The Joy Stealer

I woke up feeling defeated. My circumstances felt out of order and chaotic. I felt inadequate, insecure and well, down. It took me leaning in to Jesus, when I certainly didn’t feel like it, to realize we have a very real enemy. In this world we’re so distracted by our schedules, our jobs, our kids, or our Netflix marathon that we forget there’s a real enemy that wants to kill, steal and destroy. I don’t know about you, ladies, but it always seems to surprise me when things are going great, we’re drawing closer to Him, we’re taking steps of obedience, and then BAM, somehow everything starts to go wrong. You would think I would learn by now that our enemy doesn’t want us walking in humble confidence in God. He doesn’t want us finding joy in our circumstances no matter what they are. He doesn’t want us to find joy in obedience to God’s unique calling on our lives. Things are going great in your marriage, your workplace, your social life and then the whispers and lies seem to enter in to your mind. You look up and problems seem to be all around. Shouldn’t things be getting easier given our new commitment to live out God’s plan for our lives?!

I heard at a conference last year that God has a unique, God-sized dream for us all, and we have a very real enemy that doesn’t want us to walk it out. The enemy will steal our joy so that we take ourselves out of the game. Have you ever heard of the whispers? They start creeping in causing insecurity, condemnation and resentment. Where did these feelings come from?!

The joy stealer steps in. Now listen, I’m not the kind of person that thinks every hardship is an attack. I’m pretty practical, so sometimes even recognizing the attack comes way after I’m already feeling well-defeated. But once again, during a time of recommitment to putting Him before all things, I felt the pushback. We had an insanely busy holiday season (like every other adult with kids and jobs) and after our birthdays and such, Lent was a perfect time to reposition our hearts. We had some major goals during Lent, but most importantly it was to focus on Him first again, our marriage and raising our tiny human. I’d been overwhelmed with life and all the demands, so I needed to step back and focus on what mattered. Things were going great for about a minute and then the proverbial crap hit the fan. My marriage seemed to be in a major pit, we had a distance between us like the grand canyon (ok, I might be exaggerating that, but at the time it feels epic), resentment and insecurity started creeping into both of our minds. The enemy was using our circumstances to create wedges. He was stealing my joy from taking steps of obedience and filling me with sadness, discontentment, even jealousy for my friends who were flourishing in new careers. Why would I feel this way when I was taking steps to fulfill my own dream? Our enemy doesn’t want us living out of abundance in Him. I truly believe we can get ourselves into these kinds of messes (which I do often), but I also think it’s naive to dismiss actual, spiritual warfare. Every time things are going great, big moves of God are on the horizon, we’ve actually been praying hard for something, our world starts to crumble (or feels that way).

Newsflash, battles are hard. Battles are to be fought by warriors. They don’t call it Spiritual Warfare for nothing. Our battle is hard, but the battle is HIS. Now, as women, we don’t have to get up and start making a to-do list of how to win this battle. We need to stop, BE STILL (which I’ve realized is painful for me to do, I don’t even like being in the car without distraction), and get in prayer, prayer allows us to take the fight to God and allows Him to fight for us.

Did you know that we’re POWERFUL?! Luke 10:9 says, “Behold, I have given you IMG_1568authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  We literally have the power to rebuke demons (Say what?!!) So get on your face, lift it up to God, those fears, that condemnation, those insecurities, those problems, and allow God to get in this fight because He is fighting from victory, not for victory. Rebuke the enemy in Jesus’ name! I’ve literally said it out loud before, he has no place in my home, my marriage, my family, or my mind. Now at times this feels silly. We live in a practical world where angels and demons seem more like a new series on Hulu than a reality, but believe me, there are times you need to speak out of the Holy Spirit within you and rebuke the enemy trying to steal your joy, rebuke the enemy trying to derail your marriage, rebuke the enemy trying to send you into depression. If you believe Scripture to be true, and I do, then saying those words, rebuking his feeble lies, than he HAS to FLEE. That’s right, you command demons to flee your life, your mind, your marriage, your home, and they literally have to. I don’t know about y’all but that gives me a freaking She-Ra feeling like never before!

We’re a little over half-way through Lent now, and many of us are trying to draw closer to Jesus or take next steps of faith in obedience towards that next thing God is calling us to do. Realize there is an enemy that wants you to fail. Just as it’s exhilarating to hear from God and take steps of obedience, don’t forget it’ won’t always be easy. So put on the full armor of God, preach the Gospel to yourself, and remind yourself that in Him you are more than a conqueror. Remind yourself that you fight from victory and not for it. Remind yourself you have a good, good Father who loves you and has an abundant life for you. Don’t settle for the lies. Don’t settle for the mundane. Pick yourself up off the floor and keep praying that prayer you’ve prayed for months and years now. I heard recently that it doesn’t matter the amount of faith you have, but who your faith is in. Our faith isn’t in our own weaknesses, our own inadequacies and short-comings, our faith is in God, the all-powerful King of the Universe. Keep up the good fight ladies, and remember He gives you enough strength and grace every single day, and with that, He also promises REST. 

I’ll end with this because it came on when I was writing this blog and I can’t help but think the Holy Spirit was using Carrie Underwood and Ludacris’ words to strengthen me in that moment – the Lord works in mysterious ways 😉

I am invincible, unbreakable
Unstoppable, unshakeable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion
You’re gonna know my name
You can’t hurt me now
I can’t feel the pain
I was made for this, yeah, I was born to win
I am the champion. 

Because IN HIM, we are enough. In Him, we’re more than conquerors, and He who is in us is greater than he who is in this world. We are champions. We know how this story ends, and we’re on the winning side. I refuse to allow the enemy to derail any of the plans God has called me to or any of the blessings in my life. My prayer is that God uses this to speak life into even just ONE person who’s under attack or one person who’s allowed their circumstances to overtake them. I pray God speaks life into just ONE person that is feeling defeated or depressed, insecure or inadequate. See the attack for what it is and realize we have the power that has already defeated it.

That Dirty Word: Comparison

We live and breathe in one of the most amazing times to be a woman. Historically, we didn’t have value. We didn’t have a voice, and our jobs were in support of men’s dreams and aspirations. Culturally, it was jacked up, and in many countries, even our own, it’s still jacked up. But, If we look throughout Scripture, women weren’t just important, they played major roles in the salvation of the world! Women were valuable and had a voice. So, here we are now, in a culture that now celebrates women (FINALLY)! We celebrate moms, women in leadership, mom’s who also want to work outside the home, moms who are CEO’s of the home, we celebrate our individuality and our unique attributes. We celebrate our dreams and help one another accomplish those dreams. But, even in this amazing time in culture, we still struggle with one major setback: comparison. 

My pastor, Joby Martin, said once, “Stop comparing what you know about yourself to someone else’s highlight reel.” We often compare what we KNOW about ourselves (with all of our flaws, weaknesses, failures and inadequacies) with what we don’t know about other people. Ugh. at 36 years old, I still get caught up in the comparison trap.

Social Media makes this worse. We want a husband, so we only see all of the obnoxious, “I said YES!” ring pics. We want a baby, so all we see are the “This November, we are welcoming one more to our family of three!” (while their dog holds a Big Brother pic). We want to lose weight, so all we see are the friends who are posting bathing suit pics of six-pack abs. Why is it that we compare ourselves, with the flaws we are so aware of, to someone else’s highlight reel? Not only does this comparison send us spiraling into a striving mentality to be like someone else, it also can cause us to either feel high and mighty or less than, neither of which are good or God-intended.

Comparing yourself to others causes judgement, insecurity and division. If we could just see into someone’s life, we would see that everyone has struggles, failures or insecurities. What happens when we begin to compare ourselves to other people is that we automatically have a judgmental perspective – we either immediately determine that we’re better than that person or phew, at least we don’t do that! Or, on the other hand, we end up feeling defeated because we just can’t live up to their perfection. This happens a lot, even for us Christian women, as we can’t seem to see that just because she doesn’t struggle with the same thing I do, we both struggle. We both need each other and we both need grace. If we could be more real about those things, or real about ANYTHING, then we could stop comparing ourself to a standard that doesn’t exist, allowing us to love one another more, and celebrate one another more too. 

Leave your judgement at the door. I can tell you one thing the world definitely doesn’t need: your judgement. One of my favorite quotes is, “You cannot simultaneously look down your nose at someone else and look up at the cross.” (Another Joby Martin quote) The fact that women are judging one another left and right is a huge reason we have so much division, so many eating disorders, so much guilt that turns into striving and self-absorption. We think if people don’t do things the way we do, then they’re wrong. It’s easy to see someone’s bad moment and think more highly of yourself. Don’t even get me started on mom judgement. I can’t even begin to tell you how many women I’ve wanted to punch from opening their mouths in judgement (don’t worry, I didn’t actually punch anyone.) And listen, I get it, now that I’m a mom there have totally been times I looked at a situation and thought, what in the heck is she doing?! But even in those moments, I have to give myself a good talking to. If we believe the Gospel to be true for our lives, then we live with an attitude of gratitude. We know how much we fall short, but have been given new life that we never deserved. So, if we believe that to be true, then entitlement and judgement have NO place here. 

Old wounds can make us stronger or cripple us. I heard once that your deepest point of pain in life, that experience that rocked your world, scarred you in a way that changed you forever. It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll operate from that wound long after. With that in mind, I’ve realized some of my biggest insecurities are from old wounds. I can let those wounds cripple me or I can walk confidently in who God made me to be because of those wounds. 

I had a bad experience as a little 5th or 6th grader. Now, at 36, I consider myself to be a tough chick. I’ve always been independent and considered myself confident. BUT, I realize now that there are still things lingering from those few years of torment. Around that time I was sort of “bullied” by my best friends. I didn’t even realize it was bonafide “bullying” until someone said it to me one day.  The girls who I was supposed to trust the most made me feel less or inadequate. For a little tiny middle schooler, it was a huge deal in my world. I’ve realized now that it’s lingered in me as an adult. Those feelings of insecurity still exist and I compare myself to other girls. When I see how different I am (whatever that difference may be) I automatically feel less-than. Even qualities I’ve NEVER wanted in others, when I see other girls connect over these qualities, I automatically feel inadequate. Why is that? God made me who I am, and that is BELOVED. The second greatest command in Scripture is to love others as yourself, but the problem with comparing is that we are neither loving ourselves well or loving others well either. I think He wants us to be able to celebrate one another’s successes and strengths, and in the end, He made us all so different so that we would HAVE to work together as a family to accomplish His mission. I won’t let those old wounds drive me to insecurity and comparison anymore. I’m going to use them to fuel a desire to intentionally celebrate other women. Actively calling out those qualities you in admire in someone else can be a huge blessing to that person too. 

You were made in His Image. God made YOU exactly how you are. It’s only when we realize who we ARE in Him, that we can also realize what we aren’t, and that’s okay! God gave us all different qualities, weaknesses and strengths, so that we would also need one another. I’m not sure why we just assume that if we don’t have xyz like blah blah blah, that we are less than. It’s insulting to your Creator, so be YOU and be confident in that.

Shine Like Stars, Ladies. Scripture says, “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” I used  think that meant do good, be perfect, and obey the rules. But what I’m realizing is that God wants us to be FREE. He wants us to be authentic, real, and speak life into each other as women. It’s pretty hard to love others if we are so self-absorbed in our own short-comings. We all have bumps and bruises. Walk confidently in who God made you to be and shine like freakin’ stars! IMG_1344

You do you, boo. Life has thrown us all a curveball at one time or another. Our scars run deep. We may have so many insecurities we can’t even begin to work through them. But, just know, you’re not alone, and your scars, literal and mental, make you the strong woman you are today. So instead of hiding our flaws, failures and struggles, let’s be authentic and real, allowing others in so that we can celebrate one another and love one another better. That’s true sisterhood, and I need more of that in my life. 

SO….You do you, boo. You is smart, you is kind, and you is important. You are beautiful, you have a voice and you are more valuable than you could ever think or imagine. 

I’ll leave you with this quote from another blog I recently wrote. It was my biggest prayer for Kennedy when I was pregnant and I still pray this for her, mostly because I want it for myself too! 

“My biggest prayer for ALL women is that we would be strong and fierce, that we would lead when others follow, that we would defend the weak and be so rooted in who God made us to be that we spend no time being insecure, judging or comparing.” – click here to read this blog Bold. Fierce. Confident. 

 

 

 

 

BOLD. FIERCE. CONFIDENT.

I don’t know about all of you, but I love a good strong woman character in movies or shows. Currently I’ve been really into the whole vikings thing with shield maidens. These women are the epitome of what I want to be. They are strong, they are equal to men, they are confident and fierce, yet they are still soft and feminine at the same time. 

The reality. Now, the reality is, I’m pretty weak. Like I can’t even massage my husband’s hurt neck for more than a few minutes because of my weak little arms. So, I definitely couldn’t hold up a shield and fight with the men. BUT, I’ve decided what I love in these women is their strength and confidence in who they are as women. These women aren’t sitting around worrying what other women think of them. They aren’t changing their identity to be who some guy wants them to be. They are strong, they are fierce and they are passionate. These women live with purpose. They love passionately and they fight with purpose. 

My biggest prayer for kennedy when I was pregnant was that she would be strong and fierce, that she would lead when others follow, that she would defend the weak and be so rooted in who God made her to be that she spends no time being insecure, judging or comparing. I think I prayed this so much for her because I wanted it so much for myself. I spent way too much time worrying about what others thought. I spent way too much time comparing my weaknesses to other people’s strengths. I spent way too much time changing my identity to woo the affections of a boy. It all came from a place of insecurity because I wasn’t seeking God and who He made me to be. 

The truth is that God created each of us with purpose, a unique, God-sized purpose. We can live out this life with that purpose if we would only abide in Him, ask Him to use us and live fiercely in view of eternity. Our Pastor says often that the enemy will whisper condemnation into our ears. We feel weak, we feel inadequate or “unfit for use.” We feel mundane and end up thinking, “this can’t be it. There has to be more.”

The power of the Holy Spirit. If we truly have surrendered our lives to Jesus, then we have the Holy Spirit within us. This means we have the power of the God of the freaking universe (is it okay to say freakin in relation to the King?)! We are more than conquerors and just like these shield maidens who are fierce and bold and confident, He made us all to be that too! No amount of success, girl time, promotions or wine can give us that same feeling. We can only be this fierce and bold IN HIM. 

We all have a voice and we all have a purpose. Being a woman in this culture can feel like a constant battle for respect. Being a mom can feel mundane and make us feel like we lost our identity in these tiny humans. We went from being kick-A, wild and free, to mundane and boring, with spit up or food on us. It can cripple any of us or at the very least leave us feeling exhausted. But, what I think God wants us to understand is that through Him, we are truly warrior princesses! We fight the battle against the enemy everyday for ourselves, for our children, and for our families. 

Put on the full armor of God, stand up and fight. Fight against the lies of the enemy. Fight against the whispers saying you aren’t enough. Fight against the world trying to distract you from real purpose or bring you down. Every single one of us have the ability to be fierce and bold and confident in who He made us to be. Now will we have different strengths? Yes and amen. Will I ever be good at crafting and making my family gourmet meals? No. Not ever. But together, as a body of women who love Jesus, we are a fierce army, able to set the world on fire for Him. We, together, can set women free to real purpose and real life all. over. the. world. 

Now here’s the thing about tapping into that fierceness that I have trouble with, we have to stay close to Him to receive it. Now I don’t mean we start down an exhausting performance road or making ourselves worthy. I mean we stay close. Just like we make time for our kids or closest friends, we make Him a priority. We live out of His flowing water instead of our own retention ponds. We tap into His strength and His power and be intentional, and then just wait and see how he sets our hearts on fire with purpose. 

Don’t know where to start? Start with making time for Him each day. What fills you? What’s your love language? Mine is Quality Time, so I make sure I spend time in His Word and talking to Him usually through journaling, or praying in the car. I get exhausted or anxious when I have an issue and I take it to every single person before I take it to Him in prayer. So stop and pray. Pray for purpose and that He would use you. Pray He would set your heart on fire with purpose even in the daily rhythms of life. Pray for boldness to be used, and just watch what He does in you. Don’t feel like He can use you? Me too. But that’s a lie. So pray now that His Truth will be louder than the enemy, louder than the lies and louder than this world. Stay close to Him. Make time for what makes you feel close to Him, and watch how He gives you a whole different lens to view this world and your life through. It’s truly life-saving and brings so much freedom. Next thing you know we’ll all be gathering together with war paint, grabbing our shields and ready for battle. Man, that picture pumps me up! 

I’ll leave you with a quote my pastor, Joby Martin, reminded me of when talking with him about my God-given purpose. It’s from the book, “Wild at Heart” that was written for men, but I think totally applies to women too. 

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs are men (and women) who have come alive.” 

New Year’s Resolutions. Eww.

Well, with a new year upon us, everyone has been thinking about how to make this year better than the last. We’re making our lists even if we say we don’t make new year’s resolutions. We’re going to work out more. We’re going to drink less wine. We’re going to be more attentive to our kids, and love our spouses better. We’re going to do our quiet times everyday, and be more present with our friends and family…blah blah blah. The aspirations go on and on. That’s why when I think of New Year’s Resolutions, I think…Eww (Insert Jimmy Fallon voice).

Here’s why I’m going to TRY and not make any lists this year: I don’t need any other reasons to feel like a failure or let myself down. There, I said it. As women, we have SO many demands upon us each and every day. Our culture makes us feel like we have to be perfect. We have to look perfect at work. We have to look perfect in our yoga pants and trendy workout “activewear.” We have to be up to date with the latest health trend, feed our kids organic and make our own baby food. We are supposed to have houses that look like Pottery Barn where no signs of living can be present. We have to have kids who are well-behaved, great at sports and make straight A’s. We have to be hard workers, but also not be too aggressive in the workplace or else we’re offensive. We have to be super active in our kid’s PTA, active in a non-profit or a good-cause organization, and also be able to make a wreath out of kitchen household supplies. You might as well throw in there secret ninja skills allowing us to defend our children from attack, paramedics, licensed therapists (basically), and sex goddesses. The demands on women these days are given to us by our culture, our own selves comparing and judging, our friends or even our family. And at the end of the day, after feeling all of these demands on us like that red dot that appears when someone has a gun pointing at you, we just want to throw our hands in the air and say, “I give up!”

Stop the striving. I’ve come to the conclusion, and believe me, I haven’t mastered the concept, but we have to stop with all of this. We are frustrated and angry because we can’t be ALL THINGS to all people, and rest in this momma, you aren’t enough. We aren’t enough, we can’t be enough, we can’t be the women who have and do all things. We can try, and most of us do, but we just end up feeling defeated, judged or like failures. So, my non-new year’s resolution is to stop the striving. I want to stop comparing my weaknesses to other women’s strengths. I want to stop feeling less-than because I don’t know how to make Kennedy’s dresses BY HAND or iron a shirt (sorry Daniel.) I want to rejoice in the way God created me to be, and then in return be able to celebrate the things I’m not in other women around me! If we can actually do this, I feel like we would experience SO much freedom to be ourselves, be who God created us to be, and love one another much, much better.

I’m not enough. My second non-new year’s resolution is this: I’m not enough, but in IMG_9820Him, I am. God created us to need Him. He makes His power perfect in our weakness, which is something that gives me a TON of comfort. It’s ONLY when I’m depending on Him, that I can actually do all the things I need to do, and feel free to be who He created me to be. It’s only when I’m making time for Him that I am a better mom, a better worker, a better wife and a better friend. When I’m abiding in Him I’m also not comparing myself to other women. I’m not worrying about how I fall short because I’m so confident in who He made me to be, and that gives me the freedom to love others with an unbridled kind of love. THAT’s where real peace and real joy come from. So this year, I’m going to stop striving after the things that WILL NOT bring me joy, and I’m going to rest in Him. I’m going to pray hard for God to reveal His unique purpose for me on this earth, and pray He gives me the ability to live it out. I’m not going to settle for the mundane, thinking “Is this it?” I’m going to run after Him, and a natural result of that will be not feeling like I’ve let people down, and not letting myself down for the 900th time. I want to get rid of the things that distract me from going deeper with God, and you know what that is for me? BUSYNESS. When I try and do all the things I think I should be doing, I’m left with nothing and my family hurts because of it. So, I’m cutting out the busyness and saying “no” more. I’m going to abide in Him, be who He created me to be, and start celebrating who God made other women in my life to be too.

So as I end this New Year’s Resolution rant, I hope that you guys will join me in this endeavor! Let’s all rest in who He created us to be in all of our strengths but also all of our glorious mess. Let’s stop trying to do it all and just be. Let’s love more and compare less. Less make time to be with our Prince of Peace, and be better because of it. Cheers, ladies! Here’s to an incredible 2018!

The Holiday Hustle is real, y’all.

This month has been a complete whirl-wind of traveling, shopping, list-making and stress. I’ve literally felt more mom-guilt, friend-guilt, and work-guilt this month than I have in the entire year combined. The expectations are high and the time to do it all is low. The Holiday Hustle is real, y’all, and it’s in full swing. As Christmas is drawing near (ONLY ONE WEEK LEFT), I thought to myself, I need a perspective shift. Where is my Christmas cheer?! Why am I freaking out about the (insert cuss word) Elf, the number of Christmas gifts I bought each person, and attending all 27 Christmas parties we’ve been invited to? I started feeling more like a grinch as the demands kept piling up.

So with only seven days until Christmas, now is the time to take the joy back. Here are a few reminders to help kick us out of grinch-mode and straight into true Christmas joy (But, if this doesn’t work, buy more wine):

“It’s like that book I read in the 9th grade that said, ‘Tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.'” – Cher (Clueless) Cher really had some incredible knowledge there. As I was making my to-do lists, my Christmas gift lists, scheduling sitters, etc. I realized that I hadn’t done anything to help teach my child about the meaning of the season. We hadn’t chosen an angel tree family, served anywhere or even talked much about how other kids don’t even have mommies and daddies that love them on Christmas. I realized I had missed a major part of Christmas, sharing the love of Jesus with others by helping someone else. I spent some time praying for God to reveal someone we could help this holiday season and listened. Every time I’ve ever done that, He always brings someone to mind and chooses to use us to bless someone else. You’re probably a way better person than me and have already done that, but if not, take some time to do it now! And once you’ve done it, nothing about Christmas compares to the feeling of blessing someone else!

Learn to say, “No.” I realize we are a little late in the game to start saying, “No.” But with Christmas only a week away, decide now to take full advantage of the world. This one is especially hard for me. Not really because I feel like I have to please everyone so much as in the moment, it sounds like a super fun idea. It’s only days before when I realize I have an event obligation literally every. single night. that I realize I’ve over-committed myself and now I just hate Christmas (Sort of). I had to stop and realize that my priority is to my little family, and if saying “no” to some of the parties or obligations makes for a more joyful Christmas, then that’s okay. EVERYONE is busy, so saying no probably won’t come as a shock to anyone else, and not only will they understand, they’ll probably wish they had said no a few times themselves. So go ahead and proudly pull out the old, “No.” card or feel free to RSVP “Not Attending” with a guilt-free conscience. If mommy is happy, everyone in the house is happy.

Be present over perfect. I’ve been stressing for weeks now because my entire family is coming in town for Christmas. So not only have I gone over and over a list of things to do to my house, I also have been going over and over a list of fun things to do so my whole family has the BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. But, what I’ve decided is that I’ve been stressing so much over these details that I forgot to be present with little family. I’ve been more concerned with cleaning than singing “jingle bells” with my little nugget. So from here on out, I’m going to start being present over making sure everything is perfect. Your family won’t remember if the baseboards were dusted, but they will remember the quality times and laughter.

Live in view of the Gospel – with a grateful heart. I don’t go shopping very often. I don’t live super close to a mall (thank goodness for Daniel), so oftentimes I don’t see things I want until I start Christmas shopping. Therein ensues the “stuff” coveting. And not to mention I start seeing everyone’s living rooms and begin to covet people’s houses, people’s holiday decor, and maybe even their dog. It’s a downward spiral of discontentment in a season where we should be rejoicing all that we have, not feeling like our life is lacking without all of this other stuff we don’t have. Scripture says, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it’s given Him from heaven.” If we actually believe this to be true, then we’ll stop ourselves from wanting all of this stuff that ultimately won’t make us any happier or more fulfilled, and we’ll stop and be grateful for all that we have. 

Remember, the holidays can be lonely. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that big holidays, like Christmas, can be a very hard time for anyone who has experienced loss. For anyone who has lost a loved one, or even longing for that missing piece like a spouse or a child, it can make the holidays extra hard. So in the midst of your holiday, take some time to invite someone who doesn’t have anyone. Take some time to reach out to or love on someone who is going through a hard time. Sometimes just acknowledging someone’s pain can make a huge difference. I bet if you are more aware of this fact, you’ll notice those in your life going through something like this, and you can be more intentional about loving them through it.

Don’t let the prince of peace be another item on your to-do list. Did you know that a super-natural peace, like a natural Xanax from above, is available to you and me despite our circumstances?! If we would just stop acting like reading the Bible or saying some prayers is an item on our to-do list and just start making it a priority to spend time with our Heavenly Father, then we can have that peace (EVEN AT CHRISTMAS). Ask Him for that peace this week so that you can truly have rest and joy amidst the chaos of the holiday season. Invite Him into your holiday hustle and He’ll change your whole perspective on it all.

Reminder: the presents “high” quickly fades, so focus on experiences. We spend months thinking about, making lists, and searching for the perfect Christmas gifts. Or more likely for me, spend a couple weeks FREAKING out and mass-shopping for Christmas. My family is also one of those that goes WAY over board on gifts. I’m like, “Honey, I only have 7 presents for my mom, what else should I get her?” To which my very sensible husband rolls his eyes. But every single year, we wake up Christmas morning with excitement and after some coffee and maybe some mimosas poured, we begin to open the many presents. And just like every year, right when it’s all done, with wrapping paper spread out all over the floor, there is a moment of let down. It’s not that Christmas wasn’t amazing or you don’t love all of your gifts, it’s just that we forget that the “stuff” is awesome but will never satisfy. So keep that in mind this last week before Christmas when you’re freaking out at Walmart on Christmas Eve trying to find the perfect 97th gift. Instead of putting so much of your time and energy into gifts, think about some fun experiences for your family to do. Think about some fun games or new traditions you can come up with. I promise your entire family will remember the laughter much more than the gifts. Can you remember any gifts you gave or received last year?!

 

Put the phone away. Just do it. Even for an hour. Stop with the to-do lists, demands, recipes, emails, and just put it away. Take some time to just enjoy your kids. Take some time to listen to worship music or even Christmas music while watching your family around you. Pop open some bubbly, grab your family or some friends and watch a Christmas movie. Life is too short to miss the joy of this season! Or if it’s a hard season, don’t numb yourself by being busy. Lean into the only One who can bring you peace amidst the loneliness. Lean in and tell God how you feel, and ask for the super-natural peace He promises to wash over you today.

Family can be complicated. With Christmas being just days away, it can bring up a lot of emotion and anxiety for some people. No one has a perfect family, which means we all have family drama from time to time. So, I know that for some, spending quality time with family can be something you may be dreading or hard to face. I also know there are deep wounds there and sometimes family is the hardest to love. But one thing I would encourage you to do today is to forgive and remember that you forgave. Meaning through HIS strength forgive past hurts, and then when you face the person and are filled with a lot of bad emotions, remind yourself that you forgave because you were forgiven when you didn’t deserve it too. Life is too short to hold grudges because you could turn around and they could be gone. So pray, pray, pray. Pray for God to help you walk into this Christmas with His Spirit, with forgiveness in your heart and filled with His love. Because remember this too, you may be the only picture of Jesus they ever see.

I pray that every single one of you has an amazing Christmas this year and experiences a lot of laughter with friends and family, remembering to celebrate Jesus, the light of the world, being born to save us all! Happy Birthday, Jesus!

And, Merry Christmas from the Gilhams ~

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365 Days of Grace

I woke up feeling defeated. I hadn’t been very obedient to spend time with Jesus in a while. We got “busy” and I felt distant. My husband put it so well as he sat down to do his quiet time for the first time in a while, “That awkward moment when you have to approach someone you feel a little distant from or feel you’ve let down.” 

He was right, the greater the distance and time, the busier I got, the more awkward I felt approaching my Heavenly Father. The ways I had failed as a daughter of His, the ways I failed as a mother, as a worker, as a spouse, all started rolling in. I had missed the mark in every way possible and I felt unworthy. 

The truth is, we are never worthy, and thank God for sending His Son to bear that weight for us! If we were actually worthy, any person on the planet except for Jesus, then He would have died for nothing. Grace as a free gift is completely and utterly incomprehensible to me as a human. My love waivers. My love is so conditional and my happiness circumstantial. I simply cannot fathom a God of the universe that sent His Son to pay my price now and for always. Pastor Joby often says, why is it that we understand the Gospel when we first get saved, but after that we forget what the Gospel means and move on to working for our salvation? Baffling. 

As I woke up feeling distant, reminded of all the ways I’m a failure, disobedient, snapped at my child, didn’t get the house clean, and wasn’t as much in prayer for my husband for a really big deal in his life as I should have been, I was reminded that we have 365 Days of Grace. 365 Days in a year and 365 new chances. THANK YOU,  LORD, FOR GRACE! Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave this God I love. Oh how I can relate so much to that line. Even when I know the Truth I wander off and forget it every single day. I forget that His love and faithfulness to us, as His children, is not dependent upon my faithfulness or my performance. Not ever. And wow, does that bring me so much peace. 

His kindness leads us to repentance. I think sometimes God sends us reminders of this by blessing us when we feel at our worst. Times when I feel I most do not deserve blessings from God is often when He does something amazing and I’m reminded that I don’t have to run and hide from Him, but because I’m a failure at pretty much everything without Him, it should cause me to run TO Him in my mess and not away. He doesn’t want to scold me, He doesn’t want to condemn me. All He wants is for me to Abide in Him because He knows as a good, good Dad, that’s where we find real life, real peace and non-circumstantial joy. His grace is sufficient and how dare we diminish the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. I have to preach this to myself everyday when I feel defeated, or when I mess up, which is often. 

He’s a good Dad and wants to give good gifts to his children. I don’t know how you guys feel about dads, but I love looking at Him as my good Father. I had a great dad and so seeing God as a perfect Father with a perfect love gives me a lot of comfort and reminds me to stop listening to the lies. And if you had a crappy dad, it should give you great peace too because God is the only Father you need and He loves you more than you can fathom. In times where I am disobedient, just as a good dad would do, He disciplines us, not because he’s mean, vengeful or wants us to suffer, but because we are His children and He knows what is much better for us. As a mom, I can relate to this so well. It’s mostly in those moments where Kennedy is screaming and throwing a fit because she wants an old tupperware of steak from a week ago instead of the buttery pancakes I’m making for her. I’m sure God looks at us like, “Seriously? Don’t you know how much I love you and how much I want an abundant life for you? Stop holding on to those things that lead to destruction and accept the abundant, purposeful life I have for you.” And in those times of discipline (which is often – apparently Daniel and I need a lot of sharpening) I look back in hindsight and can see how much He was protecting me from going off a cliff. What felt like annoying discipline and not freedom, was actually a Good Father leading me to something so much better. 

He never changes. We live in an ever-changing world. Our world is broken and so are the people. Heck, I change every single day. My feelings about things change, my mind changes, I might as well be nicknamed “Fickle-McGee” because of how much I change. But what an amazing blessing and peace of mind to know the God of the Universe never changes. He always stays the same no matter what we do. His character always remains in tact and fickle is something completely opposite of Him. And as a fickle women, the fact that God, who controls all things, always stays the same gives me great comfort. IMG_8570

His love isn’t conditional. His love doesn’t waver and He never looks at you with disappointment. I have heard the analogy that most of us feel like God constantly looks at us with a simmering aggravation and disappointment because we just can’t get this thing right. If I’m honest, even though I know this isn’t true, I probably feel like this more often than not. I get in a great routine of waking early and spending time with Him, I’m really nailing this being a Christian thing and then, BAM! Life happens and my husband is sick, my kid is sick and then I’m sick so I’m back to being a failure at all the things I want to do but just can’t make happen. I really mean to be more intentional, to love my neighbors better, to spend time ministering to others but then the rhythms of my life get jacked up and I’m all off-kilter. But, I can rest in this fact: God’s love for me isn’t conditional. It doesn’t waiver or change, and He doesn’t love me any more or any less based on my performance that day or that week. God’s faithfulness to me stays the same whether or not I “do” all the right things. His grace is sufficient and His love is unlike any other love we can fathom as humans. So in those moments I feel like a failure, the whispers of the enemy get in my head and make me feel distant and unworthy, I can remind myself that He loves me the same today, yesterday and for all time, and He is never disappointed in me because when He sees me He sees Jesus, and Jesus said, “It is finished.” 

Jesus paid the price now and forever, so that free gift I received carries on now for all of my past, present and future failures. ALL OF THEM. I can wake up each new day, run into His arms of grace and have a close, intimate relationship with Him. I can boast in the fact that I pretty much suck (sorry mom, she hates that word) without Him. So instead of letting distance grow between us, I can run, not timidly walk, but run to Him with full confidence of His unchanging grace and love for me. 

I’ll leave you with a lyric from a song my husband played over and over again this morning (it was only annoying on the 5th repeat) as he was reminded of his 365 Days of Grace (with a tear in his eye I might add – sorry baby, it’s just true, men can cry every once in a while): 

“Old things have passed away, your love has stayed the same, your constant grace remains the cornerstone.” Amen. 

So instead of being down on yourself for your failures or beating yourself up for not performing the way you think you should, settle in to His arms of grace that are new every. single. morning. 

Our greatest commodity – TIME.

I must admit, since my thing is being real with you ladies, this is a real struggle for me. I tend to be very selfish with my time. I don’t really realize it so much until I feel convicted to do something with my time that I didn’t plan on, that puts a wrinkle in my plans or routine, or something I don’t feel like doing.

The other day someone challenged us with some questions. One of them was, “Do you treat the time you have been trusted with like God is watching?” It was originally about money and I casually kept reading past that one…then he changed it to time, and I was like, “Oh crap.”

Small decisions. Sometimes when we think about ministry, we think about these huge things like leaving our jobs to work for a church or non-profit. Or we think about throwing in the towel of domestic life and living in Africa for a year. But, I heard recently an example of blessing others in the name of Jesus in the small decisions we make every day. To me, that was much more relatable. If God calls us to love others, then how are we actually doing that different than this world? It’s a question I think about often, because despite the fact that I’m saved because of what Jesus did on the cross, and through sanctification I’m a little more like Him and less like my ugly self, at the end of the day, sometimes I don’t feel very different than someone who doesn’t know Jesus. So how am I loving others, and my first thought is – MY TIME.

Just show up. Isn’t it true that when you are going through something hard or even with the people that you love, all you really want is for people to show up? You don’t want a gift (although those are nice…Daniel), you don’t want someone to read off some Scripture to you or give you a pep talk, what you really want or need rather is someone to just show up and care. IMG_8334

When Daniel and I walked through what we love to refer to as our “year from hell” the things I remember most aren’t some word or phrase, a plant sent to us or what not (although that was very sweet too – even though, newsflash, I have the blackest thumb ever), what I remember most are the people that just came alongside us, showed up at the hospital with coffee for me when I was staying with Daniel. I remember the people that brought us dinner and just came and sat with me while I cried. And even through the triumphs of life, not just the tragedy, I remember the people who came over to see and hold Kennedy. I remember the people who wanted to clean my house for me and sit down with us and actually MAKE US DINNER so we could rest. And when I look back on all of that, I remember most the people that took the time out of their busy lives and showed us they loved us with their time.

Be open to opportunities to bless people with your time. And even as I type this, it pains me because it’s such a hard thing for me. I’m a creature of habit and flourish in routine. I love my comfort zones and have always been a very independent person. But over the years, and even now, I realize more than ever that my greatest commodity is time, and I need to die to myself each day and be open to who God wants me to share some of it with. This may mean putting down my laptop for an hour to play Play-Doh (Oh how I hate Play-Doh) with my daughter, or putting down my phone for a bit to listen to Daniel talk about his day (even though I still don’t fully understand his job so it sort of sounds like Arabic to me). It may mean getting my selfish mind off of myself and MY routine, and asking God who I can bless that week, who NEEDS someone to show up and care. It really comes down to being intentional each day. Be intentional about being an instrument God could use to bless or comfort someone else even in the normal routines of your life. Intentionality is everything, and I promise if we would ask God to make us aware of those opportunities around us, not only would He use us, we would find more joy in being used by Him too!

So, as much as I love how God uses these blogs to encourage other people, this one more than ever is also for me. I need to continually ask myself, “How am I using the time God trusted me with this week to love other people?”