Monday, April 30, 2012

Captivating

Cap*ti*vate [kap-tuh-veyt]: verb (used with object)
                                    to attract and hold the interest or attention of

This past week, I visited The Big Apple--one of the most exciting, fast-paced
cities in the country. As I walked the streets of the city, I looked around for
intriguing people (and boy do you find them!). Truthfully, I am a people watcher. I find other people so interesting. I want to know their story, what makes them tick. I
want to know what makes some people so captivating. I want to be captivating,
too.

For a long time I have falsely assumed that beauty is what makes people
captivating. And, for an instant, beauty might be one thing that catches the attention of
another. But it doesn't hold the attention of another. The bible warns that
"charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting..." (Proverbs 31:30). Even knowing this, I have tried very, very hard to be the image of what I thought made people so alluring,
so...enchanting.

Only one problem. I don't have what it takes to be captivating.

It seems like the more I try, the more I fail. How does one fail at captivating
another human being? Could it be by trying too hard? Or perhaps by demanding the attention of another? I remember telling my husband once that I wanted him to be more captivated by me, as if he would suddenly be able to do so. How silly,
since it's not something you can turn on and off.  In order to be a person who
attracts others, its got to be more about what's happening on the inside. Sure,
those glossy magazine covers are beautiful, and in a sense captivating, since we
tend to be allured and enchanted by extreme beauty. But in order to be really
and truly captivated, it's going to take more than just a pretty exterior.

Sometimes I think about my friends and family members who I admire and think
about things that I love about them, like my friend Whitney's sparkling, contagious
giggle. Or my friend Virginia's beautiful, expressive brown eyes (I think the song Brown-Eyed Girl was written for her!). My friend Stacey's sincere love of God. My friend Victoria's thoughtfulness. My sister Hollie's listening skills, and the fact that she is willing to listen to me drone on and on about the exact same things I droned on about last week. My friend Alice's comical sense of humor. My friends Beth's creativity. My daughter Anna's ability to play without hindrance. I could go on and on! Could I say that I am, in fact, captivated by my friends? Yes. They attract and hold my interest and attention, and it's not only because of their individual beauty. It's because of what each of my friends (and all my friends who I haven't mentioned just because I don't have the space!) brings to our friendship.

As much as I would like for other people to find me captivating, attractive,
spellbinding and mesmerizing, the only One that I really need to concern myself
with is the One who already finds me captivating, attractive (beautiful, even!),
spellbinding and mesmerizing. Even in the midst of all that I do wrong, even
when I mess up, even when I have turned my back on Him, walked away, and shut
the door in His face. Even when I sacrifice time spent with Him to do something
more self gratifying. Even when I've trusted myself more than I've trusted Him.
He is ever constant, just waiting for me to turn to Him and allow Him to love me
for who He made me to be, and not only for who I try so hard to be.

What's the rest of the Proverbs 31:30 verse? "...but a woman who fears the Lord
is to be praised.
"

I have captivated a king.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Choosing Life


flickr.com


Hi friends!


This week I plan to be in one of the most exciting cities in the world--New York City!!--so I will probably be unplugged from the computer. At least that's my plan. You never know when inspiration will hit. You just may find me hunkered down in some funky cool SoHo coffee shop hammering down on the keyboard to faithfully bring you my thoughts for the day. Or God's thoughts, as it were, since I am simply the messenger.


Speaking of New York, even though I am super excited to go, I am also experiencing much anxiety over the trip. I have never been to a city quite so big before, and I'm nervous about several things, like navigating the subway system, hailing a taxi,  and figuring out how to get to where I need to be in a city of 8 million people. As the time for me to leave has gotten closer, my anxiety has at times gotten the best of me and I almost think it would be easier for me if I didn't go. Not that I don't want to go. But it would ease my anxiety if the trip were cancelled. Think about how much I would miss out on if I allowed my anxiety to rule my thoughts and I didn't go. I've heard so many exceptional things about New York that I don't think I want to do that.


But isn't that what I do every day I allow my anxiety to overtake my emotions and thoughts? Miss out? Just a few anxious thoughts can cause me to miss out on what God has planned for me and on the gifts He has waiting for me. I mull this over in my head: it's not just that He has it planned for me if I decide to accept. It's that He has it planned and put into action. He's waiting for me to take hold of my day and open His gifts. They are right there, within my reach, and they are for me!  But if I don't, then imagine what I have lost.  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11). God wants good things for us! So much joy and happiness has been lost to anxiety, angst and apprehension (usually over things that never even occur). I think I need to  reiterate to myself how important it is to give it all up to God. Making lists is the way I do it, where I write every anxious thought I have down, then I go over each one individually and give it up to Him. It helps so much to know that He is in control. He already knows that I am prone to be anxious about the unknown, and has given me this assurance "do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).


More important than taking hold of my day, I want to take hold of the future that God has planned for me ("For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11). The day to day is important. So is accepting what God is offering for those who choose to seek Him. See, the next two verses in chapter 29 talk about me seeking after Him with all my heart: (Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:12-13).  Sometimes I get stuck on the seeking Him part, and I can't get past that. I get nervous about God will expect of me, or what He might do if I actually choose to seek Him with all my heart.  Will He expect me to do something I really don't want to do, or give up something I'm not ready to give up? How will my life change? Maybe I'm not ready to totally give up my life to seek Him. By allowing the heaviness of anxiety about getting to know God surround my heart, I will never get to know those good gifts He has waiting for me.  Again, Scripture assures me that "whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39).  I don't have to be scared, or anxious, about turning my life over to the One who loves me more than anything. I will find my life once I turn it over to Him, which sounds to me like what I've been looking for: life. Joy. Peace. Grace. Mercy. Happiness. Security. 


I CHOOSE LIFE!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Am Free

There is a substantial amount of music out there that provides an ample amount of negativity; however, occasionally a song comes along that isn't specifically a "christian" song, but it reminds me of my relationship with God nonetheless.

I've had this album since it first came out, yet the sweetness of the lyrics never hit me like they did this morning. Check out the lyrics to this beautiful song by Mariah Carey. It makes me think of how much God has changed my heart! (And if you decide to watch the video on youtube, the link is at the bottom. I like the pictures they put with the song :) )

I Am Free

Once I was a prisoner
Lost inside myself
With the world surrounding me
Wandering through the misery
But now I am, yeah free

You gave me a breath of life
Unclouded my eyes
With a sweet serenity
Lighting a ray of hope for me
And now I am free

Free to live
Free to laugh
Free to soar
Free to shine
Free to give
Free to love
Free enough to fly

Oh
Once I was all so alone
Unsteady and cold
But your love rained down upon me
Washing away uncertainty, yea, yeah

Now, now, now
I am free
I am free
Oh yeah, free
Oh yeah, free

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60ylDb81rWI

Friday, April 20, 2012

For the Birds

Vincent Van Gogh.

What comes to mind when you think of his name?

Probably the same things that come to my mind: Impressionist painter, emotionally disturbed, famous. At least today he's famous. He was practically considered a lunatic while he lived, prone to fits of emotional madness and anger. He even cut off his own ear and painted a picture of it. Sadly, he ended his own life because he was so emotionally disturbed.

Van Gogh after he cut off his ear. Creepy!
dailyartfixx.com

Did you know that at one point, Van Gogh wanted to be a preacher? He regularly gave his money to the poor, even to the point of having no money to buy food for himself. He was an interesting character, to say the least. But what I found interesting was the reason behind giving his money to the poor. It was because he wanted to be more like them so he could relate to them.  He knew that if he had lots of money, he wouldn't be able to relate to the people he was trying to help, so he tried to become just like them.

When I heard this about Van Gogh, I immediately thought of Christ, God's chosen One.

God tried over and over, all throughout the Old Testament, to connect with us, His creation. We, being people, just tended to stray away. We couldn't connect. I try to imagine what life must have been like back then, not being able to talk to God or pray to Him like I do today, but I can't. God wanted to relate to us, but being God, He needed another way to do it. So He sent His son, a man, to walk with people, talk with people, to do life with them. He was just like them. Just like Van Gogh gave away his money to relate to people who had none, God's Son was also a human to relate with us.

My mom used another illustration to help me when I was younger. She asked me to try to communicate with the birds in the sky. When I said I couldn't, she asked why. Well, obviously, because I'm not a bird, I can't fly, I can't tweet, and I can't eat bugs (ick). So how best to communicate an important message with the birds? Become a bird myself.

I'll never forget that illustration, because it really helped me understand why Jesus came.  "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17)." God wanted to relate to me, to you, to everybody, and He did what any loving Father would do--He made a way for us to connect with Him. It's not complicated. It's refreshingly simple.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cash Money, Ba-by!

As I wrote the check for my offering, I felt good and selfish at the same time. Good, because I haven't tithed in a long time. Selfish, because I don't particularly like tithing. Even though it was a pretty modest amount of money, I still had this thought in the back of my mind that went something like "I hope this goes for something good because that's a pedicure I'm giving up!"

I know it sounds a bit crass. But over the years, I have found much comfort and security in material possessions and money. The more I have, the more secure I feel. I love things! There, I said it. I love things! I said it again.

chicagoist.com


You know what I've always heard?  You probably heard it when you were younger, too, from your Sunday School teacher and your mom. "God loves a cheerful giver!". Uh-huh, I would think. You just want my hard-earned allowance. Then I found out it actually is in Scripture (2 Corinthians 9:7)! Ooops. If it says it in His Word, and I haven't been cheerfully giving, then I've had the wrong attitude.

I don't really know why I give my stuff such high priority. All my life I've been pleased as punch with gifts and goodies. The more the better! And somewhere along the way, I began to see all the stuff as more important than God. And, on some levels, I still do. As I look at my life today, I would probably say to anybody who cared to ask that all the possessions I have don't mean much, and when push comes to shove, they don't. But it doesn't often come to a point where I have to choose. I get to have my cake and eat it, too, essentially, because I've never been tested to see how much all my stuff really means to me. I'd like to say that yes, I would give the shirt right off my back to someone in need. But, would I give my favorite, most expensive shirt? Well, in a perfect world, yes. But this isn't a perfect world, and I'm not fooling myself into thinking that I wouldn't probably at least hesitate.

The problem is, no matter how much stuff I have, I always want more. Here I am, trying to fill up my God-shaped hole with more and more and more...it never ends. Even though new things bring excitement, it's always temporary. And eventually, it will fade, or break, or I'll get tired of it. Jesus said very clearly in Matthew 6:19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal", and I think He says it for my own good, not just to be difficult. It's because He knows that all the trappings of this life can capture hearts, eventually causing people to sell their soul just to gain another penny. It brings to mind the words of TobyMac's song "Lose My Soul"..."I don't wanna gain the whole world and lose my soul...".  That's powerful! Jesus knew this would happen to people over and over (For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:26) and He warned against the power of greed many times.  That question always begs more of me. I wonder, what can a man give in return for his very soul? I think I know the answer. I got nuthin'.

I know that material possessions, for me, will (okay, actually could have already been) a false idol for me. There really isn't a whole lot of difference between me pining after some new furniture, accessory, clothing, or even more money and the Israelites worshipping their golden calf in Exodus 32. It's just a different time and a different type of gold. I need to find my security in the only One who always fill me--even to overflowing. I need not pine away and wish for more--He's all I need. I need to ask God to change this heart that thinks that there could be more value in an inanimate object than there is in Him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Up for the Challenge

I've been frustrated lately.

I want a relationship with God. I want that relationship to be more than just superficial. I want it to continue to grow. I want to be able to trust God more with all things, big and small.

I'm finding, though, that the more I pursue a relationship with Him, the more confused I become about what a relationship with Him is supposed to look like.

When I was younger and had to go to church because my parents made me, my relationship was simple. God exists, He watches me to see if I make mistakes, I have a list of things I'm not supposed to do, and I pray if I need something.

When I was in college, it was still pretty simple. Still had the "NO" list.  Paid no attention to it. Prayed if I needed (or wanted) something.

When I was invited to my first bible study, I had no idea what to expect. Or why people might want to even study the bible, which I saw as a slightly boring book full of rules. As I started my last bible study, I looked back at how my relationship with God has changed...for the better. But even so, I still get frustrated and confused at some of the "rules and regulations" set up by authors and teachers of Sunday School classes, bible studies and the like. Some say to do this to be closer to God, others say do that to have a good prayer life, follow this procedure to manage my bank account in a "Godly" manner, go this way for a "Godly" marriage, follow these 8 steps to be released from all my insecurities...after awhile, my head starts to spin. What does it all mean? And why isn't it very simple anymore?

Truthfully, I do think God is complex, and so am I, but my relationship doesn't have to be challenging at all. Here is where I can sigh a deep sigh of relief.  Thank goodness, because life is complicated enough as it is. The first place I can go to figure it all out is His Word, which is given to us as a guidebook of sorts. All the answers are there, it's just a matter of spending the time reading and praying for insight. The mistake that I have made in the past, and still do from time to time, is going to other people for the answers instead of to God. Those people may really be Godly people, but even Godly people don't have all the answers. Only the One who made our brains to come up with the questions could possibly have all the answers.

I'm trying not to let this frustration deter me from continuing to study God's word in a bible study format. I've learned so much and I've grown a ton since I first started bible studies in 2003. I just have to challenge myself not to allow those to take the place of the bible itself.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Married to...ME?

Ask yourself the most convicting question of all.


That's what Lee Strobel challenges readers to do in his article Mismatched Marriage (Thriving Family, March/April 2012). And just what is the most convicting question of all when it comes to your marriage?


How would I like to be married to me?


It caught my attention immediately, although I'll admit I didn't give much thought to the question at the time. But I found that it kept popping back into my mind randomly, begging me to give more than just surface consideration. How would I like to be married to me?


At first, I gave myself much credit (of course I'd want to be married to me! Duh!).  I think I'm a fairly reasonable, accommodating, amiable, attentive and benevolent wife. :) (The challenge would be to see if my husband agrees with my fair and always unbiased assessment...). 

The question is obviously meant to challenge spouses to take a closer look at how they act toward their mate, and to identify some areas where change would be welcome, especially if they had to be married to themselves. It's easy to point out flaws and selfish habits in my spouse; however, when the magnifying glass is on me, I can be more than just a little lenient. I challenged myself to look back over the week objectively and was suddenly a little ashamed at how I had treated my husband. They weren't big, obvious offenses, just little, tiny annoyances that would have caused wounded feelings on my part had the tables been turned. The cause was obvious: S-E-L-F-I-S-H-N-E-S-S. Now, I'll make no excuses for my behavior, but I will say this: when it comes right down to it, I am a fairly selfish person. I want my way when I want it, I think people should think of me first, and when they don't, I tend to be a tad...displeased. However, I don't think I'm the only person that has this self-centered tendency. I'm trying to be more aware of it and trying to put other people, namely my husband, first. 


The point is that in order to foster a healthy, intimate relationship--which is what I want--I can't always be putting me first. Even though it's tempting, and in some ways justifiable (or so it seems), putting myself first would ultimately destroy my marriage, and at the very least create a division, a crack in the intimacy that I so very much strive for. His Word calls us to "[stand] firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side" (Philippians 1:27).


The reason that the question above is so convicting is that it's rooted in how Jesus taught us to behave: "So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12). (Strobel)

As with most things, I'm discovering that the more I think something or someone else needs to change, the more a change has got to start with me. Some days, I really don't want to change. Not because I am so enamored with myself every single day, but because change is hard, and sometimes it seems too hard. The good news is that I have been given the the most precious gifts of all--mercy and grace--so that when I find that I simply cannot change myself (at least not for the long haul), He can transform me into a reflection of Himself. He died for me, which is the definition of S-E-L-F-L-E-S-S-N-E-S-S.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Together...forever? Part 2! Read Me!

You will never guess what happened! The cable that runs my Internet and phone got cut earlier this week, so I have had NO access to the outside world. Plus, my kids are home this week on spring break, which doesn't leave me much time to sit down and write.

Good news, though!

My Internet and phone have been restored! My kids are at practice! So I have a few minutes to sit down and share something with you that I read earlier (it's by Lysa Tyrkhurst, from Proverbs 31 Ministries). It's wise advice for anyone, regardless of marital status or gender. Enjoy!

Three Marriage Lies
Lysa Tyrkhurst

I know the heart-ripping hopelessness of a relationship unraveling. The coexisting. The silent tension. The tears.

The first five years of my marriage were really hard. Two sinners coming together with loads of baggage, unrealistic expectations, and extremely strong wills.

There was yelling. There was the silent treatment. There were doors slammed. There was bitterness. There was a contemplation of calling it quits. There was this sinking feeling that things would never, could never get better. That's when I first started hearing the 3 lies:

• I married the wrong person.
• He should make me feel loved.
• There is someone else better out there.

I believed those lies. They started to weave a tangled web of confusion in my heart. All I could see was all that was wrong with him. I became so blind to his good. I became so blind to my not-so-good.

And I wasn't shy about sharing my frustrations about the whole situation with my friends.

Many nodded their head in agreement with me, making me feel ever so justified. But one didn't. She said, "I know what you think. But what does the Bible say?"

Ugghhhh. The Bible? I didn't think her "religious suggestion" would help me. But over the next couple of days, I kept hearing her question about looking into the Bible replaying over and over in my mind.

Reluctantly and with great skepticism, I tried it one afternoon. I turned to a couple of verses she suggested including 1 Corinthians 13. As I read the list of everything love is supposed to be, I got discouraged. My love didn't feel kind, patient, or persevering. The love in my marriage felt broken.

I closed the Bible. It didn't seem to do anything but make me feel worse. So much for that.

Then a few days later I heard an interview on a Christian radio station where a couple was talking about these same verses. I wanted to gag and turn the station. What do they know about how hard love can be? That's when they said a statement that grabbed me, "Love isn't a feeling, it's a decision."

Wow.

I went home and flipped to 1 Corinthians 13 again. This time instead of reading it like a list of what love should make me feel, I read it as if I could decide to make my love fit these qualities. My love will be kind. My love will be patient. My love will persevere. Not because I feel it — but because I choose it.

At the same time God was working on my husband's heart as well. We decided to make some 1 Corinthians 13 love decisions. Slowly, the cold stone wall between us started to come down.

It wasn't easy. It wasn't overnight. But slowly our attitudes and our actions toward one another changed. And I stopped believing the marriage lies and replaced them with 3 marriage truths:

• Having a good marriage is more about being the right partner than having the right partner.
• Love is a decision.
The grass isn't greener on the other side. It's greener where you water and fertilize it.

Maybe you've heard the marriage lies before. My heart aches for you if you are in a hard place in your marriage. And believe me, I know tough relationships are stinkin' complicated and way beyond what a simple devotion can possibly untangle. But maybe something I've said today can help loosen one knot … or at least breathe a little hope into your life today.

"[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a (NIV)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grumbling and Questioning

I had to laugh this morning as I ended my devotion. I was preparing to write a dramatic and thrilling post this morning about how I feel I am sometimes hanging on a ledge by my fingertips. I may still do that. However, when I consulted with God on what to write, He lead me to the book of Philippians, in which I highlighted some very applicable verses and, preparing to be done, came to chapter 2 verse 14, which reads "do all things without grumbling or questioning." Well, I have to admit, I highlighted that one and thought "Hm! A good one for the kids!" I imagined myself sailing throughout the day, cutting off every argument (graciously) with a simple "do all things without grumbling or questioning! XOXO!" And wouldn't our household just run along smoothly, without discord (Ha! and double ha! but imaginations are just that--imaginations. A person can dream, can't she?)

God is gracious. He let me dream for a few minutes before yanking me back down to reality :) That verse is meant for me as well as for my kids. Well, then, I thought (with not a little bit of an indignant tone). I'm not sure how I feel about that. I do not typically grumble...

Well, okaaay, so I grumble a teensy bit about housework. And I might complain when my kids do not clean up after themselves, even though I don't know how hard it is. Oh, yes, and when people leave their dirty dishes on the sink when the dishwasher is clearly empty and waiting to be filled, well, that does annoy me from time to time. Aaaaaand when a certain someone in my house puts her clean clothes in the dirty clothes hamper because she doesn't want to have to hang them. That gets me every time! So I'm not as innocent as I thought I was, but I'm certainly justified, am I not?

cartoonstock.com

As I read back over this verse, it doesn't really say "do all things without grumbling and questioning...unless that certain someone doesn't put away her clothes. Then you certainly may grumble away!" It's pretty much just this: don't do it, and no two ways about it! Deep sigh. Not even in my thoughts?? I'm thinking no. Even when I'm scrubbing an icky toilet...do all things without grumbling or questioning. When I'm cleaning up Easter candy trash strewn from here to China...do all things without grumbling or questioning. When He asks me to move away from a neighborhood and friends I loved, and I still don't quite understand why...do all things without grumbling or questioning. When I am not sure I can see His plan or His purpose, but am asked to follow along with only enough light for the (small) step I'm on...do all things without grumbling or questioning.

Could it be that God, in His infinite wisdom, asks this of me because He knows, in my case, that grumbling and questioning causes much negativity in my thoughts, which just leads to a negative outlook? Could it be that He ultimately has all of my best interests in His heart. Absolutely. And here's the next verse: "that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (verse 15).  So my grumbling attitude not only affects me, but also other people. Like my children? My friends? People who do not even know me? It's all starting to make sense. In order to keep my own household in a non-grumbling state, then it may just start with me. In addition, I've asked Him how many times to take away my insecurities, to make me shine with His light...and look, here He has laid out perfect instructions on how to begin!!

I'm off to make the beds and do laundry...yay?!?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Food for Thought: Beauty

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is fleeting,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

Friday, April 6, 2012

Truly Refreshing Part 2

I was reading the eighth book of the Mitford series by Jan Karon called Shepard's Abiding last night before I went to bed. The scene was one where the village bookstore shop person comes to Father Tim and ends up confiding that she is anxious about something, and she doesn't know if she can do the "something" that she wants to do. The main character, Father Tim, then quotes a very well-known verse to her, Philippians 4:6-7, which is "Don't worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God, and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus".

I've heard that verse quoted so many times that I practically skipped it. But a few sentences later, Father Tim says: "And remember: Worry about nothing, pray about everything." 

Oh! See, I've been worried about being depressed since I went off my medications. I do not want to return to that dark place where my perception of no hope persisted, and negativity was my M.O. It scares me to think about being in that same place, so I think I'm overly sensitive when similar feelings arise. My sister has pointed out to me that feelings are normal, so I can't expect to not feel sad or upset. Of course, but I think part of me is scared to feel some of those feeling should they continue, or get worse. I also have to remind myself that feelings aren't always so trustworthy. So, as I read my book last night, I suddenly realized that although I have told myself I need to give this to God, I haven't done it entirely. Sigh. Back to square one.

I think I need to give my fear of the situation to Him as well as my worry that the depression will return. I looked at the verse, word by word, and I could finally apply my own situation: Don't worry about anything. OK, but when I do? Because I do worry! Luckily, the verse tells me what to do: In everything. Right, that would include my fear and worry. By prayer and supplication. Supplication just means asking for something in humble prayer. I can do that. With thanksgiving. I surely can find something to thank God for. Like the fact that I can come to Him and He will hear my prayer! Make your requests known to God. Right. We've established that I'm pretty good at asking. And the peace that passes all understanding. So this must mean the peace of God, which passes all understanding because it's not possible to have this peace unless it comes from God. Will guard your heart and mind. This is where I pay attention. My heart and mind will be guarded...from what? And by whom? I suppose from what I'm scared of right now--depression. Lack of hope. Through Christ Jesus. Through Christ Jesus. He will guard my heart and mind. The definition of hope, grace, mercy and sacrifice. Truly Refreshing :)

All day today, as I've felt that familiar fear and worry creep into my thoughts, I've tried to just tell God that I'm scared. No big prayer, no grandiose words. Just simply "I'm scared. I need Your help." I believe that He hears those prayers, as small and insignificant as they may seem. It's just part of doing things His way and not my own.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Together...forever?

When I got married in July of 1999, it was like a dream. We were two young people in love, ready to make the commitment to live happily ever after. The honeymoon was beautiful, and coming home to our house was so exciting for me. I loved (love, I should say) my husband with all my heart. He was, and is, the best thing that ever happened to me.

Then I found out that the rumors about marriage are true.

Two words: HARD. WORK.

I have come to discover many things about myself in the years that we've been married. Some good. Some, well, not so good. And one of those things I've discovered is that I was very ill-equipped to stay married when I got married. Marriage is wrapped in this shroud of total bliss and euphoria, to the point that some are so excited to get married that they forget that you have a life after the wedding. Unwrapped, it stands in stark contrast to its beautiful packaging. Don't get me wrong, please, I'm certainly not saying that marriage is this horrifying thing to be avoided. I'm simply saying that it takes a vast amount of work to make it work. This was something I had heard but never really believed. How could marriage to my one and only be hard?

My parents stayed married until my mother died in 2006, but their marriage was a rocky one, filled with strife, tension and constant bickering. I won't throw either one of my parents under the bus; the fault lies with both of them. But because of the choices they made in their marriage, what was modeled in our house was the definition of an unhealthy relationship. Consequently, I walked into my own marriage with an idea of what marriage was or should be already formed in my head. As an insecure young woman, I had a deficit in my emotional bank, and I looked to my husband to fulfill every need I had that didn't get met by my parents. I wanted a massive amount of what Andy Stanley calls the "standards of what we expect from a relationship"--respect, encouragement, comfort, security, support, acceptance, approval, appreciation, attention, and affection (Staying In Love, Andy Stanley)--and I set out determined that I would get what I wanted, what I needed, no matter what. I wasn't mature enough spiritually or emotionally to see that those expectations are way too much pressure to put on anybody.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite figure some of this out until around 2010, when I took a bible study by Shaunti Feldhan called For Women Only (which I HIGHLY recommend to all women. Also, there is For Men Only for any man who would like to understand his lady a little better!). I began to see the pressure I was putting on my husband to fulfill me emotionally. I also began to understand how the only way I could be completely fulfilled is by putting my trust in God. Period. He can fill my emotional deficit all the way up, even to overflowing, in every area--Respect. Encouragement. Comfort. Security. Support. Acceptance. Approval. Appreciation. Attention. Affection. A pretty good deal if you ask me!

One key component to staying together forever? Begin with God and a healthy emotional bank, and we all just may see our happily ever after :)
perfectbrokenhearts.wordpress.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Proofs in the Puddin'

peterfaur.com
Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true


People pass
And even if they don't know my name
Is there evidence that I've been changed
When they see me, do they see You

Aren't those fantastic lyrics? They are from the song "Live Like That" (listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40zNC-6aISk) by Sidewalk Prophets, and as I was driving down the road today to volunteer at my kid's school, I really started thinking about whether I lived "like that". There are plenty of people at school who don't know my name. So! Do I shine with the intensity of a person who is sold out to God?

The thing is, I may want to shine for all to see, but unless I'm allowing Him
full access to my heart, I may not be shining to my full potential. And I can't
assume that I know what my full potential is before I get there. I need to allow
Him to work, transform, redeem and heal those broken places in my heart that
I've kept under lock and key for so long. It's no secret that I have a long way
to go, especially since I still need to stop living in a state of
self-preservation. To live that way, I am constantly on the defense, steeping in
insecurity and making that God-shaped hole more and more obvious. There is a
hole in my heart that is specifically God-shaped, you know. I believe everyone
has one, we just haven't all recognized it yet. And nothing else will fill that
hole, as I can testify from a life of trying desperately to fill it. There comes
a point where you just cannot ignore it any longer! The good news is that He is
right there when you need Him (Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall
I flee from your presence
? Psalm 139:7), waiting for us to choose Him. He will
never force His will on us. That would make us big puppets. He loves us and just
wants us to chose Him over the many distractions this world has to offer.

So, how does a person live like His love is true? That's going to take some
prayerful thought, because I'm not really sure how to answer that question. But
is definitely one worth pondering, isn't it? I'd love to hear some feedback on
this question. How do you live like His love is true?

I pray that I am proof of someone whose heart has been changed by His love,
mercy, and grace, and I pray that it shines brightly for everyone to see.

Also, when people see me, do they see Him? The last thing I would want is for someone to think that this is a sham, or some kind of game I'm playing until something better comes along.

Who knew that in a song I've heard a thousand times I would suddenly come to see the meaning in it?

I do fervently believe that people can search til the end of time for proof that Christ lived, that He was more than just a prophet, that He really did die, or that He was
actually raised from the dead.  But some of the real proof lies in the people who claim to know Him. Me. You. All of His followers. We show one another and others what a life in Christ is like, what makes it so bright and delightful!

Shine on!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Truly Refreshing

At the end of 2011, I decided to go off of my antidepressants. I had been on them since my mom died in 2006, and after much prayer and consideration, decided it was time to start dealing with my stuff.

The problem is, sometimes my "stuff" seems bigger than I can handle.

He can handle all that I lay on Him (cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you 1 Peter 5:7, emphasis added).

I don't like the wave of emotions I have felt since being off the antidepressants, like when my kids make me angry. I don't like feeling sad because tomorrow marks the anniversary of my mom's death. I don't like feeling like I have no energy. And I don't like feeling, at times, like I have lost interest in things that once used to excite me.

Seeing these words, I feel alarmed. I immediately start thinking, should I be back on my antidepressants? Am I depressed? While it's very worthwhile to be aware of how you're feeling, for me, it just shows how much I'm lacking in learning how to depend on God. I am a generally happy person. I do not feel sad, angry, or depressed all the time. Part of the issue is that I know I can depend on Wellbutrin to lift me up when I'm down, give me energy when I have none, and keep my emotions in check when I'm feeling a little out of whack. However, I do not have the same dependence on God. Honestly, I do not trust Him to lift me up when I'm down, give me energy when I have none or keep my emotions in check when I'm feeling a touch wacky.

The issue I've been dancing around for the last 4 months is that I have to start at square one (square one being God) and allow Him to work in my life to move me forward in His time, not my own. I've been so anxious to prove to myself that I can do this, that I have invited Him in, and then kicked Him out, over and over again. I've been so antsy to jump out of the gate with a BANG that I haven't let Him do what I've asked Him to do, which is to help me. I think I'm pretty good at asking, but I have certain expectations regarding what I will receive when I ask. What do you do when what you receive isn't what you expected? I've asked Him to fix me, but I don't think I've actually sat down with Him long enough to let Him start. I know that it won't be a quick fix, but mostly that's what I still want, even though I realize that His way is always better.

Even as I write this, I know what the answer is. His way. Not mine. The question is, do I accept His way as the way or do I keep trying to shove my way on Him? Sometimes I feel like I'm saying "OK, God, I will do it Your way as long as Your way is MY WAY!" Fortunately, He is ever patient with me (the Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you...2 Peter 3:9), willing to wait until I exhaust myself with my own efforts and am willing to turn to Him, disheartened by the efforts I made that didn't work.  He promises that although "my flesh and my heart my fail,...God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever" (Psalm 73:26, emphasis mine).

I'm willing to just sit back and let God do all the work for once. Obviously, it won't be on my own time table, but maybe that's OK for now. Maybe, once I'm able to completely give up all up to God, my energy will return because I won't be spending it all spinning my tires in the sand...Maybe He's got exactly what I'm looking for: the opposite of being tired. Energized. Refreshed. Invigorated.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Big. Green. Monster!

It's ugly, right??
hercxena.wikia.com
I hate her.

The thought popped into my head before I even had a chance to dismiss it. It's not fair, I thought.  If I had voiced my thoughts, there would have been a pathetic whine in my voice. "She looks so good. So tiny. I can tell she's been working out. I'm not sure I could be a friend to her. Do I still look good? Maybe I need to rejoin the gym." In matter of 10 seconds, these thoughts-plus more-ran through my head. I went home feeling ugly inside and out. Why do I feel this way? Because of that big green monster: envy. It's pretty amazing how quickly I can go from being a fairly reasonable, amiable person to being surly, testy and generally disagreeable. And I can't blame it on hormones today, either. My dark side got the best of my thoughts.

What happened to all my "I'm secure in Christ" bravado? How can I possibly think those spiteful things about a friend? Or myself? My goal should be to uplift, encourage and support people, not automatically dismiss them because of jealousy. But I do. I compare and contrast, scrutinize and inspect my every flaw, trying to make myself look better than other people so I can feel better about myself. Ugh. It's pathetic. I remember when I was in elementary school, my mom would listen carefully when I would come home from school upset that someone was mean to me or made fun of me (people used to tease me because I have very pale skin, probably the palest you've ever seen. Thank goodness for self tanner, the best invention EVER!). She would then tell me not to take to heart what those people said because first of all, they were mean. And secondly, she would say they probably felt so bad about themselves that they needed to cut someone else down just to make themselves feel better. Then came the best part--"You're not like that, Heather. You're not mean. You're better than that. You don't have to make others feel bad about themselves just to make yourself feel better.". I think my mom would be very disappointed if she knew my thoughts.

I ask myself, is this what I've become? One of those mean people? Since thoughts have a definite effect on actions, I would be fooling myself to think that these feelings would not come across in my actions, even though I don't verbalize my spew.

Oh, my...not my finest moment. Or moments, rather, as I have certainly had more than one:)

Thanks be to God that He is the God of mercy and grace. Thanks be to God that I can come back to Him, over and over, and ask Him to "have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions" (Psalms 51:1). Thanks be to God that he loves me enough to hear my plea for help (But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help, Psalms 31:22).

I'm not perfect, and I never ever will be. But I have a Savior who is, who through His sacrifice has made it so I can be forgiven for unkind thoughts (and a whole lot more). He can transform me into a kind person with kind thoughts, so I won't have to worry that I could be one of those "mean people." It's just a lifelong process. There is nothing that will separate me from His love.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).