when i asked the scariest question of all

I would love to share a bit of my story with you…

Here’s why.

I was nervous to lead worship last week.

But it wasn’t the good, excited kind of nervous.

It was the nervous that happens when thoughts creep in like, “What if they decide I’m not good enough to come back and do it again? What if I choke up there? What if I sound bad? What if they think…?”

And these are not worship-leading thoughts.

And they bothered me. I knew I couldn’t lead worship like that, but I also knew singing to the Lord and inviting others to sing with me breathes life into my heart.

I couldn’t surrender to those thoughts, so I prayed.

And just like He promises, Jesus bent down low to my quiet plea and came near.

He whispered gently, quietly, the question I simply couldn’t ask myself.

Because at first, it was literally the scariest question I could face.

It was the question He used to unlock my heart and set it free.

“What if they do decide you’re not good enough, Beloved? What if you do mess up? What if you don’t sound your best? What if they never invite you back?

Who are you, then, Beloved?”

And I swallowed hard in the realization and My heart popped out of my chest and the house I’d built upon shifting sand was gone.

Where to put my house, my identity? Where to place it? MyLANTA, is there nowhere on this Earth safe enough, secure enough, to rest in who God made me to be?

No. Blessed truth, no.

Not here.

May I share a bit of my story with you? It seems I’ve been in a sort of identity crisis for lots of (most of) my life until now.

I had a very comfortable childhood, a wonderful family with loving parents who are still together to this day.

I had an even more comfortable growing-up and teenage life, which Michael informs me is weird.

I loved high school. I found my placemy identityand I built my house upon it.

I led worship at our FCA and at youth group. I was the guitar-playing, singing chick who loved Jesus and loved singing to Him and that was my identity.

I had awesome friends and they were my identity.

I was crowned homecoming queen, and that was my identity.

Homecoming

Needless to say, I was a pretty confident girl headed to college but whose confidence and identity was built upon a foundation of sand.

I joined a sorority. And all of a sudden, I wasn’t the only homecoming queen.

I was literally surrounded by homecoming queens.

The sand started to slip.

My grandfather passed away.

My loving family looked different to me now.

Death happened.

More sand slipped.

I tried out for the worship team of my campus ministry.

I didn’t make it.

I wasn’t a worship leader anymore.

The sand slipped.

Lots of friends headed a different direction than me.

I wasn’t in my friend bubble anymore.

And the sand was gone.

And all through college, my Jesus walked with me and picked up my broken pieces, but still I was so insecure and couldn’t figure out why.

Andrew Strickland Photography (19 of 53)

Fast forward to post-college, and I became a teacher. My new identity. My new house to in which to rest my heart and yet it was built upon sand again.

It seemed pretty secure until I was told with the harsh words of misdirected anger that I simply wasn’t good enough, and was laid off.

I taught for a bit longer elsewhere, and then became a writer.

Relief, a new identity.

Positive feedback came with my first book, and my house upon sand seemed golden.

And then, I found a book so similar to mine that I had to put my project on its shelf and start from scratch.

My timeline of publishing books for children wasn’t panning out the way I had planned.

What if I never publish a book? Who am I, God?”

This cry of my heart came to a head when I was asked to lead worship last week.

And then Jesus, upon His throne of mercy, stooped down to me in a pew as I prayed and cried and He whispered,

“You are mine. I am yours. You’re identity is Me.”

What?

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” Hebrews 6:19.

The eyes of my heart were opened in sudden seeing. Seeing freedom. Seeing the Rock on which to build my house of identity for the first time.

Jesus says, “I will never change. Therefore, who you are, my sheep, my heir, will never change. Rest in Me. It’s why I came, Beloved.”

And I cried with relief and the joy I cannot even describe, and I made this list.

It has become my freedom banner.

My identity is not…

a mess up, a worship leader, a good girl, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an author, a nanny, a teacher, a friend, a pretty girl, an ugly girl, an anxious girl, a control freak, a worryer, popular, unpopular, a right girl, a wrong girl, a discerning girl, a faithful girl, a musical girl, a successful girl, a lazy girl, a fired girl, a hired girl, a homecoming queen, an outcast.

My identity is…JESUS.

I. Am. His.

Andrew Strickland Photography (28 of 53)

If you’ve ever felt insecure, (so that’s like, 100% of us, I’m assuming), I encourage you to make a freedom list of what your identity is not…ending with Who your identity is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Blessings to you and forever security in Him,

Robyn

when the fig tree doesn’t bud

Full disclosure?

I may or may not be crying a bit while I write this.

Fortunately, I also have a bag of barbecue chips by my side which makes things a little better.

I wanted to give all my friends an update on my book publishing process, and it’s a painful update this time. One of my main goals in making this blog is to be transparent – to override the facade of social media perfection.

So here goes.

* crunches chip. sniffles. crunches another chip. *

Okay. Ready.

I blow through about 3 children’s chapter books a week, since that’s what I’m writing.

* okay, not ready…more sniffles. *

Anyway. I spend hours reading them, studying them, diagramming them, and re-reading them.

I found one a few weeks ago that as I read it, page by page, I got that hot feeling in my face that happens when a teacher calls on me and I’m caught daydreaming or that time I got pulled over in a speed zone or now, that hot feeling I get when I’ve found a book parallel to mine.

Yes. Parallel to mine.

*sniffles.*

I was sitting in the minute clinic waiting area, just wilting with each turn of the page. And not because of the ringing in my ears or the fact that I couldn’t breathe through my nose.

Good news?

My writing voice is extremely different from this author’s. My characters are extremely unique from these characters.

(So I can keep my babies. I love them. I don’t want to give them up.)

But the plot….oh, the plot. There it was. Laid flat on each page.

Months of work. Months and months and months of work and someone else did it first.

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But hey, other good news?

This book turned out to be a New York Times bestseller.

Dad says I should take that as affirmation that I know what I’m doing. That I know my audience, and I know what’s relevant to them. And praise God, I picked up this book before I spent too much time sending mine out.

But my heartache.

Couldn’t this have been easier?

Could my first book have been the one?

I know it doesn’t usually happen like that for authors, but couldn’t I have been the exception?

Maybe “easy” isn’t God’s plan for me or this book.

Maybe I’m learning what it means to persevere. Maybe I’m learning what it means to have faith in what I believe the Lord has promised me. The kind of faith that I can’t muster up on my own…the kind of faith only God can give. Maybe I’m in the process of creating books so much better, so much more developed, so much meatier than my first one, that kids will love them and benefit from them even more.

Maybe I’m learning to be real with people and not apologize about it.

I have faith that someday, I’ll hold my published book in my hands and I’ll read it to a class full of littles knowing that I didn’t give up.

Knowing that I didn’t lose faith in God even when things didn’t go my way.

Even when the disappointment was real.

Even when my 6-month project had to be filed away.

Even when the stomach dropped and the tears came because that book was like my baby.

I have faith that someday, I’ll tell littles not to give up. To follow their heart’s desires.

Because by God’s grace, I’ll say, I didn’t give up either.

And a beautiful book happened because of that.

So, with tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat, I’m on to book 2.

Ann Voskamp is a delight.

Ann Voskamp is a delight.

Thank You God, for teaching me to bow my head and to bend my knees and to run the good race with You as my anchor and with faith as my shield.

Dear reading heart, if you have a goal, a God-given heart desire, press on. Press on. 

I have a feeling we’ll be glad we did.

And may we, the bold dreamers who face disappointment, call our hearts to sing this anthem:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls, 

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights”

-Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Blessings and joyful strength to you,

Robyn

May I offer some encouragement? (And some cookie butter?)

Can I just say one thing before I say anything else?

Go to your nearest Trader Joe’s and buy some COOKIE BUTTER! (Could ever there be two words so perfectly made for each other that we should have put them together centuries ago?!) The cookie butter mixed with cocoa (YES. You heard me right. MIXED WITH COCOA.) looks like this and I can guarantee you will be dancing a happy jig with spoonfuls in your mouth!!:

Still not sure if it's a condiment or a food but it's AMAZING.

Still not sure if it’s a condiment or a food but it’s AMAZING.

Can you tell I haven’t been working for two days? 

Yeah, just me and the cookie butter.

……..

……..

…….. Just kidding. (Sort of).

So, anyway, this week I got sick.

On Monday, actually.

(And yes…I know today is only Tuesday so this post will be short because I. Will. Rest.)

But remember how I’m a fellow planner with all you fine type-A folks? Well, I had my week laid out quite nicely already.

And then I got sick.

And not the kind of sick where I could battle through and still get things done, apparently.

Because I tried.

I gallantly stubbornly went through Monday morning trying to check things off my list, mail my queries, clean the house, prep for my nanny babies, and of course play with Tuck so he wouldn’t tear up the new carpet with his colossal amounts of jungle-cat energy. (Note to self: check up on whether or not Tuck has the DNA of a wild bobcat or a panther or something).

Needless to say, Monday morning ended with me in bed and all the lights off and I couldn’t even open my eyes for Downton Abbey. Yes, I know!!!! Nuts, right?!! Lady Mary couldn’t even get me to stay awake. That’s when you know it’s serious, folks.

I was spent.

And yet, running a fever and attempting to hear noise above the ringing in my ears, I was still frustrated. I was frustrated because I didn’t want to rest.

And this morning when I woke up with my head full of bowling balls or balloons or something of that nature, I was still frustrated. I still didn’t want to rest.

Because then, this week wouldn’t be productive enough by my own standards.

Like, as if I didn’t perform and check-off all these things on my to-do list, then my week would be for naught.

But maybe the Lord has more for our weeks than checking off to-do lists. 

And He whispered something into my heart and so, by God’s grace (and above the ever-present ringing sound caused by the rather painful state of my eardrums at the moment), I turned my ear to listen.

“Will you rest in Me?”

Wait….But…

But, I can’t, see, I actually have this list of things on my agenda and they’re very important to me and…

But then…..I’m tired.

Physically, tired.

My head is throbbing.

And I have no choice.

So I rest.

And it was then, in the blessed quiet submission that I realized, no matter what I have on my schedule, I am free to always rest in Him.

It’s what we’re promised as His children: to be led beside quiet waters, to be soul-refreshed, to be led down the right paths (psalm 23:1-3) when we give Him our hearts and our trust.

No matter what else is on our agendas, there is one constant that is already filled in for us on each page: Be held.

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands” (John 3:35, emphasis mine).

“My sheep [followers of Christ] listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 11:27-30).

So my prayer is this: When I am sick, may I rest in Him. When I am well again, may I rest in Him. When I’m working, may I rest in Him. May I be led from worry to the quiet waters of His love.

Perhaps it took a physical slow-down for the Lord to remind me to trust Him. To rest in Him.

Now, I think I’ll go eat a spoonful of cookie butter and watch Lady Mary marry Matthew Crawley for the third time.

Blessings and rest to you,

Robyn

Jesus offended me. (And I’m so glad He did.)

Can I take a minute to share with you? Thanks. Extroverted me is brimming at the seams.

I used to think, “I’m not perfect, but God loves me.”

Now I think, “I’m not perfect, and God loves me.”

It might not seem like a whole lot of difference, but to me, these two statements separate moralistic religion and Jesus in my own heart.

You see, the “but” in the first statement always left room in my heart for the hope that somehow, I could really try my best to be perfect for Jesus and He would love me always, even in the times I fell short of perfect. The “but” meant that sometimes, even if hardly ever, I could actually come close to achieving perfection by thinking and doing the right things that I thought God wanted me to do.

The “and” in the second statement means that I. Will. Never. Be. Perfect. At least, not until heaven when I meet Jesus face to face and am made perfect and complete in eternal communion with Him. And that’s the me Jesus came to save – the me who realizes and accepts my serious imperfection and doesn’t try to hide it with a band-aid of well performed morality or religious rules I’ve made for myself.

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You might be familiar with Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son. The one where the younger brother runs away with his dad’s money, squanders it on “wild living” (prostitutes, alcohol, partying, etc) and ends up alone and eating with pigs after all his money is gone. So he returns to his dad’s house, thinking himself a fool and unworthy to be a son anymore, and his dad meets him with open arms and celebrates his son’s repentance and homecoming with the biggest celebration of the year.

Meanwhile, the older brother, who stayed with his dad, did his chores, followed the rules, and is pretty sure he’s done a lot better than his younger sibling, is absolutely furious with his dad for welcoming the younger brother back. He won’t even go into the celebration when his dad pleads with him to come and enjoy. The older brother says something to the effect of “I’ve done the right thing this whole time! You never threw me a party! And yet, my brother acted a fool and comes back when his money is gone and you throw HIM a party? That’s not fair!”

Can I admit that even though his argument annoys me, the older brother’s logic made some sense to me? And I found myself nodding and thinking, “Wait…but he did everything right…”

And that’s when Jesus gently and truthfully whispered into my heart that I’m less perfect than I ever dared imagine – no matter what rules I do follow. When you’ve idolized perfection for so long, that’s an offensive truth.

And that’s when the full impact of the gospel hits like a hurricane of unrivaled love.

If I accept how sinful I am (I know, I know. It’s heavy. It’s not fun to think about. It’s offensive, even), then how much more does Jesus mean to me?

All of a sudden, I need Jesus. I love Him even more. I am in love with the Son who loves me with reckless abandon, asking for nothing in return. Never asking for performance. Asking only for my whole heart.

Jesus says this about a sinful woman whom He allowed to anoint His feet with her best perfume, “I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. Then Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ “- Luke 7:47-48.

The truth is, Jesus forgives us all much. It’s up to us to decide whether we will let Him.

If we pretend we don’t need much forgiveness (with the flawed thinking that surely we must have followed the rules better than the next guy), then I suppose we only have the ability to love little rather than love much.

One more thing.

Did you know that when Christianity first spread, right after Jesus was crucified for us, it was considered anti-religious. Yes. Christianity was considered anti-religious. According to Tim Keller, the religious people of that day asked, “Where is your temple?…Where do your priests labor?…Where are the sacrifices made to please your gods?” And Christians would have responded that they did not make sacrifices anymore. Jesus himself was the temple to end all temples, the priest to end all priests, and the sacrifice to end all sacrifices” (Keller, Prodigal God).

Keller closes with this: “The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him” (Keller, Prodigal God).

Please here this: God does give us boundaries and rules that breathe life and are pure. They show us how to live abundantly and by so doing, glorify Him.

But I pray we will be a people who admit and embrace with humble hearts our big need for Jesus, so His big forgiveness can take place in our hearts, overflowing into big love for Him and for others.

Blessings and love to you today,

Robyn

“The men at the table said among themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?‘ And Jesus said to the [sinful woman who anointed His very feet] “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:49-50).

My Instagram Account isn’t Fake…but it isn’t Everything

There have been a lot of blog posts circulating about the effects of looking at Facebook and Instagram daily.

And goodness and Ben and Jerry’s both know I could write a whole post itself on how frustrating it was being on Facebook after college graduation, inundated with pictures of fellow graduates’ new desks while I had yet to land one. You know, a job. Not a desk.

And I love Instagram.

I love showing pictures of my fur baby and family and Bible verses and flowers from Michael and cookie dough freshly plopped on the pan, I love letting my friends and family know when I’ve achieved something, when I’m thinking of them, when I see a funny picture of a cat sitting on a couch like a human with a soda can and a slice of pizza.

It warms my heart to capture and share these things.

But these warm and beautiful and light-bearing things don’t happen alone.

No, these things – the Bible verses, the sunset on the beach, the selfie with Michael – they happen amid the messiness of every day life.

And I love that. God graces in ordinary life.

What I’m saying is, my social media accounts are real. Very real. But they’re not the whole picture.

You know, I read somewhere that friendship forms when someone says simply, “me too.”

I agree.

So here is my is my “me too” for you:

You’ll see my wedding pictures. I like to post them, because I love Michael with my whole entire heart and truly our wedding was one of the best days of my life so far. What you won’t see is the months of pre-marital counseling, prayer, and normal, hard work we went through go through to get there.

You’ll see a Bible verse about God’s peace. The verse wasn’t posted because I know all about God’s peace and have mastered that bit of truth. No, it was posted because I was feeling anxious and needed God’s peace.

You’ll see two beach chairs sitting perfectly in the sunlight. It was an awesome moment captured. What you won’t see is how I miss my Papaw being there. A lot. Every time I see those chairs. Because probably like you, I know how much it hurts to miss a grandpa, too.

You’ll see Tucker being all cute and fuzzy, like a giant peppered cotton ball. What you won’t see is how three seconds later he gives me a “love bite” and I yelp and fall off the couch and knock my drink over. But let’s face it. He’s still cute and fuzzy.

An accurate depiction of my crazy cat.

An accurate depiction of my crazy cat. I didn’t post this one. But you can see very nicely the spots where he’s added some torn-up flair to our couch, no? 

You’ll see a selfie with me and Michael. What you won’t see is the argument we just talked through for about 45 minutes before the selfie.

You’ll see a picture of me on Easter. What you won’t see is the really bad hair day I woke up to the day before. Know why you won’t see it? I didn’t take a picture on my bad hair day.

You’ll see a picture of freshly baked pumpkin bread. What you won’t see is how on that same day, I was stressed about the details of my changing career.

Friends, I love Instagram because it’s a way to document God’s graces in the ordinary moments of ordinary people.

Instagram shows real things (at least, on my account) – but it doesn’t show everything.

Be encouraged!

Social media has changed our culture.

But, I pray all the time to see social media as a way to enjoy and celebrate sweet and real graces amid each person’s sweet and real messiness.

Goodness, we’re all human, folks!

And Praise God! He loves us just the same.

So next time you see me post a picture, know it’s grace. And there’s a real, maybe even messy story behind it, and you know something else? That messiness is grace, too. In Jesus, all is grace.

Blessings and sweet realness to you,

Robyn

Rest Easy.

This morning I was inspired by a question from my Hebrews bible study.

The sound of birds chirping out on the porch was also especially inspiring after a week of rain, and few things make me feel instantly at peace like my vanilla cream coffee perfectly warm and a lack of Tucker bites (for now) thanks to the God-sent electronic bug zooming around our little foyer.

I’d love to be transparent with you.

The question in my study was this: What are some of the “plus” behaviors you’ve tried to add to the sufficiency of Christ? (Harper, pg.115).

Well….I mean. Oh.

I don’t need to add things? I totally forgot I don’t need to add things.

Andrew Strickland Photography (10 of 53)

I forgot I’m good enough for Him because of Jesus. I forgot I don’t need to clean up my act before I come to Him in prayer. I forgot I don’t have to pray with my eyes closed and in one certain spot to get better prayer-reception. I forgot God forgave the sins I haven’t even done yet once and for all and that’s good enough.

Gosh, it’s so easy to forget.

Following rules and religious rituals we’ve made up in our heads sometimes feels safer than living free in Christ’s love, doesn’t it?

It’s hard to wrap my mind around how my life was more valuable to Jesus than His own. Rituals and rules make more sense to the human brain, I think.

But I like Jesus better.

You know something?

I would rather be forgiven than perfect.

Because forgiven means I’m loved.

Hallelujah! I love being loved!

I can walk through this day with my permanent ID card in my back pocket:

 Robyn: Loved. Pardoned. Free to Go. A Friend of the King (John 15:13).

(so, not like, spent 30 minutes reading the Bible, so free to go until tomorrow morning).

(so, not like, didn’t do anything wrong for an hour, so pardoned until the next mistake)

(so, not like, prayed enough this week, so God will definitely listen)

No, no, no!

Praise Him, that’s not our reality as His beloved friends!

Because Jesus says the verdict is in. We can show our ID cards to that judging voice whenever it rears its ugly head with a religious to-do list:

Your Name: Loved. Pardoned. Free to Go. A Friend of the King.

One of my favorite verses is this:

“Relax! Be silent and stop your striving,

and you will see that

I am God” Psalm 46:10, passion translation.

I also like to tweak it a little for my own heart to this, referencing 1 John 4:8:

“Relax! Be silent and stop your striving,

and you will see that

I am [Love].”

So rest easy today. The result of our trial has been determined already: Jesus wins. And we win in Him.

Enjoy the walk a little more. We can stroll! Or even better, skip! We don’t have to strive and stress the whole time and power-walk anywhere checking off our list of religious to-do’s. (Although who doesn’t love a good power-walk with elbows flying all over the place? And even cooler, those professional power-walking suits and helmets? But I digress.)

All this, Friends of the King, because:

Jesus = Everything we need. 

(seen that phrase a million times? yeah, me too. and it’s amazing how many times I still need the sweet, Holy reminding.)

God’s grace and love to all us power-walkers-turned-skippers with To-Do lists turned-freedom-flags,

Robyn

3 Questions That Just Might Turn Your Day Around

Here they are, a few questions that set my heart beating a little steadier in freedom to truly enjoy Christ and live the abundant life He’s given me:

Can I accept that I am not perfect, and that God loves me anyway? (Romans 5:8)

Can I accept that I am not the world’s version of perfect, but I am God’s version of perfect? (Psalm 139: 13-16)

Can I give up my pride (a.k.a. self-protection, self-righteousness, self-doubt) to The Lord and receive unconditional love and acceptance for exactly who I am, in return? (Romans 8:38-39)

Can you feel God smiling really big about those? I can.

I’m sure He loves when we accept His gift of grace. Over and over and over. Every time we forget and need to accept it again.

Like when you buy someone the best present and it costs every penny you own and you’ve been planning this gift for the longest time, and they finally open it and squeal and smile in joy and you, you’re the giver of the gift, and you swell with joy too…I like to think that must be at least a little of what God feels every time we remember and accept His gift of grace and unfailing love.

And so then I thought, now what do we do in response?

We receive it.

We receive His Perfect Love, and we walk through this day not as those who have failed, but as those who are forgiven and loved.

Live your life like you’re exactly who Jesus thinks you are.” – Bob Goff.

Take a deep breath. God is smiling over you!

Happy Tuesday, precious hearts!

Robyn

Verses From our Questions:

Romans 5:8 (ESV, emphasis mine) – “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Psalm 139: 13-16 (MSG version, additions mine) – “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 [You] in adoration – what a creation [You’ve made me to be]! You know me inside and out, every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, You watched me grow from conception to birth; all the pages of my life were spread out before You, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

Romans 8:38-39 (ESV) – “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”