Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Sifting of Us

Have you ever noticed that just when things start to go well, we seem to get smacked from behind with the force of a Peterbilt going well over 100 mph? And even then we're always taken by surprise--even though we're well aware of the patterns in life by now. And if you're a growing Christian, you've probably noticed "the surprise" just after some point of growth.

Lately, I've been having dreams that are less than rosy. They have on many days left me feeling punched in the face. As I tried desperately to put them out of my mind, I'd get thoughts of terrible things that only COULD happen, but haven't yet. So I prayed. I asked God to help me through what I knew to be an attack by Satan, because I am far too guilty of succumbing to Satan's pressure by giving up for a while simply because of attacks that mirror this one to a "T".

Just as I thought I was going to slide by easily this time, a situation arose between two people I love. I was keenly aware that I had be a source of light (for a change) instead of a source of discontentment. Each time I face a situation with this one family member, some of my hearts first pains begin to creep back in and discourage me. I begin to struggle with pain that I thought I'd buried from what I perceive to be my unworthiness. My pain of unworthiness stems from the things most girls get early on in life, yet I have lacked but craved all these years. My pains from this relationship, or lack thereof, have me looking inward at this point.

But He reminds me that I was made for more than just this.

I am aware that Satan is at work--trying to discourage me because he doesn't want me to grow. He wants me to be stale and he uses the same patterns over and over because they've worked thus far. He creates a battle in the mind for me based upon my weaknesses. Satan's been watching me my whole life to know my weaknesses and our strengths just as any spy for an army would do the opposition enemy. He has much more experience at battle than we do and because of that he studies us.

Let's face it, without Christ we don't stand a chance. As believers, we have the ultimate champion fighting on our behalf because we were made for more than this--we were made for victory. He's already given us His Holy Spirit for that very reason.
The Bible tells us to put on our spiritual armor in order to avoid being caught in Satan's snares. Let's face it, we underestimate Satan and his determination to paralyze us in our journey. Even though Satan is at work, he can only do so much to a believer. God is still in control and will only allow Satan to go so far. Far too often, Satan thinks he is winning over on us when what's really happening is that God is really using Satan to sift us--to make us better.

We need to see the gaps in our fortress walls. There is no more effective way to learn the importance of spiritual armor than to fall into the enemy's trap. God's intent is to show us the gaps in our fortress walls, whether they be from strongholds or ignorance, in order to help us grow. Strongholds are those things we just won't let go of, even if they aren't in alignment with God's word. He offers the lesson to help us to see the things in ourselves that need to change, but we have to be willing to do our part. First this means we have to acceptt the truth --because we have been given  free will.

Yes, it's work. But what part of life isn't? And frankly I'm sick of living a meaningless life of doing things my way. It hasn't gotten me anywhere thus far. I am reminded that I was made for more than just this.

Many of us are guilty of overlooking ANY evil powers at work in our everyday life and even consider it taboo to blame Satan for anything. God tells us that there is indeed a battle between the prince of darkness and the Prince of Light. Satan is at work in our lives grasping at every opportunity to keep us from giving God the very glory He deserves. But remember, we still have free will and in that sense we have take some ownership for the decisions we make and the things we allow to reign in our minds and hearts. We were made for more than this.

My selfishness and stubbornness have only hindered my walk with the one true God. And He has allowed me to see that by allowing me to be broken by seemingly losing sometimes. If we don't see what's wrong with us, we won't change. Part of God's way of showing us the things that need to be removed is to allow us to fail. The hope is that--at some point we get tired of failing and do our part. We have to focus more, pray more and nose-up in His word if we want to be effective. His "tools" enable us to fight the good fight, and in turn He gets the glory--especially to those who know know us best because they know just how weak we'd be without Him.

We were made for more than the struggles and the pain. We were made to glorify and honor Him and be a beacon of His strength and wisdom. We haven't been defeated. God is still in control. To accept defeat would mean that God has lost, and we know better. Nothing honors Him more than our persistence despite our wounds.

During those times when I "feel" like I have lost, God has merely taken Satan's work and turned it into my benefit. Satan means to discourage me, confuse me, isolate me, scare me, make me remember my hurts. But my awesome, almighty and all knowing God is standing right next to me, offering me strength and encouragement. And when all is said and done, God wins--and I was made to celebrate His victories with Him.

Sift me Lord, for you made me for more than this.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

If It Wasn't This...

I picked up my baby girl this morning and as she grinned and squealed at me I thought, "How can I be so unhappy when I have all this?"  

That question has been playing in my mind for days now and I haven't been able to answer it. Two of my kids have been almost non-stop sick lately. I found out yesterday that my son has strep throat. His lymph nodes on his neck are swollen beyond anything I've ever seen. On the same day, my baby started her fourth antibiotic which consists of a rocephin shot a day for three days in a row to try once more to beat this ear infection. Over the weekend, she had roseola, which he also had a week ago as well. To add to this madness, I leave for Texas this Sunday for work and will be out for three weeks minus the weekends. I have allowed all of this to get to me.

I've been convicted lately of letting my circumstances control how I feel and how I act. The more I'm convicted, the more I seem to make the same mistake.

I spent the morning looking for a new perspective, to help me change this way of thinking where I let my circumstances control my mood, mind and heart. I got upset with my husband for a conversation that went sour all because I was trying to learn a new perspective. But then...God worked one of His miracles in me. He didn't give it to me as I thought He would, He knew a better way.

I was speaking to a coworker this morning who expressed to me how she is freaking out about the upcoming trip. She doesn't have kids but she has a ranch where she and her husband raise bulls. When she told me how overwhelmed she is feeling, I heard the Lord say, " If it wasn't this, it would be something else Jennifer." I said it back to him. "If it wasn't this, it would be something else." Then I said it to her. She replied, " I would rather it was THAT."

Did you get that? Not only did He show me something, but she also would prefer my circumstances. As I play His words over and over in my head, I come away with several lessons.
  • Things in life will never be perfect and I will never have control of my circumstances to the degree that I feel comfortable. This perspective is HUGE for me.
  • If I didn't have kids to care for and a job to balance, it would suck something terrible. I could have a completely different life and things would still go wrong.
  • I am reminded that I wouldn't have it any other way. I wouldn't want the life without kids (or even the ones I have) or without the very husband I have by my side. I couldn't imagine things being better if they were any different than the life I have now. I can't imagine not having THIS life.
I lose perspective far too often of just how blessed I am. Perhaps it's due to a lack of insight or even focus (on Him). Perhaps it's just lack of faith or a battle of the mind. Perhaps it stems from a multitude of issues.

But I was made aware that I needed a change here over a week ago. He's been ever so gently asking, "Why are you so unhappy?" I would give it a little thought and after not knowing how to respond, move on to something else. Last night, while reading a pamphlet by Beth Moore, He spoke to me. Beth's book is about spiritual armor and one of her points is that people who are moody and unhappy should evaluate themselves before the attitude leads to greater mistakes. As I read her words over and over, I knew I couldn't escape it anymore. I wanted to overcome this right then.

But it doesn't work that way, does it? Old habits die HARD.

I ask myself again, "Why, Jennifer, are you so unhappy? You've been given SO much." And I finally have an answer, as ugly as it is. I allow my circumstances to rule over me. I don't "feel" like being happy when things go wrong. I like to be in control of my circumstances because it makes me feel better. When I said those words to myself, I heard the words "me" and "feel" louder than anything.

I have the answer I have been so urgently seeking and that's just how He works. We seek, He shows. We may not always like the answer though. If the Bible had a disclaimer, my guess is that it would read: 
"Caution: The content inside inside is the truth. The truth had been known to provoke a wide range of reactions from deep emotional pain to outright rejoicing, but it WILL set you free from any bondage that you are in, if you will accept it."
I'm sure that it will take time, practice and more mistakes before my old perspectives die and those godly views rule within me. But I know that I wouldn't want my life to be any other way. With that said, I'll take the not so good with the great I've been given. For who am I to expect perfection, even though I've been given more than most and certainly more than I deserve.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I am Insecure

Am I worthy?
Am I beautiful?
Will he ever give up on me?
What will they think if they find out that I...

Am I worthy, Am I worthy, Am I worthy?

I hate insecurity. There are certain topics that bring out insecurity in me, just when I forget it's there or think I've worked past it. I have a ton of insecurities, but not necessarily the same ones everyone else has. Mine unique to me and form from my own experiences and thought patterns. They have a way of sneaking out so quietly and slowly that I have no idea they are there until one of them has gotten BIG, way too fast...forcing me to admit things I don't like about myself. describes Insecure as: subject to fears, doubts, etc.; not self-confident or assured: an insecure person; not confident or certain; uneasy; anxious; not secure; exposed or liable to risk, loss, or danger.

If you haven't caught on already, this is NOT a good thing.

This weekend, Chris and I had an argument. During what should have been minor disagreements, my insecurities flared hence leading me to this huge emotional and spiritual battle. I look back now and realize that some insecurities had already started making their way out long before this--but the argument gave them the grand entry that they wanted. In turn, I overreacted and lost my dignity---a few times. I'm embarrassed over my reactions, but I'm mostly embarrassed that I allowed these things to take front and center of me.

For the past week or two, God has been showing me that I shouldn't sit and focus on my mistakes when I fall. In many ways lately, he's shown me just how doing that allows satan to win because I become numb, stale and ashamed. I realize today that I cannot sit in shame. God is glorified not in our shame but in our endurance.

I heard Joyce Meyer say that we humans better get used to failing because we still have flesh/sin nature. But it's not a free pass to quit. The battle is not just in the spirit --- it's also in the mind. She also said if we don't change our minds, we will never change. Lesson for me: Don't quit, think positive.Stop over analyzing every one of my falls. It all comes down to: I failed, try again.

Try again, and again. And again.

Afterall, we belong to Him. The story has already been written and we already know the ending as believers. The faithful aren't ruled by a lack of confidence. We've experienced something so great and amazing that we "should be" unshakable.

I liken it to playing a video game. When you lose, the words "try again"  flash across the screen and become the challenge that keeps you playing. Why can't we live our lives like that?
"Try again?" Oh don't mind if I do!"

Beth Moore has written a book on insecurity. Her insights has helped me to identify insecurity and set it apart as just that. My insecurities are not anyone's responsibility but mine--regardless what situation they arose from. They can be fought off by positive thinking...or they can leave me with shame and embarrassment from some stupid outburst.

Proverbs 23:7 says,"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
If we don't keep a watch over our minds and thoughts, they continue to build, until they destroy us. Satan loves to find things like this to hold us captive. He plants little thoughts, knowing just which ones will make us bite. But we have a choice...we can choose not to take the negative thought. We can choose what we think.

In Luke 5:22, Jesus refers to a choice of our thoughts. "Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?"

John 10:10 reminds me that my insecurities left untamed could destroy me. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

In the midst of my struggle, I heard these words in a song.
Why are you striving these days

Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away
Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough?To where will you go child

Tell me where will you run
To where will you run
And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you
Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life
Cause I, I love you
I want you to know
That I, I love you
I'll never let you go

I was left speechless, and I'm still marveling over what he'd done for me--again. He speaks the words I need, at just the right time. It's my choice as to whether I'll take these words to heart. It also takes effort, focus and intent. 
Concentrate Jennifer. Concentrate!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Intimacy Through Talking

Communicating is my very basic need, sometimes even before food or sleep. But we all have a need to connect with others, in some way, shape or form. When things go wrong, we want to be given comfort and direction. During happy moments, we typically want to share our joy with the world.

Who do you run to when times get tough? Who shares your happiest moments with you? For me, it's my husband. It doesn't mean I don't ever open up to anyone else but it does mean that Chris always knows what's going on in my life and that I withhold nothing from him. We agreed when we married that we want to be and stay each others very best friend.

I'm a talker. I need to talk things through with someone to feel secure, to feel close, to understand and to serve as a sort of check and balance for myself. My best friend isn't a talker. But he's making the effort to try to talk more because he knows I need it. In turn, I have to learn to shut up and listen to what he has to say. And I'm always glad when I do.

Sometimes, because of my nature, I run to Chris and later realize that God wanted me to run to Him. It wasn't wrong to discuss it with Chris, or get his opinion. But God wanted me to run to Him first and rely solely on Him and His strength to get me through. Many times, when I talk to Chris, I expect the mere conversation to supply with me that sense of calm that I should be relying on God to supply.

I crave intimacy with Chris. The way for me to get that is through communicating. I'm also learning that God wants me to have that same desire for intimacy for him. When I do He blesses me beyond anything I can put into words. He's teaching me that my relationship with Him is a lot like my marriage: If I want this relationship to work, I have to become less self-centered (die to self), confide in Him, and learn to shut up sometimes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Music in My Mind

Before I married my husband, I listened to country, pop, rock, and a little bit of everything in between. Of course, like anyone else, I thought nothing of it. My music didn't have lyrics of murder and rape and obvious crimes, you know. There was no "blatant" disrespect of God. So why not?

Chris first approached me while we were dating. He explained how the music I listed to isn't really all that healthy for me and how I should listen to healthier things. I really thought he was being judgmental and harsh and dismissed him as clueless and closed-minded. I mean, everyone else listened to the things I did. How could it be all that bad?

Right about the time we got married, he approached me again. This time he was determined to change the things that we as a family were listening to. And he wasn't really asking anymore, although he wasn't demanding in an overbearing way. And I wasn't fighting anymore because by that time I realized that since he is now my husband I should respect him by respecting his decisions (whatever they may be) to do right with and for us. Nevertheless, I still carried some reluctancy in my heart.

During the times when he was in the car with me, we kept Christian music on the radio. Early on, when it was just me, I'd change the station to get my fix on MY music. Over time, I began to see a change in me that seemed to spark from the "healthier stuff" and I eventually began listening to Christian music on my own. Today, I rarely ever listen to anything else. It took a long time to change my habits, much less my desires. But now that I'm here I see just how much the lyrics affected my heart and my perspectives. I am ever so grateful and humbled to be able to see from this side of the fence.

Listen to the words in your music. Does it promote Godly happiness and purity of heart? Does it praise God or uplift mankind's ego? Do the lyrics speak of drinking, partying and lustful acts? Does it speak of things you know you wouldn't do in the sight of a preacher, your mother/father, or even God? Does it focus on loss, wrong-doings or not so great thoughts? Does it leave you feeling depressed, sad or even in the mood to do something ungodly/stupid?

What mood does it leave you with? What do you learn from the song?
Does it build you up in your Christian walk? If not, it's unhealthy to you whether you realize it or not. Here are some scriptures that basically tell us to guard our minds and hearts from anything unheatlhy/ungodly.

  • Matthew 12:30 says, "Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me."
  • Proverbs 4:23 says, " Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life."
  • Romans 12:2 says, " 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."
  • Philippians 4:8 tells us, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

I challenge you to think about what your music is doing to you, and how it's affecting your spiritual, mental and emotional state. I can relate to feeling reluctant to change. I don't dare judge you for that. We all want to "fit in" to some extent as well. We all have these struggles at first.

Another factor here is that many people deem Christian music as "dorky" or "weird". In our day in time, there are various formats of Christian music so that everyone can listen  in keeping with their own style preferences.

I challenge you to try it. Find something/someone you like who only sings Christian-based lyrics. You'll notice that your mindset and the desires of your heart will begin to change. You'll find yourself praising God, and in turn being blessed in ways you never realized were possible. If you stick with it, your habits of old will change too.

You have only to gain, nothing to lose.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

Monday, June 6, 2011


It's been a WHILE since I've written last. Since then, we've added one more child to our nest. Juliette is now 9 months old and is so much more than anything we could've asked for. Now that we have a house full and we're happy with that, don't get me wrong), we are busier than ever. Evenings are packed full of things we have to do: supper, bottle making, laundry and other things to maintain our household. Mornings are hectic no matter how early we get up. That being said, our busy-ness has provided me with a new perspective on life--We have to live with intent and focus on Him more now than ever. These things won't just fall into our laps.

When I think about this, I think about Peter and how he walked on water while he focused on Jesus. But when he took his eyes off Jesus (thought about anything else), he started sinking. I do this so often in my spiritual life.

Many people tend to adopt the mindset that we can just live and do whatever comes to us in a day, moment or year. Most of us subconsciously think that if it's meant to be, it'll come to us. I mean planning and thinking is WORK, right? I've always been naturally inclined to plan and prepare. But even I miss a lot of opportunities because my focus is all wrong, or because i lose focus. Does that make me ADD? I have a feeling that by psycholigists standards, we all are.

It's so easy to get caught up watching others. We let their sucess form self pity in our hearts and their failures cause us resentment. I am by far the most guilty here. I want to do God's will. I want to honor my husband as well. I want to be a wonderful mother and I resolve that I must do what God wants of me in situations. But the biggest battle here is my inability to keep my eyes on Him, not me or him or her or them. If I look at others, I fail. If I look at me, my own failures or stengths, I fail.

I am one who is naturaly inclined to troubleshoot. If I mess up, I immediately look inward and then I look around me. I ask: What is the problem and how can I do better in the future. This inclination doesn't help my case AT ALL. It only enables me to further lose focus on the task at hand. I get so caught up in the WHO and HOW that I forget the WHAT. All I see when I look at me are my short comings, my feelings and sometimes I see my strengths (which only lead me to think those are things I don't need Him for). All I do is wind up in a huge, sloppy mess when I look inward. Looking around me isn't any better, either. Let's face it, we're all human and will fail if you give us time.

There isn't a person in the world who won't fail you. And truthfully, who are you to say you don't deserve to be failed if you fail? Speaking of being failed, what about those things we call feelings that can be so ugly? If you let them sneak in, they steal your focus too.

Lately, I've been so thrilled with things God has shown me. I'm excited about the lessons I'm learning, and even more willing to struggle to focus on HIM. But at some point, I noticed that my husband doesn't seem to be struggling. It all "seems" to come natural to him. Guess what happened to me? I lost my focus again. I looked away from Him to him. I had gotten so caught up in my failures that I fell and scratched up my face. I let the thought sneak in that I "should be" farther along in my growth.

Shame, Shame, Shame.

I think about the words "intent" and "focus". Focus IS intentional. You intentionally set your focus to something, it doesn't just happen. You can't have focus without intent, right? That being said, I have to try harder and now that I know some of the things that can disrupt my focus. I "should" be able to watch out for them, but I'm quite sure there will always be distractions. Am I ever gonna learn? Probably not 100%. But He assures me that if I keep struggling and never give up, He will bless me. I already see truth in that. He has blessed me far beyond anything my heart can fully vocalize in the times that I've gotten up, cleaned off my wound and pressed on. But if I think for too long on the pain from that wound, I fall.

Still, I feel like I am just starting my journey. I can't get caught up in the scratches and wounds..or in the pain from them. They'll only cause me to lose focus.