Ever feel uninvited? Alone? Isolated?

uninvited

It’s no secret that I do book reviews, and that I have cut down on the number of them this year.  I made a conscious decision to not just take anything that looked good or sounded interesting.  Instead, I wanted to focus on ones I would have purchased anyway, recommended to me, or that I felt led to read for a purpose.  Lysa TerKeurst’s book Uninvited fulfilled all three of those litmus tests. I did received a copy of the book for free for the purpose of reviewing, however my views and opinions are my own (in case you didn’t know, legally I have to say that).

Normally, when I do a review, I highlight the entire book.  I will share why I think you should read it, who I would recommend the book to, etc.  But, I want to approach this one a bit differently.  Why?  Because… I think this book is very important for YOU to read.  Yes, YOU.  Whomever is sitting on the other side of the screen.  YOU, the woman who feels alone.  YOU, the husband who needs to see his wife more clearly.  YOU, the parent who is present in body and absent in mind.   YOU, the women’s ministry leader that is shepherding the hearts of women.  YOU, the Pastor that needs a better understanding of sixty five percent of his church body that is crying out for value.

In the years that I have been serving women, secular groups and in the church, I have found a very common thread.  Women who are insecure in their identity.  Women who don’t feel valued or wanted, women that feel overlooked.  Women with baggage that still haunts them and needles away at their insecurities.  Women who feel left out and rejected.  Women who will hide themselves away in a false security.

If this even remotely sounds like you, or someone you love… I think you should read this book.  I think you should take your time reading this book.  I think you should have your Bible next to you as you read this book.  I think you should be writing down the things that jump off the page, your reaction to these words, and the issues it is bringing to head.  I think you need to take this to your spouse, mentor, or accountability partner and talk about it.  And, I think you need to pray as you do all of this with the goal of taking and LEAVING it all at the foot of the cross.

Because, you are loved.  You are valued.  You are created in His image.  You are called to Kingdom work.  You are welcomed.  You are invited to the wedding banquet.  You are adopted into a holy family.  YOU.  With your baggage, insecurity, anxiety, and all of the lies that you have listened to and told yourself.  YOU.

These are just a few quotes from the book, that may resonate with you…

“Broken boards can’t provide stability.” … “for years I’d been expecting stability from a broken identity.”

“Being hidden made me feel wonderfully secure.”

“I loved the feeling that life could happen around me but not to me.”

“… as long as I stayed hidden, life stayed in control and I stayed safe.”

“Things of this world all eventually reveal what incapable anchors they really are.”

Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

What are you anchoring yourself to? Where are you finding your identity?

Lysa’s book is important because it addresses the root fears in our lives that cause us to pull back from freedom in Christ.  It exposes the lies we believe, and turns our face to God who LOVES us… NO MATTER WHAT.    However, for the confident woman, I believe this book opens our eyes to the struggles that many women face.  It can give us compassion towards our fellow sisters in Christ, and encourage use to extend a hand of invitation.

Last year, I was at a party.  The ladies were going on about plans they were making for the following week.  My husband happened to overhear the women, and spoke up… “Gena hasn’t said anything about that.  Is she not going?”    At the moment, the women didn’t even realize that I hadn’t been invited.   I wasn’t intentionally left out, each had assumed another invited me and I just wasn’t able to come.

When I heard the women speaking plainly about their plans in front of me, I felt excluded.  I was hurt, and I didn’t speak up for myself.  My husband stepped up as my champion in that moment.  He knew something wasn’t right, and handled it in such a gentle way.  This is why I encourage you to not just read the book and take notes, but speak to your spouse or mentor about it.   You have others who can speak for you when appropriate, but can also give you clear perspective on finding your own voice.

It’s a great book, but be forewarned, you are going to have to open yourself up to being vulnerable (even with your self) to glean the best this book has to offer.

Are you ready?

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Fearless? Hardly.

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Several years ago, I purchased a potted hydrangea from Publix, it was right around Easter time.  They were so pretty, and not knowing anything about them, I planted them.  Apparently, these were supposed to be the flowers you gift someone and then enjoy for as long as the plant lives.  Apparently one shouldn’t be able to grow hydrangeas in my area.  And, apparently, one shouldn’t expect see them blooming into the summer.

I’m glad no one told my hydrangeas that, as I have had beautiful blooms every summer since I planted them.

You may wonder what would bring me to plant them in the first place, without even considering whether or not they would grow in our climate.  The truth is, they were going to die eventually sitting in a pot on my counter or patio.  Why not put them in the ground and see what happens?

This is sort of my lease on life:  Why not try it and see what happens?   While  some would call me brave and fearless, I would disagree.  I can let my anxiety get the best of me, I can worry myself awake all night long, and I can be terrified of trying new things.  However, I’ve never let fear stop me from trying something new, or making a bold move.  I would not classify myself as careless or reckless, either.  I’m not betting the family’s future on a whim.

I can say with certainty that over the years my ability to “just ask” or “give it a try” has paid off with dividends.  If I am afraid, then what would bring me to trying in the first place?

In those moments where I am taking a bold step, or giving something out of the box a try… I’m not putting trust in the myself, nor am I trusting that the world is working in my favor.  I don’t buy into luck or coincidence, and I pay a lot of attention to gut instinct.  In those moments, I am simply trusting God and His promises.  I’m saying to the Lord, I am surrendering this to you… make it work, or move me beyond it.

The dividend of those leaps of faith have not always paid off in the way I would have wanted.  However, there have always been lessons that I been able to glean from.  I’ve learned that the “worst thing that could happen” hasn’t exactly ruined my life.  I’ve also been blessed in ways that still blow my socks off.

The Bible tells us countless times “do not be afraid”, “do not fear”, “do not worry”, “do not be anxious”… because GOD has this under control.  When He calls me to move, I move.  When there is a thorn under my skin to do something bold, I don’t ignore it.    I listen for the nudging of the Holy Spirit, I look for affirmations, and I test those feelings to His word… but most importantly:

I trust Him.  I trust what His word says:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Where Does It Hurt?

hurtI came across this quote on the internet last night.   It spoke to so much of what was rolling around in my head.  On Friday evening as the attack on Paris was unfolding, I was in a meeting.  We were kind of secluded, and thus none of us were aware what was happening while we sat dishing out a to do list for our team of conference volunteers.

Over the past 46 days I have been slowly working my way through the Psalms.  My head has been swimming in the scriptures, where God’s people are calling out to him.  They are asking for divine intervention, they are looking to God to overthrow their enemies, they are seeking his protection, provision, and favor.

When I came across this quote… I thought of Paris.  I thought of Israel.  I thought of Africa.  I thought of Haiti, South America, and so many other places that are aching & have been for some time.  For some it is civil unrest, famine, poverty, medical crisis, abuse, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, genocide, evil and corrupt leaders…

I have also thought about those who are on our very streets, in the United States, suffering due to addiction, homelessness, untreated illnesses, mental illness…

I can’t help but to think of those who have prodigal children, missing family members, deployed spouses, terminal illness…

In a time of medical advancements, technology, wealth, and so many other things that should put things in our favor and give us the means to help others on a global scale…

The world hurts.

It cries out.

God do you hear me?  Do you hear my prayers?

Do not forget your servants, God!

Do not turn your face from us, do not withhold your blessing!

Lord, deliver us from our enemies.  Bring us into your presence.

For forty three of those verses were cries out to God (yes, some praises too.. but mostly cries).  This is the world today.  As I came into verses 45 and 46, I found a new page, a new voice.  Full of praises of the wonder and awesomeness of God and the Anointed One. 

The may be pain in the night.  But joy comes in the morning.  When the oceans rage, I don’t have to be afraid.  I know that YOU love me, your love never fails.

Praising you through the tears, clinging to your word.  Your world aches Lord, but our hope remains in you.  Examine us Lord, show us our iniquities, so that we may repent and be washed clean.  Do not forget your servants, you are our refuge and our protector.  We will sing of your glory forever.

Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.  Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress  Selah.

Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.  “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  Selah.

#Write31Days – Post 10 – The Worry of a Mom

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I have three beautiful arrows in my quiver.  I adore my daughters, but I can’t help … much like many a mother … getting caught in moments of worry.

The first time I worried, I was still pregnant with our first.  What if something happens to me while I am pregnant?  My request to my husband was to chose the baby over me.  It is amazing how quickly a selfish woman can become selfless… all from a little pink plus sign in the window of a plastic stick.

The worries continued to build after she was born.  Who could I trust to baby sit her?  What if she got an illness?  What if I was in a car accident, and I was unconscious… would someone help her?  Would someone take her?

When she was school aged, I remember the first time I waited in the parent pick up lane and she was no where to be seen.  My heart was leaping into my throat, while she was totally unaware of my panic as she walked slowly back from the classroom to the outside waiting area.   She had forgotten her lunch box.

It’s been sixteen years, three daughters, and panic still will strike.  My middle school aged daughter is usually one of the first three kids out the doors at the end of the day.  Just a few days ago panic would strike as I watched the number of kids waiting dwindle, and she hadn’t walked through the doors.  She had forgotten her flute.

I can’t completely stop the what if panic attacks from happening, we live in a world where media likes to remind us daily of everything that can happen to our kids.  However,  I no longer let those moments have the debilitating power they once held.

Many years ago, a friend of mine shared with me that her son was going on his first trip with his father out of state.  Her marriage was an abusive one that ended in divorce, but the courts had given him unsupervised visitation of their son.  She had attempted to keep him from being able to take their out of the state, but ultimately the court didn’t agree with her.  As she shared this with me, I could feel my own emotions as a mother starting to boil.  I tried to think of the hundred ways she could keep this from happening.  Yet, she seemed really calm.

“I have to trust the Lord with my son, Gena.  He isn’t mine, he belongs to God.  God can bring him home when ever He chooses.”

Let me assure you, all the air escaped from my lungs as I gasped at the words that came out of her mouth.

Even today, as I type these words… I am still in blown away by her words.  Do not mistake that she wasn’t worried about her son’s welfare.  She knew what her ex-husband was capable of doing.  She also knew that God was more than capable of protecting her son from his father.  She also trusted that if God would take her son, that His ways were not her ways.  She wouldn’t understand it, not from a human mothers perspective… but would trust that God’s plan was bigger and better than her own.

TO HAVE THAT FAITH!

In the years since, I have begun to understand it more.  I understood it when I was staring out the sliding glass doors of our apartment, rubbing my pregnant belly, as tears ran down my face.  In my routine testing precancerous cells were found in my uterus and cervix, I was also pregnant.  I was being faced with a procedure that might affect the pregnancy.  My husband patted my arms and said “God wouldn’t give you this baby just to take it from you.”

I replied:  “God may have given us this baby just to save my life.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t grieve over the thought of losing my baby, but that I accepted that His ways are not my ways.  You see, I was really behind in getting my annual exams done.  Had I not gotten pregnant, I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor… not until symptoms presented themselves.  At which point it would have meant that I was dealing with Cancer… not precancerous cells.

Being on the cusp of potentially losing a child certainly has made me appreciative of the three lives God has entrusted to me.  I do my best as a mom to make the best decisions in raising them.  I have moments where I am absolutely terrified, when they get hurt or take too long exiting the school.  I can’t relax until all my kids are home where they should be.  Even something as simple as seeing a police car too close to the school can be enough to make my imagination run wild.

It is impossible as a parent to NOT worry about your child.  But, I have chosen to not be crippled by that fear.

When I was little, a child had been abducted from a mall a few hours south of us.  Unfortunately, he was not recovered alive.  This had a profound affect on my mother, who did everything in her power to ensure that we were never in the position for something like that to happen.  When other kids walked home from elementary school, I was picked up by my grandmother.  I was in 8th grade before I could stay home alone after school, but my grandmother still picked me up from the bus stop that was only a few streets away.  Every day, through my senior year of high school, I would call my mother when I returned home from school to let her know I was safely there.

My mother was terrified of what could happen.  Because of that, there were a lot of things I missed out on as a child.  I am not blaming my mom, because now as a mother myself… I TOTALLY GET IT.  Not to mention, my mother was doing the whole parenting thing alone.  There wasn’t a second set of eyes keeping an eye on us.

Today, I am able to find a balance between being concerned, vigilant, and watchful… at the same time as allowing the kids some freedom to do what kids do.  I’ve stopped worrying about car accidents too.  In part, because my children are older versus being infants.  Also, because I have taught them what to do,  included safety cards in the glove box with their information & who to contact in case of an emergency.

The most important part, is that I have surrendered my children to God.

This is why I can send my children to public school every day without being in a constant state of worry over mass shootings, bullying, or whatever other thing that might cross my mind.  I am an involved parent, I have taken the time to understand the policies of the school, put in an effort of being communicative with the teachers and staff, I pray for their safety, and I trust that God’s word is true…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified

because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you;

he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

I relieve my worries by:

  • Doing everything within my power to ensure the safety of my kids.  Through educating them and myself.  Talking over safety measures, being mindful and watchful, being prepared and having plans in place.
  • Praying over my children, their schools, our community, and the world at large.  I pray for safety, wisdom, and discernment.  I openly rebuke evil impacting their lives and surroundings.  Which means when I am praying for the protection of my kids… I am praying for the protection of all the kids with them.
  • When the worries or panic come, I call on the Lord.  I find peace in His promises and I do not let my fears overwhelm me.  It’s ok to OWN the worry, acknowledging it… then let it go.  I am far better prepared to deal with an emergency if I haven’t allowed myself to build up into a state of panic.