Why Being Real Is So Stinkin’ Hard…

Authenticity is not a new word, it’s been buzzing around in Christian circles for some time. We’ve been told to be authentic. Be the real deal. The Bible makes it clear that our love for God and others should be authentic as well.

“Let love be without hypocrisy,” Romans 12:9 says (NASB). Or the NLT puts it this way, “Don’t pretend to love others. Really love them.” Another version says, “Love must be sincere.” Another, “Let love be genuine.”

Who knew there were so many ways to express the importance of authenticity!

And therein lies the dilemma. The fact that being real before God & others is good & right & honorable & Christ-like…well, is it any question it’s upside down to our natural inclinations?

I’ve been pondering this as I prepare to confront other women with this truth at The M.O.M. Initiative’s Better Together Conference next week. We as women (& human-kind in general) long for connection. But even more, way deep down, we desire real connection. Superficial is fine out on the fringe. Surface talk can keep us from being totally alone…but without those relationships that are safe as we “work out our faith in fear & trembling,” we continue to long for that which we know is missing. That which God intended to help sharpen us, refine us…that which God intended for us to help sharpen others, refine others…

But it’s a risk. When we are honest about our struggles, our shortcomings, our insecurities, our strongholds, we risk rejection. We also risk flattery and enablement. We risk abandonment. It seems that there’ s so much more to lose when we live and love genuinely than when we keep others at a distance.

And isn’t it the same in reverse? When that person we’ve admired or put on a pedestal for so long begins to confess what’s really going on in their life, we have to face the conflict within ourselves to decide whether we really want to be close to them or not.

It’s the hard ugly truth.

That’s one of the million reasons we need to cling to God’s grace. His grace loved us “while we were still sinners.” His grace is unrelenting. His grace denies selfishness, has no pretense or falseness. Christ loved people even when they rejected the truth about Him. Christ stayed true to His person and purpose even when He didn’t meet the expectations others had of Him.

And He can enable us to live in this same way. As we confess our need for His genuine love to work in and through us every single day, He will be faithful in the process. Yup, that word again: Process. We won’t see instant perfection; rather, progress as we continue to abide in Him. And even though it’s stinkin’ hard, it’s worth it…if not this moment, eventually it will be.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. 1 Thess 5:23-24

By His grace, LauraLee

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Downplaying Your Teen’s Drama

imageI’ll never forget the day my then 14-year old (now 16) daughter argued, “Well, I’m not you, Mom. I haven’t been abused like you were, but my pain still hurts. And I hate admitting that to you.”

I’m not gonna lie, I learned something that day. But even now with a 19-year old son and 16- & 14-year old daughters, I’m still tempted to revert back to showing them how much better they have it than I did (or many others do).
And you know what?

Dismissing, downplaying, diminishing…dissing my teen’s troubles, though understandable at times, is the wrong approach to teaching them gratitude and perseverance.

Read the rest & share your wisdom on this topic at The M.O.M. Initiative

By His grace, LauraLee

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And the Winner Is…Friendship

image I honestly can’t remember the last time I looked at the stat counter on my website. I stopped keeping track of numbers on any social media or any of my blogs a long time ago…not because I’m “so popular I don’t have to look at the numbers.” But because God has helped me not to focus on it at all. It doesn’t matter whether I’m talking with one person or fifty or five thousand…the stuff He inspires me to write or encourage others with is the same.

But sometimes I do wonder what lands people on my blog. When I looked at the main keyword search on almost every page, “friendship” topped the list in some way, shape or form. Isn’t that interesting?

I guess at the end of the day that’s because we all want it. God built it in us to need that connection. It’s one of the topics I speak on and celebrate…but even more specific, I’ve noticed that parents & grandparents want to teach their young’uns about how to choose good friends and be a good friend.

That’s why I think the devotional God laid out for me to write many years ago is still in the largest demand today, at least as it pertains to what I’ve written. Every time I read through it, (other than finding things I’d like to re-word or improve upon), I’m reminded of something God wants to teach me about being the kind of friend I should be…and the kind of friend I should be reminding my teens they should be.

So if you are looking for a devotional to do with your elementary-aged child this summer, consider this. It’s free, and it’s set up in such a way that you can be involved in the process of guiding them in truth and wisdom. I hope and pray it ministers to every one who reads it. You can find it & print it here:

http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/34338897

There are “friends” who destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

By His grace, LauraLee

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But It’s Broken…

imageSome of the most heart-wrenching tears of my children were cried in their toddler years after a toy would break. One was dropped accidentally, another cracked unexpectedly. Sometimes one was thrown in anger, only to shatter after hitting the floor or the wall. The worst was when brother or sister or friend would break it after a reluctant sharing of that special toy.

Crocodile tears. Sobs. I’d scoop them up, try to comfort them, “shhhhh, it’s okay,” I’d whisper while rocking them back and forth, their face in my neck or shoulder.

“But it’s broken, Mommy!” My heart would actually break with them. Even though it was just a toy, their loss and pain was mine too.

I was thinking about this today, praying a great deal about it lately. So so much brokenness around me.

broken hearts.
broken dreams.
broken relationships.
broken promises.

Broken people.

Even inside of me, I struggle with my own brokenness. My neediness.

I know it sounds trite to some when they are walking in the thick of it. I know something of that myself. We can sometimes clench our teeth and plant our feet deep in an attitude of resistance to the Truth that would set us free. But it doesn’t change the Truth that it is in Jesus Christ that “all things hold together.” That He alone is the only sure foundation.

None of this means those broken dreams get put back together again. It means you can take what’s broken to Jesus and He will hold you together spiritually and provide you everything you need to survive and even thrive through the struggle.

Whatever is a mess in your life, in your heart…whatever is broken….I beg you to cry out to Jesus, let Him scoop you up and provide you with comfort and care and rest and strength. Lean into Him by way of His Word and prayer. Your loving Father cares and is faithful to provide you with a better life than you could’ve ever thought up on your own.

That broken thing is not your identity. Christ is.

Nothing’s ever too broken for Him.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Col 1:17

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Col 3:3

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Ps 55:22

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Ps 34:18

for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’
Acts 17:28

By His grace, LauraLee

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What Makes Mom Proud

imageOne of my favorite television shows is “Chopped.” It’s a live competition where 4 contestants are given baskets of mystery ingredients to put together “an unforgettable meal” as each course is critiqued by 3 judges. Each round someone is chopped from moving on to make the next plate of food.

Almost every single episode, at least one of the chefs mentions (often with a break in their voice & a tear in their eye) that one of the reasons they are competing is to make their mom or dad proud. The chef’s win would somehow validate their choices and prove their worth in their parent/s’ eyes.

This has been rolling through my mind while sitting through numerous opportunities lately for kids to be awarded for their achievements for the year–athletically, artistically & academically. It’s all fine and good. Really, it is. But there’s something about this performance driven culture that also makes my heart sink a little…

Read the rest at the M.O.M. Initiative today…

By His grace, LauraLee

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Where’s the Rainbow?

Steady rain added beauty and praise to my morning coffee one day last week. A glorious rain which would bring temporary relief for our North Texas drought.

As I drove my daughter to school, rays of sun began to peekaboo through the dark clouds, while heavy drops of rain continued to shower our windshield.

I got excited and told her to be on the lookout for a rainbow. I glanced all around as I could. I KNEW there would be a rainbow. The conditions were just right for it.

It got darker. More rain. Then sun and rain. Dark again.

A gentle rain began as rays of light made their appearance one by one until the sky was almost fully lit.

Now that rainbow would come. Even though I’d dropped my daughter off, I could take a picture and show her later (if she didn’t see it sooner on instagram, haha).

But no rainbow…at least that I could see. For some reason, I really wanted to find a rainbow.

The Lord was so gracious to enlighten me in that moment of disappointment. He helped me to realize that even when my deepest needs are met, I often long for more.

When my soul is dry to the point of drought-like condition, He eventually sends glorious rain. It may be through His Word, through a song, through the joy of serving, through the realization that He is always near to me as I pray and press into Him, or through the encouragement of fellowship with other believers…It may even be a combination of several of these blessings. But if I don’t receive these gifts and appreciate them, giving God the glory for providing them, I keep looking.

Where in the world is that rainbow? Surely there is something more magnificent.

Sometimes there is. But let’s not ignore what God has done or what He is doing or what He has promised to do as we depend on Him. Let’s not ignore His faithfulness and love. Let’s cling to the truth that God’s most beautiful work is done in us through suffering and struggle. Let’s remember that a relationship with Almighty God is more than enough, that as we abide in Him we have everything we need. And actually more.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor 4:17-18

By His grace, LauraLee

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Storms Expected on Thursday

I read the headline from my favorite weather man that storms are expected in my area on Thursday. Until then, calm skies.

So when I heard the wind practically blowing my house away tonight, I double-checked. Nothing predicted or expected, but just a few scattered storm cells popping up around and about.

The correlation to the life of faith is amazing. We just think we know when we’re entering the storm. We often have no idea of the small cells that are popping up as the conditions are unstable…or the shifting winds that catch us off guard.

That’s why we need to stay abiding, to be constant in prayer, to always have our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ…not only because He is where every good thing is found, but also because we are more prepared for tribulation when we have depended upon Him day after day for our every need.

Need I say more?

 

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever & ever! Amen. 

Eph 2:20-21

 

By His grace, LauraLee

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Wailing Prayers

Psalm 56:8 (New Living Translation)
“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in Your bottle.
You have recorded each one in Your book.”

Whether you’re in the middle of a disaster, greatly distressed or disturbed, depressed, disappointed or dealing with the burdens of others, know that God ALWAYS hears your prayers.

I pray this excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s “Strengthen My Spirit” Devotional explains it better to you than I ever could. And may it give your heart the same comfort it gave mine today:

“Prayers are instantly noticed in Heaven. Here is comfort for the distressed but praying soul. Often times, a poor broken-hearted one bends his knee but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears; yet that groan has made all the harps of Heaven thrill with music, that tear has been caught by God and treasured in Heaven.

‘You put my tears into Your bottle’ implies that they are caught as they flow. The suppliant whose fears provide his words will be well understood by the Most High. He may only look up with misty eye, but ‘prayer is the falling of a tear.’ Tears are the diamonds of Heaven; sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah’s court and are numbered with ‘the sublimest strains that reach the majesty on high.

‘Think not that your prayer, however weak or trembling will be unregarded. Our God not only hears prayer, but also loves to hear it. He regards not high looks and lofty words. He cares not for the pomp and pageantry of kings, He listens not to the swell of martial music, He regards not the triumph and pride of man; but wherever there is a heart big with sorrow or a lip quivering with agony or a deep groan or a penitential sigh, the heart of Jehovah is open. He marks it down in the registry of His memory; He puts our prayers, like rose leaves, between the pages of His book of remembrance, and when the volume is opened at last, there shall be a precious fragrance springing up from it.”

“But we are hoping for something we do not have yet,
and we are waiting for it patiently.
Also, the Spirit helps us with our weakness.
We do not know how to pray as we should.
But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us,
even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.
God can see what is in people’s hearts.
And he knows what is in the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit speaks to God for his people in the way God wants.
Romans 8:25-27 (New Century Version)

By His grace, LauraLee

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A Tell-All Tale

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-reprimand-image14239045

“Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think. Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear. God’s in charge, not you—the less you speak, the better.”
Ecclesiastes 5:2, The Message

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been a chatter-box. I have memories of yacking off the ears of perfect strangers in stores and other places as far back as I can remember. My sister chuckles as she recalls to me the conversations I used to have with my dolls as an adolescent in my room while she would snoop outside. Many who know me would say this is one of the qualities they love most about me, but I can assure you that God doesn’t always see it the same way. He’s leading me today to share a personal struggle of my own—I know He will use it for His own purposes.

When my husband I were early in our marriage, I would often spill out angry and defensive words when I was frustrated with him. I can’t tell you how many times he repeated the phrase, “Words once spoken cannot be retrieved.” He was lovingly trying to teach me that while our remarks can be forgiven, they still have the possibility of leaving a mark on the hearer.

Our mouths were made for praise! Mine often complains. Our tongues were made to brag on Him. Mine often defends myself. Our tonsils were made to shout out His goodness! How frequently mine barks out angry words. The list goes on…sharing, being real, telling the truth and making others laugh can easily become gossiping, using reckless words, harping or putting others’ down…that is, if our words are not Spirit-led.

Be real? Absolutely. He desires our authenticity. (Philippians 4:8)
​May it be in His timing, though. (Romans 8:6)
​May it be led by His Spirit, lest we cause another to stumble. (Romans 14:13)

Share our stories with others? He loves a good story and shared LOTS of them Himself. (Matthew 13:34)
​May it be His stories and our stories we love to tell—not others.’ (Acts 26:1)
​May it result in bringing others closer to Him. (1 Corinthians 14:37)

Give others a good laugh? I should say so! Laughter is great medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
​May it be an everyday part of my life. (Psalm 126:2)
​May it bring tears of joy instead of hurt. (Job 30:9)

Tell the truth? Well, He certainly doesn’t want us to lie. (Psalm 119:29)
May it as easy to receive the truth ourselves (so long as it is the truth) as it is to give it to others. (Ephesians 4:13-15)
May it flow naturally from us to share HIS truth—THE truth! (Psalm 78:4)

I’m asking the Lord to use the Scripture and the wise advice from above to help me today. I find myself gravitating to the pattern of my youth again and again…and while the Lord doesn’t want me to swim in guilt, He does want me to grow up and stay out of the puddle I once waded knee deep in. The older I get spiritually, the more I long to use my lungs to breathe in His truth and my tonsils to praise out of the overflow.

Unfortunately, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” sometimes. Does any of this tale tell some of your story, too? If so, the only way for you and I to have victory in our conversations is to ask the Lord to give us His words…His beautiful words of life! Let’s pray and ask together this moment.

Jeremiah 1:9
“
Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now, I have put my words in your mouth.’”

By His grace, LauraLee

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When Push Comes to Shove

“This is MY swing!” yelled the boy, pushing the little girl into the gravel. As she began to cry over her bleeding skinned knee, the boy took his seat on the swing, pumping higher and higher into the air. “Wheeeee! I’m the king of the wooooorrrrrrrrrrrlllllllllllD!!!” he declared.

The boy’s mom sat oblivious on the bench nearby blabbering away on her cell phone. The girl’s daddy came quickly to scoop her up, holding her close to his chest. In between hysteric whimpers, she poured out her pain to him: “He (gasp) pushed (sniff) me (snort) Daddy (full out bawl).”
He tenderly replied, “I know, sweetheart, I saw the whole thing. It’s okay now, you’re safe.”

All of a sudden, the dad did something that surprised all those watching. He lifted his daughter up onto his shoulders. At first, she whined, “No, daddy, I’m scared.” He assured her that she was secure, so she tried to sit up straight, leaning forward and holding on to his chin at first. The man turned into a boy that moment, changing from a walk in the park to a giddy-up, jig-jagged gallop around the park with her, to which the little one began to giggle. As he grasped her legs firmly around his neck, she sat up completely straight, shoulders back and chest out. “I’m the luckiest girl in the WoooorrrrrlllllD,” she shrieked with delight, throwing her arms completely outstretched in the air. She was safe and free at last.
*****

This is the picture of the Christian life, friends. Sometimes, we’re feeling blessed along the way, kind of like a trip to the park–from tire swing, to slide, to see saw, to sand. And it’s invigorating. Then someone comes along who pushes us down, causing us not only a skinned knee, but a wounded heart in the process. But our Father is so loving and so compassionate that He scoops us up and lifts us high above the pain to experience His safety and the pleasure that stems from it (although it is not always as immediate as in the story).

Even Job understood this in the middle of his horrific pain (5:11): “The lowly He sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.” What a beautiful reminder for the times when we are hurt or persecuted, even if we’re not sure why we’re experiencing it.

Did you notice that we don’t know how the story above got its start? Was the little girl racing for the swing excitedly after finding it in her view? Perhaps she was just standing in the way of the swing. OR, did she push the boy first as she tried to get the swing for herself? We have no idea if she was innocent or just as selfish as the boy, do we? This matters to us, because in our minds, if it were her fault, then surely the same response from her dad would not be warranted.

That’s the thing about God….His ways are SO not our ways, are they?

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. ..As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:8-10, 13-14, NIV

God wants us to see that from His perspective is a whole other view of our circumstances. We were formed by His hands.He knows we are not perfect as He is–that we are going to mess up in our human filth. But because of His merciful, abounding love, His comfort and security are available to us no matter what we’ve done. It is the forgiveness that comes from the trust we placed in Jesus Christ to make the sacrifice for our sins, as well as the sins of others, along with the security & identity He gives us from that day forward. Praise the Lord! Now that encourages me!

Which person in the park are you right now? The pusher? The pushed down? The one on the cell phone? The one scooping up the hurting? The specatator? The one enjoying the slide on the other side?

From that grid, let’s take a moment to picture the characteristics of God from the verses above and apply them to our hearts. We could be any of them from one day to the other, and God has something in it for us no matter—so let’s allow Him, our King of the wooorrrrrrrrld, to minister to us and others through our own walk in the park today. Amen.

By His grace, LauraLee

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