A Raging Battle

The Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study Blog Team defined a raging battle as something that “tempts to destroy our emotional, physical, or spiritual well-being.”  The topic challenged me to self-reflect and determine what it is that I crave more than God.  I hoped this would be difficult to identify and was stunned to realized how glaring my craving actually is.  Connection.  Yes, you heard that right.  I crave being connected.  This would be a beautiful thing if the craving was to be connected to God.  While I do cherish my morning quiet time with Jesus and adore the connection I feel to Him during this time, suddenly I am faced with the remainder of the 24 day and my connection craving turns to email, text, Facebook, Instagram, or phone calls.  I don’t know about you but it did not take me long to realize that Jesus doesn’t have any of those things.  While I have always said I would LOVE for God to write me a letter, I am pretty sure my expectations aren’t to check my phone and see His name pop up. 

Just since I sat down to type this blog, I have received a ‘ding’ from my email and ‘5 dings’ from Facebook notifications.  The worst part?  I am really great at justification!  I NEED to be by my phone in case the school calls about my daughter.  I NEED to check my email in case someone from OBS or something work-related needs my immediate attention.  I NEED to check that text right away in case it is important (I may miss an important lunch invitation).  I NEED to respond right away before I forget.  I AM EXHAUSTED by the dings and dongs and frankly, my eyes are tired.  I am not one of those people who is burdened by the negativity that sometimes crosses Facebook.  In fact, I am convinced that I have the most amazing 700+ friends in the world because I receive so much encouragement from the various posts I see throughout the day and many of them are from some awesome Jesus girls!  My email dings most of the time are from inspirational blogs and daily devotionals that I subscribe to.  Again, positive information!  I realize now though that even positive, godly information can distract me from Jesus.  This distraction also hinders my personal connection to people.  In fact, my 2014 phrase is to ‘be intentional.’  When I resist the urge to check my phone and respond immediately, I am able to sit down and respond with more sincerity in the evenings.  I am able to pray over my responses instead of reacting.  I am able to write out prayers to send to people or call them and pray with them instead of just saying “I will pray for you.” Side note-Do not stop texting, emailing, or Facebooking me…I love you all and LOVE to hear from you.  Hopefully it will just take me a little longer to reply…and if you need me quickly, well….I trust that God will stir my heart to get my attention for you.

Romans 12:2-“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.”  Renewal of my mind…renewal of my mind.  As long as I am craving connection to the world, my mind cannot be renewed and I will drown out the voice of God.  Discernment will not be able to break through the clutter and I will struggle to hear his will. 

1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  We are commanded to not love the world, however; we are also commanded in John 15:12 to love one another as He has loved us.  I want to love each person that God has blessed me with in an intentional way.  I want to be the best wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend that I can possibly be and unless Jesus is my center at all times, this type of love cannot exist. 

The raging battle will only exist if we permit it to occupy our inner life.  Ephesians 6:11-“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”  Sisters, I can promise you that if we are craving anything more than we are craving God, Satan knows it and he will tempt us in our weaknesses in a mighty way.  Will you commit with me today to crave God above all else?  Lets pray together.  Lets be intentional about suiting up together.  Lets hold each other accountable. 

“We will never be happy until we make God the source of our fulfillment and the answer to our longings.  He is the only one who should have power over our souls.”-Stormie Omartian

Can I get an amen??

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New Year-Same Jesus

As I look back on 2013, I am most struck by the feeling of contentment that washes over me. This is a feeling that has been fairly elusive in the past as a year comes to an end. Our family certainly experienced our share of loss and sadness. We experienced trials and triumphs. We made lots of memories and loved a lot. So what was different about 2013? Why the contentment and not a huge rush to move on to 2014 as in years past? The word God continues to place on my heart is priorities. I finally put my priorities in order. Not quite faith, family, and ducks as our Duck Dynasty friends prioritize…but God, family, friends. He is first. He is center. Oh what peace I missed out on not giving Him front and center years ago.

Two things continue to stir in my heart as we approach a new year. Last year I started choosing a word to focus on for the entire year. For 2013, my word was obedience. My goal was to open my servant’s heart and continually ask Him to empty me and use me for His service. Being obedient is something I crave and something that will be a continual process. This year I will choose a word and will choose verses for different areas of my life and I encourage you to do the same. More on this tomorrow!

Secondly, as we approach the new year and set goals, determining motive is extremely important. Why are we choosing to make this a goal? If our motives are to glorify God, draw closer to Him, and improve ourselves for His use and our well-being…rock on! If we are setting goals to prove something to someone else or as a result of being stuck in the comparison trap, it is time to reevaluate. Motivation is important. Grace is necessary. Extend yourselves grace. We are going to fall…mess up… need a do-over. Do not beat yourself up. Lamentations 3:23 tells us the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. Praise God! While a new year is a great place to start, do not be defeated when you stumble. His. Mercies. Are. New. Every. Morning.

#Enough…

When I think about writing how God is enough in my life…my eyes immediately fill with tears, my heart sinks a little, and I become slightly overwhelmed.  The fact is…God IS enough and I am humbled to be able to experience this in so many ways.

When I am burdened by choices I have made in the past…God is enough.

When I am wrestling to prioritize and get it all done…God is enough.

When I lack patience and have a short fuse with my loved ones…God is enough.

When I attempt to fill a void with so many ’empty’ things…God is enough.

When my head is filled with clutter and I just need peace…God is enough.

When I am suffocated by the longing for a loved one I have lost…God is enough.

When I desperately want to know which path to take…God is enough.

When I strive for things that are just out of my reach…God is enough.

When I am faced with feelings of doubt or insecurity…God is enough.

When I am challenged beyond my own strength…God is enough.

When I am struggling with forgiving myself or others…God is enough.

This topic of “enough” brings me to my knees in complete and humble adoration for the God I love…for the God I want to wholeheartedly serve…for the God who has blessed me so immensely that I have trouble comprehending…for the God who deserves the utmost praise…for the God who pursued me when I was running away…for the God who is enough to satisfy every hunger and thirst.  I am eternally grateful.  

Is He enough for you? 

 

A Setting for Two…

My ‘white space’ was recently invaded with shades of red, green, gold, and silver and a smell that makes memories swirl in my head and stir in my heart.  The usual smell of coffee has been replaced by a powerful smell of Fraser fir.  This space is generally referred to as a “formal” living room, however; there is nothing formal about our home or our family.  What once was a room that never seemed to be of any real value, is now my place for a daily spiritual retreat.

Lit by a lamp and a small light from a curio cabinet filled with Willow Tree angels, this is where I begin every morning.  I sit in a plump leather chair facing a large picture window where I seem to be captivated every day.  The morning begins in darkness and then slowly turns to light.  The sunrise is not always what captures my attention…sometimes it is the shape of a cloud…sometimes it is the rain which I find most heavenly…but it is always the majesty of the sky.  While this time is precious, I recently realized that it was lacking and had trouble putting my finger on what was missing.  Then the word ‘prayer’ was glaring me in the face.  I was not asking Jesus to open my heart to receive his word each morning and to clear all of the distractions from my mind.  Was I really attempting a ‘setting for two’ without asking Jesus to join me?  Sure, I was in the Word and felt His presence…but I was failing to invite Him in.  Gasp.  With this realization and restructuring…the ‘setting for two’ now feels complete.

I am surrounded by books, highlighters, sticky notes and pens in my space.  Distraction was deafening when the dinging of my phone was allowed in the room.   I am choosing obedience in this matter and in order to truly keep this a ‘setting for two’, the phone is no longer welcome.  I begin with a daily devotional from whichever book I may be reading at the time.  I spend time in my Bible next and am currently experiencing this truth through a chronological version.  Lastly comes time in the current OBS study book.  This is time I use to study, reflect and pray for the sisters in Christ that He has so abundantly blessed me with through this ministry.

Peace fills this time…peace that I can choose to hold on to throughout my day or I can allow someone/something to steal from me.  I choose to hold on…

Welcome to my white space…grab a cup of coffee and a Bible and join me!  We would gladly welcome you and make this a setting of three.

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The Real Me…Bare and Exposed from the Inside

The real ‘me’ living in the real world today is a hot mess who comes with a disclaimer that says ‘under construction.’ I am a phlegmatic sanguine who often lets a desire for interaction and fun steal my need for peace and quiet. I crave simplicity but often make things complex. I wake early in the morning to have quiet time and coffee with Jesus in my white space. This time with Him fills me with such a sweet peace…and then I allow that peace to be stolen by distraction. I love people and have the gift of empathy which literally causes me to feel pain when you are hurting and sheer joy when you are happy. I am a coffee drinking, marathon-running wanna be, who used to party like it was 1999 on a regular basis. Thank God for His grace and mercy.

The real ‘me’ in Jesus Christ is in awe every single day. I am still a hot mess…only I am redeemed, renewed, and restored. I am unconditionally loved, cherished, and chosen. He has ignited a passion in me to reach others through serving and writing and mostly through prayer. He has given me a boldness to pray with you instead of saying I will pray for you later. He has given me the confidence to not be ashamed of who I am in Him and to consider persecution for my faith a blessing. I am weak…but He is strong. I mess up every day…but in Him I am forgiven. I am unlovable…and He loves me anyway. I am covered in mud and muck…but He claims me as His Princess. I have done things that make me shudder…but in Him I am a new creation.  Psalm 139 tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that He knows me.  HE. KNOWS. ME.  THE. REAL. ME.

He is challenging me to hold each thought captive and not remember things of the old, because He doesn’t. He is challenging me to see others through His eyes which causes me to need a whole new pair of glasses in some cases. He is redefining my character to match what He is calling me to do with my life.  He loves me…and I am humbled and grateful that He continues to work to show me who He designed me to be.

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I AM Good Enough…and You Are Too

I thought so much about this topic and had difficulty picking the one area where I most struggled to be ‘good enough.’  You see, for each relationship I hold, I believe there is room for growth.  Sure, I am a good enough wife.  I adore my husband, have become his biggest cheerleader, and see myself married to him all my days to come.  But that ‘surrendered wife’ thing sometimes leaves me in a tizzy.  What is it about surrendering to my husband that makes me grit my teeth?  Let me examine motherhood next.  I am a good enough mother.  I love my daughter to the moon and back, ensure her basic needs are met, take her everywhere she needs to be, and pray with her at night.  But then there are those times where I lack significantly in the area of patience and fail to make her the priority she deserves to be.  Ouch.  Friendships?  Yes!  I love to make friends with everyone I meet and will talk to anyone…even the person I do not know, who is behind me in line at the grocery store!  But I often struggle to nurture those friendships that mean so much to me, because, well, I am too busy working on being that surrendered wife and patient mom.

As I floundered to identify the area where I struggle the most, God whispered, “You struggle to claim your identity in Me and struggle to feel ‘good enough’ as a Christian.”  Seriously God?  I love You!  I lead an online Bible study group!  I talk about You and talk to You!  My biggest desire is to lead others to You!  And He whispered, “You do not rest in my presence.  You presume you are never doing enough.  You cannot earn my approval.  You already have it and you ARE good enough.”  I mean CLEAR AS DAY ya’ll.  He called me out and He was so right.  Imagine that…God knew my biggest ‘I am not good enough’ struggle.

I believe if He was writing me a letter (oh sisters, I have longed for God to write me a letter!), it would say this:

Dearest Daughter (sister, that is you too),

I created you in My image.  I formed you in your mother’s womb and know everything about you.  You have always sought the approval of others and have felt you do not measure up.  Daughter, I do not compare you to others.  I love you with an unfailing, unchanging, unconditional love.  There is nothing you can do to earn my approval.  You strive for perfection and you will never achieve that this side of Heaven.  Daughter, do not burden yourself by trying to be perfect.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  I want you to follow me, and to love others as I love you.  Focus your eyes on me and tell me the desires of your heart…even though I already know them.  Precious daughter, you ARE good enough.  Stop trying to perform.  I know your heart and love who you are today, not tomorrow’s version of you…although I have seen her, and I love her too.  I could have left you to do this life on your own, but I didn’t.  I shed my blood for you and for all of your sisters reading this today.  That makes you ‘good enough.’

Love,

Your Heavenly Father

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#movingforward

Have you ever thought that If people knew some of the things you have done throughout your life that they would turn their backs on you?  Maybe you have thought you might as well stand there and let them throw stones because some of the choices you have made, or some of the things that have been done to you, are THAT shameful.  For me, it was fulfilling all of my fleshly desires through the week and on Friday and Saturday nights.  Then I would go to church on Sundays and justify that because “I was not ‘hurting anyone’, and was asking for forgiveness, I was good to go!”  Let me clarify something here…I was asking for forgiveness by reading the preprinted “confession of sins” in my bulletin.  I was not asking for forgiveness with a truly repentant heart.  Frankly, I knew in my heart at this time that these same sins would be repeated.

Forgiving other people?  That is a whole different story.  I consider myself ‘good’ at forgiving.  I am fairly certain that if you asked anyone who knows me well, they would describe me as someone who gives grace freely.  Let me paint a picture of what that looks like.  You do something to offend me.  You ask for forgiveness.  I forgive you.  Oh, but sister, that is not all.  The next time a similar situation presents itself, or I feel threatened that a similar occurrence may be coming, I dig my heels in and pride and control come out in the ugliest of ways.  I can go from zero to needing a ‘fruit inspection’ in 5.2! (see the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5)

Sisters, God does not want us to remain in those shameful places or those places of unforgiveness.  That includes those of us who freely give forgiveness to others but have trouble forgiving ourselves.  There is freedom in Him!  I want you to take a deep breath and ask Him to prepare your heart before you continue reading…

Now, I want you to picture yourself.  And I want you to picture yourself with the shame and the sins that are holding you in bondage written all over your body.  Go ahead…you can even use ‘permanent’ marker.  Now I want you to cover that body with mud…and while you are at it…top it off with a splash of crimson.

Ladies, we are not meant to stay here all covered up in our sin and shame.  Are you ready to move forward in forgiveness and see yourself redeemed?  I want you now to get a clear picture of the ‘new’ you.  Are you ready to claim these promises? Deuteronomy 31:8 gives us this promise, “God is striding ahead of you.  He is right there with you.  He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.  Don’t be intimidated.  Don’t worry.” (Message)  Remember that muddy girl in the last paragraph?  Guess what?  That marker is not permanent…but His love is.  Psalm 40:2 says, “He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me up from deep mud.  He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.”  (Message)  Are you picturing Him pulling you up?  Washing you off?  Making you new?  Lastly, do you remember that splash of crimson?  Isaiah 1:18-19 says, “If your sins are blood red, they’ll be snow-white.  If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool.  If you’ll willingly obey, you’ll feast like kings.”  (Message)

Sisters, let’s join hearts and move forward.  Let’s surrender together.  We will fall…but He will never fail.  Will you join me?

P31 OBS Blog Hop