Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

A New Perspective on Setbacks

Yesterday, as I was coming home from a good workout, I was feeling so thankful for some progress in regaining strength after my extended illness over Christmas Break. I was also proud of myself for getting exercise in every day this week so far.  I felt joy and hope like I haven’t felt for weeks!  Victory was mine!

Just as I reached our back door, I slipped on some ice, fell forward, and banged my knees on the cement step.  Fear gripped my heart as I relived the tail-bone-breaking incident of what we now call Buttkill Falls.  I feared a setback.

I picked myself up and took a few tentative steps. My right knee hurt the worst, but I could still walk.  It was scraped and already bruising. As I limped into the house, the internal monologue began… just like Adam and Eve, the original sinners, I wanted someone to blame, and my husband was the first victim. “I can’t believe he didn’t clear off this walk all the way!  Doesn’t he know that’s not safe?! What if one of the kids fell….” Yes, my poor husband. 🙂

But I didn’t stop there. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, free from the wrath of Egypt yet still not content, I began to question the Lord Himself. “Why, Lord? Are you really going to allow me to be injured again just when I’ve found a good rhythm with my health goals?  Why am I being punished for doing what is right? I’ve worked so hard. Why didn’t you help me, keep me from falling?”

Exodus 17:2-3

So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” (empahsis mine)

As soon as the prideful thoughts entered my mind, I knew I was wrong – wrong to blame my husband, even more so, wrong to blame my Father God.  And wrong to think that my “good efforts” excused me from any sort of pain or suffering.

You see, fear took over for a few moments. I was afraid that another injury would keep me from meeting my health goals. I was afraid that another setback might discourage me to the point of giving up – a pattern that has repeated itself over and over again where my health is concerned. I was afraid of failing. I was afraid I would not be able to persevere!

Conviction stung my heart for my sinful thoughts, for my desire to lash out at someone else in my frustration.  “I just want God to help me,” I tried to reason within myself.

But maybe He already had…

Maybe His best help was to allow me to fall.

Yes, I mean it, truly. While it’s not wrong to be excited about the progress I saw, the Father gently showed me that, once again,  I was beginning to rely on self alone and not Him.  Perhaps I needed that fall to remind me that I will only conquer this battle with health and weight by His power and strength. I cannot do it on my own. Without even realizing it, I had slowly slipped back into my “can-do” attitude.

I can do it.

I’ve got this.

I don’t need You right now…

Does it sound familiar, friends?  How many times a day do I catch myself relying on my own efforts instead of Him? How many times do we deny the power of Christ in us, in favor of our own human strength? How often do we place our trust in self alone?

You think I would have learned the lesson by now. He’s only been trying to teach me for the last thirty-plus years! 🙂  It’s that work-in-progress that I’m always talking about – aiming toward progress, not perfection.

I’ll make mistakes.

You’ll make mistakes, too.

Sometimes the setback is a wake-up call to our own sin. And often the best help our Father God can offer is letting us fall, just as we have to allow our own children to fall at times.  It’s one of the most difficult, yet most loving things we can do as parents, yes?

A New Perspective on Setbacks, setbacks to your goals when you face a setback, dealing with setbacks

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

He lets us fall, so that we might see Him, so that we might throw off self and run to His arms instead!

He lets us fall because He loves us too much not to.

It’s the best help He can give –

helping us turn from self to Savior!

Jen 🙂

Side note: My knees seem to be okay, Praise the Lord! One is a little swollen and bruised, but so far only injured externally, from what I can tell. I’m incredibly thankful for His mercy.

Sharing with: Grace and Truth

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Courage to Face a Giant

Have you ever asked the Father for something big, something miraculous, and been so afraid that He might choose to say no that you avoid His presence altogether?

I have.

So you hide away, like the original sinners amongst the leaves in the garden, and when He calls, you cower because what if you don’t like what He has to say?  What if you don’t have the courage to face what’s coming?

Yeah, that’s me lately.

Courage, fear, cowering, hiding, avoiding

You feel this yearning to give in and stumble to His arms, yet your stubborn heart resists with questions like why? and right now?

My sisters in Christ, have you ever felt like David before Goliath,  wondering what happened to your army, praying for the courage to “fight the good fight” even if it means you’re doing it alone?

Yeah, that’s me, too.

And perhaps, like me, you feel more than a little lonely standing there with your simple slingshot in hand. Maybe you long for a superhero sidekick or two…or three.

As you stand there, wind in your face, jeers wafting through the air from the Enemy’s camp, you hear a still small voice speak, “Courage!”

“Take Courage, my daughter.”

That’s the message I’ve been receiving from the Father all year long.

He’s been sending it to me a million different ways. Through a Beth Moore simulcast.  Through Bible Study.  Through a talk He had me prepare for a MOPS group. Through prayer and quiet time.  Through facebook posts and pintrest pins… you name the method – He’s used it.

At times I’ve soared gloriously on that message, that promise.  Other times I find myself a doubting Thomas, looking for evidence, asking for proof.

And I keep looking for rescue to come in human form, but He tells me, “Courage.”

Galations 1:1-0

 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

At first, I thought He meant the message for me in one specific area – that of pursuing writing and speaking.  But after a while I began to see that Courage applies to so many other areas of my life – marriage, parenting, trusting God, finances, and lately… well, this potentially life-changing  Giant.

Here’s the thing I’m learning about Courage, sisters: it’s not supposed to come from me or you or any human source.

Surprised? I was.

When you search for the word Courage in the Old Testament, you often find it used in connection with the phrase “be strong,” especially in the early years of Joshua’s leadership.

Keep in mind that Joshua was new in his leadership role, and he had some big shoes to fill. I mean, who wants to follow Moses, the man with the burning bush experience and the credit of leading the Israelites out of slavery?!

In addition, Joshua faced the enormous task of leading the people of Israel to conquer the Promised Land – hooray, right?!  Well, sure that sounds good after wandering in the desert an extra forty years, but something I didn’t realize until this year is that the Promised Land wasn’t empty.

No.

The Promised Land was filled with “giants” and well-fortified cities.  Joshua faced this very land.  No more Moses to look up to and learn from.  He was flying on his own set of wings now with a seemingly impossible task lying before him.

I’m sure Joshua was afraid. I’m sure he wasn’t completely certain that he was up to the task.

I’m positive because the Lord reassured him again and again in the first chapters of Joshua that He would be with Joshua.  He commanded Joshua four times to “be strong and courageous” in the first chapter alone!

And I’ve realized something about myself this year: I’ve taken the world’s view on Courage – you know, chin up, man up, just do it, what’s the worst that can happen, and all of the other sentiments we use to get past fear.

Maybe you have taken that view, too, without even realizing it.

But that’s just not God’s view, my sisters;  that’s not what He’s telling Joshua. It’s not what He’s telling me or you, either. Because when you look up the Hebrew for “strong and courageous,” you find both words or phrases (be strong, take courage) linked back to the Hebrew root “chazaq”  (pronounced khaw-zak’).

Last year I wrote about that root, but I was more focused on waiting patiently.

This year He’s telling me, “Take Courage!”

We must take it, you see, because “chazaq” doesn’t come from any human source. No, chazaq comes from a supernatural act: as in David’s triumph over Goliath, as in Samson pushing down the pillars, as in angel armies going before Joshua as he led the Israelites in battle for the Promised Land.

Don’t you see? The courage comes from Him, sisters!  He doesn’t expect us to muster courage up within ourselves. He offers it from His very nature, for our taking!

courage quote, fail or succeed, take courage in the Lord, be strong and courageous

It’s true. We’re destined to succeed in whatever He sets before us when “chazaq” comes into play.

So, I’m asking for some BIG things right now, Father.  And I’m a little afraid, so I’ve been hiding out, avoiding your Presence.  Hiding has only served to leave me feeling lonely and a little bit miserable. But like my friend Arabah Joy wrote, I’m asking for “rain” and I’m taking my umbrella with me.  I know I’m lacking in the courage department right now and the fear seems to be winning a little bit.  But I hear you say, “Courage, daughter,” and I know that means that You’ve got this. Chazaq – it’s Your Courage, not mine.

It’s Your battle, not mine.

Suddenly that giant doesn’t seem so big.

And I’m crying, but I’m grinning, too, ‘cause I’ve missed you, Father.

I’ve missed you.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lordyour God is with you wherever you go.

I hear Him whisper Courage to me, and to you, too, sister.

Do you hear it?

Jen 🙂

Sharing with: #TheLoft, Cornerstone Confessions, Rich Faith Rising, Missional Women, Jennifer Dukes Lee/Tell His Story, Work in progress Wednesdays,

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Greater Is He Who Is in Monday Mornings

Greater is He Who, spiritual warfare, spiritual battle, Satan, God, struggle, encouragement

It’s Monday morning, that dreaded day of the week.

The day when we realize it’s back to work, back to “real” life, back to dirty dishes and school schedules and all the things that so easily weigh us down.

But this Monday morning I sit before the computer with a big smile on my face. Why?

It’s not because of the school schedules or the housework that is waiting or even the awkwardness between my husband and I before he left for work this morning.  It’s not even because this Monday morning started out oh-so-fantastic: quite the opposite, in fact.

It’s not because I recognize the Enemy at work, his attempt to gain back the ground he lost on Sunday.  We talked last week about verses that pack a punch and the reality of spiritual warfare. Have you ever noticed, my sisters, how unbelievably difficult a Monday seems after an incredibly encouraging Sunday?  It’s not a coincidence that the reality of a Monday morning so often dampens our Sunday fire!

But today I smile in the face of everyday difficulty and Monday-morning rude awakenings because my Redeemer lives, and the battle belongs to Him!  Before I could be swayed by doubts this morning, here is the goodness He had in store for me:

A reminder from my GREAT blogging friends that we are not powerless in the struggle, neither are we alone.

This beautiful prayer by Jennifer Dukes Lee, that we might keep “in step” with Him as we step into Mondays. Go read it!

This verse from Ann Voskamp, a reminder to put one foot in front of the other, to keep climbing, to persevere. Take a look for yourself at His faithfulness.

This song from Mercy Me, the song I’ve been playing on repeat either aloud or in my head ever since I received a bad-news-wake-up-call last week.  It reminds me that He who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world. It gives me impossible hope in the God who specializes in the impossible.

 

I smile because He knows my name, He knows my pain, He knows my weakness, and He knows exactly what I need to hear on a Monday morning.

It’s like a secret message, just for me,

just for a beloved daughter,

just for my broken heart,

just for my wounded spirit.

But no, it’s for you, too, my sisters in Christ!

Just because He loves us!

He who is in YOU is greater than he who is in the world, don’t you forget it.

The Enemy is prowling, but our Lord is on guard, you can be certain of that.  And His witnesses proclaim His goodness for all of who feel the sting of the fiery darts this morning. He is faithful!

Ephesians 3

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,

15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people,

to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us,

21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Father, I thank you for being in the midst of even the smallest things, like Monday mornings.  I thank you for faithful voices to remind us of Who you are, Almighty Lord, Highest Authority, One True God, yet also, the Lover of our souls.  We need not be afraid, for the battle belongs to You and the victory is ours to share!  Strengthen us as we wait patiently for victory, Lord.  It is coming.

It is coming.

And all the people rejoice.

Jen 🙂

 

Sharing with:

Mom’s The Word, Whole Hearted Home, A Little R & R, Jennifer Dukes Lee

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That New Girl: Finding Confidence

Each Thursday for the next few weeks, we are talking about breaking free from insecurity, comparison, and shame. We are sharing our raw and messy real life stories. But also, more importantly, we are sharing the truths that set us free. We have bathed this series in prayer and ask now that the Father knit our hearts together and strengthen us to slay this giant called “insecurity” in our hearts.

Verdict on Value

 

Sometimes I wish I could go back to my second-grade self, that girl who was mostly tomboy, confident leader-of-the-pack. She could be friends with whomever she wanted, even boys. She wore dresses, but she also climbed trees. She lived free.

She never considered what the scales said about her value.  She never wished to be more like her blonde-headed friend.  She had a little girl crush on a classmate of hers, but never spent her days waiting for him to notice, or worrying what others might think.

She was relatively innocent, that girl God created on purpose and with a plan.

But that girl moved from state to state nearly every year after third grade until she finally moved overseas.  Each new school left its mark, some beauty spots and some ugly scars, and she found herself wearing labels like “new girl” and “missionary kid.” For a while, she learned to hide her true self away in favor of a girl others would accept. She lost her identity, her self-confidence.

I’ve spent much of my adult life learning to force that girl out into the light, trying to help her find the woman she was created to be.  In the process, I’ve searched for her value in family and friendships, marriage and parenthood, status in college and sometimes status at church, often without realizing I was doing so.

On occasion, I’ve even tried to manufacture that girl’s value on my own by living the good girl life, raising the good kids, serving at the good church, creating good things, and so many more undesired, unnecessary sacrifices that we’re all guilty of performing.

But I fail so often, don’t you? And once again, the Father has to remind me that the confidence I’m searching for really can’t be found in others or in self.

If I want to be completely free of others’ expectations and my own perfectionism, to live confident, I must look only to my Maker.  He alone knows the “real” me, the girl he “knit together” in the womb.  The girl He calls “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  The girl He values at the price of a one and only Son. The girl I was born to be.

that girl, new creation, identity in Christ, finding confidence,

He alone knows the attention to detail that often leads to the pit of perfectionism can also be a gift of organization and precision.  He alone knows the smiling face often hides a fragile heart, but a heart that easily lends itself to sympathy for others.  He alone knows that tendency to boss comes from the ability to lead and that often critical voice reveals undaunted optimism.

And so many other flaws that I find so obvious in myself, He has ultimately meant for my good.

You see, we don’t serve a God who creates mistakes, sisters.  And even though sin and Satan have corrupted us, I’m convinced He truly purposed those “flaws” for good.

So how do we overcome the lies we’ve listened to for so long to reclaim our true selves, the free girls we were created to be?

We look to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith!  He shows us our true value: the blood of the Lamb.  We trust in Philippians 1:6 which claims He began a work in us that He promises to carry until completion.

Sin temporarily hijacks our child-of-God identity, the world teaches us that we will never be enough, and the pride and insecurity of self often confirms the lies. But the truth, sisters, the amazing truth is that we don’t have to be enough because He is already everything for us. It’s this Christ-confidence that sets us free!

no condemnation, confidence in Christ, identity in Christ, position in Christ

With Christ’s help a better version of that true-to-self, second-grade girl is surfacing. I catch glimpses of her from time to time, the new-in-Christ girl. She speaks up even when the voices inside tell her to avoid the risk. She combats those lies with the truth of the Word. She claims victory in imperfect progress.

She is Christ-confident.

She’s learning little by little to tune out the world, the Enemy, and even her own perfectionist thoughts and focus instead on the Maker who continually makes her new.

Because she was born to live free.

And so were you, my sisters.

So were you!

Jen 🙂

 

 

Be sure to catch all of the posts in our Verdict on Value series (every Thursday):

March 27th – Kathy from Free to Fly (Approval)

April 3rd – Interview with Jennifer Dukes Lee (and a chance to win her new book, Love Idol!)

April 10th – Kerry from Plenty Place (Reputation)

April 17th – Arabah from Arabah Joy (Shame ~with a free printable)

April 24th – Jen from Being Confident of This (Confidence)

May 1st – Leah from The Point (Insecurity)

May 8th – Wrap up at Arabah Joy’s place

 

Sharing with: My Freshly Brewed Life, Missional Women, Christian Mommy Blogger,

Essential Thing DevotionsWomen of Worship, Mom’s the Word, Cornerstone Confessions,

Time Warp Wife, Rich Faith Rising, Messy Marriage, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Wholehearted Home

 

You may also find me at any of these lovely places.

 

 

 

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Painted Red

Paint.

It covers whatever is beneath it, with each brush stroke blotting out all that came before.

It covers nail holes and cracks in the walls, the scribbles of a toddler and the spills of a preschooler.  It covers poorly chosen colors and other such mistakes.  It even covers rust and mildew, evidences of time and neglect.

Paint makes old things new again, clean again, perhaps even beautiful again.

And yet that first Passover, the paint was hardly beautiful, blood splashed red across door frames painted as a covering, a protection over what was to come.
Passover, painted red, blood, Jesus, sacrifice, first-passover, forgiveness of sin, how-the-blood-of-the-Lamb-makes-us-white-as-snow,  paint covers mistakes like the Savior's blood covers our sins

The people of God believed, and so they painted, each household, the blood of an innocent lamb across their door frames.  They splashed ugly smears of musky red in faith that Yahweh would keep his promise to them.  Then they waited as death passed over them, leaving their firstborns untouched, an act of mercy.

And again over a thousand years later, a one and only Son painted a cross red with his own blood, poured it out willingly for a world full of undeserving sinners.  The bloody mess of his tortured, nail-driven flesh was gruesome, but the promise, the promise was a thing of beauty beyond comprehension.  Once again mankind would be passed over because of the blood of the Lamb.  Once again, salvation would be freely offered to those who chose to believe the promise.

painted red, sacrifice, blood, first Passover, painted-red, how-the-blood-of-the-Lamb-makes-us-white-as-snow, how-pain-is-like-the-blood-of-Jesus

Now we who believe are painted righteous by faith, passed over, wiped clean. All of the mistakes, ugliness, and scars that were ours before are blotted out by bold, beautiful strokes in the hand of a Master who loves us enough to give a one and only Son.

Romans 5:8-10

 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been

reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Thus the ugly red paint brings forth new life and along with it, joy and peace and beauty.

So those once black with sin

are now washed white as snow,

painted red

by the blood of the Lamb.

Jen 🙂

I’m joining the brave and lovely Five Minute Friday writers again this week over at Lisa-Jo’s place.  She chooses a word prompt and we all write fast and furiously for five(ish) minutes, no planning, no editing, no over-thinking.  All are welcome, so come on over and join us!

I’m also sharing with: Missional Women, Christian Mommy Blogger, Serving Joyfully, A Little R&R, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Wholehearted Home, Messy Marriage

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Bad Guys Are Real

Bad Guys Are Real, sin, grace, eternal life

I love how she chatters when it’s just her and me in the van, her sweet, soft voice breaking through the unusual quiet as we travel. I point out two military jets flying overhead and she asks if they are carrying a lot of people.

“Well, no, these jets are carrying soldiers who work hard to protect us, protect our country,” I explain.

“They protect us? Like from bad guys?  Mommy, are bad guys real?”  Her voice gets quiet.

I want to tell her, “no.” I want to make her feel safe and secure, but the truth is that bad guys are real.  “Yes, they are real, sis. Some people want to hurt others and do bad things.”

From the front seat, I imagine her eyes growing wide with this information. “Because they don’t love God?” She questions, so smart yet so innocent for all of her five years.

daughter, are bad guys real?, good vs. evil, sin, Jesus, grace, eternal life

I want to tell her, “yes.” Yes, bad guys are bad because they don’t know or love God.  They are bad because they hurt others.  They are bad because they have evil inside, and they do unspeakable things.  That would be the quick and easy explanation, right?

But it’s not the whole truth, is it, this idea that some are bad and some are good?  The truth is we all have evil inside.  We’re all bad in a sense; it’s called sin.  So once again I stop myself from making it sound that simple in favor of telling her the truth.

bad guys, none righteous, we all sin

“Well, yes, some bad guys probably don’t know God or love Him.  But really we all have the ability to be bad.  We all have sin inside of us, and we all make wrong choices sometimes.  It’s only because we believe that Jesus paid the punishment for our sins by dying on the cross that we can choose good instead. That’s the only real difference between the bad guys and the good guys – Jesus.  Without Him we would all be bad guys.”

She falls quiet then for a while, and I know she’s thinking about what I said. I hope and I pray that she really gets it.  That there is nothing good in us, nothing deserving, nothing “better than.”  

Because more than anything I want my sweet, dark-haired beauty of a daughter to know that she cannot, she cannot, be good on her own. She needs Jesus. She needs grace.

bad guys, wages of sin, unrighteous, sin leads to death, eternal life is a gift

Even more than that, I want her to realize that we all need it, this grace, this unmerited, unearned, undeserved, unfathomable gift from a Father God who deigned to love us, a bunch of bad guys, enough to sacrifice His one and only Son.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us,

in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom. 5:8

Yes, my daughter, bad guys are real.

But praise be to God,

Jesus is real, too.

Jen 🙂

Sharing with: My Freshly Brewed Life, Managing Your Blessings, Mom’s The Word, Wholehearted Home, Messy Marriage,

Jennifer Dukes Lee, Rich Faith Rising

You may find me linking with any of these lovely blogs.

 

 

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Joy: It’s Not What You Think

It’s Five Minute Friday again, so I’m joining up with the lovely ladies over at Lisa Jo Baker’s place for a stress-free, five-minute, free-write on a one-word prompt.  Join us if you like!

Joy.

We hear people say it, “choose joy” as if it is a thing readily available for the taking.  Just reach out and grasp it and it’s yours to keep.

And some think they’ve found it in a nice house or pretty clothes or a fulfilling relationship, while others are just plain hungry for it. We think we find joy in children’s laughter, walks on the beach, sunny days, a good book. We claim joy in date nights, a healthy bank account, a successful career or ministry, good health, full stomachs, any and all of those blessings we’ve counted up.

We look for joy always in all of the created things; we crave it.

But all of these things, even these people, they are are fleeting, sisters: here today, gone tomorrow.  Any joy based on these moments, based on temporary possessions or circumstances, is destined to pass.

When that happens, we feel cheated somehow, don’t we?  We feel let down.  We may even wonder if something is wrong with us or question why the joy is gone.  Have you been there before? When the sunshine suddenly turns to rain, when laughter turns to pain?

I have.  I’ve walked through seasons where joy seemed scarce and even counting my blessings, though they are many, wasn’t enough to satisfy my soul.  I’ve found myself hungry for lasting joy, a joy not of this world.

joy, pain, suffering, sorrow

True joy, lasting joy, comes from one source and one source only – the Father God who created us purely for love’s sake.  His only Son took upon Himself the burden of the cross “for the joy set before him” so that we might have joy unspeakable.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

 Are you looking for real joy today, sister, the kind of joy that lasts through the hard times and back again, the kind that wells up from within, unstoppable?

Find it in Jesus.

For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.
Psalm 92:4
O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Psalm 95:1

Jen 🙂

You may also find me linking up with any of these lovely places.

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The Pastor’s Mulligan

pastor's mulligan. do-over, second chance, ministry life, pastor's wife, forgiveness, grace

We woke at our usual Sunday-morning times and showered and bathed the little ones.  We ate breakfast and dressed in our Sunday-morning clothes and tied shoes and added bows to ponytails.  The morning routine was going relatively smoothly until the phone rang.

I heard my husband say, “Aw, man.”

Concerned, I called out from the next room, “What’s wrong?”

“We’re late!  I forgot it was the start of daylight savings!”

For most church-going families, this would result in either skipping Sunday School altogether or making a red-face, apologetically late entrance.

But I’m married to the Pastor.

So, forgetting to “spring forward” meant people sitting in the sanctuary, sitting and waiting on us.

At first, the perfectionist in me was sorely tempted to give in to crankiness.  Why would the Lord allow us to make such a noticeable and embarrassing mistake?!  How could we have missed daylight savings?!

Somehow, I had missed every possible reminder of the upcoming time change and was honestly clueless.  Right then and there, I decided blaming God wasn’t going to help and neither was blaming myself.  Although forgetting to change our clocks was incredibly humiliating and humbling (and it WAS), it could not have been prevented in any way.

So, when my husband, the pastor, received the call that meant we were shamefully late, I decided to let it go, to trust the Lord, knowing my own conscience was clear.  Knowing that while others might have the right to complain, we could handle it with grace.

You see, the Father’s been teaching me lately how little the approval of men matters in the larger scheme of things.  He’s been teaching me instead to look towards His Son for the approval that I seek. He’s been stretching my ideas about grace.

By the time we made it to church, wet hair and all, Sunday School was already halfway over, but we made the best of it.  I was a little afraid my husband might be chastised, but thankfully our small, country church is full of kind and gracious folks.

And wouldn’t you know the Lord had a word for us today, a word for me.

Because my husband preached on Jonah and the people of Nineveh.  He proclaimed that our God is the God of mulligans, second-chances, do-overs, try-agains.  And we, the pastor and his family, had been exceedingly, embarrassingly late to church that morning. 🙂

pastor's mulligan, second chances, forgiveness, grace, pastor's wife

Wait – it gets even better!  The very best part of God extending a mulligan to the people of Nineveh (and to those of us who trust in Him today) is that no record of previous wrongs exists. The second chance takes the place of the first, wipes it completely out of existence, as if it never, ever happened.

That argument with your husband – wiped out.  Those harsh words spoken to your children – wiped out.  The thoughts you had about that hard-to-get-along-with person – wiped out.  The extra bites of brownie you took – wiped out.  The time you wasted on frivolous things – wiped out.  The decision to ignore the Holy Spirit so you could have more “me” time – wiped out.  The worry, the coveting, the greed, the jealousy, the impatience, the lack of self-discipline, all of it – wiped out.

Sometimes we don’t realize how guilty we’ve allowed the Enemy to make us until we’re reminded of the second chance, the mulligan.  Sometimes we forget that even though life gets hard and our sin nature pulls at us so and we feel helpless, the final battle is already won,  just as we sang in our closing hymn this morning:

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And has shed His own blood for my soul.”

pastor's mulligan, grace for pastor's and pastor's wives, second chances, forgiveness

We forget that our sins have already been pardoned, mulligan-ed, wiped away:

“My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more…”

And the victory that is ours to cling to will come.  It will come.  It will come, sisters.

“And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Because by the blood of the Father’s son, Jesus, we possess unlimited mulligans.

Even pastors.

Even their wives.

Psalm 103

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
3 Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
4 Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
5 Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

And in our humility, we see clearly His greatness.

Jen 🙂

*You may also find me at any of these lovely places.

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Choosing the Struggle

Yesterday was Five Minute Friday, and while I avoided it for a day, I can avoid no longer. 🙂  So, I’m joining up with Lisa-Jo Baker and the rest of the brave free-writing crew.  The word for this week: choose.  Join us if you like!

choosing the struggle, rough day, feeling defeated, struggle with discouragement, hope for the weary

“Choose you this day whom you will serve…”

It’s the first thought that runs through my head.  And the obvious choice.  Yes, I choose Jesus.  I want to serve the Father.  I want to follow hard after Him.

But some days, the choosing is a struggle, isn’t it?

The choosing is easy enough when the sun shines and the warm breeze blows and the blessings flow and joy abounds.  But those days when the fiery darts strike in quick succession? And just as you rise, the wind gets knocked out of you once more? Those days the choosing feels near impossible.

And that’s exactly what our Enemy wants, my work-in-progress sisters, for us to feel helpless! Incapable! Paralyzed! Weary! Defeated! We just want to cry, “mercy” and throw in the towel, admit defeat.

Those lies about our failings will carry us right away if we let them, won’t they?  Carry us right away into a sea of despair, a void of apathy, a pit of depression.

What if we choose the struggle instead, sisters?  In those times when we can’t find it in ourselves to choose joy, when we can’t count our blessings for the crashing waves before us, when we feel incapable of making a choice at all, maybe it’s enough just to choose the struggle.

Even though we may not be winning, we choose fighting the good fight.   We don’t give up, we don’t give in. Even though we fear defeat, even though we falter for a step or two, or even a mile or more, we choose to press on.  What if we throw off the chains of perfection and choose instead the road of imperfect progress? And maybe even some days that road looks less like progress and more like simple survival.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is

and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Hebrews 11:6

So by faith, we wait on the Lord.

By faith, we cling to the promise of grace and we seek His face.

By faith, we choose the struggle.

And some days, that’s the best choice we can possibly make.

Let’s choose it together, sisters.

It’s the choice that leads to victory!

Jen 🙂

Sharing with #TheLoft.

You may also find me linking up with some of these lovely places.

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Counting Bedtime Blessings

Bedtime Blessings, counting blessings, motherhood, love

It’s past midnight now, yet I sit sleepy-eyed in the too quiet house.  Our four children are all tucked safely into bed and my husband snores beside me.  An extra chill hangs in the air as temperatures outdoor have dipped below zero once again.

I should have gone to bed long ago, but the quiet is so peaceful and I’m feeling so thankful.  Not for any one thing in particular, really, but for many small things all at once that pile up to one pretty spectacular life that I just don’t deserve.

And it’s because of Him, our Creator God, that I am gifted with this one life, this one year, this one day never to be repeated again.

So, I’m thankful because in the midst of trial, I’m finally seeing some of the good.  I don’t always see it, don’t always “count it joy,” but today I can see the progress.

Today I realized that this time of trial has greatly strengthened our marriage.  I’m able to  appreciate my husband in ways that I haven’t been able to before.  He’s been my comfort in times of need and my encourager in times of weakness.  We’ve regained that sense of companionship that so easily gets lost in the daily urgency of parenthood and of ministry. I’m counting that a victory!

Even more, after finishing only part of the laundry and part of the coupon clipping, I felt free to stop and just “be” with them, those fabulous  kids who amaze me with their zest for life and their love for others.  And again I’m thankful because I don’t always take the time to stop and read books or play legos or look at drawings or dance. I can’t always resist the desire for domestic perfection, but I’m never sorry when I do.  Another victory I’m claiming!

And I, I walk away the richer for it.  I fall even more in love with these creatures the Lord has entrusted to us.

bedtime blessings, counting blessings, love, family

I notice the way my daughter’s bedtime hugs and kisses always come with compliments like beautifulest or sweetest or nicest or bestest.  And when I pay her a compliment in return, her face fairly glows with joy.  She’s my enthusiastic encourager.

I notice, too, the way our youngest son really hugs me back, both small arms around my neck and a nice squeeze (but not too hard), maybe even a few pats on the back.  He lingers there, not old enough to be embarrassed yet by sitting in Mommy’s lap.   He’s my sweet snuggler.

I can’t leave out our middle son, our macho man, who seems unusually happy and eager to please this evening (bedtime is normally met with his frowns).  In fact, he asks me to stop reading before his bedtime story is finished so that he will have time to pick up his blankets from the floor (shocking!), the leftovers of a massive tent-fort built on this unexpected snow day.  It delighted me because…he’s my energetic entertainer.

The only one left is our oldest son, quick to help, slow to anger.  His shoulders seem to grow broader by the day as his voice deepens.   He’s developing a hunger and thirst for the Lord that thrills this mama’s heart.  He’s my gentle leader of the pack. 🙂

What really struck me this evening, though, was the sense of peace that pervaded the air here.  The transformation that love in action has on our children is profound.  When they know that in this moment right here, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are incredibly loved, that they are valued for who they are, then they blossom right before my eyes.

No tears at bedtime, no scowling, no stalling…

I can see it on their smiling faces, that in just a few lovely hours, they’ve been filled to the brim so much so that it just overflows in return – love and joy and peace.

bedtime blessings, great love, God loves us, children of God

Suddenly, I realize that it’s no different for me.  How much easier it is for me to obey my Heavenly Father when I’ve taken time to revel in His love for me, His perfect, unfailing, unconditional love for me.  Not for everyone else, but for me.

How quick I am to chose right instead of wrong.

How strong I stand in the face of temptation.

How peaceful I feel.

And in me, the joy is unspeakable because it’s true.  My Father God loves me. He’s patient with me.  He comforts me.  He rejoices in me.  He blesses me with an abundance of good things.

And even on the tough days, when I act like an ungrateful child, He waits for me.  And when I sink to the ground in absolute despair, He sits beside me.  And when I’m ready to press on, He helps me stand.

Isn’t it the same for all of us, sisters?  If we could just live every day with this soul-deep thankfulness for who He is and for who we are because of Him, then being the women of faith we should be, the ones we really long to be, wouldn’t be half as hard!

Instead, the work-in-progress would come easy to us.  The victories frequent rather than few and far between.   It would spill right over the edges of our very selves and stream out to everyone around us, this supernatural love.

All of those good things that we cannot manufacture on our own?  They begin with Him, through Him, from Him.

Because He is good and His love endures forever.

We can be confident in that Love, sisters, for it tells us who we are.

It brings us victory!

Jen 🙂

You may find me linking up at any of these places.

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