A Vision Of An Ocean…

ocean

(FreeImages.com/L.M.)

This past week, I have felt burn out, exhausted, depleted…

Perhaps, I am the only one, but somehow I doubt that.  My guess is that many of you, my friends, are feeling the same way.

I have been feeling this call to enter into rest and this sense of God shifting things in my life, preparing me for something.  This morning, I felt a familiar fear rise up — a fear of suffering.

I recognized the god whose feet I have sat at so many times — the god of comfort, ease, and the familiar.

I began to quietly call out to God and to turn to Him.  It was then I saw a “vision” or “picture.”  A “picture” might be a more acceptable term for most.

This is what I saw and sensed…

I saw myself “blown” to the ocean.  I stood on the shore, where the waves break.

There’s a mist enshrouding the shore, the horizon, and myself in a soothing blanket of peace.  I am the only human in this place of quiet grays and whites.  Feeling a gentle wind and the smooth, cool sand beneath my feet, wet from a recent wave…  Feeling refreshed, sensing peace, and the calmness of the ocean.

I look down, seeing seashells and reach down to toss one back into the waves.  The thought immediately comes to my mind that my life feels like a seashell that comes on shore for a short season, leaving an impression in the sand before the next wave washes it away.

My fear of being insignificant stares me in the face.  I want to be more than the seashell that leaves a temporary impression.

In the quietness, He speaks to my heart. I feel His gentle authority as He shows me that I have been focused on the temporal life because that’s the broken perspective — the perspective that sin brought in the Garden of Eden.  He reminds me that eternity has always been in my heart and that I was created for eternity.

When looking at the temporal life from eternity’s perspective, I suddenly see that the temporal is like a wave, but eternity is like the ocean.

“But what is one seashell in the middle of an ocean?” I ask.  I sense His response:  “The seashell was made to be carried in the embrace of the ocean of His love.” Human admiration is like a wave.  It comes and goes out to sea, tossing a little seashell about and convincing it that it was made merely to be seen and picked up on a seashore to be collected and admired.

I sense Him speak to me again: “You were not made for the praise of mere mortals.  You were made for the crescendo of Heaven.”

“You have felt tossed about by the waves because you have stayed upon the shore, seeking the adulation of the shore and the temporary excitement of each new wave.”

“I have not called you to live where the wave crashes, feeling my love reaching your toes and swelling to your calves at times.”

“I have called you to step into the depths because the depths you fear are actually the ocean of my love.  Why do you fear the ocean of my love?”

“Because to experience it, you must let go of trusting yourself.  You must let go of the false things you think keep you safe.  You are afraid to trust me fully and thus keep yourself from fully being embraced by my love.”

“What you are trading is your fear for my love.”

“Trusting me is to actually be embraced by my love — not my abandonment or your suffering.”

I weep, knowing that what He speaks is truth.  …recognizing how the lies have twisted my perspective so that I have accepted the broken instead of His love that heals me.  I have feared the wrong thing and sought comfort in the wrong things.

There is a pause almost… infinite stillness.  I sense He is letting me process through the truth of what He just spoke.  There is no urgency, no push to make a choice.  There is simply the calmness of a waiting breath — the empty space for me to listen and respond.

I find myself looking at the shore again, but it seems further away, still enshrouded in mist.  I am still standing in the space between the shore and the actual ocean — caught between two worlds — not feeling that I fully belong to either.

The shore is what I have always known, but it is no longer as appealing.  I feel my heart longing for the ocean, and I suddenly see myself with strong strokes swimming in the ocean.  Where I am going, I don’t know, but the purpose does not appear to be the destination.  The purpose of my swim seems to be the fearless courage to swim where I have never swam before and to swim as I have never done before.

It’s almost like diving into the ocean actually caused me to swim.  The ocean of His love became the reason for the strength of my strokes.

I am swimming not to survive but because I am fully confident that I can swim now.  I have never known such freedom.  I, who have sat on the shore, watching other swimmers and fearing the power of the waves can now swim.  I am fearless in the ocean — the ocean of His love.

In this ocean, there are no sharks or stinging jelly-fish.  I am free to swim.

I am still swimming with strong, sure strokes, amazed as I test my strokes.  I am shocked by the ease that my arms cut through the water with each stroke.  I swim not for any other reason than the wonder and exhilaration of being free.

I have never felt so free!

The ocean is no longer shrouded in grays and muted whites.  It is now a beautiful sapphire blue.  I am surrounded by light.  Joy is all around and in my heart.  I have become a reflection of what surrounds me.  There is joy on this side of healing.

I have no other goal than to simply be — to be the full expression of who I was created to be, dwelling within the fullness of His love.

I see myself swimming, and the thought enters my mind: “What happens when I grow tired of swimming?”

“Then float,” comes the answer across the ocean.

So often, when I become weary or fear the end of my strength, I swim to shore and climb out.  I become convinced that the ocean is too big of a risk.  I forget that I only learned to swim and was capable of swimming in the ocean of His love.  I forget that I am not the source of my strength. I am merely the conduit of His strength.

It is my fear of failing that causes me to quit, to step out, and I leave aching and empty — caught between the shore and the ocean.

I feel the ocean beckon to me again. I want to feel the freedom and strength, flowing through me.  … the ridiculous joy!

I hear His quiet voice let me know that the ocean is there, waiting for me… when I am ready again.

Then, when I fear His disapproval because I left the ocean for the space between, I look up and see Him walking towards me.  He reaches out His hands, and I take them.  He clasps me to Himself, and I weep in His arms.  I weep for the fear that so often has held me back.  I weep for the loss that my own fears have brought me.  I weep because I didn’t trust Him more.  I weep because in His arms, all is comforted and calmed.

I am not alone.

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.

Zephaniah 3:17

Working Through Pain…

Heart In Your Hands

(FreeImages.com/GavinWood)

As I was wrestling through the events in my own life and an event that happened last night, a few more truths were revealed that I wanted to share.  Enjoy or be challenged (in a good way).

When there is a battle within that you have not fought and won, you will always have a misapplication of that tension.

Because of that tension, you will fight battles that you were not called to fight or fight them in the wrong way.  (For example battling parents, siblings, teachers, friends, etc…)

Even a lot of video games will give opportunity to reveal this battle.  One of the main attractions to video games with continual battle scenes is the euphoria of feeling victorious.

We are called to be victorious, but we will make an idol of the fight — specifically the fake ones that provide us with relatively easy wins — when we feel that we can’t win the real battles.

Let me repeat that.

By taking easy wins, we hope to avoid the battles we feel we can’t win (the real ones).

One of the biggest obstructions to our healing is the fact that to heal from the pain, you often have to face the pain.  You have to face the pain, acknowledge the hurt, recognize any lies that have attached themselves to the painful event, and then be willing to release the pain.

Especially guys won’t deal with pain because they feel that acknowledging it makes them weak.

Vulnerability feels like weakness.

Because many offenders have taken advantage of vulnerability to wound us, we become programmed to the lie that all vulnerability is dangerous because it equals weakness.  The key here is the word all.

It takes great courage to face your own pain, sin, and finally be able to confront the lies that attach themselves to the pain.  It takes courage to grieve the losses and the hurts.  It takes courage to face the fears: fear of failure, fear of rejection, and fear of abandonment.  It takes courage most of all to face your own failures and sins — your own wrong judgments.

It’s so much easier to see everyone else’s faults and to call them out.  This is why we become hyper-sensitive to the weaknesses and mistakes of others.  The root we have neglected to deal with is our own junk.  We are using our own guilt to judge another as guilty.

At the root of judgmentalism is misplaced guilt or fear.

To walk free of the pain, you have to be willing to release it.  Strangely enough, as much as we hate the pain, we often have a love-hate of it.  Over time when pain is what we have always known, we begin to forge wrong identities and worth around our pain.

By mentioning the need to release pain, I am not saying we rush into this stage and that we are immediately ready to release it.  I am not saying it’s your fault if you are feeling pain.

I am simply saying that at some point, you will need to release the pain in order to walk free from it.

I have had to leave some Facebook support groups for this very reason.  It became obvious to me that by staying in that environment, I was constantly being dragged back into the muck.  For a time, it was healthy to be able to recognize the pain and the reality of my experience; but staying there became unhealthy for my eventual growth and healing.

Can I encourage you with this: as much as it is painful to work towards your healing, healing is possible.  It is possible to finally reach peace regarding your past.

Depending on where you are on your journey, I know that referring to healing can actually be painful to read.

I remember when I was nursing my first child, and I was dealing with constant pain from thrush and other issues.  I remember when my mom tried to encourage me by saying that nursing can be such a bonding experience.  Because of where I was at the time, I remember snapping at her.  The thought of someone calling my experience “good,” when it was so painful at the time, was offensive to me.  Over time, my body finally healed, my child and I made adjustments, and I finally did experience the bond that my mother had mentioned.

When we are in pain, it’s hard to see past our own pain to healing on the other side.  In fact, when you are in pain, somehow healing and freedom sound like more pain.  The promise of healing seems to emphasize all the more the reality of the pain with which you are presently dealing and the hopelessness you are feeling.

Try to be patient with yourself.

Healing is not typically instantaneous.   There are stages to our healing and even layers to it.

Just know that your healing is worth the investment.

How Once We Trace The Trail Of One Lie, We Begin To See How It Is Connected To More Lies…

hemp yarn

(FreeImages.com/S. Schleicher)

This morning, I wrote a blog post about healing that still needed to be done in my life.

Apparently, there was even more healing for today because God revealed more to me since even this morning’s healing.

It’s interesting how as you unearth one lie, you find a trail to another lie.  I have learned to not fear the discovery though because it’s a discovery that leads me to freedom.  

How do I know it’s freedom?  Because I have known the choking hold of pain, fear, anger, bitterness, and bondage.  I know the difference of freedom because it tastes like a peace and joy that cannot be humanly-manufactured.  It has nothing to do with the latest gadget or short-lived joy over a new purchase or experience.  It has everything to do with relief.

The thread of lies unraveled to the latest one.  The lie was at the root of the fear of risk.

Just this past Monday, I heard clearly from God that I had a fear of risk.  I saw that I didn’t see myself as a pioneer or inventor.  Yet, in my heart there was a desire to be fearless and to leave the legacy that all pioneers and inventors leave.

God showed me that this desire to leave a lasting legacy was a good thing.  It was eternity in my heart.

The question though I had to ask was, “What is at the root of this fear of risk?  Why do I fear risk so much?”

I know the trail of lies will lead me to unearth more, but what God just showed me was the idol I had made out of “me time.”  Let me explain before this is misunderstood.

Of course, I am not saying we can’t have “me time” and that it’s bad in itself.  What was not healthy was the idol that I had made out of it.  The reason?

Because during that season of pain and darkness that I spoke of in my earlier blog post today, I had almost no “me time.”  I was overwhelmed.  So, the lie I began to build in my heart was that I had to protect “me time” at all costs, just in case… to make sure that I would never return to that state again.  Even if I was doing well, I was guarding my time like I was Gollum in “Lord of the Rings.”  I didn’t trust.  If I felt that anyone was threatening “my time,” I became defensive, annoyed, irritated — even to those that I love the most.

God began to show me that He was the protector of my soul: mind, will, and emotions.  Today, I prayed to release this idol to God.  I began to see how many ways that He restores my soul, and that I don’t need to fight for it.  I can just embrace how He embraces me.

Time to refresh can be necessary and good, and I don’t feel guilty to take time to refresh.  The lesson here though was that I don’t need to fight for it or to make an idol of it.  I don’t need to fear that someone else’s need will cause me to lose myself.  I don’t need to fear needs or messes.  I don’t need to fear the crowds, representing all the needs.

I just need to keep centered in the love of God and simply rest in Him.  If I am full of His love, it will naturally flow to others, but I will never run dry when I am constantly under the “faucet of His love.”

How Pain So Often Blinds Us To The Truth

Aleo vera

(FreeImages.com/Sergio Roberto Bichara)

Yesterday while standing in my kitchen, I had that moment of unexpected revelation.  It was regarding a season that started almost 14 years ago now.

The season I was recalling lasted for at least seven years, though it varied in intensity at times.  It was a season of life that I would always call, “…a time of great pain and even darkness.”

There were times during that season that I felt I was suffocating — completely overwhelmed — though keeping a smile on my face at most times.

I remember the times though of feeling like I was screaming on the inside.

I remember asking God the question, “Where are you?”  I felt abandoned and left to myself to fend for myself — to hold it all together.  Yet, I knew that I was merely a thread away from losing it all together.

I remember the guilt too.  Afterall, I was a Christian, and “Christians are supposed to have it all together, right?”

Without spending too much time rehashing the old pain, I have always referred to that time as a time of darkness and pain.  Even the house in which I lived was dark and depressing in the winter and hot and suffocating in the summer.

Then entered the season that started seven years ago when God began to do a deep healing in my life (and continues to do so).

It took awhile to get there, but I remember when I finally had the courage to ask God where He was when I felt all alone.

I didn’t ask Him the question for awhile because I was too angry and even more so, too afraid of His answer.

I remember how when I finally asked, His answer came and began to heal so many splintered pieces of my heart.  Immediately after asking Him the question, the verse came flooding into my heart, “As a mother comforts her child so I will comfort you.”  He then showed me a picture of me sitting on a rocking chair holding my babies, but instead of it just being me and my babies, I saw that He was rocking us all.

Years passed, and I thought that I was completely healed from that painful season until yesterday…

Yesterday while standing in my kitchen, God suddenly spoke to my heart with such simplicity but profound clarity.  He told me that I was still afraid of that dark and painful season.

I was afraid of being overwhelmed like the past — of sometime, somehow feeling that same terror: of feeling all alone and completely incapable.  I was afraid of abandonment and failure.  Fear.  It was the biting jaws of fear still nipping at my heels that I feared.

The fear of the past indicated that there was still a string attached to my past and therefore, I could not completely walk free.

As soon as I recognized my fear, I cried out to God.  His response was spoken with such gentle authority.  He reminded me that I am not the same person.

Part of the pain of that season was because I did not know who I was.  I did not truly know Who He is.  Part of the pain was because of my wrong identities and the pressure I put on myself because of what I did not understand.

God then spoke healing words over me, letting me know that I will not go through that season again because I am not the same person.  

This morning, God then opened my eyes to even more truth, which ushered in more healing.

I had been comforted by the picture and words that Jesus was with me, but I remember struggling with why there were not tangible proofs of His presence with me during that season.

This morning, the memories came rushing in, and suddenly I was confronted with the tangible reminders of how God had helped me.  Because of those tangible ways, I never did lose it all together.

Suddenly this morning, my heart was flooded with gratefulness and even repentance for how I had been blinded to God’s provision.

I began to remember Miss Shirley who would find nice things in others trash and would wash and clean it up for my family: the brand-new coat and scarf that all my boys would wear, the brand-new shoes, the clothes for Jonathan and I, the household items and food…

I remembered Jean B. who bought two beautiful outfits for my third little boy.  I remember the beautiful outfit she bought my oldest so that he matched even her own grandson.  I remembered her love and acceptance and how she even watched our kids on occasion for doctor appointments.

I remembered Sean’s grandmother who bought Christmas gifts for our little boys.

I remembered Jessica who bought beautiful outfits for my second-born and who bought Christmas gifts for our boys at least one year.

I remembered Michelle who passed on clothes and shoes to me and who didn’t need to but exchanged babysitting with us so my husband and I could go on free dates.  I remember her friendship during a lonely time.

I remembered Danielle who came straight to my house after long days of teaching to watch my kids for half an hour so I could fix our house and pack to move.  She did this for several weeks even though she had three littles of her own.  That half hour was my sanity hour, and I felt that someone cared.

I remembered Tracy who thought I was an amazing mother and how her belief in me somehow comforted me even though I felt unworthy of it.

I remembered my mom who helped as much as she could though we lived a distance from each other for a portion of that dark season.

My heart began to overflow as I suddenly saw how God had been there all along.  The pain in my heart had allowed lies to enter, and as a result, I was blinded to the truth all along.

The truth is that I was a good mommy, though hurting and broken.  The truth is that God had brought people all along to help — people who offered just the hand we needed at the moment we needed it to keep me from completely breaking.

The truth is my belief in God was not anchored in a fairy tale.  The truth is my belief in God was right all along.  He hadn’t let me down.

It was my fears and the lies that had let me down.

God then began to show me that even my precious children were a constant reminder of the truth.  My oldest son’s name means protector.  Every time, I looked into his face, I was to be reminded that God is my protector.

My child that came at a season when I felt weak and insufficient has a name that means “strength.”  He was a reminder that God will send strength to me in my time of need.

My child that came in a season of great pain and darkness to me has a name that means “light-bringer and healer.”  God was reminding me that He had sent light and healing into my darkness and pain.

My child that came towards the tail end of that dark season has a name that means peace, fellowship, and grace.  God was telling me that the peace I craved, the fellowship that I was missing, and the grace that I didn’t understand because it was a mere theory to me was something that He was getting ready to explode within in my life.

A new season of healing was ushered into my life about the same time as the conception and then birth of my final child. His name means “Strong man of God.”  He is named after the one who proclaimed that God had come as “Immanuel” — that God had come to dwell among us.  It was that season where I finally understood the love of God and encountered His love personally in such a way that I am completely changed, even today. 

God indeed is my God, and He indeed dwells with me in love and fellowship… in peace and grace… in strength… in light… with healing… and I am who I am because He is Who He is.

“Happenings” With God…

I know… It’s a peculiar title, but there is a story to tell…

This summer, we knew that we wanted to visited my brother and his family, who live in Ireland.  There was no guarantee that they would be living there after this fall.  We also knew we wanted to give our kids an amazing learning experience.  Plus, we have only a few more years while our oldest kids are even home to travel with us.

Once we decided to give it a try, we had to plan around my brother’s schedule, and our own schedule.  Plus, there was weather to think about, most cost-effective times to travel, and finally preparations to make.

We had to buy Passports for the kids, and thankfully, I began the process as soon as we decided to travel this year.  We would wind up traveling two months before we had originally planned.

We also applied for our business credit cards and began the process of making all our necessary purchases on the credit cards so we could earn the many points for booking flights.  As a result of these cards, we were able to gain 180,000 miles plus our over 40,000 miles we had at the start.  That gave us 220,000 miles, which translated into plane tickets for our entire family, rental car, and a hotel.

On top of that, my husband just “happened” to Google for cheap plane flights one day and found us unbelievable rates for flights to Ireland.  We were able to book flights for $1000 total for all 7 of us to fly to Ireland!  We actually could have gone cheaper, but we paid for $200 extra to insure our kids would have seats next to us.  After we booked, the amazing deals quickly disappeared, as the 747 Boeing issue happened, and Norwegian Air no longer offered amazing deals from the little known airport in Stewart, NY.  It’s just as if God saved that deal just for us.

When we booked our first AirBnB in Ireland, it seemed like an amazing deal: an entire house for less than $80/night and breakfast!  Plus, it had WiFi which is almost unheard of in rural areas in Ireland.  Within two weeks, our reservation was cancelled.  At that point, very few options were available.  Hotels were costly and booked.  Very few AirBnB’s were available — especially for our family size.  We then found an AirBnB which “happened” to be only 5 minutes from my brother’s home.  Plus, the host gave us 20% off.  It had WiFi, had plenty of room for our family, and had breakfast items.  We were thrilled!  The first place we had booked was 45 minutes from my brother, and later, we would find out what a nuisance that would have been.

When planning our trip, we had a range of about three weeks we could work with so we began to plan the order of our trip, based on cheapest costs.

As we planned, we realized that once you get to Europe, there are many cheap flights from country to country so we decided to make this the trip of a lifetime with our kids.  We used points to book flights from Ireland to Germany and to book our rental vehicle in Germany.  Once in Germany, we found an AirBnB that was central to four countries so we could take day trips and visit them all.

We stayed in Austria and from there, drove to Switzerland and Lichtenstein one day.  Another day, we drove to Germany.  Finally, we spent a fantastic day touring in Austria.

The best flights were then to take a flight home from Paris back to NY.  That meant that our daughter got the desire of her heart to see Paris.  We used points to book our flight to Paris and our hotel in Paris.  We then used public transportation to get around Paris.

As we prepared for our trip to Europe, I was incredibly excited but also scared.  I knew that things could go wrong when you are novices traveling in a foreign country, and we were attempting this with five kids and no travel agent.  I remember praying, “God, I just need to know you are with us.”  I knew it was a silly prayer as I knew theologically that God was with me.  In response, I remember God kept giving me the verse in Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

It was amazing how many ways God showed how He was looking out for us!  For example, originally, we were trying to find a place to stay in the center of Paris but couldn’t find anything reasonable.  We just “happened” to find the hotel with our travel points, and it happened to be close to the Eiffel Tower but outside the city.  Little did we know when we planned our trip, that demonstrations would be occurring the day we flew into Paris, and that it was a good thing we stayed outside the craziness.  By the next day, the demonstrations were over, and we had a perfect day to tour.

When we flew into Germany, while we waited to get our rental vehicle, my husband just “happened” to be standing next to a guy who told him that we needed to buy a special pass before we crossed into Austria to avoid fines.

We just “happened” to plan a “staycation” at our AirBnB on a day that I wound up with a fever and was glad to have a quieter day to recover.

We just “happened” to be upgraded to a larger van in Germany, which at first seemed like a nightmare.  The upgrade wound up being a huge blessing, as it provided ample space for luggage and extra wiggle room for our kids with so many hours in the van.

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We just “happened” to get a rental van in Ireland with extra room for our luggage — something that is uncommon.

When we tried to leave Ireland, the rental place tried to accuse us of damaging their van.  Thankfully, my brother had warned us beforehand that this is a common practice and how to handle the shysters.

We just “happened” to be touring St. Gallen, Switzerland, when there was a street festival with special music and foods.

We just “happened” upon gorgeous historic blocks in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and in Innsbruck, Austria.

We just “happened” to have gorgeous weather for the days we toured the various cities.

My husband just “happened” to catch a thief trying to pickpocket his phone in Paris.

There were so many blessings — so many ways that God showed that He truly was with us!

Traveling as a family was incredibly special!  The timing was also perfect as our oldest three were a huge help with luggage, keeping an eye on our things, and helping to give piggy-back rides to our littlest member.  Plus, our littlest people are not napping, potty-trained, and able to walk a lot.

The kids did amazingly well with missing hours of sleep while traveling!

Highlights from our trip were the opportunities we had to minister to people in various countries.  One situation happened in Ireland.  We were walking through the extensive gardens at Bunratty Village and came upon an elderly gentleman that had fallen.  There were staff on-site, and they thought the gentleman had broken his neck.  I asked if I could pray for him and then asked the gentleman.  I was given permission.  After praying for him, the staff had tears in their eyes and thanked me for praying.  I was thankful that I could help to bring comfort and peace to the poor gentleman!

The second situation was in Paris.  There are many homeless in Paris, but in this particular encounter, my husband and I, individually, both felt strongly from God that we were to stop and reach out to the fellow.  We did stop and talk to the guy and were able to encourage him, help him a little, and pray with him.  It was definitely a moment that we will remember.  Our kids graciously were okay with us taking the time though they were exhausted, and it was late.

In preparing for our trip, we discovered some items that made our trip easier.  They are the following:

We used this great little zip-up pouch to hold all of our passports:

We used this great pouch to hold all our electronic cables and chargers:

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We used this inflatable neck pillow:

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We used this battery pack for charging cell phones when touring all day:

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We used this converter for helping with mainland Europe and also in Ireland:

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These were great for hours on the road and on flights:

 

This was handy for keeping our money and important tickets safe:

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We used one checked bag.  The rest was carry-ons that needed to be very light as each flight had different weight requirements.

Here are some of our favorite pictures:

Ireland:

Lichtenstein:

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Switzerland:

Germany:

Austria:

Paris, France:

 

Why Our Freedom Will Always Come By Way Of The Cross…

Freedom Rock

(FreeImages.com/KimberlyV)

As I was praying this morning, the Lord put on my heart two actual spirits that are an issue in this current age. The one is the spirit of rebellion, and the other is the spirit of wicked imaginations/impurity.
At the same time, God has also been calling me into greater holiness within my own life.
A number of years ago, God was not focusing as much on holiness within my life though the healing He was bringing me was definitely connected to His holiness.  At that time though, I was not at a place to focus on just holy living.  I had to first focus on God and my understanding of Him and relationship with Him had to change.  Back then, I needed to know that God loved me unconditionally. Without that heart revelation, I would only be living from human moralism which results in pride, judgment, shame, and/or guilt. So long as I lived independently from Him because I did not understand the unconditional aspect of His love, I would be living to gain His approval and thus living apart from His grace and power. I would be trying to live from my own self and blinded by it. God had to completely change my understanding of Him and my relationship with God before I could move forward in my walk with Him.
Now that I understand in greater measure how much God loves me, when He reveals areas that need to change, I don’t hear condemnation. Instead I hear the voice of my loving Heavenly Father who adores me enough to call me into greater intimacy with Him, and greater intimacy will result in my desire to let go of anything that hinders my soul and is not coming from Him.
God has been lovingly showing me the “little” areas that need to change. I think how easily it is to excuse those, but then, there is the verse that says, “…the little foxes spoil the grapes.” It’s the little sins that we excuse that are what bring us into bondage and set us up for failure in the bigger areas.
Last weekend, I was talking with a lovely woman, and she said that God first raised her up to understand her position and inheritance as His beloved daughter, but now, God is asking her to go “low.” I, too, have been hearing that. My desire is to have a heart attitude of obedient yieldedness to God, where I allow Him to renew my mind and to heal me from within. 
Going “low” simply means that I am living in a heart posture of yielding to God and complete rest in Him.  My heart becomes like a finely tuned instrument that responds to every note that He plays so that “our” unique melody is heard.
Freedom never comes from going our way and doing things our way. Freedom is only found in the cross of Christ and what Jesus purchased for us.

Our freedom had a cost, and the cost was Jesus.  

 

Am I Still A Good Parent If I Messed Up?

 

“Am I still a good mother if I have messed up?”

Growing up, I dreamed of being a mother and raising many babies.  It truly was what I wanted.

I almost wrote, “It truly was all I wanted.”  It’s interesting how a simple defining word can change the meaning of a sentence.  Sometimes, I hear the timid apology in the middle of the sentence — the attempt to justify the fact that I can be content with simply being a mother.  Even, the word “simply” though is diminishing the impact and importance of the calling to be a mother.

As many mothers can testify, there is nothing simple about being a mom and raising children.  In fact, parenting will involve every part of you — physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

There is no job that has brought me to my knees as much as raising children — five people that I am responsible to help shape into whole, healthy individuals.

There is no job that requires me to be so selfless, so giving, so patient, so wise, so gracious, so humble, so forgiving, so creative, and so loving, above all else.

Then, you factor in that we are all still a process of God’s grace.  We still mess up at times.

When we mess up as moms, which we all do at times, the question some of us ask is, “Are we still a good mom?”

Most moms want to be the best mom to their kids.

It’s interesting how we complicate parenting  — how I complicate parenting…  There are definitely life skills my kids need to learn, but sometimes in the pressure of all the other details, I forget the most important two things my kids need above everything else: to be generously loved and to know how much God generously loves them.

I have a dear friend who is such a beautiful reminder of this truth just by how she lives.  Actually, I have two friends like that.  One mommy friend has seven children, but she wildly loves her children and lets them know that every. single. day.  My other friend has two kids, and I just love to hear how she speaks life and love into them every. single. day.  These two moms get it.  They don’t feel the pressure to run their kids to this activity and that activity.  Instead, they do things like let their kids play in the dirt, splash in rain puddles, cuddle with a pile of books, pet animals, and ride bikes.

Somehow, in our desire to be the best mom, we have so often turned parenting into a list of places to take our kids, activities to plan, and paid lessons for enhancement.  We spend our time chauffeuring our kids instead of actually engaging with our kids.

As a mother of older children, there is an adjustment that happens.  They do have more activities, and they don’t want to cuddle on our laps or play in dirt any more.  Yet, teens still need time just to sit and chat.

What our kids want more than anything else is our love.  

My one friend (I mentioned earlier) also wrote in her Instagram account, #kissingontheporchswing, that our kids also want to know they are liked and loved. 

I wonder if our constant driving from activity to activity is conveying the wrong message?  Does our busyness allow us to relationally connect with our kids?  Does our busyness somehow inadvertently convey to our kids the wrong message that somehow we don’t want to simply be with them?

It’s actually okay to simply like to be with our kids — not that there’s anything simple about it.  It’s that we are content with motherhood.  We are fulfilled in being a mother.

I am entering the autumn season of raising some of my kids, and I am feeling it.  I miss those days of playing in the rain with my now oldest kids, sledding down hills with my once-little boys, and watching them play for hours in the dirt and with bugs.  Those were wildly, crazy days — insanely exhausting and emotionally-depleting days.  Those were also days when my kids were happy with the simplest things.  Those were the days of sweet, innocent childhood and when all that my kids wanted was my love.

What happens though if we have not been always loving?  Are we still a good mom? There are some reading this who have truly messed up in big ways.  Your kids are now adults and expressing all their emotional baggage from the ways that maybe you messed up in your parenting.  Your heart aches for healing and the ability to forgive yourself.

I was struggling with this very question the other day because I am not the perfect mom.  I tried to be the perfect mom for so long, but that whole description is a false one.  There are no perfect parents.

Some of you don’t feel you are bad parents, but you wonder if you are a good parent.  “Am I a good mom?”  What defines good though in the sense of parenting?  There are some obvious good and bad parents, but what about the parents that are doing a lot right, trying their very best, mess up, fess up to their kids and to God, but still sometimes mess up?

I was asking God this question, and He spoke to my heart this truth: “Your children will be given the opportunity to experience my grace just like you have.”  In other words, God was telling me that just like God has given me His grace for the areas in which my parents were not perfect, He will also give my kids the grace to heal in the areas that I have failed them.  

The reality is that we all need grace.  We need to repent of our idols of perfection which are pride and fear-based, and we need to first recognize that we need Jesus.  We need His grace.  We need it for us and for our past wounds, and we need it for our kids.

Our kids need grace and need to see us live in the reality of grace — that it’s not perfection we idolize, but it’s grace that allows us to repent, to change, to forgive, and to release.  It’s grace that allows us to be okay with the healing process that God is doing within us.  We don’t want to stop or force the healing process before its ready because of our own impatience.  We don’t want to be in love with a “perfect work” instead of the Perfecter of our lives.

Jesus, alone, is Perfect.  True perfection is only righteous-based, and that is something Jesus alone can do within our lives.

…So, repent, release, forgive, and heal, but this is a work that only God can do in your life.  Let Him take control of your healing.

 

Hearing God And Knowing His Will…

Stethoscope

(FreeImages.com/AlaaHassan)

Perhaps one of the biggest questions Christians have today is, “How do I know the will of God?”

Some believe that they should just wait for an open door (and hope that it is God’s will).  

The problem with that philosophy is that not all open doors are necessarily for you to walk through.  The Bible even says that “Broad is the way that leads to destruction…”  In other words, there is an easy and “open path” that might not be the right path that God has for you.

Without diving into this topic too deeply today, I wanted to share a conversation that I had with one of my kids (a teenager) this morning.

My child wanted permission to do something.  Because I wanted to give him more responsibility in the decision-making process, I replied: “Your Dad and I are not always going to be around to tell you what to do. You need to begin to exercise your ability to hear. In order to follow Him, you have to know how He is leading.”

This child then expressed that it is difficult to always know what God is saying. I encouraged him to read his Bible and to listen to what God is saying. I also told him this important truth: “If you want to hear from God, then you need to be ready to obey Him immediately and fully.”

I share this because I wonder how many times we, as adults, have struggled over what we are to do next, and the issue is not with God’s desire to speak with us. The issue is with our desire to actually listen and obey Him. Let me repeat that.

The issue is with our desire to actually listen and obey Him.

Sometimes, that next thing we are to obey is to repent of a wrong heart attitude on our part or to release forgiveness to someone else.

Repentance and forgiveness are two important keys to unlocking our ability to hear.

Sometimes, it’s repenting of a lie that we have come into agreement with that is blocking our ability to hear. So often lies about God will cause us to not listen because we are afraid of His answer.

2 Corinthians 10:5

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

We can give “lip service” to wanting to know God’s will, but if we are afraid of His answer, the reality is that we often are not actually asking Him.  We are merely hiding behind suggestions and pretensions.

Isaiah 29:13

13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Matthew 15:8-9

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[a]

The issue with not hearing God’s voice is a matter of our willingness to even hear. 

Our willingness to hear is often connected with our trust in God.  Trust in God is always connected to the truth of our understanding of the heart and character of God.  If our view of God is twisted in any way, our trust will be affected.

Hebrews 11:1

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Hearing from God is about our willingness and yieldedness to Him. It is not about some “magical formula” for hearing.  Let me repeat that.

Hearing from God is about our willingness and yieldedness to Him.

The Word of God will always give you the foundation for hearing because it will help you to recognize the voice and tone of God. Sometimes, the voices we thought were God were other people falsely misrepresenting God to us. Sometimes, the voices we have heard are from the enemy of our soul, and sometimes, the voices we have heard are from our own destructive self-talk.

Ultimately, hearing from God is about relationship with God first and foremost.

John 10:27

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

Letting Go of Shame…

Freedom

(FreeImages.com/DavidSimmonds)

How is it possible that a Christian woman who strove to live her whole life to follow Jesus and who could write a research paper and preach countless sermons on the grace and salvation of Christ could not seem to let go of shame?

It does not matter whether the shame was over some major sin or whether it was over feelings of inadequacy and the failure to live up to a standard of perfection.  All that matters is when you feel overwhelmed by shame — when its weight seeks to crush your soul.

Have you ever cried out repeatedly for this burden to be removed, had people pray with you over the burden, and been able to name it and its cause but still not been able to let go of it?

Sometimes, the greatest challenge of a Christian is not in knowing the truth because we often know it; it’s in the living it out — the believing it.  As I have written in countless blogs over the years, what we believe is actually what we live — not what we profess with our mouths but what we profess with our lives.

I remember that Sunday, worshiping the Lord — my heart overwhelmed by His Presence.  Within that atmosphere of the holy awe of God, He began to speak to me.  What I first saw with my spiritual eyes was Jesus holding out His hands to me.  I then “heard” (in my heart) Him speak to me: “[my name], are you not tired of carrying your pain?”

I had grieved plenty for my sin.  It was not a question of repentance.  A wise friend pointed out to me that I seemed to feel like I had to really grieve — to really prove my repentance.  She recognized that I was putting the work of forgiveness back on myself — by my ability to repent or the measure of my repentance.  Subconsciously, I was thinking that somehow I had to reach some high standard of repentance before I could be free.  Of course, I new theologically this is not true, but what I knew did not matter as much as what I actually believed and lived.

I was trapped by my shame — overwhelmed by the pain of my imperfections.  The only thing good enough was perfection to me, and I could never measure up.  In fact, I failed abysmally at this standard and thus walked with crushing shame.  The crazy thing is I knew the truths behind all this!  I knew not to idolize perfection, and in fact, I had experienced breakthrough in this area before.  The thing is, I still had more breakthrough.  I still had an area where I could not experience freedom because I was still not ready to let go.

I thought I was ready.  I cried out to God for release from this burden on several occasions, but I did not understand the root of my bondage until Holy Spirit revealed it to me.  That Sunday when He showed me His hands and asked me if I was tired of carrying the pain, He showed me that I was carrying the pain of my failures because I was trying to punish myself.  

When there is an area where we cannot seem to walk in victory, there is always going to be a lie at the root of it and often an area of pride surrounding this.  Why do I say this?

  1. Because truth overcomes: “… and the truth will set you free.”  
  2. Because pride sets us in opposition or resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit and to the work of grace (God’s power and righteousness made available to us) within our lives.  “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  

If you are struggling in an area of consistent failure, ask yourself what the lie is or where there is pride attached to that area.

Without realizing it, I was trying to “serve penance” for my failures by holding onto my shame.  I wanted punishment so I refused to let go of my guilt.  This was all happening without me even realizing this is what I was actually thinking and that this was truly at the root of my problem.

Pride was all over this.  Pride will always cause you to resist forgiveness, grace, freedom, and the kindness and goodness of God and others.  Pride is independence at its heart and the desire to be your own savior, your own protector, your own provider, your own perfection.  It will lead to this odd combination of hating yourself because you are unable to measure up to your own standards of perfection and yet operating independently from God and others.

Note: Independence from God and others is often related to the mistrust of God and others.  That mistrust often stems from hurts experienced.  Lies entered our minds on the heels of that trauma, and we accepted those lies in our pain and confusion.

Once I was finally ready to truly let go of my shame, I was able to simply surrender it to Jesus.  As simply as that, He took the shame and pain from me — never for me to see the shame and my failures again.  Instead, what He spoke to my heart was that He would bring “beauty from ashes” and that He would redeem it all.  Someday, He would show me what He had forged from the ashes.

Friend, I know that I was led to write this today because someone is reading this today who needs to be set free from an area of failure.  I don’t care how big or how small the failure is, the only way to be free is to be set free.  “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

What Are You Seeking?

You will find what you are seeking.

What are you seeking?

What you seek will orient the direction of your steps.

This applies in good and bad ways. If you are seeking trials, you will find them. If you are seeking offenses, you will find them. If you are seeking failure, you will find it. If you are seeking arguments to disprove something, you will find it.

On the other hand, if you are seeking God, you will find Him. If you are seeking evidence that He exists, you will find it. If you are seeking acts of kindness, you will find it. If you are seeking reasons for which to be thankful, you will find it. If you are seeking unity, you will find it — at least in your own heart.

What you seek after will also direct where you position yourself in action and attitude.

Body language experts know by watching the direction of a person’s body — especially their feet — they can tell whom that person trusts and/or likes the most. Words can say one thing, but their bodies might dictate another reality.

Want to know the heart of a person? Look at where their feet are headed.

(Thoughts the Lord gave me this past Sunday and that I shared with my kids…)