Friday, December 12, 2014

On Crippling Insecurity & the Tyranny of the, "What if?"

Insecurity. It's ugly, y'all. Plain and simple. It can mask itself as humility and meekness, among other things but underneath it all, it's pure sin. Self-focused and fixed on what the world thinks, insecurity, if given the opportunity, has the ability to utterly cripple us, hindering the Lord's work and the Word of God from going forth in glory. Insecurity is a condition where the preoccupation with I trumps the I AM. Did you know that insecurity is a form of pride? No? It is. When we are so consumed with ourselves and what others think, we are not fixing our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith. When the acceptance and favor of people becomes more important than what our very Creator thinks, that, my friends, is called idolatry. 

How can I speak with such authority on this topic? Sadly, I am an expert. I have lived nearly my entire life, drowning in my own self-doubt, worry, paranoia, and the desire to be liked - no - loved. By everyone. I have allowed preconceived notions to get in the way of building relationships and hinder those that were already established. If someone looked at me funny or didn't respond to something I said or did in the right fashion or if I thought someone didn't like me or thought ill of me in any way, it rendered me utterly useless until I was sure something was not amiss. If perhaps someone didn't return a call or a text or, heaven forbid, use emoticons so that I could understand their "tone" I would worry and fret. It would keep me awake at night or cause me to slack in my daily duties of being a mom and teacher to my kiddos, and wife to my husband. I am not exaggerating, though I wish I were. It got so bad that everything became about me and how I perceived the world around me. And these perceptions were not often not even real, mind you. I smiled and laughed on the outside but inside I was a mess. A self-absorbed wreck, convinced that nobody really thought I was special and those who said I was were probably just saying that to be nice. Decisions I made, words I said, were all based on big fat, "what ifs" of which 99.9% have NEVER occurred. My world became all about ME and what others thought about ME.

The enemy can certainly feed our desire to be seen as good and wonderful. This can be dangerous because the bible tells us that the heart of man is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9) and that there are none who are righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10) On our own, we are wretched. It is only by the blood of Christ that we are made clean, righteous, holy, and redeemed. So you see, the problem in placing our hope in others opinions and perceptions of us instead of in Christ, is destructive and leaves us weary and worn. This makes the enemy simply giddy because we have played right into his hands. I know the strain of living for myself and for everyone else but Jesus and it was utterly exhausting and devastating to live that way. There are three things I have learned through my battle with insecurity (pride):

1. Insecurity hinders relationship with the Savior. When I am so focused inwardly I often neglect my daily time with the Lord and as a result I feel very distant from Him and spiritually dry. 

2. Insecurity hinders relationships with others. There were cases in which I became so focused on friendships that I wished would develop, that I missed out on relationships with really great people right in front of me. There were also instances where a relationship was just fine, but, because I perceived there to be a problem I brought an awkwardness to the table that didn't need to be there. 

3. Insecurity hinders us from doing what God has called us to do. In my experience, I allowed my insecurities and pride issues to cripple me. I was going through the motions of my Christian walk but I was not very effective and I had very little joy. Even my daily
responsibilities were shirked because my sin ran so deep.

It would be a lie to say that this is no longer a battle for me at all. However, it is getting easier to recognize when I start heading toward my old unhealthy way of thinking and to stop the lies before they take root. This is by no means a complete list, but these are a few of the main things that have helped and are helping me overcome the sin of insecurity. 

1. I must remember that my hope is in Christ alone. He is the only
one who will never leave or forsake me. He is my defender. My shield. Perfect and holy, I can trust Christ with my whole heart. People will always fail us. (Psalm 118:8, 146:3, Isaiah 2:22)

2. I must take every thought captive (2 Corinthian 10:5) and choose to think on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).

3. I MUST memorize and be able to use scripture to head off the lies of the enemy. This is scriptural and is modeled for us in when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Every time Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus was able to combat it with scripture. By memorizing truths from God's word, we have power to stop lies in their tracks. When we aren't sure how to respond, the Holy Spirit can help us remember the truth we have stored up. Scripture memorization is key! 

4. This is the most important one. I must daily meet with Jesus and read the Word. There is no formula for this and it will look differently
for each of us, but we must take time to pray, read and study the word, as well as take time to listen so that we may respond in obedience to what we are learning.

If you find yourself in a similar battle please know that you are never alone and there is always hope. Keep seeking the Lord and I promise, He will NEVER fail you! If you aren't sure where to start it is okay to ask for prayer and for some guidance as you begin the daily battle to surrender wholly to Christ. Cry out to the Savior and ask Him to lead you. This is a process that is hard and exhausting at times, but not impossible. If God is for us then who can stand against us? Sojourn on, sweet friends! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When God Uses the Desert to Quench Your Soul's Deepest Thirst. (A "see you later" post for my 29 Palms Family)

Blazing sun in a cloudless sky. Parched ground, cracked and thirsty, crying out for the heavens to open up and pour out refreshment. Brutal winds sweeping across the terrain, stirring dust and tumbleweeds. Snakes, scorpions, coyotes. These are all images that would realistically come to mind when thinking of the desert. Desolate. Dry. Hot. Barren. Lonely. But, what if I told you that the desert can be a beautiful oasis? What if I told you that, in spite of the harsh weather and terrain, the desert is teeming with abundant life? What if I told you that even in the loose sand and rocky soil it's possibly to grow roots deep and strong? 

Yes, roots. Roots are a hard thing for this nomadic soul. I've never been good at growing them for long. My mode of operation has always been to flee. To move on. Or, at least, to spend so much time thinking of fleeing and moving on that I've missed out on life right in front of me, often blaming others for my own hurt and discontentment. Growing up, I faced many obstacles and difficult circumstances. Some were heartbreaking. Some were terrifying at times. Others seemed utterly hopeless in the moment. During those times, I willingly, yes, even eagerly, dumped all the hard stuff into a big backpack, and proceeded to carry the obnoxious thing around with me, making it nearly impossible at times to remember anything good. And there has been plenty of good in my life. You see, sometimes we enjoy having an "out" for our sin. Pushing the blame onto other people or our circumstances and/or holding on to hurt, refusing to forgive seems easier than taking responsibility or simply letting go. Simple does not equal easy, by the way. Concepts and ideas may be very simple but implementing them can be very difficult. Putting these things in action takes a daily surrender that can leave us feeling exhausted and defeated. I can tell you with confidence that the enemy would love nothing more than for us to live in our past and wallow in insecurity, anger, and self pity.  But when we do so, we miss out on so much life has to offer. Here is part of my story and how God used this desert to satisfy a deep longing.

Two years and 8 months ago I entered this chapter of our life, STILL carrying the backpack of hard around. We had endured some pretty brutal trials in the months before and God had brought us through the fire in a  mighty way. Some of the hurt came from our own sin, struggles, and lack of maturity and some came from things we experienced in church ministry and life in general. Needless to say, we were excited but wary of what to expect. Military life was new, shiny, uncertain and scary at the same time.  In the past, my role in church ministry was pretty defined from the get-go. I worked alongside my husband and took care of our kids. At our best, we were very much a team. Chaplaincy was a bit different at first because of the nature of the ministry/job. Because confidentiality is a big deal in the military, much of what T does cannot be talked about. He is dealing with sensitive issues in the lives of Sailors, Marines, and their families and so it's not like I can just deliver a meal or provide support to anyone who needs it, unless I know them directly. There are chains of command and protocol and other things that are very different from church ministry. I was a bit lost when we first came into this world, but with the help of a wonderful Family Readiness Officer (FRO) I was able to find where I fit in. I was able to help start a meal outreach for our battalion and a bible study for some ladies who were interested. A lot of my personal ministry ended up really being one on one type of stuff, just getting to know individual ladies and learning about who they are, praying for them, etc. I learned a few hard lessons along the way about trusting others and being very careful about the words that came out of my mouth because, in this world, perception is reality in many ways, like it or not. Also, Travis and I were still very much a team. Even though we were not always serving side by side, our goal was unified in one Jesus-commanded goal: Love the Lord our God and love the people we were sent to serve.

With joy, I can say that EVERY fear and uncertainty I had about this lifestyle was completely unfounded once I really let go and allowed the Lord to work. I never imagined the community He would surround us with. In the midst of the harsh climate and terrain, my Jesus rained down an abundance of love, grace, joy, and mercy through the people I met in the desert. Even deployment, though hard, was a time of struggle, growth, and learning the hard lesson of allowing people in to love on us. We got plugged into the base chapel and that body of believers, of fellow desert dwellers, they became our family. We joined the worship team, became active in ministry within the chapel as well as within the battalion and we made a home and a life there in 29 Palms. We joined a bible study and became bonded together forever with some most amazing people. Our neighbors and friends were the best we could ever hope for and they became our family. Every dinner shared, fire pit chat sat around, s'more cooked, playdate, impromptu get together, every household item borrowed or exchanged, every heart to heart talk, tear cried together, every celebration, every adventure, each bore its way into my heart and I am forever changed by my time in the beautiful Mojave. That metaphorical big bag of hurt I had carried for so long, it is no longer there. In no particular order, here are just 10 (though I could list 100 more) important things I learned while in the desert:

1. The desert, though harsh, dry, and seemingly barren, is actually teeming with life. And it's beautiful. 

2. Sun shades for the car are necessary. Trust me.

3. Community can be sweet and life-giving. There really is no community I have found that compares to that of my military family. 

4. Lake Bandini is not, in fact, a lake. REALLY trust me on this one.

5. Flash flooding in the desert is for real, y'all. I'm not even joking.

6. There really is nothing like a homecoming. I still tear up any time I see the white buses, people waiting for their loved ones, and pictures or videos of people celebrating the return of a service member. Doesn't matter if they are complete strangers. Tears. Every. Single. Time. 

7. It's true. Military spouses don't do spring cleaning. We do, "Oh-crud-my-spouse-comes-home-in-five-days-and-I-still-have-one-hundred-and-seventy-three-items-on-my-to-do-list!" cleaning. Somehow, though, it all comes together, and by the time that big day comes, you don't care if it all got done, you just want to see your love :)

8. Learning to receive can be a hard lesson. During our stint in the desert, my family was the recipient of A LOT of love. God provided in so many ways via that precious community. We had meals given, maid services gifted, even friends who cleaned my house, including the toilets. There was hildcare provided, coffee delivered, hugs given and ears that would listen during rough times. During deployment a neighbor mowed my grass almost the entire time. Oh, and the lawnmower was given to us. Even as we prepared to leave last week we had so much help freely given without any expectation or strings attached. It was hard to accept such love sometimes, but it was the greatest gift and much needed. I pray those precious people each know how much they are loved and appreciated!

9. Having a family, be it blood family or an extended family of sorts, means accepting people for who they are, where they are at, and loving them no matter what.

10. Semper Gumby is the only way to survive this hurry-up-and-wait kind of life. Always flexible. Always bending :)

To say I miss my desert family would be a drastic understatement. I believe I left a part of my heart there in 29 and will be forever grateful for each lesson learned and each relationship forged. God used the desert to quench my soul's deepest thirst. I used to think that the thirst was for community and though that need was indeed met, I have learned that the true thirst was for love. For true love, pure and perfect. He showed me through His beloved people just how loved I am and renewed a hunger and thirst for the Word. For LIVING water. The kind only Jesus provides. The only kind that truly satisfies. He showed me that HE is enough, even without community, while simultaneously providing the community and friendships I longed for. Now, our journey takes thousands of miles to the south and I look forward with great expectation to what lies ahead. Fair Winds and Following Seas, 29 Palms! We love you!

Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm Not Super Mom!

I have no cape. No wand or special weapon. No mask or fun cute leggings and boots. Tragic, I know! Most days I'm doing well to be bathed and dressed by lunchtime. I yell at my kids and I hug close and seek forgiveness often. I have drawers filled with fun crafty goodness that has never been used and baby books begging to be filled with memories quickly growing dim. There are enough Cheerios in between the couch cushions to feed a small army in spite of my best intentions to enforce the "no food in the living room," rule and I promise the laundry pile has simply tripled in size overnight. Is there a laundry fairy somewhere? Anywhere? I am often rushing out the door after performing a search and rescue expedition for my phone, my keys, someone's shoes, a special lovey or a water bottle. There are days where fatigue grabs hold and won't let go. Sleep hangs on tight as I rage the against the sun and beg for just five. More. Minutes. No,  I am most certainly NOT Super Mom!

There was a day where admitting that I don't have it all together would have been so difficult for me. I mean who wants to let their mess loose for all to see? I didn't. But, as I started talking to my friends, I realized I wasn't the only one who struggled with bathing regularly, going to bed at a decent hour, and keeping my temper at bay. I wasn't alone! You see, somewhere  along the way, in our media saturated lives, we have accepted this idea that good moms complete ridiculous amounts of Pinterest projects, have their kids in fifteen extra curricular activities (and balance it all superbly), let their kids watch just an hour of TV per week (or no TV at all), feed their kids only organic, raw, grass-fed, God-made food, and can keep a perfect house with children underfoot. Oh and she has a blog that brings in income for the family and has morphed into a book, a vibrant and consistent quiet time, is a model church member, Crossfit warrior, and an outstanding citizen of the community. Who IS this person?

It is easy to compare ourselves to these impossible standards. We often forget that what we see on facebook, twitter, and blogs is only a glimpse of that person. We only see what that person is allowing us to see. 
Whether you are a Pinterest project queen or if you wouldn't know what mod podge was if it walked up and slapped you in the face... Whether you have 1 kid or10... Whether you feed your kids paleo or frozen chicken nuggets - YOU, my sweet friend, are beautiful and dearly loved by a most awesome God. Other people's opinions and accomplishments do not define you. Your failures and successes do not define you. 

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have been bought with a price. Redeemed. Forgiven. I love this passage in the book, "Because He Loves Me," by Elyse Fitzpatrick: 

"Here's the reality of the great exchange: our sinful record became his, and he suffered the punishment we deserved. But that's not all he has done. If it were, that would be a great blessing, indeed. To stand innocent - to be back where our first parents were in the garden - would certainly be wondrous. But he hasn't left us there where Adam began. No, through the Second Adam (Jesus), he has done even more than even more for us; he has justified us. As you probably know, this concept of the great exchange is often referred to as justification. I've heard the word justified defined as "just as if I'd never sinned." And while that's true as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough. Not only do we have a clean slate as Adam did, we've got something written on that slate that is so amazing I can scarcely believe it: Jesus' perfect record has become ours. Because God has accredited or imputed Jesus' perfect obedience to you, when God looks upon you, he sees you as a person who:
- always does the things that are pleasing to him;
- is so focused on accomplishing his will and work that doing so is your daily food;
- doesn't seek your own will but seeks his will instead;
- doesn't seek to receive glory (praise, respect, worship) from others;
- has always kept all of his commandments;
- lives in such a way that your life brings holiness to others;
- loves others and lays down your life on a consistent basis;
- lives in such a way that the people around you know that you love your heavely     Father more than anything else; 
- seeks to obey every command so that righteousness will be fulfilled.

In God's opinion (the only one that matters!) that's your record today."

WOW! Friends! That's incredible! When we compare ourselves to others and wallow in our own perceived shortcomings, we will ALWAYS face condemnation. This comes from the enemy who prowls like a roaring lion. When we are resting on the promises of God, we can be assured that, apart from Christ, we really are a mess, but it doesn't end there. Romans chapter 10 reminds us that, "no one is righteous, no not one," but because of the blood of Christ, when God looks at us, he doesn't see our mess. He sees JESUS. What a miraculous and undeserved gift! It's time to lay aside the guilt and the pressure we put on ourselves to be "perfect," and realize that we are dearly loved by a perfect Savior. Without him we would be lost and headed for eternity in hell. Receive the gift of Christ's perfect record and start walking in the freedom of Christ! This doesn't excuse us from confessing our sin and striving to be Christlike in all areas of our lives (including our walk with the Lord, marriage, motherhood, taking care of our bodies, etc.), mind you, but it frees us up to make mistakes, seek forgiveness, repent, and move forward without being crushed under the weight of guilt and condemnation. It frees us up to follow the unique path that God has set before each person individually without feeling pressured to imitate others. 

Go forth into the world, warrior mamas! As you change diapers, cook meals, struggle to be calm and patient and find yourself caught up in the day to day monotony that can sometimes ensue, may you take time to seek the Lord through prayer and the reading of His word. Take time to grow in knowledge and pray for wisdom in how to apply what you are learning. Find your rest and your confidence in HIM who died for you. I pray that each of you leave this page feeling encouraged, refreshed, and utterly in awe of what Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross. Claim your inheritance and walk in freedom, sister! You are loved! 

P.S. If you would like to buy a copy of the book quoted above, you can find it HERE. I highly recommend it!