Motivation Monday: Uninvited

Rejection. Uncertainty. Negativity. Failure. Intimidation. — There are so many reasons for a lack of self confidence. I know I have struggled with confidence in the past, and I see so many others who are struggling with it too. Particularly women. So today’s Motivation Monday is dedicated to all of you ladies who are reading this and need this reminder:

“You don’t have to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Accepting yourself and being truly happy can be a long and tedious journey. We often hold onto past mistakes, harbor grudges, and compare ourselves to others until we’ve lost complete focus of who we actually are. We allow life, particularly the unfair parts of life, to shape us into feeling less than and left out.

  • Maybe we haven’t lived up to the expectations of others, or even the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves.
  • Perhaps someone said something horrible to you, and you haven’t been able to shake their voice from within.
  • Many of us struggle with body image comparisons, and society has convinced us that we’re just not beautiful.
  • Or life has just been hard… leaving you tired, unhopeful, and lonely.

Our confidence becomes overshadowed by lies. Then we no longer accept that we belong; we believe we’re unworthy. And nothing holds us back like our own insecurities.

Ladies, it’s time to give ourselves grace… and break the vicious cycle of believing all of these lies. It’s time to hear the real truth. I invite you to join me for an online Bible study that begins tomorrow, September 6 and runs through October 16. We will be reading a new book, Uninvited, from Lysa TerKeurst, a North Carolina author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. You may be familiar with some of Lysa’s previous books like Made to Crave, Unglued, and The Best Yes.

In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences of rejection – from the perceived judgement of the perfectly toned woman one elliptical over to the incredibly painful childhood abandonment by her father. She leans in to honestly examine the roots of rejection, as well as rejection’s ability to poison relationships from the inside out, including our relationship with God. Lysa will help us to stop feeling left out, change our tendency to either fall apart or control the actions of others, restore our confidence through prayer, and overcome insecurities. [Excerpt from the back cover.]

I have always enjoyed Lysa’s books and the Bible studies that Proverbs 31 Ministries has offered with them. I truly believe this one will be a blessing to those of us feeling unloved… by others, and by ourselves. Together, we can take this journey to regain honesty, trust, confidence, and acceptance. You can register for the FREE online Bible study by clicking here, and you can order Uninvited on Amazon by clicking here.

I would also love if you would consider heading over to my Facebook page (click here) to LIKE it and/or follow me on Twitter (click here) so that we can chat and encourage throughout the study. Motivation doesn’t have to be limited to first Mondays on the blog! 🙂

Even if the Bible study isn’t for you, I still want to connect with you to offer encouragement and support. I want this blog to remind you to stop being so hard on yourself; stop comparing yourself to others, don’t judge yourself based on what happens to you in life, forgive yourself and others for past mistakes, let go of negative feelings that you’ve been holding on to, and focus on your strengths.

proverbs 31:25
You have the capability to regain your confidence, and you will. Accept yourself for who you are; uniquely and wonderfully you. Stop believing the lies. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are smart. And you are worthy.

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

The Perfect Amount of Salt

 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. – Matthew 5:13

As Christians, we are called to be salt of the earth. What exactly does that mean? It actually has multiple meanings. One purpose of salt is preservation. It can actually keep food, especially meat, from spoiling. Believers in Christ are preservatives to the world. They help keep the world good in an ungodly society corrupted by sin. Another purpose of salt is to enhance the flavor. Christians also “enhance” the flavor of life in the world by living obediently to Christ. This influences the world in a positive way. Essentially, followers of Christ are supposed to be honest, peaceful, ministers to the needy, and share the love of the Lord. We’re supposed to do this behind the scenes, never calling attention to ourselves. Salty is not showy.

I have been unbelievably salty this week, but not-so-much in the above Christian context. Salt can have a negative taste if it isn’t used sparingly. And if too much salt is consumed, it can have lasting side effects like high blood pressure and fluid retention. I have been abundantly honest to the world this week, and it (what is supposed to be positive) may be leaving a bad taste in the mouths of those who have encountered my seasoning.

Have you ever wanted to tell someone the truth, but felt like you should sugar-coat it in order to protect their feelings? There are instances when someone needs to hear the softer version. Usually, when I share the truth, give advice, or contribute my opinion, I do it in a sweet manner. However, some situations require a less sugary delivery. That’s not to say that raw, honest truth has to be harsh… but pouring it out in excess can be as nasty as emptying the entire salt shaker on one french fry. And that much salt – well – it draws attention to itself.

I think someone has mixed up the granules in my metaphorical kitchen this week. Yes… I believe there is salt in my sugar bowl. In the past three days, friends and family have asked me questions or vented their concerns, and I have been brutally honest to the point of hypernatremia! [That’s the medical term for an elevated level of sodium, otherwise known as someone having too much salt.] I am still sharing truth and giving advice solely out of love for them, but my delivery may be a bit cold and unwelcoming.

So my question is, what is the perfect amount of salt? Is there a good way to balance it with sugar? Am I being disobedient by sugar-coating the truth? Is it the responsibility of a Christian to be as salty as needed? Or is it possible to be too seasoned? I don’t want to lose my saltiness. I want to continue to preserve and enhance everyone that I meet. But I also don’t want to be so salty that I have lasting negative side effects. Please comment with your thoughts.

Value

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. – Mark 10:25

My heart hurts. I’m disgusted. And I am frustrated. 

I can’t even collect my thoughts, so I probably shouldn’t attempt to blog right now. If I type what I am thinking, I am certain I will offend someone. That isn’t my intention, but it may happen.

Tomorrow marks the end of my second week of The 7 Experiment and it has already impacted my life tremendously. There is something significant about praying the “less of me and my junk” prayer daily. I am seeing clearly how greedy our country is. I have always questioned things like: Why are actors, musicians, and athletes paid ridiculously large salaries while other careers, like paramedics or public school teachers, barely average $40,000 in some states? I have never understood why it is okay for a presidential candidate to spend millions of dollars on campaign ads, while telling voters that they spend money wisely. I have even asked friends who wanted to buy me gifts (for birthday, Christmas, or whatever) to save their money or – if they insisted on spending – donate to a charity in my honor. They would still get the tax deduction, and I would be extremely humbled by the thought. *Note: Only two friends complied to my request and it only lasted one Christmas. This was my mentality pre-7.

Post 7, in the midst of the experiment, I am now becoming a bit radical. My thoughts are being consumed by people in need, and my heart cries out for them. I am more conscious of areas in my life that I want (read: NEED) to change and I am nauseated that I have felt called to change but was never obedient. And I am appalled at the number of people who are walking around, unaware of the excess in which they live. It truly annoys me now.

The average cost of a wedding in the US is $28,400. Why? Statistics show 50% of marriages end in divorce. I’m guessing a lot of those divorces end because of financial strains. So $28K for a wedding doesn’t seem like a very good investment. Elaborate vacations. Expensive cars. Closets full of name-brand clothes. Ginormous houses. What are they all for? People in the US live above their means, period. Those same people often complain that they are “broke” when in fact they’re just in debt, trying to buy a social status or get something they think they “deserve”.

Will we ever learn (and accept) that our value is not in anything of this earth? God has made us invaluable. We are priceless. So why do so many of us worry that someone isn’t going to like us because we drive a modest car? Or why do we immediately scrutinize a person because they’re not wearing the latest name-brand styles. This form of judgement and discremination needs to stop! We’ve got to stop making ourselves feel better because we’re carrying $200 purses. In the same, we have to stop putting ourselves down because we don’t live in a 3,000 sq ft home.

How many times have you walked into your kitchen, gazed into your refrigerator (after going to the grocery store), and said “I have nothing to eat.” I am guilty. It isn’t that we don’t have food. It is that we don’t have what we want readily available. But friends, if we have a pantry full of food and our neighbors have nothing to eat, there is something wrong with how we are thinking!

Please God, continue to burden me with this. I want to see people through your eyes. I want to look beyond labels and finances. I want to have compassion for those in need. I want to be more conscious of what I have and what I can do without. I need less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom.

it_is

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21

Language of Love

Here in Haiti, there are many reasons for an American to feel frustrated.

When I brush my teeth, I have to remember to use bottled water instead of the faucet. I’m not allowed to put any toilet paper in the toilet. At night, the electricity if cut off. I have very limited access to the internet. And bugs! There are a lot of annoying bugs.

But so far, I think I am adapting very well… except for one thing. And that one thing frustrates me to no end. The language barrier.

Even as a teenager, I dreamed of international travel. I wanted to play professional basketball in Spain. (Hey, the WNBA hasn’t always existed!) I had foreign exchange student friends in Argentina. I even considered vacationing on a Caribbean beach in Mexico. I never knew if my dreams would be a reality, but I found myself drawn to Hispanic cultures. I went as far as minoring in Spanish when I was in college. I was fluent enough in the language to communicate comfortably.

Several years later, I started to become interested in missions. I had a lot of friends who were traveling to places like Nicaragua, Mexico, and Brazil. The more I learned, the more I felt pulled into mission work.

Jump ahead to today. I can’t help but laugh. God has such a sense of humor! The one place that He sends me to do His work is a country that speaks its own language. Yes, I’m on an island called Hispaniola… shared by a country, the Dominican Republic, that speaks Spanish. But I’m in Haiti. Haitian Creole is nothing like Spanish. It actually is very similar to French. So, aside from an occasional hello, thank you, excuse me, and goodbye, I am literally at a loss for words.

Ginny has raised her daughter to be bilingual, so it has been very easy for me to interact with her. The two foster girls only speak Creole, though. I want to interact with the teens but am struggling to figure out how.

Fortunately, God has raised His children to be bilingual too. Everyone has the ability to love. These teens haven’t experienced much of that in their short lives… that is, until they moved in with Ginny. While I am here visiting, I need to push beyond the frustrating language barrier and communicate with smiles, laughter, and hugs.

It took me traveling to an island where I couldn’t understand the language to realize that there are frustrating language barriers even in America. Many people in the United States have a hard time communicating with each other. Although we speak the same language, we are often too busy to share a smile with others. We allow our bad days to strip us of laughter, and we let bitterness prevent us from caring for our own. No matter where we live or how we speak, let’s not forget to always communicate with the only universal language… love.

Test of Faith

I was still in NC when I received the news. Ginny’s connecting flight in Chicago was being delayed because of the snowstorm. The possibility of her missing our plane to Haiti was looking more and more possible. And the reality of me having to enter the country without her was wearing on my already-worn nerves. I was on the verge of tears as I sat in the Charlotte airport.

I reached out quite dramatically (now that I’m thinking clearly) by sharing my concern with friends and family on Facebook. And without hesitation, everyone started responding with the one thing I already knew… God was with me. HE always is! Deuteronomy 31:6

Once again, I had put my confidence in someone else. I had trusted that Ginny would be with me. After all, we had been planning for nearly a year for me to fly into Haiti with her. Before I entered a country to do His work, in His name, for His people…. I needed one last reminder. God wanted to make sure that He was my top priority and that my peace was solely in Him. And this situation certainly did that.

By the time I boarded my plane to Miami, I had accepted the fact that I would be flying to Haiti without Ginny. Her brother had called with directions on how to maneuver around the Port-Au-Prince airport. Ginny’s husband was going to be there waiting on me. And most importantly, God had covered me with me His peace and reassurance that He was in control. When I arrived in FL, I didn’t even care to check the status of Ginny’s flight. I was going to Haiti, because God wanted me there.

As soon as I regained cell phone service weaving my way thru the Miami airport, my brother sent a text that read, “Ginny’s flight is over Georgia. I think she will make it!” He had been tracking our flights online that morning. I wasn’t so sure that she would, even though her arrival gate was next door to our departure gate, but I was content. God knew what I could handle and my focus was on Him.

As I started to board the plane to Haiti, I glanced over at the information board just outside of gate D25 and grinned. Our flight had been bumped from 2:25pm to 2:45pm. I found my seat and got nestled in, and started chatting with the guy next to me. I figured if I made friends fast, they could help me through customs and baggage claim when we landed. As I was explaining my morning to my new friend – that Ginny may not make the flight and that I would slide over to her seat so that we could stretch out – I glanced up the aisle one last time. And there, at the end of it, was Ginny!

And just like that, I felt God whisper “now that your focus is back on Me…” and I smiled. HE didn’t have to finish the sentence. I knew. I knew that Ginny being on that plane was His blessing. I knew that this week in Haiti was His design. I knew, without a doubt, that there is truth in His word. HE will never leave or forsake me.

The same applies to you. No matter what situation you face, God is with you. When things seem to be slipping out of control, take a moment to find and focus on Him. You won’t have to look far; He is always there!

Prevail

Have you ever made plans only to have God completely redirect them? It’s pretty much the story of my life.

I am annoying as a planner. From planning a yard sale to planning my vacation, I am meticulous about every little detail. It’s hard for me to be sponatneous, because I just can’t seem to fit it into my schedule. I like to know what to expect, and I don’t like to be caught off guard.

So, I am sure you can imagine how distraught I was when I was called into my employer’s office back in June 2000. I was working my first job out of college as a graphic designer in a small print shop. What I thought would be a routine job discussion actually ended up being a layoff. I was less than a week from turning 24, and I was unemployed.

I was scared. I was embarrassed. I was angry. I was confused. I had no idea how I would pay my bills, and I had no idea where to look for another job. My relationship with the LORD was still relatively new and I spent more time asking “Why me?” than “What should I learn from this?”

Two months later, I was hired at a nearby envelope plant as a plate maker. I made $2 more per hour, and had a more flexible work schedule and dress code. Despite the economy change after 9/11, everything seemed to be going well for me at this job. I was quickly moved into a designer position and managed several accounts on my own. By April 2002, all of that changed, and I found myself in my boss’s office being laid off again. This time, I was less embarrassed and confused, and a lot more angry and scared. I had accumulated more bills and knew my employment options in the small town where I lived were running out.

By August 2002, I had managed to find a job in a town 40 miles away. Although I wasn’t thrilled about the length of my commute, I was very excited about the professional opportunities that I had at this publishing company, including a bigger salary. There were different skill levels of designers, and different departments in which I could work. I stayed with the company for four years. Within that time, I advanced to a leadership position and spearheaded the creation of an in-house photo studio. But most importantly, in those four years, I grew as a Christian. I learned that the layoffs that I had experienced were God’s plans to bless me with new opportunities that I would have never taken on my own. I look back and see, confidently, that He not only guided me but He also provided for me. His timing was perfect! And His plans were such a blessing in my life.

I am no longer bitter about the layoffs. I stopped asking “Why me?” and now look for ways to learn in every trial that I experience. And I am slowly understanding that, although I still like to have an idea about what is to come, my plans don’t always match God’s. Now, when I am caught off guard, I find peace in knowing He is at work in my life.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21 NIV

Our Daily Nugget

We owe it to ourselves to find at least one nugget to focus on every day.  Whether it is trying a new exercise class, cooking a new recipe, learning a new skill, or increasing our vocabulary, our minds need to be challenged daily.

Our spiritual health deserves to be included as well.  I remember growing up being drilled on the reading-the-Bible-in-a-year program.  I’m not suggesting this is wrong, but what about a different approach?  Instead of a scripted paper directing my reading, I want to allow the Lord to direct my focus for each day.  My scatterbrain finds it much easier to take a verse or portion of a chapter and ponder it over the course of a day, and frequently my thoughts end up becoming blogs or topics that I speak about at church.
I had a nugget moment a few weeks ago while reading a book on my Kindle.  If the author ever reads this, I hope they forgive me because I can’t remember the name of the book!  The book was not religious—oh stop, yes, the pastor’s wife reads things other than the Bible (ha, made you smile)!

I ran across this paragraph:
When bones don’t heal properly, as a last resort, someone has to break them once more to reset them right.  Otherwise, that broken leg will keep us from being able to stand up straight and walk normally again.  Same with emotions.

When I read that I proceeded to turn my Kindle off, lay it down, and try to breathe normally.  This author just snuck up and smacked me! We can totally think we are over an incident because we “fixed” it ourselves, only to discover that true healing requires the Lord to reset our bones.  It may hurt like crazy, but in the end we will grow and be able to move forward.  He doesn’t put Band-Aids or a piece of gauze on our wound, He heals it from the inside out…completely.

I encourage you to look for your daily nugget.  There are endless possibilities for where it may take you!

Sales Meeting

When talking to people about the Lord, it can easily become a defensive conversation. We are all passionate about our beliefs and talking about faith can get very personal. Opinions can get loud and dogmatic or offensive.

We are all entitled to our own opinions and emotions. Start thinking of that as a positive thing!  How boring would this world be if we all felt the same and there were never comments, conversations, articles or sermons that made us think outside the box?

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In verse 3 He says the “farmer” went out to sew the seed. The progress of the seed was determined by the seed and the conditions around it. When you share your personal testimony about your relationship with God, all you are responsible to do is sew the seed. You can’t force faith on anyone, you can’t control how it is received, or what the person feels about or does with the words you say.

You can’t sell people on God, because you can’t sell what you don’t own. Admitting we don’t control how someone responds to us while sharing faith is unsettling. We don’t like acknowledging that we can’t make something happen or fix someone when it is so obvious we can see what they need. Hope you sense the sarcasm.

We don’t own God, but we do own our own life story. When sharing, be honest, transparent and willing to open your heart. God is quite capable of tending to the seed and nurturing it. We should consider it a privilege that He even wants us to help with the process in the first place. I live in the South and farming is a large part of my community, maybe it’s time for me to start planting more seeds!

40 Days

Simply put, Lent is a period of fasting which leads up to Easter. It recalls the 40-day fast of Jesus in the wilderness. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends right before Good Friday. The purpose of Lent is to be a period of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, and simplicity. Essentially, Lent is a spiritual spring cleaning for Christians. It is a time to eliminate things that hinder our personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to Him.

2012 was the first year that I participate in Lent. Some denominations do not put as much emphasis on this season as others, and I grew up attending a church that didn’t press the importance of fasting and self-denial during Lent. Feeling the need to spiritually spring clean, I decided that I would observe it on my own.

Many people choose to give up an array of things during these 40 days. Most people select their favorite foods, while others decide to fast from certain habits. My obvious choice for 2012 was to give up peanut butter. Anyone who knows me (and my family) knows that we have an addiction to Peter Pan peanut butter. We use it as a condiment, we eat is as a protein, we add it onto our desserts… but we are most known for sitting down with a jar and a spoon, and enjoying just it with an ice-cold glass of milk. Giving up all brands and types of peanut butter was a true challenge. I craved it for weeks. Each time I wanted it, I prayed. I found myself speaking to God literally every hour of the day because that is how often I wanted a spoonful. Lent proved to be extremely effective.

For 2013, I pondered giving it up again… but decided that I needed to be more creative in my selection this year. I then considered the “Real Food” pledge, where I would eliminate all proceeds food from my diet. The pledge is to eat only whole grain, fresh fruits and veggies, locally raised meats, nuts and seeds, limited beverages, and no refined sweeteners, including granular sugar. I’m sure to a lot of folks, this could seem like a drastic measure. However, I already eat this way 99% of the time. Although denying myself peanut butter and non-organic foods for 40 days would certainly prove its point again, I felt like there were other things hindering my personal relationship with Jesus. Actually… there was one specific thing.

I have to admit that I have an addiction greater than that of peanut butter, but it isn’t in food. It’s a habit. I abuse the use of my iPhone. At night, it is right by my pillow. I use it’s alarm to wake me in the mornings. As soon as I turn the alarm off, I am checking Facebook and Twitter, my email, and Game Center (because I have several on-going games with friends). I spend at least an hour in the mornings on various apps. Throughout the day, I am constantly checking in, updating, scrolling, and pinning to the point of ignoring friends, co-workers, and family. It doesn’t stop until I am lying in bed at night… and even then, I can stay awake longer than I should if there is a good Google + chat going on.

At first, I tried to talk myself out of giving up my phone for Lent. I had every excuse in the book. What if someone urgently needed to reach me? When I travel to Haiti, how will I communicate with family? How will I let folks know where I am if I don’t Foursquare my location? The more I tried to talk myself out of it… the more apparent that I needed an intervention from the one thing that consumed a large portion of my life.

After many prayers, I realized that I can set my own rules, as long as they were drastic enough to refocus my brain, heart, and time… and help me spring clean my spirit. I don’t have to give up my iPhone entirely… but I do need to give up a large portion of it. This is what I will be fasting from and denying myself to in the next 40 days:

– My iPhone will NOT be within my reach while I’m in bed.
– I will not access ANY games.
– I will only have access to Facebook, Google +, Instagram, and Twitter from any device for one hour per day, probably 8-9pm (although the time may vary when in Haiti.)
– I will not use Get Glue, Foursquare*, or Pinterest.

– I will still answer phone calls, emails, and text messages when time permits. I plan to only respond to emails twice a day, unless there is an emergency. I do still plan to blog, also when time permits. I want to stop my iPhone dependency, live more simply, and spend free time reading books and in prayer.
*I will allow myself to check into MIA & CLT airports ONLY during my travel for my family.

The next 40 days are not going to be easy, but they are going to be worth the sacrifice.

Are you giving up something for Lent? Please comment below. I would love to pray for you during this time!

 

WiReD

Hi. My name is Jenn… and, well, I was once told by someone I considered a best friend that I had control issues. I was immediately offended. Me!? Control issues? How absurd! I never chose which restaurant to have dinner at or what movie to watch. I always offered to drive. I always offered to spot them cash. I seldom disagreed with anything. I mean, I’m a relatively easy-going, go-with-the-flow kind of gal. How could I have control issues?

Since that day, God has slowly pried my eyes open and I have caught glimpses of what could have possibly been a tiny ounce of control on my part. But I still denied being an all-out control freak. So, when I heard about this online Bible study… based off of a book about control… I thought, “Here’s my chance to prove my friend wrong!” Imagine my surprise on Monday. Did author Karen Ehman really just describe me – on numerous occasions – in her 16-minute long introduction video? It was pretty hard to accept that I could be a soft-spoken, enabling martyr who takes pride in being a people pleaser. (Yes… I am guilty of all-of-the-above and a whole-wheat baguette, as Karen would say.)

On Tuesday, I took the Finding Your Control Quotient questionnaire, only to find that my score of 31 categorized me as a Borderline Manipulator. Talk about a blow to the ego… albeit a necessary and fully-needed blow. There ARE certain areas in my life where I will pull out the stops to get my way. And more so, there are areas in my life where I am so passionate about something (like helping people lose weight, get out of debt, or accept the LORD as their Savior) I get upset when people won’t immediately change. I may even get down-right angry!

Needless to say, my eyes are now wide open to my control issues. I definitely have them, and I’m a bit ashamed of them. Even if I really do have people’s best interest at heart, it is obvious that I don’t trust God to handle their situations. All I am asked of is to plant seeds, and to love. Anger definitely shouldn’t be in the picture. Nor should I expect to see an immediate harvest. And I certainly am not supposed to run the show!

Instead of the embarrassment that I am fighting back from just realizing that control (and lack of trust in God) has been in my life for a while, I am choosing to have hope — hope in this Bible study, hope in the 8,000 participants who offer support, hope in finding a “cure” for my control “addiction”, and most importantly, hope and trust in the LORD.

There’s no doubt that God put this Bible study in my life in His perfect timing to make me realize where I need help, and to provide that help… all in one. I guess this is what it feels like to be in an anoymous habit-themed group. I do feel encouragement. I do feel support. And I do have hope… and so do you!