Enjoying the Break

I’ve been slowly working my way through the book Enjoy and I’ve really been thinking about how much more I could be enjoying the life that the Lord has gifted me.  Enjoying serving more directly.  Enjoying the friendships He has brought into my life, which have been answers to specific prayers and longings of my heart.  Enjoying the opportunities to get out of my nest and fellowship in new places with new faces.

So, I put the book down for a few days and did just that.

I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family and our new extended family members, as our family grows.  I stole away from the food and conversations and spent a precious 30 minutes or more with my new grand niece.  I couldn’t be more in love with her.

Then, I actually went Black Friday shopping.  I’ve never done that in my entire life.  But, later in the afternoon my husband and kids convinced me to go.  We had a great time and fortunately had missed a lot of the chaos.

I decided that I didn’t want to schedule much in those days before the kids went back to school.  Instead, I wanted to enjoy my time with each of them.  Playing board games and watching Christmas movies.

I called up a friend who I knew would be busy in December and made sure to schedule in some face time once the kids were back at school.  It was great to do something last minute, even it if meant it had to be short.  I enjoy spending time with her because she is safe, I don’t have to tread lightly or watch how I word things. She chooses to see the best in me and gives me the benefit of the doubt.

Another friend invited me to her church Women’s Event and I wasn’t certain I could go.  But, I made it happen.  What a blessing it was too!  From the evening’s events to the face I ran into my nephew’s wife there.  That was a surprise!  We had the chance to have a little fun together and talk before the night ended.  Had I not gone, I would have missed that beautiful memory.

I attended that Sunday’s service at a different time, and ran into faces I hadn’t seen in a while.  It was great to catch up and ended up making plans to get together more frequently.  Multiple services can do that, you know… separate you and you don’t even realize it happened.

That evening, I realized I had a burden on my heart.  I reached out to another friend and we scheduled a very last minute meet up at her house.  I am so grateful that she was able to squeeze me in, listen to me, counsel me, and pray with me.

There are times we can focus on what we wish we had, and not see the blessings that the Lord has put right in front of us.  I’m so glad that the Lord is opening up my eyes to enjoy these relationships and opportunities in a new way.

Sometimes, we need to put down the book and actually DO IT.

I’m not only choosing to enjoy…

I am choosing JOY.

I am choosing to REJOICE.

And I am going to love and find contentment in all that He has given me, my cup runneth over, I want for nothing but more of HIM.

Working Through Chapter 4, Enjoy.

work

This past week was work. I had some things on my “to-do” list to accomplish, appointments to squeeze in before the holiday, and of course we actually celebrated the holiday with our family down south. Then, and I’m not entirely sure how this happened, I was wrangled into doing some Black Friday shopping. This is a first in my lifetime. Saturday was a blur, and here we sit… Sunday.

I’ll be honest, I don’t always enjoy work. My Pastor’s wife once called me “high capacity” because I am a person who can get stuff done, done well, and done quickly. But… that doesn’t always mean I want to do things I think in part it was how we were raised, you just do what has to be done. No sense whining, just get it over with.

When I graduated high school, I got a job as a cashier with an office supply chain as a cashier. Within just a short number of years I was promoted to Assistant Store Manager. This was unheard of for that company, and I was the youngest manager in the history of the company. Due to my high capacity? Probably. But to be honest, it probably had to do more with boredom.

I was bored as a cashier so I did everything I could to get bumped up to another position. I was the first to volunteer for cross training in other departments, it was nice to get called back to another area of the store. It would break up the monotony of my day. As a manager, each day brought new challenges and tasks. Even the mundane wasn’t as mundane being broken up by the randomness of each days obstacles.

When my husband and I had our first child, and we determined I would not return to my job… that was a shift. A huge shift for me. I missed my purpose and the identity I had created in my job. Almost immediately I looked for something to do that would provide that same self value.

I struggled seeing value in what I was doing at home. Emotionally, I knew it was right. I couldn’t bear to work the hours my job required of me and be away from my baby. Yet, sitting at home for hours on end when the baby would sleep doing housework… I didn’t get it. It was boring. It was the same thing every day. The mundane wasn’t being broken up by challenges to overcome and strategies to develop.

It is still something I struggle with, and I’ve been parenting for nearly 18 years. What it has always comes down to, for me, is having to remind myself of two points.

1. It’s a season.
2. God has a reason.

Eventually, these children are going to grow up and move out of this house. We had our children so young, that there is still a lifetime ahead of me. For whatever reason, this is the season the Lord called me to. He didn’t give me a heart to return to work full time and any attempts I have made to bring “work” back into my life… he always seems to thwart. I didn’t get it at first, but as my eldest navigates her senior year… I notice I say no a lot more often. Spending time together a family has become far more important, and I realize that all of these years with her have had more value than I could have ever imagined.

Chapter 4 of Trillia Newbell ‘s book Enjoy is centered around work and how we can find joy in what we do each day. Whether you are a parent, working at home, or out in the workforce. She recognizes the beauty of a God who worked for six days before He rested, doing good work. Pointing out that the call to work really hasn’t changed but instead sin corrupted our attitude toward our work. And, Trillia helps us to explore how we can find joy and delight in even the most mundane work, by shifting our perspective on work.

Lord, help us to see the beauty in this gift to toil for you!

The Unexpected of Chapter 3 (Enjoy)

Well, well… Chapter 3… Trillia Newbell tackles what can be a tough and awkward topic.

Chapter 3 is all about intimacy in our marriages, and if you are a fan of Authentic Intimacy … chapter 3 is a worthy read (Hannah Nitz ). Lord knows I have a heart for that ministry, because of my own failures. I am a tough cookie to crack, with some baggage.

(Also, single ladies… there are some pages in there for you too!)

What I didn’t expect were some of the nuggets from Chapter 3 that made me think of other areas and relationships. Yes, sexual intimacy is a marital… but intimacy is not exclusive to our marriages. We have other people in our lives that intimacy is a good thing (best friends), is a place of safety (parents), and our relationship with God is very personal and should be rooted in complete intimacy (we can hide nothing from Him).

So, a big thing that struck me from the chapter was when Trillia explained that bitterness in it’s simplest form is unforgiveness. Just a bit ago, I was a guest contributor for Virtuous Bella talking about wounds that are bound up so tight they begin to fester. So, perhaps that is why this caught my attention.

I started reflecting on my notes from the chapter, on the evidences of bitterness. I began to think of conflicts I have been involved in. I’ve thought about how people have responded to me, and even how I responded to others.

I think we’ve all been guilty of bitterness now and again. However, some of us have allowed the wounds of past hurts to created roots of bitterness that have grown deep. Too deep. Where these bitter roots of past relationships have begun to strangle out the healthy relationships that fall in their pathway. Skewing how we perceive people coming into our lives, always as a threat or at least someone to be suspicious of.

When our perspective is skewed, we see a threat that doesn’t exist. We take things personally, that were never meant to hurt us. We are so bent on self preservation that we become incapable of seeing those who God has brought into our lives to try cut back those roots. Instead we just let them grow deeper and continue to stretch further.

Let me share with you a great thing about the book, Enjoy, that I think is such a blessing. At the end of each chapter, Trillia challenges us with: The Enjoy Project. It is a list of tasks/suggestions that are based on the chapters theme, ideas to help us enjoy our lives and relationships more.

These project ideas are great ways to cut back those roots of bitterness.

ENJOY – thoughts on Chapter 2

friends

I shared some thoughts on Chapter 1 from Trillia Newbell ‘s book ENJOY, the other day. Today, I’m going to dive into some thoughts from Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 talks about relationships. Want to know how to be a good Christian? A good person? A good spouse? A good leader?

We can grab our Bibles and go right into the heart of the Scriptures.

But what about being a good friend? A godly friend? That takes a bit more searching. The accompany picture is of my notes.

I have to say that this is an area that I can fail in miserably. It’s not that I don’t desire to be a good friend. I do. But, sometimes my execution is off. I can get wrapped up in my own head and life and forget to reach out to people. (That’s the introvert in me.)

A few years ago, a friend called me to the carpet on that one. It stung to hear the truth, but I was glad she told me how she felt. We were able to come to an better understanding of each other, and I hope I am doing a better job.

Sometimes, I think that people know me really well and I can talk a little too frankly with them. I assume that since they know I love them, and my personality quirks, that they know I am just blunt in the way I talk. I assume they won’t be offended. There have been times where I have not been careful with my friends who are more sensitive or tender hearted.

As I was reading through this chapter on relationships… well, lets just say some of it stung a little bit.

This jumped out at me:

“As we look at the many divisions and wars between peoples and nations, we see that clearly something has gone awry in the way we relate to and view one another.”

and Trillia continues further into the paragraph with this stinger:

“But, we don’t really need to look to the wars outside. One glimpse into our heart toward others … and we know that something has gone wrong within ourselves as well.”

I love how she talks about our “passions” (which can be our fleshy desires) waging war inside of us and how that will pour out onto our neighbors. Isn’t that what happens when I am frustrated about a situation with someone else but snap at my husband. My wars are pouring out onto others. Or, when I allow my past hurts to project onto my new friendships. My wars are pouring out onto others.

And, while I may always be waging war against sin… I still have a choice. I don’t have to give in.

I was sitting in the car today, waiting on one of my kids… thumbing through facebook. I wish I would have saved it, but someone had written something to the effect of:

— If we have a limitless capacity for offense, how can we expect revival today if we are holding onto yesterday?

Which led me to think about that in the context of reading Ch2 of the book Enjoy.

If we have limitless capacity for offense, how can we expect RECONCILIATION today if we are still unforgiving of yesterday?

If we have limitless capacity for offense, how can we expect to ENJOY today, if we are still commiserating in yesterday?

Lord knows I could do a better job at forgiving 70 x 7!

Trillia Newbell’s book ENJOY!

enjoy

I really love this book.  This is going to be different from my normal blog posts on book reviews (which I did receive an advance readers copy of this book to read for the purpose of reviewing).  It will be different because I really, truly, want to explore this book as I find the content pretty important.

First, because it’s a book that reminds us that we have permission to enjoy the life the Lord has given us. There is freedom in salvation, and that freedom includes enjoyment. Have you ever considered the number of times in the Bible the word “rejoice” is used? Second, because it challenges us to make better choices about how we are going to respond to our lives. I’ve had twinges of conviction, as well as inspiration on how to live each day to His fullest for me (which is far greater than anything I could come up with on my own).

Today, I want to focus on the first chapter, which focuses greatly on contentment. Trillia puts it very succinctly that discontentment will impede joy, reminding us of Philippians 4:11 “for I have learned to be content in whatever situation”.

Yesterday… I was having a moment. I wasn’t very content with something and how it shaping out. It was affecting my mood (aka my attitude) and I had to make a choice. Was I going to give into this discontentment or instead would I rejoice. Could I be content with how things unfolded? I realized I could, and made an active choice to change my attitude. That doesn’t mean throughout the day thoughts didn’t creep in. I had to make the active choice… REPEATEDLY… to be content and move on.

In the book Enjoy, Trillia shares that contentment results in peace. As long as I allowed my thoughts and attitudes to remain in discontent, I was not finding peace. And my responses to everything else were skewed. Once I made the choice to be content, I could take those thoughts captive. I decided to do something I enjoy (painting) and I found peace. The more peaceful I felt, the more enjoyable it was to be around me. It was better for everyone.

Trillia Newbell
It’s a pre-order giveaway! To celebrate the upcoming release of Enjoy by @TrilliaNewbell, she’s written a devotional to help you enjoy this Advent season. http://bit.ly/2eBZ0Cz

Conflicted, Confused? Not really.

genawhat

I selected this picture, because I know many of us feel this way right now.  I wish I could say it was about the election, that would actually be easier.  Instead, it’s another Christian leadership controversy… that involves women.  Ugh.  Lord, help us.

As a woman, a Christian woman, I remember things I once believed but through time, education, and experience I have changed my opinions on.  At one time I was a staunch believer that women couldn’t be Pastors, because the Bible said so.  That women could only teach women, because the Bible said so.   It appeared so black and white.  It was Titus 2:3-5 for all occasions, times, places.  Done deal.

It was when I was actually challenged to defend my argument by using the scriptures, that I realized that wasn’t so crystal clear.  I couldn’t deny that there were times the Lord pulled women up into leadership or gave them incredible responsibilities.  I settled on the fact that the scriptures state that we are all one in Jesus (Gal 3:28), and that it was within reason that according to His will and His needs that God would appoint women in to leadership roles typical reserved for men.  I even used the scriptures to determine when those occasions would be, what expectations would be of these women, etc.  (This is a post for another day).

So, I can understand how over time with research and due diligence one’s understanding of the Word can clarify and our positions on a subject may change.  I do not hold growth against anyone.  We should all have a better understanding of the scriptures today than we did five or more years ago.  What I struggle with is when I see leaders publicly malign the Word of God.  At the end of Titus 2:3-5, the scriptures remind us that our teaching of others and our good character is a reflection on God.  We are literally told that all of this is so that we may never (or never be accused) of maligning the Word of God.

Over a week ago, a popular Christian author for women was caught up in controversy.  She and her husband made statement that they had changed their opinions on a subject, claiming to have done the due diligence and research required.  Their normal stance on loving and coming up alongside took a turn.  Now she was calling something the scriptures called “sin” as something that can be “holy”.   Let me be perfectly clear that I own several of her books, as well as her husband’s.  I think they have done amazing things, great things.  And so, I took a position.  I was going to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I could continue to glean the good from her work, and I would have to disregard the bad.  It wasn’t up to me to judge her.  As a friend said, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Even from a purely secular position, they speak words of love, concern, compassion, empathy, reconciliation, forgiveness, grace, mercy, et’al.  All wonderful things, scripturally supported.  Then came the speed bump.  But I thought, I can handle this.  I’ll treat her like a secular author.  Separate wheat from chaff.  Separate.

Yesterday, I was preparing to leave to speak to a group of women leaders.  I took a last glance at headlines, and I saw it.  A popular Christian speaker and author I follow was trending. That caught my attention.  I was not prepared for what the headlines were saying and what they implied.  I had to read the article twice to wrap my head around all of the facts.  On the drive, I was in full worship mode.  At the event we were sharing scripture, and the words about Titus 2:3-5 were spoken.  As leaders/teachers we are not to malign the Word of God.

That stuck with me on the ride back home.  As I listened to worship music, praying to God through the lyrics.  I blurted out… they are wrong.

I can love them.  I can love the work they do.  I can see the value they add to the world.  I can learn from them about many things.  I can even see the sincerity of their heart.  I believe they truly feel they have come to the right conclusion.  I can’t hold that against them.  We’ve all been there.  However, they have brought this forward in the public view.  They have put us all in a position to make a choice.

Will I side with someone who has a heart that loves God and people, but has a flawed heart, and publicly teaches from that flawed heart…

or

… will I malign the Word of God?

When I put it like that, it’s clear.  I can not malign the Word of God.  By supporting the stances of these 3 people (and the sheer number that are rallying around them, sharing the same opinions)… I am by association standing in agreement with these three leaders.  Because, this is not an “agree to disagree” situation.

What does this mean?

I know that it means those who follow this blog, who have always criticized these people from the start… you need to pray for them.  Not judge them.  Pray for them, regularly.  They have a far reach and we need to pray that they return to the Scriptures and align with God.

I know that it means those who follow this blog, who are part of the fan club… you will probably stop following me.  My blog numbers may go down, twitter and instagram too.  I may get hate mail.  Some family will be “disappointed” in me.  I understand your loyalty.  They are good people, who have huge hearts, and do amazing things.  They have even challenged me to be a better person.  But I won’t reverse my opinion, they are wrong.  And those who love and support them should be praying for them, as well.

I hope that it means for those who are confused and conflicted, that I have provided some clarity.  I apologize for not having clearer perspective my first go around on this subject.  Let’s talk and work this out together. Pray for clarity and discernment.  Learn the Scriptures so that you can be a good Berean, testing against the Word.  Be responsible with the Word, so that we do not malign it.

And for those who have no clue what I am talking about, it’s probably a great blessing you don’t.  We know the phrase “curiosity killed the cat”, and I’ll admit it won’t take you long to figure out who I am writing about.  I’d prefer you not hunt it down, or engage with gossip and slander.  What you can do is pray for our leaders.

I’d encourage you to take some time, dig into 2 Timothy 3, and ask the Lord to reveal truths of what is happening in our world and through our leaders.

Saving the Saved

savingthesaved
I received Saving the Saved by Bryan Loritts for the purpose of reviewing, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

A couple of years ago, I lamented to a friend that I was a terrible evangelist.  She looked a little surprised, because in all of our encounters I didn’t exactly shy away from talking about the gospel.  She asked me to clarify my statement.  I confessed that I was fine talking about God in certain environments and situations, but heading out in to the unknown and sharing it with strangers was very hard for me.  I was broken over it, feeling like I was not fulfilling The Great Commission very well.

As we continued to talk, and I was admittedly sobbing at this point, I had come to a conclusion about myself. I realized that I had a heart for the lukewarm believer, the people who should know better but don’t.  The big things that mattered to me, were topics like bible literacy and strong prayer lives.  I was undone by what people didn’t know because they didn’t take time to read the scriptures, or when scripture was being twisted to fit agenda.

It was at that point, she giggled just a bit at me.  She told me that I had a heart for discipleship, and that was Great Commission work.  As we continued to talk she pointed out that each of us have our role in The Great Commission.  There are the missionaries and evangelists who bring the gospel to people for the first time.   There are the apologists who defend the faith well, to those who question and doubt.  Then there are disciple makers, who have a heart for studying and teaching the scriptures well.  She freed me from the disappointment in my poor evangelizing by helping me to recognize that wasn’t my gift.

It also helped me pinpoint my role in serving the body, that I loved to teach and equip leaders.  My heart was bent toward knowledge and wisdom from the scriptures, and that i desired to know it well myself in order to make sure I teach it well to others.  Integrity in my teaching was highly important to me.  Just this year, a woman asked me if I would consider being her mentor.  After prayerful consideration, I responded that I didn’t feel right mentoring her.  I still had a lot to learn, and quite often I learn from her.  Ultimately we agreed instead on a mutual relationship, like the disciples had, where we could learn form each other.

There is so much freedom in the scriptures, and I am someone who loves a to do list.  It is very easy for me to find myself looking for clear cut directions, and frustrated with the scripture are vague on a topic.  I want God to tell me in His Word exactly how I am to live every single day of my life.  If I am not careful, I can allow myself to become too legalistic.  At the same time, I must also be careful that I don’t go into the deep end of “everything is permissible” without remembering that doesn’t mean it is beneficial.

I’m already a fan of Bryan Loritts, and I was excited to read this book.  It had everything I loved about sharing the gospel with those who are saved.   The pages speak of mercy, grace, and love.  It tells me to be generous, put my pride in check, and to find peace instead of worries.  It affirms my marriage priority as my first ministry and reminds me that I need to get out of my own way.  Oh… and then it trips me up… when it talks about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard.  Like, REALLY, hard.   And, honestly it doesn’t even matter who I am trying to forgive.  In fact, I often have an easier time forgiving others than my own self.  It can be a real struggle to forgive, because our Christ-like heart says YES and our fleshy mind says NO.  Who hasn’t uttered the words…  “How many times do I forgive {insert person, situation, self}?”

Bryan Loritts takes us right to the truth of it…

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me,

and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee,

Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 

Matthew 18:21-22

Ouch.  That many times, Lord?  Really?  Really.  For a moment, let’s take this literally.  If the Lord has set the limit at 490 forgivenesses… I’m in trouble.  I’ve stopped long before that number.  I can’t think of a single person in my life that has wronged me 490 times.

If we take it in concept, that is STILL a lot of times to forgive someone.  UGH!

I know that there are times where I am really hurt, and I don’t want to forgive.  But there are other times when I know that I am being petty, or I know that it’s more about how I perceived the wrongdoing than what was actually done.  One of the most reoccurring themes for me in 2016 has been about forgiveness.  That forgiveness isn’t easy, but necessary.  Forgiveness is a choice, that I sometimes have to make every day despite my flesh.  Forgiveness is not reconciliation but part of that process.  Forgiveness won’t always make sense, and by the worlds terms, they may not deserve my forgiveness.  Forgiveness may cost me something… and yet forgiveness is freeing.

It’s funny to me, the terrible evangelist, that I purchased a book about saving the saved… and it was a book I needed to read.  I continually need to be reminded to forgive.

Seventy times seven times.

Lord, forgive my unforgiveness.  Let grace, mercy, and forgiveness fall from my lips. Amen.