Why Can’t You Let It Go?

shutterstock_251283712There is a very familiar song from a very popular movie that continually tells us to “let it go.”  Not a bad thought considering how many things in life seem to take us down in one way or another.   We are hit continually with circumstances beyond our control – jobs, family issues, health issues, even the political climate – all of it can just wear us down to the point we truly feel like we cannot get up one more time.  After all, why get up when life is just going to knock you back down again?  That seems like a very valid question, doesn’t it?  Of course it does, until you remember something all people of faith forget:  Our circumstances may be out of our our control, but they are never out of God’s.

I have written a lot about the struggle with trying to control everything in our lives, to mitigate the effects of the world around us.  We save to avoid financial collapse.  We work out and eat right to avoid illness and disease.  We go into professions that we don’t want to be in because they provide stability.  We do all kinds of things to keep from being at the mercy of the elements.  The truth is we can do everything perfectly and think we are prepared for (and protected from) almost anything, but we aren’t.  I’m not saying it doesn’t help, but saving won’t prevent a financial disaster if the conditions are right.  Eating right and exercising won’t keep you from getting sick.  There are people every day who are examples of perfect health who suddenly drop dead from a heart attack, or find out they have cancer or some other dreaded disease.  We don’t want to consider it, but it seems we really are at the mercy of the elements.  Or are we?  How do we walk through this life, bombarded with situations that shake us to our core or bring us to our knees?  How do we keep moving when things fall apart?  How do we press on, when we’ve been betrayed or let down by someone we love?  How do we lift our heads when we lose jobs, homes, or even families?  How do we actually let it go?

We tend to hold on to things; it is in our nature.  We even hold onto things that are harmful for/to us.  How many people remain in terrible relationships because they can’t let go?  How many jobs do we stay in because we can’t let go?  How many places do we live in because we can’t let go? We like the familiar, even when it’s bad.  We like to be in control, or have the illusion of control.  Sometimes the illusion of control is more powerful than actually being in control.  We mix up those two things often – actual control vs the illusion of control.  We rationalize our hoarding of things or relationships and then wonder why we feel so bogged down, stressed out or depressed.  shutterstock_218214685God never meant for us to hoard things in this world.  He never wanted us to put down roots here when our forever home is actually with Him.  “Yeah, yeah, but that’s just a nebulous concept when I’m living in the NOW.”  We really struggle with letting go of anything!  The things we consider “good” in life (money, secure jobs, good relationships, homes and possessions, etc.) are hard to let go of because we think if we “let it go” that means we lose it.  The things we consider “bad” (money, secure jobs, bad relationships, possessions we’ve acquired, etc.) are hard to let go of because they are familiar and serve a purpose for us – even if that purpose is less than desirable.  What we have is what we know, and we don’t like to consider the unknown.  We don’t want to consider that letting go means everything might change.  Letting go of the “good” means we lose and letting go of the “bad” means everything will be unfamiliar.  After all, either way, what if we let it go and then don’t make it?  What if we don’t survive? What if, what if, what if?

What if?  Therein lies the problem.  We don’t know the “what ifs,” but as children of God we know that HE does.  He knows what is around the corner and tells us over and over to trust Him even though His ways are not our ways.  As people of faith, we talk a good talk but our “what ifs” paralyze us and keep us from letting go.  We can’t let it go because we don’t trust the One in whom we claim to place our trust.  The truth is that it is impossible to let go without having trust in something higher than ourselves.  That is true not just for people of faith, but for everyone.  We tend to make our decisions from a place of emotion rather than a place of reason, but God wants us to look at what He has said/promised to us and then trust Him to keep His word.  Trust is not an emotion; it is a decision.  We can trust and let things go, even if we are fearful or apprehensive.  We can have faith even though our knees are shaking.  We can decide to let go and trust, even when we may feel like it’s crazy to do so.  Trust (or faith) and fear are not mutually exclusive.  We can let go and be afraid.  We can let go and be sad.  We can let go and feel all kinds of things, but we cannot let go without trust.  No one can – people of faith or not.

shutterstock_299434214Life is difficult.  We were never promised it would be easy, but it can be rich and fulfilling if we can learn to let things go.  When we learn to let go, we also learn to embrace.  Hurts that we have endured through various means or people can cripple us forever if we let them.  People who have let us down, angered us, treated us poorly or unfairly, or rejected us completely don’t have to diminish us.  Situations that have (or are) less than perfect don’t have to destroy us.  We don’t have to hold onto our grudges or hurts.  We don’t even have to hold on to our expectations that have gone unfulfilled.  We probably need to readjust those expectations anyway.  We, especially as people of faith, have a problem.  We hold ourselves in such high regard that we feel like we have a right to hold onto our anger and hurt.  We think so highly of ourselves that we feel entitled to NOT let things go.  We think it is our right to make sure everything is eventually evened out in our world and that we are treated fairly, and we spend a lot of our time, energy and resources to ensure it happens.  I have news for you: making things “fair” is not your responsibility.  Do you know what IS your responsibility?  Loving God, loving each other and letting things go.

The key to being able to let go is in rationally, reasonably and logically taking God at His word, in spite of our emotions or our desire for control.  It isn’t an easy thing to do, and I struggle with it continually, but it doesn’t change the truth of it.  Emotions are powerful things that can drive us into all kinds of states.  They are volatile and yet they are a very real part of who we are and how God created us to be.  Every emotion we experience, God himself has experienced.  Every betrayal and hurt, every anger and fear, He has experienced them all.  Yes, in the fleshly manifestation as Jesus Christ, He had to deal with every emotion we have dealt with – or ever will.  He was betrayed by those He trusted, his closest friends.  He wept with sadness and grief over losses during His earthly life.  He was terrified in the garden of Gethsemane as He looked at what He was going to have to endure.  But you know what?  He let it go.  He let all of it go and died for us anyway, in spite of how He was treated or how we would dismiss Him today.  He loved us even though He knew we would often reject, disobey and even hate Him.  How was He able to endure such emotion and still press on?  Because He knew the truth and rested in it.  He knew He had a higher purpose and the end result was worth it all, regardless of how he felt emotionally.  When we are able to live from a place of knowing the truth and being willing to walk in it, regardless of how we feel, THAT is when we are able to finally trust and let go.

So I guess I will leave you with what I desire for myself as well as all of you.  I pray we all can step back and realize just what we give up when we are afraid to lose what we already have.   BlessingStop trying to cling to the familiar or to your desire to see that others get what you think they deserve.  Quit holding onto your wounds as badges of honor and be willing to let the wounds in your heart heal.   Let it go.  Open your heart and let go of the pain from those who didn’t love you and embrace the One who does.  And when the circumstances in your life start overwhelming you, or you feel that need for revenge start to rise within you, let it go.  It isn’t worth it.  We were never meant to carry around the weight of the world with us.  We can do exactly what God’s word says in 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.”  When we do that, we can still see the sun, no matter how the storms may rage around us.  We can say, with great assurance, “Here I stand in the light of day.  Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway.”

Blessings!

I Like Big “Buts”…

And I cannot lie.  If you’re truthful with yourself, you could probably say the same thing.   Most of us have heard things like “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas!”  Boy, isn’t that the truth?  But where “ifs” come as a result of speculation and wishing, “buts” come from a very different place.  “Buts” come from a place of excuses and self-deception.  For example, we all like to sit around and wish and dream of things being different in our life or in our world (“IF I could just save more money, I’d be less stressed”), but we seldom do anything about it (“BUT I just love to shop.”)  The first part of that sentence is a factual statement about what you would like to do.  The second part, though also factual, is your way of rationalizing behavior that will always prevent your dream from coming true.

shutterstock_211760386“Buts” steal our joy and strength in every area:  emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually and cause us to waste our time always stuck in the world of “ifs.”  And I have news for you; that doesn’t make you a “dreamer,” it simply makes you lazy.  Am I a dreamer? Absolutely!  I love to think about possibilities and ways to make the world better, but if I never take steps to actually MAKE the world better, then I am no longer a dreamer;  I am an “iffer.”  A dreamer can stretch out into the land of possibilities and come back with amazing ways to do accomplish those things; an “iffer” simply lives in the land of possibilities with no intention of coming back and making things different.  We should never degrade the term “dreamer” by making it a costume for our “ifs.”  True dreamers seek ways to bring their dreams to life, where “ffers” simply seek dreams as a way of escaping life.   And that’s where the “buts” come in.

“But” is a conjunction that is used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned.  From a spiritual standpoint, it can often be said that whatever comes after the “but” is sin.  That’s because we use it in the following mindset (fill in your own blanks):  “I know I should do _____ but ______.”  We make statements regarding things that God has put in black and white (or red and white) that He wants us to do.  How many times have you heard these types of statements come out of your (or someone else’s) mouth?

  • I know I should serve God, but I don’t have the time.
  • I know God wants me to have a relationship with Him but it takes too much energy.
  • I know I should give, but I don’t have enough money.
  • I know I should love my enemies, but they don’t deserve it.

And then there are statements around things that we feel called to do, but cannot get a direct answer written in black and white in God’s word:

  • I believe God wants me to teach, but I don’t speak well.
  • I feel called to join the choir or worship team, but I just don’t have time to practice.
  • I believe God is moving me into another line of work, but I’ll make less money.

There are so many things that we miss out on in life because of the word “but.”   As a person of faith, it is one of the most damaging words we can ever utter.   It is far more damaging than other words we use because it neutralizes us.  It neutralizes our relationship with God, and it neutralizes our witness to others.  It keeps us confined and holds us captive, and yet I have to admit far too often that I like big “buts.”

shutterstock_189351380The truth is, “buts” make me feel better about myself, or at least create the illusion for me that I feel better.  They put a nice-looking coat over the rags of disobedience, unfaithfulness or even fear.  They make me feel better about acting wrongly or making improper decisions.   “Buts” also make me feel validated about things I fear.  Instead of admitting I’m scared to step out on faith, I use the word “but.”  For me personally, I have felt called to preach, teach and minister to others since I was about 10 years old.  Being a woman, there are some (maybe even many) who would try to tell me God reserves the call of any kind of public ministry only to men.  I, however, believe it is up to God to call whoever HE chooses to the service He has actually created them to undertake.  I have believed for over 37 years that God was calling me to a greater depth of service to Him in these areas, but I might lose friends over forging ahead especially when the opportunities may be scarce to do so.  People might criticize my choices, even if I believe I am following God’s call.  Actually there is no “might” about it; people WILL criticize my choices when it doesn’t align with their opinion of what I should do or be.  So instead of leaping completely into what I feel called to do, I dabble in it.  I go through stages of full commitment until the thought of what I might lose by going further scares me.  And that’s when my stutter returns.   “But…but…but…”

We use “but” like some kind of expensive perfume that we can pour over our fears, anger, disobedience, etc. to try and make it smell better.  I say expensive, because it really does cost us so much when we use it.  The truth is if we didn’t like “buts” so much, we wouldn’t use them so often.  It just goes on and on, and then we complain that our lives are full of stress, debt, poor health or poor relationships.  If we could remove the negative use of that word from our vocabulary – if I could remove it from mine –my life would start changing, because what we say becomes reality for us.  We need to start owning our decisions, including the thought process that leads up to them!  Quit making excuses, and start putting a period after the first half of your statements.   If you say, “I believe I need to do ____,” then put a period at the end of that phrase and consider how you can accomplish what you believe you need to do.  If you don’t feel strong enough to move forward yet, then at least call it what it is after the word “but.”  Say “I believe I need to do ____, but I’m too scared” or “but I choose not to.”

shutterstock_199190972I’ll leave you with this: there is a way to redeem the word and use it to EMPOWER you!  Change your thinking.  Start using the word “but” to contrast your negative statements instead of your positive ones.

  • I’m afraid to step out on faith, but God said He would always be with me.
  • I’m worried about my finances, but He has promised to take care of me if I seek Him first.
  • Someone hurt me, but I will not let them keep me from loving others.
  • I have wasted so much of my life, but today is a new day.
  • I haven’t fulfilled my dreams yet, BUT nothing is going to stop me now!

“But,” in itself, is neutral.  It’s what we do with it that makes it positive or negative.   It’s my prayer that we can all start living the life of which we’ve always dreamed.   It’s time to let go of the past and move forward.  It’s time to get off our “buts!”

Blessings!

Revelation and Fragility

Lately I’ve been immersed in a process of revelation.  I just completed writing a book that details the journey I took with my best friend, Annette, over the years as she eventually lost her battle with brain cancer.  It has been an intense and emotional process and one that has put in me yet another position of vulnerability and revelation.  Doing anything creative opens us up for all kinds of judgments (and even ridicule).  When we reveal the truth of our journeys, and the truth of what we experience and feel, the risks are so great that we often shrink back behind the veil of what we think we should look like to the world around us.

Throughout the process of writing and editing the book, I was taken to new places of reflection and realization.  At times it was a painful process as I stripped away the final layers of my protective covering, but it reminded me of how beautiful life truly is when we are wiling to risk judgment for revelation.  Annette and I trusted each other and refused to let society dictate to us how we would treat each other or express our love and care for each other.  As a result, we risked all kinds of ridicule and misperceptions but we didn’t care because we found something that far surpassed the fear of rejection and ridicule:  the strength of being understood and loved without condition. 

Love maskThe revealing of ourselves is often a painful experience.  Whether it is due to the revelation of traits we are not proud of or simply the revelation of our emotions in their most raw state, the result often brings us pain.  We don’t like to be vulnerable, and we don’t like our relationships to get out of balance between give and take…or revelation and reticence.  Even in our most difficult emotional moments, it is often hard to let down our guard or know that we need to reach out to someone who we know loves and cares about us.  We would rather curl up into a corner by ourselves and bear our burdens alone instead of “troubling” someone else with our struggles or let them see us in our fragile state.  Not only that, we don’t want to BE fragile with someone else because it opens us up to more hurt if we are not embraced in our fragility, or worse, judged for it. 

Recently I had the amazing blessing of being able to help someone I love get through a difficult time.  Interestingly, it happened at a time when I was struggling with my own internal issues, but the moment she became vulnerable, nothing could have stopped me from being there to support her.  All the things I was struggling with suddenly paled in comparison to the love and care I felt for another person.  It was an honor to have someone lay their heart in my hands for a short while and to be trusted to not injure it.  It was humbling to be allowed to care for someone who needed to be cared for in that moment.  lost and aloneAnd it was beautiful to see the openness and vulnerability of another’s spirit – even if it was something they would have fought to hide under normal circumstances.  It strengthened and comforted me far more than any strength or comfort I provided for her.  It was as a result of this experience that I remembered why honesty matters so much in our relationships and in our lives.   It reminded me why I had been willing to pour intimate details of my life into a book for all to read.  It whispered to me, “Without revelation and fragility you will never experience true acceptance and strength.”

Helping HandsIt was that experience that gave me courage to keep moving forward in the midst of my own struggles.  It strengthened me to know life is full of relationships that help us grow and it made me proud of my own revelations I shared within the book I just finished.  It reduced my fears of being judged or rejected for the exposure of my own heart.  Revealing ourselves, or becoming openly fragile for a while, allows us the opportunity to see love manifested in the ways someone else cares for us.  But beyond that, it also allows us the opportunity to strengthen those same people in ways we can’t even understand.  We need to stop being so worried about those who will reject us if we reveal our true selves and focus on those who embrace us more purely and love us because we reveal our true selves.  And as I say that, I can’t help but think, “Annette would be so proud.”

 Blessings!

Settling For What?

Life is an amazing adventure but it was never meant to be one we simply speed through, grabbing all we can get. At the same time, there is a fine line between grabbing all we can get and settling for less than we deserve. When we “settle,” we miss out on the very essence of the beauty and power of our lives. This isn’t to say your life cannot still have a tremendous effect on those around you but it will certainly never have the full effect it was meant to have. When you settle, you not only rob yourself of blessings but you will rob all of the people whose journeys you cross in this life. There are people all around us, including ourselves, that are guilty of settling. shutterstock_71521108Each of us is unique, with unique talents and abilities. We all have dreams that we believe in our hearts we can achieve. What is it that makes us stop pursuing them? For some, there is a mix of priorities that change the course of their journeys. There are some who may have individual dreams that are overshadowed by the dreams of home and family. Please don’t misunderstand; I am in no way saying that those individuals who choose to have families cannot follow their dreams. The two can co-exist, there is just so much more to consider. What I am saying is that each turn of our journey brings new adventures and sometimes those turns prevent us from reaching particular goals. When this happens, it isn’t necessarily “settling” because as we grow and change so do our goals in life.

Settling is a reference to those times on our journey when we know we are capable of so much more but we stop short because of the critics in our lives. We give up on the things that the truest part of our spirit needs in order to thrive because someone has told us that to pursue our dreams, or our ideas of what is reasonable to have, is selfish and should be abandoned so that others can achieve theirs. Let me ask you a question. If that were a truth that should be adhered to, wouldn’t every single person be giving up what their heart desires in order that someone else could have the right to also give up their own? We would all be sacrificing for each other in vain because no one would be able to achieve the desires of their heart. What a ridiculous and futile process that would be.shutterstock_111760601 It is not selfish to pursue your dreams. It is not selfish to believe that your life can be more than it is at this moment. It isn’t wrong to follow what your spirit knows to be true. You are here for a purpose. I believe, in the quiet moments of our lives, we know what we are supposed to be doing, where we are supposed to be and with whom we are supposed to share it. Instead of following those truths, we settle for jobs that make us miserable because it pays the bills. We settle for relationships that stunt our growth because it’s easier than letting go. We settle for things far less than what our Heavenly Father intended for us to have and to be. I am not advocating pursuing our dreams at any expense, but I am fully embracing the idea of stepping out on faith when we have those moments of clarity that present us with the knowledge that there is something else we need to be doing.

God help us if we believe life is truly something to be endured instead of something to revel in. I dare say that none of us would want the children in our lives to settle for anything less than what they are able (and were meant) to be. Why then do we want our parents, spouses, friends and especially ourselves to settle for less? As people of faith, we have a God who wants us to live abundantly. He wants us to be happy, healthy and productive so why should I fear the path before me? Why shouldn’t I run leaping through the door into the realm of possibilities? There is no good reason I can find and yet I still hesitate at times. Fear takes hold and I am reminded of my responsibilities, commitments and my own mortality. I am blinded by this world’s cares and I surrender to the safety of the known rather than soaring into the open sky of my dreams. I would venture to say I am not the only one who sometimes finds themselves on the edge of clarity and greatness but shudders at the thought of leaping.

shutterstock_82458775Greatness will not come in our actions until it first comes in our thoughts. What we think, we become. If we spend our lives thinking we are weak or incapable of achieving greatness, then it is true. If we think our dreams are impossible, then they are. If we think all we have right now is all we will ever have, then it is! Sometimes we live our lives trying to protect what we already have instead of letting go and reaching for the greatness that exists within each of us. Settling is much different from contentment. Settling is giving up; contentment is letting go. Settling is admitting defeat and allowing circumstances to convince you this is the best it’s ever going to be. Contentment is courageously pursuing your true calling while having peace with the timing of the circumstances. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:11-13)

power to changeSo stand strong and be courageous in the pursuit of your dreams. Don’t settle for what others think you should be, do or have. Be who YOU are. Do what YOU are called to do. Live YOUR purpose! And when you are willing to do those things you will find you have all you need to achieve more than you could ever dream!

Blessings!

God Chooses the Vulnerable

shutterstock_86702158If you are breathing, then you know very well that life is not without struggles. They are certainly going to happen and usually the most control we have is simply how we react and respond to them. If you choose to hide your struggles, God will most certainly give you the grace you need to get through it. What you LOSE is the positive influence you might have had on those around you. The reality is that you are going to be “in it” no matter what. You are going to have to live through it no matter how you react to it. The problem is that if you hide yourself and your struggles or weaknesses and God does something great in your life, you’re the only one who truly sees it.  You don’t know how God is going to choose to bless you and you don’t know who may be watching. He’s capable of healing everything. He’s capable of making you completely whole on every level.

Not hiding your struggles, ailments or disabilities means you are vulnerable. You can be vulnerable in two ways: 1) you can do it by choice or 2) you can be forced into it. Forced vulnerability is never comfortable and it certainly doesn’t feel good. For example: Let’s say you are a physically strong and independent person but suddenly become paralyzed and can’t walk anymore. You no longer have the choice of whether or not you are going to be vulnerable. You ARE going to be vulnerable but you do have a choice in whether or not you leave your house again.  This same principle applies to mental health struggles as it does to physical struggles or ailments.  shutterstock_102250687If you choose to never leave your house, there are people who have known you that may not even realize to what extent you are now struggling.  This is so important (and may even be labeled controversial) but because you’re not willing to let people see you as you are in your weaknesses, you may miss out on being healed. If God is going to choose somebody with which to do something great and to be a great example of what He can do, He’s not going to choose someone who hides. He’s going to choose someone who’s visible…and sometimes being visible is painful. It can be painful for the one who is struggling and sometimes painful for the people who care about them. But being visible allows for help to be given. Being visible brings experiences that cause you to “expect” and it’s not always negative expectations. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be great. Sometimes our greatness is our infirmity. Our greatness is in our willingness to not hide. Our greatness is in living with our infirmities, our failings and faults, our quirks and imperfect bodies, our rejections and our wounds. Our greatness truly lies in our smallness.

God chose a lame man who sat at a city gate and begged. He chose a man who had nothing and no way to help himself. As a matter of fact, he had an infirmity that everyone could see but no one could resolve. God chose him and then did something no one else could do so that everybody who knew it or witnessed it had no doubt that it was God who did it. That’s why this man was chosen; because his infirmities were not hidden. So for us, we need to remember God is going to take care of us day to day no matter what because He has promised that He would and He cannot lie. But He’s not going to choose someone or something that’s hidden to show His power to others because He can’t. If you hide your weaknesses then it is impossible for others to see the amazing way they are resolved. If you’re not willing to be vulnerable and open, you may miss out on a life‑changing blessing! The best thing we can do is to live day to day being open and expecting God to take care of us for today. Expect God to take care of you in THIS moment. Expect God to take care of THIS situation or need, no matter if it is physical, mental or emotional.  shutterstock_59477860You can have peace by knowing, expecting and believing that God will take care of you right now in this moment. You can live openly and vulnerably by knowing He has you in the palm of His hand and will take care of you no matter what risk is involved in the exposure of your weaknesses. If you live this way, you are in a position where God can use you for something amazing, something great, something that shows HIS power whether it’s physical, mental or emotional healing. And when He does it, there will be no doubt it was Him because the ones who witness the change are the same ones who have seen your infirmities first-hand and understand that what was “wrong” was genuine and valid. So then what went right was miraculous.

So the next time you think your struggles are without purpose, think again.  It may not only be something to help you grow personally but it may just be that God is getting ready to do something AMAZING in your life so that the lives of others are changed. You never know who is watching and you should NEVER underestimate the power of your God!  Nothing is without purpose and nothing is beyond repair!

Blessings!