Why I Jumped

I was scrolling through Instagram probably for the thousandth time today.  My thumb has become conditioned to quickly swiping up with a quick tap, that I almost missed something amazing. “Great things never come from comfort zones” my friend posted.  The soft pink graphic post with calligraphy gray writing looked like a print I should order off of Etsy and frame on my wall. The graphic was subtle but it may as well have been a lion roaring in the road:

“GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE, Kristy!”

There it was in gray and pink --- the answer to my recent anxiousness.  Opportunity was knocking but the comfort of routine had become more attractive than what was fresh, new, and life-giving.  Something was wrong.  Since when did muddy waters prove appealing over crystal clear water?  Do not let your comfort zone trick you out of what is good for you. 

Is there a potential promotion?  Maybe you have desired taking a class, or working out.  Has there been a desire to volunteer, but having to do research and meet new people seems like too much work?  Maybe you see the potential for a new relationship, but fear and reminders of the past keep you stuck in neutral calling it comfort.  I love a Netflix and a (lactose free) ice cream day --- that’s comfortable.  But my body, soul, and mind appreciate when I switch out the Netflix for a good book or a power walk at the beach.  Sometimes the effort is just getting past my thoughts and hang-ups.

About seven years ago I was the young adult pastor at my church.  I took a group of college-aged students 13 hours north of home, deep into the mountains, to what looked like a scene out of “Legends of the Fall”. I was far from home and out of my comfort zone.  During that time I had been struggling with a diagnosis of myelopathy and undergoing further tests to rule out Multiple Sclerosis.  I was committed to this trip, but my sorrows, couch, pajamas, and a large pepperoni pizza were calling me.  I wanted to be anywhere other than on this trip spiritually leading students.  My spiritual health was languishing over the weight of the diagnosis.  My body was acting in ways that I had no control over.  Nevertheless, I persisted.

The beauty I witnessed on that trip I will never forget for the rest of my life.  The beauty of nature spoke of God in a way that made my soul come alive.  I climbed, leapt, and swam further than I ever had before.  I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and God met me in the wilderness. I never knew I could jump off the side of a mountain and not only survive but love it!  I rafted and flipped into a roaring rapid. In each moment God met me.  

Now, I am not suggesting you jump off the side of a cliff into a river.  But I am praying that if you are lost, unsure, or feeling afraid that you will step out of your comfort zone into the areas Jesus is calling.  Maybe it’s going back to church, or trying church for the first time! Maybe it’s taking that dance class you keep talking about but never sign up for.  Maybe it is starting a blog, or seeking out a mentor.  Whatever that MOMENTUM CATALYST is for you….SHAKE things up so you can SHINE!

We have to wake up friends.  This is a GOOD time to be ALIVE.

Social media makes it so easy to compare our lives to others.  Leaving us feeling insecure. Instead, give your thumbs a rest and take the first action step toward that thing you KNOW will make you feel alive.  Shake off that comfort.  Soon the comfort might turn into chains, if you are not careful.

Shake so you can SHINE!

 

Klamath River

Klamath River

My Struggle with Fear and Anxiety

I had a panic attack on a Texas highway.  I cannot recall the trigger.  In 2007, I was driving along on a warm day with my windows down.  The sky was changing colors from blue to Sunkist orange across the planed horizon.  As I turned up the music on the radio, I could feel a slight edge of anxiety that had been chasing me on and off throughout the week.  First, I had a sudden sense of nervousness.  Next, my neck stiffened.  Followed by my fingertips becoming numb and tingly.  Suddenly, my breathing became shallow and I could not take a deep breath.  My eyes darted from the road to the rear view mirror.  I had an overwhelming urge to cry due to the simultaneous chest pains that felt like fists pounding on the bones of my chest.  

I thought I was having a heart attack.  

Eventually, pulling over I leaned my head against the steering wheel and said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” over and over again until I could feel my heart rate slow and my mind begin to soothe.  When my hands finally stopped shaking I pulled back onto the highway, and drove to my destination weeping.  I had never experienced a panic attack before or since.  My experience left me with a depth of compassion for those who struggle with ongoing anxiety.

During that season, I lived with a lot of fear.  Because of past failures --- I began to fear future decisions.  Caution and second-guessing are not synonymous words.  Caution guides us to make smart decisions based upon previous experiences.  Second-guessing ourselves highlights our insecurities and dredges up fear.  I was ashamed of my fear and overwhelmed by regret.  I did not talk to anyone or process my feelings.

What was I afraid of?

I feared change and opportunity; although, God was opening many doors.  I had become comfortable in the safety of my routine.  I had chosen the comfort of routine over joy, surrender, opportunity, and the dreams that are formed out of a surrendered life to God.  I was afraid of attention.  Would people still like me if I were to succeed?  It is my experience that people are often drawn to light as long as your light does not shine brighter than his or hers.  I was afraid that I would remain trapped in the mud of my past mistakes.  

Fear will attempt to grip and snuff out what God has for YOU. Fear attempted to cripple me through anxiety.  My faith began to languish.  I began to prefer days in bed with curtains drawn.  Encouragement felt like a tinge of lemon on an open wound.  

“God, where are you?” I cried out in my journal post anxiety attack.

I was afraid to experience another attack, therefore, I began to pray (I should have started there --- live and learn).  God’s response surprised me.  

I was drawn to scriptures like:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” - Deuteronomy 31:6

“....do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine.” - Isaiah 43:1

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-8

God’s words were all a reminders:

1. I will have times when I am afraid.

2. I do not have to live in that fear.

3. Press into my faith through prayer and surrender.  

God will exchange your fear with peace.

I know anxiety is not simply overcome.  There is no magic wand. Often, resources like therapy and/or medical professional advise from a licensed doctor are necessary.  In my case, I had to go through a journey of release (forgiving myself), acceptance (learning to love myself), prayer (seeking God above all else to find peace and my purpose).

I still worry.  I still get nervous.  I still become afraid.  But now I FIGHT BACK.

You are more than enough.  You are capable.  You are loved by God. Surround yourself with people who love you and seek the best for you. 

Thrive.   

 

(photo by: Evangelina Rivas Photography)

(photo by: Evangelina Rivas Photography)

Sometimes YOU have to be Your Biggest Fan

I was once offered a position as a morning radio show producer on a very successful radio station.  My initial thought was “YES!”.  For a rookie in radio an offer of this caliber was the coup de gras. With a decisive phone call this offer could have sparked a long and successful career in the business.  I should have picked up the phone and dialed the programming director immediately to accept.  Instead, I panicked.  I called people who were not wise counsel.  In fact, I began to receive responses like:

“I don’t know do you really want to move?”

“That’s a big job do you really have enough experience?”

“I do not see you doing something like that?”

“Maybe you should start smaller”

Have you ever had well meaning people give you advice or an opinion about your life, that when you tried on the idea it felt like a size too small?  The excitement of your possibilities felt like a Triple XXXL.  However, the overwhelming pessimism of your well-meaning “friends” began to make your dream feel like an Extra Small.

I turned down the job.

I have given up the ghost on regrets in my life. You cannot hold on to the would-of’s, should-of’s, and could-of’s.  Yet, I often think back to that offer simply to remind myself (and YOU) to never underestimate your ability to become who God destined you to be.  When opportunity knocks: answer, pray, decide. This could be the answer to prayers you already prayed long ago.  Also, we may need the wisdom of a trusted friend who encourages us and understands our journey to offer practical insight.  However, never let anyone talk you out of your dreams because of his or her fears, insecurities, or regrets.

I am a writer.  In order to be a writer I have to write.  The return on writing is having people read my writing.  Writers, like any other artist, have to self-promote.  The drawback is putting yourself out there for people to endlessly critique, form opinions, and misjudge.  Yet, in so many ways I assume the critiques, opinions, and judgements add to the beauty of writing --- because now you are a writer who evokes emotion.  

What is the thing that you love?  What is the thing that you have held back from doing because of what people might say?  What have you wanted to do, but are afraid to be vulnerable? What is thing that wakes you up at night, but you are unwilling to try because of the fear of failure?  I would attest that God who has made us with such fine craftsmanship to serve him and love people would not want to see our gifts wasted on fear.  When people judge…..when the naysers come with their pessimism…..when they say it cannot be done…..keep going.  I guarantee you are on to something.

SHINE.

“Before you were born, I set you apart.” - Jeremiah 1:5  

Open Letter to My Mother For Mother's Day (WARNING: sensitive subject)

Dear Mom:

Today is Mother’s Day and I find myself filled with nostalgia.  This afternoon, as our family sat around you I stared at you thinking how beautiful you looked.  I studied your face searching for pieces of my own.  I wondered when I am your age will my skin be as flawless?  Will I smile with my eyes the way that you do?  Will a table of my own children, grandchildren, and a husband lean in to hear my thoughts and confer with each other to make sure I am okay?  I know we are not perfect, but we love you.

I am grateful for your life.  

I am grateful for our time together even though I can often be distant --- it’s not you --- it’s me.  I am an inward person who puts out a massive amount of energy in ministry and lately school; therefore, with my limited free time I tend to want to recharge by being alone.  I know this distance hurts you and I am sorry.  

As I sat across from you this evening I thought of our timeline.  I was the daughter who you ordered beautiful custom made dresses.  Rather, my sister was the one to prefer that kind of kindness.  You always wanted your daughters with you.  Yet, it must have been hurtful when all I wanted to do was wear my old E.T. sweatsuit and stay home to watch “I Love Lucy” with Pop.  You always made sure your children had the best even when you went without.  You were fearless in your defense of us. I dared any teacher to give me a difficult time because like a superhero you would show up and change the atmosphere.  No one was going to mistreat, discriminate, or ridicule your child. Not happening. Not today.    

My teen years were difficult.  Not because I was rebellious (let me be honest, I still lined my stuffed animals on my bed at 16 and my curfew was at 8:59pm), but I saw you as “old school” and assumed you would not understand.  I was a quiet and stubborn kid who always wanted to blaze my own trail.  I remained out of trouble and you succeeded in sheltering me in the safety of private schools and suburban neighborhoods. I excelled in school and for all intents and purposes I was a good kid.  For my sweet sixteen (Pop said “No”) but you rented a convertible for me and paid for my friends and I to spend the day at Magic Mountain.  I will never forget that day!

My young adult years were hard while I was far away at school.  There was nothing you could have done differently!  Life is just crazy at times….I hardly recognized myself during that period.  Nevertheless, young adult years are much about self-discovery.  When I called to tell you I had gone through with an abortion I braced for the worst.  I assumed my Jesus-loving conservative mother would disconnect from me the way that a line goes dead following an unexpected drop. Leaving me to wonder what had happened and if you had heard anything I said.

Instead, you proved to be everything you had been to me my whole life --- my superhero.  My Jesus-loving conservative mother loved me with a deep unashamed love that could go toe-to-toe with the greatest love stories.  You listened to my pain as I relayed the story of self-proclaimed Christian protesters calling me a “Baby Killer” and that “I would be judged” one day.  You listened, when I shared that the people at the clinic never really helped me to plan anything.  You cried with me when I told you I woke up, my face wet with tears, on a gurney next to many other young women with similar stories --- this was the process of abortion and you loved me through it.

Mom, the gift of grace you gave me that day when I told you my story was you living out the image of God you are fashioned in.  As good mothers do --- you put me first.  Your concern was to love me, protect me, help me to mend, and guide me back onto a path with my faith --- a relationship I desperately needed and longed for.  Mom, you are an exquisite strength that I cannot comprehend.  

Yes, we argue. We butt heads. We often disagree.  You drive me crazy always having to be right (I see where I get it from :-).  I am a risk taker and you would prefer me to remain safe.  You believe in tradition and I am a total unconventional progressive.  We are similar, in that we are both sensitive, and we both love hard without condition.  Thank you, Mom.  You are a gift to me.  I am finally mature enough to even appreciate our disagreements.  

Thank you for loving me for all of my life.  I will love you for all of yours and beyond.  I celebrate you today and I know how blessed I am to have you alive and present that I can tell you so.  Mother’s day can be tough for women who desire children but for one reason or another life has not worked out that way.  Regardless, you make Mother’s Day worth celebrating and I pray, if given the opportunity, I will love my future family the way you have taught me.

¡Feliz Dia de La Madre, Mama! Reina de Panamá y reina de nuestros corazones.

Love you, Mami.

La Niña

 

Fear of What's Next

When I was a kid there were a series of popular pre-teen books called “Choose Your Own Adventure”.  I remember checking out the maximum amount of books out of the library as a kid week after week -- always wanting more.  My father convinced me to try a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book because it would be like getting two for one.  The books started out with a story that at climax you could choose to read up to 40 potential endings.  I struggled with the notion that not only could I have a hand in the future but there were multiple outcomes. I was stressed at nine.  

The future is often immortalized in quotes, as being some intangible entity drenched in hope and endless possibilities.  When I was 10, 16, 21, even 32 the future absolutely felt like a smorgasbord of what road to travel.  As I mature, (“mature” sounds way better than as "I age”) the future feels like a brick wrapped in gift wrapping that someone ding-dong-ditched and left at my door.  The future has become this unknown heavy weight that people tell me should feel good but the weight of its significance and unknown behavior has left me on many occasions with a therapy session's worth of anxiety.

As you mature (‘age’) we do not want the future to be this blank canvas --- we want answers and we want them now! Will I be married? Will I have children? Will my children be alright?  Will I ever get that job that feels right? Will the treatments work? Should I choose surgery? Will I stop?  Will I own a home?  Will I get out of debt?  Will I ever get over this pain?  Will. We.  Ever.  Be.  Together?  These are the questions that we want to ask the future yet the future reminds us that it is a gift waiting to slowly be unwrapped.  A gift of a new season that will come with it surprises both good and bad some based upon the choices we make today and other surprises that are out of our control.  The future cannot be rushed but it is inevitable.

The future is not valuable unless you live for today.  Today, you must choose your adventure.  Choose to live, choose to pray, choose to listen, choose to chase dreams, choose to not allow your insecurities to win.  Spend less time wondering what may happen and more time about who you want to be and what will you do today.  Fear has played a trick on us.  We have learned to fear the things we cannot see instead of fearing the things right in front of us.  There is more to fear in today’s apathy than there is in tomorrow’s future.  

I believe God has a plan for each and every single person.  In my mind God is bigger than any amount of beauty, grandeur, or compiled imaginations the greatest mind could imagine.  Worry not about the future but grasp today and make the most of every moment.  Make good choices, seize opportunities, speak truth, and go forward.  If you are going to worry about something use that energy, instead, on today because tomorrow's not promised.  Fear will rob you of the joy found in today and eventually steal your possibilities for tomorrow.  Let go of death --- death meaning...dead weight...dead people….all that speaks negativity into your life...all who do not lift you up.  Choose today your adventure.  There’s nothing wrong with plans, goals, or desires for the future we need those dreams like a baby needs milk --- but the future is created today.  Live your best life.  Do not be afraid.  Watch God conquer your fears of the future as you step out and into today!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Matthew 6:25-27

 

 

Be Wise. Stay Young. Happy Birthday

I am so grateful for my birthday.  A day to commemorate all that God has done.  A day to reflect on all that I have managed to overcome (bio).  Aging is beautiful.  If you are lucky --- aging becomes a process in which you begin to love yourself.  You no longer need the insurance of other's approval. With age and wisdom you begin to recognize that life is a gift with its curves, dips, sharp corners, and disappointments.

Life has taught me to be wise.  

I left for college at 18.  I remember my grandmother hugging me on the jet bridge (back then you could do that) she told me to watch out for Jack, Jimmy, and Johnny hugged me and I was off.  I would soon find out that she meant Jack Daniels, Jim Bean, and Johnny Walker.  Did my grandmother have some kind of insight that my childhood insecurities would try to find insurance in illegitimate friendships and alcohol?  Maybe she was a prophet. Many young lives are destroyed this way.  

In hindsight, I realize my grandmother was the wisest person I know and taught me a grave message that day.  Stay away from shiny things.  Nothing that comes easy lasts.  If you want to be better you have to do the hard work and do better.  There are no liquid cures.  These were good lessons for my 20s and lessons I try to pass on to those who are younger than me.

My 30's began with an attempt at paying penance for my tumultuous 20's by working myself nearly to death.  I overlooked the memo that read the price of redemption had already been paid.  We live in a society that affirms hard work but I forgot that the best work comes out of a time of rest.  

Now, I know to play, have fun, travel, laugh, take breaks, go for hikes, read, sit at the beach, watch water lap over and over again on sand.  No one will give you time --- you have to take it and make it work for yourself. Spend time with your family.  Listen to people who have lived more life than you.  Find a mentor and ask he or she to mentor you. Hang out as much as possible with your best friend.  Find a person to be in your life who will speak truth and does not have blind spots when it comes to you. You will grow in leaps and bounds.  Pray as if your life depended on it. This will revolutionize your soul. 

Today is my 39th birthday and I am learning to rebel.  

My father has always taught me that a vision is just a dream without goals.  I have a goal that this will be 1 of 52 blogs over the next year.  Quantify your dreams so that you can see them.  Make your dreams real.  We get one life on earth.  I have learned not to expect so much from people no one can stand under the weight and uphold the expectations typically created out of my brokenness.

I am grateful for friends.  At this point in my life I believe every individual needs a best friend maybe two.  Treat them well.  You will learn a lot about yourself through these friendships that are not sustained by blood ties but an objective desire to see the best in one another.

Worry less about what people think and spend more time asking God what HE is saying to you..and what HE wants you to do about it. 

Today, I begin the last year of my 30s.  I begin this journey strong out of the gates: I am committed to God, committed to loving people, and committed to taking risks and living as if I am alive. 

#30something 

 

Tikalong, Indonesia

Tikalong, Indonesia