When You Feel Criticized {A Guest Post}

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Dear friends, I hope you will give my friend Kelly Balarie a warm welcome back to the blog today. Kelly just released her first book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, and today she is talking about a fear that hit me very close to home: fear of condemnation. The need to be right, and taking well-meaning advice as an insult. Perhaps you’ve been there? I hope you are as blessed by her words as I was.

When You Feel Criticized

We stood in the kitchen staring at each other. It was that moment, the moment we all hit, probably a thousand times a day. How will I respond? I had to decide.

Would I speak defensively, thereby covering my guilt and horrific mothering skills with platitudes and strong pleas regarding my goodness?

Of course, I was going to do more than this! I had big plans. You don’t know them.

Or would I, bow low, get real and listen to his words?

Yes, you have a point.

Two roads and, one, for me, is far less traveled.

I’ll admit: I am horrible at receiving new ideas and feedback. So, my husband’s comment suggesting a different type of breakfast? Well, umm… I took it as a rapid-fire slap in the face with a thick leather belt. Ouch!

It conveys: You did bad. You do bad. You always will do bad.

It reminds me I am probably the only mom on the block who goes frozen everyday – frozen waffles, frozen pancakes, frozen french toast – with a healthy dose of mom guilt whipped and delicately placed on top.

Push, then, comes to – shove back. Without a second for evaluation of response, I lean in and throw out: You don’t know. You aren’t in my shoes. You don’t have as much work as I do. You aren’t trying to manage laundry, lunch boxes and putting toddler clothes on squirming snakes, all before the clock strikes 7:30 AM (Imagine: Hands on hips!).

 I’m an expert at this talk: I divert his eyes, strengthen my stance, and deflect like crazy.

It’s not my fault. He pushed first. It’s his fault.

This is what I tell myself. He’s messing with my inner Martha Stewartness. How dare he? He pushed me!

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It’s not easy to love when you’re throwing a virtual fit. It’s not easy to learn when your mind is totally against it. It’s not easy to grow when opportunities feel like an assault on your inner character.

He was insulting my character, wasn’t he?

I think about it more. The guy suggested I make another type of meal. That’s it.

He wasn’t saying I was a flunky. He wasn’t circling my fat (although it kind of felt like it). He wasn’t stamping me bad. He wasn’t acting mean. I was.

Have you found yourself so pushed, like me – that you shove? Do your words rush out from a place of worry – you’re not enough?

I’m certainly not one to judge you. Nope. Because I 100% understand you.

But, I’m also considering the consequences of my words, the divergent paths I can take when I stand at the crossroad of – what to say next…

If I go left, I go towards a pride-filled response: heated words, barriers rising, anger flowing, discouragement, frustration and guilt. Usually, it ends, at best, with me knowing I lied a little, but satisfied because I still got away with it. Or, at worst, it ends with the overwhelming guilt I am not only the worst mom, but also the worst wife.

If I go right, I can choose kindness and love. I can find an opportunity to grow, to learn and to take risk. It’s not easy, but I can receive hard words because I trust God will:

1. Help me believe my worth is based on his truth, not others opinions.
2. Equip me to do what he calls me to do.
3. Comfort me, even when I feel hurt.

God will do the same for you, you know? When we make space to hear God’s voice, our voice speaks differently…

We make space when we ask God: What do you want me to do here? Do I need to change? What do I need to see? How should I approach this scenario where my husband feels valued and so do I?

God’s love changes our capacity to love. What he speaks is not condemnation, but peace. And what he brings is not an overwhelming to-do list, but a lesson in letting go. We react differently. We smile. We nod our head. We sit down. And we laugh at the table with our family. And, if it’s me, we eat something non-frozen.

 

Interested in fighting fear? Join the 4 Days to Fearless Challenge!

 


About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day. www.fearfightingbook.com

 

kellypicKelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear here.

 

3 Truths to Remember When You Think God is Disappointed in You

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I replayed the conversation in my head, wishing I’d responded differently. Why did I get so defensive when others didn’t see things my way? Instead of trying to see the other person’s point of view and finding a common ground, I’d put up a wall between us. Sure, we remained polite to each other, but there was an unspoken tension that kept our conversations short.

I knew I needed to bring the matter to God. I needed wisdom and guidance, but every time I tried to pray, I couldn’t utter the words. How many times would God listen to me? With every step I took forward in my relationships, faith and goals, it seemed I always took two steps back. I was sure that God was tired of hearing about the same problems on repeat.

So like the invisible wall between me and my loved one, I built a wall between myself and God. I convinced myself he didn’t want to hear from me. I convinced myself he was disappointed in me and was done helping with my issues, complaints and worries.

Isn’t it amazing how we project the shortcomings we have as humans onto a holy, perfectly loving God? We face hurt and rejection in other relationships, so we persuade ourselves that God will turn his back on us too. We are disappointed in our own shortcomings, by our friends and our family members, so we think God is disappointed too.

For years I felt this way.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m sharing over at iBelieve about what God showed me and I’d love to have you join us there. Click here to read the rest of this post.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Tempted to Climb That Soapbox {Plus a Fun Giveaway}

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I come from a long line of opinionated people. When you get my family together, there’s bound to be a clash of views, but most of the time we’re able to walk away with smiles and laughter.

Usually, the subject is as miniscule as college football, but every now and then it’s more serious. I remember one adventure when we were visiting a National Park in Moab, Utah and a family member who shall remain nameless insisted on taking an off-road route to see the arches. They were in a mini-van, but the route’s sign “highly recommended” a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Needless to say, after a few miles a park ranger coming in the opposite direction suggested we turn around. We were able to get back on the paved road and see all the main attractions without getting stuck, but there where a few times when the little van was scraping rock.

We’re able to look back on the incident now and chuckle, but disputes with loved ones don’t always end this way, do they? When we feel attacked, it’s difficult to put aside our emotions.

All too often, I see an issue as black and white when in fact, there are many shades of gray. I want to have the last word and race down an ugly path of pride and narrow-mindedness instead of trying to see the other person’s point of view.

Even when I’m speaking truth, I sometimes forget about love. Instead of trusting the Spirit to speak to someone’s heart, I try to chisel away at it with words that are callous and hurtful.

Friends, there is only one person who can open a person’s heart and mind to God’s truth. He is the Spirit, and he doesn’t speak through resounding gongs and cymbals. We are his vessels, but when we approach others with a voice of pride we accomplish nothing.

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There is a reason why scripture warns about controlling the tongue so many times. Because it truly does have the power of life and death.

Whether the issue is big or small, we will never agree with everyone on everything. And you know what? That is good. We were never intended to. But we can learn to approach disagreements in a Christ-like way.

I am a work in progress and on this side of eternity, I always will be. Through the arguments and the heartache, here are three questions his Spirit prompts me to ask when my blood pressure rises.

  1. Do I love this person? This is a question my pastor asked a few years ago and it stuck with me. If the answer is “no” then walk away. Even if you are speaking truth, any words that are not spoken with love will accomplish nothing.
  1. Is this my pride talking, or am I speaking the truth out of love? If I can’t find scripture, wise counsel or experience to back what I’m saying, then I may be speaking out of a pure need to be right. And what’s right for me may not be right for every other person on the planet.
  1. Am I giving this person grace or exercising judgment? While it is healthy to create boundaries, there is only one person who sits in the judgment seat, friends. It isn’t you or me, but Christ alone. Let us hand over the gavel to the One who can handle its weight.

I know there will be days when I’m tempted to climb on my soapbox. But you know what? The words I preach from there seldom do any good, unless you count the boost to my ego.

Arguments will happen and tempers will flare, but we can control the way we handle ourselves. Let’s reflect the mindset of the Creator, even when we’re tempted to let callous words fly.

 

GIVEAWAY!

sept-16-giveawayAs a thank you to my lovely readers I’m giving away two fun gifts: a power bank, which can be used to wirelessly charge your smart phone, iPod, camera, etc. and a Hope & Joy mirror keychain! Just comment below and share this post for extra entries. (if you shared the post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. please let me know in your comment) I’ll announce the winner next Thursday! Giveaway is for U.S. residents only.

 

 

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

A Prayer for All You Moms When Your Nerves Are Shot this Summer

A Prayer for All You Moms this Summer

I know what you’re thinking. Summer has just begun, right? There’s no need for one of those types of posts. The kind that laments about the stresses of motherhood and all the weariness that goes along with it.

And I agree. I’m looking forward to many more trips to the pool with the kids, long days where bedtime is stretched out even longer and the schedule is ignored.

But here’s the thing. I know sometime during those weeks when the sun is blazing hot and the kids are running free we’re going to need a moment. I needed one today. The kids were bickering, it took us an hour to get out the door to run a five-minute errand, and my nerves were shot.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I heard myself screaming, “Just give me five minutes!” Five minutes to breathe. Five minutes to think my thoughts which I know are buried down there somewhere.

I sent my seven-year-old outside to play even though it was pouring down rain. The rain won’t melt off his skin, right?

As I was running that five-minute errand to the supermarket which ended up taking forty-five minutes, I thought of you. I thought of all you other moms out there who might need a moment too. And when you do, I pray these words find you and encourage you. I pray God grants you that peace which truly does surpass understanding. That peace which we so desperately need to cling to when the days get longer than we can manage.

Here is my prayer for you.

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I pray you find your five minutes. Twenty is even better. Sometimes this means getting up earlier, which I loathe doing, but I promise you it is worth it. There is something about being alone before the chaos starts which brings a peace that cuts through the yelling which will start later. Be alone with God. Soak in his presence. Listen to the birds chirping outside your window.

I pray you will give yourself grace. Yes, you may yell. Yes, you may lose your temper. Apologize if you need to. Lord knows I have more times than I can count. But after you do, move on. Your kids will not remember your mini-tantrum tomorrow; trust me. Unless they are teenagers. Then they might. But dwelling in a pit of guilt will only make your temper shorter.

I pray you savor this time. Soak it up. Do something you and your kids both enjoy. My kids and I love the water so much of our summer will be spent by the lake or the pool. It is our happy place and gives them space to burn all of that pent up energy.

I pray you are able to rest. And trust me, rest doesn’t mean zoning out to the tv or social media. I’m talking about a rest which replenishes your soul. I pray you are able to do something creative or something you love that makes you remember who you are when your labels of mother, wife and friend are stripped away. I pray you’re able to find time to do that thing which, when you do it, makes you say, “Ah, this is what I was made to do.”

I pray God quiets your soul. I know, fat chance when the kids are running around like lunatics, right? And yet, I still pray this for you. Whether that means a weekend away to yourself or with just your spouse, or it means a day at a spa, my hope is that you will find quiet. Quiet that blocks out all the noise and the voices of negativity in your head.

Moms, I’m thinking of you today. Even though Father’s Day is the next date on the calendar, you’ve been on my heart all week. You are strong. You are amazing. And you’re doing the work of the Lord each day you get out of bed and love those little vandals in a way only you can.

Keep pressing ahead. Before you know it, summer will be a memory. Savor each moment and remember to take one for yourself.

 

Linking up with these communities: #LiveFreeThursday

How Legalism Clouds Our View of Jesus

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It’s amazing what a simple tool can do to alter our vision and boost our confidence when learning a new skill.

For as long as I can remember, my oldest son has feared getting water in his face. He loved playing in it and being around it, but as soon as water got near his eyes he always panicked. Teaching him to swim had proven difficult. That is, until the grandparents purchased him a new swim mask while on a trip to the beach.

The change was remarkable. Within an hour of using the mask for the first time, he was jumping into the pool and swimming. Both things he had never done before.

With a little help, he was able to see things he’d never seen. He swam underwater, which is something I didn’t know if I’d ever see my child do.

I stood near the steps of the pool and praised God that our son had faced this fear and overcome it. He had new vision, and approached the water with a newfound confidence.

Watching him made me realize how many of us walk around for our entire lives blind. But we don’t need a swim mask or a new set of goggles. We need Jesus.

The problem is, we don’t realize our need. Perhaps we said the sinner’s prayer at a young age and attend church on Sunday, but we don’t truly know him. We don’t see ourselves as a child of the Most High and we spend our lives trying to attain something we can’t quite pinpoint.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m sharing over at Angela Nazworth’s beautiful site today, and I don’t want you to miss what God showed me about the dangers of legalism. You can read the rest of my post here.

How Our Black and White View of the World is Ruining Our Witness

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My seven-year-old has asked questions for as long as he could string sentences together. He is a sponge learning about the world around him, and he loves figuring out how things work.

Often, he asks me a question I don’t know the answer to. And parents are supposed to have all the answers, right? But I don’t, so I simply tell him I’ll have to look into it and get back to him, or I’ll help him find the answer.

A few months ago, I discovered he was learning about storms at school. He loves engineering and science, and was repeating some of the things he’d learned about tornados, hurricanes, and floods.

Since he goes to a public school, I like to hear about his curriculum. I give him reminders about how God orchestrated all of this, and how nothing which takes place here in our solar system is out of his control.

I don’t do this so that he won’t ask questions, but so he will have a strong foundation for asking them. He continues to ask, and I am humbled because often, I have to search.

After a recent conversation I jumped on social media and found a rather heated debate taking place about whether it was ok for Christians to drink wine. Some of the comments were downright degrading.

Will you continue reading with me? I’m sharing over at Purposeful Faith today about the dangers of seeing everything in black and white. Click here to read the rest of this post.

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Bringing the Lost Soul Home

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My first baby is a runner.

She doesn’t wear human skin or have opposing thumbs, but she’s a member of our family all the same. She’s a four-legged ball of mischief who looks like a cross between a Rottweiler and a Beagle. Her name is Zoe.

There are a hundreds of things which can beckon our mutt to the woods covering the mountaintop we call home, and most of them run on four legs too. She smells their scent, follows their trails, and despite the comfort of a warm house and a full bowl of food, she’s on the move before I can give my best whistle.

A couple of nights ago, I thought she was gone for good. Visions of coyotes and bears who call this mountain their home filled my head, and I was certain my runner had met her match.

When a watchful neighbor returned her to our doorstep, I collapsed onto her chilled, tail-wagging frame. I wanted to chide her and rebuke her for the worry and sleeplessness she’d caused, but all I could do was hug her and run my hands through her soft fur.

It wasn’t the rebuke that kept her here all these years. It was the kindness.

As I sat there, marveling at the sight of the dog I’d near given up as dead, I thought of certain family members and friends who, like my sweet Zoe, are runners. They run to escape hurt and pain that’s never healed. They run because they think God’s given up on them.

And deep down I know it’s not judgment which will bring them back, but love. Though we must speak the truth, we can do so without condemning those who are not ours to condemn.

I think about my own seasons of running and what brought me back to the feet of Jesus. It wasn’t finger pointing or raised eyebrows. It wasn’t a long list of rules or a tally of all the ones I’d broken.

It was grace. Undeserved, relentless grace.

God’s conviction may keep my path straight, but his grace keeps me in love.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:4 NIV

 Does God correct those he loves? Absolutely. But the often clichéd phrase, “It hurts me more than it hurts you,” didn’t become cliché overnight, and it’s sentiment needs to be at the heart of all correction.

It takes a Spirit in tune with the Most High to walk the fine line between grace and truth. And the only way to walk it is time spent with Him, moment by moment, day by day.

May all of the runners who keep us up nights be drawn to the grace and love which saved us from ourselves.

May we be living beacons of light beckoning even the most lost souls home.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday, #CoffeeForYourHeart

Even When We Doubt God’s Love

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It’s difficult for us to receive what we don’t understand, isn’t it? For years, I ran from God because I didn’t think he could accept me the way I was.

I had a lot of baggage I’d carried around with me for years, and bringing it before a holy God seemed not only unreasonable. It seemed dangerous.

Every year around Christmas my family and I would visit my grandmother’s house for a once-a-year reunion. Aunts, uncles, and cousins I hadn’t seen for months were there, and we’d squeeze as much conversation, hugs and memories as we could into the short time we had together.

One of my favorite things to do was marvel and my grandmother’s antique doll collection. Each year it grew, and I’d conjure up a story for each porcelain face to go with her dainty dress and pearls.

These dolls never left their perch in various rooms around the house, and they were all in pristine condition. I thought their value exceeded anything in my grandparents’ home, but decades later I discovered an important truth.

When my grandparents passed, my family was largely responsible for the estate, and one of the collections which came under question was the dolls. It turned out, antique dolls were only valuable to very specific buyers, and those buyers were extremely hard to find.

In other words, the value was in the collector’s eyes, not the eyes of the general public. And what I didn’t understand during all of those visits to my grandparents’ house was that I had more in common with these dolls than I thought. And so do you.

Our value comes from the One who chose us. Nothing more, nothing less.

There are no strings attached to his affection and no ulterior motives behind his extravagant love.

He loves us because he is love.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10 NIV

He made us, mindful each intricate detail, and his affection goes far beyond the care my grandmother took with her doll collection or the care I take with my own children.

When I lay down my need to earn what is already mine, I begin to understand a word more amazing than anything in the English lexicon: grace. And once I start extending grace to myself, I can extend it to others without expecting reciprocation, payback or IOU.

That’s the beauty of grace. There’s nothing we can do to deserve it, and nothing we can do to pay it back.

When I think back on those Christmases with my family all those years ago, I’m grateful that even though I didn’t see it yet, God was teaching me. He was using something as unlikely as a doll to show his affection toward me.

And if you’re willing, he’ll do the same for you.

 

Linking up with these communities: #LiveFreeThursday

When We Dilute the Gospel of Grace (Link-up)

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For a long time, I believed a lie which is threatening the very heartbeat of our church. It sneaks in like a slow poison and its symptoms are often loss of joy, endless business and little time for meaningful relationships.

It doesn’t announce itself with brazen warning signs or even seem evident in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. But it’s there, and it’s endangering the gospel message Christ was crucified to bring to the lost and weary.

It pollutes the hope of our Redeemer and plants the seed of doubt. It says we can never do enough, be enough or work enough. Our salvation is not free, but is bought with a price.

It’s the message of striving.

Most of the time it’s presented with splashes of so-called grace along with it, but at the core it’s the same.

Because grace cannot be watered down. The gospel doesn’t say it is by grace plus works that you are saved through faith. No, God doesn’t need us, but through his love he chooses to use us.

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6 NIV

The message of striving says, “God’s grace saves you, but you must also do this.”

It whispers, “If you were really a Christian and a good church attendee, you would serve on this committee.”

I know the voice because I listened to it. I went on an endless chase for God, not realizing he was right beside me all along.

I strived and I compared. I looked at other’s lives and works, measuring mine against theirs because after all, I wanted to please God, right? But does a depleted vessel honor God? Does someone who is bone-dry and weary communicate a message of hope and glory?

God gave me his Spirit to bring wisdom, peace and discernment, not a slavery of endless striving. It is for freedom that he set us free.

He says for the heavy-laden to come and lay their burdens down, and yet often we pick up more than we can handle instead. We think if we stop to rest, everything will fall apart. Because if we don’t do it, who will?

It is a blow to my pride to realize the God of the universe is perfectly capable of keeping the earth spinning on its axis without my help. But it is also a huge relief.

He chooses to use me and has beautiful plans for my life, not because he needs me, but because he loves me enough to include me in the grand tapestry he is weaving. His plans are for good and abundance, not anxiety and an over-crammed schedule.

Grace is no longer amazing if we add anything to it.

Will the Spirit of Christ in us produce fruit? Yes, absolutely.

But even the fruitful branches are pruned by a loving God. (John 15:2) He takes away the excess so we can put more energy into what He gives us.

Abide in Him, friends. Listen to his voice. Ask yourself, “Am I doing this to please others more than please God? Do I have the resources to complete this task, or will it deplete me physically, emotionally and spiritually?” He came so we may have life. A life which is full, abundant and radiant.

Let’s leave the rat race to the rats.

Let’s stop striving for his love and start abiding in his grace.

 

Linking up with these communities: #LiveFreeThursday

#RaRaLinkup Time!

Click the blue frog below to redirect you to the link-up page.
1. Link up your inspiring & motivating post with the button below.
2. Grab the Kelly Balarie & Friends button (on the right) to display on your blog or just link back.
3. LEAVE A COMMENT ON THE POST LINKED UP RIGHT BEFORE YOURS. Visit others & be encouraged!

When Our Offerings Become Idols

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Sometimes our altars to the Lord can become idols.

When I started this blog two years ago, it was an offering to my Creator. I moved past my fears of being judged and stepped out in faith. I tossed aside my stereotypes and prideful assumptions about blogging and embraced humility.

The more I shared truth and was vulnerable with my readers, the more I realized I wasn’t alone. My story was my testimony to God’s redemptive power.

Through his grace and love God used me to shine his light into dark places. The more authentic I was, the brighter the light became.

Dreams I didn’t know I had came alive. I connected to people across the globe and formed relationships with women who became sisters.

Something inside me awakened and for the first time in years, I felt God was using me to make a difference in this big, beautiful world.

But somewhere along the way, my vision was skewed. I heard the word “platform” for the first time. When I realized in the publishing world this concept is a big deal, I became obsessed with the numbers, comments, and likes. Anxiousness consumed me some days.

I wondered if I’d heard God wrong.

Then two weeks ago I attended a life changing conference. I was surrounded by women who sought God’s will for their lives and he showed me some of the ugly insecurities I’d allowed to take root in my heart.

When I returned, my computer died. My tool for pouring out words to each of you was gone, and despite the noise of a house filled with boys, I sensed God speak.

The gift can never become more important than the Giver.

I had become so focused on performance that the altar I’d built to the Lord was forgotten. Instead of offering up my words in an act of worship, I’d become a machine, thinking if I stopped to rest I would drown.

When the only words we write are the ones we share, we become depleted. This working out our salvation becomes about the audience instead of the Spirit.

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But the audience of readers cannot replace the audience of One.

So for the past two weeks, I’ve realigned my heart. I’ve journaled for the first time in months and found that space of quiet: just me and God.

It hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies and he’s shown me some dark places in myself.

But when we bring the dark spots to the Ultimate Light Giver, the real working out of our salvation begins. We can change, heal and grow.

So today, I come to you refreshed. I share not out of a need to perform, but out of a deep desire to share his grace.

Through our weaknesses, he’s able to do his most brilliant work. When we lay it all at his feet, his transforms those idols into testimonies of redemption.