Praise has been a major theme on my mind the past few months. I haven’t felt great the last few months either. I’ve been tired, I’ve been nauseous, I’ve gotten sick, and life really hasn’t gone the way I expected it to at all. Almost every day, at some point, over the last few months I have been convicted over my lack of joy in the day and my lack of praise to my God. Instead of this conviction invoking confession and repentance, I’ve allowed the conviction to invoke shame and guilt. My thoughts have automatically become, “You know you’re supposed to praise the Lord, why aren’t you doing it? What’s wrong with you? You messed up AGAIN!”

I so often believe the lie that it’s good to feel guilty over my sin. I should mourn my sin right? What starts with a mourning of sin, the Lord is revealing to me, is quickly turning to a focus on only myself and not my Savior — and not the truth. The truth is that my sin should cause a mourning because I’m sinning against my God who loves me and gave everything for me. But it should also turn my eyes to my Savior who already paid for the sin I’ve been convicted of and this should produce praise to the one who paid my debt and rejoicing. After Ezra read God’s Word to the people in the book of Nehemiah they were deeply grieved over the reality of their sin and Ezra says in Nehemiah 8:10, “…do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So, I know the truth, I can tell you the truth, but why can’t I live the truth?

Our lecture from Lesson 3 of Heart of a Woman, “I Bow My Knees Before the Father,” the Lord really used to open my eyes to the beginning of an answer to that question. My focus is way more on myself than I ever realized. Laurie spoke about Moses and when God spoke to him through the burning bush about how Moses was going to be used to free the Israelites. Moses’ first response to God was, “Who am I?” I’ve always kind of thought that’s a pretty noble response from Moses. But what Laurie explained was interesting to me. Moses’ first response wasn’t confidence in the Lord and who He was, his first response revealed a focus on himself instead. I see myself in this example so clearly. My focus is on me when I’m convicted of my lack of joy in my day or convicted of any sin really. I am discouraged that I have, once again, failed to give God the glory He deserves, and I feel I must figure out a way to do this right. If you notice there, never in that sentence do I think anything about who my God is, the praise is still missing—it’s self, self, and more self.

I don’t like this about me, but here’s what I’ve been missing—this is my sinner self. My sinner self wants to have it all together, do it right, not only right, but do it perfectly, and if I don’t then I fail. My sinner self doesn’t want to be weak, she wants to look good to others and intimidate others. I don’t have to identify with this girl. This is not who I am anymore.

I can worship a God that is truly worthy of ALL PRAISE AND WORSHIP. He’s worthy of every hour of my day, all the sickness I experience, every meal that’s cooked, every prayer that I say, every phone call I make, every laundry load I do, every email I send, every meeting I have, every lunch. He is even worthy of me having to experience every failure He allows, every embarrassment, every let down—HE IS WORTHY OF ALL BECAUSE ALL IS FOR HIS GLORY! In every one of those things I listed I have complained. I have grumbled. I have been ungrateful. I have not wanted to do them. I have been lazy. I have given provision for my sinner self to then feel discouraged because I didn’t give the Lord the praise He was due.

Laurie posed a question in her lecture: “If we praise the Lord with our mouths, but don’t in our life, are we really praising the Lord?” Like I mentioned, I have been convicted about this for quite some time. The Lord showed me a Bethel song called “Ever Be.” The resounding chorus that is sung throughout this song is, “Your praise will ever be on my lips.” I’ve listened to that song over and over and over again. I love it. The sad reality, however, is that I’ve listened to the song to once again try and “fix” my own mind into praising the Lord in my own way and what has come from that is someone that listens to a song about praise, praises with her words, but her actions speak otherwise—hypocrite.

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Isaiah 61. Isaiah 61:3 says, “… to grant those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:11 says, “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.”

My favorite verse in “Ever Be” says, “You fathered the orphan, your kindness makes us whole. And you shoulder our weakness, and your strength becomes our own. Now you’re making me like you, clothing me in white, bringing beauty from ashes, for you will have your bride. Free of all her guilt. Rid of all her shame. Known by her true name, and that’s why I sing! Your praise will ever be on my lips.”

The theme that I see in all of these statements from Scripture and from the song is that they tell of who God is. They proclaim His character and what He will do, not what I will do. “…to give them…the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit,” “…so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations,” “…for you will have your bride.” God does it all.

After confessing to my husband a few nights ago that comparison and allowing my mind to think on things that weren’t truth led to me believing and fearing that maybe I didn’t love my baby as much as I should, he said something that was so interesting to me. He said, “It really comes down to your confidence.” I thought about that for a long time and how much that related to praising the Lord regardless of circumstance or feeling. It really does come down to confidence. Is my confidence going to be in me or is it going to be in who the Lord is? When I feel ugly and want to be in a bad mood because of it, will my confidence be in me and what I think or in who the Lord is and who He says I am? When I compare myself to a friend and let my mind have a fit, will I have confidence in what my mind tells me or in who the Lord is and what He says about love? When I’m tired, just in a bad mood, or something else really bad effects my family’s life, will my confidence be in me and my feelings at that particular moment or will I have confidence in who my God is and praise Him?

I don’t want my confidence to be in me. Most of the time it is and it doesn’t end well. I want to know who my God is and believe in who He says He is. And that’s really scary because I won’t be in control. But it can start with praising the Lord and affirming His character. Will you pray for me to have grace to do this? I will pray for you. May His praise be ever on our lips.

Planted for His Glory



Waking up to another week and another to-do list that fills up the page. Walk the dog. Check. Grocery. Check. Head to work. Check. Driving down the road with a million thoughts and what seems like a million things to do and I realize, I didn’t even spend time with the Lord this morning. Then the guilt kicks in. I know what I am supposed to do, I know I want to spend that time with the Lord. I have seen how my days go when I do not sit in His presence and it isn’t pretty. I need Him. I have been a Christian for so long, practically my entire life, and yet I still fail the Lord. I begin to pray something like this…

“Lord, I want to love you, I want to put you first, I want to seek your face before anything else. And yet somehow I am still making the same mistakes, still sinning, falling short, failing my husband, failing you. How is that even possible? I feel guilt for even praying this prayer and wonder if my words even have meaning to you at this point? Do you still love me, Lord? Or do you look down on your daughter with disappointment and disbelief that I could still struggle with the sinful roots I had to write during my Bible study yesterday morning — envy, pride, greed, and selfish desires. I want to be others focused, I want to be gospel focused, and yet I fail so often. I need you Father. Amen.”

As I drive into work and check my e-mail I begin reading a blog by Ann Voskamp that reads, “Our faith better be deeply connected to our senses and our heart, or a sensual world will destroy our faith and steal our heart. If Jesus hasn’t passionately wooed you — the world eventually will, definitely will.” She later writes, “Unless you fall in love with Jesus — you fall into dead religion. Unless you fall in love with Jesus — you fall into dreaded rules. Unless you fall in love with Jesus — you end up having an affair with the world.”

And I realized, I have been having an affair with the world. I love Jesus and I do trust Him, but do I trust Him more than I trust my to-do list? Do I trust Him more than the amount I bring home on my paycheck? Do I trust Him more, or would I rather find my joy from a nice house, cute clothes, and a husband who does all of the right things? As I have been working through the Heart of a Woman study and recording my sinful fruits, I really haven’t been surprised by my sins. I have walked through this study with Thistlebend before and it is always hard, but it is always good and refreshing. I have been a Christian long enough to know that the only way to grow is to live in a constant state of repentance. I go to the study each week dreading confessing those ugly sins on my tree, but also knowing it will bring freedom. This week I will have to confess my jealousy of a friend. The thought behind my jealousy was that I deserve the same thing the Lord is blessing her with. My “old girl” creeps in to feel envious. Yet I remember the challenge Laurie gave to me just last week — to fill my name into 1 Corinthians 13 – “I am patient and kind; I do not envy or boast…” I do not envy. I stop right there because I know my flesh does envy. My flesh is not patient. Just look at my filled in tree and see that my flesh is a whole lot of things and patient and kind do not make the cut.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” I thank the Lord that the old has passed away, my old girl who is jealous of a dear friend is NOT who I am. Because of the new creation the Lord has made me into, I can be genuinely happy for a friend. Because I am a new creation, I am able to desire to spend time with the Lord in the morning. Because I have accepted God’s free gift of grace and eternal life, the Lord is not frustrated with me when I pray the same prayer for the 100th time asking Him for forgiveness. It is His grace that even allows me to see my big, fat, ugly sin in the first place.

I go home that night to journal something simple, but true.

“Lord, thank you for loving me right where I am. I am thankful that I do not have to only come to you when all of my ducks are in a row and everything looks perfect. I can bring my ugly, messy, old-girl tendencies to you in full transparency and you lavish me with grace that I do not deserve. May I have victories over my sins that come only from you so that I may know you more and point others to you more clearly. Amen.”

Standing on the Word



Before we start our journey together I ask that you take a minute to stop and pray. My prayer is, “Lord, please give us eyes to see, and a mind to take in whatever it is that you may have for us today. May you give us strength and grant us the grace that we need to walk with you, Lord. May we all remember just how much you love us and that nothing can separate us from that love. No matter how dark we feel our sin is, may we be reminded that because you live in us, darkness cannot overtake us. I ask all this in Jesus’s name, Amen!”

The section in this week’s lesson from Heart of a Woman titled “Ask the Father in My Name” is when I had my moment. My moment = a point to where I was so ashamed of my sin that I couldn’t even bring myself to pray. Never in my life had I experienced such a moment. I think I never had such a moment because if I am being real with you, I never mourned my sin before or felt crippled by it in this way. I never had to deal with her, her being the person I was before I sought to live like Christ and truly walk in that. I never, as Laurie puts it, “Took the girl to the back of the barn and dealt with her!” For weeks I would wake up and put my flesh on like my favorite outfit. I was making a deliberate decision every day not to serve Christ with my obedience, but serve my flesh. The crazy thing is, I knew I was choosing these things! Yes, I knew it and I kept going my own way. And what triggered “my moment”? Lesson four and the very first couple of sentences “After several weeks of asking God Most High, the Creator of the Universe, to search your innermost being, it may be appropriate to ask how you are doing. I am concerned about you.”

I immediately felt overcome with a tidal wave of shame, because I knew deep down that I had not asked God with sincerity to search me. At that point I had cracked opened my study every once in a while to complete some homework. After reading these words, I stopped… I laid on my face and I began to cry out to the Lord. I confessed this all to him. “Lord, I don’t believe you can help me now, I am so gross with sin. How could you even let me in your presence? Lord, I don’t believe you’re listening right now because I am so sinful! Fix this, Lord! Take the unbelief from me, take it Father. I am so afraid, Lord, that if I do ask you to search my innermost being it will hurt! And I don’t want to hurt because I am terrified of what you will uncover.” I cried out to Him for some time. I ended up on my knees, I recorded my thoughts, and so this first blog are the many thoughts from that moment.

If I am being real with you, I thought I could hide from God…I know, I know! He is God, there is no where I could go that He wouldn’t see. I didn’t want to confess a thing, I allowed myself to be consumed with doubt, fear, and unbelief (I feel like these three are best friends…seriously they are always together in some way). As these three grew bigger, my faith and hope started becoming smaller. At the start of this study I told myself, “You will put your all into this!” I just knew I would, and um…we are a couple of weeks in and I am on my face, literally. Four lessons in and I feel I have done nothing. I said, “I can’t even beat my flesh in the morning, but you went to the cross with me in mind.” That was heavy for me. He was hung on a cross for my transgression and I can’t even wake up without being consumed with sinful thoughts. By this point I felt like I was in over my head. I said, “Lord, how is it that you give me chance after chance?”

It was then I realized something. It is something we hear often but just think we already know, so it just sits on the surface of our walk with Christ. It’s the thought that I can’t do anything to earn God’s love for me. Yet, I find that is something I try to do. Because showing amazing grace to this or that person should have earned an answer to that prayer, right? Or that awesome prayer should have made the heavens move, right? And because I personally feel (which gets me into trouble) these things don’t happen like I want, I act as a child and get upset with God. I start to fear, worry, and doubt. I start to say to myself, “Well since this praying thing didn’t work then I won’t do that. I mean, I acted in a way you would have wanted me to Lord, but I didn’t get rewarded for that….So I guess I won’t try and do that anymore.”

This attitude about my walk with Christ landed me right in the position I was in before reading the first words of lesson four. I was feeling defeated and discouraged. More than that, I was feeling such a disconnection from what I know to be true. I had become so ashamed about my actions and disappointed in my outright unbelief, that I felt like I really wasn’t so sure how to pick myself up from there and move forward in the forgiveness that was waiting for me.

But how sweet my Father is to me, even in spite of myself. He didn’t cast me aside and say, “Nope! She doesn’t deserve my grace because she’s acting like a child.” He instead so sweetly reminded me of 1 John 4:10: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (ESV). I struggled with this for a long time. How could Jesus love me despite my sin, sickness, and depravity? And die for me, then be an advocate on my behalf? Again! It was nothing I did, it was all because He loved me, and He loves you too! Right where you are, right in the midst of all the brokenness.

Oh how amazing in that moment it felt to be shown such grace in my sinful ways! I asked for forgiveness, and a smile came over my face because after weeks full of my dark sin, it couldn’t take me, it couldn’t have me. Because Christ lives in me, darkness may still be in me, but it will never overtake me. Abba Father, thank you for reminding of this.

My sins have not disappeared in a flash, although if the Lord wanted that I know He could take it all away. But that day will come when I am in heaven. Here and now, I must work out my salvation with fear and trembling and work every day to pick up my cross. If He didn’t want us to work this thing out we would never understand what tastes so sweet about the grace He gives us, we wouldn’t appreciate the beautiful picture of the gospel that is painted before us in His Word.

As we journey through this study we will fall. It will not feel great, but we must continue to lean into Christ for our strength. Sometimes in the last few weeks I have found that the hardest thing to do is simply to believe that all things will work out for my good. So simple, and yet so hard for me. Remember, Christ died so you may live, Christ died so that through Him you can be free from sin. Sometimes sin can be overwhelming, especially when we want to be the author of our own story. We can get so caught up in wanting to control how we “earn” His love, checking off our list of things we need to do to make this happen. Then when the disappointment comes we can almost spiral downward. We feel like we didn’t do good enough, or maybe didn’t do this or that right to get a certain result from God.

For weeks I was so set on doing it my way, suffering the entire time. I was unwilling to get on my knees because I believed the lie that I wouldn’t be heard. I was burden by my behavior that followed when I felt like the Lord just didn’t hear me. But once I cried out and approached His throne with a heart that was seeking forgiveness, He gave me hope! He showed me that in all this He never left me, never gave up on me, and never changed his mind–like I so often do to the ones I love.

Now, we must repent and delight in the Lord. He is so much more worthy than that I can express with these inferior words! I am so thankful He is there with open arms. Let me tell you, I have tried a million ways and have failed. It is only because He lives in me that I am made whole and can lay all my cares at His feet. In His strength I will labor through this and seek the face of the Lord. Just think for a moment, The King of kings, Lord of lords, the Maker of heaven and the stars, and the Creator of the galaxy wants a relationship with you! That, my friend, is more precious than anything you have, that is worth more than anything your thoughts could even try and conceive.

Lord, may you get all the glory, all the praise, and all the honor forever, amen!

All for His Glory