Do I really believe it?

“Do you believe that God truly loves you?”

Sitting across from my counselor, staring her down a bit, I thought I was ready to do the counseling thing.
I had read somewhere that everyone should go to counseling at some point in their life. So I thought this was a wise decision, especially after several anxiety attacks and this deep anger and frustration in my heart.
What I didn’t realize maybe was that most of the work of counseling is down outside that office, beyond the couch.  
It took me a while, but I realized that in order to begin healing, I had to start doing the work.  I had to do the homework, and challenge myself to open some of those partially healed wounds.  When I began doing that, God started to disrupt things.  He began to push me out of my comfort zone, to a place of uncertainty but profound freedom.
One of the first places he started was when my counselor asked me that question.

“Do you believe that God loves you?”
As a good Christian girl, growing up in the church, I knew all the right answers, I knew the right scripture to quote, I knew how to pray in a way to impress people, I knew the songs.  On the surface, I could answer that question.  I could say, yes, scripture says he does.
Scripture says it but do I—in my heart of hearts—believe it?  Do I believe that he loves me at a deep, soul wrenching, unwavering level?  Do I believe that He loves me, not just because he created me but because he truly knows me and is my Father?
At that moment, I couldn’t respond.  I didn’t know if I really believed that. That kind of answer scared me.  
See for years, I have been chasing this “Christian Life” that I thought I was supposed to lead. It looked neat and tidy, it was clean and simple.  However, I some how couldn’t achieve it,  couldn’t reach that level. 
I was always messing things up.  I couldn’t get up early enough to spend time with Jesus every morning.  I wasn’t disciplined enough, didn’t pray enough and had too much sin in my heart.  

Ultimately, I thought I made wrong decisions that led me down this path of singleness and loneliness.  I had somehow messed up God’s plan for my life and now I missed out on this “Christian Life.”
What I realize in typing all this out is that somewhere along the way, I got the idea that there was this one way to love Jesus, a formula for living the joyous Christian life.  
Slowly I am discovering that there isn’t.  God didn’t design us to all live in the same way.  In fact, our relationship with him is going to look very different, because he made all of us unique and special.  He made all of us one of kind, so our stories are going to be different. 
Unique is the way that he designed it.  He wove our DNA to be so very different for every person.  He placed us each in the womb, and knitted us together from the beginning. He is the great creator, ultimate artist. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV)
What is even greater is that GOD LOVES US for all those unique and special things he created.  Even when we mess up and sin, he loves us.  Even when we aren’t super disciplined and avoid him, he still loves us.  Even when we run, and try to hide from him, he loves us.


Nothing we have done can separate us from his love.  
Nothing we will do can separate us from his love.
Nothing this world will do can separate us from his love. 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor 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 ESV)

But yet we still continue to fight that thought, right?  

We still carry our guilt and shame around, thinking that he will reject us if he really knew. 
He already knows, he knew before we did, and loves us before and after and through it all. 
Friends…. Oh, how I want that truth to soak into my heart and yours.
I feel like I just scratched the surface on understanding this, and want to continue to the day I die, knowing and understanding his deep love for me.  

Because when I struggle to love myself or feel rejected by others, I need to be able to stand assured in his love.  Isn’t that an amazing concept, that on his love we can stand sure.  Because of his great love, we can live in broken world and not be torn down or shaken. 

Because his love is so strong, we don’t have to do it all on our own.  Ultimately that is the message that I cling to even when I doubt his love for me.  That he is stronger than my doubts, fears, and weaknesses.  

Friends, we can live confidently in is strength, his power, his grace, and his love for us.  I pray that you and I would believe that and when we don’t, we will run to him. 

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It won’t always turn out how you think

“Just enjoy where you are at.  Just enjoy this moment, let yourself soak up this moment and don’t think about anything else, but right now. Breath it in, this experience, this day. Just be still.”
Oh that is so hard for me.  It is so hard for me to not let my mind wander and jump to all sorts of conclusions, because I am that girl.  The one that jumps to the worst possible scenario or five steps ahead.  (Can I get an Amen!) I have always been that girl, leaping ahead instead of just living in the moment. However, I have learned a few things about myself in these last couple of years.
It won’t always turn out how you think.
Ladies and gentlemen, this year didn’t turn out at all how I thought.  It took a while, but I have finally found my sweet spot.  After years of rolling around in a weird awkward tension of not yet, but already adult hood.  I have found the spot where my soul is at rest.
I started this year with the theme of REST, thinking I have been so exhausted trying to figure my life out.  Trying to dream new dreams, have hope again after some major disappointments and despair over life. God did that and more, not only did he teach me to be at rest in him, but he also taught me how to wait for him alone and put all the longing onto him. 
God gave me strength to finish well, to finish strong, to go after things that I wanted and not deny that where I was at was not okay.  He gave me permission to be confident in the skills and talents that he has given me, he opened the doors.  He gave me strength to let go of insecurities and fears and run forward.
As I stepped into a new role at work, and a new place to live, God stirred other things in my heart, he pursued me, he drew me near him, and showed me how much he loves me.  

He revealed how much I hold up walls against him, only fearing his judgment and anger.  But instead finding, a Father whose love has no match or end.  A Father that has never abandon, given up or just tolerated me, even at my very worst.  (Oh, and there are so pretty bad moments.)

Friends, never have I felt at ease with God as I do now.  Not to say I have arrived, (I used to think that everyone else had and I would never) or that I have figured it all out, because there are certainly things that are still confusing and anxiety ridden.  However, my trust in the one that knows how it all ends is stronger than ever.
After reflecting this last month on how God has transformed my life and my heart, my heart is bursting with excitement to see what he does in this next year.  I already feel it.  His doing more than I can ask or imagine and I can’t wait. 
Oh, I serisouly can’t wait, to see the lives he changes, to see how he would change this world, bring justice, and peace.  I can’t wait to meet the new people or find myself in new places.
With all this to say, my theme for this year is to Be Present and to Be Joyful. 

Too much of the time, I spend in the past or the future, but I want to be here, right now, and leave the rest to Him.  I want to be in the moment and really live for now, this time that God has put me in.  I don’t want ot look back in 10 years and long for this time back too much or regret not enjoying it more.  I want to know that I lived this moment, this season to its fullest. 
As for joy, God has renewed the joy within my heart in a myriad of ways and I want to share that with those around me. Joy of salvation, eternal joy, joy of a hope unseen, all of it! 

I work in a job that is easy to forget the joy, because it is hard on a daily basis and we need joy. We desperately need it and our students need it too!  I want to be known as a the joyful one.  I want to be known for my joy.

Friends, my challenge to you is to set your minds and hearts forward in hope and joyful expectation in how much God can change in year.  He is without bounds or limits, nothing is impossible for him. 

The Problem We Can’t Fix

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It isn’t the answer, it isn’t the fix for the problem.  The baby, the boyfriend, the success, the promotion, the accolades, your grown children’s lives.  It isn’t what will make everything better.  Maybe for a brief moment.  But not really for the long haul.
In discussions with friends in longing, in waiting, in pain, wanting something to happen, wanting God to change the situation, I hear the whisper, “The answer you want isn’t the answer you need.”
Those things that we want aren’t the solution.  I know it, to the depths of my soul, I know it.  I know that those things that we expect, hope for, wait for, and want so badly,  the circumstances we want to change, aren’t what we need at all.
God knows this.  It isn’t like he is an angry parent, holding out on us just to punish us.  He is the opposite.  He is the loving father who is going to give us exactly what we need when we need it.  
He knows our hearts long for things, for good things.  For things that we place in a higher priority than him.  But sometimes that is why he doesn’t give them to us.  That is why we wait.  I like to think that all knowing God, has more of an understanding of what I need than I do. 
More than anything else, he longs for us to depend on him first.  To look to him for the solution, for the supply of our every need.  More than we long for the kid, the house, the relationship, he longs for us to put everything we have in him, to place all our bets on him, and go all in.  
He longs for us to depend fully on him, to look to him before all else.
Not to say this always looks like this in people’s lives, sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because we live in a broken and fallen world. But often he keeps us in waiting, so that we know what we are actually waiting for.  
I see it in Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Moses, and all over the Psalms. You see it in so many stories in the bible, and the bible as a whole. The waiting and the longing for a fulfill promise, waiting for Christ to come. 
And in this time of year we feel it more, don’t we, the longing, the waiting. This season highlights the unanswered prayers, the hurts, the longings in our souls. 
Sure, a change in circumstances might ease the longing for a while.  It might seem like everything has lined up, but that feeling of discontentment will come back, the longing for the child might be replaced with something else.
Ultimately, it means that I can certainly place my identity in my circumstances, but my circumstances will change and then my identity will be shaken.  I need to place my identity in something that will not change, that is the same then, now and forever.

So, I am not waiting in this season of singleness, so that I learn how to be a good wife, or get my crap together, but because He longs for me to depend on Him, to throw myself in Him.  So that I won’t confuse the answer to my prayers, so that I will know that it is him that answers and not I as the one in control.
Friends, it is possible that we long for good things, we long for things that God could and will give us eventually.  But in that longing and waiting, that is where the transformation of the heart takes place.  

With or without the answer to your prayers, He will still be the same God and He loves you no more or less.  
More than anything he longs for our hearts to be turned to him.  He longs for our lives.  In his perfect understanding, he knows what takes our hearts and lives from him.  Those things that we want so badly, easily draw our hearts away. 

Friends, I write this because I know.  I know what it looks like to long, and wait, and hope.  I see it in the lives of loved ones, the longing, the waiting, and the hoping that today will be the day that the prayer gets answered. 

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”


Psalm 62:5-7 ESV

BUT God in his perfect wisdom, will take care of us in that longing, just as he did Abraham, and the Israelites, and many others.  He will give us exactly what we need and exactly the right time.

Lies with too much power

“You are ugly.”

Those words too long held power in my life.  I believed them.  I believed that those words spoken by an immature, thoughtless 5th grade boy were true.  At that age, I didn’t consider the source, I believed it named what everyone thought about me. For an 11 year old, fighting for some sort of identity, a place in the world, figuring out how to dress for her body type that was continually changing, these words stung.  

As a semi-well adjusted almost 30 year old, I still feel like that 5th grade girl, anytime I get ready for a date, dress up for a fancy function.  I fear that everyone in the room is thinking what that boy said out loud. 

If I am honest, sometimes, when someone does compliment me on my appearance, I don’t even hear them.  I think they are lying, just being nice, or even just humoring me.  Those words from so long ago, have such a strong grip on my heart, that anything anyone would say now, falls on deaf ears.

In my head, I know that those words weren’t even true.

They were flippant words that the boy doesn’t even remember saying.  (Believe me, I have asked.  I now happen to be related to him. Long story.) They were words that were said out of carelessness. 

However, the enemy uses this lie and others to debilitate me over and over again.  The enemy knows my weaknesses, my sin, my desire for others to approve of me, to be liked, and to be enough.  This lie and many others can paralyze me and make me ineffective and to hide from God. 

The one that has been hitting me hard lately is:
“You will be alone forever.”


Okay, so there are obviously so many things wrong with this lie. On good days I can see right through it, and carry on.  But on days, when I drive away from an event all by myself, or another friend gets engaged or starts a relationship, this lie comes to a head and I become a sopping mess. 

We all do it, we have those lies that haunt us on our bad days.  We have those words that we easily believe because life is hard or isn’t turning out how we thought.

Those lies hold a lot of weight when we are disappointed or rejected.  Those lies grip onto our thoughts and our lives in powerful ways.  Maybe, ike me, they cause you to act crazy or irrational.

Funny thing is that when I start to measure that lie up against scripture and what God has to say about my life, the lies become weak.

“I am afraid.”
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  -Isaiah 41:10


“I am not enough.”
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. – Zeph. 3:17


“I am not important.”
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – Psalm 139: 13-14


“It is hopeless.”

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the rightous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.  He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.               -Psalm 34:17-20

God left us with clear scripture that tells us the opposite message of this world. 

The lies sometimes look like truth, sound like truth, and come from people that maybe also speak truth.  The enemy gets sneaky and wants to debilitate those that would glorify the world.  

As I reflect on the last couple of months, my head and heart are heavy.  Not just for the lies that I have been believing but for those that are still unaware of the lies that they hold on to.  My heart is heavy for those lies that are being screamed from the rooftops, through print, social media, and through each other.  

Friends, let us name those lies for what they are, lies, and speak truth, life, and hope into each others life. Let us come back to God’s words to us to help us.

One final truth to leave you with.

Because HE loves me.

When all seems lost and confusing,
…….He gives us direction because He loves us.

When we mess up and try to cover up
…….He knows, draws us near and still loves us.

When are drowning and feel like nothing goes right
…….He rescues us because He loves us.

When the waves keep coming
…….He gives us an anchor, because he loves us. (Hebrews 6:19)

When the darkness surrounds us
…….He gives us a light because he loves us. (Psalm 18:28)

When feel empty and have nothing life
…….He fills us up because he loves us.

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)

When we are alone and weary
…….He provides for us people and himself, because he loves us.

When we are trapped by anxiety and fear
……..He storms the gates because He loves us. (Psalm 18)

As my soul is thirsty to hear every day, our God loves us to a depth and width and breadth that I will never fully comprehend.

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Many are the things that tell us that he doesn’t.  The world is drowning out the truth in our hearts.  The darkness, the hurt, the injustice, the anger, the loss, the grief, fights to crowd out His truth, that He loves us.

We are quick to say we are sinners and deserve God’s wrath.  We see the sin that we are capable of on a daily basis.  We are surrounded by it.

But are we quick to remind ourselves and each other that HE, the God of the heavens and the earth, the God of Abraham and Jacob, the commander of the Sun and Moon, loves us?

Are we quick to remind each other that above all else, he first loved us?

We can quickly name off the thing in our life that say otherwise.  But when we start with his love, perhaps those things will look different.

In my singleness, loneliness, I can be quick to think that God has forgotten me, that he doesn’t love me.  But when I say He loves me enough to give me this time, this season to learn and grown closer to Him.  To give me rest and knowledge of him so I am first His before anyone else’s.

In our unanswered prayer, we can say that he doesn’t hear us, that he doesn’t want to bless us.  But when we first say He loves us, those unanswered prayers look like our dependence, our reminder that he is the giver of ALL things.

In our trials, we can say that he has left us alone and made our lives hard.  But when he say he loves us enough to provide opportunities for our community to love us.  He makes a way for us to see his Church as a helping hand.

Friends, are we quick to see Him as a God who first loves?  


Far from perfect blog post

This is the least perfect thing I will write.  It maybe won’t make sense to you, or have errors.  Or it might even be completely out there.  You might even think it is terrible and close your browser after the first paragraph.  That is fine.  I am not offended.  (Maybe I secretly am, but that is the beauty of the internet right, I don’t have to sit next to you, while you read something I wrote.)

Confession: I am a perfectionist.  

Sometimes in the most unhealthy way.  It usually manifests itself in fear and anxiety and inaction.  There are many things I stop doing because I know they won’t be perfect.  I don’t move or act on a desire or idea because I know it won’t turn out perfect.  

So why even try? What is the point?

I long to put these thoughts and ideas on paper.  God is working in my heart in crazy ways and I don’t know how to process without writing.  But I am trapped by fear.  



I don’t want to misrepresent myself.
I don’t want to others to misunderstand.  
I want to be clear.  
I want what I have to say to be just right.
I want to be well thought of….applauded for my righteousness.

Except, because I am messy, and broken and an so far from perfect, anything I write, won’t be perfect.

And that’s okay. Or I would like to fully believe that it will be okay. (Probably don’t yet.)

Perhaps you are like me,  paralyzed by fear, disappointment, unbelief and doubt.  

As a Christian, all of those things seem like completely opposite of what my life is supposed to be about.

Except it isn’t. 

Those are all realities that we will face in this life on earth.  James even talks that it isn’t without purpose.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)


James is crazy, right?! I don’t know how anyone that finds joy in hard things…..or trials.  Those that are experience harder things than I, most likely wouldn’t use the word joy to describe their lives.  Hard things suck.  Trials suck.  Brokenness sucks. I don’t want those things. 


So why do I think that I am above those realities, those hard things, those trials, because those produce the thing that I want most, being made perfect? Why do I think I shouldn’t experience those things?  Probably pride, and a myriad of other issues.  (All of which are under examination.)

I am not a perfect believer.
I am not a perfect teacher.
I am not a perfect roommate, friend, or sibling.
I am not a perfect woman, or future spouse. 
I am not the perfect runner or healthy eater.
I am not the perfect single.

I am far from all of perfection in so many areas.  And I have to stop thinking of perfection as the pinnacle that I will never reach and sit in a muck of self-pity.

So why do I write about this?  

Other than being a verbal processor and needing to get the words out of my head.  I write because I need to declare to myself the reality that I am already free from the trap of perfectionism.  

He has already made me free, he has loosened the bonds.  Even further he knows my imperfections, in and out, to the depths of my soul.  And loves me still.

He knows we are not perfect.  He loves us still.
 (That’s even harder for me to fathom on most days.)


Friends, the part that strikes me to the core is that even in the midst of my messiness and failures God has not given up on me.  God has NOT looked at my messy, confusing, imperfect life and walked the other direction.  He remains with me, in the mess and gunk and promises to continue to work with me.

I pray and claim that I want God to rule and work in my life, but I don’t think I am prepared for what that means.  So if I want God to transform my heart and soul, I better be ready to shed the shackles of “Perfect” and be ready to be messy.  


Do you struggle with perfectionism?  What are truths that you cling to when the bonds seem real?  Do you struggle to believe that God loves every part of us?  Share with me in the comments.  I could use the encouragement.

Freedom

The sound of fireworks started early this morning.  The store was full of people stocking up on BBQ foods, and ice. (You always have to have plenty of ice.)  Driving down the street almost every yard has a flag in it.  It’s July 4th, people!!  Yay freedom!! 


Shooting off fireworks, having BBQs, exploding with your patriotic ideals.  As if America wasn’t enough of the loud 2nd cousin, we have to yell from rooftops of the world to make sure everyone knows that we have our independence. 

In the midst of the revelry, this day also is a reminder about the other kind of freedom.

As I sit here in an air conditioned restaurant, as a single woman, alone, eating a delicious fresh meal and drinking soda.  I have a lot of freedoms that many all over the world do not.  I own my own car.  I have a job, and my own bank account.  I go about my days as I please.  

Sure there are days, when I long for my life to look different, you know, with a husband and kids. However, there are days, when I can spend my time in coffeeshops and restaurants, and not have a care in the world.  When now one is looking for me, when I don’t have to report to anyone, that I feel free, untethered.  I enjoy that feeling.

However, I think about often, as I am physically free, my soul was once a slave.  I once was entrapped by sin and caged.  Because of the cross, I am really free. I am no longer a slave. I am free, even more so, I belong to the Lord.

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Gal 4:7

This is often forgotten in the midst of my busy life.  I bustle around filling my time, thinking that the busier the holier, I am.  Suddenly, after saying yes to everything, I find myself enslaved to my schedule, to various commitments that I don’t actually want to have anything to do with.  

Then I find myself enslaved to technology, because I use it at various moments to escape, avoid the busyness.  I even can be enslaved by that untetheredness.  I am enslaved to that freedom ideal that our society preaches.  

I even find myself enslaved by my idol of approval, by my desire to not cause waves, fear that I have somehow messed up my life. 

We enslave ourselves without even realizing it. 

If we aren’t careful, we will find ourselves enslaved just as easily to the things that were once part of our freedom.  The only way we can be completely free is in the one you invented who gave up his own freedom from our sake.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. -Gal 5:1

How I long to experience the true freedom in Christ on a daily basis, not ever falling back into the entrappings of the world. I long for the kind of faith that makes those cages resistible. Even more so, I want to be the kind of woman that knows what freedom in the Lord tastes like, so I don’t run back to the cages of sin.  

Sure, we can go on and on about the freedoms we have in this country and goodness knows that we are so blessed to have the freedoms that we do, but in that freedom we believe the lie that our American freedoms will be enough.  Those freedoms will never satisfy that spot in our soul that longs for eternal freedom, eternal life with the one died to make us free. 

What do you find yourself enslaved to and how does that prevent you from experiencing freedom in the Lord?

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