Saturday, February 18, 2017

I can do it myself

The kind of pride that says, "I can do it myself." often makes life more difficult. But, when the "it" in question is something that only God can do, the results can be devastating... not only to the person trying to take over, but those around them as well.

The story of Moses has been my favorite since I was a toddler. When I was four I saved my banana peel from lunch and glued it to my coloring paper where the water and the reeds had already been drawn. I was devastated when my mom threw it away. 

I remember, nearly a decade later, hearing about people using clear shellac to make fruits and veggies last for decorative purposes and thinking to myself, “That's what Mom should have done with my banana peel baby Moses boat. Darn her!" I was still mad. (I'm mostly over it now, just in case you were wondering.)

Anyway, we know that Moses was born and adopted into the house of Pharaoh. He grew up knowing that he was Hebrew, basically raised by his own birth family. At some point while growing up, Moses became aware that he was their promised deliverer. Knowing that, he no doubt knew that God had set out a specific time frame for the delivering of His people. In Genesis 15:13, God told Abraham that his descendants would be delivered in 400 years.

Yet, when Moses came upon a Hebrew being mistreated by an Egyptian, Moses killed the Egyptian. According to Acts 7:23 he did it in the hopes of being recognized as their deliverer.

Why? Because He believed it was time to to start the process. He was their deliverer, right? They may not know it yet, but they would see it when they realized what happened. He expected to be able to do what He wanted, when He wanted, in his own strength and have his people fall at his feet, thankful.

It was the next day when Moses realized that things had not gone as he had planned... and he hightailed it out of town. Exodus 12:40 says that it was exactly 430 years before they were delivered. That is including Moses's 40 years in the desert. His own pride cost the Hebrews an additional 30 years of slavery.

I personally know that God did not want me to be homeless. It was never His plan and neither were any of the things that led up to our homelessness. But, I knew His promises. I knew that He wanted to provide for the kids and I. I knew that He didn't want me to be single the rest of my life. I knew that God promised to give me the desires of my heart... so I set out after them, in my own strength. I thought I should have been able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and God's promises would back me up.

By the time I realized that things weren't going to go exactly as planned for me, I was stuck. It took
surrendering to Him to get me out of where I was. If I had not humbled myself and surrendered to God, He wouldn't have been able to build my business underneath me without me trying to take the reins and continue to do things myself. A quick look at the past has proven that doing this never works out well. My pride cost my kids years of putting up with men who were not good for us and six months of homelessness, among other things.

In both of these cases, the "I can do it myself" pride cost people big. Moses and I both thought we knew what God wanted for us and decided to help move His plans along.

As tired as I've become over the years of hearing the words, "It's all in God's timing." I do see that there are some things that can't be rushed. 

I've learned that the secret to living a fulfilling life when you don't yet have all you want is to enjoy the journey on your way there instead of speeding ahead towards your destination. God will fulfill His promises for you. If you watch carefully, you'll find out that watching HOW He does so is more exciting than receiving the actual thing you are waiting for.


The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.
Exodus 14:14

Only by pride comes contention, with the well advised there is wisdom.
Proverbs 13:10

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

On Valentine's Day

I originally wrote this last Valentine's Day, but I never published it. As I was re-reading it I realized it is still something I want to share. So, here goes.

Whether I am your sister or your sister-in-Christ I want you to know that I care about you. I've made a lot of bad choices in my life. While I can't change them, I hope that, occasionally, some of my mistakes are lessons for more than just me.  

I still don't always get it right, but thankfully I have grace to get me through. God is good... all the time. 

Know that wherever you are today, I have been there before. Broken-hearted? Perfectly content being single? Dating an abuser? Happily married? I've been there. What is different now is that I used to let my relationship status on any given day define who I was.

Nearly six years ago, a long term relationship I was in ended abruptly. Devastated, I chose self-destructive ways to deal with it... although I didn't see those ways as self-destructive at the time.

The next four years were rough. Even when I chose to show hope and happiness on the outside, inside I was a self-loathing mess. I desperately wanted someone to show me that I wasn't as easily cast aside as a few key men in my life had made it seem.

I believed I only needed one man to prove it to me. Surely in all of the men in all of the world, there was one... but one after another they let me down.

By 2015, life in general had begun to turn around. God had rescued me from my own bad choices, and I credited Him with that fully... but spiritually I was fading. I honestly believed that God didn't care if I was happy.

Then, something wonderful happened. At what I thought was just going to be a regular coaching session, God spoke to me. As I talked to my coach, and he asked me why I reacted to this one way and that another, I started to see that every decision I was making was wrapped up in my self worth... and I didn't know what that was. 



I had begged God over and over through the years to show me my worth. I had 
read great stories where others came to understand theirs through one perfect moment or divine appointment. I didn't know why He wouldn't tell me mine... but I had formed some ideas. They were wrong.

Two years ago, God showed me how all of those I times I begged Him to show me that I was worth something, He had been trying... But I would ask Him and then look to people for my answer. I had done again and again.

That's when I asked Him to help me break that cycle. He showed me that the people I was looking to were "just people" and my thoughts about myself should have nothing to do with how they view me.

While I know you won't understand your worth until you are ready to understand... I have to share this with you. So that you know why it is so important to me that you know who you are in God's eyes... not who you are in the eyes of another person.

Whether it is Valentine's Day, Christmas, New Years Eve, or Thursday afternoon... Please remember that there is nothing in a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates that tells you your worth. No ring on your finger or marriage license means you are worth more or less than anyone else in this world. No amount of respect or lack-thereof from someone else changes who you are.


No man or woman in your bed with an arm around you can show you how strong you are or how loved you are or how amazing you were created to be.

Only One can do that... your Creator.

Here is what God sees when He thinks of you... read it out loud to yourself. Faith is voice activated. When you say it out loud, you believe it.



Friday, December 23, 2016

You don't get to choose

While my dad grew up Catholic, my first real introduction to Catholicism came from my first husband. We were both 18 and 5 months pregnant when we got married. He was Catholic and I was a member of the Assemblies of God, but we both thought we could make it work. We agreed to go to both churches.

Whether or not his church and family could have actually convinced me to convert, I'm not sure. But they had countless opportunities to get me to consider it. I even said at one point that if we could find a Catholic church that liked contemporary praise and worship I'd go there.

However, when he told his priest (a man he loved and respected more than just about anyone else at the time) that I was pregnant, the priest didn't speak to him for six months. His dad and step-mom urged us to give the baby up for adoption, which distanced us from them for awhile. Then there was his mom, one of the most Catholic woman I had ever spent a great deal of time with. In her eyes, I never did anything right, no matter how hard I tried.

It all totaled up to me not wanting to have anything to do with Catholicism.

Five years later, when I was pregnant with our 3rd child, he decided he was done. “I love you but I'm not in love with you. I'm moving out.” His mom let him move in with her and hired a lawyer to help move the process along, and I was devastated.

As you can imagine, due to those experiences (and admittedly ignoring the fact that I knew some great people who were Catholic) I decided that it was something I didn't want my kids or I to be a part of, ever.

As the kids entered their preteen and teen years, I would feel anger rise in me when they refused to say an off-the-cuff prayer and instead recited something they had learned at his house. I tried not to argue with them about it, but every prayer, every sign of the cross, burned me. Eventually I couldn't keep my eye rolls to myself or my mouth shut. The more I argued with them, the more it happened.

Several months after I had my first revelation of grace, I read a book called Girl At The End of The World. It was by a woman who had been raised in an abusive, misogynistic, fundamentalist christian home. More or less, it was a cult. When she ran from that way of life as a young adult, after realizing her own children were going through the same things she had endured, she decided she was done with God.

This is a quote from her book: “I am fed up with reading about God through the male perspective only. I want to experience the God who inspired me as a child, the God who found me long before I could comprehend a single word in my Bible. I want to experience God pursuing me for once. I am tired of seeking, striving, and knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door. I no longer want to know that silent, capricious, harsh God who would just as soon throw me into the fires of hell as save me. I am challenging God to pursue me like someone who has never been exposed to the Bible. Love me, God. I dare You.”
Elizabeth Esther, Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future

And He did. She tells of how she met Mary, the Mother of Jesus, how she found the Catholic Church, and how Mary and Jesus worked together to save her life and breathe healing into her. Her revelations about finding Grace within the walls of the Catholic church stunned me.

Tears ran down my face as I read and tried to make sense of something that was so beautiful, yet so opposite what I felt and believed. Then, with that inaudible voice He sometimes uses to drive an important point home, God told me, “You don't get to choose how I reach people or how they relate to Me.

I continued to listen and watch and read grace-based materials, but I wasn't angry anymore when they said a Catholic prayer or told me they wanted to fast something for lent. I chose loving them over disagreement about their beliefs.

Then one day as we were driving, Alexandra told me it scared her to hear sermons about how lack of forgiveness towards others can keep you from Heaven. We talked about how that isn't true and what Grace really means. She told me that talking to me about this stuff made her a lot less terrified. And all of the sudden, I had a grace believer on my hands.
It wasn't just that. She wanted to know more. She was interested is listening to different sermons and discussing different thoughts. She even chose to go see Andrew Wommack in Chicago with Ben and I last spring.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was love she saw in me that opened her up to the discussions. I had to admit to myself, even on days I didn't argue... If you roll your eyes when your kids do the sign of the cross at dinner... you aren't showing love.

So then, how do we get the message of grace across to others without arguing, or being angry? How are they going to know that we believe differently if we don't make a point to tell them?

1 Peter 3:15-16 says:
In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 

How will people know? That's easy! Do you remember how you acted and reacted to life before you found grace? Even if you were already in church when it happened.

People will see we have a hope they don't have yet... and they will ask us why. The Bible says when they ask us, we should be ready to tell them with gentleness and respect and a good conscience.

What does a good conscience have to do with it? Well, for me it is knowing that Alexandra came to me because she saw my confidence in Christ... not because I wore her down on Catholicism.

When people look at us as Christians, it can oftentimes be the same way I used to look at Catholics. They have known someone who was a Christian who was rude or dogmatic or legalistic. They have seen the people who call themselves Christians parading up and down the street with signs that say who they believe God hates.

They need to see in us that we are not those people.

How do they do that? Jesus.
Put your focus on Him and you'll lead others to Him as they see the fruit of Spirit manifest in your life.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 
~Galatians 5:22-23

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What's your plan?

"Write down what your dreams, goals, and plans were for the last year."

I looked at the workbook page and thought for a minute before I started writing.

Dreams: To take my kids on a real vacation before Alexandra graduated, and to be in a solid, healthy relationship.

Goals: Weight loss, finishing my book proposal, growing my platform, buying a house, financial stability.

Plans: Survival.

I stared at the paper. 
Wait, did I just write that? 
I did. Wow.

When I talk to people about interviewing employees, I often share one of my favorite questions with them. "What's your dream? What do you really want to do?" I've said time and again that the employees who have a dream and a plan to attain that dream are usually my most successful employees. They know what they are working towards!

And yet, for some reason, despite some great goals and dreams, I only planned for survival.


One of my favorite Bible passages is Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.


I KNOW God wants to do great things for me. I KNOW that His plans far exceed mine. I KNOW He is not only able, but He is willing... And I still planned for the bare minimum... survival.

This past year, I often asked God for help and believed He would come through for me. On several occasions He did, probably more than I realize. But looking at these verses and thinking about what I actually planned for leave me wondering if God didn't hope to bless me more, but I had planned Him out of it. 

Psalms 20:4 says:
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.

I do believe God gave me many of the desires of my heart this year in addition to making my plans succeed... but what if my plans had been bigger? What if instead of survival I had PLANNED on being blessed and amazed by Him? 

As I continue to work through this program on setting and achieving my goals for the next year, I am more and more excited about what is to come. I am planning on some huge breakthroughs this year and I can't wait to see how God makes those plans succeed.

How about you? What's your plan? What are you asking God to help you with as we move into the Christmas season and new year? 

Whatever it is, are you PLANNING on Him coming through for you? Or, like I have so many times, are you working on your plan for what you'll do if He doesn't?

Today I'm telling God that, more than ever, I want His plans for me to match my plans for me... I want to rest in His promises of hope, joy, abundance, and success instead of planning on the bare minimum. 

Care to join me?



For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11


I came that [YOU] may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

The program I am going through is Michael Hyatt's Best Year Ever. It is only available for a limited time every year, but you can check it out here:
http://bestyearever.me/register/

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Twelve


We're in a calmer spot now, but I wrote this when we weren't. It's so easy to believe that because everything seems okay, everything is okay. We have to talk to our kids, know their friends, see the things they post online and who they act like they are when they don't know we are watching.


I've seen others go through it at many different ages, but for us, this time, it has been twelve.

We all think it's hard to be a kid when we are twelve.
Now I know it's harder to be a parent.

Twelve

Five miles of ocean below you
and you're only ankle deep
You can fight me all you want,
deny the depths that you can't see.
But I remember the murky waters,
the feel of waves crashing over me,
and I refuse to let you sink.
I refuse to let you sink.

You think your choices affect only you
and that none of them could be wrong.
You believe you've got the whole world figured out.
But you don't even know who you are yet,
No, you don't even know who you are.

Too young to grow up so quickly,
don't understand there's no reverse.
You can fight me all you want,
you can tell me that I'm the worst.
But I remember what youth is like,
though you think you're the first.
And I refuse to sit back and observe
I refuse to sit back and observe.

As much as I love you, He loves you more
and this job that He gave me isn't one I'll ignore.
You believe you've got the whole world figured out.
But you don't even know who you are yet.
No, you don't even know who you are yet.

Beautiful, wonderful, intelligent, amazing,
your smile lights up a room.
Created for something unimaginable now,
a flower I can't wait to watch bloom.

Let Him show you who you are...

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, 
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
~Ephesians 2:10


Monday, October 3, 2016

I can't wait to see

I often say that I can't wait to see how God's provision comes through for one situation or another as I watch expectantly for the big "Ta-Da!" moment. When it comes that way, my mind is always blown and I love sharing the story with others.

But more often, the provision comes a little bit at a time, from all different directions. And while I am so grateful, I sometimes forget to share how God moved in those times as well.

In the last month, God's provision has come in the steady stream of new clients, the judgement for someone who owes me money who was able to pay some of it back, and the dealership who accidentally gave me the wrong tires months ago, that switched out my punctured tire (running on it's second can of fix-a-flat) in the process of reversing the previous error.

It came in a letter from the state telling me they need one more piece of proof of income so they can send that state tax return I forgot never came.

It came in the Neurosurgeon's billing specialist who said, "No, we don't accept your insurance, but just come to the appointment and we'll bill you after. When you get the bill, call us and we'll send you some paperwork to see how much our Community Cares program can help."

It comes a little bit at a time as I pass a sale at the mall or a yard sale down the street without buying anything... because I feel that gentle nudge in my spirit that part of being thankful for His provision is being wise with it as well.

I never know how God is going to follow through on His promises. I just know that He will. The tricky part is remembering to keep my eyes open for the how.

Our trip to California last February was amazing. I could go on for hours about the things God lined up for us and the ways He provided for that trip. I mean, really... who else could have arranged for five of us to fly from Chicago to LA on a major carrier for $600? Who else could have gotten the five of us into Disney for $150?

God could have dropped $10,000 in my lap again out of nowhere, but He didn't need to. He knew what we wanted and what we needed... and He took care of it a piece at a time.

God knows exactly what you need. God knows what you want, too. He has already promised to prosper you and give you a future. He has already promised to give you life more abundant. He keeps His promises.

In I Kings 17, we read about the widow of Zarephath. She had been told she was to feed a man of God who was coming her way. She knew she didn't have enough. She didn't even have enough to feed herself and her son. Yet, when Elijah asked her to make him food, promising her resources would not run dry, she did. The Bible says she and her son ate for many days afterwards.

While there are many things one can take away from this story, the one that I appreciate today is that God provided for this woman a day at a time. She could have given up the day before Elijah came, knowing there were only two days of food left. Instead she believed God would provide, and she waited.

You may be in a season of your life where He is providing one day at a time... which can make it feel like the provision isn't there. Take a deep breath and look around. See what you have and what HE has given you. How has God provided for where you are in this very moment?


Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:31-34

Friday, September 9, 2016

Are your arms crossed?

Would you be surprised to know that I'm stubborn? It's true. I can admit it.

One of the perks of serving at church is that I usually get there before the parking team. Meaning, nobody gets to tell me I can't park wherever I want. Sometimes I drive 'in' the way marked 'out' to avoid being directed to a certain spot.

Ask my daughter who watched us all eat ice cream last week during family movie night because she refused to eat anything green with her meal how stubborn I am. She actually spit the salad in the trash and said, "Not worth it." I guess she's a little stubborn too.

I could go on and on with examples of my stubbornness. In some ways it helps me and has kept me from walking away from my business and the plans God has for me. In others, it has made my life so much more difficult.

It was August 2012 when I went into my part-time job and excitedly declared, "I found an apartment, finally!" I was so happy, I was telling everyone who would listen. In the break room, at lunch, I sat with my food and told another person about the apartment. Someone from across the table said, "Oh, are you moving away?"

"No." I responded, "My kids and I have been living at the camp grounds for six months. We finally have a place to live again."

Several people turned and looked at me as I said it. One of them asked, "You've been homeless this whole summer? Why didn't you tell anyone?"

Honestly, I didn't know. Probably for the same reason I didn't go back home and try to live with my mom or ask any of my family for help getting into an apartment.

Stubborn pride.

While part of me was angry at the people who had "helped" get me there and desperately wanted to be rescued, another part of me undoubtedly believed I deserved to be there and had to pull myself out again to prove that I was not useless or worthless. If I had help, then it wouldn't have been ME who did it.

I recently read the story of the attack on Israel in the wilderness by the Amalek. (Exodus 17:8-13) When the Israelite army went to fight them, Moses stood on top of the hill and lifted his arms towards Heaven. Any time his arms started to fall, the Amalek would prevail. When he kept his arms up, the Israelites would start winning again.

Eventually, Moses' arms became tired. So, in order to keep his arms up, Moses's brother Aaron and their friend Hur, each took a side and held his arms up in the air for him until Israel won over Amalek.

It would take a lot of humility for a grown man to let his friends hold his own arms up for him. What if Moses had fought off his friends and said, "I can handle this! If God wants me to do this, then He will equip me. I don't need your help." I don't know that the outcome would have been the same. At the very least, the battle would have lasted much longer and had many more negative consequences when Israel finally won.

Looking back at our time of being homeless, I wonder how many friends God had in place to hold up my arms during that battle who never got the chance. I wonder how many people would have jumped in to help, if they knew what was going on. I later found out most of my extended friends and family didn't know what had happened until long after we had moved to an apartment. Neither did most of my church family.

While I'm thankful for the help I did receive along the way, and the miracles God did for me. I see now that I likely prolonged our battle with my own stubborn pride.

Nobody could hold my arms for me because I had them crossed stubbornly across my chest. My "I will do this my way" attitude likely extended our battle and left us all with more scars than we otherwise would have sustained... and just like with Moses in the battle with the Amalek, in the end, it wasn't ME who did it at all... it was God.

God has put people around you to hold you up during this battle you are in too. Look around and see how many people love you and want to help.

Ask them. Tell them your arms are tired. Then, LISTEN to what they tell you. The Holy Spirit often speaks through others when the roar of your pride drowns out His voice inside of you.


Humble yourself before the Lord and he will exalt you.
James 4:10 ESV

Where there is strife, there is pride,
but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
Proverbs 13:10 NIV

Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
Proverbs 11:14 ESV