Big Me, Little God Syndrome

By guest blogger Jennifer Henn

There's a way to guarantee our misery. To necessarily create an ever-increasing bad attitude. But there's also a way to grab hold of joy. And herein lies our daily battle, a battle that must be fought and must be fought well. A battle we absolutely have the power to win, if we'd but engage. 

As today's guest, Jennifer Henn, shares in her poignant and transparent post, the choice is ours. 

Big Me, Little God Syndrome by Jennifer Henn

I’m too big again. My frustration grows, I’ve taken over and I’m miserable. How did I let this happen? I told myself to be careful. I even used to think this could never happen to me again, but it has, and I’m sorrowful. Saddened. Thank goodness there’s a remedy for every time I’m the biggest thing in my life.

In my journal, I circle “ME” and draw a line through it, hoping a visual will help. I go to my Bible and look up the words of John the Baptist, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30 NIV).

Making my life about me causes Big Me, Little God Syndrome. This syndrome comes on every time I make my circumstances bigger than God. Then overwhelming feelings of worry and doubt take over.

 Then I remember, more of You Lord and less of me.

The thing I’ve spent the most time worrying about are my children. We are a homeschool family and like other homeschool moms, there have been times I’ve wondered if I was doing enough. Times I doubted whether my kids’ academics were up to standard with public school kids. Also, there’s the whole socialization thing. Are we weird homeschoolers?

When my sons were middle school aged, and my daughter upper elementary, my health failed. We had no choice but to enroll the kids in public school.

Now I would know if my schooling measured up.

I went from total control of my kids’ curriculum and activities, to no control. I loved schooling my kids at home, but I held on too tight. I craved homeschool success complete with learning, fun activities, and a fairly clean house. I also thought middle school would be the worst time to enroll your kids in school for the first time. My plan fell apart and God gave me the gift of letting go.

There were lessons in letting go. The basket of my life was turned upside down, my circumstances were beyond me, but God remained the same. I learned to trust God with an open hand. A God is with me  no-matter-what-the-circumstance, kind of trust. The balance was turning in the right direction, more of God, less of me. For two years I struggled with multiple health issues.

The situation was beyond me, but never God. My kids went to public school. God’s grace was sufficient for the adjustments they had to make, and they did well academically.

That was seven years ago. I went back to homeschooling and two have graduated. I also had a sort of graduation. One day another homeschool parent said I was the most laid back mom she knew. What a surprise, I had changed. Laid back is not my natural tendency.

However, the battle isn’t over. I fight a continuous habit of making my life too much about me. The remedy comes by looking closer at who God is. God is my Rock and Salvation, my Lord and King, the one I put my trust in. I think of these things in practical terms as I go throughout each day. My part is small, God’s part is big.  I need to make God the center of my prayers, not me. When I remember who God is, once again, I become smaller and Christ bigger.

***

Jennifer Henn strives to leave perfection behind and embrace reality. She shares with transparency the fun, failures, and heart-aches she’s had while homeschooling her three children. Her true passion is fulfilled by encouraging women who feel defeated.

After 16 years of homeschooling, she’s on to her next career as she writes, speaks to homeschool groups, serves on the board of a nonprofit, and leads a Word Weavers critique group.

Her heart and home are full where she lives in metro Atlanta with her husband of twenty-five years, her three kids and two cats. For homeschool encouragement, visit Jennifer online at JenniferHenn.com

 

We all struggle with Big Me, Little God Syndrome from time to time, but the more we focus on ourselves, the more miserable we become. It's when we die to ourselves (surrendering our dreams, our will, our desires to God) that we truly come alive. That's when we are freed to live authentically, to be the women God created us to be. 

Join us this Saturday at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth to learn how to find the incredible freedom available to us through surrender. Visit our Eventbrite page to find out more. 

Fearless When Ill-equipped

by Jennifer Slattery

“[God] wants those who belong to Him to be brave and fearless. He Himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by the courage of the Spirit.” ~ Tertullian

I felt squeezed. In every direction. Sleep deprived and with more on my to-do list than I could possibly accomplish, pressing deadlines, and an upcoming speaking engagement I hadn’t begun to prepare for, I felt ready to explode. Or hide.

My brain, held captive by my insecurities and fears, refused to function. When I most needed it to shine.

My fear—that I’d fail, and in failing that I’d let everyone down. The conference director who had already purchased my plane ticket. Her team who had already sent out their promotional material, listing me as one of the keynotes. Their attendees, who had spent good money on the conference and were expecting to hear a fresh word.

And more than that, I was afraid I’d look stupid. As I stared at a blank computer screen, my eyes gritty from lack of sleep, my nerves tightly coiled, I worried I wouldn’t come up with anything.

I had nothing. No words. No thoughts.

I suppose much of that came from mounting stress, and sheer exhaustion. In the middle of taking accelerated classes and with an already booked summer, God called my husband and I to something incredibly difficult. Something that took every ounce of strength we had and left me in tears daily. We knew this task was from God. But … what about all our other commitments?

I couldn’t simply walk away. But neither could I, it seemed, walk forward. My insecurities, my fear of failure, my mounting negative thinking, kept chipping away at my strength.

So what’d I do? I stepped away. To pray. To give this thing, this task I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for, to God. And as I sat in His presence, His peace overshadowed my anxiety, and His truth stilled my fears.

I knew He’d called me to this engagement, so I decided—yes, decided. I made the choice—to trust Him to give me the ability to fill this role—as He desired. And I reminded myself that this thing wasn’t about me.

Nor was it up to me. It never is. In fact, it’s when I’m resting fully in His grace and leaning deepest into Him that I find my greatest strength.

This is a choice we all must make, whenever our fears and insecurities begin to turn our ears from God’s call, whatever that call may be.

Consider Francis Chan’s words, taken from Forgotten God:

“How much it grieves [God] to watch His children ignore the promises He’s made. Throughout Scripture due to fear that those promises won’t be kept! Empowering His children with the strength of the Holy Spirit is something the Father wants to do. It’s not something we have to talk Him into. He genuinely wants to see us walk in His strength.”

Walking in God’s strength. Listening, with a surrendered heart, for His guidance, then stepping forward in faith, trusting Him to come through.

Is there something God has called you, something that makes your stomach tighten and your knees wobble? Maybe to initiate conversation with a new neighbor or launch a women’s Bible study? Maybe share your faith with a friend or coworker? If so, how does remembering God will be strong on your behalf, that you don’t have to be, give you courage? What are some ways you can lean into Him and rest in His strength? How do our thoughts play into that?

We all struggle with negative thinking, and so often, we become our own limiting factor. We allow our insecurities and fears to hinder our obedience and to prevent us from living out the awesome and life-changing role God hand-crafted each of us to fill. But God calls us to greatness. To live courageously. To be life-changers, and we want to help you do just that!

Join us on the 25th at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth for one of our Wholly Loved Conferences. You can find out more and sign up HERE. We'd also love to join you for your next women's event. Email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com to find out more, to book us for a Wholly Loved conference, or to inquire about having booking one of our speakers independently.

You might also enjoy:

Living as a Hero by Chaka Heinze

From Fear to Faith, by Jennifer Slattery

 

Freedom in Christ

Do you feel less than? Like, no matter how hard you try, you're failing? If so, you're not alone. It was a common theme shared during the breakout sessions of our last Wholly Loved conference. Today our breakout leader, Dawn Ford, shares how we can find freedom from this crippling false label many of us wear.

Freedom in Christ by Dawn Ford

My heart was breaking for the ladies I spoke with the other day about their purpose in Christ. Our speaker had presented a moving story about her struggle to figure out her purpose through difficult circumstances in her life. When I sat to discuss the subject, the conference attendees were ready to talk. The common theme? They thought they were failures as mothers, as wives, as women.

These beautiful, smart, amazing women thought they were less than. Less than the glossy stories telling them they can do it all and be all and still have every hair in place at the end of the day. Less than other women around them appeared to have it more together than them. Less than the mother whose children are more obedient than theirs.

These were faithful, prayerful women, and they felt like utter failures. I grieved their pain. I believe God did, also.

Psalms 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I recalled my struggles with my oldest son, a strong-willed child, years ago. As a new mother with an opinionated teenager, it was a difficult transition. I drove a beat-up car when younger women owned new vehicles. How could they do it when I was just scraping by. When everyone talked about summer vacation plans, I felt lucky to pay for a pool pass for the boys. I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing wrong that everyone else seems to be doing right?’

I felt the same shame, regret, and unworthiness as our conference attendees expressed. What was I doing wrong?

I was focusing on all the wrong things.

With my strong-willed son, I battled him head on with what I wanted. It’s not wrong to make our children do chores, respect rules, and cooperate. But, I was grumbling at him, sometimes before I even asked him to do something, because I knew he was going to be difficult. I later learned some tricks on how to approach him more positively, to give choices that made him feel in charge of making right decisions, instead of having to bow to my will because I was the mom.

When I coveted the new car, the fancy house, the shiny new promotion others got, I needed to be thankful instead of being spiteful.

Philippians 4:6 (NLT) says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.”

The trick was changing my vision of what I needed. God had already provided me with a house, a car, clothes, food, and a family to enjoy life with. Recognizing this, I became more thankful for what I already had, and that took the sting away from what I felt I lacked.

I quit judging myself by others.

How defeating it is to hold ourselves up to standards that are not God’s. Matthew 24 talks about serving two masters, God or money. You can’t serve the love of having (the newest car, the biggest TV, the most expensive house in the neighborhood) and still serve God. Money is a fleeting and vicious master. Always changing, never satisfied. You can’t serve both.

When the women in my breakout group began to realize they were fully loved and knew where their real purpose lay—with glorifying God in all they do, they found true freedom in Christ. It was a moving experience. One they won’t forget. I know I won’t.

If you are like most of us who need to have the God’s truth spoken in your life, please join us at a future Wholly Loved conference.

This coming Saturday, we'll be at St. Paul's United Methodist in Papillion, and on the 25th we'll be at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth. Find out more HERE, or email us at contactus(at)whollyloved(dot)com to book us for your next women's event.

Living As a Hero

By Chaka Heinze

We weren't created to be enslaved by fear. We were created to be heroes, standing firm on the promises of God.

Heroes captivate me.

That moment when they accept a quest that may prove greater than their abilities. A quest that might cost them everything. It’s the nobility of the heart, the selflessness of the act, the willingness to weigh their lives in the balance and sacrifice themselves for the good of the many.

Frodo agrees to carry the ring to Mordor and cast it into the fires of Mount Doom. Luke Skywalker leaves his ordinary life on Tatooine to train as a Jedi and embark on a journey to deliver plans to the Rebel Alliance.

The courage to engage the task with an almost blind faith, to do what’s right no matter the outcome--this is the hallmark of the epic hero. The epic hero has no guarantee of success, no promise that anything will be gained by their sacrifice.

Blind faith. No promises. No guarantees. This is where the epic heroes and the heroes of faith diverge--because heroes of the faith stand on God's unchanging promise that He will indeed work all things together for their good. (Romans 8:28).

I believe that God is also captivated by the hero in us. The lone prophet surrounded by those who would mislead God’s people and perpetuate the darkness, he faces down the evil with a staff and a prayer. The boy-man stepping out from among the cowering Israelite army to confront the giant with a sling and a stone. The sinful woman who, after encountering Jesus, shares the truth with an entire town where people know exactly who she is and what she’s done.

God is pleased with heroes. Because faithful heroes are those who recognize the present darkness—the bills are overdue and no money’s coming in, she’ll lose her boyfriend if she doesn’t yield to his pressure to have sex, the lie would be so small and it might save her job, she did everything right and the cancer still came back—

Faithful heroes recognize the present darkness and choose to trust God’s promises.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).

In faith, God’s heroes face the facts and say, “But God …”

·      I don’t see how we’re going to pay this debt, but God adorns flowers and feeds birds, and he says I’m more valuable than they are. (Matthew 6:25-34)

·      My boyfriend will leave if I don’t give into his demands, but God has commanded me to flee from sexual sins (1Corinthians 6:18) and, even though I don’t know if God will give me a new boyfriend, He promises to give me the desires of my heart as I delight myself in him. (Psalm 37:4)

·      No one would ever find out I lied at work about finishing the project on time if I work hard tonight and get it done, but God sees everything, and He says not to lie to each other. (Colossians 3:9)

·      Chemo didn’t work, the doctors have given me six months to live, but God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), and He promises an eternal future for those who’ve confessed Jesus as Lord. (Romans 10:9)

Heroic faith faces the desperate screams of the darkness, and shouts back, “My faith is grounded in truth! I stand securely on the promises of God! God’s will is guaranteed to prevail!”

Middle Earth and Jedis ignite the passions in many of us, but the hero that captivates God is the person who believes that He is good and who charges onward into the fray thoroughly armed with His good promises.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged… For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15 NIV).

Which of your present circumstances need to be faced with heroic determination? What promises from God’s word is He inviting you to stand on today?

God has created each of us to live heroically. We all have a God-given, glorious purpose, and we find that purpose when we live wholly loved and embrace who we are in Christ.

At Wholly Loved (c), we long to help you find and rest deeply in your identity in Christ. Join us for one of our upcoming conferences where you’ll learn how to live wholly loved, how to find a purpose that will never change, and how God longs to use you, in all your uniqueness, to bring glory to Him and have a life-changing impact on others. 

On February 11th, we'll be at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Papillion, NE. You can register HERE. (Event is free, and come early for breakfast, also free.)

On February 25th, we'll be at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth, NE. (Registration details coming.)

When There Are No Answers

Today we want to introduce you to a precious sister in Christ, a gifted speaker, writer, songwriter, and singer. She's ministered to countless women who have wrestled with questions that appear to have no answers, and throughout her life, there are times she's joined them. But she's learned how to find peace when answers aren't provided.

When There are No Answers

by Tara Johnson

I was sitting on a rumbling plane in Chicago, waiting for the painfully slow pilot to push us back from the gate. No one seemed to be in a hurry that morning. Not the airline nor the stewards. Even the ground controllers outside my window appeared to be dragging their feet.

I blinked the grit from my eyes. I wasn’t faring much better. The stale air blowing through the circular vents overhead wasn’t helping. Everyone seemed sluggish…except for the four-year-old boy seated behind me in 22 F.

The squirming tyke with his high-pitched voice was chattering nonstop, barely stopping for breath, peppering his Dad with question after question.

“Why are dese seats so big?”

“Will we get ice cream on dis plane?”

“Will we be flying into outer space?”

I found myself smiling at his Junior Asparagus style voice and contagious enthusiasm. I set down the book I was trying to read as God impressed a directive into my heart. 

"Listen.”

The boy had apparently pressed his face up against the window, for his voice sounded muffled and mushed. “Why are dose men waving deir arms?”

 “They signal the pilot and other workers where to go,” his father patiently replied. “The plane is big and there’s a lot going on. The men help the pilot see all around him so we don’t bump into anything.”

The boy squirmed. “What are dose little trucks for?”

“Those trucks bring different things to the plane.” I heard a smile in the father’s voice. “Some bring fuel. Others carry our suitcases.”

“That’s cool.”

The boy grew silent for a moment when another vehicle must have caught his eye. “What about that one, Daddy? What's that truck for?”

The father looked at the open-air truck carrying spiked pallets. “I’m sorry, buddy. I have no idea what those are used for.”

The boy was quiet.

The father leaned in. “I wish I could tell you the answer. Are you upset I don’t know?”

The little boy giggled. “Don’t be silly. I don’t need all the answers. I just like asking you questions and having fun with you!”

And then I knew why God had me eavesdrop on their sweet conversation. The boy in 22 F was teaching me, and anyone else who was willing to listen, a beautiful lesson.

We are an answer-driven people. We want to know why.

Why did I lose my job? Why is my health failing? Why is my friend battling so hard when he has given his life to God? Why does it seem like the cruel people flourish while the good guys barely scrape by? Why was my child born “different”? Why doesn’t my spouse love me anymore?

We want answers. They give us a false sense of control. When we beg God to know the ‘whys’, what we are really saying is, “I need to know the plan. God owes me the details. I want to be the one in the driver’s seat.”

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready?

In the big scheme of things you and I have no control. None. Control is an illusion. Period.

I can’t control how my boss, or anyone else, will treat me. I can’t control or understand how good and bad falls on both the just and unjust, nor can I control it when airlines lose my luggage, when a loved one dies, an unexpected diagnosis, or a thousand other things the human heart hopes to never hear. 

We can beg and plead for answers all day long. Sometimes we get them. Sometimes we don’t. But in all of our crying for answers, we can miss out on the most important part of walking through the unknown…that is experiencing the God Who is walking through it with us.

A friend recently asked me if I thought my recent struggles with my voice and gastroparesis were due to an attack by the enemy or because God is closing a door in a specific part of my ministry. I told her I had searched and prayed for months but honestly, I had no idea. And that’s okay. I’ve learned to be content in not having the answers. Instead, God has taught me how to redirect my focus into the joy of simply being with Him. In knowing Him in a deeper way, a relationship that isn’t dependent on answers because my trust isn’t based on what He does but is grounded on Who He is

I want a relationship with my Father the way the little boy in 22 F looked up to his. ” I don’t need all the answers. I just like asking you questions and having fun with you…”

To feel wholly and completely loved, even during the times when questions flood our hearts...there's nothing better than unshakable faith in a Father who is working all things out for our good and His glory.

***

I couldn't help but think of Chaka Heinze's talk on purpose, on embracing our God-given names and living as Imago Dei, as I read Tara's post. Our value is not dependent on what we do, or even on having all the answers, and our purpose is immutable. 

If you missed last Saturday's Wholly Loved conference, I want to encourage you to come to one of our upcoming events. Because when we live wholly loved, everything changes, and our lives become characterized by hope, peace, a joy that's not dependent on our circumstances, and surrender. The uncertainties of life don't have to rock our world. 

Join us on February 11th at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Papillion, Nebraska. The event is free! Come early to enjoy a free breakfast, and make sure to bring a friend! You can register HERE

Join us on February 25th at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth, Nebraska This event is also free. (Details pending.)

Or, invite us to come to your next church event. You can connected with us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com. 

***

Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR.  A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher's kid, and a steep battle with depression and perfectionism.

Her first nonfiction book Hollow Victory: How to Identify and Disarm 5 Landmines that Make Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie was released in 2014.  She has won the Bronze Medal in the Frazier awards hosted by My Book Therapy and has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She and her husband Todd have been married for nineteen years and the Lord has blessed them with five children:  Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.

Visit her online at her website and her blog, and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Or, visit her events page to see where she'll be next and meet her in person!

You can also listen to her incredible voice HERE

Let's talk about this. When has uncertainty or perhaps a difficult time drawn you closer to God? What helps you stay close to Him or draw near to Him when you're going through a rough or uncertain patch? What are some ways He's drawn you to Himself? Share your thoughts, encouragement, and wisdom with us, because we can all learn from one another! 

 

The Freedom of Living Wholly Loved

It was a simple, yet profound statement, one I thought of often in the months to come. My daughter was finishing her third, and perhaps most trying, semester at the University of Lincoln and dealing with sleep deprivation and time management challenges. To add to her stress, this was her first year living both out of our house and out of the dorms.

In other words, she’d taken a giant leap into the adult world, and she was beginning to feel the strain.

In my normal, hover-mom capacity, I cleared my schedule and headed her way, ready to “fix” it all, or at least, every thing that I could fix.

Which was very little. I couldn’t help her pass her classes. I couldn’t cook for her after a long, busy day at school. I couldn’t navigate relationship or time management issues for her. But what I could do, I soon learned, was enough. More than enough.

We spent the afternoon grocery shopping then brought everything back to her apartment where together, we’d prep everything she’d need for a week’s worth of lunches and dinners.

Things didn’t turn out quite like I planned. By the end of the night, we’d made a mess of her kitchen, burned the chicken, and spent more time laughing then anything else. As darkness settled outside her apartment window, she glanced sideways at me, elbow deep in quinoa, and said, “The best thing parents can do is make sure they’re children know they’re loved. They can make a lot of mistakes, but so long as their kids know they’re loved; that’s what matters.”

As I said, I thought about her statement a lot over the next few months as God showed us two kids, teens, (foster children) who grew up feeling unloved. He gave me a front-seat view, if you will, of what life looks like, when one lives loved, versus when one that doesn’t feel that same cushion.

The differences were extensive.

For example, growing up, whenever we had to discipline, train, or challenge our daughter, though she’d get frustrated, that was largely the extent of her emotion. When I’d question her about this, she’d often respond, “I know you love me and want what’s best for me.”

In contrast, when these other children experienced the exact same guidance, they grew fearful, and their fear turned to anger. And defiance. To a digging in of their heels and a fisting of their hands. Because they didn’t understand that the adults in their lives loved them and only had their best in mind. Instead, they assumed others were out to get them, to punish them or withhold something from them.

Whenever we push back against God’s loving, corrective or guiding hand, I believe we’re living with that same mentality—as if He’s trying to punish or withhold something from us. But when we understand how much He loves us, how He always has our best in mind—when we live wholly loved, we’re freed to release our grip, follow His lead, and surrender to His gentle, yet sure-guiding hand.

When we live wholly loved, we no longer have to strive, grasp, and fight for control. We’re set free from those self-sabotaging actions, freed to live as the women He created.

At Wholly Loved, we long to help you find and rest deeply in your identity in Christ. We long to see you experience the spiritual and emotional freedom that only Christ can give. Join us for one of our upcoming conferences where you’ll learn how to live wholly loved, how to find a purpose that will never change, and how God longs to use you, in all your uniqueness, to bring glory to Him and have a life-changing impact on others.   

On January 21st, we'll be at Reality Church in LaVista, NE. You can register HERE, or register the morning of. (Cost: $35 and includes breakfast, lunch, and a t-short.)

On February 11th, we'll be at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Papillion, NE. You can register HERE. (Event is free, and come early for breakfast, also free.)

On February 25th, we'll be at Living Water Church in Plattsmouth, NE. (Registration details coming.)

Other resources you might enjoy:

Chosen and Cherished: Becoming the Bride of Christ
by Edna EllisonJoy Brown, and

God Meant it For Good by R. T. Kendall

God's Healing Love (a blog post) by Jennifer Slattery

 

When You Do Everything Right

When You Do Everything Right

by guest blogger Julie Arduini

I was preparing for bed, kicking myself for binge watching television and being awake past midnight. I received a text from my sister, something not normal as she teaches and goes to bed earlier.

She let me know something was seriously wrong with a friend of ours, but she didn’t quite know what. Turns out we learned minutes later that her husband and three year old daughter were involved in an accident that injured the husband, and killed their daughter.

Details are still not available to the public, but this much I know, they did everything right.

It was a daycare drop off and our friend was walking with her, hand-in-hand. There was no child running amok or father and daughter being careless playing in a busy lot. They were simply walking to the entrance, holding hands.

All week I’ve struggled with the tragedy. I knew Mark and Kelly before they married and had children, and even back then, my husband and I marveled at how good they were with kids. They took great care of our son, taking him on special events like hockey games and fire work displays.

When our daughter was critically ill, my dad passed away and we were moving to Ohio, Kelly was the one helping me pack and take care of our baby. I don’t understand why this happened. So many lives are changed forever, and the mere thought of this family's grief has kept me up at night.

I keep going back to this: They were doing everything right.

And then a little whisper dropped into my heart. “So did My Son.”

Jesus was crucified sinless. Literally perfect. When temptation came, He turned from it. He did everything His Dad asked Him to, right down to going to the cross. He did everything right.

I don’t know why a three year old was killed any more than I can figure out why there is gunfire in airports, schools, or nightclubs. I don’t understand miscarriages, house fires, or divorce when by my observation, those that I care for did everything right.

Years ago we were at a church service when a traveling pastor visited. At the end, he prayed over people and I was amazed at his ability to know exactly what people were struggling with. He told my husband the pain he carried wasn’t because my husband did anything wrong. It wasn’t because he should have done something, or should not have.

God allowed the pain in my husband’s life to make him more like Jesus.

That dramatically changed  my husband’s perspective that day, and I’ve never forgotten that service.

If you are struggling with a shocking circumstance that makes you question why, especially if you did everything right, know you are not alone. Your Heavenly Father understands that pain, and has purpose for it, even if you can’t see it. I’m going to be honest, I remain shattered for my friends. I don’t understand. But, I know God knows the pain.

Is there anything you can think of where you did everything right, but deep pain came from it anyway? What helped you heal?

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 1 Peter 2:19, ESV

***

Scripture tells us that God is continually working in us, to give us the will and desire to please Him, and He is pleased when we resemble His Son. That is when we most bring God glory, and bringing God glory is our ultimate purpose.

To learn more how to find purpose in the middle of even the most difficult situations, join us for one of our upcoming Wholly Loved Conferences. Find out more and where we'll be HERE.  

***

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and ---maybe one day---the chocolate. She’s the author of the re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE.

Visit her on FacebookTwitter, and follow her on Google Plus, PinterestInstagram, and Goodreads. Sign up for her monthly newsletter HERE

Entangled: Surrendering the Past, Book Two in Surrendering Time Series:

“You need to leave me alone. It’s the least you can do.”

Carla Rowling has been given her dream of attending cosmetology school. The gift is so generous she feels unworthy because of choices she made as a teen. The pressure mounts as Carla juggles school, is a single mom, helps her best friend Jenna plan her wedding, spends time with boyfriend Will Marshall, and deals with the fact that her son's father is back in their lives.

Will Marshall is the one Speculator Falls resident everyone can count on. His truck deliveries are reliable. He's the first to help friends like Ben Regan with boat work or be a card partner with Bart Davis. Will's ready to settle down with Carla, loving her is natural. He's bonded with her son, Noah. But when Carla starts cosmetology school, she puts emotional distance between her and Will.

Can Carla release her past and create a future full of highlights, or, will she burn her options worse than a bad perm?

Buy it HERE!

Entangled is book #2. Although it can standalone, if you’d like to read Entrusted: Surrendering the Present first, click HERE!

 

No Gifts Please by Guest Blogger Mesu Andrews

Jen here, to introduce today's guest blogger, one of the sweetest women I've come to know. I met biblical fiction writer Mesu Andrews at last year's ACFW writer's conference in Nashville, an event I absolutely love and that routinely leaves my introverted self ready to implode. Or hide. And seek out large amounts of chocolate. Add to this the fact that God was showing me some pretty heavy stuff, and you'll understand why my time with this gentle-hearted woman felt so refreshing.

Mesu has a way of bringing calm and peace to a situation simply by being there. That, I believe, is one of her God-given gifts, and something that she gives freely. But, when it comes to being on the receiving end, well ... 

No Gifts Please by biblical fiction writer Mesu Andrews

I’m about to do something I don’t like to do—be vulnerable. Vulnerable is different than transparent. Transparent isn’t so bad. Transparent means I tell you something unpleasant about myself, but it’s something I’ve battled and won, maybe even tied into a neat little bow with a victory dance. You give grace. We sing Cum-by-yah and go home.

Vulnerable is different. Being vulnerable means I tell you about a current struggle, something still in process, still messy and maybe even a little ugly. I hate vulnerable, but here goes…

Grace Makes Me Nauseous.  

Not grace from God. No, no, I’m staking my eternity on the grace of salvation!

Ephesians 2:8 –“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not  by works, so that no one can boast.”

Yep. I’m counting on God’s gift of grace! It’s grace and gifts from others I have a hard time receiving. There it is…that’s the big reveal.

I. HATE. RECEIVING. FROM. OTHERS. Whew! There. I said it.

Birthday Sin

Here’s a little example of just how much I dislike receiving. We recently moved across the country (from WA State to NC—literally across the country) for my husband to re-enter pastoral ministry. We love our new church, and the people are amazing. The other pastors on staff have welcomed us like old friends, and we love them dearly.

My birthday was last week, and we wanted to have the senior and associate pastor and their wives over for dinner—but I didn’t want any gifts.

So we didn’t tell them it was my birthday. When they arrived and saw the birthday cake, they looked at me like I had grown a second head.

“Why didn’t you tell us it was your birthday?” One of the wives asked. It was a fair question.  

I answered with, “Y’all being here for dinner is my gift!” Which was true but also a cop-out. I simply didn’t want anyone to bring a gift!

The looks on all their faces told me I hadn’t just miscalculated the strength of southern love and care. They were genuinely hurt, and I realized my “issue” had crossed into sin.

Why the Aversion?

Let’s get real with some more vulnerability, shall we? As I searched my heart for why I avoid gifts, asking for help, and a whole list of other things that well-meaning folks offer, I came up with this list of absolutely brutal reasons. See if you can relate to any.

1.   What if they say they’ll help and then don’t? Then I have to deal with bitterness.

2.   What if their help or gift doesn’t meet my expectations—or makes things worse?

3.   What if they expect me to give something back to them—a gift with strings?

4.   What if I don’t know how to respond? Or can’t reciprocate the way they want?

Can you hear the seeds of sin in each question? Pride. Fear. Resentment. Selfishness. What may outwardly appear as humility—“No gifts please”—is rooted in a myriad of self-centered sin. How’s that for ugly?

A Gift Refused

God’s Word always has something to teach us about exactly where we are in life’s little classroom. Here’s a story about King David refusing a gift:

“At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. David longed for water and said, ‘Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!’ So [three of his Mighty Men] broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David.

“But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out to the Lord. ‘God forbid that I should do this!’ he said. ‘Should I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives?’ Because they risked their lives to bring it back, David would not drink it.” 1 Chronicles 11:16-19 (emphasis added)

I’ve wrestled with this passage for years, thinking David was a bit of a—well, ummm, jerk. Now, however, in the midst of my own wrestling match with gift receiving, I realize that his reasons for refusing the gift were much more righteous than my own.

By refusing the drink, he likely discouraged any more rash decisions from these three warriors and any further heroics from his elite guard. And by “pouring it out to the Lord,” David honored the fact that these loyal soldiers had risked their lives. It was a brilliant reaction, really, to an entirely inappropriate gift. He considered others above himself and valued the community of believers in the presence of His God.

Great Current-Day Example

A I’ve pondered this gift conundrum, a true-to-life gift-giving example comes to mind—something I should learn from within my own family. A couple in our first ministry position adopted us since our birth families were several hours away. They’ve become grandparents to our girls and Mom and Dad to us over the years.

As with most eighty-something year-olds, they don’t need anything else at Christmas time, so they ask for, “No gifts please.” Instead, they ask that we use whatever money we would normally spend on their gift to bless someone in need. Hubby and I, along with our two daughters’ families, pool together our cash resources to bless a ministry or family.

It’s an others-centered way to refuse a gift—a God-honoring way—that values the community of believers in the presence of God. I think King David would approve. More importantly, I think our Savior applauds.

What About You?

Do you have trouble receiving? Gifts? Help? Care from others? Maybe your reasons are similar to mine—or perhaps completely different.

As I said in the beginning of the post, I don’t have this gracious receiver thing tied in a neat little bow, but here are a few things I’ll do to start living in God-honoring, others-centered community:

·      Accept, when someone offers to buy coffee or lunch

·      Accept, when someone offers to bring a side dish to our house for dinner.

·      Admit when I’m overwhelmed and need to cancel a coffee date or meeting.

·      Admit how I’m REALLY feeling when a friend asks, “How are you?” (I won’t tell everyone ‘cause some folks really want to hear, “Fine, how are you?” LOL!)

If you have other suggestions on how to be others-centered in God-honoring community, please leave a comment below. I’d love to chat about it!


Mesu Andrews has been married to her husband Roy since 1984, and she's known him since they were both third-graders. You can read their story HERE.  They have two grown daughters who are now married and presenting Mesu and her husband with adorable grandbabies. As a prolific biblical fiction author, Mesu has six published novels and shares her family adventures and nuggets of faith in her weekly Deep-O-Tionals and on her Blog. 

Visit her online HERE and check out her novels HERE

Her latest release is called Miriam:

The Hebrews call me prophetess, the Egyptians a seer.
But I am neither. I am simply a watcher of Israel
and the messenger of El Shaddai.
When He speaks to me in dreams, I interpret. When He whispers a melody, I sing.

At eighty-six, Miriam had devoted her entire life to loving El Shaddai and serving His people as both midwife and messenger. Yet when her brother Moses returns to Egypt from exile, he brings a disruptive message. God has a new name – Yahweh – and has declared a radical deliverance for the Israelites.
 
 Miriam and her beloved family face an impossible choice: cling to familiar bondage or embrace uncharted freedom at an unimaginable cost. Even if the Hebrews survive the plagues set to turn the Nile to blood and unleash a maelstrom of frogs and locusts, can they weather the resulting fury of the Pharaoh?
 
Enter an exotic land where a cruel Pharaoh reigns, pagan priests wield black arts, and the Israelites cry out to a God they only think they know.