Single Life

My Own Fight for Freedom

A few Sundays ago, I had the opportunity to share my testimony with the High School girls in my church. What’s so spectacular about my testimony? Well, I was a sinner and Christ saved me. It doesn’t get any better than that! Seriously, that’s the best testimony and we all can share that if we have found freedom in Christ. But part of what makes our testimony unique is the way Christ continues to be at work in our lives after we are saved. Yes, our salvation is settled but in our daily attempt to live for Him we come up against so many obstacles of our own making and of the Enemy’s design, that often knock us back a step or two. Each day we have a choice to either remain beaten down or to repent of our sins and start fresh. I want to share with you one area that Satan gained a foothold in my life for over 24 years and this was the part of my testimony that I shared with the girls a few weeks ago.

FullSizeRender (20)I decided to tell part of my story through pictures. I started with this one as I felt it was an accurate depiction of how serious I have been about singing over the years. That or it shows that I have always loved eating. I prefer to go with the former rather than the latter. 🙂 Music and food really do go well together and I am so grateful to be a Southern Baptist … hello, potlucks and singings!

 

Next, I showed them this photo just to confirm that I have always been a fashionista for years by rockin’ a pair of heels with jeans and a tee shirt at the age of 5. FullSizeRender (19)

Then, I showed them this picture. It may surprise many of you to discover that I was a FullSizeRender (18)cheerleader but I was. And I was even captain of the squad! (Mainly, because my family would be at every game since my brother played for the team.) I had fun cheering but I couldn’t do cartwheels, handstands or toe touches. I was a base for all of our stunts. I was in the fourth grade when I cheered and I remember realizing that my body was different from the other girls. I wasn’t as petite as them. I filled out my uniform differently. I came to the conclusion that I was fat. I look at myself now and wonder how I ever thought that then but I did. Something changed inside of me and I started measuring myself to other people’s standards. My parents had never placed importance on physical appearance beyond looking nice for church and being presentable for school. There were no obsessive conversations about being thin, working out or going on a diet around our house while I was growing up. There also wasn’t a huge celebration over our looks. It just wasn’t important. But somewhere, at some point, a message contrary to what I was being taught settled into my heart. I was fat and I wasn’t pretty.

I was naive enough to think that dating would fix a lot of my insecurities. Little did I know, dating only exposes them. I went all through my Middle School and High School years feeling awkward, ugly and overweight (which I was). No matter what I did, I couldn’t lose any substantial amount of weight. A life long battle with many ups and downs.

IMG_7247I never dated in HS (I did in my 20s) and I shared with the girls that Sunday how I understand when you go through a break up what that rejection feels like … however, there is a special kind of rejection that comes from never being chosen. You wonder if you are even seen. There were some nods in the room on that one. So what do you do? Well, I went to junior prom by myself and then my brother asked a college friend to take me to my senior prom. My brother happened to be going with a friend of mine at the time so that’s why he’s in this picture. He was not my date. I repeat, my brother was not my date! 🙂 I was so out of touch on the typical prom things a girl was supposed to do. I did my own hair and makeup. I had a shawl made for me by a sweet woman in my church because I was not about to show off my chunky arms and I borrowed the dress from a friend! But, I had a blast and even though I felt huge that night, I wouldn’t mind being that size again as well as would love to introduce myself to some bronzer. Hahaha.

I went on a few dates in college but as I am sure you have figured out … boys aren’t the answer. Men aren’t the answer. Yo-yo dieting wasn’t the answer. Loving myself wasn’t the answer. The answer has been and always will be found in Christ.

I have read all the blogs and books on being content in your singleness, on how to wait well for the perfect one and how to let go of waiting for the perfect one because God may not bring you the perfect one (well, duh). Can I just be honest and I say that I am tired of the Church putting a title on everything in this area … I’m not sure who I’m waiting on any more but it’s apparently someone like the kinsman-redeemer Boaz, with the timing of Adam (God didn’t wake him till Eve was ready …), the nonadulterous heart of David,  the passion of Solomon, the selfless love of Jesus, the fire of Peter, the wisdom of Paul and the sensitivity of John. Any Mr. Perfects out there? 🙂 And I am supposed to be the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman. Hmm … well, I have come to a place where I am most content when I am focused on Jesus and serving Him. If that sounds good to anyone else then let’s talk. All the rest is just fluff as far as I am concerned and I have known that. I really have but it has finally settled into every fiber of my being. How?

It happened when I knelt at the altar well over a month ago and surrendered my need tome compare myself to others. It was then that when I finally found freedom. And it was three weeks ago, in my car, that I realized I am a complete woman in Christ because that is who He made me be. It’s not in having sex, a baby or being married that makes me a woman. It’s not in a hormonal right of passage at some pre-teen age. I am a woman because that is who God created me to be and I am complete because of the finished work He did on the cross. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Once, I recognized who I was in Him everything else in my life completely shifted. I told the girls if I could do one thing for them it would be to help them understand this now instead of at 33. As well as to know that they are worth far more than what this world offers them. No amount of selfies will ever fill the void that Christ can. Marriage to the perfect mate will not fill that void. Nothing can show you your worth in Christ like the cross and the empty the tomb. And Satan has tried for 24 years to distract me from seeing myself as who I am in Christ.

IMG_7346It’s not like I am walking around looking at myself in the mirror and singing, “you’re so pretty, oh so pretty …” Hardly. Ha. But there is a deep peace in knowing Who’s I am and slowly the lies that I have believed about myself over the years are starting to fade away. I now work to hold every negative thought captive and call on the name of the Lord when I am tempted to belittle myself. A funny side effect to this is that as I am working on my emotional and mental health my physical health is falling into place as well. Go figure. 🙂 When you are no longer worried about what other’s think about you but instead focus on how God sees you and how you feel health wise things just sort of click. Willpower isn’t an issue anymore because it isn’t about a size, a weight or a standard. It’s all starting to fade because it just doesn’t matter anymore. I belong to Christ and I am kept by Him. I am complete in Him. Everything else is just an added blessing.

And oh, if I could help another girl come to understand that before she’s 33 then I would do everything within my power to do so but, honestly, it’s something that she is going to have to allow Christ to show her. She is going to have to open up her heart, be vulnerable with the Lord and “allow” Him to see all the wounded places of her soul. When she does, He will heal and fill every cavern with His grace. And she will know a freedom like never before!

I love you all.

 

 

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PK Life

Church Members: Which One Are You?

In March of 2007, I came home to Knoxville from a week in Oklahoma City, where I had been visiting my aunt and uncle. My parents picked me up from the airport and I had an hour to repack my bag before we headed to Morristown, TN for the night as my dad would be preaching at a church there in revival Sunday – Wednesday of that week. My mom, sister and I were going up for the night to be with him for the Sunday morning service. My sister and I sang for the service. Afterward, we had a wonderful lunch with the young pastor, wife and his then 4 (soon to be 5, but now 6) children!

Anyway, that Saturday night at the hotel I shared with my parents’ something that I had written while out of town. The Lord had started laying on my heart a ministry for pastor’s families, more specifically their children. Growing up in the ministry, I had always heard of retreats for a pastor and his wife to attend in order to be refreshed in their work for the Lord but it always seemed to me the children were forgotten. While I am no longer serving in the same church that my father pastors, I have come to realize that you never cease to be the “pastor’s kid” and you are always tied to the ministry. I am thankful for the ministry and for the call the Lord has placed on my father’s life. I honestly could not have imagined growing up in any other way. I am thankful for the call the Lord has placed on my life and whether my desire to minister to pastors’ families will ever come to fruition there is one thing I can do now as a church member to minister to their families … support them.

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Last Sunday night, my church had an ordination service for two of our ministers. It was a truly precious time in the Lord. The Pastor Emeritus gave the charge to the church and he did not hold back. He said things that I know most pastors wish they could say but can’t for fear of being fired. He told us that it is not our job to correct our ministers … that is the job of the Holy Spirit … but it is our job to support, encourage and pray for our ministers. I probably looked like a bobble head the whole time he was speaking. I had flashbacks of years past to those “well meaning” people who came under the impression that the Holy Spirit needed their help in pointing out a flaw or general disagreement they had with my dad or another staff member. Thanks to them I learned to practice verses like “Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22. While these folks may not have sinned against me personally, attacking my daddy is about as personal as it gets and I have had to learn to extend grace upon grace.

So flashback to ten years ago and that hotel room … what did I share with my parents? Well, I had come to the conclusion that there are 3 basic categories church members fall into and the percentages will vary on the size of the church but the idea is there. And the question you have to ask yourself is where to do you fall?

The Initiator …

The Initiator is not an honorable title but like it sounds they typically are “self-starters” … in life and in the church. They are folks who do a lot for the church but are the first to pick it apart. They are the ones who go around planting seeds of doubts into other church members and questioning the leadership of the church over petty issues. Now, please know I am all for checks and balances in the church and you should hold your leadership accountable, however, when it is always just a few voices raising the questions then that should raise a red flag to the other members. Sometimes, the initiators are quiet and let the others do the talking after they have spread the poison. They make phone calls, visits, write letters to anyone who will give them an ear. They seek the vulnerable in the church for their following. They know how to play on people’s emotions.

They are small group … typically about 10% of the church is made up of them but they are deadly to the work of Christ because their focus is on typically on their needs and desires not the Church as a whole.

The Enabler …

This is where the bulk of the membership falls for several reasons …

  1. They aren’t involved in the church so they don’t know what’s going on.
  2. They hear the scuttlebutt but don’t do anything about it.
  3. They hear the scuttlebutt and spread it.

Those who fall under the third reason are easily whipped into a frenzy by the initiators and their feelings are typically the first thing that has been neglected by the staff – they weren’t visited enough, called enough, validated enough or the wrong staff member came to visit when so-and-so had a visit from the senior pastor before their surgery, etc …  However, when they have any opportunity to have a heart to heart with the pastor most of these non-issues are easily resolved, forgiveness is received on both sides and life goes on. But those who fall under reason one and two are the most dangerous to the church because they could be doing something to help stop the issues but instead stay quiet because they do not want to get involved in “church politics” as if forgetting that the church is full of imperfect people and there will always be issues to work through. Some may say something to the staff but they will not reveal the source and their favorite line is, “now don’t get mad but I thought you should know …”

Because of this, the Enablers average about 80% of the church.

The Extinguisher …

This is a rare group … a group of committed  Christ-followers focused on Kingdom work and are willing to charge Hell with a water pistol … even if that means crossing the aisle on a Sunday morning and lovingly confronting “the initiator”. These aren’t people set out to make scenes but understand the wisdom of the Matthew 18 principle and seek to practice it. So, when they hear the scuttlebutt they go to the source and say something like this, “I know you aren’t looking to talking bad about Bro. Doe, so about we go together and address this concern with him?”  I may be naïve but I truly believe that if more church members sought to be an extinguisher and lovingly told “initiators” and “enablers” that they are not going to listen to their gossip or complaints it would cut out the majority of the junky stuff our church staff has to deal with on a weekly basis. Then church staff could focus on what they are called to do … proclaiming the Gospel and ministering to those in their congregation.

Extinguishers make up the final 10% of the congregation. You may recognize some of them whereas others are quiet and do their work behind the scenes not seeking the glory for themselves because of their focus on the Lord.

I have been a member of four churches in the last ten years (PK side effect … JK) since I wrote that and even though, I have only been a member of my current church for 6 days, I have found these categories to still apply. I have sought to be an extinguisher at the churches I have been a member at but I’ll be honest, I am guilty of being an enabler and I have probably been an initiator at least once or twice in my adult life. However, I have repented and covenant to be an extinguisher at whatever church I am serving in as well as not speak ill of any other man of God at any other church. There’s too much work to be done for the cause of Christ without me running my mouth with my opinions about other pastors. Besides, as I was reminded this past Sunday night, it’s not my job to correct but to support, encourage and pray for these men of God.

So which one are you? Are you willing to change the percentages and become an extinguisher?

I love you all.

 

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Baptism, one week after salvation, August 1993

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy,

 

Thank you for being the man who not only taught me about the Lord but also led me to Lord and continued to lead me to the Lord for many years to come. Thank you for showing me that integrity isn’t just a word but it is an action to be lived out … every single day especially when no one is watching. Thank you for the setting the bar high but for being human enough that it’s not unattainable should the Lord have a man waiting in the wings. And thank you for teaching me to work on being the “right one” rather than finding “the one”. I love you!

 

Random Thoughts

That Other Story for Another Day …

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Jennifer Harvey

Yesterday marked 11 weeks that I have been completely off my anti-anxiety/depression medication after 7 years of being on it. I’ll be honest with you … I should have never been on it this long if I should have ever been on it in the first place and that is not my doctor’s fault.

You see I was given some poor advice coupled with the encouragement that I might lose weight and my young hurting heart took it. I asked for help as I was in a time of depression and struggling to make sense of some recent health diagnoses. I was 26 years old and all I wanted to do was sleep. I had no energy. I had been tested numerous times in the last two years for mono but it always came back negative. Anyway, after some concrete diagnoses, there were still some questions and deep hurts from other things going on in my world. Instead of seeking counseling, I sought a quick fix in the form of medication. Now, please know that I am an advocate for both … counseling and medication when they are given/taken responsibly. I would have been better off with speaking to a Biblical counselor, first, and then seeing if I needed some additional support. But I didn’t and Satan has used it against me for seven years.

How?

Well, in my heart of hearts I have felt defeated. I mean, I was going to be on medication for the rest of my life. I was numb. I would go months without crying then have an epic meltdown. I have never wanted to be one who lives for emotions but I was not moved by much at all. Pretty much anyone who knows me will attest to this.

IMG_7132These last 11 weeks have been some of the hardest weeks of my life. I am not kidding. I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the first few weeks. I didn’t like myself on the medicine but I hated myself off the medicine. I was feeling all the feels and my emotions were across the board. I get angry now. That’s a foreign emotion. I cry. I still made it through all of “This Is Us” without crying but now the commercials about how much it has meant to the viewers are making me tear up. What the heck? 

Satan wasn’t letting me go without a deeper fight either. There have been some dark spiritual warfare days. Nightmares. Dark conversations with people. Trying conversations with people. I got to a point my home was no longer my haven and that is a huge priority for an introvert. Utterly overwhelmed at times in a way I could not being to explain. I had doubts about whether or not I would still need to be on the medication. I mean, I am depressed and anxious, right?

But God.

It’s true … God will not call you where He does not lead you. I discovered He was already in the midst of every single situation I have experienced in the past 11 weeks. It took two weeks to wean off a medication that I was told is the hardest medication to wean off of. I had zero side effects. My depression? It was no longer there. My anxiety? Yes, it was there but I saw my counselor and after we identified what makes me anxious those attacks are gone. My home? When it wasn’t a haven the Lord led me to a place where I could find rest of a few minutes each week. Now that things are calming down, peace has been restored within my walls. My emotions? Yep, I still cry. But I am so thankful for my tears and that I can truly feel. I still get angry but I working on that whole “righteous indignation” thing. 🙂

What Now?

Well, I’m still in the midst of this journey. I still have anxious moments and I am finding areas of my life where Satan is wanting to claim territory so I am taking a step back from the social media world. And while I have claimed this before this time it’s true. I find myself comparing my life to others. I’m not jealous of what other’s have but I find myself being much harder on myself because I can see why God would choose to bless them over me. Such a dumb thought process. Therefore, this Summer, I am going to work through Neil T. Anderson’s book “Who I Am in Christ”, spend time in the Word and try to stay ahead in my two masters classes starting next week. I’ll still blog from time to time as I have a new series running through my mind on dating.

 

Further thoughts on comparison …

I do not pretend to know what it is like to be a young mother working full time, part time or as a stay at home mom. I do not pretend to know what it is like to come home from work each day to someone else needing your attention or wanting to tell you about how their day went. I do not pretend to know what it is like to be sick with cancer or grieving the loss of a child or spouse. I simply do not pretend to know what the majority of those in my life are experiencing. But … I can empathize with you because it doesn’t take much to feel compassion for someone who is hurting, tired, grieving or stressed. I believe one of the biggest problems in our culture today is the need to minimize or downplay someone else’s situation because it doesn’t compare to our own. Who are we to compare our problems with someone else’s? The reality is we can never truly walk in someone else’s shoes. There is only one person who has ever experienced every possible thing that can be experienced on this Earth … and that was Jesus … and He still didn’t sin. Some may have it together and other’s may not but we have to remember we (as in, believers) all have our own “crosses to bear” but we have two invitations issued to us in that burdened area.

  1.  If we want to truly follow Christ then we need to take up our cross, by putting our plans and desires to death. (See Luke 9:23)
  2. We can cast our burdens … the crosses we bear … on Him and He will give us His burden to carry which is far easier a load to bear. (See Matthew 11:28-30)

13 weeks ago, I was offered both invitations and I took it. And, by the grace of God alone, I am making it through and finding joy on the journey.

I love you all …