When I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I find myself in a season that is a breeding ground for shame. Just being an adult is hard enough in this world of social media and high standards. Then when you add in parenting, marriage, family, friends, ministry, missions, and all of the other hundreds of little things that I’m supposed to do on a daily basis like feed the tiny humans and make sure everyone has clean clothes…well let’s just say I can never get it all done. I hate that I can never get it all done. I feel shame about the fact that I can’t get it all done. I am also ashamed that I have anxiety, crippling anxiety, about all of these things. I feel shame that I am not enough, and I feel shame in the way I deal with not being enough. That is where I began the year and my meditation time with this verse. 

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

If this is true, then I cannot live in shame any longer. If the grace of Jesus is really enough for me, then I have to let go of how many mistakes I made today. If His grace is really sufficient, I have to quit beating myself up about letting my kids watch tv or eat hot dogs or go to daycare or whatever other mom guilt is thrown my way. I have to let go of the fact that I missed opportunities to fix or help or speak truth. I have to let go of the fact that I could have loved better, could have spoken better, could have acted better, could have been braver, or stronger, or wiser. I have to let go of the fact that I am not a perfect friend or mentor or daughter or sister. I have to let go of the fact that I could have said something different, had more patience, been a better mom. I have to let go of the fact that I cannot do it all. I have to let go of the fact that I still get anxious. I have to let go of the fact that I made mistakes, will keep making mistakes, and will probably hurt someone’s feelings or disappoint them. In shaming myself, I am saying that His grace is not enough for me. In covering myself with self-hatred thoughts and words, I am saying that I am above the grace of Jesus. By drowning myself in shame, I am saying, your death, it doesn’t cover me. It doesn’t count for me. Is that what I want? NO! 

So LET IT GO! Let the shame go. Let His grace be sufficient. 

“For my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When I admit and embrace that I am not enough…I mean really embrace and accept that I cannot, will not, and should not be perfect…When I let myself find freedom in the grace of Jesus and fully live knowing that I am imperfect…When I breathe in and out with the knowledge that I am broken in weakness…Then and only then, will the power of Christ be made perfect. As long as I keep trying to be strong all on my own, Christ’s power will have no room in me. There is no place for the Spirit to fill me if I keep pretending like I can do it all on my own. If I keep trying to be everything to everybody, then I will just keep ending the day in a ball on the floor full of anxiety and brokenness. BUT if I can embrace my imperfections and allow myself the freedom to be forgiven and accepted with all of my faults and weakness and shortcomings – not just sometimes but each moment – then the power really comes. Then the power of Jesus, the power of the Spirit, it is perfected in me.

The Bible is full of stories of God using a broken person, group, or place that the world defines as weak, in order to bring power into the world. That is not by accident. God has proven over and over that He is most powerful when us humans step back, accept that we are weak and allow Him to really show off. It is possible for God’s power to be shown in me no matter what, but it is only perfected when I admit and embrace that I can never be enough on my own. 

Now this does not give us license to sin or make excuses for immoral behavior. Christ was able to admit his weakness, let the power of God fill him, and still remain sinless. Sin and weakness are not synonyms. 

“Therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

So, I must then take it a step further. Not only should I just be weak and accept it, I need to boast about it. I need to shout that I am a screw up. I make mistakes. I need to own it. I need to quit pretending that I have it all together or even that I should have it all together. I need to own this hot mess that I am. Instead of getting embarrassed by my inadequacies,  I need to let go of these crippling expectations and allow Christ to dwell in me. Again, this does not mean that I get a pass to sin but instead that I now can focus on progress over perfection. I have to admit, out loud, that I do not have it all together. Quit the pretending. For him to really fill me with the Spirit, I need to acknowledge without fear that I am struggling on my own and in need of help. This whole life, adulting, parenting thing…It’s all hard. Only when I embrace my weakness, embrace my anxiety, embrace my imperfection, then the power, the spirit of Christ will dwell in me. It will come in, grow roots and start living inside of me. When that power lives inside of me, it starts to seep out into everything I do. But I have to remain humble in knowing that I alone am weak, and that is ok.

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I don’t have to be happy that bad things are happening. I’m still allowed to have bad days. I’m allowed to get angry and be frustrated. I’m allowed to beg for another way, just like Jesus did in the garden before dying on the cross. This verse is not saying that God makes the bad things happen for you to be filled with power. It is saying that even though you will go through all kinds of hardships, you can be content knowing that Jesus is hurting with you. This world is broken. It is fallen. Jesus is not going to take away all the distress from your life. I truly believe that a good father shouldn’t and can’t move every difficulty out of the way for His children. But a good father does sit and listen and stroke our hair and cry with us in the insults and pain. He walks with us, gives us wisdom, gives us strength, and gives us POWER! He doesn’t need the bad things in order to give us power. He does however use the weakness, insults, distress, persecution, and difficulties to redeem the brokenness inside of us and bring forth power. He redeems it by filling us in those moments of weakness. He fills us with His spirit so that we are overflowing with the strength and power of Christ. He surrounds us with the church, the body, and our community to strengthen us and help us put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. We can be content and at peace with our weaknesses because Christ is enough. We don’t have to be enough. Life is full of BOTH hardship and life-giving moments. It is full of both insults and encouragement. It is full of both distress and laughter. It is full of both people that tear you down and powerful community that can fill you up. It is full of both difficulties and wonder. I am both weak and strong at the same time. That is the way life is meant to be lived. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Again, I don’t have to rejoice in the fact that the bad is happening BUT you can rejoice that in that moment or season of darkness, in this roller coaster of life, God IS YOUR STRENGTH! Christ is POWER. 

Christ died to wash away our sin and guilt and shame, but he was also RISEN from the grave to show and fill us with POWER. Even in our darkest days, know that Sunday is coming. May we walk in that power today. 

A New Year

As I look back on 2018, I am filled with a dichotomy of emotions that exist simultaneously. I am both exhausted and content. I have both wonderful memories from the year and some that are really painful. My heart is heavy and filled at the same time. It feels like I spent just as much time at the doctor, hospital, and emergency room, as I did just enjoying my precious babies this year, BUT at the same time in all of the sickness, our family was bombarded with love and support from our friends and family which brings me so much joy. I think that this is the way that life is meant to be lived – in the world of the “both/and.” With every hardship and negative, there is a positive and shining light to be found. Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes I just don’t have the energy or time or desire to see it, but it’s still there. In fact, the positive may just be that we survived. I sure am thankful that “His mercies are new every morning.” I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful for the ability to be both full of love and full of anxiety at the same time. I’m thankful that my babies are both messy and beautiful. I’m thankful that my marriage has both been challenged and strengthened this year. I’m thankful that even though my ministry seems smaller, it also seems deeper. I’m thankful that even though my kids have had around 13 ear infections, a few sinus infections, several stomach bugs, Hand Foot & Mouth, ear tubes, RSV, pneumonia, more runny noses, coughs and colds than I can count, stitches, bumps, bruises, busted lips all in 2018…today they are happy and healthy. I’m thankful that even though 2018 brought my most challenging mental and emotional year as I struggled through anxiety and panic attacks, it also brought me Brene Brown, the Enneagram, a good counselor, and more soul searching and self-discovery than I ever thought possible. 2018 brought both many tears, and also so many belly laughs that kept me rolling for days. 

Each year I pick a verse that defines what I want to focus on and meditate over for the year. I learn the context of that verse and memorize it. I put it on my heart and mind and soul. When I look back and read my verses from the years past, the feelings and emotions of that year come flooding back. I can feel where my heart was at that time and how that verse spoke to me. I have written a few times about my verse for 2018 – Exodus 14:13-14. I have needed this verse so many times this year. As I am sitting here praying and trying to decide my verse for 2019, the “both/and” feels very important. I want the freedom to feel seemingly opposite emotions at the exact same time. This year I want to embrace the fact that I am both weak and strong. I want to feel confident that even though my anxiety might not leave, the Lord’s grace will continue to be even more abundant. I want to focus less on where I fall short and rather on where Christ is more than enough. In fact, I want to acknowledge that without my insufficiencies, the fullness of Christ’s strength may not be seen. So today, here’s to me not being enough but enough all at the same time. 2019, I’m ready for you. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Meditation and Imperfection

If you have not read Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection then do everyone and yourself a favor and go to Amazon right now and order it. In fact, let me give you the link: click this!  I’m not kidding. Forget reading this post, go now. It has changed what I believe about myself and my lifelong battle with perfectionism and anxiety. Well, this book along with a very helpful therapist and learning about the Enneagram have helped me start to find the root of my anxiety and panic attacks. I hope you read that correctly that this is just the beginning. I still have a long way to go and will always probably struggle with both perfectionism and anxiety. But I have felt so much freedom in several things that I want to share. 

First of all, the highlight of this book and the main thing that I learned from my counselor was simple but huge – I need to love myself more. I need to be kind to myself. The root of my panic attacks is my anger. Anger at myself. It’s not the root of my anxiety. I’ll talk about that more later, but it is the difference between feeling overwhelmed and entering into a full blown panic attack. I just get so mad! I’m talking hysterical ANGER. I scream and want to hit things and just hate who I am in that moment. I cannot logically pull myself together. I feel like a burden and like I’m letting everyone down around me. I feel like I’m wasting time that could be spent sleeping or resting or pouring into all of these people that love me daily. I start to spiral into pure shame and guilt. Shame that I am not strong enough. Guilt that I again have failed. Brene is an expert in shame research. It’s amazing the way shame and perfectionism are tied together. I feel so ashamed that I can’t be the person that I want to be. Which causes me to be so angry. It’s also amazing how I think it’s ok to call myself an idiot (and much harsher words). I would be so upset if my kids ever spoke those words about themselves, or if they ever heard me speak those words out loud. In her book Brene says, “I don’t want my level of self-love to limit how much I can love my children or my husband…loving them and accepting their imperfections is much easier than turning that light of loving-kindness on myself…I know that I can talk to myself in ways that I would never consider talking to another person.” Why is it so much easier to beat myself up? 

In an effort to train my brain in self compassion and to lavish grace on myself and others, I have started meditating in the morning. I always thought that just sitting and breathing was weird and a waste of time. (I don’t know if you can tell, but I really hate wasting time.) I started though with an app that my counselor told me about called Meditation Studio. I have also tried the app Headpsace. Meditation studio uses mindfulness meditation which I like a little better. Both of these talk you through how to be gracious even in the quiet. It reminds me to not be angry when my mind inevitably drifts or when I spend 5/10 minutes daydreaming or nodding off.

The main focus of meditation is breathing and giving grace in those moments of quiet. Following along with an app when you first get started is so helpful. It’s like having a personal trainer when you are trying to get in shape for the first time. It helps keep me accountable and really instills the grace over myself that I desperately need. And most importantly it is teaching me how to breathe. I know that sounds weird, but breathing in meditation is an artform. I have always been an athlete. In sports, especially in running, I was taught different ways to breathe to best enhance my performance. Meditation breathing is similar. If you focus on how your body reacts to the breaths and on how your mouth and stomach and nose respond to each breath, it helps your muscles to slowly relax and your mind to focus. I have to be intentional about relaxing my legs and toes, my arms and shoulders and fingers, my jaw and head. With each breath, I release a little more guilt and pent up pressure and relax a little bit more. 

It was really hard at first for me to sit still and just breathe for 10 minutes. Now though, I can’t picture starting my day any other way.  That small amount of quiet breathing changes and shapes my mind the rest of the day. I often still get overwhelmed because I still have triplets and life is still messy, but I subconsciously start taking deep breaths and am more apt to give myself grace. The breaths bring me back to those 5-10 minutes of peace that morning. I am reminded of what calm looks like. I have a reference point of how to relax. I remind myself that it’s normal to get overwhelmed. Brene talks in her book about how to identify an issue or problem without over identifying it. I tend to do that a lot. I am really good at over identifying my weaknesses instead of just naming them, owning them, and moving forward. Meditation gives me the space to practice identifying a weakness and moving on. Even if that weakness is not being able to focus that morning. I simply say “wandering” and refocus without beating myself up. Learning to let go of most of that anger has been so freeing. 

To make this my own, I often combine meditation with breath prayer and lectio devina. I read a psalm and pick out one word or phrase that really sticks out to me. Then I set my timer to 5-10 minutes or I start my app, and I just sit. I sit up straight, keep the lights off, lay my hands out, close my eyes, and I breathe. I slowly breathe in and out (4 seconds in, 4 seconds out). And I focus on that word or phrase and focus on my breathing. If my mind wanders, I just gently say wandering, and gracefully move back into breathing in and out – in through my nose, out through my mouth. As I breathe in I picture that word or phrase. As I breathe out, I release everything else so that in time just that word remains. It remains on my heart and in my mind the rest of the day.

Sometimes, if I have a certain person pressing on my heart as I enter into my meditation time, I can spend that time focusing on breath prayer for them. It’s best to stick with just one person so you don’t spend the whole time jumping around. With each breath, I breathe in calm and breathe out a word that I want to pray over them. I breathe in peace or grace and breathe out strength or confidence to cover them for today.

I have also used meditation breaths at night if I can’t sleep. I have woken up several times in the middle of the night with my brain spinning about all the things that need to happen or a crazy dream. Once I start meditation breathing, my body is reminded to calm down, think logically, and to relax.

Other times I use my mantra or theme verse for this season in my life as I meditate. I spend the entire 10 minutes really placing the words on my heart and in my mind. I have it memorized, so I close my eyes and say one word with each deep breath. I slowly in the morning ingrain it in my mind, so that when I start to get overwhelmed in the day, I start breathing and that verse is on the tip of my tongue and in my head. It’s amazing what memorizing scripture and simply breathing will do.

My verse for the year that has spoken truth to me in so many ways is Exodus 14: 13-14. it says: 

“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the LORD’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you must be quiet.”

“Don’t be afraid” – In the moments of complete exhaustion and when that long list of overwhelming things that has to be done all at one time is almost too much to bear, smile. Remember the way that God has already delivered you. Remember who you are. Remember who HE is. Know that you are enough. Give yourself grace. Don’t be afraid of what is to come. Don’t be afraid to be you. Don’t be afraid to say No. Don’t be afraid to say Yes. Smile.

“Stand firm” – Breathe. Be present. Stand in this current moment. Don’t drift into the past or let your mind wander into all of the things that you need to get done tomorrow. Don’t run or lay down. STAND. Stand FIRM. Be strong. You are strong. God is stronger. Be still. Breathe.

“And see the LORD’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today” – You are not the savior. You are not a martyr. You can’t save everyone or anyone. It’s the LORD who does the saving. He is the savior. He is the deliverer. Take that pressure off. He will keep His promises. You are not alone. He is with you TODAY. He is doing great things today. 

“For the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.” – The context of this verse comes right before the crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites were escaping the Egyptians. The plagues had already happened. They had already placed the blood over their doorframe in Egypt as death fell on the firstborn son and animal of the Egyptians, but the Lord passed over the Israelites. They were protected, and then they were delivered. The LORD delivered them and led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. All too soon though the Israelites forgot. The Egyptians had changed their minds and began to chase them. They were right on their heals and the Red Sea was trapping them. They felt like there was no way out. Surely this was the end? Surely God can’t protect us this time? But here Moses is proclaiming that this fear is formed from lies. The truth is that these Egyptians – this huge, impossible, demon that is chasing you and trying to devour you – there will come a day when you will never see it again. God will win. The Lord will deliver you. He is big enough. He is strong enough. He is a God of redemption. He is a God of deliverance.

“The LORD will fight for you”  I have been doing a lot of fighting lately… 

Fighting for perfection.

Fighting to not be a burden.

Fighting to help everyone.

Fighting to be seen and known.

Fighting to be a good mom.

Fighting to be a good wife.

Fighting to be a good daughter, sister, friend.

Fighting to remember every detail.

Fighting to find myself.

Fighting myself.

Fighting for control.

Fighting to be worthy of love.

Fighting for forgiveness for my constant shortcomings.

Stop. The LORD will fight FOR you.

“and you must be quiet.” – It doesn’t say that you must fight with Him. It doesn’t say that you must complete a list of tasks before you are worthy of being fought for. It doesn’t say that you must look a certain way or act a certain way or be prepared. You don’t have to be perfect or have it all figured out. You just have to be quiet. 

So today – may you be filled with all the goodness and measure of the Lord’s promise. May you allow Him to fight for you. May you be still and see His deliverance in your life. You are worthy. You are loved.

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