The Hardest Person to Forgive… Is Yourself.
Have you ever messed up? I know, I know. That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, you’ve made mistakes. We all do. It’s an unchangeable part of our human existence ever since the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. Here’s a better question. Have you ever messed up to the point you can’t seem to let it go? You continually beat yourself up about it. Aha! I’ve done that. Not that long ago, I scheduled dinner plans with friends. Even wrote it on my planner. But the night of, I totally forgot, and my family went out to dinner on our own. Worse. I posted photos on social media. It wasn’t until the next day when I saw my friend that I realized we were supposed to have dinner the night before. I was humiliated! And I couldn’t forgive myself for forgetting our plans.
This was just a simple mistake. Often, we sin in ways that are far more damaging to our relationship with God and our relationship with others. It’s easy to get hung up on our human fallibleness, and not let go of our mistakes, and instead carry them around on our backs, weighing us down, preventing us from being the Christian God wants us to be.
So, what do we do?
First, seek forgiveness from God. You can’t forgive yourself until you’ve asked Him to forgive you. I John 1:9, says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Second, seek forgiveness from the people you hurt. After receiving God’s forgiveness, now it’s time to ask those whom you may have sinned against to forgive you. Hopefully, you will receive mercy and your relationship restored.
Now, you have God’s forgiveness and others’ forgiveness, but how do you forgive yourself? How do we let go instead of browbeating ourselves? Forgiving ourselves is more about believing the promises of God than it is anything else. I’d like to share with you a few promises from Scripture that when we believe them, we can move on from our mistakes.
- You have an advocate with the Father. 1John 2:1, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”
- Our sins are put as far as the east is from the west. Psalms 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
- We’re not perfect. Yet. He’s still working on you. Psalms 138:8, “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, [endureth] for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”
- God doesn’t remember our sins. Hebrews 10:17, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
- He casts our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19, “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
After we recall these promises of God, how do we move on?
- Lay aside every weight. Holding onto regret for sin that God has already forgiven in to carry unnecessary weight that is keeping you from being all you can be. Hebrews 12:1, says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”
- Forget those things which are behind. And reach forth for what is ahead. Stop trying to run while looking over your shoulder. That’s a good way to trip. Put your mistakes behind you and start reaching for the prize still ahead of you. Philippians 3:13-14, says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
- Bring your thoughts into captivity. Whenever thoughts of your past wrongs come to mind, cast them down and put them into mind jail. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on them. You know God has forgiven you based on the promises of His Word, so don’t think about things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. 2Corinthians 10:5, says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ…”
I pray that this devotion has blessed your spirit and given you the wisdom and know-how to forgive yourself when you mess up, and allows you to be all that God wants you to be.
G’day from Down Under. It’s our summer in Australia, so I don’t get to have a white Christmas. No dashing through the snow for the Aussies. Although we do keep to a few traditional cooked meals, we often have abundant portions of salad and fruit to suit our climate.
This January 1st, I’m blessed to have my best friend of twenty years come back to live in my state. She’ll be only a seven-minute drive away. We’ve remained close the past fourteen years by phone and visit via plane every couple of years.
Deep connected relationships don’t come by easily as we become older. Many of my closest friends were from when my children were small, and I’d fellowshipped with other young mothers. Doing journey together, sharing struggles and triumphs built life-long connections.
Last week, I was at the bank, and a friend from my youth group days came out of one of the offices. We haven’t seen each other for a few years, but each time we do, it’s straight back to old times, and we can share transparently.
Her mouth dropped. “I literally was just talking about you five minutes ago.”
“I hope it was good!” I laughed.
We briefly chatted and promised to get together. The next week, I saw her again at the bank. She shared how she’s considering leaving her husband of fifteen years. The timing seemed providential for me to be there for her during this challenging season of her life.
Do you have “old” friends you instantly reconnect with even if you haven’t spoken for months? I have a handful of these who I consider kindred spirits. Their friendship is invaluable. We need these people in our lives to do life’s journey with.
In my author journey, I have also established new friendships. My critique group is close, and we communicate in a group chat morning and night. We have monthly video calls and brainstorm together on our writing projects. Our friendships and encouragement of one another have greatly blessed us all. We need people in our lives to cheer us on and to share the valleys or mountain top experiences.
2020 distanced us at times from visiting homes or participating in gatherings. But many have gained new connections and stayed active through social media and video calls. Sharing our ups and downs during uncertain times has brought people together in a new dimension, not limited by physical distance. Technology has had its benefits this year.
Onward and upward for 2021. I’m excited for new challenges and growth. I’m loving interviewing authors through “Behind the Story with Naomi and Lisa.” In December, we broadcasted on our YouTube channels interviews with Sara Beth Williams and Mandi Blake. This is a great place to meet new authors and find out what goes on behind their stories.
Stay connected in 2021.
Teenagers and Christian fiction
Can I just be real a second? This year has been nuts and I am not sure it will end soon. It has put us on a roller coaster ride of emotions, thoughts, and bad habits. We hover around our devices and claim to be experts on one topic or another which in turn, we think excuses us for bad behavior. Then there are those who have had their eyes opened to a level of fear and unrest that we never thought we would see. For some, they witnessed a repeat of history’s mistakes. How ever you viewed the year, the veil of innocents, or ignorance, has been ripped off and we cannot protect those we love from the harsh world we inhabit. Yet, there is hope.
I was sitting in on a readers group conversation a few weeks back. The topic was about letting a sixteen year old girl read “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. Most of us know what the story is about, so many will say “No way!” I would have said the same thing, at one time, but not anymore.
See, I read this post minutes after having an eye opening conversation with my three teenagers. They range between 18 and 14. The conversation was about how much they really know about life and how things work. Specifically actions between men and women. Let’s just leave it at that. It wasn’t because of health class that they knew these things, but because of the Internet and friends talking. Now, you might say, “That’s why kids shouldn’t be online.“ That simply isn’t the case because progress will happen. With progress comes eyes being open to new things and our children can be so sheltered that their minds can’t grasp the consequence. They don’t know what God‘s Word says because their generation sees the Bible as an ancient book that is irrelevant to today. They may come from Christian homes but it doesn’t mean that they know God or His heart for them. My own teenagers struggle with this and we homeschooled through biblical principles.
See my thinking is that fiction, Christian fiction, can be a doorway to introduce scripture to those who will not pick up the word of God alone. So why not let our children read some difficult fiction that is laced with the heart of the Father. Let them see the harsh reality, but also let them see how God uses those difficult situations to move in a mighty ways. Let them see God in ways that is relevant to them and at their level.
(Disclaimer – This is all based on teenagers that are fairly mature. I would never recommend handing a naïve teen a book as detailed and eye-opening as redeeming love. Discretion is always advised when recommending books to teenagers. The purpose of this little piece though is to inform today’s Christian parents that our teenagers probably know much more than we think and could probably handle difficult reading and topics.)
It’s almost time to say goodbye to my Hollywood family. My fictional family. My real-life family left Los Angeles years ago and they are now scattered all over California, but my fictional family, Lily and Ben, Noah and Hannah, and the others, is coming to an end. Just last week I completed the first draft on what will be the final book in my Mission Hollywood series.
I’ll be honest with you, I shed a few tears when I typed “The End.”
It’s not really the end, of course. Book three in the series is coming out next year and this fourth book has a ton of editing to be done before it comes out in 2022, so I will still be working with my Hollywood characters for another two years, but for the first time since 2017 I won’t be thinking about, planning, plotting, and writing about The Shaw Family.
I feel a little unmoored by that realization.
After all the years I spent with these characters, I’m not sure how to say goodbye to them. I hope this fourth book does that. I hope it sends them off into the literary sunset in a loving and satisfying way. But, as a writer, I feel connected to them, tied to them, and…well, I’ll just say it…I love them.
I hope you love them too.
Typing the end and knowing it’s the end has been difficult. My daughter is a sophomore in college, and I’ve been watching her step into her dreams, follow her passion, and prepare for a life outside the walls of our home, and even though I know that is what we have raised her to do, it still stings a little bit. I’m feeling the same way about my Mission Hollywood characters. Their stories were meant to be written and shared, and now that it’s done (or almost done), it’s a bittersweet feeling.
What is the authorial equivalent of empty-nest syndrome? Because that’s what I’m experiencing. Empty-nest authoring. Is that a thing? Can we make it a thing?
My husband’s answer is the right answer…go write something else. And that is what I will do. I will pray and think and dream until I find a new fictional family with stories that want to be told. I will find a new way to share the Gospel in fictional stories. I will dream up new plots and new disasters. I will fall in love with new characters and eventually say goodbye to them as well.
But, and this is my deepest hope, even as the years go by, I will one day read a message or an email from someone who has discovered The Shaw Family for the first time, someone who stumbled upon Mission Hollywood, and then I will get to revisit these characters. I will get to experience the joys and sorrows, their ups and downs, their successes and failures, again with a new reader, and suddenly what felt like goodbye, will be a brand-new beginning.
That sounds pretty good to me.
In the meantime, what shall I write about next?
I’ve always loved Christmas. From the lights and decorations to the story of Jesus’ birth, I can never get enough.
When I decided to write a couple Christmas stories, I knew I wanted to strike a balance between Hallmark light and fluffy and something with a little bite. Like the gingerbread cookies I love to eat, with their crisp outside and soft middle, I wanted the best of both worlds.
Thus (yep, I just threw a thus at you) Christmas in Jingle Junction and Wish Upon a Star were born. There should be a third one in the set, silly me can’t get that one to work out just the way I want. Something about Luke and Casey not getting along and refusing to speak with one another. Luke and Casey are the main characters in the book, in case you needed a hint, since I talk about them like they’re real people.
Where was I?
Oh, right, Christmas books that you can actually read right now.
Christmas in Jingle Junction is a story near and dear to my heart and is dedicated to my Granny, who passed before the book could be published. Her influence, dedication, and love of coffee all play an important role in Holly’s life and help guide the story.
I remember one Christmas where we all gathered at her house. My uncle had been gifted a new video camera and when he started to film her, she shouted, “Make me pretty, Jack!” She did this, not because she was conceited, but because she knew it would make everyone laugh. Granny loved laughter, especially when she could be the one to put a smile on someone’s face.
Man, I could talk to you about Granny all day long.
Christmas was her favorite time of year, and red was her favorite color. Coincidence? Maybe. Anytime you bought her a gift, she’d fuss because you spent money on her instead of on someone else, but she’d light up every time someone handed her a present.
So, when I set out to write the stories based in my fictional town of Jingle Junction, I thought of Granny. I wanted to capture that warmth and enthusiasm. Her love of Christmas, community, and thinking of others before self.
If you read either book, I hope you see her and smile.