Shine Bright

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t like being the center of attention. I feel uncomfortable when all eyes are on me. I shy away from being center stage, in the spotlight. I much prefer being behind the scenes or part of a group.

But I think that tendency bleeds into other areas of my life, causing me to be hesitant in sharing things with the world around me. I instead hold things tightly to my chest that were meant to be shown.

I know I’m not the only one.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. . . . We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. – Marianne Williamson

So what are we so afraid of, really? Do we think it’s selfish to pour energy into the things we’re creating or too self-promoting and bordering on bragging to share it with the world? Is that why we hide behind closed doors and backstage curtains?

Are we willing to let fear hold us back from embracing our true identity? Is that enough of a reason to keep to ourselves? Really, we are so much more than we think.

Why can’t we recognize and embrace the connection between the kind of art we long to make and the reality of our truest identity?

What if you desire to do a particular thing because God created you a particular way, not to tease you or to make you miserable, but to actually mold you into becoming more like him, for his glory and the benefit of others?

Could it be possible that the thing you most long for, the thing you notice and think about and wish you could do, is the thing you were actually made [for] and are being equipped to do?

Could it also be possible that somewhere along the way you got the message that to follow desire would be selfish, when really, it would be the opposite? – Emily P. Freeman

Wow. How crazy of a thought is that?! The things we long to do, to create, are part of what makes us who we are. And it’s those very things God plans to use to make us more like Him and to touch the hearts and lives of others.

We don’t have to take center stage or grab the microphone at every opportunity if that doesn’t suit our strengths (hello, fellow introverts!), but we can’t be afraid to contribute what we can in other ways. What are you working on? What’s the most logical way to share it? Maybe you’re writing a book, putting together a class, editing a video, or creating a recipe to share. Don’t be afraid to put those things out there.

By being the first to step out of our comfort zones and do the scary thing of sharing our precious creative treasures, we set an example for those around us. And because our talents and gifts are uniquely different from our neighbors’, we begin a chain reaction of contributing one-of-a-kind gifts, shining our lights like no one else can.

Just imagine for a second what the world would be like if people more willingly shared their hearts and their creativity, their distinctly different lights. God would be glorified. Creative solutions to problems could be reached. Collaboration would increase exponentially. Problems would get solved. People would work together instead of against each other. Compassion, empathy, understanding, grace, and kindness would abound. And it can start with us. Right here. In our homes, our families, our communities, our workplaces, our schools.

Now what’s our excuse for keeping that gift from the world around us?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. {Matthew 5:16}

Go out there, friend, and shine. The world needs your light.


Further reading:

Sunday Scripture

The Email I’ll Never Forget by Emily P. Freeman

Our Path Is Lit by Jennifer Studio, (in)courage

Accommodating Anxiety

While I think living your life consumed by fear is not the way to go, there is something to be said about embracing fear– to not be afraid of fear, so to speak. Our fears, our anxieties, have things to teach us, if we will only let them. I wrote last week about a commencement speech from J.K. Rowling that talked about how we can learn from failure, and I am also a believer in learning from our fear.

I recently read a blog post called Dealing with Anxiety, written by Allison Vesterfelt, whom I consider myself to be identifying with more and more as I read more of her writing and feel like I get to know both her and myself better.

If we blindly cast our anxiety aside and tell ourselves not to feel it, we’re missing out on learning from our own feelings. We then enter into a cycle of anxiety by feeling it, telling ourselves not to feel it because we know we shouldn’t get so anxious, and then becoming more anxious in our inability to dismiss our anxious feelings.

Like Allison suggests in her post, when we feel anxious, we get the opportunity to ask ourselves what the root cause is. We can take the opportunity to figure out what our anxiety is trying to tell us. From there, we can adjust our ways of negative, worst-case-scenario thinking patterns, encourage ourselves to think more realistically and positively, address the bigger underlying issues, and actually move closer to resolving the things that cause us anxiety instead of just ignoring them when we brush our unpleasant feelings under the proverbial rug.

Anxiety is habit-forming. We develop patterns over time of how we deal with situations, and our approach to them is just as important as our reactions to them. If we let ourselves get worked up before something even begins, we’re preventing ourselves from great potential enjoyment, setting ourselves up for failure and robbing ourselves of pleasure we could have experienced.

If, instead, we acknowledge our nervousness and anxiety, ask ourselves why we feel that way, and remind ourselves of truths that contradict the deep-seated lies we believe, adjusting our perspective, we are more likely to be better prepared to handle the things that come our way– both pleasant and unpleasant alike. Allison notes that she chose to replace her anxious thoughts with positive ones, changing her thinking to change her feelings and behavior.

This also goes back to a speaker I heard last fall, Jeff Vanderstelt, who spoke about how our belief informs our behavior. If we have a mistaken belief about who we are, we will see its effects in our life. He gave the example of anxiety. If we are anxious, we can trace it back to an incorrect belief in who we are and who God is. Ultimately, anxiety is caused when we believe we are not in control, believing we need to be in control, believing God isn’t in control, and believing He isn’t going to take care of us. We feel ill-equipped to run our lives the way we want to as a result of our past failures and fallibility, leaving us fearful of making mistakes and wrong decisions.

But if we realize that God is loving (which we know because He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us so that we could spend our lives with Him), we can trust that He will provide for us (and be reassured with how He has so lovingly provided for us in the past), and know that we are not responsible for controlling everything in our lives, reducing our anxiety.

Similarly, if we are anxious because we are afraid of making mistakes, we can remind ourselves that things will work out whether we choose option A or option B, that we can bounce back from negative experiences, and that such choices and their effects will build our character. We have the power to use our anxiety to point out our deeper struggles and face them head-on. Now let’s choose to do so.


You Won’t Relent

“You won’t relent until You have it all
My heart is Yours
You won’t relent until You have it all
My heart is Yours

Come be the fire inside of me
Come be the flame upon my heart
Come be the fire inside of me
Until You and I are One.”

Jesus Culture – You Won’t Relent Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I’ve been reading Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and it has been doing a number on my heart. I’ve been on this simplifying journey for a little while now, and I felt like I had done a decent job of going through my things and getting rid of (or setting aside until I could take a trip to drop off) things that I don’t use or need.

Little did I know, I was going to be challenged to do more. I still have far more than I need or even want. I still am surrounded by a mountain of evidence of having bought into my consumer-driven culture. I still live in a place of abundance and extravagance. I still pride myself on filling one or two garbage bags with my second-hand cast-offs all the while ignoring the shelves, drawers, and closets full of things I barely touched in the last six months. As my eyes are being opened to my selfishness, my heart is breaking, and the kind of person I want to be is becoming clearer.

Giving away my ratty leftovers is no longer enough. Scheduling a pickup or quickly dropping things off in a drive-through at the local thrift store isn’t going to satisfy me any longer. I am being called to more. I have so far to go.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-20

How many times have I read those words and told myself the rewards of Heaven far surpass the trinkets of this world? How many times have I still labored to get the next best thing that will be cast aside shortly after I attain it?

I need to get to a place where I am not relying on my ability to provide for myself. I have been a packrat for years, keeping things “just in case” I might need them later on down the road. The actual number of times I’ve used those things should make me ashamed. I have feared that if I got rid of too many things, I would be left wanting for them, left in a state of need. As if by letting go of my material possessions, I could give away enough to enter into a state of pseudo-poverty. As if I thought the Lord wouldn’t provide for all my needs, like I didn’t recognize His hand in having provided me with the means to buy all this stuff in the first place, or His provision for the more meaningful things in life that I can’t buy with all the money in the world (family, friends, health, security, peace, love, joy, eternal security in Heaven with Him, to name only a few).

I’m done buying into the lie that I need more and more and more stuff to make me happy, to make me feel secure, to make me feel accomplished for having been able to provide for all of my needs, for having the forethought to stockpile things for my potential (and mostly superficial) future needs. I am choosing today to be more mindful of the things I spend my money on and spend my time doing. I will take a more honest, critical look at the things I’ve been holding onto and release more of them from my possession so that others (who actually need them) can have them and make use of them.

Jesus, You are all I need. I have been so incredibly blessed with everything in my life, but it’s not mine to hold onto. It all belongs to You. Show me how to best use it all.

This will begin a series of posts dedicated to more specific areas of life, areas that Jen covered in her book and/or areas that others have inspired me to look at in greater detail as I endeavor to take a more critical look at where I need to change some habits in order to become a better manager of everything I’ve been given.