Play Time

I’m sitting at the lake near where we live on this first Monday morning of the rest of my life since retiring from homeschool teaching on Friday. It’s gorgeous down here–just the right hint of cool breeze and very little of the humidity that my area will get increasing amounts of later on in the summer. It’s gorgeous, and it’s peaceful. I can see the breeze moving the water and the top of the trees. I can feel it as it blows through my hair I’ve been growing out. It’s like a kiss from the Holy Spirit.

I’ve come to a realization. I doubt it’s very profound for the rest of you, but it was for me. My life has been full of obligations for the last several years. Obligations of teaching; obligations of taking care of my home; obligations of faith; and obligations of behavior. We all have obligations in our lives, most of them placed by ourselves, but others also expect things of us. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of meeting my obligations, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of time for play. There hasn’t even been time for a vacation. Who takes vacations when they’re paying for a child to get through college? 🙂 I’m not complaining though. As a parent, I would sacrifice anything for my kids.

But, I haven’t had any time off, and it’s affected me–mentally, physically, and spiritually. It’s put me in a pit which I’ve started working my way out of. And part of that work involves self-care, or play. Coincidentally, play is the subject of today’s devotion. I can resonate with this quote from the author as I sit here. “It’s almost like a deep breath on a really hard journey of courage.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I’m able to take a deep breath here unlike anywhere else right now. My journey to courage has been hard this spring especially over the last few weeks, and I haven’t taken the time to play or just the time to rest from my obligations. Much as I hate to admit it, worship has even become rote. With that being said, I know I need some renewal.

Sitting down here to write this post has been a good start. Today’s Scripture verse is more meaningful too because I’m sitting in the middle of God’s creation. From Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It feels good to be in the middle of God’s creation and to know that He doesn’t see my sins because of what Jesus did for all of us on the cross. I can praise Him here, and I know it’s a start.

So, this week I’m going to do some self-care. I might not be able to go on a vacation, but I can take a rest from my obligations. I can work on climbing out of the pit and learn how to worship again with freedom and without obligation. May we all be able to see God’s presence in whatever situations we are in today!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Practicing at Being Brave

Today’s devotion is about discipline. Who among us likes discipline? Come on, let’s see the hands. ***sees no hands raised*** Now, who among us dislikes discipline? ***Everyone in the room has their hand raised.*** That’s better. At least, we’re willing to admit it.

I’ve never liked discipline although I know it’s necessary in our lives. We need to be disciplined as we go about our daily lives; we need to follow the rules and laws that have been set out for us; and we need to teach our children the rules and laws they need to follow. These are all important things though it can be painful to receive or go through this discipline. Like it says in Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Righteousness and peace, who wouldn’t want that?

But, there’s another image of the word discipline many of us have to overcome before we can get to the true God-given meaning of the word. This image equates discipline with the word abusive. Many people spank, hit, yell, scream, and say words of condemnation in the name of discipline. I’m pretty sure many of us have done one or more of these things, and if we haven’t, then we know someone who has.

We also have read stories in the Bible of God’s discipline of Israel. I’ve known people who have read these stories in the Old Testament who want nothing to do with a god who seems angry, distant, and uncaring to the people He created. Do you see the reasoning and the equating of discipline with abusive?

Jesus’ death on the cross though brought all of us grace. He accepts us as we are no matter what we’ve done or how different we are from everyone else. He loves us in a way I know no one else on this planet can, and I am grateful He is always there for me. Thriving in Grace, after all, is the name of this blog. 🙂

But, what about discipline or the title of today’s post–Practicing at Being Brave? How are they related to what I think God means for discipline to be? I’m glad you asked. I found wisdom and encouragement from what the author had to say in this morning’s devotion and from the book of 2 Timothy in the Bible. As I’ve blogged through this devotional and learned about being brave, I’ve realized that I need to practice what I’ve been learning which is what the author said. “…discipline isn’t rules you have to live by or laws you have to obey. Discipline is the work done on the practice field so you are ready for the big game.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) God doesn’t leave us lacking either. From 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” These are the things I need to do a better job of being brave.

So, as I end this post, I want to leave you with this quote from the author as encouragement for this Friday. “It’s the practice that makes perfect, and the practice makes you brave.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Body Image

Changing direction here today to talk about our physical bodies. How many of us have a positive image of our bodies? If I was to offer a survey, I don’t think it would be very many. I believe what we think of our bodies is directly related to what we see on media today as examples of a “perfect body”–think of cheerleaders, athletes or beauty queens.

My own story of how I feel about my body began at puberty over forty years ago. As is usual of young ladies, I gained some weight. Through my genetics, I also had a body type that was different from what was considered ideal by society. I know now that I probably could never have achieved that ideal, but I didn’t know it then.

What was frustrating for me was that my mother and her family had a genetic body type that was closer to society’s ideal. She never had a problem with weight whereas I did because my genetic type was closer to my father’s side of the family. As you can imagine, that truth set up many battles between us when I was a teenager. I was constantly dieting, feeling acceptance from her when I lost weight, and feeling distance from her when I gained weight. There was no middle ground of ‘I love you, no matter what.’ There was an ideal that always needed to be achieved, and I wasn’t able to achieve it.

All of this started the poor body image I have had for most of my life. I went through periods of having healthy eating habits and periods where I just didn’t. Two pregnancies didn’t help either though I love my sons with all my heart. Not knowing my true value as a daughter of God and not knowing He had made me a certain way on purpose affected how I saw His love, and it affected how I saw myself and everyone else in my life. I was always looking for the reason I would be found inadequate.

Before I go any further, I want to say there is nothing wrong with healthy eating habits, exercise, or taking care of yourself. God wants us to take care of the body He gave us. For the next few days, I’m going to go through how I came to an acceptance of how I look and how that made me want to take care of the body God gave me. Not to achieve a perfect societal ideal, but to be a good steward of God’s gift.

I’ve said before in this space that I accepted Christ as a teenager, but I still struggled with this issue as I believe most of us do. For every believer who gets that we are supposed to have unconditional love and acceptance for each other, there are four or five more who believe society’s ideal is the only body we should strive for.

It has taken me many years to become comfortable with myself and my body. I’ve learned that God values all the parts of me–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The Scripture I’ve read and the unconditional love I’ve experienced from my Lord and Savior is all that matters to me not the opinions of others. I especially liked the verse the author shared and the verses from Psalm 139 which has become my go-to Psalm as I’ve struggled with my worth in God’s sight. First, from I Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were brought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

Now, from Psalm 139:13-15, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” (emphasis mine)

We are worth everything to God. He sent His Son to die on the cross for us–every part of us. My prayer today is for us to remember this truth!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Healing Rain

When I write these posts, I like to think of titles that are related to the devotions, but not exactly like them though I will use the same title if I can’t think of anything else. My own take, so to speak. I think it has helped me as I’ve written each one of these blog posts.

Today’s devotion is based on Matthew 9:12. “On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.'” There is not a one of us who would disagree with this verse. We instinctively know that we are sinners in need of God’s grace. But, we don’t like the pain involved with the healing God brings us though it’s for our own good. The author uses the example of surgery on our bodies to make this clear. When the doctor wants us to have surgery, there is usually a good outcome expected–a new baby, better health. Though it hurts while we’re healing, there will be a time when we feel better. This is true with physical surgery  as well as spiritual surgery. In fact, I agree with most of what the author says except for how she portrays bravery in the final sentence.  “And we can be brave in the face of brokenness and pain and spiritual surgery because we know that God is good.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

Now, before anyone gets upset, I do believe God is good with all of my heart. What I’ve latched on to today is bravery in the face of pain and hurt and how that relates to expressing emotion. My disagreement with the last sentence comes from what she means by bravery. If she means not to express emotion, then I disagree. If she means expressing emotion is okay, then I agree.

But, that really isn’t my point today. I just wanted to clarify where I agreed and where I disagreed with the author.

So, back to my musings. In recent years, I’ve become a face of the Christian artist, Laura Story, in particular, because of her song, Blessings. The first time I heard Blessings, it was being played at a funeral. It touched my heart at an almost indescribable level. I know God placed the words on her heart to write. Let me quote the song so you will know what I mean.

Blessings

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things’Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

I believe these words are an invitation from God to express emotion, and I’ve cried when I’ve heard them at funerals. But, what about crying at other times and at church, in general? What about expressing hurt and joy or anger and gentleness? What about expressing emotion, period? I believe there are some places, some churches that do this well, but, for the most part, churches don’t do this well as evidenced by what happened to me on Sunday. So, what happens to those of us who take a risk and tell how we’re really feeling to people from church or while we’re at church, and it doesn’t go well? We shut down. We bury our emotions. Worship and church activities become a “Hello, how are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” enterprise, and the true intimacy that God wants for us as believers becomes non-existent. I think that is sad. One time, I heard someone say, “If people knew what I really struggled with, they would kick me out.” That hurt my heart, but I resonated with it. I’m just as good as he was at putting up shields and burying emotions at the one place where we shouldn’t have to.
So, I’ve been looking and thinking and pondering since Sunday, and I think I’ve come to a way of seeing healing and expressing emotion. It’s in the title of this post–healing rain. God gave me my emotions to use, to express, to marvel, and to wonder at His creation. We have emotions so we can know how much He loves us and so we can share His love. He gave us emotions so we can live in the now and the not yet and so we can know His healing power. God gave us rain too so it makes sense to me that rain can heal souls as well as give nourishment to the land. My bravery is not stoic and muscle-bound like society portrays today and like I think some in the church would like it to be. Instead, it is full of tears and rain and full of God’s healing power. May we all give our brothers and sisters grace as we learn to express our emotions in front of our Lord and Savior!
Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Don’t Give Up

First, mild language warning with this post. I know it’s not my usual fare to have to give a language warning, but it fits for today’s post.

Yesterday, I was faced with this choice. I was faced with the choice of giving up. It’s interesting that today’s devotion from 100 Days to Brave is about giving up because it goes perfectly with the story I have to share. I can’t believe I’m at the two-thirds mark for this blog series. I’ve been blogging my way through this devotional since February, and it’s helped me a lot. I can recommend this book highly to all of you.

So, anyway, back to yesterday’s story. Spring is a rough season for our family, and it’s been even rougher for me this year due to a lot of things especially in the last couple of weeks. I’ve mainly kept things to myself because I have a hard time inviting someone in (http://thrivingingrace.com/inviting-someone-in/) God and the important people in my life knew, and I was able to write about it which has been my saving grace. Yesterday though was Mother’s Day, the last tough day of spring for me. I almost didn’t go to church because of it, but I wanted to be with my family though I knew I would probably be quiet for most of the morning, My husband knew and was okay with that. When he finished doing his media work for rehearsal, we decided to talk during Bible class. It was a good talk. He told me it was okay for me to “just be” for Mother’s Day. I could be sad, mad, happy, joyful–whatever emotion was appropriate. We finished before service, and I felt like I could smile and at least be genuine in my well-wishes for others. He went back to the media desk, and I went to take care of some things.

When I came back, I went to the area where I usually sat, and that’s when it happened. I was approached by someone; we hugged and wished each other a happy Mother’s Day. Then, she grabbed my hands and said I needed to stop being sad on Mother’s Day–that I had a whole lot of things to be thankful for and that I should stop looking to the past and look to the future. I know I’m blessed, but I also know the day is just a hard one for me. Tears started pouring down my face again, and she walked away. It was five minutes before service started. I had never been so deeply humiliated in my life. This is someone who intimidates the hell out of me–she’s pretty and nothing ever seems to be wrong with her. There was nothing I could really say because it was all faith-related. I know God has blessed me with my family. But, I also know God has given me permission to be sad when I need to be. He made us with tear ducts, after all.

This all happened in an instant, and then I knew I had to get out of there. I went somewhere I was hoping to hide for a few minutes. (I miss the prayer room with the door that shut and locked.) Tears were streaming down my face as I went into the restroom. But, I wasn’t fated to be alone. Two women were already in there and came over wanting to know what was wrong. Of course, at this point, I wasn’t understandable because I was crying. I will always be thankful for one of them who hugged and prayed for me. Then, two other women came in, one of whom had been the one to humiliate me. She continued to say that God had blessed me. I knew that, but I couldn’t stop crying enough to say it. I sat on that bathroom floor wondering what the fuck I had done to this person–this person I admire though they still intimidate me because they have it all together–especially with their faith. The only thing I could think of was that something about me wasn’t good enough. I was completely humiliated. Finally, they left me alone.

I spent a few minutes calming down, and then went back in the auditorium sitting on the back row this time since I didn’t want to risk anything else.  I will admit the rest of the service glazed over me. I kept thinking of the ways I could have communicated better, recovered better, hidden away my sadness better. Done all of it better. At the end of the service though, I heard two words that meant everything. “God sees.” God sees, and it’s okay if I’m sad. God sees and understands even if no one else does and even if it’s not the appropriate kind of sadness.

I went home from church, and my family salvaged the day. Window shopping, lesson planning, Wal-Mart, Dairy Queen, and a nap rounded out my day. My husband also fixed dinner, and I was able to compose a neutral Facebook status that gave credence to what I was feeling. I wasn’t interested in repeating hurtful behavior. I just wanted to make my feelings understandable.

Now, all of this might have been an excuse to give up on my journey to becoming brave. It would have made sense. For the most part yesterday, church community sucked eggs for me, and I’m still not sure how I’m going to feel when I see the person who humiliated me again. But, I don’t want to quit. As I said before, I’m two-thirds of the way through this devotional, and I’m at a better place in understanding my faith, yesterday notwithstanding. This is hard stuff, and I am tempted to quit. I looked at the words from the author though and the words from the Bible verse she shared and they encouraged me. I hope they encourage you too. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” And from the author, “Don’t quit trying to find the brave in your life. Don’t quit the things you’ve involved in that feel just too hard.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

So, I’m not going to give up even when I’m humiliated, embarrassed, or sad. God sees and understands even when no one else does.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Perseverance

It might seem funny that I’m writing about perseverance today when I’ve felt like I’ve just been hanging on by a thread for the last few weeks. If perseverance really does build character like it says in Romans 5:3-5, I must have a lot of it by now. 🙂 No, just kidding. I don’t want to brag on myself when I haven’t done the work.

First, though, I want to quote the verses so you’ll know what God says about it. From Romans 5:3-5, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” I don’t know many of us who glory in our sufferings, at least not in the middle of them. Pain is not pleasant for any of us. But, we suffer while we’re in this life sometimes even more than we did before we became believers. And that begs the question–if we suffer more and we don’t see other Christians suffer to know it is normal, why do we become believers? Why is Jesus so important to so many of us?

I believe it is because we can see the possibilities of a limitless love. We can see the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross and think that maybe, maybe, we can let Him in our lives to change our story. We can have limitless love in our lives despite the pain because of Who we’ve invited into our lives. Who wouldn’t want limitless love? Who wouldn’t want the grace and mercy Jesus promises to each of us?

That’s why perseverance matters even when we’re hanging on by a thread like I am today. God has put each of these devotions from 100 Days to Brave in my path when I’ve needed them. The Scripture and the songs from the author have been just what I’ve needed for each step of this journey to becoming brave. Today’s song is no different. It’s called Golden Thread, and it’s by Joy Williams. It’s reminded me there might be some gold on the end of that fraying thread which is about to break, and I just might want to reinforce it to see what God has planned next. Let me quote the lyrics so you can see.

Golden Thread by Joy Williams

I’m holding on for dear life, it’s not looking good
Is it now, is it now?
It’s all up in the air and never coming down
Coming down, is it now?

Spinning through my fingers, watch it go
Out of my hands, out of my hands
All over again
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread
Just wanna know while everything’s unraveling
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread

Don’t sew it off; it’s lovely tearing at the seams
It’s what it is
It’s you and me
I’m standing in the in-between of what I was and what I need

Slipping through my fingers, watch it go
Out of my hands, out of my hands
All over again
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread
Just wanna know while everything’s unraveling
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread

Please don’t watch me, please don’t watch me cry
Oh I don’t wanna be this way
It’s harder than it looks, so please don’t watch me cry
And admit that I’m frayed

Out of my hands, out of my hands
All over again
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread
Just wanna know while everything’s unraveling
I’m hanging on, just hanging by a golden thread

Slipping through my fingers, watch it go

I especially liked the line, “Please don’t watch me cry.” I know people are uncomfortable watching people cry, and I’m pretty sure the reverse is also true. No one wants to admit they’re frayed. That’s why they want to appear strong even if they’re not. It is my belief though that perseverance can involve crying and hurting and admitting you’re in pain. It’s the best way for God to heal the hurt. And I don’t mean healing where no one knows your pain. I mean healing where we all know it’s okay with God if we are just strong enough.
Yes, that’s the other song which has touched me today, and I want to finish my post with quoting the chorus of Strong Enough by Matthew West.
Strong Enough by Matthew West
I know I’m not strong enough to be
Everything that I’m supposed to be
I give up
I’m not strong enough
Hands of mercy won’t you cover me
Lord right now I’m asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
God, please help all of us, and me especially, to not give up or quit, and help us all to persevere! In Your Son’s amazing Name, Amen!

People are Changed by Scars

For the last six weeks, I’ve taken my husband to work when I’ve needed the car. It’s been a divine detour God has sent me on with a range of emotions – both good and bad. It has been humbling to have this loss of control when I’ve generally been in control of my schedule. It has made wounds out of scars I thought had already healed, and it has made me sad thinking why things never seem to come together for us and why the bad times have been continual. Why has God never given me something victorious I could share at church?

But, today, I heard a quote on a local Christian radio station on my way back from taking him. I had been detoured around my usual route and was sitting in stop and go traffic when I turned the radio on. The host was talking with a guest, and they were talking about scars. This I could relate to, I have a lot of scars. I heard what he had to say about Jesus’ scars, and then, all of a sudden, the host got excited and was saying she wanted to write down the quote. I listened to him say it again and wished I had a way to write it down too. It was that good! But, alas, the line of traffic started moving, and I didn’t have the chance. When I got home, I looked up the radio station’s Facebook page in hopes that it would be on there. It was! Yay! Do I think it was luck that I found it? No, I think God wanted me to read it again and share it with you all. So, from Pastor Jeremy Saylor of Christian Life Church, “Why would Jesus keep his scars on the back side of the resurrection?” I think, because, “When we share our victories others applaud, when we share our scars, people are changed.” Wow! Two thoughts came to me. This makes sense, and my scars are worthy to be shared! God has seen them. Jesus has seen them. And I am still worthy in their sight despite my scars. Grace, grace, and more grace like in Ephesians 2:8-9.

Another question came to me. Why do divine detours generally result in more scars? I understand that if we are believers, we expect or should expect that God is in control of our lives like it says in Proverbs 19:21. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I also understand that scars can happen from our sinful natures, but what I’ve never understood is when something bad happens to someone else or to me, and there seems to be no reason for it. A divine detour, so to speak. What the author says about this though is similar to the quote I heard this morning. “But the thing is, we need divine detours because it’s through the divine detours that God always takes us where we’re supposed to go in the long run.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

So, God puts us where we’re supposed to be through the bad times. OK, I do understand it, and it does make sense, but that leads me to another question. If our scar stories are worthy to be shared, why doesn’t it happen more in the church? Why don’t we hear our leaders share their scar stories, and why aren’t we willing to share our scar stories? Sadly, I’m pretty sure I know why. It’s demeaning and embarrassing to have a scar story. We would rather have people applauding our victories than having our scar stories out there for everyone to mock. Because, isn’t that what we do– we mock, and we judge anything we don’t understand?

That is why I believe Jesus kept the scars. He wanted to be able to prove He had been through what He had been through, and He wanted us to know it was okay to have a scar story. Jesus knew it would be the scar stories and how He redeemed them that would eventually spread His message across the globe. So thankful to have a Lord and Savior that accepts me for who I am–scar story and all!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Inviting Someone In

Yesterday, I did what today’s devotion is asking us to do. I invited you into my pain. I laid bare my thoughts of how I was feeling and told you what God had put on my heart. This is the best way I share when speaking is too difficult. I can write down my pain and anguish, and it helps with the hurt in my heart. It begins the healing process and exposes the darkness in my heart to the light.

Sometimes, I wish I felt more comfortable inviting people into my life to confide in and to trust because that’s really the whole point of today’s devotion. Having relationships with and trusting people in real life. I feel like that’s where I’ve stalled on being brave. The hurt in my heart is too overwhelming to speak out loud.

This is where my writing comes in. When I write about matters like this, I use the written words as my prayer to God with whatever matter I’m writing about. Putting the words on paper instead of keeping them locked in my brain helps me as I strive to be honest in my relationship with God. By writing about it in this space, it’s out in the open, and I feel like I’ve released it.

It would be nice though if some of my friends in real life would read my posts especially the ones I’ve written in the last few days. They would gain a better understanding of my personality and how to relate to me. Maybe one of them would actually understand my feelings. But, perhaps it’s better if they don’t. I might not be as honest if I knew people in real life were reading these musings and knew that I struggled with church and my faith. I might not talk to God as much as I’ve tried to get a handle on why my heart sometimes hurts. And I might even lose the courage to try at all.

I don’t want to give up on church though. I don’t want to give up on my faith. I want to do my best to be a part of this community of believers that God has called me to. So, I might sit in the back of a classroom instead of at the front. I might not talk to anyone except for a brief nod and a hello. I might play with a child instead of having conversations with adults. Or I might just cry and not be able to say why. But, these are my ways of inviting someone in, and I hope someday people will understand. If they don’t though, I know my Lord and Savior does, and He is the only one who truly counts!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Facing Your Pain

When I was growing up, I was taught to bury my pain. Phrases like you’re too sensitive; I was just kidding; you’re ugly because you’re not skinny; and you’re a disappointment were regular occurrences in my hearing. Because no one wanted to acknowledge my pain, I learned to run away at the slightest hint of it. These are all of the unhealthy ways to face pain, at least, according to author of today’s devotion.

I thought I was doing better with this. I thought I was doing well with relying on God and the others in my life as I faced painful issues. But, the lies have come again. They’ve come almost too fast for me to fight. I’m ugly. I’m a dis-appointment to everyone around me. I’m poor. My thoughts and dreams don’t matter. I’m not traditional so no one wants me around. I’m a woman who doesn’t like traditional womanly things. God only wants me because I’m part of a married couple, and I wouldn’t matter to Him if I was alone. I’m not part of a Christian family that reaches back several generations. Lots of lies, as you can see. Some with a basis in truth, some not, but still, lies from the enemy. I feel like I’m walking through a valley with no exit which reminds me of Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

So, God is with me as I’m walking through the “shadow of death” valley. Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like if I was gone. Would anyone miss me? (I mean, besides my family who is supposed to miss me. 🙂 ) I don’t know. But, God is with me. I know this, and I trust in Him and in His love. I know He will never leave me or forsake me.

But, other people, that I don’t know. Sometimes, they’re the ones using the words I hear in my heart. Using words that are cruel, vulgar, and unkind. The words that have debilitated my confidence again and again. I went to the grocery story with my older son yesterday, and he parked his car far away from the store. When I asked him why, he said it was because he didn’t like people very much. I think you know what he means–rude drivers, rude people who don’t park properly, etc., etc. I thought about it a moment and realized there are times when I don’t like people much either. I don’t like how they can be cruel or demeaning or ugly, and they can show God that He really don’t need to be bothering with this world. We’re already too far gone, me included.

God did bother though. He sent His Son to die on the cross for me and for all of us though it might be something I have to say to myself until the day I die. He considers all of us to be worth it, and He loves all of us which means we need to love each other. With that said, I want to go back to the true statements the author wrote in the devotion. The statements that we can use to combat the lies of the enemy. Statements that show the truth of God’s relationship with us. “God made me on purpose. God loves me unconditionally. God doesn’t make ugly.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) May we all remember these truths as we go through our day and relate them to others as well as to ourselves.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

What Does Fear Look Like?

This morning’s devotion talks about how being brave looks different for each of us because we are all different from one another. I think our fears are different too. There are people who get their energy from being around other people while others would run away at the thought. Some people would love the chance to hold and pet a snake while others would say, ‘No way, not gonna do that,’ to the opportunity of doing the same. Others would see some kind of insect in their home and kill it while others would try to get it to go back outside into its natural environment. The point is that all our fears are unique because we are all unique people made in God’s image.

While our being brave and our fears are unique to each of us, God gives us the same message in dealing with each. From Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua says this several times in this chapter as he is speaking to the people after Moses’ death before they were to cross into the land God was going to give them. I think he might have been remembering the time they failed at being strong and courageous forty years earlier and how that had caused all the years of wandering in the desert. So, he knew he had to say and cement that phrase to the people so they would better remember what God wanted them to do–to not let fear win.

“Be strong and courageous.” There are times when I feel like I do a great job of being brave and being strong and courageous, and there are times when I am just…not. Fear overwhelms me, and I decide that thing I wanted to try was just not worth it. I know Satan has won then, but I know God has forgiven me too because He always gives us the strength to get back up again.

I’m coming back to this after a few busy days without writing. I should have known no writing would get done, but I was…hopeful. Not only did our older son move home from college for the summer, our younger son had a full slate of work, baseball, and celebrating his senior status. I’ve been aware that my homeschool teacher status was coming to an end all semester, but time has been moving faster than I thought it would. Last night’s senior banquet cemented that rapidly approaching ending. I’m glad I know children whose lives I can still be a part of as my own children begin their adult lives.

But even with that, things will be different. I look at my sons now and think of where I was at their ages. I had my own hopes and dreams some of which have been fulfilled and some of which have not. I look back at my past and think of where I’ve failed. As my sons move into the adult world, will I only be seen as a mother or wife? Can I be seen as a woman who has her own hopes and dreams without being relegated to traditional female roles? I don’t know how to answer any of these questions, and it scares me. What will happen when my sons no longer need me? Does God have things He wants me to do for Him?

Compounding all of this are unresolved questions and pain from my past. I don’t want to face these fears. I don’t want to face thinking I’m no longer relevant because I don’t have children at home. I don’t want to face thinking that my hopes and dreams don’t matter because I’m too old. I don’t want to be forced into a role I don’t want.

But, at the same time, I want to be wanted–for relationships, for serving, for living. I want to know I would be missed if I was no longer here–not for what I do, but for who I am. I want to serve God with the gifts and talents He has given me and not be told I can’t. And all of this, the things I don’t want to happen and the things I would like to have happen is what fear looks like for me. Praying we can all remember Joshua 1:9 as we deal with our unique fears.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!