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Care and Keeping of a Heart

Care and Keeping of a Heart

In this final reflection on heart, I want to talk about how we can care for our hearts, keeping them whole and hearty in fighting shape, ready for whatever life might send our way. 

Here are a few ideas to help you care for your heart in a way that will open it, strengthen it, and prepare it for battle.

Feed your heart good food. 

Your heart craves consolation, inspiration, and peace. I don’t think it’s necessary to live in a dream world, but I do think it’s necessary to consume more of the Bible then of the news every day if we want to keep our heart healthy. There are awful things happening all the time that we need to not shut our eyes to, but just because those things are real doesn’t make the truth of the Bible any less so. 

I’ve met so many people in my life who felt that it was extremely virtuous to constantly bathe in the sewage of negative news on every front in the globe because those things were “real life.” They thought that by constantly allowing themselves to be washed over by the barrage of awfulness in the world but they were somehow better, that their perspective was “realer” than people who spent much less time consuming the news. 

But the Bible is just as real as anything you read in the news. Christ is just as real as the presidents and politicians you read about every day. And reading your Bible and other uplifting Christian works helps lay layers of stone under your feet instead of negativity and terror that rips around you like a terrible current, constantly threatening to uproot you and carry you away.

Moral of the story? Just because there is bad in the world, that’s not all there is. There is good as well and in much greater measure than evil. Staying tethered to the good doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong.

Get to know yourself. 

Isn’t it crazy how little we actually know ourselves? I’m constantly surprised how often my husband knows better than me what I will do or think in a given situation. 

But there is one person who knows us perfectly, and that is God. I think it’s cool that God desires to teach us about ourselves so that we can live with more of our heart and have clarity about where and how we can best do his will. 

And so instead of filling out lists and becoming more self-centered in thinking only of ourselves, I think we get to know ourselves best through prayer and journaling when we allow God to write with us. 

Open yourself to letting God teach you more about yourself. I think it might surprise you.

Practice being brave in the smallest of ways. 

Be a little bit brave with things that don’t matter so that when back opportunities to be brave arise those muscles have a little bit of tone to them. 

  • Wear something that you love but don’t necessarily think is in your comfort zone. 
  • Try a restaurant that doesn’t have any of your tried-and-true favorites on the menu. 
  • Call out your friend who is bad mouthing herself and ask her to speak more kindly about herself as a daughter of God. 

We’re not talking big things here. 

But we are talking things that help you show up with all of yourself so that when your day in the arena comes, you have all of yourself to bring to the fight.

I have a quote on my mantle that says “Your heart is the size of a fist because you need it to fight.“ I really love that. I love that it takes a gentle and integrated heart to be strong, because the heart of stone that may seem like an asset will actually just shatter when there is any pressure placed upon it.

Forgive over and over again. Practice forgiving.

Nothing eats away at your heart quite like grudges and unforgiveness. It is impossible to be whole when we have rented out swathes of our heart to old hurts and broken promises. 

But it’s so hard to evict those renters that seem to have so much claim to the real estate.

Forgiving isn’t pretending you weren’t hurt. It is letting the hurt wash over you like a waterfall, feeling it sting every inch of your skin and then having the courage to step forward, into the dark perhaps, but out of the stream. Often we feel rooted to the spot, paralyzed by the pain and the intensity, but there are hands there for us to grasp when we need help moving out of the stream. 

God’s hands are there. 

Sometimes God’s hands look like the hands of counselors, friends, and confidants and sometimes they are simply and truly the ethereal hands of God reaching out in answer to our prayers.

Either way, the hands can be hard to see in the dark unless we train our eyes. And we train our eyes through frequent practice of forgiveness. 

It takes a strong woman to live with her whole heart. But I know that you are strong because I know that God doesn’t make women any other way. In the face of the greatest hurt when we want to call uncle and surrender to the pain, God reminds us that our strength is in our heart, the heart he gave us to be soft, whole, and able to endure.

I’m praying for you and your heart this week.

With joy,

Jill

Our God Knows Suffering

Our God Knows Suffering

Do you feel like you’re living with a broken heart? 

If you feel that way, it’s probably pretty hard to show up to your life feeling whole hearted. 

It’s probably downright impossible. 

So that’s where Jesus comes in. 

Jesus does not desire for us to stay in darkness and suffering, but called us into his resurrection with him. But he is also the same Jesus that hung on the cross so we know that he knows everything there is to know about a broken heart. 

As he hung on the cross I can only imagine the way his heart broke thinking of all the sin, death, and destruction that had been and would ever be, all perched squarely on his shoulders as he died for the sins of the world. 

We have a God that knows what it is to suffer. 

But we also have a God that does not desire for us to stay there. 

Good Friday is not the end of the story. It is a brief but necessary part of the story that ultimately leads to Easter morning glory. Your broken heart, no matter what it might be broken for, is your little taste of good Friday. But God desires to bring you in to Easter morning with him. It likely will not be a 48 hour process like it was for God Incarnate, but you can live in hope that it will happen. 

God is the lover of our souls and the healer of our hearts. He will not abandon us to despair. 

So how’s your heart today? What part of your heart is hurting and how can you invite God into that hurt?

With joy,

Jill

Healing a Hurt Heart

Healing a Hurt Heart

If you’ve ever been dumped, lost someone close to you, or gone through an especially difficult situation you know what it feels like to have your heart hurt. 

So basically…if you are an adult human you know what I’m talking about. 

It’s a universal in the human experience. This world is fallen and therefore we experience pain, especially pain in our hearts when we feel deeply that things are not supposed to be this way. 

Our hearts remind us that we were not created for a fallen world, they are for a world without pain and suffering that we will find in heaven. In that sense, our hearts are some of our truest compasses, constantly pointing towards our desire for fulfillment in heaven. 

But we still have to deal with the hurt in our hearts while we’re still here. 

Heaven is coming, but we’re not there yet. And so, in the meantime, it’s important that we seek to open our hearts to God for the healing that we need to be able to live wholeheartedly in the mission and gifts that God has given to us while we remain here on earth.

And that can be very hard to do. 

It’s hard to let go of the times that we have been hurt. It’s hard to forgive. (check out the heart resource package for a POWERFUL tool to help with this if you haven’t already!) It’s hard to move forward. It’s hard to forget the failures and the times that we have fallen short, even in the work that we feel God calling us too. It’s a whole thing, and we can’t shoulder it alone.

My spiritual director is a lovely older man who is incredibly wise. He has such a sense of peace and contentment about him but I am tempted to envy it every time I am around him. One day he was talking to me about prayer and creating opportunities to listen to God. He said that it would be slow at first and my mind would likely constantly wander, which it absolutely did. But he told me that part of the joy of practicing prayer that creates space for God to speak is not doing a great job keeping your mind focused and patting yourself on the back, but failing over and over, restarting over and over and at the end of it all coming away from the prayer with a sense of peace and wholeness knowing that, despite your apparent failure, you are loved and seen by God. 

When you allow that – that knowledge that God sees you as you are – to be the focus in your life in prayer all of the sudden your individual shortcomings and failures start to fall away. 

But *spoiler alert* I am far from this point personally.

I still take everything incredibly personally and feel a constant need to prove myself to myself and others despite my knowledge of God’s love for me. I feel good about myself until I subconsciously start comparing IG follower numbers and then my day takes a nosedive. I go back into my little Jill shell where I am protected from the myriad things that can ding my ego while I’m still trying to live wholeheartedly under my own power. It’s not pretty.

I know that I do not yet live with my whole heart and the way God desires for me too, but I see the path ahead and am seeking to follow it more closely.

With joy,

Jill

Having A Whole Heart

Having A Whole Heart

God is one – whole and indivisible. There’s no division or duplicity in God. 

What he is he has always been and always will be. He is whole. 

As Christians we are called to be like Jesus, which by extension means we are called to be like God. A holy Christian life necessarily involves integrating ourselves as much as we can, with the help of God, into one whole indivisible person, in His image. That is why what we do with our body matters. That is why what we do with our mind matters. It all matters because it is all part of the whole.

We’re not going to dig into every facet of the human whole because that’s way too much ground to cover in the time before us. But we are going to dig into the idea of integrating our hearts.

Being whole hearted is something that doesn’t get talked about too often, but I think it is essential to a peaceful Christian life. When we feel those tensions and hard spots arise in our heart it is impossible for us to remain whole. The soft fleshy parts pull away from the stony parts and we are left in anguish, torn within ourselves and against ourselves. It can feel overwhelming and impossible to overcome. 

But those hard spots we discover in our hearts are actually beautiful opportunities – invitations to open our hearts to God so that he can heal us and our hearts, allowing them to become the soft, supple hearts he desires for us through and through.

The idea of full hearted living was introduced to me by one of my perpetual favorite authors, Brené Brown, who I probably reference way too much. In her book Daring Greatly she explores the idea of living a wholehearted life which starts from a place of worthiness – believing that you are worthy to embrace your own life. I think that there is a secular way to approach this concept of worthiness and a Christian way and the latter is what I’m looking to flesh out in these reflections together. (And if the whole question of embracing “Worthiness” resonates with you just wait until you see what’s coming this summer!!)

I love the image of living with your whole heart – bringing all of yourself to your life every day. When you think about the example of holy people that you may know, or even holy people throughout history, it’s clear that that’s how they live. They showed up with all of themselves in everything that they did, holding nothing back from those around them, but ultimately not holding themselves back from God. And in turn God uses these people to work wonders in the world. 

Think about the example of Mother Teresa. She clearly lived with her whole heart – caring for people who have no one else to care for them in their dying days and hours with a love and patience that seemed endless. She came to her ministry every day with everything that God gave her – her whole heart open to the people God sent her. 

And that’s what we should seek to do as well. 

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably keeping parts of yourself back, not out of any  willful withholding, but simply out of fear. When we think of ourselves as alone – solitary entities in the world – I think it would be a little impossible not to be afraid of showing ourselves in our entirety. 

And that is why I think God is such a key element in true wholehearted living. 

How can we have confidence in ourselves simply for our own sake with no outside input without falling deeply into pride and self-centeredness? I don’t believe that we really can. 

But, we know that it is important for Christians to act with confidence, so what is left for us to do? I believe it is left to us to turn wholeheartedly to God and to believe with trust what he says about us – that we are worthy of his love and that everything he has given us is for a purpose. 

When we embrace our gifts and talents with confidence from the jumping off point of knowing God‘s love for us we are able to find the confidence we seek and live with our whole hearts. 

This month we’re going to be talking more about obstacles to that (like grudges and unforgiveness), how we can care for our hearts and stop keeping bits and pieces of ourselves separate from all the rest and embrace that kind of unity that we see in the person of God.

With joy,

Jill

Making the First Step of Connection

This is going to be a shorter email this week because I would love for you to take a little bit of the time you usually spend reading these emails to write one of your own. 

Is there someone that you have been meaning to reach out to? An old teacher, college roommate, friend from high school, or a person from church that you wanted to connect with and haven’t yet?

I want you to take the first step of connection and send them a quick email, Facebook message, or text. 

{It would be lovely to write a snail mail letter, but I think sometimes we can get caught up in wanting things to be as perfect as possible, like writing long letters a la Jane Austen in lovely calligraphy, and that can keep us from doing what we can do in the moment, which for many of us is an email, text, or message.}

I find that these reconnecting, or initially connecting, correspondences are the most impactful if you share something in them, like what the person has meant to you and your life, how they have impacted you, or, for a new acquaintance, what has drawn you to them about their demeanor, personality, or family. It’s vulnerable to share the ways that we depend on and look up to people. It creates an environment where they are able to be vulnerable too.

And if after this month of reflection on connection you feel moved to make a greater effort to connect with people around you in a radical way, I encourage you to become a Joy Box subscriber. For those that don’t know about the Joy Box, we send you $85+ worth of Pink Salt Riot products for just $25, and the only catch is that we ask you to give away half of everything you receive in the box to foster connection as well as an abundance mentality. 

Even when you give away half you are left with almost double what you paid for – reminding you of the way God generously gives in return for our small efforts.

We have a brand new box coming out right at the beginning of March that I think you are going to love. It’s stuffed full of jewelry, cards, stickers, and art for you to keep and give to foster your own connection with God as well as your connection with other people. 

Have a question about the Joy Box? Hit reply and let me know – I’d be happy to answer it for you!

Embracing Vulnerability

It’s almost impossible to deal with relationships between people without dealing with our own shame and insecurities. 

I myself have had issues with maintaining close friendships my entire life that have led me to struggle greatly with vulnerability in friendships. But God in his mercy last year, in one of my greatest gifts of 2019, sent me a new friend that has helped me heal so many of those old wounds. We all need healing, because, like the song about the Bear Hunt that my kids sing ad nauseum, you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it.

We have to face our shame and insecurities in order to move through them. Despite the fact that sharing those things with other people is the absolute last thing I want to do most of the time, that’s the way through. 

Shame can’t survive speaking. 

When we share the parts of ourselves that are most imperfect it frequently has the opposite impact than the one we all fear so much – it draws people to us instead of pushing them away. Connection grows where we have the courage to be vulnerable. Our own vulnerability creates a safe environment for others to be vulnerable as well, and connection grows. 

I like to think of vulnerability as the mud of connection – there’s the lovely light and the freshwater of camaraderie and shared experiences that it’s fun to embrace and talk about, but if you don’t have the dirt of vulnerability a relationship is not going to grow. 

It’s not a glamorous part, but it’s a necessary part. 

Do you struggle to be vulnerable? Is that something you’re comfortable with? 

That’s probably not quite the right question – no one is super comfortable with vulnerability I don’t think. But I think people do get comfortable with the fact that they need to do it, and perhaps that’s the kind of growth we should be seeking – acceptance that vulnerability is necessary to healthy connection, and in turn, connection is necessary for us to love in the way to Christ loves.

Are you looking for everyday reminders to embrace vulnerability? Check out the Connection Shop of limited edition pieces only available through the end of the month.