Sunday, October 27, 2013

Everyday Faith

Last Sunday I wrote to you about the lesson we are learning in Sunday School.  Well, today we continued where we left off discussing labels and how they can either define us or build us up.  I've thought a lot about this lesson over the course of this week.  I've thought about the negative labels people have applied to me in the past several months and those that I have applied to myself.  I've been labeled by others as wayward, wild, and unkind.  I've labeled myself as unworthy, unwanted, and undesired.

It is taking me time to let go of the me inside of me.  This person who likes to have all the control, this person that likes to help God on His quest of making me into the person He designed me to be.  A question was posed of us this morning to the effect of; what have we sacrificed in our lives to remove the labels that we have applied to ourselves.  You see, I cannot remove those that others gave me.  They, after all, are their opinion.  They belong to them.  They are the weight that they have to carry, because they are the weight they applied to the thought of me.  But, my labels, the ones I have given myself, they are the weight that I have to carry.

First, I know that that I am not unworthy.  I know this.  None of us are.  God does not create any of us for nothing.  He wanted each and every one of us to be here.  We are all worthy in His eyes.  Realizing this of ourselves is our burden to carry. (There is a lot more to this, but for simplicity sake I'll stop here.)  I do know that I am worthy.  However, it is the subject of the worth that still has me  in a tail spin.  Love.  All of my woes are centered around that one thing.  My desire to have someone to love. I do know that I am worthy of this.  To this, every day, I have faith it will come.

Second, and this is the one thing that I struggle with the most, and that is with being unwanted.  To the question posed this morning this was the one label that I have given over, sacrificed if you will.  Some would say that I have given up, that I have thrown in the towel.  Perhaps, to some degree, that is exactly what I have done.  It isn't that I have resigned the balance of my natural born days to spinsterhood, but I have sacrificed my label of unwanted to God.  I know, with all that is in me, that my God knows the deepest desires of my heart and that He knows more than I do the perfect person for me.  I also know, that in those moments when the loneliness sets in and the intense feelings that come from being all alone overwhelm me, that I shouldn't think that it is because I am unwanted, but  remember that God wants what is best for me.  He wants me to know that He, as my Lord and Savior, only wants the absolute best - for me.  And that sometimes that simply takes time. He does this for all of us.  It isn't that I won't ever have these moments, these days of over abundant sadness, but with God, my one true love, I am not unwanted.  He wanted me so much that He created me. And when that perfect person comes along it isn't going to be him that fills my every waking moment, but the presence of God in my life.  You know, I can imagine a number of you sitting there at your laptops, scrolling on your smart phones, rolling your eyes at me thinking that I am some sort of loon.  I'm not.  I'm simply a girl who is giving the one thing she wants most over to the one person who can make it happen.  I'm simply resting in my everyday faith. 

Last it is the label of undesired.  Now, I know the absurdity of this label as well as its double meaning.  I am not going to sit here and go on in vain conceit, but I know that there are some out there that see merely what is on the outside.  They do not care for the person within as long as the view is nice.  Sadly, this is not the type of desire I am speaking of.  I do not want to be seen as only something pretty to look at.  I look like God made me to look like.  I'm thankful for that.  In this way I am not undesired.  (Yes, you can roll your eyes.)  It is the me, the person that I really am that made me apply this label.  You see, I'm a girl that believes in God, and church, and fellowship, and family, and good, clean fun.  I am a girl that likes the outdoors, running, reading, and listening to country music.  I am the girl that would rather leave the house a mess to go and play.  I am the girl that well, believes in forever, and honor, and loyalty, and commitment.  I am a girl who believes in truth and trusts that it is spoken to her as such. (Yes, a bit na├»ve.) Because of these things, to which I try not to hide, I am undesired.  Yet, today, in class, I realized this label is bunk.  It isn't true.  I am not undesired, God is just simply protecting me from the wrong person.  See what the power of perspective can do, and perhaps maybe just a touch of everyday faith.

I encourage you to look past your negative labels.  Those ones you've given yourself and those that others have given you.  Perhaps you have overcome some things and others fail to accept that you can change, that you are not the label they have given you.  You cannot change them, but do not live continually in the pain of that label.  God can heal any person.  It only takes true repentance and belief that He can, will, and did.  Do not succumb to the negativity you've applied to yourself.  I'm not saying that if you call yourself dumb you should go apply for a position as a turbo-thrust engineer at NASA, especially if you have no working knowledge of astro-physics and smart people stuff involved with that, but truly there are things that you know far more about than you are giving yourself credit for.  (Poor example for sure, but I think you understand what I am trying to say.)  Just know that God does not make mistakes and all He truly wants is for you to see yourself as He sees you.  He wants you to be the person He made you to be.  Of course, the trick to knowing that - is knowing Him.

But that is an easy thing to do. Follow these steps: Talk to Him.  Read His word. Ask Him into your heart. And have a bit of everyday faith.

Love, M



Sunday, October 20, 2013

365 Days

A year.  It is quite remarkable the difference a year can make.  I would be lying if I said I didn't cry today, that I put my big girl panties on, a fresh smile, and made it out the door to face the world.  But I did.  I cried.  Actually I sobbed.  I bawled.  I wept out loud.  At church.  At home.  All day.  We made it to church and I had the pleasure of  wonderful conversations with some dear friends.  Then at that end of the service I had a few more that came up to me at the altar and prayed with me and for me.  One held back my hair and rubbed my neck, another had her arm wrapped around me, another was holding my arm, and so many, they cried with me.  They cried, aloud, with me. And they prayed because they know. They know that even though it has been a year ago today since the ex-Mr. made the choice to walk away, my heart is still hurting.  They know that I am still in a lot of pain.  Truthfully, it has a lot less these days to do with missing him simply because time can truly make people grow apart the same way it can make people grow together.  The pain has more, actually everything, to do with knowing I was disposable, not wanted, and not loved enough to be kept.  Yet -

Today was also a day of spiritual blessing.  First, our Sunday School lesson was about Labels, the first of several in a series based on the book, Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel.  There are those labels others apply/give to us and those we apply/give to ourselves.  Those labels we chose to accept and live with and allow to define us and those labels that we know are not who we are and are able to get over. In the video, that went with the lesson, he shared that a lot of characters in the Bible were given a new name as they became the person God designed them to be.  These were people who were nothing, their name meant something bad, or had done terrible things and then God got ahold of them and changed them.  He made them new!  God does this!  He can make us new! Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul, and so on.  The point of it is that we are more than just the name "label" placed on us.  We are who God has created us to be, if we are open to receiving that new name. There are so many beautiful stories in the Bible of what God can and does do.  I'm excited for this Bible study to learn how to find/become this person God created me to be.

Then in today's message Pastor continued with his series, How Big Is God?  "Big Enough To Guide You" (Ephesians 5:17)  Pastor had two main points.  The first was God's Provision and the second was Our Part.  In God's provision we are reminded that God is in this!  Yes, He is!  He wants us to know His will for our lives.  This is much more than us coming to receive Him.  Truth, He does want that none of us should parish, but this goes deeper than that.  He wants us to actually DO His will for our lives, to BECOME the person He created us to be. The only way to do this of course is to release total control over to God, stay in His word regularly, and pray about it.  Truth of it is, if God is going to ask you to do something He will place the desire in your heart.  He can also use other people to show you His will.  And sometimes, just maybe, He will use your circumstances to reveal His will for your life.  Honestly, God will never pressure you against a door that doesn't open, but not all open doors are God's will.  And, here is the one that really spoke to me - just because it is rough, doesn't mean it is out of the will of God.  Then there is our part.  We need to surrender ourselves to Him.  He won't reveal His will to the uncommitted.  We must be obedient.  We can't merely go through the motions of learning, we have to be willing to do the doing! And finally, the hardest one, we must trust.  God isn't necessarily going to show you the whole picture, but He will let you see what you need for today. 

Finally, today, I finished a book that my dear friend Anna recommended to me several months ago.  Truth is I wish I would have finished it straight away.  Not that I can say it would have changed any of the choices I made or the events of this past summer, but I would have been armed with a bit more knowledge.  However, it isn't the way of things and the point that matters now is that I did finish it.  Honestly, I don't think it was coincidence at all that today, of all days, was the day to complete this book.  The book is called - What a Man Wants, What a Woman Needs by Eddie Long.  The crux of the book is what makes a good relationship, a strong relationship, a godly relationship.  Oh, don't misunderstand, this book is SO much more than that.  I recommend it to anyone and everyone, married or not.  But, be prepared!  This book is in your face.  It is real.  It is deep.  It will call you on the carpet.  Yet, the whole time it is doing that, it is reminding you that you are more than the label you've been given and that God has a purpose for you.  I could go on and on about this book.  But, the most precious take away that I have is that even though in life we fail, and yes, we all fail, we are human after all, God says failure isn't final.  That above all else He is faithful and just and He will never leave us or forsake us. Go ahead, buy it.  You can get it super cheap on Amazon. I'd lend you my copy but I'm sort of hard on books; I underline, mark, star, and journal in the margins.  This one was NO exception!

I had plans of writing to you today with a post about my feelings.  A post about the pain and heartache and loneliness that I am still struggling with.  I had plans to sit here and pour out all of that again.  In all honesty I think I would have been justified, seeing as how today is exactly 365 days later, but when I started typing my thoughts just wouldn't go there.  I know that I still have much healing to go through, that God still has work to do with me and in me, but I love that three times today, THREE times, He showed me and reminded me that I am worth so much more than the sum of my circumstances.  That He has created me for more than what I've gone through and that He does have a purpose for my life.  And maybe, just maybe, while He is sorting all that out in me, I can share it all with you and if just one of you who read this finds that same beautiful gift, then I'd say God has done exceedingly more than I could have ever thought with the words of my life.

Here is to the next 365 days, what they will hold and become.  Those lessons I will learn and the person I will continue to become.




Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Woman I Am

These past couple of weeks I've been a mixture of emotions.  Some days I feel like I can conquer the world and others I feel like the world has conquered me.  I try not to focus on the calendar, but because the hours will it to happen the days keep turning one into another anyway.  Its the way of things I guess.  Time doing that thing it does.  Only those who have passed on are truly free of its inevitableness.  A year ago my days had their own issues, but I was sitting here without a doubt, behind this laptop, keying in some snarky bit of wisdom or more likely a string of random sarcasm as a woman who thought she knew who she was.  Never would I have thought that the days after would begin the journey that I am still on.  Those days which felt like years each turned into days that flew by. 

In some ways I've grown stronger.  I'm doing those things that I never thought I would be able to do.  I am supporting my girls all by myself.  I am doing it.  The mommying isn't the hard part, but the parenting is.  Some will understand that distinction, others will not.  I've come to terms with the things that I am and the things that I am not.  I am not superwoman.  I am not that woman who will have an immaculate home, and truly I am ok with that.  My house does not define me nor does the clutter within.  Many equate an untidy home to be a reflection of what is in a person.  Me, I know it is more that I work 50+ hours a week and have 3 children.  There are some things that are simply not that important; being able to eat off every surface and passing a white glove test is certainly one of them.  But what I have is a house we are happy to come home to.  I am also not a five star chef, but my babies are well fed.  Nor am I a dry cleaner and though our clothes come with wrinkles (not the kind you pay for at those fancy stores) they are clean.

Actually, I am just an average woman, and I'm ok with that.  It isn't that I want an award for this average-ness or as some would call it mediocrity, I just know that I'm good with being the woman I am and in that regard have no shame.  Truth of it is, I'm getting the hang of this, this finding the me that God created me to be.  It's taken a couple rough roads and poor choices and hard learnt lessons, but I've come to the place where He is defining me.  That place where I am LETTING Him define me.  In that place I am coming to grips with knowing I don't have to be what other people expect me to be, or who I think they think I should be.  I may not be the most popular, have the best of everything, or have the most amazing stories to share, but what I have is sincerity and openness.  This I know about myself.   I'm also learning that those people who know me, really know who I am, know that.  They see past what the outside portrays and see the inner person, they see past the harsh words others say in order to really know the woman I am.

Several weeks ago the adult Sunday school class that I am in started a series called Soul Detox.  The first lesson was about toxic words, those we say to ourselves and those others say to us or about us.  The point of it was that our words can either lift up or destroy.  Our self talk can do the same. (“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up.”  Ephesians 4:29a) In that lesson our teacher came up with the idea that we should all share a word about each person in the class that describes who they are, something that reminds you of them.  You know, I will tell you this was the easiest thing for me to do.  I loved putting my thoughts about my friends down on paper.  They truly are amazing people, but I was scared to see what they thought of me.  I was worried that I wouldn't have anything.  Then, a week ago, the email came in with those words.  Those words that describe the woman I am, as they see me.  And you know what, I'm blessed by their truth and the love they have to see me as someone more than the sins I had committed.

These are their words: Mandy R. - honest, willing to share, big heart, humorous, honest, thoughtful, great writer, loves her kids, strong, reflective, passionate

 


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Test

One thing I do not miss about school are the tests.  Oh my goodness did I hate taking tests.  In fact, I was always that student who would ask to write a 10 page paper in place of taking a test.  Yes, there really are people like me!  Ha!  I've been out of school now for a few months.  In fact, when I was finishing up people would ask me what I was going to do with all my free time and I'd just look at them like, "are you crazy?  I'm a single mom of three, there is no such thing as free time."  Yeah, I still think that way, but I do have my 'every other weekend'!  I digress.  The truth of it is, even with two degrees and no immediate desire to go back for a third, I have not stopped taking tests. In all honesty, none of us really do.  Life in and of itself is a test.

My devotional today was so applicable.  It truly hit home with this fact.  We've all been in that place where ick has happened.  Where we have been dealt a bad hand, we've been given a raw deal.  Some of us have had to work through the loss of a job, loss of a loved one, a debilitating illness, or in my case a divorce.  In those situations, if you are anything like me you have wondered, "why me?"  Why do I have to go through this?  What did I do wrong?  Why, God?  WHY?  Actually, I think if we are absolutely true with ourselves then we can say, in all honesty, these cases bring out our inner two year and we stand there, at the feet of Jesus, jumping up and down, wailing at the top of our lungs, booger-snotting everywhere, and screaming why, why, why?! And you know what?  Nothing happens!

No its true.  Nothing happens.  And then we are left with that look on our face of "what the???!!!"  Yes!  You totally know what I am talking about, don't you?  That's just the thing - God does not owe us an explanation.  No, you heard me right.  He does NOT OWE us ANYTHING!  Kind of irks you doesn't it?  I know it does me.  In fact, when I read that today I almost wanted to start yelling at Him again.  Seriously, like just WHO does He think He is?  Then its like, duh...and then, yeah.  He is!  Do you want to know why He doesn't tell us why?  It's because He's testing us.  Like life isn't hard enough, now we have to take tests that we never signed up for.  The subject of the test?  It is the same regardless of what caused it.  The subject - to see just how big our faith is.

RIGHT???!!!!  I know.  Me too!  But, then if I am being honest with myself, and this is just me, I'm sure you're not like this at all, I realize that perhaps maybe my faith isn't strong or big enough at all.  Nope.  It is strong when life is going well and things look good and I have rainbows and unicorns, but that moment when the rain clouds enter in and the hard times come, that is when my faith isn't there.  I mean, He even said I only have to have enough faith, about the size of a mustard seed actually. (Have you ever seen one of those?  They're kind of inky-dinky!)  But I don't.  I don't have faith even that big.  I see nothing BUT the mountain that is my problem.  Then there is the BIGGER lesson.  As if I needed more to learn.  Ugh!

He's quiet.  Yep.  During the test He clams up.  Not a peep.  There is no raising your hand to ask for the answer.  There is no walking up to His desk and getting clarification.  There is just silence.  Pin-dropping silence.  All for our good. No, really.  It is.  Or so my devotional said.  The reason for this?  To see if we are going to continue to persevere, to continue to rest in Him (a.k.a read the Bible and pray) or try to go it alone (cheat ourselves out of the best grade).

You see, I did that.  This test that I'm taking right now.  The one where the lesson keeps dragging out.  This test has a lot of questions.  Actually, this is more of an essay test.  (Yeah for me!  NOT) These past months, the ones where I've had to go it alone have been hard.  But, it was the ones where I wasn't alone that I think were actually harder.  They were the months when the test was the most brutal because instead of seeking Him, I tried to do it my way.  I won't negate the lessons I learned, but I am sad about cheating myself out of the rewards of the test.  But, that is the thing with life, God gives us second chances.  He gives us more tests.  More opportunities to pass.  Now, we may not end up with the same reward, but we always get the best. 

I guess the thing I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't give up.  He is still there.  He still loves you.  He is still waiting for you to rest in Him.  He still wants you to pass.  Oh, we may not like it.  Actually, we may not like the reward at the end of the test either, but I think that the lesson, the one where He's seeing exactly how big our faith is, is the better reward.  I won't lie though.  I'm not there yet.  I keep wanting to take this my way, but I muck it up each time.  EACH TIME!  So, I think I will go it His way for  a bit.  And if that bit turns into a while, then it turns into a while.  I'm hoping it doesn't turn into you know, the rest of my life, but if so, I will accept it.  Because honestly, the reward at the end has to be better than the immediate gain.  IT.JUST.HAS.TO.BE!

When going through the pain (test) we don't need God's explanation, we need His presence!







Thursday, October 3, 2013

Revived

Well lovelies it is October.  This month has finally arrived.  I haven't been on here in a while, but I have checked in to read your comments.  Last month was a month of a lot of firsts for me.  I started off telling you about it and sharing a lot of the things I learned.  I had a milestone last month.  I ran my first half marathon.  My goal was to come in under 2 hours.  I finished at 2:03:25.  I started too slow (10 min/mile pace), didn't pick my splits up soon enough, and had WAY too much energy left at the finish.  But, I will take this as a win and another learning experience.  There is so much to learn about running, but I think it is what you learn about yourself when you run that really makes the difference.  I am learning that I really do have what it takes for the long haul.

But is was how that month ended and this one began that I really need to share with you.  First, I must say that today, today is seven weeks that I have been without a man in my life.  And I am actually doing pretty darn good! Much better than I thought I would be, but then again, sometimes, perspective has a way of showing you things you don't want to see.  Like, I really do have what it takes to be on my own. 

We had fall revival at our church these past few days.  Sunday through yesterday to be precise.  That was the first time I never missed a revival service.  It helped that the evangelist was absolutely amazing and his message beyond exactly what I needed to hear.  As with all things, we learn most when we are open to what is said.  Honestly, I learned a lot each day, but it was Tuesday night and last night that had my heart racing and my tears flowing.  See, I know a few things to be wholly true.  This applies to us all.  I know that God does not make mistakes.  That means that each of us, even me, are not mistakes.  We were all designed by Him to be here.  I also know that He never changes. He is always the same and has been since the beginning of time.  And because of this it is us who goes through change.  Good, bad, back and forth...change.  Change brings learning.

To share briefly, on Monday, the message was that we are to stop seeing ourselves as the world sees us.  We are also to stop seeing ourselves in the way we see us.  We are to see our selves in the way God sees us.  Only when we do that can we accept the truth about who we truly are and live our lives according to that.  You see, insecurity comes from seeing ourselves through others' eyes.  That insecurity leads us to becoming someone we aren't, all to gain something from the other person/people.  But the truth of it is, God wants us to be who he made us to be.  BIG WORDS RIGHT THERE PEOPLE!  BIG WORDS!  Who am I?  I'm learning this right now. 

Tuesday the message was on sin.  What sin does to us.  What sin did to those in the Bible.  I'm going to be honest here, because those that know me, truly know me, know that I am a very transparent person.  I don't hide much.  I tell it all.  I sin.  Gasp!  It's true.  But the bigger point was what sin keeps us from. We are not tempted into sin by God.  He is the antithesis of Sin, but He took our sins on Himself so that we may have freedom in Him.  People, you know what this means?  It means, that because I asked, I am forgiven! (Now, we can't keep doing that same thing - just need to throw that out there.  You know, in case fingers wanted to begin pointing and all.) I know there are those who may read this that will never forgive me.  For that, I am sorry, but I know God has.  I honeslty believe this.  I am not the person my sins made me to be.  Here's the thing, the devil knows our weaknesses.  He knows those things that we desire most, just like God does.  But his ploy is to get us to do what we know we shouldn't.  He weakens us and weakens us.  Sometimes he uses small means, others big.  But sin is sin any way it is sliced.  We each have to chose to enter into it.  And those small steps sometimes add up to that last big one.  But it is still sin all the same.  And just because mine is different than yours does not make me a worse person.  But, I'm ok with what you think.  You're entitled to that. Because I know what my Jesus thinks and that is what matters most to me.  We all get second chances, people.  We all do, especially when we let Him work through us.

Last night the message was just as amazing.  I know that God has a dream for me.  I know that He has plans for my life.  I don't know what they are just yet and truth, I'm ok with that.  Well, to a point.  I really do have issues with patience!  I just know that He does know the desires of my heart.  He knows what I want more than anything.  And the ironic thing about that, in the past couple of days I have had a couple different friends tell me in almost the EXACT same words at completely different times and in different circumstances, the same thing.  I can't tell you what it is just yet, it's still being worked out in me, but I know that God sometimes tells us things through other Christians.  And I have the biggest smile on my face because of that.  The main message wasn't on that, but it is what I remember the most.  And the prayer time.  Again, buckets full of tears.  But God has big shoulders and an endless supply of kleenex so all is good.  He just wanted my honesty and heartfelt prayer.  He got both.  And I got the peace of knowing He will never leave me.  Yeah, He's pretty cool like that.

In all, as this month, the one I've been dreading, has started I came into it with some hope and some lessons learned.  Truthfully I came into it revived.  I know there will be struggles as this month tarries on.  Afterall, I will reach another milestone this month.  But, I'll get there when the time is right.  My heart is too happy to talk about it now.  For now, I leave you with this:  Nothing you have done is too big for God to forgive.  He has made you because He loves you.  All you have to do is ask.  It really is your choice.

By the way, the evangelist, who just happens to be wicked awesome is Jeremiah Bolich.  You can click here to check out his ministry.  Actually, he has several sites; I recommend you check them all out through Google.