A Right Response is What We've Got to Give

Last week I arrived at the library with my return books but no wallet. I started to drive back home, but then I remembered that the new and improved library app on my phone had a virtual library card. I picked out four books quickly, took them to the counter, and pulled up the library card on my phone. The librarian looked at me like I was from Mars. She had not seen the new and improved library app. She gave scanning the bar code on my phone a try. Nothing. She consulted the librarian next to her. He belted out the rule of needing either the physical card or photo ID without even looking in our direction.

I could have argued. Mostly because the doe-eyed librarian who was choosing to actually converse with me seemed very kind. I responded, “Hold these for me. I’ll be back.”

I jumped in my car. I thought about how I could stew and steam about the twenty minutes that would be wasted in my day or I could turn on Spotify and listen to that new album I’ve been wanting to play all the way through.

That day I responded well to others and for myself. That isn’t always the case, especially those inward responses.

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I’ve been thinking about why listening to what God says about you and me is important. Why does it matter that he loved us first and we are beloved, that he chose us and we are chosen, that he called us and commissioned us?

I think it matters because we are responders to His moving in our lives. Our whole life as a Child of God is choosing how to respond to Him and others.

When He loves us, will we love back?

When He speaks to our heart, will we take time for silent listening?

When He allows hurt, will we turn to Him for healing?

When He allows hurt in the lives of others, do we sit alongside them in their pain?

When He sets the wind blowing on our physical life, will we focus inward to the spiritual?

When He puts people who bear His image in our life, will we show them grace, mercy, forgiveness, truth, and love?

When He shows us people, who bear His image, that are physically far away from us and suffering, will we take a moment to show love through prayer — even when they might disrupt our physical lives, prosperity, or safety?

When we experience joy, will we praise Him?

When we experience loss, will we praise Him?

It is all a response.

We like to think that we are navigating this life we are living, and we are to an extent. We hate to admit how little control we actually have in our lives.

We have no control over the family, country, or time we were born into. Just this small fact about us determines so much of our possible future.

We have no control over others. This may seem obvious but how easily we can be deceived into thinking we do. We could try to control or manipulate others, but that ruins relationships.

We have no control over circumstances. If we did, our house wouldn’t still be on the market. You probably have a thing in your life you have been actively seeking to change only to see stagnant results.

We have some choices in our lives, but we have many, many more responses in our deck of cards to play.

This lack of control does not mean we are off the hook and we can just sit back and respond. We are to be actively engaging in love toward others, connecting in relationships. We are also called and commissioned. This requires planning, working well with others, following through with commitments, stewarding resources, making decisions, and acting on those decisions.

As we play those cards of choices and actions, we will be interrupted by all the things out of our control. This is where our responses will dictate your spiritual maturity, and your spiritual maturity will dictate your responses.

Will you respond to the world around you by trying to manipulate people and circumstances to give you the best seat possible? Or will you respond with a willing heart that wants to serve and shepherd others with love, no matter the result — personally or spiritually?

Will you respond with trust, even when the circumstances seem bleak?

Will you respond with compassion and empathy when you see others choosing wrong responses?

Will you take two minutes out of the rush of trying to control and quietly listen for the One who actually has control?

We have to accept our hands are empty to respond correctly. We have to accept we are seen, known, beloved, liked, chosen, included, friended, called, commissioned, and kept to believe that we can hope and trust the God who feels all of this for each one of us.

The constant question in your life every day, all day is what is your response to this moment.

Can’t wait to see the ocean later this month.

Is Listening to What God Says About You Wrong?

Spending time in God’s Word has become very important to me. I find myself drawn to Scripture that tells me who I am in Him and how God feels about me.

I wrote about a verse Jude a few weeks ago that tells us we are beloved, called, and kept.

Twice I’ve written about how knowing we are clothed in His righteousness makes me believe blanketing myself in shame is something God would hate. (link 1 & link 2)

I spend a lot of time thinking about how God feels about me. I even changed my Instagram name to knownseenliked because I needed to focus my head and my heart on the true identity that God knows me, sees me, and likes me.

All of this focus on me feels wrong. I get a little sting inside that says, Shouldn’t you be focusing on who God is?

Is it wrong? Is my sting right? Should I be focusing more on God and less on me?

My youngest Hezekiah does this really cute thing, but it hit me yesterday that it was very telling to how our brains work as human beings.

Every time I say something complimentary to Hezekiah, which I try to do because I want his 3-year-old heart to know he is amazing and loved, he rejects what I’ve said and tells me his name — which he adorably says as Kia.

Here’s how the conversations go:

Me: “You are such a good boy.”

Hezekiah. “No, I Kia.”


Me: “You are so cute!”

Hezekiah: "No, I Kia!”


Me: “You are a good brother.”

Hezekiah: “No, I Kia.”


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I laugh every time. His insistence that his identity is just his nickname hasn’t stopped me from telling him all the things he is in my eyes. As a parent, I want more than anything to nurture love and kindness in him towards others and himself.

As humans, it is not easy for us to accept positive comments. We are protective and defensive. We easily accept criticism without question, but we are skeptical of praise and complements.

I know this because I had a Christian counselor tell me that I was doing this. He made me start writing down things people said to me that were complementary. It felt silly, but I did it because I wanted to get better. I was so mentally unhealthy, berating myself with negative self-talk.

Earlier this year I saw Curt Thompson speak at the IF:Gathering, and he presented the brain science behind the principle of accepting compliments differently. He shared that research shows that it takes our bodies about 3 seconds to absorb and believe a negative comment and about 30 seconds for us to absorb and believe a compliment. He encouraged us to not push away and deflect a compliment out of humility or false humility because when you do that, you have no chance of ever accepting it. He asked us to take a deep breath and let those kind words that were just spoken about us sink in. He asked us to go back to those words later in the day when we had time to really let our mind believe those words.

If this neurobiologist, psychiatrist knows it is important for good things said about you to be absorbed and I as a parent long for good things said about my children to be absorbed, then can we agree that God wants the good things He has said to His children to be absorbed?

It is important that we listen to the good things God says about us, and I’ve come to believe that that small sting inside of me that says I should only be focused on what is said about God is evil shame that does not want good for me.

Shame is the enemy that keeps us blind and in a corner. It keeps us from connecting to others and sharing our faith.

Obviously, we need to commit time to learn God’s character, and what we believe about God must line up with what Scripture says about God.

This knowing God does not mean knowing how God feels about us is then unimportant. Don’t skip absorbing what God says about you because of humility, false humility, or shame.

God says you are Beloved. God says you are known. God says you are seen. God says you are liked, friended, and included. God says you are chosen. God says you are called. God says you are commissioned. God says you are kept.


New Head & the Heart song this week. Ekkk!

If you’re interested in reading Curt Thompson’s work, he has published these two books:

Encouraging You With My Walking Habit Results

I’ve been thinking about habits. Probably because I read two really great books about habits last week.

A few months ago, I posted a blog about my goal for this year of taking 200 walks and reading 200 books. I pointed out that I was having an easy time adding in more reading because it was already familiar to me. I'm not a brain scientist, but my guess is that the brain paths for reading are already built. I had somewhere to begin. It wasn’t the same story as walking. That was a brand new habit I was beginning, and it was hard.

April ends today, and I’m seeing progress.

I took my 50th walk yesterday. I find myself naturally wanting to walk at certain times of the day. On weekdays, I try to walk around four in the afternoon. On the weekend, I try to walk after lunch. I obviously don’t walk every day, but it is easier to take a day off when I’m not feeling it if I’m at least trying to go every day.

The book Atomic Habits talks about the idea of a habit loop: cue, craving, response, reward. My son getting home from high school at 4:15 has been a great cue for starting my walk. This cue has lead to craving — wanting to take my walk.

My reward is checking off a box. I learned in The Four Tendencies that this is a reward for me because I am an Upholder. I love checking boxes and seeing I am not letting myself down.

My husband is of a different tendency. He is an Obliger. He’s actually been going on a lot of walks with me, and he feels like spending that time with me and supporting my goal is his reward.

I hope my habit check-in will encourage you to set some measurable goals and track them. You don’t have to have an expensive planner. Grab an index card, write May at the top of it, and start tallying that habit you want to change. If marking a box or a card will feel like a reward to you, do that. If not, come up with a reward that helps your habit along.

I’ve been using my expensive planner that I won in an Instagram giveaway to track my walking and reading goal, but I’ve been using an inexpensive notepad on my fridge to keep track of some goals I’ve made around snacking.

You might need a buddy to keep you on track, there is no shame in that. The Four Tendencies says that over 40% of people are Obligers who would benefit from accountability. Ask a friend if you can text a picture of your index card every week.

Having a camera on our phones is a great motivation tool. Taking pictures has kept me excited about my walks.

Accept you’re exceptional. You are unique in how you think. It may take a while to figure out what works. Keep trying, and you’ll begin to see change.

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What habits are you working on? I’d love to know!

A Greeting That Reminds Us Who We Are

Is there a connection between what we do and who we are? Does what we believe about ourself matter?

I think the answer is yes. I believe the key to fighting lies is the repetition of truth. I even made a worksheet to help you battle lies last fall.

Right now I’m halfway through the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I love the chapter called “How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa).” It reminded me of our lie fighting strategy.

 
Your identity emerges out of your habits. You are not born with preset beliefs. Every belief, including those about yourself, is learned and conditioned through experience. More precisely, your habits are how you embody your identity.... The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior. In fact, the word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your ‘repeated beingness.’
— James Clear, Atomic Habits

How does this “repeated beingness” translate to finding our identity in Christ?

First, we never feel like we have repeatedly been the things that Jesus lays over our sin. We don’t feel righteous for good reason. Only He is righteous. Sometimes we don’t feel like a child of God, with all of the benefits as heirs to His kingdom.

We can try to act like a child of God, and slowly (if we can keep getting up after stumbling) our identity can change. Or — here’s the faster route — we can change what we believe internally first, and that belief will change our outward actions. According to Clear, this is the best way to make a change, by changing from the inside out. He says we focus on who we are becoming by focusing on identity-based habits instead of outcome-based habits. Clear points out that there is a feedback loop between identity and habits.

Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.
— James Clear, Atomic Habits

This is where my Battling Lies Worksheet will help you believe your identity in Christ and help you create identity-based habits.

Every morning, I write a sentence in my calendar. I write what I believe is true about my identity in Christ. This repetition of the truth is the best defense as I fight lies — lies from the enemy, lies in my thoughts, lies in my feelings, and lies in our world.

Believing I am known and liked by God helps me want to know and like God back. It is easy to find myself abiding in God’s Word when it is a part of my identity. Of course I’m studying God’s Word because I’m included, friended, and commissioned. How else would I know His plan so I can join Him in it?

Last week, I was studying the letter from Jude, and I found more words to add to my repeated morning writings.

Called.

Beloved.

Kept.

This greeting from Jude reminds us who we are.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
— Jude 1-2 ESV

I am called, beloved, and kept.

You are called, beloved, and kept.

How do we act as if we are called? We believe we are called by God, and then we will behave as if we are called by God.

How do we act as if we are beloved? We believe we are beloved by God, and then we will behave as if we are beloved by God.

How do we act as if we are kept? We believe we are kept by God, and then we will behave as if we are kept by God.

I am so thankful for this identity reminder in Jude, and you better believe I have begun writing called, beloved, and kept every morning with my other truths.

I encourage you to stop trying to change outward behaviors and instead focus on changing what you believe about yourself. You will go far in changing your actions by focusing on who you are in Christ.

Need a truth-boost to get you going on this path of identity belief? Download the worksheet, friend.

I discovered Andrew Peterson over Easter weekend when I found his album Resurrection Letters. After listening to this precious song, I am now officially a life-long fan.

Revisiting My Shame Blanket

It has been a year and a half since I first wrote about my shame blanket. In some ways, my shame blanket is far behind me because of my growth. If I’m honest, I often carrying that blankie around like Charlie Brown’s little friend Linus.

What I’ve learned about my shame blanket goes beyond just saying I need to drop it, surrender from this bad view of myself.

Here is what I’ve learned about my shame blanket.

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My blanket shields my eyes and heart from distinguishing my feelings.

When I am in the darkness of shame, I cannot distinguish what I am feeling or why I am feeling it. Under the blanket, every bad feeling is because of the badness of me.

The truth about feelings is that naming what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it is extremely important in emotional health. What I did in the past was felt shame for the bad feeling and powered through whatever was in front of me until I hit a wall I could not see because my eyes were in the darkness of shame.

I closed my eyes and worked.

I closed my heart and served.

I closed my spiritual eyes and missed the Father trying to lift my head.

When I would hit a wall, there would be such a jumble of emotions that there was no sorting through the mess. Like those plastic slinkies sold by that Asian company Sunday school teachers frequent, it is a tangled mess. Those things should come with a sticker that says, “Save your sanity by inserting into a trashcan promptly after ten minutes use.”

When I can recognize I’m feeling feelings, set my shame aside, give myself permission to open my eyes and heart to interpret just what those feelings are, then straightening the jumble is possible.

When you’ve realized what the feeling is you are feeling — actually named it, you can gently ask yourself, Why am I feeling this? Here’s where having clear eyes, unencumbered with the despised shame blanket, is so advantageous. Feelings are tricky. Sometimes you are feeling a feeling that is perfectly reasonable. The situation you find yourself in is the exact situation that would cause this exact feeling in any human that had a non-stone heart. In that case, you can tell yourself, This feeling is legitimate. My circumstances are not good therefore I am feeling not good.

Sometimes feelings are liars. Sometimes we feel something and it isn’t true. This is the reason that feelings get such a bad rap. Feelings aren’t facts. In this case, you remind yourself of the facts. You fill your mind with truth and pray your heart will catch on.

No matter what, shame is never the answer.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising
the
shame,
and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2 ESV

The problem perpetuates itself when we attach shame to certain feelings.

I should never feel unappreciated because then I’m not being humble.

I should never feel hurt because then I’m not forgiving.

I should never feel helpless because then I don’t have faith.

I should never feel fearful because then I’m a bad Christian.

I should never feel lonely because then I’m forgetting God is always with me.

I should never feel disappointed because God has a plan.

We are not bad for feeling unappreciated, hurt, helpless, fearful, lonely, disappointed or any other feeling. It is not a sin to feel a feeling. Denying you have those feelings to seem holy to yourself or others is harmful. Our righteousness does not stem from our ability to deny feelings, put on a happy face, or become numb to negative feelings. Our righteousness comes from Jesus.

Jesus had feelings.

Emotionally healthy Christians have feelings.

We are skipping a step in our emotional health when we deny our feelings and jump to, “God’s good and I’m good.” Let’s go through the steps of feeling unappreciated. 1. I recognize I feel unappreciated. 2. I realize why I feel unappreciated when I see circumstances in my life that would cause anyone to feel that way. 3. I’ve named my feeling. I remind myself that this is a valid feeling in this situation. 4. I pray that God would change those circumstances because everyone deserves to feel appreciated. 5. I remind myself how God feels about me — I am radically loved by Him, He loves a cheerful giver, and Jesus can relate to feeling unappreciated. 6. I am full in Him, and although it would have been nice, I can live without appreciation from others.

We have worked through that feeling without shame and covered in His grace, mercy, and righteousness. A shame blanket would have clouded that process and put a stop to the process at step one.

As children of God, we have to remind ourselves we are clothed in the splendid robe of righteousness instead of in the dark covering of shame.

So the Angel of the Lord spoke to those standing before Him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes!’ Then He said to him, ‘See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.’
— Zechariah 3:4 HCSB

Our robe of righteousness aids our emotional heath by giving us real security.

Our robe of righteousness does not mask our ability to distinguish our feelings because we are wearing that robe solely because of Jesus. It is holy and good, and our Father sees us as holy and good because we are covered in His righteousness and kept in His care.

When we are wearing our robe, we have no shame before God as we work through our feelings honestly. We can acknowledge the truth of our circumstances that exist in our life in the fallen world. We can put a name to what we are feeling. Naming things is good. (It is the actual oldest profession, and Adam was the OG Namer.)

We can ask ourselves why we have the feelings we do without shame. We can determine if our feelings fit the circumstance. We can ask God to change our circumstances if they do. If our feelings are lying to us, contradicting His love for us, we can ask God to help us open our hearts to the truth.

I love the Nick Drake-ness of this song. Excited for this new album.

5 Books That Helped Me Heal

As spring warms my skin, I am transported in my mind to last summer. I feel myself gently swing back and forth in my hammock while I think, aren’t hammocks supposed to be relaxing?

I was in my head a lot last summer. I was seeking anything that would heal my anxiety after finally admitting that it was more than a temporary problem.

Many things were helpful in getting to a healthier place: therapy, journaling, new boundaries, confronting my codependent tendencies, medication, and much needed changes. The thing that made all of these things more effective was reading books that helped me process these changes.

You may have different mental health concerns for yourself or a family member than I did, but all of these books will have good lessons for you on your journey.

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1. All is Grace by Brennan Manning

 

Why?

This book isn’t a “self-help” type of book like the rest of the books on my list. It’s an autobiography of a deeply broken man. I cried tears more than once because of the incredible redemptive, redeeming, reckless love of our God. His trauma from disfunction was familiar even as it was far from my life experience. His tendency towards self-destruction and self-deception was familiar even though it was also very far from my life experience.

Quote:

My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough…Jesus is enough.
— Brennan Manning, All is Grace

Other healing books by Manning:

Abba’s Child

Ruthless Trust

2. How People Heal by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

 

Why?

This book broke down how the ideas of Bible intersect mental health care in the simplest to understand way possible in chapter one. Even if you can only read chapter one, you’ll be better for it.

Quote:

I believed in the power of the Bible and knew that God’s truth could change any life. And I knew that if I could just teach others the same things and encourage them to know the truth as I was learning it, they would find the same kind of growth I discovered. Yet, at the medical center I saw people who had walked with God for years and many who knew more about God’s truth than I did. These people, laypeople and pastors alike, had been very diligent about prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual disciplines. Nevertheless, they were hurting, and for one reason or another, they had been unable to walk through their valley. The woman in the pink bathrobe was a missionary who had been called off the field because she was out of touch with reality — out of touch with who she really was and where she was in time. Although the realization I had had with this particular woman came in response to an extreme situation, I had the same realization over and over with hundreds of other more normal clients. To deal with marital, parenting, emotional, and work struggles, people had tried the things they had been taught, and they felt as though these spiritual answers had let them down. And I began to feel the same way. Again the realization hit me: This is going to be harder than I thought.
— Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, How People Grow

Other healing books by Cloud & Townsend:

Boundaries

Necessary Endings (Cloud)

3. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

 

Why?

Peter, a veteran pastor in New York City, is so vulnerable with his own journey to becoming emotionally healthy, and he points out how damaging emotionally unhealthy people are in the local church. If every local church was proactive in making sure that discipleship that included emotional health was a priority, the body would be so much healthier and more whole.

Quote:

The problem, however, is that you inevitably find, as I did, something still missing. In fact, the spirituality of most current discipleship models often only adds an additional protective layer against people growing up emotionally. When people have authentic spiritual experiences — such as worship, prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship — they mistakenly believe they are doing fine, even if their relational life is fractured and their interior world is disordered. Their apparent ‘progress’ then provides a spiritual reason for not doing the hard work of maturing. They are deceived. I know. I lived that way for almost seventeen years. Because of the spiritual growth in certain areas of my life and in those around me, I ignored the glaring signs of emotional immaturity that were everywhere in and around me.
— Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

4. The Wisdom of You Heart by Marc Schelske

 

Why?

I met Marc at a writer’s conference in Portland when this book was just a seed. He was honest about his struggles with perfectionism and insecurities. Several years later, I read his book and it freed me from a lot of shame about my emotions. I’m an enneagram 3. If you’re an enneagram 3, 7, or 8, you are in the active triad that suppresses feelings by focusing your energy on other things. Becoming in touch with my feelings has been a process, and this book was integral in that process.

With emotions, God gave us a gift, not a curse, a small reflection of God’s own experience.
— Marc Schelske, The Wisdom of Your Heart

5. The Gift Of Being Yourself by David Benner

 

Why?

Knowing God is not something you can integrate into your life and actions fully until you know yourself. This book was full of “ah ha” moments about how the self relates to God. I flagged a third of the pages because it held an important truth.

Quote:

Self-deception occurs automatically. This is part of what psychologists mean when they say that the defense mechanisms operate in the unconscious. It is also part of what theologians mean when they speak of original sin. We don’t really have to choose self-deception. It is — to use contemporary computer jargon — the default option.
— David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself

I listened to this a bunch last summer in the hammock. Still is a fav.

The Detriment of Shame Because of Anxiety

I believe God likes me. It is good.

To get to this place of excepting God’s acceptance of me, I had to let go of my shame about fear.

Do not be anxious about anything. These words come straight from Jesus’s mouth. I feel shame because I find myself anxious every day.

Emotions are not sin. 

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We have five core emotions: joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. (Anyone seen Inside Out?) Every emotion we have is either a variation of intensity or a mixture of these emotions.

As we accept that Jesus was human, we have to accept that he had these same core emotions too. It isn’t hard to believe because we can see him display all of these emotions at different points in our gospel story. Jesus never let those emotions lead to sin, but in my life that has happened.

We see Jesus joyful often. I imagine Him full of joy on that borrowed donkey entering Jerusalem. We see Him sad often, especially at the news of the death of His friend Lazarus. We see him angry as He turned over tables at the temple. We see Him disgusted when the Pharisees demand a sign. (He had just fed 4,000 people for goodness sake.)

We are slow to admit that Jesus displayed the emotion of fear. Why is that?

Maybe it is because we have watered down God’s Holy Word into platitudes that we can hand each other and convince ourselves that we were helpful with our Christian clichés.

Maybe it is because we’ve heard things from the pulpit that make us believe fear is a sin.

This Scripture is good, but the enemy can manipulate it like he tried to do with Jesus in the desert to make us think our fear is sin.

  • Do not worry about tomorrow.

  • God did not give you a spirit of fear.

  • Perfect love cast out fear.

  • Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.

  • Do not fear. God is with you.

There is an extremely emotional piece of the gospel that I believe shows Jesus experiencing extreme fear.

And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ’Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ’Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.’
— Luke 22:39-46 ESV

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about sweating drops of blood:

Hematidrosis is a condition in which capillary blood vessels that feed the sweat glands rupture, causing them to exude blood, occurring under conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress. Severe mental anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system to invoke the stress- Fight-or-flight response to such a degree as to cause hemorrhage of the vessels supplying the sweat glands. It has been suggested that acute fear and extreme stress can cause hematidrosis.

If we believe Jesus sweat drops of blood, He must have been under extreme fear, stress, anxiety, and experiencing fight-or-flight.

Reread this passage in the NIV translation with the emotion of fear in mind. How do you experience fear? What physically happens in your body when the emotion of fear takes control of your mind?

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’
— Luke 22:41-46 NIV

Knowing Jesus experienced this emotion takes away the enemy’s ability to shame me over my own emotion of fear.

I experience fear. That fear keeps me alive. That fear is a core emotion that I cannot dispose of.

Our goal cannot be to rid our lives of fear.

Here’s a better goal: know that God accepts you in your fear.

Our fear does not surprise Him or alarm Him. He created us with emotions, and He experiences emotions.

It is easy to think we can just turn to God whenever we have fear, but if we are so ashamed of our fear that we want to hide away from God, how can we seek His help?

I rid myself of the shame of my fear, and I am eager to allow God to help me work through my fear and anxiety.

We don’t cut fear out of our life. We experience that fear and work through those emotions with a God that knows what fear feels like.

Anxiety is such a big part of my life right now, I don’t think I could accept that God likes me if I didn’t realize that God understood my anxiety or that I didn’t need to feel shame about my anxiety.

To ignore, repress, or dismiss our feelings is to fail to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit within our emotional life. Jesus listened. In John’s Gospel we are told that Jesus was moved with the deepest emotions (11:33)... The gospel portrait of the beloved Child of Abba is that of a man exquisitely attuned to His emotions and uninhibited in expressing them. The Son of Man did not scorn of reject feelings as fickle and unreliable. They were sensitive antennae to which He listened carefully and through which He perceived the will of His Father for congruent speech and action.
— Brennan Manning, Abba's Child

If you experience shame over your fear, I encourage you to go back over those verses that can either be a cliché or a balm to your soul. Look at the verse with new eyes. See the words coming from a God who knows fear and never wants to shame you.

His Word actually gives us an antidote to shame. That antidote is an emotion. God actually commands us to have an emotion to counteract the negative effects of shame. We are told to have confidence in John’s first letter to God’s children.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
— 1 John 2:28 ESV

He goes on to say:

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
— 1 John 3:19-21 ESV

Have confidence before God. Allow your heart, mind, soul, and body to feel that you can trust and rely on God. Have confidence that God likes you.

God likes you, even when you are fearful because you’re never going to be without fear.

Here’s a song because music is good and wearing the struggle is honest.

Change is the Place Where Joy and Grief Mingle

Here are some things I’ve learned about change.

Sometimes you don’t choose the change.

When my father-in-law had a high count of white blood cells, it was a change that we didn’t choose. It would take a few weeks before the doctors confirmed his leukemia diagnosis. It would be only a few weeks before we said goodbye to him. This wasn’t a change anyone would have chosen.

When my dad woke me up with a phone call to tell me my brother was gone. Tragically, my brother chose this change, but I didn’t. I would never have.

When someone’s bad choices throw our life into a tailspin, we have no choice but to adjust. Sometimes people make a choice that isn’t necessarily bad but it causes ripples of change to your life too.

Change brings grief.

It is obvious when the change we are considering is a death of a loved one that grief would be involved. What about when it is a different change that isn’t death? Sorrow comes in every change.

Change can also include trauma.

My adopted son’s life had traumatic changes that were out of his hands. His little brain and heart hold those experiences deeply. Last week we had a good change in our life. An extremely kind friend gave us a van. It’s a hand-me-down, but it feels like we won the lotto because it’s so comfy and nice.

new van.JPG

Having nice seats for you and your people to ride in around town is really delightful. I am thankful for this new car, people who enjoy blessing others, and these silly boys who think it’s cool that the back seats can swivel and face backwards, “limo-style.”

limo seating minivan.JPG

We were all having fun taking the car for our first spin. We drove my husband back to work to drop him off. After we got back home, I was getting my youngest out of his car seat, and he busted out crying — not whining — heartwrenching tears. “I want daddy,” he said. I knew instantly the source of his anxiety and grief wasn’t dropping off daddy eight minutes earlier. The grief was the change. Change is scary when a change has undercurrents of past trauma. I reassured him the best I could that he was safe in his family even with the new car. We talked about the new car and hugged for a long time.

I know this feeling. After my brother’s death, I panicked every time I heard a phone ring. If that phone ring was late at night or early in the morning, I was on edge for hours. It took me years to get past that reaction. It has been almost 9 years, and I still catch my body tensing at a ringing phone.

Sometimes you choose the change.

Not all change is bad, like the new van. Sometimes we choose the change. We decide to change homes, schools, churches, friendships, food intake, habits, clothes, hobbies, or hairstyles. The change might be new, exciting, and fun. That doesn’t mean there isn’t something lost.

Even when you choose the change, grief still exists in the change.

Every change big or small, good or bad, brings a measure of grief. We lose things. Even when the change is your choice, you still are allowed to let yourself grieve explicit and implicit losses. Comparison has no function in this grieving because grief does not follow reasoning. It is not kind or healthy to shame yourself for your feelings. God is good. The gifts of the change are good. Our feelings cannot change that.

We are complex, and grief does not steal my gratitude. Ingratitude can definitely steal my joy, but I can hold my joy, sadness, and thankfulness up to God in shameless honesty without worry that He will not get it. God is much more complex than me. My complexity isn’t confusing to Him. I’m thankful He joins me in the place where mourning and celebration mingle without hesitation. I have this stupid habit of letting my brain blurt out silver linings like they will outshine the grey. Only The Light can push the darkness away. Silver linings are just circumstances that get put in the pro column. I am not loved and liked by the pro column. I am loved and liked by the Son. You are too.

We all have some measure of change in this life or we are not alive. This is what I’ve learned about change: changes are sometimes chosen and sometimes not, but all change brings grief.

What are you learning about change?



I like to include a song for you every now & again. Here’s a new one. I might like the acoustic version better.

Unfamiliar Changes Are Harder Than Time-Consuming, Familiar Changes (Why Taking A Walk Is Hard)


March is here, and I am still thinking about my goals for the year. That’s not an unusual thing for me, but if sticking close to your goals is hard for you, may I recommend Powersheets?

I won’t list out all my goals for you, but I want to tell you what I’ve learned from two of my goals for this year. I decided I wanted to take more walks and read more books this year so I came up with this cute goal. It’s Instagramable and Tweetable.

200 books

200 walks

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Isn’t it adorable?

So how I am doing two months in?

I’m right on track on my reading goal.

200 books divides out to 17 books a month. I read 17 in January and 17 in February. I’m right at 34 books read.

200 walks divides out to 17 walks a month.

Ummmmm.

I didn’t take 17 walks in January or February.

I didn’t take zero walks though.

So there’s that.

I took 5 walks in January. (Single digits, y’all.) I took 8 walks in February. (The tiniest bit better.)

So I am not on track with my walking goal. I’ve done 13 out of 200. That means I still have 187 walks left in 2019.

187!

Here’s the puzzling thing about these two goals. I am not demanding about these walks. A 30 to 45-minute walk is great. I’m not speed-walking these things. A stroll counts.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

On the other hand, it takes hours to finish a decent book.

HOURS!

Why am I flying through this time-consuming reading goal while the walking goal that demands so little of my time gets pretty much ignored?

I think it’s because I was already reading a lot last year, and bumping up to reading a little more wasn’t as big of a change.

I was not exercising with any amount of regularity last year. Even though taking a walk has a literal phrase that means easy — “walk in the park” — I can’t seem to get it done.

It’s a bigger change, not because it takes more time, money (it’s free to walk), or equipment (I have legs, headphones, and shoes.) It is a bigger change because it hasn’t been a habit in my life.

Reading takes lots of time, some money (God bless the library and Ben Franklin for suggesting it), and I think it may be ruining my eyes (ain’t gonna stop me though.)

Googling “how long does it take to form neural pathways,” tells me this:

Now 66 days is the average and there are always variances. Some people can form deeply ingrained habits in as little as 18 days while others can take well over 200 days to form a habit. The ease and convenience of the habit also has a large part of how long it takes to form a habit.

So basically, it may take all 200 of my walks this year to change my brain to make walking a habit.

What does this mean? Give up? No!

It means I have to celebrate my progress. I have to be proud of my 13 walks in two months. It might be more walks than I took in the whole of 2018. I wasn’t counting.

People often ask me how I stay so motivated and energized. I could tell you I try to eat healthy foods and sleep well at night, but the real answer is grace.
— Lara Casey, Cultivate

It means I have to push myself to do something that doesn’t feel natural.

It means I have to stop listening to my excuses.

I never make excuses not to read, but I can think of 15 excuses why I can’t take a walk right now, the first one being I would have to put real pants and shoes on. Ugh. Who can be bothered?

But when I realize I’m not just taking a walk, I’m changing my brain, I can tell myself I am doing a hard thing that needs extra babying and celebration. I can pep talk myself into creating pathways that think walks are a normal part of a healthy day. I can tell myself that 2020 Jennifer will find walks easy peasy.

What about you?

What changes have you found hard to make because they were new and unfamiliar to your life?

What small numbers do you need to celebrate?

Marking Changes By Changing my Instagram Name

Changes are coming.

How do I feel?

Do I feel excited? Yes, because of the possibilities.

Do I feel scared? Yes. I don’t want to feel hurt again.

How can I know it will be different?

I’m different.


This year is going to be full of change for me. We are walking fast towards changing cities, changing ministry jobs, changing homes. We are going from dry to humid, from comfortable to new, from local ministry to global ministry at Wycliffe Bible Translators, from Texas to North Carolina, from Amarillo to the JAARS headquarters near Waxhaw.


It seems fitting to make a simple change to mark these changes. I am changing my Instagram name because AmarilloJennifer doesn’t fit what God is telling me about who I am or what God is calling us to.

How did I get here, to such massive changes?

It started with pain as all new things do.

Childbirth.

Pruning.

Turning over a leaf without pain isn’t realistic. Is the leaf removed from the tree, in the process of dying, crackling even with your gentle touch?

It’s a common refrain in this Christ-following life: church hurt.

I was in a season feeling out of control (as if we are ever in control.) In Annie Down’s book Remembering God, she said the place she wanted to be when she felt church hurt was an old, sturdy, reliable cathedral.

When I read this, I laughed out loud because I realized this is exactly what I did to respond to my church hurt. I asked my family, cleared it with my pastor, and we started attending a very traditional, early church service. We went and listed to their pipe organ, choir donning robes, hymns with obsolete words, high ceilings. I felt safe in those pews.

We did those early services for about three months, and God met me there.

God met me in other ways in those hard months when everything about my life felt as if it had forgotten about gravity and was hovering and threatening to crash down.

I was asking God, “Are we suppose to leave?”

I realize now I was asking God the wrong question. In Jen Wilkin’s book In His Image, she talks a lot about being in God’s will. She says this:

For the believer wanting to know God’s will for her life, the first question to pose is not ‘What should I do?’ but “Who should I be?”
— Jen Wilkin, In His Image


I was asking “DO” questions, but God in His loving way was answering my unasked “WHO” question. In every good thing He was putting in my path meant for my healing, He was telling me who I was.

I started therapy around the same time I was finding solace in that unchanging church sanctuary. Over months of talking through feelings shoved in corners, patterns emerged. God showed me that I could ignore my past hurts not allowing them to come into my thoughts, but they were going to drive my brains reaction to every current hurt whether I acknowledge them or not.

I saw that hiding in the bathroom during times of stress or feeling ignored was directly related to experiences I had as a child. I saw that my urge to run away when I felt like I wasn’t measuring up to other’s standards was directly related to my flight responses. I saw that my anxiety to enter situations had everything to do with fears of rejection.

I began to turn those fears, anxiety, and hurts on their head. I looked to Christ. How does He feel about me?

  • I know I am seen. I am never ignored by God, and He hates being ignored by us.

  • I know that I am known. God takes pleasure in knowing me.

  • I know that I am chosen. I could never be rejected by God because we are forever family.

  • I know that I am loved. God first loved me, and His pure love for me cannot be matched.

  • I know that I am liked. God sees and knows me, and His opinion of me is that He likes me.

  • I know that I am friended. God calls me friend, and He lets me know what He is doing.

  • I know that I am included. God never pushes me away; He always draws near.

  • I know that I am commissioned. God has given me all authority of Heaven and earth to make disciples in His name.

When I look at my current Instagram name, AmarilloJennifer, I think of me three years ago before I was graciously showed who I was. I was looking for identity in my role in ministry here in Amarillo. I saw what I was doing for God in my outreach, church, service, and good works as who I was. If you asked me to tell about myself, I couldn’t get through three sentences without mentioning my ministry in Amarillo.

I am not AmarilloJennifer.

As we pursue this calling to join Wycliffe, I have learned some lessons. I know I am not WycliffeJennifer. I cannot define myself by the temporary or what I do.

I can only define myself by the permanent and what Christ did.

Which brings us to the new Instagram name:

KnownSeenLiked

I am KnownSeenLiked.

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You might wonder why I picked out these three truths. You might be especially wondering why I would choose liked over loved.

My pain centered around being misunderstood. I wanted desperately to explain myself to all parties involved and the world at large in a way that would end in everyone’s approval. I wanted to be known.

We all have this longing deep inside us, and I believe this longing is good. What is not good is selfish ambition and bitter jealousy. It is hard to separate those good motives of sharing myself with others from the motive of wanting approval from this world.

God meets this need to be known and understood on the deepest level. He knows me better than I know myself. When I get brave and be honest with God, when I let down my false selves that I can easily hide behind, when I allow sharing of my true, real thoughts and feelings with God, I feel that need to be known by others slip away. I understand now it was an unattainable goal that would never give me any satisfaction.

In my pain, I wanted to be seen. Feeling ignored sends me to a very dark place very fast. I do not mean failing to be recognized or not applauded for doing good. What I mean is feeling like I have been hurt and no one notices or cares. This feeling that I am on my own, left to bandage my wounds myself causes overwhelming feelings of distress and anxiety in me.

Others sometimes do God’s work in showing me love, they show me that they care about my life — the good and the bad. More often, others are too busy with their own life to notice valleys or mountains in my life. God sees every step. He is never too busy to see me.

Why liked instead of loved?

One of those healing, good things that God put in my path was Sonscape Retreat. Sitting in front of printed out results of online tests I had taken before we arrived and a couple who was there to counsel, mentor, and guide us toward healing from ministry burnout, I was faced with some truth. I was confronted with the fact that I was not objective in my thinking. I had the tendency to illogical and self-absorbed instead of fair-minded when it came to thoughts about myself and how I was perceived by others. My surveys had also revealed the fact that I had a big problem with negative self-talk. These things together pointed to a deep-seated hurt in my past that had not been dealt with. I was advised by these wise guides to listen to a sermon. The sermon was delivered by Brennan Manning.

I had never heard of Brennan, and like the overachiever I am, I took notes. I wrote these quotes in my notebook.

  • God loves you intimately. His love reaches into my dark places.

  • God loves you uniquely and reliably.

  • God loves you tenderly. God likes you. Do you believe it?

  • I dare you to trust that God loves you as you are because you’re never going to be as you should be.

  • Self-love is a profound act of faith.

This sermon challenged me in a way I had never been challenged before. I began the work of accepting that God liked me just the way I am.

These words were not new. They had been drilled into my head as a child from the television set. I had let shame and untruths cover over this beautiful, childlike truth that my friend Mister Rogers had told me over and over every time we met in my living room.

You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.”
— Mister Rogers

What I didn’t know as a little girl is that Fred Rogers had trained at seminary and had been ordained by the Presbyterian church to minister to children through the medium of television. He was telling me how God felt about me by modeling our loving God in his words and actions.

There is something about knowing we are liked that feels so much more intimate than the overused word love. I feel a deeper connection to this God who wants to commune with me. God would have never sent His precious son to earth to die for my sins if He didn’t not only love me but like me also. And Jesus died not for some idealized version of me. Jesus died for me, the sinner - just as I am - me. I am His handiwork. He called His creation good. He made me, and He likes me just as I am.

I am KnownSeenLiked.

The best part of this new Instagram name is that it is you too.

You are KnownSeenLiked.

These truths about me are true for you too.

How amazing to try to avoid this trap of selfish ambition on this social media platform and instead speak truth to all of our hearts from a place of pure gratitude to our God?

I want you to know this joy of being known, this relief of being seen, this deep appreciation of being liked.


Do we need to be friends in the church?

Did you know a synonym for kindness is friendship?

kind·ness

/ˈkīn(d)nəs/

noun

  1. the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

friend·ly

adjective

  1. characteristic of or befitting a friend; showing friendship:a friendly greeting.

  2. like a friend; kind; helpful:a little friendly advice.

  3. favorably disposed; inclined to approve, help, or support:a friendly bank.

  4. not hostile or at variance; amicable:

I learned this little synonym fact teaching a kids Bible class how we could use the fruits of the Spirit to help us know how to pray.

I started asking myself this question: Do we need to be friends with our brothers and sisters in the church?

Why is it that showing friendship is sometimes hard for us? Why is it that we want to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, but it does not come naturally? Small acts of kindness sounds so simple, but small acts of friendship doesn’t sound as simple. How do we take friendship into our communities and imitate God’s kindness? We are going to need His Spirit to help us share that fruit.

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Lord, help me to be kind to those who know you and to those who don’t. Let me be a friend to those who are easy to show care for and also to those who are challenging to show care towards. Amen. 

The problem I encounter in my heart when I think about showing friendship as a fruit of the Spirit is that friendship sounds deeper than kindness. I want to pick and choose who I show friendship to. This is me struggling with the sin of partiality. When I pull back from showing friendship to my brothers and sisters, I am either wanting something out of my effort or I am trying to protect myself by withholding vulnerability.


Lord, help me to see your image in all of my brothers and sisters. Help me to not put a premium on friendship with the wealthy or people who look like me. Help me to be vulnerable enough to hold friendship out to others without the instinct to protect myself or use friendship to get ahead in life. This friendship is though you as a fruit of your Spirit so I know you will help me. Today help me to go deeper in relationships and commit a random act of friendship. Amen.

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, ‘Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!’ and either ignore the street person or say, ‘Better sit here in the back row,’ haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted? Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—‘Christian’—used in your baptisms?
— James 2:1-7 MSG

I’ve been reading the book Anatomy of the Soul, and it explains how brain science teaches us that we were made for community. We need to be kind to others, and we need them to be kind to us. We need to see our brothers and sisters as friends, and we need to be treated friendly in return.

Anatomy of the Soul also teaches that what we need is a few very close friends that we can trust with all of our story. This isn’t everyone in our church community, but we need to be really known by a few people to help us process our story.

It is hard work making friends, going deep with people, going deep with God, being kind in our church community, being friendly to our family, letting others know us, but we need it. We can’t go it alone and accomplish anything as the church. Alone we are just one body part of the body. We need each other to serve and to be healthy.

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When you keep your relationship with God exclusively fact-based and rational, it’s easy to make judgments about others and yourself. Such judgements reduce your anxiety and increase your sense of safety and protection. However, this way of being also has the curious effect of increasing the isolation you feel, both from others and within your own mind. If you allow yourself to be known by God, you invite a different and frankly more terrifying experience. You are now in a position of vulnerability. If you permit others to know you, they can make their own assessment of your worth. They can react to you. You grant them the option to love you or to reject you. In essence, you must—must—trust another with yourself.
— Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul

What about you? Do you struggle with friendship in your community? You are not alone, but I pray we can begin to show love through tangible acts of kindness and friendship.

Lie #9 I Can Fix It

I fall for this lie all the time. I want to believe I can fix problems so badly.

Here’s the truth.

I usually can’t fix it.

The situations I can fix are extremely rare. Not only that, most of the things I want to fix are frankly none of my business.

Instead of trying to fix it. I need to be fixing my eyes on Jesus and my purpose — the race set before me and the prize I am racing towards.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
— Proverbs 4:25 ESV

Wanting to fix situations limits my ability to listen to others. Instead of really listening to what I’m hearing, I’m thinking ahead to problem-solving solutions. Listening is usually the kindest thing you can do for a friend, so I should focus completely on just listening.

Thinking I can fix things puts myself on a different level than the person with the problem. Instead of being peers, I put myself as a fixer who is higher than the one with the problem.

When I think I am supposed to fix situations, and it turns out reality dictates I can’t, I have unnecessary shame. If I think I should be fixing it, and I can’t, it can make me want to avoid a situation or the friend with the unsolvable problem.

In short, trying to fix it often pushes me farther away from others instead of bringing us closer together.

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Fix it, Jesus.

Lie #8 Certainty Is Possible

One of the ways I know I’m not doing well mentally is that I am waiting for certainty to move forward or I am wanting certainty from a situation where it isn’t possible.

When I am wanting to be certain of an outcome, what is going to happen in the future, or wanting certainty in what someone else is thinking, their thoughts behind their actions, I am wanting something I can never have.

I can’t know these things.

I can get stuck wanting these things.

I have been stuck wanting to know the future. I have bee stuck wanting to understand other’s thoughts and actions.

If we want to move forward with our lives, we have to accept that we just won’t have all the answers.

Not knowing can put you in two very different places. It can put in a place of paralysis, full of fear. Or it can put you in a place of bravely facing the unknown, otherwise known as having faith.

We aren’t suppose to have all the knowledge. We aren’t supposed to see all the steps and pieces in this life. It doesn’t work that way. It never has and never will.

There are things we can be certain about as Christians.

Knowing those things about God’s relationship with us is what we hold onto as we deal with these uncertain, difficult times in our life. Searching out these truths brings freedom, not fear. It will never bring you to a place of feeling stuck, but it will bring to a place of open hands and surrender.

Surrender isn’t a comfortable place, but it is the best place.

If you find yourself stuck, ruminating uncertain situations or confounding people in your mind, step away from wanting certainty. If you find yourself stuck facing a decision, and you think you can’t make up your mind without every ever-loving fact, step away from wanting certainty.

Let go of the absolute words about your life right now or your thoughts about yourself. Stop using: should, shouldn’t, never, always, everyone, no one, everything, nothing, must, and ought.

Embrace: maybe, trust, possibility, surrender, imagine, adventure, brave, and hope.

So don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our Master or for me, his prisoner. Take your share of suffering for the Message along with the rest of us. We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Savior, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus.
— 2 Timothy 1:8-10 The Message

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Here’s a song for you today.

Lie #7 You Have To Say Yes

In my early twenties, I was a young, new mom. I went out in search of mom friends and friends for my little girl who loved to talk by joining a few playgroups. I was very insecure because of my age. I wanted to get the parenting gig right, and I had no idea how to do that. I wanted to be liked. I didn’t want to be criticized. So I thought I had to say “yes” to every opportunity to prove to the older, more-experienced moms that I was responsible and capable.

I said “yes” to many things that might be parent adjacent like baking cookies, organizing crafts, and whatever else was needed. I said “yes” to things that had nothing to do with parenting and, in fact, probably took time away from my children like being treasurer of the homeschool association.

My motive was probably a high percentage towards wrong on a scale of pure to neediness. In many ways, I wanted to prove my worth by volunteering and knocking that task out of the park.

I don’t regret those yeses. I learned things and grew as a person by serving others.

I also said “yes” out of a fear of being overlooked the next time. What if they never ask me again? I wanted to be needed and well thought of. I wanted to seem capable, cool, and smart to the older women I was making friends with.

As my children were older, I was able to be more involved with our church that is really more of a children’s ministry than a church. It had lots of outreach to under-resourced neighborhoods: feeding programs, free camps, and Bible classes. I started saying “yes” to all I could in our ministry too.

My motives were a little better when it came to these yeses. I had lost my brother to suicide, and life felt so much more urgent. I wanted to love these children and make sure they knew about Jesus.

I ran heavy and hard at ministry. The undercurrents were that neediness of my soul wanting approval, seeking to prove my worth.

I had to burnout to learn the lesson that I could say “no.”

I had to realize how protecting my times of quiet and rest was crucial to ministry longevity. I needed to protect my time for the “yes” I should say, and I would bring God glory by serving out of a place where I was secure in His love instead of needy for others’ approval.

Saying “no” is still hard for me because of the bad habit of people pleasing, but I am fighting that lie that I have to say “yes” every time I say “no” when I should.

Have you believed the lie that your “yes” is required? What is something you know you should be saying “no” to in your life?

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A song for you today.


Lie #6 I'm Too Much

My thoughts are too much.

My ideas are too much.

My feelings are too much

I take everything too seriously.

I care too much.

I make people uncomfortable because of my excess of thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

These are all the lies I believed about myself centered around this idea of being too much. And these lies aren’t just lies. They are shame. I believed there was something wrong with me. I constantly censored myself around people because I believed they couldn’t handle it if I let them see the real me — hear what I was really thinking, share all my ideas, or show what I was really feeling. I’ve been censoring myself for so long that I don’t know if I will ever be comfortable enough to stop completely.

If I cry, I’m being too emotional. If I laugh, I’m being too flippant. If I talk, I’ll probably be disagreed with. If I don’t talk, I’m being too quiet.

This is really hard to write about. I’ve been dreading sharing this because this place in me is still raw. I don’t have it all figured out. I’m still changing this lie to truth in my thought patterns.

But I know so many of you have this same lie haunting your thoughts and actions. I know so many of you shame and censor yourselves too.

Let’s make a deal. Let’s quit believing this together.

I’m not too much.

You are not too much.

You know how I’m beginning to see the light of the truth about us? I’m beginning to see a fuller picture of who Jesus is and knowing that allows me to shine a light on the truth about us.

Jesus is the Great Acceptor.

He did not come to earth to point out our flaws. He came to earth to bridge the gap between our possibility of righteousness without Him to our possibility of righteousness with Him. He came to bring us life, not tweak our personality. He came because he loved us — who we were created to be, not to dim or censor our personality to be less.

God sees you and knows you, and He doesn’t think you are too much because you are not too much.

God loves you and likes you, and He doesn’t ask you to censor your thoughts, ideas, or feelings because He already knows them anyway.

Here’s the thing that makes being yourself hard. There are people that will reject you when you share your thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Guess what? It’s ok. You are not any less of a wonderful creation because a person doesn’t like you.

The work of fighting these lies also requires the work of letting go of needing acceptance from other people.

I already have the only acceptance I need from the Great Acceptor.

It is all I need. (Well, it is all I want to need. I have yet to let go of that addiction to people pleasing completely, but I am fighting for that freedom because I need it to be healthy.)

You already have the only acceptance you need from the Great Acceptor.

He knows you, sees you, loves you, and likes you.

Quit shaming yourself. Allow yourself to be you. Share your ideas. Show your true feelings. Quit worrying about people’s reactions.

Use common sense as you do this. There are unsafe people in this world, and you may need help figuring out who is a safe person to share your feelings with.

In safe situations, be you.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
— 1 John 3:1 ESV

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A song for you today.

Lie #5 You Are Either Good At This or That

In seventh grade, my math teacher suspected I was too good at math to be in the regular class I was in. She gave me a test, and apparently, I scored well enough to convince the school to let me skip pre-algebra and go straight into algebra. 

There was a lot of left-brain, right-brain talk going on in the early 90s. Somehow I got the idea that if I was never going to be good at Language Arts because I had been dubbed a math person at that point. (Never mind the fact that I devoured books all through my childhood and I don’t remember not being able to read.)

My junior year of high school the English class I would have been in didn’t fit my schedule. I convinced the advanced English teacher to allow me to join her class instead. My motivation wasn’t purely academic. My two best friends were in the class. Even though I made good grades in the advanced class and was able to stay in the advanced class my senior year, I would have told you I was good at math and bad at language arts because I had put myself in that box in seventh grade. 

Even after I dropped out of my pre-calculus class my senior year, I would have still told you that I was a math person.  

I choose accounting as my major in college because I was a math person.  

Even though one of my favorite college class memories was talking about The Awakening in my sophomore English class, I would have told you I was a math person. 

I loved a lot of my college business classes, and I even to an upper-level math class called set theory for as an elective for fun. 

The truth is that I was good at different portions of math and I was good at different portions of Language Arts. It wasn’t an either-or situation.  

I’m good at reading and writing. I’m awful at spelling. I’m good at algebra and theory. I’m awful at doing math in my head and geometry.

If I had embraced what I was good at, I might have studied something different in college. I might have started blogging and writing sooner.

I think we have a tendency to look at spiritual gifts the same way. If I’m good at teaching, I must be bad at hospitality. If I’m good at prayer, I must be bad at evangelism.

Or sometimes we don’t know what our gift is because we are too afraid to try.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
— 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV

Don’t put yourself in a box. Try serving, even in areas that are uncomfortable.

Spread your wings. Allow God to paint your story outside the lines.

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Lie #4: What You Do Is Who You Are

I easily fall into the trap of achieving. In my flesh, I strive for approval through achievement.

Accomplisher is not my identity. Writer is not my identity. Mom is not my identity. Teaching is not my identity. Wife is not my identity. Podcaster is not my identity. Friend is not my identity. My local church is not my identity. Homeschool mom is not my identity. My IQ is not my identity. My bank account is not my identity. My hobbies are not my identity. My home is not my identity. How I look is not my identity.

What we do is not who we are.

It can get confusing because we get introduced as or called these things, but this is not who we are.

Our identity is established in eternal facts about us. Who we will be in Heaven should be how we define ourselves now. How God sees us is how we should train our brain to see ourselves.

A beloved daughter of God through faith is my identity. Covered by His blood because of grace and mercy is my identity. Who I was created to be at my soul level is my identity. Being seen, known, loved and liked by God is my identity. Disciple of Christ is my identity. Being called friend of Jesus is my identity. Adopted heir to the kingdom is my identity. Chosen by God is my identity.

What we do is good, but what the Lord has done is who we are.

You are not what you do.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
— Galatians 3:25-29 ESV

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A song for you today.

Lie #3: All Checkboxes Are Created Equal

I can get the same sense of satisfaction from finishing a tv show as checking off a box in my planner. I feel as accomplished when I add another finished book to my Goodreads account as I do posting a blog post.

As someone who enjoys finishing tasks, I take enjoyment when I check off a box that I’ve accomplished something.

But not all checkboxes are equal or accomplish the same thing in life. I can fool my brain into thinking I did something at the end of the day. I can believe the lie that I’m accomplishing what I should be doing with my life by watching a tv show.

There are survival accomplishments: buy the groceries, pay the bills, file the taxes, do the dishes, wash the clothes, and read yo’ Bible.

There are make-life-better accomplishments: go to that doctor’s appointment, take my kids to the dentist, Target runs, organize that closet, buy some flowers, water the plant, meet with the insurance agent, and/or actually put up those clothes and dishes you washed.

There are entertain-your-brain accomplishments: binge the show, read that mystery novel, listen to the music, or maybe Wednesdays we PopCast.

Then there are the accomplishments that actually are long-term, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life accomplishments.

I can get bogged down in the weeds of just finishing survival accomplishments with a side of entertainment accomplishments and never actually accomplish the things I want to do in life (especially when my mental health isn’t the best.) I heard a podcaster call it “running the errands of life.”

I have goals that will never get accomplished if I never put time towards them. These goals require me doing things that I don’t always feel like doing. I want to be a better writer. I want to study my Bible with intention. I want to publish a book with a traditional publisher. I want to disciple my kids. I want to have a marriage I enjoy. I want to see a book I wrote on the shelf at Target. I want to really know God. I want to fulfill the Great Commission to the best of my ability. I want to make life better for other people. I want to enjoy my family and love them well.

What will my life be known for?

What will your life be known for?

Are there things you want to accomplish that get pushed to the back burner? Have you believed the lie that all checkboxes are created equal?

Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.
— 2 Corinthians 6:1 The Message

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Song for you today.

Lie #2: "You're Too Quiet" = Something Is Wrong With Me

I heard it again today. A woman leaned over to me and whispered, “You’re too quiet.” I had tried to interject a thought during a discussion, but the group leader who was leading the discussion moved on without hearing my comment.

I want to make it clear that the leader and woman didn’t mean any harm, and I didn’t take offense.

When I heard, “You’re too quiet,” I physically shook my head “no” and I was honestly surprised to find myself refuting her words with my head shaking back and forth. My body had responded before my brain knew what was happening.

The next thought I had was to see the humor in hearing these exact words today when I knew I was writing this Write 31 Days Series.

And then my next thought was that I realized I wasn’t disagreeing that I was not quiet, I was disagreeing that I’m too quiet.

That little word — too — changes so much.

I’ve heard it all my life, and I know the words were often spoke to fill awkward silence. I can’t know the intention of the words, but I know the message my heart received every time I heard them.

I heard, you should change because the way you are is wrong.

I am quiet. If you met me in person and then had to try to describe me to someone else, I think you would probably use the word “quiet” in your description. I know I could not change this fact about myself if I tried.

The other thought I had as I was shaking my head “no” this morning was, what I’m hearing does not mean that something is wrong with me.

As I’ve worked hard to fight negative self-talk this year, I’ve learned that the other side of this spiritual battle is liking myself by embracing the exceptional way God made me.

Embracing this quality, quietness, in myself was a fight because I didn’t know how to see the positive attributes around my quietness when I had focused on the wrongness of my quietness for so long.

Here’s what I learned to appreciate about my quietness. I know my quiet allows my soul to dig deep, ask difficult questions without fear, observe my world, and notice the other quiet humans who often go unnoticed.

I’m not sure I would choose quietness if I could change myself because outspokenness is applauded in our culture, but loving myself requires I appreciate this quality.

What quality to you struggle to appreciate about yourself and what does that attribute allow you to accomplish in life?

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
— Exodus 14:14 ESV

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Here’s a song for you today. I hope I didn’t shake my head this crazy this morning. Ha!

Lie #1: Everyone Berates Themselves in Their Thoughts

As long as I can remember I’ve had critical, shame-filled thoughts about myself. I thought everyone did.

It went beyond correcting myself when I did something wrong. 

An example of a correcting thought might be, “I knocked off the cup. I need to be more careful next time.”

An example of a shameful, berating thought might be, “I always knock off things off. I’m so clumsy and awkward. I have no coordination and I take up too much room. Other people aren’t like this. What is wrong with me? I’m the worst.”

After a retreat leader brought up my negative self-talk at a ministry retreat we attended last fall, I asked my husband about his thoughts toward himself.

“Don’t you have these types of thoughts?”

The retreat leader had me list out all the negative thoughts I had about myself. I was on my third page, and I wasn’t done yet.

“No,” he said emphatically. “I don’t think that way about myself at all. It worries me that you do.”

I tore myself down in my thinking, and I was shocked to find out that everyone didn’t do the same.

I’ll be sharing some of those negative things I thought about myself this month because all of the things I allowed my brain to repeat to myself in my head were lies. I reinforced those lies by repeating them and believing them in that invisible space no one can see and hear.

The effect of berating myself and believing those lies was not invisible though. It spilled out into my life in so many ways. It affected the speed in which I could slip into anxiety or depression. It affected my ability to be objective about my relationships with friends and family. It pushed me into perfectionism. It enabled my people-pleasing to continue because I if I could get approval from others then maybe I could prove the voices in my head wrong. It made me wear shame-colored glasses that changed how I viewed everything in my life. I was constantly on the warpath of striving to prove my worth.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
— Proverbs 23:7a NASB

It was daunting to think about changing the way I thought. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t think that way about myself.

Realizing that not everyone had pages and pages of negative self-talk gave me hope.

Not everyone rakes themselves over the coals in their thinking, and I didn’t have to either. 

If you need to hear this because you believed this lie too: Not everyone lives with negative self-talk. You don’t have to think that way. You can change the way you think. You can stop berating yourself in your head.



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Here’s a song for you today. John Ortberg says that the soul is needy like Bob from What about Bob. That’s accurate.