I’d imagine the phrase “practice what you preach” wouldn’t exist unless it was very much possible to preach something you aren’t practicing.
This is one hazard I hope to heed.
Gathering on the couches and cozy carpet of a friend’s living room not one week after my birthday earlier this month, we closed our Monday evening Bible study the way we always do: paper in hand of the person praying, inviting requests of those in our intimate group.
The circle soon made its way around to me, and I shared what had been on my mind the few days prior, but didn’t quite realize until I started sharing how much it’d been weighing on me. I felt overwhelmed. My birthday had been fun and full—a whirlwind of life-giving words, quality time, thoughtful gifts and meaningful reflection on the work God had done in my life the previous year—all leaving my heart happy and grateful. But as the dust settled, something about that concrete evidence of another lap taken ‘round the sun incited panic, a heightened awareness that the pace of time only hastens as it passes. Between a demanding job and striving for balance but often over-committing myself in my personal life, life seemed to be moving so fast. Each new month arrived before I had time to stop and be present in the last, and the fact that my calendar was filling up for December when January felt so vividly like yesterday was starting to freak me out. It sounds dramatic, but it felt like life was passing me by.
A whole year had come and gone like nothing, and I imagined the next would be no different. I just wanted time to slow down, but of course, time doesn’t like to be bossed around. I saw the timeline I’d laid out for myself—marriage, fulfillment of dreams, kids, etc.—disappearing quicker than Cinderella’s ball gown at the strike of midnight.
You see, time was passing along, but I wasn’t—at least, not in the way I’d hoped or expected.
But that wasn’t the real issue. The real issue is that I was powerless to change this humbling reality. The issue was control.
After coming around and caring for me, speaking truth and encouragement, one friend suggested I blog about it. This was actually brilliant. She knew me, and she knew the writing process would propel me into the struggle with a fresh perspective and eyes to see God’s hand, and potentially allow me to connect with others in similar situations. Only, my instinctive reaction wasn’t the brilliance of her suggestion, it was resistance.
Why? Well, it’s easy to preach on vulnerability, especially when you believe in it wholeheartedly, as I do. But practicing it? When it comes down to the real life, still in process stuff? The haven’t-yet-come-out-the-other-side-with-a-nice-little-take-home-lesson-and-pretty-bow-to-tie-the-whole-thing-together-with, stuff? That’s a whole lot harder. But I don’t just want to write words, I want to live them.
I’ve heard it said that there are two types of speakers—those the audience looks at and says, “Wow, I want to be just like that person,” and those they look at and say, “Wow, that person is just like me.” I’m going to take the liberty here and say this applies to bloggers as well, and people in general. We can either address issues as an authority, having removed ourselves from them completely, presenting ourselves as unaffected and our audiences with the right answer. Or, we can enter into the issues, allowing them to work themselves out in and through the deep places in us. When we risk the latter, something far more magical than all the fairy godmother’s tricks occurs: connection.
Vulnerability is a necessary prerequisite to connection. If people are the goal, connection must be also. If connection is the goal, vulnerability must be befriended. In an age of social media, we’ve cultivated a culture where trying to impress each other is almost second nature. Now, I like pretty pictures as much as the next person and there’s no shame in that—they’re an art, and a form of expression. But the words that accompany them, are they meant to impress, or invite into honesty? Why not, along with the pretty, share the nitty gritty as well?
The hidden truth in fairy tales is few and far between, but as much as they’ve warped our realities, Cinderella at least (the princess, not the pumpkin) got one thing right:
Allowing ourselves to be seen not as we should be, but as we are, is a choice that takes courage. But I’ve found that taking a risk on vulnerability is always worth it, and I’m thankful for the people in my life who push me toward it because it takes me deeper into my own heart—where the gunk can be gutted and met with Jesus.
So here I am. A girl who loves life and has much to be thankful for, but also sometimes gets stuck focusing on what isn’t, and is working on that. One who, is always seeking growth in love for and trust in Jesus, but also often tries to control things on her own, and is continually learning to let go. I don’t imagine the point is to ever have it fully figured out, but rather grow in these things consistently my entire life. Here’s a few things I’m learning along the way:
I’m learning that when life feels too hectic, sometimes it’s because we’ve said yes to too much and no to not enough. Honoring God’s best for us might mean sacrifices in other areas, and accepting our inability to please everyone. Thankfully, grace abounds, and it’s never too late to take steps toward being intentional in the way we spend time, rather than reactionary.
I’m learning that God’s plans rarely resemble our expectations, and our willingness to let go of those expectations is, at its root, an indication of whether or not we truly believe God can be trusted. With each finger pried off our death grip on control, more space is created for trust in Jesus—which leads to closeness in relationship with Him, as well.
I’m learning that our areas of discomfort and shortcoming are often better places to be than the happy-go-lucky, everything’s good arena, because the latter allows us to drift off into the sticky spot of self-reliance, which comes up empty every time. Our pain points are the force that keeps our wandering hearts pressed into Jesus—and when we have Him, we truly have all we need.
What about you? What are you learning in your current season? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Just like a pumpkin’s transformation into a jack-o’-lantern, when our gunk is gutted and brought out of the hidden places—only then can His light in us shine.
Below is an excessive number of pumpkin photos (“Cinderella,” and other varieties) taken at Bob’s Vegetable Stand and Pumpkin Farm, just in time for Halloween. A friend got married in Half Moon Bay, CA last weekend, so it only made sense to drive out early and enjoy one of the many pumpkin farms decorating that stretch of the coast beforehand. Here’s to hoping everyone has a fun and festive night with an abundance of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!
Brie cheese is my love language.
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Hello I’m Kaci!
I love encouraging and discipling others in the Word of God, and I really love the One it all points to: Jesus.
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Thank you SO much for sharing this! It was beautifully written and totally tugged on my heart strings. I love that quote by Brown, too 🙂
Along the same lines as you, in this current season I’m learning a lot about vulnerability. The awkward kind. The kind that has to reach out, in love and grace, and approach someone/something when they’ve hurt me. I’m all for letting the little things roll off my back, but when it comes to major things, I’m learning that it’s OK to care. It’s OK to get upset. It’s OK to face heartache and fear head on. (With Jesus by my side, whom shall I fear?)
On a completely different note, I’m also learning that God’s timing truly never fails. I’ve been taking great comfort in knowing that He knows the future already. He knows when the time is right for certain things. Though I may want it NOW, I trust Him to orchestrate it all so that – whatever timing it ends up being – He gets ALL of the glory.
XO, Manda Carpenter
Thank you so much for this thoughtful and incredibly encouraging comment! I’m a huge fan of your blog and your writing always touches my heart, so it means a lot that you would say the same of mine. 🙂
I love what you shared, that it’s OK to care about the big things. Sometimes acknowledging and confronting those things takes a lot more courage than letting them roll off your back. Also, what you shared about timing is very encouraging to me in my season. Thanks again for the love and encouragement. You are a blessing!