Embracing it all

I have all sorts of emotions, at any time of the day.

I’m joyful.  I’m sad.  I’m happy.  I’m mad.  (This sounds like a children’s book.)

But to say all this, you already know it.  We are human.  We feel.

I got overwhelmed by all the feels this past week.  End of the school year.  Excited to be with all three kids.  Overwhelmed to be with all three kids, all day.  I need a schedule.  I’m terrible at following schedules.  I need freedom.  I felt so frustrated.  I was quitting before I had even started.

Comparison has been a slow killer these past couple of weeks.  Friends doing new things, working, not working, teaching their kids, organizing their homes, and I’m here killing it.  Or so I thought.

Life looks different for all of us.  One area we may be flourishing, and another not so much.  We all have those glamorous sides where we are rocking it, and those areas we sweep under the rug or push in the closet for one more day, laundry anyone?

With this heart of comparison, I had to take a step back.  What was going on?  Comparison was killing my joy and making me exhausted.  Because I cannot be the best at everything, in every area.  It’s not possible.

I’m realizing it was comparison as I write this.  Sometimes getting it out, brings new light.  

So our goal for the summer, I made this up last night, is to play, rest, and relax together.  Because we love being together.   

I’m okay that I compared my motherhood to someone else’s motherhood, because this is where I get to write from.  A place of truth, authenticity.  In that I want to remind myself and maybe you, we don’t have to be anyone else, our people in this case my kids don’t want anyone else, they want us.  All of us.  Present.  Whole.  Completely imperfect.

Lord help us embrace ourselves.

Our Defender

Defender/Advocate

Last night was our last night of connect group for the spring; we take a summer break.  I wish I could have recorded it because so many good things were said last night.

So I’ll try to remember a few.

I believe this is why small group is so important.  We get our thoughts out about God.  Sometimes they are wrong, and when we are in a safe place we can look at them again and see if we think they need to be corrected.

I believe connect group is also a great place for people to live out life.  To be challenged, to struggle, to sin, to seek forgiveness, to hear His truth about who they are, and to be restored.

God has been teaching me a lot about longevity of life.  Not necessarily that we are here for a long time, but sometimes we endure things that are long and having people around you to advocate for you are so important in those seasons.

I have those people in my life, but I don’t always tap into that power.  I wait until I’m in a place that I really need someone and then pour all my junk out.

Our passage this week was 1 John 2:1-2:

“My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”

Jesus is our advocate.  So we can come to Him because He will defend us.  We are guilty of sin, but we have a Savior that will come to our rescue and defend our case.  And we will be proven guilt free by His payment on the Cross-for us.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Yes, we are coming into the King’s Presence when we draw near to Him, but we are coming not to receive judgment but mercy and grace to help us.  And just as God has placed people in our lives we can share with, we also have a great counselor in Him who longs to meet with us, who longs for us to be honest.

Share your deepest struggles with Him; in His Presence there is acceptance, love, grace and mercy.  We need these things.  We need Him.

Learning to rejoice

Its a funny thing.

People say, “Just be thankful.”  “Be happy.”  But sometimes life throws punches and it’s just hard.  Especially when you’ve learned to “get through” life instead of taking delight in it.  The Bible tells us to rejoice a lot.  But, there have been times in my life I felt blind to rejoicing.  I didn’t know how.  And it felt very foreign.

1 Peter 4: 12-13 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”  (ESV, emphasis added)

There have been some moments in the suffering that I was able to rejoice, but most of the rejoicing in my life has come after the storm.  Normally a “thank you for letting me live!”

I looked up “rejoice” and asked the internet what its meaning was in greek.  I was looking for something deeper. (Note: I am no Bible teacher, I literally just looked up “rejoice in greek” and saw a Strong’s definition, remembering that name from Bible college.)

A few pieces of the definition popped out to me.  Rejoice: leaning towards grace.  Whew!  Leaning in, moving closer.  Another definitions “to delight in God’s grace.”  Because that suffering will end, if not in this life, in Heaven.

So rejoice is not putting a silver lining on our suffering, or pretending its not there.  But it is completely delighting in God’s grace towards us.

There are things in this life that do not change.  God’s grace towards us.  His love.  His Presence.  And for me His creation will never stop rejoicing in His goodness.  Just go sit outside and watch the clouds go by.  They are magnificent.  Delight.  Breathe.  Take it all in.  Shift your gaze.

And we can rejoice in these things even when life throws a curve.

How are you rejoicing today?

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Have you boxed God in?

Have you boxed God in?

Have you allowed Him to move freely in some areas of your life and not others?

Me too.

This was easy to do when I first became a Christian.  I let God forgive me for cussing and saying His name in vain.  But then I fell into this deep place of policing my life, which then turned into policing others lives, as well.

I wrestled with this for a while.

My deepest question: Would God really say what He says He will do?

I had hurt.  I had deep pain.  I had wounds that I didn’t know if I could give to Him or not.  Would He be that Good Shepherd I knew in my mind He was?  I had to remove the box from my heart so He could come in.

Then you realize you’ve been protecting yourself from the One you need most.

Boxes.  Walls.  Self-protection.  These have come down.  With the help of dear friends, my husband, my mom, and my counselor, mine are.

Like an addict to a drug, it is very easy to return to this place of self-protection.  It feels safe.  And in a past where I wasn’t sure I was safe, I craved that.  But as believers our safest place is in the hands of our Savior who places beautiful people around us, so we can slowly step out of this place of self-protection and into those pastures with beautiful flowers and sunshine.

It’s breathable outside of our walls.  There’s life.  There’s freedom.  There’s healing.  There’s hope.

So seek someone out today.  Allow them to speak truth or just to listen to your deepest questions about God.  Place your hand on your heart.  It’s okay to have questions.  He wants to answer them.  I bet who you are talking to has had similar questions too.

Know this:

He is good.

He is kind.

He will do it.

Are you angry?

Anger.  I love covering that word with some of the most deflated words.  I’m just upset.  I don’t know.  I just don’t feel good.  But, what I really feel is anger.

Is it okay to be angry?  I think so.  But in the moment I’m not sure if I can allow myself.

When fear normally shows up so do the thoughts.  “Oh, you can’t be angry.  Christians are patient, calm, and kind.”  I tell myself.  “How are your kids going to turn out?”  I remind.  “What would _______ (insert important person, or person staring at the grocery store) think of your angry outburst?”  Shame.

Anger is a complex thing.  It can come up at a moments notice, and I look around like what the heck just happened?  Dr.  Jekyll has come.

Guess who I like more?  The calm, cool, collected mom.  But with three kids five and under, there are going to be some “upsetting” moments.  Stubbing my toe can send me somewhere scary.

When I first started counseling, I had a lot of anger to express.  I had pent it up in this whole idea of being “kind, compassionate Christian girl.”  I wanted to be forgiving.  I wanted to be gentle.  Anger felt unforgiving and the opposite of gentle.

I had some things to be angry about.  They were valid.

And this diagram got me.  Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions has encouraged me more than a time or two in this process of freedom.  He describes anger’s opposite feeling as fear.  Wow.  Fear displays itself in anger sometimes.  So when I’m angry, my thoughts are normally on what other people are thinking about me, fearing how they perceive me as a mom.  Sometimes I’m angry because I’m afraid someone will hurt me.  I feel angry sometimes because of  my lack of control.

Learning how to express emotions is a huge step in walking out freedom I believe.

I like this freedom.  When I’m angry, it is okay, and maybe I can ask myself “Are you afraid?”

Are you angry?  Maybe ask yourself the same question, and then listen.  I like this response.  Feels loving.  Instead of punishing yourself for being angry, embrace it for a moment.

 

 

Freedom to fail

I lost my wallet yesterday.

The last place I was didn’t have it.

The thoughts began to come.  I can’t believe you did this.  Why weren’t you paying attention?  Who can I blame?  What were you thinking?  

I felt I could step back and see differently but those thoughts of defeat still came.

You know when you are walking out this freedom challenges still come, the temptation to flee or to stay present still come, and the belief that you are not enough attack.

It was honestly a hectic leave from that store.  Within five minutes, we had forgotten to pay for two things, our youngest is climbing out of the cart, and my daughter is asking for candy as we are trying to get out of the store. Can anyone relate?  None of these are the blame, but they are normal every day circumstances.  They just all happened to come in closely.  I was thrown off, and I left my wallet.  That is the truth.

None of those things point to me being a bad mom, disorganized, busy, or overworking even though those are things I could blame myself with.

There’s something different happens when you know you can fail.  When you have similar feelings or thoughts, but they don’t have to knock you off course life before.  They don’t get to jump in the drivers seat.

My freedom from condemnation in Christ still stands.  And in that freedom, there is freedom to “not have it together.”  Freedom to have a bad moment.  Freedom to be disorganized.  Because grace will stand us back up when we fail.  It will look us in the eye and say “no, look at me, those things are who you are.”

We all fail, but our God never will.  So even when our world seems to fall apart for a moment, our God has not left us, looked away, or even blinked.  He is there moving and loving.  Loving in a way that will never fail us.  It will never fail us to look to love first.

My wallet was found.  Hallelujah.  And no matter what, God is still God in all of that time of waiting, wondering what I needed to do, and where to go first.

Where have you failed today?  Beat yourself up?  Try to love on yourself first.  Just take it as a learning experience to love those around you, because you can’t love your neighbors well unless you try it on yourself first. 

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Timing

Perfect timing.

It never makes sense to me.  Some people call it coincidence, which seems a little flat to me.  Some people call it a miracle, maybe.  But it is always right, even when it is ugly.

We just need eyes to see it.

Hindsight is 20/20.  Right?  We see everything clearly when the storm is over.  Even right after it.  The rainbow appears and we rejoice.

We see how all the timing of things landed us right where they were supposed to.  And the humbling part is realizing we had little to do with it.

Even if you could change the timing of something you wouldn’t because you know there is no way you could rearrange the details and make it better.

Married at twenty.  Crazy then and now.  Students, married, living on campus at Johnson University, making minimum wage (about $6 then), we were living the dream.  Then, we courageously submit a resume to a church in Texas.  A place we had never been.

Ten months later we are interviewing in Texas and we had given up on the idea that we were going into ministry instead my husband was going to get his masters.  At  our interview weekend we accepted a college ministry position in Texas.  We go back to Johnson and listen to our answering machine (wow archaic) and Joel had received a full ride to get his masters.  We had already chosen and we were so happy with the idea of going into ministry.  We wanted ministry all along, but didn’t know college ministry was an option.  Grateful that full ride call came after we accepted the job in Texas, because the Lord knows my heart would have been to anxious to weigh the options back and forth.  That was just our beginning.  I’m grateful of how it began, and how the timing of everything seems just to work out.

That’s one decision.  I’ll share others later.

We have experienced perfect timing that doesn’t make any sense in our marriage and ministry over and over.  Sometimes we don’t even know it’s happening at the current moment.  But we always look back and say, “yeah, that was perfectly timed.”  And we had little to do with it, accept to be the receiver.

There’s a freedom in not being in control.  May my stubborn self remember as I’m writing this.  The truth that not being in control is a good thing, because we could not orchestrate a single detail of our lives to line up with someone else and then it work out for good.

So look back and see how God timed things in your life.  The good and the bad.  He’s there.  Making good out of nothing.  Let gratitude pour out.  Not because life has been perfect, but it has been perfectly used.

Acceptance

I learned young you should push back on areas you don’t like about yourself.  For example, I don’t like that I get overwhelmed easily, so I’ll pretend I don’t feel overwhelmed.  Then struggle and toil against that overwhelming feeling, that is one hundred percent human, and typically make myself more overwhelmed.

So I’m writing this for me today, I hope you get something too.

I think at the heart of the gospel is acceptance.  I think of the woman who had bled for years without any relief, I think of the man with leprosy who was not accepted by society, both completely accepted by our Savior.  And the Samaritan woman at the well who had five husbands and was living with another man, she was cast aside by her community, but totally accepted by her Savior.  Embraced.

We can’t surrender what we haven’t accepted has happened.  But when we believe we will be accepted by our Savior, we can accept some hardships ourselves.  Because He accepts us today, tomorrow, forever.  That acceptance is what can change this heart of stone into something beautiful.

I believed for a long time that I just had to “look good” for God.  That’s not what He wants.  He wants me to come, be seen, and known for exactly who I am, a sinner-then I can leave accepted, loved, cherished, whole. And this isn’t just for me, but for my neighbor too.

I don’t have this all figured out, but I know the times I resist accepting help, accepting truth, accepting love, accepting grace, or accepting joy I make my life harder.  It’s like going against the current.  It’s hard to withstand.  Until you lose your grip and you’re sure you’ll drown, but all of the sudden those truths pull you up and you accept them.

Then they move into your heart, and they start to come out of you.

He’ll do that- He will accept you, all your faults, failures, all the good things you think you’ve done.  He accepts it all.

Is there a piece of your past that you cannot accept?  It will not kill you.  Freedom comes from being freed from something.

Is there a part of yourself you distain?  Trust me, it’s the part that can makes you real to others.

Is there a part of your family that hurts too bad?   Accepting it can make it hurt less, because then you can move beyond yourself and into love.

Acceptance doesn’t mean condoning.   Acceptance means once we do, we can ask for help.  We can move.  We are no longer stuck.  We can use our resources.  But there are very few resources to the one who “has it all together.”

Don’t be the one who “has it all together” its a lonely place to be.  Real matters.  Real is the best way.

You are accepted.  Live out of that truth.

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