It’s Monday. It’s the beginning of a brand new week. And this week, I want to encourage you as you begin.
Today, I encourage you to be fearlessly and recklessly YOU.
Throughout my life, I’ve watched people do things one way or another. I often thought, “well if they have been successful this way, then so can I.”
The reality, however, is that just because someone is successful in something, doesn’t mean you’ll be. The other reality, which we don’t often think about, is how much those people MESS UP.
Every single time I tried to mimic success, I failed. I didn’t succeed. I didn’t succeed until I started becoming fearlessly and recklessly “myself”.
When I started a photography business years ago, I tried to mimic other photographers’ styles. I struggled, until one day a client said, “you know, I just hate all those props and frills that people use, can we just do this session naturally?” I hated those props and frills too. And it was in that moment that I realized, my business didn’t have to look like everyone elses business.
We are quick to use our words when we are annoyed, disappointed, and angered. We also use our words worse when we’ve lost our passion or lack goals. In today’s devotional, we’re going to talk about all of that! From homemaking, work, and friendships…finding your passion in Christ is the best answer!
For the past four weeks we’ve been dealing with sickness in our household. The first week it was a vicious stomach bug. Actually, the rest of the family got it two weeks before, but I came down with it the week before last. Last week, Junior had a 24 hour stomach bug, probably from my issues the week before. The following day, I came down with what I thought was the same thing, but I was absolutely wrong. It was the most miserable 3 days of my life in the past few years. I think it’s especially worse when you rarely get sick. But because I already had a low immune system, and I failed at boosting it, I caught the crud. The tonsillitis crud. Well, at least according to the way I felt, medical books, and WebMD. And then this week, Jr has pink eye and an ear infection. Joy.
We finally went to the doctor to get “the good stuff”.
At one point, while laying on my back during my sickness, staring at the ceiling, my mind took me back to the last church service we attended. I couldn’t remember if it was the week before or more than two weeks. Time escaped me among the sickness. But in my head, something our Pastor said kept rolling around. He had mentioned briefly in his sermon about the man who was healed of blindness (John 9), and how weird it was that Jesus put mud on his eyes to heal him. He mentioned how awkward we would think it would be these days, if a man, especially Jesus, walked up to us and slapped mud on our eyes and told us to go bathe in a pool.
Why? What’s so special about this mud and that pool that could heal me? I’ve gotten mud in my eyes before. I’ve bathed in that pool my entire life. What now makes it worthy enough, or makes me worthy enough, to heal?
I’m not worthy.
I am not worthy of the love He gives me and yet each and every day, He loves me.
Even when I am the most unlovable, He loves me. When I project other people’s opinions onto myself as truths, He still loves me. When I mess up and say words that I shouldn’t, or react in ways that are emotionally inept…He still loves me. When I am nothing like Christ and everything like a sinner, He loves me.
But I can put that salve of mud over my eyes and bathe in that pool 10,000 times, and it still won’t take away my disability. The disability of feeling unworthy. The disability of feeling unhappy. The disability of feeling distracted, less than, selfish, petty, hopeless, hurt, angered, grieved, prideful, or whatever gaping hole I’m dealing with at the time. The disease of nothing, because half the time, we don’t know what’s wrong with us…we just know we’re unworthy, we’re empty, we’re lacking. We need something but we don’t want to admit that it’s Him. We’re ok on our own. We’re ok with our hurts and our egos, because admitting to them would be suicide to who we have become.
I could write 30,000 words in a book and still be living in a life bankrupt of love. I could make 300 inspiring and encouraging YouTube videos, and in the end I may still question, who am I? Because the likes don’t matter, the comments fade away into the night, and here you are, still looking at that gaping hole that stares you in the face, you’re unworthy. No person, hobby, thought, or good read will fix it…
I have to wonder if that’s what the man with the blindness felt like. Like he was stuck in a hole. Like he wasn’t good enough to be healed or given a “normal” life. And yet I have to remind myself that logically, he simply didn’t know any better, being born blind. Hello, logic.
Aren’t we all born blind, though? Isn’t there some kind of shade over our eyes since we’re born into a world of sin? But there’s a difference between having shaded eyesight, and rolling in a pool of blindness by choice. We get so distracted, we fill our time with people and things and feelings instead of the One who should have our attention first and foremost at the beginning of each day. We reach for our cellphones before we reach for the word of God. We don’t like what we see in ourselves so we try to make ourselves better, smarter, more beautiful, more “worth” it.
I am guilty as charged. This is me showing you I’m horrible, too. And then we wonder why it’s so shady, why we can’t see so clearly. Why there’s a hole….staring back at us….
I sat in quiet that night. Quiet and I seem to have conversations that are soul numbing and heart-aching. Quiet and I get really close, and quiet pulls out the depths of my heart and shows them to me. Replace quiet with Holy Spirit, and suddenly there’s conviction. Suddenly there is guilt and shame and disgust for who you are and what you’ve become.
But quiet didn’t leave me there.
…because then, He put mud on my eyes.
He made a little pile of mud and He slapped it right on there and He said, these are the depths of your heart, but I have come to give life and life more abundantly. (John 10:10)
And suddenly, it’s not me who is worthy—but Him, the one who created the mud and slapped it on my face. Suddenly, the thief is gone, the disability and disease of blindness is gone, and my eyes can see. It’s not the mud. It’s not the bath. It’s not the illness. It’s the Creator. It’s the Creator of life, and the one who came to give it back to me. To you. To the blind man who went to bathe and came back with eyesight.
He is worthy, and I am in Him, and He calls me child, and therefore, He makes me worthy. I have worth. And I have a hole that has been filled with the mud of a healing Savior. And I know the depths of my heart and I’ve seen the ugly, and I can stare that ugly in the face and say, but I am worthy to hold on to, and you are not.
He holds onto me, but I cannot hold on to you, ugly.
And you admit it, and you accept it, and you toss it to the side and say, fill me, Lord.
And He will…and He does…and He says, what took you so long.
Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart. Often times, He will use the most inopportune and dramatic moments in your day to reveal your heart to you. That fight with your husband. That thing your friend said. The way you lost your cool with your kid. That keyboard ninja you became in the comments of a Facebook post. That passing emotion of anger or hurt.
Allow Him to search your heart, and even more, allow Him to show you the depths of it. Admit to it, own it, and look it right in the face and say, I am worthy of being held onto, but you are not. And it must go, and it must leave, and you must release it from your grip of “this is me”, because this isn’t you.
And then there is peace…and there is love…and there is worthiness…and there He is, with mud on His hands and a smile on His face. Because it’s not the mud and the pool, it’s the giver of life whose hands it drips from.
I laid in bed with my palm pushing on the side of my head. This pain that would shoot down the side of my head, down my face, into my back and neck—it was absolutely, and definitely, one of the worst pains I had ever experienced in my entire life. I tried everything to make it go away. I tried my essential oils, I tried herbs, I tried herbal massage rubs, I tried over the counter pain killers—nothing was touching it. Absolutely nothing.
I was dizzy, nauseous, and an emotional basket-case because I couldn’t fix myself. Of course, you wouldn’t have known it unless you were my husband, because I try my hardest to keep it together as much as possible.
Two days I went through this. Two days. Until finally Mark looked at me and said, “let’s go, we’re going to the ER.”
And I agreed with him…
Herbal remedies aren’t God.
We have this ultimate decision though, every single day of our lives. We see gratitude and thankfulness during the end of the year holidays, but what about the other ten months out of the year?
What does your life look like after the holiday rush?
What attitude do you choose to live with in the Springtime when your child brings home a bad report card? What attitude do you choose to have when your plans don’t go the way you imagined them to go? Do you have a grateful heart when your spouse doesn’t meet your expectations? Do you have a compassionate heart when your child is in the middle of the biggest temper tantrum of his life?
Are you in a state of gratefulness when the bills aren’t paid, when the floors aren’t mopped, or when someone just rubs you the wrong way?
I’d love to sit here and say that I live in a state of thankfulness every day—but I don’t.
Let’s just be honest here. I choose not to be grateful every day. And that’s what it truly boils down to.
I’ve gotten better over the years, but I’m not perfect. That’s the beauty of blogging—you get to share your life, but you don’t always share the parts that you’re not willing to put on display just yet. We all have those moments, it’s not just bloggers. Except, people in a leadership role or who have influence (such as bloggers) are always held to such high regard, that when they let people down, they are seen as having sinned worse than the one reading or following, or are seen to have lied in some way about their life. When in reality, the people who follow them are simply placing them on a pedestal of idolatry—choosing to follow their lives more closely than the life of Christ, or the commandments He’s given to us.
It is the root of all disappointment—expectations.
One of my favorite quotes is this—
You aren’t called to follow Christians, you are called to follow Christ, because most certainly, you’ll be disappointed if you follow Christians.
Have you ever heard the saying, love is a choice?
It’s especially true in marriage.
After you’ve been married for some time, you’ll realize that there are a whole lot of things you don’t “like” about your spouse. It happens in every marriage. Maybe it’s the way they laugh, the way they eat, the way they spray toothpaste on the bathroom mirror when they brush their teeth (c’mon ladies, you get this one!).
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
There is no one scripture that fixes it all or tells you how to live life. This I promise you.
That is why we’re encouraged to let the message of Christ dwell among us and within us. Throughout the Bible we constantly see these things together—love, joy, peace, and finally, gratefulness. And there are tidbits of wisdom that tell us how to live in a state of gratefulness and peace. In fact, in 1 Peter we are encouraged to pursue peace at all times. Pursue it! What a strong word—pursue. Do you know what that means? It means you must take an action to seek out peace, because in our natural state of humanity, we are not peacekeepers or peace makers. You are in charge of making your own peace at times. And in James 2, we’re very clearly told that faith without deeds (or works) is dead. There is action, there is always action and movement on our part. Christianity isn’t simply saying “God I’m sad, give me peace”. There is an action on our part at all times….pursing peace, choosing joy, choosing love…..
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
And so we’ll begin with this passage in Job. Now, remember, Job was a righteous, God fearing man who had devoted his life to the Lord and was extremely blessed by Him.
“Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” [Job 1:8-12]
First thing’s first. We are reading from the old testament, where God was still very much audibly involved in His people’s lives. Now that we are living under the new covenant, He has given us the Holy Spirit and Christ within us. There’s a big difference now than there was then.
“Who then is able to stand against me?Who has a claim against me that I must pay?Everything under heaven belongs to me.“ [Job 41:10-11]
And yet, even in the mist of Job’s ashes, God blessed him abundantly, trading ashes for beauty. He was given a double portion of what he lost. What he gained was even better than what had been lost. Surely, he spoke of things he did not understand when questioning his trials, because he was unaware of the wonderful things God had prepared for him in the end.
Job went on to have an incredibly blessed life—a double portion of what he had before. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. [Job 42]
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18]
Do you realize that no matter what life brings you, you are instructed to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. This is the will of God concerning you. Never once did God promise that we would not have trials. How so, you ask? Just look at His greatest followers in the Bible. Each and every one of them had trials they went through. Some worse than others.
Our unanswered prayers are sometimes unanswered because they are not God’s plan for our lives. In fact, sometimes, unanswered prayers are a blessing, because He has something far greater in store for us. While it may not be your desire now, it could be your desire once you see it.
God had a plan for Job. Job prayed continuously that God would save him from the depths of despair, but had God have intervened when asked to, Job would not have received a double portion of reward in the end. While it would have brought Job temporary satisfaction and joy, it would not have brought him the ultimate joy. In fact, Job’s joy didn’t come from the things he received from God in the end. It came from knowing that God, in His almighty power and mercy, was still in control, was still almighty and powerful, and was still in love with his child Job and his life.
Life sucks sometimes. Good things happen to bad people. And bad things happen to good people. But when we can look at our lives as “use this for your glory, Lord” or “use ME for Your glory, Lord”, instead of, “why is this happening (or not happening) to me, Lord”. Our outlook on life completely changes.
When we can rejoice and be joyful, no matter what our circumstance, then we are in the will of God. And the will of God will never once fail you. Never once.
It doesn’t mean we can’t grieve.
It doesn’t mean we can’t be sad, upset, angry, or heart broken.
Jesus came to earth and felt every single emotion that we feel. And because of that, He provided us with a comforter—the Holy Spirit. Lean on Him. Love on Him. Cherish Him. Have a relationship with Him. But never forget that, while your life may be temporarily not going the way you had hoped, it doesn’t mean God isn’t creating beauty from ashes. It might take days, weeks, even years. You may not get what you want. But if you’re not having prayers answered, and you’ve weeded out the option of “is it a self consequence”, then I encourage you to stand strong in the Lord. To lean on Him for guidance. And ultimately, seek Him and allow Him to use your trial for His glory. And remember that God might not be giving you the desire of your heart, because the desire of His heart for your life is so much greater than you could ever imagine.
Job was tested time and time again, the worst trials a person could seemingly go through. And yet, in the end, the one thing God wanted Job to understand and realize is that just because Job had been “blessed” for so many years, it was from nothing of his own doing. Everything came from the Lord. Everything under the heavens belongs to Him. No matter what life brings, you are still His. And He is still the King of all the earth. The fact that we are sons and daughters of the most high God is comfort in and of itself.
We have had a trying homeschooling week. You know how it is if you’re a homeschooling parent. There have been lots of tears, attitudes and distraction from a certain little boy in our house. I was on the verge of giving up yesterday. Completely giving up. So much so that I pulled up my internet to look at more information on a local Christian school.
And then I stopped and thought, what on earth am I doing. I turned to my chalk board and said, “let’s try something we’ve never tried before”.
At the top I wrote “School Rules” and made 5 points for each rule.
I turned to look at him and said, “we know what the first one will be, to worship God in all we do.”
And so I wrote it down.
The list was then comprised of things he and I both have issues with, be it with each other, or with others.
2. Be kind. (Eph 4:32)
3. Do work without complaining or arguing. (Philpp 2:24)
4. No name calling.
5. No crying. (unless he’s bleeding or extremely sad etc. It’s ok to cry, but not whine.)
…and today I’m adding a new one.
Our kids act what they learn. Be it from us or TV. Someone has taught them to do what they do at some point. If we, ourselves, aren’t confident, then they aren’t confident. If someone has made them feel like they are inadequate, they’ll believe that over “you’re really smart” any day.
It’s true, what they say, words really do make a difference. Just think, God SPOKE, and life was born. Be careful what you say to your kids, to your spouse, to your friends and family. Because words can’t be taken back once you speak them.
Uplift your kids and spouse today. Make a CHOICE to use your words wisely. And if you have to, set some rules. It’s OK to set BOUNDARIES. In fact, it’s healthy. Because believe it or not, we could all use some rules in our household, and not those cutesy kinds you decorate the wall with.
One of my New Year goals has been to Bible journal more often. I started bible journaling last year when I came across Darlene Schacht’s (Time-Warp Wife) Bible Journaling facebook group. It seemed silly to draw in my bible at first, but then it quickly became therapeutic. It caused me to really connect with the words and understand. Unfortunately, I don’t have a “journaling” bible. However, I found a cute little mini journal on Amazon and prefer journaling and doodling in there. Since I’m a note taker and researcher, this was the best option for me. However, you can find amazing journaling bibles online as well.
Getting back on track—at the beginning of the year I consistently kept seeing or hearing the name Nehemiah. I thought to myself, you know, that’s not a book of the Bible I’ve really dived into yet. There are a lot of books in the Bible I haven’t dived into yet. So, last Friday night, I read through the entire book of Nehemiah.
I’ll admit, it was quite boring at first. I began to doubt that this was something timely for my life right now. But boy, was I wrong.
I flipped through the pages, painstakingly reading through about a hundred names of written genealogy. I reminded myself that genealogy can be important, we had just learned about it in church a few weeks before. But honestly, I wasn’t “getting” anything out of this family tree.
I continued to press on. It had already been quite a trying day and evening. There were things happening in our life that had simply gotten to the point of just giving up. I was angry at a man on the other end of a telephone because he couldn’t give me answers I needed. I was mad at his co-worker for lying to me. I was angry because I just spent $500 on a doctor visit that afternoon that got me absolutely no where. I was almost on the verge of screaming at someone I had never even met face to face. It just hadn’t been my week. And still, I pressed into Nehemiah.
To give you some background, God set a desire and promise into Nehemiah’s heart—a direct instruction from God. Nehemiah was to rebuild Jerusalem. If you know anything about those times, anyone who hated the Jews didn’t want Jerusalem rebuilt. But Nehemiah knew it was God’s will, and so he set out to rebuild Jerusalem. To set things into perspective for you, Nehemiah wasn’t a warrior or amazingly talented architect. He was a cup bearer. A cup bearer.
When people caught word of Nehemiah’s plan, the Jews rejoiced, but were scared as well. And of course, there were some nay-sayers—threats, people lying about Nehemiah, people making stories up, and people wishing to kill him.
But Nehemiah pressed on.
In fact, a certain group of people constantly begged him to come and meet with them, but he knew their motives were not pure. Those people then accused Nehemiah of being “out to get them”, and Nehemiah’s response was absolutely incredible. He replied, “Nothing like what you’re saying is true. You’re just making it all up in your head.” In fact, the KJV says, “you’re making it all up in your heart.”
Distractions came at Nehemiah every which way. Distractions that would have discouraged and caused any other man to forget the path laid before him.
Nehemiah pressed on.
Nehemiah completed the job he had set out to do.
And Nehemiah could have given a crap less what everyone else had to say about it, or him. I thoroughly enjoyed Nehemiah’s attitude through out the entire book. He was so sure of himself, because he was so sure of who he was in God.
We could all learn a few things from Nehemiah.
Press on through the distractions.
Set your mind on things above at all times.
And pay no attention to the people who are determined to think what they want to think about you.
There are some people who live their lives in manipulation, and if you allow it, you’ll become exactly like them. Do the work God has called you to do. Because when you know who you are in Christ, you become incredibly unshakable.
I wanted to hug the guy on the other side of the phone this morning, but I got his voicemail. A virtual hug may not have been the best way to start our conversation anyhow.
The things happening in our lives right now are just a distraction from the greater work that God has called us to do.
And then on Sunday…our Pastor said something like this…
And it all set itself into place.
Don’t chase after the blessings of God. Let the blessings of God chase after you. Because when you are diligent, and kind, and kingdom minded, and faithful, His blessings follow you. That’s not to say his blessings don’t follow people who are struggling—we all struggle. Some of us simply don’t broadcast it as much as others. But don’t seek them (blessings) out. Seek HIM first, and all these things will be added unto you.
I’m pretty sure Nehemiah became one of my favorite books in the Bible this past week. The simplicity is exactly what this soul needed. I hope you can learn a thing or two from Nehemiah and apply them into your life this week! I encourage you to read it as part of your personal study time.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8