Redemption

So I’m watching Downton Abbey and it’s marvelous.  Witty, funny, just the right amount of drama and love.

The oldest daughter, Mary, has a secret that her and her mother are keeping. She’s afraid it will scar her forever, and she will be a lonely spinster if word gets out.  So she pays a man to keep her secret quiet for her and she agrees to marry him.  All the while she is still madly in love with Matthew.

You are pining for them to be together, just tell him I’m thinking.  It’s okay, he will love you anyways.  You know the truth, but she’s unsure.  Her father, Lord Grantham does not know either.  And for fear of him outcasting her she stays quiet.

Then the day comes, her mother tells her father.  He sits down and absorbs the news.  Mary goes to her father and they embrace as he already knows and has forgiven her.  It’s a powerful moment.  He stands beside her, whatever may come, because he didn’t want his oldest daughter marrying someone out of fear.

Then, Matthew learns the truth.  And again, he takes some time, but walks right up to her and professes his love for her, in spite of the truth she has told him.

Whew!  Redemption.

It’s beautiful and powerful.  Undeserved, but needed.  Grace upon grace.

To be known to our depths and loved.  I pray and hope you have someone in your life that knows it all and loves you still.  Because that truth points us to the one and only true God who said, I know all you will do, and I’m sending Jesus anyways.  I love you that much.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus, that all who believe in Him will not die but have eternal life.”

Affirmation

I like for God to affirm things in my life.  Kind of like Gideon, if you really want me to pursue this show me a sign, I’ll put out the fleece and you make it wet or dry.   You know.

Clarity.

Show me a sign Lord.  Then another sign, because I’m not sure that was a clear enough.

Then maybe we don’t move at all, completely fearful we misheard God.  Unsure if He even cares.

Oh boy.  I am finite.  I am vulnerable and desperate to be known and reassured.

Is it just me?

I love that even in this frustration with myself He is not the slightest.  He sees this all working out, He sees all that I’m learning.  He sees the knew connections I’m making and He will restore and make all these things work together.

Typically I like to know what God’s affirming, but is that the point?  Are we supposed to move and then look up saying is that right God?  Or do I go left?  Do I serve you here or there?  Do I love this person, or make time for this one?  It can get very confusing.

What if He wants us to look up long enough so He can say I love you anyways.

I know You want to know.  I know you need this affirmation from me, but what if I told you I love you.  I love you, even if.  I love you, and I’m proud you are making steps.  Because once you get there you might face trouble, but if you know I love you…  Oh daughter, if you know I love you, if you abide in that love, then that will make all the difference.

As you go about your day, think about how God is showing you He loves you.  It’s everywhere.  For me it is flowers, taking pictures, my kids laughing, naps, slowing down, rain, my neighbor bringing me saltines for my sick kid, or curling up with a good book.

He is faithful.  He’ll show you too.

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Out of hiding

When my daughter was born, Frozen had just released on DVD and my mom obliged and got us a copy.

I fell in love and so did my anti-napping, two year.  So each day after lunch, I’d turn on Frozen and our oldest would fall asleep within ten minutes.  And I’d be holding a sweet sleeping baby girl, so I’d usually finish watching.  It quickly became one of my favorites and I really didn’t mind when they wanted to watch it.

I love the story.  About a girl who is scared and trying to be in control of something powerful.  Something she’s scared would be dangerous and hurt someone else.

Then love steps in, her sister sacrifices herself for her and she knows that love is the answer.  Isn’t this what Jesus did for us?

Forgive the correlation if you don’t agree  (I know Anna is not Jesus, and this is not a story like Narnia).  But stay with me.

He saw us.  He saw us about to be taken out by our sin, our hiding.  He saw all the broken places, all the fear, all the hurt and He came.  He came for you.  He came for me.  He came for us.

We all have places that feel too broken within us.  Places that we are scared of, but those are the places that need less hiding and more love.  Redemption.  So God can use it for good.

That lonely hidden self will show up in insecurities, fears, anxiety, depression.

Maybe you find it hard to let God in and let those places be loved.  Me too.

It’s scary, its new.  But is the right way.  To healing, freedom, being loved and the core of who we are.

Find a counselor, mentor, someone to walk with you.

Go listen to Steffany Gretzinger “Out of Hiding.”

Gratitude

Oh my gratitude has grown tremendously in this season of life.  Gratitude for creation, for small moments, for quiet, for swinging, and reading.  Gratitude typically slows me down helping me stay in the moment.

I get joy just thinking about all these moments of deep deep gratitude.  A lot of those moments have little to do with me.  But they are an exhale to my Savior for gifts that are 100% from Him.

Peaceful moments with my husband on stressful weeks.

Surprise flowers blooming out of the ivy.

Quiet moments as my sweet babies are asleep in their beds.

Music while I’m cooking.

Counseling moments that worked out something deep.

Writing.

Getting wrapped up in a good book.

Summer rain.  

Rainbows after the rain.

Most of these moments of deep gratitude have little do with something I’ve done.  Gratitude isn’t about being happy all the time, but about realizing even in our worst moments goodness still abounds because it has less to do with us and more to do with Him and His goodness.  It has to do with our Father who loves to give good gifts to His children whether we’ve been good or bad.  He draws us to Him, and tells us we are still loved even when we’ve totally mess up.

At the heart isn’t this what we want to tell our children?  When they’ve hurt their sibling, told a lie, or yelled something in anger.  We want to draw them close and remind them of the good around them and how little is has to do with them.  That they are loved cherished and adored.  We want them to feel it and more importantly believe it.

Oh deep gratitude. I’m asking God to open my eyes to the things I can be grateful for.  Past, present, and future.

What are you grateful for today?  Don’t let it rest upon something you accomplished today, look deeper and ask God to open your eyes, slow down.  Smell the roses.

 

Good book reference: 1000 Gifts by Ann Voscamp.

We all can be brave

“We all can be brave.”-my five year old.

Last night I was scrolling through instagram and read a little blurb about Kate Spade committing suicide, how sad and lost she must have felt.  And the person quoted from an article stating that we tell girls to be perfect and not brave.  I thought “oh man, I can’t wait to tell Elle tomorrow she is brave.”

So we wake up, I’m doting on my daughter telling her how brave she is as I put in her pink bow and a shirt that says “girls run the world.”  Wow, might have come on a little strong.  I was really feeling it this morning!

And my five year old chimes up and says, “yeah, mom we all are brave because we are humans.”  I mean this kid.  He is insightful without knowing it, which makes it the best.  I’m learning this balance between speaking life over all my kids and not just one.

The truth is we all can be brave.

We all can ask for help.

We all can speak up.

We all can show love.

We all can forgive.

Men, women, boys and girls.

There’s this inclusiveness that we can begin to breathe over our people.  I want my boys to be okay with their feelings, but I also want them to be brave and courageous.  I want my daughter to be brave and stand up for whats right, but I also want her to be kind and loving.

We can have both.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

What are you speaking over your people today?

 

A book to read

Everybody Always by Bob Goff.

This book.  Bob Goff.  I think he is pretty great.  Not perfect, but hilariously inviting and honest.  Those are things I really enjoy.

His stories hold you in the moment and you feel like you are sitting in his living room listening to him tell them.  They are unbelievable.

In those moments I’m tempted to look at Bob and say “wow he gets to do all these amazing things for God.”  “I wish I could do ________.”  And I can be left there wishing for someone else’s amazing life with God instead of living my own.

So as I read this second book of his, my focus was shifted.  I took those stories as something I could have with God too.  Mine will be different because I am not Bob, I’m Tara.

I think about life more intentionally after reading this book.  And looking at the people around me with more love and challenged to do more out of that love instead of guilt or obligation.

 

If you need a good summer read, read it.  Be challenged.

This is my favorite part of reading, getting to know the heart of someone and challenging the places you are currently standing.

As I am writing this, my kids are talking to me about a monster in the attic as they shoot and ask me to help.  So off I go.  

Summer is here.  

Let the reading commence.

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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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.

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.