Messy Life (& what I've promised you: me, truthfully.)

While reading, listen to It's Alright by Fractures. 

I’ve been sitting here...with an empty GoogleDoc in front of me, for about fifteen minutes.

The ominous thin black line blinking, where words should be. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve last shared things with you here...and honestly, I feel out of words. To put it plainly, this month has me feeling tired and hoping for more hours in each day. The task lists have been abounding, meetings unending, and sleep scarce. There have been joyous, deeply fulfilling moments wedged throughout, but overall, I feel a bit beat up. There’s a voice inside that is urging me to tell you something different. It is telling me to start hitting that ‘backspace’ button, and to just write a list because those are easy to write and easy to read. That voice wants to convince me that hard days or messy months mean I’m doing something wrong, and perhaps I’m not spending enough time in my Bible or in prayer. That voice wants me to feel like perfect is the only option.

But here’s the thing: I want to show up here, for you and for me.

I mean really show up. With my whole, honest heart. I want to write some words that may feel or read vulnerable, because maybe they are. I want to actively silence that voice of self-doubt, that fair-weather fan who wants me to only show you my best stuff. I want to show you that writing and creative expression aren’t always neatly packaged, and that even on your worst day, you have something to bring to a blank page. Your hard months, the messy bits of your life, and your feeble attempts to do what you love are all precious to Jesus. He loves you right where you are, and friend, I feel him meeting me here. As I type these words. As I sit here with you. He’s with us.

Author/researcher/TedTalk speaker, Brené Brown has a painting in her home that says, “We can do hard things.” I’m learning to invite some of that belief to strengthen me too. It feels massively privileged to talk about my struggles, and I always assume that if I do, I will let someone down. Weakness and pain aren’t very becoming in a pastor, and especially in someone as blessed as me. What do I have to complain about? Struggle with? It is easy for me to get in line with all the others who would write off my hurt and say, “Tori, enough with the moping, get back to serving people.” I’m a lot better at serving than struggling. I’m a workhorse...give me a task, a mission...and I won’t finish until I’m proud. God made this part of me, but how many of you know that gifts can turn into idols...virtues into vices. Service and stamina are facets of my calling, but they can quickly become distractions from the gritty stuff God wants me to really look at. What I’m thankful for is that the Lord won’t let me get in my own way, and is interested in my growth. He isn’t fooled and he knows that the appearance of something isn’t always the thing itself, and that maybe on the days when I seem okay, I’m really not.

Here’s the short version, before more words flow out: I’ve been going to counseling again.

I am a huge advocate for therapy, even though it is often scary, awkward, and uncomfortable. Christian counseling has been (throughout my young adult life), an avenue for healing. It has been hard, gosh has it been hard. But as Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own puts it, “The hard is what makes it good. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” Lately, counseling has revealed some deep-rooted things I’ve believed about myself for most of my life. These beliefs trace back to childhood and are interwoven into almost every relationship and thing I do. These beliefs are, for the most part, untrue and damaging. I’ve had to say them out loud, explore where they came from, and admit to how they manifest in daily life. I’ve cried in my husband’s arms over them, and have buried the notes from my session in my bedside table drawer. I have sent “I know you understand, please pray for me” texts to friends and have experienced the real, divine comfort only our Father can bring. Every time I leave my counselor’s office, the lies of the Enemy are thrown my way, like darts. They’re never about the issues themselves, but always about my having them in the first place. “Are you really struggling?” “Is that a real issue?” “Do you really think this is necessary?” “You don’t have time to do this. People need you to be okay.” Truly, that is where the real struggle lies with me. Most days, I just won’t give myself permission to be flawed. Wounded. Worn out. Human. It is easier to have a heart of stone, to live efficiently, and to be everyone’s champion. It's a cleaner and neater way to live, but at the end of the day, it isn't real. And here, in authenticity, vulnerability, and my humanity, is where I’ve really found Jesus. I’ve submitted myself to the process, because I know he does not do these things without a purpose. I go to counseling because the people in my life deserve the truest me. Heck, I deserve to know and be the truest me. Who is that woman?

She is someone who lives for the Kingdom without bearing it on her shoulders. She is someone who is okay with being flawed and sometimes saying the wrong thing. She is someone who does not try to fix the broken people in her life. She is a woman, who because she did the digging, only believes what God says about her. She is a woman who believes she can “do hard things” and that vulnerability always outweighs capability.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
— Ezekiel 36:26

Healing is often an undoing before a rebuilding. It is refining, restoring, and all of the things God’s word says it is. Like most messy processes, it removes comfort and teaches you how to trust with abandon. God has been creating since the beginning, and as he puts broken pieces together in me, I hear him whisper, “And it is good.” So when people ask me how I’m doing, I say good, because that is what he calls me. That is what is true.

The one constant in life is change. And boy, is Jesus at work, changing me. Healing me. Making me new. I’m so tired/thankful/filled/stripped/humbled/present/etc. And honestly, all of this has made it a little hard to show up here. I want to impress you, inspire you, and give you great hair tips. I want this blog to be a bright spot in your life, not a burden. But friend, and I consider you one, I want you to know that messy is real for me too. Whatever you are going through, big or small, I am linking arms with you. I am declaring that if God is for us, who can be against us? I am believing that the uncovering of sin or hurt is for our good and for his glory! So whatever limp you’re walking with...whether in a relationship, in your workplace, in loss, in your past, or in your present...I am walking with you. We are limping towards Jesus, and his arms are open wide...ready to give us what we need for the next leg of the journey. Carry on, brave one.

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Is Your Wardrobe a Black Hole? Read This - Darling Magazine

Article originally written for and published by Darling Magazine here

Everyone has had their “just put it in the closet” moment.

Sometimes it is minutes before guests arrive for a dinner party and we want to hide our dirty laundry. See: closet. Other times, we return from a long trip and don’t feel like unpacking our luggage. See: closet. And often, we are just too sentimental to do anything permanent with those boxes filled with old trophies. See: closet.

If we’re being honest, our closets tend to be where our messes hide. The problem is that our closets are also where our clothes, shoes, coat and bags live. Meant to be one of the more functional elements of our homes, closets can quickly turn into the black hole for our big and small belongings.

No one sets out to live in this kind of disarray initially. No, complete disorganization can often start with just one pile. But then, before you know it you’ve spent 15 minutes looking for that one blush pink tank top; you know, the flow-y one that your friend gave you for your birthday last summer, and you can’t get past the chaos. Finally, you call it quits and grab something from the top of the heap or you go and buy something new.

Monica Friese 

Monica Friese 

We comfort ourselves with the thought that there are probably worse off closets elsewhere. We say things like, “I’m too busy to care,” or “I’ll get to it when _______.” The truth is, the busyness won’t quit and no one finds time to organize their closet. In order to get a hold of the mess and really get a fresh start, we have to make time.

But why? What is the pay-off for a more organized closet? Simply put, an organized closet has the potential to provide you with more time, money and peace of mind. Here’s how:

1. More time.

Benjamin Franklin said, “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” I can’t imagine how much time a day we spend looking for our own belongings.

When we commit to an organized closet, where things have place and order, we no longer have to waste time searching. You can go to bed that night knowing right where that black blazer is that you intend on wearing to that big meeting tomorrow. When you wake up in the morning, there it is, right where you left it. You can spend a little more time eating breakfast.

As you prepare for that business trip or vacation, you don’t have to ask, “Have you seen my…?” Instead, you save yourself time and pack with efficiency and ease.

2. More money.

Organization isn’t just about tidying up. An organized closet should only carry what you truly want and need. Instead of acting as storage for those “maybe” purchases or old trinkets you never use or look at, your closet should store what you wear, use and love on a frequent basis.

Start by going through your closet and separating everything into four piles: 1) Keep 2) Give 3) Toss 4) Up-cycle. From there, invest in quality hangers, a nice diffuser and some storage solutions to keep everything in its place. Voila, a restored space! Reworking what you already own develops contentment, saving you from unnecessary purchases. We often waste money on adding to our belongings without knowing what we already have and making that enough.

Monica Friese

Monica Friese

3. Peace of mind.

A messy closet doesn’t always equal a messy life, but what is happening on the exterior can often be an indication of the internal. A closet overrun with stuff could be the result of a life without proper rest or margin. Taking a moment to ask ourselves why this chaos exists could teach us more than we imagined.

Ultimately, when you care for your space and your belongings, you are caring for yourself. There are many elements of our life we cannot control, but this is one of them. Why add unnecessary stress? Whether you have a whole afternoon or a few hours here and there to tackle the mess, an organized closet will bring relief and peace of mind to your life and morning routine in particular.

Maintaining an organized closet isn’t about perfection; it’s about the quality of life we want to live. Decluttering, organizing, simplifying and looking at why we do what we do are all vehicles for change! Peter Walsh said, “What I know for sure is that when you declutter, whether it is your home, your head or your heart, it is astonishing what will flow into that space that will enrich you, your life and your family.”

So instead of falling into those “just put it in the closet” moments, may we set the standard a little higher, inviting the enrichment that organization brings to show us a new way.

If you had to guess, what would your closet say about you? Share in the comments below!

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Moving from Comparison to Claiming Your Purpose

While reading, listen to All The Pretty Girls by Kaleo. 

"Is comparison a forever thing?"

I loved my friend's honesty. "I just feel like no matter how many inspiring quotes I read, or how often I give myself a little pep talk on how awesome my life/work is...I fail in this. I don't want to compare, but I really don't know how not to." If you're thinking anything along the lines of, "Girl, I FEEL you," than you've probably had a similar conversation...either with a friend or in your own head. 

Comparison is like that leg of traffic on the freeway that you try to go around or get there early enough to beat, yet it's always there, it makes you feel stuck, and it gets you behind. 

As human beings, it is normal and good to care. The desire to lead meaningful, fulfilling, and impactful lives is from God. If we're honest, we ALL care about the quality of our lives, how we are perceived, and whether or not we are on "the right track." How do we estimate our progress or value? Often, it's by looking at the person who is next to us, the person who is caring about the exact same things, but just doesn't look like they do. Isn't it true? We forget that we're more normal than we think, and everyone else in the room has fears, insecurities, and dreams too! Most people wonder if they are measuring up, and the lie we believe is that it's just us. Yes, the person in the cubicle next to you with a Mexico vacation on the calendar and three degrees hanging in silver frames struggles with comparison. Yes, your married friend with that big diamond ring and perfect skin has moments when she fears she isn't doing it all right.

So if we are all struggling to believe that we are enough, then perhaps someone else's life should not be the standard by which we measure our own value!

When my friend asked, "Is comparison a forever thing?" I completely understood. It feels like a battle that can't be overcome, but that is simply not true! We just can't beat this thing alone. When we STOP comparing ourselves to people to determine our value or success, and make the purposes of God our standard...we are free! Free to applaud someone who is KILLING it in the same field of work as you. Free to feel INSPIRED instead of INSECURE. Free to be where you are and love it there, because there is no rush to be where "everyone else" is. Free to admit to your weaknesses without feeling like a failure, because you know that God is teaching you in those things too. 


As a daughter, wife, sister, pastor, friend, and creative - there are a million ways I want to grow. Be better. Love deeper. Make a difference. And in each of those roles, I have learned to approach the throne of grace in boldness, and leave my insecurity at God's feet.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
— Hebrews 4:16

There, on my knees, honoring him as the King of my heart, he gives me every ounce of mercy, help, confidence, and direction that I need. He reminds me to stay in my lane, that I should never despise the small steps of the journey, and that he sees the big picture of my life. Another beautiful thing about aligning ourselves with God's purposes? It takes our eyes off of our "supposed" setbacks, and back onto the lives of others. Ultimately, people are our purpose - to love, serve, and lead them to Jesus - in our unique way!

Moving from comparison to claiming our purpose is ultimately the key to lasting confidence and making a difference. 

It's in the center of our purpose - to love God and to love the people around us - where we find ourselves. It's there we find joy, it's there we find the ability to champion the people in our lives, and it is there we find contentment! This is only ONE of the incredible things life with Jesus unlocks - freedom from comparison into a purpose for each of us. 

Motivational quotes are awesome, but they won't solve it. Self-pep talks are important, but they don't get the problem at the root. Comparison won't disappear if we just hope we become awesome enough to never feel threatened or insecure again! Comparison is a lie from the Enemy, that our life's value and impact is weighed next to someone else's. Comparison can only be beat when it is replaced with a sure purpose, which God provides.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5-6

I wish I could tell you that I nail this. The truth is, some days I feel like I am a terrible writer, who should just throw in the towel on this whole "blogging" thing. Other days, I look at myself in the mirror, and I don't like the body I see. And to be really honest, sometimes I don't know if I'm making a difference in my church or community at all. I can tell you that even though I still tend give those feelings space in my life (I'm working on it), I no longer give them authority.

If we do believe the lies of "not being good enough to do it at all", than our purpose will have been successfully robbed from us, which would be the biggest shame of all. 

How do we do this? Here's what I do...

  1. Begin each new day in God's Word and presence. Invite his truth to invade any inner darkness, misleading feelings, damaging self-talk, and lies from the Enemy.

  2. Look to the needs and hearts of others. When we take our eyes off of ourselves and onto the lives of others, we experience deep fulfillment and we obey the the greatest commandment Jesus gave us: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:30-31)

  3. Be a safe place for people to celebrate. When we find our confidence and identity in God's truth, not our work or performance, we can celebrate with others. Let's choose to be people who can champion another without feeling like it takes anything away from us. 

  4. Remember that real life is offline. We cannot compare our day-to-day lives with someone else's highlight reel! First, it isn't the full picture, (which does not mean that their day-to-day stuff is automatically less than), and second, we will never be free to love our own lives in real time, if we're so obsessed with curating a perfect image, or envying someone else online.

  5. Surround yourself with Christ-like people. As much as we are called to be a light in dark places, and to influence the world around us, we are also called to live in Christian community (just read Proverbs and you'll know what I mean). There, we find encouragement, support, conviction, and a godly perspective - all things that keep us grounded in God's purpose.

  6. Cultivate a beautiful heart. Invest in ETERNAL things, things of the heart, for it is those things that will live beyond you and produce real fruit in your life. Of course, this must be balanced, and other elements of life matter to God too, but it is the condition of our heart that he cares about most. Be careful what you let into TV, listen to music, read books, and grow hobbies that will bring you closer to a gorgeous heart. (Proverbs 4:23, Matthew 6:21)

Do you feel like my friend, and you just can't seem to shake the hold of comparison? When was the last time you claimed your purpose? Do you daily align your expectations/dreams/desires/insecurities with the TRUTH of God's Word? This is the hard heart work that we must do! When we commit to really turning from comparison to a place of claimed purpose, I believe that our work, our relationships, and our identity will be restored into vibrant, healthy ground for dreams to grow. Are you with me?