How I am rising above shame (and the winner of Fight Back with Joy)

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.

fightbackwithjoyI forgot to announce the winner of Margaret’s book. (see below)

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.

The Winner of Fight Back with Joy is Lynnae McCoy. Congratulations, Lynnae!

 

Why I didn’t wait until Christmas for this gift.

Candlelight flickers, twinkle lights shine, and the sliver of the moon suggests the sun it reflects.

Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

We choose to recognize that Light wins in a world of darkness as we adorn our houses, trees, and streets with glimmers of joy. For in celebration of advent we remember the anticipation of God’s people 2017 years ago (give or take) when

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

Light was coming.

In a time when kings killed children for fear of a successor overtaking his throne. When God was silent for 400 years. When a girl became pregnant before she was married and claimed no man had ever touched her.

Light was coming.

In a time when wars ravaged over land. When people groups were oppressed. When children were enslaved. When poverty was rampant.

Light was coming.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

I gave my kids a Christmas present early.

I could not wait for them to receive Light.

In God Made Light, through the words of Matthew Paul Turner and illustrations of Matthew Paul Mewhorter (yes, those are two different people), Light lives:

In flickers and flashes,
In spills and in splashes,
Shine began shining across nothing but blackness.

Light glared and glimmered.
It flared and sparked.
And wherever light shined,
Dark stopped being dark.

Captivated by the colors, the melody of the words, the message of the story, my son gasped and gripped his chest when he learned that God not only created light, but placed it inside him.

You are the light of the world.

Hope incarnate.

I adore this book and want to give it to everyone I know. But I cannot afford that. So, this Christmas, I am giving it to my nephew. Because I see the love of God residing in his bright eyes, his simple smile, his quiet spirit.

Maybe you see the Light in another’s eyes. Maybe someone you love needs to be encouraged. Maybe that someone is you. I encourage you to pick up a copy of God Made Light.

God made light.

And it’s inside of you.

God be with you.

Photo Sources: http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/10/21/happens-11-publishers-say/

and http://matthewpaulturner.com/2014/10/30/story-behind-god-made-lights-artwork-4-interesting-details-illustrating-matthew-paul-turners-childrens-book/

I received nothing for this post. I just love this book and want it to be on your shelf.

As a Christian Perfectionist, I feel like a failure (intro to my sermon)

A month ago I preached what has been called my “best sermon yet.” While it didn’t feel that awesome to me (I was tired and a bit uncertain) I do believe that God had something to say. Here is the introduction to the sermon. If you want to hear the whole thing, listen here or get it on iTunes here (11/9/14 “Clothe Yourself in Christ”).

During my sophomore year of high school, I woke up each morning at 5:30 in order to spend 30 minutes reading my Bible and praying before getting ready for school. During those times, the Spirit moved within me as God’s word began to impact my life as never before. I read about love, forgiveness, life. And as I struggled with depression for the first time, I experienced comfort and acceptance in God’s presence.

Those times were precious to me.

I desired my friends to experience this life and I’m sure I came across pushy and judgmental as I awkwardly told them they needed to read the Bible, too. But it came from this deep desire that they know God.

This season was sweet. And it was short. Summer vacation came and so did my late nights watching every episode of Wonder Years on Nick @ Nite and sleeping in. As I went on, still following Jesus, I felt pangs of guilt in my conscious that I should have been better at reading the Bible. The few times a week here and there were not good enough. I believed I was not doing well as a Christian. My youth group meetings, church services, and FCA meetings confirmed this. Read your Bible! Pray! And for 30 minutes. In the morning. Because that’s when Jesus did it. While it was still dark. Before everyone else got up.

If you check this off of your list, you will be ok.

And as I read scripture, I began to see that there were behaviors that would please God and those that God did not like so much. So, as I read, I tried to change. I would search for ways that I needed to change and try to learn how to be the girl God & others wanted me to be, on my own.

If you can hold your tongue, not swear, never drink alcohol, dress modestly, if you could just be perfect, sweet, humble, kind, quiet, then you will be acceptable as a Christian woman. Then you are good enough.

But I have a temper. I used to scream at my little sisters and smack them, hard, if they got in my way. When I was 15 or 16 I left a stinging hand print on my 7 year old sister’s back. I was horrified with my sin and vowed to never hit anyone again. I refrained from my sisters and have avoided spanking my children, terrified of the wrath inside of me.

And there’s this thought in me, if only I was better at following Jesus I would not have a temper. If only I just did more to follow Christ, then maybe I could have myself under control.

As humans, we tend to view ourselves as one of two ways. Either we work our butts off to prove to everyone that we are good enough, terrified of failure, constantly trying to perfect ourselves on our own. Or we feel that we are not good enough and give up trying to be, accepting that no one, not even God could love or help us. We are perfectionists, trying to “make it” on our own. Or we believe ourselves to be failures and give up before we even try.

Any one of the individuals on either side of the spectrum are desperate, whether we will admit it or not…

Listen here for more…

clothe in christ

What I Remember When I Feel I Don’t Have Enough

The Way of Gratitude: Day 4 (originally posted here)

This evening we went to Costco and stocked up. Apples, bread, pancake batter, mandarins oranges, pizza, sponges, toothbrushes… and on and on. So much so that I groaned a little as I paid for it all. I’m not sure how much we have left in our grocery budget this month. And tonight, I don’t really want to figure it out.

Each month I clip coupons, shop the sales, and am as smart as I can be with our budget, but so often it doesn’t seem like enough. And today, as I put our purchases away, I had the familiar internal dialogue. Is it enough? Were these the best purchases we could make? Will we get through the month? What should I spend the remaining $XX.XX on? Will we have enough produce? Yogurt? Chick peas? (Ben is insanely picky and strangely enough these are my go-tos) Will we have enough?

As I remembered this challenge God has for me, choose Gratefulness over complaining and worry, tears come to my eyes. Sometimes it is so hard. And money can be really discouraging.

But then I remember a well known Scripture that got me through the second half of my pregnancy with Ben, through the unsuccessful external version, through the c-section and the first months of his precious life: The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. (Psalm 23:1 NLT)

psalm 23-1

It became a breath prayer for me during that time. I repeated it often. During times of uncertainty, pain, stress, I remembered. The Lord is my shepherd. He is with me. He is my provider. The Lord of the galaxies who has infinite resources in his hands is my provider. In Him I have everything I need.

Recently, God taught me this in an undeniable way. We had been really struggling financially for months when I went to a conference where that message above was taught. I had never considered God that way before: Infinite resources. Desiring to care for us. I was challenged to trust in a way I never had before. After the conference, I asked for a very specific amount of money to come in through Tim’s business and my work the next month. At the end of the month, Tim texted me. We made that much exactly. Plus 84 cents. (update: I recently wrote about this here)

Incredible.

So, as I face the next couple of weeks, I look at the food on hand and trust that we do indeed have enough. To feed our kids, to keep them healthy, to keep them full, to be taken care of. We have enough.

And I am grateful.

Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

How God Cared for Me

Day 20 of 31 Days of Connecting

The other day, in a fit of exhaustion, I posted a link to my sermon on trusting God. I promised that part of my story (which starts here) is part of the sermon… and it is.

But since I know most people do not have 30+minutes to listen to a sermon, I will try to tell the next part of my story here. Now. For those of you who did listen, thank you! What an honor.

Now where was I…?

Oh yes, God taught me that He wanted a deeper relationship with me.

About a month after that conversation with God in my car, I was still grieving. I was still uncovering the hurt I had buried, the distrust I felt, and the fear I had. I was starting to see other misunderstandings of God, like:

I believed God was grading me.

I believed God expected me to be perfect.

I believed God was punishing us financially because of something I must have done.

Yeah… that last one sucked. It was incredibly painful. After all, I had given up everything to follow his call, Tim had taken a huge risk in starting his own business, and there we were, barely making ends meet. But the alternative to my understanding was that God wasn’t providing for us financially because He wanted us to suffer for Him. Or He just wouldn’t provide because He doesn’t.

All bad ideas. All gross misunderstandings of the God who gave himself for us.

But I didn’t see that then. I just saw our grocery lists, our small pay checks, and our unpaid bills.

In April I went to a conference for pastors in our denomination and through the keynote speaker, God broke through the lies I embraced.

Together we read 1 Peter 3:7 which states Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I know this verse by heart. I’ve sung it at summer camp, memorized it for youth group and heard it preached before.

But the preacher restated it: The God of the Universe has unlimited resources at his disposal, will you let him care for you?

Day 18

I felt my heart pounding in my chest as God called out to me. I realized how abandoned I felt by Him. How I thought He left us, financially. And the question rang out, “Will you let him care for you?” Followed by the fear in my heart: Would He care for me?

I went to my host home that evening praying and over the next several days I felt Love prompting me to trust Him. To ask Him for what I felt we needed and the promise that He would provide. I told my husband what God was prodding me to do and He said, “Good. Do it.”

How much do you need?

I thought… I hesitated…

$5,000?

Ok.

Really? Ok?! … $7,000?

Don’t push it.

I have never felt so sure in my life that God would answer my request. $5,000 sounded like a ton of money. I saw us catching up on our electrical and hospital bills. I saw the credit card being partially paid off. I saw myself breathing easily.

The next month came and went. I wasn’t sure how we did, financially. It felt good, but I didn’t take the time to check. I was too nervous! But then my husband texted me.

In May of 2013, our income added up to $5,000.84.

I couldn’t believe it. Numb with distrust, I thought surely that was a coincidence. But the more I considered the amount – the exactness of it – the almost to the penny answer to the prayer I had prayed – the more I was convinced it was God showing me He provides.

I can scrape and worry and count and stress and do all I can do to try to control things, but in the end He cares for me.

He cares for me.

We have not continued to receive $5,000.84 each month. In fact, many months we have been back at the bottom of the barrel, again being creative to get by. But you know what? I’m not afraid any more. God cares for me. He provides for me. He loves me.

I know that now.

I struggle trusting God with money, what do you struggle with entrusting to God? A relationship? Children? Career? An Illness? The God of the Universe desires to care for YOU. Will you let Him?

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

31 days of connecting

The God of the Universe cares for you… Will you let Him?

Day 18 of 31 Days of Connecting

A year and a half ago, I had been working through tons of anger with God for calling us away from our families and our financial struggles were just adding insult to injury. Does God care? was a huge question in my life. And then a preacher stated this:

Day 18

The God of the Universe who has unlimited resources at his disposal cares about you. Will you let Him?

I felt God telling me: Trust me.

So, I did.

You can hear the full story here, within a sermon I preached at Scum of the Earth Church on January 12, 2014. You will need Quicktime player to hear this sermon – or you can search for it in iTunes podcasts under “Scum Sermons.”

Thanks for listening.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

1 Peter 5:7 NIV

And Then I Was Angry…

Days 10 & 11… & 12? of 31 Days of Connecting

I’ve known for awhile that I wanted to write about the year of 2013 – or as I call it, The Year of Mourning. And I’ve known if would be hard – and it is. But I’m grateful for such a receptive and encouraging audience. You guys are the voice of God to me as I work.

This is it. Part 3 of my story. (It started here.)

*****

They say grief has five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I had clearly been living in denial of my loss for far too long. At the beginning of my mourning I felt a deep sadness settling into my soul. Each of the losses was felt, individually and collectively. I carried them with me.

But, one of the losses took awhile to come to my attention. Actually, I didn’t perceive it as a loss, because I thought it was my fault. I thought I was doing something wrong. And I thought I was the one responsible to fix it.

It was the loss of financial security.

For several months, our income amounted to about two thousand per month. With a mortgage, medical bills, student loans, and other ongoing expenses we struggled to get by. Well, I struggled.

I thought the loss of our financial security was my fault because I believed I wasn’t handling the money correctly. I wasn’t saving enough. I wasn’t being thrifty enough. If only I tracked every penny every day, if I only bought sale items  and used a coupon with every item I purchased then maybe things would be alright. Since I sometimes forgot – since I sometimes paid full price for a box of cereal or a gallon of milk, since I bought myself a t-shirt at Target for $5, it was my fault we couldn’t stay within our tight budget.

And I thought I was in the wrong because I shouldn’t be depending on financial security. Oh the spiritual abuse I heaped on myself was heavy here. If I only trusted God, then we would be ok. If I only trusted God, it wouldn’t matter how much we had, because I would be content. If I only trusted God, then life would be rosy. No problems. No pain. No loss.

But I didn’t.

And I just didn’t want to acknowledge these losses: The loss of security. The loss of trust in God. Because if I didn’t trust God, what kind of pastor would I be?

But God didn’t let me hide that loss – He didn’t want me to go on living as if I trusted Him when I didn’t. He didn’t want me to pretend I was ok with our low income. In fact, He forced me to face it.

It happened one night when Tim and I were talking and Tim said to me, “I want to give the house to God.”

Come again?

“What do you mean?” I asked, defensively.

“I want to entrust it to Him. I want to surrender it to Him and use it the way He wants us to.”

I looked around our living room. The sofa we got at a garage sale, my Target armchair, the bookshelf Tim made after we got married, my electric piano…

And I saw us having to get rid of it all.

“No!” Fear, frustration, panic, and a sense of abandonment filled my heart.

Hadn’t we done enough for God? We moved to Colorado so I could go to Denver Seminary in order to spend the remainder of my life serving Him. We made financial sacrifices within our careers in order to honor Him. We stayed in Colorado to serve Him. I had given up family, friendships, and finances trusting Him. And He didn’t seem to care a wit about me in return.

How could He ask for my home, too?!

Bitterness crept into my heart, my defenses were up and my claws were bared. There was no way I was going to back down, not now.

If God wanted me to acknowledge my losses, I was going to. And He was going to have to deal with it. Because I was done. I was done trying so hard to please Him. I was done acting like I was ok with where He had called us. I was done being the placid, submissive, loving daughter of God I felt I needed to be.

Anger was here. And it wasn’t going anywhere for awhile.

I didn’t talk to God for a week.

*****

Dilemma: What do you do when you’re not talking to God but are one of the leaders of a prayer and worship ministry? What do you do when you’re not talking to God and have a church wide prayer event in the middle of your strike on God?

I went reluctantly.

I felt like a fraud.

Thankfully I didn’t have any responsibilities at that prayer event or I would have had to tell somebody I couldn’t talk to God. I was in hiding.

Did I have to pray?

The first thing the leader of the event did was invite us all to take a moment to be alone with God. To pray, to worship, to get ourselves ready to pray together.

Begrudgingly I went into our church’s prayer cave. I could hide here, I figured.

Sitting alone, in silence, David’s words crept into my heart. How long, Lord? How long will you forget me?

I pulled out my phone, searched for this phrase in my digital Bible, and found the rest of Psalm 13:

psalm 13

I brushed away the tears. The psalm became my prayer. His unfailing love? His salvation? His goodness to me? I wasn’t so sure. But if God was willing for these words of pain to be His Word, then maybe I could speak them to Him, too.

How long will I be alone? How long must I mourn? Grieve? How long will I be sad? How much longer do we need to be here? How many more goodbyes do I need to say? Please answer me. Please relieve me of my pain.

I went through the evening as one reciting the multiplication table: rote. I knew the motions. I knew the words. I just didn’t have the heart.

Then, the leader of the event asked for us to break into small groups, lay hands on, and pray for the staff members and their spouses who were there that evening. I was completely caught off guard. Did I want to be prayed for? I didn’t know. Could I be prayed for? … Sure.

I watched as groups of people migrated to the staff; then three, a mere three, came to Tim and me.

Yes, these three could pray for me. I trusted them.

I don’t remember if we talked first. I don’t think so. They just started praying.

I surrendered to their voices…

One woman who I’ve known for a long time, but not well, spoke – and she spoke my heart.

She spoke of how I love people deeply. Deeper than others love.

And she prayed about how it must be so hard for me to be away from my family when I love others as much as I do.

How did she know that?!

She prayed for strength.

She prayed for healing.

I wept.

31 days of connecting