Monday, December 14, 2015

Guilt Ridden or God Driven?

I have found the absolute number one thing that keeps me from God is guilt, which is also goes hand in hand with shame. If I know that what I’m doing is not pleasing to God I shut Him out of that part of my life. I dismiss the spirit that stirs within me that is trying to get me to hold my tongue, take a different path, or just plain walk away from  temptation. Even in my thirties I can be like a child, pretending He won’t see or know what I do. But unlike a parent God knows even before I speak, make a move, and delve into my flesh.  I can’t tell you how many times I have asked God to open a door to escape certain temptations and every single time He did. Except I wasn’t a willing participant, I didn’t do my part and honor what He wanted.  Then the aftermath of my self-absorbed ways slowly  brewed up thoughts of guilt and I slowly began to tip-toe away hoping that I could escape his disappointment. I hate letting God down, especially when it’s the same sin that repeats itself.

The guilt ridden life is a life that shrinks back and hides because we believe that God only wants the part of us that gets it right. In the moments of failure (sometimes epic moments of failure) we don’t believe we have what it takes to be worthy of His love or to be a witness to others.  Sometimes we even try to go “above and beyond” scrambling for His love trying to prove we are really “good” and that we really do have good intentions.  A majority of the time for me I stopped praying, getting in the word and having a relationship with God  due to feeling ashamed. 

I began to realize that I was repeating unhealthy cycles because I kept tip-toeing away from my sins instead of working through them with God. I was so tired of hiding out during my bad seasons and then returning to my relationship with God when I felt good enough. After years of living a guilt-ridden life I started to realize that part of being a believer is wrestling with our hearts instead of slinking away when we get it wrong. I always knew that God knows everything about me but I never could grasp that a God so perfect could relate to my struggles and wants to see me overcome them. The most important lesson I’ve learned is that we are only as close to God as we let ourselves be. God is always there, his love for us is not dependent on the good side of us or the bad side of us. Its dependent on a relationship with us and our willingness to wrestle the through the hard stuff with Him. 

I think of my own son and I know that if he was experiencing shame or guilt over his mistakes I would not want him to hide out or be afraid to talk to me. I would want him to come to me and tell me everything and know I still loved him. I would want him to know that he is courageous for sharing his struggles with me and that I will do whatever I can to help. If I love my son that much, how much more does our father in heaven love us? The Guilt Ridden life puts up boundaries in our hearts that say “you are not good enough”, “you need to feel bad for a little while longer”, “you can’t reach others because your own life is a mess”. The God Driven Life takes down the boundaries in your heart and whispers “You are forgiven”, “I am with you” ,“I know everything about you and still love you”, “I have good for you” ,“come as you are”.

When we start to live a God driven life it helps us to overcome what we never thought we could because we are seeking God in our weakness. We become braver, stronger, and realize that guilt is a scheme used to keep us from the power of God’s love that is truly unfathomable yet always available to those who seek it.

Monday, November 23, 2015

1st Anniversary & Fun Review on Cedar Crest Lodge



As I heard the familiar gravel road crunch beneath the tires, I knew we had arrived at our favorite getaway. We would be tucked away in the small town of Pleasanton, Kansas for the next 48 hours. Although our room was nestled back in the woods, the lodge sits on the edge of breathtaking countryside views. Like any guest would do, I ran to our room to see what our space would look like. I squealed as soon as I saw the giant King size bed and embraced its vastness, for it made my usual queen size bed look like a joke. I sprawled out and melted into the covers…vacation had officially begun.

But as any social media obsessed person would have to do, I got out my phone and dragged Matt out to the large back porch and we collaborated on several selfie pics, much to Matt’s chagrin. After the picture fiasco I grabbed Matt’s arm and we walked to the main lodge for dinner. (This bed breakfast does things right by offering both breakfast & dinner!). We were escorted to the adorable heated sun-room and the 3 course meal began- potato and green bean soup & rolls, breaded chicken with veggies and Yukon potatoes. And a chocolate torte to finish off the meal. AMAZING sums it up!
 
After rolling out of the sun-room- we grabbed movies & scrabble and holed up in our room the rest of the night. We stayed up until 1:00 am, if you know Matt that is beyond an accomplishment for someone who is on the verge of being narcoleptic & a devout morning person. Good job honey!


But not so good the next day, because we almost missed breakfast! And we can’t do that because the breakfast here melts in your mouth every time. I don’t know if I mentioned that this B&B grows a lot of their own food- so it’s fresh, tasty and healthy. Did I mention we love this place? In our anticipation of breakfast we finally wiped the sandman from our eyes and got up from the comfy bed to get dressed.  After a few minutes we were walking hand in hand to the lodge, mouths watering for FOOD.  Immediately we were entranced by the wood burning fireplace as we walked in the charming hearth room and one of the owners handed me a warm cup of coffee in one of their cute handmade mugs. Did I mention I really love this place? Did they know I’m a coffee snob?

 
Then after breakfast, something awesome happened. A God thing for sure! This couple was about to leave and we happened to strike up conversation. They were a blended family like us. The girl was super artsy like me (at least I like to think so). Soon enough we found new friends but only they didn't know it yet. They said their goodbyes to us and I immediately felt a nudging to give them our number. Of course I didn't want to look like a crazy person so like any good wife I sent my husband running out the door to give them our number.  Awkward...yes but awesome....yes! God works in mysterious ways & we just might have met some new best friends.

 
After calming down from meeting someone else who had stuff in common with us Matt spoiled me by buying me a massage, which they do on site. Seriously, I think this B&B has got things down. You don’t have to leave their property, everything is at your fingertips! I insisted that Matt get a massage too, but he doesn’t like anyone else touching him, I guess I can’t complain!  After my massage, I was a goner. The rest of the day was spent sleeping on the giant King sized bed, until it was time for dinner of course. I can’t miss a meal-ever! We were wined and dined again with a meal that almost topped the first one- fresh salad & rolls for starters, salmon, risotto, and Brussel sprouts for the main dish & the most incredible pear cheesecake I ever had for dessert…and I don’t even like pear. This cheesecake was perfection!

After dinner Matt used the steam shower in our room for the 100th time. Okay- so let me back up. When we first got there and saw the shower in our room- I was a little terrified. It looked like a contraption or spaceship. When we used it the first time, I almost took Matt’s eye out when I turned on one of the jets. It was pretty hilarious. But really this shower is genius. There is 500 different settings for massage and ways to take a shower and on top of that there is a steam option. It’s like a sauna shower and now we want one. But we can’t get one because Matt will never get out & it’s probably like a gazillion dollars. But good move for this B&B, this shower is clutch (I hear that is a cool word for kids these days?).

The rest of the night we watched Crazy, Stupid, Love, we love Steve Carrell (who doesn’t?), and then we watched The Office for hours. It was fun and we didn’t miss breakfast the next day. But let me tell you about breakfast the next day.....

French toast made with French bread topped with a slice of orange and maple syrup! I’m coming back just for that. And just when we thought we were done with breakfast they brought out eggs, sausage and an adorable cup of fruit (if fruit can be adorable) as a second course. But it was the best way to finish the weekend! Oh ya and the fact that I saw a 6 point deer dash across the field in front of us. NEVER seen that that before but that thing was majestic, straight from Bambi. After breakfast we thought we would make use of our time and took a walk on one of the scenic trails, we were determined to find that buck! (And we had to do something besides lay around the whole time!) I climbed a few trees, Matt stared out into the countryside wishing he could buy a house on top of some random hill he saw in the distance, and that was that. A wonderful stay at Cedar Crest Lodge with the most loving husband ever.

And just so you know I actually didn’t get paid to write this overview of our anniversary at Cedar Crest Lodge. We actually just love the place so much and encourage any KC peeps to check it out & anyone else for that matter. Oh and tell Matt & Laura the owners (cool name Matt) that the Alison's said hi. 










Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Grace is Not Easy



Grace-(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. This word has been on my heart lately and its meaning, along with conversations I’ve had with non-believers about faith and God. And it occurred to me, maybe there is this idea that receiving grace is easy or taken advantage of- because it’s a free gift from God. And I think it may seem grace is easy to receive because we can fall short and bring our sin to God- seven times seventy. Or in other words infinitely. And to some this may seem completely ridiculous and unauthentic. But from my own experience accepting grace was and is the hardest thing to do.

Accepting that God loved me in my deepest, darkest sin did not seem possible. And for so long I hated myself and my sin. I hated that I would make the same mistake again yet long to be loved & accepted by God. There were times I did want my cake and eat it too. And when I overdosed on the high and hit the low, it was a wake-up call to repentance. All those times that I went to God for forgiveness I felt horrible. Because I knew full well I would fall short again. So in short, I was not truly receiving grace.


It was simple, I didn’t believe that grace could really be for me. Because I was human and my flesh was so strong. I would never be, well, perfect. I remember so many times feeling ill-equipped to stand up for my faith because I desperately didn’t want to be seen as hypocrite. I mean, my next mistake was just around the corner- big or small. I remember being baptized as an adult and recommitting my life to purity.  I was on fire for the Lord, I thought I was ready to do all the “right” things. But not even 3 months after I was baptized, I hit rock bottom. I sinned in the worse way and I was consumed with guilt & shame for years after. I wouldn’t allow myself to receive grace, not this time. And it would have been really sad if that is where my story continued to go. Thank God, it didn’t.


But I sit here and wonder with a heavy heart how many other people feel this way right now? I wonder how many people messed up and won’t receive grace anymore. Maybe they won’t accept it because the people around them have called them a lost cause or failure. Maybe they won’t accept it because they are addicted again. Maybe they won’t accept it because they can’t get past their weaknesses to temptation. Maybe they won’t accept it because they believe they are not allowed anymore, they have screwed up one too many times. And I hate this with all my heart. I hate it because that is what the enemy wants. He wants us to believe that we are not wanted by Jesus anymore.


When we think that Jesus is done with us, we have put our own ways above His ways. We have put others thoughts about us above His thoughts about us. And the gift of grace becomes unattainable due to our own disbelief of God’s love for us.


And that is why I love this verse about Jesus.  

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Which means, you are loved the same yesterday, today and forever {Hebrews 13:8} & take a look at this verse, it gets even better:The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Lamentations 3:22.
 
It took me a long time to believe that God loved me this way. And the only way I did finally believe was because Jesus met me in the darkest time of my life. He gave me a testimony that declares His glory. And that is where I think the beauty of being a Christian is. It’s not being more perfect or right than anyone. It’s not about proving I will not make more mistakes.  To me the beauty of being a Christian is sharing the way God worked in my broken life and how receiving His grace changes me each day. Each day is a new chance to honor God and accept His new mercies.


Jeremiahs Hope:

 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassion's never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. {Lamentations 3:21-23}


Friend- Take a deep breath- you are loved. Take a deep breath- His mercies for you are new today. Don’t think about how you will mess up tomorrow. Think about the gift God is extending to you right now, in this moment. No one else can give you this beautiful gift of unconditional love. Take it and be blessed by it. Take a deep breath- nothing and no one has the upper hand over Jesus and what He can do in your life-Take a deep breath- your brokenness does not have the last word.


Take a deep breath- stop comparing and competing, you are accepted and loved as you are. Take a deep breath- there is freedom in receiving the grace of God & His love for you that never changes. Take a deep breath- and allow yourself to be changed by this amazing & real truth.

XOXO  




Friday, November 6, 2015

Self-Worth



Self-worth-it pulls on the heart strings of everyone I know. It’s where we find our purpose & value & meaning & strength & will to push through. There are 2 girls in the Bible I adore & I wrote about them in my memoir Half Written. Their stories completely have my attention because their self-worth was down the drain. They were doing hurtful things to themselves and to others. They were sleeping around with men. Men that were lonely. Men that were drunk. Men that were married. There are women like this today, doing what these girls did. They are called sluts or home wreckers and a slew of other profane names. Many believe they don’t deserve anything or they deserve what they asked for. And though my story is different than theirs, I can identify with them.  And the thing about their stories is we don’t know where these women came from or why they started doing what they did. We don’t know why their worth was so deeply rooted in scandal that it cost them their reputation. But I do know that I have been there. In that place of longing for someone to fill a void- even if it was for a fleeting moment of passion-even if it was wrong. I know what it’s like to search for validation in all the wrong places. 

And while I don’t know the why behind what the girls did, I do know these girls mattered. They matter because they are in the Bible but most importantly their lives matter because of Jesus. You may have guessed the girls I’m talking about; the first one is the prostitute with the alabaster jar, the second is the woman who committed adultery. And there is something extravagantly different about each of their stories, yet one thing that unites them in audacious love. The prostitute sought out Jesus. She was done with her wretched life of sin. She was so dry and parched. She needed someone to see her for more than what she had become. The woman who committed adultery was literally plucked from her sin and thrown in front of Jesus. She was not seeking Him out in any way. Here is where God just amazes me- He saw worth in these woman & He forgave. He forgave the one who sought Him out and the one who was flung at His feet about to be stoned. When others were disgusted and angry, Jesus claimed Redemption. He gave these 2 girls a worth to hold onto. He gave them what no one could give them OR take away-unconditional, unimaginable, amazing, sweet, glorious GRACE.  

In my memoir Half Written I share more insights about their stories, but for today I need to tell you that your worth is beyond measure. Jesus is the only one that can give us such value! His love proclaims- I love every bit of you just as you are. And even if you’re in a mess of sin, I can pluck you out. I can wash you clean, white as snow. Jesus is the only one that will hold you when everyone else walks out. He is the only One that will look upon you with love despite your brokenness. And all of these things proclaims His goodness and His glory. Dear beautiful friend-wherever you are and whatever your doing-always find your worth in Him alone.