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!

dont-tell-me-what-to-do

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.

How Legalism Clouds Our View of Jesus

how legalism cloulds our view

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.

4 Truths to Hold Onto When You Think You’ve Let God Down

when you think you've let God down


One weekday morning several months ago, I woke up to a familiar tune. In my grogginess I realized my husband had personalized the alarm on my phone.

He can be sweet that way sometimes. He knew the words of Tenth Avenue North’s By Your Side held a reminder I desperately needed. A reminder that his grace covers me, that I don’t need to strive to attain his love.

I’d fallen into the old, familiar habit of running again and the lyrics of the song washed over me like raindrops on arid soil.

Why are you striving these days

Why are you trying to earn grace

To where will you go, child,

Tell me where will you run

Where will you run?

We have a tendency to run from what we don’t understand, don’t we? We can’t comprehend how God could love us despite all of the mistakes we’ve made and the times we’ve messed it all up, so we fight it.

We struggle against his grace when all He wants to do is wrap us in it. (Tweet that)

I tend to fight Him most when I feel as though I’ve let someone down. My people pleasing tendencies lead me to believe I have to be everything to everyone, and when I can’t, I assume God must be unhappy too.

Right? I mean, surely. It makes perfect sense. Um no, and therein lies the problem. Because God’s grace doesn’t make sense.

God doesn’t expect us to please every single person in our life. He simply wants us to abide in his love.

When we quit striving to understand his grace, we can finally accept it. (Tweet that)

We can lift our hands and simply say, “Thank you. Thank you for covering me even though I don’t deserve it.”

Today, let’s not forget that faith, by definition, means trusting what we don’t fully understand. It means putting our hope in what we don’t see, but will one day behold completely.

4 truths when you think you've let God down

Here are four truths to hold onto when you think you’ve let God down:

  1. God’s approval has nothing to do with the approval of others. (Tweet that)

Others may turn their backs on you, walk away, or gossip. Do you know who endured similar ridicule and abandonment? Jesus. Paul says it best in Galatians:

“If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 NIV

  1. God’s approval has nothing to do with your good works.

He paid the price on Calvary. Do you think he would have endured the nails if there was something you could do to pay your own way? The good works we do are works He planned. (Ephesians 2:10) His Spirit empowers us, not our own strength.

  1. God’s not going to let you go. He’s placed his seal on you, and his seal is eternal.

Once you accepted Him, he placed his Spirit with in you. That’s his seal, friend. (2 Corinthians 1:21) It’s a deposit guaranteeing when Jesus Christ appears, he will look at you and say, “She’s mine.” You can grieve Him, but God will always go after his wandering sheep.

  1. God doesn’t look at your past sin.

Once we confess it, he remembers it no more. (Psalm 103:12) Not because he can’t, but he chooses not to. He gives you a fresh slate, made clean by the blood of his precious son. So why do we continue to dwell on sin he’s already forgiven?

Friends, when we soak in the truth of God’s love, it changes us. It strengthens us to stand firm against the lies we hear every day and the attacks of the one who wants to defeat us.

Let his grace permeate your defenses today. And when it does, thank Him for the victory we have in Him alone.

 

Linking up with these communities: #LiveFreeThursday, Grace & Truth 

Bringing the Lost Soul Home

bringing the lost home

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!

On the Days When Your Patience is Wrecked

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“It’s hotter than a microwave out there!” my seven-year-old exclaims as he runs back into the house. Despite my frustration, I can’t help but laugh. Where does he get his flare for the dramatic?

I put away dishes and my mind races to find something for my boys to do. Little brother sees Jay and wrestles him to the ground. After gasping for breath and stumbling off the floor, my oldest chases him through the house until little one crashes on the floor, screaming.

I wonder how it’s possible neither one of them has a concussion. I wonder why it’s so difficult to keep them from killing each other on these endless summer days.

“How about we put some more water in the kiddie pool?” I say, trying to muster some enthusiasm. I remember the previous day when my youngest bit through his tongue after falling off the side of the pool.

My nerves are so thin they’re transparent. When my toddler requests his 100th snack for the day I feel like spreading out the remains of our fridge on the floor and telling him to help himself.

Why is this so hard? How can these little pieces of me that bring me so much joy one moment send me clamoring for a piece of sanity the next?

In my silent pleas to God, I think he must be losing his patience with his overtired mama. I ask him for peace. I ask him for strength.

Yes, I ask him for patience too. And please don’t tell me asking for patience is asking for a trial to test my patience. I’ll keep on asking for it anyway.

In the middle of all my pleading and venting to a God I’m sure is chuckling at some of my kids’ antics, he gives me a hug. And it’s wrapped in the tiny package of my oldest son.

“I’ll never say ‘no’ to a hug,” my big boy says with a smile. He wraps himself around me tight and I can feel the tension in my body release.

In the middle my meltdowns and nerves over my kids, God often wrecks me with their grace.

They don’t hold it back. It flows out of them as naturally as water from a riverbed.

I see myself as the exhausted mama who can’t hold it together but to them I’m superwoman, dispensing an endless smorgasbord of snacks and kissing countless boo-boos.

God reaches down in the middle of all my ordinary, lingering summer days and says, “I’m here. Don’t give up. Don’t quit.”

Some of God’s greatest miracles are not in the thunder and the noise, but in the everyday mundane.

When we recognize those moments and allow them to linger just a little more, we catch glimpses of his glory. And as take it in, his glory reflects in us with new radiance.

 

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday. Come join us and be inspired.

From Shame to Rebirth {Renewal Through Christ Series}

renewal series

Today we are starting a new series here on the blog: From Glory to Glory: Renewal Through Christ. With spring finally in the air, I am anxious to discuss the renewal that is continuously taking place when we belong to Him. We will be talking about five different areas where we experience this: in ourselves, in our strength, in dreams and passions, in hope and in Spirit. I hope you will enjoy the next two weeks as I introduce you to some of my favorite writers who will be diving into these topics with us.

I will be kicking things off with a post about the area of rebirth which essential to all of the others: the rebirth of self.

From Shame to Rebirth

When your child tells you he’s having difficulty breathing, panic immediately sets in.

Your mind calculates the miles to the nearest hospital. You visualize where the epi-pen is and estimate how quickly you can administer it.

Every sound your child makes sends you further down a trail of endless “what ifs.”

My son has food allergies. Three nights ago, he had a reaction to something we are still trying to identify. And the conjecture and guessing about what caused the episode are killing me.

As a mother and a recovering perfectionist, I defined my maternal roles a long time ago. The way I perceive it, one of my primary responsibilities is to protect my child. When I think that I’ve failed in doing so, I feel shame.

I’m taken back to the days following our release from the hospital. To the days when it seemed as though the crying would never stop.

I am not a woman who instantly felt that maternal instinct after my first child was born. For me, the process was slow, like breaking muscle. It was painful and tedious during the first months.

And because it didn’t feel right, shame was my constant companion. I reasoned that I’d made a mistake in my decision to become a mom. I thought perhaps my son would be better off with someone else.

It’s a dark place, isn’t it? Shame can take what should be some of the most joyful moments in our lives and turn them into something dreadful and ugly.

When we live in shame, we witness accidents which are completely beyond our ability to control, but believe that we are somehow responsible. We step outside of God’s grace, into the unknown, and are crushed when even our best efforts don’t seem to measure up.

We forget that if God intended us to be perfect, his death on the cross wouldn’t have been necessary. We forget that when we are in Christ, we are a new creation, free from the law of sin and death.

shame

Shame says that Christ’s perfect and complete death on the cross isn’t enough.

Jesus said, “It is finished.” Shame says, “Try harder.”

Do you know where trying harder takes you? Into an endless cycle of self-doubt, indecisiveness, and sleepless nights. It takes you further away from the loving embrace of a God who gave up everything to call you his own.

As I sat in the ER with my son that night following his allergic reaction, do you know what the doctor said to my husband and me?

“You two are very competent parents. Not everyone would have reacted as quickly as you did.”

He saw what I didn’t. He knew that things happen which are beyond our ability to control.

Like so many of the moms who helped me navigate the first years of my son’s life, that doctor helped me realize perfection was not only an impossible standard, but a burdensome one. It’s weight was bringing me to a place God never intended me to be.

If you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life, you are a new creation. The old is gone; the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

You don’t have to keep running on the endless treadmill of striving for perfection. You don’t have to live in the continuous valley of shame when you realize that ideal is impossible.

For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11 ESV

All you have to do is accept the free gift that’s been given to you. When we live in his love, it permeates and radiates out through us. Instead of being caught in the slavery of legalism, we are governed by the beauty of grace.

Step off the treadmill and into grace today. Put on the victor’s clothes that have been waiting for you all along.

 

*Linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFreeThursday, Susan B. Mead’s #DanceWithJesus Linkup, and Barbie Swihart’s Weekend Brew. Come join us and be inspired.