Tag Archives: faith

upside down glitter punches

Dear God, get us out of here.

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 Ain’t nothing good coming down these streets.

At least that’s how it seems. Waiting on crappy benches scrawled with the wise sayings of 17 year olds and trash left over from the people who waited before us. Litter on our landscape. Gee, thanks. But we’ve got our shoes on and our bags ready because we know that we are going somewhere.

Busting out of this joint. God said good things are ahead and we believe Him. So we check the schedule for when our bus is gonna show up. When the phone call should come in, the decision is scheduled to be made or that magical moment when our special someone realizes that we are their only someone. Here comes the offer, the hire, the proposal. Here comes the future.

It was the best day of our lives until it wasn’t.

Knocked off our emotional high out of nowhere. Like the girl who shoved me down the slide when I was a little girl and a beautiful evening in the park ended with butterfly stitches on my quivering chin. Below the belt, girl. Not cool.

And here we are today. We’ve lined out our Sunday best, hired the band and roped off the sidewalks. Floats with our dreams about to make an entrance down the boulevard. Then we hear the thunder in the distance. We think to ourselves, “Don’t make me say it. Don’t make me say those words.” As the wind picks up, we watch the clock hoping that we can start soon and beat the bad weather. The words drop from our lips. “Don’t rain on my parade.”.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Wondering which will come first. Our plan or the storm. Dear God. Get us out of here before it hits.

Life is the simultaneous celebration of glitter cannons and below the belt punches. All rolled into one like an upside down day.

So we live our lives waiting on the benches. Sometimes getting wet and other times escaping the downpour just in the nick of time. Either way, it is up and down. Up and down. Up and down. If we aren’t careful then our soggy dreams build up into bitter hearts. Criticizing everyone who plans their parades and even worse – watching in horror as the sun shines and everything goes as planned for them.

Or we stop dreaming and scheming all together. Can’t handle another disappointment.

These bus stops turn into our homes because we secretly stop believing that we were ever meant to go anywhere at all.

What in the world is God thinking? Sending us out full of hope when there are storms nearby?

I’ll tell you what He is thinking.

He is thinking that no rain can get you wet enough. No wind can knock enough power out. No lightning can send people running too far.

We may be waiting on these benches. Feeling the sunshine and the rain. Seeing our balloons wilt with the passing of time. Then – sometimes at the very last second – we hear the music in the distance. A colorful parade in a world of grey. A world that is in desperate need of celebration and big hopeful ideas. A promise fulfilled at exactly the right time.

You’ll probably get wet in the waiting, but God won’t rain on your parade. I promise.

 

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The War of 100 Adventures

A late night ramble.

 

They made it sound easy through all the tears and muddled congratulations. Parties were thrown and cards were given telling me all the tales that my life would hold. The world was at my feet they said. Life before me with a merry greeting just waiting to see what I would do next. Gosh it sounded so romantic at the time.

I was 18 and had just graduated high school – I remember what I felt like it was yesterday. The deep hope  and vivid imagination that unpacks brilliance in a series of vibrant daydreams. Slideshows flew through my head of love, foreign countries and legendary adventures. Like life was gonna be one big road trip.

Then I started college. Suddenly I was faced with a million decisions. What was I gonna do? Who would I date? What were the goals and next steps? I went into college as a neuroscience major and left with a degree in political science. If I had no respect for reality, I would still be there racking up degrees. ‘Cause its hard to rule things out. How can I be a modern-day version of Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa’s Smile without an art degree?

But that’s just it. I will never be an art professor. I will never be a lawyer or doctor. Not a historian featured on documentaries. The Food Network will never make a pilot episode for me and medical school? That ship sailed long ago. My life isn’t big enough to hold each single dream the way I see it this side of heaven.

Maybe I can be whatever I want, but I can never be everything I want.

At some point I had to choose.

Telling me that the world is at my feet does me no good if I don’t know how to walk. Opportunity means nothing without vision and purpose that point these little toes in the right direction. Even now I can easily lose track of where it is that I am supposed to be going.

There are hundreds of adventures in life that vie for my time. From dreams to careers to families. Some days I totally sit unsure of what move to make. What if I make the wrong choice. To say “yes” to something requires a “no” to another thing. Juggling all the bits works for a while but then my hands cramp and I let it all fall apart like a teenage romance. Good for a while, but it could never last.

I struggle with what I assume most other millennials do as well. Endless opportunities and options from growing up in an online world. Constantly reinforced with the idea that my destiny is hyper-individualized and my path can lead me anywhere. Except I don’t quite know where to head at times.

Options are like currency for us. The more we have the richer our lives feel.

At the drop of a hat, we could pull out and jump onboard with something better. Switch paths based on the most photogenic for an Instagram post. Our online audience needs us to keep things interesting. No sleep till Brooklyn as they say.

So many adventures call our names. Noble ones with a strong sense of duty behind them. Hilarious escapades that generate countless hashtags of inside jokes. Adventures that seem to fit like a glove for one hand but don’t come with a match for the other. Which are we to follow?

A dreamers dilemma.

A million places I’d like to go, but no certain guidance. That’s the problem with options I suppose. And while I am thankful to have the privilege of so many choices, I have recognized that what I am after isn’t really choices at all.

What I crave is consistency. A sense of mission that follows me through each choice and helps me navigate this war of 100 adventures. ‘Cause they are fighting for my time, attention and committment. Try as I might, I can’t live them all.

I can’t tell you which adventure to choose, which calling to obey, or dream to pursue. I do know that in the noise of the process and the ideas that heckle you when you put them down – I do know that there is a hand we can hold.

The hand of the One who is prompting us to step out in the first place. It’s okay if we slip up and don’t get it right the first time. There is more Grace than we know for the decisions we navigate.

In the war of 100 adventures not all dreams make it out alive. And that is how we live. How we live the things we are meant to. A courage to stop being afraid of missing out, of not picking the attractive thing, or worrying that none are the right fit. We hold the hand of the One who guides us and trust that close to him is where we are to be.

And He will guide us. Like He always has.

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Living in the tension between dangled carrots and spray painted grass

 

Four o’clock rolled around and all was well. By five o’clock it had all fallen apart. 

I was happy at four-thirty today. Giddy even.

For the past several years I have been working really hard towards a specific thing. You could even call it a promise. Hours have been spent researching the best way to go about pursuing this promise. Pens have run out of ink as I have taken detailed notes and filled out all the required paperwork. Scribbles on paper with charts and lists have covered my dining room table late into the night as I look over my plan.

You have no idea- seriously no idea – how many questions I have been asked and answers I’ve found as I have plotted the path for this big dream of mine to come to pass. It was starting to grow legs and arms and come to life before my eyes.

After holding it with cautious hope, I have recently begun to embrace it. Own it and let the excitement of its existence seep into all the little bits of me. At four o’clock this afternoon, I was talking to someone involved and the details were starting to come together. Ideas were bounced around and getting polished. Life was good at four o’clock today.

Then the phone rang. It was 5 o’clock.

I answered it. On the other end was the woman who held the keys to this little dream of mine being born. Not just in my mind, but in actual life. The kind of life you can photograph and share beyond the limitations of imagination.

It wasn’t good. She informed me of some news that changed the plan. In fact, it kind of erased the plan, burned the paper it was written on and then scattered the ashes somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. At least that is how it felt by 5:05pm.

The dream doesn’t have to die, but it does have to wait. And it goes to being a bit of a lottery when it comes to how it will work. There are no guarantees really.

The worst part? I started to scold myself for actually letting myself get excited. Chasing this promise has been years of ups and downs. Dangled carrots dropped in front of me and actually believing that I was finally going to get to eat them. I’d lunge to catch the dream between my teeth, but it always pulls right back up out of reach. Sitting there taunting me, but too far to have for myself.

You know what I am talking about. Falling in love only for the other person to back out. Working long hours just to watch another person end up with the credit. Finally saving enough money for a backpacking trip with friends but having to drain your account to pay a car repair. And now you are using your newly fixed car to drive your friends to the airport. Carrots dangled.

Sitting here tonight, I still choke back the tears of disappointment and frustration. This isn’t my first rodeo with “almost but not quite” when it comes to promises. And I’ve come to know what will pop up next.

Spray painted grass, that’s what.

I see the other side where the grass is greener. The side where everything went as planned. A field of grass that grows bright green and beautiful. That piece of earth where the money never ran out and the world is fair. Where people get what they have worked hard for and the rain falls with perfect timing.

I know you know exactly what I am talking about because you have had to live in the tension between dangled carrots and spray painted grass yourself.

The truth about that grass? It isn’t really green. It has been painted with idealism, envy and a good old-fashioned dose of imagination. It is the futuristic version of what would have happened if everything would have gone our way. The perfect interpretation of our plan before real life happens.

And just like that, we are discontent with where we are. The trinkets we carry as our own are no longer valuable. Our relationships don’t sparkle with endless perfection. Our romances are tarnished with human flaws. Promotions at work that went to another suddenly make our job seem insignificant.

And that’s the biggest problem with chasing dreams, promises and grander plans. Sometimes they don’t work out the way we want and we see our own grass as the enemy.

The other grass surely would have been softer, never needed mowing and would naturally repel all insects so you could picnic in peace. The people who live there are faultless and easy to love. At least it looks that way from here.

But this place? This place is work and pain. Trying and risking over and over. It’s loving the person in front of you when you have a very specific person in mind you’d rather be loving. This grass embeds thorns in your feet if you try to run through it carefree.

Right now at 9pm? I don’t really love my grass. It is poking me in all the wrong places and isn’t growing the way I want it too. But, I am trying to remind myself that the other grass isn’t real. It is spray painted with deceiving filters and all the unwanted parts have been cropped out of the picture.

It’s like Instagram grass. Perfected by perception.

This little patch of field I will go to bed on tonight? It is my home for now and I will be thankful for it. The people parked on this side of the fence with me are my neighbors and they are just as worth loving as the people on the spray painted grass. I’ll wake up in the morning and will choose to enjoy and cultivate the land I have been given.

Continuing to work towards the promise, but choosing to live my life with gusto right here until then. I’ve learned that here in this tension. We’ve got to live settled. Not the kind of settled where you compromise for something lesser. The kind of settled where you find contentment where you are while still working toward something else. That is a thing fought for and hashed out over late night conversations with friends.

There will always be a tension between the carrots we chase and the fields we sleep in. Even when it stings us to the core, we have to let go of our plans and believe the promise.

On the days when a late afternoon phone call crushes you, God has given you a place to sit and rest while you catch your breath. It might not be the perfectly manicured grass you were hoping for, but it is your place for now. And there is a grace to make it home.

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He died. And we all came to his party.

I never really knew a tragedy and a party could go together until now.

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I remember being a little girl and laying in bed at my friend Kaleigh’s house. Spending the night at a friends still had all the magic. Being dropped off. Eating food that isn’t a part of your normal menu. Playing with other people’s siblings. Getting ready for bed away from home always made me feel so grown up.

The nights I spent in that house are countless. It is funny what you remember about those times. Kaleigh’s mom always told me not to pop my knuckles or I would regret it when I was older. She was right. Once her dad let us stay up till about ten to finish Pippi Longstocking. And for a second grader that was basically winning the lottery.  As we got older, he watched us practicing the Macarena and told us we looked great. We didn’t.

This past week Kaleigh’s dad, Chris, passed away.

Last night was the visitation and I had to park at another building because the funeral home parking lot was maxed out. I waited quite some time to even get in the door. Finally it was my time to hug the family and say what little I could to communicate how sad I was and how sorry. Those are the times where words can’t really communicate what you have to say. And so you stand shoulder to shoulder in the crowd with your presence doing the talking.

Scanning the room it was filled – literally filled – with people that took me right back to my childhood. The families who all went to the church I grew up in. Teens I was in youth group with who had turned into full fledged adults with wedding rings and mortgages. So many people.

I was talking to a woman named Marsha who was a constant figure in my younger days. Homegroups, mission trips, her kids in the youth group with me. A lot of life connected us even though it had been years since I’ve seen her.

We talked about how Chris passed way too soon. We marveled at the crowd who showed up. And then she said it.

“He threw a party. And we all came.”

All the magic I had been feeling about the night, Marsha summed up in two sentences. Chris threw a party and we all came. Out of the woodworks crawled people from decades ago. Faces I haven’t seen since church picnics when I was a kid. People traveled from far and wide. Because this was Chris’s party and we wouldn’t miss celebrating him for the world.

Walking to my car, those words just ricocheted against all my thoughts.

I want to live a life that breeds these kinds of parties.  Throw the glitter and spread the dip. It is time for me to throw some serious soirees. Not just to celebrate life when it is over but in the thick of it. Where people line up just to get their feet in the door. ‘Cause they know that what is inside will be spectacular. It will be full of love, full of inspiration and full of life.

What I am about to say is the stuff of overdone graduation speeches. I know that. But I also know that it is true and that no matter how many times we have heard it before – we need to hear it again.

This is the time.

The time to feel all the feelings and love till our hearts bleed out onto the people around us. Soaking up every conversation knowing that it probably won’t be our last, but that doesn’t make it any less special. I want to hug my kids more because I can. And life is good. It may be hard and broken down at times. But it is good.

Those ideas that  are so risky they send comfort zones screaming? I want to do those. And I want to nail them. I know I probably won’t. In fact,  I will fail at many of them. But I will have done them and there will be scars that tell of my adventures into the daring world of possibilities. And I will throw my scars a party because being brave is worth celebrating.

However, some of the things I just might get right. And when I do? I’ll throw a party. Because I can. Because this is life – my one life – and I don’t want to put it off.

But mostly? Mostly I want to dare to open my heart up to people in the boldest of ways.

To love without any catches or qualifiers. The kind of love that is generous even when I feel like my own heart is surviving on bread crumbs. Believing that God will sustain me. The fierce kind of love that makes others uncomfortable with it’s intentional pursuit. I wanna be that girl.

And you?

You should fall in love more. Send out the resume for the dream job. Build a treehouse if for no other reason than it was a weekend of nice weather. Read books in homemade forts with friends because honestly, who wouldn’t love that? Pulling out the destiny in others even when your own seems overlooked. And love Jesus with everything you’ve got.

Because this is life. Welcome to the party.

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The wild one

I remember well. Exactly where I was when I first had the words roll through my mind. 

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I was sitting in a coffee shop just as I had through so many nights of college. It was late. I don’t remember how late, but I probably should have been in the library studying. Instead there I was on the stool situated along the front bar. The large window in front of me opened to the street and looked out over campus.

My worn journal was open to a blank page and I grabbed my pen and started writing. I am sure if I shared with you the exact words I wrote they wouldn’t make much sense to you. Syllables and doodles covering pages and exposing all the bits and pieces of me.

The parts of me that seemed disconnected and disjointed from each other, but all deeply rooted in my heart. That page had me on it. All over it. Even the parts of me that made no sense.

There was no clear picture or plan that emerged. All signs didn’t point to a specific direction my life should go. Destiny didn’t spill out like some sort of code amid the ink blots. It was just my words. The thread of my deepest dream.

I knew at that moment. I wanted to be one of the wild ones.

All the things I wasn’t – I already knew. No one needed to tell me that I wouldn’t be the first girl picked. I never was. Life didn’t have to remind me of all the places I fall short. The times I say the awkward thing or get my feelings hurt when I open my heart just a little too big. My soul bears the scars of close calls and doors shut in my face.

None the less, I couldn’t argue with what I already knew. I was one of the wild ones.

Full of fear and insecurity, but wild to the core. I wanted to chase impossible things and wrap my life with colorful thinking. Thinking that didn’t try to color-cordinate with every person and every situation. I didn’t want to be khaki. I didn’t want to blend in and match everyone.

I wanted a bold life. Those words and images I wrote on the page that night testified to that. I didn’t want neutral. I wanted to be red. And paint in red wherever I went. Marking lives and streets with red letters that declared “Liz was here”. I wanted to leave myself behind.

I was twenty. I naive. But I was right. At least partly right.

Fast-forward a decade. I’ve learned a few things about being wild.

I’ve learned that meals have to be cooked. Houses have to be cleaned. Every day. Jobs have requirements and you have to – you know – actually go to work when you feel like hoping in your car to chase adventure. And relationships? Those take time too.

But mostly, I’ve learned that wild doesn’t mean what I thought it meant when I was twenty.

It isn’t about spontaneous and risky adventures that create envious stories.

Wild is not what we do, but how we think. Daring to believe in what could be. Willing to be the person who changes things. Big or small. Not allowing the realities of life to dull down our spirits. To make us think that this – right here and right now – is all there is.

I was wrong to think that I was the wild one. It isn’t me. It’s you too.

After countless conversations on long phone calls and on sofas in coffee shops, I have realized that I am not the only wild one. You are too. We are all the wild ones. At least that is what we were made to be. The capes may have turned into cardigans and swords into laptops, but we are glowing in our core. Glowing, burning, for something better. Something bigger.

From our cubicles and living rooms we dream into a world that is better. A world that has our mark on it.  Believing that life doesn’t have to play out this way – believing that we could do it better. We could do this better. That despite all our failures and scars from being the last kids picked in dodgeball, there is something in this heart to offer.

Wild generosity is meant to do battle with greed. Wild forgiveness can cut off the cycles of hatred and vengence. Wild hope has the power to reach into the darkest places and sit – be with people where they are. Remind people that we pick them. We see them.

And love? Wild love makes people recognize that they were made for the same thing. To be wild. To dream. To live this one wild crazy life will all we’ve got.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think we are ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ kind of people I think we are wild.

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Resistance. And love. And war.

Erika bioRumor on the street is that Prince William only married Kate after today’s guest turned him down. Okay, maybe not. But it’s just ’cause he never met her. Erika Kraus has been one of my nearest and dearest since 2003. Erika serves as the Director of Haiti Transformed and you can read about some of the incredible people they partner with in Haiti at beyondtherubble.com. Take notes today friends, take notes.

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“The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” – Richard Foster

These days the world is incredibly complicated. I was running at the gym last week – after a really challenging day at work staring at the televisions in front of me. One was set on a music television channel where a young girl was singing adult lyrics dressed in almost lingerie. Another hosted coverage of the crisis in Gaza. I think some Adam Sandler movie was on and maybe some sports coverage as well, but I hardly noticed those.

And out of nowhere I choked up-

Considering the fact that I had already had a rough day and felt terribly overwhelmed, I turned my music up, focused on running that incline and tried to suppress the grief welling up within me.

On top of the challenges our staff and friends were facing in Haiti, I didn’t want to touch the pain rising from a small strip of land in the Middle East nor the sadness that young women grow up with impossible standards and expectations. I definitely didn’t want to face my own disappointment with myself for not looking as good as I think I should (in comparison).

The older I get the more I realize that in the midst of my own complicated realities, one of the scariest things I can do is face the pains of this oh so complicated world. Situations like Gaza – brokenness and disappointment – violence on every side – two wrongs and no clear right – are hard.

Equipping our staff in Haiti to live full and fruitful lives in a land where there is no seeming opportunity and endless amounts of corruption is hard. Living near women my age — some loosing babies to miscarriage and husbands to affairs– some waiting for love they’ve yet to taste, wondering if all the good guys will marry 10 years down, fighting against self-discrimination just like I do…this is tough also.

Haiti Transformed

When the world inside us and the world around us seems caddy-wonkus the last thing we feel humanly equipped to do is face the grey and the muddled, the complicated and the impossible.

It’s messy to live in tension — ask good questions, listen to the other side, pray, be near God, stay intimately close to people, and celebrate greater truths.

Here are some easier things to do:

1. Not rock the boat with tensions/convictions you feel — stick to the status quo — don’t burden anyone else with what you care about.

2. Numb out your awareness– be busy, pretend it’s not there

3. Bark at situations but don’t engage internally – have strong (yet shallow) opinions, but don’t bother with the deeper realities of what people are facing. Judge from a distance.

Here are some ultimately harder things to do:

1. Grow a Savior complex — and sell your entire soul and identity to a cause.

2. Alienate friends and relationships because they don’t agree with you. Stand at the poles, but don’t risk seeing and hearing the other side.

Many of us want a platform to make a difference from, we want to change the world, make it better, grow a garden for others in the midst of pain.

What I’ve realized living in Seattle in Haiti and in Texas is that no matter where I am – this means that I live with tension and resistance. It means picking up the burden of grief and suffering with. It means staying close when I’d rather run — asking questions to myself and to others, and living near God and celebrating His ways in the middle of life’s discrepancies and disappointments.

I’ve never felt so tempted to disconnect from a life in God and belief in people as when I am overwhelmed with complicated situations that seem to have no answer. I’ve also never felt so alive as when I do engage God and people in the midst of complicated situations that have no answer.

While seemingly ill-equipped for a life so laden with grief– still we are made for Heaven and draw Heaven’s light to earth when we connect to God in the grey of life- ask great questions, dig deeper wells, and love in the midst of pain.

To live fully alive, is to live awake to Heaven and awake to Truth without dismissing or denying the pain around or inside us.

That day at the gym, after running myself ragged on an incline that didn’t absorb my sadness, I turned down my music and let myself ache — I faced the images in Gaza and prayed for peace. I thought of people I know on both sides of the situation — and prayed for the impossible. I prayed for light and forgiveness in a bloody mess, asked God questions, and then waited for the burden to lift. And while the sadness didn’t — the weight of it did.

From there I found myself praying for other things…talking about my friends in Haiti, my own desires and wants, the babies my friends hope for… And here I knew I partnered with Hope rather than avoid the Dark — I resisted apathy, I treasured a greater Truth. All this on a treadmill.

My pastor often says–“We are made for love and war” — Love and connection with God and one another–and war against the dark that destroys us.

We want to change the world, but do we know how to live in tension and find grace in the resistance?

Do we know how to dig deeper wells…so that we don’t dry up but instead bubble over with wisdom and light for some of the most challenging situations on earth?

We can’t face and carry the burdens of this world if we disconnect, dis-engage, or stand in the shallow end from the sidelines. There is a well for you and for me — if we choose it — and a wider breadth of relationship and revelation. Beauty and grace to reveal in the midst of “suffering with”.

If we’d be the people who don’t turn back, but dig deep in the haze of the grey, in the pain of the resistance, we’ll find that the gardens we so often hoped we’d plant will often bloom.

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too much and still not enough

This is for those days and nights when we just aren’t sure we are getting it quite right. When we aren’t sure we are quite right.

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I am afraid I am too much to handle. I am afraid I am overbearing and my laugh may be annoying. I am afraid I will talk too much or make a joke at the wrong time. I am afraid my issues will be too heavy or my friends will get tired of my problems. What if people grow weary of dealing with my insecurities? I am afraid that my ambitions will be too big and my personality overwhelming. Sometimes I get off the phone and cringe at how strong I came across. What if people  smile and are nice, but are secretly relieved when I walk away? I wish that I could be cute & sweet. But I’m not very good at that. I always end up being intense. I am afraid that people will get tired of me.

I am afraid that I am not enough. I am afraid that I will disappoint people or be a dud. What if people expect something amazing and I don’t deliver? What if I am the wallflower at the party and get written off as boring? What if I have nothing to add to a conversation & offer no value to an idea? Sometimes I leave a meeting thinking through the things I wish I had said but was too scared to. I am afraid that I will be underwhelming. The girl everyone likes but no one needs. I am afraid that there is nothing significant or memorable about me.

And so, I binge back & forth between “too much” and “not enough”. When I feel overwhelming, I gear down. Soon I am afraid I have backed off too much. Time to jump back in the game. I evaluate my environment to see where I am on the pendulum. I am constantly battling this tension…back & forth I go. Overcompensating for my percieved “too muchness” or “not enoughness”.

Can’t come across too strong or too weak…because I am afraid of who I am.

The truth is I will never get it just right. Because I am not supposed to. I have flaws. Sometimes I am too much for some people and sometimes I am not enough for others. But so what? Fear robs me of truly sharing my life with others. My friends & family do want to walk with me even through my “too much” days. And they never look at me and see “not enough”. Your friends & family don’t either.

Most importantly, God says we are just right. We are fearfully & wonderfully made. Designed with a specific purpose and a divine composition to accomplish that purpose. He isn’t annoyed with our dreams, hopes, insecurities and weaknesses.

It is time to stop being afraid of who we are & who we are not. I’m going to try to embrace who I am and stop worrying about being intimidating. It is time to silence the voices & lies that accuse us of being “too much” and “not enough”. Time to be bold in the way we accept ourselves. Are you in?

 We won’t be perfect, but we will be honest. God can handle us. He can handle all of us.

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