breaking up is hard to do… part 1

breaking up pt.1

Last week I gave you a list of things I’m afraid you might not like about me. I listed my hair, snorting when I laugh, sassiness and sarcasm, but the nitty gritty truth of it is this: I have spent far too much time wondering if you like me or if I’ve offended you.

Sometimes I forget to speak before I think and most of the time it works out okay but other times it doesn’t. I’ll catch a twitch in your eye at something I spoke and will wonder  if I offended you. Then I roll the conversation over and over in my head and before long I’ve broken out in a sweat and spent the majority of my time thinking about the incident, taking my anxiety out on my loved ones. Picture a snapping turtle and an unsuspecting hand. That’s me and my lovelies when I am wrapped up in fear.

So with effort I redirect my thoughts and for a time sail through the day, but the conversation start to auto-play in my mind, and I would be twisted up inside wondering, wondering, always wondering how I could have said it differently and if you still like me.

Sad, isn’t it? It’s true though. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life knowing that I put way too much stock into being perfect for you while knowing that God has the one opinion that matters.

There’s a lot of information on how to navigate relationships from psychologists, personality specialists, and other writers who have journeyed through the choppy waters of relationships. I’ve benefited from this wisdom, and I’ve also consulted close friends whom I trust enough to keep the nitty gritty details of my failures and insecurities close to their hearts while giving me sound advice.

However, man’s wisdom is incomplete.

God’s wisdom is best and so I turn to his word to find the truth about my battle with perfection in relationships. I found a glimpse of this truth in Proverbs 29:25 which says that the fear of man is a snare. This, my friends, is true.

Fear of man and perfectionism in friendships became one and the same to me because the push to be perfect was rooted in the fear of rejection. It was like a noose slowly suffocating the life out of me and when I mixed perfectionism with friendships I discovered that my truest self was hardly recognizable behind the facade of perfection.

The plastic version of myself was suffocating the authentic version of myself and the self-recrimination of living up to someone else’s standard was drowning out the voice of the Lord. I was beginning to break under the weight of living up to perfect so perfection and I had to break up.

But it’s hard, you know? I catch myself falling into the habits of replaying conversations and causing myself to come up short every. single. time. I begin fearing my interactions with friends, family and strangers and forgetting that there is no fear in love.

1 John tells me that there is no fear in love and perfect love drives out all fear. So the key to breaking up with perfection lies in fully understand God’s love for me. When I’m secure in his love, I’m secure in my relationships and no longer seek to be perfect for others. Blessed freedom!

The hard part is when I feel alone in this battle. I can’t visibly see God cheering me on from the sidelines even though I know he’s there. I can’t see you struggling with the same things because maybe you’ve become a plastic version of yourself too. What I do see is you and I visiting and me trying hard not to look for that twitch in your eye that might indicate  I stepped on your toes or not lived up to your expectations when in reality that twitch could just be a twitch.

Breaking up with perfection is becoming a habit and the merry-go-round ride is getting shorter and the length between the rides is getting longer. Eventually, when that perfection merry-go-round stops to invite passengers on, I might not join the ride because I will finally be so secure in God’s love for me that I will care more about how I love the other person rather than if I’m being perfect for the other person.

I’ve kicked perfection to the curb. And you? In what ways have you let perfectionism drive your relationships? Can we learn from each other to push forward through the hard part of breaking up with perfection so we can live free in the perfect love of God?

Let’s love one another well. Free from perfection. Free from fear. Free to love.

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the beauty in fog

fog

I have witnessed some of the most beautiful landscapes when they’re shrouded in fog. It’s beautiful to watch the fog roll in as it gently blankets the rolling fields or to wake to a winter fog and see every tree branch coated in glitter, sparkling as it reflects the sun.

This summer has been filled with many good things. I have seen family I don’t normally see. I went to a worship conference where I was taught and renewed. My kids are getting more involved in activities so I have become a keeper of the calendar. My summer is a blessing, but it brought with it a busier pace than most summers. I love it, but with the busy-ness came a brain fog.

A brain fog is a state of mind involving the inability to see or think clearly, which interferes with this thing called life. I am not a stranger to brain fogs, as I have experienced them off and on throughout my life, but I don’t like them. They make me grumpy. They interfere with forward progress and I feel trapped because I cannot see.

This God-life is a pilgrimage, meaning it’s not a one and done type of relationship. I am constantly growing and changing as my mind is renewed and transformed, and I have to set my heart on the pilgrimage and be willing to take the journey as it comes.  The path is always narrow and sometimes it’s easy and other times it takes me down a twist that scares me. Sometimes skies are clear and the birds sing, but sometimes there are storms and the clouds hang menacingly low.

Foggy times are one of those times that frighten me because I feel so very alone and it is oh so quiet.

If I can get past the panicky alone feeling, if I can remember that God is with me even though he seems so far away, the fog becomes a time of beauty with my God.

It’s all in my perspective. Am I going to panic and believe my God has left me when I am shrouded in fog? Or am I going to trust him in a new way and ask him to reveal himself to me in the way he sees fit?

My own personal version of foggy days creates an environment of dependence on God. 

The fog tells me to proceed with caution with the the words I say and the things I do. 

It becomes a natural pause to an other wise crazy brain that chases the same thoughts round and round. 

And when the fog lifts I see the light of God clearly. 

Let me say this again—foggy times worry me because I feel as though I have lost my ability to hear God clearly. Foggy times seem unending because I can’t tell them when to come or when to go.

Until I became aware of what this brain fog was trying to produce in my life I became caught up in my inadequacies and I experienced inward turmoil.  I pouted like a child and thought I could ignore my communion times with God. I grew aware of heart-conditions that needed to be touched by his healing hand.

So the next time the brain fog arrives, I am going to remember the beauty in fog. It gives me a chance to wait for the light to stream into my circumstances and it deepens my dependence on God.

This God-life is a journey and I can expect all kinds of weather, even fog.  I am going to cling to my consistent God even when the weather is inconsistent. Difficult days do not mean we head out on our own, but it means we cling even harder to the one who knows the way.

What about you? How will you face your next foggy times? With trepidation or faith or a little bit of both?

 

Can Circumstances by Holy?

Recently I felt like my life came to a screeching halt when I heard the news of a life changing diagnosis for a dear friend.  Not long ago, I was overcome by drama as mothers of teenagers often are. I fight for bravery in the face of the unknowns of my future. Will things be okay? Where is God in all my wonderings?

Jesus said that I will have trouble in this life and life has proven this to be true. But there is a theme that began in the Old testament and has continued to be woven into the New. It’s one of the many threads that tie the two testaments together and it is this: The Lord will be with you.

Continue reading at Gathering Place for Sisters in Christ.

Kelli Stuart’s ‘Like a River from Its Course’ Blog Tour and Kindle Prize Pack

Like a River from Its Course Kelli StuartWelcome Grace is a place to explore brokenness in the light of grace. It’s also a place to be encouraged that our histories don’t have to determine or dictate our present or future. I am on the hunt for stories that portray that truth–whether they be fiction or non-fiction.

I was given the opportunity to participate in a book review and ‘Like a River From Its Course’ stole my breath away.

 

About the book:

Travel back in time in Kelli Stuart’s new novel, Like a River from Its Course, as the city of Kiev is bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union. This sweeping historical saga takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch.” He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination
are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism.

Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River From Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

REVIEW BY JESSICA VAN ROEKEL:

Like a River From Its Course is a heartbreakingly, beautiful, and well-researched tale of the horror, courage, and determination four people experienced as the Ukraine faced Nazi invasion in WWII. This book drew me in with its complex characters and the battles that raged within each one.

Ms. Stuart did a splendid job creating four distinct voices and I was able to seamlessly follow each character’s stories they intersected and affected each other while being hurtled into different directions.  My heart connected to each character in part due to the realism this work of fiction portrayed, but also due to the descriptive and emotive voices possessed by the characters.

Like a River From Its Course is not a light-weight read. It is a treatise on overcoming adversity. The theme—triumph over adversity– is well developed, however, if you are looking for a strong Christian theme of faith and reliance on God, you won’t find it here. You will find a well-crafted tale of the tragedy and bravery within the human condition realistically placed before you with a gentle discovery for God.

In the books I read, I look for ‘take-aways’, the lessons that imprint themselves onto my heart and ‘Like a River From Its Course’ does this well. Frederick reminds me that when I seek the pleasure of man or society I will be left cold and empty. My mother’s heart identified with Ivan as he felt the impotence of a father unable to protect his children. Luda and Maria reminded me of the possibility to make the hard choices to bravely face devastating, life-altering circumstances.

Sometimes life is about living the hard stuff and not letting it cripple your heart to the point that empathy is impossible. Maria, Ivan, and Luda show us how to live courageously in the face of heart-crippling loss and Frederick shows us the consequences of placing our hopes in an ideal that cannot survive.

I would recommend this book due to the well-researched plot line, the intriguing characters and the distinctive voices of the characters. Kelli Stuart has written a novel that encompasses a significant period of time in our collective history, one that is worth reading and passing along to friends.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/kstuart

(I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review)

Celebrate the release of Like a River from Its Course with Kelli by entering to win a Kindle Fire Prize Pack.

like a river - 400

One grand prize winner will receive:

like a river - prize collage (1)

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on July 18th. The winner will be announced July 19th on Kelli’s blog.

like a river - enterbanner

do you wish you could be more confident?

confidence

There are days I want to run far, far away to a place where mankind is kind and words are used to build instead of tear down, but then I look in the mirror and see the face staring back at me and realize that no matter how far I run, I can’t get away from me.

I am a survivor by instinct. I have long been independent and self-sufficient, which at times have been detrimental on my journey in this God-life. My instinct is for self-preservation. My instinct is to defend myself. My instinct is for myself…. and I get tired of myself.

I know there is another way. The way of surrender, dependence, and letting go.  It’s a journey of being completely and totally God-dependent. 

But life? Storms come up out of nowhere and I take a broadside hit. I go to bed with blue skies and wake up to gray. I have heart-wounds that reopen and I respond defensively.  I am misunderstood. I am maligned. I am misused.

Where is my confidence? Is it in myself and my abilities? 

It’s found in the exact opposite of what my instinct might be. True confidence is found in taking refuge in God and waiting in the shadow of his wings. It is found in crying out to him and believing he will fulfill his purpose for me. It’s understanding that sometimes I have to wait and watch for him to work on my behalf.

Confidence is allowing my heart to sing even in the midst of the hurt and the pain. It is about bringing God glory in the midst of my junk because it’s my circumstances–not God– that don’t meet my expectation. Confidence is realizing that his love is great and his faithfulness reaches to the skies.

True confidence is knowing God so well that despite the pain of my circumstances, my heart can still sing. 

But what can I sing when my hurts are so loud?

I can sing of his goodness.

I can sing of his justice.

I can sing of his love.

I can sing of his strength.

I can sing of his righteousness.

I can sing of his faithfulness.

Then if I listen closely I can hear the echo of my song in his voice as he sings over me. 

And he sings:

‘I love you.

You are mine.

I am your refuge.

Let me hide you in my shadow.

I am moving on your behalf.

My faithfulness reaches to the skies.

I am your righteousness.

I am.’

A steadfast heart is a confident heart. A steadfast heart knows where her trust is found and stays in the refuge of God when life becomes so very, very difficult. A steadfast heart rests in her identity in Christ. A steadfast heart makes the difficult choice to lay down her independence and self-sufficiency to rest in God’s love and faithfulness knowing he will take care of her business.

‘My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.’ Psalm 57:7. (NIV)

I need to remind myself of this when I am feeling shakey and unsure of myself because uncertainty provides me with an opportunity to exercise this steadfast heart that sometimes isn’t so steadfast.

Steadfastness is one of those traits that grows stronger with time and practice. Oh, to be sure, each time something comes along that threatens my faith or my belief in the goodness of God I tremble and shake, but the more I choose confidence in God the less time I spend shaking and trembling.

Confidence isn’t about me and my ability, it’s about resting in the trustworthiness of God. It’s about believing that through him I am more than a conqueror.

I may not be confident in myself, but I am steadfast in my faith in God and that makes me confident.

I pray you will find rest and strength and steadfastness in God today. He is good. He is worthy of trust. He is worthy of praise. Can we be steadfast together?

 

Dear lost little one

upward and onward 6-16

Loss is a part of this life. This I know. I don’t go a day without hearing of a loss for someone somewhere. I often don’t know how to respond–sometimes the pain is too great. Sometimes the fear that it will happen to me will hold me tight in it’s grip and I will freeze.

I also know I will minimize my loss in the face of someone else’s greater loss because I want to respect those who have experienced greater losses than I.

However, I am learning it’s important to experience the pain of my own loss. Grief, however large or small, needs to be felt and experienced. A long, long time ago I lost a little one. I lost the promise of motherhood within a 12 hour period. I lost myself in the process.

Miscarriage is experienced by many, but many don’t talk about it. In a society where a baby is called a fetus and described as dispensable, those of us who have lost a baby through miscarriage don’t know where to turn and how much or if we can talk about the lost baby.

A hole was created in my heart and has now become a beautiful ache in my heart. The ache was born from the what if’s and if only’s and beauty was found within.

As difficult as the journey was up and through, it’s one I don’t regret taking. God used it to mold me and draw me closer to him and for that my heart is full.

I recently wrote a letter to my gone little lovely:

“Hello dearest love,

You were with me for such a short little time. You knew me better than I knew you. You heard my heartbeat before I could hear yours. You heard my voice and I never heard yours, but I want you to know your life became one of the greatest gifts I ever received.

How I grieved your loss. I grieved the first snuggle, the first smile, the first birthday, all the firsts that you and I never got to experience. I grieved barely getting to know you because you left after a short 10 weeks.

But lovely little one, your life had purpose. Your life had gain. It was because of your life that going deeper with God would be my lifelong journey.

Your life became the starting point for mine.

You see, I had known Jesus as my Savior for years. I had clung to the truth that God will never leave me. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt the truth that God loved me. But I was also trying to live my life for myself and giving him only part of me. I was one of those Sunday Christians and not an everyday Christian.

You changed that for me.

Because of your life…..

I was able to let go of the bitterness and resentment that had taken root in my heart.

I came to realize the depth of God’s grace to me.

I learned, again, that beauty comes from brokenness.

Because of your life I laid my plans on the altar of God’s plans.

It was not my plan to say an early good-bye. It was not my plan to always wonder if you had hazel eyes or blue, curly or straight hair, tall or short, or whether you were a boy or a girl. It was not my plan to lose you. It was my plan to keep you and to know you.

But God had a greater plan for your life. A plan to bring life to mine. I live with my wonderings and rather than be overcome by them I am overcome by the life your little life brought to my heart.

Thank-you for what you showed me about life. I will be forever grateful for you.

Love,

Your mama”

Wherever your heart is today, I am praying for you. Whatever loss your facing-whether it’s a miscarriage, a death of a friend, a loss of normal, or a loss of a relationship that you would know how deep God’s love for you is, even in the midst of your darkest and deepest days.

The journey up and through is doable. I hope you will say ‘yes’ to God and hold tight to his hand as he leads you onward, trusting him to bring you to life.

 

 

What’s your miracle?

miracle puffs 6-2

I have a tendency to make this whole God-life thing about me.

What I need.

What I’m doing.

What I pray.

How I live out his precepts.

How I expect his promises to be fulfilled in my life.

How I interpret God’s word.

How I need a miracle…yesterday.

I read about miracles in the news and in missionary letters and I marvel to think that the miracles I read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John really and truly do happen today.

The thing? Miracles are for us, but they’re about Jesus.

I look at Mark 10:46-52 and identify with the blind man.

He was desperate for an encounter, an engagement with Jesus so he began shouting his name: ‘Jesus!’ How many times do I call out his name because I am desperate for an engagement with Jesus in my circumstances? Often….

But then this man: blind, calling for Jesus does something else–he references the truth of Jesus’ identity: The Messiah. He emphatically declared who Jesus was.

Do I just call for Jesus by name or do I reference his identity?

Prince of peace= peace for uncertain times

Mighty Counselor= comfort for the weary and worn

Bread of Life= sustenance for the journey of life

River of Life= true satisfaction

I need a savior, absolutely I do, but I also need peace, comfort, sustenance, and satisfaction. And they can be found in the One man who gives sight to the blind.

When Jesus passed by the man, he stopped and asked this question: ‘What do you want?’ The man simply states: ‘I want to see’.

If Jesus were to ask me what I wanted I would have a mile long list with requests ranging from my family loving him to financial freedom to what our future will be.

But what if I stopped and simply said, ‘I want to see.’

I would be like the blind man who didn’t just receive his physical sight, but received spiritual sight.

Sometimes we are so deep into life and our circumstances that we don’t know we are smack dab in the middle of a great big story of grace. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could see a bit of that story?

So today– let’s ask to see and open our eyes to God’s grace in our lives. It might be merely recognizing the blue sky and clouds, the blooming peonies, the dandelion bouquets, the smiles on your babies, or the fact that you took a deep breath before you dove into life.

I will be praying for you to see the miracles unfolding before you today!