Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

What Crocheting a Row a Day is Teaching Me About My Mental Health

It started because a friend was beginning a temperature blanket, crocheting a row a day for an entire year, in a colour that represented that day's temperature. I wondered what if I did the same thing for moods?  Chronicling a year worth of emotion in a colourful, seemingly random stripe-y blanket.  So I pulled out my yarn stash and made up a plan.

Ten colours and ten moods.  Black for depressed, grey for sad, red for angry, orange for anxious, yellow for inspired, pink for excited, purple for frantic, green for ashamed, turquoise for contented, teal for happy.

Some days it's hard to pick a predominant mood.  I could've used a rainbow yarn for those days but I wanted to force myself to dig deep and see what I was really feeling.  This is work, emotional work.

The blanket is a reminder that every mood will pass.  In the moment, the darkest days seem to last forever, to cover everything in a thick and endless fog, but they always come to an end, don't they?  No mood, no matter how debilitating and pervasive, lasts forever.    

The blanket is a reminder that every mood will return.  No mood is ever gone forever.  Those dark days will return again, and pass again.  Good days are always on the horizon.  Life will ebb and flow, and that's ok.

I'm seeing patterns emerge.  That some moods lead to others, that purple, the frantic colour, appears for me every 28 days or so, and that sometimes moods cycle faster than others. 

I'm learning that I can stick to something I've begun.  I have a long history of uncompleted projects,  I give up when I become bored or frustrated.  But this blanket has become proof that I can choose to see a project through.  In this small but meaningful way, I am persevering. 

Most of all, The blanket is a chance to reflect on the day and my emotions. To check in with myself every 24 hours and examine how I'm feeling.  How much of those feelings was my circumstances, my attitude, my brain chemistry?  How can I prepare for a better day tomorrow?  It helps me recognize that good things can happen on hard days, and bad things can happen on otherwise good days.  It shows me how seasons and medication changes are affecting me. It's a quiet moment and a deep breath at the end of each day to make some sense of my day and accept that it was what it was.

So I will continue this work, this emotional work of identifying and crocheting my feelings.  Of checking in with myself and watching patterns emerge and trusting that no mood lasts for eternity. And I will be truly thankful for those rare teal happy days.  

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? Or don't miss a post by signing up for my RSS feed. And thank you so much for reading my words, I'm honoured.

How Inviting Each Other Into Our Mess Changes Everything

It was a Saturday afternoon and I texted my friend who'd be arriving in a couple hours for our families to eat together and connect.  "I'm coming to terms with the fact that my house won't be clean in time."   I'd been running around all day trying to prepare for the perfect dinner, baking and cleaning and obsessing over things that didn't matter.  I love this family that was visiting, I wanted it to be special.  She texted back with "Can we just choose not to do this? Not worry about the societal expectations?  Not try to entertain or impress one another?  Can we just be us?"

My friend's text was an invitation to freedom.  An invitation to lay down all my striving and expectations, all my doubts about myself and my home and the meal.  An invitation to be, and to be accepted.

I accepted the invitation.  The seasonal coats were half sorted in one corner of the dining room and there were muddy little hand prints on the bathroom door.  There were signs of life, messy, chaotic, often in-over-our-heads life, all over the house.  And you know what? It was fine.  We drank good coffee and laughed and let the kids paint birdhouses with glitter paint at the kitchen table. 

It was better than fine.  It was a sacred space.

Friends, this matters.  Whether or not we open the door when the counters are messy and the floors are unswept and dinner is from a box, it matters.  Because it is the times that we need people the most that we feel most inadequate.   It is when we most need to sit raw and exposed that we feel as if we have the most to hide.  It is when we feel most overwhelmed by the mess that our hearts most need us to swing open the doors and invite others in.  

Because the mess, inside and out, can isolate us.  It can make us feel alone and unknown.  Or it can draw us together into a sacred community of messy, broken people who need each other. We need each other whether there are crumbs on the floor or not. 

What if our messy house sends a much needed message that imperfection is welcome here?  What if those cheerios on the floor and the legos under the sofa says "I need this relationship more than I need to have it all together."  What if  opening the door to our mess and chaos is the first step of inviting people into our truth and our journey?

I need this reminder often.  I forget, again and again, that all grand and beautiful things are created in mess and chaos. That we ourselves are made from dirt.  That authentic community begins where our need to impress ends. 

Friends, can we just choose not to do this?  Not worry about the societal expectations?  Not try to entertain or impress?  Can we invite one another to just be, and to be accepted?

Because if we do, I am certain, we will find a sacred space amid the messiness.  Cheerios on the floor and all.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? Or don't miss a post by signing up for my RSS feed. And thank you so much for reading my words, I'm honoured.

Telling the Stories that Hurt to Tell

When I was a teenager, a child really, depressed and reeling from a sexual assault, I cut my arms.

At first it was because I wanted people to see. I knew there was often a correlation between self harm and sexual assault and I desperately wanted somebody to ask me the question I wasn't even sure I had the guts to answer.

So it started as a cry for help, but it became a habit, a coping strategy. I scratched and cut and burnt my body. I carved lies into my thighs.

The day I first called out to Jesus I was kneeling on the dusty rose carpet in my bedroom in the house my parents had built. I had cut too deep and was afraid and finally called out to the one I knew could save me from myself before I went to the emergency room for stitches and a lecture.

My arms, my body, is covered in scars, some faint and old, some fresher and more raw. I am wearing my hurt, my sin, and sins committed against me on my flesh, everyday, for the rest of my life.

Shortly after my 18th birthday I got a large Jesus tattoo on my arm where the worst of the scars reside. If you look closely you can still see the scars peeking through. But most people don't. They see the tattoo first. They see Jesus.

And isn't that the story of our hearts? Our lives?

That the brokenness we couldn't hide anymore and the sins that were defeating us are covered, redeemed, that we are made new?

Covered but not gone. If people brush closely against our spirits they can still feel the rough raised edges of those broken places, can't they? Those willing to get close enough can see our hurts and wounds and, somehow, because He is not afraid to enter in to our dark places, see Christ in them.

Each of us has a lifetime of stories. Of sin and stain and grace and breath. The good news, that God would venture into the dark places of our lives and redeem us, save us from ourselves while we were yet enemies with him, be glorified in those most fragile parts of us, it resides inside each of our stories, waiting to be told. It's beautiful.

So now? My body tells another story.

Not just of the little girl who followed the wrong boy into the woods and shouted the news with her own blood. But of the young woman who found hope and unconditional love and scandalous grace in a soup kitchen run by nuns. A story of redemption and of grace upon grace upon grace. The story of a God who left his throne on high to enter into our darkest places and be with us.

It's taken me too many years to become free to tell my stories; free to tell the bits and pieces of God's story that I've witnessed. Too many wasted opportunities to come alongside someone and share the story of hope that God was, and is, writing on the pages of my life. But I've learnt to love those stories. To sit with hands wrapped around big mugs full of cozy drinks and share the stories that hurt to put into words. Because these stories are a picture of who God is and what He can do.

Because these stories breed compassion and understanding and fulfill heart yearnings for hope and community and someone who "gets us". These stories contain the freeing power of "me too"

Because when we share our stories we set others free to experience their own stories with confidence and self acceptance. We send the beacon out that says it's okay to not be okay, it's normal to not be normal, and in Christ we go from weak and damaged to wounded healers on a mission.There was a purpose in our pain.

Because when we tell our stories we become free to be so much more than the skeletons that are in our closets. We become liberated from our fears and our shame.

Friend, with deep breath and trembling hands, can I challenge you this?  Say your story aloud. Set one another free from the lie that we are alone and unknown. Unleash the powerful beauty of "me too" by giving words to the experiences that threaten to isolate us. Because your story matters. It's a glimpse of God moving in this broken world. We all need that.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? Or don't miss a post by signing up for my RSS feed. And thank you so much for reading my words, I'm honoured.

For When The Shame Threatens To Crush Us

A few days ago I screwed up. I committed a sin I hoped to never commit again. I know you can relate.

And the shame has threatened to cripple me. To hold me in that place of despair indefinitely. To drive me back to my sin and hold me captive in my brokenness. But that is not what God desires for me. Or you.

I am a sinner. I crave the created things more than I desire the creator of my soul. I make decisions that hurt me and those I love. I fall. Again and again. 

Oh friend, I know you can relate. 

This quote from Spurgeon was the balm my soul needed,
"I believe that as often as I transgress, God is more ready to forgive me than I am ready to offend." - Charles Spurgeon

I so easily imagine God as hesitantly forgiving me. But God is not hesitant, is He?  He is not torn or divided. He does not forgive out of duty or compulsion. God desires to forgive us. He is eager to forgive us. Even, Spurgeon reminds us, more eager to forgive than we are to sin. What a beautiful truth.

No sin you or I can commit is greater than God's desire to forgive it.  

Guilt and shame are not the same thing.  Guilt has it's place.  It says "I've done something bad."  It drives us to repentance and reconciliation.  But shame says "I am bad." Shame is wholly and destructively contrary to who God says we are.  Instead He calls us His children, forgiven and made new. 

Scientists will tell you that shame ignites our fight or flight responses. But we don't need a scientist to tell us that when we want to curl into a hole and disappear, or come out swinging at a world of mutual disappointment. 

Shame is isolating.  It drives us away, makes us crumble and hide. But God's call is into relationship and community.  God convicts our heart to draw us unto himself, to bring us to repentance because he desires to redeem us. He never condemns. The God who stepped into our muck and mire longs to be with us. 

There is no condemnation for those in Christ.  Not for last year, not for last week, not for an hour ago. No condemnation.  

Shame is this deep and painful sense that my frailty has been exposed. I've put my faith in my own accomplishments, my own feeble attempts at holiness, instead of God's redemptive love. And I failed. But God has not failed. His redemption has not stumbled or faltered.

Gods love is so perfect that he could not love us more even if we had never sinned.  Take a moment to let that wash over your weary heart.  God doesn't do a half-assed job of cleansing us.

Friend, whatever you've done, whatever shame you carry, and I carry, it was paid for on the cross long before it even crossed our minds. You are not defective, you are a sinner in need of grace, sometimes a messy broken sinner in need of a raw and urgent grace. But the God who does not change or lie tells us that our sins are as far from us as the east is from the west.

Today I am choosing to believe God's love and forgiveness. Will you join me? Not a denial of who we are, but a steadfast hope in who God is.  Friend, let us cling wholly to a grace deeper than our depravity.

"Are you a believer and afraid of your old sins? You are afraid of foes which do not exist." -Charles Spurgeon

For When You're Not Convinced That God Cares

I know God hears me.  I'm not convinced that He cares.  

I struggle with the notion of a God who will allow so much suffering.  Who hears our cries and doesn't seem to move.    If I were God I would move.  I would step in and stop abuse. I would heal disease.  I would bind the hands of predators and the tongues of those who hurt and condemn.  I would quiet the pangs of mental illness and break the chains of addiction.   But I'm not God.  

Only God is God.  
And only God is good.  
And for some reason he is taking his damn sweet time to redeem the dark and sordid brokenness of this world. 

Friend, I think it's okay to be angry.

It's okay to speak our doubts. To expose them as wounds. To  let them hit the air so that they can heal.

Like the psalmist, we can beat our fists into the clay from which we come and ask questions of our maker.   
Because His love is big enough to bear our doubts and fears and angst.  
Because His shoulders are broad enough for the darkest days of our faith. 

And that voice that says your doubt disqualifies you from God's family? That voice belongs to the enemy, not to God.    No, friend, our doubts don't nullify our faith,  They just mean that we are human, able to be torn in two directions at once.  Weak, and frail.  Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. 

I worry at times that my faith is shriveling into dust. But maybe these doubts aren't a losing of faith at all, but a finding.  Maybe God is burning up the false assumptions and the mistaken expectations to make room for a truer hope.   
Maybe it is a trading of old dead brush for fresh green growth.  
Maybe the pain is one of birthing.  A new life, a deeper faith.  A truer walk. 

I don't know how to explain unanswered prayer.  I can't explain why God seems to wait on the sidelines while his children suffer.  But I know this: If we watch for him, He meets us there. The maker of the universe who crafted you and I in the palm of his hand, who made all and is above all, steps into our pain and suffers with us. He dances through our doubts and binds the thin threads of faith into something full and sustaining.  He breathes life into our tired souls and gives hope where all sense says it shouldn't exist.  

Friend, only God is God.
And only God is good.
And for some reason he is taking his damn sweet time to redeem the brokenness of this world.
Let us wait for Him.

Why We Speak Openly about Mental Illness with our Children

My kids know that Mommy's brain is sick, and it has set them free.

Shortly after my 6th child was born I fell into a dark and devastating depression.  It affected every area of our lives.  I stopped functioning.  A good friend, wise and bold, pulled me aside one day and said "You have to tell your oldest daughters what is going on."  She was right.

My two oldest kids were 6 and 5. We made it age appropriate for them.  "Mommy's brain is sick." and "Sometimes I get sad or angry or tired and it's not your fault."  I let them ask questions and I answered them the best I could.  "No, I don't know when I will get better."  and "Yes, that's why I've been going to the doctor more."  We cried together.  Mourning together the chaos this sickness had brought to our lives.  And then you know what happened?  They skipped off to play, lighter and freer than ever.  Talking to my children about mental illness lifted a weight from their tiny hearts.  

We talk about mental illness in our home.  We talk about therapy and medication.  We talk about my diagnoses and we acknowledge when things are rough.   We don't share every detail with the kids, but we answer their questions and encourage them to talk to other safe adults in their lives about their feelings about my illnesses.  And I am so glad we do.

Here are 4 reasons why we talk to our kids about mental illness

We talk to our kids about mental illness so that they will know it's not their fault.   It's almost like a visible weight lifted the day I explained my illness to my kids.   They know that my moods are not a reflection of them, that they are not responsible for making sure mommy is feeling okay.   They are free to be kids. 

We talk to our kids about mental illness so that they can talk to other safe adults in their life about it.  My children have shared in the past with teachers at school and friends' moms about my illness and how it affects them.  They are free to share about their fears and hurts and frustrations in a healthy way.  Talking about mental illness gives them the words to process what is going on at home. 

We talk to our kids about mental illness to reduce the shame and stigma.  When we brush things under the rug and refuse to speak of them, we attach a shame to them, a "we don't talk about these things" sort of stigma.  We give them so much power by refusing to speak of them.

 We have a saying in our home that "secrets keep us sick."   By bringing my mental illnesses into the light, we send out that beacon that it is okay to discuss these things.   It is okay to not be okay.  

We talk to our kids about mental illness because they may face these things one day.  As much as I hope they won't, my kids could struggle with mental illness one day.  And I want them to know that it's okay to talk about it, it's okay to call it by name and to seek help.  I want them to access the services they need and seek support.  I want to model that for them. 

I want my kids to know that in whatever they face, we talk about these things.  There is nothing you can't discuss with those you love, that mental illness and addiction aren't shameful things we need to keep hidden, but very real sicknesses that require attention and help.  I want my kids to know that there is no shame in needing help.  I want to raise compassionate world changers who step boldly into difficult things and know that it's okay to discuss the things that break our hearts.

Mental illness affects the whole family.  And as much as we may try to shield our kids from our struggles, they know.  They see and feel when something is wrong.  Giving my kids the words to process what is happening at home has been powerful and freeing for all of us.   Mommy's brain is sick.  And that's okay. 

For Those of Us Who Need to Give Up Our Striving This Lent

As I write this it is a dawning of Ash Wednesday, the first day of lent.  The time of year when so many of us give up desserts or meat or coffee or social media.  Or we recommit to a discipline instead, like morning devotions or excercise or a daily writing practice.  Some of us will wear ashen crosses on our foreheads today, as a symbol of our mortality, that we are but dust. And these are all good things.  In Mathew 6, the Lord does not say if you fast, but when you fast.  Fasting is good.  It's an opportunity to quiet our hearts and deepen our walk of faith, to prepare ourselves for the beautiful juxtaposition of greif and joy at Easter.

But the truth I so easily lose sight of, the truth that I need to hear every single one of these 40 days, nay, every single one of these 365 days, is this:  There is not a thing you or I can give up or add to our lives, not a single thing we can deny ourselves, that will make our Father in heaven love us more. 

No religious observation, no fast or feast, no prayer or devotion or sacrifice can cause the maker of the universe to increase in love towards us.  Because his love is one with his very being and there is never a moment that God is not love. 

Any lenten practice that I engage in that is not steeped in that truth misses the point of the cross. 

Perhaps, like me, you know in your mind of God's perfect and unearnable love, but you struggle to believe it in your heart.   Perhaps you still catch yourself looking desperately around you for evidence that a holy God could bask in joy at the thought of you.  But He does.  

Perhaps, like me, you are so often tempted to trivialize the perfect work of Christ on the cross by striving and failing to earn God's mercy, to buy his love with acts of sacrifice and devotion.  But we can't.

This season of repentance, this holy season of reflection and self-sacrifice, this pushing back of our greedy instincts and self consuming desires for 40 days leading up to the glorious remembrance of Christ's death on the cross and triumphant rise again is a good good thing.  It is good for our hearts that wander easily from the presence of God.  But it will not buy us a single ounce of His love. 

The stark and chilling beauty of the cross is that there is not a damn thing we can do to deserve it.  Lent is a season of self-denial, not so that we can earn the warm compassion of our maker, but so that we can come to the cross the only way we mortals can: empty handed. 

Lent begins in the cold dark days of winter and ends in the fresh sun-soaked days of spring. It's a redemption season, of sorts, awakening the world and the ground, and our hearts.  A symbol of the God who meets us in the darkness and loves us into the light.  

Friend, go ahead, give up that thing for lent.  Or don't.  Whatever the spirit leads you to do.  But either way, let us give up our striving this lent.  Let the coming 40 days be a reminder that God is radically, passionately, intently for you.  That his love rests on you, not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Not because of what you've done, but because of what He has done on the cross.

We are but dust.  And He sees our frailty, beholds our weakness, and loves us.   More than we know. 

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? And thank you for reading my words, I'm honoured.

25 Christian Songs to Help Battle Depression

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I live with a couple mental health diagnoses.  Recently, with some suggestions from friends, I created a playlist of songs that remind me of who I am to God, and who He is to me.  I titled it "Truth to Quell the Lies" and I turn to it when I'm struggling.  Because Depression is a liar.  It distorts my sense of self and my understanding of God's love for me. This playlist helps.

But let me be clear: I'm not saying that all you or I need for good mental health is a happy little ditty, or that some piece of christian culture will fix us.  I wouldn't dismiss your pain like that. This Playlist is a tool that I use.  Just like therapy and medication and regular doctor visits and good self care are tools.  Sometimes music can say to me what words alone cannot.  

So here are 25 songs that sooth my soul when I'm hurting.  I hope they are a helpful start to your own encouraging playlist.

1. Trust in You - Lauren Daigle

2.It's Not Over Yet - For King & Country

3. Come Though Fount of every Blessing - Sarah Noelle

4. Oh How He Loves Us - David Crowder Band

5. I'll Keep On - NF, Jeremiah Carlson

6. I Hear the Saviour Say - Clarensau

7. Beautiful Things - Gungor

8. The Stand - Shane & Shane

9. Prodigal - Sidewalk Prophets

10. Nothing But the Blood - Andy Cherry

11. Live Like That - Sidewalk Prophets

12. You are More -Tenth Avenue North

13.  Lifesong - Casting Crowns

14. No Longer Slaves - Shane & Shane

15. Thy Will - Hillary Scott & The Scott Family

16.  Hello, My Name Is - Matthew West

17. It is Well - Kristen Dimarco

18. Come as You Are - Crowder

19. Psalm 34 - Shane & Shane

20. My Story - Big Daddy Weave

21. Build your kingdom Here - Rend Collective

22. I surrender All - citizens

23. Whom Shall I fear (God of Angel Armies) - Jon Bauer

24. Praise You in This Storm - casting crowns

25. Never Let You Go - Manafest

Is there a super encouraging song that I missed?  Mention it in the comments below! And will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram?

The Safety Outside of our Comfort Zone

I recently spoke with a couple friends over coffee about feeling whole-heartedly unqualified for some of the tasks in my life.  Motherhood, ministry, writing, life in general.  Who am I to take on these tasks? Broken and bent, I felt beyond unqualified and way outside of my comfort zone.

And both friends, in different meetings, in separate coffee shops, listened patiently and quietly to my concerns and then offered the same wise response: "good."
They assured me that I was in exactly the place I needed to be.  That there is safety in being outside of my comfort zone, because I have no choice but to rely on God, and the team around me.  In over my head is a good place to be. 

I am not qualified for the life God has called me to.  I am a bible college drop-out.  Mentally ill.  A (recovering) drunk and drug addict.   I'm opinionated and bad at math and can't keep houseplants alive.  But the Lord has given me a passion.   He has given me the gifts of communication and compassion.   He has given me opportunities to use those gifts.  And he wants me to rely on Him. 

Friends, what if we are safest where we feel completely at a loss, because it is there that we have no choice but to rely on God?  It is there that we surround ourselves with a team and pledge to sink or swim together.  It is there that we ask questions and take advice.  It is when we are uncomfortable that we allow God to be God. It is in our weakest places that our eyes are open and watching for miracles.  It is there that we grow to rely on God's amazing power instead of our own power. 

If I am doing life in my own power, from a place of my own meager strength and flimsy qualifications, I am limited to achieve only the things that I can achieve.  But if I am living in the power and strength of an almighty God, there are no limits to what He can accomplish through me.  The power of the almighty God is revealed in our weakness. 

Friend, if you feel unqualified for that task before you, maybe you are.   Maybe your only hope is to call on the mighty hand of God to guide you, equip you, protect you.  Maybe you are exactly where you are meant to be.

That doesn't mean we don't work for it, that we don't study and learn and work hard.  But that at the end of the day, we rely on God.

The question is not am I qualified for this?  The answer will be a resounding no in every area of my life.  The question is, is God calling me to this?  Is this the next right thing for me to do.  And if so, will I faithfully do my best and trust him for the rest? 

We are weak.  And the Lord knows our frailty.  May we step boldly outside of our comfort zones and seek him there. 

15 Things I Know For Sure to Be True

I'm struggling today.  And the world as I know it feels frail and broken.  I don't know, from moment to moment what to believe.  But, as a wise friend of mine likes to say "We think in circles, but write in straight lines".  So I've decided to spell out the truest things I know today.

1. God is for us.  God is passionately, whole-heartedly for you and me.  He cherishes and treasures us.

2. We need one another.  And it is strength, not weakness, to know you need those around you.

3. Words always matter.  Choose them carefully.

4. Our pain is sacred ground.  It's okay to expect people to honour it, to take off their proverbial shoes before they enter our most fragile places.

5. People long for connection.  Most of us will say some pretty stupid and awkward things in pursuit of this.

6. It is pretty much always better to say something awkward than to avoid someone who is suffering.  

7. Forgiveness is holy work.  I don't have it figured out yet.

8. The surest way to suffer is to deny pain.  If I fight it, or refuse to feel it at all costs, I will hurt myself and those around me. But If I accept it, feel it, and release it, I can move on.

9. We are world changers, whether we like it or not.  Every one of us is going to change the world.  The question is not if, it's how.

10. Taking care of myself is not selfish.  Expecting the world to take care of me because I haven't taken responsibility for my own wellness is selfish.

11. It is well with my soul.   It's not well with my heart or my head, but it's well with my soul.

12. Sometimes people in our lives are toxic.  And it's our responsibility to stop drinking their poison.  And this is a painful, gut-wrenching process.

13. A good therapist is a smart investment.  Seriously.

14.  God will always meet me in my suffering.

15. The only thing I can change is me.  And that's more than enough to keep me busy for a lifetime.

The Thing Hollywood Forgot to Tell Us About Love

When I was 19 I prayed for God to send someone to love me in a way that could make me believe in His love for me. To send somebody to make love seem tangible and true to this broken girl. And he did.
I met my husband a few days later. 

One day, when our relationship was new, after a fight that was mostly my fault, I turned to my husband-to-be with tears in my eyes and said "how can you love me?" and without skipping a beat he responded "Because I've chosen to love you."

Least. Romantic. Answer. Ever. Or so I thought.

I wanted him to tell me that I made his world spin. That I was beautiful and funny and that I completed him. I wanted a scene from a romantic comedy complete with the big kiss under a majestic tree.  I wanted him to love me because he couldn't help himself.

But 11 years later, can I tell you? He gave me the most romantic answer possible that day.

Because if love was a feeling, his feelings for me could change. If love was something we fell into it would be something we can fall out of. If love was a force that pushed and pulled us into passion against our will like it is in the movies, honestly, we probably wouldn't be married today.

Love as a feeling is terrifying. It's the opposite of safety and security. It's finicky, uncertain.  But love as a choice? That is freeing. It's powerful.  It accepts us where we are at and brings out the best in us.

My husband chose to love me. And I chose to love him back. He's the answer to that prayer I prayed,   loving me as Christ loves the church. Not because I have it all together or always act right or say the right things, but because he has chosen to love me forever, and I him.

Love is putting the other person above yourself. It's laying your life down for the other person in a million little (and sometimes big) ways. It's wanting their happiness and wellness more than your own. It's sacrifice, it's work, it's action.

Love is getting out of bed first to brew the coffee for your spouse (which he does almost every morning.) It's picking up the socks he left on the floor without complaining about it (I'm getting better at that).  It's being a good father to our children, or cooking rice and beans together so that we can pay the electricity bill on time.  It's laughing and weeping through life's twists and turns together.  It's forgiving, a lot.  Love is the small and big choices we make every day. These are not things we do because we love, these things are love.

Love is not warm feelings and grand gestures, although sometimes it will be.  Love is daily putting one foot in front of the other to walk through this difficult life with another human being.  Love is work, a sacred and beautiful and worthwhile work.

May we do the hard, sacred work of loving, and being loved, today.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebooktwitter, or instagram? And thank you for reading my words, I'm honoured.

How Would Jesus Debate Stuff on the Internet?

When I was a teenager I wore a rainbow coloured hemp bracelet with the letters w.w.j.d braided into it. The idea was to wonder in all life's situations, What Would Jesus Do? And as cheese-ball-esque as the whole movement was, it shaped me. I still stop and look at my situation often and wonder What Would Jesus Do?

And I've wondered this lately as I've watched and engaged in heated online discussions about politics and world events. Am I answering with the same grace and love that Christ would show? Is the very spirit of God present in my words?

To be fair, I'll say that I'm not convinced that if Jesus had come 2000 years later that he would bother with facebook debates and twitter feuds. Maybe he would, I don't know. But I do know that we can glean a lot from scripture about how Christ interacted with people. Here is what stands out to me. This is how I feel Jesus would Debate on the Internet:

Jesus would honour the unique individuality of each person. He would recognize and treat each person as an individual. In scripture we see Jesus meet people with similar infirmities, similar attitudes or sins, and respond to them each in a unique way. We cannot lump together everyone who rallies for the same side in a discussion. Your friend probably doesn't believe in or support everything that's been said by those on the same side of the issues as them. We are all individuals, and the nature of polarizing topics is that when we unpack it all, most of us don't really land on either polar end.

Jesus would come alongside the person who feels weak, marginalized, and alone. I believe that Jesus would not contribute to someone feeling ganged up on or attacked by the masses. Yes, Jesus sometimes spoke harshly to pharisees and hypocrites (and we must be cautious because, unlike Jesus, we do not know people hearts!) but I do not see him anywhere in scripture shooting the wounded. He spoke tenderly to those who felt alone, abandoned and demeaned. Our goal as Christians is never to squash and humiliate our opponent, so we must watch to see that our friends are feeling empowered in the discussion and not abused.

Jesus would be for people. Passionately, powerfully, for people. Not causes, not issues, not political agendas, but people.  To be Christ like in this world is not to be against all the right issues, it is to be radically, sacrificially for people. For the feminist, and for the misogynist. For the prostitute and for the john. For the minimalist and the materialist.  For the babies, the mothers, and the abortionists. For drug addicts, business people, pastors and politicians. It means being for the liberal and the conservative alike. Radical, I know.

Jesus world love his enemies.  We have a Lord who healed his captors and prayed for his executioners.  That person you disagree with is a treasured and cherished being made in the image of his maker, and any truth not bathed in reverence for that fact is not truth at all.

Jesus would pray. I am so very guilty of diving head first into tricky conversations without first seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance, and this is folly and sin. Jesus set an example for us when he took the time to soak up his Father's will before engaging with people. I cannot engage in difficult, meaningful, intelligent conversation without the help of the Holy Spirit.  I just can't.

Jesus would flip some figurative tables. He would braid a whip and engage in holy protest and stand up against injustice. Nobody is asking you to sit down and bite your tongue. We must keep having important conversations and following those conversations up with creative, passionate, and peaceful social action.

You know what else? Jesus would also make scathing remarks that cut to the heart and leave the hearers convicted and angry. He called  hypocrites a “brood of vipers” or “white-washed tombs". But Jesus knew their hearts. He knew their intentions. We don't.  We need to err on the side of humility and kindness because we cannot see one another's hurts and hearts.

More than anything else, those w.w.j.d. bracelets reminded me, as I fell short of the ideal day after day, that I am not Jesus. I am a sinner, and God knows my frailty. He has made gracious reconciliation available to me through His sinless life, death and resurrection.  So the one thing we can do that Jesus didn't have to is make apologies and restoration where we have caused offense. It's okay to have been wrong, there is grace for that. But it's not okay to knowingly leave a friend hurt and marred by our words.

Can I tell you this thing that I've observed? In myself, in my friends, and in the media? We do this thing in christendom where we assume that the person who disagrees with our understanding is evil or wicked. Or, if we are feeling generous, we assume they are just stupid or uneducated. But when we do this we not only risk a friendship, we risk an opportunity to get outside of our own understanding and truly hear another perspective
That friend on the other side of the keyboard is not evil or stupid. They probably aren't even truly your enemy. They are a different person, with different hopes and fears and expectations, who is taking in the information and trying to discern the best answer just like you and I.

As usual, Brennan Manning hits the nail on the head:

"Jesus said you are to love another as I have loved you, a love that will possibly lead to the bloody, anguished gift of yourself; a love that forgives seventy times seven, that keeps no record of wrongdoing. Jesus said this, this love, is the one criterion, the sole norm, the standard of discipleship in the New Israel of God. He said you're going to be identified as His disciples, not because of your church-going, Bible-toting or song-singing. No, you'll be identified as His by one sign only: the deep and delicate respect for one another, the cordial love impregnated with reverence for the sacred dimension of the human personality because of the mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian." -Brennan Manning, the furious longing of God

"Cordial love,

Impregnated with reverence.

For the sacred dimension of the human personality.

Because of the mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian."

Yeah, that. That's what I want to be known for.

This is the question I ask myself now, when my my mind is spinning and my heart is pounding because, oh my goodness, somebody is wrong on the internet: Do I want to be proven right, or do I want to be Christlike? Do I want to make my point, or do I want to honour the unwavering love of God for the person on the other side of these screens?

And if I can't do that, if I can't speak in cordial love, impregnated with reverence, for the sacred dimension of the other, then I must keep silent until I can.

Friends, I believe in us. I believe that we can be real and raw without being demeaning. We can make a case without implying that those on the other side of it are stupid or evil or lazy. We can humbly affirm that there are absolute truths but we don't always know the truth absolutely. I believe we can love people more than we love our opinions. Not perfectly, but increasingly. 

May we love each other well today, online and off.   

The Case for Self Esteem: Why I Believe God Wants Us to Love Ourselves

A wise friend suggested recently that I write an affirmation, a statement of self love, on my bedroom mirror so that I can speak these words to myself every day.  When I tried, I found myself tied in emotional knots.  I wrote out words such as "I am worthy of love" on little yellow sticky notes.  And then I tore the paper up. 

Somewhere in my fundamentalist church beginnings, or my abusive family of origin, or the combination of these two, I got the idea that it was wrong to believe that I am lovable.

And this has played no small part in my life.  It's been the refrain at the end of every marital dispute, every drunken fiasco, every season of despair.  Every cry for help or emotional shit storm in 20 years of addiction and mental illness and chaos has ended with me curled up in a literal or figurative ditch asking anyone who will listen "How can you love me?"  

So this thing, this question, is it a sin to love myself?  It's important.  Life changing. 

There are people reading this who don't understand the struggle.   They don't have to go through mental gymnastics in order to read a self affirmation. They intuitively know that they are loved and lovable.  They easily bask in the love God has for them. This post is not for them.

This post is for the Christian who struggles to stand in the mirror and speak the words "I deserve to be loved."

In my teenage years I ventured from a childhood that punished anything less than excellence with mockery,  emotional neglect, and occasional physical abuse into a conservative, fundamentalist church culture. And in that mix, the narrative I learned was that I deserve hell and death and nothing else.  That self esteem is a lie and that God is to be esteemed and we are but dust.  That any sentence that starts with "I deserve", or "I have a right", should end in death and hell and nothing else.   Because as a sinner, my righteousness is as soiled rags. 

And there is something to this.  It is theologically sound to suggest that, in regards to our eternal destination, we are hell deserving sinners.   All of us.  The grace of God applied at the cross is the only balm that can heal this disastrous state of our soul. 

But we were made to be loved. We were created to be loved.  We were designed to be loved. 

And by that alone we are deserving of love.  Not because of who we are or what we've done but because of who has designed us and why. 

I am not lovable because I've done something to make myself worthy of love.  I am lovable in the very intrinsic nature of my being.  I am lovable because Christ bore all of my unlovableness on the cross.

Friend. I believe that God wants you to love yourself.   The bible tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, to seek to see and respect that sacred virtue in each human being that is made in the very image of God.   

Does the Bible condemn lovers of selves?  Yes, too much concern for ourselves is dangerous.  A biblical love of self is tempered by an equal love of our neighbour.  We are not to devote ourselves to our own interests.  But I am learning that I can love my neighbour a lot more honestly and unconditionally when I can first bask in the love of my creator and accept His love for me.  As long as I am still striving to be lovable, I cannot love my neighbour well.  It is from the resting place of knowing that I am accepted that I can truly accept another person. 

You and I deserve to be loved.  We have an intrinsic value that is not changed by our failings. today or ever.  

In my youth I came to believe that I was soiled dust, broken and failed and ruined, 
but this is not how my God feels about me. 

Growing up, the narrative I received was that I could never be enough.  That I wasn't wanted. That I was always too much.  I was spanked for crying and scolded for coughing.  I didn't deserve the space I took up in this world. 

Your narrative is different, but you heard your own lies.

But my truth, and your truth, the narrative that God has written for us, is that we exist on purpose.  He knew us before we even existed.  He wants us.  He has numbered the hairs on our heads.  He delights in us.  We are treasured and loved.

So I'm choosing to believe my maker.   I am worthy of Love.   He delights in me. 

Friends, I am not suggesting that we close our eyes to who we really are and esteem ourselves as if we have not fallen short of the glory of God.   Not at all.  I am inviting us to see ourselves as God sees us.  As an object of his love and delight. As treasured and valued.  As worthy of love. 

let's scrawl these things on our mirrors and come to believe them.

I was created to be loved.
I deserve love. 

I can treat myself with love. 
I can accept love. 
I am lovable.

Friend, you are worthy of love.  Not because of what you've done, but because of who has made you.  May that truth come to permeate every area of our lives.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? And thank you for reading my words, I'm honoured.

Ten Things The Church Needs to Know About Mental Illness

I know first hand that the church sometimes sucks at dealing with mental illness.

There was the pastor in the new city where I was attending Bible College who told me he had zero interest in helping me navigate through addiction and depression, and that frankly his church would be better off without me.

There was the pastor who insisted I needed to recommit my life to Christ anew because I couldn't possibly be a true Christian and struggle with the things I do.

There have been sisters in Christ who have told me that they have the one book, one prayer, or one dietary change that would cure and erase all my struggles, that dismissed all my pain and progress with the insistence that they know exactly how to "fix" me.

There was gossip and betrayal and so. much. pain.

But I also know that it isn't always like that.

This year my life blew up again in a million different directions and I needed those around me in a way I didn't want to need anyone. And you know what? They came through.

There were friends that brought meals and offered childcare after my stay in the psychiatric inpatient unit; that visited and sat with me in my pain when they didn't know what to say. Who didn't let the awkwardness keep them away.

There is the pastor who pointed me towards professional help and spoke words of truth and life and encouragement to me when I wanted to die.

There were the friends who let me wrestle with my diagnosis out loud. Who nodded and accepted and loved on me while I wondered through a lifetime of decisions, were they me or my illness?

There was another pastor who showed up at the door to cry and pray with my husband while I spent 16 hours in an emergency room being assessed by doctors and psychiatrists and crisis workers.

There were flowers and gift cards and handwritten prayers left on my doorstep.

I know that some of us struggling with mental illness have felt let down by our churches. But I also know this: There are kind and loving people of God, willing to step into one another's stories in very real and practical ways, despite the awkwardness and uncertainty.  I know that there are compassionate people who want to help and understand.  In that vein, here are 10 Things I wish were common knowledge in the church:

1. My mental illness is not a spiritual deficiency.

I believe that everything about us as human beings is spiritual. A broken bone can be an exercise in faith and acceptance, an opportunity for spiritual growth, and a truth window that reveals to us our areas of need. And the broken bone is a reminder of our fallen state, the broken nature of our existence. But the broken bone itself is not sin or a spiritual deficiency. It is not healed by prayer or bible study. One cannot exercise enough faith to live as if the bone weren't broken. Mental illness is the same. My heart grows heavy when I read that 48 percent of evangelicals believe that severe mental illness can be cured by bible study and prayer alone. Mental illness is a spiritual issue in the same way that any wound or illness is a spiritual issue, because we are spiritual people. But mental illness is not a spiritual deficiency. To portray it as one is tantamount to spiritual abuse. This lie, that mental illness is a spiritual problem, or that the sufferer is under spiritual attack, is a dangerous and destructive teaching that turns us into second class Christians because we cannot will away the symptoms of a physically sick and disordered brain.

2. A person's psychiatric diagnosis does not disappear when they accept Jesus into their life.

Can it? Can God heal that person upon their first proclamation of faith? Of course He can. But that's not always how He works. To acknowledge that God doesn't always cure us completely doesn't deny or detract from His goodness.  If anything, it reminds us of his faithfulness as He walks with us through life's ongoing difficulties.

 Sometimes people suffer with an illness until death. Please don't assume that my struggle means I don't know Jesus. Again, to do so is spiritual abuse.

3. This is life or death. 

 Things like Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia claim lives every single day. Many people who die by suicide do so in the grip of acute mental illness. Their brain is sick and they are desperate. To discourage any sort of treatment that could be life saving is dangerous and unethical. I have friends who have been advised by pastors and christian counselors to cease taking the medications that allow them to live and function well. This is not okay.

4. Science and faith are not at odds here. 

 When any medical crisis hits, we know intuitively that people require both medical care and spiritual care. Just as we don't expect the Sunday morning service to fill the place of treatment for someone with heart disease, or expect a diabetic to stop taking their insulin and pray instead, nor should we expect the church to fill the role of medication and psychotherapy in the mentally ill person's life. Don't ask a sick person to choose between doctors and church. It is not medical vs spiritual. It is not this or that. It's this and that.

5. Yes, be careful with the trite encouragements, but not so careful that you avoid us. 

As humans we will undoubtedly say the wrong thing from time to time. "God won't give you more than you can handle" is contextually about temptation, not illness. "We all feel down sometimes" is perhaps more dismissive than you realize. But I would take trite over avoidance any day. So don't be so afraid to say the wrong thing that you say nothing at all. Your friends who are suffering want your presence, not perfection.

6. When in doubt, we can compare our responses to mental illness to how we would respond to a diabetic.  

If I am unsure of what to say about a friend's struggle with mental illness, I ask myself "would I take this same attitude or make this comment regarding diabetes?"  For example, If I trust my diabetic friend to manage their condition with the help of their doctor and the tools available to them, I can do the same for my mentally ill friends.  It's not a perfect comparison, but it's a helpful rule of thumb. 

7.If it is brave and bold to struggle openly and out loud with mental illness when I am mostly thriving, it is still brave and bold to speak openly when I'm symptomatic. 

I've often been praised by loved ones and strangers for speaking openly about mental illness, until I became symptomatic. And then maybe I shouldn't be so open and honest. It's messy, and awkward, and they would rather I hide away until my emotional responses better fit their definition of normal.

8. Stigma is bad, and I do it to myself. 

It's called self stigma. I feel embarrassed for my symptoms. I shy away from the truth and hide my experiences in fear that I will come across as psycho or unbearable. I type out an honest facebook status and then press delete. I share honestly with a friend and then apologize.  I wrestle with whether or not taking psychiatric drugs makes me "nuts." But my friends remind me that I should feel no more shame than if I had any other illness. The fact that my attempts to manage my illness are not always successful is not shameful, it is a fact of life in this broken world.

I really believe that as people living with mental illness in the church (up to 25% of us at any given time) we can help end that self stigma by speaking honestly about our experiences. We can trust that when we advocate for ourselves we are advocating for countless others in similar situations. But that's easier said than done.

9. There are no simple answers. 

We are talking about complex problems that often involve multifaceted approaches that will have to change over time. What works today to manage my illness might not work 2 years from now. And yes, I've probably read that book or tried that herbal supplement you think will heal me. It didn't. Please don't dismiss a lifetime of coping with the suggestion that you have the one resource that will change everything.

10. The church, as we know it, is us. We decide daily whether to rally around and support or ignore and judge.

If you only take away one thing from this article, I hope it is this: We can change the church because we can change our own response to people around us who are in pain.

Is the church failing those with mental illness? That is up to us. You and I. Because we are the church. And if we want the church to be a safe place for people to openly share their struggles, then we need to respond in love and support to those around us. You and I can be like my friends this year who brought casseroles and encouragement. Or we can be the people who look away from mess and pain, who judge without knowing and condemn before reaching out. You and I decide the church's response to mental illness every single day, in the ways we choose to engage those who are suffering, in the way we choose to tell our own stories, in the way we choose to respond to the needs around us.

Is the church failing people with mental illness? Sometimes, yes. But the church is also rallying around in support and love, learning and listening so that they can better be there for their brothers and sisters who are hurting. Let's be that church today.

It is Not Well With My Head, or My Heart. But it is Well With My Soul.

The song "It is well with my soul" has always pissed me off a little.

Many years ago I heard the story behind the song. The author, Horatio Spafford, had experienced great loss. His toddler son had died, his financial security was burned up in the Great Chicago fire, His 4 daughters died in a shipwreck while he was delayed with work. And as he traveled to meet his grieving wife, he famously composed this song.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

This tale always felt like it existed to shame me and my attitude. Here is a man who had lost everything, and yet he says "It is well". And in my comparatively lesser sufferings I cannot bring myself to that same conclusion. It is not well. I am not well.

I can't be the only one who took this hymn as some pie-in-the-sky ideal of elite Christians.

But friends, I stopped listening too soon. The author doesn't say that all is well. He doesn't claim that it is well with his head or his heart, that he's not grieving or in pain, but that his soul is alright.

That while everything else is in turmoil, while his situation is emphatically not okay, he can rest in the knowledge that his soul is secure in Christ.

Right now, it is not well with my head, or my heart, or my body. But my current reality is not my eternal reality. And my eternal reality? It is well with my soul.

In my brokenness, in my frailty, in my beating of my breast and crying out in agony, Christ has regarded my helpless state.

My every sin, of omission and commission, is nailed to the cross of Christ.  Even my poor response to suffering, my anger and self pity and fear, those things are as far from me as the east is from the west.  

Because as the circumstances of our lives change, our station in Christ does not.  We are His Beloved. I am His beloved.  And my hope is in Him.

All is not well.  But it is well with my soul. 

It's OK to be Just OK

It has happened to me a lot lately. Someone asks me how I'm doing and I shrug and smile and say "I'm okay"

"Just okay?" They ask.

It happens often enough that I've got some answers ready. "Sometimes okay is an upswing." or "After the year I've had, okay feels like a win."

OK, in one of the folk legends surrounding it's origin, stands for zero killed. Fabled shorthand between wartime pilots stating that a mission had been accomplished with no causalities. It has become a staple in our communication. And some days it fits.

I'm not great. I'm not thriving. I'm not kicking life's ass today. But you know what? It's not kicking mine. I'm OK. literally and figuratively there are zero kills in my life right now.

Friend, there is nothing wrong with just okay. In fact, I am convinced that as our sick heads and battered hearts drag bodies of death through a world of grief, sometimes "okay" is a pretty big win.

Once on a family bike ride my young son's bike slipped on some gravel at high enough speed to do some damage. The bike went one way, and he went the other, skidding across a gravel parking lot without a moments notice. As his father and I dismounted our bikes and ran to his aid he bounced up off the ground, a little dusty and scraped up, and shouted "I'm OK. " He wasn't great. He wasn't peachy keen. The gravel had hurt. His small body had collided with the earth in an audible thump. But he was OK. He was ready to get back on his bike and continue the journey. What better outcome could we have asked for than just ok?

Sometimes life is bright and gratitude comes easy and all feels good and right in the world. Other days are more of a struggle. Sometimes we hit the ground with an audible thud and the dust burns our eyes and the best and bravest thing we can do is keep moving forward. Sometime just ok is a win.

Please don't ask me to put on a happy mask and pretend things are great if they aren't. And don't ask one another to always be on the mountaintop and never in the valley. That's not how this journey called life works.

Let's give each other the sacred space to experience whatever we are experiencing today. Let's allow one another to be good or fine or just ok. Or amazing or awful or holding on by a thread.

Friends, it is okay to be just okay.

And one more thing, in case you need to hear this today: it's also okay to be not okay. To sit uncertain for a moment while the dust settles and then reach out for someone to help you to your feet.

Wherever you are today, however you are feeling, whatever your truest response to "how are you?" would be, there is space for that.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebooktwitter, or instagram? And thank you for reading my words, I'm honoured.

Why I'm Taking Morning Devotions off My Good Christian Girl To-Do List

I've so often felt like a bad Christian for skipping morning devotions.  Can you relate?

I had bought into the guilt laden messages I'd heard early in my Christian walk.  "God has given everything for you, surely you can give a few minutes of your morning to him."  I felt like I owed that 5, 10 or 30 minutes to God and that I was somehow stealing from him when my feet hit the floor running in the morning.  It was one more thing in my life where I was a failure, I didn't measure up.  One more article of shame to wear through my day.

And when I did do my devotions?  It was a crossing off of a to-do list item. I was fulfilling my good-christian-girl duty.  It didn't matter if I was being transformed by God's word or if I was finding what I need in Him, only that I did my christian duty, earned my place in the pews.

But I was so mistaken.  When I don't take time in the morning to read scripture and pray or do a morning meditation, God is not robbed. But perhaps I am.

In a world that is constantly telling us how we don't measure up, that we are not enough, that if we only try harder and do better we can earn the space we take up in this world, it is a sacred and divine act to stop, to push back against the demands and expectations for a moment, and meet God.  It is an act of radical self love to return to the source of our identity, to remember who we are and who He is.

Not shame.  But love. Love for the way God has made us.  Acceptance that we can better do His will when we've stopped, breathed slowly, and sat in the quiet with our Lord.

I am coming to believe that recognizing God for who He is, and seeing my place in Him, is the great work of my life.   Morning devotions are not a to-do list priority of elite Christians, it is not an extending of an olive branch to win over a God who is mad or disappointed in us.  It is a basking in a God who already adores us, as our whole and honest selves, laid bare and weak and accepted.

As I write this, we are only a few days into a new year.  A time when so many of us make resolutions to do better, to be better.  To embrace the fresh start that a new year seems to bring. And some of us have recommitted to morning devotions. Maybe for the umpteenth time.  And that is not a bad thing.   But friend, will you believe me when I tell you this?  There is nothing you can change this year to make yourself more worthy of Love.  Nothing you do or don't do will make God like you more.

Our God does not carry a cosmic checklist, awarding us gold stars for remembering our daily devotions.  He does not offer us a way of life, a series of empty striving to be made acceptable before Him. He gives us His very self.  He gives us his presence.  He longs for us to be satisfied in Him.

May we rise each morning to meet God is a powerful way.  Not out of duty, not to assuage our guilt, but in order to connect with the source of our one true identity, to fuel up in an awareness of who we are and where we stand in this world in the sight of a perfect and mighty God who delights in us. Morning devotions are not something we ought to do, to earn our maker's love or our place in the pew, but something we get to do.  A privilege we are free to enjoy.  An opportunity to come before the almighty God, to sit boldly in His love and acceptance before walking out into a world that that tells us we will finally be enough if we just do this, be that, or buy those things.

No, I will no longer let my morning devotions be a place of guilt and failure.  Instead, they are a divine appointment with the maker of my soul. An opportunity to put down my striving and vain attempts to wrestle acceptance out of a God who has already redeemed and accepted me.

And if I miss that appointment?  Friend, fresh starts are always available. He doesn't bury me in shame. He just beckons me to come to Him.