Spring Cleanin’ Time

Spring is just around the corner! At least that is what they keep saying in between winter storms. Lying rodents. But I digress….

With spring comes spring cleaning. We move appliances and furniture to clean everything to welcome spring. We wash baseboards and clean out closets. We scrub walls and organize cabinets. We deep clean with intention! Starting the spring cleaning process motivates us to do more.

So a deep house cleaning is great, but how often do we do a deep cleaning on our minds? Do we throw out the clutter we harbor in our minds, or do we just sweep around all of that garbage? Do we turn our thoughts over and examine them, one by one, pruning as we go? Like a semi-helpful game: “Productive. Productive not. Productive. Productive not.” Or do we just shove those toxic thoughts deep into a closet and quickly shut the door?

Anyone realizing they don’t deep clean their thinker often enough? *Raises hand slowly.* Same. You’re not alone. Every time I think I have successfully purged all toxic thoughts, I realize there is another layer of crap. Not the same crap. Different crap. Deeper crap.

When we start dealing with the surface issues, we start to feel better and we move forward. For a while, anyway. Until different issues begin to work their way forward. Next, please!

As we work through each layer, we have an important choice: we can view refining the many layers of ourselves as a chore, or we can count each layer as a blessing.

When we see growth as a chore, we often become angry, hopeless, exhausted, frustrated, or some combination of all of these emotions. We become focused on fixing ourselves. By ourselves. Alone. All on us. That’s an exhausting position to hold. No wonder we give up!

On the other hand, when we view growth as a blessing, we can become energized, relieved, excited, happy, and so on. Probably still a combination of emotions, but what a better set of feels, right? The kicker here is that seeing blessings shifts our perspectives to God. We aren’t on this journey alone. He is right there with us, helping us move furniture, tackle cobwebs, and scrub the walls of our minds. He shows us where deep cleaning is needed and helps us with the heavy lifting. Sure, He may point out when we miss a spot, but it’s done from a place of love and grace.

******

“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

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
John 15:2 NIV

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
James 1:2‭, ‬5 NIV

But, God…

Some days, the conversations in my mind should be on an episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”. Other days, those convos could be from Maury or Jerry Springer. LOTS o’ bleeps happening up there, y’all.

The past few weeks have been a challenge. Especially today. And yesterday. Well, and the day before…. You get the idea.

When you are fighting battles that aren’t yours to fight, the enemy can get you all spun up in health issues, anxiety, depression, arguing, and anger. None of these are God’s plan. But, God….

After some rough days, I reached out to a dear friend. She reminded me that these battles are not ours to fight. These battles are being waged above us and on all sides, even when we are unaware. But, God….

Someone attacks our integrity. Someone else insults us on a personal level. Yet another person screams at us for something beyond our control. But, God….

Some people refuse to end their attacks for reasons that I cannot pretend to understand. Others persist rumors and ill repute because they find it entertaining. Then there are those who just get overwhelmed and have a bad day. But, God….

Those first two categories are from the enemy. They come to “kill and destroy”. The people in these two categories are not just an overwhelmed, emotional mess. No Hot Mess Express here. Just malice. Harm is on the agenda. But, God…..

When we encounter these people doing the work of darkness, we have to remember to pray. To take up the full armor of God. To use the words (truths) God gave us to counteract lies. When Jesus fasted in the wilderness, He was tempted. Did Jesus respond with Mr. Rogers’ words? With Maury-esque insults? Nope. With truth. The Word of God. He wasted no time with idle words. He quoted scripture back to the enemy. And then? The enemy fled.

Rather than hurling insults and inflammatory remarks, Jesus chose to state truth. No bleeps here, folks. He knew God’s Word was more powerful than anything the enemy could ever bring against Him.

So why do we forget? Why do we forget our God is huge and capable? Omnipotent and all-powerful? Loving and kind? Full of grace and mercy?

But, God…. God has given us everything we need to fight our battles through the Holy Spirit. Through His Word. Through prayer. Through surrender and taking up His armor. He gave the armor to us that we may be protected. Unwounded. So that we could walk in His righteousness and walk in His path. So that we can display His glory. In every place. In all situations. In every moment. Not through censored bleeps in our mind. Through abundance and love. Through faith and forgiveness. Through grace and mercy. All through Him.

**********

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
John 10:10 NLT

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
Ephesians 6:11‭-‬13 NIV

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.

*********

“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?

*******

“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.

*****

“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.

*******

“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.

*******

“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