Afraid to Change

Afraid to Change

Full disclosure: I wrote this blog sitting in car line (the longest line you will ever sit in – where your soul dies). I came home and read it to my husband, Bryant, and then he read me his message for that week (surprise – he’s a pastor) and gosh were we so in sync. So, after you read this, I’d encourage you to listen to this podcast.

But without further ado, here is my car line blog.

We are afraid of our own brokenness.

Admitting we are broken would be to admit that we have a past that we don’t know what to do with. What do we do about all of those things we regret? All those seasons and situations and circumstances that we wish with all of our might we could go back and change – for ourselves, for our marriages, for our families, for our relationships.

We already know the answer and that’s what scares us to death: We will be able to do absolutely nothing.

We cannot change the past. We can only own the past. And gosh almighty that is so painful. Embracing the fact that there are things we could have done differently and therefore our life wouldn’t look like it does now is nothing short of daunting. This is why we tend to rewrite history. It’s the best form of self-defense. Your brain cannot face the fact that certain relationships, seasons, opportunities are lost or broken because of your choices. Living with that grief is too overwhelming. So we lie to ourselves and others, not out of spite, malice, or ill-will, but out of self-protection. Our pride becomes our saving grace and that leaves no room for God’s grace.

Here’s what I think we all too often forget…

If we don’t deal with our pasts and failures, then we will live enslaved to them. That kind of bondage looks like living with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anger, a lack of empathy, an obsession with control, ignorance, manipulation, rejection, passive aggressiveness, arrogance, and abandonment.

That sounds like an awful way to live.

So you have a choice: You can decide not to deal with your past and remain enslaved to it…or you can go back, with the help of a therapist/counselor, and do the hard work of getting healthy.

Yes, it will be grueling at first. But you will be guided by someone who’s been trained to take you where you need to go and not to leave you there. If you choose not to do this, you will constantly sabotage the relationships that are most important to you…not to mention your own life.

Once you’ve dealt with your past, you may still have some pain, regret, and emotion around certain people, situations and circumstances. But you won’t be controlled by those triggers. You will live free and be able to embrace a healthy future with a healthy you fostering healthy relationships.

So the choice is yours. But so many people’s well-beings depends on your choice.

Your partner, your kids, your parents, your friends…YOURSELF.

Jesus wants you to escape from the prison that is your past. He will guide you and He will never leave you. He wants to give you a hope and a future. But you have to be willing to do the hard work. You have to do what only you can do and then trust God for what only He can do – and that’s wash grace, forgiveness, and love over your past so you don’t have to live any more of your life behind it’s bars.

So go ahead. Call that friend. Attend that community group. Make that appointment. The future you is begging the current you to take the steps you need to get healthy.

See you on the other side.️

Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt

Parent Guilt.

There is nothing quite like it. Parent Guilt guts you out and weighs you down. It is the absolute worst feeling when you hurt the ones you gave life. Nothing compares to seeing the pain in their eyes and hearing the sadness in their voices. Then fear rushes in claiming the lies that you’ve forever ruined them and your relationship to them. Panic is quick to follow. The deadly cycle picks up speed, expending so much time and energy that you are even more depleted than when you started. And so who do you take it out on? The kids. And here we are: Back where we started with Parent Guilt.

When I’ve spent myself emotionally and then have to deal with needy kids (this is not negative – all kids are needy in the best ways), I lose it. I’ve got nothing left to give and yet here are four littles who need just about everything. The amount of emotion it will take to love them well feels overwhelming. And so I give into the frustration, the anger, and instead of retreating, I go looking for a fight.

When I take a step back and survey the damage, I fall apart. How could I have just treated my babies that way? What is wrong with me? Why am I such a monster?

I’m broken. That’s how. I’m depleted emotionally from distracting myself from my hurt. Nothing will drain you faster than ignoring your pain. Your trauma. The real source of your anxiety and depression. What seems the fastest way to refill is to dump all of the negative out on those closest to me and who will still need me and want me after: My kids.

But this is so counterintuitive. If we are empty, why do we think an emotional dump – will fill us? The dumping will only deplete us more.

Someone explained it this way: If you have a bucket of dirty water, instead of dumping the water out and now having an empty bucket, stick a hose at the bottom of the bucket and flush out the contaminated water with clean, fresh water.

Emptiness is lonely. It’s scary. It’s unhealthy. It’s dangerous. Instead of further emptying yourself only to discover you’ve filled your heart with more contaminated emotions, flush out the negative with the positive.

Here are the ways I go about regaining a healthy equilibrium:

Circle the wagons.

My therapist taught me this. Back in the covered wagon days, when settlers would travel across country, they would circle their wagons around their camp at night for safety. The wagons became a source of security from the outside world. If we are determined to create safe homes, then when we are in the midst of emotional turmoil we should be able to take time to withdraw from the world around us and to retreat to the people who love us the best: Our families.

That may require us to cancel, say no, rearrange, rest, turn off media, sleep, eat better, drink water, exercise, self care. The best thing we can do is to listen to our bodies – they are crying out for us to pay attention, slow down, and circle our wagons. We live in an unsafe world – we have to learn when it’s time to create some additional margin in order to feel secure again.

Communicate.

When I am struggling the most, I let my husband and children know. I get the most honest with Bryant so that he isn’t caught off guard by my reactions and responses. We make a plan as to how we will intentionally circle our wagons. Then I talk to the kids and explain that mommy is struggling and so sorry for her behavior. She is going to really work to make sure she doesn’t treat them badly.

Commit.

I commit to whatever I need to commit to get healthy. I slow down – my anxiety and pain want me to keep moving to stay distracted. I commit to hugging, holding, sitting, listening, being present. When I am present with my kids, I am grounded to the moment. It is such a relief to get my mind off the downward spiral of my anxiety and depression. And their love and attention in return is so healing to my heart. It reminds me I am safe. I am okay. It gives my soul the deep breath it has been searching for.

I do the same with my husband. Sometimes we just need to get dressed up and go out. Sometimes we need a few nights away. Sometimes we just need to sit on the couch and watch Downton Abbey. Whatever it is, we need to be together.

Our families should be a source of safety. Replenishment. Reprieve.

I find my Courage.

Some of our homes aren’t safe because we’ve never been brave enough to break the cycles. Maybe your home wasn’t safe growing up. Maybe you’ve been hurt along the way. Maybe you know something’s wrong, but you just can’t put your finger on it.

It takes courage to say, “I’m not okay, but I’m ready to know why!” We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t change what we don’t know is wrong. But with knowledge comes accountability. It’s not enough to discover the problem, we have to do the work of changing. Talk is cheap and repeated apologies without any signs of growth will only drain our families. Our getting healthy proves to our families that they are worth our best selves. 

It takes counseling.

Hurt people hurt people. We know this. So if I am not actively dealing with my hurt, then I am going to hurt my family. 

I have been dealing with low-grade anxiety. It started to come to a head the past few days, and one of the tall-tale signs is I have been incredibly impatient with my kids. I am rushing through my day (so I stay distracted and don’t have to deal with the pain), and running over them emotionally. IT BREAKS MY HEART. So it’s time to reach out to my therapist, communicate, commit, get courageous, and circle those wagons.

What do you need to do TODAY to fight against the parent guilt? I’d love to hear what steps you will take to communicate to yourself that you are safe and to your families that they are special.

Seasons Change

Seasons Change

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1

Just a season. This too shall pass.

I am going to tell you, some days I cling to those seven powerful words, don’t you? Some seasons in our lives just suck. There’s no other way to put it.

  • You are struggling with grades, friends, identity, you name it – in high school. Yeah. Those four years are rough. Awful sometimes. It’s a season. Hang in there. I promise, the best is yet to come. Dig your roots down deep in your youth group. If you don’t have one, find one. Probably some of the most influential people in my life were my mentors in high school. They don’t know it, but I think of them often and remember that during that time, they were my lifelines.
  • You are 21 and still single. Seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it? Been there. In fact, I was 23 when I met Bryant (or 24…I can’t remember and I am terrible at simple math). When I graduated from college, I had only had one official boyfriend (a few “going steadies” in between) and most of my friends were already married with a child and number two on the way. No lie. I felt like the Apostle Paul: I had the gift of celibacy. When I moved to Florida, I was so lonely at times. I second guessed my personality, looks, you name it. And what’s funny? I was only 23. If you are in this boat, I am not patronizing you. I get it. But it’s a season. Just a season. Fill your single years with as much as you can. Start pursuing your dreams. Take a chance. I moved down to Florida from New York and took a job at a respectable school when I was only 22 and after a pretty severe breakup. I was scared to death. Best decision I made. Cause then I met Bryant…on a blind date…and the rest is history!
  • You are recently married and facing marital trouble. Been there. Our first year was no picnic. It was awful. But it was a season. We sought counselling, experienced real healing, and I’m going to be honest, I understood the ramifications of the Gospel during that season more than any other time in my life. It was the most sanctifying, healing, horrifying, exhilarating time in our lives. And our marriage is strong and healthy now as a result. A season.
  • You were diagnosed with clinical depression or some sort of personality disorder and/or anxiety disorder. Been there. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder shortly after we got married (hence some of our difficulties). That’s when I jumped head first into counselling. Yes, I was embarrassed by the label. I hated it. But it forced me – I mean absolutely demanded – into the grace, love, and unconditional forgiveness of Christ. My mental illness still beats me up at times. But it’s just a season. I know during those times to reach out to my closest friends for prayer. I speak honestly with Bryant. And I schedule a counseling appointment. Yes, even after ten years, I still see my counselor. It’s a season.
  • You have a newborn. Need I say more? Listen, it’s a season. Now he/she is a toddler. It’s a season. I so appreciate Instagram right now. You know why? I have some honest mommy friends who share their real stories of frustration, pain, exhaustion, excitement, and happiness through pictures. I don’t feel so alone. And we can be praying for each other and encouraging each other that this is just a season. One day, when we are 50 and empty-nesters, we are going to miss these days. Sometimes I don’t believe that, but I take the word of my more “seasoned” friends. Hang in there mommy and daddy. Soak in those precious moments. Laugh at the aggravating ones. It’s a season.
  • You are divorced or have faced (are facing) some sort of loss. My dear, dear brother or sister…It’s a season. Please do not think for a moment that God has abandoned you. That’s what Satan wants you to think. He wants to destroy your life and the fastest way to do that is to isolate you from your Heavenly Father who probably doesn’t seem that loving right now. This is cliché, but grasp a hold of His promises from the Word of God: His mercies are new every morning. He’s never going to leave or forsake you. He wants to give you abundant life. Find some friends who can have faith for you during this time. Hurt. Bleed. But then cling. Cling to Him. It’s just a season.
You were diagnosed with cancer. You’ve just moved for the hundredth time. You have trouble making and keeping friends. You have to pull away from a person who is doing you and your family some harm. You lost your job. You quit your job. You can’t make ends meet. You are making more than you ever have. Seasons. These are all seasons. I have friends in almost every one of these categories. Dear friends. Friends that I hate seeing hurt. Friends that feel so alone. And all I can say is that God is WITH you. He knows.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Exodus 2:25. The Israelites were experiencing brutal slavery and felt like God was no where to be found. But this verse says so eloquently:

God saw what was going on with Israel.
God understood.

So I leave you with this…not a theological argument for God’s presence, not a ton of Scriptures for you to memorize, not another Bible study or list of things to do. Just this: God sees. God knows. God understands. God’s with you. It’s just a season. Hang in there dear friend.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity
under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, 
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a t time to search and a a time to give up,
at time to keep and time to throw away,
at time to tear and time to mend,
at time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a t time to war and a a time for peace.
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Parenting Through the Seasons

Parenting Through the Seasons

I love talking all things parenting. I realize I’m no expert – we’ve been at this for only eight years. BUT, I’m no novice when it comes to babies, toddlers, and little kids. So I’d love to share with you some things I’ve felt and learned over the past few years by age range.

I broke up the baby’s first year into three stages. The first year of your baby’s life will more than likely be the longest year of your life, but at the same time, the fastest year of your life. Parenthood ushers in this new phenomenon of time: The seasons where time feels like it’s dragging, it’s actually going by the fastest. It’s the worst part of parenting: Everything speeds past you in a whirlwind. All you can do is be grounded to the moment and do your best to embrace it all! Sandra Stanley says, “The days are long but the years are short.” Gosh, I couldn’t agree with that statement more.

So the three stages of the first year…

0-3 Months: The Dark Ages

I never enjoy any of my babies as newborns. Judge me all you want, but I can’t be the only one. Sure, they are super cute and tiny (the only one of mine that was tiny was Brooke. The boys were GINORMOUS), but they are also angry house guests. They are very unlikable, mainly because you are unlikable, mainly because you are exhausted, hungry, and in pain. Yay you. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted, you are doing everything right. Realize you’ve only ever been in charge of yourself. Now you have to keep a little human alive who can’t do anything for him/herself and who cannot communicate. So again, yay you. I don’t suggest reading a lot of books and articles. You can begin to feel even more inferior and overwhelmed than you already do. Find some moms who have done this a few times and ask them ALL THE QUESTIONS. We want to be asked – we love this stuff – it’s why we did it so many times (for the most part – insert smirky emoji here). You cannot do this alone. Hire someone to do the cleaning and yardwork and do not turn down any free meals/gift cards. If someone wants to come over and hold the baby while you sleep, the answer is YES. If someone wants to hold the baby so you can fold laundry, the answer is YES.

As far as your marriage is concerned, it will be weird initially, especially if this is your first. It’s only been the two of you. Now there’s this new person who is taking all of your attention, love, energy, and time. That’s usually what we refer to as an affair, and it can kinda feel like one IF you aren’t communicating properly. And how can you – cause your T I R E D. So. Try to make the small, insignificant moments, significant. Bryant and I would have dessert and TV dates during the 2AM feeding. We’d enjoy dinner at midnight. Our entire house became a nursery so that we could be comfortable in order to make her comfortable. Just know, you will come thought to the other side. But it’s hard. You’ll get caught up on a lot of shows, movies, and books. That’s exactly what you should be doing. And hang on to your loved ones and other moms for dear life.

One quick word to those who just had their second child: I had a terrible time connecting with Ryder (at first, relax) because I was mourning all the time I assumed I was going to miss out on with Brooke. I felt so badly for her – believing somehow she would be gipped. THIS IS SO NORMAL. I am going to tell you what so many people told me: Giving your child siblings (if you so choose) is such a wonderful experience for your firstborn. He/she will learn so many great life lessons and you will be forced to be incredibly intentional with your time with your kids. Deep breaths. Again, reach out to moms who have done this before. You’ll feel better.

3-6 months: The Not So Dark Ages

So you start to come out of the fog around four months and then your baby will start to be a lot more fun by six months. You are beginning to develop schedules and rhythms and attempting to re-enter society. I want to tell you something here that has the potential to change your life: Your baby CAN sleep through the night by 3-4 months. The only books I would encourage you to buy are sleep training books. OMG you are welcome.

You are in between maternity and regular clothes and you just feel weird. That’s okay. Your body will get back to normal – it all just take time. So deep breaths. Buy some comfy spandex and cute, loose tops and throw that hair in a messy bun and get back out there, girl. Your first trip into public alone will be scary. It’s okay. Just do it and get it over with and you will eventually gain more and more confidence.

And go on a date with your spouse WITHOUT the baby. It’s time. Love you.

6-12 Months: The Into Everything Age

Shew. It’s a party when  your baby gets mobile. And by party, I mean workout…for YOU. But it’s also so fun to watch him/her learn and discover. Buy the gates and baby fences and everything else you need to keep him/her contained. Trust. I broke down and got a baby leash with Ryder. Oh gosh, I judged other moms so hard before and then repented in sackcloth and ashes after. Baby leashes are a must.

Also, that first birthday is not for your baby. It is for you and your spouse. You kept him/her alive for a whole year. This is very impressive! And do a big, crazy birthday only if you want. I went ALL OUT for the first two kids. Then I realized how exhausting and expensive it was and just did balloons, cake and ice-cream for the last two. Ask me which birthdays we all enjoyed more. I bet you can guess.

Andy Stanley says this first year is all about CONNECTING. It’s all about assuring your baby that you will always meet his/her needs and be there for him/her. It’s such a precious reminder of what Jesus does for us when we are weak and incapable of caring for ourselves. He scoops us up and holds us close and reminds us that He will never leave us. He reminds us that He can meet all of our needs, if we will allow Him to. We have to surrender and see Him as our only hope. This is why Jesus speaks so impressively of child-like faith – it’s faith without abandon.

Years 2-4: Do I Laugh or Cry Ages

Legit tho. Kids are so funny during these years – but they can be little demons. Like, you may want to give them away at times. But you will come out of years 2-4 with the BEST stories. I wish I would have journaled more – so make sure to do that. And never apologize for the photos or the posts. Those of us who are moving out of these ages MISS this. It’s wild to admit, but so true.

But this is when you are establishing who’s boss of the house: You or the K I D. Your child is old enough to begin to understand cause and effect. Teaching them to understand “no” early is so crucial. You will second guess EVERYTHING and some days be entirely frustrated. But Jesus gives you the instincts you need to survive AND thrive and you will make it. I so enjoyed Jame’s Dobson’s Dare to Discipline. It was incredibly practical for me during this season.

Andy says that ages 1-5 are all about DISCIPLINE. I say to my kids: “Obedience means safety. Love means trust.” I want them to understand that guardrails keep us in line and from destroying our lives. I’ve always let my kids ask why or disagree RESPECTFULLY (okay, this is a small lie cause I try to allow that, but some days it’s just “cause mommy said so…no more questions.”). Kids have voices and need to know how to use them. But they also have to learn how to listen to and obey healthy authority. The sobering thing is that once he/she turns five, you are pretty much done with the grueling work. So be consistent. Tap out when you need to. Take deep breaths. Seek wisdom. Work with together with your spouse.

But please remember that kids will model what they see, not what they hear. So if you are not modeling respecting authority, neither will they. If you model that they only have to obey when they agree, that’s what they will do. Sobering (I think we all know I am not talking about obeying in dangerous situations that violate our belief and/or our values).

Years 5-6: My Heart is Outside My Body Ages

Omg when they start going to school and social events, it is the scariest time of your life. You realize how little control you have to actually keep them safe. But it is so amazing to watch them develop personalities and independence. You will have to learn when to fight their battles and when to let them fight their own. You will start to figure out what makes them tick and how to get them to open up. I really do enjoy these years.

Andy says that ages 6-12 is TRAINING. They are beginning to realize that there are consequences for their decisions and you have to let go and let them face those. I will tell you, this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But your kids will be so much better for it.

Year 7-8: The Attitude Years

Idk if I have an 8 year old or a 16 year old sometimes. Geez. Ride the wives. Hang on tight. And have a blast making memories and letting him/her grow. He/She is a mini you. Don’t fight it, embrace it. Realize what drives you bonkers in him/her is more than likely what drives you bonkers about yourself. So as you are giving your kid grace, maybe spare some for yourself.

One thing we try to do regularly is to speak over our kids what we see in them. We never want them to question how special they are, so we just tell them. We list all the intangibles and tangibles that we love specifically in each child. We study our kids so we know how to relate to each one.

We are parenting with the end in mind: We want our kids to want to be around us when they leave the house. Our kids spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational development hinges on whether or not they have a good relationship with us. If we don’t earn their respect and love, then they won’t pursue relationships with us when they don’t have to anymore. So we pray that over them.

Finally, Bryant and I have found that in order to have a good relationship with our kids, we HAVE to have a good relationship with each other. So make sure you take care of yourself (it is possible not to lose yourself – we can address that in another blog) and you get time away with your spouse…just the two of you. I cannot stress how important that practice is. Yes, it costs time and money. But the dividends it will provide to your relationships with your spouse and your children are off the charts.

And always ALWAYS remember: God gave YOU your children. They are just a gift. They are really God’s. But He knew YOU are the best mom for your kids. Be confident in this. He has equipped you – follow those instincts. I promise you, you’ve got this.

(Also, for those wondering…Ages 13-18 are The Coaching Years and ages 18 and up are the Friendship Years).

Shielding the Triggers (Abandonment Part 4)

Shielding the Triggers (Abandonment Part 4)

Ephesians 6 lists the shield of faith as one of the pieces of armor to use in defense against the attacks of Satan. Why? I love what Beth Moore says, “When we are convinced that God is believable and we respond to Him in faith, practically nothing can get through to us. But when our faith diminishes, our shield begins to drop, and we are immediately vulnerable to the enemy. Satan will stop at nothing to get us to lower our shield of faith so he can wound and burn us. He stacks up tangible evidence in opposition to God’s assurances. He delights in doubts and lies. He studies our weaknesses and then aims where we’re vulnerable. His priority job description is to keep us from believing God.” And believe you me, he knows our weaknesses. My counselor calls them triggers…you know, those things that seem to come out of nowhere and cause us to become emotionally unraveled. But wouldn’t it be awesome if, as soon as we sensed a trigger go off inside of us, we grabbed our shield of faith and started preaching the Gospel to ourselves? What if we immediately began rooting and establishing ourselves in the love of God so that our emotions couldn’t take us every which way?

Psalm 25:15 says: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” Triggers are lies of the enemy to believe that we have unmet needs, unresolved issues, and unhealed hurts that are only going to be met by getting our own way. And so, we respond to these triggers by self-medicating. We get angry, abusive, lustful, hungry, depressed, anxious, manipulative, wounded, and selfish, you name it. We turn to ourselves or others as our saviors. And we get trapped in the snare of the deadly cycle. We have to choose to take our eyes off of those things that we think we are owed, want, or even believe we need. We need to center our attention on our loving God. You see, this verse comes after “No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame…” and “Good and upright is the LORD, therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful.” If we don’t really believe that those verses are true, we will never, and I mean never, refocus our wandering eyes onto God. We will never preach the Gospel to ourselves. We will never root and establish ourselves in His love. We will never experience freedom from fear.

Andy Stanley says, “Every good thing that comes your way comes from your Heavenly Father – which is all the more reason to take your unmet needs, your heartfelt needs, and even your embarrassing wants and wishes to him. Will you go to God with these or just keep trying to wring them out of those closest to you?”Going to God and not harboring or wringing takes strength and discipline. The strength part is taken care of according to Ephesians 6:10, which follows the verses on the shield of faith: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (italics mine). I don’t need to be strong in and of myself in order to face my fears. Think of the worst case scenario for the situation you are trying to control in order to avoid abandonment. Pretty bad, isn’t it? Okay, now realize that right now that seems impossible for you to face – because (and I hate to be Captain Obvious) you don’t have to face it right now. Perhaps this is why One oh so much wiser than the rest of us said to not worry about tomorrow…today is enough. We have more than enough strength and grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) to deal with today. However, we are never going to make it if we don’t decide to discipline our minds on the love of God. Train your mind to trust that God is Sovereign. Even though you may think you are in control, you are not. Those things you dread could happen regardless of whether or not you submit to God’s sovereignty and love…so why not just rest in His omniscience and omnipotence? Trust is simple…when you begin to worry or to grow angry or jealous or greedy, remind yourself that God, Who knows everything and Who will ultimately work His will for your good and His glory, loves you and will do what He (as God of the universe) deems necessary. Let me remind you again, this will happen regardless of whether you “allow” Him to or not. Rest in His love for you.

Fear and Faith (Abandonment Part 3)

Fear and Faith (Abandonment Part 3)

Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 2:4-5: “But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

1 John 4:9-10: “This is love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

I mean, what can I even say after reading those verses? Did you stop and really meditate on what these verses are really, I mean really, saying? God proves His own love…HIS LOVE…His very own love…for US. How did He prove it? When I was in the middle of the worst sin I will ever commit, the one sin I will be afraid He will never forgive, the one sin I will forever be ashamed of…He died for me. Because He wants to be with me.

Not only that, but because of His GREAT love for me, He made me ALIVE. That’s right. He took away my old life filled to the brim with sins (past, present and future sins) and gave me Christ’s life. That means that when God looks at me, He doesn’t see Nicole. He sees Jesus. He doesn’t see the years I battled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. He doesn’t see the years I almost destroyed my marriage and family. He sees Jesus’ perfection. He doesn’t see the sins I am going to commit in the future and be so ashamed of. Nope. He sees Christ. I mean, what?! And…I love this. He initiated all of this love first and foremost. It’s His love that defines our relationship. It’s not a mutual love. Nuh-uh. It’s only Him. And that’s great news. Cause I am going to fail and my love is going to go MIA. But He’s still going to be there. Cause it’s His love. Not mine.

It’s a funny thing…as I begin to bask in His love for me, my fear of abandonment begins to disappear.

That’s why God’s Word says that perfect love casts out all fear. But I cannot do any of this without faith. I have to believe that God loves me and hang on to that belief, especially when I experience pain from my own decisions and/or somebody else’s.

Hebrews 11:6 says it’s impossible to please God without faith. We have to believe that He truly does exist and rewards those who seek after Him. What’s the reward? What we have already studied: A life without fear. If you read on in Hebrews 11, you will see person after person who did extraordinary things in the face of real danger because they believed God loved them and had a plan and a purpose for their lives. They found their identities not in things found on this earth, but in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11:13-16 explains, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” I love that. They could have returned at any point to the people and things that they thought could fulfill them here on this earth. But they knew better. They rooted and established themselves in the love of God and by faith accepted the plans and purposes He had for their lives. Therefore, they were able to live without fear. But living by faith is not easy. It is a moment by moment decision.