Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Turning Back

Today as I read, "What Happens When Women Walk in Faith" by Lysa TerKeurst I was reminded of something He showed me 3 years ago when I read this same book for the first time. I captured this lesson in words and actually posted it on my blog in July of 2008, but since it spoke to me today, I thought it might do the same for you!

Today, Joy, my second child and also our little miss independent was determined to ride her bike without training wheels. So J.D., our 5 year old mechanic willingly removed the extra wheels and encouraged his little sis!

After moments of frustration, I suggested possibly putting the training wheels back on, after all she is only 3!! But my little princess/tomboy, who believes she can do anything her big brother can, wanted nothing to do with that!

She had been able to ride with me getting her started and believed with enough determination she could do it herself. She wasn't turning back even if it meant a skinned up knee!

As I watched her persevere, I thought of Lysa's words, "starting something new begins with leaving something old." That was true for Joy today, just like it is for me as I walk the path God has paved.

Sometimes it is hard, I think I can't, I worry about falling and getting hurt, I wonder what others will think, but just like my little girl I have to make a choice. No matter what might happen, I have to do what God calls me to do. Sure I might crash, but she reminded me I can get back up, brush it off and try again. She even went so far after one fall to stand up, smile and say, "There's not even any blood!!"

My little Joy encouraged me today - after an hour she was making skid marks just like her brother, but Lysa's comment about God filling in the gaps was the icing on the cake. I know my confidence and belief in myself can only take me so far and when I reach the limit it is wonderful to know God will cover the rest.

In the past year I sense He has done that and it's wonderful to look back and see what He has done. His faithfulness in the past offers wonderful hope for the future!!

Friend as we walk in faith, may we remember to keep our eyes on Him and simply take one step at a time as we journey down the road of life!!

Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Confident Heart - The Before and After Look

Nearly two months ago, Renee Swope asked if I'd like to read an early release of her book, "A Confident Heart - How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God's Promises." I knew this was a message I needed, so I instantly responded "Yes, count me in!!" In her email she wrote, "I'm praying this book will truly bless you!" My response was this, "I know the book will bless me; my prayer is that it will change me." You see I've followed Renee's blog, appreciated her P31 devotions and had the privilege of working with her for our women's retreat - I knew God would bless me through her book as well. But I didn't just want to read about a confident heart, I wanted one for myself, so before I even opened the book I prayed for change. Now after reading the final page, I realize God has been answering my prayer.

I'll give you a look for yourself, I don't have pictures like a weight loss plan or make-over, but, I pray my words will paint a picture of what God has done internally, how He's changed my heart!!

The Before -

Growing up I was the oldest, responsible, good girl with what Renee calls the "disease to please." I wanted to make everyone happy and as I matured, I realized this was impossible. During those same years I struggled with what my future held - my sister was planning her wedding and I realized I'd only been on one date - I was lonely and feared that's what my life would look like. Added to the loneliness and need for approval were thoughts that I wasn't good enough, I'd never measure up and that I really wasn't needed which all eventually lead to suicidal thoughts and a diagnosis of depression. In that process, I didn't just find help for the imbalance in my mind, but also what had been missing all along - God revealed Himself in my suffering and at the age of 23 I came to know Him as Savior and Lord.

Obviously doubt played a role before I gave my life to Christ, so I want to specifically look at how it's impacted my walk as a Christian. I've always been the "Jesus girl" who was more than willing to encourage others - I could listen to their situation and rejoice when the news was good and remind them of God's plan when times were trying. I believed things would get better or not turn out too bad. God was in control right?!? Or there were the times when others would share their doubts, "I'm not good enough to do what God is calling me to do." or "Look at me, I'm not beautiful." I knew the words to share with them and believed they were true!

Then there were the times when the voice I listened to was my own - a new trial would come into my life and instantly there was worry - my mind would race and the what if's seemed to never end. The moments when God would call me out of my comfort zone - again there was doubt, "He's not really saying that. I could never..." God would tell you He heard it all!! Oh yes and don't forget the looks thing, I'm the one who would avoid the mirror every chance I had! And even in those moments when I'd push past doubt and talk about this (one of my forever struggles) I'd listen to what others had to say, but believe it, not really. I could see the beauty in all of God's creation until I looked at myself, that I doubted. When I doubted what was on the outside it was only natural to doubt what was on the inside as well.

It amazes me to think doubt is what initially connected me with Renee. Three years ago this July she was writing on her blog about doubt and asked what role it had played in our life. In the comments I simply wrote, "I'm afraid if I gave you the complete answer this would be a book." Much to my surprise she responded with an email (see I doubted a gal I heard on the radio would ever email me!!) wanting to hear more of my story.

After spending the night thinking about her question, God put the following words on my heart -


It knocks me down

and beats me up.

It makes me question

and sometimes quit.

It causes me to worry

and even wallow.

It robs me of joy

and leaves me empty.

It prevents me from sharing my faith

and truly loving my neighbor.

It causes me to compare

and think I'll never measure up.

It fills me with regrets

and plenty of "what if's."

It leaves me discouraged

and sometimes even depressed.

It is one of satan's weapons

and one, only GOD can combat.

It reminds me I can't,

but I trust God will.

I read those words and they are true, doubt had a hold on me and really has kept me from being who God made me to be.

The After -

"A Confident Heart" is a book that has touched my heart and it's a challenge to sum up the difference it has made, probably because its impact is on-going. So for now, a look at "Who am I?" after reading Renee's words. I believe the best, well at least the fastest way to say it is this - Mrs. Doubtful becomes Confident in Christ! Only now this confidence has become a personal thing!

Like I said, before I knew God was big and powerful, but I didn't always believe that applied to situations in my own life. I knew God loved His children and thought they were beautiful, but those were things I associated with others, not myself. I also knew doubt played a big role in my life, but now I know it has played a role in every area of my life. I use to think worry and doubt was just part of who I was, something I had to live with, but now I know with Christ's strength in me it's something I can overcome. And at the same time, doubt is something that God can use to draw me closer to Him, if I let it!!

God has changed me as together we've journeyed through this book - the mirror is still not my best friend, but like I shared in a previous post, I am beautiful. It's taken me 35 years to say those words, but that is what God says and I believe HIM! I have always been one of my own worst critics and have been real quick to beat myself up, but I'm learning that I can fail forward and learn from my mistakes. I really am, and will always be, a work in progress! Finally as my heart becomes more confident, I'm reminded that I'm not "just Jill"; no I am God's chosen child, a daughter who He loves and has plans for! (Matt. 3:17, John 15:16, Jer. 29:11)

As I reflect and write these words, in a way I feel it's easier to see and understand who I was - an insecure, doubtful, worried girl who was always on the short end of the comparison stick. At the same time I am so grateful God is giving me a glimpse of who He has created me to be - a secure, confident, fearless women who is beautiful in His eyes. And friend I pray my words have given you a look at the change I'm experiencing because if God can do this for me, He can and wants to do the same for you!!

One great lesson I've taken from "A Confident Heart" is this - it's not about trying harder, but turning faster. God doesn't need me, or you, to try any harder than we already do. He's more concerned about us seeking Him than serving Him. And when those doubts come, and believe me, they are even more intense when we're aware and are trying to battle them, we just need to turn faster - turn to Him and remind ourselves of His truth and His promises!! Only by doing this will we know who we are!! And more importantly whose we are!!

Today will you join me in praying Hebrews 10:35-36?? These are powerful words, "
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Who am I?" - A Saved Sinner

Holy week is upon us and the events of these days are influencing my thinking. I ask myself the question, "Who am I?" and instead of seeing myself, my mind pictures Christ and what happened to Him years ago on Good Friday and then what God did through Him on Resurrection Sunday many, many years ago.

The pain He experienced and the power God displayed truly explain who I am. The beatings and torture Jesus endured would not have been necessary if I wasn't defined by a single word - sinner. Before we go any further lets define the word sinner - one who takes part in any deliberate action, attitude, or thought that goes against God. Knowing that let me ask you a question, "Are you a sinner?"

I can't hear the answer you are giving, but the Bible says it loud and clear. In Romans 3:23 Paul says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." I reflect on my life, my day, actually the last hour and I know that is true for me. I fall short. How about you??

With me can you define yourself with one word? That word specifically being sinner. Really it's more than if you can, do you? Will you acknowledge the fact that you've done wrong? Sure maybe it's not as bad as the lady across the road or the murderer you saw on the news, but sin is sin and no matter the degree it causes each and every one of us to fall short of the glory of God.

Because of this sin, that is a part of who I am, God in His righteousness could have nothing to do with me, but because of the love that defines who our Heavenly Father is, He sent His Son so my identity could be found in Him. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

God's resurrection power has changed who I am - yes, I'm still a sinner, but I am saved!!! Jesus died on the cross for me!! Just like God was able to raise His Son from the dead, some day He will do the same for me, His daughter!!

This week as you celebrate Easter I pray you find time to reflect on our question!! Think about who Jesus is and how knowing Him defines who you are!! May we each acknowledge our sin and be even more grateful for God's grace!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On my heart...

I glanced at the calendar today and a few things came to mind - 16 years ago I had reconstructive knee surgery and on that same day Oklahoma City suffered its bombings. But April 19th will forever be etched in my mind for another reason - this was the due date for the baby we lost back in 2008. This was a little one I never held, but will forever love!! I believe she has a name and I know she had a purpose!! And on today I remember she is one I will never forget!!

"I Will Not Forget"
Though it seems
the world has forgotten
and even I have went a day
or two without remembering,
"I will not forget."

The role you played was pivotal
and your presence powerful.
You touched my heart
and changed my life,
"I will not forget."

I think of you often and
still miss you just the same.
You will forever be
a part of me,
"I will not forget."

No one will ever take your place
or do what you have done.
You alone are special -
a gift only God could give,
one, "I will not forget."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Who am I?" - A Friend

This week in our series, for the first time I'm answering the question with a role. First of all let me say that my identity or yours is not based on the roles we play, but understanding who we are helps us be who we were met to be. I honestly believe one of the roles God has given us each to fulfill is that of friend. Aside from our role as child and sibling this is one of the first roles we play and it's one that continues throughout our lifetime.

At times this role is fun and enjoyable - remembers those early friendships? I look at my 6 year old daughter and her fast found best friend - watching them truly is a joy! They always pick up right where they left off, they play for hours, they can visit like they are teens and they love one another. Friendships are a gift and something we were met to enjoy!

Then I look ahead a few years and observe junior high and high school girls - some friendships continue just like Joy and Chloe, but others are not as pleasant. Sure today they may be best friends, but who knows what tomorrow will bring - harsh words, gossip, lies believed - damage done that makes a good thing bad and painful. Take a minute and think back to those days from your teen years, remember what I'm saying?

I'd like to think as we mature, reach adulthood and leave childish ways behind that friendships would return to a thing of joy, a role that came naturally, but I don't believe that is the case. How about you? Perhaps it's not the teenage mentality that causes the trouble, but friendships do require work. But it's work that is worthwhile because connections are something we each crave.

Just this morning I read Renee Swope's devotion from Proverbs 31 titled, "Craving Connection" which really stirred up some thoughts about friendships and my role as a friend. (I'd highly recommend reading this for yourself and visiting Renee's blog as well!!) As I thought about her words in this devotion in relation to my own life more of Renee's words came to mind. I have had the honor of reading a pre-release copy of her new book, "A Confident Heart," and have been blessed!!

A few days ago I finished the chapter titled, "When Doubt Whispers, You Can't Stop Worrying" and one quote that stuck with me was, "Worry robs us of peace in our relationships." As I read it, I thought yeah that's true, but in the past few days God has shown me how true it is in my life. Let me explain...

In the devotional Renee shares how our busyness and technological connections have caused us to push our face to face connections aside. Not sure if that's true in your life, but I know I'd love to get together with friends more often than I do. But back to this quote, what does worry have to do with peace in my friendships?

In my mind when I don't connect with a friend I often find myself wondering "Why?" As I wonder I often find myself trying to answer the question which often results in thoughts like, "I must have done something wrong," "She's too busy for me," "I'm not worth her time" or "I'm not a friend, I'm a burden."

Really all these thoughts and the others that accompany them in a way are worries (a nagging concern or uneasiness). And a worry is something that does me, or my friendships, no good. Actually it does just the opposite - just like those teenage troubles from the past, worry can destroy friendships, it causes me to push away and close up, like Renee says it robs me of peace.

God did not create friendships to hurt us, but to help us (which don't get me wrong some times does involve pain) and really to teach us more about Him and our relationship with Christ. Remember Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother!! (Prov. 18:24) And worry can damage that relationship as well!!

Our Father created friendships with purpose, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (NIV) That craving for connection is there for a reason; because God created me to be a friend, that is part of who I am.

I look forward to the days ahead as God continues to give me answers to the question I will forever ask! As I define myself by His standards and find my identity in Him, He is opening my eyes to see things through His. And today this lesson dealt with friends and I'm reminded of words that were shared with me as a child and ones I've already passed on to my children, "If you want to have a friend, you need to be a friend."

So today rather than waiting for my friend to return my call, I'll dial her number again. Tomorrow rather than checking my email for a message that still isn't there, I'll send one out. And hopefully in the days ahead rather than worrying, I'll take a lesson from my best friend, Jesus, and be secure in who I am, His friend, and trust Him with the friendships He's given to me.

I encourage you to invest in your friendships today!! And I'd love for you to visit Renee's blog for an opportunity to win a Friendship Gift Pack including your own copy of "A Confident Heart!!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Who am I?" - The Girl who Wanted to Die

When I began this series a few months back I had a list of titles and topics I thought I would address, but since then God's shown me He had other things in mind. That's not a bad thing, just a different direction than I expected, but isn't that how walking in faith really is?!?!

So today will you journey with me as I tackle an area that at times I tend to avoid? You see for a long time this specific answer to our question was one I was not proud of, you might say it was a secret I wanted to keep. But God, has a purpose for the pain and perhaps a plan to use my past to help someone else's present.

I believe sometimes in order to answer the question, "Who am I?" we also need to consider the question, "Who was I?" Though we may no longer be that person, God uses who I was to shape who I am and can use that to help me become who He created me to be. So on to this week's answer...

Growing up I was a child who got along with everyone, but wasn't real close to anyone. Others saw me as a great listener, but I rarely gave anyone the opportunity to do the same for me as I internalized the pain. Though I was surrounded by people who loved me, cared for me and supported me there were times I was lonely. It didn't help that I struggled with my looks and though I was a people pleaser I knew I'd let them down.

As my high school years passed by, the hole I was falling in seemed to get bigger. By the time I left for college, depression was part of my days. (Though I had yet to admit it.) Time went by and the days got darker until September of '99 during my second year of teaching.

It was a Tuesday and after struggling to connect with and gain respect from the kids I wanted to inspire, I felt like a failure. I looked at others' lives and thought I'd never measure up. As I listened to this repetition of lies and negative thoughts I convinced myself I didn't matter and uttered 4 words that have changed my life, "I want to die."

Instantly in my mind I had a plan, a way to end it all, but as I pulled out my journal God had another plan. A thank you card from a Mom of one of my former students fell out and I picked it up. Her words shook me and reminded me of the desire I'd always had to set a good example and then my fear of failure kicked in and I was afraid I'd mess up my attempt at the unthinkable and have to face all the people I'd attempted to leave behind. So rather than picking up my car keys, I grabbed the phone and called for help rather than going on a ride that would end it all.

Now for the sake of time, I'll spare you some details, but I do want to address my answer to the question "Who am I?" Though it hurts me to say this, I was the girl who wanted to die. Like I said for many years this was something I was ashamed of; if a conversation turned to suicide I found myself becoming very silent on the outside, but internally I'd beat myself up with thoughts like, "I can't believe you ever considered that!" Friend maybe you are there, if so can I share a new thought? A radical one?

I believe God wants us to die, just not the way the world defines it. It's not a physical death He desires but instead He wants us to die to self. And that's exactly what happened to me twelve years ago this fall, I finally realized I was not in control, it was not my job to fix everything or make everyone happy, nor was it anyone's job to fill me up or make me happy. By coming to the end of myself, I was able to go to the cross and receive all Christ had for me.

As I think about this John 11:25 comes to mind, "Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." I believe Jesus is saying we can't live for Him and still do what we want, there's not room for Jesus and everything else; it's a one or the other decision. In this case dying isn't a bad thing, no, it's a good thing! It's what God wants me to do and you too!

The Bible supports this truth with Paul's words in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." When I decided to accept Christ, I was crucified with Him. Simply said, I died.

On that night back in 1999 I had no idea this is where my dying would lead, but God did. At that time I really didn't know much about a personal relationship with Christ, but as my Creator, God knew what would bring me to HIM.

In the days since there hasn't always been that same desire to die, but daily GOD calls me and you to die to our self and live for HIM!! Galatians 5:24 sums it up quite well, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

I'll be honest this isn't always easy and I don't always succeed, but it is God's desire for me. By doing this I will become who He created me to be. The Word tells us only by losing our life will we find it! (Matt.16:25)

I understand this is a scary concept, but then I recall those days of depression and the moments I thought physical death was the only answer. If you've been there, I'd guess you'd agree that IS scary!! I never thought I'd be one who wanted to die and like I said for years the memory of desiring just that brought pain and shame, but today I'm grateful for who I was because it has played a critical role in helping me become who I am.

This process of becoming can be difficult because it is hard to lay it all down for the sake of Christ, but as I reflect on my life and see the times I've done just that I know it's worth it!! I pray you do too!! Today may we reflect on Paul's words, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." Phil. 3:7-11

"Who am I?" The girl who wanted to die, and did!! Friend, if these thoughts create questions in your mind or confusion in your heart please feel free to email me! ( If God is speaking to you and calling you to surrender; I pray you will respond. It truly is the most important part of our journey to answer the question, "Who am I?"

Thanks for joining me today and remember to check out the give-away in my previous post!