More Than a Conqueror Mentality or Starting The Year as NOT a Failure

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You know how sometimes our children show us a lot about ourselves…usually the stuff we don’t want to see displayed for all the world to see.  My kids are really good at it.  I can be sure if there is something I don’t want repeated, it will get said.  If there is a behavior I don’t want passed on, it will be mastered.  If there is an attitude I’d prefer never to see, I’ll see it daily.

Lately I’ve been seeing a bit of my own off-the-mark mindset displayed by one of my children.  Two of my children are adopted, and my youngest daughter, when in trouble, will often say, “Why did you even adopt me?”

I have declared that a forbidden phrase in our family.  In fact, no one is allowed to say anything even resembling that phrase.

Afterwards, she will often say, “Mommy, I’m sorry I didn’t mean it.”

Her words come out easily and without thought a lot…just like her momma.  Many times she will ask me why she can’t control what she says.  We talk about it and pray about it…for both of us, because it is an issue for me too.

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But even more important than those words that can spew out so easily, is the heart of my daughter…and the heart of me.

It is easy, very easy, to forget who we are…to even think we are something that we are not.

Lately, I feel like there is a constant blaring from the devil’s megaphone into my already aching head and heart, “YOU ARE SUCH A FAILURE!  SHAM! FAKE!!”

This demanding, defeating, and despairing voice barrages me with lies.

Lies that I’m a huge, disappointing, utter and complete, painfully obvious, absolute failure.

And honestly, even as I write that it is shaking me with its force…hollering how dare I write that it is a lie.

It screams, “You know it is all true.  Admit it.”

And the listing begins…looong lists of every part of my life that has a mistake, misstep, misdeed, misspoken word, missed opportunity… misery.

My list goes on and on…I hate that list.

And doggone it, I know that it isn’t true.  I know that.  I just can’t seem to figure out how to alleviate the heaviness in my chest.

I’ve been pouring Scripture into my head and uttering prayers over and over again.  But I feel like there is something more I’m supposed to be doing.  That there is a reason for this place I’m in.

This funky, uncomfortable, rotten place.

I know that my issue is a heart issue.  I have the knowledge of who I am.  I know it.  I just don’t embrace it wholeheartedly, because my life doesn’t seem to testify to it like I want it to.

My heart and my life seem broken at times, but are they?  My heart has been broken, but it is healing.  My life might feel broken because it isn’t as I’d like it or as I’d imagined it.

I keep trying to get fixed by my own efforts and by the efforts of others.  No one is really able to do it for me.  Least of all myself.

I have sought strength from my own reserves…which are decidedly depleted and I’m afraid in many ways it has only made the problem worse.

I have sought rest and refuge in my own idea of what life should look like…you know organized home, well-behaved children, wonderful work, and effective ministry…oh, and sleep.  All of those things have been a lot of work with very little effect…mostly because none of them have happened.

A lot of effort. Not a lot of results.

I want to begin this year with the understanding and conviction that I am not a failure…or at least I want to be on the way to that understanding and conviction.

I fail sometimes, but I am not a failure.

One of my very favorite passages in scripture is Romans 8:31-39.  I know it is kind of long (and I’m the reader who often skips the scripture passages because I think I already know them so I’ll just get to the next part of the article or book or whatever), but please read it and peel back the layers of truth in these words.

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:31-39

I wanted to bold every word in that passage, but I chose the things I want to remember…the things I want to pour into my heart.

God is FOR ME.  (He is not against me at all.)

God justifies me.  (I do not need to justify myself.)

God doesn’t condemn me.  (And neither should I.)

Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.  (Not even my own thoughts.)

I am more than a conqueror.   (Not a failure.)

That one always gets me.  MORE than a conqueror!?!  More than the winner?  Seriously?  How is that even possible?

It reminds me of when God rescued Israel from Egypt.  Not only where they able to leave, but God put it in the minds of the Egyptians to load them up with stuff.  They were given freedom and provisions.  More than conquerors.

How about us?  We not only get to spend eternity in heaven, but we get to know the Lord here.  We are blessed to have the fruit of the Spirit all the time now – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  We not only have a God, but also a Savior, a Father, a Friend, a Comforter, a  Counselor, a Deliverer, a Great Shepherd, a Great Physician, a Mediator, a Messiah, a Refuge, a Shepherd of our Souls, a Shield, and a Teacher, among many other things.  More than conquerors.

When I think of the blessings of God, I can completely see the “more than a conqueror” mentality I want to have.

My first step…recognizing that I’m blessed.

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My home.  That is a more than a conqueror thing to be sure.  God could have given me any ole home, but He blessed me with one that is all I had hoped for and more.  Every single day I am in awe and thank Him for it.

Yesterday, I was blessed.  Completely and totally blessed by the best Christmas day ever!  Really….ever.

My sons set their alarms so their little sisters wouldn’t have to wait to open presents.  The funny thing was the boys ended up being the first ones up awake and woke all of us up.  We opened presents, and let me just say I rocked the gifts this year!  Everyone was so happy with their presents!  Then we played games, made gingerbread houses, took naps, played more games, ate dinner, played more games, and watched a movie.  Blessed!

I can’t tell you how many times I looked around at my smiling, happy children and felt a flood of blessing pour all over me.  Such a grateful heart.

And for a day, I didn’t feel like a failure at anything.  I didn’t feel like a mess.  I felt peaceful.

Why?

Because of my circumstances?  Maybe.

But I think it was more that for a day, I stepped outside of myself and the rush of my ridiculous life, and enjoyed being.

I didn’t worry about a single thing.  Just enjoyed my children.  Enjoyed the day.  Enjoyed Christmas.

The blessing of the gift of Christmas.

I was telling my children what an amazing thing it is that on Jesus’ birthday WE get to exchange presents!  How gracious is our God!

It is that “more than a conqueror” thing.  That thing that God does when He goes above and beyond to bless.

The week leading up to Christmas was tough in a ton of ways.  I found myself having more pity parties than any person should be allowed to have.  I was so busy feeling badly that I missed the blessings.

I was stuck in failure mode.

But today…today I have decided that I want the “more than a conqueror” mentality.  I want to live a life of victory.

I’m not a victim of my circumstances or my failures, I’m more than a conqueror.

That passage in Romans reminds me that NOTHING can separate me from the love of Christ – tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, hunger, death, life, angels, rulers, things now or things to come, powers, height, depth, nothing in all of creation…NOTHING can separate us.

He loves me. Period.

He is for me.

Regardless of how I think about myself, good or bad, God loves me.  Nothing I think about me changes that.

When my little girl asks me, “Why did you even adopt me?”  I have to say, “Because I was made to love you!”

And if I were to ask God, “Why did you even adopt me?”  He would say, “Because I made you to love!”

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He loved me from the beginning.  He will always love me…He has made me more than a conqueror because He loves me.

 

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What Do You Think About Gifts?

IMG_3674I LOVE giving gifts.  Like really love it.

This year I’ve been careful though.  I’ve set a certain amount of gifts each child will receive and an amount I’m willing to spend.  So far, I’m doing pretty well with it.  Although I’ve been known to blow the whole budget in a minute so the jury is out whether I will make it to Christmas without splurging.  I’m determined not to.

There are a lot of articles and blogs out there talking about not being so focused on giving.  And I do understand that, but I think sometimes we can get so caught up in not being caught up we are kinda caught up in that….does that make sense?

I’m all for moderation, but I can’t deny loving giving gifts.  And after all,

Christmas is about a Gift.

A tremendous Gift of love.  A thought-about, thought-through, sacrificial, expensive Gift.

There is a place for giving gifts, maybe not gifts simply for the sake of giving and getting.

Gifts for the sake of blessing.

Right now, the gift that God is most blessedly giving me…repeatedly…is the reminder of the Gospel and all it means to my every day.  My every day needs for forgiveness, peace, and hope.

Oh how I need forgiveness.

How I long for peace.

How thankful I am for hope.

And even while God is presenting me again and again with the gift of His love in myriad ways, I am finding myself being unwrapped more and more for Him.

These past several months (and maybe even years) have been many moments filled with realization, some comforting and some quite appalling.  Moments that open my eyes to my great need for a Savior.  Moments that open my eyes to my value simply as His child.  Moments that give me a deeper affection for my Savior and the glorious grace that He continues to offer me… and even some that give me some fear of the beautiful justice of my God.

And, I find myself now…feeling as if I’m one of those little boxes wrapped in a bigger box and then in a bigger box and then in an even bigger box…and so on and so on… and I see that God is slowly and patiently unwrapping each layer of me.

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Each layer reveals another thing that God is going to refine…redeem…restore.   And I have to be honest, all this unwrapping hasn’t been the easiest for me.  I’d much prefer to be wrapped up in love and grace and peace and joy then unwrapped at all.  It has been quite difficult, even disheartening at times.  I have despaired of being the woman I want to be.

But this Christmas, I know with each unwrapping, God is revealing the woman He has made me to be.

It is kind of weird to think of myself as a gift…I know.  Especially considering so much of the time I feel like a complete and utter failure….who wants that under the tree?

Apparently God does.  God wants me just like I am.

Just as I am.

Maybe what I need to remember this Christmas is the gift of God loving me just as I am.

I don’t have to be anything better than I am…just be me.

God loving me with the gift of Jesus….so that my life could be a gift back to Him.

My life is a gift.

A gift to me.

And a gift to Him.

And Jesus….

There have been times lately when I have been so caught up in the challenges and the temptations of this life that I have lost sight of Him…I’ve missed Him.

I’ve missed the daily gift of Him.

I’ve missed enjoying His presence through prayer and His wisdom through the Word.

And in doing so, I’ve missed the sweet opportunity to make my life a gift back to Him.

I want my life to daily be a gift back to God…something beautiful wrapped in love just for Him.

I do so love to give gifts…I believe I’m going to try to give myself to Him every single day.

Advent for the Overwhelmed

IMG_3568For a little bit longer….today is December 12th – I am officially 12 days behind.  I’m always behind when it comes to Advent.  It’s not like December 1st surprises me or that I haven’t thought about Advent in November.  I just all of sudden get overwhelmed by the days and nights and before I know it…it’s the 12th!  The 12th!!!!

We have barely spoken about Christmas…about Christ in Christmas.

So today…the first day of the rest of our Christmas…wish I could say it was my plan all along to start Advent as our 12 days of Christmas!  Alas, I cannot, but it will work nonetheless!

What do I want to share?  What do I want to be reminded of this Christmas season?

One of the things that God has been continually showing me lately has been the reality of His love for me.

I’ve been wondering a lot if I understand love…if I have ever truly gotten it.  I know it in my head…can articulate it and share it and even give it.  BUT do I get it?  Do I comprehend Love?

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, for whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19

Rooted and grounded in love.

The Greek means “being rooted” and “being found.”

Found.  Found in Christ’s love.

So often I feel lost…like a failure, like a mess, like a crazy person…unlovable, valueless, un-precious.

How do I get it through my thick skull that I’m loved…even, dare I say it, lovable?

How do I impart the joy of that realization to my children this Christmas season and every other day of the year?

At this moment, I want to tie it into Christmas.  Easy.

The birth of Christ…can we even comprehend the magnitude of the love God showed that day?

It was the beginning of a life of extreme love and sacrifice…for me.  For you.

For us.

And yet, I struggle to remember.  I’m overcome by my own failures and fears so often.

Do you have the same struggle?  Do you feel the same way?  Is it just me?

I fear that I’m modeling insecurity and fear to my children without realizing it or maybe I should say without acknowledging it.

When I spend more time worrying than worshiping, I’m teaching my children a very ineffective and frustrating way to respond to life’s challenges.

What do I want my children to know about love and how it helps us live?

I’m praying that God will use me to bless my children with the strength and power to comprehend how high, wide, deep, and long the love of God is for them…how He wishes to lavish that love on them.

See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God, and so we are.  1 John 3:1

 How do I do that?  I mean practically.  I don’t want to just sit them down and have yet another conversation with them…that’s wonderful, but what can I do that means more?  That truly captures the depth of the love God has for them…

God says that His word does not come back void…that it is powerful and effective.

I’m going to use His word.

All my children like notes…I’m going to write each one of them a love letter using the very words of God…and every day up until Christmas they are going to receive a personalized letter from me and our Father.

Maybe if I’m extra organized I can add a gift…something little to encourage and bless, but really I just want to share His love with them through the power of His Word.

I started looking up verses on His Word.  And look what I found!!

Love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God: for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”  And this word is the good news that was preached to you.  1 Peter 1:22-25

This verse just opened up like a flower in front of me…love and the gospel.  I’m searching for the meaning of love…an understanding of it…and AGAIN!!! Again God reminds me of the gospel.

The Good News.

The Good News that began with a baby.  Does that sometimes just blow your mind?  How did Jesus feel becoming a baby?  A little totally dependent baby.

His willingness to be born…and to die.   The Gospel.

LOVE.  BIG LOVE.

Oh that’s the story I want to share with my kids.  Maybe a conversation isn’t such a bad idea.  Maybe a snuggle and a reminder of love.  Not little “l” love, but BIG “L” love.

The Big L Love that says YOU ARE WORTH IT.

The Big L Love that says YOU ARE PRECIOUS.

The Big L Love that says LIVE AND ABIDE IN THIS LOVE …ALWAYS.

Don’t just live there on those days when you feel worthy…live in it on those days when you don’t understand how in the world it could be offered to you.  Live in it in those seasons when life is messy and you get messy with it.  Live in it when you feel desperate, despairing, and down-trodden.

Maybe 1 Peter 1:22-25 is the verse that will go in that first Love letter to my sweet children.

Yes, I think I like that idea!  (Especially since sometimes we have a decided lack of earnest love among siblings.)  And maybe in that conversation and that letter a gentle reminder of the fact that we all need a Savior – that we are all a little bit wonky and weary – that no matter how badly we feel or act or think or speak, we are loved.

God reached down while we were still all messy and loved us enough to be born and to die…for us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

One of my Bible versions says, “at just the right time Christ died” for us.  At just the right time.  Not a moment too soon or too late.  When we most need Him, He is always there.

He arrived at just the right time…and He died at just the right time.  And it was always the plan…from the beginning.  The plan was always sacrifice. The plan was always saving.  The plan was always sure.

It doesn’t matter how we feel, the reality is the gospel shouts LOVE.  It doesn’t matter how overwhelmed by life we are, Jesus will always overwhelm life and us with Love.  It doesn’t matter if we think we are unworthy, the gospel says we are worth it. We are worth it to Him.

That’s what I want my children to know.  They are worth it.  They are valuable.  They are precious.  They are loved.

The love with the big L.

Happy 1st day of Advent/Christmas in my house at least!

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