Year 3

It was a Saturday afternoon. I was volunteering at a local shelter, and I decided to go in to a kennel and play with the two puppies that were newly up for adoption. The flat coat was boisterous already, at 10 weeks old, but it was the small, fluffy one that caught my attention. She wanted love, and she wanted to be in my lap, but her sister insisted on the attention. So I picked her up and placed her in my lap, giving her most of my attention.

I took a photo and sent it to my husband. I’d been playfully trying to convince him to adopt a dog for a while, but the timing wasn’t right. But having this pup in my lap, I knew I had to convince him this time.

“I’m off at 2.”

My heart pounded. The shelter didn’t put puppies on hold, and I needed that little one. I rushed to his work. The convincing and conversation is a bit of a blur, but I remember saying “Is this really happening?”

“We’ll go see her as soon as I’m off.”

I was ecstatic.

When he got off work, we rushed over to the shelter. It’s a good thing we did. While we were in the room getting to know her, making sure she was a right fit, we heard another family ask, “Is the fluffy black puppy still available?” And the receptionist respond, “Actually, she’s getting adopted.”

We walked out of that shelter with a fluffy black puppy in my arms. And on the car ride to the pet store, I named her Belle.

. . . . . .

January 16th was Belle’s third adoptiversary.

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I wanted that pup, but my husband saw what I really needed before I did–I needed a companion. And Belle has fulfilled that on more levels than I ever could have imagined.

My mom gets teary-eyed when I say things like “I don’t know where I would be without Belle.” Because that statement is one of the truest I’ve ever spoken. I don’t know what this season would look like for me if I didn’t have her constant presence. I don’t know if I would have managed to move out of my massive depressive episode without her by my side.

Belle made sure I got up on the mornings when simply existing felt like the most difficult thing in the world. She made sure I got fresh air when all I wanted to do was stay in bed. She encouraged me to meet new people when I didn’t think I could. She helped me find my faith in the simple moments.

Over the past 3 years–and especially the past 2 that we have been focused on training–she has turned into such a smart and energetic dog who is eager to learn and eager to please. She picks things up quick, and she’s eager to show off her skills. I love her more than words can express, and I hope she knows that somehow.

As I celebrated her three years of life, I realized she has been on a bigger journey with me than I could ever have anticipated. She’s been on a journey with me that I never wanted, but she has never once complained. She has looked to me for guidance, protection, and love, and, even on my worst days, I gave her what I could. And she was always thankful.

And maybe that’s how we need approach faith. We need to look to God for our strength, hope, and guidance and give Him what we can, even if we don’t feel like it’s a lot. Because even on our worst days, He proves His goodness, and we should simply focus our energy on being thankful to Him. It won’t be easy. We will complain, we will drag our feet, we will try to take our battle back. But, just like I’ve trained Belle to see that our training is for her, we can see that His plans are for us.

. . . . . .

Do you celebrate your pets’ adoptiversaries?

What have your pets taught you?

It Shouldn’t Look Like This

This shouldn’t be happening.

That shouldn’t have gone that way.

My life shouldn’t look like this.

How many of you have had these thoughts? I know I have, and I’ve had them a lot in the past two years. Maybe that job fell through. Maybe that friendship turned sour. Maybe you’re feeling the pressure of society to perform in a certain way. What do we do when we have these feelings? Maybe we turn to food. (I’m trying to change that–join me!) Maybe we turn to partying and drinking. But we usually end up turning to all the wrong things instead of turning to the One who could best help us navigate the it shouldn’t be like this moments.

And that is why I’m doing Proverbs 31 Ministries’ online Bible study It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way. The study begins on Monday, January 21st, but I’ve already started reading the book, and I already know that God brought me to this study.

So, I’d like to encourage you to join me. Every week, I’m going to write about the book and what I’ve learned, and I’ll offer up some questions–mainly from the book, but also ones I come across on my own. If you want to join in and get exclusive email reminders about the study and my favorite bits of wisdom, be sure to fill out the contact form and include your email.

If you’ve ever struggled with how to get past those it shouldn’t be this way seasons, this study is definitely for you. I hope you’ll join me!

Snow Day

Snow brings a special quality with it–the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks. — Nancy Hatch Woodward 

And stop life in its tracks it did–to an extent. Church was cancelled. There was hardly a car on the road. And I was terrified of driving. Though I was sad I wouldn’t get to attend service, and afraid of going anywhere, there was a plus side: I got to spend the entire day with Belle.

My car doesn’t have four wheel drive, so my mom was kind enough to take Belle and I on a little hike. And, boy, was Belle thrilled. She pranced, she ran in circles, and she had her nose in the snow the entire time. She was beautiful framed against the untouched, pure white fluff. But she was also filled with so much wonder.

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It wasn’t the first time she had seen snow, but every time she sees it, she is excited. And that’s the kind of mentality I want to have. I need to remember that God has worked in the past, and that it was wonderful, and He is working now. I want to be able to look back on this times with joy and look ahead with awed wonder.

When we are in the midst of a struggling season, though, it can be hard to do.

Those seasons come right along and stop us in our tracks. They mess up our lives, our plans. But if we didn’t have them, we would never grow. If we never came to our breaking, we would never turn to Him for healing.

The snow may have stopped us in our tracks today, but we adjusted. And that’s how we have to handle life.

Mediocrity

Do you ever have moments you feel mediocre? I think we all walk through like feeling mediocre at one point or another. But one of the biggest places I’ve felt that way is in my faith.

I’ve always looked to people who I felt exemplified what it looks like to be a Christian and thought I wish I believed like that; I wish I could be like them. The truth is that God tells us that “faith as small as a mustard seed” is still faith and still holds power. And the people I look to, their faith started small too. What made it grow is the mediocre. Specifically, leaning into the Lord in the middle of the mediocre.

What makes our faith grow is leaning into God in the middle of the mediocre.

I know it’s something I struggle with daily. How do I involve God in the mediocre, the most boring, the most human part of my days? I’ve always felt this pressure that prayer had to be done in a certain way, at a certain place, and that certain things had to be said. But no where in the Bible does God tell us that. Yes, we should go to our private place to pray, but we should also be in conversation with Him throughout our day.

And that’s one of my faith goals this year: integrate God into those moments I feel are most mediocre. But how? I’m going to start by simply saying “thank you” every morning and sending up a small prayer when my heart races.

How do you integrate God into the mediocre? Do you have any faith goals this year?

What Spills Out

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere.

Why did you spill the coffee?

“Well because someone bumped into me, of course!”

Wrong.

You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea.

Whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out.

I came across this little story on social media, and it really resonated with me. It’s taken me a year to realize what I had inside before all this. They were things I’d allowed to get too close to the surface, prime for spilling, and they were things I never wanted to be full of.

Anger

Depression

Fear

Feelings of worthlessness

Self-doubt

To offset these things, I planned. Extensively. But when things didn’t go according to plan–when someone “bumped into me”–what spilled out was that negative mentality. It spilled out in a variety of ways. From yelling to tears to even making the other person feel like it was their fault. All because I had a full cup of things I hadn’t dealt with–things that, quite frankly, I didn’t have words to describe or knowledge of how to deal with.

This season has taught me to recognize my symptoms and that it’s okay to not have the words to describe what I feel, but that recognizing what I feel is an important step. It has taught me that seeking help to empty the cup of the “burnt coffee” (i.e. the negative) and fill it with hot, fresh, delicious coffee (i.e. the positive) doesn’t make me weak. It has taught me better ways to cope. In this season, I have had the chance to take a look at how I want to respond in those circumstances, and God has begun equipping me with the means to be able to. Because I finally allowed Him that space.

When we allow God to fill us, our perspective and responses change. There’s no denying we’re going to be upset when someone bumps into us and we spill that drink–and that will happen because life happens–but we can take a deep breath and get a new one. Because God is always right there, hand out to us for a fresh start. And the really cool thing is we have a new opportunity every day.

So, what’s in your cup today?

Feeling Like A Fraud

Has someone ever complimented you, or even made a nice comment, and you suddenly feel like it’s all a lie? Have you ever, in a moment, thought you were a fraud?

In the Christmas card my dad sent me, he said he follows the blog (hi daddy!) and is impressed by my faith, grace, and patience. Amongst other comments, it was one that made me cry, and I had this panicked moment of “if this is how he sees me, how do others see me?” That was quickly followed by one terrified thought: “am I a fraud?”

I’ve said it many times already, but I’m going to say it again: I’m not the “perfect Christian.” I don’t read my Bible every day like I should. I swear sometimes, especially when I get angry. I don’t always respond in the best way, especially if you’ve “interrupted” the way I was doing things. I struggle with my own demons of insecurity, anxiety, depression, and mental self-sabotage. I have been angry at God and blamed Him, and I still struggle with that. I don’t feel patient. At times, I feel like I don’t have a lot of faith.

But those are exactly the things that keep us from being frauds.

Imposter Syndrome is a real thing, and it can affect us in many capacities in life, so we have to focus on the truth. But more than the truth of our abilities–the truth of God. He says we are loved, so we can walk in that knowledge and pass that love to others. He says  His grace is sufficient, so we can walk in that grace and show it to others. He says that “faith as small as a mustard seed” can move mountains, so we can give our testimony as that proof.

Showing our imperfections and our struggles shows authenticity. It shows how God has worked in our lives. We have all grown in our faith in ways that are unique to us, because God has unique plans for every one. It’s not fake to show that you need God.

And if you are being honest about how He has showed up in your life, then you are not a fraud.

Don’t Expect Anything New In A New Year

New Years Day of years past was filled with high expectations of myself and other people and situations. When those expectations weren’t met–by myself or others–I became angry, and I took out this anger on those close to me, usually my husband. I was struggling with things I couldn’t put into words–namely, my mental health–and I was allowing the world to affect the way I viewed my life.

When we have expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Not this year. I didn’t create resolutions, and I didn’t tell myself I have to be a certain way or do a certain thing in 2019. Going into 2018, I felt God was telling me the coming year would be better than the last, and it was. And going into 2019, I feel that same message. So that’s my only goal: to be better. And I hope that’s yours too.

Instead of expectations, create goals.

You can have a combination of goals, or goals for just one “category” of life, or goals for every “category.” Here are a few of my goals and plans for 2019:

Blogging

  • Offer Bible study groups (keep an eye out for February!)
  • Transition to a new hosting site
  • Begin collaborations/working partnerships
  • Continue finding and developing my niche

Physical Health & Fitness

  • Have a better relationship with food
  • Consistently choose healthy options
  • Lose 5 pounds
  • Gain muscle
  • Run a half marathon (February!)

Business

  • Launch website
  • Gain 2 clients

Personal & Writing

  • Pay off credit card debt
  • Go through Financial Peace University
  • Go on one type of adventure a month with Belle
  • Write one article a month
  • Publish with local magazines 4 times
  • Travel twice–road trip and flight–with Belle
  • Work on book once a week
  • Write in my bullet journal daily
  • Read one Bible verse a day
  • Continue to grow in my faith and trust in the Lord
  • Be better at controlling my responses — respond with grace, not frustration

And when you meet a goal, create a new one! After all, there are 365 new days ahead, with at least 365 new opportunities. Struggling to think of goals to set? Send me an email (digitalinkandparchment@gmail.com) and we can work through developing your goals together.

What goals do you want to set and achieve in 2019?