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A Light In Dark Places

A Light In Dark Places

Hey friends! My name is Lily and I am working on Team LO this summer! I go to the University of Pennsylvania, and wow, since being here in Louisiana I can see the stark difference between the North and the South. I grew up in New Jersey where it is more accepted to be an atheist than a bold Christian. It has been so refreshing to be surrounded by people who are also running after the Lord in community. That is amazing, but it does also remind me of my childhood and my experiences in high school and college: Sometimes God has us in places where it is hard to be a Christian, and you are an outcast because of it. I know that feeling all too well. Whether you’ve been there before, are walking through it now, or are going to go through it in the future, I hope you find this blog post encouraging!

In August of 2021, before I was in college, I sat down for coffee with a mentor who had recently graduated. She told me that being a Christian in college is lonely. In that moment, that made sense – because I already knew that college culture is not aligned with following Jesus. I would actually say it is almost the opposite of Christianity as it is filled with drugs, alcohol, gossip and sexual immorality. So even though I understood it, I didn’t realize how much that comment would impact my first year and a half of college. As crazy as it sounds now, that comment – that being a Christian in college is lonely – would lead me to partly suppress my relationship with Jesus for my first year and a half at Penn. 

I started my freshman year of college as a student-athlete for the fall season. So in my first few months, because of my sport, I wasn’t really exposed to the true “college culture”. But when my season ended in November, I was fully immersed in what I was sheltered from during the season. 

I had grown up as a Christian in New Jersey where I felt lonely in my faith. High school was hard. Seeing things differently than other people seemed to lead to fewer and fewer friendships. Because of that, I was determined to have a different experience in college. 

This desire led me to jump right into the college scene that I was surrounded by in hopes of somehow being fulfilled by it. I hoped the excitement of a night out would tame my anxiety, but I’d wake up the next day 10 times more anxious. I wanted the friendships I was building to mold me into a joyful person, but the gossip that stemmed from them left me empty. Yet I was still determined to make it work – I thought I craved the nights out that were full of excitement and potential, but how momentary those were. People were my “friends” on those nights, but were strangers to me the next day. It was all built on sand, and as soon as the wind blew I was left with practically nothing. A friendship cannot last if it is built on gossip and bitterness. As a matter of fact, nothing can last when it is built on a foundation other than Jesus.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Matthew 7:24-27

This whole time I had been running from the idea of being lonely in college that I was warned about. I’ve now come to realize the loneliness my mentor was referring to is a worldly definition of lonely. Oxford Languages says lonely means “sad because one has no friends or company”. And yes, that is what I was running from – I wanted friends and company. I wanted the college memories you always hear about. But worldly friends and company leads you to true loneliness – without a deep relationship with the Creator of the universe and the One who knit me together in my mother’s womb. Without a relationship with Jesus, I am truly lonely. And no, I didn’t completely abandon my faith but I did not have a great relationship with Him. It is one thing to be a believer, but it’s another to be in a deeply rooted relationship with Jesus. 

Halfway through my sophomore year, I stopped trying to fit in. I no longer desired to be a part of the life that everyone else was living and that I once tried to live. I had seen and experienced the brokenness and heartache that everything brought. And yes, it was hard. By worldly standards did I feel lonely? Yes. But the fulfillment and peace within my heart proved to me that I was actually surrounded. I was surrounded by my Father. And in the end, that is all our souls are ever searching for. When we are surrounded by the God of the Universe, we aren’t searching for things to fill our void anymore because that void is gone. Jesus fulfills the eternal void in your heart with His eternal and steadfast love and presence.

And when we follow God, the worldly loneliness does not last. God knows what we need – He knows we can’t and are not meant to live a life following Him by ourselves. 

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25

After I decided to live a life for Jesus, even where I may be one of few, I have seen a community emerge that only God can create. Whether it is through Bible studies at Penn, working at Live Original and new friends, it is all just a testament of God’s goodness. 

As I am writing this, the song “So Will I (100 Billion X)” by Hillsong is playing. One of the lyrics says “You’re the One who never leaves the one behind”. That verse is such a perfect example of God in this context. My first year and a half at college, God was fervently running after me, and He still is: It didn’t end once He did get me. He then brought me back to the rest of His people. He will not leave you to be by yourself. 

If you are going through anything like this, let me tell you – it will not be easy, and God never promised it would be. It wasn’t even close to easy for Jesus. But what’s harder is running after something that will never fulfill you no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you want it to. 

I pray that through reading this you feel encouraged to follow the true desire of your heart! Love you all!

Keep up with Lily on Instagram @lilyakumar

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ‭‭John‬ ‭16‬:‭33‬ 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1‬:‭9‬

God’s Design Over My Desire

God’s Design Over My Desire

There’s this line I heard in a message once that said, “His design over my desire”. I found it pretty powerful because I don’t think many of us start out by seeing a greater value in the design of something, over our personal desire for it. For example, I don’t love the colour pink, therefore I do not have much of a desire for it. Coco Channel said it best when she said, “When I find a colour darker than black, I’ll wear it. Until then, I’m wearing black.” That’s me. If I don’t understand the purpose of the design, then good luck getting me to have a desire for it! Now let’s go a little deeper. I will say that I never desired or had a desire to be disabled. Most people can take one look at my photo and notice there’s something a little (pun intended) different. I don’t think anyone has a desire to be made fun of, to be singled out, to be portrayed in the media as some sort of joke— that’s not a common desire. So I didn’t start out desiring to look so different. Most people in general don’t start with a desire to be different because being different is hard. No matter what your situation is, we can all find things that make us different. However, as time has gone on I’ve been able to catch little glimpses of purpose in the way I’ve been designed. Although, that still does not always satisfy my desire to understand God’s design for my life. Have you ever felt that way? Have you found yourself questioning God’s design? We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, why? When our desire for God’s design is lacking, how do we come to find meaning in his design?

Think of this idea as a painting. We may spend hours staring at a painting, constantly looking it over and still, we are unable to grasp the painter’s intention. We might even wonder why on earth someone would paint something like that. Now, let’s say we are staring at a painting and the original painter is right beside us. We might be able to see their vision for the painting while getting to hear the purpose behind it— their desire for their design. Now isn’t it true that it’s far easier to know someone’s desire for their design when they are close to us? A close friend will know your heart behind a tough decision, over someone who watches your life from the internet. Someone who has seen you at your worst will be able to fully celebrate you at your best, over someone who hasn’t seen how hard you’ve fought. Moms have a sixth sense when it comes to knowing what their babies need because of how close their bond is. So what if as Christians, as we spend time with God who is the one true designer, we might start to understand the beauty of His desire a little better? And if the designer is God, then you my dear friend, are a product of his ultimate desire.

We may never know why things take the shapes they do, or why people in certain circles have it harder than others. One does not tell the mountains how they should look, nor does someone tell the ocean how to behave. So we may never know the purpose in the details of our design. However, I will say that the more we spend time with our designer, the more our desires will eventually come into alignment with his design. We don’t have to be the designer, but our desire can grow for what God has designed. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said,

“Yes, Lord, walking in the ways of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you…” (Isaiah 26:8-9).

One of the ways our desire grows is by walking in close proximity with God. There were times when the Israelites walked close to God and they followed his laws, they obeyed his commands and they were walking in his presence daily. God had a desire to be near to them and they had a desire to be near to Him. Then there were other times when the Israelites waited on God. They waited for him to come through, they waited for his promises, they waited for him to tell them which ways to go and yet they did this in close proximity to God. Now like any journey with God, there are times when we fall off. We tend to go our own way and we often think that what we know is better than what God knows. But at the end of the day, our heart’s desire is for God. When we go off on our own, there is still something inside of us that’s searching for meaning greater than ourselves. Therefore, God’s design is supposed to be our greatest desire.

The more we get to know our Creator, the more we get to see how truly beautiful His design for His creation is. When we sit with him in the mornings, we are met with his presence before anything else has a chance to sway our desires. When we pray to God for answers before turning to other people, we give him the space to share with us his design. When we are questioning life and the path that we must take, the very one who designed our path is waiting to tell us where to go. Again, we don’t have to understand God’s design, but the more time you spend with him, the more you will understand his desire. And spoiler alert, you are God’s ultimate design and the product of his greatest desire.

If he is the designer and you are his masterpiece then he sees underneath the mess, underneath the smudges, behind the layers and into the depths of the darkest paint in your life. He painted it! He designed you, He formed you in the secret place and He loved you completely before you ever achieved a single thing! Now your life might feel bleak, hopeless, worn out, tired and stuck, but there’s a designer who’s in the business of making his design into something beautiful. Friends, the more time you spend with your designer, I pray the more you will experience the desire he has for you. And my goodness is it ever beautiful.

So may his design, become your greatest desire.

The Power of Friendship

The Power of Friendship

I have a Six Pack and I don’t mean my Abs.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of women and a few men about the end of their marriage. The first thing I usually start with is, “Tell me about your support system.” It seems like a broad area to initially ask about. Most people expect me to ask more about what ended the marriage or where they are in the divorce process or how the kids are doing.

But the reality is, outside of their relationship with God, a support system is vital in hope and healing. Isolation can be detrimental. And trust me, I’ve done both. I’ve cut off communication and detached because the pain was too great. I secluded myself due to the embarrassment of failure. Coming out of feeling verbally and mentally abused in a relationship takes a lot of relearning. Relearning how to share the reality, relearning how to trust your intuition, relearning how to be vulnerable, relearning what it feels like to feel safe with another person.

For me, leaning in to my community took work. It took vulnerability, and in some cases, it took repair. It’s difficult to lean on community during heartbreak, to trust anyone when your heart literally feels like it is crushed from broken trust. A life of connection and community is risky; however, a life lived in isolation is an even greater risk.

There will be people in your life who will hold your story and people who will hear your story. The people who hold your story are the ones who walk with you through the darkest days. They possibly feel your story is a part of their story.

I remember when my best friend’s husband, Jud, described what Lori experienced when she’d hang up the phone with me. Keep in mind we live two thousand miles apart, and she would call every day. She would say she knew how I was doing based on hearing my voice. Jud said she’d hang up the phone with me and walk straight to his office, lay her head in his lap, and just sob. Her heart broke for me because she was holding my story. My story became part of her story.

Maybe you are that support system for the person walking through divorce. Here are a few thoughts. We often ask the hurting person, “What do you need?” or “What can I do for you?” or a few other versions of that inquiry, offering authentic help. Here’s the catch. A person in trauma doesn’t know what they need. So when asked, “What do you need?” they don’t know. They don’t have an answer. They can’t articulate what they need. And honestly, what they do need, you probably can’t give them.

Give them options. For instance, you can give specific offers like, “What do you need today? I can come to your house and cook dinner. We can go out for dinner. Or you can come to our house and I’ll cook.”

Options allow the person in trauma the ability to make a decision and not feel overwhelmed. It helps them to articulate what they need at that time. It helps ground them to feel like they have some control over what is going on around them. When offering help, it’s a minor tweak that makes a huge difference.

This played out in my life at sporting events. Showing up alone to events for your kids can be really difficult. You’re self-conscious, you’re alone, trying to figure out where to sit, who to sit with, and all the while wanting to keep a smile on your face for your kids when your heart is broken.

I went from sitting with multiple family members to being alone. It’s hard.

Then this group of five ladies drifted into my life. Our kids had played football together since sixth grade. We’d all been acquaintances since 2014, but something about the football season seven years ago glued us together. They saw I was hurting, and they stepped in. I’m not even sure how we all connected, but they became a lifeline for me in so many ways.

Each gameday I’d get a text from one of them or sometimes several of them. The text gave me options. For instance, “Want to meet at the tailgate or want to meet in the stands?” If it was an away game, it would sound more like, “Want us to pick you up, or do you want to meet us at the tailgate?” I didn’t even realize at the time how beneficial the options were in allowing me to choose what I was most comfortable with.

I never would have asked for help navigating Friday nights; it just wouldn’t have been my nature. They just stepped in and created community every Friday night. Trust me when I say, Friday night games are just one of the many ways these five lovely ladies have shown up for me over the last seven years.

We’re now “The Six Pack” because there are six of us, not because of our killer abdominal game—there are way too many kids between us for that.

Then there are the friendships that feel like they have always existed. The weekend before mediation for my divorce, I flew to meet two of my best friends, Lori Wilhite and Lisa Hughes, and their husbands. These are the two friends who dropped everything and surprised me by flying to Nashville and spending a few nights and days with me on what would have been my twentieth wedding anniversary.

These are the two friends who, over a ten-hour uninterrupted period and lots of Diet Coke, listened to me recount my twenty years of marriage and all the times I felt trust had been shattered, beginning in year one and working chronologically through the relationship. These are the type of friends who, when I gave permission for them to “talk behind my back” (because I grew tired of repeating the details of daily life), responded with, “We already do.” And there was never a concern that they were gossiping about me. I knew any conversation they were having “behind my back” was out of genuine concern and love.

I knew that my heart and my head needed the encouragement, positive feedback, and validation from healthy men who stood on stages and shared the hope of God. Trust me, it isn’t lost on me that God placed two friends in my life who are married to pastors, men who held very similar positions to my ex-husband. Their willingness to be with me before the one big day that signified the end of the last twenty years—that’s friendship.

These types of friendships bring to mind this story from Exodus 17. Joshua had led the Israelites into battle against the Amalekites, just as Moses had ordered. While Joshua was on the ground fighting, Moses, along with Aaron and Hur, climbed on top of a nearby mountain. While Joshua led the charge on the ground, Moses lifted his hands in prayer to God. While Moses’s hands were raised, the Israelites were winning. If his arms lowered out of fatigue, the Amalekites prevailed. The combat lasted for hours, and this is where the story gets good.

So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

Exodus 17:10–13

Moses could only continue his intercession because of his support system. Aaron and Hur literally held up his arms so he could continue fighting the battle in prayer. We are left with no other option than to believe that if Aaron and Hur hadn’t stepped in so Moses could continue to fight the battle with prayer, the Israelites would have been defeated by the Amalekites.

And don’t overlook what jumps out in this story. God is the provider of victory when we are attacked. Our attackers might not be armor-wearing, sword-wielding soldiers. The battles may be with familiar faces and well-aimed verbal blows. God is the provider of victory. God is also the provider of friends to literally hold up our arms when we can’t anymore. As women, we are often in the arm-holding business. We support and hold up arms all around us, from our children to coworkers to church friends to neighbors.

This passage in Exodus invites these questions: Who is holding up your arms? Who is joining you in your pain, struggle, hurt, and weariness? Who is grabbing hold of your exhausted hands and helping to lift them to the Lord? You might be asking how to find these people in your life. Let me share a few characteristics that point to a safe friendship. And if you don’t have a friend like this, ask God to bring you the friendship you need.

1. They help you become a better version of yourself.

2. They nurture your talents and abilities.

3. They help connect you with other safe people.

4. They help you develop your spiritual growth.

5. They celebrate your accomplishments and cheer for you.

6. You can put your guard down with them.

7. Vulnerability is welcomed between you.

Article adapted from Better Than Okay: Finding Hope and Healing After Your Marriage Ends by Brandi Wilson (copyright 2023, published by Bethany House / Baker Publishing Group)

Brandi Wilson is a coach and speaker who has been in leadership for more than a decade at Leading and Loving It, a non-profit created to empower women to love life and ministry. Brandi has helped plant two churches and is passionate about walking alongside single moms and divorced women as they navigate parenting and life. Her latest book is Better Than Okay: Finding Hope and Healing After Your Marriage Ends. Brandi lives with her three sons in Nashville, TN. www.LoveBrandiWilson.com

Truth to Overcome Anxiety’s Lies

Truth to Overcome Anxiety’s Lies

Who has seen Inside Out 2?!

My teammates and I went the other night and it was awesome! I highly recommend you go and see it if you haven’t!

As most of you know, the main character Riley enters her teenage years in the movie… I know a lot of us have walked through that stage, some of you are entering that and some of you are still currently in the teenage years. All in all, we know what it’s like for some unknown emotions to make their way into our life.

And try to steal our JOY.

*kinda a spoiler*

But in the movie, anxiety comes and takes over Riley’s joy, which Joy had ultimately run her life the past 13 years. Anxiety didn’t come alone though… it also brought envy, embarrassment and boredom. Woah. Nothing too positive or fun.

As someone who struggles with anxiety, I related to a lot of this!

When anxiety takes over, most things seem to crumble. Riley loses her confidence, and pretty much tries to do anything and everything possible to BE ACCEPTED.

Anxiety will make you believe things about yourself that aren’t true.

Anxiety will make you believe you aren’t satisfied or you’re weak… pretty much all things negative.

You have to be ______ to be accepted and liked.

You have to be good at ______ to be cool.

The list goes on!

Anxiety places meaningless “what ifs” on your hopeful future that is already secured by the Almighty!

Today, let’s embrace TRUTHS God has spoken over our lives that we are safe and not defined by anxiety.

You are not alone in your struggle with anxiety. The Lord meets you there and delivers you from all your fears. He can use anything for His glory!

Here are 3 lies anxiety wants us to believe to be true about us… and TRUTH that overcomes it.

#1: Anxiety keeps you in CONTROL

Anxiety promises to prepare us for the worst. If we constantly live through everything that could happen, we’ll be ready if/when it does…right? But that is a a false sense of security. Anxiety doesn’t prepare us for the future; it only robs us of joy in our present life.

Truth: “Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:27

#2: Anxiety claims your IDENTITY

Anxiety wants you to believe that this is who you are — You are an anxious person and you always will be. But the gospel gives us one TRUE identity: Jesus. When God looks at you, He sees His Son. His righteousness is yours.

Truth: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. The old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

#3: Anxiety leads to PEACE

Anxiety promises that if we ponder over the scary “what ifs” or if we constantly relive every past hurt, we will eventually come to some sort of satisfying conclusion. That’s a winless battle.

There are some questions, some “what-if’s,” that we cannot resolve this side of Heaven. Peace comes from looking at our perfect savior, not at our circumstances.

Truth: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)

John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

LOVE,
AW

Allie Walker is an Ambassador for our LO Sister App and this is a sneak peek at the encouragement you’ll find daily in the app. There are countless girls like Allie waiting to pour into you, friend. Join us here to be a part of this amazing community!

When You’re Scared to Pray Boldly

When You’re Scared to Pray Boldly

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b (NIV)

I have to admit I’m sometimes scared to pray boldly.

It’s not at all that I don’t believe God can do anything. I absolutely do. I’m a “wild about Jesus” kind of girl. Wild in my willingness. Wild in my obedience. Wild in my adventures with God.

So, my hesitation isn’t rooted in any kind of doubt about God.

It’s more rooted in a doubt about myself and my ability to absolutely discern the will of God. The reality is sometimes God chooses not to do things. And if His will is no, while I am boldly praying for a yes, it makes me feel out of step with God.

Can you relate?

I so desperately want to stay in the will of God that I find myself praying with clauses sometimes. Like, “God please heal my friend but if it’s Your will to take her, I will trust You.” I wonder why I don’t just boldly pray, “God, please heal my friend.” And then stand confidently that my prayers were not in vain no matter what the outcome.

The reality is, praying boldly boots me out of a stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God Himself.

Prayer opens my spiritual eyes to see things I can’t see on my own. And I am convinced prayer matters. Prayers are “powerful and effective” if prayed from the position of a righteous heart, like James 5:16 says.

So, prayer does make a difference – a life-changing, mind-blowing, earth-rattling difference. We don’t need to know how. We don’t need to know when. We just need to kneel confidently and know that our simple, short prayers extend far wide and far high and far deep.

In case you’ve been wrestling through some unanswered prayers recently, lean in here: Keep pressing into God. Keep praying. Don’t pull away. He isn’t ignoring you; He is listening. He loves you too much to answer your prayers at any other time than the right time and in any other way than the right way.

Letting that truth slosh over into my soul, snuffs out the flickers of hesitation. It bends my stiff knees. And it ignites a fresh, bold wildfire within me. Not bold as in bossy and demanding. But bold as in I love Jesus with all my heart, so I want to show up and try again. Pray again. Ask again.

Look at these words from Jesus:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your father knows what you need before you ask him,” (Matthew 6:6-8, NIV).

Friend, what do you need to pray boldly about today? Don’t listen to fear – go ahead and ask. And ask again. Not so that we can cause God to move, rather so that we can position our souls to be able to see Jesus move in any which way He pleases.

Dear Lord, I believe that You are the giver of life and Lord over all things. Thank You for providing me with exactly what I need, even though it isn’t always what I may want. I trust that You have my best interest in mind today. I need You Lord. Show me Your way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

If we’re honest, when we’re already in a difficult season, connecting with God through praying and reading our Bibles can feel overwhelming. Lysa TerKeurst understands this struggle and has teamed up with other authors at Proverbs 31 Ministries to bring you a new devotional, Clear Mind, Peaceful Heart: 50 Devotions for Sleeping Well in a World Full of Worry. Written by busy women for busy women, this devotional is filled with 50 encouraging devotions, scripture verses and guided prayers, making it easier than ever for you to simply show up and spend time with God at the end of your day. Order your copy today!

When It Feels Too Heavy to Carry

When It Feels Too Heavy to Carry

“Detergent and creamer. Detergent and creamer.” I reminded myself. Not that this was something I was trying to remember and recall – it was actually something I was trying to remember and not venture off from. You probably know this well: go into a store for one thing, leave with several additional items. Yeah, me too. You don’t know you may need it until you see it sometimes. Not every time but the treat of picking up a bouquet of flowers for your table, the treat to surprise a child and “she just had a baby so I’m sure a ‘pick-me-up’ from the bakery would be a sweet gesture”. Then, there’s the gum at checkout, the yogurt that was on sale that you know someone will eat and the peanut butter you remembered you were actually out of and should have been on the list in the first place. Before you realize it, your arms are full and now you’re regretting you didn’t grab a grocery cart when you first walked through the doors.

You cheer yourself on by saying “let me re-situate the groceries” and “ten more steps and then I’m at checkout” and “oh gosh, my fingers is going numb from holding the bag of grapes on my pinky” while tossing up a prayer that you don’t drop something.

How did detergent and creamer turn into this? Do I need it all? 

I really wish I could say grabbing more than I originally needed and trying to make it without dropping anything doesn’t happen that often but I confess it does.

I’ll go even a little further and say that this goes beyond my grocery store experiences.

It happens in the way I manage my time. “I can make that happen this afternoon and pull it off.”

It happens with the way I view life. “If I can just make it through this season, I’ll be okay.”

It happens with the way I take on responsibilities, volunteering for positions, adding more to my plate than I know is possible.

Before I know it, my arms are full (and not in the best way). There are some things I need to be carrying that I know I came for – like the detergent and creamer. But, let’s be candid – there’s a lot I’m carrying that wasn’t on the list. Some of which I can, and need, to put down. And others, I don’t have the option other than to carry.

And that’s life. Carrying around things, picking up, dropping off, switching posture to make things more comfortable, grabbing what we think might be fun, trying to swap for something better every once in a while. Isn’t it?

To put it plainly, we’re all carrying things in our arms. For some of us it’s a job, a family, a dream, grief, difficulties, celebrations, expectations, fill in the blank. Some are light, some heavy, some clunky. 

You know what these are for you best and I pray you take a moment to name them. As they come up in your mind, hold them for a moment. Imagine them being in your arms, sharp edges uncomfortably resting on your forearms, fingers bending to hold the weight. It might not even look like a lot at first but the longer they’re held, the heavier they feel.

I’ve been curious, constantly intrigued because you and I have a lot in common: what we’re carrying is heavy. Now that I know this to be true and we’re on the same page about some of the truth of what we’re carrying, can I propose a solution? 

Maybe the idea of “freedom” from these things doesn’t come from carrying them differently or solving the worlds biggest problems or learning how to cope and numb so we don’t feel them at all. Maybe the “freedom” comes from putting them down.

I’m not suggesting we become all of a sudden irresponsible and neglect what’s ours to hold. The heaviness of life does not come in a packaged board game box with a “get out of jail free card” when the dice you roll look different than you’d hoped. I just don’t want you to begin to think and eventually believe your only way to lighten your load is to “get out” and “jump ship.”

Through the messiness, there’s something for you here. And if you’re used to holding it all, more than you need, believing that the only way to be able to see the joy is to stop carrying it all – I have an idea for you.

What if the “freedom” we keep talking about doesn’t look like solved problems but it looks like supporting it all differently than holding it with your bare arms.

Grocery stores have grocery carts for a reason. To carry it all for us, to take it from aisle to aisle as we put stuff in and the physics of it all disperse the weight and make it all a bit more effortless.

That’s “joy.”

It’s the gifts that God gives us to see life as fun and enjoy what’s around us even though we’re pushing heavy things around.

It creates more margin to focus on the tasks at hand.

It’s the levity to survive our hardest days.

For the things you don’t have a choice to carry or not (like the child with special needs, the messy divorce, the grief from the one you lost, the heartache you’re left with when harsh words were said, when the dream isn’t on your timeline) – may I suggest you place them in the cart?

Jesus invites us to set these things down and trust his mechanics over our ‘muscling through’. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

So not only is it available to us, it’s an invitation.

My prayer for you is that ‘joy’ becomes so natural, so easy, a disciplined habit that it is just something you do and that you don’t know any other way to grocery shop than to push a cart and set the heavy things inside.

God is at work in our lives and would do anything to get our attention and bring us back to Him. The beautiful, show stopping moments that take your breath away, the glimpses that make you tilt your head and wonder how it worked out so perfectly that you were able to witness the beauty – let’s have the room to see it.

Rachel Awtrey is a trailblazing influencer and podcaster who defies conventional norms by inviting her audience to peek behind the curtain of her life. Rachel is a mom of two little boys, a military wife and after moving 9 times in her 8 years of marriage, she knows a thing or two about making community wherever she is!

 With an unwavering commitment to transparency, Rachel shares her personal journey, triumphs, and challenges, breaking down barriers and inspiring others to embrace their own authentic selves. Through her empowering content, she provides a unique blend of encouragement and practical tips, empowering her followers to navigate life’s obstacles with resilience and grace.

In a culture that often encourages surface-level perfection, Rachel stands out by embracing vulnerability and embracing imperfections. Her refreshing approach creates a genuine connection with her audience, fostering a sense of community and reminding everyone that they are not alone in their struggles. With over 1.5 Million downloads, her chart-topping podcast, Real Talk with Rachel Awtrey (formerly Behind the Bliss Podcast) and social media platforms, Rachel is changing the game, dismantling societal expectations, and encouraging others to embrace their true selves while equipping them with valuable tools to thrive and find joy in every aspect of life.

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