The Real Deal

Authenticity is rare these days. Merriam-Webster defines authentic as: “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” or “not false or imitation”. Being true to ourselves is difficult and leaves us vulnerable.

Everyone is expected to don a persona of impossible perfection and try to fit into a prescribed mold. If we don’t fit, we hear that we are too noisy, too quiet, too fat, too thin, too serious, too obnoxious…. The list is never ending. We are just always “too” something.

The flip side of the “too” is the “not enough”. Someone who is too quiet isn’t assertive enough. A person who laughs too much is not serious enough. It’s always something, isn’t it?

But who does God call us – His intricate creations – to be? He calls us to be ourselves. Our true selves washed in His grace. Our true selves chasing Him. Our true selves with His wisdom. His plan is to use each of us to reach others to grow His Kingdom. We cannot reach others if we are too busy pretending to be someone else.

I used to think God could never use me because I was so incredibly broken. I’m an abuse survivor. I’m a single mom. I’m overweight. I fear rejection. I’m driven. I’m a recovering (some days, anyway) control freak.

I tried so hard my whole life to fit into places I did not belong. I pretended to be someone I wasn’t. I acted like I had it all together and kept my struggles inside. The irony? Acting like I was in control sent me spiraling out of control. The anxiety of waiting for someone to find out I was a fraud was overwhelming

It was not until I started realizing that He created me with my sense of humor and ability to relate to people that I started connecting with other people on a deeper level. He created me and my unique perspectives to reach others. He has turned so many bad things into good things. He has turned my life around. He has pulled me from the brink. He has blessed me beyond measure.

When we wear a mask, sooner or later that mask falls off. When we walk in who we were created to be, we impact others. They realize they are not alone and allow themselves to connect. When we share our sinful past and demonstrate how much He has changed us through grace, the Kingdom wins.

Embrace your authentic self. Speak truth. Let the lost find you by the beacon of your testimony.

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“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
1 Corinthians 15:9‭-‬10 ESV

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
James 5:16 ESV

Nah, God. I’m Good.

You know those little nudges that tell you to do something? The ones where you know God is speaking to you? Transparency alert: I ignore those for as long as possible sometimes, especially when He is urging me to leave my little bubble of comfort. I’m human, flawed, and stubborn, but He assures me I am also chosen, beloved, and His.

When He nudges me, sometimes I recognize it right away and sometimes I don’t. Some days I’m denser than others, but I do eventually “get it”. Acting on it, though….. Wowza. That’s where I really struggle.

I was having a conversation earlier this week with a woman of God who also happens to be a dear friend and spiritual mentor. She told me about an instance where she felt nudged to act, but initially said, “Nah, God. I’m good.”

That phrase stuck with me. How many times does He ask for our obedience and we respond with a, “Nah, God. I’m good.”? I would need to borrow a lot of fingers and toes to count that high.

Here is the reality: God asks for our obedience. He doesn’t ask us to have it all figured out. He doesn’t ask for a plan. He doesn’t ask for every detail to be thought out. He asks us to trust Him and obey what He is asking us to do. He will take care of the details when we are obedient. We just have to step out in faith and trust in Him.

Our incredible God created us in His image, and sent His beloved Son to die a brutal death for you. For me. For all of us and for each of us. I repay Him with a brush off? A “nope”? A “lalalala” with my hands over my ears? I’m such a brat!

“Nah, God. I’m good.” Not really. Not even a little. I need You, God. I need Your provision and love. I need Your plan and guidance. I. Need. You.

We were created to crave His presence. We are told to abide in Him. We are told to obey. How is any of that possible when we ignore His direction, either willfully or inadvertently?

We have to focus our eyes on Him by reading and studying scripture. Applying it to our lives. Allowing sanctification and transformation to change us into who He sees when He looks at us. Partnering with others in The Kingdom who will hold us accountable, encourage us, and strengthen our faith.

My prayer is that every single one of us would heed the next little nudge and take immediate action. Just step out and obey. Let God be God. After all, if Jesus walked in obedience to a brutal death, what is my objection to being obedient?

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“Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him.”
Deuteronomy 8:6 NIV

“Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.”
Deuteronomy 5:33 NIV

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
2 John 1:6 NIV

Holding On

I spent this whole week just trying to hold on. Hold on to my convictions. Hold on to my sense of humor. Hold back my tears. Hold on to finances. Hold on to my tasks. Hold on to my schedule. Hold on to my purpose. Hold on Hold on to my sanity. Hold on to some semblance of control. Sooo…. The week worked out well for me. *NOT*

Every step I have taken lately seems to add more stress. It’s just one of those seasons where God seems to be trying to show me that He has it under control and to let Him be Him. Some days I get it. Other days? #notsomuch.

I’ve been trying to focus on what I am supposed to learn from Him. I have learned a lot, but I still have a long way to go. I am a recovering control freak. I like things to be done my way because I’m me. When I look back on where I was a few years ago, though, I do see improvement. I’ve learned to let some things go. But not everything. Not even close.

God’s grace covers me and my issues, I know, but this is still my struggle. I want control and, while I say I trust God, walking it out is another story.

I listened to a sermon series online this week that impacted me immensely. The series talked about release. As I listened, I found myself talking aloud in my car and agreeing with the pastor as he spoke. #yesandamen

This series got me thinking about the things I am holding onto so tightly that I cannot catch God’s blessings. My hands are full of many things. My offenses and grudges. My own plans. My past experiences. My hurt. My shame. My anger. My bitterness. My perceived worthlessness. Ouch. <insert grace here>

Through these sermons, I was able to identify some things I desperately need to release. The pastor mentioned that we can make these things we should let go a part of our identity. Um. Yup. Got that t-shirt. A whole closet full of them, actually. Eek.

I prayed for God to fill me with His spirit and show me what He wanted to reveal to me. A word of caution: do not ask Him to reveal things to you if you are not sure you want to see them, because He will show you what you ask Him to reveal to you. Always. You cannot unsee these things. Children, do not try this trick at home. Scary stuff. Oof.

As the weekend gets underway, I am calmer and able to process a little more of what was shown to me over the course of this week. I’m starting now – in this moment – to release things not meant for me so that I’m able to grab the blessings He has in store for me. I’m seeking out His wisdom and guidance.

Another revelation was this: even our struggle bus rides are blessings because challenges teach us more about who we were created to be – and more about God’s character – than we could ever learn in contentment. We must seek Him. Lean on Him. Cry out to Him. We must become desperate for Him in our trials.

My prayer has shifted as a result of this overwhelming week. I am praying for continued revelations to guide me in what to release and I am thanking him for my blessings (past, present, and future), including the difficult moments along my path.

I am so grateful that He is always faithful. Thank you, God, for loving us enough to teach us Your ways.

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“He who earnestly seeks righteousness and loyalty Finds life, righteousness, and honor.”
Proverbs 21:21 AMP

“I love those who love me, and those who search for me find me.”
Proverbs 8:17 HCSB

“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
Luke 11:9 AMP

Princess Poutypants

Seriously. Everything happens at once. Tonight I walked downstairs to replace the filter on my two-month-old replacement furnace when I was greeted by an unpleasant surprise: a leaking water heater.

Immediately my mind went to the “what-the-heck-this-sucks-I-am-not-made-of-money” mindset. I started a pity party for myself (I included brownies). I picked up my cross – and tried to crucify myself upon it because…. Well…. I’m such a great person and all that loves Jesus and…. So, yeah. That happened.

After my tears fell, my daughter reminded me of the story of Job and how he lost everything. But, she reminded me, he remained faithful. She told me, “He lost it all, Mom.” Yeah, Baby Gurl. He did, didn’t he?

Well, that makes a faucet, a furnace, and now a water heater seem inconsequential, doesn’t it? I suppose my Princess Poutypants performance didn’t hold a candle to Job’s troubles. But my girl-spawn nailed it: Job. Remained. Faithful.

I stood at my sink, trying to catch my breath after an exhausting day and this troubling discovery from tonight. I was on the verge of a panic attack. I took one deep breath and asked God to please reveal what He was trying to show me. I actually asked twice to just show me. Please.

Suddenly I felt peace. I heard, Trust me. Not in true words. More of a feeling and a random thought.

My God is the God of Miracles. The God of the Impossible. The God of Making Things Happen. He has this under control.

I, however, am a recovering (sometimes poorly) control freak. He is reminding me He has this situation – and me – in His hand.

My situation is complicated because I have one income. I support this household. Unexpected expenses arise every so often, but this is a bit extreme.

Sooooo…. I have a choice: believe in His promises and who He says He is, or take control and stress myself out. I am promised that He will never leave me or forsake me. To find freedom, I have to hand my struggles over to Him and trust that He will make the impossible possible.

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“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
Job 1:22 NIV

“Then Job replied to the Lord : “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
Job 42:1‭-‬3 NIV

The Journey Begins

If I asked you to jot down the first five words you think to describe yourself, what words would you use? Would they be positive and uplifting, or negative and self sabotaging? Focused on looks or heart posture? Affirmations or derogatorives? Biblical truths or lies from the enemy?

As much as I would love to say that my words would be centered around Biblical truths, I know that it would depend on the day. On a day where I was exhausted, I would likely focus on my shortcomings and excuses. On a day where I was angry, I’m afraid self-loathing thoughts may win. On a day where I have nothing left to give, I would likely lament on how inferior I am as compared to where I should be located. Honestly? 96.93615563% of the time, I would likely not be voicing Biblical truths about myself.

I struggle, friend. On the daily. As a single mother and IT professional, I have to be “on” all the time. I’m an introvert by nature, but my job requires extroversion. I can fake it, but it. Is. Exhausting. I could go days without speaking to another soul if I could. Maybe even weeks. Wow. #ohthatsoundsamazing

It seems as though there is always something requiring my attention. I’m good at dealing with those distractions, but not quite as brilliant at self care. I start healthy behaviors, but then fail in a fiery display of nopeness. I try. Oh, how I try. And fail. Sigh.

Well, my health sucks at this point. Cardiovascular, endocrine, musculoskeletal, immune….. All of these systems are freaking out and – my suspicion – they are failing because of a lack of self care.

I encourage others to see a massage therapist for joint pain. I recommend healthier behaviors to others to help them feel better. I remind diabetics to eat healthy to keep blood sugars in check. But…. I do not apply those rules to myself. I eat whatever is convenient because it’s just me, I’m in traffic, I don’t want to cook and dirty dishes, I have too much to do when I get home, and so many other things. Where do I find time/money for massages when I’m trying to remove all debt? My sugars cannot be bad if I only check them on days I eat healthy-ish.

Friends, these things are distracting me from my purpose. I have to do better. I have to take steps to heal, both spiritually and physically. I must make the time before there is no time left.

The bigger issue is the idolatry that surfaces. I’m choosing convenience over my relationship with Christ. I’m choosing horrible behaviors over treating my body as the Holy-Spirit-housing vessel it is.

I have a purpose, but – unless I am around long enough to fulfill it – it will go to waste and be lost forever. Jesus died on the cross so I could grab fast food? No way. He was beaten beyond recognition so that I could play a glucometer game? Negative, Ghostrider.

So I’m starting a journey. More than weight loss. More than lip service. More than just existing. I’m taking back my life. Not for me, necessarily, but for Him. So that I can do what is asked of me.

I know from experience that the only way to make these changes is through baby steps. I am incapable of making drastic changes that last a lifetime. I am, however, capable of small changes that become habits. I need to learn to love myself and speak truth and prophesy over my life.

This is a journey. There is no end date. Each day needs to end with a nugget of wisdom gained. A truth revealed. A step forward. A gesture of respect toward myself.

I must allow myself to ask for grace, and I must grant it. I need to focus on progress over perfection. It all boils down to better choices. Weighing the options. I’m ready

I have an amazing support system in place, for which I am grateful. God places those we need on our paths. He has set me up for success.

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“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 3:16‭-‬17 NIV

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:1‭-‬2 NIV

Promises, Promises

There are many things I am. I am a mom. I am a writer. I am creative. I am blessed. I am highly favored. I am chosen. I am a child of God. Those are some highlights.

There are also many things I am not. For example, I am not forsaken. I am not alone. I am not unloved. I am not unloved. I am not unwanted.

Sure. I can sit here and list these things like they are second nature. Easy peasy. Even more importantly, I can encourage you with the truths of who you are when you need it. I can see it clearly for others. When I try to apply those truths to myself, though…. That’s where I board the struggle bus. Heck. Ya know what? Scoot over. I’m driving this struggle bus most days.

I mean, I know who I am. I know whose I am. I feel it. Until I don’t. And when I don’t? Oooooh-weeeee. That’s where it gets ugly.

When I spend too much time in my own head, I can rationalize being the only person ever to be too far gone for forgiveness. The only person in history beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Sounds ridiculous when I say it. I can see that clearly as well. But, man. I have a real issue cutting myself some slack when I fall short.

I can rationalize myself right out of an abundant mindset with my own headgames. I don’t remember reading about self sabotage when I learned about spiritual gifts…. *insert eyeroll here*

The promises given to me by my Heavenly Father are eternal. They are generous. They are perfect. They are abundant.

So, why do I allow my own thoughts to convince me that God should revoke His promises to me, and only me?

Someone else may do something better or differently than me, but that doesn’t mean I forfeit my inheritance as a result of being “outperformed”. It means that they each have a similar – but still unique – calling. There is no comparison because we each have a specific purpose. They may cross at times, but they do not infringe on each other. They don’t “squeeze each other out” or even compare one calling against another.

Our God wants to bless each one of us. There will never be only one artist, one writer, one trainer, one coach, etc. in His Kingdom. There will be many. However, each person will offer a unique spin on their assignment.

We are not clones of each other, so we have not had the same experiences. Each experience shapes who we are and how we reach others. An abuse victim sees things differently from someone from a healthy family environment. Each perspective is valid. Each perspective is important. Each perspective is unique. Each perspective will reach a separate group of people.

Dear friends, we spend so much time worrying about scarcity that we forget His abundance. Instead, we must remember that there is more than enough for each of us. We are more than enough in Christ. He uses the broken to heal the broken. He loves each of us completely and uniquely. He blesses each of us in ways that speak to us as individuals.

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“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
John 10:10 NKJV

No Big Deal

It can start as something so simple you don’t even recognize it. It’s just something that causes you to stop and think for a second before you disregard it as you go on about your day. No big deal, right?

Ahhh…. But it is a big deal because it fills your heart with discontentment. The seed is planted and it grows. It’s one of the enemy’s favorite tools to use against you. I’m talking about comparison.

Comparison isn’t just looking at someone else and seeing the difference between our lives. Comparison works its way into our hearts and expands, squeezing out what we know about ourselves and our God as we focus on what others have or feel. Comparison causes us to focus on our lack.

We all battle against ourselves. We want what we don’t have. We imagine “that pretty girl” would never understand how it feels to be rejected because she is so beautiful (yet people want her only for her looks). “That rich boy” never knew a hardship (but he lives a private life of abuse).”That popular girl” never met a stranger and is so outgoing (but her parents haven’t looked at her in weeks). “That poor kid” has no idea what a good life means (yet laughter echoes throughout the home).

The truth is we all make assumptions that are inaccurate, unfair, and judgmental. We have no idea what is going on in someone’s life.

Personally, I compare my body type, appearance, intelligence, marital status, parental status, style (I have none and I’m okay with that), occupation, house, name, foot size, skin tone, transportation, etc. to everyone around me.

“Well, they are a dual-parent household with two incomes” is a personal fave of mine. Just because they have two people in their household doesn’t mean their lives are any easier. It doesn’t mean they have more money. What it does mean is that they have multiple people working in their household. That’s it. Yet I can come up with how they should be living on a tropical island like they are part of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”! Remember that show? Oh. No? So I guess I’m old. Moving on…..

When I start comparing, I get jealous. “See? They’re better at [insert task] than me! I’ll just let them do it and I’ll quit.” But, friend, there is such a huge issue with that approach!

Point one: our God is the God of Abundance. There is more than enough to go around. He doesn’t take from me to give to you! He gives to both of us. Abundantly. When we use the gifts He has given us, there is always more to come.

Point two: God created you for a unique purpose. He created me for a unique purpose. You can’t fulfill my purpose any more than I can fulfill your purpose. He is counting on your flavor of doing something to reach some people while He is counting on my twist on a task to reach other people. Your purpose is specific to you. Nontransferable. You cannot give your purpose to me because your experiences are not mine. He will use our unique experiences to reach different people.

Point three: comparison paralyzes us. When we focus on what we cannot do rather than what we can, we lose our edge. We are too focused on what others are doing to work to complete our assignment.

Point four: so many people are counting on each of us. When we delay or forfeit our purpose, there are Kingdom impacts. We must focus on God’s will rather than our own and clear our minds of comparison so that we can reach who He intended us to be for His plans.

When we focus on who He created us to be – without giving in to the temptation to compare ourselves to someone else – it’s so much easier to remember that there is more than enough to go around because we serve a generous God. The God of Abundance is in control.

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“But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”
Galatians 6:4 NKJV

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10 NIV