Feb 282013
 

This lent–and probably this whole life–I am

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trying to become more like Seth.

To rest in my humanity, and in my limitations… To rest in the love and grace of God…

This kind of humility leads to great freedom. And it also involves suffering—the death of that idealized version of myself that can go faster, farther, better, and deeper.

I decided to give up alcohol for lent this year, which basically means forgoing my nightly 5 o’clock glass of wine.

So I guess I’m giving up my idealized version of myself with her exacting standards… as well as the glass of wine I feel like I need after keeping pace with her all day!

It’s been hard! I’m facing the raw realities of little ol’ me, and a fair amount of restlessness as a result.

I can see now that my ‘over-functioning self’ and my ‘evening glass of wine’

are two strategies I have routinely employed to avoid suffering.

“There is no other way to life and to true inward peace than the way and discipline of the cross. Go where

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you will, seek what you want, you will not find a higher way, a safer way than the way of the cross. Arrange and order everything to suit your desires and you will still have to bear some kind of suffering, willingly or unwillingly….There is no escaping the cross. Either you will experience physical hardship or tribulation of spirit in your soul. At times you will be forsaken by God, at times troubled by those about you and, what is worse, you will often grow weary of yourself.”

~Thomas a Kempis

Lent is a time to face suffering…like Jesus, who “set his face toward Jerusalem,” toward the cross.

And we walk the road of lent with the resurrection in view. We can face the death of our false selves and the death of our coping mechanisms…even in our restlessness we can face the suffering that accompanies this journey because it does not define us.

Thomas Merton writes, “It is of the very essence of Christianity to face suffering and death not because they are good, not because they have meaning, but because the resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of their meaning.”

There is no escaping the cross. And our attempts to do so make matters worse.

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So lent is the time to look death and suffering in the eye (in whatever forms they come to us). It is not a time to bear our burdens bitterly, but to practice making light of them. It is a season for learning to face and make faces at suffering, because it’s got nothin’ on us.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And

Apply happy have. Kiddo

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that is what we are. ~1 John 3:1

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Feb 272013
 

Last Friday evening I enjoyed a much-needed break at a friend’s house.  It was a great night.  My friend was celebrating her 35th birthday by having a “Favorites” party.  SO fun!

The evening went smoothly and I laughed so much I did notice, however, I was observing all the ladies there.  I was “checking them out”. I was not judging them I was comparing myself to them.

Here was the situation:  We sat in a large circle and handed out our “Favorite” items we brought to share.  I was looking across the room at two ladies in particular.  It started with admiring their hair, earrings, and outfits, but quickly turned into…”I wish my hair looked like that.  I wish I were thin.  That outfit wouldn’t look that nice on me.  She seems so happy.”

It wasn’t even 10 seconds later that a friend sitting next to me whispered, “Do you ever feel like a broken woman?” Ah.  She had been thinking the same thing.  There we were.  Enjoying an evening out and trapped by comparison.  In reality the comparison was taking away our joy.

The trap of comparison is just that, a trap.  Once your mind starts down that path it is difficult to find your way out.  Here it is, four days later and I still feel icky about me.

Comparison takes away the joy of all that we do have.

Comparison quickly turns to negative-self talk.

Comparison shifts our mental focus to the negative in life.

Comparison is not only a trap, but it is a lie.

When I compare, (when we compare), I am comparing myself to what I see.  I am making assumptions about another.

If another woman is thin and well dressed, I am assuming that she is happy with herself.  Maybe she isn’t.

If someone’s child is well behaved, I am assuming they always are and that she is a better mother than I am.

If someone’s house is clean and organized, I am assuming it always is and that they have life figured out more than I do.

All this based on what my eyes see…

What do I compare the most?

1)      My body

2)      My hair

3)      My children

4)      My spouse

5)      My house

Do you compare yourself with others?

What areas do you find yourself comparing the most?

How does comparison affect your state of mind, your sense of peace?

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Feb 262013
 

Have you ever been overwhelmed by something?  Your thoughts are racing, your chest is tight and you don’t know how define your emotions?

Overwhelm: To cover over completely (submerge), to overcome by superior force or numbers, to overpower in thought or feeling.

This is where I find myself today.  I feel as though a gigantic wave has crashed upon me, submerged me and left me searching for solid ground to set my feet upon.

Life does this to me from time to time.  I feel crushed.  Immobilized.  Left gasping for air.  Whether it be circumstances which lie in front of me or I simply cannot handle the stress of life.  Sometimes I merely cannot see how to make it through.  How to breathe again.  How to feel peace or normalcy again.

Right now, I’m trying to practically figure out how to manage such feelings. Here are a few ways I am coping in my waves of overwhelm:

  • Breathe.  Over and over again.  Intentionally reminding myself to take deep, slow breaths.  (Instead of the short, shallow breaths that feelings of overwhelm typically stimulate.)
  • Prioritize Rest.  Ensuring I get enough sleep at night.  Taking a nap during the day if necessary to protect me from feeling even more raw.  Being rested allows me to give what I need to my family and to life’s circumstances.  Rest keeps my thoughts and emotions in check.  I am also more prone to give myself grace.
  • Light A Candle.  Lighting a candle has always brought a sense of peace to me.  I have one in my kitchen, my bedroom, and my table.  Even lighting it for a few minutes helps me breathe and slow down.  It creates an atmosphere of calm when I feel unrest.  The aroma also seems to lighten my mood.
  • Hold On To A Short Mantra.  Each week I try to have a verse I can cling to.  Right now it’s Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”  Amidst the grind of the day, I remind myself of one word or phrase from my verse. It can change and redeem a single moment.  Lately, when I feel my chest tightening, the tears welling, or the emotional fatigue setting in, I take a deep breath and say, “plans for welfare and not for calamity.”  And I find my feet can move a few more steps.  I can move a little closer to the surface.

Is anything in your life overwhelming you today?  How do you help yourself make it through feelings of overwhelm?

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Feb 252013
 

TEARS ARE INEVITABLE (SOMETIMES).  LAST WEEK, I BROKE DOWN CRYING IN THE MIDDLE OF BIBLE STUDY ANNOUNCEMENTS. Not a shining moment for me.  This would be the second close friend moving away this month.

I had been trying to stay strong from the moment I heard my first friend was leaving.  I didn’t want to appear weak and vulnerable.  But when I heard this second announcement, my unexpressed emotions were loosened and the floodgates opened.

Have you ever been barely keeping it together and then something or someone pushes you to the point of tears flowing like a river?  That was me.  Crying uncontrollably.

My tears were tears of sadness. Loss.  Unfulfilled expectations.  All the while, being surrounded by many women whom I just met for the first time.  Talk about showing weakness.  Talk about revealing my lack of self-sufficiency.

Why do I feel as though someone just kicked me in the gut?  I have other friends.  I will still be able to talk with these friends. 

I know moving is God’s best for them.  I am excited for their new adventure. 

Why do I have to be left behind?  Why am I being so selfish as to make this all about me?  Why can’t I hold it together? 

I didn’t understand this new position I was in.

I understood the challenges of moving away from close friends and community.  I had cried myself to sleep many nights as my husband and I moved from Oregon to Texas, Texas to Spokane, and finally, Spokane to our current home in Newberg.

I now recognize there is pain whether you are the one moving away or the one left behind.   God is teaching me truth as I struggle with my friends leaving.

When friends leave us or we leave our friends:

  • There are deep emotions to be expressed.  It doesn’t help anyone to act like the feelings don’t exist.  After I cried I felt much better!
  • Experiencing sadness and feelings of loss means you were doing exactly what you should have been doing. Living in community.  Investing and serving others.  Showing the love of Jesus by loving others as you would love yourself.
  • God see’s our pain and will provide opportunities for new community.  Another friend who I hadn’t see in awhile is going to the Bible study I recently started.  She comforted me with an empathetic hug and listening ear in my moment of, “tears flowing like a river”.
  • We become aware of our dependence on God and others to help us run our race of life well.  I am reading the book called, “A Clearing Season”, by Sarah Parsons, which is a praise to God for His perfect timing.  Sarah says as American’s we don’t like to admit dependence on anyone or anything because that would make us weak.  In contrast, divine strength is “made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).  It is only in expressing our vulnerable, natural human limitations (showing our weaknesses to one another), that we exercise courage and tap into God’s power.  We are weak by nature, but made strong by our ability to connect authentically, ask for help when needed, and unmask the reality of our self sufficiency.  We are strong when we depend on God and on the body of Christ. 

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Prov 18:24

Do you have difficulty depending on God and others?  Will you allow our God and the body of Christ to provide for your needs?  Will you decide today to prioritize living in authentic community?

Jillian

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Feb 222013
 

Well, here we are my friends.  At the end of our Standing on Peace Body Challenge.

In thinking about and participating in this challenge, I have realized a few things about myself.

Perfectionism:

I have a heightened awareness to the role perfectionism plays in my day to day life.  Perfectionism enslaves me most of the time.   Whether it be performing duties as a wife and mother, in my responsibilities of the home, in my eating and exercise, or even how I think about myself, perfectionism plagues me.  I recently read a quote about perfectionism that hit home with me:

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame,judgment, and blame.”

― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

At the bare minimum, this type of belief system – one where keeping it together staves off unwanted emotions – steals my joy and prevents me from fully participating in life.

I want to be free from this.  I don’t want to miss out on life’s beauty because of my perfectionism.  And I certainly do not want to be my own worst enemy because I can’t extend grace and kindness to myself.  This challenge renewed my commitment to embrace letting go.

Vulnerability:

This challenge helped me identify why vulnerability is hard for me and why vulnerability is worth it.

Vulnerability goes against my natural tendency to stay closed off to people.  My closest friends know when life get rough, I crawl into my “shell”.  Which in reality, is the worst thing for me most of the time.  I also see that my perfectionism feeds my tendency to display my mask.  To put on the facade of having it all together is the opposite of being authentic and sharing my heart.

The good news is that I DO see the irreplaceable benefits of risking vulnerability.  I get to choose to be vulnerable with those who will be kind with my heart.  It increases depth in my relationships, brings freedom and turns my weaknesses into strengths.

I want authentic relationships in my life.  I really do want to expose my insecurities and limitations, in order for healing and connection to take over.  This challenge made me realize vulnerability won’t happen on it’s own.  I have to be intentional and thoughtful about not closing myself off.

It is my prayer you have been encouraged to take a deeper look at yourself in regards to perfectionism and vulnerability.

Are you ready to let go of your fears of being vulnerable with others and not being perfect?

Admin

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Feb 222013
 

“I know that true joy comes from letting God love me the way

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God wants, whether it is through illness or health, failure or success, poverty or wealth, rejection or praise.” ~Henri Nouwen.

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Lent

 Mom
Feb 212013
 

Lent is about humility.

We are smaller and dustier than we thought. We are more human, more fallible, and more limited than we’d like to be.

We fall short.

I stopped to chat

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with my neighbor as he was hoeing weeds in his beautiful new little patch of grape vines. “We’ve only been here a year, but we’ve got so many systems and projects going I can’t stay on top of it all.”

I told him my 6 years on our farmy little property has felt like one long exercise in compromising my many idealistic values.

We can’t keep up.

It is a disappointing truth isn’t it? We try so hard to avoid it.

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But lent is the time to face it.

And to realize that Something Bigger than ourselves and our tight, tired efforts is ready to flow in us and through us if we will allow it.

“No one wants to take the descending path to that naked, unvarnished truth, with all its unacceptable humiliations… The reason lent is so long is that this path to the truth of oneself is long and snagged with thorns, and at the very end one stands alone… All alone—with not one illusion or self-delusion to prop one up. Yet not alone, for the Spirit of Holiness, who is also the Spirit of Helpfulness, is beside you and me. Indeed, this Spirit has helped to maneuver you and me down that dark, steep path to this crucial spot.” ~ Edna Hong

The little guy in the picture above is already there.

Small children don’t have such high expectations and illusions about themselves!

He was in the atrium today, working his way around the liturgical calendar, beginning with Advent where the church year begins. One block for each week of the year. Then he stopped and said he was tired. I told him to go ahead and rest, that it was one of the best ways to pray…

When I looked at his calendar, I realized he stopped and fell asleep in the second week of lent, the very place in time we find ourselves right now! He did his work up through today and that was enough. He rested right where he was. He had no need to think himself faster or farther along.

His humility led to sweet rest. And more than that, a deep calm descended on the whole roomful of children. For over an hour while he slept, they were all silently, deeply engaged in their work. The love of God was thick in the room. Indeed,

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Seth’s rest opened the way for Something Bigger.

“My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty. I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother. My soul is like a weaned child within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord.” ~Psalm 131

OGod, help us follow the children!

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Feb 202013
 

My husband has been out of town for six days AND it is a three-day weekend…I am a little burnt out on parenting to say the least!

Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the extra time with my girls, but I am feeling weary.  Yet this time has reminded me how important quality time with our children really is.

It is so very easy to push our little ones (or big ones) aside because of our “to-do” lists.  We do have responsibilities and need to set an example of what it looks like to be a responsible adult, however, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Let’s admit that Facebook time or games on the iPhone are not more important than our children.  When we repeatedly choose the computer (or you fill in the blank) over our children, we are communicating to them that they are less significant.

Two of the most basic needs of all children are to feel loved and accepted. One of the most critical ways to show that to our children is giving them our time and focused attention.

You have many tasks that need to be completed.  We all do.  This doesn’t mean that we can’t set aside a specific amount of time each day to spend focused attention with our child(ren). This time will nurture the relationship and deepen the bond.

What do I mean by focused attention?  

Schedule a time each day or a couple times a week where you have a play session with your child(ren).

How to have a Play Session:

1) Set a timer for 15 minutes (maybe 30 minutes) and get down on the floor and play with your child.

2) Allow your child to take the lead. If he would like to do a puzzle, do a puzzle. If she would like to color, then color with her.

3) Try your best to eliminate distractions. For example, turn off your phone. You may even need to leave the house. I have to do this sometimes! Go for a walk or play at the park.

4) Learn to recognize when your child(ren) is trying to communicate that they need your attention, i.e. their love tank is running low.

Often when a child repeatedly asks for help, asks you to play with them or is talking nonstop, they are in need of some focused attention.  It can be difficult to stop what you are doing when your child is needing you, however, if you are able, stop what you are doing to have a 15 minute play session. More than likely, your child’s love tank will be filled and you will be able to finish what you had started.

If you have more than one child, see if dad or a friend can be with the other child(ren) while you spend time with one. Yes, quality time takes more effort, but your children are worth it.

Please do not misunderstand me. Children do need boundaries. I am not encouraging you to always stop what you are doing and play with your child. I am encouraging you to consider how often you spend focused time with your child(ren) and allow them to take the lead every so often.

Some things to consider:

How often do you seek out your children?

Do you only engage when you have to? When they have misbehaved?

When was the last time you played with them?

Admin

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Feb 192013
 

“You need something to claim to fight off the lies and fears.  You need a verse to claim.”

This is what my mom told me as I reached out to her this past week for some advice and comfort amidst change.

Through my past couple of posts, I’ve shared with you how I’ve had to refuse to believe the devil’s lies about myself. How I’ve been struggling with fear, faith and food.  I’ve alluded to some transitions and changes facing our family.

What my mom said sunk deep into my soul.

It’s absolutely necessary to reject the devil’s attack and recognize when fear is taking control.  To say out loud, “he has no power over me in Jesus Christ”.

But I also have to be armed and prepared to replace these lies with truth.

I’ve spent some time identifying my most prominent lies and fears.  I’ve found verses I can practice claiming whenever these thoughts creep into my mind.

I found as I listed everything I am struggling with, many of them are deeply rooted in the belief I’m not good enough.

If you made a similar list, what would your main root be in your life?

What I’m Practicing to Claim:

  • You’re a bad mom because you feel weak, lose your patience and don’t want to be with your kids sometimes.  A verse to claim:  “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”  Isaiah 40:11
  • You can’t do this healing diet thing.  You’ve always failed in regard to food before.  A verse to claim: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15
  • What if we never belong to any church community?  What if we’re the outsiders?  A verse to claim:  “So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” Romans 7:4
  • What if the decisions you make for your family and kids end up in complete failure?  A verse to claim: “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.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
  • What if you’re too weak and insecure to aspire to anything God has called you to or put on your heart?  A verse to claim: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

What lies and fears would be on your list today?  Are you believing you don’t belong, you’re not good enough or that God doesn’t care about you?  Are you living in a place of fear about your circumstances, status, career, family, body or health?

Spend some time finding your own verses to claim – to replace the lies and fears with truth.  “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

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Feb 182013
 

I MARRIED SOMEONE WHO IS THE DEFINITION OF ACHIEVER. UNFORTUNATELY.  When my husband took a strengths/personality profile, the words to describe him were:  achievement, competition, leadership, strategic.  All this to say, if I want to beat my husband at ANY game, I have to pray for divine intervention.

We were enjoying a weekend at the lake with my family.  (My husband and I were dating at the time.)  Nature.  Reading.  Snuggling by the fire.  A perfect setting.  That is, until the games.

Connect Four was our undoing as a couple.  I was determined to win.  He won the first 3 games, but he couldn’t win 4, 5, 6, skip to 10 in a row, could he?  Oh, but he could.  And he did.  (At this point I was in desperate need of a hug, which I wrote on in the first post of this heart encouragement series.)

My attitude was fairly stellar after the initial game.  I even kept my cool after the 3rd game.  I began to feel slightly antsy during the 5th game.  But after game 10, 6 Diet Cokes, and no pride to speak of, I was finished.  I couldn’t allow myself to fail one more time.

My husband and I haven’t played Connect Four to this day.  Eleven years of marriage later and the mere mention of  Connect Four causes my body to twitch with anxiety.  The only word that fills my mind is failure.

To fail:  To fall short of.  To be lacking.  To lose strength or vigor, become weak.  To stop functioning or operation.

Failure.  Hope lost.  Failure.  Self worth in questionFailure.  Mourning of loss.   Failure.  The reason I have lived life avoiding any risk.  Failure.  More about what others will think of me versus what God is asking of me.  Failure.  Being terrified to try again.  Failure.  Satan’s prime opportunity to steal my hope, purpose, and joy.

Jesus is my best friend, even when I label myself as a failure.  His plan and promises for me don’t change, even when the college ministry I helped start is shut down.  His extravagant grace doesn’t change, even when I respond in anger to my children and husband.  His lasting hope doesn’t change, even when I am crushed due to infertility.  His unconditional love for me doesn’t change, even when I look to sugar and caffeine for comfort instead of to Him.

My failures don’t change how Jesus sees me.  Jesus isn’t shaken by my past, present, or future failures.  I shouldn’t be either.  The song, “The Stand“, says, “He (Jesus) stood before my failures.  And carried the cross for my shame.”

Every man or woman who did something great in scripture, failed.  If they would have allowed their failures to cripple them, they never would have accomplished miraculous things for the Kingdom.

Instead of hiding from or being defeated by failure, Jesus says:

You are going to be ok, learn from it, and draw into Me.

I will use your failures to minister to others.

I don’t remember your shame, I don’t keep record of your failures. 

I will never leave you or turn away from you when you fail. 

Your failures do not define you. 

Take risks for My Kingdom in spite of the odds of success. 

Trust me and you will be equipped and strengthened to do what it is I am calling you to do.

Choose today to live life to the fullest.  Through His Spirit.  Failing, but learning from it.  Risking it all for the sake of His Kingdom.  Laying aside fears to stand in faith, love and hope.

1Peter 2:6b “…and the one who trusts in Him, will never be put to shame.”

Have you ever experienced failure that crippled you to try again?  What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?  

Jillian

Jillian

© 2012 Standing on Peace

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