Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pursued, Loved and Confident in Him

So I've begun an online Bible Study for the book "A Confident Heart."  While I was excited and knew it would be a good thing for me, I never knew the impact it would have on me...and we are only in week one!

As I've written about often, I struggle with self-doubt, with being good enough, with insecurity about not being competent enough, pretty enough, thin enough.  The list goes on.  I've talked about all the ways I've tried to stop the cycle of these thoughts.  And I fail time and time again.  So I decided I needed to do this study and read this book.

I'm so thankful I did!  This week we are starting to read the book and discussing the first two chapters.  Over this past week, as I was doing my normal morning devotional, I read James 1:17.  I've read it thousands of times before, but this time I read it in a different translation...the VOICE.  I actually discovered this translation from a Facebook post by Mandisa (Christian artist...whose songs I've used in my previous posts).  Let me preface this by saying...there have been many times where I have felt (wrongly) that it has seemed like God has started to give me something I've prayed for only to snatch it back and say, "Just joking!"  I know that is not the case...but I've often felt that way.  Often times it's because I was pursuing something outside of His will or I was determined to have my way.  But every time I am faced with heartache or adversity, that thought crosses my mind.  But then I read this verse...  "Every good gift bestowed, every perfect gift received comes to us from above, courtesy of the Father of lights.  He is consistent.  He won't change His mind or play tricks in the shadows." Wow.  What a slap upside the head of that recurring thought that I have.  God isn't a God who teases us or entices us with what He doesn't intend for us to have.  And any thought I have that says otherwise isn't from's from the enemy.  An attempt to destroy my confidence in my God.  And in turn leads to doubt and the building up of walls to keep from being rejected or hurt...which in turn leads to isolation and loneliness.

Tonight, as I was reading Chapter 2 of our study, I came across this:  "What we need is someone who will pursue us and accept us even though we're flawed.  Yet most of us doubt anyone would ever stick with us if we let them get too close.  So we put up walls and hide our struggles, even from God, hoping we'll convince Him and everyone else that we're fine."  Again, wow.  That really hit home for me.  I long to be pursued and desired and spite of my flaws.  But often I find myself trying to be something I'm not or trying to live up to someone's expectation of what I should be...thinking that if I do that, then they will want me or want to be with me or will accept me.  I go so far as to building up those thick walls around myself by staying busy, always saying yes even when I shouldn't, never really letting people in, agreeing rather than sharing my opinion for fear of rejection...all in an attempt to hide myself.  I guess thinking I'm not worthy of being pursued or loved or accepted.  And I always tell others I'm doing just fine...even when I'm falling apart inside.  And in this attempt, the real me...the "Lori" God created me to be...gets pushed further and further down until there is little trace of me.  I survive by deflecting any attention from myself to others.  I do my best to make sure the focus is on others so that no one will see my flaws and, thus, reject me.  I'm wonder if the woman at the well felt that way.

The book talks about this woman.  She had been married five times and was living with a man that wasn't her husband.  She was rejected, alone, exhausted and, I'm sure, felt unworthy of love.  She comes to the well to draw water and meets Jesus.  I'm sure she was afraid of the rejection and judgment she so often received from others.  Just like a lot of us...we put on a good face and say we are ok and never let others in...afraid of rejection and judgment.  But Jesus meets her...and meets us...where we all are.  Without judgment.  And willing to accept us where we are.  We don't have to jump through hoops or perform a special trick to impress Him.  He just wants us to come as we are.

Now, I haven't been married five times and am not the talk of the town gossips (as far as I know)...but I have had my share of rejection and judgment.  To the point that it affects current relationships that I have.  I keep up that wall and stay guarded...trying to keep from getting hurt again or being rejected.  And that leads to doubts and questions and worry.  But that is not how God wants me, or you, to live.  He wants us to realize that we ARE loved.  In chapter 2 of the book, Renee says, "...we are valued and pursued by the one who knows us and loves us."  See, God knows me better than I know myself.  He sees right through the walls, the doubts, the insecurities.  And He loves me in spite of all of that.  And if the Creator of this universe loves me with a love that pursues me, what have I to fear?!  I can live in the confidence that if "God is for me, who can be against me..."

See God began a work in me (and in you) the day we were born.  He has a plan and purpose for each of us.  He longs for us to live fully in Him and to experience a joy and peace only He can give.  Philippians 1:6 (again from the VOICE) says, "I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you..."  He won't give up on us!  Ever!  Even when people give up on us or reject us or keep walking right on past us...when someone ignores the deeper need we have...God is right there.  He will never give up on us.  He will never reject us.  He will see the deeper need and work to bring healing and restoration to our lives.

I'm so thankful for that!  I'm so thankful that God isn't finished working on me and won't stop until the work is complete.  I have a long way to go.  But like the woman at the well, I am willing to come to Him, let Him bring healing to those deeply buried hurts and restore my life to the place He wants it to be.  I'm ready to live in confidence and trust the plans He has for me.  I'm ready to throw away the doubt and fear and insecurity and fully live in the joy of the moment.  I'm willing to trust that God pursues me, accepts me and loves me with an everlasting love.  And that even on hard days, I can live with a confident heart!  (And at almost's about time!)

P31 OBS Blog Hop

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My First Ever Online Bible Study

If you are a reader of my blog, you know very well that self doubt and worry are things I struggle with all the time.  It's like a broken record playing in my head...every day.  I seek to trust take His promises at face value...then life sends something my way that causes me to doubt.  It's never a huge always begins with a little trickle.  A little raindrop of the enemy whispering in my ear, "Are you sure about this?  Are you sure this peace you feel about this situation is really from God?  Or did you manufacture it?"  I waste so much energy combatting these lies...worried that the peace I feel may not be from God...that it may be the enemy trying to get me to believe a lie...that the good things that have recently come into my life aren't really from God.  I know, my mind is really messed up at times.  And I'm sick of it.  Sick of the cycle.  Sick of the broken record...

And I've realized...I can't change this alone.  Now, I've gotten better over the past several months.  God has been working on me...a LOT.  But I still struggle with this.  I struggle with being able to accept good things...struggle with accepting that He longs to bless me with the desires of my heart...struggle with doubt that this time will be different than before.  So when I heard about this online Bible study, I jumped on it!

I had ordered the book "A Confident Heart" awhile back.  And it's been sitting on my nightstand along with a few other books that I intend to read.  However, life is busy...I'm in grad school and starting my own private practice and also about to move to a new place.  So I tend to neglect reading...even though I know I need to read these books.

Then I saw this study and knew it was one of those special gifts from God.  A gift that He is giving to help me with my struggle.  So I am super excited to be a part of it.  I normally don't do stuff like this...I'm shy and somewhat introverted and shy away from "group" things.  But this is all part of building that confident heart!  So, here I am!

I'm very excited to meet others through this study and connect with women who share similar struggles and lives.  That's the cool thing about this Christian life we journey through...we are never alone.  And we lift each other up and encourage each other...cheer each other on...and we make it!  My prayer is that God will use this time together studying His word and this book as a catalyst for a major miracle in all our lives!  May we all be blessed with a confident heart!

P31 OBS Blog Hop

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Deep the Father's Love

I don't know about you, but I personally think I have the best dad in the world!  I'm sure that a lot of daughters feel that way.  But I'm also very aware that many daughters may not have had a good experience with their dad.  So I know I'm very fortunate.  And I'm thankful that I have had an earthly father who represents my heavenly Father so well.  But I'll get back to that...

I currently spend a lot of time on Highway 49 between Hattiesburg and Gulfport and all along US 90.  Hours upon hours within the span of a week.  I'm not complaining...I actually enjoy driving.  I can honestly say that I'm so thankful that I'll be moving to the coast in a couple of months and won't have to make so many trips, but there is a part of me that will miss those several-times-a-week drives.

My usual "M.O." is to put the headphones in, turn on my playlist in shuffle mode and take in the scenery.  This is also prime "me and God" time.  Some trips I sing at the top of my lungs to every song that plays through my headphones.  Some days I just listen.  Some days I don't turn any music on.  But each and every single time I'm in that car I talk with God.  Sometimes it may just be a word of thanks and praise for all He is doing.  Other times it may be my crying out to God asking for answers when I feel like I should just give up.  Sometimes I am overwhelmed and amazed at the beauty I see along the highway...this time of year is gorgeous...with the wildflowers displaying their hues of yellows and purples and the butterflies flitting around without a care in the world.  Yet other times it's almost like an actual conversation...actually it IS a conversation...with me sharing my thoughts and questions and God responding to me with His still small voice.  Those are my favorites.

It's in this "me and God" time that God is doing some of His deepest work in my heart.  He's done a lot of that this year...some of it has been rather painful, some of it has been full of joy.  But each and every instance is a thread in the masterpiece He is weaving in my life.  Last week, during one of my trips, the thought occurred to me:  Don't miss out on the answered prayers and little blessings along the way because you are so focused on the one prayer God hasn't answered yet.  Don't let the delay of one expectation dim the joy of a met expectation.  This epiphany hit me as I was making sure to pay special attention to the beauty around me.  I realized that, had I been focused on the fact that the light didn't turn fast enough or that I was running 5 minutes behind or whatever business issue I needed to deal with rather than focusing on the flowers and the butterflies and even the doe and her fawn running through a field that God so graciously created, I would have missed out on so much.  To some, the beauty of nature may not seem like a big deal.  But to me, to have the gift of sight and sound and smell to be able to fully experience all He has provided is a huge deal.  But how many times have I missed out on those simple joys because I was so focused on a problem I couldn't do anything about at that moment anyway?

So much of my life I have focused on those "big ticket items" so to speak.  The big prayer requests.  Those desires of my heart.  And I get frustrated or worried or worn out in pursuit of them.  How much of that energy that I've wasted on those things...things that God in His wisdom will bring about when He knows the time is right...things that He has an answer to if I will just let go of it and let Him handle it.  And in the meantime, I've missed out on the joy of a simple moment.  I've neglected to thank Him for the little prayers He answers each and every day.  Those seemingly insignificant things that I take for granted.  Just like I would have missed out on the wildflowers and the butterflies and the deer last week had I allowed my focus to be on the problems of the day rather than on the joy of the moment.

Earlier this week I was taking to my dad about life and things going on and things I hoped for and all that good stuff.  Let me preface this by saying that I am so thankful for the relationship and friendship I have with my dad.  I'm thankful that I have this time with him and that we've been able to develop the friendship that we have.  My dad is truly my friend.  He is also a man of few words (unless you really get to know him and then he talks a lot...but that is a story for another day).  So when he says something profound it tends to stick with me.  So as we were talking about those things and the hopes and dreams I have for my life, he told me that he hoped those things happened for me because I deserved it and deserved to be happy.  Of course, my normal self deprecating comment was that I didn't deserve that much.  But he pressed on and told me that I any good father would.  And as our heavenly Father does every day.

This morning during my drive, God brought that conversation with my dad to my mind and used it as a way to help me see that if my earthly father loves me that much and if he would be willing to do whatever it took to provide for me and if he thinks I deserve much more does my heavenly Father feel the same?!  It was a very humbling moment.  To think that the Creator of all the beauty I see around me loves me that much!  And the love of my earthly father, as vast as it is, is nothing compared to the love God has for me.  And since He loves me, He longs for me to come to Him and to rest in Him...for the seen and the unseen.  He longs for me to trust Him.  And He desires for me to be joyful and thankful in all of those seemingly small moments (many that I find out later were part of the "working out" of the bigger moments) rather than miss out on them because I am so focused on what I don't yet have.

I want to live in and breathe in each and every moment!  It's so hard to do.  And so many things clamor for our, friends, relationships, work, starting up your own business, school, life... It can seem like a daunting task.  But our Father longs to help us through each and every moment if we will simply rest in Him.  I am the world's worst at fretting and trying to work things out.  I'm a "fixer."  And I am exhausted.  I wear myself out worrying and trying to plan and trying to do things before it's the right time to do them.  I try to figure out the future and plan my life around how I want things to turn out.  And in the process, I wonder how many of those small moments of joy I have missed out on.

So I'm making it my focus...shifting my gaze toward my Father and resting in His arms.  He already knows the plan and how it all works why should I concern myself with things out of my control.  Especially when His best for me blows my mind time and time again.  Not to say that life doesn't get difficult or that there aren't reasons for concern.  But when that becomes my focus rather than keeping my eyes on Him, that is where the problems begin.  When I realize that He loves me more than I could ever comprehend and He wants the best for me...even if getting to the best takes time or means I have to walk through dark valleys to get there.  Even in the moments that are beyond my human comprehension...He is there.  Loving me.  Carrying me.  Guiding me.

I'm so thankful that God blessed me with an earthly father who represents His love and care to me.  I know how fortunate I am.  Because I know there are many who don't have that experience.  And to you I say, let God surround you with His love.  Let Him be the Father you so desperately want and need.  His promises are true.  Even when we doubt or wonder...He is always faithful.  His ways are not our ways but His ways are good and right and best.  And He loves us beyond measure.  "How deep the Father's love for vast beyond all measure."