The Surprise of a Baby©

     The song always plays this time of year, “Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?” “Did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?” “Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?” “That sleeping child you hold is the great I Am”.  It gives me cause to consider how it all began.

     I’ve heard countless sermons on the words from Luke 2, but I’ve never really seen what I’m seeing today that fits with where life finds itself in our home.  What did the people think as they realized that their Messiah was a baby? Did anyone feel deflated or disappointed that it wasn’t the way they expected life to be?  I’ve never really heard anyone talk about that.

     Jesus came as a baby in the dark of night in the most unlikely place, a stable filled with animals.  I wonder as I think of it all what those who had been waiting for His arrival felt when they heard. Could anyone see the birth of an innocent babe to be the coming of their salvation?   Life had been hard for a long time.  They had waited for a rescue and a baby shows up?

     As I contemplate it I can imagine, just for a minute, the weariness of a world gone bad.  It’s easy to feel that when life’s demands beat at your door.  

     I can feel it these days as one job application after another for David is met with silence. We’ve had a hard couple of weeks where all has felt so very lost.  Two jobs that we thought would open didn’t, leaving us a bit dazed and confused. The question can come through my mind quickly. Where is the deliverance of God?  Things often look way different than you imagined.

     A baby silently slips into the dark of night and though He will save the world from itself the wait will not be a short one.  Thirty years will go by before He arrives on the scene to begin his journey to that which will seal the deal, His death, burial and resurrection.

     It’s not a neatly packaged storyline that one can figure out.  It’s not the pomp and circumstance one would imagine for the King of Kings.  Truth is, in the end, it looks like the world has won as the nails go pounding into his hands and feet.  

     We know the end of the story as we had accounts to read about but think of those who had been waiting.  Not one of them anticipated that 3 days later he would rise again and change their worlds from the inside out, yet He did.  

     Life often doesn’t look the way we imagine it should.  There are surprises right around the corner.

     People waited for a Messiah to deliver them.  A baby arrived. They thought Jesus would take over the Roman rule as king and conqueror.  Instead He was nailed to a cross. They watched Him die. What they anticipated would happen took a turn and spiraled seemingly out of control.  But was it?  

   If I stop for a minute and try to imagine I can find a way to relate.  Life doesn’t always go the way I think it will, in fact it seldom does.  Suddenly it goes in a different direction, spiraling downhill quicker than I can stand.  It can take my breath away and leave me dazed and confused. It can be hard to get back up and continue to have hope and belief, especially when answers don’t seem to come.  Where is God anyways?  

     What the story of Jesus tells me is that even though life looks a certain way it’s not the end of the narrative.  It’s what I need to remember these days as the months tick by. Things aren’t always what they seem.  

     A deliverer was promised to Israel and they got a baby.  A baby who couldn’t even lift a finger to feed himself and yet He was the answer.

     Jesus had to come as a baby into this world to experience life like we did, to know the effects of sin, in order to become the High Priest who would understand our suffering.  He had to know what it was like to walk a life in our shoes. 

     Life isn’t what I think it is.  There’s so much more woven into it than my eyes can see.  

     As I think about the little baby who was placed in a manger, surrounded by animal smells and filth I see something I need to see.  To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven.  

   Though the way things go down in this world can fool you, there’s more than meets the eye.  Surprises come when you least expect them in ways you cannot imagine.  What a surprise Jesus must have been, but oh what an answer He was.

©copyrighted: 2019  Julie H Todd

Jesus Is In The Boat©

     There’s a story in the gospels of the time Jesus and His disciples got into the boat and headed out to sea.  Suddenly a storm was upon them. Jesus was resting in the middle of the boat while the disciples were panicking with the thought of their impending doom.  They imagined the worst, they feared for their lives. They woke Jesus up and said to Him, “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Immediately Jesus commanded the storm, speaking peace and stillness and then he turned to them to ask, “Why are you fearful?”  “Have you lost your faith in me?”

     As I was reminded of this story yesterday at church I knew the words spoken were allowing me to relate right where I was in this life. “Jesus is in the boat”.  

     The disciples didn’t see what they had right in their midst.  I often don’t see it either.

     All it takes is for my normal life to take a detour in some form or fashion.  The boat starts to get rocked as the storm revs up and suddenly I am wondering what’s going to happen next? How I will survive?  It’s easy for my focus to get altered. It’s easy to feel the doom and gloom that circumstances seem to bring. It’s all in the way I think about it, I’m discovering.  I get sucked into fear and sometimes a bit of panic.  

     The noise of the world is loud.  It blares a message at me telling me how much we are lacking.  It throws the “what if” questions at me catapulting me into thoughts of the future. It pulls and sucks me in and before I know it I’ve lost all perspective and find myself much like the disciples in that boat.  “Do you even care?”

     We’ve been in this “joblessness” place for 6 months.  It’s been a challenge to not get sucked in and discouraged as we’ve watched things pass by and heard the silence.  David and I have had our moments, his with rejection, mine with fear. I can easily fall into that place where I fear for my life.  What will happen to us if a job doesn’t ever come along? The world tells me we are getting old and it’s going to be harder and I believe and suddenly I feel the freak out stirring inside me.  

     Jesus is in the boat.  He’s right here with me, all the time.  It’s so easy to lose sight of that. It’s easy to hear the words shouting at me, telling me, things just aren’t looking good.  The world tells me what I lack. Jesus reminds me of all that I have in Him. He overcame the world a long time ago. He works all the hard things that it throws at me into good.  He’s the calm in the storm.

    I succumb to fear because I forget that Jesus is in it all.  He’s right smack dab in the middle of my life. He is the peace in the hurricane, the comfort in the day to day.  The world can shout at me pulling me into its grip. Yet there is nothing in this world that overwhelms Him.

    It hits me as I consider Jesus’ words to the disciples.  “Why are you afraid?” “Have you lost faith in me?” It’s kinda what happens to me when I start to spiral down.  I see the world and it all becomes so daunting because there are just so many demands. By its standards there is much that we lack.

     I’ve read perspectives about how tired Jesus was and that he was so tired that even a storm couldn’t wake him.  But, I think there is more to this story, at least there is to me. Jesus rested because he knew God was with him in the middle of his every day.  He didn’t panic, or fear for his future because He knew God had him. He knew God was good. He knew he was loved.

    As I considered Jesus’ question I felt something latch onto me.  The storms will come in this world and some days they will look as if they are going to take me down yet that’s not the end of the story.  He’s in the middle of it with me. He is the peace in the middle of it all. I am loved beyond my wildest imagination. He will never stop being good in the midst of the bad.

    I don’t know how long it’s going to take for a job to open up for David.  I don’t know what tomorrow holds, how the finances will go, how our health will be as we continue to age.  But I’m beginning to see that to get swept up in all those unknown variables is the panic of this world. It pulls my focus into places that I cannot figure out or know the answer to which can lead me to  panic if I don’t see him with me.

    The disciples didn’t have much of a clue of who they had in their boat.  Truth be told I’ve acted much like they did. I want to get on the other side of that.

    The One who created the heavens and the earth, whom all of this belongs to is smack dab in the middle of it all with me.  I am not alone. I am not lost. I am not forgotten. He’s here in the center, always with me.

    The words Jesus spoke to the storm He speaks to me.  “Peace, be still”. “I’m here with you.” As the noise of the storm begins to die down I am gifted with the opportunity to see He is with me, always and forever.

    There’s an old hymn that says it best.  “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” “Look full in His wonderful face.”  “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.” “In the light of His glory and grace.”

©copyrighted: 2019 Julie H Todd






A Journey of Gratitude©

     Contentment has always been something I thought I had to strive to have.  Truth is I wasn’t sure how to even get my mind wrapped around what that meant.  Paul talked about being content in all circumstances. How does one find that when the world throws curveballs at you.  How does one become content in all circumstances when what life dishes out is really hard?

     For most of our marriage we were a one income family.  We chose that life when our kids entered this world. As a family of 7 it didn’t allow us to have much surplus but we always had what we needed.  We had enough to pay our bills and sometimes a little extra for a treat.

    On those occasions we would go to a fast food restaurant and have lunch or dinner out.  You would think we had won the lottery as we ordered our cheeseburgers and fries. The excitement of our children always astounded me.  They had no real idea what they were missing, they saw what they had and were content. A McDonald’s cheeseburger from the dollar menu was the best in their world.  Their gratitude was humbling. I learned a lot from them as I watched them appreciate the little things in life.

    By now, if you’ve read any of the things I post you know I’m a fan of Brene Brown’s books. Her study on shame and vulnerability have really spoken to me.  I find the results of her research to be spot on. One of the things she has spoken on is gratitude.  She states, “We’re a nation hungry for more joy because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude.”

     I realized something as I read those words.  I’m not prone to look for things to be grateful for.

     I can easily succumb to the details of the circumstances I find myself in.  It’s easy for me to see the glass half empty, to notice what’s lacking. It can make me into a real “Debbie Downer.”

     A few months ago a friend and I were discussing gratitude and how bad we were at it. She and I decided to start sharing them with each other.  We both needed a pick me up in the seasons we were walking in. We’ve been texting each other daily ever since. A couple more people have joined me.  It’s one of my favorite parts of my day, especially where we’ve been lately.  

     My husband was suddenly let go from his job almost 6 months ago.  There have been days when the silence from applications have caught up with us.  It’s been hard not to feel the weight of where we are. I work a part time job that doesn’t come close to being what we need for our bills.  It’s been a challenge not to let it pull me down.  

     To quote Brene’ again. “What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.”

     As I make the choice each day to look for gratitude I’m finding it changing my perspective, putting me in touch with what really matters.  My outlook on the day quickly changes when I look at what is good in my life, with appreciation and thankfulness.

    That is what I saw with my children as we walked into McDonald’s.  They saw the privilege of a hamburger, fries and coke in a restaurant and were grateful.  It’s all perspective. It all comes down to what I focus on and consider.

    My children saw the simplicity of life and were so very grateful.  It became harder as they grew up and saw the lack we had versus the plenty their peers appeared to have.  The world grabs at us and tells us we are what we have. It all can get so blatantly distorted. It has always challenged me and yet as I look for gratitude in the midst, things are able to shift.  My lens changes.

    I have been astounded by the care of God during this joblessness.  As the weeks tick by I feel more settled than ever in the reality of His great love for me.  Because contentment isn’t about what I have, it’s about who I have.  It’s what makes the difference in a world of “never enough”.

    It’s not about having the latest and greatest.  It’s not about having a bank account that is filled or opportunities to take wonderful vacations.  I can be poor and discontent, I can be wealthy and discontent. The answer is the same, no matter what my circumstances are. Christ in me is the contentment.  The Passion Bible puts Philippians 4:4 perfectly “Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One.”

    Yes, it would be wonderful for a company to sweep my husband up and put him in their employment, but it’s not the answer to my contentment.  The secret to my contentment is the reality of knowing that I am united with the Anointed One, the One who overcame the world, the One who fills me with His strength, the One who loves me beyond my wildest imagination.

   The world comes at us in full force telling us to strive for more, to look at things and see where we lack.  God comes and offers us the ability to experience the joy of gratitude in knowing we have all we will ever need in HIm.

    Life with God in this world full of suddenlies can change me from the inside out.  In those difficult places I can lock my gaze on knowing that He is everything in this life I live.  The strength of His explosive power infuses me for every difficulty and that makes me content.

   Gratitude causes me to focus on what really matters. It makes me aware of all I have in Him. He is my contentment.  

    Today I am grateful for the 3 women who have journeyed in gratitude with me over these last few months.  What a beautiful time we’ve had.     

     ©copyright: 2019 Julie H Todd

Love Consumes My Fear©

     The conversation opened up with my daughter as we drove down the road.  She’s grown now, with a family of her own. As we talked she mentioned to me that one of the hardest things was when I didn’t trust her to drive the car.   I was pretty freaked out about the thought all of my babies behind the wheel of the car. But the truth is, I’ve lived with so much fear about so many things.

     I can still go there, don’t get me wrong. But as I’ve begun to understand the acceptance and love of God, it’s not as crippling as it once was.  

     One of those things that I was told for so many years is that fear is the opposite of faith.  I was ashamed for my fear, as I felt that somehow I was letting God down, that is, until I began to consider my children.

     There were times when one would wake up in the night from a nightmare or maybe the sound of a thunderstorm.  One child was afraid to leave us for a season of their lives. My reaction was not to be disappointed in them for being afraid, but instead to wrap my arms around them and tell them everything will be OK.  As I held them tight, love won over their fears and they settled into a deep sleep.

     It’s how I see God now, when fear knocks on my door.  He’s not the least bit bothered by it. In fact it’s His opportunity to surround me and remind me that everything’s going to be OK. He covers me with His great love and care and I find an ability to let go and rest. His love is consuming my fear.

     It wasn’t always this way as so much of my life I didn’t see God through a very loving lens.

     I couldn’t find a way to marry the God of wrath that had been shown to me through the Old Testament with the God of the New.  I’m stunned as I begin to see things through a different lens, now.  

    The Old Testament begins with the story of perfect love.  It ends with 400 years of silence. In between are stories of life with man as his own god.  It’s pretty intense to read, sometimes. The wars, the deaths, the betrayals, the sheer forgetfulness of love and then there was silence.

    The New Testament opens with the genealogy of Christ.  Perfect love was beginning to take back over this broken world and would change the lives of all mankind, forever.  To any and all who would receive, it waited to be given.

    How did it all get so distorted in this life of mine, I wonder.   Oh I heard of the reality of God’s love for me but the litany of things to do took me right back into the Old Testament life..  As I spoke with my daughter I told her what that did for me. It created a boatload of fear.

     I remember being told how important my quiet time was and that if I really loved God I would do it first thing in the morning.  On my way to work one day I had a flat tire. As I told someone their first response was “Did you have your quiet time this morning?”  No, I had not. “That’s probably why you had a flat tire.”

    I felt responsible for the bad things that happened.  I didn’t know how to just equate it with a broken world.

    There were many voices in my head from years of exposure to religion.  One by one I’ve had to consider them as they come into my mind. Is this the God I see in Christ?  Jesus told us, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

    I had to get past some things to begin to comprehend.

    I had been told that if I had any unconfessed sin in my life that God could not hear me. Talk about fear, what if I missed one?  The scripture that supported this teaching was from the moment on the cross when Jesus said, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  I was told that God could not look on sin so he turned his back on Jesus. I believed it. I was wrong.

    All throughout the scriptures it says “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  So what was Jesus saying I began to consider? I believe Jesus felt His humanity.  I believe that he felt the burden of sin on Him. He felt the separation of what sin does.  He felt what all of us feel when the weight of what this broken world weighs us down. Why do I think this?  Because to think otherwise goes completely against God’s nature.   

    What I was told about this life with God often seemed to be conflicting.  I’ve spent many moments considering things that I’ve been taught that don’t reconcile to love.  I’ve learned most from considering my own mind and heart in regards to my children. How would I be?  What would I do? But more importantly how was Christ?

    When He met the woman at the well He boldly approached her.  She hadn’t confessed one sin to him. He stepped into the arena with her and offered love.

    When the New Testament started it started with a litany of broken people who had no real clue they would be in the lineage of the greatest man who ever lived.  His seed was in them. They bore life to what was already there. It’s the life we are all invited into now.

    “The old with its regulations and requirements is gone, Paul said in Corinthians.  It revealed what life lived on our own huspa looks like. It didn’t work.  

     There’s a new life now.  It’s the life of perfect love offered to me, every single day.  Perfect love truly does drive out fear. I live to tell.

©copyrighted 2019 Julie H Todd




Learning to Dance©

      There is something that I love about watching someone learn to dance for the first time.  One of my favorite movies is an old movie called “Strictly Ballroom.” What captures me is the sheer pleasure you see on the young dancer’s face as she discovers she can dance.  It’s not where she starts but where she ends up. I never tire of seeing the transformation.

     She has to learn to trust her instructor.  She places her hands into his and he begins to speak one word at a time, revealing where to put her foot, how to arch her back, how to trust in his lead.  She comes alive in the dance. She had no idea she had it in her, but she did.

     I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to this story is because it resembles my journey in so many ways.  When I got to the end of performing I had no clue what life was supposed to look like. I had spent so many years checking off boxes and doing requirements that I wasn’t really sure where to put my foot.  All I knew was that I couldn’t go back, even though to do nothing felt unnerving. It was time for me to learn a new dance, one that would bring me to my freedom.

     It went against everything I had been taught but as I look back now I can see that this was  the step I had to take. I had to get away from the rituals in order to find the love.

     You see in God’s economy I was made to receive all that He is for all that I need.  But when Adam made the choice he did, I, along with the rest of mankind, was plunged into an economy of achieving, performing, and acquiring. It was an economy of law, do the right thing, try harder to be better.  It’s a life of “Yes, Jesus loves you, BUT, you must _______.” It dominated and drove me.  

     I had heard so many statements that left me full of guilt and shame.  “After all God’s done for you, what will you do for Him?” There was pressure to know for certain that all my sins had been confessed.  I feared I would miss one. I had been told God couldn’t hear me if there was even one not taken care of. “If Jesus came back today would you be ready?” Would I be ready if He showed up?  There was a great pressure to try to make sure I was.

     Before we could participate in communion we had to make sure all our sins were confessed or that we had made amends with anyone we had hurt.  If not, the cup and bread would have to pass us by. I can’t tell you how many times David and I passed them up due to a bad conversation on the way to church that had not been made right.

    Quiet times were evidence of my spirituality and proof of my allegiance, preferably first thing in the morning as that showed the importance God was to me.  That was a hard one for this non-morning person. So much of what I did was because I was told I must. No matter what I did the list of things to get past, learn, put on, was insurmountable.  

    It was all so screwed up.  When I came to the point of sheer exhaustion I realized it.  There was so much that had to be left behind in order to know the love that God had offered me. I had to unlearn what I had learned.  

   As He turned my steps away from the striving I had known, I began to wrestle with my belief alone.  Would it be enough?

    My normal quiet time stopped, my prayers lists went away, I didn’t open my Bible, nor did I want to attend a Bible study.  I was way beyond burned out. All I had left was my belief in a God who loved the world. I hoped it would be enough.

    When all you have is belief you discover that belief is all you really need. 

    It didn’t happen overnight.  It has been a process of maturing into what is truest about me, and Him. I discovered that I had received a lot of wrong information about Him.  It’s been the hardest part of all. I’ve had to relearn so much about who He really is and what He truly desires for and with me.  

    You see it all got mixed up when Adam chose to eat the fruit from the tree.  It’s all on display throughout the Old Testament. Follow the storyline, from Genesis on and you will see, the pressure was on the individual to keep the law.  Achieving was the name of the game.

    The problem is that no one could do it.  Of all people, you would think the children of Israel could. After all they had witnessed incredible miracles.  They couldn’t get it right. They were constantly told to “remember” all God had done. They failed miserably.

     God knew it would happen, but He had to let them see for themselves, just as He did for me.  He had a plan all along. It’s what the New Testament is all about.  

     It’s what I began to find when I stepped onto the dance floor of grace.  It took me a while to get comfortable but I stayed because the more I unlearned, the more I gained.  I learned to trust Him like never before. I learned that all of this life really is on His shoulders, not mine.

      The gospel is so very simple.  I am loved, completely, totally, right where I am.  I don’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, it’s offered freely and I have the chance to receive it. There aren’t any  “Jesus loves you but_____”. I no longer have to try to make myself better. All that was messed up has been made right.  Unconditional love, love that requires nothing, is mine for the taking.

     I am encouraged to receive, every, single day the free gift of love and belonging.  It’s not measured by my church attendance, my Bible study, my prayer list, my witnessing or any of the lists I once knew and lived.  It’s a gift freely given to all who will receive.  

     It’s what God had in mind all along.  Love, He freely gave with hope we would freely receive. Oh how I love this dance.

©copyrighted:  2019 Julie H. Todd











Changing Identities©

     Love changes everything.  It changes the way we see and act from the inside out.  Getting there can be the difficult part. The voices of the world don’t help. Everything around us grades our achievements.  It starts early. 

      I always hated report card day in school as not only was my ability to grasp what I was learning graded, so was my conduct.  There were always the little notes “Julie can’t sit still” or “Julie talks too much in class.” It doesn’t take much to feel like you just can’t get it right.  Report cards seemed to be an evaluation of me. I didn’t like seeing the alphabet on the card sent home, especially when it came to my conduct assessments.  

     I moved through life with one place after another demanding I achieve something.   It was easy for voices to become implanted, telling me whether I was up to par. Getting past all of that to allow myself to be loved has been daunting.  I have often wished I could be someone else.  

     II Corinthians 5:17 says “If any man be in Christ He is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come”.  I’ve given a good bit of consideration to that. I mean I am still me, so what is it that’s new anyways?

    Throughout the scriptures there are stories of seriously dysfunctional people whose lives are changed forever.  The gospels are full of them. One word from Jesus does it. “You are forgiven, go and sin no more.” He compels them to leave the life they’ve known and embrace the life they’ve been given.  

   What does it mean to be given a new identity in Christ?  The thought of it baffles me yet I’m convinced life hinges on grasping what it’s all about. 

    Butterflies have always amazed me.  To think that they were once a caterpillar is mind boggling.  A butterfly looks nothing like a caterpillar yet they share the same DNA.

    The old has gone.  All that stuff that evaluated and graded me, begging me to work harder to achieve more, to be accepted is gone.  Whether I can fully see it or not, it’s gone. All my wrong decisions, all that “badness” has been forgiven once and for all.  In fact there is no memory of it. There are no traces of the old life as far as God is concerned. To Him I am complete, pure and fresh as a baby out of the womb, embraced and loved beyond my wildest imaginations.

    To be loved for who I am, apart from anything I have to do or have done is the new beginning I am given.   It makes the words of Jesus in scripture make sense. He wasn’t expecting perfection He was telling us that we are no longer defined by what we do or don’t do.   We are now complete because He is the completion that lives in us.  

     It’s the caterpillar becoming the butterfly.

     I am still me but something is drastically changing as I begin to learn that knowing love is enough.  The pressure to achieve is being left behind. I no longer need to perform to be accepted. I already am.  Take me or leave me I am who I am.

    The Samaritan woman left her old life behind and ran to tell her friends.  They found life for themselves. The leper was healed and restored back into the community.   Where they had been living isn’t where they were anymore. They had met love. It changed everything.  They entered a new way of living.

     That’s my story, in so many ways.  A striver and performer in the religious community brought me to a place where I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I couldn’t pick up my Bible to do my ritual quiet time as I had been so strongly instructed to do. I couldn’t pray a prayer list or filter through the sin list to see if I’d covered them all.  I didn’t want to attend a Bible study to learn more stuff to do. I was so burned out on achievement that I just couldn’t so I didn’t. 

     If believing wasn’t enough then it would all fall apart, because it’s all I had.   It’s then I began to really find what love really looks like. It’s there I found God.

    All that stuff that I did for so long just kept me from what I had always wanted.  Religion is a sin focused life that shrouds with shame. There is always something I could do better.  It’s the old covenant way of living where everything is up to the person.

     God didn’t love me for what I did.  He loved me because it’s what He does.  After all, He created us to love us in ways that are above our wildest imaginations. 

     The Samaritan woman left the life she’d known behind when she met love.  So did I.

     I didn’t take on a new personality.  I accepted being loved and I began to spread my wings.  I no longer have to achieve anything. There are no standards or criteria to meet.  There is no grading system. No one is keeping record of my wrongs. I am complete, just as I am, because I am loved by a very big God.

     The new identity is what God offers in the new covenant that Jesus made.  It’s an end to the laws and regiments the old one demanded.  It’s an invitation to leave it all behind and enter the world of being enough.  

     Becoming a new creation is accepting the new life you’ve been given.  His for yours.

©copyrighted: 2019 Julie H Todd



Bound to Love©

     As I meander through the trails of the story I’ve lived under, something is changing. It’s amazing what grace can do when given the opportunity.  Things are softening in me amidst a world of harsh responses and hurt feelings. I’m learning to process more truth about me, which in turn is allowing generosity towards others to show up.  It’s not that things don’t hit me but more that their ability to stick around and plague my mind with shame is lessening.

     As I’m learning to deconstruct the things I’ve believed about myself I’m seeing things differently, I’m seeing people differently.  I’m finding a detachment from their actions having an ability to give or take my value.

     What I’ve discovered is that the greatest hindrance to being loved, has been me allowing the world and the people in it to dictate negative beliefs to me.  People have had an influence they were never meant to have and I’ve allowed it. Most of the time, I would wager, they are oblivious to what their actions are saying to me, about me.

     We watch other people’s actions and reactions and we speculate and most of the time we are dead wrong.  We sift these things through a faulty filter and it builds into a minefield of broken identity and pain.

     Many of us weren’t given much in the ways of how deeply we are loved apart from what we do or don’t do.  We start out in this world innocently and quickly get sucked into programs and grading systems that show us where we are lacking and where we need to improve.  It’s easy to get misinformed.  

         Love becomes measured, calculated and conditional and I don’t know about you, but I bought  into it.

     Everywhere I looked I was told to try harder to be better.  There was always something wrong with me, somewhere. It has been the greatest deception of my world.  

     I watch as my newborn grandson lays quietly in his bassinet.  He’s oblivious to the world around him, except for when he’s hungry.  He’s loved and cared for above his wildest imaginations. He doesn’t do one thing to gain it.  He’s just loved because he is.

     The voices of this world have not gotten to him.  People have not hurt him with their choices or actions.  He hasn’t made regretful life choices that he would go back and do over, if he could.  He’s fresh into this world, perfectly formed, perfectly loved.  

     It’s the truest picture of what life really is.  The one that we miss. Because the truest truth is that we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations, just because we are.

     The first step in recovering my real story has been coming to terms with that.  It all begins with somehow, accepting this profound love that brought me here in the first place.  

    That, is my starting point.  It’s what allows me the chance to stop and sift through the voices in my head that come bounding in through the actions of others.  Because the truth is, until I know I am loved by God, I will look to others to prove something good about me, to me, and they will fail.  It’s inevitable.

     When I look to performance, mine or others to tell me whether I’m worth loving, things will get all mixed up inside.  It’s not the way things were meant to be. Your story does not dictate my story. I’m starting to get that. It’s what dismantles the whole mess of shame that can tie me up in knots.

     When I react in a negative way towards you because of the shame in me, it’s my stuff, not yours.  It’s a game changer for relationships.

      Shame is the negative thoughts in my head that tell me something is wrong with me.  I’m not loved, valued, important, wanted, you get the idea. It’s the identity that’s formed through misconceptions and misinformation.  I buy into something negative about myself and that becomes the story. You do something that touches it and I turn against you. Because your actions are telling me that my worst fear is true.

     It’s all messed up. 

    Shame is the way of the world.  It speaks insecurities and devaluing thoughts to us.  When I believe it’s story it changes the way I relate.  When I stop to consider what I know to be true of myself I can let it all go and walk away holding my head up high.

     When I can look at what you do and not make it about me, opportunity arises.  What I’m finding is the only way that can happen is when I get my identity from where it was meant to be gotten.  

    There is only One who knows my true value.  The One who made me.

     A sculptor knows the value of the piece he sculpts, as does the potter and the artist.  They know the time, love and thought that go into each piece. They and they alone assign the value.  

     So it is with me.

     The course of my life is changing as I step into this new way of seeing.  My reality has always been what is true of my grandson. I am loved beyond my wildest imaginations and I don’t do one thing to make that happen.  I just am. No one’s actions or words can change that.

     It all starts with love, love that changes the world.  Love that sacrifices life to rescue broken people. To live free of shame is to live bound to love.              

©copyrighted: Julie H Todd 2019

Love Conquers All ©

     When I read the sentence in Brene’ Brown’s book “Rising Strong” I didn’t like it.  “What if everyone is doing the best they can?” The whole chapter is her struggle to come to terms with that statement.  It bothered her so much that she did what she’s known to do, she researched it, asking people along the way. “Do you think people are doing the best they can?”  Her research showed that, for the most part, many believe that people are. She quotes Maya Angelou “When you know better, you do better.”

     It’s a hard question to answer, honestly. It’s especially hard when you’ve been hurt, or treated in ways that knock you down. As I sit with this topic today I am reminded of something that happened a few years ago.  

     I was working in a toxic environment.  The administrative staff was not just, or fair.  Things were often blown out of proportion and good people were let go without so much as a write up.  A shock would go through the company as we watched great people pack up their things to be walked out the back gate.  Many of those remaining wondered if their turn would come next. I never really expected it to happen to me but I surely didn’t think I would face what I did.  

     A friend, who I hired as my employee, took liberties, built factions about me and went to the administration.  Others of my staff were extremely upset for what was being said about me. They knew the truth and stepped up to tell it.  Unfortunately my “friend” was believed. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I could not get over what was happening to me, but I was so utterly hurt by someone I trusted.  All I could do was state the truth. When the administration sided with the lies I determined it was time to turn in my resignation. I limped my way out feeling the deep betrayal of someone I considered to be an ally.  She had stabbed me in the back. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what would lead her to do that. Was she really doing the best she could?

     As I look back, now several years later, with that question in mind, I can see things a bit more realistically.   Sadly, yes, I do believe she was doing the best she could. Maybe the only way she could find a place to be accepted, was to somehow get me out of the way so others could see her.  It’s sad to consider what story she must believe about herself to put her in a position to go to such great extremes.  

    As I reflect today I wish no ill will towards her.  Jesus said it best, “forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.”  I don’t think she really has any idea what she did. She acted out of her own broken places.  As always, God turned it into something good.

    Broken people fill this world.  Broken people react in broken ways.  They hurt the very people they were meant to love and they don’t even see it.  

    I can look back on my own life and see so many things I did out of my brokenness, things that hurt my husband, my children, the people I walked through life with.  I did stupid things, things I would do differently if I could go back. Maya Angelou is right, when you know better, you do better.

     What if people really are doing the best they can?  What if their own broken stories of shame hold them in dark places where they are oblivious to it all?  Yes, maybe they should, but what if they can’t? What if their actions really aren’t about you or how they feel about you?  What if they are so hidden in a plethora of lies that bury them alive? What if all they can see is a tainted perspective because of the garbage of insecurity and shame that fill them?  

      That doesn’t mean we have to put ourselves in positions to be ransacked by their actions,    At the same time, we don’t have to allow their actions to bind us up in our own story of shame. Boundaries are necessary when dealing with toxic attitudes. 

     I can only speak for myself.  I was captured in my own story that held me in a vortex of reactions towards those I dearly loved.  I had no idea what I was really doing. I’ve discovered that it’s easy to be brainwashed and completely oblivious that you are.  Most of us don’t really have a clue what we are doing to those around us until love shakes us up. At least I didn’t.

    I couldn’t find my way out until I found my way into the place of being loved, accepted, adored by the One who knows me best.

    The world wasn’t meant to be this way.  God created it with perfect love filling it. There was no brokenness.  There was no shame. When Adam and Eve heard the voice of the serpent inviting them to turn away from God it all changed.  From that point on every person born into this world was born into brokenness. It’s why Jesus came.

     He was the answer for the wrong choice made all those years ago.  He was the restorer that would invite us back into that beautiful love that was always meant to fill this place.  He didn’t just come to rescue us, He came to invite us to love. It starts first with me receiving what He gives with no strings attached.  

    It spills out towards those around us.

    Love changes everything.   We are loved, totally, completely, without doing a thing, just because we are.  To embrace this is to know better. Knowing better will make a better life.

    Are people really doing the best they can?  It makes my world a better place when I can believe that they are. We live out of what we know. Jesus came to heal the broken, to tell them how deeply they are loved.  Until that is known, people are stuck right where they are. 

    Love conquers all.

 ©copyrighted: Julie H Todd 2019



The Good of Being You©

     I can’t remember where I heard this quote the other day but it struck something in me, so much so that I stopped to write it down.  “When you decide who someone is you take away their chance to be who they are.” 

     The person I was as a child or a teenager or even a young mom is not the person I am today.  I’ve matured and grown and learned more about who I was made to be.

     When I was in the flux of my teenage years I was influenced by everything around  me. I honestly didn’t have a real clue who I was. I saw what was presented as acceptable and I moved towards it, wanting so desperately to belong.  It’s what I came into this world looking for, not realizing that I already did.

     As a young believer I found my way into a group of people who would disciple me to be who I needed to be.  It was all about behavior and nothing about identity. It set me on a wrong path, one that would take me years to get away from.

     I carried this into my role as a mother.  I wanted to give my children what I had been given, never realizing what I was doing until they were mostly grown and gone.  I was captured with a need to perform to be acceptable, therefore it was the way I lived in every way.

     I’ll never forget the moment when it all began to fall apart.   My children were gone to VBS with a friend who picked them up and brought them home every day.  I had chosen not to participate as I was in a very desperate place. I sat down in my comfy chair and turned on the cassette tape I’d been given titled, “Spiritual Ambition and Aggressive Striving.”  I knew as I listened that he was describing my life. As he talked of the Prodigal Son story I was moved by the way He described the love and acceptance of the Father that was not based on performing.  I’m not sure I’d ever really heard anyone talk about it that way. I knew something was hitting me down deep as tears coursing down my face turned into sobs. I was glad my children weren’t in the house because they certainly would have thought something terrible was wrong with me as the guttural sounds made their way out.

     The truth of the matter is that I was undone in ways that would change me forever.  Since that day, back in 2002 I’ve been maturing into who I am.

      I write a lot about shame these days because I’ve found it to be something that has kept me broken and bound.  Shame is that perspective of who I am based on what I believe are others’ opinions of me. It’s what I believe about myself through the actions and words of people around me.  Shame is the judgement I’ve cast on myself when not performing as expected. It tells me there is something indelibly wrong with me. It formed a mask which I wore for many years.

     I allowed shame to shape me, mold me and push me into a life of performance and striving to be found acceptable and worthy of love.  I’ve lived under its interpretations and been captured by its insecurities. For years I allowed the actions of others to tell me things that were far from true. It’s the part of me that is slowly falling off as I learn to see myself through the eyes of the One who is love.  In that I’m finding a freedom I never knew. So I write…

     I’m different in so many ways and my desire is that those who have known me for some time won’t decide who I am today based on how I was then. It’s the hardest part of my trail from the past.  I want to scream out “I’m not that girl anymore”. I could easily give way to shame because of the way I lived. 

      Everyone deserves a chance to be who they are today, not who they were yesterday.  It matters.  People change, people mature.

      Maturity is an interesting phenomenon.  I can see it most easily in my plants as they hide away in the winter ground and re-emerge when spring arrives.  Every year you see a little more of their beauty as their time of rest rejuvenates them. They come out in all their splendor to be what they were made to be.  They mature in their beauty and size as they repose.

     For many years I believed that maturity was me growing in my ability to overcome.  I see now that it’s quite the opposite. Maturity isn’t found in growing stronger to overcome adversity but it is discovered in the dependence of enjoying a deeper connection with Christ as my life.  It’s not work, it’s rest. The more I understand how deeply He sees and loves me, just as I am, because of who I am, the more I mature. 

     I’m not the mother I was, nor the wife.  I’ve changed. I’ve matured into this whole new way of thinking that is described throughout scripture.  The more Christ becomes my life the more I find the beauty of who I was made to be. As I lay down my own efforts and embrace His, grace flows.  As a result, love and acceptance begin to emanate from me. I no longer focus on what you may or may not be doing because it doesn’t matter anymore.  I am maturing into the truest thing about me.  

     I am loved, totally, completely without one thing said or done.  I am loved because it’s what God does. He loves, just as we are, until we know what He knows.  

    I am learning the value of dependence on Christ as my life.  I am maturing. I won’t be who I was yesterday, or the day before.  I am who I am today. It’s the most beautiful thing about this life.

    Every day starts with a new dawn, it’s a representation of life.  New mercy awaits us as we wake up to face each day.  

©copyrighted 2019 Julie H Todd



Living My Best Life©

     The question was put before me.  “How has not having to perform changed things for you?”  I sat and contemplated what that really meant for me.  It didn’t take me long to find the answer.   In my religious days I was caught up in climbing the ladder of spirituality.  The problem with that is that with each rung I surpassed, there was always another one waiting.  No matter how much I did, there was always more to do. I fought hard to get there, in the process, I lost a part of me.  

     In my day to day life I tried to be who people would want me to be.  If I was efficient and hard working, people would want me, and they did.  Performing became the means to find acceptance. The problem is that it never got me what I longed for.  Yes, I found success in my job because everyone loved an overachiever, but inside it just created a never ending demand.  

     When I began my journey to leave it all behind, I realized I didn’t have to perform to be loved.  In the process I discovered that I could be my truest me.

     What does that really mean, I was asked?  What does it mean to be the truest me?   It means learning to see the good of what God meant when He formed me in my mother’s womb to be who I am, before the world and it’s grading systems took over.

    I’ve heard it said before that true belonging is when we belong to ourselves.  It begins with looking at that negative belief and turning it into a positive perspective.

     I remember several years ago hearing a message challenging me to ask God what He really thought about me.  I took my pen, paper and headed out to the back porch to just sit with no distractions. I decided to list some things that I had believed about myself to be negative. One by one I asked Him about them.

     “Why do I ask so many questions?”  It’s something about me that seemed to be a problem.   I wished I could just stop it because the last thing I wanted to do was annoy people.  You can call me crazy, if you want, but I’m confident His voice spoke to the inner parts of me.  So much so, it has stayed with me all these years later. 

     “I made you to question.  I love that about you.” “You are inquisitive, you love to learn.”

      In that moment something penetrated and changed inside me.  For the first time I saw that it was good to be a questioner.  I felt a new place open up within allowing me to belong just a little more to myself.  

     These negative thoughts have come and gone through the years, one by one allowing me to find the good, true story of belonging.

     As I’ve said before, I have come to believe that there are two stories written on my life, one is the story the world has told me.  I call that my shame story. Being the truest me is coming out of that shame story and embracing how uniquely I am put together, knowing that all of me is loved by all of Him.

     There is something about a newborn baby that touches me.  I welcomed my 8th grandchild recently. He is beautiful, innocent, deeply held and loved.  His place is etched, profoundly, into his parents’ hearts. They could not love him more.  

     He was formed in his mother with no expectations or grading systems in place.  It’s the best life, the one we were all made for without the world’s demands that hand us a pass or a fail.  It’s the way life was meant to be without the systems that cover us and write stories of shame across our lives.

     It’s possible to get back there, to that innocence of new life.  I know because I’m finding my way back.

     Shame did a number on me.  It quieted who I was, keeping much of me hidden.  I had no choice but to perform in hopes that somehow, someway I would be found good enough to be accepted.  Achieving and striving became 2nd nature to me. No matter how much I did, it left more to be done.

     What changed for me, I was asked?  I became comfortable in my own skin when I let it all go.  I found the love I had always wanted. It had been there all along.  I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

     Leaving performance behind means coming back home to the original place of just being me and knowing I am the best me there is.  It’s taking the negative shame stories formed in my head and one by one parting ways with them, allowing the truth of who I am to wash over me.

     My sweet grandson, Gabriel, rests in arms that hold him tight.  He doesn’t do one thing to be lovable. He just is. It’s the innocence of love that is our truest reality, every single day.

     The world demands, God gives.  As I part ways with what the world has told me I find the love that God gives.  Just like Gabriel, I am loved for who I am, not what I do.  

    What has leaving performance behind done for me?  It’s allowed me to find a love that invites me to just be me.  After all, I am the best me there is.  

     “Oh yes, you “ shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit.”  Psalm 139 (The Message)

©copyrighted: 2019 Julie H Todd