Month: May 2021

  • Strength in Humility

    I distinctly remember how overwhelmed I felt, staring down at that rectangle-shaped jungle that was now, apparently, mine. I was a grown woman but I didn’t know anything about gardening, so whatever had possessed me to sign up for a plot in my local community garden was now causing major imposter syndrome to run like sweat down my back. I had recently become a single mom with two high-energy toddlers running circles around me day and night. My whole world had collapsed, and most days I existed in alternating states of shock, numbness, and grief. This wasn’t the plan. I didn’t choose this divorce. What now, God? 

    Time and energy were precious in those days. My brain was often locked in a fog I couldn’t seem to shake, and I was desperate for something to call my own. I needed a project – a purpose and a reason to get outside and moving; something to keep my mind and hands occupied. So I went to a meeting at the church behind my house, set up by some local master gardeners, and signed my name on their list. I showed up on day 1 with the little ones running their usual circles only to find that my assigned spot seemed to have been left untouched for a very long time. “Oh no.” Hopefully there was still some good dirt hiding underneath it all. Regret came rushing in. “What am I doing? Why did I think this was a good idea? I don’t have time for this, and I’m going to fail in front of all these experienced gardeners!” 

    In hindsight, it probably wasn’t as big or scary as I remember it, but in those days everything overwhelmed me. Waking up was overwhelming. Going to work was overwhelming. Getting ready for bed was overwhelming. Bath time, supper time, and clean-up time were ALL overwhelming. And here I was, taking on more responsibility that needed my time, energy and attention – resources I didn’t have to spare. Had I simply imagined that nudge from the Lord to do this? Oh well. I’d already committed, and I didn’t want to be a quitter. So I put on some gloves and a brave face and dove in, pulling out vines by the armful.

    I learned a lot of valuable lessons from that garden over the next couple of years, and I found unexpected joy from putting my hands in the soil and seeing God display His nature through nature. I didn’t just learn about growing food, but also about identifying weeds, appreciating the worms, predicting which veggies my family would or wouldn’t eat, and how to bake zucchini into almost anything! Through that process though, I had to come face-to-face with just how much I didn’t know about gardening. The older couple in charge were incredibly kind and knowledgeable, and I learned to lean on them, to ask questions no matter how silly, and to gratefully receive their help.

    Obviously, I dealt with much bigger issues that year than learning how to tend a garden, but as it turned out, the life lessons were mostly the same: I was more capable than I thought I was, but on the days when I couldn’t do it alone, help was available – if only I was willing to humble myself, acknowledge my need, and ask.

    But He {God} said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 -10 (NIV)

    Just like Paul (the author of 2 Corinthians), hardship, difficulties, persecution, discrimination and insults are bound to come our way; but un-like Paul, I can almost guarantee you that our first reaction isn’t usually to “delight” in them!

    Most of us tend to experience fear, sadness, anger or hopelessness in the face of unexpected and difficult situations. While these are normal reactions, we also get to choose how we respond to those things in the long-term. Often, what makes the difference in how we each choose to respond can be traced back to our level of humility.

    When was the last time you encountered a hardship that knocked you down or exposed a weakness in your life? Maybe it was a job loss, a heartbreak, a false rumor, the death of a loved one, or a scary diagnosis. Often, these hardships change the course of our lives. So how is it that Paul can say for Christ’s sake he actually takes “delight” in these terrible things? If you go back and read the verse again, you’ll find his answer: “so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  

    Sadly, it’s usually not until we come to the end of our own strength that we seek God’s power to overcome our circumstances. I think Paul was trying to tell us that experiencing God’s power is actually pretty great – SO great in fact, that he got excited when he had opportunities to experience it again and again!

    Contrary to what our culture teaches us, the Bible tells us that our greatest strength lies not in our in-dependence, but in our de-pendence on God’s unfailing power.

    … if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

    This verse isn’t about what people can do, but it is about what GOD can do for His people when we humble ourselves and let Him take the lead. Our job is in acknowledging, seeking, asking, and turning our hearts toward Him once again. This is what our humility looks like. By acknowledging our deep need for God’s help, and accepting the fact that we cannot save ourselves, we learn humility by entrusting ourselves to His loving care and protection.

    I used to think that humility meant thinking badly about myself, focusing on my flaws and failures, or abandoning myself in order to care only for others. But God’s Word tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”  “in the image of God” (Psalm 139:14 and Genesis 1:27). How could we possibly think badly about ourselves when we are, in fact, fearfully and wonderfully made by a good God? True humility doesn’t actually involve shame or self-hatred at all, but it does include recognizing and acknowledging when we need help and then asking for it.

    What is a hardship you’re facing today? Where do you need to experience God’s strength in place of your own weakness? Instead of brushing it aside, I invite you to pray a simple prayer of acknowledgement before God, humbly asking Him for help, and maybe even like Paul, to take delight in the opportunity for His power to rest on you. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)

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  • Overcome Your Overwhelm

    Truth time. I have felt overwhelmed lately (and by lately, I mean for over a year now). It’s the kind of overwhelm that makes me want to sprawl out on my living room couch, swaddle myself under my plush blanket and just binge out on the latest Netflix show because I don’t have enough energy to give.

    It’s the kind of overwhelm that brings tears to my eyes when a close friend texts me “how are you doing?” because I feel like such a failure in multiple areas of my life right now. It’s the kind of overwhelm where I simply can’t keep up, so I don’t even start. The kind where I am beating myself up with the “shoulds”- like I should get more done every day, I should eat healthier at each meal, I should have a perfectly picked-up house, I should behave perfectly, I should be better at spending time with God and my family, taking care of myself and following up with friends. Maybe you feel the same? If you do, then welcome to the Overwhelm Club. You my dear are not alone.

    We all feel overwhelmed at times, but when that overwhelm becomes a regular part of our daily life it can begin to steal our joy, destroy our health and kill our dreams. I don’t know about you, but my overwhelmed feelings were not just happening during my busiest weeks and then going away when things calmed down a bit. I was constantly feeling overwhelmed. It had become a way of living for me. Even when I set boundaries, took days of rest, and did everything I knew how to do to de-stress, I still felt incompetent, inadequate and overloaded.

    Then a few weeks ago, I read John 14:27 (NIV) which says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

    As I read that verse, it dawned on me (no pun intended) that I had swapped the word “peace” for “perfection.” Even though I don’t try to chase it because I’ve realized the absurdity of it, striving for perfection is something I continually have to guard my heart against.

    You see I am a good auntie, sister, daughter, and girlfriend, but I’m not a perfect one. I am a good employee, business owner, writer, coach, and leader, but I’m not a perfect one. I am a good breakfast maker (outside of that you don’t really want me to cook you a meal) and a good housekeeper, but I’m not a perfect one. We were given the gift of peace, not perfection. And so once again I am reminding myself and maybe you too, that overwhelm is not a symptom, but rather a signal that we are out of alignment with who God created us to be because we are focused on perfection, not on His peace.

    So what steps can we take to reduce that feeling of being overwhelmed and instead experience peace? The answer doesn’t lie in just slowing down, finding a new job or making some key adjustments in your schedule, while some of those options may be needed, they are not the ultimate solution. The true root of overwhelm exists in our hearts and minds, not our busy lives. Therefore, these five steps I am going to share with you focus on transforming our lives from the inside out in order to overcome our overwhelm.

    Step 1 – Remember
    Remember that God is in control, that He will take care of you and that you need to turn to Him first, not last, when feeling overwhelmed. The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 61:2 (NLT) that when we cry for help when our hearts are overwhelmed, God will lead us to the “towering rock of safety”.

    Step 2- Recognize
    What do you tell yourself when you feel overwhelmed? What lies do you tell yourself? “Suck it up.” “Just keep going.” “It could be worse.” “I should be more on top of things.” “There is something wrong with me.” In our efforts to rally, we can end up dismissing and invalidating our own feelings and buying into a lie. If you find yourself overwhelmed often, you need to recognize the lies, rather than ignoring your feelings and powering through.

    Step 3 – Reset
    Reset your schedule and your thinking. Maybe you feel the pressure of saying yes to everyone and everything, but that isn’t God’s plan. Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone, because Jesus knew His purpose. So step back and look at your schedule with God as your tour guide to help you filter out tasks that may not be bad in and of themselves, but are ultimately not helping you live out your purpose.

    And when it comes to resetting your thinking, grab your journal or a piece of paper and make a list of the things that are causing you to feel overwhelmed. Next, write out this sentence for each issue listed and fill in the blank to allow your focus to shift to the ways that God is addressing the issue. “I feel overwhelmed by _________________. Thank you God for reminding me that you have already conquered, covered, defeated and promised me victory in this area of my life. I choose to be an overcomer. I choose to be overwhelmed by you.”

    Step 4- Reflect
    I am encouraged by the words of Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT). “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand”. Did you catch that? God’s peace is a byproduct of prayer. So, in order to restore alignment and overcome the overwhelm we need to spend time in prayer and reflection with God. Take time to share your heart with God and then also ask questions like, “is this a me expectation or a God expectation?” and “How am I trying to control the situation, instead of letting God take control of it?”

    Step 5 – Receive
    God’s peace is not something we have to earn, but rather it is something to be received. So relax, be calm, take a deep breath through your nose as you think the words “Jesus I receive your peace” and then as you exhale think “and I give you my overwhelm.” Repeat this several times until you begin to relax your muscles and thoughts. Don’t reject the gift of peace through worry, complaining, or doubt, rather open your heart and receive what God freely wants to give to you.

    Jesus had more cause to feel overwhelmed and burdened than any of us. Yet, he did not curl up into a ball and veg out. He did not ask God for a “better” job. He did not wish for a different life. Rather, He allowed God to empower Him and help Him overcome persecution, betrayal and even death. He remembered who God was. He recognized the lies the enemy told Him in the wilderness. He reset His mind to God’s truths and made sure to put margin in His schedule to spend time reflecting and praying. And He received the peace and hope that God promises each of us. As a result, He met each and every challenge with a relaxed and calm attitude because He knew that overwhelm was inevitable, but that through God He would overcome! And you can too!

    May you rest in His love and feel the peace which surpasses all understanding. May you cast all your anxieties on Him and may He guide you every step as you walk the path of peace and overcome your overwhelm!

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  • You Are Enough

    I remember staring in the mirror and thinking “gross, my body looks gross. Where did those rolls come from? Where did those dimples come from?” As I stared at myself in the mirror critiquing this body that has birthed babies, survived trauma, and run races, I heard Jesus whisper…you are worthy, you are beautiful. And then I felt like He asked me a question that I really had to sit with for a while. He asked me “would you talk to a friend the way you talk to yourself?” The answer was no. If my friend, or a stranger came to me and said “Amy, I don’t like the way I look, I wish I was thinner, I feel ugly.” I wouldn’t say “Gosh, yes you are ugly and gross.” Of course not. I would encourage you, I would show you in God’s Word where He says you are worthy!

    There are so many lies we believe. “You’re not good enough.” “You don’t deserve peace.” “You’re unworthy and undeserving.” You fill in your own blank. We have so much fear in our hearts and minds. Fear is never from the Lord. Shame is never from the Lord. Never ever.

    Satan is the master of deception and the father of lies (John 8:44) and will stop at nothing to convince us that we are all of the “uns” (undeserving, unattractive, unlovable, etc). Satan knows that God has already overcome this world, he knows that in the end he loses (John 12:31). So the best he can do is figure out what things hurt us the most and do his best to make you believe those lies, so that you forget who you are–who God says you are.

    Do you believe the lies?

    Satan is our enemy and he is always more than willing to hurl lies at us and try to convince us that they are truth. The thing is, it’s our voice through which we hear his lies…I am unworthy, I am undeserving, I am unlovable… he wants us to jump on board with the discouraging, destructive and dangerous narrative he has set up for us. The thing is, his lies only have power if we agree with them. His lies are NOT our truth.

    The Bible tells us so many times that we are precious to God, He loves us in spite of our shortcomings. God will never instill fear or shame in our lives. When our thoughts are aligned with God’s, the devil can’t lie to us. When you start to hear those whispered lies in your head, take them to God and check your thoughts against the Bible. That negative narrative, those painful thoughts, and hurtful feelings are not of the Lord. Instead, here is what God’s Word says:

    📣 You are loved in spite of your sin (no matter what it is): Romans 5:8-9

    📣 God would literally die for you…literally: John 3:16

    📣 He loved us first: 1 John 4:19

    📣 The Lord wants us to live abundantly: John 10:10

    📣 We are his children: 1 John 3:1

    📣 He chose us: Ephesians 1: 4-6

    You see, in spite of the lies that the enemy throws at us, we can know the truth: God loves us, He chose us, and He wants what’s best for us. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, God’s love covers all of it.

    So whether the enemy is whispering in your ear or screaming in your face today, I would encourage you to speak loudly and with authority for it to stop. Because you are worthy, you are lovable, and you are wanted by the God of the universe–the one who created you! Nothing you have ever done or will ever do could ever change His relentless love for you. In Him you are loved and you are enough.

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