Growing from Survival to Flourishing

What area of your life overwhelms you? For a long season, when I thought of caring for the physical needs of our home and family, waves of anxiety washed over me. So many tasks that were always undone. My to-do list was never crossed off and guilt attacked me.

To begin to step out of survival mode, we have to change our perspective. I began to look at my roles in life through the lens of serving, not just surviving. What has God called me to, in this moment, this day? I will focus on that by taking my eyes off the never-ending piles of work and move ahead. God never calls us to do anything without promising to give us the energy and ability to work out that calling.

What is survival?

It is scraping through, pushing ourselves to do the next thing, making decisions based on what will keep us alive and moving, then collapsing, completely spent, when we’ve finished doing that thing.

What is flourishing?

It is operating from a quiet and controlled spirit, choosing the best option over the easiest and having order and a plan, looking ahead with joy and vision. It is breathing in peacefully and liking your life. It’s being thankful and content while also pressing on to the next thing in faith. It’s believing the truth and walking in satisfying relationships with God and others.

This little guy was planted early in my journey out of survival mode.

This little guy was planted early in my journey out of survival mode.

It would be easy to write a blog or a book about the steps out of survival mode (God knows I’ve read them all), but this isn’t a simple journey.

It’s external in the doing of dishes every day and retraining yourself in basic habits of self-care and hygiene and decluttering the closet and writing the menus out or sitting down to clean out your email inbox. But it’s also internal, in the daily retraining your mind to think ahead, to choose gratitude, to make harder choices.

It’s physical, in the 5 minutes of core exercises to rebuild your strength that feels like barely enough to make a difference. But it’s also spiritual, in starting your day with 20 minutes with Jesus and a glass of water instead of hiding under the covers believing that catching a few more minutes of sleep will make your anxiety of facing a new day evaporate.

It’s solitary, found in a favorite pen and journal, processing the jumbled pains and joys of the heart, or taking a 30-second break of solitude from the kids or the coworkers to watch the rain and sip coffee for a moment. And it’s relational, committing to serve your loved ones and bring them happiness, and also pushing yourself out of isolation into the sunshine of friendship again.

It’s choosing real comfort over desperate escapism. Reading a book or sketching a picture instead of mindlessly scrolling social media. Taking a few minutes to stir fry veggies and chicken for lunch instead of eating a leftover corndog.

Choosing to sit with your raw emotion rather than numbing yourself when you’re scared of the pain, because you’re ready to start healing and feeling joy and laughter again.

It’s saying yes to the things you love, over and over again, expecting the good to replace the desperate gasping for air, sometimes for months before your feelings follow your actions.

It’s pulling out the weeds of discouragement, complaining, fear and lies over and over again and tilling the dirt so better things can grow.

Flourishing is not a place you arrive. It is a state of mind you have to learn to choose, combined with a plan of action to guide the moments of your day and the state of your home away from chaos toward peace.

Here is the same flower months later, blooming in all its glory.

Here is the same flower months later, blooming in all its glory.

Can I flourish with toys and socks and dishes and random messes covering my home while three children simultaneously beg for my attention? Some days perhaps. If my spirit is at peace and my mind knows the messes are 20 minutes away from being tamed. If my heart is tuned toward the Spirit of God’s voice and not the clamor in my brain or the fear in my heart.

Good things grow slowly. One choice at a time. We can take one thought prisoner today and replace it with a grounding truth. We can make one practical goal for the week or month and focus on checking it off every day. And we step one step closer to flourishing.

Never Unfriended {Book Review}

Have you ever wished for a friend who would show up on your doorstep with a steaming latte and a hug on a rough day? Or one you could call after your heart’s been broken by bad news from home?

Maybe you feel like friendship is too risky because you’ve been wounded one too many times or misunderstood in ways that have cut too deeply.

As an extrovert, I have dozens of relationships a mile wide but I don’t always go deep with people. I’ve found that there are hurt places deep inside and fearful, jealous thoughts that keep me from being truly open and vulnerable. I knew this year that God was calling me to deepen my friendships. That’s why I’m so thankful Lisa Jo Baker, an author and the community manager at www.incourage.me, wrote the book Never Unfriended this spring.

Never-Unfriended-Cover-500First of all, Lisa Jo writes in a magical style. She makes you feel like she’s literally going to reach through the pages and hug you or offer you a tissue while you’re wiping away tears because her words tell you that she gets you and your feelings. Her timely blogs and books have always met me right where I’m at.

“We smile at birthday parties and play dates and in our cubicles. We smile at church during worship and when the pastor shakes our hand. We nod and smile and say we’re fine, the kids are fine, work is fine, marriage is fine, just fine, thanks for asking. And all the while there’s this big, messy, gaping wound bleeding raw right through our perfectly fine outfit that we hope no one notices. All the while desperate for somebody to care enough to see.”

Secondly, Never Unfriended digs deep and makes us examine all our hurt places and apply the salve of God’s truth to heal us. Because we all have relationship wounds. Sin has broken us and broken people hurt others. Maybe it’s family patterns that taught us how to relate in an unhealthy way, or a harsh friend breakup in junior high, or our own feelings of inadequacy that have projected our fears onto the way others welcome us or not. The title “Never Unfriended” doesn’t mean the book guarantees we’ll find the perfect BFF – rather, it speaks of how we can know that we are safe and secure in Christ’s friendship with us.

“It’s such an insane relief. To stop waiting for her reply…to my tentative, humiliating need for validation. To, instead, let myself fall deeply, fully, wholly into the great, insanely unlimited, bottomless tank of God’s approval…Jesus is never tired of me always needing Him. Instead, He is delighted by how desperately I need His validation and He never, ever withholds it from me. Or from you.”

Never Unfriended is full of practical ideas, searching questions, and healing truth. It’s about friendship…and so much more. Order it here today. 

 

Never Going Back to Perfect

This is Part 4 of a 4-part series on Opening Toward God: our part in letting God work. Go here to read the intro and find links to the additional posts. 

We all have times of wrestling with God. One of my most profound began when I sat in my first Bible study class in Bible college, trying to find out the meaning in an Old Testament book, desperately seeking the “right” answers to my questions about the words written there. A classmate looked at me across the library table and said, “You really think there’s a black and white, right and wrong answer to everything in life, don’t you? Well there’s not! You’d better get used to it!”

Those words shook my perfection-seeking soul down to its core. That day God began to wrestle perfectionism and legalism out of my heart.

As an oldest child who loves to make people happy, you’d better believe I love perfectionism. To prove my point, I was one college class grade away from a perfect 4.0 on my college graduation day. I should probably be proud of that but the memory also reminds me of how stressed I was as I pursued that almost-perfect status.

God did not create us to be enslaved to getting everything right in life. In fact, sometimes the very things that he calls one person to do he may lead another person away from. Why? Because we are all living, moving beings in individual relationships with him.

Paul wrote about this. Read these excerpts from Galatians 5 and breathe in the freedom:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision [following the letter of the law] counts for anything, but only faith working through love. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 

There are black and white commands from God. Those are in place to protect us and help us to live in harmony with others. They remind me of the black and whites I give my children: Don’t hit your brother. Don’t play in the street. Lay down and sleep. Eat your dinner. We need to know how life works best for us.

opening-toward-god4But in our daily lives we can try so hard to make everything black and white. To find some perfect balance or rhythm to our days so we feel like we have it all together. That feeling leads to a sense of control or security. Instead God brings us toward intimacy with himself, so that he can lead us with his voice, and grow his fruit in our hearts. Our souls are not an office or a gym where we accomplish great things, but a garden of rich soil where he can make beautiful things grow.

I only have two practical points today. To overcome the habit of perfectionism in my daily life, I have learned these practices.

Let go of the expectations 
Does the nagging inner voice of guilt make you feel like a failure? We can either let it keep eating at us, or we can evaluate it and shut it up. For instance, I’m not the housekeeper I wish I was. But I can either walk by the piles of stuff every day and let them scream at me, or I can make a list of what needs to be done and do it when I can. I can choose not to worry about what others think, or what my inner June Cleaver tells me. I have a perfect wife, mom, friend, employee, Christ-follower, etc, image in my head. But am I really letting others down when I fall short of my self-made ideals? What do people actually need from me? What am I realistically capable of? What does my calling really look like? We have such a load of expectations we can let roll off our backs.

Grow in relationship with God
“Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6). “All your ways” is the Hebrew way of saying “everything in your life.” So in other words, know God, recognize him daily in everything you do and he will guide you. We are following Jesus, a person. We aren’t checking off a list of assignments for a grade from our heavenly Professor. That would seem simpler to me, but God wants more than a teacher-student relationship with us. He wants a dynamic, growing relationship that covers every aspect of our lives: friend, parent, lover, rescuer, teacher, protector, brother, leader, and more. Following and loving a person causes you to grow more than keeping the rules does. So God calls us to walk with him daily and as we get to know him more, the easier it becomes to hear his voice and understand where he’s leading us. This protects us from falling into legalistic perfectionism.

Our initial verse from Ephesians said
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Each day we get to choose to take off our old habits and make room for the Spirit to work in our lives. We take our hands off the wheel and say, “Here I am, Lord. What do you have for me today?” Then we can walk in that real life relationship with an amazing God who never stops working in us and for us.

Not Holding On Anymore

This is Part 3 of a 4-part series on Opening Toward God: our part in letting God work. Go here to read the intro and find links to the additional posts.

I have an embarrassing confession. When I was in high school, I excelled at “running into” people I wanted to be around, most specifically, my crushes. At camp I’d wait just until that guy whose attention I wanted got into the food line and then I’d nonchalantly slip into line behind him with my friends and start being the life of the party, telling a great story, like about that amazing catch in ultimate football. If I got a look or a comment my mission was successful. Even better if we all ended up at the same table for lunch. Score.

I’ve always been pretty good at controlling things the way I want. It’s my personality and my firstborn status rolled into one. I used to feel pretty good about my skills. But when you say, “Lord, do whatever you want to in my life,” he says, “Okay. You can’t keep thinking you’re in control anymore. I am.” What follows is long and painful but so, so good.

We like to control life for so many reasons. Fear is a big one. Fear of being hurt, or let down. Fear of being triggered by past pain if things don’t go as we hope. Fear of the future not going the way we have planned. Pride is another. Believing that we know better than God or other people how things should go. Wanting to save face and not let other people see our vulnerability or brokenness.

Proverbs 16:20 says “The one who deals wisely in a matter will find success, [but] blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord” (NET). We can maneuver life with all our natural wisdom, but our success is more related to our trust than our actions.

Control has controlled much of my life. And often, when I think it’s something I’ve mastered, God takes me deeper to show me how I’m still hanging on and need to loosen my grip. So how do we recognize and let go of this deep-rooted way of living?

Evaluate your anxiety
Worry indicates lack of trust. Generally we try to control because we don’t fully trust. What are you anxious about? Make a list. (My recent list was so long I can’t even tell you.) What of those things are you personally responsible for? If you take care of your part, does the anxiety subside? Or do you do the thing, then worry about the outcome? Do you try to manipulate the results by arranging everything you can?

opening-toward-god3Check on your people-pleasing
Pride motivates us to go the extra mile to make people like us. For instance, maybe I email someone I don’t know well, and they don’t respond right away. I start second-guessing myself, and email them again to clarify what I said, or even apologize for something I’m worried may have offended them. The reality is that they are slow to respond to email. But I work myself up, afraid they didn’t like me or that I’ve offended them. We can really pay attention to what we do to get people’s approval. Those actions are often controlling.

Let people fail
Okay. This one still feels so “off” to me that it’s hard to write it. I’m a detailed, practical, responsible person. So I remember things most people forget. So of course, when people I love might be about to forget something, or not work hard enough to pass a test, or make some mistake, everything within me wants to fix them before they fail. Sometimes this is helpful. For real. But rescuing people is not my job. It’s God’s. And when I step in every time, I’m denying people the opportunity to learn from their mistakes or to take responsibility for their own lives. I’m being controlling. I was never entrusted with managing the lives of the people I love.

Exercise letting go
Make it a daily prayer, “God, today I let go of my control. I can’t make things happen according to my plan. Your plan is better. I choose to believe that today.” Choose not to text your spouse and remind them of that thing yet again. Choose to let people help you without monitoring their work. Choose to not replay that incident in your mind 350 times to see if there’s anything you should have done differently.

Once, in college, I took a walk with my camera and photographed my hands, open, stretched out, not hanging onto anything. Other times I’ve stood by a pond and thrown stones into the water as I named the things I want to control, figuratively letting go. We can open our hearts to the Lord’s leading us to release all that isn’t ours to hold.

This is a huge topic, really. Keep Your Love On, by Danny Silk, is a book I read recently that opened my eyes to even more truth on it. To give the Holy Spirit room to work in our lives we must let go of our need to feel in control and trust him, one small step at a time.

No Longer a Victim

This is Part 2 of a 4-part series on Opening Toward God: our part in letting God work. Go here to read the intro and find links to the additional posts. 

My kids play this crazy “Rolling Game” with their daddy. He rolls over the bed, back and forth, and they try to jump over him. Sometimes they make it. Sometimes he catches them and squishes them on the mattress. Then come my son’s piercing shrieks and tears that tell me Daddy caught him, at a level that seriously makes me want to rip my hair out. And then my husband says, “You can get out. You’re not stuck.” He makes him worm his way out while I inwardly beg, “Please let him go, for the love of my sanity.” The kids always get free and my husband claims they are learning good things. No doubt. Now let me go find a silent place for a week or two, thank you.

I tend to get irritated quickly when I see people living with a victim mentality. People who act like they’re stuck and there’s nothing they can do to get out. Yet I know I feel irritation because it’s one of my weaknesses, and I don’t like seeing it reflected in others.

“The primary source of feeling like a victim is the feeling of powerlessness, and because we don’t like feeling that we are powerless, we tend to blame someone or something for causing that feeling.”  Any time that I merge into the “poor me, mean them” attitude, I’m acting like a victim. “My kids are so stressful. That friend is so irritating. My spouse always does that thing that drives me crazy. Nothing ever goes the way I want it to.” Or it can be turned inward: “I’m terrible at making friends because of my personality. I always lose my cool because of my hormones.”

Sometimes, we don’t even verbalize it. We just feel paralyzed and go into hiding because our situation seems hopeless.

But this isn’t the truth. And it’s a hard, hard way to live. The first time I read Romans 7, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It’s a section where the strong, bold leader, Paul, catalogs his wrestling with sin. “For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want—instead, I do what I hate.” Powerlessness. Believing that I, as a person, am unable to get through this. Yet like my 4-year-old, who can actually free himself from being squished by his dad, I am capable of escaping victimization.

opening-toward-god2I get to choose, like Paul, to trust God’s victory over sin, pain, fear and death and walk in freedom. “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

This is the truth. So how do we walk in it?

Catalog your thoughts
When we think a negative thought, we can grab it, write it down, and evaluate it. See, these victimizing thoughts creep in constantly. They take over our minds before we even realize it. We are up to our knees in muck before we know we’re off the path. Note when you use the words “always” and “never.” Those absolutes often reveal false beliefs.

Sort out the truths and half-truths
Is someone really hurting you? Maybe you are either sweeping that hurt under the rug or wallowing in it without naming it. So recognize it for what it is, name it, and accept that it’s true. Or is your household really nothing but chaos all the time? Maybe there are just a few things about your family and home that bug you, like the noise level between 4 and 6 pm or the dirty clothes covering your bedroom floor and those things overtake everything else that you really do love.

Address what can change
God has given us the will to choose how to think and respond. He doesn’t expect his children to stay victims when he won the victory over our death at such a personal cost. If we are being hurt by someone, it’s not loving them to ignore it or to burn with bitterness toward them. It is loving to address it, both in our own hearts and with them personally if need be. If we are ruled by chaos or frustration, we have power to change our perspective and our habits that need to change.

Trust God with what can’t change
Some hard things in life don’t go away even when we look at the situation differently. We live in a broken world and pain will always exist here. But no matter what our situation, our God is greater. He is holding us in our pain. He daily will give us victory over temptations to complain or fear. Paul faced these kind of hardships himself and wrote this about his experience: “I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). God gives us the strength to endure anything he allows us to face – so we are far from victim status.

We will be hurt in life. We will be victims at times. But remaining in that place drags us down and sucks us back into our former way of life. As I identify the areas I’m acting like a victim, and make choices to let that thinking go and be strong in the Lord, I’m allowing the Spirit to do his work in making me righteous and holy through the pain and disorder that can come with this life.

Show Me the Lies

This is Part 1 of a 4-part series on Opening Toward God: our part in letting God work. Go here to read the intro and find links to the additional posts. 

There are two things every Christian should remember every day:
Jesus loves me, no matter what.
Satan is shooting lies at me.

If we forget the first one, we forget our worth.

And if we forget the second one, we expose ourselves to the enemy’s attacks

Almost every time the Bible mentions Satan, he is either spouting off lies or being called a liar. Jesus said, “[Satan] 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 8:44

When we follow Christ, we don’t fight a losing battle. Satan is a defeated enemy. God wins. Both now and in the end. So the key for us is to examine ourselves and expose the lies we are believing so we can speak truth over them. Where do we start?

Open the door for soul-searching
Carve out a block of uninterrupted silence where you can really think. Find something to write on. Start with prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Spit it out on paper
Whether you prefer to make lists or ramble in paragraphs, write out your recurring negative self-talk or inner feelings. Don’t analyze yet. Just empty them out. Keep going long after you think you have nothing else to vent. Don’t write like you’re going to post this on Facebook. These words are for God’s and your eyes only.

List the lies
Pick apart what you wrote. Do you initially recognize anything as contrary to God’s Word? For example, maybe you wrote “I feel like nobody loves me,” or “I feel completely alone.” Those feelings directly contradict what God says. He loves us. He is always with us. So you could write down “Lie: Nobody loves me. I’m completely alone.” But maybe you have to dig deeper. Maybe you wrote (like me), “I just can’t find or make the time to spend with Jesus. My kids wear me out too much.” So what is it you’re really saying? The lie I recognized in my situation was, “Sleep is more important than time with Jesus.”

Root out the root
Every lie begins somewhere: words spoken to us, how we see our circumstances, expectations placed on us. Dig deep for the root and pull it out. For the lie about sleep versus time with Jesus, I realized that I love sleep, I hate being tired, and that growing up I resented being expected to get up early. Maybe you feel like a failure because you’ve never been able to live up to your parents’ expectations. Maybe you feel ugly because of what someone told you in junior high.

elizabeth cravillion opening toward god letting spirit work lies truthFind the truth
Once you’ve identified the lie, search for the truth in God’s Word. Most importantly, ask God to show you truth in his word. He will speak his living Word into the deep needs of your heart. Then practically, look for verses that address your struggle. You might need to use a tool like the Bible Gateway concordance or an online topical Bible search. Or ask someone else who knows the Bible well. The truth I needed is that God is my rest (Matthew 11:28). He is my hiding place and my shield – more than sleep. I hope in his word (Psalm 119:114).

Claim the truth
Speak the truth over the lies. “I need God’s Word more than I need sleep. He is my hiding place. He will give me rest. I have all I need for life and godliness in HIM, not in getting enough sleep.” Then act on it. Let the Spirit of God change you as you believe his Word. As I committed to starting my morning every day in God’s word I began to believe the truth more. God proved to me that he really can be my resting place.

Fighting the good fight of faith takes strategy. It’s hard work, but God’s Spirit shows us what we need to know. He both reveals the lies and speaks the truth. We only need to give him space and permission to speak.

Plant Seeds to Grow Roots

I woke up this morning to gray skies and lingering raindrops on my pots of chrysanthemums on the porch. The giant maple tree across the street is getting that golden glow again and soon its leaves will pile up in the street. Fall has arrived and it makes me happy down to my bones. Coziness abounds.

As we played outside this morning in our hoodies, though, and I dumped out some dead plants from their pots, I realized that I’m thankful for the seasons changing this year because I’m ready to leave the past few months behind. Last summer I struggled with my health and didn’t even consider gardening. This summer, being stronger, I ached to make something grow and start to design garden spaces in our city yard.

A neighbor gave me a basket full of flower seeds and I dug out some old kitchen drawers in need of being reused for something. I filled those up with soil and hopefully planted marigolds and zinnias. I hoped to create a cute, rustic garden space. Well, the drawers got stuck onto a table near the garage and stayed there all summer. The plants grew but rather poorly. Spindly little stems with tiny flowers. Not at all what I envisioned. All summer I meant to do something more with them but never did. And there they sat, a discouraging lump of sad little flower boxes, half-dead for most of 4 months. Can someone say “guilt trip” every time I stepped outside? So believe me it felt good to dump out the dead plants.

img_9915We like to dream about the coziness of beauty of fall, but how often do we think about the endings that come with the season? My 4-year-old cried when we took the dying stem of his sunflower out of its pot. “It’s all my fault! I didn’t water it!” No, buddy, it’s how God designed sunflowers. They grow, they bloom, and they die. It’s all the season of life.

Some seasons are full to overflowing with goodness. We think nothing of them as they come and go. Some seasons ache with hardship and we breathe deeply in relief as they pass. Some seasons leave us feeling satisfied with all we got done. And other seasons we shake off with all the regrets they leave behind.

Solomon, the wisest man on earth, wrote in Ecclesiastes these words that may be some of my favorites from God’s Word:

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. Ecclesiastes 3:9-13img_9923

“People cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” I’m not going to lie, I sure like the productive, happy seasons of wholeness better than the ones that prompt me to ask why, or what went wrong. But maybe that’s because I can’t see what God is doing in those long ones.

Mothering three children has brought more challenges than I ever expected. So much goes else undone as I do the good work of training them and caring for their needs. Trimming back dead flowers that didn’t live up to their full potential feels so good because with them go the unnecessary feelings of guilt over my [lack of] gardening this year. It’s okay that my vintage flower garden didn’t exist this summer. It’s okay that my herbs grew voraciously and I never got around to preserving them this year. It’s okay that I only have mums planted in pots and not in the ground, where I wish they were. I’ve been planting other seeds. Seeds of love that are growing roots down deep in the hearts of my children so that they grow fruit when those seasons come.

img_9919This isn’t a post about mothering. I could be writing this about my writing. I could be writing it about ministry. Or sickness. Or anything. Seasons are out of our control, really. They are part of the ebb and flow of life. In each one I get to release my will and say, “Whatever you want, God. I’m here to follow you. Show me the way.”

“God has made everything beautiful for its own time.”

Today, whatever our season, let’s plant seeds to grow roots.

Off with the Old, On with the New

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would turn myself into a morning person who could function on about 5 1/2 hours of sleep. Helpful in this season of motherhood. Or I would erase my emotions’ ability to go from 0-60 in 0.5 seconds flat. Helpful in all of life.

A friend of mine, a fitness coach, uses her social media to challenge people to eat well and work out to care for their bodies. More than anything, as I scroll through her feed, she reminds me that everything we do comes from a choice. Our choice. We can stay where we are, or we can choose to grow stronger.

And not just physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, every day we get to choose our direction.

Will we continue to disappoint ourselves by staying stuck in mental habits we want to shake? Will we try to handle life on our own or let God have control? Will we let life happen to us or will we overcome? Are we going to believe the truth of God’s word over the lies in our head?

Lately I’ve felt prompted to share some of the practical side of my journey toward self-discipline in a 4-part series addressing mental habits that drag us down spiritually. This series is for you if you want to change but don’t know how to begin. It’s for you if you’re discouraged because you can’t see God working in your life. And it’s for you if you are wondering how following Christ makes a difference in a person’s everyday life.

elizabeth cravillion opening toward god letting spirit work
Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians:

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

The longer I walk with Christ, the more he peels back my inner layers. I think one issue is resolved, like my struggle with anxiety, then five years later, it rears its head again in a new way. So God pulls back that layer to show me new steps to following his design for me more closely.

I stumble when I think there is anything good within me. There isn’t. Deep in my core, the natural side of Elizabeth craves self-worship, self-satisfaction, self-pleasure. But that’s not the new me. I am created to be like God, truly righteous and holy. So the old woman has to go. My hands have to let go of their grip on what I want.

I can’t do this alone. I heard this recently spoken this way: Christ is the only one who can live the Christian life. It’s his life, and it’s our job to let him live it through us. As Paul stated it – “Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” The Spirit does the work. We get to let him do it.

I can look at myself and be discouraged by how I continue to fail. I can look around and be defeated by the brokenness of the world around me. Or I can rest on the fact that God is working. It is his work: in me and in the world. And all he asks for is my willingness to let him work in and through me.

This series will include
Show me the Lies
No Longer a Victim
Not Holding on Anymore
Never Going Back to Perfect

Just two things for today

Sometimes it’s just one phrase God gives you that you take with both hands and repeat. One truth or two that gets you through the next meeting, the next conflict, the next effort to get out of bed.

Life is this crazy kaleidoscope of the good, the hard, the beautiful, the brokenness. One day you’re texting your sister that things are great, you’ve got a date night coming up and the kids actually slept half an hour later, and the next day you’re crying, texting your mom to pray because your back pain has flared up again and you can’t get out of bed. Maybe one day you’re afraid you’re on the brink of losing your job because of layoffs but the next your friend calls you with an opening in their business they would like to offer you, doing what you love.

If life is anything, it’s unpredictable. So when I sat on my porch yesterday to talk to Jesus watching the rain with my never-stop-wiggling 10-month-old, this verse caught me:
God has declared one principle;
two principles I have heard:
God is strong,
and you, O Lorddemonstrate loyal love. (Psalm 62:11-12)

Two things, you guys. God is strong and God is always showing loyal love. Two things, and they are all about God. Not me. Not my family. Not the church.

In all honesty, things have been hard in our home lately. Starting a new work position comes with all kinds of challenges that are not a surprise, and definitely not unique to my situation. And it’s fall, the beginning of a new semester, with schedule changes and commitments stacking up. And then in the middle of a simple exercise, I strained a muscle in my lower back. It’s taken upwards of 4 hours every morning this week to feel strong enough to walk around inside my house.

god-is-strongWeakness. Vulnerability. Frustration. Bigness. Those are the first words to pop into my head describing our past few weeks. So I cling to God’s truth. He is strong. And he shows off his loyal love. I can be weak. That doesn’t matter, because he is strong. I am learning how to serve in a new capacity. While that goes on, his love covers my mistakes, my struggles, and even my sin.

So back to him I come with my prayers, my thanks, and my needs. He’s there waiting. 

The Story Behind Fresh Out of Amazing [Guest Post]

Have you ever opened a book and felt like you were sitting across the kitchen table from a best friend sharing their heart with you? When I read Hope for the Weary Mom, that happened. I knew when I closed that book, I wanted to know the authors better. When one of those dear women, Stacey Thacker, started writing her second book, Fresh Out of Amazing, I was thrilled with the opportunity to get to know her better. I’m so excited to have her answering some interview questions here about her new book and the vital part God’s Word plays in her daily life.

  1. How would you summarize your journey to the spot where you felt “fresh out of amazing”?

    I think I’ve spent years weaving in and out of feeling fresh out of amazing. I have felt it deeply at different times in my life. I jokingly tell people I’m practically a professional at feeling this way! That being said, when God began the journey of writing through this all too common feeling in my life there were a few specific things that marked my journey.

    The first time I wrote the actual words on my blog I was buried in every way as a weary mom. My youngest daughter at the age of two had not been a good sleeper and my older girls were needing me to help them with very important school projects. My husband was also traveling and we had a hurricane on the way. My heart finally broke wide open on the floor in the middle of a 2-3 loads of clean laundry. I told the Lord I felt like I needed to be amazing and I was fresh out of amazing. At this point, after we had a nice tearful chat, the Lord prompted me to write about it. I wasn’t sure that was a good idea, but I did it anyway. From that blog post God has birthed ”Hope for the Weary Mom” and also Fresh Out of Amazing.
    When I started working through the specific message of this particular book, it was right after my dad passed away suddenly. So part of my story, and you definitely can read about it in the book, is walking with Christ through grief and loss.

    stacey thacker elizabeth cravillion fresh out of amazing god's word daily life

  2. What motivated you to write this particular book, especially after writing Hope for the Weary Mom, also about depending on Jesus?

    Fresh Out of Amazing and Hope for the Weary Mom are different books, but I like to think of them as friends. The work God began in my life through “Hope” was necessary and I will always be grateful for what God did in my heart.  I still preach HOPE over my life daily. The new book is a continued, deeper work for me. I like to compare it to buying a fixer upper house. Sometimes you can see work right away that needs to be completed. You need to add a new roof and paint the exterior of a falling down house. But once you get inside and tear down a few walls you see the foundation needs to be repoured and the electrical is out of sorts. The Hope work was obvious—I was a weary mom who needed hope. Fresh Out of Amazing was the part of the story I was still trying to hide. And God called me out and said, “You’ve come to the end of yourself. It is time for you to see me big in your life.” Even today I tear up thinking about that moment. He has been so faithful.

  3. As I was reading Fresh Out of Amazing, I loved how you retold Bible stories in such a fresh, relevant way. How did you choose which stories to include? Were they ones that had previously impacted you?

    The different Bible stories really came as a result of my interactions with my readers. They were so great to share with me their journeys as well.  I had asked them, “What is going on in your life when you feel fresh out of amazing?” They identified five key ways: Burdened and Busy, Comparison, Death of Dreams, Believing Lies, and Loss and Grief. As I sat down to pray and think through these real women who were struggling just like me, I asked God to take me to examples in His Word that would speak to their hearts. God gave me the the first four (Martha, Leah and Rachel, Hannah, and the woman at the well).  My editor, Kathleen, suggested adding Naomi for the chapter on grief. I found my passion in writing through their stories. Of course, I could visualize the flannel graphs from years of Sunday School as a child, that probably helped too!

  4. What keeps you coming back to God’s Word, even on days it’s harder to make the time to do it?

    God’s Word is living and active—truly it is. It is the only thing in my life that can cut through fear, grief, lies, and the busyness of my days. I have realized it is the tool God will consistently use to resurrect and revive my heart. I don’t have time every day to dig as deep as I’d like, sometimes I just have five minutes while I drink my first cup of coffee. Still, it is the one place I can be sure of God will meet me and the truth is I need that more than I need sleep these days. I keep coming back to it because I need instruction, I need truth, I need my hope stirred up, and I need to receive that living water that he pours out as I draw near to him in the pages of his Word.

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    You can find Stacey’s book wherever books are sold. I picked mine up at Amazon. I ordered five copies because I knew I would be sticking one in the church library and handing the others out to friends. I’m already re-reading it. Thanks, Stacey, for sharing with us today.

    stacey thacker elizabeth cravillion fresh out of amazing god's word daily life