Friday, April 5, 2013

Catching Up (or falling behind)

I apologize for not wrapping up all the wonderful things that God has done in my life last year and this year.  There is no way I'll remember everything, but I'm going to start with the big items and God will have to fill in the rest.

My back is healed, praise Jesus!  That was the most excruciating experience of my life.  I now have a lifelong prescription of exercise to prevent it from happening again.  What's ironic is that I should be overjoyed that I don't have to take any medicine to feel better.  I just have to get outside, enjoy God's creation, and move my body.  However, this year I have been battling with myself to do this.  I have walked some, but it was only when the pain was increasing daily.  As soon as the pain went away, I stopped walking again.

God was convicting me more and more.  I finally confessed my sin of laziness and procrastination and asked God to help me wake up early to walk before work.  The next morning, I woke up even more tired than the night before.  This lasted for a week!  Then I came down with a nasty cold that sapped every ounce of energy I had.  After 2 weeks of pure exhaustion, congestion, and countless tissue boxes - I became angry.  I asked God, "Why did you let this happen when I was finally ready to obey you?"  His gentle response was, "You didn't exercise when you were healthy either."  Lord, I am still struggling with this, please help me to go out for a walk daily!

The other late breaking news for 2013 is a new My One Word.  Initially, I chose Focus.  I believe I blogged on that, so you know my reasons for picking that fine word.  However, God distinctly gave me another word.  Soon after I chose Focus and published my one word on (, one of my dear friends and mentors changed her word.  *gasp*  Changing your word after publishing it?? Are we allowed to do such a thing??  Duh.  Yes.

The word God initially gave me (before Focus) was Faith.  However, after all the craziness of 2012, I thought, "I don't need more faith.  I trust God to take care of me and to supply all my needs.  What I need is more FOCUS so I can finish things I start."  However, the word "Faith" kept coming back to me, especially after I realized I could change my word!

I kept praying because I wasn't going to change my word unless God confirmed it.  Oh, did He!

1. Several close friends were sharing their current life situations with me and I kept thinking that all they needed was a little faith!  Why were they giving up so easily?  Didn't they know that a miracle could be right around the corner?  Didn't they know that we serve a big God?  Didn't they know, "We can do everything through Christ, who gives us strength"?  (Philippians 4:13)

THEN, I had a brilliant idea!  I was going to pick "Faith" for my word so I could have faith for my friends!  How humble!  How self-less!  Right??

Not two seconds later, God put me in my place.  He reminded me exactly where I was lacking Faith in my life.  My hair loss.  Yes, you read that right.  I am a 30-something female and losing my hair.  God immediately gave me this verse:
Matthew 17:20 (NLT) "You don't have enough faith," Jesus told them.  "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain,'Move from here to there,' and it would move.  Nothing would be impossible."
I will not be posting a picture of it, but please trust me that this hair loss is noticeable.  My scalp shows through, there is a significant amount of space between my hair, and a lot of hair comes out in the shower.  Only a few people have ever dared to confront me about it and I was crushed when they did.  It is humiliating.  For years, I refused to talk about it.  It was staring everyone in the face, but I was in 100% denial that it was there.  I was so ashamed and tried everything in my power to fix it.  I've gone to the determatologist, checked hormone levels through blood tests, used Rogaine, massaged my scalp, and even stopped straightening and blow drying my hair.

2. Then, God's next lesson in the search for my one word.  "Focus" relies on my effort.  "Faith" relies on God's effort.  

It has been so hard for me to trust God about losing my hair.  In most areas where I've trusted Him, He has answered my prayers in a relatively quick fashion. If the prayer wasn't answered completely, I would at least see some progress.  Not so with my hair.  If one month it seemed to be growing back, the next month it all seemed to shed at the same time and I feel like I'm starting all over again.

3. Finally, God revealed the last confirmation on my new word for 2013. Which was another very true, and sobering reality - my hair loss is a visible flaw because I try so hard to hide all my other flaws.  Please know that just writing those words hurts.  It is not something I would have ever come up with on my own.  It literally made me flinch when the thought ran through my mind, but the depth of the truth it held made me stop and face it.

I realized that just like I was trying to hide my hair loss, I had a hard time admitting my weaknesses to others.  As if I could somehow keep them in the dark.  But, I slowly began talking to people about my hair.  I returned to a former hair dresser that didn't make me feel rediculous for trying Rogaine.  I talked to my mom about my feelings and what God was teaching me.  Then, when it was time to start discussing our one words for 2013 in our small group, I stepped out in FAITH and told my small group about it.  A few kind women said they hadn't noticed before.  Regardless, I know that I was the one truly in denial.  I know it was visible and I was the one trying to hide it.

Amazingly, ever since I've been more open about it, I don't notice it as much anymore.  It was as if my hair loss had a hold on me.  I was drowning in shame and I had no idea.  All it took was talking about it.  By speaking about something humiliating, I was able to shed God's light on it and remove the power of darkness that it held over me.  I faced my fear of people seeing my scalp and then talking about it behind my back.  As soon as it was brought to light, my fears faded away.  If I am talking about it to them, why would I care if they talk about it behind my back?

God, in His goodness, gave me Joel 2:25 as a promise.  I don't normally pray over Bible verses, especially when the promise is something completely unrelated to my circumstances.  But when this verse popped into my head, I prayed it one Sunday morning.  I didn't know the reference at the time, but I prayed, "Lord, please restore the years the locusts have eaten."  On my way to church, I saw a license plate that said, "JOEL225".  I immediately remembered the verse that I prayed and I knew!  I checked as soon as I was parked and sure enough, it was my verse from earlier that morning!  Here is what it says:
Joel 2:25 (NIV)  "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locus and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm." 
Now, I don't know why God lists 4 different kinds of locusts (neither did my Bible footnotes), but I do know that God meant that He would restore what has been taken away.  My hair is growing back in.  While I don't have a think luscious head of hair, I am seeing progress.  Faith doesn't guarantee instant results.  Faith involves handing over control to God to fulfill His promises - in His time.  Therefore, I will keep praying and thanking God for restoring what the locusts have eaten.

If I have FAITH as small as a mustard seed, I can say to this mountain (a.k.a. hair loss), 'Move from here to there,' and it will move.  Nothing is impossible with God.

Does something in your life have you held down by shame?  

Have you tried bringing it to the light by sharing it with someone else?  

Will you consider taking your small seed of Faith and move some mountains with me?

Please share your thoughts (or mountains) below in the comments!  I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 OLW - Focus

God, you are GOOD!  Thank you, for once again showing me exactly what you want from me.  I kept praying for my One Little Word (OLW) for 2013.  Over and over again, "Focus" kept coming to mind.  I would see it more than once a day, but then again, I felt compelled to add new words daily too!  

Sometimes all it takes is reading blog posted on Facebook to find just the confirmation you were looking for! :)

While selecting a word isn't difficult, it isn't something I take lightly.  Last year, my OLW was “Love”.  When I pick a word, the enemy tries to attack it.  IMMEDIATELY.  It’s happened 2 out of 2 years!  Satan doesn't want me to grow; he wants me to stay complacent.  He must think that starting the year off in a battle will cause me to give in and give up.  No!  I must fight!  Last year, I had to ask God immediately for help and He didn't not disappoint!  I learned so much about how to love others, how to love myself, and most importantly, how to love God.

Here are some of the areas I want to gain “Focus”:

1) To start 2013, I asked God to infiltrate every aspect of my life. I asked Him to give me His goals and His desires. The cool thing was that I had 4 "big" goals in 2012 with lots of milestones to reach each one.  I finished a lot of milestones last year, so I made some progress.  I just didn't finish any of my big goals.  I realized that while I want to lose weight and be out of debt, the goal God has for me is to glorify Him with my body and money. It takes the "focus" off me and puts it on God. I haven't removed any of the goals from last year’s list. They were all just modified.  I'm not worried about losing a pound a week or maxing out my 401k contributions.  I'm just going to ask for guidance and wisdom to focus on what I eat and where I spend my money so I stop doing things mindlessly.
Romans 8:5-8 (MSG) Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self, ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored.
2) I let myself get distracted by the things of this world.  I need to focus on Jesus.  Period.  This affects every area of my life.  If I focus on Jesus and honoring Him with my body, losing weight won't be a struggle.  If I focus on Jesus and honoring Him with my money, getting out of debt and reducing my expenses won't be a struggle.  If I focus on Jesus, I will see the people I am speaking with as He sees them and I will realize how valuable our time is together.  I will realize that I need to be in the moment and they deserve my undivided attention. 
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (MSG) Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
3) I start too many things and never finish (Bible studies, countless books, getting out of debt, losing weight, cleaning the house, getting the certification). Sometimes, I get bored, overwhelmed or discouraged.  Then, I just give up.  Other times, I don't put my ALL into it.  This happens a lot at work.  Yes, I have a lot on my plate, but I know I could do better and do more if I just applied myself. 
Ephesians 6:5-8 (NLT) Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
·      4) I also get distracted in conversations or while praying. When someone else is talking, I find my mind wandering. Sometimes, I think of a question I want to ask the person that is talking, but to avoid forgetting my question, I stop listening to what they are actually saying. Other times, I want to tell them something that is completely unrelated to what they are saying.  I still tune them out so I don’t forget what I want to say.  Either way, I want to really hear what people are saying to me.  I want to be in the moment.  I want to learn to listen.  This principle applies to my prayers and being still long enough to hear God’s whisper.
James 1:19 (NLT) Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
Kings 19:11-13 (NLT) “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper
Ironically enough, the word “focus” isn't in many Bible translations.  The New International Version (NIV) doesn't have the word at all!  The New Living Translation (NLT) uses it 4 times. The Message uses it a whopping 28 times!  The verses below might not say the actual word “focus”, but it does describe the action quite effectively. 

For 2013, I already have many distractions trying to steal my Focus.  Here are my weapons to fight the battle:

The definition of “focus” is…
     1) To concentrate attention or effort, emphasis
Philippians 4:8 (NLT)And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 
     2) A point at which rays (light, heat, or sound) converge toward another point
Romans 8:5 (ESV)For those who live according to the flesh, set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on things according to the Spirit.
      3) Adjustment for distinct vision, a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding
Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
      4) A center of activity or attraction
Philippians 3:10-14 (NLT) I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Alternatively, a lesson in losing “focus”:
Matthew 14:24-31 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”  Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

This is exactly why I want focus

Stop worrying about my current circumstances, especially when the wind and waves are fierce.

Don’t fret over what may come. 

Forget about the past

Learn to be present in His Presence 
Ephesians 1:17-19 (MSG) I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!