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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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.

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)

How this Perfectionist is Picking Herself Up (Hint: It’s not on her own)

I am a perfectionist.

A perfectionist who doesn’t want to do anything wrong, fears others showing me my failures, and who is constantly aware of what I could do better. I am tempted to define myself by my behavior, my finished to do list, or my perfect children who eat, sleep, and produce according to my plan for them.

But I am not perfect, so my head rails against me to try harder while my heart is breaking under the pressure of the “Perfect Mama” facade I have so carefully crafted. And my children do not have the same plans that I do, so they continue to spit out their carrots, pop out of bed to talk about our furniture (“Is that your couch?” “Yes.” “Ok!”), and fight me on any order I try to create in our lives. The clash of my plans with theirs produces anger and frustration that only leaves us all in tears instead of changing anything.

Because shame never changes anything.

So when Jesus asked me to preach this week on my perfectionism, to admit my failures, and to point others to Him, I truthfully did not feel up to it. Days later when people are telling me it was my best sermon yet, I still do not feel up to it. I continue to identify myself not with Him, but with my own behaviors, works, accomplishments.

I need a reminder of who Christ says I am. Maybe you do to.

“In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27)

In Christ we are “dead to sin, but alive to God.” (Romas 6:11)

There is no condemnation for those who are In Christ. (Rom 8:1)

In Christ we have been made holy. (Phil 1:1)

In Christ, we are sanctified (1 Cor 1:2),

In Christ we are made alive (1 Cor 15:22),

In Christ we are brought to fullness, completeness. (Col 2:10)

In Christ, we have freedom (Gal 2:4).

In Christ, we can stand firm. (2 Cor 1:21)

In Christ we are brought near to God by the blood of Christ. (Eph 2:13)

In Christ, we are all children of God (Gal 3:26).

In Christ, we are forgiven (4:32)

In Christ, our hearts and minds are guarded by the peace of God (Phil 4:7)

In Christ we have peace (1 Peter 5:14),

In Christ we have faith, and love (1 Tim 1:14).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the

The Old is Gone.

The New Creation has come.

I am blown away by the truth that God has not abandoned me to my failures – real or perceived. That God is healing my hurts, pouring Himself into me, so that I can be made clean. That forgiveness is a daily possibility and that I can always begin again. And that I am always, in all things, clothed in Christ. He has never left me and will never leave me.

I know this is not my best writing, but this is not about me, today. This is about Jesus. And you. You who maybe need as much truth as I do. Let’s walk In Christ together, shall we?

Why I am Grateful for My Friends

Day 22 of 31 Days of Connecting 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

Day 22

I hold on tight to my friendships. It’s because I don’t have many of them. And that’s not because people don’t like me (as I once believed), but because I thrive with a few close friends.

My closest, dearest friends are those who encourage me towards love. The ones who teach me how to love, who love me, and reveal to me that I am lovable. They let me know when I am seeing myself poorly. They let me know when I am being overly harsh with a leader, my husband, or my kids. They listen.

I learn to love from them because they love well.

They don’t assume my circumstances are the same as theirs, but let me talk.

They let me feel my feelings, validating each and every one. But they point out the error in my beliefs when they are present. Because though my feelings are valid, the beliefs driving them often could stand for correction.

My friends don’t assume that their way is my way. They don’t tell me how to parent my kids, but encourage me as I figure out how it will work best for me on my own. They know I am not the same as them. They know my kids are not the same as theirs.

My friends have hurt my feelings. My true friends have let me tell them that and have apologized. And I am safe with them to confess my faults in the same way.

My friends let me cry. They don’t try to make me stop. They don’t tell me everything is okay when it isn’t. They let me feel. They pray for me. They stand by me.

My friends see me not for who I am, but for who God created me to be. They don’t give up on me, but allow me to stumble blindly as I reach out for the hope that was promised in Christ.

Yes, my friends love well.

To those who have been this for me, thank you for being my friend.

And though we may not live in the same city, state or even country, I hope to never stop meeting with you.

I Will Not Tell A Lie

Day 13 of 31 Days of Connecting

31 days big

Today I had a choice:

Be honest. Be truthful. Or hide.

Say what was hurting me. Or put on a mask.

Encourage my kids to speak out. Or tell them to be silent.

Over and over again this past week I have been encouraged by those who have told me I have been brave for speaking the truth about the loss, the pain, the struggle that I have encountered in this life.

And over and over again I have read stories other women have written about their own heartache. About their addictions. Their infidelity. Their loss.

It is their honesty that keeps me going.

When I read my friend’s blog – and her commitment to be authentic for 31 days – that’s when I knew I needed to speak the truth.

We live in a culture that encourages falsehood and masks. From internet trolls who will smash the most vulnerable to photoshop that “corrects” a beautiful body, we are told we are not enough – that the truth isn’t good. And even church culture can tie the mask on tight. We encourage one another to “trust in God” when we don’t even know where He is in our own lives. We smile and say “praise Him” when inside we are weeping.

We encourage one another that we can tell the truth, but inside we’re afraid that if we speak up we will lose… again.

What would it look like if instead of giving a quick platitude we told our crying friends we don’t have the answers either? What would it look like if we just held them instead of trying to make them (or us) feel better? What would it look like if we learned to embrace the discomfort of honest emotion?

I am convinced the loneliness that surrounds us exists because we have not yet discovered the ability to be truthful. And it’s understandable after being rejected. Or rebuked. Or abused.

But we have to keep trying.

We need each other.

We need to be heard.

And we need to hear that others have experienced the same things, too.

day 13Is there someone you have that you can speak the truth to? Who is it? If not… who would you like it to be? Start looking and praying… I didn’t always have that someone either. And until then, be that person for someone else.

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. (Ephesians 4:25 The Message)