BOOK AVAILABLE NOW!

The book is available TODAY!! Please consider buying a copy (or more) TODAY to help give this book its best big push out into the world!

I hope you are encouraged.

I hope you laugh a bit and cry a bit.

I hope you feel great Hope and are drawn to the Hero of it all!

On your mark, get set,….GO!!!

LOVE, MOLLY

#themoonisround

The BOOK is coming!

You guys. I can’t believe I get to say this at last: the book is coming! I have 98% confidence that it will be available to you in the month of June.

Yes, June of 2020! That’s NEXT MONTH!!

The Moon Is Round: A True Story of Extraordinary Loss, Grief, and the Fight for Faith has been a work 11 years in the making. I started writing after my mom died in 2009. I thought the Lord was calling me to write a book about losing her, but things just weren’t falling into place.

Eleven years and SO much loss later, all the “not yet” has become “NOW!”

I am humbled, emotional, anxious, and excited about it all. I am asking the Lord to do what He wants to do with this book, to prepare the hearts of those who will read it, and to make Himself known.

The book has been read by a small audience at this point — both friends and people I don’t know — and here is what they are saying:

“Molly’s story of unwavering faith in the midst of overwhelming loss is perhaps the most moving thing I have ever read. Well-written with beautiful honesty, this book is both heartbreaking and redemptive, carrying a message of hope for our lives on earth and in eternity. Anyone who has experienced loss will find a friend and fellow sojourner in Molly. It is impossible not be supernaturally inspired by the faith, courage and resilience in these pages. We all have hard battles in this life. I believe God has delivered this book to help many people through those times and it is not to be missed.” 

-Ericka Anderson, author of Leaving Cloud 9, podcast host, and contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Christianity Today

I am NOT a book reader, and I couldn’t put this one down!

This is my new very favorite book. Ever.

I’m only on Chapter 10. It is SO good! I’m reading as quickly as I can to know more. It’s so beautiful! I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. And these words make me want to go grab my Bible and read it!

I don’t even have words for how good this is. Readers will be pointed to Jesus on every page!

What an amazing story of God’s redeeming power! Thank you for sharing your story! It touched me deeply.  I could not put it down! In fact, I read it all yesterday.  You make me want to seek God even more and certainly praise him even more for all He has done in your life and mine.  I love the title and the story behind it.  There is no doubt in my mind that God will use His words through you to change lives forever.  Thank you for your sacrifice of putting your pain, heartache and so much of your time to do His work, to make people see him more clearly and to believe that He is with us every step of the way!  

I have already received three personal emails about how the book has helped people process their grief — two people for the FIRST time! It makes me so happy that they can process it with God as they read these pages. That is one of the many reasons I wrote it, and I am humbled that the Lord allows ALL of us to partner with Him in the work He wants to do in the lives of people.

In all these years that you have read my words, prayed for me, and cheered me on — this is the beauty that came from it. He has done what He said He would do. He traded my mourning for joy, my ashes for beauty.

Here’s how YOU can be involved:

  1. Save the image in this post and post it on social media to let your friends know it’s COMING SOON!
  2. Buy the book on LAUNCH DAY! There will NOT be a pre-order, so those Day 1 purchases matter so that Amazon will put it in front of other buyers. If it sells, they’ll help push it, and I want this book to get to the hands of all that need to be reminded of this message. [The book will be available in paperback and e-book for now.] I’ll let you know when Launch Day is finalized!
  3. Leave an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads! I never knew, until now, how important reviews are. They are the #1 thing people look at when buying books these days. DO tell them what you liked about the book or how it moved you. You can also tell them if you didn’t like it. DON’T say things like, “I know the author! She used to babysit my kids!” That is not what a review is for. Amazon will remove those types of reviews.
  4. Share it! Give copies to people in your life who might like it or benefit from it. Ask your local libraries to buy a copy. Post what you liked about it on social media (without giving anything away, of course)!

Finally, as quarantines lift, I would be honored to come share this book, sign copies, speak or preach wherever you’ll have me! So I’d love for you to throw my name in the hat for retreats and events in your area! Who could you share this with NOW?

Thank you, thank you for your love and support over the years. I wrote this book for you. May you come to know His deep love for you even more as you read these pages.

With Love,

MOLLY

P.S. You may notice that many of the old blog posts have been taken down on my website. That is on purpose. But you will see much of that writing incorporated in this book! 🙂

L O V E S E E D S

For a time, I had daily interactions with her. Perhaps it was the difference between our personalities, maybe it was that we valued different things, maybe she just didn’t like me. 

All I knew was that interactions with her included eye-rolls. I would ask a question, and she would offer no response.

There were days she’d smile at me, but they were rare. Interactions with her were difficult, and more than once, I cried after seeing her. I found myself dreading the days our paths would intermingle.

For the majority of my life, I’d managed to not ruffle many feathers and could relate to most people in some way or another. I liked being liked, if I was honest. Why was it so hard with this particular person?

As I was praying about this one day, God reminded me of what He’d taught me through another difficult person in my life years before. He reminded me of the life-changing things He did in both of our lives over time as a result of asking Him for help. He promised me He could do it again.

Perhaps you are reading this because you have difficult people in your life now, too. If not presently, maybe you have in the past.  I’m certain we will both encounter more in the future.

Difficult people are a part of life. We are all flawed (James 3:2) but I believe God uses our people problems as one of the greatest paths to teach us more about Himself, to slowly rub some of our rough edges smooth.

God’s Word is here to help us. Here are 7 steps to help you to not just deal with but love the difficult people in your life.

1. Love your enemy. Pray for them.

            I remember the moment I was literally crying to God about a difficult person in my life. “She’s my enemy!” I said to Him, shocked to have an enemy, because I didn’t think I did. I surprised myself at the word. Was it wrong to have an enemy?

            Though as I read the Bible, I am reminded that having enemies is a normal part of the human experience. David, in the Psalms, prayed to God about his enemies, asking the Lord to “arrange an evil person to turn on him. Send an accuser to bring him to trial. When his case is called for judgement, let him be pronounced guilty. Count his prayers as sins. Let his years be few; let his position be given to someone else” (Psalm 109:6-8).

Was I really allowed to pray that about someone? David did. He regularly prayed honestly to God about the hardest things, including his enemies and the difficult people in his life. Rather than taking matters into his own hands, however, he is asking the Lord to do these things.

So, I told God what I honestly felt toward this person, and then I asked, “I know You are the One who fights for us, but what am I supposed to do about this?” 

            “I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

            If we want to obey Him, to act like His children, we have to choose to act in love even if we don’t feel love toward them. 

This is really easy to do…until you actually have to do it.

How do we love them? Pray. Pray for those who roll their eyes at you. Pray for those who bulldoze you. Pray for those who don’t listen to you. Pray for those who act in ways that offend you. Pray for them to know Him. Pray for them to learn of His peace and His love and His acceptance of them. Pray for their families. Pray that they would have fun, that something would delight them that day.

            So, I decided to pray. Let me assure you, every part of my human-self did not want to pray for this person. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to resent. I wanted to hold on to my loathing. But as I slowly heard the words slip through my lips to God about her good, my heart started to soften.

            She was no longer my enemy. She was someone whom I wanted to know His love, too.

2. Know the real enemy.

            So, we have enemies. That’s part of being human. It’s easy for us to look at a person’s behavior and think they are The Worst.  It can feel like a battle.  But the greater truth is this:

             “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

            One of the ways our Enemy works is influence. He whispers lies into our minds that make us act in ways that hurt people. He says things like, “If you admit you have needs, you’ll look weak,” or “power and position will make you happy,” or “if you hurt her, you’ll feel better” and our “enemies” believe it. They act the way they do out of their thinking…and so do we. 

            When your enemy acts in a way that is hurtful, remember that it comes out of what The Enemy whispered to them.  Let us remember that our battle (in ourselves and with others) is not actually with this human being before us, but with the Enemy of God.

3. Find hot coals.

Once I started praying for my enemy and against the Enemy on her behalf, the Lord reminded me of another step. He didn’t want me to stop at prayer.

            If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat.
                                      If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
            You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads,
                                      and the Lord will reward you (Proverbs 25:21-22).

Once we can pray for our enemies, He asks us to take care of them – to give them food to eat and water to drink, for instance.  This is not an exhaustive list; rather, it is to show us the point that we need to offer our time, resources, and attention to their needs.  My enemy had no physical needs. So, I asked the Lord to show me: What are her needs?

Remember her family trouble? He reminded me.  She didn’t have physical needs, but perhaps she had emotional needs. Perhaps she needed someone to listen.

So, within the week, I sought her out when I knew she would be free for a moment. I made small talk about the weekend, and then when her family was brought up, I asked, “What has it been like lately? How are you doing?” I sat on a table so she’d know I was sticking around for her real answer, not just the happy one.  I wanted to hear the truth.

Then, she told me the vulnerable reality of her situation, and the Lord allowed me to have empathy for her. I understood what she was working through when she was at home.  Soon, I even had a tiny pocket of compassion for her and a small understanding of why she reacted the way she did to things.

When we take time to care for our enemies needs, we just may get a window into their hearts.

4. You can’t do it. He can.

So, I started praying and listening, and I felt I was making progress. Then, she did that thing that made me so angry again, and I was back to, “Lord, I can’t do this. Why is she in my life? Why is she so rude? I can’t do it.”

The gentle Whisper came again, “No, you can’t. But in Me, you can. I will help you do it.”  Sometimes, the best thing we can do is admit that we can’t. It was not in my capacity to show love to someone so rude to me.

 “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness,” said Jesus in 2 Corinthians 12:9.  When we admit we can’t, we are ready to receive what only He can do.  So I continued to pray, “Lord, I can’t love her the way You want me to. Help me. I need You to give me love for her.”

 Once I quit trying to scrounge up some love for her on my own power (which was never going to happen), I was ready for Him to give me a supernatural love for her. And over time, He did.

5. Take on the form of a servant.

 A few days later, I read: “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself…You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. ‘Though he was God, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a servant’” (from Philippians 2).

If God was willing to leave his high position, then I needed to leave my pride. This was the hardest part for me, because I thought I “deserved” to be treated a certain way, but Jesus demonstrated how we can let that go. In letting go of how we think people should speak to us or respond to us, we are freed to love them better. 

“Be humble,” He whispers. “Let them win. Let them have the high position. Let them have the better answer. Let them have the last word.”

 “Serve them,” He whispers. “Bring them a treat, encourage them, take on one of their responsibilities, and while you do, pray for them.”

I didn’t not want to hold my tongue and let her have the last word. I did not feel like doing the task she was supposed to do.  I knew she wouldn’t thank me for it either. But could I trust Jesus knew what He was doing?

So, I said, “Lord, I don’t feel like doing this for her, but if you tell me to serve her anyway, I want to obey You. I’m doing this for You. I know You see it, and You appreciate it. Please change my attitude.”

And as I did the task she was supposed to do and prayed for her while doing it, He put more love in my heart for her. But only AFTER I started doing the task.

Obeying God by serving others when we don’t feel like it always produces good fruit.

6. We plant. God grows.

I wanted fast results, and that wasn’t happening. I wanted her to change, and she wasn’t.  It took years for me to see any softening. And during those years, God softened my hard heart, too.

 During those years, I read 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 where Paul says to the people, “I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.”

What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. We get to plant seeds of prayer, seeds of service, and seeds of our sacrifice, and others will come along and encourage what we have planted…but God is the one who makes them grow. 

We plant, and we leave the rest to Him.

7. Remember you could be someone’s difficult person, too.

The easiest thing for us to do is focus on how difficult others are. However, we must remember that we are someone’s difficult person, too. 

Perhaps our personality rubs them the wrong way, maybe the sound of our voice angers them, or maybe our sudden presence in their lives is unwelcomed for some reason. 

 I cringe at the thought that I could frustrate someone to this end, but I am certain I do.  With that in mind, let us approach one another with grace and mercy and humility.  God is growing all of us.

           

So, what happened with these difficult people?

God’s grown ALL of us over the years – both our love for Him and for each other. One difficult person started doing Bible study with me, and she became a dear friend. I genuinely love her and want the best for her. Only God could surprise me by having those words come out of my mouth! 

Another difficult person later told me the impact my faith had on her life. We are not best friends, but we have more love and respect for each other now. I continue to pray she will come to know Jesus in a personal way some day.

 There will always be difficult people in our lives. And God is always growing all of us. We don’t have to be stuck in our hurt, anger, and frustration toward people who are difficult for us. There are important things we can DO, now! What seeds of love can you plant today that, by God’s gracious kindness, will produce an unimaginable harvest in the future?

I believe He wants to blow our minds with the fruit of love He can produce regarding the difficult people in our lives. But we’ve got to start planting.

 What Love Seeds will you plant today?

10 Ways to Support Your Wife as Stepmom

I could feel the tears welling behind my eyes.  I distracted myself by unloading toilet paper in the bathroom cabinet.  I sensed my husband, Guy, was trying to make eye contact with me, but I just couldn’t or the dam would burst.

He sat down and patted his leg, an invitation for me to come sit.  So, I did.  Here it comes, I thought.

As soon as I sat, two tears rolled silently down my cheek.

“Is life hard today? You’ve been quiet all afternoon,” he said.  I nodded.  “What’s hard?”

“Being a stepmom,” I replied, wishing that it weren’t true.

“Tell me how.”

“I don’t know what’s worth sharing and what I should just get over,” I said.

“Tell me,” he repeated gently.

It took courage for me to let the words pass through my lips.  I didn’t want to hurt him with something I would say.

Finally, I mustered the truth.

“Sometimes I feel like an outsider in my own home,” I said as the tears fell harder.

I have run marathons and half marathons.  I’ve taught classrooms full of squirrely children.  I’ve buried my mom and my oldest son.  I’ve weathered the storm of an unwanted divorce.  I’ve moved from a city in one state to a small town in another.

But nothing has challenged me as much as being a stepmom for one single reason – nothing has required more sacrifice coupled with less control.

His daughters were 8 and 11 when I married their dad, and they are two of the most incredible people on the planet!  At the time, I lived alone with a dog and cat, so stepping into their home as a stepmom meant tremendous change for my daily life.

In my conversations with my husband, he openly admits that he does not know what my experience is like since I did not bring children into our marriage.  He tells me that he wants to know, and I imagine there are other husbands who might want to know what it’s like for their wives.

So, here are 10 things to remember as you support your wife as stepmom:

  1. The fact that you want to know what it’s like for her is the biggest gift.  When my husband invites me to share what is hard, it removes much of the weight.  I no longer feel that I have to carry it alone.  His questions, as a way of gaining understanding, make us partners and debunk the lie that I need to hide my emotions and protect myself. It shows me how much he cares about me.
  2. She wants to be good stepmom.  Fairy tales, like Cinderella, depict step-mothers as evil and unloving.  But the step-moms I know are the exact opposite of that.  The stepmoms I know are kind, sacrificial, and loving probably because they are kind, sacrificial, and loving people to begin with. This is a new role to me. I didn’t know how to be a stepmom to them, but I am learning, because I want to be a great one, as do the step-moms I encounter.
  3. Your love for your biological children is an innate feeling; hers is an action by choice.  My love for all of my children is equal but different.  I’ve borne two sons myself, and there is an inherent love for the child whom you carried, who shares your DNA.  Loving everyone else on the planet is a choice.  I am aware that I am not as naturally patient or generous toward people who did not grow in my womb or vice versa.  But I want to love my step-kids deeply, and we are growing in love for one another. But I know that they don’t love me the same inherent way they love their dad and their mom. I know these relationships will take time to grow, and I appreciate it when my husband points out the ways he sees me love the kids and the ways he sees them love me back.
  4. She needs your patience as you listen to her disappointments. I had no idea what I was actually signing up for when I said yes to being a stepmom, because it’s so much more than making extra food at dinner and going to their sporting events.  I think Mike Jantzen worded it perfectly when he said, “She is always settling for less than she hoped for. You may have been a great catch, but what tagged along shattered some of her dreams.  No woman dreams of sharing finances between two households, or of always having another woman’s schedule and decisions affect her life. Her romantic ideals did not include having dates with you interrupted by text messages from your ex.”  These instances, and countless others, are daily reminders that this is not the life we dreamt about, and sometimes we need to express it, be understood, and then we can move on.
  5. One-on-one time with you is a necessity.  Most couples get a few years, at least, of just the two of them.  You did not get that.  “I do” meant “I do their spelling words with them starting now.”  She is happy to help.  But she married you for YOU. A regular date night will do wonders for the connection, trust, and fun in your relationship.  Get it on the calendar and guard it.  Put your phones down and only respond to emergency texts that need to be dealt with immediately.  Two hours away is enough to recharge for a week.
  6. She needs a place of her own.  When the kids are at our place, their stuff finds its way to every room in the house.  I was not prepared for the take-over that happens when they walk in the door, and she may not be used to the chaos that comes with kids either. But even a seasoned mom needs a place to catch her breath.  Maybe it’s a room, maybe it’s a chair in a corner of your bedroom.  Just make sure there’s a door.  Retreating for a little while produces energy she’ll need later.
  7. She needs you to notice her efforts.  All parents need affirmation, but for stepmoms, it’s even more important.  She may not receive the hugs and “I love you”s that Dad receives, despite doing as much for them as he does.  Model the “Thanks for making dinner for us” and encourage the kids to say a simple “thank you” when she does something special for them.  Then, when you have a moment just the two of you, point out the ways she’s sacrificed or the things you admire about her parenting.  You will be her most important cheerleader, and your praise will make a huge difference.
  8. It’s really hard having another woman influence her home. This was perhaps the most shocking part for me at first.  The kids’ mom has not been inside our house since I’ve been living in it, yet, her presence is everywhere.  I hear the kids talking to her on the phone every night.  Her decisions affect our schedule – like when the kids will be at our house or not, what activities they do, how we spend our money, etc.  She’s not cruel about it; I just wasn’t prepared to not be the sole woman who runs my home, and it is really hard for me.  I (and even our infant son) sometimes take a backseat to what she decides for the sake of her kids, and that is something I have to constantly surrender. Again, she’s not being mean, and I think she’s a great mom.  And yet, her decisions affect us. When I dreamt of being a mother, this was not how I pictured my family’s home would be.
  9. She wants to be a decision maker.  When there are decisions to be made, the results will impact me and affect our home, so I want my husband to include me on the decisions as much as possible.  When I talk with moms of nuclear families, they are the decision makers for almost everything – dinners, schedules, activities— and get to run their family life how they want with the partnership of their husband.  My husband and his kids were used to making decisions without me for years, so it was a shift for all of us. The kids will get to run their own home and make all the decisions when they’re adults someday. Today, they are kids, and we are the adults. I appreciate when my husband pulls me aside and asks for my input before asking the kids.  It’s another (huge) gesture that makes me feel that we’re a team.
  10. She wants to build a “we”.  Despite all of these difficulties and challenges, I would still choose him.  His eyes still make my heart race and his smile makes me giddy.  I love watching him as a dad, and I grow more madly in love with him every day.  I think we make the best team, and there’s no one I’d rather wrangle all this craziness with than him.

So, there on my husband’s leg, I told him all the ways I feel like an outsider in my own home (as listed above). 

“Dad, Daaad?” a child yelled as she came around the corner.

“Hold on, Honey,” he said. “I’ll be there in a second.” But she kept coming until she saw my back to her, and I didn’t turn around. “I’ll be right there,” he said again.

“Oh,” she replied when she saw me wiping tears. She walked away quietly.

I continued to cry, and my husband continued to listen, acknowledging my feelings and difficulties.  When I had said all I needed to say, he said, “Well, I can’t pretend that I know how you feel, but I will listen…and cry with you.”

I looked up and into his eyes for the first time since the conversation started.  I saw his tears.

And that was really all I needed.

Because, husbands, what it really boils down to is a step-mom just needs to know she’s not alone. 

She has you.

Molly Huffman – http://www.mollyhuffman.com

Take Up Your Cross

It’s been over ten years since I was handed my cross.

Mom and Dad asked my sisters and I to come over for news from the doctor.  Once we’d all gathered in the living room, Dad became solemn. “The doctor has decided there’s nothing more to do.  It’s time to stop treatment,” he said as tears pooled in his eyes.  He put his head in his hands and wept. I squeezed Mom’s hand tighter.

And with those words, a cross was placed on my back.  A death began that day. 

There are some really bizarre phrases in the Bible.  There are sentences we read and question, “What does that even mean?”  Sometimes it takes us years of mulling over the words, of turning it in our hand like a gem to see the light come in and sparkle from different angles, before we see the beauty in it.

Jesus said words that were easy to understand as well as some that take some mulling. 

One of the phrases I have a new perspective of is found in the books Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Five different times, Jesus tells us “take up your cross.”

If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. Matt. 10:38

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.  Matt. 16:24

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.  Mark 8:34

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  Luke 9:23

And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27

In high school, I equated a cross with suffering.  I assumed “taking up our cross” meant we would all have to suffer in life, so we should embrace it, plan for it.

That was one perspective, and I think that IS part of what Jesus was saying.

But now I also see it means more than just suffering; it means death. 

That’s what a cross is.  It’s a death tool.  For Jesus, a cross would usher in His physical death, and our crosses cause death as well. 

For us, it means dying to ourselves – our quest for comfort, our control, our desire for money or our pride.

Before my mom died, I hadn’t had to carry a cross.  Life was easy.  Yes, I’d had a couple break-ups, but I recovered.  I lived in a nice part of town with my dream teaching job and a new husband and puppy.  Then, Death came creeping into my neatly planned life.

I am thankful it did.

My cross rustled me from my comfort. Death snapped me out of the trance of Me – my plans, my comfort, my control – and got me thinking about His plans, His comfort, His control.

Allow me to blow my own cover: I would not have chosen my cross, even though Jesus tells us it’s for our good.  I would have continued creeping toward comfort and my own plans had it not been for God coming behind me, lifting me up by my shoulders, and setting me back down in a new direction (against my will).

But it didn’t take me long to see it was a grace. 

I remember the week after my mom died, I was sitting in that same living room again.  Over the course of her illness and death, I had experienced God in fresh, personal ways.  Ways I’d always wanted to experience but never had.

Suddenly, a verse popped into my mind: “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine…”  Wow, I thought. I can’t believe that even though I want her here so badly, I don’t want to trade what I’ve come to know about You, Lord.  I know where she is and that I’ll see her again.  Then it continues, “or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39).

And I got it!  I had found life, because I’d finally seen Jesus for the first time in my life.  But it took a death.

Sometimes I asked, “Why, Jesus?  Why does it have to be this way?  Why can’t I have You AND all the things and people I want?”

Because He also said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24).  We think we can, but we can’t. 

We can follow our own desires and plans OR we can follow His.

But notice Jesus isn’t strong-arming us into this.  He says, “If…”  If we want to be His followers, we have to give up our own way.

I surrendered my plans ten years ago, AND I have to continue to do it.  That’s why He said, “take up your cross daily.”  It’s not a one-and-done.  New circumstances keep arising in my life where I have to pick up the cross and die to myself every single day.

But He also never leaves us empty-handed.  Ever.  What does He give us for this costly trade?  He says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).

We get to experience the true meaning of LIFE which goes beyond this earthly life.  And not only that, but Jesus says in the next verse that He “is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”

When Jesus places a cross on our back, it’s not a punishment.  It’s a resurrection tool. He wants to put to death the parts of us that do not reflect Him so that we can point the world to Him.

When I think about the most joyful and content people I know, they are the ones who’ve carried their cross and followed Jesus.  They’ve lost children, endured irreversible injuries, experienced unwanted divorce, battled cancer, and are living with chronic illness.

They’ve died to themselves and Christ has raised them up with hope, joy, and a deep and life-giving knowledge of who He is.  And they can’t help but radiate, because they have found LIFE. Just as He said: “If you give up your life for Me, you will find it.”

Maybe there’s nothing big in your life right now, but we die to ourselves in small ways, too. When you just want to go to bed, but she suddenly remembers she hasn’t studied for the test that is tomorrow. When someone takes the credit for your work, and you let it go. When they’re dilly-dallying in the left lane for ten minutes, and as you finally pass them, you choose not to glare.

Not all crosses are huge.

Die. To. Self.

I have a sign in my closet that is my mantra right now.  It’s the lyrics from an Elevation Worship song, “O Come to the Altar.”  The words of the final refrain are:

Bear your cross

As you wait for the crown

Tell the world

Of the treasure you’ve found

It reminds me of this calling to bear the cross which God has placed on me.  It probably looks very different than the one He’s placed on you, but there is a personal purpose to the cross He places on each person.  He says, “take up YOUR cross” (emphasis mine).  Only He knows the work He is doing in each person, but we are all given the chance to die to ourselves…so that we may LIVE.

Let’s be people who bear it well, which won’t be easy.  But He promises a reward for those who do. And as we wait patiently for it, let’s not miss the opportunity to radiate what God has done in us.  Let’s tell the world how He has resurrected us from our former selves.  Let’s tell them about the treasure He’s given us in the midst of the darkness!

He’s not being cruel.  He is saving our very souls.

I’ve carried this cross for over ten years – loss of a mom, loss of a son, loss of a marriage and a home, loss of all the plans I had for myself – and yet my soul feels sure and strong. The cross is doing the work He promised.

And HE. IS. THE. TREASURE.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[l] Is anything worth more than your soul?”  Matthew 16:24-26