You’re a Daughter, Not a Slave to Fear

I like to watch my kids when they don’t know I’m looking.

I eavesdrop on interactions between firstborn and little brother. I overhear whispers of imagination, hide-and-seek and Legos.

It’s not because I’m trying to catch them doing something wrong. On the contrary, I catch glimpses of their lives I might otherwise miss.

When they notice me, their response is always the same.

“What?”

And then comes the shoulder shrug. Like they’re waiting for a rebuke. As if I’m going to chide them for running or yelling.

I realize it’s partly my fault. Because many times, I do those things. And while I don’t apologize for it, I also want them to know I watch them because I relish in seeing them grow.

I’m a witness to these lives I helped create, and I love seeing them discover new things.

The other day as I was driving to the market, the new David Dunn song, “I Wanna Go Back,” came on the radio. It describes how as we grow older, we often lose our childlike faith and belief that we can do or be anything. Instead of being grateful we have neighbors next door to play with, we feel like we have to keep up with them.

So what does the artist want? To go back. He says he wants to go back to “Jesus loves me this I know…”

As I sat in the car listening and singing along, I thought, “Don’t we all?” I realized somewhere along the line, I forgot God watches me the love of a Father instead of an angry parent waiting to punish me.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at PurposefulFaith.com about how we can let go of fear and embrace who we are as daughters. You can read the rest of my post here.

 

Linking up here: #RechargeWednesday

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Hope for the Days When You Feel Like You Got Nothing Done

My eight-year-old always stops and says “hi” to his baby sister when we pick him up at the bus stop. He climbs straight over little brother, who blocks his way and clamors for his attention. But he lingers a while over Elise. He smiles and grabs her hand while she coos.

Our four-month-old is teaching us all the art of savoring. She’s showing us how to slow down a bit, to stay in those the little moments.

But oh, how I fight it. It takes an intentional choice to be present, to look my kids in the eye, and focus. To stop thinking about what I have to get done. To stop scrolling through my phone.

A few weeks ago I shared how I felt overwhelmed as I navigated life with three kids, but I think another translation of that statement is, “I’m not getting enough done.”

It’s how we base our worth, isn’t it? The dishes are out of the sink. Check. The laundry is in the washer. Check.

But what if we put a check mark next to the time we spent cuddling the baby? What if we added another item to our to-do list: roll around on bed with five-year-old.

What if we placed as much value on the time spent loving others as we do to getting that work project done?

When my firstborn was a baby, I didn’t savor the time. After leaving my full-time job where productivity was measured in numbers, I felt like I had no compass or boundaries. It took years for me to navigate a life with no commute or schedule.

There are still days when I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. But every now and then, God gives me a glimpse into his heart. He shows me what’s important, even when I’m forgetful and stubborn.

Jesus was intentional about every moment he spent on earth, but he didn’t rush. And perhaps more importantly, he didn’t make people feel rushed either.

Last week I went through a short study highlighting seven things Jesus said before he died, and what struck me was this: He loved people right up until his dying breath. He didn’t check out emotionally or ignore the people who stood there mocking him and watching him die.

Even while he hung there and suffered, he thought about his mother. He made sure his family was taken care of.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

 John 19:26-27 NIV

Time spent loving others is never wasted.

When we take our last breath and the people around us look back on our lives, they won’t remember how clean we kept our house. And I’m not saying the never wash another dish, although that would be perfect, wouldn’t it?

They will remember the way we loved others. They will remember the relationships we formed and spent time cultivating.

With each child God gives me, he’s teaching me. And baby girl is teaching me how to savor. She’s teaching me how to love all over again.

 

Joining these link-ups: #ChasingCommunity

Like Whispers Between Bunk Beds

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It’s an hour past their bedtime and I hear giggling from outside the door. These two boys of mine are sharing a bedroom for the third night as we await the arrival of baby sister, and they are loving it.

I marvel at how they can be yelling at each other one moment and hugging necks the next. And as much as little brother drives firstborn crazy, he is always there to pick him up when he falls.

They disagree on many things. Their personalities are as different as night and day.

One likes chocolate ice cream; the other is a fan of vanilla. One follows the rules and instructions, and the other likes to make up his own.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing over at Malleable Heart as part of Jessica Galan’s That’s Amore series. You can read the rest of my post here.

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.

 

What I Want to Teach My Daughter About Her Right to Choose

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I teared up when the sonogram tech said the words.

“It’s a girl.”

What I’d dared to name in my prayers was now real. She had a name: Elise.

I looked over at my husband and saw tears in his eyes too. Our two boys sat on the floor, staring at the screen a couple of minutes longer until their attention turned to their video games.

For the rest of the day, I was on an emotional high. We went to Babies R’ Us and I immersed myself in all things girl- the bows, the pink, the dresses and frillies. I didn’t think I’d be so enamored with it all, but I was.

Our first girl was coming, and I couldn’t wait. But I also knew.

I knew there would be challenges we wouldn’t face with our boys. Hormones and drama and cycles and the need to be loved.

I also knew there would be the temptation to look for love in all the wrong places. And while the conversation about sex was one we would have with our boys too, it would be different. Because we are made differently.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about women’s rights lately. Social media is filled with articles about a woman’s right to her body, to not be pregnant, and to safe contraception.

Some of the conversation is needed and good. And some of it is disturbing on many levels.

Until this point I’ve stayed out of it. My goal with this blog will always be to love and encourage, and I honestly couldn’t think of anything encouraging to say on the topic.

But then I asked myself, what is at the heart of all this? A woman can claim she has the right to an abortion. She can say denial of access is a violation of that right. But where does the issue start?

Why do so many women need an abortion?

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I looked back on my life and the decisions I made. I spent years of my life looking for love.

I’d heard Bible stories and songs about how God loved me, but it wasn’t tangible to me. I’d never felt it or experienced it, so I assumed it wasn’t real.

I remember the first time a boy told me I was beautiful. I liked it. It meant something to me. I wanted to be seen and heard so desperately I was willing to do anything.

So now, when I type this and I think about the decisions I made, I want my daughter to know: You are worth so much more than your sexuality.

Yes, God can redeem even the most broken story. He can turn ashes into beauty and a mess into a miracle.

But it affects me even now. It affects the relationship I have with my husband. It affects the way I look at other men.

I hear all this talk about a woman’s right to choose but here’s what baffles me. Here’s what’s missing from the conversation.

A woman’s right to choose will always begin with her decision of whether or not to exploit her body. We can say it’s consensual and it’s good and natural, and all that may be true.

But when a woman uses her body to gain something she thinks she lacks- love, it is an exploitation.

Yes, sex is good. Of course it is. God created it.

When sex is misconstrued for love, we have a serious problem. And friends, women can’t separate sex from love. They can’t separate sex from their emotions. And if they can, I would argue that they’ve been hardened by the muck of life to get them to that point.

So yes, we have a right to choose. But I would argue that right begins long before the baby is in the womb. It begins with the decision to love ourselves. It begins with the knowledge of a Creator who values us more than we could ever imagine.

When I look at my daughter, I want her to know this:

  • You have the right to choose a man who will love you more than he will lust after your body.
  • You have the right to love yourself and to believe you are a priceless creation, loved by a Creator who gave himself for you.
  • You have the right to choose to say “no” to anything less than what God has for you. A God who created sex to be enjoyed within the boundaries of marriage. Not as a punishment, but because he knew this is where it would be enjoyed as it was made to be.

It may sound old fashioned. It may sound unreasonable. But as a woman who has experienced sex both inside and outside the confines of marriage, I can say I believe the God who created it got it right.

My daughter has the right to choose. And I pray she chooses to love herself.

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity

He Doesn’t Have Second Thoughts About You

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I swear whoever coined the term “buyer’s remorse” was thinking of me.

I spend the next day second-guessing major purchases. I’m quite sure if you looked up the term on Wikipedia you would see a picture of me pacing over a recent appliance purchase.

Even an expensive pair of boots can leave me wondering, “but what if I find another pair I like better?”

It makes my husband a little batty sometimes.

“Do you think I should send them back, hon?”

His answer is always the same.

“Do whatever makes you happy, Sweetheart.”

This response makes me even crazier because I want someone to tell me what to do. To make the decision for me. But no, he forces me to make the choice myself, and although I hate to admit it, I know he’s right for doing it.

The real problem comes when I project my indecisive nature onto our ever-constant, unchanging God. I mess up, drop the ball or miss an opportunity and think, “Surely, God must be done with me.”

I wonder if the eternal relationship comes with a free return policy. I disappoint the buyer and he sends me back to my sad life, no strings attached.

Perhaps you’ve been there?

We can’t seem to get over this one hurdle in life and we think God’s looking down at us with all his perfect holiness, utter disdain on his face. Maybe he second-guesses his decision to adopt us into his family.

It is eternal, right?

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And thinking this way doesn’t just affect our relationship with him. It affects every aspect of our lives. Our friends, family and colleagues feel the insecurity of our souls. We may convince ourselves ourselves the effects are isolated to the spiritual realm. But our souls are an outflow of our relationship with the One who created them.

When I thought about my word for 2017, my mind was all over the place. My sleep-deprived, newborn baby brain almost decided to forego the exercise this year. After all, my word last year was “awake” and we can see how that went.

I’ve never wanted sleep so badly in my life. Yes, thank you God.

But in all seriousness, that word was a blessing. I realized in many ways, my spiritual life was asleep and God awakened me to new ways to grow in my relationship with him.

For 2017, I thought God was going to challenge me with a word like “bold” or “fearless” because both are characteristics that need growth in my life. I know the only way I will be either of these things is because of his Spirit working in me.

But then I asked myself what the root of my fear was. What keeps me from being bold and fearless?

I realized I will never be either of those things until I fully embrace who I am in Christ: loved. Daughter. Secure. Safe.

Christ doesn’t have a return policy on his relationship with me. The security of my soul is written with his eternal blood.

When he looks at me, he doesn’t second-guess his choice and think, “Wow, I really screwed up when I sent my son for her.” He sees his beloved child, and he delights in his creation.

Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps the gospel message seems a little too good to be true sometimes and you find yourself feeling insecure.

This year, may the words of John 3:16 not fall on deaf ears. May they sink deep into your soul.

For God so loved….

Say it. Believe it. And let it transform your life.

This is my word and my goal for 2017: living loved.

When You Need to Give Thanks for God’s Love {Anchored Souls Series}

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To kick off our series, I’m thrilled to welcome my dear friend Betsy de Cruz back to the blog. Betsy has a gift for explaining God’s word in a practical, easy-to-understand way. Her words have prompted me to dig into scripture with fresh eyes and apply new techniques when studying it. I know you will be encouraged by her words about gratitude today.

When You Need to Give Thanks for God’s Love

Do you ever wonder what on earth God is up to? Life brings constant change, doesn’t it? Just when you think you have things figured out, God surprises you again. The unexpected hits you, and you wonder what to expect.

Last summer my family and I returned home to the Middle East after nine months of living stateside in an unfamiliar city. We could hardly wait to get back to “normal” life. We looked forward to the best tomatoes ever, summer peaches, olive trees, hot glasses of tea, hugging and kissing our friends on the cheek, and laughing for the pure joy of it all.

What we didn’t count on was culture shock all over again, a family member’s struggle with depression, political violence, and a national state of emergency.

When life throws you for a loop, it’s hard to give thanks in the transitions you didn’t plan.

You lose your job, or watch your child lose a friend to an auto accident. Deep inside, you wonder what God is doing and if He cares. And you ask all over again, “Are you there, God? Do you really love me?”

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, let alone give thanks.

If you’re struggling during this Season of Thanks, how about returning to the simple truth?

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

We know this verse forwards, backwards, and upside down. We’ve heard it so many times that it goes inside one ear and out the other. I can hardly read it without remembering Sunday school in Fort Hancock, Texas. Miss Malloy said it was the Bible in a nutshell, so we painted “John 3:16” on pecans. Only I wasn’t that artistic, so I ran out of room after “John 3,” and the flower I tried to paint on my pecan got all smudged.

Today I read John 3:16 for the 967th time, but God impressed the words on my heart.

For God so loved the world that He gave…

God is love. It’s his nature to love. He loves you and me desperately. He loved us so much that He gave. He poured out love for us at the cross. When life shakes us, we can hold on because we have a love to hope in. In the fiercest storms, we can rest because we have a love to remain in.

We can give thanks no matter what because He’s already given His Son.

Here’s a Bible journaling exercise:

Write John 3:16 down, substituting your name for “the world” and “whoever.”

Read it a few times. Believe and receive it. Rest in it. Give thanks for it.

Lord, thank you for loving me. Help me to feel your love resting on me just as tangibly as I can feel a sweater on my shoulders. Your love covers me. It protects me and keeps me warm. I receive it right now. Help me remember today I’m dearly loved. Help me to love others well.


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Betsy de Cruz enjoys God, life with teenagers, and dark roast coffee. Betsy’s passion is to encourage women to get God’s Word in, so their faith can spill out, even during life’s bumpy moments. She and her family live in the Middle East. Most days she feels privileged to live overseas; other days she wants to pull her hair out and catch the next plane home. You can find Betsy at her blog, faithspillingover.com , on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.