His plan, not my planner.

I made a lot of goals for myself this year. If you look at the “Passion Roadmap” on my planner you will see branches for “Career,” “Fitness,” “Nutrition,” “Relationships,” and “Finances.”

People have told me my entire life, “giiirrrrl, you get things done. You’re a boss.” I appreciate the thought, but hearing these accolades always made me think about what it was that I was winning at… what I was chasing after. Was I chasing recognition, accolades, status, control, or dare I say, perfection??

I used to live my life by the quote, “She believed she could so she did.”

But see, my life transformed – and continues to transform – ever since I heard this quote flipped on its head: “She believed she couldn’t and so He did.” 

I cannot move without Him. I need Him. It’s really that simple. It was only once I surrendered my life to the sole pursuit of chasing Him that my goals found purpose and victory. The fitness/nutrition/finance/work goals have a new-found purpose. Their purpose are to glorify Him.

So yeah, I’m maintaining my fitness and nutrition goals. I’m actually quite the spin enthusiast now and I’m meal planning like a pro (ask my boyfriend). I’m on the phone with my family and friends a lot more. I’m making meaningful relationship a priority. I am debt-free! As I go down my planner and put a check mark beside my victories, I am in awe. I am in awe because this was not me, but Him. It was Him transforming my heart and I am so very grateful.

For now, I am chasing Christ from victory to victory. I do not move without Him. It is my prayer that the goals for my life (the things I put in my planner) will look more and more like His will for my life. It is in this truth where my faith (and Passion Planner Roadmap) will firmly stand.

Yours,

Cynthia

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The Contentment Challenge

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord.

This year my Lord called me to give up shopping for 3 months straight, a little thing called “The Contentment Challenge.” I read about this challenge from some faith bloggers and finally, I made the commitment.

God was calling me deeper into Him, to find my joy in my relationship with Him – not in things or appearances. 2017 was the year.

Now, I’m not going to lie, I was scared. Was I ready to look at my financial spreadsheets? Was I ready to look at my vanity and selfishness in the eyes? What if I failed?

I could write a whole book about what this little challenge did to my heart. For now, I’ll just list some questions and answers it gave me.

  1. Invest in others. I always say “I love others” but I only spent money and time on myself. I set a new goal for myself: find ways to participate in people’s lives relentlessly. This means a phone call, a card, a meal, an invitation. I don’t want my relationships to be observed via social media. I want to invest.
  2. Turn my anxieties into obedience. This challenge was not a “cure all.” I wasn’t little-miss-perfect during this time and I struggled with handling anxieties that crept up. This time spent saving money, thinking long-term, and praying brought up hard questions. Am I making good career choices? When will I be able to buy a house? Am I adulting well enough? Though I still struggle with these hard questions, this challenge reminds me of one crucial truth: My joy is in His promise – not in a house or job title.
  3. Take action. Find community. For years I have “church hopped,” hoping to find a community that fit. I am Catholic and have always been part of bible study classes and groups. I struggled finding a church in Nashville that offered the tradition I sought AND a lively ministry and community. I am now part of a new, welcoming church community. I am excited that this contentment challenge opened up my heart to this church and making new friends.
  4. I’m going to talk about God. I work in politics, I’ve been trained to keep my Christianity to myself. Coupled with my fears that people would find me “preachy” or a “prude,” have all stopped me from bringing God up in conversations. This challenge taught me that my faith is not something that I could tip-toe around. I cannot talk to anyone about life without talking about my faith. I can’t give boy, career, or health advice without turning to my light and solid foundation. Why wasn’t I going out as often? Why did my lifestyle change so much? Why did I seem so happy? It’s all Him!

Lord, help me to always push myself aside and make room for You. I don’t have all of the answers but this contentment challenge opened my heart and I am thankful for all that I learned and am learning. This challenge continues.

Be still, my heart.

One of my best friends asked me earlier today, “how is Lent going?”

“Good!” is a socially acceptable response. But Gomes’ question led me straight to this week’s Lenten series reading in Deuteronomy. It led me face-to-face with my forgetful faith. 

In Deuteronomy Chapter 4, we are reminded that our hearts are easily forgetful, that our faith is easily distracted and weak. Moses, the author, urges his people, “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you” (23).

Especially during happy times, my faith becomes distracted and forgetful. During Lent I’ve noticed that I would rather read books about prayer than sit down and pray. I would rather surf the web for an hour and read blogs about faith rather than be still in the presence of my God. What is stopping me from being still?

I suppose in moments of joy and victory, my faith is forgetful of the deserts my God has pulled me out of. It is forgetful of my nothingness without Him. My happy heart and mind are running and restless, but I should know better. I am only found in the perfect stillness and completeness of His name.

My God, have mercy on my forgetful faith.

 

My Lenten Promise

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Luke 9:23-24

Lent is my favorite time of the year.

I don’t even have the words to describe it. It is beyond my understanding. It is a greater joy than I can articulate.

To me, there is no greater joy than the Lenten season and there is no greater challenge.

Lent is next week and in preparation I’ve been shamefully human. I’ve noticed my head often race, “what will I give up for Lent?” “what goals should I set for myself?” “how will I measure this?” “what should I plan and program?” “what should I set in my Google Cal…?”

I begin to write a to-do list and seek blocks in my schedule for the season. However, in my planning frenzy, I am given grace:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

God has a blessed way of telling me, “Cynthia, this is not about you.”

Lent – a relationship with God – is not a season. It is not a program. It is not something you put on your Google Cal. It is something central to my life. If I truly am a disciple of God, I must give up my tendency to control, my tendency to see life through a small, “Cynthia” lens. I must give up the busy, the noise, and the things of the world. I must lose my life in order that I may save it.

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

These forty days are not about me-Cynthia, they are about my relationship with Christ. I am, only through Him.

These forty days are about removing the things of the world (the busy, the noise, social media and entertainment distractions, over-consumption) that keep me from Him. They are about including things in my life (mass, serving with others, bible study, prayer, fasting) that bring me closer to Him.

Lord, transform me this Lent. Guard my heart and mind from the things of the world. I want to lose it all to gain it all, Lord. This is my Lenten Promise.

 

Suffering well

“Dumpster fire.” “The worst.”

This is how many people I know have described 2016. I usually just nod in agreement when I hear this. It’s easier to nod. It’s more challenging to reflect on the suffering. But now as I look back on the year, a devastating and difficult year to many, I am reminded of a homily I heard years ago.

Years ago I heard a homily that changed my life. It was about suffering well.

What ‘suffering well’ means to me is allowing my pain to bring me closer to Christ. It is in realizing my brokenness, my smallness, that I can run towards Christ, seeking my faith like seeking air to breathe. It is in suffering that I am reminded how radically dependent I am on the love and truth I only find through Him.

In this case, dependence is not a bad thing. I know, I know… it’s hard for those of us who pride ourselves in being strong and independent and self-sufficient.

However, I know I am strong through Christ. I am independent and self-sufficient through Christ. I experience joy through Christ. How do I know that next year will be okay? How do I know I am worthy of true love and respect? Through Christ. I know who I am through Christ alone. 

It’s the most generous gift I have received. In my brokenness I am capable of receiving the love of Christ who will always wait for me with open arms. I can suffer well knowing that love has already won; He is just waiting for me.

So thank God for my broken heart. I am capable of loving well because I have suffered well. 

As we enter 2017 my prayer is that I may be patient and humble. I pray that I continue to seek wholeness and good relationship with my God even in these good times. I pray others may find out what it means to suffer well.

What You’ve Done to Me

I’m finally broken, falling too far
Burned up in pieces from chasing your stars
With twilight approaching all that I’ve seen
I could never get over what You’ve done to me

NEEDTOBREATHE

 

The start of my year did not begin last January 1st. It began on Easter Sunday.

On Easter Sunday I wore a pretty floral dress and went to church with my best friends. I specifically remember my prayer that morning, “God, please let me be done. Give me peace. Let this be finished.”

I prayed with my whole heart and God carried me out of church that morning. He held me when my knees buckled and wiped the tears that rolled off my cheek. I was broken and fell too far; I knew I had burned up in pieces. Still, I could feel God carry me. As I walked out, I turned around and looked at the church and thought to myself, “It is finished.”

See, He really does make all things new.

After that Easter Sunday a lot has happened in my beautiful little life. In Christ I regained my discipline and perseverance. My anxieties turned to obedience. My heartbreak turned into faithfulness. What a blessing it was and is to find Christ in my brokenness. 

I could never get over what You’ve done to me.

I could never get over what You’ve done to me.

Yours, Cynthia