Tag: grace

Life to the Full: Peace

Peace.  It can be so elusive.  So fleeting.  So longed for.  I’ve found it can only come for me when I’m connected with Jesus and spending time with Him.  Lately I’ve given in much more to the toxic draw of worry.  It is so much easier to worry, to hold on, to attempt control.  Letting it go in to the hands of my Lord is so hard.  There are a million things to be worried about, to control, refuse to let go.  Jed is a teacher and we live mostly on his income.  I work part time for Young Life and part time on this blog, but our main source is a teacher’s paycheck.  Our state legislature recently made changes to the graduation requirements for Texas students that effectively drop my husband’s subject (World Geography) from the curriculum.  It is a short sighted piece of legislation created to increase graduation rates by requiring less academic courses. It also puts him at major risk for losing his job, as well as hundreds of other social studies teachers.  Dropping an entire subject means teachers will be let go from social studies departments around the state and will be unlikely to find jobs in other departments because they have also dropped the subject.  We won’t know an answer until March or April and there is NOTHING we can do about it.  Except pray. And trust that God has us in His hands.  He brought Jed to his job in a very clear and real way, so we have to trust that if He wants him to stay there, there he will stay.  This is hard.  I want a plan, a solution, a way to fix it.  There is none.  No plan except dependence on my Savior who loves me, loves my family, and has a plan for us.  So we pray and we ask for peace.  Life to the full in Jesus means a life of peace, unburdened by worry.  This, my friends, is the life I want.  A life of peace.
Read the Life to the Full series here.
Read more of the Life to the Full series here.

Life to the Full: Why Can’t We Stop Talking About Other People’s Sin?

I want to talk about the listing of sins and why we as Christians feel the need to do that to ourselves and especially to other people. I’ve heard too many times the excuse, “but we are supposed to speak the truth in love” when a fellow Christian speaks about one type of sinner or another.  I think we need to think long and hard before we try to point out anyone else’s sin.  Are we truly doing it in love to try and help that person?  I hope so, but often that isn’t the case.  In my opinion, we feel the need to call out someone else for their mistakes and sin for two reasons.


Life to the Full: Depression Will Not Win {Five Ways I Am Fighting Back}

Writing this post has been difficult for me. In almost four years of blogging I’ve never talked about this part of my life, but for a while now I’ve known it was time.  Writing this series about living Life to the Full has made me take a hard look at myself and the areas of my life that prevent me from living a full life.  All of my life I’ve struggled with periodic depression, usually set off by a negative event.  Childhood bullying, break ups, injuries, family losses and tragedies, any time something negative happens in my life I know I’m at risk for a bought with depression.  The feelings are familiar and I now know how to recognize them as they creep in.

I’m sharing this now because I’ve been struggling recently and know that I’m not the only one.  Recently we had an accident that could have been tragic and was completely my fault.  Thankfully no one was hurt, but the mistake and the “what ifs” are haunting me and causing me to battle my old and familiar adversary, depression.  My hope is that by airing what I’m going through possibly someone else will find light in the darkness.  I believe that when we talk about our struggles out loud and bring them in to the light, their power over us diminishes.  I’m hoping shedding light on this side of my life will bring light in to another’s.  I believe much of this struggle is spiritual, as well as physical and chemical.  I am a follower of Jesus, and my perspective here reflects that.  If you are not, know that you will hear no judgement from me.  I’ve tried to include helpful insights for those of all (or no) faith backgrounds to the extent that I can while remaining true to what I believe.

I’m not any type of expert on depression, just a fellow sufferer.  I’ve been medicated on and off through the years, but never found healing through anti-depressants.  I’ve gone to counseling on and off as well, and found much more healing there than through medication.  I’m of the opinion that everyone can benefit from counseling.  If you’ve never tried it, seek it out.  Many churches offer it for free.  I’ve never been suicidal, except for a few fleeting thoughts while on Zoloft, a prescription anti-depressant.  I then read that suicidal thoughts are a side effect of Zoloft.  What the?!?!  It seems irresponsible to prescribe an anti-depressant with a side effect like that.  When I felt those thoughts creep in I immediately reached out to my counselor and doctor, who had me stop taking the medication.  If you EVER experience thoughts of ending your life, please seek help immediately.  See the resources at the bottom of this post for more information.

In my own battle with depression, I’ve found five daily (some hourly) ways that I can choose to fight back.  Again, I’m no expert.  These choices are things that work for me and help me to get my head above water.  To me, depression feels like I’m in deep water and can barely keep my face above the surface.  It takes all the energy I have to keep from sinking.  Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to let myself sink, but that is not the life God wants for me.  John 10:10, the verse I keep going back to throughout this series, says that “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”  Depression is such an example of how the enemy’s lies can destroy the life God wants for us to have.  We can choose to listen to the lies telling us that God doesn’t love us, that we aren’t good enough, that who we are isn’t enough, and sink down into the dark.  Or, we can choose to believe that God created us for life to the full and get up and live it.    

1) Start the Day.
This one is practical, but also powerful.  When I get up before my children, make my bed, get dressed, grab coffee, and spend quiet time with the Lord, my entire day changes.  When I am struggling, my instinct is to stay in bed as long as possible, stay in my pajamas all day, avoid quiet time, not take care of myself, and wallow in  negativity.  Choosing to start my day has a huge impact on how I feel.  If you have children, get up before them.  If you don’t, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal and take that extra time for yourself.  If you are a follower of Jesus, spend 10 minutes in the Bible, with prayer and reflection each morning.  If you are not a follower of Jesus, spend 10 minutes in quiet reflection.  The soul needs that time, no matter what you believe.

2)  Choose Gratitude.
Make a list of everything you have to be thankful.  Whether you are thankful to Jesus, a higher power, or the universe, choosing gratitude can be a powerful tool to fight off the darkness.  When you take the time to write down the big and the small, it changes your perspective in an incredible way.  Reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts was a game changer for me.  When I feel those “woe is me” feelings coming back, I look to my list and force myself to write more.  Choosing gratitude in the midst of a personal storm in my life is the toughest, but makes riding out the storm much more bearable.

3) Choose Joy.  
When the darkness closes in, part of fighting back is to look for joy and choose it.  Joy is very different from happiness in that it can come in the midst of pain.  Joy can be a reflection of the good in others, the smile of a child, the laugh of a friend, while happiness is more self focused.  Choose to smile at other people and mean it.  Choose to laugh and be around people who make you do so.  Enjoy the people in your life.  If you have kids, play with them.  Celebrate all that is good in your life.  Wallowing in discontent will cause me to sink lower and believe lies about myself that just aren’t true.  If I daily (and hourly) seek out joy, my entire perspective shifts.

4) Run Away from Darkness, Towards the Light.
For me, this means running away from the things that bring me down and towards God.  Are there negative influences you keep running toward?  They may be a person, a website, an activity, a substance.  While you can find incredible encouragement and positivity online, you can also find hatefullness and evil running rampant.  I have to limit my exposure to Facebook because all of the hateful political posts and fear mongering shares really cause me to sink.  A friend stopped using Instagram because it caused envy and discontent to creep in to her heart.  For a while I visited a forum that was drowning in darkness and negativity.  In the midst of a dark time I wanted more of it, wanted to feel bad.  I had to stop going all together because of the way it cause me to sink deeper.  When I run towards God, I choose time with Him first.  Before I check my email, before I do anything, time with Him wins.  Running towards the light may mean banning negativity from your life from tv, music, movies, social media, and even some friends.  Choose uplifting things.  If they bring you down, run.

5) Run to Community, Away from the Shadows.
Negativity thrives in the dark, in the hidden.  When I find myself avoiding friends, running towards lonliness, refusing company, I know I’m in the midst of a depression battle.  My instinct is to run to my bed and wallow in the bad feelings.  To fight it I must force myself to reach out and grab community.  Say yes when someone invites me out.  Answer the phone.  Have real conversations.  Let people in.  God can use people powerfully in my life if I let them in.

In Genesis 16:13, Hagar gives God one of my favorite of His names. She says, “You are the God that sees me.”  She is in a dark place, has been mistreated and suffered, but in the midst of it God comforts her.  God sees us.  He is the God who sees me.  I’m choosing to believe that.  I believe and know that He loves me.  He wants real life for me.  He sees me.  He sees you.  He knows you and loves you.  His heart hurts when yours does and breaks for you in your suffering.  He is the God who sees you.

What are you struggling with right now?  How do you fight back? 
If you suffer from depression, how do you fight it? 

For Help:
To Write Love on Her Arms
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
For Starting the Day, Running Toward the Light, and Devotionals:
Jesus Calling
Hello Mornings
She Reads Truth
Ann Voskamp

Life to the Full: Listening to Jesus

I’m a talker.  Always have been.  Like many great talkers, I’m not always the greatest listener because I’m often formulating what I’m going to say next rather than hearing what the other person has to say.  It is a very real fault of mine and I long to be a great listener.  When it comes to listening to what the Lord has to say to me, I’m often too busy to slow down and listen.  This past Sunday our pastor preached on Psalm 46 and the need for us to just be still and listen, and know that He is God.  It was exactly what my soul needed to hear.  He asked us if we would even recognize our soul if faced with it, and my answer was, “I don’t know.”  I want to be a woman who knows herself and her soul and her Jesus.  I want to be a person who listens to what God has to say to me and spends quality time with my Savior each day.
In a world taken over by two very small but demanding people, it is a challenge to have silent alone time.  We all have excuses, don’t we?  Before kids came along it was something else.  My challenge to myself this week in my quest for Life to the Full is to slow down, shut up, and listen.  My plan is this: get up 30 minutes before my kids, grab a cup of coffee, read my devotion for the day, and listen.  In silence.  Will you join me?

This week’s challenge:  Spend time in silence with Jesus.

How do you carve out time to listen to the Lord?

You can read the rest of my Life to the Full series here.

Life to the Full: Daily Prayer Lists

In this quest to live this one life to the fullest extent the Lord has planned for me, I’m trying each week to concentrate on one aspect of becoming the woman I want to be.  You can read about my definition of who that woman is here.  I long to be a woman of prayer.  If you are blessed to know a real prayer warrior, you know there is something different about them, something intangible.  Not only do they have that Jesus joy that shines through so many of His followers, they also have a quiet sense of connectedness to the Father that I want so desperately.  You know they pray for you, even without them voicing it.  You know they spend rich, full, time with their Daddy each day.  I am one who often says a quick prayer throughout the day, but lacks the fortitude to commit to consistent, deep time with Him.  But I want it.  Oh, how I want it.  So, I’ve decided no more will I wait on the sidelines for that magical time when I become the woman I want to be.  The time is now, and it starts with prayer.  
Will you join me?  If you, too, have longed to be a prayer warrior, join me as I try to bridge this gap.  I’ve decided to start with intentional prayer lists.  Using the notes section of my iPhone, I’ve made a list for each day of the week.  There I can easily add prayer requests for friends (both IRL and online) and family, pray for missionaries and churches, and for my husband and children.  My phone is like an extra appendage, so my prayer list will always be with me.  Hopefully each list will be prayed over multiple times per day.  From now on, if I tell someone I’m praying for them, I’m really praying for them.  I want those words to have meaning.  
Challenge #1: Create a prayer list for each day of the week.

Who do you want to be when you grow up?  What steps are you taking to become that person today?

Life to the Full: Defining

Who am I?  Who do I want to be?  For what will I be known or remembered?  These are the questions of life and as I come upon my one year anniversary of leaving a career I loved to stay home with my children, I find myself wrestling with them yet again.  My own little mid-30s existential crisis is taking place.  I look at who I think I am and how I would describe myself and realize that most people would not see that person if they looked at me right now.  If you read my blog today, do you know what I’m about?  I don’t know.  I want to change that.  I want to be the person I want to be RIGHT NOW.  Not in ten years.  Not next week.  Now.

I want to live intentionally and work towards being the person I’ve always longed to be.  First I have to figure out who she is.  I have to define myself.  Not who I used to be, but myself right now.  Motherhood is wonderful.  It is all I had hoped for and so much more, but it has a dangerous way of eclipsing all that a woman was before and causing that to disappear in a wave of spit up and dirty diapers.  I am a mother, yes.  What what else?  Who else?  Right now my wee ones are dependent on me for everything and so that role can easily swallow up all my others.  Soon they will be independent creatures and I will be left not knowing what to do, who to be, who I am.  I want to continue to be me, the person God has made me to be, while mothering and loving my children with my whole self.  Is it possible?  We’ll see.  First I must define who I am and what I want to do with this one life I’ve been given.

Who am I? 
I am a child of God. 
I am a follower of Jesus.
I am a wife.
I am a mother.
What do I want to do with my life?
Love God.
Love my family.
Love others.
Be healthy.
Express myself creatively.
Be a good steward of all I’ve been given.
Be adventurous.
I want to start living intentionally to live this one life to the fullest.  In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come so that they may life, and have it to the full.”  I want that life that Jesus promises.  A full life.  Not a life where distractions rule and chances are missed and regrets are constant.  I want to use this blog as a space where I can express myself creatively and help myself and others to live this one life to the full.  I would love for y’all to join me.  My hope is to each week write at least one post that intentionally gives me an action step towards what I want to do with my life.  This week starts with defining what I want to do with this life.  
Now it is your turn.
Who are you?
What do you want to do with your life?

Truth and Coffee

Growing up, we all made fun of my mom constantly for her habit of leaving half drunk cups of coffee all over the house.  I never understood how she could keep forgetting her cup and never quite get through it without having to reheat it.  Let’s just say the veil has lifted.

I am now the mother of 2 children under age 2 and can barely find time to feed myself, much less finish a cup of coffee before it gets cold.  I’ve found my forgotten half drunk cups all over the place from the microwave to the changing table and everywhere in between.  The other day I found myself complaining about never getting a chance to just sit down and enjoy my coffee and breakfast.  I felt an ache in my heart for my old job in full time ministry with Young Life.  I loved that job and pray that He calls me back to it when this season is over.  In that moment I felt the Lord’s gentle reminder that THIS is the season I am in right now and it won’t last long.  This season of 2 in diapers and nonstop breastfeeding and 3 hour intervals and never being alone and never having a completely clean house for more than 10 minutes – THIS is where He has me right now.  In a brief moment my baby will be a toddler and my toddler will be a big kid.  Before I know it their complete dependence on me will be gone forever and I will have all the time in the world.

I am so thankful for the reminder to be where He has placed me right now.  So today I am choosing gratitude.  I am thankful for 2 healthy children who need me constantly.  I am thankful for an easy childbirth and quick recovery.  I am thankful for a teacher husband who has only a few days left of school before summer vacation.  I am thankful for nap time.  I am thankful for this high calling to be a stay at home mama.  I am thankful for a God who loves me even when I choose to be a brat instead of a grateful child of His.

What are you thankful for today?

On Lent, Spiritual Discipline, and Rebellion

Although I’ve been a follower of Christ for 14 years, my rebellious spirit hasn’t changed.  The season of Lent is so good for me because it causes me to embrace spiritual discipline and die to myself over little, insignificant sacrifices.  As any good rebel knows, our instinct is to fight anything that goes against us having our own way, sometimes to our own detriment.  Lent is just that.  We are supposed to give up things that get in the way of our relationship with Jesus and be reminded of His sacrifice.  My very nature fights this so hard.  I’ve come to the conclusion that for me at least, Lent is less about what you give up and more about the spirit of sacrificing a bit of what you want on a daily basis to have a bit more of Jesus.  For me, Lent is not about dogma or rules or punishment.  Lent is about reminding myself of the suffering my Savior endured so that I could have the life of freedom I embrace the other 325 days of the year.

It is for this freedom that Christ has set us free.  Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galations 5:1).  I refuse to let myself become a slave to anything, not my own wants, not religion, not anything of this world.  Lent reminds me of how selfish and sinful I really am, and makes me ever so much more grateful that Jesus died for me WHILE I am still a sinner.  Not after I cleaned myself up.  Not after I got my act together.  Right in the middle of my mess He gave His life to pay the ransom for mine.  And yours.  While I’m still sinning.  Amazing grace indeed.

Will you sacrifice anything this Lenten season?  I plan to, but I know I’ll mess up, cheat, give in, and start again, probably by the end of this week.  You probably will too, but remember this spiritual discipline is teaching us through our mistakes and helping us to grow in our faith as we struggle against our own sinful self.

Scripture and Prayer of the Week: Colossians 3:15-17

Thanks for joining me for the scripture and prayer for the week.  I try to bring a little focus to my life and my home with a specific prayer and verse every week.  You can find past verses of the week here, and other posts about following Jesus here.  

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
Colossians 3:15-17 (The Message)

How am I cultivating thankfulness in my home?  Certainly not when I show my frustration over tiny, insignificant things, or when I yell at my husband or child.  I want this verse to be true in my house, but it is sooooo far from it on some days.  Ann Voskamp has it right, thankfulness is the key to understanding grace and finding peace with God.  The problem is my own selfishness.  I don’t want to be thankful and joyful when I want to be mad and I want to be right.  Anybody?  My prayer this week will be that the Word will have the run of my house, not me.  We will be thankful, because God has blessed us beyond all reason.  We will sing with joy and through pride out the window.  Hopefully.  Pray with me.

Prayer of the week:
Father God, Have the run of my house with your Word.  Fill us with joy and thankfulness.  You have given us grace we don’t deserve, and more than anything we want our little one to grasp that.  How can he if we are selfish, yelling, frustrated parents who reflect nothing of you?  Remind me to sing to you this week.  Remind me to be consciously thankful, out loud, in front of my family.  Help me get over the need to be right and to be justified.  We want to give you plenty of room in our lives, but our own selfishness takes over.  Help me to get over myself this week.  Amen.

What are you thankful for this week?

Scripture and Prayer for the Week: John 15:4-5, 7, 10

“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:4-5,7,10)

One of my summer staff ladies from Trail West, Susannah, posted this verse on our group wall on Facebook.  It was a great reminder of what our mission in this life should be, to abide in Jesus.  He is the one who will cause us to bear fruit.  Without Him, we are dead branches produce nothing.  This weekend the Bear and I watched as Jed pruned the shrubs in front of our house.  The Bear loves watching his daddy do yard work, and Jed explained to him that the shrubs would grow much faster the more he prunes them.  It was such a picture of how our Father prunes us so that we can grow and bear fruit. 

Prayer for the week:
Father God, I long to abide with you and your Son.  Teach me what that means and how to go about it daily.  I hope to obey your commandments.  Help me to be faithful.  I strive to bear fruit for your glory.  Lord, make me fruitful. Prune and shape my life so that it can bear much fruit. Amen.   

How is God pruning and growing you right now?