Cultivating Sincere Love

 

Image of a sunrise peaking out from behind storm clouds and text pulled from the post.

We can’t feed bitterness and simultaneously cultivate joy. We won’t experience the full to overflowing life Jesus promised if we cling to unforgiveness. And perhaps most importantly, we can’t display the beautiful, grace-giving love our world needs when pride, envy, or malice clog our hearts.

I wish I could say I routinely radiate Christ, but unless I guard against this, when difficulties hit, I’m often quick to complain and slow to pray. I’m easily distracted by the imperfect, unexpected, or undesired rather than the abundance of blessings God’s provided.

In fact, there was a time when that was my default demeanor, until God woke me up through a series of encounters.

Initially, when I met Tracy*, compassion drew me to her. She was new to the area, appeared to be hurting, and I thought perhaps she could use a friend. So, I issued an invitation, and we began meeting for coffee.

Soon, our conversations felt repetitive, filled with complaining and bitterness. At first, I wondered if she was depressed, and she may have been, and if so, in need of patience and grace.

She may have been depressed. But I wasn’t, and yet, I’d been acting just like her.

In other words, though I had much to be thankful for, including a daily connection with God Himself—the source of all joy—I chose bitterness and negativity. I chose to focus on momentary “offenses”, what I didn’t have that I wanted, on expectations gone awry, and robbed myself of the peace and full to overflowing life Jesus died to give me.

Through my interactions with this other woman, God helped me see how my attitude, which I’d displayed without thinking, was choking my spiritual vitality, hindering my relationships, and diluting my prayers.

Worst of all, it was squelching my love, the one thing those I care for most needed from me.

In a letter bearing his name, Peter, an early church father who spent time with Jesus before His death, wrote to Christians experiencing oppression and persecution. Living under the evil emperor Nero, they needed not only encouragement but also incredible emotional Picture of two friends with text from 1 Peter 1:22support. So he urged them to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22, ESV).

We all know what casual love looks like—the type that offers kind words when it’s convenient but seems absent when needs arise. The kind that’s more self-protecting than sacrificing and prideful than initiating. The kind that might look good on the outside but lacks substance when it counts.

That’s not the kind of love Peter commanded. Instead, they were to demonstrate a sincere, unfeigned love free from hidden agendas and selfish motives.

Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I showed that type of love. Selfish motives often creep into my best, most altruistic intentions. This lessens, however, when I diligently practice Peter’s admonitions that follow in 2 Peter 2:1-3: “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk”—Scripture— “that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted the Lord is good” (ESV).

In other words, we can’t harbor bitterness or envy in one area or in relation to one particular person and expect our other relationships to remain pure and sincere. Malice, deceit, and slander, and all their equally destructive sisters, once entertained, invade our hearts until everything becomes tainted.

To display the love, joy, and peace God commands, we need to both purge and fill. We need to actively and continually throw out everything that hinders while soaking in everything that ignites.

That is the only way we will truly be able to love others well, as Christ loves us.

Let’s talk about this. What’s hindering you from fully expressing the love of Christ? Is there an old offense you’re rehashing? Unforgiveness you’re feeding? If so, hand that to God. Ask Him to remove it from you, to replace it with truth, and then intentionally remember all the ways God has shown you that He is indeed good.

It’s really hard to remain angry or bitter when focused on the love and grace of Christ.

It’s equally hard to experience the full to overflowing life Jesus promised when we’ve chosen bitterness instead.

What resonated or challenged you most in today’s post? Share your thoughts, stories, examples, and questions in the comments below.

***

Join the Wholly Loved team on March 23rd to discover how to live fully, vibrantly alive, prioritize your time according to God’s leading, and experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in your most enjoyable and difficult moments. Visit the Wholly Loved website to find out more and King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha to register. We also encourage you to grab a free copy of our Bible study, Becoming His Princess. You can do so HERE. Listen to each week’s opening session HERE.

Want Jennifer or her team to come to you? Contact her HERE.

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What Your Heart Needs For Today

It’s easy to neglect but imperative to guard. Each day, we’re either caring for or starving our hearts, and the results of each necessarily follow. As my guest Mirachelle Canada shares below, when we put first things first and allow Christ to nourish our deepest depths, life follows. Abundant, filled to overflowing life.

Picture of a heart drawn in the sand.

 

What Your Heart Needs for Today

By Mirachelle Canada

It’s there. I’ve passed it several times now. I promise myself I’ll get to it after I finish the other needs on my mental checklist…

Eat a breakfast granola bar. Check. Take my daily vitamins. Check. Pack an easy to eat on-the-go lunch a teacher is able to scarf down in less than 20 minutes. Check. Make sure the cap is secure on my travel mug to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s accident. Check.

As I head to the garage, weighed down by everything I’ll need for work, I pass it again. No, not the growing pile of dirty clothes in the laundry basket. I’m talking about the Bible on the end table next to my favorite chair. A layer of dust covers it. Dusting! Gotta add that to my list for later! Check.

I keep walking despite the invisible heart tug. There’s no time to spare for a daily reading, meditation, or responsive prayer. I promise myself I’ll get to it tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have time to look up something inspirational on Google when I log into my classroom computer? Or maybe there’ll be a program I can listen to on the car radio?

The garage door closes.

There it all remains among the repetitious soft tick of the hall clock and consistent swishing swirl of the ceiling fan. Exactly what my heart needs for today. That word of encouragement to recall for a colleague who tells me of a sudden family death. Inspiration for an internal pep talk while I endure the hours long after school staff meeting. Hope and wisdom to respond with when my sister texts that she’s going in for a biopsy of a suspicious mass. The power to claim ever-present joy instead of being overcome with road rage when I get cut off in rush hour traffic. Strength to press on even when I get home at the end of the day and don’t feel like cooking dinner for the zillionth time.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)Quote regarding the Bible from Augusting of Hippo

Ah. The reason for the heart tug. God knows what my heart needs. My heart comes first.

Wait. Stop. Let’s rewind.

It’s there. I’ve passed it several times this morning. I promised myself yesterday I’d get to it after I finished my mental checklist. There’s an invisible tug on my heart. I stop. Take a deep breath.

The tea kettle will stay hot. Vitamins are easy to put into a sandwich bag. Eyeliner isn’t a necessity. The cat won’t starve. A teaching colleague I’d like to get to know better mentioned a new deli that just opened next to my school. I can stop and pick up something to share.

I curl up in my comfy chair, wipe the dust from the cover, and open God’s Word and my daily devotion. I read, consider, meditate, and pray. I feel lighter, more awake. Better. Stronger. Prepared. Now anything is possible because I know I have everything I’ll need for today.

Do you feel God’s heart tug to spend time in His Word? What pressing needs can you let go of to spend more time seeking what your heart really needs?

***

Scripture points to the Giver of life and reveals how we can find real and abundant life in Him. We weren’t meant to merely survive. Christ created us to thrive! Join us for the Fully Alive Conference, hosted by King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha to learn how to experience, daily, the filled to overflowing life Jesus promised. (Registration HERE!) And if you haven’t already done so, make sure to grab a free copy of our (Wholly Loved) Bible study, Becoming His Princess! You can do so HERE.

Get to know Mirachelle!

Mirachelle's author photoMirachelle Canada is a writer, playwright, screenwriter, and theatre director/producer from Northern Virginia, where she teaches television production at her high school alma mater. She is passionate about awakening creativity and the gifts of God in everyone.

She is currently working on her first historical fiction novel set during WWII, inspired by her time studying theatre education in London, England.

Connect with Mirachelle at:

her Website  on Facebook,  Twitter, and  Instagram.

 

For When We Feel too Busy to Rest

Image of woman on bench with quote pulled from post

When our daughter was young and I spent hours each week in school pickup lines, I often felt I had plenty of time to rest. To pray and seek Jesus. But then she grew older, I grew busier, and year by year, it felt increasingly harder to slow down and prioritize my relationship with Jesus.

I’ve since discovered, however, when my schedule overwhelms me and I don’t have a moment to spare, that’s when I most need to hit pause.

That’s when I most need to regularly connect with Jesus. In the midst of a particularly busy period, my guest’s post today really resonated.

For When We Think We’re Too Busy to Rest

By Dr. Michelle Bengston

Life was getting busy—too busy. Maybe you’ve been there: when you were always looking forward to the next event, no longer content in the moment.

No sooner had I sent my next book manuscript to the publisher, when I began to ponder my next project. Everyone else seemed to ask me that as well, “What will you work on next?”

I habitually pushed forward, without taking enough time to relish and celebrate the victories along the way.

During a women’s retreat the following weekend, no less than a dozen women confirmed the direction I sensed God was leading me: into a season of rest.

REST? Why would I want to do that ? I had things to write and talks to give. God knows my personality: I’d rather have three urgent projects going with barn-burning deadlines than be told to rest.

But God always knows best.

In the month after that retreat when I felt like He was leading me into a season of rest, I fulfilled my speaking commitments and visited my college son. Upon returning home, my doctor called to tell me what no one likes nor wants to hear: “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer.”

Surgery was scheduled and treatment began. The physical toll was great, but God had prepared me for this time by clearing my calendar.

We become so consumed with accomplishing tasks, that we forget God can do more during times of rest than in our most “productive times.”

I used to think rest was a luxury. Now I realize it is crucial for warfare.

Rest has its benefits:

1. In rest, God provides safety.

“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster” (1 Kings 5:4 ESV).

2. Rest allows our bodies to heal. God desires healing for us.

3. Rest allows God the opportunity to teach us His ways, and as He teaches us, we learn to rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

4. We were created in God’s image, and when we rest, we align ourselves with the very nature of God.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV).

5. Rest is a gift from God. We can rest in His presence.

“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14 ESV).

Taking time to rest requires trust in the One who commanded us to do so.

Jesus never hurried, and he modeled for us a lifestyle that included rest. If it was good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t it be so for us also?

Let’s talk about this!

What makes rest a challenge for you? What benefits have you seen from following God’s command to rest? Share your thoughts, insights, and stories with us in the questions below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to know Michelle!

Author headshot: Michelle BengtsonDr. Michelle Bengtson (Ph.D., Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of the bestselling, award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights From A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years, and is now in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. This doctor knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address her patients’ issues, both for those who suffer and the ones who care for them.

Using sound practical tools, she affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of thirty years have two teenage sons and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her  site: DrMichelleBengtson.com

For more hope, stay connected with her at:

Website, her Blog, and on Facebook

Hope Prevails:

Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression

As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson believed she was prescribing the most effective treatments for her clients who struggled with depression. But when she experienced debilitating depression herself, she found that the treatments she had recommended weren’t helping her the way she expected. She was determined to find out what was missing.

With the deep compassion of someone who has been there, Dr. Bengtson blends her training and that vital missing piece she discovered to offer you a hope grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps you understand what depression is, how it affects you spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, depression cannot do. The result is an approach that offers not just the management of symptoms but the hope of true release.

Order Hope Prevails HERE.

Before you go, I have more fun news! For those of you working through the Becoming His Princess study, you can now watch the video segment for week one HERE. We should have week two’s video segment available by the 23rd.

If you didn’t grab your free copy yet, you can do so HERE or purchase a print copy for $5 HERE.

Fun News!

You know that feeling when something you’ve worked long and hard for finally begins to come together? Or what about when, after you’ve invested hours upon hours into something, you catch glimpses of how God might use it?

That’s been my week, and now I get to share the fun with you.

First, for those waiting for our (Wholly Loved’s) Bible study, it’s here! You can grab the print and ebook copies HERE and HERE, and listen to the first few audio segments HERE. If you do snatch a copy, you’ll notice each week, we reference video segments. Those haven’t been shot yet. We’ll be taking footage of all the sessions at Wildewood Christian, a local church, starting next week. However, the audio segments contain the same content, which you can easily access in the interim.

Second fun news …. I now have a cover for my next book, releasing in April by Love Inspired. Check it out!

Here’s more about the book:

Restoring Her Faith:

She left belief behind…
Yet this family could change her mind

With two boys to raise, a fledgling contracting business to run and a family ranch to keep afloat, widower Drake Owens finds his hands aren’t just full—they’re overflowing. When Faith Nichols is hired to help him renovate the church, he’s drawn to the beautiful artist, but he can’t fall for a woman who isn’t a believer. Can love restore her faith…and his heart?

Preorder it HERE.

What was your highlight this week? Share your wins, praises, and celebrations with us in the comments below.

Growing in Grace

Woman praising and paraphrase of 1 Cor. 3:18

Imagine the peace and growth we’d experience if we truly learned to live in grace. If, instead of wallowing in self-condemnation, we moved forward in the hopeful anticipation birthed in intentional growth. Imagine if we viewed every failure, setback, and step forward through God’s eyes.

Growing in grace

By Matthew Romano

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Co 3:18, ESV).

“Beware of looking back at what you once were, when God wants you to become someone you’ve never been” – Oswald Chambers.

Before a sculptor begins shaping his masterpiece, he has a vision of what he wants to create. He begins with raw materials, such as a block of stone or marble. He starts chiseling the substance to mirror what he sees in his mind. As he crafts his vision, he’s not frustrated because it’s not yet completed. He takes joy in the work of his hands as art begins to take form and reflect the image he envisioned.

It is the same process for God.

God has a vision for us to become like Christ. In Him, He sees us as perfect, without spot or blemish in Christ. He is gradually molding and chiseling us to reflect His Son. He works on our hearts with joy and He’s not angry or upset throughout the process of our spiritual formation. Rather, He takes delight in doing the work that He knows will eventually be completed.

Unfortunately, we often fail to see ourselves as a work in progress. We tend to focus on our sins and imperfections. We cannot press forward we’re continually contemplating our present shortcomings, or reflecting on the pain of our past.

Perhaps we have listened to careless words spoken over us – and unknowingly embraced them. I remember one of my high school teachers yelling at me in front of the classroom, “You’re never going to amount to anything!” At the time, these words didn’t seem to bother me and I just laughed at him. But looking back in retrospect, a few months later I made the decision to drop out of school. If we take these words to heart they will begin to shape our self-image.

Words can create worlds for us. Every word we’ve digested internally has greatly impacted who we are today. That’s woman holding heart shaped snow and text pulled from postwhy it’s imperative to meditate on what the Lord says about us. When we welcome Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, He grants us not only forgiveness, but also the gift of a new identity. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Co 5:17, ESV).

As I focus on the goodness of the Lord and the words He’s spoken to me within the Bible, He transforms me to become what He created me to be. I may not be all God intends yet, but I know Him who creates beauty from what was once nothing. God is the potter and we are the clay (Jer 18:6). If we allow His hand to shape our lives, we’ll be led into a glorious destiny of purpose.

What must you put behind to become what you’ve never been?

Check out his book, The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation:

The atmosphere within the United States and most of the world is ripe for another great spiritual awakening. The current state of affairs is one of profound division, even within the church. The saints themselves have a difficult time distinguishing what is right and what is wrong because we have abandoned our first love and have embraced the love of the world.

In this season, the Lord exhorts His people to prepare themselves like a bride adorned for her husband and beckons the church to answer “The Call” toward revival that will spread like a holy fire in the hearts of many. Who will answer “The Call” to battle this present darkness with weapons of righteousness? Only when God’s own people are revived can we expect to see transformation in America and throughout the world.

The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation takes the reader on a journey of spiritual awakening alongside the author. Each chapter inspires the reader to answer “The Call” of God toward freedom, holiness, and purpose. This book will mentor people to hear the voice of God, think with the mind of Christ, be alert to the tactics of Satan, engage in spiritual warfare, learn to pray and meditate on the promises of God, and much more.

Buy it HERE.

Grab the study guide HERE.

Watch the trailer HERE.

Get to know Matthew!

Matthew J. Romano is an ordained deacon of Christ Church New Jersey. He has been walking with the Lord for over 25 years. His passion is sharing Christ with the lost and teaching believers to walk passionately with the Lord. He currently serves the body of Christ as a deacon, altar ministry to pray for the needs of God’s people, life group leader, guest teacher and speaker of the Word of God, and as a certified teacher in the School of Prayer. He is the author of The Call: An Invitation to Revival and Transformation and The Call: A Study Guide to Revival and Transformation.

Find him online HERE.

Connect with him on Facebook HERE. 

Before you go, for those who are local and want to participate in the live teaching of Becoming His Princess Bible study, hosted this winter by Wildewood Christian Church (Papillion), registration is now open! To sign up, go HERE.

Grab your free e-copy HERE.

Grab your print copy HERE.

About the study:

Do 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.

Making Room for the New Stuff God Has in Store

Do you feel as if you’re continually fighting against negative behavior patterns and attitudes? As we approach a new year, and thus a chance for each of us to begin afresh, my guest today, author and speaker Donna Jones, suggests some ways we can make room for the good God desires to display in our lives.

How to Make Room for the New Stuff God Has in Store for You

By Donna Jones

I tried to look like I wasn’t listening, but truthfully I wanted to hear their conversation.

“I don’t get it. How do you always look so good? What do you do that I don’t?”

Image of a well-dressed woman sitting in a restaurantI stole an inconspicuous peek at the woman who was about to reveal her secret. Yep. She looked good, even in jeans and a t-shirt. It wasn’t that she was stunningly beautiful, so what was it? I strained to hear what she’d say next.

“I live by two simple rules: First, when I want something new, I get rid of something old. Second, when something gets damaged I immediately fix it, or toss it. I never have anything in my closet that’s dated, damaged, or doesn’t flatter me.”

She sounded so wise. So organized. I made a mental note to be more like her.

Two days later I opened our guest room closet–the one where we keep things we don’t use, but aren’t sure we want to get rid of. Suddenly, the well-dressed stranger’s words replayed in my head. I couldn’t deny it; instead of getting rid of my dated and damaged stuff, I simply rearranged them.Image of a cluttered closet

And then it hit me. My closet was a picture of my soul.

I’d try to add kindness, but forget to toss impatience.

I’d try to add love, but neglect to toss pride.

I’d try to add persistence, but refuse to remove distractions.

Even worse, I’d become blind to all the damaged pieces I stuffed tightly into the back corners of my life, much like I stuffed old clothing into my spare closet. Did I immediately fix the causes of my impatience, or address the reasons for my pride? I had to admit I didn’t. No wonder I felt like I could never quite get it together.

Tossing the old before acquiring the new is a habit God’s people practiced long before the well-dressed gal in Starbuck’s did.

Before God brought the Israelites into the land He’d long promised them.

“Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you’” (Joshua 3:5, NIV).*

Before Jacob, an ancient Hebrew who fled his homeland after deceiving his brother, returned home to be reconciled with his family.

“Jacob told everyone in his household, ‘Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.’” (Genesis 35:2-3 NLT)

Before God’s people could be victorious.

“Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you. (Joshua 7:13, NLT)

Before first century believers became spiritually mature.

“But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him (Colossians 3:8-10, NLT).*

We’re no different from God’s people in the past. Who among us doesn’t want to claim God’s blessings? Or be reconciled with family? Or overcome defeat? Or grow in spiritual maturity?

God’s pattern is abundantly clear: To grab the new thing God has in store, we must make room for it. We can’t embrace new things if we hoard old things.

Not even in secret.

Is there anything in your life that is dated? Damaged? Doesn’t flatter? If so, it’s time to toss it or fix it, rather than stuff it or mix it.

It’s time to make space for new things to come.

Let’s talk about this! What resonated most with you in Donna’s post? Can you relate to her “closet inventory”? What are some ways you intentionally clean out old, sinful behavior patterns to make room for God’s good to flow in and through you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

Get to Know Donna!

speaker image of Donna JonesDonna Jones is a national speaker and pastor’s wife who travels from coast to coast helping people find the biblical wisdom they need, for the life they want. A self-described Bible explainer, she’s the author of three books, including, Seek: A Woman’s Guide to Meeting God and Taming Your Family Zoo, and is a frequent guest on radio shows, including Focus on the Family and HomeWord. Donna finds her greatest joy being mom to her three young adult kids, who frequently sit on her kitchen counter, just to chat. Donna would love to connect with you at www.donnajones.org or on Instagram @donnaajones.

*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Christmas dysfunction—or growth and peace. Your Choice

text from post with lights in background

If my Christmas feels out of control and produces more anxiety than joy and peace, I’m probably to blame. Nine times out of ten, when I honestly evaluate those things that cause me the greatest stress and anxiety, it’s my fault. I’ve failed to establish and maintain clear boundaries, have given other people’s behavior and opinions power over me, or both.

Most often both.

Let me explain using a parenting example. When our daughter was in high school, she went through the messy phase that seems inherent to adolescence. I’d nag, cajole, pester, and remind, and yet, dirty clothes remained on the floor, dirty dishes on counters, and piles of randomness cluttered nearly every surface.

As this problem continued, my frustration grew, until one day I realized … the situation was largely my fault. Though I’d stated my expectations, I lacked direct and clear follow-through. In getting upset, nagging, or running around tidying things up, I’d taken ownership of my daughter’s behavior.

I had three options:

  1. Communicate natural consequences and follow through.

(And if I do that, there’s no reason to get upset. I simply enforce the consequence and move on.)

  1. Remain perpetually frustrated.
  2. Determine to let the situation go.

Though this holds true year round, our lack of boundaries and unhealthy responses are felt most strongly over the quote pulled from text with Christmas wrapping and items backgroundholidays when obligation, expectation, financial strain, and reduced availability magnifies and reveals every dysfunction.

And whenever God allows something unhealthy to come under the spotlight, He’s giving us the opportunity to align ourselves and our lives more closely with truth and bring increased wholeness to what is now broken.

I think we probably know this, at least in theory, but many times, we’re afraid of what our healthy decisions might cost. We may know Great Aunt Leola’s expectation that all families, regardless of their schedule, commitments, or personal needs and desires, attend her Thursday night dinner, are unrealistic and unfair. But we fear, should we do what we feel is right for ourselves (our sanity!) and our family, we’ll lose the relationship or create uncomfortable tension.

Therefore, we determine her feelings and perceptions, regardless of how unjustified, and lack of conflict are more important than emotional and relational health. Than true peace, which, biblically speaking, means wholeness. We can’t set a boundary unless we’re willing to stand by it, regardless of how things play out and others respond. Otherwise, our boundaries are merely suggestions that will likely leave us feeling more frustrated and defeated than before.

The other morning, I spoke with a group of single moms on pursuing healing and learning to recognize what is and isn’t about them—what to take ownership for and correct and what to “shake off” in a refusal to “own” someone else’s opinions and poor behavior. The question that followed: How?

I think what they were asking is, “How can I stop getting so emotionally entangled in other people’s opinions, behaviors, and perceptions (which usually means, when evaluated at its root, how can I care less what others think about me)?

To which I responded: What gave them the right to hold that power? What did they do to warrant this, and what makes them—their opinion—more important than you and your emotional health?

That’s a question we have to ask ourselves each day, because until we’re able to say, “Nothing and no one gave them that power,” we’ll likely remain victims. Worse, we’ll teach our kids to do the same, and we’ll all suffer for it, the person with the poor behavior included.

Along these same lines, if we’re the ones attempting to override someone else’s boundaries, we must ask ourselves: Who gave me that power? Who gave me authority to force my dysfunction onto others? And what might Jesus have to say about that?

Because as the saying goes, truth without love is hurtful and abrasive, and love without truth is deadly. It kills relational intimacy, personal integrity, robs us and our families of peace, and perpetuates a cycle of dysfunction.

But truth and love combined? That’s power. The power of life, transformation, hope, and peace. True, biblical peace, not simply the momentary conflict avoidance that has killed way too many happy holidays.

Let’s talk about this! How much of your current stress is caused by lack of boundaries? What areas might God be wanting to bring wholeness to this holiday season? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those in the Omaha Metro area, fun news! I’ll be leading Wholly Loved’s new Bible study, Becoming a Princess, this January at Wildewood Christian in Papillion. I hope you’ll join us each Tuesday from 6:30-8:00pm as we learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His peace and power in our most challenging circumstances, rest from our striving, and daily live in God’s grace. I’ll share more details along with a sign up link soon!