The One Whom Jesus Loved

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This year I’ve been studying the book of John with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). Reading John’s account of Jesus’ life, one particular truth stands out.

John refers to himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved‘. (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:20)

The one Jesus loved.

Years ago, reading this for the first time, John seemed kind of arrogant to me. The ONE Jesus loved – who does he think he is?’

Was he saying he was MORE loved than the other disciples? That idea didn’t seem consistent with Jesus’ character in the rest of the Bible. Confusion fueled the desire to know more.

And you know what? As I’ve studied the Bible, learning about God’s character and attributes, I identify myself more and more as John did.

I can tell you with certainty, it is not arrogance.

John knew he wasn’t more loved than his peers. John was Jesus’ friend and eye-witness to His life. He walked alongside Jesus daily, watching Him love everyone He came into contact with.

Everyone.

No matter how sinful, no matter how much they loved or didn’t love Jesus back – Jesus loved ALL people.

Jesus’ love is SO important to John that he replaces his own name with Jesus’ love – John’s most important characteristic.

So often, I succumb to a wrong-view of myself. I focus on negative aspects of my personality, image or actions. When who I believe I am doesn’t match who God says I am, my day is robbed of joy. Then too easily, this wrong-thinking infects my actions, thoughts and relationships.

What we think about ourselves needs to be rooted in truth. Who better to tell us who we are than the one who created us in His own image?

How do you identify yourself?

Often, we identify ourselves by what we do – mom, dad, scientist, manager, teacher, student, child, sister, brother, volunteer…

What we do is important, but have you considered your more important, all-encompassing identity?

Not what you do, or who you do it with, but WHO you are.

Jesus Christ knows each of us, inside and out. There is nothing you can hide from Him and nothing He doesn’t know about you, good or bad.

We are fully seen.

Fully heard.

Fully known.

And fully LOVED.

Do you know this truth in your bones?

As celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, will you take time to reflect on who HE says you are?

YOU are SO loved that He purposefully came to earth – fully God and fully man – to save you.

He lived a perfect life, demonstrating perfect love as He interacted with the people HE created.

He knew every sin of every person as He spoke truth in love. He lovingly healed their bodies and their souls.

He laid His life down on purpose.

Jesus is the perfect, unblemished Passover Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

His perfect, sinless blood reconciles sinful, UNHOLY man with God.

We can be united with the holy God who cannot be in the presence of our sin. He is SO holy, He needs to be described by repeating holy 3 times.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Now united with Him through Jesus, what if we lived out our identity as John did?

Who are you?

The _________ whom Jesus loved.

You see?

The mama whom Jesus loved so much He died for her so she can spend eternity with Him.

The daughter whom Jesus loved so much He laid His life down so she can be forgiven.

The manager whom Jesus loved so much He purposefully died on a cross to bear her punishment.

The father whom Jesus loved so much He came to earth to reveal His perfect Father in heaven.

The blogger whom Jesus loved so much He chose to suffer so that she can share in His glory.

The one whom Jesus loved and longs to reveal Himself to – so you know you are fully seen, fully heard, fully known, and despite all your shortcomings, are fully loved.

Will you ask Him to help you believe it?

It is Well With My Soul.

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I woke up this morning surprised at the election results. I really had no idea who would win, and to be honest, I would have felt surprised no matter who won.

Regardless of how you voted yesterday or of how weary you feel after this political season – the wounds revealed and created during this election must be addressed. This election was heartbreakingly divisive. My heart hurts – although today the presidency has been won, the path to get here makes it feel like no one really won.

There is no easy fix – the pain in our nation simply cannot be erased just because the votes have been counted.

I think moving on is going to be difficult for many on both sides of the vote.  Throughout the election, my eyes were opened as the band-aids were ripped off old wounds and as new wounds formed and festered in the issues that divide us all.

I may not be able to fix all that is wrong in our nation, but beginning to move on starts with me. 

Today, I step back and focus on TRUTH.

We have much to be grateful for. Today, the TV will stay off and social media can take a hike. My house is full of the best medicine I know – piano hymns, a baby babbling, and a little girl playing dress up. I thank God I live in a democratic country, and have the privilege to vote that many fought and died for. My focus is on the people I love, and the God I serve. Why not take time to be grateful every day? It is November 9. Today is a great day to begin th HABIT of practicing gratitude with your family as you prepare for Thanksgiving. Start a family gratitude journal or set up a gratitude tree.

There are no perfect voters or candidates. See me. See you. See Donald. See Hillary. Need I say more? Each is imperfect, and we pull from an imperfect pool of candidates for leadership. We make decisions based on carefully calculated glimpses of who candidates are. Then our voting decisions are clouded by our own imperfection and sin. The only true judge is Jesus Christ who knows all things, and who examines the heart and mind. And to this measure, we all fall short.

The only future we know for certain is in Jesus Christ. Just as we cannot ever truly know the hearts of those we seek to elect, we cannot foresee the future repercussions of our choices. We choose the candidate who best suits us and our own vision for our future.  Only God, the Beginning and the End, can see all of eternity. Thankfully, the Bible tells us that eternity has already been won, even if it doesn’t detail everything that will happen between now than then. We don’t know exactly how, but we know the victor is Jesus Christ and He mercifully invites each of us to join Him.

No leader can stop the plan of the perfect God. He is sovereign over ALL creation, knows all things, and has already won eternity. No matter our circumstance, He has overcome the world. If you are disheartened today, step back and look UP.

O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. 2 Chronicles 20:6.

One nation, under God. Many in our nation have tried to eliminate God from society. But the truth is, we are a Nation Under God whether we like it or not. He is still sovereign, even when we ignore, disrespect, or don’t believe it. Jesus is King, no matter who our president is. And He can and will use any leader to bring about His purposes on earth. Trying to stifle God’s presence has not done much to improve our nation has it? Instead we are more divided than ever. Instead of pushing God out, we need to cry out to Him and ask Him to heal our nation as only He can.

Our nation needs healing and love. Let it start with you as you love your friends, family and neighbors. Now is not the time for ‘I told you so’ or to tell others they got it wrong. What is done is done. Reserve judgement, offer encouragement, hope and practical help. Start listening more than talking. Freely extend forgiveness, love and respect. Since there are no perfect people, this means we need to give respect even if you don’t think a person has earned it – even those in leadership. Choose to treat all people as God’s beloved. Stop comparing – we are all in need of a savior. Here is a good place to start:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There is peace that transcends all understanding. The Bible has a lot to say about peace offered by Jesus Christ. Months ago in the mess of the election, I chose to fix my eyes on Jesus. It wasn’t easy keeping them locked there with everything going on around me – only by His strength. Last night, I went to bed early with the firm trust that no election result can pluck me from God’s good, sovereign hand. I slept well. Have you ever felt such peace? It is more valuable and more powerful than any assurance a world leader can offer.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Prayer keeps us grounded in Him. We can not be in line with the will of God if we are not spending time in His presence in study and prayer. He will give you direction and where to go from here. Focusing on WHO God is and WHAT He has already done in a time that seems hopeless gives joy and peace that transcends comprehension. Spend time now in His presence and ask for His view of our situation and practical ways to extend love and grace to others.

In this day of seeming uncertainty, I pray we can claim peace, cling to the certainty of God’s promises and let the healing of our nation begin with us.

This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

It is well with my soul. How is yours?

You Know What Takes CHRIST Out Of Christmas? Complaining Over A Red Cup.

Is anyone else confused by the hype over the Starbucks red cup? When I first saw the image of the 2015 cup, I thought it looked nice. Simple and a clever use of the Starbucks green logo on the red background.

No problem right?

Well, I guess not. It seems that some people are upset over the cups and think they do not stand for Christmas.  I don’t usually pay attention to these things but the articles that kept popping up specifically mention that Christians are the people making the fuss. I like to know what I’m being associated with.

SO, I looked at the last 6 years of cups that TIME put together for easy viewing. Do you know what I see? Nothing that says “Merry Christmas” or any mention of Jesus. In fact, the apparent change that makes people upset is the lack of a snow flake.

A snow flake?

Beloved sisters and brothers in Christ – since when is a snowman, snow flake or a person sledding on a coffee cup a symbol of Christmas? I don’t remember seeing any mention of these things in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. Haven’t read it? Check it out for yourself in Luke Chapter 1. These symbols are completely and totally unrelated to Jesus Christ.

I can see how this may sound harsh, but it needs to be said. You know what takes the CHRISTmas out of Christmas? Complaining, slander, and overly vocal disgust at red cups. Beloved of Jesus – there are so many more important issues to take a stand on. This distraction does not draw unbelievers to know and love Jesus. If anything, it makes Him less appealing because those who claim to follow and love Him are preoccupied with coffee cups.

As Christians, let us instead CHOOSE to celebrate Jesus, despite what is happening around us in our culture. Regardless of who says “Happy Holidays” and who says “Merry Christmas”, the culture does NOT decide the status of our hearts. We choose who we worship and what our focus is on.

It is either the world or Jesus. He longs for us to choose the latter.

So, as His chosen, and beloved people, CHOOSE to set your eyes on Jesus. Then CHOOSE now to let the rest of it roll off of you. All season long. Spending our precious time boycotting coffee cups is simply a distraction that takes our eyes off of HIM – All God’s grace in one tiny face.

How do we focus on Him?

  • Tell others you are grateful for them.
  • Tell GOD you are grateful for Him and spend some extra time with Him in prayer.
  • Set your grateful hearts on Jesus – on how He loved us and came to DIE for us so we could be saved. And how we can never deserve such a sacrifice and gift of grace.
  • Be grateful that in the United States you can speak the name of Jesus out loud without being tortured, exiled or killed.
  • Pray for those who are dying for their faith and have life and death concerns that make a preoccupation with coffee cups look foolish and careless.
  • Go out and treat others with kindness, respect, and love.
  • Tell others WHO Jesus is and WHY you love Him.
  • Intentionally spread some joy and cheer.
  • Find someone to help, serve or surprise.
  • Let Christians be known for spreading good will among men instead of complaining about things that have no eternal value.
  • Choose Jesus and show others WHO HE IS by sharing His LOVE.
  • Show the world that His love reigns in the hearts of Christians and speak well of others, regardless of where they buy their coffee. Or what color the cup is.

It’s a paper cup, people. We put coffee in it and then throw it away.

Doesn’t CHRISTmas mean more to us than that?

It’s the second week of November. There will be plenty more things this year that do not include Christ. There will surely be over-saturation of Santa, Happy Holidays and commercialization of the season.

Will you choose to allow those things to take your eyes off of Jesus?

Oh Yes We Did. And Here’s Why.

Oh Yes We Did. And Here's Why. | Thisgratefulmama.com

What is a girl to do when it is 60 degrees on a Sunday in November?

Well, living in MN, you take full advantage of the day. It was gorgeous!  With the garage already clean and yard work finished, what else could we do?

We decided to get the most benefit out of the weather. We took the whole family outside and put up our Christmas lights during the first week of November.

Sigh. 

Yes. We are those people. The people I used to sigh at and say…why do we have to start with the Christmas SO early? Can’t we just enjoy Thanksgiving?

However, it seems I have had a change of heart. Here’s why:

  1. Last year our Christmas-light-hanging was both a comical and actual disaster: In fact, we embarrassed ourselves and cracked up some of our neighbors. Our failings caused one of them to take pity on us and come to help us. Not only were we ill-equipped (our ladder was too short, our poles were too short), but we had absolutely NO idea what we were doing. Hanging lights was a cinch at our old house with its low roof-line and gutters – where the clips easily attached and our short ladder was perfect. We were completely unprepared for the project at our new house. High peaks and no gutters is a whole new ball game. So, after being the neighborhood Tweedledee and Tweedledum last year, we decided to be both equipped and proactive this year.
  2. We acquired the right equipment: This year we bought this fancy pole that releases the hooks with a trigger. To say it made the job easier is an understatement. It worked SO much better. We also were able to borrow an extension ladder twice the size of our ladder from a generous neighbor. This time we were well equipped before we began. BUT, let me be clear…we still had some hiccups and I’m sure we still looked VERY funny while doing it because we still weren’t totally sure what we’re doing. Lots of trial and error, but less than last year. SO, I guess that means we’re getting better. Next year…we’ll be just like the professionals, right? Isn’t the third time a charm? Haha.
  3. The weather was fantastic: It was gorgeous out. 60 degree sunny days don’t really happen in MN. It was unseasonably warm and still is! A GIFT. It felt great to be outside and accomplish something. Last year it was chilly and because we were unprepared, it took forever. And ever. Freezing people who don’t know what they are doing – who break their lights so they no longer work after ALL that effort…well, our attitudes got a little cold last year. And, in MN, it could easily be 60 degrees today and be snowing and 20 degrees tomorrow and not warm up again until spring. NEVER, EVER waste a nice day in November in MN!
  4. We have small children: It takes two adults to hang lights, especially with someone on a very tall ladder. This means our children must be outside with us. We are simply lacking the desire to freeze (and hear our children complain that they are freezing) while we hang Christmas lights. For us, earlier is practical in SO many ways.
  5. We were in good company: Not only were we outside putting up our lights early, but our neighbor across the street was as well. You know – the kind soul who took pity on us last year and who knows exactly what he is doing. Thankfully, he only had to stop by once to hold the ladder. And, as we walked around our block today, we saw there are 6 other homes with lights up. As long as we’re not the very first…I’m ok with it.

So, we may be those people, jumping the gun on Christmas decorations, but let me tell you. It was WORTH IT. We got to be outside on a beautiful day. Because no one was freezing, it made a not-very-fun task manageable. And dare I say, enjoyable? Probably not. My husband was the one up high in the wind on the ladder…it may not have been very fun for him. Did I mention he’s pretty amazing?

So, when you drive by those houses with lights already up, remember this – they did it early and won’t be out there freezing with the rest of you who decide to wait until closer to December.

And perhaps they’re like me and still value Thanksgiving and weren’t even planning to turn the lights on until afterwards. But then, their 2 and 5 year old children pleaded to turn the lights on. Who could resist? They proceeded to display such sweet child-like joy and delight at those little white lights that it just seems silly to refuse to turn them on. Their smiles and faces almost made my heart pop. Seriously, I do think lights are pretty, but to these children, they’re A-MAZ-ING! And, their delight gave us the perfect chance to talk about how Christmas lights remind the world that Jesus is the true light of the world.

Plus, I like the way the lights show off the Grateful sign on our porch.

When do your lights go up?

Surrender

Surrender is not a natural thing.

We want control. We want OUR plans. We want our way.

My way.

This week presented two ‘possibilities’ that I basically have no control over. Sure, we have choices to make, but overall, these things are out of my control.

These things surfaced at once, just as our family starts the fall schedule we’ve been counting on, and waiting for.

They threaten to alter MY plans.

While I’ve been careful to avoid rabbit trail daydreams during the day, last night I made the mistake of letting my mind wander…imagining crazy ‘what ifs’, and worst-case scenarios.

Then I made the even bigger mistake of investigating one of the ‘possibilities’ on Google. Are you cringing as you read this? Of COURSE that was not a good idea! Google may offer information, but it does not offer peace. Unfortunately, the new wealth of information and lack of peace resulted in tears and a somewhat one-sided conversation with at my husband.

All my angst came flowing out in one…BIG…Bleh. Not my best moment (sorry honey).

The silly thing is, none of these possibilities are a sure thing. We have decisions to make. Nothing is locked in stone, and we have choices. None of these things are emergencies.

But I do not have control over them. And I don’t like it.

This week I’ve been praying myself to sleep while pondering the attributes of God. Mercifully, He has granted sleep every night. What a faithful God we serve! There is much peace and rest in knowing and remembering WHO God IS and what He has DONE.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:6-8 (NIV)

God IS good.

He has a plan.

God loves families and made them. He loves unity. Whatever He is calling ONE of us to do, He is calling the rest of us to support and help in.

His will IS perfect, even when we don’t understand it.

He works in ALL things for the GOOD of those who love Him – such a profound promise!

With these truths, I was baffled as to why I was still lacking peace. What I’ve come to realize today is that I cannot find true peace until I fully surrender to His will for me and our family. While I’ve surrendered these things to God before, the possibility of change distracted me and I lost sight of His face.

Instead of focusing on God, I’ve been focused on what might be…I refuse to persist this way. I choose to seek His face regardless of our circumstance. And to step into a deeper faith as I trust Him with more and more of our present and future.

I may not be in control – but HE is.

These ‘possibilities’ must be intentionally surrendered to His will. It is time to quit dwelling in my own self-pity and worst-case daydreams and it is time to trust the God who is LORD over ALL. Over me. Over our family. Over our circumstances. Come what may…He is still LORD.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all. – “I Surrender All” Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896.

I surrender…even if the answer He chooses for our family isn’t what I want. Even if it doesn’t match MY plans. God does not make mistakes.

God HAS called me to do things for Him this fall. His peace and assurance as I have stepped into those roles is unmistakable. But He may be calling our family to stretch and change more than we ever imagined in the coming year.

If so, HE will guide us through it. HIS will is never accompanied by asking us to flail about on our own.

HE equips.

HE loves.

HE goes with us and before us.

Today I seek my peace in the capable arms of Jesus, instead of the bottomless pit of Google and daydreams.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. –Mathew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Surrender | thisgratefulmama.com

‘The Bunny’ Isn’t Going Anywhere…Ideas For A Christ-Centered Easter

'The Bunny' Isn't Going Anywhere...Ideas For A Christ-Centered Easter | thisgratefulmama.com

Did anyone notice that the Easter candy arrived at the same time (or earlier) than Valentine’s candy? I know we joke about Christmas in July, but I am not so sure how I feel about Easter in January, even though the hope and joy of a risen Jesus Christ is worth celebrating every day.

What I’m not so sure about is the drawn out bombardment of the Easter bunny, spreading his marketing agenda through children’s cartoons, billboards and aisle endcaps – obviously targeting children, parent and grandparents.

Now, I’m no bunny-hater – I grew up celebrating Jesus’ resurrection at church, with a basket of Easter treats at home. ‘The bunny’ hid eggs and treats all over our house (because usually MN Easter is cold and snowy or very wet) and we enjoyed many challenging egg hunts as a family. We dyed eggs and I have very fond memories of all aspects of Easter and the childhood wonder that goes with it.

What I struggle with is how to embrace both the bunny and Jesus with a consistent, Christ-centered message. I want Easter to be so much more meaningful to our children than a day celebrating a bunny, hopping from house to house, leaving eggs filled with candy. Up until this year, we’ve kind of avoided the issue. Last year our son was 3 and participated in an egg hunt but there had been little talk about the actual bunny.

It has never been our intent to shelter our children from the bunny entirely. Plus, sheltering from the bunny is simply not practical, and perhaps not even possible. The Easter Bunny is a dug in, popular figure who isn’t going ANYWHERE. The way I see it, the bunny and I are going to have to find a way to co-exist, and I’d rather it benefit our children by pointing them towards Jesus. Easter means so much to me, I long for them to feel the same way, long after the childhood wonder of the bunny has worn off.

When our son learned about Easter at preschool last Thursday, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since the preschool is in a church, I was hoping what he learned would be in line with what our family believes. When I picked him up, he had decorated a cute little white bag with a face and ears like a bunny. He was extremely amped up and excited to see what the Easter Bunny had left in the bag while they were outside playing.

I thought…uh-oh. We haven’t talked about the Easter bunny yet. But I was blessed and pleasantly surprised to see the careful and intentional instruction of his preschool teachers. Inside the bag were 3 small (nut-free!) treats, some of that fake grass (annoyingly messy, static-charged, impossible to clean up…but I digress), and one easter egg with a heart sticker on the outside.

The egg was empty.

I asked my son, why is the egg empty? With delight in his voice, he told me what he had learned at school:

“It’s empty because Jesus isn’t in there anymore! He’s alive! It has a heart on it because Jesus is in my heart” (let’s talk about how these words make MY heart leap for joy). Then, “Easter isn’t about candy or the Easter ‘rabbit’, Mom, it’s about Jesus”.

If he’d have been a teenager, I’m sure his final, matter-of-fact statement would have been followed by “Duh” by the tone he used. For now, I’m glad he doesn’t know that term yet.

While we’ve been talking about Easter and Jesus’ death and resurrection for weeks, with reinforcement from Sunday School, this is the first time he really seemed to be able to verbalize it.  I was amazed to hear him profess how the Easter bunny wasn’t at the heart of Easter. We’ll see how he feels on Sunday after he gets his basket, but for now, this is a good start.

Friday morning, he informed me that if we don’t have a bag or basket to leave out for the ‘rabbit’, he won’t come. He reasoned, “We need to get one. For baby (his sister), too”.  As in, right now. 

SO, off we went to Target so he could pick out two buckets with shovels to use as ‘baskets’ this year. He wanted nothing to do with a true basket, because “you can’t play with it. It might break.” I found this logic to be pretty smart, and forward-thinking for a 4-year-old.

While I wasn’t sure how we would embrace the Easter bunny, I see no harm in using ‘the bunny’ to educate our children about Jesus and the true meaning of Easter. This year, ‘The Easter Bunny’ is planning to give our son the book, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones in his Easter Basket. It is our plan for our family to read the book together as a family devotional every evening after dinner.

Other book ideas for ‘the bunny’ to put in your little one’s Easter baskets include:

Given our son’s new-found understanding of the Easter bunny, I figured I better get my act together. I spent the past few days, searching for other, free ideas to incorporate into the next couple days, and to plan for in future years.

For a wealth of great Easter ideas, I recommend you pop on over to the Happy Home Fairy – the blog is filled with simple and great free printables and activities. While we won’t be doing all of these activities this year, I pinned a bunch of them on my Easter Pinterest board to use in the future. In particular, I liked:

Other options from other websites to use for Easter baskets or activities include:

What are your best go-to ways to discuss the ‘bunny’ and Jesus at your house?

He is Risen, Indeed! 

Happy Easter!

He is Risen! – But We Must Have Faith To Claim Victory In Our Everyday Lives

John 1633

This Easter, the best way to celebrate the gift of Jesus is to share what God has been doing in my life this past year. Last year, Easter exposed a void in my faith that I ddin’t even know was there. Deeply painful at the time and very personal even today, I wasn’t sure I would ever share this here – but the work of God and His victories in our lives is always worth sharing, even when it is beyond our comfort level. Sorry, this is going to be a long one…Here goes…

Last spring, the women’s bible study studied the book ‘Fearless” by Max Lucado. After the first session, I arrogantly (and ignorantly) told my husband, “The book seems good, but I really don’t struggle with fear”.

Somehow, I thought that learning what God’s word has to say about fear didn’t apply to me –  a grievous mistake. We completed one chapter of the book before Easter.

You know how some years Easter seems to creep up on you? I’ve had plenty of years when I’ve neglected time with the Lord and haven’t been in His Word as much as I should have been. But, last year, I had been studying the book of Matthew in BSF. For months, I studied Jesus’ life and ministry. Last year I felt ready for Easter with the study of Jesus’ life and death fresh in my mind. I anticipated an Easter with family, filled with gratitude, joy and peace.

I entered the weekend on a perceived spiritual high, having no idea what was about to hit me. I was woefully unprepared.

With family visiting, we were invited to join the rest of my husband’s family at his mom’s church on Easter morning. The idea of those we love, standing together and worshipping the Lord is a joyful one.

What could go wrong?

We walked into the church (which is not our home church), and joined our family. As we took our kids to children’s programming, I noticed tables with donuts and pastries, a treat for the special day.

It took just one child running by me, carrying a pastry, dropping bits of almond on the floor for paralyzing fear to seize me. Our son has a nut allergy, and I had forgotten the Epi-Pens and Benedryl at home – an hour away. It isn’t that an Epi-Pen means safety. It does not! But not having it with me was negligent. It showed my lack of preparation and foresight that I usually have before walking into any unknown environment with our son.

I was as unequipped with his medications and planning, as I was in my own faith on a spiritual level.

I dropped him off in his room and had a sigh of relief as the staff asked me if he had allergies before I could tell them – even with it on the tip of my tongue in my now hyper-aware state. Initially they weren’t planning to provide a snack, so I felt comfortable that the room would be safe, even if the hallways were littered with nut-contaminated (albeit TINY) crumbs. I joined our family in the sanctuary and waited for the service to begin.

I tried to keep it together, but felt rattled. Unsettled.

A woman from the childcare came by and showed me a dixie cup of cookies and asked if my son could eat them. I told her without a label to read the answer was no. They came back later and asked about graham crackers, but again, no label. My anxiety climbed in the very room designated for the worship of the all-powerful God.

As the service began, I sang but the words came out hollow. I prayed for peace and protection. But I was preoccupied, fearful and frustrated with my own poor planning the entire service. My prayers pleaded but were powerless as fear exposed my unbelief.

It felt like both the longest and shortest Easter service I’ve ever been in. I longed for it to be done so I could hold our son, but I longed for it to continue so I could find peace and worship Him fully.

When it ended, people all around me were joyful. I felt defeated.

And still very afraid. I could not shake it. I was so ashamed that my faith was so weak. I was discouraged that it took so little to leave me feeling exposed and that I could not find peace. This was beyond anything I had ever felt or encountered before. It hurt.

I ran to our son and found him safe and sound. He had a wonderful time and told me all about how Jesus had risen. We met our family in the hallway. Many of them had donuts. I kept him close to me. As my son looked around, he asked for a donut. Squatting down, I told him that we were going to grandma’s to eat and had plenty of treats. I showed him how his mom, dad and sister didn’t have a donut either.  But as one might expect, he got upset. Tears welled up in his big brown eyes.

He lashed out, pushing me back and crying out in frustration. He was right. This wasn’t fair at all.

Now choking back my own tears, I signaled my husband we were leaving and scooped our son up as he wailed and ran to the parking lot. By the time I reached the car, we were both in tears. And now the poor child thought he was in trouble for pushing me. We were a mess. There was no way I was going to discipline him for being frustrated because yet again, he could not eat what everyone else was having. I was frustrated too, but grateful we were in the car, away from the crumbs.

I told him I was sorry he couldn’t have the donut and just hugged him until everyone else came out. I was afraid to say anything more because I didn’t want him to sense my fear. As we drove to my mother-in-law’s house, I tried to shake it off. I didn’t want to talk about being afraid in front of our son, so I didn’t talk to my husband about it.

The fear and startling lack of peace remained.  All day. As our children delighted in their lovingly and carefully prepared nut-free Easter eggs and baskets, as we laughed and talked, and as we celebrated the victory of Jesus Christ over death, and the sacrifice He made to save us from our sins.

Who would expect something as simple as a donut could bring me to my knees, shaking in fear on Easter Sunday? Certainly not me – I was on a spiritual high, remember?

Easter. The day that highlights the POWER of God and the sacrifice, love, grace and mercy of a willing savior. I was there to worship Jesus, who chose to come to earth, humbled in a human body, choosing to serve and forgive His own creation, even as they rejected Him – A creation that should have known He was their savior – A creation that scorned Him, plotted against Him, and ultimately killed Him although He had never sinned. Not once.

He chose to do it, and in doing so, He took upon Himself, not only my sins and but your sins if you believe, confess and call on His name. He died, willingly, not using His power to stop the pain, suffering, and injustice. Instead, He cried out asking the Father to forgive the very men who were crucifying Him. Then, of His own power, He died, and rose again 3 days later, conquering death and sin. He saved me. He chose me. Jesus is now in heaven, alive, mediating on my behalf, and God the Father now sees me through the lens of Jesus’ blood. Forgiven. Sinless. Holy.

If Jesus Christ is all this…how could I not believe that He could protect our son, whom HE created and loves, from a peanut?

As I wallowed in fear and sadness, Satan was momentarily victorious in my life on a day when I should have been joyously celebrating the victory of Jesus Christ. What more could Satan want than to steal the praise of God as I surrendered to fear? In doing so, I made the day about my own fear and lack of trust. A starling defeat in a season when I had been growing spiritually.

In the days that followed I felt shell-shocked. I downplayed my fear when I mentioned it my husband before bed that night, and then he left on a business trip in the morning. I couldn’t figure out why the fear remained and was so powerful. I decided not talking about it would make it go away.

I was wrong. Once you’ve experienced paralyzing fear, it is far too easy to let your mind wander to what could have happened. It is far too easy to let your mind dwell in dark places that only heighten the intensity of fear and fuel it with more power. I tried to ignore it, but instead it consumed my thoughts, running rampant.

Looking back, the entire situation caught me off guard for a few reasons. First, I had not yet experienced seizing fear about our son’s peanut allergy, even when he was diagnosed two years before. Why? I controlled his environment and food. I had never really had to trust Him because I was trusting myself. Second, my lack of preparation forced me to see my lack of control over our son’s safety. I never forget the Epi-Pen! Third, I tried to pretend I wasn’t afraid because I knew in my head I should trust God, but lacked the perspective and trust to surrender my son’s life.

While doing all I can to keep him safe is absolutely my job, there is simply no way I can control everything. Practically, I should have simply had him sit with us in church, because that would have been the safe and wise choice. And my lack of preparation was a problem I do not plan to repeat. But this was much more than just forgetting the Epi-Pen and being surprised by a donut. There was a much deeper heart issue. I had been so prepared up until that point that I had a false sense of security. By feeling like I had everything under my control, I didn’t have to face reality. I had never surrendered to or even considered the fact that I don’t have this all buttoned up. I never asked myself if I trusted God in this area.

Not having control and ability to keep our son safe was a new feeling – one I still don’t like. But it is the reality all parents face. We will all face fears; of allergies, strangers, accidents, bullies, and choices they will make. We will face the reality that we cannot possibly control everything in our children’s lives as they grow up. Whether we want to or not.

In the middle of the night, my husband out of town, I found myself seized by fear, and crying. Not just weeping, but I think I’ve heard it termed –ugly crying. That following Tuesday, still struggling, I shared with our bible study what had happened. In a rare show of public emotion, I not only teared up, but I sobbed. I choked on my words.  Women dug in their purses and handed me tissues, squeezed my shoulders and gave hugs. They offering wise and Godly advice. They prayed for me. I left encouraged instead of embarassed. They blessed my socks off

They changed my thinking by pointing me to a powerful God who can conquer all of my fears for me if I give surrender to Him and trust that He has them under control. This time, with the truth spilled and prayers of wise Godly women spoken on my behalf, when I then asked God to give me peace, I felt it. Tangible. Powerful. Real.

It wasn’t that the peace wasn’t available on Easter Sunday. It was. But I trusted what my eyes saw – nut covered pastry crumbs – and not what my faith and the Holy Spirit were shouting within me. I learned a very powerful lesson. Fear is a not to be underestimated. It cannot be ignored. It has to be addressed. It cannot be stuffed, or we will give it reign in our life. Delaying the admission of my fear was wrong, and at my detriment.

Fear must be named and brought into the light.

I know now that despite being deep in the study of God’s word, I had neglected to ask God what I was holding back. Self-reliance and thinking we are in control of anything is nothing but pride in disguise. It is dangerous. God was gracious to me by letting me experience the fear 2 years before I have to send our son to Kindergarten. Now I have time to learn to trust God all-the-more before that day. And as I gradually have to surrender my control of our son’s life as he grows up, I need to trust MORE and MORE in God’s control and sovereignty.

I still struggle with fear. As I’ve shared before, it rises often, and has surprised me time and time again this past year. In fact, I have struggled with fear this past year more than ever in my life. The situations I cannot control are not going anywhere and are increasing in frequency. They will continue without ceasing, until both of our children are adults and on their own.

But I refuse to give fear victory in my life. With every test of fear, with every prayer for peace and with every moment I surrender fear to God, the more powerful the light of Jesus shines and the less I dwell in the stifling darkness and oppression of fear. I am learning to turn to God rather than to allow rabbit trails of fearful daydreams. The greatest thing I have to report today is that I have consistently seen victory in the area of fear on a daily basis. It is not easy. Fear for me is an ongoing struggle but with daily struggle comes the opportunity for daily victory. And let me be clear – without the power of Jesus in my life, I am helpless against this fear. There is no victory without Him for me.

As I prepare for Easter this year, I look at Jesus’ victory over sin and death a little differently. Same Jesus. Same sacrifice. But I feel more victory in my life. I see how He has worked in me this past year to deepen my faith, to rely less on my own strength, and to strengthen and prepare me for new challenges. I have felt the peace and comfort that can only come from surrendering to His will and trusting that He will be with us. I know to my bones that no matter what I cannot control, He will still be God, He will still be good, and He IS faithful. I cannot hold onto anything too tight – even our children. I cling to the truth that they were HIS even before they were mine.  He loves them even more than I do.

This past year I have been given tangible evidence that He longs to carry our burdens, knowing I am ill-equipped to carry my own. He has shown me how thinking I don’t struggle with fear is an open door to let it consume me. I must be prepared and be willing to ask myself where I have not surrendered to God because I am controlling things and trusting myself instead of HIM. I find myself grateful for the struggle because the victory is so sweet. This fear is no joke. It rises up and it when it was exposed it felt like a wound ripped open that might never heal. But slowly, I’ve been equipped and althogh it rises up, the fear loses it’s power as I claim Jesus’ victory and promises in my life. I am grateful that instead of letting me dwell in fear, He redeems it and makes me stronger for the next time. At the cross, we become heirs to peace, and heirs to His victory.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” – John 16:33 (NIV)

He is risen! But we must walk in faith to share in His victory and we must let Him be God.

May He bless you richly as you consider His sacrifice this holy week.

Happy Easter.