My Worst Mom Mistake Ever

This weekend a friend said to me, “I feel like I’m constantly dropping the ball on motherhood lately.”  To which I replied, “it’s ok, my ball hasn’t had any air in it for 6 months!”

Though it seems funny & she did almost spit her whole drink on me in laughter, we as mothers definitely carry a burden to keep it all together & running smoothly & to do it with a smile on our perfectly made-up faces.

This morning I admitted to my own mother the depth of where I feel like I have failed my kids. It’s not the accidental times when I messed up; it's the times when I intentionally didn't choose to take the harder road of living a life of grace that looked like Jesus.

All mothers, including myself, sacrifice so much for their kids but sometimes we just want to have a small pity party & speak or act right out of our flesh which never turns out as well as we think it might at the moment in which we do it.

Seasons of feeling like I’ve “dropped the ball” can leave me wondering if I’m even a good mom at all.   When I get worn out & weary, my focus seems to turn inward.  When my circumstances get rough & I am struggling to keep it all together I can begin to believe that my mothering is all that matters in God’s plan for my children’s lives.

There is a level of responsibility, that is unmatched by any other relationship when you become a mother.  Being a mom is a difficult job.  It comes with risk. It comes with a high calling to work sacrificially for our children, but what it does not come with is any requirement from God that we are in charge of how our children's lives actually turn out.  


The way my kid's lives go is the job of the Holy Spirit.


I am a mom who seeks God daily for her children, but sometimes my words to them don’t show it. I am a mom, who prays for their future, but sometimes I say things that deflate their hopes.  I am a mom who desperately desires that her children walk like Christ, but sometimes I don’t model that.  I am a mom whose desire for her kids to give, serve & love others is often extinguished by my own selfish actions.

But the good news is that there is an even deeper truth than my desires for my children.  That is the truth of God’s redemption & grace.  Romans 8:28, tells us that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him & follow Him.  That means His redemption happens even if circumstances are less than ideal and my mom actions aren’t always perfect.  His grace can flood in & remake situations into beauty. {beauty from ashes} 

So what is my worst mom mistake?

It’s believing that God has called me to more than dropping the ball.  In fact, maybe “dropping the ball” is exactly where God needs me to be in order to desperately depend more on Him.  If I kept the “ball” going all on my own, I might believe my kids are fine because I had it all together.  What if my own mistakes & failures keep me seeking His face for myself & my children?   And what if my mistakes show my children how desperately we all need Jesus in every area of our lives?

The place where I drop the ball is the place where God wants to meet me & show me how He will hand it back to me.  How he will help me grow.  He shows me how in my desire to follow Him & grow in Him, He will actually grow my children.


I mess up, but God never does.  I need my kids to know this truth.


So let’s remember that our job as a mother rests in the shadow of the Almighty’s job for our children’s lives.

Children are God’s love gift, they are heaven’s generous reward
Psalm 127:3 {TPT}


Love,
Cara

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How to run again after a fall

Those who trust in the Lord receive new strength...
they will run & not get tired  {Isaiah 40:31}

The morning I decided to get outside & go on a run the sun was shining brightly & it was a gorgeous day.  It was already quite warm in the middle of the Texas summer even early in the day, but still perfect for getting out for a little exercise.  Lost in my own thoughts as I ran, I totally missed seeing an uneven segment in the concrete.  My foot hit the edge of the segment & I tripped & fell.  I not only fell but I was propelled forward in my fall & my shoulder skidded across the hot pavement.  My knee & hands got a little beat up, but the majority of the impact took its toll on my shoulder.  I had a very large wound & now have a scar to show for it.

As my shoulder began to heal & the scab came off, the area all around it was sensitive to any touch.  Around that same time a friend, who has a medical background, told me that I needed to gently massage the area with some lotion or oil every day to keep it from becoming a raised, abnormal scar.  She said if I gave it special attention for a few weeks, the skin would smooth out & it would barely be noticeable.   I followed her directions & sure enough, the area healed very well.  Now it is hardly noticeable.

Recently I went out to run that same path.  I've run it many times since my fall but this time it was early in the morning & the sun had yet to light the way.  As I ran in the dark, fearful thoughts began to creep into my mind that I might trip again.  I immediately started praying that the Lord would help me decipher the uneven surfaces, even in darkness & that I would be able to finish my run without incident.  

I made it to the end of my run without falling even though it took a little more effort to see in the dark.  It occurred to me how much my run mirrored my life.  Too often when I fall in life, I get up but I live in fear that I will fall again.  Not only do I choose to dwell on the injury I sustained from the fall but I ignore letting Jesus carefully heal my wounds so that even if there are scars left behind, they won’t become ugly signs that I have hardened places in my heart.  Too often, I also forget that He has promised to give me all I need to keep me from falling again.  

But when I take my broken & wounded heart to Jesus, I find a Friend that can answer all my questions with His infinite wisdom.  I find a Sustainer that can hold my hand & lift me back up.   When I offer Him my wounds, I find a Healer that gently cares for them until there is a new flesh that forms over the wounded place.

Coincidentally, I also happen to have a large scar on my other arm from an accident many years ago.  It is ugly & raised because when it happened I was nowhere near a place I could clean & doctor it nor did I know that I should take care of it with any special treatment.  So even though it healed, it healed in an unsightly way that is very noticeable & tells its own story.  The same thing happens when we have emotional scars that we do not take care of.  They form an ugly hardened place on our heart.


Just like all physical scars tell a story, the emotional scars we have from life tell one too.  


Every injury in life will leave behind a place that needs healing.  Some scars heal smoothly & hardly noticeable but will tell a beautiful story of love & care, but others will leave a rough place that is unsightly & the world around us will cringe at the sight of them.  How our scars heal is a choice.  We can choose to let Jesus care for them & the story will be that He is enough to redeem or we can choose not to give the hurt to Jesus to heal & we tell the world that we believe He actually might not be enough.  Either way, there will be a story told. 


Nothing, not even our falls, are wasted when we choose to run with Jesus.  Our mistakes & sins can be converted to good in our lives through His transforming grace.


Jesus has scars too. His tell a story that you & I were so important to Him that He was willing to leave the glory of Heaven & come to this earth, with all of its pain & suffering, & be wounded so we could be healed.  Can you spend a minute dwelling on that?   


Not only did He take my place on the cross but He continues to relentlessly pursue me.  


Trusting Him to help us is a moment-by-moment decision.  It's easy to trust Him when life is good & the journey is easy, but it is much more difficult when things go wrong.  We must be intentional in choosing His ways. {Psalm 31:14}

So how do we heal after a fall?  

Get back up ~ When I fell out on my run, I got back up.  I knew I had to get up as quickly as possible & get moving to keep my muscles from getting stiff.  It's the same way with our heart wounds.  We can't sit & focus on how bad it hurts for too long. When I got back up, I was not yet healed, but I chose to get up & keep going during the healing.  If Jesus is Lord of your life, then He has declared you as His righteousness.  It is His goodness that makes you who you are, not your own & His word declares that the ‘righteous will rise’ & that He will hold your hand to keep you from falling again. Start by praising Him to turn your heart back to Him. {Proverbs 24:16, Psalm 37:23-24, 1 Peter 2:9}

Let Jesus be your healer ~ There is a time & place for dealing with pain, don't deny your God-given emotions when walking through a trial but give your emotions to God.  If it takes you a day or a year or a decade to fully move through your trial to your healing, do it with God.  Do not try to tend your wounds alone.  Let Jesus pour His healing over your wound so that the scar left behind tells a sweet story of His compassion, grace & redemption in your life.  {Psalm 40:2, 1 Peter 2:24-25}

Don’t forget to pray ~ Just like I did that morning on my run, praying to keep from falling is the beginning of standing upright.   Even when you are walking through dark situations & can’t see exactly where you are going, keep praying & our faithful God will keep you on your feet.  When we seek to run the path of this life in His ways, He will always be faithful to show us exactly what to do.   He is not only our Healer but our Strength & our Protector too. We can be confident in approaching Him because He always keeps His word.  {Hebrews 10:19-22, Psalm 91:9-10}

Where do you need Jesus to heal your wounds?  How do you need Him to hold you up, so you don't fall again?  Take some time to tell Him that you trust Him to be your Redeemer.


Love,
Cara

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Love Came Down {Day 5}

Please Read: John 21:25

Twenty-One chapters culminate in the gospel of John to tell us that all the amazing things we know about Jesus aren’t even the half of it! 

And John would know.  In the span of 3 years, from his first sighting of Christ, he went from being known as the son of thunder {Mark 3:17} to being known as the disciple whom Jesus loved {John 19:26}. John was at the wedding {John 2:1-11} when Jesus performed His first miracle & John was there until the very end of the cross when Jesus gave His own mother into John’s care {John 19:25-27}.  John saw people baptized, demons cast out & the feeding of thousands out of only enough for a few.  And if seeing were not enough, John was filled with the power of Jesus to be a part of it.  The things he saw Jesus do, not only in the lives of others but also in his own life, changed his path forever.

The inclusion of Jesus' words in John 3:16, shows us how much John values this dissertation by Jesus to tell the world that believing the Son of God, the Savior of the world, is the only way to eternal life. 

I love to read the gospels & the book of John is no different.  The miracles, the kindness, the grace, they all stir up the fire in my soul {Hebrews 10:24} that loves everything about this man, Jesus.  But one of my favorite verses comes at the very end of the book that bears John’s name:

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written
— John 21:25

This verse makes me want to scream & shout hallelujah!


Why does this one little verse excite me so? Because it reaches down deep into my heart, to the places no one can see, where Jesus has done things that no one knows.  How He turned my uncompassionate heart to one of caring, how He took my selfishness & molded it into a place where I try to selflessly imitate Him.  How He pulled me out of darkness.  How He taught me to be a wife & a mother.  How He trained my soul to look at others through a lens of love. 

Oh, I am so far from perfect in these areas, but I see Jesus changing me.  I have gone from being an orphan to calling myself the “daughter whom Jesus loves.” 


Think about it today…. Where has Jesus worked in your life that could never have been changed if it weren’t for the cross?  Ask Him to help you see yourself as the “child that He loves.”


Love,
Cara

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Love Came Down {Day 4}

Please Read: Luke 24:13-35

“Mom where is my _________”? You can fill in the blank.  Shoes, keys, uniform, etc. This is a question that comes up often in our house.  I yell back the answer to exactly where the missing item is at & then in a few minutes I hear, “it’s not there, I looked.”  Does this scene sound familiar to anyone else?  As soon as I go to the exact place where I said the item would be found, there it is, as plain as day & I say once again to the perplexed child, “you just have to open your eyes.”

Just days after the resurrection there were 2 disciples were walking along the road & Jesus met them & walked with them.  But they didn’t realize it was Jesus! They were discussing all the events of His crucifixion, His seeming resurrection & how they had hoped He would’ve truly been the awaited Savior.

As Jesus talked to them, He recalled for them all of the scriptures regarding the Savior of the world.  These men were intrigued by the knowledge of this stranger.  As they got close to their home, they invited the traveler {Jesus} to come with them for dinner & a place to rest for the night.  When dinner was served Jesus blessed the food & then their eyes were opened.  They realized Jesus had been with them all day. 


They had no idea it was Jesus all along


When we are walking on a road of life, downcast or perplexed, Jesus comes.  He wants to be involved in each moment of our lives.  He has carefully mapped every part of our journey & though things in our lives may seem to be unraveling, He is in the middle of our warped & blinded view. 

If we can just be aware of Him walking beside us & let our hearts be open enough to let Him work, He will reveal Himself to us & our eyes will be opened.  We will see that He is guiding us step-by-step, protecting & equipping.  

Though the eyes of these men were opened by the event of the breaking of bread, the things leading up to their dinner played a part.  Walking with Jesus even in the midst of what was hard & the reciting of all scriptures had to say about Him, had taken root in their hearts before He revealed Himself to them.

In life when we are walking through situations, seemingly without being able to see how it will all work out, we too need to be faithful to walk with Jesus, trusting & letting the word of God take root.  In this, we are preparing our hearts for the revealing of Jesus in our situation. 


Think about it today…. Is there a place in your life where you just can’t see how Jesus will show up?  Walk faithfully.  Preparing the soil of your heart with the fullness of scriptures.  Jesus will reveal Himself to you & open your eyes to see Him.


Love,
Cara

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Love Came Down {Day 3}

Please Read: Matthew 28:1-10

Have you ever heard a rumor that you thought sounded way too outlandish to be anywhere close to true?  And think of your reaction when you found out the very story you thought could never be plausible was concrete truth.  Maybe you felt disbelief, or fear, or excitement or all of those emotions wrapped into one. 

Now just imagine for a minute the reaction the women had the day they went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body.  They had witnessed a heinous killing of one of their very best friends.  They had witnessed the depth of pain He had suffered at the hands of heartless killers.  They knew He was dead & had been placed in a grave.  The people responsible for His death had placed guards at His grave just to terrify his friends even more.  But these women gathered all the courage they could & went to where He was buried just to be able to have a proper funeral for Him. 

Then, they heard the news.  Jesus was not there.  He had risen! The angel told them to go tell the news to the rest of their group.  

“So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.” {Matthew 28:8} 

Has the Lord ever asked you to do something that left you feeling full of fear & great joy? 

Two emotions, so completely opposite, yet residing in the same space at one time... 

But what happens next is incredible.  The women did it.  They left to tell the others.  Basically, they got their “big girl pants” on & went even though they were afraid, but as they went Jesus showed up in their path.  That’s what happens when we obey & trust Him even when we are unsure of exactly how events will unfold.  Jesus shows up & He tells us exactly what He told those women that day. “Jesus met them saying ‘rejoice’ then He said to them ‘do not be afraid’”!

Jesus is so kind to come to them.  He knew they would be extremely fearful for many reasons, but because they trusted Him for the unfailing, unfaltering love they had witnessed, Love came to them to calm their fears, so that they could move forward in their assignment with great joy.   

The most precious message ever to be delivered was entrusted to humans.  The reason for this is because God wants us to allow Him to work His incomparable power in us.  Often we do not really know how to move forward, but God always knows & if we will trust Him, He will come to us to calm our fears & give us great joy. {2 Corinthians 4:7-15}


Think about it today…. Is there an area of your life where you need Jesus’ power to replace your fear with great joy?  Fall at His feet today & submit your weakness to Him & watch Him give you His resurrection power in its place.


Love,
Cara

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Love Came Down {Day 2}

Please read: John 21:15-19

One morning my boys were going hunting.  Since they were getting up exceptionally early to leave in time to be out before sunrise, I decided to get up before they did & make them breakfast.  Since it would be hours before they would have the chance to eat, I knew a hearty breakfast would serve them well. 

As I was trying to be ever so quiet in the kitchen, the glass bowl I was going to use to mix the eggs hit the side of the cabinet & shattered.  I tried to quickly & carefully get up all the fragmented glass pieces & finish breakfast.  Days later, my son walked into the kitchen barefooted & stepped on a piece of glass that I had missed.  I had done unintentional harm out of trying to do good. 

Peter had declared his love for Jesus {John 13:37-38} & had stated that he would never deny Christ.  But when tested, he did what he said he would never do.  I feel confident that Peter never meant to cause harm to Jesus but it happened.  Quickly without any time for thought of consequence, Peter denied Christ 3 times. 

From the very moment the last words of denial left his mouth, Peter must’ve been plagued by guilt & surely the enemy came & tormented him to believe that he was no better than the traitor, Judas, who had sold Jesus for just 30 pieces of silver.  Peter had to find some way to comfort himself, so he went back to his old life. 

What was he doing before he met Jesus? 

Fishing.  {Matthew 4:18-19}  Peter knew fully how to fish & he knew fully how to comfort himself with what he knew.  It’s just like an alcoholic going back to drink.  It’s about escaping & hiding from God in the face of our sin.

But in His typical fashion of restoring broken hearts, Jesus does not let Peter hide.  Instead, He finds Peter & calls forth his destiny to be the rock upon which the church will be built.  Before Peter even re-declares his love & commitment for Jesus, His love is bringing redemption to a deep, self-inflicted wound.  The fact that Jesus asked Peter 3 times to declare his love for Him isn’t condemnation, but instead redeeming love.  Each denial, restored in the goodness of Christ. 

In those moments, the promise of God to Peter was to be the strength that would carry him, to be his sight & his satisfying sustenance.   Jesus repaired what was broken.


Think about it today….Can you give God every place in your heart that needs to be redeemed?  Give Him your broken.  Let the power of Jesus’ loving redemption sink deep & let Him be your sustaining power.


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Love,
Cara

Love Came Down {Day 1}

Please read: John 19:28-37

When my son was 2 years old, we were at a rehearsal dinner for a wedding in which my little man was to be the ring bearer.  Of course, he was the cutest thing in the room.  He had been doted upon & treated like royalty by all the friends & family gathered there.  The night was almost over when my little man was standing at the edge of the carpeted doorway, which led to a long marble hallway.  He looked at me with a very mischievous 2-year-old look.  I said, "don’t go down that hallway, stay on this carpet  He gave that beautiful, glistening hallway one more glance & then he stepped one foot onto the marble while keeping one foot on the carpet & just stood & smiled at me with a sweet little grin. He obeyed his own way, not breaking the rules but not abiding by them either.

My son is a rule bender by nature {he might come by this naturally from his mother}.  My son & myself are not the only ones who do this.  We are naturally a people who try to look good even in the face of sin.  We think that if we only slightly bend the rules while pointing out how the faults of others are worse than ours, we will still look righteous.

The people of Jesus’ day were no different.  They had become so legalistic about their religion that they could commit sin & condemn others in the very same breath.  The religious rules of the leaders were burdensome.  We can’t even begin to imagine how very deep the liturgical roots ran into their souls, though even today man-made rules about salvation enslave many to believe it is based on performance rather than grace.

When Jesus died on the cross, the leaders of the time were adamant that His body be taken down before sunset.   The leaders needed Jesus down off of the cross before the upcoming Passover so they could keep the law that criminals were not allowed to hang on a cross overnight.  {Deuteronomy 21:22-23}  It is ironic that the same people who deliberately sent Him to the cross, would want to abide by such strict rules all in the same day.

The problem with them keeping this law in order to keep Passover rituals is that Jesus had already died & before He died, He declared, “It is finished.”


Jesus did what the law never could...


Jesus’ death on the cross-unraveled the binding laws.  His deliverance liberated our bondage.  Though the resurrection is where our power resides, Jesus’ dying on the cross finished the work God had sent Him to do ~ which in turn means our working for God’s acceptance ended that day.  Because of His resurrection, we stand fully right with God.  Jesus took our wrongs upon Himself so that we could be fully transformed with Him & take on His righteousness. 

The world tries to make us believe the crucifixion is about rules we must obey to be accepted when in reality the crucifixion & the resurrection are about love & grace.


Think about it today….God looks upon you like a sweet child who He loves with all the fullness of His love for Christ, let that sink in today.  As you walk & live through whatever your realities are, know that the reality of the cross means that you are fully free & forgiven.  It means that God loves & accepts you.  You do not have to strive for His love.

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Are Distractions Causing You to Lose Focus?

To be honest, 2018 has, thus far, been a difficult year.  Extra stress, not enough sleep & relational difficulties are making me a bit grumpy. 

Seasons like this can steal my joy.   My heart longs to live my life valuing my relationship with Jesus so much, that I sit at His feet, eagerly listening for words that will bring me true fulfillment without distraction.  But too often, I just don’t.   There are so many things that assault my focus on Him.  Family, work, friends, even church can blur my focus. 

Let’s be real, we do have responsibilities in this world.  Resting in Jesus doesn't mean never doing any work in life.  It means not becoming bogged down & overwhelmed by those responsiblities.  Many of our responsibilities are good and a blessing from God, but we must not let them distract us from Jesus.  This is how the enemy steals our joy.


Now it happened as they went that He {Jesus} entered a cetain village & a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet & heartd His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving & she approached Him & said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me.”  And Jesus answered & said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried & troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed & Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”  {Luke 10:38-42}


Remember this story of Mary & Martha?  Just imagine the joy Martha initially had knowing Jesus was coming to her village and He would be stopping at her house.  There was already a deep relationship between Jesus and Martha, she was part of His “inner circle” of friends, so she would have been thrilled at His imminent visit. 

But somewhere between the news of His coming & the time of His coming, distraction set in.  I’m sure when she realized she needed to clean her house & run to the market, stress built up & it turned into anger & then she might’ve yelled at all the people in her house.  {I’m just sayin’ that might be a possibility}

I imagine that by the time Jesus arrived, the tension between the two sisters was already high. 

Martha forgot, in the middle of common hospitality, where her focus was supposed to be.  She began to believe a lie that the importance was in the work & not in the relationship. 

So she asked Jesus, don’t you even care that my sister is not helping me with all the work?   Martha was so overwhelmed and anxious about ordinary matters, that she actually questioned the goodness & character of Jesus. 

I can sympathize with Martha.  I, too often, let ordinary matters cause me to be overwhelmed & anxious about my life too.  Whether I allow my to-do list to cause the stress, or whether unforseable circumstances take me there, the place where I find myself overwhelmed with life, blinds me to the fact that Jesus has my circumstances under control.  Nothing in my life takes Him by surprise & nothing can happen in my life, whether self imposed or not, that He cannot handle & that He cannot give me strength to handle.

So how do we keep our focus on Jesus in the midst of life’s responsibilities & difficulties?

·               Be Grateful ~ we must be thankful for the cares He has given us.   Being thankful for things like our family, friends & job, among others, will keep us focused on Him.  We must, however, not foolishly draw added pressure or distraction on ourselves.  Anxieties, not workload, distract us from Jesus.  We can stay focused on His great love even in the midst of extremely busy days.   This will overflow into joy that shows the world a reflection of Jesus. {1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Peter 1:6, James 1:2-4, Romans 12:12}

·               Watch our Words ~ Instead of asking “Jesus, don’t you care”, we need to say, “Jesus I know You care, so show me how to be focused on You in the midst of my life.”  He has promised to help us; we must just be willing to receive his help.  Our words in the middle of stressful times must be chosen carefully.  Careless words during seasons of high stress & anxiety can be hurtful to people we love & can draw our own focus away from Jesus. {John 1:16, Psalm 46:1, Hebrews 4:15-16, Isaiah 41:10}

·               Evaluate Stress ~ Ask God for guidance to know if what we are stressed about is really an issue that matters.  Sometimes we just need to take things off our plate.  Even ‘good’ things might not be right for your season of life.  Evaluate your responsibilities & the affect it is having on you mentally, physically & spiritually.  {Psalm 32:8, James 1:5, Romans 12:2}

Have you taken your distractions to the Father in prayer?  Have you asked Him for guidance to know how to deal with your anxieties?  Ask Him to show you how to rest in His love while dealing with the things that are difficult in your life.  


Love,
Cara

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Do you have what it takes to make it?

I love talking to young people in high school & college.  They live with big dreams.  Generally, when you talk to someone in their teens & early twenties, they see the world as their canvas & they have no doubt they will make a difference in the landscape of life.  Their grand plans include them being completely invincible.  They don't wonder about their capabilities, they believe they can do it & nothing in the world can stop their plans.

I remember being this way.  Full of dreams.  Full of hope for the future but something about walking in the reality of adult life drowned all of that hope into a sea of mundane.  Work every day.  Responsibilities.  Debt.  Mistakes.  Ultimately beginning to believe that the destiny I thought was mine, was lost in the pit of darkness that I had tumbled into on the road.

And for many of those early years of my adult life, I lived with the idea that every time I messed up, I disappointed God.  I struggled with guilt & shame & it caused me to think there was a distance between us.  I would hide from Him until I could behave long enough that I felt like our relationship was mended.

I know I'm not the only one who has ever struggled with this.  I think many of us, say we believe we are saved by grace but walk through life like it's our own works that can keep us from eternal damnation.

Somewhere between the beginning of this race we call life & the daily hustle of reality, we have forgotten that His grace is sufficient.  Somewhere we began believing that with every mistake, we are letting God down.  It’s as if we think He needs us to behave to make Him happy, to make Him look like a better God or to fulfill who He is.  We’ve forgotten that our life is about Him, not the other way around.


We are living in fear of disappointing God


Part of this belief is driven by the fear that somehow we are not enough.   We get into the world & begin to look around us & see others we think are "running the race" better than we are.  Maybe we've had some extent of failure or mistakes that make us believe we'll never be good enough for anything.  We believe the lie that everyone else is doing life better than we are.  Maybe someone along the way told you that you were not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough or enough at all.

The thing is, God can't bless our ability.  He blesses us in our weakness.  Our inability to perform on our own is the best thing we can ever realize about our life.  When we are weak, He is strong.  Actually, He is strong all the time, but when we let Him step into our weakness, we get to experience His strength in our lives.  We get to take part in His grace.

God wants us to give Him the ability to fill up our emptiness.  It’s so easy to make everything look good on the outside.  And most people will believe that we have it all together if we make it look pretty, but God, your Father, He sees the depth of our soul.  We can’t come close to pretending with Him.  The truth is, feeling incompetent is a blessing because it makes us need Him more.

We have to stop trying so hard to be the hero in the story.  We aren’t.  We never will be.  Whether we choose to accept it, whether we choose to walk in the Spirit or promote Jesus or not, He is still the Hero.  He is still the one for Whom everything that exists in this world continues on.  {Colossians 1:16}

We also have to stop acting like we aren’t equipped to run this race well.  If you are a child of God, you have the Holy Spirit living in you, that alone equips you. 

Hebrews 12 tells us to run with endurance looking at Jesus.  Too often we run out of steam for the race because we stopped looking at the prize.  Jesus is our reward, now & in the life to come.  We somehow forget this race is eternal.  It’s not just about today.   Every single day, every word, every action has an eternal ripple effect.  He uses our daily mundane lives to sanctify us.  He wants to make our current situation our eternal story.

Our purpose in Him is bigger than what we can see with our temporary vision.  The only way we are going to keep running & not quit is if we believe Jesus is our prize. 

So how do we keep our eyes on Jesus & make it in life?

Believe in who you are ~ If you are a Christ follower, then you are a co-heir with Jesus.  That means once you put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, God forever sees you as His righteous child.  Your acceptance in Him is not based on what you do, but who you are & what you do comes from knowing who you are.  When you believe that you are God's righteousness, fully loved & accepted, you behave like you are the King’s child.  {Romans 8:17, 1 Peter 1:13-16}

Believe in Whose you are ~  God has promised He will never leave or forsake us.  In other words, He will be with us wherever we go & in whatever we do.  Anything He has called us to walk through, to do or to be in this life, He does it with us & He gives us His strength to do it.  His presence is the answer to whether we are enough.  {Matthew 1:23, Deuteronomy 31:8, Psalm 20:7-8}

Believe in His strength ~ Every time I begin to do something I believe God has called me to; I have the same desperate thoughts.  I am not smart enough.  I am not equipped enough.  I can’t do this.  God, this is way too big for me.  And every time, God gently pulls me into His arms & reminds me that He is enough to make me smart enough, equipped enough & capable enough to handle the big job.  I would never have known God's strength in my life if I hadn't been willing to take a step towards following His ways & in turn, my realization of my not enough-ness causes me to be desperately dependent on His enough-ness.  {2 Corinthians 4:7, Isaiah 40:29}

 
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How to Divide Sorrow & Multiply Joy

The day my dad died, my mom & I drove home from the hospital in silence.  I honestly wondered what we would do next.  What would happen when we got back to the house?  Where would we even start?  How do you tell the news?  Things were different then, it wasn't the age of texting & immediate news spread on social media.  Who should we call first?

I remember we walked into the house from the garage & about 10 seconds after stepping foot into the house, the doorbell rang.  I went to the door & there stood a long time, family friend.  How in the world had she already gotten the news? 

It didn't matter because I fell into her arms.  She didn't say a word, she just held me.  When we went into the house, she held my mom too.  It was only moments later, more people started to show up at the door until there was a house full, but the first person there didn't mingle.  She got to work, doing small tasks that needed to be done, consoling, protecting & bringing in the presence of Jesus.

I’ll never forget how much I felt loved that day.  By everyone who showed up, but especially the first person because she wasn’t looking to give advice or make the situation “better”, she just wanted to be present & to do anything that needed to be done.  I know this person well enough to know our family occupied many hours of her prayer life during those grieving days as well.

My dad always used to say “Church family is meant to divide sorrow & multiply joy”.  It’s basically the same thing that Paul said to the church at Corinth in his letter to them.


Whatever happens to one member, happens to all.  If one suffers, everyone suffers.  If one is honored, everyone rejoices.  {1 Corinthians 12:26}


Divide Sorrow, Multiply Joy

Doesn’t it sound like something you want to be a part of?  I want to live a life that shows the world how to love like Jesus by carrying the burdens of others & making the joyful moments a bigger celebration.  {Galatians 6:2, Luke 10:30-37}

I want to live my life in such a way that I am so passionately involved with God that His deep & wide love overflows out of me to those around me. 

I know there have been times in my life where I have done this well.  To be brutally honest, right now isn’t one of them.  I need to hit the refresh button on my life & re-order my schedule to be a better friend.  So as I took a look at Jesus & His life, the way He walked with His friends, I realized there were some things He did that I want to do as well.

Jesus knew being a friend wasn’t about Him, but about the Father ~  Jesus understood that “doing life” with His friends meant that they needed to see the Father through Him.  He also counted His friends as a blessing.  He wanted more than anything that they see the Father in Him & that God Himself be glorified.  Jesus wasn’t looking to glorify Himself.  He didn’t try to meet their needs in His own strength.  Being a friend will cost you something.  You will have to sacrifice your comfort & your time, but the benefit comes in walking in the righteousness of God’s ways. {John 17:6-8}

Jesus prayed for His friends to stay faithful to God during difficulty ~ Peter couldn't see his own difficulty clearly, when he told Jesus he would go to prison or death with Him just before Jesus went to the cross.  Peter was in the thick of a trial & his vision & discernment were threatened.  When our friends are walking through a trial it is easy for them to begin to feel like suffering is the absence of God, but we are called to lift their faith by praying for them & encouraging them, not being their conscience.  We simply need to reassure that God is faithful & we are praying.  {Luke 22:32}

Jesus honestly rejoiced with those who rejoiced & mourned with those who mourned ~ There are many stories of Jesus' healing in the Bible, but the one that shows the mourning & the rejoicing the best is the story of Jesus healing Lazurus.  This is the passage where we see Jesus weeping over his dead friend & how His heart was moved with compassion, but when He called out Lazarus from the grave & said to loose him from his grave clothes, I know it was because Jesus was ready to party & rejoice over the good in this family's life.  {John 11, Romans 12:15}

Jesus showed up when His friends needed Him the most ~ His disciples had locked themselves in a room because of grief & fear.  They were in the blackest, darkest pit of their lives.  Then Jesus shows up.  Don't you know everything changed that day?  When we show up for our friends, it changes everything.  Knowing that you are loved enough for someone to show up for you makes difficulty bearable.  We are Jesus’ representation to our friends so we need to show up for them.  {John 20:19-29}

Jesus spurred His friends to faith without heaping guilt on them ~  The disciples found themselves in a mess of a storm.  It didn’t matter how they got there, but the storm was raging around their boat & they were afraid.  It seemed their friend didn’t care because He was sleeping in the bottom of the boat, but when he came up onto the top of the boat & calmed the storm, He asked them 2 questions.  Why were you afraid? And, where is your faith?  Asking questions, puts the responsibility back on the one who is being asked.  It doesn’t condemn but instead invites the heart to examine itself.  It spurs on our friends in a way that is loving & allows the Holy Spirit to do the work, remembering we are just a tool He is using. {Mark 4:35-41, Hebrews 10:24}

Jesus kept loving His friends, even when they offended Him ~  Can you even imagine how offensive it was that the disciples constantly questioned Jesus’ words?  When he told them to push out their boat, when he told them to distribute the food, when he told them He would die & be raised to life.  But yet, He kept on loving them, being their friend, encouraging them & showing up.  People can be hurtful in ways they don’t even realize.  There is a definitely a time & place for communication in regards to relationship responsibility, but when we are offended, let’s take it to God to see if it’s something we need to address or get over.  And let’s keep loving, encouraging & showing up for our friends.  {Luke 5:1-7, Matthew 14:13-21, Matthew 16:21-23}

How’s your love life with your friends?  Are you in it to magnify the Father?  Where do you need to ask Jesus to show you how to love better?

Love,
Cara

Why 21 days of fasting didn't change the truth

If you follow me on social media at all, you might have noticed I've been missing for 21 days & maybe you have wondered why.  My pastor challenged our entire church to fast social media for 21 days.  Honestly, if I were to set my heart toward a 21-day fast, social media would have been the last thing I would've chosen because I didn't see it as a distraction in my life.

I decided, however, to go ahead & follow the urging of the shepherd of my congregation for one reason only: he's the leader of the pack.  I believe in submission to church leadership & I believe in the authority my pastor rightfully has as God's ordained minister. {obviously, church submission falls under parameters leaders that are leading in a biblically correct way}

There’s something you need to know about me though…I am not naturally a submissive person.  In fact, it is my natural tendency to bristle up like a porcupine when told what to do.  I like things my way & often I feel I can do things better than the way they are being done. 

Submission is an area where the Lord continues to grow me & call my heart toward walking in His way.  He has been showing me over the last 20 years how my submission to authority actually advances my ability to lead, live humbly & love others.  My resignation to submit has become easier for me, but it is still a challenge.  It's crazy & backward to think that giving up my right to do things my way, leads me into a path of worshipping Him & He lifts me up to places I could not imagine on my own, but somehow it does. {Isaiah 55:8-9}

However, when considering this social media fast, I felt I had to take in to account the fact that I do run a blog which is social media driven, so I decided before the fast began that I would schedule posts to keep my followers engaged & continue to grow my readers.  Because unfortunately, the numbers game is part of the process of running a web-based business. {Insert sigh here}

But the day before the fast began, I felt the Lord prompting me not to have any pre-scheduled posts.   Lovingly, He nudged me & asked if I trusted Him with everything, including the growth of my blog.  You see for me, scheduling those posts was a way for me to keep a sense of control over the situation.  So I submitted.  To God's prompting & to my church's request.  I forwent all pre-scheduling & gave up social media completely.

And guess what I found at the end of 21 days.  The world was still turning in the social media realm just the same as it was before I started my fast.   Nothing changed. 

I know during a fast my heart is supposed to be changed & I am to draw closer to God & that did happen, but I think we have a false assumption that if we are not in the midst of where we believe the world is turning, everything might come crashing down.  You can see it all the time in people who like social media posts immediately, people who find value or worth in how many ‘likes’ they get, people who can’t disconnect from phones, tv, texts, emails.  The list goes on.

Please hear me & understand that I am not by any means implying social media & technology are bad but I believe too often they fall in the wrong place on our priority list.   We let them be first in our life. 

Before God, before any desire to grow in Him, before any desire for our lives to look holy, there is a desire for our lives to look amazing to the world.  

This isn't even about social media or technology in general; it is about our hearts.  Think of anything in the whole world that you love & place a high value on.  If you couldn't or wouldn't give it up if asked to do so by God, there is a problem.  Our whole culture is indeed suffering from a submission problem.  

We are a people who want the benefit & blessing of following God's ways, but we don't actually want to follow Him.

We are looking to be entertained, but as soon as we are no longer entertained by the music, the preaching or the program, it's off to greener pastures for us. 

So the truth of what I found during this 21 day fast, that will settle into the soil of my heart & grow as good seed is that We are called to submit & follow authority.  It was true before I started the fast & it's true now.  Truth never changes.

What did change was one more hardened place in my heart, because I chose to submit, God once again showed me His faithfulness.  Fasting didn't make me more righteous or more loved by God, it made my heart more focused on Him.  He is the ultimate truth & His ways are just better. 

We have a false belief that somehow submission is slavery or inferiority when in reality it is a mutual relationship that shows love & respect.

As believers, we are called to submit & follow authority & this is what I've learned about submission during the last 21 days:

•   Submitting to God is an act of worship. God gives us the free will to live our lives as we please, but because of His unfailing, sacrificial love for us, He lovingly urges us to submit to His ways so we can reap the benefit of submission.  When Jesus asked Peter to put down his net one more time after he had already fished all night, Peter immediately wanted to rebel, but in a moment of submission he agreed & he pulled in the biggest load of fish he'd ever seen. We need to submit to God to see abundant living, not just living to get by. {Luke 5:1-7}

•   Submitting to our church leaders is an act of obeying God Himself.  As part of the body of Christ, we are called to live in community & live under authority of leaders of the church.  We as a people should have a bent towards trusting our leaders.  Our first inclination should be supportive of the direction they are giving.  Their faith should be so big & bold that it causes us to desire to imitate it & follow instruction from them.  Of course, there are instances of abuse of power in the church, but unless that is proven & stands against Biblical authority, we should walk as a family of people who supports those in leadership.  {Hebrews 13:17, 1 Corinthians 11:1}

•   Submitting to each other reflects Jesus in our lives.  Jesus submitted Himself to the authority of God to come to earth in the form of man so that we could be co-heirs with Him. We are to imitate Christ in all of His actions so submitting to each other is a natural result.  As believers our lives are not a fight to the top, we are fighting for others to be lifted up & to live at peace.  The majority of strife between believers is personal preference, not biblical turmoil.  Living at peace with people means submitting to personal preference to further the gospel.  {1 Peter 2:21, Romans 12:18}


Is there an area of your life where God is asking you to submit?  Does submission make you feel inferior or make you feel like you are reflecting Jesus' character?  Remember that in submission there is abundant living.


Why the Grass is Never Greener on the Other Side of the Fence

I love the suburban town we live in because there are pastures full of cows & horses interspersed between neighborhoods & many of the roads are still 2 lane pass through.  It gives me the feeling of living somewhat in the country while having the conveniences of the city.  Last summer as I drove from one side of town to the other,  I noticed this cow straining to get his head through a fenced area to eat the grass just outside his own pasture.  I chuckled at how far he had pushed his body up to the barbed wire fence, just to get a little taste of the grass on the other side. 

My mind drifted swiftly to that old phrase, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

I thought about how true this had been in my life.  About how I had spent seasons of my life, looking so forward to the next phase or transition, that I had wasted valuable time.  I thought when the expected times arrived things would be better, but upon the occurrence of ‘the other side,' I would find, the same difficulties, trials & discontentment.

When I was young, I thought getting out of school would bring the freedom & happiness I longed for.  Then I thought the right job would satisfy, then it was marriage & then it was kids & then it was moving into the right house.  The list goes on & on, but somehow with each change of scenery, I still found the same frustrations & adversity. 

As I thought about that cow pressing against the fence, I thought how foolish I was ever to think the grass was greener on the other side.  When what I have really come to realize is that the grass is greener where I let my Shepherd {Jesus} lead me.

Once I finally realized that the key to green, lush grass is taking my eyes off my situation & placing them persistently on Jesus, I began to find that expected times & events were just things the Lord was blessing me with but I no longer had to look to them for fulfillment.  

And I realized something; even the most beautiful, lush, green pasture still has cow poop in it. 

So even when my situation isn't any better off, my relationships aren't perfect & my circumstances aren't ideal, my Shepherd is leading me through green pastures & my focus becomes clear so that I don't step in the cow poop!  I no longer have to strive to get to greener grass.

But I have a choice in the matter.  I can keep my eyes on the side of the fence where I can't go {thinking there is no poop over there} or I can keep my eyes on the Shepherd that leads me through the pastures He wants me in.  Even when my life doesn't look the way I had ever hoped or dreamed, the Father still is leading me every step & I can trust in Him.

That day, driving down the road,  I also thought about Psalm 23.   The passage we all know as the key scripture for funerals everywhere, but is genuinely 6 verses full of complete direction for the living.   All that kept running through my head was the verse that says "He makes me lie down in green pastures," so I read the chapter again & came to see how Psalm 23 shows so clearly the depth of the abundant life we have in Jesus. {John 10:10}


The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You{god} are with me; Your rod & Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness & mercy will follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
{Psalm 23}


Here’s what I realized about the pasture I'm walking through: 

The LORD is with me ~  He is my Shepherd.  A Shepherd never leaves His sheep because if he did, a thief or predator would come.  I can relax in the place that Jesus has me in right now because He is with me.  He calls me by name & meets my every need.  {Psalm 23:1, John 10:3}

The LORD is beside me ~ He is leading me beside still waters.  That means He is always close enough to touch & I can rest in His goodness.  He is the One Who restores my soul.  That means when my life is spinning out of control, I can stop & catch my breath with Him & He will take me to a good place.  Practically, when I have lost hope in life, I can call on Him to restore my hope. {Psalm 23:2, John 10:4}

The LORD is before me ~ I don't have to fear anything in the future of my life because He is already before me.  He knows what's coming in my life & He is not surprised by anything that comes my way.  If I trust Him to be there already, then I can trust Him to sustain me while I walk through whatever my circumstances are. {Psalm 23:3, John 10:9}

The LORD is covering me ~ He protects my life from evil & danger & He is there comforting me as I go through difficulties.  He is the good Shepherd & a Shepherd never leaves his flock. {Psalm 23:4, John 10:11}

The LORD is around me ~ He’s constantly blessing me even in the face of the enemy.  My cup runs over.  The blessings in my life so far outnumber the heartache.  God has been so faithful to me, even when I was faithless, even when I was in the middle of some of the hardest times of my life, He was around me.  Orchestrating events so that He could work everything for my good. {Psalm 23:5, John 10:14}

The LORD is beyond me ~ I have the promise that goodness & mercy are my constant companion & that I have a home in heaven for eternity.  Even in the thick of the hardest times, I have the great assurance that my eternity is secure & that is comforting. {Psalm 23:6, John 10:28}


Are you looking for greener pastures?  Could you allow your focus to be on Jesus right now & give Him the circumstances that are disappointing you?


Love,
Cara

Don't Limit God

{Guest Post by Jamila Jackson}
Jamila is an encourager and the Founder of loved+blessed, a subscription box that delivers monthly Christian encouragement to women around the world.  You can read her testimony at http://www.lovedandblessed.com/blog/miseryintoministry and learn more about the monthly subscription box at lovedandblessed.com


As I type, it’s the final countdown to 2018!  In just a few days, we’ll start a brand new year of life.  Instead of setting resolutions, this is the time when I like to reflect on my life and prepare my heart and mind for what the year ahead might have in store.  I’ve been thinking a lot about how this holiday season has been.  I don’t know about you, but since right after Thanksgiving, I’ve been stressed out!

Being a small business owner, my friends and I found ourselves buried in orders, running back and forth to the post office, while also preparing for the next subscription box to ship.  While it seemed like everyone else was shopping and decorating and planning holiday meals, I was biting my nails to see if some products we had designed would be delivered to us in time.  Everything was going according to plan…then our printer had trouble with an artwork file, and UPS lost a shipment containing one of our products.  It was a box coming from a vendor who is literally only 45 minutes away, but I'll save my lost package rant for another time.

I was already feeling discouraged about the printing issues, and then when the product was lost, I said to myself, "Really?!  Is this how 2017 is going to end?" I felt like throwing my hands in the air and yelling, " I give up!" But then I heard that small voice asking, "Have you forgotten that my power is unlimited?"  I had to laugh at myself because I had allowed my stress and worry to discourage me instead of remembering that I was working on a box all about how God can make a way out of no way!  (Insert facepalm emoji here. LOL)

So as I look towards 2018, I want to stay focused on maintaining an “expectant perspective"


“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11


The Bible tells us that God has great plans for us, plans for our good, so I want to live each day, excited for what He has for me.  Even when the potholes and speed bumps along my journey slow me down, I want to keep moving forward without swerving.  I want to stay on the path He’s set for me, knowing that no matter what the situation may look like at the moment, there are good things ahead. 

I started out this post saying I don't usually set New Year's resolutions.  Well, I think this year might be a little different.  I'm not sure if these are resolutions or more like mantra's for the year, but here goes:

Don’t limit yourself ~ Believe God can use you to do great things!  It’s a new year, don’t limit what God called you to be by holding back on things you know He has called you to do.  {I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13}

Don’t limit others ~ The difference between someone having the courage to seek a closer relationship with God and trust Him to go after their dreams might be their interaction with you.  Be an encourager; the world has enough critics. {Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29}

Don’t limit God ~ Believe He will do what He says He will do!  Whatever situation you find yourself in, remember that He can make a way out of no way.  He can make even the most difficult circumstances work out for your good.  He is not limited by your limitations.  He is not limited by your imagination.  His power is not limited.  His forgiveness is not limited.  His grace is not limited. {And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28}

He will see you through 2018 just like He saw you through 2017.  God Bless you and Happy New Year!


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Are You on the Naughty or Nice List?

There is therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  {Romans 8:1}

I clearly remember my carefully laid plan.  When the teacher told us to get out notebook paper, I would grab my tiny sheet of preprinted paper with all my spelling words on it to hide under my blank notebook paper.  Then I would proceed to cover my head with my sweatshirt under the pretense of keeping other kids from looking on.   I felt guilty just making the plan & it was really pointless because I was a good speller.  In fact, I almost always made 100’s on spelling tests.  But for some reason, this week the words seemed too hard for me.  Instead of trying to learn them, my 10-year-old self devised a plan to cheat on my test! 

I have no idea why I did it because I had never cheated before but this time I went straight to the deep end of the sin pit. The guilt weighed heavier with every single word the teacher called out & by the end of the test I felt like I couldn’t I breathe.  I don’t know if it was the sweatshirt over my head or the building guilt in my heart but I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Then the worst thing happened.  My teacher walked around, desk-to-desk, to collect the tests.  She had never done this before.   In all my careful planning of how to cheat, I didn’t take into account that when I lifted my notebook paper from the desk to turn it in, the fact that it was covering the little sheet of paper with all my spelling words on it would be exposed.   I tried my best to do a magic trick & make the little paper disappear when I handed her my test but she saw it.  Not only that all the kids around me saw it too.  

I was caught & I got detention for a whole week.  

When Christmas rolled around I knew for sure Santa wasn’t going to visit me.  I had been “naughty”.  I do remember that I had asked Jesus to forgive me & having grown up in a Christian home, I knew grace was bigger than my sin, but I also believed I had to be a “good girl” & earn back my rightful place of blessing.    

I didn’t understand at the time that I was falling for the enemy’s perfect attack on my identity as a beloved daughter.

I knew Romans 8:1 by heart.  It was a verse I was required to learn in my small Christian school, but I didn’t understand it.   The realization that because of my salvation I was walking in the Spirit had not taken root in my heart {Ephesians 2:8}.  And if I was walking by the Spirit then how did my flesh take over & lead me to give in to the temptation to cheat?

Unfortunately, I continued living this cycle for years.  The idea that I had to be good in order to be in right standing with God kept me completely bound to trying more to be more.  I believed if I tried harder to “be good” I would somehow gain more favor with God.  Unfortunately, in my own strength, I continued to fail & continued to believe I was a disappointment to God.  Thus a weight of guilt, just like the one I felt in fourth grade, lingered over me.

Several years ago, as I read the scriptures just before Romans 8:1 and those that shortly follow it, I realized the answer to my internal guilty struggle was there in black & white.  Because of the sin of one man {Adam}, we were all made sinners & in order for God to set apart His people from the rest of the world, the Law {10 commandments} were given in order that we might know right from wrong.  But the law magnified human sin & made it so obvious that we were destined to continue to fail in our attempts to do right.  

But then Jesus came & God’s grace in “fuller, greater measure” was magnified because through one Man’s obedience we who are in Christ, are made righteous. {Romans 5:19}

Because of this, we can walk free of condemnation!  But then does that mean we are free to go about doing whatever we want in the absence of the Law?  


What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Absolutely not! {Romans 6:1-2a ESV}


Paul tells us that God’s grace is not our license to sin.  We were created to serve our Creator & if we do not have the Law as our guiding truth, grace will not have any place in our lives.  But through God’s grace, we have become servants of obedience to God which sets us free from the Law itself.  You see the Law itself cannot fix what is wrong with us.  It is a blueprint of how we should live but in our humanity, we give in to sin.  The law brings that sin to the surface but it can never change the heart or free us from the power of sin.  

Enter grace.  Grace changes our heart.  Grace gives us power over condemnation from the Law.  Grace frees us from acceptance based on our own good works & gives us the ability to walk, uncondemned in the Spirit.  Grace takes me off the “naughty list” & places me on the “nice list” in Jesus permanently & John’s gospel tells us that Jesus is the complete fulfillment of GRACE & TRUTH {John 1:17}

The power of sin & death is eclipsed by the power of the Spirit.  

So what does all this theological rhetoric really mean in my life & yours?  

We are no longer on the “Naughty List” ~ The weight of the guilt of our sin was placed on Jesus & through His shed blood, we are made right with God.   The Law, moreover Satan as the accuser, condemns with guilt through the flesh.  But Jesus came & gave the weakness of our flesh the power to live righteously.  Not through anything we have or ever could do, but through His righteousness.  {Romans 8:3-8, Romans 5:8-9

We don’t have to earn a place on the “Nice List” ~ The Greek word Paul uses when he describes God’s grace actually means “superabound”.  This means that not only can sin never exceed the grace provided by God but sin loses even its threat of victory in our lives when compared to the superabounding grace of God!  That means no matter what we have done, we are free from condemnation because the grace of God is bigger.  I don’t know about you but the realization I have finally come to is that I cannot be condemned & having lived with guilt for much of life over failing at the Law, this truth brings life & freedom to me.  {Romans 5:20}

If you live with a veil {or a sweatshirt} of guilt that hovers over you, tell the enemy to take a hike & walk free in the superabounding grace & truth of Jesus.


Put your name in the blanks of the verse below:

There is therefore now no condemnation for _________ because he/she is in Christ Jesus, because ________ doesn’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  {Romans 8:1}


When the law came into the picture, sin grew & grew; but wherever sin grew & spread, God’s grace was there in fuller, greater measure {Romans 5:20 the VOICE}

Love,
Cara

3 Reasons to have gratitude when you feel ungrateful

My love stretches to the heaven & My faithfulness extends above the clouds   {Psalm 36:5}

During a season when everyone is talking about gratitude, it can be really hard to keep on pretending things are good when your life feels like it is falling apart.  I know this isn’t always the situation, but I have entered plenty of “Thanksgiving” seasons with a heart that wasn’t so thankful.

I told you in my last post about a time when I was so full of sorrow that it was extremely difficult for me to pray & how just going before the Lord in compulsory gratitude began to change my perspective on my difficulty.  Sometimes we are in a difficult season where one or more circumstances in life just aren’t going well which in turn makes it difficult to show any kind of gratitude.  

Deep sadness, brokenness & difficulties are not only exhausting, but they can be debilitating to our ability to find gratitude for anything in our lives.  Unfortunately, when a holiday comes around where the world tells you, “you should be thankful”, it can make it even harder.  But thankfulness starts with a deep understanding of how much we have in Jesus. 


If we try to base our gratitude in anything except Him, we will ultimately be overwhelmed by our circumstances.


Some of us are more apt to feeling down over life’s circumstances.  For years I struggled with severe anxiety & my circumstances could definitely get the best of me which in turn meant everyone else got the worst of me.  I am still susceptible to anxious feelings, but over the years I have learned some ways to manage those emotions that make it easier for me to get out of a ungrateful slump.


When we have gratitude it doesn’t change our circumstances but it does change our heart, which really changes everything. 


If I am facing a difficult relationship but I choose to enter into communication with that person, grateful for how Jesus is shaping my life to look more like His, then I am more likely to respond in a way that destroys division & brings reconciliation.  Or I might possibly just be facing a busy day that is full of a lot of deadlines & events that I must meet & be present at.  Gratitude for having the capability to handle those responsibilities & being able to go into the world as salt & light {Matthew 5:13-16} will change my perspective & allow me to share joy with others.

It has taken time for me to learn how to have the ability to cope with difficulty & have gratitude even when I feel ungrateful.  But remembering these things helps me change my grumbling into gratitude:

He is worthy of our praise ~ I’ve realized that even in the middle of my trials, disappointments & difficulties, God still deserves my praise.  The problem is I don’t want to praise Him when my life isn’t going as planned.  I want to grumble.  But my gratitude can’t be based on my current situation.  It must be based on the fact that I know He loves me & I trust Him to give me strength to endure this life.  He is worthy of my praise even in the middle of hard stuff. {John 16:33, Psalm 145:3

In His presence we find joy ~ If praising God brings us into His presence {Psalm 100:4}, being in His presence gives us joy.  It says directly in the Word, “In your presence is fullness of joy”. This means that when we choose to praise God in spite of our circumstances we will be filled with His joy.  The difference in happiness & joy, is that joy is not circumstantial but is enduring.  When we have the true joy of the Lord, no circumstance can defeat us. {Romans 12:21, Psalm 16:11}

His joy is our strength ~ It is with complete reverence that I can tell you it is God who gets me through life.  I am so easily distracted from His promises of peace, strength & protection & my heart so quickly forgets His past grace.  But planting seeds in my heart though reading His word & talking with Him, allows me to harvest a crop of His joy when times are difficult.  {Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 28:7}


Where do you need to allow Jesus to be your focus so that you can have gratitude in a difficult situation?


Love,
Cara

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How to have Gratitude {even when it's a sacrifice}

There was a time in my life when day after day, for 3 full months, I would enter the presence of God in an attempt to communicate with Him but each time the outcome was not what I had hoped for.  Even though I knew I was in His presence, I would sit in silence & the weight of black empty space would fill my heart & my head.  I could see God & even feel Him in the room, but it was as though His embrace was just out of reach.

The reason for my longing but seeming unreach, wasn't God's fault.  It was the deep sorrow that overtook every part of my being & had somehow even taken hold of my tongue, muting my prayers.  

Then one day, just at the end of this 3-month stretch of pain, I heard someone giving a detailed description of Heaven & I realized in the midst of all my heartache, if nothing else, I could be thankful for an eternal home in Heaven.  So the next morning, I went to the Father & I said thank You for giving me the promise of Heaven.  That was it.  That’s all my prayer consisted of.  But I did it again & again for several days. 

Without warning, a compulsory gratitude began in my heart.  I no longer felt completely isolated from Him & my focus on His goodness, even in the middle of my circumstance, changed my perspective.  I began to receive His peace & the ability to look at what was going on in my life through God’s perspective.  Though I still didn’t like what I was facing, my communication with my Father was opened & once again held the intimacy that I had known before. 

As my perspective began to change, I realized 3 things:

Gratitude isn’t in my circumstance, it’s in me ~
Just because I don’t feel like giving thanks doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be thankful for.  As a child of the One true King, I always have what He did on the cross & the promise of Heaven to focus my gratitude upon.  Jesus’ salvation gives me full access to amazing love & power upon which I can rest my gratitude.  {Romans 8:38-39}

In order for me to get to Him, I must look at Him ~
When I went before Him to pray, I wasn’t focused on Him.   I was focused on my circumstance, which had me blinded to find His embrace for comfort.  He was still there & actually He was still holding me, but I was resisting by not being fully present in His presence.  All I had to do was to look at Him in order to feel His grace. {Psalm 34:8, 18}

Praising Him is a sacrifice that is worth the cost ~
We cannot praise God with a praise that can be purchased.  Our praise must come from deep within & at times requires all the strength & courage we can muster. Hebrews tells us to offer sacrifices of praise to God.  There is no sacrifice so great as when our hearts are burdened.  When praise & gratitude is the farthest thing from my heart & mind, the sacrifice of praise places glory where it belongs & God is pleased in my sacrificial act of worship. {Hebrews 13:15-16}

 

What can you thank Him for today?  What sacrifice of praise can you offer Jesus who offered you everything through the cross & in His resurrection?


Love,
Cara


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Why Jesus is the filtering tool we need

One of my favorite family pictures was taken about 12 years ago.  In the picture, my husband, my kids & myself are all walking in a park, holding hands & the photographer took the picture behind us so it looks like we are out on a sweet family walk.  The funny thing is, every time I look at that picture, I think about the fact that you can’t see our faces or hear what was going on.  

When the picture was taken, my kids were arguing, I was yelling at them, somewhat under my breath & my husband kept saying “kids, listen to mom”.

I feel like it’s a beautiful photo with an ugly story.  Everyone’s hair was done perfectly & we were all dressed in coordinating clothes & the photographer, who was really good, edited the picture & gave the photo a soft, dreamy look by filtering the image with photo editing tools to make all the colors come alive.  

Recently, as when I looked at this image in a frame on a small table in my hallway, the circumstances surrounding this picture got me to thinking about the pictures of my every day life & the pictures I see of other peoples lives.  It’s so easy to get trapped in a mindset that everyone else’s life actually reflects the small, photoshopped images I can see & that mine should too. 

Filters on pictures are a big thing right now.  Being able to take a simple photo & make it look like a work of art can be kind of fun.   As my thoughts were absorbed in pictures & filters I began to wonder… what if Jesus was the filter I used on every photo of my life?


What if in every situation, I took a picture in my mind & let Jesus be the filter over it?  


Suppose that instead of being offended by someone who said something I misunderstood, I re-filtered that image through Jesus.  Or instead of assuming my family took me for granted because they didn’t thank me for something I did, I laid Jesus over that situation as a filter.  What if when my co-worker snaps at me, I let the character & power of Jesus make the situation beautiful?

Overlaying the character of Jesus in all the images we create in our minds will make them beautiful.  Not that the situation necessarily changes, but the image does because our hearts & minds let Him be our focus.  Jesus as our filter creates an image worth displaying.

Just like my favorite family photo, an ugly situation can be made beautiful by using a filter to look at it through what Jesus promises He will do if we just let Him.

Learning to use a filter actually takes a little time & practice.  I have several different photo apps on my phone that I like to use to create fun photos, but each of them have a learning curve.  Learning to let Jesus take control of our life photos takes practice too.  We must not feel like failures if we let Him be our filter in one situation & then forget to use His strength in our lives in the next one.  Jesus wants us to become more like Him & it is a process that He is willing to stick around with us for.  He is completing a good work in us. {Philippians 1:6}

Learning to call upon His filtering power can be strengthened by remembering a few things that will embed His character into our hearts:

It takes Practice - Genuine faith should always be changing us.  Daily decisions about how we behave, like our attitude toward situations, should be constantly refined by Jesus.  We can’t expect to accomplish this one time & then get it right every time.  It is an ongoing, daily laying down of our own flesh to accomplish His eternal purpose in our hearts. {1 Corinthians 15:49, 58}

Jesus must be our Purpose - Our reason for everything must be Jesus.  If it is not, we won’t be successful in the long run.  Difficulties will come & if we are not intentional about filtering those through Jesus, the images forever locked into our hearts & minds will be ugly.  But if we release control to Him & allow His purposes to be accomplished, His grace will turn ashes to beauty. {Colossians 3:23, Romans 8:5}

We must Pursue Him - It’s easy to snap a picture in a situation but it takes intentionality to filter it & make it beautiful.  The same is true with what God calls us to.  Our relationships, in every area of life, will require us to pursue the character of Jesus in our lives in order for them to reflect His beauty.  Time spent in prayer & the Word are crucial to our lives bearing the image of Christ. {Psalm 63:1, Acts 17:27-28}

What circumstances in your life do you need to ask Jesus to be your filter & make things beautiful in His way?


Love,
Cara

 
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Dear Single Mama

I want to share a piece of my heart with you today.  Recently I found out that 2 different women, who are very dear to me, have been treated poorly by Christians and/or the church in general.  The mistreatment had to do with judgment surrounding their divorce & the fact that they were now single mothers.  At first, I was just appalled & angry that anyone, especially those proclaiming to walk as Christ, could be so hurtful & hateful, but then I was just overwhelmingly sad.  Not just for my friends who were hurt, but for all single moms who have been wounded this way.  Because if I know 2, there must be thousands more out there that I don’t know.  

In fact, my own mom was once a single mother.  If you know me or have read my blog long enough, then you know my daddy was a pastor but before he was my daddy on earth, it was just me & my mom.  She worked hard, loved me hard & struggled well to give me everything I needed.  She taught me how to walk uprightly, how to have a servant's heart & most of all she taught me Jesus.  She showed me how to live as the righteous daughter of the King that I am & to believe that my Heavenly Father gave me an identity.  

I can’t change what others have said or done but I have a voice that can stand up against judgment, hatred & boastful pride.  I can stand as an ambassador for Christ’s love {2 Corinthians 5:11-21} to tell single moms that He loves them.  So that's what I want to do in the letter below.  

If you are a single mom, or if you know a single mom, then please read this & pass on the Love...


Dear Single Mama,
I want to apologize to you.  I’m sorry that your circumstances are hard.  Being a single mom is hard.  I’m sorry if anyone, Christian or not, has ever made you feel humiliated because of your situation.  Whether it was a condemning look, word or action, it was wrong.  We have been a loud noise with no love. {1 Corinthians 13:1

Condemning words have communicated animosity instead of love.  I’m sorry you received harshness instead of grace.  

My hope is that you would see this apology from me as the face of Jesus because He wants you to know that He loves you & He is proud of you.  He wants to be intimately near you.  He knows everything about you & your circumstances & He loves you infinitely.  He created your inmost being & knows the hairs on your head, {Psalm 139:13-14, Luke 12:7} all because He loves you. 

Jesus has declared that you are righteous & holy. {Hebrews 10:10}

So I am sorry for all the ways you’ve been shunned.  I’m sorry for the nights you sit lonely because all of your couple friends went out or the times the moms at school didn't include you in their plans.  I’m sorry for the long days of work & the hours of taking care of children on your own.  I’m sorry for the way people act like singleness is bad.  I’m sorry that in the name of Jesus, people have behaved like your enemy instead of your friend.

I’m sorry you’ve sat alone in church.  I’m sorry that you don’t feel like all the other women.  You are just like all of them & we are just like you.  The married ones, never married ones & widowed ones ~ we all just want to be loved & accepted. 

We are all the same, people in need of the grace & righteousness of Christ to come in & save us from ourselves & the harsh world around us.

You are loved  

You are loved by God the Father.  He is not mad at you or disappointed in you.  No matter what anyone has said, God looks at you & sees His daughter & He loves you.

He loves your child{ren}.  He has great plans for them & He is using you as an instrument of His love in their lives.  He is using you to impact small people that will grow & change the world & the kingdom.  Believe it.  Walk it.  Do not ever give up on His great love.

Whether you are divorced or single through other circumstances, you chose to love your child{ren} sacrificially.  You chose to stay with your child{ren}.  You chose life over death.  You chose the harder road to do the right thing.  

Jesus is big enough to handle your difficult days.  He is big enough to turn your hard into beautiful.  Never doubt that God Almighty loves you & that He sees you.  He wants to be your shelter & your defense.  He wants you to just breathe His name so He can run to you & give you strength to make it through whatever circumstance you are in.

Keep on doing the right thing & seek Jesus with all your heart.  Be passionate about Him so you can live in the abundance of all He wants for you.  Jesus loves you & so do I.  Take up the shield of faith & keep moving forward. {Ephesians 6:10-18}


So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense.  Forgive as quickly & completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.  It’s you basic, all purpose garment.  Never be without it.  {Colossians 3:12-14

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. {1 Corinthians 13:4-7}

You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. {1 Peter 1:22}


Love,
Cara


 
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A Game of Chase

I think it had only been a few months, but it felt like an eternity since I perceived my prayers had gone any further than my ceiling.  I prayed day after day, but I was overtaken with the feeling that everything I said was bouncing right back at me & God had gone into hiding. 

I don't really know what caused the start of this vicious cycle of feeling like our relationship was one sided, but I remember what ended it.  One morning I was dissecting a Bible verse & I wrote down the question, "Do I trust God?".  I was shocked that my hand had written the words.  The question was completely illogical.  Of course I trust God, I thought.  How did this question even make it into my head much less spill out through my pen on to the page of my journal?

Slowly I began to realize I trusted Him completely for eternal salvation, even for healing & miracles, but I wasn't so sure that I could trust Him to help me live abundantly without me having to strive for the life I wanted.  My reality came crashing in on me when I realized my prayers were hitting the ceiling because I was chasing the desire of my own heart instead of chasing the One who desired me.   

We were designed to be a people filled up by something.  We wake up everyday & chase something.  We want to be liked, to be loved, to be respected & needed & honored.  But the problem is, we chase these things more than we chase God.  If we would just be still & realize that God has already fulfilled the desire in our hearts to be liked, loved, respected, needed & honored, through Jesus Himself, then we would see He won the game of chase & we no longer have to strive to be the winner.


Because of Jesus I lack nothing.


If I should be satisfied by God alone, then why do I so often forget to let Him be all I need?  Why doesn't my heart remember that when I am trying to build my life on my own I only find rubble, but when I build my life in who He is I find wholeness.  

David, the one the Bible calls a man after God's own heart {Acts 13:22}, didn't become a mighty man of God because he was perfect.  He also didn't gain such a place in eternal history by striving.  He simply acknowledged his need for God & trusted Him to bring abundance.  He was satisfied with God alone {Psalm 73:26}.  He moved when God said go & He stayed when God said rest.


One embrace from God gives us shelter from the storm & the strength for battle.


David let God be the fulfillment to all His desires.  But how do we do this?  Admittedly, I mess this up a lot, but years of trusting that God is big enough have led me to know these things: 

I must return to Him when I mess up ~ I've learned in times of failure, I need to be completely grounded in who Jesus is & who I am in Him.  Sometimes I cave into the pressure to be more, do more & own more.  But ultimately what I look like, what title I hold & how many followers I have on social media will always leave me empty.  As a child of God, none of these things define who I am.  Who I am is His & that can never be corrupted like the things of this world.  Just as a loving parent does, when I return to God & leave my failures behind, He fills me with the knowledge that His righteousness is enough. {Matthew 6:19-21, Joel 2:13}

I must fill up on Him when I'm thinking straight ~  Truthfully if I haven't eaten well, slept well or been treated well by people in my life, my thinking gets messed up.  I am overtaken by my flesh that is disappointed in this world.  But if I can fill up on God when everything seems right, then I can build a reserve of right thinking to carry me through when the difficulties come.   I know which way to run for strength when I have set my mind on the things of the Lord.  I don't return to the world to find identity but instead I go to my Father who tells me I am His.  He is all I need & when my heart is full on Him, the emptiness of my fleshly desires dissipate in the flood of His love.  {Romans 15:13, Philippians 4:8}  

I must let His grace be bigger than my fears ~ Failures & disappointments in life leave us feeling like if we don't perform for acceptance & strive for identity we will be left behind.  The fears of our hearts make us believe that His grace could never be enough.  But there is no fear in Love & God is love, so it must be true that the fear we feel is only a ploy of the enemy to keep us from abundance in His grace.   We must ask the Lord to reveal the areas of our life where we can let His grace take over & push fear aside. {2 Timothy 1:7, Colossians 2:13-15}


Is there an area where you need to run back to Him & let Him define who you are?  Are you taking the time to fill up on Him & let His grace be what propels you forward instead of striving for identity in what the world values?


Love,
Cara

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The Potter

Recently, while my family was on vacation, we visited a pottery shop & took a tour of the makings of how beautiful, detailed pottery is created.  We were able to watch a live demonstration, of how a potter places a lump of clay on the spinning wheel & creates a vase from what started as an abstract mass of clay.  If you have ever watched a master craftsman perform a very skilled task, you know their skill can make the craft look so very easy. 

So after watching this graceful & seemingly effortless demonstration for a bit, the potter asked if anyone in the audience would like to try their hand at making pottery.  My son had been watching closely & jumped right up & said he’d like to give it a try.  So he stepped up onto the platform where the potter had been sitting & they gave him his own clay & a few basic instructions.

Probably less than a minute after he began the adventure it was clear his confidence was dwindling.   He realized quickly that forming a lump of clay into a sculpture was not as easy as the skilled potter had made it look.  The master potter stepped in & gently held my son’s hands, showing him where to apply pressure, where to ease off & how to move his hands in order to form the clay into a vase.

In the Old Testament, God gave this literal picture to Jeremiah as well.  He told Jeremiah to get up & go to the potter’s house & see what the potter was making.  When Jeremiah got there, the potter had just finished an attempt at a pot that turned out badly, but the potter simply crushed the clay, started over & made a beautiful sculpture. 


“Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter simply started over, using the same clay to make another pot.”    {Jeremiah18 MSG}


God very clearly told Jeremiah, that He was the potter & His people are the clay.  As soon as we will allow Him to take hold of our life, our lump of clay, He will mold us into something beautiful.  It will take crushing, it will take time & it will take the hands of the Master Sculptor to be able to make us, in all our humanness, reflect the work of the One who makes us righteous.

The problem is, we are the amateur sculptor, who with too much confidence in our own ability, jumps in & says we can make it beautiful on our own.  We try hard & we may even realize we’ve messed up & make a decision to start over.  But until we release the clay into the hands of the Master, we will continue in our turmoil.  Our sin, our selfishness, our own desires, spurred by our adversary, keeps us thinking that we can mold our own lives into something beautiful.  But God wants us to stop worshiping a lie & let Him be the truth that guides us.  The truth is, if we will repent from our own ways & allow Him to be control & He will start over with us, making us into a beautiful thing.

The big question is how we stop controlling & start allowing Him to make us into a reflection of His love.  Here are some things we can do to let God be the Master of our lives:

Release control ~ Once we can release control to the Master, He will make things beautiful.  Don’t confuse what He calls beautiful with something that is perfect, easy or comfortable.  That’s not what He promises.  He promises to always give us His strength in place of our own weakness when we allow Him to.  God can’t make us into a masterpiece when we are busy doing it ourselves.  {Psalm 27:14, 2 Corinthians 12:9}

Return to Him ~ Sometimes we get off track in our way of life.  Do you know the story of the prodigal son who felt that he could handle his life better on his own than under his father’s care?  He made the choice to leave the safety of the father’s house & live on his own, only to find himself as a complete failure.  But when the son returned home, the father ran to him & swept him up, receiving him whole-heartedly back with love & mercy.  This is a picture of God & His children & it will be no different for us.  When we return to Him & just repent, He will sweep us into His arms & give us an unimaginable love that will make us into a perfect reflection of who He is & who we are in Him.  {Luke 15:11-20}

Walk in His finished work ~ When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are given complete access to a river of grace that can never dry up.  However, though we have full access, we must go to the river of grace & let it wash over us, we must drink it to quench our thirst, we must wash in it for our healing.  We are not robots; we are humans with full free will to choose.  We can be free & yet not walk in the freedom we possess in Christ.   We must choose to walk in the finished work of the cross.  When we trust God’s accomplishments instead of our own we will find fullness in life.  {Philippians 2:12-13, Romans 8:1-7}


What areas of your life do you need to let the Master do His work?  How have you been trying to control your own life?  Can you release control today & let the Father create a beautiful masterpiece out of your life?


Love,
Cara

 
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