Jesus took care of himself, why don’t we? #wholemama #amwriting #soulcare http://ow.ly/Q9Dbc
Hello friends! The day I have been planning for is finally here. I have been taking time I normally spent writing trying to figure out how to build my own website, write code, make buttons, transfer content, and transfer subscribers to the new site and the day has finally arrived to announce that www.LeahDEverson.com is ready to go!
I’m doing cartwheels and back handsprings over here I’m so excited.
For those of you who subscribe through the blog (right sidebar sign up), you should continue to receive blog updates like you did before. If you don’t, please let me know on my new “contact me” page. I’m sure I’ll be working out kinks for awhile.
If you “follow” me via wordpress, would you consider signing up to receive email updates? My understanding is that even though I have a wordpress.org blog my updates won’t show up on your reader anymore. I would love to keep having you over.
I look forward to seeing you over at my new home!
Jesus loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Jesus saw in me a girl worth dying for. He saw me as a girl who can be redeemed.
In Him I am new. The old is gone, the new is here. I may still carry shame and unworthiness in my heart, but the cross and the empty tomb proclaim that I am valued and set free.
When I reflect on His undying love, I have hope. When I remember His promise of abundant life, joy creeps into my soul. When I begin to comprehend that the grave couldn’t hold Him and darkness couldn’t hide His light, I weep with relief. Because if He could withstand the darkness of death and rise in light, maybe He can bring unending light into my life.
Because of Him, I live.
Christ is risen, friends.
For a few months now I have been paralyzed by the numbers. Number of page views. Number of followers. Number of likes. Number of comments. Numbers. Numbers. Numbers.
Numbers are important in publishing. Agents and publishers won’t look at you if you don’t have high numbers. Books won’t sell unless you have high numbers.
And somehow I’ve started to equate my worth as a writer, my effectiveness as a minister, by my numbers. But numbers are so fickle. One post will reach thousands and another 25. Facebook changed their algorithm so now my followers don’t even see my posts unless they choose to receive notifications or if I pay for something to go out. Twitter is such a fast moving feed you may only have minutes for someone to grab onto your 140 characters – so you better make that small number of letters count.
I didn’t start writing for the numbers. I started for the words. Words that make a difference in my life. Words to encourage. Words to bring hope. Words to speak truth.
Most of all, God’s word.
For years my ministry verses have been 1 Peter 4:10-11:
When I’m focused on numbers, I’m not serving others, I’m not depending on God’s strength, I’m not doing it for His glory, I’m doing it for me.
As of today, I quit.
I quit looking at the numbers. I quit trying to please others. I quit seeking attention, publication, the spotlight.
I want to go back to where I started. With a simple toothless grin that lit up my difficult world of postpartum depression, breastfeeding woes, and sleepless nights. I want my writing to be for other mamas and not for me. I want my writing to bring truth into darkness. I want my writing to be for you.
I’m still moving forward. I’m still writing for this little blog. I’m still writing my book. But I’m not going to think about publishing for some time. Not unless I think it is the best thing to do. When I started it, I wanted it to be a resource for new mamas. So, I hope to have it available for you here someday. (Or rather, on my new website, which is ALMOST DONE!)
Thank you, my dear friends, who have always encouraged me and prayed for me on this journey. I think I have needed to go through some massive anxiety in order to reach a point of clarity.
And, God, this is for you. This public repentance is to you. “I acknowledge my need for a savior and I humbly repent. Speak the word that I may be made clean. Wash me that I may be whiter than snow. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation that I may delight in your will, and walk in your way, to the glory of your name, now and forever. Amen.”
Tim and I were fighting, again. I don’t remember what we were fighting about, but I do remember the feelings. I remember my gut churning because once again we were not communicating well. I remember my heart racing and palms sweating, because “what if we can’t find our way out of this one?” I remember the heaviness settle into my heart as I mourned the loss of our friendship. I remember deep sadness because I had hurt him and he had hurt me.
But I also remember turning to Tim, grabbing his hand, putting it on my heart and putting mine on his as I desperately crying out, “Jesus died for this!”
Last night, I was down. An acquaintance’s words stung me, my boys’ fighting stressed me, and my exhaustion emptied me. Shame spoke that I had failed as a mom. Fear spoke that I couldn’t get better. Depression spoke that life is just too hard. I wanted to cry. I thought I should pull myself together. I wanted to get over it. But I couldn’t.
So, I turned to my favorite numbing behavior (Facebook) and started scrolling through my feed. One of the first posts I saw was the one I had scheduled days earlier on my blog page:
Peace washed over me. Joy swept me up. Truth called out: “Jesus died for this!”
For years I thought about Jesus’ death as something that would only affect me in the after life. Jesus died to save me from hell. Jesus died to forgive me of my sins (and I’ll know what that means someday). But according to this verse, Jesus carried our present day hurts and sufferings with Him on that cross. Jesus took our shame, our pain, our guilt, our rejection, our hatred, our fear – all of it with Him onto the cross.
With Him, death died.
With Him, we can live.
“Jesus died for this!”
In my heart, I see myself handing Jesus the burdens He promised to bear. He bore my shame on the cross. I give my shame to Him. He held my heartache in His heart. I entrust my heart to Him. He experienced the rejection I face. I receive acceptance in Him.
Jesus died so that I can live.
Jesus died for this.
What is holding you down? Where do you feel hopeless? Jesus died even for this. Yes, this.
#mamasnightlight is a nightly Bible verse on my Facebook page. I need the truth of Scripture in my life and thought maybe you could benefit from it, too. To receive notifications of these nightly verses, “like” my facebook page, then from the drop-down menu select “get notifications.”
We moms don’t think of ourselves as courageous.
When you wake up in the morning, you can guess how the day will go. The toddler will demand breakfast. The kindergartener will dress himself in something strange. You will make all breakfasts and lunches within 30 minutes of your day and make the mad dash that is getting everyone out the door. You do your best to not ignore your husband as you tend to the children and the thought might cross your mind — what do I need today? — before you shove it aside to keep up with the clock.
The day continues in this manner (feed the dog, throw laundry in the wash, put away the dishes, wash dirty dishes (again), etc. etc.) until oldest children come home, dinner gets made, husband comes home, the desperate pleas to the children to go to bed begin, and you are finally able to collapse in bed only to begin again 7 hours later.
There are times when the day feels hectic, tiresome, plain.
Definitely not brave.
And yet as God is calling me to be courageous this year I wonder, can motherhood be courageous?
Webster‘s defines courage simply as
the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous
Contemplating courage, I look around at the mamas in the world and I see them persevering through the troubles of our fallen state within the world.
I see you, mamas, learning how to be mothers in the face of dangerous health complications, mental distress, and daily trials. You are courageous.
I see you, mama, nursing your child, supplementing with formula, trying to figure out why he or she is not gaining weight. You are courageous.
I see you, mommy, running to your child who just fell from the slide across the playground. You are courageous.
I see you, mama, walking your screaming child all hours of the night. You are courageous.
I see you, mommy, sending your child off to school with his special needs and unique behaviors. You are courageous.
I see you, mom, setting aside all of the work, the chores, the tasks in order to listen carefully to the thoughts and dreams of your child as you tuck her in at night.
Yes, you mama. Every day you prove that you are able to do the difficult. The dangerous.
You give of yourself without a second thought.
You provide daily needs to a child who might turn against you as a teen.
You love without abandon in a world of death.
Can motherhood be courageous? Yes, mama. Yes it can. And yes, mama. Yes, you are.
Motherhood is courageous. Motherhood is the ability to do something that you know is difficult and, at times, dangerous. Every day we mamas are courageous. It’s time for us to start acknowledging it, claiming it, living in it. And when we feel we are not, cannot, will not be courageous, we look to the One who is in us, who supplies it all, and find that courage is right there in Him, in us all along.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. – Jesus (John 16:33)
In case you’re wondering about the website in my graphic, The Toothless Grin will be moving with me to http://www.LeahDEverson.com very soon!!
He approaches the steep blue slide with excitement and gusto. The same slide that we went down together a few weeks ago only to have him cling to me and cry out in fear as we dropped to the bottom. I have never seen Ben go down a slide by himself, let alone this massive one. “Are you going to go down it?”
“Yes!” His answer is definitive and with confidence he takes his place at the top.
I grab my phone and snap a picture.
This is courage.
Now it’s my turn. I am sitting at the top of my own slide. The slide I dread: Change. Inching forward, preparing for the drop, my heart races, my palms sweat, and I wonder: Is this a good idea?
Two weeks ago I finished working at Scum of the Earth Church because we are preparing to move to Minnesota. The move I prayed for, cried for, ached for is coming. I think of being with our sisters and brothers, our parents and grandparents, our friends once again and my soul is thrilled. But I think of all that we will leave behind and I am scared.
What if this is a bad decision?
Instead of seeking employment right away, I have decided to pursue writing and speaking as a ministry. A new website is in the works (www.LeahDEverson.com – oh my word, really?!) and I continue working on my first book proposal. I have invested time, energy, and money into developing this gift I’m told I have. But fear tingles in my fingers and sinks into my gut as I sit down to write. I worry about rejection. Failure. Ridicule.
What if I’m not good enough?
Driving to church on Sunday, Jack burst into tears. “I don’t want to move to Minnesota. I don’t want to be away from Finn.” My heart breaks for him as I think of all of the friends who themselves have moved away and now he is the one saying the big goodbye.
Are we crazy to make this change?
Are we going to be ok?
Am I going to be ok?
Before the anxiety hit, before the reality of the move set in, I prayed over the year asking God, “What do you have for me this year? Change is coming. And it’s bigger than I can even realize. What do you want this time to look like for me?”
One word: Courage.
Webster’s defines courage as: “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
Yes. Fear. The fear that creeps into my soul, squeezes my heart cold as I will myself to courage. Be courageous! But how?
Desperate, I pull out my Bible and find the only verse I can think of that uses the word.
“Be strong and courageous.” The phrase is repeated three times in Joshua 1 as God’s people prepare to enter the promised the land. They too face change, uncertainty, risk, and most definitely fear. In order to reinforce his call, God tells them over and over again, “Be strong and courageous.” Why? “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
God will be with you in the pain. He will be with you in the uncertainty. He will be with you in the loss of the job, the late night colic, the death of a loved one, and the move of a lifetime. In those fears and anxieties you think you can never face down, He repeats these words “Be strong and courageous… for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I cling to them like a lifeline.
The past two weeks I have been struggling to write these words – or anything at all – because fear has gripped me. Fear of failure. Fear of missed calling. Fear of rejection, shame. I have reached out to others for prayer all the while feeling that my fears are right. I am not cut out for this. My dreams are fantasies. My sense of calling is a lie. But in the midst of my doubt, I have sensed a steadiness growing in my soul. “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. For I am with you.”
I cannot write alone. I cannot move “home” alone. I cannot parent alone, be a faithful spouse alone, or even clean the house alone. Every step of the way I am dependent on the One who gave Himself for me. Thank God He has promised to be with me.
And so, trusting God’s faithful love – and firm grip around my soul – I lean forward… to drop down the slide.
(More coming soon.)
My friends showed up to volleyball practice with crosses of ash smeared on their foreheads. I looked on with incredulity at the morbid (to me) signs on their forehead as they lamented that it was the beginning of Lent when they couldn’t eat chocolate or candy. The entire purpose of this season to them was a time of loss. I couldn’t understand it. Coming from a Baptist tradition where we didn’t practice Lent, their religious practice leading to Easter didn’t make sense to me and I staunchly declared to myself, if not to them, “I don’t believe in Lent.”
Is not Easter a holiday to celebrate? Does not the cross do away with all acts that seem to earn salvation? Are we to become enslaved once again to the Law, required to participate in rituals to prove our Christian faith? Are we not instead free from all such works?
I patted myself on the back for my arguments and moved on without further reflection. I was not a legalist. I was not trying to prove I was devout. I was not a hypocrite, fasting and hating it.
No. I was merely judgmental, short sighted, and shallow in my understanding of the ancient practices of fasting, Lent, and repentance. Whether these girls were committed to seeking God or not (and am I the one to judge?), the practice of turning to Him during this season is to be treasured.
I did not see the beauty of a contrite heart, the love God has for the humble, or the fruit that comes from a discipline which puts off our selfish motives in order to cling wholly to God. God said, “when you seek me you will find me if you seek me with your whole heart.” Intentionally stopping a behavior for the purpose of focusing that energy on God is definitely a step towards seeking Him with our whole hearts.
I have since fasted over Lent many years. I have given up shopping, sweets, Facebook, and caffeine – some of these more than once. Each time I have fasted I have learned about myself and my tendencies to turn to something other than God to meet my deep need for Him. How I will choose a sugar rush to abate my hurting heart. How I will try to receive “love” through “likes” of my clever posts. How I will try retail therapy in order to convince myself that I am ok.
In the place of these things God has met me in companionship, grace, comfort, abiding love. I have learned that He loved me enough to die for me, despite my turning from Him. That while He appreciates my small sacrifices, He is not sorely disappointed when I slip up and have a bite of sugar. That fasting opens a place in my life for God where I had once excluded Him. And that He is lavish in His forgiveness, mercy, love.
But, I still don’t “believe in” Lent. We should not participate if we feel that we are saved if we do or damned if we don’t. Participating in Lent will not prove anything to God, earn us brownie points, give us salvation, or make us more holy. We cannot atone for our sins, make it up to God, or earn His favor. Jesus covered all of this on the cross. Jesus continues to make us righteous. We cannot do it through any act of will power, self-deprivation, or good deeds. To believe it does is to deny the power of the cross. The power that raised Christ from the dead. The power that cleanses us and makes us new.
More than that, it is possible to participate in Lent and not worship God. One of the most shocking passages of the Old Testament to me is Amos 5:21-22:
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.”
Why? Because their hearts were far from God. Their actions towards others betrayed their selfish motives, their lack of compassion for the needy, their worship that made themselves feel good, but did not glorify God. It is possible that we can fast from food, caffeine, television, social media, and remain unchanged, untouched by God.
I still don’t believe in Lent. I believe in the power of the cross. I believe that because of Christ’s work I am made new, am whole, am perfected.
Honestly, Lent snuck up on me this year. Wednesday I panicked because I hadn’t picked anything to fast from and felt guilty as I dipped a chocolaty tim-tam in my coffee. But as I wrote this, I felt God prompting me to do something different this year.
I suspect the next 40 days will not be a time to fast, but instead a time to embrace. A time to step out in courage as I face change and some loss over the summer (more on this soon). I want to spend this season in celebration, gratitude, and love. I want to fellowship with my friends, worship with my church, and hope for the future.
What will this season be for you? These 40 days before Easter? A time to fast? To turn from something to turn towards God? Or perhaps it’s a time to celebrate, to be grateful, to rejoice. Maybe it’s a time to rest, or to practice silence. Or, maybe, it’s a time to step out in faith that He is doing something new. There are many different spiritual practices that create room in our lives for God. Fasting is merely one of them. And Lent is an appropriate time for any or all.
The Superbowl commercials have been celebrated for decades. We watch with great expectations. To laugh. To cry. To groan. To cheer. Mini-movies which make us laugh, cry, groan, cheer, fall in love, and of course, want what they’re selling.
And yet, my friends, for years I avoided the commercial breaks. The message many of the ads sold was simply sex. Or rather, men: want these women. Lust after them. This is what you want. This is what will make you happy. A bit of breast. A piece of a$$. We know you only think of one thing. Let’s settle and give you only that.
Let’s forget that you are so much more.
But every day I watch my husband. I see him struggle against this culture which reduces him to one desire. Which forgets that he is a father. Ignores that he is a husband. Neglects that he is a strong, complex, capable, feeling, thinking man.
Every day my husband takes care of our kids. He gets them dressed. Drops them off at school. Works HARD at his business to support them. Takes care of their laundry. Feeds them. Snuggles and tickles and wrestles and plays with them. And every evening, I get the front row seat to him reading their bedtime stories before kissing them goodnight.
This year it seems that people have finally noticed: Our men are so much more.
Men love. Men cry. Men have passion. Men fear. Men hope. Men dream. Men make a difference.
Thank you, Nissan. Thank you, Dove. Thank you for affirming the men in our lives. The dads who build up our children. The people we love.
If we can all follow in their footsteps. Stop laughing at the mistakes men make. Stop mocking their different styles of parenting. Stop expecting them to be like women.
Start accepting their tears. Start listening to their fears. Start encouraging their hopes and dreams. If we can start supporting them to change a diaper, hold our child, be an active dad – the dad their kids so desperately need. If we can trust them for a night or a weekend alone to experience 24 hours with their kids, what would happen? They might not do it the same… no, they might do it better.
For once they might be built up in who God created them to be. Not a 2 dimensional character in a godaddy commercial, but a strong man who has gifts, talents and abilities. For once they might shine in their expression of love. For once they might be equipped to support their family beyond their finances. For once they might be seen as respectable contributors to the holistic well being of the family.
What would change in your family if you entrusted your husband with your child? What would change in him if he saw you respect him? What would change in your kids? What would change in you?
** I want to make a note to you friends whose husbands have proved themselves to be untrustworthy because of abuse. Please know, this is not for you. My prayers are with you. Bless you.
The past week was full. Full of tears, grief, sorrow, and pain. Full of joy, laughter, hope, and excitement. Full of new people, new friends. Abundant. Overflowing.
At times I was overwhelmed, felt behind, wanted to crawl in a hole to sleep, because it was almost too much for this girl who gets over-stimulated. And in all of the goodness and pain (which are not mutually exclusive) I knew I had forgotten something.
Now, this might be a small thing most people would not realize, but to me, in my desire to do things right, shame creeps in. Failure speaks: “You screwed up. Who do you think you are? How could you forget something like that?”
I have a choice: I can either listen to the shame, absorb its message of failure, become paralyzed in guilt, horrified by remorse. OR I can accept my inaction. I can acknowledge that I did not follow through, apologize (I’m sorry, my friends, I am), forgive myself, and work to rebuild my integrity.
As I choose the second path, I also choose to see who I am. In the face of shame which puts me down, I can stand and acknowledge how God has built me up. This work is difficult when I am tempted to see only the negative in me. But God has created me and his works are wonderful. I am “wonderfully complex” (Psalm 139:14 NLT). I am vulnerable. I am strong. I am compassionate. I am loving. I am passionate. I am wise.
With humility I see both of my failures and my gifts. I offer them to God. Use them. May I be a blessing to someone today.
What is shame speaking to you, today? What is the truth about who you are? Hold them both in your hands before God. You are his masterpiece. He has created you to do good. And that work He has began in you? He will complete it. Amen.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Thank you everyone who shared your stories of grief and joy on my blog two weeks ago. You blessed me with your truth.