The List

Another week has gone by and this is the first I have sat down to write. Every morning I say I am going to write when I get home from work. Every night I go to bed frustrated as I struggle to figure out how to fit all the things I want and need to do into each day.
As each day of the week came and went I found myself getting more frustrated and depressed. My mind was constantly racing with The List. You know The List- the list of things we should and should not do.
It sounds something like this: “I should stop at Target on my way home tonight so I don’t have to do it tomorrow. I should have taken out that pound of ground beef so it was thawed for tonight. I should sit down and write tonight. I should not have eaten that. I should work out. I should work out my upper body. I should work out my core. I should work out my lower body. Oh forget it- there are just too many body parts that need work, I can’t do them all so I am not going to bother with any. I should throw in that load of laundry. I should lose ten pounds. I should have worked out at least one stupid body part. I should have prayed more today. I should quite my job. I should be grateful and thankful for my job.”
The List is exhausting and never-ending. It robs me of the ability to enjoy the present and steals my peace for the future. As much as I know the list is bad for me I struggle to stop it. The list makes it impossible for me to just be still. I get so exhausted from the list that I don’t have the energy to even take care of anything on the list. From the minute I wake up in the morning to the minute I lay my head down the list tries to take over my mind.
I’ll be honest with you- I don’t like to admit that I struggle with this. I would much prefer to let you all think I have it all together and I have all the answers. There is a part of me that fears that when I share the struggles I will be disqualified as a woman of God who has anything to offer anyone else.
But I named my website What Real Women Do and you know what- I know I am not the only real woman that is tormented by The List. Sure, your list may look different from mine, but I imagine the impact it has on your ability to enjoy the moment is the same. Maybe if we all come clean and admit we have lists that drive us crazy, we can help each other ditch the lists!
I know God wants us to ditch the lists. Jesus hung on the cross so we would no longer need to live a life of should and should not’s, of lists, rules, and regulations. Jesus ditched the list for us. Now we need to keep our thoughts on Him and off our lists. He will help us put our lists in order. He will show us where we need to put our time, energy, and focus. The thing is- we need to sit still long enough to hear His voice. It cannot be heard above the ramblings of The List.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting (not exhausting) way. Psalm 139: 23-24 NASB version with an added parenthesis by me ☺

Girls, if you are struggling with lists of your own, take some time to be still before God. Write down everything that comes to mind on the list and then tear it up and turn it over to the One that freed us from worry, anxiety, fear, and lists!

Love, Grace, and a Great Day to Ditch the List,

Jen

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The Cone of Shame

While we were in Washington our dog Nana tore her ACL. Of course we did not know this at the time so we let her continue to run and chase squirrels, geese and anything else that caught her eye. By the time we brought her into the vet she had torn her ACL 75% and required surgery. The recovery has been much more than we anticipated and it has been a very stressful few days in our home. Though I try to tell myself and the kids that this is just a temporary deal and not our new norm, the thought of continuing as we have been for seven more weeks feels overwhelming and exhausting.
One of the things that gets me through stressful situations such as this is knowing that there will be a story or two that comes out of it. I feel it’s God’s way of “making all things work together for good” as He promises us in Romans 8:28. Though I much prefer having stories come out of fun experiences, often the ones that speak the most to others are the ones that come from the painful and stressful moments. Perhaps because they are the most relatable for in this life we shall be faced with many troubles.
As expected, Nana was sent home wearing a cone around her neck. Oh how dogs hate the cone. It completely changes their demeanor. Nana went from a happy, wild, proud puppy to a cowering, head down nervous baby. Every dog seems to react to the cone in a similar manner, which is why it is commonly referred to as The Cone of Shame by dog owners.
At first it is entertaining to see them try to navigate around the house with the cone, but after a minute or two when you see how distressing it is to them, you can’t help but feel miserable for them. You want to bring them relief from the misery. Even though it makes life inconvenient as you have to watch them the every minute to make sure they don’t start licking their wounds, you make the sacrifice because you know how desperately they need the relief. As soon as you take off the cone their disposition changes and they once again stand tall with their tails wagging and eyes that say “THANK YOU!”.
I needed a break last night so we put Nana’s cone back on. She immediately began to anxiously freak out. We tried to calm her down but she turned and walked away with her head down and tailed tucked in. It was very painful to watch and I of course caved in and removed the cone even though I knew it meant I would not sleep well that night because I would wake up every time I heard her move to make sure she wasn’t licking her wounds.
As I watched her walk with her head down and tail tucked in my heart broke as I suddenly thought of all the women in the world that walk around wearing their own cone of shame. They wear their mistakes, guilt, and shame around their necks and it chokes them and makes it impossible for them to look around and see the life God has planned for them. They go through life with their head down, trying to go unnoticed because they do not want anyone to see their shame.
The Bible is full of women that could have remained in their personal cones of shame but decided to trust in the LORD and in His words “neither do I condemn or accuse you.” Take Eve for example. She was literally kicked out of paradise as a result of the mistake her and Adam made. She could have wandered around the rest of her life with her head down bearing the shame of paradise lost. However, she understood that God still loved her. We know this because it says in Genesis 4:1 When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the LORD’s help, I have produced a man!” She knew it was God who blessed her.
Eve is the first of many scandalous women in the Bible, women that were definitely worthy of cones of shame. We have a woman who tricked her father in law into sleeping with her, a prostitute, and an adulterous- all listed in the genealogy of Jesus! I believe God did this knowing the world would be filled with women broken by their own mistakes and shame. He wanted us to know that there is nothing we can do that would ever disqualify us from not only being loved by Him, but also being used by Him.
Ladies, when Jesus hung on the cross he removed our cones of shame! He sacrificed his life, so that we may live ours to the fullest. To continue walking around with our heads hung down in shame is to say that his sacrifice was not enough and we deserve more punishment.
If you feel choked by all of the mistake sin your life I encourage you to sit at the feet of Jesus. Pour your heart out to Him and let Him remove the cone of shame you have been wearing for far too long. Not only is He willing to do it, he WANTS to do it. You can’t do it alone. No amount of good works will take it off. The only way to lose the cone is to let your Abba Father remove it. Will you sit still long enough to let him?

“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don’t be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of your widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:4-5

Love, Grace, and Freedom from the Cone of Shame to You All,

Jen

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How He Loves Us

I used to think the story of Adam and Eve was one of the saddest stores in the Bible. I felt so bad for them when they got kicked out of the garden. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to go from walking and talking with God to suddenly being escorted out of the most beautiful, perfect place created just for me.
The worst part was the thought of how mad God must have been at them. After telling them the list of horrible curses that were now attached to them, I always pictured him marching them to the edge of the garden, pushing them along on their way and then watching as they sulked off, crying with their heads down, occasionally looking back to see if he was watching them and possibly changing his mind. When they would look back on him I pictured him standing stone faced with a tear running down his cheek pointing straight ahead commanding them to continue wandering in the opposite direction. It was truly a heart breaking scene.
I see this story differently now. I see it as one of the many love stories in the Bible. Not between Adam and Eve, between God and us. It is a story of redemption, protection, and grace. Let me explain.
When God came looking for Adam and Eve after they had sinned, he found them hiding in the trees, covered with fig leaves. One of the first things they realized when their eyes were opened to sin was that they were naked and for whatever reason their now “knowledgable” mind told them this was wrong and they should cover themselves. God agreed, they should be covered. However he lovingly covered them with animal skins. It was the first of many sacrifices offered in the Bible. It was the first example of the blood of Jesus covering our sin.
As I was studying this I learned that fig leaves, when broken off their tree have a horrible pungent smell, and quickly shrivel up and die which would have left them exposed quickly. It is symbolic of the way man can only hide his sin for so long and then it will be exposed. The only way mans sin is completely covered is by a perfect sacrifice, by the blood of Jesus. i now picture God looking at them in their fig leaves and feeling pity for them. I now picture him sacrificing the animals, placing the skins on Adam and Eve, stepping back and saying “There. That’s better”, as he gives them a Fatherly smile.
If He forgave them and covered their sin, why did he still kick them out of the garden? That too was an act of love. Remember way back in Genesis 2 it tells us that God made all sorts of trees and in the middle of the garden he made two special trees- the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. If they would have eaten from the tree of life, they would have to live forever in this fallen state with no chance of redemption. They had already proven themselves untrustworthy by eating from the tree of knowledge, how much more desperate would they be to eat from the tree of life in hopes that they could somehow undo what they have done? The only reason God sent them out of the garden was to protect them from themselves.
I was also wrong about God no longer walking and talking with them. I know this because later in Genesis 4 when God confronts Cain after Cain kills Abel. Cain begs God not to banish him from God’s presence, which means they were all still in Gods presence. This shows us that though God could no longer walk and talk with them in the garden, he still chose to walk and talk with them where they were at.
Girls, I want you to see just how he loves us! Even in our worst moments, even when we are tangled up in sin and shame, God loves us. He lovingly reminds us that we are covered by the blood of Jesus. He never leaves us or forsakes. In the times when it feels like is has walked us to the edge of the garden and pointed for us to go in the opposite direction, is always an act of love. We may not see or feel it, and we may not understand it, but God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and when you find yourself removed from what may have seemed “perfect”, you need to trust that God is protecting you.
Maybe you find yourself identifying with Eve today. Maybe you have been trying to fix and cover up your own feelings of guilt and shame. Maybe you are asking yourself if God has given up on you and set you outside of the garden. If that describes you, please take a moment to sit at the feet of Jesus. Wherever you are at, close your eyes, take a deep breath and simply pour out your heart to God. Tell him your fears, your sin, and your shame. Tell him you want to feel his presence and protection. Let him cover you in his love. He did it for Eve, he will do it for you. In fact, it is his very favorite thing to do!

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Love, Grace, and a Day in His Presence For You All,

Jen

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Cleared of All Charges!

A few years ago I got a speeding ticket. I wasn’t happy about it and even though I was guilty I decided to fight it in court. Paying a $100 fine was bad enough but even worse than that was the thought of it being on my driving record. I was afraid our insurance would end up raising our rates and that would be an added expense we definitely did not need!

By the time my court date arrived I was thoroughly convinced I would be free of all charges. I had been praying about it and I had pictured the scene a million times in my mind. My friends and family would tell me there was no way I would get out of it, but I told them to wait and see- I was coming home with a clean record!

I remember sitting in that court room trying not to smile. I could not wait to get home and tell everyone “I told you so!”. The longer I sat in the courtroom, the more confident I became. I was sitting in one of the back rows and I could hear the county attorney in the small room behind me making deals with other offenders. He was dropping DWI charges down to reckless driving tickets left and right. Surely, he would make this forty year old mother of two’s little speeding ticket disappear.

Finally it was my turn to plead my case. I was so confident regarding the outcome that when he denied my request I simply sat across the desk from him staring with my head tilted to the side the way a puppy looks at you when they know you are talking to them but they don’t understand. After what must have seemed like eternity to him he finally said “Mrs. Gilbert, we are done here. It’s time for you to go and pay your fine.”

I left the room wondering what had just happened. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. I had plead my case with my whole heart. I even admitted that I was guilty but explained how this was a financial hardship for us and surely since I had a clean record up to this point, he could make sure it remained clean. I even got choked up and had to fight back the tears- the natural response for both my sister and I whenever we are fighting against an injustice. I begged and pleaded and yet here I was walking out of the courtroom towards the pay station. I couldn’t believe it.

Aren’t you glad that our heavenly Father is not like that crummy old county attorney? Aren’t you glad that he doesn’t pardon sins for some people while holding accountable the sins of others. Aren’t you glad that when you approach him at the throne of grace you don’t have to worry about whether or not you will still be left paying for your mistakes?

God is more just than any courtroom could ever be. Yes, he demands payment in full for our sins, but he also knew we would never be able to pay all the fines we accumulate. They are far too great. Rather than simply looking away, he sent his only beloved son as payment for all of our sins. When Jesus cried out from the cross “It is finished”, he could also have said “PAID IN FULL” because that what the finished work of Jesus is. It is payment, full payment, for each and every one of our sins. We will never have to “pay for” what we have done. We do not owe God anything. That is what makes His grace so amazing!

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt! Psalm 32:1-2

Love, Grace, and a Day Cleared of All Charges To You All,

Jen

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