Exclusivity, The Lie I Lived©

     The emotions, when paid attention to, will indicate the pile of crap speaking to me.  I can allow them to lead me to it or I can walk away, busy myself with some distraction, and press the ignore button.  Walking away doesn’t make them go away. Instead it becomes a game of whack-a-mole, pushing them down, until the next event comes along.

      When I can feel the tears right behind my eyes I know something has been touched or even jabbed. The last words out of my mouth to David brought them.  “I just want to be included”. As I felt the sadness sweep over me I knew somewhere, deep inside, there was shame.  

       I love Brene Brown’s definition of shame:  “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”.

      I was reminded of something I heard yesterday at church. “It’s in the teenage years that we are least convinced of our value.”  It struck me then, it strikes me now.  

      Something transitions in the teenage years.  It did for me. I’ve seen it happen for my kids. As I think back on mine I am painfully aware of the many experiences that left me believing I was flawed and unworthy of acceptance and belonging.  These things have stuck with me because the truth is we often value ourselves based on the reactions and words of others, often misinterpreted. We allow people to be a part of telling us who we are, or are not.

      It was in junior high that I first was made fun of for my middle name.  I was 13 – 14 years old. Lamar, is not a popular name for a girl. It’s a surname in my family passed on to me.  I had never really thought anything about it. I’d never been ashamed of it or even thought there was anything wrong with it until the girl sitting behind me began to taunt me. Suddenly I was embarrassed and ashamed.  Each year I cringed as the homeroom teacher called out my full name.

      The teenage years were the years that boys first really began to notice girls.   I looked more like Twiggy than Marilyn Monroe. Hearing the boys, laugh about my skinny legs sent me into quite the shame storm.  My body was unacceptable. I stopped wearing skirts and dresses to school after that. If they couldn’t see them, they wouldn’t make fun of them.  It took me years and a few extra pounds to get over that and be comfortable wearing dresses again. If you had the right shape you were asked out. If not, you weren’t.  That was a hard one to get over.

     It’s not just the way the boys treated me, the girls jumped in, unbeknownst to them,  and added a different spin. Everyone was vying for attention and acceptance. Girls can turn their backs on you quicker than anything.  

    High school, here in the 70’s, included sororities with “rush”.  You were either chosen or not. I followed my friends and went out for the clubs they did, after all we were a pack coming out of junior high for our first year.  They got chosen, I didn’t. As they moved on to new groups I was left behind, leaving me to feel excluded from the group I had grown comfortable with. I had to start all over.  Tenth grade became one of the hardest years of shame that I had ever experienced. 

      It was all about popularity and whether you were in or out.  You could be popular in junior high but once you reached senior high that all changed.  You think you have these great friends for life and apparently they’ve forgotten all about you and what you’ve shared together.  At least that’s how it was translated to me. I didn’t have the tools to process it all back then. It became a prominent place of shame.

    Suddenly my body wasn’t the right shape, my name was the wrong name, and I was wrong for the groups my friends had moved onto.  Add in the fact that I wasn’t chosen for the cheerleading squad after setting my heart, practicing religiously, giving my all. Where did I fit in anyways.

    There are so many things set against you in the teenage years.  Honestly I think it’s where most of the garbage I believed about myself got deeply planted in.  It carries on through life with you, forming your belief system. If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband.

      I felt excluded then, I still can feel it now. It might be one of those things that gets triggered the easiest.  Because everything I had been comfortable with, changed in my teenage years.. Suddenly I felt evaluated, judged and excluded.

      I wasn’t really set up to deal with that stuff in the right way.  The world stepped in and told me where I belonged and where I didn’t.  And I listened…. It didn’t just end there, it moved into my church life.   The church can often be brutally exclusive, especially if the focus is based on what we do and don’t do.

     Slowly but surely my mind is awakening to the shame I’ve lived under.  My operating system is being renewed to the reality that this world and the people in it do not give me value.   God established my value when He put me on this earth. As I belong to that, I belong to myself. I live in confidence knowing I have a place in this world because He planned me to be here.  He thought of me, fashioned me and loved me completely as I am. That’s my reality, that’s my focus. No one in this world will ever give me that.

     My grands remind me of it constantly as I watch them.  They have not been tainted by this broken world. They are so free.  They are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t care what others think about how they look, dress or act.  They know they are loved and cared for just as they are. That’s my reality too. 

      Exclusivity is the lie I lived.  To God, every part of me has always been perfect.  I have always belonged with Him.   I can’t get more included than that.  

©copyrighted: Julie H. Todd 2019

           

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Operating Systems ©

     It’s always amazing to me when I hear something and realize just how wrong my belief has been.  It’s part of the dichotomy of what I had heard verses what I now see. It’s one of the difficulties of sitting in a church pew, listening to a fallible man tell me about an infallible God.  Sometimes it’s all subject to a person’s interpretation and sometimes that interpretation is a recipe of a little Old Covenant mixed in with some New Covenant. The Old Covenant was set up to put the work on the person.  Lists, laws, should’s and should not’s are given in order to get to righteousness. The New Covenant put the work on Christ. It’s subtle but it’s easily mixed together. Yes, Christ finished the work but still you must… 

     I lived under this mixture of covenants.  It caused me to delve into myself in ways that just did more damage.  I tried to understand why I was doing what I was doing so that I might stop.  I wanted to figure it all out and get it all right. I didn’t have a clue that I never really would.  Because the truth is, none of this is about lists, laws, should’s and should not’s.   

     Romans 7 is a classic example, except that I didn’t really grasp that whole passage.   I heard sermons preached on it. I even heard debates where one side presented their argument on how Paul was not saved while the other presented theirs on how he was.  I never could figure out which side I was on so I just left it there until suddenly, something my pastor said, clicked with me.  

     He was talking about how one of the main translations for the word “sin” was two words, “operating system”.  As I heard it I realized something.  Romans 7 isn’t about whether Paul is lost or saved, it’s about what operating system he is living under.  When I don’t live under the operating system of Christ in me, my life can look a lot like Romans 7. I will do the things I don’t want to do, and the things I want to do I won’t.   

     The whole purpose of the law with its requirements was to bring me to the realization that I would never get it right.  The New Covenant was established to do what the Old Covenant could not. It’s no longer up to me and my huspa. Christ stepped in, took my life up with His and got it right on my behalf.  He brought all that rightness into my life when He wove Himself together in me. Everything I am lacking He is. Everything I need to do, He does.  

     Most of my life I had the wrong focus operating out of the wrong system.

      It’s all about perspective and what I allow mine to be. I am Jesus in Julie, do I really get that.  It’s what changes it all.

     Here’s my reality.  When Jesus went to the cross He took my old sinful habits and  broken down identity and the shame it brought and he crucified it with Him.  When He was buried, that old junk was buried with Him. When He was raised to new life, I was raised to a new life too. I was given a new operating system, Him.  He made His dwelling inside of me, offering all that He is and all that He has done completely to me. I am dead to sin and alive unto God every moment of every day.

     Life is no longer about what I can do to be pleasing, and honorable in order to bring glory to God.  It’s about accepting my true identity, where there are no more requirements, where I am loved and approved and accepted once and for all.  God completed everything in Christ and then He imputed it all directly into me. That’s my operating system.  

      In this computer age we all know what happens when a computer tries to operate on an outdated system.  It just doesn’t work like it was designed to. Neither do we.

     On my worst day I am still righteous because He made me so.  I am loved beyond my wildest imaginations.

     It’s no longer a sin-managed life.  It’s about the belief and acceptance of what has already transpired in me.  All of Him into all of me.  Jesus said “just as the Father is in Me, I am in you.”  The focus is no longer on my behavior, it is now on how I am identified.  Jesus did what I could never do.  He took away the requirements and set me free to just be loved.  

     The apple tree produces apples because it’s what it was made to do. Apples are what they were made to be. They pop out on the branches because of the life flowing into them. Grapes don’t work to be produced, the life is in the vine which feeds the branch that bear the grapes.   It’s really that simple.    

     Mr. Rogers said it best, “it’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are. Of course, it’s the opposite that’s true: What we are ultimately determines what we do!” 

     Mr. Rogers was right.  When I live the identity I’ve been given, I will do what I was made to do.  Jesus said, “As I am, so are you.”  Believing that, changes everything.  

©copyrighted Julie H Todd 2019

        

The Tale of Two Stories©

     When I heard the pastor say it I knew there was something to it.  “There are 2 stories written on our lives. One is the story the world tells us, the other is the story God has written.”  That was 15 years ago. In these last 15 years I’ve been looking to understand the story God has written.

     Shame tells us we are wrong.  Guilt tells us our choice is wrong.  I never associated shame with identity.  I always thought it was about my sin. When I was told that Jesus came to take all my sin and shame, I thought shame was my bad feelings over my bad choices.  I don’t think that anymore.

     This quote by Emily McDowell says so much to me.  “Finding yourself is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost.  Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are.  Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself. It’s an unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.”  

     As I ponder these words alongside the words of the pastor I realize how much they line up with what I’ve begun to discover.

     Shame is all about identity.  It’s the story that cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and my own inaccurate conclusions have told me about who I am.  These last few years have been quite the excavation of all that.  

     I’m not a very artistic person but I have created a few things in my life.  I know the time, the love, the care that went into each piece. I know the thing I created better than anyone.  I know it’s value. No one else does.

     It’s the same with me.  There is only one who knows my true value.  It is He who created me. He put me together, woven in my mother’s womb.  He fashioned me and who I was meant to be. He has always had a story, it was written the moment I was a thought in His mind, before the world got its hands on me.  I have been returning to that story and as a result I am finding my belonging within myself.  

     I am learning to dispel the shame story and live under the true story.  I am learning to embrace all that I am as one who is truly loved.

     You see I took the ideas of things said and done to me by broken people and I made them about who I was.  It’s just not the way it was meant to be. So, yea, God sent Jesus to take the separation that sin took from my life but He also came to restore my identity.  It has absolutely nothing to do with my behavior. That’s life altering for a woman like me who spent so many days striving and performing to be loved and accepted.

     I’m finding that it all comes down to what I do with the emotions and voices in my head.  God says that when Jesus came, He offered His flawless life for my flawed one. The old life, the me of this world was crucified with Him and laid to rest.  He raised me up and offered me a new, perfected life in exchange for my old, broken one. He gave me everything He was and is. All that old junk is gone, according to God.   It’s my mind that has to be convinced now. 

     It all comes down to what I believe and tell myself.  Every day, I am righteous, forgiven, seen, sought after and loved completely;  even on my worst day. It’s astounding to consider.  

     Emotions tell me what story I’m embracing.   Much like lights flashing on the dashboard of a car, if I stop to take a look I will discover what I’m listening to, what story I’m hooked into. 

     My old worldly shame story has told me that there is something wrong with me.  I’m unloved, devalued, unimportant or unwanted. It never tells me anything good.  It tears me down instead of building me up. It devalues me, often using other people and their words or actions.

     It’s affected me the most in my marriage, my closest relationship.  One response from David will take me there.  

     I can participate with this shame story by adding fuel to the fire or I can shut the whole thing down by stopping to consider..  “What’s really going on here?” I begin to ask myself. “What do I know about David?” “What do I know about myself?” David might legitimately be acting out of his own shame story yet when I stop to look at the in’s and out’s of what is going on inside me, I am enlightened to what I am believing, and what story I’m listening to.   The reality is David and whatever story he’s reacting out of cannot give or take my value, unless I let it. There is much to be said about knowing who you truly are.

      Emotions aroused can be a beautiful invitation to disassemble the maze of shame that has stolen my identity.  It was not intended that anyone in this world would give or take my value. It never was, it never will be. My identity was established a long time ago.   I’m finding my way back to it. 

      We all have 2 stories written on our lives.  One is the story God wrote. The other is the story that has happened as we’ve lived in this broken world.  It all comes down to which story you allow to guide you. Your life and the way you see yourself will be shaped by what you embrace.

      So I ask you…. what story are you listening to?  

    ©copyrighted 2019 Julie H Todd

 

     

    

 

     

 

How in the world?©

There were times when my children were younger that I used to wonder how in the world we would pay for _______. It wasn’t that we were big spenders. We were a one income family who lived, simply and frugally for a what, at the time, was considered a large family. We managed our money well and learned how to live on little and be thankful. But there was never much extra lying around.
One of the biggies for me was weddings. Three girls! I knew weddings for girls always cost more than they do for boys and I often wondered where we would possibly get the money for a wedding.. Those “how in the world” thoughts would find their way in… My mind would try to come up with a plan. The battle would ensue until I would reach a point of mental exhaustion. For the life of me I couldn’t come up with a way to have enough money to give my girls even a small wedding celebration. I came to the conclusion that surely God had that too and I slowly but surely let go and began to trust.
The first girl’s wedding came and I watched it all go down. We needed to buy the dress…where would the money come from. “Buy it and let’s see what happens” my husband said. So we did. The next day a big storm came through town requiring all the employees of his company to work around the clock. His paycheck came in with just enough to pay for the dress. That was just the beginning of what God would do.
The second girl’s wedding came after my husband was laid off. He was back in school and working bits and pieces where he could get work. You talk about “how in the world” questions… I had gone back to work and we were making it bit by bit. Again I sat back and watched God bring it all together.  I continued to remind myself how much God loved weddings as I waited to see what He would do.
Yesterday we completed the last of our girl weddings and once again God has astounded me. When we began, we had a very small designated amount saved. If anyone knew how much they would have laughed at us, no one could plan a wedding on that, yet I knew God who had multiplied loaves and fishes could make that stretch far above my wildest imagination… and that is exactly what He did.
Not only  was yesterday a beautiful culmination of two lives becoming one.  It was the end of an era.  My “how in the worlds” were answered by my generous Father.  He truly does lavish good gifts on us all.
© Julie L. Todd May 2018

The Perfect Will of God©

It’s been years since this happened but the memory floods my mind as if it were yesterday.    At the time my husband was in the midst of a job transition.  Working part-time at Starbucks, living off of cash from a house sale we had no clue where the road would take us.  The money was running out, something had to be done.  Somehow David had to find a new path to take in regards to a career.  How would we know what step to take next?  What if we missed God and His perfect will.  I was being challenged in ways I’d not known before.  The truth is I didn’t really know the God I had declared to follow and I had no clue.  At that time in my life I didn’t really “get” that Jesus dwelt inside me, that I was the embodiment of His very life.  I knew the verses that I had been crucified with Christ and no longer lived.  I knew that He now lived in me but I didn’t really understand.  The veil of religion kept me from seeing what was real and true.  

Here now fifteen years later, as I think back on those days I am overwhelmed at how truly blind I was.  At the same time I am amazed at what God has done in me.  I can remember reading the verses in Hebrews that spoke of the veil over hearts but I didn’t even know that there was one over mine.   Days like the one I am about to share were used to rent the veil in order that I might know what was right and good.  The reality of this brings on a new meaning of that day when Jesus breathed His last and the temple veil was torn from top to bottom.  A new story had begun, the life that had once been was now dead.  A new  way of living would emerge 3 days later.  Jesus would not be on the outside any longer.  He would now indwell a human being.  It was a game changer.  Funny how things become apparent in their true meaning as your eyes are opened.

     God has always spoken to me through the normal, everyday things in life, wrapping a new picture for my mind to grasp.  This particular day, years back, was one of those moments.  It was time to untether the wrong thinking with a picture that would renew my mind.  Though I had a glimpse of it back then I see it in totality now.

     It was an ordinary day in our house.  David and I were sitting at the desk in the downstairs looking up something on the computer.  Our son, Josiah, came bounding down the stairs rushing out the door.   Immediately David called his name.  He had something he wanted to tell him, but Josiah was focused elsewhere and didn’t hear.  David called him louder, again no response.  He got up and walked to the door and called again.  Still nothing.  At that point  he ran after him, out the door, down the driveway calling out until Josiah heard him.  He turned towards his dad and then he heard.

     In a moment’s time God began to speak to me. The conversation went something like this,. “Julie, did you see that?” “Did you see the pursuit of David towards Josiah?”  “It wasn’t up to him, Jewel, it was up to David.” “That’s how it is with me.”  “Everything is on me.”  

     As these years have passed a simple picture has become more profound for me.  The life I once lived is falling away as I embrace the life I have truly been given.  In those days I was infused in the ways of religion that required performance and striving to obtain something I never could.  In these present days I’m embracing the new life that was implanted into my being.  It’s all on Him, it always has been.  All things are changing as a result.

     What I’ve come to understand is that the perfect will of God is not something I must search to find.  It is Jesus, simply Jesus.  What astounds me even more is the consideration that Jesus lives in me.  He indwells me in totality.  The will of God is already in me.  Nothing will change that.

     One season of life led me to strive to be something I could never be and know something I could never know.  I was looking in the wrong place.  The search for God’s perfect will to be revealed in a circumstance led me down a path of great fear and high requirements for myself.  There is no perfect will to discover.  It has already been revealed.  There is a perfection that lives in me.  He has perfected all of life in this broken world.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He makes life make sense when it doesn’t.  He leads me on the path as I simply give way to what He has done.  

     This reality that the will of God is a person who lives in me, well that changes everything.  His words continue on as my understanding deepens.  “It’s not about following some perfect plan, Jewel.”  “It’s about living in the reality of what you have.”  “I am in you.”  “My very life inhabits you completely.”  “Live like that is true, Jewel, because it is.”  “Live in the new life, the new way.”  

     “You can shut me out.” “You can choose not to listen.”  “You can go your own way doing your own thing in your own focus, just like Josiah did with David that day.”  “But I will never leave.”  “I will consistently pursue you.” “I will use everything to bring you into the knowledge of  who I am.”  “I will tell you what you need to know.” “That’s on me, Jewel.”   “I will never be shut out.”  “I will still be right there in you.” “If you are in Christ you are in my perfect will.”  “You can never be out of it.”  “You can live as though you don’t understand or trust Me.”   “You can even live as though you are not listening, but if Jesus is in you, you are in my will.”  “It’s that simple.”  

     I saw God that day in a way that changed me forever.   I still do.

     I hope you see Him too.

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His own name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

@copyrighted: Julie L. Todd 2017

The Joy of One Day©

When my children were young, every summer my mom and dad rented a large house at the beach.  It became a family tradition for 11 years straight.  With my 3 siblings and their families, along with mom and dad, we could fill the place up.

In the beginning years, because of my own elation,  I found myself telling my children months in advance that we were going.   It didn’t take long for me to realize my mistake.   Suddenly they were distracted from their day.  Young children have no real concept of time.  You can’t pack your suitcase in March for a beach trip in July.    I learned to wait until weeks before, where they could count down the days and feel their excitement grow.

I watch my grands as they live their lives present, in the moment.  They have no thoughts for what will happen tomorrow and they don’t remember what happened yesterday. They have an uncanny ability to live in the moments.  They experience such a beautiful place of rest.

Children know the joy of their one day.   They give no thought to yesterday or care for tomorrow.

I heard the author say these words, “I have found joy again by being in my one day”.  It struck me as I considered what life would look like if I lived that way.

My husband and I have a story.  We started out 34 years ago, eyes glazed over, clueless about the vows we had just made.  It didn’t take long for us to find ourselves saying and doing things we never thought we’d do.  Through the years we have hurt each other. At times it’s hard not to allow old history to follow us into the day.   All it takes is a conversation to go awry and suddenly we can be thrown into the reminders of the past. Without warning, history can repeat itself and we can find ourselves stuck in a place we really don’t want to be, saying things we really don’t want to say.

What if we lived in our one day where there is no future and no past?  Paul testified that the old is gone and the new had come. We are told that God remembers our sins no more.  How would things change if we all lived as if the hard drive of our minds had been wiped clean and the past hurts no longer lingered?  What if when those conversations start to rev up we faced them not with the voices of the past but with the voices of today?  Who we are today is not who we were yesterday.

To live in the “one day” is to shut down the old voices and leave them all behind.  The damage of the past is redeemed for good when it no longer plays an active role in the present.

The “one” day means there is no past and there is no future.  There is just the present.

“Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.”

I’ve never been much of one to be affected by the decades rolling by but this year has been different.  I will be 60.  It hit me a few days back.  “I am 10 years away from 70”. The numbers sound ancient to me until I consider Methuselah who lived to be 969.  Yet in the world’s mindset somewhere in these next 10 years I will be considered elderly.  I will never have as many years on this earth as I have already had.   Uncertainties abound if I look towards tomorrow and how we will make it financially.  Joy disappears as fear of what could happen tries to force its way in.

But it’s all just imagination because no one but God has my tomorrows.  He is the God of wonder and mystery who loves showing up in the most unusual places.  Paul reminds me, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.”  Peter reminds me, “With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.”

Yesterday leaves me discouraged and tomorrow leaves me afraid.  Today gives me joy because I am able to see that I have all that I need.

I am surrounded by young children on a weekly basis, both in my home and in my vocation.  I learn so much from just watching them.   They truly live in the moment with unadulterated trust.  They don’t give a care about what will happen in the days to come and they don’t keep history books on what has happened in the days before.  They simply live in the joy of their one day.  I want to live like that.

God does not say, “I was” or “I will be”.  He says “I AM.”  That’s present tense.  He invites me to live as He is, in the one day.  It is the life Christ lived on this earth.  It is the life He now lives in me.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ” Romans 15:13

©copyrighted, 2017 Julie L. Todd

It Is Finished!©

I have heard the Easter story for my entire life.   Every year throughout my childhood the song was sung, “Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.” “He arose a victor of the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign.”  “He arose, He arose, Hallelujah Christ arose.”

It’s a beautiful song but I’ve come to understand that it doesn’t fully tell the reality of what happened for me.  As I mature I am finding more of what God did during those three days.

Three days prior those whom He had come to earth to love had placed His body on a cross where He would hang to die.  He spoke the words as he neared his last breath,  “It is finished.”  I’ve heard those words quoted throughout my life.  For the longest time I believed Jesus was declaring that His suffering was drawing to a close.  It made sense to me because right after that He said, “into your hands I commend my spirit.

I do not believe that any longer.

It is in those very words, I believe, that Jesus was declaring what had happened for mankind.  In His last breaths He proclaimed, once for all, that He had fulfilled the demands of the self-righteous lifestyle.  The law exposed that I could not get it right. He was the answer to the law on my behalf.  He told me I didn’t have to, that He would do it for me.  He finished all the requirements in my place.  The separation ended.   I was liberated.

In that moment, mankind was fully restored unto God.  No longer would God be on the outside He would now dwell within. He would weave Himself into my being and be the strength and the love.  He would be the vine, inviting me to be the branch.  He would be the answer to my weary striving and performing.  He would be the way, the truth and the life.  He would be my rest.

No longer would life have to be sin and behavior focused.  He forgave them all,  past, present, future.  Forgiveness had been granted, once for all.  Each and every sin I had committed and would commit now would be forgotten never to be remembered again by Him.  The grading scale was removed.  I could be free.

An invitation was extended to allow the very life of Christ to now indwell me.  It would be my starting point, my ending point.  On my worst day, and every day I would be the righteousness of Christ.  I would be in Him and He would be in me.

Jesus didn’t just walk out of the grave only to conquer sin and death.  He walked out of the grave to allow life to begin again for me and for you.  It is the most beautiful “do over” that has ever happened.  I was allowed to become a new creation where old things were passed away and new things had come.

When Jesus said “it is finished” I was given a way to live in oneness with the God who made me to love me.  He would become my very life.

For the joy set before Him He endured the cross.  I am that joy.  He saw me.

“For God, the Father, was IN Christ reconciling the world unto Him.”

©copyrighted; 2017; Julie H. Todd