(Note: The following is an adapted transcript from one of my former iBelieve video devotions.)

I’ve found, I most need to laugh when I least feel like laughing. For my mental health, for the health of my relationships, and sometimes for the perseverance to push through challenges. When I feel anything but cheerful and humorous, that’s precisely when I need to find a way to intentionally bring sunshine into my day. 

Years ago, when my husband and I were fighting for our marriage, and I mean fighting–for a relationship we’d mentally given up on only months before, we learned we needed to take time for fun. Especially when working through difficult stuff. And I have to tell you, that was hard. My pride tempted me to isolate myself, but our counselor told us we needed to take time to play. Otherwise, she warned, we might forget why we fell in love and that we weren’t enemies, regardless of how we felt in that moment. 

While I wish I would’ve done this more, I intentionally found ways for us to laugh, together. I purposefully cultivated silliness into our relationship and our home. I believe this became the glue that held us together and kept our hearts soft toward one another when the stress of life could’ve pulled us apart. 

When life feels really stressful, like I have more to do than time to do it in, I know I need to intentionally set an afternoon aside to fortify my soul with laughter.

A joyful heart is good medicine,  but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Maybe you’ve felt the last half of that verse. Maybe your life this year has felt anything but cheerful. Maybe laughter has all but disappeared from your home, from your relationships, and your heart. I’ve been there, and man, is it hard. Much too hard, in fact. And when I land in that place, I intentionally find reasons to laugh. 

At first, it might feel fabricated, forced. But soon, it becomes a habit, one that fills my heart with joy and soon spills from me, contagiously. It changes the tone of my home and my relationships for the better. 

Try it, because right now we could all use all the sunshine we can get. 

These videos may help:

And make sure to catch this week’s Faith Over Fear episode:

Breaking Body Image Shame With Rachael Gilbert Faith Over Fear

Do all the parties, cookie exchanges, and holiday meals this time of year prick your insecurities and create anxiety? Do you find yourself simultaneously enjoying home-baked treats and calculating how many hours at the gym each bite will cost? More importantly, do you ever long for the day when you don't stress about your body? In our photo-shopped, filtered, social media culture, is that even possible? Faith Over Fear guest Rachael Gilbert, author of Image Restored, says yes and shares her inside out approach to learning to feel comfortable in our skin, whatever shape it encompasses.  (Scroll down for discussion/reflective questions.) Resource Mentioned: Image Restored: Tear Down Shame and Insecurity to Experience a Body Image Renovation.  Connect with Rachael Gilbert: On her website On Instagram On Facebook On her Amazon Author Page Find Jennifer Slattery: On her website Instagram Facebook Amazon Find Wholly Loved: On their website Join the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group  Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Facebook Group Discussion/Reflective Questions: What resonated with you most in this episode? What body image messages have you absorbed from your social circle? What body image messages have you received from generations before you? How often do you put your thoughts "on trial"? How often do you check your negative thinking against the truth of Scripture? In what ways might a negative body image be impacting your relationships How might your life change were you to feel confident in your skin? What is one action step God might be asking you to take, having listened to this episode? Discover more Christian podcasts at lifeaudio.com and inquire about advertising opportunities at lifeaudio.com/contact-us.
  1. Breaking Body Image Shame With Rachael Gilbert
  2. Facing Opposition – Experiencing Jesus
  3. Strength to Thrive Despite Opposition
  4. How God Prepares Us to Face Opposition
  5. When Obedience Leads to Hostility – Standing Strong Amidst Opposition P. 1

Relationships can lead to great joy and fulfillment, but they can also trigger significant anxiety and pain. While God can, and often does, bring healing, restoration, and wholeness to some of our most challenging relationships, sadly, some connections remain fractured.

This often leaves us wrestling with difficult and confusing questions like, how do we love others well, in a godly and healthy way, without inviting continual injury? How can we protect our hearts from what is harmful while nourishing it with everything life giving and true? How do we grieve well, without bitterness, and while holding tightly to hope?

Or perhaps to phrase it differently, how do we experience the victorious, thriving life Christ promised in every situation? Without allowing other people’s behavior to negatively affect ours?

Is this even possible?

These were some of the questions I addressed last weekend when I spoke to a group of women in Rockford, Michigan. While there, I heard stories of deep mother-daughter wounds. Of seemingly irreparably broken friendships. And listening, I recalled the hurt others had shared withe me shortly before. Of challenging marriages and shattered trust. And on occasion, of situations where women realized, despite their longing for reconciliation, wisdom required distance. And in every instance, I heard sorrow expressed.

I could relate. I imagine you can, too. We’ve all suffered the effects of living in a sin-tainted world that is far from what God intended; far from the joyful paradise for which we’re destined.

We are all living somewhere within the messy middle, and that hurts. But that doesn’t mean we can’t receive joy and peace amidst the storm. While I’m still on this journey of becoming and receiving, God has and is teaching me some things regarding how to thrive, even while my soul aches.

I’m learning to give myself space to mourn, and to recognize the holy thread woven through my grief. God created us to give and receive love, without fear or injury. To crave emotional intimacy and healthy connection. That is what we’re destined for, and therefore the states for which we’ll always long.

But God’s showed me that I also must always grieve with hope, keeping my heart open to the possibility that, one day, things might change. This is and may always feel hard—finding a way to accept what is without hardening myself against potential miracles to come. Even if that means my heart remains a little bruised.

In the meantime, I seek God’s perspective—of my hurts, the other person, and the situation—recognizing my perspective is limited, tainted by scars previously incurred, including past interactions with the individual, and often deceived. Once He’s corrected my view, or removed my plank, so to speak, I ask for His guidance on how to proceed. He usually only tells me my next couple steps, and that always involves resting in Him.

Receiving from Him.

Letting Him fill my soul—with Him. The God who knows me fully, loves me completely, and will never leave.

The God who says to each of us, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10, NIV).

Let’s talk about this. How do you heal, nourish, and protect your heart when others wound it?

Breaking Body Image Shame With Rachael Gilbert Faith Over Fear

Do all the parties, cookie exchanges, and holiday meals this time of year prick your insecurities and create anxiety? Do you find yourself simultaneously enjoying home-baked treats and calculating how many hours at the gym each bite will cost? More importantly, do you ever long for the day when you don't stress about your body? In our photo-shopped, filtered, social media culture, is that even possible? Faith Over Fear guest Rachael Gilbert, author of Image Restored, says yes and shares her inside out approach to learning to feel comfortable in our skin, whatever shape it encompasses.  (Scroll down for discussion/reflective questions.) Resource Mentioned: Image Restored: Tear Down Shame and Insecurity to Experience a Body Image Renovation.  Connect with Rachael Gilbert: On her website On Instagram On Facebook On her Amazon Author Page Find Jennifer Slattery: On her website Instagram Facebook Amazon Find Wholly Loved: On their website Join the private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group  Join the Private Wholly Loved Community Facebook Group Discussion/Reflective Questions: What resonated with you most in this episode? What body image messages have you absorbed from your social circle? What body image messages have you received from generations before you? How often do you put your thoughts "on trial"? How often do you check your negative thinking against the truth of Scripture? In what ways might a negative body image be impacting your relationships How might your life change were you to feel confident in your skin? What is one action step God might be asking you to take, having listened to this episode? Discover more Christian podcasts at lifeaudio.com and inquire about advertising opportunities at lifeaudio.com/contact-us.
  1. Breaking Body Image Shame With Rachael Gilbert
  2. Facing Opposition – Experiencing Jesus
  3. Strength to Thrive Despite Opposition
  4. How God Prepares Us to Face Opposition
  5. When Obedience Leads to Hostility – Standing Strong Amidst Opposition P. 1

Mirror images of a woman

(This first posted in 2018.)

We all have an idea of who we want to be, who we think we are, and who, in Christ, we’re becoming. Sometimes those “identities” contradict one another, leaving us feeling confused, frustrated, and defeated. If you’ve entrusted your life to Jesus, Ephesians 2:10 says you’re His masterpieces, handcrafted for a specific purpose, planned before you took our first breath. As my guest today illustrates, the more we allow God to chisel and mold us, the more we discover who we truly are–who God created us to be.

 

Becoming What God Desires

by Katie Clark.

It’s hard to live as the person God created me to be. Sometimes this contradicts who I think I am. Other times, discovering her involves pain and heartache. I criticize, talk down to myself, and obsess over all my failures.

Broken dreams, failed plans, and unexpected roadblocks have diverted my vision and altered my steps. Instead, I find myself on a different path—the one God put me on.

I’m slowly learning how to be whom God designed instead of the person I thought I would be. I’m also learning, even in my broken places, I’m still the person I always thought I was. I’m broken andflower image with some broken petals and text from the post whole. Broken because of the path my life has taken, but whole because of how Jesus put me back together.

I struggle with knowing whether I can be both at once, but I know it’s true because I’ve lived it. 1 Peter 2:9 tells me I’m chosen, whether I feel this or not. Daily Bible reading, devotions, and prayer time are my most trusted means of coming to terms with who God made me to be.

But I’ve also found being this person—this broken yet whole person who struggles with grief and pain—allows me to connect with others in a way I never knew was possible before. I can see the brokenness in others now, and I want to help them. I believe serving others can bring healing and wholeness in a way nothing else can.

I still struggle with self-degradation and living in regret. Questioning all my choices that led me to this place. But through a gentle walk with God I’m learning I don’t have to listen to those negative voices in my head. I can stand boldly in Christ and be the person He fashions me into each day.

What about you? How do you find strength and courage to step into God’s role for your life? What are some ways you combat negative, self-defeating thought patterns? Share your thoughts, tips, and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

***

Before you go, make sure to sign up for Jennifer’s free quarterly newsletter (HERE)!

You’ll receive great content sent directly to your inbox (a short story, devotion, recipe, and more) cover image for study based on 1 Timothyalong with a free, 36-lesson study (ebook) based on 1 Timothy (sent separately via a clickable link in the follow-up welcome letter). Note: If you signed up for her newsletter but never received your free ebook, please contact me HERE.

Want Jennifer or one of her team members to come speak at your next women’s event? Contact her HERE. 

Get to know Katie!

Katie's author pictureKatie Clark started reading fantastical stories in grade school and her love for books never died. Today she reads in all genres; her only requirement is an awesome story! She writes adult inspirational romance, including her novel Securing The Handyman’s Heart, and her Christmas novel Radio Wave Romance. She also writes young adult speculative fiction, including her romantic fantasy novel, The Rejected Princess, her supernatural survival novel, Shadowed Eden, and her dystopian Enslaved Series. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

 

Check out her latest release, The Rejected Princess:

When Princess Roanna Hamilton’s parents arrange a marriage with a prince of Dawson’s Edge—the cover image for The Forgotten Princessmysterious and backwards kingdom to the south—Roanna reluctantly agrees. But when Roanna is introduced to Dawson’s royal family, strange mind-bending anomalies are awakened within her, and she discovers the Dawsonian royal family holds secrets of their own. With threats growing daily, Roanna comes to realize the danger she is in. If Roanna is to save herself and her future, she must stall her marriage and squelch the growing rebellion—all while discovering how deeply her power runs.

Before you leave, make sure to catch the latest Your Daily Bible Verse podcast episode.

 

Who Is Melchizedek, Anyway? (Genesis 14:18) Your Daily Bible Verse

Today’s Bible Verse: And Melchizedek, the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High, brought Abram some bread and wine. – Genesis 14:18   Want to listen without the ads? Become a BibleStudyTools.com PLUS Member today: https://www.biblestudytools.com/subscribe/   MEET OUR HOSTS:   JENNIFER SLATTERY is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com   Follow Jennifer: https://www.lifeaudio.com/faith-over-fear/  https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/    CAROL MCCRACKEN is a Christian communicator who teaches women Biblical truths through real-life application and humor to connect them to their God-given purpose. Carol has been a Bible teacher for twenty years and served on church staff and in women's ministry for three decades.   Follow Carol: https://www.carolmccracken.com/   REVEREND DR. KYLE NORMAN is the Rector of St. Paul’s Cathedral, located in Kamloops BC, Canada.  He holds a doctorate in Spiritual formation and is a sought-after writer, speaker, and retreat leader. His writing can be found at Christianity.com, crosswalk.com, ibelieve.com, Renovare Canada, and many others.  He also maintains his own blog revkylenorman.ca.  He has 20 years of pastoral experience, and his ministry focuses on helping people overcome times of spiritual discouragement.   Follow Rev. Kyle: https://revkylenorman.ca/   JOY A. WILLIAMS is a writer and speaker who is amazed her first name became her life’s mission. As life happens in ways that baffle us or bring us joy, she loves exploring how those moments can bring us closer to God.  She is a member of the “First 5” writing team at Proverbs 31 ministries. As a licensed minister, she serves as a teacher for the Women’s Bible Study and the Married Couples Ministry at her church.  Joy is a wife and mother and she shares encouragement on the “Joy to the Soul” blog.  Subscribe to receive the newest posts and updates at joyawilliams.com.   Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest   Read Joy’s 7-day Bible reading plans: “Live Your Joy Story” and “When Easy Doesn’t Live Here: Living by Faith When Life Is Hard” on the YouVersion Bible app.   JESSICA VAN ROEKEL loves the upside-down life of following Jesus as she journeys to wholeness through brokenness. As an author, speaker, and worship leader, she uses her gifts and experiences to share God’s transformative power to rescue, restore, and renew. She is the author of Reframing Rejection: How Looking Through a Different Lens Changes Everything.   Jessica and her husband have two adult daughters spreading their wings, and two high schoolers, a son and daughter, fluttering their wings as they edge closer to the nest. Connect with her at welcomegrace.com and reframingrejection.com.   GRACE FOX is the award-winning author of 13 books, a popular Bible teacher at international women’s events, and a member of the “First 5” Bible study writing team (Proverbs 31 Ministries). She’s also been a career missionary for more than 30 years.   She and her husband have served in Nepal, at a year-round Christian camp on an island off Canada’s west coast, and currently co-direct International Messengers Canada, a missionary sending agency with 300 staff in 30 countries. They live fulltime aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, they celebrate three grown kids and 13 grandchildren.   Learn about Grace’s books and subscribe to her free resources at https://www.gracefox.com   Follow her: https://www.fb.com/gracefox.author Learn more about ministry opportunities with International Messengers: https://www.im-canada.ca   Discover more Christian podcasts at lifeaudio.com and inquire about advertising opportunities at lifeaudio.com/contact-us.
  1. Who Is Melchizedek, Anyway? (Genesis 14:18)
  2. What Is Jesus' Heart Like For Us? (Isaiah 42:3)
  3. Our Divine Call This Christmas (Genesis 12:3)
  4. How To Bear Lasting Fruit (John 15:5)
  5. How to Have Lightness of Being (Matthew 11:29-30)

woman sitting on park benchThe heart is a fragile yet powerful organ. Nurture and feed it well, and life and health follows. When we neglect it, allow hurts to sink deep and then fester, bitterness begins to invade every crevice, strangling our joy and peace. That’s not to say we should ignore, suppress, or deny our hurts. In fact, I’d argue doing so only leads to decay. Somehow, we have to learn to feel and to heal. To grieve with Jesus.

And perhaps that’s the difference between those who manage to move forward and those who seem to remain forever stuck, not just in their wounds, but in all the byproducts that come from unresolved, and often fed, past hurts.

A while back, after a powerful women’s event that proclaimed the freedom of forgiveness, of emotional release, I talked to a woman who’s been struggling for years. Maybe ten. Someone in her past hurt her deeply. They betrayed her trust, had abandoned her, and treated her unjustly. She had every right to be angry, and she was.

For nearly a decade, in fact. And her anger was destroying her, imprisoning her, only it didn’t show up as anger. Instead, those deep wounds presented as anxiety and chaos, as depression, sorrow and distrust. We spoke about this briefly, and I encouraged her to grieve with Jesus, following His lead in full surrender. But she couldn’t.

No. She wouldn’t. Her injustice felt much too unjust for her to just let go. I suppose she thought releasing the offense would simultaneously absolve her offender of guilt. She couldn’t see how she was allowing him to hurt her all over again, continuously.

She was letting him snuff out her candle. Her inner spark. What made her her. As a result, she was walking through life not only weakened, but many times, already defeated. And in this, she was robbing herself of the life Christ had died to give her.

Consider the converse. A couple of years ago, a friend called me. “Pray for my heart,” she said, explaining how she’d been wounded pretty deeply. She didn’t tell me how or offer a name, nor did she need to. Instead, she asked me to surround her candle, her inner spark, with prayer. She grieved the hurt, absolutely. But because she invited Jesus into her pain, bitterness never took root.

I’ve heard it said, anger is often a secondary emotion, arising, most often, when we’re afraid or have been hurt. It’s so easy to bypass the hurt, which can make us feel woman lying on leaf-covered groundweak, and jump straight to the anger, which often gives the illusion of strength. But Scripture tells us, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah.  Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:4-5, ESV).

Before we react, God tells us to pause. To ponder. And to trust.

Dr. Allender and Longman, authors of the Cry of the Soul, put it this way: “Anger should lead us into silent pondering rather than direct action. Usually, anger is a starting gun that signals us to leap from the blocks to control, consume, destroy. Instead, anger should be a starting gun that calls us to sit down and think.”

What hurts lie beneath our anger?

Why do those hurts hurt so deeply?

What lies have we attached to them? We almost always do this. We’re not simply hurt because someone snubs us. No. The hurt often comes when we assign motive—“They don’t value me.”—and then a falsehood—”I’m annoying.”

Pause to prayerfully consider how that’s been true for you. Invite God to unpack your anger, your hurts, to show you everything entangled in them. Then ask Him to replace every falsehood He reveals with truth.

This is how, in part, we guard our hearts above all else, so that the well springs of life might first fill them then flow from them.

Is there something you need to grieve? An offense you need to let go? Will you have the courage to release it? Will you guard your candle, your inner spark, knowing all God has for you is good?

If this post resonated, I encourage you to read my latest Faith Over Fear podcast episode with Leigh Mackenzie on finding the courage to heal. You can listen to our discussion HERE.

Share your thoughts, stories, and comments below and connect with Jennifer on Facebook and Instagram.

I also encourage you to listen to my latest Thriving With Chronic Illness podcast episode on growing closer to Christ. Find it HERE.

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appGod created us to live in freedom and deep connection with Him and others. Unfortunately, life experiences often hinder our ability to fully experience the abundant, beyond expectation, life Jesus died to give us. Many of us are hurting, struggling with insecurity, and tiptoeing through our days as we attempt to navigate the chaos. Still others of us are reacting to others with “fight” or “flight” responses–living in a continual state of avoidance and withdrawal or offense and defensiveness. So often, we attempt to fight these deep, heart-level battles with surface level tactics, but God wants to take us deeper. He wants to bring us to a place where we’re so grounded in Him, so encased and filled with His love, all the gunk of the world bounces off our wholly loved selves.

We want to help you take steps toward greater emotional and spiritual freedom, and we’ve designed a Bible reading plan, now available on the YouVersion app, to help you do that. You can find the app HERE.

 

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.™

 

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.

 

I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I love words. Not just stories or articles girl-on-phone-489957-mor devotions, but words in and of themselves. And everything–everything–has a backstory… Including the backstory. 😉 But sometimes, I’m so wordy, things spill out of my mouth before I’ve allowed them to swirl through my brain long enough to come out with coherence and effectiveness.

 

sydauthorphoto_smallThis is unfortunate for the words we speak truly do matter. They have the power to tear down or heal, to bless, to encourage. Today, Hope Spring Books author Sydney Avey shares her thoughts on sowing with words.

Sowing Words

Sydney Avey

Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge the bounty we receive daily from God in the words He whispers to us. The seeds we receive to sow in His service vary according to the talent He has given us. Seeds that yield a harvest can be time or money, but they can also be words. Knowing my words have been used to challenge someone to think differently or feel blessed brings me joy. Words are my store of seed.

What do you see when you look into your seed bag? Have you stored up treasures that need to be scattered so they can root and grow in the hearts of others? Seeds are tiny things—words you write, notes you sing, pennies from your pocket or minutes of your time contributed to someone else’s success in life.

A blog subscriber emailed me and said, “I used your ideas in a devotional I shared with my church choir. The idea struck a chord across the generations.”

My pastor used these lines from my poem A Desert Meditation to illustrate a point in his sermon about priorities:

Like the Saguaro Cactus

Know that your roots in this world are shallow

let your reservoirs tap Living Water

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Seeds, small bits of wisdom that sow thoughts and ideas in others; how are they come by?

Spiritual Practice

In addition to spiritual insights, the Gospels offer wisdom that has practical applications. Consider this verse:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

The context for this verse is judgment. It tells us that as we show mercy, mercy will be shown to us. I also see in this verse a process for gathering words into thoughts that will bless others.

Writing poetry is a way to measure our experience by compressing thought, shaking together disparate ideas and watching words expand into new meaning. When we suspend judgment-conclusions we jump to about others or words we understand in limited context, we open our hearts to see and share the world in a new way, God’s way.

In the same way, singing old songs to new rhythms may feel awkward at first, but as you yield to the Holy Spirit’s teaching you may renew the vigor of an ancient word. Watch that word float on an unexpected note, like a parachute seed, to bless the listening ear of a hungry heart.

You may think you don’t have enough talent to write a poem, or join the choir, or mentor a child, but God promises to increase your talent and your influence as you take this step of faith and sow your seeds.

Here is a lovely verse for the season:

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

2 Cor 9:10 (NIV)

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Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her workhas appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life. Her novel, “The Sheep Walker’s Daughter,” ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6 will be released from HopeSprings Books on December, 2013.

Her novel is called The Sheep Walker’s Daughter (available Dec. 3rd!):

bookcover400x600A Korean War widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of Dee’s father. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency?Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that heisn’t telling? The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with onewoman’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.

livingbygracepic.jpPaperback ISBN 978-1-938708-19-0 Kindle & Nook ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6

Let’s talk about this! Join the conversation here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Pause to consider some things that have been said to you, in person, through a text message, perhaps in a card or letter. Were any missives so special, you saved them? Tell us about it! How long might it have taken for the sender to craft the message? If a text, a few minutes. A card, maybe five. Five minutes that can mean the world to someone.

When we moved to Louisiana, I had a friend who often sent me unexpected cards. They were simple in content: “I enjoyed spending time with you today.” “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.” “Hoping you’re having a great week.” And yet, they touched me deeply, because they showed me she’d been thinking of me, and she valued me enough to take the time to send me a note. (A big wave and shout out to my sweet KC friend, Sandy, who’s sent me cards, texts, and emails on numerous occasions as well. 🙂 )

Now consider, how can you be more intentional with your words? Might you send an occasional card to a friend far away or someone enduring difficult circumstances? What about your spouse or your child? Could you slip a note in their lunch or under their pillow letting them know you’re thinking of them and that you love them? Try it.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Love Letters

Taming the Tongue

Resources you might find helpful:

Woman to Woman by Edna Ellison and Tricia Scribner

 

contemplativeThe big F.

When you sense a divine nudge, step out in faith even though your knees are buckling, sweat is cascading down your spine, and your stomach feels as if an army of ants not only took up residence but are engaged in some crazy acrobatics, and nothing, absolutely nothing, goes as planned.

In those moments, we may be tempted to raise our fists at God or hide away in our nice, safe homes, determined never, ever, not in a jabillion years, to do ministry again.

But what if our interpretations are wrong? What if what we perceive as failure is but a stepping stone–and a necessary one at that? The hard thing about faith, about having a finite and often faulty brain, is that we may never fully see the results or reasons behind our actions this side of heaven. I’ve shared before, looking back on my life, I remember countless patient, loving Christians whom I have no doubt were called to reach out to and love on me.

In fact, I remember one family in particular. They lived in Ferndale, and they had a daughter my age. In those days, I was a mess. And I imagine, there were many times I was quite difficult to be around. But this family took me in. Fed me, sheltered me, loved on me.

But despite their love and patience, I continued my downward spiral. I imagine they felt they had failed. Or like maybe they’d heard God wrong. Because if God calls us to do something, we have to succeed, right? We’ve got the power of Creator God behind us!

But what if His version of success is different from ours? What if He sees something we can’t–like the slow but persistent softening or healing of a heart?adultchild A heart that might take decades–maybe even a lifetime–to change? And what if in the process, He was working on our heart as well–molding, guiding, teaching, equipping, transforming us from who we are now to who He created us to be? What if every action, every assumed failure is necessary training toward our future calling?

You see, I believe God is sovereign over our successes and our failures. In fact, I believe each moment, He is watching over us with care and love, keeping an eye not only on our hearts but on our final destination as well.

As a reminder of this, I often consider two Scripture passages. They have become my life verses. I recite them when it feels as if God is raining blessings upon me and when it feels as if He’s deadbolted every door.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16 NLT).

We are God’s masterpiece. Camp out on that for a moment.

These verses have shaped my definition of success. They remind me God has a glorious plan for me, my life, and every person I touch while here on earth. And He’s taken full responsibility to perfect that which concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) My role is simple: To surrender fully and obey without hesitation, seeking to learn and grow from each and every event or encounter.

That’s it. And here’s the beautiful thing: If I do that, I have succeeded, regardless of how things turn out.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! How often do you contemplate your assumed failures, looking for the hidden lesson God might be trying to show you through them? Are you basing your success on those things you have no control over, like how many people will come to Christ during your ministry events, how many promotions you receive, or how large your paycheck will grow if you do X and Y? Or are you basing your success on the only thing you can control and that which will bring your Heavenly Father exceeding joy–the extent of your surrendered obedience?

Other blog posts you might enjoy:
Rejoicing in Closed Doors
What’s Your Jericho

Books you might find helpful:
<em>Beyond Me by Kathi Macias
Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby

Falling Forward by John C. Maxwell