Coffee with Jesus

In this journey of reclaiming our soul voice, it’s not about simply learning to be loud or learning to be confrontational or direct. And we don’t want to mistake finding our voice for an excuse to become overly focused on ourselves. Being on this journey, holds far deeper meaning.

It’s about healing the broken parts inside of us so our soul voice can be brave, strong and free. It’s about learning to be in touch with who God made us to be and then living from the fullness of that beauty. It’s about silencing the lies we’ve believed and, instead, allowing His truth to rejuvenate us at our core. It’s about trusting God to love us and use us exactly how He’s made us. It’s about perfect love casting out fear.

But how do we do all of this? I’ve learned this can only happen through our own personal encounters with the Holy Spirit.

The small, still voice had interrupted me before. I had heard it whisper to write my story at a time when I was wondering what my purpose was. I had heard it whisper to hold on, you’re not alone at a time when I was disrupted by suicidal thoughts. I had heard it whisper to go on a radical journey of self-love at a time when I could not love myself.

Amidst all the cacophony of noise in my soul I knew, beyond doubt, that this voice was true. This voice was leading me towards wholeness and peace. This voice was saving me.

So when our church challenged us to be still and pray fifteen minutes a day, I was IN. Each morning, I set my alarm early – really early – to ensure some quiet before my kids woke up. I’d pour a piping hot cup of coffee, tip toe over to my favorite chair, wrap up in my faux fur blanket and I’d sit. Coffee in one hand, iPhone (opened to Notes) in the other. And I’d wait. I waited until I heard that still, small voice begin to speak to me. Some days I’d have to wait longer than others, depending on the noise in my head. But eventually, I’d hear.

My child…

Do not be afraid…

I am with you…

Trust me…

Put your hand in mine…

I love you…

Because self-doubt is second nature to me, every once in a while, I’d wonder if what I was hearing was actually God. But then I’d remember a simple explanation I had learned: the Holy Spirit sounds like our stream of consciousness in our head, but it speaks only what is good, lovely, encouraging, convicting and true. In essence, this voice produces what is known as “the fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

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Bit by bit, morning by morning – coffee in one hand, phone in the other – I’d hear truth. Truth about who I was and who I was not. Truth about where I had been and where I was going. Truth about my pain and how I was healing. I’d imagine Jesus sitting in the chair next to me, I’d imagine him looking at me and it always came back to those eyes. Those eyes that loved me tenderly, deeply – ever FOR me. I’d type down what I’d heard and let it sink into my soul. If something was weighing on me that day, I’d ask what he thought about it. Drip by drip, my “coffee with Jesus” moments breathed life into me when I was in a season of feeling entirely breathless.

Have you ever stopped to be still and just listen?

Pulling Back the Curtain to See the Truth

In my recent posts, I’ve been talking a lot about digging into our past pain and getting the help and support we need to do so. I’m not encouraging us to dig up our crap, just to dig it up or to live in the past. But I honestly believe once we uncover the truth about our pain, our hurts, our wounds – that’s when healing can begin. If our aim is to reclaim our soul voice? Well, our soul can’t fully speak if it’s being muffled. It can’t sing if it’s being silenced. Pulling back the curtain to the truth is paramount to us finding freedom.

When we are brave enough to pull back the curtain and look at our wounds, sometimes we uncover some harsh truths…

The abuse was worse than we thought.

That decision had more ripple effects than we anticipated.

Our spouse wasn’t as invested as we were.

That parent wasn’t as present as we needed.

We were more misunderstood than we imagined.

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I’ve learned that getting to the truth is what propels us into forgiveness. When we name the truth of our pain, sit with it and process it, I believe forgiveness is the natural progression. You can’t forgive something you suppress, deny or ignore. I love these words I once read from Donald Miller saying, “From an honest understanding of our wounds and a heart of forgiveness, will come our greatest voice.”

Let’s move towards truth and forgiveness. Let’s move towards reclaiming our soul voice.

Trigger (Un)happy

Last year, I trained for and ran a half-marathon. I used to hate running when I was growing up, but now as a mother – it’s a gift to me. I love the silence, the space to think and I especially love how strong I feel afterwards. But there was one run which stands out from all the rest.

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I was running along San Diego’s harbor on a beautiful Saturday morning. I was in a good groove, being a few miles in, and I was happy with my pace. But then a couple running together converged onto the boardwalk behind me. Like, right behind me. I could feel the twinges going on inside me – Do you really need to run that close to me? Really? I don’t actually want to hear your conversation. But then, it grew to something more. I imagined them watching my body as they ran behind me and I imagined them thinking critically of it. Behind one of my knees, I have a varicose vein I do not like. I imagined these running buddies staring at my veins with critical, laser vision. With every stride, I felt more and more agitated, hot and beyond annoyed. My insecure feelings intensified to the point I nearly turned around and yelled at them, “What the hell is your problem?!? What are you looking at?!?”

Thankfully, I did not do or say what I was feeling. Instead, I pulled myself to a halt, took a drink of water and let them pass on by. They gave me the runner’s wave and were completely unaware of my irritation. I composed myself and continued my run to the end.

“What was that?”, you might ask. Well, that was (what I call) the “triggery-me”. The part of me that was reacting to something external, causing discomfort and pain on the internal. You see, when I was about 18 years old, the guy I was dating at the time, commented on my leg vein saying, “It’s f*#%ing disgusting.” He said it with a snarl and left the room, leaving me with a guttural punch to an already damaged self-esteem and body image. I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t just slap him in the face and walk away… I used to wonder that too. Abuse is a crazy, hard-to-explain thing though. I never would have thought I would be the receiver of such treatment (I was way too strong for that, right?), but I did. It was an unbelievably slow boil, a handful of years later, and there I was just internalizing all of it.

Those runners? They were mere triggers. They didn’t do anything or say anything to induce such agitation and anger in me. They were just there. My past pain and fears were brushed up against and I felt the internal flare up.

When we brush up against people, places or circumstances that remind us of our pain or fears, we are triggered. It’s when we experience the discomfort, the churning stomach and the soul bullies chiming in. These are the exact moments we want to understand. We want to get to the root of why we are (internally or externally) responding a certain way.

One way that has been helpful for me to do this is to think of that “triggery me” as a separate part of me. How old is that part of me, who feels irritated, hurt, insecure and angry? What did she experience that might give us insight to her current reaction to things? What was she afraid of? How did life disappoint or hurt her?

My 18 year-old-self was in an abusive relationship, isolated and coping with an eating disorder. This girl felt invisible, not enough, unworthy of love and acceptance. Whenever I’m visited by anger, fear or not feeling good enough, not always, but most of the time it’s because my 18 year old self is being triggered. Once I identified this part of me, it has made it that much easier for me to deal with the underlying, root causes of my pain.

What are your moments of breakdown? When do the bursts of anger, bouts of tears, inundation of soul bully thoughts come? Can you identify an age to this terrified, insecure, hurt version of yourself? Does this help you understand some of your triggers?

Into the Deep

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A few months after my 4th of July breakdown, I experienced a moment of break through that empowered me and brought me a breath of life. I had spent the in-between months trying to see and understand why I had been making myself small in life, why I had deemed myself unworthy of love and belonging.

Our family was up in Oregon at our family lake cabin. The majority of our family and extended family had decided to go swimming at the communal swim dock in another part of the lake. While everyone else was in the water having fun, I sat in a chair on the dock disheartened because I had forgotten my swimsuit. I guess I would be a cheerleader and observer from the sidelines today. I felt my heart sinking deep in my stomach. Isn’t this how it always goes? Me sitting on the sidelines, watching, while everyone else fully lives?

I watched Harper scream with delight as Jeremy threw her into the lake. I felt my soul sinking down into the deep, dark pit of hopelessness. For a moment, I fully embraced the storyline of me being a mom who wasn’t any fun, who did her duty to care for her family but never engaged in the party. I felt trapped and incapable of playing any other role.

Having perceived what I was feeling, Jeremy walked over to me and said, “Remember what Elaine has been saying: don’t allow yourself to be small. You still have a choice here.” Elaine was my therapist and in our previous session she had challenged me to find moments where, when all I want to do is be small and fade into the background, that I choose to practice doing the opposite.

Instead of living out a life contract of “miserable victim”, I had a choice to make. I stood up and called to Harper to join me at the edge of the dock. “Do you want to jump in with me?” She studied my face to see if I was serious. When I raised my eyebrows and smiled in confirmation, her eyes sparkled and a smile swept over her face – “Yeah!” I grabbed her hand and we counted together, “One…two…three!!!” And there I was in the deep end of the pool with all of my clothes on.

David Benner says this about going on our soul journey:

Hear God’s call to a deep personal encounter as an invitation, not a reprimand. It is an invitation to step out of the security of your boat and meet Jesus in the vulnerability and chaos of your inner storms. It is an invitation to move beyond objective knowledge to personal knowing. It is an invitation to truly know God.

This is the choice we all have in front of us. Will we stay in our boat or will we brave the deep waters?

The confines of our boat offer us a certain kind of security and comfort. It’s where we’ve been able to rely on ourselves or the things around us to keep us afloat. It’s where we’ve known much about God and have forgotten who we really are. The boat is where we’ve been small, bound and voiceless.

Stepping out into the deep waters takes courage and faith that God will meet us in our need and carry us. It’s the scary place where we leave behind the security of who we think we are or who we have been until now. The deep is where we break contracts we made with ourself years before. It’s where our true self is revealed to us and where we were meant to thrive. The deep is where we get to know God personally and intimately because we are trusting Him to help us walk and not sink. There is no safety net other than a God who is ever so closely abiding with us. The deep is where we find our fullness, freedom and voice.

When I jumped into the water that day, clothes and all, I knew it represented more than a mere “carpe diem” moment. I knew I was committing my soul to the deep. To the things God wanted to reveal to me and restore in me as He journeyed with me in reclaiming my soul voice.

I’m believing your invitation into the deep is simply awaiting your ‘yes’.

Where do you find yourself living today? In the boat or in the deep?

 

How Do We Find Our Voice?

Many factors contribute to us not knowing our soul voice. Things like broken relationships, loss, abuse and shame can all been contributors. When we’ve lost our voice and our internal “true North”, we feel disoriented, disconnected and small. We feel afraid to be seen, because we’re not sure what other people are actually seeing – since who we are, can be lost on us.

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Reclaiming our soul voice is all about reconnecting with the person God intended and created us to be. It was never His intention for us to feel lost, afraid, disoriented, disconnected or small. In turn, it is His heart for us to feel loved, confident, worthy, secure, guided. The journey of reclaiming our soul voice is a deeper discovery as to how we grasp onto these truths with our own hands, how we believe them, deep in our soul, for ourself.

The journey is long and sometimes difficult, and although we’d love to just arrive to a place of everlasting beauty, we remember that healing is a bit by bit process. To truly experience solid, lasting transformation, we must show up every single day and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And that’s what we’re choosing to do.

As I’ve put one foot in front of the other in my own life, I’ve learned a few practical things that can help us begin reclaiming our soul voice…

1. Acknowledge the TRUTH about our pain from the past.
We all have gnarly scars from our past. Not one of us escaped experiencing pain. I’m learning that true healing can’t occur until we’re ready to look at our pain in the face and call it what it is. We need to speak the truth about our pain and stop shoving it in the closet, believing it will just go away. If we’re experiencing shame, let’s call it shame. If we’re experiencing addiction, let’s call it addiction. If we’re experiencing depression, let’s call it depression. When we’re willing to call our pain for the truth of what it is, only then do we open our arms wide to true, lasting healing.

2. Pay attention to our thoughts and feelings (Without Judgement).
It’s important we allow ourself to feel our true emotions and acknowledge them. Seems like a small thing, right? When we pay attention to our internal dialogue, we realize how difficult it can be to allow ourself the space to process what we need without trying to squeeze it into something more acceptable. A friend recently shared with me a “cheesy” little therapy strategy where you try to visualize and personify all of your emotions sitting around a single, long table in a board room. Anger pipes up and takes over the meeting in his tight collared shirt and suit, his slicked back hair, beady eyes, bulging neck and his fire-y red face. I look at him calmly. I tell him I see him and I hear him. I thank him for his service and then I kindly excuse him from the room. If there is anything to learn from Anger, I’m willing to take his complaints, and review and process them further. I’m learning that paying attention to my feelings sounds more like saying to myself, “I see you are feeling (blank) right now. It’s ok to feel (blank). When you are ready, let’s look at what might be causing your (blank).” Let’s stop judging our process and white-knuckling to get results. Our internal responses are telling us a story.

3. Connect with our childhood loves.
No. I’m not suggesting you research and connect with old crushes from elementary school. In fact, it’s important to remember what made us feel alive when we were young. Even if our growing up years were painful… Can we remember what made us feel free, lovely and US? For me, this has meant embracing my tom-boyish side whom I forgot about for many, many years. The tom-boy part of me loves going running, watching ice hockey and shooting guns at a range. I feel empowered when I remember this part of me. At the same time, embracing the elegant side of me is just as important. I forgot that my absolute favorite color my whole life was sparkling, glittering GOLD. Remembering things we loved is an important step in reclaiming who God made us to be. Can you make a simple list that helps you remember?

4. Trust ourself (Again).
This can be a hard realization. When we’ve lost touch with our soul voice, a very common correlation is that we can tend to over-apologize for things or distrust our own decisions. For me, this had much to do with the fact I spent many years in an abusive relationship and acting on an eating disorder. I’ve realized that both actions were HUGE betrayals of myself. Even though the internal red flags were there, I didn’t listen to them. Not listening to our own soul causes us to feel shaky in our opinions and decisions. Each decision we make that lines up with who God created us to be – that rings true in our heart of hearts – slowly erases our past betrayals and builds self-trust.

5. Practice using our actual voice.
Not exercising our honest thoughts and opinions can be a way of life for many of us who have lost touch with our soul voice. Fear of not being accepted, ruffling feathers or appearing imperfect covers up and silences our actual voice. We keep our opinions safe and tucked away, only making ourselves smaller and more invisible. We can intentionally practice finding ways to speak up, share our honest feelings and allow ourselves to be known by others.

How will you make space for your soul voice this week? Which one of these practices seems the most challenging to you?

When it’s Time for a Little Self-Love

Have you ever felt struck over the head by a seemingly simple concept? A few years back, when I was beginning to realize I had lost my soul voice, I felt like a whole new reality was opened up to me when I read a verse I’ve known my whole life. In Mark 12:31, Jesus says, “the second (greatest) commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.”

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I was dumbfounded…

What if I don’t really know how to love myself?

What does this verse mean for someone who’s spent more time beating herself up than loving herself? How do you follow Jesus’ words then? How can you turn outward with anything authentic to give someone else, when every time you turn inward you beat down a piece of who you are?

Here are a few things that have helped me move towards loving myself (and ultimately better able to fulfill Jesus’ command of loving my neighbor):

  • Ask God to show you the way. God is WITH you and is all about molding you into His image. He’s not giving up on you or walking away. Ask God to show you how to have a heart of compassion, understanding and love for yourself and your story. Ask Him to give you the ability to forgive yourself for the thing you’re holding yourself hostage over.
  • Would I say it to my daughter? When the Soul Bullies get going (as my friend likes to call the ‘not good enough’ voices), I like to ask myself, “Would I say this to Harper or Kensi or London?” The answer is always a resounding NO! I would be absolutely heart-sick if anyone ever said to my daughters the things I think about myself in my head. Let’s give ourselves a little self-check every so often to see if we are loving ourselves or tuning into the Soul Bullies.
  • Write down the truth. When the Soul Bullies get going, it can be pretty difficult to get them to back down. I like to give myself physical reminders around my house by writing down words or phrases and putting them in prominent places. I have signs around my house, sticky notes on my bathroom mirror, and notecards in my car. Seeing words that pull me towards the truth can save me when I’m being pushed around. Try writing down the things the Bible says about who you are. Two of my favorites are: We are chosen, special, holy, His from 1 Peter 2:9. We are blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed and forgiven from Ephesians 1:3-12 MSG.

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How can you practice a little self-love today? Do you have other helpful ways you silence the Soul Bullies?

Your Pain is Not a Waste

At some point in our younger years, most of us held an idea of how we thought life would go. Perhaps we’d go to college, travel, get married, have kids, do our dream career and live “happily ever after”. But I’ve learned that happily-ever-afters are a myth and our greatest stories usually come from our life’s most unexpected turns.

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Jeremy and I were two years into our marriage, Harper was six months old, I had recently graduated with a degree in dietetics, yet I had just turned down my internship program to become a registered dietician. Jeremy and I both had felt an overwhelming lack of peace about going through the program and so I was now a stay-at-home-mom not really knowing what I was supposed to do next but be with my girl. Then one morning while I was in the shower, I heard that small, still voice interrupt the silence saying: I want you to write your story.

Truthfully, I thought God had it wrong. How could He use a messed up, marred story like mine? I was sure I had invalidated myself for any sort of spiritual, redemptive purpose. But instead of throwing that moment completely out, I held on to it in my heart.

A couple years later, I had started a blog with a few other women who wanted to bring hope and encouragement to others. At the last minute, I heard Donald Miller was holding his Storyline conference in town. I wasn’t a serious writer, but I could always learn to write a better story (especially since I hadn’t been able to shake the growing feeling that I was supposed to write my story at some point). I certainly didn’t realize the conference was about how to LIVE a better story as well. Whatever this conference was about, I felt compelled to go.

I remember praying the entire drive to the conference and asking God to meet me there. I specifically asked God to confirm writing for me – to make it abundantly clear that I should move towards sharing my story. I needed a little help in my faith.

During the second session, God clearly showed up. Don walked us through all of the positive and negative turns in the life of Joseph from the Bible. Don shared how God’s plan for Joseph wasn’t just about Joseph being special or powerful, but God’s plan for him was much, much bigger than Joseph’s pain or pride. Every single one of Joseph’s negative turns in his life served as an education to prepare him for his end purpose – to save many lives. Then Don said,

“Some of you need to hear this: God wants to use some of you in a special way. But this specialness is not for you – it’s for Jesus. When you look at your life, it will have been marked by pain. Your pain has all been a preparation. And God wants to use your pain for others.”

I cannot fully explain the depth of how this hit me. I felt as though Don was talking right straight to me. Right there in my seat, tears silently streamed down my face. And I could. Not. Stop. Them.

But in this moment, God met me through Don’s words and the telling of Joseph’s life in a way I had never heard. My life had taken countless unexpected turns – many painful ones – that I couldn’t see a hope and a purpose for it. It was the first time I felt like God saw me… really saw me. He loved me enough to say:

I see you and I love you. You are special to me. You thought all of your pain made you invalid. Made you worthless. But I say all of your pain makes you powerful, relatable. This world is in so much pain. And all of that pain is mine to redeem. It is mine to heal. All of your pain has been a preparation. It is mine to use to save many lives.

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And this is what God is saying to you too. Life’s unexpected twists and turns are not lost on Him. Your pain is not a waste. God has been with you every step of the way, teaching you, preparing you for all the goodness He has for you. If we are willing, God is able to bring healing and wholeness to others through our pain.

What pain in your life have you believed to make you invalid? Can you begin to imagine how God could take your pain to help and heal others who are suffering?