So Very Discouraged

I have been going through a difficult season. So much that I can’t remember the last time I have felt so discouraged.
When I read Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always.”, I want to yell at God, “HOW?!?! I want to, but don’t feel like I can!”.

Have you ever been there? Are you in the middle of feeling that now?

This is the perfect time of year to stop…and remember all Jesus did for us. How He took on more than we can even begin to imagine…all for us.

He was ridiculed.
He was doubted.
He was laughed at.
He was persecuted.
He was ignored.
He was beaten.
He was put to death.
All in front of friends, who denied Him!

He has gone through more than we can ever comprehend.

Let’s remember Colossians 1:15 – 23 (I know it’s long, but READ IT!!!)

The Supremacy of the Son of God
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior.
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

This has changed my attitude from all self-consumed to being able to truly REJOICE in this beautiful season.

Take time to Thank God for sending us Jesus and thank Jesus for putting up with so much so that we have eternal life with Him.

I am praying that God reminds you that this is not the season to survive or get through…it’s the season of true, unconditional love. Praying that we all feel His love in big and small ways and thank Him for creating us to be a part of His family.

What I learned today…though I felt these things and wrote this down in December, I am glad that what it says is still true today. The more we write down and document what we go through, the more we can look back to see how God works in ALL that we go through. I am content.

Wanted

WANTED= A closer relationship to God.

Do you WANT a close relationship with God? How close?

I am a yo-yo dieter. I wish I could hold on to the first 2 weeks of a diet. That time when I feel SO good. When I eat all the “right” foods and stay away from the “wrong” ones. I have more energy. I move around more. I FEEL GOOD. Have you been there? Just by taking some of the stuff that’s bad for my body out of my life…I feeeeel better.

Now read this verse –  “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with it’s practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:8-10

These are things we all struggle with. We need to realize, each “bad” thing you take from this list, as you become a new person and take off your old self…the closer you feel to God! With each layer that you take off, with each thing you work on…His light feeeeels a little warmer. You can hear Him a little more….All you have to do is start with a layer. What will the first layer be that you will remove? I PROMISE you won’t regret it. You will see a difference in your life.

Baby steps. Baby steps.

What I learned today…keep trying to do better. Every day.

Pruning not Punishment

 

Pruning

Let’s think about something today. Do we think what God is doing or letting happen in our lives mean He is punishing us for something? It is much easier to think that way, right? We call out to Him, Why, God? Why me? What did I do to deserve this?

If you are feeling this way, write it down. It is absolutely the best thing you can do in these circumstances. It enables us to go back during the tough times and see how God used them as times of “pruning” not of punishment. Sometimes He has to cut things in our lives way back, to the point of pain, so we can flourish in an even bigger way.

There is an exercise that I have done in that I’d LOVE for you to do at home sometime. Trace your hand…now on each of the fingers write a time in your life where it has been HARD….a time where you were so sad or alone, it was tough for you… it could be ANYTHING. Now, make lines showing how God changed you through those things. How did you grow? If you still haven’t let go of one of the hurts, why not? What is holding you back? God was with us in all those hard times, as he still is. Think of seeing life through a peep-hole in your front door. You can kind of see, but it’s not really clear. God can see the WHOLE picture…we can only see a tiny fuzzy little bit. Trust in Him EVEN THROUGH THE PRUNING.

What I learned today…This is a great exercise I need to do throughout my life as a reminder that God is with me. He is not punishing me, He is preparing me for the next leg of the journey.

Mamas with Attitude

I have enjoyed 2 meetings in the last 3 weeks with mom’s with kids in high school and with parents at a soccer meeting. Years ago, I had the privilege of leading PTA, being a room mom, soccer mom, etc… anything I could do to be a “Super Mom” when I wasn’t working. During that time, I had my share of attitude, judginess (that is now a word) etc… At one point I was so bad, I actually approached a women who looked like she’d be fun to hangout with and said, she seemed like a blast, but I could never hangout with someone who married a guy that drove around in a T-top Camaro. I. Was. Horrible.

Since I decided to give my life to Christ and truly work on becoming a follower of His not just a fan, He has been working on my heart and attitude. When I went to the first meeting, I was floored to not have 1 person welcome me with a smile. I watched has snarky comments were thrown back and forth between a couple of the moms and was FLOORED when 2 of them were HORRIBLY rude to another woman who just lost one of her children tragically. She hadn’t called them back regarding a silent auction basket. An auction basket!

WHAT?!?!?!

Second, at the soccer meeting this morning. There was a woman who consistently interrupted the coach at the day 1 parent meeting for the spring season. Every time someone would ask him a question, she would answer. He was VERY gracious each and every time. It got to the point where a couple of the parents, stopped looking over at her when she would speak because it was disrespectful.

Both times I was saddened and realized that each case there was obvious communication problems. At the high school, it was the lack of communication, heart and understanding, and at the soccer meeting it was over communication, heart and understanding.

Something I try to do in these circumstances is to try and imagine what might be on their mind to make them act this way. For example, the ladies who were so hurtful in the high school meeting, maybe they have never dealt with death. Maybe they had just found out one of them has cancer and they just can’t wrap their brains around someone else’s problem Maybe they know a million people and have no idea about the tragic loss this woman was dealing with. Maybe their identity was wrapped up in how well the auction went and they couldn’t look past it.

What about the soccer mom? What if her whole identity is in her kids activities? What if no one at home listens to her, so when she is out at meetings, it’s her time to shine?

Rather than become part of the problem by not asking questions and/or pushing in, what if we actually talked to these people? We can be bold and taking time to help in these situations. Maybe pose a question like, “I’m not sure if you had heard, she just lost her son. I can’t imagine the pain that must create and how she could even find the strength to come to a meeting”. It is a gentle reminder and gives the woman a chance to collect herself and apologize to the one in pain.

I am still working on not being judgy. It is hard. But I have to remember, it is my job to love God AND love others. I am not responsible for their actions, but for my reactions.

What I learned today…we ALL have a story. Before we judge others for their actions, we need to remember they have a story, too.

 

I Am Not Who You Think I Am

I am a perfectly ordinary women, bent on spreading Jesus in any way I can.

I am not hip. I am original. Just like you.

I am not a special “chosen” person. I am a child of God. Just like you.

I am not a well connect person. I have the same Holy Spirit Guiding me as you do.

I am not striving to be a leader. I influence those around me. Just like you.

I am not striving to be a pastor. I just want people to see the hope there is in Jesus. Just like you.

I don’t want to climb a ladder. I want to honor God where He has me. Just like you.

Last night I was invited to a Vision Night for our Women’s Ministry. As the night began, I introduced myself to others that had been invited because of their heart for women, or their status in the church. As we broke in to focus groups, it was beautiful to see how God orchestrated who I was with. During our time of discussion, you could see the hearts of each start to focus in on their calling. One woman mentioned the need for prayer half a dozen times. Another one brought up reaching ALL God’s women not just the married ones. Another, how we need to market it all well.

It was beautiful. Why?

Everyone in that circle prays, however God gave one of the women an extraordinary passion for prayer. We all believe all women should be represented, God gave one of the women a passion to reach a certain people group. We all believe we should be communicating what we have available, God gave one the passion to get the word out.

Though we all believe in each area, God truly gives us a unique passion for different areas. That is why we A) Need to be confident in who He made US to be and B) Honor and listen to each other. When we do that we are allowing the WHOLE Body of Christ to work in the way they were fashioned to work. Just because one of the women was intent on making prayer a focus, that doesn’t mean the rest thought prayer was useless. Does that make sense?

We have the heart for Jesus. What we need to acknowledge as that each heart beats in a different way. When we acknowledge it, and work as a team, we are a POWERFUL force!

Can you imagine, if we allowed everyone around us to use their God given gifts in the way they were made to be used??? SO EXCITING!

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Who do you have around you? As a leader, you should have people around you who are strong in all the areas you are challenged. A baseball team would be useless if all they had only pitchers or only catchers. Each position is needed to make a winning team.

Read all of Romans 12  Here is a taste of Romans 12: 3- 8

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with youra faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,b do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

What I learned today…I am NOT who you think I am. I am who God says I am. I don’t need to worry about labels, good or bad. I need to remember the best label is a Child of the Most High, Daughter of the King.

OWN WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST! YOU ARE NEEDED, YOU ARE VALUED AND NO ONE IS ABOVE OR BELOW YOU IN THE EYES OF JESUS. HE WAS SENT FOR YOU, SO YOU COULD HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!!

 

 

Authentic

In our staff meeting today, we talked about authenticity. It was phenomenal. I loved when it opened because our pastor acknowledged that this generation, is calling for authenticity in it’s leaders…JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER GENERATION! Throughout time, people have yearned for authenticity, it’s nothing new.

We all have something in us that craves to be noticed, because it is only God that can truly fill that need, yet we don’t go to Him to fill it. When we aren’t getting that need filled, we have a hard time being authentic, as ….

We are worried of being exposed as different and broken.

We worry that we will be rejected once people see the real us, beneath the mask.

We worry that we will be hurt by those we let in.

What we need to do is remember who we are in CHRIST. Ephesians 2:10 “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.”

He calls us His masterpiece! I know I sure don’t feel like a masterpiece 99.9% of the time. (Okay, being authentic, maybe 98% of the time.) But, it also says, he created us anew in Christ Jesus. I can believe as a new creation of Christ’s I would be a masterpiece. I can believe if God planned me to be HIS masterpiece so I could do good things He planned for me long ago then I am.

The more I believe and feel confident in the way HE made me, and continues to develop me, the more authentic I can be. The more secure I feel with my relationship with HIM, the more confident I can be with others. If I do well, it’s because He is leading me to. If I fail, it’s because He wants me to learn something and I know He’ll “have my back”.

During this meeting, I was asked a question regarding how many people attended our class this weekend. Embarrassingly, I blurted out, that it was attended better than one of the other classes.

** Now, to give a history behind this comment – When I was hired I was told that the first class always had a huge attendance. 3/4 of that class would move on to class 2 and 1/2 of that would move on to class 3…with 1/2 of THAT moving on to class 4!  Being quite competitive in nature, I said, “We will change that”. AND, since changing the class 3 up a bit, we have BEAT class 2 in attendance 4 times!!!! Not only that, but we are having even higher numbers in class 4!! **

Okay, back to it.

As I blurted out that our class was better attended than class 2, I heard a couple people say that it was prideful to say such a thing…and a couple people say, I was being authentic.

If you don’t really know me,  you think pride. If you do know me, you think excitement and are reminded of my competitive nature.

I am comfortable in how God made me, 75% of the time. I am working on raising that number. I know that I know, all of our classes are absolutely remarkable and I think everyone in the world should go through them. It would be dreamy to be allowed to be able to steward and teach each one because I believe in the power of spiritual steps! I get so very excited of the thought of people growing in their confidence of who God is and who He made them to be, I can’t help but want everyone to feel it!!

A HUGE point that I learned today regarding authenticity was that when we feel very devoted to something, and things aren’t moving in the direction we feel they should, even if it’s a good direction, God is still at work. Sometimes we need to feel the hurt and learn and grow from it…and sometimes others need to go through the hurt so they can grow and learn from it. God is at work regardless.

What I learned today…Truly trust God, when things are running smoothly and when things get wonky. His work is being done through it all. Hang on and keep your eyes open to what He is saying to you through all situations. And be authentic with what you are learning and what you might have missed along the way.

Women? Yuck. Part 2

Okay, so there is (soon to be was) a traveling conference called Women of Faith. It’s a group of highly gifted women preaching to thousands and thousands of other women around the country. Think of a GINORMOUS Pep Rally for the ladies.

My mentor invited me to one a couple years ago and I was VERY nervous…as that is a LOT of women. She was invited to pray with and for the speakers before they went on stage so it gave me some time to hangout with some of the other ladies.

After the event, I was invited to go back with all the speakers. As I talked with God as I walked, I remembered all the stars and politicians He had put throughout my life and asked that He guide me to let this moment be about my mentor. I was able to get some great pictures of them and ended up taking one with myself in it as well.

Soon after my leader told me the speakers would all be coming to have a live web event filmed on our church campus. They would be having lunch off location and she wanted me to come.

Wellllll…I didn’t hear anything all the way up until the day of the event. I was discouraged and feeling left out. As I went up to the Main Worship area where the event was going to be held, I was once again yelling at God. WHY did He have me in this ministry any way? I obviously was needed, liked, or LIKE any of them. What did He want from me?!

I prayed this as I stood by the side door of the center by myself. All of the sudden the door opened and the whole group of ladies walked in, obviously all coming from lunch. I received “quaint”, “Hi, Sweeties” as they all came in and walked by. The speakers…and ALL the other leaders. I wanted to hurl as they walked in to the green room and once again left me alone with God. I internally flipped out on Him, again. WHY did He have me there?!?!?! I wasn’t like them!!!

After a few moments of me stewing and yelling and yelling and stewing, the ministry leader walked out with a study leader and asked her to pray over the worship center, and find others that could do the same. She needed me to bring the speakers water. The study leader, said she could take care of the water if I wanted to pray. **That sounded GREAT to me! I was already praying and didn’t need to be given a “token” job.**

The ministry leader, in her wisdom, said she’d rather have me back with the speakers. So she and I walked back, grabbed water and delivered them to a room that housed the speakers. Right outside the room their was a couch where I was asked to hangout in case anything was needed.

As I sat there, in a slouched position, I asked God AGAIN, WHY ME?? Half listening to the people behind, I looked over and saw a Bible sitting on the table. When I reached over to grab it and put it on my lap, I blindly opened it and started reading…

Jeremiah’s Complaint

12 You are always righteous, Lord,
    when I bring a case before you.
Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
    Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
    Why do all the faithless live at ease?
You have planted them, and they have taken root;
    they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
    but far from their hearts.

I started talking to God again…

What?!?! That is awesome!!! You put that in here for me! I do believe you are on all these ministry women’s lips but not in their hearts! WOW! I can’t believe you put this in here!!! They do bear fruit, they do live in ease and prosper! Why, Lord, why!!!

And then I kept reading….

Yet you know me, Lord;
    you see me and test my thoughts about you.

I started talking to God again…

UGH. What. Stop the presses. Double Ugh. Wow. I suck.

I am so very sorry God. What an ugly heart I have. I apologizing for ever thinking anything negative about your servants. About your daughters who give so much to you. I don’t know their hearts, I don’t know what they are going through. I am so sorry for not seeing them as your kids that need love and direction, too.

Please Lord, test my heart and redirect me when I get ugly thoughts. I know they are not of You. Please remind me, every time I start to judge someone else, to pray for that person instead. Please help me constantly look within anytime I feel like pointing a finger and see that my job is to work on ME and MY challenges, not worry about others.

I am sorry.

As I finished, I knew God had changed my heart. After some time, I shared this story with the ministry leader, my mentor. She asked me to not give up explaining that every time someone walks in to a ministry and decides there is no one like them…they should STAY to encourage others LIKE THEM to join. Otherwise the group in the room would never change. We want to make sure we are representing the WHOLE body of Christ in every ministry, not segregating because we don’t feel we fit in.

She was/is brilliant and a gift.

What I learned today…to keep remembering these stories so I stay on track. Remember, we are all unique, and we need to all be represent throughout the church…so it can continue growing with OC Housewives and the not so glamorous. It doesn’t matter how we see ourselves…what matters is we belong to God’s family regardless of what culture and society tell us. It’s our job to be the best “ME” we can be so that we can represent all of His family better.

 

Soft vs Sassy

When I first gave my life to Christ, I watched those at the church a LOT.
After I closed my business and became a stay at home mom, I thought I needed to become a quiet, soft, demure women to truly be a woman of God.

I tried and tried. I failed and failed.

Finally at one point, someone in my Small Group (people I meet with once a week to study the Bible, hold each other accountable, share life with, etc…) said, “Julie, why in the world are you not talking more? It feels like you are holding back”.

I was shocked and replied, “Aren’t I suppose to be submissive?”

Now, please don’t judge me, it is how I truly felt. I thought that good Christian women were the “bakers and meal prep” team. Needless to say, I feel like I was failing at all of it so was making a horrible Christian!

He said, “God made you sassy, be SASSY”.

Now he was being kind as up to my choice to give my life to Jesus, I had been a raging, conniving ____ (rhymes with witch).

Now someone was telling me I could still be strong? It was AWESOME. I felt like I had a huge weight taken off my shoulders!

I had to remember, that regardless of peoples thoughts and opinions, I need to remember what the BIBLE says. Who the Bible says I am.

Here is what I learned…Be strong in who God made you to be. Don’t listen to what others say about you, don’t listen to self doubt, only listen to his word.

 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

 

People in the Bible Get It

Here are some of my go-to verses. Take time to look them up and underline them if you haven’t already.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

 ..being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, And joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:11-12

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. 2 Thessalonians 3:13

 As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16 

Reading through the Bible we see so many others felt exactly the way we do! They needed encouragement, too!

Take time to pray and ask God to show you someone in the Bible you can learn from. Someone you might not have thought of before.

If you STILL don’t want to open your Bible, check out Drivetime Devotions by Pastor Tom Holladay. Walk through one of the 10 minutes (ish) sessions with him. It’s a start. 🙂

What I learned today…The Bible constantly has something new to teach me. Even if it’s a verse I have read 1000 times.

 

Rotten to Healthy Fruit Part 1

Fruit of SpiritWhat is your past like? Mine isn’t very bright and shiny. I have done many things I am not proud of. Paul wrote about some of them in Galatians 5 :19 – 21 ” The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Though I hit those sins and more, I can take comfort in knowing that the Bible also says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I have become a new creature. I have to constantly renew my mind against the old ways, and work on becoming a better me.

What do I work on? Well, by reading the Bible, having accountability partners around me in friends and my small group, plus through the Holy Spirit, I work on praying for the fruit of the Spirit to become evident in my life. The fruit of the Spirit is found in Galatians 5 as well –

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”     Galatians 5: 22-23

A girlfriend pointed out the other day…it says FRUIT of the Spirit not fruitS of the Spirit. I hadn’t caught that! I had always looked at it as a list of separate things, not one whole.

I will process that more for awhile. For now let’s look at each section of the ONE Fruit.

  1. LOVE – Jesus said the GREATEST commandment was to Love God and Love Others, so of course this would be the first on the list. Another great passage that points to love is –  1 Corinthians 13
    “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” …              For me, it is HARD to love everyone. But it shows my spiritual maturity, when I do my best to change my heart so I can love everyone. When are some times YOU can choose to be more loving?
  2. JOY – I am naturally a fairly joyful person. But I have to fight HARD to not let the darkness of depression and self-doubt over power that. Also, have you ever noticed, some people get irritated with joyful people. When I am joyful, it’s not because I’m a clueless “Pollyanna”, but because I’m CHOOSING to be joyful, sometimes in spite of difficult circumstances. How can YOU choose to be joyful more?
  3. PEACE – I have written before on how I feel about peace. I was always a natural instigator. Whenever there is injustice, my anger gets riled up and I want to move instantly to action. Instead I have to remember to keep PEACE in my mind and soul. To wait for God’s direction so I know if it’s righteous anger or personal anger from my own brokenness. Now, at times, I have seen “peaceful” people as weak. The ones that let people walk all over them. That is NOT what this means. It means that regardless of my feelings about anything – God is in control of everything. I can’t jump in and want to fight everybody about everything because of how I feel. I need to pray more for peace in my heart, soul, and mind. Where can you bring PEACE to your life? Your family? Work? Your schedule? With your kids?
  4. PATIENCE –

We’ll have to be patient, as I’ll have to continue with patience tomorrow. 🙂

What I learned today…There is so much more to process regarding the fruit of the Spirit! It will be a constant challenge to get better with each throughout my life.