For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace – John 1:16
I'm a wife, a mom of two, and a strong believer in the power of prayer and caffeine. My passion is to encourage others to fall in love with Jesus over and over again by sharing reminders of his undeserved, unmerited, and unending grace.
As a child, I struggled with OCD-induced anxiety. In an attempt to protect our kids from a similar experience, my husband and I agreed to always reassure them after spills or messes. Life isn’t perfect, and that’s okay was our parenting motto. That turned out to be especially important for our daughter, who would seek affirmation after doing something she considered bad. Every time she knocked over a drink or tipped over a plate full of food, she would ask us things like, “But it will be okay, right?” or “But we can fix it, right?” and we would usually respond with a quick, “Yes, it will be alright, but let’s try to be more careful.”
I assumed she only asked those questions to make sure she wasn’t in trouble until one day after a few cheerios fell off of her tray, she looked at me and asked, “But you still love me, right?”
I have always hated the saying, “You can’t win them all.”
In the interest of transparency, I admit that I am a recovering people-pleaser. I hate the idea of offending or upsetting anyone. I sometimes lay awake at night wondering if I could have phrased something better or if I should have handled a situation differently. Years after a negative confrontation, I can still feel my ears heat up when I think about it.
All this to say, I very badly want to win them all. I want everyone to like me, even though I know that’s not a realistic expectation, especially when I share my personal thoughts on a public platform. That’s just the life of a blogger.
There is nothing better than tucking my kids into bed after a long day and feeling like I loved them well. I will gladly toot my own horn after a full 24 hours of defusing meltdowns, keeping a reign on my temper, and showcasing the patience of a saint. But the truth is that those days are few and far between. More often than not, I end the day frazzled, exhausted, and wondering if I expressed my love well enough.
When I was in college, I helped chaperone a youth trip to a Christian conference.
During a night of worship, one of the girls on the trip burst into tears. I walked with her outside of the room so that we could talk and, as she began telling me some of the heavy things she was struggling with, I asked, “Lord, what do I say?”
I was complaining to my husband, and the frustration of the day poured out of me as I recounted the story. I had played by the rules, poured my heart and soul into a project, and worked my tail off to get it done.
And then I had sat back and watched as someone else received the praise for all of my hard work.
You know who might not be the best candidate for spreading the Good News? Someone who is perpetually expecting bad news. I’ve been there. I prefer to call myself a realist, but the truth is that I am often cynical, expecting the worst from people and situations. I let my past hurts and disappointments color the way I see the things around me.
Most recently, as I prepared for the end of my maternity leave, I found myself stressing out over all of the unknowns and coming to the worst possible conclusions: We aren’t going to be able to find a good daycare. He’s not going to take his bottle. There’s no way we are going to pay off all of these medical bills.
A few days ago, while I was in the middle of one of my pessimistic breakdowns, God revealed something to me:
Pessimism is viewing the world through our own scars instead of His scars.
Today, as I was putting away a folded pile of laundry, I realized that of all the rooms in our house, our bedroom is usually the messiest. Logically, I suppose it makes sense. We want people to feel welcome in our home, so we spend most of our time cleaning the rooms they are going to see.
Life with a toddler is always interesting. It’s the age where children are learning to express their thoughts and emotions, but don’t always understand how to reason through them. It’s the age where the wrong sippy cup can lead to a meltdown and every simple yes or no decision can take half an hour.
Last week my two-year-old told me she was starving, so I laid out a spread of her favorite foods: turkey, apples, cheese, sweet potatoes, peas, and blueberries. Naturally, the “starving” toddler took three blueberries and one piece of cheese and decided that was all she wanted. Not ten minutes later, she looked up and said, “Mommy, I’m still hungry.”
In this day and time, we have control over so many aspects of our identity: we choose what status updates we want to make online, we select (and edit) the photos we want to share with the world, and we actively construct the persona we want to portray on our social media platforms. But we have to keep in mind that while we can create our own highlight reels, we don’t get to write our own obituaries. Ultimately, we can’t control the way other people remember us.
In scripture, I always wondered why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Exodus 4:21 says, “The LORD said to Moses, When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” Throughout Exodus, it is repeatedly pointed out that Pharaoh hardened his heart, or that God hardened his heart. I read through the verses several times, because I couldn’t understand why God would actively keep someone from believing in Him. I assumed that to have a hardened heart was to rebel against God, and that hardened hearts belonged to unbelievers. Until God showed me my own.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
When we think of empty faith, we typically think of this verse in James. Faith without works is dead, but faith that is misplaced is also dead. If we put our faith in our works, instead of our Christ, we can’t become who He made us to be. A picture of this is when Christians stay in their comfort zone, not believing that He can do greater things.
When I was younger, I wanted a love like the movies. I wanted someone to tell me they loved me more than anything. I wanted to be the thing they loved the most. After being in relationships where that was the case, it terrified me to look for a husband who loved Jesus more. What if that didn’t leave enough love for me?
As Christians, we know the war has been won, but there are still battles to fight. We can be victims or victors in these battles, depending on our knowledge and understanding of what we are fighting. God knows the strategies the enemy uses, and He shows them to us in His Word, so that “we are not ignorant of his devices, lest satan should get an advantage” (2 Corinthians 2:11). In this passage, Paul says to forgive those who have grieved us, and comfort them, so that they won’t be swallowed up by sorrow. This implies that the enemy attacks us by reminding us of our sin and our unworthiness. If he has a strategy against us, we need a strategy against him. So what do we do when we are attacked?
This past weekend, I ran my first 5K. I had been doing high intensity workouts for several months, but running was a whole new ballgame. The first time I ran, I felt like I had been going forever and looked down to see that I had gone 0.2 miles. All I could think was You’ve got to be kidding me.
“I believe in God, and I asked Jesus into my life – but how do I know if it worked? How do I know for sure that I am saved?”
In the past several weeks, I’ve had three different people ask me this. And each time, it’s like having a conversation with myself five years ago. Why do we not talk about this more? I think this is one of the enemy’s favorite places to attack believers, especially new believers. The faith is new and fresh, and if he can get even a kernel of doubt in our hearts, we will never be able to live the life God wants for us. If we are not equipped with a way to fight this, we can spend years – or decades – living a life of uncertainty.
The first step in defeating our enemies is recognizing them. Scripture tells us that God told Jesus He would “make His enemies a footstool for His feet” (Luke 20:43). I’ve often heard that verse quoted as a way for Christians to say, “Let God fight your battles”. But in this scripture, who is the enemy?
The moment that Jesus rose from the grave, the devil heard the first tick of a clock.
Before the cross, before the grave, before the ascension… the work had not yet been finished. When Jesus went to the cross for our sins and was raised to life for our justification, the Scriptures were fulfilled and satan lost.
A humble brag is a “self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud”. We have all likely been on both the giving and receiving end of a humble brag.
When is the last time you stood in the gap for someone you loved? Many of us do this daily, praying over our family members and our friends. We might miss a day here and there, or even a week when we are really busy, but we consistently remember to lift them up. Do we have the same faithfulness and persistence to lift up our fellow church members? Our leaders? Our communities? Cities? Nations?
Confession: Most days, if all of my prayers were answered, my kids and husband would stay safe and my food would be blessed, but the world would remain unchanged.