What God Says About Me…

I’ve been meaning to post something sooner- I have a lot of posts started but haven’t finished yet. In the mean time we’ve experienced two deaths in our family, traveling, a pipe burst, Christmas and all its glory, etc etc. So I dug into my “archives” from early in my journey with God. I am very grateful for my journaling because I can look back and, not only see how far I’ve come, but also remind myself of things I’ve forgotten.

Sometimes I get hung up in finding material for my blog. I’ll spend two hours writing something and then I’ll say to myself: “This isn’t good enough.” Or “This is too basic and common sense.” But I have to remind myself – if I think I’m a 5 or 6 on the knowledge scale then I get to help the 3’s and 4’s, not the 7’s and 8’s.

Just this morning I heard about a study where people who were trying to change their habits were either instructed to say “I can’t” versus “I don’t.” Those who said “I don’t” were far more successful at avoiding the unwanted behavior than those who said “I can’t” because “I don’t” is associated with their identity. It’s who you are. Such a small change but a good reminder. It’s all semantics. How we talk to ourselves can be life giving or take the wind completely out of our sails. I get it. When someone else your entire life has told you unkind things about yourself- these can be hard to dispel. But you didn’t believe those bad things right away- you were convinced after the repetition. To replace the good with the bad it takes repetition. And you won’t always believe it. But don’t forget WHOSE you are. This is why I personally need to read the Bible every day. (I’ve just started the ‘read the Bible in 365’ plan on the Bible app! You can do it with friends too!) I need the constant reminder to love myself and others, to remind me that I am wanted and loved and pursued. I even saved this picture of Jesus laughing to my phone lock screen. I needed to picture Him as my best friend, not the angry judge above me. I’d imagine him reclined in the chair beside me, so intrigued and intently listening to what I say.

Once in my life I only cared what others thought of me. My favorite adjective was the F bomb. The tighter my clothes the better. The dirtier my jokes the funnier. I thought my only value was in my body and my ability to earn money. Any and all transformation is absolutely God’s doing (for His glory) and I am forever grateful for His guidance and freedom from my shackles.

So without further ado I give you my list of things I felt God saying to me as I first started to read, pray, and study the Bible. This is what the Holy Spirit did inside of me those mornings I couldn’t wait to get up at 4:30am to spend time with Him. I hope it touches your soul.

What God says about me

I love you.

I appreciate you.

I am grateful for you.

You are a rare and beautiful treasure.

I forgive you. Even for the things you’re not sorry for.

I’m proud of you. I’m proud to be your dad.

I smile and laugh and clap with unending joy for you.

I created everything for you and want you to enjoy it. You are why I do everything I do.

I want to spend time with you because you are important to me.

You are worth listening to, worthy of sacrifice, worthy of time and love and attention.

I hold you to a high standard.

You’re free from bondage.

I give you grace, undeserved favor. No matter what you do I will always love you and pursue you.

I’m not going to beat you up for what Jesus already got beat up for.

You have a special calling today.

I believe in you and I’m cheering and clapping and jumping for you.

I believe you will succeed.

I’m not going to give up on you.

I relentlessly pursue you.

I’m not going to give you what you think you deserve.

You are my prized possession.

I am patient with you. I am ready when you are.

I will come to you wherever you are.

I have compassion for you.

I get you. I understand what you’re going through. Don’t give up.

Everything you do- do it for me.

I delight in you.

My power that raises the dead to life is in you.

I give you infinite peace.

I am your greatest comfort and hold you in my hand. Close your eyes and surround yourself with my warm arms of grace.

I have bottled every one of your tears because your pain is important to me.

I’ve put you in my parade of victory and triumph.

I never grow tired or weary- you can depend on me. I will make you strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Do not be shy or ashamed- you are free from all guilt and regret.

Trust me. I will always be honest.

I’m renewing your spirit and give you endless hope.

Don’t worry, you won’t be on earth for long before I bring you to my home with me. I’m preparing your castle. You’re going to love it.

Everything awesome is from me, my gift to you.

The old you is gone. I’m proud of the you that you’ve become.

No matter what you’re going through in right here. I’ll never leave you.

I’ve made you brand new. You are my bride. Your dress is sparkling white.

Celebrate your weaknesses for without them I could not work inside you. I need you to need me.

Trials are my way of making you strong. You’re tough and I’m preparing you for something amazing. You’ll see.

Please don’t doubt me- I will give you all the knowledge, wisdom, and things you need. Let me be enough for you.

I will never tempt you- I will show you the way out, just ask.

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 25:8

2 Corinthians 2:14

Isaiah 40:28-29

2 Corinthians 3:17

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Isaiah 41:10

2 Cor. 5:17

Isaiah 43:2

2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 12:9

James 1:2-4

James 1:5-6

James 1:13

(Photo credit: https://thejesusquestion.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/jesus_laughing21.jpg)

How Shame Keeps Us From Loving

Something happened in the 7th grade that was pivotal in mapping out the rest of my life. I grew up middle class in the nice part of a smallish town in the Midwest. I moved from a private Christian school to public schools in the 4th grade and was lucky to have made a few friends that made the transition easy. Good thing because a few years later I was an UGLY DUCKILING. The end of the ugly duckling story results in a beautiful swan but sometimes that swan still feels like the frizzy-haired, braces wearing, awkward, insecure, acne-faced, unfeminine giant. I would look at the beautiful, outgoing, popular, skinny girls in my class with admiration and envy. Their skin was clear, their teeth were strait, their hair was Disney princess and they all wore Abercrombie. Their picture perfect families would get together on the weekends, the dads playing golf and the girls painting each others toenails like a Ralph Lauren commercial. The handful of them had gone to school together their whole lives. For two years in a row they cheered together on a community squad for the football team of all the popular boys in the school. Some of the girls were in gymnastics, making them highly valued in the cheering community. And then there was me, trying to find where I fit in. I was a smart and my favorite class was band.

At the end of spring semester were cheerleading tryouts. Despite how much I hated the cliché valley girl persona cheerleaders were associated with I was considering it for a few different reasons. For one, my mom was a cheerleader in high school. She was very different from me. She was outgoing and I was painfully shy. She, too, played the saxophone, and to follow further in her footsteps I,too, became a nurse. I was motivated to compete and do more and be better than my mom. I’m sure Freud would have something to say about it. But I also just really wanted to show those snobby brats they weren’t the only awesomesauce in the school. I wanted to prove to them and myself that I could do it.

So I showed up. I went every day to learn the routine and practiced it at home until it was flawless. The final tryout day was Friday. I felt ok about my performance despite my voice being shaky and nervous.

The results were posted on a piece of paper in the window of the front door at the school later that night. I searched desperately for my ID number on that list. I found it. There it was. I made the squad. Take that snobs.

Then reality set in. I was going to be forced to spend 3 days a week and multiple games, pep rallies, and events with these girls I had little in common with. I ended up making friends with two other girls and we became inseparable through high school. To this day I still think it was an important year of growth and putting myself out there. It gave my self confidence stretch marks and gave me the courage to go after bigger things later in my life.

As part of my conservative Midwest upbringing it was expected that we would attend every church service and event offered. Just like any other Sunday evening we went to church, but this particular day I decided to bring my fundraiser for cheerleading in case any of those giving Christian ladies needed any chocolate or Fancy Christmas wrapping paper. I was not a salesperson so my best tactic was a sweet smile and asking if they had a moment to take a look at my pamphlet. Didn’t always work but that was all my shyness could muster. I made the rounds and then approached my Sunday school teacher. This woman bravely took on the task of teaching hormonal and emotional middle school girls why exactly boys and short skirts are not everything in life. I walked up to her and said “Hi Mrs. J would you like to see what I’m selling for my cheerleading squad?” She didn’t smile much and this was not one of those times. She looked at me and replied, “I don’t support cheerleaders.”

I’m sure my body and face coordinated the visible deflation of shame. I don’t recall if I gave her a dirty look before I walked off but I said “ok” and retreated out of the pews. I was so hurt and not emotionally equipped with handling rejection or shame or oppression based on false stereotypes. Am I something bad? Did I spend so much emotional and physical energy to be something Christians shouldn’t be? Is my mom bad? What is so bad about cheering?

I’ll never forget what happened a few minutes later. A woman who overheard the encounter came up to me and told me to forget what my teacher had said. This was odd because they actually were good friends. She smiled and gently said,

We need disciples in every corner of the world.

Wow I went from shamefully wrong to a called disciple!

I’ve thought about that moment a lot. What would happen in this world if we looked at whomever we deemed as not “Godly enough” and just left them alone to stay in our perfect Christian bubbles?

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

So that they may see your good works and give glory to God. Are people won over through oppression and judgement? NO! We are won over through love- good works. Being treated with love, dignity, and respect, especially in the presence of controversial opinions and bias, is what makes undeserving sinners feel worthy. I love Brené Brown’s quote from her book Braving the Wilderness: “It’s hard to hate people from close up; move in.” We are all unworthy of every good thing based on our deeds. But it is not through deeds that we have won the kingdom of God. It was an unmerited gift.

“A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more? ” Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” He told him.” Luke 7:41-43.

Perhaps those who have experienced oppression, or been shamed for their identity are more likely to extend invitations of belonging to others because they know what it feels like to be rejected for being human. Humility is the birthplace of acceptance. Acknowledging that we are all broken, all struggling, that we all have had to overcome something difficult is what binds our humanity. To deny this is to deny true love for one another. Once we can grasp this concept then follows true empathy, compassion , and mercy.

If we do not go into all the world looking for disciples then who will? We sit at home and pray “God send someone to save the people of the world” but we forget it’s up to us.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”

I already know what you’re going to say

I met our son when he was barely 2. I had to have my husband translate for me at times because I wasn’t versed in the “cursive” baby talk.

I’ve been fortunate in being a part of his crazy and funny life. Once, while changing his diaper he pulled on it to be ornery only to find his poop pebbles shoot him in the forehead like BB’s.

Now that I proudly say I’ve been in his life for more than 50% of it- I’ve watched him grow and learn and slowly become a little person. Lately, he’s been doing this thing where he starts to say something, hesitates, and then continues with

“I already know what you’re going to say.”

Don’t we do that with God at times? “I want to ask your for this thing but I already know you’re going to say no!”

I struggle all the time with the purpose of prayer. If He knows what we are thinking and saying and doing why do we have to approach Him with it?! Just the other night at bedtime our son asked the same question: why do we have to pray if He already knows?

Sometimes I already know what our son wants before he asks. And usually I have my answer prepared. UNTIL he says WHY he’s asking. The MOTIVATION behind what he is asking changes my mind from time to time. God is not as concerned with what we are asking- it’s the why.

I don’t want to apply my limited human thinking to Gods awesomeness. But we were made in His likeness. I like the thought that I inherited some great traits from my Heavenly Father.

I don’t know to what extent we can change God’s mind. That gets me swirling in a cycle I’m not equipped to figure out. But Deuteronomy 9 and Exodus 32 show where God wanted to destroy the Israelites because of all the disgrace had done. But Moses said please don’t kill your people!

So whether or not we can change Gods mind He made us for a purpose. I like to think He didn’t make us to be puppets for his show. He made us because we are a part of Him and He is love. He CRAVES a relationship with us. He wants us to come to Him with our fears, concerns, celebrations, and trust. What have you neglected to give to God because you already “know” what He would say?

“Others” Day

When you think back to the dreams you had as a little girl- the dress, the Prince Charming, the happily ever after- I’m willing to bet it didn’t include being a step-parent. No one grows up dreaming of caring for SOME ONE ELSE’S kids. And yet here we are.

According to stepfamily.org around 50% of women live in a step-family relationship.

The dream of having the “ideal” family of 3 kids, a dog, a career, the perfect doting husband has gripped my heart in shackles of perfectionism (thanks a lot Disney). This ‘dream’ is rare. It’s NOT the norm. When I was divorced and single I had turned down a few men just because they had kids. I didn’t think I was selfless enough to take on that daunting task.

One day my friend told me to try match.com. I thought this was a terrible way to meet people- superficially judging people on their BEST selfie (ewe) and what THEY think of themselves. I was on there for 3 whole days before I couldn’t take it anymore (y’all the dating scene as a 30 year old is ridiculous). In that short window a very sweet, down to earth man messaged me. His tag line said God and family were most important to him- right under the picture of him and his 1-year-old SON (thank God NO selfies). Fast forward- he’s now MY son too.

Through this journey I have had to learn A LOT. And I’ve learned about myself and my own upbringing along the way. I’ve had to deepen my roots to produce good fruit. Learn how to offer myself grace. Grow closer to God to discover how to do my new role. Prune the branches with rotten fruit. Learn how to ask for forgiveness for buying a little boy pink scissors.

It’s funny how God uses your past to prepare you for the future. My husband needed someone who came from a divorced family to help him navigate the waters. He came from the “dream” family and was very naive to the new “norm.”

In the mean time we also starting trying for more children. Our struggles are still ongoing as we haven’t been able to conceive almost 2 years later (whole other heaping bag of self inflicted anguish). BUT it got me thinking- this MAY be my only child and I have to be ok with that. I felt so alone- funny how we think we are alone when we are where we don’t want to be in life. But then I started thinking about my aunt who adopted twins, my friend who was a foster parent, my mom who was also a step parent. The act of raising someone else’s children suddenly wasn’t so foreign. Love, for me, is not a feeling. It’s a daily choice to act in love. To chose every day to hug, kiss, encourage, feed, grow with your children whether they’re yours or not. I’m not looking for gold star but for someone to care for someone else’s tiny human WITHOUT that emotional and biological connection is even more commendable.

My first Mother’s Day was hard. Not what I expected. I felt second fiddle and it sucked. But I also mentally already put myself there. There’s no pretending to be a replacement or the only mom when their biological parent isn’t around- that’s just the nature of the relationship. BUT I get to be an adjunct- the addition – the gap filler -the OTHER mom. Now that is a role I can fill! At our house we say “other” or “biological” mom. No thanks to Disney (again!) the evil step-mother symbol still lingers in my mind. So in our family, the weekend before Mother’s Day we celebrate “Other’s Day.” MY day.

Maybe some day I will take on making it a national holiday. But in the mean time, happy (very belated) Others Day to all those raising their unbiological children!

Remember that one time when…

My first post! I hesitated immensely and really thought for a while about what I wanted MY FIRST post to be. It sets the tone. Where do I want to take this? How much sharing about my personal life do I want to divulge? What’s the theme? (Cue eighth grade writing assignment nightmares).

It just so happens that yesterday marks the 3 year anniversary of a decision I took that would change my life forever. No, I didn’t decide to become sober (a very brave thing indeed). But I did choose to embrace the fact that life is short and that I’m the one in control of how it goes (for the most part).

August 12, 2014 was the last day I would be who I “was.”

August 13, 2014 I sped home at 7am after my 24 hour call shift at the hospital. I walked in, looked at everything for about 10 seconds, not knowing where to start or what to do. Then I snapped out of it and quickly starting snatching overnight bags, stuffing them full of essential clothing and toiletries I could quickly get my hands on. In the silence of me standing in my bedroom after zipping my bag I heard the front door unlock as clear and loud as I’ve ever heard it. I sprung to the bedroom patio door and bolted out as fast as I could around to the side gate. It truly was in slow motion, like a bad dream, trying to run through quick sand. I sprinted as fast as I could until I got about 3 houses down-literally running FOR my life. I peered back over my shoulder to see the 6’1″ man standing there in the front yard staring at me in his white t-shirt and work jeans. The rest of this story involves me waiting at flagpole for the police to come (God’s symbol of my freedom). Three hours later the two police cars would drive off, I would hug my neighbor goodbye, my mom, her friend (I had never met before), and myself would drive to my new sanctuary.

THAT was the day I made the very brave decision to leave the abuse, the gaslighting, the threats, the narcissism, the lies, the blaming, the victimization, and the martyring in my marriage.

This blog isn’t JUST going to be about the perils of abuse. But whatever topic presents itself I always want to bring it back around to “The Fruits of the Spirit.” I want to notice the God in my life. Feeling Him move and seeing His plan come into action. I owe all I am today to the one moment, on my bed, feeling absolutely hopeless, pleading: “God save me. If you do exist you HAVE to do something to help me. Because if you can’t then no one can.”

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth —”
Ephesians 5:8-9 HCSB