His Eye is on the Sparrow

I haven’t blogged a lot lately. Being a freelance writer tests the outer limits of my faith. At the moment I’m not sure if those limits are growing or shrinking.  From my point of view everyone would want to paint and write for a living. The paradox is that I am living, just not making the money for the living. In my anxiety, I focus on the things that are not in my power to control. Romans 8:28 woes me to my knees.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son…”

I couldn’t read any further than “predestined to be conformed to the image of his son.” Often when comforting grieving or hurting people, we recite this passage and stop at, “God works all things for good.” We try to turn bad situations into feel good ones. We deny the pain and grief.

Being conformed to the image of a perfect, obedient son, who always knows the will of the Father does not feel so comforting or encouraging right now. It feels painful. It feels like grief.

Presently, I feel troubled and overwhelmed by hardship. Romans 8:35 assures me that neither of these will separate me from the Love of Christ. The real question is what if these two things are the very things that will conform me into the image of the Son.

I painted this picture. It feels off. Stormy. Chaotic. Why?

IMG_5349

Because I don’t need to be reminded that “His eye is on the sparrow,” when everything is going well for me. I need it when I’m:

  • troubled
  • in hardship
  • persecuted
  • hungry
  • cold and naked
  • in danger
  • or facing death

What about you today? Do you feel cold and hungry? Troubled? Persecuted? Remember, none of these things can separate you for the love of Christ. He is still watching over you. Standing with you. Crying with you. Rooting for you to be conformed to the image of the Son He loves. He’s cheering us on toward Christ like obedience.

Oh, how I wish God would remove this list from the believers life, but the question I asked remains. Maybe these are the very things that will conform us into the image of the Son. They do not feel pleasant or fun or good, but in hunger I find my soul fed by the Word. In persecution I begin to humble myself like Christ, and I am astounded once again at what Jesus Christ endured to save my soul. In trouble and hardship, I’m learning to depend on the Father. Learning to trust that even hardship is good has been difficult for me.

Examine Your Uniqueness Before God

How much thought do you give to your soul? Self-care is really soul-care. Everything in this life will pass away, but our souls will be with Jesus.

When we meet Jesus, what condition will our souls be in?

Self-care is soul-care.

Will we continue to beat our souls for past sin that Christ paid for? Will we continue to devalue our souls because someone used us for their sinful appetite? Will we continue to flog our souls for not being enough? Will we continue to submit our souls to the miserable forces of this world?

Soul-care is taking time to examine ourselves before the Lord.

While doing this for myself, I wrote the Abuse Survivor’s 23rd Psalm. As I sat before the Lord, I thought about my unique relationship with my Savior. I’m not a shepherd. I’m not tending to sheep. But, I am an abuse survivor. Surviving emotional, physical, and sexual abuse shaped my identity. It shaped my perspective of the world. It shaped how I experience others. It shaped how I came to know Jesus.

I needed Jesus to be Light for me. He’s the standard that I use when understanding what is appropriate behavior and what is sinful behavior. There is no darkness in Him. He is Light. The definition of Light is the absence of darkness. It doesn’t matter how his day went. He never gets angry with me because He’s tired, overworked, offended by someone else, frustrated with the normal frustrations of daily life in a fallen world, etc. He never flies off the handle. He never tells me to “run away from home”. He ever loses his temper.

God never ever tells me something that is untrue about who I am.

Soul-care is uncovering the false things that people have told you and realizing the false things that YOU TELL YOURSELF.

God is good. God is Light. God restores. God saves. God gives good gifts.

Take time to examine your natural talents that God gave you. Thank him for creating you with these natural talents. Consider your physical traits. Our bodies are marvelous. We move, dance, give birth… etc. Thank God for what your body is able to do.

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Take time to be honest with yourself about your physical, mental, and emotional handicaps? List out what you believe to be disadvantages due to your background, education, or current circumstances.

Then consider how God may be using these weaknesses to bring glory to himself. God wants to restore us. I’ve battled depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. When God wins the battle over anxiety in my life, I praise Him. When I looked myself in the mirror and I said, “I’m not dirty.” and for the first time, I believed it. I praised Him. Through studying the scriptures, I understand who I am in Christ. Finding out that I am a Co-heir with Christ, to be treated like the first born, that I have an inheritance, my heart over-flowed with thanksgiving. I’m a nobody in this world, but God loves me.

Chew on Hebrews 11:6,

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

He rewards those who earnestly seek him. What? You must believe that he exists AND that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Here’s an article that has a little more to say about our identity in Christ: Identity in Christ Verses in the Bible.

Tip #5 Memorize Scripture

We can’t win the battle over anxiety by continuing to think the way we’ve always thought. We must change how we think. Memorizing scripture gives us the weapons to combat anxiety. I love this list from the above website. I’ve memorized all of these. They help me to battle anxiety with truth instead of emotion.

As with everything we do, take it one step at a time. Go slow. Take a verse a week. Take 2 weeks. It doesn’t matter. There’s no time frame. There’s no right way or wrong way. Just do it. Memorize a few verses and put me to the test.

There is no condemnation for us (Romans 8:1)

We can never be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:39)

We who are many form one body (Romans 12:5)

We have wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Our labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)

We are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

We become God’s children (Galatians 3:26)

We have every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)

We have the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7)

We were also chosen (Ephesians 1:11)

We are for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12)

We have been seated in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)

We’ve been given the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)

We who were once far away have been brought near (Ephesians 2:13)

We are built together as a holy building (Ephesians 2:22)

We may approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)

We are light (Ephesians 5:8)

Our joy overflows (Philippians 1:26)

All our needs are met according to his glorious riches (Philippians 4:19)

We are holy and faithful (Colossians 1:2)

All things hold together (Colossians 1:17)

We have our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)

We become fully mature (Colossians 1:28)

Are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge for us (Colossians 2:3)

We are rooted and built up (Colossians 2:7)

We have been given the fullness of the deity (Colossians 2:9-10)

We come into reality (Colossians 2:17)

Our life is now hidden (Colossians 3:3)

We will rise from the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

We can give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

We have faith, hope, and love (1Timothy 1:1, 14)

We can gain an excellent standing and great assurance (1 Timothy 3:13)

We have the promise of life (2 Timothy 1:1)

Meditations: Atonement

Jesus is worthy! The Father glorified His name above all others, Worthy is the Lamb! This morning may we pause and remember Jesus.

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, laid down His life for us, in our place, because of what we did. He atoned for our sins, making us right before the Lord by His blood.

The use of the word atonement fell out of favor among Believers, but this week, I’m going to meditate on the deep truths hidden in this beautiful word.

In a culture that is striving to be enough, I’m thankful to surrender to my Good Shepherd. In His compassion, He didn’t ask me to be enough for anything or any one. With His death on the cross, He declared to me that His atonement is enough. He made me at one with Himself and the Father.

Do you see it? Atone… at one…  The suffix “ment” means concrete result, object, or agent of a (specified) action. The concrete result of Jesus’ at one ment is unity. He brought me into unity with the Father as Christ is unified with Him.

I in them and you in me- so they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:23).

The fullness of this word gives the truth that we have sin to atone for, and God sent His Son to atone for our sins. Jesus gives us atonement, at oneness with the Father. Forgiveness, peace, unity, all of this propelling us forward in love for God and one another, so that the world will know.

Lately, every Bible study, worship song, and discussion runs to the Gospel. I am not enough. I am a flawed, frail, fragile, and fickle soul, who needs a Savior. In the arms of Christ, I find that I am deeply loved, valued, and desired. (Jesus picked me!) And as these truths break my heart of stone, I begin to see every soul I meet the same as me, deeply in need. Jesus wants them too.

Jesus picks them, they, that sort, those over there,

and He’s picked me to tell them about the atonement He offers.

May the Lord ready our feet with Gospel because Jesus is worthy. He loves every down and out, needy, awkward person that is flawed, frail, fragile, and fickle.

playlist

God Highly Exalted Him from Philippians 2:1-11

If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ,

if there is any consolation of love,

If there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion

Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the

same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind,

let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the

interests of others.

Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus-

Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality

with God a thing to be grasped;

But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being

made in the likeness of men.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by

becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the

name which is above every name,

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that at the every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

To God be the glory great things He hath done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in. Praise the Lord!— To God be the Glory (hymn)

 

 

 

Self-care Vs. Self-indulgence

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16-24-26

We are having a baby girl!

Following Jesus requires self-sacrifice. All through out the scriptures we are called to kill the flesh. How can these be in line with self-care?

Be killing the flesh or it will be killing you!

-Author Unknown

Self-care is not self-indulgence.

Self-care is not self-indulgence.

Most of what I read as good self-care involves trips to the salon to get nails painted, pedicures, and $300 haircuts. With hand raised and wounded heart, I confess I was one. None of these outward things changed my cycles of self-hatred, anxieties, depression, bitterness, jealousies, or loneliness. I felt just as worthless with pretty nails and new shoes.

Following Jesus requires us to read the scriptures, so that we know the truth. And, the truth is what will set us free to practice good self-care and to understand what it means to lose your life for Jesus so that you find it.

Jesus practiced good self-care. He went alone to pray when he needed it. Mark 1:35

Others needs did not dictate Jesus’ schedule. Although everyone was looking for him, he didn’t stay in that village and continue to heal, he left for other villages. He did the will of the Father, and that means he left some people to go to other villages. Mark 1:38

Jesus slept when he needed it, despite the cries of others. Mark 4:38

Jesus says no to his friends. In Luke 7, John the Baptist, who is in jail, sends disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? (Luke 7:20). Jesus gives John a great compliment, but does nothing to rescue him from being beheaded by Herod (Mark 6:14-29). Jesus didn’t save him.

Jesus doesn’t allow his family to interfere with the work that the Father has called him to do. Mark 3:31-35

Jesus points out, when some one is sinning against him. He doesn’t just let evil words “roll of his back”. Kindness isn’t always nice. Some people want to be nice and ignore sinful behavior. Jesus wasn’t co-dependently nice. He was kind. Matthew 12:33-37

All of these situations are difficult for those of us who want to be accepted and loved. Sometimes we feel like the more we do for others the more they will love and accept us. So we become yes people. The sad truth is that we lie with every yes.

If you say yes to some one and you really want to say no, then you’ve lied to them.

Jesus says let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything else is from the evil one (Matthew 5:37).

Practicing self-care takes rigorous honesty. Are we following Christ? or Are we just trying to get our need for love and acceptance met by serving others in the church? This falls into the category of manipulation. We are using our service and sacrifice as a way to manipulate others into loving, admiring, or accepting us. Serving and sacrificing are good things. We’ve been called to it. But, when we serve others with the wrong motives we become bitter, angry, and entitled. Ask yourself, am I bitter when some one treats me as a servant? Am angry when some one doesn’t treat me the way I want to be treated after I served or sacrificed for them? Do I feel like I deserve something for my service or sacrifice?

We need to learn to say NO, and yes, that may mean that someone you love may reject you.

Take the chance. God has called all of us to do good works that He has planned for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus said no to his family in order to fulfill those good works. Jesus didn’t rescue his friend. Jesus slept, prayed, and took time for himself to be alone with God. We can do all of that too.

Self-care is admitting why we feel unworthy, bitter, jealous, lonely, and depressed. In order to do that we must face the sins that we have committed and the sins that have been perpetrated against us. When we declare the evil acts committed against us as sin, we are speaking truth. The truth sets us free. Call it a sin. When we confess it as sin, Jesus breaks the power of the trauma. We release our bitterness and anger.

James 5:16 “Therefore confess yours sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

There is just something healing in confession. Some wrongly connect condemnation with confession. However, when we finally come to the end of ourselves, we stop trying to hide our sin and denying that we’ve been sinned against, we acknowledge the truth. The truth sets us free, releasing us from bondage.

We acknowledge that we are valuable and should be treated as valuable. We are not worthless. The truth is this…The person who treated us as if we were worthless, sinned. They were wrong, not us.

Release the shame of their sin.

We acknowledge that we treated ourselves as worth-less than what God created us to be. We sinned. We treated others less than as loved and valuable as God created them to be too. We sinned.

Accept God’s forgiveness.

If the Creator forgives you, be humble enough to forgive yourself.

Tip #4 Learn to say NO!

Jesus says, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” This means it is acceptable for you to say, “No, I can’t do that.”

It’s OK to say NO. We don’t even have to say why.  We are unique and valuable and God has good works for us to do, and no one, except God, dictates what those works are.

*The next post will be on acknowledging our uniqueness before God.*

Suffering, A Pathway to Holiness

Suffering, A Pathway to Holiness

Upon the mountain we seek,

Divine peace and comfortable rest.

But, in the valley we must dwell,

Where flood and storm keep.

Nothing will save us from the test.

Through swirling clouds and slanted rain,

We must walk.

Appearing in the fright of lightning, He came.

Our Savior walking by our side.

“Suffer with me.” He gently said.

“The raging wind weakens your pride.

The stinging rain carves away your selfishness.

Helpless in the flood waters,

Faith is fed.

Rage not against the manna, I send.

My body broken for you.

My blood spilled for your rescue.

Although, the storm you must endure,

My presence there you will enjoy.”

Tip #3 Examine expectations.

Examining our expectations of life reveals why we become anxious in certain situations. If we’ve been deeply hurt by important people in our past, we may have deep anxiety in similar situations. This means we must evaluate the situation for truth. Am I anxious because of my past? What am I responsible for? Is someone truly behaving badly? Or am I expecting to be treated badly?

Understanding our propensity to project our insecurities on to others will reduce our anxiety, when we take responsibility for our insecurities and weaknesses. We may not immediately feel relief from taking responsibility, but if are truly practicing self-care, we will be honest about our insecurities and weaknesses. The more we try to hide them, the more anxious we feel. Although, everyone has them, anxiety tells us, we should feel ashamed because we shouldn’t feel the way we feel.

Release the shame of having insecurities and weaknesses.

Embrace the truth that they do not make you a bad person. These are the very areas that God wants to use to show Himself strong in you.

Example… My biggest insecurity is that I am not lovable. Therefore, I expect people to reject me. I consciously take responsibility for this. I grieve the loss of what happened to me that created this insecurity. I allow God to reveal His strength in this area of my heart. I take hold of the truth,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8

If I believe this and I put my faith in this truth, then I am saved from not only my insecurity but eternally.

If a holy God, who can not look on sin, can love me, then I can accept that others can love me too.

Therefore, I am able to be loved.

If you would like help with this tip, please contact me. I look forward to helping you apply God’s Word to your life.

Love, Hate, and Manipulation

This is part 2 of the Self-Care in September Series.  For part 1, click here

In dysfunctional families, we feel like we must do everything for ourselves. Our motto is “Depend on self. If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

We are having a baby girl!

We begin the story of Isaac and Rebekah during the long struggle of infertility. 20 years, month after month, they waited. The stigma of infertility sears the soul. Imagine Isaac’s turmoil, like Abraham, believing that God abandoned them. Will God choose to bless a servant in his house to inherit the blessing? Is God rejecting Isaac?

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you: I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you,” (Genesis 12:2-3).

I can imagine that many infertile couples feel rejected or singled out for some reason to suffer. However, many of the people that God used in great ways were infertile or experienced a long period of infertility. I pray this brings you comfort. Infertility is not a sign of rejection.

The Bible records that Isaac prayed, and God answered. Rebekah became pregnant with twins. From the very beginning the two boys fought for first place. The pain of their fighting became so intolerable that Rebekah inquired of the Lord. His answer was,

“Two nations are in your womb, and two people from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23)

Before the twins were born their parents knew which one God had chosen to inherit His blessing. In this culture this was never done. The first born inherited the family’s wealth and land. However, this family knew they were special. They were set apart so that God could bless all the peoples of earth, but this doesn’t keep them from the dysfunction of manipulation.

When we believe, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me,” we use manipulation to get our needs, wants, desires, and wishes met. This family exemplifies this and the consequences.

Esau and Jacob were born. Isaac favored Esau because he was a man’s man. His appearance was big and ultra-manly, as well as his interests. He liked to hunt, and his dad liked to eat. Jacob on the other hand was content to stay at home among the tents.

Parents, let’s be honest. We tend to favor a child that enjoys the same things that we do. It’s not bad. We have similar interest. Problems arise when we are unaware of our behavior. In some families one child becomes the golden child that can do no wrong, and one becomes the scapegoat that can do nothing right.

In this passage Rebekah’s manipulation proves Proverbs 14:1,

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

She plans and then conspires with Jacob to steal Esau’s blessing from Isaac, resulting in Esau becoming angry and Jacob fleeing for his life.  Rebekah’s family was torn apart by her own manipulation.

Unfortunately, we do this also, when we use manipulation to get what we want. Like Rebekah, we don’t trust God to fulfill His promises to us, and we set out to get it ourselves. God promised her that the younger would be the son who would inherit the blessing.

At first, this stumped me. If God planned for Jacob to receive the blessing, then why did he have to sin to receive it? Manipulation of someone else is always wrong because the root is selfishness and pride. God resists the proud.

From Abraham to Jesus, God initiates and guides His plan of salvation to completion. He involves humans, but He is the only one involved in making the covenant. Jesus is the only one who died for the sin of the whole world. If we look back at Genesis 15, Abraham collects all the sacrifices and lays them out as instructed, but he’s asleep when God makes a covenant with him. God, alone, walks through the sacrifices and covenants with Abraham to fulfill the promise to make him into a great nation and bless all the peoples of earth through him.

The answer is that it didn’t matter which son Isaac blessed. God’s the giver of the covenant, not Isaac. Rebekah’s foolishness led to the division of her family.

May we apply this to our families today. May we see when we are manipulating our family members to get our needs, wants, desires, and wishes met. Facing rejection is scary. If we ask for what we need, we may be rejected, but the alternative is selfishly and pridefully tricking and controlling the people we want to love us. In the end, we tear down with our own hands the house that we want to build up.

Release the shame of having needs.

Accept the truth that everyone needs to be loved, feel safe, encouraged…etc.

Accept that everyone has limitations.

God made us with both needs and limitations, so that we would learn to depend on Him and create community among us. He calls believers family (1 Timothy 3:15). We are His children, and He has blessed us with some amazing things! (See Ephesians 1.)

 

Tip #2 Learn to ask for help.

Asking for help is not weakness. It’s BRAVE! When we learn to ask for help, we step out of denial that we are living as if we are a self-sufficient god. Only God is self-sufficient. We accept our limitations. We humble ourselves before another person. All these things take strength of character and wisdom. Only a fool thinks he can do everything on his own. Learning to ask for help is vital for self-care.

New and young moms, please know, that the older ladies in the church would be ecstatic to come over and hold your baby, so that you can mop the floor or get a long shower. Yes, God gave you those children to raise, and He has also blessed you with women in your life who want to help you raise them. Don’t refuse God’s blessings in your life. When we don’t ask for help, we are refusing God’s blessings of sisters, mothers, brothers, and fathers in our lives. These are the very people who can help us love the life we live!

Meditations: God is trustworthy.

A common struggle we all face is disappointment. From our earliest memories people let us down. Do you know how many birthday, Christmas, and special occasion cards I’ve bought, but didn’t send? I have the best intentions to let the people I love know how much I love them, and for some reason getting a stamp and walking to the mailbox is too hard for me. I’ve disappointed a lot of people.

Most of us have deep wounds from the very people who were supposed to protect us. We learn early not to trust people. We transfer this mistrust to our Heavenly Father too. We believe God failed to protect us or provide something we needed. Unfortunately, we often mix our expectations and God’s promises up, leaving us feeling like God failed. I’ve been there.

Sometimes, I wish He had a different plan of salvation. One where no one ever sinned against another, but that’s not our reality. Sin ravages our lives, and instead of placing the blame on the person who sinned, we give it to God. We have to let God off the hook. He never promises us that no one will hurt us. He promises to save us from this dark world and transfer us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1:13).

God is trustworthy. Everything He says He will do, He does.

God is trustworthy.

Think on these verses Mark 10:45, Romans 3:21-26, Ephesians 1:7-8, Hebrews 9:15, 1 Peter 1:18-19, 21.

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

The righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

There is no difference;

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because of His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.

He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

In Him we have redemption though His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a New Covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the First Covenant.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,

But with the precious blood of Christ a lamb without blemish or defect.

Through Him you believe in God who raised Him from the dead ad glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

My faith and hope are in God.

Self-care September… Yes, please.

Self-care September… Yes, please.

For most of my life I have tried to live as if I had no needs. I am strong, independent, and I can do it all myself. To have a need that we can’t fulfill ourselves opens us for someone to harm us or reject us. We must trust someone. These are scary things for some of us. So, we try to do it all, and it’s exhausting.

The truth is we all have needs. God created us with needs, so that we will continual seek fulfillment in Him. When we get hungry, thirsty, or sleepy, it’s a reminder to stop and thank the Lord for providing for us. One of the only miracles to be recorded in all four gospels was the feeding of the 5,000. We are all hungry souls searching for love, comfort, and fulfillment.

We are having a baby girl!

Good self-care starts with acknowledging that we have legitimate needs that we can’t always fulfill ourselves. Self-care September is dedicated to learning how to care for ourselves in godly ways that bring glory to the Lord and lifts high the name of Jesus in our lives and the people around us.

First things first. Let’s acknowledge family dysfunction that often leads us to neglect caring for ourselves or we may even over care about ourselves. Every family since the first family has dysfunction. Please resist the need to become defensive. The first family had a Perfect Father, who loved them and taught them perfectly. The children had never known sin, and Adam and Eve, the first children, still disobeyed God their Father. Adam and Eve handed down dysfunction to their children who in turn handed down dysfunction all the way to us. Jesus gives us a choice. We can continue to live in dysfunction, or we can acknowledge it, agree with Him that it is dysfunction, and receive healing.

Why I am not using the word sin? Because some of our problems are sinful, but some of it’s just dysfunctional. This is what I mean. If you can say yes to any of these statements, there was some dysfunction in your family.

  1. Guess what is normal.
  2. Have difficulty following a project through to completion.
  3. Lie, when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
  4. Judge yourself without mercy.
  5. Have difficulty having fun.
  6. Take yourself very seriously.
  7. Have difficulty with relationships.
  8. Overact to changes over which you have no control.
  9. Constantly seek approval and affirmation.
  10. Either super responsible or super irresponsible.
  11. Extremely loyal even when the loyalty is undeserved.
  12. Look for immediate rather than deferred gratification.
  13. Lock yourself into a course of action; no serious consideration for alternate behaviors or possible consequences.
  14. Seek tension and crisis, and then complain about the results.
  15. Avoid conflict or aggravate it; rarely do you deal with it.
  16. Fear rejection and abandonment, yet are rejecting of others.
  17. Fear criticism and judgement, yet criticize and judge others.
  18. Manage time poorly and do not set priorities in a way that works effectively for you.

What if God can heal our anxieties? What if we don’t have to live from crisis to crisis? What if we can enjoy the life we live?

All of these things are possible!

Learning effective self-care begins with facing the foundation of our dysfunction. A good life doesn’t just happen. It takes some work.

Maybe you’re like me, and you think that some people are just blessed with a good life because they’re lucky. No! They had different teachers that understood legitimate needs and responded to their emotional and physical needs in a healthy manner. Some where along the way some one broke the chains of dysfunction. Learning how to acknowledge my dysfunction, admit my faults, and seek healthy responses to the world around me has allowed me to love the life I live.

If this first post intrigues you, stick with me as we study the story of Esau and Jacob in Genesis 25-36. This biblical family’s dysfunction mirrors ours today.

Throughout September I will have a tip on how I reduce anxiety in my life.

Tip #1 Make a monthly menu for lunch and dinner.

I know the anxiety every night, “What’s for dinner?” Everyone’s hungry, and I’m tired. Sitting down and creating a monthly menu makes me stressed for one day instead of every day. I know you have heard the term mental load. (Mental load refers to the effort being used in the working memory.) Taking the time to write out a monthly menu takes lunch and dinner off your mental load list. After a few months of writing menus, you will have a reservoir of menu ideas. It gets easier after the first few months.

Please, don’t get bogged down on Pinterest. It’s a great resource, but if it makes you anxious just hearing the word Pinterest, know that you are not alone. Write out the meals your family typically eats. They don’t have to be fancy. Make it work for you.

The bonus of this tip is that you will find that you save money by eating at home for dinner and packing your lunch instead of eating out!

Meditations: Clean

Colossians 2:13-15

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us: he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

I am alive with Christ.

I am forgiven.

My sin is nailed to the cross.

I am clean.

When I think about these truths, I just want to shout and sing to the Lord. To God be the Glory for the great things He has done! Meditating on His forgiveness empowers me to face the challenges of this week with fresh faith trusting that my Father leads me and guides me to accomplish the good works that He has prepared for me to do.

These universal truths are open to you today too! No matter how far away we may feel, the One who Created us is always near. No matter how dirty we feel, the One who Saves us has made us clean in Christ. No matter how burdened we feel, the One who Frees us has canceled the charges against us. No matter how downtrodden we feel, The One who Triumphs has given us victory in Christ. May these truths dwell in our minds and pour out in praise and good works!

Check out this song by Natalie Grant, I am Clean

 

The Unfinished Story

The long night of grief carried me to places I never would have found, if God left my faith untested. The author of Lamentations writes of new mercies every morning, but in the darkness of loss: the loss of my child, my ministry, my friends, my first home, my job, many mornings came that left me bereft of comfort and unable to see God’s mercies at the time. If I was to make it, I had to take it one step at a time, one day at a time.

I allowed the pain of loss to wash over me until the torrent stemmed. Matthew 11:28-30 became an anchor for me. My Heavenly Father neither pushed nor pulled me through the sadness. He gently lead me through the barrenness of my soul. I learned the “unforced rhythms of grace.”

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

He never forces us to come to Him. The unforced rhythms of His grace guided my tattered, wearied self to a place of rest. For a time, He let me soak up His Word fresh and new like it was the first time I was reading it. He comforted me as I learned to simultaneously cry and sing praises to His name. Slowly, the dawn broke, and I, literally, started running. My husband and I ran a half marathon together, and we are planning on running the Flying Pig Marathon!

Running seemed to jump start my recovery. One may be tempted to think that it had just been enough time. As it’s been said, “Time heals all wounds.” This isn’t true. Emotional and spiritual wounds are much like physical wounds becoming gangrenous and septic. We begin leaking anger, bitterness, jealousy, and envy killing relationships and our own ability to experience freedom. Although, unaware of the origin, we become slaves to the wounds we’ve tried to forget about.

Recovery from our hurts, habits, and hang ups takes work. For me, I found a step by step discipleship program, Celebrate Recovery. It’s for everyone!!!!! It does take time, one step at a time, but we call it a journey because it never ends and we must do the work to get to where God is calling us.

As healing moved me through grief to flourishing faith I discovered Bible Journaling. I bought a simple pack of colored pencils and markers. I began doodling while meditating on scripture. By the time I was finished drawing and coloring, I had the verse memorized and more color and joy in my heart than ever before!

My story isn’t finished, and neither is yours! Mine didn’t end in grief, and yours doesn’t have to either. It can move through grief and loss! Now, I know that there are more hardships and griefs that will come my way, but I’m prepared. I understand that, if we allow it, suffering will wean us off the breast of sin, so that we can feast on the sufficiency found in Christ. Suffering can strip away besetting sins as we learn to depend on Christ.

Isaiah 43:2, “I will be with you when you pass through the waters and when you pass through the rivers they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire and the flame will not burn you.”

Acts 14:22, “…It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”

The promise from God isn’t that if you follow Him that you will avoid suffering. God promises that He will be with you THROUGH suffering.

Your story isn’t finished! Look in the mirror and see a person worth redeeming! Pick up the Bible and read it with your name in it. Notice, worth not worthy. If you look at yourself and see your failures, that’s OK, because your actions, thoughts, and behaviors have nothing to do with your worth. God decided we are “worth” saving. He’s the one who paid the cost. He did the work. And, through Christ, He frees us from being corrupted by the world.

If I can trust God to move me THROUGH grief to a flourishing faith, you can too! All you have to do is take one step today! Do it one day at a time. Remember to rest not quit!

The Joy of the Lord

Nehemiah 8:10 is a powerful verse.  It’s even more powerful when we know the context.   Like the nation of Israel during the time of exile, all of us face the consequences of sin in our lives. Sometimes  it’s our sin that causes devastation. Sometimes someone sins against us, breaking down the walls of our identity, confidence, and dignity.

The book of Nehemiah opens with him in great grief over the indignity of Jerusalem’s broken walls and burned gates. His sadness was so great that the King says to him, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” Nehemiah answers the king with such passion that the king allows him to not only go rebuild the walls, but gives him letters for safe passage and the resources to rebuild.

Now we may be tempted to skip right on over to chapter 8, but then we  miss the process of rebuilding. Just like rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, rebuilding our walls of identity, confidence, and dignity takes work. It’s a process of laying the foundation of truth, building  on knowledge, and testing faith. And, no one gets to skip steps. Builders who take short cuts make houses that fall!

We don’t want that!

We need to understand this verse in it’s context. So much happens before the Israelites where able to, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

First, Nehemiah grieved deeply.

Then he accessed the damage.

He dealt with many negative people, who mocked and taunted him, and when that didn’t work, they made up lies about what he was doing.

Then, he and the others left in Jerusalem worked hard. They slowly laid brick upon brick.

And, again dealt with the naysayers who said, “Will they ever finish it?” Maybe you are experiencing some of these naysayers saying to you, “Will you just move on? Just get over it. Push through?” Then be encouraged by Nehemiah’s reply, “May their insults by on their own heads…(4:4). Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, and fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes (4:14).”

Then he deals with the nobles, who were selling off their countrymen as slaves because they couldn’t pay their taxes! All the while, Nehemiah is working diligently to buy back the people of Israel. In our rebuild, we will face confusing situations that don’t make sense, but we must, “Trust in the Lord with all our heart, and do not. Rely on our own understanding; think about Him in all our ways, and He will guide you on the right paths (Prov. 3:5-6).”

After he dealt with more naysayers, they finished the wall, and “When all our enemies heard, this, all the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this takes had been accomplished by our God.”

Then more exiles returned. They took a census.

Finally, they read the Scriptures. They realized that they were to observe the festival of Booths., and Nehemiah and the Priests of the Law made the powerful proclamation to rejoice, to celebrate with food and sweet drinks.

If you know anything about the 12 steps of recovery, you will see these principles all through out the book of Nehemiah, which leads us to the great harm of Neh. 8:10. Let us be careful to do all the work, so that we can say, “Do not grieve today, because your strength comes from rejoicing in the Lord.”

Let us not fall victim to a false dichotomy. There are more options than either grieving or rejoicing. We can do both!

We are ALL at different places on the road of recovery. Some of us are admitting that our lives have become unmanageable and we need help. Let me rejoice over you that you have come to a place to begin the grieving process. Something bad happened and you need to rebuild. Some are dedicating their walls to the Lord, and for you, I will rejoice with you. For the person who is somewhere in between, I want to remind you that it’s okay to do both: grieving and rejoicing. It’s called resilience. If you are at a place to smile, smile for the Lord!

From Grief to Flourishing Faith

“Consider it great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2

I’ll never forget the day, when the Lord whispered gently to me, “The path before you is difficult. Many women walked this road before you, but now, it’s your turn to choose today to trust me in your trial. Will you trust me? Will you learn to find your joy in me, when the circumstances in your life are anything but joyful?”

4 years ago, after my fifth child was stillborn, I stepped onto the road of grief. Along the way, I have met many travelers enduring different trials, but we, together, found God. With every step, we endured life’s many griefs and lived the truths of James 1:2.

We endured! We lived!

In February 2018, I ran the Mercedes Half Marathon, and the next week, I started spiritually running too. The Lord said, “It’s time to write.” So, I started blogging again. Then, I wrote a devotional, Whispers of Rest in the Storm. A few months later, Energion Publishing accepted my manuscript and my devotional will be published in March 2019!

Since, the end of June the blog has been silent because I picked up a paint brush. It all started when I began doodling during my daily Bible study. Connecting the Word with being creative opened up a playground of healing with the Lord and His Word for me. I started having fun!

A few friends asked to paint with me, sparking brave steps of faith. What if I could combine my desire to teach the Bible and paint? What if the Lord wanted to use me to inspire others on the road of life to endure grief and consider that the joy of the Lord is their strength? Flourishing Faith Designs was born.

I am excited to invite you to come along with me on the journey of Flourishing Faith Designs!

Like the Facebook page for daily inspiration!

Check out the Flourishing Faith Shop on Etsy to buy a customized painting with your choice of scripture!

Book me for a night of fun connecting scripture with painting!

Need a speaker for your Women’s Ministry event? I would love to share the Word or my testimony of how God walked with me from grief to flourishing faith!

Keep reading the blog as I face new trials and grow in endurance as God continues to complete His good work in me!

Keep watch for Whispers of Rest in the Storm coming March 2019!

%d bloggers like this: