Tag Archives: failure as a Christian

A Tree, Some Water, and Your Heart

treeWhat does a tree planted by water have to do with the state of your heart?

A lot.

I was sitting in a relatively comfortable chair across from a kind, older gentleman who was listening to me berate myself for the kind of a person I was. I mean, who drives their husband away? What kind of “Christian” is angry all the time, frustrated that what she reads about in the Bible is basically a fairy tale for her because she has never experienced any “fruit”? Anything positive. Rather, I was stuck, stressed, and basically ready to give up. My husband had already walked out, so why try?

After letting me expound for a relatively polite amount of time, this really nice man starts to tell me a story. Gosh, I wish I could remember his name… Anyway, apparently he used to be a pastor before he retired and went into counseling. He recounted a time when he was leading a small group study on the fruit of the Spirit, and used Psalm 1 as the passage. His focus was on the fruit and how important it was, when he felt God arrest him right where he was at, and shift his focus from the fruit — to the trees.

“Oh the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers. But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither; and in all they do, they prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

Verse 3 makes it clear that the only way that these trees bear fruit is because they are planted along a riverbank. Not only do they bear fruit, but they do it each season without fail. They don’t dry up and wither, but instead they prosper.

Let’s go New Testament now. Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:4-26 that He was the chief supplier of living water: 10 “Jesus replied, If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me and I would give you living water.” and in 14: “But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Here’s what I learned that day from the really nice man: There was way more to my story than how I had screwed up.

In order to produce anything remotely positive like the spiritual fruit written about in Galatians 5:22 I need to have a very real connection to this God who says He loves me. Even Paul emphasizes that it is the Holy Spirit who produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It is not by my striving that I will achieve these things on my own.

I tried. And failed.

When this truth started to trickle into my awareness-receptors, I decided that I wanted more. I was thirsty. Parched actually. What has happened in the time since is that I have been reminded that Jesus wraps up the law spoken of in Psalm 1 with these two: Love the Lord your God  with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40)

Let’s not stay on the same horse but just change the saddle… It is not about what we do and how hard we do it that creates change in our hearts at first. Yes there are many passages that urge us to love God and to love one another, but we must remember where it starts:

1 John 4:19We love because He first loved us.

Let it wash over you, this life-giving, cleansing, refreshing water He offers.

Soak in it.

Drink it.

Allow it to carry away the pain, the burdens, the mistakes, the failures, the wrongs.

Spending time every day at His feet, consciously making an effort to understand how much I am loved — not because I deserve it, but because He washes away all that would separate me from His perfect righteousness and smiles upon me because He now sees me as He intends me to be.

Worthy.

Delightful.

Made in His image.

Unique.

Beautiful.

So, as Paul writes in Romans 12, let’s actively renew our minds with the truth of God’s unshakeable love for us.

Let’s let it transform us. Because then great things happen.

Like fruit.

Like caring for the poor, the needy, the widows and the orphans.

Fear is abolished.

Anger is deflated.

Wounds are healed.

Pain is soothed.

Let’s learn to rest in the Living Water. May your heart never go thirsty again.

– Shev

“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus. (Matthew 11:28)

“Arise my love, my fair one, and come away with me.” Song of Solomon 2:10

Fear, Anger, and Dying a Slow Death

angerIt feels wrong to complain. With all the horrific things going on in the world, I am really and truly grateful, way down deep.

But times like this tend to transport me to days in the not so distant past where I was existing on the dregs of yesterday’s coffee and whatever sugary treat I had baked for “the kids”. Juggling three children along with the denial of my pent up anger, my feelings of never-quite-doing-it-all-good-enough, and my fear of the unknown was wreaking havoc on me.  I was exhausted.

Rolling out of bed in the morning was an act of sheer will.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to complain. To rock the boat. My marriage was not ideal, but I said vows, and I didn’t believe in quitting, so tough luck. My middle daughter had special needs that I was continually struggling to understand, but I had suffered the loss of her older brother, so I would suck this up too.

The result was a slow death of who I was because I could not reconcile the pain I endured, building walls around it to try protect myself from further damage.

Desperately afraid of the next wallop that I could not predict or control.

Maybe it would be an accident involving either my oldest or youngest daughter.

Maybe a freak natural disaster, like a tornado, would flatten our house and we’d be left homeless.

Maybe there’d be a fire and I would survive, but barely.

Or an intruder, or a stalker, or a drunk driver, or a wild cat prowling too close to our home, or, or, or…

Fear is debilitating. It sucks the very life out of you, leaving no room for anything else. And it got free reign in my little world because I couldn’t trust that God was good. To me.  You know, beyond sending Jesus to die and give me a ticket to eternity if I wanted it.

As a result, anger was the go-to emotion for years, fueled by my fear of … everything.

What a way to live.

I was completely at a loss as to how to stop the continual anger until I was able to reconcile that fear was at the root of it all. Fear was the reason I was dying a slow, uncomfortable death.

So what now?

Well, interestingly enough, it’s right around this particular time of enlightenment when God began to woo me. Began to teach me that He is good, and that He can bring good out of my pain. I would have preferred no pain at all, but since we were past that point I found myself drawn to know more. And as I drew closer to Him, He came closer to me, just like He promises. He taught me to trust Him in various ways, and spoke to my heart so softly, so firmly, that I slowly learned to live again. To breathe again.

Rediscovering who Sheavaun is has been a bit of an adventure, but I am grateful that I did not remain in a charred heap, never to experience the full life I was promised.

I am not a particularly “special” project for God. It’s not just for me, this change from a slow death to new life. It’s for you too. All it takes is a first step, and the willingness to hear Him, to rant and rave in His presence, and allow Him to persuade your heart to trust Him.

I hope you do.

So on days like today where I feel frustrated with my circumstances, and feel tired of waiting for things to turn around, I know I can lay it all out with this God who loves me and has made an unnecessary effort to convince me that He is trustworthy. And I can rest.

Living life is good.

– love,

Shev

Knowing Jesus

 

IMG_2091As a little girl, I can remember hearing my dad make disparaging remarks about Christians, and little tidbits here and there about why evolution was the only explanation necessary; but when a couple of my school friends managed to talk me into attending a kids’ Bible study with them where I first heard about Jesus and God, I was hooked.

Funny thing is, my dad decided to trust Jesus as well within a couple of years after I did, due to a Christian friend at work. My whole family was baptized together when I was in 7th grade. I’ll never forget it.

Yet, my learning filter was a little ‘off’ due to the lies I had been hearing in my head since a young age. Maybe you’ve had a few rolling around your consciousness too; you know: There’s something wrong with me, or I’m not good enough… They affected my perspective of myself,and how I believed God saw me. Throughout my remaining school years, my belief system was wrought with rules, rules, and more rules, without much grace. Hence, I wasn’t the kind of person that attracted good attention to the Name above all names.

So, when my safe, protected young life began to unravel as a 20-something, the church scene got pretty old for me. My husband and I had a singing career and traveled the country from church to church, but the adventure wore off, and my damaged heart got sick of church politics, the do’s and don’ts of what to wear, how to speak and act… I was turned off of Christians and of church.

But somewhere buried deep I recall there being a tiny flicker of hope that there was more to this God that I had been so enamored with as a child.

Every once in awhile I would come across some genuine people that believed in this same God, who seemed to know Him in a more personal way than I did; dare I say intimately. There was a trust I didn’t understand, but knew I wanted.

So when the other shoe dropped, and my life completely fell apart and I found myself curled up in a ball, completely at the end of myself, the God who loves me and was waiting for me met me where I was.

This propelled me to start asking more and different questions, to look for Him in everything around me, to learn as much as I could, despite my aching heart. He met me and blew my mind.

All those years ago as a child, He was whispering to my heart, calling me to come closer, to let Him into my personal space, but I got caught up in the useless dressing of performance, and how I repeatedly seemed to fall short. So I’d try again, not recognizing that that’s not how it works with Jesus:

  • God became a man.
  • Paid a horrific price so we could always have access to Him, always walk with Him, and always know how loved we are.

When that truth began to seep into my weary, shattered heart – well, I can tell you that I haven’t been the same since. He has healed my brokenness, and blown a fresh breath of life into my soul.

It was not overnight, and it is not over, either. But it’s in HIM that I have learned to trust, to rest, to listen to and follow. When I get off track, he reminds me and helps me to reroute.

I am not alone.

I no longer care about the scarring scrutiny of closed-minded church-goers, because I now know that God’s grace has taken care of all that gets in the way of Him and me, and that’s all that really matters. And His love, man, His love! Fills me till I can’t help but overflow.

That’s the difference that knowing the actual person of Jesus Christ has made in my life, rather than knowing “of” Him.

He rocks my world.

Tell me: have you ever felt yourself wanting more, wondering if there was more to this whole God-church-thing?

I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment in the section below if you feel so inclined.

– love love

Shev

 

Why the New Thing Doesn’t Have to Scare Your Pants Off

IMG_1538I turned to my daughter sitting in the passenger seat and said, “guess what I just realized?”

“What?”

“It was 10 years ago this month that your Dad left me.”

Her teasing smirk began to fade as she turned her body toward me a little more.

“Honey, I just filed our divorce papers this month, not even considering that it’s been 10 years in the making.”

“Holy cow. How do you feel?”

“Good. Really good.”

“I’m happy for you, Mom. I really am.”

 

Can I just tell you that there is no way on God’s green earth that you would EVER have heard me 10 years ago saying that I felt good about divorce. Ever

Forget 10 years ago, how about 2? 

It was wrong.

It was horrible.

God didn’t like it.

Christians flog you for it.

It was scary. No, terrifying.

But here I am… and am pretty ok with it.

No, I’m not numb or jaded. Or hardened.

Because I tried to save my marriage, and found myself the one who was saved instead.

All the broken pieces – He helped me pick them up.

All the wounds – He healed.

All the insecurities – He spoke to and banished.

All the holes – He filled.

All the fears – He replaced.

It’s not what I prayed for exactly, 10 years ago. But God met me in a very real, very not-what-I-was-looking-for way, and I’ll be grateful til the end of forever.

I can’t do anything about all the well-meaning people who feel obliged to email or call me and ask if I’m really sure I’ve given the whole matter over to God, and done all I can, except say: “yes, and yes.” And now I am looking into my God’s face, trusting Him to lead me even when the people He’s putting me in front of may want to shun me…

But the divorce isn’t even what I’m writing about today, it’s about the fear.

That circumstance that has dumped itself in front of you and is trying to stare you into a coma.

That new thing that is trying to scare the pants off you? Don’t let it.

You know why?

Because God is good and you are loved.

There is no one kinder than God. No one as good. No one who IS love, never mind loves like God. No one more faithful.

And YOU! You are important to Him. He made you. He designed you. He dreamed of you, and called you into being.

Sure you’ve screwed up, but you are not a screw up. Sure you’ve failed, but you’re not a failure. Sure, you may feel like a nobody, or worthless, or not able to measure up… but He sees you differently.

He sees you as you can be, and wants to love you into it.

It’s possible.

I’m proof. Of course, there’s still a reeaallllyyy long way for me to go yet, but I’m not the same woman I was.

So, don’t let the new thing scare your pants off. Because He says YOU are new, and He’s got this.

Take the first step, and let Him love on you awhile. That’s where it all begins.

-Shev

 

Divorced Christians: Black Sheep of the Flock?

ringsThe unknown is a rather scary place to be, never mind in the valley of the shadow of condemnation.

To be honest, I feel as though couples sporting the scarlet letter D are the black sheep of the Christian flock. There is something nerve-wracking about walking in to church knowing that there are people who are looking at you differently now that the cat is out of the bag regarding your failed marriage.

There is speculation as to whether or not you tried hard enough to save it. There is judgement about your decision to vacate it. There is pity. There is awkward silence. I know, I feel it acutely, – but I also used to be on the other end of the stick: looking, judging, mentally fixing the obvious. Never in a million years would I have dreamt that I would be on the receiving end.

beachwdgMarriages were not meant to be broken, and if they were, then there was definitely a problem with someone’s relationship with Jesus. Right? Yeesh.

It’s taken quite a bit of counseling, praying, soul searching, and guts to get to the place I’m in right now. To be able to say, “I don’t want to remain in a marriage where there is no trust; where I have stayed, I have tried, I have hoped, to no avail, and I don’t want to anymore.” There is guilt involved. There is this feeling like I need to explain myself to the church-world. To the people who know nothing of my life, but believe that I am sinning anyway. I won’t explain myself because that would mean throwing my kids’ dad under the bus, and I have no desire to do that. I’m not lily-white in this thing, either, not at all. I have contributed to the communication problems, and am painfully aware of my shortcomings. My failure as a wife.

So, let me just say that I have given up all control. I continuously turn my face to God’s and deposit my life in His lap. If He wishes to make some miracles happen in my neck of the woods, I am willing to go and do and follow and obey. He says I can come to Him with my requests, and so I do. I also come to Him humbly, often ashamed of my inadequacies, very grateful for the gifts He showers me with, for His grace that completely consumes me, washing me clean even though I don’t deserve it.

The unknown freaks me out, but after years of wooing, showing up when I thought all was lost, proving His love for me in ways I never dreamed of, I am getting better at trusting the One who loves me most. To be honest, the hope of heaven trumps everything, but He has made it clear that life here and now is worth living too, no matter what I face. I have been so lonely, and He comforts me, filling up the empty space inside. I have felt abandoned and forgotten and He has assured me I am priceless. I have felt discarded and unwanted, and He has filled me completely, causing me to feel loved and treasured.

So the unknown is just that: unknown. But faith, hope and love, grace, mercy and devotion override the uncertainties. I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I am not a black sheep. I am a daughter of the King, and I will follow where He leads. I may grumble a little, but He knows I’m feisty (and He’s ok with that).princess

 

 

Hope is Not a Dirty Word

hndwHope. It’s a loaded word.

Either we scoff at the mention of it because we have seen too much of the ugly side of life, or we feel a quickening of our spirit that perhaps it might be true… because we, too, have seen too much of the ugliness.

No matter what our personal experiences have been, most of us have had to face fear in ways we never had dreamed possible. Most of us have hit seemingly insurmountable concrete walls of despair, and helplessness. Our stories may be different, but all of our hearts are wired to hope — despite our circumstances.

Here’s my list of paralyzing nastiness:

  • Death of my 8 month old son
  • Birth of my 2nd daughter within another 8 months of his death (surprise!), and learn she has special needs
  • Death of my superhero dad (cancer sucks)
  • Depression
  • Marriage failure

I don’t list these things so we can have a contest about who’s crap is smelliest, because that’s just wrong on so many levels. I share so you can know that even though life may be throwing some horrific stuff at you, you’re not alone in feeling dark, lonely, heavy, and barely surviving.

God is touted as being the author and perfecter of our faith… and He has a magic recipe.

He heaps us with hope.

He floods us with love.

He Does It.

All we need to do is ask. And wait. And ask. And expect. And know and know and know that HE will come through.

Not because we deserve it. No. Because then we’re all screwed.

Because of who HE is. He is good. He didn’t make the bad things happen, life did. It’s the result of a world doing it’s own thing since the Fall. But God is faithful to restore us. To make us new if we will let Him. We have to invite Him in. Then we have to trust.

My own trust issues have kept me at God like a freaking  woodpecker for a long long time:

“I need encouragement!” “I need to know you’re there!” I need, I need!

And He always shows up. Every blessed time.

Because that’s who He is.

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” – Matthew 7:11

There is hope. His name is Jesus.

You were made for so much more than to just survive by the skin of your teeth. You were made for so much more than to live with regret, condemnation, guilt, loneliness, despair, and darkness. Grace is free, it covers you, it washes over you, and gives you hope. Take it and make it yours. No strings, just love. His.

You will never be the same.

Simple truth. Tough to swallow sometimes, but oh. so. real.

#hopeisnotadirtyword

Your turn: Leave a comment below and share how hope has changed you or what you dream of it doing for you.

With Love,

signature

 

Alone

No One Likes To Feel Alone

I hate feeling alone.

cryinggirlNot being alone, I love that. No, I hate the feeling of being all alone.

Helpless. Hopeless. Small. Invisible. Unable to fix whatever is wrong, and not knowing what to do. Loved ones console as best as they can, but are at a loss to truly help.

What a horrible feeling.

I’m pretty much a do-it-yourself-er, so the few times that I have felt utterly alone have been awful experiences for me, and it’s been an automatic reflex to vow I’d never be put in a position like that again.

Keep my emotions well concealed, careful not to take too much joy from any one thing in case it’s taken from me.

Close friends few and hard-won. Emotional intimacy a risk not relished because being alone by choice was far safer than feeling alone and helpless.

Interestingly enough I discovered that I couldn’t completely shield myself. I was alone, though I wasn’t meant to be. I realized this for the 1st time as I lay fully clothed heaving in emotional agony in a dry bathtub, listening to my mother pray for me over the phone. I can distinctly remember thinking that I was not finished sobbing, yet this foreign feeling of calm or peace just washed over me. I had never experienced anything like it, and I just relaxed and absorbed it. It made me think for days afterward that I should break out of my tightly bound world of control and do some exploring. That’s when I started reading the Bible, books about the Bible, books about God, books about me and God… I had to find out what I was missing.

I’m telling you, He met me there and has never left. If you know anything about me, you’re aware of my many faults and idiosyncrasies, never mind my pride, temper, and mouth. But He’s stayed with me, and you know why? Because its not about me and whether or not I’m good enough for Him. I am because of Jesus. So I’m free to discover Him, which in turn allows me to discover myself. Sure I have my slip ups but I’m learning that I can trust Him. The same God who spoke the universe into existence gets a kick out of me, and wants me around. Cool!

As far as life being easier because of it, I’d have to say nuh-uh. Sometimes I’m sure things are going to come completely undone and I’ll never survive, but then He shows up and flexes His muscles. I love it! The things He pulls out of His hat are sometimes crazy and backward to my way of thinking, but I trust Him.

Did you know this is the same God that told Abraham he and Sarah would have so many descendants they would outnumber the stars in the sky? He waited til they were both so old and pruney they couldn’t possibly conceive on their own, and then gave them their son Isaac. It’s the same God who protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo in the fiery furnace, and protected Daniel in the den of lions. The same God that David wrote and sang about in Psalms of how great His love and power was. The same God who rose Jesus from the dead.

It’s a relationship He’s looking for, not a rehearsed set of motions and words. God wants our heart and our trust and He promises to care for us as His own.

“Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Its quite possible that many believers in the name of Jesus aren’t necessarily believers that His heart and intentions are good.

What about you?