Knowing your breaking point.

Hi everyone.  Carla here.  Same gal, same place. (I’m as awkward in person as I am on opening sentences on a blog.)  Is there a manual on how to begin a blog post?  If there is, let a sister know.

Anyway, enough of that.  It’s been a busy April in the Stinton household.  Appropriately, I titled this blogpost Knowing Your Breaking Point, because I feel like it’s something I’ve preached for a long time but haven’t necessarily lived out in my own life.  Not everyone has the option to listen to their breaking point, or in my case – quit their job when they’re feeling stressed out. By no means, practically speaking, do we, as a family, have that option either, but I made it one and took it.  (My parents always said I was a where there’s a will, there’s a way kind of child… I guess they’re right.)

Anyways, (back on topic) I definitely saw my parents work hard so somewhere I created a belief system that said “Carla, you have to work hard.”  There is totally nothing wrong with that, but when working hard starts to look like not taking care of yourselfthen we have a problem.

Or, at least I had a problem.

Brené Brown talks a whole lot about this in one of her TEDTalks, in basically saying how women fall under this expectation of having to do ALL things PERFECTLY and never letting anyone see them sweat.  Huge paraphrase, so if you want to watch the actual TEDTalk, click here.  It’s worth every minute of your time, so go watch it!  After having watched that, I realized I’ve put that exact expectation on myself.  Sidenote: I feel like once you’ve discovered your need and how to get it met (healthily) then that’s a whole new level of adulting.  The good kind.

Moving on, back in January when Matt and I moved to Portland, ME, we both kind of sat back and asked the Lord to define our season.  Why are we here?  You tell us.  What should we be doing?  You tell us.

For a lot of us, we define our own seasons without realizing it, and in doing that, we can sometimes end up more tired than the Lord actually wants for us.

Up until this past February, our travel schedule had nothing on it, so (in my worry and maybe my own defining) I decided to get a job.  When I got the news that I had gotten it, we both gave sighs of relief!  I would be a Behavioral Health Professional here in Portland, working in the public schools with students with behaviors.  I felt up for the challenge (this is what I’ve done all my life, so I just expected to be able to handle it!); until around week 3… cue: my breaking point.

In a few words, I was coming home in tears, emotionally and physically strung out, never enough time for our marriage (can we still claim to be newlyweds?), no energy to cook dinner (which I admittingly enjoy) and having just started getting things organized at our church, I found I had 0 energy to even think about our worship community.  Recipe for disaster, right?  Matt and I discussed options, and they all wound up in the same area: I need to quit.  I don’t look at my quitting as a sign of weakness, rather a sign of courage because, really, who listens to themselves enough to actually do something about it?  And also, I had never quit a job before, so it felt like uncharted territory that needed conquering.

Over and over, especially in times like this, I look to Matthew 11 where Jesus so clearly spells out, “…and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Running on my own strength has left me feeling exhausted and this next season that I’m entering just feels like a whole lot of waiting on the Lord.  Isn’t it better to be carried by Jesus than trying to carry the stuff we were never meant to carry?

To know and believe that in our tensions, we are not alone and that He is more eager to help us than we give Him credit for.  He is ever present in our time of need, and this was one of my “ever present” moments.  I decided to leave my job and within 24 hours, I had one of those realizations… Oh, this is what it feels like to live without that heaviness.  Did I miss the Lord in taking that job?  I feel like I could waste a lot of time trying to figure that one out, and what really matters is that He has made such a promise to Matt and I that He would take care of us.

And for the first time, probably ever, I have a complete trust put in Him in this area of my life… it’s equal parts terrifying and equal parts exciting.

 

And you will find rest.

Hello, all.

I’m back at it again!  Two posts in two weeks… seems like a miracle of sorts.  Something I learned about myself as I approached my mid 20s was that I’m just not your gal for blogging commitments.  In my heart of hearts, I am.  In my actions, I am not, and I’m just okay with that.  However, when I feel the pull to write, I’d like to say I’ve gotten better at heeding that pull… but then again, I have no idea.

Anyways, we’re in a blizzard here in New England and I started my job here in Portland as of yesterday.  I also had my first snow day today so I can’t really complain on how it’s going.

In any case, I’ve had something swirling around my brain for a while and I figured I would write it out, in the event that other people have had this same thought, maybe we could throw each other a technological high five or something.

Here’s the thing: we all want to be known.  We all want to be known at something or as someone.  We love when we’re defined by something that we deem important and will go to extremes to make sure everyone else knows.

could be wrong, but having lived through this scenario, I feel like I do have a little room to talk.  I don’t think I’m out of these woods quite yet, but what I do know is that I don’t live and die (anymore) by what people know of me.  In fact, I’ve almost gone so far to the other side, that it feels like I’m holding on to an identity secret in hopes that no one will know about it.

Worship leader.  Ooooh.  Yeah.  That!  There was a time (and not very long ago) that worship leader was what I needed you to know about me.  If you didn’t know that about me, I was in shock and awe and maybe even annoyed.  For my journey on that whole road, you can read old posts on this blog to read about how I handled it.  In the moment, I thought I was handling it with grace but my inner world was complete chaos.  Little did I know that my (then) boyfriend was going through the same thing – those crossroads like to isolate you into thinking you’re the only one with the problem, obviously.  I can’t let him or anyone know about this because WHAT will they think?

It’s pretty insane how much we do and say based on other people’s approval; and those people aren’t even worth the effort half the time.  Brash?  Maybe.  But really, why do we care so much?  Why did I care so much?

A world I had known for so long began to shape who I was and I had no idea that it was pretty toxic.

After countless counseling sessions with a dear friend of ours (Jason Vallotton – if you guys haven’t read his book The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness, you really should) and some pretty raw talks with the Lord and my husband, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Sometimes, the thing we spend so much time fighting for is the thing that makes us tired; but we identify with it, so it gives off a pseudo-life giving vibe.  It’s almost as if I wouldn’t have known who Carla was without fighting for that thing that really wasn’t worth fighting for.  It’s tricky like that!

A few years have gone by since the face to face realization that it’s OKAY to not be known by something.  My gifting and hobby aren’t what make me, ME.

On the other side of this journey has been rest.  It’s been a lot of rest.  When you live in a world that is just as incredible and fun without being under the cloud of striving, you begin to see what (I think) Jesus was talking about…

“…and you will find rest for your soul.”

Portland, Maine & roots.

Since my last post, quite a bit of personal and global history has taken place.

Matt and I bought and moved into our home here in Portland, Maine, and with that transition came a beautiful surprise that neither one of us was prepared for.  After Matt, laboring along with some great guys here from our church on our home, and I long term subbing in Lexington, we landed permanently in Portland, together, sometime mid January.

We were excited to lay down our roots and learn our new routine of life in a new home and a new city.  When you experience a new city with your spouse, it proves to be much easier and more fun than doing said activity without a spouse.  My move to California made me slightly terrified of calling another city “home,” because my first year of transition on the west coast proved to be anything but enjoyable.  (It ended on a much much better note.)

Moving into a new home with no jobs in the immediate area or future sounded like the biggest leap of faith we had ever taken together as a couple, but the entire time, we felt so peaceful about it.  The Lord has been so kind and so merciful towards us these last six months that it seemed out of his character to just drop us off and forget about us now that we’ve moved.

With various other forms of income, we decided to just relax and enjoy our marriage because from day one, our marriage was busy.  I don’t dislike busy, but in an ideal world, I would have preferred to see my husband for more than a few hours a night.  Any other girls out there feel the same?

So, we took the winter and embraced it.  We both began to relearn each other, to actually listen when the other was talking, spend time with each other, hang out with each other, go on coffee dates with each other, talk about our dreams and goals together, and at the end of the night, we were excited to do it all over again the next day.  The Lord was totally on our little sabbatical and it felt so life giving.  We took a few day trips along our beautiful new coast, snapped a bunch of pictures, had home cooked meals together and tea before bed.  (And embarked on watching The Office in its totality.)

I discovered how much I desired to be rooted and grounded, and sometimes it’s the simple little things that help us get there.

Our marriage has truly never felt stronger and at the end of this faux-sabbatical, we find ourselves happier and more rested than ever before.  I start working as a behavioral health professional this coming Monday in Portland, and it feels like it came at the most perfect time.  I’m enjoying our time at our church, Portland Life Center, as well.  We serve as worship pastors and teach about once a month.  We consider it such an honor to be here and be apart of something so much bigger than ourselves.  Creating culture is fun and now that we are that much more settled, we are eager to lay down our own roots and beliefs and share them with the church.

I wish with this blog came some sage wisdom or something that I discovered while taking a breather from life, but I guess what I can say is: learn to rest.  There is a season for eating the fruit and there is a season for laying down your roots.  I’m so excited to see where this new season takes Matt and I, and the people we’ve linked arms with.

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Dependency 101.

It’s officially been over a month since Matt and I packed up our home in Redding, California and made our voyage east, finally landing in Lexington, MA while we await our closing date on our first home. 🙂

Home owners.  What a crazy thought.  I instantly felt worry and anxiety rush over me once our offer was accepted.  The idea of living with my parents for forever all of a sudden sounded like a really good idea.  I mean, financially speaking, is there a better option?

Aside from that, Matt and I are so excited to be in New England; a place that many have deemed impossible and dead, we are excited to see the Lord do great things, because He cares for his children, right? Right.  We are joining a pastoral team in Portland, Maine at a church called Portland Life Center, and again, are just so excited.  Our time in Redding no doubt made us prepared for the season ahead of us, and we are eternally grateful for it.  Leading worship and teaching are two major passions of ours and it’ll be great to see that unfold as time goes on.

Anyways, that moment of worry and anxiety…

It was an accidentally beautiful moment carved out between the Lord and I.  A moment I hadn’t experienced in quite sometime.  The moment of, “Carla, why are you worrying?” from the Lord.

Over the next few days, I felt such a peace come over me and that “don’t you know I care for every little detail in your life?” moment that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I began to hear the Lord so clearly that He had been waiting for this moment.  We spend a lot of time talking about our waiting on the Lord, but He is a faithful friend.  I believe He was waiting just as much as our minds can fathom, for this moment with me.

You see, a good parent, no matter how old their child is, loves when their children ask for their help or input.  That child-like dependency brings a rush of emotion to a mom or dad, I’m sure, to the moments when their child was young and all they ever knew was dependency.  The Lord loves these moments.

When we leave what we think we need and exchange it for dependency on Him.

Isn’t that the Kingdom?

 

Navigating through offense and choosing to forgive.

“It wasn’t that I was offended, it was that I…”

How many of us have ever said those words or had those thoughts about being offended.  People tend to defer offense because it feels pretty vulnerable to admit that someone has shaken your core.  When someone’s core is shaken, that means that they have let someone into a place that they deem worthy and for some reason, that feels like weakness to a lot of people.

Let’s get something straight from the beginning, though:  allowing ourselves to be seen and heard are never weakness.

The well known TEDTalk speaker, Brené Brown gives an excellent definition of vulnerability and that is, “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.”  When we open ourselves to be vulnerable, we are also opening ourselves to offense.  When we are courageous and allow people to see us (you know, without those facades we love to live under) the possibility of them having something to say to that has increased and what we do with those comments will determine how long we stay in offense or choose to forgive.

When we have allowed offense to take root in our lives, there are a few things we need to take notice of, and we will explore those things together.

Some of you may wonder, “what does offense look like?” and it takes on many different faces.  Offense often times looks like unforgiveness and feels like resentment.  When we hold onto unforgiveness, we tend to walk around wounded and bitter and the result of that is living a life that feels heavy and is bound up.  The Lord’s desire for our life is to have a life of joy and wholehearted relationships. (“My desire is to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect – life in its fullness until you overflow.” – John 10:10 TPT)

When offense finds a home in our heart, it’s a sure way to destroy friendships rather than build them up.  If you think about it, how could you flourish in a relationship when you’re constantly holding things against that other person?  When our hearts have closed that person off from having influence in our life (another result of offense: we can’t hear the other person very clearly) we have lost one of the key ingredients that make a friendship a friendship.  Our goals in friendship and intimate relationships should never (first) be to agree, but to understand and that will require open hearts on both ends.

Cultivating honor in our relationships will in some ways, create an “offense resilience” in our bones and allow us to have “reality checks” when our feelings are trying to dictate the truth.  Kris Vallotton shed some light on this topic recently at Bethel Church: “Emotions are great servants but horrible masters.” The truth is, we can feel offended but what we do with that feeling will determine how long we stay there.  A powerful person will not allow themselves to be a victim of someone else’s words, rather they choose how respond both in word and in heart.  The more we practice this, the more it comes alive.  Forgiveness practice seems like a silly idea, but the more we practice anything, the easier it becomes.  (It’s actually fascinating and worth reading about how our brains create new neural pathways the more we do a certain practice.)

So, in short, will that person on your worship team say something to you that may not make your heart feel taken care of?  Or a co-worker pass a comment that ruins your day?  We need to be sure that we aren’t giving people enough power in our life to have the ability to ruin our day, because the only person in control of that is you. (Thank you, Danny Silk, for that life lesson.)

Vulnerability.

Hello, there.  I hope you guys are all doing well.

As always, the time in between posts are always far too long, but such is life.  Sometimes I just rather sit and be with my husband, bake or cook, or really, just mentally unload from my day at work.  My days are long and somewhat stressful and finding my thoughts seems to get more difficult as I get older. 😉

Or maybe it’s because of Instagram.  Anybody else on that boat?

Anyways, as I sit down tonight with a few cookies I just baked today, and Fixer Upper on in the background, I’m trying to gather my ideas on the topic of being vulnerable.  I enjoy being vulnerable (this is a new feat and definitely something I wasn’t used to a few years ago).  It actually makes me sad when others aren’t able to be vulnerable because often times I think: Man, those problems they have would easily be resolved if they just tore down those walls.

A great quote by the incredible thinker, Brené Brown goes like this: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

To be transparent with someone is the most courageous thing we can be and do.  When you’ve allowed your heart to be heard with someone who is trustworthy, it’s the difference between being wounded and being championed.  I don’t suggest to just open your heart to just anyone – there needs to be a foundation, at least, in my opinion.  We don’t build houses on sand and expect the thing to stand, do we?  I mean, the wise man build his house on the rock for a reason.  In the same way, the foundation should be firm and solid (trustworthy) before the deepest part of you is exposed.

In the last few weeks in my own marriage, Matt and I have been so vulnerable with each other; whether it is through our responses (which sometimes mine aren’t pretty, I’ll admit) or our need to let the other one in on our thoughts.  Every single time, though, we have experienced greater depth and love for the other one.  I believe one of us sees the courage in the other and can’t help but see a champion.  It would be a great thing to think that just because we are married, it makes opening our hearts easy all the time… maybe in ten years, when we’ve seen it all, it’ll be easier.  But for now, in our beginning years, telling your spouse or reacting to your spouse in the most honest way can sometimes feel more intimidating than it is courageous.

But feelings can’t dictate our road map.  The simple truth is: when you decide to show up and ask for help, you have embraced the most brave path.

Adulthood comes with an idea that if I’m bulletproof, I’m good; I’m successful.  In reality, we have a lot to learn from children, who are affectionately known to not having much of a filter and they live out of the abundance of their heart.  Which, we all know is the seat of all emotion.

Before moving to California, a few years ago, I would have thought being vulnerable was a weakness.  It was only a weakness because it exposed my own weakness.  I have weakness?  No, that’s impossible.  I had become really good at listening to people and never really sharing my own stuff because, what would people think? Enter: shame.

The longer we are silent on a topic, the more power is given to shame; it empowers it.  Bill Johnson says, “When you believe a lie, you empower the liar.” The same can be said about shame.  If we are here for connection, and that we are, we need to create a space for ourselves and for people to feel safe.  Sharing for the sake of sharing doesn’t heed the same result, rather sharing bred with courage and a need for connecting with another human being, will result in a heart on the journey to healing.

How chilly evenings really make me feel.

I never thought I’d be the girl who enjoyed the days where laundry was in the dryer, warm soup was simmering in our slow cooker, and I’d be on my second or third cup of warm beverage for the day… whether that be coffee or tea, and find the most fulfillment.

Maybe the only thing missing from this picture is snow.  You know what I mean?  Those days you’d wake up, run into your parents room and check their TV for closed school listings.  Growing up in Lexington, waiting for that “L” always seemed like it took forever to arrive and when it did, boy, was that the greatest feeling in the world.

Being on the other side of that now, not that Matt and I are parents yet, but I can only imagine how happy those snow days made my mom.  My dad, too, except snow days usually meant there was a driveway waiting to be shoveled and just because it snowed, usually never meant patients cancelled.

I remember the happiness and joy that it brought my mom to have everyone around the table on snowy days, and she’d make this huge breakfast – and huge really isn’t an understatement.  My mom is the queen of “small meals” being code for really huge meals.  Usually some sort of pancake, breakfast potatoes, fruit and always bacon; my dad would go to Dunkin Donuts down the street and come back with bagels and donuts; if we were really lucky, my dad would go to Somerville (a little city outside of Boston about twenty minutes away) and go to our childhood bakery and buy some of our favorite donuts.

I guess I’ve always had a thing for donuts.

But I say all that to say this: on the other side of childhood is the happiness of being a family.  I understand my mom so much more these days.  I understand why she would say things like, “someday, you’ll understand.”  Granted, in the moment, I really didn’t like hearing that because it made me feel like I didn’t understand – and which teenager likes hearing that?!  But, really, isn’t that true?

Anyways, just my thoughts on this chilly northern California evening.  We’ve got our heat on, fresh bread baking in the oven, warm chicken soup and blankets for everyone.