Darkness into Light - Conference Thoughts

The leaves are falling, there is a slight chill in the air, and we are right about ONE MONTH away from our annual Women's Conference. I can hardly believe how this year has flown by.

In one month, we will have the opportunity to gather together in sisterhood from all over Southern New England even reaching into Northern New England.

Can you imagine hundreds of New England women gathered together in community under one name, Jesus Christ? It will be powerful. I have this growing anticipation. God has incredible plans. I know it deep down in my heart.

The fight has been real, though. Ironically enough, I have had identity battles this year like I haven't in a long time. I have been hit on every side of my insecurities and my weaknesses. The word "unraveled" runs through my mind like a bad song on repeat. 

God is unraveling me this year. String by string, I am coming undone. And it hurts. At times, it feels like my insides are being torn and stretched. I feel as though I have been shoved onto a stage - completely laid bare for all to see. It's uncomfortable, to say the least.

I have had to ask myself the question, "Who Am I?" and "Whose Am I?" over and over again. As I have prepared for the conference message, despite every obstacle that tries to detour, God is speaking powerfully.

Here is one thing I am sure of at this point. The Bible reminds us we have an enemy that has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Our Father came that we may have life and have it abundantly. The life abundantly part happens when our identity is founded and rooted in truth. Many of us know this. And, yet, we don't live like it. Or we strive for it in all the wrong ways, through all the wrong things.

I know, within my Spirit, God desires to break these walls of false identity, misconceptions, and broken truth. Lies and patterns of thought that have defined our identities for years. The confusion that colors our ability to declare confidently of who we are. Or, maybe, it's our own accomplishments and pride that better characterize our identity than Christ who graciously empowered us.

Whatever it is that confuses and discolors our identity and the roots of that identity, God longs to tenderly cut through the noise, tear down the walls, and lovingly unravel us so that we stand free and confident in Christ. Do you sense it? Do you believe it?

Oh, I do, there is a rising faith in my soul - a stirring in my Spirit. He is saying, I will do great things for you and among you.

It's essential that who we are - who God says we are - aligns with who we believe we are. If the enemy can destroy this truth - he can tear away the freedom and abundant life that is promised in Christ. 

In 1 Peter 2:9, it states that we are chosen. We are special. And we are His. That He so graciously pulled us from the pit of darkness into a marvelous light.

And, yet, it's not enough to simply declare positive statements of belief: I am Strong, I am Brave, I am Hopeful, etc. It requires a lifelong deep inner work of transformation where we allow Christ to reach into the darkness of our existence and shed light on mistruths, lies, pain, mistakes, and more. Often we desire to leave the light off. No one WANTS to face their own darkness - their pain. And, yet, we cannot value the light without the darkness. 

But why not? Why not stare our darkness in the face and allow the light of Jesus Christ to come flooding in. By the act of one man - freedom has been offered - grace has been offered. By the act of Jesus Christ - righteousness no longer has to be earned. We accept our imperfections knowing that we don't earn anything, but that we are justified by faith and by grace. And we can come out of hiding-come out of darkness into glorious light. If we live our lives through Christ, it is Christ living in us that gives us the strength and courage to live outside of the darkness and in the light. To live free, to transform, to grow, to bear fruit and impact a world for Him.

I can't wait to continue to explore these themes of identity with you. The Women of Influence team and the network leadership team is praying for you. And we hope you will come. I pray God will remove all obstacles for you to be there the weekend of the conference. We all need a good, strong reminder of WHO we are and WHOSE we are. I hope to see you there!

You can register here: snemnwomenofinfluence/events

...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

The Art of Abiding

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.” - John 15:4-5

We recently got a new type of remote with the installation of our cable - the type of remote where you speak into it and it changes to the channel or media that you request. The funny thing is, I rarely use it. As convenient and advanced as it is - I prefer to navigate with the buttons and menus to my selection. In that same vein, I rarely use Siri on my iPhone. Why do I do extra work when something that is designed to make my life easier is also accessible to me?

Today, it struck me, I don't use these features that were designed to help me be more efficient and arguably more effective because I feel better about keeping the navigation in my hands - though it’s slower and more work.

That'll preach.

See, this is exactly what I do in my life. I’d rather navigate and manage my faith, life, and career on my own, rather than hand it over to a more capable, efficient, and effective God. I like to keep the navigation of life in my own hands - yes, even though it’s slower and more work. 

And, as we’ve made the BIG move to Newton, Mass. to activate a church with a BIG vision and a BIG heart for the City, I found myself in this place of tension - pulling on my own resources, wisdom, knowledge, and skill in order to help my family feel adjusted to this BIG move. I found myself taking God-delivered career opportunities and layering it with my own navigational *skills*. All the while, I should be releasing this BIG move for a BIG vision to a BIG God - I held it too tightly to myself. More work on me, but I felt better being the pseudo-captain of this ship rather than sit back and watch it unfold. 

The truth? My navigation is so inferior and it’s exhausting. My ability fits into a small piece of the larger vision - the only proper fit is to release and remain in a BIG God.

That’s exactly what John 15 speaks of - abiding in Christ. It’s the only way to “bear fruit” or to see *real* results.

Speak forth the promise of God, sit back, and let him work. 

Speak your need, sit back, and let his Body - his people - respond.

When he says, “remain in me” or “abide in me,” he is asking us to…exist…and stay connected to him, and he promises to stay connected to us. And, a part of staying connected to him is staying connected to his Body - his Church - his people.

God never designed us to do this alone - without the community of believers - without the support structure of the Body of Christ…his Church…his people. There is a very distinct reason why God said that we should not forsake the assembly or fellowship of the Body - because his Body is more capable, efficient, and effective than anything we can try our hand at alone. The results or “fruit” of my labor is limited, but it's infinite when I choose to abide and stay connected.

I'm terrible at asking for help - if you haven’t already discovered that! I can’t even ask Siri for help! But, part of remaining or abiding in Christ is to lean into the community of people that he’s placed around me. Releasing the navigational controls means placing it in his hands and the capable hands of his people. What is authentic community, if we can be the support that we all so desperately need?

So, if you have one takeaway from this post, hear this…exist. Just abide and stay connected to God and his Body. And, if you’re seeking the type of authentic community that makes life and facing its challenges more efficient and effective - send me an email - I'd love to introduce you to the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

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Guest Blog from Katie Scott via https://newcitychurch.cc/blog

Katie is a church planter with her husband, Devlin. Just moved to Newton, MA from Chicago, IL, we welcome them to the Southern New England family. To learn more about Katie, their family, and church planting endeavors, visit their website at newcitychurch.cc

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Scars and Trust

My trust in the Lord has always been, best put, complicated. I would be dishonest if I was to say it was consistent and constant. If anything, I have most identified with doubting Thomas. Most identified with the "wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." I long to be consistent, to be steady - immovable in my trust - and yet that typically isn't the case. 

The shock and resulting darkness of losing my parents in a short period of time and at such a young age left many scars. Scars, that although healed, still bears scar tissue. 

Our bodies have a natural way of healing through scars. The scar is a result of a wound in the body and the healing process of the body internally making an effort to heal that wound. Pain from scar tissue can actually occur long after the wound/surgical area has healed. All that needs to occur is a small amount of pressure, a squeezing of sorts internally or externally in and around the scar tissue and the nerves that are present there.

I had three C-sections. I have three operations worth (technically four with an emergency post op procedure) of scar tissue and the more you have built up, the more after pain may occur. It's just more sensitive. As a result, I often experience pain internally for various reasons or if I exude a lot of physical labor or activity (running, lifting, etc). 

I explain all of this not to give you weird insight into my physical pain, I promise. :) I share it because it so perfectly exemplifies what occurs in our own lives. When we experience loss, trauma, painful circumstances, and more - our mind, soul, and spirit works to find healing. The hope is that we allow Christ to do His best work of restoration and healing. Yet, we must acknowledge that even when He does, scar tissue will remain. We live in a fallen, imperfect world - and no healing will be perfectly complete until eternity. 

The more we fight this, the more we will actually move away from God in distrust. We must recognize that, at times, there are events or situations that come along and "squeeze" or "put pressure" on the scar tissue of those old wounds. This causes a rush of pain, and as a result memories of the trauma and loss may occur. Or, at the very least, we find ourselves overwhelmed with uncertainty. We are reminded that sometimes things don't work out, and sometimes God just allows pain.

This. This right here. It pushes hard against the real desire within us to trust in our faithful God. We tell ourselves, I know He is faithful - why can't I just trust? Because at the depth of who we are, we do trust Him. We know emphatically that He is trustworthy. Oh, but that scar tissue is pushing back reminding us of the long nights, the darkness that covered, the fear that ensued, the stark disappointment. 

Grace. Give yourself grace, my dear friend. Because your sweet Father is - in those moments where your trust waivers - pouring out His mercy and grace to help you build your trust again. 

When I experience that pain from my c-sections it never is as intense as when it was fresh and it never lasts that long. In fact, the more time that occurs and I am removed from those operations the less it occurs. 

He reminds us the pain will release. It will pass, and we will find our trust again. We just must hold on. Dig in deep in those moments. Turn quickly towards Him, call out, hold on - and wait.

For He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds stay on Him because they trust Him (Is. 26:3). In those moments where the pain or uncertainty is greater and clouding your senses - remind yourself of His faithfulness. Call to mind the hope you have in Him. Call to mind the millions of ways He has rescued you over and over again. And keep your heart and mind stayed on Him. 

And, when the pain is released or you find yourself being able to catch your breath - you will be able to say with sweet confidence again - Yes. I trust you with ALL my heart. The peaceful places. The painful ones. I trust you emphatically. 

“Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalms 28:6-7 NLT

...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

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Single Minded Focus

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

What are the things that fill your thoughts?

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

God’s word tells us we must go to war with our thoughts. Our mind loves to dwell on anything and everything, but God. When our minds dwell on something other than the Lord for an extended period we will become weary.

When we’re not focused on God mistakes happen.

God constantly tells His people to remember His words because our hearts are inclined to go their own way. When we are focused on the Lord we will be focused on His Word. When we start to lose focus, we stop making war with sin, our discernment will be off, then we are slow to do God’s will, becoming impatient, angry, worried…

So often we see Christians compromising, just a little because they take their focus off Jesus. Satan will try his best to tempt you, whispering softly in your ear, “Just do it one time, God doesn’t care, He’s is taking too long, it won’t hurt anyone…”

We must be on guard and be strong in the Lord, but how can we be strong in the Lord if our focus is not on Him? How can we know God’s instructions if we are not in His Word? Get into the Word daily and be a doer not a hearer.

I am learning that preaching the gospel to yourself is a terrific way to keep your mind on Christ. Sometimes we must take a moment to just praise Him and give thanks. A moment of genuine worship lasts a lifetime and brings Christ back into focus.

·       Let’s pray for help with keeping our mind focused on Christ.

·       Let’s pray that God helps us to notice when our mind drifts off to something else.

·       Let’s fight with our thoughts.

Remember, what consumes your mind controls your life.

... by Paulette Toews

... by Paulette Toews

Learning to Walk - Again

Change: learning new behaviors and attitudes is difficult. We create patterns that we have done so many times we don’t even realize we are doing them. Take, for example, how to walk, there is a proper way and an improper way to walk. I, for one, have not been walking properly for years, at least not for a decade or more.

I didn’t realize that I was doing anything wrong, and it took having both of my knees replaced before it was pointed out. The first time the physical therapist had me up and walking with my walker, she noticed that my right knee did not bend, and I swung my leg out to the side. At that moment, I knew that I had been walking this way to overcompensate for the pain and discomfort of my knee problems. What I didn’t realize was that doing it my own way, walking so that I didn’t feel the pain in my knees, was causing pain and problems in other areas of my body.

So, at 38 years of age I had to learn how to walk again. And let me tell you, it was not easy, nor was it pretty. Now that I am walking much closer to “normal”, many of the aches and pains I had are gone. I no longer have the waddle that I had come to detest. I find myself wondering, had it been pointed out to me 10 or more years ago when I first began to walk improperly, would I have made the changes, or would I have continued doing what I was doing because it was more comfortable?

Isn’t that very much the same as our lives? Sometimes we walk the way Jesus did, but often times we don’t, because it hurts, or is uncomfortable. So, we pick up bad habits, dragging our feet or limping instead of taking the rock out of our shoe. This, in reality, is the same as doing it our way instead of His way. We ignore the Holy Spirit when He brings to our attention things that need change, because it’s more comfortable and it is easier.

I, for one, want to walk properly. I am being challenged and changed every day, and occasionally, it’s painful and uncomfortable. I admit that some days I drag my feet, wanting to walk the way I have become accustom to, but then I am reminded that just because my way seems better for the moment, it can and will cause problems in other areas of my life. So I am embracing this change that is before me, changing the patterns of the past and allowing the Lord to teach me to walk – His way.

...by Paulette Toews

...by Paulette Toews

Sticks and Stones

Do you remember being teased as a child and your mom telling you the old adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me?” What a bunch of hooey that is. God reminds me of some interesting things when we talk. I was told many things as a kid, by different people, including myself, and I was told things just these past few weeks by different people.

I’ve never broken a bone, but have experienced much pain with my bones, having both knees replaced, and two toes intentionally broken to correct them. It was painful, I won’t lie to you, but I have been healed of the pain. Each and every day it was a little less until one day I woke up and the pain was no longer there. But the pain that I have experienced at the expense of words… well that is a much different, much deeper pain, with long lasting effects, if we are not careful.

As I was talking with my Jesus this morning, what He spoke to my heart was “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, Paulette. Yes, their words were hurtful. Yes, they cut you deep, but focus on My words. Focus on My love. Focus on Me! Instead of hitting the rewind button in your mind and replaying them over and over, record over it with My words of love and encouragement. Replay My truth over and over again until the truth of those words completely wipes out the hurtful ones.”

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

 “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16

Their words hurt me deeply; they cut to the very depth of my heart. But I have spent the days trying to be renewed by the transformation of my mind, by allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way and change my heart. And now, like my bones have healed, my heart is in the process of healing as well.

Sticks and stone will break the bones, and the words will hurt as well. But it doesn’t have to stay that way! Will you allow God access to your heart and mind, will you be…

… transformed by the renewing of your mind!

...by Paulette Toews

...by Paulette Toews

East to West

A few years ago I was blessed with an invite to spend a night at Martha’s Vineyard with some girlfriends. As I was enjoying the ferry ride over to the island, I was reminded just how far away from home I was. I am originally from the West Coast, and now live about 3000 miles from there on the East Coast. The two oceans are different. The color is not the same. One is warmer than the other and to me, they just look different. As I was thinking about this, I realized just how from home I was, and it dawned on me that I have literally moved from one ocean to the other, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Wow, I moved clear across the country, and on top of that, I moved from the Canadian West Coast to the American East Coast. I am a long way from home.

While I was chewing on the distance between me and my childhood memories, the Lord gently whispered in my ear “as far as the East is from the West, that’s how far I have moved your mistakes from Me.” At that moment the distance became even greater.

I don’t know how many times I have heard the verse in Psalm 103:12 that says “as far as the East is from the West, so far has He moved our transgression from us”, and to be honest I’ve never really thought much about it. I know that the East and West are opposites and that there is much space between them. But did you know that the distance between North and South is finite, while the distance between East and West is infinite? Think about it.

Picture a globe. If you were to travel north, you could only go so far and then you would be traveling south. The same thing if you were going south, you would eventually be going north. But, if you were to head east or west, you could keep going in that direction forever. There is no end. It is a distance that cannot be measured.

That is how far God has moved our transgressions from us.

...by Paulette Toews

...by Paulette Toews

Not Enough. Literally.

As humans, I think there is always a sense of "not enough" in us. Derived from our childhood or past, every day mistakes, lack of performance in certain areas, etc - all make us "feel" this uncomfortable feeling of not measuring up.

Then there are these seasons where you examine areas of your life, and you can clearly point to the lack. Places where you know better, and yet just don't keep up with what is necessary. The "not enough" feeling becomes more than an inadequacy battle and becomes reality. I am in this season.

In my personal health and wellness (body, soul, and spirit), in my work, in my parenting, being a wife, and probably every other area.

I am frustrated-even discouraged at my inability to keep up. I know what I need for health and wellness, and I am not implementing those things well. I need silence and solitude on a regular basis, and it is mostly nonexistent. I need water o plenty, fruits (yeah I am supposed to say veggies, but for now, I will stick with my daily banana), vitamins, way less eating out, and some form of regular light exercise. For my emotional health, I need to be writing, processing regularly, and confronting difficult feelings. Spiritually, I must have time with God, focused study, extended prayer times, and more.

Don't get me wrong, I am never fully and perfectly hitting all of those. However, in this season, my tank is empty, and my health is taking a hit. I wake up every morning with a list of things I am behind in, with personal frustration in regards to my lack.

And before you begin to offer platitudes to help me feel better, because you think - oh my goodness, we can't have Christan down in the dumps - let me stop you. 

I am all about the "He's enough for you". "You don't have to be enough, because He is enough". "You will never be enough, but He is". That's great and everything. All about that grace. 

But, let's get serious. Sometimes it's just literally not enough, because you are not making good choices or because you don't have the capacity or because you just don't have it in you. And so it's not the proverbial "I'm not enough". It's the, "no, like seriously, I know better and I'm not cutting it". Maybe it's just me who's been there? But I doubt it. 

Shame is the ugly monster that drives me to perform better, harder, and faster. Shame in its ugliness whispers you just need to do things right and then all will be well. And, yet, it never turns out that way. When we try to make things better on our own without relying on our Savior, we inevitably cycle through the failure again. 

But here is the thing, every day and many moments in the day-I hear a still small voice that gently whispers-"I've got you." So, I kick and scream and want to punch in walls because I am a hot mess in this season and I don't like it. But He says, even in the seasons of emptiness and "not enough" - I've got you. My love doesn't change and shift with the seasons of your life. It doesn't increase or decrease depending on how well you are doing or not doing. Always. In every season. I've got you. 

Thank God His love covers a multitude of sin and failure. Thank God His love is whole even when I feel so broken. 

It helps me be okay with own my brokenness. It helps me breathe deeply and say, it's okay. It's permission giving to just simply be "not enough" in the worst kind of way. 

It's His loving kindness that draws me to humble repentance. When I have faltered and failed, I know He is waiting with open arms. There may be frustration and disappointment that I can't seem to keep up, that I'm an emotional wreck, and that I'm battling a boiling temper. Yet there is no shame.

There is no shame, because I know to whom I belong. And, I am okay not being okay in this season. Why? Not because I don't care, but because He's got me and He's got this. I am not alone. 

Are you okay with not being okay sometimes? Do you believe God's love covers you every moment in every season? Does shame sit close trying desperately to drag you under?

When we hesitate to draw near to Him in these "empty" and "not enough" seasons, we can almost always point to shame as a culprit. 

Shame creates self-contempt, it causes distraction, and makes us lose perspective. Shame colors our ability to see God in His grace and mercy, and rather than draw towards Him we draw away from Him. There's no place or need for shame as children of God. 

If you are in a season where you just can't seem to keep up with the necessary, can I invite you to lean into His grace and mercy today? He's got you, friend. He will cover your multitude of faults and failures. And He will fill in the gaps until you are on your feet again. 

...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

I Wander as I Wander

I don't know what it is about that sweet disciple, Peter, that causes me to identify with Him so much.

Maybe it is the undying faith in his Savior. Or better yet, it's the stubborn pride that actually might be underlying fear that causes him to deny his Lord.

We are alike, Peter and I. "Prone to wander, God I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." I have a picture in my home that states the old famous thought, "Bind my wandering heart to thee".

The wandering for me does not really come so much in the external. It's this internal wandering away. Where I dwell or overthink a situation so much that my eyes are no longer on my Father. They are fixed on the situation and all the potential obstacles, challenges, and more that can come with it.

I will forever be battling my mind.

What about you?

We can be quite exemplary in our following of Christ on the external. The ever faithful servant, the kindhearted neighbor, and the dutiful reader of God's Word. And, yet, internally we stray. Our thought life and heart can be far from the God we worship. And when this might occur, we become discouraged, distrusting, and even dismayed over the challenges of this life.

Much like Peter who sees Christ, His friend and teacher.  Christ Jesus calls for him to boldly come near, to step out into the water. Peter so faithfully following Jesus shouts, yes! If it's you, Lord! Of course, I will come.

As soon as he steps out, though, he starts getting distracted. His steps of obedience were in the right direction. His willingness was to be applauded. Nonetheless, his mind and heart began to wander and so did his eyes. He faltered, he became afraid and then stumbled.

It's not so much that we will never be afraid. In fact, in this life with all of the challenges that storm through, we will know fear. Rather we must realize it is not enough for us to put on faithfulness wearing it like badge of honor. It's not enough to take the steps of obedience if our heart and mind doesn't follow. Because, inevitably, we will become distracted and take our eyes off of our Father-putting them on the world around us. And, that will be enough to cause us to stumble. Or, at the very least, wander away from communion with Him.

Are you fully engaged in the Savior? Or has your journey found itself making the hard steps of faithful obedience, and yet internally the rest of you wanders?

I get it. In fact, through this season of church planting and new leadership roles, there have been many times I have gotten my eyes off of Jesus Christ. My eyes and mind become fixated on the challenges that are ever before me, and it causes the fear to swell. In my feelings of being overwhelmed, my heart will turn away. But, God faithfully and gently says, come near. Eyes on me. Don't look anywhere but me. Walk in faith, but walk in boldness and courage.

My dear pastoral mentor and counselor has encouraged me more than once to remember that one of the beautiful qualities of God the Father is nurturer. In the midst of challenges, He longs to simply nurture and care for us - not measure us against a self induced standard. With this in mind, we should be drawn to Him not away from Him.

Here is my point. Many times we walk, but we walk in fear and uncertainty. We are willing to continue to move forward in faith or face the challenge He brings our way - but what is our posture? Is it a posture of confidence and wholehearted trust?

In our faithful following of Christ, we must also follow wholeheartedly. When there is pain and unknown, we must boldly embrace it and come. When the fear threatens to stop us in our tracks, we must call on the name of our God who is mighty to save and bring peace. When the anger of not enough starts to undo us and we long to turn back-we must take rest in the arms of a God who is so big and gracious - He can hold us in our anger.

It's not enough to follow Christ, and yet shield our heart from being fully engaged. It's won't be enough to boldly step out of the boat or into the storm if we are not continually wholeheartedly fixed on our Savior.

This is wholehearted obedience, soul and spirit. All of our mind fixed on Him. Not just pretentious steps of obedience, but everything all in.

When we are all in, we can jump out of the boat into the storm and waves, walk on the water fully surrendered no matter what occur around us.

We must reflect and ask ourselves, in what ways am I withholding my heart, soul, and mind from being fully engaged and fixed on God before me?

There's an old song that comes to mind, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of this world will go strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." The storm ceases to distract, the pain becomes worth it, and a stillness of trust causes us to just...breath...and rest.

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By: Christan Causey

Embracing the Hallmark Holiday

Let's just be okay with who we are, and where God has us. The good, the bad, and the imperfect. My dad died first (I was 24yrs old at the time) and I used to hate Father's Day. I felt bitter towards Hallmark and the church that forced us to celebrate it. My poor husband, even when he became a father, did not receive the celebration he deserved. I would soon rather forget it.

Then my mom died (I was 28 yrs old at the time). I was already a mother at the time, yet even in the celebration of my own motherhood on Mother's Day, came the painful reminders of my lack.

I am very sensitive and empathetic to those that do not have a mother to celebrate, or to those that have lost children, or to those that are barren on this Hallmark holiday. Mother's Day tends to cause even the most peaceful to fight a raging storm of pain.

Really, though, when you have experienced some sort of loss - all "special occasions" are like that. They bring bittersweet memories or remind you of the memories you lack and others have. If this is the case, are we to rage war against all special occasions and holidays? Pull them off our calendars, turn our heads, and let others celebrate the madness.

A little while ago in my life, I would have been tempted to shout a resounding, "yes"! As someone in full time ministry, I felt strongly the church should not recognize Mother's and Father's Day, because it isolated those who could not participate or celebrate for one reason or another. I have downplayed every special occasion (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, baby dedications, special celebrations and ceremonies) to the point of not truly celebrating them, isolating myself from those who did or would desire to celebrate with me.

I did this as recent as this last month when we had Havyn's baby dedication and Paxton's birthday. But as God has begun to restore and heal, I realize that this is not the way it should be. Whether it is the celebration of life or it's a culture induced holiday - if I have something to celebrate, I should celebrate. It doesn't mean the painful memories flee. It doesn't mean that I won't cringe when I sit here currently getting a pedicure, and I see an adult mother and daughter sharing conversation and laughter. I do cringe. I breathe deeply for a moment, and remember my own sweet mother. Asking myself what it would have been like to celebrate her this year on Mother's Day.

But here's the thing, I refuse to run from this Hallmark holiday, because really in running from the holiday, I am only running from the pain that the holiday creates. And after a year of focused healing and renewal, I have learned it is best for me to embrace the pain. For in the embracing of the pain, joy and deep faith is found. Please understand, I don't want the pain and I would certainly run from the sadness - I have - yet I know better now. To accept the pain and to feel the loss that has occurred is the first step to healing and joy.

And the pain is something that will occur on these special occasions like Mother's Day. But I have made a choice to celebrate who I am, and celebrate what I have. And in celebrating what I have, I am mourning what I don't have. And...there is peace and joy there. In essence, refusing to acknowledge or celebrate holidays is no longer something I do. Because, I feel, in doing so I will miss the joy and blessings I receive when recognizing and celebrating through pain.

Living in this place of peace and joy despite the pain of my loss is the sweet result of grace. Precious grace. That in my weakness, by His grace, I am made strong. Strong even in the midst of difficult days of celebration. I am truly learning the heart of this passage in 1 Corinthians 6:10

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

So, I celebrate all Mothers today. For none of us would exist, if it were not for a mom. Whether they were good or bad moms, we must be thankful for the choice our moms made to give us life. They gave us the chance to choose faith, life, joy, and more.

I celebrate the ladies in my life who are like moms to me. Showing me your care, concern, support, and love on a regular basis. You know who you are.

I celebrate my grandma in heaven who was my closest friend as a child.

I celebrate my grandma who is still with me. She has been a gift in the loss of my parents. She has persevered in many life and health struggles. She is a champion of faith. And her trust in God is unwavering.

I celebrate my mother-in-law who is caring, loving, and supportive of me and my family. Who regularly shows love and care to her grandchildren. Being a wonderful MiMi to them.

I celebrate the imperfectness of my own motherhood to my three beautiful children. I thank God for His grace. Grace given each day to guide, love, and care for them. Grace given to accept who I am, and realize that I am imperfect - but I love my children and would give my life for them. And, that my friends, is something beautiful with which my God can work.

I celebrate my own precious mom, who is no longer here. A mom who in her own imperfectness, left a beautiful legacy and handprint on my life. Mom- I wish you were here to celebrate with. I wish I could squeeze you and say, "I love you". And I so wish you could see your two new beautiful grandchildren. And you could see how smart, handsome, and big your chunky monkey is getting. It hurts. But I celebrate you today!

Happy Mother's Day, friends. I pray you find joy and celebration, even in the midst of possible sadness.

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By: Christan Causey