“My name was not in there. …see I am INVISIBLE!”
This is a modern day El Roi moment told by my old friend Julie. Go get your tissues. Here’s Julie…
The magazine I started was growing faster than I expected, and shortly before moving to Nebraska, I had our second child and I was attempting to hold it all together: stay at home mom and business owner. What I didn’t realize is that the business I owned gave me an identity that I loved and perhaps started to idolize.
I was beginning to get overwhelmed and I felt as if God was telling me, “Let the business go. Sell it.” I argued with this idea and worried I would loose my identity and passion. But I continued to feel this nudge as if He was saying to me, “Oh, I’ve got big plans for you, you have to trust me.”
Fast forward through a messy year of selling my business. As the dust began to settle I didn’t expect what would happened next. A major identity crisis, loneliness, and depression. I regretted giving up the business I was so very proud of. But I knew God was working something out in me, I just didn’t know what.
It was later that year that felt the nudge to pursue my love of writing and teaching. Maybe this was the “next thing” that God was hinting towards.
So what does a woman do when she wants to speak and write? Well, she attends a conference for speakers and writers right?
So I took the plunge and signed up for one of the biggest speaking and writing conferences in the country. Being in a room with 50 women makes me really nervous let alone 800 women and famous people.
Talk about feeling invisible.
“Oh holy crap! All these women want to be speakers and writers?”
“Seriously! God, what the heck? Why am I here?”
The anxiety started to set in as I had no clue how the world would hear my message when there are like millions of women who also have a message.
And oh the self-talk: “You are not supposed to be here…Nobody knows who you are… Why would they listen to you… You can’t stand out here. YOU ARE INVISIBLE!”
I wanted to go home.
But I stuck around. I wanted to learn some things. And I had gotten two appointments with some prominent publishers. And I actually had a book idea.
The nerves were killing me as I walked up to my first appointment. A stern woman scolded me for showing up early and told me I’d have to come back in 15 minutes.
There was only one place I could go while I waited in misery. This prayer room that I heard the speakers talking about… “Now go check out our prayer room. We’ve placed all your names in there on the different names of God and it will be fun to see where your’s ended up.” (said with a deep southern accent)
So I went to the prayer room. There was incense burning and a prayer monitor woman sitting in the corner and the lighting was dim. I just went straight over to the names. This would keep me busy, searching for my name among hundreds of names.
So I searched… and I searched. I saw names I recognized of the people speaking and teaching and even the publisher’s names.
“Wow, they thought of everyone.”
One problem. My name wasn’t in there. I looked again across the three long tables with hundreds of names and the many names of God. I moved confetti and candles and incense around.
My name was not in there.
“You see I am INVISIBLE!” I shouted and quickly got out of the Prayer Room Prison and proceeded to my publishers meeting… which I bombed. She kindly thanked me for my book idea and told me that she liked it, however it needed some more thought. “Come back to me in a year when you’ve started a blog on the subject and have your ideas a little more planned out.” I thanked her and left.
I just bombed a publishers meeting. This was one of my biggest fears. I just needed her to see me as an author, as someone capable of writing a book, and I sabotaged it with my nerves. I couldn’t get out what I really wanted to.
And then it hit me. “I just bombed a publishers meeting!!!”
Hold the phone, I just lived through one of my biggest fears. I braved some ultimate failure! Something started to shift in me.
I had one more publishers meeting coming up and I was not going to let myself feel like a victim. So what if I was invisible? So what if nobody here knows me or knows what I am capable of! I don’t really want to care about their opinions. I’m not doing this for them. I’m doing this for God.
But because I’m still a ball of nerves at this point I had to go somewhere and hide. So I went back to the Prayer Prison where all those names are locked up (except mine which is a free spirit that cannot be contained on a table with other names)… this time with a different perspective. Since my name wasn’t in here, I would instead pray for all these other names listed here. I would end this pity party and start caring about others more. I put my hands over all these names and prayed the name of God for them that they were listed under. When I got half way through the names, a wave of relief came over me and I felt like God was saying “Why did you take your eyes off of me? I never thought you were invisible! I told you I have a plan for you, and it’s good, trust me!”
It was in that moment, I suddenly didn’t care if a publisher liked my book idea or if they liked me. It didn’t matter because I was on God’s plan and His timing. If it’s time for a publisher to notice me, He’ll make it happen. And He can make that happen with or without this conference.
I continued to pray for all those names until I got to the last sheet of paper.
And there it was –my name! After all of this, there it was. And do you know what name of God it was under?
Which is the God who SEES you!
Are you kidding me!? The chills went through me and I started to weep. It was all I needed. I just needed to know that I was not invisible. I just needed to know that God sees me among hundreds of talented and loud women and He says “I see you child! Stop doubting”
It was a remarkable feeling. It was a greater feeling, than a publisher noticing me.
I try to remember that feeling on days like today when I’m sitting at home feeling invisible.
I feel invisible a lot. But I know I shouldn’t. I know my husband loves me. And my kids think I’m pretty cool. I know I have some friends. I think the dog really appreciates me. But I can’t help this feeling of invisible from seeping into this ordinary mundane life I seem to live.
We were created with a desire to be noticed. In fact if we look into many of our deepest desires we would find that it points to the way we were created. The world tries to fulfill this desire in our hearts but will always ultimately fail. It’s a deep pit that only God can manage to fill.
I hope I can have a chance to me you, the reader of this post, someday and encourage you and tell you all the ways God has made you special and how un-invisible you are! Take care, friend!
Julie and her husband Josh have been on many adventures in ministry. They have three kids. Julie is a gifted bible teacher, writer, speaker and entrepreneur.
Connect with Julie on her website Eyes Wide. Heart Deep at julieluse.com
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!
I almost went to bed without posting about our Thursday Devotional –There Is Still A Place For You. So glad I stayed up! This one’s my favorite…
Let’s call our John 21 scene, Peter’s Restoration.
John 21 opens after Risen Jesus had sent his disciples to Galilee to wait for Him there. I wonder if Peter got impatient waiting for Jesus to show up. Maybe he thought, “I walked out on Jesus. I deserve to be a fisher of fish, not a fisher of men” So he took his friends and went fishing. The men are tired, hungry and defeated after an unsuccessful night of fishing. And this is when Jesus reveals himself to the men. I wonder what Jesus saw in Peter as he stared at the men from the shore. Well from what I read it seems Jesus was thinking, “I need this guy. But he feels unworthy of this calling.” In the gray early dawn the fishermen see a man on the shore who told them to try again on the other side of the net. You can just hear Peter muttering under his breath, “Hey buddy, ya don’t think we tried that!?” Which is fine but that’s no ordinary man on the shore. So he let down the net anyway and …“When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:7) Immediately they knew it was Jesus. Peter jumps out of the boat to swim to shore. He cares nothing of the catch. This all seems so familiar and now Peter knows that Jesus hasn’t abandoned him.
This whole scene is very reminiscent of Luke 5:1-11, when Jesus first called Peter to be his disciple. We’ll call this scene Peter’s Calling and read that here below.
Then we will compare Peter’s Calling with Peter’s Restoration. Never underestimate God’s ability to set a scene. He is clearly showing off in this circumstance!
Luke 5:1-11 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret (sea of Galilee), the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
In both instances Jesus requests that the men throw their nets for a catch against their professional judgment.
In both instances there is a miraculous catch! Though I’m not sure what to make of the issue of nets breaking in Peter’s calling in Luke 5 and the opposite as noted in John 21:11 with no torn nets even with such a heavy catch. Perhaps the nets reflect 1)the brokenness (“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”) that we see in Peter’s calling and 2)Peter being “held together” by Jesus as he is restored. Hmmm. A girl can wonder.
Back to John 21:15. Take note that Jesus calls Peter by his pre-disciple name, Simon son of John. Not Peter, the Rock. Peter would have noticed this. Maybe the nets didn’t break but Peter’s heart was going to as Jesus initiates a necessary conversation with him…
“…by the third time Jesus asks whether he loves him, Peter is hurt, that is, deeply grieved (elypethe). Jesus’ asking three times recalls the three denials, and Peter’s pride is cut to the quick. Here we see the Great Physician performing painful but necessary surgery. The light is shining in the darkness of Peter’s heart, bringing life, the repentance that enables one to experience the Lord’s love and salvation. Without such brokenness we are full of self and unable to hear and receive the guidance of the Chief Shepherd.” Quoted from commentary resources on Bible Gate.com. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from http://www.biblegateway.come/ resources/ivp-nt/Jesus-Forms-Peter-as-Leader-as-Disciple.
The mission is clear in both scenes. Jesus wants Peter to leave fishing behind and be a part of the ministry. There are so many similarities with Peter’s call and Peter’s restoration. Jesus really is taking Peter back to the beginning!
If only we could see what the Lord was doing when our lives take us to what seems to be familiar old ground. To a place we’ve been to before and thought we had mastered and moved on from. What is that old familiar ground for you? I guess mine would be “getting over myself” so that I can truly follow Jesus. I think that’s why I enjoy reading about Peter so much. Jesus needed Peter to not allow his past mistake keep him from the work that Jesus had for Him.
Ok I couldn’t resist. While writing this post I had these words rattling around in my head. Can you guess where they are from?… “I am waiting for you, Vizzini! You told me to go back to the beginning… so I have. This is where I am, and this is where I will stay. I will not be moved!…When the job went wrong you went back to the beginning. Well, this is where we got the job, so this is the beginning. And I am staying till Vizzini comes.”
Please click this link to watch 2 minutes of Inigo Montoya “going back to the beginning” You know, from the movie The Princess Bride. Ladies the sooner you learn this the better… I am fluent in movie quotes. (I’m hoping you can forgive me for lumping Inigo and Peter in the same blog post!)
I’ll post later today about our Friday devotional. Feel free to chime in on whatever God is showing you!
Especially for all my Elmwood friends!
I do not take it lightly that you have taken me into your fold! Hope to spend many more evenings being real with you. Did you ladies go home feeling as full as I did last night? Not from Alicia’s delicious Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting but full in your heart? Did you walk in your house feeling like you had something to give your family? I did and it was awesome. Just knowing that you guys are reading the same scriptures as me pushes me closer to Him. You encourage me! I need this kind of accountability.
So…today was the Lost Sheep of Luke 15:1-7. Did you love reading Jesus’ words?
Do you have some thoughts you want to share?
Right now I want to zero in on verse 7. I’ll write it here in the, uh hem, New Living Translation… (if you checked your email you’ll know why that’s funny.)
Luke 15:7 NLT – In the same way there is more joy in heaven over on lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
Jesus always preferred the company of “sinners”; people who weren’t trying to impress Him. I think that is still true for us today. I always feel a more intimate connection with Jesus when I recognize that I don’t have to impress Him. I think He can tell when I’m “church’n’ things up”. You know, showing off my good side and not acknowledging the dirty parts of my life that He wants to tend to. It’s hard to be vulnerable and real. But if there was ever a safe place to be vulnerable and honest, it is at the feet of Jesus. Remember how I wanted to pull away from Jesus…recoil from Him. I think we do that because we aren’t sure if we can trust Him. We don’t think He will like what He sees and that maybe He’s just gonna shame us. Re-read Luke 15:5-7 and tell me if you think that Jesus would shame you.
For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. –John 3:17
It is because of Jesus, our Savior that we can stand before God, The Judge. We need cling to Him!
I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalm 119:176 NLT
Here are some fun facts about sheep to ponder… remember now, we are the sheep! Have fun, bless you all! Email or share your thoughts in the comment section.
Sheep are actually quite relationally intelligent. In studies, sheep can visually recognize up to fifty individual sheep by photo. They also have strong emotions and frail hearts: sheep feel pain over the pain of other sheep in their flock. In fact, when one of its sheep-friends is in distress, a sheep can literally kill itself with worry because it can’t do anything to help. All it can do is to cry out for its Shepherd to come rescue its friend.
Sheep are Defenseless, Directionless, and in all ways Dependent.
No other animal is so dependent on someone else to take care of it. Its wool, for instance, has to be sheared regularly, or it becomes matted and overgrown, and debris accumulates in it. As a result, the sheep can become overheated and top-heavy; and when a sheep gets top-heavy, it easily lose its balance and falls over—a position from which it is unable to escape on its own. Once a sheep is on its back, it is stuck there until someone finds and rights it, until it starves to death, or until a predator puts it out of its misery.
All sorts of things can cause suffering for a sheep. Flies will gather on its face and can drive the sheep insane. In an effort to relieve itself of the constant annoyance, a sheep will hit its head against tree stumps or fence posts, sometimes causing its own death. To prevent this, the shepherd will smooth oil around the sheep’s eyes, nose, mouth and ears to repel the tiny Death Files.
Parasites will burrow into the folds of skin beneath the sheep’s wool, lay eggs and cause infection. The shepherd must investigate every inch of his sheep’s’ bodies, and will pay that same tender, meticulous attention to each one.
Sheep are also prone to overeating, over-drinking, and slothfulness. The shepherd carefully weeds dangerous plants from the pastures to which he leads them, and often wakes them early in the morning when dew is on the grass so that they can hydrate and eat all at once. He takes individual walks with those he notices have been inactive.
In their dependence, sheep are also directionless. [1 Peter 2:25] They seek a leader to follow, even if it’s just another directionless sheep. (In Turkey in 2005, 1,500 sheep followed one wayward sheep off the edge of a cliff while their shepherds were having a lunch break!) Sheep also get overwhelmed and paralyzed when given too many options to choose from while traveling to new pastures, or when the path seems scary. The shepherd knows to show them clearly which opening to go through and which steps to take.
Sheep are dependent on a shepherd for defense as well [John 10:12]. They have neither defensive nor offensive weapons; they don’t even have front teeth. Sheep are prone to heart attacks if terrified, and can become too scared even to bleat. Should the sound of a predator be heard, the eyes of all the sheep will flash to their shepherd. [Exodus 14:13-14] They know they are helpless without him.
Quoted from This Is Church. Gospel Stories & Ideas. College Style. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from http://www.thisischurch.net/bible-reflection/sheepology-101/
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 🙂
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
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)
“Don’t you quit now, Bri! Finish it! Just finish it!”
This is me talking to myself while running on the MoPac trail this morning. You see I have this problem sometimes. I get kinda lazy. I see the finish so I think I’m done (even though I’m not there yet). So I stop and walk the last 15 yards to my finish. I love running! Not competitively though. I do it for fun. It’s relaxing for me. The moment you tell me I need to beat a time or a person I promise I will lose all benefit from the exercise.
In 2010 I was diagnosed with depression. Really scary time. Of course I was able to find a good course of treatment; medication and some time with a counselor. Everything I read told how good exercise was for my mind. I learned about endorphins and all the great benefits of regular exercise. Tragically, this added information took all the fun out of my running. It was no longer for fun but for “have to”. All the magic of being outside, the sounds, the smells, the peaceful rhythmic breathing, the zone… it was gone. Disappeared into doctor’s orders. I thought, “Oh I guess its nothing special after all…just endorphins.”
I can be stubborn that way. It has to be my idea and my reasons. I don’t like to do something just because someone told me to. I know, really mature. My eyes are rolling with you I promise. My dear mother who raised this stubborn child knows exactly what I’m talking about. I think my husband might nod his head here too.
Sadly the divine was taken from another life-giving part of my life. Prayer. I absolutely loved praying. I believed in what I was praying about. I believed that God heard me. I believed that He would answer my pleas for people.
And I need to be anchored. But then counselors and journal articles all told about the benefits of meditation and prayer. These experts told how good it was to sit quietly and clear your head. All good things. But with my depression/anxiety it is hard to sit alone, quietly and feel like it’s doing any good for me. And there was no talk of the divine spiritual perspective of prayer. It became a time out and it became all about me. Already, my depression had me squarely focused on me and the last thing I needed was more me time.
It’s been five years since I’ve come out of the dungeon. And I’ve got to tell you, I am taking back my running and I am taking back my prayer. I’m so glad that exercise helps my mind, but I want the mystery. So I run like a child -before the battle scars of depression and before it was all about me. I enjoy the sounds, smells, the rhythm and the zone once again. I don’t think much about what I’m getting out of it. I try to not think much at all. I just enjoy it. And when I want to burst with joy and praise my God on the running trail, I will! And just be thankful and enjoy Him. Even when other runners on the trail are thinking “I’d like to have those kind of endorphins”… I’ll still believe.
Think with me – but not over-think it 😉
Like me, was something stolen from you at the hand of depression?
What would you like to take back?
How did “over-thinking” it take your enjoyment out of it?
The counselor I saw years ago was not a believer. As I began to come out of my depression by telling her of the hope that Jesus gave me, she dismissed me – awkwardly. Thank goodness the Lord had given me the confidence in that moment to realize that I was not a lunatic for my faith. The gospel is foolishness to those who don’t believe. But I wonder if some of you came out of depression believing that your faith was just a crutch and not the very solid ground that your life stands on?
Lets cry out to God and claim it once more!
Dear Almighty God, We believe that you care deeply for us and long for us to be close to you. Help us Lord to cling to that. Let us not grieve the lost years and the lost fruit and instead look forward to what you have for us now. Lord we want to lavish in Your mystery and acknowledge Your power in our lives once more. We come back to you Lord, like little children sitting at your feet. All this in the sweet name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure… –Hebrews 6:19
Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. –Mark 10:14-16 (NLT)
I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
I have been pleasantly packing up my little home. Boxes filled and sealed. Destined to be opened in a new strange place. A place that will soon be our home as we begin to fill it with our presence – for that is what home is.
The afternoon of March 29th Jeff and I set eyes on this old house for the first time. Like some eternal nurturer always looking for a broken or wounded soul to heal, so Jeff and I tend to be that way with old broken down and tossed aside things on the brink of death. Whether it is an old rusty bucket like the one I just resuscitated last week or a piece of furniture by the curb on trash day. We see not the trash heap it is, but what it once was. What it can still be. We have a vision of “new life” for things others would put in a grave. So it is with this old school house.
We came early that day to snoop around before our realtor arrived to unlock the house. We enjoyed guessing the purpose of each out-building and deciding right there how we would use it. We knelt down and prayed in the driveway. Asking the Lord to make a way for us to be the new care takers of this lonely place. Our realtor arrives. She struggles with the lock. The door opens and we look, we see, we imagine…we plan.
With Jeff armed with all the capabilities of a construction crew and me (as I’m told) the patience of a saint – we know we could take on this patient. Though dirty, violated in some areas and slightly ill equipped to shelter our family, we knew we could provide the care that was necessary to bring her back to life.
I snooped through every door. Like a curious kid wondering where it would lead. One door took me into the bathroom. As my head ducked under old dusty spider webs I turned to look in the mirror. There I found a treasure. On a yellow post-it note was a bible verse written with a woman’s hand, stuck to the mirror and left behind.
I snatched it down. Who was this woman? Our realtor spoke of rumors of divorse. I knew we were looking at a property in a foreclosed status. These walls could tell of hard times for sure. Like scanning a crime scene and trying to put the pieces together I looked for evidence that told their story. A teenage girl once roomed here. They had a moving sale. Unwanted items were simply left for the next occupants. I wondered how they were all getting along now. Had their wounds healed? I will never know.
But I do know this – that nothing is too hard for the Lord! The Lord explained to Jeremiah in Jeremiah chapter 32 that He was about to hand the city over to the Babylonians – to destroy it and burn the houses down. His people had ignored Him and turned away from the One True God. They were in trouble and their lives were falling apart. The Lord allowed the Babylonians to come in and destroy it. He intended to show them just what life would be like for them, without Him. And it was a nightmare. But our Good God would not allow that to be the end.
In Jeremiah 32:37-39 the Lord says that He would also restore it and bring it back to life. “…I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them … I will bring them back to this place and let them live safely. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them…”
I have also turned from God and His tender care. Each time, He never withheld the sure consequences of living in such disregard to His goodness and mercy. When my life would cease to worship Him he showed me exactly where that would lead – an exile of sorts. But He always welcomed me back when my heart returned to Him. He would not shame me nor allow me to live in the disgrace I deserved.
This is the God that Jeff and I worship. He loves to make things new – to breath new life into something on the brink of death. The Lord has done that in our marriage when it was destined for the trash heap. A bond so broken by sin and selfishness that only the Lord could bring us back with a singleness of heart and action…for our good and the good of our children. Nothing is too hard for the Lord!
This is so much more than fixing up a house. Anyone can come in and do what Jeff and I are doing- the painting, cleaning and repairs. It would be all for nothing if we didn’t love the Lord. Because He is the one that breathes the breath of life into our souls. It is His presence that makes this broken house a home!
pray with me
Oh Lord, you are so good to us. Thank you for stretching out your arm to us. Restore our hearts. Make them new. Breath life into our homes. Give us the singleness of heart and action that we long for. For our good and the good of our children. -Amen.
think with me
When have you found something or someone that you thought was beyond repair? Sometimes you see someone so ravaged by selfishness that you think there is no hope for them. Do you find it hard to have compassion and mercy for those in need of the Lord?
Take some time and think about what God has made new in your life. What has he rescued you from?
It’s one thing to put some screws into an old shaky chair. It’s an entirely different thing all together when you find a broken person. Only God can see into their broken places and apply the healing touch of a creator.
Come to the “Brave” Ladies Retreat April 25-27
I’ll be teaching a workshop called Stop Shoulding On Yourself.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. –John 8:36
We all watched the movie Frozen at home together. The kids had seen it with Grandma and Grandpa already and did what their mom has taught them best—quoted movie lines!
The kids favorite character?…Olaf the snowman. “I don’t have a skull. Or bones.” “Watch out for my butt!”
Mom’s favorite character?…Elsa of course! “I don’t care what they’re going say!…Here I stand in the light of day!…”
This has resulted in many a dinner table rendition of the song Let It Go. As well as the various theatrical living room versions put on by the kids and I. So much fun! (and so annoying to Jeff)
Seriously, that scene where Elsa throws ice and builds her frozen fortress while singing her heart out is so moving (never mind the eternal winter mishap). Finally she didn’t have hold back any more and could just be herself. No more “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show”. Didn’t you just love how happy and free this beautiful character was!
What was holding her back? Why couldn’t she be free? She had always carried this load of guilt around for injuring her sister as a child. It kept her locked in her castle and left her sister alone. Guilt will do that to a person. It is like locking yourself in a cage. The shame that we feel will cause us to hold back and not feel the freedom of just being comfortable in our own skin. So what takes away the guilt? What makes us free? Well if I had it my way, I would have marched into that animated movie and introduced Elsa to Jesus!
You messed up bad. You feel really bad but the damage is done. You take your place on the bench and watch the game from the sidelines. Then Jesus comes in. He’s not afraid to be seen talking to you. He’s confused as to why you are not playing.
“Jesus, you don’t understand what I did. Now I can’t play my part. “
Jesus smiles and says, “Well I own this team and I say you are forgiven. Now get out there and play the position I made you to play.”
“But what about the other players? What will they think?”
“Does it matter? I have the ultimate authority here and I say you are forgiven!”
Let these scriptures encourage your heart today.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery. –Galatians 5:1
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. –Proverbs 29:25
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. –Psalm 30:11-12
If you are weighed down by guilt don’t go another day without making it right. You must come out into the light. And when you do Jesus will cover you with His forgiveness and clothe you in His righteousness. No more shame. Just you… set free!
Come to the “Brave” Ladies Retreat April 25-27
I’ll be teaching a workshop called Stop Shoulding On Yourself.
Click here Brave Poster to view the details.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away…
…Then I acknowleged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord”—
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:3-5