Wednesday, August 19, 2009
This has been an amazing journey, one I know I'm not done with quite yet. I know I still have more to go, more to apply. But it's not just because a book says so, God has been confirming everything I'm reading and preparing my heart for everything I was about to read. It definitely lifted me up from where I was at my first post.
Still in progress, but hey! There's progress! I'm not stagnant!
This last chapter was what I call a "Dream Giver" call to follow the adventure God has pressed into your heart. God has an adventure for all of us, but it's always by invitation. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to accept the call that God had for her. Whatever our irreplaceable role in the adventure God wrote for us is, it requires all of our heart and our desires.
From here it's a lot of searching... to get to know my heart, and God's in the process. This is where I need to leave the wounds of failure or "not being good enough" behind and see what is the passion that God put inside me. Our adventure, our MINISTRY, is "the place where the world's biggest needs and your biggest dream meet".
I guess my challenge is that I've always been so diverse - having a little interest in a bit of everything but never really allowing myself to be passionate about ONE thing enough to develop skill at it. Maybe that's exactly where I'm at right now.
At church, I volunteer at singing and sometimes selecting the music for worship... and that's it. Our church right now has no youth ministry, and has a total of 5-7 kids altogether for service. 2 of those are mine. There's not a whole lot for me to do - and yet there's a lot of things I want to see done. I want to go back to doing youth ministry and there is not a teenager in sight. I've determined to help with the children's ministry and be prepared in case any other child, older than 7, shows up. I guess my passion right now is to see our church grow - maybe a call to evangelize... I don't know. I don't feel led into specifics right now, and maybe it's because NOW is not God's timing yet.
I'm getting ready to have baby number 3 and I am JUST now embracing my role as mom. I am just NOW - since reading this book - not restless for "anything else to do but this". I want to nurture Anakin and home school him myself. I want to do the same for Brielle. I haven't quite gotten involved with them - I think a lot of it is the distraction right now that Paul doesn't come home. I can't leave things for him to help me with. I'm running the house, taking out trash, cleaning, checking mail, doing groceries... all on my own. The kids are my tag-alongs.
And yet I'm growing closer to Anakin and Brielle. I feel there's been a lot of progress in my patience level, in our conversations and our "play time". And this is the first and foremost ministry God has settled me (maybe even BLOCKED me in) since we moved to Alaska. The call to be 24/7 exclusively involved in every aspect of your child's development has always been terrifying for me (is there an expert? A teacher? therapist? Anyone else that can take over some of this?!) and I've always held stay-at-home moms in the highest regard. It's intimidating and overwhelming, and at the same time extremely rewarding. We as stay at home moms die "a thousand tiny deaths" for this sacrifice, and this is where God meets us the most. I've had the time of day to pray, to journal, write blogs... things I couldn't do when I was being "efficient". I've been able to give God more of myself each day, and He's been more present than before.
So as I embrace the adventure God has placed me in now, I'm learning to love Him more, love my kids and my husband more, and more importantly: I'm learning to love myself more. To not see myself as a failure because of all I DIDN'T accomplish as a result of being a mom. I'm being healed of those wounds that have haunted me these past 3 years, "too much" of this and "not enough" of that and I'm finally comfortable in my own skin. My heart is repenting over things the Holy Spirit sends conviction over - not a false sense of shame because of something someone else said. And I know that it's here and only here, with the Lord, that He can show me what adventure He desperately needs me to participate in, what irreplaceable role I have to play in the story of God's Kingdom.
After all, every wound I have received is only solid proof that I have an Enemy who fears me because he knows what I'm worth and what I can do to his efforts. But I am in the hands of a Kingsman-Redeemer who is passionate about me and finds me captivating. And He has assured me (He tells YOU the same as well!) that His Kingdom would not be the same without me.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
However, I loved "A Warrior Princess". I love it when Christian authors emphasize spiritual warfare, something a lot of churches don't anymore. And basically, I have always believed (and have been freshly reminded) that sometimes we put up with things in our lives because we accept them, and we won't pray against them.
It's good to emphasize here that just as women are beautiful in the image of God, men are warriors in the image of God. Men were designed for fight - they have stronger pectoral and abdominal muscles to protect their insides, the bulk of their strength is at their arms and their shoulders... where as women, our stronger muscles are our thighs (for flight instead of fight), and our abs will never be as hard as men's because ours were created to enlarge with child-bearing. And when a good man uses his strength to fight for the things that God wants won over, it brings glory to God.
But there is still something warrior like, even fierce in all of us. We can look through history, at our families, and even back in our lives and know that we have the strength to fight if need be. We've also, solely as women, fought some battles of our own. And in some battles, we were designed to join with men and fight alongside each other. After all, we look at movies like X-Men, The Lord of the Rings, or Mona Lisa Smile, and something inside us chicks knows intuitively that we can kick butt if the occasion arises. Just have any one mess with our friends, our spouses, or our kids... and the Lion of Judah comes right out of us!
And now we think - what could we possibly need to fight for? Well God has a battle that is uniquely for WOMEN, because only as WOMEN would this battle be won - and He desires us to engage in this war as soon as possible: The battle to recover hearts that are lost without Him.
Men can protest and vote against abortion (and they should fight in favor of women even though it seems to be an exclusive "woman" issue), but it takes a woman full of the glory of God to reach out to a soul who has had an abortion or is considering one and nurture her, love her back into God's kingdom.
Men fight against the principalities, the powers, and the authorities - women fight spiritual warfare to recover the hearts, because it's only in the feminine that the qualities to open doors for healing and restoration are found. We desperately need to pray and fast and seek God for all the people who have been so hurt they don't believe in God. We desperately need to find out ministry and our place to put our prayers to action. We as women need to intervene in the lives of those God has placed around us, and out of our compassionate hearts, really fight for them spiritually. After all, we are relational beings... Men see the logic, we see the emotions. We are given tools to pray for the hearts (the living, bleeding souls) behind the problems unlike most men are!
What does spiritual warfare mean? It means putting on the armor of God and moving away from "bed time prayer" to what I call "banging on the gates of heaven in Jesus Name and pleading upon the Lord to make things right". Let's look at the scripture where this armor of God is found:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. - Ephesians 6:10-13
This is where it starts, letting us know that we (all believers) need His armor to stand against the devil's schemes - the Enemy of our souls, with a special hatred for us. It reminds us that to fight may not necessarily involve physical violence as much as it involves taking a stand against Satan and his demons in all they are trying to accomplish. They are holding unbelievers captive... And they still have a lot of strongholds and chains camped up inside many Christian's hearts! Why? Because WHEN the day of evil comes (not if, but when) we can stand our ground - for our children, our marriage, and whatever other battle God places our way to make us stronger - and still be standing at the end!
How many marital arguments have started through simple miscommunication? Through reading each others signals different from what they were intended? Who else would be more desiring to sabotage our marriage than Satan himself? Who comes to steal, kill, and destroy?
Who else is better suited to stand in the gap for their husbands when they get laid off, but us? We know, here on earth, our husbands' hearts better than anyone. We know the wound in their hearts that Satan custom-fitted just for them. We know the feelings and the lies that bombard them when they can't provide for their families the way they should. This is where we, as women, step in and fight to recover their hearts - that they may continue to hope, and trust in God for what's He will provide next.
How many medical and educational diagnosis have been placed upon our children, in such a way that instead of bringing a solution to their struggle only handicaps them further? And yet so many moms take it and accept it and live with it... To the greater harm of their child. Might I add here that I know one Mom who has 2 special needs kids with a specific diagnosis. Understanding their condition doesn't mean she's not fighting for them - quite opposite, actually. She pursues, year to year, all the therapy they would need to be fully functional children and hopefully adults. And she doesn't stop praying. And she doesn't stop seeking ways to overcome obstacles so that her kids experience as full of a life as possible. But for every one Mom like her I know of 5 that resigned to the fact that their kids "will never be smart enough", resigned to possibly unnecessary medication, and to letting their kids fall further and further behind. The battle for our kids is one our hands have been trained to fight - we come armed with the God-given instinct. And this is one where the Enemy likes to hit us most where it hurts; with our ability to bear children and mother them, because it seems it's what we were created for!
Sometimes we just need to recognize the Enemy for what he's trying to accomplish (take your stand against the devil's schemes) and say, "No. In Jesus' Name, No!" The verse above never guarantees that it's a one-battle war, quick and easy. But He does promise that if we are wearing the armor, no matter how long the battle wages, we'll still be standing in the end!
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. - Ephesians 6:14-18
- Belt of truth: Live in the truth, proclaim the truth in God's Word. Learn to recognize when a thought or a feeling in you is a lie from the devil and combat it with God's Word! Quote scripture into the air when you or a loved one is struggling with depression, illness, or any other attack.
- Breastplate of Righteousness: Seek to do the right thing, the God-honoring thing, in all circumstances. This is where we leave manipulation, control, and deception behind... tools that wounded women are excellent in using. But we are made whole in Christ. We may think its easier to manipulate in order to change the circumstance - but that leaves us open to fatal blows right to the heart.
- Feet fitted with the Gospel of peace: Be ready to share the gospel, share Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace even in this on-going battle for the souls of this world. Make no mistake, right now there is a raging battle and an all-out invasion of His Kingdom... and we need to take it back! But the truth of what Jesus did on the cross, and the power of His blood, brings healing to all hearts and undoes everything the Enemy has tried to accomplish.
- Shield of Faith: when we choose to believe what God says, absolute over what anyone else in this world may say, we extinguish the attacks that Satan will always try to dump on our minds.
- Helmet of Salvation: Be saved! Take authority by what Jesus did on the cross for you! See your life now, and the lives of your loved ones, through the lens of Salvation that God has worked out for us. That's why we pray in Jesus' Name. There is power in His blood shed for us.
- Sword of the Spirit: the Word of God. We can't come back to the lies of the Enemy with God's promises if we don't know them or don't believe them. We can't even engage in a battle if we don't know the heart of God and the things that are breaking His!
- Be alert, and pray: Our greatest, most immediate weapon against the Enemy. Pray for everything, and anything, and over everything. Pray without ceasing. This war, and the attacks that are happening for your soul right now, make it too risky for us as believers to "be asleep". Is there a struggle in a particular church ministry? Pray. Is something you are trying to accomplish not coming out quite right? Pray. Is there a friendship that seems to have been estranged, maybe falling further away? Pray. Are your kids being more difficult than usual? Pray. The problem and the defeat for many believers is that we accept all these things as normal before we take them to God and ask for His heart in the matter. The Lord will tell you when to let somethings go as "normal" or "natural", and when it's an attack from the Evil One. But we will never know unless we pray.
Another warfare issue that transpired between yesterday and today was that Paul and I have been expecting, for about 2 weeks, a couple of deposits to our bank account. One was a reimbursement that Paul was waiting on to pay off his government travel card. Another was some money that he had mailed to our bank branch to be deposited. By last night, neither had gone through. Now up until then we kept trusting that God would take care of it. We were worried, but we weren't exactly praying and fighting for it. Until last night. I couldn't sleep over it and I decided to ask God to provide - to move the hands of those that needed moving so that these things will fall into place and fall into place NOW. I also prayed that there would be no dishonesty, no glitches in the process but everything would happen as is supposed to. And today everything is there the way it's supposed to be... which leads me to think - shouldn't we have prayed earlier? We thought the wait was normal. We assumed the process was normal. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't have covered it in prayer, have asked God to make sure it moves in a timely manner. Our finances is one of our biggest faith struggles in our marriage because we had been held bondage to lies and discouragement for so long. We became used to trials, glitches, money taken from us when we shouldn't have had to pay... falling short... It wasn't until recently when we decided to say, "No more" and fight this battle knowing God is on our side. And the Lord isn't removing every financial obstacle, but rather "training our hands for battle" and teaching us to wear the armor of God even in this "non-violent" area of our lives! It matters to God that I fight this battle too (and not just Paul) because God is concerned for MY heart, MY wounds, and MY faith!
Our hearts (individually and personally) as women is the first thing we need to fight for. It's the first thing we need to recover from the Enemy's camp. The men of our lives should help. But the battle for OUR hearts will never be won unless WE engage in battle for ourselves! The Armor of God is not just for our spouses or our pastors bur for US - and for everyone who comes to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We need to partner with the Lord and fight for our souls by handing it over to Jesus without taking our souls back. We need to partner with the Lord and fight for our bodies, too keep us healthy and strong... because we are not effective for His Kingdom if we are sick, or have hormonal imbalances! And we need to partner with the Lord and fight for our hearts, to make sure we know that we belong to the Kingdom of God, to keep ourselves protected with the truth of His Word and no longer accept any wound the Enemy may try to inflict on us. Our hearts are worth fighting for, and they are worth the effort from us!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
A Beauty to Unveil
Having taken our wounds to God for healing... knowing and focusing on having God answer the question of our hearts as women, "Am I lovely?", now we need to answer the question: What is our beauty to unveil?
Men's question is "Do I have what it takes?" Women's question is "Am I lovely?". It is fatal, devastating when men and women turn to each other to answer these questions, because the answers we get can be hurtful and false. We are human, and even between spouses we can disappoint each other. I can make Paul feel that he is a failure even though God says he's not. So it is crucial that we each take our question to God, and trust only His word for our answer.
And God answers "Yes!"
So now what is it that makes us beautiful? What does it mean for a woman to be beautiful in the image of the God who created her? And the best answer is: what does God's beauty accomplish in us?
God's beauty inspires us. It invites us - it calls us to sit in His presence, to worship Him. It brings us peace; we relax, we begin to believe again that "all will be well". We have hope.
So in essence, that's what true beauty in a woman does. Obviously it has nothing to do with make up and hair because these are just the outward things that a woman does to create beauty in the world. But a woman who is obsessive about her weight through eating disorders, who is compulsive about make up.... doesn't make everyone else at peace. She doesn't invite us. So she is not displaying the Lord's beauty in her.
Our beauty needs to come from a heart at rest. When in our hearts we are comfortable with who we are, and we are trusting in who He is, that peace in our hearts invites others to a relationship with us - where we can introduce them to Jesus! When we stop being demanding or desolate, we can have the personality that is comforting, nurturing, encouraging.... feminine! When we become feminine we bear the fruit of our Creator, we show His incarnate beauty in us!
Having said all this, as we all unveil our beauty - it wakes up Adam. Men have sinned through passivity or through aggression. Dominant women create passive men. Desolate women promote aggressive men (when what we really need is ASSERTIVE men!). But being who we are supposed to be in Christ creates a balance in the world and it stirs men to be who God created them to be.
Some single christian women have been taught that she is supposed to do NOTHING to get the attention of the man she may be interested in. And yet Ruth crawled under Boaz blanket while he was passed out drunk to create a deeper interest in him. There is nothing holy or culturally appropriate in Hebrew times about a woman sneaking in to a barn where a man is asleep and laying down next to him. That's why she left before sunrise, before anyone saw her! But there was nothing sexual about this either - they didn't have any kind of premarital sexual experience. What she did accomplish (with the advice of her God-fearing mother-in-law) is to inspire Boaz to be more than just a nice guy - to take up his role as the man in her family, her kingsman-redeemer, and propose! Doesn't that say something about femininity and arousing Adam to all the single women in the world? If they are careful, discerning, and still interested in a certain guy... there's nothing wrong with peaking his interest. And a woman who has had her questions answered by God's word, who knows who she is in Christ, doesn't have to be slutty or worldly to accomplish this.
How much more do we need to arouse the true Adam in our husbands! To love them, encourage, them, inspire them... and while their heart's answered has to be first answered by God and His word, we can definitely encourage them by saying, "yes! You have what it takes! I believe in you!" And, because they ARE our husbands, we also need to seduce them...
Let's start with sex...
The beauty of a woman is what arouses the strength of a man. He WANTS to play the man when a woman acts like that [she allures her man... in an act of stunning vulnerability she takes life's greatest risk - offering her unveiled beauty to him, opening herself up to him in every way]. You can't hold him back - He WANTS to come through...
Can you imagine what ti would be like if a young bride took the approach toward her new husband [on her wedding night] that so many woman take in the rest of their lives? Imagine her getting out her Daytimer and asking, "When would you like to have sex this week?" (the Efficient woman). Or commenting to her new husband, "I suppose you'll want to have sex tonight. Let's get it over with early - I have a lot to do in the morning." (the Busy woman). Or the more direct challenge, "That was a pretty poor performance. You wanna try it again?" (the Demanding woman).
A woman wants to feel beautiful. The strength of a good man makes her feel so. A man wants to feel strong. The beauty of a good woman makes him feel so. This principle plays out far beyond sex and marriage.
I love this passage because it's true. So often I hear woman bash on their husbands because they don't do the things they used to when they were dating... and then again these same woman have stopped trying to captivate their husbands the way THEY did when they were dating! We lost our spontaneity, our seduction, our romance and then wonder why we only see half the man sitting on the couch that we originally fell in love with. We are half the woman!
If we inspire our men - the ones that God bonded to us in sacred matrimony, they can be who God created them to be; assertive men, who stand up for what's wrong, who fight the battles they are supposed to fight (and I'm not talking about our physical war... how about the war against abortion? The war to protect the sanctity of marriage? How about the battles that Jesus tells us we can only fight "through prayer and fasting"? The battles against "the prince of the air, principalities of this world, and dark forces in heavenly realms"?). We need men to be come the intercessors for women and children that they are supposed to be. I need my husband to take authority over demonic forces that oppress me sometimes (called depression), to cast out sickness from my kids, to stick up for me when anyone (even if it's my mother) is treating me like crap and say, "I will not allow you to speak to my beloved wife that way!" I know I'm not the only christian woman who desires this from her husband!
And arousing the true Adam reaches far beyond our homes. What about our church, where we need real men the most? When women stop dominating all of the church agenda, men stand up and take their place in ministry (who would've thought!)... And so many churches don't experience this. Among friends, among church believers who are not married to each other, a woman can still offer her beauty (reminder: we're talking about a heart at rest, a nurturing and encouraging spirit instead of a condescending one) to a brother in Christ, and he in turn can offer her his strength. This is how the fatherless and the widows of the church were provided for! I know that while Paul has been gone, the men of my church have taken care of me - WITH NO INAPPROPRIATE AGENDA GOING ON - and they have done car shopping, mechanical work, and all the heavy lifting I cannot possibly do. They have offered me their strength the way a true man does. And it's because the women of our church are offering them their beauty; their compassion, their encouragement, and their prayers of support.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Basically, if you open your eyes to it, you'll see all the things that God does - just for you - to show you His love. Those moments that have that special signature upon them that make you stop for a second, and take a deep breath. It's different for everyone. It's different for every woman. But since you were a child, there were things that captivated you - things that God was sending your way for you to remember He loves you.
For some it's a certain sunset, or seeing a specific animal in the wild... obviously things in nature. There are also books we may have read or movies we may have seen where a certain part just moved us. And at times, we see our children play and it speaks to us - or a certain song comes up on the radio and we are like, "That's my song!" Well the Lord does all these things simply to let you and I know: I love you. And I'm passionately in love with You.
I think we don't stop long enough to realize that God is trying to romance us. I noticed that my 3 year old, Anakin, will be fascinated by a view of the mountains. And every time he sees a mountain the world stops for a second - it's a special gift to him! He also loves rainbows and airplanes. Specially airplanes. He wants to run outside every time he hears one, to get a glimpse of it. And I see now that this is how the Lord is bringing a holy romance into Anakin's heart; a sense of wonder, a feeling of pure joy, a moment where nothing in the world matters and Anakin is captivated.
Every time the Bible discusses our relationship with God, it ascends... From Lord, to Father, to Friend... But the Bible also shows us in Songs of Solomon that He is our Lover - and at the grand culmination of all things (the book of Revelation), Jesus is the bridegroom (basically, our Fiance) and we are the Bride. We cannot be insensitive to the passion between God and His believers that this description portrays. Jeremiah says that He "weeps in secret" when we turn away from Him... Scriptures also say that He has loved us "with an everlasting love". There is no doubt that God is passionate about us, and what it means for us to be "Holy" is to return that passion for Him. After all, Holiness is nothing except a deep, sacred romance between God and you.
Oh how He loves us! And His deepest desire is for us to love Him back. The book put it this way, "Just as there is a void in the heart of mankind that only God can fill, so there is a hole in God's heart that only we, as individuals, can fill - His longing for us, His love for us, shows us that there is something in His heart that won't be satisfied unless you and me personally respond to Him and return love."
God is big in romance, and He doesn't want us to wait until a man comes along to experience romance in our lives. Men don't have this need the way women do, but their hearts also long to be caught up in a passion - for God, and for a Beauty (leading lady, so to speak). I'm so thankful for that. Because having stopped in the past few days to seek it, to pursue it, my life as a stay at home mom of 2 and a half is no longer mundane and ordinary. Far from it!
He sends Anakin up from the yard with dandelions to put on my hair. He'll have a colorful bird perch on my kitchen window just as I'm absent-mindedly staring out of it. And recently I realized He can be even more specific.
I have to testify about our car situation. We had borrowed a car up until now, and it was time for us to purchase a vehicle and insure it on our own. Paul is 1200 miles a way and this is a task left up to me. I have to find a vehicle that fits 3 car seats and 2 adults. I'm stuck and frustrated - but a brother from the church is already out to help us, test driving and checking out vehicles that will met the needs in OUR family - not for him, but for us. He is driving out of town to help me find a car. He is going out of his way to help me finance it.
Now, this alone could've been proof enough that God cared for me, that He was working on my needs, that He'll provide for my needs... But it's not how He showed me He loved me - this is how: As I jump in late in the search, we are looking at a couple of vans. Ford Aerostars, etc. At one dealership, a salesman comes up to me while I was tending to the kids and asks me what my friend (a pastor from our church, mentioned in the paragraph above) was looking for. I tell the guy that we were basically looking for something affordable, that drives in Alaska year round, and fits 3 car seats. The salesman looks at me and says, "Oh yeah... You're a soccer mom!" I winced. It was like hearing nails on a chalkboard. I don't want to be a "soccer mom". I truthfully don't want a mini-van! I don't want to have no purpose other than to raise and feed kids, and drive them around on their adventure. I want an adventure of my own, remember? And I said in my heart, "Lord, I don't want a van. If it's the vehicle You provide for me, I'll be thankful... but..."
Well this pastor finds and purchases a 1996 Ford Explorer! I'm in an SUV! It has all terrain summer vehicles and studded tires for the winter, 4-wheel drive, spacious enough for 3 carseats in the back, in perfect condition, and in a silvery-lime green color. It looks amazing. And I know for sure now, that God romances ME! He could've given me the van, and said "deal with it", and I would've been thankful, but then all the wounds in my heart of failing at adventure for being a mom instead would've been reinforced. He wanted to show me that He still had adventure left for me - and we can just drag our kids along! So now my heart is not just thankful, but full of romance and passion for this God that cares about me so intimately He shows me His love in the deepest parts of my heart - where no one else sees.
He's been listening intently at all the thoughts of my heart. Just today I was journaling how people have suggested that I write a book... Well I'm not in the process of writing a book now, I'm writing a blog... about a book. I can't write a book about a book! Specially if the original is magnificent. So I ended my entry that I was sure if God led me to write a book, He would give me what to write about. Fast forward a couple of hours in my day, and I'm listening to the Christian radio station headed out of the gym, and I hear this blurb on Jeremy Camp, where he says, "I was praying and asking God to help me to write songs that would minister to people, then I heard God tell me, 'Jeremy, I want you to write songs that minister to ME. Write songs that touch MY heart, and I'll take care of ministering to people'." And God spoke to me, in that instant, about a thought I had earlier that I just jotted down (not even something I PRAYED about). He told me, "Write to captivate My heart. Write to Me, to touch Me, to please Me." How can I feel anything less than romanced if the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world is listening so intently to even mundane, random thoughts in my heart!?
He sends me rain every night to help me sleep. He makes the Sunday morning mountain view look glorious from behind the lake that I drive by on the way to church - and with one glance I forget all the tension and stress of getting my kids ready for church and out the door on time. He plays music in the radio that I love... At the gym, while I was working out listening to station number 19, He had a Montel Jordan song I hadn't heard in a while but that I loved when I was 14. And I thanked God for that secular song! Then in the car He had "Here with me" by Mercy Me play on the radio and He knows how that song moves me to worship.
And now I know why I love the movie Moulin Rouge! and the song "Come what may" so much. It's how I feel about Paul (which is a great thing after 4+ long hard years of marriage). But it's also how God feels about me, and how I feel about God. It's one more way that God captivates me and reminds me that I'm captivating to Him:
suddenly it moves at such a perfect pace
suddenly my life doesn't seem such a waste...
... it all revolves around you.
And there's no mountain too high
no river too wide
sing out this song and I'll be there by your side
storm clouds may gather, and stars may collide
but I'll love you... until the end of time.
Come what may, come what may
I will love you until my dying day..."
Sunday, August 9, 2009
It has taken me forever to get to a place where I can write about the next chapter, the one after "A Special Hatred" - the one that talks about Jesus and gives Him glory.
It wasn't easy reading because I was very emotional. I was also very sick! My life has been a roller coaster this past week but through it God has confirmed in me every word I've been reading.
It began with reading Isaiah 61, a scripture that Jesus quoted about Himself as He announced the beginning of His ministry:
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
The first thing we must realize about Jesus is that He is more than just a ticket to Heaven. He's not our Redeemer simply because He took our sins to the cross. He is the healer of our broken hearts, our Deliverer from all the darkness that has overtaken our hearts, and the One who can take our hearts - junk and all - and make something beautiful and captivating out of it.
I had a lot of junk in my heart!
I just couldn't process it all as I read... I had to let it sit there a while. There were places in my heart that were so under lock and key I couldn't FEEL them anymore. The only thing I was keenly in agreement with is that the book says this: God, in His effort to ransom you, will start blocking your paths - hemming you in - until all the things you turn to for the filling of your wounded heart fall apart and you have nothing left but to go to Him... He's the only one that can heal you.
I felt this vividly. My journal is loaded with pages of frustration, of "WHY?!" Of expressing to God how sick and tired I was of constantly struggling, constantly failing at every little effort I tried. How much I EXPECTED for Him not to come through for me, how much I expected to be left up to me.
And that's when it clicked. God wasn't opposing me. He was opposing my "I'll do it myself" way of life. He was working His way around my heart so that I would stop being so in control and I could come to a place where I was vulnerable. And I was terrified of this place because I truly believed that being vulnerable was to my harm. But I came to see that He wanted me to be vulnerable again so I can start living by FAITH again; not walking by what I believed I could do but learning again to trust in Him. To be in a place where I have no earthly idea what to do so that He could provide a heavenly solution for me... Where I could once again start bringing Him glory.
I learned it the hard way when I tried to find a car for myself, while my husband is 1200 miles away, coming up to nothing but dead ends... Only to find that God was already at work at providing us a GREAT car within our means, and that a brother in Christ was already test-driving and bargaining for me. God was already doing for me what I couldn't do myself and had I just waited on Him - believed He would pull through for me at just the right time - I wouldn't have been so frustrated! In fact, to drive the point home, He had me sit out one day in the hospital with a kidney stone - I see now that it was for me to stay out of His way. I don't think I could've ever been excited about a kidney stone, other than the fact that I was relieved it had nothing to do with my current pregnancy... and God in His goodness healed me by the next day and allowed me to pass it without pain.
And then I was aware... God is really good! So what was causing me to mistrust Him so much?
In God's original plan, little boys and little girls know what God is like by how their earthly father is like. In this world, we still pick up all our concepts about who God is as our Father by how our earthly fathers were... and if they weren't godly men, we end up having MISconceptions as to what our Heavenly Father is like.
Tears. My dad barely provides for himself, let alone really provided for us. The biggest lesson on fatherhood I learned in my home was that my mom raised us and fed us by herself for the majority of our lives. My dad was too passive to really be concerned with our needs - he lives very simply and assumed that we could too. He avoided doctors at all costs, so he never visited us at the hospital (except when I was delivering a baby) or even offered to pay medical bills. He could live in a van the rest of his life and shower twice a week, and wonder why we were spending so much money on things like soap and deodorant... He would step in with food, and with rent if my mom was at her last rope.
So I have been acting on the belief that God would step in with major things - life and death things - but that all my needs and all my other concerns He could deem too petty for His assistance. Would He really care that I'm due for a dentist visit? Would He provide for a car when we could always inconvenience ourselves and walk? I trusted Him to heal my son from Cystic Fibrosis but I didn't think He would provide the next rent check... After all, we could always live in a one bedroom apartment (all five of us) and make it - moving to a nicer neighborhood and living in a duplex with a yard is just petty of me.
I always acted like if God stepped in and helped, it would be a pleasant surprise, but I didn't count on Him doing so any more than I counted on my dad. I learned that if I wanted or needed something I had to figure out how to get it all on my own.
And yet He has spent all this week showing me how wrong I was - and how much He cherishes me, even down to the very last detail. He sends someone with dinner on days when I'm praying for the strength to get out of bed and cook for my children. He even sends an anonymous $100 bill when I've been out of cat food for the whole day and Leo is starving. God cares about my pets! I can't help but laugh. And cry. I'm so repentant of my hardened attitude towards Him, of all the times I was angry because I couldn't be in control and have my way.
So then I was ready. I was ready to walk through with Jesus and allow Him to really heal my heart - ready to give all of myself to Him. I was surrendered. I had willingly given up my fight. What now?
I had to renounce all the agreements I've made with the messages of my wounds... I'm still working on all of them. I still wince at the thought of purchasing a hair brush because it doesn't seem to be a necessity. And yet my feminine heart won't let me go around with my hair uncombed - it is a need for me! And it's ok! All the things I've believed in as a result of my childhood... "No one has any resources to pull through for YOU. You are not worth it! Quit your whining, roll up your sleeves, and figure it out yourself. You are not pretty or talented enough. And even though you may be smart, you have no common sense. Quit playing around and be productive. Clean, help... work and pay bills - it’s your lot in life. You haven't earned the right to have hobbies, or experience any of life's pleasures. Don't waste your time with things like clothes, hair, and make up - it won't make a difference for you and it's all energy and money that can be put into something more useful than YOU. You are not worth it!"
Oh how I felt my heart open up, and I bawled. And I wondered, as I said in my first post, why I felt like I was just a biological organism? That's how I was living! I wasn't living like the woman that I had dreamed of turning into as a little girl. I wasn't giving my life and my heart any room for joy, or romance, or the pursuit of my passions (after all, if they don't make money to pay the bills, they are worthless). All I did was what I saw my mother do - work, feed, and clean. And she always complained that she never had time off - and she never took time off - and never failed to criticize me after I was married for the things Paul and I enjoyed... You spend too much time at the movies and going out to eat. Paul spends too much time playing around and too little time earning money. No wonder you guys are always broke! You deserve it! What a lie! I don't DESERVE being broke for finding enjoyment and company with my husband and my kids. This is where I renounced all these messages, and more as I find them... God, please give me a clean slate! Help me to feel and believe what YOUR Word says about me and nothing else. Please erase all these thoughts that have dominated my actions and my attitudes as a woman.
And I’m still asking God for healing, to help me to be FREE. He came to set the captives free. I want to be free, to love and express myself fully, to let it all out… as I find it I guess! It’s hard for me; I’ve learned to repress emotions. I got in trouble for expressing emotions at home – the only one allowed to set the tone was my mother. If she was upset, my being cheerful was considered rude and uncaring. If she was happy, I didn’t have the right to be angry under her roof. I remember one time, at about 6, I got really upset over something and I went under my bed to cry. I cried myself to sleep, and got woken up by my mom dragging me out of the bed and whipping me with a belt for being a drama queen. I was told never to do that again – even though I have no idea what was wrong about it to begin with! After my mom unleashed the fullness of her fury, we were all expected to sit at the dinner table with her and smile – because she was ready to move on. For us to still be hurt or upset meant we were unforgiving. We didn’t have the right to FEEL in our house. We didn’t have the luxury of being depressed – it was considered an absurdity. All these memories make me cry now, and I thank God that I am free to cry; because He has shown me that my wounds MATTER, my emotions matter, and that none of it was deserved. I have the right to be upset, and God can handle my tears. My emotions don’t upset Jesus, He came to “bind the broken hearted”.
I don’t have to always be strong now. I don’t need to know all the answers. I’m finding that I can be free to be a woman – in all the ways He created me to be. It feels like that first, full breath after being underwater. I’m worth it! My Heavenly Father is captivated by what He sees in me. I am giving Him the ashes in my heart and He’s giving me beauty in return. I am mourning the loss of the little girl I was meant to be (and I was so repressive, that you can ask my relatives: I have tried to destroy any evidence of me as a child) and the Lord gives me gladness and joy in my heart because I’m not lost. I can walk with a crown of beauty and a garment of praise – my own princess dress to twirl and dance in front of my Jesus because He doesn’t think it’s a waste of time… He is delighted me. And I can leave the spirit of despair – the frustration that I’m “too much” and yet “not enough” completely behind.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
"Sexual assault (of women) is a far too common theme in these "civil" wars... what do you make of the degradation, the abuse, and the open assault that women around the world have endured - and are enduring even now? Up until about 70 years ago, little girls born in China who were not left by the side of the road to die... often had their feet bound to keep them small... as a sign of feminine beauty. They were also crippling, which is quite possibly another reason... You might know that through the thousands of years of Jewish history recorded in the Old Testament, Jewish women were considered property with no legal rights. A Chinese proverb says that "a woman should be like water; she should take no form and have no voice". In Hinduism a woman has less value than a cow. In Islam, a woman's testimony - her worth - is one third of a man's. In Africa, girls under go the circumcision of the clitoris - because a sexually aware woman is thought to be dangerous. Femininity must be controlled....
More than 1 million GIRLS are sold into the sex trade every year. Dear God - what is to account for the systemic, often brutal, nearly universal assault on femininity? Where does this COME from? Why is it so diabolical?"
We undergo severe attacks against our soul as women in our lives one way or another. Some of us are fortunate to have loving homes - and despite what I posted earlier and the kind of relationship I have with my mom - I praise God I did! I had a lot of uncles and cousins, my dad... men involved in my life who loved me for who I was and did not ever even try to take advantage of me. Some of us are not that fortunate, and we have horror stories buried in our hearts - and my heart personally breaks for them because I have no idea what that is like.
In any case, every man AND woman will have to give an accounting before God for all their actions. And men have a lot of repenting to do before God for their misuse of strength - either by violence or by passivity. God does not omit sins of "omission", where good men failed to act or do what they were supposed to do. And still I love this chapter because it drives home a point that is so crucial for humanity to understand - something that we need to grasp NOW: We have a supernatural Enemy, Satan, who shares a special hatred for us. He is behind sin every time, He is that condemning voice in our heads that embed the false shame and guilt into our hearts like nails - and he is the destructive force behind this assault on women as a whole.
The bible tells us that we are not unaware of his schemes. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy - and he is the father of lies from the beginning. Not a whole lot of Christians, men and women, fully grasp the spiritual warfare that is raging against them - and we like to dismiss Satan as if he was a fictional character, but he is as real as God is (although no where near as powerful). And knowing about him will help tremendously in every women's heart to discern the lies we've believed from God's truth.
It would help to know that Satan was first called Lucifer, and he was considered beautiful. But beauty was his pride and his downfall, and he felt he should be worshiped instead of God. When God cast him out of heaven, he lost anything about him that would be considered beautiful. And in his hatred against God he came to destroy the very thing that God treasures most - humanity.
But his hatred for us is special for two reasons:
1) We carry a beauty, as women, that he'll never have again! We are beautiful in the image of God - we are lovely, we carry the glory of God - His imprint in us in being women. He terribly envies that beauty, that femininity from us. Oh how many of his attacks on women are right here! Attacks to make women feel worthless, to make them believe that their femininity is something to be ashamed of... How many women who have been raped struggle with the belief that they somehow deserve it? Hello! This proves the root of Satan's envy against women - he wants us to believe that our beauty, our vulnerability, and our very essence is something to be ashamed of. He went after Eve first, not Adam, with the temptation that God was holding back on Eve, holding out on her.
2) We are life-givers and life-savers. The first woman, Eve, got her name because she would be the "mother of all the living". We bear children, which is our curse to do so in pain, but also one of our primary roles. We bring life to the world. The church is referred as a "bride", as feminine (and not masculine) because through it more souls are being saved - lives are saved - and we are life-savers too (as the term "help meet", or ezer kenegdo reminds us). We breathe life into our weary husbands, we breathe life into our discouraged kids. Our nurturing qualities are life giving in this world.
Being aware of all this should make us realize, if we can truly open our spiritual eyes to it, that every wound we have received as women was in fact BECAUSE we are lovely, glorious, and beautiful! Every assault against our self esteem was not because of any short coming on our part but because he envies us - and fears us. He is terrified of what would happen if women lived in the fullness of God's glory - how much less influence he'll have over our families and our church! We are so special in the eyes of our Lord and Savior that Satan shares a special hatred for us.
I was so encouraged personally by this chapter, because being reminded of my enemy helped everything that discouraged me up till this point make sense. I didn't suffer out of God's neglect - I was attacked out of Satan's revenge! And it's even more uplifting when you can look back at everyone that hurt you and move one step closer to forgiveness because you know the cause of all of it! I know now who was orchestrating a lot of the hurt in my life, or even how I received certain things if they weren't originally intended for my harm. I can see my mom as a wounded woman who had fallen into Satan's scheme at those times where she hurt me the most. I can see that keeping my heart tender and submitted to God is the best way to win victory over his attacks. I'm not about to say that a woman can forgive the father who raped her - but she can realize who was really in control behind the situation... maybe also realize that she didn't deserve it - and that God didn't want it for her. It helps to know the evil hand that moves the puppet's strings...
And my next blog will be even more crucial. Because then we are going to talk about our Hero, our Savior, and it truly brings "a happy ending" though it's not the end of my blog. It brings resolution to this conflict. I really emphasize that knowing about Satan is half the battle, coming to know Jesus Christ truly and intimately wins the war! And so I will conclude with the last quote from the book:
You really won't understand your life as a woman until you understand this:
You are passionately loved by the God of the universe.
You are passionately hated by his enemy.
And so, dear heart, it is time for your restoration. For there is One greater than your enemy. One who has sought you out from the beginning of time. He has come to heal your broken heart and restore your feminine soul. Let us turn now to Him.
The way this question is answered makes a WORLD of difference. And it needs to be answered in every facet of our lives - when we are little girls, wearing crowns or hats and twirling in dresses... when we are going through puberty and everything about us feels odd and not together, when we are married, when we have kids... When our hair turns gray and wrinkles start appearing, I will still be haunted by this question.
It's not superficial either. I would like to know that I am lovely (or worth loving) covered in dirt and torn clothes as much as in a dress and high heels. And the reason why this question haunts us is because its answer tells us whether we are in the image of God or not. God is beautiful, we as females are created beautiful in His image... for us to FEEL that we are not lovely it means we won't BELIEVE that God's image, God's special touch, is upon us.
I don't remember ever having a good answer to that question until Paul came into my life. I'm also naturally pessimistic so I don't know if I would remember if I did. But I know that I never just got a straight compliment as a child, as a 12 year old... It was always, "Oh you have pretty eyes... but you need exercise...." Or, "That dress would look so nice on you if you were skinnier." This came from well intentioned women who were close to me - aunts, cousins, grandmas. I was never thin enough to just BE pretty, there was a stipulation behind it that answered my question NO. And I definitely didn't hear ANYTHING from the men in my life. My uncles were a lot kinder to me in that they complimented me without telling me what I need to fix, but the main voice I needed to hear from was my dad - and he's a very passive man. He told me he loved me, He told me he was proud of me, and he's always shown me support unconditionally. I'm sure that when I was younger and my parent's marriage was more together, that he would say, "Oh you look beautiful" as I was in a dress ready for an event... But after I turned 9, I didn't hear it from him at all - and I never heard him tell my mother that after either. It doesn't really bother me, because I have a great relationship with my dad and I know that these kinds of words are out of his comfort zone. I just think that his passiveness against my mom's destructive forward-ness really hurt.
I struggle in my relationship with my mom because I want to love her and be loved by her without her constantly tearing into me. And at times I can shrug it off and yet there are times when it's too high a price to pay to try to have a relationship with her - when it affects my parenting, when I start getting depressed, when I feel a false sense of guilt and shame and I don't want my unborn kid anymore and it has to do with what she says to me... I've called the quits time and time again and I am more emotionally stable during the "off" seasons then the "ons".
But you know what? I have been hurt by church women, by other adult women who have also torn into me or torn me apart as a bonafide adult. And in every instance when a woman has gone out of her way to wound me, there was always a passive man standing by that could've corrected the situation but preferred not to pick a fight. I thank Paul for his strength and his willingness to fight - even if I have suffered the consequences for standing beside him - at least I know he will fight for me.
So in this horrible question that haunts every female in creation at some point or another in their lives (ask women who went through or considered a divorce, girls that got dumped, little girls that were picked on... EVERY women gets haunted by this question at some point) we tend to get our butt kicked because we live in a fallen world, and there are 3 consequences that we deal with as a result:
1.- Adulteries of the heart. We indulge in so many things to satisfy us instead of turning to our creator and filling ourselves with His love and His word. It can be as severe as eating disorders and as light as romance novels... It's an adultery of the heart against God because we use it to numb the pain, to escape, when what we really need to do at that point is come to Him. I'm not saying romance novels are bad, but if you prefer to read a cheap, sultry romance novel at night instead of actually making love to your husband (because HE isn't answering this haunting question right) - then it's adultery. Me personally, I struggle with day dreaming - and sleeping. When I'm devastated or torn or upset it's easier for me to lay down and just imagine things being different than it is for me to pray about the situation and ask God for help. I also stay asleep, in bed, as long as I can - and if I HAVE to get up, I turn to a computer game or a movie - anything to take me out of reality. I "check out". I learned this mechanism since I was 15, after incidents with my mother, and I do this now if I'm faced with a trial or a choice that I don't know how to answer immediately. I know when I'm committing an adultery of the heart - when I don't want to face reality or even live in it, and I'm giving my husband and my kids only a fourth of my attention and my effort. I became a lot more aware of this as I read this chapter in Captivating. I don't want to continue to commit adultery of the heart because it's like taking pain killers for a bad heart problem - I may feel better temporarily, but the issue is not fixed. I need to have my heart before God and be healed... and yet I'm afraid of even starting because I'll bawl so much I don't WANT to get everything out before God and look at it and face it. I'm struggling to type now!
The next two are either/or:
a) Destructive and Controlling personalities: We women sometimes get so hurt we stop being vulnerable, and we stop being trusting. We have to control everything or we'll destroy it with our bear hands if we cannot manipulate every detail. We don't even bother asking the question "Am I lovely" anymore because it doesn't matter - we get things our way anyways! I think the women that hurt me the most were right here, I realize now I can only imagine how hurt they have been that they felt I was such a threat because I wasn't under their thumb. I think this is where my mom is. And I clearly remember, last summer when I was at my absolute lowest (and these women were GLOATING over my misfortune, I exaggerate not) that God told me, "I need to do open heart surgery on you, because I don't want you to become like them." I didn't understand then, I couldn't fathom why in the world would I be like them when I despised them so much! But I see it now - oh how easily I wanted to be in control of every detail of my life, how dissatisfied I was with Paul if he didn't do or act or think the way I wanted him to, how much I wanted to control my household.... and how little if no room I left for faith and trust in God. I didn't trust God to come through, I didn't stand by faith - I took care of it myself. And if I couldn't, I cried in anger or frustration and would not deal with God for months. I see now that it was only a matter of time before I became them and started trying to manipulate and control in my workplace, in my church, among my friendships (if I had any left) and not just in my home. How much I could've broken Paul's spirit and tore him to size if the Lord would've let me succumb to my hurt. I was becoming everything I ever criticized in my mom, I would've been to some other poor, believing soul what these 2 church ladies were to me. Eventually. I know now that this is where they are at, and it helps me to forgive them and see them through a lens of compassion - but I don't want to be here. Because in being this way, I lose trust in God, and He says that "without faith it is impossible to please God." I want to please Him, He's the main and first person I am asking, "Am I lovely?" and I desperately want Him to say YES - even after looking into my heart and my soul. And in being critical, controlling, and destructive with our personalities, we are NOT bringing glory to God. We are not acting in His image. The book says that the world loses something very important that it needs from women, and that is vulnerability, because if women aren't vulnerable then men have nothing to fight for. We become unbalanced - and we forget that God is vulnerable without being weak. He is vulnerable because He loves us, He died for us, and He gave us the free will to choose Him or not. The world needs to see that Jesus Himself stands there with arms wide open, having risked His life, with the possibility that we might still reject him even after all He's done. It didn't stop Him from taking the risk. He didn't take full control over humanity and had it done His way. And as a woman, I need to take the risk of loving fully without being in control of its outcome. I need to show that inviting, enduring love of Christ. This is where "turning the other cheek" comes in! I need to say to God, "Ok Lord, I'm going to give it my best and then let it go and see what You allow of it, and trust You, love You, whether it turns out good or bad."
b) Desolate, co-dependant personalities: Here's where a disclaimer comes in - it's NEVER God's will for women to be physically or verbally abused. This isn't where you turn the other cheek! But co-dependant women will - they will take it and assume they deserve it because they don't expect any better. These are the women with no real opinion of their own, who go with flow of anything, and who brood over everything that hurts them but oh so privately that everyone else will not have a clue. These women hide, and they accept things that aren't good for them simply because they don't feel worthy enough to stand up for themselves. They are the kind of women we would treat as doormats, and they come to our church folks! God gave us a balance between vulnerability and fierceness because He didn't want us to be taken advantage of - specially in such a fallen world. He created Deborahs, Esthers, Rahabs... women who one way or another demonstrated a fierceness to correct injustice and stand on the side of God's truth. God's truth is that we ARE lovely, we are "fearfully and wonderfully made", and when our hearts are submitted to Him we have the fierceness we need (without being controlling and destructive) to push forward and keep going for what is right. Women like this also don't bring glory to God because they create the opposite imbalance; men who are too aggressive and use their strength inappropriately. They also believe more in their emotions than they do in God's word, and so they are not really trusting God either! They don't fully let out all of their wonderful being and give their world only a piece of all they have to offer because the rest they hide in fear - and the world misses out on something great that it NEEDS from them. And if they do have great husbands who love them, they keep so much of themselves a secret from their own spouse that they don't fully enjoy all that marriage was intended to be.
I can't relate to co-dependant women.
In either case, if we stop committing adultery of the heart, and we turn to God for healing, we can finally not be haunted by this question but start living in the joy of all that His Word says we are! We can be the women that are full of the Spirit, walking in the fruit of the Spirit, and lovely from the inside out! Women that are a refreshing fountain to their spouses and children at home, women that are encouraging to hurting friends and family members, women that are a blessing to have in our church, and most of all, women that can change the world by not conforming to its pattern any longer and being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).
My pastor preached, recently, about this verse and said that the Greek word for "conforming" is like being pressed into a specific mold, which is how this question haunts us - it changes us from our original free spirit into something less than lovely. However the Greek word for "transformed" is from the word "metamorpho" - basically implying that we can experience a night and day change in our hearts the way there's a complete difference between a cocoon and a butterfly.
If you take a cocoon when it is hatching and decide to help it, you ruin the butterfly for life, because without exerting the strength to break free of the cocoon it's body remains too enlarged and the wings too weak for it to fly. What a concept! As we come to God, as we choose to no longer by haunted by the question but find its answer in Jesus and His word alone, we need to realize that the process may be difficult and very painful, but the struggle is necessary in order for us to spread our wings and fly. Ladies, it is worth taking our wounded heart to Jesus for healing and not holding anything back! The reward is well worth it.