Sometimes, when I encounter others just beginning their faith journey, I forget how tumultuous, difficult, and confusing my first stumbling steps were. I forget how tightly I held to the familiar, even if that meant staying stuck in dysfunction or pain.  And in my mess, my insecurities, and my fears, the patience of my Savior as He daily stooped to my level, took my clammy hand in His, and led me step by step, truth by truth, to spacious fields of joy and peace (Ps. 23).

Not long ago, after I’d shared some of my story with a podcast guest, he proclaimed, “How courageous you were to follow Jesus on that journey of healing.”

Only I wasn’t brave at all, nor did I have any idea where God was leading me half the time. In fact, if it had been up to me, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have moved forward at all. But in those moments when my feet became paralyzed with fear, Jesus descended to my level, took my hand in His and gently, lovingly, yet persistently led me to increased freedom.

That’s why He came. To proclaim good news for the poor, freedom for prisoners and the oppressed, and recovery of sight to the blind. His heart has always been tender toward the broken, confused, and deceived. We catch such a beautiful analogy of this, almost like a real-life parable, in Mark 8.

Jesus and His disciples had crossed the sea of Galilee and into Bethsaida, an area He’d previously denounced for its widespread lack of faith or spiritual vision. Verses 22-26 tell us, “…some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.”

Then, He spit on the man’s eyes and asked him if he could see.

Although his vision had improved, it remained blurry. “He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” And so, Jesus touched the man’s eyes again, and this time his sight was restored.

Pause to envision this interaction, as Christ took the man’s hand and led him out of the village. Can you sense Jesus’ gentleness and tender care? I picture Him walking slowly, careful not to cause the man to trip. Taking the man to a more private location, He healed him partially, allowing those first rays of light to stream in, before shattering the darkness for good.

I wonder, what happened in that man’s heart and mind, during that process? Did threads of doubt and fear begin to melt away? Did whispers of lies rise to the surface then get swept away for good? Did the Savior’s first touch, then the second, then the third help him to heal, then teach him to trust, and then to rest?

The passage doesn’t tell us why the One whose words cast out demons and brought life to a girl, once dead, chose to heal this man in such a gradual and deeply personal way. But we know Christ’s shepherd’s heart for His sheep, for those who’ve been walking for some time and maybe have recovered most of their sight. And for those who’ve just begun and are taking their very first timid and stumbling steps. He’s bringing us all to places of unhindered freedom, nudging us ever so gently yet persistently forward.

May we remember this image the next time we’re tempted to grow frustrated with someone else’s slow progress. May we resist the temptation to shove our broken brothers and sisters forward. May we instead slow our step to patiently walk beside them, knowing God will ensure we both reach our destinations.    

Let’s talk about this! Pause to consider all the ways God stooped down to grab hold of you. Remember some of your greatest struggles, or maybe even your current battles. How does your memory of those moments impact your view of other people’s behaviors?

For those following our Chronological Bible reading plan through the New Testament …

Connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72 Faith Over Fear

In our ongoing battle against anxiety and fear, it can be challenging to find resources that are filled with truth and presented from a place of understanding and grace. It can be even more challenging to find biblically sound, heart-safe resources presented from a strong and mature Christ-follower who understands, because they’ve shared similar struggles. This is why books like Grace Fox’s Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation are so invaluable. Written by a career global worker who could’ve easily lost her newborn daughter, Grace knows what it’s like to wrestle with the deep truths of God during times of intense fear. In this interview, she shares one of her most frightening moments to date, how God met her in her fear, and practical ways listeners can move from fear to increased faith and freedom. Find Grace at: https://www.gracefox.com/blog https://www.facebook.com/gracefox.author https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Podcast episode referenced: Faith Over Fear Episode 63: Finding Peace in the God of Heaven's Armies Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. When do you tend to feel most vulnerable? 3. How do you normally respond when you feel vulnerable? 4. What truths or songs help you remember God’s love, strength, and faithfulness? 5. When had God reminded you of truth or passage during a time of fear? 6. What are some practical ways you remind yourself of God’s goodness, faithfulness, power, and/or sovereignty? 7. What are some practical ways you have or can remind yourself of ways God has cared for you in the past? 8. Why is it important to turn to God when we’re afraid? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Rudzhan Nagiev
  1. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72
  2. Living Supernaturally Empowered – Ep. 71
  3. Hearing God’s Voice: The Peace That Comes from Being Supernaturally Led – Ep. 70
  4. Uncovering What’s Beneath Our Emotional Reactions with Steve Carter – Ep. 69
  5. Finding Courage in God Our Abba Father – Ep. 68

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.

A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72 Faith Over Fear

In our ongoing battle against anxiety and fear, it can be challenging to find resources that are filled with truth and presented from a place of understanding and grace. It can be even more challenging to find biblically sound, heart-safe resources presented from a strong and mature Christ-follower who understands, because they’ve shared similar struggles. This is why books like Grace Fox’s Moving from Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation are so invaluable. Written by a career global worker who could’ve easily lost her newborn daughter, Grace knows what it’s like to wrestle with the deep truths of God during times of intense fear. In this interview, she shares one of her most frightening moments to date, how God met her in her fear, and practical ways listeners can move from fear to increased faith and freedom. Find Grace at: https://www.gracefox.com/blog https://www.facebook.com/gracefox.author https://www.instagram.com/graceloewenfox/ Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Podcast episode referenced: Faith Over Fear Episode 63: Finding Peace in the God of Heaven's Armies Group Discussion Questions: 1. What resonated with you most in today’s episode? 2. When do you tend to feel most vulnerable? 3. How do you normally respond when you feel vulnerable? 4. What truths or songs help you remember God’s love, strength, and faithfulness? 5. When had God reminded you of truth or passage during a time of fear? 6. What are some practical ways you remind yourself of God’s goodness, faithfulness, power, and/or sovereignty? 7. What are some practical ways you have or can remind yourself of ways God has cared for you in the past? 8. Why is it important to turn to God when we’re afraid? Episode Image Credit: Getty/Rudzhan Nagiev
  1. A Practical Resource to Battle Fear – Ep. 72
  2. Living Supernaturally Empowered – Ep. 71
  3. Hearing God’s Voice: The Peace That Comes from Being Supernaturally Led – Ep. 70
  4. Uncovering What’s Beneath Our Emotional Reactions with Steve Carter – Ep. 69
  5. Finding Courage in God Our Abba Father – Ep. 68

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.

ballerina with words from post

We can’t live like a queen while prancing through the pig sty, and make no mistake, you and I are royalty of incredible value. Realizing this, living in this truth, changes everything—our behavior, perceptions and interactions. This reality necessarily leads to freedom, just as surely as failure to grasp this truth results in slavery.

Years ago, our family opened our home to a young woman who hadn’t a clue who she was.

She believed she held no worth outside of her looks and whatever attention she gained from boys. She received what she sought, at least, on a surface level. Her phone constantly lit up with messages from young men who spoke charming words in the moment, only to use her. And though her friends bathed her in compliments, her emptiness remained.

What might you have done, had you been me? Corrected or rebuked her? Assigned harsh consequences designed to scare her into acting appropriately?

That’s often how we respond, to others and ourselves, when we fail to live as God desires. And while I understand, as parents or teachers, sometimes we must apply the stern hand of discipline. But I also know, from experience and Scripture, true change goes much deeper.

I’m convinced Christianity is less about becoming and more about unveiling who we truly are; who we were created to be. It’s like, prior to Jesus, we’ve all suffered from a case of mistaken identity. We’ve allowed all the voices of the world to confuse and define us, leaving us insecure and bruised. But as we draw closer to Christ, He whispers to our hearts, “That, my child, is not who you are, who I created you to be. You’re mine. You’re loved, fully and eternally. A creature of inexpressible value, hand-crafted in My image, to shine as a beautiful reflection of me.”

In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness …” In the original Hebrew, “Let us make mankind as Our shadow …”

When my daughter was young, she loved making her shadow dance and jump. When she skipped, her shadow did as well. It twirled as fast or as slow as she did, remaining, forever connected to her, the form it represented. The greater the light, the stronger and more defined her shadow. Similarly, as the light dimmed, her shadow faded.

In other words, we discover our truest selves not by chasing after success, accolades, or approval. To the contrary. That will only blur our edges and distort our true beauty. We find ourselves in the One who loves us, image of woman gazing toward the hills with a quote pulled from the postknows us, and called us to forever shadow Him.

The apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, understood this. When speaking to the ancient Ephesians he recognized heir behaviors and weaknesses, absolutely. But he saw their Christ-centered identity first. God their Father had called them out of the pig sty and to Himself. And lest they feel tempted to prance back to the muck they’d once danced in, Paul reminded them, emphatically, “That is not who you are!”

He told them they were God’s holy people (v. 1). They were far from lacking, for they were abundantly blessed. They weren’t rejected or cast aside. To the contrary, they were chosen by the supreme Creator Himself. They were to shake off the memories of every slimy pit they’d once fallen into, for God had declared them holy and blameless, redeemed and forgiven.

That was their true identity. Their challenge, then, was to learn to live in that reality. They needed to learn to live in grace as children of grace.

We do as well, because identity changes everything, and Christ paid much too high a price for you and I to ever go tiptoeing through the pig sties again.

So how do we do this? By allowing God to change the way we think until our thoughts mirror His, because His thoughts always lead us toward His love and truth. He always leads us toward the absolutely best versions of ourselves. May we never accept the cheap substitutes our world tries to force upon us ever again.

If you’re struggling to live anchored in your true identity, you might find my conversation with Grace Fox in my sixth podcast episode, Moving Past the Fear of Insignificance helpful. You can find it HERE.

Connect with me on Facebook and Instagram.

Additional resources:

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

Reclaiming Our Identity, video presentation, session one in the Becoming His Princess Bible study.

Anchored and Secure: Sixty Days of Resting in Grace

Thanks to Christ’s death and resurrection, we don’t have to stress, strive, or perform. We simply need to rest in what Christ has already done. That is when we begin to come alive and find the power and courage to live as He intended. That’s when we experience true and lasting freedom. This sixty-day devotional helps women reflect on God’s grace and the freedom of living deeply anchored in Him.

 

 

 

We all want to hear from God. At least, many of us do. We want that special revelation, to receive that call, or perhaps the answer to that problem or decision we’ve been wrestling over. I’ve been in that place so many times, and I’m certain I’ll land there again. But while God indeed wants us to continually seek His guidance, His desire for us go so much deeper.

He wants our hearts. He wants us. All of us. And He wants us to want Him—more than His answers or solutions. When I’m in that place of wrestling, I have to ask myself, what do I want more? That “special word” from God or God to connect with God Himself?

And here’s what’s beautiful. When I seek God’s presence above all else, His guidance follows. In fact, His guidance becomes a part of me as He gently yet consistently molds my heart and will and transforms my thinking.

I hear Him most clearly when I lose myself in Him and make Him and Him alone my prize. What a tender, loving, and faithful Father He is! He draws me to Himself, invites me to worship, and then, in this context of love—love from Him to me and me to Him—He speaks. And in that moment of divine intimacy, all confusion, angst, and anxiety flee as confidence and courage well within.

He inspires me to do His will and empowers me for whatever’s ahead. This has always been His way.

The apostle Paul, perhaps the most effective and empowered missionary of all time, is a great example of this. You can read about his history and journeys in the book of Acts, but to paraphrase, while he was vehemently seeking to persecute God’s children, Christ intervened, transformed him, and ignited within him a new, life-giving passion to share the gospel.

That’s God’s call for all of us—to proclaim the power and reality of grace. But we each also have a more unique, more defined call as well, perhaps to mentor youth or write encouraging letters to shut-ins or teach Bible studies to young moms.

Some of you may have discovered how God wants to use you in this season, but perhaps you’re not quite certain. Maybe you’re in a period of waiting and God seems silent, and so you’re asking, maybe even begging, for Him to reveal your next steps. I get it. Those “blurry” periods can be difficult and painful, and in the waiting, we might be tempted to seek God’s call more than we seek Him—forgetting that He alone is the source of all that is good and hope-filled, fulfilling, and true. Forgetting that He is faithful to give us all we need, answers included, when we need it.

There’s a sense of rest, and power, displayed by those who get that, who’ve learned to consistently quiet themselves in God’s presence,  and to seek His presence above all. Paul exemplified this. “For me to live is Christ,” he wrote, “and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21, NIV). It was from that sense of devotion, of connection, that he received his unique, history-changing call to share Christ with the Gentiles. Acts 13:2 tells us while the prophets and teachers at Antioch “were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them” (NLT).

In the middle of worship, God spoke.

That’s often how He interacts with us as well, because while, yes, He longs to guide us, He longs for us more.

There’s a sense of rest, and power, displayed by those who get that, who’ve learned to consistently quiet themselves in God’s presence, and to seek His presence above all. Paul exemplified this. “For me to live is Christ,” he wrote, “and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21, NIV). It was from that sense of devotion, of connection, that he received his unique, history-changing call to share Christ with the Gentiles. Acts 13:2 tells us while the prophets and teachers at Antioch “were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (NIV).

In the middle of worship, God spoke.

That’s often how He interacts with us as well, because while, yes, He longs to guide us, He longs for us more.

Let’s talk about this! How do you connect with God? When do you tend to feel closest to Him? What are some ways you intentionally cultivate a relationship with Christ?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Tell us how He’s brought you freedom, or what freedom means to you, and get entered to win an awesome prize bundle. Find out more HERE. And make sure to check out my latest Faith Over Fear podcast, The Courage to Draw Near to God. You can listen HERE.

Book discussion inviteI’d also love if you’d join me for an online book discussion on maria Furlough’s Breaking Free From Fear. Contact me HERE for more information.

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

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!

 

 

Grace quote, teal writing, white background

You might not have recognized me, might even have tried to avoid me, had you met me in my teen years. I was a foul-mouthed, often drunk, angry and self-destructing kid. Then God began reaching deep into my heart, transforming and healing me bit by bit.

But though He shattered my chains of sin and heartache, through His grace, I hadn’t quite learned to step into that freedom. I hadn’t yet learned to live in my new identity—to allow His love and grace, and not my past or my shame to define me.

This was especially true when I behaved not as the redeemed daughter of Christ that I currently am but the bitter and sinful girl I’d once been. In those moments, and the regret that followed, I was tempted to believe that I still was that girl.

But that girl is dead and gone, never to return. For “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, Grace quote with gradiant green backgroundbut Christ who lives in me.” (Phil. 3:12).

No matter how I feel and regardless of the struggles I face, God’s precious, perfect Son lives in me.

I’ve heard it said, all sin is an identity problem. That statement’s too deep, too rich, to unpack here, but when I sin now, as a daughter of Christ, that’s certainly true. I’ve forgotten who I am and who I’m called to be. When I fight for my rights, it’s evidence that I forgot Christ saved me to die—because only in death can I truly live. When financial insecurity or fear of loss stirs ugly behaviors within me, it’s evidence that I’ve lost sight of my position as my Daddy’s girl. I’ve forgotten that I am indeed His child, and that He will indeed provide for me and meet my needs.

When I fight for that promotion, or that project, or that idea, thinking that thing will somehow fulfill me, I’ve forgotten that I’ve already received intimate interaction with the Creator and lover of my soul.

Regardless of whether I’m temporarily stuck in sin or shame, the answer is the same—grace. To meditate on God’s grace deeply and consistently. To regularly take time to remember the price He paid—for me. To contemplate what such an act revealed regarding His heart—for me. And to praise Him for the fact that I truly am free.

When I pause to reflect on the cross of Christ, my gratitude stirs within me a desire to live better. To live fully as the woman He created me to be. To grab hold of that for which Christ grabbed hold of me. (Philippians 3:12).

He died to set me free. I honor Him and the price He paid when I learn to live, daily and deeply, in that freedom.

If you’re struggling to anchor yourself in that place, in your Daddy’s heart, these verses might help:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV).

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, ESV).

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (Colossians 1:21-22, ESV).

And make sure to check out our Wholly Loved’s Bible reading plan, available for free on the YouVersion Bible Reading App:

Grace Reading Plan ImageChrist’s grace has the power to change everything. We don’t have to strive, to compete, or compare, or question whether or not we measure up. We’re enough because Christ in us is enough. The cross of Christ sets us free.

I also invite you to listen to my latest podcast episode: Courage to Conquer our Fear of Missing Out. Find it HERE.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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!