Worry Squashing: How a Princess Can Get Rid of the Peas Under Her Mattress for Good

On Wednesday nights, I’m teaching a group of teen girls about being God’s princess. We’ve used classic fairy tales as a springboard into learning what it means to be an heir with Christ. It’s been a fun and exciting study, and now we’re embarking on a new princess. A less famous princess than some: the poor, exhausted girl from The Princess and the Pea. peas

Remember her story?

Through a series of misfortunes, she arrives drenched and mud-splattered at an enormous castle. In her disheveled state, the king and queen doubt her claims of royalty and, as a test, the queen places a single pea under the enormous stack of mattresses constituting her bed. Poor Petunia (that’s what my teens girls named her) tossed and turned all night, bothered by the pea wedged under her tower of a bed. The queen then knew Petunia was a real princess because of her sensitivity. bed

Yeah, I know. Weird. But there’s something all of us can take away from Petunia’s story. Something I suspect we’ve all dealt with at some point. The proverbial peas under our mattress: worry.

Worry keeps us up at night, tossing and turning, running a thousand disaster scenarios through our minds. It steals our joy, our peace, our bodies, our emotions, and even the health of our spiritual selves. Worry is allowing the enemy to set up space in our minds and wreak havoc.

Worry is old-fashioned fear.

Fear of loss. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of being rejected. Fear of loss of control. Fear of messing up. Fear of success. Most can be boiled down into two groups: external fears (ex. my knee knocking fear of anything snake related) or internal fears (more emotional and/or spiritual in nature.)

Some of us are more prone to anxiety than others. Most of the time, I’m pretty much worry free. It creeps up on me sometimes but I’m not plagued by it continually.

One of my daughters, on the other hand, struggles with it from the time she wakes up each morning until her exhausted head hits her pillow each night. The poor thing is a nervous wreck if she thinks she’ll arrive late to an event. She worries about bizarre scenarios and refuses to fly on an airplane since she saw an episode of Duck Dynasty where the airline lost Willie’s luggage. Yeah, she’s more worried about losing her luggage than the plane going down.

Poor thing. This kind of anxiety runs in my family.

My Great-Aunt May was a colorful character, even more so as she grew older. I don’t know whether it was from years of living wild or the simple by-product of old age, but Aunt May soon began having frequent visitors to her retirement home apartment. Little green men. Lots of them.

Did I mention dementia also runs in my family? Actually, it doesn’t run. It gallops.

Yes, Aunt May began seeing little green men. The little boogers began visiting her apartment at all hours of the day and night. Shooing them away didn’t work. Yelling at them to leave didn’t work. Chasing them off with a broom didn’t work. There was only one logical thing left to do: drown them.

She turned on her bathtub and drowned them out all right. In the process, she also flooded her apartment and the apartment below her. mark twain worry

I’m telling you all this to say that sometimes what we fear isn’t even real, nor will it ever be. Just like my Aunt May on her noble quest to drown her imaginary green men, we can make ourselves crazy worrying about things that will rob God’s princess from her much needed beauty sleep.

What If?

In the writing world, there’s a much loved technique for brainstorming new ideas. It’s the “What If?” question. “What if a CIA agent fell in love with a terrorist?” “What if an entire society lived on a speck on a fuzzy flower?” “What if monkeys ruled over man?” (Do any of these plots sound familiar?)

Unfortunately, those of us who aren’t brainstorming a new story still ask “What if…?”

            What if this relationship is doomed for divorce?

            What if the diagnosis is cancer?

            What if I lose my job?

            What if my child never gets his life together?

            What if no one ever accepts me?

            What if…what if…what if…

“What If” is great for writers but a terrible way to live your life. “What if”s are nothing more than worry and worry is a subtle way of telling God that you don’t think He can do what He promises He can do. land of what ifs

Ouch.

Too many peas under a mattress will turn the calmest princess into a worry wart.

I recently looked up the word origin of “worry wart” and was surprised to learn more of its root. In our modern day, worry means, “to be anxious” but it’s earliest form meant, “to strangle”. Isn’t that an interesting definition? When we give in to worry, we are strangling the peace that God gives us.

“Wart” is even more interesting. We usually think of it as a bump on the skin but back in the 1800s, a wart was “an annoying, obnoxious or insignificant person”. The term “worry wart” grew popular in the early to mid 1900s when a comic strip called Out Our Way was featured in newspapers. Worry Wart was a character from the strip, a boy who, ironically, was not plagued by worry but caused worry in others.

When we are worry warts, we not only lose our own peace of mind but can drag others down too. Nervous Nellies quickly become Debbie Downers. Something else to worry about!

Our enemy Satan wants us fearful. Fear makes us take our eyes off God and gives our attention to the mess around us. We start thinking about our circumstances and our rock solid faith begins to wobble and shake. Anytime our eyes aren’t trained on our Savior, we leave ourselves open to the enemy’s schemes. Fear makes us ineffective, double minded and unstable.

Squashing the Peas

The good news is we don’t have to toss and turn all night like poor Petunia but it doesn’t come naturally. Unless we make an effort to get rid of the peas under our mattresses, we will  naturally fall back into worry mode. You don’t have to be a victim. There are several things you can do to squash those annoying worry peas.

  1. Measure the size of that pea. Measuring-peas

It’s critically important that, whether we’re worry warts or only experience rare moments of anxiety, we measure those ‘worry peas’ against size of our God. When we get a glimpse of how incredibly big God is, if we remember what He’s done in the past and what He’s promised to do in the future, those pesky worries shrink. If we can trust Him with our eternity, trusting with the details of the here and now should be easier than we make it.

  1. Perfect love

In talking about slaying fear, the verse I’ve heard all my life is 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

Perfect love casts out fear. It sounds good but this concept always seemed a bit foggy to me. What is perfect love? What does that really mean? As of late, God has impressed this thought on my heart, though I’m not certain that it’s the full completeness what He meant in the scripture: perfect love is grasping hold of the knowledge that God’s love for me is so complete, so perfect that I have no reason to fear. He won’t allow anything to happen that doesn’t ultimately lead to my good and His glory, no matter how confused I may be at the time. His love kicks fear out the door.

  1. Kill the over active imagination.

Too much imagination, too many pretend disaster scenarios can mess with your peace of mind. Don’t over think everything. Remember my Aunt May. Much of what we worry about will never exist. Think of your overactive imagination as a dragon that must be slain, only this time your knight in shining armor can’t do it for you. You and God slay the dragon together.

God doesn’t live in the land of “What If”s. He’s I AM. He is. When God promises that He will be with us to the end of the world, He means it. What He has declared, no one can stop. And what He stops, no one can move. Don’t dwell in a land of impending disasters. Focus on what you know, not how you feel or the what ifs.

  1. No worries. Pray. praying 2

Every time you’re tempted to worry, turn that moment into prayer. My pastor often says that it’s impossible to worry and pray at the same time. If your concern is worth worrying about, it’s vitally important to pray about it. And if Jesus needed to take time to pray, how much more important is it for us?

For those peas that just won’t budge…

If you’ve done all you can and you’re still struggling, you may need to see a doctor or a Christian counselor. Talk to your parents or a Christian adult you trust. Anxiety can sometimes be a symptom of a deeper issue. One thing is for sure: God never intended for His princess to be wracked with fear.
…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

One thing I have to mention is that sometimes our worries stem from something other than living in the land of What Ifs or from focusing on our circumstances and not our Savior. No, sometimes there’s a whole other issue that’s messing with our heads: a faulty view of faith.

I’m not saying that if you worry your faith isn’t strong. Please don’t misunderstand me. What I’m saying is that sometimes our definition of faith is different than the one God gave us in His Word.

A lady once told me, “I used to have great faith in God until one of my children died. Now I feel like I’m in no-man’s land. I have nothing to rest on. No foundation.”

Understandable. But what this lady failed to realize is that her definition of faith is different that God’s. Her faith definition was, “I will trust in God unless He allows something bad to happen in my life.” It’s another way of saying, “I believe God as long as He does what I ask.” Her faith rested on how often and how well God said, “Yes” to her prayers.

Forgive me for being so blunt, but that mindset isn’t faith at all. That kind of faith depends on our wants and exists only by what we see.

corrie ten boom train

But what did the writer of Hebrews say in chapter eleven? ” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Things not seen…

True faith is not dependent on God accomplishing our will but lies in Who He is.

Corrie Ten Boom is one of my heroes and a lady I can’t wait to meet in Heaven. She put faith this way: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”

A perfect illustration. Faith is knowing that God ‘can’ do it. Whether or not He does is up to Him. Do we base our faith on what God does or who He is?

This kind of faith, knowing how big our God is and resting our security in His power, will squash those peas for good.

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Homeschooling: The Good, the Bad & the Funny…5 Things No One Told Me

When we started on this home school journey two years ago, I was a nervous wreck but incredibly excited. I had visions of ripe little minds growing into mature little models of exemplary citizens. I envisioned smiles, serene contentment, and—okay, I’ll just say it—I pictured the school from Little House on the Prairie. You know, the one room school house where all the kids behaved and the teacher was always pretty and sweet.

little house

I’m currently teaching a twelve year old girl, a ten year old girl, and a very rambunctious three year old boy. Little House on the Prairie we’re not. If anything, our home school days resemble a show called Math Stinks, Mom is Spiraling and the Kids Have Taken Over in the Suburbs.

I second guess myself a lot. Daily. Multiple times a day. Some days are almost perfection. Others are like trying to dig fingernails through concrete. Most of them are exhausting. Quite a few of them are amusing. None of them are dull.

On a side note, I’ve learned that you can declare any odd task is part of Home Ec and your home schooled kids won’t question it.

“Vacuum the floors. It’s for your Home Ec grade.”

“Make spaghetti. It’s for your Home Ec grade.”

“Change your brother’s dirty diaper. Don’t even think of complaining. It’s for your Home Ec grade.”

You’re welcome.

Before taking on the enormous task, I read every book I could get my hands on…how to pick curriculum, how to schedule your day, how to organize the house, how to teach multiplication tables, how to know your child’s learning style, etc. But there are a few things you can’t pick up in a book. Here is my list of five things no one told me about home schooling.

  1. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone. stressed out 2

I’ve seen educational snobs who look down their noses at home schoolers. Annoying.

I’ve also seen home schoolers who look down their noses at traditional education. Also annoying.

I was chatting one afternoon with a die-hard home school mom. After lamenting the current problems plaguing a certain public school in our community, she shook her head sadly, disgusted with the state of affairs.

“It’s like these parents don’t even care about their kids. I don’t why everyone doesn’t home school.”

My response was, “Uh, because some people like to eat.”

Not everyone can afford the luxury of having a stay-at-home parent. Some families need both parents working, and even at that, still live pay check to pay check. Home schooling is a privilege and one we shouldn’t take for granted. Yes, there may be some sacrifice along the way (actually, a lot of sacrifice) but God forgive me if I ever look down on someone who doesn’t home school because they can’t afford it. Praise the Lord for good teachers and excellent public schools. We need them all.

And let’s be honest. Some parents aren’t designed to be academic teachers. They’re just not. God gifts each person individually. He leads each family according to what He has planned for them. I had some excellent teachers growing up. I also had some that shouldn’t have even been allowed to step inside the school. Children with special needs often need help beyond what a home school parent can provide.

The journey is different for everyone and God tells each family what is right and beneficial for their children. Finger pointing needs to stop on both sides of the educational spectrum.

  1. Home schooling your children does not ensure that they won’t rebelrebellious kids

I’ve seen it over and over again. A well-meaning mom or dad insists their children will be home schooled, stating the reason with stout conviction: they want their child to follow God and not have to learn the hard way.

Admirable. But homeschooling does not ensure a heart that pursues God.

Just as there are a wide spectrum of children in public schools, the same is true for home schooled children. Some are over-achievers. Some battle depression. Some are hyper creative. Some are class clowns. Some excel at math. Others shine when weaving stories that tug the heart. Some are leaders. Some are followers.

Here’s the deal: humans are humans. We mess up. Pain and adversity break some. In others, those same hurts mold them into someone stronger than they were before.

Do I believe homeschooling is important in helping my children be as strong and resilient as they can be in a broken, hurting world? Yes. I want them to be warriors for Jesus, rooted and grounded in truth. But I also know homeschooling doesn’t guarantee it.

Perhaps you’re reading this and are in the middle of a storm with your grown child. They may have rebelled fast and strong from what you’ve taught them, whether that be through home school, church, public school, private school or anything else. It’s easy to berate yourself as a parent and wonder “Where did I go wrong?” running from god

God is a perfect father and his kids rebel all the time. If you’ve done all you can to teach, guide and love, lay that child and his or her future at God’s feet. Pray and trust. Love and wait.

  1. The name of the game is consistent flexibility.

The greatest advantage of home schooling is being able to arrange things according to your child’s needs. Some take this to an unhealthy level and have no organization at all. Without goals, people tend to drift. You need both.

What my children need from me, from others, from their schooling will oscillate and change as they grow and change. Undisciplined kids need structure. Rigid children need to learn to release their need for control (unless it’s due to a condition like autism).

Personally, I’m a very routine oriented person. I like schedules and consistency. Home schooling has stretched me in this area. And although I’m loathe to admit it, part of my problem has to do with the need for control. Learning that I can’t always accomplish something in the way and manner I prefer has been good for me. It reminds me that I’m not the end all and be all. I’m learning the blessings of having a life interrupted…a lesson that’s incredible important if I want to embrace being interrupted by God and His ultimate plan.

  1. It’s normal to be afraid.

I’m constantly evaluating, wondering if my children are getting what they need. Are they too sheltered? Not sheltered enough? Too busy? Too much down-time? Are they having fun in their learning? Bored to tears? Are they ahead? Behind? More sports? Less sports?

Maybe I should just enroll them back in school. You know, more socialization and all that. Then I remember school attendance is forced socialization which works against the whole building-relationships thing. More tests? Less tests? What about the future? ACT/SAT readiness versus getting away from the teaching-to-test mentality.

It always comes back to What if I’m doing something wrong?

What if, what if, what if…stressed out

As I reach for my chocolate and a copy of anything by James Dobson to assuage my parenting guilt of not being enough, I think they would benefit from a better teacher and all these worries would be solved.

Then I realize most of these questions are the same ones asked over and over by public school and private school teachers too. Are my students learning? Is it fun for them or torture? Are they ready for those benchmark tests? Ahead? Behind? Why can’t I get little Johnny to focus? Why is little Susie so difficult to reach?

The worry, the what ifs, the feelings of inadequacy have very little to do with being a homeschooling mom and everything to do with being a teacher, no matter the venue.

Fear is normal. Embrace it, learn from it, give it your best effort and trust God with the outcome.

  1. My relationship with my kids is more solid than it’s ever been…despite the bad days.

Tears over calculating the volume of triangular prisms.

“I need help.”

Hormones.

Sibling squabbles.

“I need help.”

“Mom, I don’t get it.”

“Nate scribbled on my language work.”

“I don’t want to learn this today.”

“I need help.”

“Math is from the devil.”

“I write better with mechanical pencils.”

“I need help!”

“Nate just stole my Civil War test!”

“Mom, I need help!”

Some days I look for a dark closet where I can eat sugar in private and pray for Jesus to come back. It’s rough. My frustration has peaked, my kids woke up in the mood to argue and my toddler son has spiraled into a hyperactive state that gives me heart palpitations.

I sit in my, uh, ‘devotional time’ and wonder if it’s worth it. chocolate 2

Then I hear my girls giggling as they write some hilarious essay about their views on life, or see the gears of their little minds clicking when a difficult concept is finally grasped and a ribbon of satisfaction unfurls through me.

Teaching those memory verses that don’t want to stick is worth it. Teaching them to persevere through the hard subjects when they want to quit is worth it. Encouraging their individuality is worth it.

I know them so well now. I’m learning every day what their dreams are. How God has woven their personalities together. The best way each of them learn and what each of them fears. And I bet they would say the same of me.

Teaching is so much more than just solving for x or being able to quote the Gettysburg Address. It’s showing my kids how to function through the hard days. How to lean on God for strength when I’m exhausted. How to keep trying when I fail. How to find the creativity in my mistakes. How to love others even when it’s difficult.

Home school is more than learning reading, writing and arithmetic. It’s learning to live a life that pleases God.

And that is definitely worth it.

I want to hear from you! Are you a home schooling parent? What challenges have you faced? What frustrates you? What are the joys in teaching your children? 

 

An Open Letter from a Recovering People Pleaser

I’ve had to learn some things the hard way. After years of exhaustion, of disappointment, of hiding behind my masks, of dark depression, I’ve learned that people pleasing may always be a battle for me. A daily battle. It’s a lie that I believed for far too long—mainly, that approval and love are the same thing. However, as God has peeled back layer after layer of my masks and choices, He has helped me understand that approval and love are not the same thing at all. They are, in fact, polar opposites.

approval vs love

I‘m finally starting to realize my worth in His eyes. I’m tired of shackling myself to others’ expectations when obeying Him is all that matters. I’m tired of being sucked into a spiral of exhaustion when He has promised me rest. I’m tired of living like everyone else’s opinion of me is more important than His. I have no desire to place people, and their approval, as my idol, my focus or my hope any longer.

Jesus created me unique for a special, defined purpose, yet for years I gave away that gift and tried to morph and remake myself in a poorly constructed mold, praying I would be accepted. Loved. Esteemed.

It failed. Over and over again. lecrae

Today, I stand here knowing I am loved by the Creator of the Universe. He sees me. He calls me His daughter. He knows my broken, messy self yet still delights in me. And although He has healed and transformed me in immeasurable ways, there is still a broken place inside me that fights the desire for human approval.

With all that being said, I confess that being a recovering people-pleaser is hard work. It’s a choice I make each day. I have to be proactive—not just for my sake, not just for my family’s sake, but as a child of the King.

Here is my prayerful plea to you…

  1. Respect my boundaries.

Boundaries, saying no, and everything that entails is extremely hard for me. So when I give you a no, even if it sounds timid or unsure, don’t press. Saying no is quite literally the most difficult thing for me to do. It takes an incredible amount of courage and the only reason I would say no is because I’ve learned how much pressure I can take before I crack. I have no desire to collapse in on myself like a dying star. Not again.

no

I want to be able to help you in the future, but if I don’t find a proper balance of my energy, time and resources, I won’t be able to help anyone. My no, although difficult for me to say, and possibly just as hard for you to hear, benefits us all in the long run.

  1. Manipulation and spiritual abuse are no longer welcome.

Saying you’re disappointed in me for refusing to help you is manipulation. I may have collapsed under these tactics in the past, but no longer. Telling me God told you that I would be great for a certain job is well and good, but unless God has told me the same thing, my answer will be no. I have a living, breathing relationship with Him, just as you do. When this life is over, I will answer to Him and Him alone…not a jury of my peers.

pleasing god vs jury of peers

Please don’t shame me, tear me down or hurt me if my need to say no muddles your well-laid plans. Trust me, I have already tortured myself enough with the reality that I can’t undertake the task, despite my desire to have your approval. Lashing out only makes me resentful about the request, angry at you and angry at myself for being manipulated. I cannot be your rescuer.

  1. Whenever I say ‘yes’ to something, I will have to say ‘no’ to something else.

I have learned that I can’t be everything to everybody. My family is a ministry too—the most important one God has given me. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, a limited amount of resources and a limited amount of energy. My relationship with God is my priority, then my family. Other things, special projects or passions find their place as God moves and directs through different seasons. Sometimes saying ‘yes’ to something that might be good leaves little room to embrace God’s best just around the corner.

  1. Be patient with me when I have to buckle down on boundaries.

boundariesSometimes I turn off the phone because the requests never stop. My battery is empty. My nerves are frayed. My family is demanding my attention. I may have to say ‘no’ or request extended time to pray over a matter. I may even have to turn down several major things that I would like to do because God is telling me they aren’t in His plans…at least, not now.

If I have to squeak out a string of no’s, I’m not trying to sound like a two-year old. I’ve merely learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to fall back into the same old cycles that nearly became my undoing. I must choose wisely. To be healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually, I may need to take a step back from time to time. Be patient. It’s only for a season.

  1. Love me, whether I perform well, poorly or not at all.

The common ground sought by people pleasers the world over is this: we have a desperate need to feel loved. We search for unconditional love in conditionally minded people. We crave approval, thinking we are unlovable without it.

For too long I sought my worth based on what people told me about myself. But all that matters is what God thinks—and He loved me so much, He gave His own life to redeem me from the land of darkness. jeremiah

It doesn’t matter whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst…His love never changes. And I’ve discovered this amazing truth is what my heart has been searching for all along.

I will fail you. I’m human. I stumble and fall. Despite my failures, my heart has found peace and contentment in my Savior, and I love the friends He has given to make the journey even more joyful. All I ask is that you love me despite my messy attempts to fly.

With God’s grace, I’ll love you the same.

In true people-pleasing fashion, I ask—is that okay?

Embracing Inadequacy: The 300s.

“I can’t do this. I don’t know how.” 

“It’s too hard. I’m not any good at this kind of stuff.”

“I’m not qualified.”

“I’m too old.”

“I’m too young.” 

“What if I fail?”

“People will laugh at me.”

“It’s too risky.”

“There are people better at this than I am.”

Do any of these excuses sound familiar? I confess, several of them, if not all of them, have found their way into my but-I-can’t repertoire at some point.
scared

So insecure. So scared. Sometimes, just so lazy.

The older I get, the more I’m learning this simple, terrifying truth: usually, what God calls us to do is far outside our comfort zone.

Walking with God often resembles the famous Star Trek catchphrase of one Captain Kirk. “To boldly go where no man has gone before…” The problem is, we don’t like going where no man has gone before. We want the easy path. The predictable way. The comfortable sameness we’ve grown accustomed to. We tend to gravitate towards “where most people tend to clump up because going somewhere unknown is crazy hard”. captain kirk star trek phrase

I get it.

However, I think part of the problem with moving into the unknown comes from a misconception common throughout human nature in every generation. We think we have to be ‘qualified’ to take on tasks of God-sized proportions.

False.

Not once do we see God telling one of His children that they will be successful because of their degrees, adequacy, skills or bravado. He doesn’t pick the “Most Likely to Succeeds” or the Supermans. Usually it’s the opposite. He chooses the weak. The broken. The vulnerable. He says success will be achieved when they lay their life in His hands.

So if you’re feeling unqualified and overwhelmed with the task He’s calling you to do, be comforted. You’re in good company.

Moses was a simple shepherd, thrust into a strange land after a murder was added to his rap sheet. So when God called to him from the middle of a burning bush with a uncomfortable assignment, Moses balked. Excuse after excuse. “You’ve got to send someone else.” “They won’t believe me.” “I can’t speak well.”

I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.

Let me share a little secret with you—God knows we can’t do it in and of ourselves. We are too feeble, too insecure, too indecisive, too easily led astray by our own emotions. He basically told Moses, “Don’t get all wrapped up in what you can’t do or what you don’t know. I will teach you. Trust Me. I’ve got this.”

“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12 2 corinthians 12 9

Consider Gideon. Despite Gideon’s paralyzing insecurity, God called him to lead a battle against the Midianites. 32,000 men were ready to fight , but God said, “Nope. Too many.” So He whittled the army down to 10,000. Still too many. When it was all said and done, God carved down Gideon’s army to a scant 300. They were outnumbered 450 to 1.

Gideon must surely have been a nervous wreck, but God was ready to showcase his unstoppable power. “I will deliver you with the 300.” (Judges 7:7)

32,000 isn’t always better than 300. A young mother battling addiction may not be a better provider to her children than a grandmother who was ready to enjoy retirement but is determined to mold her grandchildren into warriors of God. A super-talent may not be the better choice for worship leader than the man who can barely carry a tune but knows how to lead others to the Savior’s feet. The Pulitzer prize winning author isn’t always better than the simple no-name writer who weaves stories together to teach his friends about Christ. An evangelist who can shake down a roof with his powerful, engaging sermons isn’t always better than the humble pastor who spurns applause, yet loves the broken and gives himself away, serving them despite his own exhaustion.

Bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes, we may not even have 300 to back us up. Sometimes, all we can do is cry out in our emptiness. “Lord, I want to surrender, but I don’t have anything to offer. No secret weapons. No spiritual arsenal. How could you possibly use me? I don’t have anything left to give. I have nothing.”

At times like that, God smiles and wraps His arms of peace around us. “Okay, so you have nothing. I can work with that too.” After all, He spoke the universe into existence. Turning your nothing into something isn’t too hard for Him. nothing into something

Our weakness is a show room for God to display His amazing, jaw-dropping power. It keeps us reliant on Him. Some folks call it ‘God margin’. Others ‘grace gaps’. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the space between our own ability and what is required for victory. He sees our cracks, the empty space where our ability yawns painfully away from success and He steps in to fill the hole. He teaches. He moves. He shields and protects. Sometimes, He even turns the world upside down to meet our need.

That’s probably the greatest thing about being given an assignment that leaves you breathless—you won’t be forging into new territory alone. The One who calls you to it, will walk with you through it. Paving the way. Guiding and squeezing your trembling hand in His.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” ~ Psalm 32:8

Thinking over all this, I was reminded of a sweet incident with my middle child several years ago. I was getting ready for the morning, putting on my make up (or ‘painting the barn’ as my husband so lovingly puts it) and Callie ran in to the bathroom, wrapping her arms around my knees. She looked at me with a grin. “Mom…hold me!” She was in kindergarten and loved piggy back rides. on his shoulders

I knelt down, letting her climb onto my back, and stood. She giggled when she saw her reflection in the mirror. Her blonde head was several inches higher than my own. Measuring our height difference with her little hands, she grinned from ear to ear. “Hey, Momma. I’m kind of little, but I’m big when you hold me!”

We are little, inadequate and weak within ourselves, but resting on the shoulders of the Everlasting Arms, we are huge. More than ready to take on any task He leads us to…whether we have 32,000, 300 or nothing.

Have you ever felt ill-equipped for a God-sized adventure? In what ways is God stretching you outside your comfort zone? How does it make you feel? I would love to hear your story!

The Married Couple

There was once a married couple who had been together for thirty years. One day they drove down a long, dusty country road, leaving their home to take a trip into town to get groceries and supplies. agri land

As they passed mile after mile of agricultural land ripe with growing corn and wheat, the wife began to think of their many years together. She thought of how she and her husband had met at their high school dance. They had fallen in love and became inseparable. Several years later they were married.

 She recalled how they had held hands everywhere they went…how her heart would thud when he came home from a long day at work and how his smile made her feel like the most beautiful woman alive.  Why, even on their trips to town, she would cuddle next to his side as they drove in his old pickup truck, talking and laughing as they journeyed together, smelling the sweet scent of hay through the open window. truck

 Looking down at her lap, she noted the empty space between the two of them in the truck’s front seat. Her husband drove with his strong hands on the wheel, his eyes fixed straight ahead. She began to cry.

“Why, darlin’, what’s wrong?” he asked gently.

She sniffled. “When we were first married, we couldn’t stand to be apart. We did everything together! I even cuddled up next to you while you drove. Don’t you remember?”

The husband smiled and nodded. “Yes, I remember.” hands on truck

 A spark of anger flickered through her. “Well, don’t you care that we don’t cuddle on the way to town anymore?” 

 The husband gave her a sidelong glance and replied, “Sweetheart, I’ve never moved.” 

If there is any distance between you and God, guess who moved?

Impressions

My kids love impressions. The crazier, the better. And being a singer, I always find it a hilarious exercise to see if I can manipulate my voice enough to oblige their whims.

queen of hearts

Today I spent all day conversing like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. When bad manners were displayed at dinner, the Queen of Hearts yelled, “Off with your head!”, causing an eruption of giggles.

In the past few months, I have spent much time as the Count from Sesame Street, Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants, mariaMaria from The Sound of Music, Elmyra from Tiny Toons, Ethel Merman and Glinda from Wicked. (Along with a cast of unique quirky characters created by our crazy family.) It makes me wonder what impression my kids will pick the next day and if I’ll be able to pull it off. elmyra

For the past two weeks they have begged me to talk like Adele. And when I say that they asked me to converse like Adele, I mean all. day. long. Around the clock for two weeks. The cockney impression was spouted so frequently, I began to forget what my own voice sounded like.

The funny thing is that after I spent a few days talking like Adele, I couldn’t stop. Pretending became the norm. The norm became habit. And habit became hard to break. I forgot my own voice. And pretending to be someone I wasn’t made me feel like I was constantly in performance mode.

Too many of us live out our lives as a charade: the perfect Christian, no faults, no struggles…we live in an illusion meant to fool others and hide our wounds. We don’t like people seeing us in all of our mess and brokenness. So we stay tucked behind our masks…our impressions. We give people what we think they want to hear, and lose who God wants us to be in the process.

Impressions, pretending to be someone your not can be fun for a little while, but please don’t live there. God has a unique plan for your life…and it doesn’t include you trying to be someone else. Perfectionism and people-pleasing are detrimental patterns. They lie to you and, in subtle ways, proclaim that what God created isn’t good enough.approval vs loveGod made you a one-of-a-kind. He loves you, not the masks you wear or the performances you put on to be accepted. He doesn’t need another Adele or a Maria von Trapp or anyone else. He wants YOU. He had a plan for your life before you were ever created.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” ~Psalm 139:16

Whatever voice He has given you, use it. Whatever story He has given you, write it. Whatever skills or talents He blessed you with, use them for His glory. Whatever your past, your successes, your failures, love Him. Chase after Him. Embrace your identity in Him. Don’t spend your life pretending to be a poor imitation.

adele

No matter how fantastic your Adele impression may be.

Have you ever struggled with pretending to be something you’re not? Are you a people-pleaser? How does it make you feel to constantly be in performance mode? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Check out more of Tara’s ministry at www.TaraJohnsonMinistries.com