Instead of Giving In…

GodEmpowers

I’ve always admired people who never give in.

You know, the ones who don’t consider defeat when they blow it?

I wish I were that brave.

But honestly, I tend to beat myself up a little when I fall short of the woman I want to be, or the woman God is calling me to be. Like the other day when I got upset with my son and went on a rant about his room being a mess.

Soon after, my internal bully (the mean voice in my head) started ranting about the mess I had just made and how I’d blown my chance of being a good mom that day. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve let failure knock me down, tie me up with ropes of regret and hold me hostage for a day, or two.

Maybe you’ve been there? If so, let can I whisper some assurance into your heart. You are not alone. I am with you and so are a boat load of other women just like us. In fact, while I was writing  A Confident Heart, I surveyed over a thousand women and discovered two of the most common causes of self-doubt are rooted in our past failures and our fear of failing in the future.

The greatest defeat comes when we allow failures, sins, and broken relationships to convince us we might as well give in.

But look at what God tell us in Psalm 37:23-24, and insert your name in the blanks as you read it:

“The steps of ____________ are established by the Lord, and He delights in ____________’s way. When ____________ falls, __________ will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds ________’s hand.” (NASB)

Instead of giving in, Jesus wants to empower us to get up again. {Read the rest of today’s post on (in)Courage) where I’m sharing more about giving in or letting Jesus help us get up again. I’d love to connect with you there!

No More Guilt-induced Doubt

Welcome Encouragement for Today friends! I’m so glad you stopped by. You can enter today’s drawing at the bottom of this post. And if you’d like to hear about upcoming giveaways or more confessions from an imperfect woman in desperate need of grace,
be sure to SIGN UP for EMAIL UPDATES in my sidebar –>

MyGraceIsSufficient

Sometimes I wonder how I can go from being in such a good place with Godfeeling peaceful, loving and patient.. but then something happens that sends me into an orbit of aggravation!! 

It happened just the other day…

Things were going well. I’d had a lovely afternoon working from home. Alone. Life was peachy.

But then school got out and kids came home. Within 15 minutes of arrival, one of my boys did something and said something that wasn’t so peachy. Then he did NOT do something I’d asked him to do and let’s just say… I lost all my peace and patience right there in the middle of my kitchen.

I was not happy.at.all. And I let my precious boy know it in a not-so-nice kind of way.

Then I felt GUILTY and like the WORST MOM on the planet.

For a few minutes I was pretty sure that’s exactly how God wanted me to feel ~ so I wouldn’t act so ugly the next time. 

But finally, after I’d almost convinced myself that I was the worst mom and had no business in ministry, I remembered something a pastor said about the difference between conviction and condemnation. He explained it like this:

Condemnation sweeps across our thoughts with generalized statements such as, You’re such a failure, You’re so hypocritical, or You can never be counted on. That is the accuser. His tone is condemning, questioning, and confusing. His accusations lead to guilt and shame.

But the Holy Spirit’s conviction will be specific. He will reveal a sinful action or attitude and instruct us on what we need to do to right the wrong: whether it’s restoring a broken relationship or returning something that isn’t ours. He’ll give us steps we need to take to change our behavior or attitude.

•       Instead of You’re such a failure as a [wife, mom, daughter, friend], the Spirit might say, You were really critical the way you talked to _________ (your husband, child, parent, etc). You need to say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness. Then tell them something that will build them up instead of tearing them down.

•       Instead of You’re so hypocritical, the Spirit might say, You judge others for gossiping, but you are doing the same thing when you talk about your neighbor at work. Tomorrow at lunch break, apologize for what you said and share a few things that are positive about her.

•       Instead of You can never be counted on, the Spirit might say, You didn’t keep your promise to go see your mom today. Call her to apologize and maybe set up a lunch date for this weekend.

Satan condemns accusingly, to make us feel guilty. God convicts lovingly, to lead our hearts to repentance. {tweet this?}

Jesus’ convictios draws us away from destructive behavior that hinders our relationship with Him and with others. His goal is to bring us out of the darkness of sin and back into the Light, so we can walk with Him in the freedom of forgiveness and the confidence of His love.

The next time we blow it or lose it, let’s ask Jesus to replace our guilt-induced doubt with HIS grace-infused confidence, as we hold onto the promise that His grace is sufficient because His power is made perfect in our weakness. 

Swope_ConfHeartDevo_3DsmIf my P31 devotion or blog post resonated with you today, I hope you’ll ENTER TO WIN a copy of my new Confident Heart Devotional. I truly believe the stories and truths in it will change your life {like they have mine}!  

 Based on honest struggles we all have with comparison, self-doubt, fear of failing, and the life-changing lessons God’s taught me and ten other women, {whose stories are in the book} you will discover how to change the way you feel by changing the way you think – which will transform the way you live! 

Expanding on what readers of my first book LOVED most: “When I say … God says …” statements, I’ve written 60 new devotions and new {WISGS} statements to equip you with a new a thought map and a promise – to live in every day! 

ENTER TO WIN (This giveaway has ended, but I’d still love to hear from you!)

: Click “Share Your Thoughts” below and do just that to enter to win one of three copies of my devotional book, and a $15 P31 Online Store gift certificate today!

****If you are reading this via email, click here to return to my blog and be part of the giveaway. {Your comment mus be left below this post to enter. Thanks!}

When Your Heart Needs Mending

Sometimes our hearts get to hurting and we don’t know where to turn. When our emotions are bleeding it’s easy to forget we have a Healer. It’s easy to run from the pain. My friend Suzie Eller is here today to remind us that we don’t have to run away. Jesus is inviting us to run to Him.  Here’s an excerpt from her new book, The Mended Heart. And… there just might be a way for you to win a copy at the end of this post.

Suzie.MendedHeart “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me. He has put His hand on Me to preach the Good News to poor people. He has sent Me to heal those with a sad heart. He has sent Me to tell those who are being held that they can go free. He has sent Me to make the blind to see and to free those who are held because of trouble.” Luke 4:18 (NLV)

“Why can’t you get it together?” “If you would just try harder.” Have you heard any of these statements? Maybe you’ve even said them to yourself. Perhaps those who stood on a hot hillside in Nazareth were asking themselves the same questions. Many tried hard to follow all the religious laws, but knew they fell short. Would Jesus give them more rules to follow? Imagine their surprise as Jesus spelled out His personal mission statement: I’ve come to open the eyes of the blind. I’ve come to set the prisoner free. I’ve come with good news for the poor in spirit. I’ve come to heal the brokenhearted. The crowd must have been shocked by His words, for they expected a warrior, not a heart surgeon. Jesus Himself was setting the record straight. He came so that we might be made whole … through Him. For those who had been trying harder, striving more, it was a transforming message. They were accustomed to following rules or meeting expectations of man, rather than resting in the power of their almighty God. When I became a believer, I didn’t understand Jesus’ mission statement. I was dealing with untended brokenness and trying everything to fix myself. When I grasped the power of Luke 4:18, this truth changed me: The power of the cross is not found in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. Jesus didn’t mean for us to do this alone. It’s not our strength or power that will transform us. Yes, we make changes. Yes, we open our broken heart to His tender touch. Yes, we allow Him to move us in uncomfortable directions to discover new paths — and leave old ones behind. But we are in a partnership with God … and He’s bigger. I also discovered I didn’t have to earn God’s love. Maybe, like me, you thought God would love you one day, when you had it all together. Jesus’ mission statement proclaims that He loves us today. With our baggage and hurting hearts. When we grasp that kind of love, it changes us. It compels us to return that love, and to trust Jesus from our hearts. This trust helps us listen for His voice. We sense when He is teaching or redirecting us. We weigh temptation in light of our love for our heavenly Father. This relationship helps us discover our “true selves, [our] child-of-God selves” (John 1:12, The Message). Last, Luke 4:18 reminded me that I didn’t have to run away just because I felt broken. A hurting heart can send us running down paths we may regret, searching for something or someone to ease our pain. Jesus’ mission statement invites us to stop running and rest in Him, expectant that our true selves will emerge with His healing touch. The truth of Luke 4:18 is ours today to hold close, for Jesus came to heal our hurting hearts. Dear Jesus, for the longest time I’ve been concentrating on my efforts, but today I expectantly rest in You. Thank You that the power of the cross is not in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The_Mended_heart_2_largeIsn’t it such a relief to know you don’t need to fix yourself, or earn God’s love or run any more. In fact, the more we don’t do these things, the more we live in Him;  the more we build a foundation of rest and trust; the more joy we rediscover in our faith and in our lives. What will you not do today? Click “Share Your Thoughts” below do just that to enter to win one of 5 copies of Suzie’s new book, The Mended Heart.   If you are reading this via email, click here to return to my blog and be part of the giveaway. {Your comment has to be left below this post to enter. Thanks!}

Sometimes I expect too much.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

We’re heading to FL this evening for the RENEW women’s conference in Milton, FL where I’ll be speaking Friday night and Saturday morning. My family is going with me and we’re staying to visit with my brothers, their families and my dad. I am praying our time together will be good. My dad isn’t doing well mentally and he’s unpredictable; always has been and it’s gotten worse lately. I want to look forward to seeing him but I’m not there yet. And that makes me sad.

One thing I am learning this week is to trust my Father in Heaven with the messy things of earth.

It’s been a challenging week. Lots of logistics to coordinate for our trip. New radio shows due Monday, radio recording Wednesday, unpacking from the mountains and packing for FL was somewhere in between. I got caught up in preparing for my event this weekend and some coming up next months and completely forgot about a radio interview I had. So embarrassing!

After being gone last week to the mountains with my fam, I felt pressed to get some solid writing done for my book. After two days of working from 12pm-11pm, and two nights of stress-induced, very interrupted sleep, followed by two days with a twitch in my eye that wouldn’t go away God showed me something…

Sometimes, I expect too much… of myself.

Why do we expect ourselves to sometimes be super-human? Why do we focus on what we didn’t get done instead of all that we did do? I know you know what I mean. It’s hard when a deadlines and life are pressing in. Even when we try to take things off our plates, life piles on another helping of somethin’.

Today, I wonder if you need to hear a friend say, “Girl, you are expecting too much of yourself!”

I hope you’ll give yourself grace. I pray you’ll re-focus on what you have done, not what you still need to do. I want you to give yourself an atta girl and be proud of your accomplishments. No matter how big or small they are. You did them and they wouldn’t have gotten done if you hadn’t shown up and been faithful!

And then leave room for things like reading a novel before bed, watching the Olympics and enjoying the final 24 of American Idol. I made myself do those things mid-week and walked away from unfinished business. I decided to lay down my manuscript and say, “Too much is going on this week but next week there will be room to write.”

I asked for grace from others by sharing with my radio producers during recording yesterday that I needed us not to push for perfection as hard as we usually do. Recording went well. I slept great last night and that little eye-twitch is gone today.

But I this idea of grace is not my own. It doesn’t come easy to me. To find grace, I had to come to HIM….

In the morning, throughout each waking hour of my days I have cried out to God in my distress. And HE has shown me what needed to change – me and my expectations.

Little by little, I have made small decisions of grace and He has made big changes in my heart. And then like a love note in my lunchbox, He sent me this encouragement through Twitter.

Give God your waking thoughts. Before you face the day, face the Father. Before you step out of bed, step into His presence.~ Max Lucado
In His presence we find grace and mercy in our time of need. In His presence we find a yoke that is so much easier than our own. Is there some “coming to Him” you need to do? Is there some grace from yourself and others you need to ask for today?

What Would Be My Cardboard Testimony?

This morning I woke up early and had some quiet time to read and pray before the boys get up, the house gets noisy and life starts around me. I was just sitting here on my sofa praying a simple prayer – Lord speak to my heart through Your Spirit in me leading me to what You want me to focus on today- not just while I read my Bible but all throughout my day.

A close friend is struggling through a very hard time with her teenage daughter. I have been that daughter. I have broken my mom’s heart and her trust. Although our stories aren’t exactly the same, her story has brought me back to mine. Today I sense Jesus wants me to think back, to remember where I was when I was searching – before I knew Him. To completely rewind my thoughts and my memories 19 years back. To remember that aching, lonely, empty feeling of being lost and to think through the details of how He rescued my heart.

He used this powerful video clip Micca had on her blog last week. It draws me back. It leaves me speechless and so aware of where I was and who I’d be without Christ’s rescuing, redeeming love and His transforming power in my life.

Please take 8 minutes to watch it and ponder the amazing grace of our rescuing God who called us out of darkness in to His Light so we can tell the world about the Love that found us! But also so we can remind ourselves again and again of the hope we’ve found in Him. This is not a drama. There are real-life story clips.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvDDc5RB6FQ]

My cardboard would read: Lost, empty, confused, suicidal young woman with no hope or direction.

My other side would read: Found by God, and filled with His endless hope, unfailing love and unconditional acceptance.

After you watch the clip, I’d love to know – what would be your cardboard testimony?

Day 1 – Up Close and Personal Mini-Study

 

(Jesus) he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

John 4:3-10

 

The first thing I notice is when John says that Jesus “had” to go through Samaria. Normally Jewish people would do everything they could to avoid Samaritans. They would travel around Samaria to get to Galilee, not through it. But Jesus HAD to be there.

Why? Because He knew she’d be there. It must have been a habit she’d formed over time. He knew why she came at noon, although it didn’t make sense to anyone else. It was the hottest part of the day. The other women came in the morning or late afternoon as the sun set. And they didn’t come alone. They traveled together in community – with their girlfriends.

But not Sam (let’s call her that while we get to know her). Sam walked alone.

The other women came to the well in the cool of the day to avoid the scorching heat of the sun; to make easier to carry the weight of the water in the jars. I wonder if Sam used to walk with the women from her small town. I imagine them walking together, filling their jars with water for cooking, cleaning, drinking and bathing.

I picture them talking about their day, talking about their husbands and kids. But at some point they started talking about her. Whispers and condescending glances must have come soon after her first divorce. I wonder if whispers turned to outright “mean girl”comments after her second divorce. At what point did she make excuses to stay back while the other women went ahead?

Instead of avoiding the scorching heat of the sun, Sam went to the well during the hottest part of the day to avoid the scorching pain of their rejection and judgment. The weight of the jar in that heat must have been unbearable but the weight of their words was more than she could take.

Imagine her thoughts that day when she looked up and saw a man sitting at the well. A Jewish man. What would he want? Why was He looking at her? Would he condemn her, too. Telling her she was worthless because she was Samaritan.

When she looked into His eyes she saw acceptance not judgment. Love not hate. When He spoke there was gentleness in his voice, even kindness and humility in His request for a drink of water. She felt valuable in His presence, as though she had something to offer. And it wasn’t what all the other men in her life had wanted. No, there was something different about Him. Yet she didn’t understand why He (a Jew) was talking to her (a Samaritan).

He told her that if she only knew Who she was talking to, she wouldn’t even bother with the water in the well. She’d ask Him for the water He had to give and He’d give her life-giving water; so much so that she’d be completely satisfied and would never thirst again.

© 2008, Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Hmmm…where were we?

Well, I finally got a shower today. Boy do I feel and smell better! Andrew was snuggling with me tonight, rubbing my fleece sweatshirt and then told me how soft I was. Ahhh. Felt like a big cotton ball. (Love it when he’s sick b/c he reverts back to childhood and lets me get close to him). He seems to be getting better although he was still coughing pretty bad tonight. He has asthma so I have to really watch him close when he gets upper respiratory yuck. We have a doctor’s appointment in the morning just to make sure his lungs are clear.

Now back to where we were…I went digging through old journals tonight, trying to remember ALL that God has taken me through. It’s a journey of many years. It’s good to go back and remember. I am looking forward to sharing it with you. I know it will take time and I’ll write as often as I can while also traveling to speak and keeping busy with P31 radio, devotions, etc, which I love. I just sometimes wish I could press the pause button and write everything I want to share all at once. I am going to try to write a little each day. Will you pray for me to be able to blog more often? I love to write but life has lots of things attached to my time these days.

The story I shared about finding the real me and discovering your uniquely you came from a very hard time in my life. In 1999, I came to a breaking point. I had been a Christian for 10 years. I knew Jesus said He came to give us abundant life, but there was nothing abundant in my life except busyness, obligations, guilt and self-doubt. I felt like my heart was shriveling up to die. I had lost the closeness of my first love – Jesus.

He hadn’t moved away, but I had. Although I had been walking with Him for 10 years, somehow I had gotten lost along the path. The patterns of people-pleasing and performance-based living had found their way back into my life and were guiding my every thought; my every decision. I was now bowing down to the idol of others’ opinions.

The odd thing is that it looked like I was living for God and serving Him with all of my heart. I was a stay-at home-mom, volunteering 15-20 hours each week for P31 from my living room or kitchen table (thanks to internet). I was on the women’s prayer team at church. I co-lead a mom’s Bible study. I attended another study at church on Wednesday nights. I reached out to women in my neighborhood. I dropped everything to help a friend in need. My house was way to clean and my family probably felt like they lived in a display case instead of a home. It was my way of trying to be “perfect” – I know it’s sickening and believe me it eventually made me sick, at heart.

Some say to be careful when talking about finding the real me, and I understand. There is an important balance. I am not saying find the real “you” so you can neglect everyone else and be “happy.” I am saying, delight yourself in HIM and He will give you the desires of your heart – to match His desires for you. I am saying find out who God wants you to be. Find out what makes your heart come alive.

One of my favorite quotes is, “ “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Harold Thurman Whitman

My heart was no longer alive. It had gone numb. I was slipping into a pit of depression. Focused on serving other people for the wrong reasons, I felt hopeless when my accomplishments or their compliments didn’t satisfy. I had assumed God wanted me to busy myself with good things in His name. But instead of asking Him what He wanted, I became who my mom and dad wanted me to be. Who my husband and kids needed me to be. Who friends and co-workers expected me to be.

So, today I want to encourage you to ask God to show you two things. First, His absolute delight in you. Just simply be still and let Him love you! Then ask Him to show you one thing that makes your heart come alive. Is it reading? Is it writing? Is it colors, flowers, smells, bubble baths, music, artwork, laughter, order, encouraging others, making something with your hands, exercise, ___________?

  • Is there time in your busy life for you to experience this regularly?
  • Are there things you may be doing to fill the emptiness but they don’t bring any joy? (ie. tv, email, excessive blog reading, eating, gossip magazines, more tv, overspending, overcommitting)

Let’s share them here by clicking “comments” below, and encourage one another with ways we can carve out little pockets of time to help our hearts come alive. This is just one small thing I started to think about way back in 1999. It brought hope to my heart and helped me find my joy in Christ and the unique desires He wanted to fulfill, instead of me seeking to be satisfied by my performance and others approval.

I pray also that the eyes of your heart will be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19

Friends Need Grace, Grace, Grace!

Update: I posted some fun family photos and a neat thing God taught me that applies to friendships…when we fail or get hurt and don’t want to try again. Click here to read it.

It’s been one of those days. I planned to continue our conversation this morning about friendships, but one thing a girlfriend needs is grace, and today I need lots of it! My closest friends would agree. It happens ALL the time. I make plans with a friend and life interrupts…unexpected snow day that keeps kids home from school, someone gets sick, urgent need at work, etc.

Well, that would be today. Girlfriend Swope woke up with a sick child who needed to stay home and emails from event planners that have been waiting since last week but got delayed by a snow day, and two days of no school this week, parent-teacher meeting and a trip to the principal’s office because another kid hit mine in the face. I hope as my girlfriends you can give me lots of grace; cause it’s like water to me. Can’t live without it!!!

I have a conference call this afternoon and my mom is coming over for dinner for her birthday. I don’t have her gift yet, although I do have her birthday card. Hmmm, maybe a Starbucks gift card would work. Need to get something special going for dinner, so you gals keep the conversation going and I’ll be back tonight or tomorrow. Keep talking, I love listening….

Oh and if you just got here, be sure to read Monday and Tuesday’s post and join in the girl -talk. We want to hear your thoughts because they are a terrible thing to waste! So, be sure to share friend.