Right where you are

“I’m not healed yet.”  “When I feel more together I’ll serve.  I’ll help.”  “I can’t help that person.  I don’t have time.  It’s too much.”

Some of those phrases are true.  Some of them are not.

Perfectionism says we have to be in the perfect spot at the perfect time to do the perfect thing to help the perfect person get to the perfect place where they feel perfect, completely together.

Wow.  As I write this out I see how ridiculous that statement is and how impossible it is.  No wonder we don’t chase our dreams and goals.  Or just help someone.  We aren’t sure if we are the “one” that needs to help them, or we aren’t sure if we can commit to that sort of time.  These are all valid statements, unless they are statements we use over and over.

Because, at the end of the day we are all busy.  We are all stretched.  Maybe we need to say no, so we can say yes to the things that give us life.  To make room for life-giving stuff.  I don’t know what that is for you.

I didn’t understand this.

So for the past few years I’ve had to say no a lot, to a lot of things.  Three kids five and under can do that.  But I also know there are things that bring me to life.  Writing is one.  Mentoring is another.

Writing I’ve made a purpose to pursue each week.  Mentoring was one I was feeling the itch to add, but I had no idea how.

If we look up, we will see God using us even in these moments.  These moments where we aren’t sure if we are ready or not.  Hint: I will never know if I’m ready or not.  I can’t sit back my whole life, safe, wondering if it’s time or not.

So I moved.  I’ve wanted to meet with a  few of our college girls, and a door opened for me to start a small group with a few of them.  It’s the second small group I serve with.  And it is totally life-giving.  In saying that there’s not one perfect thing to do.  We just have to do, do something.

Two months ago, I was asked to play volleyball for our church and at the time it just didn’t fit in our schedule.  I was pretty frustrated.  Wondering when life was going to let up so I didn’t feel so overwhelmed with the slightest change.

Now, sitting with that truth two months later.  Mondays are the night we were able to meet for this small group.  And it is so completely life-giving.

What is one life-giving thing you can pursue with God?

New Heart

I was thinking about our hearts last night.  How God moves in when we accept Him as Lord and Savior, but He doesn’t end there.  He wants all of our heart.

He promises to give us a new heart, but not by force.

We can look at the Old Testament and know God never forced the Israelites.  He asked things of them, He was tough, but what He really wanted was a willing heart.

I accepted Jesus going into junior high.  He pursued me, and asked other believers to speak life over me.  Something has never felt so right as the moment of being baptized and identifying with Christ.  That was the beginning.

I struggled later with salvation, and wrestled with things that I wasn’t sure Christians should be struggling with.  Legalism, guilt, shame, fear of not being forgiven, and just down right scared of failing God.  I had little trust in people, which translated into a fear with God-could I trust Him?  Could I let Him in?  Was I safe?  Was He going to destroy me once He knew my heart and my fears?  Could I let Him have these hurts in my heart?  Would He use them against me?

Would He love me still?

I wasn’t sure if He was kind or good.

But I can assure you, He knows my every secret, failure, and fear.

He loves me still.  He is so kind.  He is so good.  He will not use your pain against you.  But He will use it.  And when you let Him into those places of your heart, the pressure falls off of you and you can rest in the fact that He is the one who has held our life together all along.

And that truth is what is beginning to pull me out of those places I’ve lived.

Give Him more of your heart, ask Him to help you, allow people to speak truth over you in those times, and He will take care of our hearts better than we ever could.

*Counseling was also an essential piece of this awakening.  Hurts I thought would swallow me whole, could not, and I was reminded every time I went to counseling this was the right way.  Opening up, letting it out, and letting HIM move in.

Love perfected

Paul prays it for us in Ephesians 3:19, “… to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…”.

John lays out in 1 John 4: 7-12, “Love is from God, God is love, Jesus-the epitome of God’s love in flesh, that God loved us, calls us to love others, and in all that His love is perfected in us.”

To know Gods love is to give it away.  Believing He will still fill us up at the end of a hard day, with hard people to love, and that He will do it again tomorrow.

I’ve been fearful.  Stingy with my love at times.  Afraid I didn’t have enough to give out.  But slowly I’m trusting, this perfecting, that God will refill me.   But that requires some practices on my part, like praying for others, so my heart softens and changes towards them.  Praying for patience with my littles.  Praying the Holy Spirit shows up for me, because I am not able to love in a way God has for me.  It is beyond me.

I love Ephesians 3: 19 says “…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”   I love more that this is Paul’s prayer.  He understood what it took for us to know Christ’s love for us.  It has little to do with us, we don’t have to organize perfect prayers, just honest ones. Like we need Him.  We can’t do this thing on our own.  It is impossible without Him.

As we pray, I’m challenging myself to look less for the answers, and more for where God is showing up in this mess.  I’ve focused hard on the answers for so long, instead of the One with all the answers.

Love is perfected:

  1. as we get to know our Savior’s love for us through:
    1. Prayer
    2. Reading His Word
  2. as we love our neighbor:
    1. without expectation
    2. with anticipation of God showing up and making His love known

Life goal: to know His Love for me, because it will undoubtably pour out.

Faithful, not perfect

I’ve confused these two words a lot.  Faith.  Perfect.

I thought Abraham was perfect.  I thought David was perfect.  But when we look at their stories they really weren’t perfect.  They did some messed up things, but God still used them.  So how were they righteous?  Not by their own merit.  Not by their acts.  But their faith.  Not in themselves.  But in their God.

See when you are an achiever like myself, it’s easy to confuse faith with achievement.  It’s a belief wrapped up that says, “I’ll show you God why you want to use me…” and “I’ll teach your people to get it together.”  But faith is not within ourselves.  Isaiah says, “even our righteous acts are like filthy rags to God.”  I think because even our good acts are compromised by our humanness.  And when we teach people to achieve and try hard to be perfect, we teach others to become Pharisees.

Pharisees hurt the people that were following them by placing unbearable burdens and laws on their followers that were impossible.  I’m sure a lot of people stepped away from this walk and were judged harshly by the Pharisees because “they couldn’t cut it.”

I’m challenging this belief in myself because it has no merit in the gospel.  It’s the opposite.  God does not desire for us to live perfect lives.  But to realize in Christ we already are perfect before Him because of what Jesus did on the Cross.

Now we get to live messy, stumble, get up, and move forward in grace and love.  Not in works and achievements we once so desired.

James 2 makes it clear that God honors works, but James 1 declares we are free from this law.  So we have the freedom to serve and to live out our faith.  God calls us to work, but maybe in a simpler way.  A way that takes the impossible burdens off our shoulders to do it all, to hold everything up, to keep everything in line, and instead move with grace and love and pour that out instead of burdensome living.

Because if you are like me, its easier to measure our works.  But a heart changed by God is a miracle.  One we cannot do.  And I want that for others, not a burdensome living that is impossible to measure up to, but a life that is free.  Free to serve.

Faith, not perfection, in a God who is true and honest and pure.  He wants our faith in Him and He will move mountains.

Oh help us to see Lord.

 

Parents: Enjoy the process

I like to get things accomplished and check them off the list.  Honestly I like to just to get through them, not to necessarily enjoy them.  Its the checking off I like.

This poses a problem with kids.  

It’s hard to tell when our kids will make that next step whether with sleep, with potty training, with new chores, or discipline.  How do we know what to do and when?  Isn’t it all laying on our shoulders to direct and mold them?

Whew that last question has about killed me a time or two.  The pressure of getting it all right pushes down on me and causes anger and impatience with my kids.  Because if it’s all depending on me, then I have this pressure to get it right.

“They won’t go to school with a pacifier!”

“They won’t come into your room at night to sleep with y’all in high school!”

“He’ll get it.  She’ll stop.”

Those are some of the encouraging things I’ve heard along the way as a mom.  And you know what, so far they have proved true.

For example, with my son I tried the natzi three day potty training, and whew all I had at the end of it was  a headache and hurt pride.  And then one day just before three he decided he was done, potty trained pretty quickly and slept dry through the night.  Please don’t compare any process with yours.

All kids are different!  (explanation point, explanation point.)

Sleep with my first born was tough, he had eczema so it made it hard for me to let him cry it out, which also felt completely against my nature.  So we didn’t.  But kindergarten has come and he sleeps through the night on his own.  He’s grown.  So now, I enjoy the occasional snuggles at five am.

My daughter has been different.   Again, all kids are different.

With sleep, we let her cry it out at nine months and she slept great after that until we moved her out of her crib.  Now, she needs me to lay by her until she falls asleep but it’s ok.  It’s a good time for me to calm down too and realize I’m not in control of even sleep.  It’s a natural process for us to fall asleep.  If we make it something bigger then pressure and sleeplessness result (personal experience).

With potty training though, our girl was the same.  We pushed a little but I learned my lesson with the first no natzi camp.  Just before three she came out of the bath and decided it was the day for potty training.  And it stuck.

A few thoughts on regression.  Regression is a normal process for all of us right especially when we are learning?  We don’t always get something the first time, so why do we have such expectations on our babies to be different.

Parenting is so rewarding.  Maybe because it doesn’t all depend on us.

These are a few things I know:

  1. My kids are watching all I do.  Good and bad and they love me still.  And they are turning out ok.
  2. My kids are resilient.  They can do hard things.
  3. Most of the things I’ve feared or worried about with my kids have ironed themselves out.  They’ve grown without my constant control. Maybe in spite of it.

I’m hoping a mom or dad needed to hear this today.  You got this.  You’re doing it.  Even if you don’t see results.  Relax.  Enjoy the process.  Because one day you’ll wake up and that phase will be over.

Reminding myself.  Relax.   Enjoy the process.

It’s pretty miraculous, this raising kids thing.

 

Patience

…in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)

This gospel lived out is not fast-paced.  It can be, and might feel that way at first, but there’s a deepening, a patience as God slowly gets the junk out of our hearts so He can move in.  I think this is what it means to have a honest and good heart-it’s where He moves in.

This past week I cut down our myrtle tree.  It had a bug in it last summer and needed to be “pruned.”  I’m the worst gardener, I can’t grow much, but I did prune.  And three days later, after a good rain, our myrtle tree started blooming.  It might not be as big this year, but it will be healthy.  I will patiently watch it grow and flower this year.  Knowing next year it will grow and bloom even more.

In this passage, the person with fruit didn’t just produce it quickly but patiently, waiting, praying.

Patience, a word spread all throughout the Bible.  It is a word repeatedly coming to mind the past day.

What does patience look like in your life?

I realized that patience looks different sometimes for me, but with the same undertone. I lack patience with myself to grow and change, as well as with others.  I want things to be instantaneous.

I don’t think this impatience is necessarily wrong, but it is definitely misplaced.

God instantaneously changes us the moment we are saved.  He sees us as Jesus, His Beloved Son.  Healed.  Complete.  Whole.  Perfect.  Not because of anything we have done, but because who we now identify with.  We need Jesus, and as we confess that truth He comes and lives within us, and God sees us differently.  He knows who we are, and our salvation is complete in the One who can truly save us.

He sees us faultless.  

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” (Jude 24)

As we live this life He is completely patient with us to realize who we are in Him.

Unbelievably patient.  Like we would have left us a long time ago.  But because He sees us as we truly are, He never quits.  Never doubts.  Never walks away.

He slowly, tenderly walks with us and helps us.  We’d be wise to ask for that help today, instead of trying to bulldoze our own path.  And maybe asking Him to help us be aware of the changes He’s already made in us.

Let Patient Love fall all over you today.

 

 

Are you willing to hope?

Hope.

A simple word defined, “to expect with confidence, trust.”

How many times in this life have you lost confidence or trust in something or someone?

Countless for me.

So today I was challenged with this idea of hope.  Should I get my hopes up?  Should I allow myself such anticipation?  And I was reminded that I’m hoping in the wrong things.

I’m hoping someone won’t disappoint me or let me down.  I’m hoping this new shirt will make me feel happier.  I am hoping this new endeavor will sustain me.

But that’s not hope, not true hope.

We need to move our hope up higher, to a person who will never disappoint.

Maybe you’re thinking, Tara, I have been so disappointed by God.  He has let me down, not shown up, or left me.  I’ve felt those things too.  So, I challenge you to do something new.

Look back at some of those painful and disappointing times in your life and ask God to show himself.  Ask Him to show where He was.  Trust Him when He speaks.  It’s true.  He was there.

He is incapable of disappointing us.  Of letting us down.  Of leaving us even if we’ve left Him.  He is omnipresent, everywhere, all the time.

Now, you don’t have to look back forever, just long enough to let God show you He was there, He was moving, on your behalf, so He can be with you.  He sent Jesus.  He sent Him for you.

Romans 5:5 (NLT)

 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

So who are you hoping won’t hurt or fail you?  Hopefully it’s not a person or a thing, because they will hurt and fail you.  It’s not hopeless though.

All through the Psalms you’ll find the phrase “I put my HOPE in You.”  Move that hope to the right place.  And allow people to be people.  It will move pressure from them, pressure they cannot carry for us.  And let God surprise you with hope.

He is worthy of all our hope.

Goals

Goals.

Not a word I use in my vocabulary very much.  Too much expectation.  Too much fear of failure.  Sounds good, but yeah right.

Just a few thoughts running through my mind about the word: goals.

If you asked people closest to me if I’m goal oriented, it would not be the first phrase they would use to describe me.  I kind of like it this way.  I like feeling some freedom to move, breathe, and change things up.  Sometimes goals set me in a place of inflexibility.  Free-spirited maybe.  But I like challenges, I like doing things, and sometimes goals are necessary to get crap done.  Right?

One of my only goals this year was to read two to three books a month, twenty-five total for the year. (Look I even made my monthly goal none committal).  This is totally manageable for a mom with three kids, right?  Three months in and this month is proving to be challenging.  I have two books that I’m finishing, but it is the last week of March!  Yikes my mind immediately said, yeah its okay, don’t worry about it, you won’t make it this month.

However, I fought that thought.

I looked at my two books: None like Him by Jen Wilkins and The Wind at the Door by Madaleine L’Engle (Wrinkle in Time Book Two).  (Honestly enjoying them both and I don’t really want them to end.)  However, I saw I only had two chapters for each book.  I have one week and four chapters.

Now, this is totally manageable.   (And I finished The Wind at the Door last night and will start the next book today which gets me a little ahead for next month.)  So I’m doing it, little by little, until this month ends.

This makes me think of other goals I have set and at the risk of failing I just stopped, not allowing myself to look ahead to see if I really could do it.  I assumed failure before I even knew if it was true.

So totally unqualified to talk about goals, but I challenge you to look ahead just a little and see if your goal is manageable if you set out a more specific plan.

My husband is doing this.  He’s an amazing goal setter, I look up to him in this area and take his lead a lot because he is gifted at it.  He has a mile amount he wants to run this year, and he didn’t just break it down to each month how many miles, but to each week the amount of miles he needs to run to meet that goal.  And he is doing it.  One week at a time.

This doesn’t take much effort, just courage to look and see if your goals are attainable.  You will see they are if you break them down into smaller chunks.  Like trying to eat your veggies for dinner.

April is coming, a new month, a new week, a new day to set a goal.  Share it with someone who loves you and will ask how you are doing because they want to see you meet your goals and like walking with you.

Break those goals down: yearly goal-monthly goal-weekly goal-daily goal.

See what you can achieve today or this week, and I bet you’ll meet it for the year too.

 

 

 

Home

Home.

Oh how I love this word.  I feel this way around my husband.  He always feels like home, I’m content to be in his arms.  He smells good.  Doesn’t a home smell good.  You know how your friends would let you borrow a shirt and it smelled like their home?  You can’t explain it.

Recently I watched Ferdinand with my kids,  such a cute movie.  Like totally cute.  I love Ferdinand, his flower loving giant self.  It’s about this bull who does not want to fight like the other bulls and trying to find his place in life.  He finds this little girl and this song Home by Nick Jonas (go listen ASAP) is perfect as this bull is running through sunflowers carrying this precious little girl who is now his best friend.

The longing of every heart to feel like they belong.

And that they belong just as they are.  “Home is where you’re happy,” is one of the lyrics in the bridge.  Where are you happy?  Y’all, I sing this song all day and watch the music video with or without my kids.

There’s something so simple to that belonging.  In the movie, it so freeing to watch this sweet little bull run through fields of flowers.  Then, he has to go back and help free his friends.  And he does.  Then they belong.

Isn’t the point of our freedom, to point others to the one who has set us free.  Sometimes to go back, and let other’s know they can belong too.

I do this a lot with cartoon movies, emote all over them.  Looking deeper at this meaning of life, and I feel like God uses anything to speak to me.  Reading some of my kids children books (Oh the places you’ll go-great motivator, Sleep like a Tiger-great comfort if you struggle sleeping).  He is everywhere and in everything.  Shining the light for us so we can keep walking this thing out.

I hope today you feel happy.  Happy to be in a safe place to call home, a place where you belong.  Sometimes we might not feel like we belong because of the people around us, but maybe even at our own feelings about ourselves.

Listen to me, you belong.  You belong.  You were created to live in this exact time.

You are no mistake.

We don’t have to do anything to earn belonging, we only have to be human.

Where do you belong?  Maybe just right where you are.

Listen to Him telling you, You belong.  You are mine.

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The Good Life

Life with littles.

I have learned a lot.

As a parent you say a lot of, “no don’t eat the sand.”

“You just had a bath.” (mud from head to toe)

“Don’t put that in the toilet.”

It is a constant roller coaster of ups and downs and doing the same thing over and over.

Maybe it is the point, because I am a slow learner.  It takes me a few circles around the block for me to get the point.

I feel like the best mom when my kids are off their tablets/away from T.V., but there is a trade off.  And it usually means the house is a complete disaster.

Disaster equals play.

They have to see where the toys are, which means lots and lots of dumping toy buckets and picking them up to be dumped again.

Just writing it feels overwhelming.

But it’s not all parenting is.

Eventually, the evening slows to lulls.  The kiddos get a little sleepy.  We read our stories for the night.  Brush teeth (that is not the peaceful part).  And I watch those sweet kids fall asleep. Their eyes begin to drift slowly, slowly, until they close.  It’s beautiful.  They are content.  Happy I’m beside them.  And it’s quiet.

Life feels like a whirlwind, but there are these moments where it pauses.  Where it slows to almost standing still, where you can take it all in.  Don’t miss those moments.

It’s not just parenting, but marriage too.  It is the quiet in the car where you are just happy to be in each other’s presence and content to be quiet.

Maybe work, all the sudden you feel a groove in your job and you understand someone more and appreciate all they do.  The frustrations start to fall as you sit and just embrace where you are.  What you have.

Content.

Being content in the quiet has taken me a long time to embrace.  I used to believe silence meant something bad was about to happen, but it’s not true.  The quiet is where God tells you who you are, who He is and why He can be trusted in the busiest of moments.

Life is both.  Crazy and lovely.  Content and fast-paced.  Slow and powerful.  Meaningful and mundane.

Embrace it all.  And make those quiet moments count; loving those around you, listening to the songs of birds outside on this spring day, the sun shining, and the breeze blowing.

I’m sitting in my hallway, listening to my kiddos get along, the birds are chirping, my coffee cup is almost empty, and I’m writing.  Life is good.  It is not perfect, but it is good.

Importance of quiet: God is in the whisper, so we should probably make time to hear it.

Psalm 46:10 says “Be Still, and know that I am God.”

I like how the NET translates it, “Stop your striving and recognize that I am God.”

Be still, embrace whatever moment you are in, and allow God to speak straight to your heart, I promise it is good, a gift.