Monday, October 31, 2016

Keeping Up Appearances

I learned at an early age how to bury emotions and pretend things didn’t bother or hurt me. What I portrayed to my peers, was only what I wanted them to see. These pretensions followed me throughout my teen years into adulthood.

Whatever our current situation is, usually determines how pressured we feel to put up a front to hide our struggles and problems. 

The pressure to keep up with our neighbors or appear a certain way to our peers, doesn’t go away at age 21 or when we finish school, start our careers, marry and have children.

I think women struggle with this more than men. We compare ourselves ruthlessly to others and the head talk begins. 

She has the perfect body, prettier face, perfect parents, 
perfect house. Her husband is perfect, perfect kids, perfect
family, perfect job. Plenty of money. Nice furniture. 
And did you see those shiny appliances?

We then begin our lifelong quest to be like those who we think are perfect, not realizing they have their own struggles and problems. 

When I was a young Christian, I looked up to godly women who’d walked this road ahead of me and were mature in their relationship with Christ.

They had it together. Home, marriage, kids, and outward appearance was neatly packaged into what I thought being a godly woman looked like.

They could quote scripture and knew all the important biblical stories. They attended every church function, volunteered and made homemade granola and play dough with their kids.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with all those things. But there was never any talk about struggles with sin or getting too deep with personal problems. So I thought being a Christian meant you no longer had serious problems.

Living in the southeast, I think, also adds to the expectations of what a godly Christian woman's life looks like.

Keeping up appearances is exhausting. It’s something you’d only expect with non-Christians or those who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ.

We’re surrounded by people every day working hard to keep up appearances, while struggling with the real stuff of life; past hurts, mistakes, dark secrets all buried deep down. 

In my late twenties, I went through a devastating divorce and became a single parent. Foreclosure, bankruptcy and a car repossession was hard to hide.

So much for keeping up appearances, right? Those were just the material things. There was still the emotional pain and shame to deal with.

This marked the point in my life where things got real with Jesus. My messy problems got bigger, and my struggles were many. I learned that my God was bigger still. 

Life can change in a day. Keeping up appearances is a waste of our energy. Jesus already sees to our core, and there's no need to pretend with Him. 

Surround yourself with others who are honest about their struggles and problems and who you can also be real with. Then pray for each other so you can be healed.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray 
for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

This will end your exhausting quest to keep up appearances for others. 

Where can you find these people? If you don't have a strong church family or small group, a great place to find these people is at a nearby Celebrate Recovery program; a Christ-centered recovery program for anyone struggling with ANY hurts, hangups or habits. That's pretty much everyone, right? To find a CR group near you, go to Celebrate Recovery

This won't all happen in one day, but I bet if you ask God, He will lead you to others who, like you, want to move past the pretenses and enjoy freedom and true joy in Him.

And of course, as always, feel free to contact me ANYTIME. You can send a private email by using the contact form on the right of this page or leave a comment below where you feel comfortable for others to see.

Let's stay the course, and be real together.
Terri




Monday, October 24, 2016

When You Turn Out the Lights

During my early months as a single mom, I dreaded turning the lights out at night. 

I was a knee-knocking, fearful 27-year old in charge of the safety of my two children in the other bedroom.

I haven’t told many people this, but those first months I was alone, I slept with a knife hidden under my mattress. A big one.

I remember putting a chair at each door, tilted just under the doorknob to keep out danger.

We had a big dog too. Sheba slept outside in her cozy doghouse in our fenced-in yard, so I thought.

One night she erupted into an attack bark right under my bedroom window, followed by her galloping to the back corner of the yard. My feet hit the floor like bowling balls and kneeled to look out into the dark.

Minutes later, Sheba returned to her spot underneath my window and I went back to bed.

I told myself it was probably just a deer or other night animal.

What I didn’t know was she’d been sleeping under my window every night instead of in her doghouse. When I would turn out the lights, I could see her laying right there beneath my window.

I began to notice when I was in another part of the house, I could look out and there she’d be.

God used Sheba to remind me that He set His angles in place to guard over me.

For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11 

Eventually I put the knife back in the kitchen where it belonged and didn’t have Sheba anymore.

Over time, I realized my Protector was mightier than any physical weapon I had or Sheba. I wasn’t so afraid for our safety anymore.

The Lord used those single-mom years to teach me more than I would’ve learned had I not gone through those tough times.

Are you alone for the first time in many years, and dread turning out the lights at night? Are you going through some tough times right now and feel alone?

The Lord Jesus will use this time to make His presence known to you, as you set your thoughts on Him. He’s already thinking about you.

Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 
Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than 
many sparrows. Luke 12:7

And when you fall asleep, you can have peace.

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, 
Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

Whatever tough times you’re experiencing, I can tell you this: Our Heavenly Father specializes in showing His faithfulness during tough times. 

He will use our struggles no matter how big or small to equip us for brighter days and use for His purposes.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2

Today, trust Him as your Protector and faithful Deliverer. On the other side of your troubles, you will have no doubt that He is the One True God, 

Let's stay the course, by trusting Him in the tough times.

Terri

Monday, October 17, 2016

Supernatural Reality

About 18 years ago, God promised me something very personal. It was one of those moments with Him when I knew that I knew that I JUST knew. His words drifted off the page of my Bible and
penetrated my heart to the core.

If God said it, then it is so. That settles it.

During my years as a single parent, God provided a lot of opportunities where I had to hold to His promises, only to experience His faithfulness time and again. He worked supernaturally to bring many promises into my physical reality.

Merriam-Webster defines supernatural as unable to be explained by science or the laws of nature. 

I could not explain how God fulfilled His promise, only that He did.  

Perhaps a better word than promise would be assurance. It’s His assurance that He’s going to bring about something that only He can do; something in the supernatural realm that will become my physical reality.

The specific “assurance” I’m writing about today, for which I’m still trusting God, concerns someone I love deeply. He’s an extension of me. Of my flesh and blood. My firstborn, 36 years ago.

The current reality is heartrending. He’s alive, but gone. Mental illness carried him into another reality away from me, and others who love him.

Circumstances beyond my control…so many unanswered questions. Guilt. Anger. Is he safe? Hungry? Warm?

Do you have a heartrending situation too? Some days you’re ok; coping. Other days your faith is shaken and the reality feels unbearable.

Maybe God has given you a promise or an assurance specifically for your situation. Just like me, you need a supernatural work of God to bear down on the situation, right? 

So we're trusting yet another promise of truth from Him to fit all the puzzle pieces together. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Recently I’ve been strongly encouraged that God is working to fulfill His promise from 18 years ago. So much so that I’m banking ALL my hope in Him. 

You’ve heard the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Well, I’m doing just that with my Heavenly Father, by putting ALL my hope in one God. To the rest of the world, this seems foolish.

I had no idea when God planted Jeremiah 31:15-17 deep in my heart, that I'd be here today, trusting Him for such a big thing, to work all this out into a physical reality.

As Believers, our position is seated with Him in the heavenly realms according to Ephesians 2:6…and God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. That’s our reality.

If we’re seated there with Him, when we pray for our situation or loved one, something powerful happens. How? I can’t explain how. It’s God’s supernatural work.

He's given a new resolve to take back what the enemy wrongfully stole. I'm accepting God’s restoring, healing and redeeming realities. I have no clue what it will look like. I just know that He's set things in motion.

Whatever your situation is, however painful or heartbreaking, I want to encourage you to not give up. We can’t give up!

One of my newest, most favorite quotes is by Tony Evans, a well-known pastor, speaker and author. He says, “Faith is acting like something is so, even when it is not so, simply because God said so, in order that it might be so.”

Will you join me with your situation too, and act like something is so, even when it is not so, (YET), but simply because God said so?
Then let’s trust and wait, wait and trust, pray and pray until it is so.

This is the only way to stay the course.

Terri


Monday, October 10, 2016

When Falling in Love Becomes True Love

Love is a loaded subject. There are different types of love, but for today’s post I’m only focusing on two.

Falling in love and true love.

Falling “in love” with someone is temporary and shallow. You meet someone, fall in love, then vow to love, honor and cherish for the rest of your life.

Are you in love with him? Is he in love with you? Are y’all in love? These are the questions asked when considering marriage, as if that’s enough to last a lifetime together.

Falling in love with someone comes with all sorts of feelings and emotions. You think about them constantly. They make you feel special and it takes little effort to let the other know they’re the most important person in your life.

People fall in love every day. Then they claim to fall out of love. Grow apart, whatever you want to call it. You’ve lost that loving feeling. What happened?

It’s my personal opinion that when we place the initial, falling-in-love stage as the foundation for a marriage, we’re confusing what love really means.

True love. Lasting love. This is what we all long for.

What’s the difference between true love and falling in love?

For starters, if we’re honest, falling in love is all about me, I, us. Not them.

My first marriage ended because my husband fell “out of love” with me and in love with someone else. I’ve heard the same story over and over from others. From men too.

I’ve heard that if you fall out of love with someone, then maybe you were never in love with them; a shaky foundation for a lifelong commitment, right?

This leads to a lot of people falling in and out of love throughout their lives, never knowing true love.

The first months and years with your one and only, are full of many firsts. First Christmases, birthdays or first adventures together.

Eventually you’ll run out of all those “firsts”. Then what?

You find out they grind their teeth while they sleep, pass gas, belch, and their once adored uniqueness has become more annoying than cute.

What then?

Kids come. Jobs change, appearances shift a little, and the stress of life drives a wedge between you.

Feelings change. Attitudes change. Goals change. Life happens. The love ran out.

Now what?

This is when true love can become the foundation for fulfilling your vows of “till death do us part.”

Real, true love becomes action, a choice. True love isn't all about you or me. True love is when it's all about them. 

We humans did not discover or create love. It’s not some cosmic, fateful, happenstance that people randomly experience.

I’m not a love expert or relationship know-it-all. Quite the contrary.

I’ve only been remarried for nine years after being a single mom for 19. So I’m not an expert.

Since being married again, though, I’m learning and experiencing true love for the first time. It’s the deepest, most meaningful, action-packed, choice I’ve ever made with another person.

It requires the indwelling of the spirit of Jesus Christ in my heart to empower me to grow in this way. Especially when there’s a history of baggage to deal with.

The definition of true love is found in God’s word (the Bible).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, 
it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, 
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does 
not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13

That’s a TALL order, right?

Impossible?

Nothing is impossible with God!

Jesus looked at them and said, ‘with man this is impossible, 
but with God all things are possible.’ Matthew 19:26

So if you’re not feeling in love with your spouse, it doesn’t mean you don’t love them.

You might simply be at the crossroads where true love replaces the temporary state of falling in love.

And when love becomes action, like in the above verses from 1
Corinthians, those feelings you want to experience resurface in a much deeper way.

Love never fails. I Corinthians 13:8

Here are a couple of resources that might help along the way:

Here's to true love and staying the course together,

Terri

Monday, October 3, 2016

Where is Hope?

Where is hope?

For a four-letter word, hope sure is a BIG word, isn’t it?

Where do you place your hope today?

Or have you lost all hope?

Is there no hope for our country? No hope for the world?

Oh, quite contrary.

I often say, “There is always hope.”

How can I say that in light of the current crisis in the United States and around the world?

How can I say that as I’ve once sat in the midst of the ashes in my own personal life?

One thing I’ve discovered in my life with God, is that hope in Him does not disappoint.
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God 
has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit 
who was given to us. Romans 5:5

Are you fearful? Do you fear the future?

I can’t write an answer any better than the one written by C. H. Spurgeon (a famous British Baptist Preacher in the 1800’s).

The following quote was printed in a daily devotional I subscribe to called Streams in the Desert, and was posted September 25, 2016.

Here’s what Mr. Spurgeon says in response to Psalm 42:9, Why go I mourning?

Canst thou answer this believer? Canst thou find any reason 
why thou art so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why hold to gloomy anticipations? Who told thee that the night would never end in day? Who told thee that the winter of thy discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow and ice, and hail to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempest of despair?
Knowest thou not that day follows night, that flood comes 
after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? 
Hope thou then! Hope thou ever! 
For God fails thee not. C.H. Spurgeon.

The hope the world has to offer fails consistently. It’s about as reliable as the weather forecast.

But the hope that comes from God for all Believers in Christ, is sturdy, unshakable, and trustworthy. We can confidently put all our hope and trust in Him.

In light of the current state of the United States and the rest of world, I’d be willing to suggest that thousands upon thousands will soon replace their hope in the world with hope in God, through Jesus Christ.

If it’s peace you want; joy you need; or desire to overflow with power, then my prayer for you today is this:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and 
peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow 
with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

There is nowhere else we can find true, sustainable hope, joy and peace.

Will you join me in trusting God for our future and putting our hope in Him?

Staying the course,

Terri