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 – 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 – 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 – 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.
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.
No one notices when she walks into the room. No one asks her how things are going. Someone may offer up the obligatory “how are you?”
“I’m good, things are good”, she smiles and answers plainly.
Satisfied with her “I’m good” answer they walk away, they’ve done their part.
Our Invisible Woman doesn’t have a special person like that young lady over there with a mentor friend who not only asks, but also invests in and checks in on that young woman. Invisible Woman thinks to herself, “Maybe it’s her mom or something. I wish I had someone like that.” It is so sad how much the Invisible Woman notices that no one to notices her.
Could this be you today? Lonely and unnoticed.
Before I was a mom I had a really great career in Human Resources. I was recognized and praised and it felt so good. Even so, it was not hard for me to leave my satisfying job to care for my baby boy when he arrived. Baby-raising is intense and good and sweet. I was so busy being vigilant about my boy and soon after, my baby girl, that I didn’t even notice that I was going unnoticed. I was too focused on my babies and potty training. But soon my babies began to grow into kids. Then my kids both went off to school. That’s when I realized how unnoticed I was. For the stay at home mom, it is very lonely. There is not a team of people around you to say, “Great job! We know we can always count on you!” At jobs you even get recognized for years of service. So hey mom, when was the last time you were noticed and recognized for your accomplishments? Hopefully it was on Mother’s Day. My heart yearns for you to be built up more than once a year.
In a world where you can connect with hundreds of people on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Tumbler, we are still so hungry for a deeper connection that somehow Facebook cannot offer. Our hearts cry out, “Notice me! See me! Like me! Get to know me!” Maybe you’ve seen some attention seeking behavior on social media that made you want to roll your eyes and ask them how old they were. Sometimes we just feel needy. Is that bad? Is it a weakness to be in need of encouragement? It is a bad idea to depend on Facebook “likes” and Twitter “favorites” as a measure of how liked and noticed we are because many of us would draw a dangerous conclusion that we are not worth much at all.
This is not about being the center of attention, the center of the universe, or having the world revolve around us. This is not narcissism. This is about a desperate need for sincere community. For women who cannot count on work friends, church friends, close family or neighbors they need to know they are not invisible and they do belong.
I recall a time when three weeks went by without a call or email or text from anyone. During that time I tried reaching out. Friends and family were too busy to get together or it was just inconvenient. It was a lonely time that drew me to my knees in tears. We were made to connect with people. I would say that if you are in tears because you haven’t been able to connect, that makes you very normal.
I have often thought that the best cure for this was to be what you wish you could get from others – a kind of give-to-get mentality. You want people to take an interest in your life? –then show interest in theirs. You want others to remember you and notice you? –then remember them and notice them. Sometimes this works, but it takes time. And sometimes it never comes back. You find yourself being the interested encourager in others and no one is interested in encouraging you.
From this well-meaning yet flawed approach we see our need for an alternate source of deep love in our life. Jesus is the only Person that will not let you down in the care and concern department. How awesome it is to feel His love and strength welling up inside so that even when no one loves back I can still extend genuine life-giving love. Whether its to my husband, sister, brother or friend, I can only love them if I have the love of God flowing from me -God’s kind, patient and not self-seeking love. Something amazing happens when you open your heart to receive His love. It is a fountain. The love flows one direction from an eternal source. A fountain does not expect or even conceive of ever seeing anything make its way back up. A fountain just wants the water to flow out.
It is this kind of love that helps you dial your phone when it hasn’t rung or send a text when you haven’t received one. This love helps you press the send button while your inbox remains empty.
pray with me
Lord help us to love like this even when we feel invisible. Please remind us how valuable we are to You. I pray that we would wake up everyday seeking You to find our value and place in this world so that we can share it with others who feel invisible.
What do you think about neediness? Do you think it is a weakness or personality flaw?
When have you felt invisible?
Older women – What advice or encouragement would you give to an invisible mom?
Did you ever stop and think that you could be the noticer that a lonely mom needs? Tell God you are ready for Him to use you to reach out to a lonely mom today. Show His interest in your eyes and His care in your words.
If you are lonely, please don’t stop trying to connect. Send that email, send that text and make that call.
Let me know how it goes!
I have so much more I’d like to give you today but fear it would exhaust the proper length of a blog post! We will continue this Invisible Woman topic tomorrow as we learn about God: El Roi, the God who sees. Such comfort for The Invisible Woman!
“Let’s do lunch today. I’ve got to tell you what so and so did…”
“Well that’s not what I heard…”
These statements here represent small examples of a gossip trap. There is also the delightful magazine headlines at the grocery checkout. Why do I love to read silly headlines about celebrities?! As damaging as gossip is, it still sells. It’s juicy and delicious and people want it. Says so in the bible…
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts –Proverbs 26:22
Our Elmwood ladies gathered on August 3rd to bring the topic of Gossip into the light of God’s word. Here’s a recap…
1) Gossip reveals a desire for Power and Influence
There is a certain amount of satisfaction that we get when we know something that few people know. How wonderful it feels to be included. To be important enough to know. It’s hard to keep that to ourselves. We want all our friends to know just how important we are. “Let me tell you how it all went down. Step right up and get the facts here… or at least what my friend told me.”
We like to be the informant of people’s life events, some of which are private. At the heart of this mess of gossip is a prideful arrogance and desperate need of importance. I confess to feeling the rush of being part of the gossip. Being “in the know” feels good. I have felt like one of the cool girls in an inner circle of social knowledge. I have also been consumed by these experiences too. If you were ever wondering where you can find drama’s address, it’s here on Gossip St. Who knows what, who said what exactly and how did it get twisted. Whose feelings are hurt and who is the jerk. At this age I can still feel left out if I wasn’t invited or told or included but many times I see that all I missed out on was a lot of drama and nonsense. This is real ladies and I pray that you and me can recognize this tendency in our relationships and commit to start finding our ego strength in the God who made us uniquely important for His own special purposes.
2) Gossip is Divisive
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. –Proverbs 16:28
I’ve witnessed families and friendships torn apart by someone spreading negative ideas and information about a person. Pitting siblings against one another. Driving wedges between spouses. Creating dissention in the ranks at the workplace and planting seeds of doubt. It comes to us naturally. We get mad and we want to vent. We want to draw others to us and away from the offender. Have you ever been offended by someone, had a misunderstanding of sorts? Then in a socially weak moment just rant on about what that person did, forever singeing this negative information in the minds of your hearers. Never mind that you got over it a week later. The gossip lives on. Like trying to put feathers back on a plucked chicken on a windy day, so you will never be able to fix the far reaches of damaging words. I like to think that most people are very smart and will say to themselves, “You know, that does sound pretty bad. But despite this unfortunate news, I’m not going to let it jade my opinions about the other.” But many are not. It is here that we would all be better off to just speak openly with the person we have an issue with, not talk to everybody else about them.
Answer this: Do you think a person would be more upset if you came to speak to them about the problem directly or if they found out that you spoke to everybody else about it?
So what can we do?
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. –Proverbs 11:13
When a friend comes to you with damaging news about someone. Take it as they are looking for advice on how to handle it. Or that they just need to take a load off. Then let it stop with you. Say that you will pray about this. Handle it vertically with God. Not horizontally by telling more people about it.
Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. –Proverbs 26:20
I have been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to my kids. Laura quotes her mothers wisdom…“Least said soonest mended”. A testament to Proverbs 26:20.
Even truthful words can be damaging so choose wisely where and when you use them. Here’s another great Caroline Ingalls quote.
So we watch what we say and to whom.
We encourage our kids to think the best of one another. We use our words to unite, not cause division. As women, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and aunts we have such an incredible influence. We are in such a prime situation to bring our families together. Yet many times we do the opposite. We don’t think the best about others, we assume the worst. Without addressing the issue directly we assume they meant to hurt. Women ALL OF US struggle with this issue so much. It is here in this dark underworld of gossip that we need to be women who shine the light of understanding. Who walk away from that juicy morsel knowing that it is laced with heartache.
Lets take Hebrews 10:24 to heart today…”And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
Lets love one another they way our Savior does. Let’s do our best to put others in the best light.
Assignment: When is the last time you gave a grown woman a compliment. A sincere complement. Do this. Tell her what you notice about her and how great it is. Watch her. She may look down bashfully. That’s only because it’s been a while since someone noticed her. She may brighten…and the whole room will brighten with her!
God bless you ladies! I will see you tomorrow night (Mon. the 24th) at Alicia’s house! Well talk about difficulties following our husband’s leadership.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. –Psalm 147:3
I’m a picker. It is not uncommon to see me hovered over any of my family members looking for a pimple to pop. Evolutionist could try to use me as evidence that we evolved from monkeys! My dear Fiona has inherited her mom’s grooming habits. She loves to pick off her rough, scaly scabs. And when she does they start bleeding all over again, exposing a wound that has not fully healed. I have warned her so many times…
“Fiona, if you don’t leave that alone it will never heal. The scab helps it heal and every time you pick it open you have to start that healing process over.”
Sometimes I am so struck by the things that come out of my mouth to my kids.
You see, I can get to picking at scabs too. Not the kind of road rash scabs from falling off a scooter but the kind of scabs from hurt feelings. A cut from some harsh words. Or the scrape of a cold shoulder. A bruise of betrayal.
It’s good to talk things out. We need to process painful events, get things off our chest. We forgive. And then we live.
But later on something reminds us and we look down and see the scab. We get to thinking about how it got there. Then we start talking about it, reliving a painful event that has left a mark on our heart and mind exposing a wound that had not fully healed and the blood beings to ooze out again.
Wait, I thought I had settled this issue! I thought I had already resolved this! Why am I reliving this all over again? That was so long ago…
Its time to apply some more balm, cover it and give it some more time. Soon the scab forms again and the wound can begin to heal back. My little girl is learning to leave her scabs alone and let her body do its thing. I remind her…
“Honey, the more you pick on that scab the worse the scar will be.”
…Next time a word about scars.
Allow these scriptures to encourage you
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” -Isaiah 43:18-19
“Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth…” -Isaiah 54:4
…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. -Philippians 3:13
think with me
Here is a new word I learned… recrudesce (re-kroo-des´) v. – to become raw again, worse, bloody.
So here’s to not rehashing past events. Here’s to not dragging people through “court” again after the matter has been settled. And here is to making new memories!
pray with me
Dear Lord, we are so thankful that you hear our cries when we are hurting. Please help us leave our “scabs” alone so that they can heal. Let the healing balm of forgiveness cover over anything that we scrape off. Help us to be understanding to other peoples wounds and always encourage them toward healing and not scaring. In Your Name we pray Lord Jesus – Amen.
And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in You. Psalm 39:7 (AMP)
Our kids have provided Jeff and I with some funny and memorable quotes. I try to write them down before my aging memory loses them forever. “finders givers” was one of those quotes. “You know when you find something and you say “finders keepers”. Well, its kind of like that. Except you don’t keep it – you give it away. Finders Givers!” they told me. For some reason I’m inspired use this expression as the title for this post about expectations. Maybe when you read to the end you’ll be able to make the connection also.
What kind of expectations do you have? Always for the best, the way things should be, were meant to be…everything fair and right.
Here’s a good quote. “An expectation is just an offence waiting to happen.”
Are you ever disappointed or offended when someone does not meet your expectations?
-Expecting my husband to be as expressive as I am. Should he not be giving with his thoughts and feelings, especially about me?
-I went to all this trouble and they didn’t even say thank you!
-I’m leaving this organization since I’m not getting the recognition and appreciation I deserve.
It’s easy to feel shortchanged and shafted at times like this. Why? We expected to get something and didn’t get what we wanted. The expectations I listed above reveal just how much I expect people to meet emotional needs. Sadly it’s also an example of giving…to get.
Here is an interesting thought. Sometimes people do meet our expectations. Sometimes they give us what we want…and we take it, gladly. Then since we have found a reliable “source”, we may go back to it and fill up again; like a thirsty person to a well. But then later on we may complain that the water isn’t as cold as it once was. Or maybe the water is dirty and we are not as happy with this “well” as we used to be. This reveals that we are not interested in the person at all, only in what we could get from them.
So large are the demands I put on the poor souls that surround me! My Jeff can attest to many a desperate cry from this little wife. Give to me! Give me assurance, give me affection, give me intimacy! (Do you hear the neediness…the desperation?)
There is a still, true voice from inside me that says, “Take some time, go pray. Only God can help you reconcile this. Your soul cries out for something that Jeff can’t give.
“But I want him to give it to me!”
In John 4:4-26, Jesus approached an old well and there he met a woman drawing water. In their conversation he tells her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”…
She replies, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He says, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
Reading on from here we learn that this woman was very thirsty and has been trying to quench her thirst from the wrong source. Men. I can only imagine what her soul cried out to those men, give me affection, give me security, give me direction, and for crying out loud give me a ring!
We mistakenly expect so much out of poor human beings and expect so little from all-powerful God. Unfortunately my attitude toward God can be that I’ll just take whatever comes from Him. This can sound very healthy and mature. It shows that I know He is really in control and that I am just content with what He gives me. The sad part about this attitude is that I have no need to get too excited about asking Him for anything nor do I cry out to him in desperation. He will just do what He will do. This is not the relationship that my heavenly Father wants to have with me. He wants me to ask, seek and knock. I am convinced that there is no sweeter sound to Jesus than a desperate cry to him for help. He wants active communication with us. Not just a passive relationship. He has so much He wants to give me and show me, if I’ll just seek him for it instead of my husband.
And when I find my thirsty heart quenched by God’s living water, then I can give to Jeff.
pray with me
Oh Father how needy we are for You today! Forgive me when I ignore you and look to my husband, family and friends to be what only You can be for me. We need Your help to make us full. Teach us to expect great things from You and let people be human so we can really give from an overflowing heart. Amen.
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5
They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. Psalm 22:5
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, Ephesians 3:20
think with me
This truth has allowed me to enjoy people more fully, and experience a truly genuine exchange and peace in my relationships.
Has God revealed to you any “wells” that don’t satisfy?
Is it a “well” that you need to walk away from?
Or does God simply want you to start coming to Him so that you can relate to this other person in a different way?