She kept a jar of miniature candy bars on her desk with a box of birthday candles next to them. I didn’t notice them immediately but they came to play an important role as the school year went on.
Being a shy, insecure, introverted eleventh grader, I was mesmerized by her confidence, elegance and subtle sophistication.
She was well-spoken, worldly and cultured.
I often wondered how she came to live in this sleepy, southern town.
She taught English and Literature and firmly believed possessing proper grammar and a knowledge of beautiful literature could open doors for her students.
Later I learned she was correct.
Walking into her class each day, we quickly knew which student was having a birthday because a “Happy Birthday” sign was displayed on her podium and she gifted them with one of those miniature candy bars complete with a birthday candle taped to the top.
For that one hour of class that student believed he or she was worth celebrating.
She shared her fascination of Beowulf, introduced us to Canterbury Tales and invited us to sail along in Homer’s The Odyssey knowing one could travel the globe with fascinating characters, grow and learn simply by opening the pages of a book.
My essays were always returned with critiques kindly laced with compliments. Little did she realize how much I valued and needed those words of praise.
Each time I sit down to write a blogpost, journal entry or speech, I hear her reminding me of the power, impact and influence of words so always choose them wisely.
She repeatedly stated that education was not limited to the classroom and should not end upon upon graduation contrary to popular belief.
She believed that opportunities, adventures, experiences, people, places, books, music, art, theater, successes and failures are all teachers with life-changing lessons if we will simply listen and always remain curious.
She encouraged me to see beyond my small town and ignited a passion within me to explore the world, study and emulate those I admire and develop my talents of writing and public speaking skills to inspire others.
While waiting my turn to kiss the Blarney Stone in Ireland, I remember wondering if she had any idea that day in class when she encouraged her students to create a Dream List, the profound effect it would have on this country girl living in the Deep South.
She granted me permission to dream big without limitations and each time another adventure get’s checked off my list I silently thank her.
To this day I don’t chew gum because she demonstrated in class once how one looks chomping on gum while carrying on a conversation. It was comical yet mortifying. Lesson learned.
Thankfully, she took the time to teach us excellent communication skills and how to express ourselves in an educated, dignified manner, skills I still employ today.
She instilled in me the value of continued learning and acquiring culture which is why I am often found strolling museums, spending countless hours at the library, taking online classes, learning new languages, reading biographies, traveling anywhere, watching documentaries, attending the symphony, shows or the ballet or have my head buried in a book.
My eleventh grade teacher stood shoulder to shoulder influencing my life with another teacher, one who never stepped foot into a classroom yet has spent her life educating and encouraging others in the bounty of God’s love, mercy and grace.
For her, the classroom is anywhere life presents an opportunity whether she is behind the pulpit, standing in the checkout line or sitting in her living room.
Her daily curriculum includes studying the Word, always saying “Yes” when God calls, never writing off those the world has deemed as lost causes and above all practicing what she preaches.
If ever someone walked their talk it is her. If you don’t believe me, ask my friends.
Each time I stand up to deliver a speech, write a blogpost, conduct an empowerment course, guide a client through a strategy session, take someone’s hand in prayer or share my story with others, it is because I watched this teacher live with complete authenticity and never a judgmental spirit.
She encouraged me to move beyond my past, always pursue spiritual and personal growth, step out of my comfort zone, seek to be a blessing, love without expectations and extend forgiveness even when the apology never comes.
Two teachers, two different learning environments, one forever changed student.
It would be impossible to determine how many people these two teachers have positively impacted.
Their legacies will forever continue simply because both answered the call to educate, empower and encourage their students, giving unselfishly of their time, talents, experience and wisdom.
To all the teachers in the classroom and beyond, thank you!
To my teacher Donna McLean – thank you!
To my mother (my greatest teacher) Joanna Barnes – thank you!
Know a teacher who changed your life? Thank them today.
Lately I have been knee deep in dirt, planting, potting, and pruning.
While I am no green thumb, in gardening I have learned much about life.
Social media can be a positive force in creating awareness, encouraging generosity and inspiring change but also a source of negativity, frustration, comparison and criticism.
Facebook allows us to peek inside the homes, adventures and lives of others.
I don’t know about you but I have spent hours scrolling through the “gardens” (lives) of others while my own garden was slowly dying due to neglect.
Overgrown with the thorns of comparison, weeds of pity and procrastination and dehydrated from lack of attention, my garden left me feeling frustrated, left out, cheated and resentful.
From my sofa I lived vicariously through others though my own life pleaded with me to get off the couch.
For years I whined about the life I didn’t have, the life I said I wanted yet I refused to budge because complaining was easier.
I didn’t have to confront my fears, take any risks or be accountable for my actions.
My pity party consisted of me and my overgrown garden with any potential beauty choked by emotional and physical clutter, toxic friendships and unhealthy habits.
My garden was in a sad state because I was too busy constantly comparing my garden to everyone else’s.
I was so engrossed in other’s lives that any goals or dreams I had wilted on the vine with no available space for growth.
It’s a truth I had to own before anything could ever change.
One day while having a “spiritual hissy fit” giving God an earful of poor, pitiful me, He lovingly reminded me of a truth I knew but didn’t want to acknowledge.
My messy, overgrown garden was due to my neglect and if I wanted a different garden, a different me would be necessary.
It was time to focus on cultivating my own fabulous garden so there would be no time to compare or critique anyone else’s.
Although initially overwhelming due to the accumulation of “stuff” physically and emotionally, I was excited to create something beautiful.
Before starting, I had to decide how I wanted to feel as I strolled through my garden.
Calm, peaceful, interesting, exciting, connected, adventurous, elegant, simple, healthy and joyful became my goal.
How do you want your life to feel?
With that in mind, we begin prepping our gardens for planting which requires removing the weeds because in order for the new to grow, the old has to go.
What in your life needs to be pulled up today?
What needs to go, physically and emotionally?
For me it was clutter, old habits, resentment, guilt and feelings of unworthiness.
A gorgeous, quality garden requires quality conditions in which to thrive.
Enjoying a morning prayer and devotional, reading a motivating blogpost, spending time with positive minded people, adopting rituals that refresh us (for me it is smooth jazz, hot baths, long walks and reading), pursuing activities that energize us, listening to an uplifting podcast or music – all contribute to an environment in which our gardens can flourish.
A beautiful garden also needs regular pruning, cutting back to encourage more.
To create space for more of what you want in your life, what or who needs to be cut away?
I ask myself this when I am feeling frustrated, unmotivated or “stuck”.
Sometimes it’s an old belief that no longer serves me, unjustified fears, a relationship past its prime or time stealers like hours scrolling social media.
It is important to remember that life, like gardening is an ongoing process with each season serving a purpose.
When we compare our lives to “her life” it is easy to forget she may be in a different season than we are currently in.
While “she” is losing the weight, meeting the soulmate, scoring the dream job, jetting off every weekend to the beach, moving into the new house, starting the business, leading the small group, we are perplexed and maybe a little envious because it seems nothing is happening in our own lives.
She is not smarter, luckier, prettier, worthier etc than us.
She is simply in a different season.
Only when we become so engrossed in cultivating our own gorgeous gardens, sashaying through each season with grace and gratitude, being fully confident that we too will have a glorious space in which to thrive, then life becomes amazing.
With this new approach, our lives take on grander meaning.
We are now positioned to be introduced to new people, adventures, opportunities and experiences that leave us joyfully breathless and utterly amazed.
Today is the perfect day to begin cultivating our own stunning gardens!
From childhood on our mothers warned us that “birds of a feather flock together” understanding the powerful influence of those in our inner circle.
Solomon did too.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Prov 27:17
We have learned that a beautiful life begins with a beautiful mind built upon the solid truths of Christ and our thoughts determine who we become.
But did you know we also mirror those we spend the most time with?
This is a critical component to successfully living From the Inside Out.
While we are called to love others, we are also advised about the company we keep “or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” Prov 22:24.
For years, I allowed anyone into my “tribe” because 1) I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, 2) I was unaware of God’s Word regarding associations and 3) I valued quantity over quality when it came to friendships thinking the more friends I had the more worthy I was.
After studying scripture I knew my life needed course-correcting beginning with those within my Circle of Influence.
Some ties had to be severed if I was going to become the woman I desired to be.
I had to sever ties with:
1) The Complainer: Her cup never overflows and her life is always clouded by negativity.
From the weather, family, friends, her husband, children, co-workers, customer service, the checkout line etc she has no trouble finding issues and flaws because we will always find whatever we are looking for. “He who seeks good finds goodwill.” Prov 11:27.
Yes she loves Jesus and her church even though the music is too loud, the preacher talks too long and the sanctuary is always freezing.
Though her life reflects many blessings, she only focuses on all that is wrong.
2) The Critic: She often offers unsolicited critiques to others truly believing she is “bettering” them.
Her biting remarks and harsh words are laced with condemnation and she has conveniently forgotten her own failures and shame-filled past.
She believes she is helping you by calling attention to your “specks” all the while blinded from the “plank” in her own eye. Matt 7:3-5
3) The Comparer: While she is “okay” with life, she harbors deep-rooted jealousy towards others.
She compares her body, house, husband, career, car, clothes (you name it) to everyone else, always ending up feeling shortchanged.
She believes her lack and unhappiness is everyone else’s fault never assuming responsibility for her life.
She lives under the umbrella of “If Only” – if only she weighed less, had a husband, made more money, lived in the right neighborhood, hadn’t been mistreated, etc.
She has a victim mentality and her life reflects it.
4) The Condemner: Yes, your choice of friends, how you dress, your church attendance record, spiritual beliefs or political stance if not in agreement with her is simply wrong in her self-righteous eyes.
If she knows your past she makes certain you don’t forget it.
Bound by legalistic chains she operates and attempts to impose a rigid, religious structure of “shoulds” and “should nots” on others sadly never experiencing the true spiritual freedom that Christ offers.
5) The Complacent: She accepts her average, mediocre life “as is” and lives in the prison of her comfort zone.
While her friends are out enjoying adventure, losing the weight, achieving lofty dreams and experiencing personal and spiritual growth she remains stuck and stagnant yet refuses to make any efforts towards what she claims to want.
How do I know all of these women?
Because at one time or another I have been every single one of them.
And I know the damage she can do to anyone who comes within hearing distance.
She means no harm but when you are pursuing growth of any kind she may need to be relegated to the outer fringes of your Circle of Influence (your tribe) for a period of time.
A favorite quote reads “You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with so be brave enough to let go of those who keep weighing you down.”
Another reads “Sometimes you have to unfollow people in real life.”
This is truth!
I have to continually be mindful not only of who I allow into my inner circle but also not be one of the roles described above.
Paul was thrown into prison with Silas.
Together they prayed and sang hymns until God sent an earthquake shaking the cell doors open. (Acts 16:25-26)
How would this scenario have unfolded had Paul been in prison with someone who complained the entire time, criticized the cell conditions, compared their cell to someone else’s, condemned everyone involved or simply accepted their fate and did nothing?
Friends, now is the time to look closely at your associations.
Do you they inspire you to step up your game, grow spiritually, appreciate your blessings, dream big, upgrade your mind, your surroundings, your life?
In a dark time of life would they pray and sing with you until the storm has passed by?
Because like your mama said “birds of a feather flock together.”
Who do you think you are?
Has anyone ever asked you that? Have you ever asked yourself that?
We know creating a beautiful life begins with a beautiful mind established on the foundation of Truth and shedding old belief patterns (see Session 2).
Fabulous clothing designer Diane Von Furstenberg said “I didn’t always know what I wanted to do but I always knew the kind of woman I wanted to be.”
Until reading that I had never considered who I wanted to be.
Of course I wanted to excel in my roles as a daughter, sister, wife, aunt, grandmother etc. but who did I want to be?
And, was who I wanted to be and who I thought I was the same woman?
Not even close.
That quote and these questions forever altered my life.
Our foundational scripture for this series reminds us “As a man thinketh so is he.” (Prov 23:7)
Is the woman you want to be and the woman you think you are at this moment the same?
We will always become who we think we are and until those thoughts change nothing will change.
How would you complete this sentence? If I thought I was _____ then I would _____.
I knew I wanted to be a confident woman yet always thought I lacked confidence so it is no surprise I was not confident, not even a little.
Because I thought I wasn’t confident accompanied by my fear of rejection I said no to life-changing opportunities and was robbed of incredible adventures and experiences.
However, after reading that quote, I wrote down in my journal the kind of woman I wanted to be beginning with “confident.”
I then wrote “If I thought I was confident, I would then. . .” and began writing furiously all I would do if I truly believed I was confident.
I would start the blog I had been dreaming about, face my fears of rejection and pursue my love of speaking, join a small group without knowing anyone, volunteer, take risks, step out of my comfort zone, and the list went on.
Next I wrote “If I thought I was healthy and fit, I would commit to exercising consistently, sign up for and complete a half marathon, ban the word “diet” from my vocabulary, cultivate a dining lifestyle of life-giving foods with the occasional sweet, and stop critiquing and criticizing my body and begin complimenting, loving and appreciating her.”
And my list went on.
I wanted to be “cultured,” “fun,” “generous,” “well-travelled,” “inspiring” and “grateful.” “Joyful,” “authentic,” “elegant,” “adventurous” and “kind” all found their way onto my list and into my thoughts.
How would that woman think and act?
Learning to think like the woman I wanted to be led to actions that resulted in enormous positive changes in my life.
You are reading this blog today because I changed my thoughts on confidence.
Believe me, I am still a work in progress and am constantly monitoring my mindset.
I know first hand the damage toxic, negative, self-fulfilling thoughts will do – the dreams they will steal, relationships they will destroy and the life they will take.
John said “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” (10:10)
How does the thief (Satan) accomplish this?
Through our thoughts because he knows they dictate our feelings which determines our actions.
If he can stop us in our minds, the rest is easy.
But Christ came that we may have life in abundance and that also begins in our minds.
What is going on in our minds?
Are we constantly complaining about what we lack or are we so grateful for the abundance we do have?
Are we telling ourselves and others we “can’t afford it,” “lack the time,””will never lose the weight or get in shape,” etc?
The abundant mindset vs the scarcity mindset is topic worthy of its own post because of its self-fulfilling, life-altering effects.
Whatever our minds focus on grows! I simply cannot emphasize it enough.
As we learned in the beginning – MINDSET IS EVERYTHING!
So I ask you again. Who do you think you are?
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. . . He was despised and rejected by men and was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering. . . He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. . . He was pierced for our sins, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him . . . and by His wounds we are healed.” Isa 53:2-6.
On this Good Friday, Jesus Christ, the Last Lamb, bloodied and bruised, weak from a brutal beating and stumbling under the weight of a cross meant for us, was “led like a lamb to the slaughter” (53:7).
And with the “precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19), He willingly shed His blood for us all knowing “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22).
“The death He died He died to sin once for all.” (Rom 6:10)
The ongoing sin offerings required by the Levitical Law ended that day when “the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God” fell, cleansing “our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the Living God.” (Heb 9:14).
“When you were dead in your sins . . . God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code (Old Covenant) with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:13-14)
The King of Kings was tortured for you and me and treated like a filthy criminal “oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth.” (Isa 53:7)
The Last Lamb willingly took His place on the altar as an atonement for our sins then breathing His last bowed His head and declared “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
His ending is our new beginning, His death our eternal life.
He paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.
The greatest expression of love ever known to mankind came through a cruel, inhumane death and gloriously ushered in a grace so amazing it cannot be comprehended.
What makes this Friday so “good?”
The unmerited, undeserving goodness and eternal life gifted to us through the brutal slaughtering of the Last Lamb, Jesus Christ.
What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make us whole again? NOTHING but the blood of Jesus.
Oh precious is that flow that makes me white as snow. . .
Mind Design – Session 2
A beautiful life begins in the mind.
Today we prepare to create an exquisite, elegant life as if building our dream home beginning with laying a firm foundation.
When designing our minds, we must establish a Rock-solid mental base that can withstand life’s storms and the enemy’s lies. (Matt 7:24-27).
That foundational base is Truth.
In Proverbs, Solomon tells us “By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (24:3-4)
Wisdom frees us from negative thought and belief patterns that keep us stuck, is “generously given” to anyone who asks (James 1:5) and is the foundation upon which we build. “Ask and it will be given.” (Matt 7:7)
Designing the mind requires commitment, discipline and a willingness to let go of old beliefs that have been ingrained since childhood.
Beliefs like the Not Enoughs – “I am not skinny, smart, educated, talented, rich, brave, pretty, capable, young, old, qualified enough”.
The I Don’t Knows – “I don’t know what I want, who I want to be or how to achieve my goal.”
The Should and Should Nots – “I should eat healthier, work out more, read my Bible more, should have taken that job, not have trusted him, not befriended her, not bought that.”
The What Ifs – “What if I fail, they don’t like me, it doesn’t work out, I diet and never lose weight, he breaks my heart, someone judges or criticizes me?”
The Wells – “Well it has always been done that way, because they said so, because I don’t know the right people, don’t have the right qualifications, never attract the right kind of men.”
The I Can’t – “I can’t lose weight, exercise, eat healthy, find a better job, meet a decent man, improve my marriage, find time, declutter my surroundings, take my dream trip, save money, start a business, ask for the raise, learn a new skill, go back to school, lead a small group or volunteer.”
In order to create space for the new, old thought patterns like these must go (be forgotten).
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I (God) am doing a new thing! … I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isa 43:18-19)
A life filled with “beautiful treasures” is the result of thinking beautifully.
Various events often blindside us resulting in confusion, anger and resentment (a wasteland).
Harsh words and lies told us in childhood sadly are still poisoning our minds today keeping us in a vicious cycle of emotional turmoil.
Our lives reflect this.
But, when we choose to “forget the former” God promises He will do a NEW thing creating “springs” – new, replenishing, restoring, powerful thoughts and beliefs.
Life, like every memorable masterpiece, begins with a blank canvas.
Your mind like your life is your masterpiece – the space you create daily.
You get to design and decorate it piece by piece however you wish.
Will you fill it with priceless treasures (powerful truths) or foul smelling, cheap trash (destructive lies)?
It is your choice.
What if you replaced every lie told you over the years with God’s truth?
What if every thought or belief not in alignment with God’s Word is immediately thrown out like trash?
As Solomon said “knowledge” (of His Word) is key to acquiring the “rare and beautiful.”
Because when you possess knowledge of the truth (his Word) it will set you free (John 8:32) and “who the Son has set free is free indeed!” (John 8:36).
When the destructive, defeating thoughts, beliefs and lies come, raise your sword “which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17) and remind the enemy, yourself and anyone else that you are:
Made in His image (Gen 1:26) – Redeemed and forgiven (Eph 1:7) – Called by name (Isa 43:1) – Are His daughter (John 1:12) – Are not condemned (Rom 8:1) – Are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3) – And His peace guards your heart and MIND (Phil 4:7).
Now that we have established our foundation of truth we can begin determining the layout and design of the mind and life we long for.
Until then think truth.
In January, 2011 I committed to valuing quality over quantity and set out on a massive life purge.
Out went ill-fitting, unflattering, uncomfortable or poorly made clothing and shoes purchased simply “because it was on sale.”
Multiples of any items (did I really need five spatulas, three sets of mixing cups, fifty food storage containers?) got tossed along with linens that had seen better days, books read, dated magazines and expired pantry items.
Knowing we become who we associate with, I evaluated my relationships and exchanged the drama, emotional drainers for healthy, life-giving friendships.
Trading my two-a-day Mountain Dew habit for water and lacing up my shoes I hit the trails and found renewed energy.
Though I was moving in the right direction the life I envisioned seemed just out of reach.
Why was that? One morning I found the answer.
In reading Proverbs I discovered a LIFE-CHANGING spiritual principle which is the foundation for this series – “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (23:7)
I had worked hard to change my external world never realizing having a gorgeous life was an internal job.
My mind was constantly consumed with negative, critical, judgmental, toxic, complaining, fearful, anxious, self-sabotaging thoughts.
Our minds can turn a bad day into a great day or vice-versa.
It can make us victims or victors, pitiful or powerful, determined or defeated.
Our thoughts can keep us stuck in guilt, shame and resentment.
The mind can keep us average, overweight, unhappy, unsatisfied and disenchanted with life.
That same mind can manufacture confidence, excellent health, beautiful friendships, exciting passion-filled marriages, successful careers or businesses, abundance, joy, contentment, and peace.
Mindset is not one thing – it is EVERYTHING because:
Life is Simply a Reflection of the Mind.
If you want a quality life you must think quality thoughts.
Life will never change until our thinking changes and our minds are either best friend or worst enemy.
Changing the mindset isn’t easy. It requires awareness and discipline but it is possible.
To monitor every thought every second is mentally exhausting. I tried that and failed.
But just by paying attention to my overall thought process when I found myself in various circumstances a noticeable pattern began to emerge.
The majority of my thoughts were self-sabotaging, negative criticisms soaked in guilt and insecurity.
No wonder I couldn’t lose the weight, enjoy healthy relationships, speak up, set necessary boundaries, venture out of my comfort zone, build a thriving business, love and appreciate myself or pursue my dreams with abandon!
My mind was telling me all the reasons why I couldn’t.
If we thought about what we thought about what patterns or dominant thoughts would become obvious?
Are you judgmental or critical of yourself or others?
Do you set a goal yet all the while certain you will fail?
Are you convinced the weight will never come off, the right guy will never show up, you will never get out of debt, your job will never be a source of joy, you will never start your dream business, jet-set around the world or enjoy a fulfilling marriage or meaningful friendships?
Are you often thinking “I am always tired, never have any energy, nothing ever goes my way, nothing is ever going to change, why do I even bother?”
Are you mentally complaining or criticizing your boss or co-workers, your employees, family, friends, traffic, the government, economy, checkout line, weather, the size of your bank account, house, closet, waistline or thighs?
Change begins with acknowledgement followed by accountability.
What if you began to think about what you think about – those dominant thoughts (that you usually give no thought to) racing through your mind at any given moment?
Are they life-givers or life-stealers? Do they have you living life on a battlefield or playground?
Are your thoughts energizing or depleting, inspiring or discouraging, complimentary or criticizing, filled with gratitude or envy, joy or resentment?
Are they cheering you on or tearing you down?
Do they invite or repel people, success, abundance, favor, opportunity and peace?
I encourage you to take a moment and think about what you think about!
How you think is a choice. Quality thoughts produce a quality life.
Because as you think so you are.
The goal of our new upcoming series From the Inside Out: Harnessing the Power of a Made Up Mind, is to study the mind and the power it wields.
A beautiful life begins with a beautiful mind.
Recently, during my spring cleaning, I realized after purging closets and drawers, there was one area left to be cleaned and that is my bookshelf.
For years (at least thirty) I was a devoted fan/junkie/addict of the “self-help” world.
If there was a book to be read, seminar to attend, video to watch or lesson to be heard I participated.
I spent years and a small fortune chasing a supposed better, improved version of myself yet instead of feeling enlightened I found myself exhausted, discouraged and berating myself daily for lack of perceived progress.
In trying to find my purpose, embrace my passion, fix my brokenness, erase my shortcomings, do, be and have more I was miserable.
This week I donated the last of my self-help books because I am no longer interested in chasing someone else’s idea of success.
My bookshelf now reflects my loves which include music, nature, classic literature and biographies, delicious food, travel and adventure, style, beauty and the arts.
Yes, biographies of inspiring, iconic women (Chanel, Diane Von Furstenberg, Sophia Loren and Jackie O), beautiful cookbooks that encourage food and fellowship, travel books that transport me to lavender fields in Provence or lush vineyards in Tuscany and style and home decor books that inspire simplicity and elegance now line the shelves once filled with books that were a constant reminder of my brokenness and shortcomings always telling me there was “more” to be had if I could just follow the “7 simple steps.”
There is no one-size-fits-all formula for personal growth.
Elevate – Chic Inspired Living is about inspiring you to create a life you love as defined by you alone.
What needs to be purged from your surroundings or life in order to create space for the life you want? Clutter, toxic relationships, negativity?
You are beautiful, bold and blessed-not broken and I believe it’s time for the old to go to make room for the new.
Why Mindset Matters
It is April.
In January you set a resolution to lose weight.
Scouring the internet for various diet plans you select one, create a Pinterest board filled with healthy recipes and fit bodies for inspiration, detox your pantry, swear off sugar, join the gym, invest in cute workout clothes and officially declare you are on a diet.
After losing five pounds you gained ten more.
Your co-worker did the exact same thing and lost twenty pounds and kept it off.
How did she do that?
You appreciate your friends. Getting together is a joy.
One friend in particular fascinates you.
She seems so “together” and is living a life you envy if you are being honest.
She has fabulous friends, wears stylish clothes, jet sets to exotic locations, has a seemingly perfect relationship/marriage, lives in a beautiful home, drives a nice car, enjoys career success and can eat whatever she wants and never gain a pound.
Her face is wrinkle free, her thighs are firm and her energy boundless.
What is her secret?
During your spring cleaning you stumbled across your journal from high school.
You turn on some 60’s/70’s/80’s music and sit down to reminisce.
Hours later tears begin to fall with as you read about goals long forgotten and while feeling deep gratitude for your current life you sense a strong desire to dream again. And without realizing it, an awakening is occurring.
Perhaps you can relate to one or all of these scenarios.
I know I can.
It took me many years and lots of tears to realize the secret of success, however you define it, is found within you – your mindset.
During the next few weeks we are going to dive into the Word and learn just how powerful our minds are and the role our thoughts play in our daily lives.
Our thoughts determine our actions.
The reason we aren’t getting what we want is because we have yet to think the thoughts required to get the results.
Thoughts either work for us to bring success or against us to guarantee yet another failed attempt at our goals.
Mindset is everything.
Are you ready to master a new way to think?
Because It is Time to Take Off Our Masks
Lately, I have noticed a disturbing phenomenon among women, both in social and spiritual circles.
I hesitated addressing this issue for fear of alienating readers but as stated in my last post, we as women need to hear the truth more than ever.
We live in a society that encourages everything but this – AUTHENTICITY.
Yes, we encourage openness but within limits of course never wanting to offend or disgust others with our deepest truths, nastiest wounds, worst habits, ugliest traits, repulsive sins, massive mistakes and monumental failures.
Social media only encourages this. “Show us only your perfect selfies, vacation pics and family photos, please.”
So we hide behind our photoshopped, filtered facades always fearing being exposed resulting in public condemnation yet deeply wishing we could take off the mask of pretend perfection and just be who we are, flaws, faults, ugly and all. And it is exhausting.
Many were raised to live our lives based on what friends, family, neighbors or church members might think.
Now as adults we have become chameleons in order to please the spouse or parents, get the job, land the dream guy, score the promotion or make friends.
We alter our appearance, downplay our talents and strengths and forfeit our dreams in an effort to gain the very approval, acceptance and love we refuse to give ourselves until finally we lose our identity completely and no longer recognize the woman in the mirror.
Often that woman next to us in the church pew is fighting back tears, overcome with loneliness and aching with remorse, regrets and hurts yet because she is so afraid of what others might think she always dons her “spiritual face” pretending it is well within her soul while feelings of righteous inadequacies overwhelm her.
Sadly, instead of finding the peace and freedom she desperately craves, she lives in constant fear of condemnation and being “found out” often feeling like a spiritual fraud.
I know. I have been that woman. Have you?
Because, what if someone finds out you did this, failed at that, went there, disliked her, dated him, were divorced, had an affair, drank wine on occasion, got fired, went to rehab, filed bankruptcy, walked out on your family or you yelled at your kids this morning, haven’t picked up your Bible in days, became furious with a spouse, friend or co-worker, overspent, gossiped, complained, missed church multiple Sundays in a row, skipped the gym, cheated on your diet or even had thoughts or said words you well know were better left unthought or unsaid?
Authenticity isn’t about sharing every flaw we have or every sin we have ever committed on Facebook or Instagram.
Authenticity is about daily embracing our own complete humanness, flaws, habits, traits, quirks, – everything we are – without apology and in gratitude for God’s mercies which are renewed each morning. (Lam 3:23)
Only then will we understand that every single woman we know is also human and deserving of that same mercy.
There are other women fighting temptations, battling bad habits, making mistakes, consumed with guilt and self-condemnation and feel empty, undesirable or never “enough.”
In my work, I sadly meet countless women who are walking away from spiritual circles because while searching for acceptance they were pelted with the stones of condemnation and now believe they are unholy, unrighteous, unworthy and unforgiven.
A past sin, a present circumstance, a destructive habit, shame or simply feelings of inadequacy, these women are in desperate need of love, mercy and encouragement from their spiritual sisters yet feel condemned, judged or excluded from certain spiritual cliques.
It’s like high school, only worse.
So within this holy environment of spiritual sisterhood instead of finding acceptance they are shamed and often wrongly assume God feels the same way thus creating an ever-growing divide between themselves and the Father they desperately need.
Once a woman told me “If the church can’t forgive me, how can God forgive me?” That broke my heart.
Many times when a woman experiences condemnation within the spiritual circle she believed would encourage her, she will sadly return to the bondage of the very habits and destructive addictions destroying her now believing forgiveness and salvation aren’t available to her and at that moment hope dies.
Perhaps there are some women who have never spiritually stumbled and don’t know what it means to create a “holy mess” of their lives or conveniently forgotten that period when they did.
I have a deep admiration of those women however I am not one of them.
I believe there are other women who aren’t either yet possess a deep desire to experience a meaningful relationship with the Father as well as with other godly women but fear of being unfairly judged or labeled holds them hostage in spiritual isolation.
While they are fully aware of their spiritual shortcomings, it isn’t the condoning of them they are seeking but acceptance in spite of them.
Friends, it is time to drop our stones, toss our labels, tear up our scorecards, stop the criticizing, lay down our gavels and leave the judging of others to the Judge, being reminded that “if any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
Because “how can you say to your brother, ‘let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matt 7:4)
Could it be that we are unable to forgive ourselves or receive forgiveness from Christ therefore we want to make sure others aren’t forgiven either?
Is it possible that as long as we focus on the flaws of others we can avoid facing the ugly within us?
Now is the time to encourage and allow one another to finally remove the masks that suffocate our joy, hide our true identities, prevent us from experiencing spiritually rich friendships or joining a body of believers, hinder us from using our gifts for His glory and keep us falsely believing we are unholy, unworthy, unloveable or unspiritual.
Now is the time to embrace each other as sisters and daughters of God, (flaws, faults, past, present, pretty, ugly, shortcomings and all).
Can we do that?
Because the only scarlet we are to be wearing is the crimson stain of Christ’s blood He shed for us and not the scarlet letter of condemnation wrongfully pinned upon us by ourselves or others.
They say the truth hurts. I don’t disagree.
Hearing the truth about ourselves from others can be downright painful.
However, if we can maneuver past the immediate pain and dive into that truth, real growth occurs.
We see this in a fascinating Old Testament story.
Ahab was king of Israel.
He partners with Jehoshaphat king of Judah to go to war against Ramoth Gilead but Jehoshaphat wants to seek godly counsel first and told Ahab “First seek counsel of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:5).
Ahab gathers all his “prophets” who quickly tell him what he wants to hear. “Go for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” (22:6).
However King Jehoshaphat wisely asks “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”
Ahab said “yes” there was someone but “I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me but always bad.” (22:7-8).
That someone is Micaiah.
Before going, Ahab’s men tell Micaiah that “the other prophets are predicting success . . . let your word agree with theirs” and tell Ahab what he wants to hear. (22:13)
With boldness Micaiah replied “I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.” (22:14)
And he does and as expected it wasn’t what Ahab wanted to hear.
Micaiah’s words were ignored and he is sentenced to prison.
The kings go to battle and Ahab suffered fatal injuries because he refused to listen to the truth.
Every woman needs a Micaiah in her life.
That friend who cares enough to risk the friendship and speak the truth.
The truth hurts but if heeded it heals and brings change.
We need the friend who will speak up when the guy isn’t right for us and certain friendships are toxic.
That friend who kindly points out that our constant life-drama is really a self-created crutch to keep us in self-absorbed, victim mentality and lovingly reminds us that we are the common denominator in all of it and are slowly alienating others.
We need the friend who will point out with love when we miss the mark, are headed down a dangerous road, are making decisions from emotions and reacting instead of acting or we are engaging in self-destructive habits robbing us of peace and joy.
We need the Micaiah friend who will call us out when we are out of line, force us to take responsibility and hold us accountable for our decisions with their resulting consequences instead of enabling us because they fear the truth will destroy the friendship.
Had Ahab listened to Micaiah he would not have died on the battlefield.
Without my Micaiah friends, I would not be here today.
Ten years ago I was headed towards certain destruction engaging in excessive insecurity, self-hatred, pity, anger, resentment then attempting to numb it all with alcohol.
Years earlier I walked away from God into a hell of my own creation.
Self-loathing was my prison and self-pity my master.
It took honest friends (some disguised as my mom and sister) who loved me enough to risk losing the relationship to speak the truth.
I denied it, justified it, and refused to believe it.
But deep within I knew it was all true.
Admitting that was my first step to healing.
My Micaiahs are still speaking the truth to me.
It still hurts. And I am so thankful for them.
I would rather have one Micaiah who speaks the truth regardless of how much it hurts than a hundred friends or therapists/counselors who tell me what I want to hear (been there done that).
My hope for you today is that you have a Micaiah friend and if not God will send one into your life and you will be wise enough to listen and “course correct” even when it hurts.
Then as my pastor says “don’t make excuses, make changes” so you may soar to new spiritual heights, finally stop the insane drama, begin to heal within, discover a love for yourself and achieve all your hearts desire.
You shall know the truth and THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE! (John 8:32)
The Importance of Inquiring of God
In my recent studies of David I noticed in 2 Samuel something I hadn’t before.
Before David took action he first “inquired of the Lord” and each time “He answered.” 5:19/22.
I don’t know about you but too often I tend to “act now – ask permission later” (or sometimes forgiveness).
I can’t help but wonder how much heartache and drama I could have avoided had I first inquired of God as David did.
Instead I often run ahead of God and make decisions based on current emotions or half truths only to create a mess I then plead with Him to clean up.
Once David didn’t inquire of the Lord. He pursued Bathsheba. The consequences were heartbreaking.
While we can’t undo our past fortunately we don’t have to repeat it.
Before going on the date, taking the job offer, looking to relocate, starting the business, purchasing the car, buying the shoes, joining the small group, when choosing friends, before accepting opportunities, when making decisions or setting goals, before speaking, giving up or walking away let us do as David did and simply ask God for direction, advice, counsel and instructions.
It was not enough for David to hear God. He also had to LISTEN then (and this is critical) OBEY God.
Oftentimes, the noise and distraction of life keeps us from hearing God.
It is when we position ourselves to hear Him by simply turning off the radio or tv and silencing the phone with its endless texts and email alerts that we hear Him speak within us as the “gentle whisper” Elijah heard. 1 Ki 19:12.
The New Living Translation tells us in Isa 30:21 “Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say ‘this is the way you should go’ whether to the right or to the left.”
Think of the abundant peace and joy would we experience and pain we would avoid if only we first just ASK, LISTEN and OBEY.
Today let’s begin to Ask First Act Second.