What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, Wholly Committed

“I am a woman on a journey of learning how to make sure my reactions don’t deny Christ’s presence in me.  I am a woman who says yes to God not because my reactions and emotions are always perfect.  No, I say yes to God because He is perfectly able to forgive me, love me, remind me, challenge me, and show me how to weather trials in ways that prove His spirit resides in me.  I remind myself often that people don’t care to meet my Jesus until they meet the reality of Jesus in my life”–What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, Lysa TerKeust, page 54.

When thinking of the topics for this week, I felt drawn to the Wholly Committed topic, as it’s something I’ve been feeling God whispering to me now for quite a while.  Honestly, to tell the truth, He’s been whispering it so long to me I’m surprised He’s not yelling it at me louder and louder, trying to get my attention!

As a perfectionist and Type-A personality, I struggle so often with the idea of needing to listen to God and follow what He’s telling me perfectly.  It’s something I’ve blogged about several times and something that I feel like I put undo pressure on myself with.  Yes, I know that God loves me perfectly, just the way I am.  I know that God created me to be just the way I am, that He knows my every move, my every thought, my every reaction before I do any of the above.  And I know just like any parent of a child feels, there are times those actions must make Him proud and other times He must surely be disappointed in me.

When I know I should show patience, but I get irritated at having to explain the same thing to the same person over and over and over.

When I know I should be kind with my words, but instead speak in anger and with a sharp tone to my voice, especially to those I should love the most.

When I know should be showing love and affection for those I’m closest to, yet instead stew on something that happened ages ago–and make sure that person KNOWS exactly how I’m feeling.

I know when I act this way, I am not showing anyone how Christ is truly living through me.  When I engage in any of these actions I know that I am failing God and that causes that perfectionist in me to go through that guilt cycle.  I feel badly, that people know I’m doing these Bible studies, they know I’m strengthening my faith, and instead of seeing God living through me, they must think I must not be learning anything.  I know I am not setting a good example for anyone in my life, especially the two people I long to be the best example for.

The first is my husband, John.  Until starting these studies, I had never heard the term “unequally yoked”, but that is exactly the type of marriage I have.  When we first got married, neither of us was very religious or showed outwardly (or probably even inwardly).  As we started to talk about having kids, I started to feel the pull of going back to Church, especially the Church I had grown up in.  John has not felt that pull and honestly, when we talk, I’m not totally sure how much of a believer he really is.  I long to show him the Jesus that I know and the best way to do that is to act like Jesus is really living in me.  But when I allow myself to show my anger and frustration at him, and act in a not-so-loving way, I am certainly not showing him what Jesus is doing for me.

The second person is my son, Luke.  John and I have sent him to Catholic school since preschool and he will be entering the 5th grade in just a couple of short weeks.  I know he’s getting a great Catholic education there, that there are many things he is learning that he would not be getting at the public schools, which I love.  But I long to place more importance on Jesus in our home life.  Yes, we do the bedtime prayers and we talk about things as topics will come up, but there is so much more I could be doing to show Luke how important Jesus is and should be in our lives.

No one, especially these two very important people, will come to know and love Jesus through me if I’m not truly “walking the walk”.  I can say how important these things are until I’m blue in the face, but if my actions aren’t an example of my words, it won’t make any difference.  And the best way I can do that is to be wholly committed, to listen to these things that God has been whispering to my heart and following through, to be wholly committed and answering with a resounding “Yes, God.”

What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, With All My Heart

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength –Deuteronomy 6:5

Sunday the big day finally came–we started our latest study through Proverbs 31 Ministries, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeust (click here for more information)  I had a lot of fun with our Real Life in the Gap study, but there’s nothing like being back with my Group 30 ladies and meeting the newcomers to the group.  The ladies are already excited and eager to learn, as am I.  I’ve read the first six chapters or so of the book and have already found it to be life-changing!

One of our topics for the week was to study our reflection verse and write about what it meant to us.  To me, this verse is pretty straightforward–it tells us what we should be doing.  We should be loving God with everything we have, never losing sight of Him, making Him the center of everything we live for each day.  It’s something that’s very easy to say, but not always as easy to put into practice.

I was mulling over this statement and this thought Tuesday night while watching the Tigers game.  For those of you that know me well, you know there is always some kind of game on in our household–the Dankos love our sports!!  What really got my attention this particular night was our catcher sliding (almost down the dugout steps) in a successful attempt to catch a fly ball and make an out.  It has amazed me for a long time the way athletes will throw their bodies around to catch a ball, stop a player, return a serve, whatever they need to do to make an out, tackle the opponent, or win the point.  Earlier this season, Bryce Harper from the Washington Nationals just about knocked himself out running into the wall in the outfield while trying to catch a fly ball.

And what really struck me about this was how it does relate to our Bible verse for this week.  The way these players go after a ball or play their particular game is the way we should be pursuing God.   They never take their eye of the ball, and we should never take our eyes off of God.  They tackle the opponent for the good of their team, just like we should be tackling the lies that are spewed by the enemy, all for God’s greater good.  They return a serve hit at them, like we should be studying and returning God’s Word–maybe not necessarily to Him directly, but showing it to others so they come to know and love Him, as well.

And while a lot of people poked fun at Bryce Harper for nearly knocking himself out by running into a wall, you’ve got to love how much enthusiasm he has for the game of baseball and how much he has fun while playing.  And just like that, I want to follow God with that kind of enthusiasm and that kind of lightheartedness, all while not caring what kind of criticism or judgment I receive from others because of it.  Because the only opinion that really matters it that of the Lord that I am following and loving with all my heart, soul, and strength.

Cultivating a Heart of Prayer, Blog Hop Week 4

Yes, that’s right, this is week 4. our last week for our Real Life in the Gap study.  These four weeks have gone by so fast!  I have enjoyed this study and have learned a lot about praying the Scripture.  I will freely admit, though, that I haven’t given the study my full attention and can only imagine what I would have gotten had I focused better.

Our main focus this week was praying the Scripture over a situation in our life.  When reading the assignments for the week, I immediately thought of my family and just some of the things that have recently been going on within our family lately.  Nothing terrible–please don’t think that–but last week we had one of “those” weeks in our family.  John was working screwy hours at work.  Luke had a very busy weekend, so he was especially overtired and crabby.  I had a lot going on at work and at home and was just stressed to the max last week.  It was a week just filled with bickering and sniping at each other.  The situation was more brought to mind after reading a blog post from last week that a fellow OBS sister wrote about families.  So, it was a topic close to my mind and easy to pick for this weeks’ assignment.

The first task was to write down items for specific categories regarding our situation–being thankful, areas of struggle, change me first, and blessings.  All of this would lead us to a promise to claim over our situation.  I will admit, some of these segments were VERY hard, others came easier.  I got through this segment relatively easily.

The next task I could really feel God talking to me.  We were then to take the items we wrote in the first task and using the key words in our statements, look up Bible verses that related to them.  I used Google a lot, then looked up the verses in Bible Gateway.  I ended up using the Message translation, as I found it easier to relate to and more “modern” than some of the other translations.  Some of the verses I used were:

1 Peter 3:1-4  The same goes for you wives:  Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs.  There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to the words of God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty.  What matters is not your outer appearance–the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes–but your inner disposition.

Oh, how this verse spoke to me!!  It reminded me that I need to SHOW my family God’s love, showing it through me.  My husband is not a believer as I am and it reminds me that through me, he may come to know and love God as I do.

Psalm 9:9  God is a safe house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times.  The moment you arrive you relax, you’re never sorry you knocked.

Yes, I know we are a real family and will always have our moments.  But at the heart of it, this is what I’m striving for in our household–a safe house, a sanctuary in bad times, a place where all can come and relax.

Proverbs 12:25  Worry wears us down, a cheerful word picks us up.
Romans 14:1  …And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with…

Don’t worry so much, be cheerful, especially with things I have no control over.  And share those cheerful words with others, to lift them up.  And don’t get angry when things aren’t done the way I think they have to be done, or the way things are said.  Let it go, what is more important, to be right or to have peace?

Ephesians 4:32  Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk.  Be gentle with one another, sensitive.  Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

I can be SO biting and sarcastic with my words, which doesn’t help any situation I find myself in.  And boy can I ever hold a grudge–which, again, doesn’t help any situation!

Our final task for this assignment is to form the verses into a prayer, starting with a promise about our situation and personalizing the chosen Scriptures to fit our situation (like using our names in the verses, for example).  Honestly–I haven’t gotten to this step yet.  I have done the first two assignments, but haven’t finished this part yet.  I’m planning on finishing it up shortly.

Have you noticed what I’ve noticed from the verses I posted?  How I think the prayer I’m going to form is going to go?  I cannot pray for God to change everyone else in my household to fit my way of thinking.  I should instead be praying for God to change me.  To show me what I can do to strengthen the bonds in my family.   That through His strength and His help, I can make the changes to strengthen the bonds in my family.  Not that we won’t have our moments–and not that we are in a bad place now–but to improve the love and happiness that is already there.

Cultivating a Heart of Prayer, Blog Hop Week 3

I posted the topics for the Blog Hop last weekend and was muddling them through in my mind, trying to decide what I would write about.  I got hit with inspiration for a topic that goes with the study, but not necessarily this week’s topic.  I’ve started and re-wrote this post about 3 times, I have the idea of what I want to say but am having a hard time getting it out just right, so please bear with me!

I have ALWAYS thought I wasn’t good enough.  Not smart enough, not outgoing enough, I sounded weird when I talk about that, and so on.  I can be VERY hard on myself in my head.  I have no idea if this is normal and everyone talks in their head like this.  I know I would hate it if Luke talked to himself like this and I truly hope he doesn’t.

When I started being a leader, I talked to Melissa Taylor and one of the things we had gone over was my feelings wishing I was like some of the other leaders I had gotten to know, that I wished I sounded like some of the ladies with their knack for praying and their strong faith.  They always sound so assured of themselves, so confident in what they are praying and how they speak to God.  I so longed for that for myself, but Melissa stressed the point that if God wanted everyone to sound like them, He would have made everyone exactly alike.  He doesn’t want that, though–he made me exactly as I am because that is exactly what He wanted me to be.  I thought about it after we talked and completely understood where Melissa was coming from, but not sure that I really “got it” at that time.

Even though I don’t outright express these feelings of not being good enough, a comment made on my blog posting from last week makes me think it must come out even though I don’t notice it.  One of the ladies made a comment that “The Lord loves YOU fully, just the way he created you. yes he wants you to continually grow in him, but he still loves you just where you are. Just felt I needed to remind you of that.”  Obviously, even my new friends are seeing these feelings in me!

A couple of days later, in our intro to the assignments to the week, this week’s leader posted “We learned that God doesn’t want us to change who we are but to reevaluate our time with Him-to choose to sit at His feet before anything else”.  Again, God is reinforcing the point to be who I am and quit continually comparing myself to everyone else.

Wendy talked in the conference call about how if we notice a recurring theme, God is really trying to tell us something.  That if we aren’t sure if we are hearing God’s voice, to ask Him what He’d like us to hear, and if we notice the same message coming up over and over, then we know God is giving us an answer.

God knows me just as I am.  He knows how I think, He knows what I feel, He probably knows me better than I know myself.  And just like I mentioned above about how I hope Luke doesn’t talk to himself the way I talk to myself, how must God feel about I talk to myself?  He is my Father, after all, and He created me in His image.  He considers me perfect, like Psalm 139;14 says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.  It must break His heart that I think so little of His creation, constantly thinking I don’t live up to some impossible standard found only in my head!

I am an original creation, and I shouldn’t keep striving to be someone else.  God has given me the talents and blessings that He has given me specifically because He wants me to be this way.  Not that I can’t work on progressing and trying to grow my relationship, but there is nothing wrong with the way I talk to God–He created me and for whatever ways I might stumble around when I pray, He doesn’t love me any more or less.  Just like I don’t stop loving Luke because he can’t tell me something effectively, God isn’t judging me on how my prayers sound compared to anyone else.  He just cares that I’m there, talking to Him in my own unique way.

I’m not sure if I’ve given this topic proper justice.  I’ve got so much going around in my head, but I feel like I’m not writing it very effectively (ha!  Or maybe it’s just me judging myself in my head again!)  My point is–the relationship YOU have with God is what’s important.  Not that it’s like Suzie’s or Sarah’s or Bob’s, but that it’s YOUR relationship, and that just like a parent wants to hear from their children, God wants to hear from us, in whatever form it takes.

While I was mulling all this over tonight, I saw this posting on Facebook that a friend shared:

Your worth does not = what you do.
Your life does not = the stuff you have.
Your joy does not = the happenings of the day.

You are wildly, beautifully, recklessly, profoundly loved by the One who created you. Just because you’re uniquely you, you are worth living and breathing on this crazy earth. Rest there, friend.

–Mary DeMuth

Cultivating a Heart of Prayer, Blog Hop Week 2

We’re finishing up week two of our Real Life in the Gap study, Cultivating a Heart of Prayer.  And with the end of the week comes blog hop time, when we can write on any of the topics given, or choose something else that speaks to us from the study.  And once again, even though I have been helping come up with the topics to choose from, I’m struggling to figure out what to write about.

I hope this difficulty is because I’m really learning something from this study.  Not that I haven’t learned anything from the past studies, but because prayers is such a hard thing for me.  I know, it really shouldn’t be that hard, right–prayer is talking to God.  Talking, and listening.  And sitting quietly, waiting for Him to speak to me.

Which is probably a big part of my problem.  As we’ve been going through this study, we’ve really been focusing on story of Martha and Mary, and how Mary had that one thing worth being concerned about.  Those who know me, even if it’s just a little bit, know I’m a Martha.  To-do lists, never sitting still, always fidgeting, always having something going on, that is me to a “T”.  If Mary exists in me, it’s usually because I’m worn out from being Martha and am just too tired–but even then, I’m still reading, watching TV, or doing something quiet and not really spending time in the “One Thing” that Jesus told Martha was worth being concerned about.

One of the topics for this week was one of the things really holding us back, what is the thing that we are left holding on to that is GOOD that is keeping us from experiencing the BETTER.  And for me, it’s a lot of all the little things that have to be done every day.  Actually, even more than that–it’s not giving up my sense of control.  It’s not letting go of making sure every thing is done and every one has what they need to make them satisfied.

It’s not letting go of double-checking on what I’ve told Luke to do to get ready for camp the next day.  So if he doesn’t have his swimming stuff, he doesn’t go swimming.  He’s almost 11, he’ll deal with it.  And probably, if he forgets it once, it won’t be forgotten again.

It’s not letting go of making sure John cleaned up after dinner “right”.  So what if he misses wiping something down, that to him is fine but to my sense of clean, isn’t?  We’re not having company the next day, so what does it matter?  And even if we were having company, would the worst thing in the world be to have them see a dirty counter top?  I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first or the last time they ever saw one.

It’s not letting go of the endless to-do list in my head.  This needs to be done and that needs to be done, and not only does it need to be done, it needs to be done perfect and right now!  But again, what would happen if this thing or that thing didn’t get done?  Most likely, nothing.  No one will care if the house isn’t perfect.  No one will care if I don’t appear to have exactly everything together to those on the outside.

Because what happens is, while I’m busy running around making sure I’m doing for everyone and maintaining that perception of having it all together on the outside, I don’t have it all together on the inside.  Instead of paying attention to that one thing I really need to be concerned about, I put it down as just another item on a to-do list, to get to if I get time.  And if I don’t have time, well, Jesus is always there the next day.

But really, that’s not true.  Jesus shouldn’t be something we put off until we have time, we should put off those somethings until we have our time with Jesus.  If we have our time with Jesus, it just might make all those other things easier.  Not because they actually get easier, but because we’ll be more peaceful, we’ll be more grounded, and we’ll have remember that “One Thing” that is most important.

I’ll admit, it sounds good on paper, but in reality, sometimes those steps are hard to come by.  So starting today, I’m committing to starting and ending my day in time with the Lord.  I will start and end my day in peace and let go of all those other things and other details that I’m worried about, and focus on the “One Thing”, the most important thing, that matters.

P.S.  Yes, I know it might be odd to add a P.S. to a blog, but I’m doing it anyway!  I read an email tonight that mentioned one of my favorite quotes from Tracie Miles in Stressed Less Living:  “If the devil can’t hinder our relationship with God by making us immoral, he’ll simply make us busy”.  I thought that really fit this blog and it’s something I need to remember as I work on spending more time on what’s really important.

Cultivating a Heart of Prayer, Blog Hop Week 1

Last week we finished up our study of Tracie Miles’s book. Stressed Less Living.  This week we started our new study, Real Life in the Gap.  This study isn’t hosted on Melissa Taylor’s website but is instead a Facebook group study, open to all members that participated in the small Facebook groups through previous studies.  It’s a great way to keep up with the routine of a study without being quite so formal about it.

This Gap Study especially spoke to me because it was talking a lot about prayer and how to really create a habit of prayer.  I will be the first to admit, my prayer life is drastically lacking.  Don’t get me wrong, I do check in with God–but not nearly as much as I should.  And not nearly as in-depth as I should.  And I probably shouldn’t even use the word “should”, as then it makes it seem like it’s a chore.  That is something that is the last thing I want it to be, a chore.  I want my prayer life to be automatic, something I look forward to and enjoy, something that is deeply engrained in my being.  And honestly, it’s far, far from it, so I’m looking forward to learning a lot from this study!!

I had a hard time deciding what to write about this week (which is especially ironic, since I developed the topics for this week–you’d think I’d have made a topic that I really wanted to write about!)  I honestly didn’t feel a lot of inspiration from the topics, even while I was coming up with them!

But I watched the video that was posted by Wendy Blight on our study page, and one thing really, really stood out to me, a quote from Sylvia Gunter:  “Prayer is radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better, loving Him more”.  It stood out to me so much, that I back-tracked a little on the video, so I could catch it again:

“Prayer is radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better, loving Him more”

That is what I want my prayer life to look like.  To know exactly what I wanted, I thought I’d look up the meaning of some of the words in the quote.

  • Prayer – spiritual communion with God, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration or confession.
  • Radically – thoroughly, completely, fundamentally
  • Gloriously – delightful, completely enjoyable, beautiful or magnificent
  • Encountering – come upon or meet with, especially unexpectedly

While I do pray, I’m not so sure I do it as in the definition.  When I come upon a prayer request, yes, I will throw a quick prayer up, but I don’t always set aside time to pray.  I don’t come to him in supplication, my thanksgiving is more just throwing up a quick “thank you, God”, and as for adoration and confession, well, except for the prayers in church that cover that, I’m not doing a bunch of that.

Do I thoroughly, completely and fundamentally know God?  Nope, I’m still working on that.  Do I know Him?  Yes.  Could I know Him much better?  Oh, emphatically, yes!!  And that’s what I’m learning through these Bible studies and the ladies I have gotten to know through them.  The studies and the ladies have opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking and looking at God, the Bible, and my faith.

Is my time in prayer delightful, enjoyable, beautiful and magnificent?  At times, when I have taken the time to really sit and pray with quiet time, yes.  Oftentimes, though, it’s like using the word “should” up above–something I feel like I have to do, not necessarily something that I always enjoy.  I really, really need to work on this.

And by doing these things, what will happen?  The last word I looked up–I will come upon and meet with God.  I’ll have a deeper, better relationship with Him.  One that I haven’t had before, but one that can be the best relationship of my life.  I will know Him better.  I will love Him more.

The reason I rewinded that portion of the video, the reason why that quote stuck out to me?  Because it’s a goal for me with this Gap Study, to improve my prayer life so I can have that wonderful relationship with God.

Stressed Less Living, Blog Hop Week 12 – Wrap Up!!

Before I get started on this week’s topic, I want to give a heartfelt thank you to all that stopped by my blog last week.  I received so much support from all of you and it was amazing!!  Whether you commented on the blog, on my Facebook page, in my small group, or just read along and related, I feel so blessed by the words of encouragement, support and prayer.  Thank you!!

So this is our last week studying Stressed Less Living by Tracie Miles.  When we started this study 12 weeks ago, I will admit, I was not thrilled with the book.  I had a hard time getting into it, I felt unsure how to lead in my group with it and it just wasn’t hitting me at all.  I will be the first person to admit to how stressed I can be (I am a Type-A personality ALL the way) and I was looking for that stress relief.  At the beginning of the book, I just wasn’t feeling it and wasn’t feeling like it was offering me anything.  I could relate to all the things Tracie was saying, but I was looking for a “how-to” and I didn’t feel like this book was giving it.

I kept plugging away and between discussion in my group and just things happening in my life, the book started to grow on me.  I was still waiting expectantly for those how-to steps, that list of concrete things I could follow that would lead me to that magical, stressed-less life.  Again, I related to everything Tracie said, but I still felt like the book was missing.

This last chapter and wrap up had a theme that I’ve been feeling for the past couple of weeks, the story of Martha and Mary from Luke Chapter 10.  If there’s one story in the Bible that is me, it is the story of Martha.  Like I said above–Type-A personality, to-do lists, and perfectionism make me Martha all the way!!  But again, I could relate to the story, loved the Scriptures, but I STILL felt like I was looking for that specific list!

Looking at the blog topics for the week, I picked to do the wrap-up and started looking through the highlights I did for this book.  I read it on my Nook, so I went to my highlights section to re-read what I thought important from the book.  And something happened.  I found my how-to list!!

There’s not a specific set of steps that Tracie recommends to live a stressed-less life, there is ONE specific step–put Jesus first in your life.  It is a theme she has hit home on again and again and again throughout the book:

  • From the forward by Stephanie Clayton:  “However, the most important thing we can do while attending to the stress in our lives is to take it to the Lord” (p. 9).
  • In Chapter 1:  “But if we are holding onto that hurt, worry, and blame with both hands clenched, then we won’t have any hands left to grab on to the peace that God places within our reach” (p. 28).
  • In Chapter 5: “. . .we see that Jesus was never in a hurry.  he was never worried about his reputation or the gossip or slander that people were saying behind his back.  I cannot recall any situations in the Bible when Jesus seemed frazzled or disheveled, running around frantically trying to get everything done on his daily to-do lists.  And when he did have to deal with people in conflict situations, he handled them with love, gentleness, self-control, and patience” (p. 96).
  • In Chapter 8:  “Each day when we get out of bed, we have a choice to make about where our strength will come from to face the day ahead.  Will we rely on ourselves or will we rely on God?  Will we try to rely on our human strength to persevere, or will we seek the strength that God provides to our spirits, enabling us to get through even the most painful of days?” (p. 154).
  • And finally, in Chapter 12:  “Friends, your life is not going to change because you read a book about stress.  Your life is going to change when you realize that the absence of God in your life is intensifying the presence of stress in your heart” (p. 204).

All along, I’ve been waiting and waiting for a list of things I could follow that will lead to less stress in my life.  Little did I know the steps were there all along and I’ve been on the path to following them–by following God more closely.  By truly, truly relying on Him, instead of just saying I’m relying on Him, but still succumbing to the same sense of stress and impatience that I always follow.  This book has started me on that path, and now I intend to fully live it.