Deepening our Knowledge–gnóseōs–of Christ through surrender

woman looking toward a cloudy sky and text pulled from the post

Our relationship with Christ begins and is sustained through surrender. With every crisis and uncertainty, as we close our eyes and, with boldness, relinquish our grip, we land firm and secure in our Savior’s hands. It’s then that we realize He truly is loving, faithful, all-powerful, attentive, and true.

For most of my life, I held a very distorted view of God. I knew intellectually that He was loving and kind. At least, that was the Sunday school answer I would have given, if asked. But my actions, most specifically my fears, demonstrated my true beliefs—beliefs hidden so deep, my conscious mind wasn’t even aware they were there. Through a series of events, God allowed my world to completely unravel. At least, that was what it felt like. In reality, He was unraveling lies and fears that were never meant to be part of my world so that I could truly come alive—in Him.

This all began when my husband quit his job—twice, actually, in under a year—and moved our family, quite literally, across the country. Through what became a three-year upheaval period, God allowed all my fears and insecurities to rise to the surface, uncovering the lies attached to them. In this, I came to realize, though I claimed God was my provider, sustainer, protector, guide, and friend, my continual fight for control proved I believed otherwise. In many ways, I knew of God, but I didn’t truly know God, not at the deep, peace-sustaining level.

If I had, I would have understood I had no cause for alarm and no reason to self-protect or fight for control. As I surrendered, through gritted teeth at first, I came to understand just how true all those truths Scripture revealed truly were. That terrifying, mind-shifting experience resulted in an intimacy with Christ I hadn’t even thought to pursue prior, and a much deeper understanding of who He is.

I’m learning to say, “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider quote on knowing Christ and a picture of a candle.everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord …” (Phil. 3:7-8, NIV).

Those words in Philippians were written by an ancient church planter named Paul who truly had forsaken all things in order to know Christ. Prior to his conversation, he’d known of God but he didn’t come to truly know Him, personally and intimately, until He surrendered. And through his continual surrender, his intimacy with Christ grew to a level I suspect few of us will experience, because few of us will ever truly understand what it means to say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

As I said, our relationship begins and is sustained—is deepened and fueled—I through surrender. As we rely on Him—His power, protection, strength, and provision—our understanding moves from mere intellectual assent to a deep and abiding knowledge that forms within a strong, unshakable foundation.

“This is eternal life,” Christ said, while praying to the Father, “that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, NIV). The word our Bibles translate as know, ginóskó in the original Greek, points to a deep intimacy acquired through experience. But even this word lacks some of the depth revealed through its Hebrew counterpart, yada. This is the same word Scripture uses to describe the union Adam and Eve experienced through intercourse. Genesis 4:1 says, “now the man knew his wife Eve ..” (NRSV).

Our culture has turned sex into something selfish and ugly, but God designed this most intimate of acts to, in some mysterious way, unite two individuals into one. It’s a complete unveiling of oneself, a living “naked but not afraid.” To know one another fully, without shame or fear.

This is the level of intimacy Christ longs for with us, to usher us into a relationship so fulfilling, we, like Paul, would consider all else rubbish for the sake of knowing, truly knowing, Him.

We reach that place of ever-increasing intimacy through surrender.

Let’s talk about this! How does surrender lead to a deeper intimacy with Christ? When have you found this to be true? If surrender deepens our knowledge of Him, how can lack of surrender hinder this?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Before you go, I have fun news. Wholly Loved Ministries has released their next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

 

 

Resting in God’s Sovereignty and Infallible Wisdom

Text on remaining pliable to God with a sunrise background

Irony—heading to a speaking engagement on living centered in Christ and empowered by Him while firmly planted in my wisdom and strength. I know I can do so much more surrendered to God than I’ll ever do on my own, but sometimes I forget. I only see what’s right in front of me, and even that’s often distorted. But God sees all and knows all, including how He wants to use me. My role isn’t too figure everything out but instead to listen and remain pliable to His leading.

The more out of control I feel, the more I’m tempted to fight for it. As my focus narrows, my vision slips off of my Savior, and lands squarely on fallible, short-sided, and often deceived self. I begin to think that I have all the answers or the insight to formulate the best plan.

But then God reminds me, through the chaos, that He retains full control. He saw it all, before a moment unfolded,Psalm 147:5 because He knows all (Ps. 147:5) and works in and through all (Rom. 8:28). He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11, ESV).

As a speaker, I’ve come to expect my fall to turn hectic, that’s when most women’s groups book their annual retreats. Add in some unexpected contracts and schedule shifts, and what felt challenging before pricks all my insecurities. I worry I won’t accomplish all I need to in time or that I won’t complete the tasks well.

These worries pricked recently when a series of unexpected and challenging obligations hit.

Then came Friday, when I learned, due to unavoidable and unforeseen events, I needed to cover a speaking engagement for a friend the following Monday. No big deal, right? Sure, my schedule was tight, but I could make it work. Besides, I already had a talk written on the very subject the group needed. So, though stretched, I confidently replied, “No problem.”

She answered, in essence, “Maybe God has a plan for this.”

Such truth in that statement, for we know that He always has a plan. He’s always working behind the scenes, connecting dots and gently nudging us this way and that, as He perfects His perfect will. Sometimes we’re able to watch His perfect wisdom unfold before us; other times we catch mere glimpses and are asked to trust. To trust that He truly is sovereign and knows the best course of action, and the precise time for execution, for whatever we might face.

When God guides us toward something, He always provides all we need to accomplish whatever He’s assigned.

I know this. I do. But sometimes I get so caught up in whatever is before me, whatever seems to be standing in my way, I forget. And sometimes, in His love and grace, God provides not one but three traffic jams, and some missed turns and dead ends to remind me—He’s always in control, and His ways truly are best.

That’s precisely what happened Monday. The day quickly turned crazy with technological difficulties and numerous unexpected yet urgent responsibilities added to an already full day. As a result, I wasn’t able to rehearse my talk, other than in bits and pieces.

Then came the rush hour traffic I severely underestimated—in part due to an accident on the 680. Honestly, if I laid out my drive, you’d laugh, it became so ridiculously strange. I arrived slightly frazzled and frustrated to discover the group had experienced numerous hiccups and last-minute changes themselves. Relaying this to me, one woman replied, “I’m not surprised. Satan loves to trip us up.”

Though I understand the truth in her statement—Scripture does indeed tell us we have a spiritual enemy determined to trip us up, it also reveals a much stronger, more powerful and constant force Who is always working on our behalf. That became so clear, a short time later, as I stood and spoke grace over the woman gathered that night. Unprepared as I felt, I was forced to rely less on my wisdom and preparations and surrender to God’s leading.

I encouraged them to stop striving to be that perfect mom, to display perfect patience and grace, and to lean into their Savior instead. To let Him prove Himself strong on their behalf. The tears brimming in their eyes and the soft smiles that emerged indicated those truths resonated, I believe, much more deeply then my initial presentation would have.

That night, in my weakened, frazzled state, they got a little less of fallible Jennifer Slattery and a bit more of their ever-wise, ever-present King.

Because God knew. He knew what they needed to hear, and He knew precisely how to get me out of the way so that He could speak those truths through me.

Text from the post with a skyline pictureHis wisdom is perfect and His power unconquerable; knowing that gives me courage to surrender. In fact, I would be foolish not to.

May we all choose to say, daily, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

As we die to ourselves—our wisdom and our will—Christ’s power is unleashed within us.

Let’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate God’s unfathomable wisdom? What does His wisdom mean for your current situation? How does His unchanging nature encourage your surrender?

Share your thoughts and stories or suggestions with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from one another!

Before you go, I have fun news. Wholly Loved Ministries has released their next Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health! You can find it HERE.

Our hearts crave deep, lasting connections–to know we are loved and belong. This Bible reading plan will help you Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plangrow in your relationships as you learn to love others well, speak and live in truth, and set the healthy boundaries that will allow your relationships to thrive.

Before you go, I invite you to join me on Gail Pallotta’s blog to hear a bit about my first Love Inspired novel, Restoring Her Faith. You can read more HERE.

When Our Greatest Need Leads to Our Greatest Blessing

quote from post with the backdrop of a blue door framed by ivy.

What if your greatest need, your greatest challenge, strategically leads to your greatest blessing? What if, in your place of struggle, of uncertainty, God is chiseling away all that is shaky and false to lay beneath you a sure and steady foundation? What if, when it feels as if everything around you is shattering, God is actually using those broken pieces to create something eternally beautiful and precious?

My mind likes to shoot straight to fear. When our car breaks down, or our daughter struggles, or maybe someone I love experiences a health challenge, I’m tempted to forget. To forget that God is with me, with us. To forget He’s ever present, certain and true. That His love is big enough to cover every need and hurt. But most of all, I’m tempted to forget that He is in my difficulty, using the situation to reveal hidden lies lurking in my heart. Shining His light on what is diseased in order to bring life and light to what’s gone dead.

For years, I felt food insecure. Even with a full pantry and well-funded savings account, financially, everything felt uncertain. I remembered my time wandering the street of Tacoma, of eating potatoes, and lets be honest, large quantities of malt liquor.

My vision from that time was selective, distorted. I remembered the hard more than God’s hand. And so, I lived in fear. Fear that, at any moment, the life I’d created—that I thought I’d created—would unravel.

In essence, I made much of myself and little of God. I placed my husband’s paycheck, or working car, or our checking account in place of my faithful Provider. Yet, in the deepest recesses of my fearful heart, I intuitively knew that none of those things had the power to carry me. But in focusing on all those lesser, powerless, ever-shifting provisions, I forgot who was and always has been holding me.

My focus on the “bread” hindered my view of the “Baker” and this kept me from resting firmly in His embrace.

This was precisely what happened some two thousand years ago, when Jesus and His disciples encountered a large crowd of hungry people. We likely miss the magnitude of this situation as most of us have never truly been food insecure. When we want something to eat, we run to the store or hit the nearest restaurant. But for ancient man, hunger was a real and pressing concern.

And so, seeing their hunger, Jesus said to Philip, one of His disciples, “You feed them.”

To which Philip replied, in essence, “Um, what?”

“Philip answered Him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’” (John 6:7, NIV). Peter responded much the same, saying “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:8, NIV).

Like I so often do, Philip and Peter allowed their need to blind them from their Provider. In that moment, the need felt huge and their God felt small.

Have you ever been there? I have. And when I land in that place, God doesn’t chastise me or turn away. Instead, He draws me close and says, “What you have is enough, because I, who always am enough, will make it enough.”

That’s precisely how He responded to His disciples. “Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish’” (John 6:10-11, NIV).

Did you catch that? Jesus didn’t just give the people a little. He didn’t feed them enough to hold them over until they could find another meal. He gave them each as much as they wanted. He gave them an abundance, because He is the God of abundance, and He wants us to know that He alone, not our jobs or our paychecks, will meet our needs.

Text pulled from post with a flower background.God calls us to utilize what we have, not obsess over what we lack. When needs arise, it’s easy to become paralyzed by our lack. But even in our lack, we have hope, because we have Christ. And the same God who used a simple lunch of five loaves and two fish can use our meager resources and feeble strength to perfect all that concerns us.

In fact, sometimes, oftentimes, He will allow us to land in situations that feel hopeless so that we can truly and securely grab hold of the only One who is hope. That is a precious blessing that will never fade or disappoint.

What are you facing today? What might God be showing you through it? In the middle of your struggle, what lies are rising to the surface? That God doesn’t care? That He won’t provide for or protect you? That He’s distant or not listening?

What does truth say?

Share your thoughts, stories, and encouragement with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another! And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram!

And for the creatives among us, I’m hosting a fun story lib contest to celebrate my new contract (another release scheduled for June 2020). The winner will receive all of the below books, signed. You can find out more HERE.

pictures of books

For those of you who feel unseen or unvalued, I encourage you to read my post on walking in Hagar’s shoes on Stephanie Landsem’s blog. Find that HERE. And if you’ve never read any of her novels, you totally should. She’s an amazing writer!

Contact me HERE if you’d like me to come speak (or video into) to your Bible study group, book club, or at your next women’s event.

Finding Significance Through Surrender

 

Image of stairs with text pulled from the post

Sometimes our greatest assignments, the steps towards our calling, come during the most mundane activities. And I wonder if the converse might be true as well. Is it possible to miss an amazing, God orchestrated opportunity when we’re focused only on chasing after something we believe will be amazing? I suspect perhaps, because whenever we chase a thing, be that dreams or success, more than God, we’ve slipped into idolatry, and Our loving Father cannot bless that, as worship of “self” always robs, steals, and destroys.

As some of you may know, I never wanted to be a writer or speaker. It wasn’t that I was opposed to those roles; I just never considered them. I thought I was going to be a teacher. I don’t know why that career came to mind. I think I just wanted to do something and that seemed like something I could do. So I started attending college. I also began serving in my local church, mostly where I saw a need. 

When our daughter was young, we lived in Southern California, and the church we attended hosted Friday night services. Those often had the most inconsistent childcare, so, wanting to ensure options for parents who worked Sundays, Steve and I covered that time slot . 

That was crazy hard for numerous reasons, in part because we had a large class filled with students of widely varying ages and attention spans. But, week after week, we did our best. 

I soon became involved in other ways. I wrote curriculum, sometimes that never got used, other times that was used for a season. I also wrote dramas, parent newsletters, and short story snippets, almost always with no one, besides myself and the person I served under, knowing I’d written it. But God knew. And He was working in and through me to grow me and lead me to where I am today. In fact, God used those activities and experiences to awaken my love for writing.

I’ve experienced opposite scenarios as well. I sensed God nudging me to launch Wholly Loved Ministries for at least two years before I finally responded. I felt I was too busy with my writing career and pursuing activities I found most important. I wasn’t in outright disobedience as I always attributed those heart pricks to vague stirrings, but I never hit pause long enough to truly seek God’s will in how He wanted me to spend and prioritize my time. I was too busy moving ahead. 

I became overly focused on my career and under-focused on my Savior, my power source, faithful guide, and stabilizer. As a result, my stress and anxiety levels grew, as did feelings of discouragement and disillusionment.

Eventually, out of mercy, God intervened and halted my writing for a time. Long enough for me to launch my ministry and for Him to purge and realign my heart.

Back then, it felt a bit like death, but in reality, God was restoring life to what had become diseased. 

Jesus said “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10, NIV). Our faithfulness in the little things reveals our readiness to takepicture of a wheelbarrow with text pulled from post. on greater tasks. This means those who work behind the scenes, those who show up every Sunday, who do what needs to be done regardless of who else knows or sees, or what accolades they receive, will also be faithful in the big and glorious tasks. Perhaps because their heart won’t be in the accolades or the thank yous, but in serving and glorifying their Savior. Conversely, those who aren’t faithful in the little things—the trash emptying and toilet scrubbing, the baby rocking and phone call making, won’t be faithful in the big assignments either.

Maybe because we’ll make them about ourselves—our agendas and glory—rather than God’s.

We see this throughout Scripture. Moses, an orphaned baby turned Egyptian prince turned fugitive turned liberator, received God’s call while watching sheep (Ex. 3), a mundane and largely thankless job he performed day after day, with no one watching, and probably no one paying much attention to. God called the ancient prophet Elisha, Elijah‘s predecessor, while he was working in a field (1 Kings 19:19-21). God anointed Saul, Israel’s first king, to leadership, while he and a servant engaged in a three day journey in search of a donkey (1 Sam. 9-10). Then there was Joseph, a braggart teen who received a God-sized dream but was “discovered” while serving, faithfully, as an imprisoned slave (Gen. 37-41). 

I could go on. The Bible is filled with men and women who learned of amazing and history-changing assignments while performing mundane and humble tasks. We also see those who became obsessed with certain roles or opportunities, who put their desires for self-elevation and respect or prestige above their relationship with and worship of God, who lost it all. Who not only lost that very thing they so fervently sought, but who traded inner calm for anxiety, significance for futility, and joy for defeat.

May we, myself included, learn from their example.

Let’s talk about this! What are you chasing after most, that next promotion or opportunity or your Savior? What occupies your thoughts most, your achievements and goals or God’s glory? Can you share a time when God redirected you off of an obsession and onto Him? What was the result?

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Filled to Overflowing

puddle of waterFor years, I was a stale and stagnate Christian. Christ had deposited His living water within my sole, but it was more like a trickling creek than the gushing river He desired.

I wasn’t thriving. In many ways, I was barely surviving. Then one weekend, I went on a women’s retreat and heard the account of the Samaritan woman (John 4) who’d gone through a string of relationships and, I felt certain, lived as empty as I was. She may have been widowed numerous times, abandoned by her past husbands, or she may have chosen divorce. Regardless, she’d engaged in and lost five relationships, and that had to leave emotional scars.

Jesus saw her pain and He sought her out. Knowing she’d soon reach the community well, He arrived first, sent His disciples away, and waited.

Just as, each day, He patiently waits for us. Once she arrived, He initiated a conversation by asking for a drink of water, triggering a deeper thirst than any liquid could quench. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks for a drink,” He said, “you would have asked Him, and He would’ve given you living water” (John 4:10, NIV).

In Ancient Palestinian, water was rare, precious, and necessary. Rain only fell during a few months each year, and when it did, the previously brown and barren countryside became lush and green. Against this backdrop Jesus said, in essence, come to Me to come alive, fully alive. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, He later said, “Whoever believes in Me, as image of a stream in a forestScripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-39, NIV).

This felt confusing. I’d already entrusted my eternal salvation to Christ. But I had never learned to truly live in Him, for numerous reasons, many of that took over a decade to unpack. However, much of it came down to this: I didn’t know how to live loved. Past hurts, fears, and a continual blanket of self-loathing covered my heart in scar tissue, and it blocked me from fully receiving the grace God continually poured upon me. Equally depleting, I spent so much time attempting to fill all my empty places in my own strength—through alcohol, social functions, food—I routinely distanced myself from the only One who could fill me completely.

I hadn’t a clue how to hold authentic relationships—with anyone, let alone the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present yet invisible Creator. So I asked Him to show me. To teach me. To heal me. And He did. For the next fifteen or so years, He soothed my hurts, removed my distrust, and helped me discover the freedom of living love.

Of living filled.

We receive God’s living water, the Holy Spirit, the moment we trust in Christ for salvation. But our experience doesn’tend there. As we deepen our relationship with Christ and our surrender, the streams God deposited within us grow stronger, filling us so completely, His Spirit pours out in like a refreshing, life-giving fountain.

Let’s talk about this! Have you experienced God’s living water? How’s your stream? Is something slowing the waters of God’s Spirit? How can you give Him more access to yourself so that He can flow within and from you unhindered? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and make sure to connect with me on Instagram or Facebook.

If today’s post encouraged you, make sure to check out Wholly Loved Devotional, Drawing Near:

Drawing Near Daily DevotionEach day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.

You can buy it HERE.

Embracing Our Weaknesses to Live in God’s Strength by Victoria Mejias

Image of a flower with text pulled from post

Our culture tends to idolize strength. We love stories of the underdog who rose to the top despite seemingly impossible odds. But Scripture paints a different image of strength–one found through surrender and revealed through weakness.

When I first met my guest, Victoria Mejias, I was instantly drawn to her sweet spirit, her authenticity, her hope despite incredible challenges, and her steady reliance on God. She’s suffered more than most of us ever will, and yet, it is perhaps because of her weakness that she most reveals Christ. The same is true for us. When we release our expectations and presentations of perfection, something beautiful happens. In the raw and the real, we demonstrate what it means to rest in God’s grace.

A Woman With Issues

By Victoria Mejias

My loved ones will be the first to tell you- I am a woman with issues. I know, I know, as a Christian I should have my act all together but I don’t.

I am admittingly not a morning person. I drink way too much coffee and don’t seem to be technically-inclined. And that’s the superficial stuff.

Despite my faith, I get anxious. I can have trust issues. I’m a planner that can be irritatingly-scheduled. And those are a few of my finer qualities. The ones most people cannot see.

On top of that, I’m a single mother with two children and multiple sclerosis. My illness has effected my body for more than 10 years to the point where I can’t hide it anymore. I’m now colorblind, most days I ambulate with a walker, other days a wheelchair. Not to mention, half of the week I struggle with a terrible stutter that I fear makes me sound inarticulate and uneducated.

Somehow the latter issues make me the most self-conscience. The thought of people knowing the former, more able-bodied me, versus the disabled me can render me too anxious to think clearly at times. The loss of my straw-like, brittle hair at the slightest touch and the weight gain brought on by my medications can reduce me to tears. And the inability to participate in my children’s activities like I used to can make me feel helpless.

And boy have I tried for years to treat my illness—and to do it privately. In fact, most people didn’t know I was disabled until fairly recently. Oh to think of the years of failed treatments, the thousands of dollars spent for me to just get worse, the effect my illness took on my marriage … it’s daunting.

The fact that people can see these issues only add to my sense of defeat. My challenges are far too visible to mask with a Sunday smile and too real to pretend all is well, even at church. It’s during these moments that I have to fight the negativity that bombards my mind by clinging to Scripture.

Mark chapter 5 describes a scene in which a large crowd follows and presses around Jesus. Among them is someone many people refer to as “the woman with the issue of blood.”

A woman much like me.

Mark 5:25-26 says, “And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” Reading this paints an all-too-personal image for me.

Here was a woman with issues, who knew what it was to suffer and to suffer publicly. She’d been to multiple doctors, drained her life-savings, and had been basically cast out of society. After all, this took place during a period of time where even godly people avoided the unclean. Yet, here she was, unapologetically reaching out for Jesus.

She didn’t just “follow” Him the way the others did she came up behind Him and pressed in through faith “because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed’” (Mark 5:28). She let the Lord lead her and she pressed in to the point where she touched Him. So much so, that the Lord Himself felt the healing power leave His body.

I love Jesus with all my heart and I still believe the Lord will physically heal me. In the meantime, I’m grateful God’s healed my need for approval and my embarrassment surrounding my weaknesses. I long for the day when I’ll hear “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).

I’m still physically hurting. I still have issues. But I’m determined to let Christ lead and to press into Jesus through it all.

My comfort comes from knowing that He goes before me. I am His. I trust Him, despite my suffering and, regardless of Image of a flower with text pulled from post.how He chooses to respond to my prayers.

I pray you can, too.

Let’s talk about this! Consider your current struggles. How has God revealed Himself to you through them? How might He want to use you and your difficulties to reveal Himself to others as well? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If you haven’t done so, we encourage you to join our closed Facebook community. Wholly Loved Ministries’ Facebook group is a confidential and safe place where women can share their struggles, doubts, fears, and celebrations.

Wholly Loved Ministries
Closed group · 467 members
 

Join Group

 

A place for women to come together, share their struggles, celebrations, and insights, and inspire one another to be all God created them to be.

We also encourage you to check out our Bible reading plan, 30 Days of Emotional Health, on YouVersion. You can find that https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/15904/.

Get to Know Victoria

Victoria Mejias is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska College of Law prior to making a leap into public service. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public, legal and non-profit sectors. She has previously served as the Missions and Small Groups Pastor at StoneBridge Christian Church and the Development Director for Open Door Mission / Lydia House. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Heartland United for Puerto Rico and her past service includes a variety of other boards.

Victoria received her Certification in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute in 2012. She has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally as far out as Damoh, India at the World Leaders Evangelical Conference. Recently Victoria was the recipient of two Congressional awards for her service by Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón and Nebraska’s Congressman Don Bacon during a floor speech at the US House of Representatives. She has two children, loves the Lord, reaching the lost and enjoys travel, arts and culture.

She serves with Wholly Loved Ministries as a translator, speaker, and blogger.

Creating a Culture of Grace

Image of woman looking out over horizon

Image by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Our response to other people’s failures and mistakes matter. A lot.

Grace isn’t overlooking sin or acting as if it’s acceptable nor is it diminishing its effects.

Grace says: “I know you messed up here, and that stinks. But your actions won’t push me away. Instead, they motivate me to draw closer. Because I know you can do better. I believe you will do better, and I’ll be walking beside you each step of the way.”

Our daughter has always been the type who longs to please. She needs to know her father and I are proud of her and at times, she has an unhealthy fear of displeasing us. When she was younger, I often told her, “I almost want you to fail in this so that you can see failure isn’t the end of the world.” I wanted her to make some big mistakes so that her fear of making them would diminish.

Mostly, I wanted her to experience grace and learn to live in it.

This past year, she got engaged, which opens up a whole new set of potential “failures.” Failures I know she and her fiancé will experience, perhaps even again and again. They won’t always make the right choices or love one another well. They’ll argue and say things they wish they hadn’t. They’ll make poor career decisions, some that may even cost them tens of thousands.

But they’ll be okay, because they’ll always have the grace of God, of one another, and of my husband and I to fall back on. My prayer is that the knowledge of those truths will provide the safety, the catalyst, for their growth.

Fear paralyzes, but Scripture says perfect love casts out fear.

Let me play on those words a bit. We all fear we’ll be cast out. That we’ll do something that will cause others to reject us and cut us off. But love draws near, and the love that draws near casts out the fear of being cast off. If I instill nothing else into our daughter’s heart, I want it to be this: My love remains.

Imagine our relationships, our churches and Bible study groups, if we learned to communicate grace-based love, not just with our words, but more importantly, with our actions and reactions.

This begs the question: how do we create a culture of grace?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I feel I get closer when I consider God’s heart for me. Here’s how we can mirror that heart to others.

Understand failure will occur.

We’re all in a process of growing. We know this intellectually but can easily forget when someone else behaves in a less than loving or godly way. Often, when I disciplined our daughter when she was growing up, I’d say, “You’re supposed to mess up. You’re a kid. That’s why God gave you parents.”

That didn’t mean I condoned or ignored her behavior. It meant I saw it through a grace-and-growth based lens. Paul putflower image with text from Phil. 1:6 it this way, when speaking to the relatively new believers in Philippi: “[I am] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

Notice:

  • Paul knew the believers hadn’t reached a state of completion. He dropped his expectations of perfection.
  • He didn’t take ownership for their growth. Oh, what peace we experience when we stop owning other people’s behavior! As their spiritual mentor, Paul was responsible to teach, exhort, and train. He was not responsible for how the Philippians responded.
  • His confidence wasn’t in his teaching or even in the Philippians’ ability to grow. His confidence rested in Christ, the author and perfector of their faith, the only One with the power to change lives.

Prioritize relationships above behavior, mistakes, and incidents.

This means viewing everything as an opportunity to connect, to get to the heart level. Jesus excelled at this. When He met a woman who’d been married five times and was living with a man out of wedlock, He didn’t zero in on her relationship history. Instead, He saw and spoke to her heart, her need, saying, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink”—or, who I am—“you would’ve asked Him and He would’ve given you living water” (John 4:10, NIV).

Jesus offered Himself. Completely.

When He met a tax collector who’d swindled money from others, He didn’t list all the man’s sins. Instead, He drew the man close, saying, “Come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5, NIV).

Relationships change people. When healthy and filled with grace, they give others a safe place to land, to become honest with themselves and others, and to grow.

Deal with things as they come then move on.

When our daughter was a teenager, she and I went through a “passive aggressive” phase where we routinely threw snarky comments at one another. Whenever we took time to unpack these interactions, we learned one of us had spoken out of hurt or fear. Watch others, or even better, analyze yourself, and I suspect you’ll discover the same.

Usually, this behavior stems from aversion to conflict, yet that is precisely where it leads—to ongoing, unresolved conflict. We discovered how important, how healing and powerful, it can be to simply state our feelings and concerns. This allowed us to deal with them honestly and fully—to get to the real issue, which so often wasn’t what we originally suspected. Then, once we’d addressed that, we moved on, grudge and hostility free.

Granted, I’ll never love others as Christ loves me. I’ll have moments of snark, of hurt feelings and misperceptions, but I want to grow in this area. I want to create a culture of grace, where relationships are prioritized over mistakes and poor behavior and growth is valued above perfection.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you’ve experienced grace-based relationships? Can you share any examples with us? What are some ways you try to intentionally create a culture of grace, and what results have you seen?

Speaking of living in and giving out grace, have you grabbed your free copy of Becoming His Princess yet? You can do HERE.

cover for Bible studyDo you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and how their bank account or how accomplishment list compares to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, her shame, and all her striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.Step by step, God taught this once-scorned woman to live as His beloved, His princess.

As we follow her journey recorded in the pages of Scripture, He’ll help us do the same. We’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence in our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

And before you go, fun news! Christina Sparks, you won a copy of Janet Thompson’s book, Everyday Brave! I’ll email you soon to connect you with her so you can get her your mailing address. Thanks for engaging with us last week!