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Cultivate Truth

Believing God Loves Me

“You don’t believe God loves you, do you?”

“What?”

“You don’t believe God loves you, do you?”

“Of course, I do — yes, of course.”

“Really?”

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I believe God loves me — I do.”

Freak! That was my first thought after the uncomfortable exchange with my chiropractor, Dr. Lundgren. My next thought was, Why is my chiropractor asking me about God? He is such a great doctor — why did he have to go and ruin it? Great, now I have to find a new one.

Why would I think God didn’t love me? What did my doctor see in me that I didn’t? What made him think I did not believe I was loved? The funny thing is, I would never find out because I never went back to him. I was terrified of his evaluation of me. We had a great doctor-patient relationship, and, looking back, it was awesome that he felt comfortable enough to call me out and hold me accountable for what I professed to be — a Christian. I was just not willing to hear the truth in that way. And, in all honesty, he was absolutely right: I did not believe I was loved. I certainly did not believe I was worthy.

Ever After is one of my favorite movies. It is a take on the classic Cinderella story, and, in my not-so-humble opinion, Drew Barrymore can do no wrong; so, of course it is the best rendition. After an emotional exchange, the lead character, Danielle, asks her stepmother if she ever loved her. Her stepmother coldly replies, “How can anyone love a pebble in their shoe?”

Ouch. That line gets me every time. And it best illustrates how I have always felt about my relationship with God. I must irritate him with my shame, doubt and fear. He must be tired of my constant screw-ups and the overwhelming amount of sin in my life. He has to, at some point, want to just kick off his glowing golden Birkenstocks and get rid of me — a meaningless and annoying little pebble in this world.

But he doesn’t. And in anguish I often scream to the heavens, “Why not? How can you love this … mess? I have done nothing good. I am…nothing good.”

We all know Psalm 139:13-14: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Wait. Back it up. “… I know that full well”? Do I? Do I know that full well? I blame American Idol for some of my doubt. You know some of those kids can’t sing, but their mommas cheer them on and insist, “Baby, you are better than that J.Lo.” But they are not. They are not better than J.Lo! Not even close. But I appreciate the love these mommas have for their babies and how they completely believe they hear sweet, sweet melodies coming from their clueless, tone-deaf, pitchy kids. Which is why there are impartial judges to speak the truth and crush hopes and dreams.…   

So, if I am being told I am good at everything when it’s obvious I’m not, what else am I believing to be true when it’s not?

This is where I get lost. I get completely tripped up on you telling me I’m as good as J.Lo, but then I don’t get my ticket to Hollywood. Not even close. So when you tell me I’m beautiful or smart or worthy of your love and forgiveness, is that truth or are you just “Jlo-ing” me? And what about the other people — the impartial judges in my life who have looked me straight in the eyes and said,

“I don’t want you anymore.”

“You’d be prettier if you lost weight.”

“Who do you think you are?”

Or, the worst in my opinion, as a 10-year-old child being told by my teacher, “You are a moron and can’t do anything right.” Ugh. Not even the courtesy of a half-J.Lo.

So, God, how again do I know that full well?

Ephesians 1:3–6: Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

OK, wait again. But, God, are you telling me that even though I’m not as good as J.Lo, even though the world tells me I’m not enough, I’m actually good enough for you? You want me? And I give you pleasure?

Great pleasure

So, you intentionally chose me and you love me even more than those mommas love their clueless, deaf-tone, pitchy kids?

Without fault

And, God, you’re saying that you’ll be with me, cheering me on whether I get that ticket to Hollywood or a ticket for doing 80 in a 20-mph zone — or worse? And you’ll still think I’m good, no matter what the impartial judges have to say?

Absolutely

Deuteronomy 31:6: Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

What about when I really mess up? Will you still be with me?

Psalm 139:17-18: How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!

I am still with you
OK, God. I know that full well.

Love,

A girl named Lou

Cultivate Book Club

So What’s Next?

You know when an amazing experience is coming to an end — maybe polishing off a delicious steak (sorry, vegetarians … tofu?), the last scene of an awesome movie, or when you’re boarding the plane after a relaxing vacation — and you get that happy/sad feeling of, “This was so great and I don’t want it to end!”?

That’s how I feel when each season of Book Club comes to an end. For the last nine weeks, we have experienced such sweet times of worship and community while also soaking in the life-changing truths of this book and God’s Word together. It has been awesome.

And now we ask ourselves — what’s next?

The truth is some of us welcome the season of summer when many of our routines change and slow down somewhat. Others of us may feel anxious and nervous about the change, and we often run to activity to help fill in the gaps of our downtime.

Before any of us do anything, here’s my challenge. Stop. Breathe. Pause.

And then ask yourself two questions:

  1. How am I going to cultivate communion with God?
  1. How am I going to cultivate community with others?

Friends, in order for us to live the life God wants us to live — the abundant life that is full of His goodness — I am convinced these two things must be the top priorities in our lives.

Communion with God

Communion with God will look different for everyone, but the common ingredient is consistency. Making time each week to consistently commune, to meet with and hear from God, is vital in becoming more like Him.

Some practical tips:

Set a CWG (commune with God) alarm on your phone. Maybe it’s 10 to 15 minutes before your family gets up in the morning. Maybe it’s in the afternoon while your littles are sleeping or maybe it’s at night, before you decide to turn in. Figure out the time of day when you can be most focused and make it happen.

Download the YouVersion app on your smartphone. YouVersion is free and in addition to having every Bible translation there is, it is packed with devotionals and Bible plans for every season of life and spiritual growth.

Community with Others

Book Club is structured the way it is so you can experience the richness and beauty of spiritual connection through small groups. Living in community is vital to your spiritual health because God didn’t design us to lead lives of isolation. He wants us and invites us to live in relationship. Life is hard. And it’s even harder when we are facing it alone. The good news is you don’t have to.

Some practical tips:

Continue meeting as a small group with the women you’ve connected with through Book Club. This is an awesome way to stay connected, and we have resources and tools available to help make your group as successful as possible.

Start a community group. Maybe you’re feeling a nudge from the Holy Spirit to take what you’ve experienced in your group this season and share it with others. Maybe you have friends, neighbors or co-workers who desperately need to know more about Jesus; a community group can be a great environment to help them learn and grow while continuing to grow yourself. We can help you do this, too! You’re not alone. 🙂

Join a women’s group. If your group isn’t going to continue meeting, and you don’t feel ready to start your own group, then let us help you get connected with another women’s community group. We have several women’s groups, and we are committed to helping you find a place to plug in.

Here’s what I know. God wants you to know you. And God wants to use you. The question is — will you let yourself be known and will you let yourself be used?

I hope so. The greatest life you can live is a life committed to loving God and loving people.

So, what’s next for you? We can’t wait to celebrate that with you.

 

Embracing the journey,

Melody 💗

Cultivate Book Club

Why Not Me?

I didn’t go to many sleepovers growing up, but I do remember one at my best friend Shannon’s house. I was so excited!  As we drove up the street of her neighborhood I felt like I’d stepped into a different world. The trees stood a little taller and a little greener. And the houses were definitely larger.

When we crossed over the gated entry of her home, I was in awe. Her house was huge. I mean like mansion type huge. Shannon gave me the grand tour including an introduction to her personal maid but not before a quick stop to show me where the elevator was. I had literally stepped into an experience so grand, so different from what I knew. And then something happened. I was completely blindsided by this emotion that I could feel rising up in me.

I was so stinking jealous! Like really, really jealous!

It was in this moment I realized she had something I didn’t have but desperately wanted. When I went back to my home the next day you can imagine the way in which I now viewed my possessions. Although my home was just perfect the day before, this day was different because I now saw it all through the lens of comparison.

Jealousy is down right ugly and most of us struggle with it somewhere in our lives. It’s dismissed, often hidden, and not talked about much. Jealousy is an unholy craving for something we do not have. Whether it’s status, personality, talents, or a relationship…at its core it is destructive. It robs us of the good in front of us while leading to an ungrateful heart.

James chapter 3 says, “Wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.”

Jealousy is the enemy of unity. It divides. It isolates. It chokes out gratitude.

Tragically, jealousy prevents us from celebrating another’s ‘moment’ because we selfishly crave our own. Jealousy asks the questions, What about me? Where’s mine? When is it my turn? Or even worse…Why her or him? Jealousy speaks the lie that says, “There’s not enough to go around! And when God was handing out looks, personality, gifts, favor, noses, whatever…He ran out of the good stuff and gave the leftovers to you.” Ugh! It’s ugly!

It gets worse because jealousy and insecurity are partners in crime. If jealousy is craving what we don’t have then insecurity is devaluing what has been given and entrusted to us. And what we do possess is never ‘good enough’ compared to someone else and so we minimize ourselves.

This is the place where the battle is real and there is so much at stake! Insecurity leads us to feel small and insignificant. It leads us to shrink back and shut down. Our enemy is victorious if he can divide through jealousy and immobilize through insecurity.

A couple of years ago, I was battling jealousy and insecurity…again. Discouraged and frustrated I went in my backyard to pray. I pulled out my journal to pour out all of the injustices I was feeling. I started writing feverishly. This entry was different from my others and became a confession. A confession of how I see myself when I don’t fully embrace who I am. It was time to speak truth to the jealousy and insecurity. I don’t make a habit of sharing my journal entries with others (like ever) but, I feel led to with this one because maybe these words are for you too. Maybe they’ll help nudge you to take a step of imperfect progress towards being free from your chains of jealousy and insecurity. Maybe they’ll help you see clearer how beautifully made you are and that God didn’t leave out a thing. Here goes…

The sunset and stars make their way into evenings light

Birds sing a final chorus to the days song as frogs pick up where they left off

I’m surrounded by peace as creation just does their thing

That which You’ve made them to be

Why not me?

Does the sun wish it was the ocean?

Does a star really dream about falling to the earth?

As the rocks cry out in silent praise do they envy the dazzling moon?

I don’t think so!

They get what they are and how wonderfully they’ve been made

Their special job in bringing You praise

So why do WE just a little lower than Thee whimper, whine and complain?

Why do WE question the value of that which You’ve made?

To the right and to the left we look; Comparison our navigating friend

Screaming out lies and slandering the Wise One who has made US to contend!

Insecurity rises to silence the Almighty’s plans

Attempts to satisfy insatiable cravings lead us right into Destruction’s hands

Why do we want what others have?

The glory; the fame; the looks; the car; the man who prays or stays?

Oh, eyes lift up higher and shift your desire towards all that’s been granted your way!

There’s enough to go around…HEAR ME SAY, THERE IS ENOUGH TO GO AROUND!

So stop grabbing, lusting, stop warring for nothing

It’s not yours; never was…leave it be!

Instead…treasure today what Majesty has made and display it with honor and humility

 

May you discover where jealousy and insecurity reside in your heart and allow the Lord to lead you to a place of being free and firmly rooted in His love.

 

Kindly,

Christina

There’s no easy prescription for overcoming jealousy and insecurity, but this week in Unglued Chapters 9 & 10, we were given some helpful tools to help retrain our minds and hearts when we begin to feel jealous and insecure.

  1. Saturate ourselves in God’s word

This is where we let the truth of God penetrate deep within us to remind us that we are made uniquely, with special gifts given to us as means to build up one another.

  1. Surround ourselves with life givers

We develop relationships in our lives where honor, encouragement, and love are core values.

2. Pray for those we feel jealous towards

Oh, this one is hard! But praying and blessing another person is helpful when we’re harboring jealousy towards someone. We retrain our heart and mind how to respond in love.

3. Practice being grateful as we carry our own loads

The bottom line is this… God has entrusted each of us with something to carry and steward that is uniquely for us. When we want what someone else and overlook what’s been given to us we become ungratefully stuck on the sidelines of our own lives with longings that will never be satisfied.

 

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A Poem for Mother’s Day

They come in many shapes, sizes, and hues,
Teachers of manners- lace up technicians of shoes,
The mighty warlords of the weekend soccer teams,
The coke bottle glasses and mom jeans,
All knowing mystics- eyes in the back of their heads,
Nightlights, adversaries to the monsters under our beds,
The overtime working, on call, after hours,
Who speak with fireworks and flowers,
The ones who foster the big and little ones,
Be it by blood or choice, be us daughters or sons,
The field medic to the bloodied nose, scraped knee, reckless,
The magic kingdom’s queen, papier-mache crown, macaroni necklace,
God flows through her ways, pours out His kindness,
He gave us all the mommas to remind us,
That though we may pass them by,
That we may, ourselves, have little shoes to tie,
Though we have but a short time to share,
As the roles reverse, and gray eats her hair,
God gave us things like comfort and a mom’s embrace,
To be as billboards calling us towards His sweet grace,
To teach us of His perfect love, unconditional and so good,
Oh the gift, responsibility, trial, and beauty of motherhood.
Poem by Tyler Schaefer
Sandals Church Volunteer
Cultivate Book Club

Broken is Beautiful

It had been a long day.

I was tired and it was only 3:00pm.

It had been a day full of errands, doctor’s appointments and home study – home study happens at our house twice a week. It is a school day, but my kids are not on campus. They are assigned school work to complete at home which means I get to be their teacher…I am going to let you decide how you think I feel about that as we approach the end of the school year.

Yeah.

As 3:00pm rolled around, I realized that I hadn’t thought about dinner, I had a worship team rehearsal to lead in a few hours, there was a sibling argument happening over a video game AND my kids hadn’t finished their school work which was due the next day. I lost my crap all over the place.

Hi. My name is Melody. And I am an exploder who shames others.

In my explosion, I yelled at my kids. I threw stuff around, sent a snippy text to my husband and slammed my bedroom door shut. And you know what? None of that made me feel any better. In fact, I felt awful. The look on my son’s face told me that I had made him feel awful too. This would have been a great time to heed Lysa’s words that “feelings are indicators, not dictators.”

Ugh. Total mom fail.

Reading through chapters 5 and 6 of “Unglued” didn’t reveal to me that I am an exploder. I already knew that. It revealed to me how my exploding is affecting those closest to me–mainly my family – and even more, how God feels about it. Because the more I read, the more convinced I became that my exploding is actually just an outworking of a deeper sin issue:

Pride. Pride is the birthplace of all sin and pride is what fuels the Stuffer to harbor resentment and the Exploder to launch attacks.

I spent some time this week studying pride and what God says about it and here is the simple definition of pride that I came up with: Choosing self over surrender.

In my explosion last week, I chose myself – my feelings, my desires and my plans – over everyone else. And even though I did need time to prepare for my rehearsal, figure out a plan for dinner and get home study done, there was a healthy way to do those things had I chosen humility instead of allowing my pride to rear its ugly head and bite off the heads of my children.

I Peter 5:5 says, ”God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I did a little digging and the word “opposes” in the Greek literally means “to wage war against.” I don’t like to think about God waging war against me and my pride. But pride is a big deal to him. And I think it’s a big deal to Him because He knows how it will ultimately affect us.

Pride destroys. Pride mocks. Pride steals. Pride kills.

Whether you’re a stuffer or an exploder (or a combination of both…yeah, me too) the sin that we have to oppose – wage war against – is pride. Because if we don’t, than we will never actually mature in our faith to become women who are controlled by the Holy Spirit. So, I think it is time that we get real about our pride. And here’s how we are going to do that:

1. Ask it.

This week, sit down with those closest to you and ask them how your exploding/stuffing has affected them. Listen to their words. I did this with my family. It wasn’t easy but it was so important for me to hear what they had to say.

2. Own it.

Once they have shared, in a posture of humility, own it. Don’t make excuses or justify it, just accept what they have to say.

3. Confess it.

Be willing to be vulnerable. Ask for their forgiveness and then get alone with God. Confess your pride to Him and ask Him to forgive you.

Here’s the deal: pride is sin and God hates sin. He hates it. But He loves us.

Look at these words in Psalm 34:17-18: “Is anyone crying for help? God is listening ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there.”

Believing that we sin isn’t the same as being broken over our sin. There is a huge difference. But if our sin breaks our hearts, than God promises to be right there, ready to rescue, heal and forgive us. I believe that our brokenness over our sin is the gateway to becoming beautiful daughters of His grace, because once we recognize what we have been forgiven of, than we become the avid fighters for grace and forgiveness in this broken and messed up world.

And His beauty – what has drawn us to Him – becomes what is also beautiful in us.

And listen, we aren’t going to get this right every time. We are celebrating imperfect progress, remember? But the most important thing we can do as we learn more about ourselves and what our struggles are is to lean into Jesus with all that we are. He invites us into a relationship with Him where we are seen, known AND loved. And His love is the most beautiful thing of all.

Embracing the journey,

Melody

Cultivate Book Club

Heart Hoarding: Week 4

“Your feelings are neither right or wrong. They just are!” Has someone ever said this to you?

They can be comforting words to me when I’m in the middle of feeling bad about feeling bad for what I feel. But my negative raw emotions are NEVER a landing spot. They’re usually a launching pad that with high velocity propels my unglued self somewhere.

In Chapter 4 this week, Lysa helps us to identify how our unfiltered and unchecked emotions can ooze out of us and onto others causing unnecessary damage. We were given the option of identifying what type of Unglued we can become. Are we an Exploder or Stuffer? Are we both based on the scenario and people surrounding it?

For me, I can be an Exploder with people that I feel really close to…specifically my husband who vowed before God and man that he had to love me till death do us part. My kids have experienced it too and I find I escalate on them much easier than I would a friend. However, at my core I’m a Stuffer that builds barriers. And when I am not in an emotionally healthy place, I’m tempted to run to that response. This is what it looks like for me…

I have a safe zone in life. It’s called my Bunker. It’s the place I go when I feel the need to self protect. It’s my refuge when I’ve finally had enough of someone or something. If I’ve been hurt badly or repeatedly it’s where I go to hide to heal. It’s a lonely place but it’s what I know. I control who and what comes in and out. It’s where I decide not to be found. Here, I process and stew over my raw emotions which leads to mini explosions inside of me. Sadly, I have the shrapnel scars to prove it!

I know this Bunker Mentality is incredibly unhealthy, but it served a purpose for me in years past when I should have been protected but wasn’t. I got good at being my own line of defense and in doing so, I crowded out my Defender and others!

Introspection and doing the hard work of being real with ourselves is challenging and painfully convicting at times but a necessary inward investment if we want to grow in emotional and spiritual maturity.  We don’t do this alone! I love how this chapter leads us to identify what’s going on inside so we can bring it under the healing authority of Jesus where there is truth.

Knowing where our raw emotions take us is vital but will be in vain if we don’t also identify from where they’ve come. Look at these passages of scripture…

You desire honesty from my heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.”  Psalm 52:6

“Search me, O God and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24

It deeply matters to God what we think and how we respond. He desires real, unabashed, naked honesty from within us.

Recently, God spoke to me through the most unusual circumstance to drive this truth deep inside. I was carrying a load of laundry into my garage and I tripped over my sons baseball gear he had so carelessly thrown in there the night before. After I caught my balance, I spewed out some frustrated comments loudly into the atmosphere. I put the clothes in the washer and was in awe of what I saw as I turned around. It shouldn’t have surprised me. I’m in the garage multiple times a day, but this day was different. My garage was an absolute disaster! It was filled with trash, bags of clothes to donate, broken furniture, piles of books from 15 years of homeschooling, old bed frames, Christmas decorations that didn’t quite make it in a storage container, dozens of blankets, old toys and legos that hadn’t been played with in years, boxes of 23 years of life with my husband and kids, but mostly clutter…clutter…and more more clutter!

I stood there all alone and yelled, “How did my garage get like this? It used to be such an organized and functional space! What happened?”

It was in that moment I heard God speak to me…

“Your heart gets like this sometimes. Ignored. Dirty. Overwhelmed. And definitely cluttered. You store things in there that you say you’ll clean out later, but you don’t come back. You hold onto stuff you think you need because it reminds you of the past, but it’s a new season and time to let that go. There are boxes filled with doubts, disappointments and dreams unfulfilled. So many boxes. I want to abundantly give to you new gifts and treasures but your heart can’t fit one more thing.”

It’s amazing what God uses to get our attention! I’d become a heart hoarder and I didn’t even know it. Like my garage, I’d kept shoving, piling and stacking up on the inside. And just like a garage door sensor goes off when the space is overflowing, I explode or run to my bunker when something deep in me gets triggered. My raw emotions come out of an unclean and overstuffed heart.

In this, I’m learning that I always have a choice when my negative feelings rise up that try to enslave me. I can run to my bunker where my voice is the only one that reverberates off the walls of self protection I’ve built, OR…I can run to the God of protection. He’s my hiding place and help in time of need. I can ask him to steady me and reveal truth into any situation. He knows and sees every nook and cranny and still unconditionally loves. And in this second choice I grow in the discipline of responding with emotional and spiritual maturity!

There was no condemnation or shame from God in my messy garage moment. Only grace and  invitation. He extends that to all of us. So, here’s the question I’d like to ask you,

If our raw emotions take us to a destination containing baggage from a place we’ve already traveled what are you carrying around that God is asking you to release?

Before you answer that, perhaps pray this first…

“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey You.” Psalm 51:10-12

What is the condition of your heart today? As you begin to pray this scripture over your life I believe wholeheartedly that God will begin the cleaning, renewing and restoring! Would you open up the door and welcome Him in? He has so much to give to you! Are you ready and willing to make the necessary room to receive it?

Let the cleaning begin!

Kindly,

Christina

 

Reflection Questions:

As we do the hard work of introspection and grow in being real with ourselves, that will always lead us into being real with God and others. Here are a few questions to help you process.

  1. Is my heart a hospitable place for Jesus or has it become cluttered and unwelcoming?
  2. What am I hoarding in my heart that needs to be cleaned out, renewed or restored by HIm?
  3. Who am I willing to be real with this week regarding my emotions and the condition of my heart?
Cultivate Truth

Fear- Such a Small Word

Whenever I say, think or hear the word ‘fear,’ I can’t help but to follow it up with the words ‘power,’ ‘love’ and ‘sound-mind.’ What’s more, when I speak them aloud, they are magnified. This was not always my way of thinking. Fear had great control in my life for many years. During my early to mid-twenties, I battled with anxiety disorder. For those who have never experienced an anxiety attack, it’s like a great, all-consuming nothing that creeps up out of nowhere. One minute a person can feel perfectly normal, the next minute it’s as if a heavy blanket of dread falls over your entire body and drains you of all hope and safety. It’s difficult to be rational during an attack. Sometimes it feels as if the walls around you are about to cave in. You feel like you are about to die. Once an attack occurs, you feel like there is no way to stop it. It seems the only solution is to helplessly submit to the attack and let it run its course. When it is over, it slips away as silently as it came, leaving the body and mind feeling exhausted, vulnerable, violated and defeated. To add to the struggle, anxiety attacks can give way to other issues such as fear, stress or depression, if a person struggles with it long enough. It’s like a downward spiral that feels impossible to overcome.

Eventually, I became fearful of everything. I was afraid of the day, and afraid of the night. I couldn’t escape it. I was held captive by my own thoughts. At night when I experienced the attacks, I would literally fall to the floor, tremble and cry. I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes the attacks would come one right after the other- up to four times a night. I lost a tremendous amount of weight because I wasn’t able to eat or sleep. I became desperate and helpless. I felt I had no one to turn to.

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and save them.” Psalm 145: 18-19

Now, Back-track three months before the anxiety attacks…

“Where are you?” I said angrily as I sat in my car, staring out the windshield, tears rolling down my cheeks. I slammed my hands on the steering wheel and screamed at the top of my lungs, “I WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH!” I had lived the past three years of my life angry with God. I was angry and jealous because of his love for those who did not deserve it. People who hurt me in the past were being changed by his grace.  “HOW CAN YOU LOVE THEM WHEN I WAS THE ONE WHO CALLED OUT TO YOU?” I yelled as I cried uncontrollably. I was harboring so much unforgiveness in my heart. I became prideful, selfish and felt wronged. I was also angry because I wanted to know who God really was. Why I couldn’t hear him? Why didn’t he love me? Why wasn’t he there for me when I needed him?  Why did he abandon me? I rested my head on my steering wheel, closed my eyes and wept. Then, by no influence of my own, two words clearly resonated in my mind, “Trust Me.”

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. “ James 4:7-8

Now, fast-track three months later…Night after night the attacks would come, and night after night I would fall to the ground, weak and defeated. I eventually confided in a friend about the anxiety attacks and shared with her the words God spoke to me that day in the car. She advised me to read my Bible and to pray. She also invited me to her Bible study group that met weekly at her house.

We prayed for each other, laughed, cried together and carried each other’s burdens. That Bible study became my community. I developed friendships with people who demonstrated a Christ-like love for me despite my pride and brokenness. I was learning about God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. I even started praying for those who had hurt me in the past. I became born again and had a newfound love.  During this time I asked God to sift my thoughts and reveal to me the things I needed to repent. I didn’t want to hold on to anything that was keeping me from him. He revealed to me my sins, my offenses and the things I had suppressed deep inside my heart. Reading the Bible taught me a lot about God, his character and his promises. It also taught me about my enemy- the devil. The anxiety attacks still came, and when they did I continued to fall to the floor; however, I no longer fell in submission to the attack, but instead I would fall to demonstrate my submission to the one who saved me, Jesus. I would cry out and pray, “Lord, your Word says…”, and I would remind him of his promises in the Bible. I did not know it at the time, but by speaking His word aloud, through faith, I was proclaiming his word in my life. I was holding all who were present (spirit, human and myself) accountable to the power of God. This was the work God was doing in me—he was training his daughter to become a warrior.  During an anxiety attack, I learned to fix my thoughts on the Lord and praise Him through it. I learned to fight against the enemy by refusing his oppression in my life and boldly speaking out God’s Word. I became a threat to the enemy’s tactics by not only praying for myself during my battle, but praying for others as well.  

For the first time, I was able to stand before my enemy confident in God’s power, strength and peace.  I was armed with a sword and I was now trained to use it.

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1Peter 5:8

The enemy plotted for my life.  He wanted to keep me unaware of the blessings God had for me.  He wanted me confined to a life of fear, immobile and ineffective.  He also wanted me to believe that I had anxiety.  God’s word says something different.  The Bible says, “God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, and of love and a sound mind”(2 Tim. 1:7).  This scripture also tells me that the spirit of fear and anxiety is very real, but it is not of God. It is of the enemy.  Ephesians. 6:12 says, “…we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  Much like the temptation of Christ during His 40 day fast, we too are approached, tempted and lied to by the enemy.  We are defenseless if we do not know the word and how to combat the enemy during a time of temptation. If we do not know the power of standing in our salvation, our minds can become vulnerable to the enemy’s attack.  Ephesians 6:10-11 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”  

I am more certain now of my salvation and the power of God’s word in my life than ever before.  I have peace and I am free from my struggles with anxiety and fear. I know the enemy may be watching from a distance, waiting for an opportunity to attack. However, I trust that wherever I go, God is near. His word is not far from me and I take comfort knowing that.

“Blessed be the Lord my rock, who trains my hand for war, and my fingers for battle- my lovingkindness and fortress, My high tower and my deliverer, My shield and the one in whom I take refuge.” Psalm 144:1-2

For all who struggle with anxiety and feel subjected to living a life of fear, I pray that you will come to learn the power and truth of God’s word, so you will be oppressed no more. I encourage you to read your Bible, reach out to people in your church community and trust that God loves you. He has a purpose for your life that is so much greater than you can ever imagine.

Trust him.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

Kindly,
Burgundy

Cultivate Book Blub

Call It Grace: Week 3

There is so much I learned this week in chapter 2 and 3! First, Lysa is REAL!  She is our people. I appreciate how she shares her real life unglued moments with us. There is just something freeing when others share their imperfect messy moments that makes us feel okay to be real about our imperfect messy moments. I hear all the time from other women, “Thank You for being REAL, it makes me feel like my life is more ‘normal’ than I thought.” It’s interesting how when we pretend to have it all together, the assumption is that others will be impressed. Instead, it sends others into a place of deeper hiding, makes them feel unsafe and repels them from us because they are now afraid to be honest about their life.

My husband is amazing at seeing the circumstances and situations of our everyday life and weaving them into biblical applications. I am not so much. To be quite honest with you, the days are a blur for me. My head hits that pillow every night utterly exhausted and relieved that we survived the day without losing any kids, missing any meals and no major catastrophes. So I can’t tell you a story to illustrate how I come unglued like Lysa, but I know I do because I have three mirrors in my home reflecting back to me when it happens, my 3 children. I see exactly what I look like when I see them coming unglued. I hear myself come out of their mouths as they yell at the glass that spilled water all over the carpet, or the backpack that dumped out as they’re rushing to the car to not be late. Oh yes, I’ve taught my children to come unglued quite well.  I can see how they don’t have grace for themselves or others because they see me not have grace. This is NOT how I want my children to act and react. I know first hand how it’s detrimental. And so, my motivation for imperfect progress starts with them!

Next, I was captivated by the section in the chapter about our thoughts. How our thoughts basically make a scratch into our brain. Thoughts that we think over and over again deepen that scratch turning it basically into a carving, and that when an emotion is tied to the thoughts, a memory is made! This actually really scared me and here’s why: What if the thoughts I’m thinking are lies? Lies like “I don’t matter,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not loved.” What if I think these thoughts over and over, carving them deeper into my brain? and then, because these thoughts are discouraging ones, I attach emotions like shame, sadness, defeat and sorrow to them. I’ve carved these thoughts that are lies into my brain as a memory, and the memory I carry is now what I believe. Now, my beliefs are actually lies disguised as truths. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:5  “… take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” This truth from scripture came alive to me in a whole new way after studying this brain research. What we think becomes what we believe, and what we believe determines how we act and react. To become women who don’t let our raw emotions guide us to act out of control when circumstances are out of control, we need to guard our thoughts and make it a serious practice to take them captive, testing them against God’s word. Otherwise, we’re embedding lies into our brains disguised as truth!

Finally, what I was most impacted by from these chapters was the section on ‘labels.’ I immediately identified how much of my unglued behavior is tied to the ‘labels’ I’ve given myself.  I come unglued and then later regret it. I, then, begin to beat myself up mentally in my thought life spewing labels: “I always blow it, Why am I so overly emotional, I’m ridiculous, I was so stupid, I’m a bad ____ (wife, mom, friend, leader, etc.),” and the mental beating inside my brain goes on. These thoughts begin to increase the labels which increase what I believe about myself.  I loved looking at Simon and Saul in regards to ‘labels’. Simon, which means shifty, and he was. ‘Shifty’ was the label he probably carried after denying Jesus THREE times. Can you even imagine? We all would like to think that we’d never do that, especially being with Jesus in person and seeing everything He did with our own eyes, but I sorta think we would. Simon came unglued by being shifty with Jesus in the present, and yet, in Matthew we read this…

“You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”  Matthew 16:17-19

Jesus changed shifty Simon to Peter the rock!  

And then there was Paul. Paul had an unglued past too. He carried the label ‘persecutor of Christians’ and ‘murderer’. You can read about Paul in Acts 9 and how he shed his unglued past, literally, as scales fell from his eyes and became the most influential person in the New Testament second only to Jesus himself.

You see, Jesus didn’t see Peter or Paul as they were, rather as they would be. Lysa used the best analogy for this when she shared about her experience seeing the David by Michelangelo. She shared how when Michelangelo was asked what kept him going so long to create this masterpiece he simply said, “I saw the Angel in the marble and carved until I set him free, the process was easy, I just chipped away the stone that didn’t look like David”.  Ephesians 2:10 says…. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  The Statue of David was Michelangelo’s masterpiece, but we are God’s. So if we are God’s masterpiece isn’t it safe to assume that He might have similar thinking when it comes to us? Like Michelangelo, when looking at the raw stone when sculpting it into the David, God when looking as Simon Peter and Paul didn’t see them as they were, but as they would be. And He does the same for us.  He doesn’t want our unglued moments or our past to keep us in a place of beating ourselves up. He wants them to be reminders and revelations to us. We still have places that need to be chiseled by Him.  This week carve out space to write down the labels you carry and take them through Lysa’s Call It Grace exercise.

Identify the Label~

What is the lie in it?

What is the truth? I am a child of God that…

What is the Action?

How can you let the truth of this label help unstick other labels?

 

Let’s let Him chisel away all of the places of us that don’t look like us!

Kindly,

Tammy

 

Discussion or Journal Questions:

  1. Without sharing the details or people involved… Think of a time you came Unglued. What did that look like for you? What feelings did it leave you with after the dust settled?
  2. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…” AND 2 Corinthians 10:5 “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
  3. In chapter 2 Lysa describes the science behind how our thoughts develop into what becomes our “memory traces” and that when emotions are tied to those thoughts the trace grows exponentially stronger as our pattern of thought. And SO… as we enter into this journey of not being UNGLUED women… What are some memory traces your personal Unglued moments have left embedded in your mind?  (i.e. I always lose my mind. I’m crazy. I’m unglued. I can’t get it together. etc.)
  4. What is your motivation for changing your thought patterns?
  5. Share a thought you know you need to start taking captive?
  6. What are some labels you identify you carry? *Call It Grace Activity
Cultivate Book Blub

An Invitation to Imperfect Progress

Week 2 of Cultivate Book Club

It was a year ago, about this same time actually, that I became completely unglued. My raw emotions were off the charts. I had stuffed myself so full of them over a particular relational situation that I totally imploded. The implode was UGLY, like UGLY, ugly. AND the shrapnel was far reaching! In the moment there was a burst of relief to have gotten those feelings out, but that relief was quickly followed by an unbearable amount of embarrassment, guilt, shame, regret and relational damage. I hated how I’d behaved. I hated how I’d treated those involved. I hated how my raw emotions always got the best of me.

In the past, Matt has used a powerful analogy in his teaching in regards to becoming unglued. He, of course, didn’t use the word, but it’s the same thing. The analogy goes something like this:

~ If you shake a cup full of orange juice what will spill out?

~ Orange Juice

~ Why orange juice?

~ Because that’s what was inside of the cup.

You see, when we are shaken (or unglued), whatever is inside of us “spills out.” When I became unglued, I understood this analogy more than ever, and I was NOT okay with what had spilled out of me. In addition to the embarrassment, guilt, regret and shame that I was feeling, I also felt an enormous amount of frustration. I was frustrated, SO SO frustrated that I reacted the way I did, that I responded the way I did, that I wasn’t more spiritual, mature, kind, etc. I knew better, I know better. WHY didn’t I DO better in this situation? I was unglued, embarrassed, frustrated and then utterly defeated. Ugh~ the defeat was the worst of it! Actually, no it wasn’t… it was ALL the worst of it. This is why being REAL with self is SOOOO important.

Luke 6:45 says, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”  

I want what comes out of me to be a reflection of WHO is in me, even when I’m coming unglued.

I’ll try to make a long (and very personal) story short for you. A decade ago (I know, ridiculous right?!… but apparently I forgive but don’t forget– okay who are we kidding, I don’t do either of them) I had a situation with one of my best friends. It all seems so ridiculous now and I’m embarrassed to even share, but for your sake, I’ll share my ridiculousness with you to help you feel better about who you are. OK… back to story. So one of my best friends made a new friend. I felt replaced, forgotten and unimportant. To top it off, the friend who I’d felt was my replacement was also one of my close friends. It was this funky friend triangle, except, I actually felt like the third wheel or the “ex”. Instead of being real about how I felt or asking clarifying questions, I made lots of assumptions, stuffed lots of anger, jealousy and resentment, and believed lots of lies about the situation. This all was the perfect fertilizer to nourish deep, deep roots of bitterness. Well, those roots eventually outgrew the pot (me being the pot) and everything shattered. Instead of letting my emotions become indicators that I wasn’t ok, they became dictators for how I thought, acted, responded, behaved and believed about the people involved. It was bad and messy and people were hurt. To be completely real with you, some of the relationships have barely survived. By the grace of God and others, all has not been lost, but it’s been a rough road. My ungluedness (just created a word there) not only hurt me, but really (LIKE REALLY, really) hurt others. And I don’t want to ever hurt others like that again. It’s just not who I want to be.

One of the things that I hated most about this situation was that a decade had gone by and I was still unglued about the exact same situation. A DECADE people. Like 10 years of my life and I’d not made any progress. This realization just tore me up! And SO… I’ve made a promise to myself that in one year from now I may not be where I want to be, but that I WILL NOT BE where I was. Progress, I will make progress.

That is what I love about this book, the idea of imperfect progress. It has given me freedom to not be perfect in my journey. It has given me new language to interject into my thought-life. When I am thinking “Ugh, I blew it again, why didn’t I handle that perfectly? What is wrong with me? I’m the worst woman, friend, mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, leader, pastor’s wife ever.” I NOW throw into mix, “I’m not aiming to be perfect, but to make progress.” It’s a very disarming practice when I start down the road of self loathing and condemnation. It helps me take captive my very negative thoughts.

For the next 8 weeks we are not seeking perfection, but progress. AND because we are imperfect, that progress is going to be imperfect. And that’s OK! We’re not going to seek or hold ourselves accountable for instant change or try to create quick fixes to handle our raw emotions. We’re also not going to hold ourselves as the sum total of every time in the past we’ve blown it and become totally unglued. Instead, we are going to cultivate and nurture imperfect progress regarding how we handle our raw emotions. We’re doing this for us! Not to impress or satisfy who or what anyone else thinks we should be, but because of who we want to be for ourselves and in our relationship with Jesus. God gave us our emotions and so it is unrealistic and ridiculous to expect to not have them or to dismiss them. I love how Lysa says they are signals as to what is going on. They let us experience deep joy and love. They are also indicators for us as to when things are not ok, like touching a hot stove signals us to pull back, our emotions can also be protecting us from things and relationships that are not good or safe for us. We’re going to seek progress in having our raw emotions be indicators but not dictators for how we think, feel and behave.

Psalms 19:14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

Let this be our prayer over this time together, that the words we speak (to others AND to ourselves) be pleasing to the Lord. Here’s the best news: “He who has began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.” We might not be where we want to be, but we don’t have to stay where we are. Let’s make it our goal to make progress, as imperfect as it might be.

Kindly,
Tammy

 

Personal Journal Experience

In lieu of our onsite meeting this week, carve out some time and a quiet space to reflect on and complete the following journal questions.

  1. What does coming unglued look like for you?
  2. Think of the last time you came unglued? What emotions are attached to the experience?
    1. Are you harboring any unforgiveness or bitterness towards others because of the experience?
    2. Are you harboring any unforgiveness or bitterness towards yourself because of the experience?
    3. Spend a few minutes being real with God in prayer about the experience. Ask God where forgiveness needs to be found, from Him to you, from you to others, from you to you? Are there any next steps you can take to bring closure and peace to the situation?
  3. Pertaining to your raw emotions, take a moment to think about the changes you want to make in regards to cultivating imperfect progress.
    1. What would progress look like for you?
    2. What is your goal? What do you want your “new normal” to look like? Write a small sentence or statement articulating your goals.

For example:

I would like it to be normal that….

I choose not to raise my voice when I get upset.

I acknowledge what I’m feeling instead of stuffing it.

I make it through a day without regretting how I treat someone.

I give myself space to pray & process before I react & respond

I ask myself what my emotions are indicating to me

 

Philippians 1:6 says, “God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that He won’t stop before it is complete on the day Christ Jesus returns.”

Close out your time completing this prayer:

Lord, thank you for releasing me from the weight of the past and for giving me hope that things can be different. Today I especially need hope for…

Thank you for the promise that you have begun a good work in me, and that you won’t stop until You complete it. This gives me hope! Amen.

*journal questions inspired by Lysa Terkeurst’s Unglued participants guide

Cultivate Book Blub

Preparing for My Imperfect Progress

This week we begin our study through Lysa Terkuerst’s book Unglued, I am so excited to go on this journey together. As we start this journey, there are three really important things we all need to know:

1. This book is not a substitute for THE book. Lysa is a great author. She is a gifted story teller and this book is filled with amazing truths. But it’s important for us to remember that the truths she is sharing with us are inspired by and rooted in the ultimate truth found in God’s word. Her book isn’t meant to be a substitute for our Bible reading or study. That is why each week there will be time dedicated to Bible study and teaching when we gather together. If you’re going through the book with some friends or on your own, be sure to go through the questions we provide on the blog each week. 

2. This is a journey of imperfect progress. Once you begin reading through this book, you are probably going to feel both challenged and convicted. This is a good thing, but it is also a hard thing. Once we are confronted with some things in our lives that need to change, what lies before us is the hard work of actually changing. So remember, we are on this journey together. And we are going to celebrate our imperfect progress along the way. We are not always going to get it right. We are going to experience success, but we are also going to experience failure. So, tuck this away: There is grace enough for _____________.  Whatever it is, there is grace to cover it. We are going to stay committed to the process of growth regardless of how many times we blow it.

3. This is an opportunity to cultivate the heart of God in our lives. None of us needs one more thing to do. We are all busy, so whatever we are giving our time to better mean something. Book Club isn’t meant to just be a fun social time (though we want it to be fun) or just a Bible study (though we will definitely study the Bible). It is meant to help us on our journey of becoming REAL with ourselves, God and others. It is meant to help us become more like Jesus. Here is the truth: The world isn’t desperate for Christians who know more. It is desperate for Christians who will do more with what they know. So, as we read and learn, the outworking of that process should be growth. Cultivating the heart of God in our lives is worth everything we have, so let’s stay committed to the growth process – even when it hurts…and it will. But, when the growth process is painful remember that Christ is being formed in you and He will be faithful to finish the good work that He has started!

Are you ready? Let’s go.

Kindly,

Melody

Cultivate Book Club Week 1:

Small Group Discussion Questions

1. Share about a time that you felt severely unprepared for a task or situation you were responsible for. What happened? How did you feel?

2. The subtitle for our book this season Unglued is this: Making wise choices in the midst of raw emotions. Why is it hard to make wise choices when our emotions are raw?

3. Philippians 3: 13b, the Apostle Paul says “forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…” What are some things you need to leave in the past as you begin this new journey of imperfect progress?

4. How can this group pray for you as you strive to become real with yourself, God and others?