A Thankful Tumbleweed

On December 6, 2017, I published my first blog post, The Rock Tumbler. In it I discussed how my plans and purposes had disappeared and dissipated. My children were leaving the nest, teaching hadn’t worked, and I was at a loss of what I was supposed to do.

The following month, I began the journey to get a master’s in school counseling through Liberty University’s online program. I was scared to say the least. The obstacles loomed over me. My age, debt, moves still in the works, I hadn’t had to take any courses in over 20 years! Fearfully and prayerfully, I made the commitment to take on this mountain. My husband pushing and encouraging me that I could do this.

Last weekend, the journey came to completion, and I want to take a few moments to express my gratitude. God put the idea and desire in my heart to work as a school counselor long ago as I taught students that needed help that I couldn’t give as a teacher. He confirmed this drive through scripture, through prayers, through circumstances, and through people.

I would never have taken the first steps without the support, encouragement, and proactive measures taken by my husband. I am so grateful for his patience and understanding as I disappeared into the studying zone of reading, research, and writing. He kept me from dissolving into fearful and tearful inaction more times than I can count.

I am grateful for the many people, friends, teachers, and colleagues who encouraged me all along the way. Many heard my hesitant, far-away dreams, and told me they thought counseling would be a good fit. I tucked those words into my heart, each one like a layer of sheer colored ribbon placed one over another until there was a bold hue I couldn’t ignore. Other students, the ones who were going through the classes while working full-time, parenting young children, and had other responsibilities earned my respect for the hard work they demonstrated. I used their examples to press on, and I am so grateful for those friendships, even if they were limited to a week long intensive course.

And then there are my professors. When I started the program, I entered into a late registration class. I had to take what I called a “remedial writing class” for master’s students, and I felt so behind and ill-equipped. I fought panic as I struggled with the format of online courses, of fitting all the coursework, practicum, and internships into a tight schedule. I looked at the amount of work, and I almost choked, thinking how will I ever be able to get all of this done, and done well. My professors were sensitive, attentive to my many emails, and offered wise counsel. Many of them shared their own personal stories and struggles with me, a sort of personal disclosure designed for relevant encouragement. And the professors at Liberty, they pray for you. I learned to trust what they had to say.

Last weekend was graduation weekend. Instead of attending the ceremony at Liberty University, I joined my family in attending my daughter’s graduation from Virginia Commonwealth University. That, on Mother’s Day weekend, was an incredible bookend for the last few years. I am grateful for my children, for the ways they supported and encouraged me to pursue this degree. My son stayed with me and watched me push through as he finished high school and started community college. My daughter and I were able to appreciate each other’s struggles as we faced the college version of “senior-itus”, final deadlines, and looked for jobs.

We are about to move again, the third time in four years, hence the tumbleweed. I have a job lined up, and I am still under tight deadlines with many things out of my control. Almost three years later, I know I don’t need to panic. I can go back to the verses in that first post, and remember the ways God has been faithful. When I started this blog, I felt lost and directionless, without a purpose. Is this the end of the blog? I don’t know. It has been in many ways a public journal of this empty nesting process. But this change feels bigger and more than a life stage transition.

God knows what He has planned next. May we continue to trust Him with all our unknowns.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (NIV).

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (NIV).

The Music In Me

Have you ever woken up with a song already playing in your head?

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Photo by Anton Hooijdonk on Pexels.com

It happens to me with some regularity.

How does that even happen? Am I somehow picking up radio signals floating through the air? Or is it some leftover subconscious remnant from a forgotten dream?

Usually, I can identify why a song is at the top of my mental jukebox. But last week, I woke up with snippets of a song, a hymn mind you, that I haven’t heard or sung in decades! I just heard in my mind –

“ . . . let us have a little talk with Jesus, let us tell Him all about our troubles . . . ”

That led to me thinking about –

Sweet Hour of Prayer and Heavenly Sunshine with undercurrents of In the Garden, It is Well With My Soul, and What a Friend We Have In Jesus.

I guess it was a hymnal day.

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The hymns I grew up singing played a significant role in developing my childhood foundations of faith, and even now, help sustain truths that are often buried under the weight of so many distractions and adult responsibilities.

Last month, I wrote about the Voices of Encouragement seminar I attended and J-L’s statement of affirmation. After letting the idea of creating my own affirmation statement stew for a while, I decided to put together key phrases from some of those important hymns and scriptures to read each day.

Here’s the draft I have so far:

I sing because –

Love Lifted Me

What A Friend I Have In Jesus who has

Established a (How) “Firm Foundation in His excellent Word

This knowledge is like Heavenly Sunshine “filling my soul with joy”

And even when I am weary and dismayed

I can –

Have a Little Talk With Jesus in my Sweet Hour of Prayer with

My Blessed Redeemer who gives me peace so that I may say

It is Well With My Soul as I kneel and remember

My salvation purchased At the Cross, The Old Rugged Cross

Then I’m Standing on the Promises and move confidently

Onward Christian Soldier Because of His Amazing Grace.

God, You remind me that –

You have known me from the beginning.

You formed me in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

You have created me for good works

And equipped me with every gift I need (2 Tim. 3:17).

You will complete the good work You started in me (Eph. 2:10).

You give me courage, faith, and grace.

You loved me before I knew You (1 John 4:10).

You hear me and know me.

Therefore,

I will put my confidence in You, for You are mighty to save.

You are steadfast and strong.

I will praise Your Holy Name.

I will keep my eyes fixed on Your and fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12).

I will daily put on the armor,

the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth,

shoes that are ready to spread the gospel of peace,

the helmet of the knowledge of my salvation,

holding the shield of faith, and the sword that is Your Holy Word (Eph. 6: 13 – 17).

I will trust You.

I will believe in Your promises, that You are good, true, and faithful (Deut.32:4 and 1 Cor. 1:9).

For your love endures forever (Psalm 136). Amen

I’m new at this affirmation thing, but I’ve noticed on the mornings when I read this, I feel more confident going into the day.

My hope in sharing this is that you will find your own way to put together the things God has shown you, to strengthen, and encourage you.

Interestingly, you may have heard the song, The Joy of the Lord is my Strength. I’ve always wondered, what is the joy of the Lord? How can I bring joy to the Lord, and how does that give me strength? Is it by being more obedient, giving more in service, having more faith?

I don’t know for sure yet, but maybe I’ve had that idea backwards.

This week, it occurred to me that maybe it’s not about what brings joy to the Lord that strengthens me. Maybe it’s when I find joy in the Lord that gives me strength.

What do you think?

I’d love for you to share your own affirmation statements!

I

Voices of Encouragement

As women of faith, how often do we really encourage each other? Do we allow others to see that we need encouraging? Or even better, do we even realize we need encouragement?  I didn’t.

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At the end of last month, I had the privilege of attending a woman’s conference that was hosted by the organization, Voices of Encouragement (VOE)  VOE Logo

 

Now, how I came to be there is an interesting story. I have a neighbor, Edna, whose daughter is the same age as my son. When our children were both in high school, they hung out together, but Edna and I never really seemed to find the time to connect and get to know one another. We were friendly, saying “Hi,” when our paths crossed, but we didn’t really have too many shared activities. I had heard about some kind of vague reference to her starting a non-profit to encourage women, but I didn’t really think it was relevant to me.

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Then around December, I was looking for someone to go to a concert with me, someone who might enjoy the kind of music that is not typically appreciated by many middle-aged women. I timidly asked her husband first if this musician was someone my neighbor enjoyed, and was pleased to hear that yes, she did like the musician, and she might be interested in going to the concert.

 

We finally got together to discuss the concert plans, and in the course of our discussion, we began sharing and finding more things in common. For example, she wrote a Bible study devotion for her youngest daughter to take with her to college. She had it published, shared it with me, and I found it to be quite perfect for the busy college freshman’s life. I shared with her that I had written a Bible study for my daughter, and I shared it with her as it is published on this website in the form of the Daughters and Disciples series.

From this conversation, Edna invited me to attend the VOE conference as her guest, and encouraged me to consider what else God might want to do with this blog and the Daughters and Disciples.

So, I went.

The theme of the conference was on Wisdom, Wealth, and Wellness. These are similar to the themes I wrote about in Daughters and Disciples. The speakers were amazing, the women were very accepting and welcoming, and yes, I was encouraged.

See, I was sitting at a table with a group of women who were invited for one particular reason or another, and none of us knew each other. As we began to share how we came to be there, I tried to describe how it was that Edna thought I should come and referenced the blog. One of the women asked what it was called, and I said, “Moving Forward in Faith, but I know that’s not very original. I am looking for a better title.” And let me tell you, my apologetic, I know it’s not very good, disparaging comment did NOT go over well with these women. Lovingly, but firmly, they responded that I should embrace what I have done, and keep “moving forward.” That really stopped me in my tracks, and I realized that I have not developed the confidence in what I’m doing nearly as much as I thought I had. I didn’t even realize I needed encouraging. So, even while I am in the midst of my final semester of getting this school counseling master’s, I realize I cannot just stop posting, even if I can only do so once a month.

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There are two things I want to share with you that different women shared at that conference. The first is an affirmation statement by J.L. Bolton, and the second is a poem by Anita Gill-Anderson.

The affirmation statement inspires me because I know the unkind thoughts, the tendency to disparage and devalue my work, are habits I need to break. I haven’t written my own affirmation statement, yet. But, I will. Just read it and see what I mean –

Spiritual Affirmation 

 

My life is a mess,

There’s just so much stress!

NO, those thoughts are history,

I now live in victory! 

I’m fearfully, wonderfully made.

On me, holy hands have been laid.

My help’s from above,

I’m redeemed by his blood

Sometimes there’s attacks,

But then there are comebacks!

With those I grow stronger,

Defeat is no longer. 

God gets the glory,

For my winning story. 

Plus there r twisters,

He gave me some sisters – 

I got V.O.E.

To always lift me. 

With God on my side,

There’s faith in my stride. 

The devil…wants me brokin’ 

But JC, he ain’t jokin’

I AM said I AM,

I AM J-L Bolton!

 

I am thankful that Ms. J.L. Bolton allowed me to share this with you. What if we all reminded ourselves of the things we know to be true? What things do you need to remind yourself of each day?

Anita Gill-Anderson has given me permission to publish the poem on this blog, and she asks that if anyone would like to share it, to please make sure you give her the proper credit. If you would like to contact her directly, just send me an email, and I’ll share your contact information with her. (The comments button is at the top of the page, and direct messages can be sent to me on the Contact page.)

Here is the link to her poem, “W” to the 5th Power “G”

The first line is, “We are Wise Women Who Walk With God.”  It’s powerful.

I am so thankful for Edna and the other women I met at the conference. If you want to see what else is happening with Voices of Encouragement, go to the website:   voicesofencouragment.com

The next conference is scheduled April 27, 2019. You’ll be blessed for sure!

What Do I Believe About GRACE?

Hello again. It’s been a while. January 2019 is so welcome, isn’t it?

Although I haven’t written anything for 6 months, I have been thinking about what I would write if I could. I expected to be able to write at least one or two posts over the fall, but life threw things in the way. I just read a couple of the last blog posts (Moving Summer and I Know Better). I noticed they both had the theme of expectations even though they were written months apart. Expectations still pose a problem for me, and I am being challenged to consider my beliefs, the desires of my heart, and my actions and reactions.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

My attitude was a bit sour this past Fall.  I was angry and frustrated about not being able to set up the house properly before the semester started. I have been increasingly fearful about our plans to move overseas next summer and my ability to get a job where I don’t know anyone, fresh out of school, and with no experience. And, we had to put our big dog down due to a sudden and unexpected health issue even though he should have lived several more years.  He’s the fourth dog, all different breeds, where we’ve had to do that.  I allowed circumstances to pull me under into a sense of desperation and defeat.

It’s time to deal with that properly.

I’ve noticed there’s a trend in choosing a word for the year.  The thing I’ve been thinking about this last semester is Belief. And more specifically, what does it look like to live out what I believe?  I have been struggling with what I believe about God’s grace and love for me, right now, even when I act petulantly and faithlessly.  Perhaps you can relate.  I think God’s grace is something we think we understand, but allowing that grace to fully saturate our lives and relationships can be a sticking point.  I invite you to join me as I see what God shows me through this particular lesson.

The verse that began this theme is this:

John 6: 29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (NLT)

This statement by Jesus challenges all kinds of inherent beliefs I have about my responsibilities and the way I choose to live and engage with others.  When I became a mom, I knew I had the privilege to raise and influence my children for a limited period of time.  I took my responsibility seriously, and I tried to do all the right things.  As a wife, I tried to support and honor my husband in a way that would please God and help us grow closer spiritually.  I prayed over my marriage, my children, my relationships with my parents and siblings, our many moves, my husband and his work, and even my children’s friends.  I attended and led Bible Studies, church services, volunteered at VBS and youth activities, did Bible studies at home, and tried to set a good example for what loving and believing God looks like expecting that all this love and doing good stuff would result in my family wanting to experience God in the same way.  I love doing all those things!

Here’s the thing –  my expectations haven’t been realized.  And I don’t know if they ever will. Meaning, I don’t know if my children and husband will ever want to be as devoted and engaged that same way.  So the thought occurs to me – Does their not wanting to be as involved in church mean I failed in setting a good enough example of love, forgiveness, and kindness?  I can tell you, I know where I’ve failed.  Even in all my attempts in doing things right.  I have and continue to fail again and again.

I hear God whisper, “My grace is sufficient for you.” But do I believe this?

So, when I don’t see the expected fruits of my labor, then my perseverance in doing good is weakened, and I feel worn out. I don’t have the heart to keep going. I stop praying. I stop having those amazing quiet times where God is speaking to me, encouraging me. I think about all the ways that I messed up, didn’t pray well enough, acted in doubt instead of faith, was impatient, and I take on the responsibility for what’s not right – according to my expectations.

Again, I hear God whisper, “Lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” and “God knows the heart of a man.”  And I think, I believe this, but look . . .

I mix guilt with a little bit of truth, and I feel even more defeated. I know God loves me. I know I have received salvation and grace for later. I know I have asked for forgiveness, and that God forgives.  I know I am a child of God, but I must not be (good, faithful, obedient, fill in the blank) enough because I don’t see the fruit from my labor.  Inherent in that belief is that although I’m forgiven, grace doesn’t apply to my life at the moment, and I am still responsible for the fallout of my faithless actions.

God patiently reminds me, “Without me, you can do nothing,” and that “He is faithful, even when we are faithless.”

Do I really believe that?  Is that the truth?  Or are my failures so significant, that God can’t redeem and restore what I’ve broken?  If I believe and act as if the results of my messed up attempts at life and love can’t be fixed, then I am saying that my sin is bigger than God’s redeeming love and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Basically, I’m saying God’s grace doesn’t apply to me.  And I recognize the lie.

Guess what, making others believe and act in a certain way is not my work. God’s work is something more significant, creative, loving, and perfect than anything I could ever imagine.  And, I need to trust Him with my mistakes.  I need to trust His forgiveness is just as real and relevant in the present as it will be on judgment day. And, my work or joy in doing the churchy things I listed above are not the only ways people can show their own love of God.  How arrogant of me!

Back to scripture:

Regarding the fears  I have about getting a job next year:

Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Regarding the areas where I know I mess up:

2 Corinthians 12:9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

And regarding my efforts:

Ephesians 2: 8 – 10  For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life. (Berean Study Bible)

God gives grace. His grace. Not just in the time to come, but now. And my work is to believe in Jesus Christ, the person of His Grace. If I doubt God’s grace is applicable to me as I live right now, then I undervalue that amazing and precious grace not just for myself, but for others as well. And there it is, the lie hidden in the works. I know God’s grace is bigger than all our sin. His grace is not just a one-time thing, at the point of salvation that just sits there until judgment day.

I didn’t even realize what my belief of limited grace implied until I was challenged by that one verse.

God gives grace. God gives faith.

And, I know that God has been patient and gentle with me. Why wouldn’t He be the same with everyone else?  As far as the guilt I feel for the ways I have messed up, said hurtful things, or lacked discipline and wisdom, I imagine God as a teacher, knowing the mistakes I have and will make, and allowing me to make them because He’s got it all worked out already.

My work is to believe in Jesus, the one God sent. And believing in Jesus means I need to trust God’s grace – for me, for others, and for right now. He knows it’s going to be all okay in the end.

So that’s my word for 2019

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Moving Summer

This summer’s move was not supposed to be this hard.

When it’s the third time moving back into your house, you kind of expect to be able to put things away fairly quickly, get things in order without too much trouble. After all, I should know where everything goes. I mean, my husband and I are pretty experienced at doing this move-in thing, and we expected it to be a breeze. I expected to have everything finished by the end of July leaving August to actually get to enjoy having my husband home, go camping/hiking, and be fully refreshed and relaxed for the school year.

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Long story short, we experienced delays and obstacles even before the packing began, lived for a month in a hotel with 3 dogs, and had to make major renovations/repairs that continued weeks after we moved into the house.  All these circumstances caused unpacking to be put on hold well after we typically would have had all the boxes already discarded.

Just when I thought we were making significant progress, there was another water event that caused me to have to repack and redo the items we had already put in storage. It’s amazing how much water one load of laundry can spill onto the floor.

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This summer, I put into practice Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Actually, knowing the full context, “ . . . for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or need. I am able to do all things through Him who gives me strengthens me.” (HCSB)

Today is the first day of school in our neighborhood. School has unofficially started for me as well. The house isn’t finished, and now I no longer have the luxury of time devoted just to getting things settled. And it would be easy to feel overwhelmed with all that still needs to be done.

However, all along this school journey, I have seen how God has given me the strength and perseverance to do the work required. As I look forward to this school year, and another planned moving summer right after graduation, I will continue to trust that He will continue to provide just what I need.

I refuse to allow the anxiety I feel over all the work still unfinished to consume my time and thoughts. Instead, I will take out time each day, in some small significant way, to remember His faithfulness and give thanks for each new day. I can expect God to hear my prayers, to show His love, patience, and faithfulness.

I recognize that this summer’s move has been full of delays, and at worst, inconveniences. Many others may be dealing with much more serious issues. Scripture is full of encouragement, and it can apply to all kinds of personal trials and adversities. We are often disappointed and disheartened by circumstances and relationships that don’t work out as we expect. But we don’t have to stay stuck there.

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Here are a few of the verses I try to remember to stay positive:

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (HCSB)  Philippians 4: 6 – 7

“Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  24 I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.   25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  26 It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the Lord.”    Lamentations 3: 22 – 26

Moving Back

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Our family is moving again – as was planned.  This will be the third time moving back to our house, to a “home base” as you might call it.   If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, you would know I began writing this  blog when I faced major upheaval in significant areas of my life (The Rock Tumbler), and that I move frequently (See About and Let Me be your Home).  ‘Where are you from?’ is never a simple question to answer.  The short one is ‘Texas’, or the place I last lived.

Due in part to my life’s frequent relocations, building a community of friends is a challenge because it takes time to develop enough shared experiences, to build trust, and to get to know people.  I’ve learned how to get involved just enough to not be too lonely, to appreciate those people who share of themselves, and who allow me to share with them.  It’s a vulnerable state of living to always be the “new girl”.

I just want to share two quick things here that I’ve learned while living in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This small, retirement community, centered on America’s colonial history, is quite relevant in today’s modern world.

First, I’ve learned how important it is to maintain one’s health now, so that I can still kick butt when I’m 70 and older.  Just because there are a lot of older people here does not mean people aren’t engaged in athletic activities, like running, yoga, cycling, and so on.  Watching women several decades my senior working out with better strength, cardio, and endurance was inspiring.  I want to be that person when I get there.

Second, the Christian community here is thriving, and God is moving across so many lines.  I attended the Williamsburg Community Chapel (The Chapel), and the opportunities to engage across the community are phenomenal – intergenerational and racial diversity are celebrated assets.  One such opportunity is a collaboration with the Historic First Baptist Church of Williamsburg.  This church was officially established in 1776, by slaves, and is still vibrant and active in the community.  These two churches are working together for the Williamsburg community to make things better.  I had the privilege to attend and meet several members of this church last summer and was overwhelmed with the spirit of unity among their members.  I am so encouraged to witness how God is moving in these two amazing churches, and I imagine the impact this collaboration will have on their community, and throughout the Christian family.

As we leave the small town of Williamsburg and return to the crowded and fast-paced Northern Virginia area, I wonder what the next year will bring.  It’s another short-term and temporary move.  I know how easy it is to get caught up in work and worries, to not engage with others on a meaningful level. We’ve lived there several times, and each time is a new experience.  Things change so quickly, that each time is like moving to a new place.  Will old acquaintances be welcoming?  Will I need to start new?  I expect it will be a mixture of both.

Pastor Travis Simone of The Chapel wrapped up the sermon series of the Kingdom Mission by talking about what partnering with God looks like.  To my amazement, he pointed out that the mission involved partnering and leaving.  I’m leaving Williamsburg, but I’m leaving having been strengthened by the community and partnership of the many believers at The Chapel and others in the community.

I’m moving back to Northern Virginia.  We typically stay only a few years at a time, and that hinders the ability to create lasting friendships.  Each time has had a significant atmosphere and set of friends/experiences.  I wonder what God has planned for this next stay.  So, I’m moving back while still “moving forward in faith“.

I Know Better

Expectations and hope are not the same things.

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I’ve been reflecting on the differences between expectations and hopes as I wrap up my practicum internship in a counseling office, and as I consider Mother’s Day quickly approaching. Expectations can get us in big trouble. Hope can pull us through trouble.

When I started the internship at the counseling office, I expected that by the end, I would have developed enough skill and confidence to feel like I knew what I was doing in at least one area. However, as the end of the semester neared, I became impatient and concerned because I wasn’t seeing the progress I thought I was supposed to see. Instead of feeling more confident, I was feeling less capable and overwhelmed with all that I didn’t know. It turns out, according to my supervisor, that’s quite normal, and it’s a good sign. This is how good counselors are made. I decided to trust her experience, allow myself more time, and hope that I develop into that kind of counselor. I’ve had more than one professor tell me to trust the process.

The concentrated experience of the practicum learning curve gave me new insight into the learning curve of being a parent and daughter.

As a child, I was obedient, kind to others, ready to serve, and put my needs aside for the sake of others. This is what I was taught to do, and how I believed God wanted me to live. I expected that my sacrifices and kindnesses would be noticed, appreciated, and I would be more liked and favored. I would earn being loved.

That didn’t happen.

Disillusionment gave way to festering bitterness and anger that almost destroyed some of the most important relationships in my life, especially with my mom. Having an analytical nature, I formed opinions for when I was going to have the opportunity to be in control, to make my own decisions. And when the time came for me to leave home, I told my mom –

I know better.

From my 22 years of life experience, I believed I had the answers to making things work out the right way. I just needed the opportunity to prove it. My husband and I had similar ideas of what raising a family was supposed to look like. He and I did a lot of things the “right way.” We weren’t perfect, but we worked together as a team, complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We practiced demonstrating love in such a way that we expected there would never be any doubt in our children’s minds of how much we loved them. Families are like recipes, you put in the right ingredients, follow the instructions, and everything comes out like the Instagram perfect picture you expect. Right?

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Mother’s Day Breakfast

Well, now I know better.

The truth is, my parents loved my siblings and me. They still do. But when life is hard and there are things beyond our control, we don’t always feel loved. Sometimes, we get angry and reject the love of those who love us the most. We compare our lives with someone else who seems to have something better, and we feel gipped, neglected, or that we somehow missed the mark and are the ones lacking. The truth is, we live in a fallen world where even the best love we have to offer can be missed, misunderstood, or even misapplied. As a parent, I know there have been times I misapplied my love. Who among us can show perfect love?

But then there’s hope.

Instead of expectations based on my abilities, I am learning how to be patient with myself, and with others. I am learning how to extend and accept grace in ways I could never imagine before now. And to be perfectly honest, I see now that I don’t have as much control over the outcome of things as I imagined. Letting go of expectations makes more room for hope. Honest hope and faith. My children are now young adults, and guess what, I’m still on a learning curve. I thought I had it figured out back when I started, and if not then, certainly by now. See how those “I know better” expectations can trip you up?

Mother’s Day is on my mind. With my children no longer dependent on me for daily living, Mother’s Day feels different, like somehow, I’m no longer really part of the mommy club. That makes me consider how my mom must have felt as we all became adults. I regret the pain I inflicted on my mom with the words I said to her. Over two decades later, my mom and I have worked very hard to find a new way to relate and understand each other. Neither one of us gave up hope. And she’s still my mom.

God continues to teach me new things, new ways of relating to Him. I still fall into the trap of trying to earn God’s favor (love) by trying to do things the right way. We can’t earn God’s love. We already have it. My mom forgave me and never stopped loving me. My own children have my and my husband’s love no matter what. We know that, but do they? Did we make that clear enough? I hope so.

As a counselor, I recognize the trap of placing my own expectations on my clients. That doesn’t help anyone. It actually can make things much worse. Ah, but what does help is guiding them to find hope. Hope that things can get better, that the way things are now is not how it will always be.

The trials of my life caused me to doubt God’s love for me, my parents’ love for me, and my self-worth. As a young adult, I thought I could do things on my own, my way, and get it right. I thought if I read enough and gave enough, it would be enough.

I know better.

There’s a learning curve to life. Things don’t always work out how we expect. And here I am, still learning how to trust God. God is patient, and I know he sees how much more practice I need to learn how to do this parenting thing. He reminded me recently, I am His child. My husband is His child. My children are His children. He is enough.

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Hope leaves room for more possibilities!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it – in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits – we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18 – 25 (HCS)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

Kindness Counts

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I have been struggling to publish this last lesson in the series, “Daughters and Disciples”.  I’m not really sure why.  I have plenty of valid excuses, but not really good reasons. I decided to go ahead and post tonight due to some gentle pressing by friends and strangers who did not realize what their words and actions were stirring in my heart. 

Several new people have decided to follow this blog even though I haven’t posted in a while.  Thank you! I’m honored that you found what I’ve written to be interesting  enough that you wanted to keep reading more.

Today, a friend challenged me to be more open, to be more vulnerable.  This isn’t the venue we were discussing, but I do know I’ve added something to this lesson that makes me feel quite vulnerable.  It may have something to do with why I’ve been putting off posting it.  And another friend with whom I was sharing some of what’s been heavy on my heart encouraged me as she always does.  I am so blessed to have these two powerful encouragers in my life.  

Then tonight, I attended the small group with these lovely ladies.  Most of them are far wiser than I, but as I listened to some of what was being shared, I realized the theme of vulnerability, of being real, of being honest, was present there, too.  So here goes . . .

The final lesson in the Daughters and Disciples study – Lesson 6

Kind words

The objective here is to gain a better appreciation for how we speak to one another. We all know how difficult it is to maintain self-control over our words, but if we are more aware of the impact of what and how we communicate, we may find it a little easier and develop a habit of using our words for good rather than harm. We may also find ourselves better able to forgive others when their words cut us.

Proverbs 31:25 – 26 (NASB)  Strength and dignity are her clothing,  And she smiles at the future.  She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Discussion Questions

  • What was the result of the TBH (To Be Honest) trend on Facebook from several years ago? (If you participated.) How many of you learned some neat things people thought about you, or hurtful?
  • What are some of the most encouraging things someone has told you? What was the result?
  • Define snarky. Is it really ok to speak in this way?
  • What does it mean to speak with “wisdom and faithful instruction?”
  • When might you have the opportunity to speak this way?

Our lives are filled with relationships, good and bad. These relationships alter our moods, can change the way we think or act, and effect more than just two people. The way we treat and talk to each other has a greater impact than we realize.

The level of jealousy and contempt, the competition for Abraham’s affection, the realization of promises made and misunderstood, all these things served to breed an ugly outcome. One thing that again stands out in this story is that even though it was through Sarah’s lack of faith in the promise that led to the birth of Ishmael through Hagar, God was still there for Hagar and Ishmael even though the covenant promise was meant for Sarah and Isaac. Sarah and Isaac, as well as Hagar and Ishmael, endured hardships due to a lack of faith, and both mothers and sons received blessings from God.

Questions To Consider

  • Can you imagine the little looks, the words, and the gossip whispered in each other’s tents about and by these two women?
  • Do we ever look at each other and judge whether or not we think another has received a blessing we thought we should have for ourselves?
  • Does the impact of what we say have an expiration date? Where it no longer contains any power?
  • Notice how God took care of Hagar and blessed her. What do you think that means?

Why It Matters

The words we use to communicate, how we communicate, and the actions that go with those words have far reaching effects. The book of John opens with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God” (John 1:1). In Hebrews 4:12, the Word of God is described as being sharper than a double edged-sword. We have the love of God in us, and we are living, breathing, and speaking examples of Christ to the world. Our words matter to the ones who hear what we say, whether they are the intended audience or not. Knowing what to say and when to say it is part of being a wise woman. Our words show us the condition of our heart. Pay attention! Learning how to speak with wisdom and kindness takes practice, and all of us mess up. Thank God for His forgiveness and grace.

TBH – So, as I have mentioned previously, I wrote this lesson several years ago. And even though I know I want to be kind, I sometimes mess up in a HUGE way. Not that long after I wrote this lesson, I said something less than flattering to another mom about one of my son’s teammates. I strongly suspect that teammate’s father was listening to what I said. I did not know the father when I said it. Those unkind and critical words came from a place of my own insecurity, and I still regret the likely impact on the father. The family was going through a difficult time dealing with significant illness and eventual loss. There is no way I can take any of it back. My words likely caused more heartache for that dad instead of being an uplifting and encouraging experience when he really needed it. It also reflected poorly on my witness, my son, and altered other relationships in a negative manner. Unfortunately, that is not the only time I said something ignorantly. Another huge mistake was sent in written form with some anger and frustration expressed. I extended an apology right away, but again, I know my words did not reflect the love of Christ. Sometimes, the opportunity to ask for forgiveness is present, and sometimes, the damage remains – with or without forgiveness.

I know that I am careful most of the time. I am certainly more careful since the two examples mentioned here. It grieves me to know that as I try to walk in the light, to be a light, I may have caused others to stumble, to doubt God, to have a lesser opinion of what Christians are like. Oh, I know I won’t be perfect. It’s hard to always know what to say, when to say it, and how to say things in the right way. Basically, if what I want to say is a negative opinion that really doesn’t have a purpose other than to vent frustration, I think it’s better left unsaid. Now, I pray I may continue to choose to follow what I know to be true.

My Story

In middle school and high school, it is a rite of passage to deal with the very issue of mean-spirited comments and thoughtless gossip. I certainly dealt with it. It got so bad for me that I viewed even a compliment as a possible attack. Because of this, I didn’t trust other people for a very long time. I learned to keep people from getting close to me. How can we, who are revered for our beauty, gentleness and nurturing nature, be so mean and vindictive? How much do we internalize and believe well beyond the time and circumstances of those moments? Often, those words are echoed over and over until we believe the lies or let the root of bitterness go deep in our hearts.

It took God’s patient and persistent love to break down the walls I built around myself for protection. In trying to avoid the risk of being hurt, I realized I also created a barrier between God and me. The first time was out of rebellion, and the second time was out of fear. There is nothing more painful to me than to realize I cannot hear or feel God’s presence, especially by my own doing.

Not long ago, a few other moms and I were talking about at what point we realized we needed other women in our lives. Each of us tried living our adult lives by being self-sufficient. Eventually, we had all reached a point in our lives where we realized we needed the help of other women. Opening my heart to other women still leaves me feeling quite vulnerable (It looks like that’s still a work in progress!), but trusting God to help me navigate through the perilous waters of female friendships allows room for Him to work through those relationships – for His good purposes.

It’s not only friend relationships that get tricky. Every relationship is affected by how we speak. This includes our relationships with our siblings, our parents, and our spouses. I love my husband, and it kills me when he lets me know my words have made him feel unloved or less valued. That is not being the kind of blessing, or desperately needed helper, I want to be.

It is through my trying to speak words of love, life and kindness that I realize how much I fail. It is by these failures that I am able to learn where I need more work, and to not let the words of others cut so deeply, especially when I know they may not realize how they sound. Grace abounds.

The Big Question

  • How do you speak to the people in your life?
  • Are you speaking with words of wisdom and kind instruction on your tongue?
  • Who in your life can you practice speaking encouraging words to?
  • Here is a challenge. Either for your parents or siblings – Speak only encouraging and grateful words to them and notice the responses or changes in reactions.
  • Write down the results.

  Dig A Little Deeper

  • The Book of James
  • Proverbs 10:31 (HCSB) The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be cut out.
  • Proverbs 4: 23 (HCSB) Guard your heart above all else, 
for it is the source of life.
  • There are MANY verses throughout Proverbs about anger, gossip, kindness and the right time to speak.

Let kindness be on your tongue!

If you want to leave a comment on this page, I take the time to review any comments before they get posted.  If your comment doesn’t show up right away, I will likely respond by the next day. 

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Confident, Strong, and Beautiful!

Have you ever considered the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”?

Who finds you “beautiful?

Who is “beholding” you?

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I have long thought the pressure placed on young women in the entertainment industry to look a certain way, to be constantly judged, has to be part of the reason why so many self-destruct. Who can handle that constant barrage of criticism? And how can we expect adolescents who are in the middle of developing their self-identity to do so in a healthy way?  We ALL go through awkward stages of growth.  That passes, but the messages we identify with about who we are can stay a LONG time.

Yet, here we are with all of our social media apps, filters, swipes, and likes. The strangest things can go viral, being seen by millions. And with all those views – inevitably – critical, judgmental, hateful comments are posted by those who don’t care, and honestly, whose opinions really don’t matter.

Haters are gonna hate.

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Oh, but friend, there’s Someone who beholds you who calls you beloved.

Read on . . . .


Confident with Strength and Beauty

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I’m still learning  to trust God’s love and His plans.

The objective here is to understand the difference between what the world says is beautiful, and what is beautiful to God. It is summed up in the lesson title. We take our confidence in the knowledge of our value to God, His plans for us. It’s ok to care about how we look, but our evaluation of beauty uses a completely different standard than the world’s standard. We clothe ourselves with dignity and beauty befitting a princess, a daughter of God, not spoiled, but using modesty and an internalized confidence.

17 She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks.

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
 for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed;
 she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
 and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
 she can laugh at the days to come.

28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
 her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things,
 but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
 but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
 and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Discussion Questions

  • What does a beautiful woman look like?
  • Do you agree with the phrase, “Pretty is as pretty does?”
  • How often do you compare yourself to someone else and concentrate on your physical “imperfections?” (Or someone else’s)
  • Does it even matter if someone is beautiful, or feels beautiful?
  • Is it ‘Confidence creates beauty’, or ‘Beauty creates confidence’?

I think most of us recognize the importance placed on physical beauty. But I also believe there is spiritual beauty. Some may have one without the other. Is this something God cares about? How does this matter to our being daughters and disciples? Let’s look at a few verses that mention beauty, glory, and confidence.

  • Zechariah 9:16 – 17 (HCSB) “The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people; for they are like jewels in a crown, sparkling over His land. How lovely and beautiful they will be? Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine, the young women.”
  • Revelation 19: 7 – 8 (HCSB) “ ‘Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.’ For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.”  (Note: This is a reference to the bride of Christ, the church.)
  • Psalm 112 (HCSB) Hallelujah! 
Happy is the man who fears the Lord, 
taking great delight in His commands. His descendants will be powerful in the land;
 the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, 
and his righteousness endures forever. Light shines in the darkness for the upright. 
He is gracious, compassionate, and righteous. Good will come to a man who lends generously
 and conducts his business fairly. He will never be shaken.
 The righteous man will be remembered forever. He will not fear bad news;
 his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord. His heart is assured; he will not fear. 
In the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He distributes freely to the poor;
 his righteousness endures forever.
 His horn will be exalted in honor. The wicked man will see it and be angry; 
he will gnash his teeth in despair.
 The desire of the wicked man will come to nothing. Don’t get caught up in the male pronouns here. Read it with your name substituted where appropriate.

Questions to Consider

  • How does what we wear contribute to our appearance of beauty?
  • If even God recognizes that fine clothes and jewelry are significant items to show beauty and honor, then is it considered vanity to care about them?
  • Does being confident in the love of Christ for us really cause us to be beautiful?
  • Where does that confidence and strength come from?

Why It Matters

When a woman is truly loved and she knows it, she carries herself with a confidence that speaks louder than her physical features or her clothes. There is nothing wrong with the desire to be seen as lovely. However, thinking that our outward loveliness is in direct correlation to our worth proves to undermine the very value God has for us. There is something wrong when we accept a definition of beauty that contradicts what is true and destroys the confidence that we can have in God’s love. Again, we fall into a trap of listening to the lies that the world tells us, trying to compete in a system that leaves us frustrated and inevitably on the losing end. God’s righteousness, that which we have received through the blood of Jesus Christ, is what makes us beautiful and worthy to be clothed in fine linen and jewels. Collectively, we are the bride of Christ as members of the church. When we trust God, we have nothing to fear for nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

My Story

In Stasi Eldredge’s, Your Captivating Heart, she discusses a woman’s beauty. Beginning on page 39, she writes, “God gave Eve a beautiful form and a beautiful spirit. She expresses beauty in both. Better, she expresses beauty simply in who she is. Like God, beauty is her essence.”   She compares how it feels to be caught in loud, smelly city traffic and to be in a quiet, beautiful place like a garden. “Amid beauty, there is room for your soul.” She describes how beauty brings in peace. “That is what beauty says: All will be well.”

When life gets chaotic, uncertain, and mean, we have the Prince of Peace in our hearts. We know God loves us. We are confident that He is trustworthy. Bad things are going to happen, but we are not lost. Hard things will come our way. It is especially at these times that we can call on our Heavenly Father to provide us with a way, with hope, and to help us through them. This peace and assurance is beautiful. We can stand up straight and face the day with strength.

I came to this section thinking mostly of the strength and confidence part. I am not considered traditionally, physically beautiful. There are days I don’t feel too unattractive, and other days I would rather not be seen. By God’s design, I found someone who finds me beautiful and appreciates me for who I am. God has shown me over the years, that a beautiful woman is one who trusts Him. The strength of His love for me gives me the confidence I need to face all of life’s uncertainties. He causes me to be able to handle the trials of the unknown with grace. Anytime anxiety comes over me, even if it takes me a while to recognize it, I know I can go to Him to find peace. This joy, this level of confidence, this certainty that He hears me, knows me, loves me, and wants to spend time with me helps me find the grace I need. By His grace, I am made righteous, meaning one day, I will be adorned in fine linen as a member of the church. The knowledge and belief that His love – for me – endures forever gives me peace, confidence, strength and beauty.

I didn’t always have that assurance. At least I didn’t recognize it. (The world’s standard is in direct opposition to the firm foundation we find in Jesus Christ.) Our appearance is one of the frontlines for this battle. He patiently helped me work through the lies that kept me from being able to receive His love. Sometimes, I still get lost in the turmoil of relationships and life. There is so much more to learn. I look forward to the day when I will be able to fully comprehend His love for me without sin and the confusion of this world getting in the way. I long for you to have the unshakeable knowledge of God’s love for you, too.

The Big Question

  • Can you see how being confident in God’s love for you brings you grace and honor?
  • Does it make you feel beautiful?
  • Knowing you are a beloved Daughter of God, does that change the perception you have of yourself when you look in the mirror?
  • What can you do to make yourself more available to hearing and recognizing God’s love for you? Watch for it, He’s reaching out to you every day. Listen. He’s singing a song over you.

Dig A Little Deeper (HCSB)

  • Proverbs 11:16 A gracious woman gains honor,
but violent men gain only riches.
  • 2 Samuel 1:24 – Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with luxurious things, who decked your garments with gold ornaments.
  • Zechariah 9:16 – 17 The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of His people; for they are like jewels in a crown, sparkling over His land. How lovely and beautiful they will be? Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine, the young women.
  • Revelation 19: 7 – 8 Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself. She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure.
  • Matthew 6: 28 – 34 “And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you – you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But see first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
  • Ephesians 6: 13-17 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waits, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
  • Zephaniah 3:17 Yahweh your God is among you, 
a warrior who saves.
 He will rejoice over you with gladness.
 He will bring you quietness with His love.
 He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”
  • Philippians 1:6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Your Captivating Heart, Pages 37 – 43, Stasi Eldredge


Here I am, several years older and a little bit wiser from when I first wrote this post. Many things have changed, and I am experiencing the truth in the fading of youthful beauty. I’m okay with that. It doesn’t mean I’m not coloring my hair or using certain moisturizers designed to slow down the forming of wrinkles. I’m going to make the most of the resources at my disposal. But, I’m also learning how to place my trust in God daily, and I find my confidence is increasing even when, and especially when, things seem to be out of control.

Earlier, I wrote a blog post, What is Beautiful? I think that message corresponds well with this one. It speaks more of how God works through our brokenness.

Who is beholding you?

Whose beloved are you?

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Strong and Confident!

All These Things

Hello Friends!

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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33 (KJV)

This verse was put into a song we often sang growing up.  I remember wondering, “What ‘things’ will be added unto you?

Today’s post is about being a good steward, and money. This is something I feel quite uncomfortable posting about since I still have a lot of growing and trusting to do.

But a quick note about what happened after my last post on work –

So, I was confronted with the reality that I do not know how to maintain a healthy work-home balance. Last Thursday, I stayed up past midnight doing some organization work for my practicum. I completely let that keep me from posting the next lesson. Please forgive my inconsistency. Plus, I realized I have put in almost half the hours needed for my practicum designed to cover a 16 week period within a 4 week period. I obviously need to create a more healthy balance!

Back to today’s lesson –

I’ve been thinking about the struggles I found from the last lesson on work, and the known struggles I have about money. I read what I wrote originally, and I realize that what I wrote is still relevant, but I sense I have an opportunity to be a little more honest and direct about why I struggle so much with this topic. Which brings us back to Matthew 6:33.

If you read Matthew 6:33 in context, you’ll find this is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Starting at Matthew 6:19, Jesus begins talking quite specifically about treasures, money, and anxiety.

Over the course of my life, I have lived with anxiety surrounding not having enough money. There have been times of seemingly insurmountable debt, and times of plenty. Anxiety over income and financial security goes hand in hand with the work balance struggle.

Right now, I am adding to our family’s debt by taking out loans for the school counseling degree. It adds to my anxiety, and my desire to earn my own way to pay for it once I can work. When I used loans to pay for my undergrad debt, I didn’t really trust God regarding finances. I doubted His provision. While I did work for a couple of years, my husband pretty much paid for my school. I am so grateful to him. So, in a way, God provided through my husband. But, we struggled, and it wasn’t easy.

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My incredible husband!

This time, I have made a conscious choice to Seek God first, and His righteousness. I have seen how He has blessed this time for me to be in school, to follow this path that I believe is a calling from God, and to be encouraged to do so by my husband. Through the doubts in my ability to achieve academically, to handle the workload, and the guilt that wants to press in for increasing debt, God has shown Himself faithful through the encouragement of my husband first, my children, the support of friends, and through the ability to get the work done. I am learning to how to turn my anxiety over to God. When I feel anxious, I pray and re-center my thoughts towards the foundation of God’s promises.

I’m still growing and learning. I hope this post leads you to trusting God more, and at least, having a prayerful conversation with Him on this subject.  Like the last post, I added a few thoughts in blue!


Lesson 3 Good Steward/ Wise with Money/ Generous

The objective here is to understand how to handle the money, profits, and blessings earned and gained from our work. We do not work to have money just for our own benefit, for selfish ambition, but to be able to use our resources responsibly. These resources aren’t just in the form of money, but also time, material goods and service to others. Again, we do these things out of love and honor for God and others.

She selects wool and flax
 and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships,
 bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night;
 she provides food for her family
 and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it;
 out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously;
 her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable,
 and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff
 and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor
 and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
 for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes linen garments and sells them,
 and supplies the merchants with sashes.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think are the biggest differences in the worldly view of money and God’s view of money?
  • Do you think He cares about how much money we make, or how we spend it?
  • How much debt is OK?
  • Is there something wrong with being wealthy?
  • Do you think poor people have themselves to blame for their poverty?
  • Can someone be too generous or irresponsible with his or her generosity?
  • Is being a good steward only about money?

The Bible has a lot to say about money, how to spend it, how to handle loans and borrowing, and taking care of the poor. Jesus often spoke in parables using the wealthy and servants alike as examples to describe conditions of the heart or what the kingdom of God is like. Proverbs is full of wise financial advice among other topics. In the book, Ecclesiastes, we find a different kind of take on wisdom about money and work. Take a look at this.

  • Ecclesiastes 5: 10 –11, 18 – 20 (HCSB) The one who loves money is never satisfied with money, and whoever loves wealth (is) never (satisfied) with income. This too is futile. When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes? . . .  18 Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart. 

Questions To Consider (I wrote this while living in a wealthy suburb near Washington, DC. You can adapt the questions according to your circumstances.)

  • How does living in an affluent community affect your ideas of earning and giving?
  • Do you feel pressure to have certain things that other people have, even if you have to borrow to get them?
  • Do you believe your attitude towards money affects your spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ and God, the Father?
  • Have you ever had to trust God to provide when there seemed no way you could do it on your own?

Why It Matters

There is a very specific verse that says, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” Matthew 6:24 (HCSB) If we allow the love of money to take first place in our heart, then we have broken the very first commandment, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength. We find ourselves no longer looking to God to be the one we trust, but instead, we put our trust in money. That is no good. Did you notice in Ecclesiastes where it says to enjoy your work and wealth is a gift of God? If we can enjoy the fruit of our labor without becoming consumed by the appetite for more and more, we can thank God for that is a gift.

My Story

I can tell you this is an area in which I struggle. I am still learning how to trust God with money. In college, I made some irresponsible choices that had far reaching consequences. I am sharing some of the choices I made with the prayer that God uses them to let you learn from my negative examples. Some of my choices came from outside influences, some from ignorance, while others came from weak areas in my own heart like envy, self-centeredness, and impatience.

Some of my mistakes to avoid:

  • Getting a credit card when I didn’t have steady income – and using it.
  • Getting married and having children before our school loans were paid off.
  • Looking at the way others lived, allowing envy to cause discontent.
  • Allowing my financial status to affect my belief in my value to others and God.
  • Having a lack of self-discipline in setting boundaries for expenditures.
  • Forgetting to trust that God will provide. Doubting that God will provide.
  • Thinking that God won’t provide because of my disobedience and lack of trust.

Now I’m in a transition period from being a stay home mom to working outside the home. As I begin to earn more, I see how easy it is to let financial success become my source of security and purpose. It’s easy to think I have control where I don’t and to let the responsibilities of the job squeeze out time with God. It takes trusting God to a new level. It also gives me a new appreciation for my husband’s role as provider for the family, and his fight to keep balance within his own spirit. The verse, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you,” Matthew 6: 33 has taken on a deeper meaning for me.

(As I mentioned earlier, I find the struggle remains. Since I am currently back in a non-earning position while going through the master’s program with school loans, I am deciding to actively pray and apply Matthew 6:33 to my current situation and the unknown future job and loan repayment. I look forward to seeing how God works through all of this.)

Finally, regarding generosity, when we had so much in the way of expenses, and so little to share, I would look for other ways to practice generosity. Even though my debt amount was large, I still wanted to give. In limited capacities, I had time, possessions, and friendship. I tried to be respectful of the things we did have so I could pass them on while they were still in good shape to others who needed them. Being creatively generous is a way to honor God and to show your gratitude for the things you have. Gratitude helps block the feelings of discontent and envy. It also shows honor to the one who is working and providing. For me, that was and still is my husband, and for you who are not yet earning your own income, it’s your parents. This is all a part of being a good steward and honoring God.

I can sum up my experiences with this: avoid debt, be patient, learn how to be content with what you have, prepare and plan for the future, but don’t forget that God is the one we trust. Watch out for those things that will distract and trap you from benefitting from good, honest work. Guard your heart!

The Big Question

  • How can you seek the kingdom of God first?
  • How is God showing you He knows what you need?
  • Are there things you are doing that keep you from being grateful and content with what you have? 

Dig a Little Deeper (HCSB)

  • Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’
  • Proverbs 22:9 A generous person will be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
  • Ephesians 4:28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.
  • Romans 12:13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
  • Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
  • Matthew 13: 44 – 45 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.”
  • Luke 12: 15 He then told them, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
  • Luke 16: 19 – 31 Lazarus and The Rich Man
  • Luke 21: 1-4 The Widow’s offering
  • Matthew 6: 19 – 34 Treasure, Heart and Need

Read through Proverbs, the verses about money are plentiful.

For two websites on managing money with a Christian perspective, check out:

http://www.crown.org/   and  https://www.daveramsey.com/

Several years ago, I went on a nature walk as a time of prayerful meditation. This was about the time I was deciding if I was supposed to work full-time, questioning if teaching was really what I was supposed to do, and deciding to trust God with the unknowns in my future. It was a cold, gray, and muddy day. I put on my rubber boots and waded through several icy streams. Looking at the ice on the banks, the clear water flowing by, I felt as if God was saying to me that the ice was kind of like gifts or promises that were being stored until the time was right.

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Money ebbs and flows. Time, like the stream, flows at an unstoppable, sometimes smooth, sometimes rough, pace. Being anxious doesn’t help, because God is in control of it all. I just needed to trust Him, and things would work more smoothly if I did. It’s still kind of scary sometimes, but I choose to be brave.