Motivation, Application, Wisdom & Joy

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”   ~Galatians 1:10

Why do we do what we do? 

Simple question….lengthy answers? Or could it be a simple answer? 

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During one of my life’s most difficult seasons, my Pastor Reg’s response to my gauntlet of a whirlwind of questions was, “Ask yourself with each decision… What is the wise thing? What is the right thing… what is the wise thing, what is the right thing?” 

What is the wise thing? 

What is the right thing? 

Since then, I cannot tell you the countless times I whisper this question over and over as I face the next thing.

So, why do we do what we do? 

Pride? Ego? People pleasing? Fear of failure? 

Serving myself?  Serving other’s whims and pressures?

Two things that I have pondered ever since that conversation with my Pastor… 

  1. I won’t know what the wise thing is unless I actively seek the giver of wisdom. 

That Bible that sits on my nightstand…  It contains the words from my Father. Why is it so much easier to seek every other source in the world when I face decisions, than to go immediately to the source in prayer?  Am I daily learning more about God, and His ways?  Are my roots growing deeper?  Do I intentionally seek?

You don’t gain knowledge about math without listening to instruction, studying, applying and working it out.  You don’t increase in ability at your sport, or musical instrument, or workplace without listening to instruction, studying, applying, and working it out… See where I’m going with this?  🙂

2.   I often know the wise thing, or the right thing… but I choose otherwise. 

Entertain my silliness for a moment, but when I ask myself, “What is the wise thing..?”  before I decide to eat that huge piece of cheesecake for lunch… well, I do kinda know the answer.  However, I eat it anyway.. and an hour later I feel sluggish, heavy, and I haven’t fed my body the proper fuel for my day to be the best in productivity.  Now, I may make that decision again because that cheesecake is so yummy!  Lol.  But, at least I need to own the consequences.

There are some decisions that carry much more severe weight, and consequences.. and owning our unwise choices is not silly, or trite, but vital for our life and those we love around us.  We grow when we face our wrong decisions square in the face, and work it out with God’s ways accordingly.  One wrong decision doesn’t have to turn into a snowball of more, and more and more wrong decisions.  I did you wrong?  I need to face it, apologize and change my behavior.. But, when my ugly pride and me sits on that throne… I ignore the question of what is right (or talk myself into a solution that isn’t godly) and instead of making it right, I cling to the wrong one, justify it, and continue to walk serving someone other than God.

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I don’t know about you, but when I’m carrying my load wrong, I get tired. The absence of God in my decisions and thought processes makes me feel burdened, confused at times, and alone. But, the presence of God is my fullness of joy. And joy is my strength. See how that works out? “He will make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV). He’s a good Father – He’s not going to keep the wise thing or the right thing a secret from you… seek Him today with your every question. 

And may our motivation for what we do be all about Him, through Him, and because of Him. 

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New Year’s Resolutions

To ring in the new year of 2017, late in the month of January, my mom, my four sisters, myself and some of my nieces met together for a brunch.  This was a first for us, and it was a very meaningful time.  It was a needed time.

So, why am I writing on this now?  Ha.  We are half-way through the year!  Let me explain.

One of the activities we did that day was writing our “New Year’s Resolutions” on 3×5 notecards, and then if we wanted, sharing with the group.  It was such a great idea, it truly helped me to slow down and be intentional about what my priorities really were for the year.  Afterwards, I placed my little cards in my Bible as bookmarks and needed reminders for my daily life.  Here we are in July, and halfway through the year and I smiled this morning as this particular resolution marked my Psalm this morning.  Rest.  True Rest.  Did I even know what that meant when I wrote it?  I certainly didn’t know what all my year would hold… that’s certain.  But, I smiled because I thought the definition of rest has taken on a new shape, and new meaning for me in so many ways the past few years.

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Rest.  True rest.

That’s what she said in January – beginning 2017.  Here we are in July.

I like to visualize rest thinking about our cat Thomas.  Now that fellow knows how to rest!  He has a little routine every day.  And it all revolves around rest, I’m pretty sure (well, that and eating..).  He has his morning stretches, his breakfast, his nap on Paul’s top bunk, snacktime, naptime on Wesley’s bed, snacktime, naptime on couch, snacktime, aggravate our other cat Romo time, snacktime, and then relax-time on back of couch or in our laps to complete his evening before bed time.

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The only time he doesn’t rest is when his food bowl is empty.  Not only does he not rest,  WE can’t rest.  Because he paces, stares, and even gives a little bite (if it comes to that!) to remind us “MY BOWL IS EMPTY.”

Kinda like me.  I can rest when things are all nice and tidy… all my ducks swimming pretty in a row (and for the record, I can’t even remember when it was that way for me.  I am thinking they are not even ducks at this point… maybe chinchillas?).

But, oh God where is the rest when things aren’t the way I want them?

Not when things are hard and confusing.

Or, when I have needs that I feel aren’t met.

Not when I feel I’m wronged or shorted from what I deserve.  (Ouch).

Or, how can I rest when the storms are big and unexpected… and the lights seem to flicker on and off.

Where are you?

And, He reminds me.  The wind and waves know my name.  You can rest.

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Throughout the years, lack of sleep has become my nemesis.  I’ve learned some practical ways that help.  Sleep association patterns:  Reading before bed, journaling my “to-do” list for the next day, calming playlist, lavender scents, relaxing a wee bit on my caffeine intake :), less screen time, good hydration, etc.  All great aids!  Definitely have proven to help me greatly!

But, maybe you will agree with me… there seems sometimes to be no cure for an anxious heart.  When you toss and turn on your bed, and sleep seems so far away.  Your pillow may be the only one you trust with your tears, but God sees.

What was the Psalm that my resolution from January had randomly marked?

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.”

Psalm 94:18-19

What’s the true rest I want to practice?  Trusting Him.  Allowing His words to console the deepest corners of my soul.  Letting go of what others think, giving Him all the heavy things I carry, fully embracing His forgiveness and grace, trusting that He is at work in all areas… even the ones that may be difficult to understand.  Entrusting each step to His wisdom and ways.  Reaching for His word when I want to ruminate on issues.  Committing myself to pray, even when there aren’t words, or when all I want to do is complain or worry. Looking for faithful friends who can listen, pray for me, and share needed perspective and truth to my ears. Settling my mind to know I am not the “fixer” of anything, I’m just a girl who has the opportunity to love others, as I have been loved. Loving is easy, when you spend time with the One who loves you.

Sleepless nights will still find us.  Anxious moments will come.  That’s for sure.  But even in those moments, we can have the gift of true rest.

2017 –  A year of rest.  The gift of rest that we can all embrace.

 

 

let’s communicate for love’s sake

My tongue often reflects my heart.  The Bible tells me that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).  My heart often is self-serving, and my tongue reflects that!  I often write it off, even to myself, with disguises and masks.  Recently, I’ve thought much about difficult conversations that are loving, and why they seem soo difficult to have. We seem to find it way easier with conflicting views to sit far off and throw lashes with our tongues to others who think like us on the topic, or whine and complain to our friends — rather than speaking face to face to HEAR their thoughts and SHARE our thoughts with true love to the one with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  Promoting unity involves honest, real conversations and authentically listening.  Putting my heart out there.  Caring more about true love for all than just “love” of my self.  Selfish-love that worries how I look to others, or critical that the other won’t care about my side of things (and certainly me not caring about their point of view), or worried about how I’ll be perceived…. which actually can’t be love…. cos all that’s fear based. There’s no fear in perfect love.

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Whispering behind backs, blanket statements thrown out there targeted to make someone “hear” me without actually reaching out to them personally, indirect communication and using God to justify “me” and “my” agenda is manipulative… again there’s my fear clinging to a silly control that is really just an illusion, right?

We can’t control others.  And even if we could, would that be love?  I can’t make you hear me, and you can’t make me hear you.  But, true love is the bridge that is only capable of connecting us.  Unifying our hearts.

True love gives a patient ear.  A kind response.  Even if we disagree… love can be kind.

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True love doesn’t brag, protect its ego, or become jealous.  It doesn’t have to win the argument.. it wants to win the trust of the other person.

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True love doesn’t dishonor others.  (Ouch!)  It never shames or disgraces another.

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True love isn’t angered, and it doesn’t make a list of all the wrongs to shake in the face of the other.

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True loves gets excited to share truth!  It doesn’t let things go by that are “not” ok… True love reaches out to restore that which needs a new perspective and breathe new light and hope.  True love confronts when needed, with a beautiful aim to build up.

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True love protects, hopes, keeps going, and trusts God – cos He’s the one actually in control.

True love never fails.  God’s love will never, ever fail us. 

So, you may be like me sometimes, and say… “This is impossible.  You don’t know my situations.  You don’t know how impossible this really is.”

And, you are right.  I don’t know your story, as you don’t know mine.  But, what I do know is that with God… this is possible.  I believe that with all my heart for you and for me.  And, how He shows you will be a miracle designed for you, and it will bring peace to situations that you right now feel like can never be resolved.  The first step is to trust Him.  Trust and obey.  As we know His love, and as we sink deeper and deeper in the vast, overwhelming love of our Father – We know love.  And, as we love others, the love becomes more and more real and known to us.  What a beautiful cycle to be in, right?

Divisiveness destroys, but love restores.  Last time I checked, my God was in the business of restoration.  It’s what He does.  Give it up to Him.  Be brave and kind when you speak up.  Be quiet and still to hear Him.  Reach out and talk to others about conflict and various perspectives.  I can’t know your story, unless you share it. Please be brave, it’s yours, and it’s meant to share. Let’s give each other the opportunity to put one another’s shoes on and walk around a bit.  Unity comes as God fuses us together as one.  One body that represents Him.  His way is vulnerable, honest love and connection… So let’s seek His ways.  Mine don’t always work the best.  😉

Bible References:  I Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 John 4

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Joy

Today the series continues, and I’m beyond honored to have one of my heroes share with us.  She’s a ginger-snap that I like to call my little Toodles.  Joy is a giant-hearted person who continually shows me what true perseverance, courage, and faith look like.  Joy is the fourth in my lovely quintet of sisters. She graduated Cum Laude in 2015 from Stephen F Austin University with a Bachelor of Arts for Creative Writing.  Currently, she is a Masters Candidate in Creative Writing and a Teacher’s Assistant with the English Department at Arkansas State University.  I pray that this post reaches deep into your heart, as it did mine.  

Rings left by coffee, stains left by people

I almost always buy my clothes second-hand, coffee-stained sleeves and lipstick-stained collars, worn-down and fraying and faded and beautiful. I love the history that comes with an article of clothing that has been worn by a stranger: it could have gone hiking in the Smoky Mountains, could have soaked in the tingling, woody smoke of a campfire, could have spent days in bed cuddling a newborn, or drinking coffee and watching old movies. I love that things have histories. They do not begin and end with me and my personal joys or tragedies. The world spins, and I am only a small part, watching.

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Isn’t it amazing that the people we love live on beyond us? It is not as if, after we have lunch with a friend, they get in their car and immediately vanish from existence. They may disappear from our sight and our mind—but they are now in their own little world, experiencing their own little joys and tragedies. They are mysteries to us. We can speculate: are they eating lunch right now? Are they slathering mayonnaise on bread or making too-strong coffee with heaping teaspoons of sugar? Are they happy? But we never know, for certain. We are stuck in our own limelight. They have exited off stage and are in the dark of the wings.

Like most Americans, I am guilty of being very self-absorbed. I live in my own head, with ghosts of old words. In my life, I have been hurt by individuals who entered and exited. Their cruel words become a stain on my sleeve, their lies broke a button on my shirt. I repeat the thing they have done to me like a mantra: hurt, hurt, hurt. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I forget that they have exited off the stage, that they are living out their own mystery elsewhere, and I become obsessed with the way in which they have changed me.

As a woman, I have lived through a series of expectations. I passed through them like wandering through bewildering rooms in an old house. Sometimes I felt very lost. I was raised with the expectation that I would marry and have children, because per the culture, that was God’s plan for women. Guys I liked told me that they thought women should be modest and cover their legs, their breasts, their hair, but also stay in good shape so that they could be sexy. Men in churches told me that I should be submissive to authority figures and not argue or dispute ideas publicly. Teachers told me I had to try harder, because women still didn’t get the opportunities that men did unless they went above and beyond their male colleagues. Friends reminded me that I should major in a field suited to a woman: like teaching or nursing, because other jobs were too masculine.

But I didn’t want any of that: I wanted to be a leader, a shaker, a dreamer, a doer. I used to pray to be magically transformed into a man, because I thought men’s lives must be more exciting. For a few years I bound my breasts and wore boxy clothes to pretend I didn’t have a figure. I rejected every romantic intention of any guy that came near me; because I thought love meant submission to degradation, meant agreeing with my partner’s crazy thoughts, meant shutting up when I disagreed, meant taking abuse…out of love.

Looking back, I recognize myself as an intelligent, creative child who was just curious and excited about everything. So much got stifled by those well-intentioned comments to be more ladylike, to talk quieter, to dress feminine, to eat less and stay in shape, to find a husband, find a husband, find a husband.

Now I know better; I know as a woman I am just as whole and full of potential as a man. I believe in the adventures of being a woman. Yet I am guilty of letting these old comments stain my perspective on myself. Sometimes when I’m teaching I think, Wow, I sound bossy. Sometimes when I’m standing in front of the mirror I think, My teeth are so ugly and fang-like, so gross. I like rock music and science fiction (that’s not ladylike), I prefer other people to cook for me (I’ll never be a good wife).

Recently I found out, due to some issues, that it is almost impossible that I will ever be able to have children. My first thought was: I guess I’m not a real woman. But that thought was ugly and untrue, that thought was an old ghost of someone who told me, once upon a time, that the only reason I was born was to serve a man and have babies.

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And I know that thought is untrue because the women I love are doing amazing things. They are sometimes mothers and wives, yes, but they are also personal trainers and musicians, globe-trotters and activists, counselors and preachers, nurses and nannies, business-owners and orchestrators, singers and dancers, makers and creators, dreamers and soldiers, rockstars and fashionistas, bakers and brokers. I see them jogging in the morning. I see them at coffee shops, reading for pleasure. I see them wearing clothes that make them feel good. I see them building fences and chopping wood, plastering walls painting houses. I see them moving abroad to Italy or China. I see them fighting crime, speaking out, turning in their abusers, being so very loud and so very lovely.

And I am in awe of them.

I am in awe of you.

You are my mentors and heroes, you are why I tell the ghosts to shut up, and get off the stage. You are why I silence my fears that I’m bossy or unladylike or weird. You’re why I’ve learned to love being a woman again.

Because whatever unkind words have been spoken to you, whatever little rips and tears have been made to your soul, you wear yourself with grace and purpose when you live to be who you truly are. When you gamble on yourself, when you believe in your dreams. You are as beautiful as that dress, hanging in a thrift shop, that dress that has been danced in, twirled about. The dress that has seen the sun and rain both, that is worn in as soft as down, yet sturdy and durable. There are stains, yes, but they are beautiful because they tell me your story: you survived, you overcame, and you are still needed, yes, and desirable, unique in your history.

It’s hard to leave the old expectations behind, because they resurface quietly, they are still little wounds that are healing. Yet: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

It is best to let the ghosts go.

We are surrounded by victors and achievers and those breathing heavy and dripping sweat because they are running ferociously down the path set out for them, they are living their true purpose. I would much rather listen to their voices, strained and panting though they may be. Wouldn’t you?

To A Wild Rose: Straight From the Heart of Tracie

Next up in the series, you have the pleasure of meeting my friend Tracie.  We’ve known each other quite a few years from the days of pushing our little ones around in baby strollers, to now sharing the bittersweet moments of waving goodbye as our “babies” drive off to college.  Tracie is proud mom to three amazing kiddos, and wife to Pastor Richard Boyd.  She serves our school district as the Help Desk Technologist, and is one of the most giving ladies you’ll meet. From taxiing around our kiddos, giving me much needed reminders, and so much more I’m blessed to know Tracie… and I think you will be too as you read her honest, open words.  

As I sat this morning, all alone, looking at the decorations in our house, drinking coffee, and remembering where each ornament came from I was flooded with love, and something else.  I realized I have wasted alot of time.  I have held grudges, judged others, not forgiven, and not shared the gospel like I should.  My dad is in the hospital right now, and I just lost my grandma and a lady who was a spiritual mother to me, so my heart is kind of heavy.  More than the heaviness of the loss of people, is the loss of time.

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I didn’t speak to my dad for five years when I was a teenager, and I have always felt a little estranged from him, but last year when his dad passed away, things changed.  He needed my help, and I freely gave it.  We have had the best relationship in this last year because I let us.  I let go of old hurts and pain and just loved him where he is.  I let him love me in his way, not the way I want him to love me.  I let go and let God.

My dad is not saved and I have tried to discuss it with him before, but he doesn’t see a need for a relationship with Christ.  I have tried to live my life in front of him, and hope that it has been a witness, but as I sat there this morning I thought, “Has it been?”  “Have I shown the love of Christ with my grudges and un-forgiveness and judgmental-ness?”  “Would anyone want to know about Christ watching me?” The answer is no.

Young couple holding hands in the wheat field on sunny summer day.

Time is short people!  Even if you don’t believe in the end times, you can look around and see how fast time passes!  My daughter is looking at colleges, my son is grown and gone, I will have another teenager in a month, time has passed me by!  I have wasted something God has given me with “MY” hurts, that I really haven’t shared with the fixer of those hurts, Jesus.  

Please don’t let the time continue to go by another day having “junk” that keeps you bogged down to the point that you can’t live for Christ as you should, or share the gospel like you should.  Forgive people, love people, and tell people about Jesus.  There is someone looking at your walk, whether it is your children, husband, friend or stranger.

Walk in a walk that they will know He is walking with you.

To A Wild Rose: Straight from the Heart of Emma Jane

Today as we continue our series, To A Wild Rose, I want you to meet my friend Emma.  I’ve known this curly-headed, inspiring brunette since she was 5 years old, and I’ve watched her grow into a young woman who challenges my heart to love strong and always stay careful of complacency. Her mother,who shined so bright in Jesus, went to her eternal home in 2011, and Emma continues Jamie’s legacy by singing of the Love that endures forever.  Emma is big sis to four little sisters, completing her senior year of high school, is quite the musical gal (sings, plays piano and ukulele, songwriter, etc..) and is in prayer as she chooses the direction for her life this next year.  Read the words from the heart of a courageous young lady.  

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Those of you who know me are well acquainted with my thought-pattern or lack thereof. It’s mildly hilarious considering how hard I try to be a writer.  All I ask is that you read to the end. I promise it’ll make sense (hopefully).

I am not a gardener for sure, but I have always loved plants. Cacti especially. Momma was never a gardener either….. I was blessed with a jack-of-all-trades for a dad. Most every year, we had a gigantic garden. Even though I complained about working it, I loved every minute I spent with my parents out in the sweltering heat. I learned a lot about plants over those summers in the dirt from my daddy. I love how God gives us real-life examples of aspects of our walk with Him.

Roots are extremely important to a plant. They are the source of life.

They soak up all the goodness that the plant needs to flourish, and they offer protection. A tree with deep roots is going to be harder to blow over than a tree with immature, weak roots.

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In June, I was uprooted from my comfortable home and thrown out into a new church, new school, new life. These past six months have revealed my strengths and weakness like no other trial in my entire life. I have spent days and nights crying out to God, in desperation when I see all that I am missing out on. I have spent long evenings, dancing on the dock in front of a glorious sunset, praising my Creator for this great love He lavishes upon me. I have been taking care of my roots, so to speak. Through this trial, I have been seeking God. It is not always easy, In fact, it’s never easy. I constantly pray that God instills a desire for deeper roots. Through all of this, I am reminded of how easy it is to fall into “surfacey Christianity.” We go to church, post inspirational Jesus quotes, and try to be decent people. Beloved, we are so deceived! Relationship with God is so much more than these. When God draws us, He woos us with His love. He courts us, and calls us into this divine covenant with Him where we offer ourselves, ugly, broken, hurt, and confused.

Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called His children – 1 John 3:1

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This love is my comfort. This love is my hope. I feel like I spend way too much time missing things that often I fail to appreciate and love the present. In the midst of my hurt and confusion, God is God, and He is GOOD. He wants more than anything for us to be pulled deeper into a loving relationship with Him. So spend some time with Him today. Let your roots go deep, so you can withstand the crazy stuff life throws at us.

He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit – Jeremiah 17:8

To A Wild Rose; Straight from the Heart of Abby

Once again, I’m delighted to have my niece Abigail as a guest post for my blog.  She joins us in the conversation regarding women, and as always I’m in awe and grateful for her transparency. Abigail is beautiful mommy to Mr Liam Jonathan McBride.  This past January her loving, devoted, one-of-a-kind husband Jonathan went to his eternal home, and Abby remains here carrying on the legacy of love giving to all she encounters.  You can read a little of her story here.  She manages her home business, The Little Farm Kitchen, and also manages her little growing farm! A braver, stronger, more loving ginger snap of a woman you will not meet.  And, I’m priviliged to be her Aunt and a recepient of that love. Lean in, listen, and let’s continue to stay mindful and in prayer over this vital topic.  

In all honesty I have been avoiding writing this. I kept going over topics in my head that I could write about, but I couldn’t get this out of my head.

You see, the last 11 months of my life, no matter how I tell it, it has not been what I ever imagined. And I think that sometimes as Christians we try to glorify our trials. Today I just want to be brutally real with you all.

I am a strong person. I know that. People who know me know that. But I would like to put forth the notion to you that mountains are strong, trees are strong, there are many strong forces, however after enough small persistence of any given thing, they slowly begin to fade. It’s almost undetectable. First it’s just small things, you don’t smile quite as big, your laugh sounds pitiful in your own ears, you look for excuses to “check out of life” not in a suicidal way physically, but emotionally and mentally. You begin avoiding people who can truly see you. You begin avoiding anyone that might catch a glimpse of what’s underneath your surface.

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I would love to believe that I have only been doing this in the last 11 months, but I know that I have been doing this since I was about 11 or 12 years old. I smile and laugh and reply “I’m fine!” But deep down a little voice is saying “I’m not fine, please help me!”. In my life I have suffered mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I have lost my husband. I have seen my family torn apart by another family member, I have seen some of the Devils best handiwork. And even after ALL of that, I reply, “I’m fine!”.

What we as men and women need to understand is that brokenness is the beginning of healing. Our culture loves to shame and ridicule those of us who admit that we aren’t ok, it seems sometimes especially the Church. If we do not acknowledge that we are indeed broken, how are we to begin the process of healing? It is impossible. Today I ask that we all do our part to break the stigma of shame that has been cast on Depression, Mental Health Disorders, Anxiety and many other prisons of the mind.

And finally, yes I am weary! I am weary of doing good, and being repaid with bad. I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of seeing people treated like with hate and disrespect. I’m tired of people defending and protecting pedophiles and abusers and turning their backs on their families. I’m tired of not seeing more good in this world than bad. I’m tired.  But I’m not done! Just as the persistence of bad wearing and tearing down overtime, so works the persistence of goodness and love. And I’ll be darned if I let the bad wear me down to the point of defeat. If we will persist in doing good, if we will persist in giving love, if we will persist in being strong, if we will persist in teaching respect through our actions, over time, and maybe not in this life, but over time, we will see the rewards.

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Dear friends, let us not grow weary in doing good. You never know if you might be the last face someone sees as they seek help and hope. And when we do grow tired, remember there is someone out there who wants to truly see you and know you and help you.

You are so loved.