God’s not talking and the silence is weirding me out

You should know, unlike some bloggers, I don’t have a stockpile of blog posts sitting in a computer file waiting for me to hit the publish button. I have writer friends who seem to be able to manage this and I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of them. No last-minute head scratching, wondering what in the world they’re going to write about that day? Yes, please.

But God said no. NO.

Fresh bread, He said. That’s what you’re offering your readers. We’re not baking and stockpiling loaves for the freezer that you can pull out when needed.

 

God may be silent but I already given me all the ingredients I need to do my job

 

Alrighty, then.

I’m not saying this way is better. Not at all. It’s just the way He wants me to write, at least in this season. I literally went from spending three days chiseling out a post to waking up on blogging days (Wednesdays) not having a clue what I’m going to write about. Read more

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Help! I’m having an identity crisis

Does anybody know what an identity crisis feels like? (asking for a friend)

 

This morning’s brief conversation with a friend confirmed what I was already thinking. I answered her call and told her I couldn’t talk because it was blog day. She asked what I was writing about and I said, “Identity.” Without skipping a beat, she asked, “Which one of your identities are you writing about?”

Ha, ha, ha; verrry funny, Karen. And So. Spot. On.

Have you ever had an identity crisis?

Seriously, though, I have spent a lot of time thinking about identity lately. Sometimes it feels like I’m still that overweight teenager, struggling to fit in. Identity comes from a root word that means “sameness.” I guess that makes sense, because I’ve always wanted to fit in, but then again, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to stand out. Or to avoid standing out. It’s complicated.

As an adolescent I did stand out, but not in the way I wanted to.

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10 Things I Learned This Spring

What I learned in Spring

 

As I paused to reflect on what I learned this Spring, I decided to do a little word study on the word “reflect.” (You know I LOVE my “re-words.”) Bear with me for a brief etymology lesson:

Re- means “back” + flectere “to bend,” which is related to the word flexible, “capable of being bent; mentally or spiritually pliant.” 

Isn’t that GOOD?! (And convicting.) Sometimes I think the closest I come to being flexible is getting bent out of shape!

All that to say, I found this reflection and exercise (inspired by Emily P. Freeman) to be a helpful and fun way to process All. The. Things.

 

1. The hype about cold brew coffee isn’t hype.

I’d never really understood the whole cold brew coffee thing, but then my brilliant friend Erica posted a yummy looking Instagram pic, so I finally decided to give it a try.

It was a game changer for my afternoon caffeine fix—smooth and rich and easy on my tummy.

The hype about cold brew coffee isn't hype and it isn't hard to make at home.

Not easy on the wallet, however, so now I make my own big batch cold brew concentrate, just like Starbucks. You can, too. It’s easy and delicious.

2. There really are wild ponies in Beaufort.

I’d heard the stories, strained my eyes in vain searching for them, but I’d never once seen them. It frustrated me so much that I began to tell myself (and others) that it was just a story.

I stayed in Beaufort this past April, and once again, no ponies. On our final evening, I took one last walk to see the sunset and out of the corner of my eye—movement! I held my breath, looked up and there was a pony. No, wait… two ponies. Oh, my word, there was a whole herd grazing on the high ground. I’d always looked for them on the shoreline.

It's true. There are wild ponies in Beaufort, NC.

 

3. Contentment doesn’t look like I thought it would.

For the first time in years, things are pretty peaceful around our house. But it’s weird; kinda’ like floating when you’ve worn yourself out, trying to out-swim the sharks. It almost seems too passive or something. (Insert my husband’s eyeroll.)

But I know this season is a gift, a respite and reprieve and I am embracing it. There’s nowhere I’d rather be right now than sitting on my rocker on the back porch, breathing the night air and looking at the stars. Ahh…

SOmetimes contentment looks like a rocking chair

 

4. Powerful things happen when women share their testimonies

I was honored to speak at Beauty for Ashes Retreat again this spring; the theme was Testimony. The stories the women shared from the pulpit and around the tables were real, raw and life-changing. I want more of that.

When women share their testimonies, it's real, raw and lifechanging

These two gals are something else. What a privilege to get to know them.

 

5. Randomness was stealing my creativity.

That phrase in an email jumped out at me and served to reinforce something I’d already begun to realize: I need to become more intentional about the creative work the Lord has given me to do.

I work well on a deadline but I’m not good at giving myself a deadline. The answer that’s working for me right now: Theme days. Monday is book writing day. Tuesday, study day. Wednesday—blog. Etc.

 

Randomness was stealing my creativity

6. Makeup isn’t the answer.

I knew I was in trouble when a brand new ULTA store opened up within walking distance from my house. I’m always searching for a better concealer (the answer to all life’s problems), a more natural foundation (that still covers my sun spots) and eye shadow that’s not crepey.

But now that I’ve started to eat better, take collagen and am using more and better skin care products, I find I don’t need all the makeup. Exfoliation is my friend. (Not the scrubs, they tear your skin… chemical exfoliation.)

Exfoliation is your friend

 

7. You don’t always have to spend the big bucks.

I’d had my eye on a pair of distressed Aerie jean shorts, but couldn’t bring myself to hit the “Buy” button. (When you grow up in the 60’s wearing Levi’s cut-offs that you made from your old jeans, $49 seems ridiculous.)

Over priced denim shorts

 

Solution: Goodwill. I found a pair of vintage all cotton denim Levi’s (no spandex! Yay!) for $3.59, already distressed because they were old. Grabbed the scissors and done. Sooo comfy. I am forever a hippie.

Now these are jean shorts

 

8. Broken can be beautiful

We have this old yard statue of a little girl holding a bluebird. Charming, but somehow, over the winter her feet broke off and we couldn’t glue them back on. I was about to toss them.

 

What should I do with these, throw them away?

 But then I got inspired…

 

SOmetimes broken is beautiful

Now those feet are my favorite thing on the porch.

9. Sometimes paradise is right where you are.

We thought we were finally going to move this spring. We didn’t. You can read about it here. Or here.  (I talked about it a lot.)

Here’s what I learned: When the grass is greener wherever you aren’t, what you have to do is dig. Fertilize. Water. Plant. Dwell in the land (the apartment, the marriage, the job) and cultivate faithfulness. It’s a hard lesson, but flourishing is possible.

 

Dig. Plant. Water. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness

Home is where you make it

10. I’m happiest when I’m learning.

Maybe I’m making up for not finishing my education? I don’t know, but reading, doing research, listening to podcasts and webinars fills my tank and it seems that I can’t get enough.

Writing this post was a learning experience, too. I was scratching my head, wondering if I’d learned anything at all in the last 90 days. (It’s not always obvious.) So, it was really insightful to go back and flip through my journals and photos and scroll through social media. This has turned out to be one of my favorite blog posts!

Now it’s your turn! What did you learn this Spring?

 

Teach me your way O Lord

 

 

 

 

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When all you want to do is sleep

“All I want to do is sleep”

A friend texted me in tears this morning. Unable to overcome the waves of anxiety and depression, she’d stepped out of the office and was hiding in the hallway, trying desperately to stop crying. “Nothing helps besides sleep,” she wrote. “I just want to go home and sleep.”

My heart broke for her. I remember hiding in the restroom at work, trying to control my own flow of tears. It felt like 5:00 would never come and all I wanted to do was to cry myself to sleep. Wake me when it’s over; like a turtle, I wanted to hibernate.

Imagine being able to simply shut down and snooze for a long period every year –doesn’t that sound heavenly? Preferably right after the last leaves fall until, oh, I don’t know… April 16th? Works for me.

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Jesus didn’t journal, so why should I?

You shouldn’t.

You absolutely should not journal.

I can’t even believe I’m telling you that right now because I’m a firm believer, advocate, fan, evangelist and supporter of the practice of journaling. But I don’t think you should be.

 

Leather journals are the best

 

Let me rephrase that: I don’t think you should be.

Here’s why: There’s no “should” to journaling.

My friend Lisa pointed this out to me recently. I asked her if she’d read my recent post about morning rituals and she replied that she’d read it and that she had a bone to pick with me.

“You said everybody should journal,” she said.

“Yeah,” I replied. “And?”

“Jesus didn’t journal.”

Clever, Lisa, I thought. He did write in the sand, though. Just sayin.’

It was only later that I realized that the “Jesus didn’t journal” line was a quote from the book The Me You Want To Be, by John Ortberg; a book I had recommended she read. Irony noted.

This little interaction messed with me for several reasons. As I said above, I’m a big proponent of journaling. I’m also one of Lisa’s mentors for her speaking ministry: I’m supposed to be the one guiding her, so that was awkward for a minute.

Also, I had just scheduled a post about journaling on my editorial calendar and had already purchased a couple of beautiful journals as giveaways. I’d scoured the internet for quotes, made notes, done the research.

 

The research was compelling

Studies suggest that journaling can strengthen the immune system, drop blood pressure and help you sleep better. It improves memory and problem-solving skills, facilitates healing and eases symptoms of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and IBS. It’s also helpful for PTSD and working through grief.

Journaling helps you de-stress and cope with depression and anxiety. Forbes quotes Dr. Francisco Cruz, lead psychiatrist at Ketamine Health Centers, FL as saying, “Once journaling becomes a daily habit, the amygdala begins to register journaling as a safe zone for personal growth, healing and reflection.”

If it makes my amygdala happy, who am I to argue?

If you want to really amp up the benefits, try gratitude journaling. Literally brain-changing (therefore life-changing.)

 

There's science to back it up

Then there are the spiritual benefits

My friend Becky writes, “I am so thankful to have this written record of God’s faithfulness through it all. I find it hardest to journal during the difficult times but that is when it is most helpful. I keep my journal open and my pen in hand when I study the Word and I write my prayers in my journal. It is so amazing to go back and see how He answers—I ways I could have never imagined.”

With all the mental, physical and spiritual benefits (I took pages of notes and barely scratched the surface) why am I telling you that you shouldn’t journal?

Because Lisa was right.  Journaling is a practice, not a rule. If I say you should journal, I’m implying you must, or ought to; that it’s your duty. It’s not. For Christians, journaling is a spiritual practice, but it’s not the only spiritual practice. I’m not better than you because I write in my journal.

“True spirituality does have rules. But the rules are God’s, not humanity’s. The rules are rooted in the sufficiency of Christ. They are the pathway to freedom, not a road to bondage. They produce the fruit of selfless obedience, not the selfishness of rote legalism.” David Jeremiah NKJ Study Bible. 

 

Rules are a pathway to freedom not a road to bondage

 

Slippery slope

Like any spiritual practice, it’s an easy slide from devotion into legalism. I write about this here.  

“The main measure of your devotion to God is not your devotional life. It is simply your life.” John Ortberg. Click To Tweet

It can also lead to pride. Self-righteousness. (I love to journal. So should you.)

The other danger is that journaling can lead to an overly-introspective state or rumination on negatives.

Morning Pages, the practice of twenty minutes of daily stream-of-consciousness writing promoted by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, became that for me. While cathartic at first, after a while it turned into a nauseating daily rehash of all my woes. Even I got sick of it. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s the point, though: self-awareness leading to change.

C.S. Lewis said that he kept a journal until he was converted. Then when he became a Christian, he realized that it was making him preoccupied with himself, so he stopped journaling.

Wring about journaling after his wife died, he also said this, though:

“But what am I to do? I must have some drug, and reading isn’t a strong enough drug now.”

My journaling journey has had it’s ups and downs as well. There have been times in my life that I couldn’t even bring myself to open my journal. But I come back to it, mostly because it makes me feel alive, more connected to God and because the practice has changed me.

 

Here’s why I love to keep a journal:

 

It’s my personal dumping ground for crappy thoughts

Seriously, some of the things I write in my journal should not see the light of day. (Note to self: burn the journals before you become senile.) Are you shocked? Don’t be. I’m a sinner. A sinner who journals.

Writing down my judgmental, angry, anxious thoughts helps me to see them for what they are; to repent and move forward in forgiveness and grace. Otherwise, I’d become bitter and eaten up with ulcers.

It helps de-clutter my mind

Writing helps me to process all the racing thoughts and enables me to focus better. The quote by E.M. Forster rings true for me: How do I know what I think until I see what I say? Answer: I don’t. Journaling helps me think better.

It’s a safe place to experiment creatively

I’d never call myself a poet or an artist, but in my journal world, I can be whatever I want without apology. The pictures I draw and poems I write are childish, sweet, sometimes dark, whimsical and silly.

Clinging to Hope

 

It’s where I have conversations with God

It’s one thing to talk to God but telling someone that He talks back will get you some strange looks. But He totally does.

I thought I was weird and the only one who did this until I attended Writing For Your Life Seminar last spring and keynote Barbara Taylor Brown spoke about it. We connected during the break and chuckled about how incredibly funny God is in our journal conversations with Him.

Besides being funny (even sarcastic at times, but maybe He’s just mimicking me) He is tender, intimate, to the point, forgiving and the world’s best encourager.

 

Sometimes incredible things happen

It’s not uncommon to get insights while journaling, but once in a while, amazing things happen. Like the day in 2007, when I wrote an entry that changed the way I looked at journaling forever.

It began like this:

“The dirty water of our current lives is swirling down the drain. The plug has been pulled and only God can keep us from getting sucked down for good.” (Drama, much?) I was angry, and thought God should know. It took me five pages to get it out of my system.

journaling

Finally, the pen nearly out of ink, I broke down and asked for help.

“Raise up an army for us, Lord.” Immediately, the tone of my writing transformed.

As if someone was guiding my pen, I began to transcribe a battle scene. There were two warriors –one wounded, the other giving comfort and aid, pleading, “Just stay alive. Stay awake. You’re going to make it. Help is coming.”

It was like watching a movie: “God using one to breathe life into the other; tapping drops of water on parched lips, gently daubing the forehead with a soft, wet cloth, carefully lifting the effects of the battle until the face was recognizable once more.

The news spreads that the enemy has been held back. Help has arrived. Reinforcements deployed. Supplies make it through the enemy lines. Medications are distributed. A victory song rises through the ranks.”

 

What was that? I thought, as I laid down my pen. I don’t write fiction.

 

the journal entry that changed my life

Re-read your journals

Fast forward nine years.  On September 30, 2016, my husband, Roger had a massive pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest. The doctor’s didn’t expect him to survive, but he did.

One evening after a long day at the hospital, the Lord nudged me to look through my old journals; that was when I rediscovered the journal entry I’d written back in 2007. I was shocked at the familiarity of the story. When I read it to Roger, he literally dropped his jaw. What I had unknowingly written in my journal all those years ago turned out to be a prophetic, play-by-play synopsis of Roger’s health crisis and the days afterward. God knew. He had supernaturally girded me for the spiritual battle that was ahead.

 

So, am I saying you should journal?

Yes, if the Spirit leads you to journal, I think you would find it to be an amazing blessing. It’s a way to understand and to tell your story (and God’s story) but it’s not the only way to do that. There’s freedom here.

Listen, I get what my friend, Lisa was saying: I was being bossy. I never realized how bossy I can be until I reunited with a childhood friend who quickly announced that I hadn’t changed a bit.

“How’s that?” I asked.

“You were bossy then and you’re still bossy!”

Friends, I’m not the boss of you. Sorry if I come off that way at times. I get that journaling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I’m not going to force it down anyone’s throat anymore. (I might try to whet your appetite, though!) 

What I will encourage you to do is find a spiritual practice that helps you to engage with the One who longs to engage with you.

It’s all grace, friends.

Grace that is greater than all my sin

 

There’s a giveaway!

I’m giving away a gorgeous hardback Lemome journal. It’s my very favorite! (If you don’t journal, this would be a perfect gift!) Choose your color: a gorgeous purple or cognac brown. To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment HERE ON THE BLOG POST. To earn an extra chance to win, subscribe to my blog or share the post on social media. Winner will be chosen at random Sunday May 19.

brownPurple

 

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