The Loudest Voice They Hear

In a world full of ugly how will we teach our children to be decent human beings?

It’s the question at the heart of several conversations I’ve been a part of in recent months. With Hollywood’s current events and our tumultuous politics, this has been a recurring topic on social media and in personal conversation.

I’ve heard comments such as these:

“How will my boys be men that respect women when we have a president like this?”

“When those in power behave this way how are we to teach our kids it’s wrong?”

“How do I explain the ugly things that happen in this world to my kids?”

People in the spotlight are responsible for the most hideous behaviors and appear to be above the law. More shootings and ugliness spill out daily into our homes from simply turning on the television. At the swipe of a finger the news bombards not only us, but our children as well.

We worry how their hearts and minds will be affected by the people in places of prominence and the events in our world.

It can leave us feeling helpless.

So, how do we raise men and women that respect others while the world pushes in?

Going on a walk with my family, I happened to lag behind a bit messing with the dog. I looked up and pulled out my phone just in time to catch this picture. As I glanced down at my phone, the thought crossed my mind.

This is how..

My hubby and my oldest were walking, genuinely engaged in conversation about serious issues. Our greatest goal has been to be the ones they come to first in a struggle.

I am honored when they let us in.

We are far from perfect parents but we make it our mission to have our boys consider us a safe place. My husband and I decided to have an open door policy in our home, to be honest with our boys.

 We choose to talk about life. Real. Not fun. Ugly. Exciting. Glorious. Confusing. Life. Un-filtered and un-censored. Sometimes the conversations aren’t fun, and they aren’t always pretty and sometimes we have to initiate because they’re embarrassed.

There are days my kids see and hear things I’d rather they not. I can’t control what comes out of the mouth of the president, the celebrity on tv, or for that matter, the person next to us. And I certainly don’t always agree with their views.

Talk to them

When I watched my husband walking with our oldest, who is, quite literally growing into a man before my eyes, I was filled with a sense of awe. An understanding of the great privilege a parent holds, fell upon me all over again.

I believe the greatest mistake we can make in parenting is to put the power to impact our children into the hands of others. Whether this be a politician, school,  church, society, or anybody else.

When we throw our hands up in defeat, we claim helplessness over our own children.. when we should be claiming promises over them.

Ours are the words they hear daily. It’s our voices that have the ability to shape what they understand to be true of the world and themselves.

With a million voices vying for their attention, I want my husbands and mine to be the loudest. We are the ones that love them. No matter how well-intentioned he may be, the president doesn’t love my children. Whether they be a republican or democrat, conservative or liberal, they don’t love our children.

They do not know my children individually and they do not know what is best for them.

Therefore, I will not give them that much credit.

I refuse to give away the power that I possess to influence my children because of what celebrities, politicians, or anyone else chooses to do or say. In a world full of agendas and lies, I pray that our home will be filled with love and grace so that they won’t feel the need to look elsewhere for their worth.. or anyone else’s.

Wherever I may fear the greatest threat comes from, supposing it’s the White House or the house down the street, I want my kids to know that their greatest ally on Earth is right here, walking next to them.

 

When questions arise and the ugliest part of humanity shows it’s face, because we know it will. I pray they’ll remember the love they’ve been given and the truth they’ve been shown. This is what I hope will lead and guide them as they grow into men.

Though imperfect as we are, we love them fiercely. My hope is, if I am honest with them for my need of grace, they will be honest with their need and that will extend far beyond our home. I pray that because they have been given grace, they will be grace givers, always.

 

That they will see and know the ultimate Grace Giver.

We certainly can not keep them from all the ugly in this world. But it is my privilege to take their hand and walk with them through it.

Jesus and My Fan..

 

Pillow, blanket, toothbrush.. I can’t forget my Bible.

I marked off the mental checklist running through my mind while wandering around my room packing my bag for my weekend away. Naturally, I love the idea of going to a women’s retreat, there’s just one small problem.

I’m neurotic about my sleep.

I promise I’m not just high maintenance. You see, about 18 years ago, when I started having severe anxiety and depression,  I went through what I now affectionately call, “my breakdown.” At the time I was a 21-year-old woman, reduced to the status of a little girl. I was frightened by almost everything and didn’t sleep for 4 days straight and struggled with sleep from then on. Night time was just, well, hard.

I have come a long way, but as with any trauma, scars remain..

I am so excited to be featured over at Married by His Grace today, come join me there!

**Read the rest of my story Here.

 

Do not let your heart be troubled…

Earlier this last month I spoke a little about “doing it afraid.” 

It’s funny to me how just when I write about something, Jesus gives me a chance to live it out. I have to face something that I find very scary and a friend kindly sent those 3 words to me in a text. I smiled reading it because I knew it was my words. A little “practice what you preach” was most definitely coming my way.

It keeps me on my toes, I guess. (Oh, Jesus, following you certainly never leaves me with a dull moment. We’ll have to have a discussion about this some day, along with the fact that I can’t seem to consume copious amounts of ice cream without getting fat. It all seems so unfair..)

 As for now?  Well..  practice what I preach.

“For we walk by faith not by sight..” 2 Corinthians 5:7

I love the NLT version of this scripture, “For we live by believing and not by seeing.”

Living by belief and not what we see is exactly what I meant by doing it afraid. The whole point of “doing it afraid” is to prove God’s faithfulness in our lives.

It’s easier said than done, right?

Living with anxiety tends to feel like we have a serious disadvantage in the whole walking by faith realm. It can feel like a non-stop uphill battle and an unfair one at that. When we are anxious, everything we see, feel, hear or touch screams at us because we are so overly sensitive to everything.

I was just talking with a friend the other day that is currently struggling with some severe anxiety. She was telling me that every sound puts her on edge and all I could do was nod emphatically.

Anxiety and stress cause every nerve in your body to be on high alert. Every person that has ever lived knows how it feels to be “on edge,” even if they do not struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. Living with anxiety means being over the edge every day.

When I am dealing with strong anxiety I struggle to eat or to sleep. Obviously, both are necessary to function normally. So, as you can imagine, I don’t function quite “normally” in my day to day life when this is happening.

The question remains, how to live by faith and not feelings when anxious or depressed?

It has taken me quite some time to learn how to walk by faith in seasons of anxiety or depression.

The key phrase being, “learn.”

I’ll start off by saying something you will hear me say often; it will take time. Thankfully, however, God has nothing but time. Remember to be kind and give yourself lots of grace. Putting one foot in front of the other and accepting who you are and the fact that God accepts you just as you are. He is not upset with you for being anxious.. and no, you’re not a bad Christian. (I’ll talk more about this in upcoming blog posts.)

Learning..

When I truly began digging into God’s word for the answers to what I was going through, without expecting it to be a quick fix, (This will ALSO be a topic for another day) It was the smallest things that opened huge doors for change.

Reading in the book of John for probably the hundredth time in my life, I turned to chapter 14, verse 27 and began to read.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

It never stops amazing me how God uses His word in the simplest ways that make the most impactful changes in my heart. It’s especially amazing when it’s a passage I’ve read time and again.

That word “let” leapt off the page at me. I distinctly remember staring at it in amazement because it explained something I never knew that I didn’t know.

Reading that sentence over and over, I narrowed it down to the main point, “Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid..”

“It’s a choice.” I whispered out loud to no one in particular. And smiled.

I had a choice.

It almost sounds silly now typing that small sentence. But it is huge.

When you truly begin to BELIEVE from the heart that you have a choice, it changes everything. This tiny portion of this verse spoke volumes to me because I was finally  ready to stop being a victim.

Let me pause and explain something here. I know what it feels like to be upset at statements like the aforementioned. Because I know what it feels like to truly BELIEVE there is no way out.  Please understand what I am saying, anxiety is not something we ask for, but it is something we can choose or not choose in a moment. I used to believe I was a victim to anxiety and fear, I believed I was ruled and defined by it. No, I didn’t ask to be prone towards a fearful, worrying mind and anxious body, that was not my “fault.” However, when we believe in Jesus He gives us self-control over our mind and emotions.

I am a new creation in Christ, but my body is not new yet. Therefore, here lies the tricky in-between where I must make a choice. When I read the truth of “Let not your heart be troubled,” I learned that feelings don’t rule me. Jesus does.

If you know anxiety and the feelings that come with it, then you may be sitting here thinking, “yeah, easy for you to say!” Believe me, I get it. We can not change our feelings in a moment. It’s not about changing our feelings, so much as not allowing them to be the final say. There are times my heart is pounding out of my chest and my stomach is in knots. The key is, I don’t have to let my mind follow.. because it always tries.

I absolutely have a choice.

I do not have to LET my mind race down a rabbit trail of fear.

Every moment we live is just that, a moment. We live life in snippets of time and therefore, we make a million choices within moments every day. I have to choose in that moment of anxiety or panic if I’m going to allow His peace to rule me instead of the fear. I choose to put one foot in front of the other, walking in the direction of Jesus’s peace.

The best way I have learned to describe this, is being in a boat on a stormy sea and just “riding it out.” The difference between me now and me then, is that now I believe it’s not a passive “riding it out.” When I would have anxiety or a panic attack in the past, I would sincerely believe there was nothing I could do. In my mind “it” was happening to me. Now, I believe I have a choice in the matter. It may not be pleasant but I can choose where I set my mind. I ride the waves, focusing on the horizon and the truth that my feelings don’t rule me. Jesus does.

This is a little bit of where the “doing it afraid” comes in. Your feelings are just that, feelings, they are going to mess with you and come along for the ride no matter what. So, I say, do it, believe you can, feel that fear and let Jesus prove His truth is bigger than your feelings.

I can tell you that after years of dealing with anxiety, speaking truth to my mind in the midst of a panic attack or anxious episode, always makes it go away faster.

Truth believed and acted on in the heart of a child of God can do amazing things.

Speaking Truth

If you are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, remember that speaking truth to your mind is the most important thing to do. It can mean the difference between falling into a deep pit of despair and simply just having a rough day.

There are times we can’t speak lengthy scripture passages to ourselves or pray eloquent prayers, we just don’t have it in us. When you are in this place, keep it simple and speak a small truth that you know means something huge. When you do this you’re training your brain and changing your belief.

Focus on a simple truth and say it out loud if that helps. Or say a simple prayer, asking God to help you believe that you have a choice. Sometimes we don’t even feel as though we can choose in those really hard moments. Focus on the truth and keep moving forward. Remember, “it’s just a moment.” I would often tell myself, it’s just a moment, I’ve lived thousands and thousands of moments. He has brought me faithfully through all of those moments, He will bring me through this one too.

If you stick around here any length of time you will hear me say this again and again; Anxiety does not just vanish in a moment or go away over night if this is something you deal with regularly. It will, however, lessen over time as you implement tools in your daily life. Also know that your faith walk will look a little different in seasons of anxiety and/or depression. That’s ok. Remember, be kind, you’re human, you’ll have good days and bad.

My friend, struggling with controlling emotions doesn’t have to define you. You have a choice. Living by believing sounds so mystical and other worldly, but really, it’s simply speaking truth to ourselves and continuing to choose to not let our heart be troubled. Even when it feels like the hardest thing in the world to do, you will find your savior always faithful to help.

 

 

**I’m working on getting some printable’s up with simple truths that you can carry with you. Check back soon for these!**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if He’s not real?

 

“What if He’s not real?” He asked, almost in a whisper, as if the question would offend me.

Pausing a moment to consider, I reached for another fry and decided the best reply was the truth. “I have had many doubts throughout my lifetime.”

He tilted his head, surprised, and interested in what I was going to say next.

“I would go as far to say that every Christian has had doubts, at least once. I mean, we’re human.. ”

“I may doubt,” I continued, pushing my plate aside and looking directly into his eyes. “But at the end of the day, my belief is bigger than my doubts.”

“Whenever I have had a season of doubt, God has faithfully and gently answered them in a way only He could. He has come through and done things that I have no other explanation for.”

Sharing our doubts..

I think something amazing happens when we are honest with unbelievers about our faith and our doubts. In those moments of honesty they see that this faith is all-inclusive, it’s not meant for the über religious. It’s meant for all of us doubters, sinners and skeptics. When we share how Jesus works in spite of our doubts, we give them encouragement to step into that faith for themselves.

I don’t believe we should “hide” the places where we struggle in our faith with the world. What would this prove? We are not perfect. Seeing our imperfections while we walk this road, shows them we are aware of our shortcomings and that Jesus is still the answer to them all.

 

Yes, Christians doubt.

We love Jesus, but we have moments of doubt because of this world we live in and our humanity. Maybe some of you can’t relate, but I know some of you absolutely can.

Within our church communities there needs to be a space for understating and encouragement while we share our struggles with doubt. We provide hope and lift each other up when we show how Jesus meets us in these rough places.

And really, doesn’t if feel like sweet relief when someone speaks out loud a fear you secretly have struggled with? It certainly does for me.

Why do we, as Christians, behave as though none of us struggle with this?

Because we do.

We doubt because we’re human.. and God isn’t holding it against us.

Everything I have learned about His character is that He longs to show us more of Himself and isn’t mad at us when we stumble into a pit of doubt.

Remember “doubting Thomas?” Did Jesus scold him and tell him how awful he was for doubting? Nope. He actually showed Himself to Thomas. He offered for him to look at His wounds, to inspect the evidence and then He called on him to make a choice.

I think many people are under the assumption that faith in Jesus Christ is a blind faith. It’s not, and this scripture proves that. He gives us evidence and then He asks us to make a choice based on that evidence.

“Reach here with your finger, and see my hands; and reach here your hand and put it in my side; and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” John 20: 27

I have always loved his story within the bible. It’s just so me. I can completely relate to wanting proof. But more than this, there is a particular blessing from Jesus that is neatly tucked within in this story, meant just for us. 

“Thomas answered and said unto him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?”

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  

How beautiful is that? That’s for us, friend! Jesus spoke these words over 2,000 years ago about you and about me. There is a special blessing on us because we have specifically believed without seeing.

He absolutely knows our faith is hard. He knows it’s not easy to walk by faith and not by sight. He knows we will be tempted to doubt. And he’s not upset with us for that.

I doubt. I am a Christian. I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, I love him. But I doubt.

In some of my darkest days of anxiety one of the greatest fears that nagged at me was the very question my unbelieving friend asked me.

What if He isn’t even real?

I have come to find that we have a God and a faith that can stand up to the questions we ask and the doubt struggles we have. Some of my greatest faith strengthening moments have come from Him meeting me in my times of doubt.

There are 6 words I pray when doubt enters my mind.

“I do believe, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24

I have whispered these words and He has answered in incredible ways. They carry  truth and power in the fight with doubt because we are coming to the only one that can cure our doubts.

And He is faithful to do so.

So, I suppose in the end, it’s not our questioning that matters. It’s what question are we asking?

The more important question isn’t, “What if He isn’t real?”

It is, “What if He is?”

The evidence is there to answer the question, each one for ourselves.

 

**Want to read more? John chapter 20 and Mark chapter 9 are the scriptures I mentioned in this post. Some other great scripture in times of doubt; John 4:39-42, John 14, Psalm 28:7, 1 Peter 1:8-12

 

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