The Truth About a Faith That Stumbles on Water

A few weeks ago I posted the verse below from Galatians 6:9 about not growing weary of doing good, which has become my anchor in this season of busy schedules and church planting challenges. It’s perfect for this season because it easily applies to every area of my life in which I desire to remain steadfast.

Do not grow weary of setting aside time to abide in the Vine.

Do not grow weary of loving and listening to my husband.

Do not grow weary of training up my children.

Do not grow weary of being a good friend and neighbor.

Do not grow weary of keeping my home tidy.

Do not grow weary of eating healthy and exercising even when….maybe especially when… the scale doesn’t budge.

Do not grow weary of…

The list could extend for pages, really.

We've all heard the story of Peter walking on water, yet we often focus on the miracle itself rather than what it teaches us about faith. We want victorious faith - the kind that leaps and soars. But sometimes what we really need is a faith that stumbles on water. Click through to read more about why you need this kind of faith! Why You Need a Faith that Stumbles on Water

 

So, I posted this verse on the blog facebook page and after seeing it there a few times, kind of forgot about it.

And wouldn’t you know that after weeks of not having a single new visitor (and very few actual attendees), we had not one… not two… but three unexpected guests last Sunday! In fact, one couple has been invited nearly every week by my persistent husband since the church plant opened way back during Easter.

There’s more. After prayer walking that same Sunday afternoon, we had almost a dozen extra visitors during our bread ministry that week and actually ran out of bread!

Do you think maybe the Lord was trying to teach us something? ;)

Here’s the thing: Sometimes we’ve prayed for something so fervently, and for so long, that we quit waiting expectantly. And then when the answer comes, when the need is met, we fail to recognize the significance.

As a daughter of the Most High, I often grow childishly impatient. I want an answer right now. I want clarity. I want an inkling of the Father’s plan. I want some sort of tangible evidence that we are on the right path.

If I’m honest, I want miracles.

And this is where I can most relate to Peter, who asked to walk on water with Jesus and then stumbled, nearly drowning in his own doubt.

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  Mt. 14:28-29

I’m sure that first step was a mountaintop experience, a spiritual high like none other. I’m sure Peter was elated, soaring on faith-wings that yearned to stretch wider and swoop higher!

Yes, I’m doing it. I’m doing it!

I’m equally certain that the floundering steps that followed were terrifying.

Maybe it felt like too big of a leap of faith. Maybe the wind and waves increased in size and ferocity. For whatever reason, his confidence wavered.

Wait, am I really doing this? What if I can’t keep it up?  What if my faith is too small?

But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Mt. 14:30-31

What right did Peter have to walk on water in the first place?

Who was he to make such a bold request?

He was no one.

A nobody.

Yet in the eyes of Jesus, he was worth an abundant amount of time, effort, and instruction. He was worth forgiving even as he was busy betraying.

And before Jesus left this earth, He claimed His Church would be built upon Peter. Imperfect Peter with the imperfect faith (Mt. 16:18).

You see, friends, we need a faith that leaps – yes, we do, but we also need a faith that stumbles on water.

We've all heard the story of Peter walking on water, yet we often focus on the miracle itself rather than what it teaches us about faith. We want victorious faith - the kind that leaps and soars. But sometimes what we really need is a faith that stumbles on water. Click through to read more about why you need this kind of faith! Why You Need a Faith that Stumbles

We need that sudden sinking, that floundering fear that drives us straight into the arms of our Savior. Because when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor. 12:10).

It’s when we begin to think that we can do it on our own, when that smidgen of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency sneaks its way in, that  we should truly be frightened. That truth has never been more clear to me than these last few years of struggle.

Friends, if I only talked about the faith that leaps, I’d be remiss.

I’d be painting only half of the picture.

The truth is that these last few months have been full of walking-on-water moments followed by sudden sinking and ultimately a return to the truth that trumps all others – we need Him.

We need our Father God.

We cannot do it alone as much as our perfectionism preaches to us that we can, for even our very faith comes from the Lord and not ourselves (Eph.2:8-9).

We need to keep believing that He will “show up” for us. We need to keep waiting expectantly. We need to look for the work-in-progress He is completing in us.

So, if you’ve had some of those moments of stumbling on the water lately, take heart and look to Jesus just as Peter did.

And in the words of Toby Mac,

“Keep walkin’.”

Jen :)

Sharing with: Grace and Truth, Faith Filled Friday, Tell His Story

Why You Need to Take a Leap of Faith ~ and a Giveaway!

Sometimes, … no quite often, God asks us to do things that make us incredibly uncomfortable.  And like the shy kid who hates reading in front of the class, we have a choice to make.

Will we follow, take the leap of faith?

Or will we back away from the edge in fear and miss our chance to really soar?

The Father has been sending me quite the message about fear lately, and I know He’s sending some of you that same message, too.

Fear not.

It’s the same message from three years ago when I typed out my first public confession here in this space.  You see, I thought that blogging would be a less terrifying, safer way to obey the Lord in using this gift of writing for His glory.  I think about that now and just laugh because there is nothing less scary or safe about writing about the hard things in life.

There’s nothing safe about writing how you sometimes feel unloved, or you sometimes fail at loving others.  There’s nothing safe about writing out your own sin for the whole world to read.

Listen to me, friends, there’s nothing safe about sharing your story, whatever it might be, but there’s nothing quite as beautiful either because when you do, you get to hear “me, too” and “I needed that” and “thank you.”  You find out there are so many other work-in-progress women out there in the world who struggle through the same life lessons as you.

You learn that while you set out to encourage and exhort others through this thing called writing, your Father set out to encourage and exhort you.

But the most beautiful part?

You get to take part in God’s story.

That’s why you need a faith that leaps because when we obey, when we take that risk of being foolish for the sake of Christ, we join in the work of reaching others for His Name. And there is nothing more difficult yet infinitely more rewarding than that, is there?

 

When we reach the edge of the cliff the Lord leads us to, we have two choices: we can either back away in fear, or we can take a leap of faith. What leap is He asking you to take?  Why You Need a  Faith that Leaps

 

Is it worth it, this leap of faith?

Yes, a thousand times yes.

It’s worth it, friends.

That hard thing He wants you to do? That person you need to talk to? That story you need to share? That sin you need to confess? That future that He wants you to leap in to?

Take the leap, friend.

And I’m not talking about the feel-good, positive-vibes leap of faith in yourself. I’m not talking about the dream-your-own-dreams, you-can-do-it, make-your-own-destiny kind of leap.

I’m talking about the leap of faith that asks you to deny yourself and take up your cross. The leap of faith that scares the pants off of you because you’re fairly certain you are not capable on your own.  The leap of faith that is only possible because you serve the God of the impossible.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, andtake up his cross and follow Me.” Mt. 16:24 (NASB)

I’m talking about a leap of faith with its object and focus as the Creator of the Universe, the God who holds you in the palm of His hand, the One who will never leave you nor forsake, who plans to prosper you and not to harm you.

Take that leap of faith, friend.

To do otherwise is to willfully choose disobedience.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Heb. 11:6 (NASB)

Choose faith and find yourself in awe of the Lord who works in and through you!

Jen :)

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It was a big week for Being Confident of This!

The facebook page reached 1,000 likes earlier last week, and with the Father’s help (because many, many times I wanted to just quit), we also passed the three-year mark here at the blog.  So, to celebrate this blogiversary and God’s faithfulness, let’s have a giveaway of some of my favorite Christian living resources! You won’t say no to that, right? ;)

Enter for your chance to win four amazing Christian Living resources!  Christian Living Giveaway at Being Confident of This

What I’m giving away to the winner:

By This Name by John Cross

This is our preferred Creation-to-Christ resource for strengthening anyone’s understanding of the Bible as a whole. It is our go-to tool for evangelism, discipleship, and so forth.

Every Wife’s Choice by Sarah Fairchild

My favorite resource for every marriage (and not just because it’s written by my talented sister)! Sarah delves into the greek roots of the famous First Corinthians 13 passage on love to reveal truths about the choices we have in loving our husbands. Packed with humorous anecdotes, this read will both challenge and encourage you as a wife.

Praying the Promises of the Cross by Arabah Joy

I had the privilege of working on the graphics for this printable prayer journal (pdf version).  Each day contains a brief yet powerful devotional reading about the promises of the cross, a scripture to read and write out, and a section to write out your own prayer.

Philippians 1:6 Printable from me

This 8×10 print will remind you of your work-in-progress status and the hope you have in Christ to one day be complete!  Be sure to hang it where you will see it often. :)

Okay, time to enter – and don’t forget to share this around so your friends can enter, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Being Confident of This makes use of affiliate links. For more information, please see the homepage. Thank you for helping to support this blog!

Sharing with: Grace and Truth, Faith Filled Friday, Coffee for Your Heart

All We Like Sheep ~ Grace and Truth Week 18

It’s Friday, Friday, Friday! Do you ever do a little happy dance when Friday rolls around?  Please say I’m not the only one… :)

One of the best parts of my Fridays is being able to participate in this amazing link-up for Christian bloggers who write about Christian Living. Each week I have the privilege of reading through some of your posts. Some weeks I find the encouragement I need and others I find the conviction I need.

We spur one another on in the faith race here, and I want you all to know how much I appreciate that!

This week I’d like to point you in the direction of Lois from Live Nourished. Lois shared an insightful post on how we are like sheep – and not the cute and cuddly kind you might be thinking of.  She also included a sweet printable to help us remember to “Fear not!” Click the picture below to pay her a visit and send some encouragement her way, will you? :)

Lois, feel free to grab the featured button below and add it to your sidebar or elsewhere on your blog!

I’ll see the rest of you in the link-up.

Remember this week – fear not!

Jen :)

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Satisfaction Through Christ
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3.) Visit 1-2 other links and leave a meaningful comment! We want to encourage community, so please don’t link and run!

4.) All links are randomly sorted – feel free to link as early or as late as you’d like. The playing field is even!

In order to be featured next week:

5.) Grab a button or link back to encourage new linkers. This is not mandatory to participate, but is required to be featured.

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Fear and Blogging ~ Grace and Truth Week 9

Hello, faithful readers! It’s that time of week again when we all gather ’round for some encouragement. How is everyone? Has the week been victorious?  Has it been rough?  Has it been a roller coaster of in-betweens?

Wherever you are in the spectrum this Friday, keep in mind that Jesus knows; He understands.  Whether we’re sorrowing or rejoicing, struggling or persevering, He’s with us. He’s FOR us. That gives me comfort, friends!

This week I’m happy to introduce you to Shari Lynne who blogs at Faith Filled Food For Moms. In this week’s featured post, Shari writes all about that fear that all of us face in blogging, but honestly, her words could apply to so many areas of life.  Are we doing too much? not enough? right? wrong? and on it goes. We all know the struggle of wanting to do our best at something, yes? :)

I love this line in particular from her post:

Fear…Fear…Fear

Unfortunately this can lead to striving OR it can paralyze us into doing nothing or even worse…quitting!

How true!  We can swing from one extreme to the other if we miss her important advice.  Click on the graphic below to read it!

fear in writing, fear in blogging, wanting to do the best in blogging, how to fear less and blog more, Grace and Truth link-up

Jen :)

Thanks for linking up with us last week. If you were featured, feel free to grab a featured button below!

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Grace & Truth : A Weekly Christian Link Up

Grace & Truth exists to point people to Jesus! We hope this link-up will be a source of encouragement each and every week. If you’re a blogger our hope is that you’ll use this space as a way to meet new friends within the Christian blogging community. If you’re a reader our hope is that you’ll meet new bloggers that love Jesus just as much as you do! Most of all, we hope you’ll meet Jesus here.

Meet Your Hosts

Satisfaction Through Christ
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Kaylene Yoder
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The Brown Tribe
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Arabah Joy
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A Divine Encounter
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Being Confident of This
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Busy Being Blessed
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1.) Follow your hosts via their blog and/or social media channels. This is not mandatory, but appreciated!

2.) Leave 1-2 of your most recent CHRISTIAN LIVING posts. Please do not link DIY, Crafts, Recipes, etc. Links of this kind will be deleted. We also reserve the right to delete posts that don’t align with the theme or that are deemed by the hostesses to be inappropriate.

3.) Visit 1-2 other links and leave a meaningful comment! We want to encourage community, so please don’t link and run!

4.) All links are randomly sorted – feel free to link as early or as late as you’d like. The playing field is even!

In order to be featured next week:

5.) Grab a button or link back to encourage new linkers. This is not mandatory to participate, but is required to be featured.

6.) Each host will choose one link to feature and promote via their social media channels next week.

7.) By linking up you agree to allow the hosts to use your featured post image if you are chosen as a feature for next week.

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Courage to Face a Giant

Have you ever asked the Father for something big, something miraculous, and been so afraid that He might choose to say no that you avoid His presence altogether?

I have.

So you hide away, like the original sinners amongst the leaves in the garden, and when He calls, you cower because what if you don’t like what He has to say?  What if you don’t have the courage to face what’s coming?

Yeah, that’s me lately.

Courage, fear, cowering, hiding, avoiding

You feel this yearning to give in and stumble to His arms, yet your stubborn heart resists with questions like why? and right now?

My sisters in Christ, have you ever felt like David before Goliath,  wondering what happened to your army, praying for the courage to “fight the good fight” even if it means you’re doing it alone?

Yeah, that’s me, too.

And perhaps, like me, you feel more than a little lonely standing there with your simple slingshot in hand. Maybe you long for a superhero sidekick or two…or three.

As you stand there, wind in your face, jeers wafting through the air from the Enemy’s camp, you hear a still small voice speak, “Courage!”

“Take Courage, my daughter.”

That’s the message I’ve been receiving from the Father all year long.

He’s been sending it to me a million different ways. Through a Beth Moore simulcast.  Through Bible Study.  Through a talk He had me prepare for a MOPS group. Through prayer and quiet time.  Through facebook posts and pintrest pins… you name the method – He’s used it.

At times I’ve soared gloriously on that message, that promise.  Other times I find myself a doubting Thomas, looking for evidence, asking for proof.

And I keep looking for rescue to come in human form, but He tells me, “Courage.”

Galations 1:1-0

 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

At first, I thought He meant the message for me in one specific area – that of pursuing writing and speaking.  But after a while I began to see that Courage applies to so many other areas of my life – marriage, parenting, trusting God, finances, and lately… well, this potentially life-changing  Giant.

Here’s the thing I’m learning about Courage, sisters:

       it’s not supposed to come from me or you or any human source.

Surprised? I was.

 

Have you ever felt like David before Goliath,  wondering what happened to your army, praying for the courage to “fight the good fight” even if it means you’re doing it alone? Words for those times when you need courage to face life's "giants." There is only one way to succeed, and it doesn't depend on human effort! Courage to face a Giant from Being Confident of This

When you search for the word Courage in the Old Testament, you often find it used in connection with the phrase “be strong,” especially in the early years of Joshua’s leadership.

Keep in mind that Joshua was new in his leadership role, and he had some big shoes to fill. I mean, who wants to follow Moses, the man with the burning bush experience and the credit of leading the Israelites out of slavery?!

In addition, Joshua faced the enormous task of leading the people of Israel to conquer the Promised Land – hooray, right?!  Well, sure that sounds good after wandering in the desert an extra forty years, but something I didn’t realize until this year is that the Promised Land wasn’t empty.

No.

The Promised Land was filled with “giants” and well-fortified cities.  Joshua faced this very land.  No more Moses to look up to and learn from.  He was flying on his own set of wings now with a seemingly impossible task lying before him.

I’m sure Joshua was afraid. I’m sure he wasn’t completely certain that he was up to the task.

I’m positive because the Lord reassured him again and again in the first chapters of Joshua that He would be with Joshua.  He commanded Joshua four times to “be strong and courageous” in the first chapter alone!

And I’ve realized something about myself this year: I’ve taken the world’s view on Courage – you know, chin up, man up, just do it, what’s the worst that can happen, and all of the other sentiments we use to get past fear.

Maybe you have taken that view, too, without even realizing it.

But that’s just not God’s view, my sisters;  that’s not what He’s telling Joshua. It’s not what He’s telling me or you, either. Because when you look up the Hebrew for “strong and courageous,” you find both words or phrases (be strong, take courage) linked back to the Hebrew root “chazaq”  (pronounced khaw-zak’).

Last year I wrote about that root, but I was more focused on waiting patiently.

This year He’s telling me, “Take Courage!”

We must take it, you see, because “chazaq” doesn’t come from any human source. No, chazaq comes from a supernatural act:

as in David’s triumph over Goliath,

as in Samson pushing down the pillars,

as in angel armies going before Joshua as he led the Israelites in battle for the Promised Land.

Don’t you see? The courage comes from Him, sisters!  He doesn’t expect us to muster courage up within ourselves. He offers it from His very nature, for our taking!

Words for those times when you need courage to face life's "giants." There is only one way to succeed, and it doesn't depend on human effort!

It’s true. We’re destined to succeed in whatever He sets before us when “chazaq” comes into play.

So, I’m asking for some BIG things right now, Father.  And I’m a little afraid, so I’ve been hiding out, avoiding your Presence.  Hiding has only served to leave me feeling lonely and a little bit miserable. But like my friend Arabah Joy wrote, I’m asking for “rain” and I’m taking my umbrella with me.  I know I’m lacking in the courage department right now and the fear seems to be winning a little bit.  But I hear you say, “Courage, daughter,” and I know that means that You’ve got this. Chazaq – it’s Your Courage, not mine.

It’s Your battle, not mine.

Suddenly that giant doesn’t seem so big.

And I’m crying, but I’m grinning, too, ‘cause I’ve missed you, Father.

I’ve missed you.

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lordyour God is with you wherever you go.

I hear Him whisper Courage to me, and to you, too, sister.

Do you hear it?

Jen :)

Sharing with: #TheLoft, Cornerstone Confessions, Rich Faith Rising, Missional Women, Jennifer Dukes Lee/Tell His Story, Work in progress Wednesdays, Grace and Truth

Fighting Fear With Pre-approval

In just two days time, I’ll be bearing a bit of my heart here on this blog.  I’ll be sharing my story, my part of the Thursday series – Verdict on Value.  And once again, I find myself a little afraid. :)

It happens sometimes when you write, especially when the subject matter brings up conflicting emotions. You may feel confident at first, but then you begin to doubt and fear. You face your own insecurity.

Will the words really matter?  Will others understand?  Have I handled this subject fairly?

And the worst of all fears. What will people think?

That’s really what it boils down to: how others might receive those carefully penned or typed words, some that brought forth smiles and fond memories and others that brought forth tears and sorrow.

I’ve been learning my whole life it seems how to let go of that pressure, the pressure to be perfect.  And not that anyone ever told me I had to be, because they didn’t, but that I convinced myself it was necessary, like so many other undesired sacrifices.

I wanted to be the good girl, the best girl, and if I’m being really honest there is still some little part of me that wants this, too.

Even from those early toddler calls of "Look at me, mommy!", we want to be seen, to be valued, to be approved. But we so often look for approval from this world rather than from the Maker of this world!  Here's how to avoid the perfectionism trap.

I see it now even in one of my young sons.  He yearns for praise.  I often catch him bragging because he yearns for others to see how wonderful he is.  And truly, he is wonderful (especially in this mama’s eyes), but it hurts me to see him striving so at such a young age.

At the same time it reminds me that I still struggle myself.  So, how can I help him to see the truths that I’m still learning to recognize?

I can only hope that being honest, taking down the facade, and admitting my own fear and insecurity will help him to recognize that we all fall short, we all do.  Ever since the days of paradise and a forbidden apple eaten, we all fall short.

I can only hope that teaching him of a Savior who turns those weaknesses into strengths,

who has a plan for him,

who loves him just for who he is and not what he does,

who cherished him even before he was born,

who welcomes him with open arms when he fails – I can only hope that such knowledge will sink deep roots into his young heart much earlier than those truths began to sink into mine.

I’ve been reading Jennifer Dukes Lee’s posts about our Love Idols, and I’m realizing how early it starts, this yearning to be approved by this world when we are already approved by the Maker of this world.

Even from those early toddler calls of “Look at me, mommy!”, we want to be seen, to be valued, to be approved.

 “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God?

Or am I striving to please men?”

Gal. 1:10 (a)

Sadly, some of us Christ-followers, will spend our entire lives chasing that approval, all the while fearing that we just aren’t good enough.

We’ll miss the irony that we are already pre-approved by the most powerful Person in all of creation because of His Son!

If we could only grasp that early on and not waste precious years searching for something we already have in our possession.

fear, approval, self-worth, identity in Christ, worth in Christ

But we can, friends.

We can begin right now.

We can ferret out those love idols in our lives and hand them over to our gracious and loving Father.  We can cling to the hope of imperfect progress and proclaim the bold truths of Philippians 1:6!

We can share with others what we are doing and ask them to do the same.  We can speak truth to our children about this pre-approval, bought at the price of a one and only Son.

I’m asking the Lord to help me lay down my fear and insecurity, my need for human approval and perceived perfection.  I’m asking Him to work in the hearts of my children, that they will learn early on what it means to be cherished by the One True God, King of Kings, Sovereign Lord, the Most High.

I’m asking the Father to open their eyes wide to these truths.

And I’m asking for you, too, my friends, that you will see how fearfully and wonderfully made you are in the eyes of your Creator.

We who’ve been painted red that we might be white as snow.

I’m banishing fear for tonight in favor of truth.

Join me, will you?

Jen :)

For more information on the Love Idol movement, check out the facebook page!

I’m sharing this here:

 The Time Warp Wife, Rich Faith Rising, Jennifer Dukes Lee, Wholehearted Home, A Little R&R,

Woman to Woman,Titus 2 Tuesday,Cornerstone Confessions,

 

Fear No Evil, Just Write

Write.

Writing has been necessary for me from a very young age.  In the early years I wrote for creativity’s sake.  I reveled in developing stories for my pleasure alone, not worrying what anyone else thought.  Even as I grew older, school writing assignments brought a smile to my face while the rest of my classmates groaned.

As a teen, my writing became more introverted – the good old diary was my space of choice.  I could say whatever I wanted to whomever I wanted without being afraid of rejection or repercussion.

But at some point in time, we had to start sharing our writing with “peers” in class and suddenly, writing became a little more scary.

I wrote less and less until almost not at all unless it was for a school assignment.

And then marriage, and then babies…

Although hidden, the urge to write remained and burst forth in occasional poems, encouraging notes, or impassioned letters to the editor.  I might take that desire out for a bit, dust it off, and admire it, yet put it back in the box neatly where it was safe.

Safe.

Because the thing about writing is that it’s sort of a portal to the soul, whether you want it to be or not.  A lie detector test.  A forced honesty of character and feeling.

This is why writing really scares us. Because the thing about writing is that it's sort of a portal to the soul, whether you want it to be or not.  A lie detector test.  A forced honesty of character and feeling. But we do write despite fear because Christ compels us!

And sometimes I don’t want to be that open with the world.  I fear my words might not be good enough, my ideas not great enough, that I’M not enough.

I fear my failings as a work-in-progress woman.  I fear others might see the real me.  Because as our friend, Lisa-Jo Baker said, control is an illusion, and writing out truths here in this small space breaks that illusion apart bit by bit.

There’s fear in the writing, and sometimes pain in the writing, but also joy, and wonder, and beauty, and peace, and understanding.

Isn’t that the way it is with all things in life? :)

I wonder if the psalmist David faced such fears, or if he just wrote because he had to, because it was in him?

Imagine if he had never penned his agonies or his alternating ecstasies. Imagine if he thought no one would to ever read the words or sing the melodies, so why create them in the first place?  Or worse yet, some might read them and scoff, so why bother?

This is why writing really scares us. Because the thing about writing is that it's sort of a portal to the soul, whether you want it to be or not.  A lie detector test.  A forced honesty of character and feeling. But we do write despite fear because Christ compels us!

We must write because our Father God has called us to be truth-tellers and truth-spreaders.  We must write because it. is. in us!

We must write.

We must write because the writing forces honesty, and how can we grow, how can we progress, friends, if we languish in the illusion that is not?

So, we put on a brave face and just write.

We write happy words and sad words.

We write in victory and also in defeat.

We write hardships and pain and laughter and delight.

We write comfort.

We write, “Me, too.”

We write real.

And we trust Him to do the rest.

Jen :)

I’m joining the Five Minute Friday crew again this week over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place.  We free-write for 5 Minutes on a one-word prompt.  It’s scary; it’s fun; it’s crazy. And so often, it’s oh-so-beautiful.  Join us if you like! (Note: this post has since been edited slightly, so it’s not a true five-minute Friday, but close!)

Also sharing with: Wholehearted Home

Taught by Twins

taught by twins

Close to five years ago, God chose to bless our family in a totally unexpected way.  It was a blessing I never would have chosen for myself, one I was completely unprepared for and one that brought with it a great deal of anxiety.  It’s a blessing that often continues to challenge me today.

The blessing we received was the gift of two children at one time – twins!  From the moment we received that awe-inspiring news, I began to worry.  The truth is that I like to be in control; I like to plan things in advance.  I like life to be organized and tidy, not uncertain or chaotic.  Two babies at once was not part of my plan!  In my turmoil, I didn’t know whether to yell, “Praise the Lord!” or break down in tears.

Thus, I spent the early portion of my twin pregnancy struggling with fear, worry, and what if’s that I never even considered with my first two pregnancies.  What if we lost one or both of them?  What if they were born prematurely?  What if they had medical issues?  What if I had to have a C-section? What if I just couldn’t handle twins?  What if our middle child (then our youngest) couldn’t handle being displaced by two siblings at once?  What if I couldn’t figure out how to nurse two at a time?  What if we didn’t have enough money?  The doubts strung out in a long line.

twins medical

On top of the what ifs, I was riding the roller coaster of amplified pregnancy hormones as a result of carrying two babies at one time.  One moment I felt euphoric excitement and extreme gratitude for this unexpected blessing and the next – sheer terror.  Even my fear became complicated by the addition of guilt, guilt for sometimes thinking, “it would be easier if it was just one baby,” or “this wasn’t in our plan.” As soon as the errant thoughts entered my consciousness, I felt a shame like no other.  So many women would give anything to carry just one baby, and here I was complaining to myself that I was being blessed with two!

I knew I was sinning.  I knew I needed to trust God more.  I knew that He was in control!  I knew His grace was sufficient for me.  If He chose to give us twins, then He knew we could handle it with His strength. I prayed constantly over these truths, but I was having so much trouble believing them. I put up a good outer front – it was easy to share my excitement with others and leave out the more shameful feelings.

One day when I confessed my worry that I would be inadequate, a wise woman at my church kindly told me that God knew I could handle two at once, or He would not have entrusted these babies to me.  A light bulb burst into light, and I suddenly saw my unexpected twin pregnancy anew, as an honor, a privilege.  Instead of reveling in my blessing, I was wallowing in worry.  I was wasting this unique experience.

twins and me

Little by little, the Lord began providing for our physical needs, as if to provide physical evidence for my skeptical spirit.  He knew we needed a larger vehicle, so He provided a minivan for our family at very little cost to us.  He knew we’d need double the clothing, so He sent neighbors and friends with bags of gently used clothing and other baby necessities.

Our church family collected gifts for us also, including a mountain of diapers that tumbled over onto the floor of the bedroom closet. We received countless gift cards, often from unexpected sources!  I was completely overwhelmed by a God who takes seemingly impossible situations and works out the details without any help on our part, and I praised Him for meeting our needs and encouraging us on this new journey.

My pregnancy progressed as uneventfully as a twin pregnancy can and as I neared the end, I thought we might actually make it to full term.  The specialist I was seeing joked about how great my uterus was and how well my body was built for carrying babies.  I beamed, pleased my body was cooperating so nicely. All was well.

And then the swelling began: first my legs, then my hands, and finally my face.  I knew it was pre-eclampsia because I’d experienced it twice before but never this quickly.  I called the specialist to report my symptoms, already knowing the answer I would receive.  Come to the office immediately.

Not long after arriving at the office, I was ushered over to the hospital and told that a C-section was imminent.  C-section: that dreaded word that made me want to run in the opposite direction.  Furthermore, my pregnancy had only just reached 34 weeks, so I required steroid  injections to help mature the babies’ lungs before operating.

As excited as I was to meet our two bundles of joy, fear of the unknown crept back in, slowly and silently.  I feared the C-section recovery.  I feared the health issues facing my premature infants.  Fear slipped in little by little until suddenly, it was upon me and I could scarcely breathe.  I momentarily forgot that God was in control.  I forgot that He had demonstrated His provision over and over again for the past seven months in some very big ways.  I forgot that He promises to be faithful, and I had a pity party for myself right there in my hospital bed.  I cried.  I worried. I wallowed in fear, took a bath in its darkness. I wondered why.  Why, God?

Our twins arrived the next morning via C-section at right around five pounds each and were quickly whisked away to the NICU. It was the beginning of a very long week.  We existed in a sort of haze, but we survived.  I put off dealing with my fears and thought surely things would get better once we settled in at home. Surely I wouldn’t worry so much having them right next to me instead of in another section of the hospital.

twins in carseats

However, when we finally did make it home, I realized very quickly that it was just the beginning of a long haul.  Both babies came home on apnea monitors, which made just about everything more difficult: feeding, sleeping, travelling, and so forth.  Additionally, we had already spent an entire week apart from our two older boys, including missing our oldest’s birthday party, so they were understandably needy, as well.

The nights were even more difficult as we woke ourselves every three hours to feed babies that needed assistance, and then I still had to pump.  It was exhausting, and I continued to worry about them.  Did they drink enough? Would they gain weight?  Would I ever be able to nurse them?  What should I do when they both cry at once?  How can I get them on a schedule when one seems to need more sleep than the other?  So much uncertainty.

At first, I read a lot of literature on parenting twins, scheduling, and so forth.  I worked at getting them on the same schedule and tried not to feel guilty about the lack of time with our older children.  I decided to focus less on doing everything right and focus more on just surviving the day to day grind.  I spent time in the Word.  I prayed ever more fervently for strength and wisdom.  He told me to let go.  Quit worrying.  Trust Him that even if I somehow did something wrong, my children would still be okay.

It took a few months to come to grips with the fact that my prior parenting experience held little value in this new four-child-family world.  I had to adapt my lofty ideals to techniques that would actually work for our family.  I even resigned myself to the fact that I might not ever be able to nurse the way I wanted to (although we did eventually figure out how to tandem nurse).

I gave up on having things “just so” and became content with “good enough.” 

twins gracie arms out

I gave in to my infant son’s desire to be held…a lot..and my daughter’s desire not to be swaddled.  I learned they were different from one another.  I learned to find quiet moments with my older children and to understand that jealousy was just a part of life for siblings, whether they have one sibling or many.

twins thriving

One day as I sat on the floor with my incredible infants, it dawned on me that we were no longer just surviving; we were actually THRIVING!  All four of our children were happy and despite continuing medical issues, the twins were growing and learning.  I even felt more connected to my husband as our busy household required more teamwork than ever before.  In fact, despite little sleep and little “me time,” I was superbly content.

Watching my two infants smile at one another, holding them both in my arms at once, feeding them together – all of these things brought me a greater joy than I ever could have imagined.  If you have ever seen two babies giggle and smile at one another or sleep peacefully side by side, then you know the joy I’m referring to.  It is overwhelming in its beauty.

twins sleep2

I admit: life wasn’t always pretty.  We still had difficult days, but the smooth days eclipsed the rough ones. I thanked the God who gave me a blessing I didn’t deserve, the blessing I didn’t ask for, the blessing I would never have chosen for myself.

When God gave us twins, He taught me a few very valuable lessons that I try to carry with me still.  He taught me that Philippians 4:13 really IS true.  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” isn’t just a nice saying, but He really can give me physical strength for the day!

I can do all things

He also taught me that I needed to relax as a parent.

So what if our school age son still doesn’t know how to tie his shoes because we had twins the year before he started kindergarten?  So what if I don’t feed my children a food-pyramid-perfect meal three times a day, every day?  So what if my oldest occasionally runs out of clean clothing?  So what if the tv is on more than I’d like?

There are so many more important things in life than the details of the day to day grind of being mother to a larger than average family.  Things like relationships. Love. Attentiveness. Contentment.

twins tall

The Lord showed me that if I want that abundant life my heart so desires, I need to do the opposite of what makes sense to me.  I need to quit trying harder, quit controlling more, and just relax.  Relax in His grace.  Relax in His presence.  I don’t have to control it all because He is in control.  If I remain close to Him, the details will work themselves out, often in a more stunning way than I ever thought possible.

Jeremiah 29:11 became very real to me.

Image

I’m profusely thankful that His plans for our hope and future included twins.  Like the Israelites in the desert, I would have settled for a return to Egypt rather than experience the glory of the Promised Land.  But He had a bigger blessings in mind for us.

Can you recall a time when God’s plans failed to match up with your plans? What were the results?

Jen :)