Pressing Forward

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.39.11 PM

I’ve been thinking lately. Just thinking about how often we overcomplicate the simplest things.
I wrote a book over 5 years. 18,000 words. It took forever to send to a publisher because I was too fearful of rejection.
Well, the book was accepted by the publisher. After talking with him further about holes in the writing, I realized I needed to make major changes to the book. So I scratched 5 years of work and started over. 2 weeks and 28,000 words later – book completed.
We stop ourselves from reaching our highest potential. We do it. No one else. Just us.
Then we (I) ramble on and on about the reality of fear – placing it front and center stage in our lives, relating to each other based on how we experience the same kinds of fear… sharing our brokenness, being authentic and vulnerable and all those other words that ultimately bring healing. So needed- but I’ve noticed we seem to be getting stuck there in that place.
We are beauty from ashes. Meaning we emerge. Constantly in process, yes. But still moving through. Still pressing forward. Because ultimately, Jesus has paid the price. Has He not?
So, if we are going to claim Him, let’s claim all that comes with Him.

Healing. Sight. Belonging. Forgiveness. Victory. Freedom.

Writing those 28,000 words seemed so much easier this time around. What had changed? Nothing but me. I wasn’t hindering myself anymore. I was pressing through fear (even though I felt fearful) and writing. Doing it regardless. Pressing forward.
God does tell us not to be afraid… but He doesn’t tell us we can’t feel fear. I think because He wired us and knows we will feel fear when we step into new, unfamiliar territory.
He makes us brave. Bravery and fear can coexist. So, just ’cause you’re shaking in your boots doesn’t mean you’re not being brave. In fact, that’s probably a sign you are being brave.
Standing in the deep. Far from safety. Wondering why in the hell you came here.
And yet you’re right where you’re supposed to be.
This is the place where His strength meets your weakness and the miracle happens. It’s the breeding ground for Him to do what He does.
Don’t you stop. Keep pressing forward.

-April

Follow Me.

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.34.54 PM

Jesus said “Follow Me.” He didn’t say “Follow those who follow me.”

On my journey of following Jesus I found myself submerged in Christian language, disciplines and ideas … but felt very far from the heart ofJesus. “How did I get here?” Discouraged, I asked Him.
“Who are you following?” He responded. “Come. Follow me.” As I read the scriptures and followed Jesus throughout the Word, I realized that a lot of what my life reflected was not what His reflected. When was the last time I had ever sat with someone who was going through a real shitty time and not try to fix them with scriptures but actually listen and be present in the discomfort with them? When was the last time I listened to understand and not to respond with some Christian cookie cutter response? Because that’s exactly what Jesus did. He pulled up a chair with the messy and broken.

I was convicted. I was humbled.
So, if you’re feeling really far off from the heart of Jesus I just want to encourage you by asking you the same question He asked me. “Who are you following?”

May our hearts always long to aline with the heart of Jesus. ❤

-April

Don’t Come Home Beat Up

Surrendering with White Flag

“Don’t come home beat up.”

These are words that were spoken to me as a teenager by my dad.  I guess you’d need to know a little about him to really grasp the meaning.

My dad is this, mysterious, strong, quiet human being. Born in TX – a good o’l boy. Incredible mechanic.  Mostly processing thoughts in his head and very rarely aloud.

I’m his girl. More of a tom-boy that was always looking to make him smile or get his approval.

A sister between two brothers. One 18ish months older and one 5 years younger.  I spent time with my dad learning about tools and working on cars. Not my favorite past time – but I did enjoy the time with this mystery man.

One day I came home from school with a pink slip. The pink slip was a notification to my parents that I had gotten into a physical altercation at school that day.  It was my first fist fight.

Me.

The good girl.

Apparently I was now a bad ass. I had gotten into a fight at the lockers earlier that fall day. My friend and I had a disagreement at lunch about a boy she was dating (who was totally taking advantage of her). Her defensiveness and my need to control and protect blew up into a loud argument … oh, but it didn’t stop there.

She followed me to my locker where she continued to yell in my face. I screamed back at her and she pushed me.

She freakin’ pushed me.

I immediately socked her in the face and the girl fight was on! I don’t remember much. I do know we had a handful of each other’s hair. We were screaming profanities and ultimately wound up on the floor scratching it out and throwing punches.

I just saw red. I remember a substitute teacher screaming at us to break it up. I remember being separated by another teacher and being escorted to the office.

I sat in the office with my heart throbbing, adrenaline pumping and felt a ton of emotions.

I was called in to see the principle. She was so disappointed in me. This was not my reputation.

The other girl, yes.

Me, no.

The principle went ‘easy’ on me. Instead of my parents having to come pick me up from school, I was allowed to ride the bus home.  The other girl had to be picked up from school by her mom.

I was sent home with a pink slip explaining what had gone down that day. I would go to In School Suspension for a couple of days and the pink slip needed a parent’s signature.

So, here I am – eating dinner with my parents with a knot in my stomach because I had not revealed any info about my eventful day. I was scared.

Finally the fear was too much. I took out the pink slip and told my parents about the fight.

My mom was stunned. Shocked.  My dad on the other hand … my dad was quiet for a minute just taking it all in. I shared my story for a few minutes and then the room grew silent.

My dad grabbed the pink slip and a pen and signed his name. He handed it back to me.

“Hell, April.” He said. “Don’t ever argue with ignorance. You can’t change ignorance. Don’t waste your time arguing. Just punch ’em in the face.”

WHAT?!

I was shocked and excited all at the same time.

“Yup.” He said. “Just don’t come home beat up.”

I took my dad’s advice. From that moment forward I had permission to fight. To let loose. I had full permission to be angry and the only request was – don’t come home beat up.

I know my dad meant well. He’s just a country kid from Texas …. but this advice has altered my whole identity for the past 20 years.

Lately I’ve been struggling hard with shame.

According to Psychology Today, shame is not about someone doing something wrong. Shame is feelings and thoughts that we are somehow wrong, defective, inadequate, not good enough, or not strong enough.

I was struggling emotionally at work one day and my team that I manage tried to love on me. They hugged me, offered words of encouragement, one person brought me a heating pad and some chocolate.

You would think one would be grateful for such a wonderful team but I actually got really pissed off. I was annoyed with them. I wanted to get away.  The more they tried to love on me the angrier I got.

They didn’t know it. I just sat there and received from them – uncomfortably.

I went home that night and thought about all they had done for me.

“Why?!” I said to myself. “I’m being such a bitch to everyone! Why are they still coming to me?!”

My daggers weren’t working. The shards that I throw wasn’t stopping them from loving me.

I was so angry but the more I thought about it – gratitude broke through and I felt something I had not felt in a very long time … or as long as I can remember.

I felt and received love from another human being besides my safe husband and children.

This left me too exposed.  It was just too dangerous.

The next morning on my way to work I heard a song. The lyrics say,

“The war is over

turn around

lay your weapons on the ground.

The smoke is fading

before the light

the dead are coming back to life.

He has made a way for us

born for glory out of dust

children held within the arms of peace.

He has made a way for all

mercy waits where sinners fall

He is our victory.”

This song stuck with me for days. Days!

It played over and over in my head. The more I listened to it, the deeper it imbedded itself into my heart.

“The war is over, turn around. Lay your weapons on the ground.”

It’s hard to type it without getting emotional.

The next day I went back to work and there was my team – greeting me with smiles and hugs and good mornings.  I just didn’t understand. They wrecked my heart with love.

Later that week I was sharing with a manager friend at work how I reacted to them caring for me. She looked at me perplexed and said, “Why?! Why are you so resistant to them loving on you?”

“I don’t know.” I said.

She said so simply, “Wounded dogs bite.”

Immediately in my spirit I heard the lyrics “lay your weapons on the ground.”

I processed through for a few days and carried on.

A couple of weeks ago I felt like I needed to write about “Don’t come home beat up.”  That’s all I heard in my creative mind… that’s it. So, of course, I delayed.

Tonight as I’m trying to do a million other things with my free time, I couldn’t shake that I needed to write about “don’t come home beat up.”

So here I am. Writing. And it makes perfect sense.

As soon as I started writing this blog and reliving that fight from 20 years ago, I got emotional. It’s like I’m sitting in the pain of that fight for the first time in 20 years.  It wasn’t cool. I was never big and bad. I loved that girl that I got into a fight with. She was my really close friend. I cared for her. I was misunderstood and so was she. We were kids and a little ghetto and clearly didn’t know how to work through a disagreement in a healthy way.

No.

We cussed each other out and had a physical fight.

Then when I got home and confessed the fight – instead of being taught how to properly work through the rough patches of friendships, I was told “Just punch ’em in the face” and “don’t come home beat up.”

This.

This is why I can’t love or receive love.  This freakin’ lie!

Because what if you hurt me? Which you will. You’re not going to live up to my expectations and I won’t live up to yours.

We’re going to disagree.

We’re going to annoy each other.

You’re going to see the calloused pieces of me. I’ll see the calloused pieces of you.

I don’t want to punch you in the face and I don’t want to come home beat up. So I just stay away from it all.

Safe.

Guarded.

Alone.

Then Jesus so sweetly whispers, “Lay your weapons down.”  I know it’s Him. So with deep fear, I’ll go. I’ll lay the weapons down. I’ll expose my face and stop protecting. Because even if I get beat up, it’s gotta be better than this.

After all – there is no safety.  Safety is an illusion. It’s a lie that keeps us isolated.

This whole ‘don’t come home beat up’ leads right back to a root of fear.

Dang it.

Fear again.

But you know what? Fear is being exposed but it’s only by laying the weapons down, exposing my own heart – that fear is being extinguished.

I have no clue what I’m doing, y’all. I’m pretty sure the ride is going to be bumpy. I’m pretty sure there are going to be moments (lots of moments) where I pick all those weapons back up. I’m going to expose my own faults in order to allow accountability and then I’m going to get extremely irritated when I’m actually held accountable.

I’m going to get beat up from time to time. I’m going to be tempted to ‘punch ’em in the face’ at some points during the journey.

But I’m going to be okay.

It’s going to be okay.

I want to live a life that is fully lived instead of playing it safe on the side lines.

I want to encourage you, if this resonates with you at  all. You are not alone. You have no clue what you’re doing?  Well honey, neither does anyone else!

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from my friend, Dori.

She’s a great listener.  We shared an office at work for quite some time last year. One day as I was ‘extroverted processing’ with her (AKA flooding her ears/mind with all the jumbled up chaos in my head). I said, “Dori. I’m just a hot mess.”  And in her professional, poised demeanor, she whips around in her chair, looks at me and says, “April. We’re all a hot mess. Some of us just hide it better than others.”

It was seriously one of the most comforting things that anyone has ever said to me – but it had to come from her. Dori had to deliver that message to me for it to have impact the way it did.

Her words and vulnerability let me know I was not alone in my hot messiness.

And neither are you.

So, here’s to laying our weapons down and pressing into love.

Because Love. Never. Fails.

-April

 

Human Connection

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.37.07 PM

Sometimes when I’m driving alone I can feel my spirit cry out ‘take me away to a still place.’ The past few days have been full of joy, laughter, celebration and surrounded by people I love.

And now their physical presence has left Tennessee. It leaves a soreness in me.

I’m sitting here in the midst of scenic therapy and thinking about what it means to ‘do life’ together. It’s not an easy task. To let others into your space, your home, your heart… to work through the sticky moments, the misunderstandings. To be able to love and pour grace on wounds they cause and you cause them. Not because we hurt on purpose and out of a malicious spirit- but because we’re human and we are hurt ourselves…still on the journey of healing.

Authentic relationship takes work. In an ADHD culture, to find your tribe is quite a gift.

I don’t understand it. Why God has built us for connection and belonging and yet we find ourselves so often on the outside. On the fringe.
I guess I believe we are not as separated as we think we are. It’s a battle I fight constantly. I’m really no different than you. I struggle with the same shit you do. It just looks a little different.
Connection takes work. Consistency and work. I’m not always the best at connecting consistently. In fact, I tend to build walls and lots of them.

After a weekend filled with love and connection among a bunch of flawed people (myself included), I’m realizing the risk of connection is worth all that could go wrong.

So, as I sit here scratching a mosquito bite and gazing into a corn field, a quote I hear often rings loudly in my mind. …”Build a longer table, not a higher fence.” I’m in. I’m all in.

-April

Love

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.42.41 PM

I bought this today. I wanted so badly to pick the “Choose Gratitude” sign instead. But my heart wouldn’t let me walk away.
Tony tried to choose the “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” sign, but he too, could not walk away from this one.

Tony continued to shop while I stood there challenged- deeply challenged by these words.
The Spirit simply says to me, “Lay your weapons down.” My eyes fill with tears.
The words “it (love) keeps no records of wrongs” is all I can see, blurred through the tears.

And for that moment – they were all that mattered. All that I needed to read. All that I needed to feel.

I’m sitting here now and they’re calling out to me. “Lay your weapons down. Let it go. Stop trying so hard to fight battles that are made up in your head. You’re always in defense mode. Always protecting yourself. Waiting for the hurt. Expecting the hurt. Creating self fulfilling prophesies around disappointment and other people’s flaws. Finding theirs first to limit them finding yours. April. Love never fails. But first, you gotta lay your weapons down.” I don’t know how.
There is no easy, cookie cutter, one size fits all approach. But I’m willing to step into this unknown, scary as hell territory and let God show me a new way.
His way.

It’s gonna be worth it.

-April

Disease To Please

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.44.23 PM

I’m struggling. Bad. My disappointment in people is tearing my heart and soul out right now. However, I’ve never been able to remain a victim for long. I just don’t have time for it.

All my expectations and control – or lack thereof, tip me upside down forcing my head under water. I literally can’t breathe and the pain and tension of existing in this world is just too much.

So, I shut down. Pissed off at everyone and everything.
Then I feel this sweet poke in my spirit… that gentle reminder from God that I haven’t come to Him much with my struggle. I know I haven’t and honestly, I don’t want to.
Yet, He keeps loving on me. I notice myself pushing the love away, like I do with most people who try to love or help me.
And it’s in that place that He has my attention. There is more work to do. So much more healing to seek out. And I’m right where I need to be. Even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.
So, I find myself where I tend to escape to when there is no safe place to run…the book store. A place where others can pour out. I can soak up their experiences and words of affirmation and not for a moment experience judgement.
They get me. These authors, they totally understand. These crazy creatives who pour their vulnerable life experiences out on paper for the world to see- yeah. Just what I need right now.
Then God’s sense of humor shows up. I know. Not Biblical at all… But He knows me and this is a total inside joke to a past season walking this journey with him.
No. I didn’t get this book. But it was definitely a reminder that God is in the details of healing the disease to please that I often struggle to overcome.
He is good, y’all. And He’s funny.

Who Am I Becoming?

Screen Shot 2017-08-06 at 10.46.33 PM

Who am I becoming?
This is a question I ask myself often. It keeps my heart, mind and character in check.
However, in all honesty- lately I’ve been struggling with my answer.
I’m sure it’s part of the process. Part of the journey. Part of growing.
But I’ve always been a rule follower. I’m the good girl. The compliant and cooperative one. That’s me. Or… So I thought.
In fact, come to find out I actually just like the path of least resistance.
Why? Well, because ‘control’, of course.
Why control? Well, because of fear.

It’s an underlining root that’s been in me my whole life. Yet, not discovered until a few years ago. The Lord is continuously uprooting lies… but first he has to reveal them to me and allow me to process the pain with each discovery.
Don’t rush people past their pain. You don’t have to understand or make it better. You actually can’t make it better. Just let folks be where they are and love them as they process through.
Who am I becoming?
Today, I don’t really have an answer without making one up. So I’d rather just not have an answer. And that’s okay.
I’m just trusting God in the process. Exactly what He wants from us. I’m holding tight to His promises and trusting Him wholeheartedly.
I pray that I continue to become more and more a reflection of Christ. Even if that means lots of shifting and pruning and uprooting. I’ll take it.
He will complete the work He’s started. That’s for sure.

-April