Can We Celebrate the Set Free?

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT

I have been decluttering our home little by little for a few months. Though no one else seems to be bothered by it, and the rare visitor we have doesn’t care…clutter causes panic in me. It causes my brain to feel overworked and less at ease, so I am trying to eliminate it in my “safe space.”

As I was going through the number of cups in our cabinets, I noticed the 3 wine glasses I had been holding onto. I gently removed them, and packed all them all in a box. Loaded them up to take to our local Goodwill, and thought back to a conversation I had a bit ago related to weddings and wineries. My choice to attend, but to leave when the wine started pouring. During this conversation, I was told this was “judgmental and unloving.” Say what? To attend the wedding, but not the reception?

Was I really being judgmental by making a choice to stay sober?

I have been vocal in the past about my journey to living a life without alcohol. In written words, of course. Words on a page, or on a screen feel safe when something like your “vice” are being bared to someone else. Unlike others I have been spared the “staring in your face judgment,” though I know the words spoken off-screen to others about this choice have not been filled with grace.

When I have spoken in person about my decision to remain sober. This chosen lifestyle and the choices I make because of it…grace isn’t something I have received, either.

My choices are a choice to preserve that life. Not judge another’s choice to partake. Yet it’s often seen as the latter.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12, NLT

As I packed up those glasses, I also recalled providing my reasons…revealing wine was my “vice” of choice. I spent weekends away from my family at wine festivals, getting sloshed at all the tables, sometimes not remembering my actions or being appalled by them later. I would drink sometimes before my kids got home. My son at the time was hard to manage. Wine helped me manage his tantrums. Two or three glasses to “help me sleep.” Claiming it “calmed” me, or all those festivals were because I liked the “taste.” No…I was addicted to the substance that was allowing me to escape real life. A slave to the belief that it could make everything OK. The “Mommy-juice” that helped me cope.

Wine is a huge trigger. For me. Maybe not for anyone else, but for me-I can’t be around a bottle. And in my decluttering adventures, and on my path to who God has been revealing me to be-it was revealed that the glass is, too.

See, I filled them with tea. Or sparkling water. I was continuing to play the part of the past days when I drank a glass at dinner. Cleaned with glasses and glasses to rid my mind of anxious thoughts, and as I drank from one I longed for just one glass of the syrupy substance. Like the wine-filled bottles that were poured down the drain two years before…the glasses had to go, too.

It may not be your trigger, but it’s mine. You may be able to keep these glasses with no problem. The wine in your cupboard even. But not me. I had to make a choice to get rid of anything that could be used as a salve that could soothe. A salve that was not Jesus…ever again.

Is this judgmental? Or healthy?

And, I wonder…would you judge the woman who 2 years ago, was filled with confusion, doubt, a lack of faith, and riddled with anxiety and despair. The one who found herself falling down drunk in an out of town bar, broken bones and all. 6 years sober, and now not. All because she was triggered. Would you judge her choices harshly then? And knowing what she chooses now, would you continue to judge her choice to never get to that place again?

Or would you celebrate every step she makes to forward progress as she, or anyone who struggles daily with walking and living sober, so hope you will. As we so desperately need those around us to. Because what is good for you isn’t good for me, and that’s ok. I don’t need you to change what you do for me, or act differently around me, what I (we) really need is grace. Not judgment. I need understanding when I leave the party. I need understanding and support when I choose to grab water. I still want to be invited, but I need you to know I may not come. I need you to know I’m still fun, even better actually…because the alcohol doesn’t fuel my thoughts, behaviors and actions. I still need you to believe in me, not believe I think I’m better than you.

I need understanding when I come but then quietly depart your event. I love you. I want to celebrate you, but I love my sobriety even more. And I hope you celebrate with me the path I have chosen, along with so many who do daily.

Can you choose to celebrate those who make the daily choice to refrain? To remove triggers? Celebrate, even if missteps happen, without judgment, but with grace? We do need more of this-all around. In each and every one of our lives.

Really…it’s what helps keep moving any of us forward. It’s what helps us step out of our own judgement and into His grace. It’s what sets us free.

My True Freedom

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17, NLT

I have a love and hate relationship with phone storage, especially when it comes to storing pictures. I have tried every automatic back-up service recommended as the greatest, and it never fails-I always end up with the dreaded “running out of storage message.” It makes me long for the days of point, shoot, develop, and scrapbook all your beloved memories.

The latest dreaded message came from my Google photos app. The app I had downloaded because I was tired of Apple asking me to pay for more photo storage. The app that was now also telling me I was running out of storage, because it was threatening to freeze my email accounts if I did not, well you know-pay for more.

Oh, how we become so chained to our phones, and our need to store those precious memories.

I spent several weeks going through about 4 years worth of pictures, and I noticed something I was also chained to. Not the storing of memories. I think those are OK, if they don’t distract us from simply living in the moment of making them. It was all the selfies I used to take. After noticing that in the last year and a half I had maybe taken 10, compared to the hundreds I had taken previously I began to wonder “why?” Why was I so enamored with posting so many pictures of myself. And if not of myself, of my accomplishments? Of every little thing I did to help or serve others?

I posted my first one yesterday, aside from maybe a profile picture, or a picture about my hair…in I don’t even know how long. In my curls, pearls, and classic “rocket pops.” I thought about freedom, and what we may think today this freedom means. Sure, it has a historical context; this is the reason we celebrate, and eat hot dogs, and shoot sparkly rockets into the sky; but really? Is there a deeper freedom we could celebrate today?

I know I can.

See those were not simply a bunch of pictures I was sorting through to delete, they were a testimony to a yoke of slavery by which I was bound. The yoke of approval and validation. I was chained to a desire and a need to be approved, liked, and appreciated by the world.

Through each post I sought confirmation that I was seen. That I was valued. Each time I shared some accomplishment, I recieved confirmation that I was doing well. Praise. Approval. Each time I shared my comings, goings, work, service-I was being validated with each like and comment. My ego got a boost, and I received confirmation that I was doing something right. That I WAS right. That I was worthy. Special. Important.

Because, here is the truth. I was also bound by the lies of Satan. A prisoner to the horrible thoughts he screamed at me. And the approval of the world, told me something different.

The devil whispered little lies
He tried to steal my victory
But I stared those demons in the eyes
‘Cause these boots gonna crush the enemy. (Zach Williams, “Freedom”)

Until, I began to focus again on the truth. Not what the world thought. Not what Satan said. The truth in His Word. What God said about me. How He approved me. He valued me. He made me special and important, and most of all loved me. And I was set free from the chains of seeking validation from anything outside of Him. Until compliments became something that were nice to receive every now and then, but not sought; because I KNEW my Father was pleased with me. I no longer needed anyone to “please” me with words, praise, or Facebook likes. I was no longer bound by that yoke. I am a prisoner, set free.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32, NLT

And you can be, too. Maybe for you, those pictures are not what they were to me. Maybe every post, every like, every comment does not give you the attention and value you seek. Maybe that is not your “yoke.” Maybe you are bound to something else that has stolen your freedom. Today could be the day you celebrate true independence. Today could be the day you are finally a prisoner set free. He is waiting for you to drop the chains, and simply ask for it-your freedom, that is.

I do not own rights to video, lyrics, or music.

Can You Handle the Truth?

Test me Lord, and try me; examine my heart and mind. For your faithful love guides me, and I live by your truth. Psalm 26:2-3

Here is a question: Do we truly want God to examine our hearts? Our minds? To place before us all the practices, actions, and thoughts demonstrating that we are often moved by our desires and carnal nature?

Wanting this, and asking God to do this for us, is in fact what being a “person after God’s heart” looks like. It is asking Him to examine what is within us, and to allow Him to cleanse anything that doesn’t resemble Him from the inside out. We desire for Him to change our mindset, our actions, and our desires.

This seems so appealing, right? Then why don’t more people want this transformation? If the Word says-“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), then why don’t more seek His truth? Want this freedom?

Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:43-44, NLT

Seems harsh and blunt, but I didn’t say it-Jesus did. He was keeping it pretty real here. The truth doesn’t sound pleasant when we want to continue in ways that reflect dishonesty. When we want to continue to chase after the things the devil tells us makes us worthy, successful, loved, and admired. When he feeds us with the notion that the world can provide all we need. Doing the right thing doesn’t seem so appealing, when the wrong thing feels just fine. And well, who is getting hurt, right?

The truth sounds ridiculous because the lie is more appealing. The truth sounds boring because the lie is more fun. The truth offers blessings that cannot be measured, and that you have to wait for; while the lie offers instant gratification, and goods we can enjoy to our hearts content right now.

Even if our hearts are still empty. Unloving. Deceitful. And still feeling worthless, despite the false bill of goods Satan has promised. The lie sounds much more like truth when you are still in the dark.

Asking God to examine the junk that is in our hearts and minds; those things that don’t reflect His truth and goodness will hurt, and we will go through some struggles during the transforming. Who wants to struggle?

But-He assures us that the other side is beautiful: And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

And it’s all worth it, if you can handle His truth.

You Want Me to Do What?

“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” John 8:36

I used to have this desire to one day write my life story. I loved to write as a child and teen, and I loved to read books about the lives of others, especially those who had overcome obstacles.

But this past week, made me want to change my mind.

Why? Another week long counseling intensive at Liberty University. Another look at my past hurts. An activity that consisted of writing my autobiography had me changing my mind.

You want me to do what? You want me to write down events from my life and tell you how they impacted me? You want me to get physically sick, right?

And, that is exactly how I felt. Physically sick. I wanted to toss my cookies right then and there. Not because all the events of my past were bad, but because the ones that God had placed on my heart to write in this autobiography were the ones I thought I had done a great job of hiding.

And now you want me to do what?

As I willed my pen to write, I was immediately taken back to a conversation I had participated in not 30 minutes before. The one where I had said: “Those are not our burdens to carry. So many times we carry around the sins of others, and become burdened and shamed by them. But, they are not our sins to carry. They are their’s to take to the cross.” 

Now, God wanted me to live out these words. Here I sat. Physically sick, still carrying around the burdens of someone else’s sin…along with a deep dread in the pit of my stomach!

Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you. He will not allow the godly to fall. Psalm 55:22

I knew at that moment what God was asking me to do. I knew at that moment I had to stop carrying around the weight of other’s sins. As uncomfortable as it was, and as sick as I felt about it, I began to write down the burdens that had plagued me, shamed me, and made me a slave for years.

So, I let it go. And, I still felt uncomfortable writing the words. I still felt a little sick saying them out loud. But, I also felt peace. I also felt relieved. I also felt lighter.

As I looked up at the people around me, the people I had only met a couple days before, and the people with whom I had just shared my heaviest burdens, I did not feel condemnation and shame. I felt connected, and I felt acceptance. I felt free.

It is never easy to be vulnerable, to be completely honest and admit we don’t have it all together. We tell ourselves it is so much easier to put on a happy face, and shove the struggles and burdens we carry deep down inside so no one can see them. So no one can judge us. So no one can make us feel any more shame.

But, it is vulnerability that often connects people in a mighty way. It’s vulnerability and honesty that helps others who are carrying the same burdens heal. It’s vulnerability that allows our own hearts to heal.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it will remain alone. But its death will produce new kernels-a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24

See, God wants us to be vulnerable, even in the face of fear, rejection, or shame. He expects us to bear each others burdens. He wants us to pour our hearts and souls out to others so they can see the saving power of God at work in our lives. To show how they too can truly be set free.

Freedom that comes from releasing our burdens. Freedom that comes in giving up our need to be “perfect” and “put together.” Freedom that comes in sharing our brokenness.

Freedom that comes from laying our burdens at the cross.

So, I now know what God wants me to do. He wants me to embrace my autobiography. To share my story. To become completely vulnerable. Just as the man who showed the ultimate expression of vulnerability-the one who was left alone, naked, bleeding, and dying…left completely vulnerable for all of our burdens.