“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” ~Hebrews 4:12
I am going to try and not come off too “preachy” in this post, but I can’t make any promises. I feel so strongly about this topic that it will be hard for me not to “should” on you. I apologize, in advance if…wait – no, I don’t apologize. I am not sorry for being passionate about this topic. I was raised in the church. My daddy is a preacher. I have always owned a Bible. (Back in the day – it was straight up KJV…but now I own several different translations.) Since I found my own relationship with Christ I feel like I’m pretty good. (Kind of funny since it doesn’t really matter how good I am in God eyes, I don’t have to earn his love – but that’s another post.) I have listened to countless sermons that have to do with the Word of God and how it is his guidebook for us. It is divinely inspired. It has story after story that help us see how to live our lives. I even recently came to understand that some books of the Bible are prescriptive, while others are descriptive. (Thank you Matt Chandler for that lesson). But the biggest thing that I can say about the Bible, about this living document that speaks to us, is that is really “works” best if we spend time in it…DAILY. Notice, I did not just say it works if we “read” it daily. Or if we memorize verses from it daily. We have to spend time in it. Read, listen, pray, re-read, accept new ways to understand things we thought we already had figured out. Reading our Bibles should NOT feel like a chore that we have to check off our To-Do list every day so that we will make God happy. Spending time in God’s word is something we GET to do – with our heavenly Father. And if we really clear our minds and our hearts and set aside time to dive into it, it is amazing the things that God reveals to us. I can honestly say that since I began devoting time every day to dwell in the scriptures, my life has drastically changed. I’m not talking changed like some of the false-teachers (Uh-hmm – Joel Osteen) claim – like I will get a new house or my dream job because of what I do for God). I’m talking about real, inside, to the depths of my soul changed. Like, I can feel the Spirit moving and guiding me through the passages as I read and ponder them. Each day when I open up the word, it is precious time spent with the Lord, and each day I gain wisdom and understanding of how much He loves me. I am his beloved. So much so that he left me a living word to guide me and reassure me, and inspire me, and correct me, and speak to me, and teach me, and to give me hope! I have read verses over and over – and then one day – one of those same verses will take on new life for me – based on what God wants me to hear. If you are a Christian and you are not spending time in the word (not just checking off your daily reading plan) you are missing out on ALL that God has for you. I passionately urge you to pray about it and try and read the Bible with the idea that you are listening for the Spirit to speak through the pages. There is so much to be learned from this gift from God. I have been thinking about this blog for a few weeks now and have just now gotten around to putting my thoughts out here. In the meantime, I just heard a sermon three days ago about this very subject (that was my “nudge” to go ahead and post this). In the sermon the Pastor used the illustration of when Jesus was in the desert and the devil was tempting him. Now, this is a relatable story – even if you don’t think it is at first glance. We ALL face temptation every day of our lives. Some days it’s every hour of our lives. How did Jesus face his temptation? He drew upon his knowledge of the scripture to combat the evil. Each time he told the devil, “It is written…” One thing I never thought about – Jesus reading scripture. He learned from the teachers in the temple. He read and studied and memorized scripture. So – if Jesus did it – read his scriptures – shouldn’t that be a pretty good example for us?!? The other take away here is that we should respond to temptation like Jesus did…”It is written…” And if we are not spending time in the word – how do we even know WHAT is written. How often do you hear someone throw out a quote of some kind and claim its in the Bible? Do WE know what is written? When we face temptation do we use this powerful tool we have been given to run it off? I speak so passionately about this because I have seen the transformation in my own heart – from spending time with God in his word. I have seen it change my husband as he spends more and more time in the word. We are told in 1 John “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him.” We have to be IN the word in order to OBEY the word. This book gives light and life to me in my everyday walk with God. It is God’s wisdom and his love given to us.
“The Word gave life to everything that was created , and his life brought light to everyone.” ~John 1:4
I sit here staring at the computer screen…trying to get my thoughts from my spinning head to this post. It’s not that I don’t have anything to share. It’s that I have so much to share that I am having a hard time sorting through it all so that it will come out making at least a little bit of sense. I have so many emotions channeling through me at this very moment that I am not even sure I can form a coherent post at all. I so desperately want to express and share this day. I think that all that I have to say is too much for even one post…which may be why I am struggling. It’s a really good “problem” to have I guess. To have so much “goodness” to shout about that I can’t contain it! So rather than cram it into on mega post that ends up a screen full of joy-induced ramblings, I will use this post as a warm-up – kind of an opener – for the two or three posts that I will work on. Let me just say that I am overwhelmed with God’s blessings. I understand joy. I am so filled with peace and contentment from my heavenly father. I often hear people say that “God showed up…” I understand what people are trying to say – and honestly I was typing that very phrase when it hit me that God didn’t just show up today and make life amazing. God has been here with me all the time – working on me, guiding me, straightening me out, talking to me, molding me, and preparing me for today’s events. He has been waiting and watching as I found my way to this place. He didn’t just show up for me. He’s been gently nudging me to find this path to peace. And he is here with me now that I have broken a huge chain that has held me down for way too long. He shares in my joy today. He is here in my tears of relief. His presence envelops me in my freedom. I cannot find the words to express the peace that God has covered me in today. I am excited to share, more specifically, the many many ways that God has transformed my life…he’s just been waiting for me to “show up” and let him work on me.
When I first decided to try this whole blogging thing, I wanted it to be a way for me to express myself and my growth in faith and life. As I have begun to find my voice in all the areas of my life, I have realized that one word that has followed me through much of my recent past is “authentic”. In this blog – and in my everyday life – my goal is to be authentic. I want to be real. The real me God created me to be. With that authenticity must come transparency. I don’t only want to post about the great things in life, but also the trials and hardships that we face (I have done my share of that). But now that I’m struggling with something that’s pretty personal to me – now is when my resolve to be transparent is truly tested. But I’ve got to be real. Otherwise I shouldn’t be blogging. So…I have never been a fan of resolutions. Why? Because I’m a failure – and resolutions point that fact out to me every time I make them. Come on – don’t judge me – we are all failures at some thing.) This year, though, I knew it was time to make a change in my eating habits. I did not necessarily make a New Year’s resolution – I knew that I had a weight issue before the holidays – but also knew that trying to make a lifestyle change during Christmas was a great way to ensure failure. So here we are at the beginning of a new year, none of my very limited wardrobe fits, and I am heavier than I have ever been in my ENTIRE life (yes, even when I was pregnant). Something has to change. I have been so careless with the junk I have fed my body and I have NOT made exercise a priority and it has all caught up with me. I know this did not happen overnight, but the feeling of being completely out of control came over me at all once and for the last few days has nearly crippled me. So, a few thousand tears later, a few pity parties later, a few self-depricating fat jokes later, here I am…ready to be real about it all. I am miserable with my weight and size right now. I don’t really think of myself as being especially vain, and as I type this about how ashamed of my weight, I feel a little shallow and superficial. I know that God loves me for the person who I am. And I know that beautiful doesn’t mean skinny, and I know that my friends and family love me just the way I am…but this is about me. This is about the way I feel each and every day when I look in the mirror. This is about the lack of energy I have. This is about looking around the corner at 50 and thinking about the years I have left on this earth – and being healthy enough to enjoy those days with my husband. It’s time to get real. I believe that God wants us to be good stewards of not only the material blessings he has given us – but also of the earthly bodies that he has given us. Shamefully, I have been more concerned with the instant gratification that comes along with a butterscotch sundae than I have been with taking care of my body. I honestly believe that God is at work in all of this. I think that he has really allowed me to feel the weight of this struggle (that was an awful pun) and has let me sink this deep to get my attention. I have come to admit that I am powerless to control my life, and I am ready to turn this battle over to God. Is it wrong to seek His strength in even this area of my life? I don’t think so. I think he stands ready and waiting to help us overcome any and all of our hurts, hang-ups and habits. I can’t feel guilty for asking for his strength in my battle with my weight…I need him to see me through this! My will power is NOT enough, I need me some God power.
So…today, my brand new scale flashes 175 pounds. Here is where my journey starts…with God as my guide. I fully know that if I try to do this on my own I will fail. I need my family and friends to celebrate my successes with me, and to pick me up when I fall (and to knock me over if I pick up a butterscotch sundae). And I need my God to supply the will and the power when I don’t have enough on my own. It’s time to be real. It’s time to rely on God to help me in this, the way I claim to in every other area of my life. I can do this…WE can do this.
So today, while home with two of the kids on yet another snow day, my son said something that kind of stopped me in my tracks. We were goofing around in the kitchen, fixing a snack and he made some sort of 16 year old boy remark to his sister. While the remark wasn’t “awful” – it was not necessary and by my standards a bit rude. I “gently” corrected him – not by yelling or threatening punishment – but rather I reminded him to speak life-giving words. I asked him to make sure his words were appropriate and positive. My daughter smiled – no, she smirked at him and then gave me the angelic, batting her eyelashes grin. My son looked at me and told me that I’m no fun anymore. Hmpf. I’m no fun. I’ll be honest, I tend to ignore (bad mom) most things that come out of our teenagers mouths…as I believe that a lot of what they say is spoken for shock value…but this one I chose to take to heart – a little. And wow – we actually had a conversation about it. When I asked him to explain what he meant by fun and by anymore. He went on to explain that “before” I used to joke around more and that I wasn’t always on them about the things they said. Of course I had to ask him to define “before.” His reply – “before you started loving God so much.” Hmmm…I’m a big believer in no making absolute statements (ask Brian about this). I don’t thinks are “always or never.” So for my son to say I’m NO fun was a bit of an absolute. I kept drilling down on this statement (ask Brian about this too). “So, I’m no fun because I ask you to make your words life-giving? What else?” He replied that I used to let them watch other tv show and movies, and that I didn’t used to care really about their music. But mostly, its just that I just don’t like them to joke around with certain topics nor do I join in the conversations and that I’m just different. Different in the way I talk and in the was I act. I chewed on the comments for a bit before I let myself have any kind of reaction. It was actually the closest thing to a conversation I have had with one of our teenagers in a long time – so that was definitely a win. But even more than that – the bigger “win” was this…I’m glad that my kids see a change in me. If they didn’t see the transformation that has taken place in my life since I completely surrendered my life to Christ, then I would have to really question myself. It had never really struck me how MY change, MY salvation, MY redemption had affected those closest to me. While it was not especially pleasant to hear on of our children tell me that I’m really no fun (what does he know anyway?) it became a God moment for me at the same time. God promised that if we follow Him, if we walk in his light, that we will become a new creation. We should be transformed, and others should see that transformation. If the biggest change that my kids see in me comes from loving God so much – well I’ll take that any day! And I’ll pray that someday they will find the “fun” that I have found in living my life for God.
I started a new journal (one of about 10 – don’t judge) this year for recording verses and thoughts that strike me in a new way. I have read through many of the books of the Bible several times, but, as I have said before, I truly believe that the Spirit reveals things to us from the word in a new way as we are needing them or as we grow and become ready to receive them. To that end, I have decided to journal these verses as they present themselves with the significance they have to me at that moment in time. Just the other morning while I studied I wrote down this verse. “…the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) There is so much meaning layered in these few words. On the morning that I wrote them, I truly was thinking about serving and loving on the people whom God has brought into my life – mostly through Celebrate Recovery and our new church home. And I whole-heartedly believe that truly, as a Christian, our faith is expressed through the way we love those around us. This morning, though, as I re-read that verse, it presents a new, slightly different meaning. I think of this verse today in terms of my covenant with Brian. We just celebrated our first anniversary. I would be lying if I said that everyday of that first year was like a honeymoon, with rose pedals and violins,etc. We had our challenges. Not only the challenges presented by trying to blend our families (I use the word BLEND very loosely), but also just the ups and downs of really learning each other and living together AND growing in our walk with God at the same time. At times, we were overwhelmed and thought that maybe our expectations of this covenant we had made with each other and God were too much. We were very intent on the fact that our marriage was priority and that God was using our love and our union to make us more holy. But in the day to day “muck” of life – that all seems too lofty and leads to disappointment. I am certain that God brought Brian and me together for His purposes. I am certain that Brian is the man God intended for me, and I am so grateful for the love that we share. This verse this morning really spoke to me as far as Brian and my marriage is concerned. We can get bogged down in daily life, raising kids, paying bills, highs, lows, failures and disappointments. But when we take time to be still and to share with each other, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” I am made more holy through this covenant. I am learning to love like Christ loved through this covenant. I sit here in the middle of a home that has, at times, felt broken and failed…and I am more certain than ever that I am where God called me to be. My faith in God is being expressed through this love.
I do not make New Year’s resolutions. I am horrible at them. They are expectations that I rarely (never) meet – which just leaves me feeling bad (worse) about myself. It only took me about 35 years to figure this out. Since coming to the realization that resolutions are not my thing, Brian and I decided to resolve to “be better” by focusing our lives and efforts on a particular word for the entire year. That exercise proved to be very rewarding and actually kept us focused on a goal without leaving us feeling like failures after a few months (and by months I mean days). This year the word I chose is PERSPECTIVE. I wrote a blog this past summer about that word and when it came time to choose a word for the whole year – it really made sense to me. I recently heard a sermon by one of my new favorite pastors to listen to (Matt Chandler) in which the pastor basically called out those of us who compare ourselves to others. (Yes, I was one of the “us”). How many of us can justify our selfish actions, our hateful words, or our sinful behavior by comparing ourselves to someone who happens to be “worse” than us. Well of course I’m going to look like a champ if I compare myself to someone whose behavior is apparently “worse”. But that certainly doesn’t make me into the person God wants me to be – just because I’m not “as bad” as someone else. It can work the opposite way as well. We can compare ourselves to someone who seemingly has it all together and has a perfect wonderful life with perfect kids, no problems, beautiful home (do you see where I’m going with this)…and feel really bad about ourselves. It can wreak havoc on us. Our peace and contentment really come when we have a healthy perspective on things. And as believers, our peace and contentment comes from our savior. How does Jesus see us? What would his perspective be? If we begin to view life through His lens, how does it change our perspective on things? This word has come to mean so much to me as I meet people and learn about myself. There is no way to wallow in my problems when I am worshipping next to a recovering heroin addict. That’s perspective. I can’t possibly continue to worry about finances and budget when I have friends who are currently homeless. I believe that Jesus’ perspective on “sinners” in His time was revolutionary. He didn’t see the woman at the well the way the Pharisees would have seen her. He saw her through the perspective of love…not condemnation. As I embark on another year as a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, a wife, a mom, a teacher, and a woman, I know that IF I am able to keep things in perspective – not MY way, but God’s way – I know that I will be blessed and that God will open my eyes to see some beautiful things in 2014.
This is not going to be a newsflash to anyone who knows me or who has read my blog on any type of consistent basis. I am a control freak. I have a very hard time sitting back and letting go. Instead I try to micro-manage, script, control, and dictate the way I think things should go. And may I just say that its not working out so great for me. I get so frustrated and discouraged with the fact that when I do try and control the outcome of things it doesn’t work. Things are going to happen the way they are supposed to happen according to God’s plan – he doesn’t need me to “help.” Secondly, my need to control things, situations, people, etc. hints to me (or screams at me) that my faith really isn’t where it should be or where I claim it to be…or want it to be. It’s so easy for me to tell a friend who is struggling that “everything will be ok…God is in control.” Shame on me for speaking it into someone else’s life when I barely allow it in my own. Truthfully, the last month or so has been extremely trying and difficult in my life. (Everything is relative – and even as I type “extremely” I know that there are others suffering much greater hardships than I). Brian and I have been married 6 months this week, and while we truly have an amazing, relationship built on God first, there have been challenges along the way. But it is only when I take things into my own hands – when I lean on MY own understanding – that I think things seem tough. One of our biggest challenges has been the blending of two families. Raising children is hard. Raising 5 children…hard. Raising 5 children – 4 of whom are teenagers…yep….hard. And throw in the fact that some are his and some are mine and the bar is raised even higher for difficulty level. And the thing about it is – we are blessed. We have really good kids who make good decisions and stay out of trouble,etc. Reflecting on the last month, I realize that things are toughest when I try and make things be the way I think they should be. In the last few days, I wasn’t sure how things would work out, where it would all end up, and how all of us would fare through it – but I WAS certain that all of it be ok – because we love God and he promises us that all things work together for good for those who love Him. I kept telling myself that over and over. Its in His hands. It will all be ok. Over and over – almost as if I was still trying to control the outcome. But I do believe in God and I know that He loves me. I do trust in His word. This morning, I went to church broken. I was at the point where I just had lost the energy to fight anymore. I was finally ready to turn it all over to God and truly ask Him to take it. (And all along God is waiting for me to get to this point. You would think after a while I would learn to make it easier on all of us and just give it all to him all the time.) At the end of the sermon, we stood and began to sing the following words…
“I lean not on my own understanding.
My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.
I give my heart to you God
Trusting you will make
Something beautiful out of me”
At first, I couldn’t even bring myself to sing the words. They were a lie. I have been trying to do things my way – all on my own. Lately, my life has been in my own hands – not in the hands of the one who created it all. I have given God my heart, but my late actions have not shown a trust in God to make me into who he has planned. As the song went on and the words were repeated over and over I could feel the weight I’d been carrying around being gently lifted from me. As I began to sing the words, I truly was making a vow to lean NOT on my own understanding. If I earnestly believe that my life is in HIS hands, what am I so fearful of? Why am I worried? I’m always amazed at the way God works. He knows me so well. I am so moved my music and by lyrics. Today he chose that avenue to really speak to my heart. He knew I needed not only to hear the words of that song, but He knew I needed to let it all go and to sing the words from my heart to Him. Will this be my last blog about my inability to “let go and let God’? Probably not…I’m not perfect and never will be. And I’m sure my need to control will be something that I continually will have to ask God for help with. God knows my heart and he knows exactly how to speak to me. And right here and right now I am letting him carry the burden. I’m confident my life is in His hands and I do trust that He is making beauty out of my messes.