Freedom Friday: Will I Choose to Love?

I first heard the song “Legacy” at a mom’s group I attended.  A member had lost her battle with cancer, and her friends put together a slide show to celebrate her life with all of us.

I wanna leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?

It hit close to home.

I’ve mentioned here in passing that I have a dear loved one battling terminal illness.  A week ago today, he lost his 12-year battle with cancer, but won the race of life and was received into Jesus’ arms.

My dad.

His joyous smile

When my parents divorced, my father was awarded primary custody of me and my older sister.  I was already living with him and continued to do so throughout high school and into college.

Prepping to walk me down the aisle

My father was such a role model to me. What I’ve learned since his death is the impact his life had on so many others.

The comments that have come have been truly astounding. His generosity, humor, fullness of life.  His magnetic presence, his joy, his clear love for his family (including my mom’s 9 brothers and sisters, as my dad was like an older brother to them).

My dad lived a life that impacted far more people than he likely ever realized. He was a role model to many.

I don’t remember hearing him say an unkind word about anyone. He was not one to complain. Even to the end, he alternated telling jokes with displaying his concern for his loved ones.

Did I choose to love?

He wasn’t perfect, of course.  Neither am I.  We certainly had bumps in our relationship.  But I can honestly say that my grief over his passing is not at all complicated by some of the questions that plague many who lose a parent.  I know he loved me and my sister deeply and was overflowing with pride at what our lives had become.

I just wish he didn’t have to leave so soon.

My father never failed to ask a store clerk, “How’s your day going?” with all sincerity.  He even would ask the nurses and doctors this during his long cancer battle, even when the situation was an emergency, or he was in a lot of pain (I witnessed this myself when I accompanied him to the emergency room).

He once shared with my stepmom that some people aspire to greatness in their lives; he aspired to goodness. This is what he instilled into me from a young age.

This is the legacy he chose to leave behind.

There were other things instilled in me from a young age, though not by my father. Venomous things that taught me to emphasize people’s flaws, to expect perfection of myself and others, that taught me not to trust.

Sometimes that venomous voice is so loud I cannot hear anything else. It’s also insidious. I’m only now starting to recognize the hold it still has on my thoughts.

What legacy will I leave?  Will I choose to love?

 

On the days when it’s hard to breathe, the days when I can’t imagine taking another step without my dad around to see, I remember his strength battling cancer, I remember his kindness and huge heart.  I remember his daily choice to love.

Oh, Lord, let that be my legacy…..

 
Dad, thank you for all you taught me, even if it was taught through silence (a skill I need to work on!). While I grieve that you were only here 64 years, I rejoice for the 37 1/2 (exactly to the day) years you spoke into my life. You had an amazing heart, and I can only pray that my life will be a light to many as yours was.  I miss you so much.  But since you are in heaven, give Bunny Boo and Grammy a hug for me, and could you please tell Keith Green I said, “hi”?

Feelings: Dictator or Indicator?

I mentioned this article at my workshop yesterday here at the Exodus conference. Posting it for you all to consider. First published in early 2010.

Feelings: Dictator or Indicator?

It had been a challenging morning. With a 2 ½ year old & an under 6 month old, I was still adjusting to life with 2 kids. I was feeling frustrating, overwhelmed & impatient. And it wasn’t even 9 AM yet!

I generally would have just gone & hid when feeling this way, , but in a moment of uncharacteristic wisdom, I stopped, bowed my head, and prayed, “God, just help me. Help me to be patient today, to be more like You.” And God answered.

God reminded me that in such moments I have a choice. I have a choice in how I respond to my feelings. I can allow them to be a dictator or an indicator. I can choose to allow my feelings to dictate the truth of my reality (if a situation feels hopeless, then things are hopeless because that’s how I feel) OR I can allow them to indicate some truth about my reality (if I’m feeling overwhelmed & without hope, my feelings indicate something, for instance that I’m likely disconnected and needing a break).

Jesus was in touch with his emotions. He wept with Mary & Martha as they mourned for their brother Lazarus. He rejoiced with the disciples as He watched them learn and grow. He became irate when He saw God’s temple being misused. And compassion welled up in His heart as He looked out at the crowds He was teaching, as they looked “harassed and helpless” (Matthew 9:6).

Since we are created in the image of God, we also are created to be emotional. Emotions are generally a very good thing. We get scared when we encounter danger. The adrenaline starts pumping, and it helps us to act quickly. We hang around people who are fun because they bring us joy and make us smile. We responded to God’s tugging on our hearts not simply because the Gospel made sense, but because His kindness led us to repentance (Romans 2:4). God commanded us to love Him with our hearts. He also asked us to rejoice with those rejoicing, and mourn with those in mourning.

For a long time in my life, how I felt about myself dictated my feelings of worth. If I felt good about myself, then I was happy. If I said something stupid, then I would dwell on it for hours, even days, and call myself an idiot over and over. I also allowed how I felt to dictate who God is. If I felt that God loved me, then He loved me. If I felt rejected, then He must have rejected me. If I felt ashamed, then God must be ashamed of me. If I was in a sticky situation and I felt as if God weren’t helping me in the way I wanted Him to, then He obviously felt I wasn’t worth wasting His time on. In other words, I allowed my feelings to be dictators, rather than indicators.

We could apply these truths to many areas of our lives. I know as a young person, I was rather taken aback by the feelings I was having toward a close female friend. I remember reading about homosexuality in a health & sex book I found, trying to make sense of what I was experiencing. In the book, it said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, and especially if you acted on them, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black & white. I must be a homosexual.” This book reinforced the lie that my feelings dictated my reality.

Since becoming a Christian 11 years ago, I’ve slowly been realizing the place emotions are meant to take in my life. God’s recent reminder that feelings can be indicators or dictators is evidence that I’m still working this truth out. The struggle manifests itself in different ways these days. I know that God is present and working in my life, and that it would go against His character to not be faithful & good & trustworthy. Most of all, I know my worth was defined once & for all by the fact that God created me and that Jesus died on the cross for me. Yet at times, I still struggle with feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I’m the mother of two small children who also directs a ministry – of course I’m going to feel overwhelmed at times. But I have a choice about where I allow my thoughts to go with that feeling. If I allow feeling overwhelmed to dictate my reality, then I start feeling like the worst mother in the world, that I’m in over my head, wishing I could jump back in bed and hide for the rest of the day. If I instead choose to allow my feelings to be indicators, I might instead realize that I haven’t had a break for a while, the kids are stir crazy, and maybe I’d set us all up for success if we went to the playground for a while. Then I’d plan ahead for the evening and decide I’ll go out for a child-less cup of tea after my husband gets home.

Jesus clearly expressed His emotions, but He also kept those emotions in the proper place. Imagine the emotions He was feeling as He poured out His heart to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Now imagine if Jesus had allowed His feelings in the Garden to be dictators, if He prayed, “God, this is too much for me! This is completely overwhelming. There’s no way I can go through with this, God, so you’re going to have to find someone else!” Where would that have left us? Instead, His final prayer was, “Not my will, but Yours.” He chose not to allow His feelings and fears to be dictators, but instead poured them out before His Father and trusted Him with the result.

As Jesus modeled for us in the Garden of Gethsemane, just because we experience intense feelings doesn’t mean that we’re meant to be driven by them or to live according to them alone. We’ll be given an opportunity to experience this choice every day, as we’re faced with life and the inevitable challenges it brings. In those moments, we can allow our feelings to dictate the mood of our day and the direction that mood will take us, or we can view our feelings of indicators, submitting them to God and allowing Him to direct our day. We always have a choice in how we respond.

Freedom Friday: Black Friday Edition

Happy Thanksgiving, Freedom Friday readers!

This is Freedom Friday, the Black Friday edition. While some are out and about, partaking in this Black Friday, by shopping till they drop, others are experiencing something quite different.

Thanksgiving, for some, was a joyous time to gather with family and friends. It was an opportunity to practice family traditions, eat lots of food, and overall rejoice at all God has given them over the past year.

For others, Thanksgiving wasn’t quite so joyous.

The past year for them may have been full of growth and victory, setbacks and forward motion. They may have gone into the holiday with high hopes for health, for maintaining appropriate boundaries, for showing their family how far they have come.

Yet they walk away from that day, feeling like a failure, wondering if they’ve grown or changed at all.

For still others, Thanksgiving was a wake-up call, a realization that things cannot continue the way they have been. Boundaries need to be set, words need to be spoken, and possibly some relationships need to be put on pause or even severed. Just the thought is likely completely overwhelming.

All of these people are experiencing their own emotional Black Friday.

They find themselves rapidly plummeting into their default setting, experiencing despair instead of trust, falling into complete and utter hopelessness. They might struggle with turning back to old coping patterns, or even attempt to paint a prettier picture of the past than is the reality (a concept I discuss in the article “Craving Egypt“).

Freedom no longer feels attainable, and we wonder if we put in all this effort for nothing.

Before you make any rash decisions, wait.

Pause. Take a breath.

There is still hope.

When we experience the petri dish that often is our family, it is normal to fall back in to old patterns of relating. We revert to the way we’ve always interacted because that’s what we know.

Egypt was all the Israelites knew as they wandered in the wilderness. The promised land? They could only guess what that would be like. But Egypt, despite being slavery, felt familiar. Familiar was comfortable for them.

Even unhealthy patterns of relating can have their own level of comfort, even in the midst of their discomfort. That may seem odd, but this is why people generally fall into certain roles within the family. That role, healthy or unhealthy, becomes familiar. The reactions of other to that role, good or bad, is predictable. If one tries to fit into a new role, people react in new ways. Conflict creates a new type of discomfort. Thus, we often revert back to our unhealthy role with its own discomfort and chaos because at least that discomfort is predictable.

This is also why we often revert to our destructive coping mechanisms. The pain they bring is at least familiar. The pain of growth and change, as we strive to let go of those damaging patterns, is new pain.

The distress of trying to break into new patterns is also new, but necessary, pain. Just as believers need to learn to walk in freedom in our journey of faith, we also need to learn to walk in freedom in the ways we relate to our families.

What can we do to avoid another emotional Black Friday?
1. Remember what God has done. Pull out your encouragement file. Grab your journal and your Bible to recognize who He is and what He’s done in your life and the lives of others.

2. Recognize what happened and still needs to happen. Ask your Source to show you with His eyes what really happened on Thanksgiving. Ask for His perspective. Was there a moment when a boundary was crossed that you should have left the room or stood up for yourself somehow? Was there a time you did stand up for yourself where you should have been silent, that the energy you used was like throwing your emotional pearls to the pigs? Did things really go as well as could be expected or hoped for, and yet it was simply your perception or expectations that were off? What boundaries need to be set and what healing needs to take place?

3. Reflect on what God can do. Look back on your stones of remembrance, the ways God has shown Himself strong and faithful in your life. Practice gratitude. Find something to give thanks for. Put your hope in Him based on His character, His love for His children, and His desire to bless you richly. He desires that you become who He created you to be even more than you do! And finally, choose to trust Him.

Even today can be turned around. Make one good choice. Choose to turn to God and not self-medication. Choose to call a friend and not isolate. Choose to share how you are feeling, out loud, to God rather than stuff it down with too much pie.

Choose freedom. My prayers are with you.

Freedom Friday, Tools for the Journey: Hope

One or two mornings a week, I get up extra early to try and spend some uninterrupted time with God.

Some days, I read the Bible and pray because I’ve made a habit of it. No fireworks go off, and I don’t hear any specific “words.”

Some days, my time with God literally feels like breath and life and sustenance.

I was still reeling from some challenging events. Earlier that week, I had fought the overwhelming urge to sink into my default setting. Then my uncle, who everyone had been praying would be healed, passed away.

I knew I needed to make some carved-out time with God a priority.

After reading some Scripture, I opened a file on my phone where I keep a list of prayer requests. The first thing I read was this:

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.” Psalm 62:5

Hope. Not in people, things, or a certain outcome to prayers. But a pure hope that is only in God.

I needed to read that.

As I ponder hope, I feel I can’t talk about hope without also talking about hopelessness.

As Russell Willingham said in his book Breaking Free, “Hopelessness is not only a response to traumatic losses; it can also become a habit-forming coping mechanism.” Hopelessness, despair, depression are all part of my default setting.

As I wrote about a few months ago in a post on hopelessness, “If God is real, if He is who the Bible says He is, then hopelessness is not an option. If His promises are true, if He doesn’t change, and never lies, then we have to reverse the pattern in our lives of getting sucked into hopelessness.”

A couple of things to remember about hope:

1. Hope is a choice.
I read recently Christians need to be self-leaders in the area of hope. I agree. Hope is a choice, just like trust is a choice.

For most of my life, I based my hope solely on my experience of life. I was used to looking for hope in the things around me, clinging to my circumstances or glimmers of hope I saw in people. When I became a Christian, I needed to learn an entirely different way of living.

During this time, I clung to all Scriptures about hope. I read them, I breathed them in, I memorized them and quoted them to myself frequently.

Romans 8:24 was one of my favorites: “Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?”

I needed to learn to stop hoping in what I could see with my limited vision and perspective, and starting seeing with God’s eyes.

Hope is a continuous choice for me. When I felt myself slowly sinking into that default setting earlier this week, I had to make a conscious choice to head in the other direction. I had to decide to choose God, to choose His breath and His life within me.

I had choose to hope in Him.

2. Hope can’t be conditional.
If my experiences tell me that it is pointless to trust God, useless to put my hope in Him, that I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work, maybe the problem is not God. Maybe the problem is my perspective. Maybe the problem is that my hope, my trust, is conditional.

My hope in God cannot be reliant on Him answering my prayers in a certain way. I’ll be honest. When my uncle died earlier this week, in addition to grief & loss, I felt frustrated, disappointed, and confused. So many people were praying, and even fasting, for his healing. Why hadn’t God answered those prayers?

Rather than doubt God, doubt His goodness and His faithfulness, I chose hope. And God opened my eyes to His perspective.

On the day my uncle died, I was getting my boys down for a nap in the afternoon, as I always do. I usually ask Bear, my 4 year-old, what he is thankful for and what he’d like to pray for before we go to sleep at night. We don’t usually pray before nap, but we did that day. Bear prayed for the first time ever, using his own words. “God, I please pray that Uncle Greg would feel better.” I found out that evening that Uncle Greg died just minutes later. I can only believe that God answered that prayer and that Uncle Greg now feels better for eternity.

3. Hope can be learned.
If hopelessness is part of your default setting, it is possible to change that. We can learn to hope.

Dive deep into hope. Ask a believer what hope looks like for them. Ask a friend to pray for you, hold out hope for you. Memorize Scriptures about hope. Read stories in the Bible about people who chose to hope in God and what that looked like. When you find yourself sinking, speak truth to yourself. Say out loud some of those hope Scriptures you have memorized.

“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:5

Pure hope is a belief, a trust only in God, that His will be done.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.” Psalm 62:5

Please pray for my uncle’s family. He left behind a wife, 2 daughters, 9 siblings including a twin sister, his parents, 20+ nieces and nephews, as well as many other friends & family who love him and are deeply feeling this loss. Thank you.

Freedom Friday: The God of Ice Cream


Hello, Freedom Seekers!

I hope this post finds you choosing to trust. Since writing on that topic last week, I have been doing just that.

I have faced some challenging circumstances in this week as well, in fact another just this morning. But God knew these things were coming and prepared my heart to respond with confidence in His faithfulness.

This week has been full of stones of remembrance, and I’ll share just one with you.

My older son has food sensitivities (I write out this in my other blog). We eat all of our family meals according to those limitations (no dairy, wheat or soy), and my younger son also eats this way. Because of this, it can be a challenge to find a variety of foods for my kids that are also fun & affordable.

We are part of a buying club where we get our flours, beans, seeds, and other kitchen essentials in bulk. We had a pick-up this week. The driver of the truck had to wait around for a while because he was early, so we were chatting. My younger son was playing little games with him. As he got ready to leave, he came out of his truck with some ice cream. It was a mislabeled item, and he would have had to run his truck for 12 hours in order to keep it frozen. It was green tea coconut milk ice cream, one of the only types of commercially-made ice cream my kids can eat! It generally costs $5+ per pint! I walked away with 4 pints of ice cream for my family.

That may seem like a silly story, but I felt so cared for by God! I can obviously live without ice cream, but it felt like a blessing directly from God of something we would not have gotten for ourselves.

I am someone who struggles with asking God for anything other than my most basic needs. A roof over my head, clothing on my back, food on the table, and water to drink. I even struggle with asking for those!

I, as a parent of 2 wonderful boys, don’t just want them to have food, clothing, water & shelter. I desire so much more for them than the basics!

I’m coming to understand that God not only wants to meet our needs, He often wants to meet our wants as well.

God is generous. I need that reminder. God is giving. I even wrote an article a few years back, called “God Gave His Only“.

God……spared no expense, but extravagantly gave His only; He did what needed to be done in order for us to have the opportunity to be reconciled to Him, once and for all.

I wrote those words. Yet I still need to be reminded.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:17

Thank You, God, for not being the God of barely enough, but for being the God of more than enough. Thank You for being the God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. You are not just the God of our daily bread, but You are the God of ice cream. Expand my limited thinking and asking. Your Word says, “You have not because you ask not.” Help me to ask, and surrender the answer to You. Love You, Lord.

Freedom Friday: The Biggest Enemy of God’s Gifts

I began writing this post 3 months ago after a series of events sparked my thinking on this topic.

This is how quite a few of my blog posts begin – just some random thoughts I’ve written down.

I needed to read it today.

******************

I’m tired. Tired physically, emotionally, even spiritually.

It’s been a challenging few months.

I don’t feel like blogging today. I feel like napping. I feel like wallowing a bit on the outskirts of my default setting.

Instead, I open my saved, but unpublished, blog posts, and found this one.

It’s excruciatingly appropriate.

Back on that day in February when I started this post, I read this blog about being afraid to use our gifts. The author reposted this June 2008 post on his Twitter, and the words really dug into my heart.

That was the first impetus for my thoughts beginning to churn.

Then, also back on that day in February, I read this entry from “My Utmost for His Highest”. Also thought-churning.

I can totally understand what the blogger spoke about concerning being afraid to use our gifts. There was a time I was a very prolific songwriter. It was my main means of communicating my overwhelming feelings to God and to others. And then, there came a time when God asked me to stop writing.

God did this by gently nudging me. He loves my songs. But He wanted me to learn to communicate in other, healthier, life-giving ways. Like sitting down face to face with someone who loves me & cares about me and telling them what I was experiencing.

I’m able to do that now. Well, most of the time. 90% of the time. That’s quite a bit of progress over 0% of the time.

Then the Oswald Chambers entry opened my eyes to a frightening truth. When I’m insecure about what I can take on or achieve, I’m really saying that Jesus isn’t able to help me. I’m saying my insecurities and weakness are too much for Him to fix and/or work through.

The entry says: “Beware of the pious fraud in you which says – I have no misgivings about Jesus, only about myself. None of us ever had misgivings about ourselves; we know exactly what we cannot do, but we do have misgivings about Jesus.”

He goes on to write, “My misgivings arise from the fact that I ransack my own person to find out how He will be able to do it.”

Back to the above blog post. I feel as if God clearly spoke to me through several means a decade ago concerning how He wanted to use my gifts. I’ve allowed Him to use some of my gifts in limited capacity, but for lots of reasons (fear, shame, pride and letting Satan win being among them), I have not been and am not living in the fullness of all God has for me.

Add my family to the mix. I can think of a million reasons that God’s call is not doable or even feasible given various family circumstances. What about God’s call for my husband? My kids? These are excuses – yes. But they are pretty convincing ones. This would be a great example of the “how” Oswald Chambers referenced.

The reality, for me, is the biggest enemy of God’s gifts being used in my life is me.

It’s not just Satan (he plays a part, certainly). It’s not my life circumstances. It’s not money or time or anything else.

It’s me.

It’s me and all my rationalizing and explaining away. It’s me and all my small sighted-ness. It’s me believing the lies Satan is speaking and forgetting to tell myself the truth.

It’s the very stuff I pound into your heads week after week that I seem to not be able to hear right now. It’s the very things I usually can put into practice. But I feel as if I’m hitting a roadblock in this area.

For my family, I have felt for quite some time as if God is pushing us out of our comfort zone in several areas and we need to really seek Him without fear. I laugh at that. Seek God as a family? I feel as if my husband & I barely have time to sit and figure out our schedules, much less seek God in concentrated prayer.

Another excuse.

What are your excuses? God can’t use you until you’re healed? You’re too busy? Too tired? Too…..?

What are your misgivings about Jesus, as Oswald Chambers asked? Evidently, mine include having to pray a certain amount in order to hear from God about what’s next. Hmm. Treating God like a vending machine where I need to put in a certain amount of something in order to get something in return is never a good idea.

I remember when God made it clear He wanted me to talk about my struggle with overcoming same-sex attraction. I was like, “Really, God? ARE YOU INSANE? You want me to tell Christians about this? I’ll likely end up ex-communicated!” And look at me now 🙂 Yet there are clearly other areas that I need to surrender and be obedient in.

What gift is God asking you to use? Does the very thought of being obedient terrify you?

What big dreams is God asking you to fan the flame of?

Are you the enemy that is keeping you from obedience?

I want to end with a prayer, for me & for you. Feel free to pray it aloud.
God. I choose to trust You. I choose to trust that the gifts You have given me & the plans You have for me are Yours, not mine. I surrender the fact that sometimes, Your plans & gifts won’t even make sense to me. I release them to You to figure out the “how”. Forgive me for my complacency, my falling into despair and indifference. Forgive me for only looking at things through my eyes and not asking for Your eyes. Help me to stop being my own worst enemy. Re-deposit Your spirit & Your Word into my heart to encourage me, to challenge me, and to spur me to action. I love You. You are good. Thank You for caring for me as only a perfect Father can. Not my will, Lord, but Yours – really. I pray this is the mighty name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Freedom Fridays: Choosing to Trust

Trusting God is a hard thing. Understatement of the year, but this is something that has been really hitting home lately as I ponder the future of my children. Surrendering my children to God’s care does not mean things will turn out the way I hope, or even that they will live to reach adulthood. I don’t mean to sound so somber. Or maybe it sounds pessimistic or gloomy.

But it’s reality. I had a miscarriage. I trusted God with that child. The child died.

I’m not saying God killed my child. Hardly. Miscarriages happen for many reasons. If we get hyper-focused on the “why”, we miss the point 🙂

God LOVES you. Just like you wouldn’t wish for bad things to happen to one of your children, neither would the God who does not give us stones when we ask for bread. He has beautiful, awesome, amazing and wonderful things for you and for me. Really. Let that soak in.

The point is that trusting God is a choice.

It’s not a choice to trust that things will work out a certain way; it’s a choice to trust in His character. It’s a choice to believe that He works out all things for the good of those who love Him – and that means trusting that He’s not trying to teach you a lesson in a punitive “I’m wagging my finger at you, little girl” way because you need to learn a lesson.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

I want to share an excerpt from an article I wrote:

And most importantly, I wrestled with God. A lot. In all honesty, I suppose, it was more like I wrestled and He waited patiently for me to realize that He is who He says He is and He will do what He has said He will do.

***

There were times when I was so angry and bitter at God because He could have made my life — past and present — easier if He wanted to, but He didn’t. He wasn’t working according to my timing, and that wasn’t easy for me.

I’m reminded of something from John 6. Jesus had just given the disciples a particularly difficult command. Rather than trusting in God’s goodness and overall trustworthiness and taking into account their limited understanding, quite a few of the disciples decided it was too tough a command and stopped following Christ. When Jesus turned to the Twelve to ask if they would leave too, Peter responded, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”

That’s how I feel. In the midst of all the questions and doubts, I already knew that I had tasted and seen that the Lord is indeed good, and that I had no other choice but to take refuge in Him (Psalm 34:8), to take my questions and hurts, rest in the shadow of His wing, and trust that He’s always been faithful. And that this time will be no exception.

As I’ve been contemplating the issue of trust and what it should look like, I can’t help but think of the following passage where children interact with Jesus:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16 (emphasis mine)

I’m sure there are a lot of things we could pull from this as we seek to understand the passage, but I can’t help but relate it to the trust of a child.

As most of you know if you’ve spent 60 seconds reading my blog, I have 2 children 🙂 I never had to teach them to trust me. They trusted me from birth. Of course as imperfect parents, there are things we can do to break that trust, but at least initially, my children inherently trusted me, and thankfully they still do. They run to me (or their father) when they need food, when they have a question (in fact, all day long, I hear, “Excuse me! I’m telling you a question!”), they come to us when they are excited, and we are the first people they run to when they were hurt.

Why don’t we do that with God? If we are to come to Him as little children, why don’t we trust Him like little children?

Trust is a choice. Again, it’s a choice to take God at His word. It’s a choice to believe that He is who He says He is even when life would try to convince us otherwise.

I’ve been actively choosing to trust God for several years now. Almost every time I pray, I end with, “God, I choose to trust You.” It’s almost another way of saying, “God, if Your will is different than my will & my desires, I will still love & follow You.”

If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
2 Timothy 2:13

Believers are God’s children. We have been adopted into His family. And when we choose to trust God, it’s a picture of how Jesus responded to the little children: He takes us into His arms, places His hands on us and blesses us.

Trust is a choice.

When I think about trust, I can’t help but think of the song He’s Always Been Faithful by Sara Groves, a song that still brings me to tears almost every time, despite 8+ years of knowing it. I chose the picture for this entry based on the first 2 lines. The lyrics stand for themselves. I’ll end this post with them.

Morning by morning I wake up to find
The power and comfort of God’s hand in mine
Season by season I watch him amazed
In awe of the mystery of his perfect ways

All I have need of his hand will provide
He’s always been faithful to me

I can’t remember a trial or a pain
He did not recycle to bring me gain
I can’t remember one single regret
In serving God only and trusting his hand

This is my anthem, this is my song
The theme of the stories I’ve heard for so long
God has been faithful, he will be again
His loving compassion, it knows no end

Eeyore Complex: Pooping on God’s Plan

I tend to have a “Woe is me” attitude. I don’t know if it’s because I faced quite a few challenges in my life, or just because I’m choosing to have an Eeyore complex.

I have this problem that is an extension of my Eeyore complex. I often talk too much about the challenges I face. I like to get people to join in my pity party. Or on the flip side, I think if I don’t broadcast my need to everyone in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, God can’t and/or won’t provide.

I actually think most Christians have an Eeyore complex. It may not manifest itself in them as it does in me. I think many Christians don’t talk about their problems enough, or at least don’t know how to talk about them in a redemptive way. But this Eeyore complex is generally characterized by envy and pessimism. We see how God is working in the lives of others and while outwardly rejoicing with them, inwardly we are jealous. Jealous of how God is blessing others. Envious of how visible He is in others’ lives. And pessimistic toward our future, which, in our eyes, is forever bleak.

What we’re basically saying is, God is going to bless others with good things, but not me. God is working in others’ lives and providing for their needs in neat ways, but He’s not going to do that in mine.

Today as I was feeling particularly pessimistic about a situation in my life, and, of course, sharing about it on Facebook, this thought struck me: I wonder how my whining makes my Heavenly Father feel.

I sort of know the answer.

How would I feel if my children went whining around the neighborhood, asking for everyone else to feed them and meet their needs, but they didn’t come to me? What if they only came to me as sort of an afterthought? Like I was their 2nd or 3rd choice?

If I found my kids begging for crumbs at the corner store, I would be beyond heartbroken. Completely devastated.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:9-11

I once heard someone say that by being envious of what God is doing in others’ lives, we’re basically saying the specific plan that He has for us isn’t good enough.

That’s sort of like pooping on God’s plan.

He is jealous for me. Just as He has a lot more than crumbs for me, He wants all of me, not just my crumbs or prayers of afterthought.

I need to take my own advice and tell myself the truth, that I have an amazingly loving father who sent His Son to hell & back for me, who wants to bless me beyond my wildest dreams.

I need to stop pooping on God’s plan and rather trust in the beautiful plan He has for me, a hand-crafted journey thought up by the One who knit me together and knows me better than I know myself.

Freedom Friday: A New & Glorious Morn

Today I’m going to share with you the One Thing that is the key to learning to walk in freedom!

This is not a continuation of last week, but a separate teaching due to the holidays 🙂 When I say “due to the holidays”, what I mean is “due to the fact that I am out of town and left my notes for today’s entry at home.” Then again, I thought it’d be kind of silly to ignore the fact that much of the world is celebrating Christmas tomorrow!

Last year at this time, I published an article entitled “God Gave His Only“. You should read it.

God knew before He created you and me that we’d inherit from our ancestors in the Garden of Eden a propensity to make bad choices, with the complete inability to throw off the chains of struggle.

Before the foundation of time, God devised a master rescue mission. Jesus was not God’s Plan B or C, as my pastor pointed out last week. He was God’s plan A.

My 3 year old son thinks Christmas is all about presents and for the past few weeks has daily presented me with things he cannot live without and must get for Christmas. I realized, quite pitifully, that he had no idea why we even celebrate Christmas in the first place.

Mommy FAIL.

Anyway, we started reading about the birth of Jesus in his kid’s Bible. For the first time, I noticed that little manger packed with straw and it really struck me: Jesus was a baby.

Mary pushed that baby out the old-fashioned way with no epidural or fetal monitoring in a barn with animals and their poo hanging out everywhere.

I’m sure this struck me as especially interesting because I had a c-section with my 3 year-old and a homebirth with my youngest. I had people ask me if having a baby at home is sanitary. More sanitary than a barn!

Anyway, Jesus was a baby. He cried when He needed His mom (contrary to what “Away in a Manger” says), He was breastfed, He had poopy diapers. For years, He needed adults to meet His every need.

Jesus could have easily come as a full-grown man. He was God, after all. He could have floated down from the clouds and made quite an entrance for Himself!

Instead, as my acquaintance Alicia Britt Chole says, Jesus had 30 hidden years (get the book with your Christmas money) during which He knew His call & His purpose, yet He lived a life that looked pretty normal from the outside – and did not sin.

Jesus was God’s plan A for learning to walk in freedom.

God saw that people He loved were drowning in their sin. Because of His great love for His creation, because of His compassionate heart for His children. He knew that it would be painful for both God the Father and Jesus His Son, but He did it anyway. He spared no expense, but extravagantly gave His only; He did what needed to be done in order for us to have the opportunity to be reconciled to Him, the chance to live in freedom, once and for all.

As The Message says, “Christ has set us free to live a free life.”

As we meditate on the birth of the Freedom Giver, let us reflect on the words of this song that are heavy on my heart:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Jesus, in His birth, His life, in His death and in His resurrection, gives us the opportunity to become recreated into the person He designed us to be. Because of Him, we can walk into “a new and glorious morn”: an abundant life of true freedom.

“Let all within us praise His holy name.”

Keeping Feelings in Their Proper Place

On Saturday, I started thinking about Tuesday. That’s today, December 14, the day on which in 2002, I married my husband. The day on which in 2008, I found out I was pregnant with Bunny Boo, the baby who was born much too early and straight into God’s arms.

I don’t know why God allowed those two dates to be the same. It’s one of many times in my life that a date has significance for multiple reasons. Another example is the day Bunny Boo passed away: 4 weeks after we learned of his existence. It was on the same date my father’s parents, my grandparents, passed away, except my pebble baby died 1 year after my grandmother died and 40 years after my grandfather (my grandparents died on the same date, 39 years apart). And then my baby JJ, who wouldn’t have been born had Bunny Boo survived, is now 1. He was born on the same date that my aunt, the sister of my grandmother, passed away, just 1 year later.

I can’t say why God allows dates to line up like that. In this case, maybe He didn’t want me to forget. But on Saturday, I started feeling quite sad and very sorry for myself.

Then I decided to take some of my own advice. I decided to allow my feelings to be indicators rather than dictators.

I could allow myself to feel my feelings without choosing to wallow and drown in them.

It is absolutely OK for me to be sad that I lost a child. Absolutely. But often we start to feel bad and then we analyze and rationalize all the reasons we are feeling bad. We stare deeply into our feelings, gazing into each cell and picking apart every nook and cranny. We choose to dive straight into self-pity rather than allowing God into those moments: not only to give us insight but to allow them to be redeemed.

Deeply feeling our emotions is part of the healing process. But it’s not the end. Sometimes we have to stay in that place for a little while in order to learn that our feelings are valid, as many of us have been told time and time again not only to ignore and deny our feelings, but also that our feelings, our emotions, our reactions are just too big and too much.

That said, as much as we do want to recognize how we are feeling, we need to remember that our feelings are valid as indicators. If we dwell there too long, we can allow them to transform into dictators.

Today on this beautiful and painful anniversary, I will allow myself to feel my feelings, but I won’t permit them to engulf me. Instead, I can acknowledge that my feelings of grieve can coexist with my feelings of rejoicing in all this day encompasses.