When Relationships Are Inconvenient

flowers in a vase on a tableIn our rushed and often chaotic world, it’s easy to let relationships slide. At least, this is the case for me. I can become so wrapped up in my schedule and weekly to-do list, I begin to lose sight of my need for connection. I begin to take those relationships for granted, thinking I’ll have more time tomorrow, or the day after that, or perhaps next week or next month.

I’ve learned, to build deep, lasting relationship, I must be intentional and embrace inconvenience.

We moved around a lot when our daughter was young, which resulted in numerous friendships made then lost. While she grieved every transition, her sorrow increased tenfold when we moved to Omaha her sophomore year in high school. You see, she’d grown especially close to one girl in particular. The child had spent many nights at our house and had even accompanied us on a few family vacations. As a result, what began as awkward interactions at recess eventually morphed into a close sisterhood.

As you can imagine, when we told the girls my husband was being transferred, both were distraught. My heart ached for them as well, but I assured them that their relationship could withstand the distance, if they chose. However, they would have to work harder at staying connected. They’d have to embrace inconvenience, whether that meant long phone calls or car rides. They would also need to trade many of their spontaneous moments for intentional plans, scheduling visits weeks if not months in advance.

I knew, from having moved myself, this wouldn’t be easy, but I knew their efforts would be worth it. Or perhaps to rephrase, I understood the ache of friendships not built and held. Years prior, after having moved numerous times, I grew rather relationally lazy. Initially, I stayed so busy, this didn’t feel like a big deal. But then, I went through a painful season and found myself largely alone. And I realized I’d placed myself in that position. Always so focused on that next task, I’d “convenienced” myself into shallow relationships.

We know, at least in theory, the value of every intentional, inconvenient moment invested. But sometimes the busyness of life can make us houseplant with quote on friendshipforget, at least temporarily, until a crisis hits. Then we realize, maybe at a depth we hadn’t before, that we truly weren’t meant to go through life alone. When circumstances feel frightening and painful, we all need an “Elizabeth” we can turn to. Someone who gets it, whatever it is, or at least, if they can’t understand our particular struggle, who get us.

When we read about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the brief page space makes it appear as if this older woman lived a mere afternoon’s walk away. But that’s not the case. Scripture tells us young Mary, who lived in Nazareth, traveled to the Judean hills, some 80 miles, most likely on foot, to see her relative. Obviously, this took effort and perseverance. Would you have trekked such a long distance to seek support? Or might you have talked yourself out of going with each progressive step?

Although the more important question for us all, myself included, is this: What distance (literal or figurative) are we willing to travel today to form the connections our hearts need and crave? Whenever we’re tempted to remain holed up in our homes or offices, chained to our computers, may we reflect on Mary’s example, remembering that deep relationships require intentionality and, at times, a willingness to be inconvenienced.

For those following the chronological Bible reading plan …

Before you go, fun news! Registration is now open for Wholly Loved’s Beautiful Mess Mother-Daughter Conference! Register HERE.

The Courage to Maintain Boundaries at the Risk of Loss

Quote pulled from post on teal blue gradiant background

Beneath every healthy or dysfunctional relationship, we’ll find boundaries at work. Healthy, God-honoring boundaries lead to increased health; Without them, people begin to hide, trust shatters, emotional intimacy decreases if not dies all together, and isolation grows.

When my daughter was younger, one of her friendships turned unhealthy and caused her considerable and consistent pain. She began justifying the poor behavior, telling herself the behavior didn’t, or perhaps more accurately, shouldn’t hurt and also that the other person couldn’t help it and therefore needed patience and grace. The problem is, apart from truth, grace isn’t grace. It’s enabling. As a result, over time, things became worse—the friend’s behavior, my daughter’s wounds, and the relational dysfunction.

And I struggled to see beyond the problem in that moment to all God was doing and was yet to do. Grieved by my daughter’s pain, I wanted to step in, to meddle, to fix. To control. To grasp and hold tight to things God wanted me to release—because I was afraid.

This is often my greatest challenge when setting boundaries, and honestly, this is a battle I continually fight. Many times, I know the right thing to do, but my heart struggles to comply. I don’t find it all that hard to take and maintain full responsibility for my behavior, emotions, and reactions. When I sleep in and miss a meeting, that’s on me. When I blow a deadline, that’s on me as well. When something angers me and I lose my temper? Me again.

I don’t like staying in my lane, however, when I know there’s a big old cavern up ahead in my loved one’s lane. When that occurs, I want to veer right and force them onto the shoulder or into a ditch, or perhaps rip their keys from their hands.

As ironic as this may sound, the greater my love, the harder boundaries become. The harder it is to not only realize but accept that I am not responsible for anyone else’s behavior, emotions, and reactions—nor should I attempt to make myself so. Living in that truth, however, takes courage, strength, surrender, and significant trust in Christ.

An old pastor from Louisiana used to say, “Don’t try to be the Holy Spirit in anyone’s life.”

So, what if we’re dealing with something more consequential than a hurtful friend? What if our loved one is heading toward serious self-destruction? What if their choices could, and likely will, destroy everything our relationship rests on, and thus, our relationship itself? I’m relatively certain those scenarios make us all a bit weak-kneed, because we know there’s a potential for deep, heart-breaking loss.

The greater the risk, the more challenging it is to set boundaries, which also means, the greater the potential for dysfunction.

I have to remind myself of this. When life becomes challenging, for me and those I love, all I can see are the danger signs directly attached to whatever behavior or choice concerns me. Choices I have zero control over—which may be why I’m so tempted to fight for control. To elevate the weakest, most deceptive, and often, destructive, god of all time—the god of self.

In short, I act as if God has somehow fallen down on the job and needs me to step in and meddle and fix and arrange.

This lies at the root of every choice and action. At each moment, I’m living in surrenderedquote pulled from post trust and obedience to Christ or I’m trusting in the god of me.

When I reach this place, I need to get honest with myself, with my fears, and with God. Do I really believe everything I claim to be true about God? Do I believe that He’s all-knowing, all-seeing, all-loving, faithful and true? Do I believe that He has the power to change hearts—and that I don’t, no matter how much I argue, nag, pester, or cajole? Do I believe He has the power to bring order to mental chaos, clarity to confusion, and truth to deception—not only in the minds of those I’m worried about but within me as well?

Do I believe God has a plan in the mess, and that He’ll bring good through it? That He longs to use the situation, as painful as it might be, to grow us all and make us more like His Son?

My internal struggle reveals I likely don’t truly, deeply believe those things, therefore the first and greatest work God wants to do is within me. And so, I need to hit pause. I need to quiet myself before Him and ask Him some heart-probing, life-changing questions, like:

  • What sin are You wanting to purge within me?
  • What lie or lies are You revealing?
  • What cracks in my faith do You need to mortar with truth?
  • And just as importantly, how do You want me to model life, light, health, and faith through this situation?

The next time we land in this place, may God remind us who He is, who we are, and who we are not. What He’s assumed responsibility for, and what He has not conceded to us.

He is the initiator, redeemer, Savior, Counselor, Guide, Teacher, and Father. The One who knows all and sees all and is in all.

Scripture tells us:

God:

Our role is to:

  • Listen for His guidance.
  • Speak truth.
  • Honor God’s principle of sowing and reaping. (This means not attempting to shield others from the consequences for their actions.)
  • Seek personal growth.

When do you find it most challenging to set and maintain healthy boundaries? Why do you think this might be? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

If you haven’t already done so, you may want to listen to the following podcast episodes:

On Faith Over Fear:

The Courage to Set Healthy Boundaries

The Courage to Have Hard Conversations

On my Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast:

Setting Healthy Boundaries Part 1

Setting Healthy Boundaries Part 2

Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading PlanYou might also find Wholly Loved Bible reading plan, 20 Days of Relational Health, found on the YouVersion Bible plan. You can access it HERE.

When Others React in Fear-Based Behaviors

Graphic with quote on grace

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that most of our negative encounters, conflicts, and relational barriers stem from fear. And in this, from a failure to accept, understand, and live in grace. When we mess up, think we have, or worry someone else determines we have, we tend to hide, to blame, to deflect, and point fingers. Many of us have come to recognize these unhealthy reactions in ourselves. But are we also able to see these tendencies in others?

We have a tendency to see the outward symptoms, but God zeroes in on the heart. We see the failings. God sees those too, but always with His eye set on each of our potential. You may have heard the sculptor analogy, may even have used it to comfort yourself.

Man chiseling stone

It says, in essence, that just as the artists sees his finished masterpiece in a slab of stone, once all the excess has been chipped away and rough edges sanded smooth, so too God sees His masterpiece hidden within our sin and brokenness. And like a careful craftsman, He slowly, gently, patiently molds us into men and women who more accurately reflect His Son.

But here’s the thing—we’re not the only ones He’s molding, and we’re not the only ones in need of grace. We’re not the only ones who need to be reminded that there indeed is grace.

My daughter often says, “Every painting has an ugly phase,” a phase, frankly, the artist never wants to display. Some may even bolt the doors to the studio, barring entrance until their work reaches a certain standard.

I suspect this is true for many of the people you and I encounter. They long to be fully known and fully loved. We all do. But they’re afraid of rejection. So, whenever someone begins to jiggle their doorknob or their unfinished pieces begin to show, they react. They lash out, withdraw, or both. Humans have exhibited this pattern of fear-based behavior since the beginning of time, since the very first humans committed their very first sin.

You might be familiar with this story preserved in Genesis 3. God gave Adam and Eve a clear and reasonable command. They could enjoy everything in the literal paradise God had created except for the fruit from a single tree. They disobeyed, despite the abundance, and immediately felt the weight of their sin. Shame entered their heart and caused them to hide, to deflect, and to blame. (Gen. 3:7-14) They felt exposed and immediately sought to cover their shame, to in effect plaster over their sin. But nothing they did could appease their guilt or remove their shame.

So, how did God respond?

He moved in. “Where are you?” He asked (v. 9), and not because He didn’t know. Rather, He was calling them out of hiding, into the light of His presence once more*. Then, verse 21 tells us, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” This was the first animal sacrifice in history, a vivid picture of Christ’s death to come. In other words, through this covering, God did for them what they couldn’t do for themselves; He covered them in grace.

The same grace He provided to you and I. A grace He wants us to not only experience but also put on full display.

Our God is still calling people out of hiding, and He longs to use us to do so. May He help us to see, respond to, and love others in the same way He loves us so that through us everyone we encounter may catch a glimpse of His life-changing grace.

*Idea taken from Tara Rye, a Wholly Loved Team Member, and her thoughts on this biblical account.

Image for Wholly Loved's Relational Health Bible Reading Plan

As you prayerfully work through various relationships, you may find Wholly Loved’s 20 Days to Relational Health Bible plan helpful. Locate it HERE.

And for all of us parents, grandparents, guardians, aunts, and uncles, I encourage you to listen to my latest Faith Over Fear Podcast, titled Raising Courageous Kids. Because we all have a responsibility to love the next generation well.

What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety Faith Over Fear

We all want to feel understood. Known and accepted. The problem is, no one will truly understand what it’s like to live with anxiety if they themselves haven’t struggled. So what do we do when we’re craving the support of those who “get us” but don’t feel we’re able to receive what we need? In this episode, Jennifer Slattery takes listeners to the root of this need and shares ways we can identify and grow a healthy support system. Find Jennifer Slattery at: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Resource: Becoming His Princess Video: Growing in Grace Becoming His Princess Bible Study If this topic is helpful, be sure to listen to Episode 15 – The Courage to Fight against Fear Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Group Discussion Questions: 1. Who do you most turn to when you need support? 2. How does that person(s) best support you? 3. Consider the health of that relationship. In what ways do you support the other person? 4. What conversations might you need to have in order to deepen the mutual ties of support? 5. Consider your current circle of close friends. Are those friends able to provide the support you need? 6. Consider your desire to be understood. How might a failure to live in your identity in Christ affect your desire? 7. Consider your desire to be understood. In what ways does a failure to recognize your true value affect your desire? 8. How can you anchor deeper in grace? 9. How might living anchored deeper in grace help you feel less alone? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Aleksei Morozov
  1. What to Do When Others Don’t Understand Our Anxiety
  2. The Courage to Be Vulnerable – Ep. 52
  3. The Courage to Share Jesus with Others – Ep. 51
  4. The Courage to Take a Risk for Friendship – Ep. 50
  5. The Courage to Fight for Others – Ep. 49

And make sure to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram! Find Wholly Loved Ministries HERE.

*Scripture taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Five Statements Conflict Avoidance Make

Angry coupleOur response to conflict can either lead to healing and deeper connections or ugliness. I’ve experienced both. Honestly, I’ve caused both. I’ve had times where fear motivated me to remain quiet when I knew God was calling me to speak. I’ve also blurted way too many statements I came to regret, many times moments after I opened my mouth. And I’ve watched God bring about incredible health––in marriages and families, ministries, churches, and communities––through Christ-centered, honest, but difficult conversations.

Whenever we separate truth and love, dysfunction and distrust grow. Plus, we miss a huge opportunity to advance Christ’s message of reconciliation. According to Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert the reconcilation Christ offers “means putting things back into their right relationship again.[1]” Speaking on God’s desires, the authors remind us, in every interaction, “the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.”

This is, in part, what it means to act as a peacemaker––someone who actively brings shalom into every interaction. Our Christ-centered interactions also provide tangible examples of our love, commitment, and trust.

When, in our aversion to conflict, we choose self-protection over relational health, our actions speak in ways we likely didn’t intend.

Here are 5 statements conflict avoidance makes:

1. I don’t trust you.

When our fear hinders our communication, we’re in essence demonstrating our lack of trust in the other person. We either don’t trust the relationship to withstand the discussion or we don’t trust the other person to respond well. If this is the case, perhaps the best place to start is with honesty. For example, we could say, “I greatly value our relationship, and I have a fear that I might say something to jeopardize that.” Then see how the person responds.

2. I don’t truly value this relationship.

Unresolved issues tend to lead to bitterness and frustration, which in turn harm our friendships, often more than if we’d had the courage to initiate a difficult conversation.

3. I love myself more than you.

When I shy away from uncomfortable discussions, especially those involving someone else’s behavior, I woman sitting in windowwant to believe I’m doing so out of love for the other person. But most often, self-love is to blame. True, Christ-centered love says, “I’m going to seek your best, even if that upsets you or causes you to leave. I love you enough to risk making you angry.”

4. I choose comfort over your and my long term growth.

I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and I don’t always handle challenging conversations well. As a result, I’d much prefer to ignore problems when they arise. But God calls me to love with courage and self-sacrifice. If Jesus, my role model, Savior, and Lord, willingly incurred horrific abuse to bring me freedom and spiritual health and wholeness, then I can embrace personal discomfort, awkwardness, and weakness to love you well.

5. I don’t trust Jesus to actively heal and deepen our relationship.

We all make mistakes. We react in ways we wish we hadn’t and say things we should’ve never voiced. Some situations leave us confused, and in our confusion, we can feel paralyzed. What should we say, how should we say it, and when? When we remain in that confused state, we’re in essence saying we don’t believe Jesus can fill in our gaps and redeem our regrets. We’re saying we don’t believe He remains sovereign over the hearts of man.

Thankfully, we don’t have to handle anything, relational conflict included, on our own. The Holy Spirit lives in us, stirring us to speak as He directs. In everything, He leads all of His children to increased health and freedom.

[1]Corbett, Steve. Fikkert, Brian. “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.” (2009) Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers

If this is an area you struggle with, or simply want to grow in, listen to my latest podcast episode called the Courage to Have Hard Conversations.

You might find this article helpful also: “7 Things You Need to Know When Talking to Difficult People.”

Extending Grace to Save Our Relationships

Grace quote on purple background

When I say or do something unkind, I love to claim grace for myself. But what about when others hurt or mistreat me? What about those moments when others behave as, well, flawed people in need of Jesus? How can I show them the same truth-and-grace-based love that Jesus shows me?

My guest today tackled this question, and the answer God led her to saved her marriage.

I Was Eaten Up by Discontent

By Kathy Collard Miller

By the time Larry and I had been married seven years, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t love me anymore. He was working two jobs, had a flying hobby and was never home. I certainly was home with a strong-willed two-year-old and a newborn. I never went anywhere but Larry chose to do everything he wanted, seemingly without any thought of me.

If only he would stay home and help me with these kids, I wouldn’t be angry all the time and we could be a happy family. But no matter how much I complained to him and demanded God change Larry, nothing happened. Even God has abandoned me, I concluded.

One morning Larry announced he would be gone flying the entire day. I said, “I’ll get the kids ready. We’ll go with…”

“Kathy, you can’t go. I rented a two-seater plane and Joe is going.”

“But Larry, you’re never home. You work too many hours. You…”

“Kathy, I’m working all those hours to secure our financial future. You just don’t appreciate all I’m doing.”

My face grew hot with fury. “Money isn’t helping me cope with these kids! I get so angry,” I snapped.

“Kathy, that’s just typical motherhood blues. You’ll be fine. See you later.”

Larry walked through the laundry room into the garage, closing the laundry room door behind him. I was eating an apple and hurled the half eaten apple toward the closing door. The apple shattered on impact and red and white apple pieces flew throughout the laundry room adhering to the ceiling and the walls. I whirled around and marched into my bedroom, dropping to kneel beside my bed. “Lord, make that plane crash! I don’t care if he ever comes home again.”

Larry’s plane didn’t crash, but I felt as if my life crashed into a pit of depression and fury fueled by discontentment.

During the following months, the pieces of apple rotted, adhered to the walls and ceiling of my laundry room. Every day I saw them as a memorial to my rotten marriage and my life, rehearsing every evidence of my disappointing life.

One day months later, I sensed God say to me in my heart, “Tell Larry you love him.” I was shocked to hear God’s prodding. I didn’t love Larry and I believed he hated me—so I wasn’t about to give Larry ammunition against me. After all, if he heard those three little words, “I love you,” that I hadn’t said or thought for over two years, he might think I was approving of his negligence. I flatly refused.

God repeated the message and I refused again! Then I sensed the Holy Spirit giving a different message: “Then think it the next time you see Larry.”

  1. If he doesn’t hear me then he can’t use it against me. Then I’ll do it, even if it’s not true.

That evening, Larry returned from a flying trip. I stared at him, gulped, and thought, “I love you…” and then added, “but I don’t really.” Although I was obeying God, I still couldn’t believe it could ever be true.

I continued making that choice and God directed me to study Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who Phil 1:6 on purple backgroundbegan a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (ESV). That helped me see I was demanding perfection from myself and from Larry. But just as God was patient with me in my journey of growth, I could be patient with Larry. He would never love me perfectly but God could. I realized my discontent was being fueled by my perfectionism.

What a difference. I began giving Larry credit for the simplest thing he did for us. I complimented him and refused to rehearse his faults. No longer did Larry feel like a failure who could never please me. In turn, he wanted to become more of a godly man. He changed jobs and didn’t have the money to fly. He choose to stay home more. We weren’t keeping track of the other’s failures. Little by little we grew in unconditional love and grace, the very opposite of discontent.

That was in 1978 and now, many years later, Larry and I continue to choose contentment by acknowledging the other’s loving choices and forgiving each other’s imperfections. We tell each other several times a day specifically how much we love and appreciate each other. We want God glorified through our story.

Let’s talk about this! How quick are you to offer others grace? Who is one person God might want you to actively show grace to today? What are some ways you’ve grown in this area? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make sure to check out Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, Resting in Grace. Find it HERE.

Get to know Kathy:

Kathy Miller's headshotKathy Collard Miller tells her story of overcoming being an angry mom and discontented wife in her book No More Anger: Hope for An Out-of-Control Mom (Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.) She is also a speaker who has spoken in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US States. www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Learn more about her book, Hope for An Out-of-Control Mom:

How can I have hurt my own child? Why am I book cover for No More Angerso angry at my husband?

*What is it like to be in the heart and mind of an out of control mother?
*What is it like to hate yourself so much that you plan to take your own life?
*What is it like to believe God has given up on you and there is no hope?
*What is it like to see the emotional and physical pain you’re inflicting on your child?

The rest of the story …

*You’ll also learn what it’s like to see anger replaced by patience.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to overcome suicidal thoughts.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to know God never gives up on you.
*You’ll also learn what it’s like to see healing in the lives of those you wounded.

Kathy Collard Miller tells the riveting true story of being an angry and abusive mother. At the same time, she was a Christian who prayed for an instantaneous deliverance of her deep-seated anger. God answered yes through a process of growth. He also healed her relationship with her husband.

Is ‘no more anger’ possible? Let Kathy’s story assure you through hope and God’s help, the answer is ‘Yes!’–Carol Kent, author, speaker.

Buy the book HERE.

***

Make sure to check out Jennifer Slattery’s latest podcast episode: Moving Past Fear of Exposure. We can live in hiding, in shame, or we can live in the confidence of grace. The former leads to isolation and loneliness. The latter to peace and increased relational intimacy with God and others.

You might also enjoy:

How to Stop Identifying With Your Sin by Jennifer on iBelieve

Holding Tight to Our Spouse as Christ Holds Tight to Us, also by Jennifer

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram and find her ministry, Wholly Loved, HERE.

Book discussion inviteMake sure to join her on Thursday evenings, starting April 23rd, for a faith-building book discussion aimed at helping us conquer our anxieties. Contact her HERE for more info!

 

 

Fighting Fear of Rejection With the Truth of Christ

crumpled paper and a notepad and pen

Writers experience a great number of rejections, and some of those can be pretty harsh. Though I know to expect these “no thank yous,” seeing them stream through my inbox can leave me stunned. If I’m not careful, I can begin to question my abilities, my calling, and really, myself. We do that, don’t we? We own every negative experience, holding each one as proof that we’re somehow insufficient or defective.

A while back, after receiving numerous declines in a row, I shared my disappointment with my daughter. “But you’ve also received a lot of acceptances,” she said. I know she meant to encourage me, and for a moment, it did, but I knew my assurance needed to go much deeper. My confidence and value can’t be based on such transient standards as blue and teal background and text from posttemporary wins and losses. To rise above my fears, I must anchor myself, immovable, in the One who knows me, loves me, sees me, goes before me, has a plan for me, and remains with and in me.

A while back, God reminded me of this truth during a rather discouraging time. For about a year, it had felt as if I’d been turned down for every opportunity I pursued, even those I felt certain had been God led. The first rejection didn’t phase me too much. The second stung, but I determined to keep moving. By the third and fourth experience, however, lies I’d thought I’d long buried began to reemerge, assaulting my weakening heart, “You’re unwanted. You’re not good enough. Insufficient.”

Those lies can be really hard to silence sometimes, can’t they? They’d long held me captive, and normally would’ve plunged me into an all-day, if not longer, gloom. But not this time. As I sat there, initially feeding all those deceptive and toxic thoughts, I sensed God’s whisper, urging me to turn to truth, my most powerful weapon against all fear, fear of rejection included. And so I did.

Bible opened to Ephesians 1, I began to read. More than that, I soaked in every word, claiming each as my own. Through that passage, God spoke so clearly, reminding me of who I was. Though I felt rejected and discarded, insufficient, the Bible promised that was far from reality. Instead, I was and am God’s holy child (v. 1), blessed with every spiritual blessing (v. 3) chosen (v. 4) loved and adopted (v. 5), redeemed and lavished in grace.

But here’s my favorite verse: “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (v. 11).

God, my Creator and redeemer, the One who promised to perfect that which concerns me (Ps. 138:8), works all things, my life included, according to His will. Therefore, when opportunities don’t arise or are denied, when others don’t appreciate my skills or my gifts, that doesn’t mean I’m insufficient or rejected. Rather, it indicates God has something else in mind. He’ll show me precisely what that something is, in His way and His timing.

Because He loves me.

What’s more, I can trust Him. I can trust His heart, His wisdom, His power, and His plan. And in the waiting, I can choose to receive the love and grace, the acceptance and equipping, He’s lavished freely upon me through His Son.

blue and gray background with text pulled from postI am far from insufficient. So are you. We are loved, redeemed, empowered, and called children of Christ destined for impact.

Additional resources:

Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

Overcoming Fear of Rejection (video presentation, by Jennifer Slattery)

Learning to Shake of Rejection to Live in Freedom

When Others Rejection Us

If you struggle with fear of rejection and other fears, make sure to join Jennifer’s social media group, Faith Over Fear. You can find it HERE. You can find additional faith-building resources HERE. And keep an eye out for her Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing soon!

 

Growing Through Relational Conflict

Sad woman sitting in a caféMy friend was struggling. She’d been hurt deeply, unjustly, and by someone she’d once been close to. Worse, past experience told her this individual wouldn’t likely handle the situation in a godly manner. Rather, she’d spew her anger and her slanted representation to all who would listen. My friend worried her social group and faith community would be shattered, or at the very least, that she’d be shoved aside. That others would form conclusions and opinions on what they heard and would ultimately reject her.

This situation consumed her. It stole her joy and distracted her from her God-given mission. Which was ironic as the original conflict stemmed from that mission, or more accurately, challenges to it. In other words, she’d expressed concern regarding behavior she deemed counter-productive to the gospel. And while she admitted she hadn’t addressed the situation with the grace she should have, her urge to do so stemmed from Christ.

Unfortunately, however, she’d allowed her passion to initiate action before her heart had a chance to listen.

Oh, how often I do the same! When I see sin or dysfunction, manipulative or hurtful behavior, something deep inside pricks as an impulse to act ignites. And while that emotion, that conviction-based reaction, isn’t wrong, it’s incomplete and uninformed. It’s a signal that I need to seek God—His heart and guidance—for the situation and all involved. Because only He knows the best way for me to proceed—how to bring hope and life and healing to areas and interactions that are dark and diseased.

In Psalm 25, a man named David, who later became ancient Israel’s second king, endured frequent and ongoing attacks. Evil men, driven by insecurities, jealousy, and pride, hunted him down. One man in particular, the nation’s current ruler, wanted David dead and made this desire his life’s mission. He was relentless and his actions were unfair. David could’ve fought back. He could’ve told everyone he encountered of the injustice of it all, of how evil and deranged his enemies were.

What’s more, he who’d single-handedly conquered a nine-foot, tyrannical giant, could’ve assassinated his greatest threat and, presumably, spent the remainder of his life in peace.

But he didn’t. Instead, he sought God—regularly, fervently, and fully.

In Psalm 25, clearly written during a time of intense conflict, he said:

“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust. … let not my enemies exult over me” (v. 1, ESV). In other Image of Ps 25:1words, “I surrender my life and this situation to You and trust You to protect and defend me.”

He continued, “Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous” (v. 3).

David was able to wait, to rest in God’s sovereignty and timing, because he knew deep in his heart that God was just. That though evil appeared to be winning at that moment, truth and goodness would prevail.

But here’s his power prayer:

“Make me to know  Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all day long” (v. 4-5).

In the middle of his pain and fear, while enduring injustice, David sought God, saying, in essence, “What should I do now? How do You want me to respond? Show me, lead me, and teach me.”

Oh, the wisdom and strength in those words. Can you imagine what our relationships might look like if we learned to seek not just God’s intervention or vindication, but more importantly, His heart?

A while back, a loved one came to me in tears. She, like my friend, had been deeply hurt. I listened, hugged her, then asked, “Have you prayed about this?” When she responded that she had, I asked further, “And how are you praying?”

She said, “I told God this sucks.”

I laughed and nodded, agreeing with both her and Christ in her. But then I said, “Ask Him what He wants to show you.”

Her venting to God openly and honestly was a great start. May we always unveil the depths of our heart and hurts to the One who knows and loves us deeply. But may we not stop there, lest we get stuck in the pain or respond in unguided emotion. Rather, may we, like David, ask our Savior to show us, lead us, and teach us.

When we do that, the results will be beautiful, regardless of how our situations turn out, because God will strengthen and change us through it. He’ll help us become a little more like His Son, who demonstrated incomprehensible love in the face of injustice and evil—because His vision centered on something far beyond that moment to the souls of all mankind.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearand watch out for her soon-to-launch Faith Over Fear Podcast and Bible reading plan on the YouVersion app.

 

 

 

 

Finding Joy When Our Kids Struggle

woman with childWhen those we love hurt, often our first response is to try to fix things. Or, if we anticipate a potential threat, we may attempt to orchestrate things so that those we care about somehow remain pain-free. At least, that’s how I’m tempted to respond. Until I take a step back and consider life through a more grace-filled lens and remember, God always has a hope-filled plan, one intended to bring healing and growth.

I’ve always hated to see our daughter struggle emotionally, spiritually, or physically. As a result, at times, my parenting became entangled with my heart’s desire to make my daughter happy. Many times, watching tears pour from her big green eyes, I forgot God’s primary focus was on her growth, not her momentary comfort or pleasure.

Unfortunately, sometimes, many times, growth involves pain.

When our daughter was young, we home-schooled, and after an expensive and unproductive first semester, I started adapting my lessons to her learning style. I realized rather quickly, textbooks and paperwork didn’t work for her, so I tossed out over a thousand dollars’ worth of curriculum and began planning my own.

I found a way to teach everything through dialogue, stories, or hands-on activities. She excelled and quickly developed a love for learning punctuated by questions and personal exploration. In fact, many times I felt as if I was simply trying to keep up!

Everything changed once she entered institutionalized school. To paraphrase her next eight-and-a-half years of learning, she struggled. A lot. Though I saw her angst, I largely didn’t understand what was really going on. Initially, I assumed she was simply having a difficult time adjusting and that I’d left some holes in her educational journey. When she reached high school, I figured her challenges came from taking a demanding course load, from not having developed proper time management and study skills, and from not clicking with teachers.

I didn’t realize how hard she was working nor how many adaptations she’d made in order to be successful.

Then came college when everything moved much more quickly, was much more challenging, and where her adaptations proved insufficient.

She called me often, in tears, saying, “Mom, this just isn’t working for me. No matter how hard I try or how much I study.” She would routinely stay up until one or two in the morning, doing all she knew to do in order to prepare for a test or master an assignment, only to fail. She became so sleep deprived, her vision blurred, and she had migraines more often than not. She also developed severe testing anxiety to the point she’d vomit every morning before class.

Her stress level became so high, she acquired her second and third bout of shingles her freshman and sophomore years, consecutively. Well-intentioned friends suggested perhaps she needed to change majors, and though I never voiced this to her, I wondered the same. Yet, she’d felt called into engineering since a missions trip to El Salvador in middle school and was determined to persevere, pushing herself deeper and deeper into exhaustion.

Luckily, an insightful professor noticed some concerns with her writing and suggested she get tested for dyslexia. She did in December of her sophomore year, and as I read the results a week later, I cried as so many of her childhood struggles and behaviors suddenly made sense.

How could I not have known? Why hadn’t God told me? I’d prayed, almost daily, that He would grant me wisdom and help me parent to her heart. He’d done that in so many areas; why not in this one? Had we known, we could’ve gotten her help and resources that would’ve helped her succeed and avoid so much pain.

But as I was praying, struggling with my guilt and frustration at God for what felt like His lack of direction, I sensed Him whispering to my spirit, “She needed to struggle.”

I thought about that statement for some time after and have come to realize how true that was. Had I known about her dyslexia and other challenges, likely in empathy, I would’ve limited her. I might have encouraged her to take easier classes. But more than that, she wouldn’t have developed the grit that has enabled her to press through and view difficulties as challenges to overcome rather than dead ends.

Let’s talk about this! What resonated with you most when you read today’s post? When has someone else’s pain sent you into “fix it” mode, and how might pointing them to Jesus and growth in Him help them more instead?

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

And speaking on the courage to surrender–whether ourselves or someone we love–make to keep an eye out for my upcoming Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing at the end of this month by Salem Web Communications. We’ll be talking about, among other things, finding the courage to surrender.

I’ll also be  releasing, through the YouVersion app, and will launch a Faith Over Fear challenge on social media on February 6th. Find out more HERE. And make sure to watch out for Wholly Loved’s next Bible study, Unshakable, Unbreakable Joy, releasing in 2020, with relationship building resources and more!

 

Reaching Out When Rejection is Certain

Image of flowers with the text for John 13:34
Have you ever sensed God asking to reach out to someone, to initiate reconciliation, knowing with near certainty they’d reject your attempts?
About a week ago, this happen to my husband, and watching, I felt as if my heart were shredding.
I had just finished reading about the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, revealed in Acts 15:36-41. It’s easy to miss the significance of this, to sort of skim over, or perhaps not even really consider, the pain this conflict must’ve caused. Their relationship had to have been incredibly deep. It was Barnabas who sought Paul out and, basically, drew him into ministry. Together, they traveled across the Mediterranean planting churches. (If you’ve ever experienced the bonds that occur on short term mission trips, you can understand how close this must’ve made them.) Together, they’d endured intense persecution and had risked their lives on numerous occasions.
They were beyond tight. But then, they had a sharp disagreement over John Mark, and split ways. Yet remained in the same faith community. This conflict must have stung every time they heard one another’s names spoken among their evangelical circles and whenever they heard of the other’s ministry endeavors and successes.
Relational conflict hurts! And it happens all the time. But our reconciliation efforts can be a powerful purple flowers against a wooden fence with words pulled from post.display of the gospel.
As I said, about a week ago, God called my husband to humbly contact people we knew wouldn’t be receptive. My daughter, having seen how deeply these individuals had hurt him in the past, and wanting to protect her daddy from further pain, got upset and cried. “They’re just going to hurt him again,” she said. Though I knew she was right and wanted to echo her warnings, I told her that is precisely how we (mankind) treat Jesus. He reaches out to us again and again, and yet, we continue to reject Him. But still He pursues us. And sometimes, as His followers, He calls us to do the same, even though we know we’ll likely be rejected, in order to demonstrate a love that is completely different than what we see in the world.
So that’s what my husband did. And yes, he experienced rejection, and I know that hurt him deeply. But I also believe he was obedient, and we can both find joy in that. More than that, I know he demonstrated the initiating, self-sacrificing, humble love of Christ.
When has God asked you to do the same, or maybe when has He revealed His love to you through someone else? Share your thoughts and examples 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’ 90-day devotional has released!
Drawing Near: a 90-Day Devotional:
Each 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.
Grab your copy HERE.

Building Redemptive Relationships

Flower with text: No matter the conflict or challenge problems are temporary but people are eternal

I’m forty-four and I’m still learning how to create and maintain healthy relationships, really to be an instrument of love and grace. In this, God recently sparked a major mind-shift, one that arose smack in the middle of tension, confusion, and heartache.

But resulted in incredible hope and peace.

I’ve learned and grown the most through my marriage and interaction with my daughter. Those are my two most important relationships—the ones I most want to hold tight to. Therefore, I have a great deal of motivation to love well, in a way that deepens emotional intimacy, creates wholeness, and builds trust. I’ve discovered, fighting for those things has such greater impact in the long term than any “solution” my mind might latch on to or contend for.

As the saying goes, we can win the battle and lose the heart.

Last month, my daughter dealt with some hard stuff. Long-term life impacting hard stuff, and it’s been crazy difficult to watch her struggle. Whenever I see her hurt, regardless of the reason, a fierce desire to protect rises up. I want to immediately “fix” the situation. Whenever I land in that place, however, not only am I getting in God’s way, but I miss out on amazing, transformational teaching opportunities.

When I seek His heart and will, not just for the situation or problem but for the person I’m interacting with as well, my vision becomes clearer. More Christ-like. And I’m reminded that God is much more concerned with what is going on within an individual than any decision they may or may not make.

I think we probably know this intellectually, but our natural inclination is to focus on the now. On finding solutions and alleviating the pain of today. It’s easy to forget how often God uses our struggles to bring about His greatest and deepest work. By following His lead, we have an opportunity to play a part in that.

In every conflict and difficulty, He’s inviting us to bring life and light into other people’s lives.

Let me explain, using my recent interaction with my daughter. From the surface, one might say she’s facing decisions related to her future marriage and everything that comes with merging two families from different cultures. Focusing on that—advising her on what steps to take or not to take—keeps us centered on one immediate situation. And initially, that was what I did.

But in the middle of vacuuming, it was like God whispered in my ear: This is a good thing. You have an opportunity to show her what healthy dialogue looks like and how to communicate with others who may not share her perspective.

So, setting aside my “fix-it” tool belt, I chose a mentorship role and planned a picnic for her, her future fiancé, and my husband. Together, we simply talked. We addressed tough issues, shared thoughts and feelings, and honestly, solved nothing.

But I built bridges of trust that will lay the groundwork for a lifetime of communication. We also, I hope, demonstrated what healthy dialogue looks like. Those things—how to persevere through relational tension and initiate and hold hard conversations with equal parts love and truth—will have a much greater impact on her future marriage than any decision she and her boyfriend make today.

This was my mind shift—to focus on growth rather than behavior. In short, to reach and protect and equip the heart.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” To the ancient Jew, the heartFlower with dark background and text from Prov. 4:23 involved much more than a person’s emotions. It was the core of their being and encompassed their will and intellect as well. In other words, it’s the place where decisions are made.

It’s easy to focus on the “everything else.” To believe the current problem is the problem. But God’s vision goes so much deeper. Scripture says He uses all things for our good (Rom. 8:38)—to mold us into the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:39).

God’s goal is never behavior modification. He initiates transformation.

As my husband and I prayerfully evaluated the afternoon later, I realized God offers me the same opportunity He presented with my daughter in every encounter, whomever I engage. With every conflict or challenge, He’s inviting me to look past the present situation to the health and growth and healing He longs to bring through it.

This is what it means to create redemptive relationships. To help others experience the same mind-shift which God granted me.

My role isn’t to fix or convince or save but to demonstrate, by example, how we, God’s children, can bring life and light wherever we are. This takes courage and trust, not in the person I’m mentoring but in God. I have to believe He has a plan, is at this moment working out that plan, and that He’ll guide me and the one I love step-by-step toward His perfect and hope-filled will. Resting in who He is frees me to love well and without fear and to focus on the long-term growth, of myself and others, rather than whatever is going on today.