Monthly Archives: May 2014

Making Life Less Complicated

Sometimes I read too much.

As I prepared to enter motherhood, I picked up every book recommended to me on pregnancy and parenting. One particular book seemed like the perfect purchase in the book store. Each chapter featured things unique and special to that particular week of pregnancy. I got hooked into pouring over the words on the first two pages of the chapters because it gave me a glimpse at that sweet, unborn child growing inside me.

Then I kept reading. What followed the beautiful sketches of the first couple of pages were a far cry from the blissful, hope-filled words I’d just soaked in. The authors of this book decided it was a good idea to inform hormonal and increasingly paranoid mothers-to-be of every random disease that could happen in their children. Because we moms will obviously take it all in stride and not worry one bit about the 1 in a million chance that we could be somehow responsible for morphing our children into X:Men (or women).

Somewhere about a month into my pregnancy and reading of said book, my husband kindly and calmly suggested that I skip the majority of each chapter when I sat down to read the book each week.

“But I should be prepared for the worst! Ignoring the problem isn’t going to help anyone.” I stood on my soapbox, proclaiming this to him with great conviction.

Bless that man for not laughing at me or ripping the book to shreds in my face. Instead he said, “You are right, but we don’t currently have a problem. Why worry about every possible worst-case scenario? Reading these descriptions is taking away some of the joy of anticipating this child, so don’t read too much into everything by studying too much doom and gloom.

I can see a pattern in my past of when I’ve read too much, and it always turns out the same.

I read how to be a great parent and immediately start believing that I’m never going to achieve the level described in the book.

I read how to have a successful marriage, and suddenly the marriage that was going great in real life is in hypothetical turmoil in my head.

The articles I read about being prosperous make me question the success of my accomplishments.

There’s a balance in it all that I’ve come to realize exists when it comes to reading into and about life. The bottom line is, I tend to psyche myself into believing everything I’m doing is complicated.

Parenting
Marriage
Health
Housekeeping
Friendships
Ministry
Knowing God’s willIdentity

Those are all difficult things that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but I believe that I’ve been reading more into the expectations of life thus making the individual aspects more complicated all by myself.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 states everyone’s purpose in life right after giving a warning about not getting too caught up in reading tons of words from scholars,

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

My friend, following God isn’t easy, but it’s simple.

The formulas for success are ever-changing as people gain more education and prestige. However, even Solomon, the wisest man of all, admitted that pursuing the complex and educated answers was pointless.

I’m not implying that we should remain in the dark about what’s going on in the world. Nor am I arrogantly claiming to have no need for supplemental resources that can point me in the right direction when I’m clueless. (I am becoming more choosy about those resources, however.)

Time and again when I look at crossroads in my life or the lives of the men and women mentioned in scripture, the right decision was made because we listened to the voice of God.

He has the right answer. When we remove the fear, doubt, emotions, or excuses that have convoluted our reasoning, the answer is there. Not often in a bold display, but quietly confident and waiting for us to accept it.

 

Confessions of a Shame-a-holic

I’ve let shame make too many decisions for me in my life.

For example, I have always been notorious for not sending out thank you cards. When it actually happens, I’m always late in getting it done.

Most of the time, I listen to Shame say, “It’s too late now. You’ll only embarrass yourself more if you send a card this long after the fact.”

And the sinking feeling in my chest overwhelms the desire to remedy something I don’t like about myself. I listen to the conversation in my head as I cower with flaming cheeks:

No one can argue that it’s a shameful to not express gratitude. It’s insulting to everyone involved for you to act like it’s okay to send the card now. They’ll probably think you have a major heart issue when it comes to gratitude. In fact, you never did finish that written list of 1,000+ gifts God has given you. Never mind the conversations you have with God about what you’re grateful for. There’s no tangible proof that you’re a grateful person. You should be ashamed of yourself. (You are probably reading this thinking, “Whoa! Spiral much?” The answer is yes. Shame is a pro at that.)

So I concede and let shame define me. I don’t send out the cards. According to Shame, I am ungrateful and that’s just who I’m going to always be.

Except I’m not ungrateful.

I think of the people who have blessed my life nearly every day. I recall the little and big things others do for me to show their love and support, and I do my best to live it forward.

I am a daughter of the King who has flaws. One of which is being scatterbrained when it comes to sending mail.

There are many wise people who have expressed a truth that Shame has been pushing out of my head and heart for far too long.

I am what I believe I am.

If I believe I’m a hopeless, ungrateful mess, then I’ll become one. Nothing can change this weakness that I have until I’m ready to come to terms with the fact that my feelings are not always right.

I may feel ashamed. A mess. Hopeless. But choosing to live that way is a shame (pun intended) because I’m actually a new creation in Christ who gave me the incredible gift of grace.

True freedom comes when I begin to see myself the way that God sees me. You see, He washed away the mess that was me a long time ago with that grace. For some crazy reason, I choose to smear the filth back on myself and attempt to seal it on with shame.

Holding onto shame is pointless because Jesus bore my shame on the cross. It’s been washed away, and He doesn’t see it when He looks at me. I’m the only one who does.

Tonight I wrote some thank you cards. They are three months late. That voice in my head mocked me the whole time, but I realize now it’s just an untrustworthy noise. Shame’s opinion of me is not the one who counts. I’ve let it count for far too long, and as a result I’ve become crippled, but I will not stay that way.

I’m walking in freedom now, and I can’t bring the burden of shame along for the journey.

Coming Out of Slavery: “And God Knew”

For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven…
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence,
and a time to speak.
~Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7

I’m thankful for the fact that when I don’t have words to say, the Bible says it all for me. It’s no secret if you’ve read this blog in recent months or know me personally, that I have had some tough stuff to work through. In addition to not having much spare time or brain power to compose thoughts into sentences, I have felt God asking me to keep my words between me and Him.

I have learned to trust God more and more through each year and circumstance that I live through, so I know that when He says to be silent, I had better do it. Otherwise, I’ll only leave behind some embarrassing word vomit that makes everyone feel uncomfortable.

I’ve been going through the Bible study “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore for the last few months on my own, and in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to actually face some of the fears and strongholds that have had me bound up and unable to live a life that’s free in Christ. A whole bunch of concepts and terms I thought I understood for most of my life have become clear to me in a new way. Soaking up God’s Word while persevering through trials has a way of humbling and growing a believer like no book, blog post, or wise word can.

Today, for example, as I was doing my study, I read one of those short phrases that spoke volumes to my soul. Exodus 2:23-25 is describing the turmoil the Israelites were experiencing after 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Here’s what it says:

“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

I read and re-read those last three words many times. I feel at a loss to describe all that I’m feeling after coming out of a season of trials.

But God knows.

I don’t know what to say to people who mean well, think they’re informed, but honestly don’t know the whole story.

But God knows.

I am hurt, but by God’s amazing grace have come to a place of forgiveness, by people who meant harm.

And God knows that, too.

I’ve spent a lot of time feeling robbed of the kind of favor I thought God would bring when I claimed this year, “the year of the LORD’s favor.”

And God knew, even before tragedy grew deeper, that He doesn’t lie and He always keeps His promises.

Today I felt God nudge me to share a bit of my heart with others. And I felt scared a little because I have no idea where to begin. I’m walking out of the prison I’ve been in, but the journey to the Promised Land is far from over. I haven’t arrived at a place where I feel like I can share something that will encourage someone else’s heart.

Yet God knew that you, my friend, would be the one reading these words.

So I’m praying that you find hope, comfort, and joy in knowing that whatever struggle you are facing, God knows! Even better, He is working it all out for your good. (Romans 8:28)

Linking up with the Soli deo Gloria Sisterhood.