Heart Stuff

  • 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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  • You Are Not Alone

    How often have you found yourself in a hard situation, or maybe just scrolling social media, thinking something along the lines of “maybe it’s just me,” or “I guess ______ just isn’t going to happen for me.” I can’t begin to count the number of times this happens to me–sometimes per day! I wish I could say I always notice and stop those destructive thoughts in their tracks, but some days it’s harder than others.

    In life, it can be all too easy to slide into the trap of thinking that we’re the only one: the only one whose dreams have been derailed by life’s unexpected twists and turns. The only one fighting cancer, or maybe fighting with our spouse. The only one our age who still isn’t married. The only one who’s lost their dream job, or maybe didn’t get to graduate. Maybe the only one who’s been hurt by a friend’s words, or overwhelmed by their boss’s expectations. As women, especially, it can be all too easy to believe the lie that we are the only one in our situation.

    Over the past year or two, God has been speaking to my heart about this and urging me to take notice of our common human experiences. Whenever I find myself sinking into that lie, He has been gently reminding me, “my darling, you are not alone, and you are not the only one.”

    Despite the varying details, we all face hardships and unwanted problems. The pandemic this past year has certainly highlighted this fact in some obvious ways. Millions of us have been shaken out of our daily routines enough to remember that we are all vulnerable to life in more ways than we realized. We are probably all much more aware today than we were last year of our lack of control over the world, and of our constant need for God’s care and protection.

    I’ve noticed that in the seasons when I feel the most alone, I also struggle to hear and believe God’s words. That pesky feeling of “aloneness” can quickly build a barrier around our hearts, making it much harder to hear the truth we so desperately need. But on the flip side, there is something so powerful that happens when we are seen, heard, and understood by one another. Our hearts begin to “soften”, allowing those beautiful “God truths” to sink deep down into our hearts and minds, changing us from the inside out.

    I’m reminded of the Israelites in the book of Exodus as they were leaving Egypt. Not only were they not alone, but they got to experience God’s miraculous care and protection first-hand! He had heard their prayers and seen their tears. He brought them a leader and rescued them from slavery. He led them through unknown deserts, parted seas, got rid of their enemies, gave them food and water, and provided for all of their needs. When they could not save themselves, they experienced His tangible faithfulness to save over and over again. Years later, as they were about to enter their promised land, the Lord told them to do this:

    Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

    Deuteronomy 11:18-20, NIV

    As I read these instructions, I get a sense of God’s desire to help the Israelites stay grounded in truth by reminding themselves of His faithfulness everywhere they went. He knew it wasn’t going to be enough for them to see or hear Him act just once; He knew His children would need constant reminders of His faithfulness. And not just for themselves, but also for their children, and for their children’s children. He knew they would need to remember His faithfulness together.

    If you read through the rest of the Israelites’ story, you may begin to notice that the more desperately aware the Israelites were of their need for God, the more they trusted Him to care for them. Although it might sound overly simplistic, the first step in experiencing God’s faithfulness is to get real about our needs. And yet isn’t that sometimes the hardest part? To admit to our needs, our fears, and our doubts? It can be hard to admit that we don’t have all the answers, or that our plans just aren’t working out the way we’d hoped. And yet when we choose to open up about those places, we get to learn humility as we ask God to show up as only He can.

    As we’ve focused on God’s faithfulness this month, I’ve been deeply encouraged by the vulnerability of each woman who has opened up about her hopes, her fears, and her real-life questions and prayers to God. When we can hear and relate to what’s being shared, we remember that we aren’t alone and we get to see God’s faithfulness again and again. We are then able to open our hearts and say “me too!” Hearing each other’s stories creates safe spaces for us to feel less alone and to find true connection with each other through Christ. It’s in these vulnerable spaces that we find the grace to exhale, to be comforted, and to find true community.

    Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” It is such a simple yet powerful practice to regularly share, listen, and help carry one another’s burdens, remembering that we are not alone. This verse in Galatians tells us that by doing this we can actually fulfill the law of Christ. In Matthew 11:30, Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His laws are not burdensome, they are the keys to our freedom in the life of abundance that God has promised us!

    Are there places in your life where you can open conversations to share God’s faithfulness in your own life and invite the same in return? I encourage you to find somewhere new to do that this week, and when you do, I think you’ll be reminded once again that it’s not just you. We’re all in this together.

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  • Even If I Fail, God is Faithful

    I sat on my living room floor, my journal in hand, writing out the words “Why God?” Why?” Why, when I had been faithful to follow His calling to move out to the Northwest, to leave all my family and friends and to put my business on the back burner, all to work with an amazing ministry, did I feel like I was failing? Why if I was being obedient to what He asked me to do, did I see no fruit in my life? Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever been obedient to what God asked you to do and yet the outcome you expected didn’t materialize?

    One of my deepest fears is failure, (yes, I am an Enneagram 3!) which means that I am hard wired to look for ways to win at work and succeed in life. However, I don’t think it is just Enneagram 3’s who are looking for the wins in life. Honestly, our world gravitates toward success. I mean let us be real, who doesn’t want to be successful? I don’t see too many books at Barnes and Noble with the title “Losing at Work and Failing at Life.”

    I also don’t know too many people who wake up in the morning thinking to themselves “I hope I fall flat on my face today” or “I am excited to break my promises to God.” But what happens when things don’t work out the way we’d hoped? What happens if, despite our very best efforts, our family never becomes quite what we imagined it would be? Or the business we envisioned never makes it to reality? Or we never get married, have kids or lose that extra 30 pounds. Or despite our best efforts, we continue to struggle to do our spiritual disciplines faithfully every day?

    Feeling like we are failing isn’t just about falling short of reaching our goals in life. For some of us, failing can be about feeling like we are disappointing God. For example, maybe on Sunday you made a commitment this week to spend time with God each morning this week and it is Thursday and you have not even cracked open your Bible. Or you promised God you would not yell at your kids this week and by Monday morning there was already a meltdown happening in your household and you lost your cool.

    These situations can leave us feeling like we have failed God and failed at life. The question then becomes, will God still be faithful to us even when we fail? Sometimes we are being faithful to what God calls us to, and yet we still feel like we have failed because the outcomes don’t look like we thought they should. It makes us question, can we can be faithful to God and still fail? The answer to both questions is YES!

    The reality is that life does not come with a guarantee. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise us a 100% success rate. In fact, what He has told us instead is, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). God promises that we will overcome, not that we will achieve every outcome. In this verse it says we “will have trouble,” i.e. there will be failures in life, there will be times our dreams do not become a reality, and there will be times of setbacks.

    In the Scripture it doesn’t say that when we experience trouble in life, it is all our fault or that we have done something wrong, rather that is just a part of life. Everyone that God uses has faults and goes through setbacks in life. From Noah to Sarah to Moses to Joshua to David–they all experienced failures in life, none of them were perfect in their relationship with God and yet they are listed in the hall of faith. We cannot hide from failure and failure is not the enemy. For no matter what, even when failure overcomes us, we have a champion who has already overcome the world.

    God is faithful to us no matter what we do or what we are going through. We all go through valleys and mountaintops, successes and failures, joy and grief, victories and challenges. I used to think that God’s faithfulness was dependent upon how pleased God was with me, that His faithfulness to me would only be true if I were on the mountaintop. But the longer I walk with Him and the closer I get to Him, the more I realize that I can fail, stumble and fall down and yet God’s love and faithfulness are still constant. He is there, with His arms wide open, welcoming us back into His love, grace and mercy.

    God’s faithfulness shows up in our lives through His constant, steadfast and unchanging love. God is not up in heaven keeping track of all our successes. He does not have a gold star board that showcases how many times we prayed, honored the sabbath or showed kindness to a stranger and a checkmark board for every time we didn’t open our Bible, we didn’t show love to a family member or we didn’t hit a goal. God says that no matter what, He is with us. He is always right there waiting for us to seek Him and to surrender our feelings of failure and unworthiness. For the truth is that He loves us and delights in us even when we feel disappointed in ourselves. His faithfulness to us isn’t dependent on getting everything right in life, rather it is born out of His deep abiding love for us.

    That day after I asked God “Why?” He reminded me that my identity shouldn’t be rooted in my achievements, successes or failures, but rather in abiding in Him as His daughter. He whispered to my hurting heart that His faithfulness is not based on my performance, but rather His promises. God does not see me as a failure, rather He sees me as a victor, for in Deuteronomy 20:4 it says “For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!” (NLT) And this is how He see you too!

    Nobody can be 100% faithful to the Lord, but the Lord is always 100% faithful to us. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (ESV). The truth is that even when we feel like we are failing, God is still there, cheering us on and reminding us to never give up hope. Keep your focus on being obedient to what God calls you to and then leave the outcome to God, for His love and faithfulness never fail.

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  • God’s Faithfulness in the Unexpected

    “Okay Lord.”

    As life has taken its twists and turns over the years, this phrase has woven its way into my everyday conversation with God, with a wide variety of intonation depending on the situation. Sometimes I’ll proclaim the words confidently in full agreement with where He is leading me next. “Okay Lord!!!”

    Other times there’s a hesitation in my voice, as I strain to see what lies ahead, cautiously inching one toe forward into the unknown. “Okaaay…Lord.”

    Still other times I’m downright bewildered as I am blindsided by an unexpected situation. In the unexpected, it can feel impossible to guess how God is working. While I trust God, my voice still forms the phrase into a question wondering what He is up to. “Okay. {Big sigh} But…Lord?”

    Regardless of the scenario before me, there is one common thing that enables me to say “okay” to my Heavenly Father: His unwavering faithfulness.

    In Scripture and in my own life, I see evidence of His faithfulness everywhere. When I look back over seasons of uncertainty or difficulty or unexpected transition, I can see His fingerprints in every detail, carefully and lovingly guiding me through. It is God’s faithfulness in the past that anchors my faith in the present, and gives me hope for the future.

    This past year, my husband and I found ourselves in the middle of the unexpected. We discovered that we would be adding a third baby to our family, eleven years after our last kiddo had been born!

    I can still remember staring at those two pink lines in total bewilderment. A rush of emotions flooded in. I felt shocked, happy, scared, excited and anxious all at once. Having another baby wasn’t on my radar at all! Our older boys were 11 and 15 and we were loving this stage of life with older kids. This was going to be a huge adjustment!

    My brain went into overdrive grasping for any shred of a plan. We had just bought a bigger house, so we had the room for another baby. My husband had a great teaching job that he loved. Plus, I love being a mama and we always dreamed of three kids, it just had never happened. I felt slightly reassured and so I nervously said, “Okay Lord”.

    With all my emotions still swirling around in my brain, I walked downstairs to tell my husband the news. As soon as I saw him, I knew something was wrong. His shoulders shrugged forward and his head was down and I could see a crease of worry and stress across his forehead. Before I could share my big news, he told me he had just found out he had been laid off from his teaching position because of COVID cutbacks. The great job and a way to pay for our big new house was gone in a flash. My nervous “okay Lord” turned into a stunned silence. This was definitely not our plan.

    I told my husband about our upcoming new addition and we sat together quietly wondering what God might be up to, wishing we could get a sneak peek at how this was all supposed to work out. After what felt like forever sitting there in shock, we started praying about what our new life might look like moving forward, trusting that God indeed had a plan. So, we said, “Okay Lord”.

    I began to do the math on when our bonus baby would arrive. I discovered that my C-section would be scheduled for the same weekend as the Revive! Conference. Revive Ministries is an extension of my own heart and our annual conference was a decades-long dream come to life. Not only was I one of the keynote speakers, but I needed to be there to help as the co-founder of the ministry and co-planner of the event! I had been pouring my heart into my talk for months, excited about the message I felt God had given me to share with the ladies who would attend.

    While I was absolutely thrilled about the baby, I was also heartbroken that I may not get to speak or even be at the conference at all. I desperately tried to make sense of the timing and as the conference got closer, I decided to record my sessions ahead of time, so that I could still speak even if I couldn’t be there in person. I thought I had figured out a way to have my cake and eat it too. After all, God had called me to speak, why wouldn’t He allow me to do this good thing for Him?

    The night before I was scheduled to record my keynote message, I started having contractions. I had been having false contractions for a while, so I didn’t think much of it since we were still a couple weeks out. As we headed to the hospital for a checkup, I told our oldest son that we’d probably be home in an hour. While my husband drove, I was busy mentally rearranging my schedule in case I was going to be late to record later that day. I was not prepared for the nurse to tell me that my water had broken and we were having a baby…like, right now! “Uh, okaaay, Lord?!”

    I couldn’t wait to meet my baby boy, but I also needed those last two weeks! I was still tying up loose ends at work getting ready for maternity leave. I began to realize that I definitely wouldn’t be able to do the conference now, even with all my careful planning. Then, I remembered that the older kids didn’t have anyone coming to stay with them for another 2 weeks! My mind was frantic as I struggled to hold on to the control I foolishly thought I had.

    Usually I pride myself on being able to roll with the punches, but this final huge change of plan left me feeling like I was stuck on a roller coaster, slowly click-clacking up a big hill, just before careening down the other side. It felt scary and precarious, until I remembered the Lord.

    Psalm 145:13-17 says, “The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.”

    As I turned my eyes to the Lord, He helped me to stop striving to control my plans, and helped me submit instead to His. My husband and I prayed and the pieces started to fall into place, because even though we hadn’t planned ahead for an early delivery, the Lord did. The thing I worried about the most was that my doctor wouldn’t be available since we weren’t scheduled to have a baby that day. We had barely said “amen” and the nurse announced that my doctor would be here shortly and just happened to be on shift today. Praise God! My parents went to stay with the kids until another family member could arrive. The delivery went smoothly and a half hour later I was holding our little miracle in my arms.

    When the conference came, I watched it online from home, with my precious baby boy sleeping peacefully by my side. I let the tears fall as I prayed for everyone there, and again surrendered my will to God’s with a quiet whisper, “okay Lord.” I still couldn’t understand why the timing had worked out the way it did and why I didn’t get to be a part of the conference, but I believed that God’s faithfulness was sure, and that I could trust Him.

    My best friend and ministry co-founder, Melissa, spoke in my place at the conference, and within a day, emails started to come in from women who had been impacted by her message. They needed to hear exactly what God had put on her heart to say, in the way that only she could say it. In God’s faithfulness, He had spoken to the hearts of His beloved daughters so they could experience His love and grow in their faith.

    Not only did God provide spiritually, he provided for our physical needs as well. My husband received a call a couple days after we got home from the hospital offering him a long-term sub job that would last the rest of the school year. The job would start a couple of weeks later, just long enough for him to be home with me while I recovered. As amazing as that was, God gave me even more reason to marvel at His goodness.

    At a postpartum appointment with my doctor, I found out that if I had carried the baby until my due date, or even stayed home from the hospital and continued to labor, I would’ve been at risk for some very serious, potentially life-threatening complications that none of us could have known about. But God knew. In His faithfulness, He allowed me to miss the conference, so that I could deliver my baby boy safely and without complication. His total faithfulness in every possible area both humbled me and bolstered my own faith.

    Now when I look at my little one, I can’t imagine life without him. Our family has been blessed beyond what I ever could have dreamed with the addition of Daniel Jacob. In his short two months with us, he has brought more joy and laughter (and maybe a little less sleep 😉) to our lives. The Lord continues to strengthen our relationships with one another as we navigate life together as a family of five. God’s faithfulness transformed our nervous “okay” to a joyful one.

    The only reason I could keep saying “okay Lord” time and time again throughout this whole journey was because I knew without a doubt that God could be trusted to know what lay ahead and believed that He had me firmly in His grasp. I could trust where He was leading, knowing that His faithfulness in the past would see me through anything I might be facing now.

    God is not just faithful in the huge, life-changing details. He is faithful a thousand times a day with the little things too. We can’t always see it in the moment, but God is there. He is working on our behalf, because He loves us so very much. When we hurt, He is faithful to comfort us. When we are discouraged, He is faithful to cheer us. When we pray, He is faithful to listen and meet us in our need. He does what He says He will do. He can’t help it. His goodness and faithfulness are part of His character. You can trust and rely on Him in every way.

    As you finish out your week, look around for ways that He has been faithful, big and small. You might be surprised to see His loving touch in the details of your life too.

    One of my favorite songs, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, has been an anthem of praise when I clearly see God’s faithfulness displayed in my life, as well as a prayer of remembrance & trust when I can’t see Him clearly in my circumstances. These lyrics echo my hearts cry:

    Great is Thy faithfulness!
    Great is Thy faithfulness!
    Morning by morning,
    New mercies I see.
    All I have needed,
    Thy hand has provided.
    Great is Thy faithfulness,
    Lord unto me.

    Wherever you find yourself today, whether singing God’s praise, or praying for Him to reveal His faithfulness to you, I pray that God will meet you right where you are and fill you with a sense of His loving and faithful presence, so you can joyfully say, “Okay Lord!”

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  • When It All Comes Crashing Down

    ***Our friend Amy shares a part of her story in this devotional that includes pregnancy loss. If pregnancy loss is a tender topic for you, please feel free to circle back to today’s devotional in your own time, if you wish.***

    When we experience a crisis (I’m looking at you 2020 👀) it drives people two ways: towards faith or away from it. It often becomes easier to question our faith and allow panic to creep in than to replace that chaos with the peace that Jesus offers us. While it can be difficult to see how God is at work in our circumstances, we have a choice whether we will look for His faithfulness and anchor our hope in Him.

    I remember Aug 12, 2009 like it was yesterday. Nothing could have prepared me for the loss I was about to experience. I was alone in a sonogram room hearing my OB tell me that the 16 week baby I was growing in my belly, no longer had a heart beat. I was devastated. I couldn’t think or understand words–everything just stopped. I left her office in tears, and quickly called my husband from our car. I said “Babe, you need to come home. The baby has no heartbeat.” He was silent and then whispered “Not even a little one?” Next, we had to call our parents and tell our friends. Sitting with our then 4 year old son and telling him that the baby was in heaven now was an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I was experiencing feelings I didn’t know I could even feel.

    I woke up one day, a week or so later, and knew I was at a crossroads. I knew I could either choose to cling to Jesus and trust His path for me (even when I didn’t like it) or I could choose to walk away from my faith and believe that a good God wouldn’t take my baby from me. I chose to cling to my faith, because I knew that this God I loved, this God I had had my faith in since I was a child, was a God who could work all things together for my good. Even this unbearable loss. I wasn’t sure how He would do it, but I knew in my heart that He would.

    In the early days after our loss I would wake up with worship songs in my mind, most often it was The Old Rugged Cross, “I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it someday for a crown.” God was reminding me through this song that hurt is temporary. Loss hurts and that is ok, we have to feel the pain of these situations, but through Jesus’ death on a cross, the loss is not permanent. God gives us hope when we are able to cling to the cross. In His faithfulness, He shows us that we can look beyond what we experience in this world. He will comfort us in our unimaginable pain. Choosing to believe that God is good even when our hearts are shattered into a million pieces, allows space for God to nestle deeper in our hearts and sooth our pain so that we can bring Him glory.

    When we face personal crisis, global pandemics, senseless violence, divorce, a child who walks away from the faith, financial insecurity, addiction, disappointment in your spouse or whatever else your “crisis” is, it is easy to doubt God and His faithfulness and try to get through it on our own. We have the choice to cling to our Creator or to look to the world for comfort. The world doesn’t offer true, lasting comfort–only God can do that.

    God’s word reminds us that God is ever present and always faithful. There are so many verses that show us God’s faithfulness, but one I love dearly is 2 Thessalonians 2:16:

    Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.”

    2 Thessalonians 2:16

    We know this world will hurt us, but ultimately those painful experiences can drive us into the loving arms of Jesus, allowing us to feel the comfort only He can give. Our experiences give us the opportunity to point others to that same loving kindness & heavenly faithfulness. Our initial response in the wake of hurt or uncertainty may be to run from the pain, or try to drown it out. But because of God’s faithfulness, we can bring our hurts to Him, experience the hope that we can have in Him, and draw others to His peace through the comfort He gives us.
    .
    We do NOT have to live like those who have no hope. As Jesus followers, we have the assurance that Christ died for us. We have seen His hand and His faithfulness in our lives day in and day out (especially when we experience crisis). So when disaster strikes we are not broken because we know that we will never be abandoned by our God.

    God never promised us this life would be easy, but He does promise this: He is bigger than any storm we face in this world. And He’s always working for our good, even in the places where we can’t see, even in the circumstances that we don’t fully understand.

    One of my favorite verses that I run to when my heart hurts, or my brain is panicking is John 16:33 which says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

    Did you catch where our peace comes from? Jesus! Jesus is the only place where we can find a peace that doesn’t change regardless of what problems we face. That is faithfulness at its finest. Nothing we do can change God’s love for us. And because of what Jesus has done for us, we can be encouraged because we know how the story ends.

    One day, God will make all wrongs right.

    I am so excited to be a part of Revive Ministries and have this opportunity to share what God has put on my heart. My prayer as I begin this journey with you is that today you would know hope & peace in a way that can only come from Jesus Christ. I want you to know that when your world looks shaky, that in Christ, we have an unshakable hope that doesn’t change based on your current circumstances. Please don’t live without hope. Please don’t live in fear of this world. Please know that there is a God who loves you, even when you don’t know Him. He offers the gift of peace and it is a gift you’ll never regret accepting.

    “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 5:13

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  • Learning to Receive God’s Love

    A few years back I was sitting in a coffee shop with a friend (oh how I long for the days of sitting in a coffee shop with friends) and we were talking about our ability to receive love. I confessed to her that for many years it was hard for me to receive love from others and especially from God. I mean how could God love me when I kept making mistakes or breaking my promises to really change for the better this time?

    But that’s the great thing, God’s love is not conditional, rather it’s unconditional. It’s not based on our successes or our failures or if I have earned it, rather His love is always there for us, we just have to receive it. Do you ever find it hard to let God love you?

    As we sat in that coffee shop that day, I was reminded of John 13 where Jesus was bending down to begin to wash the feet of his disciples. If you are familiar with the story, you may recall that when Jesus gets to Peter, Peter refuses to let Jesus wash his feet. Peter is rejecting Jesus’ act of love. How many times have you rejected receiving Jesus’ love because like Peter you feel it would be selfish, or that you were not worthy to receive such a lavish gesture?

    If you look at verse 8, though, Jesus responds by telling Peter that “unless I wash you, you have not part with me” (NIV). Then in verse 14 Jesus goes on to say “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet” (NIV). This isn’t just a one-way gesture. Jesus isn’t just instructing the disciples to give, but also to receive as He just showed them how to do.

    The nature of God’s love is generative and relational. God’s love towards us creates new love for us to give back. We have the opportunity to multiply love when we receive it, but when we refuse to receive love, we diminish its possibilities. When we do put into practice the act of both giving and receiving love, Jesus reminds us in verse 17 that that’s when we “will experience a life of happiness enriched with untold blessings.” (TPT)

    So how do we receive God’s love? There is an exercise I practice and recommend to others. The truth of God’s love for you is woven throughout His Word and so I encourage you to go on a love scavenger hunt and find the verses of God’s love that speak directly to you. Once you find 5-10 of these verses, read through each statement as you picture God speaking these words over you. In each statement, place your name in the verse. For example, if I were reading Zephaniah 3:17 I would speak out loud “Dawn, for the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (NLT).

    You might find it helpful to write each of the verses you find down on index cards or post-it notes so that you can easily flip your way through them as you go through this practice. Repeat this exercise daily for several weeks and soon you will find that these seeds of love begin to take root in your heart.

    Here are a few other verses to get you started:

    “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10, NIV)

    “This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5, NIV)

    “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

    Remember God loves you just as you are. God’s love is the purest form of love. So pull down the barriers that have prevented you from experiencing His love and allow Him to show you how much He loves you. And as He shows you, receive it. Allow His love to come into your heart, for my dear sister, you are His beloved.

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  • This is Love

    Not too long ago, my family and I celebrated the Advent season together. As the Christmas season approached, I went searching for an Advent calendar to keep us focused on Jesus and connected to each other through the season. I ended up choosing one on “the names of Jesus.”

    Each day we turned over a different card with one of the names of Jesus written in beautifully scrawled lettering, surrounded by soft, Christmas-y designs. I bought it because it was beautiful, but I soon discovered how impactful it was to dive into those twenty-four different names of Jesus and the deeper meaning behind each one. I began to experience a fresh understanding of the vast-ness of God with each new name we discovered. He’s so all-encompassing that there’s really no way to sum up what He’s like in one, two, or even twenty-four names! Each day’s name was so simple yet so profound. “Shepherd.” “The Word.” “Messiah.” “Redeemer.”
    One after the other.

    One of His names especially seems to get mentioned a lot, especially this time of year: “Love.”

    Love. Everyone wants to experience it, to know what it feels like, and to know what it looks like. But will we ever agree on the answers? We were all created with a need to experience love.

    Some people might think Valentine’s Day holds the key: “Well you buy cards and chocolate and lots of balloons, and you eat at a fancy restaurant, and maybe there’s a proposal, and that’s what “love” is!” Well … maybe that’s not the whole story.

    I don’t know if we will ever fully understand what it means for Jesus to be the embodiment of “Love,” but let’s take a closer look together because I believe there are some amazing treasures to be found along the way. Let’s start with a look in the Bible.

    When the New Testament was written, there were four different words in the Greek language used to describe love. I wish we had four different words for love! The variety of experiences we call “love” each look vastly different from each other. Between our families, our friends, our romantic partners, our coworkers, the larger world around us, and even our own relationship with God, there’s just no way that we could sum up all of these experiences into one single word. And that’s how it is with Jesus – there is no way that His love could only be expressed one way. And yet He alone is able to offer sustaining love to all of his creation in the ways that they need it the most.

    Let’s go back to the beginning for a minute. The VERY beginning. To the garden of Eden. Genesis 1:27 (ESV) says, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  

    There’s a simple yet profound truth I’ve come to understand in recent years about God and His image – the image that He created you and I to bear. I didn’t hear this truth in a church service, and I didn’t hear it listening to a podcast or going to a conference. It happened over time during my own personal quiet times reading the Bible and observing how God has interacted with His creation throughout history.

    The truth I discovered is this: God experiences emotions! 

    Maybe you already knew this and you’re thinking “THAT’S your big discovery?!”  Or maybe you’ve never considered this thought before in your life and you’re thinking, “wait … what?!”

    As I read through the Bible, I encounter story after story where God expresses emotions and feelings. Jesus also expressed an immensely broad range of emotions while on earth.

    John 11:1–44 tells us the story of Jesus and his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Lazarus became sick to the point of death and word was sent to Jesus asking Him to come. When Jesus finally arrives in Bethany and encounters Lazarus’ death and the grief of His friends, the Bible says that “Jesus wept,” John 11:35. Jesus was moved by the sadness of His friends. He knew what was going to happen next. He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, and yet He still allowed himself to feel the grief of the moment with his friends. Different translations describe Jesus during this story as being “moved,” and “touched,” and state how much Jesus “loved” this family. So why did Jesus allow himself to feel so much pain when He could have avoided it and just focused on the joy that was to come – raising Lazarus from the dead? I believe there’s an important truth here.

    Jesus allowed himself to feel all the big feelings of being human. He didn’t shy away from them. We, as people made in God’s image, need to realize that Jesus set the example for us to experience this broad range of emotions in life: joy, grief, sadness, anger, thankfulness, compassion … love. Most of us will spend a lifetime learning to identify and unpack the emotions that surface inside us on a daily basis. It’s hard work, and often really uncomfortable! But from what I read in the Bible, allowing ourselves to experience this range of emotions is appropriate, and is actually an example that Jesus himself set for us.

    If you go back and re-read stories from the old testament through this lens, you will begin to notice over and over again just how often God expresses big emotions regarding His people: compassion, love, anger, mercy – some of which we ourselves experience, and yet we sometimes condemn ourselves for having them. Having emotions, even the difficult ones, does not define us. Emotions do not have the power to make us bad, shameful or wrong. In fact, it’s totally normal! It’s part of being made in the “image of God” to feel all the many experiences of life. Where we get to encounter God is in our response to our emotions. This is where we get choices – choices to sin or not sin. Choices to stay stuck in a difficult emotion, or to cry out to God for help. Choices to remain faithful to our word or not.

    “But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!” Eph. 2:4-5 (NLT)

    This rich mercy of God toward us, His creation, overflows into all of His actions. Because of God’s great love for us, we get to experience His grace that saves us, His resurrection that brings us to life, and His presence that sustains us. Throughout history, God has never once failed to keep His promises to His people – His promises to remain faithful, to care for us, to redeem us, and to cleanse us. This is such a humbling reminder! As I follow Jesus day by day and become transformed to be more and more like Him, I hope to gain a greater capacity to experience the many emotions of life and also continue to stay in tune with the Father and His goodness, and His purposes for my life.

    “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He (GOD) will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.” Ephesians 3:16-17a

    “This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us.” 1 John 3:16a (GNT)

    As we approach Valentine’s Day, ask yourself what it looks like to let God’s love overflow from your heart onto those around you. Maybe it’s through a card, or a thoughtful gift, or a phone call, or even simply a prayer. It’s ok for that love to look a little different in each one of us.

    Whether married or single, surrounded by family or alone in our homes, let’s remember that no matter who else we may or may not have in our life, God promises to be with us. This Valentine’s Day if you’re single, know that married women still have to lean on God. And if you are married, remember that your husband is not God – he is simply a man in need of mercy and love, just as we are.

    Let’s remember that God is Love – He is the very definition of it! Without Him, we cannot fully experience the love, joy, or peace we were created to feel. Without holding back from the pain of relationship, God made us in His image, came to earth to have a relationship with us, and then gave himself up to redeem that relationship. This Valentine’s Day, I’m especially thankful for Jesus and the love that He gives us so freely.

    This is love.

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  • Experiencing Belovedness

    It had been one of those days. You know when you just feel like you can’t do anything right and everyone is mad, or at best, annoyed with you? One of those days when my insecurity seems to have me firmly by the reigns, controlling my every thought and word. The kind of day when tears sting behind my eyes, blinking with sheer will-power not to lose it completely, at least not before lunchtime. “Let me get through half the day without a meltdown, Lord” I silently pray.

    I would love to blame it all on tiredness and hormones, as nursing mama with young baby, but the truth is I woke up not feeling very beloved that day. And it felt like everything around me was confirming that lie. My husband was running late that morning and barely had time to inhale breakfast and head out the door with a distracted goodbye. The kids with whom I had spent at least two hours the night before doing homework with, were cranky and tired and complaining about more school work ahead today.

    As my cheerfulness faded to irritation, and feelings of being unappreciated surfaced, the tension in the room rose. I sulked at my husband and was short with the kids, because honestly, I felt like they were all sucking the joy out of the room. I barely had any reserves and they were zapping the last of them with all their negativity and distractedness. I got the kids out the door and off to school, all of us a little worse for wear, and as I sat in my now quiet car, the nagging sensation of conviction set in.

    In the stillness, I began to reflect over the truth of how the morning had really unfolded, separate from my tiredness and fragile emotions, and began to see things more clearly. When my husband was in a rush and hollered “bye, love you” on his way out the door, he wasn’t loving me less by neglecting to swoop in and embrace me Gone-with-the-Wind-style, he was just running late. When my kids were frustrated about school and homework, they weren’t unappreciative of the help I had given them, they were sharing their real feelings about school and homework being a drag. It had nothing to do with me, but somehow, I internalized everything hard that day. And just like that, the enemy had me right where he wanted me–feeling invisible and doubting my own belovedness, and neglecting the belovedness of those around me.

    When I start to doubt my own belovedness, my focus turns wholly on me. The temptation is great to stay powerless in that place, feeling pitiful and dangerously justified because, yes, families should appreciate and love one another and show it. But they are also human and ultimately not responsible for my happiness, confidence or sense of belovedness. That, my dear friend, is an inside job.

    I drove slowly home and offered a meek prayer to God. “Lord, I feel small and powerless and discouraged. How can I feel “beloved” when it feels like the enemy and the world around me is trying to strip me of my belovedness at every opportunity? I need you to take care of me and remind me that I am loved and cherished and precious. Help the kids have an okay day today, and help this afternoon to go better. Amen”

    It felt like a selfish prayer, with more uttered on my own behalf, than that of the ones I had been cross with that morning. But there it was, simple and honest.

    I got home and opened my Bible app, only half believing that I would stumble across a verse that would lift my spirits a bit. Ephesians 3:19 jumped up and smacked me right between the eyes. 

    May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

    Ephesians 3:19 NLT

    I mouthed the verse softly aloud a few times, thinking about the ways I’ve experienced the love of Christ. His love has been made known to me in so many ways. In the lean times, when money was tight and He provided for us, in the times when blessing seemed to overflow beyond anything I could imagine, through the friend who just “had me on her heart” and thought to reach out, only to discover it’s what I desperately needed in that very moment. He has loved me through His Word, pouring out His words of love.

    As I remembered how Jesus interacted with others in the Bible, I see Him relating to me as well. Tender, patient, kind and cherishing me not as just a person who is loved, but as one of His beloved. Set apart and precious, worthy and treasured. More than liked or tolerated, but worth dying for. A deeper love than I could ever imagine, just like the Bible says, “too great to understand fully”. I was experiencing the love of Christ in that very moment as I reflected on Him, instead of me.

    It was then that I felt my worth return, then that I began to feel truly beloved again, because it is from experiencing the love of Christ that all-sufficient grace flows. It is the place from where I draw my reserves, where I find contentment and peace that passes understanding, and where I find the strength and patience to plod ahead on tough days.

    The love of Christ sustains me when I am weak and restores me when I am weary. And true to God’s promise, it was then that I felt complete and content. Refilled and ready to live in the fullness of life again, instead of the empty place where the enemy would have left me. It was then that the power of the Holy Spirit that comes from God, lifted me out of my funk and set my feet back on solid ground.

    I picked up my kids with a different attitude that afternoon. My circumstances had not changed one bit, but my perspective and the source of my power had shifted dramatically. Instead of feeling small and powerless against my own emotions and the emotions of others, I felt steady and secure. God had reminded me of who I am and that He alone determines my worth and my belovedness. And when I stopped to remember how I have experienced the love of Christ, and who I am because of it, it changed everything.

    We went on to have a lovely day after that and by God’s power, I was able not only to be content in my own belovedness, but I was able to affirm to my family that they are God’s beloved as well. The change in the air was palpable.

    While I have shared about a situation with my family, any of us can find ourselves in the same murky waters in any season or circumstance of life. There are plenty of opportunities out in the great big world that can easily wear on our sense of belovedness. A harsh word from a friend or co-worker, wrestling with loneliness, insecurity or heartache, being overworked and burned out, or just plain waking up on the wrong side of the bed. The devil is always on the lookout for ways to get us stuck feeling less than beloved. But Jesus is ever present, all powerful and faithful to pluck us up out of our despair, and restore us to wholeness in His love.

    Today my dear friend, that is my prayer for you. That you may experience the love of Christ, even though it can feel like a bit of a mystery, so that you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Lean into His love, make your home there and let His joy and peace fill you to overflowing.

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