So I want to start out by sharing that as I “speak up: about this topic, I’m also working through it in my own life. I don’t want anyone to think that I’m up here speaking because I have it all together. That is far from the truth. I’m up here to say “me too”.
About a month ago, I Anna and said, “I’m a total fraud”. I had gotten momentarily trapped in the lie that I HAVE to have it all together to be up here speaking…that I have to be perfect in order to share.
But satan wants just that doesn’t he?
As a society, we’ve bought into the lie that only the beginnings and endings of every story are worth talking about, reading, or sharing.
But here’s the truth…God works the most, He molds and shapes us the most, and He teaches us the most when we are in the middle, on the journey, in the mess.
So here I am sharing my JOURNEY with you.
Getting Back To The Basics was something that God placed on my heart after I heard this verse one Sunday morning…
“GO BACK TO WHAT YOU HEARD AND BELIEVED AT FIRST; HOLD TO IT FIRMLY. REPENT AND TURN TO ME AGAIN. IF YOU DON’T WAKE UP, I WILL COME TO YOU SUDDENLY, AS UNEXPECTED AS A THIEF.” –REVELATION 3:3
This verse stuck to my heart because I truly experienced this in my own life. If you were here last year, you heard me talk about my journey of anxiety and how God was molding and shaping me through it.
You see, the year I graduated from college, I was completely lost. The life I had known for four years was now completely different. I was now home. My best friend had gotten married and moved away. My best friends from college all lived in completely different cities, had found their “grown up” jobs, and I felt alone.
I was living with my mom and little sisters, working at a local pancake restaurant daily ducking out on conversations of why I was there if I had a college degree, getting tipped with prayer cards, and applying to every job I could find. It definitely wasn’t the picture of what a young, newly graduated woman with the world at her fingertips looked like. Slowly but surely, the depression creeped in. I felt stuck.
Along the way, I realized there was so much I had to let go of in order to truly forge ahead. I was comparing myself to who I had been before college. I missed the old me. I missed knowing without a doubt who I was and what my purpose was.
After four years of heartbreak, making decisions for others, and finding myself in everything other than Jesus, I had no clue who I was. I had lost my identity.
My mom is a super wise woman. She encouraged me to make a list. This list wasn’t just a normal to-do list. This list was a “get back to the beginning” list.
Instead of spending my time upset and depressed about what life didn’t look like at the time, I made this list to focus on what I wanted my life to look like. I spent so much time focused on who I used to be. What I used to want to do. What my Plan A was. And the regrets I had from college–How I couldn’t truly give myself a clean slate. The guilt and shame were crippling-especially since I had fallen away from my relationship with God.
This list was essentially my way of consciously choosing to redirect my path.
Here’s a few things I put on my list:
- GET BACK TO MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
- FIND A CHURCH HOME
- GET BAPTIZED
- GO ON A MISSION TRIP
- START RUNNING
- FIND A JOB
- START A MAGAZINE
Over the next year, I began working hard at these things. I began shopping around for a church starting with a church whose billboard I passed every time I went back and forth to Purdue. I visited one time and LOVED it. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I was going alone, since I grew up Catholic, and since it was a HUGE church. The Sunday I was there, they made an announcement about a brand new young adult ministry that would be starting that fall…
Once fall hit, I started going to the young adult ministry and met so many new friends in my age and stage of life. It was incredible. I decided to check out the missions trip they talked about coming up that summer to Nicaragua.
At the same time, I went back to the youth ministry I went to as a student and began to volunteer there feeling right at home being back in the place that meant so much to me when I was in high school.
That summer, God took me on a whirlwind of trips from Nicaragua to Jamaica, and then to Africa the next fall. It was incredible.
Slowly but surely, the things on that list of mine were being crossed out. With each line I made through the words, I slowly began to make my way back to myself as I made my way back to God.
I learned that year that I have to stop looking to the world and asking it who I am. I learned that I had to begin looking to God and asking Him to remind me who He made me to be.
I think so many of us go through seasons of this very thing. We go through seasons of living in and through who we actually are…and then when we forget to look up along the way, we begin to wander into places looking for things like fulfillment, identity, hope, truth, and more. It’s in those places that we lose our footing, forget our purpose in this world, and begin looking at ourselves more than we look at God.
I believe this is a process that we have to keep pursuing. I know this is something I’ve had to work through multiple times in my journey. This year, instead of choosing just one word, I chose this exact phrase. I felt like I was in a spot of needing to remember that no matter what dream I was pursuing, no matter how busy my schedule, no matter what…God is better.
This journey of getting back to the basics isn’t easy or simple.
But it’s worth every hard, scary, and shaky step. But with each step forward, we begin to find our way back to home base.
Getting back to the basics isn’t about just focusing on who we used to be and trying to return to our “old” selves. We will never be able to gain back innocence or take away actions or decisions that we’ve made. But we can set our eyes on God, ask him to begin to strip away the layers of things that we’ve added to ourselves because the world told us they were important.
We ask him to strip away the idea that what we do is who we are.
We ask him to strip away the lie that we are only worth what we produce.
We ask him to strip away the lie that our lives are unseen and less valuable than someone who has more instagram followers than we do.
We ask him to strip away the things in our schedule that we’ve taken on for our own recognition or glory.
After we strip away the things that we’ve collected over the years, we ask God to replace those things with ONLY what He wants us to be filled with.
…truth, his promises, and the security of knowing the only thing worth being and knowing in this life is that we are HIS.
It’s a process of stripping away the things we’ve held as our identity. It’s the process of taking the small steps of opening our hearts more and more to believing God at his word.
Getting back to the basics isn’t about looking at how far off you’ve gotten from the path you once dreamt for yourself. It’s not about shaming yourself for past mistakes or perceived failures. It’s not about guilting yourself because you still haven’t found success in waking up every single morning to be in the Word, or even waking up every morning confused about what you believe.
It’s about making the next good decision to glorify God and find contentment in the life you have, in the role He’s asked you to play.
If you hear anything from this, I want it to be that you are never too far gone-no one is. God isn’t pointing a finger at you every time you make a mistake. God isn’t mad at you if you don’t pray every day. He’s not mad at you if it’s been awhile since you’ve last had a good heart to heart. You don’t have to clean yourself up. You don’t have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
All you have to do is let God in. Show him your heart exactly where you are and let him walk with you as you clean out the clutter of your heart and life. The thing of it is is that He already knows exactly where you are and what the state of your heart is anyways…but He wants to know we need him.
So often, we go through life believing the lie that we can do it all alone down here…that life begins and ends with us and then someone puts us in the ground…
But that’s not true. We…every single one of us was made on purpose for a purpose. We were made to bring glory to Him through our lives. We were made to be His hands and feet here, loving and encouraging and serving those around us, shedding light on Him as we do it.
Jennie Allen is one of my favorite authors. In her latest book, “Nothing To Prove”, she tackles this topic:
“We make God and pleasing Him so complicated. But soon after Jesus feeds the five thousand, people are asking Him, “What must we do to please God?”
You know what He says: The work of the kingdom is to believe in the One God has sent. You don’t need a special anointing. You already have one. You are a child of God and filled with His spirit.
Do you want to know why we are so tired?
Because we don’t believe God. There is no remedy to your striving apart from finding your identity in Christ. He is your enough, and the degree to which you believe that is the degree to which you will stop striving, stop performing, and stop trying to prove yourself.
Isaiah says: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. It is in our letting go and in our trust that He rescues us. Yet we are striving and we are working so hard for God. (or for ourselves).
Guess what the person being rescued has to do? Trust the Rescuer and cooperate with the process. You and I don’t need to be heroes who save the world. We just get to be part of the story of the greatest Hero of all time. Which is good news, because being the hero is a lot of pressure. You can rest because you know God is the One rescuing you and others around you. If God has rescued us, who can possibly get to us or steal us from Him?
This truly stuck out to me because no matter how hard I try to keep my eyes on the Lord, it’s easier to keep my head down and get to work. It’s easier to believe the world’s lies that hustling and being a boss babe are the things we ought to be striving for. Words like powerhouse, boss lady, entrepreneur, and independent are the buzzwords for women in the world today. They are the things we strive for.
But honestly, if we are striving and hustling…who’s going to do the living? Who’s going to do the resting? Who’s going to do the experiencing?
2016 was a whirlwind for me. I had progressed and learned so much about myself in 2015 that I felt ready to live out of my identity and purpose rather than hiding in my fear and uncertainty of chasing my dreams. So I began to chase them. I began to pursue the big things because I was confident that even if I failed, I wouldn’t be a failure.
I had the idea of a retreat for the young adult ministry here at Hazel Dell. But God had a different idea. He took my idea and fleshed it out into a weekend conference for women in their twenties and thirties. And it was amazing.
After I saw what God could do in and through me if I just gave it over, I decided to tackle my dream of starting a magazine. And it launched early this year.
In the midst of all this, I started a communications consulting business and continued to work here at the church. I was continuing to run my online editorial and manage weekly writers.
By December, I was EXHAUSTED. I felt like life was happening TO me. I felt like I was stressed more than I was joyful. I was going to a photoshoot for this dream magazine of mine and that fact alone was lost in my swirling thoughts of all I had to get done.
I was tired.
I grew up believing the lie that even in the good things and dreams that would be God glorifying…that they would fulfill our lives. That if I could just pursue and make that happen, I would be happy. That if I could just “do all the things”, especially if they were FOR the Lord, my purpose in this life would be fulfilled.
But here’s the thing.
Even the best things…they still aren’t THE THING.
They still aren’t fulfilling.
I remember sitting on the couch in January the day VALOR launched and just feeling…lack. I had spent so much time believing that this special dream of mine would be THE THING. That once I launched it, it would be the most fulfilling thing and I would never feel empty again.
Thinking about that now…it’s sad. I’m in my late twenties and if I would have continued to believe that this magazine would be IT…That I had nothing left to give to the world for the rest of my years, that would be so depressing. And the reason why it’s not depressing is because I looked up. I HAVE to look up.
On that day, God showed me that even the gifts and dreams He gives us…even those don’t satisfy the ache our soul has to be known, loved, secured, and FULL. Only He can do that. Only Jesus. I can’t do it all. I can’t juggle it all. I can’t continue to produce things for God if I’m not doing it with God.
I read Erin Loechner’s book this year called Chasing Slow. She released it right in the midst of all my crazy and I ate it up. Chasing Slow sounded like exactly what I needed in my current state of being just plain busy.
She writes, “Busyness is a byproduct of our culture. It is the sacrifice we make for our religion of more, for our perfectionist tendencies, for our temptation to overschedule, overinform, over provide. But the answer is not to lower the expectations we’ve created. The answer, I believe is to live up to the expectations we have been created for.”
Later in the book, she writes, “Through my seasons of slowing the pace, of subtracting expectations, of compartmentalizing and tidying and decluttering and choosing, I have made every attempt to manipulate my life. I have made every attempt to tame my lion, to outrun it. I have made every attempt to pad my jungle-the leafy world of ambiguity-and I have made every attempt to control the style, the terms, the circumstances of my life. I have chased more and I have chased less. I have lived large and I have lived small. I have sped up, slowed down, traded up, pared down, built myself up, fallen down. But have I looked up? Laid it down? Perhaps we were never meant to change the pace. We were meant to surrender it.
This was just what my heart needed. In the mess of the world telling me I needed to create a capsule wardrobe, pursue minimalism, pursue slowness, pursue more, pursue the best bang for my buck and my time…it’s too much. This world and our culture is full of contradictions. We love labeling ourselves. We love being able to fit ourselves into pretty little squares and cut out anything that doesn't fit.
But here’s the thing I’m learning…in our pursuit of controlling every aspect of our lives, we lose the joy and mystery of looking up and letting it all go. We lose ourselves in the striving, whether its for more or less…it’s still striving.
We forget to sit in our mess, look around, and take inventory. We avoid the periodical check ups of our hearts and lives until we are at the ends of our rope, growing gray hair, and feeling beat up and anxious from life itself.
In our culture, it seems that we have come so far off the path. We’ve gotten distracted. We’ve gotten lost. We’ve gotten stuck. And we’ve forgotten Truth. In our efforts to fix ourselves, we’ve tried self-help books. We’ve tried chasing after those passions and hobbies in hopes that they will fill the deep void in our lives that seems bottomless. We’ve spoken up for tolerance and decided that no decision is okay when it comes to life and faith and what happens when we die. We’ve given up when it’s gotten hard and used our tongues to harm the ones near us if they’ve disagreed with anything we’ve said or done. We’ve made our lives about ourselves. We’ve centered our world around being the center of our world. But that’s not what this life here is all about.
So…let’s “quit”. Let’s quit saying yes to things that don’t give us life. Let’s quit saying yes to things that we believe are “good” things in exchange for the things that God is asking us to do. I believe that God gives us different roles in different seasons of our lives. But like so many of us know, we forget to keep our eyes looking up and begin to look around us…comparing, becoming fearful, and getting distracted from the very thing God is asking us to do. What if we stopped trying to create roles for ourselves and stepped into stewarding the very roles God has asked of us? Not only does He ask us to play those roles, He also promises to be our strength and walk with us when it comes to actually doing them.
Let’s stop finding our identity in the things we are doing. Let’s stop looking at our news feeds for the definition of success and what life is “supposed” to look like. Let’s stop doing things just because someone else is doing them. Let’s stop cluttering our lives, minds, and hearts in exchange for the empty version the world is telling us to chase after.
What would life look like if we were able to live completely unhindered? What would life look like if we were able to live free from the things we “should” do and start living in the things we were given to do?
Let’s get back to the basics friends. Let’s get back to reading Scripture in its entirety, choosing to believe that God is good, for us, and that we can take Him at His Word.
Let’s get back to being comfortable in our own skin…identifying ourselves and the value of our lives by who our Creator God made us to be...the ones Jesus loves enough to die for.
Let’s stop defining our lives by the clothes we wear, how many of them we have, how big of a house we live in, what color our skin is, what type of food we eat or allergies we have, the exercises we do, the hobbies we have, or how we give birth. These things are all good...these things add joy and comfort to our lives but they aren’t the defining factors of our lives.
So, what is the defining factor?
You have to figure that out for yourself. It’s time to stop looking at what everyone else is doing or telling you to do and ask yourself the hard questions.
And the hardest questions to ask are the ones we avoid answering ourselves and the hardest person to be honest with is ourselves. If there’s a question you have that makes you uncomfortable to answer…that’s the one you should sit with.
Erin Loechner wrote, “The heart of a woman is the best mirror you can find.”
So let’s look into the mirror of our hearts more. Let’s pause enough to determine what the state of our hearts is. Let’s make ourselves be still long enough to listen.
Here are a few questions I would encourage you to ask yourself in this process:
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Who am I?
Who does God say I am?
Do I believe what He says about me?
How do I define myself?
Live On Purpose:
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.–Ephesians 2:10
Why am I here?
What are my gifts?
How can I use them to glorify God and love others?
Live Your Life:
Colossians 3:1-3 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
What am I trading in this moment for?
Am I enjoying my own life or waiting to live it?
Am I checking my social media accounts because I don’t want to check in with myself? Am I texting my friends or calling my family when I should really be talking to the Lord?
Am I cultivating more Christ into culture or am I cultivating more loneliness, busyness, identity issues, comparison, and entertainment addiction?
“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” –Jeremiah 24:7
Insta: @krista_dunbar or @valor_mag