Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Joy Challenge

The joy for today is being home with my two sweet little ones and enjoying their companionship and love. Snuggles and the cutest and sweetest love notes with pictures from my babies is so precious. I take it all for granted and don't enjoy the moment enough. Thank you, God, for their love and this time in life. May I always store these days in my heart to ponder when I grow old and they grow up and move on to their own independent lives and families. What a priceless gift I have in my babies. May I be the mommy they deserve and You designed me to be. With your help and guidance, may they come to know. love and seek You hard each day.

Chapter Two- Flitting To and Fro

Oh, to be school teacher! Oh, to be married to wonderful, godly hunk from Georgia Tech! Oh, to be a mommy! Oh, to be part of a successful children's ministry! Oh, to be caught up on all my scrapbooks! Oh, to.... I understand what Lysa describes as the emptiness that makes one "feel desperate, needy, complicated full of unrealistic expectations." All the things I thought would make me feel happy and fulfilled lead to disillusionment and disappointment. Then comes the guilt and the bad attitude which manifests itself in my impatience, grumpiness, lack of joy,etc. with my family and with my circumstances. I understand what she is talking about when she talks about things that "quicky went from blessings to burdens." Although knowing it is God that should be the sole source of filling me, I,too,seek out fulfillment from imperfect people like my darling and amazing husband and sweet children. When I no longer feel satisfied or fulfilled, have I ever looked for something else to make me feel significant? Who me? OH, NO! NOT ME! Yeah, my nose is about the length of the football field at Bobby Dodd Stadium! I tend to pour 150% of myself into any endeavor I chose to do such as MOPS, children's ministry and thus neglect the very ones I love the most. What happens then? Why these things are imperfect and involve imperfect people, and my life circumstances change and then I am disillusioned and left feeling as though I have failed everyone, I mean everyone, because my heart is no longer in it- I have lost my sense of purpose and focus. Then I begin searching for something else to make me feel significant. "Who (am) I to be working in a Christian ministry? Especially one that (teaches) women to love their husbands, nurture their children, and follow after God everyday?" Who am I to be working in a ministry that focuses on leading children to Christ? Lysa describes some of her adventures in trying to find her niche. I am laughing and crying at the same time! She is a good friend to give you a great tummy aching laugh! But she ends up expressing my feelings exactly.- How does she do that?! "I was a hollow woman, not a holy woman. I had said yes to Jesus being my Savior, but didn't have a clue how He could be the answer to my emptiness." There is no way that my husband, my kids, my position in ministry or my profession or my home and possessions can ever fill me. They will never be able to replace my feelings of insecurity or insignificance or my guilt. "No person, possession, profession or postion ever fills the cup of a wounded, empty heart" Anything, but God, is a poor substitute - a false god. I have always loved the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. Lysa points out verse 29, "But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention." What a word picture is created concerning the false gods I have depended on to fill me. Those gods do not give me the response, answer and attention I need to fill me and make me feel complete. It is only God, my Heavenly Father that responds to me. He answers me. He is attention to me!
Have you ever said something to the effect, "If I only had .....,then I would be happy and satisfied." These "If only" statements trick us into putting our attention on obtaining those things instead of following hard after God. My "If only" statements have included, having a husband, having kids, getting into shape, getting my house in order, you get the idea. Getting these things still leaves me with a huge "hollow gap in (my) soul". Lysa suggests that instead of filling these statements with a person, possession, profession or postion, that we chose to fill the statements with something that would pull our hearts closer to God. "Since we cannot be pulled away from God and draw near to Him at the same time, speaking truth rights our perspectives and puts our focus where it should be."
It doesn't matter what the hollow gap is in my life, God is the perfect, the only thing that can fill that emptiness. When I replace my false gods with scripture truths, I will not feel that gap in my life. God's Word is the filter through which we should look at all of the day's events, our responses to situations, etc. God's Word causes changes in my attitudes, motives, desires, actions, words, and priorities. It rearranges my very existence. "As long as I daily make the choice to be guided by His truth, He replaces my hollowness with a wholeness of love that has no gaps." It is a choice, an intentional choice. It is a choice that must be made daily and often several times a day. Taking time each day to recognize my blessings and to appreciate and feel thankful for the people most important to me, is something I don't do often enough. The years are speeding by and I am too busy with my "If onlys" to enjoy what I have been blessed with- family, kids, husband, opportunities, salvation, life....Lysa describes it much better. "Maybe this is the true secret to being fulfilled and content. Living in the moment with God, defined by His truth, and with no unrealistic expectations for others or things to fill me up. Not reaching back for what was lost in my yesterdays. And not reaching for what I hope will be in my tomorrow. But living fully with what is right in front of me. And truly seeing the gift of this moment." Intentionally living now with all the circumstances and imperfect people I have been blessed with. Striving everyday to see God, hear God, know God and follow hard after Him. Then my hollowness will be replaced with a desire for holiness, too.

Chapter One- Trying to Be Good Enough

In her book, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl,Lysa TerKeurst talks about the labels she tried on growing up to find her identity. I, too, have had many labels that shaped and continue to shape my identity. Daughter, quiet girl, "goody-two shoes", bookworm, honor student, responsible, in demand babysitter, organized, wife, teacher, supermom, volunteer extraordinaire,etc. All of these labels came with expectations for my actions, attitudes, responses that I felt like I had to live up to. Not much room was left for feeling or worse revealing that I had so many shortcomings, weaknesses, failings, imperfections. Yes, I admit that I am absolutely and have absolutely never, ever been the perfect child, wife, mom, Christian or human being. Often feelings of loneliness, not fitting in or being unworthy to participate overcome me. With the perceptions and labels I wear, who really is interested in listening to my weaknesses and failures. No one expects me to be struggling with anything- I have everything altogether. If they only knew how many times I drop my basket in the course of the day!
I love the verse from Jeremiah that Lysa shares. I have this verse written out on index cards for a reminder that someone knows that I am imperfect and how many times my basket is dropped. He cares immensely for me despite every last little flaw and He alone makes me perfect. Jeremiah 29:12-13 "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
I grew up going to church, Christian schools, marrying a good Christian man, serving in ministries, attending all the Bible studies and women's events like a good Bible study girl should do, yet, I still feel unfulfilled. Seeking with all your heart requires more than just the routine Christian good girl checklist. Okay, so there Lysa just Moonwalked on my toes. Lysa goes on to talk about fulfillment. Fulfillment is to be completely satisfied, filled up, not discontented. I, too, want a more fulfilling relationship with Christ. I want to be assured that despite my failures and shortcomings, I have the security of knowing that He is there with me in all circumstances in life.
Lysa asks "How might (my) life look if (I) am so filled with God's truths (I) could let go of the pain of (my) past, not get tripped up by the troubles of today, or consumed by worries of tomorrow?" Going through the motions of the good Bible study girl checklist is not enough. I need to have the mindset that God will meet me where I am when I cry out to Him with heart that if so filled with the desire to go into a much deeper, authentic, life changing relationship with Him.
What has typically made me feel fulfilled? Academic successes, career as a teacher, mommyhood, being a wife, ministry leader, etc. But none of these things were ever the source of true fulfillment. Too quickly, I become disillusioned and feel like a failure as I deal with imperfect people, encountering someone I deem superior or more successful than myself. Oh, how pride takes hold of my heart. I will never be "enough" in my ideals of fulfillment. I will never be enough of a good wife, mother, ministry leader, teacher, daughter, sister, good Bible study girl to find true fulfillment- I will forever fall short! I love and appreciate Lysa's heartfelt and genuine desire to help women become closer to Christ. This is my prayer for myself and others "God, will You help me to have a deeper connection with You and find truer fulfillment as You transform every area of my life.That is the cry and the desire of my heart." and "God, I want to see You. God, I want to hear You. God, I want to know You. So that I can follow hard after You everyday." I love those last four statements she wrote. In her book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God she shared this prayer. I copied this also on my index cards to read and pray. So simple and so much what I desire to do each day. She finishes the chapter with Colossians 3:1-2 "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Lysa concludes by saying,"Setting our hearts and our minds on God and letting His truths change us, rearrange us, and redirect us will help us not just to know the message of Christ - but to live it out!" Change me, rearrange me, redirect me to know and live Christ each day. Please, Lord!

All scripture and quotes from the book are in italics. Any of my changes are in parentheses or boldface.

A Two Word Prayer

I heart Lysa TerKeurst! She is so authentic and imperfect that it gives me hope that I, too, can be authentic and imperfect as a mom, wife and daughter of God. She is so incredibly encouraging! She is funny but also not afraid to step on my toes a bit. I had to share this.

Lysa TerKeurst | The Most Important Two Word Prayer from Southbrook Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

More than a Good Bible Study Girl

One of my absolute favorite bloggy girlfriends is Lysa Terkeurst! Although we have never met, I feel like I have known her forever. She is an amazingly authentic, down-to-earth girl who loves the Lord like no one else's business and wants to help others love Him the same way. I have had the privelege of reading several of her books, like What Happens When a Woman Says Yes to God and Help! My Bathtub is Overflowing!, so when I heard that her newest book was going to be released in the summer, I pre-ordered it and nearly danced down the driveway when it arrived. The book is wonderful!! I am in the midst of rereading it and now beginning an online study of the book. I hope to get the accompanying CD after the first of the year and perhaps even lead my own study of the book. Why do I love the book so much? I am glad you asked! You see, I too, have a way of playing at religion or more accurately playing games with my relationship with Jesus. I love me some check lists and to do lists and my past history has proven I can mark off the right religious activities with the best of them and still feel so alone and fake in my walk with God.
Although I have never faced the exact life situations - actually my childhood and early adult life was quite opposite of Lysa's but still many of the feelings and thoughts have been exactly as Lysa describes. I do relate in feeling far away from God, unlovable to Him or anyone else, seeking love and acceptance in all the wrong places and then the consequences.Oh my, consequences that come with guilt and shame, secrets and darkness.
So I am anxious to share many of my thoughts in this online journal- but as you know, sometimes with little ones and life crowding in, the actual composing comes slow. I wish there was a way to type my thoughts as I read and ponder all that she and God say about becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl. If you are seeking to go deeper in an authentic relationship with God or looking to start out walking with God, this book is great!
By the way, did I mention she is a girl from the 80s? Oh, yeah, Lysa and I could really have some serious discussions about all things 80s and we could show these kids today how to really roller skate, especially to Rick Springfield's Jesse's Girl or Debbie Gibson.