Have you ever started your morning out nicely only to have it fall apart mid-day?
If so, you have just experienced an attack by the joy stealer aka the enemy aka Satan!
He shows up in the form of difficult circumstances, confusion, discouragement, overwhelm, lethargy, anxiety, hopelessness and frustration.
It always seems to me he targets those trying to live holy lives.
Why is that?
Because Satan knows if he can steal your joy he can steal your strength because .. . “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Neh 8:10
And if he can rob you of your will to fight, hope, have faith or keep trying to live for God, he has you primely positioned for a spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical takedown.
Often our unhappiness, discouragement, resentment and anger comes from the behavior of others.
But they are not the real enemy.
It took me literally years to finally understand this.
They are merely pawns unknowingly being used to steal our joy.
Paul tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood (other people) but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world (the enemy) and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:12
Our fight goes far beyond the catty co-worker, the betrayal of a friend, the ex-spouse/boyfriend’s actions, the rude cashier, the driver who just cut us off or the client who criticized us on social media.
They are not the true source of our heartaches but simply the means used to steal our joy and zap our strength.
Have you ever noticed when you are overwhelmed or upset you feel fatigued, confused, unable to focus or make a decision, spiritually dry, weepy or emotionally drained?
It’s because your joy has been stolen leaving you with no fighting power.
You are essentially tapped out and depleted.
But as long as we have joy we have the strength to continue on.
Did you know you can fight these spiritual battles and win? Every. Single. Time.
By taking “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Eph 6:17 you will take down the enemy every time.
Satan immediately flees when God’s word is proclaimed from our lips because we are speaking words that have authoritative POWER.
Why is that?
Because “the word of God is LIVING and ACTIVE. SHARPER than any double-edged sword.” Heb 4:12
It is the very reason when tempted by Satan, Christ responded with “It is written” followed by scripture.
So what do we do when all hell literally breaks loose in our lives?
In times past I would use my words to grumble, complain, find fault, plan revenge or whine and nothing ever changed, ever.
Instead of using our very words against ourselves or give up and proclaim the enemy the winner, what if we use our words to win the battle and send him back to the hell he came from?
We boldly remind the enemy that we are overcomers because “greater is He who is in me than he (the enemy) who is in the world.” John 4:4.
We let him know quickly that “we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us.” Rom 8:37
We confidently inform him that God “gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Col 15:57 and the “Lord is faithful and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thess 3:3
He can only steal our joy if or when we refuse to fight back with the Word.
It is our choice.
This is why God repeatedly instructs us to study and plant His word in our hearts because He knows it is our guaranteed means of victory against the joy stealer.
A quote I read recently said “Satan’s greatest weapon is man’s ignorance of God’s word.”
We simply cannot fight with a weapon we don’t possess leaving us defenseless when the battle is raging and our joy is at stake.
Today if your joy is on the verge of being ripped away from you taking your strength with it, open your mouth, fight back with the Word and win!
You are not Satan’s doormat or his punching bag!
You are a redeemed, forgiven, grace-covered, empowered, bold daughter of the King!
With Thanksgiving approaching I was thinking this morning of all I had to be grateful for.
In prayer I asked God “How could I ever adequately express my gratitude for all He’s done for me?
His gentle response? “Let your life be your daily expression of thanks.”
Let me explain.
How do we thank Him for our health? By taking exquisite care of our bodies nurturing her with life giving foods, hydration, exercise and self care.
By spending time in prayer and the Word we express our gratitude for our access to education resulting in the ability to read while living in a country that allows us to openly pray and worship without fear of persecution.
By forgiving others we thank Him for all the times He forgives us when we hurt Him, disobey, complain, mouth off, ignore Him, walk away or just outright miss the mark.
When we take excellent care of our homes, cars, clothing and possessions we are showing gratitude for everything He’s entrusted to us wisely remembering we are not owners but merely stewards.
Showing up for those we love during difficult times is our “thank you” for every time He shows up on our behalf never leaving us to struggle alone.
Waking each morning committed to giving our best because we are so appreciative of another opportunity to live, experience, breathe and love.
Extending mercy and grace to others even if we don’t deem them worthy because we are grateful for the new mercies He gives us each morning in our unworthiness. (Lam 3:22-23)
While we designate a special day to celebrate Thanksgiving every day is a day to express gratitude.
Let’s live everyday as an expression of thanks to the One who is worthy, generous, long-suffering, merciful, slow to anger and compassionate. (Ps 145:8)
Introducing 52 WEEKS OF CHIC!
What does it mean to live a Chic Life?
The Chic Life embodies simplicity, substance and style.
The Chic Life seeks daily spiritual growth, welcomes personal development opportunities and pursues experiences that energize the spirit and nourish the soul.
The Chic Life is a life with paths leading away from comfort zones and into beautiful spaces that inspire and excite.
Each Monday morning in 2020 a WEEK OF CHIC Experience will be shared on The Chic Creative website.
This weekly creative challenge is designed to guide you into a deeper faith, empower you with confidence and encourage growth, gratitude, elegance and joy.
To receive your Week of Chic Experience each Monday morning in 2020 simply subscribe to The Chic Creative blog.
Will you make 2020 your best year yet one week at a time?
What are your talents?
Every woman has talents. I have yet to meet a talentless woman though many proclaim they have none.
What do others compliment you on? Your voice? Your sense of style? Your organizational or domestic skills? Your artistic talent? Your business experience?
Your ability to connect and communicate well with others?
Are you a people person or prefer working solo or behind the scenes?
Have a green thumb, an entrepreneurial mind, a knack for accounting, a creative eye for fashion and beauty, know how to play an instrument or enjoy cooking, crafting or decorating?
Do you adore babies, love children and young people or have a soft spot for the elderly or homebound?
Are you comfortable leading, teaching or speaking in front of others?
And why does any of this even matter?
The answer is found in a destroyed city.
Jerusalem was a mess, her once protective walls reduced to rubble.
Nehemiah was heartbroken but determined to repair the walls and he succeeded.
Deciding to dedicate the completed walls to God, he called two choirs to lead the people in worship and “they took their places in the house of God.” (Neh 12:40)
What does that story have to do with your talents? Everything actually.
Because just as the singers in Nehemiah’s day had their place in God’s house, we have ours.
My friend’s gift for floral design results in stunning displays of beauty on her church’s altar.
Another friend’s genuine compassion for others created an opportunity for her to minister to those unable to attend church with a home-cooked meal and a moment of human connection.
One woman’s knowledge of finance has helped many women in her church get out of debt while another entrepreneurial minded lady has assisted others in starting their own businesses.
A stylish friend helps physically battered women reentering the workforce learn how to dress for success and rebuild their lives with confidence in their appearance.
Another woman uses her writing and speaking skills to inspire other women.
Whether singing in the choir or nursing homes, teaching art to children, starting a book club, baking delicious meals, decorating the church for Christmas, forming a fitness class or walking club, visiting the sick or elderly, leading a small group, bible study or lunch club, greeting Sunday morning church arrivals or helping with a church project- there is a place and a need for your God-given talents in His house.
Taking your place in church requires you to show up with your time and commitment and may ask you to step out of your comfort zone with an attitude of servitude.
Taking our place in God’s house is honoring His place in our lives as serving His children becomes greater than serving ourselves.
There is an indescribable joy that comes when we invest our gifts back into the Gift Giver.
So how can you begin to serve others with your gifts?
Maybe it’s simply letting a church staff member know you are available.
Maybe it’s forming and leading a small group of those interested in learning your skills and knowledge.
While I don’t know your exact gifts, I do know there’s a place in God’s house for them.
Never dismiss or discount your abilities.
I assure you somebody in your church is praying for someone with your exact skillset to step forward and share your talents and strengths.
I have yet to meet a woman who regretted saying “Yes” to using her strengths and gifts to God’s glory and the benefit of others.
So I ask you today “will you take your place in the house of God?”
Lately I’ve noticed a particular topic frequently mentioned in my social circles and it is the subject of friendship or perhaps the lack thereof.
So many women are desiring yet lacking healthy, meaningful friendships.
Could it be that while we all want friends we have yet to understand “The Art of Friendship?”
The Art of Friendship consists of four major components: Time, Effort, Trust and Vulnerability.
It’s easy in today’s fast-paced culture to get so busy that we have little time for friendships.
Friendships get placed on the back burner becoming an option instead of the necessity they are.
We benefit tremendously from quality friendships but sadly few women see the need to dedicate time to maintaining these friendships.
It’s wonderful to spend time with husbands/boyfriends/family.
But many women believe they have to choose either family or friendships not realizing both were designed to co-exist with and complement each other.
Sending a quick text of “Hey, just wanted to see how you are doing” takes little time but has a positive impact on the friendship.
Busyness is a part of life but what if we made a commitment to stay in touch with friends even in our busyness?
Some women say they feel the friendship’s existence always rests on them meaning if they didn’t make the effort to keep the friendship alive there would be no friendship.
Eventually they grow resentful of carrying the weight of the one-sided relationship and walk away.
When a woman says “My friends never ask me to do anything” I ask her “Have you asked them to do anything?”
If she says “No” I remind her of what I too had to be reminded of and that is the phone lines go both ways.
A balanced friendship requires both women making equal effort.
At some point we all will go through difficult moments and need our friends to comfort us.
But if we neglect the friendships until a crisis hits, do we have any right to be upset when they aren’t eager to be there for us through the hard times?
No. We do not.
A friendship that exists only when it is convenient is not a friendship and will eventually dissolve.
Let me add that a friendship also needs “conversational balance.”
My conversations with friends should include equal parts talking and listening and not simply me talking solely about me never expressing interest in them.
Dominating any conversation is a quick way to find ourselves with no one to talk to.
Friendships must be a priority.
My closest friends and I schedule a monthly night out, planning each month’s meeting in advance.
Sometimes the scheduled date isn’t convenient, they would rather stay in, the weather is bad, they had a rough day, aren’t feeling social or are exhausted from work yet they still show up.
Because our friendship isn’t an option – it is a priority.
Their actions say they value our friendship and are willing to set aside personal preference for the friendship.
It never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.
Friendships ask us to be vulnerable.
Show me a woman who has been hurt in the past by so-called “friends” and I’ll show you a woman who has few friends.
Why? Because she has been wounded and her trust has been broken.
Any possibility of new friendships requires her to be vulnerable.
After one too many betrayals by “friends” she no longer seeks friendship and begins building protective emotional walls while convincing herself she is fine being alone.
I have been there. Have you?
Refusing to cultivate any new friendships out of fear of being hurt again?
Allowing God to heal those wounds opened the door to wonderful friendships that I would’ve missed out on otherwise.
We are stronger together and we need friendships.
What if we commit today to practicing The Art of Friendship?
What if we reconnect with an old friend or seek out a new one?
Reach out, send a text, plan a lunch, meet for coffee, get together after work, make the effort, show up for the friendship.
We don’t have to be friends with everyone because everyone doesn’t need to be our friend.
When a friendship stops being a source of joy it may be time to reconsider the relationship altogether.
It is wise as well to avoid the catty, drama filled, toxic and self-absorbed.
With limited time to spend with friends, choose those that are founded on loyalty and filled with laughter.
After spending time with a friend you feel inspired and reenergized, you have found a good friend indeed.
And this I know for sure.
Be the friend you want and that is the friend you will attract.
When was the last time you celebrated yourself?
Can you remember?
If not then girl you are long overdue for a celebration!
Have you ever completed a goal, overcome a difficult obstacle or survived a hard time then celebrated your ability to rise to the occasion?
Every woman I know has achieved so much but most seldom if ever celebrate their achievements.
My pastor shared a story that resulted in me setting and achieving one of my loftiest goals ever.
He decided to turn off his distraction of television and focus on spiritual and personal growth.
My distraction was social media and Pinterest was my addiction.
His inspirational story was my wakeup call.
In January of this year I decided to read 52 books in 52 weeks.
Walking into the library each week I would whisper a brief prayer asking God to lead me to the books He knew I needed.
He didn’t disappoint.
From biographies to business, leadership to communications and spiritual to sports, books I normally would never have chosen transformed me in ways I never imagined.
Let me confess that while I enjoy reading, the thought of 52 books in 52 weeks seemed impossible and overwhelming.
But in late September this goal was achieved.
So why am I sharing this with you?
Because there was a time when the thought of doing so would have consumed me with guilt.
And I know countless other women who feel the same.
It seems southern girls are raised not to call attention to our achievements because it might be perceived as bragging or conceited, two frowned upon and forbidden traits.
Society has told us to avoid the spotlight, deflect praise and shrug off compliments.
Showering others with attention when they succeed is great and fine but celebrating ourselves when we achieve means we lack humility.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Achieving any size goal, excelling at our jobs, losing the weight or mastering a new skill is cause to celebrate our amazingness, not dismiss it as coincidence, good fortune or luck.
Ladies, it is time to celebrate!
Sadly the success of some women brings out the jealousy in others.
Instead of celebrating her achievements and being inspired to conquer our own goals, we silently seethe with envy robbing ourselves of any opportunity to create an amazing life of our own.
The jealous woman’s life will always remain stuck and stagnant.
Energy she could channel to her own gain is wasted envying others so nothing in her life ever changes.
This amazing world is big enough to hold all of our successes.
One woman’s success is not robbing another woman of hers.
When we begin celebrating others success we will experience more success of our own.
That woman who has done what you want to do? Let her inspire you.
Take her to lunch and find out how she did it, how long it took and what she learned from the experience then go out and do it yourself.
The quickest way to achieve any goal is to find someone who already has.
Why? Because success leaves clues.
The secret to your success is hidden in hers.
And when you are done CELEBRATE!
Do something that honors your achievement!
Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishment!
And allow others to celebrate with you!
Relish in the compliments, applause and accolades.
You earned it!
It is time to celebrate my friends beginning with ourselves!
She was young, beautiful and loving life until the storms came bringing her to her knees.
Now suddenly widowed and emotionally shell-shocked, Ruth is now facing hard truths and even harder choices.
She hadn’t planned this. She never dreamed it could happen to her.
No woman ever does. Now what?
Should she stay with her mother-in-law Naomi, who has also lost her husband as well as both of her children, or return home alone?
Seeing Naomi weep, Ruth “clung to her” (1:14) vowing never to leave her side. (1:16-18)
Two women enduring a pain few could fathom bound together by grief and loss.
One morning Ruth decides to go pick grain and “As it turns out, she found herself working in the field belonging to Boaz” who was a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. (Ruth 2: 3)
Coincidence? Absolutely not. Divinely orchestrated? No doubt!
And in this wheat field God picked up His pen and began to rewrite the stories of two devastated women.
The day Ruth buried her husband, her heart and hopes perhaps accompanied him to the grave.
Yet in her darkest hour blinded by tears and crushed in grief God had already started restoring her dreams.
Envisioning a day without a broken heart seems unfathomable when you have one.
Maybe you’ve buried a loved one or have suffered the loss of a marriage, friendship, promising relationship or ideal job.
And now you ache – a silent, hiding-behind-the-smile, firmly embedded pain.
So how do we move towards a promising tomorrow while buried beneath a painful today?
Ruth perhaps wondered the same thing yet even in her agony she recognized value in Naomi’s wisdom and made a decision that forever changed her life.
Ruth chose to follow Naomi’s counsel concerning Boaz and from her obedience came her reward.
Where deep sorrow once lived now love bloomed.
How do we obey God and “hold on unswervingly to the hope we profess” remembering “He who promised is faithful.” (Heb 10:23) in the midst of our suffering or when life is begging us to quit?
Ruth told Naomi “I will do whatever you say” (3:5) but I wonder if her pain was screaming “No! I simply can’t take another heartbreak” or What if I do and it fails or I am disappointed yet again?”
What Ruth didn’t see God did long before. He united Boaz and Ruth long before their vows were ever spoken.
Little did Ruth know that in her loss God was already planning her gain.
In the aftermath of tragedy joy seems a million miles away.
Trusting God even with tears streaming down your face and fear gripping your heart is not easy. Your wounds are fresh and the scars feel permanent.
Trusting Him is an act of obedience which seems impossible in our painful moments.
In Luke we meet Jairus who had a life-altering choice to make.
He could either listen to reality that proclaimed his daughter deceased or he could listen to Christ who gently instructed him “don’t be afraid; just believe.” Luke 8:50
Like Ruth, Jairus chose obedience and witnessed one of the greatest miracles in Christ’s ministry.
Divine destiny brought about by a willingness to obedience produced a miraculous gain from a tragic loss.
Jairus’ obedience resulted in a resurrected daughter.
Ruth and Boaz’s love story resulted in a son named Obed who became the grandfather of David.
Naomi now cradled the grandchild she thought she would never have.
The love Ruth thought ended in her husband’s death held her in his arms each night.
From loss came gain and from Ruth & Jairus’ obedience came the reward.
How? Because “All of God’s promises are Yes! in Christ?” 2 Cor 1:20
Hopefully by now those breakups that led you to your breakthroughs have prepared you for your break out.
What does it mean to “break out?”
A woman who is breaking out is living every area of her life on a noticeably higher level than most around her.
It is reflected in her home, appearance, job, finances, health and relationships.
Because she has broken up with beliefs and people who were holding her back, she has set the stage for her breakthrough, which comes when we surrender and admit our need for God’s help.
Our breakthrough paves the way for our breakout.
The woman who is breaking out is consciously and consistently raising her life standards which moves her daily existence from average to amazing.
She becomes protective of her overall well-being and guards her life fiercely.
She no longer simply lets life happen to her but she happens to her life.
She understands the quality of her life is directly connected to the quality of her thoughts and beliefs and influenced by the quality of her relationships and always chooses wisely.
Others notice a woman who is in the process of breaking out by the way she carries herself, the way she thinks, behaves, dresses and speaks.
Comments like “you seem different” or “you’ve changed” are common and true.
She is different and definitely changed and it’s beautiful to behold!
How do you know when you are experiencing a breakout?
When the life you once only imagined now slowly starts to become your reality.
You sense a boldness and confidence you’ve never had.
You are no longer controlled by your emotions, circumstances, fears or others’ opinions of you.
You are so engrossed in cultivating your own life you have no time to compare your life to others.
You understand the value of every day and are protective of your time; how you spend it and who you spend it with.
Wasting hours on social media or with life-draining people is traded for setting audacious goals that require you to become someone you’ve never been.
Beautifying and organizing your living space, polishing up your resume, eating a healthy, delicious meal, going for a late afternoon walk, creating a vision journal, reading books that inspire you – even something as simple as trying a new hairstyle – anything that breaks you out of ruts, routines, comfort zones, agendas, expectations and destructive habits and transports you to a higher level of living that requires a higher level of being – THAT is breaking out!
The laundry can wait. The reality shows can wait. Social media can wait.
Your life cannot.
Imagine reinventing yourself and your life.
What does that life look like for you? What does that life ask of you? Who does that life ask you to become?
God’s Word reminds us that from our ashes come our beauty. (Isa 61:3). Never believe otherwise.
While sitting in the ashes of a life I had made a mess of I didn’t see any beauty.
But God did and He does with you as well.
Breakouts happen by choice and sadly so few ever make the choice to break out.
Breakouts ask you to commit time, practice the art of discipline, walk in crazy faith and forgive yourself along the way.
Breakouts are where bondage ends – bondage to the labels, fears, guilt, shame, others’ expectations and the past.
Breakouts are where real freedom begins.
Freedom to live a life that excites you instead of depleting you of energy, joy and peace of mind.
Breakouts take us from existing to truly living. From surviving to thriving.
Because life begins when we begin breaking out!
Breakthroughs (Session II of III)
Breakthroughs come after the breakups and before the breakouts.
Breakthroughs are beautifully designed to usher us into a new chapter of life, to unleash and develop the potential buried in our emotional rubble and create dramatic and permanent change.
They ask us to be vulnerable, authentic and honest with ourselves.
They require boldness and a willingness to move into the unknown and demand we check our ego at the door.
How do you know when or even if you need a breakthrough?
Ever feel like you have hit a wall, are in dire need of massive change or just simply want to quit?
Ever feel exhausted with daily living, burned out or overwhelmed?
Ready to trade the average, mediocre and ordinary for the spectacular yet fear, guilt or shame holds you back?
Ever wonder why the results you seek never show up? The life you want never happens?
Perhaps you are due for a breakthrough.
But are you ready for a breakthrough?
Break THROUGHS happen when we reach a breaking point where change is no longer an option but a necessity welcomed instead of feared.
Breakthroughs happen when we declare “enough is enough,” gladly swallow our pride, say goodbye to our stubbornness and fully surrender our mess to Him who is faithful becoming the servant ready to obey the Master’s orders no matter what.
Surrendering isn’t easy because it means giving up control which invites fear, panic and anxiety.
The “what ifs” barge in – what if He asks me to do something I don’t want to do, stop doing something I want to keep doing, go somewhere I don’t want to go, develop new habits, change my thinking, my routine, my friends, my life?
We will know when we reach our breaking point.
How we react to it determines whether we break through or break down.
When our frustration finally collides with our desperation and we completely let go and trust and obey Him regardless of how difficult it gets, how frustrated we become or how badly we want to quit especially when we see no evidence of change whatsoever – that is when our breakthrough comes.
Unfortunately many bail out just before their breakthrough.
They snatch back what they handed over to God angrily storming off because they didn’t see immediate results or didn’t like His response or requirements.
So are we ready for a breakthrough?
Are we willing to listen to Him first then act second even when it’s hard or when others don’t understand?
Are we ready to break up with certain people and beliefs and leave current circumstances even though they’re comfortable choosing instead to step out in faith believing for the impossible?
Are we willing to fully believe that when Christ stated “Everything is possible for the one who believes” He in fact meant everything including our breakthroughs? (Mark 9:23)
Are we willing to make changes and listen to wise advice instead of believing others should change or thinking we know everything?
Are we willing to “relocate” moving away from the present in preparation for the future?
Are we willing like Abraham to trade the familiar for the unknown and “go to the land I will show you”? (Gen 12:1)
It takes a trusting soul to set out on a journey without knowing the destination first.
Perhaps God knew the breakthrough that would bring the blessings couldn’t come while Abraham was living his current life surrounded by his current friends so He graciously relocated him. (Gen 12:2-3).
When we reach a point that we are willing to do whatever God tells us is necessary to get the breakthrough – whether it is surrendering our life, making hard but required changes, cutting ties and “relocating” or overhauling our mindset – then be assured the breakthrough is close because the Word repeatedly proves that obedience always brings reward.
And after the breakthrough comes the breakout!
Emerging from the ashes we stand defying the odds, shocking those who said we “couldn’t” and “would never” proving that we can, we did and we will continue to do so.
So are you ready for a breakthrough?
BREAKUPS – SESSION I of III
The calendar says the last stages of 2019 are here with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon.
Holidays are crazy busy then suddenly it’s a new year.
While I usually take time during the holiday madness to journal my desires and commitments for the upcoming year I realized recently a different approach is in order.
For us to truly experience a phenomenal 2020 some breakups are necessary.
Einstein defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
We simply can’t take all of this year into next year and expect it to look differently.
Some people, thoughts, words and behaviors need to stay in 2019.
Distancing ourselves from negative, drama and chaos driven, self-absorbed people, whether family or friends, is critical to our future happiness.
As women we tend to assume responsibility for everyone else’s happiness and success while neglecting our own and it is costing us dearly.
A massive weight fell off my shoulders the day I realized I was not responsible for others happiness – that responsibility is theirs alone.
One of the most difficult tasks is relegating energy-consuming, life-draining relationships (especially family) to the outer fringes of our lives but it is essential in moving forward.
Breakthroughs always begin with breakups.
We don’t have to be friends with everyone because everyone doesn’t need to be our friend.
When packing for travel we carefully choose our outfits knowing we can’t take the entire closet with us.
The same applies for our lives. Everyone can’t go with us.
For 2020 to be a fantastic year we have to wisely select who stays and who goes then begin with some breakups.
Please understand I deeply love those content living in their self-imposed chaos and wish them the best but reducing communications with them and extracting myself from their daily drama has freed me to focus on cultivating healthy relationships.
God commands us to “Walk with the wise and become wise but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Prov. 13:20.
It’s our choice.
Because our friendships strongly influence our daily lives who do we need to break up with before January 1st?
We also know our world will always reflect our mental mindset so certain beliefs that are holding us back must go.
Many years I spent crying many tears because my mind controlled me instead of me controlling my mind.
I didn’t even know I had a choice.
My mind told me to stay in my comfort zone because I wasn’t capable or qualified to go after my dreams.
It said I shouldn’t even bother attempting to create a life I love.
It told me that to be accepted I had to be like everyone else, think the way they think, want what they want, dress how they dress, act how they act and talk like they talk instead of embracing and owning my God-given uniqueness.
Our thoughts will keep us stuck and settling or encouraged and empowered and life always moves in the direction the mind goes.
Circumstances NEVER change until our minds change.
We can starve ourselves silly but if our minds are telling us that the weight is never coming off the body simply buys into that belief and the weight never budges.
Friends, I know this firsthand.
And, when those thoughts become words and women declare “the right man will never come along”, “the great job will never show up,” “I will never get out of debt,” “life will always be ongoing unorganized chaos” to no one’s surprise they are correct, prophesying their future with their very own words.
Look at a woman’s life and you will quickly figure out her mental mindset.
Some women grasp this truth and execute changes but sadly many execute excuses.
If 2020 is to be our year, severing ties with the complaining, blaming or excuse-making woman is a must otherwise it’s only a matter of time before we mimic her and our lives mirror hers.
While it may seem harsh it is a proven fact that we become like those we associate with.
Likewise, thoughts and words lead to choices and actions that dictate the direction our lives take.
By refusing to break up with those self-fulfilling, self-sabotaging thoughts, words and actions and being unwilling to say goodbye to emotionally and mentally exhausting, joy-stealing relationships before this year ends, your 2020 will look exactly like your 2019.
If you want to break through and break out in 2020 today is the day to begin breaking up with 2019!
Yes, many women are content with their next year looking identical to this year.
The question is “Are you?”
She is funny, stylish, artistic and wise.
She loves to travel, dance, create, cook, garden and getting together with friends.
She is an entrepreneur, a teacher, a dancer, a singer, a high achiever.
She’s been hurt, betrayed and wounded. She’s failed miserably, loved hard and overcome triumphantly.
She laughs, forgives and cries. She’s made mistakes, bad choices and wise decisions.
She has regret, remorse, beautiful memories and cherished moments.
Who is she?
“She” represents my closest friends.
How do I know who “she” is? Because I asked.
It’s hard to admit but there was a time when I formed my opinion of people based on the opinions of others.
I unfairly and unwisely judged and criticized without knowing the whole “story” behind the woman taking others’ assessment of her as the final word.
Every woman has a story, a long history of experiences, adventures, highs, lows, dreams and desires that make up who she is.
We label a woman who may be different than us as “odd” or having “issues” without ever bothering to hear from her the whole story.
Instead, she is criticized, judged, misunderstood and excluded.
Instead of getting her story, she gets placed under a social microscope with her past being dissected, her choices, financial status, weight, looks and life being scrutinized.
Several years ago I was introduced to a woman through mutual acquaintances.
As this woman walked away the whispers began.
She was supposedly “strange” “weird” “different” “maybe crazy” and more.
I would like to say I tossed their labels to the wind, found out her story then formed my own opinion but I didn’t.
I regret it deeply but God taught me a life-changing lesson through it.
One morning in my quiet time He reminded me “Do not judge or you too will be judged,” (Matt 7:1)
I don’t know about you but I hate being judged and yet I was doing just that and my heavenly dad called me out. He’s such a good father that way.
As children our parents told us “Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it” and it is still applicable today.
If we dislike being judged, ostracized, excluded, labeled, looked down on, criticized or mistreated then we can no longer do the same to others.
In John 8 a certain woman was caught in adultery and faced imminent death.
Nowhere do we read that others first stopped to get her story before pronouncing judgment on her.
They labeled then condemned her. Case closed.
No one asked her why?
No one asked her what past experiences made her now believe she was only worthy of being someone’s second choice, his side dish, his stolen moments, his secret when she was worth so much more.
Did anyone tell her she was deserving of being a man’s wife, his world, his joy, his everything, to be loved and praised publicly and openly?
Let me be clear.
Learning a woman’s past first doesn’t mean we condone or excuse her present day choices especially when they are destructive but knowing her backstory helps us to understand who she is today more clearly.
We aren’t dismissing or justifying but armed with the knowledge found in her story we can extend some much needed grace, understanding and encouragement of a better way.
There is always a why behind every woman’s thoughts, actions, words, emotions, desires and decisions.
That why is buried within our experiences, some good some bad.
Many of those moments now have women labeling each other “non-trusting,” “insecure” or having “issues” though no one really knows why because no one is asking.
If a woman doesn’t want to share her story we are to respect that but also refrain from making or spreading any assumptions about her.
To understand each other we can no longer hastily condemn each other based on public opinion, half-truths, outright lies, rumors, gossip or misinformation.
What if we made it our mission to “decide not to decide” about others until we first hear their story?
Oh, and that woman I was introduced to earlier that others had labeled “weird.”
I invited her to lunch one day and discovered she’s one of the most beautiful souls I have yet to meet.
She is kind, gentle, creative, sensitive and caring. She is brave, daring and multi-talented, loyal and inspiring.
Her incredible story contains mountain tops and valleys, adventures, failures, mistakes, tragedies, successes and heartache and I have benefitted tremendously from knowing it.
Every woman has at least one thing in common. We all have a past.
For years my past was like the bully on the playground cruelly taunting me keeping me in fear and stuck in a constant state of self-condemnation.
Is it the same for you?
What would happen if instead of seeing our pasts as reminders of our missteps we viewed them as a source of information and inspiration?
Did you know your yesterdays can be your greatest teacher or your worst enemy?
And you get to choose?
For years I never knew there was any other choice but to live in the shadows of a shameful past.
The day God informed me that it was my decision was a turning point.
When you decide your yesterdays will no longer deplete you but provide the fuel that radically changes your todays is when your life is forever altered.
No one likes to remember painful times, failures, old sins, regrets or loss.
But when we begin to look at our past from a “student’s” perspective in life’s classroom searching for valuable lessons and repetitive behavioral patterns that are holding us back, the torment of the past now becomes the tool to create amazing todays.
The past is now productive and useful, an asset instead of a liability.
It is no longer something to run from or deny but to embrace.
While all bad memories may not be the result of our actions we suffer the pain nonetheless.
No woman chooses to be mistreated or wounded but all of us can choose our reactions when it happens.
Our todays are impacted positively or negatively by our response to yesterday’s hurtful behavior of others.
Every woman I know has done things she deeply regrets. I have.
A certain woman made a bad decision and was now facing the consequences.
A wrong choice resulted in her being judged, labeled and condemned to die.
Would this be the day she died in the bondage of her past or would it be the day her shame would be replaced with grace and a chance for a fresh start?
That day the only One qualified to condemn her does not.
Instead Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:11.
Instead of shaming her for yesterday’s poor choice, He instructs her to go and leave behind her old life taking a valuable lesson from the moment with her.
He uses a negative situation to teach her a positive, life-changing lesson.
Our pasts, regardless of how ugly, sin-filled or nasty do not have to be in vain.
Looking for lessons in my past was hard but necessary.
Who wants to recall cringeworthy or deeply troubling times?
But this I know:
Our lives will never change until we change and we cannot change until we know where change is necessary.
Our pasts hold that answer.
My past revealed a pattern of sabotaging relationships, quitting goals when it got hard and justifying bad decisions instead of owning them.
It told me that I was insecure, unteachable, undisciplined with an unhealthy need to be liked (validation) which resulted in being used, manipulated and mediocre.
These powerful revelations were the starting point from which to begin the process of creating lasting inner self-worth instead of searching for it externally, to becoming coachable and developing discipline.
I had to make some hard changes but they led to the very happiness I had been seeking all along.
Looking into our past can be painful and embarrassing.
It requires facing hard truths and making difficult admissions.
It requires forgiving others and ourselves.
It is not easy. But it is worth it.
The past contains valuable insight needed to create lasting changes so we aren’t repeating our pasts in our present.
When we ask the pasts to teach us she will always say yes.
We become the student and the past is our teacher.
It inspires us to keep pressing forward and encourages us not to repeat old sins, habits and mistakes but to extract the lessons and let them go.
Playing yesterday’s pain on repeat in our heads, punishing ourselves for past sins, ongoing seething with resentment from old hurts keeps our lives in turmoil and drama.
Learn that lesson then let it go.
Everything you need to know about creating the life you want can be found in the archives of your past.
It contains all the wisdom, inspiration, information and motivation necessary to keep you focused on becoming the woman you want to be if you will let it.
Don’t look back and relive regrets. What’s done is done.
Healing and change begins when we can look back at our pasts and say “Thank you for the lessons.”