Failing, failing, all the time

Every day I fail. I fail as a Christian, as a person, as a woman, as a friend, a wife, a mother. I fail to be kind, considerate, and loving. I fail to be humble and hold my tongue. What about you, Friend? Do you feel like a failure, too?

Failure can be demoralizing. It can immobilize. It can feel like a chokehold, a foot on one’s neck, strangling the breath out of us. Failure is condemning.

But condemnation? It’s not from God.

Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Do you see what the enemy does with our failures, my friend? He throws them down as evidence in front of us, in front of God, in front of others. He yells out accusations and screams our failures from the rooftop. He convinces us that our failures disqualify us, define us.

But God? God doesn’t condemn. He convicts, yes. There’s a huge difference between conviction and condemnation. Don’t get them mixed up, my friend. Too often, satan convinces us, the liar that he is, that our failure is final, that failure is reason to quit. We give up without a fight when the enemy takes us to “court.” But what we fail to remember is this: We have an advocate with the Father. (1 John 2:1) Jesus Christ is our divine defense attorney. He stands before the Father in our defense. Actually, more than that. He takes our place at the table before the Judge. Though we are guilty, he enters a plea of “Not guilty” for us. He takes the punishment for our sins. Our failures and shortcomings are transferred upon him, and he bears the sentence incurred. And we, through repentance and forgiveness, are set free. We are free. Our failures can no longer tie us down like stakes in the ground.

The enemy can point his finger, proclaiming our failures day in and day out, but they are no match for God’s mercy. His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22) My failures, your failures, are not dead ends. They do not kick us out of the kingdom. Contrary to the lies of the deceiver, we can rest confidently in knowing that the love of God, the sacrifice of Christ’s life on the cross, enables us to go forward in faith.

What do we do when we fail, then?

We don’t live in condemnation. We admit our failures, and, as poet and author Maya Angelou said, “…When you know better, do better.” (In Christianity, it’s called repentance. Repentance means you stop, turn around, and go the opposite direction. In other words, you stop doing wrong and start doing right.)

When you’ve failed, admit it. Then start doing the right thing. When you fail, ask forgiveness from God who gives it generously through Jesus Christ. Then when you have believed his word of forgiveness, start doing the things he’s called you to do through the help of the Holy Spirit. Don’t rely on your own strength to live righteously. Satan would like nothing better than to convince you that you can do things yourself, that you can be all and do all on your own. Pride was his downfall. Don’t let it be yours.

Finally, when you have failed, don’t let it define you. Failure is not who you are. The enemy will tell you that your failures comprise your identity, but your identity is in Christ. The Liar will tell you that because you haven’t had victory in a certain area (or areas) that you will never have victory. That is nothing but, please excuse me, crap. Total bull. Do not swallow that lie, friend. Christ has plenty to say about who you are! Look it up for yourself. Discover what God has to say about you in his word. If you need a bit of help on this, feel free to start here with Priscilla Shirer’s list: or do an internet image search with the term words “Identity in Christ.”

Look, I am not perfect. You are not perfect. There is only One perfect person: God. Imperfect, failing people are who God works on, in, and through. We will not achieve perfection here on earth, friend. No, but we are being sanctified, every day a new opportunity to become more like him. This shouldn’t discourage us, either, this unachievable goal. No. It should only serve to draw us closer to him, closer to the heart of God, for it is “…in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts. 17:28) Only God is able to transform our failures into faith. Will you let him? Will you trust him?




The end of winter

We were inundated, once again, with winter weather advisories this last week in Minnesota. A snow storm on Monday and another on Saturday brought icy roads and fresh, deep snow, much to the delight of children. The children’s sledding anticipation ran high, while the adults’ grumbled expectantly, shovel in hand. My Facebook newsfeed resounded with shouts of, “Enough, already!” So many are done with winter.

A few of us, however, smile secretly and tuck away the white scene in our minds, knowing that this season is exactly that. A season. The slowly falling flakes bring hope; hope that covers the emptiness of the hard ground. The sparkling layer of fresh snow glints off yards as if to shout, “Look at me! Notice the beauty in the barrenness!” An acquaintance on Saturday also remarked, “The snow is a wonderful reminder to me of God’s words in Isaiah.” What hope these words bring!

“…Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow…” Isaiah 1:18a

The newly fallen snow also reminded me of other words from the book of Isaiah.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;..” Isaiah 55:10

I try not to complain about the snow because I know that there is purpose in it, and there is a limit to it’s presence. I know this to be true, though it feels like winter will never end. I have certainty, proof, of this truth: Every year winter ends. Every year winter gives way to spring. Winter has never lasted 12 months. There has never been a year where winter did not end.

As I thought of the winter season and anticipate the budding of the pussy willow trees in my yard sometime in the next several weeks, I was struck by the thought of God’s faithfulness, how these seasons reflect His very character. He is faithful. Just as the seasons faithfully come and go year after year, God remains faithful. Year after year, season after season, He is faithful. How awesome it is, too, that He shows us His faithfulness through His creation, through the passing of seasons. Does that not give you hope, hope that winter will, indeed, end? Hope that your season of hard things, whatever they are, will, indeed, end, too? Though the trees remain barren and the ground bereft of color, may the snow upon them remind you of this: He is faithful. He is faithful. Winter will end. Spring will come, my friend. Spring will come. Until then, hold on to hope.



Lies or love?

Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. How much of your life has he stolen? How many of your dreams has he killed? How much of your faith has he destroyed? His lies have taken you captive for far too long. He is the father of lies. Lying is his native language. There is no truth in him.

Well, guess what? You don’t have to believe those lies. You don’t have to listen to him. You don’t have to succumb to defeat, discouragement, or disappointment. Stop swallowing the lies he is feeding you. Spit them out! Replace those lies with the truth. The truth is:

You ARE worthy.
You ARE loved.
You CAN do this. (With the help of the Holy Spirit)
You are NOT alone. (God is with you.)
You DO have strength. (GOD’S strength.)
It’s NOT too late. (This very second, right now, is the opportunity to start anew.)

I believe fear rests at the root of these lies. See, fear becomes the choke-hold satan uses to take you captive. He knows that if you believe the truth, you will be set free. The instant you choose to believe God is the instant satan loses his power over you. Remember, satan’s ultimate goal is to steal. Kill. Destroy.

And he does it all by lying.

Can you trust me on this? As one who was a former prisoner, a captive to lies? I know the fear. I know the lies. I know how hard it is to trust. But I also know the way out. I know who tells the truth.

Start meditating on God’s word. Speak truth to yourself. Satan is a liar, and it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to lie. The Liar offers death and destruction. Jesus offers life and deliverance. Fear or faith? Which one are you going to choose today? I know you don’t trust God because you have little faith. But little faith? Faith as small as this period (.) will sprout trust. And trust will grow that faith. And more faith more trust.

Lies or Love? Because that’s the difference. Satan and his lies, or God and His love. Satan’s already tried to convince you that God doesn’t love you, that if God really loved you, you wouldn’t be going through what you’re going through. But those are lies. You may not understand God’s purposes, but you can trust His promises. God’s word is true. Will you believe it? I’m praying for you, friend.


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Our church has been exploring the book of Exodus recently through a sermon series titled, “Becoming God’s People.” Believe it or not, it’s been amazing. I think many people hear “Exodus” or “The Old Testament” and their eyes immediately roll back in their heads and a yawn ensues. Oftentimes, I’ve heard remarked, “The Old Testament doesn’t apply to our times; it has no bearing on us now. It doesn’t really relate to today.” To that I say, “Wow! You’re kidding, right?!” I’m a bit shocked, really, because when I think about it long enough, I realize we are no different from the Israelites. We complain, we grumble, we disobey. We, like Moses, are oftentimes reluctant leaders. The Israelites had the very presence of God (through a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire), and we have the very presence of God (through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit). Yet we both murmur and fret, disbelieve and turn our stubborn hearts away from Him.

It’s amazing to think about, really. The more I read about the Israelites, the more I see myself in them. Like many of the chosen people of Israel, I find myself getting caught up in legalism, trusting in rules over relationship. I, like them, fail to give grace, but offer plenty of judgement. I am stingy with love, but don’t hesitate to dump a truckload of harshness.

I particularly identify with Moses. Here he is in the wilderness, minding his own business, doing his own thing shepherding when God grabs his attention and gives him a mission. It’s not like he misunderstood or misheard God, either. God was abundantly clear in His instructions for Moses. (Ex. 3) Like being hit with a 2 X 4, Moses couldn’t deny what was being asked of him. He knew what he was supposed to do.

But how does Moses respond? Is he happy to leave the wilderness, to step out of the place to which he had run when he fled from Pharaoh? (Ex. 2:15) Was he eager to serve God, confident that God would be with him and work through him? Did he reply, “Yes! Finally! This is what I’ve been waiting for!”


No, in fact, Moses responds by saying God’s got the wrong guy, that he is a nobody, that God is asking a completely unqualified guy to do the job. He continues by trying to convince God that no one will believe him and throws every excuse he can think of not to obey. He even resorts to begging God to please don’t make him go, don’t make him be the one to speak. Friends, does this sound familiar? Or am I the only one that can relate to Moses? I don’t think so. I believe there are many Christians like me who know what God wants them to do, but, like Moses, argue with God. We plead with Him to send someone else. We recite our list of faults to God, hoping that he’ll pick someone else to speak. Oh, friends. I relate.

What amazes me in these first chapters of Exodus is how God specifically states what He will do. He emphatically tells Moses that He will provide. He makes it clear that He knows every detail and foresees even Pharaoh’s response. He reassures Moses that he is not alone and will not be forsaken, that Moses will go in God’s power and strength. (Ex. 4) Friends, is there something you know God is asking you to do, but you keep giving Him excuses? Does what He’s asking you to do terrify you? Are you doubting your own ability? Have you questioned God, wondering if He’s made a mistake, chosen the wrong woman (or man)?

Ultimately, Moses obeyed God. He and Aaron went to Pharaoh and spoke God’s word. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright hard. I always remember, though, something a precious friend of mine once said: “Just because it’s a difficult road, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong road.” (Wise words from my dear friend Julie who died 12 years ago, yet is alive in heaven.)

God will ask you to do hard things, my friend. But, just as He did with the Israelites, He will do for you: Provide.


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There is no “Get Out of Jail Free” card for child loss

22 years ago on May 1st, I was heavily pregnant with our firstborn child. We were everything first time parents are: scared, excited, and naive. My husband and I didn’t know what the next 24 hours held for us as we sat on our Boucle sofa late afternoon all those years ago.

But then my water broke.

I’ll spare you all the labor and birth/c-section details, however, and cut to the chase: 23 hours after my water broke, our precious baby was born. I heard the words, “It’s a boy!” but the long labor, the drugs, and the c-section left me barely conscious. A nurse held my newly-born son next to my cheek so I could greet him, but, instead, I drifted off to la-la land. It was hours before I was awake and alert enough from surgery to “ooooh” and “aaahh” over him.

22 years ago at 4:59pm on May 2, my son was born.

And I will never think of his birth without thinking of his death.

See, that’s the way it is with child loss. There is no “Get Out of Jail Free” card when you’ve lost a child.

Image result for get out of jail free card clip art

Every birthday, every holiday, every family gathering, every family picture, and every celebration is overcast with a faint cloud of grief. The longing for, and the absence of, my son fills every one of those memorable moments. There is no rhyme or reason with grief, as those who experience it will attest. This sixth birthday without Matt? I’m tired of trying to be strong. I’m weary of putting on a happy face. I don’t want to “Pollyanna”-up today.

And you know what? There is sweet relief in admitting it. There is a peace that fills my aching heart because I know I don’t have to do this child loss thing alone. I don’t have to be strong. I don’t have to pretend it’s okay. I don’t have to buy into the world’s way of thinking that says it’s all or nothing, that we’re either happy or sad.

No, because the truth is that joy and sorrow coexist. The truth is that I am held. The truth is that I can be incredibly thankful for the gift of my son and incredibly sad that he’s not here with us for his 22nd birthday. The truth is that when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 corinthians 12 verse 9

It’s hard to find hope when hurt obscures our sight. But God already knows this, which is why He calls us to walk by faith and not by sight. It’s why we, like David, hide His word in our hearts. (Psalm 119:11) Pain tempts us to lash out, to stumble and fall in our faith walk. Yet God tells us, not to see this world and it’s hurts, but to see beyond, to see Him and His hope.

God knew my heavy heart this morning even before I opened my eyes. He had already prepared the devotional I was about to read, the exact words He knew I needed to hear today. It made me weep because of His love and tenderness toward me.

Choosing to See Beyond Your Grief
Jennifer Rothschild —- May 1, 2017

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

I remember when I heard the news. I was elated and squealed and cried! I hugged our kids, my husband, the dog and anyone else close enough to grab!

I asked my son and daughter-in-law a million questions. And then, hours later, alone in my bed, I processed the news … alone in the reality of fresh loss. The sadness closed in like the final curtain after a beautiful play. Elation was replaced by reality — a reality that brought feelings I never expected.

The reality is, I’m blind. I am about to become a grandma, and I won’t see my grandbaby’s eyes. I won’t know if he has Clayton’s nose or Caroline’s mouth. I won’t see his smile. I won’t see his tiny hands balled into fists as he toddles on chunky little legs taking his first steps. I was deflated. I wept. I asked God a million questions as I hugged my pillow.

Lord, I won’t be able to care for him or take him to the park or color with him or even play peek-a-boo.

Will he think of me as the grandma who isn’t fun? Will he feel safe with me? Will I be the grandma he’s unsure of until he’s old enough to understand?

As I tossed and turned and prayed and cried, I thought of how much I wanted to feel gratitude, not grief. Joy, like when I first heard the news … before sorrow clouded my vision.

I lost my sight at 15, but now at 53, becoming a grandma is forcing me to grieve blindness in new and unexpected ways.

Grief and gratefulness can share the same heartbeat, but they don’t always share the same viewpoint. I want to see beyond grief and fix my eyes only on gratefulness.

That’s why I need to see with my heart. And, sister, I have a strong feeling I’m not the only one. But we can’t unless God opens the eyes of our hearts, as our key verse says:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:18).

When God opens the eyes of our hearts, we can see the hope to which we are called. We’re not called to despair or constant grief; we are called to hope.

God wants to open our spiritual eyes so we can see hope with our hearts. When we see with our hearts, we see blessing and potential tucked within loss and disappointment.

When we see with our hearts, we focus on what we have, not what we’ve lost. We view our situations, our whole lives, through the eyes of gratefulness. And grateful eyes will always see hope.

Seeing with our hearts doesn’t mean we won’t still hurt. It doesn’t mean we see everything through rose-colored filters. Grief is still real, and grief still hurts. But when we ask God to open our spiritual eyes, we see beyond the

I may not see little dimples and dancing brown eyes with my eyes, but I can feel wonder when I touch that satiny skin. I may not see that baby’s sweet face, but I can hear a thousand anthems of praise in his giggle. I can caress infant skin bearing the fingerprint of God and feel gratefulness and hope radiate through my grief. I can and will see that baby with my heart.

You may hold unexpected grief in your heart today. Maybe you carry a burden that makes you grateful or a gift that makes you cry. No matter what life looks like for you today, God can help you see it with the eyes of your heart.

I know He can, my sister, because that’s what He’s doing for me. When we see with our hearts, hope bursts on the horizon, no matter how cloudy or dark the day.

God is the one who opens eyes. He opens eyes of the blind and those who see perfectly but are blinded by disappointment, loss or grief.

So, if what you see discourages you, ask God to open the eyes of your heart and fix them on what is unseen. Because what is seen is temporary, and what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Dear Lord, focus my spiritual eyes so I can see Your hand, Your heart and Your purpose in all I experience. Let me see with my heart today and every day, so I can see hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

– See more at:

I don’t have to look ahead at the day today (or tomorrow) and wonder how I’m going to get through it. Instead, I need only to look at Him, Christ Jesus, who bears my sorrows, my sins, and my weakness and becomes my strength, my song, and my joy.


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Dear Matt,

As your 22nd birthday draws near, I’m finding it harder and harder to “deal.” I want to scream at the clock to stop ticking. I yearn to crawl into bed and lie there until May 3rd. I want to shut down, drown out the world, drift far, far away. I am angry at everything and nothing because sometimes it’s just easier than falling apart. You know what sucks? This. This trying to celebrate the birthday of a child who died. I still want to scream, “It’s not fair!” It still feels surreal that you are not here, and I wonder if it always will. I want to make a cake and buy presents for you. I want to see you open your gifts and hear your deep, quiet voice while I watch in delight as you respond with that trademark smirk-smile.

But I can’t.

Because you are gone. You died.

And I am left to make the best of it. I’m left to try to find things to be thankful for when all I really want is to have you back with us. I’m left to remember and cherish the memories of you, the memories that were once all joy but are now all bittersweet. It SUCKS. It really, really sucks.

Oh, my son. How I miss you so.

This is hard.

But here we are, marking your 22nd birthday without you, the sixth one since you left this earth without warning one bright, sunny summer morning. Your birthday this year falls on a Tuesday, just like the year when you were born. I’ll never forget, of course, how surprised we were when the doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” We were so sure we were having a girl. So sure, in fact, that even though we had had a boy’s name picked out, I called you Rachel almost the whole pregnancy. Haha! I’m not sure I ever told you that story, Matt.

Though I was disappointed at having a c-section after 23 hours of labor, I was never disappointed in having a boy. God gave me exactly what I needed. You were a gift, a gift beyond what words can describe. I still can’t believe the hospital let us take you home! Like most first-time parents, we didn’t know what we were doing, but we knew we were blessed beyond belief. We had a beautiful baby boy who stole our hearts the very second we knew we were expecting.

The pain of separation overwhelms me at times like this. Yet God tenderly whispers reminders of the truth: You are alive. You died, yet you live. God’s story is life, death, life. This life is not all there is. This is not forever. Death does not reign. Grief is temporary. Our “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (2 Cor. 4:17) We will be reunited, and never again will we be separated. God Himself “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)

Matt, you are and were God’s gift to me, to us. I cherish every memory, every photo, every moment we were allowed to have with you. We’re keeping it simple this year for your birthday and spending the day hanging out at the pool, which you loved. Your dad and others will drink a McDonald’s Mocha Frappe, also a favorite of yours. More than anything, I will lean into the One who holds you. I will look to the Giver of life and the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ, who died for me and for you…so that we could have life eternal.

I love you, Mateo.

Love, Mom

Ah…that look. Matt, age 15.

Doing it God’s way

A few days ago, I posted When bad news comes. The situation hasn’t changed, circumstances remain the same, and I vacillate between unquestionable faith in God and outright perplexity in God’s dealings with mankind. Like a kid on a rope swing, my faith swings back and forth, a slow momentum of quivering fear rising in my belly as God takes me higher and higher in this place of trust.

I’ve never liked heights.

But I am learning to trust the strength of the One who holds me.

This morning, I read the entry from today’s study in the First 5 app. (By the way, if you don’t have the First 5 app, I highly recommend getting it.) The post for today spoke directly to my heart.  It’s written by Wendy Blight and titled Trusting God in the Hard Places. It ends with the following:

Are you in a hard place? Do you wonder what God is doing? Take courage. The one who God called a man after His own heart struggled too. Press into God for understanding.

David’s life teaches us that it’s in the unanswered questions that we gain depth of faith. We come to know more … not about our circumstances … but about our God.

Give God your anger. Give Him your fear. Give Him your questions. He is waiting to come alongside you and bring you to the other side … to a place of understanding, healing, wholeness, blessing and even celebration.

Prayer: Father, I confess that sometimes I don’t understand why You allow what You do in the world and in my life. I struggle with, and sometimes even question, Your goodness and faithfulness. Help me process my questions and doubts with faith and not emotions. When circumstances tempt me to doubt that You are good and trustworthy, enable me to remember that You are moving and accomplishing Your plans, and no matter what I see with my eyes, I can know those plans are good because You are good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Oh, how I want to reach out and yank everything aright like David and Uzzah. I want to run ahead of the Lord, but deep in my heart, I know it would be wrong. Waiting on God is hard. (Can I get an ‘Amen’ to that?!)

But doing it His way is always best.



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