The painful sting of regret…

image

I recently ran across this photo on pinterest, and I related to the truth of the message.

It’s so easy to focus on what I could have or should have done. The painful sting of regret can fuel a raging fear that can become debilitating. However, no amount of regret will take me back in time and allow me to take a different path, speak different words, or make a different choice.

What’s done, is done. What I did, I did. What happened, happened.

So now what?

What can you do when the aftermath of your decisions leaves you aching with regret and, perhaps,  even fearful of what’s to come?

For me, what it has boiled down to is faith.  Faith in a perfect God who is love and a perfect love that casts out all fear.

– Isaiah 43:1 –
Fear not, I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name.  You are mine.

I have been redeemed from my past. I am covered by God’s perfect love.  I belong to my Heavenly Father who protects me and transforms my reckless decisions to be used for His glory.

I can be paralyzed by fear or I can move forward in faith.

Faith isn’t easy.

Just when I feel like I’ve made it over the mountain something sneaks into my day and threatens to steal my joy and peace.

In those moments, I have to fight the should haves and could haves with faith. I have to take my thoughts captive. God’s word tells me that if I keep my mind on God, He will keep me in peace.

If you,  like me, play the “what if” game.  When thoughts sneak in from your past, consider trying these three things:

1. Remind yourself that God is using your past for His glory and that you are growing stronger and closer to Him as a result of what you’ve been through.

2. Pray and thank God that His perfect love casts out all your fear and for protecting you and working your mistakes together for good.

3. Take your thoughts captive and boldly step out in faith.

Continue reading

Advertisements

“Where am I going?”

For the past several years, when summer rolls around, I have seemed to find myself in a position where I have big decisions to make. Decisions that will alter the course I am on by requiring me to step away from some opportunities to take a hold of others.

For the past few months, I have known that the decision train was fast approaching and I would have some big choices to make, but no matter how many lists I made, minutes hours I spent thinking about it, or the number of prayers I spoke, the decision was not becoming any easier.

Last night, I came to a startling and honestly painful realization – I have lost my vision for where I am headed in life. I began asking myself the questions:  “What am I doing with my life? What am I aiming for? Where am I going?…. Who am I?” Once upon a time, I could see clearly the path I was on. I knew exactly where I was headed, why I was headed there and I had a plan to execute it, but that vision has become blurred.

While trying to answer those questions, I began to see that because my focus has been on my current circumstances, desires and needs.  In the craziness of life, I lost sight of where I was headed.  I began to listen to well intentioned and loving voices, more than seeking out the voice of God. I took great opportunities without weighing whether or not they would help me reach my goals.

When I first started driving I would swerve and not drive in a straight line despite my best effort. I remember my dad telling me not to focus on the road right in front of me but to look down the road to where I was going. When I focused my attention on where I was headed I drove a straight line. I think the same is true in life; when we loose sight of where we are headed, it is easy to get off course without even realizing it and then end up in a place asking “Where am I?”

While I still have decisions to make, because I have the end in mind, I have confidence that the choices I need to make are going to become clear. Although I know some of the decisions I need to make won’t be easy, I know  it will be worth it, and I am willing to make sacrifices and do hard things, in order to fulfil the calling God has placed on my life.

If you are finding yourself with a difficult decision to make, check to see where your focus is. Is your focus on the problem or on God? Are you thinking more about what people expect from you or what God expects from you? Is your focus on your past mistakes believing that you cannot move forward because of them or is your focus on using those experiences motivate you to make better choices?

I have faith that as I shift my focus to God and the calling He has placed on my life, my vision will once again be clear and I will know and be willing to make the right decisions to get me to that place where God is calling me forward to.

 

The Ripple Effect

As a kid we spent much of our time during the summer at the river, lake or creek going on picnics and skipping rocks. Or in my case, I spent much of my time “trying” to skip rocks. But, to my disappointment, I was more of a rock thrower than a skipper.

When a rock is thrown into the water it causes beautiful ripple effect that grows much larger than the actual rock that was thrown in. This is a great visual example of how the choices that we make have an effect that can be much more impactful than we might think.

Sometimes we feel as though we don’t have much to offer – that our small contributions couldn’t really make that much of a difference. However, even a small “rock” that is for Jesus can leave a ripple effect much bigger than the point of impact.

God can use small things to reach far beyond us and affect the lives of others.

No sacrifice is too small when it comes to giving of our time, talent, words, and money. Not to say that we should try and get by with doing the minimal amount possible, but this should give us encouragement that when we feel as though are doing something insignificant, we can to remember that God can mightily use our sacrifices to touch many lives.

It is important to remember that every choice we make, good or bad, affects others. Sometimes we belive that when we  make small compromises such as a small addiction, one snide remark, or one inappropriate movie or picture that it is not that big of a deal, but those choices can have an even bigger negative impact than we realize.

Do the decisions you make in life cause others to be pulled away from Jesus or do your actions push others toward Him?

I want the things I do and the choices I make to leave a ripple that points back to Jesus.

Undeserved Unconditional Love

On more than one occasion lately I have been left speechless and on the verge of tears because of the sweetest cards I have ever received. I can’t help but wonder – What in the world did I ever do to deserve this kind of love? What did I do to be regarded with such kind words?  

As adults I think we often place our expectations too high. We expect certain things out of each relationship we are in and when the person falls short of that expectation we have a hard time knowing how to handle the disappointment.  Sometimes we set this imaginary standard in our minds of who we think we should be in a relationship and when the “standard” is not reached, we feel as though we fell short.

For the life of me, I cannot determine what I said or did that would result in a beautiful young teen girl referring to me as “Mom #2”. When I read those words on that crumpled lined paper I literally stopped in my tracks. All I could think was I have not spent a huge amount of time with her. I have not gone out of my way on very many occasions to pour into her life. I do not deserve this title. I have done nothing to earn it.

When I think about this kind of love I think about God’s love for us. What if He loved us conditionally? That is such a scary thought to me, because under no condition do I DESERVE the splendor of God’s unfailing love. What if God placed an expectation on me? I know I let Him down frequently:  I ignore His voice. I fail to spend time with Him. I try to take things into my own hands, before I go to Him for wisdom. If God placed the same expectation on His relationship with us as we often do with others, we would be doomed.

I believe we can always learn valuable lessons from watching children. I learned a big one today. I realize I need to make sure that I am not placing unrealistic expectations on my relationships. I also need to remind myself that the simple things really do matter and the little things do make an impact –sometimes a greater impact than we ever imagined.  

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 18:3

 Today I am thankful for the undeserved, unconditional love of children and of my Heavenly Father.

 

 

“Product Review”

When we want to purchase or invest in a product we often look for reviews to see if it is worth it before totally committing. We want to know what people who have used the product think about it.

Think of a weight-loss product. Which type of review would make you be sold out for the weight-loss drug?

Company Review – we often think whatever the company boasts is probably too good to be true. We get excited by what they show us, but in the back of our mind we wonder if it is too good to be true.

Online Review – we look for what the majority says. How many stars did the item get? If the majority of reviews are positive, we feel more confident in the product than with the company reviews alone.

Personal Review– when someone we know or meet has personally used the product, and they rave about it, we are more likely to invest in the product. Not only do we hear about the results, but often we can see the results.

So of the three types of reviews which one is the most convincing? I think we could all agree that a personal review from someone we know is the most convincing review that makes us confident when purchasing a product.

Let’s take it a step further:

Do you prefer a vague review or a detailed review? A lot of times the convincing power is in the details, don’t you think?

So we can all agree that a detailed – personal review is the best type of review that will make us feel most comfortable in purchasing a product.

When we find a product we love we don’t hesitate to share it with others. If they have a need and we know of a product that will fix their problem we are not bashful about sharing our experience with it. “You’ve gotta try this, it is amazing!” or “This is the best coffee ever!” … We can go on and on about the product and how it changed our lives or why it is so wonderful because… we believe in it.

Now, bear with me for just a moment… As Christians the “product” we want everyone to commit to is Jesus. If someone is unsure about becoming a follower of Christ or if they are unsure if God’s promises are true, just as when purchasing an item from a retailer, they also look for reviews. They want proof that it is worth doing things God’s way and not the world’s way. Why should I trust God? Why should I turn my back on the world and follow Christ?

The Bible (company) – To an unbeliever of course the bible is going to say good things about God. A lot of the stories in the bible almost seem too good to be true or hard to believe.

Online Review – The stories and opinions of others could be motivating, but they may or may not be true.

Personal Review– A personal testimony of how God worked in our live and changed us is empowering. God’s promises become tangible as we tell how we were transformed by the power of God.

2 Corinthians 4:13 says: “I believed; therefore I have spoken” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.

When we believe in something we speak out about it, but why when it comes to our personal testimonies do we have a hard time speaking out with the same confidence, enthusiasm, and conviction as we do with a miscellaneous item that we have tried and loved?

 Most of us, who believe in God, don’t have a problem at all declaring the word of the Lord. We have no problem speaking about Him, or sharing scripture. But, when it comes to sharing our personal story of how God took the bad, hard, and difficult things in our lives and transformed us, we often have difficulty sharing all the details. 

 I think the reason we have difficulty sharing the details of our stories is because of one word: Judgment.

 We believe the lie Satan puts in our heads: If you only knew… “If you only knew what I have done, or been through, or said, or… then …”

We leave out the bits and pieces that we think will change people’s view of us. Because we believe we will be judged if we become transparent and share the nitty-gritty details of our lives, we end up giving these vague – watered down testimonies – {out of fear} because we tell ourselves, “If they really knew what I have done and to the extent I did it – then it will ruin my reputation, or no one will take me seriously, or they won’t look up to me, or they won’t view me the way they did before.”

But the truth is, when we leave out the details, we are depriving God of all the Glory he deserves. The greater the struggle we overcame, the greater the triumph and when we share the details God gets all the glory.

2 Timothy 1:6-9 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.

Right after we are told God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, we are told not to be ashamed of our testimony. Our works do NOT define who we are. Our works do NOT save us. ONLY God defines us, only he can save us. When it comes to sharing our testimony – we having nothing to fear. There is power in the spoken word. When the spirit of God calls you to share your testimony, it can result in life-change and transformation. Your personal testimony can end up with someone “buying the Product” – aka receiving and becoming sold-out to Christ.

Don’t let fear keep you from sharing! When someone opens up to you and tells you something they struggle with or shares a temptation they overcame, do you look at them and think – oh, now since I know this about you, I can no longer be your friend, I have lost all respect for you? How many times do we look down on a person for being transparent? My guess is that you don’t look down on that person for sharing their trials and struggles. I would bet seeing that person become transparent motivates and encourages you and despite knowing this we still believe the lie, “if you only knew” and we are fearful of opening up ourselves.

Rarely, if ever, when the Holy Spirit moves us to share our testimony does it result in Judgment. But I ask you this – is it worth the risk in being potentially “judged” if the result of sharing the details of your testimony could be a person totally sold out to Christ who will go on to share their testimony with others? Would you risk the possibility of someone passing judgment on you if you knew that the result of opening up, or not opening up, could lead to someone spending eternity in heaven… or in hell?

Revelation 12:11 They triumphed over him (satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.

I believe that freedom comes from sharing our testimony. I haven’t shared my full detailed testimony very many times, but the first time I swallowed my pride and shared it to a small group of women (my mom included!) the freedom that came was indescribable. I don’t have to live in fear of “someone finding out”. As a result of sharing my testimony, I have seen how my struggles have helped others be victorious and not take the path I took because I was bold enough to share my story.

I have told my “vague and watered down” testimony several times, and it is powerful. But I had a revelation that when I tell it holding nothing back, you cannot deny the power of God and how he transformed my life. When I give the whole story – God gets the credit he deserves for what He did in my life. It took me a long time to open up and share my story, because I was fearful that someone would use my testimony against me. I was afraid if word got out that I would not be credible.

Psalm 71:24 says, “My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion”

I personally believe that when we share our testimony – God will protect us. Anyone who would want to harm us by using our testimony against us will be put to shame and confusion.

Satan wants us to have walls up around us. He knows freedom, victory, and life-change come when we become transparent and share our testimony. Satan lies to us and says, “You need protection so no one can see who you really are and what you have done and been through.” He lies because he knows he is defeated when we share our testimony. (Revelation 12:11: see above) But, I believe God wants us to take those walls down I think God is telling each of us:

 “Be transparent and people will see me and what I can do. Don’t hide how I have miraculously worked in your life. Don’t worry if they judge you, because I define you who you are not man. What you have been through does not determine your worth – I do.”

Luke 8: 38-39 “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Just as this man was commanded to declare how much God did for him, I believe we are commanded to do the same.

Every person we encounter does not need to know every detail of your life. I am not suggesting that you go out the street corner and blurt out every detail of your life. However, I do hope that the next time the opportunity arises and the spirit leads you to share your detailed testimony that you will boldly declare how much God has done for you.

 Don’t hide behind a wall and think live with the fear of “if you only knew”, but with a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind boldly give your personal-detailed “product review” of God and how he worked in your life.

I believe that if you do:

#1 – Satan will be defeated

#2 – God will get the glory He deserves

#3 – you will get the freedom you need

#4 – and the life person who hears your testimony will be transformed

I Am Enough

I am guilty of “When-ing and Then-ing” my life away.

When (fill in the blank) happens …Then I will be happy, successful, diligent, organized, content,  qualified, ready …

I am always trying to better myself so that I will be “enough” – so that I will have what it takes. I often feel like there is always one more step to take, one more thing to learn, one more goal to accomplish BEFORE I will be qualified to do something. Yet, no matter how much I change I still feel I don’t measure up. Today, I realized that by playing this when and then game that I am taking my life into my own hands. I am relying on myself and my strength to accomplish the purpose God has for me.

I am wasting time trying to be what I think I should be. God is ready to use me *and you* NOW. While we should always strive to be more like Him, He can use us just as we are. Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I can stop this mental battle of feeling like there is so much I have to do before I measure up because I am already enough. I am enough not because of anything I did or have done, but because the Holy Spirit lives in side of me, and His divine power has given me everything I need.

It’s time to stop when-ing and then-ing and start doing because…

I AM ENOUGH