Tag Archives: grace

transparent

Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comWhen I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old, I had the keen idea of writing on my bedroom wall with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t write a lot…just a little dime-sized scribble right at the head of my bed. So the night after I did that, my mom came up to read a book to me before I went to sleep. The whole time I “casually” covered this pen scribble with my hand so she wouldn’t see it, and I was SURE she didn’t because of the oh-so-subtle way I hid it. She didn’t say anything about it that night – score! But what was I going to do the next night? And what if she came into my room during the day when I wasn’t there? I would have to strategically place the pillows, and continue hiding the mark with my hand. I knew I couldn’t hide it forever, and I felt awful for doing it at all…So I called my mom into my room and told her what I had done. And once she knew, it was over. No more worries, and no more hiding.

At the time that seemed so big – and for a five year old I guess it kind of was. But what was in my heart is the same as the guilt I feel, or at least should feel, over sins I commit now. Only now, I’m a big girl and I don’t have to tell anyone if I don’t want to. There are flaws and sins about me that literally no one will know if I don’t confess them. And why should I?

The Bible gives us some guidelines for prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (a churchy word for asking for what we need or want)…But honestly I think the confession part goes right out the window a lot of the time, and it makes me wonder if we even think we’re really that bad. Why don’t we worry when we sin, like I worried when I wrote on the wall as a kid? Why don’t we tremble at the thought of God’s disappointment? Why don’t we run to Him for the reassurance just that He knows what we’ve done and forgives us? Why don’t we WANT Him to know every fiber of who we are? We hide, like Adam and Eve…or perhaps even worse, we don’t even acknowledge the trespass we have committed against Him and we go on with our lives ignoring our injured relationship with God. Depth and satisfaction in any relationship comes from transparency – and it’s no different with God. Confession to Him is a gift…It gives us the freedom to be known completely, to be restored in our relationship with Him, and to hide nothing.

God tells us not only to confess sin to Him, but also to each other…I think He knows that there are things we just can’t overcome on our own, and that He made us to depend on more than just ourselves. He tells us to share the darkest parts of our hearts with each other…but we usually share the best of us instead, for the sake of our image or reputation, or for our perceived protection. We tend to think that hiding what is in us somehow makes us less vulnerable, when in reality the opposite is true. Granted we can’t go telling everyone everything – that wouldn’t be wise. But our inner circle, the ones we call our very closest friends, should know who we really are so that they can come beside us when we are too weak to stand alone.

Confession and transparency lead to freedom because through them we know that we are truly known…that there is nothing to hide…that there is nothing that anyone could find out about us that we didn’t already admit out loud. And honestly, in my own life I’ve found that living a transparent life is just about the best way to show other people why I need Jesus so desperately, and why they need Him too. I need saving with every single breath, and the last thing I want to do is hide that. We live in a time and culture where people want proof of things…and one thing I can prove and reproduce an infinite number of times is the fact that I cannot possibly live up to the standard that my faith demands. My need for Christ is absolute and irrefutable.

So be known…Be known by the God you serve and by the friends you keep. Be real, and show others why salvation is so necessary. Be transparent and live in the freedom that comes with it.

[blockquote type=”center”]This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:5-9 [/blockquote]

six things we must remember in an argument

Melissa @ awriteheart.comSince last week’s Supreme Court decision about gay marriage, I’ve read and heard a LOT of debate…Unfortunately the vast majority of those discussions ended poorly or without resolution. As I’ve continued to read and listen to these dialogues, a few thoughts have come to mind that I believe we must remember when arguing or debating with someone. Whether it’s an online discussion or an argument with our spouse, remembering these principles can help us keep the peace even when we can’t agree.

Your “opponent” actually believes what they’re saying.

The person who is so adamantly opposed to your viewpoint, whether that’s your husband or some online stranger who thinks your opinion is too extreme, really truly believes what they are expressing to you. They believe it with the same passion and vigor that you have for your own opinion. We tend to think that those with opposing views haven’t thought out their opinions, and are just argumentative people looking for a fight – and sometimes that IS the case. But most people hold their opinions for a reason, and can substantiate why they think and feel the way they do. They aren’t unintelligent, they aren’t necessarily uninformed, they aren’t crazy, and most of the time they aren’t intentionally trying to oppress anyone…They just happen to disagree.

There may be angles that you haven’t explored – and that’s ok.

In any argument, we all are hesitant to admit when we’re unprepared or can’t defend ourselves…but in truth, everyone is unprepared for what could be said. It isn’t always the worst thing to tell a person that you don’t know the answer to a question, or that they brought up a good point that you never considered. Conversations can be continued after you’ve done more research, or after you’ve thoughtfully considered new points of view. Being defensive about someone’s thoughtful conclusions won’t win anyone over – so in humility, be willing to concede that you haven’t thought of everything.

People can believe whatever they want – and that’s a good thing.

This is America, right? Unless you’re reading from a place that doesn’t allow citizens the freedom to speak and believe what they want, no one is obligated to believe as you do – and that is something to be thankful for. God gave us freedom to choose, right from the time that He created us, and we can’t take that freedom from others. As well-intentioned as we might be trying to “convert” people to what we believe is the right way of thinking, it isn’t our job to change anyone’s mind or heart.

Listening well goes a long way.

5 things to remember in an argumentThink about the last time you had a heated discussion with someone. While the other person was talking or writing, were you thinking about the next thing you were going to say? So many times, our lack of willingness to stop and listen prevents us from  hearing where another person is coming from, and all we do is reiterate our own opinions over and over instead of having a real dialogue. Understanding someone’s point of view is valuable even if you don’t agree with it, and the person on the other end of the debate will be more likely to feel as though you respect them if you conscientiously listen to and acknowledge their side.

Social media and texting are not ideal for having an actual conversation.

How many times can I say this…Social media and texting are not ideal for having an actual conversation! Humor, sarcasm, compassion, kindness, sadness – all of those are difficult to convey by written word, and it’s easy to misread someone’s tone or miscommunicate your own thoughts and feelings. Too short a response can be read as aggressive…No response can be read as passive-aggressive…Too long a response can be read as controlling…Too long between responses can be read as uncaring…Too many responses can be read as overbearing. We make some pretty sweeping assumptions based on how and when others respond. So be careful debating or arguing online or over text massages…And if possible, just take the person out for coffee and talk it out.

Love for God and for others is your obligation, even if the conflict remains unresolved.

My pastor mentioned something this past week that really stuck with me – we aren’t supposed to be a balance of grace and truth…We as Christians are supposed to be FULL of grace and FULL of truth. That’s how the Bible describes Jesus in John 1:14 – He was 100% grace, and 100% truth. So no matter what the argument is about, be like Christ when you write and talk to others about things you disagree on. Rarely did Jesus exhibit anger toward others – and when He did, it was because of hypocrisy or oppression of those in need. He also never chased anyone down to make sure they did what they were supposed to. He told them the truth in love, and then allowed them to make their own life choices. Following His lead takes the pressure off of us, and leaves it to the Holy Spirit to change someone’s heart…And that’s how it should be.

Arguments and debates are often unavoidable, but we can take steps to work toward a peaceful ending. It’s possible to disagree while maintaining a positive tone. Romans 12:9-12 calls us to do our best to live at peace, and with God’s help we can!

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]In His perfect peace, Melissa[/custom_headline]

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Featured image attribution: flickr photo by pj_vanf http://flickr.com/photos/vanf/6124579928 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

expectations: when you are the target

expectations: when you are the target

Melissa @ awriteheart.com

Last week I wrote about expectations and how Christ is the only One who can live up to what He promises (see my King and my expectations). This week let’s look at another aspect of the same topic – when we are the target of someone else’s expectations.

I am a woman of many titles, as I’m sure most of you reading this are. I’m a wife, mom, daughter, grand-daughter cousin, friend, employee, consumer, and so on, and along with each of those roles comes an unofficial mental list in the minds of others…a list of expectations. It’s not a bad thing, necessarily…These lists are based on past experiences, on history, on tradition, on culture, on what a person wants another person to be. And they follow us everywhere we go.

[pullquote type=”right”]We all feel the pressure of those expectations, whether we know if or not.[/pullquote]We all feel the pressure of those expectations, whether we know if or not. They act as a motivator in a lot of ways, and that is a positive thing – without outside forces and expectations, some of us less driven types may not accomplish much. For instance, I don’t exercise without a coach…not because I can’t do it, but because I lack internal discipline. I need someone to tell me what to do and expect results, and then I will submit and work toward a goal. But the expectations of others can work havoc in us too, if they are not balanced with what our Lord God actually expects from us, and with what we can reasonably live up to.

When I had each of my children, I didn’t realize how much pressure I would feel from the desires and preferences of others – but I did and still do at times. As a wife sometimes I feel helpless in my endeavors to meet my husband’s expectations, and ironically to meet the expectations of other wives. As a friend there have been times when I felt angry because of someone’s expectations of me to maintain the relationship by myself. As a Christian I’ve felt humiliated because I’ve failed to be that perfect cookie-cutter person someone expected me to be. On a social level I feel pressured to live up to an unspoken economic expectation.

How do you react to the expectations of others? My reactions have been pretty “prickly” in the past, but I think when taken to heart we can effectively use expectations to mold us and shape us into better (and definitely more humble) people. How should we respond? Here are seven thoughts that we can use to help us navigate this aspect of our lives:

1. Know your authority.

As satisfying as it sounds to say that God is our final authority in the face of others’ expectations, this is probably the toughest step – to come face to face with what God really wants from you in a particular circumstance. Someone expects you to listen to their gossip? God has your back, but He also has a lofty expectation of how you should lovingly deal with it. Also remember that there are those that He placed in authority over us, other than Himself. Jesus said in Matthew 22:36-39 that the greatest commandments are to love God and love others, and when we respond to expectations we need to do so with the intent of carrying out those two commandments.

2. Know your enemy.

The devil wants to destroy your relationships so that you have no influence. He wants to use you to discourage others. He wants you distracted enough not to be effective for Christ. At the end of the day, despite what is inflicted upon us, we have a choice to obey God or not…The enemy would love nothing more than to give you a “good reason” to justify sin and division between you and someone else. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that the devil waits to devour us, and if he sees a moment of weakness you can be sure he’ll take full advantage.

3. Know the source.

Expectations come from many sources, but considering that is helpful. Each of us has our own baggage and weakness, and there are things that perhaps we can concede in the name of peace and unity. If someone who has been abandoned in the past is particularly clingy, and expects you to be ever present for them, at the very least you can empathize. The relationship may indeed need boundaries, but with some background knowledge certainly we can deal much more effectively with a person, and perhaps more effectively meet their needs in a way that makes everyone happy. It pleases the Lord when we can live in unity with others (Psalm 133:1), and we as His followers should make every attempt to do so.

4. Be humble, and be coachable!

People who tell us what they want from us or even criticize our actions might have something good to add to who we are. Perhaps the expectations are valid, or perhaps by following through you will grow from fulfilling them. Be quick to listen (James 1:19-20), and don’t discount something just because it wasn’t your idea.

5. Know your limits, and be gracious about laying down the law.

There are times when we reach our limit of what we’re capable of doing, and I usually reach it around the holidays. My family will attest that holidays and birthdays are challenging for us, and I (the only-child and loner at heart) am particularly sensitive to family drama. It’s a sticky thing to cater to every person’s vision for those days. But we’re getting there by trying new things, and by asking each other what might work better. In the past we have made some pretty epic mistakes by dealing harshly, but in truth it never, ever yielded a good result to draw lines in the sand. Be creative, and offer alternatives when you feel that you can’t possibly do any more.

6. Be thankful for the role you have in the lives of others.

My kids expect certain things because I’m their mom; my husband expects certain things because I’m his wife; my boss expects certain things because I’m his employee. These are good roles…Overwhelming at times, but good. If anything, remember that your roles are unique privileges to teach, to minister, and to show others who Christ is.

7. What about the unreasonable?

And what about when people expect from us what they won’t give themselves? What about those who are underserving? The same considerations apply, and with some prayer and honest reflection you’ll probably find that your obligation to these expectations is pretty much the same as it is to those that come from those we consider the most deserving. One of the things I love the most about Jesus is that he openly served the lowest of society. But the difficult reality is that we are now here to be His representatives, swift to serve the lowly and undeserving, so that His story can be told through us. He came to save sinners…the underserving…US!!! (1 Timothy 1:15). In that light, we are equally as underserving as the next sinner. There certainly are expectations that are unreasonable or even abusive, and if that’s where you are right now I’d say proceed with a lot of prayer and godly counsel.

I hope that we can encourage each other through our challenges with expectations. It has been a pervading theme of my own life in the past year or so, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t just me that wrestles with it. Share your stories below so we can praise God for the victories and pray for each other in the struggles.

~Praying for lives changed, Melissa~

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