Fear No More

Grief has a way of catching us off guard at times, doesn’t it? Sometimes it seems to come upon us slowly and other times, it seems to hit us like a freight train. Whether it’s through the loss of a loved one, a marriage that is struggling, or a child making poor decisions, we sometimes find ourselves in places that we didn’t expect. Places of discouragement. Places of hurt. Places of heartache. Places that cause us to grieve for what might have been. Have you ever been there?

When I find myself in the midst of grief, I am reminded that the path before me is not one that I walk alone. Isaiah reminds me,

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you . . . I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. So don’t be afraid: I’m with you.”

Isaiah 43:2-5 (MSG)

   

“Don’t be afraid: I’m with you.” On those days that you grieve for what was or for what might have been, be reminded that you are not alone. When you find yourself in the midst of a day that leaves you feeling discouraged, be reminded that you are not alone. When fear of the future and what might be threatens to take hold, be reminded that you are not alone. Turn your gaze towards Him, lean into His strength, and press on. God promises to be there. 

 

A Spark

“Your letter made me cry.”

I had just emailed a letter of recommendation for a dear friend; a letter for a potential employer that shared many of the things I love about her. As I read her text, I felt God whispering into my heart, and I began to think about something.

How often am I using the time He has given me throughout my day to encourage and build others up?  What words am I choosing to use with my husband, my kids, or even the customer service representative on the other end of the line? Am I allowing the stress I am feeling to spill out through my words? How are my actions affecting those around me? Are my actions revealing my frustrations of the day? Intentional or unintentional, are my words and actions building others up or tearing them down?

Her words made me think.

How often do I lift my eyes from myself, my troubles, my stress, my frustrations and see the others in my life that need a little encouragement? How often do I remind my husband that I love him and that I am so proud of him? How often do I point out the strengths I see in my kids to build their confidence? How often do I tell someone that I believe in them?

I recently read a quote that said, “Your words of encouragement could be the spark that pushes someone forward.” Our words could be a spark . . .

Who can you encourage today? Who can you build up today? Use your words and actions wisely. Often, they have more of an impact than we realize.

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http://favanti.com/your-words-of-encouragement-could-be-the-spark-that-pushes-a-person-forward.html 

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/715561

A Million Canaries

Many might describe her as quiet, perhaps even unsure of herself. But, this picture tells a different story. This picture captures the heart of my girl. And I wish, I was more like her.

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My girl. She loves rollercoasters and barrel racing. She loves deeply and will fiercely defend those she holds close. Her laughter is contagious, and she fully embraces the joy that comes from living life. She loves who she is, and it shows. And . . . I wish I was more like her. I wish that I was more confident in who God created me to be. Have you ever struggled with that? Have you ever felt that you don’t quiet measure up?

I read an article, this morning, by Diana Spalding. In it, she talks about how many women, moms in particular, are feeling burnt out.  They are burnt out from striving to meet the standards set by society. Standards that dictate what a perfect woman, wife, and mother looks like.

These standards surround us at every turn. They are found in the books we read, the movies we watch, and in our Facebook feed. We see pictures of the perfect birthday parties on Pinterest, the perfect vacations on Instagram, the perfect bodies on the covers of magazines in the check-out line. Everywhere we look, we are faced with an image of what a perfect woman looks like, and we are faced with the reality that we fail on so many levels. Have you ever been there? I have. Far too often.

But, I think it is really important that we remember a couple of things when we begin to compare ourselves to this standard the world has set. First, many of the images and ideas that our society gives us of the perfect woman are unrealistic and unattainable: plain and simple. We see pictures that have been edited and feeds that only share the good things that happen. We strive for perfection and find ourselves disappointed every time. 

Secondly, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what the world thinks. The only opinion that should matter is that of our Father. And you know what? In His eyes, you are beautiful. In His eyes, you are precious. In His eyes, you are worthy.

Diana goes on to share a quote from Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, who has spent more than a decade studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. Ms. Brown says,

“Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think. When we’re fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that’s constantly whispering ‘You’re not good enough’ in our ear, it’s tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it.”

“We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it.” That’s a powerful statement and she’s right. We strive to find our worthiness in this world when our worthiness is already found in Jesus. Matthew 10:29-31 says,

“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”

Matthew 10:29-31 (MSG)

You are worth more than a million canaries. Cling to that today friend, and stand tall as the beautiful woman God created you to be.

 

 

https://www.ted.com/speakers/brene_brown

https://www.mother.ly/life/self-care-is-not-enough-to-fix-how-much-moms-are-burnt-out?xrs=RebelMouse_fb&fbclid=IwAR3ZI-s1I37ZeWi6hyCF9KsBgSLpVTt9nbiTaehju3OpQDaXmaX5ZwfqOQQ

Outlet Covers

I couldn’t help, but laugh at what I found.

I had just had a conversation with a friend about how quickly our kids grow, and here I sat looking at a wall outlet in my daughter’s room. A wall outlet neatly plugged with covers. Covers meant to keep my daughter from inserting foreign objects into the outlet: covers meant to protect her from harm.

But, here’s the thing. My girl . . . she’s ten.  She’s  old enough now to know how to safely use outlets. She’s old enough now that she no longer needs those covers to protect her. But yet, they are still there.

As I struggled to remove the covers, I found myself expressing my thanks that our family has reached this stage in life where we no longer need outlet covers. But, at the same time, I found the task bittersweet.

Much of mothering is like that isn’t it? We spend our days caring for the needs of our kids, setting boundaries, implementing consequences, and trying to speak truth into their hearts. We do this day in and day out and often ask ourselves if we are doing this mothering thing right. Have we’ve done too little? Have we done too much? Or have we done exactly what was needed?

I think it is normal to ask yourself those questions, but I think it is also important to remember one thing. God doesn’t make mistakes. Those kids of yours? God knew you were the mother they needed, and each day He gives you an opportunity to help them grow into the people He created them to be. How will you make the most of that opportunity today?

Choose today to show patience and kindness. Choose today to use words that build others up instead of tearing them down. Choose today to extend grace, to help others without complaining, to do the right thing even when it’s hard. Choose to make the most of today with not only your kids, but with everyone God brings across your path today.

Today is a gift. Hold tightly to it and joyfully make the most of it.

 

Psalm 118-24

 

 

https://images.app.goo.gl/VgJxJV2ocspxprvQ7 

Loving your tribe

As I looked around the room, I couldn’t even begin to stop the tears that ran down my cheeks. Each person in that room I loved so deeply. And . . . in that moment, each person in that room was hurting so deeply. My heart ached.

It was not the weekend we had expected. A late night phone call brought us all together to this tiny hospital conference room. This room where hard decisions had to be made. Hard decisions that no one should ever have to make on their own. Yet, as my gaze settled upon each face in that room, God made one thing very clear.

In the midst of our grief . . . our tribe was there.

In the following days, I found milk in my fridge and bread on my counter. Meals were dropped off, messages of love and support sent, and prayers lifted up.

In the midst of my grief . . . my tribe was there.

My tribe.

Some are connected to me by blood. Others, through the work to which God has called me. But regardless of how they fit into my life, I am certain of one thing. God doesn’t make mistakes. Each person in my life is there because God saw fit to put them there.  And, as part of my tribe, I am to love them. I’m to love them just as Jesus loves them.

In the book of John, Jesus spoke these words . . .

“Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you.”

John 15:12 (CEV)

Love as I have loved you . . .

Loving others isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is hard to love those in our tribe. But, loving those God has placed in our lives is exactly what He wants us to do. Think about those whom God has placed in your life. Think about those who make up your tribe and who God has asked you to love. What would loving them well look like? Would your life look any different if you started loving others as He loves you?

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https://me.me/i/our-job-is-to-love-others-without-stopping-to-inquire-4505108 

 

 

 

This Is Not the Finish Line

I sat down beside him and pulled him close. As I wrapped my arms around him, huge tears began to roll down his cheeks. My heart ached as he leaned in and quietly began to sob. What could have possibly happened to my youngest to hurt him so deeply? And then, the words began to tumble out in between his sobs. He had tried so hard. He had practiced and practiced but, despite his hard work, he still wasn’t good enough. It didn’t take long for me to remember that today he had had gym class. And today was the day that the entire class would be timed on how fast they could run. Today was the day that the two fastest boys and the two fastest girls would be chosen, to represent their class during track and field day, which was to be held in just a few weeks. 

Now, my boy knows that he isn’t one of the fastest boys in his class. Two of his best friends always beat him. No, my boy hadn’t set his sights on being chosen to actually run in the race. His goal . . . was to serve as an alternate. More than anything else, he wanted to be chosen as an alternate. An alternate is the one who is called upon to run if the need arises. And  that . . .  was his dream. It’s been his dream for the past three years. But, today . . . he got beat, and my heart broke for him. 

My heart broke further as he then went on to ask me if I thought he was good at anything. I pulled him closer and spent the next few minutes reminding him of the many ways he is gifted, the many ways he is special, and that God created him perfectly just as he is. As I finished speaking truth into his little heart, he threw his arms around me, and said, “I love you, mom.” And in that moment, I heard God tell me, “This! This is your ‘Best Yes’. This time you just spent pouring truth into his heart . . .  it was one of the  assignments I had for you today. Taking the time to speak into him as only a mama can . . . it was part of your purpose for today. This was a ‘Best Yes’”

“Best Yes” assignments. God has them for each and every one of us. But, can I ask you something? Do you ever find it difficult to see the assignments He has for you? Are you like me and wish that God would make it just a bit easier to see His plan? Sometimes I wish that He would just post signs that read “Meghan, go this way” or “Meghan, do this.” Or, perhaps, He could just send Jesus right back down here to lead me by the hand. It doesn’t quite work that way, does it? It isn’t always that easy to see where God is leading us. But, there are a few things that we can do, to help us see the “Best Yes” assignments He has for us more clearly. 

First, be present. To be present is to be available or to be in a particular place.  To be present is to completely focus your attention on either the person you are with or the task that is at hand. I recently read an article, “8 Ways to Be Present” by Tom Stuart, leader of Ignited2Pray Ministries, that expanded on this definition. He said, “Being present requires a focused engagement of every aspect of our being including the physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual.” Being present is turning our focus away from those things in this world that can distract us: those things that can keep us from seeing the assignments God has for us. It’s turning our focus away from those things and towards God and His presence in our lives.  To be fully present, is to do as Psalms tells us. It says to,

“Shut up . . . Shut off . . . Shut out . . . and in the silence . . . sense God: connect!”  Psalm 46:10 (STREET)

We need to shut up. Now, I know as women that we have like 20,000 words we need to get out in a day. But, when it comes to the conversations we are having with God, we need to do less talking and more listening. So often, I find myself telling God that He needs to do this or He needs to do that. So often, I find myself acting as though I am the one in control of a situation. Guess what? News Flash! I’m not. I am not in control. God is. We need to spend more time quieting our own voices so that we can better hear His. We need to shut up.

Shut off. In his article, Tom Stuart talks about how we live in a world where the technology is getting more sophisticated by the day. Technology not only makes our lives easier, but it can help us to multitask more efficiently.  And as a mom, we feel that having the ability to multitask is essential, right? However, he makes one point that is worth mentioning. The very same technology that we feel makes our lives easier is the very same technology that easily distracts us and demands our presence. Think about that for a moment. How distracting is technology for you? Think about your phone for example. How often do you check it? I always have mine with me, and if I can’t locate it, I admit that I start to panic just a bit. I’ll also admit to you that I have answered it in the middle of eating dinner with my family, and I have replied to emails or returned a quick text as one of my kids was talking to me.  Technology: though it can make our lives easier,  it’s turning our focus away from the people or tasks that need our attention. It’s distracting us, and it’s demanding our presence. Set some limits for yourself, and shut it off.

Next, we need to shut out. Just like technology can so easily distract me, so can the opinions and the expectations of this world: opinions and expectations that are rarely truthful. It’s important that we learn to shut out what the world says and focus instead on the truth we find in God’s Word. It’s His truth that gives us freedom. In the book of John, Jesus says,

“If you hear My voice and abide in My word, you are truly My disciples;  you will know the truth, and that truth will give you freedom.”

John 8:31-32 (VOICE)

It’s His truth that gives us freedom, not what the world tries to speak into our hearts. We need to shut out the world and open our hearts to hear His Truth.  

After we shut up, shut off, and shut out, we then can sense God’s presence and truly connect with Him. With our focus solely on Him, it will be easier to discern which of those assignments before us are ours. With our focus on Him, the path that we are to take will be more clear. Being fully present in His presence, we will following His leading. And, as we following His leading, we will be fulfilling the purposes He has for us. We will be living out our Best Yes. 

Another way we can see our “Best Yes” assignments more clearly is to pay attention.  Like I mentioned before, there are times that I wish God would very directly point out the direction He would like me to go. But, think about this. What if He already is? What if He has been clearly pointing where I am to go, and I’m not seeing it simply because I’m failing to pay attention? What if my “Best Yes” assignments are right before me, but I’m too busy doing life to see them? 

Lysa Terkeurst says, “We will have a very hard time paying attention to (our) Best Yes (assignments) if we live lives that are completely spent. Instead, why not completely spend yourself on the assignments that are yours, those moments you shouldn’t dare miss, the calling that pulses in your soul, the love you and only you can offer?” 

What it we intentionally chose to cut back on our commitments: the commitments we make for ourselves and for our kids? What if we chose to put down our phones, turn off our tv and spent quality time with those people we love? What if we spent our days doing those things that really matter? What if we dared to explore that spark God placed deep within our souls? What if we dared to ask God to open our eyes to the brokenness that surrounds us? How different would our lives look?

In Colossians, Paul says,

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.”

Colossians 3:2 (MSG)

We are living in a world that is broken and hurting. What is it that God wants you to do?Think about it. What is it that God wants you to do?  Sometimes we get our minds fixed into a way of thinking that Lysa Terkeurst calls a fixed mind-set. We see our abilities, our talents, our skills, our relationships, and our intelligence as limited and lacking. We feel that where we are today is where we always will be. We feel . . . stuck. But, God doesn’t want us to remain stuck. He wants us to have a growth mind-set. He wants us to see our abilities, our talents, our skills, our relationships, and our intelligence with potential. He wants us to see ourselves like He does: as beautiful, unique, and created with purpose.

Where we are today is only our starting place. It is not our finish line. God has a precious plan for your life. He cannot be limited in what He does, and if He choses to use you, He will. Have the courage to take that first step in the plan He has for you. Have the courage to be engulfed by that fire that He set ablaze in your soul. 

I’ll close with these words from Lysa. “Indeed, in God’s plan, you and I have a part to play. If we know it and believe it, we’ll live it. We’ll live our lives making decisions with the Best Yes as our filter. We’ll be a grand display of God’s Word lived out. Out undistracted love will make our faith ring true. Our wisdom will help us make decision that will still be good tomorrow. And we’ll be alive and present for all of it. Now let’s go and live the Best Yes life.” 

The “Best Yes” life. Live it. Live the life to which God has called you. That fire within you . . .  find it. Find Your Fire, tend to it, and let it shine brightly. May it shine so brightly that others can’t help, but see Jesus when they look at you. 

 

 

References:

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.

“8 Ways to Be Present.” Stuart, Tom. Ignited2Pray Ministries. https://tomstuart.org/2012/01/04/8-ways-to-be-present/. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019. 

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.

Be Still

I’ve felt out of sorts this week. I’ve not been myself.

It’s been a busy week. A week in between commitments that I’ve used to catch up on some things. There have been appointments, trips to restock the pantry, completion of paperwork that should have been done a couple of weeks ago, and spending time with dear friends before they leave for a mission trip. It’s been a week of good things. A productive week. And yet, this morning, I feel a bit empty.  Can you relate to that feeling at all?

As I’ve been reflecting on that this morning,  I realized that in my busyness to accomplish everything on my to-do-list this week, I have neglected to do one very important thing. I have not taken the time to “be still”.

Psalms tells us to,

“Shut up . . . Shut off . . . Shut out . . . and in the silence . . . sense God: connect!” Pslam 46:10 (STREET)

How often this week did I intentionally take the time to be still? How often did I sit in silence, close my mouth and quiet my thoughts? How often did I shift my focus from all I hoped to accomplish and look into the face of the One who has planned my days from the very beginning?  How often this week, did I shut out the world, turn off my phone, turn down the music, and sit in the presence of the One who loves me above all else? How often did I sit . . . in the silence?

Silence. My heart longs for it. It longs for it because it is in the silence that I can clearly hear the voice of the One who calls me by name. In the silence,  He reminds me of who He is and of the call He has placed on my life. A call to things greater than simply completing my to-do-list.

The silence. It is what my heart longs for . . .

God longs for us to be still. He longs for us to spend time with Him, to understand who He is, and who He created us to be. Have you been taking the time to “be still”? Have you been taking the time to quietly sit in His presence?

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