Forgiveness Part 1

Forgiveness Part 1

Nothing stirs up the crap the of our past like the H O L I D A Y S. #amiright? O to the M to the G. Fam, this can be “the most wonderful time of the year” and it can be the most stressful time of the year. Some of you will be forced into the same rooms of those who have hurt you and hurt you bad. Some of you will be sharing children. Some of you will be looking across the tables at empty seats. Nothing like “forced family time” to remind you of all you do and do not have.

So, Happy Holidays! haha (insert hand on head emoji here). Seriously though, I LOOOOOOVE this time of year. My Christmas decor is almost all up. But I wanted to take some time and share a few blogs I’ve written on forgiveness. I think some of us need to take a “Forgiveness Refresher Course” and remind ourselves what forgiveness is and isn’t as we enter into a season where we will inevitably rub shoulders with people we just don’t care for.

Ten years, we went to Georgia and met with a couple who does intensive counselling with married couples who have hit a dead end individually and relationally. You spend two or three days delving into your pain and learning about all that Jesus has done to redeem you and your pain. On the last day, we were given an assignment: We had to write down the name of every person we needed to forgive. Here’s what you need to understand: I was ANGRY. I took a personality test before arriving and I scored the highest you could score on anger. They had never seen anything like it. So needless to say, I was overwhelmed with the task at hand. Certain names came quickly…others surprised me. But I think the name I wrestled with the most was MINE.

This was the prep work for what was coming. Later that evening, we would sit each of the people on our list down in a red chair. We’d look them in the eyes (I mean, they weren’t really there…but as far as I was concerned, they were there) and read off our list of grievances and then say we chose to forgive them. It was a way to say what we needed to say and then to shred the evidence and be free.

Except I couldn’t be totally free…because I was always with me.

Here’s the key to forgiveness: If you don’t accept God’s forgiveness for yourself and if you haven’t forgiven you, you will never be able to forgive other people. Let me say it another way: If you do not bask in God’s grace daily for yourself, then you will not be able to offer God’s grace unconditionally to others. 

If you were like me, then you probably don’t fully understand what forgiveness is and means. We hear all the time, “Forgive and forget”. We even teach people that the verse in Psalms that says God removes our sins as far as the East is from the West means that He forgets. But we forget that it’s impossible for God to forget. No, what that verse really means is that He removes the shame and guilt and identity of those sins from us as far as the East is from the West. And that right there friends is what so many of us need to hear.

When I talk to people who are walking through dark seasons, almost to a person there is a sense of complete failure. They feel as though they have failed the people closest to them, they feel like they have failed God, and they have failed themselves. They cannot get past the guilt and pain of unfulfilled expectations. This was not supposed to be. They are surprised by themselves and cannot get past the haunting questions of will they ever be the same again? Will people still be able to love them? Is God disappointed? 

We are fully aware of how bad we are. But we are also so good at masking it and when our defenses go down and our depravity rears its ugly head, we are humiliated and treat ourselves the way we believe we should be treated: As utter disappointments. We punish ourselves by never allowing ourselves to move out from under the labels we have given ourselves. And so we imprison ourselves and keep ourselves from living the abundant life Jesus promises in the Scriptures.

See, forgiveness is being completely honest about whatever was stolen from you: A season, a friend, a parent, an identity, confidence, sexuality, whatever it is. And then it’s realizing that whatever was stolen from you cannot ever be given back. So making the person pay for whatever was stolen is futile. It’s only hurting you. It’s keeping you shackled to the pain when you have a whole life of promise to be living! When it comes to forgiving ourselves, we have to be honest and realize that we cannot change the past or right the wrongs. But what we can do is change our futures. So you need to ask yourself, “What did I steal from myself?” Or, “What do I owe me?” If we stay where we are and just live in the pity party, we will forever make the same mistakes and stay stuck. But if we choose to forgive ourselves, accept God’s forgiveness and seek healing, then we can change our futures and actually live the lives Jesus planned for us. But it’s up to you. You will choose what you will do.

Refusing to forgive leaves us, our presents, and our futures in bondage. Jesus explained this in Matthew 18, you know, the famous parable about the servants?

“At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, ‘Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?’ Jesus replied, ‘Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven. The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market. The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt. The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’ The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king. The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

The first servant owed way more than he was ever going to be able to repay. So, the King “erased the debt”. I love that. The debt no longer existed. When the King saw the servant, he didn’t see the debt anymore. It was gone. The servant couldn’t pay it back anyways. However, the servant didn’t truly believe the King had erased the debt. Instead, he thought the King was just buying him time to pay it back. Why else would he attack his friend (“fellow servant”) who only owed $10? The first servant knew in his heart of hearts he owed the King what was rightly due him. He felt compelled to pay him back due to his pride and embarrassment that his debt had gotten so out of control. In an effort to save face, he attacks his co-worker. The first servant is taking out his anger for himself at falling short on his friend. Well, he did it in front of a crowd and the King was quickly informed. Angry that the servant did not appreciate his forgiveness, he threw him in prison. Other translations say the servant was tormented there. Let me explain something that often gets mistranslated. God is not going to refuse forgiveness to you if you do not offer it to others. He can’t. That’s contradictory to His character. However, you will live inwardly tormented and in bondage until you release the other person from the debt he/she owes you. You will never truly know peace and experience God’s forgiveness of you if you cannot extend that same forgiveness to someone else. Chuck Swindoll explains it this way, Jesus “is saying the one who refuses to forgive, the Christian who harbors grudges, bitter feelings toward another, will be turned over to torturous thoughts, feelings of misery, and agonizing unrest within. It is one of the horrible consequences of not forgiving those who offend us…Believe me; it is not worth the misery. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven! Release the poison of all that bitterness…let it gush out before God, and declare the sincere desire to be free.”

This is especially true when we refuse to forgive ourselves. We live tormenting ourselves and then that anger gets taken out on those closest to us. You know the saying, “Hurt people hurt people.”

So here’s what I want to leave you with today: Jesus is not surprised by your mess. Not even in the least. Why do you think He died on the cross for you? Because you deserved it? Oh sweet friend, He knows we don’t deserve it. Romans says there is “none righteous” and explains that when we were in the middle of our biggest failure, our worst regret, that is when Christ died for us. We have to accept His forgiveness for us and then we have to extend that forgiveness to ourselves. We can’t go back and make the past better or make sense. We can only live in this moment. So can you, right here, right now, accept Christ’s forgiveness for yourself and can you begin to see you as God sees you? He doesn’t see your messes. Your brokenness. He sees Jesus and all of His perfection. Practice “Momentary Forgiveness”: Giving yourself forgiveness in this moment and then extending that forgiveness to the next moment and the next.

More on forgiveness to come…

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Desserts

We all know that “stressed spelled backwards is desserts,” am I right? But I think deep in our hearts, we believe that stressed spelled backwards is deserted. 

When you are feeling stressed, you think everything and everyone depends on you and you are one mistake away from being deserted. If you think that’s a tad dramatic, then take some personal inventory.

If you are feeling stressed right now, get to the bottom of it. Ask yourself why. Now, some of us have legitimate stresses in our lives. But others of us, not so much. Our stress is self-induced out of our futile attempts to find our identity in everything and everyone but Jesus Christ. We don’t want to disappoint ourselves or other people. Mainly because we are terrified that we are going to come up short and be rejected. And nobody wants to be abandoned.

Currently, I am stressed. And I will tell you why, but you have to promise not to look down on me. It’s embarrassing. So here it goes.

I have two pretty big events in the beginning of November. And I have to find an outfit. And I’m stressed. Like, I-lay-awake-for-a-while-at-night-stressed.

Let the judgment commence. 

But seriously. This whole outfit thing is really throwing me for a loop here. And why? Well, on my morning run God had a little heart-to-heart with me. He made it very clear that my insecurity is getting the best of me and so finding the perfect outfit is a way to mask it with some self-imposed confidence. Ouch. He went on to let me know that most of my stress recently has been directly connected to my attempting to control everyone and everything around me so that I feel better about myself. I am not allowing Jesus Christ to define me. I am defining myself through my accomplishments, my appearance, and my relationships. When I get terrified of failure, I know I am moving further away from who I am in Christ and closer and closer to my own definitions of who I am. And that stresses me out.

So, let me ask you…why are you really stressed today? If something doesn’t go exactly your way, will you feel like a failure? Less of a person? Are you afraid you are going to be left in the dust if you don’t prove yourself? If so, you are finding your identity in what you do and in what other people think of you. And it’s exhausting. Recalibrate. Remind yourself that you don’t have anything to prove to anyone. God loves you because of Jesus Christ. When He looks at you, He sees Jesus Christ’s perfect record. Rest.

(Read Ephesians 1 if you need a good dose of who you are in Christ.)

Reflect and Reframe

Reflect and Reframe

Negative self-talk. It’s such a weird phenomenon. We all do it, though. Seriously. You’ve done it probably more than you know. 

I’ll never forget Kevin (my counselor of 10 years — you’ll get to know him on a first-name basis, trust) interrupting me in the middle of one of our sessions and asking me if I knew how I had just repeatedly referred to myself. I had no clue. Then he told me I had called myself an “idiot” several times in just a few minutes. I was shocked. From that moment on, I started paying attention and was so surprised by my propensity to call myself an idiot over the dumbest things. But you guys, that’s how I truly felt inside. I just didn’t like myself. I was so embarrassed about how my life had spiraled and where I was emotionally, physically (I had gained so much weight), mentally and spiritually. This was not the straight A, role model, “it girl” I had always been. I was falling apart at the seams. And so even the simplest mishaps were self-fulfilling prophecies. As the Scriptures say, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” 

What about you? What names do you call yourself? When do you most often berate yourself? You may not be “Mean Girls” mean; it may just be little slights you make here and there. But it’s dangerous! And you know what? It’s even more high stakes when we have little ears walking around hearing how we are talking to ourselves (I’m referring to our children).

So how do we stop this negative self-talk? Two things: We need to reflect and to reframe. How very Christian of me to alliterate, #amiright? I wrote what I wrote: Reflect and reframe.


First, you need to figure out why you are speaking so poorly to yourself. Why are you beating yourself up? Why do you not love yourself? 

The Church (as a whole) has always put such negative connotations around the idea of loving ourselves. But I’m here to tell you, it’s so Biblical. In Matthew 22:37 and 39, Jesus gives us the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…. The second is like it…” and before I give it to you, make sure you are ready to read it nice and slowww: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (NIV). Did you catch that? “Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF”. If you aren’t loving yourself, how will you love your neighbor? If you aren’t forgiving yourself, if you are angry with yourself, you won’t have the emotional margin you need to love others well. You can’t spend energy hating yourself and think you’re going to have energy left over to love someone the way Jesus is calling you to love. Nope. Won’t happen.

So you have to determine why you don’t love yourself. Did someone make you feel worthless? Like a screwup? Did someone take something from you? I don’t mean literally (although that may be the case). What I mean is did someone take a season, first marriage, your innocence, your dad, your mom, your career…from you? Are you left feeling unlovable, unworthy and insecure? When we are living out of our hurt (whether self-inflicted or not), we are unable to see past the hurt. And this leads us to the next point…reframe.


We see our entire lives through the lens of our greatest pain. Some of you view every situation and circumstance and relationship through the lens of the affair, the breakup, the divorce, the addiction, the move, the financial crisis, the firing, the betrayal, the abandonment and the trauma. You aren’t able to separate yourself from the pain because you haven’t done the hard work of owning your pain.

This is crucial: You have to own the fact that something did happen to you that was extremely painful. Harder still, you can’t reverse what happened. That trauma is now in the past. So you have to make a choice to see the pain, to get help to heal the pain, and then to own the pain. That wound, that scar, it’s yours. It’s not anyone else’s. And you get the chance to allow Jesus to heal it and to use it and therefore to redeem it. I mean, do you have the chills right now?

Remember that one time you broke your arm doing something epic but stupid? You had to have surgery and get pins and the whole nine yards. You were in a cast for weeks and weeks. But then the cast came off, and you saw your scar for the first time and you realize now that you have the BEST story ever! 

This is what happens with our emotional and mental scars if we let God do His work of healing through the process of forgiveness. It’s so hard, fam. I promise you, though, it’s worth it.

So reflect and reframe. 

One last thing: Negative self-talk is an indicator that there is some crap in our lives we haven’t yet dealt with. Healthy people don’t speak hurtfully to themselves. They are secure in love, acceptance and worth. So the next time you and I hear ourselves being mean to ourselves, we need to take a minute and be excited…yes, I said excited…because we get the chance to reflect and to reframe and to take one more step toward whole, healthy lives! Let’s get after it!

“Do the work and show up for your life, because you are the only one who can live, and the rest of us need you.” — Jen Hatmaker

Life Sucks Sometimes

Life Sucks Sometimes

We all just feel overwhelmed and bogged down with life right now, don’t we? Life is hard. It hurts. It’s exhausting. It’s stressful. It’s lonely. It sucks.

Bottom line: It beats us down and wears us out. And some seasons are longer than others. It’s easy to give into the lie that God doesn’t love us, is punishing us for something, or just took off.

My friend, nothing could be further from the truth.

Just this morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians 1. Here are some of the verses from the NIV translation: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ…. [Comfort] produces in you patient endurance.”

I love the line that says, “Just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” We are going to face hard times. God tells you that straight up (got to appreciate His honesty, am I right?). But He also promises His comfort.

Some of you may be thinking, “Hold the phone. I am in the middle of my own personal hell right now and I ain’t experiencing no peace.” (Disclaimer: I am sure you practice better grammar than that). Well, let me ask you this: Do you believe that God loves you…and even likes you?

That’s a simple question…with a really difficult answer for some. I was just talking with a friend who is going through a tough time right now, and she was absolutely convinced God didn’t like her and was out to get her for past mistakes. Oh how that broke my heart. We will have to face the consequences for our decisions…and sometimes those aren’t pleasant. But there are also times when we are in the middle of a “crapstorm” that we didn’t create. 

Here’s what Paul says about whatever mess you are in the middle of: “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

The great apostle Paul was suicidal at times. Isn’t that crazy? I mean, check out the verses above…”we despaired of life itself.” Hello. He didn’t want to live because life got so bad. But he gives the answer: “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”

Tough, terrible, horrible times often reveal the “dead” parts in us: Those things we are still hanging on to to give us meaning, identity and worth apart from Jesus. Those things that when we lose them, we feel like we can’t go on. The good news is, God wants to raise those dead parts to life by giving us His abundant life through Christ Jesus. We have to “set our hope” on Him. We have to believe that He truly does love us more than anything and that God gave up Jesus to get us. We are worth Jesus Christ to God! We have to accept Jesus as our personal Savior (apart from anything good we can or will do) and believe that only through Jesus can we have a personal relationship with God. Then, we have to remind ourselves every day that the same love God showed by trading in Jesus for us, He offers every day. We just have to accept it. You may not feel it at times. But you have to choose to believe it.

God will give you more than you can handle, because He wants to handle it for you.

I love the last few verses in 2 Corinthians 1 in the Message translation: “God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting His yes within us. By His Spirit He has stamped us with His eternal pledge — a sure beginning of what He is destined to complete.”

God affirms you…not your circumstances. He defines you. Not the difficulties you are facing. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, God has stamped you with His “Yes!” And He promises to complete what He has started in you (Philippians 1:6).

Hang in there, friend. Keep reminding yourself of the incredible love of God that He demonstrated for you when He had Jesus Christ die in your place on the cross for your sins (past, present and future). Trust in Him, and not in your own works. Believe that He is your only hope for heaven and that He loves you no matter what you do, what other people say, what circumstances you face or how you feel.

Just Say No

Just Say No

Just say no. We all know the phrase. We say it often. But we don’t live it. We can’t. If we did, wouldn’t we be bored, alone, ignored, worthless, useless?

That’s dramatic, you may be thinking. And I would agree with you. But seriously, then…why don’t we just say no? 

I was watching a webinar (that is literally the dorkiest word I have ever heard), and the speaker challenged us to write down a list of our priorities. So here are mine:

  1. My relationship with Jesus.
  2. My relationship with my children (notice I said “relationship” and not “being a mom to”…there’s a difference to me).
  3. My relationship with my husband.
  4. My relationship with myself (rest, exercise, Sabbath, writing, etc.).
  5. My relationships with my extended family and closest friends.
  6. My Church.

Then, she encouraged us to jot down our obligations. So, here we go again (these aren’t necessarily in order):

  1. Serving my husband.
  2. Taking care of my children.
  3. Managing our home (cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry).
  4. Blogging.
  5. Exercising.
  6. Leading the church with Bryant.

The speaker told us that if our obligations are not lining up with our priorities, something is off and we are saying yes to all the wrong things/people.

Now, you will notice two things are missing in my “Obligations” list. 

  1. My relationship with the Lord.
  2. My relationships with close friends and family.

Yikes. So, relationally, I am off. Notice, I am not talking about surface-level relationships (a blog on friendships is sure to come). But those deep, gut-level relationships that sharpen me and keep me on track. Those people who know my insides, the insides I don’t really want everyone seeing. Additionally, I am majorly off in my relationship with Jesus. Seems like everything else and everyone else is vying for my attention. That’s why so often I feel torn in 50 million directions and on the borderline of an anxiety attack. He’s not my first priority. So how in the world will my other priorities line up and my obligations fit appropriately? When He’s not invited into my everyday life, I am going to face situations that I can’t and won’t be able to handle. I am going to bite off more than I can chew because He is not going to be the One I am seeking to please. Everyone else is. And that’s a form of bondage I just can’t afford right now. 

So, I have to rearrange my life and make sure He doesn’t just fit, He’s it. He’s the One I am living for … seeking to please.…

How do I do that practically? Well, what specifically has HE called me to RIGHT now? 

  1. Following Jesus
  2. Being a wife
  3. Being a mom
  4. Loving others

So, I do them all for Him. I take care of myself so I can follow Jesus. I serve Bryant for Jesus. I love my kids for Jesus. I minister to others for Jesus. And when someone asks me to do something that will compete with one of those three major callings, I say no. 

Now here’s the hard part: I need to learn to say no without feeling like I have to explain myself. Ouch. I like to talk. I like to explain. I like to make sure everyone likes me. So this is a hard thing for me to learn. But I have to. Otherwise, I will exhaust myself and I will inevitably and unintentionally communicate to someone else that they just aren’t as valuable to me as what I am doing instead (adapted from the webinar — ha). It’s tough. But, if I am finding my identity in Jesus Christ, I won’t be basing my self-esteem on what others think of me and whether I am meeting everyone else’s expectations. I will only be concerned with what Jesus Christ thinks…and last time I checked, He thinks I’m pretty awesome. 

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