This post originated on Facebook as an encouragement for the holidays. I’m putting it here so it’s easier to find. We have challenging people in our lives year-round. Staying in joy!
You are an atmosphere changer. You change the quality of the air around you wherever you go.
But when you battle a heavy atmosphere, you may not always feel the change you are creating.
Sometimes the heaviness can feel more intense as you stand against it. It is not floating downstream, but swimming upstream that makes you feel the force of the current.
One time, I asked the Lord, “How do I keep my joy in the face of insults, anger, and competition? How do I show grace when I feel like arguing or defending myself? Or when I just feel like crying and giving up?”
I heard Him say, “Smile at me. Just look up, and smile at me. You love because of me, you’re doing this for me–smile at me!”
I want to be joyful and happy, but I seriously do not always feel like smiling at people. And they don’t always make it easy.
But just hearing Him say it made me smile, and I thought, “Ok, I’ll try it.”
There are studies about what happens when we smile, endorphins released, etc, but I had never thought about smiling at the Lord as a way to hold on to joy.
I had a dinner meeting with a group of people soon after that prayer. By the time we sat down to eat, I was already annoyed and battling insults and offense. I excused myself to ‘check on something,’ and as I stepped away, I gritted my teeth in a huge forced grin, and I looked up, and I started talking. “Here I am! I’m SMILING! See me SMILING?!? I’m smiling at You! I love You! I’m here for You! You make me smile! No one else has to make me smile because YOU MAKE ME SMILE!!!”
It was mad smiling, a little forced, but it made me laugh. It was truly a sacrifice of praise in that moment, but it was funny. It was something you would do with a best friend.
Just look up, and smile at me!
It reminded me that I wasn’t there alone. He was smiling back.
He gets how hard people can be. And He loves them too. And He and I, we are tag-teaming it. And He’s smiling and winking back at me, “You got this!!!”
I started sneaking off to get a dose of joy from my Father about every fifteen minutes. Just off to the side, wherever, and I would just look up and smile.
Truth? Those people didn’t act the best that day.
But, it’s actually a great memory for me. God shows Himself real when we let Him. I had a blast that day with my Daddy in Heaven, my best friend.
As we have parties and dinners and meetings and gatherings with people who may be hard to love, I pray we remember to SMILE at God! It plugs us in to the huge source of all joy.
And that joy, the joy of the Lord, it makes us strong.
Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh 8:10b
Identity is a subject that is talked about all the time. In cultural circles, it is one of the hottest topics of our day.
Don’t try to be something you’re not.
A week ago, I was getting ready for church.
I used to try to have all the little details of my life perfect, especially when my family was going somewhere in public. My clothes laid out, the kids’ clothes laid out, my hair perfect, their hair perfect. Everyone’s nails clipped and filed, mine perfectly manicured. Coordinating hair bows, loose strings cut, sweaters lint-rolled till they shined. You get it.
Our culture tells us “Don’t be something you’re not, but, oh by the way, be perfect!” All at the same time. And we buy into it.
Because, what will happen if we don’t?
I make choices daily about how I use my time. Having all the little details perfect back then meant that I spent a lot of time on those details, shining shoes, ironing, micromanaging the kids on little things.
And we buy into it.
I still care about those things. I’m not saying that I have become a slob. In fact, I’ve learned how to work smarter and not harder in a lot of areas. “Lord, help me work smarter, not harder!” One of my favorite prayers. Everyday wisdom. Jesus. Oh, how we need it.
I still care about those things, but I don’t care about them nearly as much as I used to because I no longer take my identity from them.
“Identity” was a word that used to infuriate me when I first came back to the church. The women in the weekly Bible study I attended said “identity” to each other, their eyes meeting, knowing looks, head nodding. Identity. Girl. Mmmhmm. Like it was a world in a word. And it is. But their extreme confidence in something I did not understand frustrated me to the point of rage.
Lord, help me work smarter, not harder.
Christianese is only helpful if we translate.
I wanted to know what they knew. I started to pray into this word. “Identity. Identity in Christ. What does that even mean, God? I want to know.”
I started to see what Jesus died for. What He wanted for us, for me. Redeemed. All the junk that I thought was a lost cause in me, all the areas of damage, all the areas of failure. He died so that I could have a different identity. I was not what I did. I was whatHe did. I was what He died for.
Christianese is only helpful if we translate.
It’s a walking out. What we know as identity will continue to grow as we grow closer to Him.
You become like the people you spend the most time with. I want to be more like Jesus. I’m spending more time with Him than I am on all the little details. And I’m spending more time trying to follow Him where I think He’s leading me. I do think He cares about the way we take care of ourselves, but those things can become idols. We can go overboard on anything if we don’t understand that identity comes from Him, His life, His death, His vision for us.
You become like the people you spend the most time with.
Our lives are not our own.
Instead of making lists that are set in stone and making everyone miserable as I try to check them off, I’m asking more questions. “How did You make me? What is on Your list for me today? What am I in You?” I’m able to walk out in more confidence when my to-do list comes from One so much bigger than I am, One who loves so well.
So. Back to getting ready for church.
I had gone to an event the night before and gotten home late. I didn’t take a lot of time to get ready for the morning before I went to bed. I know how I am when I don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is a priority. The details have to come later. I chose rest.
And, again in the morning, I chose rest. I slept as long as I could, and I got up with about 45 minutes to get ready.
What is on Your list for me today?
I knew I wasn’t going to be super dressy, no time for that. So I picked up a pair of jeans. Fine. Jeans are fine.
Then, I started going through my drawers. I felt a little stressed and rushed. I picked up a sweater that is pretty, but I don’t love it on me. I started going through the drawer again, looking for something that I felt better about wearing.
And I heard that old phrase, “Don’t try to be something that you’re not.”
And I felt offended.
“What, Lord? I’m not doing that. I enjoy clothes. I enjoy dressing up and putting different pieces together. I’m not ‘trying too hard’ or ‘trying to be something I’m not!’ What are you talking about?”
I am learning that when I am offended by the Holy Spirit, I like to throw a little fit. And then when I get it out, He’s still there, waiting. And then I say, “Ok. Fine. I don’t understand because I don’t think that I am that/do that/think that. But whatever. Please. Show me what you mean.” That’s just how it goes. Every time.
And He does.
I felt that He was saying, “Just stop a minute. Be honest with yourself about what you are right now.”
Please. Show me what you mean.
And I got it.
What I am right now. What I was, right then.
I was someone who chose sleep over details that day. I was someone who chose blogging over ironing that week. I was someone who chose time with my kids over shining shoes and cutting threads. I was someone who chose to put a party together for my friends instead of dying my hair.
I do all those self care things–again, I don’t want to sound like those things don’t matter. They do matter. I’m not all holier than thou. Trust me. I like my hair done. I like when my boots are tall and my makeup is on point. It’s just that, the reality of what I was in that moment was not someone who had made those things a priority. I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes. I wasn’t going to be able to make up for a week of putting other things first by tearing through a drawer trying to find the perfect sweater. I wasn’t going to be able to get ready for church and be on time by trying to be something I wasn’t.
I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes.
I felt relief. Permission to move forward. Perfect is just not going to happen today. Maybe never. I put on the less-than-perfect sweater. I didn’t even try to fix my hair. I brushed it and put on a hat. I grabbed the first jewelry I saw. I did simple makeup. I have no idea what the kids wore, but they got themselves ready for church on time with no prodding. To me, that’s success. Two teens and a tween in the van, on their own, on time, with no pushing from mom. Thank You, Lord.
It’s a journey, this identity thing. But one thing I know. I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am. Rushed? Tired? Frustrated? Disappointed? I don’t have to wallow in it, but I don’t need to be in denial about it either, in the name of perfectionism, or optimism.
Or even in the name of faith.
I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am.
Real faith doesn’t have to lie about circumstances. Real faith is honest about the mess and brings it to God and says, “Ok, God. It’s Your mess. Now what?”
And here’s the funny thing. I got so many compliments that morning on my jewelry, on my hat. I had to take a picture. Not because I think I look like a rock star, but because I know how I felt, and He showed me that He can still put us together in the middle of our mess, in the middle of our less-than-perfect. He can help us work smarter not harder. Don’t try to be something you’re not.
He will work it out.
And someone will just love your hat.
If they only knew.
What are you, right now? What do you need to be honest about, and just let God have it? Frustrated? Disappointed? Rushed? Lord, we give it to you. Show us how to walk this out without trying to force something that is never going to happen. Show us how to stop trying to be something we are not and just rest in You.
Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20
If you caught the Christmas Crazies, you are not alone. Crazy is contagious this time of year.
At Christmas, we can spin between extremes of fantasy and regret, the fun of spending and the crush of debt, the disconnect of feeling alone in the middle of all the social pressure.
No matter what the season, or what the neighbors or the stores or the churches are doing, we have to live our days in a healthy way at a healthy pace that works for us. No manic-panic-sinking-Christmas-Titanic allowed at my house. No pushing for perfect and then screaming at the kids when it doesn’t work out. Been there, done that. Sheesh. Seriously. Those are not the Christmas memories that I’m trying to make.
Below are a few ways to keep the Christmas crazies at bay.
Three ways to Kill the Christmas Crazies
1) Fuel your spirit by spending time with God.Hello. This season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Rolling around in glitter is all good, but taking a deep breath and remembering why we are doing it is a key to seasonal peace. Christmas tree fell down? What would Jesus do? Feel sick about spending that much money on that overpriced plastic toy? What would Jesus do? People acting crazy? What would Jesus do?
He came for a reason beyond Christmas. He came to change us, to raise us from the dead in every way. Celebrate Christmas by letting Him change you even in the holiday chaos.
Now, maybe more than any other time of year, I have to focus on who God says I am and what His plans are for me. I’m busier than I’ve ever been–that means I don’t have time to not spend time with God. Spend five minutes every morning in worship, celebrating who God is. Out loud, say every good thing you can think of about God.
What would Jesus do?
Spending time with God can be a challenge. But your thoughts about God and who He is to you arethe source of your deep beliefs about what life can be and about yourself. You are made in His image. What you believe about who God is for you is a foundational belief.
The Lord is for me, I will not fear. Ps118:6a
This I know, that God is for me! Ps56:9
I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Ps13:6
2) Fuel your soul by thinking healthy thoughts. Thoughts are the source of behaviors, and thoughts come out of the deep core beliefs we hold in our hearts and our minds. Lifestyle and behaviors are the outward expression of these thoughts and beliefs. To change a life, change the thoughts. To change the thoughts, we have to take them under conscious control and submit them to Jesus. He wants to change the deep wrong beliefs of our minds so that we can live an abundant life.
To change a life, change the thoughts.
To take thoughts captive, say “no,” and start speaking a better thought–out loud. I notice myself getting critical and prideful when I get stressed and out of His peace. That is my red flag. When I lose my joy and my ability to give people permission to take the time they need, when I lose my patience and my sense of humor, I need to do a mental inventory–quick–so that I don’t take it out on anyone. I can handle a pretty big to-do list, but even so, it can get heavy at times. I have to know myself well enough to know when to say “no,” when to take a rest, when to stop and refocus my thoughts.
Be prepared by having a verse ready when the crazy tries to come in. Keep a note in your pocket or stuck on your mirror or dashboard with a verse that you can easily see and read out loud.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter5:7
A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jn10:10
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer29:11
Investments don’t always feel good right now–a lot of times, they hurt. Think about exercising or saving money instead of spending it. But in six months, life looks very different for the person living for the whim of now vs. the one investing for tomorrow.
Poverty focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.
So. Take care of your body! It’s your temple; it’s God’s temple. Get good sleep when you can. Drink water. Eat an apple every day, because, you know what they say. Eat well. Go for a walk. At the mall, while you are shopping, sit down and take a break. Get a salad and water at the food court before you head over to Cinnabon. Hot tea is good, too. Please take care of you. You are part of this human team. We need you.
Christmas is not about working ourselves up to a case of Christmas Crazies. It’s about celebrating the Prince of Peace.
This year, I pray you have a peaceful, wonderful, joyful, beautiful, crazy-free Christmas.
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 1:2
This week, my little girl said some really mean words.
To me, to her brother. Really mean.
Then, my oldest did the same. Just harsh.
The beautiful thing about true love is the way it covers. Today, I can’t even remember what they said, just the way it felt. Hurt my heart. How I give them everything, and they give me these words in return.
But they do it because they know I love them. All the feelings they have, they are safe with me. They can ventilate. I will forgive. I will love, even still.
And I’ve done the same to them, I’m sure. We’ve all done it, said something awful that we kind of meant, but, not really, just because it felt twisted-good for one second to give voice to that thing inside us that would not rest.
And then, you see the other person’s face. And it’s not good anymore.
They need to know that they have that kind of power.
Hurt people hurt people. And so do people who think they are invisible, ignored, weak, victimized, powerless, unheard. They overcompensate with reactionary hugeness because they feel so small.
This is what I tell my kids. “You hurt me. Those words you said, that thing you did. You really hurt me. Like, I need a minute. I might cry. Because I love you so much, but also because you have power. You have the power to hurt me like that, to hurt your brother or your sister with your words. With your choices. You are not powerless. You can’t just say or do anything you want, because you are powerful. What kind of family do you want? You have the power to make this family the kind of family you want. Or to make it the kind of family you don’t. You are not weak just because you are young. You have power.”
You are not powerless.
They look at me. Then they usually tear up a little. Their hearts, convicted and softened. But it’s not a weakening, it’s an awakening. It’s the kind of cry that shows the birth of strength. I ask them if they remember someone hurting them, someone who had the same kind of power. Of course they do. They don’t want to do that to someone else. They just don’t always realize that they can.
I’m convinced that most people have no idea of the pain they cause in relationships. People have their own pain, and they act out of that place without thinking about how it hurts the other person involved. A lot of times, they don’t have all the information. They don’t know why someone did what they did, and their own insecurity leads them to feelings of rejection, which leads to accusation and judgement of the other. And then, they let them have it. What they deserve. Revenge.
It’s a mess, but I believe it’s most often born out of ignorance.
I’m not excusing it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have boundaries or never hold someone accountable. I just think that indulging feelings of weakness or victimhood or self-pity are much more dangerous than we realize.
And when we wield our weapons recklessly because of our own pain? We become emotional terrorists, holding friends and family hostage with our words and our demands and our emotions.
We are powerful.
We have to deal with our junk. We have to deal with our pain.
We have to give up our feeling that we have a right to be offended.
Forgive quickly. Be slow to anger. Love well.
For we are powerful, and we have been entrusted with great things.
Today I’m praying that all of us would be healed of anything that keeps us from knowing our power and wielding it well. For we are warriors, priests, and kings. We must learn the weight and joy of power and true love. We must learn how to wear our crowns. And carry our swords.
As of this writing, I’m happy to announce that all those things are healed now, or at least well on their way to healing. So in that way, I guess the word held true.
Needless to say, I felt a tiny bit confused.
But. It was a long way around on a bumpy road.
This year, I considered not asking for a word. Maybe I just don’t want to know.
I held off for a month.
Lord, have mercy. Keep that word to yourself.
Physical pain and sickness and injury–these things mess with your mind. Pain is a head game. You win if you don’t let it get in your head, if you choose to live every moment like the world isn’t falling apart. It’s a kind of personal terrorism. You can’t give in, or the injury wins.
Maybe the most disappointing thing about hurting my leg in the spring was the way I lost my joy. Fast. And it stayed gone. I could reach and grasp and drag it back, but it was a shallow thing. The tiniest upset caused me to lose it again.
I thought I had more joy. I needed to know this about myself.
The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength.
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
That’s my verse. My life’s motto. How could I let it go so easily through the greatest challenges?
I’ve listened to hours and hours of instruction on healing this year. I’ve talked to my friends and listened to their advice. I’ve had hours of prayer.
The thing that keeps emerging for me is joy.
I heard Bill Johnson share the many ways that healing comes. Of course, it can come through prayer, but he has seen so many people healed. Some have been healed just by walking in the door during worship. Others spontaneously felt heat or tingling. Others were healed sometime during a service but didn’t even know it until later when they realized they were doing an activity that they hadn’t been able to do for years, lifting a box or moving a table.
One story he shared stood out to me as confirmation of joy. A man was given four months to live. His doctor laid down the files and paperwork and said, “Do you want to know what I would do if I were you?”
The man said, “Yes, of course.”
The doctor said, “If I were you, if they told me I had four months to live? I would go home and rent every funny movie I could find. I would start to laugh, and I would not stop.”
So the man did. The next time they tested him, the disease had gone. No evidence of that disease anywhere. He was cured by laughing, cured by joy.
I would start to laugh, and I would not stop.
Sometimes we are so darn serious. It’s such a drag, and there is no breakthrough because our own heaviness holds us down in one tiny spot.
So many things happened this year. And I struggled to hold on to joy.
Every person I talk to starts to laugh as I tell them the crazy things that have happened. Because, for some reason, one terrible thing is not funny. It’s just terrible.
But a whole bunch of terrible things piled up on top of each other? Hilarious.
I think it’s the absurdity of it. Like, that’s not real, right? You have to be joking.
No. I’m not. But maybe life is.
I finally got up the courage to ask for my word for the year.
The Spirit had been holding his breath, waiting for me to ask. Almost even before I finished the prayer I heard my word.
Great. Sigh. I’m not going to ponder on what that means.
You have to be joking.
I keep thinking about the Proverbs 31 woman. How the scripture says, “She laughs, without fear of the future.”
I’ve always read that passage a certain way. Like, it’s a defiant laugh. Like, “Haha, Future! You can’t catch me!!!”
But lately, I think she’s actually sincerely laughing. Like she sees things that are funny. She’s cracking up, enjoying life. She is overwhelmed sometimes by all that she manages. That lady is no joke, but her life kind of sounds like one. Every person I know that manages that much stuff feels crazy at times. The ones that don’t quit are the ones who know how to laugh at the craziness. How to take it all in stride. How to make the messes and the unresolved areas and the failures, because she surely had all of that, how to make it all a joke.
I’m praying for more laughter. I’m watching videos and playing more. I already feel better. I’ll get to the future, but right now I’m laughing at the past, this year of “Are you kidding me, Lord?”
I think He is.
Laughter. It’s the word for the year.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Prov 31:25
A month ago, I wrote a blog post. I’ve been quiet since then for various reasons. I’ll write more about it when I can laugh about it. One thing I know about myself, is that when I’m down, I’m DOWN. No need to take you all down with me.
Seems like one thing after another some days, doesn’t it?
And people are watching. Like a movie, you have an audience, and they are waiting to see what you do next.
And just like a movie, there will always be some who don’t support you, no matter what. But most of them are rooting for you. Because your suffering makes them know that they are not alone in theirs. And when you have victory, they know they can have it too.
Your suffering is not wasted. Victory is around the corner. Hold on. Wait and see.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28
Note: My email subscription service has not been working correctly since sometime in the spring. I’ve done a couple of things to try to fix it, but nothing has worked so far. I think I know what the problem is now, and will hopefully have it fixed in the next couple of weeks. Thanks so much for subscribing, and thank you for your patience! <3
We start to live it. We wrangle and wrestle with old things. We learn what we need to let go, what still fits. How to live in our choice.
How to own it.
And then, we have to ask, how do we love each other well, whatever we choose? When we choose to be powerful? When we choose to be pitiful?
A few weeks ago, I sat with a friend. I listened and felt my soul shrinking back and dragging down as the same dark narrative was repeated over and over and over. This thought occurred to me: She is hypnotized by negativity. She didn’t even hear herself. She had no idea that she was telling me the same story, again and again and again, a story that could easily be spun a different way.
And years ago, I remember listening to people older and wiser than I was, but I couldn’t imagine what made them think they knew so much. They were only people, like me. Sometimes I would leave those conversations filled with rage and resentment, missing so much if the wisdom that I could have gleaned from their sharing.
Emotion comes in and wraps itself around us if we let it. We can’t see ourselves, and we can’t hear ourselves, if we allow emotion to be a block to what we really want.
When I want to be powerful, but the person next to me wants to be pitiful, how do I show compassion and patience? How do I sit with their negativity and repeated sob stories without sacrificing my own hard-won positive focus?
When I want to be pitiful, but I sit next to someone who has found their power, how do I really love and learn from them when my natural response is to roll my eyes and stick out my tongue and say, “YEAH, RIGHT! WELL, GOOD FOR YOU! ACTUALLY, YOU KNOW WHAT–I THINK YOU ARE FULL OF IT!!!”
I’m not sure that we have learned this yet as a culture.
How do we love each other well?
How do we know when to grieve? There is a scripture that says to mourn with those who mourn, but what if all they ever do is mourn? Even scripture puts a limit on mourning–God gives His people thirty days to devote to grief–even for the most tragic things. And then it’s time to put down the sackcloth and ashes and begin fighting our way back in to life.
Letting ourselves rest. Being ok with where we are in our process and where others are in theirs, even if we know we are still kind of pitiful sometimes. Seeking our power and deciding not to be quitters. Finding our power and looking at someone else who hasn’t yet, learning how to encourage them forward without trying to push them where they aren’t ready to go.
It’s not easy for any of us.
Heidi Baker talks about asking God, “What does love look like in this situation right now?”
What does love look like in this situation right now?
As you grow in the powerful, as you face down the pitiful, if you struggle with knowing what love looks like in any moment, if you feel those tendrils of impatience or those talons of resentment trying to drag you down, just take a deep breath, and ask silently, “God, what does love look like, with this person, right now?”
He will show you.
Father, we are on a journey to fearless, a journey to powerful. We ask in every moment, that You would show us what love looks like. Eyes to see Your answer, ears to hear Your guidance, hearts that understand what You are asking us to do, and the grace to obey.
We want to grow in our own strength and still love well, wherever we are in our process. You are Love. You live inside us. We trust You to guide us and make Yourself known, even in the most challenging relationships, in the most challenging moments. We give every loved one, every family member, every stranger, every co-worker, every neighbor, every friend, every ex-friend, every attacker. Every person who has ever touched our lives. We forgive those who have trespassed against us. We forgive ourselves for our own trespasses, and we give others permission to forgive us. We look to You to take us higher within ourselves and in every relationship. We look for You to show us what love looks like in every moment. In Jesus, Amen.
One naturally devours the other. Self-pity devours power. Power devours self-pity.
And it seems like a daily choice that adds up over time, more than one big ceremonial decision that changes everything all at once.
Some days I feel the power of God on my life, increasing, swelling, calling, inviting. And on those days, it is the obvious choice. On those days, I choose power.
Power devours self-pity.
And it feels big. It usually feels really good for a minute. And then, sometimes, scary. Like a heavy weapon, it would be easy to lay it down.
And some days, I do lay it down. Some days, I choose pitiful.
I don’t mean to do it. I don’t usually even realize I’m doing it.
Well, maybe I realize it a little bit.
Self-pity and power can not coexist.
I remember one day crying in the bathroom in college, undoubtedly over some terrible hardship, aka, some drama that I had singlehandedly created. I was good at that.
I remember watching my mascara run, watercolor black tracks dripping down my cheeks.
It wasn’t until I heard Joyce Meyer talk about doing the same thing many years later that I realized how much self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself. How I wasn’t the only one that took some sick enjoyment from digging eye drops out of my purse and patting my puffy face, gently, with concealer, but in a hurry, like actresses huffing through soap operas, as if I had somewhere I needed to go.
At the time of her story, Joyce’s ministry was just taking off, and she was crying her way through some struggle.
In front of a mirror.
Because, as she says, women (and men) in a certain mood love to watch themselves cry to see just how pitiful they really can be.
Self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself.
Ouch. Déja vu.
And at that moment, she heard in her spirit, “You can’t be pitiful and powerful.”
You have to choose.
I was taken advantage of very young. I was forced to do things that I went along with because the culture seemed to reward it. I was bullied at school, by teachers and students. I grew up in American poverty. I remember running out of food. I remember no heat in the winter. I didn’t have the advantages that many around me had. I was embarrassed a lot. I was ashamed a lot. I felt self-hatred a lot. I was attacked in college, but I would have gladly pretended it didn’t happen. I was so embarrassed by it that I was already dismissing it until I realized my hair was coming out in clumps, and I was bleeding.
And as an adult, I have felt that, many times, as soon as I won one battle, another came in to take its place. My marriage was a disaster until we got it figured out, and about the time we did, I got desperately sick.
One battle after another.
And through it all, my emotions were a pendulum, swinging back and forth. Pitiful. Powerful. Pitiful. Powerful.
You have to choose.
I had days when I felt like fighting.
But for a while, I had more days when I thought about things from the past. Why did they happen the way that they did? What was wrong with me? Why did God bless everyone but me? On and on.
And the more I wallowed, the old pitiful feelings came on stronger and stronger. I didn’t know what deliverance was, but I knew that there were people around me who did life better than I did. I went to them for their thoughts about my situation. I paid for counseling when I didn’t have the money because I didn’t know what else to do. Talking to wise people was my way of not giving up at the time. It was the way that I knew how to fight.
I’m thankful to those who listened for hours, who shared their stories, who encouraged me, and held me accountable.
Fighting for life doesn’t always look like choosing ultimate victory, whatever that is.
Fighting to choose life when you are in a pit is in the little things. Choosing to open your eyes in the morning. Choosing to get out of bed. Choosing to force a smile for your children. Choosing to call someone who can help. That’s what I did.
Press into scripture. Find the scriptures that speak to your worst problem, and write them down. Say them out loud every day, three times a day. Focus on God’s peace, when it comes, when it goes. And then follow that peace wherever it leads.
So, I did it. I read the Bible. I copied scriptures. I read them out loud. It took time, but my life changed.
Fighting to choose life is in the little things.
I still have to choose life daily. It looks different now. It was not easy in the beginning, but it has gotten easier over time.
I don’t cry in the bathroom mirror anymore. I don’t miss it. I’m thankful for the life that God provided for me. I’m thankful that He helped me choose it.
I’m thankful for the people He put around me that challenged me with their beautiful lives. I’m thankful that they invited me to join them.
You never know who is watching you live well. You have the power to help another person choose life for themselves. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t quit.
Keep choosing power.
You are showing others how it is done.
I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life. Deut 30:19b
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-15
Your troubles are heavy. You feel burdened and tired of trying.
Father says, “Pray for their troubles.”
So, today I’m praying for your troubles. For any trouble in your life to lift, dissolve, dissipate, fall away, now in the name of Jesus.
Worry, go in the name of Jesus.
Doubt, stress, anxiety, and fear, leave now in the name of Jesus!
Peace come in, peace like a gentle river, flow in and wash these spirits, souls, and bodies with refreshing. Encouragement come in and cast these troubles in a fresh light. No more troubles, now you are trading in troubles for situations where God can work. No more are these things “your troubles” or “problems or issues.” These things are opportunities for God to show off in your life. He says, “Let me carry it.”
Heaviness and oppression, fall away now. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.
There are times when you ask so many questions. You feel plagued by questions. The how, the why, the what to do next. Almost an unstoppable flood of questions, but there are no answers.
These questions are not a mark of responsibility, though they feel like it at times.
I proclaim an end to the plague of pointless questions.
When they start to swirl in your mind, and you become tense, and your heart starts to race, I pray you tell them to STOP in the name of Jesus! And take a deep breath. And see Jesus in front of you, carrying all of it.
I pray for simple strategies from Heaven for you to deal with every little thing. Situations coming into order, God’s perfect order and beauty filling every place in your heart and mind, and tangibly, visibly, in all situations in your life.
And for great, great peace.
Peace that passes understanding as you face whatever the world has thrown at you. Your feet planted on the rock. Your heart in His hands. He is good, all the time, and He has the solutions in safekeeping for the perfect time for His perfect purpose.
I hear Him say, “You have not failed. You are not a failure. Watch me as I take your efforts and multiply them all around you. You don’t see it all now, but one day you will know the fruit of all the seeds you have planted.”
Something bigger than you is happening, and you get to be a part of it. Your troubles are becoming a testimony. One day soon you will testify to God’s goodness in this situation. He will show Himself strong in you as you stand strong in Him.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter 5:7
The last few weeks of understanding body as birthright have been that Eureka moment for me. And now, I’m walking it out.
There are so many ways to dishonor birthright. And there is one way to hold on to it.
It’s not a word we think of a lot outside of churches or libraries or funeral homes, but it’s one that has the potential to take us deeper, even in the little things.
I’m seeing more and more the casual way we view ourselves and each other, the way we evaluate fashion choices and fitness as though these things are just another item on a shelf.
But fashion is a whole language. And fitness is so complex.
The clothes someone wears tell a story of the way they see themselves. And fitness depends on many things, not just a person’s level of laziness or determination. And yet, we can be so quick to render judgment on each other without reading deeply.
But viewing ourselves and each other with an attitude of reverence takes us back to a gentler and more careful place. “Her body is her birthright. His body is his birthright. My body is my birthright.” This attitude does not leave a lot of room for harsh judgements or comparisons or competitions. It is a reminder to pray and bless and send out the kind of gentleness we want to receive.
You’ll find below a short piece on birthright. Call it a poem if you want, or just a little bit of a reminder. I’m reading it several times a week to help me stay in this Eureka space, this place of honoring birthright in myself and others. For the guys, just change the last pronoun. I pray it blesses you and helps you hold on to your birthright, to honor it and revere it for yourself and for others. I recommend reading it out loud. With attitude. And maybe some theme music. Feel free to print it out if it speaks to you and tape it to a mirror or a cabinet door or drop it in your purse, etc.
Much love, many blessings, and much honor to your birthright. (Part One and Part Two of this series can be found by following the links. One.Two.)
My spirit, redeemed and breathing fire–this is my birthright. My spirit, flourishing like a star-shower, it is my birthright. My spirit, celebrated and cherished by me. This is my birthright.
My soul, whole and unblemished. This is my birthright. My soul, delighting in the wonder of each step of each precious day, like a child. Yes, laughing at my own jokes, Yes, enjoying my own company, Yes, unselfconscious, light and unburdened. YES. This is my birthright. My soul, celebrated and cherished by me, Yes, liking myself. This is my birthright.
My body, healed and made new. This is my birthright. My body, called beautiful, His favorite shape, enjoyed without apology or abuse. YES. THIS IS MY BIRTHRIGHT. My body, celebrated and cherished by me, tenderly cared for and spoken to, I said tenderly cared for and spoken to, yes, loving myself looking in the mirror saying, PRAISE THE LORD! DANG, I LIVE GOOD! DANG, I LOOK GOOD! DANG, I FEEL GOOD! THIS is my birthright.
For He looked at me and smiled and said,
“Oh, this one, yes, this one. She is so, so, so good.”