What is Your Body Saying?

My day-to-day life can become very much a routine that I just autopilot through.  I wake up when my alarm goes off, I eat meals at mealtime, and I go to bed around a certain time.  I do not even really think about it.  After such a long time of autopilot living, I think I have forgotten what some of these daily experiences feel like.

Our bodies are very smart and tells us many things.  We might not always listen or even stop to recognize it though.    Our limbs need oxygenated blood and our heart helps provide that.  Our lungs need air and we breathe without even thinking about it.  It amazes me when I stop and think about how our body was made and how it adjust to meet our current needs!

Being self-aware is not about being focused only on ourselves.  It is about being open and curious with ourselves.  It is knowing when our body is telling us to stop and rest.  It is knowing when it’s telling us to get up and go.  It is about asking ourselves questions about our body’s responses.

When is the last time you listened to your body and thought about how it communicates with you?  I think after a while we forget what certain things feel like?  One simple way to start is by sitting for just one minute and feeling your heartbeat.  Where do you feel it?  Is it felt in your throat, chest, your gut?  Is it beating really fast?  How does your body tell you to feed it?  Not everyone experiences a stomach growl until they are famished!  Sometimes it is can show up as poor concentration, feelings of weakness or irritability, or fatigue.  Unless we pause, listen and ask ourselves some questions we may not know what is really happening.

Our physical bodies are affected by our thoughts, emotions, and choices and vice versa.  Tapping into one leads to awareness of the others.  All of this is affected in some way by how we view ourselves and God.  I know from experience that there is grace to be offered and received in self-awareness.  It is a beautiful place to listen to God’s whispers to you.

-Melissa

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An Error in Judgment

I had it all planned out.  The appraiser was to be at this particular apartment unit at a certain time on a certain day.  That apartment’s maintenance technician was aware, and he would be there to meet the appraiser and carry out the plan.  As far as I knew, everything was happening as scheduled.  The phone rang and I soon found out otherwise.  The technician had been waiting all day, but the other party never arrived.  I quickly became irritated.  This was unacceptable!  Why set up an appointment time if you are not going to adhere to it!  I let my opinion be made known to the maintenance tech and apologized that he was made to waste his time waiting on someone that did not show up.  His response was totally different than mine.  He said something to the effect of, “Well, maybe he had something come up….a heart attack, or stroke, or some other emergency.  You never know.”  You see, this maintenance tech knew from his own personal episode of having a medical emergency that things happen that we may be unaware of.

I suffer from “Fundamental Attribution Error”, and some of you reading this do, too.

There have been studies done that were directed at identifying many of the biases that we have that affect how we view ourselves and others. One of these is known as “Fundamental Attribution Error”. It’s a view in which we judge others on their character, but ourselves on the situation. For instance, if I do not sleep well, and this lack of sleep caused me to be slow the following day, I would know why I was slow. I might even give myself a break by saying, “Oh well, I didn’t sleep well last night, it makes sense for me to be a little slow today”. However, when I witness someone else moving slowly, with this bias I would judge them much more harshly, not taking into account that there might be a good reason for that person’s lethargy.

It is good for us to be willing to consider unknown circumstances that affect others.

Just like it is important not to be too hard on ourselves, while still taking personal responsibility for things in our lives that we need to, it is also important to offer this grace to others. We may have no idea what is causing another person to be on edge, spaced out, or snippy, but we may very well be falsely judging them when we label them as incompetent, procrastinators, stupid, lazy, or jerks. In many cases, only God knows why they are behaving the way they do.

We will wind up hating everyone, or loving others well, depending on which path we take.

There are two paths in front of us when we encounter someone who is behaving in a way that does not sit well with us. We can assume they have no reason or excuse for their actions, and offer them no grace whatsoever. On this path, we wind up judging them based solely on what we can see and hear while ignoring our own issues that cause us to behave badly at times. The other choice is to look at them knowing that there is a whole life of circumstances that we simply do not know or begin to understand, and be willing to offer them the same grace that we need ourselves when we are going through a hard time and maybe even taking it out on the wrong people around us. The first path has us put blinders on, falsely believing that we have it together better than the person in front of us. It leads to a life of being disgusted with people by an ever-increasing number as we find more and more people to put on our “naughty list”. The second path leads to a life of enjoying others despite their imperfections. Sure, we will need boundaries with many people we encounter, once we know more about them. However, that path ultimately allows us to build healthy relationships rather than destroy them before they have a chance to start.

Healthy relationships offer healing for ourselves and others as we learn how to share love and grace with each other.

God freely offers grace to us and loves to see us share it with each another. Without grace, we are lost in sin and circumstances, as well as all the negative effects that comes with both. Grace offers a chance to see what is causing our issues. It offers a safe place to work through those issues. It offers friendships that sustain us through really hard times. It gives us what we need when we need it. Grace doesn’t ask us to be perfect or to strive hard to earn our way out of our pits (even if we dug them ourselves). Grace offers us a hand, puts an arm around us, squeezes us tight, and says, “I love you no matter what. Let’s take a look at what’s going on here. I’m not going to leave you in this mess. We will get through this.”

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5, ESV)

-Neil

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Locked In

You leave home and lock the door.  You park your car and lock the door before walking off.  You put a lock on your locker and on your safe.  We do all we can to protect our possessions.  A lock serves many purposes and the owner of the key can enter as often as they please.  In general, it’s best to at least share the key with at least one other person in case a need arises, and you are not around.  You wouldn’t just give this key to anyone though.  Not everyone can be trusted to love your possessions like you do.  We get to choose who we share the key with or if we share it at all.

What about the lock we place on ourselves?  Different things cause us to want to hide behind some mask we lock onto ourselves.  It can all look different but usually it all goes back to one thing….shame.  Shame can back us into a corner and makes us believe that we are not good enough.  It tells me that I am a terrible person that will never get it right so I might as well hide.  I need to act like I’m something better.  I can’t let others know how I truly feel.  I put on a “protective” armor and lock it in place.  On workdays, I put on my scrubs and sometimes I choose to lock them in place.  Only “Nurse Melissa” will be present today.  Some days I choose to lock in behind full make- up and very fixed hair.  Only “Put-together Melissa” is showing up that day.  There is many days that I lock myself in behind the mask of “everything gets on my nerves” and the “Cynical Melissa” shows up.

I am the only one with the key.  All the responsibility of hiding my true feelings is on me.  I do not let anyone come close to this key.  I can’t, I just can’t.

Sandra McCracken wrote a song, “Lock and Key”, and I would encourage you to take a listen to it.  She says,

“You can hold your world inside
You can scream out loud
Or you can fight these enemies
And kid fears tonight if you want to

You can drive your car out to L.A
You can lose yourself just to make your way
You can change your mind
Or change your name if you want to

But you’re under lock and key
All by yourself
And sometimes you just need somebody else

I cannot read your complex mind
I can’t understand
All the reasons why
But if you let me in, I can try if you want me to……..”

I can continue to lock my mask in place if I want to.  I can suffer the effects all by myself also.  My relationships start to break apart, I grow tired and weary, I grow quiet & distant, I overeat to keep the emotions at bay, and the list goes on and on.  I can also choose to let a safe person have the key and enter into my life.  I allow them to truly love me by letting them in to see the real me.  It creates a space to breathe and let the mask go.  It can be scary to hand the key over but it is so worth it in the end.

What mask do you typically put on when shame tells you to hide?  Is there anyone you would give a key to?  Jesus is always there and He is always safe.  He puts people in our lives that can be safe places to fall, and we desperately need that. Those special ones are gifts from God that we can finally be ourselves with. When we take that massive step of faith, it opens us up to experience freedom, healing, love, and grace.

-Melissa

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I Don’t Really Have Anything To Say

The title says it all. There is no set rule, but Melissa and I typically take turns writing blog posts each week to share with those of you who join in and read what we have to say. Today, you may be disappointed. Or not. I’m not sure. But one thing IS for sure, I am speaking from my heart because I am beginning this with no plans of making a preconceived point today.

Sometimes we are just full.

A couple of weeks ago, Melissa and I were eating with some very good friends of ours. In conversation, the topic of reading books came up. I expressed how I used to love reading. I read all the time. I looked forward to my next book. However, recently, I have not been reading at all. I’ve avoided it. This noticeable shift in behavior was disconcerting for me. However, one of our insightful friends was not at all concerned. She said, “Maybe you are just full, Neil”. Wow, she was right.

I spent a great deal of time for years engaged in learning all I could. I didn’t read fiction books. I was focused on books that helped me shape my ever-expanding perspective of things that were important to me. I didn’t leave any room for what one might call “pleasure reading”. I would have argued that what I was doing WAS pleasurable. However, it was also draining and gave little room for relaxation.

Even when we are full, there is always room for dessert.

I have thought a great deal about our friend’s simple, but profound assessment of my situation. One thing that has come to mind is this: even when I have eaten enough to be full, there’s always room for a little bit more. That “little bit more” doesn’t need to be something major. It doesn’t need to be taxing. It just needs to be something I can sit back and enjoy. Many people like a slice of cake, a brownie, a cookie, or something else sweet. It’s not about getting in the nutrients at that point. It’s simply about enjoying something. I think that’s where I am. I have filled myself with a lot of information. It’s a lot of work to sort it all out. I’ve put in a lot of work already, and it can overwhelming at times thinking about everything I’ve filled my head with. I need to allow myself to enjoy taking in some things in life that are not necessary, but enjoyable. I need some activities, or time spent with certain fun people, that simply makes me smile. I need to apply the idea of “taking a Sabbath”, and I’m not just talking about one day a week. Instead, I’m referring to a moment here, and moment there. An hour here, an hour there. God presents plenty of opportunities to rest in His Grace and Love and to experience it all with others. But, in order to notice these opportunities, I must look for them and embrace them.

When we’ve filled our bellies, it is time to digest what’s in there.

Of course, I cannot “eat, drink, and be merry” all the time. Well, I could, but that’s not the best avenue to take. With all that I’ve taken in over the last several years, it is high time that I allow myself to engage that material and work through it. How does it all fit into my life? How might it shape my perspective on myself, others, and God? Who might I have conversations with about these things that would allow me space to digest it all? Those are some important questions that might help me digest what I’ve filled myself up with so that I can move forward. Sitting around with a bloated stomach doesn’t exactly drive me to do anything, let alone move forward. It certainly does not bode well for writing blog posts! Yes, I’m full, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Instead, it might mean that I have a lot to talk about, think about, and to celebrate over some chocolate chip pancakes for dessert.

-Neil

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The Foundation That Holds Us

The struggle has been very real for me.  I am constantly focused on it and that is only increasing my downward spiral.  What is the solution?  I am frozen until this question is answered so I am on the hunt.  If I can figure out a solution then I can get this under control!  It’s all up to me.  Then, I’ll be free to move on with my life and enjoy it.   So what do I do?  I have become consumed with figuring out a plan to fix me. 

 But……..things are only getting worse.  I may temporarily get better but it is not true, lasting change.  So I carry on the search for the answer. Something is missing, though.  I know it but cannot put my finger on it.   

 Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (ESV)

 This verse appeared while I was reading a book as part of my search for a cure to my problems.  I began to think through everything and my search for a plan.  I noticed a common thread……the words I, mine, me.  All I could focus on was my perception of me and how I could fix it.  Needless to say, my perception of me was not a very good one.  It was full of words such as frustrated, angry, cynical, weak, dumb, and the list goes on and on.  This was all I could see.  No wonder I was stuck and growing even more frustrated!  No wonder I was on a search for the next best plan to cure what ailed me. 

 The search for a plan had to stop.  It was keeping me stuck in this pity party I was having for myself.  Yes, I still will make poor choices, go back to searching at times, get angry and frustrated but it no longer defines me because I have faith in Jesus.  I cannot get unstuck as long as I am living like my flesh defines me.  When I do that, I just focus on things that are not true about me like I described above.  Yes, I will still get angry but I am not an angry person.  I will still make poor decisions at times but I am not dumb.  Since I have been crucified with Christ, my identity statement is different.  My foundation is laid with truths about who I am because of Jesus.  I am righteous, holy, redeemed, perfect, and more.  I am okay! 

 I am not saying that plans are evil and if you follow one then you are evil too.  That is not true at all.  I am saying that I realized in my failing search for a plan to solve my problems that my focus was off.  Searching for a plan through the label of truth changes everything.  Truth can show up in many different ways.  It can be words from another person.  It can be something you read. It may be a song you hear or something you see.  God knows how to whisper these truths to us in a way

It goes back to how I see myself and how I see God.  It has to go back to the foundation of truth. 

-Melissa

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Rocket

This past weekend, I was riding around with my wife, listening to music. The song “Rocket” by The Smashing Pumpkins came on. I have probably heard this song no less than 10,000 times (I am a huge Pumpkins’ fan), but for some reason on this particular day, the meaning of this song really jumped out at me like never before. Here are the lyrics that caught me initially:

I torch my soul to show
The world that I am pure
Deep inside my heart
No more lies

Keep in mind, this is my interpretation of the song, but I hear the songwriter, Billy Corgan, struggling with the fact that he has been trying so hard to earn other people’s approval that he has lost himself in the process. If you listen to the whole song, not just the lyrics above, Corgan goes further to state that he misses himself, the REAL man behind all the masks he wears to try to convince others he is something he is not. He has had glimpses of who he really is, but it has faded to only a dream now. He buys into the lie that there is something inherently wrong with him, so he needs to hide himself and be what he thinks others want him to be. Apparently others have made comments confirming the lie, and he has bought into them wholeheartedly. However, he has grown weary of living a lie and wants to be free…free to be himself and not just an actor (hypocrite) for those around him. He desires to “bleed in his own light” and actually live the life he has been dreaming about: being who he was created to be, whatever that may look like…free from the critical voices of all the people around him.

We lose ourselves in the endless, exhausting goal of trying to please others.

I know everyone is not like me. Some are huge people pleasers, some are not. I see myself looking to a few voices in my life at a time, never too many, but just enough to get me off track at times (it doesn’t take much of looking to what others think to make one stumble). The Enemy loves to heap condemnation on me through not only my struggle with failures, but what others might think of those failures. I begin to think, at times, that maybe God looks at me the same way…disappointed with me, shaking His head at my performance that’s never quite good enough.

Paul talked about being a people pleaser:

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10, ESV)

When I catch myself trying to please others, worrying myself over getting their approval, I am not serving Christ. People, or at least their opinion of me, becomes not only my focus, but my idol. In those moments when their approval is my priority, I am giving them the power to tell me who I am. My identity rests in the hands of those that I look to for acceptance. If they disapprove of me, I believe I am worthless. If they approve of me, I feel great temporarily, but then I have to work hard to keep the approval coming, losing any sense of who God really created me to be in the process. Like Corgan masterfully said in the song, “I torch my soul” trying to prove myself.

Walking by Grace through Faith is so tough. The fear of what others think is a sinister weapon of the Enemy that I need to make myself aware of on a daily basis. Surrendering to God and holding onto His Truth concerning my identity in my Savior Jesus Christ is the only thing that will set me free…free from the drive to please others, free from the condemnation felt in the criticism others dish out, and free to be the man God created me to be. No matter how I feel or what others say, I am who God says I am, and He is pleased with me.

God’s Truth and Love sends us soaring away from the voices that drag us down and into what He has planned for us.

The song title, again, is “Rocket”. I believe Corgan intended this to illustrate his freedom as he rockets away in the sky, away from all the phony masks he has created in attempts to gain the approval of others. At the risk of sounding a bit cheesy here, I guess the real rocket for us is made up of God’s Truth and Love. Without truth, we would remain slaves to what others think of us, or some other worthless idol that only keeps us meandering around on the ground instead of soaring off into the sky to experience what God has planned for us. Without His unconditional love, we would feel hopelessly lost and rejected. We would be stranded in the dirt, held down by our insufficient efforts to garner some sense of acceptance and love.

-Neil

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Positively Telling Yourself the Truth

A few years ago, something was taken from me that I loved. I have suffered with digestive issues for much of my adult life, on and off. If I experience much stress, apparently my weak point is my stomach. Anyway, I began to suffer an extra measure of pain, nausea, and other unpleasant symptoms that led me to investigate the source. At that time, I really enjoyed having a glass of milk, particularly before bed at night. However, this came to a stop once I realized that milk was the culprit behind my issues. My stomach no longer responded well to it.

Fast forward to a couple of weekends ago. I decided to give milk a try. This was not the first time I decided to see if it still bothered me. I really miss it and keep hoping that one day my body will respond well to it again. However, this was not the case. I slept about 2 hours that night due to those same old symptoms that I had experienced a few years ago.

All the positive thinking in the world cannot overpower what is true.

I told myself it would be different this time, but it wasn’t. I wished I could drink milk again without my body rejecting it, but it still did. All the positive thinking in the world couldn’t have made my body change its response to milk. Yeah, I could “push through” and drink it anyway. However, that would not be worth it. What little joy I might would get in drinking it would be washed away 45-60 minutes later when my stomach started churning.

The truth is, if our perspective and thoughts are not based on truth, positive thinking does not change anything long-term. It may make us feel good in the moment, but there will be a moment of reckoning when reality hits.

So what are we to do? Are we to just mope around in pessimism, always expecting the worst? Without positive thinking, isn’t that all that’s left? NO, thankfully there’s something else…something much more substantial and reliable.

We can rely on truth.

Truth is the one thing we can focus on that will not let us down. It is what it is, and it does not change. Sometimes it stings when we are confronted with it, but it helps us to embrace reality. It encourages us to live our lives freely as who we really are. It also helps us avoid some phony happy-go-lucky perspective that is no more than a bold faced lie that will eventually leave us feeling anxious and frustrated (and possibly with a sour stomach).

It’s often difficult to want the truth and to see it in our everyday lives. The challenge is for us to love and seek truth rather than settling for the phony stuff that is tempting to fall for. We must trust that truth is more trustworthy than our feelings at times. Truth is more valuable and pays more dividends than telling ourselves what we want to hear.

Truth is more than just something to learn about and apply in our lives.

God is the source of truth. Only in Him can we embrace it and live it out. Jesus referred to himself as “the Truth”. Since He personalized “truth”, it is not just a cold theological term, rule to follow, or task to complete. Truth is relational. It is something we discover, learn, and cultivate in our lives with God and others. Truth is comforting, a place to rest, someone we can depend on, and it frees us to be who we really are. It reveals our true identity (who God says we are). Trusting in the truth leads us to see ourselves, others, God, and the world around us with a whole new, colorful perspective. If positive thinking was an old black and white television, truth is a brand new 75 inch HD OLED television with HDR (for those of you who are not tech-savvy, that is a really nice television).

Two weekends ago, I found out that milk still bothers me. However, the truth is there are many things in this world I thoroughly enjoy. Some of them have yet to be discovered. I don’t need milk to be happy. I will miss it, but I will look forward to other things in my life that will likely prove to be more beneficial and satisfying. Tossing milk to the side is hard for me, but it is a small thing in comparison to what some of us are facing. I pray we are able to embrace Him, His Truth, and His love in the midst of whatever situation we are in. Instead of merely telling ourselves something positive, let’s positively tell ourselves the truth.

-Neil

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Transforming Our Weaknesses into Strengths

Paul wrote many letters that we can now read in our Bibles, each containing great insight into his life and the lives of those he wrote to. He is a dramatic example of how one can truly be changed by God’s grace through trusting Christ. I recently had a conversation with some friends about Paul and wanted to share some about what came up, as I realized how impactful it can be to take a close look at Paul “before and after” his encounter with Jesus. Some things about Paul changed, but some things did not.

From the first time we read about Paul in the Bible, we begin to see a driven man. He was passionate about what he believed in. He was extremely knowledgeable of Scripture and the Law. Having his own understanding of what he knew about those things, he strived to keep the law and enforce it with others. He felt strongly that he was doing the right thing. Nothing could stop him. He was even complicit in murder in attempts to protect what he believed in, which included the murder and imprisonment of those who trusted in Jesus.

Unbeknownst to him, he was persecuting not only those who trusted Christ, but also Christ the Lord Himself. Jesus made him aware of this while Paul was traveling to Damascus to continue his threats and carrying out of what he perceived to be justice. After being blinded and then regaining his sight, Paul’s heart was changed by God and his perspective changed as well.

This is where it gets rather interesting. Yes, Paul’s treatment of others, particularly Christians, changed. However, his temperament did not change. He was still a very driven man. He was still very passionate in what he believed in. He was still determined to push through anything and anyone to accomplish the goals set forth before him. However, all of this looked a lot different with the new heart he had.

God transformed Paul’s weaknesses into strengths.

Instead of hatred and self-righteousness driving him, love and humility had taken over in his heart. Instead of making others suffer to prove his own point, he was now willing to suffer himself in order to accomplish the goal of spreading the truth about Jesus (the Gospel). Instead of being willing to take the lives of others, he was determined to give others life in Christ.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, ESV)

Paul initially treasured the seeking of righteousness through adherence to the rules he interpreted from Scripture. He believed in striving to follow the rules and enforcing them on others. After coming to know the Lord, he then treasured God’s grace due to his newfound realization that he was in desperate need of it. Paul once thought he was good because he worked so hard to be. After his conversion, Paul realized his deep need for dependence on Christ for God to work good in and through him. Paul was once arrogant and feared by others, but he became humble, loving, and loved.

God transforms our weaknesses into strengths.

Many of us see things in ourselves that we do not like, things we might even hate and wish to be changed. However, today I want to encourage us to be open to seeing ourselves from a different perspective. Perhaps those very things that we hate about ourselves are merely us acting out in ways that God doesn’t intend for us. Maybe we are hard-headed, refusing to be open to being wrong, and that causes us trouble. However, with a bit of humility, that same hard-headedness can be steadfastness and determination to seek and stand by truth and trustworthiness, which can keep us OUT of trouble. Perhaps we procrastinate often, but with the right motivation we might discover that we have a knack for avoiding quick, disorganized choices and instead have the ability to engage in well-thought-out decisions that helps us and those around us.

Instead of treasuring God and who He created us to be, we often treasure what we see in others and desire to morph into something else. Let’s make a concerted effort to do something different. Let’s look in the mirror and notice those things we wish were different. Invite God and trusted others to take a look at those same traits and tell us what they see. Perhaps those traits and tendencies don’t need to be removed. Instead, maybe we need a different perspective in order to take advantage of strengths we have been considering to be weaknesses.

-Neil

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Fitting In Verses Belonging

Think back to your first day of high school.  The night before you are full of emotions.  You are excited but there’s a layer of fear that you just can’t shake.  You call your friends up to see what they are wearing for the big day.  You wished you had asked that just out of curiosity and part of general conversation but the question had different roots.  Would you fit in?   All of a sudden, the outfit you had picked out for this big day became lame.  Now you are doubting.  I am going to look like a dork?  Sally is going to look so much better than me.  If only my mom had let me buy that more expensive top!

You could hardly sleep.  You’ve waited for this time in your life and now it’s finally here.  Then the excitement started to be eaten away.  Fear and doubt started to take over.  The unknown became the reason you couldn’t sleep now!  Will people like me?  Will they laugh at my clothes?  My braces make me look hideous!  And of course a large zit has popped out.  The end of my nose is now large and shiny, like Rudolph.  Everyone will definitely see me coming!  That’s not exactly the grand entrance I had planned to make!

We all know the feelings and awkwardness that goes along with trying to fit in, right?  You know, doing whatever it takes, wearing whatever it takes and even talking a certain way to make sure we’re “included”.  I wish I could say that fitting in was just something we did when we were teenagers but I would be lying to myself.  We spend a lot of time doing this throughout our lives.  If we didn’t then there wouldn’t be a market for trendy clothing, haircuts, and diets!

More goes on inside of us than simply getting someone to like us when we are trying to fit in.  Comparison, hiding and losing sight of who we are can take over. 

“But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” 2 Corinthians 10:12b.

Fitting in says we have to be like them.  We have to do what they want.  We have to keep our needs and desires quiet.  Fitting in means I look at myself only through a lens of comparison to others.  Where do I stand according to their requirements?  Do I have what it takes?  Am I pretty enough?  Thin enough?  Smart enough?  Funny enough?  The list can go on and on.  I compare me to them.  Comparison feeds the lie that I am not enough and probably never will be.  Comparison says that I must work harder.

Comparison leads to not understanding who we truly are.

Fitting in keeps you from knowing who you are.  We are constantly trying to be what someone else wants of us (even if we don’t know what that is or are just assuming we know).  As long as we are doing that we will hide who we truly are.  We will lose sight of the person God made us to be.  We will forget our own beauty and uniqueness.  We will think the real me is just dumb and unlikeable.

The more we try to act like another, the less we can be ourselves. 

 Embracing who we are because of God’s love and grace gives us freedom to belong instead of fitting in.  Belonging is different than fitting in.  Belonging says, “I love and accept you.”  Belonging is such a gift and it doesn’t require us to change.  It allows us to be who we are and to be loved for it.  Belonging leads to true friendship and relationships.  Love and grace bloom there.

I encourage you to think about your relationships.  Where are you belonging vs fitting in?  Do you see the difference in your posture when you’re around those different relationships?  Have you experienced the true freedom of belonging?  It can begin with your relationship with Jesus.  He is not asking us to fit in with Him.  He’s not asking us to change.  He loves you no matter what you are wearing, no matter what size you are and no matter how smart you are.  Sometimes that’s hard to believe and understand, I know, but it is so true.

I would love to hear your thoughts on belonging vs fitting in.  Feel free to leave a comment and we can discuss this further.

-Melissa

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Living Small and Curious

What do the words small and curious mean to you? These two words can mean different things.  Recently I have read several different things where those words popped up. Small and curious.  These two words have stuck with me.

At times we tend to focus on trying to make everything big, planned and figured out.  Unfortunately during this we miss a lot.  Life’s journey is full of beautiful and intricate details.  When we stay large and uninterested we easily miss it.  When I try to go straight to the end result, I tend to miss the beauty along the way.

Being small and curious still leads me but it allows me to live and love along the way.  Let’s start with the word small.  I’m not referring to size, stature, belittled or cowering.  Instead, small here is referring to my place.  When I’m small, I’m looking up.  I’m seeing life around me. I’m seeing others.  I’m seeing God.  Imagine looking under a quilt or something cross stitched.  The finished result on top is a piece of art but underneath shows all the steps and detail that went into it.  Being small is living and seeing experiences from underneath.

What about curious?  I’m not referring to being nosey.  Instead, curious means I’m being open.  I am no longer just seeing an end result or a plan.  I actually see others and their experiences.  I can see how things work together.  My eyes are open. My heart is open.  I enter into daily life with a sense of curiosity instead of through a rigid agenda or preconceived notion about the person or thing I’m encountering.

Being small and curious brings freedom.  It’ s a freedom for me and a freedom for those around me.  With a small and curious posture I listen to others and ask questions out of love.  I let others talk.  I don’t take things personal.  This freedom also allows me to be okay with not having the answers.  I don’t fix.

I stay small and listen.  I stay curious and love.  Grace abounds.    

Job 12:7-12 The Message (MSG)

“But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you;
let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.
Listen—the fish in the ocean will tell you their stories.
Isn’t it clear that they all know and agree
that God is sovereign, that he holds all things in his hand—
Every living soul, yes,
every breathing creature?
Isn’t this all just common sense,
as common as the sense of taste?
Do you think the elderly have a corner on wisdom,
that you have to grow old before you understand life?”

-Melissa

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