Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mind Games.

When I read this portion of the verse found in Romans 12:2 (NTL) version, the words literally jumped off the page and slapped me in the face. I love the translation of this verse: "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

So often we become a victim to our thoughts, and perspectives’ that we truly fail to view things in light of God’s perspective. We become so tangled up in our own messes that our minds cannot truly comprehend anything else. We view people a certain way based on our own flesh’s perspective instead of how God views them. We isolate our thoughts based on our circumstances. When God asks us to do something, we fall short to what our mind tells us what we can or cannot do. When instead we should allow God to transform our thought process to what HIS abilities in us and through us can accomplish.

The reason we cannot overcome ourselves time and time again is because our mind is not in alignment with the things that God has put in our heart. We think one thing and feel another. No, we don’t live by what we feel, but it is in the heart where God transforms our feelings. You know the, "from the heart the mouth speaks" verse that we preach all the time?! And it is our minds that dictate what we do with those feelings. Living by our feelings often times leads us to making irrational decisions because we acted on what WE felt, and not a what our mind processed and thought was okay. Our mind is powerful, and if we don’t allow God to change our way of thinking, our decisions are based on ourselves and not what God wants for us.
Am I saying that in every single decision you make you need to pray about it, or think about it through God’s perspective? Not at all. You don’t pray about having to use the restroom, you just go. You don’t pray about taking a drink of water if you’re thirsty, you just drink it. You don’t pray about being kind to someone, you just show kindness. The list could go on. However, I am saying that if the way you’re thinking isn’t leading you to fulfill the purpose and plan that God has for your life, then you need to pray about it. When we allow the Holy Spirit to change our way of thinking, our thoughts start to appear differently. No longer are you consumed with only satisfying yourself and your needs. No longer are you consumed with your personal desires and opinions. No longer are you consumed by yourself and the things you are good at.
To allow God to change our way of thinking is to be consumed with meeting someone else’s need; to help someone else fulfill their calling and purpose; and to focus on the impact we can make in someone’s eternity.
Not a single person is incapable of this.
Satan wants to constantly remind us of what we are not capable of.  I mean, in a way, he is right. On our own we are not capable of fulfilling all that God has for us.  When we allow God to change our thinking, we begin to understand that it is because of God that we are capable. It is because of God’s abilities and power in us that we can overcome our own thought process. It is because of God’s love in us that changes our perspective on how we view those around us. It is because of God that we can complete the desires he has put in our heart. It is because of God that his word comes alive in our life when we apply it.  It is because of God that our focus turns off of ourselves and onto everyone else.
 I don’t for a second believe that God wants us to remain inadequate vessels who can’t do anything for ourselves. I don’t believe that God thinks little of us because without him we aren’t powerful. I do believe that because God created us, he knows exactly how to make all the pieces work properly like they should. I do believe that because he formed us in HIS image and because HE is all powerful, he knows what we can accomplish with his power living inside of us. God takes our weaknesses and makes us strong. God takes our brokenness and makes us whole. God takes our sin and makes us holy. If he only thought of us as weaklings who were worthless without him, then HE would only boast about how great he is; but instead he boasts about OUR greatness and potential because of him.
God doesn’t need to prove to you that he is great and mighty. God wants to prove to you, that in you and through you, he can make you great and mighty. He tells us that in Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”  Not for your own personal gain, but for the lives that you can reach for the kingdom.  For the lives that are waiting for someone like you to meet their need. For the lives that are depending on you to show them the way to Jesus.  As soon as we take our eyes and focus off of the work he wants to do in us, we’ll drop the ball every time. That is where mercy and grace usher in to pick us up and keep us moving forward. We are not perfect, and we won’t do it perfectly, ever. But we can be consistent as we become persistent. 

God will make you able, all you need to do is be available.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Awkward Years

Once upon a time I was a greasy faced, pimple poppin’, chubby (maybe still am), awkward 12 year old. It seems like now-a-days that 12 year old's do not look anything like the other 12 year old's in my day. You can’t understand what real awkward is like or truly looked like unless you lived pre social media, smart phone, there’s an app for that age. Which is probably the majority of people reading this, HA! Don’t get me wrong, there were “those” girls that seemed to bypass the awkward phase and that wasn’t fair, but these days it seems like NO one goes through that anymore. Completely and truly unfair. Awkwardness builds character… said no one ever. Or at least that’s how I felt  about it. You couldn’t pay me enough money to go back and relive those days. 

Really though… I can’t say that being a greasy faced, pimple poppin’, chubby kid made me who I am today, other than the fact that it taught me a lot of lessons. Maybe it kind of made me who I am today, I don’t know?? Do I want to admit that? I don’t know that either.

What it did do was drag my confidence through the dirt, and planted seeds in that dirt along the way. Seeds that I didn’t know where there until later on in life. Thankfully I grew out of that a little bit – until I decided to perm my hair in the 11th grade. What was I thinking? I can still vividly see my yearbook picture in my head. Sometime though, over that summer I grew into someone I was always afraid of. Those seeds I unknowingly planted years before started to bloom.

All the praise hands that it wasn’t blooms of more spontaneous awkwardness.

I grew into shoes of confidence I didn’t know I had. I determined that the summer after 11th grade, I didn’t have to live in my shy bubble of being intimidated by my lack of confidence in myself. That summer also brought some other life altering moments. 

Leading up to my senior year there were some decisions I was facing. My senior year was coming up and I was either dropping out of school (seriously thought about it) or switching schools. Dropping out wasn’t an option to my parents, so switching schools it was. The SCARIEST THING IN MY LIFE EVER. Yet, it was also very exciting. The person I grew into that summer wasn’t afraid of what was ahead. Walking into that small school my nerves were all over the place. It was so small that everyone knew about me coming before I stepped foot in the school, ha. That was also so welcoming though, as I was embraced by so many people. As that year went on, I was a part of events and clubs that I would have never stepped foot in, in my old school. It was truly a life saver for me. Not a single person knew what I was going through, or who I was for that matter. The most freeing part of being there was I felt like I could be my 100% self and it was okay. That year literally changed my life. The dreaded awkward years (not just at age 12) before that, I truly believe were purposeful to who I became that year.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as though people don’t know how to embrace their awkwardness. We didn’t know the perfect way to wear our make-up or style our eye brows. I don’t recall seeing mom’s more obsessed with their own outward appearance instead of being a constant appearance in their kids lives.  Oh, I’m sure it happened, but it wasn’t the norm – at least where I grew up. I know for sure we weren’t running around taking obsessive selfies of ourselves that are so filtered you couldn’t see that the morning’s makeup was already smudged off. I should probably add that the Polaroid wasn't that fancy at the time, either! People had birthday parties at the park, or their house and it didn’t cost hundreds of dollars to put one on. We were more worried about calling our friends on the land line after school to see if we could come over and play OUTSIDE until it was time for dinner. 

Today, we’re more concerned with how many likes, or followers we have on social media. We are more fascinated with how perfect our make up and eye brows look. Did we contour enough, not enough, too much? We obsess over how "perfect" other people look behind their camera lens. Kids goals these days are based on what someone looks like on the outside, rather than what is going on on the inside. From young teens and on, sexually exploiting yourself is the normal way to take a picture. 

As mom's, do our kid’s outfits match before I take this picture? We reflect a life on social media that just flat out isn’t always the full story. So many of us compete with a story that is half told. We believe the lies that say you're not the perfect mom if you don’t have a fit size 6 body, with a baby on your hip that you had 6 months ago. You’re not pretty enough if your body doesn’t look like the hourglass shape. You’re not good enough if you work outside the home. You’re not good enough if you eat out 3 times in one week instead of cooking all 7. 

How did we get to this point? Do people even know what it means to be happy, like really?  I’m not hating on social media, it does a lot of good things. But on the other hand, it has DESTROYED our definition of identity.  As parents it is easy to find ourselves caring more about what our kids, friends think about them or us instead of caring about the image we are portraying to our own kids. We are so afraid of our kids getting made fun of that we will buy whatever we have to, to make sure they look the best, have the best, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to have those things and will do what I can in my power to keep them from being made fun of.  This is a hard concept and balance for us social media age driven parents. I’m right in that playing field with you. So how do we get out of this fake world we live in and back to being awkward?  How do we stop pretending to live behind a phone or computer screen and live as who we really are? How do we teach our kids and others to find who you are and embrace it. There is only one you, don't pretend or crave someone else's life, and more importantly don’t disguise your own.

Our culture is so self-driven and motivated that we have become so tangled up in our own web that we block others out. No one like spider webs, am I right? The worst thing ever is walking through one of those nasty things. 

Love yourself, it’s okay. It’s important that we take care of us so we are able to take care of others. However, when we become more obsessed with our own identity we forsake the ability to help someone else discover theirs. If I’ve told my oldest once, I’ve told her a million times. “Life is not all about you” and it’s not all about me or you either. 

Teenager – your awkwardness is really okay – unless you perm your hair in the 11th grade like a poodle, so don’t try that at home or pay someone professionally for that matter. Discover yourself through YOUR awkwardness, not through someone else’s distorted and filtered image on social media. 

College student, single lady, wife, mom, whoever you are… let’s start a revolution. Let’s love ourselves first of all. Just like we are:  short, tall, round, skinny, flat butt, Kardashian butt (real or not), toned, flabby – own it. Diet and exercise for yourself and your own health, not for the applause of others. Don’t compare yourself and your abilities (or lack of, if that’s how you feel) to anyone else. Don’t worry if you forgot to wax your eyebrows for the 4th day in a row.  So you’re not into all things Pinterest, who cares – there are hundreds of women like that in this world. 

Let’s stop defining who we are by the culture around us and start defining ourselves by the confidence within us.

If for a second you think you don’t have any, you are so wrong my friend. You may have to search for it, but I promise you it is there. Maybe you need to go back and look at the seeds you also planted while you were being drug through the dirt and find your moment.  If you’re still plowing dirt, keep plowing. Be real. Be loving. Be kind. Be quick to forgive. Be awkward sometimes. Be unfiltered.  And know for every filter you add to your picture, there are hundreds of women doing the same! 

Take 5 minutes and write out YOUR story in the comments below! I would love to read them!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My Journey of Thorns

Am I the only person that has ever been convinced that I wasn't MY own problem? Satan wants to trick us into believing that everyone or everything else is the problem, and not ourselves. We cannot live a successful life, especially Christian life refusing to believe that we may be our problem. Satan doesn’t make his entrance in our circumstances loudly. He is quiet, and sneaks in, in our vulnerable moments that we refuse to allow God to take care of (even unintentionally).

He sees an open door that we haven’t fully shut and begins to dig a comfy spot to take root in. As those roots grow they spread, and they spread deep. Deep in the places that we have suppressed. Deep in the places that we try to forget. Deep in the places that we mentally block out of our minds as though they never happened.

So many times something that started off so small grows into something so significant. My marriage is a good example (for me - not because it's bad, because it's NOT!). Every time I withhold any ill feelings towards Chris (because bless his heart I love him and want to slap him sometimes, too 😂), even over something so minor and insignificant, it always grows and spreads into something more. Simply because I didn’t confess those things, or talk them out of my emotional system. They stayed there and took root. 

I’m not talking about sin in our lives; I’m talking about brokenness, and unconfessed emotional damage that we allow to build up on the inside. Those things that start out very insignificant to our lives as a Christian. However, if we allow them to grow and spread, they will eventually play a significant role in our Christian life. They will affect every single part of us and every part of our lives. They will distort our focus. They will confuse our purpose. More importantly, they will affect the way we restore or destroy ourselves and those around us.

One of the hardest  things I have ever had to deal with is humility. Thankfully we have a God that is gracious and just and full of mercy. Someone asked me recently how I was okay with opening up and sharing so much of myself on my blog. I kind of laughed.  To look back on who I was versus today who I am becoming is night and day. I was VERY secretive about everything in my life. Not that I had anything to hide, I just did not open up to people about anything. What was on the inside of me stayed on the inside. I had even convinced myself that I was something that I wasn’t. I suppressed my emotions because I was too darn prideful to admit that I had any. I was too prideful to allow God to pluck those negative things out of my heart.

I have been married for 11 years, and to this day pride is something I still occasionally struggle with. It has taken me (longer than I would like to admit), to open my heart and receive those things that Chris was/is trying to tell me, instead of rejecting him in my prideful spirit. Sometimes love is tough, even as a Christian. We tend to only like to think of God as rainbows and roses or mean and against us. While roses are beautiful, we all know that there are thorns on those bad boys that will prick you and hurt you. I am in no way saying that God is out trying to hurt you… keep reading.

I am also in no way perfect in this area, but understanding what I’m about to tell you has brought out all of those good things that I was suppressing, too. 

When we suppress the negative things in our life, it also suppresses the positive things that God wants to bring out of us.

The enemy blinds us to that because he knows our what our potential is when we allow God to crack us open. In order for anything to be “cracked open” it has to be punctured or severed open. The process is painful, and it hurts... especially our pride (ugh). 

But beneath all of that pride is humility, grace, forgiveness, restoration, healing, joy, peace, LIFE.

Going through these last couple of heavy and intense months with my dad I had some choices to make. I had NO intentions at ALL of being so open with my dad’s journey. There was never a thought in my mind to do that so vulnerable and exposed. But I made a choice, and in that choice, things happened without me realizing it. I could have either suppressed those emotions or expressed them. 

Suppressing them would have only allowed anger and bitterness to take root. Expressing them blossomed into something more than I could have ever imagined.

The saying, “Every rose has its thorn” couldn’t be truer. This journey hurt and it was painful, but it was also beautiful. I don’t know your journey, but if it is painful maybe God is trying to crack you open, too. The enemy wants you to remain the victim because he knows on the inside is a victor. You choose what you will allow yourself to be.