A Reminder for the Messy Middle

Are you in the messy middle? Or maybe it’s bigger than that. You’ve found yourself in an actual wasteland.

I’ve been there, and I understand. It’s painful. That’s why I tried my very best to infuse today’s devotion, “When Success Requires a Mess,” with hope. I’m praying great hope over you today!

On hopeless days, I need a visual reminder that God is working–even if I can’t see what He’s doing. Even if I can’t feel His presence. If that’s you, then I click on the image below, download it and print it.

Post it on your refrigerator…

Or on your bathroom mirror…

Or on the dashboard of your car. Wherever it will catch your eye and fill your heart.

Let it infuse your day with hope and the promise of God’s work, silent and beneath the surface, in your life.

Now, for you inquiring minds… a little fun to lighten your day!

If you’re wired like me, you’re curious about the painting project I talked about in my devotion. 🙂 Here are some pictures of the mess. I wasn’t kidding!

(And don’t miss an invite at the end of the pics. Just keeping scrolling!)

How can one small project take over my whole house?! Stuff everywhere.

And my messy self!

I know that some of you are thinking that painting a piece of wood furniture is an abomination. I know… but look how cute it is now.

The messy middle on this project was totally worth it. It is in life too. Hang in there, sister!

Finally, I want to invite you on a journey with me.

Are you concerned about important issues in our culture, but you’ve been silent, afraid to use your voice because of all the yuck that seems to come with it?

That’s exactly where I’ve been. For decades. But God is reawakening my voice. He’s taking me through a slow but sure journey toward speaking up about the things He cares about, and here’s what I want to develop for myself as well as encouraging a community that’s growing with me:

Tender hearts. Strong voices.

Starting next week, I’ll be blogging as I learn, and here’s the process.

Listen.–> Feel.–> Do.–> Speak.

If that process piques your interest and speaks into a longing you’ve had to use your voice for good, would you join me? I promise that I won’t start telling you what to think. I’ll be digging into how to think about our culture’s issues based on Scripture.

Periodically, I’ll send exclusive content to subscribers, my friends who are learning with me. Click here to become a subscriber today so that you’ll receive a weekly encouragement in your email box along with free special resources developed just for you.

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The Painful Joy of Using Your Voice for Freedom

I’ve been writing about learning to use our voice for God’s purposes in the world, and it’s a beautiful endeavor. Using our voice for God brings freedom.

But using our voice can also be painful, and this week no one knows it better this week than the victims of childhood sexual abuse whose names were included in the PA Grand Jury Report.

Barry and I had the deep privilege of being at the book launch for Denial, authored by my dear friend Nanette Kirsch last summer. Her book is based on a true story of the 1,000+ Victims of the PA Grand Jury Report, but while she was writing, she had to deal with her own story.

Here’s how God is using Nanette’s voice and what she’s learning about the joy and pain of speaking out. Please welcome my friend, Nanette, to the blog today.

Thirty-seven years ago I was sexually abused by a teacher at my Erie, Pa., Catholic high school. From that time until four years ago it was a secret I lived with — until God decided to redeem it.

First, he used my experience to write a book for survivors of sexual abuse. Denial is based on a true story of a close friend whose life ended tragically as a result an abusive past.

He called me to speak out about sexual abuse as spiritual warfare that attacks its victims’ ability to experience love with others and with God. During this time, I experienced first-hand that speaking truth comes at a cost. I encountered forceful and frightening spiritual attacks on my family and me.

At year’s end, God led me into respite, bringing miraculous healing to those battle wounds and offering me a time of rest.

Earlier this year, however, I knew a new season was approaching, a  time to build on my strength. And I entered it knowing it would provoke new, stronger opposition. I also knew that this time it would be more personal; no more holding my past at arm’s length.

For months I contemplated sending a copy of my book to my abuser with a letter that would hold him accountable for his actions and call on him to repent, if he had not done so. I wrote the letter…and rewrote it, but did not feel God’s confirmation to send it.

Then, out of the blue, I received a text message from a friend with a link to a new “Public Disclosure List” created by the Bishop of the Erie Diocese, the first list in the nation to include laypeople. I emailed the address provided, certain God had opened this door to me. I shared my allegations, lifting the lid on the emotion and anxiety once again. And a month later, my abuser’s name was published to that list.

It was a victory — but it too came with a cost. Speaking openly, honestly and fearlessly (okay, not quite fearlessly) about my abuse brought my past back into my present. In the weeks that followed I had four extremely vivid dreams about my abuser.

Last week, I wrote about this cost and named my abuser, publicly linking his name to mine for the first time in a blog post on Medium.

Here’s what I am learning from our tender, loving, yet fierce Father. More often than not, what he asks of us in this life is to hold our tongues, to remain silent when our sinful natures want nothing more than to lash out.

But in each of our lives there will come a time when he calls on us to lift our voices, to speak truth from the mountaintops, with love, for his glory.

And when God makes that call, it feels like a wave, rushing into your soul, strong, powerful and impossible to resist:

Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would shout out.” Luke 19:40

I know for certain that God is not done with me yet. I can see a few steps in front of me, which is a mercy so I do not become overwhelmed by the hill; I am simply focused on putting one foot in front of the other. And as he does this work in me, God is growing my humility and dependence on him each day: 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

My lesson to share is this: God will call on each of us to use our voices to speak his truth; but you cannot be a soldier for the Lord without encountering opposition and often getting wounded in the process. And yet, there is no greater joy in this life than to be used as an instrument to help bring his salvation to captive souls:

For if you keep silent at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Esther 4:14

~Nanette Kirsch

Note: Adding no extra cost for you, there are affiliate links in this post. You can read the whole policy here

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Finding Grace in the Issues of Race

When Lucretia Berry said those words in a podcast interview Cheri Gregory and I did with her recently, the weight of them rang through my heart like a tolling bell. Beautiful. True.

Since I was a little girl, my heart has been tender toward the issue of race; however, I shut down in the last decade or so. It seemed too complicated to unravel the problems. Too painful. Too hard. Too politicized (internal ouch).

But God has been re-awakening me. Teaching me and changing me. He has shifted my heart to want to be part of a solution in my little part of the world.

The story I told in today’s Encouragement for Today devotion The Glares that Changed the Way I See Others is one I’ve carried in the recesses of my memory for decades. To be clear, I have a terrible memory. I don’t remember LOTS about my past, but God has used emotion and conviction to embed some shaping experiences and ideas. Feeling the momentary stab of racism that day in Scotland is a memory that’s carved on my heart.

I believe it’s remained with a purpose. It was meant to be retold today to restart my journey, and hopefully yours, toward unity.

God is using Lucretia Berry as a compass to find grace in the issues of race, and I want to share her with you! Here are the links to the Grit ‘n’ Grace interviews Cheri and I did with Lucretia. I pray that many of you will click on the links below, download them and listen so that you can launch out toward unity with me!

Part 1 with Lucrecia Berry

Part 2 with Lucrecia Berry

In these interviews, Lucretia Berry shares how to build our vocabulary and emotional muscles for having difficult but transforming conversations about race.

Throughout these riveting episodes, Lucretia shares her personal journey of discussions in her family and equips us for these conversations in our own lives. These interviews are for every person who has watched the problems of race on the news and thought, I wish I knew what to do to help.

** Make sure to follow the links in the Recommended Resources to Lucretia’s excellent curriculum and website.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

A Special Note for You:

I’m in the process of developing a more tender heart and a stronger voice.

What does that mean? I’m being called off the sidelines into speaking with conviction on the topics that are flooding our culture. Topics God cares about and speaks about in His Word. It’s my deepest desire to do it the right way, seeking His truth through Scripture every step of the way.

I’m building a community of women here who are growing in the same direction. Would you join me? I promise that I won’t start telling you what to think. I’ll be digging into how to think about our culture’s issues based on Scripture.

Periodically, I’ll send exclusive content to subscribers, my friends who are learning with me. Next month I’ll send a special resource to subscribers only with beginning steps about how to have positive discussions about race in your home. Click here to become a subscriber today so that you’ll receive a weekly encouragement in your email box along with free special resources developed just for you.

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The Anatomy of a Tender Heart

There’s not a Jesus girl I know that likes being called a tool of the devil.

Yet that’s exactly what I got called back in the spring when I took the step of posting something on Facebook with a biblical foundation but a political slant. There were lots of supportive comments, but I didn’t like being called a tool of the devil. Nope. Not one bit.

With shaky hands (warning sign #1) and a pounding heart (ahem… #2), I hammered a response on my keyboard. I’m telling you people, my reply was rich. It was based in Scripture, filled with facts from the news and let my attacker know in no uncertain terms that I considered her a BULLY. I finished my response. I proofed my response. After a deep breath, I hit “post,” and I was PROUD of how spiritual and smart and strong I was.

Until the next morning.

Actually, the reversal began in the middle of the night as I tossed and turned. As I fumed and agonized. Slowly…very slowly… I began to feel the pinpricks of regret and then conviction. In the midst of God changing my mind, I remembered a social media interaction that I had celebrated on my page just weeks before, and my heart broke.

There was a Twitter feed that went viral in which Sarah Silverman, a comedian, was called the foulest name a woman can be called. Her response was stunning. A woman who is known for her sharp wit replied with grace and opened a dialogue with her name-caller. By the end of the interaction, Sarah had found medical help for the man who was in tremendous pain. Just weeks before I exploded on my name-caller, I had pointed to Sarah’s response as the way Christians should act.

Mercy.

A woman known for her eviscerating humor passed the test while this Jesus girl failed miserably.

During my blogging break, I’ve been thinking, praying and talking to friends. I feel such a passion for addressing the issues of our culture, but God is whispering to me to prepare correctly first. The weakness He keeps pointing to is my heart. I need a tenderized heart. So before I dive into the deep of policies and philosophies, I know I’m supposed to join Him in a work that only He can do.

What is the anatomy of a tender heart?

That’s what I asked two of my neighbors, Crystal and Cookie, as we walked last night. From their wisdom and my reflections, three elements have risen to the top:

A tender heart is a listening heart.

As we listen to God’s whispers… as we listen to the stories of those around us… as we’re more concerned with people’s pain than gathering facts, casting blame or affixing a judgement, our hearts grow tender.

I’m learning to listen, and it’s hard. I want to add my two cents so badly. Instead, God is teaching me to open my ears, shut my mouth and work to understand even when I don’t agree. (Turns out that understanding and disagreeing can co-exist peacefully. WHO KNEW?!) These practices are tenderizing a self-centered, opinionated heart, but they’re really hard for a reforming perfectionist who values deciding what’s right about every issue under the sun!

A tender heart is a feeling heart.

Just yesterday I began the study of Psalms in the First 5 app, and once again I was reminded that David, a man after God’s own heart, expressed his full range of emotions alongside an unshakable faith. The two weren’t mutually exclusive for David.

Truthfully, I’m a little afraid of my emotions. I’ve already confessed to you that within the past six months my tongue has gotten me in trouble over and over as my passion ran ahead of wisdom. The heartbreak of sinfulness makes me wary of the way I feel since I so often get swept away by those feelings.

But doing work that comes from God’s heart requires passion. It necessitates joy and sorrow. God’s work means entering into other’s suffering and bringing the love of Jesus there. It’s not that God doesn’t want us to feel. He just wants our feelings to follow Him.

A tender heart is a meditating heart.

As we walked and talked, my neighbors and I agreed on one key element of a tender heart. A tender heart is immersed in Scripture. That’s the place where God holds up the mirror, shows us weakness and need, and moves us to repentance.

And so we pray like David, “Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statues and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life.” (Psalm 119:33-40)

Do you long to use your voice for God in our culture? Me too. In order to walk into that call,we have to start with tenderizing our hearts so that we can represent Him as He is. Not with an equally loud argument, a political party’s talking points or a stronger philosophy but with LOVE. That’s where I’m going, friends, and that’s where I’ll be leading here from only 1/2-1 step ahead.

 

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The Mess of a Work in Progress

Y’all, I love a project. I mean I dearly love a project, especially if it’s for my home. Spray paint and chalk paint are my favorite mediums for almost-instant gratification. This project, painting my china cabinet to use as a bookshelf in my office, was one of my favorites.

Of course I started chalk painting with the LARGEST piece of furniture in my house. I’d like to say it’s because I’m a go-big-or-go-home kind of girl, but really I was scared to death. Thank heavens it turned out better than I dreamed! I guess you could at least say I’m an all-in girl.

Now I’m hooked, and I’ve just started a new project.

I know. Those of you who love old furniture are hyper-ventilating right now. I’m so sorry. Truly. But it was all banged up and need a little new life, so it’s going to be a gorgeous peacock blue soon. I’ll post the final product on Facebook if you want to join me over there.

Do you want to know the truth about my projects, though? The end results are usually great, but the in-between is a pure mess. I don’t know how it happens, but a project in one room takes over the whole house. Kind of like this…

And I’m a terribly messy painter, so I even have special messy clothes.

Can I share something with you? That’s what my insides look like right now, not just my physical surroundings.

For months, God has been doing a project on my heart. The true beginnings were back in the spring when I attended a conference. Although I enjoyed the conference, I didn’t find myself particularly emotional over any of the speakers. Until the end. By the end of the last session, I was holding myself together by a thread. The weird thing was that it wasn’t even the message I had heard. It was just a move of the Spirit. Making a mad dash to the parking lot at the end, I made it almost to my car before I started sobbing. I was still heaving with sobs when I got home.

Barry was panicked of course, wondering what in the world was wrong with me. I couldn’t even tell him. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I really didn’t know what was wrong with me. Finally, I blurted out, “I truly don’t know what’s happening. It just feels like God is plowing my heart.” 

It was like nothing I had ever experienced. Without getting all mystical on you, all I knew was it felt like I was being plowed for a planting.

For months, God has been uprooting and stirring and shaking, and yet I’m still not exactly sure what’s happening or where I’m going. I’m in between, and it’s a mess up in here! I’m definitely not unhappy– in fact, it’s a particularly peaceful season of life otherwise. I’m just waiting to see the end result of this Divine Project.

Here in the messy middle, I’m taking some steps. One at a time. You’ve gotten some hints in my last few blog posts, but I really don’t know what the end result will be.

What I do know is that I’m going to take a little blogging break for at least the month of July. You know that I do this almost every summer, but this break will be more intentional. It’s going to be a time to get quiet and see if God has more to tell me about what He’s doing.

Have you been in a place like this? A season when your spirit is unsettled, but you’re sure that God is remaking something in you for your good?

When I come back, I’ll share some of the steps I’ve taken to seek God. To sit with Him. I may only be leading from one step ahead, but I want to do this together. Let’s hold hands as we grow. Be back soon!

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When There’s a Missing Piece in God’s Image

About seven years ago, our church asked for volunteers to be on the pastor search committee. Our pastor of twenty-seven years had announced his retirement, an interim was in place, and it was time to look for the new person to lead our church. My response to that invitation? Who would sign up for that? It sounds like the worst job ever.

But God started whispering to my heart and then a woman I respect from our church urged me to volunteer. Since I was a relative newcomer, I was pretty sure I could volunteer and not be chosen. I thought I was safe. Obedience? Check! Being asked to join? Probably not. Win. Win. I wouldn’t have to do that wretched job.

But then I was asked to be on the committee… Bummer.

Pastor search committees are notoriously fraught with in-fighting and known for having criticism lobbed at them, so I braced myself for the worst. I thought it would be one of those times of testings that sometimes follows obedience.

I was wrong.

Serving on that committee was one of the best experiences of my Christian life. Surprised? I was shocked.

It was an amazing journey mainly for one reason. I’ve never worked with a group of men and women with such mutual respect and love. There were four men and two women, and I always felt heard. The guys gave us equal opportunity to pray and weigh in with our thoughts. Truthfully, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it in the church world, but it proves that men and women working together for the Kingdom is both possible and beautiful.

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (NIV)

From the very beginning, God established the necessity of both genders in displaying His image. His perfect essence is shown through the strengths of both male and female. We see this truth woven all through Scripture. While I don’t want to over-simplify and stereotype, here are a couple examples of what I mean:

“The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.” Exodus 15:3  Here’s an example of God being attributed with the warrior spirit embedded in the hearts of my brothers.

“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.”  Hosea 11:3  God is also shown throughout Scripture as having the tenderness and nurturing spirit woven into women. (Love, love, love this Scripture portraying God as the parent supporting Israel as she learned to walk.)

Although neither trait is given exclusively to one gender, you see what I mean. When we start to look at the character of God, we’ll see the prominent positive traits of both genders in Him. We humans display His image imperfectly, but it’s most complete when it’s displayed through both men and women. Here’s my conclusion:

That’s why I’m worried about the church world right now. It’s not my desire to debate titles or positions, but I  believe that women’s voices are largely overlooked by the leadership in many churches. Some make light of the problem or deflect blame, but when women’s gifts aren’t maximized and their perspectives aren’t heard, we don’t get a view of the whole character of God. Part of His image is missing. That’s a huge problem.

In our pastor search committee, I got to see what was possible when women are respected and their voices honored. Both genders brought their strengths to the table in amazing ways. From the very beginning, our committee decided that we wouldn’t recommend a pastoral candidate unless we were unanimous. Have you ever heard of such a thing? But God… we prayed, listened to God and listened to each other, and we were unanimous.

Four men and two women had seats at the table, and the result was great love, an amazing working relationship and unity. What a beautiful display of God’s image!

From the start, God has given me a ministry passion for deeper relationships, and I’m writing this because I long to see the relationships that I experienced between men and women on our committee replicated over and over and over again. Representing God’s image through the gifts of both male and female is a topic working talking about. Worth working for. Worth taking a stand on. Let’s lovingly use our voices to help others find the missing piece of God’s image in our world.

Tell about a time when you’ve experienced men and women working together in unity.

ps. Barry Carroll, my love, you make this truth happen in our home, and I love you forever. I hope others see God in the way we work together.

I don’t know if they’ll see this, but a huge shout out to Tony, Tim, Mark and Jim. You four guys, my partners in the pastor search, are exemplary and some of my heroes. Just thought you should know.

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When You Need to Wait (But You’re Dying to Speak)

I’m almost always a day late and a dollar short, so I’ll probably never have a viral post.

I’m not the girl with the fast reply or quick wit. I’m a ponderer. A processor. A pick-it-aparter.

But don’t let that fool you. Don’t think that I’m silent because I’m not passionate. The opposite is actually true right now. I’m quiet (for now) because I’m so passionate.

When I’m passionate and I speak out of the emotion of passion, I almost always regret it. I have friends who are thoughtful and eloquent under pressure and in the heat of the moment. I wish I were that woman, but I’m not. Instead, I tend to switch into “Action Amy” mode, and usually “she” wreaks havoc.

I earned that nickname when I was a college-student on a mission trip, and did I mention that it wasn’t a compliment? I was the assistant leader on a missions trip with “Praying Pam.” Pam was measured– quick to pray and slow to speak. I was impulsive and quick to jump in to make things happen. Guess who the teens we led liked and respected? Not much of a puzzle, huh?

I learned some painful but powerful lessons on that trip, and Jesus has continued that work in me over the years. He wired me this way, but He’s been growing me in how to manage that wiring. Jesus is teaching me how to harness my passion and measure my words. However, multiple times in the past year, I’ve found myself grieving over the words I spewed as emotion carried me away over something I felt strongly about. Good things. True things. Right things. But said in the wrong way.

Last Sunday, in a series my pastor is teaching on Daniel, I found the key I needed to lead me to a better place, a space in which I speak about my passions without blowing up the room and everybody in it. In the midst of a huge crisis with evil lurking the passage says, “Then Daniel responded with tact and discretion to Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon.” (Holmon) Knowing that he himself faced an unfair and near-certain death, Daniel didn’t explode. He responded to injustice with tact and discretion, or as my NIV version adds,  wisdom. There it is folks. It’s what I need… It’s what we all need in the midst of high-passion situations– tact, discretion and wisdom.

Some  people I know are gifted with these traits. God seems to have woven it into their DNA, but they aren’t just gifts for some. We can all have the gift of wisdom if we ask for it (James 1:5). God just seems to have wired me to need to ask and then wait. In the wait, He refines my words but solidifies my passions, just the combination I need.

All of that is leading to this…

I have some things burning on my heart. Some things that are consuming my thoughts. And I’m dying to talk to you about them, but it’s not time yet. It’s not time because I’m mad, not yet measured. It’s not time because I’m grieving, not yet full of grace.

My friend Michele Cushatt recently modeled a wise wait for me. I commented in Instagram recently on the link to one of her articles (below), and it opened a message dialogue between us. When I told her that I was too mad to speak yet, she told me that the article I love sat in her saved posts for months while she worked through it and refined it. Because of that wait, her post is full of tact, discernment and wisdom.

In this post, I want to do two things. I want to give you the gist of what God is doing in my heart, because I think it’s part of a move of the Spirit that God is doing in His people. It’s my desire for us to join that move here. Also, I want to give you some links to those who are addressing these things well so that you can dive in and prayerfully think about these issues. I’m not ready to unpack all of it yet, but I don’t want to be silent either. These things are too important to me.

Here’s the list in a nutshell:

  • The thread that’s binding all my thoughts and heart-movement together is that we are all made in the image of God. Not one race. Not one gender. ALL.
  • #metoo sisters, I haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced, but I stand with you. Time really is up… and it’s about time. It’s time in the secular world, AND it’s time in the church for changes in attitudes and behaviors toward women. (Not change in biblical truth, but changes in attitude and behavior. I want to urge you to please, please resist the email that might be making your fingertips itch.)
  • I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the divisions of race in our country, but that can’t ever be an excuse. I’m learning and listening.
  • Finally, I’m learning that I don’t have to agree with every point of every voice that’s speaking in a movement, but in order to grow, I have to listen to brothers and sisters with voices outside of my limited experience. I refuse to reside in an echo chamber any longer. That only keeps us stuck.

For my whole ministry life, I’ve been about deeper relationships with God and each other. The list above is only an extension of that passion. The only change is that circle just keeps getting bigger.

I’m watching closely how people of faith are facing these issues, and I’m seeing some who are modeling the way I feel called to move . Others are responding in ways that I don’t feel comfortable emulating. If you’ve been feeling the weight of some of these issues or are now curious about who is influencing me, here are some messengers that I’ve found tremendously helpful (click on the link to watch, listen or read):

Trip Lee from MLK50

Jackie Hill Perry MLK50

A panel from Matt Chandler’s church 

Beth Moore “A Letter to My Brothers”

Jen Wilkin “More Pressing Than Women Preachers”

Michele Cushatt “The Gap of Christian Woman Leaders”

I love each one of you, sisters, but I know that some of you are worried about me after reading this. 🙂 Can I reassure you? Jesus and I are good. So good. And I’m searching the Scriptures as the source of answers, not just reading blogs and watching YouTube.

I want to urge each of you to do the same. Commit to let God’s Word reshape you. Commit to allow God’s Spirit to move you (even into uncomfortable places). Commit to listen and learn. Commit to exhange political ideology for Truth.

When I’ve waited and I know I’m being led by wisdom, tact and discernment instead of emotion and passion, I’ll write more about these things. Until then, let’s journey and grow together as sisters.

The Winners:

Thanks to all of you who left comments in the last month. I read and treasure each one! Here are the randomly chosen winners:

The Spirit Led Heart    V (5/24/18 5:25 pm)

Breaking Up with Perfect gift package     Sharon C (5/20/18 9:33 am)

Audacious gift package      Shirley (5//18/18  1:11 pm)

Me, Myself and Lies gift package   Tina Hubbard (5/18/18 12:00 pm)

 

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One Powerful Step to Increase Your Happiness Quotient

How would you describe your life?

For decades, I would say I was mostly happy. During a 5-year period, however, God led me through a process to take one step that shot my happiness quotient through the roof.

My problems didn’t all go away, and every circumstance wasn’t smooth. We all know the perfect life is only a myth, right? The change that amped up my happiness wasn’t external at all. It was purely internal.

When I let go of a thousand small expectations, my happiness increased in ways I never imagined.

Letting go of my unrealistic expectations, the “pictures of perfect” in my head, was a step that changed my thought patterns and my attitude. It was a step that overflowed positively into every relationship in my life. If you’d like to take this step and increase your happiness, click here to learn more by listening to my interview on Focus on the Family.

Back in January, I had one of the most fun opportunities of my ministry life. I got to do an interview with Focus on the Family, and I’ve been dying to share it with you ever since! Here’s a little sneak peak at my time in Colorado Springs:

I have to brag on how kind the whole staff is at Focus. These producers made me feel cared for and right at home from the first email. It was great to get to meet them in person!

And these guys… I know I look like a deer in the headlights in that last picture, but it’s just post-stress exhaustion. (This interview was bigger than this small town girl.) 🙂 They were so warm and made the interview like a conversation between friends.

Have you taken the step to banish the “pictures of perfect” in your head? How did it change your life?

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Lies, Half-Truths, and Truth that Sets Us Free

There are some friends so dear that you can’t wait to connect them! My precious friend Suzie Eller is someone I’m over-the-moon excited to introduce to you.

Suzie is both funny and wise which is a winning combination in my book, and she’s written a book that will rock your world. The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith without Borders is about the gift that so many of us have missed. It breaks my heart how controversial the topic of the Holy Spirit has become, dividing denominations instead of uniting God’s people. Suzie takes a Biblical approach that will leave you empowered with all that the Spirit has to offer.

Please welcome Suzie to the blog today! (And don’t miss an opportunity at the end to read two free chapters as well as to win a copy of the book.)

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My friend and I sat on the curb, sweaty after a long walk. For the past few days, we had been studying Romans 8. As we walked, she spoke out loud the words in Romans 8:38-39.

Nothing can separate you from God’s love. 

Then it became personal.

Wait, nothing can separate me from God’s love.

These were words that, until that moment, felt like they were for everyone else. Have you ever had a moment when truth is suddenly clear? You’ve tried to figure it out on your own, perhaps for years. It feels as though everybody else “gets it” except for you. That’s how my friend felt until the message in Romans 8 leaped from the pages and settled into her spiritual DNA.

Why did she believe it?

The reason that any of us fall for a lie is that it feels true.

For my friend, a lie had led to an assumption, which become a belief, which produced actions (or inactions) that impacted her life and identity.

This is one lie we often believe.

You can never change.

Maybe an adult spoke that over you. Maybe you started to believe that lie because you tried to change, and it didn’t work. Perhaps that one mistake still haunts you, even though you have changed.

So you begin to tell yourself: This is just who I am. That’s the assumption. It settles into your identity as truth. You hear scripture that tells how much God loves you, and you point out all the ways you don’t deserve it. You try to do everything well, but you make a mistake so you beat yourself up. Or maybe you just give up entirely.

How do we counter these lies?

We counter them with truth. The lie might be, “You can never change,” but this is the truth:

We are free to be exactly who God says we can be.

When I was younger, I didn’t let women get too close. If I was in a grocery store and saw someone I knew, I’d make a beeline for the dog food aisle, hoping they’d go the other way.

Why?

Because of a lie.

The lie was that I didn’t have a lot to offer. I didn’t have anything important to say. I worried that I’d say something goofy. I was shy. I was introverted. . .  the list of my beliefs was long.

Some of these held some truth. I was a little shy. I am an introvert. I might even say something goofy (that can still happen). The problem is that I had accepted the lie that I didn’t have anything of value to add to a friendship. That somehow I was “less than.”

The truth is I am free to be who God made me to be. Sometimes shy. Mostly introverted. But also a really great friend. Loyal. Fun (that’s the goofy part). As I confronted the lies and assumptions with truth, my belief system shifted and so did my actions.

The words I spoke over my own heart changed. As I accepted me, I was able to accept others as sweet friends, because the truth is we all have quirks or differences, and we all have strengths. There is no perfect friend, or perfect woman.

What is that half-truth or outright lie that has weighed you down?

Ask God to help you recognize it. Confront it with truth. As you do, it will begin to shift the way you think, which shifts the way you live, for when you know the truth, you are free to live the truth.

Suzie Eller

Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a Proverbs 31 Ministries writer, a bestselling author, speaker, and blogger. Suzie has written a new book, The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith Without Borders. This book shares that we have a Helper. We have what we need to live with a Spirit-led heart.

Download two free chapters at www.tsuzanneeller.com/spiritledheart

 

The Giveaway

Today we have a treat! Bethany House and Suzie are giving away a copy of The Spirit Led Heart. To enter, simply leave a comment sharing a truth that you’ve used to combat a lie or say “The Holy Spirit leads me to truth!”

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Thankful for a Breakthrough!

I hope you enjoyed today’s devotion, From Breakdown to Breakthrough!

Just for fun, I wanted to add a little follow-up here before we get to the giveaways.

Here’s a pic of my friend Nicole and me about six months after the story in the devotion.

Isn’t she a cutie?! I share this because I want you to know what kind of friend she is. The Saturday before this picture, I dropped by her house to see if she wanted to make a Target run with me. When we were there, we bought the same jacket and decided to wear them to our neighborhood Bible study that week. TWINNING! And totally goofy. So much fun!!!

Can you imagine if I had acted like a brat over our dinner misunderstanding? I would have spoiled our closeness and missed out entirely on this moment with my tender-hearted, loyal friend.

Sisters, life is too short to be short with the people we love. I’m just like you, fighting my flesh every minute of the day. Battling to be kind instead of selfish. Resisting the desire to insist on my own way.

But if we’ll choose to listen for God’s gentle whispers. If we’ll decide to follow Jesus, becoming more like Him in the way He loved others. If we’ll prioritize our people over pushing our plans…

Then we’ll have more precious moments like the one in the photo above.

Giveaways:

In celebration of friendship, I’ve got three giveaways today! To enter to win one of these packages, leave a comment either about a time God helped you with a breakthrough in the middle of a breakdown OR just write a friend’s name that you treasure.

 

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