Helping women live victorious lives in Christ

Posts tagged ‘Christian’

Surviving the Holidays? How Did I Do?

Happy New Year! I’m grateful to be in the number of those who made it to 2019!

As I promised in my previous blog post entitled “Preparing to Survive the Holidays,” here is my follow-up on how things went.

daisy flower in the desert

I must admit that I am glad to be on the other side of the holidays (insert sigh of relief).  As I anticipated the first holiday season without my mother, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I wondered if I would be extremely sad, angry or what, as Christmas, New Years’ Eve, and New Years’ Day approached.  Shortly after New Years’ Day would also be the first anniversary of my mother’s passing (January 6).  So, all of those milestone dates were back to back on the calendar.

I think overall, I didn’t do too badly.  On Christmas Day, my daddy and I spent the afternoon and evening visiting friends. People were very gracious to us, and we had several invitations to Christmas dinner (too many to accept lol).  Overall, the day was filled with fun and laughter.

It was on New Years’ Eve 2017 when my mother went into cardiac arrest. My plan was to go to a church service this year, but the later in the evening it got, the more I knew I wouldn’t make it.  I ended up sleeping through midnight, and woke up in time to call my Daddy to wish him a Happy New Year in the Central Time Zone.  New Years’ Day was quiet…I made some of the traditional food for the holiday (collard greens, black eyed peas) and reflected on what I was doing a year ago….trying to get home to be by my mother’s bedside.   I was back to work the next day, and my busy schedule resumed.  It helped to be busy when the anniversary of her passing came.

What did I learn in this process of surviving the holidays?

Don’t be afraid to share with people what you are about to face during the holidays

I’m not saying share with everyone, but only with those who understand what you are going through and who will show you compassion. They may or may not remember that you are facing the holidays without a loved one (and that’s ok…we shouldn’t expect people to remember every significant moment of our lives).  Those who really care about you will check on you, invite you to dinner, or do something to help you get through this period.

Some people choose to share these milestones on social media.  I chose not to, because I didn’t think I would be up to responding to hundreds of responses about my loss.

Go with the flow

For Christmas, while my Daddy and I had made plans, we also let the day unfold as it would.  It was great spending time with loving friends, and we also knew when it was time to call it an evening (even though we didn’t make it to every house we thought we would).  We didn’t put pressure on ourselves to do it all…and it was ok.

Thank God for the grace He extends

Through the entire holiday period (from Thanksgiving to New Years’), God showed Himself gracious to me!  Yes, there were some sad moments.   Yes, I shed some tears.  Yes, I wished things could be different.  But God showed His love and concern by giving me the strength to face this season, knowing that He would never leave me nor forsake me.    I’m grateful to God for placing people in my life who would remember and acknowledge my loss…just the acknowledgement alone, and the fact that I was thought of, was a comfort.

 

Yes, I still grieve, but I am grateful.  And…I’m looking forward to a new year with new possibilities.

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Responding to Trials

Trials, difficulties, struggles, challenges.  They all happen to each of us throughout life.  These situations come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors:  job loss, loss of a loved one, divorce, or a health challenge.  As Christians, we should not be surprised when they happen (although they do sometimes catch us off guard).  Scripture reminds us that we should not be surprised when challenges come in our lives: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you– 1 Peter 4:12, NLT. Whatever the situation, we have a choice as to how we react…we can try to embrace the challenge and push through it, or we can resist it and possibly become bitter and angry because this thing has happened to us.  The path we travel on during our situation is really up to us.  And for Christians, as we push through our situation, we do not do it alone.

In my own experiences, my trials have eventually turned out for my good.  Note I said “eventually”!  The good from my situations was not instantaneous, but was revealed over the course of time.  And as a result of my challenges, I am a better person, a stronger person, a more compassionate person, a more grateful person.   So, as we are facing difficulties, what can we do to get through them, to the point where we can see the good, and can experience the transformation that God wants to make in us?

Choose our perspective

How do we view this negative experience?  In our mind, is it the end of the world, or is it an opportunity for a new beginning?  James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us of this: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NLT)  This trial is an opportunity for our endurance to grow!  Something good will come out of this!  We choose to look at this situation from that perspective.

Choose to trust God

As we experience our trials, we can choose go to the Word of God to bolster our faith.  When we read passages about the heroes of faith (Moses, Mary, Paul, and Joshua are just a few examples), we can see how God worked in their lives, and we are reminded that He can also work in ours (AMEN!)  We can also look back on my own life and remind myself of what God has already done for me (if we were to really count our blessings, we would lose count!)  As we read Scripture and look back at past blessings, we are learning to trust God more and more in what’s happening right now.  If He did it before, for me as well as for others, can He not do it again?

Choose to be patient with ourselves

We should remember that as we experience trials, our change may not be instantaneous (in fact, most times, it’s not).  There may be days when we feel we’ve make one step forward, and the next day we get knocked two steps backwards.  That’s ok.  We should be patient with ourselves as we trust and believe that we are being transformed by God (and that transformation happens by the renewing of our minds…see Romans 12:2).  So, be patient with the process…it is a process. We choose to be patient and to take each day as it comes, believing by faith that transformation is happening (even if we cannot see or feel it).

As we press through trials, we have choices!  We can choose to be bitter or better, we can choose to trust God, and we can choose to take things one step at a time.  It’s up to us.  Make a decision to want to be better as a result of what has happened to you. And watch what God does in you and through you.  The lyrics of this song by James Bignon remind us of this:

“On the other side of through
There’s a blessing waiting for you
Hold fast
Hold fast
Your troubles will not last
There’s a blessing
There’s a blessing
On the other side of through”

I’m on the Potter’s Wheel

There are times in our lives as Christians when we feel pressed on every side.  It seems like we’re catching it from everywhere…our relationships with our loved ones are challenging, we’re overworked on our jobs and are feeling unappreciated, we’re dealing with health concerns, and the place we go to worship and get encouragement is going through a season of trial (these are just a few). The Apostle Paul experienced this pressing and shared his plight with the church at Corinth: “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8, KJV)

When we’re feeling this pressure, the first thing we want is relief!  We cry out to God, just like Job did (which is what we should do) and ask, plead or even beg God to free us from the pressure.  We want these burdens off of us, and we want them gone NOW!  Can anyone else besides me relate to this?

Instead of desiring to be released, let’s take a moment to look at things from God’s perspective.   The prophet Jeremiah observed in chapter 18 a potter working on a pot on the potter’s wheel.  According to Jeremiah, “the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands.” (vs. 4, NIV) Doesn’t that sound like us?  We are marred creatures, yet God desires to work on us.  Jeremiah goes on to say in verse 4:  “so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

Potter

That is what our Heavenly Father is doing while we are being pressed.  He’s forming us into another pot, shaping us as He sees best.  He’s allowed those sandpaper people to be in and stay in our lives for a reason.  He’s giving place for the challenges we’re facing at work for a purpose.  He’s letting some things happen in our lives that we may not like.

Picture in your mind what Jeremiah sees as he watches the potter work with the pot.  If the pot could speak, what would it say? “Ouch, that’s hurts, Mr. Potter.”  “When will you be finished, Mr. Potter?” “That’s enough, Mr. Potter!”  Don’t we say these same things to God when we’re being pressed?  I know I have!   But it helps to remember that we’re not going through what we’re going through for no reason.  God is allowing our experiences to shape up us in the image of His Son Jesus, to become the person He wants us to be.

For me, I believe in my own season of ‘press,’ God is preparing me for something greater.  He’s getting rid of some things in me so I can be ready for the purpose for which He’s called me. And He’s replacing those character traits and habits that are not of Him with those that are.  So, as the pot, I’m going to stay on the potter’s wheel until the Potter is finished with me.  Being on the potter’s wheel is not the most comfortable place, but it’s the most necessary place.  And I’m trusting that the Potter knows what He’s doing as He molds me until what He wants me to be.

God Answers Prayers, But…

Yes, we know that God answers prayers.  Those of us who believe in the power of prayer know that He’s there to listen and that when we pray according to His will, He hears us; and because we know He hears us, whatever we ask, we know we receive it (see 1 John 5:14-15).  Many times when we pray, especially for those things that are extremely challenging situations (serious illness of a loved one, difficult marriage, long-term financial strain), where we may not see breakthrough for quite some time, we continue to pray but sometimes wonder when the answer will come.  But the question I want to pose today is…as you continue to pray, are you looking for the answer?

prayer image

 

What prompted me to write this today is the fact that I am praying for a few ‘big’ things and have been praying for quite some time.  And God showed me signs of his answering them all in one day, all in one church service.  But I wasn’t looking for the answers! I was just going along enjoying the worship service, when boom, boom, boom…there were the answers.  Three prayer requests, three answers just like that. The situations are not completely solved, but I can see that God is working (note the present tense) to answer the petitions that have been brought before Him.  And these prayers have just not come from me, but from others as well.  I know that He is going to answer, but I was in awe at how God is working and the timing in which He’s working.  My mind is still blown as I’m writing this the next day after it happened.

 

What’s the lesson for me (and hopefully you) today?  Don’t stop looking for the answers and for your breakthrough to come!  They are coming!  And they are coming in ways and through people that you may not expect or anticipate.  When your answers (or the beginning of the answers) appear, give God praise for them!  For me, what God did yesterday was a reminder for me to keep praying, keep pressing, and to not give up.  God is sovereign and has our situations under his complete control. He is well able to handle them, and I am trusting and believing that He WILL answer (just like it says in 1 John 5:14-15). I encourage you to join me and do the same.

Church Leadership and Vulnerability

As leaders in ministry, we are looked upon to set an example for those who follow our guidance.  It goes without saying that we should be above reproach, honest, consistent, loving, fair, just, and people of integrity.  There are many scriptures that speak to these characteristics (just take a look at what the apostle Paul wrote to his mentee’ Timothy for examples).

Vulnerability-Just-Ahead

It’s true that a leader should possess a certain level of spiritual maturity (again, Paul talks about these qualities in his letters).  Leaders should know the Word of God, not be swayed by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and be able to live out the Word that we teach and preach on a daily basis.  There are countess books by authors such as John Maxwell who expound greatly on the concept of leadership and what makes an effective leader.

Recently the question of transparency and vulnerability in leadership has entered my mind.  Yes, leaders are to be examples to those around us, but how far should we take the example?  The issue I’ve seen recently is the fact that in many instances, church leaders are placed on pedestals by those whom they lead.  Leaders are saddled with sometimes unrealistic expectations of perfection and super-human strength (and no I’m not talking about Superman or Wonder Woman strength), and are expected to always “take a licking and keep on ticking” (anyone remember the old commercials for Timex watches…I guess I’m dating myself lol).  Leaders are sometimes expected to be able to withstand any and everything and keep going as nothing has happened…nothing should be able to faze them, right?

However, sometimes the people we lead (and us as well) forget one very important point: Leaders are human beings!  We experience emotions like sadness, anger, and frustration.  We get tired and sometimes feel like throwing in the towel (or at least taking a hiatus).  We sometimes get confused and are unclear about a decision we need to make.  We sometimes feel disappointment when things in our lives and ministries don’t turn out the way we thought they should.  I could go on and on, but I think you get what I’m saying.

So in light of that, how does a leader balance his or her own vulnerability with the need to set an example?  I’m certainly not an expert in this area, but my thoughts are this: it’s ok to be vulnerable and transparent to a certain extent.  How can this openness benefit those around us?  Being open with some of our struggles can help remind people of our humanness.  Just because God has called someone into ministry or leadership doesn’t elevate a person to the level of perfection.  Everyone struggles with many of the issues I mentioned before, whether we’re a leader or not. We need to stop worshipping people (after all, that’s idolatry – go back to the Old Testament to remind yourself about what God says regarding idolatry), and remember that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

Being open with our concerns can also be an encouragement to those around us.  If you’re dealing with an issue, our followers are watching us to see how we’re handling a situation.  Are we living in defeat because we’re facing challenges, or are we standing on the Word of God and in faith to help us overcome?  Paul reminds us that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)! And we may experience emotions as a result of our situations (and sometimes those emotions are visibly seen on our faces and in our eyes), but our faith helps us to keep going, and can serve as an example for others experiencing similar situations.

Vulnerability and transparency are not easy.  Our egos sometimes don’t want to admit that we are flawed or imperfect.  But I believe a certain level of vulnerability can be healthy and helpful, not only for us, but for those who follow us.  However, I would caution that we be careful to display wisdom regarding our vulnerability.  Everyone can’t handle hearing everything (AMEN somebody), and we never want to be a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 8:9, NIV) to anyone.   We’re not going on Dr. Phil to tell it all (of course, this is an exaggeration, but you get my point).  We probably shouldn’t share every last one of our issues and concerns, but there are some issues that if shared the right way, can help strengthen someone else.

Your decision to be vulnerable can be a blessing to you and to others but we must be wise.   Every spiritual leader should have a spiritual mentor who has traveled the road you’re currently on, and provide you with Godly advice and can help counsel you through those issues that everyone’s not ready to hear. Ultimately, we should seek God’s guidance about what areas to be transparent in, when and with whom. Stepping outside of God’s will in this area could prove to be disastrous.

So leaders, I believe it’s ok to be vulnerable and transparent.  And followers, I believe it’s ok for your leader to be vulnerable and transparent.  Leaders are human, and we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing: to live fully for Christ, live a victorious life, and to look forward to the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Whether you’re a leader or a follower, we’re all in this thing together.

Just my $0.02.

Dealing with Difficult People

We deal with difficult people on a regular basis…that co-worker who never speaks to you, the church member who never has anything nice to say, or that neighbor who complains about everything and everyone on your block.  We can try not to interact with these people (as much as possible) to not be pulled into their drama. But…what if the difficult person is your life is someone very close you, someone you just can’t avoid?  Are you living with a difficult spouse or child?  What about a close friend?  These are people you just don’t want to write off, but it seems to be getting more and more difficult to deal with them.  I’m experiencing this right now, so let me share with you how I’m trying to deal…

Difficult-People-1024x731

The first thing to recognize about this difficult person is that he or she is wounded.  Negative things happen to all of us (divorce, job loss, rejection, failure, etc.), but sometimes those negative experiences have a negative effect on a person long after the experience has ended. They haven’t dealt with the hurt or disappointment that came as a result of the past situation, and it’s festering in their minds and souls.  Maybe they were in a previous abusive relationship, and now they don’t trust you in the current relationship. Or maybe they grew up being blamed for everything and now they become very defensive when someone tries to constructively help them.    Knowing what the person has been through helps you to put their behavior in context.  It does NOT excuse their behavior (let me be clear on that), but at least you can understand where the behavior may be coming from.  And knowing their past experiences may help you be more compassionate toward that person.

Then, you should pray for that person.  Prayer will soften your heart toward him or her and help you not become bitter and resentful (the last thing you need is two angry and bitter people trying to be in relationship with one another).  Ask God to heal that person’s brokenness, ask God to help them see how their behavior affects others, and ask God to give you a forgiving spirit as you interact with that person.  Trust that God can transform anyone.  According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  Pray that God will transform that person to reflect more of God’s image, and in the process, He will also transform you to reflect more of God’s image.

Scripture commands to do this: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18, KJV) Try your best to do your part to live peaceably with the difficult person in your life.  It’s not always easy, but when they lash out at you, try not to lash back (did I say that it’s not easy??)  This doesn’t mean be a doormat, but there is a time and place to address the situation with the difficult person (and the best time is probably not in the middle of a confrontation).  Ask God to give you wisdom to know when to address the issue and the words to say (with the right emotional temperament).

I pray this encourages you, as it reminds me what I need to do in my own situation.  I would love to hear your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts.

Dealing with Disappointment

Whenever I write, I am writing from my own experiences, and this post is no different. My hope is that when I write, I can bless someone else who may be going through the same thing that I am (or have).

disappointment

Disappointment is a feeling that at some time or another we all experience. We may be disappointed that our favorite sport team didn’t win like we thought they would, or we may feel disappointed when we’re planning a trip to the beach, but the weather forecast calls for rain all day. At the moment, these turn of events negatively affect us, but soon we’re over it and on to the next thing….we continue to root for our favorite team (or change teams) or we change our plans and decide to hit the beach another day. These are what most people would consider minor, but what about those disappointments that are not so minor?

Here are a few examples of the kind of disappointments I’m talking about: the person we planned to spend the rest of our lives with decides he or she no longer wants to be married to us; one of our children didn’t turn out the way we raised them to; the life that we envisioned growing up is not what we’re currently experiencing, and there seems to be no hope for things turning around in our favor. This list can go on, but you get my point. We just don’t ‘get over’ these major disappointments in our lives, but we have to somehow find a way to deal with them. If we don’t what will become of our lives? Will we be in a perpetual state of misery because things didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to?

I don’t believe God wants us to live this way. Just like the title of this site states, I believe God wants us to have a victorious journey. And it’s through Him (and only Him) that we can experience this.

So, how do we deal with disappointment? We can first cry out to God and be honest about how we feel. It’s ok to ask questions and wonder why circumstances didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, planned and prayed. And certainly, if God created and maintains the universe, then He can handle our questions. Check out the example of David in the Psalms: “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6 NIV) What a blessing it is to know that in our distress we can call out to the Lord, and not only that, we can rest assured that he does hear us. Our cries are not falling on deaf ears!

We can also go to the Word of God to remind ourselves of God’s promises to us. Look at what Peter writes to the early church (this also applies to us): “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”(2 Peter 1:4, NIV) One of the key words in this passage (in my opinion is ‘knowledge.’ We have everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of God, and we obtain that knowledge from the Word of God (remember this scripture: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”? Romans 10:17)

Lastly, we should trust God and His word. When we are in the throes of experiencing disappointment, this is when our faith comes in. We’ve read the word, we’ve prayed, and now we must trust that God knows exactly what he’s doing. Even if things never change, if we never receive the desire of our heart, we can rest assured that God said he would “never leave us nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5b) This scripture in particular has helped me navigate through disappointment, and it helps remind that God really does have a plan for my life, and that’s it’s in His hands to make it come to pass.

This post is a bit longer than I would normally write, but it’s particularly relevant to me. Although the idea of this topic came to me months ago, it’s very interesting to know that I’ve only been led to write it today, 2 days after Mother’s Day Not having had the experience of motherhood, this particular Mother’s Day was very difficult for me. So again, I’m writing this, not as just glib points, but real life experiences. I may never receive the desire of my heart in this area, but I’m TRUSTING that God’s plan for my life is perfect and that He will not leave me or forsake me.