On shame and being new

Selfish. 

There is a word in every person’s memory, deep in the recesses of childhood play or disaster that is set apart.  It is a brand, and the wound is very likely still searing hot and festering under the skin years later. 

For some reason, I thought I was selfish, or too much, or was told this by my someone around me. I don’t remember exactly where this came from, but I do remember it being a repeated theme throughout my childhood- repeated so frequently that I accepted it and hid the shame in my heart as Truth.  It was painful, so painful, and I didn’t want it to be true. And truth be told, I probably definitely was selfish! What child without the Holy Spirit isn’t? 

For so much of my life, I tried to pack that word away, push it to the side, and connect with others around me rather than think about the possibility of expressing my own wants or (God forbid!) needs, because those things were selfish in the fact that they drew attention to myself.  As an adult and as a writer, this has made life extremely difficult for me in being okay with defining my own goals (because they are mine) and in simply putting words on the page.  Are my words selfish?  Is the fact that I want to process my life and the world around me selfish? 

I think that’s why the way I view myself is so different than how other people see me.  Maybe we all do that.  (Do we??) Recently I was talking with a friend about being a type 4 on the enneagram and hating it because of the connotation of being moody.  Within two days, two friends told me they did not see that in me at all. 

Why is there such a disconnect between what I know to be true, what I feel to be true, and how I feel that others perceive me?  Because I am being run by the fear that they will perceive me as selfish.  This fear drives most of my actions, and in some cases can be good because it motivates me to serve and love those around me- however, it prevents others from truly knowing me because sometimes I am afraid to open up around them or share my life.  I am afraid they will see me as needy, weak, or self-absorbed. 

Looking over this whole page feels so very self-absorbed because it is all about me!!

But my hope is that we can rewrite this story. Whether someone told us, or we actually were branded as somehow too much or not enough- my hope is to recognize that word as a lie and recognize my response to it as a fear– fear that my identity is wrapped up in this one little word rather than all the other parts that make up who I am because the truest part of me is that I am a new creation in Christ. 

When Paul is speaking to the Corinthians about their motivations, he says this:

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him as thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:11.

Whether its a memory that comes to mind easily or one that skates around the outside edges of your mind- what is a word that you didn’t realize you have been living by? Giving the weight of your personhood to? 

“If I was not ___________, then I would be….” (free, successful, well-liked…this list goes on)

How does that word drive your actions, your interactions with others, or your hopes?

And where is the Gospel in this?

I’m convinced that these words- these hurts, these injuries- bring great suffering. I know this to be true and could never belittle someone’s experience.  I also know that through Jesus Christ, we are fully known and fully loved by GodI know that Christ died for the weight of my sin and wrongdoing, absorbed it all upon himself, and left it in the grave when he resurrected. 

I know that fear- of others perceptions or of my own brokenness- has no hold over me in comparison with the knowledge that regardless of lies or shame (that is NOT from God), I am fully and deeply loved by the God of the universe, who gave himself up for me

Paul continues and says,

“All of this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Knowing and internalizing this truth is the only thing that allows us to rid ourselves of past hurts, lies, and fears.  We have to identify the lie and identify our response to it and ask ourselves if we are responding out of fear or out of trust in Christ’s work. 

Are we viewing ourselves in the light of how our Father, who loves us and sent his Son to die for us, sees us? 

Do we believe the truth that whatever we used to be does not define us, but rather that we are a new creation in Christ?

Can we reconcile the truth about ourselves in order to bring glory to God and receive healing? 

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can.  There is so much to unpack- and when we begin it is always painful. But I think the start is to look for the lie, acknowledge the shame- and to ask the Father to be with us. To comfort us.  And to remind us of who we are in Him. 

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved…” Colossians 3:12

It’s been awhile…on fear and showing up (again)

I’m searching for a quote; its something along the lines of:

“We write not because we know exactly what we want to say; we write to figure out what we want to say.

That’s not exactly it- I’ll have to find it.

I write because this process fills me up; it fills my soul.  It helps me understand the world around me, my people around me, the Lord in my midst, and how my heart responds to all of those relationships.

I thought I needed to have a concrete vision, goal, or outline before I began.  This has kept me stuck, paralyzed and fearful for years! And months- seeing as it has been months since I have posted anything! What if I don’t measure up? What if my words sound ignorant or foolish? Does that mean I’m ignorant or foolish? What if I have no direction or never accomplish anything? The list of fears could go on and on.

However, none of these fears should hold the weight I’ve been placing upon them. On a Tuesday Teaching, Emily Freeman said, “Fear is allowed in the car. It does not get to drive.”

It can sit in the passenger seat, but it will not direct where my writing will go.

I’ve come to realize that even if I write only for myself- then that will be okay. I write because I have to- I must- because it is what fills me up in this dark, beautiful, messy, abundant, broken, and light-filled world. It helps me know God and know myself, and both of these things are far more than enough.

My goal for February has been to remember why I do this and in doing so, practice finding my voice. And in true Cori fashion, I’m posting this in March 🙂 It seems silly, but I’m here to begin…again, with the knowledge that God is patient with me.  Thanks to anyone who reads this for being patient with me too! 🙂 

 

When you’re afraid your dreams won’t come true.

How much am I allowed to want?

Almost every person I know in their twenties is planning. Whenever I catch up with friends from college, the conversation almost always drifts into what we are doing, where we are living, who is dating and not dating, will we teach forever, when are babies coming…

What’s the plan?

We’re all so curious and checking ourselves against this imaginary marker because every one if us is unsure that we’re doing it right. I think it’s safe to say that most of us are making it up as we go along.

These are the years of plans and dreams.

But what about my best laid plans? What happens if God is most glorified through waiting? Through suffering? Through enduring?

How much am I allowed to want?

Is wanting too much being uncontent? And how do we define too much? Is it succeeding in business, financially, or is it having the freedom of doing what I want to do? How does that match up with what God wants?

I hate these questions that paralyze-

At times I feel like my life has become a series of checks and balances, of managing misplaced expectations in order to prevent risk. The problem with this is that I can always see what could be…and those could bes turn into large, larger than life dreams, and I have to chase them! And then I swing to the other extreme, chasing the dream with my whole strength and heart and mind…to find that something is still missing.
Maybe I’ve missed the point.

Jesus said he came to give life and life to the full.

“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b, NIV

“…I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” John 10:10, The Message

My fullest life is found in him.

I believe that God whispers to us His own given dreams and plans for his glory. However, every once in awhile, In searching for my fullest life, or accomplishing my goals or seeking to get credit for being a worthy vessel I can forget that He is the Dream-breather and Author of my book.

Is this why you’ve been felt distant Lord?

Because I’ve been chasing outcomes rather than You?

I hate how it feels when my voice is dismissed and exchanged for my productivity or what I have to offer…I feel used and unseen.

Why would you, God of the universe tolerate that? Why not just smite all the selfishness below you?

You don’t tolerate it.  You are a patient God who invites us to be with You. You are also a jealous God; no one or no thing comes before You.

You also abandon us to our idols- what we think will satisfy us- but You are loving enough to make sure that these things will not satisfy.

You refuse to fill our bellies with mud. We do that do ourselves.

What if the dream being fulfilled is not the best outcome? What if the best possible outcome in the whole world is knowing Christ?

Philippians 3 allows me to hold what I want with open hands. I’m a go getter- I want to accomplish and create- but in chasing those accomplishments I don’t want to lose sight of the loving hands of my Father and the love of Christ- I don’t want to feel the weight of them on my shoulders or carry the anxiety of questions like what happens if things don’t turn out how I planned? If my dreams aren’t fulfilled? Will God still be good?

“7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11 ESV

He is. He is. He is. He is worth it. I have the freedom to pursue my dreams without hanging my whole hat on them because they are not where my life is found. I can chase them down with the freedom of knowing Christ is worth more than all of them. 

If my fullest life is found in him, my dreams and self are held by Him. And he is trustworthy.

These words are fitting to end with- the words of this sermon from George Whitfield. They are simple, straightforward, and were written primarily for an audience of single women, but I found that they recognize how Christ completes and meets every need and longing we have. I hope it moves you as it moved me.

Consider who the Lord Jesus is, whom you are invited to espouse yourselves unto. He is the best husband. There is none comparable to Jesus Christ. Do you desire one that is great? He is of the highest dignity, he is the glory of heaven, the darling of eternity, admired by angels, dreaded by devils and adored by saints. For you to be espoused to so great a king, what honour will you have by this espousal?

Do you desire one that is rich? None is comparable to Christ, the fullness of the earth belongs to him. If you be espoused to Christ, you shall share in his unsearchable riches. You shall receive of his fullness, even grace for grace here and you shall hereafter be admitted to glory and shall live with this Jesus to all eternity.

Do you desire one that is wise? There is none comparable to Christ for wisdom. His knowledge is infinite and his wisdom is correspondent thereto. And if you are espoused to Christ, he will guide and counsel you and make you wise unto salvation.

Do you desire one that is strong, who may defend you against your enemies and all the insults and reproaches of the Pharisees of this generation? There is none that can equal Christ in power, for the Lord Jesus Christ hath all power.

Do you desire one that is good? There is none like unto Christ in this regard; others may have some goodness but it is imperfect. Christ’s goodness is complete and perfect, he is full of goodness and in him dwelleth no evil.

Do you desire one that is beautiful? His eyes are most sparkling, his looks and glances of love are ravishing, his smiles are most delightful and refreshing unto the soul. Christ is the most lovely person of all others in the world.

Do you desire one that can love you? None can love you like Christ: His love, my dear sisters, is incomprehensible; his love passeth all other loves: The love of the Lord Jesus is first, without beginning. His love is free without any motive. His love is great without any measure. His love is constant without any change and his love is everlasting.

Oh everything we look for everywhere else but God can only be found in God!

Every greatness, every wealth, every wisdom, every power, every goodness, every beauty, and every love we are longing for can only be found in him, and in him we find the apex of all these virtues and more. Even the best of all earthly versions of these virtues are but pale substitutes. Even the most joyous marriage, the most blessed parenthood, the most adorable of babies virtually disappears in the radiance of his most joyous of joys, most blessed of blessedness, most adorable of adorability as the stars disappear when the sun comes up.

I haven’t mastered this balance or holding the tension between chasing them and knowing its okay if they don’t turn out exactly as I have planned-

I get scared, I try, I fail, I try again-

but I think seeing Christ’s surpassing worth is a good first step in remembering who all this is for anyway.   

Welcome.

“Beka, I need a plan…” Weary, sitting at my cluttered kitchen table I wondered if I would ever start writing. “Most people write about cooking or lifestyle or fashion or pizza and I am not just one of those things.” exasperated, I craved direction. A box to check, a line to fill in. Cori B Howell is ________. I desperately wanted to start writing, but needed the vision to be perfect in order to begin.

Note: ISFP. Enneagram 4. Loves boundaries but hates them at the same time. Not good at following strict rules or schedules.

Did you notice all the ways I attempted to show you the box of how NOT boxed in I am???

It takes a good friend to wade through this mess.

“Cori, that’s not you. You HAVE direction. That’s your personality. All of those things. So just get started.”

And then… the words that changed everything.

“People will want to read it. They will want to hear what you have to say.”

Or some version of that, not those words exactly, because I was so distracted at the thought that I just just get started.

I could begin and trust God with the results.

Let me tell you some things you will probably read if you check out this blog at any point in time:

Recipes. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy creating, adapting, and enjoying meals to share with my family. It soothes my soul by forcing me to be present and chopping vegetables. It’s also a tangible way to serve whoever is near- family, friends, coworkers, students- and invite people into my life. Also, who doesn’t love homemade pizza? Or freezer jam? Or appetizers? I digress.

Processing. I write to understand God’s presence and work in my life.

Psalm 143:5 says, ” I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” Writing helps me understand what God has done in the past through study of His Word and His character. When I learn more about who He is, it causes me to view my present differently- with hope and a true sense of freedom in that I am eternally His. More about that later I’m sure, but if you have questions, ask away 🙂

Encouragement. Whether that is a simple image, quote, or story, I love reminders. I’m a firm believer that we are never stuck no matter how much we may feel like it. Our emotional state does not define Truth nor does it encapsulate the entirety of our life. I’ve only been learning that through hard-fought battles of my own, and I want you to know you are not alone in this crazypants journey that is life. Let’s fight for optimism, even when it is hard. 

Welcome to my cluttered table that is messy and full. Full of ideas, vision, bills, hopefully pizza, and life. We come alive when we do what God has put on our hearts to do- with or without knowing the final outcome- and this is my first step. Thanks for joining me- there is always a seat for you here.

With love,

Cori

P.S. Shoutout to my friend Beka for your encouragement and my wonderful husband Zach who says I should do this even when I face fear about it every day.

Y’all are priceless.

Pictured Below: Real life table- it’s not too bad because I’m on summer break, but that desk behind it? sheesh. IMG_4083