Category Archives: Christianity

Always Struggling? What God is Teaching Me About Success and Humilty

Do you ever feel like the struggle is just all too real and all too constant? “What am I doing wrong here?!” you may ask yourself. Been there. Still there. Where did we get this message from the world and start buying it that success = ease and plenty? That we should be embarrassed by our struggles and seek to portray ourselves as “winners” rather than just struggling people saved by the grace of God?

In the course of living my life as a working professional and mama to two boys with special needs, I have found that in spite of my best efforts and many prayers, feeling like I have it “together” typically only lasts for a few hours here and there scattered among days that are exhausting, filled with challenging behavior and sleep deprivation that requires constant patience and “therapy mom” mode, then having to go into work acting like I’m the “with it” professional who can garner respect and making sure all of the paperwork for my son’s therapies and insurance is completed in a timely manner. I’m almost always at least mildly struggling. I’m always coming up short. I am not perfect. The pictures I post on social media don’t show my struggles. I’d really rather not be lookin’ all busted in my pictures, but you should see me as I walk my kids into school in the morning lookin’ a hot mess (I go home and get ready for work after I drop them off). I definitely do not have it together. One bit. Just doin’ the best I can over here.

stressed-mom

 I want you to know that YOU ARE NOT FAILING AT LIFE JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE STRUGGLING THROUGH LIFE.  When did struggle become shameful? There is so much freedom in hearing a friend say “me too” and realizing you aren’t the only person going through it. I find comfort in God’s Word. God never promised us that we would be free from struggle or weakness, only that He would never leave or forsake us in it. The world’s image of “winning” was NEVER the standard on which we are meant to judge our “success.” He said we should boast in our weaknesses, that His strength is made perfect in weakness.” I actually hate the word “success” because it brings to mind all of the worldly definitions of  “winning” and “success” being financial prosperity, vacations, beauty, health, lack of struggle and strife and also how  many “successful” people look down on those who are “unsuccessful” as if the advantages they have had in life had nothing to do with their “success” as they claim the glory for themselves rather than giving full glory to God in utter humility for every single blessing received from innate intelligence to being born to a loving family to having good looks to being able-bodied and able-minded.

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This idea that lack of struggle = “success” is so dangerous and discouraging. It isn’t from God or at least what I’ve read in the Bible. Sure, sometimes we bring struggle upon ourselves by acting like little kids who throw caution to the wind and do whatever we want regardless of it being wrong (like a little kid who eats all of the Halloween candy in one sitting and then spends the night throwing up asking “why am I so sick mama?” because all that sugar at once made them sick.)  We can’t blame God when we just act dumb or lazy, go against His advice and knowingly YOLO it. But, I’m not talking about messing up on purpose. I’m talking about doing the best you can, looking to God for guidance every day, and still struggling through life. That doesn’t mean we are doing life wrong or that we are just “unsuccessful” or “ineffective” losers. Take heart. Be encouraged.

Here is what God’s word actually says about suffering and struggle:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV   

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Romans 5:3-5 ESV 

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 23:1-6 ESV 

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. …

Luke 18:9-14 ESV     

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ …

John 1:5 ESV

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Romans 8:1 ESV 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:13 ESV 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

James 1:2 ESV   

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

Hebrews 13:1-25 ESV 

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” …

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

1 Corinthians 2:1-16 ESV     

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. …

 

Matthew 7:1-2 ESV 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Exodus 14:14 ESV 

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Romans 14:10-13 ESV 

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Psalm 71:20-21 ESV 

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.

1 Peter 5:10 ESV    

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

2 Corinthians 1:9 ESV 

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Acts 14:21-22 ESV    

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV      

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Romans 5:8 ESV    

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:18 ESV          

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

lordspurpose

I find it hard to hold my head high with my struggles sometimes, but maybe that’s the point. Thank you God, for humbling me daily and bringing me to my knees so that I can go to work and meet my clients who I counsel in a place of my own suffering and humility that I may never make the mistake of implying that life is about “lost” versus “found” and “successful” versus “unsuccessful” people. I am lost and found daily. I am both successful and unsuccessful daily. Thank you Jesus for always finding me and giving me what I need rather than what I want as I wing it through this life…

P.s. I know I whine more than I should, please forgive me and keep giving me what I need, not what I want. Also, if you could make my kids behave better and give me more patience that would be much appreciated. 😉

godsuccess

Loving Jesus Doesn’t Have To Be So Complicated…

 

So, I was lying in bed last night thinking about so many things. Feeling confused. Inadequate. That’s when I felt the love of Jesus come over me like I haven’t in a while….this sweet, unconditionally loving presence in my heart, that kind, still small voice in my spirit that says, “stop doing this to yourself Jen. I never asked you to do any of that stuff you think you have to do in order to be a “good Christian”. I never asked you to be something or someone you aren’t or to give something you don’t have. I just want you to be with me, let’s just be together right now, let me hold you. I’ve missed you and it’s completely ok because I know you missed me too and I know you are doing the best you can. It doesn’t have to be so hard. You don’t have to try, try, try. Just be still and know that I am God. Receive me. Let me hold you at night after the crazy day is done. Quit guilt-tripping yourself and comparing yourself to others. We don’t even have to spend the mornings together ok? You don’t have to read anything. What if you just lie down and let me give you peace at the end of the day? Let’s get back to spending time together.” My body, mind, and spirit finally calmed and accepted the peace He was offering me without hesitation, without asking me to repent or apologize for not doing a “good enough job”at being a Christian. He knows how I beat myself up for not being “good enough” in any way that I possibly can. He knows I just need to stop, to be held.

Relationship-with-Jesus

So, that is what I will try harder to do. Nothing else. No other goals for this year. I will bring Jesus whatever I have in my heart and let him hold me. My time with Jesus doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. I don’t have to have “quiet time” at 5am every morning. I think Jesus knows “morning person” is not in my DNA. It can be at midnight when I’m lying there unable to sleep. It can be in the car when I bite my lip because I’m twisted up with anxiety after checking the bank account and tallying up all my bills. It can be when I go in the bathroom at work for some peace because I can’t take all of the demands and sadness of the stories I hear as a counselor. It can be anytime. ANYTIME. It can involve reading my Bible or just being still and knowing Him.

Because, if I wait to spend time with Jesus until I feel like I can do it like a “good Christian” or I wait until I have large chunks of time to sit and sip coffee leisurely while reading my Bible and pondering a devotional for an hour somewhere with a beautiful view….then I will miss out on being held, in the here and now, in my real life, my messy life, my exhausting life, my life that isn’t picturesque most of the time. It is this life that I need Him in so badly. Real life. I don’t want to miss out on time with my best friend just because I can’t do it “like I should.”

It makes me think of my friend out in Texas. If I waited until she came back to Georgia and we could have a spa day together to spend time with her at all, we would likely grow very far apart. But, just by talking on the phone for 20 minutes here and there when we can and sharing our messy real lives, we have a great friendship. I know I can count on her support and she knows she can count on mine. I want to have a close friendship with Jesus too. I don’t just want to call him up when something catastrophic happens.

love-shoes

I have to get back to the basics. 1) Love God 2) Love one another. There is no 3) Feel guilty for not serving within the church constantly. It really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Spend time loving God and love people. Loving people doesn’t even have to be so complicated. It doesn’t have to involve all kinds of volunteerism or going to a foreign country or serving at the church during this season of life where I have plenty of opportunities to love on the women and children survivors of abuse I work with, to model care and compassion for the mentally ill to my students, and to love on my own kids, husband, and extended family members. What if I just stop feeling guilty and focus on treating the people in my day to day life, the ones I’m CLEARLY called to love, with love and kindness? That can be challenging enough. What if everyone loved their families, clients/students, and co-workers well?

One day, in a different season of life, I will serve within the church more, I will have more to give, I might get to read my Bible for an hour or more sitting by the lake digging into each scripture. But, right here? Right now? Loving Jesus doesn’t have to be so complicated. I just need to be still and know Him. Right here. Right now.

 

Christmas Miracles

Every Christmas, I look for miracles. My dictionary reads: A miracle is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being, magic, a miracle worker, a saint or a religious leader. So what miracles would this year bring, I wondered? I have been  praying for miracles for an injured family member, an overwhelmed friend,  a little girl in my community who is fighting cancer and for Joey Feek, whose music and testimony has touched my heart deeply in a way I can’t logically explain. My sons and I have been donating to (because sometimes you have to help miracles along with love when you can) and praying for the refugee women and children who are in need of so much more than we have to give. This world really needs some miracles right about now, doesn’t it? 

So, I was praying for people who needed a miracle. I was keeping my eyes and heart open in gratitude to see the many miracles all around us that we all too often fail to see. But, in some ways, I just wasn’t feelin’ it this year. Ever had trouble just getting into the Christmas spirit? You try and try and just can’t quite get there? That was me this year. I had been feeling a little (ok a lot) burned out. Stressed out. Feeling stretched beyond my limits, but without any real options to change my situation or reduce my stress load anytime soon (believe me, I’ve rolled my options around in my head 1000 times, crunched numbers, and I’m just gonna have to hang in there as is unless an amazing new opportunity that doesn’t involve selling anything comes along). My headaches had started coming back. All of this was waaay before Christmas even rolled up…I was feeling like this in November. The past year had been filled with challenges at work, home, financially, everything breaking down all at once, health issues, etc.  So that’s where I was at emotionally in early November. Cringing as the stores brought out Christmas decorations and my go-to uplifting Christian radio station started playing “Jingle Bells”. Just exhausted, wanting to hop on the first plane to the Bahamas and run away from it all before Santa even flew in to take up residence at the mall. And then something interesting started happening….

Through a strange serious of events, I was called to help a young woman (not a client). More disadvantaged, alone, scared, and facing many more obstacles than any of my clients, she was someone I could not in good conscience decline to assist. But, if I’m honest with you, I have to admit that some of my first (selfish) thoughts were, “oh no, Lord why me? I don’t even know if I can be of much help or if this is just going to cause me more headaches and be the stress that pushes my sanity into a ditch. I know I’m supposed to be servant-hearted, but I’m dry bones, Lord have mercy I’m tired. And in December? Really?” But, I answered the call nonetheless. It was a situation I am uniquely qualified to help with for many different reasons due to my life experience and professional training. Saying yes, I will help, has resulted not in further burnout, but instead in my own Christmas blessing! God and those mysterious ways again…

My faith is expanding as I’m seeing God work in miraculous ways in this seemingly impossible situation. I’m doing my part to be love and practical help (within my means) to someone who needs lots of love and support right now. In doing so, my heart has been touched deeply, my faith expanded, and I have been re-energized about my calling and my life’s work as a counselor. So many things have come together in such a short period of time. God’s hand is undeniably all over it stirring sweet grace and mercy into the situation with the help of a network of believers as generously as Paula Deen stirs butter into her recipes with a spoon. The Body of Christ has come together so beautifully it is restoring my faith in my fellow Christians (many of us didn’t even really know each other well before this need arose and we don’t even come from the same church family). I wish I could tell you the details and tell you the full story, but I need to keep the details private. My part of it is just doing what I can and thanking God for this Christmas blessing of expanded faith and confirmation that I need to stop feeling guilty for not doing things that are not my callings and the gentle yet firm reminder to say yes to my callings even when they don’t make sense or appear at first glance to be too much. Lord, your yoke is easy and burden light (Matt. 11:30) because what you ask us to do, those things that are our true callings, end up blessing us back in return.

Speaking of miracles….at Christmas, I always meditate on Mary and what it must have been like for her. She was called to do something completely out of her comfort zone, something that initially jeopardized her upcoming marriage/life plan/stability, her safety, stretched her heart and soul, put her on a physically arduous journey to Bethlehem and upon her arrival (in active labor no less) was told there was no room at the inn. No room. No. The world couldn’t make room for her or this baby. Mary did what she was called to do in spite of all of this, even though it was hard and illogical. She was likely feeling exhausted and scared. What that moment must have been like between Mary and Joseph as this young couple struggled through labor and birth far from home in a stable with animal noises and smells. What would it have been like for Mary to be lying on hay, nursing baby Jesus and see the shepherds and the 3 wise men from the Far East converging upon them to gaze at their baby in wonder and awe, handing gifts of great value to this poor couple who no one could make room for just a few hours ago!? Wild. What a wild night. Mary bore a lot, but how blessed among women did she feel at the end of that night? Maybe she still felt confused and tired, but certainly she must have been more sure of her calling and her faith must have been expanded exponentially with baby Jesus lying in her arms and a star shining brightly above that stable.  

This is the true miracle of Christmas. The story that we can reflect upon in gratitude year after year with its rich symbolism and continued relevance, regardless of our circumstances. Regardless of if our prayers are answered as we wish they would be in our human understanding, the original Christmas miracle is one that we all too often overlook as we listen to the voice of the world that tells us the lie about “buying Christmas.”  I’ll take the original Christmas story over the modern consumerist story any day.

 

Lost and Found…Daily

Everyday I walk my sons into school. I pass by the “Lost and Found” rack full of coats, jackets, shirts, hats, etc. How do so many of these things go missing so often? Do the kids not notice they don’t have a coat on? Aren’t they cold? That made me start thinking about being lost and not realizing it. It made me think of being found in a more profound way. Many people sing “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see” in church. “Amazing Grace” has always been a favorite of mine that brings me to tears…every…single….time I hear it or sing it. I used to think the journey of faith was like that. I was once so lost and blind, but now I’m found and I see. Linear like that right? Not quite. Well, it was true that I was lost and then found. When God found me in 2011, I was utterly and desperately lost and blind. My physical and emotional health were at an all time low. My relationships were in shambles and I was desperate for a job. My son was diagnosed with special needs I was financially incapable of providing for. I tried to figure it out on my own and just ended up digging myself into a deep, dark hole. Utterly lost. I was brought to my knees and begging to be found and my eyes opened. They were. Through a strange series of events and people who came into my life at just the right time, I was found. I was changed. I had always thought it was just a cliche, but in spite of my skepticism, it happened to me! It all started with being brought low and admitting on the floor of my bathroom ugly crying that I was lost and blind, begging to see and be found.

Guardian-Angel

But, it doesn’t just end there nice and tidy like that. I wasn’t just a shirt that was dirty and nasty and got washed and hung up nice and neat in the closet never to be dirtied or worn and torn again. I still go out every day into this world and face my past and my struggles that are still there, struggles I have learned how to deal with rather than allow to control my entire life. I still get lost (although not as badly lost as before thank God) and I still get found (thank God) on a regular basis. Sometimes a daily basis. Kind of like how my kids misbehave, go to time out to think, tell me they are sorry and love me and will never misbehave again only to go through the same. darn. thing! a couple of days later. They are still learning…so am I. I haven’t lost my shirt in a long time, so I know I’m making progress.

progress

Sometimes in life, in spite of our best intentions and plans, we find ourselves backsliding. Like that darn game chutes and ladders, we are just plugging along and we think we are making progress and we are gonna win this thing! Woohoo! Then, we roll a 5 and land on a chute space and go sliding back down. Slides can be kind of fun even, until you land on your bottom in the dirt and realize, no, you aren’t back to “Start” but you went from space 65 to space 40 and now 3 people are ahead of you! Last place! Ugh, how did this happen?! When we were in the lead! We can either chose to get dejected and quit the game early to avoid the possibility of not winning or we can say “well at least I’m not where I started”, roll again and pray for a ladder space. Sometimes I get a ladder space and I’m like “wow! I didn’t expect that!” and I feel so grateful. Those are like the little epiphanies I have sometimes when I have a heart-to-heart with a friend who is also trying to move forward, read an inspiring  book, spend some quiet time with Jesus, be still and sense God in nature, or sometimes I’m just driving in my car and some kind of wisdom hits me like a 2 x 4 over the head, etc. Life and my faith journey is a lot like “Chutes and Ladders.” Down and up, side to side, slide down, climb up, be pulled up, slide a little, ask for help, get lost, get found, daily. Thank God “Found” is not a one-time-only, limited time offer.

chutesladders

It’s dangerous to tell yourself you are just found, found, found and don’t struggle with “that” anymore, whatever “that” thing is for you. In my experience, Jesus broke my chains, but I still have to chose day to day to step out of them or just sit in those broken chains. If I’m honest with myself, I step out of the broken chains and I realize that there are certain situations I just don’t need to be in or its like picking up broken chains and wrapping them back around myself like some kind of security blanket. Sometimes standing up, stepping out of the broken chains is a weird feeling, “ok what now?” is my usual question. I fear boredom, I fear stagnation, I fear depression, I fear being dumpy, put upon, a “beast of burden” (thanks Rolling Stones), and most of all, unloved and unappreciated. I can let all of those fears rise to a roar in my mind so loud that I just get lost or I can say “God please find me, help me not get lost…again” every morning, every hour, every breath. If I fix my eyes on your love, on You, Jesus, the epitome of grace and mercy who laid down your life to try and wake us the bleep up in a dramatic way and save all of us who perpetually find ourselves lost, I am found over and over in wave after wave of your grace and mercy. Your hand is ALWAYS outstretched to me and to all. Sometimes I turn my back on you and still when I turn around you are right there with that same outstretched hand. You never shun me for being lost, you wait patiently and you find me when I want to be found. You are a gentleman and would never force me into your arms or get all up in my face demanding I accept your love, but instead wait for me to find my way to you with your gentle whispers to guide me as well as the people and experiences you put in my path.

grace

Even thought I try hard, I still mess up. I blow it. I could sit in that shame and guilt when I blow it beating myself up for _________ (insert shame and accusations) and I can hide from you in my ugliness as Adam and Eve did (that’s my take on what that story is really about anyway, that we are gonna mess up and its the running that is really bad not the messing up). Or I can just realize you already know, you know I am human, you know I’m dumb and I blow it, that’s why I need you. Now, I run straight for your arms and I’m brutally honest with You and with myself when I mess up…again. Found. Again and again.

Of course, we should all try our best to not cause pain to ourselves or others, to listen to our conscience, to be the good we wish to see in the world, the salt and light. We should do the hard work, be our best selves. But, we will fail. We will get lost. We are human. We can experience God most deeply and profoundly in our brokenness. I think brokenness is so beautiful because if we weren’t all broken in some way, we wouldn’t need God. “Why does God allow suffering, allow atrocities, etc.?” is often used as proof that no Higher Power exists at all. I do not agree with this viewpoint. Have you ever learned something you would have never been able to learn from suffering or a traumatic experience? I have. Post-traumatic growth fascinates me and other researchers. Trauma doesn’t just cause PTSD and debilitate people. Trauma can fuel growth in a way that almost nothing else can. If we can stop lamenting our pain and instead seek the purpose, seek to grow, seeking a higher power in it then we can grow stronger in every way. Or we can use it as evidence that hope and growth from pain and a plan or purpose for our pain is just a bunch of bologna. Either way, one thing everyone can agree on is the universal nature of brokenness and a need for healing. Healing for ourselves, healing for our families and loved ones, healing for communities, systems that perpetuate injustice, healing for all for all of the violence and pain in this world. May our own brokenness connect us with the brokenness of others just like all of those coats hanging on the “Lost and Found” rack at school. May we all be found. By each other, by our higher power. Again and again. Day after day as we wing it through our brokenness and this broken world seeking healing.

mistakes

Writing My Story

I was asked to tell my story…in front of the group of women I fear the most. Church women. Why do I fear this particular group of women so much? After all, my church isn’t even like most. They are the most grace-focused, loving, authentic group of ladies I’ve ever met. They have welcomed me with open arms. I have grown to love them and enjoy our life-giving friendships. I have been in women’s growth groups overjoyed in finding out that we have the same fears and frustrations and “unglued moments.” I have found that my quiet, yet lingering, fear that “they” have it all together and I’m just a warty toad of a mess is dissipating the more I actually take the time to get to know them. And yet…I wonder if they would judge me for things like the fact that my favorite song about Jesus is “Heart Like Mine” by Miranda Lambert…

You see, I am not a straight-laced, quiet soul even now. I’m saved and baptized and you know what? I am still loud and stubborn and rebellious. God knows who I am. He made me. He made me willful and wild and big-hearted. He knit me together in my mother’s womb to be who I am with the strengths and weaknesses that are uniquely me. It’s just that ever since I started seeking Jesus and really inviting Him into my heart and my life, I try my best to channel those personality traits in a very different way, in a way that isn’t self-destructive. I champion the causes of the disadvantaged, the rejected, the disabled. I rebel against becoming a “Martha.” Check out the story of Mary and Martha here. I am learning how to use my natural personality to serve rather than trying to change my personality to fit someone else’s idea of service. Guess what? I’m still human. I still have temptations and imperfections, but I am no longer bound up in the chains that once wrapped around me. Jesus broke those chains, made a way for me, and He holds my hand every day leading me, refining me. I am in awe of that. I thank God for that. I was once so lost I didn’t know if I would ever be found.

Yet…I often wonder if who He made me is acceptable to the church ladies…I wonder what they really think of me. Do they think I am selfish or ambitious or loud or unladylike? Does my desire to be more like Mary than Martha rub them the wrong way? I marvel at how MUCH truly awesome and needed service some of them are able to do when I feel like I can barely work my 2 jobs (one of which feels very much like a spiritual calling and mission field working with abused women and children), take care of my 2 kids who attend public school, lead a Sunday morning Bible study, and serve in the nursery once a month. I have to remind myself often that God made us different for a reason. Because the Body of Christ doesn’t need all hearts and no hands…or all eyes and no ears. We all have a role to play. I hope they are reminding themselves of that too…I really want to believe they are. “It takes all kinds of kinds,” as Miranda Lambert reminds us (I promise I do listen to Christian radio too).

One day I was driving down the road asking God this stuff, and got this surge of energy and had a lightbulb moment. I resolved through this epiphany  that regardless of what any lady at that church might think of me, my stubborn self is claiming my place at His table by golly! “Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come”, Casting Crowns sang one day as I was driving down the road. Ya-uh! That’s my kind of rebellion and challenging the status quo right there. Everyone’s in baby, whether the more judgmental peeps like it or not. Claim your seat at God’s table. We ALL get an invitation. Don’t let anyone take that invitation away from you. Open it, read it, its a love letter. God loves you, no matter who told you that you can’t sit at the table because of _____.

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I refuse to let fear of judgment and rejection cause me to go sit in a dark corner, isolated away from all that is good about church again. You see, that’s what I did in high school. I was rejected by the “Christian” crowd (which at my school also just happened to be the popular and privileged crowd) and I thought I’d show them by going to sit with the “freaks and drug addicts” at their table in the back corner of the lunchroom. I was rejected, so I reacted by putting on a facade that their rejection didn’t hurt me and I didn’t want to waste my time with their boring, small minds, or their God anyway. I let them drive me away from my place at God’s table, from my place in the Body of Christ which is the church. Oh, how I wish I would have looked at that rejection as an opportunity to go love on “the least of these” and brought God’s love to that misfit table I sat at for 3 years of my life instead of bringing my hardened, angry heart.

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Anyway, now that you know why I fear sharing, I’ll also tell you why I am convicted to share. I don’t want my story to be about making sure you stick to the straight and narrow for fear of the consequences. I want my story to be honest about how He saved me from myself. If I had always been perfect, a “good girl”, if I had always walked the straight and narrow….would I have needed saving? Would I truly “get” things like grace and mercy so deeply that I ugly cry every time I hear “Amazing Grace”? There is such mystery about why and how God weaves each of our stories so uniquely, using EVERYTHING for good according to His plan.

A friend of mine who has lived her life in a much more righteous (meaning right choice that glorifies God) way once told me that she thought at one point she didn’t need grace and mercy. Then God showed her she did. Not through wild, wrong choices like I made, but through depression and anxiety. Wow, God is such a creative teacher, I thought to myself. Maybe all of us are broken at some point, either through our choices or our circumstances, and it doesn’t really matter how we came to that point of brokenness. What matters is that we acknowledge this human brokenness as something as universal as God’s unconditional love and our need for that love. 

We all have different sins or weaknesses, whatever you prefer to call it. Some of us are wild and rebellious. Some are judgmental and prideful up on a high horse. Some are overly materialistic and flirt with idolatry and envy making sure our lives look picture perfect from the outside. Some of us are gluttons and find joy in food rather than God. Some are addicts. Some are vain. Some have let lust burn down lives like a forest fire. Some actually think we can achieve perfection in various areas of life. Some have control issues and don’t want to give our burdens to God. We all have issues, they are just different issues. I can’t look down on you for your sin du jour just because its different from mine. I hope you don’t look at me like I’m a 3-headed toad because mine is different from yours. All sin is dangerous. Its even more dangerous when we start to think some sins are harmless because they come wrapped up in nice looking, even enviable, packages the world applauds. No one wants to be a sex addict or strung out on drugs, but many covet or define themselves by that nice big house on the lake or that nice car.  We have to be careful not to fall into traps of socially acceptable sin. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

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When I was a little girl and I would mess up, I would beat myself up verbally and mentally about it. My Dad would always say in his most gentle voice, “you know Jen, there’s only one perfect person and that’s Jesus. You might as well stop trying to be perfect because no one is.” So I stopped trying to be perfect and instead started trying to just be “good enough”. Good enough to fit in. Good enough not to be rejected. Good enough to get a quality man. Good enough to get a full scholarship. Good enough to get a good job. Good enough to look down on the people who rejected me. Good enough. But all along, it was the voice of the world that was telling me I had to try SO HARD to be good enough. God’s Word is clear that He created me and that I am much more than “good enough.” Right now, I have to challenge my self-sabotaging thoughts that tell me, “why would YOU think you are good enough to tell your story at a CHURCH of all places?” How do I challenge them? With the Sword of Truth:

I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I have been healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

I am the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)

I am the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

I am a child of God. (John 1:12)

I have eternal life. (John 10:27)

I have been given peace. (John 14:27)

I am part of the true vine, a channel of Christ’s life. (John 15:1,5)

I am clean. (John 15:3)

I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:15)

I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit. (John 15:16)

I have been given glory. (John 17:22)

I have been justified…completely forgiven and made righteous. (Romans 5:1)

I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule over my life. (Romans 6:1-6)

I am free forever from condemnation. (Romans 8:1)

I am more than a conqueror through Christ, who loves me. (Romans 8:37)

I have faith. (Romans 12:3)

I have been sanctified and called to holiness. (1 Corinthians 1:2)

I have been given grace in Christ Jesus. (1Corinthians 1:4)

I have been placed into Christ, by God’s doing. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things feely given to me by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

I have been given the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

I am a temple…a dwelling place…of God. His Spirit and His life dwell in me. (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19)

I am bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 7:23)

I am called. (1 Corinthians 7:17)

I am a member of Christ’s Body. (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:30)

I am victorious through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

I have been established, anointed and sealed by God in Christ, and I have been given to the Holy Spirit as a pledge guaranteeing my inheritance to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:13,14)

I am being changed into the likeness of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18,19)

I am given strength in exchange for weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ’s life. (Galatians 2:20)

I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. (Ephesians 1:3)

I am a fellow citizen with the rest of God’s family. (Ephesians 2:19)

I may approach God with boldness, freedom, and confidence. (Eph. 3:12)

I am capable. (Philippians 4:13)

I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. The debt against me has been cancelled. (Colossians 1:14)

The voice of the world tells me a much different story, but that is why I have to meditate not on reality TV and celebrity news or obsess with my appearance, but fix my eyes on Jesus and serving the hurting. Loving God with all my heart and loving one another as He has loved me should be my goal. Philippians 4:8 advises us to be intentional and mindful about what we allow to marinate in our minds and hearts. “Therefore, my brethren, those things that are true, those that are honorable, those that are righteous, those things that are pure, those things that are precious, those things that are praiseworthy, deeds of glory and of praise, meditate on these things.”

As I write my story this week, I will meditate on these things. I will focus on how God has loved me unconditionally, saved me, healed me, never let me go, taught me how to love, forgive, understand, serve and of the miracles I have seen unfold in my life. I will focus on giving Him the glory. I chose to cut through every thought of “not good enough” or “you don’t belong here” with the Sword of Truth, bit by bit, little by little. Letting God Chisel. Because, in the end, I’m just a girl who loves Jesus…winging it through this crazy world…taking my place at the table…trying to fly on home….