It's Christmas time! It's my favorite time of year. Most of the time. This year I've had a really hard time getting into the "Christmas Spirit". Growing up, my Christmas season was all about church programs and parties. I come from a pretty large family and we had set traditions. I just knew how it was going to be. I could count on pretty cool gifts under the Christmas tree and nacho dip at the family party. We had movies we watched on certain days at certain times. Christmas was Christmas. It was the same, and I loved it.
I'm normally the type of person who's got our Christmas tree up pretty early in November. I listen to Christmas music before Halloween. I'm even ok with snow until the day after Christmas. But this year, I just couldn't seem to get my heart into it.
Then I realized something.
My Christmas season wasn't about me. It's not about the traditions I create with my own family.
It's about Jesus. It's about sacrifice. It's about showing up.
I think sometimes we get so caught up in the cuteness of the nativity story. Who doesn't love a newborn baby? And maybe not everyone thinks about this (but I'm a hopeless romantic, so I do) but seriously, the love story between Mary and Joseph. Maybe not that they were pining for each other and gazing lovingly into each others eyes, but that they chose each other. They chose to model love to each other. Love that they hadn't even really seen yet. Man, that's good stuff.
When Jesus came into our world, he came knowing he had a death sentence. He lived for 33 years knowing what was going to happen, and still he chose us. He chose to come. He chose his situation and circumstance. He chose to be part of a low, struggling, broken people. He chose sacrifice- sacrificing himself, ultimately (and thankfully not permanently) sacrificing his relationship with his father.
Thinking of all that, it kind of makes my Christmas traditions seem silly. Yeah, Christmas caroling and nacho dip are great, but what's the point? Is the point of Christmas to create new traditions with my kids that involve Church programs and family parties and gives me the warm fuzzies? No. It's not. Those things are great and our family and our church are both gifts God has given us. But I suppose THAT'S the point.
God gave us a gift. Not a gift we open and shove in a drawer to keep forever, but, a gift that we have to keep giving.
This Christmas I'm choosing sacrifice. I'm choosing to show up in the lives of others. I want to teach my kids that Christmas isn't about gifts, or traditions, or parties. It's about loving others so deeply that we are willing to give the gift of Jesus. I want my kids to say, yeah, we had parties and nacho dip, but man did we give. And love. And give. And love. We showed up to be Jesus, and to gift love when people needed it most.
Thankfully, the Lord revealed all of this to me at the beginning of our Christmas season. As I sit down and organize our holiday calendar, I have the opportunity to make it look a little different this year. And I'm honestly so excited! THIS is what's Christmas spirit is!
Would you consider doing it with us? Consider how you can show up in someone elses life this Christmas and give the gift of Jesus.
I made this to hang up by our front door to remind us everytime we leave the house that our goal is to give the gift of Jesus. It's free to download here
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Come, Thou Fount has quickly become my favorite songs. Mainly, because of that verse right there. If I could write so eloquently, that would be my heart captured in those 8 lines. If there is one thing I've realized over the last year it is that I am a debtor. I am empty. I am broken. I've tried time and time again to fill the brokenness with people, things, places, positions. Nothing satisfies. Nothing besides God. And yet, I forget that so easily. So easily I wander. So easily I walk away from the promises God has given me.
A month or so ago, I was working on a bible study we were doing with the women's group at church and there was a question that asked- where is one place you were surprised to find God? I had to sit and think about my answer because I didn't want it to sound "churchy". So, I wrote down my honest answer- In the middle of my sin.
I spent 12 weeks purposely walking away from God. I didn't want him there because I didn't want him to know what I was doing. (How ridiculous is that?) I hid from him. And yet he pursued me. Every day he made himself known to me, even when I didn't want him to. When I made the choice to turn back to him, he didn't beat me with shame or punishment. He drew me to him with His love.
For 5 months I begged God to open his wrath on me. To pour it out on me so I could know the weight of my sin. So I could feel the shame and the sorrow. But God doesn't further smash the pieces of our broken hearts, he spreads his love on them like a healing balm. Instead of chastising me for the choices I'd made, He revealed himself to me in ways he never has before. He showed me that his love for me only grows deeper and my actions, my sin, my fear, my shame, my running- it doesn't change that. It doesn't change how he feels about me. God doesn't look at me and see my sin. He can't. When I chose to accept his salvation, I was covered with the blood that he shed on the cross. When he looks at me, he doesn't see who I was, the bad choices I've made, the fight. He sees his child, broken, needing love. Needing healing. He sees the child he loves. This changed things for me. It changed how I saw myself. No longer was I an unfaithful wife, a broken person, a product of my sin. I was a deeply loved child of God who was forgiven.
There are battles I will always fight. Always. I am an emotional person. In fact, emotions have always ruled my life. I've lived a life tossed about because I always followed the directions my emotions took me. I've learned the necessity of standing on God's truth. There are so many days when I have to take a minute and just say- God, I need your truth because all I can see is how I feel. If there is one piece of advice I can give, it's this- saturate yourself with scripture. Know the Bible. It's the truth I have to stand on. And God is always faithful. If I'm feeling particularly emotional about something and ask for God's truth, he always gives me a verse to stand on.
There is self righteousness so deeply rooted in my life that I think God will be weeding this garden till the day I die. I feel entitled to my dreams. I deserve my dream house, I deserve having that land, I deserve the perfect husband and kids. I deserve. I deserve. I deserve. But the truth is that what I really deserve is to live a life labeled by my sin and shame. I deserve God opening up that wrath on me. I deserve death. But because of that love I was talking about earlier, God will give me the best. And the best is his plans for me, not what I dream for myself. I've learned that daily I have to submit my dreams to God and to ask him to complete his will for my life, not the plans I have. Now, does this mean I live a life free of entitlement? Absolutely not. There are more days than not when I get mad at God and throw an "It's not fair" temper tantrum because I'm not getting what I want. But, God is working on me. Slowly, through His love.
And I've learned about love. Love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. Every day I can roll over in the morning and decide that today I'm not going to love Aaron, that I want to be done with him again. That I'm over the life I have with him. Because in truth, not every person is going to deserve love every day. There are days that Aaron drives me up the wall. I get so mad I want to just scream. But that's when I have to choose to do the hard stuff. I have to make the choice to extend him the grace I've been given. Those are the days I have to love him like God loves me. And every day has gotten easier. I can honestly say that there is a deeper love between Aaron and I now than there has ever been. God has honored our desire for a better marriage and he's helping us every day to become more like Him- ourselves and in our marriage. We are far from having the perfect marriage, that's for sure. But God has revealed himself to us through our healing process and restoring broken trust.
Don't ever follow your heart. Your heart will tell you all the things it's told me for so long- you deserve to be happy. Do what makes you happy. WRONG WRONG WRONG. I've learned that I have to do what makes me more holy, not what makes me more happy. Because in the end, God's not going to say- Where you happy? He's going to say where you holy.
Marriage is hard. Next to being a parent, it's the hardest thing I've ever done because it's exposed so much of my sinful self. But God has been faithful to me. And Aaron. And I know that he's not done with us yet. We've been praying about where God is leading us in our ministry, and we covet your prayers and we wait for God's leading in this area. God hasn't changed our calling to full time ministry. Walking the path we have in the last year only confirmed that for us. Does this path make us more hesitant? Absolutely, it does. Because not everyone is going to respond positively to our story. Not everyone understands God's redeeming love. We know that there may be more closed doors then open doors. But, God is still faithful. Regardless of what our past has looked like, we know he wastes nothing and He will use all things for his good.
I know this post has been kind of long, and I know that maybe you're tired of hearing about all this, but I can't feel like I've done our story justice if I don't say these things-
1. When you feel emotional, broken, beaten, angry, bitter- don't run to someone or something else to fix that or fill you up. Run to Jesus.
2. Never give up. Never give up on your marriage. Never give up on your spouse. And certainly never give up on God. We are living proof that nothing is beyond hope.
3. If you've walked a road similar to mine and you've dealt with shame, know this- God does not shame us. Satan does. You are NOT your sin. You are a loved child of God. I urge you to reach out to someone that you trust and share your heart with them. Send me a message, I don't care, just don't continue claiming this. Decide today that you won't walk around with that defining you anymore.
4. GUARD YOUR HEART. Stay away from situations that open a door for sin. If you are questioning if what you're doing is wrong, it probably is. Just don't do it. Sit down with your spouse, discuss what makes them feel uncomfortable, and agree on boundaries in your relationship. Like I said, I didn't wake up one morning and decide to have an affair. It started with a lot of rationalization over a long period of time. A lot of little things can lead to a big thing. I did a lot of little things I knew Aaron (and God) wouldn't like before I ever approached a full blown affair.
5. Never ever forget you are loved. God loves you more deeply than you can ever ever imagine. I'm just starting to scratch the surface of knowing God's love for me and it blows me away daily. He feels the same way about you. I promise. And he promises, too.
Thank you for sticking with me through this series. I can honestly say this has been one of the hardest things to put out there, but I'm so thankful that God has given me the right words. We thank you for your love, encouragement, and support.
We finally have a slow week. I'm planning 6 meals this week. Wednesday is the only day something might interfere with dinner, so I left it open and I can make sandwiches or we can grab something. I'm going to try and limit our eating out to once this week. I've fallen off the no fast food horse for sure and it's time to hop back on. Saturday we have a church thing, so we'll be eating dinner there. Anyways, this menu was planned with a little help from Aaron. I had him make dinner suggestions. So, this menu is brought to you courtesy of the postman.
Monday- BBQ Country Ribs
Tuesday- Sloppy Joes
Wednesday- Sandwiches or Eating Out
Saturday- Pizza at church
Verse of the Week
I'm continuing with the Verse of the Week's that are Thanksgiving themed. I LOVE this verse. How can you not? This is one of those verse that is black and white.
Be thankful in all circumstances. No matter what. That's God's will.
If you have a question about that, apparently you can't read. Pardon my frankness, but that's just plain truth. Be thankful. That's it. No open endings, no not so sure about that, no I wonder what that means. There are so many times when I wonder if I'm missing what God's will is for my life. I question where God is leading us, what his plans are for us. I believe this verse is the answer to those questions. We may not have exact answers, a for sure direction on where he's leading us, but even if we don't have those answers, it's ok. All we need to do is be thankful. Because, right now, wherever we're at, even if we don't have all the answers (or any answers) this is all we need.
So, let's try and keep that in mind this week. When we can't find answers, just be thankful. Because that's God's will for you right now. No matter what.
At some point in our first weeks of counseling, our marriage counselor listened to my words, and hearing the emotions they were laced with and the struggle I was experiencing, explained to me that for women, an emotional affair is similar to a pornography addiction in men. It fulfills a woman's emotional need for love while pornography fulfills a man's sexual desires. But they are equally an entrapment. He said medical tests have shown that the chemicals released in the brain during an affair are similar to that of a cocaine addict during a binge. And there is a similar detox time for your brain and your body. 30-45 days. You physically cannot think/feel/act free of the effects of those chemicals for up to 45 days.
Now, I'm not putting this out there to excuse my decisions or behaviors. But to say that this is no joke. It's a dangerous thing. It's an addiction. Being emotionally fulfilled was my drug. Just because it's not something I drink, smoke, or shoot up doesn't mean it's not equally as powerful. And in truth, it is something Satan will use the rest of my life. I'll explain a little bit more about some of the realizations I had about this in Part 3, but right now I'll pick back up where I left off.
The month of November was hard for me. I lived in a torn state. I wasn't ready to give up on the affair because I had put so much of myself into it. I craved the attention and the emotional high of it. But, I didn't want to give up on my marriage because I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. I knew that I needed to surround myself with a select few people who l knew would love me but be honest with me. I needed accountability. But, it didn't take long before I was back into the regular habits and patterns of hiding and lying to most of them.
On December 4th of last year, Aaron came home in a rage. He had found out again that I'd been lying about the situation and had finally had enough. He told me that he loved me and he wanted to make our marriage work, but my choices were making it impossible to do that. He went upstairs, packed himself a bag, and packed a bag for our girls and told me it was time to make a choice. I was either going to continue down the path I was on or I was going to choose to do what I knew was right. If I chose my current path, he was taking the girls and leaving. At first I was totally enraged. And indignant. In fact, I left. I got in the van and I drove to a CVS parking lot down the street and sat there and cried for over an hour. I knew it was time. I was at a fork in a road and the choice I made would determine what direction my life would take. But, ultimately, my decision to go home was 100% for my girls. It really had nothing to do with Aaron. I came home, sat down with Aaron and let him set ground rules for how our relationship would proceed. I cut off all forms of communication with the other guy. Then I went to bed.
I woke up the next morning and I felt a physical relief. It literally felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. But I still felt like a shell of myself. A rock hard shell. Yes, I cried. Yes, I hurt. Yes, I felt things. But I was so used to experiencing God in such a deep emotional way that I couldn't make sense of the fact that I felt almost nothing regarding the choices I'd made. I felt almost nothing towards to state of my marriage. And most of all, I just agreed to stay married to a man that I felt nothing for.
It was a few days later when I got some advice from one of those trusted people that really changed my life. The words themselves didn't change my life, the carrying out of the words changed my life.
It's not about how you feel. It's about what's right. And the right thing is doing the things you don't feel like doing sometimes.
Aaron and I decided from that point on we were going to do the hard things. The things we'd been avoiding, the things we didn't want to do, because we knew it was what we needed to do. God intervened in our life and relationship in so many ways during that time it's almost laughable now. During this time, Aaron was in the process of transitioning jobs from his old job to the post office. It ended up, because of the holiday's and his training schedule, he was home with us for almost the whole month of December. It gave us the opportunity to spend almost every minute together. It was like God dropped us into the middle of relationship boot camp. God led me to a bible study I did with a friend, and later with our women's group from church, and it addressed almost each and every issue I went into the affair with.
And still I prayed.
I prayed that I could understand my sin. I could understand my consequences. That I could grasp the chain reaction for potential generations that was put in motion by the decision I'd made. I wanted to feel guilt. I needed to feel shame. I wanted to feel anything really. I expected self loathing. Any self respecting person should right? I mean, I'm a christian- a Pastor's wife for crying out loud. I should be wearing sack cloth and rubbing ashes on my face. I wanted to wear around a Scarlet A. And in many ways I felt like I was. I'd walk through the grocery store and think... "man, if that person only knew what was going on in my life and what I've done". I sometimes felt like there was a sign hanging above my head. A flashing neon sign that labeled me. I expected everyone to judge me harshly. I knew that's what I deserved.
Mid January I learned an old word. A word that I'd thrown around for years but never understood. That word was grace. And grace changes everything.
To be continued...
A year ago I was in a fight for my life. Not my physical life, but my spiritual life. And my marriage. If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you might have seen me mention the road of healing and redemption Aaron and I have been traveling over the last year. Today I'd like to dive into that a little more. This might be a little long, so hang with me. I'll be doing this in a few parts. This is part 1.
A little over a year ago I joined an online weight loss community looking for some support and validation in my weight loss struggles. I found a great group of loving caring people who understood me and understood the struggles I was having losing weight. I was successful at losing about 20 lbs, doing my first 5k, and choosing an overall healthier lifestyle.
I also found someone who was willing to be what Aaron was not being (or more less someone I wasn't letting him be) to me and for me. I spent about 8 weeks involved in a full blown emotional affair.
Towards the end, I had pretty much made up my mind that the best option for me was to leave Aaron and start over fresh. Possibly with this new guy, but even being on my own sounded like a better option then staying in my current situation. Aaron and I couldn't hardly be in the same room together. We were polite to each other (at best) in public and at home it was pretty much no holds barred. When we were even home together. Aaron stayed at work most of the time to stay away from my angry bitterness. And I preferred it that way because I didn't have to deal with all the issues between us. My girls did not escape the drama and we had a constant battle with their behavior on our hands. Which only compounded the stress we were feeling.
And let's not forget that we were still serving in full time bivocational ministry. Aaron was youth pastoring and we were very involved at our church. WHAT?! A pastor's wife had an affair? Yes. And it happens more often than you think. How could this happen!? Those that knew me well and knew about my affair asked me that question immediately. Now, after a year with 20/20 hindsight, here is my answer.
It's a slow fade. (Yes, I'm referring to the Casting Crowns song) You don't jump into full blown sin patterns overnight. I didn't wake up one morning and say... oh, today I feel like being adulterous. It took time. It took lots and lots of me believing lies that Satan fed me and lies I fed to myself-
I deserve better. I should be happy. Everyone else has a better life than me. Everyone else has a husband who adores them. I should too. Why not choose someone who makes me happy. The grass is greener where you water it, but there's gotta be grass to water.
If there was a lie to be told, I told it to myself. And I believed every word. Past hurts and failures in our marriage created a wall that seemed insurmountable. So, I stopped choosing to try and climb it. I slowly shut myself off to Aaron in almost every way possible. We stopped being intimate. In fact, I slept on the couch most of the time. We stopped spending time together- why would we. We could hardly stand each other. We pretty much stopped talking unless it involved money or the girls and even that turned into an argument. And every day, the selfishness, bitterness, and anger grew and rooted itself deeper and deeper slowly pushing God out. Things started very innocently. Encouraging emails. Texts here and there. Rationalizations. Something inside me was being fed. A need to be loved was being met. Then starts the denial. Then the hiding. Then the lies. Eventually, I was lying to everyone I loved. I was living 2 lives.
Eventually, the lies caught up with me and Aaron found out. That day he stepped down from his position as youth pastor at our church. The next week we started going to counseling. I'd like the say that it was all sunshine and roses from there. But. It was hell. It wasn't like I woke up the morning after things came crashing down and I found myself madly in love with the man I could hardly bring myself to look at. No, he was still that same man and I was still the same hardened shell of a person. But every day we took a step forward. With help from our marriage counselor we made a rule that we talked first, apologized later. (I don't advocate this rule for everyone, but it worked well for us). We started communicating (for the first time ever really) and we started sharing with each other things we'd never shared before. We decided to do the hard stuff. Things we didn't feel like doing. But we did them anyways.
And guess what? It still wasn't roses.
When you've calloused yourself to God- to his presence in your life, to hearing his voice, it's not a switch you can flip and all the sudden you're back to this deep loving relationship with him (at least not for me) . I'd created such a wall between God and I that I felt nothing of him. I heard nothing of him. I just chose to believe he was there. And I prayed like I'd never prayed before. Even though I felt like he wasn't there, even though I felt like he wasn't hearing me. I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. I prayed that I would know the weight of my sin. I prayed that God would restore me. I prayed that God would restore my marriage. And eventually I prayed that he would restore our ministry.
But, emotional affairs are like a drug. A drug addiction. An addiction you can't just walk away from.
To Be Continued...
As I've been thinking about typing this blog post about the 3rd phrase in my study if 1 Thessalonians 1:3, I had many many different things I wanted to include, different ideas. I thought maybe it would be too scattered. Too crazy. So, I started praying about the main points to include. God pointed me in a totally different direction then what I planned on going, but that's God!
Let's start with the definition of the words Enduring and Hope.
Enduring, adj- lasting, durable
Hope, verb- a person or thing in which expectations are centered
Last week I was going through our Netflix checking out what tv shows were on there that I hadn't seen in a long time. I had a few mins of peaceful silence and thought maybe I'd catch up on a show or 2 that I'd missed. I came across 19 Kids and Counting
. Regardless of what your opinion is on this family and the choices they've made regarding kids/parenting, there is one thing that's undeniable- they love the Lord. I hadn't seen the show in a long while and remembered that I wanted to specifically watch the episode in which they discovered they'd lost their 20th child at 18 weeks gestation. (I'm a glutton for punishment, I know). So, I found the episode and turned it on. Of course I cried through most of the episode, but I was deeply struck by the first words that came out of Mrs. Duggers' mouth when they found out they'd lost their little girl.
"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
She was quoting part of Job 1:21 in the deepest part of her grief. Immediately, these words were impressed on my heart- Enduring Hope.
On Saturday night after the girls had gone to bed and Aaron was sitting and talking with me as I was working on some sewing, he shared with me a story a friend of his had posted on Facebook. That friend shared a story of a person they knew that was badly burned when they were trying to get their gas fireplace to ignite. The fire place basically blew up in his face severely burning his neck and shoulders. He was sharing the details of the situation, the diagnosis, and then he said... (This is a parphrase because I don't have his exact words)...
As I was laying in the ambulance being transported, I was praying and asking God that this situation would be used for His glory and that regardless of the outcome I accept his will for my life.
Man, talk about a punch in the gut. He was facing perhaps one of the greatest challenges of his life yet he was offering up his circumstances to God with a willing heart. And immediately, two words impressed themselves on my heart again- Enduring Hope.
I guess I look at it like this- the word is enduring, not forever, not easy, not just because. Enduring means lasting, durable. That insinuates that it had to go through something, it had to experience struggle, and grief, and hardship. If It hadn't experienced those things, it wouldn't be "enduring". It would just be. And hope is a choice that we make. Kind of like faith. In the depths of whatever we're going through (good or bad) we have to make the choice that we believe that God is with us. We have to believe that God is good. We have to believe that God is working things out for us. It's hard. Especially (if you're like me) and you seemed to be ruled by your emotional self more times than not. My emotions aren't always the most logical things.
Anyways, how does this fit into out 1 Thessalonians study? Well, like this... Faithful Work
is the banner under which we operate on a daily basis. It's the flag we fly above our lives. God has called each and every one of us to our individual faithful work. Ourloving deeds
are the processes in which we carry out our faithful work. Our daily ins and outs. Each choice we make. They shape what our faithful work looks like. And enduring hope is the result. If we let God direct our loving deeds under the banner of our faithful work, the result with be a hope that is unshakable. We will KNOW that regardless of what is happening- Blessed be the name of the Lord.
I don't know about you, but I've got a lot of work to do. Sometimes I feel like on the other end of whatever I'm dealing with at the time, my "enduring" better cause me to have a hope that is strong and shiny like a diamond. Sometimes life feels overwhelming. It's hard for me to fly my faithful work flag because I don't see the point or direction where God is leading. It's hard for me to live out loving deeds because I'm frustrated, tired, angry, scared, stressed, fill in the blank, etc. But these are the times when I know that I need to raise that flag high, set myself aside, and live out the love and hope. Are you willing to do that today? Even though it may be hard? Even though it might not make sense? Even though no one else is doing it?
It's November!!! That means it's time for the holidays! I'm so excited about spending time with family and friends on Thanksgiving and Christmas being right around the corner. This is absolutely my favorite time of year. Along with all that awesomeness comes busy-ness though. We've got something going almost every weekend until the new year. This weekend is no exception! I am doing a craft show this weekend selling my Sunshine & Sweet Pea
as well as some craft things my mom and I have made. Then Aaron and I are going to be celebrating our anniversary a little late by going to see Tim Hawkins
. I'm pretty excited. My folks will be here Friday-Sunday.
I haven't even thought about my menu until I just sat down at the computer, so I'm going to make this up as I go and hope my memory doesn't fail me as I try and remember what's in my fridge and freezer. I'm only planning through Thursday because Friday- Sunday are going to be crazy!
Monday- Ranch Pork. I had some in the freezer I pulled out.
Tuesday- Breakfast for dinner.
Wednesday- Baked Ravioli with Marinara.
Thursday- Cowboy Meatloaf
Verse Of The Week
This month I decided that each Verse of the Week was going to be thankfulness themed since it's November. I love this verse. I thought of it immediately when I was thinking about thankfulness verses. I love that this verse makes the point that being thankful is good, but we have to proclaim that thankfulness. We have to tell people how awesome God is and tell them what we're thankful for! And not just in November, but every day of the year!
What are you thankful for today!? Happy Monday!
When I sat down and opened my Bible and journal this afternoon to continue to study this portion of verse 3 of 1st Thessalonians, I cringed. Just the topic- loving deeds, was enough to hit rewind on my day and I saw how I'd spent most of the morning and early afternoon doing everything but loving deeds. I suppose I should have done this study in the morning. It probably would have changed the course of my morning. BUT, that's the cool thing about grace. I asked for forgiveness for my chaos this morning and it's over with now. So, anyways, back to the study...
I started the same way this time as I did yesterday- with the definitions of the two words- Loving- adj., feeling or showing love, warmly affectionate, fond. Deeds- noun, an act or gesture, especially as illustrative of intentions, one's character, or the like. So, loving deeds are affectionate acts or gestures that illustrate my intentions and character.
Ok, so honestly, once I came up with that definition I thought... Oh, great. I get a little tense when the words character and intention are thrown around. I mean, those aren't words to take lightly. My next question was what are my daily intentions? What do I hope to accomplish (from an eternal perspective) on a daily basis. This was my list:
1. To instruct my children with biblical wisdom and point them to Jesus.
2. To live a life that points anyone I come in contact with to Jesus.
3. To display grace and live in obedience to scripture.
After all this I decided that I was feeling like a lot of this was just words on a page. I wasn't really feel like God was revealing his true application for my life through just the lists I was making. I stopped what I was doing and started praying again, in honesty, that I felt muddled. And because God is faithful, it didn't take long and this is what He gave me.
Loving deeds are the practical steps to faithful work
. Faithful work is the sign on the building, the loving deeds run the business. I can't have successful faithful work without loving deeds. Once I got that down I asked myself- What does this look like in my life?
- By knowing what love looks like- learning God's character.
The more I study something, the better I know it. The better I know it, the easier it is to emulate it. The more I emulate it the easier it becomes to do it naturally.
- By training/exercising love in my own life.
Everything takes work. I mean seriously, everything. If it doesn't take work it's probably too good to be true. And loving deeds are no different. You just have to keep doing it. Keep working at it. Keep doing it. Keep working at it. The more you do it, the easier it will become.
- By searching out opportunities to exercise love.
In the literal sense of the word exercise, it normally doesn't happen naturally. You have to make time to run, to go to the gym, to do zumba. Same thing with loving deeds. Always be looking for a way to show Christ's love to someone.
-Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
And this is where I scored a big fat zero this morning. In the middle of being all bent out of shape with my kids, I was hearing the Holy Spirit say... Jessica, there's a better way to handle this. Jessica, Jessica, Jessica. But, I was frustrated enough, upset enough, mad enough that I brushed it aside and justified my anger. DON'T DO THAT. Listen for that prompting. AND OBEY IT!
- Setting myself aside.
This should actually be #1. Because this is the root of the problem. I can't have truely loving deeds towards others when I'm focused on myself.
Are you loving deeds setting up shop under your Faithful Work sign or is there and empty building that needs a business running inside it? The last and final phrase from verse 3 that stuck out to me was "Enduring Hope". I believe that Faithful Work is the business name, Loving Deeds is the work, and Enduring Hope is the outcome. But, you can't have one without the others. I'll touch on enduring hope next, but until then, I'm going to make a point to get my business of loving deeds running smoothly under may faithful works sign!
So I'm in that time between book Bible studies. Our Ladies Bible study finished 2 weeks ago and right now, nothing is on the calendar until the first of the year. I thought about starting another book study on my own and decided instead that I'd choose a book of the Bible to study. Just me, God, my Bible, a pen, and my journal. I felt a tad overwhelmed to begin with, because I didn't want to play Bible roulette, so I decided to pray about what book God wanted me to go through. After a minute of just listening, I was positive of the fact that God was giving me 1 Thessalonians. Now, I've read through this book probably 30 times. But I've never sat down with pen in hand and waited for God to bring the words to life. Well, wouldn't you know, I got about 3 verses in and here it came...
As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.- 1 Thes 1:3.
Now, maybe you think that's a random verse to stick out to me, but I grabbed my journal immediately and wrote these 3 phrases down...
I decided to take these each one by one and do a little digging. So, here's parts of what I recorded in my journal about Faithful Work. I decided to start with the actual definitions of the words...
Faith- Noun, confidence or trust in a person or thing
Work- Noun, exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.
So, confidence in God motivates us. It motivates us to exert effort to accomplish something.
My next question was- What confidences do we have in God? I know the list is extensive, but I'm just going to add what I wrote down in my journal.
He will never leave us.
He will never forsake us.
We have hope.
We have a future.
He will always lead us.
He will always love us.
He is for us.
He wastes nothing.
Having these assurances, how are we motivated to work towards accomplishing eternal goals? A few of my personal observations were...
1. He will be with us and provide for us when we are serving Him.
2. We can move with courage knowing we will be successful in our work for Him.( Now let me add a little to this one- Am I saying everything we do will be successful? No. Back to the He wastes nothing. If God calls us to do/try something and we don't succed, does that mean all is lost? Absolutey not. That means God is doing something we can't see behind the scenes. Hold tight, there's a plan we don't see. )
3. If God leads us to something we can keep walking knowing he brought us there no matter how dark or unclear the path.
4. Searching out the things of God is never a waste of our time and energy.
So, once I had all those written down, I asked myself... What does this mean for me? Here's a few of the things I concluded...
- I need to to seek out God's will even if it doesn't seem like He's leading me to the right thing. (what I want)
- Everything means something. Every step has had a purpose. God won't discard that purpose and it will all be used for His good. (Amen to that!)
Perhaps this seems a little disjointed, mostly personal to me, a little more studyish, and lots of information compared to usual, but this is what I've deducted from this.....
My faithful work is this- Being assured of God's promises and using them as motivation to do what God has called me to do. Right now, my calling is to be the best wife and mother I can be. To love my husband, to be his helper, and to point him towards the cross. To love my children, to instruct them with biblical instruction, to teach them grace and humility, and to lead them to the cross every day. To show them who Jesus is. Knowing that God is for me, that he has a plan for me, and that he wastes nothing is motivation to live day in and day out knowing that folding laundry, doing dishes, breaking up sister fights, praying for graceful responses to my husband, though they seem mundane and unimportant- they are not. Because it is my faithful work.
What are you doing today, this week, this month, in this season of your life that is your faithful work? Are you like me- loving your husband, raising your children, keeping your home? Perhaps it's opposite of that. Whatever it is, I encourage you to figure out what your faithful work is, and do it well.
If there is one thing I've learned in a major way over the last 6 years is that I'm selfish. Extremely selfish. Like, sickeningly selfish. I'm sure if you asked anyone in my life to to tell you the absolute worst thing about me, this is what they would say. I seek to be happy, fulfilled, to have purpose, to be complete. However I can accomplish that for myself, that's what I do. Knowing how this impacts my life on a daily basis, how it impacts my family and my friends, majority of the time I pray this prayer about 23984203984 times a day...
Lord, empty me of myself.
I was doing that same thing again today and I got a funny picture in my head. It was like I was a God's little doll but I was filled with water and there was a small plug on the bottom of my foot. This mental picture kind of made me laugh for a minute, but then these words impressed themselves on my heart. Here's what I wrote in my journal...
When I lay myself down at the foot of the cross, God opens the plug and I drain out. For a minute I grieve the loss of those things that keep me selfish. The things that make "me". Then I realize that God is beginning to pour new life into me. I am still me. He created me after all, but his life inside of me, I am better. I see with his eyes. I use his hands for the things I do and I use his feet for the places I go. I smile his smile and I love with his love. Before I know it, I can't see me. All I see is who I became after I was emptied of myself and filled with him.
And I am happy.
I am fulfilled.
I have purpose.
I am complete.
Man how I want that to be true in my life. I want my happiness and fulfillment to come from being filled with him and being like him instead of being like me. I've chased, grabbed, scratched at, and practically stolen things that I thought would bring me happiness and fulfillment. I've turned dead end corners to find purpose. I've made hurtful dangerous decisions to feel complete.
Lord, empty me of myself. Fill me with you.