As I Felt Discouraged this Week :: Jesus died for this

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:

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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.”

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Why I’m Grateful I Screw Up

The Way of Gratitude: Day 6 (originally posted here)way of gratitude (2)

Reading this, I remember why I’m naming our dog Gracie. Grace is amazing. In the full sense of that word.

Last night, I didn’t post about gratitude. I didn’t feel it. I was worn out from lots of housework, only to find that the hose from the washing machine fell to the floor during a load yesterday causing the laundry room to be soaking wet.

Not. Fun.

As I cleaned up the mess at 10:15 pm, I recited to myself, “Be grateful. You have a washer and dryer. Be grateful.” And I was for a moment, as I remembered walking up and down three flights of stairs to use machines across the courtyard from our apartment 7 years ago…

But I didn’t want to write about that.

I was feeling tired, whiny, and stressed when I went to bed.

And this morning… I woke up with a sense of guilt.

“I didn’t blog. I didn’t follow through on my commitment. I wasn’t grateful enough. I haven’t done enough to… to…” To do what? Oh that’s right, it comes down to this: “I haven’t done enough to please God.” Yup.

My entire life I feel I’ve been running around trying to do the right thing to make God happy. Because, maybe if I don’t sin, things would go well for me. Because maybe if I did things right, I would have his approval. Because maybe if  I was perfect on my own, he wouldn’t have had to die for me.

That is such a backwards expression of Christianity, yet it is one that is incredibly prevalent in a society that for years has used the church as a place to learn how to live moral lives. The Church is no longer a place to receive grace, but often a place to just receive a message on how to “do it better.” Completely focused on behavior. Not on the message of the cross.

What’s been forgotten is what Paul said to the Galatians who were backtracking to follow the Law instead of living in the New Covenant of Grace.

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4 TNIV)

Nothing we do is good enough. And, conversely, if we try to save ourselves by doing good things, we alienate ourselves from Christ and his grace.

To be a Christian is to believe that it is through Christ’s death, his sacrifice ALONE, that we are saved and to give up all attempts to be good enough. To be a Christian is to confess, “I cannot do it on my own. God, forgive me. Help me.” And to be a Christian is to receive God’s forgiveness.

But when we try to be good enough with our own striving, we are strapping the rules and regulations of the law back on our backs like backpacks full of bricks. We have in effect rejected Christ’s work on the cross when we try to be good enough.

My writing this blog or not, my “being the best I can be,” my efforts that eventually fail… these things are all covered by God’s love. That is true grace. Forgiveness when we fail and have nothing to offer.

My not blogging last night producing such feelings of guilt is obviously an overreaction, but I am grateful for that feeling, because I was reminded that what I do or don’t do won’t affect my standing with God. I am his child. Period.

What I do or don't do won't affect my

I am eternally grateful that I don’t have to strive to make it up. God has already forgiven me of anything wrong I could possibly do.

Yes, I’m grateful for Grace.

I hope I’ve made it clear why.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 TNIV)

Receiving from God when I’m so so tired

Day 5 of 31 Days of Connecting

You ever have those weeks when your kids don’t let you to sleep? Yeah, that’s been my week. I’ve been woken up because of bad dreams, sickness, and the big ol’ “Hi Mommy!”

Hi? It’s dark outside. Go back to bed.

As my two year old says, “I so so tired.”

I feel like I’m always tired, but this weekend I am exceptionally so.

Last night I got ready to bed a couple of hours earlier than usual, but was kept up late because of a fever (poor kid), woken up at 3 am, and again at the usual 7am wake up time.

I felt a little panicked today that I wasn’t going to be able to write about what I planned to write about. Church. Worship. Connecting with the Lord over His Supper. But I didn’t do that today. Exhausted, I spent the morning on the couch with my sick kid watching the “best of” Bob the Builder (we were all waiting for that countdown, right?). And as Bob built a new community and saved a scarecrow from a high tree branch, I felt the fatigue settle into my bones.

What do I do with that exhaustion? Believe that God is expecting more from me? Or lean into Him to give me strength?

I have that choice every day. So often I feel helpless in my weariness. Out of control and slightly horrified as the day goes on and more and more seems to fall to pieces.

OR, I can stop trying to do it all on my own and turn to Him. When I turn to Him, I not only feel comforted and strengthened, but I have better perspective. I can see that not everything NEEDS to be done right now, but I am able discern what is most important, because He helps me.

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Today, my strength is renewed not necessarily physically (I need sleep for that), but emotionally as I regain my hope and confidence in the midst of yet another challenging day as a tired mama.

My favorite line right now in those verses is this one: His understanding no one can fathom.

He understands it’s exhausting. So, He helps us.

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

God doesn’t use sticker charts.

Day 3 of 31 Days of Connecting

I have been potty training my kids for what seems like an eternity. They each have sticker charts and when they receive a certain number of stickers, they win a prize. The charts point towards the goal – put your waste where it needs to go. But my kids don’t seem to understand the goal. While I want dry pants, they want the sticker.

We can easily confuse our time with God, our time of devotions and prayer like my kids confused the goal of the stickers. When I first began taking time alone with God on a regular basis, I was amazed at how close He felt through His words in Scripture and His presence in prayer. I did it because I wanted to. But over time, I did it because I felt obligated. I felt that if I did not do it, I was not a good Christian, I was not a good follower of Jesus who set the example of getting up early in the morning when everyone else was sleeping to pray.

I do not wake up. I push snooze. What does this say about my relationship with God? I feared and condemned myself for this laziness. When I heard another sermon emphasizing taking time with God, I felt guilty and alone. Surely God could not love me.

But then I read these words.

When we use spiritual practices to gain secondary things like spiritual cachet, success, approval and respect, we rob the discipline of its God-given grace… Spiritual practices don’t give us “spiritual brownie points” or help us “work the system” for a passing grade with God. They simply put us in a place where we can begin to notice God and respond to his word to us.[1]

I had my goal confused. What I was striving for was not connection with God, but a check mark next to my “Good Christian” title. When I was trying to read the Bible, I did it not to hear from the Lord, but to be able to show others (and myself) that I was good enough.

God is not countingGod is not counting the number of chapters we read in our Bibles or the hours we spend on our knees. He is not recording the days when we sleep in, because our five year old had bad dreams throughout the night. He is not desiring us to keep spiritual practices because they are the end. They are not the end. They are the means. They are gifts. The ways we connect with God.

What has been your experience with spiritual disciplines? Have they given you a guilt trip? Or have you been free to enjoy them as the God given gift of Time with Him?

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 NIV

[1] Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, (Downers Grove: IVP, 2005), 18-19.

31 days big

You Did Not Kill Jesus

Day 2 of 31 Days of Connecting

We are in church, worshiping, in awe and adoration of the Love God has for us when suddenly that line is there. There on the screen. And the condemnation and shame I felt as a Christian child, teenager, and young adult squeezes my throat, condemns my heart.

“Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held him there…

I was brought up with this theology. I’ve even preached it once. This idea that Christ had to die, because of me. That I put Christ on the cross. That I held the nail. That with each sin I commit Christ dies again.

For years I lived in the oppression of shame and humiliation. For years I was stained by my sin, not cleansed, because I was told it was my fault Jesus died.

So I tried to live my best so he would not have to die. I tried to be good enough so that He would not have to go to the cross.

But every year on Good Friday I was horrified by the guilt of placing Jesus on the cross.

Except… except the Bible never says that.

The Bible never says that we put Him there. The Bible never says that Jesus had to die. Sin did not hold him there. In fact, it is exactly the opposite.

Yes, it is true that sin condemns, but it does not condemn Jesus. It condemns us. The wages of sin is death – and we should die.

But God, in His great love for us, and desire to be connected to us, decided to intervene, to save us.

Jesus, in His love for us, took our sin on Himself[1] and gave himself for us.[2]

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These words make me weep. I am finally free.

Yes. He chose to die. Because He loved us. And He wanted to rescue us. To heal us. To redeem us. To be with us. So that we might live a life of freedom in Christ, filled with the love of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and completely connected to Him.

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! –Romans 7:25

[1] 1 Peter 2:24

[2] Six times Paul writes that Christ “gave himself” for us. SIX! Gal 1:4, 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25; 1 Tim 2:6; Titus 2:14.

Monday Moments (Words, Music, Images to Restore): You’re Beautiful

Mondays are hard. This should go without saying. For many of us, we must get up on time for school, work, appointments, and other responsibilities and as we hit the ground running, we find we forgot to take a moment for ourselves. We forgot to take a moment with God. We forgot to take a moment to just be. This can be that moment.

I hope to contribute to your Mondays not with something else to fret about, but with something to enjoy. I hope to bring you words of encouragement, songs that redeem, even videos that bring smiles! I am always reading something and I would love to share other people’s words that have helped me. My life also has a soundtrack of music that ministers to my heart, I hope the songs care for you as well. And sometimes I just need a happy video to get me going, so those will be found here, too.

I’m excited to start my Mondays out strong. I hope you will join me.

It had been tough couple of weeks that really left me dry. A woman I was just getting to know, who could have been a friend, died suddenly in a car accident. A conflict between friends tore at my heart. My computer became infected with malware and would not be clean no matter what I did (and it was truly all my fault to begin with)… Top that off with an emotionally, physically, intellectually challenging week of work and followed by intense conflicts with my kids and I felt done. Just done.

I was cleaning up a week’s worth of dishes and I wondered how I could continue to do it all. All of the laundry, the parenting, the counseling, the teaching, the caring… I didn’t have anything left. And then I wondered if I would be good enough if I couldn’t do it all. I wondered if the hurt from the loss and the pain from all of the conflicts would ever go away… and then this song came on the radio, silencing my fears and calming my heart.

Beautiful. Treasured. Loved.

Loved “enough to die.”

These messages, these words were Truth spoken over me in love at a time when I needed it most. I don’t know if I’ve ever been ministered to by a radio station before, but that day I was.

We can get so caught up in the lies that are put on us by the world, by other people, by the devil himself (the father of all lies) that we no longer can see the truth. We don’t sense it. We don’t hear it. We don’t believe it.

But then, something – Someone breaks through with Truth.

I know I’m not the only one. I know I’m not the only one who struggles to hear God’s words of love. But before I was “good enough” Jesus loved me and he died for me. I am not rejected, I am loved.

I Struggle

Sometimes I struggle. Sometimes I struggle a lot. I hesitated to come back into this blog world because my life just doesn’t feel pretty and blog-like. I don’t have it all together and I feared, would people be disappointed in me? Would they look down on me? Would I fail? And then I remembered the whole reason I started the blog in the first place. Because I was not happy as a new mom, I needed a place to process with other moms, and talking about it helped. My tagline, “An honest expression of the joys and struggles of motherhood” should give me the freedom to share, but I’ve been away for so long. And maybe I’ve been around too many people with more money, more time, more… smiles.

The truth is, I’ve been disappointed in myself these days. And those small disappointments (I forgot to do “this” for work, I left “that” sitting out on the counter overnight and had to toss it, I yelled at Jack for something stupid, I called myself stupid in front of Jack and I don’t want him using that word…) have become a running track in my head which became a voice in my head saying, “You’re not good enough, you’re not loving, you’re not smart, you’re not, you’re not, you’re NOT!”

What’s the toughest thing about these words is that they hit their target. They hit the things in me that I care the most about.

I love my kids more than my own life and to think I would yell at them and harm them in some way…

Or my work! I care about teaching well and really showing people God’s love and to feel like I have said the wrong thing…

I want to provide a home for my husband and kids that is peaceful. I want people to come over and feel relaxed. And to think because it’s messy I’ve failed them…

Uhhh, it hurts!!

The other night, after a weekend that was particularly rough for no specific reason, I said back to that voice: “ENOUGH! I don’t think what you say is true. Maybe it is… No! It’s not true! Especially if I listen to my husband who the other night told me he thinks I’m ‘probably the best mom ever.'”

I prayed to God, asking, “What do I do? I thought I was over this years ago!”

Maybe you’ll think I’m crazy, but I don’t think these negative voices really come from me. I might entertain them, I might dwell on them, I might believe them, but there is something so sinister and personal about them that they do actually sound like external voices coming from someone who wants to tear me down. Someone like the devil. Think I’m crazy? Read these words:

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him… (1 Peter 5:8-9)

He’s looking to destroy.

Jesus said, “The thief…” (read: devil) “comes to steal and to kill and to destroy; I have come that they…” (Jesus’ sheep: us) “might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Life to the full. Life Abundantly. The Life we long for.

How do we overcome the evil one?

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7-8)

Yesterday, taking this little advice fromMy Cross James, I got up early and read my Bible and prayed. So simple. And yet so so good.* I went to work feeling healthy and whole, because the Lord loves. He heals. He brings life and light to the dark places. And, when I listen, I hear His voice saying I am His.

For you (you too!) did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of [adoption]. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:15-16)

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-32, 35, 37-39)

 

*(Have I said “so” enough? I think it’s my favorite word.)