Friday, June 24, 2011

Praise the Lord

I feel like God has had me in intensive training for the past year.  We have had some small matches or races to test the waters, and I've learned from those mistakes and gone back to the drawing board.  Then the challenges started getting harder and closer together.  There were times in there that I thought I wouldn't make it and I had to grit my teeth and push harder.  But now, oh sweet glorious moment, now I am seeing the fruit of that labor.  The challenges while more intense than ever before are coming more naturally to me...I can do this, my legs are strong enough, my lungs are strong enough, and my mind is strong enough to finish this race.  If I fall down, the Lord is still by my side, and He'll pick me up, dust me off, and send me back on my way. 

Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me. 
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all His benefit.
He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.
He lifts my life from the pit.
He crowns me with love and compassion.
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul, oh my soul.
(A song I wrote adapted from Psalm 103)

I am clothed in strength and dignity.  My confidence is set securely in Christ.  Praise you God for you are faithful and good and lovely.  You are true to Your promises and faithful to your servant.  Jesus, you are good, so good to me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This is the Time

For the last few days God has been working on something big in my heart...big really doesn't do it justice.  God is working a thing in my heart that I can only compare to three other spiritual milestones, one of which being the first moment that I truly accepted Christ as my savior.  The process began I don't know how long ago but has reached an intense apex that has required nearly all of my attention for the past few days. 

At the recommendation of a good friend I am reading "So Long Insecurity..." by Beth Moore.  The title didn't really grab me as exciting or life changing...no one wants to be insecure, and what person wants to read a book with the word in the title...it's about the equivalent of reading a book on pride.  Why not just announce to the whole world "I'm an overly sensitive basket case!" 

God nudged me ahead anyway, and like everything else I have read from this incredibly wise woman who is so finely in tune with the Spirit, this book is relevant, meaty, and if you will submit it to God - transformational.  It also brings some great insight to the fact it is hardly the wallflower or basket-case type women that tend to make up the majority of insecure females.  I'm about 3/4 of the way through, and God is still working on some things in my heart, so forgive me if my writing is not quite formative just yet.  I just wanted to share one small thing that is on my heart this evening if I can spin the words into something worth reading.

We have to choose to deal with our issues now.  Why, you ask, we've been semi-successfully sweeping them under the rug and looking mostly nice and only have a few falls when someone trips over that growing lump under there.  This is why:

Yes, I just shamelessly posted a picture of my daughter...and she is beautiful, but in a society like ours today the odds of her keeping her joy and security that she knows so well now are slim.  We must deal with our issues so that our children and the generation that comes after us has some hope.  We must slay the giants so that they can enter the Promised Land. 

This sweet, precious girl is not the only little girl who's future is at stake.  Every girl that comes after you will look at you for what it means to be a woman, and if we keep trying to keep up with the crazy media frenzy and keep tearing each other down and keep pretending everything is ok all the while dying inside we set every last one of them up for failure.

I can tell you that God used my sweet Laurelei to get the gears in motion for me to get on a path to healing.  There's not a day in my life that I don't look at that face and remind myself that I can keep fighting for her to know peace and freedom and wholeness.  My sisters, my brothers, my friends, there is a world full of insecure men and women and boys and girls right on their heals that are hurting younger and younger.  We must, absolutely must, right now, seek the help and healing that we need.  We must deal with the things that are haunting us and dare to be real and honest about who we are instead of continuing to put on a facade of perfection. 

Dealing with these things and seeing them through to completion is a lifetime commitment and it won't be easy or painless, but I promise you the rewards are much greater than any momentary pain you may endure.  The fruit will show up in  your lifetime and oh the sweet moments in heaven when those who have come after us can tell us what victories they achieved because we paved the way. 

Beth Moore talks about how the word that is used in Proverbs 31 to describe a woman of "noble character" or a "virtuous" woman is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe a mighty warrior.  For this reason, she calls the passage instead "A Woman of Valor".  I don't know about you but that resonates with me.  Something about a nice, kindly, quiet little church mouse kind of a woman just doesn't stick with me often.  But a woman of valor, a warrior princess, a woman of strength fighting for her generation, for her family, for her friends...this kind of woman that I want to be.  I want to be a woman who rises to the occassion and is not afraid to go into battle to fight for those she loves and even those who will come after her that she may never know.

Think of Eowyn in Lord of the Rings.  She disguises herself as a man and goes into battle to kill the witch king.  As they fight he tells her that she is a fool because he can be killed by no man.  She laughs as she pulls off her helmet and her long hair flows out below, "I am no man!" and she slays the beast.  This is the image that dealing with our issues should conjur instead of a small woman crying about her hurts or wishing that her thighs were thinner.  WE ARE SLAYING THE BEASTS SO OUR CHILDREN AND OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN CAN WALK IN FREEDOM AND PROSPERITY!

She is clothed in strength and dignity...not she sometimes feels strong and occassionally dignified...literally God has covered her vulnerabilities with strength and dignity.  We all have dignity because we are made in the image of our Most High God.  We can all know strength if we will humble ourselves and be vulnerable enough for God to give us His strength.

Now is the time.  I hope the image of my sweet daughter and the other children or young adults that are coming up behind you remain on your mind.  Be willing and courageous for them...be bold and fearless for them...God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of love, self control, and sound mind.  Slay the giants, mighty men and women of valor, so that we might all enter into the victory that God has in store for us.  You'll experience joy and freedom you never imagined, and you never know just how your courage will echo through eternity.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unprepared

For days now I’ve suspected an enemy in the forest. All the signs were there: it was the occasional rustling of the trees, the quiet crunching of leaves, and when I turned to look I had this sense that things were moving barely enough for the eye to see. But I ignored it. And then today, there it was. I woke up to not so distant gunfire, and by this evening I was under full fledged attack.


I’m coming to understand that even the most confident and seemingly happy people have this same enemy, this same struggle, but it is so painful. It’s insecurity. This morning in the car I found my emotions so close to the surface that I began crying at every song (and not my usual pregnancy hormones cry at every commercial, this was deep, it was personal). I found myself afraid of what might be under that, and I tried harder to hold my head high on the top of the mountain.

By this evening I had been flung off, cast so deep in pain and self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness that I just felt ready to call it quits…what “it” is that I was going to call quits, I’m not exactly sure, but I felt done fighting. I felt defeated. And I found myself assessing other things that were happening around me as a clear sign that my worst fears are true: I am worthless, I am disgusting, I am unlovable.

I did tell God that it hurt. I told Him that I didn’t know what to do. I told Him that I feel lost and alone. About an hour later, He showed me that my perspective on the situation was skewed, and that the enemy had just attacked me in a way I should have been prepared for, but that He still has the victory…God and I, we still have the victory…because I recognized it, and I fought back.

Each time I start to feel this way, this song really speaks to what’s in my heart…

"Cry Out To Jesus"

Third Day




To everyone who's lost someone they love

Long before it was their time

You feel like the days you had were not enough

when you said goodbye



And to all of the people with burdens and pains

Keeping you back from your life

You believe that there's nothing and there is no one

Who can make it right



There is hope for the helpless

Rest for the weary

Love for the broken heart

There is grace and forgiveness

Mercy and healing

He'll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus



For the marriage that's struggling just to hang on

They lost all of their faith in love

They've done all they can to make it right again

Still it's not enough



For the ones who can't break the addictions and chains

You try to give up but you come back again

Just remember that you're not alone in your shame

And your suffering


There is hope for the helpless

Rest for the weary

Love for the broken heart

There is grace and forgiveness

Mercy and healing

He'll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus



When your lonely

And it feels like the whole world is falling on you

You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus

Cry to Jesus



To the widow who suffers from being alone

Wiping the tears from her eyes

For the children around the world without a home

Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless

Rest for the weary

Love for the broken heart

There is grace and forgiveness

Mercy and healing

He'll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus



Sunday, June 12, 2011

Late Night Wakeup Call

About a year ago, the emotional pain daily plaguing my life became too great a burden to bear and I began counseling.  I had been struggling with anxiety so great that I was literally vomiting daily, several times a day from the tightness in my chest, and had to take anti-anxiety medication just to function at the most basic level.  In retrospect, I had prayed for changes in my life for years, but I don't think the pain was great enough yet...I believe now that God allowed some truly painful seasons to push me to a point where change had to happen to survive.  Thankfully He also gave me a wonderful husband to support me and a beautiful daughter that gave me incredible drive to fight for my life, for our lives.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Anais Nin


"Anxiety is love's greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic."
Anais Nin


Looking back at the changes God has made in my life through Christian therapy this past year is incredible.  You know, I have had an intimate relationship with our incredible God for most of my life, but the truth was that I hated myself (an incredible paradox).  I hated everything about me - I despised the face in the mirror, even a hint of fat on my body, everything about my personality....I could go on and on.  And I wanted to so desperately to love others around me well and to be a good friend, but I felt like I kept falling short.
The truth is that I couldn't love anyone because I didn't really accept God's love of me and I was heavily burdened by shame.  I am in no way pretending that I think I'm awesome now every day and that I have it all together...I don't, but God has done a pretty miraculous work in my life. 
It's the middle of the night, and I honestly have no idea why God is waking me to share this with you.  Maybe He's just testing me to see if I really mean what I say when I tell Him that I'll be real about who I am and where I've been and I won't pretend to have it all together.  It's tough to admit that I'm in therapy...sometimes there's fear of a stigma.  Maybe you are struggling with your own hurt and feel like this will be with you for the rest of your life...it's a lie from the enemy...he wants to keep you trapped so you can never become all that God has created you to be.  Maybe you are going through a season of change that seems painful...hold on, God might be doing His greatest work yet in you. 
Whatever the case...that's the truth.  I am a mess without Christ.  I am nothing without Him.  I am impulsive, anxious, and .... anyway, without allowing Him to bring to light some really painful things about myself and reliving some of my past, I would not have allowed Him to heal those things. 

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On another note, if you are in need of counsel and don't know where to start, I have a couple of suggestions.  Your church is usually an excellent resource for Christian counseling and may even provide a few free sessions and after that referral for more help.  Focus on the Family also has a link on their website to Christian counselors that you can find in your area...this was a great resource for me: http://referrals-loc.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/referrals_loc.cfg/php/loc/enduser/loc.php

A Short Leash

Sometimes I pray that God keeps me on a short leash.  The closer He keeps me to His side and walking in step with Him the better I am, but it's as soon as I start to feel like I've got it and walk out on my own that I get distracted and fall.

As I am preparing for our son, Mason, due this October, I've been thinking a lot about how I'll keep up with both him and Laurelei.  Right now, when we go to the grocery store, Laurelei knows that she must sit in the front seat and get buckled.  If she obeys then she can choose a toy to play with in the store (but has to put it back before we leave).  When Mason is born, we'll have to set his carseat in that seat, and I can't have Laurelei sitting in the big part of the basket with all the groceries...that's how yogurt gets opened in the store and explodes throughout the cart or grapes come flying (it's happened!).

This week I bought her this backpack that we can put her pullups and wipes in, but it also has a clip for what is essentially a leash.  Laurelei calls it her monkey tail.  For the past couple of days we have been practicing walking next to Mom and Dad (outside the cart, like big girls do), but she has to allow one of us to hold her "monkey tail".  She has freedom to look around a few feet from us, but is not allowed to tug on the tail or she has to get back in the cart. 

In thinking about myself as Laurelei with her backpack and God as the parent holding the leash...I am reminded again of how I must seem to God.  She walks beside me, in step with me most of the time, but every now and then she will get distracted.  Give her a cup full of goldfish and she starts to lag behind...I have to constantly be pushing her to stay up with me.  If I stop to look at something, she'll look too and start to see just how long her rope is...she gets interested in something and is all of a sudden running and pulling on the rope.  A couple of times she has tugged so hard that she fell (not too hard though, don't worry), but with the "monkey tail" in my hand, she is always in my sights and easy to reel back in...

this is right where I want to be with God.  It stinks sometimes when He does it...particularly right now He is really working on some things in the area of relationships and literally I have a short rope to interact with most people other than the core group that He has placed around me.  It's tough, but it requires me to go back to Him...Reset - Refocus - Refuel...and then I'm off for a short leash walk again.

The closer tethered we allow ourselves to be with God, the less likely we are to encounter the depraived abilities of our quite ugly humanity...and sometimes I think God allows us to see just that so that we will tighten our tether. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Change

This morning I was watching Joyce Meyer...Laurelei likes to call it "Mommy's show" (it comes on every morning at 7:30 on the CWAustin or you can watch it online at http://www.joycemeyer.org/broadcasthome.aspx - there are also podcasts that you can download to listen to in your free time).  I also have some of her CD's that I listen to in the car, and she's been talking about how we pray and pray and pray for change, but when God starts to make a change we often freak out. 

Change is painful and scary; it can take us to uncharted territory where we often feel out of control.  Hello - terrifying!  But the thing is, this is often the safest place for us to be.  When we step into uncharted territory, where we don't know how to forge ahead, we have to get out of autopilot.  We have to get quiet before God and carefully listen to each step He tells us to take because we know that otherwise at any moment we might just fall off the cliff.

This year God has brought about the fruition of years of praying for changes in my life, and time and time again I feel like I just started throwing a temper tantrum in response.  I have this mental image of myself from God's perspective throwing myself on the floor, pounding my fists, kicking, and screaming...much the way my two year old responds when something doesn't go her way.  I would try to go back to old habits so that I could feel in the driver's seat and that I was really in control of what's going on...each time of course, things became a mess, but God picked me back up and put me back on the new course we are taking together.  God also has placed me in a position to make the changes I have wanted to make, but the position was that things were not all mapped out and I didn't have other things to occupy my time - also, terrifying. 

But this morning I was reminded that right now, I am starting to see the fruit of these changes in a big way, and I remember when God started rocking the boat how frightened I was...so I hope to encourage you that if God is rocking your boat or if you are at a place in your life where the future seems uncertain and unplanned, you are in a perfect place for God to show up and make major transformation in your life.  Remember when Peter got out of the boat to walk to Jesus?  As long as he kept his eyes on Him, he could walk on water...you can too, we can. 

You are in a perfect place for God to take you to new heights, to open new doors, and to become closer to the person He created you to be...so resist the temptation to find a way to control or to find things just to occupy your time (which also happens to be a bad habit of mine)...relax, and let the potter do His work.  You will be all the better for it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You Don't Need to Have all the Answers

A few months ago, a friend of mine and a very wise woman, sat me down for a conversation that God has used to really help me change my course.  The things we talked about were things that I felt God stirring in my heart in the form of discontentment with the current state, but just couldn't really articulate how to change course or why. 

It came to mind a couple nights ago when Scott and I had an argument.  We were talking past each other, really, both communicating to each other, supposedly in response to one another, but really just speaking to the fear in our hearts.  And the more we talked, the more the fear and frustration seemed to spin out of control.  We don't really argue very often, and a heated conversation is even more rare - so when it takes place, we take note about what went wrong.

In the end, we realized that I had been holding back some pretty strong emotions about how we were doing life.  I know, we both know, that in these areas we are certainly following God's direction, but even though it's God's direction does not mean it is sunshine and roses.  These emotions on top of pregnancy hormones and a physically and emotionally exhausting week just spilled over like a mighty current, rushing my poor husband without warning.  I think I really just needed to vent (and maybe I should have vented this to God a long time ago), and was really just wanting Scott to say he was sorry for how I felt but that God would see us through and that he was here with me.  I visualized him putting his arm around me and praying with me and letting me cry on his shoulder; instead, he thought that my outburst was a strong argument to change direction, and he was defending the path we were going with all his might.  I, of course, took this personally, and assumed that he was saying that my feelings were invalid and I needed to get over them and see clearly.  Thankfully, God helped both of us to see clearly.

What really hit home for me was the realization that, as my friend told me several months ago, emotional vomit is often dangerous ground.  She was telling me that when others are sharing their hurts and frustrations with me it is often human nature to go negative and that it is truly unhealthy for me to go there with them.  She suggested the best way to help them is to help keep them from going further negative, further aggrivating those emotions, or getting sucked into that whirlwind with them.  This seemed so cold and heartless to me in some ways, but I have often felt emotionally wiped after conversations so much that I felt that I must withdraw to survive.  Instead of going there, she suggested acknowledging their frustration and asking how can I pray for you...not in some cold heartless way, but rather to protect them from creating further emotional turmoil by reliving the situation and protecting myself by jumping in to trecherous waters. 

As I have prayed and sought God more in this area, He has shown me that when I am emotionally volitle, that I should go to Him.  A rush of emotions is often a sign that something is out of order (even positive emotion), and that when I talk to Him, He is never tempted to sin, never speaks out of His own emotion, and cannot be destroyed by turmoil.  He won't run away from my emotional outbursts, and He can help me to see clearly (and, as He often does, bring people in my life with superior wisdom, each bringing snippets of the bigger picture that He can paste together so I can see more clearly).  He has shown me that when others are emotionally charged, it is best for me to lovingly acknowledge their hurts or fears, because that is compassionate, but not to "go there" with them so to speak, but rather to point them back to Him and pray for them.  I have struggled so much with this because I hate to see others hurt and I want everyone to feel heard and cared for, but God has reminded me that it is prideful to think that every hurting person on the face of the planet needs me to care for them.  They need Him, and when I exhaust myself on a cause that I am not really helping I am beneficial to no one and often destroy myself in the process.

With practice, this has become easier, but I have struggled to find the balance with my more intimate relationships (ie: my husband, best friends, etc.)  The conversation with Scott helped me to realize that when I am the emotionally charged person, I really need those who know me and love me best to do a few things.

1. Recognize and separate out the emotional "mess" from the real me...who I am, what I am living for, and what I am really working toward and believe.

2. Be stable enough not to be drawn into the hurricane, that only seems to propel it to move at greater speeds and create a greater path of destruction.

3. To sympathize with me and not withdraw in fear.

4. Unless I specifically ask for advice, not to tell me how to fix it...this often makes the problem worse as well.

5. Help diffuse the emotional charge by pointing back to God...everything always gets messed up when things get out of focus.


Overall, I recognize that it is my responsibility to recognize when I am becoming emotionally tumultuous and turn to the Lord and allow Him to bring others in or out as need be in helping to sort through those feelings.  And when I am on the other end, that I should do for those I love as I want as well, but that requires me to be at peace within myself and to submit my own emotions to the Lord - otherwise, there's no room for anyone else to have emotions.

I think these truths are often the source of miscommunication and turmoil especially within families because we spend so much time together and are more likely to spill over on each other.  But when we can recognize that we are not feeling ok and give it to Jesus to allow Him to provide us peace, then we are able to be a safe place for others as well.  That's the kind of friend I want to be, a friend that is a safe place and will point others back to the safest place. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Humility

Sometimes the coolest thing that comes out of times when we fail is recognizing that we just aren't all that great but God loves us anyway.  It's a bit easier to accept His love when we feel like we deserve it, but in the times when we fall flat on our face we often expect Him to leave.  The times when we fall short of our expectations, of those we respect, and of what we know the Lord desires of us, the times when no matter how hard we try we just can't seem to pull ourselves together, or the times when we intentionally do what we know is wrong - all these times can break our spirit, and for me they often leave me hiding from God, feeling He must be so disappointed with me.  But it is really these times when He just wants us to sit at His feet and say, I give up.  I'm not strong enough; I am a mess; without You, I am nothing.  In this place of humility He can use us, He can mold us, and He can raise us up because we know it has absolutely nothing to do with us - it is really all about Him.

Humility.  It's a word we so casually toss around especially in Christian circles, but it is earned through much pain and sorrow and failure.  Humility comes when we recognize that in our humanity we are worthless, but by completely submitting ourselves to God, He can use this worthless person for incredible things.  It tosses out our need to try to inflate ourselves or make ourselves look bigger, and it transcends the insecure need to self-depreciate.  Humility does not make us a door mat or to think we are worthless...a synonym of humility is submissiveness, and I think that's a key point.  Humility is an honest look at the reality of ourselves, low in greatness compared to the righteousness of God, but submitting ourselves to Him, and in that becoming part of His greatness.  It looks like quiet confidence, diligent submission, and a consistently peaceful spirit.

Humility...walking out a humble life.  That's the kind of person that God can use.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What Makes us do the Right Thing?

Why do we obey? Why do we do the “right thing”? What makes something the “right thing” and can we really just do that simply because it is right with no thought of consequences?
Parenting leads me to reading stacks of books on the subject, searching for answers on discipline and training up a child. Focus on the Family has an incredible website with resources for parents and suggestions on Biblically sound reading. My most read authors up to this age are John Rosemond, Robert Barnes, and James Dobson. Coupling that information with relational literature by authors such as Henry Cloud and John Townsend and marrying that to its scriptural foundation, my conclusion is that human nature is inherently bad. It is human nature to be selfish and self serving, and that same nature also leads us to misery. We can see the way it started in the garden.

Even my sweet, precious Laurelei has a strong desire to get her own way, and a keen ability to see how she can manipulate the situation to get just that…children obey because they trust that there will be negative consequences when they do not, and they can trust that their life will be better, happier, and more peaceful when they obey their parents. This trains their minds to listen to their parents and trust their word (because when Mommy said “Each time you throw a temper tantrum you will go to your room, and if you do not go when I tell you to I will take your toys away and place you there myself.” Mommy followed through) . As Joyce Meyer is always telling us, we train our minds first and then our hearts follow.

When children learn that they can trust their parents word, they have to test it less because they trust it with their heart. This transfers over to God, they can trust His Word written that when He says to do or not to do something that obedience leads to prosperity and disobedience inevitably leads to negative consequences.

Now fast forward to adulthood. Books like “Boundaries” and “Safe People” have taught me that in many ways people treat you the way you teach them to treat you. This doesn’t mean that others aren’t responsible for their actions, just that we must recognize that the entire human race is depraved, but that people respond to consistent boundaries, and if there are none they will keep pushing for what they want (unless of course they have a trained heart and an intimate relationship with Jesus). Just thinking of this makes me want to crawl into my hole and avoid all people – God is there no one I can trust.

He reminds me that I can trust Him, totally and completely, and that when I come to Him with my brokenness and hurt, He won’t ever be tempted to sin. He can bind up our wounds, He can fill us, and from that fullness we can walk out into relationship. Anytime we take our half full cups to anyone else, they are likely to spill out their own hurt emotions on us…

I’m doing a Beth Moore Bible study on David, and looking at the life of a man who is considered the man after God’s own heart is quite eye opening on this subject. When David’s focus was fully on God, He walked with pure intentions, grace, confidence, and obedience. But every now and then David would get distracted by things like his enemies or selfish ambition and the path of destruction he left is unnerving. David.

It is challenging to hold these two conflicting ideas at the same time: recognizing that human nature is self seeking at its core so even the best Christians will let you down and fall short and hurt you, but that we also need to have relationships with others to grow and serve the Kingdom. I think it is important to recognize that we must submit ourselves to Father and keep our focus on Him. We also must recognize in the times when we fall short that we are human as well. This does not give us an out, but if we think that we can do “the right thing” on our own, we are sorely mistaken, and likely to end up in a world of disillusionment or pride or shame of our own making. When we fall short, we must come to our sweet Lord, telling Him our struggles, the same way Paul did when he said he knew what to do but could not do what he wanted to do. We can come before our Father and ask Him to thwart our ill-purposed plans, to provide ready consequences to train our hearts and minds, and ask Him to transform us from the inside out. It is Him that makes real transformation happen…pulling yourself up by your bootstraps sounds strong, but it puts all the focus on you. Instead, if we will humble ourselves before the Father, He will transform us, and He will create a heart that follows Him.