Setting boundaries around social media use doesn’t make you spiritual. It makes you healthy.

Are you one of those people who think you’re superior because you drink your coffee black? Or you buy organic? Or you don’t have cable?

News flash: You’re not.

And the next time you announce on social media that you are going on a social media fast, I hope someone slaps you.

Not really hard. Just enough to get your attention.

Stop abstaining from social media in the name of God. Setting boundaries around social media doesn’t make you spiritual. It makes you healthy.

I also know that your issue really isn’t with social media. It’s with the other billion people using it, and the way you relate to them and their content.

Maybe you need a break from the constant conflict of Facebook arguments where no-one ever convinces the other one of their opinion but they’ll all die trying.

Or maybe you’re like me and sometimes find yourself constantly drowning in the ocean of comparison on Instagram. You know comparison is the devil’s playground, and you think deleting Instagram will help you ignore the distractions.

What if there’s a better way? Instead of deleting the apps or deactivating your accounts and giving up on it altogether, what if you were intentional about developing a healthier relationship with social media as a whole?

Solving our problems with social media isn’t about social media. It’s about us.

My relationship with social media isn’t perfect by any means but I’ve adopted a few practices that have radically improved my quality of life when it comes to social media.

  1. God first. I used to pick my phone up and hit Instagram first every morning. I would often find myself wishing I was as productive or as successful as _____________. Now, I roll out of bed and my knees hit the ground. Sometimes, it’s for two minutes. Other times, it’s for two hours. Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I start my day thanking God for another shot at this thing called life. Try it. It will radically change your focus when you do start scrolling.
  2. Mute and unfollow. There’s these beautiful options called “Mute” and “Unfollow.” You don’t have to be a jerk and block people. When you do, you’re actually trying to intentionally hurt them and that’s another post for another day. When I hit that “mute” button, I might as well be muting Satan. Don’t misread that. If I’ve ever muted you, I don’t think you’re Satan. But he knows one of the ways to get in my head is to show me the photos of those I follow who are living their very best life. It causes me to ask all the wrong questions and look for the answers in all the wrong places. Muting that voice forces me to spend more time looking at my own life.
  3. Love your own life. Find ways to be grateful for the life you get to live. If there’s things you don’t like, change them. Create a life you love so deeply that you can’t wait to jump out of bed every morning and live it. When we begin to appreciate the places we belong to, the people we love and the things we have, we don’t want for others’ highlight reels. When I began to do this, I would take inventory in a week’s time of how many moments of my own life didn’t make the Internet. It gave me perspective. Can’t think of anything to love about your own life? Go find someone else who has it worse off than you and do something kind for them. One simple random act of kindness will shift your entire mentality.

But Felicia? Wouldn’t it be easier to just delete social media from my life? You tell me. How easy is it for you to cut out sugar? Caffeine? Alcohol? Cigarettes? Gambling? Television?

When my nutritionist told me I was drinking too much coffee last year, she didn’t insist I never drink coffee again. She helped me create a better relationship with it. Now, I drink one cup of black coffee a day, if that.

(For the record, I am definitely not superior for drinking my coffee black!)

In case you were wondering, I used to drink my coffee a light tan color because if it were socially acceptable to only drink the creamer, I might have. But I was pouring too much sugar, dairy and caffeine down my throat for what my body needs to be healthy.

Guess what? Coffee and I have a better relationship than we ever did before. I’ve learned to respect and appreciate it. I believe the same is true when we build healthy boundaries with social media.

Let’s get something straight. Having a good relationship with social media doesn’t make you a better Christian. And being a better Christian doesn’t make you good at social media. But just like anything else in life, let’s look for ways to be better at loving God and His people WHILE we use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter or whatever other platform you’re on.

Other tips for being a good Christian AND having a healthy relationship with social media.

  • Create time parameters for when you use or don’t use social media. Spend an hour with God every morning instead of with Zuckerberg.
  • Spend more time praying for people than arguing with them.
  • Celebrate when others win. Encourage when they don’t.
  • Make sure your virtual community doesn’t outweigh your physical one. In other words, don’t mistake having 1,200 Facebook friends as your real friends. Real friends pick up the phone or have dinner with each other.
  • Social media is not your personal soapbox. It’s your candle. Be a light, not a microphone.

What is your best pro tip for how to be a good Christian and healthy with social media?

Have you liked my Facebook page yet? Do so here.

You are only as BIG as the DREAM you DARE to LIVE

Have you ever made a vision board full of these magazine-worthy pictures of a glamorous life you thought would be amazing, but none of those things ever came to fruition?

Maybe you envisioned the wedding of your dreams? Or launching your own business? Or building your dream home?

Maybe it was being debt-free?

Running a marathon?

Writing a book?

A dream vacation?

Landing a particular client?

Finishing your degree?

All of those things are perfectly attainable for all of us, but yet many of us never get there.

What’s the problem?

Our vision boards are crap. We have built these visions based on what we want to happen to us and not on what we want to make happen for ourselves.

Or even worse, they aren’t even our own dreams. Rather they are someone else’s dreams for us.

Instead of vision boards, maybe we need to start creating “belief boards” full of things we actually want and believe we can attain.

A lot of experts would take this opportunity to talk about setting more attainable goals or breaking them up into smaller chunks.

But what if you just had more confidence in what you have the power to do?

Did you know you actually have the power within you to achieve any dream God has placed on your heart?

It’s God-given. He will never call you to a dream He won’t equip you for.

He didn’t call Noah to build an ark without giving him instructions and endurance.

He didn’t call Moses to free the Israelites from Egypt without giving him favor and wisdom.

He didn’t call Joseph to be second in command over all of Egypt without giving him strength and patience.

And He won’t give you a dream He won’t then equip you with the power to realize.

But you have to believe in that power. And really, all that means is to take a step out in faith, fully knowing that God has the next part taken care of.

It means you have to live. Live in confidence. Live in faith. Live in belief.

You are only as big as the dream you dare to live.

Take a few minutes today and create a belief board. It can be a simple list of a few things you actually believe God is going to do in your life. Or it can be a full-blown Pinterest project. You choose.

And then I dare you to live those dreams. Live in the belief and confidence that God is going to make things happen in your life. All you have to do is show up.

It’s going to require you to be a risk-taker, but I promise it’s worth it.

Share one of your dreams (or your whole belief board) with your community and encourage others to do the same. Let’s challenge one another to believe in the dreams God has put on our hearts.

I will share some of mine and some of the steps I’m taking to tangibly act out my belief in an email later this week. Have you signed up for my emails yet? Drop in your email address below and do it now.

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Job 42 Moments

A couple months ago, I had a vision of a conversation God and Satan were having about me. It looked a lot like the one they had about Job in Job 1.

God: “From where do you come?”

Satan: “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”

God: “Have you considered My servant Job (Felicia)? For there is no one like him (her) on the earth, a blameless and upright man (woman), fearing God and turning away from evil.” 

Satan: “Does Job (Felicia) fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him (her) and his (her) house and all that he (she) has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his (her) hands, and his (her) possessions have increased in the land. 1But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he (she) has; he (she) will surely curse You to Your face.” 

God: “Behold, all that he (she) has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him (her).”

Last year was an incredible year. I had zero complaints. I had a job I loved, two church families that made me feel like I belonged, flourishing relationships and an incredible gym. I was gaining strength physically, professionally, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially and relationally. I had a dream in my heart and was relentlessly chasing after it.

I hit my knees every morning in gratitude. I prayed for other people but I never had any real cries of my heart for myself. I knew I needed to make some minor changes here and there but I just had an overwhelming peace. Nothing kept me up at night. I was leading myself from a place of clarity, confidence and calmness.

I wrote my first book. My personal ministry was growing and gaining focus with every single day. I was starting to see God open doors for me to do the thing I know He has created and called me to do.

And then the attacks started coming. One by one. First, it was my finances. Then it was my job and pride. Then it was my relationships.

Even through all these things, I remained steadfast. I knew God would provide. I knew He had things to teach me. I knew He was in control. I remained committed to praising Him, no matter what.

If you know the story of Job, you know God eventually gave Satan power over his health, as long as he did not kill him.

On February 23, Satan got that same reign in my life. It all started with an elevated heart rate. Ten weeks later, the mystery continues and I am facing words like cancer. It consistently got worse as the days and weeks wore on. I would praise God and stand on His promises, and then something else would break. There were moments in time I struggled to understand what God was doing but I only ever felt like I was literally going to die about four times. Each time, I would get a gentle reminder from Holy Spirit that no matter how bad it gets, God will not let me die.

“You have too much to do.”

“The world still needs you.”

“Your message isn’t loud enough yet.”

“This is just part of My plan. The worse it gets for you, the more lives it will change later. Your temporary sacrifice will rewrite stories and change family trees later.”

If I’m really vulnerable with you, I have longed to be 100 percent committed to my rock-solid faith throughout this whole thing. But once I started having to see an infectious disease doctor and what felt like it should be an easy fix became a much bigger, scarier situation, my perspective shifted. And not necessarily in a good way.

Why?

Because I’m human. Job was too. And for the record, so are you. I know God has the ability to fix everything in the blink of an eye, and I believe in the power of prayer. It’s the first thing I do every single day. I love praying for other people. But I realized in the last week I had forgotten God might not heal me until I accepted I might not be healed.

I was boasting to my counselor yesterday about how I have to get better because I’m going to run 100 miles through Death Valley one day*, and he asked me a question that stung deep and made my jaw drop,

“What if you don’t? What does it say about your value if you don’t?”

I argued with him (because that’s just what I do). I actually made some very valid points in my argument, but let’s be real. That was the question God wants me to answer.

Do I believe in my own message? Do I believe that I am still just as valuable to God and others even if I never run another meter again? Or publish a book? Or speak on a stage? Or even step in a gym again?

At the end of Job, everything he lost is restored and multiplied to him. He cries out to God in Job 42:5-6,

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”

I don’t know if I’m at the end of my Job story yet. I’m feeling pretty great today but only time will tell if God has decided I’ve really had enough.

Maybe I haven’t. Maybe Satan has a lot more to do to me.

But what I do know is God has never left me or forsaken me. And He never will.

I also know that James 4:3 warns us that if we pray with the wrong motives, we will not receive what we want.

He might not heal me. Or if He does, it might not be in my timing. But He definitely won’t if I don’t ask, or if I don’t surrender my hopes and dreams to make room for His.

Whatever you’re in the midst of today, I want to encourage you to check your heart and audit your perspective.

  1. Pray to align your heart with God’s, not the other way around. We have not because we ask not. You are your Heavenly Father’s child. He wants to give you the desires of your heart, but the desires of your heart should be to follow Him wherever He leads you. In my case, I should want to love Him and His people more than I want to run marathons and see my name on the NY Times Bestsellers’ list. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I firmly believe both of those things are God-given dreams for me. But if I lose sight of doing those things to further His kingdom, He will yank them away faster than I can blink. He wants to be in relationship with me much more than I want to run a race and stand on a stage. And I should too.
  2. Remember God’s faithfulness in the past. Throughout scripture, we see one example after another where God asks His people to build an altar to remember His faithfulness. They did that so that the next time they were faced with an uncertain situation, they would be reminded of what He did in the past. Don’t worry. You don’t have to build altars. But do something to remember the ways God provides, heals, prepares and blesses your life and the lives of those around you. I keep an Evernote journal because I’m a writer. Maybe for you, it’s a video blog or pictures. I’ve even known people to buy bottles of wine and write the prayer and date on it and then drink it later when God has answered their prayer. Whatever your system is, remember His faithfulness. You’ll need it later.
  3. Be honest. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Too many well-meaning Christians think and preach that if you admit you feel weak or feel angry or scared, your faith just isn’t strong enough. THAT IS NOT TRUE. Biblical faith never calls us to deny reality. We are human. This is a broken world we live in. God created us with emotions. The key to being in authentic relationship with Him, ourselves and others is feeling your feelings, being honest about them and trusting the process (God) with them. Claim the promises of God over your life. Absolutely. But also be real. Admit the truth. If you can be vulnerable about where you really are and how you are feeling, it’s actually a sign of strength. It actually means you trust God with the truth. That’s bold. It’s not easy.

Your reality doesn’t change your faith, but your faith can’t change your reality until you are honest about it.

Even more than I want a healing miracle today, I’m looking for Job 42 moments in my story. I yearn for a deeper revelation of what God’s goodness looks like. One I have experienced and that has changed me from the inside out. Job was already a great servant. God said so when He gave Satan dominion, but can you imagine how much richer and more abundant his relationship with God was after he finally got to the place where he had absolutely nothing left but his heart for God and yet he still remained committed to Him? That’s the real miracle, friends.

I’ll keep you guys posted on what’s going on in my Job story over on Instagram (Here’s my account) but I think I have decided to get ready for the miracle. Whatever that looks like. Maybe it’s healing. Maybe it’s a dream job. Maybe it’s something I don’t even know to ask for. Or maybe it’s just simply the ability to understand and accept that no matter what, God is still good. He owes me nothing. Even if He never gives me another thing as long as I live, I still have too many things to thank Him for.

*Thanks to David Goggins and his book, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, my dream of running a pain-free 5k turned into running 100 miles through Death Valley in the heat of summer. Overnight.

Don’t fall asleep on Jesus

Let’s talk about a comeback story. Or two.

It’s Good Friday, which means we are spending the weekend remembering and celebrating the ultimate comeback story. Our Father in Heaven loves us so much that He sent His Son to live, serve, die and rise again for us.

Let’s get something straight right now. God didn’t do that just out of pity so we could evade Hell.

He did it because He loves us and longs for relationship with each of us for eternity. He wanted that so much that He was willing to sacrifice His Son.

Wrap your head around that. God SO LOVED the world….

I unexpectedly had a lot of free time and was blessed to study the Easter story much more in-depth this year. One of the things that stood out to me was when Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane right before Judas’ betrayal and the crucifixion. He went to pray and left James, John and Peter. Three times in an hour, He came back to find them sleeping.

You can imagine Jesus is a little frustrated with them.

He tells them to rise and pray so they won’t fall into temptation. Yet, they continue to fall asleep each time he leaves them.

It’s easy for you and I to look at this story and think, “Really guys? You fell asleep on Jesus?”

But guess what? You do it too. I know I have.

It’s because of Jesus’ comeback story that you and I get to have comeback stories of our own.

And unfortunately, we fall asleep on Jesus in the midst of our own stories all. the. time.

We get content in this life we are living and we forget our God-given purpose.

We settle for mediocre.

We play it safe.

We listen to the lies.

We fall to temptation because we fall asleep on Jesus.

I fall asleep on Jesus daily.

I tell myself and everyone else I’m “living the dream, dreaming the life.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love the life I get to live.

But God has so much more in store. He died on a cross and rose again, and He didn’t just do it for me to have eternal redemption. He did it so I could live out His confidence every single day.

He did it so I could inspire people to find their confidence in Jesus. Write New York Bestsellers. Speak on stages in massive arenas. Coach people out of brokenness and into freedom.

He did it so I could take the light He gave me and walk right back into the darkness. He did it so I could facilitate hundreds of thousands of other comeback stories.

But more days than not, I pass out on Him. I take the easy road. I forget to be intentional. I lose my excitement for the story He is writing through my life.

I want to encourage us to stop falling asleep on Jesus. What do you need to do to stay awake and alert for our Savior?

Maybe it’s waking up every morning and having you first cup of coffee with Jesus.

Maybe it’s spending some intentional time in worship on your ride into work, or in your prayer closet before you go to bed.

Maybe it’s developing a rhythm to turn to Jesus first and everything/everyone else later.

Maybe it’s listening and acting in obedience to a prompt from Holy Spirit.

Maybe it’s taking a step out in faith and believing God will provide for you.

I don’t know what it means for you, but I know it’s worth it.

I know I don’t want my legacy to tell the stories of the times I fell asleep on Jesus and His plans.

I know you don’t either.

This Easter, I challenge you to honor the story of the crucifixion and resurrection with a choice to do whatever it takes to stay awake for King Jesus in your own comeback story.

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Be a beginner again

It’s okay to be a beginner again.

It’s a skill actually. If you can get good at not being the smartest person in the room on something, you are going to learn a lot of really great things.

The problem is we don’t like being beginners. It’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel good to not do things perfectly or even well. Being a beginner again opens us up to failure and judgement.

We don’t try new things because we aren’t good at them. And when we aren’t good at something, we convince ourselves we aren’t good.

Kick that lie in the teeth right this second.

What you can do has nothing to do with who you are.

I dare you to work really hard at being a beginner again. Admit that you have questions and don’t know the answers. Read a book. Watch a video. Listen to a podcast. Attend a workshop. Follow experts in whatever you’re learning.

Take a step. And then another one. And another one. It’s all part of the process. We want to magically do things well without learning how to do them. That’s not how it works. Respect the process.

What are you a beginner in right now? What is the thing you need to immerse yourself in and learn all you can about?

Be a beginner again. It’s worth it. I promise.

My Turn: Among many other things, I’m a beginner in creating videos for social media and public speaking right now. Both are uncomfortable and it’s going to be really imperfect for a while. That’s okay.

You don’t want to miss out on my process. Follow me on Instagram to see it all for yourself. Here’s my account.

Say yes one more time.

A few months back, I shared pieces of my story with fatherlessness (Abandoned and adopted. Twice. and Abuse lies.). I saved the hardest piece for today.

It’s been five years since Bucky fell out of the sky.

I spent my entire childhood begging God to be a daddy’s girl.

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of someone to play catch with and be there when I woke up from my surgeries.

When I was a teenager, I dreamed of someone to help me with my homework and teach me to drive.

When I got to college, I dreamed of a dad to show off at family weekend and began to dream about my graduation photos.

While my friends were dreaming of their future husbands, I was just clinging to the idea that I might one day have someone to call Dad.

In April 2012, I got a letter from my adoptive father destroying any last shred of hope I had of ever being considered his daughter again. On my run that night, God and I had a chat. I surrendered the dream of ever being a daddy’s girl and vowed that IF I ever had kids of my own, I would never put them through the misery of going to sleep every night only wishing they had a Dad to come say goodnight. I finally accepted that I was an adult and having a “dad” was never going to happen.

A year and a half later, I started calling Bucky Carter “Dad.” I knew the man for exactly seven months. It was fast. It was intense. It was the absolute most beautiful miracle I have ever seen with my own eyes. He loved me as his own. We just loved one another, HARD.

He gave me everything I ever dreamed of. I never took a single second of it for granted. We loved grabbing wings and a beer at Brewhouse and ice cream at Baskin Robbins. We loved playing with the computers at retail stores and playing games at the kitchen table. We loved going to the gym and doing the dishes together.

We spent the last week of his life cleaning up and fixing my condo after the hot water heater busted and left the place a disaster.

It really didn’t matter what we were doing, as long as we were together.

He literally threw me on a roller coaster and gave me my love for all things adventure and adrenaline.

He drove me 30 minutes each way to go meet my eye doctor at his office in the middle of the night multiple times when things got rocky with an experimental lens we used on my eyes. Not sure who the bigger hero was on those nights – Bucky Carter or Jason Nash, although I’m a pretty big fan of both.

Christmas morning was an absolute blast. For the first time in my life, there were gifts under the tree from “Dad.” I’m not sure who played with my remote-controlled helicopter he gave me more – him or me.

He would often apologize for not being there for the first 23 years. And while I was sad I didn’t have him as a kid, I was so full of anticipation and excitement for the decades we had in front of us.

Until we didn’t.

“Felicia, Bucky crashed his plane and he didn’t make it.”

As Todd’s words broke over the phone, my heart slipped lower than it ever had before, or has since.

Dad flew ultralight airplanes for six years before his crash and had never had a problem.

Emergency response and the news crews beat us to the scene. People began to gather to spectate and report the events of the day. He was a good pilot. The weather was perfect that day. There was nothing wrong with the plane.

He just died.

In the sky.

The plane nose-dived. He was dead before he hit the ground.

I spent hours after the crash at the airfield. The first person to try to console me was an FAA agent. He said, “I am so sorry this happened, kid. I lost my dad when I was about your age and it’s going to be tough but I promise you will get through it.”

I argued with the guy. I didn’t feel like he had the authority to say that to me because he couldn’t possibly understand the extent of what I had just lost.

(Let’s be real. I also just really like to argue. It doesn’t matter who it is, or what it’s about. My counselor is still working on that.)

The next days and weeks and months felt like an endless nightmare.

I woke up each morning and realized it was still true. He was gone and wasn’t coming back. My heart would drop into my stomach every single time.

I saw a grief counselor for a few months after the plane crash. He told me, “If you do nothing else but wake up and breathe every day for the next year, you’ve done more than I would expect.”

He actually didn’t say that because I lost my dad and best friend. He said that because my questions outweighed my faith at that point.

People were looking to me to show them how to respond. In any other season of my life, I would have put my game face on and loved God and life through the devastation. But that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t even will myself to be the rock of faith the world expected me to be.

All I could think is God could have done a million tiny little things that would have prevented the events of that day. Sitting in the airfield that day, I looked up at the sky and said, “it’s all just a game to you, isn’t it?”

It didn’t seem fair. Why did God give me my dream just to take it away?

The God of my reality didn’t match the God of my Bible.

Can I be really authentic?

I still have a lot of questions.

I also have a few answers.

Those seven months were amazing. They were everything I could have ever wanted in a dad. It was the epitome of perfection.

Maybe it was so amazing because it was so brief. Maybe if I had decades with him, there would have been bad memories too. Maybe God knew that in order to protect the beauty, it had to be brief.

While I spent those seven months very grateful to God for the miracle, I wasn’t in relationship with Him the way I needed to be because I was soaking up every second with my new dad. Maybe God gave me the answer to all my prayers but He wasn’t prepared to give me the opportunity to replace my Heavenly Father.

Maybe God knew that losing Dad was the only thing that would get me desperate enough for purpose and community that I would eventually open my heart to trust a couple staff members at Cross Point, which would lead to years of living the “Cross Point life.” That life has shaped every single thing about who I am today.

Maybe God chose me to be able to walk with others through unusual grief. I remember convincing myself that nobody could ever possibly understand. I felt like my grief was special. I have never met another person who had to start grieving the future they would never have while still grieving the past they never had. But because of the depths of my pain, I have since been able to walk through grief with dozens of others.

Maybe the plan was never about answering my prayers by giving me Dad, but was about answering Bucky’s prayers by giving him a daughter in his final days. He also accepted Christ and began a relationship with Jesus 139 days before he died, which might have been the greatest purpose of all.

Maybe the story of fatherlessness wouldn’t be complete without the Bucky chapter. Nobody, not even the perfect picture of a Dad, can fit the God-sized hole in our lives. The experience of gaining and losing an earthly father in less than a year has contributed to my ministry in a million different ways.

Maybe God decided it was time to wrestle with me like He did with Jacob. He knew that having to go through that would give me no choice but to eventually turn to Him in desperation for comfort.

Honestly, we will never know this side of Heaven exactly why God allowed that plane to crash that day. But I do know two things:

God is still good, and He sees the whole picture.

But I would have never seen that had I not been willing to say yes to God one more time. I could have easily given up. Nobody would have been shocked. After all I have been through in my life, it wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibilities for me to say “screw it” and stop fighting for joy in this life. Thank God I didn’t. Thank God I said yes ONE MORE TIME. It doesn’t matter how many times you have done it before and been disappointed. What do you need to say yes to one more time?

Your marriage?

Your dream?

A friendship?

Dating?

Church?

The gym?

Finishing your degree?

Trust me when I tell you that I get it. I understand that opening up to the possibility to get disappointed again seems like it isn’t worth it.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to have life and have it more abundantly. But in order for that to happen, we have to risk faith. We have to be confident that He is who He says He is, and we are who He says we are. We have to be willing to throw our nets in the water one more time.

Bonus: Is your dad still around? Pick up the phone and call him today. Pick up your phone right now. Don’t wait for Father’s Day. Treat every day like it’s the third Sunday in June. Love, appreciate and enjoy him.

Stop being busy

One of the saddest things I hear is when I ask people how life is and their response is, “busy.”

“Busy” implies they are running from thing to thing, commitment to commitment, and not enjoying it.

They always have that look on their face and that tone in their voice. That feeling like it’s just dreadful they have to deal with soccer practice and church group and birthday dinners.

“Busy” means their calendars are full but their hearts are empty.

“Busy” means they have lost their joy.

“Busy” means they don’t have time to hang out with you because they just have to hang out with someone else.

“Busy” means they have lost perspective.

Am I talking about you?

Stop being busy.

I won’t tell you to clear your schedule to rest. Maybe you’re like me and rest doesn’t bring you that much joy. But take a look at your calendar. What is just a thing on the calendar?

Your job?

Get a new one.

Volunteering every other Thursday night?

Take a break.

The gym?

Find another way to do fitness.

Your kids?

Sell them.

Okay, don’t do that last one. You might regret it and I think it’s still illegal.

But do find a way to choose a better yes.

Build a life that you GET TO live to replace the life you feel like you HAVE TO live.

And the next time someone asks you how life is going, be able to confidently say, “life is so good.”

Discovering the heart of a champion: A look into my PT journey

“She will develop arthritis at a young age.”

“Let’s stay away from lifting weights. Your body just can’t handle it.”

“You will never be a recreational runner again.”

“If you don’t have this surgery, you will end up in a wheelchair in your 30s.”

These are the things I heard over and over again throughout my life.

I have a condition called Marshall Syndrome, which is caused by a mutation in one of the five collagen genes. It basically means I have a deficiency in bone growth and early onset arthritis, among other things.

I wasn’t medically cleared to play a lot of sports growing up because of the fear culture I lived in. Doctors and my parents both leaned on the side of caution than on letting me take the risks and prove what I could do. There was very little room to ever challenge my body to do things medical journals said I couldn’t.

I rebelled as soon as I became an adult. As a college freshman, I decided to become a runner. It was January 2010. The first time I ever went running, it was snowing.

Because that’s a brilliant idea.

I ran a couple miles that night. And the next night, I did it again. And again. And again.

I’m a genius, y’all.

I was eventually running three to five miles every night. Sounds awesome, right?

Negative ghostrider.

Nobody had ever taught me to run. I had no idea there was a right and wrong way to run. I ran for the next couple years, but I did it the WRONG way.

In 2013, an orthopedic surgeon told me I had zero cartilage left in my left knee and that almost every ligament was torn. My knee stayed swollen. He got me a brace and scheduled surgery.

After all, it was my ONLY option, right?

While waiting on surgery, I did traditional physical therapy with his in-house team.

Nothing changed.

I bailed on surgery. Actually, I bailed on surgery FOUR times. I just didn’t like the idea. I decided I would rather be in pain and wear the brace than have surgery.

Wait? What?

My tolerance for pain is so high that “not feeling pain” was not a good enough reason for me to be out of commission for a 16-week recovery period.

Thank goodness.

Shortly after I bailed on surgery, I began to lift. Doctor after doctor told me it was a bad idea. I did it anyway.

(And all the people who know me aren’t surprised.)

In June 2017, I broke my back. The only thing I needed from my neurosurgeon was a clearance to get back in the gym. When he gave it, he said – yep, you guessed it – “Ehh…I guess. But my personal thought is you’re probably never going to lift heavy or run recreationally again.”

About six months later, I joined Crossfit. Why Crossfit? Because when you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to go to the extreme to prove to you I can. There were days I wore my knee brace during the workout, but at least i was proving I could lift and run.

On May 23, 2018, it all came to a screeching halt.

“And you’re done. Go get a rower.”

The workout was six 400m sprints. I made it through TWO.

I cared more about proving to everyone I could beat Linda, a fierce competitor and avid runner at our gym, than I did listening to the voice in my head that told me to slow down.

I stepped over the finish line and rolled onto the ground, holding my knee in pain.

The coaches at my gym did what they should do. They shut me down until I got checked out by a professional.

That professional was Dr. Dustin Howard.

In our first session, I found out his answer wasn’t ever going to be surgery. Or to tell me I couldn’t do the things I love. His entire model was and is based on doing an individualized assessment on his clients and creating plans that help them get back to being active and doing the things they love to do.

We are designed to be active and our bodies are designed to heal themselves with the right movements in the right doses. He is like a movement ninja and can usually get people back to doing the things they love to do faster than they can even come up with excuses on why it won’t work.

I had NO IDEA what I was signing up for, and I don’t think he did either.

Turns out, we had much bigger fish to fry than a knee injury and learning how to run again. Dr. D quickly caught on that my issues started in my head and heart, not my muscles.

Before I would ever make solid progress on squats or running, I had to make solid gains in my confidence.

I had to learn that my own health and wellness was worth saying no to things other people wanted me to do that were detrimental to my progress. I had to learn I was worth putting the work in. I had to learn to slow down and allow pain to teach me my limitations.

I had to learn to listen and do what I was told to do, and not do what I was told not to do. I had to learn about nutrition and exercise. I had to learn that stretching is for champs, not chumps.

(Trust me when I tell you my learning curve on listening and following instructions without complaining or arguing is about as steep as they come. Just doing my part to prepare Dr. D for fatherhood.)

I had to learn about appreciating the PROCESS. I had to learn that taking slow and controlled steps toward my goal was the quickest way to actually hitting my goals.

Dr. D and I have been meeting every week for nine months now. Most of those sessions looked like a normal session. Exercises, workouts, stretching, mobility, running, etc. But some of the best sessions were the ones where we experienced breakthrough. Breakthrough of my heart and mind.

Early on, there were a few sessions where Dr. D told me, “we are just going to talk today.” These have been some of the most critical conversations I have had in discovering the heart of a champion. But there’s something else. Those conversations are where trust was built.

He would tell you that he has always seen gold in me. He’s always seen in me what I can’t see in myself.

The heart of a champion.

I remember the first time he called me a champ. I think I high-fived him and acted like I agreed, but the truth is I was laughing on the inside.

“If only he knew how far from a champion I am….”

But that word stuck with me. And the more I heard him say it, the more I began to believe that maybe I was a champion. Maybe there was a champion buried beneath all the rubble.

Maybe I just needed to discover it.

Slowly but surely, I began to uncover little pieces of what the difference between acting like a champion and being a champion are.

Nine months ago, my PT journey was about learning to walk pain-free without my knee brace. Then it became about learning to squat and run pain-free.

Now, it’s about building strength and doing things I’ve only dreamed about up to this point. Like running races pain-free and being an unstoppable force.

I remember the day he let me run ONE 50m at a time. It wasn’t that long ago. Now, I’m running almost 4 miles three times a week and I am gearing up to run my first pain-free 5k six weeks from today.

You know what I learned about myself through Dr. D’s commitment to me? That I am worth it. I’m worth the work. I’m worth the desire. I’m worth the trouble.

Dr. D is the physical therapist I began seeing last May, but he’s become more than just a guy who helps me learn how to move pain-free. He’s my friend and one of my greatest encouragers. He believes in all my dreams, fitness and otherwise, more than I believe in them some days.

New space. New goals. // My favorite hour of fitness each week is my session with Dr. D at FIT Studio – Franklin.

Goals. Goals are a big part of fitness. You know when that finally became clear? When I realized how much I was inspiring others to get healthy. Within a matter of weeks, I played a direct role in people stepping into the gym for the first time ever or in years. I meet people at the gym several times a week. Most of them ask me to help them get in shape. My very first question now is, “what are your goals?” If they can’t tell me, I can’t help them.

By working with others, I have figured out how important it is for me to have well-defined goals and know what I’m working toward.

Right now, my top goal is running a 5k in six weeks really well. My next most important goal is to keep getting stronger in every muscle group in my body. Right along with hat, inspiring others to get healthy and be active is also really important to me.

What does that mean? It means running, faithfully doing my daily strengthening exercises well and meeting other people in traditional gyms are my priorities.

Without Crossfit, I would have never discovered the heart of a champion. I may have ended up in surgery. I may have never run another 5k again. While it isn’t my priority right now, it’s still a part of my life. I still do it a couple times a week. But you won’t see me participating in the 2019 Open or spending any amount of time trying to get handstand pushups or double-unders.

And on days where the WOD prescribes wallballs or box jumps, you will continue to see me scale it. Not necessarily because I’m in pain or can’t physically do them, but more so because those things won’t help me get closer to my goals but they can get in the way of my top priorities right now. It just isn’t worth it to me.

In a surprising recent turn of events, my fitness journey has become a big part of my platform. It’s inspired my second book. It’s become the thing people want to know more about and be a part of. That’s an honor and privilege I don’t take lightly.

I still have a long way to go, but I want to give you a few practical things I have learned about seeing progress.

  1. Put the work in. Consistently. Over and over again. Every day. Every week. Every month. Create routines and follow them religiously. Don’t try to change your whole life right this second. Start with smaller habits and build on them. One of the toughest disciplines for me to form is doing my daily exercises WELL every single day. It means getting up to be at the gym at least 45 minutes early most days. It means working through soreness. It means sometimes even missing my workout so I can make sure I get my strengthening exercises in – which is okay, because again, strength is my priority right now.
  2. Nutrition and sleep are as important, if not more so, than anything you will do in the gym. It wasn’t long into my PT journey that Dr. D and I drew a connection between what I was eating and inflammation. I started meeting with Erin Judge, my nutritionist, who swiftly gave me specific guidelines. As soon as I started following them, we saw massive improvements in my inflammation.
  3. Deal with your whole health, not just your physical gains. The reason why fitnessing is working for me today is because I am also working on my spiritual, emotional, mental and relational health. Whole health is imperative and will take you to a whole new level in the gym, if that is your goal. Want to be a champion, work on whole health.
  4. Have people in your corner. This may be obvious by this point but I absolutely would not be where I am right now without my people. Nobody wins alone. Champions have people. They have teams. Dr. D, Erin and my coaches at the gym. They’re calling the plays. They’re setting the rules. They’re not letting me give up. They’re helping me identify problems and find solutions. They’re pushing me to fight through the lie that tells me I can’t do the things I want.

I am stoked about a new season of fitness. One where Dr. D gets to push me further than I think I can go because I am getting stronger – physically and mentally. One where expectations go up and patience goes down.

New space. New goals. New model. Maybe even a new heart. Same principles.

Keep taking steps. One day, you’ll look back and realize how far you’ve come.

Abuse Lies.

Last week, I posted a piece of my story about my struggle with feeling worthy after my biological and adoptive fathers both abandoned me.

Today, I want to share more of that story. The pain and my struggle with feeling a father’s love didn’t end at my mom’s divorce in 1997. In fact, it got worse before it got better.

When I was 13 years old, my mom met and married a raging, abusive alcoholic and crack addict. The first six months were tolerable. The next five years were as close to Hell on earth as you can get.

They met, married, quit their jobs, started a new business and we moved from suburban Florida to rural Tennessee – all in my seventh grade year. Because seventh grade isn’t hard enough, right?

They decided to buy a 1936 log cabin on seven acres and “restore” it. We lived in a 25 foot motorhome with all of our stuff in a 40 foot metal storage container for the first half of my eighth grade year.

Restoration turned into complete demolition and building a new house. Nothing like the stress of building a new house in a new state with a new family to make an addict even crazier than he already was.

The memories of the first “episode” I ever experienced are burned into my mind forever. We all enjoyed fishing so when my mom and I picked up some fishing gear at a garage sale that morning, I thought we hit the jackpot. Specifically, there were two open-faced reels, still in the packaging. They were the exact same reel, but one was bigger than the other.

That night, we were all in the van driving home. I was babbling on like any normal 13 year old girl who was excited. I went on and on about the reels and all the other stuff we bought. I detonated the bomb by saying, “You can have the big reel and I can have the little one.”

Why?

Well because how dare I tell him what I’m going to do with what he considered was all his, of course.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it felt like I detonated a bomb. It was a violent scene. We lived down in a holler. It was dark and the yelling echoed. Rocks were thrown. My parents wrestled over car keys. My stepdad picked up my tackle box, which was full of my grandfather’s antique fishing lures, and tossed it across the yard. Rods and reels were broken. After spending a few minutes pleading for the chaos to stop and then realizing I had no control, I went and locked myself in the motorhome bathroom. It was the only place I could hide. I remember sitting down on the floor, hugging my knees to my chest and just being completely terrified.

My stepdad ended up leaving that night for a hotel for the weekend. The moment he drove the van up the driveway, any notion I had of him being the man he promised he would be was gone. Why?

Yep. You got it.

He had ALSO promised he would never leave. And yet, he did.

My mom forced me to go into his hotel room the next day. I walked in, sat down and said, “I’m done.”

And while I was done with any dream of the psycho being the father-figure I had longed for my whole life, I still had to deal with him all through high school. He called me names and ridiculed me. He controlled and manipulated me. I was the target of his verbal, emotional, mental and physical abuse.

I was five feet tall and 110 pounds throughout high school, not to mention my already-existing medical conditions. He was at least 250 pounds and a rough, tough guy.

I was strong but fighting him was not a good option. My choices were to run or hide. Once I got old enough to drive, I slept with my tennis shoes on and my keys in my hand. That’s how I survived high school.

Well, that and a very special angel God brought into my life. When it got really bad, I would go stay at Debbie’s house. I won’t forget one day in particular she fought for me.

She stepped in the gap and assertively informed my parents I would be staying with her for a little while. I was a freshman in high school and my stepdad had just shoved me so hard my head left a dent in the refrigerator door.

Guys, the man and I were fighting over a bag of sour cream and onion chips.

Thankfully, time has dissipated the vividness of many of the memories from my teenage years. But the toxicity of the lies the enemy used in those years lingered on for much longer. Actually, I still have to surrender some of the lies I believe about myself because of Robert and his abuse.

“I’m not lovable.” // “I’m a disaster.” // “I’m lazy.” // “I’m a failure.” // “I’m worthless.” // “I’m not good enough.” // “I’m not strong enough.” // “I’m weak.” // “I’m an idiot.” // “I’m a waste.” // “I’m a coward.” // “I’m not worth fighting for.” // “I’m not important.” // “Life would be better if I wasn’t here.”

I learned a lot about addiction in this time. My stepdad was a charmer. People naturally liked him. He threw a lot of money at problems. He had a good heart. His love just didn’t extend to me.

I felt like I lived in a house full of demons. Everyone was always so exhausted. We worked so hard to protect my stepdad’s reputation as the small town hero. Why? I’ll never really know.

Abuse lies. No matter what kind of relationship or the abuse itself, it lies. It sneaks in, fills your head with all kinds of lies about how you deserve it or you should be strong enough to handle it. It isolates. It devours your soul. It rips people and confidence and dreams to shreds.

For more than a decade, I lived in the grim reality of those lies. Every single relationship I had and every single thing I did was affected by the lies that I knew to be true about my very existence. And because of those deeply-rooted lies, I learned to survive by developing destructive behavior cycles just to get through each day.

If you knew me back then, you heard me quote all the scripture and God’s truths. I could preach a message about your identity in Christ. I didn’t have a freaking clue what that really was. Not until just the last few years.

You know what I found out?

There is a gigantic difference between knowing something in your head and believing it in your heart.

It wasn’t until I got the opportunity to go back to those years and those lies and confront them in the safety of therapy that the shackles began to be broken off. That I began to learn not just about God’s love for the world but His love for ME. It was then, and only then, that I could build my life upon His love. Let me tell you – it is a FIRM foundation.

So where am I today? I’m free. My shackles have been broken off. I’m living redemption in ways I can’t even find words to explain.

Why? How?

Because Jesus.

Jesus sent people along in my journey to jack up the house and help me replace the foundation I built my life on. Individuals who said it was okay for me to not be okay, but committed to being a community that wouldn’t let me stay that way.

Slowly but surely, I learned how to replace the lies I believed to be my truth with the truth according to my Heavenly Father.

“I was work Jesus to God.”

I am worth being protected. I am unconditionally loved. I am made in God’s image. I was worth Jesus to God. I am a child of God. I am a coheir with Christ. Friend to Holy Spirit. God has designed me for a unique plan.

But how? What’s my secret formula?

It’s not so much a secret, but it does require commitment and a willingness to be stripped of everything familiar. It requires daily surrender.

There’s a God, and I’m not it.

I became a minimalist. I sold it. Gave it away. Donated it to Goodwill. Or trashed it. By the truckload. Giving up my stuff required me to give up my dependency on it to fill voids only God can fill. Instead of being distracted by what I own or what I want, I now have so much more room for God.

I have a new routine based on spiritual disciplines. I wake up every single day and hit my knees in gratitude. Prayer is a really important component to my life. I spend time in the Word, listening to worship music, writing and being sown into through reading books and listening to podcasts. It all helps keep me focused and reminded of the Truth, according to God.

I write affirmations and promises on little index cards and post them all over my house. Scriptures, good quotes and encouraging things my friends have said to me hang on my refrigerator, my bathroom mirror, the doors, etc.

And quite possibly the best thing I do –

I invest in authentic community and submit to a team of people who are committed to loving me better than I love myself until I am capable of seeing the truth of who I am in God’s eyes.

Team Felicia, for the win!

Isolation is the absolute worst thing for human beings. There’s a reason why it’s considered one of the greatest torture tactics in human history. Our creator designed us for community like he designed fish for water. Lies breed in isolation. DO NOT LET THEM. Find your people.

It takes a whole lot longer to heal from pain than it does to feel it. Recovery isn’t easy. I am years into intense therapy, and I still get it wrong sometimes.

Just this week, I had a few hard conversations with various people on Team Felicia. The key is to be able to catch it before it causes mass destruction in your heart and life. You are worth more. Be aware that the enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy you. It is his only mission. He’s vindictive, conniving and just pure evil. The only way you win is to acknowledge he has already been defeated and remind him of that often by standing in the confidence of who you are as a child of God.

The world needs your dream

That dream.

You know the one.

The one you are afraid to admit to anyone. The one you think is ridiculous or impossible. The one someone has minimized or ridiculed. The one you think you are unqualified for.

The one you’ve tried before and failed at.

The world needs THAT dream. We need you to say yes.

Your family needs it. Your team needs it. Your neighbors need it. Your friends need it. Your community needs it. Strangers need it.

I need it.

You need it.

“I need your dream.”

The word “impossible” will destroy more than your potential. It will rob you of opportunity. It will kill the power of relationships. It will steal the joy that pushing through obstacles brings. 

One of the great travesties in life is hearing someone come up with excuses for why they can’t pursue all that God has created and called them to do. 

In just about every case I can imagine, “I can’t” actually means “I don’t want to.” Nothing is impossible unless you want it to be. 

Join a gym. And show up. More than once. 

Send out your resume. Show up to volunteer. Start a blog. Take the test. Start the business. Propose to the girl. Go to the meeting. Say yes to having coffee. 

Invest in yourself like you expect an ROI. Don’t settle for what you haven’t accomplished in the past but rather expect what you have the potential to conquer in the future. 

Not being confident in who you are as a child of God is not humility. It’s stupidity. It’s foolishness. Say yes to God, no matter how “impossible” you think it is. You might think you aren’t enough. You’re not. But God is. 

Life is about YOUR choices. You get what you put into it. Make a choice you won’t regret.

Get up. Start taking steps. One day, you will look back and realize how far you have come. But progress never happens if you aren’t focused on the process.

Take steps that are necessary but work hard to find joy in them. Choose to celebrate the victories, be honest about the losses and surround yourself with people who champion the best in you during both.

And don’t give up on the dream God gave you. He doesn’t begin to doubt the dream He gave you, even when you do.

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