New Me, Who Dis?

Raise your hand if you have already broken your New Year’s Resolution?
Just kidding…

I mean, what human being in the world wouldn’t want to better themselves?  Who wouldn’t want to feel better, look better, save $$$ better, and sleep better?  We all have specific goals and dreams and desires for our lives.  But each time January 1st rolls back around, many of us tend to fall into that same old habit of trying to muster up as much superhuman strength, willpower, and self-control as we possibly can to radically change our lives for good (and for the entire year).

And each year, we think that strategy will work, but it never does.

I struggle with rules.  (Mostly because I have a tendency to find loopholes, push boundaries – or break them entirely.)  So when I create a bunch of rules and resolutions that I force myself to follow or a list of to-do boxes that I have to tick, it usually takes me about a month-or-so to break one of those rules, forget to tick a box, and ultimately call it quits on the whole “bettering myself” endeavor.  The resolutions that were meant to help me flourish and thrive – end up becoming some of my worst enemies.  During my post-resolution fail, I end up feeling more discouraged and more hopeless than before I even began.

Does this kind of thing ever happen to you?

I thought more about this “new year, new me” dilemma that I was having, and I asked my Heavenly Father for a solution.  The key phrase that He gave me while I was praying was “mindset change.”  To develop healthier habits and to make those habits last, I need to have a proper mindset change.  My mindset must also be rooted in truth.  So what could that potentially look like for you or me?  Let me give you a quick example.

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One of my resolutions last year was to eat more vegetables.  Simple right?  Wrong-o.  I failed at this goal miserably.  Each day that I “forgot” to eat my veggies, I felt more and more guilty.  I knew I was breaking my own rule and it made me feel like a failure.  That guilt spun me into a seemingly endless cycle of shame that caused me to eat even fewer vegetables than before I began my new year’s resolution.  Crazy, right?  So this year, rather than trying to create a rule to eat more vegetables, I asked Father what to do instead.  His response was, “Samantha, simply resolve to love yourself.”  Woah, okay. Wait what, how?

Then I thought about it.  Someone who loves and cherishes their body will naturally want to treat it well.  They will eat healthy foods, sleep better, stay hydrated, drink less alcohol, and workout to keep fit.  Someone who loves their body will go out of their way to take good care of it because they value it.  Changing my mindset shifts my focus from the rule itself (eating veggies) to the condition of my heart (loving myself).  That shift is what promotes a positive attitude based on a positive truth, a healthier mindset, and long-lasting change.  This mindset change also corrects any “wrong thinking” attitudes I may have had when I made the resolution in the first place.  If my motives were wrong or my perspective was skewed (body image issues, eating disorders, trying to people please, etc.), then it will be easier to identify where I am struggling with those “wrong thinking lies” and adapt if necessary.  Problem solved, but wait… there’s more.

Resolutions can also reignite the “perfectionist” in us.  How will you know if this dynamic is happening to you?  Well, check your heart when you break a rule or give up on a particular resolution.  Do you feel shame, guilt, or defeat?  Do you feel like a complete failure or a fraud for not measuring up to the standard you set for yourself?  Or do you shake it off, show yourself grace, and try again next time?  The first response depicts someone who is striving for a level of perfection that can never be attained, and the second response depicts someone who is focused on gradually progressing and growing over time (mistakes, setbacks, and lots of grace included).  So who do you want to be?  Who does God want you to be?

(I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the first one.)

We all have this new year to start fresh, but before we begin to dig into 2019 let me warn you that this year will not be immune to imperfections.  Mistakes will be made, setbacks will be had, and lessons will be learned – and let’s be honest, there will probably be a day when you skip your workout at the gym to watch an entire series on Netflix while binging hard on a box of Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts. (No judgement, I’ve been there).

Here’s a word of advice from someone who is learning how to take her own advice:  Don’t let imperfections stop you from growing, progressing, and learning – and don’t let imperfections shame you into the paralysis of old comfort zones (where humans go to die).  A failure is not a failure if you learn from it, and progress – no matter how big or small – will always trump perfection every single time.

We are on a life-long journey of “figuring it all out,” and it’s quite a beautiful, messy thing.  So maybe this year isn’t about achieving that particular number on the scale or eating a certain amount of vegetables per day or acing every single exam through college.  Maybe it’s about learning how to give and receive grace, love, and forgiveness.  Maybe it’s about focusing more on the condition of your heart and a bit less on the gray hairs sprouting on your head.  Maybe it’s about learning how to value your body – or someone else’s.  Maybe it’s about slowing down and learning how to make the most of your time, your energy, and your finances.

Maybe this year is simply about experiencing growth, and whatever that word means for you.

So do that.  Grow, make progress, and learn – and do it all at your own pace.  Practice cutting yourself some slack, and while we are on this topic, let’s also cut the people around us some slack too (because life is hard and sometimes society, culture, church, and social media make life even harder when it doesn’t need to be that way).

Lastly, as I end by quoting from the timeless Disney masterpiece High School Musical, let’s all make an effort to remember that in this 2019 new year –

“We’re all in this together.”

 

Blow-Up Mattresses and Broken Promises

You guys need to meet my mom.

My mom is a supremely gifted and creative human being, especially when it comes to interior design and home staging.  She can turn any poorly decorated room into a beautiful work of art with just a few lamps, some rearranged furniture, and a freshly painted accent wall.  In fact, my mom is so creative that she managed to find a way to turn our family’s dining room area into a makeshift bedroom for yours truly.  The final touches included my very own clothing rack, a comfy blow-up mattress, and the privilege of being seven whole steps away from the refrigerator.  Midnight snacks never tasted so good.

During these past few months at home, things have been ‘n bietjie deurmekaar (as they say in Afrikaans).  Hectic, crazy, confusing, and pretty much “all over the place” sum it up quite nicely.  It started with a jetlag-induced emotional breakdown which then led to several weeks of slowly readjusting back to a relatively normal American lifestyle.  Then just for kicks, let’s throw in Thanksgiving with the family, several radio interviews, a high school human trafficking awareness presentation, my Grandma’s Birthday, an exciting weekend church fundraiser, Christmas shenanigans, a few biblical counseling sessions, dinner dates with old friends, New Years Eve firework watching, last minute sleepovers, oh… and breathing.  Let’s not forget breathing.

By the grace of God I’ve somehow made it to January 1st, 2018, and while the world is striving to make their New Year’s Resolutions, I’m just trying to muster up the motivation to make my bed in the morning.  While the world is trying to make promises and end bad habits, I’m just trying to find the energy to shampoo my hair.  The truth is—if I had the time to jot down a bunch of promises to keep for this new year—Jesus knows I’d probably just break them anyway.

On one hand, my brain thinks to itself, “Yes Sam, do the workout, pray the prayer, skip the dessert, read the book, get the sleep.”  On the other hand, my heart shoots back with, “Sam, what were you thinking?  That workout will make your legs burn for weeks and who really needs sleep?  Not you, you’re a superhero!  By the way, that thought you had last night about eating doughnuts for every single meal is a top-notch idea!  Do it.”  The struggle, people.

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So in the midst of this new and unpredictable season of life, I’ve decided to do things a little bit differently.  I’ve decided to take the pressure off of myself to perform.  Instead of making promises that I will most definitely break, I’ve decided to simply aim for progress.  Instead of planning for perfection, I’m choosing to embrace interruption.  That way, when things go wrong, timetables get adjusted, or blunders get made, I can brush the dirt off my knees, look for the teachable moment, and get up to try again.  (Pangs of guilt and shame no longer included courtesy of Jesus.)  Overall, I want this new year to be a season of learning how to walk by faith, a season of learning how to grow through mistakes, and a season of learning how to receive God’s undeserved and unconditional grace.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so caught up in my shortcomings and in never reaching “the proverbial mark” that I forget to look back at how far God has brought me, and I forget to be thankful for the moment that I’m in now.

So my friends, while we (both awkwardly and enthusiastically) stumble together through this new and fresh 2018 year—let’s take a gigantic leap of faith, go against the flow, and cut ourselves a little bit more slack.

You are loved.

Dance in the Rain

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain”

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I don’t know about you, but I’m so ready for April to be over.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, April showers bring May flowers?  Well, forget April showers, because this month came fully-loaded with torrential downpours!  It’s been a month full of lost keys, acne breakouts, sinus infections, dangerously low bank account balances, and broken break lights.  The struggle has been so deliciously real.  (Deliciously, because I have never had to eat this many packages of super cheap 2-minute ramen noodles in my entire life.) Continue reading “Dance in the Rain”

Naked and Afraid

We’ve all experienced it at least once in our lives.

That embarrassing moment you just can’t seem to shake out of your mind.  Maybe it was that moment when you were spending quality time with friends, telling them a fantastic joke or sharing an impressive story—when all of a sudden someone interrupts you and points out the large piece of “something green” stuck in your teeth.  Uhhh, embarrassing.  How long was it there for?  Who noticed?  Awkward…

Or maybe it was when you were in 3rd grade and you took a quick bathroom break, only to return to your classroom unaware that part of your uniform skirt was stuck in the waistband of your Minnie Mouse underpants.  It happens, believe me… it happens.

We’ve all felt it.  Shame.  Embarrassment.  Fear.  Rejection. Continue reading “Naked and Afraid”

Let’s Get Dirty

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”    – C.S. Lewis

The word “love”—along with it’s many definitions—is splattered all over the pages of the bible.  You won’t have to look very hard to discover that love is patient and kind or sacrificial and selfless.  But this week, the Lord has been teaching me about another way to define love that isn’t spelled out as clearly in the scriptures.

Love is… dirty.

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about the bow-chicka-wow-wow kind of love…but nice try.

This kind of love is messy and uncomfortable.  It inconveniences you and it requires you to take risks.  It’s a love that suffers, that gives, and that exhausts you day after day.  It’s hard and time consuming—and it will most definitely cost you something.  It’s also important to note that this kind of love isn’t about you—it’s about them.  And to be honest, when I see opportunities to give and receive this kind of love—I prefer to yell “fire” and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. Continue reading “Let’s Get Dirty”

Shockproofing Sin: One F-Bomb at a Time

There’s a question thats been floating around in my head these past few days…

It’s been driving me crazy, and it demanded an answer.

Why are Christians so shocked when a fellow sinner… sins?  I mean, think about it.  Say you’re sitting in church, and the guy next to you reeks of weed and bad life decisions.  Or say you overheard your bible study friend admit to fantasizing about a guy she saw on her soap opera. I’d bet 9 times out of 10 you’d avoid eye contact and silently intervene in prayer for the person’s salvation.  But what if that person was already saved?  What if they loved the Lord?  How would you feel then?  Shocked? Disappointed? Angry? Continue reading “Shockproofing Sin: One F-Bomb at a Time”

Late Nights, Drunk Girls, and Fuzzy Blankets

I have always struggled to believe in coincidences.

When I was growing up, I found it easier to believe in a perfectly orchestrated world where everything happened for a reason (even when I didn’t understand why) and nothing happened by chance.  Over the years, trusting in a faithful and sovereign and loving God has made that small and innocent belief flourish into a confident hope and expectation.

But every now and then, I forget.  I forget who God is, and I forget that He’s ultimately in control.  Sometimes, I even forget how deeply and intimately He loves me.  And when I forget, the Lord is always gracious to remind me… Continue reading “Late Nights, Drunk Girls, and Fuzzy Blankets”

The Blog Post That Everyone Hated

I’m warning you now—you are not going to like this blog post.

This blog post is not filled with politeness or political correctness.  It is not filled with flattery or superficial clichés that are meant to keep you comfortable.  It is not a “feel good” post to boost your self-confidence, and it is not a post that will stroke your ego.  This post is meant to tear you apart from the inside out.

You will not like this post because it will convict you, it will hold you accountable, and it will force you to look at yourself in a way that might offend you.  So if you dare… read on. Continue reading “The Blog Post That Everyone Hated”

When a “Good Christian Girl” Has a Bad Day

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to go wrong?

Maybe you caught every single red light while running late to a meeting, maybe a bottle of your favorite red nail polish spilled all over your white carpet, or maybe you were planning on buying groceries—but the amount of money left in your bank account said, “Ha ha, not today friend, you’re on your own…”

Yeah.  Those days are the worst.

It’s when every little thing seems to go wrong.  It’s when stuff breaks, things get lost, and there seems to be no justifiable reason as to why.  It’s when the quality of our character and the quality of our faith get tested the most, and it’s in those split seconds when you truly discover where your hope and your peace lie.  And let me tell you…  I am the queen of messing those moments up. Continue reading “When a “Good Christian Girl” Has a Bad Day”

Embracing Your Sheepish Side

Have you ever heard someone use the word “sheepish” in a conversation?  Maybe you’ve even used it yourself, saying something like, “wipe that sheepish grin off of your face, child.”  Lord knows I’ve heard phrase that plenty of times in my life…

Well, I just discovered that the definition of sheepish is: to show or feel embarrassment because of an act of foolishness; or to resemble a sheep in timidity, meekness, or stupidity.  

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So, check this out.  Last week, I spent a few days in a quiet little garden town called Greyton.  I went hiking (and totally got lost) in the mountains, I frolicked through the grassy meadows (after frantically running away from a swarm of bees), and I stumbled (literally) upon a peaceful river.  I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend some quality time alone with Jesus.  It was perfectly serene, and I honestly didn’t want to leave.  While I was there, the Lord reminded me of Psalm 23.  You probably know it because it’s one of the most famous passages in the bible, but just incase you’re unfamiliar… here’s what it says: Continue reading “Embracing Your Sheepish Side”