Browsing "Devotional"
Mar 18, 2019 - Devotional    2 Comments

*Not Pictured

What is pictured on my Facebook wall? Or Instagram feed? Or blog? These locations often present the highlight reels of my life. The best and most fun moments. I love my hashtag: #DoctoralStudentPlayTime and I’ve used it liberally! In the midst of a very full season in life, I’ve sought to make room for play time. And for that I have been thankful. I believe adding playtime to my already bursting schedule has kept me more sane!

However, this hashtag alone does not define the last three years. There have been many down moments. Many listless nights. Many fears about the future. Here’s a small summary of what is not pictured. The behind the scenes, gag reel, and goofs of my life instead of the highlight reel.

*Not Pictured #1

The pile of tissues I used while fighting a monster of a cold, lying awake at night and calculating the exact time I can take another cough suppressant just to try to get to sleep.

*Not Pictured #2

The three foot high pile of research papers all binder clipped together that now constitute a side table at my desk. I’ve read every one, highlighted what I thought helpful. And piled them up in hopes that I’d be able to find the right one when I needed it to complete my paper.

*Not Pictured #3

The dusty corners and hairballs that blow like tumbleweeds in need continual wrangling. Yet, because of the ever-present paper deadline, these tumbleweeds are allowed to roam freely, quietly mocking my once clean room.

*Not Pictured #4

Digestive Distress. And its after effects. Enough said.

*Not Pictured #5

Self medicating with chocolate and chips when life was demanding. I’ve had more candy in the past year than I can count. I went trick or treating at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party… and ate all of it.

*Not Pictured #6

Sleepless nights. Anxiety. And time spent wondering what my future holds. How I will survive this degree. And how I will fill my time after graduation. Or wondering if the money, time, and effort will all be worth it.

This is just a small sampling of the real life that seemingly has no outlet. No one wants to see or “like” a picture of my pile of used tissues. Gross! And yet, what we don’t picture is just as real as what we do. I long to be honest about my life and to give a balanced picture. Yes, I have lots of playtime. I got to the theater and Disney and on vacation. And I sit at home. A lot. And type pages and pages on my computer. And lie awake at night unable to sleep. And have lots of questions that just don’t have answers yet. I refuse to only show my highlight reel online. These scenes might be on the cutting room floor, but they happened. They shaped me. The influenced my future performance. My *Not Pictured vignettes are just as important and a part of my life as what is pictured. And I’m choosing to be brave to share the less-than-instagrammable-moments.

Feb 23, 2019 - Devotional    2 Comments

Full, But Organized

Those words are perhaps among the best to describe my life.

It is full. Amazingly full. I have taken my well-honed Tetris skills and applied to them to all areas of life. My walls are decorated with a number of words, images, and items that hold incredible nostalgia in my heart. My family often just reads my walls for a time when they come visit! Likewise, my room is packed. Every nook has a shelf, a bin, a basket, or a drawer to hold more items. It is full, there is no space for another book or pillow or pair of super fun sneakers. It is full, but not messy. There are no piles of junk! It is organized. Everything has a home. I know exactly where everything is. It is full, but organized.

The same Tetris skills apply to my schedule. I know what must be done and have many of my days mapped out until graduation. I bill by the minute at work and I think this has warped my sense of time. I want to be productive. I have to maximize my time. So I schedule myself mentally for every segment of time to ensure I’m wringing the most out of every day. So, if you want to get coffee with me, we might have to wait until April, but then I’d be happy to carve out six units of time just for you. ūüôā

My thoughts are just as full. I am constantly thinking, wondering, pondering, analyzing, solving, and committing to memory. My planner and journal catch the overflow of my thoughts like Dumbledore’s Pensive. I have to concentrate on turning off my brain, going to sleep, and staying in the moment.

I am a maximizer at heart. Maximizing has many benefits. I get more done than the average person. I can keep plates spinning between work, school, exercise, life, and church even in a Cat Five hurricane. The number of people who have said, “I don’t know how you do it” to me is shocking. There is great positive reinforcement to maximize. However, Full, But Organized also has significant drawbacks.

I have no room for spontaneity. I have no space for the unexpected. I have no wiggle. Every block of time or space in the Tetris game of my life is touching another surface, wedged in, unable to move. I long for an empty shelf, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Full, but Organized is also restricting. I miss things that come up last minute. I am often unavailable to others in need because my Tetris blocks in life have no wiggle room, no give. Maximizing can make me selfish. If I only focus on my goals, my tasks, my time, my energy, what do I have to offer others?

I long to give my life more margins. More give. More white space. More room. More stillness. More rest. More Sabbath. In this instance, perhaps the old adage is really true, less is in fact more.

Sep 30, 2018 - Devotional, Doctorate, Health    1 Comment

Procrastination vs. Self Care

Avoidance. Taking a break. Filling my cup. Delaying the inevitable.

All of life is a balancing act. I believe most people have more goals, tasks, or demands than they could possibly accomplish in a single day. Whether it is children who need attention, job or school tasks that demand completion, or relationships that require tenderness and time, we are all pushed to our limits.

I am in a season of incredible demands on my time. I am currently working full-time, nearing completion of a doctorate degree, and teaching a class at a local university. I’ve begun jokingly referring to my life and stress level as a category of hurricane. For instance, “Guys, there are seven toddlers coming to class today… what could go wrong? My life is like a category 5 hurricane.” It’s a good day lately when the category or hurricane was deemed to be three or less. I long for the days when I deal with the winds and demands of just a tropical storm level life!

The winds, rains, and hurricane categories will not abate any time soon. And yet in all of it, I cannot maintain the same pace of life; I need breaks. Real, guilt-free, purposeful breaks. My brain, heart, body, and soul cannot run this fast and deal with constant hurricane-force winds without real and serious repercussions. I’ve tried to be mindful of such strains on my body over the past several months. Those fingers that go numb because I slept wrong or the headache that hangs on longer than normal or the stress-filled dreams are all indicators of a need to care for myself. Caring for my body is crucial, but I am trying to be just as attentive to strains on my soul.

Whenever I have control of my schedule, I schedule weekly breaks. Real, intentional, purposeful, life-giving breaks. During these times, I don’t do school work. I don’t check emails. I don’t write dissertations. Instead, I create margins in my life. I watch movies, and take naps, I go to theme parks, have lunch with friends, I make crafts and do all the many, many items that get pushed off the edge of my plate on a daily basis during Cat-5 hurricane days!

There was a long period of time where I felt selfish for these actions. Like I was filling my world with too much “me-time” or feeling guilty for taking a break. I have been thinking a lot about the difference between procrastination and self-care. The difference to me is that procrastination is focused on task avoidance. I procrastinate when I don’t want to do something, when it feels overwhelming, when it isn’t fun. Procrastination is, at its core, saying “no.”

Self-care, on the other hand, is choosing to say a deep and resounding, “yes!” to something better. It isn’t primarily saying no to an undesirable task, but saying yes to something even more important. Self-care is saying¬†yes to rest, to life-giving experiences, to reminding myself of my limits and my worth. My sanity and health are more important than any paper than could be written, any grade that could be assigned, any project that could be completed, or any course that could be taught. Self-care is not selfish. It is pulling away in order to re-engage at our best. This realization has let me take breaks without guilt. The tasks will never fully quiet. Even when I graduate and the semester is done, the pulls for my time and attention will continue. I am training myself to distinguish between procrastination and self-care, and to choose the best¬†yes.¬†Sometimes the best thing I can choose is to take a break.

 

How do you practice self-care?

The Mercy of Confusion

I have been co-leading a Sunday School class this semester on hermeneutics, or the interpretation of scripture. It has been a delight to read theological material again, discuss ideas in the Bible, and basically getting my mind blown weekly by our analyzation.

Last week we were diagramming Genesis 11:1-9, the Tower of Babel scene, which moves slowly inward, has a sharp turning point and then widens again. See if you can identify the shift:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2¬†And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.3¬†And they said to one another, ‚ÄúCome, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.‚ÄĚ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4¬†Then they said, ‚ÄúCome, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.‚ÄĚ 5¬†And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6¬†And the Lord said, ‚ÄúBehold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7¬†Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.‚ÄĚ 8¬†So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9¬†Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

This passage is familiar to many, but we saw something new in it. In the beginning, everyone had one language and they were seeking to draw everyone together and make a name for themselves. By building a tower to reach heaven, they were trying to be in control of their future.

But the Lord came down. This is the turning point of this chiasm and story. He interrupted their work, confused the language, and scattered the workers. It seems  a shame. They had worked so hard. No doubt they had the best architects of the day for this project, but they were working for their own names, not for the Lord.

The Lord interrupted them; He saved them from themselves.There is some good that would happen if we all got together and spoke the same language, but there is a great likelihood for evil as well. Through His work and language changes, He spread the people over the whole face of the earth, created cultures, clans, traditions and rituals that would not have existed if we all spoke the same language. He prevented us from trying such a building project again. He reminds us that He is in charge.

This is the mercy of confusion. God interrupts my plans, he breaks down my tower, he confuses my language. I may be frustrated in the short-term, but I cannot see what He is protecting me from or how He is intervening to make something even more beautiful in the future. He is merciful. He is good. He intervenes even in my small building projects with grace and love. I often worry about the future, but I’m trying to reframe my thinking and realize that my current confusion, might just be the mercy of the Lord.

May 14, 2017 - Devotional    1 Comment

You Are Seen

Mother’s Day is complicated and full of contradictory emotions.

There is the joy and celebration of new moms, proud grandparents and generations brought together. Tiny snuggles. Milestones recorded. Love abounding.

I celebrate with you.

There is the disappointment of strained relationships between parents and children. Poor communication. Regrets and resentment impacting relationships.

I forgive with you.

There are women longing to be mothers, but because of infertility or lack of a partner, they wait in longing for their own little miracle, keeping track of the passing of time.

I hope with you.

There are women who have lost mothers through death or abandonment. Who long for the perfect family, but experience an empty seat at the table.

I grieve with you.

There are mothers who have lost children. Little lives gone too soon. Empty cribs and unused toys remain as reminders of their tragic loss.

I lament with you. 

If Mother’s Day has been joyful or sorrowful, I see you. I want to be able to celebrate the mountain tops of the joys of motherhood, to say a hearty thank you for all the immense self-sacrifice that moms do everyday without recognition. You are amazing. Thank you. And I want to acknowledge that this is not everyone’s experience. Some dread Mother’s Day. Some are reminded of what is not more than what is.

I see you.

No matter the age, stage, or situation for you this Mother’s Day, I wish you a day of hope and love and the sense that you are seen and known by the God of the universe in your joy and your pain.

You are seen. You are heard. You are loved.

Mar 14, 2017 - Devotional, Writing    No Comments

The Story of Life

How many people would want to read a book that started like this?

“Once upon a time there was a princess. She was beautiful and everyone loved her and life always went her way all the time…”

Where’s the conflict? Where’s the reason for the story? Where’s the character development?

Plus, if this princess had no struggles or conflict and always got what she wanted, I doubt her kingdom would continue to love her for long.

And yet, that’s what I always imagined my life story would sound like. I imagined that I would work hard and enjoy things in life that were good and be loved¬†by all those around me. I’ve had to come to terms first with the fact that this is not my life story and secondly that I am thankful that it is not!

Struggle is part of the story. It should be. Struggle makes us grow, change, persevere, show grit, and develop as people. Authors know this well. Every character needs a conflict, rising action, and a climax in order to become the character they were meant to be. Why would I expect a different plan from the Author of my life?

The struggle is an integral part of the story. I benefit from some struggle. I become a fuller and more developed character when I am stretched, pressed, disappointed, persevering, courageous, and vulnerable. Struggle allows me to be refined into something even better. My goal is to struggle well. To be honest with the struggles and share them like my pile of beans! To know that God does not waste pain or time or barriers. Characters need a contest, a conflict, a barrier or a strain to overcome. It makes for strong literature. It makes for strong people too.

Mar 5, 2017 - Devotional    1 Comment

The Inefficiency of Self Care

Efficiency is my love language.

I jest.

(But it’s also true.)

I am a do-er. I work hard at my job, and in school, and take care of other tasks along the way. I get more done than the average person. I am learning to take care of myself with the same intensity.

Self care is important. I rest and pull away from tasks in order to remind myself that I am valuable not because of my doing, but because of my being. But somehow I still want it to be efficient!

Recently I went to the beach for a day of rest in between the madness of life. I laid on the beach; ¬†I read some, listened to the surf, and just existed for four whole hours. And as I drove home, I felt, approximately one hour better. I wished to feel four hours better! I didn’t want it to feel like wasted time that somehow could have been used more effectively.

Self care is inherently inefficient.

I cannot rest at the same pace that I run. They are inherently different activities and will got at different paces. But self care, rest, Sabbath, and being are essential. They are healthy and they give purpose to the doing and the tasks that I am so good at.

Self care may feel inefficient, but it is not optional.

Feb 22, 2017 - Devotional    2 Comments

Pile of Beans

Life is tough.

Grief is real.

Blocked goals abound in life.

Though it comes in many forms– broken relationships, missed opportunities, or dashed expectations — we are confronted with a life that is not the way we thought it would be.

So what do I do when I am confronted with this feeling? Do I bottle up my emotions and avoid sharing my needs for fear of sounding needy? Do I spill all my feels on anyone who will listen?

I don’t believe either of those two options are the wisest choice, but a balance of sharing with safe people is essential. I am currently in the midst of a season of blocked goals. Sometimes tears escape my eyes. Sometimes my mind wanders, full of “what ifs.” I was recently sharing these feelings with a coworker who is walking through her own valley of the shadow. We commiserated on the need to share our emotions without feeling overwhelming. She shared this analogy with me.

It’s like I have a giant pile of beans representing my lament. This pile is so large it could crush me. I cannot keep it to myself or bear underneath the weight of it, but I also can’t back up a dump truck and dump my beans all on someone else or it could crush them. So I’m trying to pass out my beans one at a time to loving friends who care about my heart. Slowly my pile will disperse and I can breathe again.

I responded, “Yes, friend. I’ll would love to take¬†a hand full of your beans. And thank you for helping me carry mine as well.”

I imagine we are all familiar with the crushing weight of a pile of beans. The situations look different, but the feelings are recognizable. Hoarding my beans crushes me. People want to help me carry my pile of beans. Disappointments in life are so much easier in community where many hands help carry the weight.

If you are in a season of disappointment or blocked goals. If you have a proverbial pile of beans threatening to crush you, don’t hide; ask for help. ¬†Look to your community and share your beans.

 

Aug 21, 2016 - Devotional, Uncategorized    3 Comments

Ocean Object Lessons

Life.

It is a crazy, wild ride at times. I feel as though I am just starting adventures on multiple fronts and have had moments of panic lately feeling unready for the road ahead.

But I’m sure I’m alone in this feeling.

No one else feels unready, unsure, unorganized, or undone by life’s little adventures.

Oh, you do? Man, am I glad to hear that.

I took some time for self care today and went to the ocean. There are precious few places in this world where I can sit, be, rest, and not feel the need to do anything productive. Luckily the beach is one of those places. I fully expected to arrive at the ocean, sit, think, and cry. But as I drove toward the shore and tears were already fighting their way forward, unwilling to wait until arrival. I cried and prayed and thought and talked to the Lord in my anxiety and fear.¬†I floated in waves, laid on the beach, watched fellow beach-goers. I was still — for the first time in weeks, truly still and able to listen to my Lord.

kelly beach feet

The ocean is magic in my life. I burn easily, don’t love the sand, and hate swimming in water that I can’t see the bottom of, but somehow none of that matters when I’m at the ocean. I always come away with a memory, a story, or a song that is important to my soul. Here was today’s object lesson from the ocean:

Life is like an ocean. It is never stable or still. Large and small waves hound me¬†at every moment just like adventures, problems, and changes in life. Sometimes a wave is larger than anticipated and I¬†get a mouthful of unexpected seawater. I¬†have to decide whether this unexpected sodium intake will ruin my¬†experience or if, instead, I’ll¬†laugh it off. Sometimes the waves roll right over me, dragging me¬†under, surrounding me¬†with their weight. What will I¬†do when life is overwhelming and I¬†feel as though I’m¬†drowning? Where will I¬†turn? I could never see what was behind the especially large waves. I could only see the immediate ridge. Sometimes I tried to turn around and look toward the shore of safety, and unseen waves beat me up, smacking me in the back. I learned that life is never steady or stable, it is always a moving target… but it is also an adventure. I can try to run away from the waves and retreat back to the relative safety of the shore. Or I can face the great, wide unknown, place my trust in a known God, raise my hands and dive in.

I’m choosing to live life as an adventure.

I’m shore glad too.

Apr 2, 2016 - Devotional    No Comments

Sinful Food

I went to the grocery store this morning and was confronted with sin in an unexpected way.

No, I didn’t covet someone else’s cart full of goodness.

No, I didn’t get irritated¬†with the bag boy.

No, I didn’t pocket something extra without paying for it.

I bought sinful produce. At least that is how it was advertised.

sinfully sweet tomatoes

What? How are these tomatoes sinfully sweet? When did decadence and sweetness become synonymous with sin? It concerns me that we use powerful, meaningful words to describe flippant things.

Sin exists and includes all thoughts and actions that sadden the heart of God. Sin is not the enjoyment of pleasurable things. God gives good gifts and wants us to enjoy them in the best possible context (James 1:17). Sin is not the enjoyment of life, food, togetherness, or intimacy. Sin is the ugliness that separates me from God. I sin when I stubbornly think I can live without God. I sin when I try to enjoy God’s good gifts in ways He doesn’t allow. I sin when I do not love others or live sacrificially. I sin when I live out of unbelief and doubt God’s goodness, sovereignty, and holiness.

I sin, yes, but I can assure you that it has nothing to do with the ripeness of my tomatoes.

Tomatoes are not sinful. Chocolate is not sinful. People are sinful. My heart is sinful and daily in need of a Savior. I am thankful that there is a cure for my state. A sacrifice that has cleansed my heart. Jesus’ work is more powerful than any sinful thought or deed I could ever commit.

And that work is far more satisfying than the most “sinfully sweet” produce in the world!

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