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For the Weak Pretender

For the Weak Pretender

I’m a wreck.

Deep within me, there’s this desire to be perfect, and perfectly independent. I don’t want to have to rely on anyone.

Because deep down, there’s very few people I actually trust….

So… just let me take care of myself.

I mean, be my friend, yes! And hang out with me. Because I need to know that I’m loved.

Buuut… just don’t make me have to rely on you…. I know the day will inevitably come when you let me down, and that’s painful, so it’s just easier if we keep our emotional distance and I can maintain some sense of control….

But the problem is, so very often, I let my own self down.

I want to be strong, but find that I am weak.

I want to be smart, but realize I missed something when I was planning.

I want to be responsible, but then can’t find the energy to take care of myself or my home.

I want to be loved, but then isolate myself, because I’m too afraid to take the risk of finding that I’m not loved.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 reads:

“Our bodies are made of clay, yet we have the treasure of the Good News in them. This shows that the superior power of this treasure belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. In every way we’re troubled, but we aren’t crushed by our troubles. We’re frustrated, but we don’t give up. We’re persecuted, but we’re not abandoned. We’re captured, but we’re not killed. We always carry around the death of Jesus in our bodies so that the life of Jesus is also shown in our bodies. “

This does a few things for me:

  • I am not alone in feeling weak. The apostle Paul felt it too. He felt troubled and frustrated. He was persecuted and captured. He experienced weakness and challenges on various levels.
  • My weakness is actually a reminder of God’s presence, and His surpassing power. The power of the Gospel lies within me, but my weakness reminds me that this power doesn’t come from me. It comes from God. And if the power that comes from God lives inside me, that means God lives inside me. He is helping me overcome!
  • It’s when we’re in the hardest situations, that we can see the greatest miracles! When I am at my whit’s end, I have a promise that I will see the life of Jesus Christ revealed in me. It’s challenging feeling weak, troubled, and frustrated. I hate feeling that way. But, when things get the hardest, I often feel Christ the closest. And that is a sweet, gentle blessing!

Child, don’t give up. Keep pressing onward, by the power of Christ! Remember that, in your weakness, you are strong. His power is made perfect in our weakness.

If you feel weak, it’s ok. You don’t have to pretend you’re something you are not.

When you feel weak, just talk to Jesus, and know that He doesn’t judge you. He sees you where you’re at, and He loves you all the same.

Pray something like this:

Jesus, if I were to be honest, I’d say that I’m feeling pretty weak right now. I’m not sure what to do or where to go.

But I believe that Your strength is more vast than the depths of my weakness, and You have everything I need to make it through this season.

I trust Your love for me and I choose to have faith — to believe that, even when I can’t see myself making it through this season, Your love and power are still enough to carry me through.

Thank You that, with You, I can be honest, and I don’t have to pretend I’m someone I’m not. Thank You for loving and accepting me just the way I am! For providing grace on a basis of faith, not works.

Help me love You better and trust You more completely! Help me, and carry me through this season. I trust in You!

 


 

Thanks for reading! May you find grace and encouragement for your journey!

If you liked this devotional, here are some others you might enjoy:

Grace, peace, hope,

–Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

Peace and Faith in God

Peace and Faith in God

Hello friends!

Thanks for joining me for another devotional time. I’m starting to really enjoy these, and I hope you are too!

Today’s reading: 2 Timothy 1:6-10

I enjoy asking myself a key question as I meditate on Scripture. It often brings a passage to life in fresh ways! So today, I look at this passage and ask myself:

What does this passage say about peace and faith in God?

Here were a few thoughts that came to mind:

v. 6 – “…fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you…”

This calls us to trust what God has done in our lives and to follow the calling He has placed on our lives. Afterall, we won’t seek to fan our giftings into flames (grow, practice, cultivate them) if we don’t trust God who gave us those gifts. Now, sometimes we don’t know what our calling is, but other times we do. And when we do, we should trust God and start moving in that direction, preparing, praying,  and ultimately taking the leap. It’s hard to take that leap, but it’s so worth it!

v. 7 – “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

This is a very commonly quoted verse. Today, I look at it and see a description of what faith can empower us to do! Faith enables us to move outside of fear. Perhaps fear still attacks us, but fear does not come from God. Perhaps we may never stop experiencing or encountering fear, but God has given us those three unique gifts to help us withstand and overcome the fear we experience. Those three gifts are: power, love, and self-discipline. Faith tells me that, even when I struggle with fear, I can still be bold, care for others, and care for myself. I can still find strength in the midst of fear, because fear doesn’t come from God. But strength does!

v. 9 – “…but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time.”

Wow, think about that! He had a plan from before the beginning of time, and He followed through with that plan. I’m lucky if I follow through with my plan from this morning! I am so thankful that God is dependable and that He follows through with His commitments. When He promises you something, you can trust it, because He will follow through with His plan. It might not look like what we think and it might not be when we want, but it will be good and perfect in His way. And I am thankful for that! What a huge relief that He is dependable!

Questions to ask yourself today:

  • Do I have a sense of what my giftings are? If so, how can I put those into practice today? If not, who can I ask (a mature person that I trust) to speak into my life about the giftings they see in me?
  • In what areas of my life have I been experiencing fear? How can I shift my perspective on God’s ability to give me power, love, and self-discipline in the midst of those situations? Where can I trust God more?
  • Where have I seen God to be dependable in my life? Where do I need greater trust in His faithfulness?
  • Who can I share this lesson with today? Who needs to hear this message?

Thanks for reading!

If you liked this devotional, here are some others you might enjoy:

Grace, peace, hope,

Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

“Worrying Doesn’t Help”

“Worrying Doesn’t Help”

“Can any of you add a single hour to your life by worrying?” -Matthew 6:27

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus encourages us not to worry. But sometimes, after reading that passage, I find myself worrying even more. I’m so performance driven, that I worry about my ability to not worry. Geez, we are silly creatures!!

Verse 27 above became real to me this past weekend. I had published a blog post and was concerned how someone might respond to it. And I couldn’t stop worrying and worrying about it….

Finally, I asked myself three questions:

  • Do I know how this person will respond to that post?
  • Can I control the when this person will respond?
  • Do I even know if this person will respond?

The answer to all three of those questions, of course, was a big, emphatic no!

So the next logical question?

Then why worry? What will worrying do for me in this situation? Will it add a single hour to my life? It’s just stressing me out more!

A reflection from www.hopemire.com on Matthew 6:27After going through that thought process, I instantly remembered Matthew 6:27. Wow! What a blessing that Jesus gave me this moment to see a practical application of His own words!

As you go through your day today, I’d challenge you to ask those questions when you’re tempted to worry. Do you know for sure whether that thing you dread will happen? Can you control when it will happen? Will worrying help or hinder you in this situation? Then give it over to Jesus!


Thanks for reading! I hope this post was a blessing for you today.

If you liked this devotional, here are some others you might enjoy:

Many blessings on your day,

Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

Called Out of Darkness

Called Out of Darkness

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
–1 Peter 2:9-10

How amazing that, as Christians, we have been rescued from darkness!

Except that some of us still feel trapped there…. Life can be seriously hard. I have those days when I simply don’t know what to do, and I just want to curl up in my bed and close my eyes.

Yet He loves me! And He calls me a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own possession.

He loves me! He has called me out of darkness, and transferred me into His Kingdom of light!

Oh yes, He loves me! Once, I was not accepted, but then He came and accepted me! Once I was without hope, but then He came and gave me hope!

He loves me. And He loves you.

How encouraging that He is the One who calls us out of darkness. It’s not some evil being who is calling us out, for judgment and chastisement for all our sins. Instead, it’s an amazing, beautiful Father who calls us in, forgives us (if we have Christ in our hearts), and ushers us into His Kingdom!

How much peace does that bring?

I mean, the deep peace. There will still be anxieties and fears in this life. But we have a kind Father to whom we can bring those things. And He will help us.

Friend, He is leading us away from the darkness. It’s a journey we’re all on. For some, the journey will be fast and breakthrough will come in an instant. For others, the journey will be long and arduous, and true breakthrough might not come until we break through the veil into the Kingdom of Heaven. But either way, breakthrough is coming!

Don’t lose hope, my friend. You can make it. Because He is with you and Jesus will never leave you, not one step of the way.

If it helps, picture His hand holding yours. He will gently lead you beside still waters and, little by little, He will help you on your way!


Thanks for reading! I hope this devotional was a blessing for you!

Feel free to check out some of these other devotionals I’ve written, and as always, please share with your friends!

Peace, my friend!

–Michelle Louise

http://hopemire.com

Find Your Most Important Things (Free Printable!)

Find Your Most Important Things (Free Printable!)

I have way too many goals and distractions competing for my
attention. It can be
quite overwhelming! Especially because I struggle with anxiety. I find myself divided into a million little pieces, each part of me chasing after some other goal or expectation. Gotta catch’em all!

Facebook. School. The GRE. My business. Finding a church. Taking care of my cat. Text messages. Being a sister. Being a daughter. Blogging. Exercising. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Sleep. Grad school research. Friends in Waco. Friends in Dallas. Friends in Peru. LinkedIn. Twitter. Pinterest. Time with Jesus. Learning Arabic. Pokemon Go. Unpacking. Redecorating. Organizing. Painting. Photography.

But c’mon, let’s be realistic. I can’t get all of that done!! Yet I still try… and as a result, something inevitably gets dropped, and nothing gets done well. Which I hate….

So… when it all feels important, where do I start? How do I calm down my mind and focus on the most important things?

Let’s go back to square one.

Step 1: Realign Your Heart with God

One of my goals for 2016 was to keep in mind that God made me who I am on purpose. Therefore, I want to live a life that honors Him! Not one filled with distraction.

A few key verses in realigning your heart…

Matthew 6:33 “But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.”

Matthew 7:24-25 “Therefore, everyone who hears what I say and obeys it will be like a wise person who built a house on rock. Rain poured, and floods came. Winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not collapse, because its foundation was on rock.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth.”

Questions for consideration:

  • Where have my priorities been focused recently? Based on what I know about Scripture, where should my priorities be focused?
  • Do I trust God? If I don’t, I won’t follow Him…. I won’t be willing to step out on the water, and I won’t see lasting breakthrough. Do I trust Him? Am I willing to let Him make the decisions in my life?
  • Am I giving Jesus space to speak into my life? Am I giving Him room to guide me? When was the last time I slowed down long enough to let Him speak into my heart?

Step 2: Let God Redesign You

I have learned a lot about rest over the past couple of years. Part of rest means simplifying things… returning to the basics…. Instead of having twenty different time commitments, what are those three big things I can really focus on?

With that in mind, I took some time to journal on Saturday. I prayerfully asked myself this question: “Where should I focus my time and energy during this season?” Then I just waited for some sense of direction from the Lord. I felt Him direct me to three main things: studying for the GRE, spending time with Him every day, and getting invested in a church community. Makes sense.

I also asked Him for a key word or Scripture that could serve as a theme for this season. I was looking for just one word, but got a few in reply: peace, patience, diligence.

I feel so much better when I have an overarching sense of direction. I know where to focus my time and energy. I feel like I’m making progress toward my life-goals, rather than just wasting away, one day at a time.

So ask yourself those same questions:

  • During this season, where should I focus my time and energy? What should be my priorities? Now write them down. Use the free printable below to record your answers.
  • What key word or Scripture can I use as a theme for this season?

Step 3: Start One Day at a Time

Now that I’ve realigned my heart with God and sought Him about my focus, it’s time to live that out. But I don’t trust myself to make that change on my own. So I’m going to do two final things. First, I’m sharing those goals with at least one person I see on a regular basis, for accountability. And second, I’m going to write down those goals and pin them up on the mirror of my bathroom.

What about you? Ask yourself these two questions:

  • With whom will I share my priorities and theme word/verse?
  • Where can I post a reminder of those things, to keep them in the forefront of my mind?

Download your free printable now! Use this sheet to write out your theme verse (or theme words) and the top three goals you want to focus on during this season. Post it somewhere you’ll see it! Let’s simplify and return to a foundation on God’s Word and His purposes for our lives.

Goals sheet for starting back at the basics - free printable! www.hopemire.com

When You Just Need Some Validation…

When You Just Need Some Validation…

Does anyone love me?

Journaling_at_StarbucksSitting here at Starbucks, drinking my grande java chip frappuccino, I stare down at the empty page in my journal. What do I pray? What should I write? It’s my custom to have a daily devotional, a time meant to grow in intimacy with Jesus, but I so often fall into the habit of “performance.” I want people to like and admire me… because it helps me feel validated, like I’m an ok person. So I often focus my quiet time on uncovering some great theological truth that I can share on Facebook. Then I’ll finally feel like I’m on the right track. I’ll feel validated, satisfied in my own deep (prideful) “wisdom.” Especially if my post gets a lot of Facebook likes!

But today? … Nothing. A blank page.

He loves me! That is enough!

How do you forgive when you have been so deeply hurt?These last few months have seemed… so dry. I’ve been tired. Not physically, but in just about every other sense of the word. Tired.

I haven’t wanted to go to church. I haven’t wanted to spend time with Jesus. Sometimes I haven’t even wanted to get out of bed. I’ve just been tired. A mess.

But here’s the amazing truth…

Even when I feel like an absolute mess, God is still absolutely committed to me! Click To Tweet

God loved us first! When we hated Him, when we were evil, even then, He loved us! Even then, He let His Son take our place on the cross. So… now? I don’t need to have it all together. That means, even on my worst days, He still loves me!

He loves me!

If I can remember that,

I’ll be ok.

I feel it again today: the nagging lie that I must come to some great revelation if my time with Jesus here at Starbucks is to be “worth it.” But if I’m seeking validation through my actions, I’m missing the gospel. There was nothing we could do to earn God’s grace and forgiveness. Yet He still loved us and He sent His Son to die on the cross, in our place, that we might LIVE! 

Why is it so hard to believe that He loves us, just as we are? We don’t need to earn His love, especially when spending time with Jesus, journaling or reading the Bible. That’s when we should be at our most peaceful with God! Our most secure. Why can’t we rest and simply hang out with our Friend?

I’m not saying there’s something wrong with studying the Bible or seeking to grow in our understanding of Scripture. I actually believe that is quite important! But what lies behind our drive to study the Word? Is it so that we can impress people as we spout off various Bible verses we have memorized? Is it because we want to be the teacher’s pet at Sunday School (and on Facebook)? Or is it because we hunger to know our Savior better? Because we want to stare into the depths of His soul and discover more deeply His love for us?

Y’all! The Creator of the universe loves me AND YOU!! He chooses to hang out with us. He longs to be with us!!! Oh if only I could never lose sight of that truth! What a comfort to my soul! Everything else could be falling apart, but I’d still have one thing–one Person–who is FOR ME! 

Even when there is nothing else I have to cling to, there is nothing else I need but Jesus! Click To Tweet

Encouraging Scripture Verses About God’s Love for Us:

  • “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” –1 John 4:9-10
  • “Who is this coming up from the wilderness Leaning upon her beloved?” Song of Solomon 8:5
  • The Good Shepherd“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name…. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” — Psalm 23:1-3, 6
  • “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” — Ephesians 2:4-5
  • “For I am persuaded , that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:38-39

Oh, what joy is found in those passages! The next time I’m tempted to seek out a brand new “most-liked Facebook post” during my time with Jesus, let me just turn off my phone and simply focus on these verses! Lord, make these ring true in my heart today!


 

Thanks for reading! I hope this post was an encouragement for you. If this blessed you, please share the love with others! You can also subscribe to this blog if you want to hear more encouraging messages.

Other devotionals you might enjoy:

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016

Big announcement:

Tomorrow is the last day of 2015! 

I can’t believe it went by so fast….

Sooo… I figured I should write a post on New Year’s Resolutions…. Maybe something like: “What Should My New Year’s Resolutions Be?” Or perhaps: “The Best New Year’s Resolutions.” However those ideas seemed too cliché.

Or I could try writing something super helpful like: “Secrets to Following Through With Your Resolutions this Year!” But honestly, apart from suggesting that you write S.M.A.R.T. goals, I have no idea! Self discipline is definitely not my strong suit….

Or… I could write something controversial, such as why you shouldn’t have resolutions. Except I’m too much of a goal setter, and that would just make my heart hurt. So… I think I’ll settle with this:

6 Things to Keep in Mind for 2016.

2015-12-30 11.06.03

This appeals to me, because it’s not really a to-do list and yet it’s still practical.

It’s not about all these things I want to accomplish. That often leads to more anxiety.

Rather it focuses on my identity, who God is, and what the Bible tells me about life and truth.

Somehow that just seems more sustainable and refreshing….

Ok. Here we go!

1. Keep in mind that God made you who you are on purpose.

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We’ve probably all read Jeremiah 29:11, that God has good plans for us. There’s also Ephesians 2:10, that we are His handiwork. If God made me who I am on purpose, that releases me to think well of myself and appreciate the different aspects of my personality. That doesn’t justify all of my bad habits, and if I do have mental illness, it doesn’t mean He did that to me on purpose. But it does honor those unique godly characteristics that describe me. And I can rest in who I am without trying to become someone else.

2. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t have double standards.

I am so much harder on myself than I am on other people. Sometimes that might be ok, but when it comes to making mistakes, I’ll easily forgive someone else for a HUGE mistake, but then feel boatloads of shame and guilt for one small mistake that I make. When negative thoughts are racing through my head, how would I comfort my best friend or even a child? Why do I find it so hard to offer myself those same words of comfort? Double standards….

3. Keep in mind that you won’t last forever.

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As I get older, I realize more and more that I’m not invincible. I need to take care of myself. Suddenly staying up all night wrecks my ability to function the next day. Getting sick affects me more. Eating greasy foods will upset my stomach. If I want to last the long haul, I need to keep in mind that I won’t last forever.

4. Keep in mind that you will last forever.

When our life on earth comes to a close, it’s followed by an eternal life in heaven (if you believe in Jesus as your Savior). I want to keep eternity in mind as I live my life in 2016. Let my decisions be rooted in God and His purposes on earth. Also, eternal life means that the struggles I’m experiencing right now will not always define me. I hope I will find victory soon, but I know at the very least that one day, when I see Jesus, I will become like He is!

Screenshot_2015-12-30-11-46-13-1

5. Keep in mind that God is good, no matter what.

I don’t know everything that’s going to happen in 2016. It could end up being the best year of my life, or it might be the worst. Who knows? Only God. One thing I do know for sure is that God is good. Scripture says He is light, and there is no darkness in Him. I 20140128_180721don’t understand everything that happens, but I know He’ll take what happens and somehow use it for my good. And I know He’ll love me and be with me no matter what. I can always trust Him.

6. Keep in mind that other people are hurting too.

If someone is mean or says something rude to me, chances are it’s not really about me. They’re just hurting. I hope I can keep my eyes open to recognize how I could encourage that person instead of lashing out. If they’re already in pain, I don’t want to add more pain to the mix.

 

Anyway, in case you are into setting New Year’s Resolutions, check these out:

 

And if by chance you don’t like setting resolutions, take a look at these instead:

Wine

What do you want to keep in mind for 2016?

Thank you so much for reading my post! I hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear from you, my avid readers! Post a comment below about the mindset you want to have in 2016. And Happy New Year’s!!!

The War Between Fulfilling Expectations and Choosing Rest

The War Between Fulfilling Expectations and Choosing Rest

Expectations rule my life. My subconscious mind constantly seeks out the expectations of others, and then drives me toward fulfilling the “needs” of the entire world. Making them happy is equivalent to keeping myself safe.

Rest… letting go of expectations….

I remember when God first began teaching me about rest. I was sitting down to spend time with Jesus. I started by just quieting my heart and asking God how I should spend time with Him that day. I was sitting on a couch in the living room and I felt like He said, Just stare out the window.

“But God,” I replied, “I should read the Bible or something.”

Still, I felt like He was telling me to just stare out the window.

“But God, then I should spend some time praying or something.”

No, just stare out the window.

“But then, I should put on some worship music….”

Should, should, should. As if I knew better than God…. Have you ever argued with the Creator of the universe? Clear as day, I felt like God said to my heart, Michelle, on the seventh day of creation, I chose to rest. If you refuse to rest, then there is a part of My character that you will never understand.

So I spent an hour staring out the window.

Rest. What a concept! One night, I was in bed trying to fall asleep, but couldn’t calm all my racing thoughts. I kept stressing about events at work. I imagined whole scenarios about my boss, what she’d say and do, what others would say and do, how I’d respond, what I wanted to say but knew I never could, and overall how angry and upset I felt.

Rest. Could I imagine a life where the expectations of others did not rule me? What if I could make my own choices without fearing their reactions? What if I actually believed I was safe even when disagreeing with people? But what if I could just lie there in that bed and not have other people’s real or imagined expectations hijacking my brain?

Rest… taking a moment to just be. To simply exist. Not worrying about everything I have to accomplish. Choosing to ignore the expectations that are clamoring for my attention.

Rest… a moment to enjoy… silence. To focus simply on the air entering and leaving my lungs. To lie there and simply… lie there. To just… rest.

*****

Thanks for reading! If you have time, please leave a comment. I would love to hear what you are learning in your life about rest. This is still something that is so hard for me, and I’d love to continue growing in this area. I hope you have a blessed day!

Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

Tonight is Christmas Eve. This time of year, I always feel the need to say something profound. My pride longs to end each year with a heavy dose of introspection and ageless wisdom with which to start the next year. Buuut… tonight? I don’t have much. And that’s ok too. Tonight, I’m just glad to be home with my family. I’m thankful for the old friends I saw at my hometown church during the candlelight service. And I can’t wait to snuggle with my favorite pooch when I head to bed!

As I left the church this evening, I snapped the above photo of a certain lamp on the side of the building. It has a beautiful old fashioned design with white light spilling out over the side of the brick column. Stunning!

One of the things I have always loved most about Christmas is all of the white lights. There is something captivating about how that light pierces through the darkness. During Christmas, those lights aren’t itty-bitty, struggling against being engulfed by darkness. No, they are bright, brilliant, and shining forth with confidence!

And the lights remind me of Jesus. He is the light in our darkness. He is the beacon of hope that pulls us from the mire. He is our morning star, our guidepost. The Word made flesh, the same Word that is a lamp unto our feet. Jesus is my lamp and please God help me keep Him always before my eyes!

Lord Jesus, we love You so much! We place our hope and trust in You, no matter what this season feels like for us. Whether joyful or sorrowful, whether peaceful or stressful, whether surrounded or lonely, we love You and honor You this year! You were born into the winter… even the winter of our lives… and with Your birth came the promise of spring. We love You Lord and invite You into our hearts again  this Christmas. Thank You for everything that Your birth means and for the new season of hope that You give us as our Christmas gift! We love You! Amen!