Why tiny things might hurt so deeply

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Your life used to have that old form. It was nice. You had learned to wear it, to dress your day in the shape it took. It almost felt like a part of you. But then, it was different.

Life took on a different form. Change can happen in a moment and there may have been one instant when it all shifted. But the heart inside you cannot make a shift in a single instant.

Even if on the outside life appeared to keep going on as always, it still happened. And something started happening inside you the day the shift came.

That shape of your life that felt like a part of you, it said goodbye. But it couldn’t wait for you finish saying goodbye back. Because how do you even say goodbye to something that feels like part of you?

And even as you tried to keep your head up and move forward, even if you weren’t going to let it get to you when that part of your life said goodbye… it was after that, that all those old pieces of your life that had said goodbye to you before, came back to enter your memory and remind you of what you’ve lost, to remind you of who you’re not, and the way your life does not look today.  

And while I’m talking to myself, maybe you can relate somehow. Because the Word says there are no struggles except what is common to our experience as people.   

And maybe you’ve had a baby or moved to a new city. Maybe you’ve had to part ways with a person whether you both stayed on this earth or not. Maybe you’ve lost a responsibility or gained one you weren’t ready for. Whatever shape your life has taken, you’ve said hello and goodbye to so very many seasons. It’s a whole lot to be grateful for and it’s also a whole lot for a soul to bear.

And as much as it may seem sometimes to be a much smaller load than what someone else has to carry, life is still a lot to bear for every life that lives here.

Sometimes it can feel ridiculous to give myself permission to call something a real struggle. Tears want to come, but the moment doesn’t feel grief-worthy. Silly me. I’ll just keep stepping forward.  

But then it happens again.    

And this year, while we were learning the hellos and goodbyes of calling a new town home, we had our first surprise pregnancy. And we were so excited to say hello to our little boy, that “goodbye” didn’t seem to have a place. Then, I passed my due date, the induction was scheduled, and the night before he was born we got in the car with the girls to go to dinner as a family. And when we pulled out of the driveway, my eyes got really wet. Because while I was so excited to say hello to my baby boy, it suddenly felt like this season of life was saying goodbye to me and somehow tears were the only response I could give to that.

I thought on it for a few moments that night, but it felt a little silly. And we went on to enjoy the evening, to look to the joy of the next day when we got to experience all the wonder of meeting our precious little boy. Then a few days after Gideon’s birth, tears fell when I looked at Liesel and all of a sudden she didn’t look like a baby anymore. I took some time that day to hold her tight and to journal through the moment, then… we stepped into the next day… and the next week, because that’s what you do.

Then, for the past couple weeks or so, life has felt so wonky. Feelings I’ve known before keep coming back. People I’ve parted ways with, moments of life that brought tears, pieces of life that I’ve struggled to recognize as something separate from what I’m defined by… one by one they keep resurfacing. As if something has triggered the remembrance of how all those broken pieces of my life felt.

Because, I don’t know, but it feels like my soul is trying to grieve something. Like a whisper inside me wants me to know that even while I take joy in getting to know my baby, it’s okay to also feel sad about the season of life that has gone. I don’t completely understand why it’s something that I feel a need to grieve, but somehow I have a need to give myself permission to acknowledge that life no longer looks the same way it did that evening when we rolled out onto the road with four occupied seats in the car. It’s okay for both Liesel and I to grieve that our relationship does not have just the same shape as it did before. Grieving the change does not lessen the joy that we have in getting to call Gideon a part of our family.

It does not make us any less grateful for what we have when we acknowledge the grief that we feel.

Because grief and gratefulness do their best work when they join hand in hand.

And our one biggest reason to be grateful took place in death. The cross brought grief and gratitude. How could it bring one without the other?

So we feel grief and we give thanks.

We feel broken grief just as Jesus body was broken and this becomes a gift. With this grief, we get to press our hurting pieces into His death that brought life.  

This grief, perhaps it allows us to not simply say words of thanks, but to feel something inside us, a glympse of what Jesus felt, and to remember with the heart inside us, the life that His death has brought us. Maybe when grief and gratefulness join hands in our lives, we get to press into something that is big enough to bear it all.   

That life of yesterday that felt like a part of you, it said goodbye. But it couldn’t wait for you finish saying goodbye back. That season where you were a mother of two, it said goodbye and now you remember it all again…

The season when you called Garland home, it said goodbye. The season when that soul you loved was a part of your life, it said goodbye. That season when you were a little girl sitting in front of your dollhouse and life didn’t feel this complicated, it said goodbye. They all felt like part of who you were. And when they said goodbye, shy, awkward and incomplete felt like part of who you were.

It all felt like a war: Feel the grief and hear how incomplete you are, or just try to be grateful enough that you can’t hear the rest of it. It felt like grief versus gratefulness, as if this was your war, as if they were opposites.      

But maybe the grief that invites you to feel as the flow of life carries you forward, maybe the grief of insecurity that keeps showing up to remind you what you are not, maybe this is an invitation.    

An invitation to know that this war that you feel between grief and gratefulness: this is not the war. The war is against that devil who wants you to think that these two pieces of the cross are separate.    

Our call is not to deny the grief, the dark pieces inside us that can feel so incomplete. No, our call is to deny ourselves, but to take up the cross.

The cross of Jesus is the place of grief, where everything that ever said goodbye to us belongs. It’s the place that can bear everything that ever felt like a part of who we are.

I wanted to be enough to hold all the seasons of life without breaking. I wanted to be enough for the ones who parted ways with me. I wanted to be enough to never feel like my personality was shy or incomplete. But that is not what I was made for. Because I was made to know the beautiful glory that happens when all these broken pieces that feel like a part of who I am say goodbye to me and attach themselves to the beautiful cross.   

And when I grieve and feel that grief in the presence of Jesus, I acknowledge that I was not enough to hold it all without breaking. When I grieve, I deny that I was ever enough. I cannot move from one life season to another without things cracking inside me. I cannot live this life without feeling incomplete inside. But when God uses that grief to move me… to help me to keep carrying these broken pieces of myself to Jesus and press them into His beautiful cross, everything incomplete in me dies with Him there. And inside His cross, He gives life to me. He takes these broken pieces of me that were pressed with grief into the death of His cross and in His death He presses these pieces all the way through to the life of His cross that shines on the other side. He makes me a part of His own sweet cross of life and here He makes these pieces of me into a new person that is whole. The broken person of me is remade, renamed and found whole inside of this lovely cross.

He never looks to my grief and says it’s too small and unimportant for His cross to carry. He invites it with His Word. “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Cor. 4:11) And if today wants to bring me grief for all these little things that I cannot carry, these are just more broken pieces of me that will keep being remade inside of that beautiful cross.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

When God Paints Portraits with His People

Maybe God can paint portraits not just with a sunset, but with my personality too, when I let Him live through it.

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There are those moments. Playing my part, I do it ever so carefully, and, if I really try, I can do it without my mistakes being noticed. Because, well, messing up feels uncomfortable, exposed, like I just showed people that I might not really know exactly what I’m doing.

It feels like the evenings I spent in my little corner at the keyboard. Playing along with the guitars, when our small group of friends sang worship together. I watch my fingers hit the keys and I think on the little insecurities of the moment. I think of the people who do this on a grander scale. In the church auditorium on Sundays when sometimes the distinct way a note is played can be used to stir my soul to my own need. In my own small way, I want to offer my playing to be used that way too. So I try to offer that, and it all comes out messy.

When I sat on that bench, there were really two options. One option was blending in to play the basic chords with no mistakes and very little notice, and the other was to venture with my fingertips up the keyboard and risk wrong notes. The first option is the safest. But the second option opens to the possibility of bringing unique beauty to the hearers through my fingers. One option closes off an opportunity and the other opens to it.

As I played keyboard those Wednesday nights, I hit the notes wrong and I could feel a truth small and simple, a message delivered through my insecurity.

Life can feel just like this.

Sometimes it’s the tiniest pieces of life that feel like the biggest risk, like being willing to play my little part in what’s happening around me, or offering the words of encouragement that my heart wants to give. The words start coming out and suddenly it feels that I’ve ventured up the keyboard away from where I blend in. It’s the whisper to my heart with the remembering of that corner I sat in, inviting me to trust what is true – that He can use me as me.

If I’m honest with myself, I struggle to trust God with my personality more than I like to think. Offering my thought or the words on my heart, it can feel like playing all the wrong notes for everyone to hear.

Maybe God can paint portraits, though, not just with a sunset, but with my personality too – when I let Him live through it. Maybe the awkward things that can come when I open my mouth, maybe they are music to somebody. Maybe they want to be brushstrokes in the beauty God is painting today. I know something happens when people open to the possibility. The room of people seem as if they were blessed in some small, mysterious way, as if maybe the spirit inside one can commune with the spirit inside the rest of us and offer an unspoken joy to us all. Maybe there are secret passageways through personality where a part of us runs through and blesses the other.

I see God shine through a friend’s personality when she says the thing that only she would say, in the way that only she would say it, and it stirs my soul to the sacred healing of something I cannot explain. She said the quirky thing and the words didn’t have to be spiritual, to be used to bless my spirit.

It’s where the mystery whispers hints into our lives and we find it true – Christ in you.

Today for the uncomfortable mystery in the moments we face, may we hear the quiet invitation. Perhaps at times, God calls us to simply trust what He can do with the personality He made in us. And maybe the most beautiful portraits are made by the Artist who made you and me.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

This is why I still feel like a child

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Is there ever a child who does not hear it with the growing of her body? The voice that says her heart is out of place. For do we ever lose the heart we were born with, the one that wants to hold and be held, the one that yearns to love and be loved, the one who gives herself to the world without a thought for how it all comes out.

For all of us living this life, perhaps the child we used to be still lives inside us enabling us to feel this life.

My own life took me from being a high school student one year, to being an adult, a wife and a mother the next. I don’t regret it and I wouldn’t change it, but my soul still feels the sharp turn life took and stands in great need of moments when I can curl up into my child self and say it honestly that I just don’t know exactly what I’m doing and this new road I’m on is still so unfamiliar and just a little daunting sometimes. There is something beautifully comforting in those moments felt in the presence of Jesus.

There was a moment I spent today sitting at the coffee shop when a lady came up to ask for the chair next to me and I began a delighted “How do you do? What’s your name?” conversation only to realize her intention was to take that chair to another table to sit with someone else. And suddenly the child inside me is more alive than it was before, and my heart turns to find comfort in Jesus in a way it hasn’t yet that morning.  

Perhaps the secret of growing up is not in being more adult-like but in staying awake to the child inside you that enables you to feel the whole process. Because there is something about feeling this life before Jesus that can bring his presence into a place.

A child’s heart is beautiful.

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My Amayah, she gives herself honest and beautiful. She is cautious with her stare that observes and does not try to impress. She will not fake a smile or a kind word. No, she will watch until she’s ready, but when that smile does break through, when those words of love come out her mouth they are pure gold, for there is no question that they were meant from the bottom of the little heart inside her.

My Liesel, she meets the world so open-hearted. When she gives her love, she gives it so freely. She hurts deeply for the moment Mommy is not there to hug her just when she needs it. She has no ounce of hesitation to run into our arms when the broken world has hurt her. Embarrassment plays no part in the times she cries out in need of comfort. And the open desire she comes with makes her little life so beautiful.

And my Gideon, he is still in my womb being nourished inside me, and no doubt he has no shame in the constant dependence he lives with. And yet his little life is being used in the world even as an unborn child, because God is always using the child’s heart no matter how small it is.

The world will make us think we must lose our child’s heart that hurts and cries and feels the imperfections of this world so deeply. But, the opposite is true. For the greatest secret of this life we’re given is to never lose our one child’s heart. Never is the tender pain inside us not worth it, for this is where we love, this is where we are loved.

One child’s heart is what we have with which to know and give love. One child’s heart is all we have to know the sweetness of the relationships we find here on this earth. One child’s heart is the gift we are given to receive the love and grace of Jesus that fills every hurt and flaw inside us. May we not despise the child inside us, for this heart we are given is beautiful and every hurting moment is a gift, an empty vessel we are given with which to receive more of Jesus and bring more of him into the hurting world.  

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

When You Need to be Needed

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We all need to know we’re needed and when we don’t feel it from someone we love, it can get to us in the most tenderly painful way. It happens in grown people and babies alike.

It’s such a gift to see the useless feeling in another human being and know we’re not alone, especially in the vulnerable tears of a baby.

My toddler likes to insist on keeping her own little responsibilities at home. Especially when it involves something small and simple that she can do all her own, like throwing away mommy’s trash.

I changed her diaper one afternoon and when big sister took her job of trashing the diaper, she threw herself on the floor with the biggest tears. Her job that made her feel so important and useful to me was gone and she wasn’t able to offer her help to me the way she hoped to.

I saw her crying on the floor and while normally I would have been frustrated that she reacted so dramatically to something so small, that day I could relate to exactly what was happening inside her heart. I wanted to feel needed too…

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That morning, with an earnest longing inside me, the question had found a place in my heart. God, do you need me? How can I truly believe that I matter to You if You’re so self-sufficient that You have no need?

I wanted to find healing from my hurts and look at the ways I mattered, the ways I was needed. For how can I matter if I am not needed?

That day God showed up for me in the tears of my little girl. Her tears spoke truth to my heart that I needed to see and feel, not just hear in words.

I spoke over my little girl who she was to me, and God spoke over me who I am to Him.

If this topic speaks to you, I think you’ll enjoy hearing this month’s audio story in the “Notes to my Shy Self” series. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen.

If you’re already subscribed to the series you’ll receive the audio in your email just as before or you can sign up below.

My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Where Truth is More Than Words

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Eliab had harsh anger stirring his heart when he spoke the words to David.

“Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” (1 Sm. 17:28)

Pastor Jeff read the old story of David and the giant his last Sunday preaching for us, and this was the verse that got my attention. Eliab speaks just like the voice in my head.

Take one step toward the giant, and though you lifted your foot to take that step in faith that God could use even you, by the time you set that foot down, your enemy hurls these same thoughts at you.

Why have you come down? He questions your importance and the value of who you are to take that step.

With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? He identifies your role as small and unimportant and accuses you of failing to be responsible even in that role.

I know your presumption and the evil of your heart… He accuses you of taking that step with a heart of wrong motives that only wants recognition for yourself.

For you have come down to see the battle. He finds a specific accusation to try to dig his foot into, even a weak spot where you have struggled with desire before.

Yet, met with these accusations that can tear people apart, David met his brother with a few short words and continued on in the same determination. Though he was called conceited, David pressed on to ensure that this giant who challenged God’s people would see the power of the God he was fighting against.

What makes a heart so confident in the belief that He will be used by God?

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David’s legacy has lived on most in those dozens of prayers found in the psalms. A man of honest, heartfelt prayer, David let his feelings pour out before the Lord. He prayed his anguish and his hatred and his brokenness. And his prayers always brought him to knowing the place he truly stood before his God.

He prayed his feelings… “For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs on my head; my heart fails me.” (Psalm 40:12)

He lets the feelings pour out before the Lord, and as he pours them out God meets David with hope in his very own words of prayer…  “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40:17)

Just a few lines after giving his honest plea from his heart that feels so broken, those feelings have led him through that sweet communion to the truth God had for him to treasure in that moment.

May we know, just as David, that these feelings are not unwanted in God’s presence but welcome. May we bring the feelings so often to God that we are rooted in the truth of who we are even as the enemy throws those accusation at us.

In prayer, God teaches us to not just hear and know truth, but to feel it with our hearts.

Truth becomes more than words, as we pray from the feelings inside us. As we pray each unimportant feeling, He fills that place inside us with the confidence of who we are in Him. As we pray our useless thoughts, He meets us there and lets us know inside our hearts that we are useful.   

In prayer, we do not just know, but we can feel the truth of this…

I am His valuable bearer of fruit right here, right now.

The role He has given me to play is an essential part of His kingdom, and He calls me faithful.

The imperfect steps I take to offer what I can are the sweetest of offerings in His presence.  

My past mistakes are not a hindrance to His ability to use me; it only makes his light shine more brilliant through my darkness.

Teach us to pray as David, that we may feel with You through our hearts, all the way to the heart-deep hope You store for us there.

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

When life asks us who we are: An Offering

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Life has its ups and downs and the downs can have a curious way of getting our attention. Sometimes it starts with a life-shaking circumstance, but more often it’s much smaller than that. The feelings find us when we’re doing life happy, sure that nothing can deter us. Out of the big world around us, they surprise us with thoughts that make us feel a need to pause. They ask us if we really are doing this right, if there’s something wrong with us. At least that’s how it happens in my world. Maybe you know those times too.

I was in that place the evening it happened. Coming from such a great day, I sat with a group of women. Feeling an urge to reach out to the one on my right, I tried to make a connection. Once then twice, I tried. But the first time, right as I opened my mouth she had a sneeze attack that required a search for tissues. Then again after that settled, I spoke up at the same moment as the lady on the other side of her who had a louder, more noticeable voice than mine. Then the tide of the room changed.

In the midst of group conversation, she opened up deeply and shared some hard hurts and criticisms she had been dealing with. She was trying so hard to do what was best and felt so much criticism from the people she loved. I wanted even more to connect and offer what I could to encourage her. I had to let her know that I believed her, that though there were so many ways people could judge, I knew she was simply trying to do the best she could.

When the conversation quieted down, I reached for her arm and gave her the first words that came to mind. It felt a little awkward coming out, but I offered what I had to give. Though she didn’t quite know what to say in response, she was kind. She walked to the other side of the room to grab something after that. And though we were in the same room the rest of the evening, we didn’t speak any more to each other that day.

It was such a small encounter, and she didn’t do anything wrong or unkind, but that night I felt so many questions rise up in my heart. What did I say wrong? Why do I have so much trouble connecting with people? What’s wrong with me? Why do I always say things at the wrong times and in such awkward ways? Why do I have to be so quiet? I felt like I was failing so much to be useful to my God and I ended up traveling through the memories of some of my most inadequate moments and some of my worst failures…

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Maybe you’ve had interactions that felt so similar, that made you feel your own questions and travel down your own memories. Maybe you can relate, and if you can I have something I’d like to offer you in the best way I can right now.

The encounter I had that night ended up being such a sweet journey. It led me through the crushing I felt and to a place of looking up where I shed so many grateful tears for what I could see because of it all. I’d love to live it with you more than just what I can say in a blog post.

With the help of my husband’s audio work and his beautiful guitar picking, I’d like to speak these next words to you, to tell this story in another way that will help you feel the beauty of it more closely.

I hope you can listen to these four minutes with your cup of coffee or your morning walk… whatever your quiet moments look like. And I hope they speak sweet love into your heart for the moments that felt as if they wanted to threaten who you are.

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Love and grace to you sweet friend,
Maggie

P. S. This is the first in a monthly audio series. By signing up you will receive this audio as well as one audio in your email each month. You may unsubscribe at any time. I respect your privacy and will never share your email. By signing up you are offering your support for my writing in a non-monetary way and I so appreciate your sweet encouragement.

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

When you wonder why you’re made that way

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Sometimes my prayers look like questions. When I feel like I could be more useful as the girl who could connect with people deeply and quickly, but no matter how I try it doesn’t seem that is the person He made me. When I want genuine conversations to be a normal part of life but instead they come slowly and take much more time. Sometimes the prayer is why did you make me this way?

I’m glad to read about Moses who only stood before Pharoah with his brother to speak for him, and I’m thankful for Paul who wrote strongly in letters, but trembled to speak in person. It’s beautiful to have a Bible that shows me God using all kinds of people with all different personalities to carry out the story of His kingdom.

And this past weekend, the scene of the cross brought me here, where believers played purposeful roles in this story that took on all different forms.

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Peter was passionate. He was rebuked for wounding a soldier. And after fighting for his Lord, he hid in the shadows and denied knowing him. We don’t know just where he is when his Lord is on the cross, only that he is remorseful of the person he’s been during these hours. And three days later, when told the tomb is empty, Peter is the slow runner who bounds straight into the empty tomb of Jesus. He is the one abandoning ship and diving into the water when he sees Jesus on the beach.

Mary Magdalene valued presence. She is one who stands there at his death. She valued presence in His last moments. She valued what she could offer his dead body. When she saw the empty tomb, she ran to the ones who would care, then she came back to the tomb. She was the first to see her Lord risen. Though by his direction, she had to go on without his embrace.

The thief was the one who stepped into heaven as the empty-handed criminal who had no good works to his name. He died next to Jesus on the cross and asked simply to be remembered. And for two thousand years, his simple story has been one that testifies to some of the sweetest mercies of Jesus and brought so many lost souls to the cross themselves.

Thomas was the doubter. Again we don’t know just where he was when Jesus was on the cross, though we know he was one of the twelve who were closest to Jesus. And after Jesus rose and witnesses testified, he said he would not believe unless he had the physical proof of Jesus standing before him and could touch the scars in his hands and side. Because of Thomas, we see the mercy and love Jesus showed to a doubter.

Nicodemus had been a Pharisee who had visited with Jesus in the dark of the night. And though he had been one in the group that had it all wrong with their rules and religion, he loved the Lord and he was there to tend to his body after he died. The man who had first given his life to rules denying grace, now came to the body of the one who gave his life so even he could know that grace.

Joseph of Arimathea had been a believer in secret. His love of Jesus was not something many knew about, but at the death of Jesus he came forward and asked for the body. And he provided his own tomb as a resting place for the body of his Lord. Though he had been so private about his faith, he played a major role in this story. His own tomb was where the resurrection happened.  

John, the disciple that Jesus loved, was the only apostle we see in the Bible being there at the feet of Jesus at his death. He was by his side at his last supper, one of the ones closest to him during Jesus’ prayer in the garden. With the rest, John had fallen asleep when Jesus told him to watch. With the rest, John fled when Jesus was arrested, but at the cross he was there. He was addressed by Jesus from the tree, entrusted with the care of Jesus’ mother. At the scene of the tomb, John was the fast runner who arrived at the tomb before Peter and stopped in his tracks at the site of the empty tomb.

Mary was the mother watching the torturous death of her own son, watching the very body that was formed and nourished from her own be destroyed. The heart of her own heart beat it’s last before her very own eyes and she lost the son that was promised her as a young girl. She was the confused mother, who didn’t know how to understand the promises of God right now when her son was supposed to be the Savior. In Jesus’ dying moments, some of His last words, he reached out to make sure she was cared for.

The death and resurrection shows us Jesus loving people from all walks of life. Both the lowest of the low, and the one who had been highly esteemed for all the wrong reasons. Both the ones who failed Jesus again and again, and the ones who were there by him the most. The one who doubted, the one who denied him, and the one who had followed him in secret, they all played a role in making the story what it is.

And no matter who we are, what kind of role we play in this life today, He gives every child the joy of being a part of His kingdom in their own special way. He uses the failures, the insecurities, the personalities, the love of each and every one of His children and He treasures them as they are. He receives love from each of us given in the way we know how to give it and He values and redeems each and every part.  

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Life is not an impossible climb

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I think I was fourteen. She was pointed out as a such a strong Christian who did so much for Christ, who heard God’s voice, who followed His lead. While I wanted so much to be like her, somehow, I felt so small inside.

A year or so later, a girl I knew asked me if I had ever heard God’s voice. I didn’t really know how to answer that. I was afraid to say no because perhaps that would make me less of a Christian. So I answered yes. Yes, I had.

Not long after that, I sat with a friend and expressed what was, in my mind, my concern over some girls I knew, but deep down I knew the words came from a place in my heart that I didn’t want anyone to see.

I wanted to be what they all called a strong Christian but more than seeking the God who is Love, I was afraid, afraid I could not live up to the expectations. So often, more than Love, I had fear.

I didn’t want to give in to the idea that I didn’t have what it takes to be a spiritually strong person. The idea scared me and I fought against it with Bible reading, and ministry opportunities. I gave my greatest effort to fighting against this fear of mine.

And as I kept fighting it, instead of feeling better about my own spiritual condition, I only felt smaller and more afraid that people were going to see through me.

Friendships, marriage and motherhood brought me face to face with my inability to be strong. One thing they taught me was how much I could hurt people. And it felt like I had no choice but to give in. Maybe I never could be strong spiritually. Maybe life is designed to point us here.   

Because we are not made to live as people who fight to hold a spiritual state. We are people made to be free, made to freely delight in the graceful One who delights in us and calls us His own beautiful sons and daughters.

We are made for this… “Blessed are those who recognize they are spiritually helpless. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” (Mt. 5:3, GWT)

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Maybe we can delight in Him most freely, maybe we can enjoy fellowship with each other most freely, from this place where we see that we are all spiritually poor people who get to receive the gift of being His and being used of Him in each small, unique way He chooses to use us.   

Maybe it’s not as much about how much of my Bible I read, but more about my soul desperately longing to hear the truth of it’s words because I am in need.

Maybe it’s not as much about ministries people see me involved in but about my heart desiring to work in step with the Spirit because this is what I was made for, whether it be in the quiet of my home or with my children at the library or in the home of the neighbor down the street.

Maybe it’s not about climbing a spiritual ladder, but about finding anew each day that I am more and more in need so there is more space in the soul to receive more and more grace.

And the one ladder I know of in the Bible that went from man to God, did not involve the man Jacob climbing up to God, rather it involved God pouring blessings of promise down on Jacob. It was not a ladder that was climbed by man, but one that man stayed at the foot of to receive from God. (Genesis 28)

Maybe the point of us here on earth is not to climb a ladder towards our God, but to receive the graceful place where we know we only fail at climbing the ladder and He says He’ll climb it for us. Where we don’t try to climb any longer, but sit at the bottom of it all and receive grace from the hand of God.

Life is not an impossible climb.

Life is a journey of receiving the grace that Jesus made the climb for us.

And the small feelings that I thought were foe point me to this sweet place, where grace is not something I have to strive to give enough of, but something that I need most to receive. For when a soul is filled with how very much she has been given, that grace overflows in her and multiplies beyond the one, and on to the ones she sits with.   

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

How Pocahontas helps me see grace in confusion

My Amayah and I watched Pocahontas together this week. I hadn’t seen it since I was a child. But watching it with her touched some of the deepest places inside me. To me, the movie spoke to so many aspects of my own heart.

Growing up in one culture of people, and loving someone from another, brings all kinds of feelings to me as I try to make sense of life in all of it. Perhaps we all know these feelings in a way. Perhaps, whether it has to do with skin color or not, perhaps we all experience the confusion of seeing life from one place, then seeing it from another and struggling to make these very different things we’ve seen make sense in our hearts.

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Photo by Aaron Burden. Used with permission.

Whether or not the Pocahontas movie is historically accurate, I love it for telling the story it tells. When John Smith, in love with Pocahontas, accidentally calls her people savages to her face, it tells true stories of people loving each other beyond the fears that have kept them apart. When his friends believe that her kind is not trustworthy and when her father worries that his people are not trustworthy, they are really both friendly people who want the best for their families. They can’t get along because they are afraid the people with different skin mean them harm, when really they are so much more alike on the inside than they know. When Pocahontas and John Smith find their people at odds with each other, they are find confusion in their story. Pocahontas struggles with doubting herself. But when an act of her love spreads peace in a time of division, it finds me where I am.
I do find myself confused by my story. Trying to see the world as someone who grew up one way and deeply loves someone who grew up another way, makes the constant struggle for peace between peoples bring that much more ache to my soul. Seeing the world through so many stages of life, can try the soul, no matter who you are or what your story is.
Sometimes my heart aches to find the end of confusion, and I want it all to look as simple as when I had only seen it from one point of view. But I would not trade the beauty of the love I have known for all the simplicity in the world…

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And the truth spoken through John captures me today. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)

A lack of peace is always caused by fear. And it is love that breaks that fear.
When Pocahontas threw herself in front of the weapon meant for John Smith, love broke fear in the hearts of so many witnesses. The story that day was changed by love.
When Jesus took the shame of our worst darkness, love broke fear in the greatest way, changing our own stories. And love breaks fear every time we give on the love He gave us.
And the story is confusing sometimes, but it doesn’t have to make sense to be a part of the beautiful love I’ve been given. And the thing that confused me becomes something that breaks fear in my heart and by grace on from there.
Even when it is confusing, sharing the story is sharing the love. I can testify to the times people have shared their story with me in confusion and in doing so they poured love into me.
For my own story, watching Pocahontas makes me remember what a blessing I experience in my own love story. It makes me want to say thank you. This country has been one that intends to strive for the equality of people. And there have been so many triumphs. We have walked away from slavery. People from all different backgrounds and cultures can vote today and be voted into office, actions that flow from beautiful triumphs. Different races now share the same schools and bathrooms. In 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving were thrown in jail for the “crime” of getting married across cultures. And today just fifty-nine years later, my husband and I are blessed to enjoy our own union at no threat of the law.
Today, even though it can take on so many differing forms, we see Americans from all viewpoints striving for equality. So many Americans strive for equality of the unborn. So many Americans strive for equality of immigrants and refugees. So many Americans strive for equality of the belittled and underprivileged. And with grace and love that carries beyond what our own eyes can see, Americans can strive for equality of all.
On the inside we are all in the same image, with the same feelings, the same struggle with fear, the same longing for love. We are made able to see each other with love, no matter what differences stand between us, and we continue to strive for that love.
We may be confused by the story, it may make us feel so many doubts and questions, but may we befriend the way it feels in the presence of Christ and tell the story still. This is grace: we do not have to understand everything about our stories, in order for God to use the sharing of them. When we share the story God is authoring in us, we share the love we’ve been given – love that breaks fear.

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.

Even in a Whisper: For souls who thrive in the quiet music of God’s glory

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My soul thrives in the smallest whispers of glory, in stories told by grandpa and the rag doll grandma made, in a friend who gave their lunch hour to sit with me, in conversations that may not sound revolutionary, may even sound insignificant, but are spoken with grace and love.

These whispers can sing a sweet music to my soul that a shout doesn’t do.

And these same whispers are what my soul thrives in singing itself.

But when the loud shout of it all is what I hear, something in my soul hears so many questions. Where the world feels as if it sings it all in wonder, the heart inside me feels a silent joy that wants to wait in the whisper. The questions that come in the waiting ask why the shout doesn’t sing the same song in my soul. They ask what’s wrong when I don’t thrive in the shout as so many others seem to do. I want to sing the glory of this moment too; the shouts look so normal. I can find a quiet rejoicing knowing others are blessed by the shouts, but I need to hear the whisper…

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Today, in cups of coffee, in new kittens and old screen doors the moments whisper to my soul the sweet reminding truth that speaks grace to me. That maybe I struggle to remember we’re all made differently.

These questions felt as they are, teach me things about myself, about how I was made. Without them the whispers wouldn’t be on my mind today. Without them I wouldn’t hear the voice that tells me where God places me right now.

Maybe the moments where my soul feels out of place, are the voice of God telling me where He has made my place…

Where perhaps He’s here whispering a message I truly need. That people I love will thrive in the shouts and I may not always understand, but God has them where He has them and His story is good and these people are beautifully made by Him.

When I don’t feel like I can join in the shouts with the people I love, that is fine and good. For today, my place is finding beauty in the quiet and speaking God’s glory in the quiet myself. I can trust that this place is good, that there are other’s like me who hear the beauty in the quiet too. Maybe you are one of them and we need each other to be okay in the quiet because in some of us, this is where God speaks the words that reach to hearts, from me to you and you to me.

So today, when life makes us feel small, we will listen for the whisper speaking through. We will live the small words and the tiny steps that the Spirit wants to give through us in our own little way. There is a reason He wants to say it in us. There is a grand purpose behind the whipser that we cannot see. But we can trust that it’s there.

His power works best in weakness. When I can’t see it, I can trust the promise that is so empowering. His power works mightily even in my quiet personality, even in my flaws, even in my quirks. When I can’t see it, by faith through grace, his power flows through even me. Even in a whisper.    

P.S. When I think of God working mightily through whispers, I think of my grandparents who both went home to Jesus this past year. I have paired my words with pictures of their home. I hope the whispers of glory lived there sing some grace to your heart as they do so beautifully to mine.     

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My prayer is that you find God's grace pouring through your insecure moments. In this audio series, you'll receive a few quiet minutes of encouragement each month free in your email inbox. I hope it helps you find sweet gifts inside the feelings.