’re going to marry him. I know, I know. It’s wild. You’ll defy the odds of the statistics and marry your high school sweet heart. But your journey together is just getting started and your path won’t be without trials, heartaches, and pain, so don’t get too far ahead of yourself. But you’re also going to experience redemption and forgiveness and restoration in ways you’ve never known. Everything you’ve ever expected out of your relationship with him probably won’t go as planned, but it turns out better because of it. (And I’ll let you in on a secret, he only get’s more handsome).

On a different note, I’m going to be the bearer of bad news in saying that what everyone told you about your metabolism catching up with you is true. You’ve had it easy up to now. There will come a day when your health is going to require much more effort and intentional work than it ever has. It’ll rock your world for awhile, and it’ll hit you in waves and seasons, but I tell you this so that maybe you’ll handle it better than I have. Don’t take for granted your walks to class and your intramural sports. And when it does hit you, don’t be afraid to confess it like I was. You are not alone in the insecurities you’ll face, and you are not less than for feeling them. The more that God’s truth can be spoken against the lies you’ll believe, the sooner you’ll likely snap out of them and embrace the truth that you are loved and valued no matter what the shape of your body is.

Now I recognize that this has been quite a lot (yep, your wordiness doesn’t change one bit as you get older), and there’s so much more I could say, but let me finish off with this: It’s nothing but an adventure ahead of you, sweet girl. So buckle up and hang on for the ride (maybe throw your hands in the air for the thrill of it every once in awhile too)…it’s a good one ahead.

Sincerely,

27-year-old Kelly

five things i have learned from being a military spouse

This month marks five years since my husband commissioned into the US Air Force and we started on this wild and wonderful journey of military life. We have since lived in three (very different) states, gotten more familiar with the way the Air Force works, spent countless days apart due to his job (although we haven’t experienced a “traditional” deployment), and met some fantastic people along the way. The experiences we have had as a result of this career path have shaped us in ways we couldn’t have expected, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned from my experience as an Air Force wife so far.

But first, I’d like to preface with this: everyone’s military experience is a bit different. The branch of the military, the job, the places lived, family dynamics, and more, can all affect what someone’s “military life” looks like. Therefore, while there are many unique and connecting factors about the military, it is not lost on me that every single military spouse might not relate to everything I have been through or learned. What I am sharing is what I have learned from our experience with the Air Force. And hopefully it sheds some light on how being a military wife has affected me.

How To Let Go Of Control And Trust In God
This is absolutely the number one thing I have learned over and over again as a result of this particular path of life. In the military, you can put in preference of what you’d like to do with your career and where you’d like to go, but ultimately it is up to the powers-that-be to decide what you end up doing and where you end up going. And even when things seem like a done deal, there’s always a chance that something can change. As someone who naturally finds comfort in control and likes to know what’s going on, God has done a miracle work by helping me to become much more flexible and accepting of the lack of control I have in determining any part of our future. This way of life has established my trust in Him probably more than anything in life so far. Because whether our path has led us to what we’ve wanted or expected, or not, God has been ahead us and beside us. He has been faithful in the good seasons, and in the hard ones. He has led us to exactly where He’s wanted us, regardless of if it has made sense to us in the moment, or later down the road.

A truth I clung to when we first began this journey was that God would work all things together for our good, and for His glory. Sometimes our “good” hasn’t felt very good because it has meant hard things that have sharpened us or caused us to grow. Other times we have felt the good come to fruition in the sweetest of ways. But regardless, five years later, I can confidently proclaim that this belief has been unwaveringly true in our lives. And that has helped me to relax and loosen my grip on our future. There’s often a lot of unknown with the military life, as well as a lot of unexpected changes. But by the Lord’s grace I’ve become a lot more comfortable with going with the flow.

Where You Live Is What You Make It
In many people’s opinions we have lived in the worst of the worst places when it comes to the Air Force: Minot, ND. Quite frankly, I wasn’t thrilled at all when I found out we were moving there years ago due to the reputation of cold weather. But after learning quite quickly what I already mentioned in my first point, God helped us to see that we had a choice of how we approached our time in Minot. We could either choose to be miserable and hate every moment of it, or we could make the most of it and find the good. Thankfully, there was a lot of good to find. While the winters could be a bit brutal, we look back on our time in Minot with fondness for the friends we made there that became family in a season that we really needed fellowship (plus I’ll still rave about how fantastic the summers were). No matter where you travel to or live in life, everywhere is going to have pros and cons. So no matter where you go, if you choose to accept that a place is horrible, you will easily find all the reasons why it is so. But if you make conscious choices to make the most of it and see the good in it, you might just find yourself appreciating it for exactly what it is.

How To Make Friends As An Adult
Due to the transient nature of the military life, either our moves, or our friends’ moves, have caused us to start over with friendships time and time again. It certainly has its challenges, but it has forced us to recognize the intention that relationships take, and the value of having a community – especially as we’ve had seasons with and without it. While sometimes you can fall into relationships quickly and naturally, establishing new ones as an adult oftentimes takes putting yourself out there – and we all know how terrifying that can feel. I’ve recognized that different seasons require different kinds of efforts to make friends. But I think the acceptance of that fact has helped me learn to make friends better – knowing that it isn’t a cookie cutter approach. Sometimes it has looked like joining a Bible study; sometimes it has looked like meeting my husband’s co-workers and hanging out with them and their spouses; other times it has looked like getting plugged in at a local church; and even other times it has looked like taking a risk and asking the girl I just met if she wants to grab coffee sometime. There are many ways to meet and start a friendship with someone, and sometimes it takes waiting to meet the right person for things to really click. So going in with a flexible approach and embracing all the differences has helped make me more adaptable to it.

Long Distance Relationships Are Hard
Now I could have spoken to this years prior to our military life, as we spent a majority of our dating years long distance, but we’re in a whole new ball game now. The more we have moved around, the more relationships we’ve established; therefore the more people we’ve connected with; and therefore the more people there is to stay in touch with. And when a majority of your friends and family live in completely different states than you, it can be a lot harder to maintain those relationships well. It’s hard enough to handle one long distance relationship, let alone thirty. Especially when you are trying to establish a life and community where you are at. I have oftentimes felt like I am being pulled in multiple different directions. I’ve also gone through many seasons of disappointment over relationships no longer being what they were before. But I have had to come to accept that it’s impossible for a friendship to look the same when you go from living next door to each other to living hundreds of miles away from each other. Mix in marriage and children and jobs and all the other aspects of growing up and it gets even more complicated. All of this to say, I’ve come to learn that I’m pretty terrible at long distance relationships because I get easily overwhelmed at the amount of people I have to stay in touch with now. So then I try to simplify and fall back on doing what I can and giving myself grace, but that could also mean disappointing someone as my efforts towards a relationship might slacken. It’s challenging. Especially for someone who often has high expectations of herself. And I’m still figuring it out. In fact, I’ve felt like I’ve been in the depths of it for years now. It kind of seems like the nature of the game with this life. So I’ll keep doing what I can, and giving myself grace for the rest. (Hopefully my loved ones can offer the same).

The Church Search Process Is Not For The Faint Of Heart
As Christians, we understand the extreme importance and value of being a part of a body of believers to navigate through life with. So with every move, one of my first priorities is to find a church to call home. But I can sum up our last five years of church experiences by saying it’s hard starting over again and again. It’s hard taking the time to find the right fit, only to have to prepare to leave once you finally feel at home. And then in the next place, it’s hard not to feel reserved and hesitant to dive in when you know how much it hurts to have to leave once you do. It’s hard to weigh out your options of which church to attend when none of them seem to fully fit what you were hoping for, or they don’t compare to what you’ve had in the past. It’s hard to find the balance between being discerning and being critical when trying out somewhere new. And it’s hard to feel motivated to find, or even attend, a church when you’re carrying some hurt from the last one you were a part of. It just feels a little exhausting to navigate the process sometimes. But the positive experiences we’ve had in the past, in combination with our trust in God’s Truth, lead us to believe that it is valuable and worth it to get involved and connect with other believers. To be honest, going through this process over and over again every few years is probably the hardest part of the military life for me. I would love to put down roots in a church that we feel at home at. Quite frankly, I’d love to return to one or two of the churches we’ve been a part of in the past. But that’s just not our reality. So I keep trying to hold this part of our life with open hands and trust that God will continue to lead us to where we are meant to be – for our good, and for His glory.


This Air Force life has led us down some amazing paths already in the last five years. It’s been thrilling, challenging, exciting, and stretching, in all the best and hardest ways. It’s taught me so much about life, myself, and my faith. And while these are things I have learned already, they are also things that I am continually being reminded of through every step of our journey. And I know I have so much more to learn. So here’s to wherever the Air Force wind blows us next...

coffee date

I’ve seen it done many a times before where a blogger has written a post as if they are going out on a coffee date with someone as a way to share what’s been on their heart lately. I came across another post like that today, and I immediately felt compelled to do one too. I think the time to catch up will be good. So, let’s go on a coffee date, shall we?

While you order, I’ll ponder over which sugary drink I’ll have that will cover up the taste of my coffee. We’ll grab a table in the sunlight per my request because warmer days are ahead and I just want to feel it. After catching up on recent events, we break into conversation about the deeper stuff. About how we’re really doing. How have I been? I’m so glad you asked…

If I’m being honest, the past couple weeks have left me feeling a little frazzled. I started off the first two months of 2019 with my husband out of town for a training. You might say, “wow, that’s a long time,” and I might respond with something along the lines of, “yeah, but it could have been worse.” Always the optimist here. While he was gone I defaulted into some routines and rhythms to help manage with the loneliness (not that I was depressed; just out of sorts without my best friend around me each day). Thankfully, I got into a groove, and while I missed Adam terribly, I was managing alright for the time being. Two weeks ago he finally returned, and I could not be more ecstatic. It didn’t feel real at first. I spent his entire first night home staring at him and having those “pinch me” moments because I was so used to him being gone. Having him back has been the best, and thankfully our relationship hasn’t hit too many hard spots after being apart for so long (like I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of). Soon after he got back, my dad was in town for a night to visit, and then a day or so later some beloved friends came to town for the week. And while all of this has been wonderfully amazing and not in any way negative, I got a little burnt out. I spent the last two months a bit more on my own. And all of a sudden I was busier and more social in two weeks than I had felt like I was in the last two months. And it threw me a little out of whack.

Which leads me to how I’ve been struggling over the last couple years to determine whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert (especially lately after finishing Reading People). Years ago, I would have more easily identified as extroverted. But as I’ve gained understanding about what extroversion and introversion truly are, I’ve leaned a lot more towards the introverted side. And it’s confused me. I see strong qualities of both in my life. Every time I think I’m sure, something else comes up within me that makes me second guess it. And I think the blurriness has left me feeling a bit off-kilter. I’m still working on figuring it out, in it’s time though, because I feel like it’s pretty multifaceted. But the introverted characteristics of myself have been fairly dominant lately, and I think that’s why I so quickly burnt out. I needed some space. I needed some alone time. I needed some time to really regroup.

Thankfully, I got that this weekend. After sending off our dearly loved friends, I headed into the weekend with no set plans. Adam asked if I wanted to go out and do something, and I pretty quickly turned it down for two days to reset and recharge. Thankfully, he understood. I’ve spent the last two days with a good mix of relaxing and recouping. I’ve spent extended time in the Word to recharge my heart and soul. I’ve given my mind some rest by watching Survivor (because Adam has been watching it and he has me a little sucked in despite my distaste for reality TV). I’ve had a bit of retail therapy by walking around Target. But I’ve also done some tidying and laundry. I washed the floors. I bought groceries and meal planned. I did a mid-month check in on our budget. I rested, but I found my footing again so I can head into this week with a firmer foundation. Thankfully two days of sunshine and rising temps has helped too after our bomb cyclone blizzard this week.

You see, I thrive on rhythms and routines. I’m a much more balanced and healthier person when I have them. But I also recognize that if I stick to them too firmly (which I have a tendency to do if I’m not careful), I’ll often miss out on the most valuable moments of life. And so I have to intentionally remind myself to hold them loosely when necessary. That means I risk some of the stability that I work so hard to maintain. But as God so kindly reminded me (again…for the umpteenth time) today, my life is not about finding balance. It’s about being obedient to the mission He’s called me to. And not for my own righteousness sake. But because I ever so desperately need a Savior to come rescue me when I get myself so ensnared by my selfish attempts to manage life on my own without Him. It’s about His righteousness saving me, and you, and the person sitting a table over from us, and the barista behind the counter, and so on and so forth. I need the reminders often that I can’t have it all together on my own. The chaos I felt within me this last week is an example of that. And I’m in a place where I’m okay with recognizing that. It’s just going to take a lot more time, and a lot more of the Holy Spirit in me to change my default settings to reliance on Christ rather than reliance on myself. Thankfully, he’s MUCH more reliable than me.

We cheers to that. And when I finally finish spitting that all out and take a breath, I’ll probably apologize for talking about myself so much, and you (hopefully) express understanding. I’ll then ask how you’re doing and get an update of where your heart has been. As our time ends, we toss our cups, give each other a hug, and head on our way. Until next time friend…

get after grateful

I know we are already knee deep into December, and while I’m wholeheartedly invested in this Christmas season right now, I don’t want to go any further without sharing about some of ways God moved in my heart in November.

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This year – for no one other than myself – I set out on a mission to post on Instagram at least one thing I was grateful for every day of November. But instead of just listing off the major highlights, I wanted to do it in real time. I wanted to truly consider what I could be grateful for throughout each day  – whether big picture, overlooked details, or anything that fell in-between. And I wanted to thank God for it all no matter the state of my day.

What inspired me most in this pursuit was Rach Kincaid, who years ago started using the hashtag #getaftergrateful to create a community of people living lifestyles of thankfulness and to recognize Who we are thankful towards – not just when life is good, but more importantly, even when life feels hard or painful or tiring.

What I really like about this hashtag is how it carries on even outside of Thanksgiving. Gratitude is a discipline and habit that can be practiced all year round. I’ve seen Rach place that hashtag on posts with the simplest of moments or details from any given day. I’ve even used it a time or two myself previously doing the same thing. But to help enter into this holiday season I wanted to be really intentional about fostering a spirit of thankfulness, no matter the circumstances of my life.

So I dove into this little project with open hands, and loose expectations. I kind of made up my rules as I went but here’s the main premise of what I set out to do:

  1. Focus on the day itself. What throughout each day stood out as something that I either felt grateful for, or could choose to be grateful for?
  2. Be transparent. Be honest about the day. If it was a good day full of good things, praise God. If it was a hard day full of challenging things, still praise God. I don’t want to come across as someone who has their life all in order (well let’s be honest, my enneagram 1 self would love for that to be the perception of my life, but it’s just not true and I don’t want to deceive anyone). And so I wanted to be real about the beautiful and about the mess.
  3. Don’t limit myself to just one thing each day.
  4. Repeats are ok. Because I’m often grateful for things for more than one day a month.
  5. Post a picture from the day. Use my camera for more than just pictures of my dogs, and capture the little things that represent the happenings of the day.

Now that might sound like a lot, but like I said, I had loose expectations. Some days I didn’t follow those guidelines, and I was totally okay with that flexibility.

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So in hindsight, here’s what I got out of it all:

  1. The goal of posting each day of the month ended up causing more discipline with my gratitude. Now I’m not saying that sharing with the world every day what you’re thankful for is necessary for a lifestyle of gratefulness, but this small scale challenge held me accountable to really think through my day, and what I could thank God for despite my feelings. Some days that meant recognizing opportunities for community in a season of dryness. Other days that meant choosing gratefulness for the Harry Potter series for some mental relief. This semi-structured plan of 30 straight days gave me the chance to pause at the end of each of those days and consider the simple & complex things that I could thank God for.
  2. Gratitude is not just something that we FEEL. It is also an attitude we can CHOOSE. We all have those days that we don’t feel like anything went well. Days where we are worn out or frustrated or hurt. And we don’t feel like thanking God for those things. But whether it’s reasoning behind those feelings, or something small and unrelated that happened outside of that, we can still choose to thank God for so many things in our lives. I wasn’t thrilled the day that I had a lingering headache and a terrible knot causing me back pain, but I was able to still choose gratefulness for the relief that a fridge full of leftovers brought about because I didn’t have to cook. It’s a choice to name the good stuff instead of dwelling on the bad.
  3. The things that came up numerous times helped highlight threads of God’s blessings and answered prayers. Day to day we might not pay attention to the intricate ways God is at work, but when we piece it all together and take a look back, we can see how He may have been actively involved in the quietest parts of life. For example, coziness and Sabbath were frequently mentioned throughout the month, and I see now how God encouraged me towards spending my time that way to balance me out before a more lengthy holiday trip to our home town – which usually means busyness and a bit of unsettledness at times for me with the lack of routine.
  4. Sometimes blessings can speak for themselves. Other times it takes some uncovering to really see how a blessing is impacting me. Some days I would list off basic details or events that I was thankful for and call it good. Other days I really dove into why I was grateful for something. Both produced a posture of gratitude towards God for me.

So why share this all with you? Because I want to urge you towards a lifestyle of gratefulness – not so you can ignore the hard stuff, but so that you can see God through it. No so you can just be happy about your life, but so that you can recognize who you are thanking. You don’t have to share on social media (unless you think that might be a cool practice for you – then go for it!), but I encourage you to foster the discipline of choosing gratefulness, rather than waiting for it to come your way. You never know what you might get out of it.

So go on, get after grateful.

long time no see.

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I’ve sat down to write this post numerous times in the last 3 years. Even greater is the number of times I’ve thought about writing this post, and then never following through with it. I’ve wanted to come back to this online space for awhile. To be honest, I never intended to really leave it. But when my days got more full and time seemed to be less available, my priorities needed some sorting, and this was an area that I could afford to cut out – at least for awhile. Being present with our community in North Dakota felt like a greater calling at the time, so I chose to invest more in that, and I don’t regret it one bit. Now, though, a lot of time has passed, and a great deal has changed. And for the past months, I’ve been feeling an even greater prodding to return. A prodding that didn’t just come from my own wishful thinking anymore. It seemed to come from outside of myself. It has felt, most often, like a push from God. A push to once again share the story and the knowledge He’s given me for more than just my own benefit. A push to start using the gifts He’s given me for His glory again.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Each time I’ve inched towards dipping my toes back in the water, I’ve psyched myself out. I’ve let fear or insecurities choke out the intentions. Like a flame within me re-igniting, only to be blown out before I even gain footing. In some ways I think it’s been the fear of other’s opinions. Putting yourself out there in any capacity can feel risky, and the internet – to me – seems like a much bolder platform in comparison to chatting with someone in person. But even more, I think my fear of failure has been the most influential culprit. The fear of not doing this well. Of not doing it right. I’ve given this a go once before, and it was short lived. What makes me think I could maintain this space this time? But it’s time to listen to God more than I listen to the fear. It’s time I stop wondering and start doing. It’s time I stop putting off action until everything is “just right.”

I have ideas. I have hopes. I have some loose plans. But the realistic side of me also doesn’t want to put the pressure on myself to do it all. Because I know how easily my personality defaults to perfectionism. So mostly I want to approach this space with grace. No one but myself is putting the pressure on me to live up to whatever my brain has determined is the blogging standard. While I want to be consistent, there is also nothing threatening to condemn me if I’m not.

So here I am. Finally pressing publish on a post that has been reworked or reworded or reevaluated countless times in my head. Finally taking the leap to make a return here officially. Finally listening to the calling that I believe God has been inviting me into. Only time will tell what comes of it. But my ongoing desires and the Holy Spirit’s leading can’t be ignored any longer. So for now, in whatever capacity I’m able to manage, I’m back. Excited. Scared. Hopeful. Expectant.

weakness, not perfection

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I have a hard time with vulnerability. Like, real vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability that sheds light on my deepest weaknesses, heaviest burdens, and darkest sins. It takes the right time, place, and person for me to really open up about those things, and even when I do it’s likely weeks, months, or maybe years, after I’ve already been dealing with the weight of it.

You see, somewhere along the line I started to believe the perception that a mature Christian should be able to get through the tough stuff – that someone who is following Jesus shouldn’t be so easily tripped up by the little things. I believe this lie that I should be able to handle things on my own. Most of the things I have dealt with, or do deal with, in life do not seem that big compared to the people I know (& don’t know) that go through so much hardship and struggle, so much pain and heartbreak, so much heaviness. And so I don’t want to burden people with the things that I’m facing.

At the root of it, my natural tendencies towards perfectionism lead me to believe that as a Christian I’m supposed to be all put together. I’m supposed to live a life unlike those of this world. I’m supposed to live a life redeemed by Jesus and so I should show how I rise above it. But a problem enters in when I don’t have it all put together. When I’m hurting or feeling weak. When I’m dealing with my own sins. And I’m too prideful to ask for help. Because then I hold it all in. And it piles up and entangles. And then I can’t even make sense of it when it does comes bursting out. So my persona of perfection is shattered, and I’m left feeling broken and confused.

I wrote about all of this in my journal back when we first arrived to North Dakota in October. I was flipping through the other night and re-read the words that I wrote, and they still resonate. I added some additional thoughts in the margins, and out of nowhere I was reminded of the concept that God is made perfect in my weakness. So I opened my Bible and found the Scripture that went along with this. This is what I read:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Corinthians 12:9-10]

This is Paul speaking to the Corinthians in response to some people within their community that were boasting of their accomplishments, their heritage, and their experiences. Paul was so agitated that the only way he knew to get through to the people who were hearing these things was to boast back. So he told of the hardship he has faced while following Jesus. Then he started to speak of this heavenly vision or experience (he said himself he’s not sure what it was) that he had. But he stopped himself and explained that he was not allowed to share the details of it so that no one may think more of him. And a thorn was put in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited. He pleaded with God to remove it three times, and God’s response was what I read in verse 9. And Paul went on to explain his understanding in verse 10. [You can check out the entire context in 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10]. I dug deeper into these words and looked into our study bible and found this explanation:

“Paul was not allowed to speak about his heavenly revelations, but he quotes Christ’s declaration to underscore that his earthy weaknesses (not his revelations) would be the platform for perfecting and demonstrating the Lord’s power.”

So I began to think about if I don’t boast of my weaknesses, how will people know my need for Jesus? And if I don’t boast of my weaknesses, how will people know God’s grace in my life? If I don’t speak of the things that are messy and hard, people won’t know God’s transformative work in my life. They will only see that I’m put together and maybe that I’m a “good person.” And He is therefore robbed of that glory that He deserves.

If we boast of ourselves, we ask for eyes to be on us. If I emphasize all that I have done, I’m not pointing to Jesus, I’m pointing to myself. And in comparison to Jesus, who the heck cares what I do? I am nothing without Christ. I accomplish nothing of worth apart from Jesus. My greatest triumphs in this world are meaningless and worthless unless they give complete glory to God. My grades in school, my past accomplishments in sports, the job that I have, the amount of my salary, the size of my house, the quality of things that I own, the health of my marriage, the car that I drive, the number that shows up on the scale – none of it means anything a part from Jesus. There’s a reason God never really permitted for me to be number one at anything. Yes, I’ve finished at the top of the line up in many things, but never quite first place. And I understand why now. If I had done so, I would find all the more reason to boast in myself. Any bit of seniority I’ve ever had has gone to my head. And it has ultimately seeped through the fingers of my grip. Leaving me empty, with nothing. Because the only thing worth holding onto is Jesus. When I do that, I might receive blessing alongside of it (or maybe not), but regardless both of my hands should be gripped on him. Both of my eyes should be focused on Him. The words that I speak should speak of Him. Because nothing else matters. Period.

Folks, I’m a mess. I make mistakes. A lot. I have so many flaws and quirks that still need refining. I choose to reach for things that steal my affections from Jesus. Daily. And all with the knowledge of the things that stir my affections for Him. I turn my back on Him even when I know that nothing is sweeter than throwing myself into His arms. I hurt people with my words. Sometimes to their face. Most times behind their backs. Sometimes unintentionally, sometimes unconsciously, but the scary part is many times on purpose. Only Jesus and I are aware of just how much, and how quickly, my mind and heart turn towards judging and criticizing others, but you can trust me when I say it’s a lot. I fight my natural tendencies towards pride on a daily basis. And then when I recognize the pride, I fight the tendencies to lean into insecurities. I hold grudges, especially against those that hurt me in ways that I hurt others. I expect perfection of others, but then don’t hold myself to the same standards. I’m a walking contradiction. At the root of it all, I’m terribly selfishness. Terribly, terribly selfish. Who I am on my own taints the picture of Jesus that I claim to represent. And to be honest guys, all of this doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So the moral of the story: I need Jesus. Desperately. And that is why I get chills and my eyes fill with tears every time I sing of his amazing grace in my life. I need that grace. Daily. Hourly. Minutely. And it is ONLY by that grace that I have been redeemed and washed cleaned. I’ve been purchased and my sins have been pardoned by the blood of Christ and His resurrection. It has nothing to do with who I am or what I have done. So I need to stop holding onto my idea of my own perfection and embrace my mess so that God may be glorified, not me. It has everything to do with Jesus. And so it is HIM that I praise. It is only in HIM that I can boast. And so I boast of Him today to you, in the hopes that you may know that He is capable of doing the same thing in you that He has done in me.

the war on insecurity

An installment in the series From Comparison to Contentment focusing on appearance.If I asked you “what in your life do you compare the most to others,” what would you say? As much as I don’t want to admit it, one of the first things that comes to my mind is my appearance. And I might be so bold to say that our appearance is one of the most dangerous things for us to compare, because it can affect us so deeply. It can be an intimate part of who we are, so when we mess with our ideas of it, we can cut ourselves to the core. That’s what happened to me.

About a year and a half ago I found myself in a downward spiral of insecurity and self doubt based on my disappointment in the details of how I looked. It came upon me like a quiet fox, sly and sneaky. So much so that I’m not even sure how I reached the point that I did. Many days I found myself looking in the mirror disappointed with the imperfections that nobody pointed out but me: The dark circles under my eyes; the unpredictable red spots in the undertones of my skin; the make up that not only didn’t cover up the problems I saw, but also seemed to make matters messier; the hair that laid flat and never did anything that I planned for it to do; the hair that also never grew as quickly as I wanted it to; the weight that I had gained and the clothes that didn’t fit the same because of it; the outfit that I settled on because I already tried 5 other options and I was running late, leaving me flustered as I had to rush out the door. All this disappointment in how I looked led to disappointment in who I was, and teary eyes more days than I’d like to admit.

Mornings like these felt like they ruined me. I’d feel defeated. I’d angrily throw another top onto the pile of already rejected outfit choices. I’d irritably rub my eye make up off after messing it up for the second time. I’d become short with my husband because he was the only “reasonable” thing I could lash out my frustration on. Poor Adam. He witnessed many meltdowns that I couldn’t explain, and therefore he couldn’t understand. He did his best to reassure me that I’m beautiful, but I just failed to fully believe it. He hugged me and held me as hot tears rolled down my face, with me sputtering about how I was just having a bad day, because crying over what outfit I couldn’t decide on felt unreasonably childish and dramatic. When really on the inside I was thinking, Why can’t I just be prettier?

Sadly, I think that thought runs across every girl’s mind at some point or another. Women young and women old; we’re trained to measure ourselves in comparison to others. And when we feel like we’re not stacking up with the rest, we settle on the lie that we’re not pretty enough. Here I was at 22 struggling with insecurity more deeply than I ever had in my life. Aren’t these the kinds of things that teenagers deal with? And so I felt like my struggles were amateur. That I should be more than capable of handling them. That I shouldn’t need to reach out to someone else and let them know how I was hurting.

But the isolation of my feelings left me feeling weak. I pushed on and did what I could to combat it all. And some days I’d do just fine. Some days I’d do great. But some days I’d be hanging on by a thread. You see, when we turn inward and rely on ourselves to solve our problems, sometimes we might have victories. Sometimes our battles are just the right size for us to handle. But other times, many times, they require a much stronger army. We’re in need of the support of others that can come alongside us, support us, cheer for us, pray for us, fight with us. It wasn’t until I remembered that truth that I started to see some light.

Even more than that, though, in our battles we need a victor. One that knows our hearts and knows our struggles and loves us the same. One that loves us deeply, passionately, and desperately no matter where we are – in the mess or in the clear. One that sees our hurts, and our mistakes, and our shame, and our sins, and still willingly lays His life down for us so that we might be set free. And so it was Jesus that ultimately pulled me out of my pit. He was right there all along, offering me a hand. It just took me awhile to finally grab hold of it. But as I did, He held onto me. He’s been holding onto me. He’s been stealing my attention away from my appearance and fixing my eyes on who He is. And as He’s been doing so, I’ve been fighting back.

For too long I hoped that make up would help rid me of the imperfections I see in my face, but my inabilities and lacking knowledge led to more frustration and disappointment. So I packed it all away for a month, which turned into two months, which turned into most days, unless I choose to use it because I want to, not because I feel like I need to.

Instead of staring at the parts of my body that were holding more weight than they ever had before, I started to do something about it. I slowly, but surely, started making a habit of working out, and I started making small improvements in my diet. And I’ve worked to stick to it. It’s been a process, but I’ve been rejoicing in the progress.

My clothes were too often making me unhappy and frustrated, so I overhauled my closet and got rid of the things that I didn’t love. And I’ve changed my outlook on what is necessary to have hanging on the rack.

I’ve learned/I’m learning to take care of my body in the best ways I can because this is the home that God gave me on this earth. He knitted me together in my mother’s womb and He looked at me and saw that I was good. I am – you are – a product of God’s handiwork. There is no flaw in that. He only desires that we see that too and allow Him to use us as a vessel for His spirit in this world.

So for the past year or so, I’ve been handing over my insecurities. I’ve tried to focus my heart more on what God has planned for me in this life, and that in turn has left me distracted from wallowing in self pity. Are there days that I look back? Oh yes. It’s a process. But again, I rejoice in the progress. Because Jesus didn’t give up His life for me so that I could sit around in a jail cell that is locked from the inside. He gave up His life and as a result set me free. Free from the chains I put on myself. It’s an ongoing, everyday decision to embrace who I am, as I am, and stop wishing I was this or that. I try to do things to better myself and take care of myself, but more than that I make my overall aim to be Jesus. So that I may be defined completely by who He is, what He’s done, & is doing, in my life, and how I can honor Him. And that, to me, sounds a lot more like contentment.