Hope

Get up and Grow

Somebody besides me needs to know this today: He loves you. He really, really loves you.
 One of my very first life-verses years ago was this one in Romans that says “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rules, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I have experienced a lot of skinned knees in my lifetime so far. I am sure that there will be other times as well. What I know to be true is that on skinned knees I can still kneel at the foot of the cross.

Ever had one of those moments or days where you keep hearing cute little sayings, quotations, motivational thoughts and even scripture where you just go “yeah, yeah, yeah” and sort of blow it off? Me too. 

What about the days where you HEAR them and you go, “YES! YES! YES” and brace yourself for impact? It’s these moments that bring me to my knees and also invite me to get up and grow. 

 There was a time when my mistakes or choices defined me; where I took on the brunt of the pain and responsibility for other people’s mistakes or choices as well. Then Jesus, and recovery and intentional choosing to not get caught up in the shit show of lies bouncing around in my head happened.

I have a tendency to overcompensate for just about everything, if I am honest. That used to be a coping mechanism used to avoid rejection, to avoid feeling anything and to avoid vulnerability. So when the opportunity comes up, I still once in a while find myself holding myself super-super-accountable to the point of self-sabotage. And then, I hear myself and the words of encouragement I share with other people about saying things like, “When are you going to give yourself some grace in this?” or “When are you going to forgive yourself for this?” and I am reminded.

Failure is not final. Falling down is not a sentence. Grace wins if we allow it. It’s not wise to sweep things under the rug, but once it is out from under the rug there’s no reason to keep beating the dust out of the rug. 

I consider myself to be mostly self-aware and also humble enough to know the difference when God puts me in a place to remember that on skinned knees I can kneel at the foot of the cross and still choose to get up and grow. 

At first light this morning, God continued to pursue me relentlessly to a point of wanting to scream at Him to stop loving me. That’s absurd, but it is what I was thinking. Him lavishing you and I with love is all He wants to do. 

So, wherever you are today, let me remind you of one other thing that I have to remind myself way more often than I thought I would ever need to: Repairing the damage starts in our own heads and hearts. Making amends will help. Self-loathing will not. 

Get up and grow, people. He loves you. He really, really loves you. 

Hope

Affirmed

You just never know when life will throw a curveball your way and recently I took a big swing at one. I am not sure, yet if I hit it out of the park or it stayed infield, but I hit the ball. 

I found myself choosing to make a choice instead of outweighing every.single.possible.scenario and to remember that no matter what, He was with me. I talked about it with some of my favorite people and when I did, I felt Him. 

Now, let me just say that I knew that the choice I was making was complex and that it could very well turn out with me asking myself, “Well, how many times are you going to put your hand on a hot stove knowing you get burned.” Instead, I felt empowered to choose and fully aware of the consequences of making a choice either way. I also knew that it could lead to some judgment, shame and rejection. 

Before, I stepped to the plate I chose to reach out and talk about what I was thinking about. I not only talked about it, I prayed about it. And although God did not give me a clear go ahead, what He did give me was “I go with you and there is nothing you could ever do that would make me love you less.” Not permission, but affirmation that He has never walked away from me when I have completely struck out. 

I felt affirmed in His love for me despite my weakness and failures. 

And I chose and I did it. And then I ran through a checklist (mental, emotional, spiritual and physical) to ask myself questions. Nowhere in that checklist was, “Why did you do that? You  know better?” and nowhere in that was, “You should probably not tell anyone about this.” 

The beautiful thing is that I am not attached to shame for this choice or any of the other previous choices or any of the probable poor choices I will most likely make at some point in my life again. Am I proud? No. Am I full of shame and self-loathing? Also no. 

When you break free of shame, and instead feel convicted you tend to do the next right thing. I did that. I did not hide. I did not pretend I didn’t do it and I most certainly did not put myself into a shame cycle. I made a choice and now I choose to live with the outcome. I cannot claim victimhood when I am the one who chose to swing the bat. 

I talked about it with the same trusted friends. And you know what, once again affirmed. Not necessarily affirmed in the choice, but affirmed in not only His love for me but their love for me. Graciously speaking the truth in love and loving me where I am. That’s more affirmation than I could ever ask for or deserve. 

But God, He redeems. He loves. And He gives us the opportunity to recognize His hand in everything including the times when we choose something that is not necessarily what He wants for us. 

And although I will still choose to take this one day at a time, I am both humbled and affirmed that I need a Savior, will never live up to my own standards let alone His. Thank you Jesus for your redeeming grace and mercy! 

As much as I am going to fail, with Him, I cannot lose. We win or we learn. With Jesus, we cannot lose. I am affirmed in my choice to be my whole, real, messy self and not hide from the pieces of me that still need work. 

Be good to yourselves today!

Hope

Authentic Friendships Part 3-A Game Plan

It is crazy to me, that most of us don’t really understand deep, authentic friendships until much later in life. We think we are grown up, and have it all figured out, and then we find out we don’t. Am I right? 

To kind of put a wrap on this three-part series, I wanted to share some ideas on how to choose to trust by choosing to trust. We have to move our feet. There has to be a game plan or an action plan. We cannot just talk about it, pray for it and dream about it. When God gives us the opportunities, we have to take that next step. 

It’s pretty commonly known that women are wired with deep emotional capabilities. That’s how we were created anyway. God made us that way and then something caused us to hide. Whether it was Adam and Eve, or more on top of that down the road through experiences and circumstances we all tend to hide a little bit even in our truest, most safe friendships. 

It is also pretty commonly known that we struggle with insecurity based on comparison and snapshots of someone else’s “great life” that we don’t seem to have, or maybe it is insecurity based on wounds from another person who hurt us in some way

No matter how the hurt originally happened we can choose to change, heal, grow, and kick Satan in the teeth. 

Shannon Swenson

This is a list of the 5 practices to experience change, when it comes to learning to trust God and others with our whole, glorious, messy selves. 

  1. Choose. Choose to change! Drown out the voices in our heads that tell us we cannot or go against the truth of what God has to say and take every thought captive. 

 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

  1. Connect. Choose to connect. Start serving somewhere, sign up for a Bible study with women, create a Bible study group for women, or meet for coffee.
  2. Confess. Choose to confess. Open up about how weird it feels and share maybe just a little bit from the deepest, most vulnerable part of your soul with a friend that you want to know better or maybe choose to go to a Celebrate Recovery meeting and get into an open share. If you are feeling really, bold (i.e. vulnerable) then go ahead and confess some of that sin and shame you are carrying around. Go ahead and talk about why you absolutely love to spend time with your closest people, but really need to have time to yourself, too. Go ahead and share with someone that you may not say yes, but it sure is nice to be included or invited anyway. It is perfectly okay, as a grown adult-ish woman to say things that help the little girl inside of you be brave!

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

  1. Commit. Choose to commit. Choose to keep repeating these steps towards change. Keep choosing to commit to yourself that you are going to walk into a community as part of God’s will and plan for your life and that you are going to stop slamming the door on those opportunities. 
  2. Change. Commit to change. While you are at it, go ahead and commit to the fact that God rarely makes it a straight path in learning to trust Him and others. It’s a dance that probably looks a lot like the cha-cha. It is not uncommon for it to be one step forward, and three steps back but commit to the change and commit to being changed from the inside out. 

Maybe it is old news to some of you reading this, but maybe we all need a reminder or a check-up once in a while. Okay, we do. We just do. Okay? Maybe this is something you really want to start praying about and you are ready to jump without that parachute we talked about in part 1 of this series and you are willing to trust the One who will catch us every time we fall. 

Hope

Authentic Friendships Part 2-Mary & Martha

A few days ago, we started talking about female friendships and began a conversation about authentic relationships with a brief look at the friendship of Ruth and Naomi. 

Today, let’s chat about Mary and Martha. I know that we look at this scripture and we compare the differences between the two sisters in how they handled themselves with Jesus in their presence. The end result being basically saying don’t get so wrapped up in the act of serving, instead maintain focus first and the One you are serving. You can read the whole encounter in Luke 10:38-42. 

In looking at these two women, we can see quite a bit about friendships and how easily the comparison game gets started. We can also see why God brings people that have different strengths and weaknesses together for a purpose. Which is exactly how female friendships operate so well, if we let them. 

Think big picture for a second. What Mary and Martha were doing was not bad. It is not wrong to worry and fret about the perfect Pinterest home or meal. Obviously, it is not wrong at all to sit at the feet of Jesus with your finest perfume. One of these things is good, and the other is better. The issue isn’t about the way we do it, it is about the why we do it and for whom we are doing it. 

So, let’s break this down. What are some of the the keys for authentic relationships?

  • True hospitality. Hospitality says, “Come on in the door is open,” when you have dust bunnies in the corners, dog hair on the furniture, and a week of dirty dishes in the sink. When we invite each other into our messy reality without worrying about it, we open the door for grace and the motive to be about the person-not the home the person lives in.
  • Hospitality from the heart says I love you as you are, not as you should be when we are emotionally or spiritually not in our best shape. 
  • Acceptance of each other’s different ways of coping. No judgment, no comparison. Just grace, gratitude and acceptance but too much love to let us camp out in our mess. Authentic friends speak the truth in love and tell us the things we don’t really want to hear, but need to hear. When that’s done, they invite you to stick around and make space for your messiness knowing that one day it will be their turn to receive the same.
  • Authentic friendships point us back to the source first. These friends will say things like, “Have you talked to God about that yet or are you just going to whine about it?” while they have a smile on their face, empathy in their eyes and arms wide open prepared for a hug.

Let’s talk about it: If this is something you are not experiencing, is it possible that the common denominator is you? Is it possible that instead of leaning into community, you are hiding from it in some way or seeing through a lens of comparison and insecurity?

Hope

Authentic Friendships Part 1-Ruth & Naomi

God created women to be highly emotional individuals with big feelings and a brain that never shuts off. It’s a thing. You cannot convince me otherwise. 

Because of this, I think we often have a miswired brain or past experiences that make it difficult to trust other women with our real selves. It takes a lot of intentional effort to learn how to trust ourselves let alone other females. I don’t know why this is, but I have theories. Lots of theories. 

Funny that God has the answers to all of the problems. He created us to be in community so as often as we attempt to shy away from it-hide from it even-He keeps reminding us that the only way to learn to trust is to trust. It can feel like jumping out of a plane with no parachute. 

If we cannot trust Him, then who can we trust? How can I not trust someone that gave His very life for me? Some days, simply because I am stubborn and afraid.

I think about authentic friendships in the Bible and who are some great examples of authentic friendships we can talk about.

Let’s talk about Ruth and Naomi for starters. There’s a lot to unpack in their relationship. The short version of their story is this: Ruth marries Naomi’s son, he dies, Naomi tells Ruth to go back to her people, Ruth says she wants to stay with Naomi, they build a relationship stronger than mother-in-law/daughter, and they help each other overcome challenges and celebrate each other’s good fortune. 

The short, but powerful, piece of the whole story most commonly known is probably Ruth 1:16. 

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

From the story of Ruth and Naomi we can learn at least three big things.  

  1. True friendship is other-focused more than me-focused. Their entire friendship started off with grief. Through the grief, they bond and Ruth sacrifices her time and effort out of love and concern for Naomi. 
  2. True friendship breaks boundaries of all sorts of differences. These two women were of different ages, races and religions but somehow built an enduring friendship by setting their differences aside and supporting each other in good times and bad. 
  3. True friendship brings us closer to God. Naomi is having a rough go of it and she still shared the love of God with Ruth. She ultimately led Ruth to Him whether she intended to or not. 

So how does this apply to you and I today? It applies to the transparent, soul-bearing, praise-lifting friendships that God wants us to have with our selected few. Our tribe. Our people. 

Learning to trust each other means setting down our own insecurities and sometimes selfish wants and needs. Sometimes we just need a good friend to sit in the corner and hold us while we cry and complain and moan about whatever hard thing we are dealing with. Sometimes that takes sacrifice and time that we did not necessarily have carved into our calendar. It’s what we do! Kindness cultivates kindness. Snot crying cultivates snot crying. Praise-raising creates praise-raising. 

Authentic friendships require us setting down the differences in experiences and life choices to see each other as beloved daughters of the King. These women have been divinely placed in our lives to help in the transformational change that can happen when we choose to be in community. These sisters are in our lives for a reason!

Real friendships not only bring us closer to each other, but closer to God. The real-deal sisters in my life will snot cry with me, bring shovels or bail money if needed, and will celebrate with me when the chains of insecurity, broken heart, disappointment, self-loathing (INSERT YOUR BIG ISSUE HERE) are loosened and finally broken. How do I know? I decided to choose to learn to trust. I jumped without a parachute, and at moments I thought I was going to die, but here I am. 

My prayer for you is that you have at least a couple of quality, authentic, God-centered friendships that God intended for all of us to have. 

If you have them, celebrate them! Reach out and tell them you love them just because. If you have not experienced this yet, what or who is holding you back?

Authentic Friendships Part 2 in the works!

Imperfect flowers, just like imperfect people are still beautiful!
Hope

Grace Over Grudge

I’ve been praying on and thinking a lot about forgiveness, my tongue, my thoughts and my actions when it all comes down to it. My own stuff. I have also had numerous conversations recently about the same things. 

Honestly, relationships are difficult but in times like today the difficulty level has been magnified. Admittedly, the issues existed long before THIS happened but for a lot of people it seems that the time has come to face the music. Even though I am not currently in a relationship, I still have time to reflect on my own past behavior and how even in just a normal everyday relationship (work, friendship, whatever) I still need to be aware of my own tendencies and conduct.

Our future destiny, as followers of Jesus, is determined by our present conduct. I want to be characterized by grace, not a grudge. How about you? I want to be characterized by grace for others and grace for myself when I did not and do not always do the right thing. How about you?

1 Peter 3:9 says this: Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were allied so that you may inherit a blessing.

In this scripture, Peter is really telling us to grow up and to not try to earn the blessing that happens when we do, but to instead receive it as our inheritance. It isn’t about the blessing, but the One who does the blessing. The One who extends endless grace time after time, and does not repay insult to Him with insult to us. Read this same scripture in The Message and it becomes plain as day. 

1 Peter 3:9 That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Insead, bless-that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing

Forgiveness is hard when we choose to hold a grudge. Restoration and reconciliation is nearly impossible when we don’t choose grace. Grace doesn’t say that what the other person has done to hurt me is okay. Grace says I will choose to see through eyes of compassion and tender-heartedness even when it hurts. Grace is what I want and expect others to give to me. How about you? 

Sometimes forgiveness happens in an instant supernatural moment, and sometimes it takes years and years and years to be able to forgive. He is right in the middle of both. 

I know I need to do intentional work to grow up in grace. I want to be known by grace, not a grudge. 

Hope

Like-Minded

Every single human on this earth wants the same basic things: to feel loved, heard, cared for, secure and safe. Every single human on this earth is wired to receive all of that through God, our Heavenly Father and lover supreme. 

We all have filters and character defects that sometimes prevent others from offering those things to us. We all have God who also offers the same things to us and is the only one who can get it right every.single.time.

In order to feel loved, we have to first be able to give and receive love. In order to feel heard, we have to learn to use our voice and also listen. To be cared for, we first have to care. To be secure and safe, we first have to find our safety and security in Him.

I love the idea that the same character defects that can be used to destroy, can also be used to bring life if we turn it over to Him.

Most of us have to learn all of this hardway. In learning it the hard way, it is a lesson deeply ingrained in me that I won’t easily forget. How about you? Do I have an occasional memory lapse? Absolutely yes. It is true that there cannot be light without darkness. 

I was thinking about the words in scripture found in 1 Peter 3:8 that say, “Finally, all of you be like-minded, be sympathetic, love on another, be compassionate and humble.” I landed on like-minded and camped on that for a bit. 

Like-minded? What does that mean? That I have to agree with everything someone says or does or believes? No, not actually. For me, it means like-minded in terms of basic needs and securities. 

What does that have to do with filters and character defects and all of that? Well, could it be that the person that we are in a relationship with is wired for the same things and needs and wants the same thing as us? Could it be that the person that is not using words towards me that are helpful, really needs me to help them bring out the words, thoughts and feelings that they are trying to share with me? 

Could it be that one of my many character defects (aka talents) could be used for His glory and my good? Yes. It is possible. For example: my filter of rejection and abandonment can cause me to hear things that you DID NOT say. If you speak that language, then you know what I mean. In other words, I hear past what you said and instead hear, “I don’t like you. I am leaving you. I don’t want to be around you.You are not safe with me,” Think bigger now, and think about communication gaps and how we can use that same exact thing in an upside down way to hear that the person is actually saying, behind the words that they ARE saying. 

I seriously do not have this all figured out, friends. I still have to go through a mental, emotional, spiritual checklist on the regular. I still have to ask for Him to reveal what is actually happening in my heart and head before I get all the more confused and butthurt. Seriously. 

Here’s my challenge for all of us. Grow to be more like-minded with Jesus in our thoughts and actions. Think and pray before we spout and say. Develop like-mindedness in all of our relationships as a result. Simple equation, so hard to do. Thanks for holding me accountable! 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Daring to….

Anyone out there get older and more experienced in life and forget that it is okay to dream? I know I have. 

How about forgetting how to laugh and be silly and free? Yep, me too. 

I think as we learn to adult and handle more crap, that we sometimes forget that it is okay to be a whole person. To be a healthier person, as it turns out, requires us to be a whole person. One that is bold enough to dream, vulnerable enough to cry and be authentic without fear of judgement of our inappropriate thoughts or behaviors at times. Now, I am talking about harmless and silly behavior, not radically not okay behavior so don’t come at me. 

When was the last time you dared to dream? When was the last time you spent wasting time doing exactly whatever you wanted that brings you joy, laughter, levity and stories that will one day be told at your memorial service? What are the embarrassing but worth it moments that you and your people still laugh about today? 

What have you tried to do that you have always been afraid to do. What kind of food have you tried? What places have you visited that were always on your list of “some day” that you finally got to see or experience? 

I will tell you one of mine: I recently learned that I actually like green olives. Random, I know. But I would not have discovered it if I hadn’t chosen to spend time with my best friend over a nice dinner cooked at home in the middle-end-whatever it is quarantine. The first time I dared to go outside the rules and just live for a minute. Can I get an amen? 

With other close friends and the willingness to be brave and laugh with each other: I have learned that one dear friend invested in some sort of contraption that you roll on your legs to minimize cellulite. I don’t know if it works or not, but the laughter in that conversation sure made it worth the cost, I am sure. For both of us. 

We can laugh about eyebrow waxing disasters, the challenges of plucking hairs from your face that should not be there without being able to see what you are plucking, and all of the times we snorted, laughed and were afraid to share because we thought we would sound ridiculous. We can talk about food discoveries, travel discoveries, and dream discoveries, too. 

People, we know that there are all sorts of other more serious and emotionally-charged topics we can dare to dream about it or ponder and conversate on. For just a little minute, can we chat about laughter and silliness and things that make you giggle? 

Your turn! What are some of your silliest or funniest moments and memories connected to daring to dream and laugh and be whole? Care to share? 

Hope, Keeping it Real

Where Are We Today?

Today, I am not sad or imprisoned by the full-on firehose blast of social media content and news content that shows us the images of division, despair, death and diversity all mixed into one bag. 

I have had conversations over the past week or two regarding the current social climate and how that is affecting our already emotionally drained souls (read COVID-19). I have not chosen to engage in most of what I am seeing and reading based on what I felt God telling me in my heart. I know what happens to my emotional health when I start getting wrapped up in the endless hours of non-stop immersion and connection to on-demand information and opinion.

I could hear Him telling me that a wise person holds their tongue. A wise person does not add gasoline to the fire or engage in conversations that there is no easy answer or immediate peace over.

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than him.”

Proverbs 29:20

I could also hear him telling me to shut my mouth when I felt judgment coming forth. Right after this all started exploding I saw a person that clearly believes differently than I do with outright blatant racism tattooed across their back. Boy oh boy did I have a few things to say and wanted to ask him, but instead chose to close my mouth and assume the best instead of the worst. 

I’ve heard him say shut your mouth, when I see something that is hysterically funny to me and also tone-deaf to the situation at hand. I have chosen to sort of keep my filter on, but instead, I have chosen to share that levity with a choice few safe people. Humor is sometimes better than the gross reality, and it is healthier for me to laugh a little than to slide into despair over things that are really outside my control. Mostly out of my control, anyway. 

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37

My mouth may be mostly silent, but my heart is not. My heart is in turmoil and also in peace at the same time. Anyone besides me just totally emotionally drained?

 It is exhausting to feel the depth of pain that our black brothers and sisters have felt and still feel today. When I try to think about how they walk out their door every day knowing they will be targeted for the color of their skin and how emotionally draining and scary that is for someone, it makes me want to vomit, scream and cry all at the same time. 

I am heartbroken for the police officers and their families that are lumped into the mess that one or two or five individuals that were or are police officers caused. 

When I watch people looting and rioting (different than peacefully protesting) and think about the depth of the frustration that they feel for whatever reason they are doing what they are,  I am both fascinated and disturbed. 

When I look for the good things that are happening in the middle of this mess, I have to search far and wide to see those reflections, stories and images. I don’t want to have to muddle through the anger, violence, blaming, arguing and generally ignorance to find them. That makes me sad, so I choose to not do either as much as possible. 

I know that none of this is new. All of this has been happening in one form or another for a long, long time. This is not new to Him and certainly no surprise. He has control even when it all feels and looks like it is out of control. Always,still and right now today. 

We can do better, and also join the fight to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I believe that starts with more listening to God and each other first. Listening before speaking. Pausing before posting. Hearing past the words and what the real message and truth is. 

Give yourself permission to feel the huge pendulum swing that this is bringing up in you. Choose where those feelings land, though. That’s just what I am choosing for my own self and maybe it will help you as well. 

I am choosing to disconnect, and really listen to what God is saying to me personally and how I can take action to continue to listen, learn and love better than I do now in all circumstances. 

What are you doing today to be part of the solution to your own personal response to this opportunity and challenge? Are you pouring fuel on the flames or are you sitting with Him asking Him what He wants to teach you in the middle? 

Uncategorized

The Gift of Choice


Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” Proverbs 16:20

God is not demanding or pushy. He tells us what will happen when we use the gift of choice to decide whether we follow His instructions or we if we choose to take the prodigal path. When you and I trust Him, when we choose to do what He asks of us it is not because He wants something from us, but for us. 

How easy is it to forget that there is power in the gift of choice? We can choose to trust Him with the whole of our lives, or we can choose to hold back pieces of it. Who am I to decide how much or how little the Creator of the universe can be trusted with? The things I think I can hold back or hide, He already knows about. In fact, He already knows that you and I are going to take a different path, the prodigal path, from time to time because none of us are as we should be. 

We have the gift of choice to listen to the nudge of the Holy Spirit; our advocate and power source behind all that we truly need in this life according to His plan.  But, if you are like me, I will attempt to ignore that nudge at times. I basically use my pride and/or strong-willed idea of what I think should happen and when as a way to try to outsmart the all knowing God. That’s not so smart, now is it? But let’s be real, if we are honest with ourselves there are so many times that we fail to properly use the gift of choice. 

He is faithful to tell us exactly what we need to hear, although it may not be exactly what we want to hear. When we listen, respond and repent from the things He has lovingly warned us not to do we are once again exercising our gift of choice. 

God chooses us every single day. No matter what. He practices the gift of choice every time we turn back towards Him, and loves us even when we don’t deserve it. My life, your life, is so much more abundantly full and blessed with what His plans are when we experience all that He wants for us through the choice to refrain or the choice to remain. 

The question is will you and I choose Him every single day? 

Let’s talk about it: How have you experienced an abundant life by following Him and doing the hard, but right thing? What hope can you share with someone who is struggling with something they should be refraining from? How can you celebrate with someone that is remaining the course, and following His instruction?