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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Just enough for today

My blog name.  I wrestled with writing a blog.  I’ve never done anything like this before.  Yet, something called.  A peace.  Even an excitement at what might come at my sitting and waiting and writing it down.

It is a beautiful thing to trust God with something new.  Something uncertain.

Most days I have no idea what I will write.  And even in the stewing the days prior, thinking over words or ideas not much comes.  A lot of mumbled mess.  This is how I used to write.  In school I had all these ideas and I had such a difficult time picking one and sticking to it.  The pressure was too great to just pick one topic.

Prayer. 

It’s not a big prayer, but each day when I go to write, I ask God what He wants me to talk about.  The better days are ones where I’ve listened a little longer and got the clearer picture.  But still I write.

So, today, as I’m getting my car inspected I’m reading Daring to Hope.  And I am desperately trying to finish my two books for the month of April, which have proved challenging with kids in school, connect groups and family visiting-you know life.

Daring to Hope has been another life-giving pics this month.  I thought I would feel insecure reading about this sweet girl name Katie Davis Majors who has adopted all of these Ugandan girls, single and runs a ministry.  I mean that alone intimidates me.  But as I read, I hear this real life person.  This woman, a mom working this faith thing out each day.  Its beautiful and powerful.  It has made me appreciate the dark times, motherhood and ministry.

As I’m reading she italicizes this idea just enough for that day.  I was struck.

Those words.  Just enough for that day.

Those words have meant so much to me in these four months of writing.  Asking God each day what He wants from me.  What He wants me to be real about, to share a piece of my heart.  It is humbling.

He’s calling me to new things, things uncertain, but things that He is going to walk with me through.  And I can trust that I have just enough for today.

I don’t need an overflow, just enough.  

So I’m sitting on this phrase today.

I’m not exactly sure what our future holds, but I will have just enough each day to live it out.  

His promises are true, and He is faithful to provide.  We just need to ask.

 

Lasting Change

To change is to give a different position, course or direction.

We were talking last night at connect group about change; transformations actually.

I’ve experienced some transformations in my life.  Most of my own doing.  I’ve transformed my diet, I’ve transformed my house, I’ve transformed my landscaping, I’ve transformed my wardrobe before.  All external.  Some with lasting change, and some without.

But this idea of transformation and our spiritual walk hit me different last night talking it out with my small group.

Transformation is defined as a change in composition or structure.  I would say transformation is deeper.

Isn’t that what we all want?  Change that lasts, that stays, that sticks even when it gets hard.

I walked into counseling today, and she told me I looked different, there was a glow and a health to my countenance.  I had been feeling that way, but wasn’t sure what it was.

I think it is the miracle of transformation.  When we let God into those areas that are killing us, and allow Him to breathe life into them.  Then we can stand and be in awe of the transformation He did.  That He did to our hearts.

I had a part.  I did work. But, ultimately the ending is His.  He called.  He opened doors.  He stepped in when no one else could.  He found me in the pit and brought me up.  He used so many people to do this in my life.

I’m anxious to write this for fear of being prideful.  But it feels good to say I’m standing.  My footing is stronger.  Grounded.  It is happening.  Slowly.

This has been a two year journey.  This wasn’t over night.  It wasn’t something that just happened.  It was intentional, but only He knew how things would align.

There’s a freedom I feel that doesn’t make sense.

So, keep going, keep fighting, keep living.  Keep seeking Him.  Allow people to move in and ask God for wisdom.  I don’t know how, but He is doing it.  A miracle maybe.

Miracles can’t be explained and I like that because if they could we would try and do it exactly the same way.  Trying to recreate it, to manipulate God into taking something immediately so we don’t have to experience it anymore.  But in the New Testament when Jesus healed people, they would get sick again, they would eventually die, but when He forgave them and changed their hearts that was the lasting stuff.

I can’t tell you step by step what to do, but keep going, don’t quit, especially if it looks like it’s not working.  You probably aren’t that far off, you just need to know which way to keep stepping.  Ask for wisdom, let people speak into your life.  Go to counseling.  Allow God to heal you, because He isn’t done with you.  He’ll send you out to let others know, they can too.  Be healed.  Find freedom.  New ways to deal.   Rest.  Kindness.  Compassion.  Deep, deep gratitude.  Love.  A deep love.

It’s for all of us.

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.