Toxic Friends

Have you ever had a toxic friend or relationship? I have experienced a toxic relationship with a friend I’ve had my whole life.

We’ve hung out together for innumerable hours and celebrated many milestones together. When I was sad or bored or angry or frustrated or overwhelmed, my friend was always there with promises to comfort me, pick me up, make me happy and take away my pain.

Those promises never came true. My friend didn’t have the ability to meet those needs in my life but I still kept coming back hoping my cup would be filled up at this dry, empty well of a friendship. The expectation and hope that I put in my friend always led to disappointment and then anger and sometimes the anger turned to an out of control rage inside of me. Unrealistic expectations and unmet needs can do that.

I could see we had an unhealthy attachment because all of my emotions were wrapped up in this friend but I couldn’t see a way out. Even though I hated the way I felt, I couldn’t imagine life without this friendship because we had been together for so long. What could life possibly look like without it?

We have been the best of friends and the absolute worst enemies my whole life. Up until recently that is. Do you have a toxic friend like this in your life? The friend I have been describing is not a person but a thing and this friend’s name is Food.

I have spent so many years looking to Food to fill me up emotionally while filling me up physically. Comfort me, calm me, numb me, excite me, reward me…Food has been my closest friend for a lifetime.

A friend and a traitorous foe. An unfulfilling backstabber that only led me deeper into disappointment, anger and rage layered with shame, anxiety and depression. Even at my lowest rock bottom knowing I needed to end this relationship I felt paralyzed and overwhelmed with fear.

The possibility of turning my back and walking away from this mainstay of my existence felt scary and impossible at the beginning of my recovery journey. How could I possibly make it through each day without my faithful friend to lean on? The mind is a tricky battlefield. Quick to forget how unfaithful our toxic friends actually are.

My journey started with one step of faith: simply admitting that what I have been doing for 30+ years has only gotten me deeper into a pit of despair. Then a second step of faith: asking God to help me trust Him to find a better way.

As God started removing my attachment to that toxic friendship, I could see more clearly how I had been allowing myself to be poisoned day in and day out. I could see that Food was never going to give me all of the things I so desperately needed and it was obvious now that it had been foolish to ever think anything different from something so empty. The farther I walk from that pit the clearer I can see how much more life there is to be lived outside of that toxic dependency on Food.

Detaching from Food and setting a boundary around myself has opened up more space in my mind and heart for God to fill me with more of Him. I’m finding the more filled up I am with all of the life giving things from God the less I need Food.

I can finally answer the question, “What is life without Food?”

It’s true life.

It’s life how God intended it to be lived.

It’s a life that makes me thankful for how my eyes have been opened to what has kept me chained and bound for so long to a very limited existence.

It’s a life lived more abundantly with abundant grace, abundant love, abundant forgiveness. For others and finally, after all these years, for me, too.

Life without the toxic Food friendship is a life filled with experiences and people that pour God’s richest blessings into my empty cup.

It’s a life completely dependent on God to comfort me, calm me, bring me joy and bless me beyond all I could ever ask or imagine.

It’s a life lived learning to love and trust and grow the ultimate friendship with my Savior, my Jesus.

There is nothing more filling than that.

What or who are you looking to today to fill you up? What is the toxic friend in your life that you need to break up with? What dry, empty well do you need to walk away from?

This has been the scariest and hardest journey I have ever taken but I am learning that it’s ok to take it one step at a time. One day at a time. One choice at a time. One step combined with the next step and the next eventually makes a mile. One day combined with the next day and the next eventually leads you to a week, a month, a year. One choice combined with the next choice and the next eventually leads you to a freedom you never thought possible.

If you’re facing a similar struggle whether it’s food, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling, anything…you are not alone.

There is no shame in asking for help or admitting you’ve reached rock bottom. You don’t have to live this way anymore.

There is hope. There is help. One step, one day, one choice at a time.

What step are you willing to take today?

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think!

You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

If you are struggling with any type of addiction and would like more information on a 12 step recovery program near you. Please click here for more information.

We can all help prevent suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. Click here for more information.


Funks … Feelings … Freedom

I’ve been in a funk yesterday and today. Yesterday I was irritable, agitated and easily frustrated all morning into the afternoon for no reason that I could put my finger on. Everything was getting under my skin.

I left in the afternoon to go to the library to do some studying and journaling on a writing project that God and I have been working on together the last few weeks. All of the stuff God was showing me and reminding me in my writing time at the library was so powerful. Life changing truths and reminders of how faithful God was and is and will be.

As I was finishing up, I thought, I wonder if this funk is the enemy’s way of trying to intercept and prevent me from digging into God’s Word. I had been trying to write and study all morning at home but the interruptions and constant annoyances were so distracting and frustrating.

I felt better knowing as I left the library that I didn’t let the enemy have the final say and I thought my attitude would fall into line. It didn’t.

The rest of the evening and into today I was still struggling with this cloud hanging over my head. I had been trying to pinpoint the cause of this mood since yesterday morning. I had been praying and asking God to give me wisdom but nothing was coming to mind. I took some time this afternoon to really sit with my feelings for a longer amount of time instead of just offering up a 2 second prayer then rushing on to the next thought.

As I sat and tried to examine what I was feeling, I started to notice a feeling of sadness in my chest that felt like a physical aching. I asked God to tell me what I was feeling or if maybe I was just going crazy. I sat in silence and almost immediately my thoughts went to how selfishly I had treated my family yesterday and this morning in response to my agitation. It was like watching a video playback all my words and actions. I could see how I’d let my emotions drive me and I was filled with regret.

Through bawling tears I asked God to forgive me and to take my selfishness and my irritation. To take them and replace them with more of Him, His grace, His love.

As I was praying, the song “Build My Life” was playing and God used some of the lyrics to speak to me:

I will build my life upon Your love * It is a firm foundation * I will put my trust in You alone * I will not be shaken

As soon as the words “a firm foundation” hit my ears, I was reminded of my own blog [A House God (Re)Built] I just shared last week about how God has been re-building and re-making me. Renovating me on a new foundation. On His foundation.

How quickly I forget Who is doing the work and I start picking up the scraps and debris of what God has already torn down. I try to take over the process by trying to put the pieces back together on the trash heap of my old busted up foundation.

He is the only stable foundation. Everything else is shifting sand. He is my only safe place. My refuge and my strength. I need Him every minute of every day. I put my trust in Him alone and I am not shaken.

About the time I’d worked through all of that in my head and in my journal, the song “Faithful to the End” was playing. My favorite part is:

There wasn’t a day that You weren’t by my side * There wasn’t a day that You let me fall * All of my life Your love has been true * All of my life I will worship You

And then I love how they change the words to say:

There won’t be a day that You aren’t by my side * There won’t be a day that You’ll let me fall * All of my life Your love will be true * All of my life we will worship You

It reminds me that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Beth Moore always says…God was, God is, God is yet to come and the “God is” would be who God is currently in the present. Right now. Today.

He is currently by my side.

He is currently not letting me fall.

His love is currently true in my life.

He is currently worthy of my worship with all of my life.

He is currently my firm foundation.

Today. Right now.

There’s no room for emotional funks or spiritual amnesia when I remember how much God has saved me from. Or when I think about how easy it is to slip back in to the old ways of feeling dread and despair.

I’m praying that God keeps me tender to His gentle tug on my heart when I start to stray away. When I start to pick up the pieces He’s already removed. I don’t ever want to wander as far away as I have in the past, where I find myself teetering on the edge of that old familiar dark pit. It would be so easy to fall back into the trash heap with the scraps and debris of all the old ways God has freed me and is currently freeing me from today.

I much more prefer the freedom of walking in the security of God’s love right by His side. A phrase I have picked up somewhere over the past few months of my counseling journey (or maybe I made it up?) is that I want to walk free and live loved. This has truly become words to live by for me.

How about you? What does it look like to you to walk free and live loved? How is God showing up currently in your life, right now, today?

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

A House that God (Re)Built

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” -Matthew 7:24

This morning I was reading over some note cards that I’ve written some meaningful verses on over the last 6 months. God gave me a fresh message over these particular verses:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, sustain me.”

-Psalm 51:10-12

These verses are very familiar to me and they have been encouraging to me at different seasons in my life but I haven’t read these particular verses since starting my recent journey of recovery.

The words RESTORE and WILLING seemed to jump off the page in front of me this morning! For anyone familiar with the 12 steps of recovery, the second step is believing that a power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity and the third step is being willing to trust that power greater than yourself with your will and your life. Reading these verses this morning made me realize God has restored my joy by restoring my sanity around food, people, work, family, etc. He has granted me a willing spirit to live a surrendered life. To place my will and my life into His care every day. That has sustained me in a way that I have never known before.

This doesn’t happen overnight and it’s definitely not easy. I was speaking with a mutual member of an Overeaters Anonymous Facebook group about how when we began working the OA program and truly trying to trust God with, not just our food, but with our whole lives, we felt uprooted and off balance.

A few months ago God gave me a pretty vivid “house” analogy that explained to me clearly why I felt that way. It was so hard to come to terms with at the time God was revealing this to me because I felt like I was on shaky ground. My whole life I had built my own foundation on my own set of rules, my self reliance, my pride, my insecurities, etc. and I kept asking God to do a new thing in me but I was still standing on a broken foundation.

God showed me that He wanted to do a complete renovation on me and just like with a house renovation, He was going to re-make me inside and out. That would have to start with demo on all of the existing walls and rooms that I’d been wandering around aimlessly in all these years.

I think at some level the demo and the renovation continue throughout our whole lives but the initial whack of the sledge hammer completely rocked me. I felt like I had been through an earthquake and my foundation had been split wide open. All I could see at the time were busted up pieces of my heart scattered all over the place. I know now that God broke through what I had made for myself so that He could start re-making me and re-building me on His foundation.

Today I can see Psalm 51:10-12 at work in my life. God is clearing out the messes and the junk in my heart. He is creating a pure and clean heart in me. He has given me the ability to stand steady and stand firm. He has renewed a steadfast spirit within me. His presence and His Spirit are with me, filling me with His power and His strength. He has restored the joy of knowing I’m saved, I’m His, I’m free and I’m an overcomer in Him. He has granted me a willingness to keep trusting Him to sustain me, comfort me, help me, encourage me, carry me and care for me.

The Message Bible translates Psalm 51:10-12 to say:

“God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!”

I love how other translations can sometimes paint a different picture and this did NOT disappoint!

Where do you need God to shape a Genesis week in the chaos of your life and give you a fresh start?

Just as God breathed life into Adam, I want His life giving breath of holiness to cover me and fill me.

With just one single exhale from God, our sails are full again and we are able to keep traveling forward.

Re-made, re-built, re-created, restored and full of the powerful breath of God reviving our dead hearts back to life.

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

Insides and Outsides

We all need a God who knows and loves our insides and our outsides!

For those of you who don’t know, I started a journey about 3 months ago looking to find better emotional and mental health for myself. I was depressed, discontent, hopeless and empty. My counselor has given me a lot of really great suggestions on this journey of self-discovery. Two of the biggest ones have been reading the book Loveable by Kelly Flanagan (that I mentioned in this previous blog) and also attending Overeaters Anonymous to address my eating issues. I was able to finally admit that I have been struggling all my life with food addiction that has lead to out of control binge eating to try to numb out of control feelings.

As of today, I have 60 days of abstinence in the OA program. Which means I’ve gone 60 days without binge eating or using food as a comfort, a crutch, a drug or a diversion. I’ve lost more weight in this 2 month period than I ever thought possible and I’ve acquired more life changing things than I ever knew to ask for. It’s been the most absolutely freeing experience I have ever walked through and this is only the beginning!

One of the life changing things I’ve come across is a chapter in the book Loveable entitled WHY WE NEED TO QUIT LOOKING INTO MIRRORS. I have the entire chapter either highlighted or underlined but here’s just a few of the high points for me from this chapter:

“If we are seen and mirrored well by the people we love, our life ceases to be a question asked and becomes an answer lived. If we are mirrored well.

The problem is, most of our mirrors — the people who could have reflected our hearts back to us — were cracked. Those we looked to for mirroring were, for the most part, not bad people; they were broken people. In other words, they were normal people. Still preoccupied with their own inner drama, they were too busy asking Who am I? to answer that question for us. Still absorbed for their own search for worthiness, they were too distracted to mirror the worthiness in us. Still in search of their own mirror, they may have even used us as a mirror for themselves. Or, still cracked by their own shame, they may have cracked us a little bit too. Thus, as we grew bigger, so did the need for an answer to our question: Who am I?

If we can’t find anyone to adequately mirror our heart, we’ll settle for any kind of mirror we can find. And there is one kind mirror we do not have to look hard to find: body mirrors. They’re everywhere. In weight rooms, restrooms, makeup aisles, smartphones, and in giant steel beans.

And, of course, in dressing rooms…”


“In the absence of heart mirrors, we gaze into body mirrors, searching for the answer to our question of identity, and the shameful message slowly and subtly seeps into us:

I am my body.I am my skin, my shape, my measurements, my weight, my firmness, and my youthfulness.I am my body, so I can make myself a better a better me by changing my appearance and preserving my youth. I can diet and exercise and poke and prod and have surgeries and get injections and buy more products. The numbers on the scale tell me who I am. The people who like or reject my body tell me who I am. The mirrors in the dressing room tell me who I am.”


“I think the movement to accept our bodies is equally riddled with shame and just as doomed to failure.

Because the mind plays tricks.

You can’t think less about something by trying to think about it less. If, for instance, I told you not to think about white bears, all you would think about is white bears. And, similarly, you can’t accept something by trying to accept it. Whether you are looking at your body to judge it or accept it, you’re still looking at your body. When you try to accept your body by focusing on your body, you are trying to solve the problem by practicing the problem, and the problem is this: if you look to your body to tell you who you are, you’ll never get around to looking for your heart. If you’re focused on your body image — positively or negatively — you’ll never get around to focusing on yoursoul image. If you search for your identity on the surface of yourself, you’ll never get around to searching for it underneath, at the center of yourself. So, instead of obsessing about changing your body or accepting your body, what if you let yourself forget about your body, for just a little while.

What if you forgot about your body so you could remember your heart?

After reading this chapter, I clung to the following statements as reminders of where my focus needs to lie:

  • I am not my body.
  • My value is not based on my outside appearance. My worth is found within.
  • And this familiar verse: “The Lord does not look at things people look at. People look at the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7(NIV)

These are all well and good until you’re trying to fit your OUTSIDES into a swimsuit.

Which is where I found myself today. Swimsuit shopping and battling my own mind in front of a dressing room mirror.

I wasn’t trying to find a swimsuit that fit my insides. I was trying to find one that fit my outsides.

Standing in that dressing room, dripping with sweat, thinking how disgusted I felt looking in the mirror I honestly tried to tell myself, I am not my body. That my value and my worth are not contingent on my clothing size, my weight or how I look in a swimsuit. All true in my head but then why was this still so discouraging and frustrating? Why did I sit in my car and cry for 30 minutes after leaving the store? Why am I still crying as I write this? How can we ever come to terms with both sides of this?

I don’t have a clear answer for that except for another section from Loveable that jumped off the page at me when I first read it. It says:

“The voice of Grace doesn’t challenge the story I’ve been told by my shame — it totally subverts it by reminding me of the rest of the story. The voice of Grace doesn’t try to disprove the voice of shame. It doesn’t do a Yeah, but. It does a Yes, and. It disrupts all the internal debates, undermines all the second-guessing, and avoids all the inner conflict. It says, Yes, that may be true, and this is definitively true. Grace tells you you’re a mess and also lovely, broken and also beautiful, full of darkness and light. Grace is the love that sees the ugly along with the beautiful, and joyfully holds both together in a tender embrace.”

Can it really be both? Can I feel frustrated and also know I am not my body? Does that even make sense? I don’t know.

What I do know is that the enemy wants me to wallow in shame and self pity. He wants to keep me bound to my insecurities. He wants me to throw in the towel and give up when it gets hard. I also know that I have placed my will and my life in the care of God. I have decided that I will trust Him to take care of my thoughts, my actions and all the details that are out of my control.

Does that mean I can trust Him to figure out how to navigate swimsuit season? Yes.

Does that mean I am willing to stop listening to the voice of shame and see myself through His eyes? Yes.

Does that mean I can choose to stop spinning out of control on the hamster wheel of destructive, demeaning insecurities and just rest in the security of His tender embrace? Yes.

Does that mean I will stop yelling inside my own head about how frustrated I am and listen for His voice singing over me? Yes.

I choose to say no to shame. No to the enemy. No to lies. No to my old ways of thinking.

I choose to say YES to grace. YES to God. YES to truth. YES to freedom.

Yes, it is frustrating and I am not my body.

Yes, it’s still a struggle and it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Yes, I need grace and also worthy of that grace.

Yes, I am a mess and also valuable.

Yes, I am broken and also beautiful.

And…so are you. We all are. Maybe you don’t struggle in front of the mirror. Maybe swimsuit shopping doesn’t make you cringe inside. But all of us have something in our lives that will bring us to our knees if our feet aren’t planted firmly on the rock solid foundation of the God who made us. He knows and loves every bit of each one of us. All of our insides and our outsides.

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

Chosen…by Who?

God reminds me of who He says I am and also whose I am.

I was reading today’s “Our Daily Bread” – Belonging about God being our Father and the corresponding scripture, Isaiah 44:1-5. As I was taking some time to ponder these verses, God took me on a little scripture journey to remind me of who He says I am and also what He says about whose I am.

Isaiah 44:1-5 says this:

“But now listen, Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen. This is what the Lord says— he who made you, who formed you in the womb,and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land,and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord ’; others will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.”

These verses highlight Israel being God’s chosen people. The rest of Isaiah 44 goes on to record what God Himself says about Who He is. You can read the whole chapter here but this is what I found. God says He is:

  • The King and Redeemer (v.6)
  • The Lord Almighty (v.6)
  • The first and the last (v.6)
  • The One and Only – apart from Me there is no God (v.6)
  • The Rock – there is no other Rock like God (v.8)
  • The Maker of the forests and trees from which the Israelites crafted idols (v.14)
  • The Sender of the rain that makes those trees grow (v.14)
  • The One who will not forget us (v.21)
  • The Forgiver of sins – I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. (v.22)
  • The Redeemer (v.22)
  • The Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretched out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by Himself, who foils the signs of false prophets, who makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise, who carries out and fulfills His prophecy and promises (v.24-26a)
  • The One who says Jerusalem will be inhabited, the towns of Judah will be rebuilt and their ruins will be restored (v.26b)
  • The One who tells the watery deep to be dry and makes the streams dry up (v.27)
  • The One who says Jerusalem will be rebuilt and the temple foundations will be re-laid (v.28)

This God, the King & Redeemer, the Lord Almighty, the First and the Last, the One & Only, the Rock, the One who does not forget us and forgives us all, the God who has made all things, stretched out the heavens, spread out the earth, defeated false prophets, fulfilled His promises, restored ruins, dried up streams and also poured out life giving water, rebuilt cities and relaid foundations – this God…has chosen me.

Initially when I read verses 1-5 for the Daily Bread devotional they resonated with me as a reminder that I am chosen and that I belong to God. I also wrote out these verses as a prayer for myself and my girls (see below) but reading the whole chapter reminds me of Who Has chosen me. Who has redeemed me. Who has secured me, restored me and blessed me. This God, this Rock, the One & Only. I am His and He is mine.

I believe very much in praying Scripture back to God over our own lives and the lives of others. We need to hear God’s Word spoken aloud and there is power in telling God what His Word says.

My Isaiah 44:1-5 prayer is this:

God, You have said:

Listen, Emily, My servant, Whom I have chosen.

God, You who have made me, You who formed me in the womb and You who will help me have said:

I, Your servant, whom You have chosen, don’t need to be afraid. You will pour out water on my thirsty land, You will pour out streams on my dry ground, You will pour out Your Spirit on my offspring, Acacia & Lily and You will pour out Your blessings on my descendants, my children and my children’s children. Thank You for how You give us life, how You bless us and the legacy we are leaving behind us.

I pray that You will make Acacia, Lily and all that come behind them to spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.

I pray that my children, Acacia & Lily and their children will say, “I belong to the Lord”, that they will call themselves by the name of Jacob (a people in covenant with God), that they will write on their hands, “The Lord’s” and that they will take the name Israel (Your chosen and redeemed).

Thank You, God, for choosing me, redeeming me, restoring me and blessing me. May I never forget who I am and Whose I am.

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

A Work That Counts

Are there other moms out there who struggle with questioning if what they’re doing counts for anything or really matters all that much? I can relate…

On Wednesday we dropped our oldest daughter, Acacia, off at her very first overnight camp with the youth group at our church. 4 nights away from home and she made the decision to go this year even though she knows no one her age yet at youth group. (Insert all the anxious Mom feelings here.)

Over the last few weeks she has mostly been excited with a few nerves mixed in. There’s been a few questions from her like:

What do you think the bathrooms are going to be like? Do you think I’ll be able to get a bottom bunk? Do you think I’ll be able to make friends with anyone? Will I be able to call you if I need to?

The last question made me pause because I didn’t anticipate her thinking about needing to call us. I told her there would definitely be a way to call us if she needed to but then asked her why she thought she’d need to. Her response:

I don’t know. I know we’ve been apart before but we’ve always called to talk to each other every night.

This type of conversation only added to my vacillating between being anxious and giving my anxious thoughts over to God. Asking Him to give her a genuine encounter with Him, for her to know she is loved by the Most High King and that He cherishes her down to the very core of who she is. I’ve asked Him to help her make friends, to have a good camp experience, to have fun. But still my nerves and anxiety remained.

When we got to camp to drop her off I could see her nervousness starting to kick in. We got her checked in, grabbed her bag, she gave Jason, my husband, a big good bye hug and we went off to find her room. She picked her bed (bottom bunk), put her stuff down and met her leader who told us everyone was hanging out in the Rec Center until dinner.

I asked Acacia if she wanted me to walk her down to the Rec Center to make sure she could find it — wrong suggestion! Of course she didn’t want me to do that! Duh, Mom!

I felt myself hovering and smothering but I didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to make sure she was ok and for all of her strong-willed, independent, tough attitude…I could see the nervousness written all over her face. And for all of my strong-willed, independent tough attitude…the mama bird in me wasn’t ready for my baby girl to test her wings without me right by her side to pick her up if she fell.

So I asked her for the 100th time if she was ok and she huffed:

Yes Mom. Can you just go?

I felt every bit of her irritation. I know she was nervous and overwhelmed but if we’re being honest…it hurt to be brushed off like that.

Everything inside of me wanted to gather her up into a huge hug. To have her hug me hard and say she was going to miss me. I wanted to infuse every bit of my love, my strength, my courage and every prayer I have ever prayed for her into her with my arms wrapped tight around her. I wanted her to need that from me and it hurt that she didn’t.

She gave me a quick hug, a hurried Bye-I-love-you, then turned around and walked away.

I couldn’t stand there and watch her walk away. So I turned around and walked back to our van. Tears welling up in my eyes and hurt overflowing in my heart.

With every step I took that tension between us felt like it was being stretched thin until I could feel it about to snap inside me. I knew if I turned around I would see my heartstrings tenuously and weakly trembling all the way back down that road attached to my precious girl.

I finally did turn around when I got to our van and there she was, still walking all by herself. She looked so small and alone.

I cried on the way home. I went for a short walk before dinner and cried some more. I went on another walk after dinner and cried even more. Because letting go is hard and the pretty much the stupidest thing ever.

On my 2nd walk I was taking time to pray and process all my feelings. I kept thinking about our goodbye and I was asking God to help me not take it so personally, to not let it hurt so much. I had been comparing Acacia’s goodbye with Jason to mine. She had given him a big hug with a huge smile on her face. All sunshine and rainbows for him but thunderclouds and rain drops for me.

Why is it like that, God? So easy and loving with her Dad but all irritated and “you don’t get it Mom” with me? God, it makes me feel like she doesn’t even need me and I hate feeling like I don’t count.

As soon as the words crossed my lips I felt God speak to my heart:

She doesn’t need you like she needs her dad. She needs YOU for all the things YOU give her in ways that only YOU can.

Who taught her to shave her legs on the night before camp? I did.

Who is reading devotionals with her and talking to her about puberty and dating and what it means to be a young woman of God? I am.

Who has helped her be confidant, have a voice, know who she is, believe in herself and encourage her to be brave? Me, I guess? But her dad does all those things too, so…..

Yes, he gives to her all those things in a Dad’s way and you give to her as a Mom. You didn’t need one last hug to give her all your love, strength, courage & prayers because you’ve already been giving her those things for the last 11 years. And it counts. It matters.

My heart was flooded with gratitude for all of God’s wisdom and encouragement in that moment. And then He blessed me with more of it again this morning when my Mom called to give me a bit of her own insight.

I had shared with her yesterday how hard the drop off and good bye with Acacia were for me. She told me this morning as she was thinking that over she was reminded that every time Acacia spends the night at her house she’ll say, “I miss my mom” or ask if she can call me. From my mom’s perspective, Acacia wasn’t brushing me off at the camp drop off because she couldn’t get rid of me fast enough but possibly because she knew it was going to be just as hard for her as it was for me to say good bye. That in order to be able to separate from me without falling apart she had to put her thick skin on and be tough.

This perspective helped ease the hurt in my heart and gave me permission to stop beating myself up over all the ways I’ve messed up or could’ve done better. Maybe the connection Acacia and I have is deeper than I realize. Maybe all of the battling we do is because we are so alike. Maybe God actually did give Acacia the exact Mom He knew she would need. Maybe I’m not doing such a bad job as a Mom after all.

And maybe these times and these letting go experiences are exactly what we are raising her to do. To branch out of the nest and test her wings. These moments that give her the opportunity to learn and grow and mature without us by her side but with all of our love and strength and courage and prayers inside her.

If we get this right we’ll be working ourselves right out of a job. And I want to get it right.

I don’t want to limit my kids and make them miss opportunities because it’s hard to let go. I also don’t want to keep under valuing who I am as a Mom and how important my role is every single day to prepare my kids for whatever their future holds.

I know that although our kids don’t often show it, they are thankful for what we do and how we give. Maybe they can’t see it now or know how to express it but when they’re older they’ll look back and see a distinct set of Mom fingerprints all over their hearts.

Are there other moms out there who question if what they’re doing counts for anything or really matters all that much?

We all tell ourselves it’s going to be worth it one day…when they’re older…when they graduate…when they move out.

If we want it to be worth it “one day”, we have to value the work we’re doing now. Today. It counts for something and it matters.

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.

A Controversial Grace

God as been showing me how to move from listening to the voice of shame to start listening to the voice of Grace. The voice that says God loves me more than I’ll ever be able to fathom and no matter how much of a mess I am, He sees me as worthy and deserving of His love and grace!

This post is about how God has been using the book Loveable by Kelly Flanagan alongside some deep digging into God’s Word to shift from shame to the freedom of Grace!

I’ve been reading a book called Loveable by Kelly Flanagan. I’m only half way through it but my thoughts about my worth and my value have already been transformed by the powerful truths in this book. My eyes have been opened to how very early on in our lives the truest version of ourselves gets misshaped, overlooked, forgotten and defeated by the voice of shame.

This week I’ve been reading in “Loveable” about how the voice of shame is counteracted inside of us by listening to the voice of Grace. This particularly has been speaking life to me:

“When grace has shown you the light underneath your underneath, grace no longer feels like a love you don’t deserve; it feels like a joyous embrace of what is truest about you. I used to believe grace was a way of being saved; now I know grace is a way of being SEEN. Grace isn’t an idea or a doctrine or an escape hatch. Grace is a VERB. Grace is a HAPPENING. Grace is what happens when that gentle voice inside — and the tender voices around us — tell us about the beautiful soul WE ALREADY ARE, regardless of how much mess we are covered with. When I was a boy, grace was a word that harbored shame. Now, grace is a word-container overflowing with other words like ACCEPTANCE, WORTHINESS and EMBRACE.”

I personally have never viewed God’s grace or His love as anything but something I didn’t deserve. I have prayed countless times, “God, thank You for lavishing me with your grace when I am so undeserving of it and thank You for loving such a wretched sinner like me.” Maybe I wasn’t paying attention all those years in church as a kid or somehow been way off base all this time but I feel like church is where I learned how to behave as if I didn’t deserve anything from God. I knew what His Word said about how God loves to give good gifts to His kids and that we’re all sinners in need of a Savior and that His love is unfailing and His grace was unmerited favor and I was to be eternally thankful for those things. And I was. And I am.

But…there was still something in my mind that said I will never be worthy enough or good enough to deserve what God has given me. Is that just me? Am I the only one who has felt like all I could ever hope for was to grovel undeservingly at God’s feet, hoping and praying and begging that He might see fit to throw me a little crumb? I don’t think it’s just me.

So now, to read passages like the one I quoted above felt like taking in a big gulp of fresh air after a lifetime of holding my breath.

An oxygen deprived brain and heart can be slow to receive new messages especially if they seem too radical or not “churchy” enough and this Grace message took me a bit to process. Especially since I’m used to seeing and hearing and breathing everything through the fog of shame.

However, God has been reinforcing this new way of viewing Grace in various ways. The other morning I was reading from my daily devotional and the scripture reading was 1 Peter 2:1-11. God spoke to me about a lot of things in these verses (they’re pretty jam packed with truth) but when I got to verses 9-10 the words seemed to popped off the page. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV) says:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

One particular phrase in these verses stood out: God’s special possession. This is a passage of scripture I’ve read many times over the years but I don’t remember this phrase catching my attention quite like this before. These verses and my devotional had absolutely nothing to do with Grace but as I read those words — God’s special possession — my thoughts immediately bounced to this new idea of Grace that I was trying to sort out. In my mind I thought, “If God sees us as special, He must also see us as worthy of His love, right?”

I went on with my devotional reading but that phrase — God’s special possession — kept flashing into my mind. As I pondered it a little longer I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. The word “possession” in relation to people certainly has a negative indication but I felt God had something He wanted to say so I kept digging.

I looked up 1 Peter 2:9-10 on my Bible Study app to read a few different translations. The Message Bible says:

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”

As Flanagan says in his book, this would be an example of going from listening to the voice of shame to listening to the voice of Grace.

The voice of shame says: I am nothing and rejected.

The voice of Grace says: I am something and accepted.

But what about that word possession? It was still not sitting exactly right with me. I looked to see what other translations use in this verse for this phrase. Here a few that came up:

  • God’s own purchased, special people
  • A special people
  • A peculiar people
  • A people who belong to God
  • You are God’s very own
  • A people to be a personal possession
  • A people acquired

Possession, purchased, acquired, owned…still felt too much like words that are archaic and out of touch with how we treat people. How we view people.

I started reading some commentaries online and I came across a few interesting details that God used to make sense of all this for me.

One commentary (based on the Bible Lexicons) listed the definition for the word “possession” as this:

Possession (4047) (peripoiesis from peripoieomai = literally means to make around oneself and then to acquire or purchase) means that which is acquired by purchase with the corresponding idea of preservation of that which is purchased.

As I read that definition I thought, God doesn’t just own us like we’re cattle or property. We have been bought with the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice paid the purchase price and once we accept that payment on our behalf we belong to God but He doesn’t stop there.

God doesn’t just want to possess, He wants to preserve us, take care of us and lavish us with Grace because we are special to Him.

He created us for this and He thinks we’re worth it. When he looks at us, He sees us as special, loveable, beautiful, valuable. He doesn’t look at us and see undeserving urchins. So why do we look at ourselves that way?

Another commentary I read quoted Vance Havner saying this:

“God’s people are “a peculiar people” which means “a purchased people.” The Greek word here carries the idea of making a ring around something to mark it as one’s own. Christ has made a ring around us and claimed us for Himself. We hear these days about “cheap grace” and how it doesn’t mean much to be a Christian. But salvation is the costliest item on earth. It cost our Lord everything to provide it and it costs us everything to possess it.

We are a generation of cheap Christians going to heaven as inexpensively as possible; religious hobos and spiritual deadbeats living on milk instead of meat, crusts of bread instead of manna, as though we were on a cut‑rate excursion.

In a day when tragedy has become comedy, we play fast and loose with eternal issues. The pearl of great price is not cheap! I have read that years ago in that part of Africa where diamonds in the rough were plentiful, a traveler chanced on boys playing. Closer investigation revealed that they were playing marbles with diamonds!

God forgive us today that we handle His treasures as though they were trifles and the coinage of the eternal as though it were play money. It is no time to play marbles with diamonds!” -Vance Havner

The first time reading through this quote I didn’t make any connection between the marbles-diamonds story and us being God’s special possession. As I was reading through it a second time, I thought:

As someone who belongs to God, I am His treasure. God longs for me to see myself (and treat myself) as His treasured possession that He loves and tenderly cares for.

I am a diamond. A beautiful, shining diamond in God’s eyes and I shouldn’t view myself as just an ordinary marble or let other people convince me to see myself that way. And I definitely don’t need to listen to the enemy’s lies when he says I’m too much of a mess to ever be anything more than a marble.

God has paid too high a price for me to continue de-valuing myself as unworthy and undeserving of His love, His grace, His blessings, how He gifted me or any perfect thing He wants to be for me or to give me!

If you found this post encouraging, please feel free to share and I would love to hear what you think! You can also read all of my other posts by clicking here.