shutterstock_142613923This may sound strange, but over the past year I have begged God for a meek and feeble request that he might cause me to fall in love with myself. Not in an arrogant and self-righteous manner, but from an attitude of humility, to view myself from His gaze: by His grace. To love myself with each breath, breathing in simultaneously through one nostril awareness of who I am without Jesus: insufficient, depraved and desperate, and through the other who I am with Him: perfected, loved and redeemed. Both are significant to my existence as a follower of Christ, for me to be known accurately, and to be loved wholly.

What follows describes She— the “person” in all of us that we are ashamed of. My hope for this post is that you will find your identity in Jesus and allow Him to shape the “she” in you. Its not an overnight process, but it is a process that every believer should go through. I pray that you will see who you are without Jesus and who you are with Jesus!

She likes to think she knows who she is. Her answer is sure when she feels loved by God. Self-acceptance is relatively easy when her life is together and support systems are in place. At times, she may even claim that she is coming to love herself. When she is strong, on top, and in control, her sense of control crystalizes. But what happens when she no longer feels loved? When her sin is exposed and her failures are highlighted? What happens when her fears come true and her dreams shatter?

As the pretender, she is a compromiser to her true self: insecure in her own skin and using others for how she might win. She adapts to each evolving situation and as a result she doesn’t have a personality of her own. Her identity comes from meeting the needs of others and performing with excellence. Success to her is people liking and approving of her. Failure is being rejected.

Because of her suffocating need to please others, she cannot say no with the same confidence with which she says yes. Motivated by the fear of not living up to others expectations, she overextends herself in projects, people, and programs. Living out of her creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire her yet she will still remain unknown. Her life becomes a perpetual roller-coaster ride of delight and depression. She is preoccupied with her weight and often grieved by the scale. The reflection of her awkward body shape, her puffy hair, and her freckled face in the mirror kidnaps her attention away from the voice of Jesus. It temporarily robs her of the Truth of His Word and she then becomes obedient to the whisper of lies. The amount of time, energy and thought she devotes to acquiring and maintaining the “perfect” image is quite staggering.

She assumes the passive role in relationships, snuffs out her creative thinking, denies her real feelings, and allows herself to be intimidated by others. Preferring to be plain, she blends in– there is less of her to reject that way. She wants only to be safe, to fit in, to be accepted, to be liked. Out of the fear of rejection, she avoids direct speech; she hedges, waffles, and remains silent. She is devoted to a life in the shadows. To her, silence is safer.

She is in me, in all of us. She is a vital part of our total self, but she must be called out of hiding, be accepted and embraced. The art of gentleness towards her leads me to be gentle with others. The hatred I have towards her, the pretender in me, is actually self-hatred. However, God liberates me from self-condemnation with graciousness and an understanding of human weakness that only He can exhibit. He is the one who saves us from her— from ourselves. His name is freedom. His Word is freedom.

Jesus discloses God’s true feelings towards me in the life He lived when He dwelt among us. The understanding and compassion He offered those He encountered then, He also offers you and me.

Naturally, she will forever be in us. I wouldn’t want her to go away. She is a part of me; a part of you; however, she shouldn’t control us. She might get frazzled at times, and start to act out. But the longer we spend time in the presence of Jesus, the less adoration she will need because she will have discovered that HE is enough. In His presence, she will delight in the discovery of what is means to live by grace and not by performance. And she will truly know who she is in Him: loved, redeemed, and His righteousness.

Written by Meredith Nichols

Sunshine and Smiles

shutterstock_92466964Approaching the hospital entrance I noticed fields of sunflowers all around. I whispered a silent prayer, Jesus please speak your words through me today. Let this be for your glory and not of my own. I opened my console and found a note-card and a book full of God’s wisdom for Mothers. I flipped open to take in a daily dose of energy and encouragement as I read the verse. That tiny dose energized me similar to drinking a 5 hour energy. You’ve seen the commercials of the tiny bottles of 5 hour energy and somehow wonder how something so tiny could ever give someone a power pack energetic boost.  Well…That one scripture dose was all I needed to kick it in gear… and  let me just say it will last way longer than 5 hours!!

I began writing a note full of hope to a sweet bloom in our Southlake Embrace Grace. The words began to flow. You light up a room like a ray of sunshine with your sweet smile….and then a scripture You rejoice over me with singing {Zephaniah 3:17}. Before me is a field of sunflowers and I felt drawn to pick one for her. The first one that captures my eye is the one that is chosen. I clasp it in my hand as I walk into the hospital on Golden Triangle. I enter the elevator and push the 4th floor.

Entering the room and seeing Katelyn resembled the words that had just been written in her card. Her radiant smile is really like sunshine lighting up the room along with a brightness in her eyes that speaks rays of hope. She was in pain, but yet so hopeful. She had been there since Thursday night. She has  kidney stones and complete blockage on her right kidney and partial blockage on her left. Urologist was coming in later this morning to do more evaluations.

I handed Katelyn the sunflower that had been handpicked just for her. As I placed it in her hands, I looked over at her Mom that has been by her side the entire time and so very nurturing. She was doing everything she possibly could to help her daughter as she was in pain and discomfort. The sunflower had a big bloom at the top, followed by a little bud close to budding in the middle of the vine, and then a tiny baby bud at the bottom. I shared how God speaks to me in the smallest of things in nature. As I was walking to the hospital room He shared with me that this sunflower represented their family. Nana, daughter and grandbaby. Nana is attending Embrace Mercy, our group for the mother’s of the girls that are single and pregnant. She said she has received such love, hope and mercy from the ladies in her group and her heart is so inspired!

Nana began to cry and looked over at Katelyn as I spoke about the rays of sunshine. She said Katelyn, what was the first song your Daddy ever sang to you? Katelyn replied You are my Sunshine with the biggest smile. She said he sang that over and over to me. That little note card with words of life was confirming to both Nana and Katelyn. They knew at that moment that God was speaking to both of them and He was singing over her and bringing healing.

I handed her a skittles packed and reminded her of the rainbows and promises that she had written out in class. Rainbow seeds and little prayers she had requested for her baby boy. She is holding on to those promises and believes they will come to pass at the right time. She said I just want to reject the negative thoughts that keep creeping in. Alright then, let’s just pray. So her Mom, baby daddy’s Mom and I gathered around her hospital bed. She placed her hands on each side of her kidneys. We spoke  life over her kidneys. Prayed God’s Healing Hands would come and move and groove inside of her and bring healing and break the blockage so that the fluid would release. Kidney stones will dissolve.

I placed my hands upon her womb. I could feel her baby’s life kicking around inside his cozy home. He was happy and moving and grooving.  I moved closer to her tummy and began speaking to her baby Kree. He was listening. He was liking what he was hearing. I said baby Kree your mommy is so sweet and I’m so sorry she is in pain and we know you want her to feel better. He kept kicking back in response saying I’m listening. Sweet baby bun we want you to stay in the oven as long as you can, you just keep baking and letting the rays of sun warm you up on the inside until the perfect time. The right time. He was listening. Mommies smile was as big as Texas. She said he is rarely up this time of the day. He is usually more active at night. He hasn’t moved like that before! I believe at that moment something was moving and grooving on the inside, and not just her sweet baby. Jesus was touching her kidney’s like we had asked Him to do.

It was one of the most rewarding moments to feel life kicking within and knowing and feeling God’s healing touch. Feeling the warmth of His SUNSHINE in the room all around us. We could all feel His Presence. It was sweet. It was warm and it felt good down in our soul. I gave hugs all around and kissed baby Kree and whispered softly through her tummy… I love your inside, I love your outside, I love your teeny tiny toes, your sweet little nose, your lips, your eyes, you are a precious ray of hope. Smiles were glowing in the room.

Katelyn said I haven’t missed a class yet and I am bummed to miss tonight. I told her she was excused of course. Her mom mentioned we should face time during class so that she could interact with the girls so she could be a part even though she wasn’t physically there. Brilliant idea. Thank you face time! Bringing interactions to a whole new level. Her smiles will light up the place tonight!

A smile costs nothing but gives much. It takes but a moment, and the memory of it sometimes last forever. A happy heart makes the face cheerful. {Proverbs 15:13}

Whole hearted, ready laughter heals, encourages, relaxes anyone within hearing distance. The laughter that springs from love makes wide the space around- gives room for the loved one to enter in.  Eugenia Price

Such a beautiful encounter. I walked outside and noticed the fields of sunflowers again encompassing the hospital on every side. 2 little ladybugs fluttered their tiny wings right above me. I rejoiced on the inside and then gave a shout out loud. God You see your little ladies and babies and you love us! You cover us with your mighty wings.

Katelyn was surrounded by God’s sheer rays of HOPE and Sunshine to break through the storms of life and pain. After the rain comes a RAINBOW and signs that promises are to come. We hold on to the promises. And so can you. No matter what storms, rain or pain you are weathering, Jesus promises to see you through and bring you to the other side where the sun shines bright and the rainbow glows!

Driving home my heart was so elated! I felt so alive on the inside. God you showed up and showed off BIGTIME today! I am forever grateful and thankful! Saw a truck right after that read Bloomin’ Blinds. I laughed. Such a simple gesture. Our blooms can open the blinds and let the sun shine through. Grace Happens Here.

All sunshine and sovereign is God, generous in gifts and glory. {Psalm 84:10-11}

A smile takes but a moment, but it can leave a lasting impression upon the receiver forever. As you are going about your day in the daily routines and things that need to be done… Picture your Heavenly Father smiling big and radiant like sunshine gleaming down upon your face. A new realm of the meaning FACETIME. As you soak in His Presence for a moment feel His rays of Light and Hope shining upon you. Just as sunshine is to flowers, you soak up the sun and shine it all around with your smile. It’s contagious. It will spread. Just try it. Keep on smilin’ on!

So now I can walk in your Presence God in your life-giving light. {Psalm 56:13}

-Written by Salina Duffy