My Greatest Joy- Day 38

Greatest

Good morning all! So quick question. Can you guess what my greatest Joy is? This is one of those blog post ideas that I had once upon a time and I wrote down this great idea (a title) and no other details! UGH! Yes I have learned from my mistake But each week as I read through my post idea list this one almost taunts me. Coming out of a season where I had to be super intentional about my gratitude and having to REALLY hone in my sights to what brings me true joy- I struggled to remember what laid behind this blog post. That is until this Sunday.

So what makes something the “GREATEST”

When I think of “the greatest”. I think about the absolute best And coming out of the Olympic season we heard the term GOAT. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why on earth it was a compliment to be called a GOAT…..that is I finally put two and two together and realized it stood for “Greatest Of All Time”. AHA but as the Olympics continued on we began to see that GOATs weren’t perfect. They might be considered the Best in the world (at that time) but it didn’t mean they were perfect.

Since Sunday and realizing and remembering what my greatest joy is I kept coming back to this word perfect. Greatest does not equal perfect. Jesus is my perfect joy- I get so much joy from Him….and that is where my greatest joy stems from.

I took a step forward

But not like you might be thinking. I was in the middle of praising Jesus and all of a sudden a thought came to mind. So I took a tiny step forward and glanced down our row of chairs. And what I saw and heard struck the deepest sense of joy I have felt in a long time. And all I had to do is LOOK. I didn’t have t do anything. I didn’t need to get anything. I just needed to pay attention. And then in that moment my reason for putting that post title came flooding back….

What I saw…and heard

Looking to my left and right I saw 4 kids who were worshipping Jesus in their own way…without any reservation. They weren’t being judged they were in their own spaces one on one lifting the name of their Savior in song You could tell it was personal. AND THAT brought me my greatest joy and made me praise Jesus all the more.

And as that welled up in my soul, thoughts came flooding back- of a teenager asking me (very sheepishly) if I could read the Bible with her. Or another teenager asking if I would go forward with her at a youth conference. Seeing tears flow down her faces she prayed which in turn made me ugly cry because I had been praying for this girl for oh so long.

To see a group of 17 teenagers- boys and girls embrace and love each other like I have never seen any other group of humans ever do. Such different backgrounds….such different experiences….such different economic backgrounds…encourage each other lift each other up…and just care. Yes they had their moments of disagreement but that was rare.

To watch on any given Sunday morning a herd of children run up to new kids and invite them to “come play with us in the gym”. To swallow up the new ones, it wasn’t an exclusive club for these kids. They wanted to include everyone because they themselves had been included.

Teens who would share their deepest burdens of their hearts because they felt safe.

Women who were honest about where they were at- tears shed as they shared their broken places.

And then I remembered – my Greatest Joy WAS perfect every single time-

Changed Lives- It didn’t matter how it happened or how messy it was. When people were honest with themselves and really let Jesus change them- there is nothing better (except for seeing them all in heaven someday.)

BUT My greatest Joy is also linked to my greatest sorrow

This was a harsh reality for me Monday and I am not going to lie all of the emotions that flooded my soul was rough. I was angry I was sad I was disappointed. I was crushed.

I’m not going to tell you what happened but I will give you a breakdown…..

  • selfishness (putting oneself before others)
  • mistreatment of others
  • a limiting of grace to someone else (the idea that You only deserve this much …………because of………….)
  • Rejection
  • judging

The list could go on. There was this realization that people aren’t willing to change.. They know what is right and wrong. They can even verbalize it BUT they are unwilling to let that change them. Their hearts are hard. They think they are entitled, They make an exclusive club and they limit God’s grab for certain people. THAT is my greatest sorrow because that isn’t what God teaches in his word.

Jesus says “Love your Neighbor as yourself”

We ask “who is our neighbor?” looking for a specific easy to love group of people -mostly the ones just like us.

Jesus answers EVERYONE.

We don’t get to pick and choose who get’s love, grace and mercy. But we tend to think that we get to be that judge. We don’t. we are commanded to (to quote NIKE) -“JUST DO IT”

And at the end of the day

My realization was this

  • I’m glad Jesus doesn’t treat us like this.
  • that I am called to be like Jesus so I need to treat people like Jesus treats me
  • It’s not my job to withhold grace mercy and love- it’s my job to lavishly give it out- just like those kids. who didn’t see backgrounds, color, economic standing , or anything else for that matter
  • I need to die to self and put others before myself
  • I need to not just take in the information from God’s word I need to apply it . And Not just bits and pieces that make me comfortable
  • It’s not about what is easy for me. It’s not about my time, my money, my strength. It’s about serving Jesus with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength- REALLY my whole life- not holding anything back. It’s not about Convenience. (It wasn’t easy or convenient for Jesus to die on the cross)

All of this from a bunch of teenagers and a bunch of kids. Oh how we have lost sight of what is most important. I promise you if you can learn these lessons from children you too will experience the greatest Joy because it’s not MY greatest Joy- It’s Jesus’!!!!!

Thanks for joining me for Day 38 of my Choosing Courage 100 day blogging project. If you are new here you can check out this blog post that explains it all. 

And if you have fallen behind or missed some posts you can check it out here

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Realistic Expectations when It comes To Devotions

Devotions

My Personal Struggles My Expectations in My Devotions

I am my own worst enemy when it comes to my devotions with Jesus.  I can place really high expectations on myself and when I feel like I cannot meet those expectations I give up.

This doesn’t make me happy. But that is the reality- there are seasons in life that  be met with the same type of expectations.  

This past December I came face to face with this.  After I had my procedure that left me in the worst pain I had ever experienced (even worse that all 4 pregnancies AND a gallbladder attack  COMBINED). I found myself  confined to the couch in  spare room downstairs.   I had all the time in the world. The kids weren’t allowed to really see me because we were keeping me quarantined so I could have surgery later on (That never happened- Long story). 

I couldn’t do anything. I was in such great pain and I had a bunch of pain meds  pumping through my veins so to stay awake for more than an hour at a time was nearly impossible.    And lets not talk about the ability to focus…..I am still fighting to regain some of that 10 months later.

The result

I began to feel guilty that I wasn’t doing enough.  My expectations  haunted me.   The funny thing is that during this time as I did the bare minimum I was growing leaps and bounds.  It was during this time that “what I  Know….” was born. (Y(ou can read that post here) But as I began to grow and make progress even in the middle of a fairly traumatic Christmas another set of voices and expectations started to impact my heart and mind. And guilt began to take root yet again.

Another set of expectations

I began hearing and seeing things about  how  horrible  it was to do devotions out of devotional books during this time. Some of the books I found great comfort in were the Books by Sarah Young- Jesus Calling, Jesus Always, and Jesus Today.   Now I wouldn’t  say that these are a great place to camp for regular devotions BUT sometimes in the middle of the hard times. These Books meet us simply where we are at. And for me I needed that.   

Making others feel Guilty

I cannot tell you the number of times I have said to someone this is a really great book it helped me through……only to get sneered at because it wasn’t “meaty enough”.  I am not saying that these books need to replace God’s word…nope, not for one minute.  We just need to understand where we are at and  that sometimes we need to let go of our expectations we  place on ourselves and we need to  ignore the expectations that others put on us and when we want to put our expectations on other people.

What we need to Remember

  We  need to remember its all about their devotion to God.  It’s not about how much  they do or even about how deep someone else goes.   It’s not my job to judge that.  I need to encourage their devotion to God- And no matter where we are at we should always strive to go deeper but that is a personal between me and God thing.    We shouldn’t stay satisfied with milk we need to eat meat.

When a Kid gets sick

I like to think about it like this….

When a little kid gets sick do you keep feeding them the same food when they were healthy. No you put them on the BRaT diet. (By the Way anyone one with a stomach bug should follow the BRAT diet). It’s simiilar foods that are gentler on the stomach It stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce Toast..

And we as Christians sometimes have moments when we are “sick”. Sick in the Body, sick in the heart, sick in the mind. And it is during those times that we need to go back to the simpler forms of devotion to Jesus.

I know that if during a specific season I need to step back and lower my expectations of myself then That is what I will do and that is completely ok….as long as I keep on being devoted…..dedicated to spending time with Jesus.   

So for the month of September I have taken a step back from what I was doing (an in-depth study of Philippians) and I snagged a less involved study book off my book shelf.   I just knew that with starting school and everyone adjusting to crazy new schedules that the in depth study was going to frustrate me and I would end up neglecting it- remember the goal is to stay devoted- To have that daily meeting with Jesus-  It’s ok to take a break and come back to it.  

There is a great sense of freedom when we release ourselves from the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves.   

This is one of the greatest lesson I have learned over the last 8 years and I continue to keep learning it. God wants my devotion NOT by perfection. It has never been about my expectation or your expectations. It’s about a personal relationship with Jesus !

How about you…have you struggled with expectations when it comets your devotions? Share with me in the comments how you overcame this obstacles!

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History Repeats Itself: Romans 15:4-5

History

If you have ever taken a history class you have heard the phrase “History Repeats Itself”. The premise behind this is that if we can’t learn from what has happened before us we will make the same mistakes OVER and OVER again.

It’s a Biblical principle too. We can see it in the book of Judges as well. It’s an ongoing cycle of Isreal doing what was right in their own eyes. They walked away from God-Consequences came- they cried out for help- God sent a judge to deal with it- and then Isreal did the whole cycle all over again. They didn’t learn and they just kept doing the same thing…..

And then I landed on these verses in Romans…

History

Applying this principle to another problem

Hmmmm. Then I got to thinking about some discussions I have had over the last few years. People who wanted to dismiss the Old Testament We think ‘oh that’s not for now”. Remember I mentioned Judges- well we live in a world where we are “doing what is right in our own eyes”. We are not following what God wants for us! And we need to be aware that consequences are heading our way.

Then I was talking with a group of people and I referenced a The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. and a great majority of the group had no idea who C.S. Lewis was…a short time later I was talking about Corrie ten Boom. Corrie and her family were Christians in Poland during World War II and they hid and smuggled Jews out of Poland to protect them from Nazi’s who wanted to wipe out the Jews. Corrie and her family were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Her sister and father die in the concentration camps but Corrie survived. Her influence changed many people. And she died a hero of the faith. As I conversed with more and more Christians I began to realize that many Christians today had no idea about their Christian forefathers. Those who lived and breathed their walk with Jesus and died faithful servants of Jesus.

Another problem

In the same breath I hear Christians become disillusioned by “popular Christians” of today who make poor choices, walk away from their faith and even renounce their faith. We get frustrated and angry that they are human… I mean REALLY? I must confess I felt completely let down by a popular Christian author from my college years when He made some horrible decisions a few years ago. Was everything I had chosen to do because of his books a lie? NO. because my heart was right before God. My life and decisions are not dictated by his decisions. He is responsible to God for them, not me. Despite his renouncing of his faith God still uses those books and articles.

My Big Question

Why can’t we take the lives of those who have gone before us and died faithful servants and study them and learn what helped them to remain faithful to God? We mistake them for being irrelevant because they lived in a different time- a different decade or a different century. And yet at we live in the 21st century and in the current state of the world what better time to dive into the stories of those who have been martyred for their faith!

So after I made these realizations I decided to do something about it.

3 Things I am going to do to change my perspective and the world around me.

#1- I am going to do everything in my power to share the lives of those who have gone before her with my kids and last week we started to read the Christian Heres Then and Now Series books we got the family for Christmas this past year. We are starting with Hudson Taylor -Missionary to China.

#2- I am going to learn as much as I can about those who have won victories for my faith. Yes because of them I have freedoms and I can have courage to move forward in my day to day walk with Jesus. If Corrie ten Boom can forgive the concentration camp soldier who mistreated her I can forgive the person who snapped at me for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

#3. I am going to take what I learn and not only impact my children with it but I am also going to let it bleed into my daily conversations just like I do about the Bible. I will let it impact my writing here too. I am going to share it as often as possible.

Your invitation to help stop history from repeating itself.

And if you want to join me on this journey I would love to have you! I suggest you start with the The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It’s a 7 book series that is fictional but also allegorical for the Christian faith. It’s a fun read and the kids love it too. We have gone through it twice with our kids.

And don’t ignore the authors Of today- I have my favorites of those too. but let’s not neglect those heres who have gone fore us. And be super careful that whomever you are learning about not to elevate them to the status of God. Only God himself deserves that place. They are only human after all and will let us down.Let’s help History not to repeat itself on our watch.

And thank you for joining me for Day 19 on my Choosing Courage 100 day writing project. Feel free to check out the other days HERE

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Let’s Talk: Struggles

Struggles

Struggles, we all have them. I listed 7 common ones in the image above but let’s be honest we have a whole lot more struggles than those 7 listed. But these 7 we have all dealt with at some point or another or at least most of them.

Struggles- Why can’t we be gracious?

As a pastor’s wife I have seen what struggles can do to people AND what people can do to those who have struggles. It’s easy to sit back and pass judgement on people for the struggles they are facing. There can be any number of reason’s we face struggles And we aren’t going to delve into them. Maybe that’s a post for a later date or maybe not.

If we all have struggles then why do we feel the need to pass judgement for those who share their struggles with us? I think the first one is PRIDE- We think we are better because we can “handle it” better than someone else. We make it is spiritual gift to be able to handle struggles on our own. (AHEM- just an FYI IT isn’t one). I think the #2 reason is we are afraid of being judged for sharing our struggles and I think the third reason plays into the second- we are so insecure about our struggles that we have to pick on people with more visible struggles that our own.

Lat’s put and end to the Masquerade

Casting Crowns has a great song about this very subject it’s called Stained Glass Masquerade.

[Verse 1]
Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today
Feeling so small
Because when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they’ll soon discover
That I don’t belong
So I tuck it all away, like every thing’s okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

[Chorus]
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain?
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

[Verse 2]
Is there anyone who’s been there?
Are there any hands to raise?
Am I the only one who’s traded
In the altar for a stage?
The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart
But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be?
Would your arms be open?
Or would you walk away?
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay?

[Chorus]
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain?
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

[Chorus]
Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain?
But if the invitation’s open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

[Outro]
Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today
Feeling so small

“With walls around our weakness, And smiles to hide our pain?”

It’s easy when people smile. It makes us feel good. But when people don’t smile we begin to feel uneasy…it makes us uncomfortable. I can’t tell you the number of times I have hugged people in tears on any given Sunday morning because of whatever was going on in their lives at the time. You name it it was cried over…and on those same Sunday’s I have heard or been told “You just need to smile. ”

I’m sorry but no. You can have the joy of Jesus and be broken all at the same time. We as Christians do not need to live a lie. We can AND should share our broken places and grieve them openly. BUT we should not stay there. It may take weeks or months because there are many stages of grief and pain we need to work through. And THAT takes some time.

Our Struggles are our Struggles but they are not our identity.

We are victors not victims. Yes we need to be open about our struggles. BUT they aren’t our identity. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing my journey in learning all about my identity in Christ. This journey has taken my entire life and will continue until the day I die. I have in no way arrived in my full understanding of my identity in Christ. I am learning something new every single day.

Story time

A while back a friend was really struggling with something. This friend posted about it on facebook and I saw a mutual friend write back a snarky reply. It was inappropriate and hurtful or at least I hurt for my friend because I had been walking this journey with this friend for a long time.

Fast forward some months later I found myself dealing with a very similar (not the same just similar ) problem as my friend. I was having sleepless nights due to some pretty sever anxiety. I had only ever experienced anxiety one other time in my life as a young mom when I was given a medication and that is the side effect it had on me. Fast forward 10 years later and I had just gone through some major medical Trauma.

I lay in bed at night every night for weeks heart beating out of my chest…..Head spinning in dizziness, mind going full tilt in all directions and all I could hear echo in my ears- that’s friends rude question on facebook. Their influence, negative as it was , was wreaking havoc on my mental state. I could hear their accusing tone……that snide comment tore right through my heart and guilt set in. I wasn’t well.

The reality of my anxiety

The comment? ” What are you holding onto? ” Now I understand that you would have to know the person who made the statement but the truth its that person is very harsh….and even though I hadn’t heard the person say it I had heard that person a dozen times before ask similar questions in condescending tones.

The reality is I wasn’t holding onto to anything. The reality was I was sick and we didn’t even realize just how sick I was. Part of anxiety is that you basically convince yourself you are dying- my heart was racing super fast and I was short of breath…and the list goes on and on.

My reality was Anemia and Iron deficiency. Which causes high heart rates. It causes shortness of breath. It causes Anxiety. In December I had NO detectable iron levels in my blood. Yep you read that right ! N.O.N.E.

There wasn’t any amount of letting go- bible study or prayer that could chase the anxiety away. I know, I tried. I begged .I pleaded. I repented and forgave And yet the anxiety persisted and the guilt grew.

We need to stop being “happy plastic people Under shiny plastic steeples”

We need to stop trying to fix people to make them look the part. We aren’t God. God wants us to love people in the middle of their messes. He will take care of the rest. And we need to realize that the only way people are going to heal- not be fixed is through Jesus! Shiny plastic people don’t have scars- Christ followers do- Jesus does. Jesus in all of his perfectness still has scars in heaven. Jesus isn’t a shiny plastic person, why should we be. In His darkest hour he asked for his friends (the disciples) to keep watch and pray with Him- He was left alone- they slept!

Let’s stop trying to be something that we aren’t and be who we were created to be How about we take the masks off and share the real us with the rest of the world so they can see that even in the midst of our deepest grief and sorrow that we trust Jesus with the mess. It’s easy to trust Jesus when life is easy peasy. It gets real when we trust Him with the hard stuff.

Let’s Check our influence

Let’s be honest that friend never thought that their words would impact anyone else but our friend writing the post but the reality is this: That one person made a negative impact on every person who read their comment. Because Satan uses those negative people to harm others even though they didn’t know another soul in that comment thread. . It’s a ripple effect I. have been teaching for years! One little pebble can send a ripple through the whole pond. And one little question can ripple through the hearts of those nearby.

If you are struggling please know that you are NOT alone. And if someone has told you that they have never had a struggle they are being untruthful. They aren’t being real with you! No one’s perfect we shouldn’t pretend to be and we shouldn’t expect others to put on a smile to make us more comfortable

Share with me your thoughts in the comments below and know that you, my friends are being prayed for!

This is post #18 in my Choosing Courage 100 Day Writing Project. to catch up on the rest click here

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Dear Senior Me -Day 17

Senior

Dear Senior Me landed on my blog post idea list back around 2013-2014. It came to me after I wrote a blog post called “A Letter to my Adolescent Self”

It was a brief letter I wanted to write to tell the past me to avoid certain pitfalls. What to focus on and not be afraid of. I was afraid of a lotto stuff back in my teenage years too. And then I had this fabulous idea. Write to myself about all the things I didn’t want to forget as I got older! At that point I was 33 years old. Today I am 41. 8 years- almost to the day that I hit publish on that letter to me. I read it for the first time in 8 years today and I nearly made myself cry.

Why Dear Senior Me wasn’t written until now

There’s only one answer FEAR. I only know that the things I want to say to myself could potentially sting others and so I chose to ignore it …There were other easier things to write.

There was a verse that started it all too. I posted it this morning on facebook as I was preparing for this post!

Deuteronomy 4:9

The reality is this isn’t about anybody else than the things I want to remember as a senior adult. If it stings I’m sorry. This isn’t about anyone but me and who I want to be at 60-70-80 years old. But if it stings I urge you to take those stings to God .

So without any more procrastination (8 years was long enough don’t you think)…..

Dear Senior Me

Dear Senior Mary,

Wow what a life you have had! It has been a rollercoaster for sure. There have been ups and downs and hairpin turns. AND so much laughter and joy even in the midst of the hardest days. Don’t forget the laughter and don’t forget the hard days.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that you aren’t perfect and that you don’t have all the answers. The Younger generation doesn’t need you to fix them and all their “wrong ideas”. They need to know that you genuinely care about what matters to them. They need to hear your war stories if you will but they also need you to listen- to really hear their hearts struggles. They need to know that you don’t just like to hear yourself talk.

Remember that there is world outside of Hetlerville and a world beyond your comfy home.

Listen to your grandkids music and dance with them. Take the time to learn about them the way that you did with your children. Teach them that it’s ok to play video games every once in awhile but that people are way more important.

Play games and have inside jokes. Keep their favorite movies and snacks on hand so they want to just come and hangout.

Embrace change that fits within the parameters of the gospel. Remember it’s ok to have fun in church.

Don’t focus on all your ailments. Don’t be rude to people about their looks. It’s not your job to commentate about weight or anything else that is different about a person. Mary’s really remember how much you taught your children to be kind…..You ALWAYS need to be living breathing example because you never know who is watching you.

Remember all the struggles you had at being a new parent, about finding out your sweet little boy had autism and all the negativity that came with it Remember those who came along side you and put their arms around you and said I will walk though this storm with you.

Remember to walk up to a teenager and ask them how their week went. Take them out for ice cream and invite them into your home and when you do that remember not to complain about how awful 2050’s are and how great the 1990’s and early 2000’s were.

Remember Titus 2 is about you seeking out the younger women and not that the younger women seeking you out.

Oh Dear Senior Mary remember to love full of grace and mercy. It is what has gotten you this far in life and it is what will get you through these next years. You have made it through so much and God has never left your side- He has even carried you when it was too difficult to make it on your own. You have had many trials and sad moments but remember that joy comes in the morning and you are nearing the greatest joy of all.

Share that joy with everyone. Be grateful for the amazing adventures you had and don’t harbor bitterness and jealousy. What someone else has is meant for them not you. YOU have your own journey that has been so full of blessings.

What? You don’t remember them? You have countless journals stowed away in boxes that are chock full of blessings that you took the time t name one by one. You did that for a reason- to remember! Dig them out! Read Them! Praises Jesus for the work he did in your life.

Oh and one last thing- You aren’t dead yet! No I’m not kidding so still go on adventures. AND take someone with you! One of your kids, grandkids, your HUBBY! or maybe a friend or two. Don’t forget to share your testimony and all that God has given you on your great adventure.

Love always,

Middle-aged Me

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