Laying Down Our Masks

Placing the mask upon her face, she transformed before me. With just the tiger costume covering her little 5-year-old body, her demeanor remained the same. It was as if she had just put on her favorite cozy, fuzzy, winter pajamas. But, once she pulled the tiger mask down to cover her smooth, silky skin, she had changed. My daughter went from being her spunky, silly 5-year-old self, to a stalking, prancing, fierce tiger in the jungle. And, all it took was the mask. She began behaving differently from that moment on. From a distance, I couldn’t even tell she was the child I had studied so closely from the time I first laid eyes on her. Holding true to her character, she remained a tiger throughout her performance. Finally, the show was over and she escaped the cover of the tiger’s mask and head. I spotted the ear to ear grin I always see after a performance. She bounded over to us with all enthusiasm. The tiger was gone and our girl was back.

mikayla tiger

Those masks. We carry them everywhere with us. Pulling them out when a friend calls. Or, when we go to school or work. Walking into an interview. Talking to the cashier at the store.

Even, when we enter church. The place we are encouraged to sing about grace. To lay our burdens at the cross. To seek and find freedom. Yet, the mask comes on.

The other day, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in years. Within minutes, she was sharing the most difficult part of her life with me.

“My son is addicted to drugs,” she said bluntly and her shoulders lowered. Her mask was down.

“Oh, is it bad?” I asked looking her straight in the eye.

“It’s really bad. We almost lost him a few months back,” she swallows hard. Taking a deep breath, she continues,  “I really thought it was the end. It’s heroin. It’s so bad. The police picked him up last week. They don’t usually keep them, but this time they did. Now he is in jail.” The mask drops to the ground as she tells his story.

Suddenly, she startles. Looks up at me. “Wow. I must really feel safe with you. I don’t normally tell people all of this. In fact, I have hardly told anyone. When I do, they just look at me and I feel…” her face trails off, and she considers picking up the mask.

“Shame,” I finish for her.

“Yes! Shame. I feel shame. Sometimes they say things that make me feel judged. Or, they judge my son.”

“It could happen to anyone,” I say. Her mask stays down.

“Yes!” she exclaims with tears in her eyes. “When they say it’s an epidemic, they mean it. It’s everywhere.”

“But, Lisa, if you could pray for him…” her voice fades with little hope.

“Yes, I will pray for your son. And, you know what, I will pray for you, as well,” she melts with tears and a beautiful vulnerability.

The Spirit was moving me to pray right then and there in the middle of  the busyness when we were interrupted. And, as  quick as a flash, she replaced the mask, complete with a smile and she was off to her next errand.

I hope to see her again. I pray that she was encouraged and her load was lightened even the slightest bit by laying aside the mask, even just for a moment. I hope she’ll trust again.

I also pray that the Spirit would lead me in the way of Jesus. Not to judge or shame. But to listen with love and compassion. To show my friends and family they are safe with me.

When the hurting came to Jesus, He didn’t share a Bible verse with them. He didn’t judge. He didn’t turn them away.

He loved.

Matthew 5 shows us His heart for the hurting,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.”

As Christians, we are not called to judge, shame, or condemn. But, our great commandment is to love. Read the Gospels and read the accounts of Jesus healing, forgiving, loving. Let that be fresh in your heart as you face the day today. Show someone you are safe and watch their mask fall.

Our world is so desperate to lay down the mask and receive love.

sister love

New Patterns of Grace

Mother’s Day. An opportunity to remember the effort, love, and sacrifices my own mom made for me. A chance to be thankful for the brave birth mothers who helped make me a mother. A day to look on my children with love and awe and marvel at the reasons I am allowed to partake in this day.

me and the girls

Looking upon the year leading up to this day, reflecting on the changes, the growth, the disappointments, the trials, and the joy; my heart feels both heavy and lighter at the same time.

A day to reflect. How am I doing as a mother? The most important role I will ever fill. Am I still stuck in some of the patterns of the year before? Or, am I moving toward what the Lord has for me? Am I pushing past old destructive ways? Am I looking for patterns which lead to life for my family?

lake padden

These questions fill my mind and to be honest, they’ve been keeping me awake at night.

As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. Second guessing decisions. Replaying scenarios in our minds. Beating ourselves up for our shortcomings. Allowing guilt and sometimes even condemnation to steal our days. Comparing ourselves to others or to some ideal we hold in our mind. Seeing our children’s behavior as a reflection of our own failures.

These are patterns which lead to death for ourselves and our families.

The Lord is revealing a different way to me.

It begins with grace.

Grace: Favor or goodwill. A manifestation of favor. Mercy. Pardon. Unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Ahh..Just reading the word grace, followed by the definition is like a deep breath. My body loosens. My shoulders drop. My breathing slows.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 4-10

Oh those words, the Lord’s words to us, well up in me like an everlasting flowing river. A river of grace and mercy. His love for me was alive and well when I was dead in my trespasses. 

On your worst day. He loved you.

On my worst day. He loved me.

Am I loving that way? Am I loving my family when they behave well? Am I loving them when they are acting in an undesirable way?

Are my facial expressions conveying love and grace?

Is my tone showing love despite their behavior?

Are my words leading to life for my family regardless of how they are acting?

Through His grace and love pouring into me, He is showing me how to extend grace to my family. He is reminding me to be patient with myself. He is showing me when I just need to breathe. He is showing me how to love my children and care deeply for them, while still separating myself from their choices. He is opening my eyes to what a heartfelt apology can bring to my loved ones. He is lowering my shoulders and filling me with His breath, His grace, His love.

3 grace-filled statements for mom’s this Mother’s day, taken right from the Ephesians 2 verses above:

  1. We are no longer dead to our sin. We are made alive by Christ. I can breathe easier and become unstuck because He has freed me from my sin.
  2. We are saved by faith, not by our works. I am not saved based on anything I have done or anything I will do. I am saved based on who He is and what He has already done on the cross.
  3. We were created by God to the good works He prepared for us to do. No longer do I need to strive in my own power, my own wisdom and knowledge. He has gone before me and prepared the way.

This good, good news of the cross and His love and grace over me, frees me to rest. Rest in Him.

by the lake

Dear momma, find your rest in  Him. Allow Him to reveal His grace to you. Be filled with His unconditional love. Rest in His everlasting river of mercy. He loves you so much. This year, begin your new patterns of grace.

Caught Between

She’s caught between being a teen and being a kid. Truly a tween. And, truly unknown territory in our life as a family. She’s caught between fierce independence and seeking shelter by way of a hug from her mommy. She’s right in the middle of knowing all the answers and seeking prayer about a recent bad dream.

During this trying, growing, in-between stage, I am seeking the Lord and all He has for us  in a new stage in our life as a family.

color family standing

As is God’s way, I received an email just days before my daughter’s 12th birthday. The title read, 10 Verses to Pray for Your Daughter. The mom who wrote the article expressed her desire to be a prayer warrior.

Yes, Lord, make ME a prayer warrior. I long to fervently pray for my family. Diligently wearing and utilizing the armor God has given me: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word. Never ceasing to thank God for all He has provided and always remembering my deep need for Him. 

The author of the article categorized her prayers for her daughter in the following way:

Her Salvation

To Find Her Identity in Christ

To Walk in a Manner Worthy of Her Calling

To Have a Love for God and His Word

Use and Cultivate Her Spiritual Gifts for God’s Glory

To Have a Desire for Wisdom

Healthy and Godly Relationships with Family and Friends

Her Future Husband and Marriage

To Value Her Role in the Home and Family

To Train Her Own Children to Love the Lord

Sitting down to my strong coffee and overflowing journal, I begin mediating on the prayer from the above list that is stirring in my heart this morning. Healthy and Godly relationships with family and friends. The verse which follows reads, Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:2-3

I attempt to focus on my in-between daughter, the one seeking independence, discovering her place in our family and the world, still in need of parental guidance, the one whose power sometimes seems to frighten even her. The Lord, then, redirects my thinking right back to me. The Ephesians 4 verse is staring me in the face, transforming itself into questions. During this trying in-between phase which we are embarking on, am I humble? Gentle? Patient? Bearing with my tween in love? Making every effort to keep unity?

In all honesty, the answers to my questions are all no. Of course, I will fail. God knows I am human. But, when time and time again, I am forging ahead, making my own path into this unchartered territory, I am sure to fail.

When I humbly seek the Lord for gentleness, patience, love, and unity, I am moving forward His way.

When I clear my mind and see how He deals with me in my stubborn independence, power house manner, know-it-all way, I see His gentleness, His loving redirection, and His patient whispers. Thank you, Lord.

Another author, I recently read discussed mirror neurons. Cells in the brain that cause us to mimic the behavior of those around us. These neurons aid in learning new skills by imitation. The science behind that intrigued me, God’s incredible planning and creation captivated me, but mostly, this concept caused me once again to return to the Ephesians 4 passage and examine my own heart.

I desire for my tween daughter, who is figuring out her place as a young woman, to be humble, gentle, patient, loving, and peaceful. When I turn those traits back towards myself, I am aware of improvement in those areas, but am also very aware of the need to seek more through the Lord.

While reading about Jesus in the book of Mark, I see His heart. I love to come back to the gospels and read directly about the one I aim to mirror.

Oh, Lord, that I would mirror your actions of love, kindness, and long-suffering. 

Are you in an in-between stage with a loved one? Are you, yourself, in an in-between stage? Caught between where you are currently at and where you know the Lord longs for you to be? Dear one, let’s look to Jesus and mirror His love. Let’s allow Him to examine our hearts and to reveal His heart to us. As Christians, we are “little Christs”. Ask Him. Seek Him. You will find Him.

Straight to the Source

To be satisfied. It seems elusive. Only a dream. But, reading the apostle Paul’ s words in Philippians 4, a chapter my girls and I have been reading, re-reading and then reading some more, each and every morning, we see that it’s not a dream. It was a reality for Paul, a human being just like you and I.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4: 11,12. 

God’s desire for me is to be content, satisfied, and at peace with where He has me right now. Rereading Philippians over and over, I am more convinced than ever of God’s desire for me to accept my life and the call He has for me. Each day, my girls and I gain something new from our reading, but each day it centers around being satisfied.

Joy

Thanksgiving

Rejoicing

Peace

Content

Aside from our Philippians discussions, if you have been to our house you know that our cats, Jack and Andy, are a popular topic. We recently changed cat food. Our cats love to eat. Being indoor cats, eating is their main activity. Feeding time is a frenzy. Both cats meowing loudly, rubbing against my legs, my stress level rises as I attempt to open the food bag quick enough to satisfy their meows. Our cats are large. In fact the vet has expressed concern. So, we measure out their food and only feed them twice a day. Tender hearts hurt for our cats when looking at their empty dishes and hearing their cries for food. But one look at their sagging bellies, reveals the truth.

The second the first morsel hits their dishes, they are wolfing down the food. It’s a race for the finish. Within minutes, both cats are done and their dishes are empty once more. Jack takes his stance back over by the pantry door, where he resumes begging for more. He just inhaled his entire meal and will not be fed again for 12 hours, but he is not satisfied. The cheap, grocery store cat food left him wanting more.

Recently, Andy, our oldest cat, began showing signs of having a food allergy. A trip to the vet left us reconsidering our food of choice for our beloved pets. So we did what any other concerned pet-loving family would do, we watched an entire documentary on pet food! Next came a trip to the pet store. Spending far longer than I care to admit at the pet store: reading labels, comparing prices, and debating with myself, I left with a grain-free, single-protein source, over-priced bag of cat food. Oh, they are just going to love this!

Andy beggingdish with foodempty dishAndy at dishjack eatingsatisfied AndyPlump cats

Bringing the food home, the cats hear the familiar rustle of the bag and come running. I pour their first serving into their dishes and wait. Andy looks up at me as if to say, “What is this?” Giving the food an inquiring sniff, they lean closer. Andy takes a little bite, then a few more. Now Jack joins in. Next thing I know, I am the one to be surprised. Both cats walk away from their dishes and saunter off to another room. My amazed younger daughter looks to me for an explanation, but all I can do is shrug. “Hmm. I guess they don’t like it.”

This scene replayed each day, as the cats ate a little bit and then left food in their dishes throughout the day. No more begging at the pantry door. No more aggressive pressure during feeding time.

One day while rereading Philippians chapter 4 with my girls once again, my mind stuck on the word content and my eyes drifted over to the still unfamiliar site of a pet dish with remaining food. Could it be, that the cats are content? Satisfied? The new, higher protein food is filling them up? This new food has more of the nutrients they need so they are actually satisfied? Suddenly our repetitive Philippians 4 reading was being lived out right in front of me. 

Paul tells us to meditate or chew on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. He tells us to do the things we have learned to do from God and the God of peace will be with us.

Like the veterinarian telling us a specific type of food to look for which would be better for our cats, or a prescription from a doctor which will bring the healing we desire, the Lord provides for us what we need to produce the satisfaction we desire.

Phil 4

I can try in vain to fill up on devotionals, Christian books, and magazines. None of which are bad. I can glean encouragement, instruction, and knowledge from such materials. But, nothing will bring the satisfaction and true contentment the Word of God brings.

Why not go straight to the source? Why not drink from the fountain that always satisfies?

  • The Bible is like food for the believer, sustaining our very lives.

Matthew 4:4, Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

  • The Bible is the very words of the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:15-17, And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

  • The Bible is our instruction.

Colossians 3:16, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Is the emptiness swallowing you up? Are you finding yourself always needing more? Never reaching the point of true contentment? I challenge you to feast on the Word of God. Put the other sources aside for the time being and see how the Lord will sustain you, fill you, satisfy you. 

The Stone Rolled Away

empty tombOn that cross He hung

He wasn’t alone.

For my guilt, my shame, my sin

Hung with Him

The nails driven through His flesh

The blood dripping down His holy skin

Breathing out His last

So that I could breathe in a life of freedom

Foolishly men thought death and a stone could hold Him back

The weight of the entire world couldn’t hold Him down

He arose

As the cross carried my sin

The stone carried my pride

As it shifted on the earth

He walked away from His burial

No longer would I be alone

The Spirit now walking with me

Living in me

The stone rolled away

Around the Corner

cornerAs I rounded the corner on my usual walking route through the neighborhood, my mind went directly to the disciples and the days leading up to Christ’s death. When I read through Luke 22, I read about the disciples shortcomings, their humanity, right there recorded in history.

Jesus’ disciples were incredible men of faith. Being used by the Lord, soaking up His teaching, and continuing to share the Gospel after Christ’s death. I am so incredibly thankful for their examples and the words they left us in the New Testament.

But, I am also thankful for their genuineness. I am thankful to be able to relate to their failures.

Sigh. That’s me, Lord. Whining, complaining, arguing, rejecting…sleeping when you are offering me love and instruction and about to work a miracle in my life. 

The disciples didn’t understand what was about to take place. Jesus had given them forewarnings, “In a little while, you will see me no more…”. But in their humanity, they didn’t fully understand. They saw their circumstances with their natural eyes. The disciples went about their days, arguing about who was the greatest, sleeping when Jesus was in anguish, and disowning and rejecting the Lord. They could have been standing with Him, learning from Him, serving Him, loving Him. They were entangled in their own lives. They were caught up  in what they saw around them.

I can only imagine the pain that followed for the disciples. As the hour came, and the land became dark, and Jesus took His final breath, Luke records about 3 hours of darkness. Continuing on my walk through the neighborhood, I swallow hard. The deep anguish of a sudden trial. The sting of pain. The overwhelming flood of heaviness.

They didn’t know. They didn’t know the pain would soon turn to rejoicing. They didn’t know what He was doing. They didn’t know what was around the corner.

Oh, Lord, it’s just like me. Caught up in my own life. Seeing my life with my natural eyes. Praying and waiting on what you are about to do. Not knowing what’s around the corner. Not living with the expectation that you are at work. 

But, when my eyes are focused on the One that does know what is around the corner, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, I can remember my place.  When my situation doesn’t change, or my trial is just beginning, or all seems dark, I can remember He sees around the corner. He knows the miracle coming.

Sunday is coming, complete with it’s life-giving resurrection.

Are you waiting? Are you stuck? Is your humanity getting in the way of what God is doing through you?

I think the disciples may have responded differently in the days leading up to Jesus’ death had they known what He knew. We can learn from them. We can stop our useless disagreements, our rejecting the truth, and our sleeping.

Now is the time! Lift your eyes. Lift your eyes from your circumstances. Lift your eyes from your pain.

Lift your eyes to your Creator. Lift your eyes to the One who loves you, the One who knows, the One who heals, the powerful One.

Lift your eyes to Jesus and know He sees what’s around the corner. 

corner steps

 

 

Heal

WordPress Daily Post Heal (one word prompt)

To heal. To fill in the holes. To cleanse the wounds. To dry the tears. To mend the break.

The Lord takes the weak, the needy and the broken and He heals.

He brings Clarity to situations that were once chaos.

He brings Wholeness to places that were just pieces.

He brings Wisdom to minds that were just confusion.

The Lord still heals.

I know this because each day

He is filling me,

mending me,

cleansing me,

Healing me.

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