Rejection’s Gifts




I felt my body go numb as I struggled to make sense of his words. “The numbers are lower than we anticipated . . . We feel really bad doing this to you . . . We’’ll try to find a place for you.”

It was a few days before the start of a new school year. Just weeks earlier, I accepted a position to teach 5th grade and had been busily preparing my classroom for the arrival of my students.  This job was an answer to prayer. My husband was in his second year of medical school, and in addition to his tuition, we had to take out a loan to cover our basics: rent, utilities, and groceries. This job would help ease the financial strain and provide us with good benefits. But, this job was meeting much more than a financial need for us. This job would be a life giving breath for my weary soul. This job would be a fresh start.

The previous year, I taught 3rd grade just inside the beltway of Washington D.C. Fresh out of college, I walked into a school where overcrowded classrooms, lack of qualified teachers, and fist fights at recess were the norm. As a white teacher in a predominantly black community, I struggled to connect with not only my colleagues, but my students and their families as well. In my class of thirty, there were multiple students with behavioral issues and some that I feared were being abused at home. I was at a loss as to how I could meet their academic needs when they carried such heavy burdens upon their small shoulders each day. It was an extremely difficult year, and one that I was so thankful to see come to an end. 

This new job . . . this new school . . . this new community . . . they held the promise of a fresh start for me as an educator. So you can imagine my devastation when my principal told me that the classroom I had been given, my 5th grade students, was to be handed over to another teacher. They didn’t have the student numbers to justify all of the hirings they had done over the summer.  They would honor my contract, but as the last hire, until they could find a place for me within the district, I was to serve as an assistant for this other teacher.  I was asked to help her finish setting up the classroom, share the lessons I had planned for the first week, and then assist her in the classroom for at least the first few weeks of school. You see, this teacher was also a new hire. This was her very first year in education, and she had been preparing for weeks to welcome a class of first graders. Suddenly, she found herself being given a new grade, a new classroom, a new set of students, and now a new assistant. Those next few days were incredibly hard and incredibly awkward for both of us.

In the weeks to follow, I really struggled. I didn’t understand why God would give me a job only to suddenly take it away. Though I wanted to trust that He had a plan in all of this, it was hard. Did He really have a plan? Was there really a purpose in all of this pain? The answer was yes, but it would take some time for me to see it. As I leaned into Him, He began to reveal to me that in the midst of rejection there are gifts to be found. Small treasures that draw us closer to Him. Lessons that grow us and refine our character. Truths that remind us that we are loved and were created with purpose. How do we discover these gifts in the midst of the pain that comes with rejection?

We need to remember a few things about rejection. First of all, rejection is not an indicator of future failure. It can be easy to assume that once we’ve been rejected in a particular area of life that we will always be rejected in that particular area of life. I easily could have walked away from that job believing that my dreams of teaching were destined to forever be filled with heartache and that it wasn’t worth it. But, just because my first two years weren’t ideal, that didn’t mean that every year would be like that, and it certainly didn’t mean that I wasn’t gifted as a teacher. As I look back, I can see that there is so much joy that I would have missed out on if I had given up my dream of teaching. 

Rejection tends to steal the joy of our present, doesn’t it? But, far too often we give it permission it to steal the joy of our future as well. We allow the pain of rejection to settle within our thoughts and dictate our next steps. We give up. We give in. We tell ourselves that things will never change. 

But, what would happen if we chose to shift our perspective? What would happen if we chose to look at our rejection through God’s eyes? What if we chose to remember the truth that it isn’t rejection that determines our steps. It’s God. Proverbs tells us, 

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” 

Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

Rejection is not an indication of future failures.  If something is meant to happen, I can promise you that God will move heaven and earth to see that it does. In the book of Isaiah God says, 

“From the beginning I declare how things will end; from times long past, I tell what is yet to be, saying: ‘My intentions will come to pass. I will make things happen as I determine they should.’” 

Isaiah 46:10 (VOICE)

Another thing to remember is that rejection doesn’t label you; it enables you to adjust and move on. With every rejection we face in life, we have a choice to make. We can allow that rejection to settle deep within us and become our truth, or we can look at that rejection as an opportunity to grow.

Lysa Terkeurst says, “People with a realistic view see rejections as a natural part of life and adjust accordingly. It’s not that they don’t struggle through the hard feelings. They do. But they don’t let them cloud their whole view of life. They are still able to see plenty of positive in themselves, others, and in God’s plan. Those with a pessimistic view, on the other hand, see life through the lens of their rejection. They feed their outlook by putting negative labels on themselves. When you feed negativity on the inside, it’s negativity that you’ll exude on the outside.” 

In those first few days working with that other teacher, I could have easily made the choice to feed my hurt. I could have done only the bare minimum that was asked of me and been unkind in the process. But, what good would that have done? It likely would have made the situation much more difficult than it already was. Rejection hurts, yes, but don’t let that hurt consume you. Give that hurt room to grow you. Look for what God may have to teach you in the midst of rejection. James encourages us to, 

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” 

James 1:2-4 (MSG)

Don’t let rejection define you. Allow it to refine you. 

Next, be reminded that rejection can be an invitation to something even more beautiful. You see, there will be many times in life when things don’t work out as we had hoped. We walk down a path that we are certain God has for us and suddenly, the door before us closes. Closed doors can leave us feeling confused, hurt, and questioning God. When God chose to close the door to that 5th grade job, I was so hurt. Why? Was it a punishment? No. It was an invitation. 

You see, God, in His infinite wisdom, closes doors that aren’t meant for us. That 5th grade door . . . it wasn’t mine. That wasn’t the path He had for me. It belonged to the other teacher. The path God had for me turned out to be exactly what I needed in that season; it was that as the district sub. I received a full salary with benefits and an amazing opportunity to teach in a variety of grades and buildings. In each classroom I served, there were different kids, different learning styles, different behaviors. I was exposed to different approaches to teaching and had the opportunity to work with and learn from other teachers within the district. I would not have learned as much or had the same experience had I remained within the four walls of my own classroom. 

When God closes a door, He does so in order to lead us towards the one that is meant for us. In the midst of rejection, instead of dwelling on the what might have been, turn your eyes expectantly towards what might be. Jeremiah reminds us that God says, 

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” 

Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)

God has a plan for each one of us. Rejection is often an invitation to live in the expectation that God has something even more beautiful ahead.

Rejection. It can break us or it can make us into the women we were created to be. Decide to rise above the rejection, and look for the gifts that can be found amidst your hurt. Gifts that grow us, refine us, and draw us closer to the One who created us. Place your trust in Him. He’s got you. 

“With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you,  and he will clear the road for you to follow.”

 Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

Works Cited:

Terkeurst, Lysa. Uninvited Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. Nashville. Nelson Books. 2016.

Rejected

I didn’t need to hear their words; their faces alone told me enough. I wasn’t measuring up.

It was in the weeks leading up to Christmas that I found myself in the midst of a rehearsal for our church musical. Though I had taken part in school plays before, this would be my first true musical. I hadn’t receive a speaking part, but I was absolutely delighted to have been chosen to play the part of a sheep. And not just any sheep . . . a singing and dancing sheep. (I can almost feel your envy as I write this!) I had always loved to sing, and even though I had not taken dance lessons, I felt that I was pretty good at dancing as well. It was with confidence and excitement that I headed into rehearsal. 

However, it didn’t take long for that confidence and excitement to dwindle.  I noticed other “sheep” gathering in small groups, whispering quietly and stealing glances my way. I sensed frustration in their eye rolls as we repeatedly went over the basic choreography. Doubt began to creep into my mind and the sting of rejection rose up in my throat. I didn’t measure up. Apparently, I wasn’t the amazing, dancing sheep I thought I was. 

Rejection. Have you ever felt its sting? It happens when we don’t receive the approval or acceptance of others. This lack of approval or acceptance may be communicated through harsh words or negative body language. For example, my kids often make the most “delightful” faces when I ask them to complete a chore for me. Their rejection of my request and me is evident by the glares and eye rolls they send my way.  Sometimes though, it’s our own assumptions or perceptions of a given situation that leave us feeling rejected. The rejection I felt as a dancing sheep was largely based upon the assumption that I was the topic of whispered conversations. 

Regardless of how it is communicated, rejection cuts deep and the pain that comes from it gives birth to lies that we allow to settle deep within us. We give these lies permission to settle into our hearts, and what happens when a lie gets permission to get cozy? It quickly becomes our truth. That truth is what we use to define who we are as a woman, as a wife, and as a mama. 

I was in my third year of teaching first grade when something happened that shook me to my core. I had a student that was struggling, and as the year went on, it was very evident to me that there was a deeper issue there. I arranged a meeting with the parents to discuss testing for a learning disability. Now, as a mama, I can look back and imagine how difficult walking into that meeting must have been for this student’s mom. But, at the time, I was completely unprepared for the anger and blame she threw my way. In her mind, I wasn’t trying to help. Her child’s struggles were completely my fault and a result of my inept teaching. That student did end up being diagnosed with a learning disability, but not before the lies that I was a failure, naive, and incapable had settled deep into my heart. Lies that I must admit are still taking up residence today Lies I believe must be true and therefore define who I am. Every time I sit down to write, I question God and ask Him if He’s sure there isn’t someone else more capable of doing this than me. I question the significance of my words and my ability to express my thoughts.  What about you? What rejection have you faced? What lies have you given permission to settle into your heart, become your truth and define who you are?

Jennie Allen, says that all lies fall under three core beliefs we accept about ourselves: I am helpless, I am worthless, I am unlovable. I’m helpless. There is nothing I can do to change the path that lies before me. I’m worthless. I have nothing significant to offer this world. I’m unlovable. I’ve made too many mistakes. No one in their right mind would love me the way that I am. Jennie goes on to say that these lies, “shape our thinking, our emotions, and the way we respond to the world around us. They trap us in their cycle of distraction and distortion and pain, preventing us from recognizing the truth we should believe.” What is the truth we should believe? 

The truth we believe comes from the very One who created us. The truth is found in His Word. Psalm 139 says,

 “For You shaped me, inside and out. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.”

Psalm 139:13-14 (VOICE) 

What does it say that God did? He shaped you. He formed you. He molded you exactly as He intended down to the smallest detail. Those freckles on your face? God put them there. Your chin that looks exactly like your grandma’s? That was God. The sensitive heart you have for others. That’s a gift from God. Your ability to bake well, work with numbers, or work with children? That’s part of your DNA that God wove together. God intentionally created you just as you are and He loves every bit of you. This is what’s true. 

Why do we struggle to believe it? Why do we struggle to believe that the face we see in the mirror every morning was intentional created and is loved beyond our wildest imagination? We struggle because we live in a broken, messed up world. We live in a world where at every turn we face an enemy who is determined to discourage us and make us feel less than we are. He knows that a woman who believes she is loved and created with purpose is dangerous. She’s dangerous because she walks through life confidently, using the giftings God has given her to love people well.  She influences every life that cross her path and God works through her to draw others closer to Him. That scares the enemy. 

What can we do to fight him? Lysa Terkeurst says, “The gravity of living in a sin-soaked world will always try to hold us back from living loved. But if we will remember to return often to our Instructor . . . our Creator . . . we will discover His loving hands still pulse to continue making us. Tweaking us. Molding us. Filling us. And daily completing the good work He began in us.”

I think it can become so easy to view our relationship with God as part of our checklist for the day. Went to church. Check. Read a few verses. Check. Prayed with the kids. Check. What would look like however, to intentionally be spending time with Him? What would it look like if we were to step back from our crazy schedules and were still before Him? What if we learned to recognize the sound of His heartbeat within our lives? What if we not just read the truth found in His Word, but let it soak in and become part of our daily living? What if we let Him fill our minds with truth instead of the world? What would it look like if we were to reconnect with our Creator?

Rejection tells us that we are unworthy, incapable, unloved . . .  Love tells us that God doesn’t make mistakes, and He made no mistake when He created you. Remember that. Lysa says, “There is an abundant need in this world for your contributions to the kingdom . . . your thoughts and words and artistic expressions . . . your exact brand of beautiful.” Your exact brand of beautiful. That’s what you are. You are beautiful, you are loved, and you are needed. Lean hard into truth. Lean in and decide to rise above the limits this world tries to place on you. Lean into who God created you to be. 

Works Cited:

Allen, Jennie. Get Out of Your Head. Waterbrook. 2020.

Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rejected. Accessed 13 Oct. 2020.

Terkeurst, Lysa. Uninvited Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. Nashville. Nelson Books. 2016.

Transformation Takes Truth

Every time I looked at it, I felt defeat wash over me. An unfortunate accident with a crossbow, just the day before, left me unable to use my left hand. I couldn’t make dinner for my family, I couldn’t take my daughter to the barn to ride her pony, I couldn’t wash dishes, I couldn’t tie my own shoes, and I couldn’t even completely undress to get into the shower without the help of my husband. As the day wore on, the list of things beginning with the words, “I can’t” continued to grow. By the end of the day, unable to do even the simplest things for myself or my family, I told myself I was defeated. There was no way that I was going to fully recover from this.

Maybe you’ve experienced a day like this as well. A day that is filled with hard things that leaves you feeling completely frustrated and defeated. When we face those kind of days, it’s important to shift our perspective and our response to those hard things, by intentionally taking our thoughts captive.

Far too often, we allow the negative feelings that rise up in the midst of difficult circumstances be the driving force behind how we respond in situations and how we respond with others. We give the emotions that come along with extra stress or changing hormones more power than they deserve and allow them to dictate how we respond. Often, if you’re like me, it’s my family that gets the brunt of my negative responses. I’m impatient, I yell, I give more disapproving looks than are deserved, I say things I don’t mean.

Our thoughts determine our emotions. Our emotions determine the decisions we make. Those decisions we make determine how we behave, and how we behave directly impacts our relationships with others. Simply put, negative thoughts can lead to poor responses on our part. That is why it is so important to take our thoughts captive. Proverbs warns us:

“Guard your heart (mind) above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” 

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

To guard our minds, we need to take every thought that enters our minds and measure it against the truth found in God’s Word. God has given us the authority and the power to do this. For every thought that enters our mind, God can help us discern whether it is truth or a lie.

“Although we live in the world, we don’t fight our battles with human methods. Our weapons that we fight with aren’t human, but instead they are powered by God for the destruction of fortresses. They destroy arguments, and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God. They capture every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (CEB)

If the thoughts you’re having don’t match up with what God says, then be honest and call them out for what they are. They’re lies. Lies that have no place taking up residence within your mind. 

That’s what happened the day after my accident. I let the lie that I was defeated settle into my brain. But, if I take that thought of defeat and hold it up against what God’s Word says, I’m reminded that I’m never defeated. God’s Word says that He is always with me, He will fight for me, and He will give me His Peace when my worries try and overtake me. 

“Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time.”

Psalm 34:19 (MSG)

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NLT) 

“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14 (NLT)

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” 

Deuteronomy 31:8 (NLT)

“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.” 

Philippians 4:6-7 (VOICE)

We need to be taking every thought that enters our mind captive and holding it up to the truth we find in God’s Word. Ask yourself if this thought you have is based on what God says is true or if it’s based on a lie that Satan would have you believe.

If you’re not sure what God’s truth says, I would encourage you to start reading it. Start small. Sometimes, when I’m struggling with a particular thought or emotion, I’ll go to my friend Google and type in, “What does God say about ___________”. I then take the Scriptures generated by that search and look them up myself.

To understand His truth, we have to get into His Word. We have to. It is our best defense in the guarding of our minds. Romans tells us, 

“Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to Him.” 

Romans 12:2 (CEV)

As His truth, soaks into our souls, our minds are transformed, our perspective shifts, our responses change. Guard your mind. Take every thought captive. Let His truth transform you.

Help Me See

It was the sound that drew my attention first. I had come to expect the sound of an arrow cleanly breaking through the air before landing in the target. This time however, it held a pause. A pause followed by a sharp stab of pain. I looked down trying to comprehend what had happened, and that’s when I saw it. Blood. I took my right hand and quickly covered my left to conceal what I could only imagine was horrific. My husband’s words confirmed my fear. “I’m calling the ER.”

It wasn’t how I had hoped our day would go. We had an entire day, free from obligations and work that stretched before us. My husband and I had played some corn hole in the backyard, and we followed that with some target practice with the crossbow. I was then hoping that we could throw the kids in the car and go for a hike to end out our day. Those were my plans. But, instead, I found myself sitting alone in the ER, deeply disappointed by the day’s turn of events, and crying uncontrollably. 

It can be easy to become consumed by the emotions that rise up when we find ourselves facing hard things or disappointing circumstances, isn’t it? Circumstances out of our control can leave us feeling out of control. When we feel out of control, we are often far too quick to react and not consider the effects our words or actions may have on others or ourselves.

My children are a perfect example of this. They have been walking through a season that many would define as typical sibling rivalry. But, if I’m being honest with you, it’s my kids reacting to situations in ways that aren’t healthy. Every day, we are guaranteed to hear either, “You’re such an idiot,” “I hate you,” or “You’re a dum dum” from the precious mouths of one of my children. These angry words tumble forth most often when someone does not behave as someone else thinks they should. Angry words are thrown, feelings are hurt, tears ensue, and more angry words are thrown. It’s a vicious circle.

As adults, don’t we do the very same thing at times? Maybe we don’t go around calling people dum dums, but think about how we respond when someone behaves in a manner of which we disapprove or says something with which we don’t agree.

We’re quick with harsh words, whether we speak them aloud, think them in our mind, or post them to our social media account.

We’re quick with harsh actions. Our body language can speak volumes even in the simple turning of a cold shoulder or the giving of a look of disapproval. 

Sometimes, our responses aren’t outward, but inward. We walk through a particularly hard season, internalizing all that is happening around us. We blame ourselves for our circumstances, wallow in our self-pity, and then we linger in that place of defeat.

We take circumstances that are out of our control as permission to act out of control. We cry, throw fits of rage, say hurtful things . . . Have you ever been there?

Let me share some truth with you. Facing circumstances that are out of our control does not mean that we have to act out of control. We can rise above the hard things that life throws our way, and not allow our emotions to dictate our responses. To do this however, we need to shift our perspective.

Perspective is the ability to view things and circumstances from a vantage point that is different from our own. The perspective we are after is the one driven by truth and filled with compassion and understanding. The perspective we seek, is God’s.

In the book of Isaiah, we are reminded that God’s perspective is different from ours. It says,

“‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’”

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

God has the ability to see things clearly, completely, and in their full truth. Author, Debbie Simler-Goff, says this about God’s ability to see. She says,

“We see a mountain, but God sees a bump.

We see a hurricane, but God sees a puddle of water.

We see the night, but God sees the dawn.

We see an empty bank account, but God sees a pending miracle.

We see brokenness, but God sees restoration.

We see uncertainty, but God sees assurance.” 

God’s perspective shows us the truth found in our circumstances every single time. 

How can we shift our perspective to align more with God’s? Start by asking God to help you see. Ask Him to help you see not only with your eyes, but with your heart as well.

In the book of 2 Kings, we find the story of the prophet Elisha and his servant. God had been working through Elisha to thwart the enemies of Israel for some time. One night, the enemy surrounds Elisha and his servant while they sleep. Starting at verse 15, we read,

“When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. ‘Oh, sir, what will we do now?’ the young man cried to Elisha. 16 ‘Don’t be afraid!’ Elisha told him. ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’”

2 Kings 6:15-16

Think about this for a moment. We have Elisha and his servant. Just the two of them. And they are surrounded by the army of the enemy. From a human perspective, how would you predict things are going to turn out? If I had been the servant, I would have been sobbing into my tunic right about now. But, if we keep reading, we read this. 

“17 Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”

2 Kings 6:17

God opened the eyes of the servant to see their circumstances in their complete truth. The truth was that yes, the enemy had surrounded them but, God’s army had surrounded the enemy! 

If you are in the midst of a hard season right now, or you are faced with circumstances that make no sense or are completely unfair, I encourage you to ask God to help you see. Ask Him to open your eyes and your heart to the truth found in your circumstances and so that you may see things from His perspective.

Maybe it’s not a hard season of life, but a difficult relationship that is causing you to struggle. Difficult people can be hard to love, can’t they? Ask God to help you see that person through His eyes.

It’s been a number of years now since the death of Osama Bin Laden, but I remember when it came across the news. People were in the streets celebrating his death. I however, couldn’t join in the celebration. You know what I kept hearing in my head? I kept hearing God say,

“I loved him too, and I never stopped pursuing him.”

From our human perspective, we saw a man that had done indescribable evil and hurt so many people. That’s true. But, God saw a man who was so lost and needed Jesus desperately. That’s also true. Ever since then, when I hear of someone who has done something incredibly evil or one of my kids comes home and shares the horrible thing a student did in class that day, my first response is not one of anger. My first response is to wonder what has happened in the life of that person for them to act in such a way and then pray.  

In this life, we will encounter people who, from a human perspective, do not deserve compassion. Ask God to help you see that person as He does. Ask God to open your eyes and your heart so that you can lead with understanding and offer compassion.

God’s perspective is driven by truth, understanding, and compassion. Whatever you are facing today, I pray that you would take a moment to pause and ask God to help you see.

https://medium.com/@timnolte/looking-for-answers-relying-on-faith-ae3c6145564

Simler-Goff, Debbie. “Gaining God’s Perspective”. Inspire A Fire. https://inspireafire.com/gaining-gods-perspective/. Accessed 13 Sept. 2020.

Do Not Be Anxious About Anything

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

This verse hit me hard tonight as I’ve felt anxiety try to tighten its grip on my heart once again. Really God? Do not be anxious? The world continues to be filled with so much confusion and uncertainty. I have so many unanswered questions, so many fears, and so . . . little . . . control. Tonight, if I’m honest, it all feels so heavy, and You tell me do not be anxious? If I’m honest, that’s hard right now. Really hard.

But, then I read the rest of the verse, and I am reminded of something that is so important. It says, “But, in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  In every situation . . . every single one . . . talk to God. That’s what prayer is. It’s talking to God. So in those moments when anxiety runs high . . . pray. In those moments of confusion and uncertainty . . . pray. In those moments, when your questions go unanswered, fear threatens to consume you, or you feel as though you’ve lost all control . . . pray. Go to Him first. Not the media, not your Facebook or Instagram feed, or your best friend. Go to Him. Tell Him your fears. Ask Him your questions. Pray and be reminded that He sees you. God sees you. He knows all that you’ve walked through and the path that lies ahead. And, be reminded tonight, that He can be trusted. He’s got this, friend. He’s got you.

Toby Mac

An Invitation

It had taken several weeks for me to finish the job completely, and as I heaved my last load of debris into the woods, I couldn’t help, but admire all that I had accomplished. Flowerbeds once blanketed with dead leaves, weeds, and debris were now cleared, and fresh life could be seen poking through the soil. The sight of those new plants got me thinking. With every spring, comes new life, a new start, a new beginning, and just as these plants are given a fresh start each spring, I wondered if perhaps God had been offering us this very same thing these past few weeks? I wondered if perhaps God has presented us with an opportunity for a fresh start? 

For many of us, COVID-19 disrupted what we considered to be “normal” life. It disrupted our routines, our jobs, our finances, our time spent with loved ones, and for some, our sense of security. For many of us, parts of these last few weeks have been really hard. But, as I look back, I can’t help, but see the lessons God may have for us here. Lessons about what a life lived to the full might actually look like. 

First, as I’ve reflected on these last few weeks, one thing I’ve observed is that many of us are spending our time a bit differently now. Think back with me for a moment about how you spent your time prior to COVID-19. What did a typical day look like for you? How did you choose to spend the time God gave you during any given day? For many of us, myself included, our days were spent checking things off of our to-do-list as we raced from one activity to the next. It was our predetermined schedule, a schedule that was often overloaded, that set the pace of each day. And then suddenly, we found ourselves limited in the ways that we could spend our time. For many, during this time of social distancing, time has been spent trying to efficiently work from home. For others, time has been spent supporting  their child’s education. And there are others still, that are spending time balancing the both of these. But aside from work or schooling, how have you spent this time when you were limited in what you could do and how you could do it? 

Do you know what I’ve seen? I’ve seen families spending more time together. I’ve seen families taking long walks and playing outside. I’ve seen families creating art, building forts and holding dance parties in their living rooms. I’ve seen families completing projects, playing games, cooking, and working together to bless others in their community. I’ve seen a coming together of many of our families. Perhaps that was God’s intention through all of this? Perhaps this has been a heavenly invitation to slow the frantic pace of life and evaluate how we are spending our time. Are we intentionally spending our time with those that mean the most to us, and are we doing things that really matter? Are we taking time to have some fun? Are our actions throughout the day making a positive impact on those we love most? Are we living out these moments God has given us to the full?

Something else I’ve observed is how quickly fear can consume an entire people. In the beginning days of this pandemic, I remember fear seizing my heart every single time I read the latest news updates. My fear was rooted in the very basic fact that I knew I had no control over the current circumstances: no control whatsoever. I couldn’t control the fact that the virus was spreading closer to our community. I couldn’t control the fact that many people I loved would be on the front lines of this fight. I couldn’t control the fact that schools shut down, that we were being asked to stay home, and that life as we knew it was turned upside-down in a matter of days.  Every aspect of life felt completely out of my control, and that scared me. Yet, I don’t think I was alone in this. Did you have times when you struggled with fear these last weeks? 

When life feels out of control, it is easy to allow fear to waltz right in and camp out in our hearts, isn’t it? But, perhaps this too was another heavenly invitation? Perhaps this was God’s invitation to be still in His presence and to remember who we are and to Whom we belong. Psalm 100 reminds us to:

“Know and fully recognize with gratitude that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His]. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”  

Psalm 100:3 (AMP)

As believers, we belong to Him. We are not only loved, but we are deeply cherished by the all-powerful, Creator of this universe. Paul reminds us in Colossians that:

“It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.”

Colossians 1:16 (VOICE)

When fear of our circumstances or fear of the unknown tries to settle in our hearts, are we taking the time to be still? Are we taking the time to remember who we are and to Whom we belong? Are we walking to the full through this life as Daughters of the King?

And perhaps, this was also an invitation to remember the importance of filtering our circumstances through God’s truth. I shared with you before the importance of taking our thoughts captive and filtering them through God’s Word. We need to be rewriting our negative thought patterns and choosing to believe that God loves us, that He is with us, and that He is always for us. We are in the midst of a battle for our hearts, our minds, and our souls, and the enemy is throwing everything that he’s got into it. Are we facing this battle confident of the One who is fighting for us? Are we believing that the enemy has no power over us? Are we trusting the Word of God to the full?

Something else that I’ve observed is our true and deep need for community.  A friend shared with me last week that she never knew how much of an extrovert she was until we were asked to quarantine. She may very well be more extroverted than she thought, but I think a huge part of it is that she is missing her people. She’s missing being in the same physical spaces of those people with whom she does life. I think many of us are feeling this same way. I think as a people, we are realizing how much we rely on our tribe and we are grieving the loss of that community. We have amazing technology that gives us the ability to keep touch, but the physical separation from those that we are doing life with . . .  that’s been painful. Perhaps, this is a heavenly invitation to remember that we were designed for community. God created us to be in relationship with others, and His desire is for us to do life together. We were created with different gifts, and those gifts are meant to be used for the benefit of others. Perhaps, this is a heavenly invitation to recognize who makes up our tribe and how we support one another. What do you do to love others well? What does loving your tribe to the full, especially during this season of social distancing, look like?

Heavenly invitations . . .  These last weeks, I’ve seen God moving. I’ve seen Him remove distractions, remove our sense of control, remove our complacency. He’s removed the debris to show us the beauty that lies beneath. Sometimes that’s what we need. We need to clear out what is dead and decaying to make way for new growth. We need a stripping away of those things that are holding us back from living the life God has for us. A life that is lived to the full.

This is an invitation. This is a heavenly invitation for a fresh start, a new beginning. God tells us in Isaiah:

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

 Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)

Living a life to the full.  It’s standing firm in His truth and in the knowledge of who we are and to Whom we belong. It’s embracing this life we have been given and submitting ourselves to the plans God has for us. It’s making the choice to accept His invitation to step out of what once was and into a new beginning. It’s making the choice to step into the life He has for us. A life that is lived to the full. 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  

John 10:10 (NIV)

MOPS - Invitation

We Need a Shift

 I knew it was coming, but to see it confirmed in the headlines sent my anxiety spiraling once again. My kids had already missed four weeks of school due to COVID-19. Now, our governor was shutting down schools across the state for the remainder of the academic year.  Part of me felt relieved, I must admit. Life seems to be filled with so much uncertainty right now, and it was almost comforting to have one area of life that I knew wouldn’t change in the coming weeks. Yet, at the same time, I couldn’t help, but feel overwhelmed. 

This current season has been so much more complex and challenging than I thought it would be. Complex and challenging to have my three kids home with me each and every day. Now, don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love having my kids home. I’m the mom who looks forward to summer vacation. But, this is different. I have three kids who are now participating in online learning. They’ve done beautifully with it, and I appreciate the technology we have that makes it possible. But, honestly, this mom finds it all a bit overwhelming some days. Three different kids with different assignments, different projects, and very different learning styles. Balancing that and keeping up with my own work has been challenging. 

I also wasn’t prepared for the grief this season has brought. Grief over not being able to spend time with family and friends. Grief over the fact that my kids will be missing out on the fun end of the year school events. Grief over not being able to go to the grocery store and simply being able to find basic items like flour or bread.

My kids are grieving too. They miss their friends. They miss school. They miss interacting with other adults besides mom and dad. They miss being able to go places. They are grieving the fact that we’ve had to step back from “normal” life. Me too.

So, as I try to navigate this season with my family, I’m finding that though I’m doing fine overall, the simplest thing can quickly send me into a spiral of overwhelm. One child complains because we are eating out of the fridge again for dinner – spiral. One child is in tears because she accidentally deleted part of an assignment – spiral. Trying to meet a writing deadline and constantly being interrupted by a child – spiral. Do you see a common theme here? Can you relate to this at all?

In her book, Get Out of Your Head, Jennie Allen says that our emotions are actually a by-product of the way we think. We average about thirty-thousand thoughts in one day, and according to researchers, 70% of those thoughts are negative. How do these negative thoughts impact us? In the book of Proverbs, it says, 

“Guard your heart (mind) above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” 

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)

Our thoughts affect the decisions we make each day. Those decisions we make determine how we behave, and how we behave affects our relationships with others. Negative thoughts can lead to poor decisions. Poor decisions can lead to poor behavior. Poor behavior can lead us to having a “Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”. Is this the type of life we’re after? Are we after a life that is based on just surviving the bad days, or are we after a life where we are thriving and living to the full? Is that type of a life even possible? 

It is possible. It’s possible to interrupt the spiral of emotions we may find ourselves in and shift our thinking.  Jennie says,

“We have bought the lie that we are victims of our thoughts rather than warriors equipped to fight on the front lines of the greatest battle of our generation: the battle for our minds.” – Jennie Allen

“The battle for our minds . . . “  In Corinthians 10, Paul writes, 

“Although we live in the world, we don’t fight our battles with human methods. Our weapons that we fight with aren’t human, but instead they are powered by God for the destruction of fortresses. They destroy arguments, and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God. They capture every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (CEB)

As believers, we’ve been given the authority and power from God to take every thought that enters our mind captive and filter it through the truth we find in His Word. You and I have been equipped to destroy the lies that try to dominate our thought patterns. Yet, though we’ve been given the power and authority, we still have to make the choice to use it. We have to choose to shift our thinking. 

So, how do we do this? How do we shift our thinking? First, we need to identify the thoughts that we have allowed to settle comfortably in our brains.

Take a moment and think about an emotion that you have felt recently. For me, it’s “overwhelm”. Maybe you’ve felt fearful, angry, or disappointed. What is something you have been feeling these past few weeks?

Next, ask yourself what factors are contributing to that emotion and why are they causing you to feel that particular way. For me, there are several areas that are contributing to my feelings of overwhelm with kids, work, and COVID-19 being the top three.

If I were to focus on just one at the moment, I’d have to go with COVID-19. Because of COVID-19, schools are closed and my kids are now doing online learning at home. In addition to the normal things I do each day to keep our home running smoothly, I am now also responsible for making sure their learning experiences go smoothly. So far, this has taken up more time than I anticipated, and I feel overwhelmed. Because of COVID-19, we have to practice social distancing. I lead a ministry that is based on relationships and making connections most of which now must happen online. This change from the “normal” way we do things feels overwhelming.  What about you? What factors have been affecting the way you feel and why?

Now that we’ve identified the thoughts that have settled in our brain, it’s time to take these thoughts captive and hold them up against the truth we find in God’s Word. Ask yourself if this thought you have is based on what God says is true or if it’s based on a lie that Satan would have you believe. For example, I’m feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19 because I believe that I’m not strong enough to lead my family through this and lead them well. What does God’s Word tell me, however?

“But the Lord can be trusted to make you strong and protect you from harm.”

 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (CEV)

“The Lord gives strength to those who are weary.” 

Isaiah 40:29 (CEV) 

“Christ gives me the strength to face anything.”  

Philippians 4:13 (CEV)

Jennie says,

“If we want to stop our patterns of toxic thinking, we must notice what’s happening and take action . . . Taking every thought captive is . . . choosing to believe that God is with us, is for us, and loves us even when all hell comes against us.” – Jennie Allen

Taking every thought captive is choosing to take those negative thought patterns within our minds and rewriting them. It’s taking our negative emotions and the reasons behind them and choosing to view them through God’s truth.

For example, instead of focusing on how overwhelmed I feel in the midst of our COVID-19 quarantine, I can choose to rewrite my thought pattern. Instead of thinking: I am overwhelmed and I can’t balance everything that is expected of me, I can rewrite that to say: I am overwhelmed, and I have so much to balance right now, so I will choose to remember that God will never leave me and He will fight for me. Deuteronomy 20 says, 

 “He will say to them, ‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’” 

Deuteronomy 20:3-4 (NLT)

Do you see the difference there? I acknowledged the emotion and the reason behind it, but I also chose to filter it through something I know to be true. If you were to rewrite your thought pattern, what would it say?

Lastly, Jennie reminds us that,

“We need to walk by the Spirit, not be jerked around by our swirling chaotic thoughts.”    – Jennie Allen

To walk by the Spirit is to spend time in His presence. Psalm 46:10 tells us to, 

“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

The NASB translation says to, “Cease striving . . .” The Street Bible says to, “Shut up . . . Shut off . . . Shut out . . . and in the silence . . . sense God: connect!” To spend time in His presence is to be still, turn our focus completely on Him, and listen. It is in His presence that we shift our thinking. It is in His presence that our minds can be transformed. Romans tells us,  

“Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to Him.” 

Romans 12:2 (CEV)

It is also in His presence that we can experience the peace described in the book of Philippians.

“Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.  And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].” 

Philippians 4:6-7 (AMP)

Jennie says,

“Shifting our minds from flesh to spirit is an ongoing work of the spiritual life . . . it’s not a one time decision, but a day by day moment by moment choice to move from chaos and confusion toward the peace of Christ in various areas of our thought lives.”                 – Jennie Allen

That is my challenge to you. Move from the chaos and confusion this world offers us and move towards Jesus. Move towards truth. Move towards the peace that only He can provide. 

 

References: 

Allen, Jennie. Get Out of Your Head. Waterbrook. 2020.

Hits Where It Hurts

It was a complete accident, but the significance of the pain was what caught me off guard. I was helping my husband split and stack wood. “Helping” as in, he did the splitting, and I did the stacking. I stood behind the pile of wood assessing my work thus far, and I must admit that it looked a mess. I had been asked to keep the logs as straight as possible, but found as the pile grew, it was taking on more of a pyramid type form. As I calculated my next move, my husband tossed another log to me. It landed on the top of the pile, and its momentum was just enough to knock off another log . . . right into the front of my shin. Now, anytime you get hit in the shin, it hurts significantly. However for me, it hurts twice as bad.

When I was young, I injured my leg as I climbed out of the back of our pickup truck. I sliced it completely open. Open as in, you could see bone, and it required stitches. I don’t remember it hurting much at the time, but since that accident, my leg has been very tender in that one spot. That one spot that a log took aim at today. That one spot where it would hurt most.

And that got me thinking. Isn’t that exactly what Satan tries to do in our lives? Doesn’t he try to hit us where it hurts most? Doesn’t he try and attack us in those areas that we feel most vulnerable?

I shared with my mom tribe this morning that these past few weeks have been more challenging and complex than I imagined they would be. I’ve found that even though I’m doing fine overall, the simplest thing can quickly leave me feeling completely overwhelmed. One child complains because we are eating out of the fridge again for dinner – I feel overwhelmed. One child is in tears because she accidentally deleted part of an assignment – I feel overwhelmed. Trying to meet a writing deadline and constantly being interrupted by a child – I feel overwhelmed. Know what? That’s exactly where Satan wants me to be. But, you know what else? He can’t keep me there. In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us,

“Although we live in the world, we don’t fight our battles with human methods. Our weapons that we fight with aren’t human, but instead they are powered by God for the destruction of fortresses. They destroy arguments, and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God. They capture every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (CEB)

As believers, we’ve been given the authority and power from God to take every thought that enters our mind captive and filter it through the truth we find in His Word.  As believers, you and I have been equipped to destroy every single lie that Satan tries to use to bring us down. But, we have to make the choice to use that authority and power. We have to make the choice to tell Satan, “Not today. Today I’m living in the truth of Jesus. You have NO power over me.”

That’s truth right there. If God is for us, then who could ever be against us? Lift your face towards Him and lean into that truth tonight, sweet friend.

 

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The Marshmallow Horror

I didn’t understand where I went wrong. This was not how it was supposed to be.

In preparation for Easter, I decided to make Empty Tomb cookies with my kids. Together, we took the body of Jesus (large marshmallow), covered it with embalming oils and spices (butter, cinnamon, and sugar), wrapped it for burial (crescent roll), and placed it in the tomb (our oven). The recipe assured me that after fifteen minutes, the Jesus marshmallows would have melted within their crescent roll wrappings, and upon removing them from the oven, my kids would discover that Jesus was no longer there. The tomb was empty! He had risen! It was going to be the perfect Easter story illustration!

At the fifteen minute mark, I opened the oven to remove the cookies and was met with a horrific sight. Jesus hadn’t melted. Instead, he had oozed out of his wrappings and left a trail of white streaks all over the cookie sheet. My kids rushed over, took one look at the cookies, and looked up at me with a mixture of confusion and horror. “What happened to Jesus?”

It was an epic Pinterest fail, but it reminded me of a very valuable lesson. Things don’t always go according to the plan. More specifically, things don’t always going according to MY PLAN.

Those Empty Tomb cookies were supposed to be a beautiful illustration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Instead, they looked like a scene from a crime movie. My kids are supposed to be in school right now. Instead, due to COVID-19, we are doing online learning at home. This weekend, my daughter and I were supposed to get away for some girl time. Instead, those plans were canceled as we’ve been asked to practice social distancing.

This isn’t how life was supposed to be right now. . .

Can you relate to that at all?

When life takes a turn towards the unexpected or things aren’t going according to the plan, remember, God is in control. He has a plan and can be trusted with whatever today may bring. Take a deep breath, and rest in that truth today. He’s got this, and He’s got you.

 

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An Invitation

I’ve been studying self-control this morning, and let me tell you, it’s not been your typical feel good study. But, I came across this quote this morning, and it got me thinking.

“Any out-of-control area in our lives, no matter how big or how small, is an open invitation to the enemy.” – Beth Moore

An invitation to wreak havoc in our lives and steal our peace.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like there is a lot in life that seems out-of-control right now. Though I cannot change what is happening around me, I can change how I respond to it. Am I leaning into fear or am I trusting that God’s got this? Am I hiding behind closed doors or am I using this gift of time to encourage others? Am I leaning into the hard parts of this journey or am I leaning into Jesus?

Today, I encourage you to lean into Jesus. He can be trusted with whatever we face. Of that, I am certain.

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Moore, Beth. Living Beyond Yourself, Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit. Nashville. LifeWay Press. 1998.