Explosions in a Winter Wonderland

“You will be downstairs putting your shoes on by the time I count to ten! One! Two!” If we didn’t get everyone in the car soon, we were going to be late. “Three! Four!” Giggles floated down the stairs. “Five! Six!” They were both supposed to be brushing their teeth. “Seven! Eight!”  Silence. Silence with a three year old and a two year old in the house is rarely a good sign. I climb the stairs, “Nine!” At the top of the stairs, I pause; the door to the bathroom is closed. Again, not a good sign. “Ten!” I open the door and walk into what looks like a winter wonderland. My confusion lasts only a moment as a familiar scent reaches my nose. Baby powder. My precious younger two had climbed onto the bathroom counter, retrieved the baby powder from the top shelf, and proceeded to make it “snow” in the bathroom. Their delight was evident as I watched my daughter make it snow on top of her brother’s head. I however, was not amused and could feel my emotions surging towards the boiling point. I was about ready to explode. 

Our emotions . . . a gift from our Creator that gives us the ability to experience this life to its absolute fullest. But, far too often, we allow our emotions to control our responses. We take in what is happening around us and react by either exploding or stuffing. When we explode, we’re being honest with how we are feeling, but more often than not, we lack godliness in our words and in our actions.  When we stuff, our words and actions may very well come across as peaceful, but we aren’t being honest with our feelings.

Our goal in all of this is to move towards soul integrity. Soul integrity is honest, wise, and it requires a shift. A shift away from how the world tells us to think, to speak, to act. It’s placing every thought under the authority of Jesus Christ and learning how to process our circumstances through His eyes. I’ll admit . . . that morning in the bathroom . . . I made no effort to see my circumstances through His eyes. That morning, I allowed my emotions to control how I responded to my kids. That morning, I exploded.

 Exploders. They are the people who can’t keep their emotions in and push them outwardly either loudly or very quietly. Exploders use a raised voice, stern words, harsh looks, or explosive actions to express their negative emotions.  Once the emotion is out, exploders often feel deep regret, and this deep regret is directed in one of two ways.

First, an exploder can blame herself for the outburst.  She sees how she has hurt others, blames herself for the explosion, and then places a label on herself. For example: a mom yells at her kids and says things she does not mean. Later, she tells herself that she is a bad mom who yells too much. Another example is a wife who loses her temper with her husband because he’s playing with the kids after dinner instead of helping her with the dishes. She later tells herself that she’s a bad mom for wanting her husband to help her rather than play with the kids and a bad wife for getting so angry with her husband. Sometimes when we explode, we place the blame entirely on our shoulders and carry the weight of a label that isn’t rooted in truth. The lie is that we are incapable and unworthy of being a good mom or wife. The truth is that we are worthy, and we are capable, but need to seek God’s wisdom when it comes to controlling our tongue. It’s moving towards that soul integrity.

Another way an exploder can direct her deep regret is to blame others. Have you ever had a toddler who refused to walk in the grocery store? My youngest would do this. He had the most glorious rolls when he was younger which made it difficult for him to ride in the top of the cart, and he wasn’t always a fan of sitting in the carts that look like cars. He typically preferred to walk beside me and push the cart. But, there were some days he just decided he was done walking. Like, completely done, sit his butt on the floor, and not move completely done. I’d beg and plead for him to stand up or bribe him with the promise of a treat while becoming acutely aware that we were attracting an audience. In my frustration and embarrassment, I would pull him up and drag him by one arm behind me or hoist him up on one hip all the while reminding him that this was NOT appropriate behavior. He would typically respond by kicking and screaming as I struggled towards the check out. These meltdowns left me feeling so frustrated and defeated for the remainder of the day. I was convinced that calm trips to the store were a thing of my past and would never change as long as my son was with me. So often, we blame others for our explosive actions. Someone else is to blame for our hurtful words, harsh looks or rash actions. Someone else is to blame for us throwing our own tantrum and acting out of control. Where is the soul integrity in that? 

So what can we do when we find ourselves in situations where we just want to explode? First, take a moment to pause and breathe. Sometimes it takes only a brief pause to regain control of our spiraling emotions. When my kids were younger, I always encouraged them to pause, take deep breaths, and count to ten (or twenty or one hundred) when they were feeling really upset. If that didn’t work, I’d encourage them to step back from the situation and take a quick time-out. I’ll do this for myself as well. Sometimes, I need to walk away from a situation where my emotions are out of control, and take a few moments to calm my thoughts. Scripture tells us, 

Taking the time to pause before we respond helps us not only regain control over our spiraling emotions, but it gives us an opportunity to implement some wisdom. In the pause, we can submit our spiraling emotions to Jesus. In the pause, we can ask God for understanding and to help us see this situation through His eyes. In the pause, we can seek how He would have us respond.  When you’re emotions are spiraling, give yourself a moment to calm down and seek His guidance in how you should respond. 

Secondly, make the choice when your emotions start to spiral to maintain your self-control.  Self-control is defined as the ability to control ones emotions or the expression of them in difficult situations. Scripture tells us:

“Like a city that is broken down and without walls [leaving it unprotected] is a man who has no self-control over his spirit [and sets himself up for trouble].” 

Proverbs 25:28 (AMP)  

Think about that for a moment. During biblical times, it was common for cities to have a wall surrounding them. Walls offered protection against enemies. A city without walls was open to the enemy and his attacks. It is the same for us. If we don’t maintain our self-control, we are opening ourselves up to the enemy. We can’t always choose the type of situations we find ourselves in, but we can choose whether we will let our rising emotions overtake us and direct our next steps. Paul reminds us in Timothy:

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” 

2 Timothy 1:7 (AMP) 

If you have made to choice to follow Christ, you have the power within you to maintain your self-control. Through Him, you can stand up against the emotions that surge and declare that the enemy is not welcome today. 

Lastly, make the choice to respond rather than react. There is a difference between the two. Responses are driven by soul integrity, that honesty and wisdom found as we grow in our relationship with Christ. Reactions, on the other hand, are driven by the need to intentional hurt another person or prove another person wrong. My kids are big reactors. When one child is in conflict with another in our house, it is made clearly evident. Harsh words, death glares, and the occasional full blown tackle have been observed. And though it has been awhile since I’ve tackled someone, I too must admit that there have been times when I’ve chosen to react rather than respond. I have experienced situations when I wanted the other person to experience hurt or I wanted to prove to everyone that I was in the right. But, what does God’s Word say about all of this? 

“Listen, open your ears, harness your desire to speak, and don’t get worked up into a rage so easily, my brothers and sisters. Human anger is a futile exercise that will never produce God’s kind of justice in this world.”

James 1:19-20 (VOICE)

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.”

James 4:1-3 (MSG)

When it comes down to it, I’m just like my kids. I get mad when I don’t get my own way. I get mad when I don’t get what I want. I get mad when things don’t go my way. I get mad and react in ways that tear others down instead of building them up. But, is this what God desires for me? It’s not. His desire is that I would respond in ways that ultimately bring healing and encouragement to others, and that bring glory Him. That is His desire. How do we do this? 

We start by making the choice to honor the offender. To honor someone is to show one respect regardless of whether it is deserved or not. When we are faced with difficult circumstances or in conflict with another person, it is important to remember that every person on this earth is one of God’s creations, His masterpieces. God loves and is in pursuit of each and every one of us. For that reason alone, all people deserve our respect. Now, we don’t have to agree with someone to show respect, and we don’t have to accept their actions as appropriate to show respect. We show respect by remembering that each person has value in God’s eyes. Matthew reminds us:

“This is what our Scriptures come to teach: in everything, in every circumstance, do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Matthew 7:12 (VOICE)

Honoring the offender is treating others as you would want to be treated. It’s showing respect even when it is not deserved, and it is remembering that each person is valued in God’s eyes. 

Secondly, our responses should acknowledge the hurt, clarify our intentions, and be honest, but gentle about the issue at hand. It goes without being said that anytime we face difficult circumstances or are in conflict with another, hurt will be present. If left alone, this hurt will fester and grow into resentment and bitterness. I walked through a really difficult season with a dear friend. It wasn’t until we sat down to acknowledge the hurt we both felt, clarified our intentions behind our actions and words, and approached the conversation with gentle honesty that healing began. When in conflict with another, acknowledge the hurt present, clarify your intentions, and have the courage to honestly, but gently discuss the issue at hand. 

Next, our responses must be “seasoned with salt.” Colossians says:

“Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” 

Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Colossians says that our words must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt. It doesn’t say only when we feel like, only on Tuesdays or only when we’re in church. It says always. And our words must be with grace, as though seasoned with salt. What does that mean? 

In her devotional, “Sweet and Salty Speech, Karen Ehman shares that salt has many different purposes that can be applied to the words that come out of our mouths. First, salt preserves. Are your words improving the situation or keeping decay from happening? Secondly, salt is valuable. Are you words adding value to the conversation or are your words empty and worthless? Next, salt purifies and softens. Are the words you are choosing to use pure and truthful? Are your words soft and kind or harsh and hostile? Next, salt melts ice. Are your words phrased in a way to help melt an icy conversation? Is your speech bringing out the best in others? Lastly, salt prevents infection in a wound. Are your words healing? Are your words preventing further toxicity from spreading? Our words have tremendous power to encourage others, build them up and bring healing. But, they also have the power to discourage others, tear them down, and bring pain. The wrong amount of salt or using the wrong seasoning can ruin the soup. What words are you choosing to respond with? Are they encouraging healing or inflicting more pain? What types of words are you using with your children? What about your spouse or significant other? Are your words gentle and seasoned well?

Lastly, it’s important to take quiet time by yourself to reflect. Now, I know that sounds nearly  impossible when you’re in the thick of raising little people, but it’s important. You need time to be still. Time to shut out distractions. Time to get quiet with God. Lysa Terkeurst says there are several things that happen when we are in the quiet. First, we become humble before God. I’ve learned that in many of the conflicts I’ve found myself in, I am partly to blame. Coming humbling before God, He can speak truth into my heart, show me where I was in the wrong, and the steps needed to make forward progress. 

Secondly, in the quiet, we are reminded that our real enemy is not the other person. Ephesians tells us:

Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12 (ERV)

When we are in the midst of difficult circumstances or in conflict with another, our vision can become clouded as to who the real enemy is. The real enemy is Satan, and he will do everything in his power to discourage you, to bring you down, and to raise people up against each other. In the quiet, we are reminded that there is a spiritual battle being fought all around us. The enemy is not your circumstances and the enemy is not the person you are in conflict with. Remember that. 

Lastly, in the quiet, we are reminded that God is good, He is faithful, and He can be trusted. We may not understand the how and why behind the work of His hands, but we can trust His hands. Romans 8 says:

“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”

Romans 8:28 (VOICE)

If you are a follower of Jesus, you can be confident that every circumstance you face, every conflict you’re in, every time you explode can ultimately bring something good and beautiful. Be encouraged today, sweet friend. God is always faithful.

Works Cited:

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 15 Feb. 2021.

Ehman, Karen. “Sweet and Salty Speech.” Proverbs31. https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2017/02/07/sweet-and-salty-speech. Accessed 15 Feb. 2021.

Terkeurst, Lysa. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2012.

The Day I Exploded

The room grew instantaneously, but uneasily still. Trembling, I turned my back on my students to hide the tears that sprung in my eyes. What had I just done?

I was several months into my first year of teaching.  Fresh out of college, I had eagerly taken on this position and had looked forward to having a class of my own. But, now, just a few months in, I found my enthusiasm wane. My class of thirty was unlike any I had experienced before, and I felt ill equipped to meet the many needs that walked through my door each morning. 

Two of my third grade students did not know their letters of the alphabet. Though tested, neither one qualified for learning support. I was told they both just had really low IQs and to do my best with them. I had another student that had received a diagnosis of ADHD prior to the start of the school year. Her medication for this diagnosis left her lethargic and unable to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Though I questioned the side effects of this medication, my concerns were brushed aside, and I was again encouraged to just do my best. I had another student who would repeatedly leave the temporary trailer where our class was held and climb onto its roof. The school nurse was the only one who could coax him down with the promise of a banana and some time to lie down in her office. Another student within my class would antagonize one of the only two white girls in the class. Most recesses found the two of them engaged in a battle of fists and racial slurs. These students represented just a small number of the challenges that I faced every day in the classroom.  Challenges that left me feeling frustrated and defeated.

And on one particular day, those feelings of frustration and defeat overwhelmed me. My efforts that day to teach were met with resistance in the forms of students talking above me, throwing things at one another, and refusing to do as instructed. Frustration and defeat swelled within me and so did anger. As one more paper ball flew through the air, something within me broke.  I moved towards the empty desk that sat at the front of the room, picked it up, and slammed it to the floor. My actions were met with silence. And, in that silence, regret instantly washed over me. 

Our emotions . . . they are a gift from our Creator. He created us with the ability to feel deeply, to love richly, and to experience this beautiful life to its fullest. But, far too often, we allow our emotions to control our responses, direct our words, our actions, and how we communicate with others around us. Far too often, we give the negative emotions that rise within us far more power they deserve. We give them the power to steer us away from the sacred moments God has for us each day. That moment in my classroom . . . it was far from sacred. 

But, how do we remain calm in difficult circumstances or in situations that are out of our control? It starts by understanding our reaction tendencies. In her book, Unglued, Lysa Terkeurst identifies four main Reaction Types that people have when they face difficult circumstances or situations that are out of their control. The purpose of understanding the different reaction types is not to place another label on ourselves, but to help us learn how to react more calmly. Lysa says, “Condemnation defeats us. Conviction unlocks the greatest potential for change.” Understanding how we tend to react is the first step to making positive change.

There are four main Reaction Types:Exploders that Blame Others, Exploders that Shame Themselves, Stuffers that Build Barriers, and Stuffers that Collect Retaliation Rocks. If you’re like me, you’ll find that your reaction type is very dependent on not just the circumstances you face, but who else is involved in those circumstances. Does this situation that feels so out of control involve your spouse, your kids, a family member, your boss, a friend? Your reactions may vary depending on not only what is happening around you, but those who are involved. 

Think for a moment about one person that tends to get your emotions spiraling in a downward  trend. Ask yourself how you process your frustration towards this person. Are you more apt to express that frustration through your words? If so, you are likely an external processor. If you tend to pull in your feelings of frustration and think about whether or not to address them, you are more likely to be an internal processor. When it comes to my kids, I’m a complete external processor. If mama isn’t happy with their behavior, they hear about it. But, when it comes to my husband, I’m an internal processor. I avoid conflict with him whenever possible and would rather sit and let my frustrations stew a bit then address them. What about you? Are you more of an external processor or an internal processor?

Now, think about how you handle any conflict you have with this person. Do you tend to deal with the issue at hand or do you just pretend that everything is just fine? If you deal with the issue and talk about it,  you’re an external expresser. If you tend to pretend that everything is fine, you’re an internal suppressor. Going back to the example of my kids. When I am in conflict with them, I am a total external expresser. We talk about the issue at hand. Actually, it’s more that I’m the one who does most of the talking and they do they listening. With my husband however, I’m completely an internal suppressor. I’d rather pretend things are fine than risk the confrontation. What about you? Are you more of an external expresser or an internal suppressor?

Our reaction types are identified by how we process our circumstances, externally or internally, and how we move forward and handle our circumstances, expressing or suppressing. Lysa Tekeurst identifies those that are external expressers whether they are internal or external processors as Exploders. Exploders are people who can’t keep their emotions in and push them outwardly either loudly or very quietly. Exploders use a raised voice,  stern words, harsh looks, or explosive actions, like slamming a desk on the floor, to express their negative emotions.  Once the emotion is out, exploders often feel deep regret. If they are an internal processor, they blame themselves for their outburst. If they are an external processor, they push away any regret they may feel by blaming others.

On the other side, we have our internal suppressors, otherwise known as our Stuffers. Stuffers are those who push their emotions inward and lock their feelings inside. They stuff to avoid conflict, to protect themselves from further hurt, or to wallow in their hurt. If we’re honest, haven’t we all done some wallowing at one point or another? Haven’t we all had times when we’ve pulled our hurt in, dwelled on it, maybe even pampered it for a bit? Have we ever lingered in the hurt because we felt we deserved it or because of the attention it drew to ourselves? Sometimes a Stuffer would rather wallow in the hurt than process it and release it.  Lysa uses the example of an oyster. Just as an oyster repeatedly coats a grain of sand that has worked its way in, Stuffers will take a small hurt and repeatedly coat it with more hurt. But, unlike the pearl formed by the oyster, the Stuffer is left with a hard rock. This rock is then used by internal processors to build barriers or if an external processor, to retaliate against others.

Exploders and Stuffers. If we’re honest, haven’t we been both? And if we’re still being honest, do we have doubts that we will ever change? The answer is yes, we do doubt. But, let me tell you this. Change is possible. Lysa says, “In processing (our) reactions, soul integrity is the heart of what we’re after. Soul integrity is honesty that’s godly. It brings the passion of the exploder and the peacemaking of the stuffer under the authority of Jesus where honesty and godliness embrace and balance each other.” Under the authority of Jesus is where honesty and godliness can embrace and balance each other. Think about that for a moment. 

When we explode, we’re being honest with how we are feeling, yes? But, where is the godliness in our words and in our actions? When we stuff, our words and actions may very well come across as peaceful, but are we being honest with our feelings? This balance, or as Lysa calls it, soul integrity . . . .it’s what we are after. It’s honest. It’s wise. And it comes as we daily make the decision to submit our thoughts, our emotions, our words, our actions to Jesus. It comes as we ask our Father to help us process our circumstances through His eyes that see the whole picture. Not just our eyes which only see that which is right in front of us.

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way (the battle for our thoughts, the battle for our minds, the battle for how we reaction in difficult circumstances) —never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.” 

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (MSG)

Soul integrity requires a shift. A shift of our perspective. A shift away from how the world tells us to think, to speak, to act. A shift towards that which is holy and sacred. A shift towards wise living. Part of living wisely is loving others well. 

“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” 

James 3:16-18 (MSG)

Soul Integrity. It’s honest and it’s wise. It’s treating others with dignity and honor. It’s being gentle. Being reasonable. Loving well. And it’s something that we need to learn. Something that needs to be practiced. Something that we can do with the strength of God’s Spirit living within us.

Works Cited:

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.

Terkeurst, Lysa. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2012.

Terkeurst, Lysa. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. https://www.ungluedbook.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Unglued-AssessmentAndGuide.pdf. Accessed 1 Feb. 2021.

When My Emotions Spiral

I glanced down at my phone once again. The gentle vibration was one I had almost grown accustomed to in these last few hours. Another news alert. Another report of the chaos that was ensuing at our nation’s capital. I turned on the television and one by one, my children came into the room and sat quietly. As we watched the events unfold, my youngest turned to me, confusion in his eyes; he didn’t understand. He didn’t understand what might lead someone to act so violently towards another. I wanted to pretend that I didn’t understand either. But, if I’m being honest, I did. Now, let me be clear and say that there is no excuse for what happened at the Capitol. None at all. But, as I watched, the crowds in the streets, I couldn’t help, but understand. How many times have I too felt my emotions running high and hot? How many times have I reacted to what is happening around me rather than seek God’s perspective and respond from a place of grace? How many times have I faced circumstances that were hard or out of my control and used them as an excuse to act out of control? How many times have I allowed my spiraling emotions to dictate my actions, my body language, and even the words I speak? More often than I’d like to admit, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. 

Our emotions and the feelings that accompany them. Though slightly different by definition, the two intertwine, and it is unlikely that you’ll experience one and not the other. Our emotions are the natural and instinctive mental reactions we have in response to what is happening around us. Consciously thinking about and reflecting on those mental reactions then gives rise to our feelings. These feelings can be quite strong, but it is important to remember that they always stem from the emotions that surface in the midst of our circumstances. There are several important things to remember about our emotions as well. 

First, they are triggered by someone or something specific. As a mom, my kids are usually the ones that tend to stir up my emotions. One leans in for a hug; it stirs my emotions. One has still not completed a task that was asked of him; it stirs my emotions. One is heard encouraging his sibling; it stirs my emotions. One is spewing hateful words towards a sibling; it stirs my emotions. Other people will stir my emotions as well. A driver tailgates me; it stirs my emotions. The person in line ahead of me in the express checkout has thirteen items not the required twelve or less; it stirs my emotions. An elderly gentleman holds the hand of his wife as they walk in front of me; it stirs my emotions. The people we come in contact with on a daily basis will trigger our emotions. 

Sometimes though, it’s not a particular someone that triggers our emotions, but a particular something. A sickness or death in the family stirs up emotions. Your baby has a blow out diaper just has you are heading out the door; it stirs up emotions.  You receive an unexpected diagnosis or the loss of a job; it stirs up emotions. Sometimes it is the circumstances we find ourselves in regardless of whether they were expected or not that trigger our emotions. 

The second thing to remember is that emotions can affect our physical, mental, and emotional health. Our mind and bodies are closely connected, and as our brains take in what is happening around us, it releases chemicals it thinks will help us in a given situation. Positive emotions can help increase our awareness, attention, and memory. They can help lower our blood pressure, help with better digestion, and help us to deal better with periods of stress. Negative emotions can also be helpful in warning us of threats or dangers we may be facing but, chronic negative emotions can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed and can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive issues, a weakened immune system or other health problems.

Think about the emotions that you have experienced so far today. Who or what triggered them? How did they cause you to behave or function? Have obedient children who got along with one another all day, straight green lights on the way to work or a house that looks exactly the same as if did when you left it ten minutes ago, left you feeling joyful, happy, and confident in your abilities as a woman and as a mom? Or have disobedient children who spent the entire day fighting, getting stuck behind a combine on your way to work, or a house that constantly looks like a tornado ripped through it, left you feeling stressed, tired and defeated? Our emotions can have an affect on the way we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

The next thing we need to remember about our emotions is that they are a gift. They are a gifted given by God to help us experience this life He has given us to the full. When God created each one of us, no detail was forgotten. Psalm 139 reminds us:

“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 139:14 (VOICE) 

God marveled over your unique creation. Each detail He placed brought Him great delight. He gave you the personality He desired and the talents that would help you fulfill the purposes He has for your life. He also gave you emotions. God gave you the ability to feel and to love deeply, to have compassion, and yes, even to be angry. Our emotions are a gift, a gift given to help us experience this life in all its wonder and to its absolute fullest. 

But, sometimes we take this gift of emotion and use it in ways that God never intended. We find ourselves in the midst of something hard, negative feelings rise up, and instead of responding in a way that would ultimately bring glory to God, we allow those negative feelings to control our responses. We feel anger. We lash out. We say things we don’t mean. Just now, as I write these words I think back on a response I had just this morning. 

I have a deadline to meet with the words on this page. A deadline that I know will only be met with time, quiet, and allowing myself to be still so God can speak through my fingers. But, my youngest doesn’t understand deadlines. He doesn’t understand the pressure I feel to place words on this page. With a day off from school, he swings between boredom and grand adventures both of which must be expressed to me in the greatest and often most exhausting detail. As the door opened once again and I lost my train of thought once again, I felt frustration well up within me. I spoke his name sternly, explained once again that I was working, and that I would have to lock the door if he was unable to give me some quiet time. His response? “I know, mom, but I have just one thing I have to ask you!” He simply wanted permission to build a fort using a table I’ve been using for a jigsaw puzzle. But, in asking permission to use the table, he felt it was important to included a detailed explanation of the two ways he could handle the puzzle pieces, what might occur if the pieces came apart, how he would resolve the problem of a broken puzzle, and debated on what might be the wisest course of action. The longer he spoke, the greater my frustration grew. It finally got to the point that I interrupted him, told him rather sternly to go make his fort and to not interrupt me again. Regret filled me as the words left my mouth and hurt filled his eyes. He apologized and quietly left the room, closing the door behind him. I closed my eyes as I felt defeat wash over me. Why did I respond the way I did? Instead of offering patience and grace and seizing the moment as a gift of time to marvel in how God uniquely created my son, I chose anger and hurtful words. And, if I continue to respond in this manner towards him, will there come a day when he no longer will want to approach me and share the thoughts on his mind? I grieve that very thought. 

Far too often, we allow our emotions to control our responses, direct our words, our actions, and how we communicate with others around us. Far too often, we give the negative emotions that rise within us far more power they deserve. We give them the power to steer us away from the sacred moments God has for us each day.  James 1 reminds us:

“If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things that God wants done.”

James 1:20 (CEV)

 

And Ephesians 5 tells us:

“So be careful how you live; be mindful of your steps. Don’t run around like idiots as the rest of the world does. Instead, walk as the wise! Make the most of every living and breathing moment because these are evil times. So understand and be confident in God’s will, and don’t live thoughtlessly.”

Ephesians 5:15-17 (VOICE) 

When we allow our emotions to direct our steps, we can easily find ourselves on a path that God never intended for us to walk. 

But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  Our emotions do not have to be the guiding force behind the way in which we respond to others or our circumstances, and they shouldn’t be! Our guiding force should be the Holy Spirit, God living within us. The transformation of our responses comes as we learn to recognize our emotions, bring them to God for His refinement, and allow Him to renew our thoughts. Romans urges us to:

“ . . . Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may (discover) what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2 (NASB)

 We can be angry and respond calmly. We can be hurt and extend forgiveness. We can face circumstances out of our control without acting out of control. We can do all of this through the work of His Spirit within us as He renews and transforms us into His image.

Our emotions, they are a gift from our Creator. He created us with the ability to feel deeply, to love richly, and to experience this beautiful life to its fullest. When you face circumstances that are out of your control, are you choosing to trust Him? Are you choosing to trust that through Him, you can respond in ways that ultimately will bring Him glory? 

“But blessed is the one who trusts in Me alone; the Eternal will be his confidence.  He is like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots beside the stream.  It does not fear the heat or even drought. Its leaves stay green and its fruit is dependable, no matter what it faces.”  

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (VOICE)

Works Cited:

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emotions. Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.  

Terkeurst, Lysa. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2012.

“What does the Bible say about managing/controlling emotions?” GotQuestions. https://www.gotquestions.org/managing-emotions.html. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

Embrace Hope

Several years ago, some children were asked to share their resolutions for the new year. This is what they came up with:

  1. Joey age 10 – “My New years resolution is to not eat as much sugar. But il probably won’t keep it.”
  2. Hadssah age 7 – “I am going to stop picking my nose. It is going to be hard.”
  3. Declan age 11 – “My New years resolution is to eat 10 bags of clementines each month.”
  4. Brianna 2nd grade – “ . . . my resolution is to not wig out like I’m seeing the Lockness monster when I see a bug!”
  5. Annie age 5 – “I am going to help doggies! Like if they are stuck on cliffs.”
  6. Will age 4 – “ Eat all the cake.” 

I especially love that last one. Like Will, I too would love to eat all the cake. 

New Year’s resolutions. The tradition of making resolutions at the start of a new year began over 4,000 years ago within ancient Babylon. The Babylonian people would reaffirm their loyalty to their king, make promises to pay their debts and return any items they had borrowed from others. To complete all three tasks was viewed as a way to earn favor from the gods in the coming year. 

Under the rule of Julius Caesar, the Romans would also make resolutions at the start of a new year to earn favor with the gods. They believed that their god Janus was able to see into their past and into their future. By offering sacrifices and promising good behavior, their hope was that Janus would offer them a favorable year.

For early Christians, the start of a new year became a time to reflect on the past and the mistakes made and resolve to do better in the future. Methodist founder, John Wesley, began to hold church services on New Year’s Eve. At these services, the people read Scripture, sang hymns, and prayed for the coming year. 

Today, New Year’s resolutions are commonly made with the focus of self-improvement. Many vow to eat healthier or exercise more. Some will make promises to quit smoking, limit sugar intake, or watch the words they use in front of their children. Others will focus on stress management, realigning priorities, or learning a new skill or hobby.Now, these are all good things, but I think that many of us may be missing an opportunity here. What if instead of just focusing solely on our self-improvement, that we looked at the start of a new year as a time to gain some heavenly perspective? What if we chose to remember what was, reflect on what has been, and hope for what’s to come?

Think back with me for a moment on this past year. Life, for many, is so different now than it was a year ago. 2020 brought a great amount of change, uncertainty, and so much struggle for so many people. I cannot think of another time in recent history where a desire for a fresh start has felt so needed. But before we can move forward, it is important to first look back and remember and reflect on a few things.

First, remember what was hard. What was particularly hard for you this past year? What was difficult for your family to walk through? Remember what was hard and name it. For many, COVID was hard. There are others though that have lost a loved one, walked through a separation, or received an unwelcome diagnosis for a child. Remember what was hard this past year.

Next, remember what God has done. How did God provide for you in the past year? What healing did He bring? What circumstances did He see you through? Many of the Jewish celebrations we read about in the Scriptures were celebrations held to remember. To remember what God had done in the lives of His people. It is easier to trust that He will be faithful when we’ve practiced remembering how He already has been faithful. Scripture tells us:

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” 

Psalm 103:2 (NLT) 

“Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.”

Psalm 77:11-12 (MSG) 

Remember what God has done. Remember how you have seen His hand move in your life and in the lives of others. 

Next, take some time to reflect on this past year.  Was there any good to be found in the midst of the hard things you walked through?  What did you learn? What promises of His did you find to be true? Did you learned anything about yourself? Did you learn anything about God? Reflect on the lessons He had for you in this last year and remember that His Word always stands true.

“It is the Lord who goes before you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 (AMP)

“Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Hebrews 13:8 (AMP)

Lastly, resolve to rise with hope. When we resolve to do something, we are making a firm decision on a specific course of action. We are purposeful and intentional with our steps moving forward.  There was so much about last year that was hard, but, there was so much good that came from it as well. Commit to placing your hope in the Lord and rising to meet and embrace all that He has for you in the coming  year.

“We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” 

Psalm 33:20-22 (NLT) 

“Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word].”

Hebrews 10:23 (AMP)

Remember, reflect, and resolve. Resolve to rise with hope. We can have hope because Jesus will remain unchanged yesterday, today, and forever more. We can rise with hope because He is reliable, trustworthy, and always faithful.

Works Cited:

Gray, Timberley. “The Importance of Reflection.” Living Our Priorities. https://livingourpriorities.com/the-importance-of-reflection/. Accessed 4 Jan. 2021.

Pruitt, Sarah. “The History of New Year’s Resolutions.” History. https://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-new-years-resolutions. Accessed 5 Jan. 2021. 

Richamond, Mom. “Funny New Year’s Resolutions From Kids.” Richmond Mom. https://richmondmom.com/2016/12/19/funny-new-years-resolutions-from-kids/. Accessed 2 Jan. 2021.

Chasing Joy

The first seeds of doubt were planted as I leaned in to push against the trunk; my face fully engulfed in needles as my fingertips stretched towards the center. The late afternoon sun found our family walking the familiar snowy paths of our local Christmas tree farm in search of the perfect tree to adorn our home. We had passed on those deemed to short or too tall and settled on the beauty before me. Yet now, as I found myself submerged within its fullness, I wondered if this had been a wise choice.

We’ve had our share of Christmas tree mishaps in years past from trees falling over multiple times to one that chose to quit taking in water weeks before Christmas and therefore dropped its needles. Every year, we debate about whether or not we should get a real tree, and every year, we choose adventure over artificial. Yet, with needles threatening to go up my nose and sap sticking to my cheek, I wondered if this particular adventure was indeed the best choice.

I watched three grown men heave our precious bundle onto the top of our car, and I felt another wave of doubt wash over me. How on earth would we manage to not only get this thing inside, but get it standing upright? It’s at moments like this that I am so thankful for my husband. He was already formulating a plan on how we would tackle this tree raising.

Once home, he carefully pulled our tractor, fork lifts attached, up to the side of our car. He instructed me to stand on the back of the tractor to serve as a counterweight and proceeded to cut the ties that had held our precious cargo safely on our drive home. I held my breath, fearing the worse. Would the tractor be able to hold the weight of the behemoth we had brought home? With an encouraging push from my husband, I watched as the tree rolled towards me. I braced myself as it dropped from the top of the car and safely onto the forks below. The breath I had been holding released and laughter spilled forth.

More laughter followed as we heaved our tree over the railing onto the back deck and guided it ever so gently into the corner where it would reside for the weeks to come. (Actually, there was nothing gentle about it. It was more of a hold on and don’t you dare let the bottom kick up as we moved it into an upright position.)

As my husband freed the branches from its bindings and snow flung in every direction, I couldn’t help, but hear God’s whispers. “Open your eyes and see. See Me. I am here. I am in this moment. I am found in the scent of pine, the laughter of a child, the snow melting into a puddle on your floor. I’m found in the crisp, cold air, the twinkle of the stars, the warmth of a fire. I am here. Are you choosing to see me? Are you choosing to take great delight in me? Are you choosing to chase joy?”

Joy. How does one even begin to define it for it is more than just happiness. Joy is not rooted in our circumstances, but in the utter delight found in the presence of our Savior. A Savior whose fingerprints can be seen in all and through all. In her book, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp says, “Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped.” Joy is a gift. It is a gift that was given in the form of a baby many years ago. In Luke 2, we find these words:

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’”

Luke 2:8-12 (NLT)

The birth of our Savior was to bring great joy to all people. Great joy! To experience this joy we must accept the gift. Accept the gift of a Savior that died in our place. Accept the gift and then seek Him. What does it mean to seek? It means to be in pursuit of something, to chase after it. Seek Him in the laughter and in the heaviness that life can bring. Seek Him in the quiet and in the chaos. Seek Him in the everyday mundane and in the unexpected moments we face. Seek Him. Look for Him. Chase after Him. Chase joy.

And, in those moments when life feels too hard, and it’s difficult to see His hand moving . . . in those moments when you feel weary and joy seems out of reach . . . in those moments, sweet friend, choose thanks. Shift your gaze from all that is hard and look for those things for which you can be grateful. A child to love. A pillow beneath your head. A sun that rises each morning. Ann says, “While I may not always feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He know that the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving . . . Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see.” Chasing joy requires a slowing down, a grateful heart, and a desire to see our world through His eyes.

I pray this Christmas that you would accept the gift of our Savior, chase joy, and simply delight in His presence. Look for Him. Look for the traces of His fingerprints through all and in all. During this season, give thanks for a Savior who gave it all for you.

By the way, every time I look at this tree, I give thanks. Thanks for the adventure and for helping me see. #largemarge

Works Cited:
Voskamp, Ann. The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. Carol Stream, IL. Tyndale House. 2013.

Voskamp, Ann. One Thousand Gifts, a Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2010.

Believe and Trust

The weeks leading up to Christmas have always been my favorite. Decorating the house, baking cookies, and spending time with those I love most are some of my favorite traditions. One tradition, in particular, that is a favorite for my kids is wandering the familiar streets of my hometown. The first Friday of December is light-up night, and the streets of my girlhood home fill with the faces of those I have known for most of my life. My kids huddle together with their grammy and papa to watch the tractor parade, wade through the crowds visiting local businesses for a treat and walk for what seems likes miles to fill their cards with stamps that give them a chance to win a prize. The evening draws to a close after a cup of hot chocolate and an arm’s length of raffle tickets is given, and my kids strategically place tickets in bags at the Chinese auction in hopes of winning a new toy. Every year, we head home exhausted, but filled so completely with the love of family and the joy of celebrating this season together.

This year, though, things look a bit different. The traditional light-up night will not be as are so many other traditions that we look forward to in this season. If you’re like me, the changing of each season throughout this past year brings a fresh wave of grief. A longing for some semblance of normalcy in a world that looks so different. A longing for something familiar and stable when this current life leaves me filled with such uncertainty. A longing for a Christmas like the ones of years passed. But, in the midst of this longing, I’ve felt God challenging me. I’ve felt Him challenging me to turn my eyes from the what once was and look at this season in a new light. I have felt Him challenging me to look at Christmas through His eyes.

He took me to the book of Luke, and to the story of those who were there that first Christmas. The story begins with a young woman named Mary.

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!’ Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin.’ The angel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.’”
Luke 1:26-35 (NLT)

Place yourself in Mary’s shoes. What thoughts do you think may have been racing through her brain in those moments? Here she is, a young, engaged woman, and she has just been told that she is going to become pregnant. While that might be exciting news for many, it likely wasn’t for Mary. Having a baby outside of marriage wasn’t done. Her pregnancy would likely cause a scandal within her village. She faced the possibility of divorce, being banished from her father’s home, and even being killed. If you were Mary, how would you have responded to this message from God? I think I would have been scared out of my mind. I also think I may have felt some anger towards God for placing me in those circumstances. In the next few verses, we find Mary’s response to what the angel told her.

“’What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.’ Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.”

Luke 1:36-38 (NLT)

How does Mary respond? She chooses to believe that what God has said to her is true, and in doing so, she chooses to trust Him. She chooses to trust Him even though the path before her looks nothing like what she had expected. She chooses to trust that His plan is greater than her own. When we find ourselves in seasons that are hard or in places that are unexpected, do we respond as Mary did? Do we make the choice to believe what God says is true and trust that He is at work in our lives?

Continuing in Luke, we read more about how Mary responds to the news that she’s going to be a ma ma.

“A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, ‘God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.’ Mary responded, ‘Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.’”
Luke 1:39-50 (NLT)

Mary chooses to give thanks. She chooses to be grateful for what God has given her even though this gift of a child would take her down a path that is difficult. That got me to thinking. In this season, am I merely passing the days waiting for things to get back to “normal”, or am I choosing to see and be grateful for the good that can be found in my present? Am I making the choice to give thanks in this season? In 1 Thessalonians, we are encouraged to:

“Give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (VOICE)

Reflecting on the first Christmas, I wonder what this season in my life would look like if I chose to respond to God as Mary did. What if I chose to believe Him and trust Him? What if I chose to be thankful for the people and circumstances in my life? And what if I chose to look expectantly look for His hand moving?

This Christmas season, friend, I challenge you to take a lesson from Mary. Turn your gaze upon Him. Believe those things He says to you and trust Him. Choose to give thanks even when you don’t feel like it and look expectantly for Him to continue His work in you.

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.