March 24, 2015

Poured Out Yet Not Emptied

I feel empty and disembodied, the wheels of my mind unable to churn, the substance of my soul too heavy to lift. Weary, so weary, only willing to expend the last dregs of energy to search out true rest. Parched and thirsty but so dry that taking a long drink seems only a false start. God hasn't spoken in a while, so why would He choose to now?
But I go to the water and ask for a drink, testing, almost as if I'm proving He won't give. Then too, I'm at the end, the last resort, conscious I cannot fill myself, so it's the only thing left to do.

The first words of Ezekiel 16 and I'm in tears. The floodgates have opened, my emotions spewing everywhere, because He is reading me and saying to me that He sees me helpless on the ground. It is a picture of redemption, of all God did for Israel, and of all He's done for me.

"As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born."

I was born into sin.

"And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' Yes, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful."

He made me alive.

"When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine," says the Lord God.

Christ in me, the hope of glory. I in Him and Him in me.

"Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. . . You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you," says the Lord God.

He has made me beautiful in holiness and righteousness so that I might bring Him glory.


Uh oh. I know immediately where this is going, not just for Israel but for me.

"But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it."

I read about how everything they'd been given by God--their beauty and splendor--they took possession of, twisted from good gift to satisfaction-giver, and used for self-glory and adultery against the very One who'd given all. The gifts became their god. 

"...because you were insatiable....and even then you weren't satisfied...I will gather all these lovers with whom you took pleasure; I will gather them from all around against you...they shall strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare."

Bare. Stripped. Abused. Empty.

Turning gifts into gods leaves us empty.

He is gently reading me; the tears stream knowingly. There is a difference, He seems to say, between being poured out and being empty. Emptiness comes from pursuing idols that (or who) are mute and impotent. Pouring out is only an ability that comes from first receiving; it is dependent upon Someone else giving.

What then are these idols? I can't see, so I ask Him to help me see.

Idols are the things I'd give up anything for, that I would, however silently or unseen, walk away from God to grab onto and get for myself. Things that if God asked me to let go of in order to keep a grip on Him, I would have a hard time letting go of. Things that I try to hold onto while at the same time holding onto God. Things that I'd stomp my feet and pout if I couldn't have them or if they were taken away.

My own abilities
The appreciation, approval, and admiration of others
Living a unique or extraordinary life
Having an obstacle-free path to the life I envision for myself
Being able to do all that I want to do in life
An ordered life with everything in control (my control, of course)
Ease and comfort of life

These are my gods. I equate them with God, and by equating them with God, I negate God.

These are my gods, and they've left me bare and empty. I repent of these gods, because only One is true and alive and faithful. Only One has said to me in the blood of my sins, "Live!" Only One has made me beautiful. Only One gives. And Only One can help me pour out my life without leaving me empty.

"Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you...I provide an atonement for all you have done," says the Lord God.

Thank you, Jesus.

March 19, 2015

A Manifesto of Grace {Printable}

A book release feels like riding a stomach-dropping roller coaster after waiting for hours in a long, hot line. All the anticipation, all the biding time, and all the hard work explode in a flying flash over rails. In this analogy, I'm stepping off the ride right about now, adjusting my hair, finding my footing, and wondering what in the world just happened. In a good way, of course.

Thank you to each of you who have read From Good to Grace, those who have essentially ridden this roller coaster with me by helping me spread the word, and those who have written to tell me what it has meant and how God is ministering through it. Those are the greatest gifts you can give a writer.
One of my favorite parts of the book, one I keep returning to in my mind, is the Grace Manifesto at the end. Are you allowed to say that about your own book? It's a little like having a favorite child or pronouncing yourself to be awesome, but I don't care. I love the Manifesto, because it tidily sums up the whole book, it is a written reminder of what God has done in my own life in the past 14 years, and because I remember well the moment I sat at my dining room table and typed it out. The words fell out of me, and I pounded the keys as if I were speaking these truths over you out loud and exhorting you to believe and receive them.
I've known since that day sitting at my dining room table that I wanted to share a printable version of the Grace Manifesto with you when I got the chance. I hope you'll read the entire book, but if nothing else, I hope you'll print off a copy of the Manifesto and hang it or tuck it in a place where you'll read it often. But don't just read it. Read it out loud. There's something about speaking something out loud; it's a means of proclaiming our faith in what Christ has done.

Again, thank you. Thank you for giving me such great gifts--the reading, the sharing, and the responding. I hope this printable will be a gift and a blessing to you in return.

Download a printable of the Grace Manifesto for yourself.

Have you read From Good to Grace yet? If not, grab your copy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or If you have read it and enjoyed it, would you please share it with others? Word of mouth is so helpful. Finally, be on the lookout for details regarding a summer book club!

March 17, 2015

Dream Smaller

I am more and more aware of my need to test the spirits of this age (1 John 4:1). Being driven, ambitious, and performance-oriented, I'm drawn to eloquent charges to go out and change the world and prone to believe they're words from God Himself. There are more voices than ever, more platforms than ever, and more and more are proclaiming statements that ring true in my head but chain my heart.
None feel the need to test the spirits of this age more than pastors. I am not one, but my husband is, and I pray earnestly for him to have wisdom and discernment as he guards and shepherds our church.

Because if Twitter were to be believed, the weight of the world hangs on those with the microphones. Pastors, racial reconciliation! Pastors, domestic violence! Pastors, marriage (and singleness and divorce and remarriage and widows and widowers and orphans and miscarriage and infertility and abortion and homosexuality)! Pastors, missions and church planting and evangelism and missional communities! I'm tired just thinking about it, and I haven't even said anything about preaching, counseling, and leading staff, much less the caring for souls. Or breathing.

I'm not saying these are bad things to focus on, teach on, or preach on. I'm not saying we don't want to affect our world. I'm saying we--the Church--must test these spirits. Because it all sounds really good. We love action points, we love exhortations that get us fired up, we love dreaming big, we love the idea that God wants to use in miraculous ways, and we rightly want to address the brokenness of our world and change it.

The underlying belief among Christians in this age is that the responsibility for changing the world is ours.

When I test these spirits, I find a weight too heavy for any one person to carry. I find change hinging on what people do and a push toward doing all the right things in all the right ways or all is tragically lost. I find a macro-level call by God to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations brought to the micro level, the individual level, where I am to go and do it all.

Let me tell you how this plays out in my life, because I think it might help explain what I'm getting at. I'm a pastor's wife who loves being a pastor's wife. I love nothing more than seeing lives changed and a strong, spiritually vibrant community. I want so many good things for our church and for the people in our church. I love them. I desire to see fruit in their lives, just as I desire to see it in my own.

But what happens when spiritual growth is slow and even nonexistent, or someone leaves our church (or the Church altogether), or the unsaved are not saved after the billionth gospel presentation, or someone has a deep need that I can't meet? What happens when I've failed someone or my efforts seem pointless? What do I do?

If the macro-level exhortations were to be believed, it is all on me to figure it out and to create change and fix everything. It's on me, not on the church as a whole, and definitely not on the Head of the church, Jesus Christ. I must have all the spiritual gifts. I alone must be the mouth, hands, and feet of Christ. And, really, there shouldn't even be these obstacles and failures, because those are only signs of my own ineptitude and that I need to be trying harder.

This feels heavy, and it's a weight I place on myself but that also comes from misplaced good desires. Misplaced, because I've completely relegated God to the spectator role. I desire good things for people, but I'm placing my faith in my own power and not in the only true power there is--the power of God.

Only God has the power to change a heart, to regenerate and renew. Only God can heal and reconcile.  Only God authored the gospel and authors our faith. We are not the gospel; we don't have to be the gospel. We are His agents and ministers, taking the gospel, but we can't convict of its truth.

Anything that makes us think that we as individuals have to be the whole Church and change the entire world with our one life and our handful of natural and spiritual gifts is not to be trusted. It is a tweak of the truth, which is that I am to use my one life alongside others using their one lives and, together, we act as the Church and work under the power of the Holy Spirit. Together, we adorn the gospel.

So what does this mean? 

It means I don't need to constantly add things to my list of ways I should be serving God because it's how others are serving Him. As I present myself to God each day in His Word, I can trust Him to show me how He wants me to adorn the gospel with my one life and with my spiritual gifts, abilities, roles, and circumstances. I don't have to be the whole church.

It means God values faith in His power more than any self-effort I bring to the table, which isn't much. This elevates prayer. It reminds me that I can ask for the hand and movement of God simply through prayer. By praying, it also reminds me who is actually in charge of change.

It often means thinking smaller rather than dreaming bigger. It means moving the macro-level call to the micro-level life. Unless God is clearly calling me to make a dramatic move, I can be certain He wants me to be faithful right where I'm at. He wants me to be a faithful wife, a faithful mom, a faithful friend, a faithful neighbor, a faithful mentor, and a faithful writer--because that's where He's placed me. I sometimes want the dramatic call because I don't want to do the difficult work of daily faithfulness.

It means that faithful, everyday acts done for the glory of God that don't seem like they're changing the world are the things actually changing the world: prayer, discipling our kids, working unto the glory of God, sacrificing for others, and using our gifts of mercy and knowledge and discernment to edify others in our local Body.

It means freedom, not burden. Because Someone's already carrying the weight of responsibility, and He's invited us to play a small (very small) part. He's faithful to us in the day-in, day-out, so we can respond in faithful love and obedience to Him. And that just so happens to be the Christian life in a nutshell.

March 12, 2015

The Introverted Pastor's Wife

One of the most helpful catalysts for growth in ministry has been learning myself and how God made me, and not only learning but embracing who God made me to be.

It seems to me that every pastor's wife enters ministry by ceremonially placing the "ideal pastor's wife" mantle on herself and then spends far too long afterward stumbling under its weight. I was no exception. This role presses and squeezes relentlessly, which I've come to count as a good thing, even more so as I've discovered who I'm uniquely created to be and allowed God's gracious sanctification in my life.
When it comes to embracing who I am, my personality has been the stubborn, lone holdout. I am an introvert, and the "ideal pastor's wife" is not, by anyone's standards, including my own, an introvert. Most people desire for their church a pastor's wife (and a pastor, for that matter) who has the inexhaustible ability to be with people, who is gregarious and outgoing, and who can carry any and every social situation. Whether it's a standard others hold or that I've placed it on myself, I don't know, but it's a standard I've had to release and reject in order to embrace who I am and to believe that God has specifically called me to the people and community we serve.

I'm happy to report that I'm learning to love my introvertedness rather than wish it away. This is how:

I remind myself that just because I'm an introvert doesn't mean I don't love people.
Introverts love people just as much as extroverts do, but they are also drained by people and must preserve energy in order to love and serve others well. Recharging, especially with time reflecting and reading the Word and other life-giving books, helps me love people freely and joyfully.

I recharge by being out of social situations, therefore I must make time for recharging. 
No one is going to do this for me except me. My husband says it's like maintaining the proper temperature in a greenhouse for optimal growth. If I'm overloaded with things on my social calendar, I find myself getting angry and bitter toward the very people that I love, which are emotions I try to listen to as signals that I need some down time learning and receiving correction from Jesus. My general rule is that I can only handle one meeting a day with women for counseling-type conversations and 2-3 evening commitments a week. Keeping this rule goes a long way in helping me maintain an "optimal" temperature. I also keep a Sabbath and go off on occasional overnight retreats as reset buttons.

I am in my element in one-on-one conversations. 
Parties and large groups can be overwhelming to me and leave me depleted, but I thrive when I can find one person with which to have a lengthy, deep conversation. This has been super helpful for me to discover, because Sundays at church are large-group gatherings, and I haven't always known what to do with myself on those mornings. Once I realized I'm better at one-on-one's, I began praying each Sunday morning that God would lead me to 2-3 people that I could really lock into, whether a new visitor, someone I want to follow up with from previous conversations, someone that is on my mind, or someone I've been praying for. The goal isn't to fill an uncomfortable space, but to use something I enjoy to bless and minister to others.

I prepare myself for social interactions.
I am not spontaneous with my relationships; I am instead a planner. This has historically been disappointing or mistaken for coldness or disinterest by others, but I've learned that I cannot give the best of myself unless I am precise with the time I give to social relationships. I truly have to parcel out my emotional and relational energy--not just in a day but in a week and month and season--so that I can fulfill my relational and physical commitments. This is not calculating and stingy; this is the way I best fulfill God's calling on my life.

It helps me to have intimate friends.
Because I'm introvert, I tend to be more reserved. Because I'm a pastor's wife, it takes time and security in relationships before I feel safe opening up with my most intimate thoughts and feelings. I value time with those people that I've built those relationships with, and I highly value the women who seek to know me as I am and not as they expect me to be (i.e. an extrovert). I'm also thankful for close friends who draw me out with thoughtful questions.

It's helpful to have time to process and think about things. I get in trouble when I answer quickly.
I've learned never to say yes on the spot, because if I said yes on the spot to everything, I would say yes to things I actually shouldn't do, and I would be overloaded and even begin to dread things I've committed myself to. I need to sift every request through time, prayer, thought, and what I know I can typically handle.

I have trained myself to be like an extrovert when needed.
I never want my introvertedness to become a crutch. I want to enhance the very best of what it means to be introverted, but I also have learned to push myself in healthy ways. By that, I mean I've learned to carry a conversation, to push through the awkward and initiate conversations and relationships, to see social "interruptions" as God's providence, and to seek out social interaction at times when I feel discouraged or alone because I know it will help. Most people are surprised when I tell them I'm an introvert, and I take that as a good thing, because it means I've grown out of being overly reserved.

Being an introvert comes with gifts that can be used for the glory of God. 
I used to wish I had a different personality, namely that I was an extrovert and could go, go, go 24/7. But I've come to recognize the positive characteristics of being an introvert and to value who God has made me. I am a deep thinker, a deep feeler, and a deep question-asker. I wouldn't be who I am if I weren't an introvert. I wouldn't be a counselor, a person sensitive to spiritual needs, or able to welcome and include fellow introverts into the church. And I wouldn't be a writer if I weren't an introvert. Just as being an extrovert is a gift of grace from God, being an introvert is a gift of grace, one that I embrace using for God's glory.

What about you? Are you an introvert? What questions do you have about how to enhance your introvertedness or practically live it out? I'll try and take a stab at them. What have you learned about being both an introvert and a pastor's wife that might prove helpful to all of us? Please share your suggestions and questions in the comment section!

March 10, 2015

Grace is Strong Enough to Hold You

A few weeks ago, I sat waiting in a quiet room at my doctor's office and, without warning, I was overcome with the idea that I NEEDED TO COMPLETELY RE-WRITE MY BOOK. The thought screamed in capital letters, all the things I could have written and should have written flooded my mind, and I panicked thinking of all those books coming off the printer and shipped out in little Amazon boxes.

And then last week I went to Texas to teach several groups of women about God's grace. I'd prepared my talk long before, but as I prepared to speak to the first group, I looked down at my notes and they appeared ridiculous and scribbly. The panic immediately came back, telling me adamantly that I HAVE THIS GRACE THING ALL WRONG and I DON'T HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.
Can you tell from the screaming letters what I've worried about with this book? I've worried that I would somehow misconstrue grace, that my words would cause someone to cheapen and take advantage of it, and that my Jesus would be misrepresented. I've known all along where the pushback would be, but I didn't expect that I'd so often have to defend the extent and power of God's grace to myself.

Because what I'm writing and saying out loud is that God's grace is for our salvation and our sanctification, that God is willingly the responsible party when it comes to our spiritual birth and growth, and that we really have no ability to create spiritual fruit through our self-effort. Do you know what this means? This means that God's grace in sending Jesus to die and resurrect is a grace that teaches, leads, and helps us for life. It means that God's grace is so rich toward us that He gave us a Helper, because He knew we are spiritually impotent without Him living the Christian life in us. It means freedom from bootstrap religion, freedom from self-conviction, freedom from setting up fearful parameters for ourselves, freedom from seeking God's approval (because we have it), and freedom from striving.

And that's just where I question it. I know my response to grace is to present myself to God and receive it joyfully each day, just as a child receives a birthday present. But can salvation and sanctification truly be that simple? If I fall back into grace and just enjoy it, will it really well up and compel me to obedience or will I end up taking advantage of the gift? Can I trust the love of God and His grace toward me to be powerful enough to change my life or should I go back to trying to change on my own? Can I trust the Holy Spirit to convict me and draw me toward God or should I go on trying to act as my own Holy Spirit?

The answer is that God's grace really does do what He says it will do. It will compel us away from ourselves to love and serve God and others. Over and over this past week, I keep coming back to how God's grace has truly changed my life. I've grown spiritually in ways that could only have been from His hand and His help. He has sanctified me and is sanctifying me, and it's happened only as I've stubbornly refused to live by self-effort.

I've been asked how I believe grace and holiness fit together, as if they oppose one another. It helps to know that when I speak of grace, I'm not just touching on the forgiveness of sins. I'm speaking about the riches of Christ poured out on us--that we become alive to God, new creations, adopted into God's family, and that we receive all the benefits of that inheritance. One of those benefits is that I am given the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, God indwelling me whose primary role is to lead me to holiness. Holiness, then, is a fruit of the Spirit working in my life (Romans 6:22), a supernatural outworking of receiving God's grace.

I think we tend to have a leadership problem. We'd never say it out loud, but when we think we're the ones in charge of our sanctification, we basically have a low view of God's power and a high view of our own abilities. We trust in our own power to change rather than the power of God. But God provides the only power to grow, and only when we submit to His leadership--and His grace as the means for our growth--will we actually be conformed to Christ. So I'll keep writing it and speaking it. I'll proclaim it until the day I die and dare you to try Him and see:

God really will do what He said He would do. He will grow us. We can fall back into His powerful, extensive grace. 

"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6

"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely....He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

March 3, 2015

It's Here! "From Good to Grace" Releases Today!

It's here! Today is the official release date for my new book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel! I'm thrilled to offer this book to you, and my prayer is that, first and foremost, God would be pleased, because He's written its message on my heart. My other prayer for this book comes from Isaiah 61:1, 3: Jesus came to proclaim that we're no longer bound, the prison doors are open, and that we don't have to live with a garment of heaviness. It's my hope that this book will usher those who read it to the One who offers the lightness of grace and freedom.
Hopefully by now you've read the excerpts, such as "Unity or Uniformity?" and "The Spirit and Spiritual Disciplines". I've asked you to consider what the goodness gospel is and if it affects your life. And I've told my own story of living by the goodness gospel by sharing the first chapter of the book.

But how do you know if this book is really for you?
In the book, I describe those who will resonate most with this message:

"I imagine that you know about God, and you can roughly paraphrase the main points of Scripture and/or theology. I imagine that you are a dutiful person, trying to live life right. You take your friends meals when they have babies, and you make sure your kids have clean socks. You go to church, you pay your bills, and you give to the needy at Christmas. A few times a week, you sit down and read your Bible because you know it's good for you, but you often desire more out of that time. Late at night, when you can't sleep, you wonder if you're just going through the motions, if there is any of the promised abundance in all this rote, mundane, religious life. Mostly, you wonder if God truly loves you, if you are good enough for Him, or if you're doing enough for Him. More than anything in the world, you long to know God, have a deep relationship with Him, and comprehend His approval."

I know you. I know you, because I know me. I've lived that life, but I've discovered grace and how it applies not just to salvation but to my everyday life. The heavy weight of guilt and condemnation and rote religion has been lifted in my life. I'd love to share with you what I've learned in the pages of this book.

Want to help?
I'd love your help in getting the word out about the book! There are number of things you can do, and even the littlest things help. Need suggestions?

  • Read it and write a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or
  • Talk about it on Facebook.
  • Pin the cover image from this post on Pinterest.
  • Share a picture of the book on Instagram.
  • Tweet about the book using the hashtag #fromgoodtograce.
  • Tell your mama and your BFF. Word of mouth is best!
  • Put the book on your Goodreads list.
  • Consider gathering a group to read the book together. I've included discussion questions in the back of the book for that purpose. I will also be hosting an online book club this summer. I'll be sharing more details about that a little later.

Hear the message live!
If you happen to live in Texas, I will be speaking about the message of the book at several churches this week. Join me?

Houston's First Baptist Church: Tonight! Register here.
Central Baptist Church in College Station: March 4 at 7 pm in The Gathering
First Baptist Church's South Campus: March 5 at 6:30 pm

Finally, thank you. Thank you for celebrating this book with me and for being a faithful reader of my blog. I'm grateful to be walking alongside you in this life of faith. Now, what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a copy of the book and get to reading! I hope you love it.

February 26, 2015

The Spirit and Spiritual Disciplines

The following is an excerpt from my new book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. If you want to read more, you can find the book on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and

Knowing that we have a Helper--as Jesus calls Him--in the Holy Spirit gives us a fresh perspective on spiritual disciplines—everything from Bible-reading, prayer, fasting, giving, and church attendance.

As I was coming to recognize my goodness obsession, I didn’t know quite how to view spiritual disciplines. For many years, I looked to spiritual disciplines as a checkpoint of how I was doing as a Christian. I was a “good” Christian if I did them and a “bad” one if I did not. But this to-do list way of practicing spiritual disciplines, I discovered, is self-oriented. I created them. I set certain standards for myself, and I used them as a type of formula for spiritual maturity.
In this scenario, God was a supporting actor and I was both director and main actor. I could, in effect, practice spiritual disciplines without actually relating to God. And those disciplines in themselves could not change my heart or cause me to grow spiritually. In all my efforts to effect change in my life, something was missing.

That’s because spiritual disciplines are not intended as replacements for the Holy Spirit. They are intended as ways to ask for and receive help from the Holy Spirit. God is the director and main actor. We belong to Him. Spiritual disciplines, when practiced correctly, place us in positions of submission, acknowledgement of need, and ready receptors when the Holy Spirit moves, leads, speaks, or convicts. I am essentially using spiritual disciplines like a door, opening my heart to God, ready to receive from Him. They are a means of continual receiving.

Knowing the role of the Holy Spirit actually elevates the spiritual disciplines beyond a to-do list, because they are our way of asking for the Holy Spirit’s help. 

Prayer, for example, becomes a vital connection to God. If, as we’ve established, the Holy Spirit is the only One who can reach into the heart of man and if, as we’ve established, we can’t control or affect heart transformation, our role and responsibility in partnership with the Holy Spirit is to pray for Him to act.

For me, this comes into play often as I consider how to help my children know God and trust in Him. When my first son was born, a struggle with fear was also borne in my heart. In the beginning, trivial fears gripped me: What if he won't sleep when the book says he should sleep? What if he cries like this for the rest of his life? What if I never shower again? But when he was diagnosed as having autism, the realities of motherhood and the weight of profound fears landed hard. Would he ever speak? Was his future a hopeful one? Would he ever enjoy relationships? Would I be able to parent this child how he needed to be parented?

What I soon realized was that all moms struggle with fear at some level. Every mother wants their child's emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being, and every mother wants to do right by her child. Every mother fears that she might not be enough, or that life might be a big bully to the one she loves.

I recognize my fears as a mother, and I also recognize my typical responses to those fears. I either anxiously feed the fear and am motivated by it, or I attempt to tamp down the fear through my own effort.

My primary method of handling fear is the second response—the control of fear through effort. And what do I fear most? I fear that they won't know and be assured of what God has done for them in Christ. I fear that they won't love God or love others well. So I set goals of what I want to instill into my children. I make lists of activities to help them grow. I write down ideas that other mothers share. I scour blogs and Pinterest. I pack the schedule with opportunities. I help them pursue friendships. I peel open the Bible every morning after breakfast and read it to them.

This doesn't sound so bad, so why is this response to fear such a bad thing? Being purposeful with my children is not inherently bad, but if it is motivated by fear, it is sin (Romans 14:23). It’s sin because, if we believe that our efforts are the way to protect our children or produce heart and character transformation in them, we're saying that we are God. We're saying that we can control life and circumstances. We're saying that we have the power to do what only God can do. This is why controlling our fears through effort is so dangerous.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my typical responses to fear as a mother and recognizing that, truly, my children belong to God, and that I have no ability to produce character in them. I can teach them and lead them to this end, but only God can actually do it. Wouldn't I much rather allow Him to protect, provide for, and work in the hearts of my kids? A million times, yes.

So what is our response to the fears we have as mothers and in any area of life, for that matter? He gives us a way to ask for help and for things to change: we can pray! We are to pray fervently for our children and ask the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do. And we not only pray, but we trust the answer that He will give, which is so often different than what we think it will be or should be.

We must also be obedient to put the structure in place that He asks us to put in place in our families, but we recognize that it is not actually this structure that will do anything. It's Him, and it's only ever been Him.

This is true for anything we are concerned about, whether it’s marriage, career, ministry, relationships, or suffering. The change or growth we desire can only be done by the Spirit. So instead of controlling, we pray. Instead of self-sufficiency, we pray. Instead of trusting in behavior modification, we pray. Instead of fear, we pray.

We have a Helper, after all, whom Jesus promised would help us when we call on Him.

This is, in fact, the posture of a child who looks with complete security and assurance to her father for help and guidance. We are now children, brought to the Father’s table, and, because we are no longer orphans, we don’t have to act as orphans who must take care of themselves. Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). How did He come to us? He came to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our guide and our sufficiency, and by depending on Him, we are looking to our Father for help and for our needs to be met each day. The Holy Spirit leads us to the Father-heart of God. 
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