Monday, September 12, 2016

A Letter to Those Who Are Growing Weary

Dear Friend,

Often the weight of the situation becomes too heavy to bear and it becomes easy to lose hope. It feels like an never ending up hill battle. Soon it feels like the mind, body, and spirit are all worn down.

If you are in this place right now, know that you are not alone. My heart is heavy for those who feel like they are just trudging along.

Your situation might be health, finances, children, homeschooling, work, classes, frustration with the government, family, depression, or so much more. Often it is even a combination of many things.

My friend, don't lose hope. Even if it feels like you are making very little progress, keep pushing forward. You are not alone and you do not have to share your burden alone.

Perseverance... I love that word. It do not require me to be strong, smart, or talented. Perseverance is like the wind. While mountains are solid and strong, the wind breaks them down. Not by the mighty forces of the wind but rather by persistence. It might not look like anything is happening, but after time the shape of the mountains and rocks can be seen.



Friday, September 9, 2016

Why are God's People Afraid to be Real?

In the past I thought being a good Christian meant wearing a mask. Projecting an image of happiness and wholeness to all those around me. I thought the mask would help others to see Jesus through me. It would keep my brokenness from becoming a distraction to others. I would wear this mask that I created and when the mask would slip, I would become overcome with guilt for failing as a Christian.

Through the last several years, I have found that sometimes people can see God most shining through the cracks of my brokenness. I was doing God no favors by being artificial. God wanted to use my brokenness. He wanted to heal my brokenness. He wanted to love me in my brokenness.

As a society we have things that are stigmatized. Things that go unspoken for fear of rejection and judgement. Sadly, this is not much more different in our Christian walk.There are some subjects that are uncomfortable and can make us feel vulnerable.

Top Three Things Christians Hide: (Some of these overlap)

1. Mental Illness- Depression, Anxiety, Postpartum, Bipolar, PTSD, Schizophrenia, ect.

As I struggle with depression I find times when I feel the need to fake a smile, even when I am feeling shattered. Sometimes it is to hide my struggle. Sometimes it is to not make someone else uncomfortable. Also, sometimes it is because it makes me feel like I can just make it through. I am one of those personalities where if I am on the verge of crying and a friend tries to comfort me through kind words or through even just a touch, I fall apart and have a hard time gaining composure again.

In our society, mental illnesses are seen as weakness. They are often misunderstood. As Christians we are one body. So why can't we be vulnerable with our brothers and sisters in Christ? How is our pride getting in the way of allowing us to seek support and prayer? Are our expectations of others and attitudes keeping others from reaching out to us?

2. Addictions- Drugs, Alcohol, Food, Pornography, ect.

As I struggle with overeating I feel a deep sense of shame and guilt. I will have a nagging thought that seems to get louder and louder as I entertain it. I seek it for comfort. It makes me feel better, but the feeling is so short lived and I end up feeling defeated and worse than before. It is an idol that I have given myself to and that I felt could take away the pain. Food is not the only addiction I have had in my life, but at this time it is the one that I struggle with day by day, hour by hour, sometimes moment by moment.

If so many with addictions find help with support groups, how many more Christians could if we could be open about our struggles? If we could listen, support, and pray for them? Unfortunately, judgmental attitudes get in the way of showing love to each other. Imagine a brother or sister in Christ came to you and said, "Please pray for me. I am addicted to pain pills." How easy would it be to judge that person? It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others, when really we should be comparing ourselves to Jesus.

3. Sexual Immorality- Lust, Adultery, Pornography, ect.

A little over ten years ago, I had an emotional affair that turned into physical affair. It had started as a friendship. Someone who I felt understood me and who made me feel better about myself, when at the time I felt I was in a loveless marriage. I quickly became emotionally attached to the person. My heart would start racing when I saw their number on the caller id. I would find reasons to go and talk. After having a fight with my husband, I went to my friend for comfort. The emotional affair became physical and I had committed adultery. I was so attached to this person that I was willing to break apart my family. My life quickly fell apart. It was soon after that I allowed Jesus to be the Lord of my life.Thankfully, God has worked so many miracles in my life and has brought healing and restoration into my marriage.

In the church sex and sexual immorality is often a topic that is brushed aside. We feel uncomfortable talking about it and it has become faux pas. So many families are or have been impacted by sexual sins. It seems almost like we believe if we ignore it, it will go away. Sexual sins are embarrassing, but they wont just go away. Jesus was a great example with the Samaritan woman at the well. 


John 4:15-19 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.
John 4:39-41 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers.

Why should we get real?

*Not only are mental illnesses, addictions, and sexual immorality similar in the way they are stigmatized, they are all very isolating struggles. They lead to others withdrawing and trying to handle it on their own. If we as a body can start communicating about them, it will remove some of the power of them. We can then lift each other up and encourage each other. 

Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.


1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.


*We are a light, even in our brokenness. The world is filled with fallen broken people. If we can be real with others, they can see that God loves us in our brokenness. We are unable to do good on our own, but God still uses us to bring Him glory. How cool to have a God that can use the very things that we struggle with, to help others. 

1 Timothy 1:15-17 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Brothers and Sisters, 
If you are struggling and you feel all alone, you are not! It may feel like the world is caving in on you and like you are just trying to survive. Even then, God is still there. He loves you so much and you are precious to Him. Please reach out to a friend, family member, a doctor, or a pastor. We are stronger with others at our side. Please let me know if there is any way I can pray for you! 
God Bless, 
Faith

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Spiritual Object Permanence

Why is playing peek-a-boo with a little baby so much fun? 

It would have to be the true look of shock and joy when your face is no longer hidden. 

When babies are little they will think that something that they can not see, touch, or sense is gone. For example placing a toy behind their back. Suddenly the toy has vanished and is gone. I have heard this is true also to why many babies begin to cry when their parent is out of view. The baby seeks their mother or father for comfort but since they can not see or hear them, the parent must be gone. 

As babies get a little older and grow cognitively, they begin to develop object permanence.  They start to look for the toy behind their back instead of thinking it has disappeared forever. 

I struggle with my spiritual object permanence (s.o.p). There will be times when I see God clearly moving and working in my life to protect and provide for me. I feel His love and I do not feel afraid or alone. God has proven Himself to be faithful and true. Yet, when something suddenly happens I seem to feel as if He has disappeared and that I am alone. I become like that frightened baby that thinks her Heavenly Father has vanished. 

I often then try to handle the situation out of my own flesh, which usually gets me into more trouble. I assume that I have to fix it. I have to act in some way. Sure, I might call out to my Father, but I will not be patient in waiting or I will be overcome with anxiety. 

This often makes me so frustrated with myself. It is a battle of flesh and spirit. In my spirit I know that God is good. God is in control. God loves me and provides for me. God protects me. ...

Then my flesh says something so different. Oh, no what am I going to do? How can we afford this? I can't handle this right now. I feel so alone. Will this darkness go away? 

Not only am I left feeling torn and overwhelmed, I usually feel an overwhelming amount of guilt. I should know better. Why do I doubt so quickly? I am a bad daughter. I have no faith. 

What to do when you struggle with spiritual object permanence:

1. Cry out to your Heavenly Father

2. Put His word in your heart

3. Thank God for all the times He provided and protected

4. Remember that faith isn't the lack of doubt, it is choosing to believe even in doubt. 

5. Pray that God would increase your faith

6. Remember that God loves you

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1 Peter 5:7 

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? 
        By living according to your word. 
I seek you with all my heart;
        do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
        that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:9-11

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" - Mark 9:24

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unsolicited Parental Advice

Can we be real for a moment? Being a parent is tough. It seems like there are never ending choices each day and many of the choices lead to more choices... all of which someone else will end up judging my ability to parent over. 

Do I let her pick out her own socks or do I do it for her? Am I taking away her independence and individuality to get them for her? ... OK I will let her pick them out. 

{Five minutes later}

Why is she wearing two different socks? Is that one her sisters sock? Do I make her go change them? Is it worth the fight? ..... At least they are clean, I hope. I will just have her roll that one down and maybe no one will notice. 

It is a constant balancing act and a draining one at that... and this was just over socks. 

I have found that while I can't even manage to handle the stress of socks on my own child, I still go an offer unsolicited advice to other parents. Even worse sometimes I judge their parenting skills based on what I see in a glance. 

While I am very thankful for technology and for the wealth of information at my fingertips, it has one big downfall. Information overload. It seems that each person can be an expert and have advice an information that they believe I should follow, and most of them don't agree. This leads to so many feeling they have a better way, a right way, and they feel the need to tell each person who does not comply. 

Common areas of unsolicited parental advice: 
breast/bottle
cloth/disposable diapers
vaccinations
nap schedules
disciplining
car seat arrangements
cell phones
electronics
circumcisions
bedtimes
family diet
clothing choices
dating
footwear
behavior in public
hair styles
roles of a step parent
homeschooling/public/private school
chores/allowance
access to vehicle
ect.
Whether you are a parent of a small one or a parent of a teen, we have all been offered unsolicited parental advice. Some of it might have changed your view on a subject and some may have made you feel uncomfortable. 

Which is more important, the message or the delivery? 

While the message is the heart of the issue and the thing being conveyed, it is the delivery of the message that make all the difference to me. One thing that drives my hubby crazy is that I will end up stopping and having an extended chat with strangers in Target. I love sharing the information I have, whether it is on free kids activities, an amazing product, or on what God has done in my life. I love sharing with others. I am not against sharing unsolicited advice, in the right circumstance and in the right way. 

So here is my unsolicited advice on giving unsolicited advice. 

1. Speak/Write in "I" and "my", not in "You" and "your"s. 

Often a person can hear advice better when it is spoken in a specific way. I have found that when people say "you" or "your" it automatically makes me feel defensive. I feel like I need to defend my choice and my family. Not only do I feel judged, I also feel self conscious. I begin to doubt myself and my choices as a parent and that makes me disconnect even more from the person offering the advice. 

Example: 
Good: Did you know that you should spend at least an hour a day reading to your child? 

Better: Even though time gets really tight, I try to spend at least an hour a day reading to my child. I heard it was really important for her reading skills. 

2. Speak from inexperience more than experience. 

While I appreciate the experience someone may have in a topic/situation, speaking from their inexperience also brings a mutual understanding. I am more likely to listen to a friend who understands my struggles and does not expect perfection from me because she herself is imperfect. 

Example: 
Good: I have done so much research and find that it is best for children to have no artificial preservatives in their food. 

Better: Some nights I am so exhausted from all the running around that I just run through McDonald's for dinner, but in general I am trying to cut out all of the artificial preservatives in my kids diets. 

3. Ask if the person would like advice. 

This might sound simple, but it makes all the difference. Asking if someone would like advice is a great way to build the trust and respect that will make the person receive the advice better. If the person says no then let it go. 

Example: 
Good: Why isn't your baby wearing any socks? You should have socks on her or she will get cold. 

Better: I hated when my baby would pull off her socks each time we got in the car. Can I tell you what helped us? 

4. Take a moment to evaluate and empathize.

Instead of jumping in with advice, it is important to evaluate the situation. Maybe it is not a good moment to be offering advice. Maybe the person usually does what I am suggesting but there are things I might not know playing a role at the moment. Maybe she needs support and encouragement instead. If my children are acting up in a store, I have had a long day of toddler tantrums, my a/c unit is out in my van, our paycheck was short this week; the last thing I need is a person coming up to offer me advice. If a juggler is juggling five sticks that are on fire, it is not the time to interrupt and offer my advice on how he/she could be doing it better or more effectively. Sometimes I need to remember when approaching a situation to (pardon the language) back the hell up and keep my mouth shut. If anything I can offer a kind word, a compliment, or encouragement. 

I have actually seen my friend Jennifer do this. When we see a child in a store throwing a tantrum and a parent disciplining or correcting the child, my reaction is to look away and to mind my own business. In certain circumstances my friend will acknowledge the parent and tell them that they are doing a great job. 

Example:
Good: {silence  and no judgmental glance}

Better: Keep it up! You are doing great! I love your (blank).

5. Don't use fear as a way to get the message across. 

While I do try to protect my children and do what is best for them, I do not like to live in fear. I do not want to be unaware of risks, but when a person leads with risks and dangers I automatically shut down. I am going to make a lot of mistakes. The world is a scary and dangerous place. I do my best to protect my children, but then I rely on God for protection and strength. 

Example:
Good:Little children should not be around magnets. If they accidentally swallow some they can choke, or worse they can perforate through their intestines. They can end up with internal bleeding, infection, and death. 

Better: Little children shouldn't have access to magnets because they are a chocking hazard and can hurt them if swallowed. 

6. Be aware how things are perceived.

Sometimes when someone is very passionate about the advice they are trying to give, it comes off as if they think they love their child more than I love mine. The person is just trying to help and is acting out of love, but instead it reads as something very hurtful. Phrases such as, "I love my baby, so I..." make it sounds as if the person who does not do whatever it is doesn't love their child. It is assumed that the majority of choices a person makes is in their child's best interest and out of love. 

As parents we have enough pressure on us in general, without adding the judgment of other parents. While sharing advice is a wonderful and helpful thing, it is important to make sure we are doing it in a supportive loving way. 

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Romans 12:18  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Philippians 2:1-4 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Prayer of the Doubter

God, You are good. You are have always had your hand of protection and provision upon me and my family. I have seen You do miracles that would be considered great to many and in some that would be considered tiny. You have shown me great mercy and love, even in times when I was least deserving. You reign Most High over all. 

Yet God, I still struggle to see You at time. I struggle to remember Your goodness and faithfulness. I struggle to understand that You are bigger than my circumstances. I struggle to know that You love me in my weaknesses. I struggle to look to You first, instead of trying to carry the burden alone. 

God, I am sorry for my lack of faith. I am sorry for taking my eyes off of You. I am sorry for allowing the things around me to consume me with anxiety. I am sorry for failing to give You the glory and honor You always deserve. 

God, my God, I need Your help. Help me to set my eyes on You, Lord. Help me narrow the gap between my head and my heart. Help me to rest in Your promises. Help me to have more self control when it comes to my emotions. Help me to hide Your word in my heart. Help me to set aside the things in this world and of my flesh and become more like Jesus. Help me to remember to place my concerns at the foot of the cross and to leave them there. Most of all, Lord, help me in my unbelief. 

Amen

There is a great sermon from Pastor Rob Schneider titled The Struggle of Faith on 9/7/2014 on the website http://www.calvarysbc.com/media.php?pageID=6