Faith

What an Overdue Dentist Visit Taught Me About Jesus

Want to hear something I’m embarrassed to admit? A few weeks ago I went to the dentist for the first time since college. I’m talking it's been 10+ years. I’ve been putting it off and putting it off. At the beginning of this year when I started thinking about goals, I wrote “go to the dentist” on my list. If someone saw my list of goals I'm sure they were giving major side eye. But, I finally did it. I had to have a little pep talk from a friend as I made the appointment, and I was shaking and near tears as I sat down in the chair once I got there. I know this sounds dramatic, and yes it's embarrassing, but the anxiety was legit.

Want to guess what happened next? It wasn’t that bad. Honestly it wasn’t bad at all. All that fear and dread and avoidance for basically no reason.

So why am I telling you about a long overdue trip the the dentist? Because I think we all have some thing in our lives that we have made into a huge scary deal, and at the end of the day it’s not as bad as we are anticipating. We put it off, we avoid it, we don’t tell people about it, we are embarrassed about it, we are prideful, we are straight up scared. The list of excuses and fears is long in our heads.

Maybe it is that medical appointment you know you need to make. Or maybe it’s a dream or goal you have for yourself. Writing a book. Applying for a job. Asking a friend to coffee. Admitting something you’re struggling with out loud. Going to see a counselor. Losing that weight. Whatever it is, I know it can feel huge and scary. Your emotions can feel all over the map. 

But Jesus.

It’s not just a Sunday school answer, it’s the truth. He has put your spirit at rest and tied it to Himself even when everything in your soul or body yells otherwise. Me and Jesus, we talked a lot about the dentist leading up to and during my appointment. I know I'm always able to stake myself to Him as my steady rock whether I’m anxious over something as trivial as the dentist or something major like a relationship.

Don't be like I was, avoiding and dreading and letting fear win over something that doesn't warrant it. The fear may be real, but so is our hope in Jesus, and His love is able to cast out our fear. I'll tell you (and myself) the same thing I tell my five year old when he gets scared: we get to serve a God who is sovereign over all things, even fear itself. He commands the winds and the waves and even the darkness. We may feel the fear in every fiber of our being, but it doesn't have to dictate how we live.

I hope this embarrassing and random story about the dentist leaves you with a little bit of encouragement, but if you get nothing else from it, please just go ahead schedule your next dentist appointment. Don’t let one missed appointment turn into 15 missed appointments, cool? Cool. #neededthreefillings #shockeditwasonlythree #alsohavetogetmywisdomteethout #remindmeofthisemailwhenthatappointmenthappens #youshallnotfearthedentist

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Trust in Jesus

Happy April. I wanted to share a snippet of my newsletter that went out this month! If you would like to get my monthly newsletter, you can subscribe here!

I'll be short(ish) and sweet today, and share with you something God has really been teaching me over the last month. He is so faithful and persistent in His love and pursuit of us, at whatever cost. "There's not wall you won't kick down, lie you won't tear down coming after me", right (from the song Reckless Love by Cody Asbury)? He is not hiding His truth or desires from us, and we don't have to over analyze and make things as difficult as we do for ourselves. If He wants us to know something, He will reveal it to us. I can find myself stuck in a cycle of asking and asking and asking Him to show me things, especially in instances of struggle or conflict. He's been telling me to stop obsessing and analyzing and trust Him to tell me things in His time. Sometimes (most of the time) we aren't equipped to carry the weight of the knowledge we so badly want. And sometimes there's nothing more He needs to tell us about what we are asking. It's like we are constantly trying to eat of the tree of knowledge instead of going to Him, the Tree of Life. I guess that shouldn't be surprising to think about it, but it is. He is the life and He promises to give us all we need to live. And all He requires of us is to trust Him. Even the tiniest amount of faith is more than enough. He is faithful even when we are faithless.

Need an example of His patience and love for us even when we are stuck in doubt? Head to Judges  6 and 7 and read the story of Gideon. Gideon asked God for so many signs and reassurances, and God never got angry, but instead reassured him over and over again, even using people that didn't even believe in God to show Gideon that He was real.

He goes before you, securing your victory before you even get there. He reveals things as you need them, and His timing is always better. He's after our hearts, not the outcome of the circumstances. May we continue to go to Him and trust Him for the journey, because He is Life.

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Made New

I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember. It started like all kids with paper doodles, and eventually led to me drawing on every piece of furniture in my room (which my mom was amazing enough to allow me to do) and painting my closet doors in black and white designs. The first time I held a film camera in my hand and pressed the shutter, something inside of me lit up and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Cue me deciding not to go to college for psychology, and instead choosing photography. Thankfully this was before I actually set off for college months later.

Art, colors, textures, light…they’ve all shaped the way I’ve seen the world around me. I finally decided to have a go at painting a few years ago. I don’t know exactly what pushed me to do it other than a deep desire. Kind of like that moment with the camera 10 years prior. I had no idea what I was doing, but I loved it. And turns out, I was kind of decent at it. And in turn successful at making art for other people. But then I found myself in a “rut” of making art I didn’t love, not sure what my style or “voice” was in the art world. And then I had another baby and life got busy, and the paint brushes stayed put away for a while.

And then that stirring up thing happened again. For months and months I kept seeing these visions of the kind of paintings I wanted to make. They weren’t like anything I’d done in the past. And they were beautiful. I loved dreaming of them and taking photographs as inspiration for them. But for some reason or another I just hadn’t brought myself to actually try to make it happen. I would like to say it was for lack of time, but I think underneath that was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it. That they wouldn’t actually be as beautiful as I was envisioning them to be.

Honestly I could have let myself sit in that fear and funk, and I’d still be here two years later with paintings in my mind and not on canvas. But I hit the breaking point of saying I either have to just go for it, or I need to walk away from this dream.

So I went for it.

I remember the canvas laid out on my floor in the living room (I didn’t have an easel, desk, or any type of “real” workspace back then). I cranked my favorite worship album on, and got to work. I don’t know how far into that first painting I was, but I know I stopped and just started crying. Because I was bringing my idea to life. And it was working! And I had decided to push past fear and doubt and step into what I believed God was giving me.

I fully believe God places dreams and desires in our hearts. He wants us to step into the gifts He's given us. He wants us to dream big and trust Him with the process and outcome. Maybe creating a piece of art isn’t your calling or doesn’t even sound that scary to you, but I bet there’s something like that in your heart. Something you dream about that feels too scary to say out loud. He takes our desires and plans and turns them into something even better than we can try to come up with on our own.

I named this first painting I did “Made New.” It marked such a turning point for me. I was learning to try things and not live in the fear of failing. I was learning to trust God and trust my gift. He kept reminding me that He makes all things new. And that He make all things beautiful in His time.

I’ve had quite a few people ask and encourage me to share more about the meaning behind my paintings, and I knew that God was also asking me to share more openly with you here! My hope is to make this “story behind the painting” a regular series here on the blog, so if you like this kind of content let me know! I will let you know when the original painting is still available to be purchased (updated: “Made New” sold after this post was published). I’m also linking some available prints! Maybe you need this visual reminder to keep dreaming, to make brave choices, and to know that He is in all things, making them new and making them beautiful.

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2018: Year in Review

Believe. It’s the word I chose at the beginning of this year. I also wrote down things like authentic, intentional, bold, brave. But believe just felt like it summed the whole thing up. Because if I could believe the truth about who I was, then everything else would flow from it. My prayer was that it would be a year that I would let go of lies that had held me back, and stand firmly on the truth of who God made me. I wanted to believe that I was capable, that I was created with gifts and with purpose. All I had to do was to step into that boldly and let Him work.

I had no idea what this year would hold for me when God gave me that word. But, He knew. He knew how much I’d need to lean on and rely on Him this year. He knew that I would have to dig into Him with all that I had, that my own resources would never be enough to get by. This year may have been unexpected for me, but He wasn’t surprised.

It would be impossible to sum up what this year has given me in just one simple blog post. But I’ll do my best.

I shared on instagram a few days ago that I was having a hard time navigating this whole end of the year/start of a new year thing. That last year I was the girl with the goals and the plans, and not to say that I didn't accomplish them throughout the year, but I was just swiftly reminded that I need to hold my plans loosely. It’s been hard to get my head around setting New Year goals this time. I think mainly because in order to move forward you have to sort through what you’re leaving behind.

From the get-go, this year was crazy. The first week of February is when I found out I had the BRCA2 mutation. And it’s set the course for much of my year. I feel like this year was sectioned off by “before my surgery”, “after my surgery”, “before my second surgery”, and “after my second surgery”. There was so much waiting, so much anxiety, so much unknown. A lot of pain, physically and emotionally. It’s hard to pinpoint other highs and lows of the year because BRCA2 and mastectomy were the banners hanging over a lot of it.

It’s been a freaking hard year.

But.

It’s also been such a year of growth, and there has been so much good. And I’m going to venture to guess a lot of that good wouldn’t have been possible without the hard. Trudging through the hard taught me so much about myself, about God, about trusting, about humility, about patience. There were many chances to let myself cave under the weight of it, and some moments I did. But I know I can look back and see how I’ve gotten through it and am stronger because of it. I chose to believe that God was still good. I chose to believe that He had things under control, even though I desperately wanted to be in control sometimes. I chose to believe that He was who He said He was, and that I was who He said I was.

Our trials, our circumstances, our hardships…they are all opportunities to grow our faith, to know Him more. I was the girl with the plan, set out to live my best year yet. But I believe that His plan was better. His goals for me were better. A lot of the things I wanted for myself still happened - embracing the season I’m in, being more honest and vulnerable, living well, living authentically, being present and more intentional, being healthy. Those things happened. But not because of me. Because of Christ in me, the hope of glory.

As I get ready to step into 2019, I’m still dreaming and hoping for things. There are goals both in my mind and written on paper. But He’s taught me to hold them loosely. He’s asking me to step alongside Him as we walk out this year together. Surrendered to Him and His plans, trusting Him as we go. I’m hopeful for the year ahead. I’m expectant and excited to see what He will do and where He will bring me. I’m anticipating knowing Him in new ways, and I’m praying I will continue to believe that His way is better than anything I could dream up. I’m praying that for you, too. Let’s set goals. Let’s dream big dreams. Let’s step into our callings. And let’s not forget who is the author of our stories, and whose ways are higher than our own.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

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Joy and Sadness - the emotional healing journey

“I’m doing pretty good” was the mantra I repeated to anyone who asked. I wasn’t lying. I really was doing good, all things considered. Everything was right on track, no complications. I honestly felt better than I expected to feel. Sure, my entire body hurt. And yeah, going into the OR and being put under anesthesia had been incredibly scary for me. I also couldn’t face looking down at my chest for the first 4 or 5 days. So “pretty good” seemed like a good description to me, because nothing was that bad and I knew it could be a lot worse.

But in those first few days when friends would ask me about going into surgery, I’d find myself near tears every time I recounted the experience. I felt silly because being put under anesthesia is just a common thing. Almost everyone has had to be “put to sleep” at some point. Lots of people have surgery. Some people have to have my same surgery and then also fight actual cancer. I’d just say it was scary and then move on because I felt a huge wave of emotion rising. I don’t think anyone noticed and I just kept moving on with my story.

The first night home from the hospital is when that wave I’d been trying to stay ahead of finally knocked me down. I felt totally confident that I could handle checking on all of my incisions and emptying my drains that were still in. I’d watched the nurses do it what felt like 100 times over the previous few days in the hospital. So I was confused when all of a sudden I felt lightheaded. I had to let Jonathan take over. I was burning up hot and had to quickly go sit down with the fan on full blast. And then the tears started.

“It’s just a lot” is all I could manage to say when Jonathan walked in and found me crying. I had finally been forced to acknowledge all that I’d been through. My body didn’t look like my own. I was bandaged, I couldn’t stand up straight, I had to have help with almost everything including putting on my own underwear. My boobs felt (and still feel like) like foreign objects stuffed in my bra. I had undergone a 5 hour surgery because of the fact that my body’s genetic makeup was nearly incapable of preventing me from getting breast cancer. This surgery that I’ve been praying over and been anxious about for months had finally happened. The surgery that I wish I had never had to decide to do in the first place was over.

But…but…I lived! I took my risk of cancer down to almost nothing. My boobs looked way better than I thought they would. I didn’t need much pain medicine. No complications had arisen. Why dwell on the hard stuff when there’s such a bright side to all of this, right? Wasn’t “choose joy” my mantra??

Friends, here’s what I am learning. You can be sad and still have joy. You can be overwhelmed or angry and still have peace. Just because one of these things exists doesn’t mean the other thing can’t. Our emotions can swing all over the map on any given day, and especially in the midst of a very difficult circumstance. We can still experience those negative or hard emotions while being grounded in truth.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells us to “Rejoice always.” It doesn’t tell us we need to be happy all the time. Happiness is a fleeting feeling based on circumstances, but true joy is straight from the Lord. It is totally independent of our circumstances. In the midst of a trial we can stand firm in joy and know that our trials and our struggles don’t have to control us. 

The scripture goes on to tell us in verse 18 to “give thanks in all circumstances.” To be clear, it doesn’t say give thanks for all circumstances. It says “in”. Meaning we don’t have to love what we are walking through. We can be hurt or sad or angry about it. But we are still able to give thanks because we hold on to the promise that God made: that He will bring good out of any and every circumstance we find ourselves in.

We have the choice about which banner we are going to hold up in our circumstances. Claiming victory and claiming joy does not mean we have to forget our hurt or sadness or anger. It means we stand firm on the promises and the truth we know, and we can give thanks for His goodness even if there are tears in our eyes. We can say “I’m having a really hard time” when someone asks how we are doing, even though at our core we know we are okay and secure. It’s okay to admit our struggles and our fears and our heartbreak out loud. It doesn’t make the truth of joy and peace in our lives any less true.

Just because our emotions aren’t pretty doesn’t mean we need to try to fix them. I don’t believe God would have given us emotions for no reason, or just to give us something we had to keep in check. Our emotions shouldn’t dictate our every choice and action, but they can serve as indicators to what’s going on in our lives. And they can point us to Jesus if we let them. What a kind Father to allow us to feel things. Can you imagine a world without our emotions??

So even though my emotions through all of this have been hard to navigate, and it’s difficult allowing myself to embrace and truly feel all of the things sometimes, I am thankful. I am going to allow myself to be sad and be angry, because my circumstances warrant that reaction. And just because I feel that way does not diminish the peace and joy of my spirit. It does not diminish the work of Christ in my life. It doesn’t mean I don’t have faith or I’m not choosing joy. Joy has been given to me and is experienced in my life because of grace, so no amount of bad circumstances or hard feelings is going to take that away.

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