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Praise

You who fear the LORD, praise him!

Psalm 22:23

This week has been one in which my first reaction has not been to praise the Lord.  I watch loved ones around me suffer under their own man made gods.  The pain and turmoil threatens to pull me in as I desperately hold their hands and attempt to pull them toward our Father.

Only the pulling never seems to work.  They cling to themselves and refuse to see the LIGHT and my heart bursts inside me.  Every tiny bit of their life that crumbles seems to take a bit out of me.

Psalm 22:23 shouts at me to praise the Lord, and I try, and I try, and I try, but my heart is mush, and I don’t want to praise.

I see pictures of third world countries and remember my dream to live in one of them.  I grew up dreaming of living in a land where poverty was a real battle.  It seems instead I live in a land where abundance is the biggest problem.

Abundance of choices, money, items.  The pull of the abundance is strong, but I desperately want them to let God give them an abundance of Him.  To replace the empty abundance with an Abundance of LIFE.

But they don’t believe that exists. And so my heart breaks a little more, and I return to Psalm 22 confessing to God my angst.

He speaks Hebrews 13:15   Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

And I begin to breathe.  And I SACRIFICE my feelings and my aching heart, and my need for others to find Jesus, and I pray through Psalm 41 and praise the Lord with words from His Word.

You Lord will deliver and protect.  You will be called blessed regardless of the circumstances.  You alone sustain us and give life. You are gracious and delight in me.  You have upheld me and set me in your presence forever.  Blessed be your name forever.

A sacrifice of praise… the sacrifice of myself in order to praise the Lord brings about peace.

This peace reminds me who is really in control and gives me perspective.

Perspective allows me to sleep at night.  Perspective allows me to see God at work around me.  Perspective…

So I will wake up again tomorrow, open my front door with a smile, love with a broken heart, listen intently, and trust God’s plan.  I know without a doubt His plan is best.

I write my weekly posts because I desire to share what God is teaching me and not only hold myself accountable but hopefully to help connect others to God as well.  If your heart is similar to mine, check out Ann Voskamp’s site. She is offering a scholarship to what seems to be an amazing conference. I think we should all enter and be encouraged to chase after God a bit deeper!

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10

Isn’t it refreshing to know that we need to do nothing to exalt God.  He will exalt Himself among the nations and the earth without our help. 

All he asks of us is to BE  STILL and know that HE is God. 

Being still in my heart and acknowledging God is God all day long is challenging, but oh so refreshing.

I pray that this week we all can experience the peace that comes from having a still heart before the Lord.

This quote

I can’t get this quote out of my mind. The Holy Spirit is using it to really tear down some walls in my mind and heart.

“Nine-tenths of our suffering is caused by others not thinking so much of us as we think they ought. If you want to know where pride nestles and festers in most of us, that is right where it is; and it is not the opposition of others, but our own pride, which causes us the deepest hurt. I never read a word that penetrated more deeply into the sin of pride from which all of us suffer, nor one which opens up more surgically our places of unforgiveness.

-Samuel Moor Shoemaker

Lately I’ve been surrounded by people who think stay at home moms do nothing.  They aren’t rude about it, but their mannerisms toward me, their words about those who work outside the home, and their views on life in general clearly shout how lowly they view the role I have chosen for my life.  I have allowed the way they speak to me to affect how I act.  I want to prove them wrong.

But then that’s a trap too.  Its amazing how quickly someone’s opinion of you can zap the contentment you have with where God has placed you in life.

Nine-tenths of our suffering is caused by others not thinking so much of us as we think they ought.”

Man that quote has been convicting the past two weeks.

What would life look like if my pride was completely gone?  If I didn’t have such a high opinion of myself so that I even thought that others cared what I did?

I think everyone wants to feel important.  After 5 years of staying home, I’m past the stage of wanting to write out everything I do, or tell everyone how hard I have it, or prove to everyone that I am important.   But it still hurts when people speak words that make me feel very unimportant.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t survive working outside the home.  My spirit would be crushed if I had to put my kids in daycare.  My marriage would suffer if I pursued a career outside my home.  I would just plain be miserable.

Because that’s how God created me.   Don’t hear me wrong, I”m not making a stand that staying home with your kids is the only way to go.  The Holy Spirit clearly is in charge of who should work and who should stay home.   The Holy Spirit has clearly convicted Brent and I that staying home with the kids is my path.

This quote kicked me in the gut, convicted me of my pride as I nursed my wounds from others words, and reminded me of the whole spiritual journey we are all on.

Most of the time others won’t understand what God has called you to.  But knowing for sure what God calls you to do and then doing it brings a peace beyond all understanding.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday 1

She showed up for work with ashes on her forehead.  I looked at her strange.  In my 22 years of life, I had never seen anyone with ashes on her forehead.

“Its Ash Wednesday.” I must have looked confused because she shrugged as she walked away and said, “ Maybe its just a Catholic thing.

I had this judgmental view of Catholicism that automatically made me think, “well if its a Catholic thing, I want no part of it.  It must be lifeless.”

But yet I was curious. Why would these people get up at dawn, go to Mass before coming to work, and wear ashes on their forehead all day long?  I loved God a lot, but pretty sure I wasn’t up to that task.  Besides, tradition doesn’t make you walk any closer with God…at least I told myself that.

At 24, I attempted to participate in Lent, but it really was just a way to encourage myself to eat a bit better.  I was getting married that summer after all.  At the end of 40 days, I didn’t see any real spiritual benefits in my participation in Lent.  “See tradition really is lifeless.” I told myself.  I never once thought about my motivation behind participating in the tradition.

Its funny how God always seems to convict me of my foolish judgments made in the past. Here I am, 10 years after judging my first view of Ash Wednesday, and God is pushing me to better understand the tradition of Lent.

As I’ve read, here are the descriptions I’ve discovered..

Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus

The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer

Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, Christian growth, penitence, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him.

Nothing about those descriptions sound trite or lifeless.  Once again, God is showing me that when the heart is seeking God, even the most liturgical traditions can be very life giving.   I’ve definitely regretted all those judging words about empty and lifeless churches and their traditions.  Its only if the heart is lifeless that the tradition will be lifeless.   The tradition is just a means to an end.  If my heart desires to seek God in a deeper way, the tradition of Lent is just a structure to help me do it.  The structure doesn’t make me holy; seeking God above all else makes me holy.   Sometimes it takes a set amount of time spent in self-denial to seek God in a deeper way.

So God has softened my heart and opened my eyes to the benefit of spending the next forty days intentionally denying myself and sacrificing things in order to clean out myself spiritually and prepare my heart again for what God has for me.

Happy Ash WednesdayAsh Wednesday

The Past Six Days

The past six days have been an intense mixture of emotions. The dreaded phone call saying my dad had had a seizure, was unconscious, and on his way to the hospital began the emotional roller coaster.

Sitting in traffic, attempting to meet friends to see an IMAX movie, and hearing my sister saying my dad was on his way to the hospital is an image that will never be erased from my mind. I thought I would be calm, or super, over the top, organized/planner when I got a call about one of my parents. Instead I was just a mess. I pulled into the IMAX movie and my middle daughter said, “hey mom, do you think you could stop doing that once we get inside?” I asked her what I needed to stop doing and she replied, “crying. Please don’t do that when we go inside.” Yes, mercy and compassion seem to be on the bottom of her giftings at this stage of the game.

By the time I made it home that night to fall into my husbands arms, my dad was awake, but couldn’t remember anything.  And not just couldn’t remember what happened to him, he couldn’t remember ANYTHING.    I had prayed the whole way home that the Lord would make it possible for me to get to Chicago by the next day.   I later learned friends had given us some airline miles so I could get a ticket up to Chicago the next morning.   The Lord always provides.

The next 48 hours were a mixture of relief, confusion, tension, love, and gratefulness.  I was surrounded by my sisters, my mom, my nephews,and my brother-in-law and together we all walked through this frightful scenario together.   As each test can back clean, I could feel the tension among us decrease bit by bit.  As each doctor answered more and more questions, I could feel me begin to relax more and more. 

On the plane on the way home, I began to recount all the blessings of the trip.  Everything from plane tickets, to the neurologist, to my sister’s willingness to get all of us where we needed to go, to being able to switch plane tickets with no cost, to time with  my nephews, to conversations with my sisters, to good cardiologists, to thorough doctors, to private hospital rooms, and the list could go on and on.  In fact, the list of things I was thankful for grew so long that I could no longer be scared for my dad.

Its amazing how fear seems to dissipate when your eyes are on the Lord.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control  2 Timothy 1:7

(sorry about the poor quality of photos but very thankful to have a phone with a photo option on it!)

Overflowing

The smell of sickness is being challenged by the smell of bleach.  Load after load of soiled laundry calls my name while sick little children follow me crying “just hold me”.  I want to tell them to leave me alone.  To just give me five minutes without the crying, without the asking, without the needing of something, without the fevers.  I’m appalled at the emotions swirling through my mind, but I say to myself, “you’re just grouchy because its been four weeks of little sleep and sick children.  Everyone would be grouchy after this.” But something about that statement doesn’t sit right with me.  I try to ignore that uncomfortable feeling and attempt to tune out the chaos in my four walls. Denial always has been my defense mechanism.

Then God speaks softly about the heart.  I hear His voice, and I am forced to look at myself with honesty.  The grouchiness in my heart is held up against the truth of scripture.

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

My circumstances aren’t the problem.  My heart is.    I want to blame someone else for my emotions, but the blame is mine.

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

God leads me to open up I John and nudges me to begin memorizing the book.  So I start and I have Brent test me, and I work on it and begin to see love come out of my heart instead of hate.  The Book of Life begins again to take ownership over my heart.

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Today, may my thoughts and emotions be a reflection of a heart that is being transformed into the image of our Savior.

Transitions

Life is one big transition.

Eight years ago, I was in the engaged category

Then transitioned into the newlywed category.  I then jumped straight into the pregnancy/nursing category where I remained for the next 6 years. 


I know all about baby transitions.  They transition from eating every 3 hrs. to every 3.5 to every 4.  Their sleep schedule transitions as they can only stay awake 20 minutes to then 30 minutes to finally an hour.  Their schedule gets shifted and moved as they get older.  I can do baby transitions.  For some reason I forgot that adults have transitions too.

Now I’m wandering around wondering what to do with myself. I just figured out that I’m in another transition. I know I’ve been baby free for awhile, but I’ve been wandering for awhile.  This last year has been a year of learning to obey God and listening to Him as he led me to get rid of everything I was a part of during the last 6 years.  The ministries, the groups, everything.  Now that I’m a clean slate again, I guess its time for me to transition into whatever this next step is that God has for me.

My kids aren’t quite as needy, I’m not so emotional or physically exhausted, I have a little bit of brain power back, and am now fighting that restlessness that comes when life changes and you’re not quite sure where your place is anymore.

So I’m transitioning.  One of many transitions to come, but one I wasn’t prepared for. 

Here’s to waiting on the Lord to see what He has for me in this season of life.

Thankfulness

I started reading this new book by Ann VosKamp.  I’ve been reading extremely slow on purpose.   The whole idea that before we can truly walk in the Kingdom of God and participate in His joy daily, we need to live a life of gratitude is easy to agree with but yet hard to live out.  Gratitude for EVERYTHING all day long is difficult.  I’ve really had to search out and repent about the fact that my frustration and anger comes from a deep rooted belief that in the moment I was frustrated, I chose to believe that I was in control, not God.   Its that moment by moment walking in thankfulness that takes a lot of concentration.

I’ve been reading Ann’s blog off and on for a while.  Her thoughts, ideas, and reflections from the Lord just resonate with my soul, and so I’m taking her challenge of living a life full of gratefulness.  My list begins today as well as my journey to live a more thankful life. We’ll see how long it takes me to get to 1000.  Anyone want to join me?

So Today I’m Thankful For…

#1. lots of  cuddle time with my youngest as he recovers from sickness

#2.Sunshine that sweeps through the house in the afternoon

#3. Warmer temps so the kids can go outside and play “Jack and Annie” all afternoon.

#4. Doctors who have wisdom so the family will start to feel better

#5. A husband who will work late, work from home, and help take kids to the doctor while we all recover from sickness

#6. Codine to help me sleep through the coughing

#7. Friends who show up with food when they know I’m exhausted

#8. Neighbors who help with car trouble when the temps are below freezing

#9. Apple TV…being able to pull up youtube videos of  “Cookie Monster” at a moments notice has helped a very sick little boy calm down

#10. Having my husband home after 7 days without him.  I love him dearly.

If God made me beautiful, why don’t I feel beautiful?

Brent and I spoke to the youth last Wednesday night about God creating us beautifully.  When we finished, the biggest question asked was, “If God made me beautiful, why don’t I feel beautiful?”

Such a valid and real question. If we were all honest with ourselves, it is a question we’ve all asked many times. A question we’ve all wished could easily be answered with a snap of our fingers.  So today, instead of writing about my personal spiritual journey, I thought I would try my best to answer this question in a way that moves us all forward on this journey of transformation.

And to do that, we need to go all the way back to Genesis.

Genesis 3:7-8 “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

The answer to our original question about why we don’t FEEL beautiful is simply “sin”. Before they disobeyed God,  ate that apple, and sin entered the world, Adam and Eve walked naked with no shame.   They walked in the knowledge that they were God’s creation, and they were beautiful. After they chose sin, they “made themselves loin clothes” and “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.” This is the first time we see God’s creation believe the lie that they were not created beautiful.

So if sin causes us to doubt we are beautiful, what can I do to stop doubting and begin to believe the truth?

Believing truth is hard when false notions continually plague you. So let’s start with a simple question.

Ask yourself: What feeling/emotion do I feel when I think about myself?” THENWhat about that feeling/emotion contradicts the truth that God stated in His word.”  This should help you identify a specific sin in your life.

Now that you’ve identified a specific sin that is keeping you from believing truth, you need to begin “putting off” that lie and “putting on” truth to replace it. This is where it gets hard. Its easier to SAY you want to change than to actually DO something to change.

See the problem here is that we have begun to make ourselves our own idol. We worship how we look, how we feel, how we think. All that worship of self makes it impossible to walk in the presence of God and to walk in truth. To stop worshiping ourselves takes work.

Since generally our feelings are what are tempting us to doubt God’s truth, we need to start replacing those sinful feelings with truth.  Phillipians 4:8 tells us “finally brothers, whatever is true…think about these things” The work begins as you start to write out what is true about you.

Where does truth come from?

The only place truth comes from is God’s word.   Its the only thing that will set you free from the trap of your emotions and feelings. So here’s your plan…

Step One: Pick a verse that directly contradicts the lie you’ve been believing about yourself.  Write this verse on an index card, text it to yourself, write it on your hand, write it on your bathroom mirror, tape it to the shower wall, whatever it takes to make sure this verse is readily available to you throughout the day. A few good verses to choose from are:

Psalm 139:13-14 “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Psalm 45:11 “The King is enthralled with your beauty. Honor Him for He is your Lord.”

Isaiah 62:3 “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”

I Peter 3:4 “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

Step Two:   Every day, for a month, begin replacing your thoughts with truth. For example, you stand in front of a mirror and think “if I could just lose a few pounds, I would be pretty.” The minute that thought is out there, you then say to yourself, “that is a lie. Psalm 139 tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made and Psalm 45 tells me that the God of the universe is held spell bound by me. God made me perfect”.

This step may seem silly, but it is the most important step. You must begin replacing your lies with truth from the scripture. You must begin “taking every thought captive” and allowing God to speak truth in your life. You will never feel beautiful until you do.

And that’s it. Why don’t you feel beautiful EVEN THOUGH God said “it is good” when he created you? Why don’t you feel beautiful EVEN THOUGH God creates beautiful things? It is simply because you have allowed sin to reign in your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It takes work, it takes effort, it takes relying completely on God’s grace in order to change your feelings, but the good news is God desires you to walk in freedom from this sin. In fact, God has already given you freedom from the slavery you are currently walking in. The choice is yours whether you accept His gift of freedom, walk in the presence of God, and believe the truth, or you walk in the slavery of the world and believe lies.

I pray today you begin the journey to believe the truth.

Love

I knew going in that I was probably going to get hurt. At first it was very tempting to put up emotional boundaries so when the hurt came, it wouldn’t hurt quite so much.

just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another

That scripture hounded my thoughts…just as I have loved you, just as I have loved you, just as I have loved you

So I searched and I asked God to show me how He loved me differently than I was loving others, loving those outside of my family, loving those who would probably hurt me in the end.

He brought to mind Peter.  He knew Peter would deny him, but yet He never withdrew any love from Peter in anticipation of the hurt that would come in the future. Jesus knew Judas would betray Him, yet we never see Jesus withdrawing His love from Judas simply because Judas would turn on Jesus in the end.

Jesus never withdrew love in order to protect himself from future circumstances that were sure to come.  And He called me to love in the same way.

Its a lot easier to be hospitable, kind, and generous than it is to love.  Hospitality, kindness, and generosity are all within your control. Loving someone and not withholding any of that in order to protect yourself leaves you with very little control.

Loving others without reserve has been where I struggle.  I watch this little 4 month old baby, and I love her like she’s one of our family, but yet I am fearful of that kind of love.   I want to protect my heart because I know she’s not mine, and I know at any moment, she could disappear from our life.   I love her 16 yr. old mommy like she’s part of our family.  I would do anything for her, but deep down I struggle with the fear that down the road she could throw that love back in my face.

That’s hard to say aloud.

I encourage the mommy to make good decisions, I pick her up with she falls, I hug her, I tell her I love her, I feed and bath the baby, and then I wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats thinking about them.

Kindness and generosity are easier.  You don’t lose sleep praying for someone when you simply offer kindness or generosity. You can still emotionally keep your distance.  Wholehearted love allows for no emotional distance.

This week has been hard.  I watch choices and I see stress and I see the effects of choices and my heart hurts.  But yet nowhere in me is judgment or condemnation because of this unconditional love God has placed in me.

I think that may be the key.  Withholding love from others will force me to judge them.  Its really the only way to justify why I won’t completely invest in them.  Sacrificial love leaves no room for judgment of others.  It simply continually pushes you to your knees seeking the grace of our Father to reign down over those you love.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Unconditional love for our family is easy.  Unconditional love for others is supernatural.

I pray we all humble ourselves so God can teach us how to quit withholding our love in order to protect ourselves and beginning lavishing love trusting that God will indeed take care of us.

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