How Jesus Changed My Friendships

Last time we met at Belong I spoke about overcoming weird times in friendship. Vulnerably, I shared some humbling ways the Lord needed to teach me about being a good friend.  I trust I’m not the only who’s ever thought they were a bad friend.   While on my quest to find the perfect friend, Jesus broke through with such strength and light.   What I was most surprised by was how making Jesus my perfect friend would affect all my other friendships!  Some of the problems that plagued my friendship attitudes were brought out into the light as Jesus gently guided me into a deeper relationship with Him.

How Jesus changed my friendships

Enough

Enough – No matter what they do, does it seem like it’s never enough?  They weren’t warm enough, they weren’t open enough, giving enough, friendly enough, concerned enough or happy-to-see-you enough.  It could be that you have been coming to your friends to satisfy a part of you that only Jesus can. When we expect our friends to be our enough they will always be such a disappointment to us.  But when you come to Jesus and open your heart to let Him fill you full of His love, He is more than enough.

John 4:14 …whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Have you also experienced a “never enough” time in your friendships?
Are you ready to expect more out of Jesus?

Selfless

Selfless – When you consider making someone your friend, do you weigh in your mind how much you can get from them vs. how much you will give to them? We may do this very subtly and not even notice it.  And in these times it can be considered a completely normal thought process.  This world is always telling us to put ourselves first… get what you can…It’s all about you… and build yourself a fan club that knows it’s all about you…
When you allow Jesus to become the most influential person in your life, He turns this whole mindset upside down.  He tells us that the last will be first and the first will last. Jesus takes our friendships from “What can I get” to “What can I give you”.  You will be amazed at the transformation of your friendships when you understand that it’s not all about you.  Whenever I experienced a friend who was moody or cold, I always thought that it was definitely something that I did or said.  It would cause me to withdrawal a little bit from them at a time when they needed my friendship most.  My self-centered mindset kept me from being the friend they needed. Jesus helps us understand that “It ain’t about you!”

 2 Corinthians 5:15  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

In what ways have you seen a self-centered attitude at work in your friendships?
What will you do to conquer selfishness in your friendships?

Deeper

Deeper – Are wondering why your friendships seem shallow and unsatisfying.  You could be surrounded by friends, but you still feel very lonely and unsatisfied.  There are many barriers that keep us from having a deep bond with people.  Mostly it is because we want to protect ourselves.  To go deeper means to open yourself up. To be vulnerable.  Allow others to see the real you can be scary. What if they reject me?! Or see me as incompetent?!  What if they confirm my suspicion that I am as weird as I think I am and they go running the opposite direction!  It can be scary to open up to friends especially if you’ve had a rough experience with it in the past.

Being open and vulnerable with Jesus is not an option. He really won’t have it any other way.   Even when we try to hide parts of ourselves from him he has a way of drawing us out, like only He can.  You need to understand that while people are capable of letting us down when we make ourselves vulnerable, Jesus will not. He is the safest Person you could ever take emotional risks with.   Something amazing happens when we are real and trusting with Jesus. He sends us out into the world armed with such confidence and security.  We go into our friendships with genuine love, knowing that we are ALREADY accepted and it completely transforms the relationship.  Now I can easily show my vulnerabilities with friends because I know that even when a friend denies me the acceptance I would hope for, I am not destroyed. I am firmly planted on the Rock of Salvation far from the fickle sand of the human heart and safe from the pit of self-pity.

Like the woman who anointed Jesus at Bethany. Read Mark 14:3-9. She vulnerably made a public display of affection toward her savior by pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. The onlookers rebuked her harshly. But she did not cower at their comments or hesitate at their heckling.  Her Jesus spoke up for her saying, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me…and it will be told in memory of her wherever the gospel is preached.”

think with me

So what if your relationship with Jesus seems shallow and unsatisfying?  Happens to me all the time.  Mostly because I ignore Him, don’t make time for him and then withdrawal from Him because I feel bad.  It’s so sad.  But I have never regretted coming to Him and acknowledging the awkwardness of being out of touch.  It can feel forced at first, to come to Him when it’s been a while.  But the feelings are all self-induced.  Jesus welcomes me and never condemns me.  Like a good friend, he simply wants to pick up where we left off.  The sooner I get over myself and my failures, the sooner He can pour into my spirit again.  I pick up my dusty bible and hold it close.  I open my hymnal to my favorite verses.  I confess. I cry. I read His words. I hear his love for me.  And he makes me new.  He makes me strong, firm and secure.

Why do you pull away when He reaches out? Why do you recoil? Because if you believe that Jesus died on the cross then you believe that the shame you feel is the reason He died. He accepts you, all your mess. He is perfect so you don’t have to be. Life apart from Him is no life at all.

What is keeping you from coming closer to Jesus?
What will you do today to open yourself to Him?

This is a great time to find a friend who can answer your questions about Jesus.

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El Roi – the God who sees

It is a desert time for the Invisible Woman.  A lonely struggle.  Her eyes scan the horizon for a sign that it will be over soon but there is only dry sand and she is left to walk it out alone in the vast emptiness.  It’s such hard work and maybe it would seem easier if she had a companion. For heaven’s sake don’t you dare sit down and give up for God is El Roi (el, ro-ee): The God Who Sees

This reminds me of a desert time for a young woman, Hagar.  Her desperate story is told in Genesis 16:1-15. It almost ended very badly for her… but The Lord saw her.

Sarah and Abraham were never able to conceive. They are well past their prime and even so God had promised them a child, their very own – from them. As time went on they began to doubt the promise and took matters into their own hands.  Sarah had a young Egyptian maidservant, Hagar.  Sarah suggested that Abraham conceive a child with Hagar. And it was so. (Now ladies, of course you and I can obviously see that this would be a bad idea. Often our desperation can lead us to do the most regrettable things.) Soon Sarah experiences the full force of her regret as jealousy sets in and these two women begin to despise one another.  Hagar flaunted her pregnancy and Sarah made life difficult for Hagar.  It got bad.  Sarah complained to Abraham but he was not much help. “Do with her whatever you think best. (Genesis 16:6)”  he said, essentially –she’s your problem (I have a feeling this will not turn out well for Hagar).  Her poor actions had inclined Sarah’s severe treatment. Women can be so cruel to each other. I can just see them getting their digs in, preying upon the insecurities of the other. Us ladies know how to get her where it hurts. These women made life miserable for each other. I’m sure the rest of the house was miserable too. It gets so bad that Hagar’s fight turned to flight and she runs, choosing the scorching heat of the desert over the unbearable conflict. She cries as she walks. Her heart is crushed. Her mind is anxious. Her hormones have her wound up and she just keeps putting as much distance as possible between her and the pain. All she can see is her pain.

But she is not as alone as she feels…

Next we read, “…the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the dessert…”  Genesis 16:7

“Hagar, servant of Sarah, where have you come from, and where are you going?…Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” Genesis 16:8-9

Go back?! Submit?! An impossible task for a young woman whose pride has led her out here with only a burned bridge behind her. But God reassures her.  He acknowledges her child and her misery and He lifts her downcast face to rise and see the future that awaits her. Her and her son.  She has been seen. (Genesis 16:10-12) God saw her broken heart and saw her future.

With this divine assurance, she stands. And turns toward home. Eyes focused. She walks with purpose.  God has spoken to her. Her son will live and grow to be a man.  A steady peace and calm covers this reckless girl. Her anxious mind that was once so narrowly focused on her present injustice has now been given a view from a much higher place.  And just there, on the horizon, she sees that this troubling time will pass. Confident that she has not and never will escape God’s watchfulness, she knows she’ll be alright.  This is all the assurance she needs to overcome all of her trials.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “ You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13)

El Roi – The God Who Sees

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

According to Psalm 34:18, where is God when we are hurting?

We are so vulnerable when we go through desert times.  Without support God can seem so far off; so detached from our pain and loneliness.  Invisible woman, you need to know that God does see you. In fact, according to Psalm 34:18 He pays special attention to those who are hurting.

think with me

Did you ever consider that this season in the desert was designed by God to prompt you to come to Him? That possibly He has something special for you if only you would go to Him for comfort instead of another source? (In my lonely times God sees me not by a well in the desert, but when Netflix stops my show to ask if I’m still watching. Sadly I am. What a wonderful distraction from the burdens of life and alone-ness, insert eye-roll here.) Where does God see you?

If you’ve been hurt from being left out and unnoticed has there been a temptation to not even try to connect with others again? Has self-preservation become your only comfort? Don’t linger too long in the shadows. It’s time to come out into the light.

pray with me

El Roi, I believe that you see me.  I believe that you see what is ahead of me and that you will use what is behind me.  Lord, You are invisible and go unnoticed by so many of Your creation yet you do not give up on us.  You are so patient with us.  Your watchfulness has been my strength and comfort through every trial. I am never alone. You have our attention now, Lord. Forgive us for ignoring You as we feel sorry for ourselves. Here and now we lay down our pride and we turn humbly to You, seeking Your comfort and council. Amen.


When You’ve Ignored God

As you all know we moved out here last fall and we are still trying to get to know people…making friends. I was blessed to cross paths with my new friend, Alicia. She has the most hospitable heart! The first time we met I told her about Lost Without Him. Then she told me about a women’s fellowship that she started with some ladies in town. She loved to make a meal for them and just have a ladies night with no kids. But she wanted to give them more than that. Not just food for their bodies but food for their soul. I suggested that maybe I could come to her gatherings and introduce a topic centered on some biblical issue applicable to marriage, mothering and life. She loved it! So we set the dates and began to plan.

We just had our first gathering last night. Our topic was titled When You’ve Ignored God. I shared vulnerably from my own Christian experience the struggle to keep God a priority in my life. That awkward feeling of opening your bible after months or years of neglect.  How strange our words feel as we bow to pray for the first time in ages.  We look at our dusty bibles.  With heavy hearts burdened with more than we were meant to carry, we say, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll be better. Tomorrow I’ll open my bible.”  What if we didn’t wait till tomorrow? What if we just reached out to Him now?

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. -2 Corinthians 6:2

We bring him our neediness, doubts, weakness and poverty.  We come hungry for what only He can give.  After we have tried to find it in so many other places, we return. Like the prodigal son we come back empty. Nothing to offer but a flickering torch.  And as the scriptures show…there is no shame in your returning.

Why did I stop praying?

Why did I stop opening my bible?

It most likely happened very subtly. Some overindulging in mindless entertainment here…a miss-placed priority there. Before you realize it, it’s been a while since you thought about God. A spiritual laziness sets in.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” –Hebrews 4:7

I missed God so much. I really had to fight back my hesitation to just put Him on the shelf again. Many doubting thoughts and shameful accusations kept me from showing my face to God. Like the desperate father in Mark 9:22 says to Jesus “…if you can do anything…help us.”

Jesus answers him, “If you can? Everything is possible to Him who believes.”

The man exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And that was the cry of my heart…help me overcome my unbelief!

At that point I asked myself a really important question.

“Bri, do you believe that Jesus died on the cross?”

(How silly, of course I believe Jesus died on the cross.)

“Then why do you pull away when he reaches out? Why do you recoil? Why are you hiding? Because if you believe that Jesus died on the cross then you believe that…

– the shame you feel is the reason he died.

            – He accepts you. All of your mess.

            – He is perfect so you don’t have to be.

            – life apart from Him is no life at all.

(Oh ya, that last one? Ya, I believe that one. I’ve experienced how empty my full life feels when I leave Jesus out.)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” -Ezekiel 36:26-27

So I began to read my bible. And it did feel awkward to open my bible and pray when it had been so long. Like seeing someone that you have brushed off for a long time and you just don’t even know what to ask them about. It felt a little forced. But the more I read my bible the more we had to talk about in prayer. The more I prayed the closer I felt to him. I no longer felt so far away; far away from my husband or distant to my kids. I began to initiate life again, not just react to it.

One thing I have to guard against everyday is thinking too much of myself and too little of God. Everyday I need to “get over myself” so I can truly follow Jesus. Because when I look to him…Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never coved with shame. Psalm 34:5

What ever it is that has kept you from seeking God, you can always return. We don’t need to clean our selves up before we approach Him.

He washes our feet,

He covers our faults,

He forgives our wrongs.

This is why He came. He didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive. And I can certainly attest to feeling dead inside. We bring him our neediness, doubts, weakness and poverty. We come hungry for what only He can give. After we have tried to find it in so many other places soon He tracks us down and carries us home. And there is no shame in your returning.

(I prepared a 4-day devotional for all the ladies who came to our dessert night last night so I’ll be chiming in on those this week. A little more traffic than usual 🙂


Ask Like You Know I’m Going To Say Yes …and a special note from My Darling, Jeff!!

So the writer’s conference was just days away and I was still unsure if I would be able to go. Remember now that Jeff had accepted an invitation to help some family members that live 4 hours away. My child care options were running out. Even if Jeff did stay home he would still need to enlist help so the kids could be in two different places.

It came to this…I really wanted Jeff to stay home. I had lamented to him about this soon to be missed opportunity but never really actually asked him to change his plans for me. I guess I thought that he just would. I guess I thought he would just say, “Hey honey, no problem. I will call and say I can’t make it out this time. I really want you to enjoy this conference. Cheer up, we will make it work!”

But no matter how much I complained about missing this conference he did not once offer to just stay home and skip his trip. He was feeling more obligated to his relatives than to me. So now I was having a different kind of pity party…[insert crying] “My husband doesn’t value me! My husband doesn’t listen to me. And if he is listening than he just doesn’t care!!” [more loud crying].

Someone please tell me I’m not the only wife who has gone through this.

These are the thoughts that really break a wife’s heart. When she believes that her trusted protector and provider is not looking out for her and she is on her own and needs to fend for herself. That he would not forsake all others and be there for her when she needs him.

We have had many struggles in our marriage. Most of them can be related to poor communication. The message is just not getting through. Or worse, we believe a false assumption. I knew these thoughts I was having could really take me down a bitter road with my husband and my tender heart could not handle that. And I didn’t think my marriage could handle that either. I pondered my options…

1. I could choose to be bitter and quietly plot revenge.

2. I could throw a major fit; a tantrum of sorts, until I got what I wanted.

or

3. I could try again to tell my husband how I’m feeling and this time clearly explain what I want and need.

I have witnessed many women throw the dumbest fits simply because they wanted something but never actually asked for it (me being one of those of course). They were waiting for husband to just do it or give it or say it…whatever it was. They were being helpless victims. It is very cruel to blame our husbands for our unhappiness when we really did not give them a fair chance in the first place, that fair chance being an honest mature conversation.

I eat my words every time I tell my 7 year old daughter, “Fiona, you must stop freaking out and just tell us what you want. Please believe that we want to help you and always will. The world will not respond kindly to a helpless victim. Just say how you are feeling and what you want.”

Why is it so hard for her to just ask for what she wants? Does she think that I can read her brain and I’m just being cruel by not giving her what she wants? Sometimes I do know what she wants but I want her to learn that I do not respond to tantrums and fits. I respond really well to an optimistic request. I tell her …

 Daughter ask

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” -Matthew 7:7-8

So here is how it went with my Jeff. We were climbing into bed and I said,…

“Darling, you need to hear these really dumb thoughts I’m having.” I told him all reasons I didn’t think I was worth the sacrifice, money and effort of my family on my behalf.

Jeff responds, “Well those are dumb thoughts honey. But I’m just not sure how we will be able to get you there.”

“Ahhrrrg! Well it’s pretty obvious to me Darling! You need to say home!” (no, I didn’t say that. But I was thinking it!). Instead, I said…

“Would you please stay home and take care of the kids so I can go to this conference? Please call your family and tell them you can’t come because Bri has a thing”. It felt awkward. It seemed weird to have to ask this of him.

Jeff’s response – “Ok. I’ll call them. You can go.”

I was tempted to think, “He isn’t doing it right. He didn’t say it nice. He didn’t smile. It seems like he’s mad”. (Oh our poor husbands. Am I right ladies?)

He knows my love language is Words of Affirmation. If you don’t express it with words then I don’t believe you. And as you can see he uses few; and takes the shortest and most direct route. Jeff wasn’t too surprised when I said I was needing a cheerleader. I told him that asking him to stay was a big deal for me. I needed him to say some encouraging words like, “I want to stay home so you can go. I’m excited for you to go to this conference.” So I told him I was going pee and when I got back he could tell me his cheerleader thoughts. Knowing my Jeff, I wasn’t expecting much. But when I returned, I opened the bedroom door to the sound of the Nebraska Cornhusker Tunnel Walk music playing loud on the iPad…for me! I laughed so hard!  He didn’t say anything but the look on his face and his choice of “cheerleader thoughts” expressed through epic football introductory music was enough. He was cheering me on…in his own way.

And an epic battle was fought and won between my two ears. There were no victims 😉

(A Note From Jeff) As her husband and friend, my wish is for my wife to be the best she can be. But like most husbands who are used to getting in the front seat of life, I need to be told over and over and over what Briana needs. I am so good at asking for what I want, I forget to listen to my wonderful wife and what she really needs. Each person that reads this will think of ways that you have experienced something like this in your own life. If I can give a little piece of advice ladies, don’t be afraid to ask for your husband to bless you in any way he can. We live for it, we want to be your hero, but we can’t if we don’t know what burden we can carry for you. If you’re lucky, we will do it half the time.

pray with me

Dear Lord, Please help us think the best of our husbands. Speak love and patients when our hearts are freaking out. Help us guard against a victim mentality and just ask for what we need. Help us to ask with confidence and not criticize when they don’t respond the “right way”. Help us guard against quiet bitterness and obnoxious fits. Amen.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. –James 4:1-2


The Hoarder And Her Can: a mom’s lesson in worth and potential.

A month ago I was watching an episode of Hoarders: Collection (um yah, sometimes it’s the only thing that motivates me to clean my house) and my ears perked up during a conversation a counselor was having with a client on her porch. He brings out a bag full of empty cans from her house and sits down with her and her adult daughter.

The counselor asks her, “So what’s your thoughts about the cans?”

hoarder: “I see potential in everything. Lots of things you could do with tin snips, make flowers, all kinds of crafts…”

counselor: “Well you said you see potential in everything except yourself.”

hoarder: “Well I’m too old for potential anymore.”

counselor: “So theoretically this can has more potential than you.”

She nods and looks down.

Now I understand that the hopeless condition of this woman’s soul is a product of a painful abusive marriage that ended 20 years ago. My beautiful life cannot compare to her pain and loss but there was a part of me that could relate with what her counselor was getting at. I myself had just recently questioned my own worth and potential.

A friend told me about a writer’s conference called Jumping Tandem. I wanted to go so bad and I really needed to go. Seemed like it might actually work out until my husband said that he accepted an invitation to help some family members four hours away. Grandma and grandpa would be on vacation in Mexico. Fiona would need to go to a birthday party and Tony would have a baseball game. Who would watch my kids that needed to be in two different places at once! This was a logistical nightmare! And of all weekends why must it be this one?

My thoughts turn to…

“Looks like I’m staying home to hold everything together, like always, (very dramatically) and always will.

It gets worse though. Check out these other pity party thoughts I was entertaining…

“Serves me right, though. I don’t generate any income for our family so why should I spend it on improving me.”

“The family four hours away has a much more noble cause so why shouldn’t Jeff go help them.”

“Don’t be so selfish Bri”

But my heart was crying out! …”I’m home all the time! Everything I do is for the advancement of my husband and kids. Just this once I want to go and invest in me. Seriously my time away would amount to less than 24hours. Can’t I have that Lord? Am I being so selfish in wanting this?”

Then I thought of the hoarder and her can. And I thought of all the potential I see in my dear friends. If they ever came to me with such lies and an invitation to a pity party I would immediately tell them to stop it and do what ever it took to go to that conference. I knew I had much more potential than trash. My dreams, desires and talents are always worth fighting for. Pursuing dreams will usually be inconvenient on some level. Inconvenient for me and my family.

I felt like the Lord was saying, “Well how bad do you want this Bri, ’cause I’m not going to make it easy for you. Do you think it’s worth all this. Are you worth all this? Do you believe you are worth investing in?

The hoarder refused to have a vision for her life. I knew that I didn’t want to get stuck in that kind of self-depreciating rut – I wanted to get in my groove!

Ok you moms, how many times have you had those same thoughts?

…”Husbands and kid needs come first all the time. How could I ever ask them to bend over backwards on my behalf?”

Well picture yourself 40 years in the future and hearing the same words that our hoarder’s daughter told the counselor “It’s hard to hear my own mom say that there is more potential in a something that is trash than there is in her.”

I do believe that our kids and husbands take great pride in watching us pursue impossible dreams. Have you ever stopped to wonder that just maybe they would love to bend over backwards on your behalf the same way you love to do it for them? Seriously, we only need to ask. But we won’t ask if deep down we don’t think we are worth it.

The Lord was not making this weekend event difficult so as to cruelly dangle some unattainable fruit in my face. He really wanted me to see that I was worth fighting for. I think The Lord wanted my husband and kids to see me fighting for this dream too. I think He smiled in relief when I decided that I was. After all, He paid so much for me. With His very life He told me how much I was worth.

 -Here’s A Good Word-

Twice Paul encouraged Timothy to pursue his talents and invest in himself.

Do not neglect your gift…. -1 Timothy 4:14

…I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… -2 Timothy 1:6

-Your Thoughts-

What are some dangers of having that pity party in front of your husband and kids?

I would never want my kids or husband to feel like they were the reason I never did the things I always wanted to.

Tell me about a time that the Lord did not make it come easy, whatever it was.

Is it easier for you to invest family resources into every member of the family except you? Why?

Tomorrow… I’ll tell you the rest of the story. Was I able to get it together to go to the JumpingTandem conference? How hard would I have to fight for this… and a special message from My Darling (husband Jeff)