so, if we can’t fix ourselves . . . (#loveidol)

fixing ourselves

There is a movement starting, a movement by daughters desiring to see. We want to see, with clear eyes, the face of our Father. You are made,  friend. Remember, you are made.

Anything we do to prove our worth–worth previously bestowed to us by God–is in vain. The gift of being loved, of being created by the God who loves us, does not need to be bestowed again. But sometimes . . . too often. . . we feel we need to prove our worth ourselves.

We find ourselves believing a mistake was made when we were created, a problem in ourselves we need to fix. Or else, why would that abuse had happened? Why would my parents have split up? Why would my mom have died? Why would I have married someone I’m not sure I even love?

Do you see h0w God wants our hearts now, this moment, despite what happened twenty years ago, despite what happened yesterday? Do you know that we are not the remedy of our own brokenness? We are not the key to ourselves being fixed?

When bad stuff happens to us in the past, it is easy to see the future as a carrot we want to grasp. It is going to be better, then. It is going to be better when. . . And we think it is up to us to do the fixing of our own brokenness, even though we know, deep down, this isn’t how it works.

Now sister, listen.

Whatever happened in the past, while shaping us and affecting each choice we make this very day, is not what decides who we are. Our Father decides who we are. Our God who made us speaks the truth of who we are. Our present relationship with Him, how we think of Him, right now, this moment, determines whether we reach for Him or whether we reach for something or someone else to fill our aching desire to be redeemed and loved.

You, my friend, are made to be filled up by the love of God. Anything we do to try to replace His love and fix ourselves–by earning, by striving or food or sex or things–is never going to work.

I know. I have been guilty of loving idols rather than loving God, again and again and again.

So I am a sister joining the movement– the heart cry of Jennifer Dukes Lee, in her book, Love Idol: Letting Go of your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself in God’s Eyes. Because I am tired of running and proving and second-guessing my worth, I am going to spend this Lenten season slowing–doing something I never allow myself to do because I love doing it but I feel I haven’t earned enough credit to be given permission to do it: slow, walk, read.

For these forty or so days of Lent I want to lean back into the arms of my Father and rest there. I want to stay there. And I want to read stories that captivate my imagination and give me glimpses into the heart of God. I want to take walks in sunshine and listen for His voice and not worry as much about whether or not I’ve earned the permission to do these things. While I will continue to write and do the things He has created me to do, I am going to lay down the idol of proving my worth through productivity. And I’m going to pick up His invitation to rest and enjoy Him in the way He’s made me to.

He’s right here. He’s not a God I need to attain. But I miss Him when I think the act of pursuing Him, in my own strength, is how I find Him. He is right here.

So I slow.

He is right here.

How are you clinging to God this Lenten season? What idol might you need to lay down? How are you hoping to fix yourself? How can I pray?

Come on over and check out Jennifer Dukes Lee’s cool page about Love Idol, which releases April 1. You can preorder  it now. All this goodness just makes me smile. Love Idol

Sharing with #TellHisStory.

 

let’s ride, wind in our hair

“You have to confess it. You have to say the lie aloud. You have to throw it to the throne of Jesus. You have to reject it even if you still believe the lie.” My friend looks me straight in the eye, and I hold her gaze for a half second before staring at my mug, wishing I were small enough to hide under the table. Now what? I think she’s right.

I know I had better not stall.

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When you recognize a lie as a lie, even if you can’t imagine no longer believing the lie, throw it up to heaven.

Renounce it. Reject it.

I heard this message again the other day, on my metal folded chair in church, grasping paper coffee cup fast in my hand: Jesus knows the way out of hell. God’s plan, His desire, is to save us from hell, save us from separation from the Father. And God sent his Son to die and take on every single one of our sins so He could lead the way out. He is the way out for us, sisters. Jesus knows the way out. He knows the way out of whatever you are facing.

He can reveal to our hearts the lies we believe that separate us from the Father. He can reveal to our hearts the twisted truths we believe about ourselves. And here was mine: I don’t want you to like me for who I am. I want you to like me for what I do. And my fingers pause now, as I write this, the tears spilling out. For it is hard, isn’t it, to say the lie out loud? It is hard, isn’t it, to be vulnerable? It is hard, isn’t it, not to wonder, what will she think of me, now?

So I cling tight to Him, His love letter to His girls, reminding us about truth, the truth of us:

The truth of you cannot be articulated in just words. The truth of you is a name and not a name. The truth of you is more than a description of personality, a page of characteristics, a list of mannerisms and popular expressions.

There’s something you must remember: you must live your truth. You must live, with determination and might, your truth. You must know who you are designed to be . . . if you want freedom, if you want liberation from lies, if you want joy.

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lie girl story 10

So in the coffee shop chair, where I spend my Fridays, I push my ear buds into my ears so the guy in the armchair across from me doesn’t think it’s weird I don’t have a laptop in front of me and my hands are open and my eyes are closed and my head is down, my hair shielding half of my face. ‘Cause once my Father has pressed in and showed me glimpses of pain, glimpses of sorrow, glimpses of damage I cause when I believe lies about myself and about Him, I can’t wait one more second to renounce the lie causing the whole darn mess. Jesus knows the way out of hell, not me. And I cause a lot of mess when I have let myself be separated from God because I think I know better. . . I think I know the way out instead of Jesus.

So I say it right there in that coffee shop on that Friday afternoon, less than a hour before I need to jump in the car to pick up the kids from school. “Jesus, I confess I want to be liked for what I do. I confess I care more about what people think about what I do rather than who You think I am. I want You, Father, to love me for what I do! I confess I don’t want you to love me for who I am! I repent, and I reject this lie. I reject the lie that my value comes from doing rather than being. I reject the lie and I break the agreement I’ve made with the enemy that my value does not come from being a daughter of God. I give this lie to you, and cast it on the throne of Jesus.”

And I stayed there. It was too good to not stay, this daughter He made, at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus offered me his hand, and He took me where He always takes me, in the garden, by the river, through the path where the green grass tickles my legs and flowers perfume the air. I can feel the perfume now on my skin.

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lie girl story 6

We walk up, up the hill, the grass blades leaning over the path so I can’t see the ground, can’t see where my bare feet fall. I see Jesus ahead of me, His looking back at me, smiling. He knows I love this, this walking through beauty, with water rushing fast, to my left, and sunlight shining bright through arches of trees. He knows I will love where we are going.

He leads me to the top of the hill where the waterfall is thundering, and He knows I want to jump. I want to jump right in. The water isn’t cold and the sun is warm on my cheek. And I turn my face up, and I am in God’s house and I am with my King and I am safe and I doing what I am made to do and where I am made to be.

And then I am alone. I am in a meadow, my back pressed into the soft earth. I lay in the flowers, eyes closed, the sun a blanket on my skin. Then the earth trembles beneath me. The soft ground shakes. I must rise. In front of me runs a giant white steed. It is huge and powerful and beautiful. Its eyes flash, and it whinnies as it stops right before me, its hooves stomping into soft earth. I want to ride it. I want to jump on and go, even though I’ve only galloped on a horse once, in my whole life.

But I can’t.

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Suddenly I am not in the meadow but in a dark, shadowy place where there are walls and I am standing, cold, alone. My hair is tangled and my clothes are dirty and tattered. Shredded pieces of linen, a grungy robe, filthy and brown, hangs from my shoulders. I lower my head, hands open at my sides.

Then, there are hands lifting each piece of clothing off of me. They were so heavy. I had no idea how heavy each piece was, as it hung on my tired frame. I then feel hands around my ankles, and strong fingers unfastening shackles around my bare feet, shackles I had never seen, attached to chains I never knew I wore.

And I am in the meadow once more. I am wearing a long gown and my hair is loose and clean, the sun shining bright and the air perfumed with light as it falls like love upon blooming flowers. I am on the steed. And I am wearing armor now, and I have a sword in my hand. This. This is the daughter He sees. This is the daughter I am. This is the daughter He calls me to be, the one who is free because she is willing to fight. The one who is dirty and broken and vulnerable and alone when she strives to be what she wants to create herself to be. The one who is actually beautiful and true when she lets herself know freedom, when she lives out the truth of the identity her Father sees.

Come on, sisters. Let’s break these lies. Let’s ride, wind in our hair.

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lie girl story 2

You, my daughter, are made to be strong, with Me. You, my daughter, are made to do things I’ve prepared, just for you. You, my daughter, are made to go forward, not back. And to go forward, you must fight and break the agreements you’ve made with the enemy. You must know I have come to claim you, the daughter I made. You must know your life has been paid for. You must know you are free. 

And sometimes, with my truth in your heart, you must reject lies about who I am. You must do this. Don’t wait. Do it right now. This it what it means to fight—for freedom from lies. It is rejecting lies and surrendering to Me. It is fighting for your identity, the one the prince of this world wants to take from you.

So, when you are weary, when the world presses in, remember I am here with you. Know I am the warrior who never sleeps. Know I rescue and ask you to trust Me more than anything else. That is how you fight. That is how you know who you are. That is how you are set free.

Sister, how is He pulling you close now? Can you dare to let your heart imagine the wonder of you He has created?
How can I pray for you?

she is the one I despise

We can’t do a thing well unless we believe we are loved. For me, I have struggled with the whisper you’re not good enough. And my frustrated, rebellious heart shouts back, Good enough for what? For whom?

I can crumble, beaten, or I can charge forward, searching hard for His hand. I don’t know any way to live free except to follow. And I know this only after years of rebelling first and wanting, so much my own way.

But maybe there is no other way.

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The night we took the Christmas tree down was a hot whirlwind of living nightmare. It was the night I pushed for my own way. My heart pounding, the words charging fast and loud. Boxes crashed down from the attic like stones, tempers vigorous and burning. Word-arrows hit the bullseye again and again, both ways. I didn’t see it coming. Our first fight, like this, in front of the kids.

I know what it means to go too far. I used to live like this, before getting married. Going too far was a way to judge whether or not I was loved, whether or not I was seen. I have lived much of my life afraid to be meek, afraid to be humble, afraid to be quiet. I have fought for my own way and everyone in my path has suffered.

It is a charade to pretend your life is better when you are the one in charge.

she is the one

Oh, that old self! She is the one I despise. Traces of her fight their way out when I least expect it–the self I wished was killed and gone for good. But still she slinks her way back, her bitter striving creeping out from some deep, dark place. She comes only to bring destruction, wreckage, pain.

The old self, when I look her in the face, the vice of her grip around my heart, her steely eyes piercing me, urging me to fight for the sake of MY self, I sink to my knees and know the world is spinning and I can barely hang on.  For there is no self worth fighting for if it isn’t the self for which my Savior already died. I don’t want this old self. It’s poison to me. I want the new one. The one He died to give me. Yes, the one filled with light and beauty and love.

You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you (Ephesians 4: 20-24, MSG).

I say I  hate the old self, but Jesus dislikes her more. Because He loves you, because He loves me, because He sees us in our fullness and knows our true, new self ready to embrace life with Him, He will never let us go until the old self is good and dead. But we are the ones whom He’s given the tools, with Him, to kill it.

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He gives you tools to partner with Him in killing the old self because He knows you can’t live this free life He has given you with her here. 

The old self is dark and she is selfish. She is envious and she is corrupt. She grabs hold of hope and chokes it, hissing cold breath into your ear. You are not good. You are too far gone to change. You are alone and forgotten. You have never been loved and known. 

Don’t you hate the part of you that fights for her own way, tries to silence the lies whispered in the dark, all by yourself? We can only fight with the tools He has given us.We can only rise and fight with weapons of love. And kindness. And gentleness. And patience. And self-control. We can only fight with a heart that is reconciled with Christ, a heart that wants His way, not our way, with a heart that knows there is no other way to peace, to hope, to joy, to love, to a life free of striving and rebelling and fighting and struggling and cajoling and lying and tearing for what this heart of ours–this heart of ours without God in control–wants.

The steely cold whisper of the old self screams to be heard in the noise, refuses to be quiet, still in the chaos, calm.

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15).

But our God is bigger. He is bigger than any mistake we’ve made. He’s bigger and more lovely and more powerful and more wonderful than any whisper of that old self that tries to bring us back down. You have a Savior on your side who has come to save you, again and again and again. He will never relent. He will never turn. He will never back down. He’s all in.

He is completely, head-over-heels, just can’t get enough, in love with you. You are not alone. You are not out of control.

Because you are held by a God who never lets you go.

It’s time to surrender again, to the Savior who comes and restores you to the new self He died for and promises.

I don’t think, in the end, that old self even has a chance.

How do you struggle with the old self? How can I pray for you?

Connecting with Jen and Jennifer, this day.

a little bit about strength

you are not strong

“You are not strong.”

He says it again.

“My child, you are not strong.”

These words He repeats four more times and I crumble, heart wrenching, chest tightening. It comes again as I type this, the screen blurring and my fingers wavering with the truth so close: Yes, I want so much to be strong.

I ask Him where that lie came in: when did believing I needed to be strong first begin. I am ready to see a picture of me from the past, some moment years ago when I first believed I needed to protect my own heart and be confident and strong, on my own. 

And then I see it, and the vision makes me tremble . . .

Please join me over at Circles of Faith today to read the rest? So thankful you are here, friends.

Jennifersignaturescript

 

how do we open the door?

Six years old, on the long bus rides to school, the Color People were my friends. I’d stare hard at the metal seatback in front of me until my eyes saw circular blotches of rainbow swirling on smoothed-bumped silver. They knew what I was thinking, what I was feeling. I would come to them and they would come to me. They knew what I needed, and all I had to do was show up. They required nothing from me. They simply loved–at least the version of love that comes from dots of color produced in the imagination of  a little girl’s mind on her way to school on the right side of the school bus.

With the Color People, I was not expected to behave a certain way or asked to do a certain thing to be accepted. I was accepted for who I was, no matter what I was thinking or feeling.

When friendships get hard now–real life friendships, the kind where two people come together and say real words aloud and move into each other’s real lives–is when acceptance of one another feels conditional. Love isn’t love–friendship isn’t friendship–if it exists only when things are easy. And I think it is tough for us to be real and open with one another when life is hard, when the finances are tight, when our heart is aching for a loved one suffering, when our family is difficult to talk to, when we feel we are alone and no one could truly understand.

We struggle to reach out for help and believe we can be loved when we are most desperate for help, when we are most wanting of love.

I think two things I struggle with in friendships are asking for help–and surrendering my desire to “fix” a situation when a friend of mine is hurting. I am reluctant to let people in often, because (1) I don’t want to be a burden and (2) I don’t like to admit I don’t have it all together. Can you see how I struggle with pride?

Not sharing my true self, my true mess, my true heart with a friend is so hurtful, both to ourselves and to the relationship. We can’t dig in deep and be real with one another unless we trust God is in the center of the friendship and He is big enough to take care of our mess.  He is our friend first. Unless I believe and trust Jesus as my friend, I can’t surrender pride, I can’t love and trust another, I can’t be a friend or let my friends attempt to love me well.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).

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door blue

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door open

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I am the friend who asks to be invited in. I am the friend in the quiet, the quiet within you, the guest outside the door knocking, waiting. I am here, not far away. And I don’t tell you I am waiting to be invited in because I want you to feel guilty or sad or discouraged. I am not telling you I stand, outside, waiting, for the purpose of making you feel you need to work harder, listen better, be a kinder daughter to Me.

I am your friend, and I love you. And I desire friends who love, who nurture, who pour kindness into one other. You can hear Me. You can be that friend, with Me.

I want you to know I am the friend who will not disappoint. I am the friend who will be strong when you need Me to be. I am the friend who will give you words of hope when you feel sad or disappointed. I am the friend who knows what you mean when you say “I am dying inside” or “I am so alone” and you are lost and afraid of the quiet.

I am the friend who can be heard, even amidst noise. Your heart can be tuned to Me, in any situation. But in the quiet, it can be easiest to hear Me. You can be busy and bustling around. But remember I am the friend who equips you to love others. And without you letting Me in, into your relationships, into your work, into your moments of doing and going and trying, you will feel hollow inside. You will feel alone.

I am the friend who knows everything about you and knows you can, indeed, hear Me.

Listen.

Shall I come in?

The words above are excerpted from Loop, “My Friend”, which went out to subscribers on Monday. What sentence did  you most need to hear? What kind of friend do you need right now? How do you struggle in trusting in that kind of relationship–what Jesus calls, “friend”?

Make sure you check the upcoming post about the special giveaway coming up here. . . 

Leaning in with you,

Jennifersignaturescript

after you have suffered a little while . . .

I have struggled here. With gratefulness. My eyes squinting hard to see beauty, to see miracle, to see all the obvious of what He has done. I have looked for more, for a better day to be reality now. I have throbbed with impatience.

That was just this week.

suffering a little while

Can I wake up? Can I live with gratefulness for who I am and what I have? False whispers distract, pulling me away from Home: you are trapped and don’t know how to make the most of a day. You are flailing and out of control. You are given much and are failing to measure up, still.

God’s words pull us back to Him, our minds open, expectant. We hear His words; yet, our hearts struggle to believe it applies to us, our situation, our life. What our mind desires to believe, our heart struggles to accept as true.

Do you feel even more alone when you hear God’s words for you and they feel like only words? What happens within you when you still feel stuck, alone, abandoned, crushed? What happens when the circumstances haven’t changed but God is telling you He loves you, He sees you, He is here?

Do you love Him, praise him, rejoice in the suffering, this moment, right now?

I hear questions from sisters:

Would a God who loves me continue to let me suffer? Would a God who loves me continue to let me stay here, on my knees, in the dark, the walls pressing in, letting me, once more, fall?

A friend of mine, last spring, put this verse on my heart. It has taken months for me to let the words sink deep:

Resist him [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your [sister]hood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:9-11, ESV).

This verse can make me uncomfortable. I squirm in my chair when I think about suffering–when I acknowledge my suffering (and don’t try to ignore it or push it down) and when I hear my God tell me He knows. He knows about our suffering. He knows what you, my sister, are experiencing, right now.

I want to skip to the end of the verse, when Peter, who knows suffering first hand (but who also, initially, did everything he could to avoid it), gets all worked up: The “God of all grace . . will himself restore, confirm strengthen, and establish you.” He knows what we are going through and we are not forgotten. He knows our plight, and He calls us to Himself. He knows every detail of our situation, and He promises to not keep us in this place of suffering forever.

You will not be in this place of suffering forever.

Twice this week I have joined my children and my friends at a national ministry for the homeless, called CityTeam Ministries. I did simple things, like pull up weeds and serve food and peel potatoes and place mandarins into plastic bags. And I listened to stories.

I heard the story of Miles, from Texas, just twenty years old, whose mother died of a drug overdose and whose beloved grandmother died soon thereafter. I heard how when he was a teenager he was addicted to drugs and had no place to go and lived on the streets. I heard how one day he felt compelled to buy a bus ticket instead of drugs and he joined his brother in California. I heard how he came into the front doors of CityTeam and his brother welcomed him and they gave him a job and a place to live. Brothers saw his suffering, and they showed him the face of Christ.

I heard the story of Tobias, whom I served next to in the kitchen, while I scraped potatoes peels of the floor. His blue eyes sparkled as he told me his gratitude of being surrounded by loving community now. He says he can do it this time–stay off the streets and keep this job and stay sober. And I heard the story of Reynolds, who is the boss of the kitchen and left a triple figure salary as the chief chef at the Hyatt Regency in town because he wanted to go into ministry. He wanted to love on people who are suffering. He wanted to speak the love Jesus has shown him into the lives of people who don’t yet know His name.

I go home and wonder at my life–the home I have and the family and friends God’s given. All gifts. All things I don’t deserve. And I get to write and listen to stories, doing something I love  . . . But He gives me the means to do it. And I didn’t merit it.

And I read the letters from you, sisters, of your suffering, of your waiting, of your longing for more and your longing for suffering to end. And I hold it up to God and wonder why . . . And I confess I want to have answers, and I confess I want to fix all these messes. I confess I want to have the right words and take all this suffering away. . . And then He leans and whispers, I know. I know. I don’t leave.

And His heart moves me to action.

For there is something we can do, sisters. We don’t have to lie passive, in our suffering. Our Father, with us naming us as His righteous ones, His chosen ones, His daughters, has equipped us for battle, has equipped us, in His name, with weapons to fight the suffering that could so easily steal our hope and our joy.

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There is an action for us to take here.

Do you see it? Resist. Resist Satan as he whispers his lies in our ear. (And we can be more vulnerable to believing these whispers, in our suffering.) Resist, as Satan tries to steal our joy in Christ, as he tries to steal our hope and keep the eyes of our heart focused on despair, on hopelessness. Resist, as he wants to keep us impatient and looking to the next thing to try to fix ourselves. Resist, as he wants to keep us tired and weary and busy and anxious. Resist, as he wants us to be blind to God’s goodness, deaf to His words of love. Resist, as he wants us to feel stuck and not free, hopeless instead of hopeful, sorrow-filled instead of filled with God’s joy.

Yesterday I was feeling the weight of lies upon me, stealing my joy, making me not want to be grateful for what I have. I seek a heart quiet in God’s love, strong and secure, not looking beyond what He has given.

Do you know, friend,  you are not the only one who listens to His words, reads His love letters upon the page, and doubts the words are for you? Do you know you aren’t the only one who can get herself to believe she is stuck, and that nothing will ever change . . . that she will never change?

The way you move, with Me, is a pace that feels like dance. You move with beauty and with grace and with light that cannot be contained. It is made to be seen. You are made to be seen by Me, and I see you, and I delight in you, and I love how you do it (Loop, “The Way You Dance”).

I’ve been reading Phillip Yancey’s book, The Question That Never Goes Away, and I love his reminder about Christ being enough to handle whatever we are going through–and how He knows, He knows, and He doesn’t leave us in the middle of what we are going through. He has done it. He has suffered for us all: “Christ is God crying I am here . . Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.”

What do we do?

Oh, Father, what do we do now? What do we do when we hear You love us, You are here, You invite us to dance . . . and we just have trouble believing it? What if the pain is too great, the wounds too deep, to feel like raising our heads, to believe a look into your eyes will help?

When will healing come?

Our heads hear God’s truth, but our hearts are desperate to see it realized in our lives. We cry out, “my heart feels like broken fragments. . . my heart is gasping for breath.” But we know our suffering isn’t too great. He suffered. He gave it all. His love is even bigger than any suffering we endure, ever.

So we surrender, and we bow low. And we pray, and we lift up our hands, for we know He is close.

Emmanuel. He is here.

Father, we know You are here. We know You know our hearts, our suffering, our aches and longings. And You are here. And You love us. And this is the reason You invite us to dance.  And this is the reason we know we can do more than endure.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18).

I am praying, friends. And for my American sisters, I pray you have the most beautiful Thanksgiving. 

 

God loves you . . . and you don’t have to earn it

Do you, like me, struggle with slowing down? Do you push back against the truth that you don’t have to do a thing to earn God’s love?

On Wednesday, we talked about how it can be a struggle to believe we are worthy . . . even though God says so. It can be a struggle to believe we are good enough . . . even though we know He made us.

I wonder where that belief first came from? I wonder when it was that lie first entered your heart? For me, many years ago, as a little girl, I made an agreement with the enemy that love I received was based upon my performance. If I worked hard to do the right things, then I would be duly rewarded. If I made the right choices, then God would love me and be happy with me and I would be accepted and life would be good.

But then, what happens when we mess up?

The problem is that when we seek approval, when we seek love, from our own efforts, we have made ourselves an idol. Or the idol is the approval of others, and this is what we worship with our lives.

And this isn’t the life God intends for us. This isn’t freedom. This isn’t joy. This isn’t living.

Leviticus194

Okay, so what do we do?

Ask Jesus into the places of your memory where you first believed the lie your value is dependent upon your efforts to “be good”. Close your eyes and trust Him with your imagination. Let Him show you the situation when the lie first entered your heart and give that moment to Him. Let Him take it. Surrender it to Him. It is His. Let Him show you where He was in that moment, when the lie first entered, and let him rewrite upon your heart His truth.

Pray, “In Jesus’ name, I break the agreement that my worth is based upon my achievement. I am Yours, Father. Your love is unconditional, and there is nothing I can do to earn your amazing love. I am Yours. I trust You. Rewrite Your truth upon my heart.”

I’ll be praying for you . . . Let’s pray for each other. Want to say “hi”, in the comments, and we can reach out to each other here?

Have the most beautiful weekend, friends.

Gratefully,

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becoming, full on

I like to write with my eyes closed. The deepest, most true part of me, the part of me that is made, the part of me that is most beautiful, is the part of me you can’t see. I used to think it was ugly, this part of me deep inside. So I tried really hard to make the outside of me look cute. I worked jobs in junior high and high school and college so I could buy outfits so I would be noticed for how cute I looked. I didn’t like my inside, so I worked hard for my outside to be approved by the world.

And I think that part of me, the inside part, the part calling out glory and beauty and desired and chosen was the part slowly dying, bit by bit, year by year. Each year I grew taller, I squashed more of me and worked harder to seem more beautiful and accepted to everyone who didn’t know the inside me. The inside me was the me I didn’t feel comfortable letting anyone see.

And I’m not doing that anymore.

becoming, full on

Community has come around. Prayers of healing spoken deep into my heart. I had to make a decision: keep striving to earn love or ask Him for help in believing I am loved, already. And the battle for my heart, waged before I was born, began again. It began as I surrendered and the whispers of the enemy felt louder and my King rose bigger and mightier so He filled every space of my heart so there was no room for any more lies. No more room for these insides of mine, my true place, my heart that is made, to wither and die.

I didn’t make one step toward healing alone. But no one–not one prayer, not one encouraging friend, not one sweet note sent to me in the mail–could get me to make a step toward Him, either. I had to do that on my own. I had to to be the one to choose–let myself die, the true part of me that He made, or let the true heart He made step out, bold and lovely, and sing. I had to choose where to place my steps, my confidence, my life. I had to choose whether or not to heed my King, leading me home.

We just simply have to choose.

So I listen deep to His voice and trust my words and claim my voice and let the inside me be what I shout out as most beautiful, most claimed, most fought for, most desired and redeemed. Yes, the inside part of me is what is redeemed. So I grow older, and more wrinkles around my eyes and my neck appear. My hands become more beloved, like those of my grandmother’s with their brown and ripples and creases. My voice says truth, my words not hiding and twisting, trying to make themselves fit into a space that seems like the perfect fit.

I am a perfect fit. I am made, and I am beloved and worthy and glorious. And I’m not going to make excuses for it. To be made means to be awake to the coming fullness of you. Come on, let’s look at all we are becoming. Let’s grab hold of it. Let’s  smile, and look at it, right in the face.

How have you struggled, girls, with the acceptance of your true self? Have you received healing? May I pray for you?

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battle cry rescue with the room spinning ’round

Knowing you are made means you can be fierce. Knowing you are made means you can be bold. Knowing you are made means you know you’ve been invited deeper in.

And this God of ours has so much more for us, you know.

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This weekend I’ve been at a conference called Allume, a place where bloggers come together and do more than swap stories across a screen . . . They meet face to face, and talk about God, and encourage each other to be bold, with the message He has given them, with the words He has to spread around, for the cause of His kingdom.

And of course, when you get in a room full of women who are on mission to carry forth the heart of God, it is beautiful, and it is exhilarating . . . and it is a bit exhausting, too. This is all expected.

What wasn’t expected . . . by me at least. . . was healing to happen, like it did.

I didn’t know woman after woman would go up on that stage and declare the goodness of God and His desire to free His children, His daughters, from bondage. I didn’t know I would feel His hands press right up to my heart, my whole body blazing now, with the Spirit’s fire coming over me and asking me, again, to go to my knees.

I didn’t know my desire to use words to proclaim His light and healing for the sake of His daughters would require a plunging deep into a place where He still has healing, in me, to bring.

The thing is, He just isn’t done with us, girls. And when He has something for you to do, He is going to press in and wait until you’re ready to let Him in a little more. And then He’ll touch you, that part of you that is aching and dried up and tired and disappointed. That part of you that tries to rise, on its own, but can’t because it’s chained by lies about you’re not being enough, or too much, or too messed up, or a disappointment.

You, my friend, have His light in you. You are made and you are walking around here, His creation, His daughter, to bring Him glory, to live with fullness and joy and a heart ready to be opened wide to receive all He has to give.

He gave it all.

I have to ask myself:  Am I accepting Him? Am I living knowing I am made? Am I living believing, with a full, open heart, that I am invited into a life where I am called to go forward, abandoning everything, like Jesus did, in the name of our King?

This weekend, with community around me, I was reminded I can’t go forward to do the thing He’s given me to do. . . when I am chained.

In a room full of 450 women, I felt His arms around me, pressing hard. And together, with the lights dimmed low, near the back corner, I turned to my neighbor in the seat to my right, and I confessed what I feared. I said aloud, a small confession of giant hope as I laid down the thing I felt pressing in, chaining me, a lie imprisoning me so I couldn’t live free, full of joy, with a heart knowing I am made.

“I fear I don’t have what it takes. I doubt my voice.”

And the woman to my left, a sister I had never before met or spoken to in the crowded room, leaned over, ten minutes later, in the middle of my worshipping with trembling hands, and said “I have something to tell you. . . God said something to me about your voice, and that He wants to give it back.”  And my knees just about buckled, the room spinning ’round.

“Yes, that’s it. That’s it,” I said, struggling to smile, in relief and wonder. “What’s your name?”

“Dee Dee,” she said. And I will never forget her smile.

Oh, sisters, our Father comes for His girls. He comes for His broken. He comes to redeem. He comes to rescue what has been stolen. He comes to restore what has been distorted or trampled on or thrown away.

To be made means we are designed to bend to our Maker. To be made means we are called to obedience. To be made means we are called to trust. And I write here, to tell you I know. . . I know how hard it is to lean in, body trembling, heart weary and desiring more, so much more. My heart aches for Him. My heart aches to know it is already full.

I write here to tell you you are not alone. And I will be your sister cheering you on as you ask Him, too, what more He has for you right now . . . what in you He desires to heal.

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rescue from yourself

how to be rescued

Morning lights peeks soft through curtained windows. She stretches, limbs reaching up and out. These muscles barely powering her to take that step out of bed. She wants this day to be better.

She watches the video about being beautiful, hears the words from the pastor at the pulpit, but they are only words. How can they apply to her? When will she believe she is adored? When will she believe she is enough? When will she believe she was chosen? When she will be okay with surrender, with rest, with joy, with gratefulness for being made?

The dark whispers of comparison and envy sink deep into her, familiar. It is what she believes she deserves. It makes sense, that she feels so broken and ruined, after all that she’s done. To be forgiven and loved . . . beloved . . . feels like too much. She is too much. She’s not enough. She feels she’s got so much further to go to receive His love.

Even though it’s not true.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).

What if she threw up her hands and said, I just can’t do this anymore, God? What if she yelled out, said she is tired of trying so hard? What if she stopped thinking about herself so much and her problems and the ways she believes she comes up short and just thought on the beauty of her Savior, instead?

He is beautiful.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array (Psalm 29:2).

What if she confessed her fears, her desires, her struggles, her pain to God and then stopped, and listened to what He said? Would He speak? Would she hear Him? Would the pain be lifted and she feel okay? Would she once again feel the warmth of sunlight on her face?

What if she claimed what is true? What if she rejected what is false?

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Girls, she will be rescued again, like she was rescued before. She is not left alone, abandoned, forgotten.

Her father brings hope and joy to His daughter. It is who He is. He cannot stop pursuing her. Yes, she will find His light on her face.

And that is why we are doing this, here, fixing our attention to the miracle of being made. We are a miracle. His daughters. And we, in His name, are beautiful. And healed.

And I am praying for you, sister. I am praying.

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the messy and awesome work of letting God in

Going through the hard, dark places of our heart with God isn’t fun. It’s super uncomfortable. It’s exhausting. It’s inconvenient. We want Him to go deeper in, to do anything it takes to free us of lies we believe about ourselves, about this world, about Him.

Don’t we?

We know nothing separates us from the love of God. He pursues us relentlessly. But His pursuit of us is one of a Father disciplining us sometimes. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. He is all-in, and He loves us too much to let us keep on going down a path that isn’t good for us. But the thing is, He asks us to let Him, give Him permission to do the work in us.

We are made. He wants to keep making us brand new.

In C. S.Lewis’ The Great Divorce, (one of my favorite books of all time) we see the beauty of redemption when angels ask visitors to heaven who would otherwise stay in hell, if they would like to be free of their false selves and live, with Jesus, in heaven. The angels reveal to the people the horror of their sins, and the despair that exists when they continue to refuse to let God in to their hearts.

In one situation, a man’s struggle with lust is manifested as a lizard that whispers lies into his ear. The man has become so used to the lizard’s voice that the whispers of deception feel a part of him. He can’t imagine letting the angel rid him of it, creepy as it is. The man panics and promises to keep the lizard quiet, saying that it won’t bother anyone. He’ll keep it under control and no one will ever even notice that he is there. The angel pursues the man, though, urging him to let him kill it, and the man finally relents, with a piercing, scream as the angel reveals a sword and slays the lizard, saying “I promised that it wouldn’t kill you; I didn’t promise that it wouldn’t hurt.”

There is such horrific danger in the existence of the false self. Unless we surrender and let Jesus take that sin within us, we lie writhing, like the man with the lizard on his shoulder. Our false selves are our inauthentic selves. They reveal what we look like without God.

Check out this compelling video by The Skit Guys, sent to me by one of His girls, Nikki. It shares a dialogue between us and God, as God asks us if we would like Him to come and remove the things weighing us down, preventing us from living the life God intended us to live.

It’s a choice. And sometimes, it isn’t pretty. (Subscribers, click here, to see the video.)

The other day,  I shared with you how, in the car on the way to my haircut, I called out His name, rejecting lies I wanted nothing to do with anymore. And I believe He heard me. And I believe His mercy, new every morning, comes with a mighty strength, covering me, protecting me–His Holy Spirit coming with a mighty sword to free me from the entanglement of deception in which I get so easily mired.

But I didn’t wake feeling entirely new. I am still in my earthly body, struggling, in my weakness, to surrender and rely on His strength. And it is hard. But I keep listening. And I keep trusting. And I keep surrendering.

After praying, I didn’t feel like magic fairy dust was sprinkled on my head. The clouds in the sky didn’t part and the sun didn’t shine a spotlight of grace right there, through the sunroof, on my head. But I know I am made, and He is with me. He is changing me. He is shaping me into something beautiful, a daughter even more like Himself.

If you are in this place, of feeling like there is something weighing you down. . . if you want more of God’s freedom and are tired of being entangled by the weight of a sin that prevents you from experiencing His joy, please know you are not alone. Don’t keep silent about it. Don’t try to work it out on your own. Don’t try to fix yourself.

You can’t do it. It just doesn’t work.

Because you are made, you need your Maker to come and bring His healing. And once you let Him in, the process might not be quick. It might not be easy. It might be frustrating in how long it takes and how painful it feels.

But, oh girl, let Him do it. And tell us about it, here, or send me an email, so I can pray for you.

You are made.

Any work He does, painful as it might be, will be good. And it will be worth it.

Promise.

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breaking agreements with the enemy, again {made: day 10}

breaking agreements

It’s been a struggle, looking for words. I’m a woman looking for the lost coin. I scramble, heart desperate. Because when I press in, asking Him more about what it means to be made, to live in that reality of Him, I am reeling. There is something I’ve been bumping up against before this series even started. It’s what prompted me to write it — push in, slow down, listen close, trust more . . . consider what it means to be made. Created. Designed. His.

I want more of Him. For I am so tired, so tired, girls. When I was in a circle of women this week, women open and vulnerable and fearlessly sharing what they don’t want to speak aloud . . . but they do, I was frozen, not myself. I walked in excited to see them; and then I sat there, feeling unable to speak, wishing I had set a fake timer on my phone as an excuse to beat the heck out of there.

But I stayed. Miserable and blessed all at once.

My dear friends coaxed me into His arms, helping me believe, for real, how truly loved I am.

Don’t we all need to be coaxed out of our turtle-like shell, once and a while? Don’t we sometimes forget and need to be told again and again how much we are loved?

And I when we went around the circle, asking each woman to share the one word on her heart right now, I said I wanted death.

I have written here before of the insidious power of agreements–false beliefs we tuck away and believe are true about ourselves, about life, about God. We are so comfortable with these agreements. They feel so much a part of ourselves, we don’t even recognize them. We don’t believe they exist.

But they do.

And what this Made series is churning up in me is this: the need to die, right now (again) to insecurity about my not being enough.

On the way to get a haircut (first time in six months, pretty exciting), I sat in the car at a train signal, my heart heavy. I want to be free to love, unencumbered by self-doubt. So, at the blinking red light I said it loud, right there, “Dear Jesus, I reject the lie that I am not good enough. In Your name, I break the agreement that I am unworthy and I need to work to earn acceptance and love. I agree with You now . .  . In Your name, I agree that I am secure, I am whole, I am worthy, I am loved.”

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

I have broken these agreements before. But I needed to do it again. There is a war on our hearts, making us doubt ourselves, the beauty He has created, the wonder of what He has made.

I search my heart, desperate to find what I am missing. No matter what it takes. I don’t want to miss this, this life, all the possibilities of joy I might miss if I don’t die first, to live.

There is more to say . . . the words coming slowly. But I’m going to trust them.

The next place He invites me to go with Him: when the agreement was first made. . . Want to stay tuned?

Do you find there is opposition when you think of the beauty of you being made? Do you accept it readily, or is there a part of you that struggles to be free within that truth, even when you hear it, over and over again? Is there an agreement, girls, that you might need to break?

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 Psst. . . I was also over at Allume blog today, talking about Holding Life Loosely. And there’s a free printable I made for you all, over there, too! Come on over!

when I judge and I fall down

You can feel His hand pressing in sometimes. His hand a whisper, a voice tangible. You claim the voice feels difficult to recognize, but you know it. You at least recognize it by its gentleness, its firm nudging toward what feels good and uncomfortable and right and hard. You feel the tension, subtle but sure. And you squirm.

when I confess

You want to run, but you don’t. You don’t want to stay, but you do. Questions come, the voice whispering, gently: Why do you feel uneasy, the walls feeling close, too close? But you ignore it. and you keep making small talk with the people you’re with, not asking yourself the real questions and turning your tangled thoughts over to God: why am I so insecure? Why am I choosing to be hard-hearted and not soft? Why am I judging? Why am I believing I am separate, different, better than her?

I don’t ask myself the questions, and when she enters the house, the wide, front double doors swinging in, I reach out my hand stiffly. And I see it, recognizing the judgment in me, the subtle deciding of who she is and who I am. I feel myself deciding her worth, assessing her, choosing to see through murky lens rather than through the pure eyes of my Father.

Chosen. Adored. Beloved. Beautiful. My child.

I am not seeing her through His eyes. I am not listening to her with openness. I am sizing her up, forgetting who I am. I can’t even write here what words I was thinking, deep inside my heart. The lies I heed, on my own, contrast too starkly with the beautiful truth of what He sees.

His whispers, I hear them now, remind me what I must not forget:

I am the daughter of a King who was born in a stable among animals and excrement and was holy.

I am the daughter of a King who honored His parents but could not stay away from learning and teaching, for hours, about His Father.

I am the daughter of a King who waited at a well for an adulteress and saw her true heart, underneath her actions, her mistakes, her failures, and loved her and stayed with her and spoke to her and showed her she is special and matters.

I am the daughter of a King who challenged selfishness with fierce gentleness and who conquered death with self-sacrifice and love.

I am the daughter of a King who knew His Father and heeded His heart within Him and trusted Him and chose Him and let His will be done.

I am the daughter of a King who loved thieves and liars and murderers because He saw their heart underneath their actions and knew they were His brothers, His sisters.

I am the daughter of a King.

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The moment I judged the woman who walked into the house, the woman whom I had not yet met but had judged in my heart before I even said a word, was just one of the moments I forgot the truth of who I am. There are many days I forget this, but when I assess the worth of another person and value the opinions of people rather than the heart of my King, I separate myself from Him. I separate myself from the truth of who I am.

My daughter. My restored. My flower. My delight.

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The squirming comes when I strive to put myself in His place, push away His loving arms around me, beckoning me to pause, see what He sees, hear what He hears, feel what He feels. I, a daughter redeemed who forgets and then remembers, how dark she is without the life of her King lighting her way, has no position in which to judge a sister, His daughter, His dear.

Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3).

No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John: 12-13).

And so here, in this place, I lay myself down. I confess and beg forgiveness and call out, weak and broken and strengthened and healed. I confess I forget whose daughter I am, and I forget the face of my God. No more judging. No more hurting. No more separating. No more condemning. No more forgetting who I am.

Do you hear His whisper, girls? Do you feel His touch upon your heart?

Are you listening?

Are you listening?

Linking with Ann and Jen.

condition of the heart

Are the consequences of our mistakes punishment by God?

If we believe we’ve heard the voice of God speak to us, and we ignore it, do we think the consequences of our ignoring His words to us, His whisper of the Holy Spirit to our hearts, is the reason bad things happen to us in our lives?

Or, what if we’ve never recognized His voice? What if we don’t yet know Him–or don’t realize we do–and we live far away from Him, independent, alone? Does God stand back, wait for us to turn? Do the repercussions of our behavior ripple from generation to generation, never ceasing, so that the sin is felt and responded to, without ending, through relationships, through countless family ties?

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I am in a room of women, and the sharing of story, the detailing of lives and choices and regrets and wounds, make the space both holy and beautiful and desperate and sad. I am filled with questions, with the way one sister’s story can feel both so similar and different than another’s.

My mind is spinning, and I think about what I know . . . and how I know the things I know about God: the Father of mine who relentlessly pushes me, with gentleness and firmness, into seeing how sin, separation from Him, brings only pain.

Yes, sin has consequences. We make choices towards relationship with God, and we make choices away from Him. We recognize pieces of His love for us, and we also reject it, turn our back on Him, believing we are the only god in our lives that we need.

I think of the God of Eve, who created her to walk with Him, beside Him, with nothing to hide. (Oh, to walk with the Father, in a garden of beauty, by His side!) And then how she questioned Him, how she thought maybe her ideas of things were better than His.

Sin is what separates us from the Father, although that was never His intention. That was never His plan. He does everything to let us choose Him and find our way back to Him.

Are we finding our way back?

Our God is a Father of unity, not separation. Our God is a Father of joy and hope, not bitterness and pain. It is sin that causes disunity from God, nothing else.

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I listen to the stories of sisters and think about how no matter our life experiences, each moment is an opportunity of choice–love God or not. And when something gets in the way of our loving God, it is the sin that has caused the separation. And God is bigger than any sin or any mistake or any regret. Yes, there may be consequences of sin–and it is our bearing of these consequences that lets the old self die so that Christ in us can live anew.

“In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4: 22-24).

I know first hand the death of old self, again and again. Yes, I want to die–each piece of me separate from Him–to be made new. And why? Perhaps here, a few glimpses . . .

I know the God I know, the One who had me by the hand, as a child, before I realized He was there. The One with whom I felt safe but didn’t know well, but whom I prayed to night after night, the only hope for one of my family members, whom I feared would die and get sick, because of smoking.

I know the God I know, the One who tickled my face with gentle wind as I ran through rows of almonds, barefoot, with both dogs and cats chasing with me, and the squish of the wet mud between my toes, and the crunch of gravel as rain water rushed through with might, down the creek.

I know the God I know, the One who stood underneath the wall clock, in the kitchen, reaching out His arms for me as tension escalated. In the middle of chaos, He showed me there was a way to be whole, in His arms, and dance.

I know the God I know, who cried, underneath a leafless almond tree, as I believed I was more important than anyone, anything. Two decades later I am tired of running, and, finally, He shows me–knowing I am ready now–to see pieces of the effects of sin upon a life, the torn shreds collected, and mended and stronger now, by Him.

I know the God I know, love who rescues and takes me back to moments in my past where I have believed lies, situations where my perception of myself and the girl-woman I was made to be–and my view of God–had been twisted. I know the God who replays the scene of my memory with a new lens. He wants to show me where He was present, whether or not I ever realized it, the whole time.

I know the God I know, a God who gives second chances, who gives us a new way to see the world, I know a God who presses in and encourages us to die, to all the twisted, broken, damaged habits and beliefs that separate us from Him. I know a God who lets us feel pain and feel the results of living life without Him, if we want. And I know a God who never stops pursuing, never stops loving, never stops caring.

I know the God I know, who aches for this world, for the ways His children are desperate to die and be born again.

Yes, there are consequences for sin, but Jesus doesn’t need to die again to give you life again, in Him. Just once, friend. Just once. The pain of sin, the pain of our past, the pain of our present is where He comes, where He is present, where He refuses to ignore and turn away.

This life is hard, and it is filled with hope. This life is painful, and is filled with healing. This life is brutal, and it is filled with beauty.

I don’t have answers, only questions. But that’s okay. I know what I know. And I will surrender the lies that come telling me my God cannot be trusted. For this isn’t head knowledge I’m talking about. It’s a condition of the heart.

How do you wrestle with these questions, girls? What does your heart know about God?

Linking up with Jennifer and other story tellers.

when your very identity is an idol

I haven’t been writing here as often these days. I feel okay about that, and I am grateful I still feel like myself when I haven’t.  I remember, not so long ago, when I felt that guilty, tight-feeling in my chest when I hadn’t written here. I’m not sure if it was pressure I put on myself to achieve–an unrealistic goal I was unable to meet, or if writing was something I was made to do and I just wasn’t doing.

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But here is what I am excited about: I don’t feel that way anymore. I can write and feel good about it. But I don’t feel more or less myself when I am doing it. While writing is one of the things God has given for me to do with Him–making it not just a hobby, an activity, a passion, I love–I need to hold it loosely.  Writing is not something I need to chase down, accomplish, to be the woman God calls me to be.

I am already that woman. I am already His girl.

identity 8I can write and love it and abide in the confidence of knowing I am doing the thing God has called me to do with Him, right now. But I need to continue to lay it down, surrender it to Him. I must let Him check my heart so I don’t idolize my own identity. I must keep my heart focused on Him.

The tagline on this blog, “inspiring women to pursuing the truth of their identity, in Christ, and live like they believe it”, challenges us, as His girls, to pursue Christ, in the unique way we are made to do it. As His girls, we read scripture and we pause and we let Christ come in and show us the way to live our lives. But if the focus of our lives is on the thing we love to do more than on Christ, we are idolizing ourselves. We are not loving God the way we think we are.

I confess, I struggle with selfishness, with self-centeredness. When I finally, less than a decade ago, let Christ in to these parts of me that I had been keeping from Him all my life–my wanting to do things my own way, on my own terms–the battle in my heart against my Savior was fierce. Everything in me rose against surrender. I didn’t want to face the truth of my own sin. His light felt too bright, too lovely, too good.

I wanted so much to be forgiven, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I didn’t deserve it. And I wanted to deserve it. I wanted to be worthy–or convince myself (if I couldn’t convince God) that I was.

I idolized myself, my reputation, my success. The battle was long and hard to surrender and let God show me how much He loves me, despite all the ways I mess up and love myself more.

I had to give Him the part of me that didn’t want to see my sin. I had to give Him the hard-heartedness that wanted to stay the one in control. I had to give Him the vision I had of myself, the tarnished, ugly, dark past and choose to believe I am loved, in the midst of my sin. And the choosing to believe His crazy-awesome truth is what turns the most vile things about ourselves beautiful. It is an offering of self, a surrender to life we just don’t, in any way, shape, or form, deserve.

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I write these words down to let this be the moment I surrender this blog to Him, again. Whatever we are made to do with God, it is only for the purpose of loving others and letting them see the face of Christ.

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In all that we do, in all that we say, in all the ways we recognize and claim our unique identity, in Christ, it is only for the purpose of letting God love us, heal us, be with us. And this is what enables us to be the light for another child of God who has yet to surrender to her Father who is, right now, calling her name.

Do you know your unique identity in the Father who adores you and pursues you like crazy? What, right now, is He asking you to lay down? Is there anything in your life more important than Him? How can you begin, this week, this day, this moment, trusting Him more?

Finally, I wanted to be sure you knew about this: Subscribe to Loop, the twice-a-week email devotional, God’s heart for you, and receive this special gift, for free: my very first eBook: Begin, A Book of Prayers for Women.

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Linking with Jen and other sweet sisters.

 

sick and tired . . . and the sweetness of it all

We start this week on a slow roll, the weekend stretched long with all five of us sick. We staggered home from the boys’ football games, after sitting outside in 90 degree weather all afternoon, and plopped down on the big king bed. My husband first, then me, then our little girl and middle son. Our older couldn’t make it off the couch in the family room before running out the door to throw up again. (On my flowers . . .lovely.)  I can’t remember the last time–or if ever–we had all gotten the same bug at the same time. And it was brutal, but there was sweetness in it, too.

We didn’t know yet that the boys were getting sick with what Justin and I already had (and Abby got first, days before), on the day of their weekend football games, the one Jackson had worked so hard for all week, including having to change his diet to make weight as a bigger, older player on a younger team. It was an away game, almost two hours from home, but the first of the season. And these boys love football. So, we were going to get them there, even if we had to take throw-up bags in the car for Justin and me in the process.

We didn’t think we would have to use a bag–for Ollie–on the drive there.

I managed to be the driver, while Justin, who was feeling worse, tried to sleep. When we arrived, I was blessed with the ladies bathroom all to myself as it was my turn to get sick, hours before the first game started.

While the boy’s warmed up (as Ollie bounced back once he saw his team and was determined to play), Justin and I crawled over to some shade near a fence behind the stands and laid down on the coolest, most heavenly grass in the entire world. I will never forget its softness, the way it cradled my aching limbs and head.

And then my parents arrived to see the games. And my sister and her family, too. And the coach came over to ask Justin to help him videotape. And we stood up and tried to hold it together, while the sky was spinning and the sun beamed down. And we made our way to the hot metal bleachers, which, even under the shaded awning my heaven-sent sister brought, felt like grills used to cook meat in an oven.

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Our 42 (in the back) waiting for the handoff.

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Our 66 as defensive captain before the game.

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Justin and I decided that day, in the sun, feeling sick, and doing one of our most favorite things to do–watch our boys play football–was one of our worst days ever. . .We felt so terrible we didn’t know how we would make it home. And then the throwing up started again, in the car.

Yes, it was rough. . . and that’s why our bed was almost as nice as the grass, when we got home.

It feels silly, now, to admit how unpleasant this all was–especially since those moments of being sick this weekend were some of the most special, too. After sleeping for over twelve hours straight, the next day was filled with snuggles with my boys on the couch, reading aloud the book we didn’t get to finish over the summer. I had a tea party in the backyard with my daughter. We watched episodes of Myth Busters. I took a few short bike rides around the block with my kids as an easy way to walk our dog. Our weariness slowed us all down, and while, I don’t want to get sick again anytime soon, I loved how being sick together helped me appreciate the sweet moments of slowing down, together.

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I don’t know what you’re going through right now. I imagine it might be a whole lot worse than this silly stuff I just described about my family’s bout with the flu. And I would love to pray for you. I would love to be with you, help you find some soft grass on which to lay your weary head. I would love to listen to what is on your heart, what made your long weekend filled with beauty, or what made it make you want to run away and scream. I would love to let you lean on my shoulder, sharing the burden with you, while the tears fall. Or see you smile and hear your laugh as you tell the story of that crazy thing that happened that just keeps making you smile.

I would love to stand with you, praying for you, sister. When I write, I trust these aren’t just words on a computer screen, floating out into space when I hit the little blue button on the right that says “publish”. They are meant for you, right now.

Because we all get tired and need to know we aren’t alone.

Because we all get discouraged and need to know we are heard and someone cares.

Because we all get sad and lonely and mad and confused and wonder what it is we are supposed to do with this day and wonder how we will ever get through it.

Because we all know, sometimes, it is difficult to even raise our heads–that it aches to feel or see.

But I know this is true:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

And I know it is true that we are not meant to journey these tough days alone.

Looking forward to hearing from you, friends.

Love,

Jennifersignaturescript

Linking with Emily and Jennifer today.

what it may look like to begin

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Some days we need to do the thing we don’t feel like doing . . . simply because He told us it is for us to do.

Some days we need to listen closely to the One who knows us, who beckons us close . . . because He knows better than we do how to spend these moments of days.

Some days we need to heed our little-girl-heart; we need to quiet to hear the whisper again:

I love you. I delight in you.

Some days, when we’re quiet, we need to notice His singing is lullaby, a melody of love song, a flute played on mountain top, the highest note resounding sweet.

Some days we need to tell the person we’ve been neglecting, the one we tell ourselves we love but don’t make any effort to show them. . . we are here now, we are washed clean, we forgive and love as we are loved and forgiven.

Some days we need to put down the load we’ve been carrying for years, the one so familiar we don’t even realize it is separate from who we are. It is not a weight for us to carry.

Girl, give it up again.

Some days we need to take a good look at how our heart may be a bit hard, memories layered up so high the possibility of softness, of change, of hope seems a million miles away. We need to pray for healing and for the walls to eventually. . . maybe even today . . . come down.

Some days we need to tell this Father of ours what we really think, what we really feel. We know He knows but we want to hide it from Him anyway. We need to come out now.

Oh, girl, let that Light shine.

Some days we need to inhale deep–and deeper–and long until there is just no more air left to breathe, and then let it all on out again. We need to let the Giver breathe Spirit into us, birth us again. We need to let old air push out and new freshness fill tired old lungs made new.

Some days we need to stretch our muscles and let our legs walk farther than they feel like walking. We need to pump our arms and take off our shoes and remember the sharpness of rocks under soft feet.

Some days we need to bury our noses in sweet, green grass and let bees buzz around our ears and lay down on hillside, gold sun blanketing our bare legs and arms and watch those cloud fluffs float on by.

Some days we need to imagine the feel of a bird’s wings as the pair stretches out wide. We need to study the feathers as the wind dips the wings low and there is a pivot, a twist, a subtle change of direction. We need to look full on this day, refusing to let beauty blind us. Some day, this day, is as good a day as any, to begin.

What are you being invited to let go of? What are you being invited to pick up? How, girl, are you being invited to begin?

Linking with Jen and sisters.

the one way to begin the school year with confidence

This post was first written on notebook paper–scrawled in messy, spaghetti cursive two days before the beginning of school. I’m realizing how much I both struggle with and celebrate transitions.

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Little boys in heavy helmets and thick shoulder pads run back and forth on hot turf. Weekend morning sun blazes hot and fiery. These tough little guys. I’m thankful for respite now, on cool grass, in the shade.

I look back on the summer, forward to the school year ahead. It is hard to get up, begin again, and change.

I wrote a  post two months ago detailing four ways to not be overwhelmed this summer–a letter to myself I hoped might speak to the hearts of a few other people, too. I can’t say I physically revisited that list throughout the long summer days. I didn’t print it out and tape it up on my refrigerator or bathroom mirror. But I tried to return to the words:

  1. Begin each day doing something you love.
  2. Don’t think about yourself so much.
  3. Celebrate the “I don’t know what to do” comment.
  4. Trust that God is here

I didn’t do an amazing job of these things. I kind of failed at the first point, “Begin each day doing something you love”–which for me, in the morning, would be writing and exercising, as these are ways I find myself experiencing God. Some mornings I wrote a little; but most days I slept in and got up with the kids. Some days I got a workout in before breakfast, before Justin went to work. But most days I exercised, with my middle son, only when it fit in with the flow of the day. I missed the regularity of hanging out with God in these ways. But something was released in me when I let them go, too.

And this is how I realize I did number two on the list moderately well: “Don’t think about yourself so much.” While I was not celebrating the days I didn’t have time for myself to write or to run, I was happy to have these moments with my kids, all three, still together under the same roof. We spent many days playing games or reading, or doing fun day trips not too far from home. Last week was spent taking care of three other kids ages 6, 4, and 2, and I praised God for the opportunity to see my children love these kids in the unique way He gifted them to love. He showed me parts of them this mother’s heart needed to see.

Celebrating the “I don’t know what to do” comments/complaints was helpful, especially during my children’s first week transitioning from the packed and busy school day to the long summer days ahead. Don’t get me wrong; it was still painful to hear–but I tried not to take on the responsibility of entertaining my kids 24/7.  I tried to not feel the need to always be in control. So sometimes they were bored, for a whole fifteen minutes.  And it was great. Often, it would be only ten minutes before they were involved in something fun and crazy and creative (although I am not thrilled that I am still removing acrylic paint from the stone walkway in the side yard.)

Tomorrow they will head off to school, and the days are going to have more space for me to think and create. But the days will be more busy and full, in others ways, too. Appointments and meetings and get-togethers and homework and sports schedules fill the calendar.

Even with the chunks of time where I will get to sit down and write without having to struggle as much to squeeze it in, I want to keep these summer days–these days of being present and open and breathing deeply of random, unplanned-for-wonderfulness straight from God.

And so the only item on the list I need to hold onto, now–and I believe all other things will follow right on after it–is number four: “Trust that God is here.”

I will trust that God is here, and I will awake to His voice and His heart and pursue the things I love . . . because He is here, in me.

I will trust that God is here, and I will love my neighbor as much as I love myself and not think about myself as much . . . because He is here, in me.

I will trust that God is here, and I will not try to control what is His to control, and I will trust Him and listen to Him and heed His voice in the stretched out moments of even busy days.

I will trust that God is here, today, this last day of summer vacation, and tomorrow, my children’s first day of school. And I will relax. And I will be folded into His arms. And I will be strengthened by the only Love that holds me up . . . and makes me beautiful and bold and sure.

Do you struggle with transitions? What do you do to stay focused on God and not try to be the one in control? 

Happily linking up with Jen and Laura.

small

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It’s hits me slow, creeping up in a whisper, a cold hand on the back of neck. Yes, it’s true, the word I don’t want to admit aloud, the truth most difficult to write here, even though I have laid down the decision to keep secrets of the soul long ago. Narcissism. . Yes, I do believe it is the word I want nothing to do with me. It is the opposite of all images I want to portray here, on this blog, the face I want to hide from all my friends, the prayer I don’t want to pray.

“Father, I focus so much on me. . . even when I don’t think I am. . . I make so much about me.”

There was a girl who cared more about herself, more than anything or anyone. And she made a decision that proved it. There was a girl who didn’t want change, couldn’t admit she had done a thing wrong, and continued to hide, finding solace in an arm around her neck on a Saturday night, in the back of a boyfriend’s car.

There was a woman who worked long hours, nervous she wouldn’t do her job well enough unless she stayed up late, night after night, caring more about the opinions of strangers at her new job than the people, loving her, whom she took for granted.

Striving to make myself big because I don’t know I am loved or enough or qualified to do the thing in front of me to do hurts the heart of the King who made Himself small because His love was too big to do anything else.

Yes, I need to be small. I need to bow low to gain this life He promises. Help me lose this life, Father. Keep killing off this old self wanting to come on back and prove it needs to be big to be love.

There is nothing small in the way He loves.

Let me love like You, Lord. Turn me upside down. 

Come on over to Lisa-Jo’s and read the hearts of other writers exploring, for just 5-minutes, “Small”.

what happens to dreams when you’re a mom?

“Jessica, Nicole, Ashley. . .” My plans to be a mom were sketched out on lined notebook paper while I watched the latest episode of The Dukes of Hazard. At my best friend’s house for a sleepover, I lay on my stomach, pajama clad feet plunged into Raggedy Ann sleeping bag, and listed my top girl names: all girls because remember, I was ten, and boys were kind of gross. When I got married, I would have three or four girls, and I would get to name them and dress them up and take care of them, making sure they looked cute everywhere we went. Being a mom, and having little kids to take care of, captured my imagination.

My mom was a woman most beautiful. She gave freely, considering her five kids’ wants and needs before any desire of her own. She surrendered her dream of going back to school, to become a teacher, when we were young. I remember the nights she came home weary from class and the challenge of completing schoolwork while attending to the demands of five children. And then the moment, in the kitchen, when she announced she decided to quit: “I am doing this for the kids.” Mothering us, being present for us, was her priority. She felt she was less important. Her needs and desires were hardly noticed.

But I noticed.

Anything but just a mom glasses

I noticed to be a mom meant to abandon all desires, all dreams. Your children were the dream. Your children were the hope of everything. . . 

Please join me over at The Accidental Mama, my friend Beck’s new place, today, where I am honored to share the rest of this story. I would love to hear your thoughts, friends.