A few years ago, I thought I wanted a big house. I wanted massive square feet. I wanted a big yard, a long driveway and grass to plant flowers. I wanted it all. At least I thought. Until, I realized what I didn’t want: I didn’t want house problems, like leaks. I didn’t want snow plowing, every winter. I didn’t want, lawn mowing bills every week. I didn’t want house cleaning all the time. I didn’t want furniture bills up to my neck. I didn’t want housework without kid playtime. I didn’t want to live far away from friends. And, I didn’t want to feel like I was drowning under house chores.
That year, we sold the house – at a huge loss.
In retrospect, I realize, after selling the house, I stood at a decision point…
I could either wallow in my misery, thinking, I always lose money. I wasted so much cash on furniture I didn’t need. I cannot figure things out. I’ll always be lost. I’ll forever feel I don’t belong.
Or, I could recognize the issue, bring it to God, reframe my situation, and think differently. Like this:
Money comes and goes, but God’s care and providence for me endure forever.
Worth is what I invest in heaven, not what I see here.
My value is not my home, but God’s vast love for me.
What issue do you face? What seems to impossible to fix? How might you reframe it?
Begin by infusing into your problem what you’re thankful for. Then, move to praising your God for who he is thru your problem. End by requesting from God for eyes to see your problem afresh.
And always remember: There is no victory Christ can’t bring.
I sat in a body-piercing studio with the owner gazing at a tattoo displayed on the nave of my back. It was a gnome, sitting on a mushroom and playing a fife. Everything about it screamed pot-smoker, hippy and apparently, pagan.
And to think I got it because I thought it looked cool. To me it said, “Outsider,” a label I gave myself during my younger years.
The man’s question caught me off guard. I was twenty-one at the time and wasn’t sure who I was, let alone what I believed.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. The artist seemed as surprised by my answer as I was. Immediately, I felt ashamed.
Who was this person, anyway?
I spent the next eight years trying to figure out the answer to that question. Eventually, I realized all of the places I ran to seek my identity were fickle and fading.
It wasn’t until I started with the One who gave me my eternal name that I would know my true self.
These days, my tattoo is usually hidden. But the other day, while on family vacation, I was changing into my swimsuit and my five-year-old saw it.
“Mama, what’s that on your back?”
I told him what the picture was and explained how a tattoo is like a permanent picture on your skin. Then, my mind went back. Back to the person I was. Back to the mistakes I made and the years I spent wasting my life. Things much bigger than a silly tattoo that shape the person I am today.
For a little while, I let the voice of condemnation darken the light in my soul.
Scenes of things I wish I’d never seen replayed in my mind. Faces of people who left this life for the next one burned in my memory and left my heart heavy.
Perhaps you’ve been there? You’re walking in the new life Jesus freely gave you, and then all of a sudden you’re hit with a blatant reminder of the mess you used to be? That, despite your best efforts, some days you still are?
In those dark moments when I’m not sure I can escape my past, God often gives me a reminder. This time was no different.
We arrived at the pool and found it closed because of an incoming storm. After playing for a while in the arcade next door, we made our way back to the campsite. As we made dinner, a beautiful site caught my eye.
A spectacular sunset over the river.
The sun was big and radiant, dipping to the horizon in a circular blanket of clouds. I hurriedly got my camera and ran down to the beach.
I must of snapped a dozen pictures, but when I flipped through them in my viewfinder I was disappointed. This huge ball of light and fire looked tiny and dim. I couldn’t capture its draw. It was uncontainable.
As I sat in our camper later that evening, I felt that gentle whisper in my spirit.
“Don’t try to put limits on my grace, Abby. It’s more limitless than the sun.”
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
John 1:16 ESV
I was putting God in a box again, thinking I could somehow run outside his grace. But it doesn’t just cover me. It drenches me.
We can’t put finite limitations on the grace of an infinite God.
And the moment we stop trying to put God in a box, we find we don’t want Him there. We find freedom. We find joy and rest.
So today, if your past is trying to haunt you, take a lesson from my tattoo. Remember it shapes you, but it doesn’t define you.
God can take the shattered pieces of your life and turn them into something far more spectacular than a sunset. He does it each and every day. Sometimes we just need a reminder of who he is.
Sometimes we have to take him out of the box and come to the altar.
Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.
Yesterday, was the “day of all days” for my little 3-year old, turning 4. Her birthday! The girl wasn’t asking for much…no toys, no gifts…she only wanted one thing: to be like mommy. And, she only had one request: to get her nails painted. So, although I figured she was way too young for this, I scuttled her off in the car, expectant of what God would do for her – only later, becoming completely surprised about what he did – for me.
At the nail store, little sweetheart was mesmerized by all the rainbow colors, the nail tools and her mom – she kept smiling, giving me the thumbs up and delighting in how all the “big” people in the salon were saying hi to her.
All was happy. But, then they moved her chair – and rather than her being right next to me, she was across the store.
All I could think was:
I’m missing her moment! I’ve got to see my daughter! Can I smile at her from here?
Leaning my head to the left and right, trying to view her through a slat, aiming to give her my best look, I suddenly was struck…
God looks at me the same way: he wants to see me, delight with me and enjoy my moments.
Just as I want to bless my daughter, God wants to bless me too.
Just as I want to delight in her special moments, God wants to delight with me.
Just as I am thrilled to see her joy, God is thrilled over my joy as well.
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Mt. 7:7)
Later, after we got home and she showed off her nails to her brother and daddy, I thought about the little gift, the one wrapped all up in the top of the: a new dress. Specifically the one I told her in the store was, “too expensive.”
I bought it for her. And all my mind kept returning to was the moment she opened it: her face, her delight, her life, her thrill.
God sees us too, as we open his best gifts: our face, our delight, our life, our thrill.
There is no shame in enjoying his good things. Our good, good daddy delights in the giving and he loves our receiving his very best.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from (our) Father…” (Ja. 1:17)
If some of you are being tossed around like bacon on a camp fire, in a way where parts of you are burning off…
…can I tell you something? I relate?
I know what it is to go through a time of wait, where all you need is answers.
I know what it is to struggle with relationships at a high-tension point.
I know what it is to see truths about yourself that hurt.
I know what it is to wonder if everything will work out.
I know what it is to feel like it never is going to end.
I’ve experienced this time and time again, in different ways: a near-diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, financial debt, emotional issues, and endless trials. Tribulation keeps happening.
What fire are you enduring? What do you feel like you are losing?
“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet. 1:7)
May I encourage you today? The fire you’re enduring is removing you and increasing God’s glory within you.
Through my Multiple Sclerosis issues, where my hands got numb and my eyes couldn’t see, I learned: Heaven is all that matters on earth and I have that WRAPPED UP!
Through my financial debt, when I had a double-digit-in-the-thousands negative balance, I learned for the future: It is good to have less stuff, it ties you down to debt less and frees you to move according to God’s will more.
Through my emotional issues, when I suffered with depression, I learned: God really does love me just the way I am. In this, I am free to trust him with the change he is leading me to. It will be good for me.
Through my endless trials, I learned: God, less of me and more of you.
Fire removes the impurities of our flesh and leaves us with the Spirit of God. Every time. It leaves the blaze on us. It ignites us with passion. It refuels us with glory.
Be encouraged: What you are enduring today will not kill you, it will make you, when all is said and done, more radiant, beautiful and sure in Christ Jesus.
To the daughter who can’t forgive herself for years past. . .God already has.
To the person frustrated they do nothing right. . . Christ Jesus sees himself – purity and righteousness – in you.
To the gal repeating I’m sorry to God. . .Your debt is as good as gone; God keeps no record of your wrong.
To the lady who only half believes in her new identity. . . there is no half-way “you” in God’s handbook.
To the person who feels miles less than free, who the son sets free, is free indeed.
To the child who feels under the microscope, God looks at you and is well pleased.
To want to be more, to try hard for God, to give it our all, to push with all our hearts, these can be good noble things. Yet, trouble comes, when we believe the job belongs to us. When we pull out brute strength. When we expect to muscle our way into some kind of new-glory. God deserves all glory.
Likewise, relief comes when we know this: Our sanctification belongs to God. Our growth is his to impart. Our spiritual strength is His to build or rebuild.
Knowing this, is paramount, because then, when we scuff a knee, or get in a tiff, or injure a loved one by accident, our world doesn’t explode like Hiroshima. “He who is all strength” is still for us.
Keeping our minds stayed, in rest, with God is our highest calling.
We do this by:
Allowing our hearts and minds to be “rooted and established in love” (Eph. 3:17)
Praying we would know “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Eph. 3:18)
Opening our heart to need God’s nourishment, truth and direction.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. (Jo. 15:4)
Confessing and believing – what is done is done.
“You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Mi. 7:19)
God is at work. He knows you. He has destined you for his greatness and he is conforming you to his image: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image.” (Ro. 8:29)
The work belongs to him, the freedom belongs to us. It is his timeline, not our stopwatch and this realization = freedom.
If you want to know how I found Jesus, know this: He found me.
Sure, pre-Jesus, I was religious. I knew how to go to church well. I knew how to say prayers. I knew how to follow rules. I knew how to make sacrifices. What I didn’t know was, love so great it would send you down to your knees because you wanted to go there. Because it was your joy to fall down. No. I didn’t know that.
I only knew striving hard and working hard to earn favor that felt about as unreachable as a life that mattered. It all frustrated me so. The idea of figuring out how to prove I was a prized daughter. The unquenchable desire to be seen and the corresponding desire to do everything right. The endless guilt and self-contempt. I always felt busted; I knew he always knew I wasn’t worthy enough.
And, it was tiring. I wore my body out doing all this. My weight dropped like a rock, my stomach turned knots in the night and my mind swung wild circles in the fog it lived in. It’s called Anorexia.
That’s where I went. We all go somewhere. Without God we all go somewhere to escape the vicious thought: God might hate me. I went there.
It was painful. And, to add pain to this injury, the drinking didn’t help. I nearly hated myself.
Have you been there? Perhaps, you’re there now. Perhaps, you are trying to pretend you aren’t there, while everything in you – knows, you are there.
Do you feel the distance between you and God?
Do you sense the anger at yourself?
Do you feel the pull towards old addictions?
Do you try to meet all God’s expectations, but feel helpless to do it?
Today, I want you to know there is no shame. We tend to look at life as colors of black and white, good or bad, God or Godless. And, while, absolutely, truth is truth, often our own spiritual progression is not so easily delineated.
Faith is a journey; you are the sojourner. Beyond this, greater is a truthful heart to God, than a story contrived to the world. A fake.
God wants your truth. He wants your heart and he wants your truth. Will you bare it to him? Reveal it without shame? Let him unravel it?
That is what I did way back when (and I still do today). I called out to God. I said, “I don’t know what I am doing anymore. I don’t know who I am Jesus. Will you help me, save me?”
It’s a prayer we should use often; it works. God always shows up. God always saves. God’s love completely endures, no matter how many years past a vibrant faith you are.
You are never too lost to be found.
He found me.
So, no matter where you stand on the spiritual spectrum, consider this: God is ready to save you, today. Why not let him?
My 3-year old daughter and I were playing a game. She was behind a box “counter”, I stood in front of it: ordering. I was supposed to buy some food, because, this was a restaurant.
I told her I wanted a salad and ice-cream. Trying to be good, but wanting to indulge, this was my kind of order. Add a chocolate dip to the ice cream and this is what summers are made of. I digress…
Anyway, daughter fixed up my food, looked me in the eye, while handing over my imaginary goodies, and declared “Now, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.”
My jaw dropped. She nailed it.
So many of us internally chide our self with this same kind of diatribe, as if God says this to us. As if this is how we are supposed to cope with life. As if, we are meant to get a crumb and tell our stomach to feel okay with it. Now don’t get upset!!!
Surely, I know this verse: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil. 4:12)
Yet, somehow I think we’ve got it all wrong. God never told us to lie.
Yet, we’re convinced we must show the world we are strong, we tell our self, “We get what we get and we don’t get upset.”
Outside we look like a gracious kid at a candy shop, while inside we are throwing a fit like an irate toddler because we’re unseen by the world, unrecognized for who we are and uncared for.
I notice Paul, in the verse above, mentions the words, “I have learned. . .” Why are we ashamed of learning? Of journeying? Of admitting we feel the struggle?
So often, we already can sense when this is the case with someone. Why do we hide so?
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Today, consider this: In the light of God’s glory, there is no shame in transforming.
Does your mind hone in on what you do wrong, more often what God is doing right?
Maybe you’re quick to notice your quick temper, the error of all your past ways — your choices, your parenting style, your marriage mannerisms. Or, maybe you’ve made some horrible financial decisions and found yourself at a loss. Usually, there is an area in our lives we hate; sometimes it is our thighs.
We are good at circling problem areas and critiquing them. Somehow, as women, we give ourselves permission to whine to each other. We think, it’s fine to share our worst, don’t brag about your best though.
So, we do. And, we learn to do this in our mind too.
I hate that I hate playing silly games with my kids. I don’t listen well either. I always give in to my kids. They always, nearly get what they want. Oh, I’ve been afraid to do spankings. I have a whole list of things I can improve on; I am aware of them.
I think of them as often as I think about what to eat next. They are a record of wrongs that follows me. Which is why, I needed some reprieve from them. And, fortunately, I found it.
I was in the kitchen, 6-year old so came in and said, “Hey Mommy, earlier, I almost ate the box of cookies in the pantry, but then I didn’t.”
I laughed it off.
The next day, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, I almost pulled all the toilet paper off the roll, but then I didn’t.”
And, it was at this point that wisdom hit me like a hammer: I can choose to see what I am not doing, or I can choose to see how I am improving. By focusing on how I am improving I remember important things.
I am being sanctified, upgraded day-by-day, into the image of Christ (1 Cor. 6:11).
I am moving from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:8).
I am growing (Ro. 8:29).
We can’t look at a day and demand of it what God is doing over a year. I felt peace land on me. I felt peace land on my son as I looked on him with proud eyes. And, I imagined how God must look on me, when I try, when I improve and when I ease up on myself.
It’s number 5 that really gets me; I try so hard to be perfect, so to break the porcelain veneer is like dropping grandma’s ancient heirloom. I feel crushed. I feel caught. I feel like someone might want to yell in my face.
Yet, when my son started pointing fingers at everyone else but himself. When he couldn’t admit doing things wrong. . . well, all fingers pointed back at me. I can’t blame on him, what he learns from me. He’s really just a reflection of the environment that I create for him.
I declared it was high-time I start to change something – about me. And, sooner rather than later. It is far easier to say you want to change than it ever is to actually do it.
I still tried. I noticed when I got that little prick of anxiety in my heart and admitted why: I pushed a little too hard on my husband to get my way. I paid attention to the small sense of guilt I previously ignored and acknowledged my wrong: I brought up a sensitive topic at the worst time. I looked at my child’s face when I chided with too much force and reacted: I am sorry.
Nope. And, I wasn’t perfect. Sometimes, my pride inhibited my humility. Pride made me take an hour, where humility would have shown up right away. But, I am learning: it is a learning process.
Sometimes, the act of being honest with yourself is the first act. You have to cheer yourself on for this. I am doing this. YAY!
Maybe you need to join me? Have you built up defenses so high even you can’t see over them to the truth? Have you found that you don’t ever want to be wrong.
This verse has been such an encouragement to me: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Pet. 5:6)
I used to think an apology meant I needed to go dwell in a dumpster or something. Now I see an apology is a welcome by God to a higher place with him. It is my letting go so that I can welcome his glory and peace in. When I do this, I find my way back to his heart more easily.