Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Are You Teachable?

So many people claim to be "open-minded" and say that they want to learn. But do they really? As I look around me, there really aren't that many people who actually swim against the flow and live all that differently from the rest of the world. It seems to me that most people think you're nuts if you don't fall in line with societal norms, and people are afraid of the stigma that comes with it. Yet those who live under the one-size-fits-all rules are generally the ones criticizing those who are different, who have too much faith or live out their convictions unapoligetically. Do people really know the meaning of "open-minded"?

The problem here is that doing anything different from society presents a problem for some people because they are forced to re-think their game plan. The Bible speaks quite specifically to Christians on this very topic. We're called to be different. We're supposed to be the light and the salt of the earth, but are we?
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 ESV
This leads me to ask, are you teachable? Do you REALLY have an open mind? An open-mind isn't being willing to sway like the wind or to to be weak in your beliefs. It's all about whether we're willing to abandon our own thoughts and ways for the sake of being molded and shaped to whom He wants you to be. It's about giving up your ways for His.

The book I'm currently reading has brought to my attention the importance of being teachable. Joanna Weaver in "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World", explains that if we are teachable, we will be willing to give up our own ways to follow His. Being teachable goes hand-in-hand with dying to self and abandoning all of your preconceived ideas for whatever He has in store. If we aren't willing to give up all those things that have been plugged into our minds since birth, then what is the whole point here?

I was convicted to take a long, hard look at myself and I quickly realized that there are some areas where I haven't been so teachable. I have hung on to what I thought or what I wanted when the whole time He was saying, "I want you to do it My way." I, like many of you, have all this stuff that's been "programmed" in my head and it's hard abandoning everything I have known. Change isn't easy, and certain types of change are simply impossible on our own...this is one of those kinds of change for me. Changing the things that, to some degree, made me who I am falls well outside the boundaries of my own abilities.

I must admit, it stinks to see the flaws in myself but there is no other way to truly grow and learn than to accept His rebuking, ask for His forgiveness and pray for His help to change. We're rejecting Him and the opportunity to grow if we reject his rebuking, right? Not to mention, we can't hang onto our way, the world and His way all at once. He commands us to hang onto one--Him.
"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent." Revelation 3:19 ESV
We each have so many thoughts and way that have been plugged in our heads, maybe from our parents, certain experiences, or from our relationships. God takes us as we are, knowing we have all this stuff to wade through before we can ever come anywhere close to being what we are meant to be in Him. If we're not teachable, we'll never get beyond our own junk to see the light.

I compare it to purchasing an expensive electronic device, knowing that it has mostly pre-populated memory. Seriously, how many of us would buy something that had been pre-programmed to the extent that it had no memory leftover to make it your own, much less pay full price for it? I don't think I would. But our God does that for us, doesn't He? He bought you and me with His life (FULL price), making one stipulation: We must believe in Him enough that we're willing to allow Him to do whatever He will with us-- even if it means complete reprogramming.

He isn't asking us to completely delete our memories, or to immediately change. He's patient and gentle in that He will do it for us if we let Him and He will take it as slowly as we need to. Bf we aren't willing to change our ways, ideas and thought processes at any given moment, then we have two problems.
  1. We don't really have the faith in Him that's required.
  2. We're ultimately being disobedient.
That being said, if the whole purpose here is to be more like Him, we have to lose who we are in the process right? We can't cling to our own ways but yet say that we're living for Him. Living for Him means we give up anything to be more like Him. If we're operating on free will, and we are, then we have to make the choice because He's not going to make us do anything. We can choose to do what He says -His way-or choose not to do it at all. But if we choose not to obey, we have no right to complain about His lack of blessings for us later. He wants ALL of each of us.

Are you willing to ditch your own way and learn to do things His way? When He speaks, do you listen? Do you actually obey, or do you find yourself doing what you want? Are you one of those people who are embarrassed by people who don't "go with the flow"?

True love always costs the giver something. It cost Him His own life. Has it cost you anything to love Him?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No More Pretending

I've hit rock bottom so many times over the course of my life, and many of those have occurred after of which I was saved. I don't know many people who haven't, but I know many who try to hide it. It's the normal human reaction. We humans hurt, and it seems to me that that's what we do best. But is it not just as common that we tend to get hung up in our own hurt to the extent of which we can't see the hurt of those around us, or anything else for that matter? Furthermore, is it not even more common that we try to put on our masks and pretend our hearts don't ache unbearably?

Life is hard. It's a constant balancing act. Everyone one of us struggle to balance the portions on our plates that mostly consist of things we've asked for. But it's hard balancing our own hurt while continuing to walk the path of life. It's incredibly difficult to hold our heads up and put on an act that we aren't struggling. Add to that the pressure to keep yourself from toppling or caving in and you have yourself one mighty long list of things to do---no wonder we feel pressured. This explains so much of why we're all so prone to mood swings and frustration.

I don't know a single person who can say they have always been 100% transparent in that they've never hid their hurts from the world. I do it all the time and I do it to those closest to me quite often. For the most part, I hide it thinking I can move on faster if I pretend it doesn't exist. Or I hide it thinking that they'll judge me if I expose my struggles. One thing I've been convicted of is that I'm not being real or transparent when I intentionally try to cover up any my thoughts or feelings.

The good news is that, as believers, we don't have to carry everything around on our own. As a matter of fact, we don't have to carry it at all because He offers to carry it for us. But in order to give it to Him, we do have to face it, and in facing it we must be real about it. As a believer, I've come to understand that it takes courage to be real, And since He calls us to be courageous, He will take care of the details if we'll just obey.

As I lean in a little bit closer and ask God for even more insight on my pain and frustrations, the message I keep getting is that I should focus on something but my own pain but do not forget the humbling lessons of that pain in doing so. So how do we do that? Is it another juggling act, of which we set ourselves up for failure if we try it alone?

I've failed enough in my own life to know that I cannot attempt these things on my own. Even so, it takes constant reminding that I must focus on what He can do and not what I cannot do. I must not let my lack thereof prevent me from speaking truth or following His commands. If He tells me to do it, and if I seek His will wholeheartedly, He will handle the details. 

The truth isn't always what we like to hear, nor is it always to the world's standards of positive thinking. The message of Christ is points to our inabilities and His abilities. It's a message telling us that we must die to self and be willing to be molded. As He molds us our vulnerabilities and issues are exposed, thus causing things to sting a bit. Therefore, we can be confident that in all of our suffering He has a plan to make us better. And we don't have to hide it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lukewarm vs. Boldness

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23 NKJV.
Have you ever noticed how many believers side with the world when another Christian is outright passionate and vocal about Jesus Christ? Many side with the world, anxious to tell another believer that they're too passionate, even to the point of being strange, and they they should tone down their faith. Everyone claims to believe but when the rubber meets the road, many people are ashamed and embarrassed of those believers who are on fire for God. They are embarrassed and afraid of being associated with that person all because the world thinks that it's a little bit too much to be passionate for God, although it's okay to be passionate about other things.

I'm seeing more and more Christians who have been watered-down and are lukewarm these days. It's becoming more and more common for one to think that we should shut up and keep our faith on the down-low so that we don't offend anyone. Those who don't cower down are labeled and criticized, even by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for "coming off too strong". Frequently, I see people who seem to be staunch believers until their faith is challenged. They cower down when given the opportunity to take a stand beside a fellow believer against the world's accusations.

I've been seeing so much of this and for a long time I let it discourage me. But I've read and prayed and been refreshed with the truth. And the truth forces me to ask: If you believe in Him and that the Bible is His word, how can you say that it's wrong to live and speak passionately about the Lord and Savior who brings so much joy to your soul? If you've ever experienced His joy and peace, how can you remain silent?

It's a sad day when Christians can't stand together, equally zealous and willing to serve the God of our hearts. But the Bible tells us that this is to be expected. We shouldn't be surprised. The Book of Revelations speaks of Christians like this, who are so caught up in the world that they look, speak and act like the world because they're not on fire and they're not cold---they're lukewarm. They're watered down in the world from trying to live too much in the world that they compromise His word and His way, to try to please both the world AND God.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3: 14-16 NIV
I didn't say it, I just repeated it. So if you're offended, I encourage you to pray about it.

I almost don't believe my ears at times. I kept hearing my fellow Christians advocate that a believer should simply love others by hugging and serving and but that we shouldn't say too much because we risk offending someone. Don't dare mention the truth because we risk upsetting people, right? Read the Bible ...Christ offended many. He was, the most controversial man of all time, and He was controversial because He went against the flow of things not just in His actions, but also by speaking the truth. Granted He spoke lovingly, He spoke frankly and He didn't cower down in shame because someone got offended over the truth. If we believe He came to set an example for us to live by, why do we question this so often?

Let's face it, the truth hurts. And it hurts even the most God-fearing, on-fire Christians as much as it does the lost at times. I hate to face ugly things about myself, but as a believer I must be willing to receive the truth and to share the truth with others. And if I can't receive it, how can I share it?

He tells us in clearly to expect this, and not to fall for it. Here are some guidelines and scripture references that make it clear that we don't have to cower down in the corner--and that we can do something.
  • Speak and Live Boldly. Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.
  • Speak the truth in love. "We must no longer be children, tossed to and for and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ." (Ephesians 4:14-15)
  • Expect resistance. Matthew 10:16 says "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Matthew 10:22 says, " and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."
  • Don't be discouraged by those who refuse the truth. "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town." (Matthew 10:14)
  • Don't be offended by the truth when spoken to you. Matthew 11:6: "And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."
I'm not advocating that we attack the world and each other with judgment and criticism. I know there are times whereby simply showing love and mercy makes those around us far more likely to hear the truth than not. But there are also times when we have to stare sin in the face and boldly yet lovingly rebuke it simply because we all need to hear the truth. We all need to face it's stings before we can even begin to make a change. But eventually the truth must be spoken.

In case you haven't noticed, we Christians are losing to society's ways. The reason for that is that we've, as a whole, adapted to the mindset that we should be quiet and cower down. This mindset contradicts His word, which tells us to speak boldly. We have every right to be bold, because He is real to each of us who believe. We also have the ability to be bold simply because we believe in Him and His ability to deliver us.

We don't have to adapt to or believe everything society tells us to. Although society (and some fellow believers) try to instill the fear of offending others in each of us, don't buy it. It's meant to keep us quiet and paralyzed and to stop the growth of the Christian faith. It's a lie planted by Satan and we should know better.

Look around you, non-Christian religions are quite passionate and zealous. Why can't we be? Why shouldn't we be? We know our Lord is THE LORD. It's only wrong because the world thinks it is and they think this simply because the truth hurts. And if there was no truth to it they wouldn't be so offended, would they?

We don't have to compromise our faith to survive in this world. We don't have to adapt the beliefs and become watered down and less passionate. But that's a choice we each have to make. As for me, I will answer for me someday and each of you will speak for yourselves. Those who are against Christ will someday proclaim He is Lord just like the rest of us, and by then it will be too late. I encourage you to set yourselves apart. Make it clear who you believe in and serve your purpose with passion and zeal. After all, that's what He called us to do.

I hope you each hear, "Well done, thy good and faithful servant." I hope you never quit.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Woman's Influence

Many females have virtually no idea of the very influence God has given to us. We, as females, are given quite a bit of authority and influence, just as men also are given --only in different roles. Ours isn't to be undermined or downplayed because it isn't any less important, only different. We hold in our hands the very direction in which our families go and in turn where society goes. And if you know the influence God offers you as a woman, you'll be far less likely to be so passive about the way you dress, the things you say, the tone you use or the way you carry yourself. As women, if we fulfill the role He meant us for--which is far more encompassing than most women ever imagined, He will honor and protect us in ways that surpass any relationship on earth.

Before I go any farther, I don't want to sound like some liberal women's rights activist or feminist. Nothing could be farther from the truth...it's not about our ability as women so-to-speak as it is the ability of God to work in us. But we cannot overlook the aspect of honoring His plan for us as women. We girls are given a lot, and to whom much is given--much is also expected. I think it's high time we stop living under the lies we've been told that we have no affect and start owning the influence that we have as women--both  in our families and in society.

I started out reading a book that, to be honest I didn't want to read. I moaned and groaned as I ordered James Dobson's "Bringing Up Girls" on my Nook. I knew perfectly well God was leading me to it and I went like a reluctant child with my head and shoulders hung down. Aside from the fact that it was over 300 pages long, I didn't want to read it mostly because raising my oldest daughter has been such a challenge to me emotionally, mentally and spiritually. As a mother, she's challenged every single hair on my body to stand up straight and take on new ways in order to ensure that she got the very best.  It's up to me to teach her how to be a lady--how to carry herself or how to make the right decisions.
And let me just say that quite frequently, I feel so incapable of doing this because I'm nowhere near being the perfect woman. I fail everyday. Now, I have yet another little girl to raise...who has far more spunk and determination than that baby girl from 11 years ago and it's time that I build more confidence on this matter, and I think some of you are in the same boat with me.

Women and men are different..only a crazy person will argue with that. But how different are we? We, females bring the communicative, relational and emotional factors into the mix. Males in general aren't nearly relational as we girls are, but have other God-given abilities that we females don't have. Males are different, mostly because of the way in which they were formed in the womb. At about 8 weeks or so after conception, the communication part of a male's brain is flooded with testosterone, thus washing away much of the communications region and the connections to the emotional parts of the brain. As a result males aren't typically as emotionally connected, communicative or relational.

We, girls, also have a natural inclination to connect several different events, people, places and / or things and have a pretty good idea if just one person or part will be negatively impacted. We think about aspects of things that our male counterparts don't--and that's purely okay because that's our dish to bring to the table. It's an important factor because, as those of you who are moms know, that's what it takes to run a household efficiently. And why should they be like us or we be like them? There is no need. God created us very differently so that when we marry, we complement each other. And when we do, we get to shine if we do our jobs as we're meant to. We get to be our husbands glory, and what woman doesn't want to make her husband proud?

Because of our abilities to relate and get down and dirty with the deepest of our emotions, we have a powerful influence in our families, workplaces, churches and other places we tend to hang out. We bring a factor to the table that is unique. Simple things like the way we carry ourselves or our moods impact everything around us. Think about it-- if you're a mom every single member of your household is influenced by your behaviours, your moods and every aspect of who you are even when you don't think it's important.

We all know moms who let their daughters dress too revealing or overindulge their kids. Of course no mom is perfect, just as no dad is BUT have you ever noticed that mom can be the real show stopper when it comes to the way her daughter presents herself, acts or dresses? Have you ever noticed that WE teach our girls about the opposite sex and that teaching determines whether or not they'll respect their male counterparts? Come one girls, we have more say influence and say-so in these kids lives than we give ourselves credit for. We determine so much about them simply in the way we present ourselves.

Most of the stories we hear of rehabilitated marriages and families have started with the changing of the woman's mind or attitude, not the man's. Yes, I said MOST. We're emotional but we don't have to be irrational or out of control. We don't have to let our feelings rule us and ruin us. I'm not saying you can do it alone but if we ladies will be more of what we're meant to be instead of falling into the idea of what the world thinks we should be, our husbands and our children stand to benefit the most.

As women, our relational influences are far more reaching than just our husbands and our children. But what if you were more careful of your influence and simply changed only the direction of your own family? Let's take another step back. What if we each changed our own attitudes first? What if we ask God to change our own hearts? I know for a fact it leads to the changing of more than just your own heart. Have you ever seen a man reject a woman who wants him with her whole heart, a pure, loving and respectful heart? Not if he has a heart...Every man wants his wife to love and adore him.
We females influence everything we touch and that's not by chance. It's by God's plan. We alone, can start changing the shape of society just in our our households. I encourage you to ask God to work through you to shape your family and our society. If you want change, I encourage you to be brave and let it start with you. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On the Issue of Loyalty

Loyalty is a sensitive topic for me, and I've been told by many that my expectations are far too high for many. The older I get, the more I realize that the reason that my expectations of loyalty are so hard for many are simply due to their own struggles, not mine. That might sound like an arrogant statement to some people but in reality, it comes down to this: If you struggle with the expectations of something so simple as loyalty that one has required of you then perhaps it's because you expect so little of yourself and of them in return.

I know there is much to be said about expecting little from others, but there comes a point where each of us who have any sense of self respect must say, "Here's what I require of you in order to carry this relationship any further. And in return, here is what I'll offer you." Relationships ALL hinge on that unwritten contract, by which one or both parties have offered up their expectations. That being said, most of us will not lay any expectations out there that we won't agree to do ourselves because any other way will only lead to a failed relationship.

No marriage, no parent-child relationship, no sibling relationship or friendship can be functional without those boundaries or expectations. I'm on my second marriage and if I've learned anything in life, and in my dysfunction relationships, I've learned that we all have to lay our expectations out there fair and square. Hiding them and pretending we don't have them only leads to broken hearts, resentment and confusion on all fronts. There are many broken families in today's world because people refuse to be loyal to one another.

I know many of you will disagree with me and say we're supposed to put others first or hide our own feelings. The truth of the matter is yes, we are supposed to work towards putting others needs ahead of our own but we are also human and we'll never fully accomplish that in this life. In order to have functional relationships and keep our hearts clean from bitterness, anger, strife, and all the other things that dirty us up we must learn to communicate our needs and expectations in a reasonable manner. At the same time we must learn that people will fail us and give them some room. We can only be responsible for ourselves.

Recently I've faced a lot of criticism for speaking out against something offensive. I wasn't rude. I simply said that it was wrong. People who weren't even involved came out of the woods to defend the guilty party for this one. I was taken by surprise by the lack of loyalty people had to Christ, a value system many of them SAID they held dearly but when the rubber met the road, most of them made a jerk out of me for speaking up for my values and ignored the fact that my speaking out was the least offensive thing done here.

I felt strongly that it was time to speak up and I stand by that choice. Sometimes we must make choices to honor Him even when no one else believes it's right. Besides honoring Him, it also honors my family by showing my willingness to protect them. Not one person in this world is worth befriending if that friend compromises the belief system that I or my family hold.

The truth of the matter is, you're either a guilty party or you're not. In being guilty, you might very well be merely a conspirator by means of silence (or your laughter of support). As a mother of three, a wife and a Christian woman it comes down to one thing for me---loyalty. Who are you loyal to? Who do you seek to please?

I can tell you this, I had no support from family, at least none that was spoken outright. As a matter of fact, those who claim to love and support me and knew about this never lifted a voice while I was taking the heat. There are many reasons that family doesn't support you, especially in things of God, but in this situation there are unnamed players who only work on the back end to label me and cause strife among those kin to me all because I spoke up for what I believe. Satan must really have a problem with me doing so.

The fact that I had been told I was wrong for doing what I felt in the pit of my heart was right hurt. It was, to me a form of disloyalty. It shouldn't surprise me that people, including family will stand against me because the Bible says it will happen. My situation is all too common, family members refusing to back other family members for one reason or the other. Most of the time, it's because some other party got involved and twisted things. But we just have to keep doing what we know is right even when we feel we've been served a bit of injustice. In the end, it's not about us but about Him.

If you seek to please yourself, you're guilty along with the rest of them. That's just the way it is. You either stand with Him or against Him. Don't stand and say you believe in Christ and then support man in evil ways. Those evil ways that many people label as "innocent" destroy children and marriages-- whole families. There is NOTHING more important on this Earth than marriage and the family structure in His eyes. If you're not willing to stand and fight for things that are important to Him, you might as well be against Him.

We are each known by the company that we keep because that bleeds over into our priorities, thoughts, beliefs and in turn it affects who we serve. With all that being said, I ask you this: Whose rules do you follow as you live out your life, raise your families and build your marriages / relationships? Is it a multitude of rules from different places or do they all stem from one reliable source, HIM? Who do you seek to please the most? And are you willing to stand up and fight for it?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Yesterday, I was listening to a preacher on television talk about the covenant the Jewish people have with God. The preacher's name is irrelevant but he said that once we become believers in Jesus Christ, we also have that covenant as well. My first thought, "Wow, that's awesome. So I'm as important as a Jew to God?"

Before we go any further, it's important that you understand what the word covenant means. A covenant is an agreement between two people or between two groups of people--or between God and a group of people. In this instance, covenants are pretty much defined as His promises to us in return for our faith and obedience. Without our faith, His promises are still good but then again that wouldn't be a covenant, would it? He doesn't need us to accomplish them, but we can't whine and complain if we aren't holding up our end of the bargain either.

As I listened to the preacher talk, God spoke to my heart and showed me how He handpicked me. I didn't come from a long line of believers. There was never this great faith or promise of blessings passed down from generation to generation. He reached out in the midst of a mess and picked me to save from the train wreck that was ahead. He knew me before I was formed in my mother's womb and He knew the mistakes I would make, yet He loved me all along.

He held me tightly and has never let go of me. He didn't have to pick me. He didn't need me. He knew that I was weak, that I had nothing to bring, but he still picked me. He knows my flaws like none other but he still loves me more than any human ever will. I can't think of a single way in which I stand out or do a single thing better than anyone or anything, but He picked me as one of His-- and for that my heart is overjoyed, humbled and overfilled with love for Him. He had His hand on me all along.

There is no other explanation for my life than this. I cannot take credit for any good in my life, it's all Him. I cannot say it's of my own doing because, without God, I'm as prone to self destruction as anyone else. I think about all the times in my life where I could have fallen, but He didn't allow it. Then there were times I did fall, but He still had mercy on me. In all honestly, I should be so much worse off than I am.

If you know Him, never forget that we're all handpicked, like delicate flowers. He gently picks us long before we bud and then He holds us in His almighty hands to ensure we each get a chance to bloom. Everyone of us who believe are handpicked, not because we have any great quality but because we are so weak He is so merciful.
 He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. Psalm 72:13
 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10
If you don't know Him, there's a reason you're reading this--maybe He's already picked you and wants your attention and your whole heart. Being a Christian doesn't mean you're perfect or that you stop sinning. Christianity is about giving up what you want to what He wants. The more you do that, the more He shapes and molds you. He is real, no matter what the world says. He isn't just some idea or some way of life. The only way you can have a chance at being what you were meant to be is by following Him, seeking His face and yielding to His ways.

Being handpicked doesn't mean you don't have a choice. It just means that even when you aren't aware, He's holding you. Do you ever feel held? Do you ever feel comforted and healed and you just can't explain it? Don't kid yourself and think that it's some kind of "inner strength". Everything good is of God, make no mistake about it. We have no "inner strength" of our own. We're all weak, it's the very nature of man.
I'm so thankful for the opportunity to enter into a convenant with The only God there is. The fact that He only expects my faith and obedience only further prove His great mercy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bitter to Forgive

I'm not a betting girl, but I'm pretty sure we all have some issue with forgiveness from time to time. When the topic of forgiveness arises, I'm all ears because I feel that the topic isn't discussed nearly enough for our human brains to truly get it. I've been quite guilty of holding grudges more than the average person in my 35 years of life and I'm finding more and more that I'm not the only one with this problem. We're a grudge-holding, bitter-biting society as a whole and I think unforgiveness is one of the most common hindrances to our growth and our intimacy with God. It seems to me that unforgiveness is right up on the list with some of the sins that we consider criminal.

I am the first born of three and I've always, until I hit my 30s, had a hard time relating to other people.  I have a whole slew of issues that should have made me even more dysfunctional than I am but by the grace of God I am alive, have healthy kids, a great job, a home, the most wonderful husband a woman could ask for and best of all--I know The Lord. But I have found more reasons than I care to admit to hold a grudge or carry bitterness over the years.

I had somehow adopted this idea that holding a grudge hurts that other person. I have often denied carrying any bitterness whatsoever about some of the wrongs done to me over the years. But He wouldn't let me lie to myself or to Him for that matter. Months ago, He kicked the dirt off of my bitterness, basically telling me that the bitterness has to go if I want to continue to have a relationship with Him.

That was a rude awakening for me. It was hard realizing that I carried those things for so long, much less letting go of them. No wonder I felt so heavy all those years. Frankly I never fully grasped forgiveness until this occurrence. I never really understood the aspects of forgiveness or even why I it behooved me to forgive. I suppose I had a pretty good grip on my bitterness, which kept me from wanting to hear the truth.

That being said, I am relatively young in my spiritual growth so if you're farther along and full of bitterness , I'm calling "bologna" on you because I do not believe He will allow you to carry on a fulfilling relationship with Him while you tight-fistedly clench to bitterness from things that were done to you. If you're a mature Christian, He's worked with you a time or two on forgiveness. None of us are exempt.

A few reasons to forgive are:
  1. He commands us to. Mark 11:25: And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
  2. He forgave and continues to forgive each of us. (Not one of us are worthy.) Col 3:13: Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
  3. It's critical for our Christian growth. 
  4. We're not meant to carry the burden of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness weighs us down and makes us useless. It causes us to hurt in ways we never thought possible and ruins relationships.
  5. Forgiveness brings peace to the forgiver.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 
It was quite significant for me when I realized that it was hypocritical for me to ask Him for forgiviness, yet withhold it from someone who I felt had wronged me. Who am I to judge or weigh the sins? Some key aspects about forgiveness are:
  1. It's a choice. Choose to forgive despite your "feelings' .
  2. Pray for His help. We can set our minds to things all day long but forgiveness cannot be done fully apart from Him. Mark 2:7
  3. It is ongoing. We might have to forgive over and over as long as the issue comes up in our minds. We face battles in our minds daily and this is just one of them.
  4. It's not the same as trust or reconciliation. Just because you forgive doesn't mean you have to trust them, or ever want them in your life again. (This was key for me.)
  5. It doesn't require anything on their part. Don't wait on them to apologize. You'll carry the baggage of unforgiveness while waiting and it's just not worth what it does to you.
These are all things I had to learn about forgiveness, personally. It took me years to learn them. I have to remind myself of these things every single time someone wrongs me in order to move forward in my walk with God. Quite often, I have to remind myself of these things when I start recalling things from years ago. Otherwise I'm stuck-- because that's what unforgiveness does to us.

You can always spot bitter people a mile away because they wear it. Bitterness becomes their attitude and their clothing and their decisions. They have no ability to love others as He commanded. Most of all, they have no peace and no joy.
As Christians, we're commanded to be the light of the world, the salt of the Earth and to have a joy that others see and want. Why let a little thing like unforgiveness keep us from that joy? Other people's wrongs should simply be their issues. We have to be careful to not let their weaknesses and issues hold us back from growing spiritually.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Out With the Old...

Lately, I've gone through an extended bout of being frustrated and discouraged with certain characteristics I see in others. I've allowed it to get the best of me. And lately, He reminds me over and over,
"Look at me, not at them."
I do okay for a time but then the smallest thing sets me off again and there goes my focus from Him to them. I start to become angry and cynical and distrusting towards others for things that they probably didn't know they did. I simmer inside and I frankly feel out of control more lately than I have in a while--all because I'm focusing on the wrong thing. And then He reminds me again to stop looking at other people's issues to the extent that it causes some to rise up in me.

I struggle with major trust issues, and I have some pretty high expectations when it comes to loyalty. I expect a lot of the people close to me. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with setting expectations. We all have to set some in everything we do, but setting mine so high has often left me disappointed and feeling sorry for myself. To be honest, I don't know how to change mine and I'm not fully convinced that I want to.

We all have "unwritten contracts" in our relationships. They determine the expectations and the very level of the relationship. Usually, the higher the level of the relationship, the higher the level of expectations tend to be. Sometimes, due to the dysfunction of people, our ideals and expectations tend to fall outside of the "normal" range. They can be set too low or too high but dysfunctional expectations always bleed over into our relationships.

My own high expectations have always been a complaint of those close to me, and nevertheless I've always clung to them because in some sense they've offered me protection through predictability. Those standards allow me to feel that there will be no surprises, and knowing what to expect makes me more likely to open up. Unpredictability leaves me paralyzed and confused, and I don't handle confusion well at all.

But having a relationship with the Lord means we have to let go of anything He tells us to. We don't get to hold on to our old ways and still grow in intimacy and wisdom of the Lord. He's the boss. He calls the shots. Lately, not only am I struggling with letting go of old ways, but also with knowing which new ways I'm supposed to adopt.

In studying what kind of man my Lord was, I realize that He also had expectations, but He also knew that humans fail. He expected it. He allowed and still allows room for us to fail and in turn, He offers us forgiveness. He also calls us to forgive one another, not only for them but also to free ourselves of the baggage that comes with unforgiveness. Knowing that I fail others makes it easier to forgive.

Knowing that my own expectations aren't where the rubber meets the road really hits home for me. It's not about what I want, or what I need all the time. Life goes on and people have their own issues to deal with. If someone fails me, I need to learn to say, "It doesn't matter that they fail me so much as it does when they fail my Lord." His expectations never change, by person or the day.

It's hard to do what we're told when our "feelings" tell us otherwise. It's outright painful to go against that flow, even though it's obvious which one is right and which one is wrong. But as Christians, we have a choice between following our fleshly (sinful) natures or His commands. As believers, we have virtually signed an unwritten disclaimer stating that we are fully aware of what choices we make and are willing to pay a price when we choose the flesh.

The Christian walk isn't an accidental walk, or a stumble. Every single minute of it is meant to be intentional and purposeful, and that's exactly why we have the right to choose. In His Word He tells us that it will not be an easy walk. He also tells us that He will not leave us to walk alone. But we have to be willing to let go of our old ways.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not a Daddy's Girl

While watching television a few nights ago, I saw a commercial that provoked some emotions in me. It's the one where Kenny Chesney's "There Goes My Life" song is playing in the background as a dad replays some memories of his little girl through the years. My eyes immediately filled with tears and I struggled to hold them back so that my husband wouldn't see them. My first thought: Why wasn't I good enough to have that?

I am 35 years old, and I still long for and cry over the loss of something I've never really had--a great relationship with my Dad. I don't let many people know it. I hate for my hurts to be exposed but this one keeps coming to the forefront so it's time for me to be honest about this part of my life. It's time that I stop holding it in in fear of who I "might" offend -although I pray I don't offend a soul.

Please tell me that there are other women who struggle like I do with issues caused by certain relationships, or lack thereof. Please tell me that other women want badly to feel loved and adored beginning with their earliest memories. Don't we all want to feel like the first man who loves us will do anything to protect our honor so that the man we marry is only left to pick up that torch without having to start from scratch. Don't we all want to feel worthy of a bond that seems only natural to most?

Most of my "issues" go back to one of these questions. I find myself asking myself and the Lord, "Why wasn't I worthy of more?" Is it wrong of me to want more than I have, even if that "more" is merely a basic to most of the females I know. I find myself jealous that some can crawl up in their daddy's lap, no matter how old they get, and have the most comfortable relationships with the first man they ever loved. I've never known that. I have no idea what that must feel like but even at my age, I long for it.

You would think I would be accustomed to this and well adjusted. Some think that I am, but inside it hurts no less today than it did when I was a child. At what point do I get to work past this? What has to happen for me to heal? Because no matter how much I forgive and try to move on, it comes up over and over again like fizz that appears when a soda gets shaken. It affects all of my relationships in some way, shape or form. Granted I've come quite a way over the years, I keep seeing these insecurities in me that stem back from this very topic. I want to be healed already.

Let me just clarify some things. I want to be a Daddy's girl but it's a little late for that. I don't know how, and I know he doesn't know how to change the past anymore than I do. I'm not really angry or bitter towards him. I've forgiven him and tried to rationalize in my own mind why things happened as they did. He does love me, and I won't deny that. He's not a bad man neither. But neither of us know how to make our relationship "normal" and I wish I knew how to accept that. But I don't.

The good news for me is that I have another father. I have the Father in Heaven who formed me in my mother's wound. He celebrated me before anyone even knew about me, as my unwed mother carried me. He is there for me when humans fail me and He grieves with me when I hurt. Even better, I am developing a relationship with Him where I could crawl up in His lap (emotionally), and tell him everything that's going on.

Sometimes doing without things that we consider quite basic increases our need for Jesus Christ. Only He can fill in the gaps. Therefore, even though I hurt, I am thankful that He turned my hurt toward Him and that He gives me far more than any human relationship could. It doesn't mean that I am healed, but that He is working on doing just that. After all He came for people like me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When You Don't Feel Like It

I think we often over think our faith. Lately, I'm hearing more and more people say things like, "God has given up on me", "I can't feel Him" or "I don't think He's listening to me". I think we've all had times where we encountered feelings similar to that. I think it's simply human nature to want to feel something, or sense something. But I wonder how many of us truly understand the very concept of faith.

Wikipedia says this about faith.
Faith is trust, hope and belief in the goodness, trustworthiness or reliability of a person, concept or entity. It can also refer to beliefs that are not based on proof. Religious faith appeals to transcendent reality, or that reality which is beyond the range of normal physical experience.

Some critics of faith have argued that faith is opposed to reason. In contrast, some advocates of faith argue that the proper domain of faith concerns questions which cannot be settled by evidence.
Dictionary.com defines faith like this.
"Confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability. Belief that is not based on proof"
Faith and human reasoning don't always mesh. Human nature  comes with the tendency that desires explanations, understanding and/or feelings. Faith is NOT a feeling. If you have faith, He allows us to dwell in His presence by dwelling in us. Sometimes you just have to believe even when you don't feel like it. And sometimes you have to focus intently on Him, tuning everything else out that doesn't align with His word in order to simply move forward.

There have been many times in my life (and there still are) times when I just don't feel like praying. There are also times when I don't feel like following His Word, or obeying what He's saying in my heart. There are many, many times when my emotions want to rule, or my mind wants to over think certain things to make me doubt my faith. But the times thatHhe's blessed me most are times when I do it anyway, putting my fleshly desires aside. The mere act of putting the flesh aside proves just how serious we really are about our faith.

The Christian life isn't one that just happens. Walking with God takes intent and focus, or at least it does for me. It's like I'm walking and talking with Christ in a wooded area. We're on this winding path, of which I would never be able to find my way through on my own. So if I start to look too hard at the beautiful scenery, I start tuning Him out. And it doesn't take long before I can't hear Him anymore, nor can I see Him because I got distracted.  I'm not saying that we have to tune others out. I'm saying that our primary focus in life should be to please Him. And in order to do that, we must pray, seek and listen...even when the the world tells us otherwise.

We were created in His image, although our own ways distort the greatness of His ways. Just like we each want to seek and be sought in our relationships--so does He. When I lose Him in the woods, it's my job to yell out to Him--if I'm serious about my relationship with Him. I need Him, and I must start calling for Him immediately to ask for forgiveness and His help to stay the course. I have to make the effort to connect with Him in order to move forward. Of course, He didn't abandon me, He's been nearby all along. He expects me to learn from the times where I feel lost without Him and to be driven by those times I've failed to stay focused on Him to do just that.

We humans aren't ones to accept things very well, or even remember them, if we don't have to work for it. If we don't have to put any effort into it, we quickly become stale and bored. If we don't have to seek it, we don't really want it. He wants us to love Him, although we can never love Him to the extent that he loves us. And He wants us to seek Him in order to show it, fulfilling our part of this relationship.

When you can't feel Him, seek Him. That's when you should seek Him most because you're right where Satan wants you if you don't. I encourage you to pray even when you don't feel like it. When you don't know what to say, simply thank Him for things he's done. He's only asking for our efforts, because it's been proven over and over that we won't be perfect in this life. But don't stop believing. Don't let your emotions rule you. If you do, you won't be happy with the results later.

Monday, October 3, 2011

All this JuNk of Mine

We were on our way to church and I asked my husband, "Do you like my new shirt?" He hesitated as usual and said, "Yes, I do. You look very nice, and I love your hair. It's like the thing they did with their hair in the 90s."

Of course, most women will agree that they would've been offended too if their man said something so much as insinuating that part of her is outdated. I suppose on one hand, I had every right to get upset. But my Lord would have been most glorified if I had offered my husband some mercy, grace and love. Doing so in this instance meant focusing on not tearing him down instead of focusing on the wrong I felt was done to me.

Of course, I didn't say anything for a while. I tried to brush it off and focus on the compliments he had given me. But I wasn't very successfully because all I thought about was the comment about my hairstyle being from the 90s. I knew it was best to let it go, and I kept telling myself that once we got to church I could more easily move on. Part of me was just unwilling to let it go. But he asked me if something was wrong as we were pulling up at church and I said no, in a frustrated tone. Then I turned to him and said, "You want to know what's wrong with me?" and I told him how he had hurt my feelings using an angry tone of voice while holding back the tears.

I discouraged him and I could tell immediately. For the past few days, I'd been complaining off and on that he didn't notice me and now here I go shooting down his compliments, and picking them apart. Guys don't think like we girls do. They don't talk like us either, and that's okay. And it seems to me that they're generally better at accepting us than we are them most of the time.

As worship service began and I began singing along, I immediately went to tears. All the walls I had going up were immediately torn down and I felt God surround me. I felt exposed, which drew tears and then I felt covered in grace almost immediately. I couldn't hide my junk and it was like He was saying, "You can't hide the stuff in your heart from me." There are times when I go to church, put on a happy face and pretend that everything is okay to those around me. But I can't hide my heart from the Lord.

He surrounded me with His presence for several minutes, something I've never felt to this extent before. I even thought about slipping out to the bathroom so that I could hide my tears from those around me, but it was clear that he wasn't finished yet. I felt His touch on my heart in those moments, as He left me softened, with no walls to hide behind. And once I stopped fighting the removal of my walls, I was left with a peace I can't explain. I honestly can't tell you when His presence left me, Although the feeling I had isn't the same anymore, I still feel Him with me.

I couldn't be upset anymore. I couldn't even be hurt. Chris and I had been sitting side by side without touching for several minutes. It's unusual for us to sit next to each other, and not hold hands and the longer it went on, the more I wanted it to end. I heard my Lord say, "Grab His hand", so I did. And he clenched mine in return.

I thought about this today, as I've been quite sensitive to things lately. The hair comment is just a sample of the issues I face. I have been easily offended and hurt. I have been wrestling with feeling acceptable for several weeks. My insecurities have peaked to an all time high. Lately, I've wondered why I'm seeing so much junk in me. Just when I feel I've learned something, another gap is exposed in me. I have been secretly questioning whether there is a purpose, and wondering whether it's my God or Satan at work showing me these things (although I should have more faith than to question it).

I started reading Joyce Meyer's "Living Beyond Your Feelings". Joyce said something very early in her book that I needed to hear. She quoted 1 Timothy 3:3-4.
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
She explained that this verse isn't saying that we shouldn't wear makeup and jewelry. It means that we must also pay a lot of attention to our souls, otherwise we'll live miserable lives. It's important that we get to know who we are on the inside so that our changeable flaws will be exposed. In exposing these flaws, we are offered a choice---to change or to go on like we are. It's one of His ways of saving us over and over, everyday. We're not made perfect when we're saved. Our minds need retraining, our souls need  aligning with the Holy Spirit, and unless we're willing to make some hard choices, we'll stay the same miserable, presumably helpless person we've always been.

We're responsible for our own junk, the stuff we think and the stuff we allow ourselves to dwell on. Many of us are guilty of blaming others for our junk, for the issues we face and the ugly things we feel or think. I realize I do this quite a bit.

We can't expect other people to invest in us if we aren't willing to invest in changing the things set before us. And it's not as if we're helpless. The Lord offers us help. He waits for us to ask. Once believers, we no longer live in the dark shadows of knowing only the way of the world. We, my dear brothers and sisters, have His way in our hearts. It's a question of whether we'll follow him, or the lies of our flesh telling us we're entitled, alone, unworthy or unloved.

Friday, September 30, 2011


My face has rested on directly His feet and I can do nothing but pray and cry. I'm praying for the ability to heal and forgive. A recent series of events has brought me to a place where I can feel nothing but my pain. All I can do is be faithful that He will bring me through this storm because there is no way I can do this alone. I don't know where to start. I don't even know how I'm going to move past this, in this very moment. My emotions are in high gear and my insecurities are on red alert.

The truth is, my pain is all I can focus on. And I ask myself, "Is it wrong to focus to intently on my pain and on my feelings?" I wonder if I'm missing an important part of Christianity here, and I'm sure that I am.

The truth is, I cannot forgive this on my own, but His strength allows me to -- if I'll choose it. But do I want to? I know I need to. I have to. I have to resolve this thing within myself and at some point move on. The sooner the better. But maybe I'm rushing it. Maybe I need to allow myself the time to absorb it all and take it to God. But maybe I just need to make the choice to move on...

Regardless of who is wrong or right, we're each held responsible for our own junk. Holding grudges only hurts the person who holds them, so why is it so hard to let go? I heard Joyce Meyer say that although feelings are God-given and we shouldn't let them manipulate us because that wasn't His intent. She said, that we should ask,"What am I feeling?" and  "What do I want that I'm not getting?"

She suggested that we first take our feelings to the Lord, quoting 1 Peter 5:7:
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.(NIV) (KJV version says: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.)
She related the words "worries" and "cares" to feelings and says that we should ask Him to help us sort out our part of the equation. I know I'm guilty of speaking how I feel without talking to Him about it first. But the times where I have done so given me so much insight, wisdom and understanding.

I'm reminded of my previous blog "Be Courageous". Lately, I'm reminded to be brave, in order to honor Him. I want this to be over, and I want to do the right thing. I need to choose to move on, but putting my own pain aside to do so can be so hard-- especially when the wound caused bleeding (figuratively speaking). But I must press on.

The thing is people are always going to hurt us, and we've all been scarred by someone's words or actions before. I'm quite sure I've dished out a lot of hurt myself. It's just the very nature of us humans, being that we're so flawed and dysfunctional.

Most importantly, we can't have a real relationship with Him if we're holding grudges of our own, which brings forgiveness right to the top of my list. I can't bear distance from my Lord after having been so close to Him. And I can't even hear Him if I let my emotions run rampant. It's a continual process that never ends--control my emotions, listen to Him, pray-- over and over. But the results are all worth the effort. This isn't over yet and I refuse to be so quick to call it that.

I encourage you also, in your moments of pain, to be faithful and press onward. If He was wounded, we can't expect any better treatment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Be Courageous

Jesus responded, "Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!" Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:26 NIV)
I can't count the number of times that fear has held me back. I know I should reach out to this person, or speak what's on my heart to someone close to me-- but I don't. I fear their rejection, I fear judgment and most of all I fear making a mess of things. Fear keeps me from doing so many things that I know I should do. It's leaves weakness in my bones and paralysis in my soul. I often stand very still, knowing what I should do and wanting desperately to move--but I don't, and in that moment I don't think I can. It's all because I've been dwelling on Satan's lies and lost sight of the truths of my Lord and consequently, I've been weakened.  
Lately, it's in those moments that I hear, "Oh ye of little faith..."

Anyone who knows me, knows that when I speak there's a 90% chance of storms because I'm pretty good at making a mess of things. Either I will say something entirely all wrong, or the other person's belief in Satan's lies will cause some contention. There's danger in being transparent, that's why most people aren't. But the whole Christian walk is, by nature, rocky. Anytime you put yourself out there, you make yourself more vulnerable and our fleshly natures don't like to be vulnerable. It's human nature to self protect. But part of the Christian walk requires that we not walk in the flesh, and that we be courageous. His truths promise us that if we take that step out there, He has our back.
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Isn't that worth rejoicing over? The Lord tells Joshua to be courageous many times in the book of Joshua. I strongly believe that being courageous is far more encompassing than fighting a battle. It's the way we're supposed to live our lives. 

I see so many things in myself that are the result of fear. I've never seen myself as a fearful person but lately I realize that I am. I am afraid of SO many things deep down. And those fears have held me back for far too long. I want to obey Him, but I can't even do that if I let my fears rule over everything else. It seems to me that the "little" fears can be the most dangerous fears because we don't even know they're there until they have snuck into every aspect of our lives.

I heard this song titled "Courageous" by Casting Crowns. You can view the lyrics and video here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI1LgfkF8J8 The lyrics were too long to post but they're definitely worth reading-- and how oh-so-true the really are. The words, "We were meant to be courageous" spoke to me deep in my heart.

It's a simple choice--which do you believe, Satan's lies or God's truths? Many times, I'm forced to ask myself: Do you believe that your weaknesses are stronger than His mighty strength? Do you believe that other people's thoughts of you make you who you are? Or do you believe that He loves you no matter what and that He sees the finished you long before you ever do? He reminds me that I must combat Satan's lies with the truths of Jesus Christ.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
He doesn't judge us or "look down" at us in the way men do. He doesn't condemn every little flaw we have, nor does He go looking for reasons to bring harm to us. He loves us in such a way that we humans can only imagine. He wants the best for us, as we do for our kids. And he can handle every single one of our issues without leaving the side of anyone else.

A few days ago, while my heart was heavy, He spoke these words to my heart, "No matter what, I'm still in control."

I'm having to purposefully work to remember His truths in the midst of my storms. His truths tell me that He will walk with me and if I stub my toe He is there to hold me up and help me to press on. He will heal my wounds and make me stronger than before. The more I try, the more I honor Him and the more He blesses my heart for it. This is something you'll never know until you do it.
So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. (Acts 27:25)
His word doesn't weaken, or confuse. If we feel confused we're to focus on His written word, and know that He never changes. I'm having to learn that my brain needs retraining. I hope you'll pray for me regarding this, and I encourage you to be courageous as well. Courage is the result of intent, it's not accidental. It comes from choosing to believe the truth.

Be courageous and be who he called you to be.
Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it. (Ezra 10:4)

Friday, September 23, 2011


Proverbs 10: 12 says Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
As a storm was brewing, I sat on the concrete in the breezeway of my carport and cried my eyes out. The force of the wind pushed my hair to one side of my face as I sat, praying for God to speak to my heart about this pain I was feeling. I begged Him to heal this situation. I just couldn't stop crying because all I could think about was the hurt I was feeling. I felt a presence near me, and I knew it was God. I looked up at the sky and I felt these words so deep in me.
"It's all going to be okay."
I had previously shared something about my spiritual struggles with my husband and didn't get the response I had expected. I struggled for days beforehand thinking I had to keep this thing to myself--afraid that my best friend would judge me. I recognized the ugliness in me and I really wanted to keep it between me and God. But the more I struggled with it, the more I've been convicted to share that part of myself with the person I feared would judge me. I feel that shame is something the devil puts in our minds. It's meant to isolate us from others and the way to combat shame is to expose it. So that's what I did.

Have you ever done this? Am I alone here? Have you ever told someone something about yourself and come away feeling disappointed and hurt because they didn't respond as you'd expected, leaving you feeling rejected and stupid? Maybe it's pride, maybe it's the shame itself at play here. I'm not sure. But I did walk away with a few lessons.

First, I realized that this was an opportunity for me to practice forgiveness. And in doing so, I had to make my mind up to set all my hurt and ill feelings aside. Honestly, this is easier said than done, but those of us who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord already have His spirit in us. In that, we are able to do anything He requires us to do if we set our fleshly natures aside and recognize that it's not about us--it's about glorifying Him.

Forgiveness, like anything else in the Christian walk, is done with intent. It doesn't come easily and it's unnatural to our fleshly natures--it's work. As Christians, we have a choice: Will we follow the desires of the flesh or His Holy Spirit. The other point in forgiveness is that if we want a relationship with Him, we have to forgive. I'm convinced that unforgiveness is a growth stunter.

I also realized that I was putting my hurt feelings before my desire to serve God. Frankly, I was offended and I let that offense take over completely. Someone recently shared with me something they heard about offense.
"Each time we pick up an offense, it's like we drink poison. We need to learn to just love people & think the best of them...therefore we won't get so easily get offended. Ever since then, every time somebody makes me mad, I think about that. Because honestly it's true, I'm like you, if I allow myself, it will boil into a big huge mess that shouldn't even be." Kerry McDaniel
The words she so recently said came to mind as I calmed down. And as I sought God's word about offense, I found this. 
 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10: 12
As I read that verse, my heart stung a bit. I kept wondering, "Why is this so hard to let go?" As I thought about this and sought His word, it became more obvious that I was putting my feelings before obedience and love by hanging on to this offense.

This leads me to my third lesson.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV
We're supposed to be in control of our minds. What we think of and how we think are things that we Christians are supposed to be intentional about. Our minds don't just immediately change once we're saved. As we seek Him and He shows us new things, we are supposed to replace what's already in our minds with whatever He shows us. It's critical to our growth that we not only be willing to change our minds but also that we gain and retain complete control of every single thought we have. Otherwise, our flesh wins and we continue to be nothing but mere baby's in Christ--unable to handle the bigger chunks. 

Our broken moments are never any fun. They hurt. They're gut-wrenching at times. But He wants to use those very things to improve upon us-- to bless us. He says so.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Monday, September 19, 2011

Rotten Me

This past week has been respecially rough in some aspects. I'm seeing things in me that I wish weren't there. Each time I see these things lately, I find myself becoming more and more embarrassed and ashamed. This weekend, I found myself wanting to hide from everyone--even from my very own husband. I couldn't vocalize these things that hurt so much, and I've felt so much shame. I fear that you'll judge me, and I'm sad that I'm not better than I am. But it's time to face reality-- I have some things in me that desperately need His cleansing.

I'm learning that if we want any shot at getting over our issues, we must expose those things to light-- and there are different ways of doing just that. There are somethings that my soul begs to speak of--to someone who can relate, but then there are other things that are best given only to Him (and left right there). We must move past our fear of being judged in order to be healed.

Stupid things get to me at times. It's as if something that I've made big (by way of not letting it go), tests whether I've really learned anything at all. At times, I grow frustrated over the very perception of not getting what I "think" I deserve. I find myself looking for things to be angry about. Lately, I've also found myself dwelling on the past when others have wronged me. Sometimes I get so deep into those thoughts that by the time I realize where I've gone, I've already surrounded myself with a mess.

The more I look into myself, I realize that we're all like fruit. Parts of us start to rot due to our dysfunctional tendencies. In referring to rot, I mean things like pride, jealousy, selfishness, lust, hate, and other sinful mindsets that can very well lead to sinful actions.

When we expose the rotten spots to Him, he cuts it out and rebuilds that place in us to make us stronger and better than before. That rot can spread fast if we don't consistently acknowlodge our weaknesses and ask Him to clean our hearts. The rotten spots always hurt, when we realize they're there. When you finally see the rot, it hurts to look at yourself and it hurts to be you. The pain should serve as a warning sign that something is wrong. It should make you cry out for His help. He wants to clean out the rot and make us more pure, more like Him. He wants us to be prepared for life, for battles and to be the "light" of the world. But if we won't acknowledge the rot and ask Him to cleanse us, how will we stand? Rotten things will only crumble in a battle.

Lysa TerKeurst, in her book "Made to Crave said something quite significant. 
I’m not saying that eating is a sinful desire. What I am saying is, if you have a script like this (“I’m fat, I’m ugly, and I’m not capable of getting it together”) playing in your mind, then something is waging war against your soul. First Peter 2:11 reminds us, “Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your soul.” In other words, if something is waging war against your soul, it is a sinful desire.
We all have a wars waging against us. It's important that we be in tune to who we are to know exactly what issues we have threatening to keep us from growing. If we see problems in ourselves, it's a blessing. He's giving us an opportunity to be changed, and true changing must happen in the core.

As we mature we learn that no matter how far we come, we will always have road in front of us. And it's important that we remember this so that the road in front of us never discourages us. Not a soul in this world is free of dysfunction, regardless of how you were raised, how much money you have or how old you are.

In a sense, our rotting condition is a blessing. It only means we get to be remade--stronger, more functional, more pure. It hurts but sometimes it takes a little hurt to get our attention. And nothing worth having ever comes too easy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

For My Husband

Today is my husband's 34th birthday. In honor of him, I want to share some things I love about him. This is the short list. There are MANY more.

He is a traditional kinda guy, in many ways. He is strong, both mentally and physically, but he is also human which helps us to relate. He believes in being responsible, and takes pride in taking care of us. He has old values, which almost no one has anymore. He believes in being the kind of man that you just don't see much of anymore.

He loves and values me and he makes an effort to show it regularly. He loves my strengths, and even some of my flaws. The rest--he just accepts.

He loves our baby girl, and my two kids too. He treats them all as equal and shows them love in various ways. He counts it a good thing to be able to take part in raising them. He takes that "job" quite seriously. And he makes them respect me.

He makes effort everyday to be what each of us need. Even though he is human and is far from perfect, he makes consistent efforts that show us his love quite abundantly, even in ways that don't come naturally to him. More important than getting it right are his efforts, which speak volumes.

He is the touchy-feely type, which balances me out. I'm not that way but him being that way has opened me up to him more than I ever imagined.

He is willing to do whatever it takes--for any of us, at any time.

He isn't a complainer, unlike me at times.

He makes me feel safe. His strength, and his willingness all come together to allow me to be a woman (for a change in my previous experiences).

He lets me "in" more each day. And I know him like no one else does.

He loves The Lord Jesus Christ, and seeks Him through His word. I can see how the Lord has "grown" him in so many ways. His decision to "do it right" by seeking the one true God tells us how important we are that he wants to do right by us AND that his priorities are straight. What better way to honor your family than to seek God in it?

Happy Birthday to the love of my life, Chris Travis. He truly is my Mr. Incredible.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

About a Year Ago --a Testimony

Once upon a time. my life was an absolute disaster. I was a statistic.

I was born to unwed parents, both of them were young and made plenty of their own bad choices. I was raised by a single mother, who worked hard everyday of her life to make sure we ate, and sometimes we barely did. I've seen my mom beaten more times than I can count. I saw my dad for two months out of the summer. I had one set of grandparents, unlike most kids, but I rarely saw them either--although they were wonderful enough to make up for the other two I never knew.

I was a statistic...waiting to happen.

I was saved by the blood of my Lord and Savior at 19 years old. I had a good pastor who directed  me my walk, encouraging me to serve the Lord with all my heart and soul. Still, there was so much I didn't grasp. I knew I couldn't live life my way but I still had this strong-willed flesh to contend with. That pastor later moved after having losing his precious wife.

I married young-- to my first husband. We thought we wanted the same things but looking back, we were never on the same page although we both were Christians. Because I grew up unsheltered to many things, I wanted protection for my kids--from instability, from the abuse I've seen, from the poor life I'd seen enough of. Because my young husband and I never fully put God first, the marriage feel apart just after my son was born. I then struggled to raise two kids (8 years old and 6 months old) on my own.  I went about the seperation the wrong way, and perhaps someday God will have me tell that story.

I knew Chris, my current husband, since he had previously worked with my first husband and later helped him find a job with my employer. Chris had never been married, nor had any children of his own at the time. We had so many issues of our own that together our issues had the potential for an atomic bomb. He and I fought terribly, worse than I did with my first husband. But ultimately we agreed that neither of us never loved anyone else the way we loved each other. We grew closer, and married a couple years later when he was 31 and I was 32.

Just before we married, God spoke to me one day as I was driving alone. He pointed to the issues we had using some then recent circumstances and said to me,
"Knowing all this, do you really think you can make this marriage work on your own?"
Although all the pieces didn't come together in that moment, I knew that if I could not make my first marriage work, I could not make this one work without putting Him first. I can honestly say, I've never truly had that realization before that moment--not even in my first marriage.

The first year was hard, just as to be expected. But we had more junk than a "normal" couple. We had blended families, insecurities and a level of selfishness I'm embarrassed to admit. I had junk from my childhood and my first marriage and then of course he had his own. Things were bad. There wasn't a weekend that went by where we didn't fight. The more we fought, the more urgently and frequently we began to seek Him. Although the realization had been made that I couldn't do this without the Lord, it was sinking in faster than I could manage keep up.

I don't think I've ever before had that much of a sense of urgency over any other situation. It's amazing how many times we humans will try to do things on our own, knowing our ways do not work and knowing just how limited we really are. In marriage, two people bring their junk, and then God brings them together in a way they never could have done on their own, if they let Him. If they don't it's all a gamble.

Tempers, selfishness, insecurities--we have them, but things are nothing like they were. Add a blended family to the mix and POW, what a concoction. We've had things to contend with that normal families never face. And on top of it all, we've both had family members from one side or the other threatening to force us over the edge at some point. Things got really bad...

About a year ago, after Juliette was born, we started coming together on some things. Then, just as the seasons change, God started making changes in each of us so subtly that neither of us noticed for a while. I think I speak for the both of us when I say this: When we looked up to see what God had done for our marriage, it seemed nothing shy of a miracle. And it was...as it continues to be.

The things He continues to do in me and my husband continue to humble me. Neither of us could have survived this marriage with our old ways in place. True changes that come from within, MUST involve Him, or our old natures will always threaten come back up.We don't argue near about as often, and when we do those arguments are rather mild in comparison. We're both more willing to put ourselves aside for the other, and in turn our love has grown a thousand times more. We've struggled through a lot of things, both my issues and Chris', seeking the Lord and His way.

Looking back, I had no idea what I was doing or even how to seek Him, I was just reaching because I just knew I needed Him. But that's just where He starts his work. Before this point in my life, I've never had so many answered prayers.  He renews me and my life everyday, as though none of the past counts against me. Because of Him, I am not a statistic, and neither is my marriage.

Once upon a time. my life was an absolute disaster. I was a statistic. But God (renews broken hearts and lives.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The "Bulldozer"

If you've read some of my previous posts, you've probably caught on to the fact that my youngest child, Juliette, is Little Miss Aggressive times ten. She takes what she wants and if she can't, she'll make our lives miserable until either we give it to her or she moves on to something else. She’s quite forceful in her attempts and will run anyone of us over to get at whatever it is that her little heart desires. I've seen her shove my three-year-old on the floor in her determination to take what she wants --and it doesn’t even phase her that he’s hurt. As I observe this personality trait she’s exhibiting, I realize that I am the exact same way. It must really frustrate those around me at times.

Isn’t it amazing how our kids can work like a mirror to us? They help expose parts of us that we wouldn’t otherwise notice. Seeing a character trait in someone who isn’t related to us is easy to brush-off and judge, but seeing it through our own flesh and blood presents us with a pretty good mirror into who we are. God uses our children and other family members to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly. What we do with it depends on whether we really want to grow or not.

When I want to know something, I can be quite aggressive in finding out the answer. I hate to be told that I don’t need to know something. The mere idea that someone should decide for me what I am entitled to understand gets under my skin like a bad pimple. Now, I justify my pursuit of knowledge, overlooking everyone else, by focusing on Bible verses that encourage understanding. But if we’re being frank here, I think I go way past the Biblical idea of understanding more often that I want to admit. Ultimately, He just wants me to sit back and give Him control of my life.

Like a bulldozer, I flatten out anything and everything that stands in my in order to wrap my mind around something. And I feel the need to constantly reiterate that my motives are pure and that I just need to make sense of things in my head, and perhaps they are for the most part. But I’m beginning to see that there are times where the Lord wants me to allow Him to bring those things to me. Retraining my mind to wait when I know I don’t HAVE to presents a huge challenge for me, but it’s becoming more and more obvious that I have to learn to do so. It’s just another area of my life where a better sense of balance is needed.

Lately, I've searched for answers surrounding my husband's "misperception" of me in my need to understand. As I begin to put the pieces together, everything seems to point back to my aggressive nature. Instead of taking the gentle approach necessary with understanding, I reach out and take it. I, like Juliette, shove him over (figuratively) and take what I want to know. And if my viewpoint is different, I throw it at him in a way that it lands on him and squashes him flat like something out of a cartoon.

I read an article several weeks ago about how we often take what we want instead of waiting on God to bless us, as He truly wants to. We often think that we’re entitled and based purely on our determination, and we go get it. We don’t ask Him what he wants and we don’t wait on Him to bless us. We fail to consult Him about His will, nor do we typically wait on Him to carry out His will. That amounts to nothing more than a lack of faith.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with pursuit and understanding, but if it means being forceful and overbearing to those we love we miss the whole point. If it means we aren’t developing a greater faith and dying to self by learning patience, we’re missing an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Another thing I’ve come to learn is that if someone doesn’t want to help us understand, they are struggling with their own issues—so we have to give them room to get over themselves while we get over our own. Offering a little patience is one of the best ways to keep the peace although we can gently push for better understanding at the same time. I’ve recently come to understand that I make someone else’s issue become mine when I stress and over think their issues despite their failure to be more open and honest with me. It’s not worth a second thought if you have to “assume”. Assuming never took anyone to any great places, nor did over-thinking.

As we try to put ourselves aside for His sake, we battle the flesh even more so than non believers. The point is…we battle, we struggle, and we aim to serve Him even when we fall flat on our faces. And I fall flat on mine regularly. But just like any other relationship, perseverance is the ultimate proof of love. Perseverance IS dedication.

I’m convicted about my aggression, although a worldly view would praise it. Learning to put my aggression aside and wait on Him to provide what I need isn’t easy, but it’s critical to my spiritual growth. Do you struggle with aggression? How does it hinder you from becoming more in Him who seeks to bless you?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Emotional Management

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)
I've been avoiding this topic for weeks. Emotions are so complicated, even for those of us who are more in tune to our own. Negative emotions are, by far, my biggest struggle. Anger, frustration, resentment, jealousy, pride and stubbornness can lead me in the worst of places. These things can sneak in on me just when I think I have it under control. It never ends well because they always wind up causing trouble.

I've been reading a book about the struggles of the women in the Bible and they all have one thing in common, negative emotions. Each of them have their own struggles, and I find myself relating to each one in some way. As I read more, the message becomes louder and clearer: get your emotions under control.

This morning, what should have been an easy conversation with my husband turned ugly fast. It was all due to my lack of emotional management. If we can't take whatever hits us, whether it be out of criticism or love,  and handle it without short circuiting then we have some growing to do--and that is the conclusion I draw for myself.

I'm sick and tired of living by whatever my emotions tell me to. They aren't The Truth yet I let them rule over me in a way makes them my King. I allow them to bring distance and confusion to otherwise perfectly great and fulfilling times. If I feel it, my knee-jerk reaction is to run with it. The slightest things can cause me to feel rejection, disrespect, humiliation, and most often resentment. I can go from feeling SO close to God and having SUCH loving relationships with those around me to feeling lonely in mere seconds. A simple misunderstanding leaves me feeling defensive and the result is overreaction on my part.

I'm a vocal person, and I find myself having to slow my tongue and wait on the rest of me to catch up. He's been reminding me to slow down and listen. The times when I struggle to hear Him most are those when my emotions scream the loudest. I've often found myself pleading with Him to speak to me about this just to realize later that He has been all along. I choose to let the noise of my emotions get out of control. I treat them as if they were someone else's children running wild in Wal-Mart. I let them go and hope someone else will deal with them before they tear something up. Even if no one else notices, the noise they cause takes over in a way that nothing else can get my attention.

My husband reminds me often that "we can choose our reactions." This is true in more way than one. Not only can we choose how to react outwardly, but we have a choice on what goes on inside us as well. We can calm these "children" of ours before they take over, or we can let them run rampant. We can choose to dwell on them, or we can choose positive thoughts. We are in charge of our own emotions, no matter who we want to blame for their uprising. And we have to be, because no one else can tame them for us. And does it not say more about us if we allow ourselves to be overrun by negative emotions, than it does those whom we blame for causing them?

I read an article this morning, in my effort to understand the role of negative emotions. I come away with this: we have to evaluate our emotions in the light of God's word. This is quite significant although for some of us it's close enough to bite us yet we just can't manage to see it. God's word gives us all we need. He, if we allow it, will show us the morsels contained within. But we have to want it. We have to be sick and tired of doing it our own way.

I've also come to understand that our emotions are a sort of check and balance built within us. They tell us that there is some dysfunction within us, and within our relationships and that we are not what we need to be. They are a reminder of our brokenness and the broken world we live in. They remind us that we are in danger in some way. We wouldn't feel negative thoughts if everything inside and around us was perfect, now would we? Relationship deficiencies cause us the most problems and sometimes cause those emotions to short circuit, leaving us in need of a great electrician --our Creator.

We were made in His image, thus we were made to have a relationship with Him and His people. We were also made to serve others, and until we learn to love others as He loves us, we will all battle negative emotions. We have to learn to set ourselves aside, which in itself is the hardest thing in the world no matter how unselfish you consider yourself to be. We have to learn the right balance in everything we do, because it is quite like juggling with both arms and both legs. But anything worth doing doesn't come easily, right. The value in doing things His way is that we are rewarded with emotional health because we come to expect less and offer more.
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...Proverbs 23:7
My prayer lately is that I learn to be led by Him and His truths, not by my "feelings". And when I do feel those negative emotions, I'm trying to learn to look to Him. A big part of that for me is learning to quiet those noisy things in order to hear Him. Just as physical pain is meant to cause us to seek medical care, emotional pain is meant to lead us to The Great Physician--Jesus Christ.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44
He doesn't generally remove those things right away, but He teaches us how to deal with them. He sheds light on what's hiding underneath in order to heal us from the inside out and make us clean.

We were made for more than just this. Only He can take something meant to hurt us and make it benefit us. Only He can truly heal us. Only He can make us whole. And He's obviously has a "God at Work" sign hanging on me. This, my friends, is gonna take a while because I have a lot of "dirt". But Thing 1 and Thing 2 must be tamed in the process.

I encourage you to hang in there, fight the good fight and keep believing in Him. Don't quit, you're not clean yet.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled”.
-Matthew 5:6

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rejection Ejection

Rejection breaks me down faster than anything. It ties my stomach into a million knots. I tear up, fall apart and lose perspective. My heart beat raises and I become defensive in mere fragments of a second. When just a hint of rejection is in the air, my mind spins like that space ride at the fair. It goes around faster and faster-- until something, usually in someone, spills. I literally feel like I'm on that ride when I feel I'm being rejected. It's amazing what silly things take hold of us when we allow lies to grip our minds.

I've stated before, in more ways than one, that I have many insecurities. Insecurities form from lies Satan tells us. Satan knows just how to bypass our security software and sneak his lies through the back end of our mainframes. He's an expert hacker and can spot a hole in our spiritual armor a mile away and he knows exactly what viruses to give us based on each of our experiences. Unfortunately, I've had holes in mine for years and I'm quite sure that I'm barely skimming the top of  "my pile of junk" that accumulated from this exposure.

Rejection started early for me. Rejection from religious people, so-called friends and even rejection in the most basic relationships have left me subconsciously thinking that I'm not acceptable to others in who I really am. I came from a broken home, so I am a statistic by societal standards. Satan's been pointing this out for years. I've always had ambitions but I've always struggled with the lies he's whispered in my ear. He'd say things like, " You're just a statistic, you're bound to fail." and " No one will ever love you when they see how messed up you are on the inside, and they will see it eventually." He'd remind me that I'm not pretty enough or smart enough.

When Chris and I argue, the rejection button throws my emotions into overdrive--and it's bound to get pressed everytime. If my husband so much as walks away or withdraws from the conversation, my rejection alarm goes off. It works in me like a fire alarm that starts screaming at the slightest sign of smoke. The painful high-pitched sound won't stop and you have yank the battery out just to kill the noise. These generally turn out to be false alarms and get us all worked up for nothing. In the same sense, I generally wind up compromising my integrity and then feeling stupid for it later. My emotions never run higher than when I sense rejection. It usually turns out that he never meant to reject me, which makes me all the more aware that although rejection is quite real, it is nothing more than an insecurity. It only has power that we give it.

I've experienced many broken relationships and I've been rejected A LOT. But who hasn't? We all have this invisible "wall" that raises automatically when we feel we are not important to someone who is important to us. It's because Satan lies to us. He wants to make us feel unloved, unimportant, and never quite good enough. But I wonder how many of us have ever asked ourselves why he would care to bother us. Perhaps it is due to the fact that God wants good things for each and every one of us.

I'm having to learn to lean on Him in the midst of my insecurities and believe in His promises. I'm having to train my mind to look to Him when my emotions run high, rather than react out of them. I heard Laura Story say once that she had to determine whether she "really believed what the Bible said" in the midst of her trials. These trying times are meant to be times where we decide to stand more firmly in our faith. No matter who rejects me any day of the week, there are always several people who do not. My children and my husband deeply love me but most importantly, He loves me.
God doesn't reject me. And if anyone has a reason to, He does. He knows the depths of my heart better than anyone. Instead, He reminds me of His love for me using His word, His presence in me and His creation. I can't look up at the sky or at anything He created without knowing He MUST love me to allow me to take part in this.
If you are struggling with rejection, like I do quite often, know that you aren't alone. Most importantly, lean on Him and believe that He can and He will bring you through it.