Setting Aside Expectations to Love With Grace

 

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Sometimes I forget that transformation takes time. I’m not just talking in regard to my own growth, but this is especially true when I watch others. I can easily expect them to have reached a certain level and therefore to behave and think a certain way.

The problem is, I have spiritual forgetfulness. I forget where I once was and how slow my progress came; all the tentative steps forward followed by numerous slips and stumbles backward. I forget about all the nights I lay in bed reviewing my day—all the ways I had failed and all the people I had hurt. I often felt so defeated.

I felt certain I wasn’t growing, wasn’t changing; at least not in ways I could readily see. And I worried that maybe I never would, that maybe this Christianity thing wasn’t working for me, or that something about me was irreparably broken. I didn’t understand the reason for my struggle or the process of growth. I didn’t realize that transformation takes time. A lot of time.

It takes time for worldviews to shift, for attitudes to change, and habits to be broken.

This spiritual forgetfulness causes me to lay unrealistic expectations on my precious sisters in Christ, and in the process I unknowingly speak condemnation. In my attitudes and my expectations I say, “You’re not doing this right. This faith-thing isn’t working for you. You’re irreparably broken or maybe too hard hearted for God’s grace to reign within you.”

When discussing sinful behavior displayed by others, I often hear, “Yes Jesus loved the sinner, but He told them to ‘Go and sin no more.’” And this is true; Christ never encouraged or applauded or condoned sin. But neither did He—nor does He—expect instant transformation. Nor do we have any idea what transpired in people’s lives days or even months after their encounters with Jesus.

Consider the woman at the well. You can find her story in John chapter 4. Though she has initiated a great deal of speculation, we don’t really know what her behavior had been prior to encountering Jesus. We do know, however, that she lived perpetually empty—because Christ offered to fill her. We know she wasn’t living as the radiant daughter He created her to be, because apart from Christ, we’re all living false versions of ourselves. We also know she had spent decades among other humans, navigating her way, without God, through a broken and sinful world. Therefore we know she behaved sinfully and harbored deceived thinking.

We all did, before God’s intervention. And we all do, on occasion, likely more often than we’d care to admit, even now.

Our thoughts, desires, and habits change, slowly but steadily, as we draw ever-closer to Christ and soak in Scripture (Romans 12:2).

As we “renew our minds” daily with truth, as we surrender to God’s Spirit within, He takes us from “glory to glory.” In other words, He molds us ever-increasingly into the likeness of His Son. This speaks of an ongoing progression, one I’m certain the Samaritan woman experienced, and needed to experience. By the time she met Jesus, she’d lived a lifetime apart from Him. She’d developed a particular way of perceiving, acting, and reacting. She might’ve been fowl mouthed, short-tempered, and addicted to men. Those parts of her, whatever her particular sins were, had become ingrained deep within. I suspect it took years, if not decades, for God to remove and redeem them.

At least, that was the case for me, and I’m still learning, growing, and changing.

Sometimes, I encounter people who remember me from five years ago or perhaps even one year ago, and they expect that woman today. But she’s gone. She’s been transformed. She has grown and she has experienced a new level of freedom. And a year from now, God willing, I’ll be dramatically different—more patient and loving and self-controlled—than I am today.

Some people recognize this, and they treat me as if that were true. In this, I find the freedom, courage, and the hope to keep growing. But others don’t get it, and when they treat me as if those things were not true, as If I haven’t grown, or perhaps can’t grow, I’m tempted toward shame and defeat.

How we treat others matters. I want to be one who speaks life. I want to recognize growth regardless of how big or how small, to celebrate it and call it out. I want to allow others to change, not holding past behaviors or attitudes against fall background with lantern and quote from postthem. I want to treat others with the same gentleness with which Christ treats me. I love the apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6. Speaking to relatively new believers living in Philippi, he said, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Paul was confident God would continue to grow the Philippian believers.

I want to live and love with that same confidence. I want to live recognizing that it is God who transforms, and that God always complete what He starts.

I’ll say it again: God always completes what He starts, in His way and His time, by the power of His Spirit working in all of us broken and sinful humans.

Let’s talk about this! When do you most find you struggle with unrealistic expectations, when it comes to your growth or the growth of others? How does God direct you during those times? Share your thoughts, stories, and questions with us in the comments below.

Speaking of grace, and God’s gift that came through Christ, you may also enjoy an article I recently wrote for iBelieve on all the symbolism and truth wrapped up in Christ’s birth and birthplace. You can read it HERE.

 

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

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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.

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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

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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!

Forgiveness quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The deeper the hurt or betrayal, the harder it is to forgive. There was a time when I viewed forgiveness as a self-sacrificing act of obedience. I’ve since realized, however, the enslaving power of nursed grudges and the incredible healing and joy that comes when we relinquish an offense.

My guest today, Tamera Kraft, shares her thoughts regarding a time when someone she cared about hurt her deeply and how God not only met her in that place but helped her move forward in freedom.

Freedom Through Forgiveness

By Tamera Kraft

A close friend decided to ghost me. She stopped being my friend, ignored me, and wouldn’t say why. Once in the grocery store, she saw me and darted to the next aisle to avoid saying hi. Then she started telling lies about me. Though I knew God commanded me to forgive, doing so didn’t feel fair.

My unforgiveness put me in a prison. I stayed awake at night worrying about what she’d done. Every time I went to church, I wondered what she’d said about me and to whom. Who believed her lies? Worse yet, my harbored offense affected my worship and devotional time. It felt as if a wall separated me from God’s presence.

Then I remembered all the times I’ve sinned against God and others, including when I wasn’t remorseful. Jesus forgave me of so much—every evil thought, wayward action, and rebellion I’ve done since my birth. That’s a lot, and He longs for me to reveal His love and grace in how I respond to others.

Forgiveness comes more easily when I consider Christ’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy toward me. quote pulled from post

How could I hold back forgiveness from this woman? I may not be able to trust her again, but I could decide to forgive her. I could the hurt from affecting my life and relationship with God and others. And I could pray for her. I don’t know why she did what she did, but she has to be carrying pain from the past to do this to someone she cared for.

We all need God’s mercy and grace.

I asked for God’s help and chose to forgive my ex-friend. Though the relationship didn’t heal, God healed my hurt from the broken friendship. Trusting my friends not to do this to me again took a little, but God taught me how to open myself again to share love and receive love.

When have you found it difficult to forgive?

How did choosing to forgive help your relationship with God?

Get to know Tamera Lynn Kraft:

Award Winning Author Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio.

Tamera is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She has curriculum published and is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry. Visit her online HERE.

Check out her latest release:

Lost in the Storm: Ladies of Oberlin Book 2

Will war bring them love or will they be Lost in the Storm?

Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job.

Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist is trying to get him to tell what he’s been hiding. He wants to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind.

Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried?

Meet the Ladies of Oberlin, the causes they’re willing to fight for, and the men who capture their hearts.

Buy it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Before you go, if you haven’t already snatched a preorder copy, make sure to check out Jennifer’s upcoming release, Hometown Healing

She’s home again, but not for long…
Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart

Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?

If you read Restoring Her Faith, I’d love to hear what you loved most about Sage Creek, Texas. Have you grown to love that sweet little hill country town as much as I have?

 

When God Opens Your Eyes and Touches Your Heart — Guest Post

The longer we’ve been a Christian, the more apt we are to forget just how desperately we need grace. We can lose sight of the moment we first received salvation and who we were prior. When this happens, it’s easy for an inner Pharisee to rise up. But as Delia Latham, my guest today shares, when we stand in God’s presence, He redirects our thinking, purifies our heart, and fills us with His love for others.

He Touched Me…Again

Delia Latham

I recently found myself delivering a subtle dig here and a not-so-gentle poke there, aimed with little real love at my brothers and sisters in Christ. I couldn’t overlook the fact that God’s people aren’t always the best examples of godliness, and noticed every fault and failure. The lack of Christlikeness in faithful church-goers appalled me.

I prayed for these so-called Christians, as any real Christian would. Yes, indeed! I wrapped myself in my judge’s robes and took those faulty folks to God’s throne.

But I quickly sensed my Father’s displeasure, almost heard His still, soft whisper: “Daughter, daughter! You see the people around you like trees, walking around. You don’t know their stories, child. I do. Here…let me wash the soap from your eyes. Now, look at Me. Just Me.”

He shifted my vision off of everyone else and fixed it onto Him. I wept, shamed by my lack of perfection and fully aware of how I’d come to this sad, judgmental place.

I’d gotten soap in my eyes. It’s a risk one takes with over-indulgent, spiritual bubble baths. Maybe you’ve been there—immersed in what we assume brings a squeaky-clean spirituality. Such futility! Only the blood of Christ can attain that type of cleansing.

Much conjecture has surrounded the story in Mark 8:22-25, which tells of when Jesus healed a blind man. At first, the man’s restored vision was blurry. He said he saw men like trees walking around, so Jesus touched him again, and the man’s vision cleared.

Why, He had to try twice! When did Jesus ever fail to heal upon the first touch?

I don’t know why the blind man needed that second touch. But his experience became, for me, a lesson in God-sight…an eye exam that resulted in spiritual contact lenses.

Until this rather shameful revelation I’d never wondered why the blind man was looking at the people around him. “I see men…” he said. Jesus gave him his sight. Why wouldn’t his gaze be fixed in adoration and wonder on the One who’d miraculously healed him?

Is it possible that, when he opened his eyes the second time, he looked straight into the face of the Master Physician? Could that be why he saw everything clearly?

That’s where my heart lies, friends. I believe Jesus did it right the first time. I’m convinced the blind man needed that second touch because when he first opened his eyes, he focused on the people around him…not on the Son of God

And me? Same story, same mistake. Had my eyes been on Christ, free of soap scum, I would have seen my brothers and sisters through the lens of God’s love and understanding. Not “like trees, walking.”

What a blessing that Jesus is always willing to touch us one more time!

***

Let’s talk about this! Judgement comes when we forget the gospel and our desperate need for Jesus. What are some ways you keep God’s grace and your dependence on Him on the forefront of your mind? How does doing so enable you to offer grace to others? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.

We would love for you to join Wholly Loved’s book discussion next month! We’ll be reading and talking about one of my favorite books, the Ragamuffin Gospel! Contact me HERE for more information!

Get to know Delia!

Delia Latham lives in East Texas with her husband and a spoiled Pomeranian named Kona. She writes inspirational romance and devotions. You’ll always find a touch of the divine in this author’s tales of sweet romance.
A former newspaper Staff Writer, Delia is now blessed to have twenty-seven published novels/novellas, as well as short pieces in a number of devotional anthologies. She designs cover art and marketing materials; and offers freelance editing/proofreading services. Contact her about speaking at your upcoming event. Connect with Delia: Website, Amazon Author page, Facebook Author Page, or Twitter.

Check out her Christmas in July collection!

 

Smoky Mountain Christmas

Claude Buchanan is turning 80. Ida Buchanan wants her husband to have an 80th birthday he’ll never forget. His one request is for all their children and grandchildren to be there for the party. They have four sons, and each one has a daughter—the heroines in each of the novellas. The cousins all share the last name of Buchanan.

All four young women left Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the last few years—for reasons specific to each—and moved to another area or state. For that reason, they don’t want to return for the party. But because they love their grandparents, they do. Returning home forces each young woman to deal with what caused her to leave in the first place, and in each case, opens the door to true love.

The birthday party takes place in Granddaddy and Granny Buchanan’s barn on Christmas Eve, and each of the four novellas end that same day, just prior to the party, which is featured in the epilogue accompanying the last book in the series.

Purchase link

Delia’s book in the collection:

Do You See What I See?

Laramie Buchanan’s fiancé betrayed her on what should have been their wedding day. Evan Lassiter is still trying to recover from being jilted at the altar three years ago. Now, with Laramie’s beloved Granddaddy celebrating his eightieth birthday on Christmas Eve, Lari is forced to return home to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. But even the memory of that awful day rips her heart to shreds. How can she survive a face-to-face meeting with the man she still loves? Yesterday’s heartbreak blinds them both to a surprising truth that could heal their hurting hearts. Will they see it in time to save their love?

Christmas in July Blog Tour Stops Remaining:

July 12 – The World Can Wait (Delia Latham)

July 18 – The World Can Wait (Tiffany Amber Stockton)

July 22 – All Betts Are Off (Jeanie Smith Cash)

July 31 – Pam’s Wild Rose Blog (joint post with Jeanie Smith Cash & Rose Allen McCauley)

Having trouble grasping God’s grace? I’ve learned most about God’s love and mercy through my husband, as I share in this video.

Want to connect with other women actively pursuing Jesus and spiritual growth? Then join the Wholly Loved Facebook group!

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Walking Closely With Jesus — Guest Blogger

Grace quote from Max Luccado

Walking Closely with Jesus

By Jo Massaro

Years ago, I asked a life-changing question, “How could a woman who had an abortion, multiple marriages and a traumatic brain injury, have a relationship with Jesus?”

This forced me to face the hurts, habits, and pain  hidden away and never dealt with. I wore a smile, but covered the heartbreak hidden in the darkest places.

My longing to be someone else reminds me of a song from the movie, Mulan. Like me, she struggled to find herself.

I was 23 with three children when I became pregnant again. My husband didn’t want another child, so I decided to have an abortion. The sun was out on the day of my procedure, but I felt scared and so alone.

Nine months later, an accident occurred and my son, Jason, died the day before his second birthday.  I was certain that God had punished me for what I’d done nearly a year before. Depression and thoughts of suicide became my friends. When a child dies, the life you once led, no longer exists. Even though we had two daughters, this void became unbearable. My husband used alcohol and drugs to dull his pain. After two more children, we were broken beyond repair.

This led to our divorce.

Five years later I married again and within a year I faced another divorce. I wanted to commit suicide.

Picture of an icebergMy brokenness was like an iceberg. Others see the top but ninety percent of my pain lay below the surface–abandonment, isolation, fear, trauma, loss, disappointments, depression and co-dependency. This was what I felt from the time I was a child that carried into my adulthood. I was searching for love in the wrong places.

My life was one of sin, lies, deception and isolation.

I knew Jesus existed, but didn’t realize who He really was nor how to experience and live in the grace He offered.

I met and married my third husband, and he brought me to his church. When the pastor asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus,  I raised my hand. I didn’t understand all that happened, but I knew Jesus made me feel loved and accepted, and I wanted more of Him.

A few years later, I was involved in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, (TBI). I lost the ability to read, drive, function as a wife and mother; my vision was affected and my thinking felt foggy. My husband told me every morning I’d say, “Just one more day, Jesus,” but I don’t remember this.

One day while I listened to the audio Bible, words from Scripture gripped me:

“When the woman heard about Jesus, she came up through the crowd behind Him and touched his cloak. For she kept saying, ‘If I could only touch His clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she sensed in her body that she was healed of her affliction” (Mark 5:27-29, NIV).

I realized that if Jesus healed this woman, He could heal me. Believing this with all my heart, I began to pray.

Over the years, God has healed me and today my life is full of God’s grace and peace and praise for all God has done.

God created me with a plan and purpose and stayed with me throughout my pain and heartache. I walk today in love and with a husband of 26 years.

My deeply rooted relationship with Jesus reminds me of two beautiful rivers located in Manaus, Brazil. Each are unique as in the deep darkness (blackwater) of the Rio Negro and the pale sandy (whitewater) of the Rio Solimoes.

These bodies of water run side by side for six miles before they become one. In those six miles, the light of the Rio Solimoes slowly begins to engulf the darkness of the Rio Negro. Darkness now becomes light.

Similarly, Jesus works below the surface and brings light into deep, dark places as only he can. But it takes time after Woman staring out at the sea with text pulled from the post. the two meet for change to occur.

In God’s loving hands, I was transformed and washed clean by the blood of the lamb .

This mirrors our walk with Jesus . When we accept Him as Savior, He takes the old and dirty parts of our lives and gently brings us into a new life with Him.

I’ve asked the Lord to draw deeper into my relationship with Him and conform me to His image. I know we say and hear this all the time, but I was determined to allow Jesus to do surgery on my heart and dissect that which was dead and lifeless and bring healing and wholeness in its place.

I’m grateful for the love and contentment I have in Jesus.

Let’s talk about this! How  has God healed you or brought you to deeper freedom? What are some ways you’re living in that freedom?

Meet Jo Massaro!

 

Jo Massaro's author photoJo is founder and curator of Yahweh Sisterhood Book Club that meets the first Thursday of each month. You not only read the book but get to meet the author either in person or through Facebook.

As a speaker, Jo brings humor, energy, authenticity, faith, and strength she found in the Word of God. She describes her journey through her darkest times and how God brought her to a relationship with the Light of the World.

She offers themed messages to your group, and works with your team to customize a topic you have selected. She speaks before small or large groups, churches, or wherever God leads her.

For further information on the book club visit:

www.yahwehsisterhoodbookclub.com

Contact Jo at:  jomassarospeaker@gmail.com

 

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

 

Healing in the Hands of the God Who Sees

woman standing in the darkI spent most of my adult life hiding while presenting an image to others of the person I wanted them to see. The woman I hoped to be but quite frankly, didn’t see myself as. If asked, I would’ve readily admitted I had an unhealthy fear of rejection.

I knew I overemphasized other’s opinions, but I didn’t understand why. Therefore, I continually fought surface level battles that led to short-lived behavior modification, frustration, and, often, defeat.

Galatians 1:10 was my go-to verse, one I prayed and meditated on countless times. Written by a first century church planter who routinely faced rejection and persecution, it says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

And every time I read those words, conviction squeezed my heart, followed by a commitment to do better. But a week or maybe a month later, I’d find myself battling the same insecurities.

I felt defeated. Stuck.

I wasn’t. Instead, I was held, searched, and known, deeply and intimately, by the one who not only sunset with quote pulled from text.saw my struggles but also the root cause beneath them (Psalm 139:1-2). Through a series of painful events, He allowed an inner lie to surface so that He could replace it with truth.

I was a new, and hugely insecure leader at the time, interacting with wounded and insecure women while still, largely, dealing with my own hurts and fears. I thought I could power through, but in so doing, was living but a fragment of who Christ created me to be.

God wanted to take me to a place of freedom. Therefore, He allowed me to land smack dab in three consecutive, ugly interactions where I felt misjudged, slandered, and attacked.

In response, I began to pull deeper into myself, feeding negative thinking that had been dormant yet festering deep within my heart. Lies I’d thought I’d overcome, had long since moved past, but which the God who searches and knows me saw as clearly as the tears on my face. And as He watched, He was waiting for the perfect moment to reveal them to me—so that He could initiate healing.

One afternoon, while I was moping around the house, my husband said, “You’re acting like you did something wrong.”

In that moment, something clicked, and a thought followed, Because I think I’m bad.

As God’s gentle Spirit ushered in, I realized my intense reaction—the reason the three rejections had hurt so deeply—came from a belief adopted early in my childhood, one I thought I’d long since dealt with but that had been far too engrained through years of hurt and failure to uproot easily.

Bowing my head, I offered my pain and the falsehoods surrounding it to the God who “searched me and knows me, when I sit and when I rise;” and who “perceives my thoughts” the reason behind every action and emotion “from afar” (Ps. 139:1-2, paraphrased and personalized.)

God knows and loves you just as deeply, and wants to bring you to a place of deeper healing and freedom. When emotions and insecurities arise, instead of fighting them in your own strength, surrender them to Christ. Ask Him to show you their root and to, step by step and prayer by prayer, push out all that is false, ugly, and painful with His love and grace.

Let’s talk about this! When strong emotions arise, how do you normally respond? How might turning to Jesus lead to lasting freedom? In what ways have you experienced this to be true?

Cover image for Becoming His Princess Bible StudyShare your thoughts and stories with us in the comments below, and make sure to grab a free copy of Wholly Loved Becoming His Princess Bible study. You can do so HERE. For those who live in the Omaha Metro, join me for live teaching at Christ Community Church, starting March 12th. Register HERE.

And make sure to join me for one of Wholly Loved’s upcoming Fully Alive conferences. Find out more HERE.